Chase/Trotsky: The Ultimate Sequel – Part III (E)

Dear Readers:

As promised, this is the very last installment of my Chase/Trotsky series, all 3 series in fact.  They started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Here is the link to Part III-A of this series. If you are reading ALL 3 series from the beginning, then link to Part III-A, and that will contain a link to all the previous entries for Part I and Part II, which were penned some months back. Then read:

Part III-A itself, III-B, Part III-C, Part III-D,

and then this one, which is III-E.   For those who followed this all the way through, I thank you and I hope you learned something interesting!

So, that’s pretty much it for Part III of Professor Chase monograph “Trotsky In Mexico”.  Yesterday my respected commenter Ryan Ward pointed out that the good Professor should not be held accoutable for mis-use of his monograph on behalf of, say, Furries, Militant Red Youth, and other Stalinist sects worldwide.  That’s very true, and is a good point.  It is the duty of historians (and everybody else, actually) to go wherever the facts take them.  However, I do believe that it is legitimate, when reviewing somebody else’s work, to give an idea of the critical reception it received, that’s part of the “metadata”, so to speak.  For example, a review of Moby Dick could not help but mention, that Melville’s masterpiece was not well received in its time, when it first came out.  Metadata, baby.

But still, Senator, the Chase monograph is no Moby Dick, unless one posits that Trotsky was Professor Chase’s white whale, which he simply had to bring down or he couldn’t rest at night in his hammock.  Why else so many insinuations of the type [paraphrasing] e.g., Trotsky claimed he and Rivera had broken up, but we can just assume that he was lying about that; or, Why would Trotsky possibly pretend to care about the fate of Blackwell, a man with whom he had ideological differences?  [See Part II-D for a discussion of the Blackwell Affair.]

And suchlike unscholarly zingers.  Which are sometimes reminiscent of Grover Furr’s research on the Moscow Trials, in which he occasionally resorts to arguments of the type:  “I wouldn’t put it past them to… [commit all these various crimes]…”

After recapping his major points, Professor Chase sings his final aria, summing up all his research in the final 3 paragraphs, which I translate from Russian to English:


Unfortunately, we know nothing about Trotsky’s intentions in that period, since he never spoke about them openly.  Historians are always faced with these problems when they attempt to interpret the actions of historical individuals.  The absence of evidence about their intentions gives rise to mutually exclusive theories, and not infrequently to sharp polemics.  The evidence adduced here can  be treated both as Trotsky’s urge objectively to facilitate “the forces of reaction”, placing his own personal needs at the head.  But such interpretations should not be regarded as feasible within the framework of the current article.

“Yeah, so I’m a white whale too. Whatcha lookin at?”

Thus, let us underscore two moments, on which this research was constructed:  First, the political conduct of Trotsky in his relationship to the Committee to Defend Leon Trotsky, the Socialist Party of the U.S., the Dewey Commission and the Dies Committee, flowed from his [Trotsky’s] misunderstanding of specific and at the same time very important aspects of American political life and political culture.  This is not surprising, given that we are dealing with a convinced revolutionary who had come of age in the unique conditions of the political culture of Russian Social-Democracy and Bolshevism.  The experience and knowledge obtained by Trotsky in the bosom of these movements, turned out to be useless in America.  The use of any (available) public forum for propaganding his cause or for unmasking enemies, was a stark characteristic of the political tactics of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.  Trotsky, the U.S. government, the members of the Defense Committee and the Dies Committee, might well have a common enemy in Stalin; but Trotsky’s (continued) adherence to his revolutionary convictions and methods rendered vain all his attempts to use (these forces) for his own purposes.  The government of the U.S. was scared of his revolutionary philosophy.  Trotsky’s friends from among the American liberals and radicals, for whom the means were just as important as the ends, were disillusioned by his sectarian tactics and stopped trying to help him.  [yalensis:  This is erroneous.  Actually, most of these fellow-travelers didn’t quit the movement until Molotov-Ribbentrop.]  The tactics which had proved so effective in revolutionary Russia and the USSR, didn’t work in America.

Trotsky greets Dewey Commission people in Mexico

Secondly, Trotsky’s attempts to receive an entry visa in the U.S. should be seen in the light of the unusual dilemma facing him.  Trotsky was a hunted man, the object of uninterrupted persecution from the side of Moscow and the Communists; a target of political assassins.  He quite rationally feared for his life.  But together with that, he was the symbol of a political movement:  Trotskyism.  Which was hated in both Washington and Moscow.  To judge by any normal standards, his willingness to testify before the Dies Committee (HUAC) and hand over information to an “imperialist” government in the hope of obtaining a visa, should be counted as hypocrisy.  [yalensis:  I do agree with that, if such was the actual quid pro quo, which Professor Chase has not proved.]  For Trotsky himself, his personal and political interests were one and the same.  How to draw a line between these (personal) interests of Trotsky and his political ambitions?  That is one more headbanger of a question for an historian.  How is one to interpret the behavior of people, when it is inseparable from their ideological convictions?


Good Tsar Bad Boyars

So, how do I actually end this series?  I know not how.  Tomorrow is Victory Day in Russia.  A day which celebrates the truly glorious victory of the Soviet Union over the forces of evil.  Comrade Stalin was a vital component of that victory, he served as the national leader and Commander-in-Chief during those years of extraordinary trial and effort.  By winning the war and helping to save the Soviet people, the Jewish people and actually all of humanity, Stalin achieved a certain Redemption, which is NOT the same thing as Vindication.  The glorious victory did not prove (as current Stalinists insist to this day) that Stalin had been right about everything, all along.  The What-If Time Travel machines of the Furries and their ilk, tell them that Stalin had to, say, whack Tukhachevsky and the others in the 1930’s in order to set the timeline right for the future victory, as was proved by the 1945 victory:  That’s just a hilarious form of circular-teleological thinking.  My own What-If Time Travel machine, which is calibrated different from theirs, tells me that the victory might have been a heck of a lot easier if Tukhachevsky and the others had not been purged.

Banquo: “Don’t I get a drink, at least?”

And even if these various executions made zero difference to the timeline, well, it’s just not nice to frame people for crimes they didn’t commit.  It’s even less nice to torture people, force them to grovel, and force them to betray their friends.  Such behavior just has to be wrong, in any ethical system that anyone might contrive, regardless of the class structure of society.

Still, one cannot deny that this flawed and violent individual (=Stalin), when crunch-time came, stood up to the plate and batted it out of the park, on behalf of the people that he led.  Therefore it is right and fitting that veterans should carry Stalin’s portrait, and that statues should be erected, and all that jazz.

It’s just that, like the ghost of Banquo at Lady Mac-Scottish-Person’s dinner party, there will be other ghosts marching in the parade as well.  Past the portraits of the guy who bumped them off, march the small army of bumpees…  And one wonders when these ghosts will finally get their chance for rehabilitation and redemption?

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