terça-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2015

Fiction: Chapter 4.1 of “Mecha, Tofu, and Revolution”

In early March of 1923, Lev Kamenev, another member of the Politbureau, met with Trotsky in a Moscow restaurant, mostly frequented by English-speaking expatriates, called ‘Oswald’s’ after the Scottish Jacobin and animalist. While taking their orders, their waiter was starstruck upon recognizing Trotsky, who waved off the man’s praise politely. Kamenev went unnoticed but didn’t seem troubled by this. Kamenev was a quiet, bookish revolutionary. Further, Trotsky suspected that, due to political tensions, he did not want this meeting between them to be known by others on the Politbureau.

After the waiter retreated to the kitchen to communicate their order of two vegan pizzas, Kamenev began. “Lenin has severed allpersonal and political ties to Comrade Stalin,” Kamenev said, referring to the Soviet leader who, after his most recent stroke, was confined to a wheelchair. “Apparently, Stalin insulted his wife, Krupskaya.” As Kamenev explained, Lenin had dictated a letter to Krupskaya for Trotsky, in violation of his doctor’s injunction against political work. When Stalin heard this, he confronted Krupskaya, angrily calling her a ‘syphilictic whore,’ among other things.

“I think he’s worried you’re forming some kind of bloc with Lenin,” Kamenev said. “You wouldn’t be up to anything like that, would you?” Trotsky shrugged; Lenin wasn’t much use bundled up in Gorki anyway. Kamenev nodded, and finally the Politbureau members’ pizzas arrived. Kamenev folded a soy-cheese slice in half and took a large bite. “Wow, this is good,” he exclaimed as grease dripped onto his beard. A few days later, Lenin suffered a third stroke which left him bedridden and mute.

In late April, Stalin was reelected as general secretary of the party at the annual congress of Bolsheviks. Trotsky did not oppose him. A week later, in early May, Trotsky and his assistant were out for a walk through Moscow, as the pair sought to clear their heads, having read reports of mecha readiness all morning. Trotsky pulled the brim of his cap low on his face in the hopes of not being recognized. Glazman struggled to keep up with his superior’s aggressive pace.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t move against Stalin at the conference,” Glazman said, huffing and puffing. “You could have crushed him. People were complaining about a lack of inner-party democracy. You had Lenin’s backing.” Trotsky sighed heavily and kicked a stone down the sidewalk. “I’m not sure if you are aware of this,” he said sarcastically, “but Comrade Lenin can’t get out of bed, let alone speak. He hasn’t been to a Politbureau meeting in some time.”

This wouldn’t suffice for Glazman. But Trotsky had Lenin’s letters on the matter, the stenographer insisted; he could have reproduced them. However Trotsky still felt an unspoken loyalty to the Politbureau that held him back from publicly criticizing its other members. “Glazman, the revolution is in a supremely fragile state with Comrade Lenin ill,” Trotsky said, as they walked past a bakery. “Now’s not the time for division. Plus, everyone seems to suspect that I’m pining for Lenin’s position. And I don’t want to encourage that impression. It’s unseemly.”

Trotsky and Glazman sidestepped past a small mecha that was sprinkling dirt on the still icy sidewalks to provide pedestrians with traction. Trotsky nodded in acknowledgement to the operator, who had paused her work so as not to spray the pair with earth. Glazman seemed to be losing patience with his boss. “But you know Stalin has no such compunction,” the assistant said. “He’s been using his position to sack local and regional secretaries and replace them with those loyal to him. It’s only a matter of time until you are completely isolated.”

In October of 1923, the director of the political police, Felix Dzerzhinsky, spoke before a session of the Politbureau. During the civil war, Dzerzhinsky was infamous for employing machine-gun mecha for the mass execution of counterrevolutionaries. His comrades generally acknowledged the necessity of his work, but found it unsettling. Following a strike wave and calls for greater Soviet democracy, Dzerzhinsky was now asking the Politbureau to order Bolsheviks to report other party members who were hostile to the leadership.

“Look, you want me to quash the discontent?” Dzerzhinsky said. “You want me to arrest those fomenting it? Well, this is the tool I need. I question party members — even the Old Guard — and they refuse to give up any names. They’re sympathetic. I think this is a bigger problem than you’re aware.”

Later, in the Kavalersky building, while his wife and two sons slept in the adjoining rooms, Trotsky began to write a critical response to Dzerzhinsky’s request. That the Politbureau would even have to consider such a draconian measure was a mark of how out of touch the Bolshevik leadership had become with the masses. No doubt others on the Politbureau would point out Trotsky had overturned trade-union leadership in the period of War Communism. But Stalin’s actions were on a completely different scale, and besides, the civil war was over, Trotsky thought, gazing out into the Moscow night.

Por Jon Hochschartner
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