At the present moment Germany is passing through one of those great historic hours upon which the fate of the German people, the fate of Europe and in an important measure, the fate of all humanity will depend for decades.
In 1932 Hitler ran for President of Germany but lost. Meanwhile the Nazis were in a state of combat with the Communist Party, the direction of which was controlled by the Stalinist Communist International.
It wasn't until January 1933 that Hitler became Chancellor in a coalition government. Then in February...just days before an election...the Reichstag fire. Hitler managed to put the blame for that on the Communists, although there is still great suspicion that it was in fact the Nazis themselves who set the fire as an excuse for a security crackdown. In any case, the Communists were soundly defeated in the election of March 5, 1933. Hitler won a majority of seats in the Reichstag, and within a couple of months had stripped it of its powers. He then proceeded to annihilate all workers' organizations.
Trotsky clearly saw this before it occurred. Perhaps he was thinking of Italy and Mussolini. He compared the situation to that of a ball sitting at the top of a pyramid. The ball might slip right, or it might slip left. He argued for decisive action by the German Communists...something which was impossible because of its slavish adherence to the almost invariably wrongheaded policies of the Comintern.
But now...think of what he said there. How right he was. Germany slipped right. Right into war. World war. Millions of deaths. Billions of dollars worth of destruction. World War II created both Communist China and the Iron Curtain. "The fate of all humanity for decades..." We're still living with echoes of the Holocaust. We're living with nuclear weapons...developed in order to win the war.
It's a shame that Trotsky had to spend so much of his later life fighting rearguard actions against the Stalinists. The history of the Soviet Union would have been much different if he had not been manoeuvred out of power. (It may not have been better, but it would have been different...)
But in all the reading I've done over the years about this, I still cannot figure out how Trotsky managed to let himself get beaten by a man who was so much his intellectual inferior. We might think that Trotsky was not ruthless enough...but his record during the civil war contradicts this. So what was it, exactly, that allowed Stalin to gather so much power to himself?
Maybe Trotsky's flaw was this: he always relied on the logic and the justice of his arguments. He analysed the evolution of the Soviet Union into a bureaucratic state bolstered by lies, fear and intimidation. He did not see, perhaps, that in one way at least, Hitler and Stalin were identical: not logic and justice, but power. Power was their primary argument.