Jim Higgins

The Assassination of Trotsky

(January 1973)

From International Socialism (1st series), No. 54, January 1973, p. 25.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Leonard Mosley
The Assassination of Trotsky
Abacus 50p

Those of you who liked Losey’s film should nip smartly out and buy 50p worth of Mosley’s book. Those of you who found the film tedious, inaccurate and generally a pain will find no redress in this volume. This should surprise nobody. Mosley wrote the screenplay for the film and then presumably, in a white heat of creativity, went on to write the book of the film. This has the advantage of making the most of limited inspiration and cashing in on the film’s publicity. A note of uncharacteristic restraint is shown in resisting a nude cover to attract the dirty raincoat brigade.

Mosley has clearly not read widely either Trotsky’s work or that of any other Marxist writer. There are indications that he has read Their Morals and Ours and not understood a word of it. He has dipped unwarily into In Defense of Marxism and managed to make ridiculous and unrecognisable what was an argument of some intellectual power.

There are signs (although not mentioned in the “note on sources”) that he has read and been impressed by Bernard Wolfe’s execrable The Great Prince Died. Once again we see the notion that Trotsky fatalistically accepted the ice axe in expiation for his role at Kronstadt. This perverse view is not only psychologically nonsensical but leaves aside the fact that Trotsky’s role at Kronstadt was, personally, a big round nothing, as any halfway competent researcher would know. He took responsibility in the sense that a member of the Bolshevik leadership was responsible as part of the collective.

There is more of this sort of thing throughout the book, a book that has the appearance of being thrown together in a hurry. How else to explain the breathless style and crude metaphors. My favourite among this last appears on page 176: “He (Trotsky) is the other side of the coin from the blank tail of the assassin – the ineradicably recognisable lion’s head with his pince nez on his nose like balls.” Phew!!

Leonard Mosley, despite all this, seems quite fond of Trotsky. If this is the case perhaps he will now keep his ill-informed fingers out of matters he is clearly incapable of understanding or explaining. His book, in his own immortal words is: “like balls”.

Last updated on 23.9.2013