He was born to a wealthy, secular Jewish land-owning family in the Ukraine in the Russian Empire. He early on became involved in revolutionary activities. Trotsky's younger sister, Olga, who also grew up to be a Bolshevik and a Soviet politician, married the prominent Bolshevik Lev Kamenev.
Trotsky initially supported the Mensheviks but joined the Bolsheviks immediately prior to the 1917 October Revolution, and eventually became one of the top Communist leaders. He was one of the members of the first Politburo founded in 1917 in order to manage the Bolshevik Revolution. After the revolution, aside from continuing to be one of the overall top leaders, he was at first "People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs" and later became the founder and commander of the Red Army.
As such he had a direct responsibility for the mass killings and other atrocities committed by the Red Army. More generally, as one the highest Communist leaders, he was responsible for the numerous mass killings and other atrocities done by the Communists during the period when he was in power. See also the article on Mass killings under Communist regimes.
The Red Army under his command participated in Communist atrocities such as Red Terror, harsh suppressions of anti-Communist uprisings such as the Kronstadt Rebellion and the Tambov Rebellion, what has been seen as genocidal mass killings of Cossacks (who were viewed as supporters of the old regime), and "War Communism" policies which contributed to a mass starvation causing many millions of deaths.
Trotsky eventually was one of the losers in an internal Communist power struggle after the death of Lenin and from which Stalin emerged as the ultimate victor. Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union and eventually killed in Mexico by Ramón Mercader, a Soviet agent.
Trotskyism was and is one of the most influential forms of Communism outside of the Communist states (where it was banned). See the article on this topic.
- In Defence of Terrorism (1920)
|“||There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or war. Everything depends on circumstances.||”|
|“||The very first order of the Bolshevist government was that pogrom makers shall be shot down on the spot without trial.||”|
|“||As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the "sacredness of human life". We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred, we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And that problem can only be solved by blood and iron. The man who recognizes the revolutionary historic importance of the very fact of the existence of the Soviet system must also sanction the Red Terror.||”|
|“||The decision was not only expedient but necessary. The severity of this punishment showed everyone that we would continue to fight on mercilessly, stopping at nothing. The execution of the Tsar's family was needed not only in order to frighten, horrify, and instill a sense of hopelessness in the enemy but also to shake up our own ranks, to show that there was no turning back, that ahead lay either total victory or total doom. This Lenin sensed well.||”|
|“|| It was during that period that I became interested in freemasonry.
In the eighteenth century freemasonry became expressive of a militant policy of enlightenment, as in the case of the Illuminati, who were the forerunners of the revolution; on its left it culminated in the Carbonari. Freemasons counted among their members both Louis XVI and the Dr. Guillotin who invented the guillotine. In southern Germany freemasonry assumed an openly revolutionary character, whereas at the court of Catherine the Great it was a masquerade reflecting the aristocratic and bureaucratic hierarchy. A freemason Novikov was exiled to Siberia by a freemason Empress.
I discontinued my work on freemasonry to take up the study of Marxian economics. The work on freemasonry acted as a sort of test for these hypotheses. I think this influenced the whole course of my intellectual development.
- Former Russian Commissar (1937). Trotsky and the Jews Behind the Russian Revolution.
- Service, Robert (2009). Trotsky: A Biography. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674036158.
- Thatcher, Ian D (2003). Trotsky. Routledge. ISBN 0415232503.
- Sutton, Anthony C (1974). Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution. Arlington House. ISBN 0870002767.
- Welch, R (1976). American Opinion, Volume 19. Robert Welch, Inc.