Assassination of Communist Leon Trotsky Part 2

About the assassinaton of Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky, history and account of the murder by the enemy of Joseph Stalin.



Clearly this thin, dedicated hireling was better suited to political debating and second-string spying than to assassination. He would never have been chosen to complete a historic "liquidation" had not an outrageous frontal assault against Trotsky's villa failed on May 23, 1940. Twenty men wearing fake police and military uniforms overpowered guards, threw incendiary and dynamite bombs, and fired 73 machine-gun bullets into Leib Davydovich's bedroom while he and his wife hid beneath their bed. They miraculously survived this dawn miniwar with only slight injuries.

Four days after this abortive attempt, Mercader went to work in earnest to gain Trotsky's trust by doing small errands and totally agreeing with his latest opinions. Without batting an eyelash, Mercader even suggested that "in the next attack, the GPU will use other methods." He failed to predict a lone assassin with an ice ax, however.

The GPU was Joseph Stalin's political police force. It conducted espionage abroad and had several hundred members in Mexico, including Mercader and the famous artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who had led the May 23 assault. (Later, muralist Diego Rivera, a member of the Mexican Communist party and Trotsky's original host in Mexico, would claim credit for having deliberately "lured the exile to his death.") The GPU began plotting Trotsky's demise in 1937, when the Moscow purge trials sentenced Trotsky to death in absentia. The GPU introduced Mercader into Trotskyite circles in 1938. Mercader quickly seduced Sylvia Agelof, a New York disciple of Stalin's mortal enemy. She introduced her lover to members of Trotsky's household in 1939. It took Mercader another nine months to gain the confidence of the guards and get past security measures. In the meantime, he built up his strength and learned to use an ice ax properly while climbing the high volcanoes around Mexico City. By Aug. 20, he was ready to terminate Stalin's bloody vendetta successfully.

Leib Davydovich expected to be killed, but not before he had cut Stalin down to size. How? Not with a gun, but a pen. "When he cuts off his opponent's head, he holds it up to show that there are no brains in it," said George Bernard Shaw in describing Trotsky's unmatched ability to slaughter the opposition by purely literary means. Trotsky was a magnificent, highly disciplined writer. In the years just before his death, Trotsky intensified his literary war. He wrote Stalin's Crimes, The Real Situation in Russia, and The Stalinist School of Falsification. In 1940 he was preparing a full-scale "antibiography" called Stalin.

It was a confrontation between two giants. Both Stalin and Trotsky believed that W.W. II would end with the total disruption of capitalism in the West and with an international wave of socialist revolution. Both wanted to head this revolution. Stalin had the resources of a massive nation-state at his disposal, while Trotsky had only a few thousand followers plus his mighty pen. But Lenin had taken over the Russian Revolution with less. Stalin deeply regretted that he had exiled his opponent from Russia in 1929 rather than executing him on the spot.

The conflict was resolved on that sunny day in August, when an unlikely assassin confronted the exiled Bolshevik writer in his study and turned a lifesaving ice ax into a lethal weapon.

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