Trotsky's Assassination

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Historical background of the crime that occurred on August 20, 1940

The political persecution of Trotsky by the Stalinist faction of the Communist Party began in the Soviet Union, but his death, as we shall see, began to be planned in Spain. The repression of leftist anti-Stalinist militants and organizations in Spain and the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico were united by more than one thread. In November 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; in 1928 he was banished to Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan); in February 1929 he was expelled from the USSR to Turkey, where he lived until July 1933 on the island of Prinkipo, in the vicinity of Istanbul. Meanwhile, Stalin and his allies appealed for the political repression of the Left Opposition, managing to sanction the condemnation of “Trotskyism” at the V Congress of the Communist International. This process acquired a global character with the so-called “Bolshevization” of the communist parties, aiming to eliminate all opposition to the official line. The V Congress represented the beginning of a change in its fundamental objectives: it was no longer a question of concentrating efforts to bring the world proletariat to power, but of defending the “Socialist Homeland”, the Soviet Union, from the dangers that could prevent its development and consolidation. Among them were, of course, all kinds of political opposition, described as representing interests contrary to the revolution, for which they deserved (and demanded) relentless repression. Since then, the Stalinist bureaucracy has dispensed with convening regular congresses of the International.

Physical aggression against “Trotskyists” in the USSR began at the end of 1927: Trotsky's car was threatened with firearms; his wife, Natália Sedova, was physically attacked. The day after the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, Trotsky gave his last public speech in the USSR, at the funeral of the oppositionist Abraham Ioffe (former USSR foreign policy leader, who had committed suicide the day before), before being arrested and deported to Alma- Ata.Trotsky was excluded from the party, along with Kamenev and Zinoviev, without the militants or the country being informed of the causes, nor of the Opposition's proposals (internal democracy in the soviets and in the party, industrialization based on centralized planning and taxation of kulaki, abandonment of the international strategy of the “revolution by stages”). At the XV Congress of the party, in December 1927, the capitulation of the opponents was demanded: most of them gave in, with Zinoviev and Kamenev seeking (and temporarily achieving) their reintegration into the party. Trotsky, isolated, did not give in: exiled in the USSR itself, he reorganized his supporters to continue a fight that would develop in increasingly precarious conditions.

Massive repression and selective repression against political oppositionists have coexisted since 1930 (300 oppositionists were arrested in Moscow alone during the first months of that year). The terror (which in 1936-1937 killed one million of the two million members that the CPSU had in the late 1920s) was also Stalin's response to a potential social protest movement and the opposition that was growing within the party itself.[I]In 1932, the “Riutin” opposition, which emerged in the ruling apparatus, was linked to this state of affairs. Its inspirer, Martemian Riutin (alternate member of the Central Committee, and party secretary in Moscow), wrote a 200-page program and had it circulated secretly. He demanded, among other things, a slowdown in industrialization and collectivization, the ousting of Stalin (whom he presented as the “evil spirit” of the revolution, comparable to the worst despots in history), the reintegration of excluded oppositionists.

Stalin proposed that Riutin be executed. Riutin belonged to the leadership of the Moscow organization of the party, which made it mandatory for the Politburo to speak out. Stalin did not obtain a majority. Kirov and Ordjonikidzé refused his support: an old device established that the death penalty could not be applied to any member of the party (Trotsky had executed a Bolshevik, Panteleev, for deserting a command post during the civil war, the which provoked a political crisis). Riutin and his group were sentenced to prison terms. For Stalin, this represented a defeat that, according to Margarete Buber-Neumann, can never be explained.[ii]According to Victor Serge, “in 1932, enlightened by the course of events, Riutin went into opposition. He drew up a draft program in which he called Stalin 'the great provocateur, the destroyer of the party'. The Cheka (state political police) called his words incitement to murder and sentenced him to death. However, they didn't dare to execute him. Nobody knows what happened to him” (the text is from 1936). Of the 200 pages of the “Riutin platform”, 50 were devoted to the description of Stalin's personality, characterized by personal ambition and the thirst for revenge. She collected numerous signatures, among them those of former supporters of Bukharin.[iii]

In 1933, there was the “Smirnov affair” (the longtime Bolshevik leader Ivan Smirnov had proposed a unification of all opposing groups). The purges of intellectuals reached, at that moment, important proportions. In this climate, Stalin's second wife (Nadejda Svetlana Allelluyeva) committed suicide in November 1932. The XVII Congress of the CPSU, in early 1934, consecrated a majority state of mind, favorable to a "distension": self-criticism was accepted of some former opponents (Zinoviev, Bukharin, Lominadzé), legal status was granted to kolkhozians, many were amnestied kulaki persecuted, the GPU was reorganized (became the NKVD) under the control of an “inland commissariat”. It was the calm before the storm. A conflict arose at the congress itself: the regional secretaries asked Kirov to apply for the post of general secretary (Kirov refused); according to Roy Medvedev, grouped around Kirov, “those who thought it was necessary to execute Lenin's testament” (that is, remove Stalin from the General Secretariat). The meeting of regional secretaries highlighted a group, with Anastas Mikoyan (future chancellor of the USSR), the Georgian Ordjonikidzé, Petrovsky, Orachenlanchvili, in charge of pressuring Kirov to become a candidate. Stalin had great difficulties in getting re-elected as a member of the Central Committee, but he retained his position as General Secretary.

For the first and only time in the “Stalinian era” there was a kind of consensus for the readmission of the opponents to Stalin, with the exception of Trotsky and the Trotskyists, as well as Ivan Smirnov and his friends from the “opposition bloc”. Leningrad party chief Kirov was the most voted for the elected Central Committee; in the election, Stalin came in last, with 270 votes against.[iv] The words of Stalin's initial report sounded more like an expression of wishes or a threat than an objective statement: “If at the XV Congress, in 1927, it was still necessary to demonstrate the correctness of the party line and combat certain anti-Leninist groups; if, in the XVI Congress, of 1930, it was necessary to give the coup de grace to the last supporters of these groups, there is nothing more to be demonstrated in this Congress, nor groups to be defeated. Everyone understands that the party line has won. The congressional debates demonstrated the complete unity of the leaders on all questions of party policy. No objection was made to the Report”.[v] Stalin, however, refused to deliver the traditional cloistering speech.

Within the framework of the political crisis that lasted from 1932 to 1934, there was a nebulous episode: the interview, in Paris, between a “member of the CC of the CPSU, sent from Kirov”, and Leon Sedov, son and right-hand man of Trotsky, in which Kirov, through an intermediary, would have hinted at his desire to reintegrate all oppositionists into the party, including Trotsky and the Trotskyists.[vi]Jean-Pierre Joubert relied on a statement by Marcel Body (former French leader of the Communist International), “whose honesty is indisputable”, who “said to have facilitated contact with Leon Sedov (son of Trotsky, residing in Paris) by an emissary de Kirov, member of the CC of the CPSU and brother-in-law of Dr. Levin, sent (to France) to inform Trotsky of Kirov's intention to reinstate him and his supporters in the party. Pierre Broué also indicated the existence of a text by Sedov, which would confirm this information, referring to the intentions of 'well-positioned comrades'”. This information, if true, would shed new light on Kirov's later assassination and Trotsky's role in the CPSU crisis of 1934, and on the "Moscow Trials", in which Trotsky was the main absentia.

The development of the revolutionary crisis in Spain, from 1931 onwards, was a decisive element in Stalin's attitude towards Trotsky's activity, in the USSR and internationally. According to Lilly Marcou, “if the decision to kill Trotsky was expressed in 1939, in Stalin's mind it began to mature from 1931 onwards, as witnessed by an unpublished document from the archives of that period. In a letter sent to the Politburo, Trotsky advised the Soviet leaders not to get mixed up in the internal affairs of the Spanish Communists, that is, 'not to impose a split on them coming from abroad'. Angry that Trotsky still dared to say what the party's conduct should be, Stalin immediately wrote: 'I think that Trotsky, this shameless Menshevik loudmouth, should be eliminated. So he will learn to stay in his place'”.[vii]

The mysterious assassination of Kirov in late 1934 was used by Stalin to prove the existence of a vast plot to assassinate all Soviet leaders, allegedly headed by Trotsky.[viii] The three resulting public lawsuits, the “Moscow Trials”, which lasted from 1936 to 1938, shook world public opinion, and were accompanied by massive political repression (Vadim Rogovin mentions 4 million arrested and 800 shot) unprecedented in modern history. Stalin did not exaggerate his intentions when he said that the time had come to use "civil war methods" against the internal opposition. Rogovin asserted that, far from being the expression of “an irrational and senseless violence”, the terror unleashed by Stalin was in reality the only way in which he managed to break the resistance “of the true communist forces”. “confessions” of a good part of the leaders of the 1917 revolution. Kamenev said: “We are sitting here side by side with the agents of departments of the foreign secret police… We served fascism, we organized the counterrevolution against socialism. This was the path we took and this is the abyss of despicable treachery into which we fell.” And Zinoviev, the former president of the Communist International, confirmed: “I am guilty of having been the organizer, seconding Trotsky in the Trotskyist-Zinovievist bloc, of the proposition with the aim of assassinating Stalin, Voroshilov and other leaders… We made an alliance with Trotsky. My distorted Bolshevism eventually turned into anti-Bolshevism and through Trotskyism into Fascism. Trotskyism is a variation of Fascism, and Zinovievism is a variation of Trotskyism.” None of these “confessions” spared their lives.

Since the first “Process”, in 1936, Trotsky was denounced as the soul of the “terrorist bloc”, and Trotskyism, as an agency of the Gestapo and fascism, at the same time that the CC of the Italian CP proposed an alliance “to the our fascist brothers”, on the basis of the (fascist) program of 1919, and in which Stalin was secretly sounding out the possibilities of an agreement with Hitler, which would materialize three years later. The state prosecutor denounced Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev using their Jewish patronymics: Bronstein, Rosenfeld and Radominslyski. Process of Eighteen(or “second Trial”), in which former Bolshevik leaders were accused of collusion with Nazism and with Trotsky, as well as (like those accused of the previous trial) of the murder of Kirov. All "confessed", being convicted and executed, with the exception of Radek (who purposely exaggerated the "confession"). In the middle of the Spanish civil war and the Popular Front government in France, “the 18” (among others, Radek, Serebryakov, Pyatakov, Muralov, Drobnis, Sokolnikov) were accused and convicted of “having constituted a Trotskyist reserve center”, carrying out sabotage and mass poisonings, on account of the Gestapo and the Mikado. As with the previous process, and the subsequent one, official legal observers of Western “democracies” certified to the world the “smoothness” of the legal process, which was a clear political sign of the interest of the leaders of the capitalist world in “normalization” from the USSR. In March 1938, finally, there was the Process of the Twenty-One: this time they “confessed” the former head of the GPU, Iagoda, and the old Bolsheviks Bukharin and Rykov (leaders of the former “Right Opposition”), and several others.

One of the accused denied the “confessions” obtained during the investigation (through torture); Bukharin, on the other hand, "confessed" in general (wholesale) but denied all precise accusations (in retail). The accusations were the same as in the previous cases: espionage for Hitler (or for Mussolini, or for the Mikado), “bloc” with Trotsky and… assassination of Kirov. As in previous cases, Stalin watched and controlled the proceedings from behind the scenes. The accused were convicted, and nearly all executed. The state prosecutor, Andreï Vychinski, became famous for his zoological inclination to refer to his Bolshevik enemies of 1917, whom he now accused in the name of "Bolshevism", as "hyenas", "jackals", "serpents", "dogs". rabid”. In global figures, between 1934 and 1940, 3.750.000 people were sent to prison camps. In the most repressive years of 1937-1938, 1,6 million people were condemned and practically half, 680, executed. With the massacre of the 1930s, Stalin overcame the preceding political crisis, which had triggered the Processes. In the ensuing purge, in addition to most of the remnants of the Bolshevik old guard, almost all of the members of the Central Committee elected in 1934 were eliminated, most of the delegates to the XVII Congress, four members of the Politburo, three of the five members of the Organizational Bureau, all perfectly “Stalinist”. They were replaced by other Stalinists, as unconditional as the previous ones, and certainly more terrified. Stalinian “monolithism” was therefore the veil of a crisis regime, which required permanent repressive means and bordering on paranoia to maintain its stability.

The massacre parallel to the “Processes” encompassed all former opponents and their families, 90% of the top cadres of the Red Army, all leaders of the political police before Ekhov, substitute for Iagoda who gave his name to the ekhovtchina, the majority of foreign communist refugees in the USSR: in total there were four to five million arrests, one Soviet for every 17 was detained, one for every 85 was executed.[ix] In the midst of terror, opportunism and personal vendettas flourished through “snitching”. A climate of general denunciation took hold in “Soviet” society, with cases of parents denouncing their children even being recorded. In all cases, the accusations read by the prosecutor seemed to be the product of a delirious and sick imagination: the investigation would have proved “that, from 1932 to 1936, a unified Trotskyist-Zinovievist center had been organized in Moscow, with the purpose of perpetrating all a series of terrorist acts against the heads of the CPSU and the Soviet government, with a view to seizing power. That the unified Trotskyist-Zinovievist center had organized many terrorist groups and adopted a certain number of measures to proceed with the assassination of comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Zhdanov, Kaganovich, Kirov, Kossior, Ordjonikidzé and Postychev(…) That one of the terrorist groups, under under the direct orders of Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky, and under the immediate direction of the accused Bakayev, had carried out on December 1, 1934 the murder of comrade SM Kirov”.

In its main judgment, the Supreme Court of the USSR concluded that: “The enemies of the people, Trotsky, Lev Davidovich and his son Sedov, Lev Ivovitch, expelled from the USSR in 1929 and deprived of Soviet nationality by decision of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR , if found on Russian territory, they must be immediately arrested and placed at the disposal of the Military Court of the Supreme Court of the USSR”.[X] With regard to the alleged “popular support” for the “Processes”, let us quote the testimony of Margarete Buber-Neumann, wife of the German communist leader Heinz Neumann: “On January 23, 1937 -that same morning the second Moscow Process had begun- Neumann and I watched the demonstration of the Soviet people, so 'hated' by the accused. To tell the truth, there was nothing spontaneous about this demonstration, it was organized by the government. From the factories, the workers had been brought directly to the meeting place. Attending her was mandatory. The employees and collaborators of the 'Foreign Workers Editions' should also be present. A large crowd gathered on this thankless winter journey. No scream was heard. The men were silent, standing in the snow; the flags and signs they carried displayed spectacular slogans: 'Shoot us like rabid dogs!', 'Death to fascist traitors!' On a poster I saw the image of a gigantic fist armed with nails, accompanied by this inscription: 'Long live the NKVD, armored fist of the revolution!'”.[xi]

Abroad, almost all Communist parties organized rallies and demonstrations in support of the shooting of Bukharin, Rykov and other former Bolshevik leaders. Speaking at an assembly in Paris on June 3, 1938, Maurice Thorez, leader of the French Communist Party, stated: “The justice of the Soviet Union rendered invaluable service to the cause of peace, ruthlessly striking down the Trotskyist-Bukharinist traitors, those murderers and Gestapo agents, elements of the 'fifth column', cagoulards who had some to mourn for them in England, but who were punished with necessary severity.” In the spring of 1938, a “large group of French communists” sent a letter to Ekhov, head of the NKVD, which read: “Your firmness and indomitable will led to the exposure of the infamous agents of fascism […] We assure you our full confidence in popular justice, which punished the traitors as they deserved.” A separate process “purged” Soviet diplomacy (with Karakhan as the main culprit) and the executive secretariat of the soviets.

The repression fell on hundreds of thousands of CPSU members, who were, however, loyal Stalinists. Parallel to the public trials, trials took place “behind closed doors”, probably due to the impossibility of extorting confessions from the accused, or of presenting them in public: in June 1937, the condemnation and execution of the leadership of the Red Army and its leaders, the Marshal Tukhachevsky and General Pyotr Iakir (who had been active in the civil war under Trotsky); in July 1937, the trial, conviction and execution of the leaders of the Communist Party of Georgia (Mdivani and Okudjava, the Georgian communists who in 1922 appealed to Lenin against Stalin's "Russification"; in December 1937, the continuation of the previous one, with the condemnation and execution of Enukidzé. With the mass shootings of leftist oppositionists in Siberia in 1938, theekhovtchinaStalinism was complete.

The “pruning” of the Red Army was important for the fate of the USSR: in June 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky, Deputy Minister of Defense, was subjected to a secret trial, condemned to death and executed forty-eight hours later, along with to seven other generals who constituted the flower and cream of the Red Army. A few days earlier, General Gamalrik, General Commissioner of the Army, had "committed suicide". On May 1, 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky stood beside Stalin in Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square, reviewing the demonstrators. On June 12, Tukhachevsky's execution of other well-known officers and generals was dryly announced. Tukhachevsky's death warrant had been signed by the four other marshals of the Red Army: Voroshilov, Budienny, Blucher and Yegorov. The last two, soon after, were also swept away by the bloody flood of terror.

That was just the beginning of the great purge that decimated Red Army officers. In a matter of a few months and after a farce of a very summary trial – when it was actually held – all the generals who commanded military districts were successively eliminated, including well-known veterans of the 1918-1921 civil war, such as Uborevich and Iakir, as well as like all Army corps commanders. Few major generals escaped being shot or interned in forced labor camps in Siberia, as did more than half of the colonels in the ranks of regimental commanders. In total, from a third to a half of the 75 Red Army officers disappeared, either shot or deported to forced labor camps controlled by the secret police. The generals were accused of espionage on behalf of Nazi Germany and of preparing a plot with Hitler to favor a Soviet defeat.

The accused were heroes of the civil war: Pyotr Iakir, military commander of Leningrad, Uborevich commander of the western district, Kork commander of the Military Academy, and the head of the cavalry Primakov. The Stalinist Marshal Vorochilov, Minister of Defence, accused them a few days later of colluding with Trotsky. “The Red Army has been beheaded,” declared Trotsky, upon learning of the executions. Formed alongside him during the civil wars, he considered them, apart from having no special political affinity with them, as the best cadres in the Red Army and by far the most popular and capable. purge that disintegrated the Soviet Armed Forces. In August 1937, according to Leopold Trepper, “Stalin gathered the political leaders of the Army to prepare the purification of 'enemies of the people' that could exist in military circles. That was the signal to begin the killing: 19 of the Army's 110 commanders, 130 of its XNUMX division and brigade commanders, half of the regimental commanders, and most of the political commissars were executed. The Red Army, thus disintegrated, was out of action for some years”.[xii]The invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany, in June 1941, would show the size of the damage done.

More than 35 officers were killed. The purge of Red Army officer corps continued until the German invasion of the Soviet Union and took a heavy toll. In 1940, more than 10% of major generals, nearly 70% of regimental commanders, and 60% of all political commissars were newly promoted officers, lacking any experience in their new duties. A survey carried out that same year showed that 225 regimental commanding colonels had been promoted without staff courses. Of these, only 25 had completed a regular training course at military academies. Once the purge was complete, it was found that only 7% of Red Army officers had taken courses in higher education, while 37% had never attended a training center for career officers. Finally, between 1939 (with the execution in Moscow of numerous old Bolsheviks – Kogan, Nicolayev and Novikov, among them – and September 1941, when Stalin ordered the execution of 170 detainees, including Christian Rakovsky, Olga Kameneva (Trotsky's sister and wife of Lev Kamenev), VD Kasparova, completed (including the assassination of Trotsky in 1940) the physical extermination of the remnants of the Bolshevik old guard.[xiii]

Within the framework of the “Moscow Processes”, the clash between Stalin/GPU (NVKD) and the Red Army was inevitable. In 1937, the Army commands were formed by the cadres that emerged during the civil war, most of them under the command of Trotsky, founder of the Army. Even though they were not oppositionists, the crisis remained latent. Army leaders had relative autonomy, and did not owe their jobs to Stalin. Their popularity was very high, in particular that of Tukhachevsky, recognized as the modernizer who had brought the Red Army to a high technical and strategic level (mechanization, parachuting). Tukhachevsky and the Red Army commandos viewed the evolution of Nazi Germany with uneasiness and considered a military conflict with it inevitable. Even if Tukhachevsky and Kirov were not political leaders comparable to Trotsky and Zinoviev, the authority of one over the army and the other over the bureaucracy itself made them dangerous potential rivals for Stalin. “professional revolutionaries” of pre-revolutionary and civil war times, most of Lenin's comrades, were murdered. Their place in the party was taken by men who joined it in the Stalinist period: it was the beginning of the “career” of Brezhnevs, Kossygin, Gromyko, who joined “Stalin's men” (Beria, Malenkov, Postrebychev). Stalin's "cult of personality" developed against the backdrop of the destruction of much of the social achievements of the revolution and the unprecedented reinforcement of labor discipline. The Stalinist was a regime of permanent terror, not only by the bureaucracy over the population and political oppositions, but also within the bureaucracy itself.

There was resistance, even in borderline conditions. In the autumn of 1936, after the first “Moscow Process”, exiled militants in Siberian labor camps organized rallies and protest demonstrations, and later a hunger strike, decided in a general assembly. Their demands were, according to Maria Ioffé [daughter of former Soviet diplomat Abraham Ioffé and survivor of the labor camps, alive until the 1990s]: 1) The regrouping of political prisoners, separating criminals from those of common law; 2) The gathering of families dispersed in different fields; 3) A job according to the professional specialty; 4) The right to receive books and newspapers; 5) The improvement of food and living conditions. The Menshevik “MB” added the eight-hour day, the sending out of the polar regions of invalids, women and the elderly: “In the strike committee were GJ Iakovin, Sokrat Gevorkian, Vasso Donadzé and Sacha Milechin, all “Bolshevik-Leninists” ( supporters of Trotsky), the first three veterans of the 1931 and 1933 Verkhneuralsk hunger strikes”.[xiv] Less than two years later, all these strikers were wiped out.

During the “great terror”, the purges hit the security apparatuses of the USSR. One of its leading cadres, Pavel Sudoplatov, recalled this in his own way: “Many of our friends, people we trusted completely, had been arrested on charges of treason. We assumed that was the result of Ekhov's incompetence. I want to reveal here an important fact, which the books dedicated to the history of the Soviet political police overlooked. Before Ekhov took command of the NKVD, there was no special department for internal investigations. This meant that the liaison officer must personally investigate any wrongdoing committed by his personnel. Ekhov created the Department of Special Investigations within the NKVD [for this purpose]”.[xv] Another member of the USSR's international clandestine apparatus, known worldwide thanks to his memoirs, Jan Valtin (code name Richard Krebs), perhaps owes his life to contact with Trotskyists outside the USSR, as he found himself in an extremely difficult situation (sought by the Hitlerian Gestapo –Krebs was German– and by the NKVD) at the time of his break with Stalin: “After he made his decision, Valtin went to Anvers [port in Belgium] where, according to Gestapo agent 'König', a Trotskyist group, headed by a certain Jiske, helped him to board an English boat destined for the USA, where he arrived in February 1938”.[xvi] The very head of Soviet intelligence (“espionage”) in the West during World War II – the Red Orchestra–, Leopold Trepper,[xvii]recognized, in his memoirs, the central role of the USSR Trotskyists in the struggle against Stalinism in the 1930s.[xviii]

The “cleansing” also reached the Communist International: entire leaderships of various communist parties were executed. According to Trepper, 90% of the foreign communist militants residing in Moscow perished. Stalin signed condemnation lists that sometimes contained thousands of names. The CPs of Ukraine and Belarus, the Communist Youth (Komsomol). The trade unionist and delegate of the Communist International in China, Lominadzé, committed suicide. Others were shot behind closed doors, irreducible or unpresentable for a public trial: Preobrazhensky, Slepkov, Riutin, Smilga, General Dimitri Schmidt, Gaven (Trotsky's former secretary), the entire political command of the Red Army (Antonov-Ovseenko, Bubnov , Gamarnik), the old leadership of the Communist International residing in Moscow (Piatniski, Béla Kun, dozens of German communists, the Swiss Fritz Platten, companion and friend of Lenin). Entire directorates of the foreign CPs were summoned to Moscow and executed (among others, those of the CPs of Yugoslavia, excluding Tito, and of Poland). The execution machine also fell on jurists, historians, educators, philosophers, physicists, mathematicians, biologists, scientists and artists in general: the theater director Meyerhold was executed after being forced to drink his own urine, the novelist Isaak Babel was shot (The Red Cavalry), literary symbol of 1917…

During the “Ekhov Era” around 600 people were shot, including numerous communist militants, with emphasis on the “Trotskyists”, the Bolshevik old guard and senior officers of the Red Army. With the deposition and execution of Ekhov, Stalin sought to signal his disapproval of the “excesses” that took place during the Great Terror (1934-1938). Due to his small size, Ekhov became known as the “Killer Dwarf”. Numerous were the militants and sympathizers, inside and outside the USSR, who turned away from Stalinism horrified by the repression and political extermination. It is worth mentioning the Welshman Burnett Bolloten, correspondent for the agency united press in Spain during the early years of the civil war. Settled in Mexico with an enormous amount of Spanish documentation (he was the author of a famous study on the civil war), he had an experience with his “communist” friends in the Aztec country, since shortly after the May 24, 1940 attack against Trotsky, Vittorio Vidali asked him to hide Tina Modotti, wanted by the police for that attack. He then began to analyze his documentation from a new angle, and to defend the Spanish revolution destroyed by Stalinism. In 1961 he published one of the most complete denunciations of Stalinism's role in the Spanish revolution and civil war.[xx]

Most important, however, was the “Ignace Reiss case” (code name of the Polish Ignacy Poretski), one of the most important agents of the NKVD in western Europe, who broke with Stalinism denouncing not only its crimes, but also its political base, and adhering to the Fourth International: “The day when international socialism will judge the crimes committed in the course of the last ten years is at hand. Nothing will be forgotten, nothing will be forgiven. History is severe: 'the genius leader, the father of peoples, solid socialism' will give account of their deeds: the defeat of the Chinese revolution, the red plebiscite [in Germany], the crushing of the German proletariat, social-fascism and the popular front, the confidences in Sir Howard, the tender idyll with Laval: all of them unusual stories! This process will be public and with witnesses, a multitude of witnesses, dead and alive: all will speak once more, but this time to tell the truth, the whole truth. All those destroyed and slandered innocents will appear, and the international workers' movement will rehabilitate them all, Kamenev, Mratchkovski, Smirnov, Muralov, Drobnis, Serebriakov, Mdivani, Okudjana, Rakovsky and Andreu Nin, all those 'spies and provocateurs, all those agents of Gestapo and saboteurs'! So that the Soviet Union and the international workers' movement as a whole do not succumb definitively under the blows of open counterrevolution and fascism, the workers' movement must break free from Stalin and Stalinism”.[xx]

Reiss announced his break with Stalin in a July 1937 letter to the CPSU Central Committee (cited above) in which he attached the “Order of the Red Banner”, a decoration he had obtained in 1928, as “it would be contrary to my dignity to carry it to the at the same time as the executioners of the best representatives of the Russian working class”. Victim of an NKVD trap, Reiss was murdered shortly afterwards in Lausanne (Switzerland). Trotsky concluded that the rupture of "Ludwig" (another code name for Reiss) was, in addition to a courageous attitude, the clear index that "more than one member of Stalin's apparatus falters", although these did not draw Reiss' conclusion: " I intend to devote my humble strength to Lenin's cause: I want to fight, because only our victory –the victory of the proletarian revolution– will free humanity from capitalism and the Soviet Union from Stalinism! Forward to new fights for socialism and the proletarian revolution! For the construction of the Fourth International!”.

Sudoplatov admitted the murder of Reiss by the NKVD, even providing the names of the executioners (Bulgarian Boris Afanasiev and Russian Viktor Pravdin), but sought an alibi that not only ignored his political motivations, but also distorted events: “Reiss, alias Poretski, he was a spy based in western Europe, who had received large sums of money, for which he had not accounted for, and feared being a victim of the purges. Reiss decided to make use of operating funds to defect, and this is how he deposited money in a US bank. Before defecting in 1937, Reiss wrote a letter to the Soviet embassy in Paris denouncing Stalin. Acarta managed to reach a Trotskyist publication; it was a decisive mistake. From Reiss's file, it was clear that he had never sympathized with Trotsky ”.[xxx] When this was written, it was already known that not “the letter”, but its author in flesh and blood, had interviewed the Trotskyists, notably the Dutchman Henk Sneevliet (deputy in the Netherlands, former official of the Communist International in China under codename "Maring") before composing the letter. in your trotsky, from 1988, Pierre Broué still maintained that the Reiss killers belonged to the “Paris group” headed by Serguei Efron, with the mobster Roland Abbiate and the Swiss professor Renata Steiner, who had tried to kidnap Leon Sedov in 1937.[xxiii]Sudoplatov clarified this inaccuracy.

The brutal upheaval of the USSR in the 1930s was the result of the previously developed bureaucratization process: “Between 1936 and 1938, in a phenomenon without precedent in history, the party leadership carried out a gigantic coup d’état: approximately 80% of the party cadres were replaced, a new party was raised, with Stalin at the head, a new set of cadres in economics and agriculture, in the army.[xxiii]With the great purge completed, on November 13, 1938, the Central Committee and the Council of People's Commissars decided (in an unpublished text) to ease the repression. On 8 December it was announced that the head of the NKVD, Ekhov, was leaving his post; soon afterwards he would be shot. Thousands of the most vicious NKVD torturers were tortured and shot. A few thousand people were released, like the future marshals Rokossovsky and Meretskov, the future general Gorbatov, the physicist Landau and Tupolev, the plane builder. The number of new arrests decreased, but did not stop. Eikhe, a former member of the Politburo, was shot in 1940. Numerous officers who had served in Spain were arrested and shot when they returned. This was the case with Antonov-Ovseenko (who had planned the insurrection and the seizure of the Winter Palace in 1917), General Stern, Gorev and many others. It was under these conditions that the XVIII Congress of the CPSU opened in April 1939. Millions of Soviets were still deported; three former Politburo members, Chubar, Eikhe and Postychev, were in prison, about to be shot. Iakovlev was shot during the Congress. Of the 1827 delegates to the XVIII Congress, only 35 had been present at the XVII Congress, in 1934 (ie, only 2%).[xxv]

In the rest of the world, the left-wing intelligentsia and the “roadmates” of the communist parties suffered a profound shock. Hence the importance of the statements made, in the midst of the “Processes”, by the novelist André Malraux, a world symbol of “committed intellectuality” and a personal friend of Trotsky: “Trotsky is a moral force in the world, but Stalin gave dignity to humanity and, just as the Inquisition did not affect the fundamental dignity of Christianity, the Moscow trials did not diminish the fundamental dignity of communism”.[xxiv]Trotsky, outraged, broke off relations with Malraux. The quantity and, so to speak, “quality” of the deaths, could only be compared with the delirious monstrosity of the accusations.

The passive admission of them by governments and the intelligentsia Westerners constituted, for Victor Serge, the “bankruptcy of modern consciousness”: “I read in the Pravda the truncated reviews of the processes. pointed hundreds of unbelievable facts, contradictions, gross distortions, senseless statements. But delirium was also a deluge. He had just finished lifting a bunch of impostures when a bigger pile arrived, sweeping away the previous day's work. This crossed all boundaries. O Intelligence Service he mingled with the Gestapo, with Japan, railway accidents turned into political crimes, the great famine of [agrarian] collectivization had been organized by Trotskyists (all arrested at the time!), a multitude of accused awaiting trial disappeared in the darkness, thousands of executions were carried out without any process, and there were educated and 'advanced' jurists in civilized countries who considered these procedures normal and credible. Everything turned into a regrettable failure of modern consciousness. In the French League of Human Rights there were jurists of this kind: it was divided between a majority opposed to any investigation into the matter, and a discouraged minority, which withdrew. The most common argument was: 'Russia is our ally'…”.[xxv]

There were minority voices that protested: the effort of Victor Serge, who formed in Paris, together with the surrealist poet André Breton, the pacifist Félicien Challaye, the “proletarian poet” Marcel Martinet, a veteran of the “Zimmerwald left”, socialist writers such as Magdeleine Paz and André Philip, Henry Poullaille and Jean Galtier-Boissière, pioneering leaders of the PCF like Pierre Monatte and Alfred Rosmer, leftist militants (Georges Pioch, Maurice Wullens, Emery), historians like Georges Michon and Maurice Dommanget, a “Committee for Investigation of the Moscow Trials and for Freedom of Opinion in the Revolution”. Leon Sedov tried in vain to set up an independent commission in Switzerland, with the help of a Basel lawyer.

Most important was the setting up of a commission in the United States, which took Trotsky's testimony in Mexico (after trying in vain to obtain a visa so that he could do so in the USA). Among its members, only one friend of Trotsky: Alfred Rosmer. The other members were of different tendencies, trade unionists, radicals, anarchists, communists, most of whom were political opponents of Trotsky. The President of the Commission was the American philosopher and pedagogue John Dewey. After months of strenuous and meticulous work, every item and every historical event had been investigated and analyzed until every shadow of doubt had been eliminated. The verdict of the Dewey Commission was of complete and absolute innocence of the accused: “On the basis of all the evidence in our possession we affirm that the trials carried out in Moscow in August 1936 and January 1937 are nothing more than a fraud… We declare Lev Davidovitch Trotsky innocent and Leon Sedov”. Alongside John Dewey, Suzanne La Follette and Otto Rühle (former communist deputy in the Reichstag German) played an important role in this commission, which had strong repercussions on the intelligentsia and public opinion in the United States.[xxviii]

The rare survivors of the “Moscow Trials” made the frame clear. Vladimir Astrov, “old Bolshevik”, incorporated into the party before the October Revolution, journalist and historian who belonged to Bukharin's group in the 1920s, was arrested in 1933, and became seksot, secret collaborator of the NKVD; clashing with Bukharin, he claimed that the “rightist” opposition had advocated terrorism in general and the assassination of Stalin in particular. When he wrote about it in 1989, aged ninety, he said that he had thought the investigators were representatives of the party and had complied with their demands, which had ended in the confrontation with Bukharin; then, exceptionally, he was released from prison. Trotsky's main political defense, at the time of the Trials, was carried out by his son, Leon Sedov, who not only worked for the creation of "commissions" in France and the United States (and in the frustrated Swiss "counter-process", but also published, at the end of 1936, the Red Book of Moscow Trialsç

The book dismantled the falsehood de facto and analyzed their political logic: “When Trotsky was still in the USSR, in the hands of the Thermidorian clique, Stalin had thought that a thorough operation completed in exile was the best means of getting rid of an irreducible Bolshevik. He made a mistake, and you don't need to be very perceptive to realize how much that mistake distresses him. Today, in the face of a reborn and growing opposition, he coldly shoots Bolsheviks, old leaders of the party and CI, heroes of the civil war. Stalin wants Trotsky's head, that's his main objective. Will go to the end to get it. Any illusions to the contrary were dispelled by the Moscow Process. Stalin hates Trotsky as a living representative of the ideas and traditions of the October Revolution, which attracts all that remains revolutionary in the USSR. To get his head, Stalin got rid of the worst intrigues in Norway, and prepared others in the League of Nations [the USSR had been admitted to it from 1933, NDA], preparing the ground for Trotsky's extradition. That is why the Soviet government expressed great interest in international police collaboration against terrorists on the occasion of the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia”.[xxviii]

Let's go back in time to measure the political importance of the persecution of Trotsky. On February 20, 1932, when he was still on the Turkish island of Prinkipo, Stalin deprived him of Soviet nationality by special decree. The importance of the fact is that, henceforth, any Russian who came into contact with Trotsky was responsible for maintaining relations not only with the internal political opposition, but also with a foreign traitor or, to use Stalin's words, " with the leader of the vanguard of the world counterrevolution”. Trotsky's international influence, especially within the Communist International, grew with Hitler's victory in January 1933, as he was the first - and, at the time, the only one - who tried to warn the German workers and communists and the Komintern against Hitler. , inciting them to form a United Workers' Front against Nazism: according to journalist Joseph Gorgerinski, “these were words thrown to the wind. At that time, nobody had foreseen that Hitler would install a totalitarian regime. Everyone judged him just another ambitious politician who wanted to create around him some reactionary party. Stalin claimed that 'fascism and social democracy are twin brothers'. And Trotsky: 'German workers, if Hitler comes to power, there will be no more hope for you'. And he foresaw everything, everything that happened next... The supporters of the "United Workers' Front" in the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) were excluded: they, including Willy Brandt (future leader of West Germany and the Socialist International) formed the SAP (Socialist Workers' Party), with thousands of members; this party, in 1933 (after the rise of Hitler,) signed, together with Trotsky’s supporters (organized in the “Internationalist Communist League”) and two Dutch socialist parties, a declaration in favor of the Fourth International, the “Declaration of the Four” .

Trotsky, simultaneously, maintained his contacts with opposition supporters and sympathizers in the USSR, including in the security apparatus, sometimes with tragic consequences, as in the case of the former socialist revolutionary Blumkin, member of the GPU and author of the signature of Count Von Mirbach, ambassador German in the USSR, in 1918: “While passing through Constantinople [Istanbul], Blumkin met Leon Sedov (son of Trotsky) on the street. Ljova took him to Prinkipo. There he had a long conversation with the Old Man, and agreed to take a message to the Russian oppositionists. Blumkin returned to Russia, where he was arrested and executed. It was thought that he had confided his encounter to his friend Radek, who would have turned him in. Others say that Radek, fearful of confidentiality, clumsily advised him to trust Ordjonikidzé, president of the Control Commission and mutual friend to both. Others even spoke of a woman’s betrayal.”[xxix]Blumkin's execution was the first in a long series, which was to decimate the vast majority of the relevant protagonists of the Revolutionary and Civil War period of 1917-1921.

By the early 1930s, Trotsky's influence, both in the USSR and internationally, was beginning to alarm Stalin. According to Sudoplatov: “Since the exile, his [Trotsky's] efforts to split and soon control the world communist movement were harming Stalin and the Soviet Union. Trotsky's defiance of Stalin confused the communist movement and weakened our position in Western Europe and Germany during the 1930s.[xxx]The organizations of the Left Opposition, which still proclaimed themselves to be part of the Communist International, were summarily excluded from the Communist parties: in some countries they were numerically larger than the “official” sections of the International: in Poland (where the future biographer of Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher, who represented the country at the founding congress of the IV International), in Czechoslovakia, Greece, Spain, and even in two Latin American countries: Cuba and Chile. Communist parties or groups in those countries adhered to the Left Opposition theses. On the whole, however, the Opposition was an extremely minority.

For Pierre Broué, the Stalinist attempts to assassinate Trotsky predated his departure for Mexico in 1937: “[They] were always in the concerns of their comrades. In the first period of his exile, two attempts deserve attention, both coming from 'whites' manipulated by the GPU: that of the Turkul group and that of Larionov. They never, as far as is known, managed to locate their target. But the main [GPU] group from Paris appeared in 1935, Ephron's group, who followed Sedov, arranged his kidnapping in Antibes, murdered Ignace Reiss, and tried to poison his wife and child. This group also had Trotsky in its sights”.[xxxii] The anti-communist “whites”, the Russian counterrevolutionary gang of the 1918-1921 civil war, had every reason to hate Trotsky, the military chief of their “red” victors. Gérard Rosenthal, Trotsky's lawyer in France, confirmed Broué, a few months apart: “At the beginning of the summer of 1936, an espionage network was set up by Serge Efrom, also comprising Marcel Rollin (Smirenski), the fake photographer Louis Ducomet ( 'Bob') and François Rossi, that is, Roland Abbiate, with two or three unidentified accomplices. This network was endowed with a regular monthly fee”.[xxxi] Ephron was married to the Russian poet Marina Tsévátieva: the common point between his group and the “Turkul group” was the presence in both of “white” Russian exiles (including former officers of the tsarist general Wrangel) and members of the European underworld (such as Abbiate). As revealed by several business once unraveled, the Soviet secret service did not hesitate to recruit from criminal circles, and preferred to act through intermediaries, preferably foreigners.[xxxii]

Trotsky's assassination, consummated in 1940, moved the world. Quickly, however, it disappeared from the comments and newspaper headlines, drowned out by the events of the “European war” (the Second World War), initiated with the joint invasion of Poland by the armies of Germany and the USSR, a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. celebrated in 1939 (the partition of Poland was one of its secret clauses), a pact to which Trotsky's assassination was linked by more than one thread. Over the years, the event grew to become a key moment in contemporary history. However, for Eric Hobsbawm: “By far the most prestigious of heretics, the exiled Leon Trotsky – co-leader of the October Revolution and architect of the Red Army – utterly failed in his political endeavors. His Fourth International, designed to compete with the Stalinized Third International, was virtually invisible. When he was assassinated on Stalin's orders in his exile in Mexico in 1940, Trotsky's political importance was negligible”.[xxxv] In 1940, Trotsky was certainly isolated. Hobsbawm's assessment is based on the following assumptions: 1) Trotsky lacked any political importance in that period; 2) his assassination had, therefore, no connection with current political events, and no influence on them; 3) It would have been the exclusive result of Stalin's personal revenge.

The hypothesis that the murder resulted from revenge by his archenemy is not surprising, considering that the assassin's mastermind had already demonstrated his lack of scruples. Stalin's sickening-vindictive characteristics had already been pointed out by Trotsky (Stalin did not seek to “hit the ideas of his opponents, but his brain”). Hobsbawm's interpretation tends to erase the political differences between Stalin and Trotsky, and dismisses the assassination as part of a struggle between contradictory political and social forces. The importance of the crime would be reduced to that of witnessing psychopathology elevated to the reason of State, where only the figure of the murderer would gain historical contours. To the extent that this interpretation was supported by real elements (the troubled Stalinian psyche), it acquired explanatory value. Without explaining why, despite Stalin personally commanding the hunt for the exiled Trotsky, this was transformed into a “State matter”, mobilizing Soviet diplomacy, which pressured the French government of Laval so that Trotsky would not be granted political asylum, in addition to the intelligence services. In the NKVD, a “Trotsky section” was formed, with dozens of officials and military officers dedicated to the persecution, and Stalin made Trotsky the main defendant. in absentia of the “Moscow Processes” not giving up on the project after the failure of an initial attempt by the Mexican Stalinists.

The exile from Coyoacán was not an insignificant political figure in those years. In the 1930s, no good observer could escape the potential political instability of the Stalinist dictatorship, and the role that, in this context, the founder, together with Lenin, of the Soviet state could play. The embarrassment with which, in the 1930s, half a dozen western governments got rid of Trotsky, in defiance of the elementary norms of the right of asylum, until the leader was accepted in a country still governed by people who had in fact fought for democracy, could only be having had reasons linked to the international political weight that Trotsky still possessed. According to a former German leader of the Communist International, “the French government gave Trotsky the right to reside in France at the very moment when he approached Moscow. It should be assumed that they had information about the fragility of Stalin's situation, and the regrouping of the opposition (in the USSR). A return of Trotsky to Moscow was considered possible, and it may have been seen as good policy in 1933 to give Trotsky friendly treatment, with an eye toward a future reorganization of the Russian Politburo.[xxxiv]

In the USSR, Trotsky's influence was growing among anti-Stalinist opponents. But the organized Trotskyists were almost entirely deported to Siberia. In Spain, the Trotskyists and the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) were persecuted in the Republic itself in the war against Francoism; POUM leader Andreu Nin, among other anti-Stalinist communists, was kidnapped and murdered by NKVD agents. Among those executed in the great purge of 1937, it is worth mentioning the NKVD agents Serguei Efrom, Vadim Kondratiev and Roland Abbiate, who participated, as we saw above, in the first attempts to assassinate Trotsky (coordinated, according to Sudoplátov, by Spiegelglass): without a doubt, it was less a punishment for inefficiency than a guarantee of discretion, the well-known “archive burning”.

For Trotsky, the “Moscow Processes” and the repression in the Soviet Union meant the intensification of his persecution. After his stay in Turkey, he was expelled from France to Norway, and “interned” in this country in 1936 by the social democratic government of Trygve Lie, not before having his house burned down and part of his files stolen by a Norwegian Nazi group. Trotsky saw in the action a probable collusion with the Russian GPU, aware of the indirect workings of Stalin's service, a suspicion indirectly confirmed by the later comment by the head of Hitler-occupied Norway, the Nazi collaborationist Quisling ("It would have been simpler to hand him over to the Russian embassy. Probably they would have sent it to Moscow in an urn…”). Trotsky was, in fact, facing a Stalino-Nazi coalition with social-democratic cover: “Between the Nazi attack and Trotsky’s departure from Norway, the complicity of the USSR and Nazi Germany was visible in the public positions taken by both and by the political organizations to which they belonged. they linked. Both claimed to defend Norway and its laws, against a revolutionary without faith or law, for the Nazis; against a terrorist counterrevolutionary, for the USSR. Both agreed on the accusations, insults and threats, and also on the demand for Trotsky's expulsion from Norway, which would raise the possibility of a kidnapping by the USSR, where a judicial murder awaited him”.[xxxiv]

Obtaining political asylum in Mexico, in 1936, gave Trotsky the additional period he expected from life, for political reasons: “The collapse of the two Internationals brought a problem that none of their leaders was able to face. The particularities of my personal destiny confronted me with this problem, armed with serious experience. Offering a revolutionary method to the new generation, over the heads of the heads of the II and III Internationals, is a task that, besides myself, no man can fulfill it (…) I still need at least five years of uninterrupted work to ensure the transmission of this heritage,” wrote Trotsky in 1935.[xxxviii] He would have just under five years of extra life. The “Trotsky danger”, his potential political weight in the events, was not only due to his relevant role in the founding of the Soviet State, still alive in the collective memory. Trotsky's assassination was part of the decimation of a political current, which maintained a policy similar to that defended by the Bolsheviks during the previous war before the world war, also proposing an anti-bureaucratic revolution in the USSR. It was the central aspect of the largely successful attempt to liquidate this current and its potential role in the face of world catastrophe.

The previous stages and facts of Trotsky's assassination are known. On the night of May 24, 1940, approximately 25 individuals disguised as police officers managed to enter his residence in Coyoacán, a suburb of Mexico Federal District, previously kidnapping Trotsky's personal guard, Robert Sheldon Harte, who was on sentry duty, and tying up the police officers. in charge of guarding the house. Going to the dormitory where Trotsky and his wife were resting, they began firing machine guns at the windows and the two doors. Not hit by the first shots, the Bolshevik leader and his companion, Natalia Sedova, managed to reach, dragging themselves, to a corner of the room.

The crossfire continued, one of the gunmen entered the room and unloaded his machine gun on the beds. He immediately left, apparently believing that his objective had been achieved, and threw an incendiary bomb into the adjoining room, where Trotsky's grandson, a fourteen-year-old boy who was saved from death (he was wounded in the foot), was found. The gunmen moved away, covering their retreat with machine-gun fire, in two cars that were later abandoned. One of them belonged to the painter Diego Rivera, a former friend and host of Trotsky upon his arrival in Mexico, whose driver was arrested. Rivera fled to Hollywood, where he returned when he learned that he was not implicated in the attack. Trotsky had severed relations with Diego Rivera in 1938, when the latter supported General Almazán's reactionary party; later, he joined the Mexican Communist Party: Natalia Sedova, Trotsky's wife, said that "of all our former comrades, he was the only one who subsequently converted in a scandalous way to Stalinism". Rivera justified his previous intervention with President Cárdenas, in order to grant political asylum to Trotsky, saying that he responded to the desire to attract him to facilitate his physical elimination…[xxxviii]

Police investigations, despite a bewildered start, sparked by police chief Sänchez Salazar's suspicion that it was a "self-attack",[xxxix] they headed. A sad role fell to the CP of Mexico press, led by the lawyer and union leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano, whom Trotsky accused before the Attorney General of the Republic of being a moral accomplice in the attack. His anti-Trotsky rants demonstrated that Toledano was perfectly aware of the details of the attack before the police themselves. In June, it managed to clear up the plot, proving the guilt of several members of the Mexican Communist Party, whose confessions provided clues to the main organizers: the painter David Alfaro Siqueiros and his secretary Antonio Pujol; also participating were David Serrano Andonaegui, a member of the party's Central Committee, Néstor Sánchez Hernández, who, along with Siqueiros, had served in Spain's “international brigades”, and other members of the Mexican PC.

It was not possible to establish, at that moment, the identity of a “French Jew” present at the attack and who, in all probability, was the direct agent, in the theater of events, of the NKVD. Julián Gorkin proposed that the man was Gregori Rabinovitch, president of the Chicago Soviet Red Cross, an institution that served as the GPU's cover in the US, and who was in Mexico during the events. Shortly after the assault on May 24, Rabinovitch returned to the USA, but in the Mexican capital his closest collaborator, Vittorio Vidali (future deputy of the Italian Republic for the PCI), “fell down”, a former agent of the NKVD, known in the Spanish civil war as “ Commander Carlos Contreras”.[xl] On June 25, the confessed defendant Néstor Sánchez Hernández led the police to a house located in Tlalminalco, in the Desert of the Lions, where the body of Robert Sheldon Harte was found. The house was rented by the brothers Luis and Leopoldo Arenal, brothers-in-law of Siqueiros. Este and Pujol, fugitives, were finally arrested on October 4, 1940, when Trotsky was already dead. In June, Siqueiros had sent a letter to the newspapers, saying: “The Communist Party did not seek, by committing the attack, more than to provoke the expulsion of Trotsky from Mexico; enemies of the Communist Party can expect to be treated in the same way.” This declaration probably tended, and recognizing an already undeniable culpability, to cover up the NKVD, making the attack seen as the result of an outburst of blind political passion, for which it was “naively” announced that others would be perpetrated.

Trotsky saved himself from this first attempt with extreme difficulty. But he knew that the assassination attempt would be repeated, and so he declared to the Mexican press. The police guard in Coyoacán was then strengthened and the house was fortified, which came to look like a fortress. In his memoir, former CCP leader Louis Budenz[xi] converted to Catholicism in 1946, reported that at the end of 1936, upon learning of Trotsky's next departure for Mexico, expelled from his precarious refuge in Norway, the leader of the American CP, Earl Browder, discussed with one of his aides, Jack Stachel, the possibility of murder. Budenz, who acknowledged that he was one of the GPU agents operating in the US, stated that he was asked to find a person sympathetic to the party who could put a trusted man into contact with the American Trotskyists. Budenz pointed out Ruby Weill, a contributor to a publication sympathetic to the PCA, who was on friendly terms with a young PCA militant. Socialist Workers Party (SWP, Socialist Workers' Party, the US Trotskyist party), Sylvia Ageloff, of Russian origin, whose sister Ruth worked as Trotsky's secretary in Coyoacán.

Both made a trip to France together in 1938, in which Weill put her friend in contact with a young man, supposedly Belgian, who said he was the son of a diplomat, rich, great traveler, who wanted to be a journalist: “Jacques Mornard” was his supposed name . The latter courted Sylvia and became her lover. In January 1939, both made a trip to Mexico, where they met Trotsky's old friends and guests, Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer, whom he drove several times in his car to Coyoacán. As Trotsky remarked that it was impolite to leave Sylvia's husband at the door, he invited him into the garden. Three days after the May 24 attack, Mornard drove the Rosmers in his car to Veracruz; before leaving, he first shared breakfast with the inhabitants of the house.

Since then, he has been able to enter Trotsky's house as a trusted person. He made brief visits, Trotsky courtesy of him for a few minutes in the garden while he fed his rabbits. In June 1940, Mornard went to the USA, from where he returned in August, in a state of extreme nervousness and illness. He had probably already been given the order to carry out the assassination, given the failure of Siqueiros' previous attempt. A week before the assassination, Sylvia and her “husband” paid a visit to Coyoacán, where she argued with Trotsky in favor of the views of the minority of the Socialist Workers Party, headed by Max Schachtman. “Mornard”, who only took part in the discussion and did not seem very interested, wrote a short article about it, showed it to Trotsky, who found it primary. He then wrote a second version, which on 20 August 1940 he took to Trotsky to ask his opinion.

Once in the latter's office, Mornard carried out his attack, while Trotsky was reading his text, striking the revolutionary's skull with a pick. As he rushed to repeat the blow, Trotsky pounced on him, managing to stop him. At Trotsky's cry, the guards and his wife came to his aid. Trotsky, his face bloodied, his glasses missing and his hands drooping, appeared in the doorway. He indicated with difficulty that one should not kill "Jacson" ("Mornard" had been introduced to him as "Frank Jacson")[xliii] unable to get him to speak. The killer, being hit by the guards, shouted: “They have my mother… They arrested my mother. Sylvia has nothing to do with it… No, it's not the GPU. I have nothing to do with the GPU.” “They” who, then? A doctor declared that Trotsky's wound was not serious, but he addressed his secretary Joseph Hansen (leader of the SWP, who broke his arm hitting “Mornard”-Mercader) in English, saying to him, pointing to his heart: “ I feel here that it's the end… This time they did it”.

After a surgical intervention, Trotsky died on August 21 at night. In the assassin's pocket was found a letter in which he tried to justify his act as being that of a "Trotskyist disillusioned with his master", who would have required him to move to the USSR in order to commit attacks and assassinate Stalin himself, in addition to I forbade him to marry Sylvia; both the concepts and the style of it were typical of the “tests” forged by the NKVD-GPU. Similar letters had already been found alongside the corpses of other victims of Soviet secret services, such as Rudolf Klement. The “Mornard” letter repeated the “arguments” of the prosecutor Vychinsky in the Moscow Trials (Trotsky as an organizer of attacks in the USSR, aiming to eliminate Stalin and all the leaders of the country). The letter was typewritten, but the date had been added by hand, which was another indication of the (primary) forged character of it. Fifty years later, the coordinator of the assassination, Pavel Sudoplatov, admitted the fact: “It was important to let a glimpse of a motivation that could discredit Trotsky's image and discredit his movement”.[xiii]

Trotsky's wake in Mexico City lasted five days. 300 thousand people came to say goodbye to the revolutionary for the last time. President Lázaro Cárdenas and his wife, who had refrained from meeting Trotsky in person, visited Natalia Sedova and expressed their indignation at the crime, assuring them that they understood well where letters like the one found in the assassin's pocket had been fabricated, and that she should not worry about it. The identity of “Jacson-Mornard”, which he managed to hide for years, despite his Belgian origin and other references being clearly false, was clarified by a Mexican doctor, Dr. Quiroz, who consulted in 1950 (on the occasion of a medical congress in Spain) the Spanish police records, which coincided with those of the murderer in Mexico. “Jacson Mornard” was actually called Ramón Mercader del Río and was the son of Spanish GPU agent, active in the civil war, Caridad Mercader.[xiv]A half-sister of Ramón Mercader, an actress, married, much later and without connection with the reported events, the Italian film director and actor Vittorio de Sica.[xlv]

Sentenced to 20 years, the murderer had, during his stay in Lecumberri prison, at his disposal abundant funds of unknown origin, and was assured of a favored treatment in the penitentiary. His connection with Siqueiros was also demonstrated. On a certain occasion, before the crime, when Sylvia Ageloff had asked him about his business direction, he gave the passwords to an office in the Ermita building, in the Federal District, which turned out to be rented in the name of Siqueiros. Mercader was released in 1960, heading for Cuba, where the newly installed (a year and a half) regime of Fidel Castro denied him political asylum. Mercader then went to Czechoslovakia, and thence to the USSR, where he received Lenin's "Order of Merit". Later forgotten, he returned to Czechoslovakia, where, according to some, he died of stomach cancer in the late 70s. to Moscow, where he was buried as “Ramón Ivanovich López”, a version now accepted and retaken by a Cuban writer in a famous novel about the subject.[xlv] In 1966, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir announced the death of the real Jacques Mornard, whose identity Ramón Mercader had "expropriated" and who, while alive, denied ever having had any relationship with or knowledge of Mercader. Sylvia Ageloff, his “Trotskyist” ex-wife, moved to New York after the murder, where she never spoke of the subject again.

Taking into account that the Left Opposition was already defeated in the USSR, and the methods usually employed by Stalin, it may seem surprising that the assassination of Trotsky took so long and, above all, that Stalin did not arrest and execute him when he was still in trouble. he was in the USSR, choosing to exile him in 1929. Trotsky gave an explanation for this fact: “In 1928, when I was excluded from the party and exiled to Central Asia, it was not yet possible to speak of an execution squad, not even of detention. . The generation with whom I had shared the October Revolution and the civil war was still alive. The Politburo felt pressure from all sides. From Central Asia, I managed to maintain direct contacts with the [Left] Opposition. Under these conditions, Stalin, after vacillating for a year, decided on exile as the lesser evil. He thought that Trotsky, cut off from the USSR and without apparatus or material resources, would be incapable of doing anything. Furthermore, he calculated that after discrediting me in the eyes of the population, he would have no difficulty in getting the allied government of Turkey to return me to Moscow for the final blow. Later events, however, demonstrated that it was possible, without apparatus or material resources, to take part in political life. With the help of young comrades, I laid the foundations of the Fourth International… The Moscow processes of 1936-37 were organized to get me expelled from Norway, that is, to get rid of me at the hands of the GPU. But this was not possible. I made it to Mexico. I know Stalin acknowledged several times that exiling me had been a huge mistake.”[xlv]

Repression against Trotsky and his supporters was not limited to the USSR, although it was especially strong there. In 1938, in a letter to a French prosecutor, Trotsky denounced: “Iagoda led one of my daughters to a premature death, and the other to suicide. She detained my two sons-in-law, who disappeared without a trace. The GPU detained my youngest son, Sergei, on the unbelievable charge of poisoning workers, after which he disappeared. He drove to suicide two of my secretaries, Glazman and Butov, who preferred death to carrying out statements against their honor dictated by Iagoda. Another two Russian secretaries, Poznansky and Sermuks, disappeared in Siberia. Just recently, the GPU kidnapped another former secretary of mine, Rudolf Klement, in France. Will the French police look for him, find him? I doubt it. The cited list comprises no more than the closest people, I am not talking about the thousands who died in the USSR, at the hands of the GPU, under the accusation of being 'Trotskyists'”.[xlviii] In addition to these, in July 1937 “disappeared” in Spain, the young Czech Erwin Wolf, former secretary of Trotsky and one of the main organizers of the Fourth International, probably killed by Erno Gerö, Hungarian agent of the NVKD and future head of state in Spain. Hungary.

In Spain at war, the men were forged who would enter Eastern Europe with Soviet tanks to create the "people's democracies" of Eastern Europe after the Second World War: between the bloody crushing of the workers' insurrection in Barcelona and the brutal repression of the uprisings of workers in Berlin, Budapest and Prague in the 1950s and 1960s runs a thread through history. The preparations for Trotsky's assassination in Mexico, as we pointed out at the beginning, began to be prepared in Spain: "After Cárdenas had granted political asylum to Trotsky, Siqueiros and Vidali went to a meeting of the Spanish CP, where the passionflower [Spanish communist leader Dolores Ibarruri] practically slapped the Mexicans over the Trotsky case. With his revolutionary masculinity challenged, Siqueiros said he and other members of society Javier Mina of ex-combatants, of which Vidali was a member, considered themselves obliged to carry out the attack and to destroy the so-called Trotsky fortress in Coyoacán”.[xlix]

At the beginning of 1937, an attempt by the NKVD to kidnap Leon Sedov in Mulhouse (France) had failed, probably destined to put him on the bench of the accused in the second process in Moscow.[l] In the same year, according to Pavel Sudoplatov, the first attempt to eliminate Trotsky, personally entrusted by Stalin to one of the leaders of the NKVD, Mikhail Spiegelglass, failed.[li] But in February 1938, Leon Sedov died mysteriously, aged 32, after an operation for appendicitis in a Parisian clinic owned by a White Russian émigré, probably linked to the NKVD. Gérard Rosenthal maintained that the “Russian agents” found it easy to infiltrate the entourage of Trotsky and Sedov due to the fact that both “were very sensitive to the common climate and the shared universe that those coming from Russia wove together, facilitating a privileged connivance , which Westerners did not easily access”.[liiii]The circumstances of Sedov's death, as well as the proven fact that his main collaborator, the Russian of Polish origin Mordchka Zborowski, was exposed in 1954, in the USA (where he was a university professor of anthropology) as an agent of the NKVD, under the codename " Mark” (in the Fourth International his code name was “Etienne”) – but this fact was ignored by Trotsky for as long as he lived – led to the assumption that Sedov had been assassinated by the NKVD.[iii] This was never fully proved, although Trotsky strongly maintained it.

Dmitri Volkogonov maintained that Sedov was murdered by the NKVD, which was denied by Sudoplatov, who claimed that he had not found evidence of this in his file (in the Russian KGB archives), and that “no one was decorated or claimed this honor” (sic), for that fact.[book] Volkogonov, a high-ranking military officer in the USSRW (before he died he was Boris Yeltsin's military adviser) must have had strong reasons to support the opposite. “Mark” or “Etienne” had already aroused the suspicions of Victor Serge and Pierre Naville, a French surrealist poet close to Trotsky (later a famous sociologist), who addressed Trotsky in this regard. In 1939, “Trotsky received a strange anonymous letter in Coyoacán. Its author claimed to be an old stateless Jewish refugee in the USA. He pretended to have received from a high chief of Soviet secret services, who was on the run in Japan, the confidence of the brilliant services of a certain Mark, whose description coincided with the person of Étienne”.[lv]

The “old stateless Jew” was Alexandre Orlov (alias Leiba Lazarevich Feldbin, indeed a Jew, but not stateless or old), one of the main agents of the NKVD (or “spy for the USSR”, as it was called in western circles) abroad, a veteran not only of the Spanish civil war, where he headed the apparatus set up by the Soviet political police and participated in the assassination of Andreu Nin, but also of the Russian civil war of 1918-21, in which he had served in the Red Army under Trotsky. In 1938, “General Orlov” had defected, and “had sent a personal letter to Stalin from the US, explaining his defection by his imminent arrest aboard a Soviet ship. The letter stated that if Orlov discovered any attempt by the Soviets to ascertain his whereabouts or indications of being surveilled, he would ask his lawyer to make public a letter he had deposited in a Swiss bank, which contained secret information about falsification of materials for the Committee. International for Non-Intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Orlov also threatened to tell the whole truth about the Spanish gold, secretly deposited in Moscow, and to provide the shipping lists. This story would have meant an embarrassment to the Soviet government and to Spanish war refugees in Mexico, because Soviet military support for the republican cause was given supposedly in the name of socialist solidarity.”[lv]

In your memoirs,[lviii] Orlov also claimed to have tried to contact Trotsky by telephone, to warn him of the presence of Etienne-Zborowski (whom he called "Mark") in his circle, and of the latter's role in the theft of Trotsky's files deposited at the branch. of Paris from the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, where they would remain in the care of the Menshevik historian David Dallin (married to Lola Estrine, Lilia Ginzberg, former collaborator of Leon Sedov in Paris). At the time, Orlov could not get past Trotsky's secretary in Mexico (the Dutchman, future mathematician and prominent logician, Jan Van Heijenoort). When the closed part of Trotsky's archives in Harvard Library was opened, Pierre Broué discovered a copy of a letter from Trotsky (addressed to whom?) about “Etienne” and another of the letter from the “old Jew”, which contradicts the version that Trotsky turned a deaf ear to the suspicions that weighed on him. about Sedov's former collaborator: “It is necessary to follow him discreetly and efficiently. It seems to me that we should bring the subject to [Boris] Nicolaievski.[lviii] Create a commission of three: Rosmer, Gérard [Rosenthal] and Nicolaievski, adding two or three young people for follow-up, individually and absolutely secretly. If the information turns out to be true, guarantee the possibility of denouncing him to the French police for the theft of the files, under conditions that he cannot escape. Report this information to Rosmer immediately. The best would be through [James P.] Cannon, if he's still there [Paris], or [Max] Schachtman, if he goes [to Paris]. You will find the means. I request notification of receipt”.

Apparently, none of this was done, and “Etienne” was only discovered in 1954, in the USA, by the FBI, after a confession by “Soblen” (Sobolevicius), who was also a former Stalinist spy. A short time before, Zborowski had interviewed Gérard Rosenthal, Trotsky's former lawyer in France, sending warm greetings to "French [Trotskyist] comrades". In the USA, Zborowski-“Etienne” only received a light sentence, for perjury in his statements regarding the activities of the “Soblen brothers”: in the interrogation to which he was subjected, very thorough, almost nothing was asked about his long relationship with Sedov as an NKVD agent, nor about his possible involvement in his death, matters that evidently had little interest to the secret services (or to the McCarthyist justice) of the USA.[lix] Zborowski-“Etienne”-“Mark” died in the 1990s in the USA, transformed into an anti-communist.

The main “defectors” from the international security system of the Stalinist apparatus, during the 1930s, sought some form of collaboration with Trotsky, with varying degrees of political approximation. In fact, these were militant cadres in the process of political rupture, much more than “Russian spies passed to the West”, as we are used to seeing them in the literature and mythology of the “free world” (capitalist) in the post-war period. war: they were cadres of the GPU-NKVD, and of the clandestine apparatus of the Communist International, recruited during the Russian revolution and the civil war. political of the security apparatuses of the USSR during the great purges in the USSR is an aspect neglected by historiography, more concerned with the spectacular aspects of “espionage”, or with the elaboration of a historiographical basis for anticommunism.[lx]

We have already spoken of “Alexander Orlov”,[lxi] famous for having recruited and formed the “Cambridge circle” (Russell, Philby, MacLean, Burgess, Blunt and Cairncross), then infiltrated the British secret service.[lxii] Walter Krivitsky (alias Samuel Ginzburg),[lxiii] broke with the NKVD in 1937, was in direct contact with Leon Sedov and later with Jan Frankel, an American Trotskyist, “with a guilty conscience, dramatically refusing to judge or be judged, not wanting to be anything other than a soldier about to obey, incapable of reflecting or thinking on his own, proposing only to be useful to Trotsky by making him know, through him, a type of man that Trotsky did not know. And Sedov, in front of him, speaking to him in the name of October and the world revolution, claiming and demanding a political declaration condemning Stalinism, and calling for the defense of the USSR”.[lxiv] It must have been an embarrassing situation: the Trotskyists knew that Krivitsky and Orlov were responsible for the murder of several of their comrades, mainly in Spain...

Pavel Sudoplatov admitted responsibility for the NKVD, in August 1938, in the murder of Rudolf Klement, a young German Trotskyist, former secretary of Trotsky in Turkey, who had been one of the main organizers of the founding conference of the Fourth International. The act was especially atrocious, as Klement was kidnapped in Paris, strangled and dismembered in an NKVD apartment by a certain “Turk”: his torso was found floating in the Seine a few days later. Klement had met personally (in Paris in 1938) the future assassin of Trotsky, Ramon Mercader (then still “Jacques Mornard”): “Why did the GPU attack Klement? He was not an eminent personality of the Fourth International. But the intimacy gained from the long secretariat made for Trotsky would make him a valuable witness in [Moscow's] fraudulent trials. Did your courage and resistance turn your kidnapping into murder?” wondered Gérard Rosenthal. The founding conference of the IV International, in September 1938, was held under the presidency of honor by Leon Sedov, Erwin Wolf and Rudolf Klement, who were assassinated. Shortly afterwards, “on November 15 [1938] the two legs were found on the Seine at Garganville, tied together. The bones had been sawed off. The legs adapted perfectly to the torso. The head was never found. So he disappeared in the middle of Paris, without the police ever discovering anything, because it was Trotsky's secretary, Rudolf Klement, who was dismembered dead or alive”.[lxv]

Previously, on July 16, a letter addressed to Trotsky, (falsely) signed by Klement, declared that he had become an ally of fascism, which was why its author withdrew from the Fourth International, preferring to “disappear” from the scene. After the discovery of his body in August, Trotsky addressed a letter to Klement's mother, Ruth, who asked him for information about her son, telling her everything he knew about his life, and adding: "I am sure that the letter it was false. It contains false and unhelpful statements, issued by someone only generally and imperfectly informed of Rudolf's activities. The similarity of the writing is not a proof of its authenticity. It's nothing more than a resemblance: Rudolf's enemies have the best specialists in the world, who have already done similar things several times. This rules out the hypothesis according to which Rudolf would have voluntarily passed into the camp of his enemies. In that case he would have no need to hide. On the contrary: he would openly oppose his comrades of yesterday, otherwise desertion would be meaningless. In that case, too, he would have given his mother a sign of life. The situation is clear, I have no doubt that Rudolf was murdered by his enemies.” Trotsky's assassination had not yet happened due to Trotsky's notoriety and the care taken towards him, and also to the political asylum granted by the Mexican government, when Trotsky's elimination was already on the NKVD's priority agenda: Sudoplatov admitted that Stalin commissioned the task to Spiegelglass in 1937 (which did not prevent him from stating that “in August 1938, I learned, for the first time, of the murders and kidnappings of Trotskyites and deserters that had taken place in Europe during the thirties”).[lxvi]

Nazism, Fascism, Francoism and Stalinism physically eliminated a generation of revolutionaries in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1937, too, the Swiss investigation into Reiss's death established that the well-known mafia "executioner" Roland Abbiate, and a certain "Martignac ” had headed for Mexico (in March 1937) in the wake of Leon Trotsky. Trotsky's assassination had become a target institutional of the Stalinist state, that is, relatively independent of immediate political circumstances. It was also strategic, as it involved a great diplomatic risk: assassinating a statesman – and also one of the most internationally known political personalities – using his right of asylum, in foreign territory. This meant that the company would only be possible if it had, not only the organizational means (the international apparatus of the NKVD), but also the means political, that is, with “diplomatic” complicities of the highest level. It should come as no surprise that the criminal act was consummated in a period of relative “softening” of repression in the USSR, due to the war.

After Trotsky's arrival in Mexico, several "men of action" from the international apparatus of the NKVD also arrived in that country, openly or clandestinely, which intensified with the defeat of the republican camp in the Spanish civil war: the ex-consul of the USSR in Madrid , Lev Haikiss, the aforementioned Eitingon, together with CaridadMercader, Vittorio Vidali with his companion Tina Modotti (“Maria Ruiz”), who controlled the staff of the International Brigades. Also arriving is Venezuelan Enrique Martinez, Gramsci's former bodyguard Carlo Codevilla, turned NVKD agent, Argentinean Italian Vittorio Codovilla.[lxv] Things got to the point where, on 8 September 1938, Trotsky's American lawyer, Albert Goldman, made a statement to the press: after the deaths of Wolf, Klement and Sedov, "the GPU [NKVD, at that time] is bent on a desperate effort to eliminate Trotsky himself.” He warned that “the campaign will be carried out by the Mexican CP, with the help of senior officials from the Ministry of Education, and by Vicente Lombardo Toledano, who received the necessary instructions on his recent visit to Europe”.

Long before that, according to Sudoplatov, the order had already been given personally by Stalin: “Trotsky and his followers posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union by competing with us to be the vanguard of the world communist revolution. Beria suggested that I be put in charge of all anti-Trotskyist operations by the NKVD in order to deal the decisive blow to the Trotskyist movement. That was why I had been appointed Deputy Director of the Foreign Office, under Dekanozov. My mission would consist of mobilizing all available NKVD resources to eliminate Trotsky, the worst enemy of the people. 'In the Trotskyist movement there are no important political figures other than Trotsky himself, said Stalin. With Trotsky eliminated, the threat disappears'. Having said this, Stalin sat down opposite us again and began to talk slowly about how dissatisfied he was with the current state of our operations, which, in his view, were not active enough.”

The decision taken by Stalin is explained within the framework of the validity of the German-Soviet pact. Still according to Pavel Sudoplatov, during a meeting of the leadership of the KGB (political police of the USSR) with Stalin in the spring of 1939, the leader pronounced clearly: “War is approaching. Trotskyism became an accomplice of fascism. A blow must be struck against the Fourth International. As? Behead her”. In the NKVD, his top boss, Lavrentiy Beria, suggested that Alexander Orlov's contacts be used for the task, and that "we speak to him [Orlov] in his [Beria's] own name". [lxviii] Now, Orlov had already defected the previous year and, as we have seen, had contacted Trotsky to warn him of the threats hanging over him: if Beria's advice had been followed, Trotsky would probably have been informed well in advance of his brother's exact plans. murder (Sudoplatov and Eitingon evidently did not follow Beria's suggestion).

In September 1939, the “envoys from Moscow” accused some of the leaders of the Mexican CP of “weakness towards Trotsky”. At the CP congress held in the following months, a special, secret commission was formed, charged with planning “the struggle against Trotsky”, actually directed by Vidali, but chaired “nominally”, according to Pierre Broué, by Vittorio Codovilla who, according to with the same author, he had been an agent of the GPU since the late 1920s. The question of Trotsky's assassination had been put to the leadership of the Mexican CP, by the “international envoys”, since September 1938. Since his arrival in Mexico , Trotsky was being violently attacked by the CP press. La Voz de Mexico, The popular e Future protested against President Cárdenas for granting asylum; they kept calling for his expulsion. This campaign increased in virulence in the early months of 1940; was conducted with the usual platitudes – “Trotsky, the old traitor, demonstrates that the older he gets, the more cowardly he becomes…”, “What a slippery fish this little old traitor is!”, “…The new pontiff, Leon XXX, in sight of the thirty pieces of silver of the dirty Judas…”. Trotsky remarked: "This is the way of writing of people who are about to replace the pen with the machine gun."

On May 1, 1940, a uniformed CP demonstration marched through Mexico City (Federal District), carrying banners that read “Trotsky Out!”. Shortly before, in March of that year, at the congress of the Mexican PC, its leadership (apparently reticent to move from words to deeds) was “purified”: “Laborde was excluded from the secretariat, [Valentin] Campa from the Political Bureau, described as sectarian- opportunists, sectarians for not having fought for the unity of the popular forces, and having clashed in the CTM with Lombardo Toledano, and opportunists for not having maintained the party's independence from Cardenismo. To this, the 'envoys from Europe' add the accusations of corruption, provocation, complicity with Freemasonry and Trotskyism. The summons to the Extraordinary Congress (La Voz de Mexico, November 25, 1939) called for the exclusion of traitors, divisionists, fractionists, Trotskyists, enemies of the people, agents of fascism, almazanists, corrupted, infiltrated the party in the past”.

In his memoirs, the Mexican communist leader Valentin Campa reported that Laborde “had communicated to him that a comrade delegate of the Communist International had explained to him the decision to eliminate Trotsky, and asked him for his collaboration as general secretary of the party, and that of a adequate team for the elimination…[Laborde] was convinced that Stalin participated in the elimination of Trotsky and in the use [for this purpose] of the Communist International. He had always thought highly of Stalin but, indignant at his maneuvers, went so far as to say that Stalin 'it was a cabrón'…Since I got out of prison, in 1970, I insisted before the leadership of the PCM on the need to clarify these historical truths”.[lxix] Campa claimed in the same text the anti-Trotskyist campaign of the PCM in 1937-1940.

On May 19, 1940, thevoice of mexico, the main organ of the Mexican Communist Party, dedicated an article to the “old traitor”, as Trotsky was called by the general secretary of the Central de Trabalhadores (CTM), Lombardo Toledano. The article was extremely violent and demanded Trotsky's expulsion from Mexico for his "anti-proletarian and anti-Mexican activities". General Lázaro Cárdenas (then President of Mexico) was also the target of attacks from two sides – the pro-American Mexican bourgeoisie and the Mexican CP. When an attempt was made to putsch right-wing, led by General Cedillo in the mountains, the Communist Party accused Trotsky of having inspired it. The right saw, on the contrary, the “hand of Trotsky” in the fact that the European and American oil companies were nationalized: for the right, Cárdenas was a puppet in the clutches of the “red exile”. Trotsky never met the President personally during his years in Mexico.[lxx]

On May 24, 1940, there was, as we saw above, an attack by the group led by Siqueiros. The PCM tried to disassociate itself from it (Siqueiros was presented as an “uncontrollable element”) but, when he returned in 1942 from the self-imposed “exile” in Chile (to escape accusations and prosecutions), he was received by the same PCM as a hero. During the brief period he spent in prison, in 1941, the Chilean poet (linked to the Communist Party of his country) Pablo Neruda, consul of Chile in Mexico City, was responsible for his release, who said: “David Alfaro Siqueiros was then in prison. Someone had embarked him on an armed raid on Trotsky's house. I met him in prison, but actually outside of it too, because we would go out with Commander Pérez Rulfo, the head of the prison, and we would go drinking there, where we weren't seen much. Late at night, we returned and I said goodbye, with a hug, to David, who was behind bars... Between clandestine exits from prison and conversations about everything there is, Siqueiros and I dealt with his definitive release. Armed with a visa that I stamped in his passport, he headed to Chile with his wife, Angelica Arenales.”[lxxi] Pablo Neruda made his contribution to the concealment of the plot of the crime (the Chilean ambassador was forced to apologize to the Mexican government for the lack of consultation, and violation of diplomatic norms, of his poet-consul).

Trotsky was the first to conclude that the failure of the 24th of May attempt would not cause his persecutors to give up, but exactly the opposite. Even those who believed in the only “intimidating” character of that attack, admitted it: “It was nothing more than a display of force made not only to frighten the former Secretary of War, but also to force the government of Lázaro Cárdenas to decree the expulsion of Trotsky from the country, so as not to run the risk of getting involved in an international issue if the Russian politician was killed in Mexican territory. This fear strategy had worked in Norway. But Lázaro Cárdenas was not like the Minister of Justice of Norway, Trygve Lie, and the Stalinists had only one way left to finish off the Soviet exile once and for all: kill him”.[lxxiii] Trotsky had no illusions as to any reaction in the “communist” ranks in the face of the persecution he was the object of: “90% of the revolutionaries who built the Bolshevik party, carried out the October Revolution, created the Soviet State and the Red Army, led the civil war, were exterminated as traitors in the last twelve years. In exchange, the Stalinist apparatus during this period welcomed the immense majority of those who were on the other side of the barricade in the years of the revolution… By means of permanent exclusions, material pressures, corruption, purges and executions, the totalitarian Kremlin clique completely transformed the Komintern [ Communist International] into a docile instrument. Its current ruling stratum, like its sections, comprises men who did not join the October Revolution, but the victorious oligarchy that distributes high political titles and material favors”.[lxxiii] What precautions did Trotsky take, in the face of this prospect, in addition to fortifying his house? This point has given rise to controversy.

Trotsky's security system was amateurish, he knew it and he declared it to a journalist: “Some newspapers say that I 'rent' for my guard only foreigners, mercenaries. This is fake. My guardianship has existed since my exile in Turkey twelve years ago. Its composition changed according to the country I was in, although some accompanied me from one country to another. It has always been made up of young comrades, linked by the same political ideas, and chosen by my older and more experienced friends from among volunteers who never lacked”. In addition, the parade of political leaders, friends, meetings, etc. continued to the revolutionary's house.

This undoubtedly facilitated the “infiltration” of the one who would finally be his assassin, who exhibited a conduct that, for Isaac Deutscher, should have raised suspicions long before: “This one exhibited such a complete disinterest in politics that his attitude seemed to border on mental indolence, something very surprising in the 'son of a diplomat' cult. He had impenetrably shady connections in commerce and journalism; and his family background was enigmatic. The stories he told Sylvia about himself were strange and incoherent; and he spent money in droves, as if he drew it from a bag of eternal abundance, on parties and entertainment ”.[lxxiv] For Pierre Broué, the risk of infiltration was inevitable given Trotsky's activity and political objectives: “He was condemned to live the few years he had left in full awareness that there were people like the Sobolevicius brothers, taking the indispensable precautions, but without stop taking the necessary risks to continue a militant and combat life. The conclusion imposed itself: in this context, the assassins could only win”.[lxxv]

In the 1970s, an English Trotskyist group, led by Gerry Healy, accused those responsible for guarding Trotsky (basically, the leadership of the SWP, the Trotskyist party in the USA, first and foremost Joseph Hansen) of complicity with the NKVD-GPU and with … the CIA, and therefore with assassination. The accusation was based on circumstantial evidence: the campaign built around her would not have any significance if it had not had the English actress Vanessa Redgrave, a member of Healy's group, as its main spokesperson.[lxxvi] The other clue, the always suspected participation of one of Trotsky's American bodyguards in the May 24 attack, Robert Sheldon Harte (Harte's father was a personal friend of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover),[lxxvii] was definitively undone in the memoirs of Sudoplatov, who clarified that this was not the case, and also the motives for Harte's murder (which, incidentally, gave posthumous reason to Trotsky, who maintained against the Mexican police that Harte was never an agent Stalinist). Ramon Mercader did a long-term job (more than two years), which was full of errors and vacillations.

Since 1938, according to Sudoplatov, “according to Eitingon's instructions, he abstained from all political activity. His role consisted of playing the friend, who occasionally provided financial support, but without playing any political role”. His general line of action was recalled by the last living witness to the Coyoacán crime, Seva Volkov, Trotsky's grandson: “The pseudo-Belgian, Jacson Mornard, began to cultivate the friendship of the guards. He was a very generous, kind and helpful person. He took the guards out to eat, invited them to Otto Rühle's wedding, sometimes also invited Charles Cornell, an American schoolteacher, and one of the guards. He cultivated the friendship of the Rosmer couple. He even gave me small gifts and took me to the field, along with Margarite and Alfred [Rosmer]. But he never showed any interest in pleasing Leon Trotsky. Sometimes, casually, they met in the garden and Mornard just greeted him. Once, he introduced his mate Sylvia and nothing else. Thus, the image of a man who wanted to help and be kind to his comrades was created”.[lxxviii]

On August 17, 1940, Mercader had a first occasion (he was alone with Trotsky, in his office, in a nervous attitude, which caught the latter's attention) which he did not take advantage of: “Mercader or Mornard or Jacson, had shown signs of his anguish, got sick; he was spreading clues that could expose his false identity. It could be that in order to feel more confident about the murder, he needed a dress rehearsal. Criminals and the police, as Trotsky had observed, seem to need sets, as in plays. Or, in front of Trotsky, alone in the office, Jacson could simply have felt awkward”.[lxxix] Even so, Trotsky received it again three days later, when Mercader completed the deadly attack. On Trotsky's desk remained his last writing, unfinished, whose final paragraph, the last he had written, adapted to the scenario: “There were more obstacles, difficulties and stages, on the road of the revolutionary development of the proletariat, than the founders of the proletariat had foreseen. scientific socialism. Fascism and the series of imperialist wars are the terrible school through which the proletariat will have to free itself from petty-bourgeois traditions and superstitions, get rid of opportunist, democratic and adventurous parties, forge and educate the revolutionary vanguard, thus preparing the solution of the task outside which there is no way out for human development”.[lxxx]

The next day, before dying, he pronounced his last words: “I am certain of the victory of the Fourth International. Forward!”, followed by “Natalia, I love you”, addressed to his wife. Shortly afterwards, he died. Two days later, Pravda (“Truth”) of Moscow announced simply: “Having gone further beyond the bounds of human debasement, Trotsky was caught in his own net and was murdered by one of his disciples.” A decade and a half later, in his secret report At the XX Congress of the CPSU, Khrushchev denounced the crimes of Stalin (death in 1953), but legitimized Trotsky's elimination. The murderer obviously did not deny the crime: he attributed it to the “sudden impulse” of a disillusioned disciple. The Mexican police report, however, left no doubt: in addition to the mountaineering pole used in the crime, on the clothes of the so-called “Mornard” “there was a coffee-colored leather scabbard, coated with silver, with a dagger of 35 centimeters in length and three in width, and the handle made of chiseled metal (…) In addition, a Star pistol, caliber 45, registration number P.195-264, with eight bullets in the magazine and one in the pipe. All these weapons demonstrated that the assassin was willing to kill Trotsky anyway. Why hadn't he used the pistol instead of the pick? No doubt to avoid detonation noise. He had evidently intended to flee after delivering the killing blow”.

In the first police part, Mercader was even called “Raft Jakkson” (sic, surely insisting on his identity as “Frank Jacson”, thus transcribed by the Mexican clerk).[lxxxi] In later statements made to the Mexican police, Mercader incurred all kinds of contradictions and lack of verisimilitude, always denying any connection with the GPU-NKVD. His declaration, in the apocryphal letter, that Trotsky was an agent of American imperialism (the Hitler-Stalin pact was still in force) changed in less than a year, after the invasion of the USSR by Germany, to “agent of the Gestapo”. Less than two weeks after the crime, the Investigating Judge in charge, Raúl Carrancá Trujillo, received an anonymous letter in which he was threatened: “Any action you take in the process that accuses Jacques Mornard of Trotsky’s murder, that you have to do declaring that you are an agent of the GPU and, as a result, clarifying an international issue of profound and very serious importance, you will pay dearly. Remember that the powerful action of a perfect organization seeped into a mansion that was believed to be unassailable. Limit yourself to seeking an ordinary cause without intending, in the least, to go beyond the boundaries of the subject matter. Don't forget, comrade Judge, that you can be rewarded or punished according to your performance. Do not forget and always bear in mind, during the trial, that there are a thousand eyes on you, of all races, that watch over your actions. Greetings, comrade”.[lxxxii]

In the following twenty years, imprisoned, Mercader did not break his silence regarding his links with the GPU-NKVD, which gave him the reputation of a “man of steel”. His life in prison – which seems to have included an affair with his director, linked to the Mexican PC, and which included the conclusion of a marriage with another Mexican woman – does not seem to justify the fame, as it hardly resembled a life of suffering. . the italian magazine Today it reported, on October 23, 1951, that “someone continues to take care of him for all these years; someone, paying generously, saw to it that he was guaranteed all the comforts that can be had in a prison (and in Mexican prisons such comforts are many and notorious). Cell number 27 at the Juárez penitentiary is not far from a nice hotel room. It is enough to have the money to pay for such luxuries and, in the case of Trotsky's assassin, that money is never lacking”.

The figure of Mercader's “man of steel”, exalted in a poem by Nicolás Guillén,[lxxxiii] was contradicted by Seva Volkov, who, as a teenager, witnessed the moments following the crime: “Many people at the door, police, a badly parked car… I quickly felt an inner anguish. I knew that something had happened and, at the same time, the fear that it had been something serious. It occurred to me that, the other time, we had been lucky, but it was already going against the fate that had been evaded on the first occasion. I quickened the steps. I saw the open door and went into the house. I immediately found one of the guards, Harold Isaacs, all excited and asked what was going on. The only thing I could hear, as he walked away, was 'Jacson, Jacson…'. I didn't understand what this had to do with everything that was going on. Indeed, when I crossed the garden, I saw two policemen detaining a man who was, in fact, the famous Stalinist who would later receive the Legion of Honor. He was a real coward. Squealing, wailing, complaining of pain. He actually had some bloodstains, as he had been hit. His sad figure stood in stark contrast to the Trotskyists who were taken to the USSR's concentration and extermination camps, where they were killed. This was the alleged Stalinist hero, in opposition to the Trotskyist political prisoners in the Vorkuta and Kolyma camps, who died without limping and proclaiming hail to the revolution, Lenin and Trotsky”.[lxxxiv]

In 1952, while still in prison, Ramón Mercader testified to The New Press (November 18) about the crime: “The door was opened for me and I found Trotsky in the yard, busy feeding the rabbits. I told him I had a very interesting statistics article on France and he invited me into his office, just as I had anticipated. I stood to his left. I put my raincoat on the desk to take out the mountaineering pole I had in my pocket. I decided not to miss the excellent opportunity that had presented itself to me, and at the precise moment when Trotsky was beginning to read the article that had served as my pretext, I pulled the pick from my raincoat, held it tightly and dealt him a violent blow to the head. Trotsky threw himself at me, bit my hand, forcing me to let go of the pick. We fought, people came into the office and hit me. I begged Trotsky's secretaries to kill me, but they would not do it”. In fact, it was Trotsky who stopped them from doing so.

The only personality trait of Mercader that became visible during his imprisonment was a kind of theatrical schizophrenia: “He became theatrical and, at first, overly charming to the people who came to see him; then, when faced with the difficult questions, he would again freeze, with fixed eyes and trembling hands; or he would stir up the cigarettes and scatter the ashes and sparks all over his clothes. He would suddenly start talking nonstop, incoherently again, before breaking out and pretending to be deaf. He had a certain contempt for psychiatrists. He would laugh and tell them stories of rednecks who 'couldn't see beyond the tip of their noses'. Occasionally he would perform a kind of pantomime, playing several different roles, doing different voices”.[lxxxv]

Other NKVD agents who were close to Trotsky showed conduct disorders, such as the already mentioned Sobolevicius (“Soblen”), who became a psychiatrist in the USA and who, arrested, tried to kill himself in 1957, swallowing almost “half a kilo of nails and screws” (!) at Lewisburg Penitentiary (finally committed suicide in 1962). According to Sudoplatov, "Mercader was prepared for three alternatives: to shoot Trotsky, to stab him, or to slash him to death." When Mercader, now free, met Sudoplatov in Moscow in 1969, he confessed: "I, who had stabbed a guard to death in the Spanish Civil War, was paralyzed by Trotsky's scream." As a result, 'when Trotsky's wife appeared with the bodyguards, Mercader was paralyzed and unable to use the revolver'.[lxxxvi] Trotsky's last cry and last resistance made it possible to arrest his killer, which would help to unravel the crime and its plot (if Mercader was not arrested, it is likely that the pretense about his murder would persist).

Mercader's fame as a “man of steel”, on the other hand, seems to have existed only among the “road companions” of the PCs, not among the professionals of the “security” apparatus. Little is known about the later life of Mercader, free and decorated in Moscow, except that he was “unhappy” (although he received, as the archives attest, “a pension equivalent to that of a retired major general”), perhaps for the reason given by Jorge Semprún in an autobiographical novel, when reporting a conversation between two “agents” about his famous colleague: “- This winter, in Moscow, [Mercader] was shown to me. At the Bolshoi, Walter said. Abject helplessness: that's how this man's expression could be described. And what are you doing there? Herbert asked. Nothing, said Walter. there is one dacha, an old-age pension. Nobody tells you. Walter laughed. Currently, he does not die. Sometimes I wonder if this is better” (emphasis added).[lxxxvii] In 1977, Mercader asked Santiago Carrillo (main leader of the Spanish CP, and main figure of “Euro-communism”) in Moscow to interfere with the government of Spain to spend the last years of his life in his native Catalunya. Carrillo made it a condition that Mercader write his memoirs telling who had ordered Trotsky's assassination. Mercader reportedly rejected the request, saying: “A los míos never voy a traicionar".

Trotsky's assassination was not the "final episode" of the anti-Trotskyist hunt. On the eve of the assassination, American newspapers warned of the danger of “the installation of a revolutionary government in the northern hemisphere”, due to the presence of the Bolshevik leader in Mexico. Could the American secret services (FBI) be unaware of the assassination plans, in a country that forms part of their “security area”, and where their agents circulate freely? The American bourgeoisie explicitly hated Trotsky. The State Department denied him political asylum in 1933; the US press harassed Mexico for having given it refuge; in 1938, the US chancellery rejected his temporal entry, even invited by a parliamentary committee (the Dies Committee). After Trotsky died, the State Department banned the entry of his ashes, requested by North American Trotskyists to carry out a public act of homage.

Dmitri Volkogonov, who carried out research in the closed part of the KGB archives, wrote: “Shortly after the news of Trotsky's death, the order was given to 'liquidate the Trotskyists active in the camps'. And, on the eve of the war, there was a new silent wave, which swept away the last people convicted of 'active Trotskyism'. [The fields of] Petchura, Vorkuta, Kolyma, were the mute witnesses of a revenge that sang the requiem of the struggle against the murdered leader of the Fourth International. Stalin did not want to understand that killing someone was an ineffective way to combat his ideas.” (sic).[lxxxviii] On the international level, “penetrating Trotskyist groups remained a top priority for the Soviet secret service in 1940. How would we know what was going on in the Trotskyist movement after killing Trotsky? Would Trotskyists remain a danger to Stalin after losing their leader? Stalin regularly read the reports of the agent we had infiltrated in the Trotskyist New York newspaper… He often read Trotskyist articles and documents before they were published”.

According to the same testimony, “after Trotsky's assassination, several members of the US and Mexico network were incorporated into other networks in the region. This expanded network would be invaluable when it came to obtaining the secrets of the first atomic bomb.” [lxxxix] How to explain the role of “free world” governments in persecuting the anti-Stalinists of the USSR, and Trotsky in particular? These governments, as we have seen, legitimized the “Moscow Processes” by sending official observers from the judiciary. We have already seen the Stalin-Nazi complicity in Norway, in relation to Trotsky, well before the “German-Soviet pact” of 1939: “The attack [against Trotsky] was evidently the work of Stalin, but that does not exclude that it was carried out in alliance concrete with Hitler, and there can be no doubt that Churchill, if consulted, would have given his assent. The elimination of Trotsky was an absolute necessity, at the moment when the war was breaking out, opening up the risk of a revolution that would conclude it. With the first attack failed, the assassins started the intoxicating machine destined to weaken the defense and create more favorable conditions for a second attempt that would not take long”.[xc]

In the years after the assassination, Trotsky's widow, Natalia Sedova, who continued to live in Mexico, received death threats,[xci] and was forced to deny a supposed “testament” – forged – by Trotsky, in which he renounced (and denounced) the socialist revolution, proving that it was a new forgery of the NKVD.[xcii] When the publication of the memoirs of former US CP leader and former GPU agent Louis Budenz shed some light on the plot of the conspiracy to kill her husband, it prompted a new interrogation of Mercader – still called “Mornard” – and published an article in which he concluded: “The responsibility for the crime of Coyacán – and of so many others – falls directly, much more than on miserable secret agents, on Stalin, who conceived, ordered and paid for them. A thorough investigation would require Stalin's extradition, and his placement at the disposal of the Mexican courts. In any event, it will be Stalin who will answer to world opinion, to the future, to history.”[xciii]A deafening silence accompanied the struggle of the (physically) small woman, who lost her husband and two children murdered by Stalinism.

“Official” history never answered: the Gorbachev regime refused to rehabilitate Trotsky, let alone the “post-communist” regime (literary fury against Trotsky was, in the post-USSR Russian regime, comparable to that of the Stalinist period). .[xciv] Trotsky's assassination was not a marginal episode, but an event located in the eye of the hurricane that would devastate the world in the following years, those of the Second World War; at the very center, therefore, of the historical crisis of the 1917th century. The Stalinist bureaucracy completed, through him, the physical destruction of the Marxist generation that led the October Revolution of XNUMX. Their decimation continued during the Second World War: the leaders of the Belgian Trotskyist organization (Abraham Leon and the trade unionist Leon Lesoil) were killed by the Nazis; the ex-leader of the Italian CP, Pietro Tresso, “Blasco”, engaged in the maquis French, he was killed by his “companions” in the French CP, which was denounced by historian Marc Bloch, a resistance fighter shot in 1943 by the Nazis.[xcv]Stalin outlived his main political opponent by thirteen years, during which he continued to persecute his followers. A political battle that still continues.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Trotsky yesterday and today (Our time).


[I] Vadim Rogovin. 1937. Stalin's year of terror. London, Oak Park-Mehring Books, 1998.

[ii] Margarete Buber-Neumann. History of the Comintern. The world revolution. Barcelona, ​​Picazo, 1975, p. 425.

[iii] See Anna L. Boukharina. Boukharine ma Passion. Paris, Gallimard, 1989, pp. 275-6.

[iv] Roy Medvedev. Le Stalinisme.Origines, histoire, consequences. Paris, Seuil, 1972.

[v] JosephStalin. Rapport at the XVII Congress of the PCUS. Paris, Editions Sociales, 1934.

[vi] Jean-Pierre Joubert. L'affaire Kirov commenced in 1934. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 20, Paris, December 1984. In Trotsky's writings there is no hint to this effect: Kirov is qualified as a bureaucrat, whose assassination was used by Stalin as a pretext for terror and the “Moscow Trials”.

[vii] Lilly scored. Stalin Vita Private. Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1996, p. 132.

[viii] Amy Knight. Who Killed Kirov? Rio de Janeiro, Record, 2001.

[ix] Pierre Sorlin. The Soviet People and Their Society. New York, Praeguer, 1970.

[X] People's Commissariat of Justice of the USSR. Report of Court Proceedings in the case of the Anti-Soviet “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites”. Moscow, 1938.

[xi] Margarete Buber-Neumann. Op. cit., P. 431.

[xii] Leopold Trepper. The Great Game. Sao Paulo, Portugalia, sdp.

[xiii] Pierre Broue. Communists against Stalin. Massacre of a generation. Malaga, SEPHA, 2008.

[xiv] Pierre Broue. Les trotskiste en Union Soviétique. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 6, Paris, ILT, 1980.

[xv]Pavel and Anatoly Sudoplatov. OperationsEspeciales. Barcelona, ​​Plaza & Janés, 1994, p. 71.

[xvi] Jacques Baynac. Postface. In: Jan Valtin. Sans Patrie ni Frontières. Paris, JC Lattes, 1975, p. 708.

[xvii] Gilles Perrault. The Red Orchestra. Porto Alegre, New Era, 1985.

[xviii] See Leopold Trepper. The Great Game, cit.

[xx] Burnett Bolloten. The Great Mistake. Las izquierdas y sucha por el poder en la zona republicana. Barcelona, ​​Caralt, 1975.

[xx] Letter from Ignace Reiss to the CC of the CPSU. In: Elisabeth K. Poretski. Our Own People. Madrid, Zero, 1972.

[xxx] P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 78

[xxiii] Pierre Broue. trotsky. Paris, Fayard, 1988, p. 871.

[xxiii] Martin Malia. Understand the Russian Revolution. Paris, Seuil, 1980, p. 219.

[xxv] See Robert C. Tucker. Stalin in Power. Revolution from above. New York, Norton, 1990.

[xxiv] Cf. Curtis Kate. Malraux. São Paulo, Scritta, 1995; and Maria Teresa de Freitas. Trotsky and Malraux: on Marxism in Literature. In: Osvaldo Coggiola. Trotsky Today. São Paulo, Essay, 1994.

[xxv] Victor Serge. Mémoires d'un Révolutionnaire. Paris, Seuil, 1978, p. 350.

[xxviii] Cf. Gerard Roche. Les intellectuels americains et la Commission Dewey. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 42, Paris, ILT, July 1990; and Alan Wald. La Commission Dewey 40 ans après.Cahiers Léon Trotsky nº 3, Paris, ILT, 1979. In Moscow, the Dewey Commission was opposed through the “arrest” of a certain American Donald L. Robinson, presented as a “Trotskyist spy” linked to Japan, the Trotskyists of the USA and the Commission itself. Reaction in the US, in particular the investigation of journalist Herbert Solow, quickly demonstrated that this was a setup. "Robinson" was never identified.

[xxviii] Leon Sedov. Le Livre Rouge des Proces de Moscow. Paris, La Pensée Sauvage, 1981 [1936], pp. 9 and 123.

[xxix] Gerard Rosenthal. Trotsky's Avocat. Paris, Robert Laffont, 1975, p. 103.

[xxx] Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoly Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 105.

[xxxii] Pierre Broue. trotsky, cit., p. 925.

[xxxi] Gerard Rosenthal. Trotsky's Avocat. Paris, Robert Laffont, 1975, p. 227.

[xxxii] For example, the “Cambridge Five” (Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald McLean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross), double agents in British intelligence, recruited by USSR espionage (by Alexander Orlov, of which we will speak later) when they were students at the University of Cambridge. For a long time it was assumed that there were only three, excluding, in addition to Cairncross, Anthony Blunt, curator of the jewels and art collections of the English Crown: the impact that the discovery of this network had on public opinion was due both to its spectacular character and the high social origin of its members.

[xxxv] Eric Hobsbawm. age of extremes. The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1994, p. 80.

[xxxiv] Ruth Fisher. Trotsky to Paris, 1933. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 22, Paris, June 1985.

[xxxiv] Pierre Broue. Op. cit., P. 839.

[xxxviii] Leon Trotsky. Exile Diary. São Paulo, Popular Editions, SPD, p. 53.

[xxxviii]Louis Suarez. Confessions by Diego Rivera. Mexico, Grijalbo, 1975.

[xxxix] Cf. Leandro A. Sanchez Salazar. Así Asesinaron to Trotsky.Mexico, La Prensa, 1955.

[xl] The “French Jew”, according to Pavel Sudoplatov, was Leonid A. Eitingon, alias of Naum Iakovlevich Ettingon, who had “served” in France as “Pierre”, also as “Tom”, and in Spain, during the civil war, as “General Kotov”. Sudoplatov denies that Eitingon was the lover or husband of Caridad Mercader, mother of Trotsky's murderer. He operated in Mexico, according to Sudoplátov, "with a false French passport of a Syrian Jew suffering from a mental illness".

[xi] Louis Francis Budenz. This is My Story. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1947.

[xliii] “Mornard” had explained to Sylvia Ageloff that he had bought a Canadian passport under the name of “Frank Jacson” in order to leave Belgium to escape military service, a passport he used in the US and Mexico.

[xiii] P. and A. Sudoplatov. op cit., P. 115.

[xiv] The definitive establishment of this identity, based on evidence and documents, was made by Isaac Don Levine: L'Homme qui a tué Trotsky. Paris, Gallimard, 1960.

[xlv]María de la Asunción MercaderFordada (1918 – 2011) was a Spanish film actress. She appeared in 40 films between 1923 and 1992. She was the second wife of film director Vittorio De Sica (MaríaMercader, laactrizcatalana que amó a De Sica, El País, Madrid, January 30, 2011).

[xlv] Leonardo Padura. The Man Who Loved Dogs. Sao Paulo, Boitempo, 2015.

[xlv] Leon Trotsky. Works. May-August 1940. Vol. 24, Paris, ILT, 1987, p. 103.

[xlviii] Leon Trotsky. Lettre à Pagenel (24 October 1938). Works. Vol. 18, Paris, p. 251.

[xlix] Margaret Hooks. Tina Modotti. Photographer and revolutionary. Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio, 1997, p. 263.

[l] Cf. Pierre Broue. Ljova, le “fiston”. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 13, Paris, March 1983.

[li] A. and P. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 103.

[liiii]Gerard Rosenthal. op cit., P. 262.

[iii] Two French doctors, performing a “retroactive autopsy”, came to the conclusion that Sedov could, in fact, have died of postoperative complications (Jean Michel Krivine and Marcel-Francis Kahn. La mort de Leon Sedov. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 13, Paris, March 1983).

[book]P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op.Cit., p. 121.

[lv] Gerard Rosenthal. Op. cit., P. 263.

[lv] A. and P. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., p.78.

[lviii]Alexander Orlov. The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes. New York, Jarrolds, 1954.

[lviii] Boris Nicolaievski was later the author of a biography of Karl Marx, published by Penguin Books, which for years was considered the most complete on the life of the German revolutionary.

[lix] See Michel Lequenne. Les demi-aveux de Zborowski. Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 13, Paris, March 1983.

[lx]Cf., for example: John J. Dziak.Checkisty. A history of the KGB. Lexington, DC Heath, 1988; John Barron. KGBToday. The hidden hand. London, Hodder & Soughton, 1985; Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievskij. The Secret History of the KGB. Milan, Rizzoli, 1996.

[lxi] Alexander Orlov. op cit.

[lxii] This "circle" would have inspired Graham Greene's novel, The Third Man, from which the eponymous film, by Michael Curtiz, with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in the lead roles, was taken.

[lxiii] Walter G. Krivitsky. In Stalin's Secret Service. An exposé of Russia's secret policies by the former chief of the Soviet Intelligence in Western Europe. New York, Harper Brothers, 1939. Krivitsky (1899-1942) was a senior Soviet intelligence officer; he broke with Moscow in 1937, after the assassination of his superior Ignace Reiss (Reiss had broken with the NKVD during the first Moscow «Process»). After publishing his book, he joined the exiled Mensheviks in the US; he was mysteriously murdered in a New York hotel room in 1942.

[lxiv] Pierre Broue. Ljova, le fiston, cit.

[lxv] Gerard Rosenthal. Op. cit., P. 280-1.

[lxvi] P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 78. This contradiction, among others, sheds light on the method of confession-concealment that permeates the entire book of Sudoplatov who, like other former agents (including the CIA) seeks to solve the problem of confessing to crimes, while defending time the innocence of the author.

[lxv] Olivia Gall. Trotsky in Mexico and Political Life in the Cárdenas Period 1937-1940.Mexico, ERA, 1991. The author confuses Codevilla with Codovilla.

[lxviii] P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 103 and 108.

[lxix] Valentin Campa. my testimonial. Mexico, Popular Culture, 1985, p. 161-166.

[lxx] See Alain Dugrand. Trotsky in Mexico 1937-1940. Manchester, Carcanet, 1992.

[lxxi] Pablo Neruda. I trust that I lived. Buenos Aires, Circulo de Lectores, 1976, p. 168-9. The disregard with which Neruda refers to Trotsky and the attempt on his life, the tone of “irresponsible joke” with which he refers to the participation of his friend Siqueiros, perhaps reveal something more than the image of convivial "communist" of his autobiography. The NKVD worked with three concentric circles: a) The “political core”, composed of members of the Soviet apparatus; b) The “executors”, of different nationalities, if possible non-Russians; c) The “periphery”, in which “fellow travelers” had a place, who eventually could carry out tasks of importance.

[lxxiii] Jose Ramón Garmabella. Operation Trotsky. Rio de Janeiro, Record, 1972, p. 60.

[lxxiii] Leon Trotsky. Works. May-August 1940. Vol. 24, Paris, ILT, 1987, p. 313.

[lxxiv] Isaac Deutscher. trotsky. The exiled prophet (1929-1940). Mexico, ERA, 1969, p. 434.

[lxxv] Pierre Broue. Op. cit., P. 52.

[lxxvi] See It's a Shameless Frame-up! A statement on the slanders circulated by the Healy Group against Hansen, Novack, and the SWP, 1976. In an internal FBI report, J. Edgar Hoover accused Joseph Hansen and other SWP leaders of having murdered “George Mink” (codename Lithuanian Dimitri Utnik), GPU-NKVD “executioner” residing in the USA (responsible for the murder of Italian libertarians Camillo Berneri and Francesco Barbieri) throwing his corpse into the crater of a volcano. “Mink” was in Mexico in the lead-up to Trotsky's assassination.

[lxxvii]Harte's entire "responsibility" seems to have been to meet an agent, Yosif Grigulevich, to whom Sudoplatov lends the code name "Father", supposedly also known by other Trotskyists as "politically neutral", who was responsible for opening the doors of the Coyoacán's house in the attack on May 24, 1940 (which also gives rise to the version that Mercader would have deceived Harte on that occasion). Harte, according to Sudoplatov, was murdered so that he would not reveal Grigulevich's true status as an agent.

[lxxviii] Esteban Volkov-Trotsky. Leon Trotsky: memories and meaning. In: Osvaldo Coggiola. Trotsky today. São Paulo, Essay, 1992, p. 315. This text is the transcription of the testimony that Trotsky's grandson gave, as the last survivor of the events of August 1940, at the international symposium that we organized, at the History Department of USP, in September 1990, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Trotsky's assassination.

[lxxix] Nicholas Mosley. The Assassination of Trotsky. New York, Josef Schaftel, 1972, p. 148.

[lxxx] Leon Trotsky. Op. cit., P. 376.

[lxxxi] The complete police records of both the May 24 attack and the August 20-21 murder can be found in the Archives of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

[lxxxii] A detailed account of the police investigation can be found in the book by General Leandro A Sánchez Salazar, cited above.

[lxxxiii]He was hard and severe / His voice was grave / And his apostasy was steel / (It was, no. It is, that even today / the whole man is) / It is.It is steel.It is steel. Steel! That is! (Nicolás Guillén, Bajo elcielo by Lecumberri – Elegy to Jacques Mornard).

[lxxxiv] Esteban Volkov-Trotsky. Leon Trotsky: memories and meaning, cit., p. 317.

[lxxxv] Nicholas Mosley. Op. cit., P. 153.

[lxxxvi] P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op. cit., P. 115-116.

[lxxxvii] Jorge Semprún. La Segunda Muerte by Ramón Mernotebook. Caracas, Tiempo Nuevo, 1970, p. 117.

[lxxxviii]Pravda, Moscow, September 9, 1988.

[lxxxix] P. and A. Sudoplatov. Op. quote, P. 113 and 121.

[xc] Pierre Broue. Présentation. In: Leon Trotsky. Works. Vol. 24, Paris, ILT, 1987, p. 19.

[xci]Victor Alba. Trotsky seen by Natalia Sedova, unpublished manuscript, Archive of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

[xcii] Claim by Natalia Sedova against “France-Dimanche”. Excelsior, Mexico, May 8, 1948.

[xciii] Natalia Sedova Trotsky. Stalin's culpability in the assession of Leon D. Trotsky. New arrivals, Mexico, April 21, 1947.

[xciv] Boris Kagarlitsky. The Disintegration of the Monolith. Sao Paulo, Edunesp, 1997.

[xcv] A detailed account of this fact, including the identity of the PCF militants who murdered Pietro Tresso, can be found at: Pierre Broué and Raymond Vacheron. Meurtres au Maquis. Paris, Grasset & Frasquelle, 1997.

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