Lev Davidovich Bronshtein (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. When Trotsky was eight years old his father sent him to Odessa to be educated. Six years later he was transferred to Nikolayev where he was first introduced to the ideas of Karl Marx.
In 1897 he became involved in organizing the underground South Russian Workers' Union. He was sent to Siberia after being arrested for revolutionary activity. After four years in captivity, he escaped and eventually made his way to London. Trotsky joined the Social Democratic Party and while in England he met and worked with a group of Marxists producing the journal Iskra. This included George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov.
At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party held in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov. 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. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.
A large number of the Social Democratic Party joined the Bolsheviks. This included Gregory Zinoviev, Joseph Stalin, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Mikhail Frunze, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, and Alexander Bogdanov.
Trotsky supported Julius Martov. So also did George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Vera Zasulich, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan.
Trotsky returned to Russia during the 1905 Revolution. Trotsky became heavily involved in the creation of the St. Petersburg Soviet and was eventually elected chairman. Over the next few weeks over 50 of these soviets were formed all over Russia.
With the failings of the Duma, the Soviets were seen as the legitimate workers' government. Trotsky and the Soviets challenged the power of Nicholas II and attempted to enforce promises made in the October Manifesto such as the freedom of the press, assembly and association.
In December, 1905, the St. Petersburg Soviet was crushed and Trotsky was arrested and imprisoned. In October, 1906 Trotsky was sentenced to internal exile and deprived of all civil rights. While in prison Trotsky developed the theory of permanent revolution.
After two years in Siberia Trotsky managed to escape and eventually reached Vienna where he joined forces with Adolf Joffe to publish the journal, Pravda. Trotsky was now seen as one of the most important figures in the Russian revolutionary movement and Vladimir Lenin asked Lev Kamenev to try and persuade him to join the Bolsheviks.
1. Was highly critical of Nicholas II and the autocracy.
2. Wanted Russia to have universal suffrage.
3. Wanted the Russian government to allow freedom of expression and an end to political censorship of newspapers and books.
4. Believed that democracy could only be achieved in Russia by the violent overthrow of Nicholas II and the autocracy.
5. Was strongly opposed to Russia going to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany.
6. Believed that if Russia did go to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries should try to persuade the Russian soldiers to use their weapons to overthrow Nicholas II.
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.
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.
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.
Biography of Leon Trotsky, Russian Marxist Revolutionary
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Leon Trotsky (Nov. 7, 1879–Aug. 21, 1940) was a Communist theorist, prolific writer, a leader in the 1917 Russian Revolution, the people's commissar for foreign affairs under Vladimir Lenin (1917–1918), and then head of the Red Army as the people's commissar of army and navy affairs (1918–1924). Exiled from the Soviet Union after losing a power struggle with Joseph Stalin over who was to become Lenin's successor, Trotsky was brutally assassinated in 1940.
- Known For: Being a leader in the 1917 Russian Revolution, the people's commissar for foreign affairs under Lenin (1917-1918), and head of the Red Army as the people's commissar of army and navy affairs (1918-1924).
- Also Known As: Lev Davidovich Bronstein, Lev Davidovich Bronshtein
- Born: November 7, 1879, in Yanovka, Yelisavetgradsky Uyezd, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire (in what is now Ukraine)
- Parents: David Leontyevich Bronstein and Anna Lvovna
- Died: August 21, 1940, in Mexico City, Mexico
- Published Works: "My Life" (1930), "The History of the Russian Revolution" (1932), "The Revolution Betrayed" (1936), "In Defense of Marxism" (1939/1940)
- Awards and Honors: Cover of Time magazine three times (1925, 1927, 1937)
- Spouses: Aleksandra Sokolovskaya (m. 1899–1902), Natalia Sedova (m. 1903–1940)
- Children: Zinaida Volkova, Nina Nevelson, Lev Sedov, and Sergei Sedov
- Notable Quote: “For 43 years of my conscious life, I have remained a revolutionist for 42 of them, I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again, I would, of course, try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged.”
Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico
Exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded by an ice-ax-wielding assassin at his compound outside Mexico City. The killer—Ramón Mercader—was a Spanish communist and probable agent of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Trotsky died from his wounds the next day.
Born in the Ukraine of Russian-Jewish parents in 1879, Trotsky embraced Marxism as a teenager and later dropped out of the University of Odessa to help organize the underground South Russian Workers’ Union. In 1898, he was arrested for his revolutionary activities and sent to prison. In 1900, he was exiled to Siberia.
In 1902, he escaped to England using a forged passport under the name of Leon Trotsky (his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronshtein). In London, he collaborated with Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin but later sided with the Menshevik factions that advocated a democratic approach to socialism. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Trotsky returned to Russia and was again exiled to Siberia when the revolution collapsed. In 1907, he again escaped.
During the next decade, he was expelled from a series of countries because of his radicalism, living in Switzerland, Paris, Spain and New York City before returning to Russia at the outbreak of the revolution in 1917. Trotsky played a leading role in the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, conquering most of Petrograd before Lenin’s triumphant return in November. Appointed Lenin’s secretary of foreign affairs, he negotiated with the Germans for an end to Russian involvement in World War I. In 1918, he became war commissioner and set about building up the Red Army, which succeeded in defeating anti-communist opposition in the Russian Civil War. In the early 1920s, Trotsky seemed the heir apparent of Lenin, but he lost out in the struggle of succession after Lenin fell ill in 1922.
In 1924, Lenin died, and Joseph Stalin emerged as leader of the USSR. Against Stalin’s stated policies, Trotsky called for a continuing world revolution that would inevitably result in the dismantling of the increasingly bureaucratic Soviet state. He also criticized the new regime for suppressing democracy in the Communist Party and for failing to develop adequate economic planning. In response, Stalin and his supporters launched a propaganda counterattack against Trotsky. In 1925, he was removed from his post in the war commissariat. One year later, he was expelled from the Politburo and in 1927 from the Communist Party. In January 1928, Trotsky was deported by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to Alma-Ata in remote Soviet Central Asia. He lived there in internal exile for a year before being banished from the USSR forever by Stalin.
He was received by the government of Turkey and settled on the island of Prinkipo, where he worked on finishing his autobiography and history of the Russian Revolution. After four years in Turkey, Trotsky lived in France and then Norway and in 1936 was granted asylum in Mexico. Settling with his family in a suburb of Mexico City, he was found guilty of treason in absentia during Stalin’s purges of his political foes. He survived a machine gun attack carried out by Stalinist agents, but on August 20, 1940, fell prey to Ramón Mercader, a Spanish communist who had won the confidence of the Trotsky household. The Soviet government denied responsibility, and Mercader was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Mexican authorities.
1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place
In January 1913, a man whose passport bore the name Stavros Papadopoulos disembarked from the Krakow train at Vienna's North Terminal station.
Of dark complexion, he sported a large peasant's moustache and carried a very basic wooden suitcase.
"I was sitting at the table," wrote the man he had come to meet, years later, "when the door opened with a knock and an unknown man entered.
"He was short. thin. his greyish-brown skin covered in pockmarks. I saw nothing in his eyes that resembled friendliness."
The writer of these lines was a dissident Russian intellectual, the editor of a radical newspaper called Pravda (Truth). His name was Leon Trotsky.
The man he described was not, in fact, Papadopoulos.
He had been born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, was known to his friends as Koba and is now remembered as Joseph Stalin.
Trotsky and Stalin were just two of a number of men who lived in central Vienna in 1913 and whose lives were destined to mould, indeed to shatter, much of the 20th century.
It was a disparate group. The two revolutionaries, Stalin and Trotsky, were on the run. Sigmund Freud was already well established.
The psychoanalyst, exalted by followers as the man who opened up the secrets of the mind, lived and practised on the city's Berggasse.
The young Josip Broz, later to find fame as Yugoslavia's leader Marshal Tito, worked at the Daimler automobile factory in Wiener Neustadt, a town south of Vienna, and sought employment, money and good times.
Then there was the 24-year-old from the north-west of Austria whose dreams of studying painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had been twice dashed and who now lodged in a doss-house in Meldermannstrasse near the Danube, one Adolf Hitler.
In his majestic evocation of the city at the time, Thunder at Twilight, Frederic Morton imagines Hitler haranguing his fellow lodgers "on morality, racial purity, the German mission and Slav treachery, on Jews, Jesuits, and Freemasons".
"His forelock would toss, his [paint]-stained hands shred the air, his voice rise to an operatic pitch. Then, just as suddenly as he had started, he would stop. He would gather his things together with an imperious clatter, [and] stalk off to his cubicle."
Presiding over all, in the city's rambling Hofburg Palace was the aged Emperor Franz Joseph, who had reigned since the great year of revolutions, 1848.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his designated successor, resided at the nearby Belvedere Palace, eagerly awaiting the throne. His assassination the following year would spark World War I.
Vienna in 1913 was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which consisted of 15 nations and well over 50 million inhabitants.
"While not exactly a melting pot, Vienna was its own kind of cultural soup, attracting the ambitious from across the empire," says Dardis McNamee, editor-in-chief of the Vienna Review, Austria's only English-language monthly, who has lived in the city for 17 years.
"Less than half of the city's two million residents were native born and about a quarter came from Bohemia (now the western Czech Republic) and Moravia (now the eastern Czech Republic), so that Czech was spoken alongside German in many settings."
The empire's subjects spoke a dozen languages, she explains.
"Officers in the Austro-Hungarian Army had to be able to give commands in 11 languages besides German, each of which had an official translation of the National Hymn."
And this unique melange created its own cultural phenomenon, the Viennese coffee-house. Legend has its genesis in sacks of coffee left by the Ottoman army following the failed Turkish siege of 1683.
"Cafe culture and the notion of debate and discussion in cafes is very much part of Viennese life now and was then," explains Charles Emmerson, author of 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War and a senior research fellow at the foreign policy think-tank Chatham House.
"The Viennese intellectual community was actually quite small and everyone knew each other and. that provided for exchanges across cultural frontiers."
This, he adds, would favour political dissidents and those on the run.
"You didn't have a tremendously powerful central state. It was perhaps a little bit sloppy. If you wanted to find a place to hide out in Europe where you could meet lots of other interesting people then Vienna would be a good place to do it."
Freud's favourite haunt, the Cafe Landtmann, still stands on the Ring, the renowned boulevard which surrounds the city's historic Innere Stadt.
Trotsky and Hitler frequented Cafe Central, just a few minutes' stroll away, where cakes, newspapers, chess and, above all, talk, were the patrons' passions.
"Part of what made the cafes so important was that ɾveryone' went," says MacNamee. "So there was a cross-fertilisation across disciplines and interests, in fact boundaries that later became so rigid in western thought were very fluid."
Beyond that, she adds, "was the surge of energy from the Jewish intelligentsia, and new industrialist class, made possible following their being granted full citizenship rights by Franz Joseph in 1867, and full access to schools and universities."
And, though this was still a largely male-dominated society, a number of women also made an impact.
Alma Mahler, whose composer husband had died in 1911, was also a composer and became the muse and lover of the artist Oskar Kokoschka and the architect Walter Gropius.
Though the city was, and remains, synonymous with music, lavish balls and the waltz, its dark side was especially bleak. Vast numbers of its citizens lived in slums and 1913 saw nearly 1,500 Viennese take their own lives.
No-one knows if Hitler bumped into Trotsky, or Tito met Stalin. But works like Dr Freud Will See You Now, Mr Hitler - a 2007 radio play by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran - are lively imaginings of such encounters.
The conflagration which erupted the following year destroyed much of Vienna's intellectual life.
The empire imploded in 1918, while propelling Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky and Tito into careers that would mark world history forever.
You can hear more about Vienna's role in shaping the 20th Century on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 18 April.
Leon Trotsky was a significant figure in Marxist theory and politics and a crucial figure in the Russian Revolution. He played a significant role in the organisation of the October Revolution, led peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk and as commissar for war, helped form and shape the Red Army. Often viewed as a likely successor to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky was outmanoeuvred by Joseph Stalin, expelled from the Communist Party and forced into exile.
Trotsky was born in Yanovka, Ukraine in 1879, the son of a prosperous farmer. His parents were Jewish and although they were not religious, they were often the target of the hateful anti-Semitism that infected tsarist Russia.
Trotsky was given the name Lev Bronstein after an uncle who had unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Alexander II (there was a revolutionary streak in his family, as there had been in Lenin’s).
Sent away to boarding school, the young Bronstein became involved in revolutionary politics, first as a member of the Narodniki. In his late teens, he became a union organiser and socialist propagandist. He became interested in Marxism and joined the Social Democrats (SDs) in 1896.
Periods in exile
In 1900, Bronstein was arrested and sentenced to four years’ exile in Siberia. He escaped in 1902 with a forged passport bearing the adopted name by which he later became known: Leon Trotsky.
Trotsky took up residence in London where, in 1903, he attended the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party. When the party voted on the issue of organisation and membership, Trotsky sided with Julius Martov and the faction that became known as the Mensheviks.
Unlike Lenin, Trotsky was in Russia during the 1905 Revolution. He was elected vice-chairman and then chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, despite being just 26 years old. When the Soviet was crushed by tsarist troops in late 1905, Trotsky was again sent to Siberia, though he quickly escaped. He spent most of the next decade in exile, mainly in France, Switzerland, Spain and the United States.
Attempts to reconcile the SDs
In the early 1910s, Trotsky made several attempts to reconcile Lenin, Martov and their followers. When the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions split irrevocably in early 1912, Trotsky attempted to undo the damage by organising a ‘unity congress’, a move that failed. He later collaborated with the Mezhraiontsyi, a group of intellectuals who strived for party reconciliation.
At the start of 1917, Trotsky was living in New York. After hearing news of the February Revolution, he immediately returned to Russia, arriving in May 1917.
Over the course of 1917, Trotsky began to lose faith in the Menshevik movement and drew closer to the ideas and strategies of Lenin. A pivotal moment in this transformation was the popular but ultimately unsuccessful ‘July Days‘ uprising. It convinced Trotsky that without strong leadership from a committed revolutionary party, the people were incapable of seizing power.
Alignment with the Bolsheviks
In August 1917, Trotsky observed that “the factory committees… are in an overwhelming majority made up of Bolsheviks. In the Petrograd trades unions, everyday practical work… lies wholly with the Bolsheviks. In the workers’ section of the Petrograd Soviet, the Bolsheviks constitute an overwhelming majority.”
Trotsky himself worked for the Bolshevik cause in the Petrograd Soviet, where he was elected chairman again in early October. He also took a leading role in organising and arming the Red Guards, a pro-Bolshevik militia comprised of factory workers.
According to many historians, while Lenin was the driving force behind the October Revolution, Trotsky’s organisation and strategic planning ensured that it was a success.
Early in October, Trotsky introduced a resolution into the Bolshevik-controlled Petrograd Soviet that called for the formation of a military committee to prepare the “revolutionary defence of Petrograd”. The resolution was passed and the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC, or Milrevcom) was formed.
In theory, the Milrevcom and the Red Guards were formed to protect the Bolshevik movement and its leaders – but in reality, they were tools for an armed insurrection against the Provisional Government.
Trotsky also joined the Bolshevik Central Committee, where he supported Lenin’s calls for a socialist revolution. Joseph Stalin, later Trotsky’s bitter rival, wrote in 1918 that “all practical work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under [Trotsky’s] immediate direction … the Party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the efficient manner in which the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organised.” Once Stalin had seized the reins of power, this passage was expunged from official records.
Diplomatic and military leader
Trotsky’s importance continued into the new society. He was an important member of the Communist Party Politburo and the lead negotiator with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk. Trotsky’s organisation of the Red Army and political and military leadership during the Civil War was also critical. He was also responsible for suppressing the Kronstadt rebellion in early 1921.
Trotsky was not without his faults. He was a rousing public speaker and a brilliant theorist and organiser – but was prone to arrogance, dismissiveness and sarcasm, qualities that made him unpopular with other Bolsheviks. These shortcomings were identified by Lenin in his 1922 ‘political testament’, where he acknowledged Trotsky’s talents but noted that he “displayed excessive self-assurance and… excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.”
Trotsky’s over-confidence proved fatal when Stalin, his rival for the Bolshevik leadership, recruited others against him and seized control of the party in the early 1920s. By Lenin’s death in early 1924, Trotsky had been virtually excluded from power. Stalin eventually had him expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929.
Trotsky spent the rest of his life in exile in France and then Mexico, where he wrote prolifically. In 1930, he penned a history of the Russian Revolution. Several years later, he wrote a scathing criticism of Russia under Stalin, titled The Revolution Betrayed.
Back in Russia, Stalinist propaganda demonised Trotsky as a traitor, a saboteur and an enemy of the state. Trotsky was virtually written out of official Soviet histories of the revolution, while many of the problems of the new society were laid at his feet.
In 1940, a Stalinist agent, Ramon Mercarder, was able to gain entry to Trotsky’s home in Mexico and stab him in the head with an icepick. Trotsky died the following day.
A historian’s view:
“Trotsky moved like a bright comet across the political sky. He first came to global attention in 1917. By all accounts, he was the finest orator of the Russian Revolution. He led the Military-Revolutionary Committee… He did more than anyone to found the Red Army. He belonged to the party Politburo and had a deep impact on its political, economic and military strategy. The whole world attributed the impact of the October Revolution to his partnership with Lenin. [But] before 1917 Trotsky had been an enemy of Bolshevism, and many Bolsheviks did not let him forget it.”
1. Leon Trotsky, born Lev Bronstein, was a Marxist writer, orator and organiser became a significant leader in the Bolshevik party and the Soviet republic.
2. At the Second Congress of the Social Democrats in 1903, Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks against Lenin, though he later sought to reconcile the two factions.
3. In 1917, Trotsky returned from exile in the United States and by the middle of the year was working with the Bolsheviks, especially in the Petrograd Soviet.
4. Trotsky organised the Red Guards and Milrevcom and supported Lenin’s call for an armed insurrection. The October Revolution was largely due to his tactical planning.
5. Trotsky later negotiated peace with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk, served as Commissar for War, formed the Red Army, led the Civil War effort and was a pivotal member of the Politburo. He was eventually sidelined from positions of power by his rival, Stalin.
Trotsky Succeeds Lenin
1917: The October Revolution is a success. The two paramount leaders are Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Lenin is the head of the Bolshevik Party and Trotsky is a former Menshevik who comes over to the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. While Lenin is undisputed political leader, Trotsky is a close partner, leading the Petrograd Soviet and its Military-Revolutionary Committee. It is the MRC which storms the Winter Palace and ejects the liberal Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky.
1918-1922: Revolutionary and Reactionary armies fight across Russia in the Russian Civil War. Trotsky leads the Red Army (which he is credited with creating) as War Commissar. His armored train flies from front to front, battling the Whites and foreign armies. Stalin and Trotsky clash in the Ukraine and Stalin is sent packing. The Reds win the Civil War and Trotsky is hailed as a hero.
1922-23: Lenin’s health declines, partially as a result of an assassination attempt in 1918 that left bullets in his system. Two strokes cripple Lenin in 1923 but he still writes as brilliantly as ever. One of his last efforts is his testament which criticizes Stalin and asks the Communist Party Central Committee to remove him from his office as General Secretary. Lenin wants the testament read at the XII Party Congress in 1923, but he is paralyzed and his wife, Krupskaya, wants to keep the testament secret in hopes he will recover.
Trotsky is seen by many as the likely successor to Lenin, but he is disliked as arrogant. His sharp wit and criticism took aim at Lev Kamenev and Gregori Zinoviev. Lenin called them the “Strikebreakers of the Revolution” for their open opposition to the October Revolution but they were rehabilitated and played important roles in the new Soviet state. Kamenev and Zinoviev opposed the rise of Trotsky and considered an alliance with Stalin, the centrist on the Central Committee and no match for the more skilled and educated duo.
But at the XII Party Congress, Krupskaya decides to publish Lenin’s testament. As a revolutionary, she decides the party needs to hear the words of Lenin and take appropriate action. Stalin is humiliated, but the Congress does not immediately remove him from his position. He is, however, on the defensive.
Trotsky is proud and considers it beneath him to fight for top position after Lenin, but reconsiders after the Party Congress. The party is in turmoil as members rally for or against Stalin. Trotsky decides to stake his claim and asks Zinoviev to support him. Trotsky appeals to their ideological closeness (the three are the “left wing” of the Central Committee) and Trotsky gives his personal pledge of support. Zinoviev and Kamenev, afraid to lose their chance to back a winning candidate, back Trotsky.
1924: Lenin dies in January and the Central Committee meets to nominate a successor for the Communist Party (and effectively for the government, which is dominated by the party). Trotsky is made Chairman and also becomes Premier of the Soviet government. Stalin loses his position on the Central Committee but remains a party member.
1924-29: Trotsky and the government embark on an industrialization program and collectivization of agriculture. Conflict breaks out with the peasants and the government is once again forced to compromise and allow some private enterprise (a return to the New Economic Program). Industry continues to be the economic priority. Soviet government continues to be dominated by the Communist Party but power is exercised through the government organs. Lively debates continue within the party and on the Central Committee between the “Left Communists” led by Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev and the “Right Communists” led by Bukharin and Tomsky. The rhetoric is fierce but the Leninist principle of democratic centralism (decisions of the Central Committee are supported by everyone) maintains a fragile unity. Party democracy substitutes for the absence of competing parties, and former Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries enter the Communist Party (and competing factions). Stalin makes several attempts to build his own faction, but no one is willing to be tainted by “Lenin’s Testament.” Internationally, the Soviet Government supports the Comintern – the international party organization. The rise of Fascism in Italy is seen as a challenge to the revolutionary socialist movement. The Soviet government flirts with formation of popular fronts with liberal and socialist parties to oppose Fascist parties in Italy, Germany, France, Britain and Spain, but the Communists are unwilling to compromise with “bourgeois democrats.”
1929-32: The Depression hits the Capitalist states in Europe and North America. Soviet Russia, with its centrally managed economy (and dependent on its own economy because of isolation from the West) is able to weather the Depression better than most countries. Communist parties surge in strength, as do the Fascists, as citizens look for a radical solution to the economic crisis. In Germany, the Nazis come to power, and the Soviet Union and the Communist Party face a deadly new ideological and national enemy.
1932-39: Germany rearms and it is obvious to everyone that the Western democracies are unwilling or unable to stand up to the madman. The Rhineland is re-militarized and Austria is annexed. Italy aligns with Germany in a Fascist “Axis.” Spain erupts in a civil war in which the Soviets and the Fascists support competing sides. The civil war continues in a seesaw between Socialists and Anarchists on one side and Phalangists on the other. In 1938, Europe is on the brink of war over German demands in the Sudetenland that would dismember the democratic state of Czechoslovakia. The worst capitulation comes in Munich, when France and Britain give in to Hitler and force the Czechs to give up their borderlands. Shortly afterwards, Hitler tears up the agreement and marches into Bohemia-Moravia, making a new German protectorate. The Western democracies finally begin to arm for war with Germany. Soviet Russia commits the western Communist parties to the Popular Front against the Fascists. In Spain, Communists make common cause with the other parties of the left, helping maintain a unified front against Franco’s armies. The Spanish civil war continues as all of Europe is set aflame. Hitler is determined to have war, and secretly seeks the support of Soviet Russia. Trotsky’(because his family is Jewish, but Trotsky is an athiest) flatly turns down the German overtures but remains neutral because of Western fears of the “Bolshevik menace.”
1939-40: The Second World War starts with German attacks into Poland. The Poles are quickly overwhelmed but refuse to allow Soviet aid because of memories of the Russo-Polish War and Trotsky’s leadership of the Red Army attack. The Soviet Union partially mobilizes its defenses, but the Germans swiftly switch most of their armed forces to the Western Front. After months of “phony war,” Germany attacks the Allied forces in France. Surprisingly, the mighty French army is overwhelmed by an attack through the Ardennes. France falls and the British Expeditionary Force barely escapes at Dunkirk. Things look grim for the Allies.
1941: Britain is given a reprieve by the German attack on Russia. German forces tear into Russian defenses, but suffer their own terrific losses against a Red Army that is ready for the attack from the “Fascist aggressor.” Britain and the Soviet Union sign an immediate pact, with Churchill praising the valor of the Red Army and their generalissimo, Trotsky. Communist parties across the world rally to the “socialist and democratic war against Fascism.” When Germany’s ally, Japan, attacks the United States, America joins Britain and the Soviets. A small German force under Erwin Rommel is dispatched to Spain to fight the anti-Fascists forces there, but victory in Spain eludes Hitler as it did Napoleon. The Western allies are buoyed by the fight in Russia. The Red Army is one of the largest armies in Europe, with a fighting tradition and top leadership experienced from the days of the Russian Civil War. Tukachevsky, commander of the Red Army, has applied many of the lessons of armored warfare based on the experience of the Spanish “volunteers” and supported by Premier Trotsky, a practitioner of his own form of armored strikes during the Civil War. In a terrific battle outside of Leningrad, the panzer corps of Germany are broken by the Red Guards. Germany is still a potent foe, but time is working against Hitler and Mussolini.
1942-43: Germany and Italy are ground down from the punishing attacks of Britain, Russia, and America. In ’42, the strategic air war cripples German industry as bombers crisscross Germany from air fields in England and Russia. A joint British-Soviet offensive in the Balkans forces Germany’s Eastern European allies to bow out of the war, while American forces gather for an assault across the English Channel. In spring ’43, the cross-channel attack is launched. German forces collapse in France and reel back into the Reich. In Italy, Mussolini is overthrown by monarchists and disaffected members of his own Fascist party. Finally, in July 1943, Hitler is assassinated by a coalition of German Generals and other anti-Nazi groups. The Second World War was over in Europe, and soon the allies broke the back of the Japanese Empire as well.
The Post-War World: Tensions threatened to break out between the victorious powers, but somehow peace prevailed. The support of the Communists in the Popular Fronts before the war made them more acceptable as political parties in the post-war period. The Comintern encouraged “democratic engagement” in the Western democracies. Communist guerrilla movements in Yugoslavia and Greece dominated their political scenes, but democracy remained the norm throughout Europe (encouraged by the “big brother” in the Soviet Union). American financial aid through the Marshall Plan was welcomed in Europe and the Soviet Union, helping to foster good feelings by Soviet citizens toward their “rich cousins” in the United States. The opening of the United Nations was the opening of a new age for the nations of the world. Leon Trotsky, now white haired but still the commanding figure of Communism, attended the opening ceremonies, side by side with the wary American president, Harry Truman. Truman liked to make his judgments on the basis of personal contact, and said of Trotsky, “He’s one frosty Russkie, but when the chips are down, he’s on our side.” America and Soviet Russia found common ground in pushing for the “decolonization” of European imperial possessions. Joint Soviet-American efforts led to the independence of India and French Indochina. Both powers were wary of the new Communist government that came to power in China under Mao Zedong.
The End of the Soviet One-Party State: In post-war Russia, victory in the war and a rising standard of living led to demands for change within the Communist state. Factional leaders and their supporters began demanding openly competitive elections for all offices in the Soviet state. Democratic leaders pointed to the support for debate under Lenin and the rough and tumble politics of the Trotskyist party. At the XXXIII Party Congress, democrats finally forced through their own slate for the Central Committee. Trotsky remained on the CC but was now surrounded by “New Democrats.” Bowing to the inevitable, Comrade Trotsky announced the legalization of political parties and new elections. The resurgent Social Revolutionary Party, the old party of the peasants, is the winner of the first democratic elections in the Soviet Union.
The Point of Departure in this history is the decision of Lenin’s wife to publicize his political testament at the XXII Party Congress. In our history, Krupskaya did not release the testament until after Lenin’s death. By that time, the alliance among Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev was in place and the testament was suppressed. If the testament had been read to the Congress while Lenin still lived, Stalin’s hopes would have been crushed and another power would have emerged in the party. Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev were ideological allies – even if they were rivals for power – and they did form an alliance after Stalin won the first round with Trotsky. By that time it was too late and Stalin was on his way to total control. Trotsky was more likely to maintain Lenin’s “democratic centralism” and “party democracy” than Stalin. The massive purges of the party and ruthless dictatorship would not have been necessary for one of the founding fathers of the Soviet state. Trotsky would have had more use for the mechanisms of Soviet government, since his revolutionary activity was based on leadership of the Petrograd Soviet and his service as Foreign Commissar and War Commissar. Stalin’s devious and brutal twists and turns within Russia were also reflected in the international Communist parties. Stalin’s party line equated the democratic parties of the West with the Fascists, and in Spain the parochialism of the Communists split the anti-Fascist movement. An earlier and more consistent Popular Front is one of the reasons the Spanish Civil War continued past its historical end. In domestic policy, Stalin in fact adopted the “pro-industrialization” line of Trotsky and the Left Communists after he disposed of them. Stalin was willing to force collectivization regardless of the consequences (death and repression). Trotsky might have taken Lenin’s approach of “two steps forward, one step back” and alternated between collectivization and moderate private enterprise (NEP). Russia is still supposed to be relatively isolated from the Western democracies and autarchic because of continuing anti-Bolshevik sentiment.
The Russian war effort goes much better under Trotsky for several reasons. Russia was not on a peace-time deployment as it was under Stalin. The purge of the Red Army did not take place and competent generals remained in place. German gains had a lot to do with the disorganization of the Soviet Army, which had more and better equipment than the Germans. With a capable and prepared Red Army, the Germans were turned back much earlier and more certainly. Russia did not have to fight the Finns, who were antagonized by Stalinist aggression into fighting on the side of the Germans.
Post-war relations got better than historical. Popular support for Russia was high during the war under Stalin, and the same would have happened under Trotsky. But there is no “Hitler-Stalin Pact” and early war support for Germany in the background and early Popular Front participation would have provided a sounder footing for post-war democratic participation. America was anti-imperialist and a less aggressive Soviet Union makes a good ally in “teaching” the former imperial powers. Intraparty democracy was part of the Leninist heritage, although the seed of authoritarianism was also present. Trotsky could have led the Communist Party and still allowed debate – he was enough of an egotist to believe he could always prevail. As a former Menshevik, he would not have been in a position to suppress other points of view, nor to stem the entry of former Mensheviks and SR’s into the party. Without Stalinist paranoia and the isolation of the Iron Curtain, Soviet Russia could have evolved into a more democratic state instead of collapsing.
The struggle for the succession
When Lenin was stricken with his first cerebral hemorrhage in May 1922, the question of eventual succession to the leadership of Russia became urgent. Trotsky, owing to his record and his charismatic qualities, was the obvious candidate in the eyes of the party rank and file, but jealousy among his colleagues on the Politburo prompted them to combine against him. As an alternative, the Politburo supported the informal leadership of the troika composed of Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev, and Stalin.
In the winter of 1922–23 Lenin recovered partially and turned to Trotsky for assistance in correcting the errors of the troika, particularly in foreign trade policy, the handling of the national minorities, and reform of the bureaucracy. In December 1922, warning in his then secret “ Testament” of the danger of a split between Trotsky and Stalin, Lenin characterized Trotsky as a man of “exceptional abilities” but “too far-reaching self-confidence and a disposition to be too much attracted by the purely administrative side of affairs.” Just before he was silenced by a final stroke in March 1923, Lenin invited Trotsky to open an attack on Stalin, but Trotsky chose to bide his time, possibly contemplating an alliance against Zinovyev. Stalin moved rapidly to consolidate his hold on the Central Committee at the 12th Party Congress in April 1923.
By fall, alarmed by inroads of the secret police among party members and efforts to weaken his control of the war commissariat, Trotsky decided to strike out against the party leadership. In October he addressed a wide-ranging critique to the Central Committee, stressing especially the violation of democracy in the party and the failure to develop adequate economic planning. Reforms were promised, and Trotsky responded with an open letter detailing the direction they should take. This, however, served only as the signal for a massive propaganda counterattack against Trotsky and his supporters on grounds of factionalism and opportunism. At this critical moment Trotsky fell ill of an undiagnosed fever and could take no personal part in the struggle. Because of Stalin’s organizational controls, the party leadership easily won, and the “ New Course” controversy was terminated at the 13th Party Conference in January 1924 (the first substantially stage-managed party assembly) with the condemnation of the Trotskyist opposition as a Menshevik-like illegal factional deviation. Lenin’s death a week later only confirmed Trotsky’s isolation. Convalescing on the Black Sea coast, Trotsky was deceived about the date of the funeral, failed to return to Moscow, and left the scene to Stalin. His eulogy for the late party leader was, in effect, delivered in a biography of Lenin that Trotsky wrote for the 13th edition (1926) of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Attacks on Trotsky did not cease. When the 13th Party Congress, in May 1924, repeated the denunciations of his violations of party discipline, Trotsky vainly professed his belief in the omnipotence of the party. The following fall he took a different tack in his essay The Lessons of October 1917, linking the opposition of Zinovyev and Kamenev to the October Revolution with the failure of the Soviet-inspired German communist uprising in 1923. The party leadership replied with a wave of denunciation, counterposing Trotskyism to Leninism, denigrating Trotsky’s role in the Revolution, and denouncing the theory of permanent revolution as a Menshevik heresy. In January 1925 Trotsky was removed from the war commissariat.
Early in 1926, following the split between the Stalin-Bukharin leadership and Zinovyev-Kamenev group and the denunciation of the latter at the 14th Party Congress, Trotsky joined forces with his old adversaries Zinovyev and Kamenev to resume the political offensive. For a year and a half this “ United Opposition” grasped at every opportunity to put its criticisms before the party membership, despite the increasingly severe curbs being placed on such discussion. Again they stressed the themes of party democracy and economic planning, condemned the leadership’s concessions to bourgeois elements, and denounced Stalin’s theory of “socialism in one country” as a pretext for abandoning world revolution.
The response of the leadership was a rising tide of official denunciation, supplemented by an anti-Semitic whispering campaign. In October 1926 Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo, and a year later he and Zinovyev were dropped from the Central Committee. After an abortive attempt at a demonstration on the 10th anniversary of the Revolution, the two were expelled from the party.
Trotsky offered asylum in Mexico
After he was formally condemned to death in Moscow, the Mexican government offered Trotsky refuge and protection, on December 6th 1936.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Leon Trotsky organised the Red Army to fight and defeat the Tsarist Whites. He was the most important figure in the Bolshevik regime after Lenin, but when Lenin’s health began to fail a struggle for the succession developed between Trotsky and Stalin, who was general secretary of the Communist Party from 1922. Intellectually and as an administrator Tolstoy was superior to Stalin, but he was no match for the Georgian’s ruthless power hunger.
After Lenin died in 1924 Trotsky was gradually removed from all positions of influence. He was kept under surveillance, his phone was tapped and there were mysterious attempts to kill him. In 1926 he was dropped from the Politburo and in 1927 he and his supporters were expelled from the Communist Party. In January 1928 he was exiled to Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan with his wife Natalya Sedova and their son Lev. From there he wrote fierce criticisms of Stalin and blistering attacks on opponents of Stalin and Stalinism in the party who had made their peace with the regime.
In February 1929, accused of counter-revolutionary activity, Trotsky was banished from the Soviet Union and sent to Turkey, with whose regime Stalin had made a deal which included an undertaking that there would be no attempt to assassinate Trotsky on Turkish soil. The Soviet Union gave the family money to help them settle in a comfortable house on an island in the Sea of Marmara and supporters volunteered to help the Turkish police as bodyguards. It was there that Trotsky completed his three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, with Lenin as the hero and Stalin the villain.
In July 1933 a new leftish French government under Edouard Daladier offered the exiles asylum in France, where they settled down at the village of Barbizon near Fontainebleau. Trotsky was writing a biography of Lenin, which he never finished. The French Communist Party attacked the regime for letting Trotsky in, while he pressed his own supporters in Europe to form a new Marxist Fourth International against Stalinism. He was equally opposed to Fascism and urged the German Communists to act against Hitler and the Nazis. The Nazi response was to put pressure on the French government to deport him.
In the spring of 1935 the Norwegian government agreed to let the Trotsky household move near Oslo. It was there that he wrote The Revolution Betrayed, in which he again contrasted the ideals of 1917 with the tyranny Stalin had created. He was now formally condemned to death in Moscow and Soviet pressure prevailed on the Norwegian regime to put him under house arrest in 1936. In December that year the Mexican government offered Trotsky refuge and protection, which he gratefully accepted. He and Natalya sailed from Norway aboard an oil tanker and arrived in Mexico in January 1937.
The Trotskys lived in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City as guests at the Blue House, the home of the painters Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. They were both cheerfully promiscuous and Frida took Trotsky to bed, to Natalya’s dismay. Trotsky depended for money on his publications, help from supporters and the fees he charged for interviews and for holding seminars for students. By May 1939 Trotsky and Rivera had had enough of each other and Trotsky and Natalya moved to a house close by on Avenida Viena. The years of exile, danger and uncertainty had weighed Trotsky down. Ill with high blood pressure and thinking about suicide, he looked back over his life. If he had it to live over again, he wrote, he would pursue the same course: ‘I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist.’
In May 1940 an attempt to kill Trotsky by Soviet agents armed with machine guns failed, but on August 20th a charming Spanish Communist and Soviet secret agent calling himself Ramon Mercader, who had managed to infiltrate the household through a love affair with one of Trotsky’s secretaries, took the opportunity to stab Trotsky in the head with a mountaineer’s ice-axe. Trotsky was mortally wounded and died in hospital the next day. He was 60 years old.
Trotsky’s biographer Robert Service has described the killing as ‘the most spectacular assassination since the death of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914’. Mercader was sent to prison for 20 years. When he was released in 1960 he travelled to Prague and on to Russia, where he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Warfare History Blog
Weird Warriors is an ongoing series of posts featuring obscure military units throughout the history of warfare. This series seeks to spotlight a variety of obscure and exotic units ranging from Micronesian warriors armed with shark-tooth weapons to the Italian "human torpedoes" of World War 2. Special attention is paid to the details of the units’ battle honors, tactics, weapons, and equipment.
During the Russian Civil War of 1919-1921, Bolshevik-Russian politician and military leader Leon Trotsky (b.1879-1940), rode throughout Russia in his grand armored train visiting towns, battles, and the front lines to meet with soldiers, generals, and local political leaders. His armored train, a massive armored rail-cruiser named Revvoyensovet, was staffed by the Red Sotnia, or Red One Hundred (Red 100 from hereaft, an elite and oddly dressed group of Bolshevik soldiers who were charged with defending Comrade Trotsky and his armored train. *
The Russian Civil War (1) The Red Army M. By: Khvostov & A. Karachtchouk (Men-at-arms, Osprey Publishing). Cited.
Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War 1918-1921 By: W. Bruce Lincoln (Da Capo Press, 1989-1999).
How Stalin and Trotsky came to blows
Among the Bolshevik leaders, it was Leon Trotsky who seemed most likely to take over the Soviet Union after Lenin&rsquos demise. However, in the ensuing power struggle, he fell foul of his nemesis, Joseph Stalin, which led first to exile, then assassination. How did this infamous clash of personalities begin?
Stalin, Voroshilov and Shchadenko in the trenches of Tsaritsyn.
The first open conflict between the two leaders of the Revolution happened in the summer of 1918 during the defense of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, now Volgograd), which was besieged by the White armies. As a hub for supplying bread to Central Russia, the city was of huge strategic importance.
Stalin, then People&rsquos Commissar (Minister) for Nationalities, arrived in Tsaritsyn in June to sort out the problem of organizing food supplies. Having secured the support of Lenin, he broadened his powers to include the city&rsquos defense.
&ldquoThe line south of Tsaritsyn has yet to be re-established,&rdquo Stalin wrote Lenin on July 18. &ldquoI give everyone who needs it a tongue-lashing. I hope we will soon restore it. If our military &lsquospecialists&rsquo (shoemakers!) had not been asleep on the job, the line would not have been breached. And if it is re-established, it won&rsquot be thanks to, but in spite of, the military.&rdquo
It was the question of these &ldquomilitary specialists&rdquo &mdash former tsarist officers &mdash that defined the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky. The future "father of nations" (as Stalin would be known) resolutely opposed their appointment to high posts in the Red Army, considering them unreliable and apt to betray the Revolution at the drop of a hat.
A contrary viewpoint was held by People's Commissar for Military Affairs Leon Trotsky. Through his efforts, well-trained professional military personnel from the imperial army were transferred to the service of the Bolsheviks, such that the Red Army boasted more than 250 tsarist generals.
Stalin made sure that former tsarist general Andrei Snesarev was removed from his post as leader of the North Caucasian Military District. Junior commanders were less fortunate. Suspecting them of counterrevolutionary activities, Stalin ordered the arrest of the entire artillery command, up to and including minor administrative staff. They were placed on the so-called &ldquodeath barge&rdquo (a floating jail common during the Russian Civil War) in the middle of the Volga, where many soon perished from the inhuman conditions.
General Andrei Snesarev in March 1917.
Trotsky&rsquos subsequent appointment of Pavel Sytin, also a former tsarist general, as commander of the Southern Front provoked another outburst from Stalin. &ldquoThe Central Committee of the Party must discuss the question of the behavior of Trotsky, who slights the most prominent members of the Party in favor of [traitors and counterrevolutionaries] and to the detriment of the interests of the Front and the Revolution,&rdquo read a telegram to Lenin.
Stalin blatantly ignored Trotsky&rsquos order to give Sytin full authority over operations, and even set up an alternative command center. On many instructions from the People&rsquos Commissar for Military Affairs, he simply scrawled &ldquoDisregard.&rdquo
Stalin and Trotsky never saw eye to eye on any issue concerning the defense of Tsaritsyn. Gradually, their conflict morphed into open hostility.
&ldquoThe fact is that Trotsky is incapable of singing without falsetto or acting without flashy gestures. I would have nothing against this if the interests of the common cause did not suffer. This not being the case, I request, before it is too late, to restrain Trotsky and clip his wings, for I fear that his madcap orders will sow discord between the army and the command staff, and completely ruin the Front,&rdquo Stalin telegraphed Lenin on Oct. 3, 1918.
Lenin and Stalin, circa the 1920s.
The very next day, an enraged Trotsky dispatched his own telegram from Tambov to the head of state with an urgent request to recall Stalin from the city. Seething with anger, he even muddled the words in the telegram: &ldquoTsaritsyn must either obey or get out.&rdquo
In the end, Lenin sided with Trotsky and recalled Stalin to Moscow on Oct. 19. Despite the factionalism at the heart of the military command, the city was held for another year. It fell only in the summer of 1919 as a result of an unsuccessful counteroffensive by the Red Army.
White general Pyotr Wrangel in captured Tsaritsyn, 1919.
&ldquoIt was then [in November] that Stalin, recalled from Tsaritsyn and harboring deep malice and thirst for vengeance in his soul, wrote a short article on the anniversary of the Revolution. The purpose was to strike a blow at Trotsky&rsquos prestige, to deploy the authority of the Central Committee, headed by Lenin, against him. An undercurrent of anger flowed through this jubilee article,&rdquo Trotsky himself later wrote in his memoirs.
The Tsaritsyn conflict was only the first stage in the long and ultimately violent confrontation between the two post-Lenin heavyweights of the Bolshevik movement. It finally ended on Aug. 20, 1940, when Trotsky, expelled from the USSR, was hacked to death in Mexico on Stalin&rsquos orders.
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