|© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014|
Power and Beyond
Герб России империей
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Wappen des österreichisch-ungarischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
On 3 August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, in which Austria-Hungary fought against the Russian empire, Trotsky was forced to flee Vienna for neutral Switzerland to avoid arrest as a Russian émigré.
The outbreak of World War I caused a sudden realignment within the RSDLP and other European social democratic parties over the issues of war, revolution, pacifism and internationalism.
In Switzerland, Trotsky briefly worked within the 'Swiss Socialist Party', prompting it to adopt an internationalist resolution.
He wrote a book opposing the war, 'The War and the International', and the pro-war position taken by the European social democratic parties, primarily the German party.
As a war correspondent for the 'Kievskaya Mysl', Trotsky moved to France on 19 November 1914.
He adopted the slogan of "peace without indemnities or annexations, peace without conquerors or conquered."
Lenin advocated Russia's defeat in the war, and demanded a complete break with the Second International.
|Zimmerwald - Switzerland|
The conference adopted the middle line proposed by Trotsky.
At first opposed, in the end Lenin voted for Trotsky's resolution to avoid a split among anti-war socialists.
On 31 March Trotsky was deported from France to Spain for his anti-war activities.
Spanish authorities did not want him, and deported him to the United States on 25 December 1916.
He arrived in New York City on 13 January 1917.
He stayed for nearly three months at 1522 Vyse Avenue in The Bronx.
In New York he wrote articles for the local Russian language socialist newspaper, 'Novy Mir', and the Yiddish-language daily, 'Der Forverts' (The Forward), in translation.
It was edited by Nikolai Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai, who were briefly joined by Leon Trotsky when he arrived in New York in January 1917. V. Volodarsky, then living in Philadelphia, was one of the contributors.
|Никола́й Ива́нович Буха́рин|
|Алекса́ндра Миха́йловна Коллонта́й|
Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai
At the time of the split in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party into the Mensheviks under Julius Martov and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin in 1903, Kollontai did not side with either faction. It wasn't until 1915 that Kollontai officially joined the Bolshevik party.
After the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917 Kollontai's political career began. She became People's Commissar for Social Welfare. She was the most prominent woman in the Soviet administration and was best known for founding the Zhenotdel or "Women's Department" in 1919 . This organization worked to improve the conditions of women's lives in the Soviet Union, fighting illiteracy and educating women about the new marriage, education, and working laws put in place by the Revolution. As a foremost champion of women's equality like the other Marxists of her time, she opposed the ideology of liberal feminism, which she saw as bourgeois; though later feminists have claimed her legacy. The Zhenotdel was eventually closed in 1930. Kollontai also married Pavel Dybenko in 1917.
In the government, Kollontai increasingly became an internal critic of the Communist Party and joined with her friend, Alexander Shlyapnikov, to form a left-wing faction of the party that became known as the Workers' Opposition. However, Lenin managed to dissolve the Workers' Opposition, after which Kollontai was more or less politically sidelined.
Kollontai lacked political influence and was appointed by the Party to various diplomatic positions from the early 1920s, keeping her from playing a leading role in the politics of women's policy in the USSR. In 1923, she was appointed Soviet Ambassador to Norway, becoming the world's first female ambassador in modern times. She later served as Ambassador to Mexico (1926–27) and Sweden (1930–1945). When she was in Stockholm, the Winter War between Russia and Finland broke out; it has been said that it was largely due to her influence that Sweden remained neutral
Trotsky also made speeches to Russian émigrés.
He was officially earning some $15 a week.
Trotsky was living in New York City when the 'February Revolution of 1917' overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.
He was detained for a month at Amherst Internment Camp in Nova Scotia.
After initial hesitation, the Russian foreign minister Pavel Milyukov demanded the release of Trotsky as a Russian citizen, and the British government freed him on 29 April.
He reached Russia on 4 May.
After his return, Trotsky substantively agreed with the Bolshevik position, but did not join them right away.
Russian social democrats were split into at least six groups, and the Bolsheviks were waiting for the next party Congress to determine which factions to merge with.
Trotsky temporarily joined the Mezhraiontsy, a regional social democratic organization in St. Petersburg, and became one of its leaders.
The Mezhraiontsy group was founded in November 1913 by three Bolsheviks (Konstantin Yurenev, A. M. Novosyolov and E. M. Adamovich) and one Menshevik, N. M. Yegorov. Yurenev was the informal leader of the organization until May 1917 except for one year between February 1915 and February 1916, which he spent in jail on charges of subversive activities.
With the return of many anti-war social democratic emigres from European exile in April-June 1917, the Mezhraionka was a natural place for them to join. A number of prominent social democrats like Leon Trotsky, Adolf Joffe, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Moisei Uritsky, David Riazanov, V. Volodarsky, Lev Karakhan, Dmitry Manuilsky, and Sergey Ezhov (Tsederbaum) joined it at that time. At the elections to the Petrograd district councils in May-June 1917, the IDO and Bolsheviks formed a bloc.
The Mezhraionka (membership about 4,000) merged with the Bolsheviks at the 6th Congress of the RSDLP in late July-early August 1917 in which both the groups formed a party that was formally independent of the Mensheviks. Many of its former members played an important role during the October Revolution later in the year and the subsequent Russian Civil War.
At the 'First Congress of Soviets' in June, he was elected a member of the first All-Russian Central Executive Committee ("VTsIK") from the Mezhraiontsy faction.
After an unsuccessful pro-Bolshevik uprising in Petrograd, Trotsky was arrested on 7 August 1917.
Лавр Георгиевич Корнилов
Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov
He was released 40 days later in the aftermath of the failed counter-revolutionary uprising by Lavr Kornilov.
After the Bolsheviks gained a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, Trotsky was elected Chairman on 8 October.
He sided with Lenin against Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev when the Bolshevik Central Committee discussed staging an armed uprising, and he led the efforts to overthrow the Provisional Government headed by Aleksandr Kerensky.
The following summary of Trotsky's role in 1917 was written by Stalin in 'Pravda', 10 November 1918.
'All practical work in connection with the organization of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the President of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the Party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organized.'
After the success of the uprising on 7–8 November, Trotsky led the efforts to repel a counter-attack by Cossacks under General Pyotr Krasnov and other troops still loyal to the overthrown Provisional Government at Gatchina.
Allied with Lenin, he defeated attempts by other Bolshevik Central Committee members (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Alexey Rykov, etc.) to share power with other socialist parties.
By the end of 1917, Trotsky was unquestionably the second man in the Bolshevik Party after Lenin.
He overshadowed the ambitious Zinoviev, who had been Lenin's top lieutenant over the previous decade, but whose star appeared to be fading.
This reversal of position contributed to continuing competition and enmity between the two men, which lasted until 1926 and did much to destroy them both.
Commissar for Foreign Affairs and Brest-Litovsk (1917–1918)
|Trotsky and German Officers - Brest-Litovsk|
Trotsky led the Soviet delegation during the peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk from 22 December 1917 to 10 February 1918.
At that time the Soviet government was split on the issue.
Left Communists, led by Nikolai Bukharin, continued to believe that there could be no peace between a Soviet republic and a capitalist country and that only a revolutionary war leading to a pan-European Soviet republic would bring a durable peace.
They cited the successes of the newly formed (15 January 1918) voluntary Red Army against Polish forces of Gen. Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki in Belarus, White forces in the Don region, and newly independent Ukrainian forces as proof that the Red Army could repel German forces, especially if propaganda and asymmetrical warfare were used.
Negotions for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
In case of a German ultimatum, they advocated proclaiming a revolutionary war against Germany in order to inspire Russian and European workers to fight for socialism.
This opinion was shared by Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who were then the Bolsheviks' junior partners in a coalition government.
|Vladimir Lenin 1918|
He agreed with the Left Communists that ultimately a pan-European Soviet revolution would solve all problems, but until then the Bolsheviks had to stay in power.
Lenin did not mind prolonging the negotiating process for maximum propaganda effect, but, from January 1918 on, advocated signing a separate peace treaty if faced with a German ultimatum.
Trotsky's position was between these two Bolshevik factions.
Like Lenin, he admitted that the old Russian military, inherited from the monarchy and the Provisional Government and in advanced stages of decomposition, was unable to fight:
But he agreed with the Left Communists that a separate peace treaty with an imperialist power would be a terrible morale and material blow to the Soviet government, negate all its military and political successes of 1917 and 1918, resurrect the notion that the Bolsheviks secretly allied with the German government, and cause an upsurge of internal resistance.
He argued that any German ultimatum should be refused, and that this might well lead to an uprising in Germany, or at least inspire German soldiers to disobey their officers since any German offensive would be a naked grab for territories.
He wrote in 1925:
'We began peace negotiations in the hope of arousing the workmen's party of Germany and Austria-Hungary as well as of the Entente countries. For this reason we were obliged to delay the negotiations as long as possible to give the European workman time to understand the main fact of the Soviet revolution itself and particularly its peace policy. But there was the other question: Can the Germans still fight ? Are they in a position to begin an attack on the revolution that will explain the cessation of the war ? How can we find out the state of mind of the German soldiers, how to fathom it ?'
Throughout January and February 1918, Lenin's position was supported by 7 members of the Bolshevik Central Committee and Bukharin's by 4.
|Eastern Europe 1914-1918|
After a brief hiatus, the Central Powers notified the Soviet government that they would no longer observe the truce after 17 February.
At this point Lenin again argued that the Soviet government had done all it could to explain its position to Western workers and that it was time to accept the terms.
Trotsky refused to support Lenin since he was waiting to see whether German workers would rebel and whether German soldiers would refuse to follow orders.
Germany resumed military operations on 18 February.
Within a day, it became clear that the German army was capable of conducting offensive operations and that Red Army detachments, which were relatively small, poorly organized and poorly led, were no match for it.
In the evening of 18 February 1918, Trotsky and his supporters in the committee abstained and Lenin's proposal was accepted 7–4.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - 1918
Germany did not respond for three days, and continued its offensive encountering little resistance.
The response arrived on 21 February, but the proposed terms were so harsh that even Lenin briefly thought that the Soviet government had no choice but to fight.
But in the end, the committee again voted 7–4 on 23 February 1918; the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March and ratified on 15 March 1918.
Since Trotsky was so closely associated with the policy previously followed by the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk, he resigned from his position as Commissar for Foreign Affairs in order to remove a potential obstacle to the new policy.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year, it did provide some relief to the Bolsheviks, who were tied up in fighting the Russian Civil War, by renouncing all territorial claims on Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Also Poland got a piece of new territory (which included Warsaw), but by no means covered all the areas where Polish speaking people were in the majority. A territorial dispute between Poland, Belarus and Lithuania concerning Wilno (now Vilnius) also occurred.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace treaty that the Soviet government was forced to sign on March 3, 1918 after almost six-month-long negotiations at Brest-Litovsk between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and the Central Powers marking Russia's exit from World War I. Signing of the treaty defaulted Russia's commitments on the Triple Entente alliance.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace treaty that the Soviet government was forced to sign on March 3, 1918 after almost six-month-long negotiations at Brest-Litovsk between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and the Central Powers marking Russia's exit from World War I. Signing of the treaty defaulted Russia's commitments on the Triple Entente alliance.
In all, the treaty took away territory that included a quarter of the Russian Empire's population, a quarter of its industry and nine-tenths of its coal mines
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk lasted only eight and a half months. Russia's post-1991 western border bears a marked similarity to that imposed by the Brest-Litovsk treaty.
Head of the Red Army (Spring 1918)
The failure of the recently formed Red Army to resist the German offensive in February 1918 revealed its weaknesses: insufficient numbers, lack of knowledgeable officers, and near absence of coordination and subordination.
Celebrated and feared Baltic Fleet sailors, one of the bastions of the new regime led by Pavel Dybenko, shamefully fled from the German army at Narva.
|Павел Ефимович Дыбенко|
Pavel Efimovich Dybenko
The notion that the Soviet state could have an effective voluntary or militia type military was seriously undermined.
Trotsky was one of the first Bolshevik leaders to recognize the problem and he pushed for the formation of a military council of former Russian generals that would function as an advisory body.
Lenin and the Bolshevik Central Committee agreed on 4 March to create the Supreme Military Council, headed by former chief of the imperial General Staff Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich, but the entire Bolshevik leadership of the Red Army, including People's Commissar (defense minister) Nikolai Podvoisky and commander-in-chief Nikolai Krylenko, protested vigorously and eventually resigned.
|Михаи́л Дми́триевич Бонч-Бруе́вич|
Mikhail Dmitriyevich Bonch-Bruyevich
Михаи́л Дми́триевич Бонч-Бруе́вич - Mikhail Dmitriyevich Bonch-Bruyevich (24 February [O.S. 12 February] 1870 – 3 August 1956) was an Imperial Russian and Soviet military commander, Lieutenant General (1944). His family was of Polish descent - surname written in Polish: Boncz-Brujewicz.
From 1892-1895, Bonch-Bruyevich served as an officer with the Lithuanian Guards Regiment, posted at Warsaw.
At the outbreak of World War I Bonch-Bruyevich was in command of the 176th Perevolochensky Regiment, based at Chernigov. He was an eye witness to the aerial ramming attack in which the Russian aviator Pyotr Nesterov died.
He later became chief of staff and deputy commander of the Russian Northern Front. He was commander of the Northern Front from 29 August 1917 to 9 September 1917.
After the October Revolution, he was chief of staff of the Supreme Commander (1917–1918), the military director of the Supreme Military Council, and chief of field staff of the Revolutionary Military Council. He survived the Stalinist purge, in a large part because of his brother, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, who was Vladimir Lenin's personal secretary.
They believed that the Red Army should consist only of dedicated revolutionaries, rely on propaganda and force, and have elected officers.
They viewed former imperial officers and generals as potential traitors who should be kept out of the new military, much less put in charge of it.
Their views continued to be popular with many Bolsheviks throughout most of the Russian Civil War and their supporters, including Podvoisky, who became one of Trotsky's deputies, were a constant thorn in Trotsky's side.
|Николай Ильич Подвойский|
Nikolai Ilyich Podvoisky
Николай Ильич Подвойский - Nikolai Ilyich Podvoisky (February 4 (16), 1880 - July 28, 1948) was a Russian revolutionary. He played a large role in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and wrote many articles for the Soviet newspaper Krasnaya Gazeta. He also wrote a history of the Bolshevik Revolution, which describes the progress of the Russian Revolution without mentioning Leon Trotsky or Joseph Stalin.
He was chair-person of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and one of the troika who led the storming of the Winter Palace, and commissioned Sergei Eisenstein to create a film version of the 1920 re-enactment. Immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, he served as the first Commissar of Defense of Russia until March 1918.
The discontent with Trotsky's policies of strict discipline, conscription and reliance on carefully supervised non-Communist military experts eventually led to the Military Opposition (Russian: Военная оппозиция)), which was active within the Communist Party in late 1918–1919.
On 13 March 1918, Trotsky's resignation as Commissar for Foreign Affairs was officially accepted and he was appointed People's Commissar of Army and Navy Affairs – in place of Podvoisky – and chairman of the Supreme Military Council.
The post of commander-in-chief was abolished, and Trotsky gained full control of the Red Army, responsible only to the Communist Party leadership, whose Left Socialist Revolutionary allies had left the government over Brest-Litovsk.
With the help of his faithful deputy Ephraim Sklyansky, Trotsky spent the rest of the Civil War transforming the Red Army from a ragtag network of small and fiercely independent detachments into a large and disciplined military machine, through forced conscription, party-controlled blocking squads, compulsory obedience and officers chosen by the leadership instead of the rank and file.
He defended these positions throughout his life.
Throughout late 1918 and early 1919, there were a number of attacks on Trotsky's leadership of the Red Army, including veiled accusations in newspaper articles inspired by Stalin and a direct attack by the Military Opposition at the VIIIth Party Congress in March 1919.
On the surface, he weathered them successfully and was elected one of only five full members of the first Politburo after the Congress. But he later wrote:
'It is no wonder that my military work created so many enemies for me. I did not look to the side, I elbowed away those who interfered with military success, or in the haste of the work trod on the toes of the unheeding and was too busy even to apologize. Some people remember such things. The dissatisfied and those whose feelings had been hurt found their way to Stalin or Zinoviev, for these two also nourished hurts.'
In mid-1919 the dissatisfied had an opportunity to mount a serious challenge to Trotsky's leadership: the Red Army grew from 800,000 to 3,000,000, and fought simultaneously on sixteen fronts.
The Red Army had defeated the White Army's spring offensive in the east and was about to cross the Ural Mountains and enter Siberia in pursuit of Admiral Alexander Kolchak's forces.
|Алекса́ндр Васи́льевич Колча́к|
Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak
Kolchak was a prominent expert on naval mines and a member of the Russian Geographical Society.
Among his awards are the Saint George Gold Sword for Bravery, given for his actions in the battle of Port Arthur and the Great Gold Constantine Medal from the Russian Geographic Society.
Kolchak was interrogated by a commission of five men representing the Revolutionary Committee (REVKOM) during nine days between 21 January and 6 February. Despite the arrival of a contrary order from Moscow, Admiral Kolchak was condemned to death along with his Prime Minister, Viktor Pepelyayev.
Both prisoners were brought before a firing squad in the early morning of 7 February 1920.
But in the south, General Anton Denikin's White Russian forces advanced, and the situation deteriorated rapidly. On 6 June commander-in-chief Vatsetis ordered the Eastern Front to stop the offensive so that he could use its forces in the south.
But the leadership of the Eastern Front, including its commander Sergey Kamenev (a former colonel of the Imperial army), and Eastern Front Revolutionary Military Council members Ivar Smilga, Mikhail Lashevich and Sergey Gusev vigorously protested and wanted to keep the emphasis on the Eastern Front.
They insisted that it was vital to capture Siberia before the onset of winter and that once Kolchak's forces were broken, many more divisions would be freed up for the Southern Front. Trotsky, who had earlier had conflicts with the leadership of the Eastern Front, including a temporary removal of Kamenev in May 1919, supported Vatsetis.
At the 3–4 July Central Committee meeting, after a heated exchange the majority supported Kamenev and Smilga against Vatsetis and Trotsky.
Trotsky's plan was rejected and he was much criticized for various alleged shortcomings in his leadership style, much of it of a personal nature.
Stalin used this opportunity to pressure Lenin to dismiss Trotsky from his post. But when Trotsky offered his resignation on five July, the Politburo and the Orgburo of the Central Committee unanimously rejected it.
However, some significant changes to the leadership of the Red Army were made.
Trotsky was temporarily sent to the Southern Front, while the work in Moscow was informally coordinated by Smilga.
Most members of the bloated Revolutionary Military Council who were not involved in its day-to-day operations were relieved of their duties on 8 July, and new members, including Smilga, were added.
The same day, while Trotsky was in the south, Vatsetis was suddenly arrested by the Cheka on suspicion of involvement in an anti-Soviet plot, and replaced by Sergey Kamenev.
After a few weeks in the south, Trotsky returned to Moscow and resumed control of the Red Army. A year later, Smilga and Tukhachevsky were defeated during the Battle of Warsaw, but Trotsky refused this opportunity to pay Smilga back, which earned him Smilga's friendship and later support during the intra-Party battles of the 1920s.
By October 1919, the government was in the worst crisis of the Civil War: Denikin's troops approached Tula and Moscow from the south, and General Nikolay Yudenich's troops approached Petrograd from the west.
Lenin decided that since it was more important to defend Moscow, Petrograd would have to be abandoned.
Trotsky argued that Petrograd needed to be defended, at least in part to prevent Estonia and Finland from intervening.
In a rare reversal, Trotsky was supported by Stalin and Zinoviev and prevailed against Lenin in the Central Committee.
He immediately went to Petrograd, whose leadership headed by Zinoviev he found demoralized, and organized its defense, sometimes personally stopping fleeing soldiers.
By 22 October the Red Army was on the offensive and in early November, Yudenich's troops were driven back to Estonia, where they were disarmed and interned.
Trotsky was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for his actions in Petrograd.1920
With the defeat of Denikin and Yudenich in late 1919, the Soviet government's emphasis shifted to the economy.
Trotsky spent the winter of 1919–1920 in the Urals region trying to restart its economy.
Based on his experiences, he proposed abandoning the policies of War Communism, which included confiscating grain from peasants, and partially restoring the grain market.
Still committed to War Communism, Lenin rejected his proposal.
He put Trotsky in charge of the country's railroads (while retaining overall control of the Red Army), which he directed should be militarized in the spirit of War Communism.
It was not until early 1921, due to economic collapse and social uprisings, that Lenin and the rest of the Bolshevik leadership abandoned War Communism in favor of the New Economic Policy.
In early 1920, Soviet–Polish tensions eventually led to the Polish–Soviet War. In the run-up and during the war, Trotsky argued that the Red Army was exhausted and the Soviet government should sign a peace treaty with Poland as soon as possible.
He did not believe that the Red Army would find much support in Poland proper.
Lenin later wrote that he and other Bolshevik leaders believed the Red Army's successes in the Russian Civil War and against the Poles meant "The defensive period of the war with worldwide imperialism was over, and we could, and had the obligation to, exploit the military situation to launch an offensive war."
The Red Army offensive was turned back during the Battle of Warsaw in August 1920, in part because of Stalin's failure to obey Trotsky's orders in the run-up to the decisive engagements. Back in Moscow, Trotsky again argued for a peace treaty and this time prevailed.
Trade Union Debate (1920–1921)
In late 1920, after the Bolsheviks won the Civil War and before the Eighth and Ninth Congress of Soviets, the Communist Party had a heated and increasingly acrimonious debate over the role of trade unions in the Soviet state.
The discussion split the party into many factions, including Lenin's, Trotsky's and Bukharin's; Bukharin eventually merged his with Trotsky's.
Smaller, more radical factions like the Workers' Opposition (headed by Alexander Shlyapnikov) and the Group of Democratic Centralism were particularly active.
Trotsky's position formed while he led a special commission on the Soviet transportation system, Tsektran.
He was appointed there to rebuild the rail system ruined by the Civil War.
Being the Commissar of War and a revolutionary military leader, he saw a need to create a militarized "production atmosphere" by incorporating trade unions directly into the State apparatus.
His unyielding stance was that in a worker's state the workers should have nothing to fear from the state, and the State should fully control the unions.
In the Ninth Party Congress he argued for "such a regime under which each worker feels himself to be a soldier of labor who cannot freely dispose of himself; if he is ordered transferred, he must execute that order; if he does not do so, he will be a deserter who should be punished. Who will execute this? The trade union. It will create a new regime. That is the militarization of the working class."
Lenin sharply criticised Trotsky and accused him of "bureaucratically nagging the trade unions" and of staging "factional attacks".
His view did not focus on State control as much as the concern that a new relationship was needed between the State and the rank-and-file workers.
He said, "Introduction of genuine labor discipline is conceived only if the whole mass of participants in productions take a conscious part in the fulfillment of these tasks. This cannot be achieved by bureaucratic methods and orders from above."
This was a debate that Lenin thought the party could not afford.
His frustration with Trotsky was used by Stalin and Zinoviev with their support for Lenin's position, to improve their standing within the Bolshevik leadership at Trotsky's expense.
Disagreements threatened to get out of hand and many Bolsheviks, including Lenin, feared that the party would splinter.
The Central Committee was split almost evenly between Lenin's and Trotsky's supporters, with all three Secretaries of the Central Committee (Krestinky, Yevgeny Preobrazhensky and Leonid Serebryakov) supporting Trotsky.
At a meeting of his faction at the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, Lenin's faction won a decisive victory and a number of Trotsky's supporters (including all three secretaries of the Central Committee) lost their leadership positions. Krestinsky was replaced as a member of the Politburo by Zinoviev, who had supported Lenin.
Krestinsky's place in the secretariat was taken by Vyacheslav Molotov.
The congress also adopted a secret resolution on "Party unity", which banned factions within the Party except during pre-Congress discussions. The resolution was later published and used by Stalin against Trotsky and other opponents.
At the end of the Tenth Congress, after peace negotiations had failed, Trotsky gave the order for the suppression of the Kronstadt Rebellion, the last major revolt against Bolshevik rule.
Years later, anarchist Emma Goldman and others criticized Trotsky's actions as Commissar for War for his role in the suppression of the rebellion, and argued that he ordered unjustified incarcerations and executions of political opponents such as anarchists, although Trotsky did not participate in the actual suppression.
Some Trotskyists, most notably Abbie Bakan, have argued that the claim that the Kronstadt rebels were "counterrevolutionary" has been supported by evidence of White Army and French government support for the Kronstadt sailors' March rebellion.
Other historians, most notably Paul Avrich, claimed the evidence did not point towards this conclusion, and that the Kronstadt Rebellion was spontaneous.
Lenin's Illness (1922–1923)
Lenin's Illness (1922–1923)
In late 1921 Lenin's health deteriorated, he was absent from Moscow for even longer periods, and eventually had three strokes between 26 May 1922 and 10 March 1923, which caused paralysis, loss of speech and finally death on 21 January 1924.
With Lenin increasingly sidelined throughout 1922, Stalin (elevated to the newly created position of the Central Committee General Secretary earlier in the year), Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev formed a troika (triumvirate) to ensure that Trotsky, publicly the number-two man in the country and Lenin's heir presumptive, would not succeed Lenin.
The rest of the recently expanded Politburo (Rykov, Mikhail Tomsky, Bukharin) was at first uncommitted, but eventually joined the troika.
Stalin's power of patronage in his capacity as General Secretary clearly played a role, but Trotsky and his supporters later concluded that a more fundamental reason was the process of slow bureaucratization of the Soviet regime once the extreme conditions of the Civil War were over: much of the Bolshevik elite wanted 'normalcy' while Trotsky was personally and politically personified as representing a turbulent revolutionary period that they would much rather leave behind.
Although the exact sequence of events is unclear, evidence suggests that at first the troika nominated Trotsky to head second rate government departments (e.g., Gokhran, the State Depository for Valuables) and then, when Trotsky predictably refused, tried using it as an excuse to oust him. At this time there was speculation about Trotsky's health and whether he had epilepsy.
When, in mid-July 1922, Kamenev wrote a letter to the recovering Lenin to the effect that "(the Central Committee) is throwing or is ready to throw a good cannon overboard", Lenin was shocked and responded:
Throwing Trotsky overboard – surely you are hinting at that, it is impossible to interpret it otherwise – is the height of stupidity. If you do not consider me already hopelessly foolish, how can you think of that ?'
From then until his final stroke, Lenin spent much of his time trying to devise a way to prevent a split within the Communist Party leadership, which was reflected in Lenin's Testament.
As part of this effort, on 11 September 1922 Lenin proposed that Trotsky become his deputy at the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom).
The Politburo approved the proposal, but Trotsky "categorically refused".
In late 1922, Lenin's relationship with Stalin deteriorated over Stalin's heavy-handed and chauvinistic handling of the issue of merging Soviet republics into one federal state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
At that point Lenin offered Trotsky an alliance against Soviet bureaucracy in general and Stalin in particular.
The alliance proved effective on the issue of foreign trade, but it was complicated by Lenin's progressing illness.
In January 1923 the relationship between Lenin and Stalin completely broke down when Stalin rudely insulted Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya.
At that point Lenin amended his Testament suggesting that Stalin should be replaced as the party's General Secretary, although the thrust of his argument was somewhat weakened by the fact that he also mildly criticized other Bolshevik leaders, including Trotsky.
In March 1923, days before his third stroke, Lenin prepared a frontal assault on Stalin's "Great-Russian nationalistic campaign" against the Georgian Communist Party (the so-called 'Georgian Affair') and asked Trotsky to deliver the blow at the XIIth Party Congress.
With Lenin no longer active, Trotsky did not raise the issue at the Congress.
At the XIIth Party Congress in April 1923, just after Lenin's final stroke, the key Central Committee reports on organizational and nationalities questions were delivered by Stalin and not by Trotsky, while Zinoviev delivered the political report of the Central Committee, traditionally Lenin's prerogative.
Stalin's power of appointment had allowed him to gradually replace local party secretaries with loyal functionaries and thus control most regional delegations at the congress, which enabled him to pack the Central Committee with his supporters, mostly at the expense of Zinoviev and Kamenev's backers.
At the congress, Trotsky made a speech about intra-party democracy, among other things, but avoided a direct confrontation with the troika.
The delegates, most of whom were unaware of the divisions within the Politburo, gave Trotsky a standing ovation, which couldn't help but upset the troika.
The troika was further infuriated by Karl Radek's article Leon Trotsky – 'Organizer of Victory' published in 'Pravda' on 14 March 1923.
The resolutions adopted by the XIIth Congress called, in general terms, for greater democracy within the Party, but were vague and remained unimplemented. In an important test of strength in mid-1923, the troika was able to neutralize Trotsky's friend and supporter Christian Rakovsky by removing him from his post as head of the Ukrainian government (Sovnarkom) and sending him to London as Soviet ambassador.
When regional Party secretaries in Ukraine protested against Rakovsky's reassignment, they too were reassigned to various posts all over the Soviet Union.
Left Opposition (1923–1924)
Starting in mid-1923, the Soviet economy ran into significant difficulties, which led to numerous strikes countrywide.
Two secret groups within the Communist Party, “Workers' Truth” and “Workers' Group”, were uncovered and suppressed by the Cheka.
On 8 October 1923 Trotsky sent a letter to the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, attributing these difficulties to lack of intra-Party democracy.
'In the fiercest moment of War Communism, the system of appointment within the party did not have one tenth of the extent that it has now. Appointment of the secretaries of provincial committees is now the rule. That creates for the secretary a position essentially independent of the local organization.The bureaucratization of the party apparatus has developed to unheard-of proportions by means of the method of secretarial selection.There has been created a very broad stratum of party workers, entering into the apparatus of the government of the party, who completely renounce their own party opinion, at least the open expression of it, as though assuming that the secretarial hierarchy is the apparatus which creates party opinion and party decisions. Beneath this stratum, abstaining from their own opinions, there lays the broad mass of the party, before whom every decision stands in the form of a summons or a command.'
Other senior communists who had similar concerns sent 'The Declaration of 46' to the Central Committee on 15 October in which they wrote:
'We observe an ever progressing, barely disguised division of the party into a secretarial hierarchy and into "laymen", into professional party functionaries, chosen from above, and the other party masses, who take no part in social life... free discussion within the party has virtually disappeared, party public opinion has been stifled.... it is the secretarial hierarchy, the party hierarchy which to an ever greater degree chooses the delegates to the conferences and congresses, which to an ever greater degree are becoming the executive conferences of this hierarchy.'
Although the text of these letters remained secret at the time, they had a significant effect on the Party leadership and prompted a partial retreat by the troika and its supporters on the issue of intra-Party democracy, notably in Zinoviev's Pravda article published on 7 November. Throughout November, the troika tried to come up with a compromise to placate, or at least temporarily neutralize, Trotsky and his supporters.
(Their task was made easier by the fact that Trotsky was sick in November and December.) The first draft of the resolution was rejected by Trotsky, which led to the formation of a special group consisting of Stalin, Trotsky and Kamenev, which was charged with drafting a mutually acceptable compromise.
On 5 December, the Politburo and the Central Control Commission unanimously adopted the group's final draft as its resolution.
On 8 December Trotsky published an open letter, in which he expounded on the recently adopted resolution's ideas.
The troika used his letter as an excuse to launch a campaign against Trotsky, accusing him of factionalism, setting "the youth against the fundamental generation of old revolutionary Bolsheviks" and other sins.
Trotsky defended his position in a series of seven letters which were collected as 'The New Course' in January 1924.
The illusion of a "monolithic Bolshevik leadership" was thus shattered and a lively intra-Party discussion ensued, both in local Party organizations and in the pages of Pravda.
The discussion lasted most of December and January until the XIIIth Party Conference of 16–18 January 1924.
Those who opposed the Central Committee's position in the debate were thereafter referred to as members of the Left Opposition.
Since the troika controlled the Party apparatus through Stalin's Secretariat and Pravda through its editor Bukharin, it was able to direct the discussion and the process of delegate selection. Although Trotsky's position prevailed within the Red Army and Moscow universities and received about half the votes in the Moscow Party organization, it was defeated elsewhere, and the Conference was packed with pro-troika delegates.
In the end, only three delegates voted for Trotsky's position and the Conference denounced "Trotskyism" as a "petty bourgeois deviation".
After the Conference, a number of Trotsky's supporters, especially in the Red Army's Political Directorate, were removed from leading positions or reassigned.
Nonetheless, Trotsky kept all of his posts and the troika was careful to emphasize that the debate was limited to Trotsky's "mistakes" and that removing Trotsky from the leadership was out of the question.
In reality, Trotsky had already been cut off from the decision making process.
Immediately after the Conference, Trotsky left for a Caucasian resort to recover from his prolonged illness.
On his way, he learned about Lenin's death on 21 January 1924.
He was about to return when a follow up telegram from Stalin arrived, giving an incorrect date of the scheduled funeral, which would have made it impossible for Trotsky to return in time. Many commentators speculated after the fact that Trotsky's absence from Moscow in the days following Lenin's death contributed to his eventual loss to Stalin, although Trotsky generally discounted the significance of his absence.
After Lenin's death (1924)
After Lenin's death (1924)
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There was little overt political disagreement within the Soviet leadership throughout most of 1924. On the surface, Trotsky remained the most prominent and popular Bolshevik leader, although his "mistakes" were often alluded to by troika partisans. Behind the scenes, he was completely cut off from the decision making process. Politburo meetings were pure formalities since all key decisions were made ahead of time by the troika and its supporters. Trotsky's control over the military was undermined by reassigning his deputy, Ephraim Sklyansky, and appointing Mikhail Frunze, who was being groomed to take Trotsky's place.
At the thirteenth Party Congress in May, Trotsky delivered a conciliatory speech:
None of us desires or is able to dispute the will of the Party. Clearly, the Party is always right.... We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right. The English have a saying, "My country, right or wrong", whether it is in the right or in the wrong, it is my country. We have much better historical justification in saying whether it is right or wrong in certain individual concrete cases, it is my party.... And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.
The attempt at reconciliation, however, did not stop troika supporters from taking potshots at him.
In the meantime, the Left Opposition, which had coagulated somewhat unexpectedly in late 1923 and lacked a definite platform aside from general dissatisfaction with the intra-Party "regime", began to crystallize. It lost some less dedicated members to the harassment by the troika, but it also began formulating a program. Economically, the Left Opposition and its theoretician Yevgeny Preobrazhensky came out against further development of capitalist elements in the Soviet economy and in favor of faster industrialization. That put them at odds with Bukharin and Rykov, the "Right" group within the Party, who supported troika at the time. On the question of world revolution, Trotsky and Karl Radek saw a period of stability in Europe while Stalin and Zinoviev confidently predicted an "acceleration" of revolution in Western Europe in 1924. On the theoretical plane, Trotsky remained committed to the Bolshevik idea that the Soviet Union could not create a true socialist society in the absence of the world revolution, while Stalin gradually came up with a policy of building 'Socialism in One Country'. These ideological divisions provided much of the intellectual basis for the political divide between Trotsky and the Left Opposition on the one hand and Stalin and his allies on the other.
At the thirteenth Congress Kamenev and Zinoviev helped Stalin defuse Lenin's Testament, which belatedly came to the surface. But just after the congress, the troika, always an alliance of convenience, showed signs of weakness. Stalin began making poorly veiled accusations about Zinoviev and Kamenev. Yet in October 1924, Trotsky published The Lessons of October, an extensive summary of the events of the 1917 revolution. In it, he described Zinoviev's and Kamenev's opposition to the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917, something that the two would have preferred left unmentioned. This started a new round of intra-party struggle, which became known as the Literary Discussion, with Zinoviev and Kamenev again allied with Stalin against Trotsky. Their criticism of Trotsky was concentrated in three areas:
Trotsky's disagreements and conflicts with Lenin and the Bolsheviks prior to 1917.
Trotsky's alleged distortion of the events of 1917 in order to emphasize his role and diminish the roles played by other Bolsheviks.
Trotsky's harsh treatment of his subordinates and other alleged mistakes during the Russian Civil War.
Trotsky was again sick and unable to respond while his opponents mobilized all of their resources to denounce him. They succeeded in damaging his military reputation so much that he was forced to resign as People's Commissar of Army and Fleet Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council on 6 January 1925. Zinoviev demanded Trotsky's expulsion from the Communist Party, but Stalin refused to go along and skillfully played the role of a moderate. Trotsky kept his Politburo seat, but was effectively put on probation.
In the Wilderness (1925)
1925 was a difficult year for Trotsky.
After the bruising 'Literary Discussion' and losing his Red Army posts, he was effectively unemployed throughout the winter and spring.
In May 1925, he was given three posts: chairman of the Concessions Committee, head of the electro-technical board, and chairman of the scientific-technical board of industry.
Trotsky wrote in 'My Life' that he "was taking a rest from politics" and "naturally plunged into the new line of work up to my ears" but some contemporary accounts paint a picture of a remote and distracted man.
Later in the year, Trotsky resigned his two technical positions (claiming Stalin-instigated interference and sabotage) and concentrated on his work in the Concessions Committee.
In the meantime, the troika finally broke up.
Bukharin and Rykov sided with Stalin, while Krupskaya and Soviet Commissar of Finance Grigory Sokolnikov aligned with Zinoviev and Kamenev.
The struggle became open at the September 1925 meeting of the Central Committee and came to a head at the XIVth Party Congress in December 1925.
With only the Leningrad Party organization behind them, Zinoviev and Kamenev, dubbed 'The New Opposition', were thoroughly defeated, while Trotsky refused to get involved in the fight and didn't speak at the Congress.
United Opposition (1926–1927)
During a lull in the intra-party fighting in the spring of 1926, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their supporters in the “New Opposition” gravitated closer to Trotsky's supporters and the two groups soon formed an alliance, which also incorporated some smaller opposition groups within the Communist Party.
The alliance became known as the “United Opposition”.
The United Opposition was repeatedly threatened with sanctions by the Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party, and Trotsky had to agree to tactical retreats, mostly to preserve his alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev.
The opposition remained united against Stalin throughout 1926 and 1927, especially on the issue of the Chinese Revolution.
The methods used by the Stalinists against the Opposition became more and more extreme. At the XVth Party Conference in October 1926 Trotsky could barely speak because of interruptions and catcalls, and at the end of the Conference he lost his Politburo seat.
In 1927 Stalin started using the GPU (Soviet secret police) to infiltrate and discredit the opposition.
Rank and file oppositionists were increasingly harassed, sometimes expelled from the Party and even arrested.
As noted above, Soviet policy toward the Chinese Revolution became the ideological line of demarcation between Stalin and the 'United Opposition'.
The Chinese Revolution began on October 10, 1911, resulting in the abdication of the Chinese Emperor February 12, 1912.
Sun Yat-sen established the Republic of China.
In reality, however, the Republic controlled very little of the country.
Much of China was divided between various regional warlords.
The Republican government established a new "nationalist people's army and a national people's party—the Kuomintang.
In 1920, the Kuomintang opened relations with Soviet Russia.
With Soviet help, the Republic of China built up the nationalist people's army.
With the development of the nationalist army, a Northern Expedition was planned to smash the power of the warlords of the northern part of the country.
This Northern Expedition became a point of contention over foreign policy by Stalin and Trotsky.
Stalin tried to persuade the small Chinese Communist Party to merge with the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalists to bring about a bourgeois revolution before attempting to bring about a Soviet-style working class revolution.
Stalin, like Lenin, believed that the KMT bourgeoisie, together with all patriotic national liberation forces in the country, would defeat the western imperialists in China.
Trotsky wanted the Communist party to complete an orthodox proletarian revolution and opposed the KMT.
Stalin funded the KMT during the expedition.
Stalin countered Trotskyist criticism by making a secret speech in which he said that Chiang's right wing Kuomintang were the only ones capable of defeating the imperialists, that Chiang Kai-shek had funding from the rich merchants, and that his forces were to be utilized until squeezed for all usefulness like a lemon before being discarded, however, Chiang quickly reversed the tables in the Shanghai massacre of 1927 by massacring the Communist party in Shanghai midway in the Northern Expedition.
Defeat and Exile (1927–1928)
In October 1927, Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the Central Committee.
When the 'United Opposition' tried to organize independent demonstrations commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1927, the demonstrators were dispersed by force and Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the Communist Party on 12 November.
Their leading supporters, from Kamenev down, were expelled in December 1927 by the XVth Party Congress, which paved the way for mass expulsions of rank and file 'oppositionists' as well as internal exile of opposition leaders in early 1928.
When the XVth Party Congress made Opposition views incompatible with membership in the Communist Party, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their supporters capitulated and renounced their alliance with the Left Opposition.
Trotsky and most of his followers, on the other hand, refused to surrender and stayed the course.
Trotsky was exiled to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan on 31 January 1928.
He was expelled from the Soviet Union to Turkey in February 1929, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.
After Trotsky's expulsion from the country, exiled Trotskyists began to waver.
Between 1929 and 1934, most of the leading members of the 'Opposition' surrendered to Stalin, "admitted their mistakes" and were reinstated in the Communist Party.
Christian Rakovsky, who had inspired Trotsky between 1929 and 1934 from his Siberian exile, was the last prominent Trotskyist to capitulate.
Almost all of them were executed in the 'Great Purges' of 1937-1938.
Trotsky was deported from the Soviet Union in February 1929.
His first station in exile was at Büyükada off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, where he stayed for the next four years.
He was at risk from the many former White Army officers in the city, who had opposed the Bolshevik Revolution, but Trotsky's European supporters volunteered to serve as bodyguards and assured his safety.
In 1933 Trotsky was offered asylum in France by Prime Minister Édouard Daladier.
He stayed first at Royan, then at Barbizon.
He was not allowed in Paris, though he did visit the city in secret during December 1933, to meet with various political allies.
The philosopher and activist Simone Weil arranged for Trotsky and his bodyguards to stay for a few days at her parents house.
In 1935 he was told he was no longer welcome in France.
After weighing alternatives, he moved to Norway.
Having obtained permission from then Justice Minister Trygve Lie to enter the country, Trotsky became a guest of Konrad Knudsen near Oslo.
After two years he was put under house arrest, allegedly because of Soviet influence on the government.
His transfer to Mexico by freighter was arranged after consultations with Norwegian officials. The Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas welcomed Trotsky and arranged for a special train to bring him to Mexico City from the port of Tampico.
Trotsky lived in the Coyoacán area of Mexico City at the home (The Blue House) of the painter Diego Rivera and Rivera's wife and fellow painter, Frida Kahlo, with whom Trotsky had an affair.
His final move was a few blocks away to a residence on Avenida Viena in May 1939, following a break with Rivera.
He wrote prolifically in exile, penning several key works, including his 'History of the Russian Revolution' (1930) and 'The Revolution Betrayed' (1936), a critique of the Soviet Union under Stalinism.
Trotsky argued that the Soviet state had become a “degenerated workers' state” controlled by an undemocratic bureaucracy, which would eventually either be overthrown via a political revolution establishing a workers' democracy, or degenerate into a capitalist class (which is what eventually happened).
While in Mexico, Trotsky also worked closely with James P. Cannon, Joseph Hansen, and Farrell Dobbs of the Socialist Workers Party of the United States, and other supporters.
Cannon, a long-time leading member of the American communist movement, had supported Trotsky in the struggle against Stalinism since he first read Trotsky's criticisms of the Soviet Union in 1928.
Trotsky's critique of the Stalinist regime, though banned, was distributed to leaders of the Comintern.
Among his other supporters was Chen Duxiu, founder of the Chinese Communist Party.
Moscow Show Trials
"The Moscow trials are perpetuated under the banner of socialism. We will not concede this banner to the masters of falsehood! If our generation happens to be too weak to establish Socialism over the earth, we will hand the spotless banner down to our children. The struggle which is in the offing transcends by far the importance of individuals, factions and parties. It is the struggle for the future of all mankind. It will be severe, it will be lengthy. Whoever seeks physical comfort and spiritual calm let him step aside. In time of reaction it is more convenient to lean on the bureaucracy than on the truth. But all those for whom the word ‘Socialism’ is not a hollow sound but the content of their moral life – forward! Neither threats nor persecutions nor violations can stop us! Be it even over our bleaching bones the future will triumph! We will blaze the trail for it. It will conquer! Under all the severe blows of fate, I shall be happy as in the best days of my youth; because, my friends, the highest human happiness is not the exploitation of the present but the preparation of the future."
— Leon Trotsky, 'I Stake My Life', opening address to the Dewey Commission, 9 February 1937
In August 1936, the first Moscow show trial of the so-called "Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center" was staged in front of an international audience.
During the trial, Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 other accused, most of them prominent Old Bolsheviks, confessed to having plotted with Trotsky to kill Stalin and other members of the Soviet leadership.
The court found everybody guilty and sentenced the defendants to death, Trotsky in absentia. The second show trial, of Karl Radek, Grigory Sokolnikov, Yuri Pyatakov and 14 others, took place in January 1937, during which more alleged conspiracies and crimes were linked to Trotsky.
The Fourth International
The Fourth International
For fear of splitting the Communist movement, Trotsky initially opposed the idea of establishing parallel Communist parties, or a parallel international Communist organization that would compete with the Third International.
In mid-1933, he changed his mind after the National Socialist takeover in Germany and the Comintern's response to it.
He said, that:
'An organization which was not roused by the thunder of fascism and which submits docilely to such outrageous acts of the bureaucracy demonstrates thereby that it is dead and that nothing can ever revive it.... In all our subsequent work it is necessary to take as our point of departure the historical collapse of the official Communist International.'
In 1938, Trotsky and his supporters founded the 'Fourth International', which was intended to be a revolutionary and internationalist alternative to the Stalinist Comintern.
After quarreling with Diego Rivera, Trotsky moved to his final residence on Avenida Viena.
He was ill, suffering from high blood pressure, and feared that he would suffer a cerebral hemorrhage.
He even prepared himself for the possibility of ending his life through suicide.
On 27 February 1940, Trotsky wrote a document known as "Trotsky's Testament", in which he expressed his final thoughts and feelings for posterity.
'After forcefully denying Stalin's accusations that he had betrayed the working class, he thanked his friends, and above all his wife and dear companion, Natalia Sedova, for their loyal support:
In addition to the happiness of being a fighter for the cause of socialism, fate gave me the happiness of being her husband. During the almost forty years of our life together she remained an inexhaustible source of love, magnanimity, and tenderness. She underwent great sufferings, especially in the last period of our lives. But I find some comfort in the fact that she also knew days of happiness.
For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.
Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.'
27 February 1940
Coyoacan.Trotsky's young grandson, Vsievolod Platonovich "Esteban" Volkov (born 1926), was shot in the foot and a young assistant and bodyguard of Trotsky, Robert Sheldon Harte, was abducted and later murdered, but other guards saw off the attack.
On 24 May 1940, Trotsky survived a raid on his home by armed Stalinist assassins led by GPU agent Iosif Grigulevich, Mexican painter and Stalinist David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Vittorio Vidale.
On 24 May 1940, Trotsky survived a raid on his home by armed Stalinist assassins led by GPU agent Iosif Grigulevich, Mexican painter and Stalinist David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Vittorio Vidale.
On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was attacked in his home in Mexico with an ice axe by undercover NKVD agent Ramón Mercader.
The blow to Trotsky's head was poorly delivered and failed to kill Trotsky instantly, as Mercader had intended.
Witnesses stated that Trotsky spat on Mercader and began struggling fiercely with him. Hearing the commotion, Trotsky's bodyguards burst into the room and nearly killed Mercader, but Trotsky stopped them, laboriously stating that the assassin should be made to answer questions.
Trotsky was taken to a hospital, operated on, and survived for more than a day, dying at the age of 60 on 21 August 1940 as a result of blood loss and shock.
Mercader later testified at his trial:
'I laid my raincoat on the table in such a way as to be able to remove the ice axe which was in the pocket. I decided not to miss the wonderful opportunity that presented itself. The moment Trotsky began reading the article, he gave me my chance; I took out the ice axe from the raincoat, gripped it in my hand and, with my eyes closed, dealt him a terrible blow on the head.'
Trotsky's house in Coyoacán was preserved in much the same condition as it was on the day of the assassination, and is now a museum run by a board which includes his grandson Esteban Volkov.
The current director of the museum is Carlos Ramirez Sandoval.
Trotsky's grave is located on its grounds.
A new foundation (International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum) has been organized to raise funds to further improve the Museum.
He considered himself an advocate of orthodox Marxism.
His politics differed in many respects from those of Stalin, most importantly in his rejection of the theory of 'Socialism in One Country' and his declaring the need for an international "Permanent Revolution".
Numerous Fourth Internationalist groups around the world continue to describe themselves as 'Trotskyist', and see themselves as standing in this tradition, although they have different interpretations of the conclusions to be drawn from this.
Supporters of the 'Fourth International' echo Trotsky's opposition to Stalinist totalitarianism, advocating political revolution, arguing that socialism cannot sustain itself without democracy.
Permanent Revolution is a term within Marxist theory, established in usage by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels by at least 1850, but which has since become most closely associated with Leon Trotsky.
The use of the term by different theorists is not identical.
Marx used it to describe the strategy of a revolutionary class to continue to pursue its class interests independently and without compromise, despite overtures for political alliances, and despite the political dominance of opposing sections of society.
Trotsky put forward his conception of 'permanent revolution' as an explanation of how socialist revolutions could occur in societies that had not achieved advanced capitalism.
Part of his theory is the impossibility of 'socialism in one country' – a view also held by Marx.
Trotsky's theory also argues, first, that the bourgeoisie in late-developing capitalist countries are incapable of developing the productive forces in such a manner as to achieve the sort of advanced capitalism which will fully develop an industrial proletariat.
Second, that the proletariat can and must, therefore, seize social, economic and political power, leading an alliance with the peasantry.
This conception was first developed in the essays later collected in his book 1905 and in his essay 'Results and Prospects', and later developed in his 1929 book, 'The Permanent Revolution'.
The basic idea of Trotsky's theory is that in Russia the bourgeoisie would not carry out a thorough revolution which would institute political democracy and solve the land question. These measures were assumed to be essential to develop Russia economically, therefore it was argued the future revolution must be led by the proletariat who would not only carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, but would commence a struggle to surpass the bourgeois democratic revolution.
How far the proletariat would be able to travel upon that road would depend upon the further course of events and not upon the designation of the revolution as "Bourgeois Democratic".
In this sense the revolution would be made permanent.
Trotsky believed that a new workers' state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well.
This theory was advanced in opposition to the position held by the Stalinist faction within the Bolshevik Party that "socialism in one country" could be built in the Soviet Union.
Trotsky's theory was developed as an alternative to the Social Democratic theory that undeveloped countries must pass through two distinct revolutions.
First the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, which socialists would assist, and at a later stage, the Socialist Revolution with an evolutionary period of capitalist development separating those stages.
This is often referred to as the Theory of Stages, the Two Stage Theory or Stagism.
Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks initially held to a version of the Stagist theory, since they were still connected to the Social Democrats at the time.
Lenin's earlier theory shared Trotsky's premise that the bourgeoisie would not complete a bourgeois revolution.
Lenin thought that a 'Democratic Dictatorship' of the workers and peasants could complete the tasks of the bourgeoisie.
Lenin was arguing by 1917 not only that the Russian bourgeoisie would not be able to carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and therefore the proletariat had to take state power, but also that it should take economic power via a Soviet
This position was put forward to the Bolsheviks on his return to Russia, in his April Theses. The first reaction of the majority of Bolsheviks was one of rejection of the Theses.
Initially, only Alexandra Kollontai rallied to Lenin's position within the Bolshevik party.
After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks, now including Trotsky, did not discuss the theory of Permanent Revolution as such, however, its basic theses can be found in such popular outlines of Communist theory as 'The ABC's of Communism', which sought to explain the program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, by Yevgeni Preobrazhensky and Nikolai Bukharin (1888–1938).
Later on, after Lenin's death, in the 1920s, the theory did assume importance in the internal debates within the Communist Party and was a bone of contention within the opposition to Joseph Stalin.
In essence a section of the Communist Party leadership, whose views were voiced at the theoretical level by Nikolai Bukharin, argued that socialism could be built in a single country, even an underdeveloped one like Russia.
This meant that there would be less need to encourage revolutions in advanced Western countries in the hope that a Socialist Germany (for example) would later give Russia the economic base needed to construct a socialist society.
Bukharin argued that Russia's pre-existing economic base was sufficient for the task at hand, provided the USSR could be militarily defended.
Acting on these ideas, the Communist International became less revolutionary and more willing to compromise with "reactionary" forces, for example by advising its Chinese section to back the Kuomintang's efforts to unify China.
This effort was seen as being the Chinese Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, and the fact that communists supported it meant a return to a Stagist position.
The question of the Chinese revolution and the subjection of the Communist Party of China to control by the Kuomintang at the behest of the Russian Communist Party was a topic of argument within the opposition to Stalin in the Russian Communist Party.
On the one hand, figures such as Karl Radek argued that a Stagist strategy was correct for China, although their writings are only known to us now second hand, having perished in the 1930s (if original copies exist in the archives, they have not been located since the fall of the USSR in 1989).
Trotsky, on the other hand, generalised his 'Theory of Permanent Revolution', which had only been applied in the case of Russia previously, and argued that the proletariat needed to take power in a process of uninterrupted and Permanent Revolution in order to carry out the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic revolution.
His position was put forward in his essay entitled 'The Permanent Revolution', which can be found today in a single book together with 'Results and Prospects'.
Not only did Trotsky generalise his 'Theory of Permanent Revolution' in this essay but he also grounded it in the idea of uneven and combined development.
This argument goes, again in contrast to the conceptions inherent within Stagist theory, that capitalist nations, indeed all class-based societies, develop unevenly and that some parts will develop more swiftly than others, however, it is also argued that this development is combined and that each part of the world economy is increasingly bound together with all other parts.
The conception of uneven and combined development also recognises that some areas may even regress further economically and socially as a result of their integration into a world economy.
The United Front
Trotsky was a central figure in the Comintern during its first four congresses.
During this time he helped to generalise the strategy and tactics of the Bolsheviks to newly formed Communist parties across Europe and further afield.
From 1921 onwards the united front, a method of uniting revolutionaries and reformists in common struggle while winning some of the workers to revolution, was the central tactic put forward by the Comintern after the defeat of the German revolution.
After he was exiled and politically marginalised by Stalinism, Trotsky continued to argue for a united front against fascism in Germany and Spain.
His articles on the united front represent an important part of his political legacy.
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