Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

200 × 130 × 15 mm
224 pages
35 illustrations
01 Mar 2015
Critical Lives

Leon Trotsky Paul Le Blanc

There are few more divisive names in modern history than that of the diehard revolutionary Leon Trotsky. To some he was a hypocritical totalitarian, while to many others he was a revolutionary liberator, an idealist determined to crush an outdated, oppressive dynasty in order to replace it with a proletarian socialist commonwealth. But one thing is agreed: his impact as a leader in the Russian Revolution and his widely read polemical books and articles make Trotsky one of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century.

In this book, Paul Le Blanc delves deep into Trotsky’s life and his social, sexual and political relationships to both criticize and defend the distinctive actions and opinions this complex character generated. He shows how the hero leader of the Red Army in the Revolution found himself in a losing struggle in the 1920s in his efforts to revitalize the revolutionary wing of the labour movement. Gradually marginalized by ideological opponents within the Soviet bureaucracy, notably Stalin, Trotsky was exiled to Central Asia in 1928. The following year he was banished from the USSR. What followed was a series of makeshift homes with his family circle, first on an island near Istanbul, then in France, then Norway until in 1937 Trotsky, his family and his close supporters settled in Mexico, where he was murdered by a Stalinist agent three years later.

Drawing from a rich array of sources, Le Blanc offers a balanced portrait of Trotsky in a historical context that will be invaluable for students, scholars or anyone with an interest in political history and extraordinary lives.

‘Le Blanc is broadly sympathetic to the Trotskyist project and therefore focuses on the final phase of his life . . . He does discuss more critical views, too, and the result is a reasonably balanced and engaging defence of his subject. Le Blanc insists that Trotskys ideas remain relevant as global capitalism endures new crises.’ — TLS

‘A most intelligent and insightful presentation of Trotskys thought and historical action’ — International Viewpoint

‘Le Blanc has written a unique biography of Leon Trotsky, noting that his subject was highly controversial in his lifetime, and beyond. Trotsky was a voluminous writer as a journalist, author, and theoretician, and at the height of his career number two in the Bolshevik Party to succeed Lenin. Unfortunately, he was also very vain and arrogant, and suffered fools not lightly . . . Le Blanc writes a highly educated treatise. Scholars should look carefully at his use of bibliography and structure from Trotskys own writings for a proper perspective on the man and his legacy . . . Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘The complexities involved in this process are impressively explained. So let me write now: buy this book! It provides brief succinct explanations for many of Trotskys most important writings. It is very stimulating, often beautifully written and highly original. It pulls no punches in criticising Trotskys earlier overcautious approach to Stalin. It describes the influence of workers movements on the young Trotsky very well, there are rich and thoughtful insights into his personality as well as a good discussion of the continuing obsession with Trotsky among conservative scholars, the wider media and the art world, itself an unintended tribute.’ — International Socialism

‘contains many insights and references that will be illuminating to those already familiar with the subject, as well as some fascinating illustrations.’ — Review 31

‘The book is an interesting overview of a revolutionary whose politics have been subject to many interpretations since his assassination in 1940. In a world where the deepening crisis of the system throws up ever more political questions, this short book is worth a read for those who want to gain an understanding of one of the architects of the tradition of fighting for revolution from below.’ — Socialist Review

‘Writing with zest, Le Blanc makes the most of his subject, and in a sense brings Trotsky himself from a rapidly receding past into the present.’ — Truth Out

‘a readable and frequently insightful guide to his subjects life and times’ — Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

‘Because Trotskys revolutionary integrity remained untarnished after his murder in 1940 at the hands of a Stalinist assassin it is easy to fall into a deification of his work something that competing Trotskyist sects have delighted in doing. Paul Le Blanc steers clear of those rocks in his very fine, short biography. He demonstrates a very clear-eyed and measured approach, combined with an unqualified opposition to Stalinist tyranny.’ — Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal

‘Le Blanc has done a fine job of demonstrating why Trotsky still matters . . . [a] very accessible book.’ — Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society

‘Le Blanc brings a scholars knowledge of the current critical research and debate regarding Trotsky and the problems of 20th century socialism as well as the invaluable perspective of an active, political militant. The issues and conflicts involved in working for a revolutionary solution to the injustices and crises of capitalism are not solely theoretical for Le Blanc or for Trotsky . . . a well-researched, amply illustrated brief overview of Trotskys life and major ideas’ — Labor Standard

‘Paul Le Blanc's new biography offers a strong jolt of the kind of history and theory needed if his readers especially younger ones are to build up socialism as a revolutionary force in U.S. politics . . . Trotsky's life is the story of the first half of the 20th century, and no one book can possibly do it justice. But if you are not familiar with Trotsky and the Russian Revolution and are looking for a place to begin, you can do no better than Le Blanc's book. And if you are a veteran of this history, you will be challenged and invigorated by his point of view.’ — Socialist Worker

‘Paul LeBlancs new and admirable brief biography of Leon Trotsky comes on the 75th anniversary of Trotskys assassination in Coyoacan, Mexico . . . [an] important contribution toward the education of todays emerging youthful revolutionaries’ — Socialist Action

‘Even-handed but sympathetic, learned but not overbearing, Le Blancs expert study leads a reader through the complexities of twentieth century history and the vicissitudes of revolution, while also painting an intense, and at times heartbreaking, portrait of a key player and critic of capitalism and real-existing Communism. Le Blanc provides a sharp assessment of the influence and actions of Trotsky and the Trotskyists, against the backdrop of Hitlers rise to power and the purges unleashed by Trotskys nemesis, Stalin.’ — Esther Leslie, Professor of Political Aesthetics in the School of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London

Show all

Paul Le Blanc is Professor of History at La Roche College, Pennsylvania, and the author of Unfinished Leninism: The Rise and Return of a Revolutionary Doctrine and coeditor of Trotsky’s Writings from Exile.

Introducing a Life
1. The Shock of Exile
2. Revolutionary, Past and Present
3. The Revolution Betrayed
4. Bracing for the Storm
5. The Jaws of Death
6. Afterlife
Further Reading
Photo Acknowledgements