Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kenneth D. Ackerman's "Trotsky in New York, 1917"

Kenneth D. Ackerman has made old New York a favorite subject in his writing, including his critically acclaimed biography Boss Tweed: The Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York. Beyond his writing, Ackerman has served a long legal career in Washington, D.C. both inside and out of government, including as counsel to two U.S. Senate committees, regulatory posts in both the Reagan and Clinton administrations, and as administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. He continues to practice private law in Washington.

Ackerman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Trotsky in New York, 1917: Portrait of a Radical on the Eve of Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Trotsky in New York, 1917, is a short one, just three sentences. At this point in the story -- the tail end of Part I of the book -- Trotsky has landed in New York City, settled his family in the Bronx, and launched himself into rabble-rousing among the radicals of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side. But, barely settled in, he already faces a threat: the long arm of World War I. The war has already ravaged Europe for almost three years since 1914, killing millions of young Frenchmen, Germans, British, Russians, and others. For Trotsky personally, it triggered his expulsion from three different countries: Austria, France, and Spain. Only American has remained safe, keeping itself neutral so far in Europe’s War, making New York the freest city on earth at that point.

But on January 31, 1917, Germany announced its resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships, causing President Woodrow Wilson to break diplomatic relations and prompting public calls for war.

Trotsky, seeing the hysteria in New York City, remembers his experience of being expelled from Austria when hostilities first broke out in 1914, and now he anticipates the worst in his new country:
By 6:30 that night [in August 1914], after living in Vienna the better part of eight years, Trotsky, Natalya [his common law wife], and the boys had become refugees, passengers on a train leaving Austria for Zurich, Switzerland.

That was in August 1914. Now, in 1917, the world war had followed him across the ocean to New York City. America stood on the verge of following the examples of Austria and France [by entering the war], two countries that ultimately had forced him to flee.
What happens next? For Part II of the book, just turn the page…..
Visit Kenneth Ackerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trotsky in New York, 1917.

--Marshal Zeringue