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Trotsky's Gas Warfare and Today's Left
September 19, 2017
by William P. Meyers

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Red and White was the Leninist Black and White

Seattle is a predominantly Democratic Party city. It also has a substantial left-of-Dems movement that has been sufficient to elect a Trotskyist city council member, Kshama Sawant. Recently an independent socialist, Nikkita Oliver, almost made it to the runoff for Mayor. In a crowded field she came in ahead of an ex-mayor, an ex-state representative, and a current state senator. But the main contention is still between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters, or progressives vs. liberals.

Most Americans, even including Democratic Party organizers who might want to try to influence the left, lump all the left together. That is a mistake. Conservatives think the left is Communist or Marxist, with little understanding of those terms. Socialist is a near-meaningless term when it includes the likes of Bernie Sanders, other non-Marxist socialists, Marxist democratic-socialists, and the undemocratic socialists known as Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and etc. Finally, there are a variety of anarchist trends, and many leftists are more focused on the environment, other single issues, or on identity issues than on quibbling about the Russian Revolution.

I am writing about Trotskyism for two reasons: they have managed to irritate me lately, and I came across yet another now-obscure bit of history: the Tambov Rebellion and Leon Trotsky's role in that.

Trotsky and his followers, including present-day ones, can sound like run-of-the-mill socialists when they want to do so. But Trotsky preferred bloody revolution to democratic change. He had his own little leftist cult in Russia before World War I, but joined with Lenin's Bolsheviks in time for the Russian Revolution. Or rather, in time for the counter-revolution. "Trotsky was living in New York City when the February Revolution of 1917 overthrew Tsar Nicholas II." [Leon Trotsky, Wikipedia]

Lenin & pals would infiltrate and later overthrow the leftist provisional government and the people's soviets. While they converted some rival leftist to their party, mostly they imprisoned and executed any leftist who disagreed with them. By leftist, I would include anyone who was not a czarist. This included some who were to the left of Lenin: anyone who disagreed for any reason. The czarists became known as "whites," the Bolsheviks (a specific brand of communism, at that time) as "reds."

Even today Trotskyists (and other Leninists, including Stalinists) white out what really happened during this period by calling everyone who opposed them "whites." See almost any book on the Russian Revolution to see a variety of leftist groups entering it, with only Communist Party members emerging alive.

Many groups opposed the establishment of a dictatorship by Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. Ssome of them were indeed czarists or wanted to set up a capitalist-controlled "democracy." Foreign powers, including America, intervened as well. The Red Army, commanded by Trotsky, defeated them all. In Leninist retelling all of the opposition was reactionary. In reality much of the opposition was leftist.

My new case to point: the Tambov Rebellion of 1920. I came across this when I was researching the history of gas warfare in World War I. Both the Allies and the Central Powers used gas warfare. There were a lot of gas armaments left unused when the war ended. When the mighty Red Army was unable to defeat the peasant rebels of Tambov (the Red soldiers were not keen on killing leftist peasants; many deserted), Trotsky or someone under him had a bright idea. They saturated hundreds of square kilometers of the Tambov countryside with poison gas. Total deaths among the rebels (including civilians) were perhaps 240,000.

So I think it is important to know which socialists are Bernie supporters and which are openly or secretly Trotsky supporters.

I know a fair amount about Trotskyism because, during my angry, radical youth, I twice worked with, and almost joined, Trotskyist groups. Clue number 1: they never have the name Trotsky in their party name. Clue 2: They have books written by Trotsky at their literature tables. Clue 3: the books are largely, or exclusively, written after Trotsky left the Soviet Union and pretended he liked democracy, and that only Stalin was a bloodthirsty dictator. Clue 4: if you actually question the leaders, they know about the multiple types of leftists Trotsky murdered, and they defend it.

Neither Trotsky himself nor any Trotskyist group has ever successfully led a revolution against a government, post the Russian Revolution. So I doubt they will ever be in a position to murder the rest of the left. Mainly they are a pain in the ass, shouting revolutionary slogans to people who have no interest in becoming revolutionaries. Some give very nice speeches, leaving out their plan to murder everyone at a peace rally or civil rights rally that does not agree to let them run the world. Once they do get power.

Most sane people go through a learning curve and don't remain Trots long. But the leaders particularly like to recruit nerdy academic types whose lack of real-world experience makes them susceptible to memorizing ideological nonsense.

Also, lots of trots want to be Trotsky, not a subordinate. At least back in the 1980's whenever a group grew to about 50 people it tended to slit in two, ostensibly on some ideological point, but really because someone new got it in their head to be a leader.

Finally, I would like to say that both Stalinists and Trotskyists typically treat Lenin as a saint. I see Lenin as an egomaniac, a reactionary who did not understand human diversity, who just wanted to liquidate anyone who disagreed with him. Just like Stalin and Trotsky.

 

 

 

 

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