Leon Trotsky quotes

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Leon Trotsky

Birthdate: 26. October 1879
Date of death: 21. August 1940

Leon Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary, theorist, and Soviet politician. Initially supporting the Menshevik Internationalists faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he joined the Bolsheviks just before the 1917 October Revolution, immediately becoming a leader within the Communist Party. He would go on to become one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik Revolution. During the early days of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union, he served first as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army, with the title of People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. He became a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War .

After leading a failed struggle of the Left Opposition against the policies and rise of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and against the increasing role of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, Trotsky was removed from power , expelled from the Communist Party , exiled to Alma–Ata , and exiled from the Soviet Union . As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued from exile to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born NKVD agent, passing away the next day in a hospital. Mercader, who attacked Trotsky with an ice axe, acted upon instruction from Stalin and was nearly beaten to death by Trotsky's bodyguards, with Mercader spending 20 years in a Mexican prison for murdering Trotsky. Stalin presented Mercader with an Order of Lenin in absentia.

Trotsky's ideas formed the basis of Trotskyism, a major school of Marxist thought that opposes the theories of Stalinism. He was written out of the history books under Stalin, and was one of the few Soviet political figures who was not rehabilitated by the government under Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. It was not until the late 1980s that his books were released for publication in the Soviet Union, which dissolved a short time later.

Works

My Life
My Life
Leon Trotsky

Quotes Leon Trotsky

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

—  Leon Trotsky

Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Leon Trotsky

Source: In Defense of Marxism (1942), p. 66
Context: 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.

„An ally has to be watched just like an enemy.“

—  Leon Trotsky

As quoted in Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (1974) by Adam Bruno Ulam

„A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains“

—  Leon Trotsky

Their Morals and Ours (1938)
Context: (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!"

„Every oppositionist becomes ipso facto a terrorist.“

—  Leon Trotsky

Statement from interview with New York Evening Journal, January 26, 1937. Quote from Harpal Brar's Trotskyism or Leninism? p. 625.
Context: 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.

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„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.“

—  Leon Trotsky, book My Life

Foreword
My Life (1930)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Leon Trotsky, book Literature and Revolution

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.
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Leon Trotsky

Context: 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.

„I do not measure the historical process by the yardstick of one's personal fate.“

—  Leon Trotsky, book My Life

Ch. 45 : The Planet without a Visa http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/mylife/ch45.htm
My Life (1930)
Context: 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.

„I felt the mechanics of power as an inescapable burden, rather than as a spiritual satisfaction.“

—  Leon Trotsky, book My Life

Ch. 45 : The Planet without a Visa http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/mylife/ch45.htm
My Life (1930)
Context: 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.

„Life in the future will not be monotonous.“

—  Leon Trotsky

Literature and Marxism(1924)
Context: Communist life will not be formed blindly, like coral islands, but will be built consciously, will be tested by thought, will be tested by thought, will be directed and corrected. Life will cease to be elemental, and for this reason stagnant. Man, who will learn how to move rivers and mountains, how to build peoples' palaces on the peaks of Mont Blanc and at the bottom of the Atlantic, will not only be able to add to his own life richness, brilliancy, and intensity, but also a dynamic quality of the highest degree. The shell of life will hardly have time to form before it will be burst open and again under the pressure of new technical and cultural inventions and achievements. Life in the future will not be monotonous.

„No, the Soviet woman is not yet free.“

—  Leon Trotsky, book The Revolution Betrayed

Source: The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Ch. 7,
Context: No, the Soviet woman is not yet free. Complete equality before the law has so far given infinitely more to the women of the upper strata, representatives of bureaucratic, technical, pedagogical and, in general, intellectual work, than to the working women and yet more the peasant women. So long as society is incapable of taking upon itself the material concern for the family, the mother can successfully fulfill a social function only on the condition that she has in her service a white slave: nurse, servant, cook, etx.

„A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified“

—  Leon Trotsky

Source: Their Morals and Ours (1938)
Context: 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.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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