Isaac Deutscher

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Isaac Deutscher (3 April 190719 August 1967) was a Polish-born Jewish Marxist writer, journalist and political activist who moved to the United Kingdom at the outbreak of World War II. He is best known as a biographer of Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin and as a commentator on Soviet affairs.


  • [A]ll the non-Stalinist versions concur in the following: the generals did indeed plan a coup d'état... The main part of the coup was to be a palace revolt in the Kremlin, culminating in the assassination of Stalin. A decisive military operation outside the Kremlin, an assault on the headquarters of the G.P.U., was also prepared. Tukhachevsky was the moving spirit of the conspiracy... He was, indeed, the only man among all the military and civilian leaders of that time who showed in many respects a resemblance to the original Bonaparte and could have played the Russian First Consul. The chief political commissar of the army, Gamarnik, who later committed suicide, was initiated into the plot. General Yakir, the commander of Leningrad, was to secure the co-operation of his garrison. Generals Uberovich, commander of the western military district, Kork, commander of the Military Academy in Moscow, Primakow, Budienny's deputy in the command of the cavalry, and a few other generals were also in the plot.
    • Isaac Deutscher in his Stalin: A Political Biography, second edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 360-361. Quote from Ludo Martens's Another view of Stalin, pp. 176.
  • Can’t you approach the young worker and tell him that the way to live is to work for life and not for death? Is it beneath American scholars to try to do that?... Your only salvation is in carrying the idea of socialism to the working class and coming back to storm—to storm, yes, to storm—the bastions of capitalism.
    • Isaac Deutscher, quoted in S. Unger, "Deutscher and the New Left in America", in D. Horowitz (ed).
  • Outside the party, formless revolutionary frustration mingled with distinctly counter-revolutionary trends. Since the ruling group had singled out Trotsky as a target for attack he automatically attracted the spurious sympathy of many who had hitherto hated him. As he made his appearance in the streets of Moscow [in the spring of 1924], he was spontaneously applauded by crowds in which idealist communists rubbed shoulders with Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, and the new bourgeoisie of the NEP, by all those indeed who, for diverse reasons hoped for a change
    • Isaac Deutscher, Stalin, Pelican, 1966, p. 279. Quote from Harpal Brar's Trotskyism or Leninism?, pp. 25.
  • A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing down below and broke that person’s legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune.
    If both behaved rationally, they would not become enemies. The man who escaped from the blazing house, having recovered, would have tried to help and console the other sufferer; and the latter might have realised that he was the victim of circumstances over which neither of them had control.
    But look what happens when these people behave irrationally. The injured man blames the other for his misery and swears to make him pay for it. The other, afraid of the crippled man’s revenge, insults him, kicks him, and beats him up whenever they meet. The kicked man again swears revenge and is again punched and punished. The bitter enmity, so fortuitous at first, hardens and comes to overshadow the whole existence of both men and to poison their minds.
    • Isaac Deutscher, The Arab-Israeli War, June 1967 (in the New Left Review, 23 June, 1967)
  • The ex-communist is the problem child of contemporary politics.
    • The Ex-Communists Conscience

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