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The Dialectic of Change 
by Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Rick Simon.
Verso, 393 pp., £29.95, January 1990, 0 86091 258 2
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... close of the Fifties, the New Left put on a mass meeting in London, at which the star speaker was Isaac Deutscher and the slogan was ‘Into the Red Sixties’. At the close of the Seventies, there was a much-anticipated rally in Central Hall, Westminster, unironically billed as ‘The Debate of the Decade’, between Tony Benn and the leaders of the ...

Victory in Defeat

Neal Ascherson: Trotsky, 2 December 2004

The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-21 
by Isaac Deutscher.
Verso, 497 pp., £15, December 2003, 1 85984 441 3
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The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-29 
by Isaac Deutscher.
Verso, 444 pp., £15, December 2003, 1 85984 446 4
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The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-40 
by Isaac Deutscher.
Verso, 512 pp., £15, December 2003, 1 85984 451 0
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... Deutscher’s Trotsky was thought by two generations – his own and its successor – to be one of the great works of biography. The first volume emerged in 1954, soon after the death of Stalin. The last appeared in 1963, at a time when the Soviet Union still seemed strong and confident, and when there remained hopes (not only on the left) that reforms leading towards a Soviet version of democratic socialism might one day be resumed ...

Secret Services

Robert Cecil, 4 April 1985

The Soviet Union and Terrorism 
by Roberta Goren.
Allen and Unwin, 232 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 04 327073 5
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The Great Purges 
by Isaac Deutscher and David King.
Blackwell, 176 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 631 13923 0
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SOE: The Special Operations Executive 1940-46 
by M.R.D. Foot.
BBC, 280 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 563 20193 2
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A History of the SAS Regiment 
by John Strawson.
Secker, 292 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 436 49992 4
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... some of David King’s collection of contemporary photographs, together with a commentary by Isaac Deutscher: ‘In presenting these scenes, I had to reconstruct a nightmare.’ We must hope that, for a majority or Russians, their dreams have become pleasanter: but we do well to remember that they still have no judicial or other safeguards to ...

Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The Twilight of the Comintern 1930-1935 
by E.H. Carr.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £25, December 1982, 0 333 33062 5
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... part of a manuscript for the 16th volume. It may perhaps be edited by Carr’s friend, Tamara Deutscher, with whom he frequently collaborated. Carr began to write his History just after the Second World War, when the Soviet Union appeared in something of a heroic light. The origins of the Stalinist colossus were of very wide interest. The Bolsheviks could ...

History and the Left

Jonathan Haslam, 4 April 1985

The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War 
by E.H. Carr, edited by Tamara Deutscher.
Macmillan, 111 pp., £17.50, December 1984, 0 333 36952 1
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The British Marxist Historians: An Introductory Analysis 
by Harvey Kaye.
Polity, 316 pp., £22.50, November 1984, 0 7456 0015 8
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Worlds of Labour: Further Studies in the History of Labour 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 297 78509 5
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The Collected Essays of Christopher Hill. Vol. I: Writing and Revolution in 17th-Century England 
Harvester, 340 pp., £28.50, February 1985, 0 7108 0565 9Show More
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... for an old man. Carr was, as he acknowledged, ‘extremely lucky in having the help of Tamara Deutscher’ in completing the History. This help also became essential to the work which followed – The Twilight of Comintern 1930-35 – and to the project which remained sadly incomplete when he died in November 1982: a history of the Comintern’s ...

The Old Man

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Trotsky, 22 April 2010

Trotsky: A Biography 
by Robert Service.
Macmillan, 600 pp., £9.99, April 2010, 978 0 330 43969 5
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Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky 
by Bertrand Patenaude.
Faber, 472 pp., £9.99, March 2010, 978 0 571 22876 8
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... When Isaac Deutscher was writing his great three-volume biography in the 1950s, Leon Trotsky was a name to conjure with. The first volume came out in 1954, a year after Stalin’s death and 14 years after Trotsky’s murder in Mexico by Stalin’s agent. The epic battle between the two antagonists was still fresh in people’s minds; all over the world, small stubborn groups of ‘Trotskyites’ fought the Stalinists in official Communist Parties ...

Within the Pale

Naomi Shepherd, 8 February 1990

Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary 
by Hersh Mendel, translated by Robert Michaels.
Pluto, 367 pp., £19.50, February 1989, 0 7453 0264 5
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by Shlomo Avineri.
Peter Halban, 126 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 1 870015 23 1
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Golda Meir: The Romantic Years 
by Ralph Martin.
Piatkus, 416 pp., £15, April 1989, 0 86188 864 2
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... district of Warsaw. Self-educated, with a smattering of European languages, able – according to Isaac Deutscher, later a comrade – to express himself coherently only in Yiddish, Mendel was in turn a Bundist, an anarchist in Paris before the First World War, a Communist who fought in the Moscow street battles in 1917, a Polish revolutionary opponent ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... it has always been rather too easy for him to mistake myth for reality. His father, the remarkable Isaac Foot, was the very model of the battling West Country Liberal, a man of wide learning who amassed one of the finest private libraries in the country. Born the fifth child of seven, the young Michael grew up among a veritable forest of Foots, all ...

Bravo, old sport

Christopher Hitchens, 4 April 1991

Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Post-War America 
by Neil Jumonville.
California, 291 pp., £24.95, January 1991, 0 520 06858 0
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... of all and the one discussed long ago by George Steiner in his Trotsky and the Tragic Imagination. Isaac Deutscher, the non-Jewish Jew par excellence, hesitated in calling his Trotsky trilogy The Prophet. There are messianic traditions after all, and there are messianic traditions. Yet surely Irving Howe, currently the very model of New York social ...

British Chill

Anatol Lieven: What E.H.Carr Got Right, 24 August 2000

The Vices of Integrity: E.H.Carr 1892-1928 
by Jonathan Haslam.
Verso, 306 pp., £25, July 1999, 1 85984 733 1
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... to the camp of Soviet sympathisers and a curious friend and ally of convinced Marxists such as Isaac Deutscher. Carr repeatedly drew parallels between the crimes and achievements of the Soviet and the Western systems, pointing to the human costs of Western industrialisation, and the cruelty of Western colonialism. In the end, he was prepared to ...

From the Outer Edge

Rory Scothorne: ‘Painting Nationalism Red’, 6 December 2018

Tom Nairn: ‘Painting Nationalism Red’? 
by Neal Ascherson.
Democratic Left Scotland, 27 pp., £4, February 2018
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... Left against Europe’, and his extensive quotation of figures opposed to nationalism, like Isaac Deutscher and Rosa Luxemburg, suggests a brief flirtation with the ‘proletarian internationalism’ he would polemicise against in later years. In ‘Culture and Nationalism’ Nairn expressed his ‘awe’ at Scottish International’s efforts to ...

How was it for you?

David Blackbourn, 30 October 1997

Man Without a Face: The Memoirs of a Spymaster 
by Markus Wolf and Anne McElvoy.
Cape, 367 pp., £17.99, June 1997, 0 224 04498 2
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The File: A Personal History 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
HarperCollins, 227 pp., £12.99, July 1997, 0 00 255823 8
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... tries to pass himself off as a benign Central European Marxist intellectual, an Ernst Fischer or Isaac Deutscher fallen among Stalinists. Timothy Garton Ash met Wolf while working on The File and felt both the charm and the deep-seated denial. Wolf, he suggests, was the Albert Speer of East Germany, another argument from moral equivalence that Garton ...

Just like that

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Second-Guessing Stalin, 5 April 2018

Stalin, Vol. II: Waiting for Hitler, 1928-41 
by Stephen Kotkin.
Allen Lane, 1154 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 7139 9945 7
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... of personal agendas and emotional predispositions. Henri Barbusse admired his subject, Trotsky and Isaac Deutscher wanted to cut him down to size. Dmitri Volkogonov wrote in late Soviet disillusionment, and the German historian Jörg Baberowski in contemptuous disgust. When I was writing my study of Stalin and his closest associates, On Stalin’s Team, I ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... The resulting practice of theatrical – no, operatic – dissimulation was best caught by Isaac Deutscher in his study of the Scandinavian social democrat and all-purpose political conjuror and thug Trygve Lie. Yet there are honourable contrasts, such as Willy Brandt. In the whole of Brandt’s memoirs, the name Wilson is mentioned twice and then ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 December 1992

English Questions 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 370 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 375 9
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A Zone of Engagement 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 384 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 377 5
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... that ‘this Gramscian polarity was given too cultural a turn.’ His ‘national nihilism’, as Isaac Deutscher put it, had got the better of him. In 1987, in ‘Figures of Descent’, which he now reprints together with some of his earlier NLR essays, in English Questions, he offered a more material and pointedly comparative account of what by then ...

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