- Trotsky, Lev Davidovich
- (1879–1940)One of the primary leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein - he assumed the name Trotsky in 1902 - the son of a Jewish farmer in a small village in the Ukraine. His early revolutionary activities resulted in his arrest, exile, and eventual movement abroad, where he met V. I. Lenin in London in 1902. In the 1903 meeting of the Russian Social Democrats, Trotsky rejected Lenin’s idea of a small, restrictive party, preferring that of Julius Martov, who favored a broader party membership, open to all who embraced Marx’s theories. Over the next years, Trotsky remained more or less isolated, not linked to any one revolutionary group, criticizing Lenin and warning that his vision for a centralized party would inevitably result in the dictatorship of one man. Despite his isolation, Trotsky became well known, largely on the strength of his exceptional writing and oratory skills.In early 1905, Trotsky emerged as a leader of the Petersburg Soviet, although he was later arrested and again went abroad. During the spring of 1917, he returned to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks and by the early fall, he was leading the party while Lenin was in hiding. When the actual insurrection began in late October, Trotsky directed the revolutionaries’ activities, ordering the seizure of major city installations, such as phone and transportation offices. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, when some socialists refused to participate in the new government, Trotsky gave his famous speech in which he told these opponents to go “into the dustbin of history.” In the new Soviet government, Trotsky took the position of Commissar of Foreign Affairs. In 1918, as commissar of war, he was the Soviet representative during the negotiations for the Treaty of Brest Litovsk with Germany. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Trotsky was isolated and expelled from the party by Joseph Stalin’s aggressive maneuvering to become the country’s new leader. Trotsky’s ideas about permanent revolution and world revolution were cast aside in favor of Stalin’s argument for socialism in one country. In 1928, he was forced to leave Russia and moved from country to country until he finally settled in a suburb of Mexico City, where he worked with other Marxists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Even here he was not outside of Stalin’s reach and ultimately was murdered by one of Stalin’s agents in 1940.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Figes, Orlando. A People ’ s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924. New York: Penguin, 1996;Trotsky, Leon. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970;Volkhogonov, Dmitrii. Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary. Translated by Harold Shukman. New York: The Free Press, 1996;Wolfe, Bertram D. Three Who Made a Revolution. New York: Dial Press, 1964.LEE A. FARROW
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.