, Military Strategist
, expert on Cacti
, noted Bolshevik Revolutionary
and opponent of Stalin
, died in Mexico
on August 20, 1940
, from wounds caused by a blow to the head from a pickaxe
After being expelled from the USSR
he fled to Turkey
, then to France
, and finally Mexico
, where he went to live in the home of painter Diego Rivera
Back home in Russia
's furious campaign against Trotsky had reached its climax; in the Moscow
trials Trotsky was the chief defendant in absentia. He was accused of staging innumerable conspiracies to assassinate Stalin
and other Soviet
leaders. The bureaucracy also accused him of acting in secret collusion with Hitler
and the Emperor of Japan
in order to bring about the downfall of the Soviet
regime and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union
. Trotsky was convicted of two accounts of treason
by the Soviet courts and sentenced to death.
Understandably, Trotsky feared for his life, and took appropriate precautions to protect himself from KGB
(then called the GPU
. After a machine gun attack by the secret police
on May 24, 1940
, he built additional defensive pillboxes
, constructed a fifteen foot high wall surrounding his house, and increased his staff of bodyguards.
However, once this attack had failed, the Mexican Communist Party
) decided to use infiltration
rather than direct attack.
(At this point, there is some confusion in my sources. One claims that the assassin, Ramon Mercader, used the alias Frank Jackson. Another claims it was Jacques Mornard, which means he probably used both)
Mercader first gained the confidence of one of Trotsky's associates by doing menial tasks, chauffeuring and translations for Trotsky's secretaries. Until the 20th of August, when he was ready to act. To quote Mercader himself:
"The door was opened for me and I found Trotsky in the yard, feeding hay to the rabbits. I told Trotsky that I had brought an article with some very interesting statistical data on France and he invited me to his study, just as I had figured he would. We entered the study, and Trotsky sat down in the chair at the center of the table."
"I was standing on his left side. I put my gabardine coat on the table with the object of being able to take the alpine stock which was in the pocket. I resolved not to lose this brilliant opportunity which was presented to me, and at the precise moment in which Trotsky commenced to read my article which served as a pretext, I took the alpine stock from the gabardine coat, grabbed it tightly and dealt him a tremendous blow on the head. Trotsky cried out and threw himself upon me and bit my hand. We struggled, and people entered the room and beat me. I prayed that day to Trotsky's secretaries that they kill me, but they did not wish to do so." (The Assassination of Leon Trotsky, by Albert Goldman, Pioneer Publishers, 1940, pp. 11-12).
Trotsky's last words were to his wife, Natasha
: "I feel this time they have succeeded. I do not want them to undress me. I want you to undress me."
Mercader was arrested and jailed for the murder. Twenty years later his sentence was commuted and he travelled to Russia
where he received the Order of Lenin
in a secret ceremony
. Soon after the Cuban Revolution
, Mercader moved to that country where he lived incognito. He died there in 1978. Fidel Castro
authorized an eleven-line press cable mentioning his death.
Researching this writeup impressed on me the kind of life Trotsky must have lived after his exile from Russia in 1929. Trotsky's son Sergei, who still lived in Russia, was arrested and disappeared. His other son, and close collaborator, Leon Sedov was assassinated on an operating table in Paris by a doctor in the service of the GPU. One of his daughters was driven to suicide because of the pressure of GPU agents in Germany. Most of Trotsky's secretaries and many collaborators were killed in different countries around the world. His grandson, whose father had been killed on the operating theatre in Paris, was injured in the May 24th attack. I can only imagine the fear he lived with every day.