Leon Trotsky

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Trotsky, Leon

(trŏt`skē, Rus. lā`ən trôt`skē), 1879–1940, Russian Communist revolutionary, one of the principal leaders in the establishment of the USSR; his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein.

Early Career

Trotsky was born of Jewish parents in the S Ukraine. His father, a prosperous farmer, sent him to Odessa, where he became an outstanding student in a German secondary school. He early became a populist, and he began to be attracted to Marxism in late 1896. In 1898 he was arrested for the first of many times. Exiled to Siberia in 1900, he escaped in 1902, using a forged passport under the name of Trotsky, the head jailer of the Odessa prison in which he had earlier been held.

He went to London and collaborated with Vladimir Ilyich LeninLenin, Vladimir Ilyich
, 1870–1924, Russian revolutionary, the founder of Bolshevism and the major force behind the Revolution of Oct., 1917. Early Life
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 on the revolutionary journal Iskra [spark]. After the split (1903) in the Russian Social Democratic party he was for a short time a leading Menshevik spokesman, but he later established an independent course, wavering for years between Bolshevism and MenshevismBolshevism and Menshevism
, the two main branches of Russian socialism from 1903 until the consolidation of the Bolshevik dictatorship under Lenin in the civil war of 1918–20.
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Returning to Russia in 1905, Trotsky became chairman of the short-lived St. Petersburg soviet and was arrested during its last meeting. While in prison, he developed his theory of permanent revolution; he declared that in Russia a bourgeois and a socialist revolution would be combined and that a proletarian revolution would then spread throughout the world. Banished again to Siberia, he escaped to Vienna, where he worked (1907–14) as a journalist. At the outbreak of World War I, he went to Switzerland and then to Paris, where he was active in pacifist and radical propaganda. Expelled from France, he moved (Jan., 1917) to New York City, where he edited, with Nikolai Ivanovich BukharinBukharin, Nikolai Ivanovich
, 1888–1938, Russian Communist leader and theoretician. A member of the Bolshevik wing of the Social Democratic party, he spent the years 1911–17 abroad and edited (1916) the revolutionary paper Novy Mir [new world] in New York City.
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 and Aleksandra Mikhaylovna KollontaiKollontai, Aleksandra Mikhaylovna
, 1872–1952, Russian revolutionary, diplomat, and novelist, whose maiden name was Aleksandra M. Domontovich. The daughter of a general, she early rebelled against her society.
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, the paper Novy Mir [new world].

He returned (May, 1917) to Russia after the overthrow of Nicholas II, and, by July, 1917, was a member of the Bolshevik party, taking part with Lenin in the unsuccessful Bolshevik uprising of that month. He was imprisoned by the Aleksandr Kerensky government but was released in September. He was one of the chief organizers of the October Revolution (see Russian RevolutionRussian Revolution,
violent upheaval in Russia in 1917 that overthrew the czarist government. Causes

The revolution was the culmination of a long period of repression and unrest.
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), which brought the Bolsheviks to power.

In Power

Trotsky became (Nov., 1917) people's commissar for foreign affairs under Lenin. He was a principal figure in negotiations for a separate peace between Russia and the central powers. In the Treaty of Brest-LitovskBrest-Litovsk, Treaty of
, separate peace treaty in World War I, signed by Soviet Russia and the Central Powers, Mar. 3, 1918, at Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus). After the separate armistice of Dec.
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 (Feb., 1918) Russia submitted to such humiliating conditions that Trotsky was compelled to resign as commissar for foreign affairs. He became commissar of war in 1918 and organized the Red Army in the civil war that followed the revolution, accomplishing the monumental task of welding an efficient fighting force from the tattered remnants of the czarist army and various disparate elements.

It was during the civil war that enmity grew between Trotsky and Joseph StalinStalin, Joseph Vissarionovich
, 1879–1953, Soviet Communist leader and head of the USSR from the death of V. I. Lenin (1924) until his own death, b. Gori, Georgia.
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. In the trade-union debate (1920–21) within the party, Trotsky clashed with Lenin by demanding strict state control of unions. But the two leaders were again drawn together as a result of the anti-Bolshevik Kronstadt Revolt (1921), the military suppression of which Trotsky directed. As Lenin's health declined, Stalin, more skillful in party infighting, gained prominence. As a result of the tenth party congress (1921), at which the trade-union issues were debated, Stalin was named (1922) general secretary of the party.

On Lenin's death (1924) titular power passed to a triumvirate consisting of Stalin, Lev KamenevKamenev, Lev Borisovich
, 1883–1936, Soviet Communist leader. His original name was Rosenfeld. He joined (1901) the Social Democratic party and sided with the Bolshevik wing when the party split (1903).
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 (Trotsky's brother-in-law), and Grigori ZinovievZinoviev, Grigori Evseyevich
, 1883–1936, Soviet Communist leader, originally named Radomyslsky. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor party in 1901 and sided with Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik faction after 1903 (see Bolshevism and Menshevism).
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. Advocating world revolution, Trotsky came into increasing conflict with Stalin's plans for "socialism in one country." Trotsky enjoyed great prestige as a revolutionary leader and had followers in the army and state administration, but Stalin effectively controlled the party machine. The triumvirate, although shaky, firmly opposed Trotsky.

Stalin refused to expel Trotsky from the party at this time, but he was dismissed as commissar of war in 1925. In 1926 Zinoviev and Kamenev belatedly joined forces with Trotsky in a desperate attempt to check Stalin's power. Trotsky was expelled from the politburo in 1926 and from the party in 1927.

In Exile

In Jan., 1928, Trotsky was exiled to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan), and in 1929 he was ordered to leave the USSR. Refused admission by most countries, he was granted asylum by Turkey, where he lived on the Princes' Islands near İstanbul. In 1933 he was allowed to move to France, and in 1935 he found refuge in Norway. In the public treason trials held at Moscow in 1936, 1937, and 1938, Trotsky was charged with heading a plot against the Stalinist regime. The accusations, which Trotsky bitterly denied, cloaked Stalin's real purpose of purging the party ranks of all who might prove disloyal to him. In Dec., 1936, the Soviet government obtained the expulsion of Trotsky from Norway, and he settled with his family in a suburb of Mexico City. There, on Aug. 20, 1940, he was assassinated by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish Communist and possible agent of Stalin.


Trotsky's prolific writings are marked by his superlative intelligence—unquestioned even by his enemies—by his indomitable aggressiveness, and by his incisive, always polemical style; they did considerable damage to the Stalinist cause outside the Soviet Union. Among Trotsky's translated writings are The Defense of Terrorism (1921), Lenin (1925), My Life (1930), History of the Russian Revolution (3 vol., 1932), The Revolution Betrayed (1937), Stalin (1941), and Diary in Exile, 1935 (1958).

See biographies by I. Deutscher (3 vol., 1954–63, repr. 2004), D. Volkogonov (1996), R. Service (2009), and J. Rubenstein (2011); see also I. Howe, Leon Trotsky (1978); B. Knei-Paz, The Social and Political Thought of Leon Trotsky (1978); R. Wistrich, Trotsky (1982); A. Glotzer, Trotsky: Memoir and Critique (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Trotsky, Leon

(Lyov Davidovich Bronstein) (1879-1940) a leading member of the Russian BOLSHEVIK Party which he joined during the 1917 Revolution. He was Commissar of War during the civil war which followed, but after the death of LENIN in 1924, he was increasingly in conflict with STALIN, resulting in his exile from the USSR in 1929. In exile he became a leading Marxist critic of the policies of the USSR, developing in The Revolution Betrayed the notion of a degenerated workers’ state, dominated by a parasitic bureaucratic caste. In 1938 he formed the Fourth International as a means of continuing the commitment to revolutionary COMMUNISM centred around parties based on pre-Stalinist principles.

Trotsky is accepted as a major writer within the Marxist tradition. His 1905 and History of the Russian Revolution are seen, even by critics, as brilliant analyses. His major contributions to Marxist theory are the theories of PERMANENT REVOLUTION and combined and uneven development, in which he argued that not all societies have to go through a stage of mature CAPITALISM to achieve SOCIALISM.

In exile in Mexico, Trotsky was murdered by an agent of Stalin. Since his death his political legacy is evident in various, often relatively marginal, political organizations committed to Trotskyism. See MARXISM.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Puesto que ya por entonces se habia constituido en los Estados Unidos un comite para la defensa de Leon Trotsky, conformado por intelectuales y ciudadanos de las mas altas calidades morales y sin compromisos politicos a favor o en contra de Trotsky, se formo a partir de este una Comision Internacional de Investigacion para examinar las acusaciones hechas contra Trotsky y su hijo en los procesos de Moscu y se nombro como presidente de dicha comision al filosofo y educador norteamericano John Dewey.
While the literature on Leon Trotsky could fill rows of bookshelves, (13) the amount of writing on his German political allies is negligible.
(1) In general, the existing biographies of Trotskii are extensive; see, e.g., the bibliographies compiled by Wolfgang and Petra Lubitz, working on online "Trotskyana" for the project "Lubitz' Leon Trotsky Bibliography," which contains around 16,000 title records (http://www.
I mean that they are a party openly and proudly inspired by the writings of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. They don't believe Parliamentary democracy as we know it can significantly improve society, and look forward instead to the day when the working class "collectively seize control of...
In Defense of Leon Trotsky. Oak Park, MI: Mehring Books, 2010.
First published in 1971, this reprinted edition consists of 24 articles by Leon Trotsky on the fascist movement in Germany, written from 1930-1932 (with one article from 1940), as he asserted all his powers of persuasion to stir the German workers to rise up against the fascists before they took power.
Oxford University's Robert Service completes his trilogy of the three most significant early Soviet leaders with the first biography of Leon Trotsky not written by an acolyte.
Ramon Mercader was a KGB-hired Spanish communist, who was sent to kill Leon Trotsky with an icepick in Mexico in 1940.
1940: Leon Trotsky, exiled Bolshevik leader who found asylum in Mexico, died after being struck several blows on the head with an ice pick wielded by Ramon Mercader, an agent for Soviet dictator Stalin.
In communist Russia the man used to falsify images, deleting fools like Leon Trotsky out of photographs where he was pictured with Lenin, revising historical events as they saw fit.