the untimely death of Lev Davidovich Bronstein
August 20, 2007 Leave a comment
When I was a freshman in college, some commies knocked at the door of my dorm room. These weren’t fellow Haverford students; these were activists from Philadelphia, come to sell subscriptions to their red rag, The Somethingorother Worker or The Revolutionary Somethingorother … I can’t remember the title. I was already subscribed to The Truth, a glossy magazine put out by some evangelical Christian group, so I figured a Communist "newspaper" was just fair and balanced, as it were.
(Of course, the Christian glossy rag was free, whereas the commie pulpy rag cost me some nominal subscription fee, so it wasn’t exactly fair and balanced, was it.)
While these commies were at the door, pitching their pulp, I must have said something disparaging about communists I’d already encountered growing up in New York, because they were quick to point out that they weren’t like the commies I might have met.
"Well, for instance, the American Communist Party [I'm making up the name because I don't remember what group they really named] tells you to vote Democrat and support gun control," said the assertive male of this male/female sales team, "But we’re Trotskyites. We advocate boycotting elections and we support the right of every revolutionary worker to arm himself, whether for self-defense or for revolutionary action …"
Well, that just spoke to me. I considered myself a leftist at the time, but one area where my fellow leftists just never made any sense to me whatsoever was on so-called "gun control" — and boycotting elections (while I myself was a devoted lowercase-D democrat, whose father had taught him to vote no matter what, even if you had to write in Dick Gregory or Pat Paulson) sounded like the right kind of counterintuitive thinking to expose myself to in the spirit of collegiate exploration.
I abandoned both subscriptions by the time I was a college sophomore. Both became predictable and redundant, as well as a waste of my increasingly scarce time. But the free Christian Right rag outlasted the not-free Trotskyite rag, both for production values and entertainment content. Both the Christian Right and the Revolutionary Left have their own language and style, but the Trots just seem so much more lazy, their articles so cookie-cutter, especially when contrasted to the promise of their contrary-to-standard-leftist-dogma sales pitch.
Anyway, despite my disappointing introduction to the Trotskyites, I still held on to the impression I’d inherited from my high school history course in "20th-century Russia" that the Trotskyites were where it was at, as far as anti-authoritarian Marxism was concerned.
If you ever bother to study Trotsky’s actual history, writing, positions, you’ll see that this reputation has everything to do with his western followers in the context of Stalin’s explosion in power, and nothing at all to do with the actual ideology of Trotsky himself. Lev Davidovich had no respect for decentralization, individual conscience, personal freedom, or any other aspect of the reputation won for him by the anti-Stalinist communists of the West. He was every bit the potential monster as Lenin himself (who we were also taught was never as bad as Stalin, though I think that was just more Romantic revisionism on the part of disillusioned fellow travelers … "If only Russia had followed the vision of Lenin and Trotsky and not gone down the road of that monster, Stalin …" blah blah blah).
The latest artistic ode to the supposed individualist enlightenment of the founder and commander of the Red Army (!) and the 4th International is Frida — a movie I thoroughly enjoyed, and even recommend, despite its strangely unapologetic and unreconstructed communism, romanticized and presented as individualism-versus-capitalism. Geoffrey Rush, full of charm, plays the exiled Leon Trotsky before his death at the hands of a Stalinist assassin in Mexico.
Anyway, the man was a pig. Trotsky. Just as bad as Stalin, except that he was all evil ideology and none of the savvy power politics of his nemesis. He was murdered 67 years ago today, an ice axe plunged into his brain by the incompetent Stalinist assassin, Ramón Mercader. He survived until August 21st, so maybe tomorrow is the anniversary of his assassination. Either way, good riddance.
How sad that a man such as Trotsky could become such a hero to the deluded Left just because he opposed the worse monstrosities (worse in that they were actual, not just imagined) of Joseph Stalin.
If the casual dress code of the cultural revolution had happened a decade or two earlier, you’d see the moronic knee-jerks of today wearing red and black Trotsky tee-shirts rather than the ignorantly offensive tributes to Ché Guevara we all take for granted now.