Leon Trotsky. Leon Trotsky led the revolution that brought the Bolsheviks (later Communists) to power in Russia in October 1917

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2 Leon Trotsky I INTRODUCTION Leon Trotsky Leon Trotsky led the revolution that brought the Bolsheviks (later Communists) to power in Russia in October 1917 and subsequently held powerful positions in Vladimir Lenin s new government. After Lenin suffered an incapacitating stroke, Trotsky lost leadership of the government to Joseph Stalin and was forced into exile. In 1940 Stalin s agents murdered Trotsky while he was living in Mexico. THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE Leon Trotsky ( ), Russian Marxist, who organized the revolution that brought the Bolsheviks (later Communists) to power in Russia in October An outstanding administrator and an eloquent theorist, Trotsky held a number of important posts in the government of Soviet Russia and then that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until he was ousted for his opposition to Communist Party leader Joseph Stalin in 1925.

3 Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in the town of Yanovka in Ukraine, which was then under the rule of the Russian Empire. His father was a prosperous Jewish farmer. After attending a Jewish primary school, Trotsky became a student at a state school in the city of Odesa (Odessa) in 1888 and later went to a high school in neighboring Mikolayiv, graduating in Trotsky excelled in all subjects and was always at the top of his class. II EARLY POLITICAL LIFE Trotsky was first exposed to radical political ideas as a student in Mikolayiv, where he joined an illegal organization of militant populists who were concerned with people s rights under the Russian imperial government. Trotsky soon became an ardent supporter of Marxism (the ideas of German political philosopher Karl Marx) and a member of the Social Democrats, an international socialist party. He helped found the South Russian Workers' Union in After leading a number of worker demonstrations and strikes, Trotsky was arrested by Russian state police in early He spent almost two years in prison and then was sentenced to exile in Siberia for the next four years. While in prison, Trotsky married Alexandra Sokolovskaya, a fellow Marxist who was also serving a prison sentence. Sokolovskaya went with Trotsky to Siberia, where their two daughters were born. During his Siberian exile, Trotsky joined the Social Democratic Siberian Union and wrote political commentaries and social analyses. In the summer of 1902 Trotsky escaped and fled to London, where he joined a group of Russian Social Democrats including Vladimir Lenin, Georgy Plekhanov, and Yuly Martov who were publishing the newspaper Iskra (The Spark). In 1903 Trotsky attended the historic Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP). At the congress, the Social Democrats split into two factions: the Bolsheviks (from the Russian word for majority ), who favored a small, disciplined party of professional revolutionaries; and the less militant Mensheviks (from the word for minority ), who advocated a loosely organized party with mass membership. The Bolsheviks were led by Lenin, and the Mensheviks were led by Martov. Trotsky shared the views of the Mensheviks regarding party organization and joined them initially, becoming their chief spokesman. However, he soon clashed

4 with the Mensheviks on the question of who would lead the world revolution of the working classes that Marxists anticipated. Trotsky, along with the Bolsheviks, believed that the working class would lead the revolution, while the Mensheviks believed that the middle class would lead its initial stage. Trotsky left the Mensheviks, and until 1917 he aligned himself with neither party, taking an independent position between factions. After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, a popular uprising against the Russian monarchy, Trotsky hurried back to Russia to direct the socialist workers' movement in Saint Petersburg. As chairman of the Saint Petersburg Soviet (council) of Workers Deputies, the first soviet in Russia's history, Trotsky distinguished himself as a decisive and uncompromising revolutionary leader. He quickly attracted attention for his passionate speeches and radical proposals to the Russian proletariat (the Marxists name for the working class). After Emperor Nicholas II issued his October Manifesto in 1905, promising civil rights and the creation of a popularly elected parliament, the revolutionary tide began to ebb and Trotsky called for an end to a workers strike in Saint Petersburg. In December Trotsky was arrested again for his revolutionary activities. He spent a year in prison, where he wrote several articles for the illegal socialist press. He also wrote the book Results and Prospects (1906), in which he formulated his theory of permanent revolution. In a break from Marxist theory which held that the working-class revolution would be preceded by a capitalist phase Trotsky argued that the working class could rise directly after the fall of an imperial ruling class. This theory proposed that a revolution in Russia would constitute the first step in a revolution that would spread in stages to the entire world. In fact, Trotsky argued that the success of socialism in Russia depended on other European countries following Russia s lead. In early 1907 Trotsky was exiled to Siberia for treason, but again he managed to escape and fled abroad, where he spent the next ten years. In 1907 he attended the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP, where he refused to align with either the Mensheviks or the Bolsheviks. After the congress, Trotsky moved to Vienna, where he lived from 1907 to 1914 with Natalya Sedova, who became his second wife and with whom he had two sons. (Trotsky s marriage to his first wife had ended in 1903.)

5 III REVOLUTIONARY LEADERSHIP During this period of exile, Trotsky developed his reputation as a theoretician and journalist, contributing to several socialist newspapers, including the radical Kyiv (Kiev) newspaper Kievskaya mysl' (Kievan Thought). After World War I broke out in 1914, Trotsky moved to Switzerland and later to Paris, where he became editor of the Menshevik newspaper Nashe slovo (Our Word), although he remained unaffiliated with any political organization. As a revolutionary socialist who opposed the war, Trotsky was one of the chief inspirers of the Zimmerwald Conference, an international socialist gathering in Switzerland in At the conference, Trotsky drew close to Lenin, who shared his antiwar views and his advocacy of a new International (socialist organization) that would bring together Marxists from different countries to promote world revolution. (The two would cofound the Third International also known as the Communist International, or Comintern in 1919). In early 1917 Trotsky was forced to seek asylum in New York City after being deported first from France and then from Spain. He returned to Russia shortly after the outbreak of the February (or March, in the New Style calendar) phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to the abdication of Nicholas II and the establishment of a Provisional Government led by Aleksandr Kerensky and other socialists, as well as by liberal politicians. In Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg was called between 1914 and 1924), Trotsky assumed the leadership of the Interdistrict Committee of the RSDLP which included both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks and joined the newly reestablished Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies. In July 1917 Trotsky abandoned his independent course and joined the Bolshevik Party. He became a member of the Bolsheviks Central Committee and emerged, along with Lenin, as the most influential opponent of Russia s new Provisional Government. In contrast to the Mensheviks, who favored cooperation with the liberals, the Bolsheviks sought to bring down the government and replace it with a so-called dictatorship of the proletariat in other words, a government ruled by the Bolsheviks on behalf of Russia s industrial workers and peasants. Trotsky was imprisoned for his opposition to the Provisional Government in August but was released on bail in early September and elected chairman

6 of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. By this time Lenin was in hiding, so Trotsky took over preparations for the Bolsheviks seizure of power. In October (November, New Style) he led masses of soldiers and workers in the insurrection that brought down the Provisional Government the second phase of the Russian Revolution. After the Bolsheviks gained power, Trotsky became commissar of foreign affairs in the new government led by Lenin. Trotsky was a principal figure in negotiations with Germany and the other Central Powers in early In March of that year, however, Trotsky resigned from his post in protest of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which made severe demands on Russia. Trotsky then became commissar of war and chairman of the Supreme Military Council of Russia. Both Trotsky and Lenin realized that it would be impossible to create a strong Soviet army without using officers who had experience fighting under the imperial government. From remnants of the imperial army, Trotsky formed an efficient military force known as the Red Army. Although Trotsky lacked military training, he was a good organizer and easily won the respect and loyalty of his troops. It was largely because of Trotsky s military leadership that the Bolsheviks won the Russian Civil War ( ), which was fought between the Bolsheviks and their adversaries, most notably the counterrevolutionary White armies (see White Russians). A prolific writer, Trotsky published several important books and pamphlets during the 1920s. These works include Terrorism and Communism (1920), Problems of Everyday Life (1923), On Lenin: Materials for a Biographer (1924), and Literature and Revolution (1925). He also wrote the manifestos for the first five congresses of the Comintern, held in 1919 and the early 1920s. Trotsky was second only to Lenin in the Politburo (the Communist Party s highest decision-making body), and Lenin viewed him as exceptionally able. The two men clashed in 1920 and 1921 over the role of trade unions (Trotsky demanded unsuccessfully that the government make trade unions organs of the state in order to discipline them and maintain industrial efficiency). However, Lenin and Trotsky were drawn together again by the 1921 Kronshtadt Rebellion against the Bolshevik regime. With Lenin's backing, Trotsky used military troops to suppress the rebellion. In December 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed as a federal union of Russia and the neighboring areas that the Soviet government had brought under its control.

7 IV EXILE When Lenin suffered a stroke in 1922, Communist (renamed from Bolshevik) Party official Joseph Stalin began maneuvering for control of the party. Stalin was elected general secretary later that year in addition to his other party posts, and he used his positions to attack all potential challengers. In 1923 Trotsky headed the first opposition to Stalin, protesting the suppression of democracy within the Communist Party; Trotsky s sentiments were echoed by other prominent Communists, but not by any Politburo members. Trotsky also objected strongly to Stalin's theory of 'socialism in one country,' which claimed that the success of Russia's revolution did not depend on the revolution spreading to the rest of the world. Although Trotsky enjoyed prestige as a military leader, Stalin controlled the party organization. After Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin established a ruling coalition with Grigory Zinovyev and Lev Kamenev. Trotsky was unable to defend himself against damaging criticism, and in 1925 he lost his post as commissar of war. In 1926 Zinovyev and Kamenev joined with Trotsky against Stalin in a coalition known as the Left Opposition. Trotsky was then expelled from the Politburo. Trotsky's continued public criticisms of Stalin led to his expulsion from the Communist Party in In 1928 Trotsky was exiled to Soviet Central Asia, and in 1929 Stalin ordered Trotsky to leave the USSR altogether. Refused admission by most countries, Trotsky lived in Turkey until 1933, when he moved to France and then to Norway. In 1936 he took up residence with his family near Mexico City, Mexico. Trotsky continued to promote world revolution while in exile. In the 1930s he founded the Fourth International, an organization advocating his goal of world revolution and opposing Stalinism (as Joseph Stalin s brutal authoritarian rule came to be known). Trotsky continued writing throughout this period. From 1929 to 1940 he published the journal Bulletin of the Opposition, to which he contributed articles on Soviet politics and international affairs. In 1930 he published his famous autobiography My Life, which is remarkable for its self-analysis. The threevolume History of the Russian Revolution, a work generally considered Trotsky s best, appeared between 1931 and A masterly account of the events of 1917 in Russia, the work bears the

8 imprint of Trotsky s personal experience. His book The Revolution Betrayed, a highly critical analysis of Stalinist Russia, appeared in 1937, convincing Stalin that Trotsky was still a dangerous opponent who had to be destroyed. Following one assassination attempt in May 1940, Trotsky was murdered on Stalin's orders in August of that year by Ramon Mercader, a Spanish-born agent for the Soviet secret police. V EVALUATION As one of Soviet Russia's most brilliant Marxist leaders, Trotsky was a man of action, a thinker, and a writer, whose political and literary activity spanned the first four decades of the 20th century. His skill as an organizer and a military strategist did much to ensure the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the defeat of the Bolsheviks opponents in the subsequent civil war. Trotsky s writings on Marxism, Bolshevism, and world revolution made a significant contribution to both political theory and historical literature. Few politicians have aroused more passion and controversy than Trotsky. A classical Marxist, Trotsky was deeply committed to the main tenet of Marxism the theory of world revolution and he saw social upheaval as global, rather than local or national, in scope. His belief in world revolution resulted in a commitment to radical domestic policies and to the use of severe measures wherever necessary. For Trotsky, the success of the Bolshevik revolution was a necessary part of the process of world revolution, and thus he did not shy away from the use of violence against the Bolsheviks opponents. Despite his ability to be ruthless, Trotsky was no match for Stalin when it came to the struggle for political power that ensued after Lenin's death. Stalin was a master of political intrigue, and he understood better than Trotsky the importance of building support among rank-and-file party members. Trotsky and his colleagues in the Communist Party leadership failed to realize the implications of Stalin's control over the party apparatus until it was too late, and by 1929 Stalin was close to assuming absolute power.

9 Contributed By: Amy Knight

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