Leon Trotsky, who once plaid an important role in the Russian revolution, was expelled from a party, the Third International, and was proclaimed as an enemy of Leninism. In the beginning of the revolution, he headed the Petrograd Soviet, managed the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, and led the Red Army. However, during an internal political struggle among the Trotskyites and party bureaucrats, the latter succeeded. Therefore, the expression that “People are swept along by events. Some individuals use events to advantage”, concerns Leon Trotsky because of his steep flight to the top of the Russian political life and defeat from his own comrades who used the difficult situation and proved to be stronger in political intrigues and bureaucracy than Trotsky’s team was.
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Trotsky’s political career started by chance, when he met personally with Lenin in 1902. Lenin helped him with a job and some time later Trotsky became a writer for the communist newspaper Iskra (Gilbert, 2003, p. 5). Soon afterwards, he became a leader of Mensheviks’ faction of the Russian Democratic Party. Thus, Leon Trotsky, who was a refugee from Siberia to London, steeply changed his life using the advantage in his favor. After his meeting with Lenin, his career grew steadily along with the success of the party. Just several years later, in 1906, Trotsky “became a leader of the Petrograd Soviet” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 11).
His swift political growth was partly a merit of chance too. Trotsky was caught in surprise when read the news about the revolt, “I read several lines of the telegram about the Bloody Sunday and burning wave struck into my head” (Emelianov, 2003, p. 122). As the soviets were supposed to be the main politic power centers in the country and the city was the capital of Russian empire, the post of the soviet’s head was important and could be entrusted to a chosen leader. However, in the period of the gap between two revolutions, the post was not vested with any real power and Trotsky was mostly engaged in his favorite literature and publicism. It was a time “of consolidation, absorbing, and teaching the lessons of the first uprising, and preparing for the next showdown” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 16).
The next event that provided Trotsky with a tremendous advantage was the February revolution in 1917 and its preconditions. The revolution in Russia was caused by a general dissatisfaction of the bourgeois class and the soldiers that were exhausted by the World War I events. Millions of Russians were killed during the war and sustained “40 % of all military Allied losses” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 16). The military command did not perform its obligations properly and sent to war poorly equipped, “without shoes on empty stomach,” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 16) and half-trained army of peasants who underwent horrific losses.
Though the preconditions were propitious to revolutionary events, Trotsky and majority of his comrades took the news about Czar’s resign with surprise. Therefore, all the Bolsheviks, including Lenin, returned from their exile, arrived to Petersburg, and started an active political struggle with their comrades and opponents for power (Gilbert, 2003, p. 20). The main disagreement was among the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks regarding cooperation with different strata of the society. While the latter insisted on an active cooperation with the bourgeoisie, the former refused such cooperation and demanded vesting the soviets with power.
Gradually, as the Bolsheviks gained majority in the soviets, they used the situation of the weak governmental power and anti-war mood among the soldiers, to their advantage. As the war “ignited the countryside” and the soldiers were betrayed by the liberals, “the Bolsheviks gained majority of representatives in the revolutionary soviets”; and Trotsky, being a head of the Petrograd Soviet, “on November 7, 1917, coordinated the insurrection” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 22). Soon afterwards he was assigned to the post of the Commissar of Foreign Affairs and took active part in the negotiations with Germany to stop the war (Gilbert, 2003, p. 23). However, his slogan “No Piece, No War” failed and Russia was compelled to sign the peace treaty.
When the Bolsheviks defeated majority of their enemies, the internal disagreements in the party started to play a fatal role in Trotsky’s life and career. Thus, though the NEP plan of economical development offered by Trotsky in 1921 was a breakthrough to the depressed Russian economics, “the growing bureaucracy rightly saw Trotsky as a dangerous antagonist” (Gilbert, 2003, p. 28). Besides, the party bureaucracy used Lenin’s death to their advantage. The intricacies of his fate resulted in his exile from the country and tragic assassinations by the Stalinists who considered him dangerous for the political life in the USSR even long after the revolution. Though Lenin himself never struggled against Trotsky and agreed with him on many principal political questions, Stalin seized the political power and headed the party after Lenin’s death by chance.
There are two major points of view concerning the struggle. On one hand, Trotsky was a victim of the lies and terror organized by the comrade Stalin and his group. Trotskyites were right in their ideology regarding the country reconstruction and political trends, which were acknowledged by Lenin and distorted by the Stalinists. On the other hand, Stalin considered the party Opposition wing as a the weak force incapable of productive work and criticized them for wrong political priorities.
In his Permanent Revolution, Trotsky asserted that it was Stalin who “swept him away” thanks to some unfortunate events. Thus, Stalin falsified some of significant Trotsky’s points of view and Lenin’s real attitude to him, calling it a “legend of “Trotskyism” (2010, p. 176). Trotsky defended himself from such accusations. He proved that understood Lenin’s approach well and “strived for unity” with the Mensheviks. Therefore, the Bolsheviks faction criticized him “sharply” blaming him in “conciliationism.” (2010, p. 193). However, as Trotsky insisted, this discrepancy was not significant and did not part him with Lenin. The latter told that by supporting the idea of the worker’s and peasantry governmental hegemony, Trotsky did not “skip over” the basic provisions to establishing socialism and communism (2010, p. 227).
According to another point of view, Trotsky himself used contradictory streams of the political activity to defeat his enemies and cover his own mistakes. For instance, he used the political repressions inside the Bolsheviks’ Party to blame others in the failure of the party. When he failed to achieve revolutionary success in Germany, Trotsky “blamed comrades in the defeat” (Emelianov, 2003, p. 264). Justifying his struggle for power with the comrades, he emphasized that only truly proletariat forces might lead the party. He exemplified the French events when the group of Clemanso struggled with the bourgeoisie group that resulted in strengthening of the state in the war with the Germany (Emelianov, 2003, p. 282). Stalin sharply criticized this opinion, ridiculing Trotsky for incapability to set priorities, because “he would rather struggle for power against compatriots than fight with the enemy by the gates” (Emelianov, 2003, p. 282).
Trotsky’s ability to use events played a significant part in his swift political flight. He used such event as the personal meeting with Lenin to become a member of the party top. Besides, his close relations with the head of the party provided him with protection against severe criticism of the competitive party wing. However, Trotsky was swept away by events himself when the protection of his patron stopped after Lenin’s death. Though Trotsky proved that his loyalty to the revolutionary values and Leninism were undoubted, Stalin’s wing of the party repressed his proponents and took their place using the situation to their advantage.
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