Eighty-eight years ago to the day marks the height of the Russian Revolution and the beginning of a long slog to Russian superpower status. Often ignored, was the raw intellectual and tireless contributions of one of Russia’s early leaders. Leon Trotsky showed up at Lenin’s door in London when he was 21 and penniless (Lenin’s wife had to cover his cab fare). Ten years later, on October 24th, Trotsky issued his famous Order No. 1, which said: “All procrastination and hesitation will be regarded as treason to the revolution.”
Trotsky’s other practical contributions are impressive enough. They included the strategic planning of the Revolution, the establishment of Pravda, the Red Army and many of the economic policies adopted by his antagonist, Joseph Stalin. What’s more interesting to less radical (and less socialist) students like me was his innate ability of prediction.
Trotsky wrote volumes of treatises, books, critiques and letters explaining the hows and whys of world events. In 1924, during an age of American pacifism and isolationism, he wrote: “We are entering an epoch of the aggressive unfolding of American militarism.” Around the same time he prophesized that the century would be marked by conflict between the political and economic systems of the US and USSR.
In 1933, he appealed to the German labour party to not let a candidate named Adolf Hitler take power without a fight: “One of the decisive moments in history is approaching … if fascism comes to power it will ride like a terrific tank over your skulls and spines.” Even before the US recognized the sovereignty of the Soviet Union he was pushing for an alliance between the two countries to address the rise of fascism in Germany. His contemporaries accused him of war mongering and his pleas fell on deaf ears. History was to vindicate his prophesy with depressing accuracy.
Today in our country we have a dearth of, what Machiavelli would call Trotsky armed prophets. The political and military leadership who hold formidable power in this country display their ineptitude at every turn of the road. They preferred to believe those who trumpeted that a US invasion of Iraq would be followed by flowers of welcome over those who pleaded raw military power was not enough to occupy a nation. Nor were high-tech weather satellites and the opinion of competent engineers enough for our leadership to anticipate the effects of a hurricane.
Many Americans may not have admired what became of Trotsky’s plan for the Soviet Union, but at least he succeeded to see his revolution produce some change. It would be more reassuring if our political leadership had nefarious changes in mind like controlling the world supply of oil or spreading a religious doctrine. But this leadership, heavy in muscle, seems to lack the gray matter needed to execute such a plan.
Not surprisingly, modern neo-conservatives actually consider themselves armed prophets since they anticipate rather than react to world events. They claim to have the “moral courage” to stand apart when popular opinion turns against them. Yet anyone can claim to know the future course of events; it’s that painful thing called reality that separates prophets from fools.
Khaled Hal Saad is a computer science senior and Mustang Daily columnist