domingo, 28 de dezembro de 2014

Fiction: Chapter 3.1 of “Mecha, Tofu, and Revolution”


On an early-April evening in 1922, Trotsky had settled in for the night at his family’s apartment in the Kavalersky building. His wife Natalia Sedov sat in an armchair, reading a history of Jainism, while their two teenage sons sat cross-legged on the floor, hunched over a game chess. Trotsky was adding a log to the fire, when there was a knock at the door. “I’ve got it,” Trotsky said pleasantly, before Sedov could get up. At the door was Lenin, who lived with his own wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, down the hall.

“Comrade, I’m sorry to disturb you,” the Soviet leader said. “Can we talk?” Trotsky nodded, waved reassuringly to his family, and stepped into the corridor, shutting the door behind him. With his hands stuffed in his pockets, he waited for Lenin to continue. “I’d like to make you deputy chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars,” the Soviet leader said.

Trotsky was not pleased with this idea, as under it he would be one of three vice-premiers. “You want to put me on the same level as Rykov and Tsuropa?” Trotsky asked incredulously, referring to the heads of the Commissar of Supplies and the Supreme Council of National Economy, who he regarded as lesser revolutionaries. “Meanwhile, Comrade Stalin has all the real power as general secretary of the party!” Lenin, realizing that Trotsky’s pride had been wounded, insisted that Trotsky would, despite appearances, be his genuine second in command. “Absolutely not,” Trotsky said, storming back to his apartment. “I won’t take the post.” He slammed the door behind him.

Approximately a month and a half later, Trotsky sat at his desk in the family apartment. He was poring over a progress report of the Soviet sterilization plan for cattle, jotting his own notes in the margins, when Sedov entered the study, holding a telegram. “Have you heard the news?” His wife asked. Trotsky hadn’t; he shook his head. “Lenin suffered a stroke,” Sedov said mournfully. “He’s partially paralyzed on his right side.” Trotsky was dumbstruck.

Trotsky was finally allowed to visit Lenin at the Moscow hospital four days later. Propped up by a pile of pillows, the Soviet leader lay in bed. Krupskaya sat in a nearby chair. She was attempting to dab a small amount of soy yogurt mixed with birch syrup into Lenin’s mouth when Trotsky entered the room. Lenin grimaced in what one must assume was an attempt at a grin while Krupskaya stood to greet Trotsky.

“Thank you for coming, comrade,” Krupskaya said. “I know he wanted to see you. He still can’t speak, but if he really focuses, he can write for short stretches of time.” Trotsky squeezed her hands in a way he intended to express his sympathy and support. Krupskaya offered a pained smile, before turning back to her husband and asking if he needed anything. Lenin shook his head as best he could and Krupskaya left the room.

Trotsky sat down in the chair beside the Soviet leader’s bed. “I’m so sorry this happened,” Trotsky said. Lenin motioned toward the pad and paper on his beside table. Trotsky retrieved these and placed them on the Soviet leader’s lap. So they began the tedious process of communicating. Lenin was in a gloomy mood; he believed his death was near. Half an hour later, Krupskaya returned with a doctor, who asked Trotsky to leave so the Soviet leader might rest.

In July of 1922, Trotsky and his family visited Lenin and Krupskaya in Gorki, a locality situated a few miles outside the city limits of Moscow. Lenin had been released from the hospital on the condition he dramatically curtail his work load. So he’d retreated to a palatial estate in Gorki which had been socialized during the revolution. Krupskaya and Sedov shared drinks in the living room. The children played outside while Lenin, who had recovered most of his faculties, and Trotsky watched from a porch bench.

“I’d still like you to take the vice-premier position,” the Soviet leader said eventually. “It will create a good counterbalance to Comrade Stalin’s power as general secretary, if anything happens to me.” Trotsky sighed in frustration. “Can’t we talk about something else?” Trotsky asked. “It’s a beautiful afternoon. The doctors say you’re not supposed to worry so much about these things now.” But Lenin wouldn’t accept this. The discussion was important, the Soviet leader insisted. “You could use the post to take on the bureaucratic misconduct you are always complaining about,” Lenin said enticingly.

Trotsky snorted. “The problem is the misconduct originates from the general secretary,” he said. “You can’t take it on so long as he’s in charge.” Lenin hushed him, shaking his head. “I wish you wouldn’t let your personal animosity towards Comrade Stalin cloud your judgement,” the Soviet leader said in disappointment. “He’s a vital part of what we’re accomplishing here and I rely on him.”

Por Jon Hochschartner
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