THE LIFE AND DEATH OF LEON TROTSKY by Victor & Natalia Sedova Trotsky Serge


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The authors' names lead one to expect more than simply another Trotsky biography--Sedova was Trotsky's wife, and Serge, an anarchist turned Bolshevik turned pundit who wrote the valuable Memoirs of a Revolutionary and Year One of the Revolution, knew Trotsky in Russia. Yet this is a flat book; Trotsky would have called it ""philistine."" The revolutionary becomes a Job figure, whose tribulations, compiled by Serge, are inset with Sedova's more intimate recollections (she and Trotsky met at the tomb of Baudelaire). Many of these remembrances have already been cited in standard works which mined the 1951 French edition of this book, or in Isaac Deutscher's biography. While Trotsky himself insisted to the end of his life that the Russian revolution was not destroyed, Serge declares that Stalin ""killed it""; and the book implies that Trotsky was above all an enemy of ""swelling bureaucracy"" rather than an advocate of particular policies and a fierce defender of the state machinery. Serge first makes the vulgar-Marxist declaration that ""[Trotsky's] personality was exceptional only because he was the quintessence of the collective. . . . He shared every facet of his character, spirit and outlook with the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia""--a statement which denies Trotsky's remarkable individual creativity no less than his opposition to the populist ""outlook"" of the majority of that intelligentsia. Serge even defines Trotsky as a partisan of the ""poor"" against the ""rich""--which isn't saying much--and summarizes the book's essential stance with the grave observation that ""Trotsky's generation set its sights too high."" Ironically, a straight anti-Communist biography like Joel Carmichael's Trotsky (p. 883) gives a far richer sense of Trotsky's personality, his accomplishments, and his failures, but Serge's name assures attention.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1975
Publisher: Basic Books