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Interchange – Leon Trotsky, or The Revolution Betrayed

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Our show today is another in our series on the Russian Revolution of 1917. This time our focus is on Leon Trotsky. Our music throughout is by the 80s English, socialist, skinhead, soul, punk group, The Redskins. We open with “Lev Bronstein.”

The dream of socialism as an organizing principle has been deemed an inevitable failure — and logically undemocratic because what started in 1917 did, as a fact, devolve into one of history’s worst dictatorships under Stalin. But that history has been used to conclude that socialism inherently leads to that tyranny, holds it within its core. That narrative has been enthusiastically and uninterruptedly promoted in the west by capitalist powers ever since.

Of course socialism, the idea, was around before the Russian Revolution of 1917, and certainly before Stalin stormed the stage. And the ideals behind socialism, the economic system, trace back to philosophies, religions, and long-held, long-accepted human ideals.

So how did 1917 become the start of a very successful century of propaganda against socialism?

Lenin’s impetus for Revolution in Russia was to light a fuse for worldwide revolution: to turn Imperial First World War into Civil War in each country–Workers shouldn’t shoot at each other, they should unite and fight against the rulers who are telling them to shoot each other.

And it was the Socialism of Germany that led him to believe this was possible; but the German Social Democrats voted for War Credits, giving credence to a blend of patriotic imperialism, killing the chance for a world conflagration under socialist upheaval and starving the nascent socialism of soviets in it’s crib. Stranded, permanent revolution turned into “socialism in one country” which in turn became Stalin’s “revolution from above”: Communism by merciless, murderous diktat.

From within this crucible the revolutionary theorist, ruthless Red Army commander and plausible dictator in waiting, leader of the left opposition against the terrorism of Stalin’s bureaucratic abstractions, Leon Trotsky was cast: The Romantic Hero in Exile , and The Apostate Enemy of Lenin’s Revolution.

GUEST
Paul Le Blanc is a Professor of History at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and author of a short biography of Leon Trotsky from Reaktion Books, as well as Lenin and the Revolutionary Party from Haymarket Books, and his latest is on the Russian Revolution, titled October Song: Bolshevik Triumph, Communist Tragedy, 1917-1924, also from Haymarket.

PREVIOUS Episodes
Understanding Stalin with Hiroaki Kuromiya
The Past Is Uncertain with Alex Lichtenstein and Lars Lih

RELATED
Trotsky, Truth and Fiction by Paul Le Blanc
Interview with Paul Le Blanc (MR Online)
The Socialist Skinhead Soul of the Redskins

MUSIC
by The Redskins
“Lev Bronstein”
“Kick Over the Statues”
“Bring It Down”
“It Can Be Done”
“Let’s Make It Work”

CREDITS
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Assistant Producer: Rob Schoon
Executive Producer: Wes Martin

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