Leon Trotsky

Russian Marxist revolutionary (1879–1940)

Leon Trotsky (Лев Давидович Троцкий; born Lev Davidovich Bronstein; Лев Давидович Бронштейн]; 7 November (O.S. 26 October) 187921 August 1940) was a Russian Marxist, intellectual, and revolutionary. In the early Soviet Union, he founded the Politburo, served as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and created and led the Red Army. After Lenin's death, Trotsky was exiled for his opposition to Joseph Stalin's policies. His 1940 assassination (with an ice axe) in Mexico was carried out by a Soviet agent (Ramón Mercader) at Stalin's behest.

Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full.



Sorted chronologically

As long as I breathe I hope for everything. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future.
In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness... and turns their eyes and hopes toward a great avenger and liberator who someday will come and accomplish his mission.
The highest human happiness is not the exploitation of the present but the preparation of the future.
  • As long as I breathe I hope. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future, that radiant future, in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of his history and will direct it towards the boundless horizons of beauty, joy and happiness!
    • "On Optimism and Pessimism, on the Twentieth Century, and on Many Other Things" (1901), as quoted in The Prophet Armed : Trotsky, 1879-1921 (2003) by Isaac Deutscher , p. 45
  • Lenin's methods [of "hard" centralism and mistrust of the working class] lead to this: the party organization substitutes itself for the party, the central committee substitutes itself for the organization, and, finally, a "dictator" substitutes himself for the central committee. … The party must seek the guarantee of its stability in its own base, in an active and self-reliant proletariat, and not in its top caucus … which the revolution may suddenly sweep away with its wing.
    • "Our Political Tasks" (1904), as quoted in The Prophet Armed (1963) by Isaac Deutscher
  • In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their own powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes toward a great avenger and liberator who someday will come and accomplish his mission.
  • Root out the counterrevolutionaries without mercy, lock up suspicious characters in concentration camps... Shirkers will be shot, regardless of past service.
    • Statement of 1918, as quoted in Trotsky : The Eternal Revolutionary (1996) by Dmitri Volkogonov, p. 213
  • Capital was really safer in Russia than anywhere else. ... No true Marxist would allow sentiment to interfere with business.
    • During a 1921 meeting with American businessman Armand Hammer, as quoted in Hammer: Witness to History by Hammer and Neil Lyndon (1988), p. 160
  • Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies.
    • Literature and Revolution (1924)
  • Lenin cannot be chopped up into quotations suited for every possible case, because for Lenin the formula never stands higher than the reality; it is always the tool that makes it possible to grasp the reality and to dominate it. It would not be hard to find in Lenin dozens and hundreds of passages which, formally speaking, seem to be contradictory. But what must be seen is not the formal relationship of one passage to another, but the real relationship of each of them to the concrete reality in which the formula was introduced as a lever. The Leninist truth is always concrete!
    • The New Course (1924)
  • Leninism is warlike from head to foot. War is impossible without cunning, without subterfuge. without deception of the enemy. Victorious war cunning is a constituent element of Leninist politics. But at the same time, Leninism is supreme revolutionary honesty toward the party and the working class. It admits of no fiction, no bubble-blowing, no pseudo-grandeur.
    • The New Course (1924)
  • Leninism is orthodox, obdurate, irreducible, but it does not contain so much as a hint of formalism, canon, not bureaucratism. In the struggle, it takes the bull by the horns. To make out of the traditions of Leninism a supra-theoretical guarantee of the infallibility of all the words and thoughts of the interpreters of these traditions, is to scoff at genuine revolutionary tradition and transform it into official bureaucratism. It is ridiculous and pathetic to try to hypnotize a great revolutionary party by repetition of the same formulae, according to which the right line should be sought not in essence of each question, not in the methods of posing and solving this question, but in formation of a biographical character.
    • The New Course (1924).
  • Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes. But at present even the handling of a hammer is taught with the help of a mirror, a sensitive film that records all the movements. Photography and motion-picture photography, owing to their passive accuracy of depiction, are becoming important educational instruments in the field of labor. If one cannot get along without a mirror, even in shaving oneself, how can one reconstruct oneself or one's life, without seeing oneself in the "mirror" of literature? Of course no one speaks about an exact mirror. No one even thinks of asking the new literature to have mirror-like impassivity. The deeper literature is, and the more it is imbued with the desire to shape life, the more significantly and dynamically it will be able to "picture" life.
    • Literature and Revolution (1924), edited by William Keach (2005), Ch. 4 : Futurism, p. 120
    • Variants:
    • Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.
      • Remarks apparently derived from Trotsky's observations, or those he implies preceded his own, this is attributed to Bertolt Brecht in Paulo Freire : A Critical Encounter (1993) by Peter McLaren and Peter Leonard, p. 80, and to Vladimir Mayakovsky in The Political Psyche (1993) by Andrew Samuels, p. 9
    • Art is not a mirror held up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.
  • The dialectics of history have already hooked him and will raise him up. He is needed by all of them; by the tired radicals, by the bureaucrats, by the Nepmen, the upstarts, by all the worms that are crawling out of the upturned soil of the manured revolution. He knows how to meet them on their own ground, he speaks their language and he knows how to lead them. He has the deserved reputation of an old revolutionist, which makes him invaluable to them as a blinder on the eyes of the country. He has will and daring. He will not hesitate to utilize them and to move them against the Party. Right now he is organising himself around the sneaks of the party, the artful dodgers.
    • Statement of 1924 on Joseph Stalin's growing powerbase, in Stalin, An Appraisal Of The Man And His Influence (1966); also in Stalin's Russia 1924-53 by Michael Lynch, p. 18
  • We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right... And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.
    • Speech at the XIIIth Party Congress (May 1924)
  • During his illness, Lenin repeatedly addressed letters and proposals to the leading bodies and congresses of the party. It must be definitely stated that all these letters and suggestions were invariably delivered to their destination and they were all brought to the knowledge of the delegates to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congresses, and have invariably exercised their influence on the decisions of the party. If all of these letters have not been published, it is because their author did not intend them to be published. Comrade Lenin has not left any “Testament”; the character of his relations to the party, and the character of the party itself, preclude the possibility of such a “Testament.” The bourgeois and Menshevik press generally understand under the designation of “Testament” one of Comrade Lenin’s letters (which is so much altered as to be almost unrecognizable) in which he gives the party some organizational advice. The Thirteenth Party Congress devoted the greatest attention to this and to the other letters, and drew the appropriate conclusions. All talk with regard to a concealed or mutilated “Testament” is nothing but a despicable lie, directed against the real will of Comrade Lenin and against the interests of the party created by him.
  • Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction; from the point of view of the proletariat the difference between the types of reaction is meaningless.
    • What Next? (1932)
  • It would be childish to think that the Stalin bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet Congress. Normal, constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique ... They can be compelled to hand over power to the Proletarian vanguard only by FORCE.
    • Bulletin of the Opposition, October 1933. Quote from Harpal Brar's Trotskyism or Leninism? p. 625
  • The peasantry, having lifted itself up out of its medieval status, cannot politically generate its own rage.
    • Speech in Paris (1934)
  • The tactical, or if you will, “technical,” task was quite simple — grab every fascist or every isolated group of fascists by their collars, acquaint them with the pavement a few times, strip them of their fascist insignia and documents, and without carrying things any further, leave them with their fright and a few good black and blue marks.
    • Ultraleft Tactics in Fighting the Fascists (March 1934)
  • The struggle against war, properly understood and executed, presupposes the uncompromising hostility of the proletariat and its organizations, always and everywhere, toward its own and every other imperialist bourgeoisie...
    • "Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau" (July 1936)
  • The struggle against war and its social source, capitalism, presupposes direct, active, unequivocal support to the oppressed colonial peoples in their struggles and wars against imperialism. A 'neutral' position is tantamount to support of imperialism.
    • "Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau" (July 1936)
  • During my youth I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear, as it were, automatically. The historical development of the last quarter of a century has  not confirmed this view. Decaying capitalism has everywhere swung over to an intensified nationalism, one aspect of which is anti-Semitism. The Jewish question has loomed largest in the most highly developed capitalist country of Europe, Germany.[…]
    The Jews of different countries have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument adapted to modern culture. One must therefore reckon with the fact that the Jewish nation will maintain itself for an entire epoch to come. […]
    We must bear in mind that the Jewish people will exist a long time. The nation cannot normally exist without common territory. Zionism springs from this very idea. But the facts of every passing day demonstrate to us that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine acquires a more and more  tragic and more and more menacing character. I do not at all believe that the  Jewish question can be resolved within the framework of rotting capitalism and under the control of British imperialism.[…]
    Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded, by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun. The same possibility will be opened for the Arabs, as for all other scattered nations. National topography will become a part of  the planned economy. This is the great historic perspective as I see it. To work for international Socialism means to work also for the solution of the Jewish question.
    • Excerpts of Trotsky’s interview with Jewish Telegraphic Agency (18 January 1937); as quoted in Trotsky and the Jews (1972) by Joseph Nedava, p. 204
  • Inside the Party, Stalin has put himself above all criticism and the State. It is impossible to displace him except by assassination. Every oppositionist becomes ipso facto a terrorist.
    • Statement from interview with New York Evening Journal (26 January 1937), as quoted in Trotskyism or Leninism? (1993) by Harpal Brar p. 625
  • The Moscow trials are perpetrated under the banner of socialism. We will not concede this banner to the masters of falsehood! If our generation happens to be too weak to establish Socialism over the earth, we will hand the spotless banner down to our children. The struggle which is in the offing transcends by far the importance of individuals, factions and parties. It is the struggle for the future of all mankind. It will be severe, it will be lengthy. Whoever seeks physical comfort and spiritual calm let him step aside. In time of reaction it is more convenient to lean on the bureaucracy than on the truth. But all those for whom the word 'Socialism' is not a hollow sound but the content of their moral life – forward! Neither threats nor persecutions nor violations can stop us! Be it even over our bleaching bones the truth will triumph! We will blaze the trail for it. It will conquer! Under all the severe blows of fate, I shall be happy as in the best days of my youth! Because, my friends, the highest human happiness is not the exploitation of the present but the preparation of the future.
    • 'I Stake My Life', opening telephone address to the N.Y. Hippodrome Meeting for the opening event of the Dewey Commission on the Moscow Trial (February 9, 1937)
  • A sledgehammer breaks glass but forges steel.
    • "We do not change our course" (1938)
  • The German soldiers, that is, the workers and peasants, will in the majority of cases have far more sympathy for the vanquished peoples than for their own ruling caste. The necessity to act at every step in the capacity of 'pacifiers' and oppressors will swiftly disintegrate the armies of occupation, infecting them with a revolutionary spirit.
    • Manuscript from 1940, as translated in Writings of Leon Trotsky‎ edited by George Breitman
  • Stalin's secret police, the GPU (NKVD), has fall to the same level of the Nazi Gestapo.
    • "Moscow Trials", Trotsky in Mexico, 1940
  • An ally has to be watched just like an enemy.
    • As quoted in Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (1974) by Adam Bruno Ulam
  • In not more than a month's time terror will assume very violent forms, after the example of the great French Revolution; the guillotine... will be ready for our enemies... that remarkable invention of the French Revolution which makes man shorter by a head.
    • As quoted in The Cheka : Lenin's Political Police (1981) by George Leggett, p. 54
  • Both Hitler and Mussolini have plagiarized and imitated practically everything from everyone. Mussolini stole from the Bolsheviks and from Gabriele D'Annunzio, and found inspiration in the camp of big business. Hitler imitated the Bolsheviks and Mussolini.
    • Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence (1941), translated by Charles Malamuth, p. 412

Results and Prospects (1905)

  • The proletariat can only achieve power by relying upon a national upsurge an national enthusiasm. The proletariat will enter the government as the revolutionary representative of the nation, as the recognized national leader in the struggle against absolutism and feudal barbarism. In taking power, however, it will popes a new epoch, an en epoch of revolutionary legislation, of positive policy, and in this connection it cannot at all be sure of retaining the role of the recognized expressor of the will of the nation.
  • One thing is clear. Every passing day will deepen the policy of the proletariat in power, and more and more define is class character. Side beside with that, the revolutionary ties between the proletariat and the nation will be broken, the class disintegration of the peasantry will assume political form, and the antagonism between the component sections will grow in proportion as the policy of the workers' government defines itself, ceasing to be a general-democractic and becoming a class policy.
  • The proletariat, once having taken power, will fight for it to the very end. While one of the weapons in this struggle for the maintenance and the consolidation of power will be agitation and organization, especially in the countryside, another will be a policy of collectivism. Collectivism will become not only the inevitable way forward from the position in which the party in power will find itself, but will also be a means of preserving this position with the support of the proletariat.

How the Revolution Armed (1923)

We communists know only one possession that is sacred — the life of the working man, the life of the worker, his wife and his children. That is the only possession which is sacred so far as we are concerned, and it gives us the right to do anything and everything.
Volume 1
  • We communists know only one possession that is sacred — the life of the working man, the life of the worker, his wife and his children. That is the only possession which is sacred so far as we are concerned, and it gives us the right to do anything and everything.
    • Into the Fight Against Famine
      • 6. The Kulaks - bulwark and hope of the counter-revolution
  • We Marxist communists are profoundly opposed to the anarchist doctrine. This doctrine is erroneous
    • Order by the commissar for military affairs - on the murder of count Mirbach
  • I will say in a few words why the anarchist doctrine is wrong. The anarchists say that the working class does not need a government: what is needs is to organize production. Government, they say, is a bourgeois invention, a bourgeois machine of compulsion, and the working class does not need to take governmental power. This is wrong from beginning to end.
    • Order by the commissar for military affairs - on the murder of count Mirbach

Terrorism and Communism (1920)

No one yet has learned to drive a locomotive sitting in his study,
In war, where both success and failure are repaid by death, hostile agents who penetrate into the rear are subject to execution. This is inhuman, but no one ever considered war a school of humanity.
To make the individual sacred we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And this problem can only be solved by blood and iron.
  • This book was written in 1920 in the car of a military train and amid the flames of the civil war. The circumstance the reader must keep before his eyes if he wishes rightly to understand not only the basic material of the book, but also its harsh allusion, and particularly the tone in which it is written.
    • Introduction to the Second English Edition
  • The argument which is repeated again and again in criticisms of the Soviet system in Russia, and particularly in criticisms of revolutionary attempts to set up a similar structure in other countries, is the argument based on the balance of power.
    • Ch. 1, opening
  • The balance of political power at any given moment is determined under the influences of fundamental and secondary factors of differing degrees of effectiveness, and only in its fundamental quality is it determined by the state of the development of production.
    • Ch. 1
  • The political worshipers of routine, incapable of surveying the historical process in its complexity, in its internal clashes and contradictions, imagined to themselves that history was preparing the way for the Socialist order simultaneously and systematically on all sides, so that concentration of production and the development of a Communist morality in the producer and the consumer mature simultaneously with the electric plough and a parliamentary majority.
    • Ch. 1
  • The dictatorship is necessary because it is a case, not of partial changes, but of the very existence of the bourgeoisie. No agreement is possible on this ground. Only force can be the deciding factor.
    • Ch. 2
  • It is only possible to safeguard the supremacy of the working class by forcing the bourgeoisie accustomed to rule, to realize that it is too dangerous an undertaking for it to revolt against the dictatorship of the proletariat, to undermine it by conspiracies, sabotage, insurrections, or the calling in foreign troops.
    • Ch. 2
  • The Constituent Assembly placed itself across the path of the revolutionary movement, and was swept aside.
    • Ch. 2
  • It could and must, be explained that in the civil war we destroyed the White Guards in order that they should not destroy the workers. Consequently, our problem is not the destruction of human life, but its preservation. But as we have to struggle for the preservation of human life with arms in our hands, it leads to the destruction of human life - a puzzle the dialectical secret of which was explained by old Hegel, without reckoning other still more ancient sages.
    • Chapter three, p. 53
  • During war all institutions and organs of the State and of public opinion become, directly or indirectly, weapons of warfare. This is particularly true of the Press. No government carrying on a serious war will allow publications to exist on its territory which, openly or indirectly support the enemy.
    • Ch. 3
  • In war, where both success and failure are repaid by death, hostile agents who penetrate into the rear are subject to execution. This is inhuman, but no one ever considered war a school of humanity.
    • Ch. 3
  • We are fighting. We are fighting a life-and-death struggle. The Press is a weapon not of an abstract society, but of two irreconcilable, armed and contending sides. We are destroying the Press of the counter-revolution, just as we destroyed its fortified positions, its stores, its communications and its intelligence system.
    • Ch. 3
  • In times of peace, the capitalists used to guarantee their interests by means of the "peaceful" robbery of hired labor. During the war they served those same interests by means of the destruction of countless human lives.
    • Ch. 3
  • Let us now turn to the revolution which took place in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the country of “democracy” – in the United States of North America. Although the question was not the abolition of property altogether, but only of the abolition of property in Negroes, nevertheless, the institutions of democracy proved absolutely powerless to decide the argument in a peaceful way. The southern states, defeated at the presidential elections in 1860, decided by all possible means to regain the influence they had hitherto exerted in the question of slave-owning; and uttering, as was right, the proper sounding words about freedom and independence, rose in a slave-owners’ insurrection. Hence inevitably followed all the later consequences of civil war. At the very beginning of the struggle, the military government in Baltimore imprisoned in Fort MacHenry a few citizens, sympathizers with the slave-holding South, in spite of Habeas Corpus. The question of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of such action became the object of fierce disputes between so-called “high authorities.” The judge of the Supreme Court decided that the President had neither the right to arrest the operation of Habeas Corpus nor to give plenipotentiary powers to that end to the military authorities.
    • Ch. 4 : Terrorism
  • The people, in the shape of the most democratic elements, were in favor of extreme measures. The Republican Party had a decided majority in the North, and persons suspected of secessionism, i.e., of sympathizing with the rebellious Southern states, were subjected to violence. In some northern towns, and even in the states of New England, famous for their order, the people frequently burst into the offices of newspapers which supported the revolting slave-owners and smashed their printing presses. It occasionally happened that reactionary publishers were smeared with tar, decorated with feathers, and carried in such array through the public squares until they swore an oath of loyalty to the Union. The personality of a planter smeared in tar bore little resemblance to the “end-in-itself ;” so that the categorical imperative of Kautsky suffered in the civil war of the states a considerable blow.
    • Description of The American Civil War, in Ch. 4 : Terrorism
  • In a revolutionary period, the party which has been thrown from power, which does not reconcile itself with the stability of the ruling class, and which proves this by its desperate struggle against the latter, cannot be terrorized by the threat of imprisonment, as it does not believe in its duration. It is just this simple but decisive fact that explains the widespread recourse to shooting in a civil war.
    • Ch. 4 : Terrorism, p. 55
  • If it is a question of seeking formal contradictions, then obviously we must do so on the side of the White Terror, which is the weapon of classes which consider themselves “Christian,” patronize idealist philosophy, and are firmly convinced that the individuality (their own) is an end-in-itself. As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the “sacredness of human life.” We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And this problem can only be solved by blood and iron.
    • Ch. 4 : Terrorism
  • The bourgeoisie today is a falling class. ... By its imperialist methods of appropriation [it] is destroying the economic structure of the world and human culture generally. Nevertheless, the historical persistence of the bourgeoisie is colossal. It holds to power, and does not wish to abandon it. Thereby it threatens to drag after it into the abyss the whole of society. We are forced to tear it off, to chop it away. The Red Terror is a weapon utilized against a class, doomed to destruction, which does not wish to perish. If the White Terror can only retard the historical rise of the proletariat, the Red Terror hastens the destruction of the bourgeoisie.
    • p. 83
  • No one yet has learned to drive a locomotive sitting in his study.
    • Ch. 7, p. 101
  • Repression for the attainment of economic ends is a necessary weapon of the socialist dictatorship.
    • p. 153
  • The road to socialism lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the state … Just as a lamp, before going out, shoots up in a brilliant flame, so the state, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the most ruthless form of state, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction.
    • p. 177
  • Terror can be very efficient against a reactionary class which does not want to leave the scene of operations. Intimidation is a powerful weapon of policy, both internationally and internally. War, like revolution, is founded upon intimidation.

Literature and Marxism (1924)

Life in the future will not be monotonous.
  • Having rationalized his economic system, that is, having saturated it with consciousness and planfulness, man will not leave a trace of the present stagnant and worm-eaten domestic life.
  • Communist life will not be formed blindly, like coral islands, but will be built consciously, will be tested by thought, will be tested by thought, will be directed and corrected. Life will cease to be elemental, and for this reason stagnant. Man, who will learn how to move rivers and mountains, how to build peoples' palaces on the peaks of Mont Blanc and at the bottom of the Atlantic, will not only be able to add to his own life richness, brilliancy, and intensity, but also a dynamic quality of the highest degree. The shell of life will hardly have time to form before it will be burst open and again under the pressure of new technical and cultural inventions and achievements. Life in the future will not be monotonous.
  • Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.

The Permanent Revolution (1929)

The permanent revolution, in the sense which Marx attached to this concept, means a revolution which makes no compromise with any single form of class rule.
  • Stalin's Problems of Leninism constitutes a codification of this ideological garbage, an official manual of narrow-mindedness, an anthology of enumerated banalities.
    • Ch. 1
  • The permanent revolution, in the sense which Marx attached to this concept, means a revolution which makes no compromise with any single form of class rule, which does not stop at the democratic stage, which goes over to Socialist measures and to war against reaction from without; that is, a revolution whose every successive stage is rooted in the preceding one and which can end only in the complete liquidation of class society.
  • With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.
    • Ch. 10
  • The dictatorship of the proletariat which has risen to power as the leader of the democratic revolution is inevitably and, very quickly confronted with tasks, the fulfillment of which is bound up with deep inroads into the rights of bourgeois property. The democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution.
    • Ch. 10
  • The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable.

The Russian Revolution (1930)

There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens.
  • In a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time.
  • There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens.
  • The historic ascent of humanity, taken as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces — in nature, in society, in man himself.
  • Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain — at least in a poor country like Russia — and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect.

My Life (1930)

Full text online
I do not measure the historical process by the yardstick of one's personal fate.
  • The life of a revolutionary would be quite impossible without a certain amount of "fatalism."
  • In these pages, I continue the struggle to which my whole life is devoted. Describing, I also characterize and evaluate; narrating, I also defend myself, and more often attack. It seems to me that this is the only method of making an autobiography objective in a higher sense, that is, of making it the most adequate expression of personality, conditions, and epoch.
    Objectivity is not the pretended indifference with which confirmed hypocrisy, in speaking of friends and enemies, suggests indirectly to the reader what it finds inconvenient to state directly. Objectivity of this sort is nothing but a conventional trick. I do not need it. Since I have submitted to the necessity of writing about myself — nobody has as yet succeeded in writing an autobiography without writing about himself — I can have no reason to hide my sympathies or antipathies, my loves or my hates.
    • Foreword
  • I know well enough, from my own experience, the historical ebb and flow. They are governed by their own laws. Mere impatience will not expedite their change. I have grown accustomed to viewing the historical perspective not from the stand point of my personal fate. To understand the causal sequence of events and to find somewhere in the sequence one's own place – that is the first duty of a revolutionary. And at the same time, it is the greatest personal satisfaction possible for a man who does not limit his tasks to the present day.
    • Foreword
  • I do not measure the historical process by the yardstick of one's personal fate. On the contrary, I appraise my fate objectively and live it subjectively, only as it is inextricably bound up with the course of social development.
    Since my exile, I have more than once read musings in the newspapers on the subject of the "tragedy" that has befallen me. I know no personal tragedy. I know the change of two chapters of the revolution. One American paper which published an article of mine accompanied it with a profound note to the effect that in spite of the blows the author had suffered, he had, as evidenced by his article, preserved his clarity of reason. I can only express my astonishment at the philistine attempt to establish a connection between the power of reasoning and a government post, between mental balance and the present situation. I do not know, and I never have, of any such connection. In prison, with a book or a pen in my hand, I experienced the same sense of deep satisfaction that I did at the mass-meetings of the revolution. I felt the mechanics of power as an inescapable burden, rather than as a spiritual satisfaction.
  • It was as the supreme expression of the mediocrity of the apparatus that Stalin himself rose to his position.
    • Ch. 40

Trotsky's Diary in Exile — 1935 (1958)

Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.
People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life...
  • Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.
  • Life is not an easy matter... You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.
  • The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.

The Revolution Betrayed (1936)

The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? Full text online
  • In January 1928 the working class stood face to face with the shadow of an advancing famine. History knows how to play a spiteful jokes. In that very month, when the kulaks were taking the revolution by the throat, the representatives of the Left Opposition were thrown into prison or banished to different parts of Siberia in punishment for their "panic" before the specter of the kulak.
    • p. 33
  • The [Soviet Union] bureaucracy not only has not disappeared, yielding its place to the masses, but has turned into an uncontrolled force dominating the masses.
    • p. 40 in Doubleday, Doran & Company edition (1937)
  • Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
    • p. 41
  • The owl of wisdom flies, as is well known, after sunset. Thus the theory of a "socialist" system of money and prices was developed only after twilight of inflationist illusions.
    • Ch. 4, Section 3 : The Rehabilitation of the Ruble
  • No, the Soviet woman is not yet free. Complete equality before the law has so far given infinitely more to the women of the upper strata, representatives of bureaucratic, technical, pedagogical and, in general, intellectual work, than to the working women and yet more the peasant women. So long as society is incapable of taking upon itself the material concern for the family, the mother can successfully fulfill a social function only on the condition that she has in her service a white slave: nurse, servant, cook,etx.
    • Ch. 7
  • Every revolutionary party finds its chief support in the younger generation of the rising class. Political decay expresses itself in a loss of ability to attract youth.
    • Ch. 7
  • Independent character is like independent thought, it cannot be developed without criticism.
    • Ch. 7
  • Can we, however, expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question, we will answer as frankly: If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable. In a technical, economic, and military sense, imperialism in incomparably more strong. If it is not paralyzed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the regime which issued from the October revolution.
    • Ch. 8
  • In Stalin each [Soviet bureaucrat] easily finds himself. But Stalin also finds in each one a small part of his own spirit. Stalin is the personification of the bureaucracy. That is the substance of his political personality.
  • Stalin, through Pravda, openly advised the local organs not to give them [the opposition] work. In a country where the sole employer is the state, this means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: 'who does not obey shall not eat.'
    • Ch. 11
  • Stalinism and fascism, in spite of a deep difference in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity.
    • Ch. 11
  • The Soviet bureaucracy is like all ruling classes in that it is ready to shut its eyes to the crudest mistakes of its leaders in the sphere of general politics, provided in return they show an unconditional fidelity in the defense of its privileges.
  • The ancient philosopher said that strife is the father of all things. No new values can be created where a free conflict of ideas is impossible. To be sure, a revolutionary dictatorship means by its very essence strict limitations of freedom. But for that very reason epochs of revolution have never been directly favorable to cultural creation: they have only cleared the arena for it. The dictatorship of the proletariat opens a wider scope to human genius the more it ceases to be a dictatorship. The socialist culture will flourish only in proportion to the dying away of the state.

Their Morals and Ours (1938)

A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified.
Full text online
  • A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified, From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.
    • Also quoted as "The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end."
  • (On the American Civil War) "History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!"
  • What, however, is our relation to revolution? Civil war is the most severe of all forms of war. It is unthinkable not only without violence against tertiary figures but, under contemporary technique, without murdering old men, old women and children... There is no impervious demarcation between ‘peaceful’ class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war.

The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1938)

Full text online
  • Despite the unquestionable greatness of the Anglo-Saxon genius, it is impossible not to see that the laws of revolutions are least understood precisely in the Anglo-Saxon countries.

Trotsky's Testament (1940)

Written statement (27 February 1940); full text online
My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.
The concrete is a combination of abstractions...
  • I thank warmly the friends who remained loyal to me through the most difficult hours of my life. I do not name anyone in particular because I cannot name them all.
    However, I consider myself justified in making an exception in the case of my companion, Natalia Ivanovna Sedova. In addition to the happiness of being a fighter for the cause of socialism, fate gave me the happiness of being her husband. During the almost forty years of our life together she remained an inexhaustible source of love, magnanimity, and tenderness. She underwent great sufferings, especially in the last period of our lives. But I find some comfort in the fact that she also knew days of happiness.
  • For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.
  • Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.
  • Natasha and I said more than once that one may arrive at such a physical condition that it would be better to cut short one's own life or, more correctly, the too slow process of dying … But whatever may be the circumstances of my death I shall die with unshaken faith in the communist future. This faith in man and in his future gives me even now such power of resistance as cannot be given by any religion.

In Defense of Marxism (1942)

Full text online
  • Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality.
    • p. 66
  • The concrete is a combination of abstractions — not an arbitrary or subjective combination but one that corresponds to the laws of the movement of a given phenomenon.
    • p. 147

Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It (1944)

  • The fascist movement in Italy was a spontaneous movement of large masses, with new leaders from the rank and file. It is a plebian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat, and even to a certain extent from the proletarian masses; Mussolini, a former socialist, is a "self-made" man arising from this movement.
    • Ch. 1
  • The genuine basis (for fascism) is the petty bourgeoisie. In italy, it has a very large base -- the petty bourgeoisie of the towns and cities, and the peasantry. In Germany, likewise, there is a large base for fascism....
    • Ch. 1
  • Italian fascism was the immediate outgrowth of the betrayal by the reformists of the uprising of the Italian proletariat. From the time the [first world] war ended, there was an upward trend in the revolutionary movement in Italy, and in September 1920 it resulted in the seizure of factories and industries by the workers. The dictatorship of the proletariat was an actual fact; all that was lacking was to organize it and draw from it all the necessary conclusions. The social democracy took fright and sprang back. After its bold and heroic exertions, the proletariat was left facing the void. The disruption of the revolutionary movement became the most important factor in the growth of fascism. In September, the revolutionary advance came to a standstill; and November already witnessed the first major demonstration of the fascists (the seizure of Bologna).
    • Ch. 2
  • In order that the social crisis may bring about the proletarian revolution, it is necessary that, besides other conditions, a decisive shift of the petty bourgeois classes occurs in the direction of the proletariat. This gives the proletariat a chance to put itself at the head of the nation as its leader.
    • Ch. 3
  • In case of actual danger, the social democracy banks not on the "Iron Front" but on the Prussian police. It is reckoning without its host! The fact that the police was originally recruited in large numbers from among social-democratic workers is absolutely meaningless. Consciousness is determined by environment even in this instance. The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker. Of late years, these policemen have had to do much more fighting with revolutionary workers than with Nazi students. Such training does not fail to leave its effects. And above all: every policeman knows that though governments may change, the police remains.
    • Ch. 4
  • The economically powerful big bourgeoisie, in itself, represents an infintesimal minority of the nation. To enforce its domination, it must ensure a definite mutual relationship with the petty bourgeoisie and, through its mediation, with the proletariat.
    • Ch. 5
  • In all the countries where fascism became victorious, we had, before the growth of fascism and its victory, a wave of radicalism of the masses -- of the workers and the poorer peasants and farmers, and of the petty bourgeois class. In Italy, after the war and before 1922, we had a revolutionary wave of tremendous dimensions; the state was paralyzed, the police did not exist, the trade unions could do anything they wanted -- but there was not party capable of taking the power. As a reaction came fascism.




  1. David Myatt, "Heraclitus – translations of some fragments". Quote: Polemos our genesis, governing us all to bring forth some gods, some mortal beings with some unfettered yet others kept bound.
  2. David Myatt, "Heraclitus – translations of some fragments". Quote: I have deliberately transliterated (instead of translated) πόλεμος, and left δίκη as δίκη – because both πόλεμος and δίκη should be regarded like ψυχή (psyche/Psyche) as terms or as principles in their own right (hence the capitalization), and thus imply, suggest, and require, interpretation and explanation, something especially true, in my opinion, regarding δίκη. To render such Greek terms blandly by English terms such as ‘war’ and ‘justice’ – which have their own now particular meaning(s) – is in my view erroneous and somewhat lackadaisical.
  3. Steven Burik, "The end of comparative philosophy and task of comparative thinking. Heidegger, Derrida, and Daoism" (State University of New York, 2009), page 30. Quote: Heraclitus is well known for having allegedly said in fragment 53 that "war is the father of all things." Heidegger thinks again that this interpretation is mistaken or at least one-sided. There is again a more originary way of looking at the fragment, which starts with πόλεμος πάντων μὲ ν πατήρ ἐστι. Heidegger translates "Confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) is indeed the begetter of all (that comes to presence) . . ." This is already a huge difference from normal translations, but even more important is the continuing sentence which isusually left out: . . . πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, which Heidegger translates as ". . . but (also) the dominant preserver of all." So[,] far from trying to say that war is the father of all things, Heidegger says that confrontation, as Auseinandersetzung, is the begetter and keeper of all things.
  4. Heidegger, Martin (1953). "Einführung in die Metaphysik." Quote: Auseinandersetzung is allem (Anwesendem) zwar Erzeuger, allem aber (auch) waltender Bewahrer.
  5. Wikipedia:DE:Liste griechischer Phrasen/Pi#Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι. Quote: Auseinandersetzung ist aller Dinge Vater, aller Dinge König, die einen erweist er als Götter, die andern als Menschen, die einen macht er zu Sklaven, die anderen zu Freien.
  6. Georg Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Volume I ← via Hartnack, Justus; Lars Aagaard-Mogensen, Translator (1998). An Introduction to Hegel's Logic. Hackett Publishing. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-87220-424-3.  ← via Wikipedia:Hegel#Heraclitus. Quote: There is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my logic.

Quotations about Trotsky

This ego-maniac firebrand is running through a world full of war-explosives, applying his torch wherever he may, hoping for nothing so much as a new world war from which alone he sees his hopes of glory and power. ~ Earl Browder
Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet. ~ Isaac Deutscher
The obliging Trotsky is more dangerous than an enemy! ~ Vladimir Lenin
Here's to the day when the complete works of Leon Trotsky are published and widely distributed in the Soviet Union. On that day the USSR will have achieved democracy! ~ C. Wright Mills
Trotsky explained that a nationalised planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen. ~ Alan Woods
Alphabetized by author
  • The international disputes which united and divided Luxemburg, Lenin, Lukács, Gramsci, Bordiga or Trotsky on these issues represent the last great strategic debate in the European workers’ movement. Since then, there has been little significant theoretical development of the political problems of revolutionary strategy in metropolitan capitalism that has had any direct contact with the masses. The structural divorce between original Marxist theory and the main organizations of the working class in Europe has yet to be historically resolved. The May-June revolt in France, the upheaval in Portugal, the approaching dénouement in Spain, presage the end of this long divorce, but have not accomplished it. The classical debates, therefore, still remain in many respects the most advanced limit of reference we possess today. It is thus not mere archaism to recall the strategic confrontations which occurred four or five decades ago. To reappropriate them, on the contrary, is a step towards a Marxist discussion that has the—necessarily modest—hope of assuming an ‘initial shape’ of correct theory today. Régis Debray has spoken, in a famous paragraph, of the constant difficulty of being contemporary with our present. In Europe at least, we have yet to be sufficiently contemporary with our past.
    • Perry Anderson, "The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci", New Left Review (1976)
  • Reading Trotsky, one is often impressed with how much dishonesty he can pack into a paragraph.
  • Trotsky's own tragic fate was to illustrate all that I felt and thought about my own inability either to work with or compete with the Comintern leaders on their own ground. If, after the Soviet Republic was consolidated and the factional struggle first began against him, after the Central Committee decided that the time had come to lessen the popularity and self-confidence of the former Menshevik, Trotsky had shown his own superiority to the Jesuitry of his rivals, by refusing to use their methods, how different his fate might have been! It is far more likely that when the moment of disillusion with the bureaucracy came, he would have become the leader of a revolutionary labour movement throughout the world, and that the authority and the number of his disciples would be many times greater than they are now. If from the beginning, he had defended party democracy, fought the repression of honest dissent, the calumny of political opponents by the Party machine, how much more sympathy and solidarity he would have found in Russia from the first day of his persecution to the last shameful campaign against him! But to have denounced those methods consistently, Trotsky should have fought them from the very beginning when he was most powerful, when he was a part of the bureaucracy, and when the Russians themselves were still convinced that the country could not be saved without him. He could not have eradicated the disease, perhaps-this was too inherent in Bolshevism itself-but he could have avoided some of its most monstrous applications and he could have protested far more successfully and aroused others to protest-when he himself became the victim. But not only was Trotsky himself, after 1917, a good Bolshevist, a hundred-per-cent "Leninist," he was also too weak and too self-conscious to have made such a fight while still part of the ruling group. "Too weak?" How can I use that word to describe a man whom I consider one of the most powerful intellects of our time-a man who has done for Russia what no other modern statesman has done for his country (because none has had to work, to destroy and reconstruct under such complicated and unprecedented conditions); who has faced danger and death without hesitation, endured heroically persecution on an unprecedented scale? Yet, there are different ways of being courageous, or rather of being indifferent to what may come. One may defy death but be unable to face reproach or a threat to one's popularity. This was, and still is, the case with Trotsky. He was daring enough, with Lenin, to face the hostile opinion of the whole world. But he was not sufficiently independent to fight those tendencies exemplified in Lenin's puppet, Zinoviev, nor to refuse an alliance with Zinoviev even after the latter had first capitulated to and become the puppet of Stalin. He was afraid of being thought less "revolutionary" than those who attacked him and in the field of demagogy and political shrewdness he was no match for Zinoviev, Stalin, and the whole party apparatus. This fear of being suspected of not having wholly abnegated his original sin-Menshevism-and his immeasurable self-confidence, have continuously projected themselves like a shadow between this brilliant man and the situations in which he is personally involved, so that he has failed to apply to his own movement the criteria he applies to others. It is as though history and logic and the laws of causality which he understands and knows how to handle so well, stopped short before his own personality. It is an attitude which was encouraged, of course, by his matchless success in the early years of the Revolution, the overwhelming popularity he enjoyed. He was so sure in those days that, whatever might be the fate of others, whatever the dangers of popularity and success, for him-Leon Trotsky-life would make an exception. Instead, he has become the foremost victim of the perversion of the Revolution!
  • The pressure in the Soviet Union for a realpolitik in international relations that represented the normalisation of relations with other states was not linked to the abandonment of the Communist cause, but, rather, to a focus on the pursuit of Socialism (ie. Communism) in one state (the Soviet Union). This was a course presented as leading to the strengthening of the cause. This emphasis was associated with Stalin who dominated the state after Lenin’s death in 1924. However, Stalin was also interested in world revolution and committed to the spread of Communism. Thus, his difference with the more volatile Leon Trotsky’s demand for permanent and global revolution was more one of tactics than goals, although that was still a highly significant difference. At a meeting of the Politburo in 1926, Trotsky accused his rival Stalin of becoming ‘the gravedigger of the revolution’. Trotsky was to be forced into exile, first internal (1927), and then external (1929), by Stalin. A major element of Stalinist policy, both before and after World War Two, was suppressing those held to be Trotskyites. This was a rift that fed Stalinist paranoia and gave potent force to the idea of the enemy within. This idea was brutally enforced in Communist and allied movements abroad, as with the hunting down of those in the Republican camp considered suspect during the Spanish Civil War (1936–9). Sentenced to death in absentia in 1937, Trotsky himself was murdered in Mexico in 1940 in a plot by Soviet Intelligence, the NKVD.
  • It is not true, however, that the solutions proposed by the Zionists, of whatever shade, represented historical realism as against the inconsistent utopianism of the Bund. Certainly the prophets were not numerous, but they have to be given their due: Kurt Tucholsky, for example, who already in the mid-1920s sounded the alarm, in a Weimar Republic prey to the demons of order, nationalism, xenophobia and dreams of revanchism; Leon Trotsky, who in the late 1920s warned that the fate of Europe was being played out in Germany, and understood that the bankruptcy of German communism in the face of Hitler bore within it the inexorable unfurling of horror. At this time they were preaching in the desert, including the desert of Judaea. The rabbis who called for obedience to the temporal power in all circumstances, and the inspirers of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon who at the time paraded in black shirts, are not best placed to cast the first stone at these Jewish visionaries and militants who were struggling at this time for a better world.
    • Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (2016)
  • The articulation of universalism with the sense of Jewish identity took varying forms depending on the different revolutionary currents: for internationalists such as Leon Trotsky, Aleksandr Zinoviev, Karl Radek and Rosa Luxemburg, the assimilation of a Jewish revolutionary into the concrete universal party, the dissolution of the 'little difference' into the status of equality of the militant, anticipated the society for which they fought; they did not consider the little difference' as called on to crystallize one day in terms of national identity. Were they blind? Blinkered, certainly, in the sense that they underestimated the national dimension of the Jewish problem in Eastern Europe.
    • Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (2016)
  • In 1937, Trotsky had to admit that 'the Jewish nation will maintain itself for a whole era to come."
    • Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (2016)
  • This ego-maniac firebrand is running through a world full of war-explosives, applying his torch wherever he may, hoping for nothing so much as a new world war from which alone he sees his hopes of glory and power.
  • According to Leon Trotsky, in an article published in late 1939, and to my personal knowledge based on a careful collation and analysis of statistics published in the Soviet press, the upper 11% or 12% of the Soviet population now receives approximately 50% of the national income. This differentiation is sharper than in the United States, where the upper 10% of the population receives approximately 35% of the national income.
  • The Jews practically always backed the wrong horse. The Jews of Russia who worked for the destruction of monarchy found themselves finally in the grips of a brutal religious persecution which hit them harder than the Christians. Their most brilliant exponents among the Communists were exiled, slaughtered, or assassinated in exile. The fate of Trotzki [sic] is symbolic for Russian Jewry. The Jews, with their ardent sympathies for the Soviet Union, had the same grim awakening when they learned of the Stalin Hitler pacts as the Spanish Jews who had backed the Moors instead of the Christians.
    • Francis Stewart Campbell, pen name of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 187
  • On reading Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution we are struck by a fundamental contradiction: as an honest historian he shows us just how much the Party lagged behind the masses, and as a Bolshevik theorist he must reaffirm that the Party was necessary for the succession of the revolution.
    • Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative
  • Lenin and Trotsky were the men of the hour and under their fearless, incorruptible and uncompromising leadership the Russian proletariat has held the fort against the combined assaults of all ruling class powers of earth. It is a magnificent spectacle . It stirs the blood and warms the heart of every revolutionist, and it challenges the admiration of all the world.
  • Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet.
  • All anti-Stalinist forces had been wiped out … Trotskyism, Zinovievism, and Bukharinism, all drowned in blood, had, like some Atlantis, vanished from all political horizons … and he himself was now the sole survivor of Atlantis.
  • Lenin and Trotsky killed millions of Russian citizens right after the Civil War, when they were consolidating State power, which preceded Stalin’s bloody rule. The lesson is that we should not be tricked into surrendering the grassroots people’s power to dictators who pose as our friends or leaders.
  • Maxim Gorki, supposedly citing a quote from Trotsky, told some journalists in 1924: "From Mussolini's governmental actions I have got to know his energy and I admire him, but I prefer Trotsky's opinion: Mussolini has made a revolution, he is our best student."
    • Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (1997). Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini's Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997p. 52
  • After several rather dull speakers Trotsky was introduced. A man of medium height, with haggard cheeks, reddish hair, and straggling red beard stepped briskly forward. His speech, first in Russian and then in German, was powerful and electrifying. I did not agree with his political attitude; he was a Menshevik (Social Democrat), and as such far removed from us. But his analysis of the causes of the war was brilliant, his denunciation of the ineffective Provisional Government in Russia scathing, and his presentation of the conditions that led up to the Revolution illuminating. He closed his two hours' talk with an eloquent tribute to the working masses of his native land. The audience was roused to a high pitch of enthusiasm, and Sasha and I heartily joined in the ovation given the speaker. We fully shared his profound faith in the future of Russia.
  • I believe that the fundamental things Trotsky relied on were wrong, that his later performance was wrong and even obscure in his last decade. And that the Trotskyists have not contributed anything to the revolutionary movement anywhere and where they did more, which was in Peru, in short, they failed because the methods were wrong.
  • Behind Trotsky's revolutionary rhetoric was a simplistic social-democratic view which regarded the class struggle for socialism as solely labor against capital. This concept of class struggle did not regard the struggle of peasant against landlord, or peasant against the Czar, as a constituent part of the struggle for socialism. This was reflected as early as 1905, in Trotsky's slogan, "No Czar, but a Workers' Government," which, as Stalin had said, was "the slogan of revolution without the peasantry."
    • Harry Haywood (1964). "Trotsky's Day in Court", Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist, Ch. 6.
  • To the very end Trotsky remained a blind, pitiless (even when pitiable) giant, defending the right of the minority vanguard of the proletariat -- the Party -- to exercise its dictatorship over ‘the backward layers of the proletariat’ -- i.e., those who disagreed with the self-designated vanguard.
    • Sidney Hook (1987). Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
  • Stalin, aware of the state of his regime and in what a tottering world he lived, did not count Trotsky’s meagre following and then sit back in comfort. He knew that as long as Trotsky lived and could write and speak, the Soviet bureaucracy was in mortal danger. In a conversation just before war broke out. Hitler and the French ambassador discussed the perils of plunging Europe into conflict and agreed that the winner of the second great war might be Trotsky. Winston Churchill hated him with a personal malevolence which seemed to overstep the bounds of reason. These men knew his stature, the power of what he stood for, and were never lulled by the smallness of his forces.
    • C. L. R. James, "Trotsky’s Place In History", The New International, September 1940.
  • Quite in keeping with Trotsky’s passion for ideas, his generous indignation at injustice, was his sense of personal rectitude, his idealistic approach to life. All who knew him intimately even when he was one of the rulers of Russia speak of it. Max Eastman and also Souvarine, who, a fierce opponent of Trotsky’s politics, has said of him that there was nothing “mesquin” in his character, not a trace of rascality. It is a noticeable characteristic of many great writers and philosophers, but a fatal weakness in a politician.
    • C. L. R. James, "Trotsky’s Place In History", The New International, September 1940.
  • It is clear from the relevant writings of the leaders -- in particular Lenin, Trotsky, and Bukharin -- that they all envisioned this economic policy [of ‘war communism’ from 1918-1921] (the abolition of free trade, coercive requisitioning of ‘surplus’ -- i.e., whatever the local leadership considered to be surplus -- from the peasants, universal rationing, forced labour) as a permanent achievement of the new society, and that it was eventually abandoned not because the war conditioned which had made it necessary no longer existed, but as a result of the economic disaster it had caused. Both Trotsky and Bukharin were emphatic in their assurances that forced labour was an organic part of the new society.
    • Leszek Kolakowski, “The Marxist Roots of Stalinism,” 1975; reprinted in “Is God Happy? Selected Essays” (2013, NY: Basic Books)
  • It is obvious to anyone who thinks dialectically that actions which are ostensibly the same kind of actions can be right or wrong depending on the circumstances -- or rather, on the cause in the name of which they were performed. Both Lenin and Trotsky were quite explicit on this point. Is there, for instance, anything wrong with slaughtering children? No. It was right, argued Trotsky, to slaughter the children of the Russian czar because it was politically expedient. (Presumably it was not right to kill Trotsky’s sons, however, because Stalin did not represent the historical interests of the proletariat; Trotsky, as far as I know, did not deal with this question directly, but such an answer would be in keeping with his fanatical mentality). If we reject the principle that the end justifies the means, we can only appeal to higher, politically irrelevant moral criteria; and this, Trotsky says, amounts to believing in God.
    • Leszek Kolakowski, “Leibnitz and Job,” first printed in The New Criterion, Dec. 2003; reprinted in Is God Happy? Selected Essays (2013, NY: Basic Books)
  • Comrade Trotsky completely misinterpreted the main idea of my book, What Is To Be Done? when he spoke about the Party not being a conspiratorial organization. He forgot that in my book I propose a number of various types of organizations, from the most secret and most exclusive to comparatively broad and ‘loose’ organizations. He forgot that the Party must be only the vanguard, the leader of the vast masses of the working class, the whole (or nearly the whole) of which works ‘under the control and direction’ of the Party organizations, but the whole of which does not and should not belong to a ‘party.’ Now let us see what conclusions Comrade Trotsky arrives at in consequence of his fundamental mistake. He had told us here that if rank after rank of workers were arrested, and all the workers were to declare that they did not belong to the Party, our Party would be a strange one indeed! Is it not the other way round? Is it not Comrade Trotsky’s argument that is strange? He regards as something sad that which a revolutionary with any experience at all would only rejoice at. If hundreds and thousands of workers who were arrested for taking part in strikes and demonstrations did not prove to be members of Party organizations, it would only show that we have good organizations, and that we are fulfilling our task of keeping a more or less limited circle of leaders secret and drawing the broadest possible masses into the movement.
  • The obliging Trotsky is more dangerous than an enemy! ... Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism. He always contrives to worm his way into the cracks of any given difference of opinion, and desert one side for the other. At the present moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the liquidators.
  • The theory that the struggle between Bolshevism and Menshevism is a struggle for influence over an immature proletariat is not a new one. We have been encountering it since 1905 in innumerable books, pamphlets, and articles in the liberal press. Martov and Trotsky are putting before the German comrades liberal views with a Marxist coating.
  • The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin-Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a readymade formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately or – perhaps fortunately – not the case.
  • Widespread public perceptions about the role of Jews in the new government [of the Bolsheviks in the early Soviet Union] led to aggressive surveillance and repression of anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior, including the execution of Russian nationalists who expressed anti-Jewish attitudes. These public perceptions also motivated Jews to adopt a lower profile in the regime, as with Trotsky, who refused the post of commissar of internal affairs because it might lend further ammunition to the anti-Jewish arguments.
    • Kevin MacDonald, “Stalin’s Willing Executioners: Jews as a Hostile Elite in the USSR;” review of Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century” Princeton University Press 2004; The Occidental Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 3 65-100
  • Mussolini called attention to the fact that Lenin—a prisoner of circumstances, some of which he had himself created—was fully prepared to reconstruct the state, with all its appurtenances, after its initial destruction at the hands of his “socialists.” In opposition to all that had been said by Marxism’s foremost theoreticians, Lenin gave every evidence, not only of reconstructing the state, but of recreating an army, as traditional in form and function as any that supported “bourgeois” rule throughout modern history. **The Red Army of Leon Trotsky was sent not only to defend the political boundaries of the new state—like every bourgeois army before it—but it forcibly, and without compensation, requisitioned goods from the people in order to sustain its deployments.**
    • A. James Gregor (2009) Marxism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism: chapters in the intellectual history of radicalism, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, p. 279
  • When Trotsky, in the first weeks of his regime, threatened opponents with an ingenious gadget that shortens a person "only by the length of a head," one may have dismissed the remark as a bad joke from a temperamental orator trying to cut the figure of a Robespierre. A few months passed and the tasteless joke became harsh reality, the difference being that, in "liberated" Russia, now instead of the chop of the bourgeois guillotine, "socialist" bullets whistle from Latvian rifles.
  • After 1905 thousands of Bundists and other revolutionaries (from socialist-Zionists to Bolsheviks) made their way to New York and infused the existing Jewish labor movement with new energy and ideas...Even die-hard opponents of independent Jewish political movements, such as Leon Trotsky, could not resist the pull of New York's Jewish labor movement. In early 1917 one could often see Trotsky holding forth among immigrant Jews in Café Monopole on Ninth Street or read his articles in the daily Forverts and monthly Di tsukunft
    • Tony Michels A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (2005)
  • Here's to the day when the complete works of Leon Trotsky are published and widely distributed in the Soviet Union. On that day the USSR will have achieved democracy!
    • C. Wright Mills, reported in Saul Landau, "C. Wright Mills: The Last Six Months", Ramparts (August 1965), p. 49-50.
  • Reference to the conditions that have developed in Russia and Hungary under Soviet rule proves nothing. What we have there is nothing but a picture of the destruction of an existing order of social production, for which a closed peasant household economy has been substituted. All branches of production depending on social division of labor are in a state of entire dissolution. What is happening under the rule of Lenin and Trotsky is merely destruction and annihilation. Whether, as the liberals hold, socialism must inevitably draw these consequences in its train, or whether, as the socialists retort, this is only a result of the fact that the Soviet Republic is attacked from without, is a question of no interest to us in this context. All that has to be established is the fact that the Soviet socialist commonwealth has not even begun to discuss the problem of economic calculation, nor has it any cause to do so. For where things are still produced for the market in Soviet Russia in spite of governmental prohibitions, they are valued in terms of money, for there exists to that extent private ownership of the means of production, and goods are sold against money. Even the government cannot deny the necessity, which it confirms by increasing the amount of money in circulation, of retaining a monetary system for at least the transition period.
    • Ludwig von Mises (1920). "The Problem of Economic Calculation," excerpted from Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth
  • Socialist authors promise not only wealth for all, but also happiness in love for everybody, the full physical and spiritual development of each individual, the unfolding of great artistic and scientific talents in all men, etc. Only recently Trotsky stated in one of his writings that in the socialist society "the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” The socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. All socialist literature is full of such nonsense. But it is just this nonsense that wins it the most supporters.
    • Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1927), p. 17, quoting Trotsky's Literature and Revolution, trans. by R. Strunsky (London, 1925), p. 256
  • All essential items in Trotsky's programme were in perfect agreement with the policies of Stalin. Trotsky advocated the industrialization of Russia. It was this that Stalin's Five-Year Plans aimed at. Trotsky advocated the collectivization of agriculture. Stalin established the Kolkhoz and liquidated the Kulaks. Trotsky favoured the organization of a big army. Stalin organized such an army. Neither was Trotsky when still in power a friend of democracy. He was, on the contrary, a fanatical supporter of dictatorial oppression of all "saboteurs." It is true, he did not anticipate that the dictator could consider him, Trotsky, author of Marxian tracts and veteran of the glorious extermination of the Romanovs, as the most wicked saboteur. Like all other advocates of dictatorship, he assumed that he himself or one of his intimate friends would be the dictator... The truth is that Trotsky found only one fault with Stalin: that he, Stalin, was the dictator and not himself, Trotsky. In their feud they both were right. Stalin was right in maintaining that his regime was the embodiment of socialist principles. Trotsky was right in asserting that Stalin's regime had made Russia a hell.
    • Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (1922; 1981), pp. 516-517
  • [Trotsky] knew Yiddish, and if at a later date, in his autobiography, he pretends to know nothing about Jews and Judaism, then this is nothing but a plain lie. He who had visited at Cafe Arkaden [in Vienna] for years on end must have mastered both these matters to perfection. The language in greatest use at that Cafe was - besides 'Viennese-German' - Yiddish.
    • Joseph Nedava (1972) Trotsky and the Jews, Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, p. 26
  • When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.
    • George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism," first published May, 1945.
  • The fog of lies and misinformation that surrounds such subjects as the Ukraine famine, the Spanish civil war, Russian policy in Poland, and so forth, is not due entirely to conscious dishonesty, but any writer or journalist who is fully sympathetic for the U.S.S.R. — sympathetic, that is, in the way the Russians themselves would want him to be — does have to acquiesce in deliberate falsification on important issues. I have before me what must be a very rare pamphlet, written by Maxim Litvinoff in 1918 and outlining the recent events in the Russian Revolution. It makes no mention of Stalin, but gives high praise to Trotsky, and also to Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others. What could be the attitude of even the most intellectually scrupulous Communist towards such a pamphlet? At best, the obscurantist attitude of saying that it is an undesirable document and better suppressed. And if for some reason it were decided to issue a garbled version of the pamphlet, denigrating Trotsky and inserting references to Stalin, no Communist who remained faithful to his party could protest. Forgeries almost as gross as this have been committed in recent years. But the significant thing is not that they happen, but that, even when they are known about, they provoke no reaction from the left-wing intelligentsia as a whole. The argument that to tell the truth would be ‘inopportune’ or would ‘play into the hands of’ somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable, and few people are bothered by the prospect of the lies which they condone getting out of the newspapers and into the history books.
  • [Trotsky] was an intellectual who never asked himself such a simple question as: ‘What reason do I have to believe that the economic condition of workers under socialism will be better than under capitalism?’
    • Ralph Raico, “Trotsky: The Ignorance and the evil” (review of Irving Howe’s biography, Leon Trotsky, p. 42 in The Libertarian Forum, March 1979
  • Trotsky, except for his piercing eyes, looked like a retired Brooklyn waiter. His English was Brooklynese; his Yiddish was excellent. His greeting to us was cordial and thoroughly bourgeois. (He was flattered by my request that he autograph his books and returned the compliment by asking for my autograph.) He offered us cigars and cigarettes. For Jeannie there was cocoa; for us, beer or coffee. The room was neat and filled with mementoes, photographs that looked like stills from a Sergei Eisenstein film. There was no indication that, to use a phrase out of every gangster film, a contract had been given out on him. No indication save one: A pearl-handled revolver lay on the paper- and book-covered desk.
    • Edward G. Robinson (1973) All My Yesterdays: An Autobiography, New York: Hawthorn Books, p. 200
  • We entered Trotsky's study. He stood up and greeted us warmly. He is a small man, and his once famous black beard is now white. But his eyes blaze and sparkle with the cold, steady blue of the Swiss lakes—or of sharp steel. He prefers to speak French, but can speak excellent English. I might add that a very shining revolver lay on his desk between us. [...] I'd come prepared so I shot questions at him. I asked him about Mayor Hague, about Roosevelt, about Democracy, about the future of Europe, about Russia about his plans. He was tired, but he was dynamic. Something hypnotic leaps at you from this small, and really very amazing man. Now I couldn't be a Communist, not ever, but I believe Leon Trotsky could hypnotize anybody to his way during an hour's conversation. You would leave feeling that he was right about everything, and only recover when you had time to think it all over.
  • In the early 1920s, the Communists believed, a priori, that Germany and other European countries were ripe for internal revolution, and indeed Germany was not far from going Communist in these years. But later on, these hopes died, and Stalin, particularly after the ouster of the fanatic Trotsky, who always wanted immediate revolutions everywhere, settled down to calm concentration on “socialism in one country.”
    • Murray Rothbard (1962) "Critique of Frank S. Meyer’s Memorandum [on the status of Communism]," reprinted in Strictly Confidential: The Private Volker Fund Memos of Murray N. Rothbard (2010), Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • The part which Stalin played in the Nazis' seizure of power in Germany was considerable. As Leon Trotsky said in 1936: 'Without Stalin there would have been no Hitler, there would have been no Gestapo!' (Bulletin of the Opposition (BO), Nos. 52-53, October 1936) Another statement he made in November 1938 reveals Trotsky's shrewdness and his knowledge of the point at issue. 'Stalin finally untied Hitler's hands, as well as those of his enemies, and thereby pushed Europe towards war.' He said this at a time when Chamberlain was rejoicing that there would be no war, Mussolini was regarding himself as a peacemaker and Hitler still had no intention of issuing a directive to attack Poland, even less France. At the moment when Europe was heaving a sigh of relief in the belief that there would be no war, Trotsky already knew both that war would quickly come and who would be to blame for it.
    • Viktor Suvorov (1990). Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? transl. Thomas B. Beattie, London: Hamish Hamilton, ch. 2: "The Main Enemy"
  • When Victor Adler objected to Berchtold, foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, that war would provoke revolution in Russia, even if not in the Habsburg monarchy, he replied: "And who will lead this revolution? Perhaps Mr. Bronstein [Trotsky] sitting over there at the Cafe Central?"
  • Trotsky explained that a nationalised planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen.
    • Alan Woods in a summary of The Revolution Betrayed
  • Joseph Stalin's rise was the result of Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin's policies which undermined working class democracy in favour of the Party bureaucracy. Before he was in power, Trotsky even warned of the dangers of Lenin's strategy, warning in 1904 that "these methods lead, as we shall see below, to the Party organisation 'substituting' itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee". But while he was in power, he supported these methods, for example banning all other political parties, banning factions in the party in 1921, and purging and executing rivals. In the end he was outmanoeuvred, purged, and himself assassinated on Stalin's orders.
  • Esteban Volkov, Trotsky’s 93-year old grandson, has recently denounced the series as “a political assault, masked as historical drama” and “a justification of the murder of the ‘monster’ called Trotsky.” The Latin American edition of the Spanish newspaper El Pais has described the series as the “second assassination of Leon Trotsky” and rejected its portrayal of the revolutionary “as a sadist, a complete traitor, and as a puppet.”
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