TROTSKY IN NEW YORK, 1917 by Kenneth D. Ackerman


Portrait of a Radical on the Eve of Revolution
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An account of the two months in 1917 when Leon Trotsky “found refuge in the United States,” where he experienced the “last gasp of the Belle Epoque.”

"BRONX MAN LEADS RUSSIAN REVOLUTION.” This unlikely headline ran in the Bronx Home News in November 1917. The spring revolution in Russia that had deposed the czar saw Vladimir Lenin stuck in Zurich and Trotsky in New York City, where he was writing for a Russian-language socialist newspaper. An escaped convict in Russia and persona non grata in most of wartime Europe, Trotsky had been deported earlier in the year from Spain to the neutral United States, which viewed him as just another unknown Eastern European immigrant. He was in the U.S. just over two months when the Kerensky government declared an amnesty for political prisoners. Trotsky immediately joined a flood of exiles returning to his homeland, where, by the end of the year, he was Commissar of Foreign Affairs in the revolutionary communist government. During his brief American sojourn, the irrepressible Trotsky jumped with both feet into local politics, where his fiery speeches and articles provoked a split in the American Socialist Party as it considered its response to the onrushing war. Attorney and amateur historian Ackerman (Young J. Edgar: Hoover and the Red Scare, 1919-1920, 2007, etc.) creates a lively portrait of this tireless agitator adjusting his personal life and his politics to a strange country a few months before the Bolsheviks seized power at home. In boisterous prose well-matched to his topic, the author also convincingly evokes the social ferment of New York's huge immigrant community: polyglot, united in hatred of the czarist government, and receptive to socialism but arguing endlessly and urgently about political theory and strategy. Ackerman succeeds in presenting Trotsky's little-known weeks in New York as an absorbing adventure, though much greater adventures lay ahead.

An entertaining and informative account of a footnote to the life of one of the 20th century’s most charismatic leaders.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61902-607-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016


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