November 17, 2009


Blood Brother: a review of Trotsky: A Biography By Robert Service (Christopher Orlet on 11.17.09, American Spectator)

For decades, Western intellectuals have judged him the Good Marxist. His assassination by Joseph Stalin's agents was further proof -- if further proofs were needed -- of his honorable intentions. If only Leon Trotsky, rather than Stalin, had emerged as Vladimir Lenin's successor, how differently the history of the Soviet Union, indeed, the whole history of communism, might have read.

Trotsky's estrangement and exile from Stalin's Soviet Union has been the stuff of romantic legend, a myth largely fashioned by Trotsky himself. In his many volumes of autobiography, and in works like The Stalin School of Falsification, Trotsky used his considerable rhetorical skills to disguise his political closeness to Stalin and thereby retain the admiration of thinkers in the West, including some on the right. When H.L. Mencken heard Trotsky's library had burned, he wrote offering to send the exile some books. (Trotsky rudely declined.) Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, Edmund Wilson and Saul Bellow admired Trotsky both as a man of ideas and a man of action, one who, with the great surrealist AndréBreton, could write A Manifesto for a Free Revolutionary Art, when not leading the Red Army into battle against the White Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Poles.

Trotsky's latest biographer, Robert Service (author of acclaimed biographies of Lenin and Stalin), suggests it is foolish to take Trotsky at his word. If there is one overarching theme in Service's study, it is that there was very little difference in philosophy between Trotsky and his nemesis Stalin. "The basic agenda of the two men was much more similar than it was dissimilar," he says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2009 7:32 AM
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