Nov 072018
 

Today is the birthday (1879) of Lev Davidovich Bronstein who took the revolutionary name, Leon Trotsky. By coincidence, the Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia also occurred on this date in 1917 http://www.bookofdaystales.com/october-revolution/  Trotsky was of Ukrainian-Jewish stock, born into a family of wealthy farmers in Yanovka or Yanivka, in the Kherson governorate of the Russian Empire (now Bereslavka, in Ukraine), a small village 24 km (15 mi) from the nearest post office. His parents were David Leontyevich Bronstein (1847–1922) and his wife Anna Lvovna (née Zhivotovskaya) (1850–1910). Trotsky’s father was born in Poltava, and later moved to Yanovka because it had a large Jewish community. The language spoken at home was a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian (known as Surzhyk). Trotsky’s younger sister, Olga, who also grew up to be a Bolshevik and a Soviet politician.

Trotsky initially supported the Menshevik Internationalists faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, but joined the Bolsheviks just before the 1917 October Revolution, immediately becoming a leader within the Communist Party. He went on to become one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik Revolution.

During the early days of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and the Soviet Union, he served first as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army, with the title of People’s Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. He became a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War (1918–1922).

After leading a failed struggle of the Left Opposition against the policies and rise of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and against the increasing role of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, Trotsky was removed as Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs (January 1925), removed from the Politburo (October 1926), removed from the Central Committee (October 1927), expelled from the Communist Party (November 1927), exiled to Alma–Ata (January 1928), and exiled from the Soviet Union (February 1929). As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union while in exile.

Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born NKVD agent. On 20th August 1940, Mercader attacked Trotsky with an ice axe and Trotsky died the next day in a hospital. Mercader acted upon instructions directly from Stalin and was nearly beaten to death by Trotsky’s bodyguards. He spent the next 20 years in a Mexican prison for the murder. Stalin presented Mercader with an Order of Lenin in absentia.

Trotsky’s ideas formed the basis of Trotskyism, a major school of Marxist thought that opposes the ideologies of Stalinism. He was written out of the history books under Stalin, and was one of the few Soviet political figures who was not rehabilitated by the government under Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. There are many “what ifs” that amateur historians like to indulge in. What if Stalin had been purged and Trotsky had been the next leader of the Soviet Union?  etc. etc. All an idle waste of time.

I am not going to wear you out with a lot of biography and political history. You can read it for yourself. Here, instead, are some salient quotes. The first is especially prescient:

England is nothing but the last ward of the European madhouse, and quite possibly it will prove to be the ward for particularly violent cases.

If we had had more time for discussion we should probably have made a great many more mistakes.

There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or war. Everything depends on circumstances.

Life is not an easy matter… You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.

Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one’s enemies.

From being a patriotic myth, the Russian people have become an awful reality.

The democratic regime is the most aristocratic way of ruling. It is possible only to a rich nation.

Everyone has the right to be stupid on occasion, but Comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege.

Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.

Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain – at least in a poor country like Russia – and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect.

Being an avid bicycle rider, I concur wholeheartedly with the last sentiment. I love riding my bike because I am its powerhouse; I am the master. On my bicycle I feel like king of the world.

Although not especially a Ukrainian-Jewish dish, gefilte fish is a popular favorite among easterm Ashkenazi Jews, and is such a popular favorite that it would be remiss of me not to include it one of my posts. This video is very detailed even though gefilte fish is not difficult to make. Even so, many cooks buy it readymade, but it is never as good as homemade.