Excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s, My Life, (1930) Chap. 18, “The Beginning of the War”
The booklet, The War and the International, like all my other books, had its own peculiar destiny, first in Switzerland, then in Germany and France, later in America, and finally in Soviet Russia. A few words must be said about all this. My work was translated from the Russian manuscript by a Russian whose command of German was far from perfect. A professor in Zurich, Ragaz, took it upon himself to edit the translation, and this gave me an opportunity to know an original personality. …
But the book, thanks to Ragaz, came out in good German. From Switzerland it found its way, as early as December, 1914, to Austria and Germany. The Swiss Left-wingers, F. Platten and others, saw to that. Intended for German countries, the pamphlet was directed first of all against the German Social Democracy, the leading party of the Second International. I remember that a journalist named Heilmann, who played first-violin in the orchestra of chauvinism, called my book mad, but quite logical in its madness. I could not have wished for greater praise. There was, of course, no lack of hints that my book was an artful tool of Entente propaganda.
Later on, in France, I came unexpectedly across a report in the French papers, by way of Switzerland, that one of the German courts had sentenced me in a state of contumacy to imprisonment for the Zurich pamphlet. From this I concluded that the pamphlet had hit the mark. The Hohenzollern judges did me a very good turn by their sentence, a sentence that I was not in any hurry to serve. For the slanderers and spies of the Entente, this German court-sentence was always a stumbling-block in their noble efforts to prove that I was nothing more than an agent of the German general staff.
This did not keep the French authorities, however, from holding up my book at the frontier on the strength of its “German origin”. An ambiguous note defending my pamphlet against the French censorship appeared in the newspaper published by Hervé. I believe that it was written by Ch. Rappaport, a man of some note, who was almost a Marxist; at any rate, he was the author of the greatest number of puns ever invented by any man who has devoted a long life to them.
After the October revolution, an enterprising New York publisher brought out my German pamphlet as an imposing American book. According to his own statement, President Wilson asked him, by telephone from the White House, to send the proofs of the book to him; at that time, the President was composing his Fourteen Points, and, according to reports from people who were informed, could not get over the fact that a Bolshevik had forestalled him in his best formulae. Within two months the sales of the book in America reached 16,000 copies. Then came the days of the Brest-Litovsk peace. The American press raised a furious campaign against me, and the book instantly disappeared from the market.
In the Soviet Republic my Zurich pamphlet had by that time gone through several editions, serving as a text-book for the study of the Marxist attitude toward the war. It disappeared from the “market” of the Communist International only after 1924, the year when “Trotskyism” was discovered. At present, the pamphlet is still under a ban, as it was before the revolution.
Indeed, it would seem that books have their own destiny....