Friday, October 21, 2011

The Trotsky Dodge

Richard Pipes writes a critical review of a new biography of Leon Trotsky by Joshua Rubenstein.  According to Pipes, the book inaccurately emphasizes Trotsky's Jewishness, a heritage Trotsky himself explosively eschewed, and thereby his relative humanity versus that of the monstrous Stalin.  Pipes:
In view of the murderous paranoia of Stalin, it is tempting to gloss over Trotsky’s own ruthlessness and to depict him as a humane counterpart to his rival. This is quite unwarranted. Without a question, Trotsky was better-educated than Stalin and was altogether a more cultivated human being. But his radicalism was not much different than Stalin’s. Rubenstein cites a statement by Trotsky as the motto of his book: “Nothing great has been accomplished in history without fanaticism.” Really? In art, in science, in economics? In fact, fanaticism, which is uncritical belief in something, has always obstructed true accomplishment.
Pipes then cites Trotsky himself to demonstrate his point:
There is nothing immoral in the proletariat finishing off the dying class. This is its right. You are indignant … at the petty terror which we direct at our class opponents. But be put on notice that in one month at most this terror will assume more frightful forms, on the model of the great revolutionaries of France. Our enemies will face not prison but the guillotine.
These are not the words of man fundamentally troubled with the barbarity of either Lenin or Stalin. 

This, I think, is an extremely important point to make.  As we know, many on the Left, seeking a way to avoid responsibility for their support for, apology for, or even mere association with the Soviet Union of the 1920s and 30s, latched onto the feeble, and ultimately false distinction between the "good" Trotsky and the "bad" Stalin as a way to save their reputations, if not their souls. Unfortunately, many of their seemingly uncountable acolytes through the years have availed themselves of the same distinction without a difference. 

They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.  As history clearly demonstrates, if one wishes to hitch one's wagon to the albeit fading socialist star, one will at least dirty one's hands, and likely bloody them as well.    

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