[Marxism] Re: Frida

Ozleft 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 
http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w33/msg00222.htm and 
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 
me away.

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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