Leon Trotsky

How the Bolsheviks governed

The 1917 October Russian revolution produced the world’s first workers’ state. But how did the Bolsheviks govern? Historian Lara Douds has mined state and party archives in Moscow to produce an excellent book, Inside Lenin's Government: Ideology, Power and Practice in the Early Soviet State (2018) on how the central apparatus operated. In the early period of Soviet power, the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) rather than party bodies governed. Douds argues that “in no way could the party central committee be viewed as the effective government of the nascent Soviet regime. Instead, it...

Previously untranslated articles by Trotsky on antisemitism

Articles by Leon Trotsky on antisemitism and Jewish questions, translated into English by Stan Crooke. • The Decomposition of Zionism – And What Might Succeed It (1904) • The Tsar’s Footsoldiers at Work (1908) • The Tsar's Footsoldiers at Work (1909) • The Jewish Question in Romania (1913) • Under the Sign of the Beylis Affair (1913) • "Stalin never had qualms about using antisemitism" (1936) The 1909 "Tsar's Footsoldiers" has had a previous English translation, as chapter 12 of Trotsky's book 1905: online here. The 1913 article on Romania has had a previous English translation, appearing in...

"Stalin never had qualms about using antisemitism" (1936)

Above: Grigorii Zinoviev, one of the Jewish defendants in the 1936 Moscow show trial Extract from) Letter to Michael Puntervold (26/10/36) Translated by Stan Crooke from: Letter to Michael Puntervold (26/10/1936), International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam), inventory number 279. Puntervold was Trotsky’s lawyer during his exile in Norway. In the first half of the letter Trotsky discusses a recent Moscow show trial (19th-24th August), in which the defendants were accused of being Gestapo agents who were plotting to murder Stalin on Trotsky’s instructions. A number of the defendants...

The Jewish Question in Romania (1913)

Trotsky worked as a correspondent for a liberal paper in Kiev during the Balkan wars of 1913. In this article he demolished the liberal pretences of the Romanian monarchy by pointing to its oppression of the country's Jewish population. The ultimate and most authentic manifestation of Romania is to be found in its Jewish question. King Carol is proud of the fact that he has never deviated from the “strictly constitutional” path. The Romanian press enjoys a large degree of freedom, and from time to time it publishes quite fantastic “expressions” to describe the King, without suffering any...

The Tsar's Footsoldiers at Work (1909)

A follow-up article by Trotsky on the pogroms of 1905, further to the 1908 article also entitled The Tsar’s Footsoldiers at Work. Above: a 1905 cartoon denouncing the pogroms. The Soviet ended the October strike in those terrible dark days when the weeping of battered infants, the frenzied curses of mothers, the death-rattles of old men and the terrible cries of despair echoed to the skies the length and breadth of the country. A hundred of Russia’s cities and towns were transformed into hell on earth. The sun was blotted out by the smoke of conflagrations, flames consumed entire streets – and...

The Tsar’s Footsoldiers at Work (1908)

Above: members of the Jewish socialist organisation, the Bund, in Odessa, with comrades killed in 1905. This article by Trotsky dissects official reports giving information about anti-Jewish pogroms carried out by counter-revolutionaries especially in 1905. (“Materials Concerning the History of the Russian Counter-Revolution”, Volume One, “The Pogroms According to Official Statistics”, Saint Petersburg, 1908) This voluminous book, consisting of monotonous bureaucratic paperwork, makes a striking impression on the reader. We have in front of us a portrait of Tsarism in the period of the...

Marxists and “left governments”

“We are not a government party; we are the party of irreconcilable opposition… Our tasks... we realise not through the medium of bourgeois governments... but exclusively through the education of the masses through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow. Such a “defence” cannot give immediate miraculous results. But we do not even pretend to be miracle workers. As things stand, we are a revolutionary minority. Our work must be directed so that the workers on whom we have influence should correctly appraise events, not permit...

Leon Trotsky on fascism

“The magnates of finance capital are unable by their force alone to cope with the proletariat. They need the support of the petty bourgeoisie. ‘For this purpose it must be whipped up, put on its feet, mobilised, armed. But this method has its dangers. While it makes use of fascism, the bourgeoisie nevertheless fears it. “Under the conditions of capitalist disintegration and of the impasse in the economic situation, the petty bourgeoisie strives, seeks, attempts to tear itself loose from the fetters of the old masters and rulers of society. It is quite capable of linking up its fate with that...

The New Deal: starting socialism or saving capitalism?

The above is a cartoon from the US Trotskyist paper Socialist Appeal, 11 July 1939, portrays Roosevelt (“FDR”) making a show of attacking conservative plutocrats (“Tories”). In parts of his speech not reprinted here, Bernie Sanders expands on the idea that his socialism is a continuation and expansion from where the New Deal of Roosevelt, president from 1933 to 1945, left off. Roosevelt himself saw it differently. In 1935 he explained: “I am fighting Communism… I want to save our system, the capitalist system… “To combat crackpot ideas, it may be necessary to throw to the wolves the forty-six...

ISO: stirrings in the ashes

People from the leadership of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) which was in place before the ISO’s convention in February 2019, have launched a new website, the International Socialism Project (ISP), internationalsocialism.net, and some forums in Chicago. The project also involves one or two former members of the “Orthodox Trotskyist” (in fact, semi-Assadist) Socialist Action group. Background: the ISO was long the most active group on the US far left, with up to 1500 members. Apparently overwhelmed by criticism from the ranks, the old leadership (many of them leaders since the...

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