Things I Did and Didn’t Know About Marilyn Monroe and Leon Trotsky

I’ve long known Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism when she married Arthur Miller. What nice Jewish boy doesn’t?  What I didn’t know:

  1. She was married in New Haven, at Congregation Mishkan Israel.
  2. She was “a serious convert.”
  3. She “continued to identify as Jewish after her divorce from Arthur Miller.”

I’ve also long known that Trotsky was extraordinarily prescient. What I didn’t know was that in 1938 Trotsky wrote:

It is possible to imagine without difficulty what awaits the Jews at the mere outbreak of the future world war. But even without war the next development of world reaction signifies with certainty the physical extermination of the Jews.


  1. troy grant May 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm | #

    With a library of information and online communication at our fingertips, ignorance may soon disappear and with it, religious superstition, the major cause of humanity’s problems.

  2. Brahmski May 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm | #

    Good old Trotsky. I prefer Marilyn.

  3. BillW May 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm | #

    Trotsky’s prophecy of 1904 on “substitutionism” was truly clairvoyant, written as it was before even the failed uprising of 1905, much less WWI and events of 1917 that led to the Bolshevik takeover:

    Lenin’s conception would lead to a state of affairs in which “the party organization substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organization; and finally the ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee”.

    Most of his other pronouncements have not stood the test of time, imho, largely because of the fantastical determinism with which he and his cohorts endowed things like the Workers Party, History (with a capital H), and Marx’s framework, among other things. Maurice Merleau-Ponty who in the aftermath of WWII (moment of highest prestige for Communism in the West because of its role in the Anti-Fascist struggle) had been sympathetic to the larger Communist vision, if not its practice, became disenchanted with the messianic character of belief belligerently demanded by Communists (something that was to happen to Sartre and Foucault, among others soon thereafter as well):

    This Marxism that remains true whatever it does, which does without proofs and verifications, is not a philosophy of history.

    Incidentally, as to the original quote of Trotsky, based on what I read of Raul Hilberg long ago, part of the reason why the Holocaust was so catastrophic was its unexpected character. Hilberg, whose intellectual labors were plagiarized by others who went to academic stardom and often with limited merit to put it no stronger than that, was of the view that such a “reversion to barbarism” and practices of medieval legend in which an entire city’s population could be exterminated were scarcely believable practices in the age of X-Rays, punched card tabulators, wireless communication, etc. The very fact that some of these advances were turned into instruments of a deed without a name (‘genocide’ was an ex post facto neologism) is what anguished authors like Adorno, Horkheimer, Orwell and others battled with even as the Nazi Death Camps were in full operation. Ordinary Jews in East Europe could scarcely have imagined what the Nazis had in mind for them even if in hindsight some overarching statements of the type that Trotsky was wont to making can be adduced to buttress the claim of inevitability of what actually happened. Anyways, I would suggest going through the works of Hilberg and others who managed to maintain scholarly rigor even as they tackled barely imaginable horrors to get a better picture of what people’s expectations were, instead of relying too much on quotes of a man whose own children were being mercilessly hunted down by Stalin’s henchmen and who knew he did not have long to live.

    • Sam Holloway May 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm | #

      That’s a fascinating historical glimpse, BillW. Thanks for sharing it. In a sense I’m reminded of something Chris Hedges has written about, namely how much of the population of Sarajevo had no clue what was befalling them as Yugoslavia split apart. I am inclined to wonder how many of us here in the States consider the potential dangers that surround us now, and I wonder– even in just a semi-detached, academic sense– just what form our catastrophically violent and brutal denouement will take. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror have brought us to the threshold of complete constitutional irrelevance, and we have the juridical, physical, and cultural infrastructures of barbarous totalitarianism already in place. We have a highly stressed, atomized, and heavily armed populace that is suffering through the breakdown of civic society; and we have an increasingly sadistic and avaricious elite that is hell-bent on defending and increasing its savagely disproportionate privilege. We are a major disaster or two from an apocalyptic orgy of karma.

      • BillW May 30, 2012 at 1:34 am | #

        Yes, in the days before internet and satellite TV news channels, often the most reliable source of information about what was happening in other parts of town in places like Sarajevo and Mogadishu was BBC shortwave radio news broadcast upon the hour from faraway London. People were in the dark about what was happening 5 miles away.

        More than half the world’s population is living in countries that have enormous stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction warehoused nearby and nobody seems particularly bothered by the obscene levels of violence that can be unleashed at short notice. Recent scholarship has emphasized that part of the reason why the Holocaust was so unexpected is that nobody had as it were “connected the dots” of apparently independent technical advances that came together in hindsight in a kind of “perfect storm” which allowed speedy classification (using punched cards), coordinated transportation (internetworked continent-wide railway lines), and “rational production of Death” (based on streamlined Taylorist factory methods) of deported refugees marked for extermination. To do anything comparable to what the Nazis carried out in a matter of 2-3 years would have required decades to accomplish in most parts of the world just 50 years before Auschwitz was set up.

        President Eisenhower was probably the last American president who spoke frankly of the potential danger of another conflagaration occuring because of disparate strands of policy entwining in a moment of crisis into an outcome that could only dimly have been perceived:

        …[T]his increase of power from a mere musket and a little cannon, all the way to the hydrogen bomb in a single lifetime, is indicative of the things that have happened to us. They rather indicate how far the advances of science have outraced our social consciousness, how much more we have developed scientifically than we are capable of handling emotionally and intellectually.

        Bruce Franklin is that rare academic who while looking these horrors in the eye excavated the history of fascination with “wonder weapons” and the place they still occupy in the collective psyche.

  4. David May 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm | #

    Trotsky also published an article entitled ‘What Hitler wants’ in 1933 that from what I vaguely recall was extremely prescient.

  5. Sam Holloway May 30, 2012 at 8:49 am | #

    Thanks again, BillW. I have Vietnam and Other American Fantasies on my shelf. Excellent book with perspectives that changed how I see contemporary militarism, especially regarding the Vietnam War.

    • Sam Holloway May 30, 2012 at 8:56 am | #

      Also, re your observation about people being “in the dark about what was happening 5 miles away,” I’d say that the heavily saturated, intellectually narcotizing effects of corporate media render us just as clueless. It isn’t that we aren’t aware of the infrastructures of genocidal totalitarianism in our midst, nor are we unaware of their potential given our ample historical examples (many very recent). It’s more that we’re distracted by the completely blurred lines between what is trivial and what is vital. (Franklin’s analysis speaks to that, as well.) We’ve also been raised on a diet of American Exceptionalism that dulls our critical self-analysis to the point that ‘it can’t happen here’ is a subconscious truism.

  6. Hume's Ghost June 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm | #

    I’m just about finished with Myra MacPherson’s really excellent biography of IF Stone and was actually getting ready to write a post titled “something I bet you didn’t know about Marylin Monroe” because the book notes that when Stone started up his weekly, Marilyn (married to Miller at the time) sent a subscription to every member of the House of Reps.

    • Hume's Ghost June 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm | #

      I didn’t have access to my copy of the book when I left my reeply, but double-checking online, it would appear that Monroe actually bought a subscription for every member of Congress.

      • Hume's Ghost June 3, 2012 at 8:56 am | #

        Okay, sorry for the multiple comments (generally scatter-brained, here) and this will be my last one on the subject: finally checking my copy of All Governments Lie, I see that MacPherson says Monroe got the subscriptions for members of the House. Online, I saw that the Village Voice credited Peter Osnos, editor of a book of Stone’s best offerings, with saying it was for all of Congress; also, DD Guttenplan, author of another biography of Stone, says every member of Congress.

Leave a Reply