Weekend Reading: Edmund Wilson (1940): Trotsky, History, and Providence (from "To the Finland Station"): History, then, with its dialectical Trinity, had chosen Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky to disillusion the middle class, had propounded revolutionary conclusions which it had compelled Father Gapon to bless, and will cruelly discredit and destroy certain Pharisees and Sadducees of Marxism before it summons the boiling lava of the Judgment.
These statements make no sense whatever unless one substitutes for the words history and dialectic of history the words Providence and God. And this Providential power of history is present in all the writings of Trotsky. John Jay Chapman said of Browning that God did duty in his work as noon, verb, adjective, adverb, interjection and prepositions; and the same is true of History with Trotsky...
...Of late, in his solitude and exile, this History, an austere spirit, has seemed actually to stand behind his chair as he writes, encouraging, admonishing, approving, giving him the courage to confound his accusers, who have never seen Historys face:
...What it may mean in moments of action to feel History towering at one's elbow with her avenging sword in her hand is shown in the remarkable scene at the first congress of the Soviet dictatorship after the success of the October insurrection of 1917, when Trotsky, with the contempt and indignation of a prophet, read Martov and his followers out of a meeting. "You are pitiful isolated individuals," he cried at the height of the Bolshevik triumph. "You are bankrupt; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on--into the garbage-pile of history!"
...These words are worth pondering for the light they throw on the course of Marxist politics and thought. Observe that the merging of yourself with the onrush of the current of history is to save you from the ignoble fate of being a "pitiful, isolated individual"; and that the failure so to merge yourself will relegate you to the garbage-pile of history, where you can presumably be of no more use.
...Today, though we may agree with the Bolsheviks that Martov was no man of action, his croakings over the course they had adopted seem to us full of far-sighted intelligence. He pointed out that proclaiming a socialist regime in conditions different from those contemplated by Marx would not realize the results that Marx expected; that Marx and Engels had usually described the dictatorship of the proletariat as having the form, for the new dominant class, of a democratic republic, with universal suffrage and the popular recall of officials; that the slogan "All power to the Soviets" had never really meant what it said and had soon been exchanged by Lenin for "All power to the Bolshevik Party."
...There sometimes can turn out to be valuable objects cast away in the garbage-pile of history--things that have to be retrieved later on. From the point of view of the Stalinist Soviet Union, that is where Trotsky himself is today; and he might well discard his earlier assumption that an isolated individual must needs be "pitiful" for the conviction of Dr. Stockman in Ibsen's Enemy of the People that "the strongest man is he who stands most alone."
#weekendreading #trotsky #history