Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The revolutionary betrayed

Radio 4 yesterday had a discussion of Leon Trotsky as part of their Great Lives series. I was at work, and was going to tape it but when I heard the person advocating Trotsky was not a Trotskyist or even a socialist but neo-conservative fuckwit Christopher Hitchens I decided not to bother. This is what I er, 'missed' - from a report of the show in today's Independent:

'Christopher Hitchens chose Trotsky as his hero for the first edition of Great Lives. "I could choose someone furry, but I should pick someone people misunderstand and has the capacity to inspire hatred", he explained. Problem was, he didn't explain much else. The format includes an unbiased expert, in this case Professor Robert Service, who described Trotsky as "an appalling figure", but Hitchens failed to bring a fresh perspective on his hero or his reputation, especially over the Kronstadt mutiny, when a naval garrison who had previously backed the Bolsheviks were bloodily suppressed by Trotsky.
The show dissolved into a wonderfully bad-tempered exchange between Matthew Parris and Hitchens. Parris: "Come on, Christopher, you've chosen him as your great life. I expected you to tell me what a wonderful man he was, and the great things he might have achieved and you're unable to do that and you start talking about committees and party structures." "I'm sorry if I'm wasting your time." "No, I just want you to explain." "You're a greedy Tory. Much of what I say will be wasted on you." "Yes I am and I can explain why". "I know why people are Tories, it doesn't take 45 minutes and it isn't interesting," snapped Hitchens. "I think we're done. I've got to be somewhere at 1pm." The flounce-out-and-slam-door technique.'

Well, quelle surprise. For the real Trotsky, read perhaps Trotsky's My Life, or Isaac Deutscher's biography, reviewed briefly here.

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At 7:19 am, Blogger Gildersleeve said...

I found myself laughing out loud in the little tissy that happened toward the end there. Hitchens also snapped at the other guest, Professor Service, with an "if you mind..." while he was speaking.

At 1:04 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

If I get some time I might try to 'listen' to it online, but frankly the debate sounds rather like it was three bald men arguing over a comb.

At 12:07 am, Blogger El Tom said...

He is an ex-trot though. Then again, Peter Hitchens is an ex SWPer. I personally choose to avoid the ultra-left in my youth in the hope of not becoming reactionary in my old age...

At 4:42 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Er, there are plenty of 'ultra-left' types who stay radical throughout their life though - only we don't usually get to hear about them as they don't sell out to become columnists telling people what the capitalist class want people to think (like the Hitchenses). And as for former Labour radical left wingers who drift to the right - well that transition is completely unheard of isn't it (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Hilary Benn, Patricia Hewitt, David Blunkett, Peter Hain, Hariet Harman, etc etc)

No one is born on the 'ultra Left' - or revolutionary Left - they all have to break from a reactionary or reformist position of some sort to get there.


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