Introducing a life

The following article is the introduction to a forthcoming book by Paul Le Blanc on the life of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky that will be published by Reaktion books.

"A son of a bitch, but the greatest Jew since Jesus Christ” is how Trotsky was described by Raymond Robins, a Teddy Roosevelt progressive and representative of the American Red Cross in Petrograd. It was late 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia inaugurated the birth of modern Communism. Robins was involved in frustrating, but fascinating negotiations with Trotsky, who was second only to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin among Russia’s revolutionary Marxist leaders.1

The actual name of the man was Lev Davidovich Bronstein, but most of the world has known him by his revolutionary nom de plume. Twenty-three years later, an agent of the Communist regime, which Trotsky had helped to establish, would plunge an alpine ice axe into his head. The assassin—after serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Mexico—traveled to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and was awarded the Order of Lenin. 

Since his 1940 martyrdom, it can be said that Trotsky has experienced an ongoing resurrection, with well over a dozen biographies and ongoing publication of his major writings. In the English language, in the past two decades no less than ten book-length studies of Trotsky’s life and ideas have appeared. If we include studies in which he and his ideas figure prominently, plus novels, songs, poems, plays, both documentary and non-documentary films, there is the equivalent of a significant work every six months, reflecting the impact he had on the history of the twentieth century, which continues to reverberate down to our own time. 

For millions of people throughout the world, Leon Trotsky was initially seen as a revolutionary liberator. Bertrand Patenaude, one of the more careful critics among his recent biographers, notes that Trotsky—winning over “vast crowds of workers, soldiers, and sailors in Petrograd with his spellbinding oratory” in 1917—“proved to be Lenin’s most important ally when the Bolsheviks stormed to power in the October Revolution.” Trotsky himself, in his history of Russia’s revolution, placed emphasis on the multitudes: “The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”2 

He elaborated on this to a radical journalist from the United States, John Reed, in an interview just before the Bolshevik insurrection. The Bolshevik slogan was “all power to the Soviets,” the democratic councils that had sprung up in the revolutionary upsurges of 1905 and again in 1917. “The Soviets are the most perfect representatives of the people—perfect in their revolutionary experience, in their ideas and objects,” Trotsky explained. “Based directly upon the army in the trenches, the workers in the factories, and the peasants in the fields, they are the backbone of the Revolution.”3 

Locating the person
In Trotsky, A Graphic Biography, Rick Geary summarizes the story in the first four frames: 

In 1917, Leon Trotsky burst upon the international stage as the brain behind the Russian Revolution. He presided over the complete transformation of his country, not merely a change of government but a total restructuring of society on every level. To many, he was the heroic St. George, slaying the dragon of capitalist repression. To others, he was the ruthless and Satanic purveyor of bloody rebellion, the cold, detached theorist gone mad with power. In truth, he fitted neither of these images. He was a writer, a thinker, a nation-builder—albeit a reluctant one—with deep roots in his Russia’s agricultural heartland. Trotsky’s dream was for a world free from injustice, inequality, and war, and in this he was absolutely single-minded. To him, the ideas of Karl Marx showed the way, and for one brief moment he set the machinery in motion to achieve that end. . . . He lived to see his work betrayed and his ideals perverted by those who seized power after him. He would be ejected from the government he helped to establish and hounded into exile and death.4 

Some would say this is far too generous. Dmitri Volkogonov, insists: “It was Trotsky’s fate that he was able to synthesize an unbending faith in Communist ideals with the mercilessness of the dictatorship of the proletariat, that he could be both one of the inspirers of the Red Terror and its victim.” Another hostile biographer, Robert Service, tells us he was comparable to one of the worst tyrants in the history of the world—“he was no more likely than Stalin [Lenin’s brutal successor] to create a society of humanitarian socialism even though he claimed and assumed he would.”5 Joshua Rubenstein, in a more generous account, comes to a similar conclusion:

We are left with a compelling image of a ruthless revolutionary, a brilliant journalist, an eloquent historian and pamphleteer, who never softened his faith in dogmatic Marxism, never questioned the need to use violent coercion as an instrument of historical progress, never wondered whether his dream of a proletarian dictatorship could really be the answer to every political, economic, and social failing.6

Contrast this with the comment of Max Eastman, who had seen Stalin and Lenin in action and who knew Trotsky personally: “Lenin combined intellect and idealism with a mastery of the craft of politics. Trotsky inherited the intellect and idealism, Stalin the craft—a fatal split.” Yet Trotsky helped shape the world’s first Communist regime, organizing and leading to victory the Red Army in the brutal years of the Russian Civil War (1918-1921)—presenting us with “a Trotsky who knew how to be hard, to exercise terror, and a Trotsky fully ready to accept the task of reconstructing daily life,” as Slavoj Žižek has said. Peter Beilharz makes a similar point with great distaste: Trotsky personified “the Jacobin legacy,” which “seeks to improve humanity but kills people.” This is precisely where one must look to comprehend the real Trotsky, according to Geoffrey Swain, who is definitely not inclined toward hero worship: “By focusing on the years in power, a rather different picture of Trotsky emerges to that traditionally drawn, more of the man and less of the myth.”7

The present biography is guided by a different conception. To understand the man, we must, of course, look at his entire life—but in some ways the most decisive qualities of this revolutionary are to be found in the Trotsky who, in order to remain true to the ideals that animated his entire life, followed a trajectory taking him out of the center of power. This was the doomed but determined fighter who sought to defend and explain the relevance of the heroic best that was in the early Communist tradition. He expended immense energy to place into perspective recent revolutionary experience—including achievements, mistakes, and failures— and to use such insights for analyzing and battling global crises, new totalitarianisms, and the deepening violence engulfing humanity from 1929 to 1940. 

Our focus here will be on this final phase of Trotsky’s life. “The work in which I am engaged now,” he himself asserted in a diary of this exile period, “despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life—more important than 1917, more important than the period of the Civil War or any other.”8 Given the existence and role of Lenin and the internal strength of the party that he led, the revolutionary cause would have advanced in earlier periods without Trotsky’s existence. But now Lenin and his revolutionary party no longer existed. And the broader revolutionary current, once a powerful force in the international workers’ movement, was gone—overwhelmed not only by the onslaughts of fascism and imperialism, but especially by the bureaucratization and disorienting, demoralizing, debilitating corruptions represented by Stalinism and social-democratic reformism. Trotsky was laboring to provide historical knowledge, theoretical insights, and other political resources that new generations of activists could use to rebuild the necessary revolutionary alternative. 

Of course, Trotsky himself would insist on a continuity between the exile and the intransigent revolutionary of earlier years. Beilharz compares him with the Jacobin Robespierre, who inaugurated the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, intoning: “I know of only two parties—good citizens and bad citizens.” Beilharz drives home the point: “Trotsky’s defense of revolutionary terror in the Russian Revolution introduces the notion of . . . good and bad citizens, or at least good and bad classes; terrorism toward the latter is historically and politically necessary, therefore proper.” Yet the blurring together of “citizen” and “class” suggests that Beilharz’s analogy relies more on rhetorical flourish than analysis: unpacking the differences between the two terms, and the meaning of this difference, shows that Trotsky is saying something fundamentally different from Robespierre. Far more interesting is the contention of Žižek: “The figure of Trotsky . . . remains crucial in so far as it disturbs the alternative ‘either (social) democratic socialism or Stalinist totalitarianism’: what we find in Trotsky, in his writings and his revolutionary practice in the early years of the Soviet Union, is revolutionary terror, party rule, etc., but in a different mode from that of Stalinism.”9 It could be said that the explanation of this point, in ways that can help guide future revolutionary actions, is what Trotsky saw as his fundamental task during the years of his final exile.

In this period Trotsky produced his greatest literary works, including My Life, The History of the Russian Revolution, and The Revolution Betrayed, as well as his unfinished biographies of Lenin and Stalin. There was also a steady stream of shorter works, filling more than fourteen volumes. A year-long “internal exile” within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in Alma-Ata, was soon followed by three and a half fruitful years in Turkey, short and difficult stints in France and Norway, and finally three vibrant years in Mexico. In all of these places he met with many comrades and co-thinkers, and corresponded with many more, who were urgently attempting to build a current in the labor and socialist movements that could contribute positively and effectively in struggles against capitalism and imperialism, against fascism and Nazism, against Stalinism, and for the liberation of all people. 

A key dimension of Trotsky’s reputation is as a brilliantly innovative theorist. In looking at the ideas Trotsky put forward in his theoretical writings, however, I will be inclined to emphasize the aspects of unoriginality in Trotsky’s thought, especially in relation to the much-vaunted theory of permanent revolution, his analysis of Stalinism, his prescriptions for defeating Hitler, and the much misunderstood Transitional Program. All these are drawn from Marx and from revolutionary Marxists of Trotsky’s own time, including the best of Second International Marxism in the period leading up to 1914, as well as the collective project of the early Third International. Trotsky never pretended otherwise, which is why questions of Marxism must necessarily be interwoven into any serious study of Trotsky. His distinctiveness is that, unlike many, he sought to remain true to the old revolutionary perspectives, and in a sense became original simply through applying old principles—as consistently and creatively as he could—to new realities.

A common accusation has been that Trotsky was motivated by power-lust or vanity, that his writings involve little more than either (a) a means to advance his ability to lord it over others in the revolutionary movement and in the new Soviet state, and (b) a set of flourishes, embellishments, and rationalizations designed to enhance his reputation. Yet even severe critics acknowledge that his major writings did not contain blatant falsehoods, conscious lies, or the fabrication of documents. While historical controversies will naturally continue, if Trotsky actually thinks he is telling the truth, then what he has to say has credibility, especially if (as is generally the case) his account is consistent with various primary and secondary sources.

Personality and ideology
What Trotsky thinks he is trying to do obviously brings us to the question of the personality of the man we are considering. Among the most interesting pen-portraits comes from one who knew him well over a period of years, Anatoly Lunacharsky, who first met Trotsky at the start of the 1905 revolutionary upsurge. “Trotsky was then unusually elegant, unlike the rest of us, and very handsome,” Lunacharsky remembers. “This elegance and his nonchalant, condescending manner of talking to people, no matter who they were, gave me an unpleasant shock.” Of course, in this period, Trotsky was aligned with the Menshevik faction of the Russian socialist movement, and Lunacharsky was a partisan of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Within a few months, Lunacharsky’s perception shifted when Trotsky matured as a leader of the powerful democratic workers’ council (or soviet) of St. Petersburg amid the revolutionary upsurge that was challenging the Russian monarchy. Lunacharsky records that Lenin’s face initially darkened upon hearing of Trotsky’s rise to the leadership of the Soviet, but then commented: “Well, Trotsky has earned it by his brilliant and unflagging work.”10 Indeed, Trotsky’s capacity for collective functioning, for comradely teamwork, would show itself not only in 1905, but recurrently at key moments—in the revolutionary events of 1917, in organizing the Red Army, in oppositional efforts of the 1920s, and often in the work of the Fourth International in the 1930s. Such capacity for political collaboration stood in striking contrast to the personal prickliness which some who knew him also noted more than once. 

Trotsky’s immersion in the radical workers’ movement had provided the fire and the glow of his life since his eighteenth year, when he and other young activists—primarily students—became involved in agitational and educational efforts among the inhabitants of industrial Nikolaev. Some of the workers were animated by subversively radical forms of Christianity and by early beginnings of trade unionism, and the revolutionary students learned as much as they taught. Trotsky later recalled:

The workers streamed toward us as if they had been waiting for this. They all brought friends; some came with their wives, and a few older men joined the groups with their sons. We never sought them out; they looked for us. Young and inexperienced leaders that we were, we were soon overwhelmed by the movement we had started. Every word of ours met with a response. As many as twenty and twenty-five or more of the workers gathered at our secret readings and discussions, held in houses, in the woods, or on the river.11 

Twenty years later he still recalled the names of the militant workers to whom he had brought the revolutionary gospel, and who had taught him so much—Mukhin, Korotkov, Savelyevitch, Yefimov, Babenko. Years later he was still sharing with younger comrades some of the lessons he had learned in the workers’ districts of Nikolaev—for example, that “intellectuals and half-intellectuals” should not “terrorize the workers by some abstract generalities and paralyze the will toward activity,” but instead “should have in the first place a good ear, and only in the second place a good tongue.”12 Largely through such interactive immersion, Trotsky found his own voice. “I could sense the glory and pathos of the Revolution,” US journalist William Reswick, who knew Russian, remembered from one of Trotsky’s speeches in 1926, although similar accounts can be found from 1905, 1917, and the Civil War years. “He was a virtuoso of speech, a master of oratory who could play on the heartstrings of men with the ease and grace of a violinist. In a few minutes he had the crowd hypnotized. They cheered, laughed, cried, responding to the speaker’s every mood and gesture.” But the rapture flowed both ways. “We found the workers more susceptible to revolutionary propaganda than we had ever in our wildest dreams imagined,” Trotsky recalled of the early days in Nikolaev. “The amazing effectiveness of our work fairly intoxicated us.” In addition, Trotsky helped to produce revolutionary literature (and soon gained the nickname Pero—“the pen”), and he recalled “what a satisfied feeling I had when I received the information from mills and workshops that the workers read voraciously” handbills and newspapers in which he wrote about their plight and urged resistance to oppressive realities.13 

Trotsky later confessed that he had not read a single revolutionary book in his earliest activist years, becoming acquainted with the Communist Manifesto only by reading it and explaining it in workers’ study circles. Yet the revolutionary activist milieu in which Trotsky participated was ideologically heterogeneous. Trotsky was himself at the time a radical-populist vociferously rejecting Marxism as a “dogmatic” doctrine. He mocked the most prominent Marxist in the group, Alexandra Sokolovskaya. “You still think you’re a Marxist?” he exclaimed. “I can’t imagine how a young girl so full of life can stand that dry, narrow, impractical stuff!” She shot back: “I can’t imagine how a person who thinks he is logical can be contented with a headful of vague, idealistic emotions!” Within a short time, Trotsky and Alexandra were involved in a love relationship and short-lived marriage, after 1902 giving way to a lifelong but long-distance friendship. More durably, Trotsky became a committed Marxist.14

“To follow the evolution of Marx’s thought, to experience its irresistible force upon oneself, to discover under introductory sentences or notes lateral galleries of conclusions, to become convinced over and over of the aptness and depth of his sarcasm, and to bow in gratitude before a genius who has been merciless to himself became . . . not only a necessity, but a delight.”15 In this passage from his biography of the young Lenin, Trotsky was also writing about himself.

 With a grand philosophical sweep that comprehends reality as an evolving and dynamic interplay of matter and energy, Marxism projects reality as a vibrant totality in which amazing qualities of humanity (creative labor, community, the quest for freedom) have generated technological advances, economic surpluses, and consequent inequalities that—in turn—generate struggles against oppression. This way of seeing history perceived a succession of economic systems nurturing different social structures and cultures. Since the rise of civilization, all the social-economic systems (whether ancient slave civilizations or feudalism or capitalism) have involved powerful minorities enriched by the exploitation of laboring majorities. But sometimes the oppressed laborers fight for a better life—more food, genuine community, freedom—with their exploiters striving to keep them in their place.16 

While the history of global civilization has been marked by such class struggles, capitalism is unique, generating technological innovations and spectacular increases in productivity, generating enough wealth—ultimately—to provide a decent life for all people, if only the economy could be made the common property of all. Capitalism’s distinctive economic expansionism naturally transforms a majority of the people into workers, who can make a living only through selling their ability to work (labor-power) for payment from the capitalist employer, but whose labor creates the actual wealth that makes society possible, and whose life-activity allows for the functioning of society.

Marxists naturally see this working class as being the key to creating a socialist future. The working-class majority must organize to make it so: build large, inclusive trade unions for better wages and working conditions; build powerful social movements to bring changes for the better (reforms); build political power of the working-class majority “to win the battle of democracy” and bring about a transition from capitalism to socialism (which they saw as the extension of “rule by the people”—democracy—over society’s economic life, providing for the dignity and free development of all). 

For Trotsky, the revolutionary struggle fused with this revolutionary ideology of Marxism and both blended powerfully with the personality of the person we will be considering. “Bronstein’s ego dominated his whole behavior,” wrote an erstwhile comrade from Nikolaev days, A. G. Ziv, but “the revolution dominated his ego,” adding: “He loved the workers and loved his comrades . . . because in them he loved his own self.” This seems consistent with the point made by Lunacharsky, who dismissed the charge of Trotsky being ambitious as “utter nonsense,” adding: “There is not a drop of vanity in him, he is totally indifferent to any title or to the trappings of power; he is, however, boundlessly jealous of his own role in history, and in that sense he is ambitious.” An early functionary in the Communist International, Angelica Balabanoff, emphasized that “more than any other figure in the Russian Revolution, Trotsky proved himself capable of arousing the masses by the force of his revolutionary temperament and his brilliant intellectual gifts.” Looking at the flip side, she commented: “His arrogance equals his gifts and capacities and creates very often a distance between himself and those about him which excludes both personal warmth and any feeling of equality and reciprocity.”17 This may be too categorical—but is not entirely untrue. 

Trotsky’s first wife, Alexandra Sokolovskaya, was arrested with him in 1900, bearing two daughters in their Siberian internal exile. He had confessed to her that “one can be more frank with the woman one loves than with oneself,” but added that “such frankness is possible only in personal conversation but not always, only in special and exceptional moments.” In 1902 he escaped from Siberia on his own, with her encouragement, to advance toward his rendezvous with history. Alexandra always remained supportive of her former husband’s efforts and political perspectives, but had no difficulty in identifying personal limitations. Trotsky could be very tender and sympathetic, she later commented, yet also assertive and arrogant. She added that “in all my experience I have never met any person so completely consecrated” to the revolutionary cause. In the 1930s she wrote to Trotsky, regarding his inability to help their troubled daughter Zinaida, that “much is explained by your character, by the difficulty you have of expressing your feelings.” Lunacharsky more severely referred to Trotsky’s “unwillingness to show any human kindness or to be attentive to people, the absence of charm which always surrounded Lenin, condemned Trotsky to a certain loneliness.”18 

This does not capture the entire reality. His second wife, Natalia Sedova, acknowledges that “his circle of friends was small,” mentioning from the 1917–1928 period the following names: Christian Rakovsky, Nikolai Muralov, Ivan N. Smirnov, Yuri Pyatakov, Adolf Joffe, and she adds “cordial relations” with perhaps a dozen others. Part of Trotsky’s tragedy was the loss of all of these relationships after 1929. There were very few—Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer from France, the exiled German revolutionaries Otto Rühle and Alice Rühle-Gerstelin Mexico—with whom he could share the intimacies of close friendship. “Trotsky was very much at ease. . . without a trace of condescension but with the most delicate emphasis on absolute equality, combining extreme courtesy with complete informality,” wrote Alice Rühle. “He always behaves as if he were in our debt. So forthcoming, so warmly sympathetic, so friendly.”19

There were also, and always, the younger comrades. Natalia Sedova recalls that Trotsky “established the warmest relationships” with comrades “who were younger than himself and whom he hardly ever saw except at work,” naming half a dozen secretaries and aides. One of Trotsky’s secretaries during his years of exile, Sara Weber, corroborates: “The youth, young comrades, were most precious to LD. Eagerly he would respond to their questions and often go over with them in personal conversation whatever points were raised.” She adds that, “There was never any ‘talking down’ in LD—we were comrades, equals; there was simplicity and patience, and even the least knowledgeable could not feel slighted.” Describing his engagement with working-class militants who came to talk with him, Weber writes, “I saw LD’s attitude to working people; he knew and felt their lot. And for those attracted to revolutionary ideas, he never lacked the time; for them he had all the patience and tolerance and understanding.” At the same time, Weber could hardly avoid seeing another side of Trotsky when sharp differences arose within the Left Opposition of France. “I felt the sweeping fury of LD’s wrath . . . his words cutting, his eyes flashing blue sparks of fire—I saw before me the figure of Moses, breaking the tablets with the Ten Commandments . . . and felt shaken.”20 

On the other hand, Weber recalls: “Half jokingly, and yet in deep earnest, LD would often say to young comrades: ‘Do not listen to the old monkeys,’ meaning do not revere authority, do things on your own. ‘Do not listen to the old monkeys,’ making no exception of himself. Natalia did not seem to accept that . . . LD was 53 years old at the time, energetic, young looking and handsome.”21

The historical grandeur of the man must not be minimized. It comes through in the account of a 1917 mass meeting of more than 3,000 people in St. Petersburg on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution. Nikolai N. Sukhanov, a Menshevik opponent of the Bolsheviks that Trotsky had recently joined, describes what happened when Trotsky took the speakers’ platform. 

Trotsky knew what he was doing. The whole point lay in the mood. The political conclusions had long been familiar. They could be condensed, as long as there were enough highlights.

Trotsky did this—with enough highlights. The Soviet regime was not only called upon to put an end to the suffering of the trenches. It would give land and heal the internal disorder. Once again the recipes against hunger were repeated: a soldier, a sailor, and a working girl, who would requisition bread from those who had it and distribute it free to the cities and front. But Trotsky went even further on this decisive “day of the St. Petersburg Soviet.”

“The Soviet Government will give everything the country contains to the poor and the men in the trenches. You, bourgeois, have got two fur caps!—give one of them to the soldier, who’s freezing in the trenches. Have you got warm boots? Stay at home. The worker needs your boots . . .”

These were very good and just ideas. They could not but excite the enthusiasm of a crowd who had been reared on the Tsarist whip. In any case, I certify as a direct witness that this was what was said on this last day.

All round me was a mood bordering on ecstasy. It seemed as though the crowd, spontaneously and of its own accord, would break into some religious hymn. Trotsky formulated a brief and general resolution, or pronounced some general formula like “we will defend the worker-peasant cause to the last drop of our blood.”

Who was—for? The crowd of thousands, as one man, raised their hands. I saw the raised hands and burning eyes of men, women, youths, soldiers, peasants, and—typically lower-middle-class faces. Were they in spiritual transports? Did they see, through the raised curtain, a corner of the “righteous land” of their longing? Or were they penetrated by a consciousness of the political occasion, under the influence of the political agitation of a Socialist? Ask no questions! Accept it was as it was . . . 

Trotsky went on speaking. The innumerable crowd went on holding their hands up. Trotsky rapped out the words: “Let this vote of yours be your vow—with all your strength and at any sacrifice to support the Soviet that has taken on itself the glorious burden of bringing to a conclusion the victory of the revolution and of giving land, bread, and peace!”22

Drawing from a quite different medium of expression, Trotsky’s 1935 diary, knowledgeable psychoanalyst Erich Fromm suggests a quite different dimension of the man:

No doubt Trotsky as an individual was as different from Marx, Engels and Lenin as they were among themselves; and yet in being permitted to have an intimate glimpse of the personal life of Trotsky, one is struck by all that he has in common with these productive personalities. Whether he writes about political events, or Emma Goldman’s autobiography, or Wallace’s detective stories, his reaction goes to the roots, is penetrating, alive and productive. . . . In the midst of insecure exile, illness, cruel Stalinist persecution of his family, there is never a note of self-pity or even despair. There is objectivity and courage and humility. This is a modest man; proud of his cause, proud of the truth he discovers, but not vain or self-centered.23

The psychoanalyst might have dealt, also, with Trotsky’s compulsions and breakdowns. “He lived under great pressure, dealing with twenty different matters at once, reading documents, studying, and writing articles on literature, economics and domestic or foreign affairs,” his companion Natalia Sedova later recounted. “No wonder that his health began to suffer.” There were periodic debilitating illnesses: “Apparently the constant conflict between Leon Davidovich’s fine sensibility, nervous temperament and indomitable will brought on these attacks at moments of excessive mental strain.”24

This is the person, with all his brilliance and contradictions, to whom we will be giving our attention in this brief volume.

  1. William Harlan Hale, “When the Red Storm Broke,” American Heritage Magazine, February 1961, Vol. 12, Issue 2, 101. 
  2. Bertrand M. Patenaude, Trotsky, Downfall of a Revolutionary (New York: Harper, 2009), 8; Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2008), xv.
  3. John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World, in The Collected Works of John Reed (New York: Modern Library, 1995), 633. 
  4. Rick Geary, Trotsky, A Graphic Biography (New York: Hill and Wang, 2009), 3–4.
  5. Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky, The Eternal Revolutionary (New York: Free Press, 1996), xxxii; Robert Service, Trotsky, A Biography (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2009), 497.
  6. Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky, A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 209.
  7. Max Eastman, Heroes I Have Known: Twelve Who Lived Great Lives (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942), 255; Slavoj Žižek, “Foreword” in Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism (London: Verso Press, 2007), viii; Peter Beilharz, Trotsky, Trotskyism and the Transition to Socialism (Totowa, NJ, 1987), 1; Geoffrey Swain, Trotsky (Harlow: Routledge, 2006), 2.
  8. Leon Trotsky, Trotsky’s Diary in Exile 1935 (New York: MacMillan, 1964), 46–47. 
  9. Beilharz, 10, 11; Žižek, xxv.
  10. Anatoly Lunacharsky, Revolutionary Silhouettes (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), 60.
  11. Leon Trotsky, My Life, An Attempt at an Autobiography (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), 106.
  12. “The Social Composition of the Party,” Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1936-37 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1978), 489, 490.
  13. William Reswick, I Dreamt Revolution (Chicago: H. Regnery Co. 1952), 152; Trotsky, My Life, 109, 110.
  14. Quoted in V. Nevsky, “Lev Davidovich Trotsky,” in Georges Haupt and Jean-Jacque Marie, eds., Makers of the Russian Revolution: Biographies of Bolshevik Leaders (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974), 83; Max Eastman, Leon Trotsky: The Portrait of a Youth (New York, 1925), 46.
  15. Leon Trotsky, The Young Lenin (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1972), 187.
  16. This summary is drawn from Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates, A Freedom Budget for All Americans: Recapturing the Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in the Struggle for Economic Justice Today (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013), 48–49.
  17. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed, Trotsky: 1879–1921 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 35; Lunacharsky, 67; Angelica Balabanoff, My Life as a Rebel (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1973), 156.
  18. Service, 52; Deutscher, 35; Patenaude, 106; Lunacharsky, 62.
  19. Victor Serge and Natalia Sedova Trotsky, The Life and Death of Leon Trotsky (New York: Basic Books, 1975), 121–123; Alice Rühle-Gerstel, “No Verses for Trotsky, A Diary in Mexico (1937),” Encounter, April 1982, 28, 31. 
  20. Serge and Sedova Trotsky, 120-121; Sara Weber, “Recollections of Trotsky,” Modern Occasions, Spring 1972, 185, 186. 
  21. Weber, 185–186.
  22. N. N. Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution 1917, A Personal Account (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 584–585.
  23. Erich Fromm, unpublished paper, 1958, from Erich Fromm Archives, reproduced in Marxist Internet Archive, (accessed December 23, 2013).
  24. Serge and Sedova Trotsky,123–124.

Issue #63

January 2009

Politics and struggle in a new era

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Critical Thinking