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Communist Leon Trotsky helped ignite the Russian Revolution of 1917, and built the Red Army afterward. He was exiled and later assassinated by Soviet agents.
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However, Okhrana (the Tsar's secret police) persuaded British authorities to have him detained at Halifax, Canada. He was held there for a month, before the Russian provisional government demanded his release. After he arrived in Russia in May 1917, he quickly addressed some of the problems forming in post-revolutionary Russia. He disapproved of the provisional government because he felt it was ineffectual. The new prime minister, Alexander Kerensky,
saw Trotsky as a major threat and had him arrested. While in jail, Trotsky was admitted to the Bolshevik Party and released soon after. He was elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, a strong hold of dissent against the provisional government.
In November 1917, the provisional government was overthrown and the Soviet Council of People's Commissars was formed, with Vladimir Lenin elected chairman. Leon Trotsky’s first role in the new government was serving as commissar for foreign affairs and making peace with the Germans. Talks began in January 1918, and Germany had a long list of demands for territory and reparations. Trotsky wanted to wait out the German government, in hopes that it would be defeated by the Allies or suffer internal insurrection. However, Lenin felt that peace with Germany needed to be made so they could concentrate on building a communist government in Russia. Trotsky disagreed and resigned from this post.
After the Bolsheviks took control of the Soviet government, Lenin ordered the formation of the Red Army and appointed Leon Trotsky its leader. The army's first orders were to neutralize the White Army (Socialist revolutionaries opposed to Bolshevik control) during the Russian Civil War. Trotsky proved to be an outstanding military leader, as he led the army of 3 million to victory. The task was difficult, as Trotsky directed a war effort that was at times on 16 different fronts. It also didn't help that some members of the Soviet leadership, including Lenin, became involved in military strategy, redirecting the Red Army's efforts and countermanding some of Trotsky's orders. In late 1920, the Bolsheviks finally won the Civil War, ensuring Bolshevik control of the Soviet government. After the White Army surrendered, Trotsky was elected a member of the Communist Party central committee. He was clearly positioned as the Soviet Union's number-two man, next to Lenin.
During the winter of 1920-21, as the Soviet government moved from war to peace-time operations, an increasingly acrimonious debate grew over the role of trade unions. Believing that the workers should have nothing to fear from the government, Leon Trotsky advocated the state control the trade unions. He reasoned that this would give officials a tighter control over labor and facilitate a greater integration between government and the proletariat. Lenin criticized Trotsky, accusing him of harassing the unions and abandoning his support for the proletariat. A breach between the two developed and other officials, including Joseph Stalin, took advantage, siding with Lenin to gain favor.
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