By Tim Lambert

His early life

Leon Trotsky was one of the leading figures in the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917 which created a brutal and repressive regime.

Leon Trotsky was born on 7 November 1879 in Ukraine. His real name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein. His father was a well-off farmer. When he was young he was introduced to Marxism.

Marxism was the creation of Karl Marx (1818-1883). According to him, society went through an inevitable series of stages ending in Communism. The industrial workers, he said, would inevitably rise up against the capitalists and Capitalism would be replaced by Socialism in which the state would own industry. However, the state would 'wither away' leaving a classless society of Communism. Needless to say, the promised utopia never appeared. Marxism was a foolish dream.

Although he was Jewish by birth Trotsky, like all Marxists was an atheist.

In 1898 Trotsky was sent to prison for revolutionary activity. In 1900 he was sent into exile in Siberia where he married Aleksandra Sokolovskaya. They had 2 daughters. He escaped in 1902 using a forged passport with the name Trotsky, which he adopted as his name. His wife stayed behind and the couple became permanently separated.

Trotsky made his way to England. In 1903 he met Natalya Sedova. With her he had 2 sons.

Meanwhile a Marxist party was formed in Russia in 1898. At a meeting in 1903, it split into 2 groups. The Bolsheviks (from the Russian word for the majority) and the Mensheviks (from the word for minority). However, the Bolsheviks were not the majority within the party they were only the majority at one particular meeting. Trotsky supported the Mensheviks (until 1917).

Trotsky returned to Russia in 1905 during a revolution. However in December 1905 Trotsky was arrested again. In 1907 he escaped and he lived abroad for 10 years.

Then in 1914 First World War began. In September 1914 the Russian army was badly defeated at Tannenberg. Russia never really recovered from the defeat. Russia continued to suffer severe losses in the following years and the country 'bled to death'. Eventually, the war gave the Communists the opportunity to grab power.

In Russia there were severe shortages on the home front. In March 1917 a shortage of bread in St Petersburg caused riots. This time the soldiers in the city joined the rioters. The Tsarist regime quickly collapsed and the tsar abdicated.

A provisional government made up of deputies from the duma (parliament) then ruled Russia. A moderate Socialist named Alexander Kerensky became prime minister. However, in April 1917 the Germans helped the Bolshevik leader, Lenin to return from exile in Switzerland.

The provisional government lost support because of its failure to end the war, which had cost so many lives and its failure to introduce social reforms. Many Russians wanted peace and radical reforms. Lenin appealed to them with his slogan Peace! Bread! Land!

Meanwhile Trotsky returned to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks.

The Bolsheviks had much support among soldiers in Petrograd. On 6 November 1917, the Bolsheviks led them in a revolt in Petrograd. They seized key buildings. On 7 November 1917, they seized the winter palace and arrested most of the provisional government (Kerensky escaped and fled abroad). The Bolsheviks quickly seized central Russia.

Before its downfall the provisional government had arranged for elections to a representative assembly. The Communists let the elections go ahead. However they won only 168 places out of 703 in the assembly. When it was clear the new assembly did not support them the Bolsheviks closed it by force. In other words the Russian people did not want Communism. Instead it was imposed on them by Lenin and his cronies.

The end of Trotsky

In 1918 Trotsky was made commissar for war. He had to fight a long civil war before the Communists controlled all of Russia. The war between the 'reds' and the 'whites' lasted until 1921 and it devastated Russia. Worse Russia suffered a severe famine in 1921-1922 in which many people died.

Meanwhile the Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918. They were not the only ones. The Communist secret police the Cheka, killed tens of thousands of people.

During the civil war the Communists simply took food from the peasants by force whenever they needed it. The harsh policies of the Communists provoked unrest. In 1921 there was a mutiny at Kronstadt naval base, which was crushed by forces led by Trotsky. However Lenin them made some reforms. He announced his 'new economic policy'. The peasants were allowed to grow food and sell it for profit. In the towns some free enterprise was allowed. The Communists only retained control of the 'commanding heights' of industry (the most important ones). The new economic policy helped Russia to recover from the devastation caused by civil war.

However after the death of Lenin in January 1924 Trotsky was outwitted by the cunning and devious Stalin who made himself dictator of the Soviet Union. Trotsky was denounced by Stalin and in 1927 he was expelled from the Communist Party. In 1929 Trotsky was banished from the Soviet Union. After living in Europe Trotsky moved to Mexico in 1936. On 20 August 1940 Jacques Mornard, an assassin acting on Stalin's orders hit Trotsky in the head with an ice pick. Trotsky died the next day.

In 1991 Communism in the Soviet Union collapsed and Trotsky's dream ended in complete failure.

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