Trotsky Face
Trotsky was a ruthless and cold-blooded murderer and deserves to be exposed as such....
Along with Lenin he had created the system that Stalin inherited and used
for ends with which Trotsky generally sympathised.


Inhumanly ruthless in his dealings with non-Bolsheviks
and at the same time thoroughly inept in his relations with Stalin....
In the end it is impossible to see him as other than an absurd figure,
a fantasist seeking to found a paradise
who helped build a hell on earth.

Trotsky, the firebrand
by Adam Kirsch, National Post, Jan 4, 2010

When Leon Trotsky was assassinated by an agent of Stalin in 1940, American novelist James T. Farrell took to the pages of Partisan Review to memorialize him. "The life of Leon Trotsky is one of the great tragic dramas of modern history," Farrell's obituary began. "Pitting his brain and will against the despotic rulers of a great empire, fully conscious of the power, the resources, the cunning and cruelty of his enemy, Trotsky had one weapon at his command — his ideas. His courage never faltered; his will never broke."

To his American admirers, Trotsky appeared as a kind of Soviet Garibaldi, fighting for freedom against an evil empire. The problem, as Robert Service shows in his new biography Trotsky, is that Trotsky was one of the men chiefly responsible for that evil. In the October Revolution of 1917, he was second to Lenin in leading the Bolshevik coup to success. In the years of civil war that followed, Trotsky, as commissar for the Red Army, designed the campaigns that inflicted horrific suffering on civilians. None of the Soviet leaders outdid him in zeal for collectivization and terror, or in his commitment to spreading the revolution. Service sums up Trotsky this way: "He was close to Stalin in intentions and practice. He was no more likely than Stalin to create a society of humanitarian socialism ... He reveled in terror."

How, then, did Trotsky become a symbol of a more humane and democratic communism? In part, as Service writes, it was because of the left's "naivety. They were blind to Trotsky's contempt for their values." But for the Jewish intellectuals who clustered around Partisan Review, he was an especially irresistible figure, since Trotsky was the most powerful Jewish intellectual who ever lived. This part of Trotsky's legacy is a significant chapter in the political history of American Jews, and Trotsky helps explain the allure and the danger of the mass murderer who was affectionately known to his followers as "the Old Man."

He was born in 1879 as Leiba Bronstein — Trotsky was a nom de guerre. Bronstein's parents were Polish Jews who had settled in Ukraine as part of a czarist project for dispersing and assimilating the Jewish population. As Service shows, this meant that Bronstein "did not have a life associated mainly with fellow Jews."

Quickly, Bronstein was drawn to the communist revolutionary movement. He was 18 when he was arrested and exiled to Siberia. However, Siberia was less a prison for Bronstein than a kind of finishing school. Bronstein married a fellow prisoner, made contact with other communists and began to read the clandestine newspaper Iskra.

Iskra was edited from London and Geneva by a group of communists including Vladimir Lenin, and Bronstein decided he had to join them. Trotsky — as he was now known on his forged or stolen passport — escaped from Siberia and presented himself in London as a new recruit.

It soon became clear that Trotsky was a brilliant writer: At their first meeting, Lenin greeted him with the words: "Ah, the Pen has arrived!" And it was by his pen that he became known to revolutionaries, writing for Iskra and other illegal publications. When the first Russian Revolution broke out, Trotsky smuggled himself back into St. Petersburg, where he discovered that he was equally magnetic as a platform orator. Still just 25, he became head of the Petersburg council; when the revolution was crushed, he was arrested again and escaped again.

By 1917, Trotsky's peregrinations had led him to New York, where he arrived "to a hero's welcome among emigrant socialist sympathizers from the Russian Empire," especially Jews. Indeed, one of the ironic themes of Trotsky is the way the revolutionary kept finding himself in Jewish milieux, despite his refusal to claim a Jewish identity. Trotsky detested Zionism. Yet many of his closest comrades were non-Jewish Jews. One might say that the rejection of Jewish particularity was the form in which Trotsky and many Jews like him lived their Jewishness.

When the czar was overthrown, in February 1917, Trotsky began planning to get back to Russia, and he arrived on May 4. Service traces that revolutionary year, the advances and retreats of the Bolsheviks, until they seized the capital in October. Then came the years of triumph and cruelty; and then came the great fall, which turned Trotsky into the socialist martyr described by Farrell.

Starting in 1923, as Lenin was crippled by strokes, Trotsky and Stalin waged a bureaucratic and propaganda war over who was entitled to succeed him. Trotsky entered the battle with many advantages. His highly visible role in the Civil War had made him iconic; he was still a brilliant and popular writer. Most important, he was Lenin's own choice. The ailing leader dictated a "testament" in which he warned that the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky had the potential to split the Communist Party, and he came down firmly on Trotsky's side: "Stalin is too crude and this inadequacy...becomes intolerable in the position of General Secretary."

The question is why Trotsky allowed Stalin to outmanoeuvre him so decisively — by 1928, Trotsky had been stripped of office, expelled from the party and exiled from the U.S.S.R. Service concludes that Trotsky didn't want to replace Lenin; so he "lacked the decisiveness for a concerted advance on power." While Stalin expertly manipulated the Communist Party apparatus, Trotsky remained aloof. When it came to making speeches or writing pamphlets, no one could beat Trotsky. When it came to making allies, he couldn't be bothered.

And there was another factor in Trotsky's failure of will. In 1917, just after the revolution, Lenin had wanted to appoint him as Commissar for Internal Affairs, which would have made him head of the secret police. Trotsky refused, on the grounds that "it would be inappropriate for a Jew to take charge of the police in a society pervaded by anti-Semitism. If Jews were seen to be repressing Russians, a pogrom atmosphere might be provoked." For the same reason, he initially resisted taking charge of the Red Army. "The party’s leadership was widely identified as a Jewish gang," Service writes, and "Trotsky continued to believe that his own prominence in government, party and army did practical damage to the revolutionary cause."

If Trotsky allowed Stalin to get the better of him, it may have been because he still feared the consequences of a Jew heading the Soviet government. Of course, such scruples made no difference to the enemies of the Jews. By the time Hitler took power, Trotsky had long since been made a non-person in Stalin's U.S.S.R. The rabbi who made the famous quip was right: "It's the Trotskys who make the revolutions, and the Bronsteins who pay the price."

Behind the Myth of Trotsky
John Gray on Trotsky: A Biography, by Robert Service
by John Gray, Literary Review
Trotsky has always been something of an icon for the intelligentsia, and it is not hard to see why. He fitted the perception that dissenting intellectuals like to have of themselves. Highly cultured, locked in struggle with a repressive establishment, a gifted writer who was also a man of action, he seemed to embody the ideal of truth speaking to power. The manner of his death solidified this perception, which has shaped accounts of his life ever since.

Trotsky was a charismatic leader whose appeal extended across the political spectrum. When Trotsky was on the run from Stalin, H L Mencken offered to give him his own library (Trotsky refused because he did not want to be indebted to a reactionary). The Bishop of Birmingham signed a petition on Trotsky's behalf, and he was invited to become rector of Edinburgh University. Maynard Keynes tried to secure asylum for him in England, a campaign supported even by the power-worshipping Stalin-lover Beatrice Webb. Literary notables like Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy joined the chorus of adulation. A hero-martyr in the cause of humanity, Trotsky deserved the support of every right-thinking person.

This has never been a terribly plausible view of the man who welcomed the ruthless crushing of the Kronstadt workers and sailors when they demanded a more pluralist system of government in 1921, and who defended the systematic use of terror against opponents of the Soviet state until his dying day. Introducing a system of hostage-taking in the Civil War and consistently supporting the trial and execution of dissidents (Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, liberal Kadets, nationalists and others), Trotsky never hesitated to endorse repression against those who stood in the way of communist power. This much has long been clear, but the full extent of Trotsky's role in building Soviet totalitarianism has not been detailed - until now.

Rigorously researched, covering Trotsky's education and upbringing, his life as an émigré before the revolution, his time as a military leader, his losing battle with Stalin, his women, his life as an exile and his assassination, Robert Service's new biography discloses a man very different from the one celebrated by bien pensants. The author of distinguished biographies of Lenin and Stalin, Service is eminently qualified to set Trotsky in his historical context. Here Service surpasses himself, and produces a life that is genuinely revelatory. Trotsky's lifelong effort to distance himself from his Jewish background - 'The workers are dearer to me than all the Jews,' Service reports him saying - is carefully and sensitively examined. There is an interesting discussion of Trotsky's attempt to fashion a distinctive philosophical position for himself (despite having a commendably unorthodox interest in Freud, he was no more successful than Lenin in this regard). The book is rich in telling detail. The young Trotsky liked to dominate the independent-minded women revolutionaries in his circle, and to this end studied carefully Schopenhauer's The Art of Controversy, a guide to debating tricks. Trotsky was 'an intellectual bully', Service writes, who 'relished wounding his opponents'. None of this is flattering to Trotsky, but Service is always scrupulously balanced. The result is a powerfully demystifying biography of one of the most heavily mythologised figures of twentieth-century history.

Western historians have largely accepted Trotsky's self-serving account of his opposition to Stalin's policies and methods, but the differences between the two leaders were more limited than has been commonly believed. Trotsky favoured moving quickly to central planning and collective farming, and shared Stalin's view of the need to isolate the kulaks (richer peasants). Far from being more liberal than Stalin, during the New Economic Policy (NEP) he blamed Stalin for sheltering Menshevik economists. It was Trotsky who pushed ahead with the 'militarisation of labour', which imposed army-style discipline and punishment on Soviet workers. Hailed as an apostle of cultural freedom because of his interest in the arts, Trotsky believed as much as Stalin did that culture must be assessed (and policed) in terms of its political correctness. Trotsky's influential essay Literature and Revolution, Service writes, 'was essentially a work of political reductionism. When all is said and done, it was Trotsky who laid down the philosophical foundations for cultural Stalinism.'

It is often claimed that Trotsky's superiority was in his analysis of the European situation. In fact his views on international affairs were far-fetched in the extreme. It is true that he grasped the threat posed by Nazism more clearly than Stalin. Even so, he shared Stalin's vulgar-Marxist interpretation of Hitler as a 'tool of German finance-capital', never acknowledging the high levels of mass support Hitler had achieved among the German working class. Right up to his assassination in August 1940, Trotsky believed Europe was on the brink of proletarian revolution. When Nazi power was at its height he was still talking seriously of a revolt of German workers against Hitler and claiming that Finnish peasants would welcome Stalin as their liberator.

Trotsky may have seen the Nazi danger, but if his analysis of events had been accepted Nazi Germany would never have been defeated. Throughout the catastrophes of the 1930s he was consistently hostile to liberal democracy. In October 1939 he was praising the Comintern for remaining neutral in the European war. In July 1940 he wrote that the Trotskyite Fourth International should join the Comintern, refuse to support Britain against Germany and oppose American entry into the conflict. What was needed was 'a people's referendum on the war', which would reveal to American workers 'the futility of their democracy'. There is something ludicrous in the spectacle of Trotsky scorning the futility of democracy at a time when Hitler had almost extinguished it in Europe. But it is of a piece with an entire life of self-deception. As Service writes, Trotsky 'had matchless self-righteousness'. In The Revolution Betrayed (written in 1936) he admitted that the Soviet Union was like Hitler's Germany, a totalitarian state. He never admitted any responsibility for bringing the Soviet version of totalitarianism into being. But along with Lenin he had created the system that Stalin inherited and used for ends with which Trotsky generally sympathised.

Inhumanly ruthless in his dealings with non-Bolsheviks and at the same time thoroughly inept in his relations with Stalin, Trotsky was too vain and self-deceiving to merit the status of tragic hero accorded him by Western admirers. Undoubtedly he was courageous, and it can hardly be denied that he was a key player in some of the formative conflicts of the last century. But in the end it is impossible to see him as other than an absurd figure, a fantasist seeking to found a paradise who helped build a hell on earth. Had Trotsky prevailed in his struggle with Stalin, would the world today be in better shape - or would it actually be worse? It is a question Robert Service does not answer. But he has given us the best biography of Trotsky to date, and there seems little reason why anyone should write another.

The life and death of Trotsky
Tariq Ali on Trotsky by Robert Service and Stalin's Nemesis by Bertrand M Patenaude
by Tariq Ali, Guardian, Oct 31, 2009
For over half a century, Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky, a literary-historical masterpiece in its own right, was regarded as the last word on the subject. Many who were deeply hostile to the Russian revolution and all its leading actors nonetheless acclaimed these books: in 1997, asked to nominate his favourite book for National Book Day, the newly elected prime minister, Tony Blair, nominated the trilogy. Twelve years later the culture in this country has become so overwhelmingly conformist that any alternative to capitalism is considered outlandish.

The Service industry [in TROTSKY] has now produced a stodgy volume on Trotsky to add to a collection that includes Lenin and Stalin. Unlike Deutscher, as he tells us, Service is hostile to the revolution and its leaders, but he is irritated by the fact that Trotsky has had such a good press in the west (news to me). He was just the same as the others except that he wrote very well and this appealed to New York intellectuals. The Service view can be summarised in a sentence: Trotsky was a ruthless and cold-blooded murderer and deserves to be exposed as such.

This counter-factual approach is nothing new and was the stock-in-trade of most anti-communist and pro-Stalin ideologues for much of the last century. Service informs us that Winston Churchill backed Stalin against Trotsky during the show trials. The old warhorse certainly knew how to distinguish between conservatives and radicals. He had little time for Gramsci either, and almost drowned Mussolini in praise as a bulwark against the evil tide of Bolshevism. Churchill's essay denouncing Trotsky as the "ogre of Europe" is written with a brio and passion that almost matches that of his target. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Service's plodding account in which some of the allegations are so trivial that they are best ignored. On most of the important issues – the danger of substituting the party for the state in Russia, the necessity of uniting with social-democrats and liberals to defeat Hitler, the futility of forcing the communists into an alliance with Chiang Kai-shek in China, the fate that awaited the Jews if Hitler came to power and constant warnings that the Nazis were preparing to invade the Soviet Union – he was proved right time and time again. Unsurprisingly, the counter-factual school of historians rarely discusses what might have happened had Generals Kornilov, Denikin and Yudenich triumphed instead of Lenin and Trotsky. One thing is virtually certain: since the revolution was portrayed as the work of Jewish-Bolsheviks, a wave of pogroms would have decimated the Jews.

Patenaude's shorter and much better written book [STALIN'S NEMESIS: THE EXILE AND MURDER OF LEON TROTSKY] is far more objective and, in fact, more scholarly. Though it concentrates on the period of Trotsky's Mexican exile and provides fascinating pen-portraits of lovers, acolytes and killers alike (including details of Trotsky's affair with Frida Kahlo that Isaac Deutscher so sweetly veiled), it also encapsulates his earlier life. The socialist revolution, unlike the bourgeois revolutions that transformed Europe in the 16-18th centuries, was a premeditated project intended for a more advanced country than Russia. Even for its leaders, the Bolshevik triumph of 1917 was a leap in the dark. Bolshevik orthodoxy did not believe that the infant republic could last on its own. The party leadership was waiting for the German revolution to break its isolation and transform Europe. Instead the main imperialist states decided to back the White counter-revolution, leading to a civil war that was won by the newly created Red Army, but at a terrible cost: the peasants had been alienated by forced requisitions and conscription. The civil war of 1918-21 exhausted the tiny working class. Many died and a layer that survived was rapidly absorbed into the machinery of the new state. Trotsky, as the founder and organiser of the Red Army, was undoubtedly ruthless in ensuring the victory of his side – as was Lincoln during the American civil war. Exhausted at home and isolated abroad, the Bolshevik leaders, obsessed by the fate of Robespierre and Saint-Just, decided that they must hold on to power whatever the cost. An early outcome was the brutal repression of the Kronstadt sailors' mutiny. A later result was Stalinism, which destroyed not simply the aspirations of the revolution but most of its leading cadres.

Ninety per cent of Lenin's central committee were denounced as traitors and executed. Stalin killed more Bolsheviks than the Tsar. The murder of Trotsky, as Patenaude points out, was inevitable. Earlier antisemitic caricatures portraying him as an agent of Hitler had to be withdrawn lest they annoy the Führer after the Stalin-Hitler pact. Trotsky now became an agent of the US. Further change was unnecessary, since he had been bumped off before the US became a wartime ally. Attempts to reform the system from within failed largely because the bureaucracy refused to surrender its power. Ultimately it exhausted itself and capitulated quietly and shamefully to the forces of global capitalism. The realm of necessity was never to be replaced by the realm of freedom, self-emancipation and human sovereignty as Marx had written. It came to an end – as Trotsky had calmly predicted – with the restoration of capitalism. Cromwell, Napoleon and Stalin had all created a system of rule that made restoration of the old order almost inevitable.
[Tariq Ali's books include The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom: And Other Essays].



Trotsky, the firebrand (review of Trotsky: A Biography, by Robert Service), by Adam Kirsch, National Post, Jan 4, 2010

The life and death of Trotsky (review of Trotsky by Robert Service and Stalin's Nemesis by Bertrand M Patenaude). by Tariq Ali The Guardian, Oct 31, 2009

Behind the Myth of Trotsky (review of Trotsky: A Biography, by Robert Service), by John Gray, Literary Review

UK Prime Minister reveals an unexpected influence: Trotsky. Independent, Mar 3, 2009 (...PM Tony Blair revealed his favourite reading matter at a World Book Day event in London yesterday. Blair said: "There were people who got me very involved in politics. But then there was also a book. It was a trilogy, a biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher, which made a very deep impression on me and gave me a love of political biography for the rest of my life."...)

How Western capitalists funded Lenin, the Bolsheviks, and the Soviet Union. Modern History Project (...Trotsky traveled from New York to Petrograd on a passport supplied by the intervention of Woodrow Wilson, and with the declared intention to "carry forward" the revolution. The British government was the immediate source of Trotsky's release from Canadian custody in April 1917...)

LEON TROTSKY (... In 1917, as the Tsar abdicated, Leon Trotsky went to Russia, and in August that year he became a member of the Central Committe of the Bolshevik Party, which had Lenin as its uncontested leader and visionary. In this capacity Trotsky became second in command after Lenin. In 1918 Trotsky was appointed People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, and as such he managed the founding of the Red Army....)

JOSEPH STALIN (Stalin became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1922 and following the death of Vladimir Lenin, he prevailed over Leon Trotsky in a power struggle during the 1920s. In the 1930s Stalin eliminated effective political opposition both within the Party and among the population (see Gulag) and consolidated his authority with the Great Purge, a period of widespread arrests and executions which reached its peak in 1937, remaining in power through World War II and until his death...Trotsky's August 1940 assassination in Mexico, where he had lived in exile since 1936, eliminated the last of Stalin's opponents among the former Party leadership. Only three members of the "Old Bolsheviks" (Lenin's Politburo) now remained in Politburo — Stalin himself, "the all-Union Chieftain" Mikhail Kalinin, and Chairman of Sovnarkom Vyacheslav Molotov. The repression of so many formerly high-ranking revolutionaries and party members led Leon Trotsky to claim that a "river of blood" separated Stalin's regime from that of Lenin. However, it has been argued that Stalin only continued the political repressions that had started under Lenin's regime, such as labor camps and express executions of political opponents.)








Goldstein Two Minutes Hate (...It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard - a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality...)

18.Newspeak (...Even in the early decades of the twentieth century, telescoped words and phrases had been one of the characteristic features of political language; and it had been noticed that the tendency to use abbreviations of this kind was most marked in totalitarian countries and totalitarian organizations. Examples were such words as Nazi, Gestapo, Comintern, Inprecorr, Agitprop. In the beginning the practice had been adopted as it were instinctively, but in Newspeak it was used with a conscious purpose. It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it. The words Communist International, for instance, call up a composite picture of universal human brotherhood, red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the Paris Commune. The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests merely a tightly-knit organization and a well-defined body of doctrine. It refers to something almost as easily recognized, and as limited in purpose, as a chair or a table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily...)

Jackie Jura
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