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Trotsky in 1905

Rex Winsbury describes how the attempted Russian Revolution of 1905 was the prologue to greater events in 1917.

Not only was the Russian Revolution of 1905 to prove, in Leon Trotsky’s own words, ‘a majestic prologue to the revolutionary drama of 1917’, but it also lifted Trotsky himself out of the ruck of obscure political exiles and thrust him into the front rank of Russian revolutionaries, at the early age of twenty-six.

The year opened with the massacre of unarmed civilians in Petersburg on ‘Bloody Sunday’, January 9th, and ended with the arrest in December of the Petersburg Workers’ Soviet, now led by Trotsky, and with the suppression of an armed workers’ uprising in Moscow. After the 1905 revolution was over, Trotsky had earned himself almost automatic entry into the leadership of any future revolution that might break out in Russia.

Trotsky’s elevation to fame in 1905 is all the more striking because few of the other leading Russian revolutionaries in exile gained much credit from the upheaval of that year. Anatoly Lunacharsky, the future Bolshevik Commissar for Education, records that ‘of all the Social Democratic leaders of 1905 and 1906, Trotsky undoubtedly showed himself, in spite of his youth, the most thoroughly prepared; least of all he bore the imprint of a certain emigre narrowness which impeded even Lenin at that time... and he came out of the revolution with the greatest gain in popularity’.

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