So establishes the new biography by Robert Service (no, not the English-Canadian poet), reviewed here by John Gray. Trotsky, idol of the 20th-century western literati, favored repression of political dissidents and political correctness in culture. There is little evidence that he would have been less tyrannical than Stalin at the helm of the Soviet Union. Gray writes,
. . . along with Lenin he had created the system that Stalin inherited and used for ends with which Trotsky generally sympathised.
And of course he helped give us the neocons. The question is what this all says about the western literati that held him up as a paragon, a veritable secular saint. In my more cynical moments I fear intellectuals are inveterate worshipers of power. But this doesn’t explain why the exiled Trotsky is favored over Stalin. I think this is simply because Stalin was so obviously not an intellectual, whereas Trotsky
fitted the perception that dissenting intellectuals like to have of themselves. Highly cultured, locked in struggle with a repressive establishment, a gifted writer who was also a man of action, he seemed to embody the ideal of truth speaking to power. The manner of his death solidified this perception, which has shaped accounts of his life ever since.
But not forever hence.