Lev Trotsky

Janovka (Ucraina) 1879 - Coyoacàn (Messico) 1940

Lev Trotsky or Lev Trockij, aka Lev Davidovič Bronštejn, was born in southern Ukraine, in the village of Janovka, son of David Leontovič Bronštejn and Anna Žovovskaja, a large family of Jewish origin. His father profitably benefited from a landownership, by which he reached a good standard of living. Still a child, Lev was sent to Odessa, where was hosted by a nephew of his mother, Moisej Spencer, a progressive intellectual. In this city attends the Technical Institute of St. Paul where he reveals a gifted student.

In 1896 he moved to Nikolaev to complete the studies. He graduated in 1897 and soon became an open supporter of Russian socialism. He approached the Marxist doctrine because of the influence exercised upon him by Aleksandra Sokolovskaja who, in 1900, would become his wife and follow him during deportation to Siberia. At eighteen years of age, Lev founded the Southern Russian Workers Union, a social democratic working organization dissolved by the authorities for its contacts with revolutionary associations.

Imprisoned in Odessa, in December 1899 he was sentenced to four years of exile in Siberia. In the autumn of 1900, he settled near Lake Baikal. In 1901 and 1902 the daughters Zinaida and Nina were born. In the summer of 1902 escaped from the confinement, with the false name of one of his jailers in Odessa, or Trotsky.

After leaving his wife and children in London, he joined the group of social-democrats responsible for the Iskra newspaper in Russia and among them met Lenin. In 1903 collaborated with Iskra in Paris, where he met his life partner, Natalia Sedova, a Russian student at the Sorbonne.

Good relations with Lenin deteriorated with the advent of the 2nd Posdr Congress, when Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks. However, by the end of 1904 he moved away from them, guilty in his view of neglecting the interests of the party. During this time developed the theory of the permanent revolution: the working class would have played a fundamental role in demolishing the absolutist regime. The proletariat would have gained power in the city, provoking a constant revolution that Russia would extend internationally.

Following the events of "Sunday of Blood" Lev, disguised as a military, returned to Russia, where became an important exponent of the Soviet of Petersburg. The involvement in the October general strike, the support for the armed revolution of 1905, and the presidency of the Soviets resulted in the arrest and condemnation of exile to life.

In 1907 was deported again to Siberia, but during the trip he fled. He lived in Vienna until 1914 together with Sedova and their two sons, Lev and Sergej, born in 1906 and 1908. Here, he worked as a correspondent for the daily Kievskaja Mysl' and for other newspapers, while in 1908 founded Pravda.

During the years of the Great War, he lived in Switzerland, France and New York. In May 1917 returned to Russia shocked by the February Revolution. Meanwhile, back home from exile, Lenin expounded his Thesis in April, in which proposed to break down the provisional government and make the Soviet a body of revolutionary power. Trotsky, in agreement with him, became Leninist helping to bring numerous adhesions to Bolshevik ideology thanks to his oratories quality. In July, the Bolsheviks were outlawed as proponents of an armed demonstration against the provisional government: Lenin fled to Finland for not being arrested, while Trotsky was imprisoned three days before the 4th Bolshevik Conference, during which he was elected a member of the Central Committee. By mid-September, Lenin decided that the party, through an armed rebellion, would have to take power in his hand: Trotsky pleaded favorably to an immediate socialist revolutionary in Russia.

Released from prison, September 23, he was elected President of the Soviet of Pietrograd and agreed to direct the Revolutionary Military Committee. On October 24, when government forces broke into the editorial of a Bolshevik newspaper to stop publishing, Lev ordered to the Red Guards and regular regiments to occupy the strategic areas of the capital, which was soon in the hands of insurgents. A new government was then approved, the SovnarKom, led by Lenin and with Trotsky as Foreign Affairs Commissar. He had to deal with the Peace talks with which the Bolsheviks promised to ask for an armistice to all belligerent powers. In December 1917 a Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations began, but German conditions proved to be very tough. In February 1918, the Germans reopened the offensive on Russian soil, so Lenin was forced to accept the conditions they dictated, with Trotsky's dissent, who was dismissed as Commissioner of Foreign Affairs.

Becoming commissar to the war and head of a new Red Army, imposed a fierce military discipline and recruited experts former Tsarist officers. Since 1919 he became one of the five members of the Politburo. He supported the drastic economic and social measures taken by Lenin and known as "war communism". His militarization program of labor and transformation of trade unions in part of the workers' state triggered a tough opposition, but he defended his authoritarian approach to the problems.

Following the death of Lenin in January 1924, Trotsky found himself isolated from the triumvirate formed by Zinovev, Kamenev and Stalin. His theory of the permanent revolution opposed that of socialism in a single country of Stalin. In 1926, Lev took over the opposition against the majority of the Central Committee. Having been openly opposed to the Stalinist line, he was dismissed as a member of the Politburo, expelled from the party and exiled for life from Russia.

He fled in Central Asia, Turkey, France and Norway, until, in 1937, settled in Mexico. However, Stalin wanted to eliminate his indefatigable accuser. The first attempt, in May 1940, failed. On August 20 of the same year, Lev was hit with a pickaxe by Ramon Mercader, secret agent of Soviet security services, and died twenty minutes later in a Mexican hospital.

 

Bibliography

Corni Guistavo, Fimiani Enzo, Dizionario della Grande Guerra, L’Aquila, Textus Edizioni, 2014

Di Biagio Anna, Lev D. Trockij, Firenze, Giunti Lisciani Editore, 1995