Lev Davidovich Bronstein
Leon Trotsky

NameLev Davidovich Bronstein (7/11/1879 - 20/8/1940)
Also Known AsLeon Trotsky
BiographyLeon Trotsky was a brilliant marxist theoretician and orator who nevertheless was a poor personal politician and was consequently easily made the scapegoat in Stalin's purges.
Spent his childhood in Ianovka near Elizavetgrad in the western Ukraine, son of a bourgeois Jew.
Educated in Odessa.
Became involved in revolutionary activities. A populist (Narodniki) until he discovered Marxism.
First arrest for distribution of pamphlets at a port on the Black Sea, and exiled to Siberia for a four year sentence, 1898.
Joined the Social Democrats.
Went to London, then to Switzerland, 1902.
An editor of Iskra with Lenin.
After the 1903 split in the Social Democrats, he joined the Mensheviks.
On his return to Russia in 1905 he organised the Petrograd revolution (with Helphand-Parvus) and headed the Petrograd Soviet.
Exiled to Siberia 1906, escaped and went to Vienna, where he was involved in the socialist press.
  • Vronskaya & Chuguev, Biographical Dictionary of the Soviet Union, 1992, pp548-549.
  • McCauley, Who's Who in Russia Since 1900, 1997, pp209-211.
  • During this period, Trotsky wrote the famous book The Theory of Permanent Revolution, in which he rejected three Marxist articles of faith:
  • That revolution in Europe must preceed Revolution in Russia,
  • That Russia could not have a proletarian revolution before first undergoing a bourgeois revolution;
  • That the peasant class could not aid the proletarian revolution.
  • World War IMoved to Switzerland then the United States.
    Edited Novi Mir (New World) with Bukharin in New York.
    1917 February RevolutionReturned to Russia via Britain. Arrested by British and released after protest from Miliukov (Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government).
    An important organiser in Petrograd, he was arrested following the July coup attempt.
    Officially joined the Bolsheviks at Lenin's invitation after the latter's policies had shifted close to his own.
    Member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, he helped campaign amongst the Soviets with the "All Power to the Soviets" slogan, and laid many of the plans for the October revolution.
    After October RevolutionAppointed Commissar of Foreign Affairs in the Sovnarkom (soviet government).
    Resigned from the post while conducting the Brest-Litovsk negotiations, and was appointed Commissar of War.
    Chairman of Revvoen-Soviet in September 1918.
    In his capacity as Commissar of War and Chairman of Revvoen-Soviet, he transformed the Red Army and the military situation, with the assistance of Marshal Tukhachevsky through the use of terror (including use of the VCheKa), and through the utilisation of lower-echelon Tsarist officers (captains and lieutenants) in the army.
    The loyalty of these 'Spetsy' or bourgeois specialists was maintained through the use of political commissars to supervise the officer (a practise which was retained throughout the subsequent history of the Red Army and eventually all Soviet institutions), and by holding the officers' families 'hostage'. (On 30th September 1918, the family members of 'unreliable' officers were arrested).
    Author of the Manifesto of the Comintern (1919).
    Crushed the Kronstadt rebellion using terror tactics.
    When Trotsky's proposal to end War Communism was opposed by Lenin, Trotsky acquiesced, establishing Labour Armies. Then, when Lenin did agree to end War Communism, Trotsky assisted in the establishment of the successor policy, the New Economic Policy (NEP).
    Having failed to follow Lenin's instructions to prosecute Stalin at the 13th Party Congress, Trotsky found himself demonised by Stalin after Lenin's death.
    Decline and Demise1925: Replaced by Stalin protoge Frunze as Commissar of War.
    1926: Removed from Politburo.
    1927: Expelled from the Party along with the rest of his "Workers' Opposition" supporters.
    1928: Exiled to Alma Ata, Kazakhstan.
    1929: Expelled from the Soviet Union.
    Lived in exile in Turkey (1929-1933), France (1933-1935), Norway (briefly) and Mexico (1936 until his death in 1940).
    After Trotsky's fall and expulsion from the Soviet Union, Stalin made him the primary scapegoat in the purges which followed. Trotsky's name and picture were removed from publications and monuments throughout Russia.
    In exile, Trotsky wrote prolifically on the Revolution, Stalin, and his own theories.
    Proposed the 4th International as a rival to the Communist International (Comintern).
    Assassinated August 1940 with an icepick to the head by Mercador, a Mexican communist, after several other attempts had failed.

  • Martin McCauley, Who's Who in Russia Since 1900, Routledge, London, 1997.
  • Jeanne Vronskaya with Vladimir Chuguev, A Biographical Dictionary of the Soviet Union: Prominent People in all Fields from 1917 to the Present, Bowker-Saur, London, 1992.
  • See AlsoMarshal Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin

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    Copyright 2001-2004 Trevor Stanley, PWHCE