Useful Notes: Leon Trotsky

The eternal revolutionary.

"You may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you."
Leon Trotsky.

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. Before the Revolution he mostly hung about in exile in Siberia, part of a political group known as the Mensheviks, who opposed Lenin and his theories that a revolution could be forced (this went against traditional Marxist ideology). After the February Revolution Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks and became Lenin's second-in-command.

Trotsky was one of the leaders of the Russian 1917 October Revolution, head of the Military Revolutionary Committee and planned the strategic takeover of Petrograd. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army and People's Commissar of War. He was a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the 1917–1922 Russian Civil War and Kronstadt rebellion. He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

After leading a failed struggle of the Left Opposition against the policies and rise of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and the increasing role of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, Trotsky was successively removed from power, expelled from the Communist Party, exiled to Kazakhstan, deported from the Soviet Union and assassinated on Stalin's orders. An early advocate of Red Army intervention against European fascism, Trotsky also opposed Stalin's non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s.

As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued in exile to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, and was eventually assassinated in Mexico, by Ramón Mercader, a Soviet agent. Trotsky's ideas thus form the basis of Trotskyism, a major school of Marxist thought that is opposed to the theories of Stalinism. He was one of the few Soviet political figures who was never rehabilitated by the government of Mikhail Gorbachev (though the ban on his books was finally lifted in 1989).

He wrote many political and theoretical books, including an autobiography (My Life), a history of the Revolution, several anti-fascist pamphlets and a whole bunch of military writings.

Trotsky is a figure of great debate in the annals of history, who did both impressive and abhorrent things. Please practice the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement.

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Amongst some. Trotsky was no Gandhi; he was utterly ruthless when fighting for his cause, and didn't mind using mass violence to get his way.


Appears in the following works:

  • The Assassination of Trotsky, directed by Joseph Losey and starring Richard Burton as Trotsky
  • Appears in some of the works of Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist
  • The idealistic pig Snowball from Animal Farm is based on Trotsky, as is Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984.
  • The Trotsky
  • Appears briefly in an animated scene in the 2011 documentary film Marx Reloaded
  • The 2002 film Frida about the life of Frida Kahlo features Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky.
  • All in the Timing, a collection of one-act plays by David Ives, includes a play called Variations on the Death of Trotsky showing different ways that Trotsky's last day could have played out. He spends the entire play with an axe sticking out of his head. note 
  • Robert Bolt's play State of Revolution (1977) has Trotsky as the Deuteragonist to Lenin. He's portrayed as a brilliant leader but cripplingly arrogant, causing the other Bolshevik leaders to turn away from him.
  • Played by Ryan Cox in Nicholas And Alexandra.
  • Appears in Ivan Passer's TV movie Stalin, played by Daniel Massey.
  • Gets mentioned briefly in Damiano Damiani's Lenin: The Train.
  • Catch 22's Permanent Revolution is a Concept Album about his life.
  • He's mentioned in Mission to Moscow. In line with the Soviet propaganda of the time, he's portrayed as the mastermind behind a plot to sell out the Soviet Union to Hitler.
  • Mentioned by an elderly Lenin in Warlord of the Air as having abandoned the revolution and become a businessman.

Alternative Title(s):

Lev Davidovich Bronstein