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The Militant, 27 January 1946

Pioneer Paragraphs

Victor Serge

Lenin and Trotsky – Leaders of the Russian Revolution

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 1, 6 January 1945, p. 4
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


When an idea is in the air of an epoch, that is to say, when the general conditions for its birth and growth are present, men begin to have a presentiment of it, and it is frequently conceived by several men at the same time... Marx and Engels arrived at the same conclusion as to the foundations of modern society, and, in twenty-five years of admirable intellectual collaboration, founded scientific socialism. The Russian Revolution was to realize in action – but action nourished by solid thought – a collaboration just as remarkable: that of Lenin and Trotsky.

Expelled from Prance in 1916 by an order signed by Malvy (Jules Guesde was in the cabinet), as a result of a provocation; then deported from Spain as an undesirable element, Trotsky went to New York where he stayed for a short time, engaged in revolutionary activity; and then to Canada whence he planned to set sail for Russia. Interned in a concentration camp with his wife and children, he finally was set free, thanks to the intervention of the Petrograd Soviet. He arrived in the capital on May 5, 1917, and his first speech, delivered as soon as he got off the boat, demanded the seizure of power.

His personality, as an orator, journalist and organizer, sometimes seemed to overshadow that of Lenin, which at first glance appeared less striking. Lenin was good-natured, unassuming, ordinary in appearance; an outsider would scarcely have noticed him; he spoke with extreme simplicity, and it was not so much his language as the force of his reasoning which moved his audience. He wrote, without particular gift or concern for form, what he had to say and nothing more. Never in his life did he make the slightest concession to the demon of literature.

Trotsky, on the other hand, would nowhere have passed unnoticed, with his shock of hair, the erect carriage of his head, the intensity of his blue-gray eyes. He had about him something authoritative and compelling. On the platform, his voice had a metallic ring, and each sentence was like a sharp thrust. He was to become the orator par excellence of the revolution. His written style is consummately skillful. But the main thing was that the hour which had struck was the hour he had awaited, foreseen, and desired all his life. In the Social Democratic party he was the theoretician of the permanent revolution, which means a revolution which cannot, and will not, be extinguished before it has completed its work, and which consequently can be conceived only on an international plan.

By his knowledge of languages and peoples, he was the most European of the Russian revolutionists. Lenin had, however, one incontestable superiority over him; his party, formed through fourteen years of struggles and labors, from 1903 to 1917 ... The documents of the period were for years not to separate the names of these two men who, by and large, thought and acted as one, translating the thought and action of millions. These were the two heads of the revolution.

(From From Lenin to Stalin, by Victor Serge, pp. 14–15. Pioneer Publishers, 1937; 112 pp.; 50 cents. Order from Pioneer Publishers, 116 University Pl., N.Y. 3, N.Y.)

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