Tamara Deutscher writes:
I have been following with great interest the discussion between Mandel and Krassó. So far I have not been tempted to express any opinion on this exchange and even now I should like to deal only with the references in Krassò’s latest ‘Reply’ to Isaac’s work, as I fear that these may give a somewhat distorted impression of the tenor of Isaac’s writings.
It would not be fair to reproach Krassó with a certain lack of subtlety in using quotations from the Trilogy to support his point of view: he has limited space, in which it is extremely difficult to render all the nuances of Isaac’s treatment of Trotsky.
Isaac disagreed, of course, with Krassó’s premiss that ‘the necessary point of departure to assess Trotsky and Stalin is Lenin’. In his Stalin Isaac describes how Trotsky was forced to accept the Leninist cult ‘though his rational mind and European tastes were outraged by it’. Trotsky thus involved himself in fighting on the ground on which he was ‘most vulnerable’. Krassó seems again to drag Trotsky on to the ground of the Leninist cult instead of discussing his Marxism, as he promises to do in the first sentence of his ‘Reply’. He might just as well have quoted the following: ‘Lenin also repeatedly indicated to the party and the International his regard for Trotsky as interpreter of Marxism’, or ‘The uniform of Lenin’s disciple was, anyhow, too tight for him’ (for Trotsky). Krassò sounds not a little like an old school marm, wagging his finger at Trotsky because he never ‘genuinely learnt the lesson of Lenin’s theory of the party’. Krassó quotes Isaac’s ‘explicit comment’ on Trotsky’s conception of a party ‘acting as a locum tenens for the proletariat’. But this comment becomes less simpliste in its context, viewed together with the whole trend of thought on ‘substitutionism’, and recalled once again as it is in The Prophet Unarmed on p. 13, and on the very last page of The Prophet Armed.
So far I have reproached Krassó with pardonable simplifications only. Now, however, I am coming to a more serious criticism:
On nlr p. 94 Krassó again quotes Isaac (The Prophet Unarmed, not Armed, p. 450) actually using quotation marks, but wording it quite differently throughout: Kamenev in his talk with Bukharin does not say, ‘If the country perishes we perish with it . . . If the country manages to recover . . . we still perish’. Kamenev uses words much more emotive and much more strongly charged: ‘If our nation is crushed we are crushed with it; and, if it extricates itself and Stalin changes course in time, we are still going to be crushed’. What is the reason and the purpose of this re-phrasing of a quotation?
I do not wish to enter into the core of the debate between Mandel and Krassó, but I really must object to any selective or inaccurate quotations from Isaac’s works.