I Wanna be Literated #209

I Wanna be Literated #209

Monday, 26 August 2019

Lessons of October
by Leon Trotsky

There can be no doubt that Leon Trotsky had an astonishing life. From humble beginnings, to revolutionary, to major political leader, to “disgraced” outcast, the man’s life has been extensively analyzed and will continue to be interpreted for decades, maybe even centuries, to come. And it only takes a cursory knowledge of what exactly went down in the Soviet Union to understand that, through it all, Trotsky got the short end of the stick. But, as Emma Goldman has said, maybe he got what’s coming to him.

Lessons of October seems like a harmless enough publication. After all, why not document the important developments of the October Revolution for future revolutionaries to contemplate? Now that Lenin is dead, what better man to do it than Trotsky? As Trotsky himself states in the introduction, this essay was released in 1924, 7 years after the revolution. Why did it become a priority now? Well, it was also being released just as Trotsky was starting to fall out of favor with the communist party and his power was beginning to weaken. So this was his attempt to set the record straight.

Lessons of October has a pretty straightforward account of the Russian Revolution, a topic Trotsky would write extensively about later on, and basically serves to establish Lenin as the hero of it all. The party and Russia was lost before Lenin showed up in April and the party was foolish to question any of his decisions throughout the process. It’s no wonder everything fell apart when he died because it seems like the party is filled with incompetent petty morons (or at least that’s the impression one gets). Maybe Trotsky doesn’t portray himself as a mayor player in these events, but he certainly isn’t afraid to throw the other leading party members under the bus, like Zinoviev and Kamenev and that whole affair with them voting against the storming of the Winter palace. Stalin isn’t even mentioned, either because he still wasn’t playing that large of a role in mid-20s Russia, or because Stalin had a minor role in the revolution and Trotsky wanted to prove it by omitting him from it all. So, while Trotsky wanted to maybe solidify his position, the backlash to this essay was such that it led to Trotsky’s further being outcast from the party and Russia itself. Poor Trotsky never knew how to make friends.

Lessons of October is short and sweet, and a great introduction to the events of the Russian Revolution and Trotsky’s writing. Funny enough, it’s also an unintentional entry into the drama that unfolded in the party and Trotsky’s life.

Get it from Haymarket.

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