The Rampaging Armchair Mouthings of Snowball

In the comments thread of another blog a week or two back, someone (who later apologized) dismissed me as a dogmatist and polemicist, then blamed people like myself for wrecking every left group he’d been a part of. I was accused of “rampaging armchair mouthings” (“typings” would have been more technically correct). Then he wrapped it up by comparing me to “the Trotskyists of old.”

That was where I practically fell out of my chair laughing.

Leon Trotsky was, after all, the guy who got the ice axe treatment from a Soviet assassin, after years of exile. The reason he was exiled from the Soviet Union in the first place was because he thought Stalin and his cronies had betrayed the ideals of the Revolution, hence the title of his book The Revolution Betrayed.

“Trotskyite” was a term used by Stalinists to denounce anti-fascist Communists who opposed the Soviet Union’s withdrawal of support for Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, leading to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Then the term was used to denounce those who were against Stalin’s pact with Hitler. Later, it was picked up by Maoists as a synonym for “counter-revolutionary”. Trotsky himself was involved in a lot of ugly, violent events, but most of the people killed, imprisoned, or otherwise adversely affected for being “Trotskyites” didn’t have anything to do with Trotsky’s actions during the Revolution.

If it’s a choice between being called a Trotskyite for arguing that people should stick to their ideals and not make compromises with people bent on destroying those ideals or taking the position of those who coined the Trotskyite label and believed controlling power and enforcing a aura of infallibility around their leaders was more important than principle, I’ll gladly assume the mantle of Trotsky. Because the latter group was the Stalinists.

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the analogue for Trotsky is generally considered to be Snowball.