Sheila Fitzpatrick writes:
When Isaac Deutscher was writing his great three-volume biography in the 1950s, Leon Trotsky was a name to conjure with. The first volume came out in 1954, a year after Stalin’s death and 14 years after Trotsky’s murder in Mexico by Stalin’s agent. The epic battle between the two antagonists was still fresh in people’s minds; all over the world, small stubborn groups of ‘Trotskyites’ fought the Stalinists in official Communist Parties. Trotsky’s works were widely read and translated into many languages, especially the brilliant History of the Russian Revolution and The Revolution Betrayed, as was Deutscher’s biography, based on the Trotsky archives at Harvard and in Amsterdam. In Deutscher’s account, Trotsky was the revolution’s ‘prophet’, armed in the first volume, unarmed in the second and outcast in the third. Love him or hate him, Trotsky – organiser of the October seizure of power, charismatic leader of the Red Army during the Civil War – seemed a man for the ages, one of the great figures of the 20th century.