A police photograph of Leon Trotsky taken around 1900.Years prior to the Bolshevik seizure of power, Lenin and many other young revolutionaries who voiced their opposition to the backward Czarist regime were condemned to exile in Siberia. Among them was Leon Davidovitch Bronstein, alias Leon Trotsky, who was sentenced to four years in the frozen wilderness. Trotsky was a Marxist, like Lenin and knew him well, but he initially sided with a softer faction socialism rather than Lenin’s hard-line Bolsheviks. He later switched his allegiance to Lenin when both were financed by western bankers to seize power in October 1917. Thereafter, he became second in command of the Bolsheviks, founded the Red army, and was every bit as infamous as Lenin.

Trotsky was born in 1879 in a small rural village, Yankova, in southern Ukraine. His father, although illiterate, was a relatively wealthy farmer. Resourceful and acquisitive, Bronstein senior owned over 250 acres of land and became a substantial employer. Both of Trotsky’s parents were Jewish, but unlike his agrarian father, his mother was an educated and cultured city dweller from Odessa. Religious observance was of little importance to either, but they sent Leon to a beder, a Jewish school. [1]

In 1902 Trotsky escaped from exile in Siberia, leaving behind his wife Alexandra and their two young daughters. According to Trotsky, it was Alexandra who had insisted that he put his duty to revolution before family. [2] Trotsky blamed ‘fate’ for their separation, but his actions suggested unbridled pragmatism and ‘an urge to free himself from a burden in order to move on to higher things.’ [3] Soon after abandoning his wife and children in Siberia, he divorced Alexandra and married Natalia Sedova, daughter of a wealthy merchant.

In the early years of the century numerous other revolutionaries, who had either completed their exile or escaped from Siberia, left Russia for cities in Western Europe. Many thousands more made their way to New York where they formed a powerful revolutionary group in exile. Banned from St Petersburg, Lenin and a fellow activist, Julius Martov, settled in Munich in Germany where they promoted the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). Lenin believed the party had to be run from outside Russia. The RSDLP called its journal Iskra (The “Spark”) believing that from that spark, the flame of revolution would spring: ‘The agents would distribute it, spread party propaganda through local cells and channel information to the Central Committee. The journal would help create a cohesive party that until then had consisted of a series of independent groups.’ [4] Lenin firmly believed Karl Marx’s dictum that capitalism would inevitably disintegrate in Russia and elsewhere because it carried within it the forces of its own destruction. Thereafter, power would be grasped by the workers, the men and women who had been exploited by capital. So the theory ran.

Friends together before the 1903 split. Trotsky seated left, Lenin seated centre and Martov seated to the right.

In late 1901, harassed by the Munich police, Lenin and the Iskra editors moved to Finsbury in London where they were joined for a time by Leon Trotsky. Arguments about the best means of instigating revolution in Russia and elsewhere led to ever increasing conflict, especially between Lenin and his friend and comrade, Julius Martov. Internal wrangling exploded at the 1903 party congress which began in Brussels in July, but was suspended after pressure by the Russian embassy led to fear of police persecution and forced the delegates to complete their business in London. It was ‘the first major conference that was truly representative of party delegates from Russia and all over Europe’. [5] The congress was attended by representatives of 25 recognised social-democratic organisations who had two votes each. For some reason each representative of the Jewish workers organisation, the Bund, had three votes ‘in virtue of the special status … accorded to it by the first congress.’ [6]

The congress was dominated by the Iskra group, but Lenin realized that he could not carry the party forward in the way he desired, so he deliberately split it. Consequently, the revolutionaries divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ factions. Lenin wanted clear-cut, perfectly defined relationships within the party, and behind the scenes there was a struggle for the support of every individual delegate. Lenin tried to convince Trotsky that he should join the ‘hard’ faction, but he refused. [7]

Lenin in his younger years.

The ‘hard’ faction was led by Lenin who proclaimed his followers to be the bolshinstvo, the ‘men in the majority’, and thereafter they became known as the Bolsheviks. Marxist intellectuals and those of a less intense ideology were attracted to the ‘soft’ faction while the hard Bolshevik group, although it had its share of intellectuals, was favoured more by provincial party workers and professional revolutionaries: “the bacteria of the revolution” as Lenin called them. Basically, the ‘softs’ favoured debate while the hard-line Bolsheviks were militants who considered themselves exclusively the champions of the Russian working class.

Lenin wanted a party he was able to control tightly, and did so through a team of highly disciplined secret workers employed in a semi-military fashion. It was his brainchild, his party, and above all it was his aim to make it the instrument for revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy, despite the knowledge that ‘it could not be achieved without countless victims.’ [8]

Julius Martov’s group, including Alexander Kerensky, was allegedly the minority (menshinstvo) in the RSDLP and became known as the Mensheviks. They favoured the establishment of a parliamentary form of government like the French Republic. At first Mensheviks sought to work within the system, believing that revolution in Russia would be started by the middle classes, not the proletariat. Although he flatly refused to join the Bolsheviks, Trotsky was never truly at home with the Mensheviks and aimed to occupy the middle ground. [9] He was an internationalist who believed in the abolition of all territorial borders. This, of course, sat well with the long-term globalist goal of dissolution of independent nation states and implementation of one world government so dear to the heart of the Secret Elite. When the Mensheviks ignored Trotsky’s call for reconciliation, he effectively distanced himself from the Bolsheviks. Though nominally still a Menshevik, he attended the Fifth Party Congress of the Bolsheviks in London in 1907 where he met Joseph Stalin. [10]

Lenin subscribed to the consensus view within the RSDLP that revolution should lead to a ‘constituent assembly’ elected by the whole people on the basis of ‘universal, equal and direct suffrage, and with secrecy of the ballot’, but it was the manner in which it could be brought which differentiated his stance from the ‘soft’ Mensheviks. He scoffed at their call for a peaceful democratic processes. ‘Without armed insurrection’ he thundered, ‘a constituent assembly is a phantom, a phrase, a lie, a Frankfort talking-shop’. [11] At the third all-Bolshevik congress in London in April 1905, Lenin gave a long speech on the need for an armed uprising and expressed outrage that the Mensheviks had invited the Social Democrats to take part in elections to the czarist parliament. He considered the slow process of parliamentary reform as blasphemy and his language towards the Mensheviks grew more extreme. That in turn made party reunification impossible. [12]

Julius Martov

Julius Martov, encouraged by Trotsky, considered ending the divisions, but Lenin regarded reunification of the party as an opportunity for the Bolsheviks to swallow up the Mensheviks. In the end Martov, who wanted to retain democratic principles within the Party, rejected this compromise. In 1908 he wrote to his Menshevik comrade Pavel Axelrod: ‘I confess that more and more I think that even nominal involvement with this bandit gang is a mistake’. [13] It was this same Bolshevik ‘bandit gang’ that took control of Russia in October 1917 backed by the international bankers. In the final analysis, the difference between the two factions boiled down to the Bolsheviks’ concept of socialism on the basis of a dictatorship, and the Mensheviks’ on the basis of democracy’. [14] The split widened and deepened until it led to a formal separation after 1912. [15]

Lenin and Trotsky traded insults over the years. Trotsky’s deeply held belief lay in the democratic ‘Westernising’ principle, but Lenin considered him evasive, underhand, and ‘merely posing as a leftist’. Trotsky retorted that ‘the entire structure of Leninism is at present based on lies and falsification and carries within it the poisonous seeds of its own destruction.’ [16] According to Trotsky, Lenin had lost sight of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and had become a despot who spoke of the victory of the proletariat when he really meant victory over the proletariat. [17] Trotsky was correct but his instinct was insufficiently strong to maintain the rift between them, especially, as we will shortly detail, wealthy outside influences drew them together.

1. Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky, The Eternal Revolutionary, pp. 2-3.
2. Leon Trotsky, My Life, p. 132.
3. Volkogonov, Trotsky, pp. 11-12.
4. Michael Pearson, The Sealed Train, Journey to Revolution, p. 26.
5. Ibid., p. 30.
6. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, p. 26.
7. Trotsky, My Life, p. 160.
8. Dimitri Volkogonov, Lenin, Life and Legacy, p. xxxii.
9. Pearson, The Sealed Train, p. 31.
10. Volkcogonov, Trotsky, p. 47.
11. E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, p. 86.
12. Volkcogonov, Lenin, p. 84.
13. Volkogonov, Lenin, Life and Legacy, pp. 85-86.
14. Ibid.
15. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, p.26.
16. Volkogonov, Trotsky, pp. 30-31.
17. Pearson, The Sealed Train, p. 32.