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Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky (alternative transliterations: Trotski, Trotzky) (October 29, 1879 - August 21, 1940), was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein to Jewish parents in Yanovka, Kherson Province, Ukraine.

He was first arrested in 1898 while working as an organizer for the South Russian Worker's Union. In 1900 he was sentenced to four years in exile in Siberia. He escaped from Siberia, taking the name Trotskii from one of his jailers in Odessa, and proceeded to London, England to join Vladimir Lenin, then managing editor of Iskra.

He attended the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in London in the summer of 1903, and during an internal dispute, sided with the Mensheviks against Lenin. Although his allegiance to the Mensheviks was short lived, the damage to his relationship with Lenin lasted for the next 14 years.

By 1905, he had returned to Russia. His involvement in the October general strike and his support for that armed rebellion led to his conviction and sentence to exile for life. In January, 1907, he escaped en route to exile and once again made his way to London, where he attended the Fifth Party Congress and then, in October moved to Vienna, Austria.

As war approached he moved to neutral Switzerland, then France. He was deported from France and was living in New York City when the Russian Revolution removed the Tsar. He returned to Russia in May of 1917 where he ultimately joined the Bolsheviks and became actively involved in efforts to overthrow the Provisional Government.

After the Party came to power, he became the Commissar For Foreign Affairs with the major goal of negotiating peace with Germany. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed by the Soviets on March 3, 1918. Trotsky subsequently resigned his diplomatic position and became Commissar of War. As founder and commander of the Red Army he was largely responsible for their success over the White Army and victory in the Russian Civil War.

With the illness and death of Lenin, Stalin was able to consolidate his control of the Party and the government. At this point, Trotsky was unable or unwilling to actively oppose Stalin. By remaining silent at the Twelfth Party Congress in 1923, Trotsky lost his last real opportunity to oppose Stalin, who along with Lev Kamenev[?] and Grigory Zinoviev was able to take control of the Party. Trotsky would later develop his theory of 'Permanent Revolution', which stood in stark contrast to Stalin's 'Socialism in One Country[?]' policy. This ideological division provided much of the basis for the political divide between Trotsky and Stalin. By 1928, Trotsky had been stripped of Party membership and was exiled to Alma Ata (now in Kazakhstan) on January 31, 1929.

He was deported and moved from Turkey to France to Norway, eventually settling in Mexico at the invitation of the painter, Diego Rivera. In 1938, Trotsky founded an international Marxist organization, the Fourth International, which was intended to be a Trotskyist alternative to the Stalinist Third International. He eventually quarreled with Rivera and in 1939 moved into his own residence. On May 24, 1940, Trotsky survived a Stalinist assassination attempt - a raid on his home. While at the home of Frida Kahlo on August 20, 1940, a Stalinist agent, Ramon Mercader[?] del Rio Hernandez, attacked Trotsky, driving an ice-axe into his skull.

From Mercader's testimony at his trial, "I laid my raincoat on the table in such a way as to be able to remove the ice-pick which was in the pocket. I decided not to miss the wonderful opportunity that presented itself. The moment Trotsky began reading the article gave me the chance, I took out the ice-pick from the raincoat, gripped it in my hand and, with my eyes closed, dealt him a terrible blow on the head." Trotsky died the next day.

See also: Trotskyism

External links and references

  • Throughout his life, Trotsky was a prolific writer. Many of his writings are available on-line at http://www.marxists.org
  • The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, Volume 39, published by Academic International Press
  • Trotsky, the Eternal Revolutionary by Dimitri Volkogonov published by the Free Press in 1996.
  • Isaac Deutscher has written a largely sympathetic biography of Trotsky, in three volumes, titled Trotsky: The Prophet Armed, Trotsky: The Prophet Unarmed, and Trotsky: The Prophet Outcast.

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