Friday, October 31, 2014

From October to Brest Litovsk, by Leon Trotsky

And suddenly we jump from the Crimean War (1855) to the Communist takeover of Russia (1917).  I pulled out the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) to help fill in missing details.  After the Crimean War, there was a brief period of reform, which was quashed under Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicolas II.  A policy of Russianization was promoted across the empire, while conquests of new territories continued.  The Revolution of 1905 came along in which another attempt was forced onto Nicolas II to establish a constitutional republic.  Efforts to establish a legislature (the Duma), however, failed due to the fact that every bonkers opinion of Western Europe was being promoted and nothing sensible could possibly result.  What isn't in the EB article due to when it was written is a description of World War I and its consequences on the economy and morale of Russia.

With that as a context, Trotsky provides an analysis of events from 1917 to 1918.  Being a communist, the article is full of techno-babble worthy of a Star Trek script, which makes this a little challenging to follow and will always leave me somewhat in doubt as to whether or not I understand what it is that he thinks he understands, or at least that I understand the message that he intends for me to understand.  Or maybe it is his intent that I misunderstand what it is that he understands.  One can never quite be sure with communists.

In the beginning of this book, Trotsky discusses how the collapse of the czarist regime is accompanied by various middle class educated types being looked to for guidance by army units and soviets.  The EB article, however, maintains that there was no real "middle class".  Trotsky portrays his movement as being against that of "Bourgeois Liberalism", which I understand to be classic Liberalism, which is what we would label Reactionary Tea Party Conservatism today.  As is clear from EB article, this never really ever got a foothold in Russia, so we have the classic leftist reaction against a fictitious hegemony that is supposedly ruling, but in fact never existed.  The czarist regime's bureaucracy is denounced, while the educated middle class is deemed incompetent, and thus the only hope Trotsky sees remaining is leadership and authority coming from the oppressed serfs.  As if the uneducated serfs might spontaneously produce a profound and workable concept of empire governance out of a vacuum.  

So this work is just starting on my play list.  I doubt that I can begin to grasp this period sensibly from one book.  It remains a great wonder that a people who were utterly exasperated at universal slavery under a hereditary nobility should have embraced a promise of freedom, only to find themselves under a new system of universal slavery under a communist thugocracy.  This thugocracy remained until recently when Russia finally embraced "Bourgeois Liberalism", not as BL was intended, but as the communist intellectuals misrepresented it.  So let's listen to more of Trotsky's blathering.

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