Alex McCrory has been viewing a Netflix biopic on the life of the Bolshevik revolutionary, Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky: The Netflex series based on the life of one of the architects of the Russian Revolution is interesting on many levels. Through reconstructive dialogue between the central character and several of the protagonists, Lenin, Stalin, Ramon Mercader, the Spanish communist and NKVD agent who carried out the assassination, we get an insight into the brilliant mind and highly complex nature of a revolutionary icon.

Woven into the story are some of the other great Russian Marxists of the period: Plekhanov, Kamenev, Yakov, Parvus, Sverdlov, Rykov, Bukarharin, et al. Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka, is portrayed as the grim reaper of the Revolution, responsible for egregious acts of mass murder and oppression. Of course, as one would expect, there is no shortage of western bias in this production. He did not reach the heights of infamy reserved for Stalin's chief executioner, Lavrentiy Beria.

Lenin, on the other hand, considered Dzerzhinsky to be a revolutionary hero because of great personal sacrifices he made over many years as a dedicated revolutionist. And it should be remembered too that Dzerzhinsky acted on the orders of Lenin and Trotsky who share responsibility for his actions. For example, it was Trotsky who argued for the reintroduction of return to political executions as an effective tool for suppressing internal dissidence. Dzerzhinsky as a true believe made full use of it in order to terrorise those who would not adhere to the party line.

Lev Davidovich Bronstein played a central role in the revolutionary events that unfolded in Russia in the first third of the 20th Century. Further, he participated in two revolutions, a World War, a Civil War, and a pre-war peace agreement with Nazi Germany for which he is heavily criticised even today. Not alone did he take part in these momentous events, but his personal decisions helped to shape the outcomes. Trotsky was the victim of both his own success and failure: Instigator of the policy of War Communism, Creator of the formidable Red Army, Hero of the Civil War, preferred successor to Lenin, he finally succumbed to a bogus friendship with his appointed assassin.

Was Trotsky haunted by his past in the manner this production suggests? Certainly, the death of three children in horrible individual circumstances would have left an indelible mark on his psyche. However, was he plagued by feelings of deep regret and remorse? This is strongly hinted at by the frequent nightmares and flashbacks that intersperse the narrative. In repeated conversations with Mercader, some verging on violence, Trotsky justifies the human cost of the early revolution by invoking the purity of the Ideal, whereas he accused Stalin of being motivated merely by a personal lust for Power.

Was Trotsky brilliant? Yes. Was he flawed? Most definitely.

The series is worth watching to fill a few cold, dark night at home.

Alec McCrory is a former republican prisoner and blanketman.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

5 comments to ''Trotsky "

  1. Simply awful. Imagine what Eoghan Harris might have made of Michael Collins or James Connolly. Review here.

  2. Alex - that is a good read. I will certainly watch the series having read your take on it, and keep in mind your reference about the Western bias at play. I can't help but think that the stage was always waiting for a character like Stalin to walk on and take it over. Authoritarianism is so fertile a ground for that that type of thing, it would be surprising if it ended up any other way. I agree with the Poulantzas interpretation that statism gave Stalin precisely what he needed and that statism was already entrenched under Lenin and Trotsky.

  3. Matt Treacy says:

    It is interesting antidote to the trot hagiography of the leading advocate of the terror. Only difference between him and Stalin was that Stalin out witted him in the party feud and then implemented Trotsky's ultra leftist policies. The series is Russian made so very different to the Pollyanna view of Saint Leon prevalent among the ultra left in the west.

  4. Matt - I think generally that is the terminus for most revolutionaries. I think what draws the type to revolution in the first place is not the change it might yield but the method of change: they are attracted to the authoritarian.

  5. Alex McCrory says

    Didn't realise it was made in Russia. While Trotsky was off winning the Civil War, Stalin was building and extending his power within the party. The series does create the impression that Trotsky was more radical than Lenin even. His claim not to have lost to Stalin is not not be out by the facts.


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