Leon Trotsky A Revolutionary's Life Joshua Rubenstein

Jewish Lives
Publication date:
15 Oct 2011
Yale University Press
240 pages: 210 x 140 x 19mm
1 b-w illus.
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Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in southern Ukraine, Trotsky was both a world-class intellectual and a man capable of the most narrow-minded ideological dogmatism. He was an effective military strategist and an adept diplomat, who staked the fate of the Bolshevik revolution on the meager foundation of a Europe-wide Communist upheaval. He was a master politician who played his cards badly in the momentous struggle for power against Stalin in the 1920s. And he was an assimilated, indifferent Jew who was among the first to foresee that Hitler's triumph would mean disaster for his fellow European Jews, and that Stalin would attempt to forge an alliance with Hitler if Soviet overtures to the Western democracies failed. Here, Trotsky emerges as a brilliant yet flawed man.

Rubenstein offers us a Trotsky who is mentally acute and impatient with others, one of the finest students of contemporary politics who refused to engage in the nitty-gritty of party organization in the 1920s, when Stalin was manoeuvering, inexorably, toward Trotsky's own political oblivion. As Joshua Rubenstein writes in his preface, 'Leon Trotsky haunts our historical memory. A preeminent revolutionary figure and a masterful writer, Trotsky led an upheaval that helped to define the contours of twentieth-century politics'. In this lucid and judicious evocation of Trotsky's life, Joshua Rubenstein gives us an interpretation for the twenty-first century.

Joshua Rubenstein was a staff member of Amnesty International USA from 1975 to 2012 and is a longtime associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

"It is both a good read and a balanced, plausible interpretation of the man in his times... He sees things to admire in Trotsky and things to deplore. Seeking to understand how Trotsky saw the world, while not sharing that vision, he achieves the mixture of empathy and critical distance that a good biographer needs."—Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Guardian

"An exemplary biography... Rubenstein depicts Trotsky as a tragic hero, a complex man whose brilliance and fallibility were inseparable."--Judith Maas, Jewish Advocate

"Rubenstein handles complex issues sensitively in this accessible introduction to a flawed but fascinating 20th-century giant."—John McIlroy, Times Higher Education