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Leon Trotsky and 1905

Ian Thatcher refuses to take Trotsky at his own valuation.

1905 was not only a momentous year for Late-Imperial Russia, it also marked an important turning-point in Leon Trotsky’s life. It was precisely in 1905 that, as Trotsky himself stated, he first advanced the theory of permanent revolution; a doctrine that was to be associated with him until his death and beyond. If this were not enough, 1905 was a notable event in Trotsky’s life for other reasons. It offered him a first opportunity of participating in an actual revolutionary situation.

Trotsky acted as a revolutionary journalist and orator. He joined the St Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies and briefly, for one week, became one of three co-chairman of the Soviet’s Executive Committee. He was then arrested, tried and convicted. During the trial of the Soviet’s deputies, Trotsky made a characteristically flourishing denouncement of Tsarism from the witness stand. He did not meekly accept his punishment of internal exile, and soon he effected a successful escape, described in real boys’ own adventure fashion in the essay ‘There and Back’. Trotsky emerged from 1905, if only in his own writings, with a reputation as a man of action, as a revolutionary of great courage and daring. This essay will focus upon what Trotsky actually did in 1905. In particular, it will question whether the claims made on his own behalf, in his autobiography of the late-1920s, are true.

1905: Trotsky as Revolutionary

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