Natalia Sedova Trotsky
Written: 17 October 1940.
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 43, 26 October 1940, p. 3.
Online Version: Natalia Sedova Internet Archive, August 2020.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Natalia Sedoff Trotsky, widow of Leon Trotsky, has sent the following letter to J.R. Johnson, who wrote an article about Trotsky constituting the bulk of the September issue of the New International. a magazine published by the petty-bourgeois revisionists led by Max Schachtman. [sic]
My Dear Comrade Johnson:
Permit me to give you some facts pertaining to that part of your article in the September issue of the New International where you proceed to “analyze" with such impermissible haste and such utter irresponsibility the causes underlying the tragedy that, befell us at 5:30 p.m. on August 20, 1940; and where you also presume in this connection to elucidate, without first ascertaining the facts, certain traits in the character of the man who fell victim to the assassin. This light-minded carelessness and disrespect on your part toward the victim force me to make the following declaration:
Our first meeting with Sylvia Ageloff’s husband, “Jacson,” took place on May 28, 9 o’clock in the morning, and not in March as you so freely assert. Of these 83 days of “our acquaintance,” Sylvia Ageloff’s husband spent some 27 to 30 days outside of Mexico. In the course of the remaining 50 to 53 days he paid us all told 7 to 8 visits. He was received by us first and foremost as the husband of Sylvia Ageloff, who in our eyes was completely trustworthy. On every one of his visits, he was received (1) by both of us – L.D. and myself; (2) on each occasion it was in the patio; (3) each time it was when the animals were fed, that is, (4) during L.D.’s rest period; and (5) each visit took place in passing and was very brief, from 7 to 10 minutes, not more, except for the last two visits.
The topic brought up for discussion during these visits by “Jacson” was bis “patron,” the latter’s “business genius” and how it “baffled the imagination” of his employee, his “fantastic successes in speculation” and so forth and so on, all of like nature. L.D. listened, forcing himself from time to time to make some casual remark – out of politeness – I used to wonder why he talked to us so insistently each time about his “boss” and the latter’s shady machinations inasmuch as the R’s were precisely worried by the fact that with them “Jacson” was persistently uncommunicative, despite his garrulousness, about the affairs of his “boss,” Later I understood the reason for this. Ask Sylvia Ageloff; perhaps she too now realizes what was involved. Sylvia Ageloff was not her husband’s conscious accomplice, but unconsciously she undoubtedly aided him.
He used to visit us on the most insignificant pretexts: To tell us that his boss was liquidating his affairs and that they were leaving ... or that, since he was going away, he should like to leave his automobile with us for two weeks until his return ... or that he came to bring me a box of candy from Sylvia Ageloff which he had forgotten to bring before ... or that his wife, Sylvia had arrived ... and finally with a request that we set the time and the day when his wife could visit us ...
All this you do not understand, comrade Johnson. As you imagine it, the political assassin had to engage his victim in preliminary and lengthy political discussion for a period of six months. You are mistaken – had he done so, he could have hardly achieved his aim. No, “Jacson” was much more clever than you; he understood that political discussions could only disrupt his plan of murder. He had to familiarize himself with our general habits, incorporate them in the very marrow of his bones, adapt himself to them, take into account each minute detail, check and re-check over and over again – that was his task. That is why be began in the last period to visit us more and more often, always at the same hour – during L.D.’s rest period – and always made his visits brief. In this was his strategy, and not in factional political discussion.
L.D. was not at all inclined to sacrifice his rest period for “Jacson.” It was very well known that for a serious discussion the day and the hour had to be arranged with L.D. in advance. “Jacson” never asked for this. He always arrived without prior notice, always at the same hour. The one and only political discussion which did take place occurred – for your information – a week before the crime. He had arranged with me for a visit of his wife, Sylvia Ageloff. I set the very same hour, namely 5 o’clock, as the most convenient. But Sylvia came not alone but with her husband; we met them in the patio, and I invited them into the dining room for tea.
This was the first and the last occasion on which a political conversation took place. Sylvia Ageloff defended the position of the Minority heatedly and excitedly. L.D. answered her calmly and in a friendly way. Her husband interjected a few not very astute and jocular comments. All this did not take more than 5 minutes, L.D. excused himself; be had to do his chores, feed the animals. All of us got up, The “Jacsons” bade us farewell, and hurried away, stating, as usual, that they had some urgent business. We did not detain them, not even out of politeness. We knew that these “visits” were about to be terminated, since “Jacson” was leaving Mexico ... if not today, then tomorrow, and mentally we said to ourselves, “Let him go, the sooner, the better.” Not because we had begun to suspect him as an agent of the GPU – unfortunately not – but because in the long run we did not know what to do with this husband of Sylvia Ageloff.
This visit before the last one differed from the others in this, that “Jacson” suddenly proposed that L.D. look over his draft of a projected article. And this time – for the first time – he was admitted into L.D.’s study. L.D. referred negatively to the draft: “Very muddled ... only a few phrases ...” and without wishing to dwell on it, he added, “I offered a few suggestions, we shall see ...” I understood that this time L.D. had seen another side of “Jacson.” He was somewhat surprised by “Jacson’s” conduct while in the study, but I shall speak of this at greater length elsewhere. During this same visit he talked to L.D. about French statistics which he claimed to know. The conversation lasted 10 minutes at the most. In connection with French statistics, L.D. mentioned to Joe Hansen that our New York organization could perhaps make use of his knowledge in this field.
“For six months,” you say, comrade Johnson, “he discussed politics with the greatest living master of politics and Trotsky never detected a false note ...” because Trotsky was blinded factionally. This is a lie. Why didn’t you ascertain the facts, if only by asking his wife, Sylvia Ageloff? It is an insufferable shame to place a lie at the very threshold of what happened. It is insufferable to read this shameless lie. You have been so carried away by your factionalism that you have lost your moral equilibrium and this is a dangerous symptom both for a revolutionist and the party to which he belongs.
Natalia Sedov Trotsky
Last updated on: 15 August 2020