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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history. Great literature.
Isaac Deutscher's three volume biography of Leon Trotsky is one of the greatest historical biographies. It is, it should be added, also one of the greatest works of history ever produced, arguably the best account of the revolutionary period in Russia and a great work of literature in it's own right.

This first volume, The Prophet Armed, looks at Trotsky's life...
Published on 22 July 2009 by Germinal

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5 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hagiography of a traitor to the revolution
From the start, Trotsky always thought that revolution in any one country could only succeed if it received the active support of revolutions in other countries. But similarly, these other revolutions would also need to receive help from others: the Russian revolution could not survive without a revolution in Germany, but neither could a German revolution survive without...
Published on 26 Aug. 2004 by William Podmore


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history. Great literature., 22 July 2009
By 
Germinal (St. Ives) - See all my reviews
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Isaac Deutscher's three volume biography of Leon Trotsky is one of the greatest historical biographies. It is, it should be added, also one of the greatest works of history ever produced, arguably the best account of the revolutionary period in Russia and a great work of literature in it's own right.

This first volume, The Prophet Armed, looks at Trotsky's life up to the end of the Russian Civil War in 1921 and covers his early life, education, family background, first contacts with the Narodnik revolutionary movements, involvement with the debates in the Russian Social Democratic movement, the 1905 Revolution, various periods of imprisonment, trials, exile and the revolutions of 1917 during which Trotsky became a Bolshevik.

Deutscher doesn't shrink from criticising Trotsky either - this is a critical biography rather than a hagiography.

Deutscher wrote beautifully. Truly great histories seamlessly weave analysis into the narrative so that the reader is swept along as if reading a classic novel.

There have been other biographies of Trotsky since Deutscher's magnum opus was written in the 1950's but none have remotely come close to Isaac Deutscher in terms of style, depth and breadth of content or analytical understanding. Sometimes complex political ideas are accurately explained, something you don't always get from other works on the Russian Revolution.

Nor has Deutscher's work aged particularly. There has been little if anything from the opened archives of the former USSR that would warrant a significant rewrite of this 50 odd year-old work.

There are some gaps and misunderstandings, however. As an account of the Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik Party is largely missing due to the fact that Trotsky didn't join until July 1917, but readers have plenty of other opportunities to access Bolshevik history. Deutscher's most significant error was to mischaracterise Trotsky's and the Bolshevik attitude to War Communism and to portray them as seeing it as a short-cut to communism when they really saw it as an emergency measure.

For anyone remotely serious about the Russian Revolution, this is compulsory reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The crowning achievement by a masterful biographer, 27 Jun. 2012
This is a review of all three volumes in the trilogy. Firstly as commented by another reviewer all three volumes are littered with typos, spelling and grammatical errors. In the unlikely event Verso read these reviews I'll gladly point out the litany of mistakes for a fee -even more unlikely. It doesn't distract too much from the superb biography but most are very obvious, such as in volume two, referring the period between 1952- 1929, and it's amazing they published the trilogy in such a poor state.
I suppose it helps if you are sympathetic to the subject and unfortunately for Trotsky the book will probably only be read by sympathisers or the dwindling band of adherents to the ogre Stalin. The books provide a detailed study of one the greatest men of the 20th century from his early life, his inner struggle with his political direction before joining the Bolsheviks and his ultimate downfall and eventual murder. It speaks volumes that the assassin was rewarded by Khrushchev in 1961, when the Soviet government was apparently busily distancing itself from Stalin's crimes, though of course the paradox was that those then in power had been complicit in and were products of Stalin's regime. And there lies the problem for Trotsky the organiser of the revolution and the creator of the Red Army; in capitalist Russia, the descendants of the state created by Stalin such as Putin and the criminal oligarchs have no interest in restoring the reputation and publicising the role of the man who tore down the very system they now exploit for their own benefit. Few in the capitalist west have any desire to once again elevate the most brilliant and trenchant critic of capitalism, at a time when a figure like Trotsky is so desperately needed. And so he remains a figure unknown to hundreds of millions of his countrymen, and reviled and now a mere pejorative "Trot" used by the right wing capitalist press, most probably without any clue as to the derivation of the term.
This is no hagiography, it is a historical biography and Deutscher, whilst obviously sympathetic, provides many examples of the defects of character Trotsky evidently displayed; he is highly critical of his creation of the 4th International, indeed Deutscher drafted the condemnation for the Polish delegation opposing its creation as superfluous. Whilst Trotsky may have a charismatic speaker and genius of Marxist interpretation he was almost wilfully blind to the basic lust for power displayed by Stalin, and hamstrung himself until it was far too late by adhering to the party strictures on not criticising the Bolshevik party in public; he also had the opportunity to remove Stalin from power before he had accumulated the enormous panoply of state apparatus and created his legions of bureaucrats who owed their position to his patronage.
Deutscher describes in vivid, enlightening prose the terrible errors of Stalin in the 30's as his ludicrous policy against Social Fascism helped the Nazis to consolidate power and condemned Spain to decades of Fascist rule. One of the great ironies is that during their many wartime discussions Churchill that arch hypocrite and political opportunist sat with Stalin as he described forced collectivisation and the death of millions of peasants and kulaks, and Churchill had earlier described Trotsky as the ogre of Europe!
I can't recommend this trilogy more highly, 5 stars doesn't do this wonderful read justice; it's inspiring, thrilling but ultimately saddening. It is the crowning achievement by a masterful biographer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography, 19 May 2015
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This review is from: The Prophet Armed: Leon Trotsky, 1879-1921 (Oxford Paperbacks) (Paperback)
A superb political biography. One of its great strengths is that Deutscher is a friendly but not uncritical biographer who also summarises Trotsky's political thought and contributions particularly clearly. English was not Deutscher's first language but this is also a very well written book, which makes Trotsky's ideas very accessible as well as giving a sympathetic account of his life.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and very informative book, 4 April 1999
By A Customer
This is a great and very informative book, you never get tired of reading it
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Utility, 11 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Prophet Armed: Leon Trotsky, 1879-1921 (Oxford Paperbacks) (Paperback)
This book, in correspondance with others of the Stalin/Trotsky epoch; are most useful in deriving the reactions of the Russian people and the circumstantial restrictions that had been sequentially placed upon Trotsky; thereby preventing him from properly engaging in some vendetta with Stalin on equal footings. This is not all, anyone academically studying the subject will be enlightened with the constant and coherent evaluation of facts, propaganda, fate and political stances ensuring Stalin became victourious in at least one respect. The book is interestingly written and in a very helpful analytical fashion, with a Chapter titled 'Victory in Defeat', an interesting paradox!
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best overall resource on Trotsky, great intro to politic, 9 Jan. 1998
By A Customer
Not only a great overview of Trotsky, a great resource about the ideas, debates and people that formed this century and.
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5 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hagiography of a traitor to the revolution, 26 Aug. 2004
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
From the start, Trotsky always thought that revolution in any one country could only succeed if it received the active support of revolutions in other countries. But similarly, these other revolutions would also need to receive help from others: the Russian revolution could not survive without a revolution in Germany, but neither could a German revolution survive without a Russian. This mutual dependence meant that no country could ever start a revolution: it would have to wait on the success of another.
So to provoke these indispensable other revolutions, Trotsky was quite prepared to invade other countries. For example, in 1919 he wrote, "A cavalry corps of 30-40,000 horsemen must be formed to invade India."
Similarly, at Brest-Litovsk in February 1918, Trotsky made the Soviet revolution's very survival depend on the putative German revolution, risking total defeat by the German army on the throw of a revolution in Germany. He said, "We declare we end the war but do not sign a peace. They will be unable to make an offensive against us. If they attack us, our position will be no worse than now ..." This phrase-mongering did not frighten the German generals, who saw only that Trotsky was refusing to sign the offered peace. They then attacked, as he said they could not do, and seized millions of square miles of Soviet territory, making the Soviet position far worse than before.
In the 1930s, the Opposition leagued with Hitler. Churchill wrote, "The German government was in touch with important Russian personalities through the Soviet embassy in Prague. The plot aimed at overthrowing Stalin and introducing into Russia a new pro-German regime. Soviet Russia carried out a merciless but doubtless useful purge of political and economic circles. The Soviet army was purged of pro-German elements." Goebels admitted, "Stalin got rid of all the opposition circles in the Red Army and thus succeeded in making sure there were no more defeatist groups in the Army."
The Opposition fought against the programmes of industrialisation and collectivisation that made possible all the Soviet Union's heroic achievements. For instance, in April 1930, Trotsky's Bulletin of the Opposition said, "Put a stop to 'mass collectivisation'. ... Put a stop to the hurdle race of industrialisation. ... Abandon the 'ideals' of self-contained economy. Draw up a new variant of a plan providing for the widest possible intercourse with the world market." In 1938, Trotsky called for the collective farms to be closed down, and for Soviet enterprises to be handed over to foreign powers.
He consistently called on the Soviet people to overthrow the Soviet government when Hitler attacked. He called for a 'revolutionary uprising', an 'insurrection' against the Soviet government, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. He wrote, "the impetus to the Soviet workers' revolutionary upsurge will probably be given by events outside the country." "The first social shock, external or internal, may throw the atomized Soviet Society into civil war."
He asked, "Can we expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question, we will answer as frankly: If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable. In a technical, economic and military sense, imperialism is incomparably more strong. If it is not paralysed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the present regime." "The defeat of the Soviet Union is inevitable in case the new war shall not provoke a new revolution. ... If we theoretically admit war without revolution, then the defeat of the Soviet Union is inevitable."
He wrote, "It would be childish to think that the Stalin bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet Congress. Normal, constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique. ... They can be compelled to hand over power to the Proletarian vanguard only by FORCE."
"Inside the Party, Stalin has put himself above all criticism and the State. It is impossible to displace him except by assassination. Every oppositionist becomes ipso facto a terrorist."
Trotsky lied to the 'Dewey Commission' when he told them that that he had not been organising an underground in the Soviet Union.
The leader of Trotsky's Fourth International, Ernest Mandel, openly applauded Boris Yeltsin, the key figure in the counter-revolution that finally restored capitalism in the Soviet Union. He wrote, "The reformer Yeltsin represents the tendency which wants to reduce the gigantic state apparatus. Consequently he follows in Trotsky's footsteps."
The Socialist Workers Party backed the US-organised and funded terrorists, which spawned bin Laden, against the people of Afghanistan. "Mujehadin victory will encourage the opponents of Russian rule everywhere in the USSR and Eastern Europe."
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The Prophet Armed: Leon Trotsky, 1879-1921 (Oxford Paperbacks)
The Prophet Armed: Leon Trotsky, 1879-1921 (Oxford Paperbacks) by Isaac Deutscher (Paperback - 17 Sept. 1970)
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