Difference between revisions of "Leon Trotsky"

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* Brotherstone, Terry , et al eds. ''The Trotsky Reappraisal'' (1992) [http://www.questia.com/read/59387717?title=The%20Trotsky%20Reappraisal online edition], 19 short essays by scholars  
* Brotherstone, Terry , et al eds. ''The Trotsky Reappraisal'' (1992) [http://www.questia.com/read/59387717?title=The%20Trotsky%20Reappraisal online edition], 19 short essays by scholars  
* Daniels, Robert V. ''Trotsky, Stalin and Socialism.'' (1991). 208 pp.
* Daniels, Robert V. ''Trotsky, Stalin and Socialism.'' (1991). 208 pp.
* Deutscher, isaac. ''Trotsky'' (3v, 1954-63), by a far-left admirer of Trotsky
* Garza, Hedda. ''Leon Trotsky'' (1986) short survey
* Garza, Hedda. ''Leon Trotsky'' (1986) short survey
* Kolakowski, Leszek. ''Main Current of Marxism'' (1978), 3:183-219, on Trotsky in 1930s
* Kolakowski, Leszek. ''Main Current of Marxism'' (1978), 3:183-219, on Trotsky in 1930s
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* Pomper, Philip. ''Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin: The Intelligentsia and Power.'' (1990). 446 pp.
* Pomper, Philip. ''Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin: The Intelligentsia and Power.'' (1990). 446 pp.
* Renton, Dave. ''Trotsky'' (2004) [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Life-Times-Dave-Renton/dp/1904341624/ref=sr_1_34?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111487&sr=1-34 excerpt and text search]
* Renton, Dave. ''Trotsky'' (2004) [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Life-Times-Dave-Renton/dp/1904341624/ref=sr_1_34?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111487&sr=1-34 excerpt and text search]
* Service, Robert. ''Trotsky: A Biography'' (2010), by a leading historian  
* Service, Robert. ''Trotsky: A Biography'' (2009), 600pp; by a leading historian; the best biography
* Thatcher, Ian D. ''Trotsky'' (2002) [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Routledge-Historical-Biographies-Thatcher/dp/0415232503/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111296&sr=1-14 excerpt and text search]; also [http://www.questia.com/read/108142763?title=Trotsky full text online]
* Thatcher, Ian D. ''Trotsky'' (2002) [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Routledge-Historical-Biographies-Thatcher/dp/0415232503/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111296&sr=1-14 excerpt and text search]; also [http://www.questia.com/read/108142763?title=Trotsky full text online]
* Volkogonov, Dmitri. ''Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary.'' (1996). 560 pp. [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Eternal-Revolutionary-Dmitri-Volkogonov/dp/1416576649/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111189&sr=1-8 excerpt and text search], very hostile
* Volkogonov, Dmitri. ''Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary.'' (1996). 560 pp. [http://www.amazon.com/Trotsky-Eternal-Revolutionary-Dmitri-Volkogonov/dp/1416576649/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245111189&sr=1-8 excerpt and text search], very hostile

Revision as of 04:02, 20 November 2009

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky (Russian: Лeв Давидович Трóцкий) , born Leon Davidovich Bronstein (Russian: Лeв Давидович Бронштéйн) (1879-1940), pronounced (traht'-skee) was a leader with Lenin in the Bolshevik (Communist) October Revolution in Russia in 1917. A charismatic orator, systematic organizer and brilliant theorist, Trotsky was primarily an intellectual whose writings greatly influenced leftist movements worldwide. An energetic organizer he planned the successful Petrograd uprising in November 1917, created the Red Army, and played the central role in winning the civil war (1918-20). Trotsky's independence and aloofness made him a poor backstage negotiator and he was easily outmaneuvered by Stalin, who controlled the party apparatus, After Lenin's disability in 1923, Trotsky lost power to Stalin. Forced into exile, he denounced the Soviet regime as an impure form of Communism; Stalin had him assassinated in Mexico in 1940.

Trotsky made many blunders and exaggerations, including losing his nerve when Germany invaded Russia in 1918; taking the credit due the generals for the Red victory in the civil war; claiming to be the father of the New Economic Policy of the 1920s; claiming to be on good terms with Lenin in the 1920s; displaying profound naivety in dealing with Stalin in 1924; and his wishful thinking that Stalinism was on the verge of collapse in the 1930s.


Trotsky, was the son of a prosperous Jewish farmer in the Ukraine. Well educated and rebellious, he became a professional revolutionary as a teenager. He was arrested in 1898 and was later exiled to Siberia, where he joined the Social Democratic party. In 1902 he escaped abroad, met Lenin.

In 1903, while Lenin headed the Bolsheviks, Trotsky joined the rival Mensheviks. Mensheviks did not believe trying to ignite a revolution, expecting that it would happen when the people were ready. By contrast the Bolsheviks who believed that the people needed to be led. From 1904 until 1917 Trotsky had a stormy relationship with Lenin, accusing Lenin of wanting to become a dictator. But the two of them resolved their differences in 1917, and after that point Trotsky was totally loyal to Lenin.

Trotsky was the most powerful orator in the Bolshevik party, and due to his numerous spells in jail and his active role in the failed 1905 revolution he was much more famous than Lenin was to ordinary Russians. He was the actual organizer behind the October Revolution, as Lenin was still in exile and so unable to participate.

Civil War

Trotsky also helped build the Red Army that defeated the White Russian Army in the subsequent Civil War in Russia, despite having no military experience of any kind.

Power struggle

Lenin was always primarily a politician; politics absorbed his waking hours. The conflict between Trotsky and Lenin led to the subsequent struggle between Trotsky and Stalin in Lenin's last months. Multiple rivalries within the Bolshevik Party emerged because history did not unfold as predicted by theory; the Communist revolution did not spread into a worldwide spontaneous uprising of the working people. Lenin accused Stalin of Russian chauvinism when he proposed the incorporation of different nationalities into a unitary Soviet state. But Lenin was disabled by a stroke in 1923 before he could remove Stalin, and Stalin proved the master politician.

When Lenin died in 1924, a lengthy power struggle began between Trotsky and Stalin. Trotsky took the view that socialism in the Soviet Union must await a revolution in western Europe and even worldwide. Stalin wanted power immediately and offered a rival ideology, Socialism in one country. To fend off accusations of becoming the new 'Napoleon', he gave up his command of the Red Army.

The struggle for power in the Soviet Union during Lenin's last illness in 1923 was not based merely on a clash of personalities but involved fundamental issues concerning the future political and economic development of the Soviet Union. Trotsky's desire to lessen Party control over the administration while centralizing the economy and giving priority to heavy industry, as well as his doubts about reforms of government proposed by Lenin, made him isolated on the Politburo. Trotsky did not carry out Lenin's wishes toward Stalin and the "Georgians" because he agreed with Stalin's ideas on the nationality question and centralization, but he was outmaneuvered by Stalin's strengthening of the powers of the Secretariat, which contradicted Trotsky's ideas on freeing administration from direct political control.


Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Bolshevik party in 1927 and exiled him from Russia in 1929. Trotsky's constant goal was to gain control of world Communist leadership and implement more radical programs. Trotsky formed a loose organization of German followers in 1930 but failed either to defeat or take control of the German Communist Party. Indeed, his supporters nearly everywhere were outmaneuvered and defeated by the Soviet Communists, and lingered in numerous countries as a far-left party with little influence. Intellectuals who joined his movement were put off by Trotsky's dogmatism and his intolerance of the least deviation from his ideas.

After spending time in Turkey and France, Trotsky settled in Mexico in 1937. On August 20, 1940 Spanish communist Ramón Mercador, acting on orders from Stalin, murdered Trotsky with a ice pick in Trotsky's Mexico City apartment.

Permanent revolution

Trotsky's most influential idea was the notion of permanent revolution. Drawing on the experiences of the 1905 Russian Revolution, Trotsky maintained that revolution would spread worldwide after the international proletariat's aid to the Russian workers, who in turn would "export" the revolution abroad. By contrast Stalin rejected Trotsky’s theory and presented his own thesis on socialism in one country (Russia) in 1926. Trotsky asserted that the unification of developed and backward countries in the worldwide operations of capitalism created a combination of separate and uneven stages of development in backward countries like Russia, permitting the Russian proletariat the capability of carrying out a revolution but at the same time requiring the permanent extension of revolution in time and space until the extinction of class distinctions.

American influence

American Trotskyites were political activists in the 1930s who follows the teachings of Trotsky and opposed Stalin's version. All of them broke with Trotsky, and many became conservatives, such as Max Eastman, James Burnham and Seymour Martin Lipset.

Paleoconservatives, who dislike Neoconservatism intensely, have argued that it emerged from Trotskyite theories, especially the notion of permanent revolution. There are four fundamental flaws in the paleoconservatives' attack: most of the neoconservatives were never Trotskyites; none of them ever subscribed to the right-wing Socialism of Max Shachtman; the assertion that neoconservatives subscribe to "inverted Trotskyism" is misleading; and neoconservatives advocate democratic globalism, not permanent revolution.[1]


Western commentators on Trotsky generally fall into four categories, aside from orthodox Trotskyists, who have generally been concerned with preserving his ideas rather than developing them. First, the pro-Soviets oppose him and his ideas, especially on the issue of socialism in one country. The second group, described as sympathetic critics, has examined Trotsky's stands and while generally in agreement, has commonly found his views mistaken on three points in particular: his conversion to Leninism, his failure to move against Stalin in 1923, and his characterization of Stalinism as a workers' state. A third group of commentators has viewed Trotsky skeptically, an unlikely alternative to Stalin. The realist group, in contrast, faults Trotsky for failure to realize the true nature of events after 1917. After glasnost in the 1980s Trotsky was rehabilitated in Russia as an important leader and some of his writings have been published.[2]


One of Trotsky's famous quotes (which also sums up the Atheism in the Communist Movement) was : "Religions are illogical primitive ignorance. There is nothing as ridiculous and tragic as a religious government."

Further reading

  • Alexander, Robert J. International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (1991), 1128pp online edition
  • Brotherstone, Terry , et al eds. The Trotsky Reappraisal (1992) online edition, 19 short essays by scholars
  • Daniels, Robert V. Trotsky, Stalin and Socialism. (1991). 208 pp.
  • Deutscher, isaac. Trotsky (3v, 1954-63), by a far-left admirer of Trotsky
  • Garza, Hedda. Leon Trotsky (1986) short survey
  • Kolakowski, Leszek. Main Current of Marxism (1978), 3:183-219, on Trotsky in 1930s
  • Molyneux, John. Leon Trotsky's Theory of Revolution. (1981). 238 pp.
  • Pomper, Philip. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin: The Intelligentsia and Power. (1990). 446 pp.
  • Renton, Dave. Trotsky (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Service, Robert. Trotsky: A Biography (2009), 600pp; by a leading historian; the best biography
  • Thatcher, Ian D. Trotsky (2002) excerpt and text search; also full text online
  • Volkogonov, Dmitri. Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary. (1996). 560 pp. excerpt and text search, very hostile

Primary sources

See also


  1. William F. King, "Neoconservatives and 'Trotskyism'" American Communist History 2004 3(2): 247-266 online at EBSCO
  2. Michael Cox, "Trotsky and his Interpreters; Or, Will the Real Leon Trotsky Please Stand Up?" Russian Review 1992 51(1): 84-102.