In This Review

Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary
Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary
By Dmitri Volkogonov
Free Press, 1996, 524 pp

General Volkogonov did not live to see the English version of this biography from his remarkable trilogy. The first volume, on Stalin, was published in Russian in 1990; the third, on Lenin, in 1994. Volkogonov lacks the great biographer’s ability to bring his subjects to life, but no matter. He is far more interested in settling accounts with the Bolshevik revolution and its sequel. Volkogonov has greater sympathy for Trotsky than for the others, rooted not in an excusal of his role in bringing about the revolution -- which, based on a faulty foundation, led naturally to excess -- nor in pretending that he was less given to brutality, but rather in an assumption that Trotsky was the least cynical of the three, and the observation that he was the great antagonist and ultimately a victim of Stalin, the devil himself. None of these biographies changes the historiography, but the chief value of this volume is twofold. For the Russians, Volkogonov is a Russian correcting years of lies. On the secondary issues, he has extensively mined military, party, and secret police archives to add important information. Out of this effort comes, for example, a richer portrait of Trotsky as war commissar during the civil war and a much more detailed picture of Stalin’s grotesquely obsessive struggle against the exiled Trotsky.