Monday, January 29, 2007
Esme Choonara - A Rebel's Guide to Trotsky
Few individuals can have had as full a life as Leon Trotsky. A radical from a young age, a Marxist organiser who was sent to prison in his 20s and exiled from his home in Russia, he never stop organising, writing, publishing or speaking in support of the cause of socialism.
Where this all he had achieved, he would certainly be an interesting historical character. But Trotsky returned to Russia for the 1905 revolution, swiftly rising to head the chief organisation of that revolution – the Petrograd Soviet. With the defeat of this revolution and the start of the First World War, Trotsky once again had to live in exile. Again, with the start of the February revolution of 1917, Trotsky once again returned to Russia and became centrally involved in the soviet Arguing that the revolution had to continue beyond the gains it had already made, Trotsky worked closely with Lenin in the run up to the October “workers” revolution.
This revolution, as Choonara explains, usured in one of the most “equal and democratic” societies, history has ever seen. In isolation though, the revolution was doomed. Both Lenin and Trotsky had always argued that socialism couldn’t be built in isolation, that the revolution needed to be international, and certainly that backward Russia wouldn’t survive for long. Indeed, in the years that followed the October uprising, Trotsky had to form, then lead a Red Army, to defeat the dozen or so invading armies that the Capitalist powers sent to destroy the revolution.
While defeating these invaders was one of Trotsky’s greatest triumphs, it left Russia isolated and exhausted - perfect breeding ground for the rise of Stalin’s bureaucracy. The author illustrates how Trotsky’s last great battle was to expose and organise against Stalin – but how the material conditions simply didn’t exist for Trotsky to win this battle. But Choonara points out how that pure fact that Trotsky did fight this fight, ultimately leading to his murder, has left a legacy of revolutionary socialism, which “could have been broken forever by the rise of Stalin”.
Choonara concludes this short little pamphlet by pointing out how today the world has many differences with Trotsky’s time, but also many similarities. The ideas of Trotsky, she argues – particularly his unwavering commitment to the central tenet of Marxism, that the world must be changed by the mass of ordinary men and women, have much to offer those struggling for change in the 21st Century.
Bambery - A Rebel's Guide to Gramsci
Birchall - A Rebel's Guide to Lenin