Trotsky in New York, 1917

A Radical on the Eve of Revolution

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Book Description

Lev Davidovich Trotsky burst onto the world stage in November 1917 as co–leader of a Marxist Revolution seizing power in Russia. It made him one of the most recognized personalities of the Twentieth Century, a global icon of radical change. Yet just months earlier, this same Lev Trotsky was a nobody, a refugee expelled from Europe, writing obscure pamphlets and speeches, barely noticed outside a small circle of fellow travelers. Where had he come from to topple Russia and change the world? Where else? New York City.

Between January and March 1917, Trotsky found refuge in the United States. America had kept itself out of the European Great War, leaving New York the freest city on earth. During his time there—just over ten weeks—Trotsky immersed himself in the local scene. He settled his family in the Bronx, edited a radical left wing tabloid in Greenwich Village, sampled the lifestyle, and plunged headlong into local politics. His clashes with leading New York socialists over the question of US entry into World War I would reshape the American left for the next fifty years.

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Praise For This Book

"Ackerman takes the obscure story of Leon Trotsky's 10–week stay in New York City in early 1917 and succeeds in painting a picture of a man on the cusp of greatness . . . His brief stay in N.Y.C. may remain a historical footnote, but Ackerman clearly demonstrates the forcefulness of Trotsky's revolutionary spirit.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ackerman creates a lively portrait of this tireless agitator adjusting his personal life and his politics to a strange country a few months before the Bolsheviks seized power at home. In boisterous prose well–matched to his topic, the author also convincingly evokes the social ferment of New York's huge immigrant community . . . Ackerman succeeds in presenting Trotsky's little–known weeks in New York as an absorbing adventure, though much greater adventures lay ahead. An entertaining and informative account of a footnote to the life of one of the 20th century's most charismatic leaders.” —Kirkus

“Ackerman explores not only the revolutionary's life in the city, but the worldwide circumstances that brought him there and where he would head after. What emerges is not only a portrait of a man and the landscape of a city, but how the two influenced each other—and how the results swayed world history.” —Jacobin

“[Ackerman] is a gifted storyteller. He has unearthed a wealth of previously little known material and produced from it a book that is appealing and thought–provoking. . . . it deserves a wide audience. The author's empathy for “old” New York is vivid and deep, as is his fascination with Leon Trotsky.” —World Socialist Website

“Exhaustively researched, impressively well written, exceptionally accessible in organization and presentation, Trotsky in New York, 1917: Portrait of a Radical on the Eve of Revolution by Kenneth D. Ackerman is a seminal work on the life and times of Leon Trotsky.” —Midwest Book Review