Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On the 73rd Anniversary of the Assassination of Leon Trotsky

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky by an agent of Stalin.  We are publishing below images from the Trotskyist press of 1940 to mark the occasion.  The first is a headline from the newspaper of the American Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Appeal, shortly after the first attempted assassination in May of 1940.  That attempt, in which the famous Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros participated, was not successful although it did result in the kidnapping and murder of one of Trotsky's guards, Sheldon Harte.  Years later, it was revealed by Leonid Eitingon, the GPU agent in charge of the operation, that Harte himself was a Stalinist agent.  There are a number of sources for this, including the following quote from Eitingon himself, published in 1999,

"During the operation it was revealed that Sheldon was a traitor. Even though he opened the gate to the compound, once in the room there was found neither the archive, nor Trotsky himself. When the participants in the raid opened fire, Sheldon told them that, had he known all this, as an American he never would have agreed to participate in this raid. Such behavior served as the basis for deciding on the spot to liquidate him. He was killed by Mexicans." [1]

Most recently a memoir of the Eitingon family published by a member of that family, Mary Kay Wilmers, who is the editor of the London Review of Books, confirms both Harte's role and his subsequent murder by Stalinist agents seeking to cover up their crime.  She quotes another participant in the attack, KGB agent Iosif Grigulevich, who, speaking of Harte, said,

"What were we supposed to do with him?  After all, we would have had to hide him and then illegally take him out of Mexico. In a word, no end of trouble! Put yourself in Siqueiros's shoes.  He had telegrammed to Moscow that Bob Sheldon had betrayed them and that was why they shot into an empty bed.  Moscow ordered us to shoot the traitor.  Which is what we did." [2] 

Socialist Appeal, June 1, 1940
An article in the Socialist Appeal of June 1, immediately following the May 24 attack on Trotsky,  with the title Why Does Stalin Want to Kill Trotsky? concluded thus,

"All the blood that has been shed by this super-mafia has not succeeded and will not succeed in exorcising the specter that haunts the cowering demon in the Kremlin, the specter of Trotsky and of Trotskyism. 

For Trotsky represents the living forces of the October Revolution and the promise of their resurgence.

Trotsky's is the authentic voice of the millions of downtrodden toilers throughout the world.

Trotsky's is the banner of the world worker's revolution that must and shall be unfurled across continents drenched in the blood of imperialist war.

Against these Stalin and his gunmen cannot and will not prevail.

To this, the Fourth International, with Trotsky and after Trotsky, stands firmly pledged."

Yet it was on this day 73 years ago, that the conspiracy authored by Stalin and carried out by Beria, Sudoplatov and Eitingon finally succeeded in ending Trotsky's life, just three months after the initial attempt failed.  But who now remembers Stalin as anything other than one of the most heinous individuals in history, other than a tiny number of pathological cultists?    The memory of Trotsky on the other hand remains an inspiration to many.  It is a testament to the triumph of ideas over brute force.

Socialist Appeal issue of Aug. 24, 1940
[1] Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin: The Sword and the Shield: - The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (Basic Books), 1999, p.87-88
[2] The Eitingons: A Twentieth-Century Story, Mary-Kay Wilmers, Verso, 2010, p. 304.

Alex Steiner
August 21, 2013

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