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Labor Action, 30 August 1948


For the 8th Anniversary of the Old Man’s Death

Leon Trotsky – As Others Saw Him


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 35, 30 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On August 21, 1940, the greatest revolutionary working-class leader of our day was murdered by Stalin’s GPU.

Leon Trotsky died as he had lived – an uncorrupted fighter for the socialist revolution, for civilized man’s future, against decaying capitalism and against Stalinism.

Eight years after his death his loss to us and to socialism is still felt. But – and we say this without any cultist hero-worship, for we had important differences with his views – the legacy of Marxist theory and political Insight which he left behind is still our most precious possession. And the essence of that legacy Is the unshakable conviction:

Capitalism and Stalinism – the twin enemies of the working class and of man – are doomed. They are doomed because men will never stop fighting for freedom and for the new life of peace and plenty which lies ahead. The class struggle for socialism goes on today in every corner of the globe. And its victory will be the greatest memorial erected to the name of Leon Trotsky.


At School Under Czarism

Mrs. Spencer [Trotsky’s aunt] put on her bonnet and coat and appeared early in that office the next morning to know why her boy should be expelled from school.

“Bronstein!” said the old German [principal]. “You want us to take that boy back? Let me tell you that’s a bad boy. He has all the boys in the school under his power. That boy is going to be a dangerous member of society. We don’t want him here.”

“How can you say that about a child eleven years old!” said Mrs. Spencer.

“Madam, I have an experienced eye. I tell you that when that boy grows up he will be dangerous.”

“But you have no right to deprive such a brilliant child of an education.”

“Oh, he is brilliant all right. That’s just the trouble.”

(Max Eastman: Leon Trotsky, the Portrait of a Youth)


By Lincoln Steffens

Trotsky’s mind is the international mind ...

Trotsky is against all the present governments of Europe, and the “bourgeois system” everywhere in the world. He isn’t pro-Allied; he isn’t even pro-Russian. He isn’t a patriot at all. He is for a class, the proletariat, the working people of all countries, and he is for his class only to get rid of classes and get down or up to – humanity ...

I find upon inquiry here in New York that while he was living and working as a journalist on the East Side, he refused to write for any paper to the editorial policy of which he could not conform. He would not compromise. He was “stiff-necked,” “obstinate,” “unreasonable.” In other, kinder words, Trotsky is a strong man, with a definite mind and a purpose of his own, which he has the will and the nerve to pursue.

(Preface to The Bolsheviki and World Peace)


By Joseph Stalin (1918)

All the work of practical organization of the insurrection was conducted under the immediate leadership of the president of the Petrograd Soviet, Comrade Trotsky. It is possible to declare with certainty that the swift passing of the garrison to the side of the Soviet, and the bold execution of the Work of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the party owes principally and first of all to Comrade Trotsky.

(“The Role of the Most Eminent Party Leaders,” Pravda, No. 241, 1918)


By Karl Radek

Thus, in Trotsky’s manner of posing the question, there is the whole secret of his greatness as organizer of the Red Army ...

It needed a man, an incarnation of the summons to the struggle, who, submitting himself to the necessity of the struggle, became the bell which calls to arms, the will which exacts, from all, absolute submission to the great, bloody necessity. Only a man who works as much as Trotsky, only a man who knows how to speak to the soldier as Trotsky spoke, could become the standard bearer of the armed workers. He was all these in one person ...

If our party goes down in history as the first party of the proletariat which knew how to build a great army, this burning page of history of the Russian Revolution will always be allied with the name of Lev Davidovitch Trotsky ...

(Article in Pravda, March 14, 1923)


By Lunacharsky

I always considered Trotsky a big man ...

The chief external endowments of Trotsky are his oratorical gift and his talent as a writer. I consider Trotsky probably the greatest orator of our times. I have heard in my day all the great parliamentary and popular orators of socialism, and very many of the famous orators of the bourgeois world, and I should have difficulty in naming any of them, except Jaurès, whom I might place beside Trotsky.

Effective presence, beautiful broad gesture, mighty rhythm of speech, loud, absolutely tireless voice, wonderful compactness, literariness of phrase, wealth of imagery, scorching irony, flowing pathos, and an absolutely extraordinary logic, really steel-like in its clarity – those are the qualities of Trotsky’s speech. He can speak epigrammatically, shoot a few remarkably well-aimed arrows, and he can pronounce such majestic political, discourses as I have heard elsewhere only from Jaurès. I have seen Trotsky talk for two and a half to three hours to an absolutely silent audience, standing on their feet and listening as though bewitched to an enormous political treatise ...

It is often said of Trotsky that he is personally ambitious. That is of course pure nonsense. I remember one very significant phrase spoken by Trotsky as the time when Chernov accepted a place in the government: “What contemptible ambitiousness – to abandon his historic position for a portfolio!” In that you have the whole of Trotsky. There is not a drop of vanity in him ...

(Revolutionary Silhouettes, 1923)


By Victor Serge

Only the Old Man remains.

He is all the greater since not a drop of the blood that has been shed lies at his door. And he alone remains.

Exiled to Alma Ata; banished to Prinkipo; interned in Norway; the butt of all conceivable insults and the systematic revision of history; his name expunged from the dictionaries and removed from the museums; all his political associates in prison – perhaps massacred tomorrow in one way or another – the Old Man remains as he was in 1903 with Lenin, in 1905 as president of the first Soviet in the first revolution ...

The Old Man is only fifty-seven – not so old at that. Everyone thinks of him, since it is forbidden to think of him; and he has everything that the Leader has not: a revolutionary soul, a brilliant pen, and men willing to go through fire with him ...

All his life the Old Man has served the revolution with unflagging firmness and devotion. His very mistakes were made with so much honesty and passion that they do not diminish his stature. As early as 1920 he counseled the NEP; in 1922 he was for industrialization; and ever since 1923 for the renovation of the party through inner-party democracy and the struggle against the bureaucracy. In 1927 he foresaw the defeats of the Chinese revolution. In 1931 he stood for the united front of proletarian parties, which might have saved Germany from Nazism; he condemned the “economic adventure” of forced collectivization and the execution of the five-year plan in four years; in 1930 he foresaw that Stalin would decimate Lenin’s party.

(From Lenin to Stalin)

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