October 11, 2009
IT'S THE ISM, NOT THE MEN:
Trotsky by Robert Service: Robert Service's debunking biography proves that being Stalin’s great enemy does not make Trotsky in any way a good man (Simon Sebag Montefiore, 11 Oct 2009, Daily Telegraph)
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. [...]
At the end of Service’s revision, what remains of the Prophet? The intellectual, orator, manager of the Bolshevik coup and architect of the Civil War victory remain, but alongside them must be laid the mendacity of his memoirs, the ugly egotism and unpleasant, overweening arrogance, the belief in and enthusiastic practice of killing on a colossal scale, the political ineptitude, the limit of ambition. Apart from their famous row about 'socialism in one country’ versus international revolution, there was little politically between Stalin and Trotsky. It was personality that divided them and both personalities were highly unattractive. If Trotsky had become dictator, Service is clear that while Russia would have avoided Stalin’s personal sadism, the same millions would still have been killed.
Gorbachev thought that Glasnost would allow dissidents to blow off some steam about Stalin, but instead they revealed that Lenin was a Stalin and the entire Revolution was delegitimized.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2009 8:20 AM