Housekeeping chores up front, as always. Here is the link to Part A of this series. If you are reading ALL 3 series from the beginning, then link to Part A, and that will contain a link to all the previous entries for Part I and Part II. Then read III-A, and then this one, which is III-B. Got it?
Professor Chase begins Part III of his monograph “Trotsky In Mexico” with an italicized question:
“How can we draw a line between these interests of Trotsky [by which he means Trotsky’s interest in finding a safer asylum in the U.S.] and his political ambitions? This is one of the questions for an historian. How to interpret the behavior of people when it is inseparable from their ideological convictions?”
Well, for starters (and I must warn you, Dear Readers, that most of this post is going to be my polemic against Professor Chase), the question itself is not valid, in my view. People are complicated. Behavior can and should be separated from ideological convictions. For example, a male socialist who is is ideologically dedicated to female equality, could still mistreat individual women (there are examples of that in history), carrying over behaviors and attitudes from perhaps a patriarchal-style family upbringing. Ideology takes place in the frontal lobe of the brain, whereas behavior takes place in the backal lobe. According to Trotsky’s communist ideology, the United States was an egregiously imperialist power, its government dedicated to squashing the workers.
Trotsky’s own American faction and flagship Party of his Fourth International, the Socialist Workers Party, around this time carried on a principled struggle against the American government of Franklin Roosevelt. They supported strikes and other actions against the government. (Unlike the Stalinist Communist Party, by the way, which felt all too comfortable living under an FDR administration). In this manner, Trotsky was in principled opposition to the American government. But biologically, he might have felt that America was a safer place for his family to live, than Mexico. And the safety of his family was really important to him. I actually do not see a contradiction here, except for people of very rigid thinking mode.
Furthermore, Professor Chase shows his own ideological bias in almost every sentence of his monograph. I previously stipulated that the monograph is a valid work of a valid historian, and that Chase adduced a few valuable nuggets of real history. Therefore I now feel entitled to deduct points on his “artistic presentation”, as a figure skating judge might say. Virtually every word penned by Professor Chase drips with contempt for, and bias against, Trotsky. The whole monograph has a pro-Stalinist slant, and the only thing which prevents me from name-calling Professor Chase a Stalinist stooge, is that I know he isn’t one. Because I see in his bibliography that he has written other books highly critical of Stalin, and of the Soviet Union in general. To me, this pegs him as a generalized bourgeois, anti-Communist, ideologically speaking. One who detests both Stalin and Trotsky; but I would bet money that, if he had to make a choice, gun to head, in some kind of bizarre Fuck-Marry-Kill game, he would choose to kill Trotsky rather than Stalin.
Why? Because Stalin was the more “conservative” of the two. Sure, Stalin was a brute, but he wasn’t really any threat to the major capitalist nations of the world, he just wanted to be left alone with his Nomenklatura cronies to build the Soviet state. Whereas Trotsky also wanted to build the Soviet state and live a normal life; but simultaneously wanted the Comintern to be separate from the Soviet Foreign Office, and to have the authority to plot working-class revolutions in other countries, like Spain, for example, without having to look over their shoulders at the nimble twists and turns of Soviet foreign policy. That’s the dialectic in action! Dialectic being a concept that I think Stalin never understood, he being of a somewhat one-dimensional mindset.
When Professor Chase speaks of Trotsky’s “political ambitions”, as if that were a bad thing, he also shows his ignorance of the Marxist-Leninist subculture. Chase is like an anthropologist studying a tribe whose customs he does not fully understand. Which is fine, except that he takes sides in an inter-tribal dispute. Which is always a huge mistake, Professor! Ideologically dedicated Marxist-Leninists literally believed (and still believe) that the very existence of the human race depends on proletarian revolutions succeeding in the major nations of the planet. Trotsky himself stated this apocalyptic view quite succintly, in a phrase he borrowed from Rosa Luxemburg: “Socialism Or Barbarism”. This is a stark view, and not necessarily an incorrect one, when you look around and see how the world is rapidly degenerating into chaos under the benevolent rule of our Capitalist Overlords. If things continue along this path, we shall shortly be ruled by filthy smelly apes — oh wait — that already happened!
And — here is the main point — even if you personally don’t believe in such an eschatological philosophy, you must know that both Lenin and Trotsky believed this. They, along with Rosa Luxemburg, watched the senseless butchery of World War I, and they came to this conclusion, and they totally believed it. With every fibre of their being. Hence, the Marxist-Leninist deductionary path leads to this:
- Without proletarian revolution, mankind will revert to barbarism and perhaps even end its existence as a species. (And they came to that conclusion even before the invention of the A-bomb!)
- Sadly, proletarian revolution is physically impossible without a vanguard Party to lead the workers. Reason being that the proletariat is too numerous and too skittish to accomplish anything — sort of like herding cats — without a tight but benevolent vanguard leadership made up primarily of smart people, to guide it along.
- From above two postulates, it follows that the Proletarian Vanguard Party is necessary to the survival of all of mankind. The Party must keep itself in trim and wait for the next opportunity, because the fate of the entire human race, perhaps even the Universe itself(!) depends on it.
From the above, we can see that Trotsky would have felt a great burden upon himself, not just as Marx’s and Lenin’s ideological successor, but possibly even the savior of mankind –and who knows, maybe there is even a tiny molecule of Jewish Messianism in there.
Professor Chase does not understand this mindset, not being a Marxist-Leninist himself. Hence he feels entitled to sneer at Trotsky’s “ambitions”, as if all that was at stake for the latter was another chance to sit in the big boy’s chair and bark orders at his Commissar underlings.
[to be continued]