Unlikely Encounter: Trotsky and Dewey

Immensely interesting! In September 1937, the Dewey Commission exonerated Lev Trotsky of all the hallucinating charges concocted by Stalin, Yagoda, Yezhov, Vysihnsky etc At the same time, there was a clash of visions between the one whom Isaac Deutscher called “the prophet outcast” and the paradigmatic radical-liberal philosopher. Dewey believed in absolute moral values, Trotsky saw all moral norms as class–determined. Until the end of his life, Trotsky remained attached to the Leninist cult of terror. Only years later, his widow, Natalia Sedova, would mention to Victor Serge that, privately, Trotsky wondered, during the last months of his life, whether the whole Leninist revolutionary adventure was nothing but a disastrous commitment to an impossible cause.


At the very beginning of my American life, New School philosopher Richard J. Bernstein, who was then teaching at Haverford College, helped me publish my first article in English. Titled “Critical Marxism and Eastern Europe,” it came out in the journal he was then co-editing, “Praxis International.” I remember vividly my visit to his office and the conversation we had about the absence of a Marxian theory of morality. He showed me the chair in which Hannah Arendt used to sit whenever she was coming to lecture at Haverford. The relationship between means and ends is the crucial philosophical question in Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.”…


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