This post has been a long time coming. Not only because it’s taken time to track down and convert some of these massive files into manageable sizes, though that also. Rather, it is more that I’ve been busy reassessing my own relationship to Trotsky’s works. Some reflections on his career, in thought and in deed, follow the documents posted below. For now, here are all fourteen volumes of his Writings during his last exile, from 1929 to 1940, along with his three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, his biographical works (his autobiography, biography of Lenin, and incomplete biography of Stalin), along with some of his earlier works (Results and Prospects, Terrorism and Communism, An Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed, Exhausted Peoples of Europe, The Permanent Revolution, Problems of Everyday Life, Literature and Revolution, and Lessons of October).
- Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution (1920) and Results and Prospects (1906)
- Leon Trotsky, An Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed, and Exhausted Peoples of Europe (1915)
- Leon Trotsky, Dictatorship vs. Democracy: A reply to Karl Kautsky on Terrorism and Communism (1919)
- Leon Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life: Creating the Foundations for a New Society in Revolutionary Russia (1922)
- Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (1923)
- Leon Trotsky, Lessons of October (1924)
- Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (1928)
- Leon Trotsky, My Life (1928)
- Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going? (1933)
- Leon Trotsky, Writings on Literature and Art (1905-1940)
- Leon Trotsky, Diary in Exile, 1935
- Leon Trotsky, Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence (1940)
History of the Russian Revolution
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 1: The Overthrow of Tsarism
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 2: Attempt at Counterrevolution
- Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 3: The Triumph of the Soviets
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1929
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1930
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1930-1931
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1932
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1932-1933
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1933-1934
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1934-1935
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1935-1936
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1936-1937
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1937-1938
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1938-1939
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1939-1940
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, Supplement (1929-1933)
- Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, Supplement (1934-1940)
My reevaluation of the legacy of Leon Trotsky is largely due to my belated exposure to the left communist tradition. Or, more specifically, the writings of the Italian left communist Amadeo Bordiga. To be more specific still, Bordiga’s early writings — from 1919 to 1926 — have left a deep impression on me. As will become clear, I’d hardly endorse his entire corpus. Particularly his later stuff tends to be more hit or miss, though there’s still quite a bit to be learned from his undying (invariant) Bolshevism. His article “Against Activism” is an instant classic, and his longer essay on “The Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory” is epic as well.
Council communism is a tradition I’m decidedly less keen upon. Early on, in the 1920s, when the Dutch councilists Herman Gorter and Anton Pannekoek hadn’t yet completely forsaken the role of the party, there was perhaps a little more substance to their arguments. Later, when Otto Rühle and Paul Mattick took up the mantle of council communism, their politics tended to devolve into empty moralizing and a quasi-religious faith in the spontaneity of the masses. Nevertheless, Mattick’s various articles on economic theory and his critique of nationalism are excellent. They almost cannot be recommended highly enough. Karl Korsch intersects with this milieu in his flight from Leninism, but only to his detriment.
One final factor has been decisive in this process of reevaluation: the critical and theoretical edifice left by Korsch, Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm). Unlike Bordigism or council communism, I have been thoroughly acquainted with this body of literature for some time now. It has informed my own writings and opinions since college. Still, in reviewing Trotsky’s writings I have focused a bit more on the orientation of these figures vis-à-vis Trotsky and Trotskyism.
With respect to Trotskyism, the innumerable tendencies that lay claim to the theoretical and practical lineage of Bronshtein himself, I am much less enthusiastic. Like his famous biographer, Isaac Deutscher, I even find the founding of the Fourth International somewhat perplexing. Understandable, perhaps, in that his friends in the Left Opposition abroad were defecting, or else being tortured and shot, but perplexing nevertheless. It was a non-starter from the word “go.” Trotsky still put out some great essays and texts during this period, and some of his squabbles with Shachtman, Eastman, Burnham, and Rivera are entertaining, if not all that enlightening. Cannon was certainly a great organizer, but was a piss-poor theorist. Only orthodox Trotskyism has anything redeeming to say after the 1950s and 1960s, especially James Robertson and the Sparts. Today, I suppose I retain some respect for Alan Wood of the IMT, ignoring his Bolivarian boosterism, the Spart-lite star-brights in the IBT, and the polemical pricks in the League for the Revolutionary Party. But that’s it.
The International Socialist Organization is a hodgepodge of brainless Cliffite heterodoxy, academic jargon (mostly in and through their publishing house, Haymarket Books), and the latest in trendy activism (intersectionality, “x lives matter” hashtags, and so on). I’d almost say they’re unworthy of the name. Anyone who is interested in Trot genealogies, check out this. The author is a social democrat, basically, but his sprglord game is tight and so he can be relied upon for encyclopedic information.
In a series of upcoming posts, I will try to briefly summarize my thoughts regarding each of these camps or schools. Spoiler alert: Trotsky belongs to a bygone era of revolutionary politics. A gulf divides his work from the present. Even within his own epoch, some of his positions seem to have been ill-advised. But perhaps this is the wisdom of retrospect, as the line he took on anti-imperialist “national liberation” was made in the context of approaching war (on the eve of each world war). The “united front” tactic is not as universally applicable as Trotskyists would like to believe; nor is it as universally inapplicable as Bordigists believes. Nevertheless, in every instance, Trotsky the man is far more salvageable than contemporary Trotskyism.
P.S. — I am of course fully aware that the headpiece used for this post is a malicious representation of Trotsky, taken from a Polish anti-bolshevik propaganda poster from 1919. Nevertheless, I have decided to keep it, because it is fucking metal.