the ballad of trotsky: revolution of disavowal

There was a rise, there was a fall. Though a Stalinist secret agent, Raymond Mercader, drove a pickaxe through his brain, the theories of communism were remarkably not consigned to the scrapheap of history as had been assumed. Trotsky always managed a comeback of sorts, inspiring new generations of Marxists, while continuing to be echoed, albeit sometimes reluctantly, by the older guard.

Farrell Dobbs and Trotsky in Mexico.---Lenin expressed this in his formula of the 'democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry'. Trotsky, however, in his theory of the permanent revolution, pointed out that the peasantry historically had never played an independent role. It must be led by one or other of the two great classes in society, the bourgeoisie or the working class. Lenin and Trotsky agreed that the capitalists could not carry through their own revolution. Therefore, Trotsky argued, the working class must assume the leadership of the revolution, drawing behind it the masses in the countryside. Lenin, on the other hand, left open the exact relationship between the peasantry and the working class, in his 'algebraic formula'. Trotsky argued that because history had shown that the peasantry can never play an independent role the alliance, therefore, must be led by the working class. The combined movement of the working class in the cities, and a mass peasant uprising in the countryside, was envisaged by Trotsky in his theory of permanent revolution as the way the revolution was likely to develop in Russia. ---Read More: image:

Joseph Heath:…Consider Naomi Klein. She starts out No Logo by decrying the recent conversion of factory buildings in her Toronto neighbourhood into “loft living” condominiums. She makes it absolutely clear to the reader that her place is the real deal, a genuine factory loft, steeped in working-class authenticity, yet throbbing with urban street culture and a “rock-video aesthetic.” Now of course anyone who has a feel for how social class in this country works knows that, at the time Klein was writing, a genuine factory loft in the King-Spadina area was possibly the single most exclusive and desirable piece of real estate in Canada. … Only the most exclusive segment of the cultural elite could get access to them….

Kahlo. Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky. ---Peter Taaffe:...TROTSKY'S ANALYSIS OF the rise of the bureaucracy and the victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution is one of the treasures of humankind. Without this Marxists would have been groping in the dark to find a way forward. In his Diary In Exile, Trotsky summed up his contribution in the following fashion: "The work in which I am engaged now, despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life - more important than 1917, more important than the period of the civil war or any other. "For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October revolution would still have taken place - on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October revolution: the leadership of the Bolshevik Party would have prevented it from occurring - of this I have not the slightest doubt! If Lenin had not been in Petersburg, I doubt whether I could have managed to conquer the resistance of the Bolshevik leaders....---Read More: image:

So, the pickaxe that did Trotsky in did not succeed in killing his ideas. And, a revival of the theories of Stalin’s most consistent opponent are seen by many today as a viable form of social and political organization. At first glance, neither the theme or the rhetoric seems particularly original. But, in an abstract and purely ideological sense the Trotskyist mystique of “victory in defeat”, the title of Isaac Deutscher’s closing chapter in his seminal biography of Trotsky, has long had some rational foundation.

… Her complaints about commercialization are nothing but an expression of this loss of distinction. What she fails to observe is that this distinction is precisely what drives the real estate market, what creates the value in these dwellings. People buy these lofts because they want a piece of Klein’s social status. Naturally, she is not amused. They are, after all, her inferiors—an inferiority that they demonstrate through their willingness to accept mass-produced, commercialized facsimiles of the “genuine” article….Read More:

Martin Morrow:That doesn't seem to have fazed Leon Bronstein. A geeky Jewish teenager in present-day Montreal, he just happens to share the same birth name as Trotsky, and that’s somehow convinced him he's the second coming of the communist messiah. On his bedroom wall, he’s tacked a list of goals to help him realize his destiny. They range from “Marry an older woman named Alexandra” right down to “Get assassinated . Jacob Tierney's comedy The Trotsky, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a fresh, witty take on teenage rebellion that imagines what might happen if a fiery young Bolshevik tried to stir up a revolution in complacent, bourgeois Canada. It stars Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) as the hilariously solemn Leon, who emulates Trotsky right down to the steel-rimmed glasses and Struwwelpeter hair....Read More:

Trotsky wrote with equal fire and conviction as an apostle of revolution ans as the critic of a revolution gone wrong, as a champion of the dictatorship of the proletariat and as the censor of a totalitarian bureaucracy established in its name. It is a natural that every variety of Marxist revolutionary, and some who are more revolutionary than Marxist , have found inspiration in his voluminous, often contradictory writings.

Whether Trotsky himself, if he were alive, would recognize as his ideological disciples such romantic Marxists as Che Guevara, or a Chavez and whether he would acknowledge all the victories for Trotskyism claimed by those giving lip service, is doubtful. But not really material. Clearly, it is not the strict canon of Trotskyist doctrine, if there is such a thing, that still can captivate the imagination, though only a very small minority have read his theoretical works.

…Klein claims these newcomers bring “a painful new self-consciousness” to the neighbourhood. But as the rest of her introduction demonstrates, she is also conscious—painfully so—of her surroundings. Her neighbourhood is one where “in the twenties and thirties Russian and Polish immigrants darted back and forth on these streets, ducking into delis to argue about Trotsky and the leadership of the international ladies’ garment workers’ union.” Emma Goldman, we are told, “the famed anarchist and labour organizer,” lived on her street! How exciting for Klein! What a tremendous source of distinction that must be. …Here we can see the forces driving competitive consumption in their purest and most unadulterated form….Read More:

Tariq Ali:For my generation he was very important, because he offered us an alternative to a system which we could see even then wasn’t working and was going very wrong. It was reading him which finally led me to become a Trotskyist for that period of the sixties and seventies. Ernest Mandel was another leading figure. The strange thing was that one met people in that period who knew or had direct links with the Bolsheviks, and so it was like we were just continuing that tradition. But Trotsky himself always stayed with me, and the prescience of some of his analyses… when I think back on it, in the book which he called What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going?, which was mistranslated as The Revolution Betrayed – a very sober book – he said that, in the future, either the Soviet Union will move and advance and become a socialist democracy; or there will be a regression and it will revert to capitalism, and many of today’s bureaucrats will become tomorrow’s millionaires. And his opponents said, “this is just crazy stuff”. No-one else ever thought so far ahead and in that way. Read More:http://vu

Ted Grant: …In those years Trotsky conducted a struggle, against what he called ‘bureaucratic centrism’. – This was the time when Stalin and other leaders of the Russian revolution genuinely desired the victory of the revolution in other countries but, first with opportunist policies and then with the madness of ultra-leftism, with the insane theory of ‘social fascism’ – that the social democracy and fascism were not enemies but twins – prepared the way for the victory of Hitler in 1933. The path of the Comintern in the years to 1933 was one of oscillation from ultra-leftism to opportunism and back again. In a series of writings Trotsky dealt with the criminal policies of the Comintern and warned of the danger of Hitler and the consequences the victory of fascism would have for the German and world working class. He advocated the united front of the social democrats and communists in order to prevent the coming to power of Hitler….

Trotsky left. 1919. ---The bureaucracy became a privileged caste, lording it over and above society and the working class. Unable to take any steps towards a freer and more equal society, it tried to preserve the status quo, to maintain a hierarchical society, to increase its own power, privileges, prestige and income, ruling by totalitarian terror over the workers. It has taken five decades for these characteristics which Trotsky saw in 1940 to develop to their fullest extent. At the heart of the dispute over the ’defence of the USSR’ was the class nature of the Soviet Union. “The ‘defence of the USSR’, as interpreted by the Comintern”, argued Trotsky, “like yesterday’s ‘struggle against fascism’, is based on the renunciation of independent class politics. The proletariat is transformed - for various reasons in various circumstances, but always and invariably - into an auxiliary force of one bourgeois camp against another...Read More: image:

….Yet the Comintern learnt nothing from the disastrous defeat in Germany and even claimed the coming to power of Hitler as a step towards the victory of the revolution! Even as late as February 1934, when the fascists conducted demonstrations against the liberal government of Daladier in France, the Communist Party actually demonstrated together with the fascists. Had they succeeded fascism could have come to power in France in 1934.Read More:
There’s a movement – Slavoj Žižek comes to mind – about “reloading” Lenin. Do you think there’s a case to “reload” Trotsky as someone who should be read by a younger generation?

Tariq Ali: I think he certainly should be. Žižek can’t do it because he’s never read any Trotsky. What Žižek does brilliantly, which is quite funny: he shocks the bourgeoisie, he’s a contrarian in the real sense of the word. So he picks up Lenin, whom everyone hates, who is seen by the mainstream as a criminal and a murderer, and he picks him up and forces the reader to confront his ideas. But, in fact, someone should do a similar exercise for Trotsky as well, before too long. We’re thinking about it at Verso.

Hilary Mantel’s novel on Robespierre was very good, I thought. Decades ago Alan Brien wrote a less successful and less accomplished novel on Lenin. It didn’t work, but the intention was good.Read More:

Maurizio Cattelan. The Ballad of Trotsky. --- Lequenne:For Trotsky, art and culture in general are in no way a kind of "decoration" on life floating above it for the benefit of the powerful alone. They are the wealth of life, its culmination and this gives them their value: "man does not live by politics alone". Before discussing the issue of the "closing of the scissors" between industrial and agricultural production, Trotsky discusses that of closing the scissors between Russian cultural poverty, including that of the proletariat, and the high culture of the Russian intelligentsia which starts from the highest European level. To achieve this goal, nothing escapes him, not only the problems of changes to the family, the influence of the Church and the curse of alcohol, but also the need for politeness, concern for detail, and so on. And, emphasising the scientific advances of the time, he sees the central role which cinema could play in the new culture, while, ahead of our own time, he raises the issue of linking the contributions of Freud and Pavlov, i.e. of psychoanalysis and what was then behavioural psychology and today neuropsychology....Read More: image:

Michel Lequenne:All his life, even during the civil war, Trotsky read to relax. He was without doubt one of the most cultivated of the Bolshevik leaders (Annenkov, the great painter, a Left Social Revolutionary, who left the USSR in 1924, said in the 1950s that Trotsky was the only cultivated Bolshevik leader. This was unfair, at least to Lunacharsky). Like Lenin, Trotsky was at that time disturbed by the leftist and workerist drift on the art and literature front. The idea of a socialist, or proletarian art was for him a nonsense, not only impossible in the period of transition and in a country where even the working class was culturally backward, but quite simply because the proletariat could only realize itself by abolishing itself and a new art, a new culture could only exist in a classless society. What was possible and should be the intelligentsia’s objective, was a revolutionary art and literature, of which Trotsky gives two possible definitions corresponding, one might say, to two stages: “the works whose themes reflect the Revolution, and the works which are not connected with the Revolution in theme, but are thoroughly imbued with it, and are Colored by the new consciousness arising out of the Revolution”. Read More:

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