First Issue of Appears Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Leon Trotsky published his newspaper Pravda in Vienna, Austria, from 1908 to 1912. Vladimir Ilich Lenin then took the name for his paper later in that year.

Summary of Event

After a great deal of planning, the Russian Social Democratic Party Social Democratic Party (Russia) was finally organized in 1903. It immediately fractured into several factions. The most important was the majority Bolshevik faction, led by Vladimir Ilich Lenin, and the minority Menshevik faction, led by Julius Osipovich Martov. Leon Trotsky was another important figure who led a small group of intellectuals. All three leaders worked together on the editorial board of the Social Democratic newspaper Iskra (the spark), which took the lead in organizing the party. Newspapers;Pravda Pravda (newspaper) [kw]First Issue of Pravda Appears (Oct. 3, 1908) [kw]Pravda Appears, First Issue of (Oct. 3, 1908) Newspapers;Pravda Pravda (newspaper) [g]Russia;Oct. 3, 1908: First Issue of Pravda Appears[02190] [c]Publishing and journalism;Oct. 3, 1908: First Issue of Pravda Appears[02190] [c]Government and politics;Oct. 3, 1908: First Issue of Pravda Appears[02190] Trotsky, Leon Lenin, Vladimir Ilich [p]Lenin, Vladimir Ilich;Pravda Kamenev, Lev Borisovich Martov, Julius Osipovich

While the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks fought each other for the loyalty of the Russian workers, Trotsky gained international fame as the president of the Soviet (council) of Workers’ Deputies, which had been established by the party during the 1905 revolution. After the revolution, the Social Democratic leaders went into exile. Trotsky was sent to Siberia but escaped (for the second time) in 1907.

Trotsky was an orthodox Marxist who believed that socialism could come about only through the armed revolution of the urban proletariat. He argued that the revolution of 1905 in Russia was the first bourgeois revolution in the stages of history predicted by Karl Marx. Both Lenin and Martov agreed with this theory. However, while the Mensheviks argued that the revolution was a success and the proletarian revolution would not take place for generations as capitalism in Russia grew, Lenin and Trotsky, who at that time still opposed each other within the movement, thought the bourgeoisie were too weak and that the 1905 revolution had been a failure. Lenin believed that the urban proletariat and the Russian peasants (who made up the bulk of the population) should unite and complete the revolution.

Trotsky worked out his interpretation and ideology, called “permanent revolution,” with Alexander Galfand, Galfand, Alexander a German economist. According to Trotsky and Galfand, the downtrodden Russian masses would provide a spark that would ignite a socialist revolution among the bourgeoisie in Europe and around the world. Russia and the international proletariat would then pass through the bourgeois stage right into the socialist stage.

The small Ukrainian Menshevik organization Spilka began publication of the newspaper Pravda (the truth) in 1905, but it had little success. On the group’s suggestion, Trotsky took over in October, 1908, and made Pravda into a major Russian socialist paper. The group soon dissolved, but Trotsky continued publication. He moved the newspaper, which reported on events related to struggle for socialism in Russia and Europe, to Vienna in order to avoid Russian censorship. (Copies were smuggled into Russia from Vienna.) The paper’s other editors included some of the most brilliant socialists from Trotsky’s group, including Adolf Joffe, Moisei Uritsky, Matei Skobelev (the paper’s secretary), Victor Kopp, David Ryazanov, and Semyon Semkovsky. Joffe and Skobelev came from wealthy families, and they helped to bankroll the paper. Even with their assistance, however, Pravda was often in desperate straits, and finding money for printing was always difficult; once, an issue was held up for lack of fifty rubles. Trotsky poured his earnings from his books and journal articles into the paper’s production.

Trotsky’s fiery writing style became very popular, and he used the paper to advocate union among socialist factions, especially the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. In 1910, a brief conciliation between these two groups took place, and the Central Committee of the party voted to accept Pravda as an official organ and to support it with 150 rubles a month. Lev Borisovich Kamenev, Trotsky’s brother-in-law and a high-ranking member of the Bolshevik faction, joined the editorial board as part of the agreement. That same year, an edition began printing in St. Petersburg.

Kamenev, however, began to take the Bolshevik hard line against the Mensheviks after Lenin’s group managed to gain control of the Central Committee. Trotsky opposed this position, so Kamenev left the editorial board. Trotsky appealed to the Second International to keep control of the funds. A committee made up of Franz Mehring, Karl Kautsky, and Clara Zeitlin—all well-known socialists in the international movement—formed a commission to judge the issue, but Lenin, who established the separate Bolshevik Party in 1912, would not release the funds that he now controlled. The editors continued the publication on an intermittent basis until April, 1912, when their group dissolved. In May, Lenin began his own party paper with the name Pravda. Lenin’s Pravda began publication in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for distribution in Russia. Lenin’s Pravda proved to be very popular among the Russian workers, and it soon gained a circulation greater than that of the Menshevik papers and became a powerful organizing tool for Lenin’s party.

Trotsky attacked Lenin for his use of the name Pravda in stinging articles and letters that he would later regret writing. Ironically, he did not know that the first editor of the Bolshevik Pravda was none other than a minor Georgian Bolshevik named Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, more commonly known as Joseph Stalin, Stalin, Joseph who fifteen years later would battle Trotsky for leadership of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) after Lenin’s death. In 1922, at the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Bolshevik Pravda, Trotsky wrote a congratulatory article in which he did not mention that his paper previously had the name.

Significance

The Russian government banned Pravda at the beginning of World War I. After the February Revolution in 1917, the democratic provisional government in Russia permitted it to reopen. Lenin and Trotsky returned to Russia and joined forces that summer, when Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks (renamed the Communist Party). In November, the provisional government tried to close down Pravda, but it was too late. The Communists carried out a swift and almost bloodless revolution in the succeeding days and put Lenin and Trotsky into power. The new government in Russia was based on the workers’ and soldiers’ soviets, which were reestablished during the revolutions, and these councils established the newspaper Izvestia (news) Izvestia (newspaper) in 1917. In 1922, after a civil war, Lenin’s government combined with other political groups. Pravda, which remained the Communist Party paper, and Izvestia continued as the two most important dailies in the country, and they retained their status as long as the Soviet Union existed. Many other local and organization-oriented papers also bore the word Pravda in their titles. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and was replaced by the Republic of Russia, Pravda’s readership declined. Foreign investors took control, and it continued until 1996 with a nationalistic conservative editorial policy. Izvestia continued as a liberal, independent daily paper. Newspapers;Pravda Pravda (newspaper)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Armed: Trotsky, 1921-1929. 1954. Reprint. New York: Verso, 2003. One of the best biographies of Leon Trotsky. This first volume of a three-volume biography contains the details of his founding of Pravda and his struggle with Lenin.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schapiro, Leonard. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union. New York: Vintage Books, 1964. The best history of the Russian Communist Party in English. Gives details of the founding of Pravda.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tariq, Ali. Trotsky for Beginners. New York: Pantheon, 1980. Part of a series on political, economic, and sociological subjects by Trotsky ’s academic admirers. It presents his life and ideas in a simplified (but academically rigorous) comic-book fashion.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thatcher, Ian D. Trotsky. New York: Routledge, 2003. A clear study of Trotsky using new documents. Reexamines his role in both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. Stresses his importance as a political thinker.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Trotsky, Leon. My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970. Trotsky’s autobiography. He writes about Pravda’s early days and defends his position in his struggle with Lenin.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Volkogonov, Dmitri. Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary. Translated by Harold Shukman. New York: Free Press, 1996. Unfavorable biography of Trotsky by a former Soviet general and military historian. Uses documents released in the 1990’s and contains important information, although it also has some factual errors.

Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences

Lenin Critiques Modern Capitalism

Lenin Leads the Russian Revolution

Lenin Establishes the Comintern

Lenin Announces the New Economic Policy

Trotsky Is Sent into Exile

Categories: History Content