If you haven’t read Animal Farm and contrasted it with the real history it is based, on, I cannot urge you to do so strongly enough. Get to it! Trotsky is Snowball. Stalin is Napoleon.
Hello, and welcome to On This Date, Some Years Back. Today is November 12, 2017, and on this date, 90 years back, in 1927, Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party.
Leon Trotsky was an early Communist Revolutionary, who most notably served dutifully at the side of Vladimir Lenin in the early years of the Russian Revolution in 1917. After the revolution, Russia experienced a period of civil war, as the Communist Party sought to nationalize industry and convert those resisting to their way of thinking. During this time, Trotsky headed the Red Army, and transformed it. The strength of the Army grew ten-fold during his tenure, despite political attacks targeting his leadership skills, by politicians like Joseph Stalin.
After his time directing the Army, having won the Civil War, he was tasked with jumpstarting the Russian economy. This suited the bureaucratic nature of the man, but turbulent times were coming. Soon, Lenin was ill, and his death would create a crisis in the Communist Party.
Lenin and Trotsky banded together with their wing of the Communist Party, and intended to forcibly denounce Joseph Stalin and his supporters, but Lenin suffered a stroke, and Trotsky declined to mention Stalin during an address.
Leading up to Lenin’s death, the Party gave no outward appearance of the divisions growing between its factions. Trotsky, on the Bolshevik side, was immensely popular and viewed as the apparent successor to Lenin. Stalin was building his influence with less committed Socialists, however. As Orwell characterized the attitude of Stalin (represented by Napoleon) in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
After Lenin’s death, in 1924, Stalin led a smear campaign, and rallied all of his supporters to undermine Trotsky at every turn. Dealt a series of political defeats, Trotsky was soon ostensibly unemployed in his own revolutionary government.
By November, 1927, Stalin had consolidated enough power within the Communist Party to formally expel Trotsky and his supporters, purging the party of dissenters. A little more than a year later, Trotsky would be exiled from the Soviet Union, further cementing Stalin’s grasp on unchallenged power.
Trotsky would remain relevant in world politics throughout his exile, and ruffle Stalin’s feathers all the while. In 1939 & 1940, Stalin organized a series of failed assassination attempts on Trotsky. In June of 1940, Trotsky penned an essay called “Stalin Seeks My Death” wherein he declares the certainty of yet more attempts on his life.
In August of that year, Trotsky suffered a blow to the head with an ice axe. He survived the assassination attempt initially, and managed to subdue and capture the attacker despite his injuries. He survived a surgery, but ultimately died the next day due to blood loss and shock.
Make no mistake, Trotsky was an Orthodox Marxist, and believed in the utopian potential of true socialism. However, he was willing to be an authoritarian to achieve it, and implement concentration and forced-labor camps for detractors. He was quite ruthless in his belief in the dream. But at the end of the day, his dream meant a better life for all Soviets.
Joseph Stalin, on the other hand, while a strong believer in Communism, often strayed from the orthodoxy. He admired Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, two tsars representing the wasteful excesses of the past the Bolsheviks rebelled against. He believed that the people needed a singular figure to look to for leadership, like a tsar, or emperor, and viewed himself as such. Napoleon, indeed.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for one of many Bloody Sundays.
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