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Articles by Isaac Deutscher

Reviews / Debate etc.

Isaac Deutscher på dansk

International Socialism

Neil Davidson: The prophet, his biographer and the watchtower (No.104, Winter 2004, p.95-118)
“Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky has just been reprinted. It inspired the 1960s generation of activists and can do so again today. But it also contains political assumptions that have to be challenged, argues Neil Davidson in a wide-ranging review article.”

Peter Sedgwick: Tragedy of the tragedian: an appreciation of Isaac Deutscher (No.31, Winter 1967-68, p.10-17). På svensk: Tragikerns tragedi (pdf) (
“The intellectual career of Isaac Deutscher mirrored, with an extraordinary exactness, the fortunes of an internationalist, revolutionary heritage in an age of impasse, of nationalist and counter-revolutionary ascendancy.”

Tony Cliff: The end of the road: Deutscher’s capitulation to Stalinism (No.15, Winter 1963-64, p.10-20). På svensk: Vid vägs ände (pdf) (
“Among the most distinguished writers on the Russian revolution and its aftermath is Isaac Deutscher. His careful and exhaustive collation of sources and documents, together with his majestic style, lend great significance to his writings. Against a background of poverty in Marxist scholarship over the last generation his work stands out in sharp relief. With the appearance of the last volume of his trilogy on Trotsky, the time for appraisal of his work has come. The present article will deal with his theoretical and political views.”

International Socialist Review

Joseph Hansen: Deutscher’s life of Leon Trotsky (Vol.21, No.1, Winter 1960)
“It is the first anywhere near adequate history of these decisive years in the political history of the Soviet Union. It is the first book-length study of the Left Opposition, its brilliant constellation of leaders, the disciples of Lenin, and their heroic struggle to maintain the tradition of Leninism against the counterrevolutionary reaction that propelled Stalin to power … What is open to criticism, I think, are some of Deutscher’s interpretations.”

Joseph Hansen: Deutscher on Trotsky (Vol.25, No.1, Winter 1964)
“As in the previous volumes, he remains scrupulous toward facts, seeks the truth, and does not hide his own views and predilections. The disagreements one may have with him thus center on points in which his judgment and political views affect the final portrait he offers of Trotsky. The merit of the biographical material he has assembled can be questioned by no one, unless ill will enters in. It is a precious contribution to knowledge of Trotsky, his ideas, and the character of the time he lived in.”

George Breitman: Exchange of views on Deutscher biography (Vol.25, No.3, Summer 1964)
“I strongly disagree with Joseph Hansen’s review of the final volume of Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky. Although Comrade Hansen lists many of the points on which Deutscher is wrong and misleading, and answers some of them, he is on the whole too soft, too conciliatory.”

Joseph Hansen: Exchange of views on Deutscher biography (Vol.25, No.3, Summer 1964)
“If I understand Comrade Breitman correctly, it is his opinion that the third volume of the biography calls for an attack on the political and theoretical views of Isaac Deutscher – not only an attack, but a ‘harsh’ one; and that any other way of proceeding signifies an unjustifiable concession. I disagree, of course.”

LSHG Newsletter

Michael Cox: E.H. Carr and Isaac Deutscher : a very special relationship (No.12, Summer 2001)
“Earlier this year, the New Socialist Approaches to History seminar hosted a round table on ‘E. H. Carr, Isaac Deutscher and the politics of the Western left during the Cold War era’. This article is taken from Michael Cox’s introduction to the discussion.”

London Review of Books

Neal Ascherson: Victory in defeat (Vol.26, No.23, December 2, 2004)
“Deutscher’s Trotsky was thought by two generations – his own and its successor – to be one of the great works of biography. The first volume emerged in 1954, soon after the death of Stalin. The last appeared in 1963, at a time when the Soviet Union still seemed strong and confident, and when there remained hopes (not only on the left) that reforms leading towards a Soviet version of democratic socialism might one day be resumed. Times have changed, but those generations were right – about the book, if not about the Soviet Union.”

Deutscher-debatten (pdf)
Ur Marcel van der Linden, Western Marxism and the Soviet Union: A Survey of Critical Theories and Debates Since 1917 (Haymarket Books, 2009, s.139-146)

The Militant

George Breitman: Deutscher’s biography of Stalin (Vol.8, No.44, 31 October 1949)

George Breitman: Deutscher’s false evaluation of Stalinism (Vol.8, No.45, 7 November 1949)
“After recording the major crimes of Stalinism, Isaac Deutscher’s Stalin: A Political Biography comes to the conclusion that it is fundamentally revolutionary and progressive, despite its ruinous policies. despite the tyrannical and repressive methods it uses against the workers at home and abroad. Last week we discussed the fallaciousness of Deutscher’s evaluation of the role of Stalinism inside the Soviet Union: here we continue with an examination of ’his interpretation of the events in Eastern Europe since 1945.”

The Nation

Ronald Aronson: The impermanent revolution (March 14, 2005)
“Isaac Deutscher stands out among the early intellectual mentors of the New Left as the only one who expounded classical Marxism ”¦ On a mid-1960s ‘must read’ authors list that included C. Wright Mills, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, Deutscher alone stressed class conflict, the progressive movement of history and proletarian revolution. For those of us who were anti-Stalinist Marxists, reading Deutscher’s Trotsky trilogy was a rite of passage.”

New International

Max Shachtman: The end of socialism : the Stalinist apologetics of Isaac Deutscher, 1-3 (No.164, March-April, p.67-83 + No.165, May-June, p.145-158 + No.166, July-August 1954, p.170-183). A review of Deutscher’s The prophet armed.
Reprinted in Max Shachtman: The bureaucratic revolution (New York, 1962, p.245-294).
“The whole theme of his book, as was the whole theme of his earlier bigraphy of Stalin, is, first, that the change from the Lenin-Trotsky regime to the Stalin regime was a inescapable necessity for this revolution in particular. Second, that the change was inevitable not only for this revolution but so it always has been and presumably always will be for every popular revolution in general. And third, that the outstanding and apparently distinctive characteristics of the regime established by the change are not only to be found in the regime that preceded it, and are not only the products of an organic outgrowth from it, but were originally directly but inconsistently prompted by Lenin and Trotsky.”
The articles is online in Workers Liberty: Can socialism be built through tyranny? (pdf) (Vol.3, No.22, September 2008, 12 p.). With introduction by Sean Matgamna.

Max Shachtman: Four portraits of Stalinism: Isaac Deutscher (No.143, September-October 1950): A critique of Deutscher’s work on Stalin.
Reprinted in Max Shachtman: The bureaucratic revolution (New York, 1962, p.225-243) + in The fate of the Russian Revolution, edited by Sean Matgamna (London, 1998, p.515-530).
“Deutscher’s theory, or rather his adoption and adaptation of Stalin’s, leads him to downright apologetics for the new tyranny – all very objectively put, to be sure, for there seems no doubt about his personal antipathy toward the the abominations of the regime.” See also in Swedish: Deutschers Stalin (Marxists Internet Archive, Svenska arkivet)

New Interventions

Mike Jones and Alistair Mitchell: Isaac Deutscher: A critical appraisal of Trotsky’s biographer (Vol.13, No.4, Summer 2011, p.9-17; online at Scroll down.
” Isaac Deutscher’s contribution to revolutionary Marx-ism is immense. These writers find it difficult to namesomeone who has performed a comparable role in thepostwar period. Trotskyism was a heresy for the officialcommunist movement. Deutscher was, albeit to differingextents, a heretic for both schools.”

New Left Review

Justin Rosenberg: Isaac Deutscher and the lost history of international relations (No.215, January-February 1996, p.3-15)
“Isaac Deutscher was not just another Marxist. He was one of the most eloquent of those who kept alive the critical spirit of classical Marxism at a time when in different ways that spirit was being stifled on both sides in the Cold War. For this alone the present generation of socialists is indebted to him.”
Online at Justin Rosenberg’s site (pdf).

New Politics

Samuel Farber: On the Non-Jewish Jew: an analysis and personal reflection (No.56, Winter 2014, p.83-96)
“As a Cuban-Jewish Marxist, I find Deutscher’s ‘Non-Jewish Jew’ a questionable notion because of its disassociation from the Jewish condition and because of the lack of solidarity it evinces towards what has historically been an oppressed, persecuted group even though anti-Semitism may have declined in countries such as the United States.”

Julius Jacobson: Isaac Deutscher : the anatomy of an apologist (No.12, Fall 1964, p.95-121 + No.18, Spring 1966, p.47-85; online at Marxists Internet Archive). Reprinted in Soviet communism and the socialist vision, edited by Julius Jacobson (New Brunsvick, New Jersey, 1972, p.87-162)
“It is Deutsher’s position that the special circumstances surrounding the Russian Revolution – cultural and economic primitiveness inherited from Czarism, exhaustion after seven years of war and and civil war, defeat of the revolution in the West – necessitated the suppression of proletarian democracy in order to safeguard the basic social conquests of the revolution. This, for Deutscher, was the positive function of Stalinism, a function it fulfilled with excessive, historically superflous brutality.”

New Socialist

Dale Shin: Made for revolution (No.51, May-June 2005)
“Originally published under the shadow of the Cold War, Deutscher’s classic work helped to reacquaint readers on both sides of the Atlantic with its subject’s prolific life and influence, at a time when ‘Trotskyism’ was a popular term of ridicule in left-wing circles-in the main due to the malicious slanders propagated by Moscow’s paid intellectual publicists, as well as the petty sectarian feuding and obsessive hairsplitting amongst Trotsky’s self-styled adherents.”


Benneth Muraskin: Jewish-humanists remembered : Isaac Deutscher (1907-1967) (January-February 2005)
“Deutscher maintained his critical stance toward Zionism, and after the Six Day War demanded that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories.”

Socialist Review

Neil Davidson: Bourgeois Revolutions : on the road to salvation for all mankind (No..291, December 2004)
“This year’s Isaac Deutscher memorial lecture was given by Neil Davidson. He took up the controversial issue of the role played by bourgeois revolutions in the formation of the modern world.”

Weekly Worker

Paul Flewers: Parallel lives and irrational jealousy (No.976, September 5, 2013). Review of David Caute, Isaac and Isaiah: the covert punishment of a cold war heretic (Yale University Press, 2013)
“This book deals with a particularly unpleasant example of academic skulduggery: the story of how the liberal philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, prevented Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher from obtaining a key academic post at Sussex University in 1963.”

Boris Efimov: Ezhov’s Iron Glove (1937). Source: Isaac Deutscher: The Great Purges (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1984).


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