Leon Trotsky: Love, Death and Exile in Mexico

Leon Trotsky, one of the fathers of the Russian Revolution, second only to to Lenin, was assassinated in Mexico 70 years ago today (August 21, 1940). During the early years of the Revolution, Trotsky headed up foreign affairs for Russia and founded the Red Army. Following Lenin's death (1924), he looked primed to take control of the revolutionary state. But Stalin had other thoughts about the matter, and, before too long, Trotsky found himself in exile again. Previous exiles took him to Siberia, Kazakhstan, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the United States. This time, he went to France, Norway, Turkey (see the film Vanessa Redgrave narrates on his stint in Istanbul) and later Mexico (1936), where he lived with painter Diego Rivera and his wife/fellow painter, Frida Kahlo. Eventually, Kahlo and Trotsky would have a famous affair.

Above, we have some grainy footage of Trotsky from his Mexico years. The footage dates back to 1937, and it shows Trotsky, speaking in broken English, giving thanks to Mexico for providing sanctuary and defending himself against the show trials that Stalin orchestrated back in Russia. Trotsky was sentenced to death in absentia. Three years later, he would be assassinated by an undercover agent while still living in Mexico. YouTube has more on the assassination here. A big thanks goes to Mike S. for unearthing this great little cluster of videos.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Peter B. Kaufman says:

    Amazing footage. John Dewey, the American philosopher and educator, organized and chaired the so-called counter-trial of Trotsky at this time in Mexico City–an international commission of inquiry into Stalin’s false charges against Trotsky, Piatakov, Radek, and others, eventually also Bukharin. The Moscow show trials starting in 1936 divided the American left long before the Soviet-German nonaggression pact, Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe after the war, and Soviet military moves in Budapest in 1956. The bold report of the 1937 Dewey Commission, comprising a detailed analysis of the Moscow courtroom proceedings under prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky, is online in part here:
    See also:

  • Sam says:

    thank you for the article about Trotsky. I always wondered what happened to him.

  • Sidney Emmer says:

    Here you can listen and see him speak while in Mexico. Interesting.

Leave a Reply