TROTSKY: An Appreciation of His Life by Joel Carmichael

TROTSKY: An Appreciation of His Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography in the style of Robert Payne--aimed, with blatant anti-Communism, at the most general of readers. Carmichael, the author of a book on Marx and several studies in Russian history, rather likes Trotsky--he is flashy material, his anti-Stalinism is useful, and best of all, he ultimately failed. Carmichael suggests some of the psychological roots of that failure: Trotsky feared standing alone, and indulged fears of being thought vain by lesser men when he had to take initiative; this passivity disabled him as a faction fighter against Stalin. Carmichael also marks the unique brilliance of Trotsky's writings on the advent of Nazism. But he says elsewhere that Trotsky's real tragedy was that his thinking was ""impoverished by Marxism""! For the rest, he uses almost none of Trotsky's own writings and speeches except his autobiographical contributions, and for the events of 1917 Carmichael relies on Sukhanov, bypassing Trotsky's own superlative History of the Russian Revolution. Carmichael himself is not interested in the richness of Russian politics--hence his gimmicky thesis that Trotsky rose to revolutionary preeminence because Lenin was in hiding for fear of arrest on charges of taking German money. Beyond the ""Kaiser's gold"" attribution, this is a shallow mechanical view of the roles of both men. Carmichael also maintains that the 1905 upsurge was ""a trivial episode,"" and that it was somehow sneakily un-Marxist for the Bolsheviks to call for ""peace, land and bread."" A pat, trivializing evaluation: it leaves out the sweep of social forces which Trotsky--his tragic flaws notwithstanding--grasped and acted on.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's