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New Left Review I/44, July-August 1967


Nicolas Krasso

Trotsky’s Marxism

For many years, Trotsky was an impossible subject for a Marxist. The struggle in the Bolshevik Party in the twenties produced such a violent polarization of his image within the international working-class movement that all rational discussion of his person and works ceased. The anathema pronounced by Stalin made his name synonymous with treason for millions of militants all over the world. On the other side of the divide, a dedicated and segregated minority sanctified his memory, and believed his thought to be the ‘Leninism of our time’. Even today, 30 years after his death and a decade after the death of Stalin, there is still a taboo on normal discussion of Trotsky within the Communist movement. Magical attitudes towards his figure continue—a striking anachronism in the world of today. The one exception to this rule is, of course, Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography—itself only a part of a larger oeuvre. But here, paradoxically, the greatness of Deutscher’s achievement has seemingly overpowered any other potential contributors to a debate, within Marxism, on Trotsky’s true historical role. It is surely significant that there has never been any Marxist appraisal of Deutscher’s work, of a quality that matched its stature. It has been so much in advance of contemporary attitudes that it has not yet been properly assimilated, and hence has never been contested. Its implications, however, will only be assimilated by a continuous discussion of different areas within Soviet history—even where divergent views are developed. It would be an error not to broach specific problems for fear of failing to come to grips with the whole revolutionary epic, or its historian.

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Nicolas Krasso, ‘Trotsky’s Marxism’, NLR I/44: £3
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