Leon Trotsky Quote
There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnit...
Born to a wealthy Russian Jewish family in Yanovka (now Bereslavka, Ukraine), Trotsky was initially a narodnik, but embraced Marxism soon after moving to Nikolayev in 1896. In 1898, he was arrested for revolutionary activities and exiled to Siberia, but in 1902 escaped to London, where he met Lenin and wrote for the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party's paper Iskra. Trotsky initially sided with Julius Martov's Mensheviks against Lenin's Bolsheviks during the party's 1903 split, but was non-factional from 1904. During the 1905 Revolution, Trotsky returned to Russia and became chairman of the Saint Petersburg Soviet. He was again exiled to Siberia, but escaped in 1907 and spent time in London, Vienna, Switzerland, Paris, and New York. After the February Revolution of 1917 which overthrew the tsar, Trotsky returned to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks. As chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, he played an important role in the October Revolution which overthrew the Provisional Government.
In Lenin's first government, Trotsky was appointed the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and led the negotiations for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, by which Russia withdrew from World War I. From 1918 to 1925, he served as the People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, founding the Red Army; establishing conscription, training, and discipline; and leading it to victory in the Russian Civil War. In 1922, Trotsky and Lenin formed an alliance against the emerging Soviet bureaucracy; Lenin proposed that Trotsky become his Deputy Chairman at the Council of People's Commissars, but he declined the post. During the New Economic Policy, Trotsky led the party's Left Opposition, which advocated a programme of rapid industrialisation, voluntary collectivisation of agriculture, and expansion of workers' democracy. After Lenin's death in 1924, Trotsky was outmaneuvered by Joseph Stalin and his allies and lost his positions: he was expelled from the Politburo in 1926 and from the party in 1927, internally exiled to Alma Ata in 1928, and deported in 1929. He lived in Turkey, France, and Norway before settling in Mexico in 1937.
In exile, Trotsky wrote extensively and polemically against Stalinism, supporting proletarian internationalism against Stalin's theory of "socialism in one country". Trotsky's own theory of "permanent revolution" posited that the revolution could only survive if extended to advanced capitalist countries. In The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Trotsky argued that the Soviet Union had become a "degenerated workers' state" due to its isolation, and called for an end to Stalin's bureaucratic dictatorship. He founded the Fourth International in 1938 as an alternative to the Comintern. In 1936, Trotsky was sentenced to death in absentia at the first of the Moscow show trials, and in 1940, he was assassinated at his home in Mexico City by NKVD agent Ramón Mercader. Written out of Soviet history books under Stalin, Trotsky was one of the few of his rivals who never received political rehabilitation from later leaders, although in the West he emerged as a hero of the anti-Stalinist left.