w_1940_12_9

Letter to M. de la Luz and Rebecca

Henry meets two sisters at the opera and becomes friends. Before it goes too far, he feels like he must explain who he is and what he does. This is several months before he meets Esperanza. After they receive this letter, they have a friend telephone him and say they will not see him again. Its a great letter that not only tells what he has been doing in the 1930's and why he is in Mexico, but shows his earnestness and idealism. He says he became a guard for Trotsky on July 12, 1940, so he was there 5 weeks before the assassination. This is a copy he kept.

Coyoacan, D.F.
Mon. Dec. 9, '40

Dear M.de la Luz and Rebecca,

You will be surprised to receive this letter. You have probably been asking yourselves several questions concerning me. I'll answer them now thereby preventing later mis-understandings.

You will recall, we met at the opera, Tuesday of last week. We had a brief conversation which I enjoyed greatly. We exchanged addresses. I sent you a post card and received a lovely answer. When I telephoned later I was invited to visit you. I accepted and can't tell you how much I enjoyed the afternoon with you. Everything I told you was true. I left out one small matter which will probably terminate our brief friendship, not that I wish it so, but because I feel that your ideas on this matter are quite different from mine. You will probably dislike having me as a friend. As I've already told you, I believe my personal habits are above reproach. All my life I've abstained from the use of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, swearing, even parties and dancing. July of last year was the first time I ever had a "date" with a girl. Several more followed, Oct. 7, '39 was the last. I told her good-bye and kissed her - the first and last time. I have denied myself almost all pleasures. I'll explain why later. In spite of the fact that we lived in four states before I had completed elementary school, at the age of 16 I had completed high school and started to college. I went two years. I taught in the elementary schools five years. "The depression" started in '29. Every year the conditions became worse. Children were unable to buy school-books, paper or pencils. Their clothes wore out and they were unable to buy others. Many came to school hungry. Some stole food. One man I knew, unable to find work or supply his family with food committed suicide because the state gave pensions to widows and orphans.

I realized after a few years that a serious change was necessary. The Republicans had been in office three years and couldn't stop the depression. Roosevelt was elected and promised to end poverty. Instead the number of unemployed increased, it reached 19 million unemployed men by 1934, including the families of these men 1/4 of the people of the U.S. had no income, were actually slowly starving to death. At this same time I traveled through the Southern states where the government was paying farmers to plow under cotton. I saw government officials shoot good dairy cows. In Kansas I saw immense stacks of wheat which the government destroyed in order to raise the price of wheat. My brother in California saw thousands of acres of fruit trees pulled up. Oranges were bought by the government, piled in heaps and cut up by driving a tractor and disc cultivator over them. Orange juice flowed down the furrows. People were starving. Henry Wallace was Secy. of Agriculture then and is Vice President now. The condition has existed now for over eleven years. People are almost becoming accustomed to being hungry. Six million boys have left school since it started and are unable to find work. More than twelve million men are still unemployed. Roosevelt can't end the depression, he can only prepare for war. Three years ago he said "one third of the people of this land are under-fed, under-clothed and poorly housed." Actually the number is much greater. Witnessing all these things I became aware that it isn't children who need an education, but parents. Poverty in the midst of plenty is inexcusable. For a year or more I traveled about the country visiting transient camps, "hobo" jungles, riding freight trains, fighting with the workers wherever there was a strike. I was in the miner's strike in West Virginia and sat at the table of a poor Negro who with his family prayed "Give us this day our daily bread" but who had nothing to eat but green onions and water gravy. I was in the General Strike in Terre Haute when the state troops imposed Martial law. Several times I've been beaten by the police or shot at with tear-gas for helping strikers. Several times I've been shot at for riding "the blinds" on trains. Several times the police have jailed me, finger-printed me and tried to "frame" me for my work. The purpose of law is to protect property, the workers own no property, therefore the law works only to protect the wealth of the rich.

For many years I maintained my faith in the churches. Christ had taught "Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself". I tried to make that my primary aim in life. He had said "Whatsoever thou doest unto the least among these my brethren, so hast thou done it unto me". That served me as a guide. He had also said "It is easier for a camel to enter the needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven". I learned too why that was true. He had taught his followers to pray "Give us this day our daily bread" and I had seen the government destroy enough to feed millions who were hungry. God lets enough grow to feed us all. It isn't his fault if any go hungry. All the churches support the government. What is worse, when the world started preparing for the present war, the churches of all denominations supported their own governments, just as they had done in 1914-18. The church of England prays "Lord, God, protect us and let our armies conquer". The Germans pray to the same God and ask for the same thing. Christ who is called The Prince of Peace is implored by both sides to kill the enemy. The churches don't say that killing in war is murder. Churches don't forbid their followers to fight. Churches don't teach Christ's words.

"Love thine enemies and pray for them who persecute you". The churches in all countries support their own governments and sanction the killing of their fellow churchmen who are fighting the armies of the enemy. Governments make war, not the common people. My hope is to achieve universal brotherhood and world peace. The common people of Germany don't want war, nor do those of France, Greece, Italy, England, Norway, the U.S. or any other country. The workers of all countries have the same wish. The only sensible thing to do therefore is for the workers of all countries to refuse to fight, overthrow their governments, and build a United States of the World. For over six years I've spent almost my entire time and all the money I've made over a bare existence to help achieve that goal. That is of course called Socialism and for believing in that I've been shunned by acquaintances, persecuted by police, and have been obliged to sacrifice almost all personal pleasures.

On may 24, 1940 an attempt was made by Stalin's GPU to murder Leon D. Trotsky. Many lies have been told against him, you can't expect a man's enemies to tell the truth. He was the greatest living genius. He was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was the greatest friend of mankind. He was a Socialist. I came as soon as possible after the attempt. I arrived in Mexico City July 2 at 8:00 P.M. On July 12 I became a regular guard for L.D. I have worked in the building trades several years so I undertook to improve the defenses of the place. I qualify as an expert rifleman and am a good shot with the revolver. Two men were constantly on guard day and night. Others were kept busy with the defense work. Others carried on the correspondence and research work for L.D. who was writing two books at the same time. We worked terribly long hours, none of us got more than 6 hours sleep each night. We were expecting an attack so each man got off duty only one afternoon each week. All the guards spoke English, so no need existed then for my studying Spanish, furthermore no time was available. After the Aug. 20 attack and L.D.'s death we were even busier than before. For a period of 12 days I got less than 5 hours sleep per night. As soon as time was available I began to study. I bought my books Oct. 2 and have been studying about an hour per day since.

Considerable danger still exists for L.D.'s wife Natalia and the grandson. Stalin will probably try to murder them as he has already killed 8 of L.D.'s secretaries and guards, one daughter, two sons, and another daughter was forced to commit suicide. The guard has been greatly reduced but several of us will have to stay with Natalia so long as Stalin rules Russia. I will probably stay here several more months. When I return I'll continue the work of building the party.

I don't expect to die of old age. If I'm not killed in the war which the U.S. will enter as soon as possible, I'll probably be shot for being a "red". In no case do I expect to be alive in five years. Under these conditions a normal life for me is impossible. I can never hope to have a home, a wife, a family. That for which the human heart yearns for most, the love of a mate, is denied me. No one in his normal senses would expect a wife to share the dangers and privations facing a revolutionist. The feeling of being utterly alone is a ghastly thing that devours the soul and mocks the deepest sorrow. Though I'm naturally of a cheerful disposition, gayety for me is a mask behind which I hide my anguish. When at night I walk along the crowded streets amidst throngs of people the bitter loneliness within me wells up and strangles my mirth, for there is no one to clasp my hand and wish me a fond fare-well. Like the Negro slave, who when driven with whips, sang of the things they longed for most, hoping thereby to drown their sorrow, I too sing ----love songs. The thumping I feel when I am in the presence of a lovely girl isn't a heart beating, it's a knife which with each beat cuts deeper.

I'm not asking that you believe this. It sounds fantastic, but it's true. The night I met you, after the pleasant conversation with your family and your cordial farewell I lay in bed musing; just thinking of the worlds and years of pleasure I've missed. I couldn't sleep so I got up at 4:30 AM. and went to work. Friday night I telephoned. I was in a happy mood when I went to bed at 9:30, but at 12:15 I was still wide awake so I got up and took a cold shower. I slept until 4:20 but couldn't go to sleep again so I spent the remainder of the night thinking, hoping, and wishing. I am writing this Tuesday morning. It is now 2:35 A.M. I cant sleep at all since I've met you two girls so I've spent the last several hours writing this. When I've finished this I'll probably read a book until dawn. Tomorrow you are supposed to have that date with me. If you wish to keep it please telephone. Of course I'm very anxious that you do, but I wanted to be fair and honest with you. Some people imagine that a revolutionist has shaggy red whiskers and carries a bomb in each pocket, and the general conception of a Trotskyist is that he is a real devil. Hoping that you have a better opinion of me than that, and waiting anxiously for your reply,

I remain most sincerely yours,

Henry Schnautz

P.S. Thursday I expect to go to Guadalupe to watch the pilgrims climb the stairs to the shrine of theVirgin. Are you going too?

H.S.