Thebeginning of the twentieth century in Russia saw Trotsky spending two years in various prisons before being sentenced to exile in Siberia. After another two years he escaped, getting away from Siberia on a false passport, in which he had written “Trotsky” for the first time, and leaving behind a wife and two baby daughters from Alexandra Sokolovskaya whom he had married in prison while still a minor.
Sent abroad as the delegate of the Social Democratic underground in Siberia, Trotsky, then twenty-three, joined the emigre circle around Lenin in London and began contributing to Lenin’s paper, Iskra. A priority objective of Marxist revolutionaries in those days, as now, was to discredit liberals and moderates, especially in the eyes of the young.Trotsky, with his youthful verve and insolence, his bent towards sarcasm, and his genius for invective, excelled in this activity, particularly as an orator addressing various social democratic gatherings.
Joseph Heath:This is the analysis that underlies ( Jurgen ) Habermas’s claim that crises of late capitalism will take the form, not of economic crises – since these can be dissolved through the interventions of the welfare state – but of legitimation crises. The capitalist economy depends upon the functional performances of the state for its stability, and the state in turn depends upon the “performance” of the lifeworld, which serves as a source of shared values and social norms….
Soon, however, the young iconoclast turned the cutting edge of his tongue and pen against Lenin himself. Relations between the two men became ambivalent, each esteeming but censuring the other, and remained that way until 1917, when Trotsky finally accepted Lenin’s primacy as a revolutionary leader.
Trotsky slipped back into Russia as the Revolution of 1905 was beginning, and it catapulted him to fame, at least within the revolutionary movement, at the age of twenty-six. No other Marxist emigre, not even Lenin himself, and few underground militants assessed the situation so fast and so accurately, or manifested so much “revolutionary intuition”, to use Trotsky’s own term, in exploiting it. He simultaneously made himself popular with the mass of Petersburg workers as a rabble rousing balcony orator and kept a tight rein on the hotheads in the soviet who deluded themselves with the hope of storming some czarist Bastille or dreamed of a heroic death on the barricades.
( Heath )…Yet because of the lack of functional organization of the lifeworld, the state cannot simply call up such performances on demand. Thus the state winds up making strategic use of existing “reserves” of meaning in the lifeworld, which in turn threatens to exhaust the supply. If and when this does occur, the state will lose the ability to shore up the capitalist economy, because it will no longer be able to draw upon a suitably motivated or persuaded group of citizens in support of its initiatives. Here lie the origins of a legitimation crisis…. Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/habermas.pdf
When the czar’s police finally moved against the soviet, Trotsky, who was chairing its last meeting, instructed his fellow delegates to break the hammers of their revolvers before surrendering, gave the floor to the police commander so that he could read out the warrant of arrest, and then told the baffled official to keep quiet while the meeting wound up its agenda. The performance was pure Trotsky: And wonderful revolutionary theater.
Joseph Heath:Jon Elster articulated these concerns quite forcefully. Allen Buchanan as well, in a paper called “Revolutionary Motivation and Rationality,” pointed out that the working class was subject to very serious collective action problems. Workers had already shown a willingness to free ride upon the efforts of unions in the workplace – by refusing to join or pay dues, but then deriving all the benefits of increased wages and improved work conditions. This is precisely why the “closed shop” was essential to the success of the union movement. Yet assuming that it was in the interest of the working class to overthrow the capitalist system, the same free-rider incentives presented themselves. Why go out and man the barricades, given that one’s absence is unlikely to be a decisive factor in the success of the revolution? Much better to stay at home until the dust settles.
There is no question that class solidarity was in many cases sufficient to overcome these collective action problems. But Marx had tended to assume that class consciousness is all that would be required. He assumed that workers were failing to engage in revolutionary agitation because they failed to see where there true interests lay. Thus he relied upon the theory of ideology in order to explain their inaction. The assumption throughout was that when workers came to see where their true interests lay, they would take to the streets – without any need for supplementary motivation. Thus theorists in the Marxist tradition spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the consciousness of the
proletariat, and the pernicious effects of ideology, while almost completely ignoring the concrete incentives that workers faced. One of the major goals of the analytical Marxists was to rectify this. Adam Przeworksi, for instance, observed that merely predicting an increase in the standard of living of the average worker under a socialist reorganization of the economy is not enough to motivate revolutionary action.Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/habermas.pdf