David R. Henderson  

Raico on Howe and Trotsky

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[Irving] Howe ends by saying of Trotsky that "the example of his energy and heroism is likely to grip the imagination of generations to come," adding that, "even those of us who cannot heed his word may recognize that Leon Trotsky, in his power and his fall, is one of the titans of our century."

This is the kind of writing that covers the great issues of right and wrong in human affairs with a blanket of historicist snow. The fact is that Trotsky used his talents to take power in order to impose his willful dream--the abolition of the market, private property, and the bourgeoisie. His actions brought untold misery and death to his country.

Yet, to the end of his life, he tried in every way he could to bring the Marxist revolution to other peoples--to the French, the Germans, the Italians, even the Americans--with what probable consequences if successful, he, better than anyone else, had reason to know. He was a champion of thought-control, prison camps, and the firing squad for his opponents, and of forced labor for ordinary, non-brilliant working people. He openly defended chattel slavery--which, even in our century, must surely put him into a quite select company.

He was an intellectual who never asked himself such a simple question as: "What reason do I have to believe that the economic condition of workers under socialism will be better than under capitalism?" To the last, he never permitted himself to glimpse the possibility that the bloody, bureaucratic tyranny over which Stalin presided might never have come into existence but for his own efforts.

A hero? Well, no, thank you--I'll find my own heroes elsewhere. A titan of the twentieth century? In a sense, yes. Leon Trotsky shares with the other "titans" of our century this characteristic: it would have been better if he had never been born.

This is from Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by historian Ralph Raico, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010, pp. 175-176, available at a zero price here. Highly recommended.

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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Hyena writes:

I've never really understood communist hagiographies or why they exist in the West, which has been blessedly free of these saints.

One professor I knew, who had been a communist at one point (maybe still is, who knows) said that it was because communism was "oppositional", it allowed him to oppose an entire system he'd become cynical of.

But why they flee to communism is strange to me. I fled to anarchism in the same position.

Kurbla writes:

I've read essay "Marxist Dreams and Soviet Realities" with emphasize on the mass murders, but Raico doesn't mention that Marx was opposed to capital punishment. It is certainly essential cite for attempted comparison. Similarly, he writes on Marxist idea of freedom, but he doesn't cite well known Marx's paragraph from German Ideology (I cited it recently, Google Kurbla Heilbroner) which describes exactly what kind of freedom worker can enjoy in the society he imagined. I'd say that this essay is well bellow the standard that is required from professional historian.

I've read few others essays, and although these are interesting reading, in light of the first essay, I am not sure how objective and knowledgeable he is. Essay on Trotsky is relatively good, although the best support for Raico's thesis, Trotsky's defence of Lenin's order that Tzar's children should be murdered, from Revolution Betrayed again seems to be missing.

I'm pleasantly surprised that Raico condemned A-bombing of Japan (but he didn't advocated opening of the Museum on Hiroshima - he should as cleaning own doorsteps first is the norm.) The essay Nazifying the Germans is particularly odd, with conclusion that "the growing secularization of Judaism and the moral disarray of our culture will continue to make victims of the Germans and all the peoples of the West."

FC writes:

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