The six years that followed the October revolution were at the political centre of the twentieth century. At the end of 1917 the working class was in power in a major country for the first time in history. By 1923 it was decimated as a result of civil war and economic devastation. Lenin himself was warning of the growing power of the bureaucracy.
Leon Trotsky lived at the centre of these events. It was he who built the Red Army, defending the infant workers' power from the invading armies - one of which came from Britain. It was he who argued for the militarisation of labour, to rebuild the shattered economy. And it was Trotsky who then warned of the growing distortion of the economy under the New Economic Policy, of the creeping re-introduction of capitalism.
Finally it was Trotsky to whom Lenin turned when he needed an ally in his final struggle to reverse the growth of the bureaucracy and his attempt to have Stalin removed from the all-powerful position of general secretary.
This second volume of Tony Cliff's biography of Trotsky ends with a vital question: Why did Trotsky compromise? Why, in 1923, did he not fulfil his agreement with Lenin and launch a general offensive against the bureaucracy and against Stalin?