Trotsky: Downfall Of A Revolutionary

Trotsky: Downfall Of A RevolutionaryIn Trotsky Downfall Of A Revolutionary, Stanford University Lecturer Bertrand M Patenaude Tells The Dramatic Story Of Leon Trotsky S Final Years In Exile In Mexico Shedding New Light On Trotsky S Tumultuous Friendship With Painter Diego Rivera, His Affair With Rivera S Wife Frida Kahlo, And His Torment As His Family And Comrades Become Victims Of The Great Terror, Trotsky Downfall Of A Revolutionary Brilliantly Illuminates The Fateful And Dramatic Life Of One Of History S Most Famous Yet Elusive FiguresFew Political Figures Of The Twentieth Century Have Aroused As Much Passion, Controversy, And Curiosity As Leon Trotsky Trotsky Was That Rare Combination Of The Man Of Ideas And The Man Of Action His Role In History His Epic Rise And Fall, His Fiery Persona, His Violent End In Mexico In August Holds A Fascination That Transcends The History Of The Russian Revolution Based On Extensive Firsthand Research, This Groundbreaking Biography Examines Trotsky S Remarkable Life From The Perspective Of His Last Exile In MexicoBertrand M Patenaude Masterfully Interweaves The Story Of Trotsky S Final Years In Mexico With Flashbacks To Pivotal Episodes In His Career As A Young Marxist, Revolutionary Hero, Red Army Chief, Bolshevik Leader, Outcast From Stalin S USSR, And Ultimately Heretic Of The Kremlin, Targeted For Assassination By Its Secret Police He Vividly Recounts The Contentious Dewey Commission Hearings And The Passionate Debates Among Liberals And Communists In The United States And Europe Over The Moscow Trials And The Charges Made Against TrotskyDrawing On Trotsky S Private Correspondence And Diaries, As Well As The Testimonies Of His American Bodyguards And Secretaries, Patenaude Sheds New Light On Trotsky S Tumultuous Friendship With Painter Diego Rivera His Affair With Rivera S Wife, Frida Kahlo And His Torment As His Family And Comrades Became Victims Of The Great Terror Patenaude Also Turns To KGB Files To Document Stalin S Efforts To Eliminate The Man He Considered His Nemesis Including A Failed Commando Raid On Trotsky S Home Three Months Before His DeathGripping And Tragic, Trotsky Brilliantly Illuminates The Fateful And Dramatic Life Of One Of History S Most Captivating And Important Figures I picked this up knowing nothing about Trotsky, but hoping to learn about the Revolutionary I think that changed what I enjoyed in this book versus someone who is well versed in the man and his philosophy It took me a little while to get him figured out Trotsky was a very serious and intellectual person While he deserves a great deal of credit for some things, he also had flaws as a person and especially as a politician All of these become clearer as I read through the book Downfall of a Revolutionary focuses exclusively on his last years in Mexico and they are an interesting period of his life While this is a historical book, there are elements of espionage that add a great deal of suspense to the narrative I knew Stalin was bad, but this book hints at how vicious he truly was When I started reading, I couldn t decide if I liked Trotsky enough to feel any pathos towards him and his inevitable death Some of this may have been from the author s interesting writing style of telling an important an event and then going back and fully explaining the implications By the end that had totally changed If nothing else, he was a man of principle and he suffered many tragedies in his final years And that is something to respect. This biography focuses on the final years of Trotsky s life in exile in Mexico, leading up to spoiler his assassination, while flashing back to significant periods that clarify the personal and political development of one of the most controversial figures of the Russian revolution Extremely detailed in its account of events, I read this as a factual companion piece while watching the similarly structured Russian mini series about Trotsky that came out in 2017 in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the revolution. I have not covered up all possible spoilers here For example, if you don t know how Trotsky died, and don t want to, read no further I thought this book about Trotsky s three years in Mexico, leading up to his assassination, was fascinating As my knowledge about Trotsky was very sketchy and my knowledge of the Russian revolution in general only marginally better I really appreciated that the book uses those three years as a springboard to explore his life and legacy in general, covering his time as commander in chief of the Red Army, his role in the Kronstadt uprising, the ups and downs of his relationship with Natalia, and many other things The choice of a detailed focus on these three years makes a lot of sense, given that it includes the assassination and an earlier failed one, organised by muralist David Siqueiros who certainly comes across as a colourful figure , Trotsky s affair with Frida Kahlo, the Dewey Commission an attempt at an impartial evaluation of the Moscow show trial of Trotsky and fascinating debates about the relationship between art and revolution.The book forced me to reassess Frida Kahlo for whom I previously had nothing but admiration view spoiler According to Patenaude, both Kahlo and Diego Rivera, after Trotsky s death, executed an extraordinary political U turn and became committed Stalinists, even well into the 1950s when many intellectuals and artists were appalled by his excesses Patenaude describes how the Casa Azul, Rivera and Kahlo s house where Trotsky lived until he felt that Rivera s agitation against the Mexican President would compromise his asylum, was turned into a museum, managed by the couple, but with no mention at all of Trotsky s time there A bust of Stalin was even placed in Trotsky s bedroom hide spoiler A book worth reading to look at some of the specific Trotsky incidents in the overall history of USSR It rides along on a barely recognizable continuum through the book, but many sections are very confusing chronologically Car beyond the typical flashback In one chapter an individual is killed, a couple chapters later he is alive then dead again later on The book advances in time but the out of sequence events lay a rugged framework over a thin foundation Huge numbers of major and minor political figures and much intrigue keep it interesting, some non fiction can have as many schemes as fiction, this story does.Living in Mexico City in the 80 s, and visiting Trotsky s and Diego Rivera s homes made the Mexico setting interesting to me I m about 3 4 through, will report and finalize my rating when complete.To truly understand this book would require reading several general Russian revolution and Stalin era books, biographies of some of the key players, some Mexican history from the period as well as a bit of Mexican culture.Not an ideal book to read without some fundamental background books, as it assumes some knowledge of many of the events that are mentioned only in passing I was undereducated in understanding some sections of the book. Beyond being vaguely associated with the Russian Revolution, the name of Leon Trotsky seems to get lost in the mix Everyone knows it, but might also conclude it was of lesser importance because he never led the Communist Party whereas Stalin and Lenin both did Trotsky s legacy comes from the ideological bulwark that he provided against what he perceived to be Stalin s increasing bureaucracy and brutality In less than three years from 1925, Trotsky was removed from a series of positions including Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, then expelled from the Communist Party, then exiled from Russia altogether But none of this deterred him He was a thorn in Stalin s back while he was in the Party, and he would continue to be one for the rest of his life For his constant interference in party politics, and to satisfy himself until he caught Trotsky himself, Stalin very likely saw to the deaths of two of Trotsky s children He was certainly responsible for the arrest and shooting of Sergei, and very likely responsible for the death of Lyeva, his other son, who died as the result of a botched operation for appendicitis Trotsky s two daughters, Nina and Zinaida, also died before he did, but from tuberculosis and suicide respectively.After losing the battle to succeed Lenin after his death in 1924, Stalin exiled Trotsky to Turkey where he stayed until he moved to France in 1933 and finally to Norway in 1935 In August of 1936, the first of the infamous Moscow show trials were held, which accused Communist Party members of the most outrageous of crimes, including the attempted assassination of Stalin himself Trotsky, in absentia, was made out to be the brains of many of these crimes Because of the mounting international pressures associated with these trials, Norway was soon forced to expel Trotsky as well The leftist, sympathetic President of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas, invited Leon Trotsky to stay in Mexico as a measure of personal solidarity Trotsky and his wife Natalia arrived in Mexico in January, 1937 This is where the book begins, tracking Trotsky s life through 1940 when one of Stalin s many henchmen finally track him down and assassinate him When the Trotskys arrived in Mexico, the artist Diego Rivera who had long called himself a Trotskyite and his wife Frida Kahlo, invited them to stay at their home the Casa Azul in Coyoacan, just outside of Mexico City Not only did Rivera display political empathy toward his friend s ideas, but also went out of his way to provide funds for Trotsky, eventually deciding to sell his paintings and even mortgaged his house in order to provide him with the retinue of security that he required Despite Rivera s generosity, Trotsky and Frida had an affair which lasted for several months While Diego never found out, Natalia did, and it almost ended their 34 year marriage.Just a few months after the arrival of the Trotsky in Mexico, the Dewey Commission, headed by none other than famous American pragmatist philosopher and educational innovator John Dewey, was held at the Casa Azul The purpose of the Dewey Commission was to investigate the methods used in the Moscow show trials Needless to say, the Commission found Trotsky not guilty, and that the case against him had not been proved Of course, this did little to satisfy Stalin, whose authority was inherently undermined by the Dewey Commission and who still wanted to see Trotsky dead In May, 1940, Trotsky survived an attempted assassination plotted by a NKVD agent and Rivera s major artistic opponent, David Alfaro Siquieros Trotsky and Natalia survived virtually unscathed in their bedroom, but their grandson was shot Having moved out of the Casa Azul because of increasing personality and political differences with Rivera Rivera never was a Trotskyite or even a Communist at all, but a rank populist , Trotsky knew that he had to turn his new house into a fortress to protect himself from attack But on August 20, 1940, half a world away, Stalin tried again This time, he enlisted the help of Ramon Mercader, a Spanish Catalan Communist Mercader managed to gain access to Trotsky s new house and struck him in the head with an ice pick several times Trotsky died the next day from his injuries After spending twenty years in prison, Mercader was rewarded for his efforts by Stalin by being given both the Order of Lenin and the being recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union. The second of three recent Trotsky biographies that I bought, this book focuses on his prisoner like final years in Mexico It is very well written and does a good job of weaving from Coyoacan to other signature moments of his life Trotsky s legacy is a difficult one for me It is clear his dream for human redemption was flawed indeed, yet his humanity was also very clear.I underlined this passage, about a postscript to a will he wrote not long before he was assassinated As he wrote these lines, seated at his desk in his study, he looked over to his left, out through the French windows and into the patio, where he saw his wife Natalia approaching The scene inspired him to close on a lyrical note Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air might enter 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 is everywhere Life is beautiful Let the future generations cleanse it of evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full. Trotsky Downfall of a Revolutionary is an interesting account of Trotsky s last few years of life while in exile in Mexico This book offers a good combination of all the ingredients that make a good biography it offers glimpses into Trotsky s daily life, his character, a deeper discussion of his political philosophy and a bigger picture overview to provide context Since I am not very familiar with Trotsky s life, perhaps this wasn t the best choice for me, because this biography chiefly focuses on the last few years of his life Nevertheless, I did learn quite a bit in spite of my unfamiliarity with the subject. 1917 30. As a novice to modern Russian history, I felt Patenaude produced a work that was not only entertaining, but explained itself well enough to stand on it s own His use of the distant past intermingled with Trotsky s final few years acted as a storytelling device that gave incredible continuity and insight into some of the behaviors and actions of the former war commissar.I have no qualms about recommending this to anyone interested in the Old Man.

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  • Kindle Edition
  • 386 pages
  • Trotsky: Downfall Of A Revolutionary
  • Bertrand M. Patenaude
  • English
  • 13 April 2019

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