Conversations with Trotsky
441 Pages
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Conversations with Trotsky


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441 Pages


This collection presents all of Earle Birney’s known published and unpublished writings on Trotsky and Trotskyism for the very first time. It includes their correspondence as well as a selection of Birney’s letters and literary writings. 

Before he became one of Canada’s most influential and popular twentieth century poets, Earle Birney lived a double life. To his students and colleagues, he was an engaging university lecturer and scholar. But for seven years—from 1933 to 1940—the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was the focus of his writing and much of his life. 

During his years as a Trotskyist in Canada, the United States and England, Birney wrote extensively about Trotsky, corresponded with him, organized Trotskyist cells in two countries, and recruited on behalf of Trotskyism; he also lectured on Trotsky and interviewed him over the course of several days. One of his two novels is based on some of these activities. 

The collection traces the origins of Trotsky’s mistrust of “the British” to his experiences in Canada; shows Birney’s influence on a major shift in Trotsky’s policy of “entrism” in British politics; includes the largest body of Trotskyist criticism in Canadian literary history; and demonstrates the need for a radical re-reading of Birney’s poetry in light of his Trotskyism.



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Published 09 May 2017
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EAN13 9780776624648
Language English
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CONVERSATIONS WITH TROTSKY Earle Birney and the Radical 1930s
Conversations with Trotsky
Conversations with Trotsky
Earle Birney and the Radical 1930s Edited and with an Introduction by
bruce nesbitt
University of Ottawa Press| OTTAWA
The University of Ottawa Press gratefully acknowledges the support extended to its publishing list by the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Copy editing: Proofreading: Layout: Cover design: Cover image:
Robbie McCaw Michael Waldin CS Édiscript enr. Cubofuturist rendering of Trotsky, uncredited (attributed to Yuri Annenkov, 1922).
Earle Birney’s published and unpublished works contained in this volume are reprinted with permission from the Estate of Earle Birney.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Birney, Earle, 19041995 [Works. Selections]  Conversations with Trotsky : Earle Birney and the radical 1930s / edited and with an introduction by Bruce Nesbitt.
(Canadian literature collection) Includes bibliographical references. Issued in print and electronic formats. ISBN 9780776624631 (softcover).ISBN 9780776624648 (PDF). ISBN 9780776624655 (EPUB).ISBN 9780776624662 (MOBI)
 1. Birney, Earle, 19041995. 2. Trotsky, Leon, 18791940. 3. Birney, Earle, 19041995Correspondence. 4. Trotsky, Leon, 18791940 Correspondence. 5. Authors, Canadian (English)20th century Correspondence. 6. CommunistsCanadaCorrespondence. 7. Communism. I. Nesbitt, Bruce, 1941, editor II. Title. III. Series: Canadian literature collection
PS8503.I72A6 2017
Printed in Canada by Gauvin Press
© University of Ottawa Press, 2017
C20179022636 C20179022644
For Carolyn and Wailan
Art, culture, politics need a new perspective. —Leon Trotsky, 18 June 1938
preface xiii acknowledgements xix introduction1 . i an “optimistic sort of revolutionary,” 1933–1935 1: Report to the Toronto Branch of the International Left Opposition 65 2: Letter to an American Medical Student 79 3: Mine Strike, Martial Law and a Student Delegation 85 4: To the Section Bureau, CPUSA, Salt Lake City, Utah 93 5: To the Salt Lake Section Committee, CPUSA 97 6: A Letter Refused by the Salt Lake City Press 105 7: In Defence of Party Democracy 107 8: The Struggle Against British Imperialism 115 . ii conversations with trotsky, 1935
9: Birney to Trotsky, 5 November 1935 125 10: Interviewing Leon Trotsky, 19–23 November 1935 129 11: Conversations with Trotsky 135 12: Further Conversations with Trotsky 151 13: Trotsky on the Canadian Farmer 159 14: Birney to Trotsky, 8 December 1935 163 15: Birney to Trotsky, 16 December 1935 167