A Revolutionary's Life
By Joshua Rubenstein
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300137248, 240pp.)
Publication Date: October 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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.
Joshua Rubenstein is the Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA and a longtime associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg and is coeditor of The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov and Stalin's Secret Pogrom, both published by Yale University Press. Stalin’s Secret Pogrom received a National Jewish Book Award.
"Joshua Rubenstein has produced a steadily intelligent, insightful biography of one the last century''s most alluring intellectual-politicians, a man of astonishing brilliance and no less astonishing rigidities."—Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Imagining Russian Jewry: Memory, History, Identity
-Steven J. Zipperstein
"As much a myth and a legend as a man, Leon Trotsky is an individual of deep contradictions... Fast-paced and engaging, Rubenstein’s brief biography provides a solid introduction to the period and a detailed examination of a man much studied but little understood."—Publishers Weekly
"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
"An exemplary biography... Rubenstein depicts Trotsky as a tragic hero, a complex man whose brilliance and fallibility were inseparable."—Judith Maas, Jewish Advocate
"Joshua Rubenstein’s succinct account of Leon Trotsky’s life rescues the Russian radical from a remoteness, positioning him at a useful distance for contemporary readers."—Harvey Blume, ArtsFuse
"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