Leon Trotsky: Love, Death and Exile in Mexico

Leon Trot­sky, one of the fathers of the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, sec­ond only to to Lenin, was assas­si­nat­ed in Mex­i­co 70 years ago today (August 21, 1940). Dur­ing the ear­ly years of the Rev­o­lu­tion, Trot­sky head­ed up for­eign affairs for Rus­sia and found­ed the Red Army. Fol­low­ing Lenin’s death (1924), he looked primed to take con­trol of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary state. But Stal­in had oth­er thoughts about the mat­ter, and, before too long, Trot­sky found him­self in exile again. Pre­vi­ous exiles took him to Siberia, Kaza­khstan, Aus­tria, Switzer­land, Spain and the Unit­ed States. This time, he went to France, Nor­way, Turkey (see the film Vanes­sa Red­grave nar­rates on his stint in Istan­bul) and lat­er Mex­i­co (1936), where he lived with painter Diego Rivera and his wife/fellow painter, Fri­da Kahlo. Even­tu­al­ly, Kahlo and Trot­sky would have a famous affair.

Above, we have some grainy footage of Trot­sky from his Mex­i­co years. The footage dates back to 1937, and it shows Trot­sky, speak­ing in bro­ken Eng­lish, giv­ing thanks to Mex­i­co for pro­vid­ing sanc­tu­ary and defend­ing him­self against the show tri­als that Stal­in orches­trat­ed back in Rus­sia. Trot­sky was sen­tenced to death in absen­tia. Three years lat­er, he would be assas­si­nat­ed by an under­cov­er agent while still liv­ing in Mex­i­co. YouTube has more on the assas­si­na­tion here. A big thanks goes to Mike S. for unearthing this great lit­tle clus­ter of videos.

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Download George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 as Free Audio Books

via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Writ­ing in The Guardian in years past, Christo­pher Hitchens revis­it­ed Ani­mal Farm, George Orwell’s “dystopi­an alle­gor­i­cal novel­la” that took aim at the cor­rup­tion of the Sovi­et Union and its total­i­tar­i­an rule. Pub­lished in 1945, the short book appears on the Mod­ern Library’s list of the 100 Best Nov­els of the 20th cen­tu­ry, and Time Mag­a­zine’s own hon­ors list. But, as Hitchens reminds us, Ani­mal Farm was almost nev­er pub­lished. The man­u­script bare­ly sur­vived the Nazi bomb­ing of Lon­don dur­ing World War II, and then ini­tial­ly TS Eliot (an impor­tant edi­tor at Faber & Faber) and oth­er pub­lish­ers reject­ed the book. It even­tu­al­ly came to see the light of day, but, 65 years lat­er, Ani­mal Farm still can’t be legal­ly read in Chi­na, Bur­ma and North Korea, or across large parts of the Islam­ic world. But, no mat­ter where you come from, you can lis­ten to Ani­mal Farm for free. That’s right, I said it – free. The Inter­net Archive offers free access to audio ver­sions of Ani­mal Farm and Orwell’s oth­er major clas­sic, 1984. Both texts appear in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books, and you can down­load them direct­ly from the Inter­net Archive here (Ani­mal Farm) and here (1984), or stream them below:

Ani­mal Farm


The text ver­sions of these clas­sics also appear in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks.

Final­ly, if you’re inter­est­ed in down­load­ing a free audio book from Audible.com (pret­ty much any book you want), you can get more details here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Down­load the Free Audio Book

Lit2Go’s 200 Free (and Teacher-Friend­ly) Audio Books: Ready for Down­loads

500 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free


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Bill Gates: Solving the World’s Problems Through Technology

Last week, we showed you a clip of Bill Gates speak­ing at the recent Techon­o­my con­fer­ence in Lake Tahoe. Our com­ments con­cen­trat­ed on a short­er seg­ment where Gates talks about the com­ing trans­for­ma­tion of edu­ca­tion – about how the inter­net will start dis­plac­ing the tra­di­tion­al uni­ver­si­ty with­in five years. That clip fig­ures into a larg­er talk, now ful­ly avail­able online, called “Rein­vent­ing Cap­i­tal­ism: How to Jump­start What the Mar­ket­place Can’t” (48 min­utes). And it puts Gates’ views on edu­ca­tion (not to men­tion his over­all phil­an­thropic work) into a larg­er con­text. What’s gen­er­al­ly on dis­play here is his lim­it­less faith that sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy can solve the world’s prob­lems. It’s an approach that makes per­fect sense for rid­ding the world of malar­ia. But it’s poten­tial­ly a dou­ble-edge sword for edu­ca­tion. You can watch the full talk above, or view it here. (His full com­ments on edu­ca­tion & tech­nol­o­gy come around the 21 minute mark, and again lat­er on.) You can also learn more about what Gates is read­ing, watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to on his web­site.

Get 250 Free Cours­es Online or Learn 37 Lan­guages for Free!

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Good Capitalist Karma: Zizek Animated

Slavoj Zizek, one of today’s most influ­en­tial philosophers/theorists, spoke ear­li­er this year at the Roy­al Soci­ety of the Arts (RSA). And now RSA has post­ed the video online with their patent­ed ani­mat­ed treat­ment. Like oth­er recent RSA speak­ers, Zizek makes mod­ern cap­i­tal­ism his focus. This time, we see how con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism has essen­tial­ly reworked Max Weber’s Protes­tant Eth­ic, or that strange rela­tion­ship between mon­ey mak­ing and per­son­al redemp­tion. Zizek’s cri­tique isn’t utter­ly damn­ing. (No one will run to the bar­ri­cades.) Nor do I think he intends it to be. But the obser­va­tions hold a cer­tain amount of inter­est, espe­cial­ly when placed along­side Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich and David Har­vey’s relat­ed RSA talks.

You can find the full 30 minute lec­ture (sans car­toons) here, or down­load the video as an mp4 here.

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Christopher Walken: Radio Host for a Day

The Leonard Lopate Show hits the air­waves every week­day in New York City, typ­i­cal­ly pre­sent­ing four inter­views with cul­tur­al fig­ures. If you tuned in this Mon­day, you found Leonard on vaca­tion and actor Christo­pher Walken fill­ing in. We know Walken can act. But can he car­ry a radio show? Lis­ten in on the web, iTunes, or stream below…

via @slate

Why the World Needs WikiLeaks (According to Julian Assange)

After yes­ter­day’s post, I’ll nev­er get a sniff of a TED con­fer­ence. But even so, we’ll keep fea­tur­ing Ted Talks from time to time, and so why not today? Above, we have TED’s Chris Ander­son inter­view­ing Julian Assange, founder of Wik­iLeaks, the whis­tle-blow­ing web­site that made head­lines last month when it released the Afghan War Diaries, all 92,000 pages worth. Dur­ing the 19 minute inter­view, Assange talks a lit­tle more about the phi­los­o­phy behind Wik­iLeaks, how the orga­ni­za­tion decides when to release infor­ma­tion (or not), how the site has changed world events, and what some more ordi­nary leaks look like. No mat­ter what stance you take on Wik­iLeaks, the inter­view is worth a watch. You’ll only hear more about them down the line.

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Is TED the New Harvard?

Next mon­th’s edi­tion of Fast Com­pa­ny (avail­able online now) brings you a big, glow­ing trib­ute to TED and its TED Talks. It’s a love­fest in print, the kind that sells mag­a­zines. And, along the way, Anya Kamenetz (author of DIY U) makes some big claims for TED. Let me start with this one:

I would go so far as to argue that [TED’s] cre­at­ing a new Har­vard — the first new top-pres­tige edu­ca­tion brand in more than 100 years.

Of course TED does­n’t look like a reg­u­lar Ivy League col­lege. It does­n’t have any build­ings; it does­n’t grant degrees. It does­n’t have singing groups or secret soci­eties, and as far as I know it has­n’t inspired any strange drink­ing games.

Still, if you were start­ing a top uni­ver­si­ty today, what would it look like? You would start by gath­er­ing the very best minds from around the world, from every dis­ci­pline. Since we’re liv­ing in an age of abun­dant, not scarce, infor­ma­tion, you’d curate the lec­tures care­ful­ly, with a focus on the new and orig­i­nal, rather than offer a course on every pos­si­ble top­ic. You’d cre­ate a sus­tain­able eco­nom­ic mod­el by focus­ing on tech­no­log­i­cal rather than phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture, and by get­ting peo­ple of means to pay for a spe­cial­ized expe­ri­ence. You’d also con­struct a robust net­work so peo­ple could access resources when­ev­er and from wher­ev­er they like, and you’d give them the tools to col­lab­o­rate beyond the lec­ture hall. Why not ful­fill the uni­ver­si­ty’s mil­len­ni­um-old mis­sion by shar­ing ideas as freely and as wide­ly as pos­si­ble?

TED, the new Har­vard. The new uni­ver­si­ty. It’s a nice idea … until you think about it for a few moments. Will watch­ing 18 minute lec­tures – ones that bare­ly scratch the sur­face of an expert’s knowl­edge – real­ly teach you much? And when the 18 min­utes are over, will the experts stick around and help you become a crit­i­cal thinker, which is the main under­tak­ing of the mod­ern uni­ver­si­ty after all? (Will they assign the papers where you grap­ple with the dif­fi­cult ideas? Will they make sure your argu­ments are sound? That your writ­ing is lucid? Or will they even expand on their brief lec­tures and teach you some­thing in-depth?) Nope, you’ll get none of that. The experts will give their 18 minute talks, and then they’re gone. Ulti­mate­ly, Kamenetz seems to know she’s over­reach­ing. She even­tu­al­ly cir­cles around to say, “Sure, these talks have their lim­its as an edu­ca­tion­al medi­um. An 18-minute pre­sen­ta­tion, no mat­ter how expert, can’t accom­mo­date any­thing over­ly the­o­ret­i­cal or tech­ni­cal — the for­mat is more con­ge­nial to Freako­nom­ics than eco­nom­ics.” And so the whole ini­tial, catchy premise falls apart. (Mau­ra John­ston right­ly makes this point too, among oth­er good ones, in her must-read reac­tion to the “breath­less” Fast Com­pa­ny arti­cle.)

I have no beef with TED. Quite the con­trary, I’m a big fan of their open lec­tures. (Get the full list here.) And you can’t blame TED when oth­ers read too much into what they do. But, echo­ing points made last week, I do have an issue with com­men­ta­tors reduc­ing edu­ca­tion to watch­ing TV. So a quick request to the “edupunks” and “edupre­neurs” out there. As you’re democ­ra­tiz­ing edu­ca­tion and low­er­ing tuition through tech­nol­o­gy, could you make sure that what­ev­er you’re final­ly offer­ing is an edu­ca­tion in more than mere name? You feel me?

NOTE: Anya Kamenetz, the author of the Fast Com­pa­ny arti­cle, offers a response in the com­ments below. In fair­ness to her, please give them a read. We also have a lit­tle fol­low up.

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Reporting the Good News

You’ve heard the com­plaint before. Why do papers only report the bad news? And why does the good news go unno­ticed? If you’ve ever had this thought, then today is (kind of) your lucky day. Here’s what hap­pens when the New York Times goes hap­py . Watch the video above, and vis­it the paper online

And, of course, if you want some true sources of good news, you can vis­it the fol­low­ing sites rec­om­mend­ed by one of our read­ers: Good News Net­work and Good News Dai­ly.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.