Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trotsky: A Biography, by Robert Service


Trotskyites who like to compare their man favourably to the murderous Stalin will probably be disappointed by this bold and balanced biography. As Service observes, “If ever Trotsky had been the paramount leader instead of Stalin, the risks of a bloodbath in Europe would have been drastically increased.” He also notes that Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution (1923), in which writers are expected to toe the party line, prepared the way for “cultural Stalinism”. Then there’s the little matter of Trotsky’s advocacy of “exceptional measures” during the Kronstadt rebellion. And he founded and trained the Red Army. In short, he was "no angel”. He had a “lust for dictatorship and terror”. He also abandoned his first wife and their two baby girls in Siberia, and later drove one of those daughters to suicide. Service does admire Trotsky’s prose style and the single-minded constancy of his vision, although the downside of such revolutionary zeal is nicely summed up in one sentence: “He lived for the dream which many people found a nightmare.”

1 comment:

merson said...

Please see my reply to your review of Robert service-Trotsky at http://keith-perspective.blogspot.com/2010/05/letter-to-ian-pindar.html