Death of a Trotskyist
“I was an adolescent again, and it was before the war, and I belonged to a small organization dedicated to a worker’s revolution, although that dedication already tempered by a series of reverses was about to spawn its opposite and create a functionary for each large segment of the masses we had failed to arouse. I was young then, and no dedication could match mine. The revolution was tomorrow, and the inevitable crises of capitalism ticked away in my mind with the certainty of a time bomb, and even then could never begin to match the ticking of my pulse. There was a great man who led us, and I read almost every word he had written, and listened with the passion of the novitiate to each message he sent from the magical center in Mexico. Of all the students in the study group, none could have been more ardent than I, and for a winter and a spring, I lived more intensely in the past than I could ever in the present, until the sight of a policeman on his mount became the Petrograd proletariat crawling to fame between the legs of a Cossack’s horse, and a drunken soldier on a streetcar merged into the dream I was always providing of the same soldier on the breast of the revolution, shaking his fist in an officer’s face as he cried, “Equality. I can’t explain it to you, vile exploiter, but equality, that’s what I want.” There never was a revolution to equal it, and never a city more glorious than Petrograd, and for all that period of my life I lived another and braved the ice of winter and the summer flies in Vyborg while across my adopted country of the past, winds of the revolution blew their flame, and all of us suffered hunger while we drank at the wine of equality, and knew with what passion to be later buried that our revolution would beget the others, and in a year, in a week, we the ignorant giant would bestride the earth and refashion it until there was nourishment and love for every man our brother.
“More than two decades later I could have the dream in all its purity, and if from the tenets of the organization which taught me, I could also learn how the great wave had crashed and the revolution had been betrayed, our leader persecuted, those twenty years were thrown into a minute, and I from my own need and own hunger listened to the time bomb I had fashioned and was certain that tomorrow the people would crowd the streets, and from the barricades would come the victory that meant equality for the world.
“So the memory came down to the sea, and across my back scar tissue burned ever new circuits with its old pain…”
–Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore (1951)