Becoming a revolutionary in his teens, Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) led
the Soviet (workers' council) in St Petersburg during Russia's 1905
revolution. From 1903 through to 1917 he was active in the Russian
socialist movement (mostly from exile), but outside the two main
factions, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. In 1917 he joined the Bolsheviks
(the party led by Lenin). He was the main leader of the revolutionary
uprising in October 1917, and the main organiser of the Red Army
which defended the new workers' government against Russian
counter-revolutionaries and invading armies from no fewer than 14
countries in the civil war between 1918 and 1921.
Trotsky and Lenin were the foremost advocates of international
workers' revolution, organising the Third, Communist International in
1919 to help other workers take power.
In the 1920s Trotsky led the fight against Stalin and the privileged
bureaucracy. But Trotsky and the loyal revolutionaries faced a losing
battle as the morale, confidence, and energy of the workers ebbed in
isolated Russia. He was expelled from Russia by Stalin in 1929. From
then until he was murdered by a Stalinist agent in 1940, Trotsky
lived in exile, expelled from one country after another because both
capitalists and Stalinists considered him too dangerous.
He worked at organising and teaching the loyal revolutionaries
("Trotskyists") scattered around the world as energetically as he had
organised the revolutionary uprising in 1917. He fought for a
workers' revolution ("political revolution") against Stalinism. He
warned against the rise of Hitler in Germany and advocated a united
front of workers' organisations to fight fascism. He also opposed the
"Popular Front" policy developed by the Communist Parties from the
mid-1930s, of coalitions with bits of the liberal bourgeoisie,
supposedly to fight fascism. He argued that the working class must
develop its own independent politics and organisation.