1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Trotsky, Lev

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

TROTSKY, LEV (1877-), Russian Communist leader, of Jewish origin, originally named Leiba Bronstein and often described as Leon Trotsky, was born in 1877, near Elisavetgrad, in the province of Kherson, S. Russia. He studied in a public school at Odessa and afterwards in the university there. He soon joined the left wing of the Social-Democratic party, took part in students' disorders, and was expelled from the university. In 1898 he was arrested for his activity as a member of the " League of Workmen of South Russia," and three years later he was deported to Ust-Kut, on the Lena river, in Siberia. He arrived at the place of his exile at the beginning of 1902, but immediately escaped, and made his way to Geneva, where he took a prominent part in the work of the Russian Social-Democratic group. He collaborated in the hkra, a paper which was founded in 1901 by Lenin, Plekhanov, Martov and others. A follower of the extreme Marxian doctrine, and an irreconcilable enemy of the Liberals, Trotsky tried to create a unified Socialist party in Russia, and he spent his time till the revolution of 1905 in constant travels to and from Russia. At that time he was already well known in Russian revolutionary circles. The events of the revolution of 1905 found him in Russia, where he was publishing the paper Borba (" The Struggle "). He took a leading part in the direction of the revolutionary movement, and was one of the organizers of the " Soviet of Workmen of Petrograd "; he became a member of the executive committee and later on vice-president of that body. He was arrested on Dec. 5 1905, with other members of .the Soviet, by order of Count Witte's Government. After a year of solitary confinement, he was tried and condemned to perpetual deportation to Siberia. At the beginning of 1907 he arrived at Obdorsk, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, but he escaped again, took residence at Vienna, and became a constant contributor to the

Arbeiferzeitung. In 1907 he was present at the International Socialist Conference at Stuttgart, and in 1910 at that of Copen- hagen. In 1910 he attended the Pan-Slavonic Congress at Sofia, where amid general consternation he delivered a vehement speech against the union of the Slavonic nations. In 1912 he was one of the organizers of the secret conference held at Troppau by the Russian revolutionary organizations abroad.

At the beginning of the World War, Trotsky as a Russian subject was obliged to leave Vienna, and he established himself first at Zurich and later in Paris, where he collaborated in the Russian paper Golos (afterwards Nashe Slow). He strongly criticized the Socialist parties of Germany and of the Entente Powers for supporting their Governments in the war and voting for the war credits. He was one of the organizers of the Zimmerwald Conference, but, together with Lenin, he refused to sign the Zimmerwald manifesto, which he considered to be too moderate. In Sept. 1916 the publication of Nashe Slovo was suspended by order of the French Government, in consequence of a rebellion among the Russian troops at Marseilles, which was traced to the anti-militarist propaganda of that paper. Trotsky was arrested and ordered to leave France. Switzerland refused to receive him, and he was deported to Spain, but he was arrested again by the Spanish Government almost on the day of his arrival at Madrid. At the beginning of 1917 he sailed for the United States and took part in New York City in the publication of the Russian paper Navy Mir.

After the revolution of March 1917 Trotsky immediately started for Russia, but was arrested by order of the British Government and interned in a prisoners' camp at Halifax. He was released by a special intercession of Milyukov, who was at that time Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs. He arrived in Russia in May, and developed the greatest activity in Petrograd as one of the leading members of the Bolshevist party. He was one of the organizers of the Bolshevist rising on July 16 and 17, and was arrested at the beginning of Aug. for " organizing and participating in armed rebellion," but soon released by order of Kerensky. On Oct. 8 he was elected president of the Petrograd Soviet, and after the Oct. revolution he took the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and later that of War in the Council of the Commissaries of the People. He took a leading part in the political activity of the Soviet Government, representing the extreme left wing of the Communist party, and, as such, often opposed the more moderate programme of Lenin. He signed the peace of Brest Litovsk, and, in spite of his former anti-militarist declarations, became the organizer and the commander-in-chief of the Red Army. He introduced again an " iron discipline," more relentless than that practised under the Tsarist regirrie; deserters and disobedient soldiers were shot; a system of extensive espionage kept officers and men in constant terror; mercenary corps of Letts, Chinese, Kirghizes and Burials were formed for the purpose of coercing and destroying the Russian elements. Particular attention was paid to the formation of specially trained detachments of cadets, devoted to the Communist regime and ready to serve it on every occasion, like the Janissaries of old Turkey. Trotsky and his friends did not shrink before a plan of a general militarization of industry. In a speech delivered at a meeting of the Third Conference of the Soviets in Moscow, he said: " All artisans will be sent into the works and transferred from one place to another, according to the indication of the Government. We will have no pity for the peasants; we will make labour armies of them, with military discipline and Communists as their chiefs. These armies will go forth among the peasants to gather corn, meat, and fish that the work of the workmen may be assured." A Moscow wireless reported that in another speech (The Times, March 4 1920) he declared that "The First Army of Labour so far includes 240,000 Red Army men, 7,000 civilians and employees, 7,000 military horses and 156,000 private horses." In a review of the First Army of Labour he wrote: " The Red Army detachments make a formidable labour force, certainly more efficient than, for example, those civilian detachments mobilized for the clearing of snow. The military detachments have all the advantages of proper organizetion and the precise order of stern discipline. The fundamental condition of the productivity of Labour Red Army men, and of workmen in the Soviet economy in general, is the arousing of the spirit of emulation. The organization of this spirit is the most important problem of economic reconstruction, and without this subjective force nothing will help, neither peat, nor coal, nor petrol, nor the removal of the blockade. It is necessary to take all measures to foster the feeling of labour conscience, both in the cooperative institutions and in the individual." At a congress of the Soviets at Moscow a resolution was passed on April 4 in favour of his proposal that labour should be organized on the principle of military conscription and obligatory work; also that the inspection of labour should be confided to special inspectors, instead of local Soviets.

Within the Soviet Government organization, as it still held power in 1921, Trotsky, Dzerjinsky and Bukharin were the leaders of the extreme left of the Communist party, and, as such, had repeatedly opposed Lenin when the latter was inclined to conciliatory measures; but the outside world generally associated the names of Lenin and Trotsky together as the embodiments of Russian Bolshevist rule. (P. Vi.)