LONDON Britain refused asylum to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in 1929 because the Labor government feared alienating Joseph Stalin, de facto dictator of the Soviet Union, according to cabinet papers released by the public record office.
Trotsky tried four times to come to Britain after he was expelled from Moscow, including asking to live in the Channel Islands in 1934.
The top home office civil servant advised the cabinet on that occasion he would need watching as well as protecting: "He has failed to impose his ideas on the [ruling] politburo in Russia, but he has not abandoned them; the idea of Trotsky in quiet retirement is comic."
His request stirred parts of the labor movement and such figures as H.G. Wells, the economists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, J.M. Keynes, C.P. Scott (editor of the Manchester Guardian), G.B. Shaw, Clem Attlee and James Maxton.
Trotsky was famous as the man who led the Red Army to victory in the civil war, and as an eloquent Marxist author, but he was outmaneuvered by Stalin on Lenin's death and his supporters were persecuted or liquidated. Stalin was to succeed in having him assassinated in 1941.
Arguing for asylum, Wells said Trotsky had a "trenchant literary power" and his extraordinary career gave him a "hold on the public imagination;" living in Britain with "a constitution that has not broken down and an army that has not broken up" would help change Trotsky's "present state of mind." Wells reminded ministers that England was the "home of so-called dangerous opinions as well as of lost causes."
Trotsky dubbed The Man Whom Nobody Wants first applied after Labor's election win in 1929. The Manchester Guardian, as go-between for Trotsky's friend, Mme. Paz (Magdelaine Marx), and the home secretary, J.R. Clynes, passed on undertakings that he would not be politically active.
Sidney Webb told the home secretary he had advised Trotsky to apply privately so ministers could consider the matter: "But he appears carried away by Labor's electoral success and characteristically is so addicted to posturing before the whole world that he forgot to heed my warning."
The government gave no public reasons for rejecting Trotsky, causing protests from unions and Labor members of parliament.