Trotsky: A Biography

Trotsky: A Biography

Robert Service

Language: English

Pages: 648

ISBN: 0674062256

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Robert Service completes his masterful trilogy on the founding figures of the Soviet Union in an eagerly anticipated, authoritative biography of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky is perhaps the most intriguing and, given his prominence, the most understudied of the Soviet revolutionaries. Using new archival sources including family letters, party and military correspondence, confidential speeches, and medical records, Service offers new insights into Trotsky. He discusses Trotsky’s fractious relations with the leaders he was trying to bring into a unified party before 1914; his attempt to disguise his political closeness to Stalin; and his role in the early 1920s as the progenitor of political and cultural Stalinism. Trotsky evinced a surprisingly glacial and schematic approach to making revolution. Service recounts Trotsky’s role in the botched German revolution of 1923; his willingness to subject Europe to a Red Army invasion in the 1920s; and his assumption that peasants could easily be pushed onto collective farms. Service also sheds light on Trotsky’s character and personality: his difficulties with his Jewish background, the development of his oratorical skills and his preference for writing over politicking, his inept handling of political factions and coldness toward associates, and his aversion to assuming personal power.

Although Trotsky’s followers clung to the stubborn view of him as a pure revolutionary and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin, the reality is very different. This illuminating portrait of the man and his legacy sets the record straight.

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Polish workers would resist the claims of patriotism. But Lenin was insistent on pressing over the Polish border and trying to take Warsaw; and once Lenin had made this decision Trotsky was as determined as Lenin to see it through. The writings and speeches of party leaders at the time told little about their assumptions about the true purpose of the campaign. Bolsheviks did not advertise the project of breaking past Warsaw to Berlin. Not once did their leaders publicly admit to the goal of

the two apprentices, Senya Gertopanov and David Chernukhovski. (Greben eventually fell out with young Gertopanov and got rid of him.)37 Unlike most youngsters of the colony, Leiba did not have a life associated mainly with fellow Jews. The Bronsteins increasingly adjusted themselves to the Christian calendar. Their labourers were Christians and Aneta made kut’ya – a traditional wheat berry dish – and handed it to them at Christmas, and at Easter she made painted eggs and baked kulichi – almond

everyone he met with an attitude of ‘armed neutrality’. Yet Kaminski was not without his enthusiasms. Being a bit of an inventor he delighted in demonstrating Boyle’s law with an apparatus he had developed. The display always provoked a certain amount of hilarity and quiet insubordination among the pupils.24 Then there were Yurchenko and Zlotchanski who taught mathematics. Yurchenko was a gruff Odessan who was easy to bribe to get him to award higher marks. Zlotchanski was no more refined, being

and the writing of them, at least in Natalya’s opinion, was only exacerbating her condition.41 At last Trotsky began to appreciate the sinister nature of his daughter’s condition. She was reaching the edge of mental disintegration. When told that his daughter had schizophrenia, he was shaken; but, like most people in the 1930s, he had little idea about the nature of the illness.42 He told his son Lëva about Zina’s letters. She wanted to come back to Turkey as her father’s ‘ally’ but he still

school reports on display. He appreciated that Leiba was something of a prodigy. His older boy Alexander had done well enough at school to go on to train as a doctor. But Alexander had never been outstanding at school. Leiba was different. Not only was he a gifted adolescent but also he had the ambition to make the most of his talent. The Shpentsers consoled him as best they could. It was obvious to them that an injustice had been done. Moshe said with some solemnity: ‘Well, fellow, what do you

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