Leon Trotsky

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Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein on November 7, 1879, in what is today known as Ukraine. He was the fifth child of a wealthy farmer, David Leontyevich Bronstein, and Anna Bronstein. The family was ethnically Jewish but not religious. At the age of nine, Trotsky was sent to Odessa to attend school, and as Deutscher points out in his biography, ‘Odessa was then a bustling cosmopolitan port city, very unlike the typical Russian city of the time. This environment contributed to the development of the young man's international outlook.’ Trotsky was always ‘quick-tempered, arrogant and a stubborn believer in intellectual solutions.’ In 1896 Trotsky at the age of 17 moved to Nikolayev to continue studying. In his time there he attended a socialist discussion circle. As Trotsky’s father was a wealthy farmer, he argued that Narodnik peasant socialism was better than Marxist, proletariat socialism. Narodnik’s believed Russia could bypass western capitalism with a socialism based on peasant revolution. Trotsky held this view up until his first exile to Siberia when he developed his theory of permanent revolution. Trotsky helped organize the South Russian Workers' Union in Nikolayev in early 1897. Using the name 'Lvov' , he wrote and printed leaflets and proclamations, distributed revolutionary pamphlets which encouraged socialist ideas among workers and students.

This revolutionary activity resulted in Trotsky’s arrest by tsarist police and placed in solitary confinement in 1898 for two years awaiting trial. While in jail, Trotsky married fellow Marxist Aleksandra Sokolovskaya. He also read the works of Kant, Voltaire and Darwin. Darwin’s writings confirmed Trotsky’s atheist views. After his two years in jail, Trotsky was exiled to Siberia for four years in 1900. He escaped Siberia in 1902 leaving Alexandra and his two daughters behind. This is when he changes his name from Lev to Leon Trotsky incase he’s caught and questioned. He goes to London to meet up with Lenin, Krupskaya, and other editors of Iskra. Under the pen name Pero ("feather" or "pen" in Russian), Trotsky soon became one of the paper's leading authors.

In 1903 the Russian Socialist democratic Labor Party splits into two fractions at the 2nd congress. The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, and the Mensheviks, headed my Martov. Their views differed on the topic of revolution, as Lenin thought an underground party must be strictly centralized, whereas Martov thought the party should be open to anyone who believed in its program. Trotsky sided with Martov and the Mensheviks. Trotsky openly denounced Lenin for his views on revolution, and “he now exhibited a characteristic of which he could never quite free himself: he could not separate ideas from men” . Trotsky remained opposed to Lenin’s conception of the party for another decade, and criticized many of his formulas in ‘our political tasks’. Trotsky left the Mensheviks in September 1904 as they wanted to keep an alliance with Russian liberals, and didn’t want to reunite with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. From then until 1917 he described himself as a "non-factional social democrat".

The 1905 revolution brought about the formation of the Petersburg soviet of workers deputies. Trotsky returned to Russia to become president of the first soviet in St. Petersburg. The soviets were a compromise by the Tsar government to try and win back the peoples support, but the government closed down the soviets, and arrested the leaders. Trotsky and other Soviet leaders were tried in 1906 on charges of supporting an armed rebellion. At the trial, Trotsky delivered some of the best speeches of his life and proved to be an effective public speaker. Trotsky was convicted and sentenced to exile in Siberia. While in exile Trotsky developed his theory of permanent revolution. This is the idea that a socialist revolution will not be overthrown by a bourgeois revolution, and that the state will remain under its socialist revolutionary...
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