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Trotsky 1921-1929 - The Prophet Unarmed

In 1921, Lenin decided that it was necessary to back up a bit and make some temporary compromises with capitalism. The result was the NEP - New Economic Policy. This policy allowed private ownership of land and even a certain amount of renting of land and hiring of labor by enterprising farmers called kulaks. Factories employing less than 20 workers were permitted to operate under private capitalists known as Nep-men. These moves seemed to provide the incentive to get agricultural and industrial production slowly going again.

Meanwhile, Leon Trotsky, Lenin's second-in-command, raised the Red army and led it to victory over the aristocratic "White" armies and their foreign allies. One of the principal characters in staging the October Revolution, Trotsky organized the Red Army and its military and counterintelligence components. In the period of civil war Trotsky worked in unison with Dzerzhinski'ssecret service at the capital, while the armed forces under his command cooperated closely with the provincial Chekas. His entire adult life was spent in the conspiratorial underground. He recruited and placed in the Red Army political commissars as adjuncts or staffers of the military intelligence units. In addition, he commandeered Cheka representatives for joint operations with the political commissars and the Red Army intelligence staffs.

Lenins health deteriorated and the question of his succession became urgent. Trotsky saw himself as Lenins heir apparent but some of his powerful party colleagues jointly conspired against him. In December 1922 a partially recovered Lenin warned in his then secret Testament of the danger of a split between Trotsky and Stalin, describing Trotsky as a man of exceptional abilities but with a disproportionate amount of self-confidence. In the midst of the power struggle Trotsky fell ill and become increasingly isolated.

When Lenin died in March 1923, Trotsky, recovering on the Black Sea coast, was deceived about the date of the funeral and failed to return to Moscow in time, allowing himself to be easily outmaneuvered by Stalin.

A bitter struggle for control of the Bolshevist party and of Russia ensued between Lenin's two chief lieutenants, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. Trotsky was an intellectual Jew of middle class origin. He was a learned, widely traveled scholar with a philosophical bent and a world view. Trotsky was an uncompromising theorist of Marxism. He was opposed to the NEP and to any other compromise with capitalism or the capitalist countries. Above all, he was an apostle of world revolution. As creator of the Red army and Commissar for Foreign Affairs, he was generally assumed to be the successor to Lenin.

Trotsky and the world had greatly underestimated Joseph Stalin. Stalin remained one of Lenin's most devoted and valuable right-hand men. Unlike Trotsky, he never questioned the master's decision, even the N.E.P. compromise. Working cleverly but unobtrusively behind the scenes as General Secretary of the all-powerful Communist party, Stalin was able to place his men in the key positions in the party and thereby, after Lenin's death, outmaneuver politically the more brilliant and famous Trotsky.

In the years that followed, Trotsky was removed from the war commissariat, expelled from the Politburo and finally thrown out of the Party. The campaign against Trotsky began in early October 1923 when a scapegoat was needed for the fiasco of the communist uprising in Germany. That abortive attempt was attributed to the rightists in the Party, and Trotsky was at the time being denounced as the author of rightist deviation. By May 1925 Trotsky was out as the War Commissar. He became deputy to Dzerzhinski, an inferior post in the Council for State Economy. The decisive contest with Stalin began in the summer of 1926 when a Joint Opposition was formed and started sending emissaries to the provinces. Trotsky counterattacked, calling Stalin the "gravedigger of the revolution."

The incident which served as overt justification for depriving Trotsky of all offices, including his Party membership, and for his arrest and exile to Siberia in 1928, was an act of GPU provocation. Trotsky was marked as working with the White Guards to overthrowthe Soviet government. The net result was Trotsky's expulsion from the Politburo, and exile to Siberia followed within months.

By 1928, Stalin's victory over Trotsky and all other serious opposition was complete. Trotsky was banished from Russia. By 1929 all Trotsky's friends and associates in the Soviet Union were under suspicion; many of them were in prison and exile.

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Page last modified: 30-01-2016 19:10:06 ZULU