The Character and Fate of Leon Trotsky

TROTSKY stood up gloriously against the blows of fate these last fifteen years -- demotion, rejection, exile, systemized slanderous misrepresentation, betrayal by those who had understood him, repeated attempts upon his life by those who had not, the certainty of ultimate assassination. His associates, his secretaries, his relatives, his own children were hounded to death by a sneering and sadistic enemy. He suffered privately beyond description but he never relaxed his monumental self-discipline. He never lost his grip for one visible second, never permitted any blow to blunt the edge of his wit, his logic or his literary style. Under afflictions that would have sent almost any creative artist to a hospital for neurotics and thence to the grave, Trotsky steadily developed and improved his art. His unfinished life of Lenin, which I had partially translated, would have been his masterpiece. He gave us, in a time when our race is woefully in need of such restoratives, the vision of a man.

Of that there is no more doubt than of his great place in history. His name will live, with that of Spartacus and the Gracchi, Robespierre and Marat, as a supreme revolutionist, an audacious captain of the masses in revolt. Beyond these clearly shining facts, however, the doubts about Trotsky, the problems of his character, are many and complex. Few great men lend themselves to false portraiture and extreme overcorrections of it as he does. His inward nature, like Robespierre's, will remain a subject of hot argument while history lasts. Moreover, those in a position best to give testimony, his colleagues in great action, are all dead or destroyed. Stalin has not left one to tell the story. I have been less close to him than many knowing of our literary collaboration think; but I have received a definite impression of his character which is surely worth setting forth.

As a young man of twenty-six Trotsky presided over the revolution of 1905, the first assault of the Russian masses on

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