Leon Trotsky(redirected from Lev Trockij)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
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 Lenin 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 Menshevism.
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 Bukharin and Aleksandra Mikhaylovna Kollontai, 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 Revolution), which brought the Bolsheviks to 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-Litovsk (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 Stalin. 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 Kamenev (Trotsky's brother-in-law), and Grigori Zinoviev. 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.
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).
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.