Leon Trotsky

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Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full.

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.


Sorted chronologically

As long as I breathe I hope for everything. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future...
In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness... and turns their eyes and hopes toward a great avenger and liberator who someday will come and accomplish his mission.
A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified.
  • 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.
  • If it is a question of seeking formal contradictions, then obviously we must do so on the side of the White Terror, which is the weapon of classes which consider themselves “Christian,” patronize idealist philosophy, and are firmly convinced that the individuality (their own) is an end-in-itself. As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the “sacredness of human life.” We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And this problem can only be solved by blood and iron.
  • The bourgeoisie today is a falling class... by its imperialist methods of appropriation [it] is destroying the economic structure of the world and human culture generally. Nevertheless, the historical persistence of the bourgeoisie is colossal. It holds to power, and does not wish to abandon it. Thereby it threatens to drag after it into the abyss the whole of society. 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.
    • Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1920; 1975), p. 83
  • Repression for the attainment of economic ends is a necessary weapon of the socialist dictatorship.
    • Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1920; 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...
    • Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1920; 1975), p. 177
  • [C]apital was really safer in Russia than anywhere else [...] no true Marxist would allow sentiment to interfere with business.
    • As quoted during a 1921 meeting with American businessman Armand Hammer, in Hammer: Witness to History by Hammer and Neil Lyndon (Hodder & Stoughton, 1988), p. 160
  • 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 reconstruct 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
    • Variants:
    • 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)
  • It would be childish to think that the Stalin bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet Congress. Normal, constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique ... They can be compelled to hand over power to the Proletarian vanguard only by FORCE.
    • Bulletin of the Opposition, October 1933. Quote from Harpal Brar's Trotskyism or Leninism? p. 625.
  • 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)
  • During my youth I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear, as it were, automatically. The historical development of the last quarter of a century has  not confirmed this view. Decaying capitalism has everywhere swung over to an intensified nationalism, one aspect of which is anti-Semitism. The Jewish question has loomed largest in the most highly developed capitalist country of Europe, Germany.[…]
    The Jews of different countries have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument adapted to modern culture. One must therefore reckon with the fact that the Jewish nation will maintain itself for an entire epoch to come. […]
    We must bear in mind that the Jewish people will exist a long time. The nation cannot normally exist without common territory. Zionism springs from this very idea. But the facts of every passing day demonstrate to us that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine acquires a more and more  tragic and more and more menacing character. I do not at all believe that the  Jewish question can be resolved within the framework of rotting capitalism and under the control of British imperialism.[…]
    Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded, by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun. The same possibility will be opened for the Arabs, as for all other scattered nations. National topography will become a part of  the planned economy. This is the great historic perspective as I see it. To work for international Socialism means to work also for the solution of the Jewish question.
    • Excerpts of Trotsky’s interview with Jewish Telegraphic Agency, published Jan 18, 1937; as quoted in Joseph Nedava (1972) Trotsky and the Jews, Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, pp. 204-205
  • Inside the Party, Stalin has put himself above all criticism and the State. It is impossible to displace him except by assassination. Every oppositionist becomes ipso facto a terrorist.
    • Statement from interview with New York Evening Journal, January 26, 1937. Quote from Harpal Brar's Trotskyism or Leninism? p. 625.
  • 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)
  • 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 The Prophet Armed (1963) by Isaac Deutscher
  • 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)[edit]

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.
  • 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)[edit]

Full text online
I do not measure the historical process by the yardstick of one's personal fate.
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.
  • 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.
    • Foreword
  • 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.
    • Foreword
  • 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)[edit]

Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.
People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life...
  • Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a 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)[edit]

The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? Full text online
  • The [Soviet Union] bureaucracy not only has not disappeared, yielding its place to the masses, but has turned into an uncontrolled force dominating the masses.
    • p. 40 in Doubleday, Doran & Company edition (1937)
  • Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
    • p. 41
  • Can we, however, expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question, we will answer as frankly: If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable. In a technical, economic, and military sense, imperialism in incomparably more strong. If it is not paralyzed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the regime which issued from the October revolution.
    • ch. 8
  • 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
  • In a country where the sole employer is the state, [opposition] means death by slow starvation. The old principle: 'who does not work shall not eat,' has been replaced with a new one: 'who does not obey shall not eat.'
    • ch. 11
  • Stalinism and fascism, in spite of a deep difference in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity.
    • ch. 11

Their Morals and Ours (1938)[edit]

Full text online
  • 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)[edit]

Full text online
  • 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)[edit]

Written statement (27 February 1940); full text online
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.
The concrete is a combination of abstractions...
  • 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)[edit]

Full text online
  • 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.
    • p. 147



  1. David Myatt, "Heraclitus – translations of some fragments". Quote: Polemos our genesis, governing us all to bring forth some gods, some mortal beings with some unfettered yet others kept bound.
  2. David Myatt, "Heraclitus – translations of some fragments". Quote: I have deliberately transliterated (instead of translated) πόλεμος, and left δίκη as δίκη – because both πόλεμος and δίκη should be regarded like ψυχή (psyche/Psyche) as terms or as principles in their own right (hence the capitalization), and thus imply, suggest, and require, interpretation and explanation, something especially true, in my opinion, regarding δίκη. To render such Greek terms blandly by English terms such as ‘war’ and ‘justice’ – which have their own now particular meaning(s) – is in my view erroneous and somewhat lackadaisical.
  3. Steven Burik, "The end of comparative philosophy and task of comparative thinking. Heidegger, Derrida, and Daoism" (State University of New York, 2009), page 30. Quote: Heraclitus is well known for having allegedly said in fragment 53 that "war is the father of all things." Heidegger thinks again that this interpretation is mistaken or at least one-sided. There is again a more originary way of looking at the fragment, which starts with πόλεμος πάντων μὲ ν πατήρ ἐστι. Heidegger translates "Confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) is indeed the begetter of all (that comes to presence) . . ." This is already a huge difference from normal translations, but even more important is the continuing sentence which isusually left out: . . . πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, which Heidegger translates as ". . . but (also) the dominant preserver of all." So[,] far from trying to say that war is the father of all things, Heidegger says that confrontation, as Auseinandersetzung, is the begetter and keeper of all things.
  4. Heidegger, Martin (1953). "Einführung in die Metaphysik." Quote: Auseinandersetzung is allem (Anwesendem) zwar Erzeuger, allem aber (auch) waltender Bewahrer.
  5. Wikipedia:DE:Liste griechischer Phrasen/Pi#Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι. Quote: Auseinandersetzung ist aller Dinge Vater, aller Dinge König, die einen erweist er als Götter, die andern als Menschen, die einen macht er zu Sklaven, die anderen zu Freien.
  6. Georg Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Volume I ← via Hartnack, Justus; Lars Aagaard-Mogensen, Translator (1998). An Introduction to Hegel's Logic. Hackett Publishing. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-87220-424-3.  ← via Wikipedia:Hegel#Heraclitus. Quote: There is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my logic.

Quotations about Trotsky[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • Reading Trotsky, one is often impressed with how much dishonesty he can pack into a paragraph.
  • Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet.
  • All anti-Stalinist forces had been wiped out … Trotskyism, Zinovievism, and Bukharinism, all drowned in blood, had, like some Atlantis, vanished from all political horizons … and he himself was now the sole survivor of Atlantis.
  • Maxim Gorki, supposedly citing a quote from Trotsky, told some journalists in 1924: "From Mussolini's governmental actions I have got to know his energy and I admire him, but I prefer Trotsky's opinion: Mussolini has made a revolution, he is our best student."
    • Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (1997). Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini's Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997p. 52
  • To the very end Trotsky remained a blind, pitiless (even when pitiable) giant, defending the right of the minority vanguard of the proletariat -- the Party -- to exercise its dictatorship over ‘the backward layers of the proletariat’ -- i.e., those who disagreed with the self-designated vanguard.
    • Sidney Hook (1987). Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
  • 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.

  • [I]t is obvious to anyone who thinks dialectically that actions which are ostensibly the same kind of actions can be right or wrong depending on the circumstances -- or rather, on the cause in the name of which they were performed. Both Lenin and Trotsky were quite explicit on this point. Is there, for instance, anything wrong with slaughtering children? No. It was right, argued Trotsky, to slaughter the children of the Russian czar because it was politically expedient. (Presumably it was not right to kill Trotsky’s sons, however, because Stalin did not represent the historical interests of the proletariat; Trotsky, as far as I know, did not deal with this question directly, but such an answer would be in keeping with his fanatical mentality). If we reject the principle that the end justifies the means, we can only appeal to higher, politically irrelevant moral criteria; and this, Trotsky says, amounts to believing in God.
    • Leszek Kolakowski, “Leibnitz and Job,” first printed in The New Criterion, Dec. 2003; reprinted in Is God Happy? Selected Essays (2013, NY: Basic Books)
  • Comrade Trotsky completely misinterpreted the main idea of my book, What Is To Be Done? when he spoke about the Party not being a conspiratorial organization. He forgot that in my book I propose a number of various types of organizations, from the most secret and most exclusive to comparatively broad and ‘loose’ organizations. He forgot that the Party must be only the vanguard, the leader of the vast masses of the working class, the whole (or nearly the whole) of which works ‘under the control and direction’ of the Party organizations, but the whole of which does not and should not belong to a ‘party.’ Now let us see what conclusions Comrade Trotsky arrives at in consequence of his fundamental mistake. He had told us here that if rank after rank of workers were arrested, and all the workers were to declare that they did not belong to the Party, our Party would be a strange one indeed! Is it not the other way round? Is it not Comrade Trotsky’s argument that is strange? He regards as something sad that which a revolutionary with any experience at all would only rejoice at. If hundreds and thousands of workers who were arrested for taking part in strikes and demonstrations did not prove to be members of Party organizations, it would only show that we have good organizations, and that we are fulfilling our task of keeping a more or less limited circle of leaders secret and drawing the broadest possible masses into the movement.
    • Vladimir Lenin, Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., 1903, Collected Works, Vol 6
  • 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.
  • The theory that the struggle between Bolshevism and Menshevism is a struggle for influence over an immature proletariat is not a new one. We have been encountering it since 1905 in innumerable books, pamphlets, and articles in the liberal press. Martov and Trotsky are putting before the German comrades liberal views with a Marxist coating...
  • The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin-Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a readymade formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately or – perhaps fortunately – not the case.
    • Rosa Luxembourg, "The Problem of Dictatorship,” in Russian Revolution (1918), [2]; (accessed October 1, 2007).
  • When Trotsky, in the first weeks of his regime, threatened opponents with an ingenious gadget that shortens a person "only by the length of a head," one may have dismissed the remark as a bad joke from a temperamental orator trying to cut the figure of a Robespierre. A few months passed and the tasteless joke became harsh reality, the difference being that, in "liberated" Russia, now instead of the chop of the bourgeois guillotine, "socialist" bullets whistle from Latvian rifles.
    • Vladimir Medem, “On Terror,” September 1918
  • 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.

  • [Trotsky] knew Yiddish, and if at a later date, in his autobiography, he pretends to know nothing about Jews and Judaism, then this is nothing but a plain lie. He who had visited at Cafe Arkaden [in Vienna] for years on end must have mastered both these matters to perfection. The language in greatest use at that Cafe was - besides 'Viennese-German' - Yiddish.
    • Joseph Nedava (1972) Trotsky and the Jews, Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, p. 26
  • 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.
  • [Trotsky] was an intellectual who never asked himself such a simple question as: ‘What reason do I have to believe that the economic condition of workers under socialism will be better than under capitalism?’
    • Ralph Raico, “Trotsky: The Ignorance and the evil” (review of Irving Howe’s biography, Leon Trotsky, p. 42 in The Libertarian Forum, March 1979
  • The part which Stalin played in the Nazis' seizure of power in Germany was considerable. As Leon Trotsky said in 1936: 'Without Stalin there would have been no Hitler, there would have been no Gestapo!' (Bulletin of the Opposition (BO), Nos. 52-53, October 1936) Another statement he made in November 1938 reveals Trotsky's shrewdness and his knowledge of the point at issue. 'Stalin finally untied Hitler's hands, as well as those of his enemies, and thereby pushed Europe towards war.' He said this at a time when Chamberlain was rejoicing that there would be no war, Mussolini was regarding himself as a peacemaker and Hitler still had no intention of issuing a directive to attack Poland, even less France. At the moment when Europe was heaving a sigh of relief in the belief that there would be no war, Trotsky already knew both that war would quickly come and who would be to blame for it.
    • Viktor Suvorov (1990). Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? transl. Thomas B. Beattie, London: Hamish Hamilton, ch. 2: "The Main Enemy"
  • 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?"
  • Trotsky explained that a nationalised planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen.
    • Alan Woods in a summary of The Revolution Betrayed

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