Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life (Jewish Lives)

Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life (Jewish Lives)

Joshua Rubenstein

Language: English

Pages: 238


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in southern Ukraine, Trotsky was both a world-class intellectual and a man capable of the most narrow-minded ideological dogmatism. He was an effective military strategist and an adept diplomat, who staked the fate of the Bolshevik revolution on the meager foundation of a Europe-wide Communist upheaval. He was a master politician who played his cards badly in the momentous struggle for power against Stalin in the 1920s. And he was an assimilated, indifferent Jew who was among the first to foresee that Hitler’s triumph would mean disaster for his fellow European Jews, and that Stalin would attempt to forge an alliance with Hitler if Soviet overtures to the Western democracies failed.

Here, Trotsky emerges as a brilliant and brilliantly flawed man. Rubenstein offers us a Trotsky who is mentally acute and impatient with others, one of the finest students of contemporary politics who refused to engage in the nitty-gritty of party organization in the 1920s, when Stalin was maneuvering, inexorably, toward Trotsky’s own political oblivion.

As Joshua Rubenstein writes in his preface, “Leon Trotsky haunts our historical memory. A preeminent revolutionary figure and a masterful writer, Trotsky led an upheaval that helped to define the contours of twentieth-century politics.” In this lucid and judicious evocation of Trotsky’s life, Joshua Rubenstein gives us an interpretation for the twenty-first century.















was now in London. With Adler’s assistance, Trotsky reached England, by way of Zurich and Paris, in October 1902. It was early morning when he knocked three times on the door of Lenin’s apartment, as he had been instructed to do. Lenin was still in bed when Nadezhda Krupskaya opened the door and warmly greeted the young man. “The ‘pen’ has arrived,” she announced to Lenin. Thus Lenin and Trotsky met. Together, fifteen years later, they led an armed uprising in Petrograd. 2 The Revolution of 1905

percent. I shall not conceal from you that the revolutionary movement in Russia worries us … but you should know that if you do not deter your youth from the revolutionary movement, we shall make your position untenable to such an extent that you will have to leave Russia, to the very last man! Later that summer, Theodor Herzl, a prominent Viennese journalist and the founder of modern Zionism, visited Saint Petersburg, where both Plehve and Witte received him. They admitted that tsarist policies

to be justified. From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.” For Trotsky it was a matter of faith that class struggle was the only way to achieve universal freedom. Virtually any means, as long they were sincerely designed to further class struggle, could be justified. He remained, after all the tragedy and suffering that

in Switzerland, 30, 43, 70–72, 75, 85 Testament of, 129, 131, 140, 143 Trotsky’s potential succession and, 126–27, 129–30 What Is to Be Done?, 22 on Zionism, 30, 35. See also Iskra (newspaper); October Revolution; Pravda (Lenin’s newspaper) “Lessons of October, The” (Trotsky), 136–37 Liber, Mark, 34 Lie, Trygve, 173–75 Liebknecht, Karl, 188 Literature and Revolution (Trotsky), 123–24 Literaturnaya Gazeta (journal), 207 Losey, Joseph, 208 Lozovsky, Solomon, 73 Luch (newspaper), 57

rabbi presiding in Lev’s cell. It would be natural to wonder whether the impulse behind this marriage was genuine. Political prisoners often married each other because it conferred the right to face deportation together and thereby avoid complete isolation. Lenin and Nadezhda Krupskaya, for example, had been deported to separate cities in 1897 but then arranged permission to be married, affording her the right to join him in a small town in central Siberia. As for Lev and Sokolovskaya, the

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