Middle East atemporal

EVREII SI BOLSEVISMUL-Taking Politics Out of the Trotsky Debate

Taking Politics Out of the Trotsky Debate

New Biography Seeks a More Balanced Approach to Soviet Legend

ed note–we are posting this article from the Jewish Forward, considered to be one of the more ‘prestigious’ of the various Jewish publications, for several reasons. First and foremost is that whenever Gentiles point out the overwhelmingly “Jewish” character of the Bolshevik revolution that wound up killing TENS OF MILLIONS of Christian and Muslim gentiles, the Jewish dogs come-a-barking with all the typical shrieking, wailing and charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ and “blood libel”. As this article makes clear, indeed Trotsky WAS Jewish as other gentile historians have maintained. Secondly, as is also typical of Jewish discussion of the greatest mass-murder of human beings in history, the writers take an ‘oh well’ approach to discussing the state-sponsered murder of as many as 20 million people while at the same time, whenever the deaths of Jews is mentioned anywhere and in ANY CONTEXT it is laden with all the emotionalism, hysteria and moral posturing that we have all come to know so well.


During much of the 20th century, Leon Trotsky’s legacy was a source of strife  on both the left and right — and 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union,  the scholarly controversy surrounding Trotsky has yet to fall into the dustbin  of history. A recent review in the prestigious American Historical Review  disparaged a new biography harshly critical of Trotsky, saying it “commits  numerous distortions and outright errors of fact to the point that the  intellectual integrity of the whole enterprise is open to question.”

Trotsky himself deserves part of the blame for the fight over his legacy. As  Lenin’s number two, Trotsky looked on approvingly as Lenin crushed some of his  rivals and initiated some of the Bolsheviks’ early brutal tactics. In 1921,  Trotsky himself issued the orders crushing the sailors’ revolt known as the  Kronstadt rebellion. Later, in “Terrorism and Communism,” Trotsky made clear his  views on state-sponsored violence: “[He] who aims at the ends cannot reject the  means.” Even after he was forced into exile, Trotsky never repudiated his  actions or his views.

At the same time, Trotsky was a brilliant journalist and orator; indeed, the “dustbin of history” phrase can be traced back to one of his own speeches.  Trotsky also seems to earn some victim points for being outmaneuvered by Stalin  after Lenin’s death. Plus, his time in exile in Mexico City, where he mingled  with artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo before being killed on Stalin’s orders  in 1940, lends his life a romantic tinge.

Into this historical morass steps Joshua Rubenstein, a longtime Amnesty  International director and the author of several books on Soviet history. In  this new, concise biography, Rubenstein offers a more balanced view of Trotsky,  giving hope that the political disputes choking scholarly study of this  intriguing figure may finally be waning.

Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in 1879, to a nonobservant Jewish  family in what is today Ukraine. His father was a prosperous farmer, a rarity at  a time when most Jews were poor and lived in towns or cities inside the Pale of  Settlement. With the help of a relative, Lev moved to Odessa, where his school  enrollment was delayed because of anti-Semitic policies.


Trotsky saw anti-Semitism and Judaism through a strictly Marxist prism: In a  socialist state, Judaism and other religions would wither away. Of course, this  didn’t happen, and Trotsky underestimated the role bigotry would play in his  downfall, as Stalin allowed bureaucrats to play the anti-Semitic card when he  isolated Trotsky from power.

As a teenager in Odessa, Trotsky got involved in anti-Tsarist politics. Known  for his fiery speeches, he quickly became popular in revolutionary circles.  Trotsky’s life followed a common arc of leading Russian radicals in the late  1800s and early 1900s: jail (he even took the name of one of his jailers, hence “Trotsky”), internal exile and life abroad, mostly in Europe. In 1903, he got  into a dispute with Lenin over Lenin’s emphasis on creating a centralized party  cadre. It took them 14 years to patch up their differences, a fact that Stalin  used to his advantage after Lenin’s death in 1924.

Returning to Russia following the first Revolution in 1917, Trotsky reunited  with Lenin and helped overthrow the Romanov monarchy. His intellect and fiery  personality made Trotsky a natural for top posts under Lenin — first as  commissar of foreign affairs and later as commissar of the army, where he  brutally imposed discipline by execution and displayed his intoxication with  power by traveling on a lavish train. On a more civilized level, he also wrote  cultural criticism of leading writers. While allowing for a greater breadth of  artistic expression than Stalin (freedom would be too strong a word), Trotsky  believed that art should be subsumed into the revolution.

There are many reasons to commend this work — among them, Rubenstein’s  depoliticization of its subject and the book’s succinctness and readability.  Rubenstein also gives a clear rendition of Trotsky’s depressing, peripatetic  final years, including his last days in Mexico, and one can easily imagine the  book, part of Yale University’s Jewish Lives series, becoming a staple of  college courses.

In his conclusion, however, Rubenstein overemphasizes the “more than grudging  sympathy” that Trotsky deserves for his years in exile, at the expense of a  discussion of the violence created by Trotsky’s actions and views. Rubenstein  writes that Trotsky “refused to renounce the revolution that first betrayed,  then destroyed him.” It remains one of the tragedies of the 20th century that  the revolution Trotsky helped engineer destroyed the lives of millions of others  as well.

Peter Ephross, who writes widely on Jewish topics, is the editor of a  book, “Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words,” scheduled to be published next  spring by McFarland.

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/144469/?utm_medium=editorspicks#ixzz1b9CEj6Gq

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