The talented yet deeply paranoid and bloodthirsty Stalin built the totalitarian Soviet empire as a personal fiefdom. The book is most interested in that. Robert Service of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the University of Oxford talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the life and death of Leon Trotsky. 74 reviews Robert Service completes his masterful trilogy on the founding figures of the Soviet Union in an eagerly anticipated, authoritative biography of Leon Trotsky. Again, for me at least, the most interesting aspect was Service's analysis of Trotsky's marxism. Despite his gifts and unquestionable dedication to the cause, there was little in the man to admire. Even more so than Lenin, Trotsky's connection to 'the source' seems to have been idiosyncratic, to say the least. This is an entertaining biography of one of the (flawed) giants of the 20th century. Fans of Russian history will find much to enjoy in these pages, from the carefully documented discussion of Trotsky's failed attempts to unify Russia's leftists before the revolution to an intriguing section on his tragicomic interlude in Turkish exile from 1929 to 1933. An even-handed review of the complex and contradictory character of Trotsky. He even brought physically and mentally unstable Zina to live with him in Turkish exile in order to look after her health, during which time she set fire to the house and burned Trotsky's entire book collection. When local authorities finally allowed him to continue his journey a month later, Trotsky reportedly "shook his fist at the English officers and cursed England" as the ship sailed away from port. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Editor, October 15, 2009 Reading Time: 9 minutes. Leon Trotsky has long sidestepped the sort of scrutiny and criticism meted out to Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin for their roles in the establishment of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. by Belknap. This book explains why this vision is naive and ignorant, based solely on Trotsky`s better verbal skills. Excellent biography of an extraordinary historical figure. Just maybe this shows he is doing a good job of providing all the necessary complexities and nuances for such interesting historical figures. “Parvus denied that universal suffrage was an end to itself since the middle class would always find ways to manipulate the electoral system. Scoop a new vibe in the numbers and do today’s Daily Sudoku. Leon Trotsky checks both boxes. She is the author of A Fistful of Rubles: The Rise and Fall of the Russian Banking System, and has published widely on post-communist finance and identity politics. She co-edits the journal Review of International Political Economy. I also like how many of the reviews from the left claim he's a horrible anti-communist and reviews from the right call him a communist sympathizer. Hagiography this is not--Service is much more critical of Trotsky than the other two revolutionaries. Again, for me at least, the most interesting aspect was Service's analysis of Trotsky's marxism. It suffers from needed detail about Trotsky's philosophy and the internal (and interminable) disputes between communist factions. But the method is always the same, and when you have the. Trotsky: A Biography By Robert Service Harvard, 648 pages, $35. Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. Here is a great and highly readable, extremely opinionated account of the life of one of the most venerated communist heroes of the twentieth century. A charismatic man, with abundant literary gifts, including polemics and oratory, absolutely committed to revolution. His biography of Trotsky was positively reviewed in the British and American press on its publication, but two years later was strongly criticized by Service's Hoover Institution colleague Bertrand Patenaude in a review for The American Historical Review. The romanticized vision of Trotsky's leadership of the soviets is revealed to be no better, and possibly worse, than Stalin, due to similar governing methods of terror and totalitarianism. “ In this astonishingly comprehensive book—Robert Service has trawled almost every archive on the planet that has any reference to Trotsky—we get a clear picture of Trotsky’s political development, his part in the 1917 revolution, his differences with Lenin, his break with Stalin and, finally, the years of exile and agitation in which he attracted a ragbag of bizarre followers and made the mistake of professing … After his death Trotsky has enjoyed better press in the west than he had had in his lifetime. For Trotsky's part, his unique skill in organizing the Red Army allowed the Bolsheviks to win the Civil War. Click here to subscribe. Littered with factual errors, which are at least finally getting exposed at the academic level. Trotsky is, I think, an innately fascinating historical figure. I continue to be fascinated by the Bolshevik Revolution, because in its success there are many lessons. To purchase it in pamphlet form, click here. Lost the power struggle against Stalin leading to his expulsion from the Soviet Union. He was a brilliant leader. Based on Service's biography of Trotsky, the conversation covers Trotsky's influence on the Russian Revolution, his influence on policy alongside Lenin, his expulsion from Soviet Union in 1928 and his murder in 1940 by Stalin's order. More than any other Bolshevik, it was Trotsky, the penseur with the pince-nez, who became the brand of the revolution, and not just the revolution in Russia—revolution everywhere. Service even takes a swing at the widespread belief that Trotsky had a prescient understanding of interwar politics, pointing out that Trotsky always and incorrectly saw a popular European communist revolution coming right around the corner. Even as we approach the 20th anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union, it's legacy is still hotly debated. Even more so than Lenin, Trotsky's connection to 'the source' seems to have been idiosyncratic, to say the least. He not only led very successfully the October Revolution but also the Red Army to victory in the Civil War as the Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Service focuses more on Trotsky's intellectual development, rather than on the more exciting elements of his life. In Stalin's biography, there is many photos, short chapter, it is reading like a novel. Some information in it may no longer be current. And does the failure of the Soviet experiment discredit all of the nobler aims which the human impulse towards socialism or collectivism may lay claim? The reality is very different, as this masterful and compelling biography … Kick back with the Daily Universal Crossword. All of those qualifiers are quite accurate however this book contributes proportion to the figure by. Even with Trotsky's brilliance, he was ultimately, much like his former comrades, far too willing to allow an ill defined end to justify some pretty horrifying means. An even-handed review of the complex and contradictory character of Trotsky. While it is obvious Robert Service does not care for either Trotsky's position or Leon as a man, it is also obvious that his knowledge into the inner workings and mechanics of the early communist movement in Russia/USSR is quite detailed. Was what happened in Soviet Russia even worthy of the name of communism? All of those qualifiers are quite accurate however this book contributes proportion to the figure by also highlighting his erratic ideological temperament. Isaac Deutscher's sympathetic three-volume biography of Trotsky, and Trotsky's own autobiography, My Life, assiduously fed these beliefs. These two facts alone would have made the mythical Soviet Union under Trotsky quite different than the victorious Stalinist version, if still not especially laudable. We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner. Free delivery on qualified orders. This was a really interesting book, I wish it would've talked more about his ideas though. Service focuses more on Trotsky's intellectual development, rather than on the more exciting elements of his life. What emerges is a picture of a selfish man who really didn't know better even when things were turning against him in the battle of succession after Lenin's death. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Trotsky: A Biography By Robert Service Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009 600 pages . And does the failure of the Soviet experiment discredit all of the nobler aims which the human impulse towards so. The world also likes cruel men who are less cruel than other men. We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. I think I have to disagree with the other reviewers who accuse Robert Service of being non-partial, or biased against Trotsky. It follows that, if your write the biography of an enemy, you should write it as if you were taking revenge. Service focuses more sharply on Trotsky's negative aspects. For the rest of us, the history nuts or the student of modern history, this is the biogra. A critical biography of Leiba Bronstein (Better known to the world as Leon Trotsky), Service does an excellent job of exploring the life, the complexities, and the many hypocrisies of this giant of 20th century history. He was until 2013 a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.He is best … On the other hand he is an amazing character in the history of the Soviet Union. Service vividly describes Trotsky's risky escapes from Siberian exile and his daring as a military leader during the Russian Civil War. He was an individualist who advocated collectivism. But it tells the Old Man's story well, painting him as a brilliant, self-centred, erudite, historic yet ultimately self-destructive global political force. Patenaude, reviewing Service's book alongside a rebuttal by the Trotskyist David North(In Defence of Leon Trotsky), charged Service with making dozens of factual errors, misrepresenting evidence, and "fail[ing] to examine in a serious way Trotsky's political ideas". © Copyright 2021 The Globe and Mail Inc. All rights reserved. He was an individualist who advocated collectivism. Objective and not a hagiography by any means. This 600 page biography of Trotksy is summarized on Page 459 which states, Trotsky failed to explain how the common objectives of communism could be fulfilled. quite good a biography of Trotsky avoiding the hagiography around his name, Gustave Flaubert wrote that, if you write the biography of a friend, you should write it as if you were taking revenge for him. Perhaps more seriously, it leads him to overstate Trotsky's sins in two key realms: his family life and his similarities to Stalin. Robert Service is a Fellow of the British Academy and of St Antony's College, Oxford. A lot of other reviews are very detailed, and I feel I have little to add to the conversation. Many politicians, journalist and other was trotskyst when they were young. It would be safe to say that Robert Service has done a great DISSERVICE to Trotsky. His reaction to the Kronstadt rebellion was heavy handed and hypocritical. Trotsky is, I think, an innately fascinating historical figure. He... Leon Trotsky’s Struggle Against Stalinism. Trotsky comes through as a very power-hungry person, not position-hungry (he displayed self-restraint in moments of acquisition of power because of his being a Jew); he tried to rub his meditated ideological positions against the party, nation, and populace. (Should preface this by saying that I'm not a Trotskyist, Leninist, Stalinist, or Communist of any brand whatsoever.). Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. Trotsky Item Preview remove-circle Share or Embed This Item. Which despite the context of two decades of aristocratic led war and conflict in Russia is a very dangerous thing to excuse or advocate. For the rest of us, the history nuts or the student of modern history, this is the biography to get. A “Dis-Service” to Leon Trotsky – Review of Robert Service’s Biography This book is very thick – running to 600 pages – but is very thin when it comes to an honest political examination and analysis of the ideas of Leon Trotsky, the subject of Service’’s tome. After reading this account, it's with a bittersweet awareness that his talents were directed a to misguided experiment. 351 King Street East, Suite 1600, Toronto, ON Canada, M5A 0N1, Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks, var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o? Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for Trotsky: A Biography at Amazon.com. This one is quite different than Kersaudy's book. Still, for all the talk of Trotsky's writings, I still couldn't tell you what a "Trotskyist" is, except maybe that they are an admirer of Trotsky. His reaction to the Kronstadt rebellion was he. This article was published more than 10 years ago. Of course, that is a reflection of Trotsky's milieu. Trotsky was vain, but at the same time lacked self-conscious of his actions. Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted. Start by marking “Trotsky: A Biography” as Want to Read: Error rating book. When it doesn't have one it makes one. The repeated snide comments on Trotsky's family relationships jar uncomfortably with the accompanying evidence that Trotsky in fact cared deeply about his family members and went out of his way to support them. International Reviews Theory & History. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Was there ever a moment when the Russian experiment with full market socialism was not on the track to an oppressive & murderous outcome? But that this hope for him is ultimately illusory -- by his own words & deeds, Trotsky both said & proved that he would have been at least as ruthless & oppressive as Lenin. Trostsky, Robert Service's debunking biography, proves that being Stalin’s great enemy does not make Trotsky in any way a good man, says Simon Sebag Montefiore in a review first published in 2009. Robert Service, who authored biographies of V. I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin and a history of world communism, has now published a biography of Leon Trotsky. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Of course, that is a reflection of Trotsky's milieu. His factiousness led to his demise from party leadership, expulsion, exile, death, and murder. He would then lead the left opposition against Stalin abroad and meet several interesting characters, including his affair with Frida Kalho, before he was ultimately assassinated by a Stalinist spy. Here is a great and highly readable, extremely opinionated account of the life of one of the most venerated communist heroes of the twentieth century. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. I don't think the Soviet Union however would have been that much different under Trotsky after the death of Lenin. Obviously there was several character flaws in David Bronstein that inevitably must appear in any true study of the man. But perhaps the biggest reason he has escaped comparatively unscathed is that for those on the far left. The reality is very different, as this masterful and compelling biography reveals. " Read this after watching Hitchens and him debate at some stuffy Hoover Institute roundtable. (Soviet politics proceeded along the same path until Stalin put an end to all that fussin' & fightin'). Personally, he avoided self-negation precisely by not deviating from the cause, but one can't help to feel that his purpose and talents were compromised. Trotsky was vain, but at the same time lacked self-conscious of his actions. With Trotsky, Robert Service completes his sweeping biographical trilogy of the three leading Bolshevik revolutionaries. Very good. Service draws upon a range of fascinating sources - including early drafts of Trotsky's own autobiography - to paint a complex and contradictory picture of the revolutionary as both a leader and a man. Despite his many gifts, the myth of Trotsky is debunked by his egotism, coldness. I also like how many of the reviews from the left claim he's a horrible anti-communist and reviews from the right call him a communist sympathizer. Trotsky didn't believe in "constructive criticism", and was equally vengeful against his enemies as Stalin. From his early intellectual ferment to his heroics in the October revolution and Civil War, Service illustrates a man of fixed ideological belief - a demagogue, an intellectual, but most importantly a deeply inhumane individual. This one is quite different than Kersaudy's book. 2009 It is a good school for manipulation and success in business. The chapters are similarly sized, each offering a detailed chunk of Trotsky's life , without being bogged down with minutia, yet still offering more than enough information to satisfy the reader. Robert Service documents who he was personally and politically through this new scholarly work. Juliet Johnson is associate professor of political science at McGill University. An exhaustive (you can tell my how long it has taken me to finish it), dense and illuminating biography of Leon Trotsky. Review of Robert Service's Trotsky By David North 11 November 2009 €€€This essay is available in pdf format (letter or A4). Obviously there was several character flaws in David Bronstein that inevitably must appear in any true study of the man. Trotsky also saw Nazism as a menace from early on, and a Trotsky-led Soviet Union would never have signed the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. His factiousness led to his demise from party leadership, expulsion, exile, death, and murder. Robert Service is a British academic and historian of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. Leon Trotsky checks both boxes. Robert Service draws on hitherto unexamined archives and on his profound understanding of Russian history to draw a portrait of the man and his legacy, revealing that though his followers have represented Trotsky as a pure revolutionary soul and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin and his henchmen. Overall the cast was set for the Soviet Union during the creation of the "dictatorship of the proletariat". Review by Paul Le Blanc . The Leninist who wanted to outlenin Lenin, the purist of the communist world revolution, the mightiest pen of Oktober. Unbiased history and biography of the Bolsheviks is a relatively recent phenomenon; prior to 1991, a combination of lack of primary materials and philo-Communism among Western historians meant very few objective books were published. Trotsky was one of the most important figures of the Russian Revolution. ... Trotsky by Robert Service. He lost the competition to succeed Lenin because of his limitations—inability to build coalitions, ability to make enemies, and failure to see where events were leading. While it is obvious Robert Service does not care for either Trotsky's position or Leon as a man, it is also obvious that his knowledge into the inner workings and mechanics of the early communist movement in Russia/USSR is quite detailed. October 14, 2009...Trotsky, the subject of Service’ s tome. The world likes its underdogs. He is currently a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.As an author Service is … As he was dragged off the ship under British orders, Trotsky "shouted and kicked the sailors in impotent fury." They mostly just keep it a bit more quiet in public than they used to. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter . The world likes its underdogs. His fearless leadership and organizational skills are celebrated in his pivotal roles in the October Revolution and the Red Army. Welcome back. Professional revolutionary at work: Trotsky reads international communist papers while in Turkey . Service has done a remarkable job collecting, researching and writing the tome. He approved of using terror on "class enemies" during the Civil War and supported the 1921 repression of the radical Kronstadt sailors, who had demanded that the Bolsheviks create a more inclusive workers' state. He had a habit of using people until they were no longer politically useful. Robert John Service (born 29 October 1947) is a British historian, academic, and author who has written extensively on the history of the Soviet Union, particularly the era from the October Revolution to Stalin's death. He was a master political operator, a hard worker who avoided the drink, and created the Red Army from the pieces of the Imperial Russian Army despite having no prior military experience. Probably the best biography of Trotsky available, but not for the timid or the merely curious; those who do not want to know every available detail of Trotsky's life, but only an overview, best look elsewhere. Robert John Service FBA (born 29 October 1947) is a British historian, academic, and author who has written extensively on the history of the Soviet Union, particularly the era from the October Revolution to Stalin's death. Rather than being … Service closes his trilogy with another captivating portrait. He was brilliant, an outstanding writer and polemicist, decisive, and personally brave. Peter Savodnik reviews Robert Service's "Trotsky." Again, as with Lenin and Stalin, Service clearly points out how Trotsky was never the idealised socialist, but an architect of state terror and other aspects easily condemned in hindsight. He is remembered today as a dissenter, a maverick, and a man of supreme passion. Apology. He had a habit of using people until they were no longer politically useful. Since 1991, though, the balance has shifted, even if plenty of Communist-loving propaganda is still published by major historians, because the global Left has always, and continues to, fully support the goals and methods of Communism. Refresh and try again. One can roundly condemn Trotsky's methods and beliefs without insinuating that the USSR would have been no better off under his leadership than Stalin's. March 9, 2019...conflicting social and political forces. Trotsky always wanted to be in the thick of the action. Yet Trotsky's first wife, Alexandra, a revolutionary herself, supported his decision, and Trotsky maintained regular contact with her and his two daughters, Nina and Zina, afterward. (See also “Leon Trotsky and the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification”) €€€Trotsky: A Biography Robert Service Harvard University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2009 The Specter of Leon Trotsky €€€In 1955 James Burnham, the … Ser… "remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //, Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. As Service notes, the Civil War "was truly a close-run conflict between the Reds and the Whites." He is a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford. This biography of Trotsky is part of a trilogy, the other two being biographies of Lenin & Stalin. I read this book for a very VAIN reason- the fact that it was discredited by the American Historical Review. Since 1991, though, the balance has shifted, even if plenty of Communist-loving propaganda is still published by major historians, because the global Left has alw. Many politicians, journalist and other was trotskyst when they were young. An exhaustive (you can tell my how long it has taken me to finish it), dense and illuminating biography of Leon Trotsky. This book is very thick – running to 600 pages – but is very thin when it comes to an honest political examination and analysis of the ideas of Leon Trotsky, the subject of Service’s … Review: Trotsky, a Biography by Robert Service. In Stalin's biography, there is many photos, short chapter, it is reading like a novel. The last chapter baldly states that "most of [Trotsky's] immediate family had gone to their deaths because of him," bizarrely blaming Trotsky rather than Stalin for the political repression of Trotsky's family members in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. At the same time, he was personally austere, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, taking offence at foul language and preferring to live modestly. But Service's dogged determination to set the record straight means that the book often reads as a response to earlier works rather than a self-contained volume. That means: If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour. The world also likes cruel men who are less cruel than other men. Was what happened in Soviet Russia even worthy of the name of communism? Similarly, Service goes too far in trying to make the case that Trotsky and Stalin were in essence politically interchangeable. How one of the most Powerful and best orator of Bolshevik party was killed by an ice pick in mexico and it didn't even made news in "PRAVDA" the national newspaper of SOVIET RUSSIA which he help started and headed in his golden years . The author, Robert Service, does a fine job of giving the reader a firm grasp of the life of Trotsky and Service achieves this without bias and without overloading the reader with unnecessary detail. December 25, 2009 -- ESSF-- Robert Service has written, to great acclaim, a new biography of Leon Trotsky.“Trotsky moved like a bright comet across the political sky,” Service tells us. On the positive side of the ledger, Trotsky comes across as a brilliant orator, a prolific writer and an unusually brave revolutionary. Robert Service has written what will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of Trotsky...It is the achievement in particular of Robert Service not only to have uncovered new material from previously unavailable Soviet archives, but to have cast new light on many of his writings and activities. Let us know what’s wrong with this preview of, Published A charismatic man, with abundant literary gifts, including polemics and oratory, absolutely committed to revolution. Canadian readers will especially appreciate Service's recounting of Trotsky's detention in Halifax while en route to Russia in April, 1917, at a time when Trotsky desperately wanted to return home to take part in the evolving revolution. Also, Service does not provide any sort of primer for basic marxist thought, which can make it difficult for beginners to follow what is going on when Stalin and Bukharin gang up on Trotsky. Publication date 2009 Topics Trotsky, Leon, -- 1879-1940, Revolutionaries -- Soviet Union -- Biography, Statesmen -- Soviet Union -- Biography, Exiles -- Russia -- Biography, Communism -- Soviet Union -- History, Russia -- Politics and government -- 1894-1917, Soviet Union -- Politics and … Yet Service then blames Trotsky for Zina's suicide in 1933, claiming that Trotsky had mishandled her schizophrenia and, as a result, "Zina had gone to her death when a little dosing of paternal consideration might have made all the difference." 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Public visible life, Trotsky `` shouted and kicked the sailors in impotent fury. Press, 600. Realpolitik instinct result perhaps your Goodreads account the least his ideas though gladly, had real! Put an end to all that fussin ' & fightin ' ) with Brian Lamb on book. His sweeping biographical trilogy of the complex and contradictory character of Trotsky is by! And other was trotskyst when they were no longer politically useful the more exciting of. They used to through the years of the demise of the three leading Bolshevik.! Associate professor of political science at McGill University men who are less cruel than other men and... Who he was dragged off the ship under British orders, Trotsky glitters glamorously closes his trilogy with another portrait! This one is quite different than Kersaudy 's book the use of toxic and offensive language was dragged the.