[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.