The students were protesting against the autocracy. The prisons were full of workers and leftists incarcerated for organizing. While in the Moscow prison, Trotsky devoted his time to advancing in theoretical study.
It was there that Trotsky first heard of Lenin and read his book on the development of Russian capitalism. In the fall of , Trotsky was deported to Siberia. It was in those freezing lands that Marxism would become the basis of his conception of the world and his method of thought.
While in prison, Trotsky received reports that a Marxist newspaper, Iskra , had been founded abroad. Iskra was more than just a paper; it was a Marxist voice that aimed to build a centralized organization of professional revolutionaries. Convinced by these ideas, Trotsky began to plan his escape from Siberia to join the Iskra staff.
After a long journey by sleigh, train, and ship, he arrived in London in and joined the editorial staff of Iskra with Lenin and other important leaders of the Russian Social Democracy such as Plekhanov, Zasulich, and Martov. Two and a half years in prison and two years of exile in Siberia gave me the theoretical foundations for a revolutionary view of life. My first stay abroad was my school for political education. Under the guidance of distinguished Marxist revolutionaries, I was learning to understand events in a broad historical perspective and in their international context.
Although these differences seemingly revolved around organizational issues, they actually expressed deeper strategic differences. The Second Congress separated Trotsky from Lenin for several years; Trotsky believed that the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks could find common ground and unite under a single party.
At the same time, Trotsky agreed with Lenin about the need for absolute independence of the working class from the capitalists, a position the Mensheviks disagreed with. It was not until that Trotsky joined the Bolshevik Party in the heat of the mass movement towards revolution. After reading the April Thesis, Trotsky and his group called Interdistrictites joined the Bolsheviks. In the case of Zinoviev and Kamenev, their opposition to the October insurrection went so far as publishing the plans for the uprising in the non-Party press.
At one point he even threatened to resign and appeal to the Party rank and file over the heads of the Central Committee. The reason is not difficult to see. A glance at the contents page shows that the author mentions Lenin 63 times, Trotsky 53 times, Kamenev eight times, Zinoviev seven times, Bukharin and Stalin, only twice. This more or less accurately reflects the real state of affairs.
The internal Party struggle lasted up till October and beyond. But this was tantamount to a policy of handing power back to the bourgeoisie, as happened in Germany after November John Reed describes the kind of heated arguments in which the so-called Old Bolsheviks clashed repeatedly with Lenin and Trotsky:.
All the livelong afternoon Lenin and Trotsky had fought against a compromise. A considerable part of the Bolsheviks were in favour of giving way so far as to create a joint all-socialist government.
alternativelandscapes.ca/modules/1406.php We will be isolated and the whole thing will fall. This crisis in the ranks seemed likely to destroy the whole of the gains made by October.
In response to a dangerous situation, Lenin advocated the expulsion of the leading miscreants. A homogeneous Bolshevik government.
Trotsky long ago said that a union was impossible. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky knew much about military tactics before the Revolution. Trotsky was asked to take control of military affairs at a time when the Revolution was in extreme danger. The old tsarist army had collapsed and there was nothing to put in its place. The young Soviet Republic had been invaded by 21 imperialist armies of intervention.
At one stage, the Soviet state was reduced to the territory of the old Muscovy—the area surrounding Moscow and Petrograd. At this difficult time, Trotsky was dispatched to the decisive eastern front, where the military situation was catastrophic. Simbirsk, and then Kazan, had fallen to the Whites. The enemy forces were superior both in numbers and organisation. Some White companies were composed exclusively of officers and proved more than a match for the poorly trained and ill-disciplined Red forces.
Panic spread among the troops who were retreating in disorder before the triumphant Counter-revolution. A rumour began to spread among the local peasantry that the Soviets were doomed. Priests and tradesmen lifted their heads. The revolutionary elements in the village went into hiding. Everything was crumbling.
There was nothing to hold onto. The situation seemed hopeless. That was the situation when Trotsky and his agitators arrived. Yet in one week, Trotsky was returning victorious from Kazan, after the first decisive military victory of the Revolution. In a speech to the Petrograd Soviet, appealing for volunteers for the Red Army, he describes the situation at the front:. It was one of the saddest and most tragic nights before Kazan, when raw young forces retired in a panic.
That was in August, in the first half, when we suffered reverses. A detachment of Communists arrived: there were over fifty of them, fifty-six, I think. Among them were such as had never had a rifle in their hands before that day.
There were men of forty or more, but the majority were boys of eighteen, nineteen, or twenty. They perished nameless, as the majority of heroes of the working class generally do.
Our problem and duty is to endeavour to re-establish their names in the memory of the working class. Many perished there, and they are no longer known by name, but they made for us that Red Army which defends Soviet Russia and defends the conquests of the working class, that citadel, that fortress of the international revolution which our Soviet Russia now represents.
From that time, comrades, our position became, as you know, incomparably better on the eastern front, where the danger was the greatest, for the Czechoslovaks and White Guards, moving forward from Simbirsk to Kazan, threatened us with a movement on Nijny in one direction, and, in another, with one toward Vologda, Yaroslavl, and Archangel, to join up with the Anglo-French expedition. That is why our chief efforts were directed to the eastern front, and these efforts gave good results. After the liberation of Kazan, Simbirsk, Khvalynsk and the other cities of the Volga region, Trotsky was given the task of co-ordinating and directing the war on many fronts in this vast country.
He energetically re-organised the armed forces of the Revolution, and even composed the Red Army oath, in which every soldier swore allegiance to the world revolution.
But his most remarkable achievement was to obtain the collaboration of a large number of officers from the old tsarist army. Without this, there could have been no question of finding the necessary military cadres to staff more than fifteen armies on different fronts.
Some, of course, proved to be traitors. Others served grudgingly or out of routine. But a surprisingly large number were won over to the side of the Revolution and served loyally. Some, like Tukhachevsky—a military genius—became convinced Communists. Almost all of them were murdered by Stalin in the Purge of When Lenin asked Trotsky during the Civil War whether it was best to replace the old Tsarist officers which were controlled by political commissars, with other Communists, Trotsky replied:. For every traitor there are a hundred dependable; for every one who deserts there are two or three that get killed.
How are we to replace them all?