I Wanna Be Literated #271

I Wanna Be Literated #271

Friday, 27 October 2023

The Case of Leon Trotsky: Report of Hearings on the Charges Made against Him in the Moscow Trials
by Leon Trotsky

I knew I was a fan of the life of Leon Trotsky but reading The Case of Leon Trotsky really made me realize that I might just be a Trotsky-head (no pun intended). There, I wanted to see how many times I could fit Trotsky in a single sentence. Way back in the 1930s, it wasn’t as clear to everyone yet that Stalinist Russia was a joke. People were buying all their claims of being a legitimate socialist country and actually took it seriously when they charged members of their own political party as secret agents trying to dismantle the Soviet Union from within. That’s important to remember when reading this book, which basically, is Trotsky’s entire testimony in front of a commission which was assembled to investigate the charges made against him by the Soviet Union. The commission was assembled by a Trotskyite organization, it’s true, but we’re assured that that’s only coincidental and does not affect the bias of the commission. OK, sure. In any case, this isn’t a legal trial assembled to judge Trotsky in any official way, it’s just a group of people asking Trotsky questions for 800 pages. So, why did I enjoy this book so much?

I don’t know. Maybe I just can’t help it. I just love hearing Trotsky talk about the Leninist/Stalinist era of the Soviet Union and his life. Also, it’s great to read what the charges against him actually were, to see the commission go through each of them, and read how Trotsky knocks them down one after the other. He’s an incredibly prepared man and has an answer for everything. It’s important to remember that in these Soviet Trials, the accused are guilty until proven innocent and that the Dewey commission considers these charges very serious. Trotsky, on the other hand, is only interested in clearing his name, and exposing how ridiculous and poorly thought out these accusations are. Every time the commission asks him to address a certain charge, Trotsky has an alibi, backed up by documents and statements of those who were with him at that time, and provides evidence of how shoddy, illegitimate, baseless, poorly conducted and ridiculous the KGB has been in providing any shred of evidence that Trotsky might actually be guilty of these charges. They’re obviously trying to frame him.

The Case of Leon Trotsky is hundreds of pages of Trotsky going through his life before the revolution, during his years as a leader in Soviet Russia, his “fall from grace,” and his expulsion. He also goes deeply into how the Soviet government was structured during the time he and Lenin were in charge, the big decisions that he made for better or worse, the big bureaucratization of the party and country and how that led to its degradation. All the while Trotsky insists that he fought against this element of degradation but that it proved too much for him to do alone. The machine of bureaucracy, which was fighting for its survival, consumed everything in its path. Apparently, Trotsky had nothing to do with its creation. He also goes through all the Bolsheviks and what he thinks of them and how they have morally degraded in his eyes. He explains that all the capitulations and back-pedalling that the old Bolsheviks are doing won’t matter because the system will use them as scapegoats in the end when it needs to. He wasn’t wrong. It’s kind of like 90-year-old tea time.

Surprisingly, it’s Trotsky’s attitude that really won me over. He doesn’t seem bitter. He truly loves the Soviet Union and believes that it can still be saved, that Stalin is just a manifestation of the bureaucracy and that he can still collaborate with him. He seems to be a revolutionary who stirs shit up because it’s just in his nature. He’d rather be a historian and write books and seems to be enjoying that more than his political life. This book is the closest we will get to knowing what a political conversation with Trotksy would be like. The guy’s a fighter and very well-spoken, you gotta admit that.

The book ends with a 100 page statement by Trotsky who, of course, wants to have the last word and ramble about what he thinks about the show trials, his accusations, and what all of this means in the context of world politics.

The Case of Leon Trotsky is informative, essential for those who want to understand Trotsky’s position late in his life, and very very fun. The fact that I’m saying that about an 800-page transcript of a court case should factor into that.

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