Leon Trotsky [Лев Давидович Троцкий; born Lev Davidovich Bronstein; Лев Давидович Бронштейн] (26 October O.S., 7 November) 1879 - 21 August 1940) Russian Marxist, intellectual, and revolutionary. In the early Soviet Union, he founded the Politburo, served as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and created and led the Red Army. After Lenin's death, Trotsky was exiled for his opposition to Joseph Stalin's policies. His 1940 assassination in Mexico was carried out by a Soviet agent at Stalin's behest.
- As long as I breathe I hope. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future, that radiant future, in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of his history and will direct it towards the boundless horizons of beauty, joy and happiness!
- "On Optimism and Pessimism, on the Twentieth Century, and on Many Other Things" (1901), as quoted in The Prophet Armed : Trotsky, 1879-1921 (2003) by Isaac Deutscher , p. 45
- In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their own powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes toward a great avenger and liberator who someday will come and accomplish his mission.
- Why Marxists oppose Individual Terrorism, article published in the Austrian Social Democratic paper Der Kampf (1909).
- Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies.
- Literature and Revolution (1924)
- Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes. But at present even the handling of a hammer is taught with the help of a mirror, a sensitive film that records all the movements. Photography and motion-picture photography, owing to their passive accuracy of depiction, are becoming important educational instruments in the field of labor. If one cannot get along without a mirror, even in shaving oneself, how can one resconstruct oneself or one's life, without seeing oneself in the "mirror" of literature? Of course no one speaks about an exact mirror. No one even thinks of asking the new literature to have mirror-like impassivity. The deeper literature is, and the more it is imbued with the desire to shape life, the more significantly and dynamically it will be able to "picture" life.
- Literature and Revolution (1924), edited by William Keach (2005), Ch. 4 : Futurism, p. 120
- Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.
- Remarks apparently derived from Trotsky's observations, or those he implies preceded his own, this is attributed to Bertolt Brecht in Paulo Freire : A Critical Encounter (1993) by Peter McLaren and Peter Leonard, p. 80, and to Vladimir Mayakovsky in The Political Psyche (1993) by Andrew Samuels, p. 9
- Art is not a mirror held up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.
- We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right... And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.
- Speech at the XIIIth Party Congress, May 1924
- The struggle against war, properly understood and executed, presupposes the uncompromising hostility of the proletariat and its organizations, always and everywhere, toward its own and every other imperialist bourgeoisie...
- "Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau" (July 1936)
- The struggle against war and its social source, capitalism, presupposes direct, active, unequivocal support to the oppressed colonial peoples in their struggles and wars against imperialism. A 'neutral' position is tantamount to support of imperialism.
- "Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau" (July 1936)
- A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified. (Also quoted as "The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.")
- A sledgehammer breaks glass but forges steel.
- "We do not change our course" (1938)
- As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the "sacredness of human life."
- As quoted in Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1975), p. 82
- The bourgeoisie today is a falling class... We are forced to tear it off, to chop it away. The Red Terror is a weapon utilized against a class, doomed to destruction, which does not wish to perish. If the White Terror can only retard the historical rise of the proletariat, the Red Terror hastens the destruction of the bourgeoisie.
- As quoted in Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1975), p. 83
- Repression for the attainment of economic ends is a necessary weapon of the socialist dictatorship.
- As quoted in Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1975), p. 153
- The road to socialism lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the state … Just as a lamp, before going out, shoots up in a brilliant flame, so the state, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the most ruthless form of state, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction...
- As quoted in Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1975), p. 177
- Lenin's methods [of "hard" centralism and mistrust of the working class] lead to this: the party organization substitutes itself for the party, the central committee substitutes itself for the organization, and, finally, a "dictator" substitutes himself for the central committee. ... The party must seek the guarantee of its stability in its own base, in an active and self-reliant proletariat, and not in its top caucus ... which the revolution may suddenly sweep away with its wing.
- "Our Political Tasks" (1904), as quoted in Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed (1963).
- Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction; from the point of view of the proletariat the difference between the types of reaction is meaningless.
- What Next? (1932)
- The German soldiers, that is, the workers and peasants, will in the majority of cases have far more sympathy for the vanquished peoples than for their own ruling caste. The necessity to act at every step in the capacity of 'pacifiers' and oppressors will swiftly disintegrate the armies of occupation, infecting them with a revolutionary spirit.
- Manuscript from 1940, as translated in Writings of Leon Trotsky by George Breitman
- The dialectics of history have already hooked him and will raise him up. He is needed by all of them; by the tired radicals, by the bureaucrats, by the Nepmen, the upstarts, by all the worms that are crawling out of the upturned soil of the manured revolution. He knows how to meet them on their own ground, he speaks their language and he knows how to lead them. He has the deserved reputation of an old revolutionist, which makes him invaluable to them as a blinder on the eyes of the country. He has will and daring. He will not hesitate to utilize them and to move them against the Party. Right now he is organising himself around the sneaks of the party, the artful dodgers.
- Statement of 1924 on Joseph Stalin's growing powerbase, in Stalin, An Appraisal Of The Man And His Influence (1966); also in Stalin's Russia 1924-53 by Michael Lynch, p. 18
- An ally has to be watched just like an enemy.
- As quoted in Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (1974) by Adam Bruno Ulam
- Root out the counterrevolutionaries without mercy, lock up suspicious characters in concentration camps... Shirkers will be shot, regardless of past service.
- Statement of 1918, as quoted in Trotsky : The Eternal Revolutionary (1996) by Dmitri Volkogonov, p. 213
- In not more than a month’s time terror will assume very violent forms, after the example of the great French Revolution; the guillotine... will be ready for our enemies... that remarkable invention of the French Revolution which makes man shorter by a head.
- As quoted in The Cheka : Lenin’s Political Police (1981) by George Leggett, p. 54
The Russian Revolution (1930) 
- We must rid ourselves once and for all of the Quaker-Papist babble about the sanctity of human life.
- In a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time.
- There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens.
- The historic ascent of humanity, taken as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces — in nature, in society, in man himself.
- Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain — at least in a poor country like Russia — and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect.
My Life (1930) 
- The life of a revolutionary would be quite impossible without a certain amount of "fatalism."
- In these pages, I continue the struggle to which my whole life is devoted. Describing, I also characterize and evaluate; narrating, I also defend myself, and more often attack. It seems to me that this is the only method of making an autobiography objective in a higher sense, that is, of making it the most adequate expression of personality, conditions, and epoch.
Objectivity is not the pretended indifference with which confirmed hypocrisy, in speaking of friends and enemies, suggests indirectly to the reader what it finds inconvenient to state directly. Objectivity of this sort is nothing but a conventional trick. I do not need it. Since I have submitted to the necessity of writing about myself — nobody has as yet succeeded in writing an autobiography without writing about himself — I can have no reason to hide my sympathies or antipathies, my loves or my hates.
- I know well enough, from my own experience, the historical ebb and flow. They are governed by their own laws. Mere impatience will not expedite their change. I have grown accustomed to viewing the historical perspective not from the stand point of my personal fate. To understand the causal sequence of events and to find somewhere in the sequence one's own place – that is the first duty of a revolutionary. And at the same time, it is the greatest personal satisfaction possible for a man who does not limit his tasks to the present day.
- I do not measure the historical process by the yardstick of one's personal fate. On the contrary, I appraise my fate objectively and live it subjectively, only as it is inextricably bound up with the course of social development.
Since my exile, I have more than once read musings in the newspapers on the subject of the "tragedy" that has befallen me. I know no personal tragedy. I know the change of two chapters of the revolution. One American paper which published an article of mine accompanied it with a profound note to the effect that in spite of the blows the author had suffered, he had, as evidenced by his article, preserved his clarity of reason. I can only express my astonishment at the philistine attempt to establish a connection between the power of reasoning and a government post, between mental balance and the present situation. I do not know, and I never have, of any such connection. In prison, with a book or a pen in my hand, I experienced the same sense of deep satisfaction that I did at the mass-meetings of the revolution. I felt the mechanics of power as an inescapable burden, rather than as a spiritual satisfaction.
- It was as the supreme expression of the mediocrity of the apparatus that Stalin himself rose to his position.
- Ch. 40
Trotzky's Diary in Exile — 1935 (1958) 
- Old age is the most unexpected of things that can happen to man.
- Life is not an easy matter... You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.
- The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.
The Revolution Betrayed (1936) 
- Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
- In Stalin each [Soviet bureaucrat] easily finds himself. But Stalin also finds in each one a small part of his own spirit. Stalin is the personification of the bureaucracy. That is the substance of his political personality.
- ch. 11
Their Morals and Ours (1938) 
- A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified, From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.
- (On the American Civil War) "History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!"
- What, however, is our relation to revolution? Civil war is the most severe of all forms of war. It is unthinkable not only without violence against tertiary figures but, under contemporary technique, without murdering old men, old women and children... There is no impervious demarcation between ‘peaceful’ class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war.
The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1938) 
- Despite the unquestionable greatness of the Anglo-Saxon genius, it is impossible not to see that the laws of revolutions are least understood precisely in the Anglo-Saxon countries.
Trotsky's Testament (1940) 
- Written statement (27 February 1940) Full text online
- I thank warmly the friends who remained loyal to me through the most difficult hours of my life. I do not name anyone in particular because I cannot name them all.
However, I consider myself justified in making an exception in the case of my companion, Natalia Ivanovna Sedova. In addition to the happiness of being a fighter for the cause of socialism, fate gave me the happiness of being her husband. During the almost forty years of our life together she remained an inexhaustible source of love, magnanimity, and tenderness. She underwent great sufferings, especially in the last period of our lives. But I find some comfort in the fact that she also knew days of happiness.
- For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.
- Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.
- Natasha and I said more than once that one may arrive at such a physical condition that it would be better to cut short one's own life or, more correctly, the too slow process of dying ... But whatever may be the circumstances of my death I shall die with unshaken faith in the communist future. This faith in man and in his future gives me even now such power of resistance as cannot be given by any religion.
In Defense of Marxism (1942) 
- Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality.
- p. 66
- The concrete is a combination of abstractions — not an arbitrary or subjective combination but one that corresponds to the laws of the movement of a given phenomenon.
Quotations about Trotsky 
- Alphabetized by author
- The Jews practically always backed the wrong horse. The Jews of Russia who worked for the destruction of monarchy found themselves finally in the grips of a brutal religious persecution which hit them harder than the Christians. Their most brilliant exponents among the Communists were exiled, slaughtered, or assassinated in exile. The fate of Trotzki [sic] is symbolic for Russian Jewry. The Jews, with their ardent sympathies for the Soviet Union, had the same grim awakening when they learned of the Stalin Hitler pacts as the Spanish Jews who had backed the Moors instead of the Christians.
- Francis Stewart Campbell, pen name of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 187
- Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet.
- Isaac Deutscher, at a party in his honor at Oxford in 1964, as quoted in The Leveling Wind (1994) by George Will, p. 132
- Stalin, aware of the state of his regime and in what a tottering world he lived, did not count Trotsky’s meagre following and then sit back in comfort. He knew that as long as Trotsky lived and could write and speak, the Soviet bureaucracy was in mortal danger. In a conversation just before war broke out. Hitler and the French ambassador discussed the perils of plunging Europe into conflict and agreed that the winner of the second great war might be Trotsky. Winston Churchill hated him with a personal malevolence which seemed to overstep the bounds of reason. These men knew his stature, the power of what he stood for, and were never lulled by the smallness of his forces.
- C. L. R. James, "Trotsky’s Place In History", The New International, September 1940.
- ...quite in keeping with Trotsky’s passion for ideas, his generous indignation at injustice, was his sense of personal rectitude, his idealistic approach to life. All who knew him intimately even when he was one of the rulers of Russia speak of it. Max Eastman and also Souvarine, who, a fierce opponent of Trotsky’s politics, has said of him that there was nothing “mesquin” in his character, not a trace of rascality. It is a noticeable characteristic of many great writers and philosophers, but a fatal weakness in a politician.
- C. L. R. James, "Trotsky’s Place In History", The New International, September 1940.
- The obliging Trotsky is more dangerous than an enemy! /.../ Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism. He always contrives to worm his way into the cracks of any given difference of opinion, and desert one side for the other. At the present moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the liquidators.
- Here's to the day when the complete works of Leon Trotsky are published and widely distributed in the Soviet Union. On that day the USSR will have achieved democracy!
- C. Wright Mills, reported in Saul Landau, "C. Wright Mills: The Last Six Months", Ramparts (August 1965), p. 49-50.
- Socialist authors promise not only wealth for all, but also happiness in love for everybody, the full physical and spiritual development of each individual, the unfolding of great artistic and scientific talents in all men, etc. Only recently Trotsky stated in one of his writings that in the socialist society "the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” 1 The socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. All socialist literature is full of such nonsense. But it is just this nonsense that wins it the most supporters.
- Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1927), p. 17, quoting Trotsky's Literature and Revolution, trans. by R. Strunsky (London, 1925), p. 256.
- When one considers the elaborate forgeries that have been committed in order to show that Trotsky did not play a valuable part in the Russian civil war, it is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.
- George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism," first published May, 1945.
- When Victor Adler objected to Berchtold, foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, that war would provoke revolution in Russia, even if not in the Habsburg monarchy, he replied: "And who will lead this revolution? Perhaps Mr. Bronstein [Trotsky] sitting over there at the Cafe Central?"
- A. J. P. Taylor, in The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 (1980)
- Trotsky explained that a nationalised planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen.
- Alan Woods in a summary of The Revolution Betrayed
- Brief biography at Spartacus.schoolnet
- Trotsky archive at Marxists.org
- My Life : An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930)
- Writings and Marxist analysis at Trotsky.net
- Forty Years Since Leon Trotsky's Assassination by Lyn Walsh
- Lenin and Trotsky - What they Really Stood For by Alan Woods and Ted Grant
- Impressions of Soviet Russia, by John Dewey
- Photo index at Marxists.org