Lev Davidovich Bronstein (he assumed the name Leon Trotsky in 1902) was born in Yanovka, Russia, on 7th November, 1879. His parents were Jewish and owned a farm in the Ukraine. He later recalled: "My father and mother lived out their hard-working lives with some friction, but very happily on the whole. Of the eight children born of this marriage, four survived. I was the fifth in order of birth. Four died in infancy, of diphtheria and of scarlet fever, deaths almost as unnoticed as was the life of those who survived. The land, the cattle, the poultry, the mill, took all my parents' time; there was none left for us. We lived in a little mud house. The straw roof harboured countless sparrows' nests under the eaves. The walls on the outside were seamed with deep cracks which were a breeding place for adders. The low ceilings leaked during a heavy rain, especially in the hall, and pots and basins would be placed on the dirt floor to catch the water. The rooms were small, the windows dim; the floors in the two rooms and the nursery were of clay and bred fleas." (1)
David Bronstein made a success of his 250 acre farm. He cultivated wheat for the thriving export markets in the region. He also raised cattle, sheep and pigs. He also kept horses for ploughing and travelling. As Bronstein grew in wealth he replaced the original hut with a house of brick, and he had the garden, including a croquet lawn, set out in a grand fashion. He also built his own mill so that he could grind his own wheat and cut out payments to middle men. He also rented out several thousand acres from local landlords. (2)
Leon Trotsky was very close to his younger sister, Olga Kamenev: "We usually sat in the dining-room in the evening until we fell asleep.... Sometimes a chance word of one of the elders would waken some special reminiscence in us. Then I would wink at my little sister, she would give a low giggle, and the grown-ups would look absent-mindedly at her. I would wink again, and she would try to stifle her laughter under the oilcloth and would hit her head against the table. This would infect me and sometimes my older sister too, who, with thirteen-year-old dignity, vacillated between the grown-ups and the children. If our laughter became too uncontrollable, I was obliged to slip under the table and crawl among the feet of the grown-ups, and, stepping on the cat's tail, rush out into the next room, which was the nursery. Once back in the dining-room, it all would begin over again. My fingers would grow so weak from laughing that I could not hold a glass. My head, my lips, my hands, my feet, every inch of me would be shaking with laughter." (3)
Bertram D. Wolfe has attempted to explain the Bronstein's success: "Like their neighbours, they lived lives that were scarcely distinguishable from those around them, unless by the fact that they were not so given to drink as most, worked harder, were more foresighted, drove better bargains with the grain merchants, were able to make a go of it during the prolonged crisis of the eighties, when the competition of American, Canadian and Argentine wheat ruined so many farmers of the steppes." (4)
When Trotsky was eight years old his father sent him to Odessa to be educated. He stayed at the home of his mother's nephew, Moissei Spentzer. He was a journalist who had been in trouble with the authorities for his liberal views. His wife, was the headmistress of a secular school for Jewish girls. Trotsky was taught to speak Russian (up until this time he used the Ukrainian language). In the evenings the Spentzers would read aloud the work of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Charles Dickens. Many years later the American writer, Max Eastman, described the Spentzers as "kindly, quiet, poised, intelligent". (5)
At first the Spentzers were unable to find a school for Trotsky. The Russian government had just passed a law to make it difficult for Jews to obtain a good education. Schools could only have up to 5 per cent of Jewish students. He finally found a place at a school where he received instruction in science, mathematics and modern languages. It was not long before he was top of his class. He also produced a school magazine, nearly all written by himself. This got him into trouble as the Minister of Education had banned all school magazines. (6)
In 1895 he attended a school in Nikolayev where he was first introduced to the ideas of Karl Marx. Trotsky became friends with Grigori Sokolnikov and in 1897 formed the underground South Russian Workers' Union. Trotsky later recalled: "I drafted our constitution along Social-Democratic lines. The mill authorities tried to offset our influence through speakers of their own. We would answer them the next day with new proclamations. This duel of words aroused not only the workers but a great many of the citizens as well. The whole town was alive with talk about revolutionaries who were flooding the mills with their handbills. Our names were on every tongue." (7)
Trotsky met Alexandra Sokolovskaya in 1889. She had previously been involved in revolutionary activity in the Ukraine and had read several books written by Marx, including The Communist Manifesto. At first he rejected the ideas of Marx because of its "grinding economic determinism" and at first claimed Alexandra was an "obdurate" Marxist. They constantly argued about politics but the "sexual chemistry was explosive". Although he resisted, he eventually became a Marxist like his girlfriend. (8)
The couple married in 1899. Trotsky recalled in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930) that "Alexandra... held one of the most important positions in the South Russian Workers' Union. Her utter loyalty to socialism and her complete lack of any personal ambition gave her an unquestioned moral authority. The work that we were doing bound us closely together, and so, to avoid being separated, we had been married in the transfer prison in Moscow." (9)
Trotsky later explained "we firmly resolved not to hide in case of wholesale arrests, but to let ourselves be taken." He did this so that the police could not say to the workers: "Your leaders have deserted you." Trotsky and his wife were arrested and sent to Siberia after being arrested for revolutionary activity. Alexandra had two daughters, Zinaida Volkova (1901) and Nina Nevelson (1902). Trotsky managed to escape in the summer of 1902. His wife and children followed later. (10)
Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
After escaping Leon Trotsky met Natalia Sedova. He divorced Alexandra and married Natalia. They joined the Social Democratic Party and moved to Paris where they associated with Lenin, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich and Julius Martov and became involved in producing the journal Iskra. Natalia recalled: "The autumn of 1902 was marked by frequent lectures in the Russian colony in Paris. The Iskra group, to which I belonged, saw first Martov, and then Lenin. A war was being fought against the "Economists" and the Socialist-Revolutionists." (11)
According to Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967): "Trotsky was a gifted writer and talker from boyhood, and as soon as he escaped abroad, he became a leading spokesman of Russian Social Democracy.... Trotsky always looked slightly sinister, and his abrasive temperament made it hard for him to work with equals... He argued brilliantly for the Menshevik view of the 1903 Congress in the polemics that followed." (12)
At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party held in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov over the future of the SDLP. Alexander Potresov later argued: "At first it seemed to us that we were a group of comrades: that not just ideas united us, but also friendship and complete mutual trust... But the quiet friendship and calm that had reigned in our ranks had disappeared quickly. The person responsible for this change was Lenin. As time went on, his despotic character became more and more evident. He could not bear any opinion different from his own... His opponent would become a personal enemy, in the struggle with whom all tactics were permissible. Vera Zasulich was the first to notice this characteristic in Lenin. At first she detected it in his attitude towards people with different ideas - the liberals, for example. But gradually it began to appear also in his attitude towards his closest comrades... At first we had been a united family, a group of people who had committed themselves to the Revolution. But we had gradually turned into an executive organ in the hands of a strong man with a dictatorial character." (13)
Alexander Schottmann was attending his first SDLP congress and compared the impact that Lenin and Martov had on him: "Martov resembled a poor Russian intellectual. His face was pale, he had sunken cheeks; his scant beard was untidy. His glasses barely remained on his nose. His suit hung on him as on a clothes hanger. Manuscripts and pamphlets protruded from all his pockets. He was stooped, one of his shoulders was higher than the other. He had a stutter. His outward appearance was far from attractive. But as soon as he began a fervent speech all these outer faults seemed to vanish, and what remained was his colossal knowledge, his sharp mind, and his fanatical devotion to the cause of the working-class."
Schottmann was also impressed with Lenin in his disagreements with George Plekhanov. "I remember very vividly that immediately after his first address I was won over to his side, so simple, clear, and convincing was his manner of speaking... When Plekhanov spoke, I enjoyed the beauty of his speech, the remarkable incisiveness of his words. But when Lenin arose in opposition, I was always on Lenin's side. Why? I cannot explain it to myself. But so it was, and not only with me, but with my comrades." (14)
Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Leon Trotsky commented that "the split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events." (15)
Although Martov won the vote 28-23 on the paragraph defining Party membership. With the support of Plekhanov, Lenin won on almost every other important issue. His greatest victory was over the issue of the size of the Iskra editorial board to three, himself, Plekhanov and Martov. This meant the elimination of Pavel Axelrod, Alexander Potresov and Vera Zasulich - all of whom were "Martov supporters in the growing ideological war between Lenin and Martov". (16)
Trotsky argued that "Lenin's behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organization. The break with the older ones, who remained in the preparatory stages, was inevitable in any case. Lenin understood this before anyone else did. He made an attempt to keep Plekhanov by separating him from Zasulich and Axelrod. But this, too, was quite futile, as subsequent events soon proved." (17)
One of the main arguments was over the subject of democracy in the party. Plekhanov argued in favour of what he and Lenin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat". This meant "the suppression of all social movements which directly or indirectly threaten the interests of the proletariat". When delegates complained about this new development Plekhanov replied by saying that "every democratic principle must be appraised not separately and abstractly, but in its relation to what may be regarded as the basic principle of democracy". The success of the revolution is the supreme law and that might mean the rejection of the idea of "universal suffrage". Lenin applauded when he argued: "If the people, in a surge of revolutionary enthusiasm, should elect a good parliament, we should endeavour to make it a long parliament. If the elections miscarry, we shot try to disperse it, not in two years, but in two weeks." (18)
As Lenin and Plekhanov won most of the votes, their group became known as the Bolsheviks (after bolshinstvo, the Russian word for majority), whereas Martov's group were dubbed Mensheviks (after menshinstvo, meaning minority). Those who became Bolsheviks included Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Vatslav Vorovsky, Yan Berzin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze.
Leon Trotsky supported Julius Martov. So also did Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Vera Zasulich, Alexander Potresov, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan. Trotsky argued in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930): "How did I come to be with the 'softs' at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulich and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. Before the congress there were various shades of opinion on the editorial board, but no sharp differences. I stood farthest from Plekhanov, who, after the first really trivial encounters, had taken an intense dislike to me. Lenin's attitude towards me was unexceptionally kind. But now it was he who, in my eyes, was attacking the editorial board, a body which was, in my opinion, a single unit, and which bore the exciting name of Iskra. The idea of a split within the board seemed nothing short of sacrilegious to me." (19)
Although he joined the Mensheviks under the leadership of Martov he was aware of his limitations: "The leader of the Mensheviks, Martov, must be counted as one of the most tragic figures of the revolutionary movement. A gifted writer, an ingenious politician, a penetrating thinker, Martov stood far above the intellectual movement of which he became the leader. But his thought lacked courage; his insight was devoid of will. Sheer doggedness was no substitute. Martov's initial reaction to events always showed a revolutionary trend of thought. Immediately, however, his thought, which lacked the support of a live will, died down. My friendship with him did not survive the test of the first important events precipitated by the approaching revolution."
Martov refused to serve on the three-man Iskra board as he could not accept the vote of non-confidence in Axelrod, Potresov and Zasulich. Plekhanov tried to restore party harmony by reconstituting the editorial board on its old basis, with the return of Axelrod, Potresov, Martov and Zasulich. (20) Lenin refused and when Plekhanov insisted that there was no other way to restore unity, Lenin handed in his resignation and stated: "I am absolutely convinced that you will come to the conclusion that it is impossible to work with the Mensheviks." (21)
Plekhanov now began to attack Lenin and predicted that in time he would be a dictator. That he would use "the Central Committee everywhere liquidates the elements with which it is dissatisfied, everywhere seats its own creatures and, filling all the committees with these creatures, without difficulty guarantees itself a fully submissive majority at the congress. The congress, constituted of the creatures of the Central Committee, amiably cries Hurrah!, approves all its successful and unsuccessful actions, and applauds all its plans and initiatives." (22)
Another vigorous attack on Lenin came from Trotsky who described him as a "despot and terrorist who sought to turn the Central Committee of the Party into a Committee of Public Safety - in order to be able to play the role of Robespierre." If Lenin ever took power "the entire international movement of the proletariat would be accused by a revolutionary tribunal of moderatism and the leonine head of Marx would be the first to fall under the guillotine." He added that when Lenin spoke of the dictatorship of the proletariat, he really meant "a dictatorship over the proletariat". (23)
Trotsky and Bloody Sunday
1904 was a bad year for Russian workers. Prices of essential goods rose so quickly that real wages declined by 20 per cent. When four members of the Assembly of Russian Workers were dismissed at the Putilov Iron Works in December, Father Georgi Gapon, its leader, tried to intercede for the men who lost their jobs. This included talks with the factory owners and the governor-general of St Petersburg. When this failed, Gapon called for his members in the Putilov Iron Works to come out on strike. (24)
Father Georgi Gapon demanded: (i) An 8-hour day and freedom to organize trade unions. (ii) Improved working conditions, free medical aid, higher wages for women workers. (iii) Elections to be held for a constituent assembly by universal, equal and secret suffrage. (iv) Freedom of speech, press, association and religion. (v) An end to the war with Japan. By the 3rd January 1905, all 13,000 workers at Putilov were on strike, the department of police reported to the Minister of the Interior. "Soon the only occupants of the factory were two agents of the secret police". (25)
The strike spread to other factories. By the 8th January over 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg were on strike. Father Gapon wrote that: "St Petersburg seethed with excitement. All the factories, mills and workshops gradually stopped working, till at last not one chimney remained smoking in the great industrial district... Thousands of men and women gathered incessantly before the premises of the branches of the Workmen's Association." (26)
Tsar Nicholas II became concerned about these events and wrote in his diary: "Since yesterday all the factories and workshops in St. Petersburg have been on strike. Troops have been brought in from the surroundings to strengthen the garrison. The workers have conducted themselves calmly hitherto. Their number is estimated at 120,000. At the head of the workers' union some priest - socialist Gapon. Mirsky (the Minister of the Interior) came in the evening with a report of the measures taken." (27)
Gapon drew up a petition that he intended to present a message to Nicholas II: "We workers, our children, our wives and our old, helpless parents have come, Lord, to seek truth and protection from you. We are impoverished and oppressed, unbearable work is imposed on us, we are despised and not recognized as human beings. We are treated as slaves, who must bear their fate and be silent. We have suffered terrible things, but we are pressed ever deeper into the abyss of poverty, ignorance and lack of rights." (28)
The petition contained a series of political and economic demands that "would overcome the ignorance and legal oppression of the Russian people". This included demands for universal and compulsory education, freedom of the press, association and conscience, the liberation of political prisoners, separation of church and state, replacement of indirect taxation by a progressive income tax, equality before the law, the abolition of redemption payments, cheap credit and the transfer of the land to the people. (29)
Over 150,000 people signed the document and on 22nd January, 1905, Father Georgi Gapon led a large procession of workers to the Winter Palace in order to present the petition. The loyal character of the demonstration was stressed by the many church icons and portraits of the Tsar carried by the demonstrators. Alexandra Kollontai was on the march and her biographer, Cathy Porter, has described what took place: "She described the hot sun on the snow that Sunday morning, as she joined hundreds of thousands of workers, dressed in their Sunday best and accompanied by elderly relatives and children. They moved off in respectful silence towards the Winter Palace, and stood in the snow for two hours, holding their banners, icons and portraits of the Tsar, waiting for him to appear." (30)
Harold Williams, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, also watched the Gapon led procession taking place: "I shall never forget that Sunday in January 1905 when, from the outskirts of the city, from the factory regions beyond the Moscow Gate, from the Narva side, from up the river, the workmen came in thousands crowding into the centre to seek from the tsar redress for obscurely felt grievances; how they surged over the snow, a black thronging mass." (31) The soldiers machine-gunned them down and the Cossacks charged them. (32)
Alexandra Kollontai observed the "trusting expectant faces, the fateful signal of the troops stationed around the Palace, the pools of blood on the snow, the bellowing of the gendarmes, the dead, the wounded, the children shot." She added that what the Tsar did not realise was that "on that day he had killed something even greater, he had killed superstition, and the workers' faith that they could ever achieve justice from him. From then on everything was different and new." (33) It is not known the actual numbers killed but a public commission of lawyers after the event estimated that approximately 150 people lost their lives and around 200 were wounded. (34)
Gapon later described what happened in his book The Story of My Life (1905): "The procession moved in a compact mass. In front of me were my two bodyguards and a yellow fellow with dark eyes from whose face his hard labouring life had not wiped away the light of youthful gaiety. On the flanks of the crowd ran the children. Some of the women insisted on walking in the first rows, in order, as they said, to protect me with their bodies, and force had to be used to remove them. Suddenly the company of Cossacks galloped rapidly towards us with drawn swords. So, then, it was to be a massacre after all! There was no time for consideration, for making plans, or giving orders. A cry of alarm arose as the Cossacks came down upon us. Our front ranks broke before them, opening to right and left, and down the lane the soldiers drove their horses, striking on both sides. I saw the swords lifted and falling, the men, women and children dropping to the earth like logs of wood, while moans, curses and shouts filled the air." (35)
Alexandra Kollontai observed the "trusting expectant faces, the fateful signal of the troops stationed around the Palace, the pools of blood on the snow, the bellowing of the gendarmes, the dead, the wounded, the children shot." She added that what the Tsar did not realise was that "on that day he had killed something even greater, he had killed superstition, and the workers' faith that they could ever achieve justice from him. From then on everything was different and new." It is not known the actual numbers killed but a public commission of lawyers after the event estimated that approximately 150 people lost their lives and around 200 were wounded. (36)
Father Gapon escaped uninjured from the scene and sought refuge at the home of Maxim Gorky: "Gapon by some miracle remained alive, he is in my house asleep. He now says there is no Tsar anymore, no church, no God. This is a man who has great influence upon the workers of the Putilov works. He has the following of close to 10,000 men who believe in him as a saint. He will lead the workers on the true path." (37)
1905 Russian Revolution
The killing of the demonstrators became known as Bloody Sunday and it has been argued that this event signalled the start of the 1905 Revolution. That night the Tsar wrote in his diary: "A painful day. There have been serious disorders in St. Petersburg because workmen wanted to come up to the Winter Palace. Troops had to open fire in several places in the city; there were many killed and wounded. God, how painful and sad." (38)
The massacre of an unarmed crowd undermined the standing of the autocracy in Russia. The United States consul in Odessa reported: "All classes condemn the authorities and more particularly the Tsar. The present ruler has lost absolutely the affection of the Russian people, and whatever the future may have in store for the dynasty, the present tsar will never again be safe in the midst of his people." (39)
The day after the massacre all the workers at the capital's electricity stations came out on strike. This was followed by general strikes taking place in Moscow, Vilno, Kovno, Riga, Revel and Kiev. Other strikes broke out all over the country. Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky resigned his post as Minister of the Interior, and on 19th January, 1905, Tsar Nicholas II summoned a group of workers to the Winter Palace and instructed them to elect delegates to his new Shidlovsky Commission, which promised to deal with some of their grievances. (40)
Lenin, who had been highly suspicious of Father Gapon, admitted that the formation of Assembly of Russian Workers of St Petersburg and the occurrence of Bloody Sunday, had made an important contribution to the development of a radical political consciousness: "The revolutionary education of the proletariat made more progress in one day than it could have made in months and years of drab, humdrum, wretched existence." (41)
Henry Nevinson, of The Daily Chronicle commented that Gapon was "the man who struck the first blow at the heart of tyranny and made the old monster sprawl." When he heard the news of Bloody Sunday, Leon Trotsky decided to return to Russia. He realised that Father Gapon had shown the way forward: "Now no one can deny that the general strike is the most important means of fighting. The twenty-second of January was the first political strike, even if he was disguised under a priest's cloak. One need only add that revolution in Russia may place a democratic workers' government in power." (42)
Trotsky believed that Bloody Sunday made the revolution much more likely. One revolutionary noted that the killing of peaceful protestors had changed the political views of many peasants: "Now tens of thousands of revolutionary pamphlets were swallowed up without remainder; nine-tenths were not only read but read until they fell apart. The newspaper which was recently considered by the broad popular masses, and particularly by the peasantry, as a landlord's affair, and when it came accidentally into their hands was used in the best of cases to roll cigarettes in, was now carefully, even lovingly, straightened and smoothed out, and given to the literate." (43)
Trotsky helped establish the St. Petersburg Soviet and was eventually elected chairman. He wrote a regular column for the Menshevik newspaper, Nachalo (The Beginning) and wrote editorials for Izvestia (The News), the official Soviet organ. "I wrote articles as well as numerous appeals, manifestos and resolutions. The fifty-two days of the existence of the first Soviet were filled to the brim with work... How we managed to live in this whirlpool is still not clear, even to me... We not only whirled in the vortex, but we helped to create it. Everything was done in a hurry, but, after all, not so badly, and some things were even done very well." (44)
Dmitrii Sverchkov wrote: "The intellectual leader of the Soviet was Leon Trotsky. The president of the Soviet, Nosar-Khrustalyov, was really a screen, for he was never able to solve a single question of principle himself. A man with an exaggerated vanity which was almost an illness with him, he came to hate Trotsky because of the very necessity of referring to him for advice and direction." Anatoli Lunacharsky agreed: "I must say that Trotsky, of all the Social Democratic leaders of 1905-06, undoubtedly showed himself, in spite of his youth, the best prepared; and he was the least stamped by the narrow emigre outlook which handicapped even Lenin. He realized better than the others what a state struggle is. He came out of the revolution, too, with the greatest gains in popularity; neither Lenin nor Martov gained much. Plekhanov lost a great deal because of the semi-liberal tendencies which he revealed. But from then on Trotsky was in the front rank." (45)
On 27th June, 1905, sailors on the Potemkin battleship, protested against the serving of rotten meat infested with maggots. The captain ordered that the ringleaders to be shot. The firing-squad refused to carry out the order and joined with the rest of the crew in throwing the officers overboard. The mutineers killed seven of the Potemkin's eighteen officers, including Captain Evgeny Golikov. They organized a ship's committee of 25 sailors, led by Afanasi Matushenko, to run the battleship. (46)
A delegation of the mutinous sailors arrived in Geneva with a message addressed directly to Father Gapon. He took the cause of the sailors to heart and spent all his time collecting money and purchasing supplies for them. He and their leader, Afanasi Matushenko, became inseparable. "Both were of peasant origin and products of the mass upheaval of 1905 - both were out of place among the party intelligentsia of Geneva." (47)
The Potemkin Mutiny spread to other units in the army and navy. Industrial workers all over Russia withdrew their labour and in October, 1905, the railwaymen went on strike which paralyzed the whole Russian railway network. This developed into a general strike. Leon Trotsky later recalled: "After 10th October 1905, the strike, now with political slogans, spread from Moscow throughout the country. No such general strike had ever been seen anywhere before. In many towns there were clashes with the troops." (48)
Sergei Witte, his Chief Minister, saw only two options open to the Tsar Nicholas II; "either he must put himself at the head of the popular movement for freedom by making concessions to it, or he must institute a military dictatorship and suppress by naked force for the whole of the opposition". However, he pointed out that any policy of repression would result in "mass bloodshed". His advice was that the Tsar should offer a programme of political reform. (49)
On 22nd October, 1905, Sergei Witte sent a message to the Tsar: "The present movement for freedom is not of new birth. Its roots are imbedded in centuries of Russian history. Freedom must become the slogan of the government. No other possibility for the salvation of the state exists. The march of historical progress cannot be halted. The idea of civil liberty will triumph if not through reform then by the path of revolution. The government must be ready to proceed along constitutional lines. The government must sincerely and openly strive for the well-being of the state and not endeavour to protect this or that type of government. There is no alternative. The government must either place itself at the head of the movement which has gripped the country or it must relinquish it to the elementary forces to tear it to pieces." (50)
Nicholas II became increasingly concerned about the situation and entered into talks with Sergi Witte. As he pointed out: "Through all these horrible days, I constantly met Witte. We very often met in the early morning to part only in the evening when night fell. There were only two ways open; to find an energetic soldier and crush the rebellion by sheer force. That would mean rivers of blood, and in the end we would be where had started. The other way out would be to give to the people their civil rights, freedom of speech and press, also to have laws conformed by a State Duma - that of course would be a constitution. Witte defends this very energetically." (51)
Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov, the second cousin of the Tsar, was an important figure in the military. He was highly critical of the way the Tsar dealt with these incidents and favoured the kind of reforms favoured by Sergi Witte: "The government (if there is one) continues to remain in complete inactivity... a stupid spectator to the tide which little by little is engulfing the country." (52)
While discussions continued the scale of political unrest grew. Setting fire to the estates of the nobility. There were so many cases that it was impossible to impose on offenders that the punishment decreed earlier in the year, the confiscated of their land. According to one report this action "would have led to the formation of vagabond gangs and, of course, would only have strengthened the peasant movement". Catherine Breshkovskaya, one of the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, commented, "at night ominous pillars of flame could be seen in all directions". (53)
On 26th October a meeting of the St. Petersburg Soviet took place in the Technological Institute. It was attended by only forty delegates as most factories in the city had time to elect the representatives. It published a statement that claimed: "In the next few days decisive events will take place in Russia, which will determine for many years the fate of the working class in Russia. We must be fully prepared to cope with these events united through our common Soviet." (54)
Over the next few weeks over 50 of these soviets were formed all over Russia and these events became known as the 1905 Revolution. Witte continued to advise the Tsar to make concessions. The Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov agreed and urged the Tsar to bring in reforms. The Tsar refused and instead ordered him to assume the role of a military dictator. The Grand Duke drew his pistol and threatened to shoot himself on the spot if the Tsar did not endorse Witte's plan. (55)
On 30th October, the Tsar reluctantly agreed to publish details of the proposed reforms that became known as the October Manifesto. This granted freedom of conscience, speech, meeting and association. He also promised that in future people would not be imprisoned without trial. Finally it announced that no law would become operative without the approval of the State Duma. It has been pointed out that "Witte sold the new policy with all the forcefulness at his command". He also appealed to the owners of the newspapers in Russia to "help me to calm opinions". (56)
These proposals were rejected by the St. Petersburg Soviet: Trotsky argued: "We are given a constitution, but absolutism remains... The struggling revolutionary proletariat cannot lay down its weapons until the political rights of the Russian people are established on a firm foundation, until a democratic republic is established, the best road for the further progress to Socialism." (57)
On 2nd December 1905, Trotsky published its "financial manifesto, which proclaimed that the financial bankruptcy of Tsarism was inevitable, and issued a categorical warning that the debts incurred by the Romanovs would not be recognized by the victorious nation". The manifesto pointed out: "The autocracy never enjoyed the confidence of the people and was never granted any authority by the people. We have therefore decided not to allow the repayment of such loans as have been made by the Tsarist government when openly engaged in a war with the entire people." (58)
With the failings of the Duma, the Soviets were seen as the legitimate workers' government. Trotsky and the Soviets had challenged the power of Tsar Nicholas II and attempted to enforce promises made in the October Manifesto such as the freedom of the press, assembly and association. Robert Service has argued: "Trotsky was pleased that the proletariat of St Petersburg refused to be fobbed off by promises of constitutional reform. Workers did not require to be indoctrinated before coming out on the streets against Nicholas II. This confounded the Bolshevik analysis. At the same time they paid no heed to the cries for caution, and Menshevik warnings about isolating the working class appeared to be a delusion." (59)
On 3rd December, 1905, the St. Petersburg Soviet was surrounded by troops. Trotsky later explained what happened: "The exits and entrances were barred. From the balcony where the Executive Committee was in session, I shouted down to where hundreds of delegates were crowding the hall: 'Offer no resistance, surrender no arms to the enemy.' The arms were only hand-held ones: revolvers. And so in the meeting-hall, which was surrounded on all sides by guards detachments of infantry, cavalry and artillery, the workers began to put their arms beyond use." (60)
Leon Trotsky exiled to Siberia
While in prison Trotsky wrote Permanent Revolution: Results and Prospects. Trotsky argued that it would be impossible to create a socialist society in isolation from the rest of Europe. He hoped the example in Russia would inspire socialists in other countries: "The Russian workingman will issue to all his brothers the world over his old battle cry which will now become the call for the last attack: Proletarians of all the world, unite!... There is no doubt that a socialist revolution in the West would allow us to turn the temporary supremacy of the working class directly into a socialist dictatorship." (61)
Trotsky developed these ideas in partnership with Alexander Parvus. They were both excited by the events in Russia in 1905 as they believed it confirmed their ideas on the possibility of revolution taking place in an economically backward country. Parvus wrote: "The events (the strikes following Bloody Sunday) have fully confirmed this analysis. Now no one can deny that the general strike is the most important means of fighting. The twenty-second of January was the first political strike, even if it was disguised under a priest's cloak. One need only add that revolution in Russia may place a democratic workers' government in power." (62)
Parvus and Trotsky began to develop the theory of permanent revolution. that had first been advanced by Karl Marx in The Holy Family (1844). He developed this idea in his Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (1850). He warned that in any revolution the bourgeois will "want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible... it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers." (63)
Marx believed that this revolution would take place in an advanced industrial country such as Germany and Britain. Trotsky and Parvus now believed that it could begin in a country like Russia during a period of crisis. In Capitalism and War, published in Iskra, he gave the example of the Russo-Japanese which he believed could be "the bloody dawn of coming great events". (64)
Parvus predicted that imperialist wars would shatter the bases of the existing world order. Parvus went on to argue: "The war began because of Manchuria and Korea, it has already become a battle for hegemony in Eastern Asia, it will extend into the question of the world position of autocratic Russia and will conclude with a transformation of the political balance of the whole world. Its first consequence will be the fall of the Russian autocracy." (65)
In October, 1906 Trotsky was sentenced to internal exile and deprived of all civil rights for an indefinite period, and every attempt at escape carried the additional punishment of three-years hard-labour. Trotsky and thirteen other prisoners were taken by fifty-two soldiers to Tyumen by train. They continued the journey on horse-drawn sleighs. It was in the middle of a Siberian winter and progress was slow at ten miles a day. They reached the Obdorsk in Arctic Circle in February, 1907. The prisoners were then told they were going to be taken 300 hundred miles further north to Khe. Trotsky realised that escape from such a remote place would be difficult. With the help of a sympathetic doctor, Trotsky feigned serious illness. He was taken to the local hospital and with the help of local people who opposed the rule of the Tsar he managed to escape using a reindeer sleigh. (66)
On his arrival in Berezov he was able to send his wife, Natalia Sedova, a telegram. She later wrote: "When I received the telegram in Terioki, a Finnish village near St Petersburg where I was staying alone with my baby son, I was beside myself with joy and excitement. That same day I received a long letter from Leon written on his way to exile, in which, aside from its description of the journey, he asked me to take with me when I left for Obdorsk a number of articles necessary in the north, among them certain books." (67)
Trotsky and Sedova at first moved to Helsinki where they joined Lenin and Julius Martov who were already living in the city. They all then travelled to London to have a conference to discuss recent political events. This gave Trotsky the opportunity to expound the theory of permanent revolution. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg both endorsed the theory, whereas Martov was far from convinced. "His own theory should have prompted him to come closer to the Bolsheviks; but the ties of personal friendship and the dead weight of his old controversy with Lenin held him closer to the Mensheviks." (68)
The couple now moved to Vienna: "The house was better than we could usually get, as the villas here were usually rented in the spring, and we rented ours for the autumn and winter. From the windows we could see the mountains, all dark-red autumn colours. One could get into the open country through a back gate without going to the street. In the winter, on Sundays, the Viennese cane by on their way to the mountains, with sleds and skis, in little coloured caps and sweaters. In April, when we had to leave our house because of the doubling of the rent, the violets were already blooming in the garden and their fragrance filled the rooms from the open windows." (69)
Sergei Sedov was born on 21st March, 1908. Both boys were educated in Vienna: "The children spoke Russian and German. In the kindergarten and school they spoke German, and for this reason they continued to talk German when they were playing at home. But if their father or I started talking to them, it was enough to make them change instantly to Russian. If we addressed them in German, they were embarrassed, and answered us in Russian. In later years they also acquired the Viennese dialect and spoke it excellently." (70)
First World War
On the outbreak of the First World War Trotsky was living in Vienna. He went to see his friend, Victor Adler, and asked if he was in danger. Adler took him to see the police chief who admitted that he had just received orders to arrest residents who held Russian citizenship. He advised Trotsky to leave the country that night. A couple of hours later they they were seated on a train leaving for neutral Switzerland. He went to Zurich where he published a pamphlet attacking German, British and French socialists for supported the war. (71)
Russian revolutionaries had a meeting in Switzerland to discuss the war. Leon Trotsky attempted to explain the level of nationalism that emerged during the first few days of the war. "The mobilization and declaration of war have veritably swept off the face of the earth all the national and social contradictions in the country". (72) Trotsky argued the workers believed that if their country conquered new colonies and markets they would enjoy higher living standards. In time of war, therefore, the workers still identified themselves with the cause of their exploiters. Julius Martov agreed with Trotsky that "their internationalism was still too weak to overcome the new flush of national patriotism which the war had produced." (73)
George Plekhanov defended the socialists of the Allied countries for their patriotism as they had to give their full support to their governments against German militarism. Nickolai Bukharin described how Lenin reacted to the speech. "Never before or after did I see such a deathly pallor on Ilyich's face. Only his eyes were burning brightly, when, in a dry, guttural voice, he started to lash his opponent sharply and forcefully." (74)
Lenin criticised the views of Trotsky, Plekhanov and Martov as being defeatest. He was appalled by the decision of most socialists in Europe to support the war effort. He was especially angry with the German Social Democratic Party (SDP) as Karl Liebknecht was the only member of the Reichstag who voted against Germany's participation in the war. He published several pamphlets on the war including The Tasks of Revolutionary Social Democracy in the European War and The War and Russian Social Democracy that were smuggled into Russia. He argued for the "tsarist monarchy to be defeated and the imperialist war turned into a European-wide civil war." (75)
Lenin argued: "The European and world war has the clearly defined character of a bourgeois, imperialist and dynastic war. A struggle for markets and for freedom to loot foreign countries, a striving to suppress the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and democracy in the individual countries, a desire to deceive, disunite, and slaughter the proletarians of all countries by setting the wage slaves of one nation against those of another so as to benefit the bourgeoisie - these are the only real content and significance of the war.The conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party, the strongest and the most influential in the Second International (1889-1914), a party which has voted for war credits and repeated the bourgeois-chauvinist phrases of the Prussian Junkers and the bourgeoisie, is sheer betrayal of socialism." (76)
Lenin argued that "the slogan of peace is wrong - the slogan must be, turn the imperialist war into civil war." Lenin believed that a civil war in Russia would bring down the old order and enable the Bolsheviks to gain power. This brought him into conflict with Rosa Luxemburg. In 1915 Luxemburg published the highly influential pamphlet, The Crisis in the German Social Democracy. Luxemburg rejected the view of Lenin that the war would bring democracy to Russia: "It is true that socialism gives to every people the right of independence and the freedom of independent control of its own destinies. But it is a veritable perversion of socialism to regard present-day capitalist society as the expression of this self-determination of nations. Where is there a nation in which the people have had the right to determine the form and conditions of their national, political and social existence?"
In the pamphlet Rosa Luxemburg quoted Friedrich Engels as saying: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” She added: "A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism.... The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave."
Luxemburg also pointed out that Germany was also fighting democratic states such as Britain and France: "Germany certainly has not the right to speak of a war of defence, but France and England have little more justification. They too are protecting, not their national, but their world political existence, their old imperialistic possessions, from the attacks of the German upstart." To Luxemburg, this was an imperialist war and could not be turned into a war of political liberation. (77)
Trotsky was very impressed with Luxemburg: "She was a little woman, frail, and even sickly looking, but with a noble face, and beautiful eyes that radiated intelligence; she capitivated one by the sheer courage of her mind and character. Her style, which was at once precise, intense and merciless, will always be the mirror of her heroic spirit. Hers was a many-sided nature, rich in subtle shadings. Revolution and its passions, man and art, nature, birds and growing things - all these could play on the many strings of her soul... On the question of the so-called permanent revolution Rosa took the same stand as I did." (78)
In November, 1914, Trotsky moved to Paris where he became one of the editors of Social Democratic Party newspaper, Nashe Slovo. Trotsky continued to denounce the war and joined with the pacifists in urged workers not to participate in the conflict. This led to him being arrested by the French authorities and in September, 1916, he was deported to Spain. Hounded by the Spanish police, Trotsky decided to move to the United States. (79)
Trotsky arrived in New York on 13th January, 1917 and worked with Nikolai Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai in publishing the revolutionary newspaper Novy Mir (New World). Kollontai, a former Menshevik, had become "one of Lenin's most fanatical adherents." On the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, Trotsky wrote: "We are the witnesses of the beginning of the second Russian revolution. Let us hope that many of us will be its participants." (80)
On 27th March, 1917, Trotsky, his wife and children, set off for Russia. However, Okhrana had been monitoring Trotsky's activities and managed to persuade the British authorities to arrest him when his ship arrived in the Canadian port of Halifax. Trotsky was taken to a camp for German prisoners of war. The police held Trotsky in detention for a month and he was only released after protests from the Provisional Government. (81)
Trotsky and the April Theses
Trotsky arrived in Petrograd on 4th May, 1917. Lenin had reached the city the previous month. In his first speech he announced what became known as the April Theses. Lenin attacked Bolsheviks for supporting the Provisional Government. Instead, he argued, revolutionaries should be telling the people of Russia that they should take over the control of the country. In his speech, Lenin urged the peasants to take the land from the rich landlords and the industrial workers to seize the factories. Lenin accused those Bolsheviks who were still supporting the government of Prince Georgi Lvov of betraying socialism and suggested that they should leave the party. Lenin ended his speech by telling the assembled crowd that they must "fight for the social revolution, fight to the end, till the complete victory of the proletariat". (82)
Leon Trotsky gave Lenin his full support: "I told Lenin that nothing separated me from his April Theses and from the whole course that the party had taken since his arrival." The two agreed, however, that Trotsky would not join the Bolshevik Party at once, but would wait until he could bring as many of the Mezhrayontsky group into the Bolshevik ranks. This included David Riazanov, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Moisei Uritsky, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko and Alexandra Kollontai. Trotsky officially joined the Bolsheviks in July, 1917. Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) has argued that "Trotsky gave Lenin valuable oratorical talent and a further boost for his policy of revolutionary hostility to the war and the Provisional Government.". (83)
On 5th May, Pavel Milyukov and Alexander Guchkov, the two most conservative members of the Provisional Government, were forced to resign. Mikhail Tereshchenko replaced Milyukov as Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky moved from Justice to the War Ministry, while five Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries from the Petrograd Soviet stepped into the cabinet to share the problems of the administration. This included Victor Chernov (Agriculture) and Irakli Tsereteli (Posts and Telegraphs). (84)
Kerensky appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting. On 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive. According to David Shub: "The main purpose of the drive was to force the Germans to return to the Russian front the divisions which they had diverted to France in preparation for an all-out offensive against the Western Allies. At the same time, the Provisional Government hoped this move would restore the fighting spirit of the Russian Army." (85)
Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favoured peace negotiations, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd. The Bolshevik popular slogan "Peace, Bread and Land", helped to increase support for the revolutionaries. By the summer of 1917, the membership of the Bolshevik Party had grown to 240,000. The Bolsheviks were especially favoured by the soldiers who found Lenin's promise of peace with Germany extremely attractive. (86)
Prince George Lvov was in conflict with Victor Chernov over the changes taking place over land ownership. Chernov issued circulars that supported the actions of the local land committees in reducing the rents of land leased by the peasants, seizing untilled fields for peasant use and commanding prisoner-of-war labour from private landowners. Lvov accused Chernov of going the back of the government and he prevailed on the ministry of justice to challenge the legality of Chernov's circulars. Without the full support of the cabinet in this dispute, Lvov resigned as prime minister on 7th July. (87)
The Russian Revolution
Alexander Kerensky became the new prime minister and soon after taking office, he announced another new offensive. Soldiers on the Eastern Front were dismayed at the news and regiments began to refuse to move to the front line. There was a rapid increase in the number of men deserting and by the autumn of 1917 an estimated 2 million men had unofficially left the army. Some of these soldiers returned to their homes and used their weapons to seize land from the nobility. Manor houses were burnt down and in some cases wealthy landowners were murdered. Kerensky and the Provisional Government issued warnings but were powerless to stop the redistribution of land in the countryside.
After the failure of the July Offensive on the Eastern Front, Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov with General Lavr Kornilov, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. Kornilov had a fine military record and unlike most of the Russian senior officers, came "from the people" as he was the son of a poor farmer. "This combination made Kornilov the man of destiny in the eyes of those conservative and moderate politicians... who hoped that through him the Revolution might be tamed. But not only the right pinned its hopes on Kornilov. Kerensky and some in in his entourage hoped to use the general to destroy any future Bolshevik threat and to remove or diminish the tutelage of the soviets over the Provisional Government." (88)
However, the two men soon clashed about military policy. Kornilov wanted Kerensky to restore the death-penalty for soldiers and to militarize the factories. He told his aide-de-camp, that "the time had come to hang the German agents and spies, headed by Lenin, to disperse the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies so that it can never reassemble." On 7th September, Kornilov demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the Commander in Chief. Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd. (89)
Kornilov now sent troops under the leadership of General Aleksandr Krymov to take control of Petrograd. Kornilov believed that he was going to become military dictator of Russia. He had the open support of a number of prominent Russian industrialists, headed by Aleksei Putilov, owner of the steelworks and the leading Petrograd banker. Others involved in the plot included Alexander Guchkov, a backer of an organization called the Union for Economic Revival of Russia. According to one source these industrialists had raised 4 million rubles for Kornilov's conspiracy. (90)
Kerensky was now in danger and so he called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to protect Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, who controlled these organizations, agreed to this request, but in a speech made by their leader, Lenin, he made clear they would be fighting against Kornilov rather than for Kerensky. Within a few days Bolsheviks had enlisted 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While they dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov's troops decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. General Krymov committed suicide and Kornilov was arrested and taken into custody. (91)
Kerensky now became the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. His continued support for the war effort made him unpopular in Russia and on 8th October, Kerensky attempted to recover his left-wing support by forming a new coalition that included three Mensheviks and two Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on a large armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his authority.
Some members of the Constitutional Democratic Party urged Pavel Milyukov to take action against the Provisional Government. He defended his position by arguing: "It will be our task not to destroy the government, which would only aid anarchy, but to instill in it a completely different content, that is, to build a genuine constitutional order. That is why, in our struggle with the government, despite everything, we must retain a sense of proportion.... To support anarchy in the name of the struggle with the government would be to risk all the political conquests we have made since 1905." (92)
The Cadet party newspaper did not take the Bolshevik challenge seriously: "The best way to free ourselves from Bolshevism would be to entrust its leaders with the fate of the country... The first day of their final triumph would also be the first day of their quick collapse." Leon Trotsky accused Milyukov of being a supporter of General Lavr Kornilov and trying to organize a right-wing coup against the Provisional Government. Nikolai Sukhanov, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party argued that in Russia there was "a hatred for Kerenskyism, fatigue, rage and a thirst for peace, bread and land". (93)
Alexander Kerensky later claimed he was in a very difficult position and described Milyukov's supporters as being Bolsheviks of the Right: "The struggle of the revolutionary Provisional Government with the Bolsheviks of the Right and of the Left... We struggled on two fronts at the same time, and no one will ever be able to deny the undoubted connection between the Bolshevik uprising and the efforts of Reaction to overthrow the Provisional Government and drive the ship of state right onto the shore of social reaction." Kerensky argued that Milyukov was now working closely with other right-wing forces to destroy the Provisional Government: "In mid-October, all Kornilov supporters, both military and civilian, were instructed to sabotage government measures to suppress the Bolshevik uprising." (94)
Isaac Steinberg pointed out that only the Bolsheviks were showing determined leadership. "The army, exhausted by a desperate thirst for peace and anticipating all the horrors of a new winter campaign, was looking for a decisive change in policy. The peasantry, yearning for freed land and fearing to lose it in incomprehensive delays, was also waiting for this change. The proletariat, having seen lock-outs, unemployment and the collapse of industry and dreaming of a new social order, which must be born of the revolutionary storm, of which it was the vanguard, awaited this change." (95)
John Reed was a journalist who was living in Petrograd at the time: "Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell from a pound and a half to a pound, than three-quarters, half, and a quarter-pound. Towards the end there was a week without any bread at all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month - if one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten roubles - at least a dollar. For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in queue. Coming home from an all-night meeting I have seen the tail beginning to form before dawn, mostly women, some babies in their arms." (96)
It has been argued that Lenin was the master of good timing: "Rarely had he (Lenin) displayed to better advantage his sense of timing, his ability to see one jump ahead of his opponents. He had spurred his men on in April, May and June; he held them back in July and August; now, after the Kornilov fiasco, he once again spurred them on." (97) He began writing The State and Revolution, where he called upon the Bolsheviks to destroy the old state machinery for the purpose of overthrowing the bourgeoisie, destroying bourgeois parliamentarism... for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." (98)
Lenin now decided it was time to act. On 20th October, the Military Revolutionary Committee had its first meeting. Members included Joseph Stalin, Andrey Bubnov, Moisei Uritsky, Felix Dzerzhinsky and Yakov Sverdlov. According to Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967): "Despite Menshevik charges of an insurrectionary plot, the Bolsheviks were still vague about the role this organisation might play... Several days were to pass before the committee became an active force. Nevertheless, here was the conception, if not the actual birth, of the body which was to superintend the overthrow of the Provisional Government." (99)
Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, watched Lenin and Trotsky closely during this period: "Lenin struck me as being a man who, in spite of the revolutionary jargon that he used, was aware of the obstacles facing him and his party. There was no doubt that Lenin was the driving force behind the Bolshevik Party... He was the brains and the planner, but not the orator or the rabble-rouser. That function fell to Trotsky. I watched the latter, several times that evening, rouse the Congress delegates, who were becoming listless, probably through long hours of excitement and waiting. He was always the man who could say the right thing at the right moment. I could see that there was beginning now that fruitful partnership between him and Lenin that did so much to carry the Revolution through the critical periods that were coming." (100)
In the summer of 1917 the Bolshevik Central Committee decided it was too dangerous for Lenin to remain in Petrograd. Gregory Ordzhonikidze gave Alexander Schottmann the job of guarding Lenin's life and of arranging his journey to Finland. Lenin, who shaved off his moustache and beard, and put on a wig. A photograph was taken in the disguise and was pasted on their false paper. Lenin later wrote that "Schottmann is an old Party comrade, whom I know quite well. He deserves absolute trust." (101)
Schottmann and Lenin spent a lot of time discussing the forming of a Bolshevik government. Schottmann argued that the Bolsheviks lacked the experts to run the machinery of state. Lenin disagreed: "Any worker can learn to run a ministerial office in a few days. No special ability is needed; the technical part of the work can be handled by the functionaries whom we shall compel to work for us." (102)
Lenin explained his proposed tactics: "The basic thing was to enact the decrees that could convince the Russian people that the power was theirs. As soon as they felt that, they would support the new regime. His first act would be to end the war, thereby winning the support of the front-weary army. The lands of the Tsar, the aristocracy, and the church would be confiscated and turned over to the peasants. The factories and plants would be taken from the capitalists and given to the workers. Who would then remain to oppose the Bolsheviks." (103)
After the failed Kornilov Revolt it was considered safe for Lenin to return to Petrograd. On 24th October, 1917, Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee: "The situation is utterly critical. It is clearer than clear that now, already, putting off the insurrection is equivalent to its death. With all my strength I wish to convince my comrades that now everything is hanging by a hair, that on the agenda now are questions that are decided not by conferences, not by congresses (not even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by populations, by the mass, by the struggle of armed masses… No matter what may happen, this very evening, this very night, the government must be arrested, the junior officers guarding them must be disarmed, and so on… History will not forgive revolutionaries for delay, when they can win today (and probably will win today), but risk losing a great deal tomorrow, risk losing everything." (104)
Lenin insisted that the Bolsheviks should take action before the elections for the Constituent Assembly. "The international situation is such that we must make a start. The indifference of the masses may be explained by the fact that they are tired of words and resolutions. The majority is with us now. Politically things are quite ripe for the change of power. The agrarian disorders point to the same thing. It is clear that heroic measures will be necessary to stop this movement, if it can be stopped at all. The political situation therefore makes our plan timely. We must now begin thinking of the technical side of the undertaking. That is the main thing now. But most of us, like the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, are still inclined to regard the systematic preparation for an armed uprising as a sin. To wait for the Constituent Assembly, which will surely be against us, is nonsensical because that will only make our task more difficult." (105)
Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev opposed this strategy. They argued that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the majority of people in Russia or of the international proletariat and should wait for the elections of the proposed Constituent Assembly "where we will be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (106)
Lenin thought the details of an uprising would be simple. "We can launch a sudden attack from three points, from Petrograd, from Moscow, from the Baltic Fleet... We have thousands of armed workers and soldiers in Petrograd who can seize at once the Winter Palace, the General Staff building, the telephone exchange and all the largest printing establishments... The troops will not advance against the government of peace... Kerensky will be compelled to surrender." When it was clear that the Bolshevik Central Committee did not accept Lenin's point of view he issued a political ultimatum: "I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the party and at the party congress."
Leon Trotsky supported Lenin's view and urged the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On the evening of 24th October, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The Smolny Institute became the headquarters of the revolution and was transformed into a fortress. Trotsky reported that the "chief of the machine-gun company came to tell me that his men were all on the side of the Bolsheviks". (107)
Natalia Sedova later recalled: "During the last days of the preparation for October, we were staying in Taurid Street. Lev Davydovich lived for whole days at the Smolny. I was still working at the union of wood-workers, where the Bolsheviks were in charge, and the atmosphere was tense... The question of the uprising was discussed everywhere - in the streets, at meal-time, at casual meetings on the stairs of the Smolny. We ate little, slept little, and worked almost twenty-four hours a day. Most of the time we were separated from our boys, and during the October days I worried about them. Lev and Sergei were the only Bolsheviks in their school except for a third, a sympathizer, as they called him. Against them these three had a compact group of off-shoots of the ruling democracy - Kadets and Socialist-Revolutionists. And, as usually happens in such cases, criticism was supplemented by practical arguments. On more than one occasion the head master had to extricate my sons from under the piled-up democrats who were pummelling them. The boys, after all, were only following the example of their fathers. The head master was a Kadet, and consequently always punished my sons." (108)
The Bolsheviks set up their headquarters in the Smolny Institute. The former girls' convent school also housed the Petrograd Soviet. Under pressure from the nobility and industrialists, Alexander Kerensky was persuaded to take decisive action. On 22nd October he ordered the arrest of the Bolshevik Military Revolutionary Committee. The next day he closed down the Bolshevik newspapers and cut off the telephones to the Smolny Institute.
The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city. The palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. The Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace. (109)
Bessie Beatty, an American journalist, entered the Winter Palace with the Red Guards: "At the head of the winding staircase groups of frightened women were gathered, searching the marble lobby below with troubled eyes. Nobody seemed to know what had happened. The Battalion of Death had walked out in the night, without firing so much as a single shot. Each floor was crowded with soldiers and Red Guards, who went from room to room, searching for arms, and arresting officers suspected of anti-Bolshevik sympathies. The landings were guarded by sentries, and the lobby was swarming with men in faded uniforms. Two husky, bearded peasant soldiers were stationed behind the counter, and one in the cashier's office kept watch over the safe. Two machine-guns poked their ominous muzzles through the entryway." (110)
Another journalist commented that there were about 200 women soldiers in the palace and they were "disarmed and told to go home and put on female attire". She added: "Every one leaving the palace was searched, no matter on what side he was. There were priceless treasures all about and it was a great temptation to pick up souvenirs. I have always been glad that I was present that night because so many stories have come out about the looting. It was so natural that there should have been looting and so commendable that there was none." (111)
People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs
Lenin suggested at the Bolshevik Central Committee that Trotsky should head the government. Trotsky rejected the idea and Lenin responded with the words: "Why ever not? It was you who stood at the head of the Petrograd Soviet that seized the power." His biographer, Robert Service, has pointed out that Trotsky never explained his reasoning for this decision. "Perhaps he preferred to play a leading role without being the solitary leader. This was a psychological feature that was evident in later years." (112)
On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Victor Nogin (Trade and Industry), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice), Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War), Nikolai Krylenko (War Affairs), Pavlo Dybenko (Navy Affairs), Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov (Finance), Vladimir Milyutin (Agriculture), Ivan Teodorovich (Food), Georgy Oppokov (Justice) and Nikolai Glebov-Avilov (Posts & Telegraphs). (113)
The journalist, Louise Bryant, interviewed Trotsky soon after he took power. She commented in her book, Six Months in Russia (1918): "Trotsky is slight of build, wears thick glasses and has dark, stormy eyes. His forehead is high and his hair black and wary. He is a brilliant and fiery orator... During the first days of the Bolshevik revolt I used to go every morning to Smolny to get the latest news... Running a government was a new task and often puzzling to the people in Smolny. They had a certain awe of Lenin, so they left him pretty well alone, while every little difficulty under the sun was brought to Trotsky. He worked hard and was often on the verge of a nervous breakdown; he became irritable and flew into rages." (114)
One of the first things that Trotsky did was to publish the secret treaties from the Tsar's imperial archives, signed by the Allies in 1915, carving up the territories which England, France and Russia had hoped to colonize when Germany was defeated. He also made arrangements to bring the Russian calendar into line with the rest of the world. He also had meetings with Robert Bruce Lockhart and Raymond Robins to discuss the future of Russia's role in the First World War. (115)
Arthur Ransome interviewed Leon Trotsky on 28th December 1917. Ransome's article on Leon Trotsky appeared in the Daily News on 31st December, 1917. "In an anteroom one of Mr Trotsky's secretaries, a young officer, told me Mr Trotsky was expecting me. Going into an inner room, unfurnished except for a writing table, two chairs and a telephone, I found the man who, in the name of the Proletariat, is practically the dictator of all Russia. He has a striking head, a very broad, high forehead above lively eyes, a fine cut nose and a small cavalier beard. Though I had heard him speak before, this was the first time I had seen him face to face. I got an impression of extreme efficiency and definite purpose. In spite of all that is said against him by his enemies, I do not think that he is a man to do anything except from a conviction that it is the best thing to be done for the revolutionary cause that is in his heart. He showed considerable knowledge of English politics."
The article quoted Trotsky as saying: "Russia is strong in that her Revolution was the starting point of a peace movement in Europe. A year ago it seemed that only militarism could end the war. It is now clear that the war will be decided by social rather than political pressure. It is to the Russian Revolution that German democracy looks, and it is the recognition of that fact that compels the German Government to accept the Russian principles as a basis for negotiation."
Ransome asked Trotsky if he considered Germany's peace offer as a joint victory of the Russian and German democracies. He replied, "Not of Russian and German democracy alone, but of the democratic movement generally. The movement is visible everywhere. Austria and Hungary are on the point of revolt, and not they alone. Every Government in Europe is feeling the pressure of democracy from below. The German attitude merely means that the German Government is wiser than most, and more realistic. It recognizes the real factors and is moved by them. The Germans have been forced by democratic pressure to throw aside their grandiose plans of conquest and to accept a peace in which there is neither conqueror nor conquered." (116)
Clare Sheridan, the British artist, went to a political meeting that featured Trotsky, Clara Zetkin, and Alexandra Kollontai: "Clara Zetkin, the German Socialist, was speaking, spitting forth venom, as it sounded. The German language is not beautiful, and the ferocious old soul, mopping her plain face with a large handkerchief, was not inspiring. It sounded very hysterical and I only understood an outline of what she was saying. Then Trotsky got up, and translated her speech into Russian. He interested me very much. He is a man with a slim, good figure, splendid fighting countenance, and his whole personality is full of force. I look forward immensely to doing his head. There is something that ought to lend itself to a fine piece of work. The overcrowded house was as still as if it were empty, everyone was attentive and concentrated."
Sheridan was commissioned to make a bust of him: "At one time, in his youth, what was he? A Russian exile in a journalist's office. Even then I am told he was witty, but with the wit of bitterness. Now he has come into his own and has unconsciously developed a new individuality. He has the manner and ease of a man born to a great position; he has become a statesman, a ruler, a leader. But if Trotsky were not Trotsky, and the world had never heard of him, one would still appreciate his very brilliant mind. The reason I have found him so much more difficult to do than I expected is on account of his triple personality. He is the cultured, well-read man, he is the vituperative fiery politician, and he can be the mischievous laughing school-boy with a dimple in his cheek. All these three I have seen in turn, and have had to converge them into clay interpretation." (117)
Leon Trotsky and Brest-Litovsk
Lenin demobilized the Russian Army and announced that he planned to seek an armistice with Germany. In December, 1917, Leon Trotsky led the Russian delegation at Brest-Litovsk that was negotiating with representatives from Germany and Austria. Trotsky had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before he had to sign the treaty. (118)
Trotsky commented: "The circumstances of history willed that the delegates of the most revolutionary regime ever known to humanity should sit at the same diplomatic table with the representatives of the most reactionary caste among all the ruling classes. How greatly our opponents feared the explosive power of their negotiations with the Bolsheviks was shown by their readiness to break off the negotiations rather than transfter them to a neutral country." (119)
Arthur Ransome reported in The Daily News. "I wonder whether the English people realize how great is the matter now at stake and how near we are to witnessing a separate peace between Russia and Germany, which would be a defeat for German democracy in its own country, besides ensuring the practical enslavement of all Russia. A separate peace will be a victory, not for Germany, but for the military caste in Germany. It may mean much more than the neutrality of Russia. If we make no move it seems possible that the Germans will ask the Russians to help them in enforcing the Russian peace terms on the Allies." (120)
Trotsky later wrote: "It was obvious that going on with the war was impossible. On this point there was not even a shadow of disagreement between Lenin and me. But there was another question. How had the February revolution, and, later on, the October revolution, affected the German army? How soon would any effect show itself? To these questions no answer could as yet be given. We had to try and find it in the course of the negotiations as long as we could. It was necessary to give the European workers time to absorb properly the very fact of the Soviet revolution." He hoped that Russia's socialist revolution would spread to Germany. This idea was reinforced when Trotsky heard the rumour on 21st January 1918, that a workers' soviet headed by Karl Liebknecht had been established in Berlin. This story was untrue as Liebknecht was still in a German prison. (121)
Leon Trotsky recalled in his autobiography: "On 21st February, we received new terms from Germany, framed, apparently, with the direct object of making the signing of peace impossible. By the time our delegation returned to Brest-Litovsk, these terms, as is well known, had been made even harsher. All of us, including Lenin, were of the impression that the Germans had come to an agreement with the Allies about crushing the Soviets, and that a peace on the western front was to be built on the bones of the Russian revolution."
Lenin continued to argue for a peace agreement, whereas his opponents, including Leon Trotsky, Nickolai Bukharin, Andrey Bubnov, Alexandra Kollontai, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek and Moisei Uritsky, were in favour of a "revolutionary war" against Germany. This belief had been encouraged by the German demands for the "annexations and dismemberment of Russia". In the ranks of the opposition was Lenin's close friend, Inessa Armand, who had surprisingly gone public with her demands for continuing the war with Germany. (122)
After nine weeks of discussions without agreement, the German Army was ordered to resume its advance into Russia. On 3rd March 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Lenin ordered Trotsky to accept the terms of the Central Powers. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in the Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus and Poland.
Trotsky later admitted that he was totally against signing the agreement as he thought that by continuing the war with the Central Powers it would help encourage socialist revolutions in Germany and Austria: "Had we really wanted to obtain the most favourable peace, we would have agreed to it as early as last November. But no one raised his voice to do it. We were all in favour of agitation, of revolutionizing the working classes of Germany, Austria-Hungary and all of Europe." (123)
Herbert Sulzbach recorded in his diary: "The final peace treaty has been signed with Russia. Our conditions are hard and severe, but our quite exceptional victories entitle us to demand these, since our troops are nearly in Petersburg, and further over on the southern front, Kiev has been occupied, while in the last week we have captured the following men and items of equipment: 6,800 officers, 54,000 men, 2,400 guns, 5,000 machine-guns, 8,000 railway trucks, 8,000 locomotives, 128,000 rifles and 2 million rounds of artillery ammunition. Yes, there is still some justice left, and the state which was first to start mass murder in 1914 has now, with all its missions, been finally overthrown." (124)
The Civil War
After the October Revolution it was decided by Lenin that the old Russian Army would have to be turned into an instrument of the Communist Party. The old army was demobilized and in January 1918 the Soviet government ordered the formation of the Red Army of Workers and Peasants. Trotsky, as Commissar of War, was appointed its leader. The army had to be established quickly as it was needed to fight the White Army during the Civil War. Trotsky was forced to recruit a large number of officers from the old army. He was criticized for this but he argued that it would be impossible to fight the war without the employment of experienced army officers. Lenin was impressed by Trotsky's achievements and in 1919 remarked to Maxim Gorky: "Show me another man who could have practically created a model army in a year and won respect of the military specialist as well." (125)
Both sides carried out atrocities. One journalist claimed that the Red Army received orders on how to behave by the Bolshevik government: "It was proposed to take hostages from the former officers of the Tsar's army, from the Cadets and from the families of the Moscow and Petrograd middle-classes and to shoot ten for every Communist who fell to the White terror.... The reason given by the Bolshevik leaders for the Red terror was that conspirators could only be convinced that the Soviet Republic was powerful enough to be respected if it was able to punish its enemies, but nothing would convince these enemies except the fear of death, as all were persuaded that the Soviet Republic was falling. Given these circumstances, it is difficult to see what weapon the Communists could have used to get their will respected." (126)
The White Army also carried out acts of terror. Major-General Mikhail Drozdovsky wrote in his diary: "We arrived at Vladimirovka about 5.00 p.m. Having surrounded the village we placed the platoon in position, cut off the ford with machine-guns, fired a couple of volleys in the direction of the village, and everybody there took cover. Then the mounted platoon entered the village, met the Bolshevik committee, and put the members to death. After the executions, the houses of the culprits were burned and the whole male population under forty-five whipped soundly, the whipping being done by the old men. Then the population was ordered to deliver without pay the best cattle, pigs, fowl, forage, and bread for the whole detachment, as well as the best horses." (127)
Walter Duranty, a journalist working for the New York Times interviewed a White Army officer who admitted that they shot all captured members of the Red Army: "They're all Communists, and we can't keep them, you know; they make trouble in the prison camps and start rebellions, and so on. So now we always shoot them. That lot is going back to headquarters for examination - of course they never tell anything, Communists don't, but one or two might be stupid and give away some useful information - then we'll have to shoot them. Of course we don't shoot prisoners, but Communists are different. They always make trouble, so we have no choice." (128)
Lenin appointed Leon Trotsky as commissar of war and was sent to rally the Red Army in the Volga. Soon after taking command he issued the following order: “I give warning that if any unit retreats without orders, the first to be shot down will be the commissary of the unit, and next the commander. Brave and gallant soldiers will be appointed in their places. Cowards, bastards and traitors will not escape the bullet. This I solemnly promise in the presence of the entire Red Army.” (129)
Trotsky proved to be an outstanding military commander and Kazan and Simbirsk were recaptured in September, 1918. The following month he took Samara but the White Army did make progress in the south when General Anton Denikin took control of the Kuban region and General Peter Wrangel began to advance up the Volga. By October, 1918, General Denikin's army had swelled to 100,000 and occupied a front of two hundred miles. (130)
Trotsky announced his strategy on how to defeat the White Army. "Recognizing the existence of an acute military danger, we must take steps really to transform Soviet Russia into a military camp. With the help of the party and the trade-unions a registration must be carried out listing every member of the party, of the Soviet institutions and the trade-unions, with a view to using them for military service." (131)
The main threat to the Bolshevik government came from General Nikolai Yudenich. On 14th October, 1918, he captured Gatchina, only 50 kilometres from Petrograd. It is estimated that there were 200,000 foreign soldiers supporting the anti-Bolshevik forces. Trotsky arrived to direct the defence of the capital. He was not very impressed and it is claimed that his first action was to order Ivan Pavlunovsky, chief of the special section of the Petrograd Cheka, "Comrade Pavlunovsky, I command you to arrest immediately and shoot the entire staff for the defence of Petrograd." (132)
Trotsky made it clear to the people of Petrograd that the city would not be surrendered: "As soon as the masses began to feel that Petrograd was not to be surrendered, and if necessary would be defended from within, in the streets and squares, the spirit changed at once. The more courageous and self-sacrificing lifted up their heads. Detachments of men and women, with trenching-tools on their shoulders, filed out of the mills and factories.... The whole city was divided into sections, controlled by staffs of workers. The more important points were surrounded by barbed wire. A number of positions were chosen for artillery, with a firing range marked off in advance. About sixty guns were placed behind cover on the open squares and at the more important street-crossings. Canals, gardens; walls, fences and houses were fortified. Trenches were dug in the suburbs and along the Neva. The whole southern part of the city was transformed into a fortress. Barricades were raised on many of the streets and squares." (133)
General Vemrenko's army failed in their efforts to cut the vital railway from Tosno to Moscow allowing the Red Army to freely reinforce Petrograd. The 15th Red Army struck from Pskov to Luga, threatening the White right flank and centre. The 7th Red Army now reorganised and reinforced by thousands of Red Guards raised from inside the city pressed westward against the White left and centre. Their combined strength, at least 73,000, forced the Whites back to their original starting point at Narva. (134)
In March, 1919, Admiral Alexander Kolchak captured Ufa and was posing a threat to Kazan and Samara. However, his acts of repression had resulted in the formation of Western Siberian Peasants' Red Army. The Red Army, led by Mikhail Frunze, also made advances and entered Omsk in November, 1919. Kolchak fled eastwards and was promised safe passage by the Czechoslovaks to the British military mission in Irkutsk. However, he was handed over to the Socialist Revolutionaries. He appeared before a five man commission between 21st January and 6th February. At the end of the hearing he was sentenced to death and executed. (135)
The Red Army continued to grow and now had over 500,000 soldiers in its ranks. This included over 40,000 officers who had served under Nicholas II. This was an unpopular decision with many Bolsheviks who feared that given the opportunity, they would betray their own troops. Trotsky tried to overcome this problem by imposing a strict system of punishment for those who were judged to be disloyal. "The Red army had in its service thousands, and, later on, tens of thousands of old officers. In their own words many of them only two years before had thought of moderate liberals as extreme revolutionaries." (136)
In February 1920, General Peter Wrangel was dismissed for conspiring against General Anton Denikin. However, two months later, he was recalled and was given command of the White Army in the Crimea. During this period he recognized and established relations with the new anti-Bolshevik independent republics of Ukraine and Georgia and established a coalition government which attempted to institute progressive land reforms. (137)
On 12th October, 1920, the Bolsheviks signed a peace agreement with Poland. On hearing the news General Peter Wrangel issued the following order: "The Polish Army which has been fighting side by side with us against the common enemy of liberty and order has just laid down its arms and signed a preliminary peace with the oppressors and traitors who designate themselves the Soviet Government of Russia. We are now alone in the struggle which will decide the fate not only of our country but of the whole of humanity. Let us strive to free our native land from the yoke of these Red scum who recognize neither God nor country, who bring confusion and shame in their wake. By delivering Russia over to pillage and ruin, these infidels hope to start a world-wide conflagration." (138)
Leon Trotsky was now able to transfer the majority of their combat troops against the southern Whites. Nestor Makhno contributed a brigade from his insurgent army, the majority mounted on horses. In all, there were 188,000 infantry, cavalry and engineers with 3,000 machine-guns, 600 artillery pieces and 23 armoured trains. General Wrangel's army consisted of 23,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry. (139)
Wrangel was able to hold out for six months but defeat was inevitable. On 11th November, 1920, he ordered his troops to disengage and fall back to the assigned ports for evacuation from the Crimean ports at Eupatoria, Sevastopol, Yalta, Theodosia and Kerch. It is believed that 126 ships had been commandeered to take 145,693 members of the White Army into exile.
David Bullock, the author of The Russian Civil War (2008) has argued that no one has been able to calculate accurately the cost in human life attributable to the Civil War. "Reasoned estimates have placed the number of dead from battle and disease in the Red Army as low as 425,000 and as high as 1,213,000. Numbers for their opponents range from 325,000 to 1,287,000." Another 200,000-400,000 died in prison or were executed as a result of the "Red Terror". A further 50,000 may have been victims of the corresponding "White Terror". Another 5 million are believed to have died in the ensuing famines of 1921-1922, directly caused by the economic disruption of the war. Bullock concludes that in total between 7 and 14 million died as a result of the Russian Civil War. (140)
The Kronstadt Uprising
On 28th February, 1921, the crew of the battleship, Petropavlovsk, passed a resolution calling for a return of full political freedoms. It was reported by Radio Moscow: that the sailors were supporters of the White Army: "Just like other White Guard insurrections, the mutiny of General Kozlovsky and the crew of the battleship Petropavlovsk has been organised by Entente spies. The French counter espionage is mixed up in the whole affair. History is repeating itself. The Socialist Revolutionaries, who have their headquarters in Paris, are preparing the ground for an insurrection against the Soviet power." (141)
I response to this broadcast the Kronstadt sailors issued the following statement: "Comrade workers, red soldiers and sailors. We stand for the power of the Soviets and not that of the parties. We are for free representation of all who toil. Comrades, you are being misled. At Kronstadt all power is in the hands of the revolutionary sailors, of red soldiers and of workers. It is not in the hands of White Guards, allegedly headed by a General Kozlovsky, as Moscow Radio tells you." (142)
Eugene Lyons, the author of Workers’ Paradise Lost: Fifty Years of Soviet Communism: A Balance Sheet (1967), pointed out that this protest was highly significant because of Kronstadt's revolutionary past: "The hundreds of large and small uprisings throughout the country are too numerous to list, let alone describe here. The most dramatic of them, in Kronstadt, epitomizes most of them. What gave it a dimension of supreme drama was the fact that the sailors of Kronstadt, an island naval fortress near Petrograd, on the Gulf of Finland, had been one of the main supports of the putsch. Now Kronstadt became the symbol of the bankruptcy of the Revolution. The sailors on the battleships and in the naval garrisons were in the final analysis peasants and workers in uniform." (143)
Lenin denounced the Kronstadt Uprising as a plot instigated by the White Army and their European supporters. However, in private he realised that he was under attack from the left. He was particularly concerned by the "scene of the rising was Kronstadt, the Bolshevik stronghold of 1917". Isaac Deutscher claims that Lenin commented: "This was the flash which lit up reality better than anything else." (144)
On 6th March, 1921, Leon Trotsky issued a statement: "I order all those who have raised a hand against the Socialist Fatherland, immediately to lay down their weapons. Those who resist will be disarmed and put at the disposal of the Soviet Command. The arrested commissars and other representatives of the Government must be freed immediately. Only those who surrender unconditionally will be able to count on the clemency of the Soviet Republic." (145)
Trotsky then ordered the Red Army to attack the Kronstadt sailors. According to one official report, some members of the Red Army refused to attack the naval base. "At the beginning of the operation the second battalion had refused to march. With much difficulty and thanks to the presence of communists, it was persuaded to venture on the ice. As soon as it reached the first south battery, a company of the 2nd battalion surrendered. The officers had to return alone." (146)
Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka, was also involved in putting down the uprising, as the loyalty of the Red Army soldiers were in doubt. Victor Serge pointed out: "Lacking any qualified officers, the Kronstadt sailors did not know how to employ their artillery; there was, it is true, a former officer named Kozlovsky among them, but he did little and exercised no authority. Some of the rebels managed to reach Finland. Others put up a furious resistance, fort to fort and street to street.... Hundreds of prisoners were taken away to Petrograd and handed to the Cheka; months later they were still being shot in small batches, a senseless and criminal agony. Those defeated sailors belonged body and soul to the Revolution; they had voiced the suffering and the will of the Russian people. This protracted massacre was either supervised or permitted by Dzerzhinsky." (147)
Some observers claimed that many of the victims would die shouting, "Long live the Communist International!" and "Long live the Constituent Assembly!" It was not until the 17th March that government forces were able to take control of Kronstadt. Alexander Berkman, wrote: "Kronstadt has fallen today. Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in its streets. Summary execution of prisoners and hostages continues." (148)
An estimated 8,000 people (sailors and civilians) left Kronstadt and went to live in Finland. Official figures suggest that 527 people were killed and 4,127 were wounded. "These figures do not include the drowned, or the numerous wounded left to die on the ice. Nor do they include the victims of the Revolutionary Tribunals." Historians who have studied the uprising believe that the total number of casualties was much higher than this. It is claimed that over 500 sailors at Kronstadt were executed for their part in the rebellion. (149)
Nikolai Sukhanov reminded Leon Trotsky that three years previously he had told the people of Petrograd: "We shall conduct the work of the Petrograd Soviet in a spirit of lawfulness and of full freedom for all parties. The hand of the Presidium will never lend itself to the suppression of the minority." Trotsky lapsed into silence for a while, then said wistfully: "Those were good days." Walter Krivitsky, who was a Cheka agent during this period claimed that when Trotsky put down the Kronstadt Uprising the Bolshevik government lost contact with the revolution and from then on it would be a path of state terror and dictatorial rule. (150)
Alexander Berkman decided to leave the Soviet Union after the Kronstadt Rising: "Grey are the passing days. One by one the embers of hope have died out. Terror and despotism have crushed the life born in October. The slogans of the Revolution are forsworn, its ideals stifled in the blood of the people. The breath of yesterday is dooming millions to death; the shadow of today hangs like a black pall over the country. Dictatorship is trampling the masses under foot. The Revolution is dead; its spirit cries in the wilderness.... I have decided to leave Russia." (151)
Leon Trotsky later blamed Nestor Makhno and the anarchists for the uprising. "Makhno... was a mixture of fanatic and adventurer. He became the concentration of the very tendencies which brought about the Kronstadt Uprising. Makhno created a cavalry of peasants who supplied their own horses. They were not downtrodden village poor whom the October Revolution first awakened, but the strong and well-fed peasants who were afraid of losing what they had. The anarchist ideas of Makhno (the ignoring of the State, non-recognition of the central power) corresponded to the spirit of the kulak cavalry as nothing else could. I should add that the hatred of the city and the city worker on the part of the followers of Makhno was complemented by the militant anti-Semitism." (152)
Trotsky also accused Felix Dzerzhinsky of being responsible for the massacre: "The truth of the matter is that I personally did not participate in the least in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion, nor in the repressions following the suppression. In my eyes this very fact is of no political significance. I was a member of the government, I considered the quelling of the rebellion necessary and therefore bear responsibility for the suppression. Concerning the repressions, as far as I remember, Dzerzhinsky had personal charge of them and Dzerhinsky could not tolerate anyone's interference with his functions (and properly so). Whether there were any needless victims I do not know. On this score I trust Dzerzhinsky more than his belated critics." (153)
Joseph Stalin : General Secretary
In 1921 Lenin became concerned with the activities of Alexandra Kollontai and Alexander Shlyapnikov, the leaders of the Workers' Opposition group. In 1921 Kollantai published a pamphlet The Workers' Opposition, where she called for members of the party to be allowed to discuss policy issues and for more political freedom for trade unionists. She also advocated that before the government attempts to "rid Soviet institutions of the bureaucracy that lurks within them, the Party must first rid itself of its own bureaucracy." (154)
The group also published a statement on future policy: "A complete change is necessary in the policies of the government. First of all, the workers and peasants need freedom. They don't want to live by the decrees of the Bolsheviks; they want to control their own destinies. Comrades, preserve revolutionary order! Determinedly and in an organized manner demand: liberation of all arrested Socialists and non-partisan working-men; abolition of martial law; freedom of speech, press and assembly for all who labour." (155)
At the Tenth Party Congress in April 1922, Lenin proposed a resolution that would ban all factions within the party. He argued that factions within the party were "harmful" and encouraged rebellions such as the Kronstadt Rising. The Party Congress agreed with Lenin and the Workers' Opposition was dissolved. Joseph Stalin was appointed as General Secretary and was now given the task of dealing with the "factions and cliques" in the Communist Party. (156)
Stalin's main opponents for the future leadership of the party failed to see the importance of this position and actually supported his nomination. They initially saw the post of General Secretary as being no more that "Lenin's mouthpiece". According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "Factionalism became punishable by expulsion. Lenin sought to stifle the very possibility of opposition. The wording of this resolution, unthinkable in a democratic party, grated on the ear, and it was therefore kept secret from the public." (157)
Roy A. Medvedev, has argued in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) that on the surface it was a strange decision: "In 1922 Stalin was the least prominent figure in the Politburo. Not only Lenin but also Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and A. I. Rykov were much more popular among the broad masses of the Party than Stalin. Close-mouthed and reserved in everyday affairs, Stalin was also a poor public speaker. He spoke in a low voice with a strong Caucasian accent, and found it difficult to speak without a prepared text. It is not surprising that, during the stormy years of revolution and civil war, with their ceaseless meetings, rallies, and demonstrations, the revolutionary masses saw or heard little of Stalin." (158)
Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has pointed out: "The leading bodies of the party were now top-heavy; and a new office, that of the General Secretary, was created, which was to coordinate the work of their many growing and overlapping branches... Soon afterwards a latent dualism of authority began to develop at the very top of the party. The seven men who now formed the Politbureau (in addition to the previous five, Zinoviev and Tomsky had recently been elected) represented, as it were, the brain and the spirit of Bolshevism. In the offices of the General Secretariat resided the more material power of management and direction." (159)
Soon after Stalin's appointment as General Secretary, Lenin went into hospital to have a bullet removed from his body that had been there since Dora Kaplan's assassination attempt. It was hoped that this operation would restore his health. This was not to be; soon afterwards, a blood vessel broke in Lenin's brain. This left him paralyzed all down his right side and for a time he was unable to speak. As "Lenin's mouthpiece", Joseph Stalin had suddenly become extremely important. (160)
While Lenin was immobilized, Stalin made full use of his powers as General Secretary. At the Party Congress he had been granted permission to expel "unsatisfactory" party members. This enabled Stalin to remove thousands of supporters of Leon Trotsky, his main rival for the leadership of the party. As General Secretary, Stalin also had the power to appoint and sack people from important positions in the government. The new holders of these posts were fully aware that they owed their promotion to Stalin. They also knew that if their behaviour did not please him they would be replaced.
Surrounded by his supporters, Stalin's confidence began to grow. In October, 1922, he disagreed with Lenin over the issue of foreign trade. When the matter was discussed at Central Committee, Stalin's rather than Lenin's policy was accepted. Lenin began to fear that Stalin was taking over the leadership of the party. Lenin wrote to Trotsky asking for his support. Trotsky agreed and at the next meeting of the Central Committee the decision on foreign trade was reversed. Lenin, who was too ill to attend, wrote to Trotsky congratulating him on his success and suggesting that in future they should work together against Stalin.
Joseph Stalin, whose wife Nadya Alliluyeva worked in Lenin's private office, soon discovered the contents of the letter sent to Leon Trotsky. Stalin was furious as he realized that if Lenin and Trotsky worked together against him, his political career would be at an end. In a fit of temper Stalin made an abusive phone-call to Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, accusing her of endangering Lenin's life by allowing him to write letters when he was so ill. (161)
After Krupskaya told her husband of this phone-call, Lenin made the decision that Stalin was not the man to replace him as the leader of the party. Lenin knew he was close to death so he dictated to his secretary a letter that he wanted to serve as his last "will and testament". The document was comprised of his thoughts on the senior members of the party leadership. Lenin stated: "Comrade Stalin, having become General Secretary, has concentrated enormous power in his hands: and I am not sure that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution. I therefore propose to our comrades to consider a means of removing Stalin from this post and appointing someone else who differs from Stalin in one weighty respect: being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, more considerate of his comrades." (162)
A few days later Lenin added a postscript to his earlier testament: "Stalin is too rude, and this fault... becomes unbearable in the office of General Secretary. Therefore, I propose to the comrades to find a way to remove Stalin from that position and appoint to it another man... more patient, more loyal, more polite and more attentive to comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may seem an insignificant trifle, but I think that from the point of view of preventing a split and from the point of view of the relations between Stalin and Trotsky... it is not a trifle, or it is such a trifle as may acquire a decisive significance." Three days after writing this testament Lenin had a third stroke. Lenin was no longer able to speak or write and although he lived for another ten months, he ceased to exist as a power within the Soviet Union. (163)
Lenin died of a heart attack on 21st January, 1924. Stalin reacted to the news by announcing that Lenin was to be embalmed and put on permanent display in a mausoleum to be erected on Red Square. Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, immediately objected because she disliked the "quasi-religious" implications of this decision. Despite these objections, Stalin carried on with the arrangements. "Lenin, who detested hero worship and fought religion as an opiate for the people, who canonized in the interest of Soviet politics and his writings were given the character of Holy Writ." (164)
The funeral took place on 27th January, and Stalin was a pallbearer with Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Nickolai Bukharin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Alexander Schottmann and Maihail Tomsky. Stalin gave a speech which ended with the words: "Leaving us, comrade Lenin left us a legacy of fidelity to the principles of the Communist International. We swear to you, comrade Lenin, that we will not spare our own lives in strengthening and broadening the union of labouring people of the whole world - the Communist International." (165) As Robert Service has pointed out: "Christianity had to give way to communism and Lenin was to be presented to society as the new Jesus Christ." (166)
Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin
It was assumed that Leon Trotsky would replace Lenin as leader when he died. To stop this happening Stalin established a close political relationship with Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. The three men became known as the "triumvirate". The historian, Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has pointed out: "What made for the solidarity of the three men was their determination to prevent Trotsky from succeeding to the leadership of the party. Separately, neither could measure up to Trotsky. Jointly, they represented a powerful combination of talent and influence. Zinoviev was the politician, the orator, the demagogue with popular appeal. Kamenev was the strategist of the group, its solid brain, trained in matters of doctrine, which were to play a paramount part in the contest for power. Stalin was the tactician of the triumvirate and its organizing force. Between them, the three men virtually controlled the whole party and, through it, the Government." (167)
Simon Sebag Montefiore, the author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003), pointed out that an important point of his strategy was to promote his friends, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov and Gregory Ordzhonikidze: "An outsider in 1924 would have expected Trotsky to succeed Lenin, but in the Bolshevik oligarchy, this glittery fame counted against the insouciant War Commissar. The hatred between Stalin and Trotsky was not only based on personality and style but also on policy. Stalin had already used the massive patronage of the Secretariat to promote his allies, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov and Grigory Konstantinovich; he also supplied an encouraging and realistic alternative to Trotsky's insistence on European revolution: 'Socialism in One Country'. The other members of the Politburo, led by Grigory Zinoviev, and Kamenev, Lenin's closest associates, were also terrified of Trotsky, who had united all against himself." (168)
Some of Trotsky's supporters pleaded with him to organise a military coup. As People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs and as leader of the Red Army during the Civil War. However, Trotsky rejected the idea and instead resigned his post. Trotsky was now vulnerable and Kamanev and Zinoviev were in favour of having him arrested and put on trial. Stalin rejected this idea and feared that at this stage, any attempt to punish him would result in the party splitting into two hostile factions. Before dealing with Trotsky, Stalin had to prepare the party for the purge that he wanted to take place. (169)
At the Communist Party Congress in May, 1923, Stalin admitted that the triumvirate existed. In reply to a speech made by a delegate he argued: "Osinsky has praised Stalin and praised Kamenev, but he has attacked Zinoviev, thinking that for the time being it would be enough to remove one of them and that then would come the turn of the others. His aim is to break up that nucleus that has formed itself inside the Central Committee over years of toil... I ought to warn him that he will run into a wall, against which, I am afraid, he will smash his head." To another critic, who demanded more freedom of discussion in the party, Stalin replied that the party was no debating society. Russia was "surrounded by the wolves of imperialism; and to discuss all important matters in 20,000 party cells would mean to lay all one's cards before the enemy." (170)
In October 1923, Yuri Piatakov drafted a statement that was published under the name Platform of the 46 which criticized the economic policies of the party leadership and accused it of stifling the inner-party debate. It echoed the call made by Leon Trotsky, a week earlier, calling for a sharp change of direction by the party. The statement was also signed by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Andrey Bubnov, Ivan Smirnov, Lazar Kaganovich, Ivar Smilga, Victor Serge, Evgenia Bosh and thirty-eight other leading Bolsheviks.
"The extreme seriousness of the position compels us (in the interests of our Party, in the interests of the working class) to state openly that a continuation of the policy of the majority of the Politburo threatens grievous disasters for the whole Party. The economic and financial crisis beginning at the end of July of the present year, with all the political, including internal Party, consequences resulting from it, has inexorably revealed the inadequacy of the leadership of the Party, both in the economic domain, and especially in the domain of internal Party, relations."
The document then went on to complain about the lack of debate in the Communist Party: "Similarly in the domain of internal party relations we see the same incorrect leadership paralyzing and breaking up the Party; this appears particularly clearly in the period of crisis through which we are passing. We explain this not by the political incapacity of the present leaders of the Party; on the contrary, however much we differ from them in our estimate of the position and in the choice of means to alter it, we assume that the present leaders could not in any conditions fail to be appointed by the Party to the out-standing posts in the workers’ dictatorship. We explain it by the fact that beneath the external form of official unity we have in practice a one-sided recruitment of individuals, and a direction of affairs which is one-sided and adapted to the views and sympathies of a narrow circle. As the result of a Party leadership distorted by such narrow considerations, the Party is to a considerable extent ceasing to be that living independent collectivity which sensitively seizes living reality because it is bound to this reality with a thousand threads." (171)
Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "Among the signatories were: Piatakov, one of the two ablest leaders of the young generation mentioned in Lenin's testament, Preobrazhensky and Serebriakov, former secretaries of the Central Committee, Antonov-Ovseenko, the military leader of the October revolution, Srnirnov, Osinsky, Bubnov, Sapronov, Muralov, Drobnis, and others, distinguished leaders in the civil war, men of brain and character. Some of them had led previous oppositions against Lenin and Trotsky, expressing the malaise that made itself felt in the party as its leadership began to sacrifice first principles to expediency. Fundamentally, they were now voicing that same malaise which was growing in proportion to the party's continued departure from some of its first principles. It is not certain whether Trotsky directly instigated their demonstration." Lenin commented that Piatakov might be "very able but not to be relied upon in a serious political matter". (172)
Two months later, Leon Trotsky published an open letter where he called for more debate in the Communist Party concerning the way the country was being governed. He argued that members should exercise its right to criticism "without fear and without favour" and the first people to be removed from party positions are "those who at the first voice of criticism, of objection, of protest, are inclined to demand one's party ticket for the purpose of repression". Trotsky went on to suggest that anyone who "dares to terrorize the party" should be expelled. (173)
Stalin objected to the idea of democracy in the Communist Party. "I shall say but this, there will plainly not be any developed democracy, any full democracy." At this time "it would be impossible and it would make no sense to adopt it" even within the narrow limits of the party. Democracy could only be introduced when the Soviet Union enjoyed "economic prosperity, military security, and a civilized membership." Stalin added that though the party was not democratic, it was wrong to claim it was bureaucratic. (174)
Gregory Zinoviev was furious with Trotsky for making these comments and proposed that he should be immediately arrested. Stalin, aware of Trotsky's immense popularity, opposed the move as being too dangerous. He encouraged Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev to attack Trotsky whereas he wanted to give the impression that he was the most moderate, sensible, and conciliatory of the triumvirs. Kamenev asked him about the question of gaining a majority in the party, Stalin replied: "Do you know what I think about this? I believe that who votes how in the party is unimportant. What is extremely important is who counts the votes and how they are recorded." (175)
In April 1924 Joseph Stalin published Foundations of Leninism. In the introduction he argued: "Leninism grew up and took shape under the conditions of imperialism, when the contradictions of capitalism had reached an extreme point, when the proletarian revolution had become an immediate practical question, when the old period of preparation of the working class for revolution had arrived at and passed into a new period, that of direct assault on capitalism... The significance of the imperialist war which broke out ten years ago lies, among other things, in the fact that it gathered all these contradictions into a single knot and threw them on to the scales, thereby accelerating and facilitating the revolutionary battles of the proletariat. In other words, imperialism was instrumental not only in making the revolution a practical inevitability, but also in creating favourable conditions for a direct assault on the citadels of capitalism. Such was the international situation which gave birth to Leninism." (176)
According to his personal secretary Boris Bazhanov, Stalin had the facility to evesdrop on the conversations of dozens of the most influential communist leaders. Before meetings of the Politburo Stalin would neet with his supporters. This included Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Lazar Kaganovich, Vyacheslav Molotov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Sergy Kirov and Kliment Voroshilov. As Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), has pointed out: "He demanded efficiency as well as loyalty from the gang members. He also selected them for their individual qualities. He created an ambience of conspiracy, companionship and crude masculine humour. In return for their services he looked after their interests." (177)
Leon Trotsky accused Joseph Stalin of being dictatorial and called for the introduction of more democracy into the party. Zinoviev and Kamenev united behind Stalin and accused Trotsky of creating divisions in the party. Trotsky's main hope of gaining power was for Lenin's last testament to be published. In May, 1924, Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, demanded that the Central Committee announce its contents to the rest of the party. Zinoviev argued strongly against its publication. He finished his speech with the words: "You have all witnessed our harmonious cooperation in the last few months, and, like myself, you will be happy to say that Lenin's fears have proved baseless." The new members of the Central Committee, who had been sponsored by Stalin, guaranteed that the vote went against Lenin's testament being made public. (178)
Trotsky and Stalin clashed over the future strategy of the country. Stalin favoured what he called "socialism in one country" whereas Trotsky still supported the idea of world revolution. He was later to argue: "The utopian hopes of the epoch of military communism came in later for a cruel, and in many respects just, criticism. The theoretical mistake of the ruling party remains inexplicable, however, only if you leave out of account the fact that all calculations at that time were based on the hope of an early victory of the revolution in the West." (179)
Trotsky had argued in 1917 that the Bolshevik Revolution was doomed to failure unless successful revolutions also took place in other countries such as Germany and France. Lenin had agreed with him about this but by 1924 Stalin began talking about the possibility of completing the "building of socialism in a single country". Nikolay Bukharin joined the attacks on Trotsky asserted that Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution" was anti-Leninist. (180)
In January 1925, Stalin was able to arrange for Leon Trotsky to be removed from the government. Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "He left office without the slightest attempt at rallying in his defence the army he had created and led for seven years. He still regarded the party, no matter how or by whom it was led, as the legitimate spokesman of the working-class. If he were to oppose army to party, so he reasoned, he would have automatically set himself up as the agent for some other class interests, hostile to the working-class... He still remained a member of the Politbureau, but for more than a year he kept aloof from all public controversy." (181)
With the decline of Trotsky, Joseph Stalin felt strong enough to stop sharing power with Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev. Stalin now began to attack Trotsky's belief in the need for world revolution. He argued that the party's main priority should be to defend the communist system that had been developed in the Soviet Union. This put Zinoviev and Kamenev in an awkward position. They had for a long time been strong supporters of Trotsky's theory that if revolution did not spread to other countries, the communist system in the Soviet Union was likely to be overthrown by hostile, capitalist nations. However, they were reluctant to speak out in favour of a man whom they had been in conflict with for so long. (182)
Stalin & the New Economic Policy
Joseph Stalin now formed an alliance with Nikolay Bukharin, Mikhail Tomsky and Alexei Rykov, on the right of the party, who wanted an expansion of the New Economic Policy that had been introduced several years earlier. Farmers were allowed to sell food on the open market and were allowed to employ people to work for them. Those farmers who expanded the size of their farms became known as kulaks. Bukharin believed the NEP offered a framework for the country's more peaceful and evolutionary "transition to socialism" and disregarded traditional party hostility to kulaks. (183)
Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), argued: "Stalin and Bukharin rejected Trotsky and the Left Opposition as doctrinaires who by their actions would bring the USSR to perdition... Zinoviev and Kamenev felt uncomfortable with so drastic a turn towards the market economy... They disliked Stalin's movement to a doctrine that socialism could be built in a single country - and they simmered with resentment at the unceasing accumulation of power by Stalin." (184)
When Stalin was finally convinced that Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev were unwilling to join forces with Leon Trotsky against him, he began to support openly the economic policies of right-wing members of the Politburo. They now realized what Stalin was up to but it took them to summer of 1926 before they could swallow their pride and join with Trotsky against Stalin. Kamenev argued: "We're against creating a theory of the leader; were against making anyone into the leader... Were against the Secretariat, by actually combining politics and organisation, standing above the political body… Personally I suggest that our General Secretary is not the kind of figure who can unite the old Bolshevik high command around him. It is precisely because I've often said this personally to comrade Stalin and precisely because I've often said this to a group of Leninist comrades that I repeat it at the Congress: I have come to the conclusion that comrade Stalin is incapable of performing the role of unifier of the Bolshevik high command." (185)
Kamenev and Zinoviev denounced the pro-Kulak policy, arguing that the stronger the big farmers grew the easier it would be for them to withhold food from the urban population and to obtain more and more concessions from the government. Eventually, they might be in a position to overthrow communism and the restoration of capitalism. Before the Russian Revolution there had been 16 million farms in the country. It now had 25 million, some of which were very large and owned by kulaks. They argued that the government, in order to undermine the power of the kulaks, should create large collective farms. (186)
Stalin tried to give the impression he was an advocate of the middle-course. In reality, he was supporting those on the right. In October, 1925, the leaders of the left in the Communist Party submitted to the Central Committee a memorandum in which they asked for a free debate on all controversial issues. This was signed by Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Grigori Sokolnikov, the Commissar of Finance, and Nadezhda Krupskaya, the widow of Lenin. Stalin rejected this idea and continued to have complete control over government policy. (187)
On the advice of Nikolay Bukharin, all restrictions upon the leasing of land, the hiring of labour and the accumulation of capital were removed. Bukharin's theory was that the small farmers only produced enough food to feed themselves. The large farmers, on the other hand, were able to provide a surplus that could be used to feed the factory workers in the towns. To motivate the kulaks to do this, they had to be given incentives, or what Bukharin called "the ability to enrich" themselves. (188) The tax system was changed in order to help kulaks buy out smaller farms. In an article in Pravda, Bukharin wrote: "Enrich yourselves, develop your holdings. And don't worry that they may be taken away from you." (189)
At the 14th Congress of the Communist Party in December, 1925, Zinoviev spoke up for others on the left when he declared: "There exists within the Party a most dangerous right deviation. It lies in the underestimation of the danger from the kulak - the rural capitalist. The kulak, uniting with the urban capitalists, the NEP men, and the bourgeois intelligentsia will devour the Party and the Revolution." (190) However, when the vote was taken, Stalin's policy was accepted by 559 to 65. (191)
In September 1926 Stalin threatened the expulsion of Yuri Piatakov, Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Mikhail Lashevich and Grigori Sokolnikov. On 4th October, these men signed a statement admitting that they were guilty of offences against the statutes of the party and pledged themselves to disband their party within the party. They also disavowed the extremists in their ranks who were led by Alexander Shlyapnikov. However, having admitted their offences against the rules of discipline, they "restated with dignified firmness their political criticisms of Stalin and Bukharin." (192)
Stalin appointed his old friend, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, to the presidency of the Central Control Commission in November 1926, where he was given responsibility for expelling the Left Opposition from the Communist Party. Ordzhonikidze was rewarded by being appointed to the Politburo in 1926. He developed a reputation for having a terrible temper. His daughter said that he "often got so heated that he slapped his comrades but the eruption soon passed." His wife Zina argued "he would give his life for one he loved and shoot the one he hated". However, others said he had great charm and Maria Svanidze described him as "chivalrous". The son of Lavrenty Beria commented that his "kind eyes, grey hair and big moustache, gave him the look of an old Georgian prince". (193)
Stalin gradually expelled his opponents from the Politburo including Trotsky, Zinoviev and Lashevich. He also appointed his allies, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Lazar Kaganovich, Sergy Kirov, Semen Budenny and Andrei Andreev. "He demanded efficiency as well as lyalty from the gang members... He wanted no one near to him who outranked him intellectually. He selected men with a revolutionary commitment like his own, and he set the style with his ruthless policies... In return for their services he looked after their interests. He was solicitous about their health. He overlooked their foibles so long as their work remained unaffected and the recognised his word as law." (194)
Kaganovich later recalled: In the early years Stalin was a soft individual... Under Lenin and after Lenin. He went through a lot. In the early years after Lenin died, when he came to power, they all attacked Stalin. He endured a lot in the struggle with Trotsky. Then his supposed friends Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky also attacked him... It was difficult to avoid getting cruel." (195)
In the spring of 1927 Trotsky drew up a proposed programme signed by 83 oppositionists. He demanded a more revolutionary foreign policy as well as more rapid industrial growth. He also insisted that a comprehensive campaign of democratisation needed to be undertaken not only in the party but also in the soviets. Trotsky added that the Politburo was ruining everything Lenin had stood for and unless these measures were taken, the original goals of the October Revolution would not be achievable. (196)
Stalin and Bukharin led the counter-attacks through the summer of 1927. At the plenum of the Central Committee in October, Stalin pointed out that Trotsky was originally a Menshevik: "In the period between 1904 and the February 1917 Revolution Trotsky spent the whole time twirling around in the company of the Mensheviks and conducting a campaign against the party of Lenin. Over that period Trotsky sustained a whole series of defeats at the hands of Lenin's party." Stalin added that previously he had rejected calls for the expulsion of people like Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. "Perhaps, I overdid the kindness and made a mistake." (197)
According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "The opposition then organized demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad on November 7. These were the last two open demonstrations against the Stalinist regime. The GPU, of course, knew about them in advance but allowed them to take place. In Lenin's Party submitting Party differences to the judgment of the crowd was considered the greatest of crimes. The opposition had signed their own sentence. And Stalin, of course, a brilliant organizer of demonstrations himself, was well prepared. On the morning of November 7 a small crowd, most of them students, moved toward Red Square, carrying banners with opposition slogans: Let us direct our fire to the right - at the kulak and the NEP man, Long live the leaders of the World Revolution, Trotsky and Zinoviev.... The procession reached Okhotny Ryad, not far from the Kremlin. Here the criminal appeal to the non-Party masses was to be made, from the balcony of the former Paris hotel. Stalin let them get on with it. Smilga and Preobrazhensky, both members of Lenin's Central Committee, draped a streamer with the slogan Back to Lenin over the balcony." (198)
Stalin argued that there was a danger that the party would split into two opposing factions. If this happened, western countries would take advantage of the situation and invade the Soviet Union. On 14th November 1927, the Central Committee decided to expel Leon Trotsky and Gregory Zinoviev from the party. This decision was ratified by the Fifteenth Party Congress in December. The Congress also announced the removal of another 75 oppositionists, including Lev Kamenev. (199)
The Russian historian, Roy A. Medvedev, has explained in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971): "The opposition's semi-legal and occasionally illegal activities were the main issue at the joint meeting of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission at the end of October, 1927... The Plenum decided that Trotsky and Zinoviev had broken their promise to cease factional activity. They were expelled from the Central Committee, and the forthcoming XVth Congress was directed to review the whole issue of factions and groups." Under pressure from the Central Committee, Kamenev and Zinoviev agreed to sign statements promising not to create conflict in the movement by making speeches attacking official policies. Trotsky refused to sign and was banished to the remote area of Kazhakstan. (200)
One of Trotsky's main supporters, Adolf Joffe, was so disillusioned by these events that he committed suicide. In a letter he wrote to Trotsky before his death, he commented: "I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of permanent revolution. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path... One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever... You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell." (201)
In January 1929 Trotsky was ordered to leave the Soviet Union. As Trotsky was still advocating world revolution, most countries refused to take him in. Trotsky, his wife, Natalia Sedova, and his son, Lev Sedov, eventually were allowed to settle in France, where they published Bulletin of the Opposition. His other son, Sergei Sedov, decided to stay in Moscow to continue his academic career.
Stalin gradually removed Trotsky's supporters from power. Then he offered them the chance to return as long as they denounced Trotsky. Yuri Piatakov told Nikolai Valentinov: "For the Party's sake you can and must at 24 hours' notice change all your convictions and force yourself to believe that white is black." According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "Professions of repentance came pouring in, and Stalin graciously allowed the repentant leftists to return from exile. Piatakov, Smilga, Rakovsky, Beloborodov and other notables condemned Trotsky and came back into the Party. Their prestige and their energy were very helpful to Stalin in what historians would call the Year of the Great Turn." (202)
Death of Sergy Kirov
At the 17th Party Congress in 1934, when Sergey Kirov stepped up to the podium he was greeted by spontaneous applause that equalled that which was required to be given to Joseph Stalin. In his speech he put forward a policy of reconciliation. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. (203)
The last duty of a Congress was to elect the Central Committee. Usually this was a formality. The delegates were given the ballot, a list of names prepared by Stalin. The voters crossed out names they opposed and voted for the names left unmarked. Although the results were never published but according to some sources, Kirov received one or two negatives Stalin received over 200. All the candidates were automatically elected but this was another blow to Stalin's self-esteem. (204)
As usual, that summer Kirov and Stalin went on holiday together. Stalin, who treated Kirov like a son, used this opportunity to try to persuade him to remain loyal to his leadership. Stalin asked him to leave Leningrad to join him in Moscow. Stalin wanted Kirov in a place where he could keep a close eye on him. When Kirov refused, Stalin knew he had lost control over his protégé. Kirov had several advantages over Stalin, "his closeness to the masses, his tremendous energy, his oratorical talent". Whereas, Stalin "nasty, suspicious, cruel, and power-hungry, Stalin could not abide brilliant and independent people around him." (205)
According to Alexander Orlov, who had been told this by Genrikh Yagoda, Stalin decided that Kirov had to die. Yagoda assigned the task to Vania Zaporozhets, one of his trusted lieutenants in the NKVD. He selected a young man, Leonid Nikolayev, as a possible candidate. Nikolayev had recently been expelled from the Communist Party and had vowed his revenge by claiming that he intended to assassinate a leading government figure. Zaporozhets met Nikolayev and when he discovered he was of low intelligence and appeared to be a person who could be easily manipulated, he decided that he was the ideal candidate as assassin. (206)
Zaporozhets provided him with a pistol and gave him instructions to kill Kirov in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad. However, soon after entering the building he was arrested. Zaporozhets had to use his influence to get him released. On 1st December, 1934, Nikolayev, got past the guards and was able to shoot Kirov dead. Nikolayev was immediately arrested and after being tortured by Genrikh Yagoda he signed a statement saying that Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev had been the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Kirov. (207)
Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent based in the Soviet Union, was willing to accept this story. "The details of Kirov's assassination at first pointed to a personal motive, which may indeed have existed, but investigation showed that, as commonly happens in such cases, the assassin Nikolaiev had been made the instrument of forces whose aims were treasonable and political. A widespread plot against the Kremlin was discovered, whose ramifications included not merely former oppositionists but agents of the Nazi Gestapo. As the investigation continued, the Kremlin's conviction deepened that Trotsky and his friends abroad had built up an anti-Stalinist organisation in close collaboration with their associates in Russia, who formed a nucleus or centre around which gradually rallied divers elements of discontent and disloyalty. The actual conspirators were comparatively few in number, but as the plot thickened they did not hesitate to seek the aid of foreign enemies in order to compensate for the lack of popular support at home." (208)
Joseph Stalin was furious with the Trotsky family and ordered the arrest of Sergei Sedov. Natalia Sedova issued an open letter, published in Trotsky's Bulletin of the Opposition, in which she declared her son's innocence and appealed to George Bernard Shaw, Romain Rolland, Andre Gide and other European intellectuals sympathetic to the USSR to press Moscow for a commission of inquiry into the repressions following the Kirov murder. Trotsky recorded that: "Natalia is haunted by the thought of what a heavy heart Seryozha must have in prison (if he is in prison). Perhaps he may think that we have somehow forgotten about him, left him to his fate." Natalia remarked to her husband: "They will not deport him under any circumstances; they will torture him in order to get something out of him, and after that they will destroy him." Trotsky wrote: "No news of Sergi, and perhaps there won't be for a long time." (209)
Trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev
On 20th November, 1935, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev were charged with espionage on behalf of hostile foreign powers. Early in 1936, about forty of the KGB's top operatives were summoned to Moscow for a conference. They were advised that a conspiracy against Stalin and the Government had been uncovered and that it would be left to them to secure confessions. Over 300 political prisoners were ruthlessly interrogated and subjected to inordinate pressure in order to gain information against Zinoviev and Kamenev that could be used in court against the defendants. One member of the interrogating team, claimed: "Give me long enough and I will have them confessing that they are the King of England". However, according to Alexander Orlov only one of those men tortured was willing to give evidence against Zinoviev and Kamenev. (210)
In July 1936 Yezhov told Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev that their children would be charged with being part of the conspiracy and would face execution if found guilty. The two men now agreed to co-operate at the trial if Joseph Stalin promised to spare their lives. At a meeting with Stalin, Kamenev told him that they would agree to co-operate on the condition that none of the old-line Bolsheviks who were considered the opposition and charged at the new trial would be executed, that their families would not be persecuted, and that in the future none of the former members of the opposition would be subjected to the death penalty. Stalin replied: "That goes without saying!" (211)
The trial opened on 19th August 1936. Also charged were Ivan Smirnov, Konon Berman-Yurin, Vagarshak Ter-Vaganyan and twelve other defendants. It is claimed that five of these men were actually NKVD plants, whose confessional testimony was expected to solidify the state's case. The presiding judge was Vasily Ulrikh, a member of the secret police. The prosecutor was Andrei Vyshinsky, who was to become well-known during the Show Trials over the next few years. The foreign press were allowed to attend the trial and were shocked to hear that Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other defendants, were part of a terrorist organisation, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, were attempting to overthrow the communist government of the Soviet Union. It was claimed that Trotsky was under the influence of Adolf Hitler and that he eventually planned to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Soviet people. (212)
Yuri Piatakov accepted the post of chief witness "with all my heart." Max Shachtman pointed out that it was important to consider those who did not testify: "Of the hundreds and perhaps thousands arrested for the purposes of the trial, it is significant that only a small handful were found who could be prevailed upon to make the 'confessions' that fell in so neatly with every charge of the prosecution. Every single one of them (the GPU provocateurs excepted) was a capitulator, who had once, twice and three times in the past signed whatever statement was dictated to him by Stalin. (213)
On 20th August, 1936, Lev Kamenev was cross-examined and admitted that he had worked with those on the right of the party, including Nikolai Bulganin and Maihail Tomsky, to undermine Stalin: "I personally conducted negotiations with the so-called 'Leftist' group of Lominadre and Shatsky. In this group I found enemies of the Party leadership quite prepared to resort to the most determined measures of struggle against it. At the same time, I myself and Zinoviev maintained constant contact with the former 'Workers' Opposition' group of Shlyapnikov and Medvedyev. In 1932, 1933 and 1934 I personally maintained relations with Tomsky and Bukharin and sounded their political sentiments. They sympathized with us... having set ourselves the monstrously criminal aim of disorganizing the government of the land of socialism, we resorted to methods of struggle which in our opinion suited this aim and which are as low and as vile as the aim which we set before ourselves." (214)
He was followed by Gregory Zinoviev who also made a full confession. He claimed that he worked closely with members of the Workers' Opposition, such as Alexander Shlyapnikov: "We were convinced that the leadership must be superseded at all costs, that it must be superseded by us, along with Trotsky... I spoke a great deal with Smirnov about choosing people for terroristic activities and also designated the persons against whom the weapon of terrorism was to be directed. The name of Stalin was mentioned in the first place, followed by those of Kirov, Voroshilov and other leaders of the Party and the government. For the purpose of executing these plans, a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist centre was formed, the leading part in which was played by myself - Zinoviev,and by Smirnov on behalf of the Trotskyites." (215)
On the final date of the trial the defendants made further statements. Ivan Smirnov said: "I communicated Trotsky's instructions on terrorism to the bloc to which I belonged as a member of the centre. The bloc accepted these instructions and began to act. There is no other path for our country but the one it is now treading, and there is not, nor can there be, any other leadership than that which history has given us. Trotsky, who sends direction and instructions on terrorism, and regards our state as a fascist state, is an enemy; he is on the other side of the barricade; he must be fought." (216)
Gregory Zinoviev confessed to being involved in the assassination of Sergy Kirov: "I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned as scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky.... We took the place of the terrorism of the Socialist-Revolutionaries.... My defective Bolshevism became transformed into anti-Bolshevism, and through Trotskyism I arrived at fascism. Trotskyism is a variety of fascism, and Zinovievism is a variety of Trotskyism." (217)
Lev Kamenev added: "I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party's - Stalin's policy - was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party; but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power." Kamenev's final words in the trial concerned the plight of his children: "I should like to say a few words to my children. I have two children, one is an army pilot, the other a Young Pioneer. Whatever my sentence may be, I consider it just... Together with the people, follow where Stalin leads." This was a reference to the promise that Stalin made about his sons." (218)
On 24th August, 1936, Vasily Ulrikh entered the courtroom and began reading the long and dull summation leading up to the verdict. Ulrikh announced that all sixteen defendants were sentenced to death by shooting. Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "Those in attendance fully expected the customary addendum which was used in political trials that stipulated that the sentence was commuted by reason of a defendant's contribution to the Revolution. These words never came, and it was apparent that the death sentence was final when Ulrikh placed the summation on his desk and left the court-room." (219)
The following day Soviet newspapers carried the announcement that all sixteen defendants had been put to death. This included the NKVD agents who had provided false confessions. Joseph Stalin could not afford for any witnesses to the conspiracy to remain alive. Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996), has pointed out that Stalin did not even keep his promise to Kamenev that his wife, Olga Kamenev, and their two sons, would be saved. All three of them were either shot or died in a prison camp. (220)
The French government came under pressure from Fascists and Stalinists to expel Trotsky from the country. In April, 1934, the French government issued a decree ordering Trotsky's deportation. However, no other country would accept him and it was not until June, 1935, that Norway accepted him. However, they were soon encouraged to expel him. Under pressure from Joseph Stalin, the government placed him under house arrest before being deported to Mexico in December, 1936. (221)
Bulletin of the Opposition
Trotsky's son, Lev Sedov, was allowed to stay in France and became the new leader in the Left Opposition. He also became editor of the Bulletin of the Opposition, the journal "which fought against Stalinist reaction for the continuity of Marxism in the Communist International". Sedov wrote several articles about the Show Trials in the journal. These were eventually published in the book, The Red Book (1936). Leon Trotsky commented: "At that time my wife and I were captives in Norway, bound hand and foot, targets of the most monstrous slander. There are certain forms of paralysis in which people see, hear, and understand everything but are unable to move a finger to ward off mortal danger. It was to such political paralysis that the Norwegian Socialist government subjected us. What a priceless gift to us, under these conditions, was Leon's book, the first crushing reply to the Kremlin falsifiers. The first few pages, I recall, seemed to me pale. That was because they only restated a political appraisal, which had already been made, of the general condition of the USSR. But from the moment the author undertook an independent analysis of the trial, I became completely engrossed. Each succeeding chapter seemed to me better than the last."
The book begins with an analysis of Stalinism. "The old petit-bourgeois family is being reestablished and idealized in the most middle-class way; despite the general protestations, abortions are prohibited, which, given the difficult material conditions and the primitive state of culture and hygiene, means the enslavement of women, that is, the return to pre-October times. The decree of the October revolution concerning new schools has been annulled. School has been reformed on the model of tsarist Russia: uniforms have been reintroduced for the students, not only to shackle their independence, but also to facilitate their surveillance outside of school. Students are evaluated according to their marks for behavior, and these favor the docile, servile student, not the lively and independent schoolboy.... A whole institute of inspectors has been created to look after the behavior and morality of the youth."
Sedov went onto argue that Joseph Stalin was sending a message to the world that he had abandoned the Marxist concept of Permanent Revolution: "Stalin not only bloodily breaks with Bolshevism, with all its traditions and its past, he is also trying to drag Bolshevism and the October revolution through the mud. And he is doing it in the interests of world and domestic reaction.... The corpses of the old Bolsheviks must prove to the world bourgeoisie that Stalin has in reality radically changed his politics, that the men who entered history as the leaders of revolutionary Bolshevism, the enemies of the bourgeoisie - are his enemies also.... They (the Bolsheviks) are being shot and the bourgeoisie of the world must see in this the symbol of a new period. This is the end of the revolution, says Stalin. The world bourgeoisie can and must reckon with Stalin as a serious ally, as the head of a nation-state. Such is the fundamental goal of the trials in the area of foreign policy. But this is not all, it is far from all. The German fascists who cry that the struggle against communism is their historic mission find themselves most recently in a manifestly difficult position. Stalin has abandoned long ago the course toward world revolution."
Sedov looked closely at the trial of Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev. and Ivan Smirnov. He wrote that he suspected that five of the sixteen defendants (K.B. Berman-Yurin, Fritz David, Emel Lurie, N.D. Lurie and V. P. Olberg) were NKVD plants: "The defendants are sharply divided into two groups. The basic nucleus of the first group consists of old Bolsheviks, known world-wide, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and others. The second group are young unknowns, among whom are also some direct agents of the GPU; they were necessary at the trial to demonstrate that Trotsky had taken part in terrorist activity, to establish a link between Zinoviev and Trotsky, and to establish a link with the Gestapo. If after having fulfilled the tasks assigned to them by the GPU they were nonetheless shot, it is because Stalin could not leave any such well-informed witnesses alive.... The very conduct of the two groups at the trial is as different as their composition. The old men sit there absolutely broken, crushed, answer in a faint voice, even cry. Zinoviev is thin, stooped, grey, his cheeks hollow. Mrachkovsky spits blood, loses consciousness, they carry him away. They all look like people who have been run into the ground and completely exhausted. But the young rogues conduct themselves in an easy and carefree manner, they are fresh-faced, almost cheerful. They feel as though they are at a party. With unconcealed pleasure they tell about their ties with the Gestapo and all their other fables."
Sedov rejects the idea that Marxists like Trotsky would resort to assassination as a revolutionary act. He points out how followers of Karl Marx in Russia rejected the policy of the People's Will and the Socialist Revolutionaries who attempted to assassinate the Tsar and his ministers: "Individual terror sets as its task the murder of isolated individuals in order to provoke a political movement and even a political revolution. In pre-revolutionary Russia, the question of individual terror had importance not only as a general principle, but also had enormous political significance, since there existed in Russia the petit-bourgeois party of the Socialist Revolutionaries, who followed the tactic of individual terror with regard to tsarist ministers and governors. The Russian Marxists, including Trotsky during his earliest years, took part in the fight against the adventuristic tactic of individual terror and its illusions, which counted not upon the movement of the masses of workers, but on the terrorists' bomb to open the road to revolution. To individual terror, Marxism counterposes the proletarian revolution. From his youth, Trotsky adhered resolutely and forever to Marxism. If one were to publish everything which Trotsky wrote, it would make dozens of thick volumes. One would not be able to find in them a single line which betrayed an equivocal attitude toward individual terror."
Sedov quotes Leon Trotsky as saying in an article in 1911: "Whether or not a terrorist attack, even if successful, provokes disturbance in the ruling circles depends on the concrete political circumstances. In any case, this disturbance can only be short-lived; the capitalist state does not rest on ministers and cannot be destroyed together with them. The classes which it serves will always find new men; the mechanism remains intact and continues its work. But the disturbance which the terrorist attack brings to the ranks of the working masses themselves is much more profound. If it suffices to arm oneself with a revolver to arrive at the goal, why then the efforts of the class struggle? If one can intimidate high-ranking people with the thunder of an explosion, why then a party?"
In the The Red Book (1936) Sedov looks at the assassination of Sergy Kirov: "If we approach the question of individual terror in the USSR, not from a theoretical, but from a purely empirical point of view, from the point of view of so-called common sense, then it suffices to draw the following conclusion: the assassinated Kirov is immediately replaced by another Kirov-Zhdanov (Stalin has as many as he needs in reserve.) Meanwhile hundreds of people are shot, thousands, and very probably tens of thousands, are deported. The vise is tightened by several turns. If Kirov's assassination helped anyone, it is certainly the Stalinist bureaucracy. Under the cover of the struggle against terrorists, it has stifled the last manifestations of critical thought in the USSR. It has placed a heavy tombstone on all the living."
Death of Lev Sedov
Walter Krivitsky was an NKVD agent who decided to leave the service of Joseph Stalin after the recall and execution of agents such as Theodore Maly and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko. He arranged to meet Sedov in the company of Fedor Dan and warned him that there was an informer within his group. Krivitsky suggested that it might be Mark Zborowski. According to Gary Kern, the author of A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004): "Krivitsky had no desire to join the Trotskyists, but was impressed by Sedov, admiring his revolutionary fervor, hard work and austere life style."
In January 1937, the Soviet press reported that Sergei Sedov had been arrested and charged with attempting, on the instructions of his father, a mass poisoning of workers. It is believed he was executed later that year. Lev Sedov was warned of a possible assassination attempt by Alexander Orlov, another former NKVD agent. Orlov was aware of the activities of Mikhail Shpiegelglass and his clandestine unit called the Mobile Group that had murdered former agent, Ignaz Reiss. Reiss was found hiding in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland. It was claimed by Orlov that a trusted Reiss family friend, Gertrude Schildback, lured Reiss to a rendezvous, where the Mobile Group killed Reiss with machine-gun fire on the evening of 4th September 1937. Schildback was arrested by the local police and at the hotel was a box of chocolates containing strychnine. It is believed these were intended for Reiss's wife and daughter.
Lev Sedov also was warned of a possible assassination attempt by Orlov, another former NKVD agent. Orlov was aware of the activities of Mikhail Shpiegelglass and his clandestine unit called the Mobile Group that had murdered former agent, Ignaz Reiss. Reiss was found hiding in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland. It was claimed by Orlov that a trusted Reiss family friend, Gertrude Schildback, lured Reiss to a rendezvous, where the Mobile Group killed Reiss with machine-gun fire on the evening of 4th September 1937. Schildback was arrested by the local police and at the hotel was a box of chocolates containing strychnine. It is believed these were intended for Reiss's wife and daughter.
Victor Serge has pointed out that towards the end of 1937 Lev Sedov suffered from ill health. "For several months Sedov had been complaining of various indispositions, in particular of a rather high temperature in the evenings. He wasn’t able to stand up to such ill-health. He had been leading a hard life, every hour taken up by resistance to the most extensive and sinister intrigues of contemporary history – those of a regime of foul terror born out of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was obvious that his physical strength was exhausted. His spirits were good, the indestructible spirits of a young revolutionary for whom socialist activity is not an optional extra but his very reason for living, and who has committed himself in an age of defeat and demoralisation, without illusions and like a man."
Lev Sedov had severe stomach pains. On 9th February, he was taken by Mark Zborowski to the Bergere Clinic, a small establishment run by Russian émigrés connected with the Union for Repatriation of Russians Abroad in Paris. Sedov had a operation for appendicitis that evening. It was claimed that the operation was successful and was making a good recovery. However, according to Bertrand M. Patenaude, the author of Stalin's Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky (2009): "The patient appeared to be recuperating well, until the night of 13-14 February, when he was seen wandering the unattended corridors, half-naked and raving in Russian. He was discovered in the morning lying on a bed in a nearby office, critically ill. His bed and his room were soiled with excrement. A second operation was performed on the evening of 15 February, but after enduring hours of agonizing pain, the patient died the following morning."
Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) has argued that Alexander Orlov believed he was murdered: "What concerned Orlov greatly was the fact that the hospital Sedov had been taken to, and where he expired, was the small clinic of Professor Bergere in Paris. Exactly a year earlier, Orlov had been in the same clinic because of his car accident while at the front. He had been cared for at the Bergere Clinic because it was a hospital that was trusted by the KGB to take care of high-ranking Soviet officials. Professor Bergere and his staff were sympathetic towards the Communist cause and under the influence of the KGB. Orlov was in Spain at the time of Sedov's death and was unable to ascertain the complete facts, but speculated that at the moment the KGB Centre had been apprised of the circumstances by Mark, the decision had been made to take advantage of the situation and eliminate Sedov. The autopsy performed by the KGB hirelings had to have been bogus to conceal the true cause of death."
Leon Trotsky was devastated by the death of his eldest son. In a press release on 18th February he stated: "He was not only my son but my best friend." Trotsky received information from several sources that Mark Zborowski was an NKVD agent. He asked Rudolf Klement to carry out an investigation of Zborowski. According to Gary Kern "Klement put together a file and planned to take it to Brussels on July 14, where he would circulate it among various branches of the Opposition. But no one in Brussels ever saw him." Klement's headless corpse was washed ashore in August 1938. He was identified by a friend from peculiar scars and marks on the body. The death of her two sons had a dramatic impact on Natalia Sedova. The writer James T. Farrell, called Natalia's "one of the saddest faces I have ever seen".
Leon Trotsky in Mexico City
While in exile Trotsky published My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930), History of the Russian Revolution (1932) and The Russian Revolution Betrayed (1937). George Bernard Shaw said of these books: "When Trotsky cuts off his opponent's head, he holds it up to show that there are no brains in it." After the publication of the three volumes on the Russian Revolution the critic, Bertram D. Wolfe, argued: "It is a history which no historian of Russia and no historian of revolution can afford to neglect. But let him be forewarned that Trotsky's is a pen that is frequently as persuasive as it is continuously one-sided... But particularly here must the reader come well equipped with an awareness of the truths of the defeated - the more so because somewhere concealed in this blinding flood of words which record the victory of Trotsky and his party, are also some of the secrets which explain why Trotsky, too, must in the end be reckoned as one of the defeated."
Cass Canfield, the head of Harper & Brothers, persuaded Trotsky to write a book about Joseph Stalin. He meet Trotsky for the first time in 1940: "The first impression Trotsky made was one of unusual vitality and health; he was rosy-cheeked and bouncy. I was struck with his fine brow and shock of white hair, his strong face and expressive mouth. He was neatly dressed in gray trousers and a white Russian smock.... Trotsky possessed a naturally inquisitive mind and, perhaps because of his confinement to one place, was eager to learn all he could about what was going on in the world. He asked countless questions and listened carefully to everything we said. This was a response I had never encountered before from a world figure, most of whom like to do all the talking."
The Death of Leon Trotsky
Walter Krivitsky, a high-ranking intelligence officer, defected to the United States. Krivitsky was invited to appear before Martin Dies and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on 11th October, 1939. According to Joseph Brown Matthews, who was an investigator for the HUAC: "Krivitsky told me that the OGPU was determined to assassinate Trotsky and himself." Krivitsky added: "If I am ever found dead and it appears to be suicide, please don't accept that belief. It will just appear to be a suicide. But it really will be murder. Trotsky is to be murdered and I am too. Please go to Mexico City and warn Trotsky." Matthews later recalled: "I went to Mexico City soon after this conversation, and saw Trotsky... I told Trotsky what the General had said." Trotsky apparently replied: "General Krivitsky is right. We are the two men the OGPU is sworn to kill."
Joseph Stalin ordered his NKVD agents to eliminate Trotsky. Ramon Mercader became a regular visitor while he was living in Mexico City. Trotsky's wife, Natalia Sedova later recalled that he visited them on 20th August, 1940.: "He (Trotsky) brushed off his blue blouse and slowly, silently started walking towards the house accompanied by Jacson (Mercader) and myself. I came with them to the door of Lev Davidovich's study; the door closed, and I walked into the adjoining room.... Not more than three or four minutes had elapsed when I heard a terrible, soul-shaking cry and without so much as realizing who it was that uttered this cry, I rushed in the direction from which it came. Between the dining room and the balcony, on the threshold, beside the door post and leaning against it stood... Lev Davidovich. His face was covered with blood, his eyes, without glasses, were sharp blue, his hands were hanging." Stalin (1941) was published after his death.
(1) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930)
My father and mother lived out their hard-working lives with some friction, but very happily on the whole. Of the eight children born of this marriage, four survived. I was the fifth in order of birth. Four died in infancy, of diphtheria and of scarlet fever, deaths almost as unnoticed as was the life of those who survived. The land, the cattle, the poultry, the mill, took all my parents' time; there was none left for us.
We lived in a little mud house. The straw roof harboured countless sparrows' nests under the eaves. The walls on the outside were seamed with deep cracks which were a breeding place for adders. The low ceilings leaked during a heavy rain, especially in the hall, and pots and basins would be placed on the dirt floor to catch the water. The rooms were small, the windows dim; the floors in the two rooms and the nursery were of clay and bred fleas.
On the hill above the pond stood the mill - a wooden shed which sheltered a ten-horse-power steam-engine and two millstones. Here, during the first years of my childhood, my mother spent the greater part of her working hours. The mill worked not only for our own estate but for the whole neighbourhood as well. The peasants brought their grain in from ten and fifteen miles around and paid a tenth measure for the grinding.
(2) Julius Martov, letter to Pavel Axelrod on Leon Trotsky (2nd March, 1903)
Lenin has proposed to us that we admit Trotsky, whom you know, to the board of editors, with full rights. His literary work shows undeniable talent, he is quite "ours" in thought, he has wholly identified himself with the interests of Iskra, and here, abroad, he wields considerable influence, thanks to his exceptional eloquence. He speaks magnificently; he could not do better.
(3) After the 2nd Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party Leon Trotsky wrote about why the split took place.
One can say of Lenin and Martov that, even before the split, even before the Congress, Lenin was 'hard' and Martov 'soft'. And they both knew it. Lenin would glance at Martov, whom he estimated highly, with a critical and somewhat suspicious look, and Martov, feeling his glance, would look down and move his thin shoulders nervously.
How did I come to be with the 'softs' at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulich and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. The split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events. After the Congress Lenin was sick for several weeks with a nervous illness.
(4) Anatole Lunarcharsky wrote about the role of Trotsky in the failed 1905 Russian Revolution his book Silhouettes.
Trotsky's popularity among the St. Petersburg proletariat was very great by the time of his arrest, and this was increased still further by his strikingly effective and heroic behaviour at the trial. I must say that Trotsky, of all the Social Democratic leaders of 1905-06, undoubtedly showed himself, in spite of his youth, the best prepared; and he was the least stamped by the narrow émigré outlook which handicapped even Lenin. He realized better than the others what a state struggle is. He came out of the revolution, too, with the greatest gains in popularity; neither Lenin nor Martov gained much. Plekhanov lost a great deal because of the semi-liberal tendencies which he revealed. But from then on Trotsky was in the front rank.
(5) Leon Trotsky, statement made to the Petrograd Soviet (6th November, 1917)
On behalf of the Military Revolutionary Committee, I declare that the provisional government is no longer existent. Some ministers have been arrested. Others will be arrested in the course of a few days or hours. The revolutionary garrison, at the disposal of the Military-Revolutionary Committee, has dissolved the session of the Pre-Parliament. We have been on the watch here throughout the night and have followed the detachments of revolutionary soldiers and the workers' guards by telephone as they silently carried out their tasks. The citizen slept in peace, ignorant of the change from one power to another. Railway stations, the post-office, the telegraph, the Petrograd Telegraph Agency, the State Bank, have been occupied. The Winter Palace has not yet been taken, but its fate will be decided during the next few minutes.
(6) During October, 1917, Leon Trotsky's wife, Natalya Sedova, wrote about the events of the Russian Revolution.
I remember that on the morning of the second or third day after the uprising, I dropped into a room at the Smolny and found Lenin and Trotsky. With them were Dzerzhinsky, Joffe, and a crowd of others. Their faces were a greyish-green from lack of sleep; their eyes were inflamed, their collars soiled, and the room was full of smoke. It seemed to me that orders were being given as if by people who were asleep. For a moment I felt as if I were seeing it all in a dream, and that the revolution was in danger of being lost if "they" didn't get a good sleep and put on clean collars. I remember that next day I met Lenin's sister, Marya Ilinishna, and reminded her hurriedly that Lenin needed a clean collar.
(7) Maxim Gorky, New Life (7th November, 1917)
Lenin and Trotsky and their followers already have been poisoned by the rotten venom of power. The proof of this is their attitude toward freedom of speech and... toward all the ideals for which democracy was fighting. Blind fanatics and conscienceless adventurers are rushing at full speed on the road on the road to a social revolution - in actuality, it is a road toward anarchy.
(8) Maxim Gorky, New Life (10th November, 1917)
Lenin and Trotsky and all who follow them are dishonoring the Revolution, and the working-class. Imagining themselves Napoleons of socialism. The proletariat is for Lenin the same as iron ore is for a metallurgist. It is possible, taking into consideration the present conditions, to cast out of this ore a socialist state? Obviously this is impossible. Conscious workers who follow Lenin must understand that a pitiless experiment is being carried out with the Russian people which is going to destroy the best forces of the workers, and which will stop the normal growth of the Russian Revolution for a long time.
(9) In November, 1917, Lenin sent Leon Trotsky to negotiate with the Central Powers at Brest-Livosk. He wrote about these negotiations in his autobiography, My Life.
It was obvious that going on with the war was impossible. On this point there was not even a shadow of disagreement between Lenin and me. But there was another question. How had the February revolution, and, later on, the October revolution, affected the German army? How soon would any effect show itself? To these questions no answer could as yet be given. We had to try and find it in the course of the negotiations as long as we could. It was necessary to give the European workers time to absorb properly the very fact of the Soviet revolution.
(10) Leon Trotsky, speech (4th January 1918)
German soldiers and workmen, the world is with you. If you do not compel your government to renounce the peace proposals which it had the audacity to announce to the Russian Revolution, your own blood will be spent to an infinite extent! Up proletariats, up soldiers of Germany, and join the revolutionary struggle against the continuation of the war, and against the Governments which are betraying the masses ... If you wish for a general peace, make the people listen to reason. Long live the international workers' and peasants' revolution!
(11) Arthur Ransome, The Daily News (23rd January 1918)
My position was immediately behind and above the presidium, looking down on Trotsky's muscular shoulders and great head and the occasional gestures of his curiously small hands. Beyond him was that sea of men: soldiers in green and grey shirts, workers in collarless ones, or jerseys, others dressed very much like British workmen, peasants in belted red shirts and high top boots; all picked men, not elected for this assembly alone but proved. and tested in the local soviets that had chosen them as delegates. And as I watched that amazing crowd, that filled the huge hall and packed the galleries, following point by point Trotsky's exposition of the international and inter-class situation and the policy of the Revolution, I felt I would willingly give the rest of my life if it could be divided into minutes and given to men in England and France so that those of little faith who say that the Russian Revolution is discredited, could share for one minute each that wonderful experience.
(12) Lenin to Leon Trotsky after hearing that the German Army had invaded Finland in February, 1918.
We must change our policy. Military action on our part would not be able to save the revolution in Finland, but it would most certainly ruin us. We will help the Finnish workers in every way we can, but we must do it without abandoning peace. I am not sure that this will save us now. But at any rate it is the only way in which salvation is still possible.
(13) In his autobiography Leon Trotsky explained why the Soviet government signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.
On 21st February, we received new terms from Germany, framed, apparently, with the direct object of making the signing of peace impossible. By the time our delegation returned to Brest-Litovsk, these terms, as is well known, had been made even harsher. All of us, including Lenin, were of the impression that the Germans had come to an agreement with the Allies about crushing the Soviets, and that a peace on the western front was to be built on the bones of the Russian revolution.
On 3rd March our delegation signed the peace treaty without even reading it. Forestalling many of the ideas of Clemenceau, the Brest-Litovsk peace was like the hangman's noose. On 22nd March the treaty was ratified by the German Reichstag. The German Social Democrats gave their approval in advance to the future principles of Versailles.
(14) Leon Trotsky, order issued to the Red Army during the Civil War.
I give warning that if any unit retreats without orders, the first to be shot down will be the commissary of the unit, and next the commander. Brave and gallant soldiers will be appointed in their places. Cowards, dastards and traitors will not escape the bullet. This I solemnly promise in the presence of the entire Red Army.
(15) Leon Trotsky, Perspectives of World Development (1924)
For what does America need? She needs to secure her profits at the expense of the European toiling masses and thus render stable the privileged position of the upper crust of the American working class.
The further this development unfolds along this road, all the more difficult will it be for the European Social Democracy to uphold the evangel of Americanism in the eyes of the European working masses. All the more centralised will become the resistance of European labour against the master of masters, against American capitalism. All the more urgent, all the more practical and warlike will the slogan of the all-European revolution and its state form - the Soviet United States of Europe - become for the European workers.
What is the Social Democracy using to benumb and poison the consciousness of the European workers? It tells them that we - the whole of Europe, dismembered and sliced-up by the Versailles Peace - cannot get along without America, but the European Communist Party will say: You lie, we could if we wanted to. Nothing compels us to remain in an atomised Europe. It is precisely the revolutionary proletariat that can unify Europe, by transforming it into the proletarian United States of Europe.
(16) J. T. Murphy, The Errors of Trotskyism (1925)
It is said Comrade Trotsky wanted democracy to come from below, and the Central Committee wanted to introduce it from above. For Comrade Trotsky or anyone else to speak of introducing the Resolutions of the Party Conference from “below,” that is to begin with the locals spreading upwards, is to again forget the first principles of Bolshevik Party organisation, and thereby strengthen the political position of the opponents of the Party. Of what use is it to elect an Executive Committee if the decisions of the Party Congress can be effectively carried through without the election of such a committee? And this is what the proposals amounts to. It finds its echo amongst many industrialists in this country and also amongst reformist Labour leaders. The industrialists plead for more ballots, more referendums, impervious to the fact that they are simply transferring the Parliamentarism of the Labour Party to the industrial arena. The union leaders respond, and the “coming from below” turns out to be more often than not the means for preventing action than securing it.
The industrialists grasp at forms of procedure when the real issue is the organisation of the struggle against reformism due to the fact that the trade unions have yet to be won to the class war line of working class interests. It is this control of working class organisation by leaders who are opposed to the class interests of the workers and refuse to lead the workers in the fight for those interests, that makes it necessary to organise the struggle “from below” in the unions and the Labour Party. But this cannot apply to a revolutionary party based upon the interests of the working class. To apply it to such a party is to utterly demoralise it by the introduction of the reformist forces it exists to destroy. To propose such a course at an important stage in the history of the revolution, when the Party was called upon to make a tremendous strategic move, to adjust itself to an entirely new mileu, as must be the case in the change from war Communism to the NEP, was to endanger the united action of the Party by separating the C.C. from the body of the Party. Obviously if the Party is to undertake an internal transformation at the moment it has to conduct a political manœuvre it must retain unity. Such unity could only be secured under the central direction of the Executive. The high-sounding phrase of “action from below” proves to be nothing more nor less than Menshevik phrase-mongering. It reminds us of the would-be English revolutionary leaders who hide their own weakness in accusing the masses of never being ready and declaim, “They who would be free must themselves strike the blow.” Again - petty bourgeois deviation. How shall we face our October if these things take root in our Party?
(17) George Seldes wrote about Red Army in his book You Can't Print That! (1929)
Food clothing and propaganda have made the army loyal. Trotsky's personality and his knowledge of military strategy were an important factor for years. Although he has spent most of his life as a red agitator and writer, he has always been a student of military strategy, has written a book on Napoleon's manoeuvres and has been given credit for building the keenest morale and using the keenest military strategy in the numerous campaigns in which Russia defeated her enemies in the civil wars.
(18) Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1945)
I first saw Trotsky at a packed meeting of the Soviet. Trotsky was all tension and energy; he was, besides, an orator of unique quality, whose metallic voice projected a great distance, ejaculating its short sentences that were often sardonic and always infused with a truly spontaneous passion. The decision to fight to the death was taken enthusiastically, and the whole amphitheater raised a song of immense power.
He outshone Lenin through his great oratorical talent, through his organizing ability, first with the army, then on the railways, and by his brilliant gifts as a theoretician. His attitude was less homely than Lenin's, with something authoritarian about it. That, maybe, is how my friends and I saw him, we critical communists; we had much admiration for him, but no real love. His sternness, his insistence on punctuality in work and battle, the inflexible correctness of his demeanor in a period of general slackness, all imparted a certain demagogic malice to the insidious attacks that were made against him. I was hardly influenced by these considerations, but the political solutions prescribed by him for current difficulties struck me as proceeding from a character that was basically dictatorial. Had he not proposed the fusion of the trade unions with the State - while Lenin quite rightly wanted the unions to keep some of their independence?
(19) Adolph Joffe, suicide letter sent to Leon Trotsky (16th November, 1927)
I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of 'permanent revolution'. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path. Politically, you were always right, beginning with 1905, and I told you repeatedly that with my own ears I had heard Lenin admit that even in 1905, you, and not he, were right. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever. Some day the party will realize it, and history will not fail to accord recognition. Then don't lose your courage if someone leaves you know, or if not as many come to you, and not as soon, as we all would like. You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell.
(20) Leon Trotsky, interviewed by St. Louis Post-Dispatch (17th January, 1937)
The Western attorneys of the GPU represent the confessions of Zinoviev and the others as spontaneous expressions of their sincere repentance. This is the most shameless deception of public opinion that can be imagined. For almost 10 years, Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others found themselves under almost insupportable moral pressure with the menace of death approaching ever closer and closer. If an inquisitor judge were to put questions to this victim and inspire the answers, his success would be guaranteed in advance. Human nerves, even the strongest, have a limited capacity to endure moral torture.
(21) In the trial of Karl Radek, it was claimed that he was involved in a plot with Leon Trotsky to restore the capitalist system in the Soviet Union. Trotsky refuted the charge in the Manchester Guardian (6th February, 1937).
The charges in the present Moscow trial are framed with one object - that of exploiting international relations in order to suppress internal enemies. Stalin has invented nothing new. It is alleged, for instance, that in 1935 I wrote through Vladimir Romm, of whom I have never heard, to Karl Radek, with whom I have had no relations since 1928, telling him it was necessary to restore the capitalist system in the Soviet Union. But this is exactly what is being done by the new aristocracy of which Stalin is the head. Stalin is therefore merely trying to attribute to me through the person of Radek the very policy which I publicly accuse him of putting into practice. Only in the totalitarian state of Stalin, where the Soviets, the workers' organizations, the press and the Bolshevik Party are all stifled, only in that state where the bureaucracy alone can speak - a privilege that has been established as a monopoly of falsehood - only there could a trial so obviously staged as this one can take place. As a result of the defeat of the proletariat throughout the world, my views are represented only in a tiny minority in every country. The circumstances cannot now be changed, either by assassinating the Soviet bureaucracy or forming an alliance with Japan and Germany. In attributing such aims to me Stalin wishes, among other things, to compromise me before public opinion in democratic countries, and in this way deprive me of finding asylum anywhere. I reject all the statements concerning me made by the defendants. Not a single word is true. I consider that my political task is, before everything else, to destroy the control which the Soviet bureaucracy now has over an important section of the working class of the world. This political and theoretical work, which is not secret and which anyone may inspect and criticize, gives me every satisfaction because it is devoted to mankind of the future.
(22) The Granat Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution was first published by the Soviet government in 1924. Revised versions were published at regular intervals. The encyclopaedia included a collection of autobiographies and biographies of over two hundred people involved in the Russian Revolution. It included a biography of Leon Trotsky.
In 1924 a collection of Trotsky's articles appeared with a preface entitled 'The Lessons of October'. In it the whole Bolshevik concept of revolution underwent revision and the basis of the opposition platform became the hypothesis of permanent revolution, that is, Trotsky's fundamental error, his disparagement of the role of the peasantry in the revolution. This led to the formation of a Trotskyite party and a struggle with the Communist Central Committee. The latter could not reply to this in any other way than by expelling Trotsky and the opposition from its ranks.
(23) Robin Page Arnot, Fascist Agents Exposed in the Moscow Trials (1938)
Systematic efforts have been made by the reactionary capitalist press and elements within the Labour movement to create the opinion that the accused are convicted mainly upon testimony of their own confessions and a subtle attempt is made to create prejudice by printing the word “confession” within quotation marks.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all it should be noted that the detailed avowals of guilt are not confessions at all in the ordinary sense of the word, in the sense of “making a clean breast of it.” The prisoners talk about things which are already proved and which they cannot deny. Their statements concern mainly the question of the degree of guilt or their own share, large or small, in specific criminal activities. An interesting illustration of this was provided by the accused Krestinsky in connection with the letter which he claimed to have sent to Trotsky in 1927, severing his connection with the Trotskyist movement. During the first day of the trial, he insisted that the contents of this letter cleared him of all suspicions and demanded to know why it had not been produced. Two days later to his obvious discomfiture the very letter was produced in court by State Prosecutor Vyshinsky. After Rakovsky, who had read the letter in 1927, had identified it, and Krestinsky had agreed that the identification was correct, Vyshinsky read the contents only to disclose the fact that they were entirely different in meaning to that which Krestinsky had endeavoured to give them two days before.
Similarly the police spy Zubarev, confronted with the Tsarist police inspector under whose direction he had worked in Kotelnich during 1908-09 looked for all the world as though he had suddenly seen a ghost from his own past. The confrontation of Bukharin with the “Left” Social-Revolutionaries Karelin and Kamkov with whom he had been in conspiratorial alliance in 1918 to overthrow the Soviet Government, arrest and kill Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov and form a new government of Bukharinites and “Left” Social-Revolutionaries was as conclusive as it was dramatic, and was backed up by the production of three of the people who had been members of Bukharin’s own group of “Left” Communists at that time and who had participated in the plot.
Expert testimony from authoritative medical men in the Soviet Union in connection with the murder of Gorky, Kuibyshev, Menshinsky and Pashkov-Gorky, documentary evidence and the evidence of facts: train wrecks, slaughter of large numbers of livestock, attempts at bandit insurrections, etc., combined to build a cast-iron case for the prosecution out of which, despite all their wriggling, attempts at evasion and efforts to shift responsibility from their own shoulders to others, not one of the accused could escape. But in the case of no individual or crime did Vyshinsky depend solely upon the testimony of the accused.
In this connection it is interesting to note that if the propaganda of the pro-fascist section of the capitalist press, and the confused Liberal and Socialist journals were based upon fact, the whole assortment of counter-revolutionary traitors united in these blocs would have been arrested and disposed of 20 months before, immediately following the much-vaunted “confessions” (as hostile newspapers print it) of the prisoners convicted during the trial of the Trotskyist-Zinoviev group. It is obvious that the prisoners convicted in the Zinoviev, trial, held back what they certainly knew, and only admitted their guilt in those crimes of which the proof was already so overwhelming that denial was futile. By discussing these proofs of crimes with the prosecutor in court, by questioning witnesses, cross-examinations, and energetic defence, each of the prisoners tried to the best of his ability or the ability of the lawyers defending him, to evade some measure of responsibility and to lighten the punishment to be meted out to him. The actions of the prisoners themselves during the trial, their final speeches and their last minute appeals for clemency, all showed very clearly that from beginning to end their fight was carried on to evade full punishment for crimes of which the State Prosecutor already had such overwhelming proof as to secure conviction from any court.
(24) In 1930 Herbert Morrison, a member of the Labour government, visited the Soviet Union. He wrote about the visit in An Autobiography (1960)
The interpreter-guide attached to our party was a woman who had lived for some time in the Middle West of the U.S.A. and spoke English with a strong Chicago accent. On a tour of the Revolutionary War Museum in Leningrad she was anxious to show us old history while I was more interested in relics of the 1917 revolution.
I was immediately struck by the fact that there was no trace whatever of Trotsky's contribution to the revolution. I asked the lady why this was and she replied:
"He had nothing to do with the military side of the revolution."
I protested that I had read about his activities from day to day in the newspapers at the time and that he had been very active indeed. "Trotsky was chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee according to the bulletins issued by Lenin himself," I added.
She denied this categorically, and when I said that it was ridiculous not to accept facts which were on record she snapped angrily: "That's what we are taught at the school of interpreters and that's the end of it."
(25) Leon Trotsky, Stalin (4th January, 1937).
Much was said in the Moscow trial about my alleged "hatred" for Stalin. Much was said in the Moscow trial about it, as one of the motives of my politics. Toward the greedy caste of upstarts which oppresses the people "in the name of socialism" I have nothing but irreducible hostility, hatred if you like. But in this feeling there is nothing personal. I have followed too closely all the stages of the degeneration of the revolution and the almost automatic usurpation of its conquests; I have sought too stubbornly and meticulously the explanation for these phenomena in objective conditions for me to concentrate my thoughts and feelings on one specific person. My standing does not allow me to identity the real stature of the man with the giant shadow it casts on the screen of the bureaucracy. I believe I am right in saying I have never rated Stalin so highly as to be able to hate him.
(26) Leon Trotsky, The Trial of the Seventeen (22nd January, 1937).
How could these old Bolsheviks who went through the jails and exiles of Czarism, who were the heroes of the civil war, the leaders of industry, the builders of the party, diplomats, turn out at the moment of "the complete victory of socialism" to be saboteurs, allies of fascism, organizer of espionage, agents of capitalist restoration? Who can believe such accusations? How can anyone be made to believe them. And why is Stalin compelled to tie up the fate of his personal rule with these monstrous, impossible, nightmarish juridical trials?First and foremost, I must reaffirm the conclusion I had previously drawn that the ruling tops feel themselves more and more shaky. The degree of repression is always in proportion to the magnitude of the danger. The omnipotence of the soviet bureaucracy, its privileges, its lavish mode of life, are not cloaked by any tradition, any ideology, any legal norms. The ruling caste is unable, however, to punish the opposition for its real thoughts and actions. The unremitting repressions are precisely for the purpose of preventing the masses from the real program of Trotskyism, which demands first of all more equality and more freedom for the masses.
(27) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)
Stalin and Trotsky were antagonists by character and circumstances. Trotsky was brilliant, proud, and independent. He did not join the Communist Party until 1917, whereas Stalin had nailed his flag to Lenin's mast as early as 1902, and had never wavered in allegiance. After my first interview with him in the autumn of 1929 I wrote that he was "the inheritor of Lenin's mantle". He changed the phrase to "Lenin's faithful disciple and the prolonger of his work". There is a parallel which suggests itself. I mean the story in the New Testament about the labourers in the vineyard when some of them were hired in the early morning to work all day for a penny. At noon others were hired, for the same wage, and late in the evening a group was brought in to rush the work to completion, who still received the full penny, although they were only working for an hour or so in the cool of twilight. I have forgotten the moral of this parable, but quite naturally the morning-hired workers objected bitterly to the fact that the latest comers received the same pay as they who had sweated and laboured throughout the heat of the day.
That was Stalin's position with regard to Trotsky. When most of the Bolshevik leaders fled abroad after the abortive revolution of 1905-06, Stalin stuck it out in Russia to continue the seemingly hopeless task of organising the remnants of the Bolshevik cause under one of the most bloody and pitiless repressions in history. More than any other he "sweated in the heat of the day", tireless and persistent, always being arrested yet always escaping somehow, until at last they caught him in 1914, and exiled him to the far north of the Ural Mountains within the Arctic Circle, whence escape was impossible. Even there he never lost heart. He made friends with his guards and went hunting with them and outshot them. While other exiles sat and moped or died of cold and hunger Stalin shot bears and wolves and ptarmigan, caught fish through ice, ate well and kept himself fit and strong and warm with thick skins and fur. Because there was an indomitable purpose in his heart. He was not brilliant like Trotsky nor clever in the use of words; nor had he the humanity of Lenin, who ordered a Christmas-tree for the children on the country estate where he was living in the year before he died. Stalin would never have done that.
It is not too much to say that Stalin held together the Bolshevik Party in Russia during the bitter years which followed Igo6. In those years a Bolshevik who did not weaken was a real man, and it was Stalin who picked these men, who saw them stand up or break under pressure and judged them by results. Intellectually Stalin is more limited than Trotsky, but one of the dangers of intellectual unlimitedness is that its possessor cannot believe wholeheartedly in anything except himself. Thus Trotsky believed in Trotsky, but Stalin believed in Lenin and in the Bolshevik cause and thought of himself as no more than an instrument or "chosen vessel". In this last phrase is implied all the resistless power of fanaticism when its exponent is, like Stalin, a man of inflexible will and great political adroitness. It is probable that Trotsky and Stalin are equally ambitious, but whereas Trotsky's ambition was personal, Stalin had sublimated his ambition to service of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, which gave him added strength.
Unlike most of the Bolshevik leaders, Stalin never raised his voice in opposition to Lenin on any point at any time. It was impossible, therefore, for him to forgive Trotsky's continuous criticism, which was further damned by his natural exasperation against this labourer who had been hired at the eleventh hour. He possessed, moreover, a strong weapon against Trotsky's brilliance - his Oriental patience and vindictive willingness to bide his time. Raymond Robbins once told me that he knew Stalin in the first winter of 1917-8. "He sat outside the door of Lenin's office like a sentry," said Robbins, "watching everyone who went in and out, no less faithful than a sentry and, as far as we then knew, not much more important.' In March, 1922, Stalin received the reward of his faithful watching. He was made General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which gave him, as he well knew, control of the Party machine. One month later Lenin was stricken, and Stalin and the others in the know must have guessed what we foreigners only learned later, that Lenin's sickness was mortal. While Lenin lived and had his strength, the Party Secretariat was no more than an important cog in the machine which Lenin had created and controlled, but with Lenin weakened and dying the cog became the keystone of the Soviet arch.
(28) Leon Trotsky, Hitler's Austria Coup (12th March, 1938).
There is a tragic symbolism in the fact that the Moscow trial is ending under the fanfare announcing the entry of Hitler into Austria. The coincidence is not accidental. Berlin is of course perfectly informed about the demoralization which the Kremlin clique in its struggle for self-preservation carried into army and the population of the country. Stalin did not move a finger last year when Japan seized two Russian islands on the Amur river: he was then busy executing the best Red generals. With all the more assurance during the new trial could Hitler send his troops into Austria. No matter what one's attitude toward the defendants at the Moscow trials, no matter how one judges their conduct in the clutches of the G.P.U., all of them - Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Piatakov, Radek, Rykov, Bukharin, and many others. - have by the whole course of their lives proved their disinterested devotion to the Russian people and their struggle for liberation.
(29) In March, 1937, Leon Trotsky, wrote an article, Amoralism and Kronstadt , where he replied to charges made by Wendelin Thomas, that Bolshevism and Stalinism were closely linked. Thomas used the example of how Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, dealt with opponents such as the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Kronstadt Rebellion.
Your evaluation of the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921 is basically incorrect. The best, most sacrificing sailors were completely withdrawn from Kronstadt and played an important role at the fronts and in the local Soviets throughout the country. What remained was the grey mass with big pretensions, but without political education and unprepared for revolutionary sacrifice. The country was starving. The Kronstadters demanded privileges. The uprising was dictated by a desire to get privileged food rations.
No less erroneous is your estimate of Makhno. In himself he was a mixture of fanatic and adventurer. He became the concentration of the very tendencies which brought about the Kronstadt Uprising. Makhno created a cavalry of peasants who supplied their own horses. They were not downtrodden village poor whom the October Revolution first awakened, but the strong and well-fed peasants who were afraid of losing what they had.
The anarchist ideas of Makhno (the ignoring of the State, non-recognition of the central power) corresponded to the spirit of the kulak cavalry as nothing else could. I should add that the hatred of the city and the city worker on the part of the followers of Makhno was complemented by the militant anti-Semitism.
(30) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)
That disaffected elements existed apart from the small devoted group of Trotsky's adherents, particularly among senior (in length of membership) ranks of the Bolshevik Party, is obvious and natural enough. There were those who grumbled that the growing tendency to regard Stalin as a superman had destroyed Party Democracy as they had known it in the old days. Others as professional revolutionaries, or breakers-down, failed to readjust themselves as builders and executives, and rationalised their failure in terms of jealousy of the earlier labourers in the vineyard towards those who were called at the eleventh hour. Others again objected to the Stalinist theory of greater reward for greater service, to the new patriotism and to the conception of the U.S.S.R. as a world Power dealing with other Powers on terms of equality and friendship rather than as a disruptive force of permanent revolution. The number of malcontents was increased by personal grievance or disappointment no less than by ideological causes. All this provided fertile soil in which the Trotskyists could sow the seeds of disintegration and corruption.
It is further true that in totalitarian states no opposition can be permitted, because the idea of the state has been deified and opposition is therefore a Deadly Sin, which forces oppositionists to work underground and not only to become conspirators but to gravitate towards each other and towards a common centre, if there is one. The Trotskyists offered such a centre and in consequence, as in the case of the abortive revolt against Hitler in 1934, an odd lot of the most divers elements became associated in common hostility towards the regime. Furthermore, the nature of conspiracies is such that those engaged in them move almost imperceptively from step to step. They begin as malcontents for one reason or another, they associate with other malcontents and gradually pass from grumbling to thoughts of action. Their aims become more definite, or more definite aims are suggested to them by others, until at last they find themselves committed to a line of conduct which they would never have contemplated at the outset. And to the question, `How could a man like Tukhachevsky betray his country's secrets to a potential enemy?', the answer is that he did not change at one fell swoop from a loyal soldier to a traitor, but was subjected to a creeping malady of disintegration and ultimate self-justification for a deed he might earlier have abhorred.
Thus one reaches a final synthesis, as follows:
(a) Trotsky was fanatically determined to overthrow the Stalinist regime.
(b) Hitler was fanatically determined to "expand eastwards" at the expense of the U.S.S.R.
(c) Both Hitler and Trotsky had at their disposal efficient organisations to develop conspirative action, sabotage and espionage within the U.S.S.R. and to conduct propaganda abroad.
(d) Opportunities for contact between Germany (and Japan) and the anti-Stalinist conspirators both inside and outside the U.S.S.R. were not lacking.
The conclusion is inevitable.
It cannot be negatived by foreign bewilderment over the "mystery" of the trials and of the confessions made by the accused, or by foreign belief that the morale of the Red Army has been gravely impaired and that the whole U.S.S.R. is engulfed in a flood of hysterical witch-hunting. The Kremlin's enemies have used this belief and bewilderment to weaken, at a most critical period, the international prestige of the U.S.S.R., but that does not alter the fact that their Trojan horse is broken and its occupants destroyed.
(31) Leon Trotsky, The Kronstadt Rebellion (July, 1938)
The truth of the matter is that I personally did not participate in the least in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion, nor in the repressions following the suppression. In my eyes this very fact is of no political significance. I was a member of the government, I considered the quelling of the rebellion necessary and therefore bear responsibility for the suppression. Concerning the repressions, as far as I remember, Dzerzhinsky had personal charge of them and Dzerhinsky could not tolerate anyone's interference with his functions (and property so). Whether there were any needless victims I do not know. On this score I trust Dzerzhinsky more than his belated critics. Victor Serge's conclusions on this score - from third hand - have no value in my eyes. But I am ready to recognize that civil war is no school of humanism. Idealists and pacifists always accused the revolution of "excesses". But the main point is that "excesses" flow from the very nature of the revolution which in itself is but an "excess" of history.
(32) Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution (1932)
We may lay this down as a law: Revolutionary governments are the more liberal, the more tolerant, the more "magnanimous" to the reaction, the shallower their program, the more they are bound up with the past, the more conservative their role. And the converse: the more gigantic their tasks and the greater the number of vested rights and interests they are to destroy, the more concentrated will be the revolutionary power, the more naked its dictatorship.
(33) Bertram D. Wolfe, Strange Communists I Have Known (1966)
I cannot close this all too brief analysis of these three stout volumes (on The Russian Revolution) without at least a word on what the historian will find in them.
First, there is a powerful and eloquent statement of the doctrines and dogmas that guided Lenin and Trotsky in 1917.
Second, there are brilliant word pictures of scenes of revolution and masses in action.
Third, there are remarkable profiles, one-sided and unfair to the point of caricature, but always vivid and revealing, of all the principle actors.
Fourth, there is an account, unparalleled in historical literature, of the strategy and tactics, the military moves, in the preparation of the deceptive conspiracy of October to seize power under the guise of merely defending the revolution. Trotsky exults in his skill in disguising every step in the offensive as a defensive action, and enjoys now his recollection and meticulous exposition after the events of all the details which he knew better than any other man, even Lenin; for it was he, as Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee and Petrograd Soviet, who plotted every step, wrapped each maneuver in the brazen impudence of his eloquence, and personally directed the fulfillment of each measure. The chapters on the "Military Revolutionary Committee" and on the "Conquest of the Capital" are not equaled by all the other literature on the event put together.
Fifth, this history lays bare, both where it intends and where it does not intend, the soul of one of the principal actors in the October seizure of power - at the brief moment of consummation, the most important actor.
Finally, it is a history which no historian of Russia and no historian of revolution can afford to neglect. But let him be forewarned that Trotsky's is a pen that is frequently as persuasive as it is continuously one-sided. It is always the historian's duty, too often neglected out of worship of the bitch-goddess Success, to seek out the truths of the defeated along with the truths that get published by the victors. But particularly here must the reader come well equipped with an awareness of the truths of the defeated - the more so because somewhere concealed in this blinding flood of words which record the victory of Trotsky and his party, are also some of the secrets which explain why Trotsky, too, must in the end be reckoned as one of the defeated.
(34) James Cannon, speech. Leon Trotsky Memorial meeting held at the Diplomat Hotel in New York City on August 28, 1940.
Comrade Trotsky's entire conscious life, from the time he entered the workers' movement in the provincial Russian town of Nikolayev at the age of eighteen up till the moment of his death in Mexico City forty-two years later, was completely dedicated to work and struggle for one central idea. He stood for the emancipation of the workers and all the oppressed people of the world, and the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism by means of a social revolution. In his conception, this liberating social revolution requires for success the leadership of a revolutionary political party of the workers' vanguard.
In his entire conscious life Comrade Trotsky never once diverged from that idea. He never doubted it, and never ceased to struggle for its realization. On his deathbed, in his last message to us, his disciples-his last testament-he proclaimed his confidence in his life-idea: "Tell our friends I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International - go forward!"
Trotsky himself believed that ideas are the greatest power in the world. Their authors may be killed, but ideas, once promulgated, live their own life. If they are correct ideas, they make their way through all obstacles. This was the central, dominating concept of Comrade Trotsky's philosophy. He explained it to us many, many times. He once wrote: "It is not the party that makes the program [the idea]; it is the program that makes the party." In a personal letter to me, he once wrote: "We work with the most correct and powerful ideas in the world, with inadequate numerical forces and material means. But correct ideas, in the long run, always conquer and make available for themselves the necessary material means and forces."
Trotsky, a disciple of Marx, believed with Marx that "an idea, when it permeates the mass, becomes a material force." Believing that, Comrade Trotsky never doubted that his work would live after him. Believing that, he could proclaim on his deathbed his confidence in the future victory of the Fourth International which embodies his ideas. Those who doubt it do not know Trotsky.
Trotsky himself believed that his greatest significance, his greatest value, consisted not in his physical life, not in his epic deeds, which overshadow those of all heroic figures in history in their sweep and their grandeur-but in what he would leave behind him after the assassins had done their work. He knew that his doom was sealed, and he worked against time in order to leave everything possible to us, and through us to mankind. Throughout the eleven years of his last exile he chained himself to his desk like a galley slave and labored, as none of us knows how to labor, with such energy, such persistence and self-discipline, as only men of genius can labor. He worked against time to pour out through his pen the whole rich content of his mighty brain and preserve it in permanent written form for us, and for those who will come after us.
(35) C. L. R. James, Stalin and Socialism (1937)
In the Testament, Lenin, as superior to his contemporaries in grasp of men as of politics, had warned the party of a probable split between Trotsky and Stalin. It was, he said, a trifle, but "a trifle as may acquire a decisive significance." Lenin believed in historical materialism but he did not underestimate the significance of individuals, and the full immensity of the consequences are visible today.
Yet, as Lenin, quite obviously saw, the immediate origin of the danger was personal. Lenin did not say so in so many words. The Testament is very carefully phrased, but all through the civil war there had been clashes between Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin, with Zinoviev and Kamenev, who supported him at first, hated Trotsky, but Stalin hated him with a hatred which saw in him the chief obstacle to his power; Zinoviev and Kamenev Stalin knew he could manage. Zinoviev on his part feared Trotsky, but feared Stalin also. He had the idea of balancing one against the other. But he went with Stalin for the time being. What manner of man was this who was so soon to usurp Lenin's position and attempt to play Lenin's part? No man of this generation, few men of any other, could have done this adequately.
Lenin, first and foremost, knew political economy as few professors in a university did. He was-absolute master of political theory and practice. He knew the international working class movement of the great countries of Europe, not only their history theoretically interpreted by historical materialism, but from years of personal experience in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. He spoke almost faultless German and wrote the language like a second tongue. He was at home in French and English and could read other European languages with ease. Intellectual honesty was with him a fanatical passion, and to his basic conception of allying the highest results of his theoretical and practical knowledge in the party to the instinctive movements of millions, honesty before the party and before the masses was for him essential. The range and honesty of his intellect, his power of will, the singular selflessness and devotion of his personal character, added to a great knowledge and understanding of men, enabled him to use all types of intellect and character in a way that helped to lift the Bolshevik party between 1917 and 1923 to the full height of the stupendous role it was called upon to fulfill. No body of men ever did so much, and how small most of them really were we can realise only by looking at what they became the moment their master left them. Lenin made them what they were. He was sly and manoeuvred as all who have to manage men must manoeuvre. But through all the disagreements of those years which often reached breaking-point he never calumniated, exiled, imprisoned or murdered any leaders of his party. He was bitter in denunciation, often unfair, but never personally malicious. He was merciless to political enemies, but he called them enemies, and proclaimed aloud that if they opposed the Soviet regime he would shoot them and keep on shooting them. But Trotsky tells us how careful he was of the health of his colleagues; hard as he was it is easy to feel in his speeches, on occasions when the party was being torn by disputes, a man of strong emotions and sensitiveness to human personality. In his private life he set an unassuming example of personal incorruptibility and austere living. No man could ever fill his place, but it was not impossible that someone able and willing to act in his tradition could have carried on where he left off, and all knew that Trotsky was best fitted for that difficult post. Lenin had designated him as such in the Testament. But the irony, the cruellest tragedy of the post-war world is, that without a break the leadership of the over-centralised and politically dominant Bolshevik party passed from one of the highest representatives of European culture to another who, in every respect except singlemindedness of purpose, was the very antithesis of his predecessor.
(36) Leon Trotsky, Art and Politics in Our Epoch (1938)
Generally speaking, art is an expression of man’s need for an harmonious and complete life, that is to say, his need for those major benefits of which a society of classes has deprived him. That is why a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious, active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always forms part of a really creative piece of work. Every new tendency in art has begun with rebellion.
(37) Clare Sheridan , Russian Portraits (1921)
19th October, 1920: Trotsky's car came at 6.30. Nicholas Andrev had been having tea with me, and I offered to give him a lift, as he lives somewhere near the War Ministry. It was snowing hard and there was a driving wind, which lifted up the frozen snow and blew it about like white smoke. The car had a hood, but no sides. In the Red Square we punctured. For some time we sat patiently watching the passers-by falling down on the slippery pavement, and the horse-carts struggling up the hill. Winter has come very suddenly and one month too soon. The horses have not yet been shod for the slippery roads, consequently they can hardly stand up. This morning I counted four down all at the same moment. In London a fallen horse attracts a good deal of attention, and a crowd collects, but here no one even turns his head to look. I have been much laughed at because I stop to watch, but the method of getting the horse up amuses me. The driver (man or woman, as the case may be) gets behind and pushes the cart. The horse, so weak that he has no resisting power, impelled forward by the shafts, struggles to his feet in spite of himself. No unharnessing is necessary. This evening, when I became too cold to be interested any longer by the passers-by falling in the square, I asked the chauffeur if he had nearly finished. He answered 'Sichas' which literally translated is "immediately", but in practice means tomorrow, or next week! So I pulled up the fur collar of my inadequate cloth coat, put my feet up lengthways on the seat, and let Andrew sit on them to keep them warm. I arrived at Trotsky's at 7.30. He looked at me and then at the clock. I explained what had happened. "So that is the reason of your inexactitude," he said; an inexactitude which could not in the least inconvenience him as he did not have to wait for me. He kissed my frozen hand, and put two chairs for me by the fire, one for me and one for my feet. When I had melted and turned on all the lights of the crystal candelabra he said: "We will have an agreement, quite businesslike; I shall come and stand by the side of your work for five minutes every half hour." Of course the five minutes got very enlarged, and we talked and worked and lost all track of time. When the telephone rang he asked: "Have I your permission?" His manners are charming. I said to him: "I cannot get over it, how amiable and courteous you are. I understood you were a very disagreeable man. What am I to say to people in England when they ask me: What sort of a monster is Trotsky?" With a mischievous look he said: "Tell them in England, tell them" (but I cannot tell them!). I said to him: "You are not a bit like your sister." The shadow of a smile crossed his face, but he did not answer.
I showed him photographs of my work and he kept the ones of the "Victory". Among the portraits he liked "Asquith" best, and said that that one was worked with more feeling and care than any of the others. He took for granted that Asquith must like me, which is not necessarily the case, and said half-laughingly: "You have given me an idea - if Asquith comes back into office soon (there is a rumour that he might bring in a Coalition with Labour, and recognise Russia) I will hold you as a hostage until England makes peace with us." I laughed: `What you are saying humorously is what a British official told me seriously, only he said it a propos of Winston. As a matter of fact, I'd be proud if I could be of any use in the cause of peace. But if you said you would shoot me, Winston would only say "shoot"' - which is, to my mind, the right spirit, and exactly the spirit that prevails among the Bolsheviks. They would not hesitate to shoot me (some of them have told me so) if it were necessary, even if they liked me as a woman. Winston is the only man I know in England who is made of the stuff that Bolsheviks are made of. Ile has fight, force and fanaticism.
Towards the end of the evening, as Trotsky said nothing more about the project of my going to the front, I asked him if he had decided to take me or not. He said: "It is for you to decide if you wish to come - but I shall not start for three or four days." It was getting late and he looked very tired. He was standing in front of the clay with his back to it, so that I had the two profiles exactly in line. His eyes were shut and he swayed. For a moment I feared he was going to faint. One does not think of Trotsky as a man who faints, but anything may happen to a man who works as he does. My thought was of my work, and I said to him: "Do not fall backward, or you fall on my work." He answered quickly: Je tombe toujours en avant! I asked him to order the motor, having realised that unless he sends for it I have to wait outside in the cold or look for it in the garage. While the car was coming round he sent for a reproduction of a portrait of himself by an artist friend of his, to show me that the same difficulties that I am having with his jaw and chin were experienced also by the draughtsman who only succeeded in this, the last of a great many sketches. It is evidently one that Trotsky likes, for it is reproduced in colour in almost every office one goes into. I told him I wanted it and he wrote upon it "Tovarisch (which means Comrade) Clare Sheridan", and signed it. This has its effect on the Bolsheviks who have been into my room and seen it.
(38) Clare Sheridan , Russian Portraits (1921)
20th October, 1920: At one time, in his youth, what was he? A Russian exile in a journalist's office. Even then I am told he was witty, but with the wit of bitterness. Now he has come into his own and has unconsciously developed a new individuality. He has the manner and ease of a man born to a great position; he has become a statesman, a ruler, a leader. But if Trotsky were not Trotsky, and the world had never heard of him, one would still appreciate his very brilliant mind. The reason I have found him so much more difficult to do than I expected is on account of his triple personality. He is the cultured, well-read man, he is the vituperative fiery politician, and he can be the mischievous laughing school-boy with a dimple in his cheek. All these three I have seen in turn, and have had to converge them into clay interpretation.
(39) Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Daily Telegraph (11th October, 2009)
Trotsky, like Mao and to some extent Lenin, has long been one of those Communist titans who, for some, achieved the status of fashionable radical saints, even in the democracies that they would have destroyed in an orgy of bloodletting. Trotsky’s glamour derives from his role as Stalin’s greatest enemy, but he was also wonderfully equipped for his role as revolutionary statesman – and to be a hero to misguided Westerners and schoolboys.
He possessed the necessary looks and style – the blue eyes, the shock of hair, the round glasses, the fine suits – to go with the wizardly oratory and flamboyant writing. He was the coiner of many a felicitous sentence – Stalin was the 'most eminent mediocrity in the Party’ while the enemies of the Bolsheviks in 1917 were destined for the 'dustbin of history’. His memoirs dominate subsequent histories not only of his own life but of Stalin’s, too.
While Lenin and Mao have been recast as brutal monsters not unlike Stalin himself, the best biography of Trotsky remained, until recently, Isaac Deutscher’s reverent trilogy with its revealing titles The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed, The Prophet Outcast. Now, in the last of his triptych of Bolshevik leaders (Lenin and Stalin already published), Robert Service delivers an outstanding, fascinating biography of this dazzling titan. It is compelling as an adventure story – the ultimate rise and fall – but also revelatory as the scholarly revision of a historical reputation.
The most dramatic revelations come in the early part of the book. Service, often using discarded archival drafts of his subject’s own writings, shows how Trotsky was born Lev Bronstein, the son of an extremely rich Jewish entrepreneur farmer in the New Russia around the Black Sea, a man who was, in his way, as exceptional as his son. The portrait of Trotsky’s forgotten world of Jewish farmers and poverty-stricken Russian aristocrats is eccentric and intriguing. Trotsky himself hid much of his background that Service reveals for the first time.
On the Jewish question, Trotsky regarded his Jewishness as irrelevant – he saw himself as an internationalist. As a young revolutionary, his life contained the same escapes and exiles as young Stalin’s, although he never pulled off the bank robberies and assassinations of his nemesis. Service shows how, while Trotsky (surprisingly) lacked Lenin’s burning, furious will to power, he was nevertheless the true star of 1905. He only joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, but it was he who was the real organiser of the October 1917 Revolution.
There is no doubt that Trotsky was the greatest orator of the Revolution. But his real importance only lasted for about five years. As People’s Commissar for War, he was indispensable and remarkable as a warlord – the creator of the Red Army – despite having no military training, Service shows. He was as ruthless in the killing of class enemies as Lenin or Stalin, but in politics, Stalin outplayed him at every turn.
Although Lenin regarded Trotsky and Stalin as his two most able henchmen, Trotsky diffidently rejected Lenin’s attempts to play him against Stalin. Lenin appealed to his ambition but somehow Trotsky lacked the killer instinct. He failed to push for power because he expected to be granted it for his genius. His arrogance, intellect, flashiness and his Jewishness certainly offended ordinary Bolsheviks. And because he would not canvass support, Stalin easily united Lenin’s heirs, Zinoviev and Kamenev, then Bukharin, against him, removing him from the War Commissariat in 1925 and driving him into exile in 1929.The exile was a tragic slow decline as his children were killed one by one by Stalin and the father was hunted down to Mexico.
While Service clearly enjoys revealing Trotsky’s career as a ladies’ man in the glory days – including an early affair with the English sculptress Clare Sheridan and in exile with the artist Frida Kahlo – nothing quite prepares one for his strange letter to console his wife Natalya for his adultery: "I’m thinking with tenderness about your sweet, old - I’m going to.... you with my tongue and my...."
In some ways, Mexican bohemians suited him better than Kremlin Bolsheviks. Here Service’s countdown to Trotsky’s assassination complements the excellent, exciting Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky by Bertrand M Patenaude, which charts, with novelistic flair and in archival detail, the progress of the plot that culminated in Trotsky being killed with an ice axe in 1940.
(40) Eugene Lyons, The Life and Death of Sacco and Vanzetti (1927)
The defeat of Trotsky was complicated by personal antagonisms, theoretical disputes, and a struggle for sheer power. In essence, however, it was a repudiation of Leftism. The Russian people, including the communists, were in a mood for truce. The failure of revolutionary efforts in Germany, Hungary, and China had bankrupted the hope for world revolution and foreign allies. Millionfold classes, not the least of them being the vast bureaucratic apparatus and entrenched police machine, had developed a sizable stake in the status quo of Nep. The existing system, like any system ever devised, had developed a robust will to survive-to make a permanent abode of the historical half-way house. In attacking the talk about "permanent revolution" and more vigorous struggle against Nep, Stalin had voiced the weariness and the despair of a people surfeited with struggle and sacrifice.
The Party membership itself was in the main content to let things be. It had been considerably watered in the last years by the admission of hundreds of thousands of new members without personal memory or intimate relation to the old revolutionary struggle. The admixture was largely from the factories. The diluted Party may have become much more "proletarian," but its cultural average was lowered and its contempt for intellectuals raised. Never much enamored of democratic rights, unable indeed to grasp the meaning of such rights, the newcomers were not impressed with efforts to safeguard the relative internal Party democracy that had existed under Lenin. The strong-arm methods of less finicky men were closer to their inherited tastes. As long as they held their jobs and their privileged status, they were content to shift the responsibility of thinking upon "practical," down-to-earth professional leaders.
Stripped of all secondary factors, the defeat of Trotsky expressed a genuine and growing annoyance with intellectuals and idealistic "dreamers," with world revolution and with new revolutions at home. It reflected a natural yearning to settle down and bite into the fruits of the revolution.
It was a reaction, when all is said and done, against internationalists and Westernizers (a large portion of them Jews, it happened) and a straining back to folk ways and national self-sufficiency. Though not consciously anti-Semitic, the movement had distinct anti-Semitic undercurrents, in that it reacted against the Jewish type of mind: idealistic, missionary, and without tough roots in the Russian soil. To the extent that the reaction turned inward along national lines, threw off its "duty to the world revolution," repudiated intellectualism and handed over all power to divinely inspired leaders, it was distinctly "fascist."
Stalin's rough ways may have aroused misgivings in the heart of the dying Lenin; they aroused a comforting confidence in the people trained by a thousand years of history to expect and respect naked power, a people distrustful of democratic gadgets. Stalin might be a swarthy Georgian, but his methods - cunning, patient, brutal - were Russian compared with the loose idealistic talk of Westernized alien minded Lefts.
In adopting the main features of Trotsky's program, except for its international implications, Stalin was therefore thumbing his Caucasian nose at the tides on which he had ridden to the dictatorial apex. Confident that his political machine was now invulnerable, he pitted his will against his closest advisers, against the mass of the population, and against the majority of his Party.
No estimate of popular sentiment, naturally, can ever be made. I can only record my own certainty at the time that the country and the Party were overwhelmingly Right and accepted Stalin's unexpected course in a sullen and frightened spirit. Every time the Kremlin in a speech or decree hinted a let-up in socialization, greater leeway for the abler peasants, more immediate comforts for the workers, wider private trade-in short, a tendency toward the Right-the feeling of relief in Moscow was unmistakable.
On the eleventh birthday of the revolution, November 7, 1928, the course was still uncertain. The Congress of the Comintern (Communist International) which had ended the month before had been violent in its language but vague in its practical commitments to action; there was little enough clew to future policy in its fulminations. After the November holidays, however, things moved swiftly. The Right point of view, until then tolerated, suddenly blossomed into the blackest of heresies. It became, in the official jargon, the "chief danger."
Stalin achieved a bloodless victory. Never again was his decision on any matter, large or small, to be questioned. The "monolithic" Party, a Soviet equivalent for the "totalitarian" parties in fascist countries, was in absolute control. The Russia which it created in the next few years was as different from the one bequeathed by Lenin as it was from the tsarist Russia.
(41) Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution (1930)
Just as a blacksmith cannot seize the red hot iron in his naked hand, so the proletariat cannot directly seize the power; it has to have an organisation accommodated to this task. The co-ordination of the mass insurrection with the conspiracy, the subordination of the conspiracy to the insurrection, the organisation of the insurrection through the conspiracy, constitutes that complex and responsible department of revolutionary politics which Marx and Engels called “the art of insurrection.” It presupposes a correct general leadership of the masses, a flexible orientation in changing conditions, a thought-out plan of attack, cautiousness in technical preparation, and a daring blow.
(42) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)
A great man Trotsky, of that there is no doubt, a man of superlative mental ability, and a most competent executive withal; a man of proven courage, both physical and moral, a splendid writer and orator with the rare power of equal appeal to an intelligent and to a popular audience. In all history there are few careers so romantic as that of Trotsky: to have risen from so low to such a height, to have shone so bright in the sun, and have done brave deeds in a quaking world - and then to have fallen again to nothing, to spend his declining years in spiteful twilight. What a tragic fate for this man who was gifted with intelligence and force beyond his fellows, yet cursed by the folly of selfishness and pride.
(43) Cass Canfield, Up and Down and Around (1971)
The first impression Trotsky made was one of unusual vitality and health; he was rosy-cheeked and bouncy. I was struck with his fine brow and shock of white hair, his strong face and expressive mouth. He was neatly dressed in gray trousers and a white Russian smock. When asked how he managed to keep in such fine physical condition, he surprised me by replying in perfect English, "Oh, I go to the neighboring mountains and hunt game," which conjured up a picture of an Austrian nobleman shooting ; chamois in Franz Josef's time. In the course of talking to this highly intelligent, engaging but thoroughly dangerous character, I noticed a line of hooks on the wall behind his desk from which were hung our galley proofs of the first half of his biography of Stalin.
Trotsky was affable and provocative. The biography would be completed before many months, he assured us. He said that he had been hampered by the difficulty of obtaining reliable source material in Mexico on Stalin's life and that he got most of the information he required from friends all over the world, some of them in the Soviet Union; I had the impression of a kind of political Voltaire, conducting a vast correspondence.
One question I forgot to ask Trotsky: Just how did Lenin meet his end? I had heard from Louis Fischer, an expert on Soviet affairs, that when Lenin had fallen seriously ill, he had asked various of his political colleagues to give him poison so that lie could die quickly. One by one they refused, shocked and unbelieving. How could the Soviet Union survive without its founder, who already enjoyed a saint like status?
Commenting on Stalin's Russia, Trotsky said that lie felt that the Communist Party no longer ruled, that party officials were really rubber stamps for the bureaucracy, as under the Nazi regime. As for the war between the Soviet Union and Finland, which was still going on at that time and puzzling most observers because the Soviet forces weren't making much progress, Trotsky did not doubt the outcome - it was just a matter of time before the Finns would be overwhelmed. The slowness of the Russian advance was explainable, he said, because Stalin had purged the army of many of its best commanders; and the political commissars had such power, the officers being so fearful of them, that military movements were hampered. Also, the Soviet troops, sent to Finland from the Ukraine and southern parts of Russia, were totally unused to the conditions of winter warfare in Finland.
We talked about the world political situation. This was after the Stalin-Hitler pact, which, in Trotsky's view, Stalin had signed because he did not expect Hitler to win the war he knew was coming. Trotsky further believed that Stalin, having secured his front for a period of time, would desert Hitler at the moment of his choice. As we know, the Stalin-Hitler pact failed to achieve its purpose because Hitler attacked before Stalin could desert his Nazi ally. It is amazing how accurately Trotsky had the Nazi-Soviet situation sized up. He pictured Hitler as a master strategist, more formidable than Stalin. Nevertheless, he was confident that Germany would lose the war after a great struggle and that the United States would have to join in and save the Allies. Hitler had successfully invaded Poland when this interview took place, so Trotsky was making these observations at a time when the Nazis were looking very strong.
I asked him what he foresaw at the end of the war. "A ruined planet under American hegemony," he replied. "There will be revolution in the United States, and presumably elsewhere, coming at a time of profound economic dislocation." The British Empire was dying, in his opinion, and he prophesied that her colonies would split off as a consequence of England's lack of vitality, as shown by her policy of appeasement and the Munich reverse.
Not all of Trotsky's predictions were right, but many were; for me the visit was a telling revelation. Trotsky possessed a naturally inquisitive mind and, perhaps because of his confinement to one place, was eager to learn all he could about what was going on in the world. He asked countless questions and listened carefully to everything we said. This was a response I had never encountered before from a world figure, most of whom like to do all the talking. Trotsky spoke frankly and showed a sense of humor, as when I asked whether he would like to visit the United States. "Indeed I would," he replied promptly, "and I'd be there now if it weren't for `That Man in the White House.' Mr. Roosevelt knows enough about me so that lie wouldn't consider letting me into the country. If you had a Republican President, he would have been less well informed and I would have been able to cross your border."
I inquired what he would be doing if he were in the United States; this was like asking a safecracker what he'd do when he got out of jail. "Start a revolution, of course!" Trotsky answered.
Within a few months of this interview Trotsky was assassinated in his study by Ratnon del Rio. In the struggle with his assailant, he was pinned up against the large hooks where the proofs were hung. These proofs, spattered with Trotsky's blood, are now kept in the Houghton Library at Harvard.
With Trotsky dead, it was necessary to find a qualified person to finish the book from his voluminous notes. We chose Charles Malamuth, a Russian scholar, for this assignment, and he performed it well. In a preface he explained exactly how the biography had been prepared. So finally, after years of work, the book was finished. We sent out advance copies on a Friday morning and I breathed a sigh of relief.
The final chapter of this story is concerned with what happened forty-eight hours later, on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941- On that day the terrible news of Pearl Harbor came over the radio. After the first shock I began to think about the publishing problems presented by Trotsky's Stalin. It was obvious that, within a few days, Stalin would be America's ally and that he would deeply resent the appearance of this biography by his arch rival. On the other hand, we had an obligation to the author - in this case to his estate.
(44) Natalia Sedova, How It Happened (1940)
After a brief siesta, I saw him (Trotsky) sitting at his desk, which was already covered with items relating to the El Popular case. He continued to be in good spirits. And it made me feel more cheerful. Lev Davidovich had of late been complaining of enervation to which he succumbed occasionally. He knew that it was a passing condition, but lately he seemed to be in greater doubt about it than ever before; today seemed to us to mark the beginning of improvement in his physical condition. He looked well too. Every now and then I opened the door to his room just a trifle, so as not to disturb him, and saw him in his usual position, bent over his desk, pen in hand. I recalled the line, "One more and final story and my scroll is at an end." Thus speaks the ancient monk-scribe Pimen in Pushkin's drama "Boris Godounov," as he recorded the evil deeds of Czar Boris.
Lev Davidovich led a life close in semblance to that of a prisoner or a hermit, with this difference that in his solitude he not only kept a chronological record of events but waged an indomitably passionate struggle against his ideological enemies...
At five, the two of us had tea, as usual. At twenty minutes past five, perhaps at half past, I stepped out on the balcony and saw L. D. in the patio near an open rabbit hutch. He was feeding the animals. Beside him was an unfamiliar figure. Only when he removed his hat and started to approach the balcony did I recognize him. It was "Jacson."
"He's here again," it flashed through my mind. "Why has he begun to come so often?" I asked myself.
"I'm frightfully thirsty, may I have a glass of water?" he asked, upon greeting me.
"Perhaps you would like a cup of tea?"
"No no. I dined too late and feel that the food is up here," he answered, pointing at his throat. "it's choking me." The color of his face was gray-green. His general appearance was that of a very nervous man.
"Why are you wearing your hat and topcoat?" (His topcoat was hanging over his left arm, pressed against his body.) "It's so sunny today."
"Yes, but you know it won't last long, it might rain." I wanted to argue that "today it won't rain" and of his always boasting that he never wore a hat or coat, even in the wont weather, but somehow I became depressed and let the subject drop. Instead I asked:
"And how is Sylvia feeling?"
He did not appear to understand me. I had upset him by my previous question about his topcoat and hat. And he was completely lost in his own thoughts, and very nervous. Finally, as if rousing himself from a deep sleep, he answered me: "Sylvia?... Sylvia?..." And catching himself, he added casually: "She's always well."
He began to retrace his steps towards Lev Davidovich and the rabbit hutches. I asked him as he walked away: "Is your article ready?"
"Yes, it's ready."
"Is it typed?"
With an awkward movement of his hand, while he continued to press against his body his topcoat in the lining of which were sewn in, as it was later revealed, a pickaxe and a dagger, he produced several typewritten pages to show me.
"It's good that your manuscript is not written by hand. Lev Davidovich dislikes illegible manuscripts."
Two days earlier he had called on us, also wearing a topcoat and a hat. I did not see him then as, unfortunately, I was not at home. But Lev Davidovich told me that "Jacson" had called and had somewhat surprised him by his conduct Lev Davidovich mentioned it in a way which indicated that he had no desire to elaborate upon the matter, but at the same time he felt that he had to mention it to me, sensing some new feature about the man.
"He brought an outline of his article, in reality a few phrases - muddled stuff. I made some suggestions to him. We shall see." And Lev Davidovich added, "Yesterday he did not resemble a Frenchman at all. Suddenly he sat down on my desk and kept his hat on all the while."
"Yes, it's strange" I said in wonderment. "He never wears a hat."
"This time he wore a hat," answered Lev Davidovich and pursued this subject no further. He spoke casually. But I was taken aback: it seemed to me that on this occasion he had perceived something new about "Jacson" but had not yet reached, or rather was in no hurry to draw conclusions. This brief conversation of ours occurred on the eve of the crime.
Wearing a hat.. topcoat on his arm... sat himself down on the table - wasn't this a rehearsal on his part? This was done so that he would be more certain and precise in his movements on the morrow.
Who could have suspected it then? It stirred us to embarrassment, nothing more. Who could have foretold that the day of August 20, so ordinary, would be so fateful? Nothing bespoke its ominousness. From dawn the sun was shining, as always here, the whole day brightly. Flowers were blooming, and grass seemed polished with lacquer... We went about our tasks each in his own way, all of us trying in whatever we did to facilitate Lev Davidovich's work. How many times in the course of that day did he mount the little steps of this same balcony, and walk into this, his room, and sit down on this very same chair beside the desk... All this used to hem ordinary and is now by its very ordinariness so terrible and tragic. No one, none among us, not he himself was able to sense the impending disaster. And in this inability a kind of abyss yawns. On the contrary, the whole day was one of the most tranquil. When L. D. stepped out at noon into the patio and I perceived him standing there bareheaded beneath the scorching sun, I hastened to bring him his white cap to protect his head against the merciless hot rays. To protect from the sun... but even at that very moment he was already threatened with a terrible death. At that hour we did not sense his doom, an outburst of despair did not convulse our hearts.
I recall that when the alarm system in the house, the garden and the patio was being installed by our friends and guard posts were being assigned, I drew L. D.'s attention to the fact that a guard should also be posted at his window. This seemed to me at the time so palpably indispensable. But L. D. objected that to do so it would be necessary to expand the guard, increase it to ten which was beyond our resources both in point of money and of available people at the disposal of our organization. A guard outside the window could not have saved him in this particular instance. But the absence of one worried me. L. D. was likewise very touched by a present given him by our American friends after the attack of May 24. It was a bullet proof vest, something like an ancient shirt of mail. As I examined it one day, I happened to remark that it would be good to get something for the head. L. D. insisted that the comrade assigned to the most responsible post wear the vest each time. After the failure suffered by our enemies in the May 24 attack, we were absolutely certain that Stalin would not halt, and we were making preparations. We also knew that a different form of attack would be used by the G.P.U. Nor did we exclude a blow on the part of a "solitary individual" sent secretly and paid by the G.P.U. But neither the bullet-proof vest nor a helmet could have served as safeguards. To apply these methods of defense from day to day was impossible. It was impossible to convert one's life solely into self-defense--for in that case life loses all its value.
As "Jacson" and I approached Lev Davidovich the latter addressed me in Russian, "You know, he is expecting Sylvia to call on us. They are leaving tomorrow." It was a suggestion on his part that I should invite them to tea, if not supper.
"I didn't know that you intend leaving tomorrow and are expecting Sylvia here."
"Yes...yes... I forgot to mention it to you."
"It's too bad that I didn't know, I might have sent a few things to New York."
"I could call tomorrow at one."
"No, no, thank you. It would inconvenience both of us."
And turning to Lev Davidovich, I explained in Russian that I had already asked "Jacson" to tea but that he refused, complaining about not feeling well, being terribly thirsty and asked me only for a glass of water. Lev Davidovich glanced at him attentively, and said in a tone of light reproach, "Your health is poor again, you look ill... That's not good."
There was a pause. Lev Davidovich was loath to tear himself away from the rabbits and in no mood to listen to an article. However, he controlled himself and said, "Well, what do you say, shall we go over your article?"
He fastened the hutches methodically, and removed his working gloves. He took good care of his hands, or rather his fingers inasmuch as the slightest scratch irritated him, interfered with his writing. He always kept his pen like his fingers in order. He brushed off his blue blouse and slowly, silently started walking towards the house accompanied by "Jacson" and myself. I came with them to the door of Lev Davidovich's study; the door closed, and I walked into the adjoining room....
Not more than three or four minutes had elapsed when I heard a terrible, soul-shaking cry and without so much as realizing who it was that uttered this cry, I rushed in the direction from which it came. Between the dining room and the balcony, on the threshold, beside the door post and leaning against it stood... Lev Davidovich. His face was covered with blood, his eyes, without glasses, were sharp blue, his hands were hanging.
"What happened? What happened?"
I flung my arms about him, but he did not immediately answer. It flashed through my mind. Perhaps something had fallen from the ceiling - some repair work was being done there - but why was he here?
And he said to me calmly, without any indignation, bitterness or irritation, "Jacson." L.D. said it as if he wished to say, "It has happened." We took a few steps and Lev Davidovich, with my help, slumped to the floor on the little carpet there.
"Natasha, I love you.'" He said this so unexpectedly, so gravely, almost severely that, weak from inner shock, I swayed toward him.
"0...0... no one, no one must be allowed to see you without being searched."
Carefully placing a pillow under his broken head, I held a piece of ice to his wound and wiped the blood from his face with cotton...
"Seva must be taken away from all this..."
He spoke with difficulty, unclearly, but was - so it seemed to me - unaware of it.
"You know, in there... " his eyes moved towards the door of his room... "I sensed... understood what he wanted to do.... He wanted to strike me... once more... but I didn't let him," he spoke calmly, quietly, his voice breaking.
"But I didn't let him." There was a note of satisfaction in these words. At the same time Lev Davidovich turned to Joe, and spoke to him in English. Joe was kneeling on the floor as I was, on the other side, just opposite me. I strained to catch the words, but couldn't make them out. At that moment I saw Charlie, his face chalk-white, revolver in hand, rush into Lev Davidovich's room.
"What about that one" I asked Lev Davidovich. "They will kill him."
"No... impermissible to kill, he must be forced to talk," Lev Davidovich replied, still uttering the words with difficulty, slowly.
A kind of pathetic whining suddenly broke upon our ears. I glanced in a quandary at Lev Davidovich. With a barely noticeable movement of his eyes, he indicated the door of his room and said condescendingly, "It's he"... "Has the doctor arrived yet?"
"He'll be here any minute now... Charlie has gone in a car to fetch him."
The doctor arrived, examined the wound and agitatedly stated that it was "not dangerous." Lev Davidovich accepted this calmly, almost indifferently as though one could not expect any other pronouncement from a physician in such a situation. But, turning to Joe and indicating his heart, he said in English, "I feel it here... This time they have succeeded." He was sparing me.
(45) Leon Trotsky, quotations (1879-1940)
The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.
There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or war. Everything depends on circumstances.
Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.
Life is not an easy matter... You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.
The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.
Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.
Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction.
If we had had more time for discussion we should probably have made a great many more mistakes.
In a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time.
Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies.
Russian Revolution Simmulation
Bloody Sunday (Answer Commentary)
1905 Russian Revolution (Answer Commentary)
Russia and the First World War (Answer Commentary)
The Life and Death of Rasputin (Answer Commentary)
The Abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (Answer Commentary)
The Provisional Government (Answer Commentary)
The Kornilov Revolt (Answer Commentary)
The Bolsheviks (Answer Commentary)
The Bolshevik Revolution (Answer Commentary)
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