A Revolutionary's Life
Imprint: Yale University Press
Series: Jewish Lives
Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in southern Ukraine, Trotsky was both a world-class intellectual and a man capable of the most narrow-minded ideological dogmatism. He was an effective military strategist and an adept diplomat, who staked the fate of the Bolshevik revolution on the meager foundation of a Europe-wide Communist upheaval. He was a master politician who played his cards badly in the momentous struggle for power against Stalin in the 1920s. And he was an assimilated, indifferent Jew who was among the first to foresee that Hitler’s triumph would mean disaster for his fellow European Jews, and that Stalin would attempt to forge an alliance with Hitler if Soviet overtures to the Western democracies failed.
Here, Trotsky emerges as a brilliant and brilliantly flawed man. Rubenstein offers us a Trotsky who is mentally acute and impatient with others, one of the finest students of contemporary politics who refused to engage in the nitty-gritty of party organization in the 1920s, when Stalin was maneuvering, inexorably, toward Trotsky’s own political oblivion.
As Joshua Rubenstein writes in his preface, “Leon Trotsky haunts our historical memory. A preeminent revolutionary figure and a masterful writer, Trotsky led an upheaval that helped to define the contours of twentieth-century politics.” In this lucid and judicious evocation of Trotsky’s life, Joshua Rubenstein gives us an interpretation for the twenty-first century.
"An accessible scholarly account of a man whose life spanned continents, whose charisma was legendary and whose ideas sparked a revolution and its backlash."—Kirkus Reviews~Kirkus Reviews
"This trim book . . . pulls together all the essentials of the life of Leon Trotsky and the revolution he so significantly shaped into a seamless, intelligent, and wonderfully accessible synopsis."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs~Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
~Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Guardian
“. . . this is both a good read and a balanced, plausible interpretation of the man in his times. Rubenstein sees things to admire and deplore, and achieves the mix of empathy and critical distance a good biographer needs.”—Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Guardian
"In this new, concise biography, Rubenstein offers a more balanced view of Trotsky. . . . There are many reasons to commend this work — among them, Rubenstein’s depoliticization of its subject and the book’s succinctness and readability."—Peter Ephross, The Forward~Peter Ephross, The Forward