Isaac Deutscher was my friend and mentor and so I write the following with heartfelt regret. He was a brilliant, innovative thinker and literary stylist, but his life’s work, including his masterpiece on Trotsky, is finally a monument to the intellectual bankruptcy of Marxism itself. When all is said and done, the Trotsky biography must be seen as an incomparably sad waste of a remarkable individual talent. The intellectual framework of Deutscher’s portrait of Trotsky, including the standard by which its hero’s thoughts and deeds are measured, has been utterly falsified by the historical events since the author’s death in 1967.
In particular, the failure of Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union and the collapse of what proved to be the hollow shell of the Soviet empire brutally contradict and refute the essence of all that Deutscher wrote about them. Deutscher believed that socialism was an economically sound system that had enabled the Stalinists to build an advanced industrial base in Russia. He was convinced — and this was his hallmark contribution to Marxism — that this advanced economic base would eventually create an advanced democracy as well. Trotskyism itself was premised on this expectation. Instead, the opposite proved to be the case. The advanced economic base was another socialist lie, and the introduction of democracy destroyed the system. What then is left of intellectual Marxism but the atrocities it produced?
Deutscher, Lenin, Trotsky and Marx all staked their claims on the belief that socialism would produce abundance and freedom. A terrible history has shown us irrefutably that it doesn’t. Socialism is really a theory of economic theft and what it produces is poverty. Socialist systems are unable to even keep pace with the technological development necessary to sustain a modern economy. Moreover, they are fundamentally incompatible with human liberty.
None of these four revolutionaries still admired by the left had a clue about the critical importance of private property in making political liberty possible. Equally telling, none of them understood the necessity of a capitalist economy to technological progress or to economic well-being. In the last half of the 20th Century, vast masses of humanity — hundreds of millions in fact — were lifted out of subsistence poverty in those countries that protected and supported private property and free markets. This liberation of poor people into lives of relative dignity and modest luxury by capitalist economics represents a revolution unprecedented in the 5,000-year history of human societies.
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