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Saturday, August 21, 2010

70th anniversary of the murder of Leon Trotsky

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, best known to history as
Leon Trotsky, was murdered today, 70 years ago in Mexico City by Catalan Stalinist Ramón Mercader, who infamously used a pickaxe for the crime (and almost failed).

Trotsky led, together with Lenin and other bolsheviks, the Russian Revolution which, for the first time in history, brought a party of the Working Class to power. He was particularly relevant in organizing the Red Army, which became able to withstand not just the reactionary White forces but also the invading armies of Western powers that landed at several locations at the Russian coasts in support of the reaction.

It was also responsible however for the eventual destruction of the Anarchist Free Territory in Eastern Ukraine, one of the two almost successful Anarchist large-scale socio-political experiences in the 20th century (the other was the revolutionary zone in Catalonia and Eastern Aragon during the Spanish Civil War).

But surely Trotsky is best remembered as the main leader of the genuine Revolutionary Bolshevik faction after the death of Lenin, which was eventually defeated by the nationalist and fascistoid tendency lead by Stalin. As such, Trotsky was expelled from the party and exiled. Trotsky first had to go to the remote Alma Ata (now Almaty in Kazakhstan), then to Turkey, France, Norway and eventually Mexico, after European authorities decided they did not want such a revolutionary leader in their territories.

In Mexico he was hosted by the famous couple of revolutionary artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Soon after breaking with Rivera, he moved to his final residence a few blocs away, where the infamous Mercader found and killed him.

Trotsky and US trotskyists in Mexico, 1940, soon before his death

As disillusion grew on Stalin's authoritarian and criminal tendencies, Trotsky became the main reference for genuine Leninism, which was often also called Trotskyism. The current was formalized in 1930 as the Fourth International. This current however has been often marred by schisms and sectarianism, although has also inspired many genuine revolutionary leaders such as Che Guevara.

Crucial concepts in Trotskyism are that the revolution should be permanent and international, that Stalinist USSR was not a genuine but a deformed or degenerated workers' state. Nowadays some Trotskyist sectors favor the creation of a new Fifth International, idea now promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

For further reading on Trotsky and Trotskyism, you may find useful and the commemorative series at In Defense of Marxism.


Kepler said...

Genuine revolution? I do know he was a Bolshevik all right, but I think the real revolution was the one not paid by the German Reich.
Lenin would have not come to power had it not been because of the huge amount of gold the Germans gave him.

Trotski did not have time to get more blood of innocent in his hands.

Maju said...

LOL, and Chávez is in power because of the Chinese yuan. :P

I have no time to reply to you in full because there's people waiting for me to go out to the fiestas but what you claim is totally unsubstantiated and ridiculous. Even if the Germans supported Lenin somewhat, you don't make a revolution of that size only with that.

Kepler said...

Maju, this is no conspiracy theory.
I put here a couple of links. Sorry they are in German and Russian but those were the ones I knew from the top of my head. I will look for English ones when I have time. Use Google translation tools to get a hint.

German Wikipedia

There are some links there. I haven't checked that out, but the story is pretty old.

Russian Wikipedia about the train trip and more

To understand the milico Chávez you have to have some very basic idea about oil prices. Please take a look at graphs showing oil price evolution from 1980 to 2010. Venezuela is very dependent on oil, to over 91% of its dollars. It is more dependent now than before, but things haven't changed that much in that respect.
But actually: indeed Hugo came to power not by the vote of those he claims to be with but by lots of middle class people who wanted a milico again, after 40 years without our Carib version of a Franco (no, he cannot do the atrocities Franco did in this time, he's just a 21 Century Autocrat, a bit like Putin but more inept when it comes to economics). And that is what people got.
Now one of the main groups that helped Hugo get into power was - búscate una silla que te vas a caer de culo - tu querido BBVA .

There are quite some news about that in Spanish.
Busca y encontrarás. But I don't want to talk here further about Chavez. Let's get back to Trotsky and the Soviets. But you have to make up your mind. You told me what the Soviets had was no socialism but state capitalism.
Por fin? Cuál es cuál?

Please, try to translate the Russian link and tell me what you think. They put there pros and cons. When I have time I will look for more links in English.

Maju said...

I can't read German nor Russian and Google Translator can only do so much. It helps with short texts but goes totally crazy with long complex ones. When you have to deal with one or several grammatical or meaning errors in each sentence... overall meaning is largely lost.

Anyhow, do you really think Lenin was so critical for the Revolution to happen? Revolutions are nothing but kicks that throw down rotten doors. The door was deeply rotten had to fall. The other parties were too compromised with continuing the war but one of the reasons of the rot was the war itself, so the Bolshes won because they offered immediate peace with Germany and immediate war with the oligarchy. That's what the people wanted then.

Kropotkin (Anarchist, a good read) described the Revolution as a huge wave that the Bolshes managed to ride on but could never control. Revolutions are forces of nature, so to say.

"Hugo came to power ... by lots of middle class people who wanted a milico again"...

I did not even know Venezuela had a middle class worth that name at all. We are talking of sustained popularity of the order of 2/3 of the public opinion, being reflected in real votes more or less. That's not the middle class... much less in a Latin American country, where 'middle class' (petty bourgeoisie) is a fiction.

However we could have an interesting discussion analyzing how the Soviet bureaucracy became a middle class of sorts - with its own quasi-fascist system and all. That's essentially what a "degenerate workers state" is in Trotskyist terminology.

And then we could probably make a link with the so called "boliburguesía", which, if I understand correctly, is largely the same kind of bureaucratic cancer, which tries to control the democratic soviets and usurp the power from the people, including, of course, all kind of wealth. But I don't think that, even in the worst case, Venezuela can derive to Stalinism nor anything of the kind. It could derived to Putinism, but that is like saying it could derive to Reaganism (where's the difference?)

Kepler said...


It was not one person, it was what was equivalent to at least hundreds of millions of euros in a very poor country. Lenin and his group were sent to Russia to make peace so that the German Wehrmacht could focus on the West. The Bolsheviki got the money to mobilize loads and loads of people, to pay thugs to do the dirty job and yes, indeed, on top of that offered to finish the war.

People did not want what you call "immediate war with the oligarchy" but that is your take on it, that is your interpretation because you think you can understand "el pueblo", because YOU are actually "el pueblo", right?

Maju, come on: In reality you have told me enough about your background to know you are part of it. You may, as you say, have a shitty job now, you may for all I care work cleaning a museum or entering names in a database, work as "a slave" (you defined it so) but I tell you: because of the education you had and to an extent because of your connections you will always be more bourgeoisie than many people you would consider as "dispensable" in the imaginary event that a communist/anarchist takeover came to Western Europe. But "they" will be the bourgeoisie because they do not want to play along and are thus "confabulate" with the enemy. That is exactly what happened in Soviet Russia.

In the Soviet Union what a Kulak was was redefined by the big red honchos and ideology fanatics to suit their bloody purposes. At the end a farmer with a couple of cows was deemed a Kulak and shot because he opposed Stalin.

Regarding the middle class in Venezuela: could you please also make up your mind? Please, tell me the percentage of people who are lower class in Venezuela now and in 1998.

Regarding the popularity of the milico Chávez: I said it already, oil prices are still several times what they were on average in the 10 years before him. That is the Alpha and Omega in Venezuela. Get that, please.

When I have time I will translate part of the German and Russian articles into Spanish Wikipedia.

Please, take a look at this on Kulaks:

Maju said...

"The Bolsheviki got the money to mobilize loads and loads of people, to pay thugs"...

Neither you provide nor I can find any evidence of such a claim. As far I could see it's little more than wild partisan speculation.

"People did not want what you call "immediate war with the oligarchy" but that is your take on it, that is your interpretation"...

That is what they do. Remember that they had lost all their remnant faith in the Tsar in the massacres of 1905. By then, they had no faith at all in the oligarchy as such.

It was not only the bolsheviks, there were the anarchists and all those "social-democratic" scarecrows (mensehviks, social-revolutionaries) with confusing ideologies but all clearly at the left. That's what people chose, nearly nobody supported the Tsar, much less the oligarchs.

People may be wanted peace and nothing else (doubt it) but in any case, they had to fight against their own bosses in order to achieve that goal.

"At the end a farmer with a couple of cows was deemed a Kulak and shot because he opposed Stalin".

But that is Stalinism, not Leninism, not Troskyism, not even Marxism probably. Lenin was content with the NEP, as he was doubtful they could actually achieve effective socialism in such a backward country, specially without a larger international revolutionary context. He even hinted that maybe they had failed to achieve socialism in Russia but at least they had managed to make a bourgeoise revolution.

That is how we have to look at the Russian Revolution, in many aspects just a extension, more than a century later of the French Revolution. It has novel elements because in that time Socialism had been developed as a clear ideology, something that was non-existent in the lat 18th century. History does not repeat itself exactly but it does mimic itself anyhow, specially when revolutionary processes are so obviously left incomplete: they permeate themselves into the future and help to articulate the discourse and goals and even organization to the revolutions to come.

Capitalism is nothing but a revolution left incomplete by means of persistent expansiveness, be it military or economic but always predatory. As I see it, the econiche of Capitalism has been exhausted now and therefore it's bound to extinction. In the meantime it has been very effective destroying the old regime and all its idiocies, from religion to hierarchy.

But it's about time that a new 'species' takes over that niche of human organization. It must be one that is not predatory nor expansive and that satisfies the needs of a more and more self-conscious humankind: full human rights, direct effective participation and a quality of life in a quality environment.

"Please, tell me the percentage of people who are lower class in Venezuela now and in 1998".

IDK but I know that in the USA the middle class is being totally destroyed as we speak. And it is not because of upper mobility, as you can imagine.

Maju said...

See this for instance (only the tip of the iceberg).