Trotsky vigorously opposed censorship, both when he participated in the revolutionary movement against Russia’s czarist government, and when he served in Stalin’s later Soviet dictatorship. Trotsky argued that censorship was a tool of oppression under the czar. After he became a leading member of the revolutionary Bolshevist government, he argued for censorship as a revolutionary necessity. (The fact that he opposed censorship through most of his life, while supporting it in certain circumstances helps explain his portrayal as the pig Snowball in George Orwell’s 1945 fable, Animal Farm, which depicts Snowball as unwittingly paving the way for the dictatorship of Napoleon.)
Trotsky’s battle with censors began in 1903 when his “Report of the Siberian Delegation” was outlawed within the Russian Empire. After the Revolution, when he delivered a speech accepting his election as head of the Petrograd Soviet, he promised “full freedom for all factions, and the hand of the presidium will never be the hand which suppresses the minority.” Seven years later, however, during the civil war, he argued in Literature and Revolution that “we ought to have a watchful revolutionary censorship.”
After Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union by Stalin in 1927, he again found most of his work banned in Russia. In the years that followed, his attempts to promote his political views—critical of both Stalin and...
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