Sunday, November 27, 2011

As the Tsar went so goes Trotsky

Not much in this world is as veritable treasure of contradictions, cruelties, ironies and stories as USSR and communism. During my usual treasure hunting at an old bookstore I found "Trotsky's Diary in Exile 1935" by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky, for those who do not know, was considered second only to Lenin himself in the Revolution. Trotsky was respected as a great intellectual. In later years Trotsky fell out with Stalin and was exiled from USSR. While living as an exile in Mexico Trotsky was assassinated by a Stalin agent.

Trotsky's entry for April 9th is chilling. One of the mysteries of the Revolution was how the Tsar's family was murdered. Every member of the Romanov family was killed in a cellar, or it is said. The story of Anastasia, the missing Romanov princess, inspired a Hollywood movie starring Yul Brynner and the undoubtedly beautiful Ingrid Bergman (Kollywood robbed the movie to make a Rajni+ Sri Devi starrer 'Adutha Vaarisu'). Trotsky narrates a tale in his diary. It needs to be quoted in full:

" Talking to Sverdlov, I asked in passing: "oh yes, and where is the Tsar?",he answered, "he has been shot"." "And where is the family?""and the family along with him." "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise. "All of them" replied Sverdlov. "And who made the decision?" I asked. "We decided it here. Illyich believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally around..".

Trotsky then continues remorselessly, "(and) considered the matter closed. Actually the decision was not only expedient but necessary." The prize for Freudian slip that shines a light into the darkest corners of these so called revolutionaries goes to this:"The severity of this summary justice showed the world tat we would continue to fight on mercilessly, stopping at nothing. The execution of the Tsar's family was need not only in order to frighten, horrify, and dishearten the enemy, but also to shake up our own ranks.

What makes the reading of that diary page so gripping and spine chilling is it is written by a man who is fleeing for his dear life from a blood thirsty tyrant who also was interested in " frighten, horrify, and dishearten the enemy". The irony reaches biblical portions when one reads just a few days before that Trotsky worries about his own family, including his first wife, left back in Moscow. Stalin promptly sent all to the Gulags and then dispatched an assassin to kill Trotsky. Trotsky was struck by an ice-axe and died a few days later. I am not sure if he thought how Stalin would characterize this killing as "not only expedient but necessary"

Most anti-communist literature focuses on the atrocities of Stalin. Very few know that Lenin himself was a monster. Lenin, according to Soviet archives recently opened, would draw up lists of doctors and educated people to be killed. Maxim Gorki, who had a love hate relationship with Lenin, would plead with Lenin to go easy on the killings. David Remnick, author of Pulitzer winning "Lenin's Tomb" on the downfall of communism, wrote in his essay on Lenin for Time's 100 greatest Leaders in the centenary issue, "Stalin was a lamb compared to Lenin". Lenin and Trotsky were not fated to live long or at the helm and only that fate saved millions from their hands and delivered the millions to Stalin instead.

The Soviet Union was a terror machine more to its own citizenry than to others. Communism killed mostly its own citizenry. Nazism in a perverse logic declared a section of its own people as not German and THEN killed them. Che Guvera sitting in Cuban jungles would dispense Trotsky's "summary justice" horrifying even Castro.

Tatyana Tosltaya, great niece of Tolstoy, in her "Pushkin's Children" muses on this blood lust by communes revolutionaries and the Tsar's before them. Her theory is that Russians have a streak of violence interwoven in the culture and it spills over.

The diary itself is an interesting read. Trotsky's biggest complaint against, Emma Goldman, an American communist and highly respected revolutionary, was that Emma was an "individualist". Trotsky goes for a hair cut in France and his barber talks to him about Charlie Chaplin.

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