Since these indignant lines were written,the degeneration of the regime has gone immeasurably farther. The GPU [State Political Directorate (Gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie–GPU] has become the decisive factor in the inner life of the party. If Molotov in March 1936 was able to boast to a French journalist that the ruling party no longer contains any factional struggle, it is only because disagreements are now settled by the automatic intervention of the political police. The old Bolshevik party is dead and no force will resurrect it… Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, 1936
If you are looking for an objective biography of Trotsky [ Lev Davidovich Bronshtein ] this is not it. His crimes are presented as historical necessities and in the true Marxist dialectic so is his assassination. The value of the book is that it is mercifully brief, seems to have an accurate timeline and is well enough categorized that you can skip most of the leftist drivel. The Berlin Wall may have been torn down in 1989 but it still stands strong as a bulwark against any common sense entering the leftist mind and this book is one of its many bricks.
Leon Trotsky was the leading proponent of exporting Soviet Marxism to first western Europe, then Latin America – especially Mexico and finally the world. Stalin exiled him in order to solidify his hold on Russia and had may have him murdered probably to prove that no one – and especially Russians abroad – was beyond his grasp. The doctrine of revolution and the structure of leftist dissident organizations – including terrorists cells – owes more to Trotsky than is does to Marx, Lenin or Stalin and is still in vogue as a substitute for open armed aggression against the West.
Trotsky London : Haus, 2004 David Renton Revolutionaries Soviet Union Biography, Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940 Book. 180 p. : ill., ports. ; 20 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG
Leon Trotsky was the leading spokesman of the Russian Revolution, the founder of the victorious Red Army, and was instrumental in the creation of the early Soviet State. Yet despite being recognized as Lenin’s obvious successor, Trotsky was out-maneuvered by Stalin. In the years that followed, he developed the first systematic critique of Stalin’s dictatorship. In 1929, he was forced out of Russia, moving from Turkey, to France, and finally to Mexico, where, in 1940, he was assassinated.
Renton has produced a clear and informative biography of “the man who refused to compromise, who followed the revolution to its end, who wrote and argued and never gave up”, which constitutes a sympathetic portrait of perhaps the most controversial left-wing figure in the history of the 20th century.
Renton also does a good job of charting the factors that led to the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, giving a sense of how civil war and the resulting near-extinction of the Russian working class set the scene for the ascendency of Stalin and the bureaucratic strata that coalesced around him, and of how the fate of the revolution was eventually sealed by the fact that revolution failed to materialise in the more advanced economies of Western Europe.
Renton’s presentation allows us to formulate some difficult questions about how things would have been different if Trotsky’s Oppositional faction in the Communist Party had triumphed in the 1920s over the Stalinist bureaucracy. If Stalinism was the product of isolation and the failure of revolutionary socialism in Western Europe, factors outside the control of the Russians, wouldn’t trying to save the revolution by overthrowing Stalin be like trying to put out a fire by blowing away the smoke? Would the victory of the Opposition have resulted in just another form of bureaucratic degeneration? Renton writes “Stalin’s success compelled the people of the Soviet Union to live in conditions of isolation and blockade, under a leadership committed to the most extraordinary policies of shock industrialisation”.
Renton is too hard on the old Bolsheviks slaughtered in Stalin’s purges of the 1930s: “Almost none of Lenin’s former colleagues had the courage to deny the charges. Instead they showed a mistaken loyalty to the Party of 1917. Had they won, it would have meant the defeat of the Party, which was unthinkable”. This is unconvincing: the confessions were tortured out of the old Bolsheviks, many of whose families were also under threat of torture and death from Stalin’s thugs. How many of us would refuse to “confess” in the face of such threats?
That Renton’s book throws these difficult questions into relief is in the end no criticism: the questions are real, and need to be faced square on by the 21st century when the new Stalin, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – or is he the Czar [or does it make a difference?], is ascendant in Moscow.