Lev Davidovich Bronstein was born on 7th November 1879. He was educated at Odessa and Nikolayev. He learned of the ideas of Karl Marx and in 1897 helped to organise the South Russian Workers’ Union. He actively supported socialism and published leaflets and pamphlets for distribution.
In 1898 he was arrested and exiled to Siberia where he joined the Social Democratic Party. In 1903 he escaped and moved to England to join Lenin. However, the two were divided and on policy and when the Social Democratic Party to split into two factions the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks they were on opposite sides. It was around this time that he adopted the name Trotsky.
Trotsky returned to Russia during the 1905 revolution and became leader of the St Petersburg Soviet. He was arrested in December 1905 and again exiled to Siberia. It was during this period that he formulated his theory of Permanent Revolution. In 1908 he escaped to Austria and became involved in the publication of the Socialist magazine/newspaper Pravda.
Trotsky was a pacifist and fiercely criticized World War One. He moved to Paris and became editor of the Socialist newspaper Nashe Slovo. He actively encouraged pacifists to refuse to fight an action which led to his being arrested by the French authorities and being deported to Spain.
In January 1917 Trotsky moved to the United States but returned to Russia following the February Revolution and joined Lenin and the Bolshevik party. After the October Revolution Trotsky was made Foreign Commissar and negotiated The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which took Russia out of the war.
As Commissar for War Trotsky introduced and built up the Red Army and led it to victory over the White Army during the civil war that followed the revolution.
The Trade Union debate of 1920-21 split Trotsky and Lenin again. At the Tenth Party Congress Lenin announced the creation of a new party role – General Secretary. The man chosen to fill the role was Josef Stalin.
When Lenin suffered a stroke in 1922 Stalin, realising that Trotsky was his main rival for the leadership, removed many of Trotsky’s supporters by using power of his position ‘to expel unsatisfactory party members’. When Lenin died in 1923 Stalin was elected leader.
In 1927 Stalin had Trotsky removed from the party and on 31st January 1929 he was exiled from the USSR. Due to his political opinions many countries rejected accepting him and after spending a period of time in Norway he was deported to Mexico. On 20 August 1940 Ramon Mercader acting on Stalin’s orders stabbed Trotsky with an ice pick. He died the following day.