The Prophet Unarmed: Life of Trotsky, 1921 to 1929

Overview

Few political figures of the twentieth century have aroused as much controversy as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Trotsky’s extraordinary life and extensive writings have left an indelible mark on revolutionary conscience, yet there was a danger that his name would disappear from history. Originally published in 1954, Deutscher’s magisterial three-volume biography was the first major publication to counter the powerful Stalinist propaganda machine. In this definitive biography Trotsky emerges in his real...

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Overview

Few political figures of the twentieth century have aroused as much controversy as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Trotsky’s extraordinary life and extensive writings have left an indelible mark on revolutionary conscience, yet there was a danger that his name would disappear from history. Originally published in 1954, Deutscher’s magisterial three-volume biography was the first major publication to counter the powerful Stalinist propaganda machine. In this definitive biography Trotsky emerges in his real stature, as the most heroic, and ultimately tragic, character of the Russian Revolution.

This second volume of the trilogy, first published in 1959, is a self-contained account of the great struggle between Stalin and Trotsky that followed the end of the civil war in Russia in 1921 and the death of Lenin. From the narrative of Trostsky’s uncompromising opposition to Stalin’s policies emerge character studies of the important Soviet leaders; a brilliant portrait of Trotsky the man of ideas, the Marxist philosopher and literary critic; and a new assessment of the causes of defeat which led to his expulsion from the party, his exile, and his banishment from Russia.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In the 1930s, Trotsky, with a handful of followers, attempted to block the path of Stalin’s relentless hurricane of betrayal and murder. His epic defence of the soul of the Revolution against its bureaucratic executioners was a torchlight in the storm. In one of the very greatest modern biographies, Isaac Deutscher redeems the legacy of this astonishing revolutionary and humanist thinker.”—Mike Davis

“The three volumes of Isaac Deutscher’s life of Trotsky ... were for me the most exciting reading of the year. Surely this must be counted among the greatest biographies in the English language.”—Graham Greene

“He has told the story more accurately and with fuller detail than ever before ... .compulsory reading for anyone interested in the history of Soviet Russia.”—A.J.P Taylor, New Statesman

“He has told the story more accurately and with fuller detail than ever before. His book is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the history of Soviet Russia and of international communism.”—A. J. P. Taylor

“This is the critical voice the velvet revolution faded out. The republication of Deutscher’s classic trilogy is good news for a new generation who want to know what went wrong with communist-style socialism.”—Sheila Rowbotham

“Deutscher is an exceedingly vivid writer with a sense of style, and a warm and understanding sympathy for his hero: this makes him a first rate biographer.”—Times Literary Supplement

A.J.P Taylor
He has told the story more accurately and with fuller detail than ever before....compulsory reading for anyone interested in the history of Soviet Russia.
New Statesman
Graham Greene
The most exciting reading of the year. Surely this must be counted among the greatest biographies in the English language.
Times Literary Supplement
A first rate biographer.
Guardian
[W]ill rank among the great political biographies of our time.
Library Journal
Debuting in 1954, Deutscher's three-volume biography on the Russian revolutionary countered much of the propaganda issued by Stalin's regime to destroy Trotsky's reputation. Still among the best titles on the subject. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859844465
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 1/22/2004
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,219,709
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Isaac Deutscher was born in 1907 near Krakow and joined the Polish Communist Party, from which he was expelled in 1932. He then moved to London where he died in 1967. His other books include Stalin and The Unfinished Revolution.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
1 The Power and the Dream 1
2 The Anathema 62
3 'Not by Politics Alone ...' 136
4 An Interval 169
5 The Decisive Contest: 1926-7 227
6 A Year at Alma Ata 332
Notes 397
Bibliography 431
Index 441
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 14, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Hagiography of traitor to the revolution

    This second volume of Isaac Deutscher's biography of Trotsky proposed that Trotsky, not Lenin, inspired the Bolshevik revolution. (By the third volume, Lenin vanished altogether, as Deutscher ludicrously called Trotsky 'the leader of October' and the 'intellectual initiator of industrialization and planned economy'.)

    On the notion that Trotsky upheld Lenin's thought, we should note that Lenin wrote, "uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible in several or even in one capitalist country taken separately. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world .."

    Trotsky denied Lenin's conclusion, writing, "it would be hopeless to think . that, for example, a revolutionary Russia could hold out in the face of a conservative Europe." He then accused Lenin of 'that very national narrow-mindedness which constitutes the essence of social-patriotism'.

    Lenin riposted in 1918, "I know that there are, of course, sages who think they are very clever and even call themselves Socialists, who assert that power should not have been seized until the revolution had broken out in all countries. They do not suspect that by speaking in this way they are deserting the revolution and going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. To wait until the toiling classes bring about a revolution on an international scale means that everybody should stand stock-still in expectation. That is nonsense."

    Yet Trotsky repeated, "real progress of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the major European countries."

    But Trotsky won few to his defeatist dogma. Deutscher admitted that "in Leningrad there were at the beginning of 1926, not more than about 30 Trotskyists." In 1926, the Trotskyists claimed that there were 4,000 Trotskyists in the whole of the Soviet Union, as against the 750,000 Party members.

    Deutscher wrote of the 1924 Lenin enrolment of workers into the Party, "Among the mass of new entrants, the politically immature, the backward, the dull-minded and the docile, the climbers, and the nest-featherers, formed a considerable proportion." He gave no evidence for this assertion: it seems to be sheer class prejudice.

    Again, he wrote, "the great majority of the party was a jelly-like mass; it consisted of meek and obedient members, without a mind and a will of their own." He called factory workers 'the great credulous mass'. Deutscher plainly echoes his idol's contempt for the working class, his intellectual snobbery, arrogance and dogmatism.

    But the truth broke through, just once, when Deutscher wrote that Trotsky was 'Full of the sense of his superiority' and that "his mind remained closed. He lived as if in another world, wrapped up in himself and his ideas."

    This whole biography is special pleading, as objective as a Jesuit's biography of a Pope or Christopher Hitchens' book on Orwell.

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