Josef Stalin, that Georgian-turned-Russian Nationalist, so wanted to be that nation's one-and-only "messiah" that he literally erased his opponents from history. Trotsky standing behind Lenin in that photo? No problem! Replace him with a wooden staircase!

A rather amateur job was done of it; anyone today with the appropriate software could do better. The ghostly visage or the detached elbow of a discredited leader could be seen in many cases - perhaps deliberately, as a reminder to all those who would dare challenge Stalin?
A bit off topic but let's go:

I'm not 100% sure about this but I think I heard from the leader of Lenin-museum at Tampere, Finland that actually Trotsky wasn't in the picture at the first place. But the leaders of revolution (i.e. coup d'état) thought it wouldn't be appropriate for Trotsky not to appear alongside Lenin in the famous picture and therefore he had to be added. So what stalinists did was actually just to erase Trotsky and thus restore the original picture.

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