Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Лев Троцкий

(Lev or Leon Trotsky)

When I was in college studying, I took Russian History and Languages for 2 years. Ever captivated by them, their art, their sheer heart in the face of adversity and completely fascinated by the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, but as all Russian Marxists soon found, it was easier to remain out of the clutches of the Czar's secret police with noms de guerre. Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov and Stalin, a Georgian, was born with Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili. He deliberately chose the moniker “Stalin,” because in Russian, it means “steel.” Harbinger of things to come and not good things.

Here, artist; you must make me look MORE evil. Draw some fangs and a tail!

Trotsky, was initially a member of the Menshevik party, a more loosely-organized and liberal party than the Bolshevik party. Although he and Lenin quarreled and often times had out and out splits over dogma of true Marxism, prior to the 1917 revolution, they both recognized the other's worth. Neither, however trusted Stalin, although he too was part of the inner circle.

Stalin doesn't even look like he's having a good time here. Spoilsport!

Trotsky initially came to prominence in 1905. A peaceful strike was held at one of the shipyards and grew into a general strike in St. Petersburg. Father Georgi Gapon led a peaceful procession of the participants and citizens through the streets to the Winter Palace to plead with Czar Nicholas for food and relief for the oppressive government. The Palace Guard fired upon the peaceful gathering, causing the deaths of a 1,000 of those gathered. This has become known as Bloody Sunday.

Trotsky was picked up, arrested and put on trial, a “show trial.” He was allowed to speak in his defense, although the resulting verdict was a foregone conclusion. It is said that he gave the “speech of his life.” A superior orator, dynamic, forceful and an incredible writer; impassioned, logical and understanding of what was at stake and how to communicate to people who were not necessarily the most literate, Lenin understood him and wanted him on the Bolshevik's side. Stalin feared him.

Trotsky and his daughter Nina in 1915, France

After these events, Trotsky secretly returned to Russia from imprisonment in Siberia, and set up shop in Kiev. He had been printing leaflets in Kiev, but soon decided he needed a wider audience. He went north, to St. Petersburg, was discovered and had to flee to rural Finland. During all this running and fleeing, he managed to found the newspaper Pravda, Truth.

The Menshevik and Bolshevik parties were still at odds, but slowly gaining strength and also consensus about what they wanted to achieve for Russia. It was decided at one of their many gabfests that they would unite as one. Zinoviev, Bukharin, Bulganin, Plekhanov, Kirov and others, to a man, all lined up behind Lenin. Lenin and Trotsky continued to spat, but again, they all argued over dogma. There is a scene in “Reds” that depicts it accurately. It just sounds like a lot of yelling.

This was probably taken after a yelling session in the Politburo.

While all of this is going on, the country is literally falling apart. In 1914, when WWI breaks out, Trotsky is in France, once again in exile. Then, France deports him to Spain for anti-war activities. This has come about, because when Lenin declared the Third Internationale, he adopted it as written by Trotsky, which excluded Russia from WWI entirely. So, Spain, says, “well, we can't have any peace-mongers here,” and they ship Trotsky to the U.S. The U.S. lets him stay and teach or write or play chess, for a while, and then in 1917, the Russian Revolution breaks out. Czar Nicky gets tossed and Trotsky hops a ship under Swedish registry which gets waylaid by the British government and sent to Canada. Trotsky gets detained for a month in an internment camp in Nova Scotia. All because Lenin, as head of the Bolshevik party, pulled Russia, who at that time was an ally, OUT of the war.

After some fum-fawing, and fooling around, the Russian foreign minister Pavel Malyukov demanded the release of Leon Trotsky as a Russian Citizen, and the British Government released him on April 29th, 1917. When he arrived home, although he agreed with the Bolshevik position, he didn't join right away. Eventually he did, and sided with Lenin against Zinoview and Kamenev to overthrow the Provisional Government headed by Aleksandr Kerensky. Stalin wrote of Trotsky's particular prowess as a Military Leader in his memoirs, a passage Trotsky later expunged from his own works; the enmity between the two that great even then.

Trotsky was not only a wizard on the battlefield. He was the consummate politician, securing Lenin's primacy in the Soviet, keeping the power centralized and by the end of 1917, Trotsky was the number 2 man in the Bolshevik Party. He streamlined the organization and centralization, which had been Zinoviev's task. Zinoviev did feel the slight, but soldiered on; he had been with Lenin for over a decade.

The yelling ranged from distribution of goods, to whether or not Russia should recognize other countries at war.

Trotsky went on to experience more brilliant achievements, became Head of the Red Army in 1918 and several reversals (losing his beloved army in 1925) in fortune. It is no secret that Stalin hated and feared him more than any other man. In Lenin's last will and testament, he literally beseeches the heirs “Stalin is too coarse... becomes intolerable in a Secretary General.” Of Trotsky, Lenin says, “...is distinguished not only by his outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the C.C. (Central Committee) but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and excessive preoccupation with the administrative side of his work.”

After Lenin's death, Stalin reclaimed every copy of this testament that he could, killed the recipients and hounded Trotsky and thwarted him in everything the man tried to do. Trotsky and his family, after running for several years, ended up seeking asylum in 1935 in Mexico City. There he studied, wrote, and published “true” histories of the Bolshevik revolution. He lived quietly in a house that belonged to the painter Diego Rivera. On August 21, 1940, and undercover NKVD agent, Ramon Mercader broke into his house and hit him in the head with a pickaxe. Trotsky was rushed to a hospital and operated on, but died a day later. He was 60 years old.

I always liked Trotsky; the pen is mightier than the sword, he proved that. It would have been a far different USSR or CCCP had Trotsky and not Stalin succeeded Lenin. We never really stop to think that Lenin was in power, REALLY in power from 1918 until 1922, when he had his first stroke. There are rumors that Stalin had Lenin killed. Who knows? But Stalin ruled from 1924 until 1953; that's a long time to instill a zeitgeist of fear, paranoia and utter hatred for anything outside of yourself. Djugashvili started his career at a Jesuit monastery. I too, was taught by Jesuits, but it just deepens the mystery. One of the first things Stalin did was treat his own SSR, Georgia with immense cruelty. Part of the Harvest of Sorrow.

He has his own Facebook page, "Imaginary Trotsky." Like all animals he graces us with his presence, even if he is no longer here.

On a happier note, in 1987, I inherited a little blue ball of fluff. He squawked when I took him home. I was in the midst of taking some Russian Language and Russian History classes. I didn't know what this little guy was; I named him “Trotsky.” He turned out to be a stunning Russian Blue when he grew up. Smart as a whip and a one person cat. Very protective; all 20 pounds of him. He also had this weird Siamese yowl. I didn't think much about that. He really wasn't a talker. We went pretty much everywhere together. He died in 2002 at the age of 17. I miss him; I found out some cool stuff about these cats. The Arkangel (Russian Blue) cats as they're called, are from Leningrad. During WWII, the breed almost died out, during the 900-day siege by the Nazis. They've been infused with Siamese blood to keep them going, hence the yowl. I learn new stuff all the time. Here's to you, товарищ Троцкий (pal Trotsky.)

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