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Trotsky: A Biography by [Service, Robert]
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Trotsky: A Biography Kindle Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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'The best biography of Trotsky to date... it disregards all sentimental nonsense and gives us the facts.'
--George Walden, Standpoint

`an outstanding, fascinating biography of this dazzling titan. It is as compelling as an adventure story - the ultimate rise and fall - but also revelatory as the scholarly revision of a historical reputation.'
--The Sunday Telegraph

`Seldom has the pathology of the revolutionary type, and its murderous consequences, been more mercilessly exposed than in this exemplary biography.' --Sunday Times Culture

`Drawing on much previously unreleased material, this is a scholarly work, but one with a light touch.'
--Huddersfield Daily Examiner

'balanced and thoroughly researched life of Trotsky by Robert Service, a British scholar of Soviet communism. Service knows the period's personalities inside out: he has already trawled the archives to write well-received biographies of Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet state...Service paints a perceptive portrait.' --Financial Times

'In this astonishingly comprehensive book- Robert Service has trawled almost every archive on the planet that has any reference to Trotsky...This is a superb work of scholarship, and above all leaves the reader in no doubt as to the evil of Trotsky, not just in politics but in his personal life...if you seek to know about this crucial figure in the history of Marxism-Leninism, this book will tell you everything.' --Daily Telegraph

'Masterful new life of Trotsky. Yet the book is much more than a dry critique of Trotsky's place in the Communist pantheon. It is a pacy, compelling account of one of the most magnetic and gifted leaders of the Russian revolution.' --Mail on Sunday

'Robert Service's Trotsky is, as the author points out, the first full biography to be written by a non-Trotskyist...Trotsky is the final part of a triptych, and you can sense the author's enjoyment as he completes his heroic task.'
--Times Literary Supplement

'a fascinating biography of the revolutionary who was driven out and finally murdered by Starlin.'
--New Statesman

'Outstanding' --The Tablet

'Magisterial... One of the strengths of Robert Service's superb biography is the way it effortlessly incorporates new material that sheds light on the private life of a public figure who was careful to shape his image in his autobiographical writings.'
--The Jewish Chronicle

'Robert Service has uncovered a mass of new information, some of which makes for a pretty unattractive view of the man. Trotsky A Biography is sparkling on his political and personal travails, and indeed his crimes and follies.' --The Independent

'gripping new biography.'
--Catholic Herald

'This magisterial biography may be taken as a tarring of Trotsky with the brush of Bolshevism or proof that the spectre of communism is still at large.'
--Times Higher Education Supplement

`a fascinating study which is bound to become the definitive biography.' --East Riding News

Book Description

A riveting new biography of Leon Trotsky from the critically acclaimed author of Lenin and Stalin

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3198 KB
  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (15 April 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003H83YCS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #253,433 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have now finished Service's book. Well, I have to agree with some of the critical comments above. It is written in a rather pedestrian style, and yes, Service does come across as snide in parts. He doesn't much like his subject, that's clear. As for the alleged errors of fact, I'm not qualified to pronounce on that, but in a book of 500 densely written pages (excluding notes and index) it would be surprising if there were no errors of fact in it. These complaints may be nit-picking. Readers like myself who know little of Trotsky the man are more interested in getting an overall picture of what made him tick, than in a catalogue of details.

The main thing I would look for in any book about a subject like Trotsky, who seems to inspire adulation and loathing in equal measure, is that the writer should attempt, however unsuccessfully, to present both sides of the picture. This is something that Service does, however grudgingly. His very dislike of Trotsky means that his praise of the man's achievements and personal qualities has to be taken seriously. Conversely, his criticisms are backed up with quotes which seem to go some way to prove the point. For example, here is Trotsky's son Leva: "Papa never recognizes when he's in the wrong. That's why he can't bear criticism. When something is said or written to him with which he disagrees he either ignores it entirely or gets back with a harsh reply". For another side of Trotsky which is not normally acknowledged by his disciples, Service reveals that he treated the women in his life between badly to abominably.
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Format: Paperback
I am, I must admit, a fan of Trotsky, his ideas and ideology were the best of any communist leader and his intellect and rhetorical skill unmatched by almost any other man of the period. Despite this I can, unlike some of my obtuse comrades, accept that he was not flawless. He was brilliant but we must accept that he was also arrogant and brutal. The Cold Warriors such as Deutscher were eager to praise him as the arch-enemy of Stalin and the Soviets however this is not history but hagiography. This has changed and historians, both sides of the Iron Curtain, are presenting him not as a deity but a man, talented but far from perfect.
Fabulously written and wonderfully informative.
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Format: Paperback
Trotsky has many many apologists in the Western political class, so for Service to produce a biography thats based on critical evaluation of the evidence and is not a gushing hagiography, has opened him up to savage attacks. This is an heroic and largely successful effort for which Service should be rightly praised.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An even-handed biography on Trotsky was always going to be difficult and a long-time coming, and I think Robert Service does very well here.

Being exiled from the Soviet Union before the horrors of Stalin's rule, plus the fact that Trotsky was then free to criticize the approach taken by the leaders after he left (without having to deal with the practicalities himself) as well as being an excellent writer himself, means that Trotsky has definitely been viewed with rose-tinted spectacles in the West (while demonised in the USSR, which only added to his reputation elsewhere).

This biography brings out his strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side were the way he ran the Red Army during the civil war and his key role (equal in many ways with Lenin) in making the revolution happen. This was all done with a selfless commitment which mean that it never seems to have occurred to him to shape the Red Army to be an instrument to allow him to take personal control, or to build a serious faction in the party. The flip side was that he was careless in the way he dealt with others, making cutting criticisms without realising that he was creating enemies. Also he was every bit as ruthless as Stalin and Lenin, e.g. during the Civil War Trotsky was willing to use savage repression to consolidate Bolshevik rule.

The difference this book shows between him and Stalin is that Stalin was very much the organizational player, patiently building up a network of support against Trotsky until he could be edged out, then doing the same with Bukharin, until eventually Stalin was unchallenged as ruler.

So this book left me feeling I had a much better overall understanding of Trotsky, and why he was able to achieve his successes but then suffered his downfall.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Service's problem is that his biography has to be compared with perhaps the greatest political biography of the 20th Century,
Isaac Deutscher's three volume study - The Prophet Armed; The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast He seems to concede in his introduction that he can't write with Deutscher's style and verve, but more importantly Service lacks any passion. Not even the passion of a thoroughgoing hatchet job. Perhaps this was his idea in the first place, but in the face of the flawed grandeur of Trotsky's life, he resorts to minor quibbles and reservations - even missing,, as in his account of Kronstadt revolt the chance to challenge Trotsky's own version of events. What he doesn't seem to realise is that you can admire Trotsky without being a revolutionary Socialists - after all Duetscher's biography is Tony Blair's favourite book!.
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