Trotsky on Terror and Militarization

Generally, in history “the great leaders” of revolutions have been revered for their military and violent conquests. This historic trend to label violent and victorious leaders as revolutionary is something we can see to be very prevalent in our own nation’s history. In Russian history, the same case can be argued and supported by individuals such as Trotsky. With Trotsky’s strategy of any “means” at all, including all out terror, to reach a certain end for a revolution a certain question arises about the nature of revolution itself. As seen by the efforts of Katherine The Great, violence does not necessarily have to be the way of facilitating social change. Does by nature a revolution have to imply some form of violence or terror on either side of the struggle? Does a leader who achieves victory through inhumane forms of violence deserve historical reverence? Who is the better leader, a calculating leader who converses about decisions or a militarized leader who will quite literally kill anyone who gets in their way?

7 Replies to “Trotsky on Terror and Militarization”

  1. I think if we look at the context of violent revolutions, we can see that both Marxists and socialist wanted a change. The Communist Manifesto suggests that change can only come from a violent revolution of the proletariat. Because both Lenin and Trotsky believed in the Marxist ideas of communism. Russia was about to under go great transformation. Being ruled under a monarchy for centuries gives the pretext for a Marxist revolution. Trotsky argues that “the terror of tsarism was directed against the proletariat” (Daniels 182). He is saying that what has been done to the working class is unacceptable, and it is time to rise. The soviet party already began organizing a proletariat revolution. I think, to answer your question, yes violence was the answer. The process to achieve true communism starts with the proletariat revolution. That, in pretext, only comes in a form of a violent revolution. The parties took Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto to heart, and because of that, they believed there was no other way.

  2. I believe that a form of violence and terror is not necessary for a revolution, however, with some of the revolutions we have looked at in class, the revolutions tend to start, end or have some kind of violence or terror involved. Nonetheless, saying that I pose the question of where violence or terror is necessary or needed for a revolution to be successful? Regarding whether a leader using inhumane forms of violence or terror to achieve victory deserve historical reverence, I believe the leader should not be celebrated if they used forms of terror or violence to harm their own people, but if the forms were used in, for example WWI, that kind of violence is still not good to me, but could be good for the people. It can show that the leader is willing to protect his people. I would say that a calculating leader that discusses decisions is a better leader. My reasoning behind this is that I believe violence is bad but also that the leader can still be respected by his/ her/ their people by other ways such as calculating decisions and showing the people that he/ she/ they cares about their people. Possibly by bettering the community, education system, etc.

  3. In many cases, violence may be needed in order to have a successful revolution. Although it is rare to see disputes and revolutions be peaceful, it is very common that violence by either side be utilized. Also, in many cases throughout history, violence is needed to bring change. Unfortunately, governments have been known to utilize the military to bring control, and also install fear on those who wants to revolt. Although some members of the military may disagree with their leaders, most of the time they will stick by the government and “fulfill” their duty. I believe leaders who did use inhumane violent forms to fulfill victory do deserve historical reference. We must acknowledged that actions throughout history may not be humane or morally right, but it led to that leader or group of people to achieve their goals. Everyone has different strategies to win sport/video games or different study habits, and this is no different to how leaders utilize their own strategies to achieve their goal.

  4. This is a great question you raise regarding whether revolutions must be violent in order to succeed. In comparing Catherine the Great’s social revolutions and the Bolshevik Revolution, it is easy to see that one revolution was carried out with more violence. However, I think it is important to distinguish the extent of the revolutions. While Catherine was changing the way Russian society operated. The Bolsheviks wanted to overturn Russia’s entire political, social, economic, and cultural structure with their revolution. In achieving its Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Trotsky and Lenin justify terror by saying that this change is so radical, that it can only be accomplished if anti-Red Bourgeois members were coerced into submission, “‘If er are not ready to shoot a saboteur and White Guardist, what sort of revolution is that?'” (Fitzpatrick 76). Furthermore, we can analyze Trotsky’s justification for the use of terror in the revolution. In his justification, Trotsky states that terror not only aids the revolution, but it helps militarize the proletariate, instilling discipline in the workers. If the newly founded Soviet Union was to survive on a dictatorship of the proletariate, they needed to be disciplined in a political sense. While I believe this justification may be far-fetched, it does bring some practicality to the Bolshevik’s sense of government. As such, I believe history remembers leaders of terror, whether good or bad, as forces of change.

    1. I think with every change there requires context to discuss whether the ends justify the means to that change. Within the Marxist belief and the communist manifesto it sets up a base for violent change. While Katherine II changed Russia for the better in a nonviolent way, she was in a position to do so- she was empress of Russia. The marxists are speaking to an audience with far less power, this justifying those violent means more. I believe they did what they thought was necessary to instill change from a point of respectively little power.

  5. I think with every change there requires context to discuss whether the ends justify the means to that change. Within the Marxist belief and the communist manifesto it sets up a base for violent change. While Katherine II changed Russia for the better in a nonviolent way, she was in a position to do so- she was empress of Russia. The marxists are speaking to an audience with far less power, this justifying those violent means more. I believe they did what they thought was necessary to instill change from a point of respectively little power.

  6. I do not always think that revolutions or change brought about by revolution needs to be violent. However, in this instance I believe that it did. While the autocracy was still in place there was realistically nothing being done. The Duma was useless and and the Provisional Government created after the revolution also proved useless. At this time there was no real semblance of leadership. The groups that did have any kind of authority were fighting with each other opposed to working together to rebuild Russian society. For this reason I feel as though it was needed for a group to rise through any means necessary to create that authoritative body where real change could begin to take place. One of the biggest mistakes any group of people can have is not knowing who is in charge, which is exactly what was happening. As Trotsky believed, masses, even revolutionary ones can be pacified and united through fear. I admit this is not the best way to go about it because it will always have people that fight it, however in a group that was that fragmented, they needed to be united by something, even if it was by fear. Through that actual change that could benefit society could happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *