Adolph Joffe

Adolph Joffe

Adolph Joffe was born in Simferopol, Russia, on 10th October, 1883. The son of a wealthy merchant, he became involved in revolutionary activity while a student in the late 1890s.

Joffe joined the Social Democratic Party in 1903 and the following year became involved in smuggling political propaganda to Baku. As he later explained: "In 1904 I was instructed by the Central Committee to convey literature to Baku and to conduct propaganda there. I joined the Baku SD organization, but I had to leave Transcaucasia in the same year to avoid arrest, and I was sent to Moscow for the same sort of work. I was soon exposed there, too, so I took refuge abroad. ",

Joffe moved to Moscow during the 1905 Russian Revolution. The following year he was forced into exile. He lived in Berlin before being expelled from Germany in May, 1906. Joffe now moved to Vienna where he edited Pravda with Leon Trotsky. He often visited Russia and in 1912 he was arrested and after spending ten months in solitary confinement before being exiled to Siberia.

In 1917 Joffe escaped from Siberia and made his way to Petrograd. He was elected to the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolshevik Central Committee. During the October Revolution Joffe was the chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Trotsky claimed that "Joffe was a man of great intellectual ardour, very genial in all his personal relations, and unswervingly loyal to the cause".

In December, 1917, Joffe went with Leon Trotsky as a member of the Russian delegation at Brest-Litovsk that was negotiating with representatives from Germany and Austria. They had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Joffe and Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before they had to sign the treaty.

After nine weeks of discussions without agreement, the German Army was ordered to resume its advance into Russia. On 3rd March 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Vladimir Lenin ordered Joffe and Trotsky to accept the terms of the Central Powers. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in the Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus and Poland.

When Leon Trotsky took control of the Red Army during the Civil War, Joffe replaced him as Commissar for Foreign Affairs and carried out negotiations with Turkey and Germany. While in Berlin he was accused of planning a communist revolution and was expelled from the country.

Joffe was a loyal supporter of Leon Trotsky and after Joseph Stalin gained power was sent him abroad as a diplomatic. In 1927 Joffe was one of the few leading Bolsheviks who was willing to defend Trotsky. After the expulsion of Trotsky from the Central Committee, Joffe decided to commit suicide and sent Trotsky a letter: "One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever. Some day the party will realize it, and history will not fail to accord recognition. Then don't lose your courage if someone leaves you know, or if not as many come to you, and not as soon, as we all would like. You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell."

Adolph Joffe commited suicide on 16th November, 1927.

In 1904 I was instructed by the Central Committee to convey literature to Baku and to conduct propaganda there. I was soon exposed there, too, so I took refuge abroad, where I arrived immediately after the events of 9 January 1905. I straightaway returned to Russia and took part in the Revolution in various towns.

Joffe was a man of great intellectual ardour, very genial in all his personal relations, and unswervingly loyal to the cause. In connection with the activities of Pravda, Joffe went to Russia for revolutionary work. He was arrested in Odessa, spent a long time in prison, and was later exiled to Siberia. He was not set free until February 1917, as a result of the revolution of that month. In the October revolution which followed he played one of the most active parts.

Joffe tried to make his death a service to the same cause to which he had dedicated his life. With the same hand that was to pull the trigger against his own temple half an hour later, he wrote the last evidence of a witness and the last counsel of a friend.

I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of 'permanent revolution'. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path.

Politically, you were always right, beginning with 1905, and I told you repeatedly that with my own ears I had heard Lenin admit that even in 1905, you, and not he, were right. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. Then don't lose your courage if someone leaves you know, or if not as many come to you, and not as soon, as we all would like.

You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell.


Letter to Leon Trotsky[1]

All my life I have thought that the man of politics ought to know how to go away at the right time, as an actor quits the stage, and that it is better to go too soon than too late.

More than thirty years ago I embraced the philosophy that human life has meaning only to the degree that, and so long as, it is lived in the service of something infinite. For us, humanity is infinite. The rest is finite, and to work for the rest is therefore meaningless. Even if humanity too must have a purpose beyond itself, that purpose will appear in so remote a future that for us humanity may be considered as an absolute infinite. It is in this and this only that I have always seen the meaning of life. And now, taking a glance backwards over my past, of which twenty-seven years were spent in the ranks of our party, it seems to me that I have the right to say that during all my conscious life I have been faithful to this philosophy. I have lived according to this meaning of life work and struggle for the good of humanity. I think I have the right to say that not a day of my life has been meaningless.

But now it seems, comes the time when my life loses its meaning, and in consequence I feel obliged to abandon it, to bring it to an end.

For several years now the present heads of our party, in accordance with their general policy of not giving work to Communists of the Opposition, have given me neither political nor soviet work whose scope and character would permit me to be useful to the maximum of my capabilities. During the past year, as you know, the Politburo has completely cut me off, as an Oppositionist, from any political work.

My health has kept on getting worse. About the twentieth of September, for reasons unknown to me, the Medical Commission of the Central Committee summoned me to an examination by specialists, who informed me categorically that the state of my health was much worse than I supposed and that I must not stay another useless day in Moscow nor remain another hour without treatment, but go abroad immediately and enter an appropriate sanatorium.

To my direct question, “What chances have I to get well abroad, and can I take care of myself in Russia without giving up my work?” the physicians and assistants, the practicing doctor of the Central Committee, Comrade Abrossov, another Communist physician, and the director of the Kremlin hospital, all answered simply that the Russian sanatoria could help me in no way, that I must rely upon treatment in the West. They added that if I followed their instructions, they had no doubt that I would be able to work for a prolonged period.

For about two months the Medical Commission of the Central Committee (in spite of having on its own initiative ordered the consultation) took no steps either towards my stay abroad or towards my treatment here. On the contrary, the Kremlin pharmacy, which had always delivered remedies to me according to the prescriptions, was forbidden to do it. It was, in fact, deprived of help of free medicines, which I had always enjoyed. I was obliged to buy the medicines that were indispensable in the pharmacies of the city. It seems that this took place at the time when the group in power began to visit on the comrades of the Opposition its policy of “Hit the Opposition in the belly.”

As long as I was well enough to work I paid little attention to all this, but as I kept getting worse my wife approached the Medical Commission of the Central Committee and personally Dr Semaskho, who has always, publicly, gone to extremes to realise his formula, “Save the old guard.” The matter was nevertheless constantly adjourned, and all that my wife was able to obtain was an extract of the decision of the council of physicians. In this extract my chronic maladies are enumerated, and it is set down that the council insists on my being sent abroad “to a sanatorium of the type of Professor Friedlander’s” for a period that may extend to one year.

Meanwhile, nine days ago I went definitely to bed on account of the acuteness and the aggravation (as always happens in such circumstances) of all my chronic ailments, and especially the most terrible, my inveterate polyneuritis, which has again become acute, forcing me to endure an absolutely intolerable pain and even preventing me from walking. For nine days I have been without any treatment, and the question of my trip abroad has not been taken up. Not one of the physicians of the Central Committee has come to see me. Professor Davidenko and Dr Levine,[2] being called to my bedside, prescribed a few trifles which obviously could do me no good, and then admitted that “nothing could be done,” and that a trip abroad was indispensably urgent. Dr Levine told my wife that the affair was dragging because the Medical Commission evidently thought that my wife wanted to go with me, and “that makes it too expensive.” My wife answered that, in spite of the sad state I was in, she decidedly did not insist that she or anyone else accompany me. Whereupon Dr Levine assured us that, under these conditions, the matter would soon be settled. Dr Levine repeated to me today that the doctors could do nothing, that the only resource was immediate departure abroad. Then in the evening the physician of the Central Committee, Comrade Potiomkin, notified my wife that the Medical Commission of the Central Committee had decided not to send me abroad but to care for me in Russia. The reason was that the specialists insisted on a prolonged treatment abroad, deemed a short stay futile, and that the Central Committee would only give for my cure a maximum of one thousand dollars and found it impossible to give more.

While abroad recently I received an offer guaranteeing me twenty thousand dollars in royalties for my memoirs, but (considering that they would have to be censored by the Politburo and) knowing how the history of the party and of the revolution is falsified in our country, I did not consider it possible to lend a hand to such a falsification. The entire censorship of the Politburo would consist of not allowing a true evaluation of the personages and their acts, either on one side or the other – either of the authentic leaders of the revolution or of those who at present find themselves invested with this dignity. In consequence I see no way to get treatment without receiving money from the Central Committee, which, for all my revolutionary work of twenty-seven years, thinks it possible to value my life and my health at a sum not exceeding one thousand dollars.

That is why I say that the time has come when it is necessary to bring this life to an end. I know that the general opinion of the party is opposed to suicide, but I believe that none of those who understand my situation will condemn me for it. If I were in good health I should have found strength and energy to struggle against the situation created in the party. But in my present state I cannot endure a situation in which the party silently tolerates your exclusion from its ranks, even though I am absolutely certain that sooner or later a crisis will come which will oblige the party to cast off those who have led it to such a disgrace. In this sense my death is a political protest against those who have led the party to a situation such that it cannot react in any way to this opprobrium.

If I may be permitted to compare something big with something small, I will say that the immensely important historical event, your exclusion and that of Zinoviev, an exclusion which must inevitably open a period of Thermidor in our revolution, and the fact that I am reduced, after twenty seven years of revolutionary work at responsible posts in the party, to a situation where I have nothing left but to put a bullet through my head – these two facts illustrate one and the same thing – the present regime in our party. And perhaps the two events, the little and the big one together, will jar the party awake and halt it on the road leading to Thermidor.[3]

Dear Leon Davidovich, we are bound together by ten years of work in common and, I hope, of personal friendship, and that gives me the right to tell you, at the moment of farewell, what seems to me to be a weakness in you.

I have never doubted the correctness of the way you have pointed out, and you know that for more than twenty years, ever since the “Permanent Revolution”, I have been with you. But I have always thought that you lacked the inflexibility, the intransigence of Lenin, his resolution to remain at the task alone, if need be, in the road that he had marked out, sure of a future majority, of a future recognition by all of the rightness of that road. You have always been right politically, beginning with 1905, and I have often told you that with my own ears I have hear Lenin admit that in 1905 it was not he, but you, who was right. In the face of death one does not lie, and I repeat this to you now.

But you have often renounced your right position in favour of an agreement, a compromise, whose value you overestimated. That was wrong. I repeat: politically you have always been in the right, and now more than ever you are in the right. Someday the party will understand this, and history will be forced to recognise it.

Moreover, don’t be afraid today if certain ones desert you, and especially if the many do not come to you quickly as we all wish. You are in the right, but the certainty of the victory of your truth lies precisely in a strict intransigence, in the most severe rigidity, in the repudiation of every compromise, exactly as that was always the secret of the victories of Ilyich [Lenin].

I have often wanted to tell you this, and have only brought myself to it now, at the moment of saying goodbye.

I wish you energy and courage equal to those you have always shown, and a swift victory. I embrace you. Goodbye.

PS. I wrote my letter during the night between the fifteenth and sixteenth, and today, the sixteenth, Marie Mikhailovna went to the Medical Commission to insist on their sending me abroad, if only for one or two months. They answered her that in the opinion of the specialists a short stay abroad was absolutely useless. They told her that the Medical Commission had decided to transfer me to the Kremlin hospital. Thus they refuse me even a short trip for the sake of my health, even though all the doctors agree that a cure in Russia is of no use and will do me no good.

Goodbye, dear Leon Davidovich. Be strong, you will need to be, and energetic, too. And bear me no grudge.

Notes

1. The letter is based on a translation by Max Eastman and follows the 1950 LSSP edition.

2. Dr Levine was Lenin’s personal physician, who was condemned to death in the third Moscow trial in 1938.

3. Thermidor is a regime which, while not doing away with the social gains of the revolution to ant major degree, deprives the masses of its political gains an analogy with the regime that followed soon after the French Revolution of 1789 – on 24 July 1794 to be exact – according to the new French revolutionary calendar on the 9th of the month of Thermidor.


JOFFE, ADOLPH ABRAMOVICH

JOFFE, ADOLPH ABRAMOVICH (1883–1927), Russian revolutionary and diplomat. Born in Simferopol to a very rich merchant, he studied medicine at the universities of Berlin and Vienna. Joffe joined the Mensheviks in 1903, lived abroad, and was a member of the committee of the rsdrp (Russian Social Democratic Workars Party.) In 1908, after meeting *Trotsky, by whom he was greatly impressed, he became coeditor and contributor to the Bolshevik periodical Pravda in Vienna. He organized the smuggling of Pravda into Russia and was arrested while trying to get into Russia, and imprisoned by the Czarist authorities in 1912. Joffe was released by the Kerensky government following the February revolution of 1917 and in July of that year joined the Bolsheviks, and was elected a member of the Central Committee of the party. After the October revolution, he led the Soviet delegation to the peace talks with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, but as he was in favor of continuing the war he was replaced by Trotsky, but remained there as adviser. He was made ambassador to Germany in the following year. In 1920 he headed the Russian delegation at the peace talks with Poland and the Baltic republics, and subsequently was Soviet ambassador to Peking (Beijing) (1922–23), Vienna (1923–24), and Tokyo (1924–25). In the years 1925–27 he was one of the leaders of the left (Trotskyist) opposition. As a supporter of Trotsky, Joffe was not favored by *Stalin when the latter came to power, and he was relegated to professor at the Oriental Institute at Moscow. After Trotsky's expulsion from the Communist Party, Joffe committed suicide. A letter he left for Trotsky giving the reason for his suicide was considered an important document in the history of the Soviet Union.

His wife, maria joffe, was a member of the Bolshevik party from 1917 and worked as a journalist and editor in the Soviet press. In a meeting in 1929 she protested against the expulsion of Trotsky and the attacks on him in the press. She was arrested in the same year and spent 28 years in camps and exile. From 1975 she lived in Israel, where she published her memoirs (1977).


Biography

Revolutionary career

Adolf Abramovich Joffe was born in Simferopol, Crimea, Russian Empire in a wealthy Karaite Jewish family. Ώ] ΐ] He became a social democrat in 1900 while still in secondary school, formally joining the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903. In 1904 Joffe was sent to Baku, which he had to flee to avoid arrest by the Tsarist police. He was then sent to Moscow, but again had to flee, this time abroad. After the events of Bloody Sunday on January 9, 1905, Joffe returned to Russia and took an active part in the Russian Revolution of 1905. In early 1906 he was forced to flee again, this time to Berlin until the German's also expelled him in May 1906.

In Russia, Joffe was close to the Menshevik faction within the Russian Social Democratic Party. However, after moving to Vienna in May 1906, he became close to Leon Trotsky's position and helped Trotsky edit Pravda from 1908 to 1912 while studying medicine, and with Alfred Adler, psychoanalysis. Α] He also used his family's fortune to support Pravda financially. During the course of his underground revolutionary activity Joffe adopted the party name "V. Krymsky," the surname meaning "The Crimean." Β]

In 1912 Joffe was arrested by the Tsarist police while visiting Odessa and imprisoned for 10 months then exiled to Siberia.

1917 Revolution

In 1917, Joffe, freed from the Siberian exile by the February Revolution, returned to the Crimea. Crimean social democrats then sent him to the capital, Petrograd, to represent them, but he soon moved to an internationalist revolutionary position, which made it impossible for him to remain in an organization dominated by less radical Mensheviks. Instead, he joined forces with Trotsky, a Bolshevik, who had just returned from abroad.

In May 1917, Joffe and Trotsky temporarily joined Mezhraiontsy who merged with the Bolsheviks at the VIth Bolshevik Party Congress held between 26 July (all dates are Old Style until February 1918) and 3 August 1917. At the Congress, Joffe was elected a candidate (non-voting) member of the Central Committee, but two days later, on August 5, the Central Committee, some of whose members were in prison, in hiding or lived far from Petrograd and couldn't attend its meetings, made Joffe a member of its permanent ("narrow") bureau. On August 6, Joffe was made an alternate member of the Central Committee Secretariat and on August 20 made a member of the editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda which was then temporarily called Proletary (Proletarian) for legal reasons.

Joffe headed the Bolshevik faction in the Petrograd Duma (city government) in the autumn of 1917 and was one of it's delegates to the Democratic Conference between September 14 and 22. Although Joffe, along with Lenin and Trotsky, opposed the Bolsheviks' participation in the consultative Pre-parliament created by the Democratic Conference, the motion was carried by the majority of Bolshevik deputies at the Democratic Conference and Joffe was made a Bolshevik member of the Pre-parliament. Two weeks later, on October 7, once the more radical Bolshevik faction gained the upper hand, Joffe and other Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-parliament.

In October 1917, Joffe supported Lenin's and Trotsky's revolutionary position against Grigory Zinoviev's and Lev Kamenev's more moderate position, demanding that the latter be expelled from the Central Committee after an apparent breach of party discipline. Joffe served as the Chairman of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee which overthrew the Russian Provisional Government on October 25–26, 1917. Immediately after the revolution, he supported Lenin and Trotsky against Zinoviev, Kamenev, Alexei Rykov and other Bolshevik Central Committee members who would have shared power with other socialist parties.

Brest-Litovsk

From November 30, 1917 until January 1918, Joffe was the head of the Soviet delegation sent to Brest-Litovsk to negotiate an end to the hostilities with the Central Powers. On December 22, 1917, Joffe announced the following Bolshevik pre-conditions for a peace treaty: Γ]

  • No forcible annexation of territories seized in the war
  • Restore national independence where it was terminated during war
  • National groups independent before the war should be allowed by referendum to decide question of independence
  • Multi-cultural regions should be administered so as to allow all possible cultural independence and self-regulation
  • No indemnities. Personal losses should be compensated out of international fund
  • Colonial question should be decided according to points 1–4

Although Joffe had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Central Powers on December 2, 1917, he supported Trotsky in the latter's refusal to sign a permanent peace treaty in February. Once the Bolshevik Central Committee decided to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on February 23, 1918, Joffe remained a member of the Soviet delegation only under protest and in a purely consultative capacity.

Remembering Joffe's presence with the Bolshevik delegation at Brest-Litovsk, Count Ottokar Czernin, the Austro-Hungarians' representative would later write:

The leader of the Russian delegation is a Jew, named Joffe, who has recently been released from Siberia [. ] after the meal I had a first conversation with Mr. Joffe. His whole theory is simply based on the universal application of the right of self-governance of nations in the broadest form. The thus liberated nations then have to be brought to love each other [. ] I advised him that we would not attempt to imitate the Russian example and that we likewise would not tolerate a meddling in our internal affairs. If he continued to hold on his utopic viewpoints the peace would not be possible and then he would be well advised just to take the journey back with the next train. Mr. Joffe looked astonishedly at me with his gentle eyes and was silent for a while. Then he continued in a - for me, ever unforgettable - friendly, or I would even nearly say suppliant, tone: 'I very much hope that we will also be able to raise the revolution in your country. ' Δ]

At the VIIth Extraordinary Congress of the Bolshevik Party between March 6 and March 8, 1918, Joffe was re-elected to the Central Committee, but only as a candidate (non-voting) member. He remained in Petrograd when the Soviet government moved to Moscow later in March and worked as a member of the Petrograd Bureau of the Central Committee until he was appointed Soviet representative to Germany in April. He signed the Soviet-German Supplementary Treaty on August 27, 1918. On November 6, 1918, literally days before the Armistice and the German Revolution, the Soviet delegation in Berlin headed by Joffe was expelled from the country on charges of preparing a Communist uprising in Germany.

Diplomatic career

In 1919–1920, Joffe was a member of the Council of Labor and Defense and People's Commissar (minister) of State Control of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. He wasn't re-elected to the Central Committee at the 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party in March 1919 and would never again occupy a major leadership position. He negotiated a ceasefire with Poland in October 1920 and peace treaties with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in late 1920. In 1921 he signed the Peace of Riga with Poland formally ending the Polish-Soviet War and was made deputy chairman of the Turkestan Commission of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Sovnarkom.

Joffe was one of the Soviet delegates at the Genoa Conference in February 1922, an experience he described in a short book published later that same year. Ε] After the Soviet walkout, he was made ambassador to China, as the Soviet troubleshooter (or Kuznetsov) of those days. In 1923, Joffe signed an agreement with Sun Yat-Sen in Shanghai on aid to Kuomintang on the assumption that the latter would cooperate with Chinese Communists, presumably with Lenin's approval. Ζ] While in China, Joffe traveled to Japan in June 1923 to settle Soviet-Japanese relations. Η] The negotiations proved long and difficult and were aborted when Joffe became gravely ill and had to be sent back to Moscow. After a partial recovery, he served as a member of the Soviet delegation to Great Britain in 1924 and as Soviet representative in Austria in 1924–1926. In 1926 his declining health and disagreements with the ruling Bolshevik faction forced his semi-retirement. He tried to concentrate on teaching, but it also proved difficult due to his illness.

Opposition and suicide

Joffe remained a friend and loyal supporter of Leon Trotsky throughout the 1920s, joining him in the Left Opposition. By late 1927, he was gravely ill, in extreme pain and confined to his bed. After a refusal by the Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party to send him abroad for treatment and Trotsky's expulsion from the Communist Party on November 12, 1927, he committed suicide. He left a farewell letter addressed to Trotsky, but the letter was seized by Soviet secret police agents and later selectively quoted by Stalinists to discredit both Joffe and Trotsky. Trotsky's eulogy at Joffe's funeral was his last public speech in the Soviet Union. ⎖]

Joffe's wife Maria Joffe was arrested as a left-oppositionist Trotskyist by Stalin's security forces, yet she survived to write her memoirs One Long Night - A Tale of Truth. Joffe's daughter, Nadezhda Joffe, also an active Trotskyist, survived Stalin's prisons and labour camps and published a memoir, Back in Time: My Life, My Fate, My Epoch.


The Last Words of Adolf Joffe

On the 16th November 1927, scarcely ten days after the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, Adolf Joffe shot himself. At his bedside he left a letter to Leon Trotsky, a translation of which we are publishing today for our readers (1) together with a brief explanatory introduction. These are the words of a genuine Bolshevik and victim of the Stalinist terror.

Adolf Abramovich Joffe, though trained to be a physician, had joined the revolutionary ranks quite early in life. He was active in the 1905 revolution, and had his share of the prisons and exiles of the tsar. Some time before the First World War he returned to Russia from Austria to organise the underground distribution of Trotsky’s Vienna Pravda, was arrested and exiled to Siberia. He was liberated only in 1917.

In 1917 he was a member of the two organisations that were directly responsible for the October insurrection – the October Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, and the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet.

After the revolution he was selected by Lenin for the most important diplomatic posts – he led the first delegation to the peace negotiations with the Germans at Brest Litovsk in December 1917, was ambassador to Germany in the stormy days of 1919, signed the peace with the Poles after the 1920 war, was delegated to the Genoa Conference in 1923, was sent to China to win over Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese nationalist leader, and later served as Soviet ambassador to Japan.

Joffe had been in failing health for a long time – long before the revolution his health was slowly undermined by a hereditary nervous disease. But that did not prevent him from active participation in the revolution, often appearing at the front lines when necessary.

He was among the first to join the Left Opposition led by Trotsky and had soon to pay the price for revolutionary intransigence.

For reasons explained in his letter, he chose the only way out, and as readers may agree, he died fighting.

The letter itself has a little history of its own. When Trotsky was informed of Joffe’s death by phone he was also told that there was a letter for him at Joffe’s bedside. But when Trotsky rushed there, the letter was missing. On his insistence, however, a photostat copy was handed over to Christian Rakovsky. Even in those days Stalin’s GPU functioned quite efficiently.

Joffe’s funeral was set for a working day. Yet 10,000 Moscow workers joined the procession led by Trotsky, showing Stalin that the Opposition was still not beaten. “His life, not his suicide, should serve as a model to those who are left behind. The struggle goes on”, said Trotsky.

Joffe’s widow, Marie Mikhailovana, was then removed from her position as editor to the State Publishing House in March 1929 after she protested against Trotsky’s expulsion from the USSR. She had not hesitated to join the Opposition along with her husband.

As a result, she was arrested and exiled. She was subject to prison and then a series of labour camps from 1929 until 1957, when there was a partial rehabilitation. It was only then that she learnt of the “liquidation” of her only son in 1937 at the age of seventeen.

Her book, One Long Night, based upon her experiences, was published in 1978 and is available from Wellred.

The price of Stalin’s rise to power, expressed in human lives is indeed monstrous. He did away with the entire glorious generation of revolutionaries that made October.

Adolf Joffe was among the first victims. We publish here the last word of that great revolutionary, whose moving personal story reflected the tragic betrayal of the October Revolution.

All my life I have thought that the man of politics ought to know how to go away at the right time, as an actor quits the stage, and that it is better to go too soon than too late.

More than thirty years ago I embraced the philosophy that human life has meaning only to the degree that, and so long as, it is lived in the service of something infinite. For us, humanity is infinite. The rest is finite, and to work for the rest is therefore meaningless. Even if humanity too must have a purpose beyond itself, that purpose will appear in so remote a future that for us humanity may be considered as an absolute infinite. It is in this and this only that I have always seen the meaning of life. And now, taking a glance backwards over my past, of which twenty-seven years were spent in the ranks of our party, it seems to me that I have the right to say that during all my conscious life I have been faithful to this philosophy. I have lived according to this meaning of life work and struggle for the good of humanity. I think I have the right to say that not a day of my life has been meaningless.

But now it seems, comes the time when my life loses its meaning, and in consequence I feel obliged to abandon it, to bring it to an end.

For several years now the present heads of our party, in accordance with their general policy of not giving work to Communists of the Opposition, have given me neither political nor soviet work whose scope and character would permit me to be useful to the maximum of my capabilities. During the past year, as you know, the Politburo has completely cut me off, as an Oppositionist, from any political work.

My health has kept on getting worse. About the twentieth of September, for reasons unknown to me, the Medical Commission of the Central Committee summoned me to an examination by specialists, who informed me categorically that the state of my health was much worse than I supposed and that I must not stay another useless day in Moscow nor remain another hour without treatment, but go abroad immediately and enter an appropriate sanatorium.

To my direct question, “What chances have I to get well abroad, and can I take care of myself in Russia without giving up my work?” the physicians and assistants, the practicing doctor of the Central Committee, Comrade Abrossov, another Communist physician, and the director of the Kremlin hospital, all answered simply that the Russian sanatoria could help me in no way, that I must rely upon treatment in the West. They added that if I followed their instructions, they had no doubt that I would be able to work for a prolonged period.

For about two months the Medical Commission of the Central Committee (in spite of having on its own initiative ordered the consultation) took no steps either towards my stay abroad or towards my treatment here. On the contrary, the Kremlin pharmacy, which had always delivered remedies to me according to the prescriptions, was forbidden to do it. It was, in fact, deprived of help of free medicines, which I had always enjoyed. I was obliged to buy the medicines that were indispensable in the pharmacies of the city. It seems that this took place at the time when the group in power began to visit on the comrades of the Opposition its policy of “Hit the Opposition in the belly.”

As long as I was well enough to work I paid little attention to all this, but as I kept getting worse my wife approached the Medical Commission of the Central Committee and personally Dr Semaskho, who has always, publicly, gone to extremes to realise his formula, “Save the old guard.” The matter was nevertheless constantly adjourned, and all that my wife was able to obtain was an extract of the decision of the council of physicians. In this extract my chronic maladies are enumerated, and it is set down that the council insists on my being sent abroad “to a sanatorium of the type of Professor Friedlander’s” for a period that may extend to one year.

Meanwhile, nine days ago I went definitely to bed on account of the acuteness and the aggravation (as always happens in such circumstances) of all my chronic ailments, and especially the most terrible, my inveterate polyneuritis, which has again become acute, forcing me to endure an absolutely intolerable pain and even preventing me from walking. For nine days I have been without any treatment, and the question of my trip abroad has not been taken up. Not one of the physicians of the Central Committee has come to see me. Professor Davidenko and Dr Levine, (2) being called to my bedside, prescribed a few trifles which obviously could do me no good, and then admitted that “nothing could be done,” and that a trip abroad was indispensably urgent. Dr Levine told my wife that the affair was dragging because the Medical Commission evidently thought that my wife wanted to go with me, and “that makes it too expensive.” My wife answered that, in spite of the sad state I was in, she decidedly did not insist that she or anyone else accompany me. Whereupon Dr Levine assured us that, under these conditions, the matter would soon be settled. Dr Levine repeated to me today that the doctors could do nothing, that the only resource was immediate departure abroad. Then in the evening the physician of the Central Committee, Comrade Potiomkin, notified my wife that the Medical Commission of the Central Committee had decided not to send me abroad but to care for me in Russia. The reason was that the specialists insisted on a prolonged treatment abroad, deemed a short stay futile, and that the Central Committee would only give for my cure a maximum of one thousand dollars and found it impossible to give more.

While abroad recently I received an offer guaranteeing me twenty thousand dollars in royalties for my memoirs, but (considering that they would have to be censored by the Politburo and) knowing how the history of the party and of the revolution is falsified in our country, I did not consider it possible to lend a hand to such a falsification. The entire censorship of the Politburo would consist of not allowing a true evaluation of the personages and their acts, either on one side or the other – either of the authentic leaders of the revolution or of those who at present find themselves invested with this dignity. In consequence I see no way to get treatment without receiving money from the Central Committee, which, for all my revolutionary work of twenty-seven years, thinks it possible to value my life and my health at a sum not exceeding one thousand dollars.

That is why I say that the time has come when it is necessary to bring this life to an end. I know that the general opinion of the party is opposed to suicide, but I believe that none of those who understand my situation will condemn me for it. If I were in good health I should have found strength and energy to struggle against the situation created in the party. But in my present state I cannot endure a situation in which the party silently tolerates your exclusion from its ranks, even though I am absolutely certain that sooner or later a crisis will come which will oblige the party to cast off those who have led it to such a disgrace. In this sense my death is a political protest against those who have led the party to a situation such that it cannot react in any way to this opprobrium.

If I may be permitted to compare something big with something small, I will say that the immensely important historical event, your exclusion and that of Zinoviev, an exclusion which must inevitably open a period of Thermidor in our revolution, and the fact that I am reduced, after twenty seven years of revolutionary work at responsible posts in the party, to a situation where I have nothing left but to put a bullet through my head – these two facts illustrate one and the same thing – the present regime in our party. And perhaps the two events, the little and the big one together, will jar the party awake and halt it on the road leading to Thermidor. (3)

Dear Leon Davidovich, we are bound together by ten years of work in common and, I hope, of personal friendship, and that gives me the right to tell you, at the moment of farewell, what seems to me to be a weakness in you.

I have never doubted the correctness of the way you have pointed out, and you know that for more than twenty years, ever since the “Permanent Revolution”, I have been with you. But I have always thought that you lacked the inflexibility, the intransigence of Lenin, his resolution to remain at the task alone, if need be, in the road that he had marked out, sure of a future majority, of a future recognition by all of the rightness of that road. You have always been right politically, beginning with 1905, and I have often told you that with my own ears I have hear Lenin admit that in 1905 it was not he, but you, who was right. In the face of death one does not lie, and I repeat this to you now.

But you have often renounced your right position in favour of an agreement, a compromise, whose value you overestimated. That was wrong. I repeat: politically you have always been in the right, and now more than ever you are in the right. Someday the party will understand this, and history will be forced to recognise it.

Moreover, don’t be afraid today if certain ones desert you, and especially if the many do not come to you quickly as we all wish. You are in the right, but the certainty of the victory of your truth lies precisely in a strict intransigence, in the most severe rigidity, in the repudiation of every compromise, exactly as that was always the secret of the victories of Ilyich. (4)

I have often wanted to tell you this, and have only brought myself to it now, at the moment of saying goodbye.

I wish you energy and courage equal to those you have always shown, and a swift victory. I embrace you. Goodbye.

PS. I wrote my letter during the night between the fifteenth and sixteenth, and today, the sixteenth, Marie Mikhailovna went to the Medical Commission to insist on their sending me abroad, if only for one or two months. They answered her that in the opinion of the specialists a short stay abroad was absolutely useless. They told her that the Medical Commission had decided to transfer me to the Kremlin hospital. Thus they refuse me even a short trip for the sake of my health, even though all the doctors agree that a cure in Russia is of no use and will do me no good.

Goodbye, dear Leon Davidovich. Be strong, you will need to be, and energetic, too. And bear me no grudge.

1. The letter is based on a translation by Max Eastman and follows the 1950 LSSP edition.

2. Dr Levine was Lenin’s personal physician, who was condemned to death in the third Moscow trial in 1938.

3. Thermidor is a regime which, while not doing away with the social gains of the revolution to ant major degree, deprives the masses of its political gains an analogy with the regime that followed soon after the French Revolution of 1789 - on 24 July 1794 to be exact – according to the new French revolutionary calendar on the 9th of the month of Thermidor.


  • Biography 1
    • Revolutionary career 1.1
    • 1917 Revolution 1.2
    • Brest-Litovsk 1.3
    • Diplomatic career 1.4
    • Opposition and suicide 1.5

    Revolutionary career

    Adolf Abramovich Joffe was born in Simferopol, Crimea, Russian Empire in a wealthy Karaite Jewish family. [1] [2] He became a social democrat in 1900 while still in high school, formally joining the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903. In 1904 Joffe was sent to Baku, which he had to flee to avoid arrest. He was then sent to Moscow, but had to flee again, this time abroad. After the events of Bloody Sunday on January 9, 1905, Joffe returned to Russia and took an active part in the Russian Revolution of 1905. In early 1906 he was forced to emigrate and lived in Berlin until his expulsion from Germany in May 1906.

    In Russia, Joffe was close to the Menshevik faction within the Russian Social Democratic Party. However, after moving to Vienna in May 1906, he became close to Leon Trotsky's position and helped Trotsky edit Pravda from 1908 to 1912 while studying medicine and with Alfred Adler, psychoanalysis. [3] He also used his family's fortune to support Pravda financially. During the course of his underground revolutionary activity Joffe adopted the party name "V. Krymsky," the surname meaning "The Crimean." [4]

    In 1912 Joffe was arrested while visiting Odessa, imprisoned for 10 months and then exiled to Siberia.

    1917 Revolution

    In 1917, Joffe, freed from the Siberian exile by the February Revolution, returned to the Crimea. Crimean social democrats sent him to the capital, Petrograd, to represent them, but he soon moved to an internationalist revolutionary position, which made it impossible for him to remain in an organization dominated by less radical Mensheviks. Instead, he joined forces with Trotsky, who had just returned from abroad.

    In May 1917, Joffe and Trotsky temporarily joined Mezhraiontsy who merged with the Bolsheviks at the VIth Bolshevik Party Congress held between 26 July (all dates are Old Style until February 1918) and 3 August 1917. At the Congress, Joffe was elected a candidate (non-voting) member of the Central Committee, but two days later, on August 5, the Central Committee, some of whose members were in prison, in hiding or lived far from Petrograd and couldn't attend its meetings, made Joffe a member of its permanent ("narrow") bureau. On August 6, Joffe was made an alternate member of the Central Committee Secretariat and on August 20 made a member of the editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda which was then temporarily called Proletary (Proletarian) for legal reasons.

    Joffe headed the Bolshevik faction in the Petrograd Duma (city government) in the fall of 1917 and was one of the Duma's delegates to the Democratic Conference between September 14 and 22. Although Joffe, along with Lenin and Trotsky, opposed the Bolsheviks' participation in the consultative Pre-parliament created by the Democratic Conference, the motion was carried by the majority of Bolshevik deputies at the Democratic Conference and Joffe was made a Bolshevik member of the Pre-parliament. Two weeks later, on October 7, once the more radical Bolshevik faction gained the upper hand, Joffe and other Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-parliament.

    In October 1917, Joffe supported Lenin's and Trotsky's revolutionary position against Grigory Zinoviev's and Lev Kamenev's more moderate position, demanding that the latter be expelled from the Central Committee after an apparent breach of party discipline. Joffe served as the Chairman of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee which overthrew the Russian Provisional Government on October 25–26, 1917. Immediately after the revolution, he supported Lenin and Trotsky against Zinoviev, Kamenev, Alexei Rykov and other Bolshevik Central Committee members who would have shared power with other socialist parties.

    Brest-Litovsk

    From November 30, 1917 until January 1918, Joffe was the head of the Soviet delegation that was sent to Brest-Litovsk to negotiate an end to the hostilities with Germany. On December 22, 1917, Joffe announced the following Bolshevik pre-conditions for a peace treaty: [5]

    • No forcible annexation of territories seized in the war
    • Restore national independence where it was terminated during war
    • National groups independent before the war should be allowed by referendum to decide question of independence
    • Multi-cultural regions should be administered so as to allow all possible cultural independence and self-regulation
    • No indemnities. Personal losses should be compensated out of international fund
    • Colonial question should be decided according to points 1–4

    Although Joffe had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Central Powers on December 2, 1917, he supported Trotsky in the latter's refusal to sign a permanent peace treaty in February. Once the Bolshevik Central Committee decided to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on February 23, 1918, Joffe remained a member of the Soviet delegation only under protest and in a purely consultative capacity.

    Remembering Joffe's presence with the Bolshevik delegation at Brest-Litovsk, Count Ottokar Czernin, the Austro-Hungarians' representative would later write:

    At the VIIth Extraordinary Congress of the Bolshevik Party between March 6 and March 8, 1918, Joffe was re-elected to the Central Committee, but only as a candidate (non-voting) member. He remained in Petrograd when the Soviet government moved to Moscow later in March and worked as a member of the Petrograd Bureau of the Central Committee until he was appointed Soviet representative to Germany in April. He signed the Soviet-German Supplementary Treaty on August 27, 1918. On November 6, 1918, literally days before the Armistice and the German Revolution, the Soviet delegation in Berlin headed by Joffe was expelled from the country on charges of preparing a Communist uprising in Germany.

    Diplomatic career

    In 1919–1920, Joffe was a member of the Council of Labor and Defense and People's Commissar (minister) of State Control of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. He wasn't re-elected to the Central Committee at the VIII Party Congress in March 1919 and would never again occupy a major leadership position. He negotiated a ceasefire with Poland in October 1920 and peace treaties with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in late 1920. In 1921 he signed the Peace of Riga with Poland ending the Polish-Soviet War and was made deputy chairman of the Turkestan Commission of the VTsIK and Sovnarkom.

    Joffe was one of the Soviet delegates at the Genoa Conference in February 1922, an experience he described in a short book published later that same year. [7] After the Soviet walkout, he was made ambassador to China, as the Soviet troubleshooter (or Kuznetsov) of those days. In 1923, Joffe signed an agreement with Sun Yat-Sen in Shanghai on aid to Kuomintang on the assumption that the latter would cooperate with Chinese Communists, presumably with Lenin's approval. [8] While in China, Joffe traveled to Japan in June 1923 to settle Soviet-Japanese relations. [9] The negotiations proved long and difficult and were aborted when Joffe became gravely ill and had to be sent back to Moscow. After a partial recovery, he served as a member of the Soviet delegation to Great Britain in 1924 and as Soviet representative in Austria in 1924–1926. In 1926 his declining health and disagreements with the ruling Bolshevik faction forced his semi-retirement. He tried to concentrate on teaching, but it also proved difficult due to his illness.

    Opposition and suicide

    Joffe remained a friend and loyal supporter of Leon Trotsky through the 1920s, joining him in the Left Opposition. By late 1927, he was gravely ill, in extreme pain and confined to his bed. After a refusal by the Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party to send him abroad for treatment and Trotsky's expulsion from the Communist Party on November 12, 1927, he committed suicide. He left a farewell letter addressed to Trotsky, but the letter was seized by Soviet secret police agents and later selectively quoted by Stalinists to discredit both Joffe and Trotsky. Trotsky's eulogy at Joffe's funeral was his last public speech in the Soviet Union. [10]

    Joffe's wife Maria Joffe was arrested as a left-oppositionist Trotskyist by Stalin's security forces, yet she survived to write her memoirs One Long Night - A Tale of Truth. Joffe's daughter, Nadezhda Joffe, also an active Trotskyist, survived Stalin's prisons and labor camps and published a memoir, Back in Time: My Life, My Fate, My Epoch.


    Back in Time: My Life My Fate My Epoch, The Memoirs of Nadezhda A. Joffe

    This is the only memoir to be written in the post-Stalin Soviet Union by a member of the Left Opposition, which was formed under the leadership of Leon Trotsky in 1923. Nadezhda Joffe was the daughter of Adolf Abramovich Joffe, the Bolshevik leader and Left Oppositionist who committed suicide in 1927 to protest the expulsion of Trotsky from the Bolshevik Party.

    Frequently Bought Together

    This is the only memoir to be written in the post-Stalin Soviet Union by a member of the Left Opposition, which was formed under the leadership of Leon Trotsky in 1923. Nadezhda Joffe was the daughter of Adolf Abramovich Joffe, the Bolshevik leader and Left Oppositionist who committed suicide in 1927 to protest the expulsion of Trotsky from the Bolshevik Party.

    Nadezhda Joffe (1906-1999) was a Soviet Trotskyist and the daughter of the Soviet diplomat, Adolf Joffe. Her father committed suicide in 1927 to protest the expulsion of Leon Trotsky from the Communist Party by Stalin. Adolph Joffe had been an early opponent of the growth and consolidation of bureaucratic power in the USSR.

    Nadezhda joined the Left Opposition, founded by Trotsky, in 1923. She was first arrested and exiled from Moscow in 1929. In 1936, she was re-arrested and sent to the Kolyma labor camps in Siberia, where thousands of members of the Left Opposition perished. Her husband was arrested at about the same time and executed in 1938 at Kolyma.

    Joffe was released from Kolyma in 1941, but re-arrested yet again in 1949. After Stalin’s death in 1953 Joffe was again freed and returned to Moscow. Her memoirs, which she wrote in 1971-1972 but were not published until after the collapse of the Soviet Union, focus on the terrible years of the 1930s. At that time, the Stalinist bureaucracy carried out the physical extermination of socialist opponents to the regime.

    In her later years, Joffe emigrated with her family to the United States and settled in Brooklyn, New York.

    Additional biographical information and other commentary can be found in a 1999 obituary entitled, “Socialist opponent of Stalinism dies in New York”, published on the World Socialist Web Site.


    • Biography 1
      • Revolutionary career 1.1
      • 1917 Revolution 1.2
      • Brest-Litovsk 1.3
      • Diplomatic career 1.4
      • Opposition and suicide 1.5

      Revolutionary career

      Adolf Abramovich Joffe was born in Simferopol, Crimea, Russian Empire in a wealthy Karaite Jewish family. [1] [2] He became a social democrat in 1900 while still in high school, formally joining the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903. In 1904 Joffe was sent to Baku, which he had to flee to avoid arrest. He was then sent to Moscow, but had to flee again, this time abroad. After the events of Bloody Sunday on January 9, 1905, Joffe returned to Russia and took an active part in the Russian Revolution of 1905. In early 1906 he was forced to emigrate and lived in Berlin until his expulsion from Germany in May 1906.

      In Russia, Joffe was close to the Menshevik faction within the Russian Social Democratic Party. However, after moving to Vienna in May 1906, he became close to Leon Trotsky's position and helped Trotsky edit Pravda from 1908 to 1912 while studying medicine and with Alfred Adler, psychoanalysis. [3] He also used his family's fortune to support Pravda financially. During the course of his underground revolutionary activity Joffe adopted the party name "V. Krymsky," the surname meaning "The Crimean." [4]

      In 1912 Joffe was arrested while visiting Odessa, imprisoned for 10 months and then exiled to Siberia.

      1917 Revolution

      In 1917, Joffe, freed from the Siberian exile by the February Revolution, returned to the Crimea. Crimean social democrats sent him to the capital, Petrograd, to represent them, but he soon moved to an internationalist revolutionary position, which made it impossible for him to remain in an organization dominated by less radical Mensheviks. Instead, he joined forces with Trotsky, who had just returned from abroad.

      In May 1917, Joffe and Trotsky temporarily joined Mezhraiontsy who merged with the Bolsheviks at the VIth Bolshevik Party Congress held between 26 July (all dates are Old Style until February 1918) and 3 August 1917. At the Congress, Joffe was elected a candidate (non-voting) member of the Central Committee, but two days later, on August 5, the Central Committee, some of whose members were in prison, in hiding or lived far from Petrograd and couldn't attend its meetings, made Joffe a member of its permanent ("narrow") bureau. On August 6, Joffe was made an alternate member of the Central Committee Secretariat and on August 20 made a member of the editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda which was then temporarily called Proletary (Proletarian) for legal reasons.

      Joffe headed the Bolshevik faction in the Petrograd Duma (city government) in the fall of 1917 and was one of the Duma's delegates to the Democratic Conference between September 14 and 22. Although Joffe, along with Lenin and Trotsky, opposed the Bolsheviks' participation in the consultative Pre-parliament created by the Democratic Conference, the motion was carried by the majority of Bolshevik deputies at the Democratic Conference and Joffe was made a Bolshevik member of the Pre-parliament. Two weeks later, on October 7, once the more radical Bolshevik faction gained the upper hand, Joffe and other Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-parliament.

      In October 1917, Joffe supported Lenin's and Trotsky's revolutionary position against Grigory Zinoviev's and Lev Kamenev's more moderate position, demanding that the latter be expelled from the Central Committee after an apparent breach of party discipline. Joffe served as the Chairman of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee which overthrew the Russian Provisional Government on October 25–26, 1917. Immediately after the revolution, he supported Lenin and Trotsky against Zinoviev, Kamenev, Alexei Rykov and other Bolshevik Central Committee members who would have shared power with other socialist parties.

      Brest-Litovsk

      From November 30, 1917 until January 1918, Joffe was the head of the Soviet delegation that was sent to Brest-Litovsk to negotiate an end to the hostilities with Germany. On December 22, 1917, Joffe announced the following Bolshevik pre-conditions for a peace treaty: [5]

      • No forcible annexation of territories seized in the war
      • Restore national independence where it was terminated during war
      • National groups independent before the war should be allowed by referendum to decide question of independence
      • Multi-cultural regions should be administered so as to allow all possible cultural independence and self-regulation
      • No indemnities. Personal losses should be compensated out of international fund
      • Colonial question should be decided according to points 1–4

      Although Joffe had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Central Powers on December 2, 1917, he supported Trotsky in the latter's refusal to sign a permanent peace treaty in February. Once the Bolshevik Central Committee decided to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on February 23, 1918, Joffe remained a member of the Soviet delegation only under protest and in a purely consultative capacity.

      Remembering Joffe's presence with the Bolshevik delegation at Brest-Litovsk, Count Ottokar Czernin, the Austro-Hungarians' representative would later write:

      At the VIIth Extraordinary Congress of the Bolshevik Party between March 6 and March 8, 1918, Joffe was re-elected to the Central Committee, but only as a candidate (non-voting) member. He remained in Petrograd when the Soviet government moved to Moscow later in March and worked as a member of the Petrograd Bureau of the Central Committee until he was appointed Soviet representative to Germany in April. He signed the Soviet-German Supplementary Treaty on August 27, 1918. On November 6, 1918, literally days before the Armistice and the German Revolution, the Soviet delegation in Berlin headed by Joffe was expelled from the country on charges of preparing a Communist uprising in Germany.

      Diplomatic career

      In 1919–1920, Joffe was a member of the Council of Labor and Defense and People's Commissar (minister) of State Control of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. He wasn't re-elected to the Central Committee at the VIII Party Congress in March 1919 and would never again occupy a major leadership position. He negotiated a ceasefire with Poland in October 1920 and peace treaties with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in late 1920. In 1921 he signed the Peace of Riga with Poland ending the Polish-Soviet War and was made deputy chairman of the Turkestan Commission of the VTsIK and Sovnarkom.

      Joffe was one of the Soviet delegates at the Genoa Conference in February 1922, an experience he described in a short book published later that same year. [7] After the Soviet walkout, he was made ambassador to China, as the Soviet troubleshooter (or Kuznetsov) of those days. In 1923, Joffe signed an agreement with Sun Yat-Sen in Shanghai on aid to Kuomintang on the assumption that the latter would cooperate with Chinese Communists, presumably with Lenin's approval. [8] While in China, Joffe traveled to Japan in June 1923 to settle Soviet-Japanese relations. [9] The negotiations proved long and difficult and were aborted when Joffe became gravely ill and had to be sent back to Moscow. After a partial recovery, he served as a member of the Soviet delegation to Great Britain in 1924 and as Soviet representative in Austria in 1924–1926. In 1926 his declining health and disagreements with the ruling Bolshevik faction forced his semi-retirement. He tried to concentrate on teaching, but it also proved difficult due to his illness.

      Opposition and suicide

      Joffe remained a friend and loyal supporter of Leon Trotsky through the 1920s, joining him in the Left Opposition. By late 1927, he was gravely ill, in extreme pain and confined to his bed. After a refusal by the Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party to send him abroad for treatment and Trotsky's expulsion from the Communist Party on November 12, 1927, he committed suicide. He left a farewell letter addressed to Trotsky, but the letter was seized by Soviet secret police agents and later selectively quoted by Stalinists to discredit both Joffe and Trotsky. Trotsky's eulogy at Joffe's funeral was his last public speech in the Soviet Union. [10]

      Joffe's wife Maria Joffe was arrested as a left-oppositionist Trotskyist by Stalin's security forces, yet she survived to write her memoirs One Long Night - A Tale of Truth. Joffe's daughter, Nadezhda Joffe, also an active Trotskyist, survived Stalin's prisons and labor camps and published a memoir, Back in Time: My Life, My Fate, My Epoch.


      Sisukord

      Päritolu ja haridus [ muuda | muuda lähteteksti ]

      Tema isa oli jõukas Simferopoli kaupmees Abram Jakovlevitš Joffe. Rahvuselt kuulus Joffede perekond karaiimide, judaismi vastu võtnud väikese turgi rahva hulka.

      Ta sai korraliku keskhariduse, lõpetas 1903 Simferopoli gümnaasiumi ja jätkas oma õpinguid 1903–1904 Berliini Friedrich Wilhelmi Ülikooli arstiteaduskonnas. Hiljem õppis ta aastatel 1906–1907 veel Zürichi ülikooli õigusteaduskonnas.

      Poliitiline tegevus [ muuda | muuda lähteteksti ]

      Väidetavalt alustas Joffe aktiivset tegevust sotsiaaldemokraadina juba 1890. aastatel keskkoolis õppides. Andmed tema liitumise kohta VSDTP-ga on vastuolulised, kõige tõenäolisemalt jäi see ajavahemikku 1900–1903. Parteis kuulus ta vähemlaste ehk menševike fraktsiooni.

      Pärast tagasipöördumist Berliinist osales ta alates 1904. aastast põrandaaluste revolutsiooniliste organisatsioonide töös, oli tegev Bakuus, Moskvas, Odessas ja Sevastopolis. 1906. aastal Joffe vahistati süüdistatuna revolutsioonilises tegevuses ja saadeti asumisele Siberisse, kuid tal õnnestus põgeneda Šveitsi, kus ta jätkas paralleelselt õpinguid ja oma poliitilist tegevust. Aastatel 1906–1907 oli ta ühtlasi VSDTP KK välismaabüroo liige.

      Aastatel 1908–1912 elas Joffe Austria pealinnas Viinis, kus andis koos Lev Trotski ja Matvei Skobeleviga välja ajalehte Pravda. Austrias hakkas ta huvituma psühhoanalüüsist, kohtus seal tunnustatud psühhoanalüütiku Alfred Adleriga ja läbis ka tema juures vastavad kursused.

      1912. aastal pöördus ta illegaalselt kodumaale tagasi, kuid vahistati samal aastal Odessas ja saadeti asumisele Tobolski kubermangu. Ta vahistati uuesti 1913. ja 1916. aastal, viimasel korral mõisteti Siberisse eluaegsele asumisele.

      Asumiselt vabanes ta pärast 1917. aasta Veebruarirevolutsiooni ja suundus Petrogradi. Seal andis ta koos Trotskiga välja ajalehte Vperjod ja liitus sama aasta augustis bolševikega. Samal kuul valiti ta VSDT(b)P Keskkomitee ja Keskkomitee sekretariaadi liikmekandidaadiks. Ta oli Petrogradi linnaduuma liige, osales septembris 1917 Ülevenemaalise Demokraatliku Kogu ja oktoobris 1917 Venemaa Vabariigi Ajutise Nõukogu töös.

      Oktoobrirevolutsiooni ajal oli Adolf Joffe Petrogradi Sõja-Revolutsioonikomitee esimees. Novembris 1917 valiti ta ka Ülevenemaalise Kesktäitevkomitee liikmeks.

      Diplomaatiline teenistus [ muuda | muuda lähteteksti ]

      Pärast Oktoobrirevolutsiooni asus Joffe tööle Venemaa Nõukogude Vabariigi Välisasjade Rahvakomissariaati.

      2. detsembrist (vkj 19. novembrist) 28. detsembrini (vkj 15. detsembrini) 1917 osales ta Venemaa delegatsiooni juhina Brest-Litovskis Saksamaaga peetud rahulääbirääkimistel, hiljem oli Venemaa delegatsiooni liige ja konsultant. 15. detsembril (vkj 2. detsembril) kirjutas ta Venemaa nimel alla Saksamaaga 28 päevaks sõlmitud vaherahule.

      Brest-Litovski rahulepingu allkirjastajate seas Joffet siiski ei olnud. Pidades sakslaste esitatud tingimusi Nõukogude Venemaale häbiväärseteks ja toetades selles küsimuses Lev Trotski seisukohti Vladimir Lenini seisukohtade vastu, keeldus ta osalemast märtsis 1918 lepingu allakirjutamisele saadetud delegatsiooni koosseisus.

      Aprillist novembrini 1918 oli ta Vene SFNV täievoliline esindaja Saksamaal, kus tegeles aktiivselt revolutsiooni ettevalmistamisega. Saksamaa seadusliku võimu vastases tegevuses süüdistatuna saadeti ta koos kogu oma esindusega novembris 1918 riigist välja.

      Aastatel 1919–1920 oli Joffe Ukraina NSV riigikontrolli rahvakomissar ja kaitsenõukogu esimees. Paralleelselt juhtis ta Vene SFNV delegatsioone rahuläbirääkimistel Eesti, Läti, Leedu ja Soomega, hiljem ka Poolaga. Venemaa delegatsiooni juhina allkirjastas Joffe 2. veebruaril 1920 Tartu rahulepingu ja 18. märtsil 1921 Riia rahulepingu.

      Pärast edukaid rahuläbirääkimisi Poolaga nimetati Joffe kevadel Ülevenemaalise Kesktäitevkomitee ja Vene SFNV Rahvakomissaride Nõukogu Turkestani komisjoni juhiks. 1922. aastal kuulus Joffe Nõukogude delegatsiooni Genova konverentsil. Aastatel 1922–1924 oli ta NSV Liidu täievoliline esindaja Hiinas ja oli ühtlasi NSV Liidu esindaja Jaapaniga peetud läbirääkimistel. 1923. aastal haigestus ta polüneuriiti ega saanudki haiguse tõsiduse tõttu ise jaapanlastega läbirääkimisi lõpule viia.

      1924. aastal viidi ta tervisliku seisundi tõttu üle Euroopasse. Samal aastal juhtis Joffe Suurbritanniat külastanud NSV Liidu delegatsiooni ja aastatel 1924–1925 oli ta NSV Liidu täievoliline esindaja Austrias, kus olid olemas võimalused saada head ravi.

      1925. aastal kutsuti Joffe Nõukogude Liitu tagasi ja nimetati mais NSV Liidu Rahvakomissaride Nõukogu juures tegutseva kontsessioonide peakomitee esimehe asetäitjaks. Komitee esimees oli Lev Trotski. Neil aastatel NSV Liidu juhtkonnas teravnenud vastuoludes ja võimuvõitluses kujunes Joffest üks peamisi niinimetatud trotskistliku opositsiooni juhte.

      Surm [ muuda | muuda lähteteksti ]

      16. novembril 1927 sooritas Adolf Joffe Moskvas enesetapu. Tema enesetappu on seostatud kahe tõenäoliselt omavahel seotud põhjusega.

      Ühelt poolt oli Joffe tervis järjest halvenenud ning ta vajas raha ravisõitudeks välismaale, kuid partei keskkomitee keeldus tema ravi rahastamast.

      Teiselt poolt oli niinimetatud trotskistlik opositsioon selleks ajaks võimuvõitluses alla jäänud Jossif Stalini toetajatele ja vaid mõned nädalad pärast Joffe surma kuulutas VK(b)P XV kongress Trotski ning tema toetajate vaated ametliku partei kursiga vastuolus olevateks. Ka otsus Joffe ravi mitte rahastada oli kahtlemata tingitud võimuvahekordade muutusest parteis.

      Tema põrm sängitati Novodevitšje kalmistule. Joffe matustel peetud kõne jäi Lev Trotski viimaseks avalikuks esinemiseks NSV Liidus.


      Adolph Joffe - History

      On August 21, a comment appeared in the Guardian newspaper by Tariq Ali on the suicide of the Russian revolutionary Adolf Abramovich Joffe in 1927.

      Joffe is a significant figure—one of the five members of the Military Revolutionary Committee that organised the establishment of Soviet rule in October 1917 and part of the subsequent Soviet delegation to peace negotiations at Brest Litovsk in 1918. Little more than a decade later he was to take his own life, on November 16, 1927.

      Ali gives the impression that he decided, out of the blue, to write on a subject he had read about some 40 years before. He refers to a pamphlet he read “over four decades ago” containing Joffe’s suicide letter, which was addressed to “Dear Lev Davidovich [Leon Trotsky].”

      In fact, although unacknowledged, the article was timed to coincide with the 73rd anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination by the GPU agent Ramon Mercader. Its purpose was to slander the co-leader of the Russian revolution in a particularly dishonest and cynical manner.

      There is not the space here to go into Ali’s long and disreputable career. Suffice it to say that he is a man devoid of any principles, except his own advancement.

      For many years, he was the leader of the International Marxist Group, the British section of the Pabloite United Secretariat, whose fundamental opposition to Trotskyism centred on its rejection of the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism and the need for a political revolution in the Soviet Union, instead attributing to the bureaucracy a progressive political potential.

      So persistent has been Ali’s infatuation with Stalinism that in 1988 he went so far as to dedicate a book to future-President Boris Yeltsin, who he proclaimed to be leading the political revolution in Russia.

      Ali counts on the fact that many people will know nothing of his history. And he can rely on his friends at the Guardian and elsewhere to keep them in the dark, while publishing whatever serves his and their ends at any given time.

      In this instance, Ali’s false purpose is betrayed by the headline, “A Suicide Note to Trotsky that Displayed Political Passions We Should Not Forget.”

      “Men like Adolf Joffe couldn’t remain silent and submit to Stalinist policies and practices—and he criticised Trotsky for doing so,” the strap line states.

      The insinuation is that Joffe criticised Trotsky for Trotsky’s silence and Trotsky’s submission to “Stalinist policies and practices.”

      This is an out-and-out lie. Between 1923 and 1927, Trotsky led an extraordinary struggle against the policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. This struggle is recorded in voluminous documents and many volumes, including such masterpieces as The New Course, Lessons of October and Problems of the Chinese Revolution, the last volume dealing with the betrayal of the 1927 revolution as a result of Stalin’s policies.

      It was this indefatigable and courageous struggle that led to Trotsky’s expulsion, first from the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in October 1927, and then from the party itself one month later. In January 1928, he was exiled to Alma Ata, Kazakhstan and then banished from the Soviet Union in February 1929—the start of a long period of enforced exile that would culminate in his murder in Mexico on Stalin’s orders.

      Not only does this historical record repudiate Ali’s slur that Trotsky acquiesced in the policies of Stalinism, but Joffe made no such criticism and it is not the content of his letter.

      An important and moving document, it is no accident that the last statement of Joffe’s life was addressed to Trotsky.

      One of Trotsky’s closest friends, he was a signatory to the “Declaration of the 46” to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party dated October 15, 1923—the first document of what became known as the Left Opposition, led by Trotsky, to the emerging Stalinist bureaucracy.

      Like all of the leaders of the Left Opposition, Joffe suffered for his stand. By 1927, longstanding illnesses left him wracked with pain and unable to work. As a doctor, he was well aware that there was no chance of recovery, especially under conditions where the Stalin faction callously blocked him from receiving the treatment he so urgently required.

      His anguish was compounded by the treatment of Trotsky by the ruling faction.

      Just four days after Trotsky’s expulsion from the Communist Party, Joffe took his own life. Deprived of the means of participating in the political struggle against the bureaucracy, his suicide was intended as an act of defiance. It was, as Joffe wrote in his letter, “the protest of a fighter who has been brought to such a state that he can react to so shameful a deed [Trotsky’s expulsion] in no other way.”

      It is noticeable that while Ali refers to Joffe’s widow, Maria, and her book One Long Night, he does not mention the far more political and no less significant work by Joffe’s daughter, Nadezhda, Back in Time: My Life, My Fate, My Epoch. The only memoir written in the post-Stalin Soviet Union by a member of the Left Opposition, Nadezhda Joffe’s book quotes her father’s suicide letter in full and gives a powerful account of the issues involved, dedicating a chapter specifically to Trotsky, whom she greatly admired.

      Ali hopes again to rely on people’s lack of historical knowledge to substantially misrepresent the significance and content of Joffe’s letter.

      After stressing the “correctness of the path” Trotsky had marked out from 1905 with his elaboration of the theory of Permanent Revolution, Joffe continued in his note, “But you have often forsaken your personal correctness in favour of an agreement or compromise which you valued too highly. This is a mistake.”

      Ali quotes this section, but omits with ellipses what follows directly: Joffe’s emphasis that “I repeat, politically you have been right, and now you are more correct than ever before. One day the party will understand this, and history will definitely make the proper assessment.”

      The omission is deliberate. Joffe wrote as a dear friend and collaborator. His note was a declaration of political, moral and personal solidarity with Trotsky and recognition of his central role in the October revolution and the struggle against Stalinism.

      Ali’s account, however, changes the whole tone of Joffe’s comment and twists it.

      He asserts, “Joffe had watched as the opposition negotiated, compromised and accepted the decision of the party, right or wrong. Trotsky had, at that point, not favoured the idea put forward by some of his supporters: a total break with Stalin’s faction and the announcement of a new party.”

      This is a fabrication. Joffe did not specify in his note to what his criticism referred, but it was certainly not over the issue of the formation of a new party, with which neither he nor Trotsky agreed in 1927, despite Ali’s insinuation otherwise. The Left Opposition was not prepared to abandon the struggle in the Communist Party and the Communist International—to which tens of millions around the world gave their allegiance—as long as there was any possibility of altering their political course.

      Trotsky would not come to that decision until the world-shaking events in Germany in 1933, when Hitler was able to come to power without a shot being fired in opposition. Under conditions where the Communist International rejected any discussion of the disastrous consequences of Stalin’s policies, Trotsky denounced it as dead for the purposes of revolution and issued the call for the formation of a new, Fourth International.

      In his own account, Trotsky wrote of the Left Opposition having made “principled concessions” in 1926 to forge, in opposition to Stalin, the Joint (Bolshevik-Leninist) Opposition with a significant faction led by Grigory Zinoviev.

      These concessions, “which I considered and still consider impermissible,” were made “against my vote,” Trotsky wrote in In Defence of Marxism. That he did not protest openly at the time was a “mistake,” Trotsky continued, but it was one occasioned by circumstances in which “there was generally not much room for open protests—we were working illegally.”

      This is a critical point, and one that is a matter of indifference to Ali. Internationally, Stalin’s policies had led to the defeat of the 1923 German revolution, the defeat of the 1926 General Strike in Britain and the crushing of the Chinese Revolution in 1927. These grave setbacks to the world revolution strengthened the conservative Soviet bureaucracy.

      As the leader of a tendency working under extremely difficult conditions, not the least of which was intensifying state repression, there were occasions when Trotsky felt compelled to accept certain tactical concessions, including those with which he was in sharp disagreement.

      The advisability or otherwise of one or another of these concessions may be the subject of legitimate debate amongst historians. But it is undeniable that they were motivated by Trotsky’s deep and profound awareness of his responsibility for the future not only of the Communist Party, but of the international socialist workers’ movement, and his hope of being able to continue the critical task of political clarification.

      Joffe understood this only too well. As if to underscore the life-and-death character of the struggle in which Trotsky was engaged, Joffe in his letter evoked Lenin and his “unbending and unyielding character” as the example that Trotsky should emulate—all within the context of reaffirming the correctness of Trotsky’s path.

      One only has to compare Ali’s treatment of Joffe’s letter to the assessment made by Isaac Deutscher to appreciate the scale of Ali’s distortion.

      Deutscher quotes the same part of Joffe’s note in the second part of his trilogy on Trotsky’s life, The Prophet Unarmed, but makes an entirely opposing point to Ali.

      He writes: “In this, his last word, therefore, he wished that Trotsky should find in himself that ‘unyielding strength’ which would help their common cause to eventual even if delayed triumph.

      “The criticism, coming from the depth of a dying friend’s devotion and love could not but move and impress Trotsky: he was to stand almost alone, ‘unbending and unyielding’ for the rest of his life.”

      It is in the dishonest presentation of events that a political scoundrel reveals himself.

      Why the surreptitious marking of the immense crime of Trotsky’s assassination with a deceitful account of Joffe’s suicide? The reasons were anticipated by Trotsky himself.

      In her book, Nadezhda Joffe cites Trotsky’s account of her father’s death. Informed anonymously of his action and the letter addressed to him, Trotsky rushed to Joffe’s home. The letter had disappeared. Only after Trotsky’s protests at its theft had spread throughout Moscow was he finally given a photostatic copy of the original.

      Why this was the case “I cannot even attempt to explain,” Trotsky wrote. “Failing to conceal the letter from the whole world, the cynical enemy tried to exploit for its own purposes those very lines not written for the public eye.”