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Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life

JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm665
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  • Book Info
    Leon Trotsky
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17841-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 The Young Revolutionary
    (pp. 1-24)

    To the world he will always be known as Leon Trotsky, but he was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein on October 26, 1879, in southern Ukraine, near the city of Kherson. His parents, David and Anna Bronstein, had eight children. Lev was their fifth, the third-oldest of their surviving children; four others died in infancy of diphtheria and scarlet fever. The Bronsteins were not typical Russian Jews. Unlike the majority of the tsar’s five million Jews who were compelled to reside in the Pale of Settlement, an area encompassing much of present-day Belarus and Ukraine, Lev’s parents lived on a farm,...

  5. 2 The Revolution of 1905
    (pp. 25-54)

    Lenin was always a good listener and Trotsky had a lot to say. Although he was young and untested, Trotsky had a reputation as a writer and organizer that preceded him into Europe. Lenin and his fellowIskraeditors followed events in Russia as best they could, reading newspapers and underground literature, eager to keep their fingers on the pulse of revolution and reaction. While Trotsky’s experiences in Nikolaev and Odessa amounted to a small-bore adventure, they demonstrated to Lenin how Marxist ideas were percolating throughout the empire, inspiring articulate and committed young people who might someday, whocouldsomeday,...

  6. 3 An Independent Marxist
    (pp. 55-82)

    Although the revolution of 1905 compelled the tsar to make substantial concessions, these reforms were quickly reversed as the autocracy regained control of the country and ruthlessly asserted its revived power. By June 1907 Tsar Nicholas II had dispersed the Second Duma, arrested Bolshevik representatives—both Lenin and Trotsky had shifted their strategies and supported the idea of Social Democrats standing for the Second Duma, thinking it could prove useful for spreading their ideas—and dispatched them to Siberia. The regime also hunted down several thousand would-be revolutionaries and executed them after summary trials.

    Trotsky was safe in Europe, hailed...

  7. 4 The Revolution of 1917
    (pp. 83-134)

    Speaking before tsarist judges in 1905, Trotsky declared, “A popular insurrection cannot be staged. It can only be foreseen.” Twenty-five years later, in forced exile and anxious to defend the role he had played in the Bolshevik takeover, Trotsky wrote hisHistory of the Russian Revolution. Caught between the urge to sustain the Bolshevik claim that the masses had inspired the seizure of power and the unavoidable truth of his and Lenin’s fundamental roles, Trotsky wavered. He emphasized the inevitable momentum of events—“Revolution is the inspired frenzy of history,” he wrote inMy Life—and the contingent need for...

  8. 5 Out of Power
    (pp. 135-154)

    The succession was not decided at the moment of Lenin’s death. Kamenev and Zinoviev remained allied with Stalin, though both looked down on him. They were determined to prevent Trotsky from coming to power and were confident that their prestige among fellow Bolsheviks would guarantee their dominance. Kamenev, after all, led the party in Moscow, while Zinoviev headed the party in Leningrad and presided over the Comintern.*

    Trotsky knew that he lacked a broad following within the party. Only days before Lenin’s death a party conference had denounced his views as “a petty bourgeois deviation from Leninism.” Hoping to restore...

  9. 6 Exile
    (pp. 155-202)

    Politically, Trotsky was a spent force, yet he continued to command attention. The image of an exiled revolutionary, Lenin’s closest collaborator, haunted the capitals and chancelleries of Europe.

    Trotsky fell back on a strategy that had once succeeded. He pulled together a new network of militant Marxists like himself to challenge the commissars in the Kremlin, in the same way that he and Lenin had confronted first the tsar and then the Provisional Government. Trotsky, though, was not facing a crumbling, disoriented monarchy but a ruthless machine that understood conspiracy firsthand—that had, in fact, gone through the same history...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 203-210)

    Saul Bellow was expecting to meet Trotsky on the day after the attack. He and his wife were visiting Mexico with another couple, and the two men had an appointment to see Trotsky that afternoon. At twenty-five, Bellow fancied himself a Trotskyist. His first short story had yet to appear in thePartisan Review. After learning about the attack, Bellow and his friend rushed to the hospital, where the police, thinking they were journalists, waved them into the room. There they saw Trotsky’s corpse in an open coffin. “His cheeks, his nose, his beard, his throat, were streaked with blood...

  11. NOTE ON SOURCES
    (pp. 211-214)
  12. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 215-216)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 217-225)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 226-227)