[Marxism] Re: Frida
ozleft at optushome.com.au
Tue May 3 22:17:33 MDT 2005
By Bob Gould
I can't say much more about the film than I said in my original comments
I'm pleased that Clancy thinks it's a reasonable take on the film.
I might also add that the other major film about the Trotsky
assissination was the repellant "Assassination of Trotsky" produced by
the Stalinist Lohsey, and Joe Hansen's brutal but necessary demolition
of that film stands the test of time.
I agree with Fred Feldman's point about the inaccurate-by-casting
picture of Trotsky as a political figure. The weakness was in the
casting. Geoffrey Rush, one of my favourite character actors by a
country mile, was badly miscast playing Trotsky, and Clancy's response
to Louis about the mechanics of making a major feature film seems
I have, however, a strong political disagreement with Clancy Sigal about
Trotsky. The proposition that he would have been a more literary version
of Stalin had he held power is deeply flawed.
All the biographical material about Trotsky shows him to have been a
slightly aloof, slightly authoritarian kind of man, without the
attractive flexibility that one associates with Lenin. Nevertheless he
was a man of the highest moral principle. An analogy between Trotsky and
Che Guevara springs to mind. Both were highly moral men of the deepest
political principles, although a bit inflexible in their approach.
I object to retrospectively linking Trotsky and Stalin. The Stalinist
coup was a counter-revolution against the old Bolshevism of Lenin,
Trotsky and all the revolutionary martyrs murdered by the Stalinist meat
Trotsky's inflexible personality and a certain hubris had something to
do with the fact that the Stalin faction won the day, but had the Left
Opposition and Trotsky not fought the necessary battle for traditional
revolutionary Marxism against the Stalinist counter-revolution there
would be little left today of the Marxist tradition.
Had I been around at the time, I might not have got along terribly well
with Trotsky, while I would have followed Lenin almost anywhere, but
none of that personal psychology, while it's of interest to us all, is
the central thing about Marxist politics.
Without Trotsky and the other figures in the Left Opposition, Leninism
and Marxism would have disappeared. Surely anyone can see that, looking
back on the 20th century -- utterly degenerate, still significant,
Stalinist parties in some countries notwithstanding.
On a more literary, note I have a considerable soft spot for Clancy
Sigal. Having come out of the orbit of the Stalinist movement in 1956 as
a young bloke, I read a publisher's proof of "Going Away" and at about
the same time I read Doris Lessing's "Golden Notebook", which both blew
In the early 1970s I acquired 100 copies of "Going Away" as a
publisher's remainder from Jonathan Cape in Britain. In the same bundle
of remainders I also acquired Marcel Liebman's book on Leninism, and I
sold every copy of both over the next couple of years.
I picked up that Clancy Sigal was the American in the "Golden Notebook"
and I used to associate the two to people. In the 1960s and 1970s and
even later, I was a bit gregarious, so to speak. If I had some interest
in a woman, I would often sell or lend her the "Golden Notebook" and
"Going Away". I wasn't terribly interested, anyway, in women to whom
those two books might not have some resonance, and at a personal level
that literary device worked pretty well.
With the later changes in social behaviour, I'm not sure that either
book has the same resonance now among the younger generation, but they
had plenty of resonance for people of my generation.
I can forgive Clancy Sigal for his cavalier attitude towards Trotsky,
while arguing strenuously against it, and while not making any
concessions to Doris Lessing's current rather conservative views, and
while being rather bored by her later novels, I remember the profound
radicalising influence of her work until about the time of the "Golden
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