Monday, March 01, 2010

Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service Discuss Trotsky

Christopher Hitchens discusses Leon Trotsky with the author of a recent biography of Leon Trotsky, Robert Service. Hitchens defends Trotsky to the best of his ability. While this discussion is not a debate, Hitchens comes off weak, because he is discussing Trotsky in Service's language, that of clash of personalities and intrigues. The article by Rob Sewell is a clenched fist as opposed to Hitchens's taps.

Bolshevism and Stalinism

Written by Rob Sewell
Wednesday, 13 January 2010

An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. Here Rob Sewell sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the physical destruction of the Bolshevik party.




Craig Bardo said...

Sewell's rebuttal of Service is ineffective because he substitutes analysis with invective and pejoratives. His fundamental problem is similar to the flaw he sees in Service, an incapacity to understand.

Sewell complains that the first Soviet constitution didn't contemplate totalitarianism. Well that's comforting! The fundamental problem Sewell has is the same problem all Marxist theorists have, save Gramsci and the Fabians, which is failure to comprehend . . . human nature!

Frank Partisan said...

CB: The Marxist view of human nature, is that human nature is fluid, and variable. In some countries accepting cannibalism is normal human nature.

Ducky's here said...

... and yet CB, you also advocate a system that puts tremendous power in the hands of a minority and causes pretty serious crises.

Laissez-faire capitalism is no less a will to power and control than totalitarian Stalinism. Ayn Rand was a Stalinist. She just advocated a variation of the politburo.

sonia said...

There ARE effective ways to defend Trotsky, but both Hitchens and Sewell fails in different ways.

Sewell just repeats tired old clichés that have been repeated in various leftist publications over decades, and which completely ignores the actual psychopathic and genocidal reality of the Soviet Revolution that was only fully revealed after the fall of Communism in 1991.

And Hitchens is completely unlike himself in this piece, failing to make a single coherent or incisive point.

To me, Trotsky is above all a tragic figure. A canary in a coalmine. His tragic mistake was a naive belief that a revolution (any revolution) could be progressive. That's like believing that a fire might cool things down...

Craig Bardo said...


Given your belief that what we've experienced over the last several decades is "capitalism," I can understand your contempt for private ownership and activity organized around markets instead of central planners.

Let me try again. What we have in America is mercantilism or crony capitalism, whereby the government through various policies of subsidy, tariffs, via the tax code, regulation or direct participation, skews the playing field in favor of one market participant or another to the detriment or demise of the markets they enter.

Even with good intentions (which I never concede because of a proper understanding of human nature) central planners never have enough information to effectively allocate resources. They always create scarcity where it can't be tolerated or abundance where it is not needed. It simply doesn't work. The price control mechanisms in health care destruction will wreck the quality and create scarcity as it always happens with price controls - 100%, always with absolute certainty!

Deregulation, elimination of taxation and a complete exodus by central planners from markets will accomplish all of the do gooder objectives you say you want, improve quality and lower costs, improving access to whatever market. Every time you see market dominance, indeed monopoly or oligopoly models, the government has played a central role in its creation.

Back to Sewell, Sonia, very well stated!

Anonymous said...

Frank Partisan said...

Sonia: I would use Trotsky's actual writing and deeds, against Service's account. Service consciously said he wasn't going to respond to Trotsky's ideas.

An example is that Service says there is a discrepancy between Trotsky's first draft of his biography and what was published. He doesn't say what it is? He claims Trotsky hid the fact, his father his father was relatively wealthy. The first two chapters, are about that subject.

His main thesis is Trotsky tried to hide his Jewishness. Service even says Trotsky didn't have a Jewish nose.

Service preferred to concentrate on whether he had an affair with Frieda Kahlo.

What you raised is a political argument, which is above what Service did.

CB and Ducky: The more I found out about Service, the less important his book becomes. It is off topic to dwell on free enterprise.

Anonymous: The WSWS article was really good. It supplements Rob Sewell's article.

It is interesting that Service, possibly was a Stalinist in the 1960s. His writing method is Stalinist.

troutsky said...

The revolution of 1917 was doomed by objective factors, not something as mystical as "human nature". Lenin and Trotsky were too caught up in ideology to realize it and avert the disaster, so yes, they were tragic.

As for this "pure" capitalism, you may be correct CB that this would usher in utopia, but I have my serious doubts. History does provide some examples and they were barbaric, violent ( and yes, productive) times which brought out the worst in humans. It can only be proved through example so may the best man/woman win!

Craig Bardo said...


I really admire you and ren as thinkers as I've said before but what you call an objective factor (Stalin gaining control of the bureaucracies) is what I see as an inevitable consequence of human nature.

I have an admittedly romantic view of limited government but it's not utopian, it's more rational. It doesn't preclude working together or even occasionally receiving assistance from others but it requires me to soberly approach my self interest. It tells me Stalin's out there looking to use the force of the state if we allow it to become so strong as to compel me to do things it ought not.

Frank Partisan said...

Robert Service even exposed, that when Trotsky was a teen, he read a book, about winning debates as a slander.

Troutsky: It is incorrect that Lenin and Trotsky, didn't know bureaucracy will develop. They were fully aware Marxism is not compatible with underdevelopement.

CB: The bureaucracy developed because of underdevelopment, and economic isolation. The country was poor and illiterate. The professional class was the literate ones. They united around Stalin, to keep privileges.

One of these days the Tennessee Republican Party will coming begging Craig to run, for a major office.

Craig Bardo said...


They won't be courting me for several reasons, not the least of which is that despite popular belief, it is not a classically liberal party. They despise people like me. I just got through sending a very nasty e-mail to Bob Corker who continues to labor under the belief he is some sort of interparty broker or goodwill ambassador. His votes are not substantially different than Harold Ford's would have been.

Sonia, I looked at Hitchens again and I agree with you that he seemed off stride. I think he's battling cognitive dissonance because though seemingly articulate (the British often sound impressive to Americans simply by speaking English) his positions have morphed over the years often resulting in incoherence and logical inconsistency.

Larry Gambone said...

The reasons for the evolution of the Russian Revolution into Stalinism are complex, far too complex to deal with here, but has little to do with : 1. the original intent of the people who made the revolution, ie the Bolsheviks, anarcho-syndicalists and left-SR's. 2. the original intent of the Bolsheviks and especially Lenin and Trotsky 3. anything to do with the intrinsic nature of socialism. 4. anything to do with supposed human nature.

Attempts to argue along the aforementioned lines are little more than propaganda disguised as analysis. And I say this as someone who does not come from the Bolshevik milieu

sonia said...


And I say this as someone who does not come from the Bolshevik milieu

I certainly hope so. The closest United States has to a "Bolshevik milieu" can be found behind prison walls (especially among the guards) or at KKK and Nation of Islam rallies...

Bolsheviks weren't progressives. They were tight-ass control freaks. After the tsar's wishy-washy incompetence and Kerensky's anarchy, they were welcomed by many Russians longing for some stability and iron-fisted rules. Stalin didn't invent that. He merely extended the iron-fist rule from Communism's opponents to Communism's supporters.

Larry Gambone said...

Actually Sonia, the Bolsheviks were a complex and contradictory bunch. Some like Alexandra Kollontai, Victor Serge, Bill Shatov, etc. were near anarchists. Prior to the banning of factions in 1922 - when both the Democratic Centralist and Workers Opposition (Kollontaist - this was before Trotsky's WO) - were forced to disband, the party was anything but the iron disciplined totalitarian vanguard that it would become under Stalin.

By the way, glad to have you back.

Frank Partisan said...

CB: Politics is dynamic. The Republican Party of say 1972, isn't the party of 2010. It's odd they don't notice, someone who loves polemics.

I think Hitchens evolved to becoming trite. I agree with him intellectually about religion. I disagree its a battle of ideas. The New Atheists tend to be arrogant.

Sonia: You might find it interesting that Robert Service denies what happened in Russia in 1917, was a revolution. He calls it a coup.

Bolsheviks weren't progressives. They were tight-ass control freaks..

That's not precise political language. A capitalist government can only be democratic, Bonapartist or fascist. A socialist government can be democratic or Bonapartist. Under Lenin only one person was expelled. Bolsheviks printed newspapers attacking Lenin.

I think if Lenin and Trotsky didn't live in Russia in 1917, probably Kerensky would have adopted some reforms as a land distribution program and getting out of the war. Lenin and Trotsky had a program and charisma, enough to change history.

Nothing is worse for country than isolation and underdevelopment.

Lenin banning other parties, is related to them picking up guns.

Read Lenin's State and Revolution, and you see how he felt about democracy. Incidentally that book was banned or hard to find in Stalinist states. Amazing how much of Lenin is unknown in places like North Korea.

Bottom line is that Russia was poor, isolated, illiterate and the German and Chinese Revolution failed. Stalin came out of the conditions.

Larry G: Trotsky turning down the position as head of civil service, and Stalin taking it, provided Stalin with the base for his bureaucracy.

sonia said...


Bolsheviks were a complex and contradictory bunch. Some (...)were near anarchists. Prior to (...) 1922.

Well, tell me what those alleged anarchists did after April 11-12, 1918, when Dzierzynski's Cheka launched an assault against more than 20 anarchists strongholds in Moscow. 520 anarchists were captured - and many later executed.


Lenin banning other parties, is related to them picking up guns.

Yes, it is. It was a struggle to death. Bolsheviks captured by their opponents (whether tsarists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries or anarchists) were often savagely tortured to death.

Under Lenin only one person was expelled. Bolsheviks printed newspapers attacking Lenin.

Lenin (...) how he felt about democracy.

For Lenin, the only democracy permitted was INSIDE Communist party. That's what made him different from Stalin.

Larry Gambone said...

Sonia, I am not aware of what Kollontai, etc felt about those arrests, but this would make a lovely research topic! All I can say is that the Bolsheviks were at this time a party of several tendencies. It would be quite possible that one tendency would be opposed to the arrests. Keep in mind that we anarchists were divided as well, between illegalists and syndicalists. The later were not suppressed until 1920. I suspect the Cheka was going after the illegalists, but I am not sure.

Larry Gambone said...

I should add that I don't absolve the Bolsheviks from doing things that did help set the course for Stalinism. My difference with Service and yourself is that I don't reduce the advent of Stalinism alone to the Bolsheviks. The material conditions that Ren wrote about plays the major role.

It was a very complex situation and everyone wants to use it as a way of making their own ideology look correct or good. I think we should be above this by now and try to search out the truth in as near an unbiased way as possible. This is why, while most anarchists "Blame everything on the Bolshies", I do not go that far...

Larry Gambone said...

Ren, the Stalinists also sat on Marx's 1844 Manuscripts and his Critique of the Gotha Programme too, I believe. Too radical and too democratic!

Anonymous said...


Frank Partisan said...

馬甲: I went to Google translation. Thank you.

Sonia: A combat party, allowing its own members to print opposing views in public, without expulsion, is not a totalitarian party. Stalin was really afraid of debate.

A slogan like All Power To The Soviets, is not Bonapartist. Guess what? Some soviets were anticommunist. Hardly a monolith. Totalitarians don't raise slogans like that.

Soviet Russia was the first society to give gays legal rights. Stalin reversed it.

The backwardness and isolation, caused Stalinism. Failed revolution in Germany, Hungary and China meant it had to be a deformed socialism in Russia.

Larry G: Stalin represented the people in the bureaucracy, who because they were literate, they got higher paying jobs. Not personality but conditions. This group became privileged. Bureaucracy grew out of conditions.

dinoibo said...

Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading
Sesli sohbet Sesli chat
Seslisohbet Seslichat
Sesli sohbet siteleri Sesli chat siteleri
Sesli Chat
Sohbet Sesli siteler
Sohbet siteleri Chat siteleri
Sohbet merkezi chat merkezi
Sesli merkezi sesli Sohbet merkezi
Sesli chat merkezi Sohbetmerkezi
Sesli Sohbet Sesli Chat
SesliSohbet Sesli chat siteleri
Sesli sohbet siteleri SesliChat
Sesli Sesli siteler
Seslimuhabbet sesli muhabbet
sesli sohbet sesli chat siteleri
sesli sohbet siteleri sesli chat
seslisohbet seslichat
seslikent sesli kent
sesli sohbet sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli chat sesli chat siteleri
seslisohbet seslichat

designer handbags for cheap said...

designer handbags purses
designer inspired handbags
designer handbags prada snakeskin
designer leather handbags
designer inspired leather handbags