8 May 2007
Leon Trotsky: Failed Politician
Lev Davidovich Bronstein was born on November 7, 1879, in Ukraine ("Leon Trotsky" 452). His parents were farmers. However, they did value education. This is why they sent their son to the best boarding school in Odessa. This is where the transformation took place. Lev became a stubborn believer in intellectual solutions (Ali & Evans 11). When he came back to visit his family's farm, he tried to implement the use of geometric solutions to make the farm more efficient (Ali & Evans 11). Lev developed a talent for writing. His works earned him the nickname Pero, or "The Pen" (Wolfe 175). Ilya and Gregory Sokolovsky once said to their sister Alexandra Sokolovkaya, "Wait till you meet Lev Davidovich, such brilliance, such logic. No one can get the better of him in an argument" (Wolfe 196). Lev Davidovich Bronstein didn't evolve into Leon Trotsky until he escaped his first Siberian Exile. This is when his political career really took off. He developed his own political theories and personal beliefs that led to his political downfall and his ultimate demise.
Trotsky wasn't always the Marxist that we know him to be today. In the book Animal Farm, Leon Trotsky's parallel is the pig Snowball, who was firm believer in animalism, the Animal Farm parallel to Marxism. At the beginning of his political career, he was a supporter of Narodnik Peasant Socialism. This philosophy said that political propaganda would lead to the revolt of the peasants against the czars (Garza 36). Trotsky was introduced to Marxism by his first wife, Alexandra Sokolovskaya (Ali & Evans 16). He officially converted to Marxism in 1896 (Wolfe 199). Marxism is a system of governmental beliefs created by the German philosopher and journalist, Karl Marx (Garza 21). Karl Marx parallels Old Major in Animal Farm. The most basic belief of Marxism was that "revolution would occur and would end with a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and the communal ownership of wealth" (Beck 820). Karl Marx was the first to use the word communism to describe a classless society (Beck 820). Marxism was the basis of Russian communism. Russian Communists were divided into two parties, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks (Beck 820). Leon Trotsky developed his own Marxist theories that became the well known and acclaimed Trotskyism (User Submitted).
Trotskyism, besides being comprised of many Marxist principles, also includes numerous governmental beliefs. The Theory of Permanent Revolution was the most influential element of Trotskyism (Trotsky xxx). A belief that is unique to Trotskyism is that trade unions must be fused with the state (Ali & Evans 103). Trotsky also believed that the government must have a united front to accomplish anything (Ali and Evans 106). Trotsky, with his persuasive writings, made the following a common belief: "Communism can only succeed with a world wide revolution," (User Submitted). He also did not want to replace bureaucratic rule with army rule, even though it was possible for him to do so many times throughout his political career (Ali & Evans 117). The parallel to this situation in Animal Farm is Snowball's unwillingness to attack Mr. Jones and his cronies. Trotsky and Lenin saw eye to eye on many issues. They both agreed that societies with a peasant majority, without a democracy or political rights, the next stage of development must be capitalism and a bourgeois revolution (Trotsky 329). When this took place, the proletariat, the key to the revolution, would have complete victory (Ali & Evans 31). In Animal Farm, Boxer, a horse, represents the proletariat, or the working class.
At an early age, Leon Trotsky seemed to have a magnetism that never let him go for very long without being imprisoned. His first incarceration was in the town of Odessa (where he went to school), at the age of nineteen (Ali & Evans 23). In 1898, he was jailed for supporting revolution against the czar. He escaped not long after ("Leon Trotsky" 452). Later, he was exiled to Siberia for the same offense. When he escaped his Siberian exile in 1902, he shed the name Lev Davidovich Bronstein, in favor of Leon Trotsky ("Leon Trotsky" 452). The name was derived from that of a guard at the prison in Odessa where he served his first term of imprisonment (Garza 42). Trotsky went to London in 1902, which is where he met Lenin for the first time. They hit it off right away, and began to plot a rebellion. This turned into the 1905 Russian Revolution. Trotsky was jailed for his part in the plot. He escaped two years later. During WWI, Trotsky was thrown out of France and Spain. After that, he went to New York City, where he heard about the downfall of Czar Nicholas II in 1917 ("Leon Trotsky" 452). Trotsky returned to Russia, where for many years, all was well and he was in a position of power under Lenin. This all fell apart with the death of Lenin (Trotsky 353).
In 1928, Leon Trotsky was exiled to Soviet Central Asia by the new government leader, Stalin. Stalin's parallel in Animal Farm is the pig Napoleon. From there, Trotsky was deported to Turkey in 1929. Fearing for his life, he traveled from there to Norway. However, Trotsky did not stay there long. He settled to Mexico, where he was relatively safe for the time being ("Leon Trotsky" 452). Mexico symbolizes the "safe haven" for Snowball that was Pichfield, and Foxwood Farms in Animal Farm. Stalin's Secret Police parallel the dogs under Napoleon's command.
The 'Great' Leon Trotsky was not without his character flaws. As Lenin said: "Trotsky is the most able man on the Central Committee, but he has too far-reaching self confidence." (Ali & Evans 111). This quote touches on one of Trotsky's most prominent flaws; he had a tendency to exhibit too much self-confidence. Stalin, unlike Trotsky, had a keen eye for political opportunity. Trotsky was better at coming up with political theories rather than the actually putting them into action. He was also very concerned with his self-image and how others viewed him. Though it is obvious from all of his writings, Trotsky was much more intelligent than Stalin. However, this was also his undoing. To put it very simply, Trotsky did not work well with others, even those he deemed acceptable to be his equals. Another major obstacle in Trotsky's fight for power was that he was a Bolshevik outsider, having only joined the party in 1917 (User Submitted).
What was perhaps Trotsky's most tragic flaw of all was that he did not give Stalin proper respect. Had he done this, Trotsky may not have been led to underestimate Stalin as a rival (Garza 84). As a direct result, Leon Trotsky lost leadership of Russia to Joseph Stalin. "Stalin is the outstanding mediocrity in the party" (Garza 84). This quote was given by Leon Trotsky after Lenin's death. Before the inevitable exile of Trotsky, Stalin did his best to disparage all of Trotsky's beliefs and ideals. This weakened Trotsky's public image more than anything else could (Garza 84). In Animal Farm, Napoleon took a similar route by tearing apart Snowball's image in the eyes of the people. Stalin initiated his campaign against the "criminal heresy" that was Trotskyism through the newspaper Pravda in 1923 (Ali & Evans 116). This slandered all of Trotsky's previous actions as well as exposing Trotskyism in everyday life (Trotsky 514). Pravda's equivalent in Animal Farm was the pig, Squealer. In January 1925, Trotsky was removed from his post as the People's Commissary of War (Trotsky 120). This is comparable to when Snowball's Animal Hero, First Class was taken away by Napoleon in Animal Farm. Trotsky was thrown out of the Communist party in 1927 ("Leon Trotsky" 452). Soon after, he was exiled from Russia. No matter where he went, he was pursued by Stalin's Secret Police ("Death of a Revolutionary" 21). There was an assassination attempt on June 3, 1940 on Trotsky after he had settled in Mexico City ("Death of a Revolutionary" 21). On August 20, 1940 at 5:30 pm, Leon Trotsky was ice picked in the head by Ramon Mercarder, under the alias of Frank Jackson. Trotsky lived for 25 hours and 30 minutes after the fact. He died on August 21 from the wounds ("Death of a Revolutionary" 22). Leon Trotsky's last words were "If I were to begin all over again… the course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionary," (Garza 107).
Leon Trotsky, though brilliant and successful in many aspects of his life, was not a politician at heart. Trotsky had good ideas, but had trouble implementing them. He did not have what it takes to be truly successful in politics: aggressiveness. However, there were many factors, including his political actions and personal beliefs that led to Leon Trotsky's death and downfall.
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