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The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 Paperback – January 17, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In the 1930s, Trotsky, with a handful of followers, attempted to block the path of Stalin’s relentless hurricane of betrayal and murder. His epic defence of the soul of the Revolution against its bureaucratic executioners was a torchlight in the storm. In one of the very greatest modern biographies, Isaac Deutscher redeems the legacy of this astonishing revolutionary and humanist thinker.”—Mike Davis

“The three volumes of Isaac Deutscher’s life of Trotsky ... were for me the most exciting reading of the year. Surely this must be counted among the greatest biographies in the English language.”—Graham Greene

“He has told the story more accurately and with fuller detail than ever before ... .compulsory reading for anyone interested in the history of Soviet Russia.”—A.J.P Taylor, New Statesman

“He has told the story more accurately and with fuller detail than ever before. His book is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the history of Soviet Russia and of international communism.”—A. J. P. Taylor

“This is the critical voice the velvet revolution faded out. The republication of Deutscher’s classic trilogy is good news for a new generation who want to know what went wrong with communist-style socialism.”—Sheila Rowbotham

“Deutscher is an exceedingly vivid writer with a sense of style, and a warm and understanding sympathy for his hero: this makes him a first rate biographer.”—Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Isaac Deutscher was born in 1907 near Krakow and joined the Polish Communist Party, from which he was expelled in 1932. He then moved to London where he died in 1967. His other books include Stalin and The Unfinished Revolution.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (December 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859844464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844465
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,421,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book detailing the fall from grace of the Soviet Union's number 2 man in the revolution: Leon Trotsky. After Lenin's death, Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, the ruling triumverate, did all that they could to eliminate this popular figure from the political arena. Deutscher does a great job illuminating one of the the major ideological conflicts in the Soviet Union during the 1920's: socialism in one country advocated by Stalin and permanent revolution supported by Trotsky. Deutscher's arguments make a strong case for Trotsky's position, since without a communist revolution in a more industrially advanced country, Soviet socialism faced the danger of becoming heavily bureaucratic and deformed. The other major difference between Stalin and Totsky was about the course of inustrialization in the Soviet Union. Trotsky warned about the danger of the New Economic Policy (NEP) slowly restoring capitalism in Russia. In Stalin's battle for power with Trotsky, he originally supported the NEP and a slow course of industrialization. When he finally defeated Trotsky (which begins the final book of Deutscher's trilogy) he almost completely stole Trotsky's program of rapid industrialization for the USSR. The question that the reader is left with is: would idustrialization in the USSR have been more peaceful under Trotsky than Stalin? Would we be talking about millions of dead Soviet citizens today and would the communist movement around the world still be a factor if Trotsky, not Stalin, would have won the power struggle in the 1920's. It's obvious that Deutscher is a big supporter of Leon Trotsky. Its hard not to be: he almost single handedly organized the Red Army with no military background which repelled foreign intervention during the Russian Civil War.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any reprint of this classic work is better than none. And of course Deutscher grasps the gist of the matter as Trotsky's "middle" period is concerned : the fact that he was unable to lauch a decided bid for power aganst Stalin when he had still a chance to do so, but then managed to recover enough influence - almost solely by means of his intellectual acumen - to wage a brilliant but doomed in advance defensive political campaign in the late 1920s. Be as it is, if marxism is going to recover from the long reactionary eclipse of the last 30 years, it will have to pay attention to musch of what Trotsky said and wrote in the period covered by this work.

Exactly because of that, I've to complain about the quality of this new Verso edition. Typos abound; the cover is good, but the paper used for the regular pages is of low quality - a highly absorbing, and I suppose perhaps of high acidity, variety of paper, something I discovered when my copy was exposed to humidity and became soaked like a sponge. Also, there lacks and introductory essay and a glossary. Frankly, I think Verso should value more having this work in its publishing list.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this book in the paperback format from the Blue and Gold Bookstore near the campus of Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1972 while I was living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. The book was read at the time and, since that time, parts of he book have been extensively re-read as the book has been used as a reference book. As a consequence, the book is considerably worn. Generally, I try to supplement the paperback books in my library with hardbound editions of the same book. The hardbound books last much longer.

This is the second volume of Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Leon Trotsky. This three-volume set has become the standard biography against which all other Trotsky biographies have been measured. The period of time covered in this book extends from 1921 until 1929. During this time, Trotsky was stripped of all his party and government offices and finally in 1929 was sent into exile. Thus, during this time much of Trotsky's time was taken up with writing critical assessment of the new Soviet state.
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Format: Paperback
We all know Trotsky loses in the Lenin succesion struggle but it is still interesting following the chronology.

Deutscher tells it all in detail. I liked Prophet Armed better and kind of skimmed through this book but still enjoyed it.

I wanted to see just how the Trotsky elimination process happens. Did he get physically manhandled. Is he bounced off to a hard labor gulag. Is he dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by the security service? How does he react when he realizes it's all down hill from here.

Oh yes there is the contrast between "permanent revolution" and "socialism in one country". You will get all the details plus more.

See how the party bigwigs fear Trotsky in the succession process. See how they all underestimate the "grey mediocrity" (Stalin).

See how Trotsky's disobedience to Lenin's instruction to denounce Stalin at the critical party congress comes backs to haunt him.

See why Lenin "gets it" politically while Trotsky sometimes has his mind in the stratosphere.

Deutscher is easy to read. He explains the details clearly. Clearly a good book for the intellectual, the intellectual "wannabee" and just the average reader interested in the history of this revolution. You will be much better informed even if you have no prior knowledge of the Russian Revolution, etc.
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