Trotsky: A Biography
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Robert Service completes his masterful trilogy on the founding figures of the Soviet Union in an eagerly anticipated, authoritative biography of Leon Trotsky.
Trotsky is perhaps the most intriguing and, given his prominence, the most understudied of the Soviet revolutionaries. Using new archival sources including family letters, party and military correspondence, confidential speeches, and medical records, Service offers new insights into Trotsky. He discusses Trotsky’s fractious relations with the leaders he was trying to bring into a unified party before 1914; his attempt to disguise his political closeness to Stalin; and his role in the early 1920s as the progenitor of political and cultural Stalinism. Trotsky evinced a surprisingly glacial and schematic approach to making revolution. Service recounts Trotsky’s role in the botched German revolution of 1923; his willingness to subject Europe to a Red Army invasion in the 1920s; and his assumption that peasants could easily be pushed onto collective farms. Service also sheds light on Trotsky’s character and personality: his difficulties with his Jewish background, the development of his oratorical skills and his preference for writing over politicking, his inept handling of political factions and coldness toward associates, and his aversion to assuming personal power.
Although Trotsky’s followers clung to the stubborn view of him as a pure revolutionary and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin, the reality is very different. This illuminating portrait of the man and his legacy sets the record straight.
withdrawal of German forces from the east. By the end of 1919 there were Soviet republics in Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia. Formally they enjoyed sovereign statehood but the reality was that supreme control was exercised from Moscow. The whole region was troubled by competing territorial claims and outbreaks of conflict. The biggest question was the demarcation of the western frontier of ‘Sovdepia’, as foreigners often called the lands ruled by Russia’s communists. Warsaw existed in constant
Opposition he made points to his own intellectual satisfaction with polemical zeal and in fine literary style. Then he left it to his readers to draw their own conclusions. Unwisely he assumed that this was enough. He claimed in his memoirs that he had lost all influence in the Politburo or the Central Committee in the 1920s. This was untrue. Whenever he sat in the Politburo, especially when Stalin was absent, he took his opportunity to play the boss. He lectured; he interrogated; he
the Black Sea. In the late nineteenth century the cereal trade was booming. Farmers and peasants brought their produce from far and wide to profit from rising prices. Merchants sent shiploads of wheat across the Black Sea for European consumption. Most Nikolaev inhabitants were Russians or Ukrainians but the city also contained other ethnic communities as the existence of a synagogue and a Lutheran church testified. There were two large shipyards as well as a railway station and repair works.
believe that they are not the aggressors in any conflict. They warm to moral denunciations of the enemy; and Trotsky, the reader of Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy, refined his expertise in the rhetorical devices of evasion. In any case, he did not want to provoke the judge into silencing him or meting out the heaviest of sentences – at least to this extent he went along with Martov. Outspokenness was not to become suicidal. The court allowed Trotsky to lay his counter-charges against the
Trotsky wanted to attend the Democratic Conference only for as long as it took as to denounce Kerenski and proclaim the party’s refusal to join the Pre-Parliament; Kamenev’s preference was for the Bolsheviks to stay and act as the radical critical opposition at the Conference and in the Pre-Parliament. Kamenev convinced the Bolshevik leaders, who even gave consideration to asking the government to guarantee personal inviolability to Lenin so that he might head the Bolshevik delegation.10 (Lenin,