Leon Trotsky, “demon” of the revolution


Com­rades, we love the sun that gives us light, but if the rich and the ag­gressors were to try to mono­pol­ize the sun, we should say: “Let the sun be ex­tin­guished, let dark­ness reign, etern­al night…”

— Le­on Trot­sky (Septem­ber 11, 1918)

То­ва­ри­щи, мы лю­бим солн­це, ко­то­рое да­ет нам жизнь, но если бы бо­га­чи и аг­рес­со­ры по­пы­та­лись за­хва­тить се­бе солн­це, мы бы ска­за­ли: «Пусть солн­це по­гас­нет, пусть во­ца­рит­ся тьма, веч­ная ночь…»

— Лев Троц­кий (11 сен­тяб­ря 1918 г.)

Dmitrii Volko­gonov, former court his­tor­i­an of Sta­lin­ism turned ra­bid an­ti­com­mun­ist, fam­ously dubbed Trot­sky the “de­mon” of the Oc­to­ber Re­volu­tion. When he com­manded the Red Army, dur­ing the Civil War, this was in­deed the im­age en­emies of the So­viet Uni­on had of him. He would ap­pear in Theodor Ad­orno’s dreams, and Wal­ter Ben­jamin de­voured his auto­bi­o­graphy and His­tory of the Rus­si­an Re­volu­tion. The psy­cho­ana­lyst Helmut Dah­mer, a stu­dent of Ad­orno, has writ­ten on the vari­ous in­tel­lec­tu­al res­on­ances and par­al­lels between Trot­sky’s Left Op­pos­i­tion and Horkheimer’s In­sti­tute of So­cial Re­search. I’ve poin­ted out both the ten­sions and con­nec­tions of Trot­sky with the Itali­an com­mun­ist lead­er Amedeo Bor­diga, if not Trot­sky­ism and Bor­di­gism (which are much fur­ther apart than their re­spect­ive founders).

Some of his works could already be found in a pre­vi­ous post, but here are a few more titles:

  1. Le­on Trot­sky, 1905 (1907)
  2. Le­on Trot­sky, Ter­ror­ism and Com­mun­ism: A Reply to Karl Kaut­sky (1920)
  3. Le­on Trot­sky, Mil­it­ary Writ­ings, 1920-1923
  4. Le­on Trot­sky, Lit­er­at­ure and Re­volu­tion (1923)
  5. Le­on Trot­sky, The Chal­lenge of the Left Op­pos­i­tion: Writ­ings, 1923-1925
  6. Le­on Trot­sky, My Life (1928)
  7. Le­on Trot­sky, The Third In­ter­na­tion­al After Len­in (1928)
  8. Le­on Trot­sky, His­tory of the Rus­si­an Re­volu­tion, Volume 1: The Over­throw of Tsar­ism (1929)
  9. Le­on Trot­sky, His­tory of the Rus­si­an Re­volu­tion, Volume 2: At­tempt at Coun­ter­re­volu­tion (1930)
  10. Le­on Trot­sky, His­tory of the Rus­si­an Re­volu­tion, Volume 3: The Tri­umph of the So­vi­ets (1931)

Here are some bio­graph­ies and mem­oirs by his friends, as well:

  1. Vic­tor Serge and Nat­alia Se­dova, Life and Death of Le­on Trot­sky (1946)
  2. Jean van Heijenoort, With Trot­sky in Ex­ile: From Prinkipo to Coyoacán (1978)
  3. Dmitrii Volko­gonov, Trot­sky: The Etern­al Re­volu­tion­ary (1992)
  4. Ian D. Thatch­er, Trot­sky (2002)
  5. Joshua Ruben­stein, Le­on Trot­sky: A Re­volu­tion­ary’s Life (2011)

More be­low.


Dialectic wants YOU

After Len­in, Trot­sky was per­haps the one re­volu­tion­ary best able to grasp the fraught dia­lect­ic­al unity of the­ory and prac­tice in his time. “Life has beaten ra­tion­al­ism out of me and taught me the in­ner work­ings of dia­lectic,” he re­called in My Life. Of course, in say­ing this Trot­sky was in no way es­chew­ing ra­tion­al ar­gu­ments or es­pous­ing ir­ra­tion­al­ism. Rather, “ra­tion­al­ism” for him meant the idea that all we have to do is ap­peal to in­di­vidu­als’ ra­tion­al self-in­terest in or­der to bring about so­cial­ism. Fol­low­ing Hegel’s philo­sophy of his­tory in this re­spect, Trot­sky be­lieved that reas­on mani­fes­ted it­self “be­hind the backs” of in­di­vidu­al agents who were in the mean­time busy pur­su­ing private, ir­ra­tion­al ends. “You may not be in­ter­ested in the dia­lectic,” he once re­portedly snapped at James Burnham. “But the dia­lectic is in­ter­ested in you.”

Georg Lukács wrote in his 1967 pre­face to the re­is­sue of His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness that he “al­ways re­jec­ted” Trot­sky­ite po­s­i­tions. Sev­er­al years later he told Perry An­der­son that he dis­liked Trot­sky im­me­di­ately upon their meet­ing in 1920, strik­ing him as a “pos­eur.” If one goes back to the ori­gin­al ver­sion of Lukács’ es­say “What is Or­tho­dox Marx­ism?” pub­lished in 1919, one reads: “As truly or­tho­dox, dia­lect­ic­al Marx­ists, Len­in and Trot­sky paid little at­ten­tion to the so-called ‘facts’… Len­in and Trot­sky un­der­stood the true real­ity, the ne­ces­sary ma­ter­i­al­iz­a­tion of the world re­volu­tion; it was to this real­ity, not to the ‘facts,’ that they ad­jus­ted their ac­tions. It was they who were vin­dic­ated by real­ity, and not the apostles of Real­politik… sway­ing to and fro like reeds in the wind.”

“What does this ter­rible word ‘dia­lectics’ mean?” Trot­sky rhet­or­ic­ally asked in 1940. Re­spond­ing to Hook, East­man, and oth­er Amer­ic­an skep­tic­al of Marx’s dia­lect­ic­al meth­od, he answered: “Dia­lectics means to con­sider things in their de­vel­op­ment, not in their stat­ic situ­ation.” He at­trib­uted this fail­ing to Anglo-Sax­on habits of thought, which had be­come en­am­ored of Wil­li­am James and John Dewey. “Prag­mat­ism, a mix­ture of ra­tion­al­ism and em­pir­i­cism, be­came the na­tion­al philo­sophy of the United States.” Be­cause it re­fused to grapple with real so­cial ant­ag­on­isms, this philo­sophy was “least of all use­ful suited to un­der­stand re­volu­tion­ary crises.” (Com­pare Trot­sky’s scattered cri­ti­cisms of the prag­mat­ists with Max Horkheimer’s more thor­oughgo­ing cri­tique in The Ec­lipse of Reas­on).

Lukács af­firmed in the up­dated 1923 ver­sion of “What is Or­tho­dox Marx­ism?” that “ma­ter­i­al­ist dia­lectic is re­volu­tion­ary dia­lectic,” and goes on to state that “the is­sue turns on the ques­tion of the­ory and prac­tice. And this not merely in the sense giv­en it by Marx when he says in his first cri­tique of Hegel that ‘the­ory be­comes a ma­ter­i­al force when it grips the masses.’ Even more to the point is the need to dis­cov­er those fea­tures and defin­i­tions both of the the­ory and ways of grip­ping the masses which con­vert the the­ory, the dia­lect­ic­al meth­od, in­to a vehicle of re­volu­tion.” The crux of the mat­ter was thus class con­scious­ness, or how to unite re­volu­tion­ary the­ory with pro­let­ari­an prac­tice in seiz­ing the pro­pi­tious mo­ment. For Trot­sky, it was posed as fol­lows:

Marx­ism con­siders it­self the con­scious ex­pres­sion of un­con­scious his­tor­ic­al pro­cesses. But these “un­con­scious” pro­cesses, in the his­torico-philo­soph­ic­al sense of the term — not the psy­cho­lo­gic­al — co­in­cide with its con­scious ex­pres­sion only at its highest point, when the masses, by sheer ele­ment­al pres­sure, break through the so­cial routine and give vic­tori­ous ex­pres­sion to the deep­est needs of his­tor­ic­al de­vel­op­ment. And at such mo­ments the highest the­or­et­ic­al con­scious­ness of the epoch merges with the im­me­di­ate ac­tion of those op­pressed masses, who are farthest away from the­ory. The cre­at­ive uni­on of the con­scious with the un­con­scious is what one usu­ally calls “in­spir­a­tion.” Re­volu­tion is the in­spired frenzy of his­tory.

In Trot­sky’s view dia­lectics formed the “spring” of Marx­ist sci­ence, strong but flex­ible. “Dia­lect­ic­al thought is like a spring,” he ana­lo­gized in 1923. “Springs are made from tempered steel.” Re­flect­ing on his self-edu­ca­tion in Marxi­an dia­lectics, Trot­sky con­fessed that he “did not ab­sorb his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism at once, dog­mat­ic­ally.” He con­tin­ued to state that “the dia­lectic meth­od re­vealed it­self to me for the first time not as ab­stract defin­i­tions but as a liv­ing spring which I’d found in the his­tor­ic­al pro­cess as I tried to un­der­stand it.” Against cer­tain of his dis­ciples who ex­pressed re­ser­va­tions about this meth­od of thought, he wrote “it is ab­so­lutely ne­ces­sary to ex­plain why Amer­ic­an ‘rad­ic­al’ in­tel­lec­tu­als ac­cept Marx­ism without the dia­lectic (a clock without a spring).” Like any Marx­ist, Trot­sky sought the an­swer to this in so­cial con­di­tions:

The secret is simple. In no oth­er coun­try has there been such re­jec­tion of class struggle as the land of “un­lim­ited op­por­tun­ity.” Deni­al of so­cial con­tra­dic­tions as the mov­ing force of de­vel­op­ment led to the deni­al of the dia­lectic as the lo­gic of con­tra­dic­tions in the do­main of the­or­et­ic­al thought. Just as in the sphere of polit­ics it was thought pos­sible every­body could be con­vinced of the cor­rect­ness of a “just” pro­gram by means of clev­er syl­lo­gisms and so­ci­ety could be re­con­struc­ted through “ra­tion­al” meas­ures, so in the sphere of the­ory it was ac­cep­ted as proved that Ar­is­toteli­an lo­gic, lowered to the level of “com­mon sense,” was suf­fi­cient for the solu­tion of all ques­tions.

To see just how de­cis­ive this meth­od­o­logy was in in­form­ing Trot­sky’s re­volu­tion­ary out­look, we must ex­am­ine an­oth­er is­sue, one which he did not ex­pli­citly them­at­ize: re­ific­a­tion.


Reification and revolution

Karl Korsch did not trust Trot­sky when the Bolshev­ik Re­volu­tion first broke out. By the mid-1920s, however, after his con­ver­sion to Len­in­ism — short-lived though this would prove to be — Korsch had come to fa­vor Bron­shtein’s po­s­i­tion with­in the Comin­tern over that of Zinoviev. His com­rade with­in the Itali­an party, Bor­diga, thus wrote to him in 1926: “You, who used to be highly sus­pi­cious of Trot­sky, have im­me­di­ately sub­scribed to the pro­gram of un­con­di­tion­al solid­ar­ity with the Rus­si­an op­pos­i­tion, bet­ting on Trot­sky rather than on Zinoviev (a pref­er­ence I share).” Sub­sequently Korsch would dis­avow Trot­sky and Len­in­ism tout court as the dec­ade drew to a close, as Trot­sky in turn wrote in 1929 that “Korschist tend­en­cies must be mer­ci­lessly con­demned.” Even if it did not last long, however, their con­flu­ence dur­ing this peri­od is sig­ni­fic­ant.

Lukács’ ap­pre­ci­ation of Trot­sky around this time ran even deep­er, des­pite his later re­cant­a­tions: “[Op­por­tun­ists] re­ject as im­possible the emer­gence of any­thing that is rad­ic­ally new of which we can have no ‘ex­per­i­ence’. It was Trot­sky in his po­lem­ics against Kaut­sky who brought out this dis­tinc­tion most clearly, al­though it had been touched upon in the de­bates on the war: ‘For the fun­da­ment­al Bolshev­ist pre­ju­dice con­sists pre­cisely in the idea that one can only learn to ride when one is sit­ting firmly on a horse’.” In the foot­note ap­pen­ded to this state­ment, Lukács went a step fur­ther. Trot­sky’s line of ar­gu­ment in Ter­ror­ism and Com­mun­ism ap­prox­im­ated Hegel’s epi­stem­o­lo­gic­al ar­gu­ment, where­as Kaut­sky’s ar­gu­ment was ef­fect­ively ana­log­ous to the ag­nost­ic at­ti­tude of Kant:

I hold it to be no mere co­in­cid­ence that Trot­sky’s po­lem­ic against Kaut­sky in the sphere of polit­ics should have re­peated the es­sen­tial ar­gu­ment ad­duced by Hegel in his at­tack on Kant’s the­ory of know­ledge (there is of course no philo­lo­gic­al con­nec­tion). Kaut­sky, in­cid­ent­ally, later claimed that the laws of cap­it­al­ism were un­con­di­tion­ally val­id for the fu­ture [i.e., like nat­ur­al laws], even though it was not pos­sible to at­tain to a con­crete know­ledge of the ac­tu­al trends.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, this is con­son­ant with Lukács’ ar­gu­ment throughout His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness that Kaut­sky had suc­cumbed to the re­ific­a­tion of so­cial re­la­tions that took place un­der cap­it­al­ism, sta­bil­iz­ing and pet­ri­fy­ing that which is his­tor­ic­ally vari­able and flu­id. What was it in Trot­sky’s ar­gu­ment against Kaut­sky that so re­minded Lukács of Hegel’s ar­gu­ment against Kant? “The the­or­et­ic­al apostasy of Kaut­sky lies just in this point,” Trot­sky wrote in Ter­ror­ism and Com­mun­ism. “Hav­ing re­cog­nized the prin­ciple of demo­cracy as ab­so­lute and etern­al, he has stepped back from ma­ter­i­al­ist dia­lectics to nat­ur­al law.” (No won­der Bor­diga was so fond of this book by Trot­sky, we may note, as he like­wise re­fused to el­ev­ate demo­cracy to a time­less ideal stand­ing above class re­la­tions, “the demo­crat­ic prin­ciple in its ap­plic­a­tion to the bour­geois state, which claims to em­brace all classes.”)

Trot­sky, like Len­in and En­gels and even oc­ca­sion­ally Marx him­self, did oc­ca­sion­ally seek to vin­dic­ate dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism as a meth­od ap­plic­able to so­cial and nat­ur­al sci­ence in equal meas­ure. Yet this was just as of­ten not the case, as these thinkers re­jec­ted the no­tion that so­cial dy­nam­ics be­haved in a man­ner as con­stant as nat­ur­al law. It has be­come very com­mon among young ad­epts of more soph­ist­ic­ated read­ings of Cap­it­al that Marx did not pro­pose a new polit­ic­al eco­nomy in place of the old one, but rather a cri­tique of polit­ic­al eco­nomy. Al­legedly, this was a sub­tlety lost on sub­sequent gen­er­a­tions of Marx­ists, who sought to es­tab­lish Marx­ism as a pos­it­ive sci­ence cap­able of ex­plain­ing and pre­dict­ing every phe­nomen­on. However, this ca­ri­ca­ture does not hold up when one con­siders pas­sages like the fol­low­ing from Trot­sky:

Marx­ist polit­ic­al eco­nomy is an in­con­test­able sci­ence; but it is not a sci­ence of how to man­age a busi­ness, or how to com­pete on the mar­ket, or how to build trusts. It is the sci­ence of how in a cer­tain epoch cer­tain eco­nom­ic re­la­tions (cap­it­al­ist) took shape, and what con­di­tions these re­la­tions in­tern­ally, and con­sti­tutes their law­ful­ness. Eco­nom­ic laws es­tab­lished by Marx are not etern­al truths but char­ac­ter­ist­ic only of a spe­cif­ic epoch of man­kind’s eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment; and, in any case, they are not etern­al prin­ciples as is rep­res­en­ted by the bour­geois Manchester school, ac­cord­ing to which private own­er­ship of the means of pro­duc­tion, buy­ing and selling, com­pet­i­tion, and the rest are etern­al prin­ciples of eco­nomy, de­riv­ing from hu­man nature (about which, however, there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing etern­al).

In his 1937 in­tro­duc­tion to the quint­es­sen­tial works of Karl Marx, Trot­sky re­it­er­ated this point, re­cog­niz­ing that it was ana­chron­ist­ic to speak of “polit­ic­al eco­nomy” in pre­cap­it­al­ist epochs. Polit­ic­al-eco­nom­ic cat­egor­ies could only be ret­ro­act­ively ap­plied to such so­ci­et­ies, since polit­ic­al eco­nomy it­self was an ar­ti­fact of bour­geois mod­ern­ity:

It was not Marx’s aim to dis­cov­er the “etern­al laws” of eco­nomy. He denied the ex­ist­ence of such laws. The his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man so­ci­ety is the his­tory of the suc­ces­sion of vari­ous sys­tems of eco­nomy, each op­er­at­ing in ac­cord­ance with its own laws. The trans­ition from one sys­tem to an­oth­er was al­ways de­term­ined by the growth of the pro­duct­ive forces, i.e., of tech­nique and the or­gan­iz­a­tion of labor. Up to a cer­tain point, so­cial changes are quant­it­at­ive in char­ac­ter and do not al­ter the found­a­tions of so­ci­ety, i.e., the pre­val­ent forms of prop­erty. But a point is reached when the ma­tured pro­duct­ive forces can no longer con­tain them­selves with­in the old forms of prop­erty; then fol­lows a rad­ic­al change in the so­cial or­der, ac­com­pan­ied by shocks. The prim­it­ive com­mune was either su­per­seded or sup­ple­men­ted by slavery; slavery was suc­ceeded by serf­dom with its feud­al su­per­struc­ture; the com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment of cit­ies brought Europe in the six­teenth cen­tury to the cap­it­al­ist or­der, which thereupon passed through sev­er­al stages. In his Cap­it­al Marx does not study eco­nomy in gen­er­al, but cap­it­al­ist eco­nomy, which has its own spe­cif­ic laws. Only in passing does he refer to oth­er eco­nom­ic sys­tems, to elu­cid­ate the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of cap­it­al­ism.

The self-suf­fi­cient eco­nomy of the prim­it­ive peas­ant fam­ily has no need of a “polit­ic­al eco­nomy,” for it is dom­in­ated on the one hand by the forces of nature and on the oth­er by the forces of tra­di­tion. The self-con­tained nat­ur­al eco­nomy of the Greeks or the Ro­mans, foun­ded on slave labor, was ruled by the will of the slave-own­er, whose “plan” in turn was dir­ectly de­term­ined by the laws of nature and routine. The same might also be said about the me­di­ev­al es­tate with its peas­ant serfs. In all these in­stances eco­nom­ic re­la­tions were clear and trans­par­ent in their prim­it­ive crudity. But the case of con­tem­por­ary so­ci­ety is al­to­geth­er dif­fer­ent. It des­troyed the old self-con­tained con­nec­tions and the in­her­ited modes of labor. The new eco­nom­ic re­la­tions have linked cit­ies and vil­lages, provinces and na­tions. Di­vi­sion of labor has en­com­passed the plan­et. Hav­ing shattered tra­di­tion and routine, these bonds have not com­posed them­selves ac­cord­ing to some def­in­ite plan, but rather apart from hu­man con­scious­ness and foresight. The in­ter­de­pend­ence of men, groups, classes, na­tions, which fol­lows from di­vi­sion of labor, is not dir­ec­ted by any­one. People work for each oth­er without know­ing each oth­er, without in­quir­ing about one an­oth­er’s needs, in the hope, and even with the as­sur­ance, that their re­la­tions will some­how reg­u­late them­selves. And by and large they do, or rather, were wont to.

So much for the al­leged vul­gar­ity of “tra­di­tion­al Marx­ism” as a whole. One might take is­sue with Trot­sky’s off­hand re­mark about com­mer­cial­iz­a­tion lead­ing straight­away, on its own, to cap­it­al­ist so­cial re­la­tions, but this is a minor point quickly glossed over.

9 thoughts on “Leon Trotsky, “demon” of the revolution

  1. Dialectic, shmei-alectic, blah blah blah. Where does that lead us today?

    A “fact” that Trotsky and his peers were blissfully unaware of in their time, was the rise of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere during and since the industrial revolution. And, of course what that will mean for us in the present day and for future humanity. Without this simple but important scientific “fact” at hand, all the dialectical thinking extant in the world could not predict the bleak possibilities for our future.

    In the “Revolution Betrayed” (in discussing “Nationality and Culture” at p. 180) Trotsky compares the Marxist historical future of humankind in a rapture of, well yes, Utopian optimism and then defends the terrorism of the dictatorship of the proletariat as only a reflection of past barbarism:


    “Spiritual creativeness demands freedom. The very purpose of communism is to subject nature to technique and technique to plan, and compel the raw material to give unstintingly everything to man that he needs. ….”

    Nature, apparently, hasn’t been listening to Trotsky or anyone else for that matter. Methane is being released at alarming rates from melting permafrost in Siberia where many a good revolutionary from before, during and after the Soviet revolution spent some compulsory vacation time.

    • It seems that, despite yourself, you are trying to renovate dialectics by bringing thought closer to catastrophe. I doubt Trotsky would disagree with that, but your fatalism is another matter.

      • I can’t afford a lobotomy so to ignore the current reality of contemporary human folly, where, finally, climate change will bring us all to a classless distopia, is indeed a mighty challenge. Many Trotskyists (active, lapsed like me, defrocked) or, a new one I recently heard, post-Trotskyists might want to explain the sorry state of the Fourth International, which constituent groupscules representing tiny minorities within broader struggles worldwide have become completely irrelevant.

        Discussions on this very blog, once Ross moves beyond his best work on art, architecture and the avant-garde in the Soviet Union, are characterized by shall we say, a certain lack of humility – each commentator apparently considering him or herself the ultimate arbiter of theory, analysis and strategy, because of their self-perceived superior grasp of the dialectic.

        A form of intellectual hubris so damaging to this little blue marble, this global village; again, finally, a victim of humankind’s unique skills and ingenuity. I’m a man of a certain age who will be dead before the worst shit hits the fan. As for you younger gentle readers, good luck:

        Everything is only toys. Renown and grace are dead;
        The wine of life is spilled, and the mere dregs
        Are all that is left for this empty pit to brag of.
        – paraphrasing Macbeth

  2. My favorite: Lukacs calling Trotsky a “poseur.” That’s hilarious.

    Lukacs, who what? assumed a position of minister or something of culture (?) in the botched revolution in Hungary, calling Trotsky, twice president of the Petrograd soviet, head of the military revolutionary committee, organizer of the revolutionary army to fight, and defeat, the White Russians and their backers, opponent of the subordination of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie in China, Spain, Vietnam, etc– he’s the poseur, and Lukacs, grovelling before Stalin– he’s the “authentic revolutionist.”

    Can’t put a price on that one, can we?

    Only the so-called “greatest Marxist since Marx”– as the sycophants of Lukacs like to call him– could make such a trenchant self-criticism, accidentally.

    • All of us here on this site are poseurs. What skin do we have in the game – say like the children of Syria or Gaza or South Sudan or Yemen?

      Our time would be better spent handing out Cannon’s “The Long View of History” at the massive 4/20 pot gatherings because, apparently, the latest generation of would-be “revolutionaries” don’t have a clue about such historical “facts” to which they might want to apply their airy-fairy dialectical analysis. So there!

      • Whoops! That was George Novack. But don’t buy the god-damned thing because the money will go in the pockets of Troktskyist’s own evil spawn, the cult of personality of one Jack Barnes, Ms. Waters and their New York loft.

      • Our personal status, poseur or not, is not the issue. Lukacs referring to Trotsky as a poseur. That’s hilarious and pathetic.
        Trotsky’s a poseur, but Stalin represents “authentic” revolutionary practice?

  3. A 1996 review (in Russian) of Volkogonov’s book is online here (co-written by Alexander V. Pantsov): http://www.old.mgimo.ru/files/72104/77eddc95f25946d951077530227abad8.pdf

    Pantsov’s 1991 article “Демон революции или пролетарский революционер?” is not online (probably it’s a reply to Volkogonov’s 1988 Pravda article “Демон революции: о Л.Д. Троцком и его взаимоотношениях с И.В. Сталиным”).

    It seems Volkogonov’s book was republished in Russian only posthumously with the title ‘demon of the revolution’, but his 1988 article is the only place where the phrase is found (it could be just a sensationalist phrase – by a Pravda editor – or just Volkogonov’s writing style, elsewhere he called Lenin a demon). In the book he uses it only once in the context of Western governments’ perception of Trotsky.

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