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.

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  • 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.

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