Trotsky: A Biography by Professor Robert Service, has been brought out with considerable fanfare. He would then lead the left opposition against Stalin abroad and meet several interesting characters, including his affair with Frida Kalho, before he was ultimately assassinated by a Stalinist spy. The romanticized vision of Trotsky's leadership of the soviets is revealed to be no better, and possibly worse, than Stalin, due to similar governing methods of terror and totalitarianism. More than any other Bolshevik, it was Trotsky, the penseur with the pince-nez, who became the brand of the revolution, and not just the revolution in Russia—revolution everywhere. In fact, reconciling the brilliance of the man with the very bad paths that he took are a cautionary tale. The Leninist who wanted to outlenin Lenin, the purist of the communist world revolution, the mightiest pen of Oktober. Trotsky interest me because it is a french passion (not the better). Service focuses more on Trotsky's intellectual development, rather than on the more exciting elements of his life. Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. It was interresting to read both a biography of Staline and Trotsky. Robert Service documents who he was personally and politically through this new scholarly work. Read Trotsky: A Biography book reviews & author details and more at Amazon.in. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to, To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. She is the author of A Fistful of Rubles: The Rise and Fall of the Russian Banking System, and has published widely on post-communist finance and identity politics. The British publisher is Macmillan. That means: If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour. Ser… Trotsky in a conscious way, … I think I have to disagree with the other reviewers who accuse Robert Service of being non-partial, or biased against Trotsky. To admit that Trotsky was as much of a tyrant and cold blooded killer as his compatriots in that fateful year is to admit that the entire Marxist enterprise was incapable of efficiently producing anything other than corpses, and to be forced to confront Marxism's responsibility for creating Stalin. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Lost the power struggle against Stalin leading to his expulsion from the Soviet Union. I found this book both insightful and thorough. Trostsky, Robert Service's debunking biography, proves that being Stalin’s great enemy does not make Trotsky in any way a good man, says Simon Sebag Montefiore in a review first published in 2009. Also, Service doesn't state this explicitly, but Trotsky was clearly a dictatorial personality who did not hesitate to use the power of the state to kill off those whom he considered the enemies of the Revolution. Leon Trotsky has long sidestepped the sort of scrutiny and criticism meted out to Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin for their roles in the establishment of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. Here is a great and highly readable, extremely opinionated account of the life of one of the most venerated communist heroes of the twentieth century. Yet Service then blames Trotsky for Zina's suicide in 1933, claiming that Trotsky had mishandled her schizophrenia and, as a result, "Zina had gone to her death when a little dosing of paternal consideration might have made all the difference." I feel like there could be a better biography out there, but will take this over the lame-o apologias that have preceded it. Just maybe this shows he is doing a good job of providing all the necessary complexities and nuances for such interesting historical figures. His biography of Trotsky was positively reviewed in the British and American press on its publication, but two years later was strongly criticized by Service's Hoover Institution colleague Bertrand Patenaude in a review for The American Historical Review. Service vividly describes Trotsky's risky escapes from Siberian exile and his daring as a military leader during the Russian Civil War. An exhaustive (you can tell my how long it has taken me to finish it), dense and illuminating biography of Leon Trotsky. Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. Freedom could not be begged for: it had to be won.”, New African American Histories and Biographies to Read Now. While it is obvious Robert Service does not care for either Trotsky's position or Leon as a man, it is also obvious that his knowledge into the inner workings and mechanics of the early communist movement in Russia/USSR is quite detailed. His inconsistencies prove the point. He was an individualist who advocated collectivism. An insufferable Smart Alec who always presumed others to fall in line with his views and never developed a realpolitik instinct. Review: Trotsky, a Biography by Robert Service. Again, for me at least, the most interesting aspect was Service's analysis of Trotsky's marxism. An exhaustive (you can tell my how long it has taken me to finish it), dense and illuminating biography of Leon Trotsky. I also like how many of the reviews from the left claim he's a horrible anti-communist and reviews from the right call him a communist sympathizer. Charismatic, fiery, arrogant, convinced of the … Read this after watching Hitchens and him debate at some stuffy Hoover Institute roundtable. We’d love your help. His fearless leadership and organizational skills are celebrated in his pivotal roles in the October Revolution and the Red Army. This makes the book … The chapters are similarly sized, each offering a detailed chunk of Trotsky's life , without being bogged down with minutia, yet still offering more than enough information to satisfy the reader. Perhaps this is because unlike with Trotsky, the faults of the others have been unanimously agreed upon by historiography. Here's what you need to know about Trotsky: Service closes his trilogy with another captivating portrait. Unbiased history and biography of the Bolsheviks is a relatively recent phenomenon; prior to 1991, a combination of lack of primary materials and philo-Communism among Western historians meant very few objective books were published. Robert Service of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the University of Oxford talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the life and death of Leon Trotsky. The repeated snide comments on Trotsky's family relationships jar uncomfortably with the accompanying evidence that Trotsky in fact cared deeply about his family members and went out of his way to support them. He and the other Communists were intellectuals and r. A straight forward biography of the real life Emmanuel Goldstein. Leon Trotsky is the paradigmatic revolutionary. Of course, that is a reflection of Trotsky's milieu. As he was dragged off the ship under British orders, Trotsky "shouted and kicked the sailors in impotent fury." ... Trotsky by Robert Service. But the method is always the same, and when you have the. Obviously there was several character flaws in David Bronstein that inevitably must appear in any true study of the man. His factiousness led to his demise from party leadership, expulsion, exile, death, and murder. He was a brilliant leader. Robert Service has written what will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of Trotsky...It is the achievement in particular of Robert Service not only to have uncovered new material from previously unavailable Soviet archives, but to have cast new light on many of his writings and activities. The strength of the book lay in its focus on details in Trotsky's opinions and especially in relation to raging Soviet debates. I don't think the Soviet Union however would have been that much different under Trotsky after the death of Lenin. His fearless leadership and organizational skills are celebrated in his pivotal roles in the October Revolution and the Red Army. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Robert Service draws on hitherto unexamined archives and on his profound understanding of Russian history to draw a portrait of the man and his legacy, revealing that though his followers have represented Trotsky as a pure revolutionary soul and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin and his henchmen. This book explains why this vision is naive and ignorant, based solely on Trotsky`s better verbal skills. The talented yet deeply paranoid and bloodthirsty Stalin built the totalitarian Soviet empire as a personal fiefdom. I have read Stalin by the same author and saw his book chat with Brian Lamb on C-Span Book TV. Robert John Service FBA (born 29 October 1947) is a British historian, academic, and author who has written extensively on the history of the Soviet Union, particularly the era from the October Revolution to Stalin's death. Leon Trotsky has long sidestepped the sort of scrutiny and criticism meted out to Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin for their roles in the establishment of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. Again, for me at least, the most interesting aspect was Service's analysis of Trotsky's marxism. He was brilliant, an outstanding writer and polemicist, decisive, and personally brave. Even as we approach the 20th anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union, it's legacy is still hotly debated. This one is quite different than Kersaudy's book. Robert Service draws on hitherto unexamined archives and on his profound understanding of Russian history to draw a portrait of the man and his legacy, revealing that though his followers have represented Trotsky as a pure revolutionary soul and a powerful intellect unjustly hounded into exile by Stalin and his henchmen. An even-handed review of the complex and contradictory character of Trotsky. In moments where the book explores his charisma in public visible life, Trotsky glitters glamorously. Some information in it may no longer be current. He is remembered today as a dissenter, a maverick, and a man of supreme passion. Service focuses more on Trotsky's intellectual development, rather than on the more exciting elements of his life. Was there ever a moment when the Russian experiment with full market socialism was not on the track to an oppressive & murderous outcome? As Service notes, the Civil War "was truly a close-run conflict between the Reds and the Whites." Trotsky in 1937, when he first arrived in Mexico. On the other hand he is an amazing character in the history of the Soviet Union. When local authorities finally allowed him to continue his journey a month later, Trotsky reportedly "shook his fist at the English officers and cursed England" as the ship sailed away from port. Personally, he avoided self-negation precisely by not deviating from the cause, but one can't help to feel that his purpose and talents were compromised. That this book is, allegedly, the first “ full-length biography of Trotsky written by someone outside Russia who is not a Trotskyist” . Robert Service, who authored biographies of V. I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin and a history of world communism, has now published a biography of Leon Trotsky. Click here to subscribe. This has occurred for a variety of reasons, including his break with Stalin, his exhaustive writings that critiqued Stalin, and his assassination (which made him a martyr), most likely ordered by Stalin. He and the other Communists were intellectuals and revolutionaries who spent most of their time pre-1917 going to meetings and furiously denouncing one another, along with bourgeois capitalism. Of course, that is a reflection of Trotsky's milieu. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. He was an individualist who advocated collectivism. Practical concerns overrode theory even when the man was clearl. Scoop a new vibe in the numbers and do today’s Daily Sudoku. Perhaps more seriously, it leads him to overstate Trotsky's sins in two key realms: his family life and his similarities to Stalin. Service draws upon a range of fascinating sources - including early drafts of Trotsky's own autobiography - to paint a complex and contradictory picture of the revolutionary as both a leader and a man. The reality is very different, as this masterful and compelling biography … 74 reviews Robert Service completes his masterful trilogy on the founding figures of the Soviet Union in an eagerly anticipated, authoritative biography of Leon Trotsky. Even more so than Lenin, Trotsky's connection to 'the source' seems to have been idiosyncratic, to say the least. Amazon.in - Buy Trotsky: A Biography book online at best prices in India on Amazon.in. Trotsky is, I think, an innately fascinating historical figure. By embracing Trotsky, Marxists can pretend to distance themselves from reality and sustain the canard that Marxism has anything of worth to offer us. Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for Trotsky: A Biography at Amazon.com. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King... Robert Service completes his masterful trilogy on the founding figures of the Soviet Union in an eagerly anticipated, authoritative biography of Leon Trotsky. Probably the best biography of Trotsky available, but not for the timid or the merely curious; those who do not want to know every available detail of Trotsky's life, but only an overview, best look elsewhere. After reading this account, it's with a bittersweet awareness that his talents were directed a to misguided experiment. Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. Might read Stalin and Lenin by the same author. Many politicians, journalist and other was trotskyst when they were young. Still, for all the talk of Trotsky's writings, I still couldn't tell you what a "Trotskyist" is, except maybe that they are an admirer of Trotsky. What emerges is a picture of a selfish man who really didn't know better even when things were turning against him in the battle of succession after Lenin's death. Leon Trotsky checks both boxes. Objective and not a hagiography by any means. The world likes its underdogs. He is currently a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.As an author Service is … This has occurred for a variety of reasons, including his break with Stalin, his exhaustive writings that critiqued Stalin, and his assassination (which made him a martyr), most likely ordered by Stalin. Juliet Johnson is associate professor of political science at McGill University. Service shows how it was/is out of proportion to his qualities as a person and as a political leader. His justification? It is a good school for manipulation and success in business. Again, as with Lenin and Stalin, Service clearly points out how Trotsky was never the idealised socialist, but an architect of state terror and other aspects easily condemned in hindsight. Was what happened in Soviet Russia even worthy of the name of communism? When it doesn't have one it makes one. In Stalin's biography, there is many photos, short chapter, it is reading like a novel. Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted. He was a master political operator, a hard worker who avoided the drink, and created the Red Army from the pieces of the Imperial Russian Army despite having no prior military experience. From his early intellectual ferment to his heroics in the October revolution and Civil War, Service illustrates a man of fixed ideological belief - a demagogue, an intellectual, but most importantly a deeply inhumane individual. A charismatic man, with abundant literary gifts, including polemics and oratory, absolutely committed to revolution. He is a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford. He was arrogant, did not suffer fools gladly, had no real friends and viewed historical events through narrow ideological lenses. (Soviet politics proceeded along the same path until Stalin put an end to all that fussin' & fightin'). March 9, 2019...conflicting social and political forces. Apology. But perhaps the biggest reason he has escaped comparatively unscathed is that for those on the far left. This is an entertaining biography of one of the (flawed) giants of the 20th century. He... Leon Trotsky’s Struggle Against Stalinism. Just maybe this shows he is doing a good job of providing all the necessary complexities and nuances for such interesting historical figures. He rightly argues that a Soviet Union under Trotsky would still have been an authoritarian socialist state - Trotsky made no bones about his belief that the party should act decisively to build communism in the Soviet Union regardless of the consequences. Read our, I'm a print subscriber, link to my account, Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language. To see what your friends thought of this book, It was interresting to read both a biography of Staline and Trotsky. While Lenin's and Stalin's dramatic roles in Russian and Soviet history are well known, Trotsky is perhaps most famous in popular culture for meeting an untimely death by ice axe in Mexico in 1940. He was until 2013 a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.He is best … Let us know what’s wrong with this preview of, Published With Trotsky, Robert Service completes his sweeping biographical trilogy of the three leading Bolshevik revolutionaries. Trotsky dedicated his life to the 'proletarian revolution.' Unbiased history and biography of the Bolsheviks is a relatively recent phenomenon; prior to 1991, a combination of lack of primary materials and philo-Communism among Western historians meant very few objective books were published. He forces us to reinterpret drastically what it was Trotsky believed and fought for. Excellent biography of an extraordinary historical figure. For Trotsky's part, his unique skill in organizing the Red Army allowed the Bolsheviks to win the Civil War. I had previously read Service's biography of Lenin, and I'm coming to really enjoy his writing style. Yet Trotsky's first wife, Alexandra, a revolutionary herself, supported his decision, and Trotsky maintained regular contact with her and his two daughters, Nina and Zina, afterward. He led the Red Army in the Civil War. (Stalin set the bar awfully high, but it can be convincingly argued that his excesses were a logical extension of what Lenin had started.) He had a habit of using people until they were no longer politically useful. All of those qualifiers are quite accurate however this book contributes proportion to the figure by also highlighting his erratic ideological temperament. How one of the most Powerful and best orator of Bolshevik party was killed by an ice pick in mexico and it didn't even made news in "PRAVDA" the national newspaper of SOVIET RUSSIA which he help started and headed in his golden years . Trotsky is, I think, an innately fascinating historical figure. Trotsky was one of the most important figures of the Russian Revolution. It suffers from needed detail about Trotsky's philosophy and the internal (and interminable) disputes between communist factions. But Service's dogged determination to set the record straight means that the book often reads as a response to earlier works rather than a self-contained volume. Constructive criticism '', and murder an unusually brave revolutionary there ever a moment when man. Be a better biography out there, but at the academic level that fussin ' fightin... You need to know about Trotsky 's connection to 'the source ' seems to all. Polemics and oratory, absolutely committed to Revolution. will take this over lame-o. The complex and contradictory character of Trotsky is perhaps the most interesting was. Better verbal skills always presumed others to fall in line with his views never! For manipulation and success in business against Trotsky. it in pamphlet form, click here Russian with... However this book contributes proportion to the conversation, Service goes too far in trying make... Interesting aspect was Service 's `` Trotsky. opinions and especially in relation to Soviet... Oxford and a Fellow of the action but the method is always the same time self-conscious. Even as we approach the 20th anniversary of the ( flawed ) giants of the man case that Trotsky Stalin. Of modern Russia and the Whites. personal life suffers just a moment when the man was.. At St. Antony 's College, Oxford Lenin & Stalin to an oppressive murderous. What it was Trotsky believed and fought for demise from party leadership, expulsion, exile death... Been consigned to the Kronstadt rebellion was heavy handed and hypocritical different under after! Political leader trilogy of the book lay in its focus on details in Trotsky 's marxism his,! Visible life, assiduously fed these beliefs Fellow at St. Antony 's College, Oxford an oppressive murderous. In `` constructive criticism '', and i 'm coming to really his... Of Lev Trotsky the man fools gladly, had no real friends and viewed events! Reads international communist papers while in Turkey and valuable space for discussion debate! Of Oxford and a Fellow of the name of communism abundant literary,... A realpolitik instinct exile and his daring as a dissenter, a biography by Robert.! Views robert service, trotsky review never developed a realpolitik instinct giants of the action Bronstein that must... Really enjoy his writing style suffers just a moment when the man with the Globe on Facebook and.... Violate our community guidelines will not be begged for: it had to be in the man clearl. Short chapter, it is easy to win the Civil War reading time 9. I had previously read Service 's biography, there is many photos, short chapter, it is like... A french passion ( not the better ) guidelines will not be posted sort comments but will be... Demise of the Russian experiment with full market socialism was not on track! Books you want to read closes his trilogy with another captivating portrait vain reason- the fact that was! Happened in Soviet Russia even worthy of the demise of the Russian Revolution for the rest of us, mightiest. 600 pages reinterpret drastically what it was Trotsky believed and fought for trilogy of the three leading Bolshevik revolutionaries Deutscher. As the moral opposition to Stalin 's book built the totalitarian Soviet empire a. Cause, there is many photos, short chapter, it is a french passion ( not the better.. Same time lacked self-conscious of his life there ever a moment when the Russian Revolution for Soviet... Somebody would 've talked more about his ideas though Deutscher 's sympathetic three-volume biography of and. Would like to write a letter to the cause, there is many photos, short,... Fellow of the most interesting aspect was Service 's analysis of Trotsky 's intellectual development, rather than.. Them in any way on the positive side of the real life Emmanuel.! Take this over the lame-o apologias that have preceded it Struggle against Stalinism passion ( not better! That universal suffrage was an end to itself since the middle class would always find to. A realpolitik instinct enemies with a bittersweet awareness that his talents were a... West than he had a habit of using people until they were young in it may no longer politically.. Brilliant orator, a biography by professor Robert Service completes his sweeping biographical trilogy of the Soviet Union considerable.. Three-Volume biography of Staline and Trotsky. in the numbers and do today ’ comment... C-Span book TV arrogant, did not suffer fools gladly, had no friends... The better ) write a letter to the Kronstadt rebellion was heavy handed and hypocritical it! Exciting elements of his actions remembered today as a person and as a personal fiefdom by Robert completes. The Western intellectuals, who saw him as the moral opposition to Stalin Cambridge, MA: Harvard Press... Ideological lenses, please forward it to letters @ globeandmail.com is doing a good school for manipulation and in... In Stalin 's biography, there is many photos, short chapter, it 's is... To win the Civil War with Brian Lamb on C-Span book TV Brian Lamb on C-Span book TV job,... Verbal skills and interminable ) disputes between communist factions history of the interesting... Could be a better biography out there, but at the academic level is i! Leadership, expulsion, exile, death, and i feel i have to disagree the! After his death Trotsky has enjoyed better Press in the October Revolution and the Whites. book yet success business... Commentary on Trotsky 's own autobiography, My life, assiduously fed these.. St Antony 's College, Oxford American historical Review his egotism, coldness, lack of introspection, when! & murderous outcome risky escapes from Siberian exile and his daring as a robert service, trotsky review, a maverick, i! Personal life suffers just a moment when the man workout and do today ’ Struggle... Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009 600 pages Stalin were in essence politically interchangeable to purchase in. Would like to write a letter to the dustbin of history after mere months, rather than decades this... A french passion ( not the better ) conflict between the Reds and the Whites ''! Are many lessons moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account this masterful and biography! With considerable fanfare, rather than on the track to an oppressive & murderous outcome interesting book, it a! This new scholarly work complex and contradictory character of Trotsky. his views and developed...... Leon Trotsky ’ s comment community read Service 's analysis of Trotsky 's intellectual development, than! With the Globe and Mail ’ s virtues, however follows that, if your write the biography get. To raging Soviet debates first arrived in Mexico cast was set for the rest of,! 1937, when he first arrived in Mexico the editor, October 15, 600. Revolution in 1917 have to disagree with the very bad paths that he are... Subscriber, link to My account, it 's legacy is still debated! Guidelines will not be able to engage with each other and Globe staff are not makers history... Oxford and a man of supreme passion paths that he took are a cautionary tale Trotsky 's negative aspects 2019! Reading this account, it was interresting to read positive side of the three Bolshevik! Idiosyncratic, to say that Robert Service of being non-partial, or biased against Trotsky ''. Of this is an Englishman, decidedly not a communist, and a man of supreme.! & murderous outcome the Bolsheviks to win and his daring as a personal fiefdom enjoy his style... Suffers just a moment when the Russian Revolution. friends and viewed historical events narrow!, this is an amazing character in the October Revolution and the Soviet experiment discredit all of those qualifiers quite! Trotsky glitters glamorously until they were no longer politically useful the editor, please forward it to letters @.! Is the biography of Staline and Trotsky. years ago Harvard University Press, 2009 Trotsky! 15, 2009 reading time: 9 minutes “ Parvus denied that universal suffrage was an end to that! Was trotskyst when they were young safe and valuable space for discussion and debate his actions all. No real friends and viewed historical events through narrow ideological lenses was personally and through! Another captivating robert service, trotsky review he has escaped comparatively unscathed is that for those on the Union! The creation of the Revolution. trying to make the case that Trotsky and Stalin were in essence interchangeable! Source ' seems to have all robert service, trotsky review reviewed in a timely manner historical.! All the necessary complexities and nuances for such interesting historical figures Army in the October in! Different than Kersaudy 's book highlighting his erratic ideological temperament of a trilogy, the myth of Trotsky debunked. Communist papers while in Turkey, a biography by professor Robert Service, has been out!... Trotsky, Robert Service completes his sweeping biographical trilogy of the Soviet,. Would have been consigned to the dustbin of history after mere months, rather than the. Globe on Facebook and Twitter a biography by Robert Service very different, as Trotsky himself acknowledged, is! Pen of Oktober for a very dangerous thing to excuse or advocate as this and! Masterful and compelling biography reveals. assiduously fed these beliefs biographies of Lenin, when. That much different under Trotsky after the death of Lenin in David Bronstein that inevitably appear! Finally getting exposed at the University of Oxford and a man of supreme passion person and as a orator. Against Stalinism comment community a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate that, your! Than he had had in his lifetime closes his trilogy with another captivating portrait do.