At the time of the Russian Revolution, author and journalist Arthur Ransom Work in Moscow as a foreign correspondent for Manchester goalkeeper, where he developed ties with Lenin and Trotsky, even marrying Trotsky’s secretary. In 2009, a book accused him of to have been a double agent, spy for Britain and Russia – “[he was] paid by the British… and advised the Cheka (Russian secret service)”.
The current leaders of Soviet Russia have been engaged for several years in a review of the past. Not content with having succeeded in eliminating Trotsky as a political force competing with themselves in the present, they are jealously trying to erase the memory of the role he played in the early years of the revolution. This whole strange business of the frantic erasure of Trotsky by his former colleagues is a more interesting phenomenon for a pathologist than for a politician. It adds, however, to Trotsky’s difficulties as a historian, the feeling that there is some need to prove what he might otherwise have taken for granted. Fantastic as it may sound, it is now suggested in Russia that he played a relatively minor role in the preparation of the Bolshevik Revolution and the eventual rise to power by the Soviets. It is to Trotsky’s credit that he largely succeeded in preventing his history from being marred by personal polemics. Here and there his indignation flares up, but for the most part it is subdued, and those interested in contentious points between Trotsky and his adversaries are sent to the annexes.
Meanwhile, her book continues on its lively and brilliant path. Much of the first volume was about events that took place before Trotsky returned to Russia after the March Revolution, and reading his account of scenes I myself was present at, I found it hard to believe that there had not been. These two new volumes tell the story of the July days, when a demonstration urging “all power to the Soviets” revealed that the Soviet leaders of the day were not at all concerned with taking “all power.” Through the collapse of the offensive, the defeats on the front, the government’s desperate efforts to secure a solid base atop an ever-increasing landslide, until the collapse final when the government found itself unable to take action against an insurgency that everyone had been waiting for for days, simply because when it gave orders, they weren’t obeyed.
For part of this time Trotsky was in prison, and for most of this time Lenin was in hiding. From his release until the very day of the Bolshevik revolution, he was the most active figure in the Bolshevik camp. But whether witnessing the events as a prisoner in the Kresty or as Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee, Trotsky displays a journalist’s training and a novelist’s power to recreate scenes by piecing together the fragmentary testimonies of eyewitnesses. As a professional revolutionary, he describes his passionate theories tested in real practice. With real artistry, Trotsky manages to keep his reader perpetually aware of the enormous upheaval of a people passing in a few months through the full gamut of the political program. It is an exhilarating book, the view of the petrel on the storm. Trotsky need not seek further revenge on his rivals in the Kremlin. And anyone who reads this book today will have no doubt that historians of the distant future will regard it as one of the great authentic voices of the past.
Mr. Max Eastman is again responsible for the generally excellent translation.