Encyclopedia Britannica is one of the most authoritative reference books in the world. Its wide range of topics and clearcut style are praiseworthy indeed. But, the encyclopedia is also characterized by a political bias in certain issues. Well, one shouldn’t object to propaganda overtones in a party publication. However, a reference book must be guarded against such propaganda involvement. Unfortunately, editors and authors of Britannica have succumbed to a temptation of the worldly opinions. For example, they highly appreciated a demonic Leon Trotsky, who led the Red Army during the bloody Civil War in Russia, in contrast to their mostly negative approach towards Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Of course, tastes differ, but an encyclopedia is not an appropriate vehicle to voice one’s personal opinions.
Robert V. Daniels, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Vermont, Burlington, has composed the Britannica’s Leon Trotsky article. This complimentary piece of biographical writing totally ignores some crucial moments of Trotsky’s life. For example, his close ties with Wall Street banksters are an open secret: «Jacob Schiff in fact made a public announcement and it was due to his financial influence that the Russian revolution was successfully accomplished and in the Spring 1917 Jacob Schitf[sic] started to finance Trotsky, a Jew, for the purpose of accomplishing a social revolution in Russia» (tinyurl.com/3u2f2). The Britannica is also silent on the ruthless nature of Trotsky, who masterminded many crimes of the Russian Revolution: «Trotsky had no qualms about introducing into Soviet Russia political terror. Barely two months after the Bolsheviks had seized power, he said: There is nothing immoral in the proletariat finishing off the dying class. This is its right. You are indignant … at the petty terror which we direct at our class opponents. But be put on notice that in one month at most this terror will assume more frightful forms, on the model of the great revolutionaries of France. Our enemies will face not prison but the guillotine» (tinyurl.com/pf9hoea). Additional Reading of this article is beneath criticism. There are only books in English. Moreover, they are full of predominantly favorable views on Trotsky. How can one study a Russian politician in depth without books in Russian?!
By and large, Lenin valued Stalin’s mental faculties a lot: «It was of this essay of Stalin that Lenin, who was so impressed by it, wrote to Gorky: «We have amongst us a wonderful Georgian who set down and wrote for Prosvezhchenia a long article in which he gathered all the Austrian material» (Lenin, Col. Works, Russian Edition, Vol. XVI, p. 328)» (tinyurl.com/q5gxohq). While, in his letters and essays the chief of the Russian Revolution rather straightforwardly described Trotsky as a «political prostitute» and «Judas Trotsky» (tinyurl.com/qznc5m8). But, Robert V. Daniels prefers to put this antipathy in by all means softer words: «Lenin characterized Trotsky as a man of «exceptional abilities» but «too far-reaching self-confidence and a disposition to be too much attracted by the purely administrative side of affairs».
In his memoirs Man and Mask: Forty Years in the Life of a Singer, famous singer Feodor Chaliapin wrote that he was impressed by Vladimir Lenin’s eagerness to save costumes and stage scenery of the Mariinsky Theatre amid the turmoil of the Russian Revolution: «Тут я понял, что имею дело с человеком, который привык понимать с двух слов, и что разжевывать дел ему не надо. Он меня сразу покорил и стал мне симпатичен. «Это, пожалуй, вождь», — подумал я. А Ленин продолжал: — Поезжайте в Петроград, не говорите никому ни слова, а я употреблю влияние, если оно есть, на то, чтобы ваши резонные опасения были приняты во внимание в вашу сторону» (tinyurl.com/pd5tvlm). Even the singer, who took refuge in the West, acknowledged Lenin’s efforts to support culture. But, when Chaliapin asked for Trotsky’s help in order in increase daily ration for artists, the Jewish revolutionary flatly refused him, saying that an entrenched soldier must not be equalized in rights with a smiling ballet dancer: «– Вот, — говорю я, — не за себя, конечно, пришел я просить у вас, а за актеров. Трудно им. У них уменьшили паек, а мне сказали, что это от вас зависит прибавить или убавить. После секунды молчания, оставаясь в той же неподвижной позе, Троцкий четко, буква к букве, ответил: — Неужели вы думаете, товарищ, что я не понимаю, что значит, когда не хватает хлеба? Но не могу же я поставить на одну линию солдата, сидящего в траншеях, с балериной, весело улыбающейся и танцующей на сцене» (ibidem). In contrast to the sheer demagoguery of Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin made a considerable contribution to the philosophy of science. His notable quotation that «the electron is as inexhaustible as the atom…» (Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, 1909) has been proved many times by quantum mechanics.
A politico Trotsky didn’t write anything comparable to such deep thoughts, because he dedicated himself to struggle for power. But, the Britannica groundlessly maintains about Trotsky that «in intellectual power and administrative effectiveness, he was Lenin’s superior». Embellishing the facts, it alleges that «Trotsky was undoubtedly the most brilliant intellect brought to prominence by the Russian Revolution, outdistancing Lenin and other theoreticians both in the range of his interests and in the imaginativeness of his perceptions».
As a teenager, Joseph Stalin wrote verses, which were included into an anthology of Georgian literature for schoolchildren published before the Russian Revolution. He also was a promising singer. Writer Simon Sebag Montefiore tells about this relatively unknown period of the leader’s life. «Before he was a revolutionary, Stalin was known as a poet. In 1895, aged 17 and studying for the priesthood in Georgia, a province of the tsarist empire, he took a selection of his poems to show to the country’s most famous editor and national hero, Prince Ilya Chavchavadze. The prince was deeply impressed with both the poems and the poet, whom he called that “young man with the burning eyes”. After looking through the verses, he chose five to publish in Iveria (an archaic name for Georgia), Russia’s most fashionable and prestigious literary journal… When printed, they were widely read and much admired. They became minor Georgian classics, to be published in anthologies and memorised by schoolchildren until the 1970s (and not as part of Stalin’s cult; they were usually published as «Anonymous»)… Stalin’s singing – he was a lead adolescent tenor at the seminary – was said to be good enough for him to go professional». (tinyurl.com/3mbgxxm).
Stalin’s philosophical works also reveal a highly talented thinker. In his essay Marxism and Problems of Linguistics (1950), he argues that «whatever thoughts arise in the human mind and at whatever moment, they can arise and exist only on the basis of the linguistic material, on the basis of language terms and phrases». He also points out that language «was created not by some one class, but by the entire society, by all the classes of the society, by the efforts of hundreds of generations». Stalin’s theory of aggravation of the class struggle along with the development of socialism, proclaimed in his speech before a plenary session of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) in April 1929, has proved its relevance many times ever since.
This article has not been intended to glorify Lenin and Stalin or to denigrate Trotsky. The author simply would like to convey a message that serious researchers must be broad-minded. Academic circles are not to be used for political agenda.