The element of heroic myth in Leon Trotsky’s career was no less marked during the Russian Civil War, when as the Soviet Commisar for War he lived for more than two years in his famous armored train, dashing from one threatened front to another. His personal contribution to the formation of the Red Army and to its victory on several decisive battlefields was undoubtedly immense, but his contribution to revolutionary legend even more so.
Solzhenitsyn: No. Only an extraordinary person can turn opportunity into reality. Lenin and Trotsky were exceptionally nimble and vigorous politicians who managed in a short time to use the weakness of Kerensky’s government. But allow me to correct you: the “October Revolution” is a myth generated by the winners, the Bolsheviks, and swallowed whole by progressive circles in the West. On 25 October 1917, a violent 24-hour coup d’état took place in Petrograd. It was brilliantly and thoroughly planned by Leon Trotsky – Lenin was in hiding to avoid being brought to justice for treason. What we call “the Russian Revolution of 1917″ was the February Revolution. Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/alexander-solzhenitsyn-his-final-interview-885152.html, following the October revolution
Trotsky’s train was a rolling liaison office between the Soviet government in Moscow and the fighting fronts, plus a communications center, emergency supply depot, and psychological-warfare unit. In the economic breakdown and general chaos that prevailed throughout Russia after the civil ware erupted, following the October Revolution and defeat in the war with Germany, it was a brilliant administrative improvisation.
Trotsky’s personal role as an ambulatory war minister was not purely that of a civilian administrator, however, and his constant visits to the front lines or outposts, accompanied by members of his own bodyguard, wearing leather jackets with distinctive black insignia, were more dramatic than the usual VIP morale-building battlefield tours.
The chapters in My Life on the civil war almost give the impression at times that it was won by sheer heroism and force of will, with Trotsky as a revolutionary Prometheus inspiring the soldiers of the Red Army to defy all “pusillanimous historical fatalism”- an odd phrase from the pen of a Marxist writer. The same romantic subjectivism that colored Trotsky’s writing as a military historian undoubtedly distorted his military judgement as a revolutionary strategist on occasion.
In Trotsky’s preoccupation with morale and psychological impact- he was one of the master propagandist of his age- he tended to overlook Napoleon’s “big battalions.” As the chief Soviet negotiator at Brest-Litovsk, he wanted to reject the outrageous German peace terms and adopt a policy of “no peace and no war.” Though fine revolutionary propaganda, the policy, as Lenin realized, would probably have resulted in the replacement of the Soviet regime by a German military government.
What Lenin termed Trotsky’s “excessive self confidence” likewise tempted him sometimes into rash courses of action. He does not appear, however, as the irresponsible hothead that Stalinist critics have made him out to be. He was more prudent and realistic than Lenin himself, for example, in opposing the march on Warsaw during the war with Poland in 1920.
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