terça-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2015

Fiction: Chapter 3.2 of “Mecha, Tofu, and Revolution”


The issue of Trotsky’s appointment to vice-premier was raised again at a Politbureau meeting in mid-September of that year. The group met in the Kremlin, outside of which a construction mecha was loudly demolishing a slaughterhouse which had, prior to the revolution, operated on behalf of the inhabitants of the fortified compound. Every so often, the gathering of the Soviet leadership was forced to temporarily pause discussion, as they couldn’t hear each other over the sound of crashing bricks and wood.

Sitting at the head of the table, Stalin smoked a pipe, and flipped through a stack of papers before him. “The next order of business is filling the position of deputy chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars,” he said acidly. “The Politbureau should know that Comrade Lenin telegraphed me — from his sick bed — asking that Trotsky be given this post. So, whatever I or others might think of the choice, I move that we honor Lenin’s request.”

Those seated around the table turned to Trotsky, who was eating a plate of vegan pelmeni. “As I’ve made clear, I can’t take the position,” Trotsky said impatiently. “I’m scheduled soon for a vacation and am swamped with work in preparation for the next congress of the International.” Outside the Kremlin’s walls, the construction mecha sifted through the debris of the former abbattoir.

Stalin struck a match to relight his pipe. “Those are just excuses,” the general secretary said, before dipping the flame onto the packedtobacco. “This isn’t meant to be a temporary appointment. The job will still be here when your vacation and work for the congress is done.” Trotsky glared at Stalin, who, he was sure, knew from the outset Trotsky would not take the position. The general secretary smiled back, as if chummily. Trotsky reiterated that he would not take the post.

Stalin turned to the rest of the Politbureau, trying to hide the pleasure this result gave him. “In that case, I move that the Politbureau officially censure Comrade Trotsky for dereliction of duty,” the general secretary said in a regretful tone. Trotsky gritted his teeth and forced himself to swallow the remainder of the pelmeni in his mouth. “All in favor?” Stalin asked. Everyone present, except for Trotsky, raised their hands. Trotsky fumed.

A week into December of 1922, Trotsky received a telegram from Krupskaya saying that Lenin sought his presence in Gorki. So the next day, Trotsky headed to the outskirts of Moscow where the semi-retired Soviet leader lived. It was a beautiful afternoon. The landscape was buried in snow but the temperature was warm enough that Trotsky stuffed his hat and pleather gloves away in his pockets. When he reached the entrance of the mansion, Krupskaya answered the door. With obvious frustration, she said that, ignoring the advice of his doctors, Lenin was in the nearby forest, harvesting firewood in a lumber mecha.

Following a trail of compacted snow, Trotsky found the machine and its operator half a mile away. Struggling with the mecha’s controls from a pilot seat twenty feet off the ground, Lenin guided the robot’s sawing arm back and forth across the base of a thick balsam poplar. “Comrade Lenin,” Trotsky yelled. It took a few more shouts like this for the Soviet leader to hear him over the sound of the machine. But finally he waved in acknowledgement. Lenin lowered his chair to the ground and shut down the mecha.

After unbuckling himself and standing up, Lenin shook Trotsky’s hand. “It’s good to see you, comrade,” the Soviet leader said. Trotsky asked Lenin about his health and castigated him for not listening to his doctors, before they got down to business. “You know how I feel about the vice-premier position,” Lenin said. “There’s nothing new there. I just hope you might reconsider the offer in light of what I have to say.”

The Soviet leader continued, explaining that he had been following Stalin’s actions through Pravda and accounts provided by visitors to Gorki. Lenin had come to the conclusion that Trotsky was right. The general secretary was amassing too much power and often used it in an unprincipled way. “At this point, I’m prepared to offer whatever help I can in my present condition to root out the bureaucracy,” the Soviet leader said. “I’d like to form an alliance with you on the matter.” Trotsky was surprised by Lenin’s apparently sudden change in perspective, but happy about it. He readily agreed.

A week later, Trotsky was in Vladivostok, which had only been taken by the Red Army in October, inspecting its newly established animal sanctuary, built just outside the city. Trotsky walked the grounds with the facility’s director. “I’d like to see the indoor shelters expanded,” Trotsky said. “The living quarters for the goats in particular seem too small.” At this point, his assistant Glazman interrupted, announcing the news that had arrived by telegram. Lenin had suffered a second stroke.


Por Jon Hochschartner
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