Seventy-eight years since the assassination of Leon Trotsky
21 August 2018
Seventy-eight years ago, on August 21, 1940, Leon Trotsky died in Mexico City of wounds inflicted the previous day by Ramon Mercader del Rio, an agent of the Soviet Stalinist secret police, the GPU.
The assassination of Trotsky—the co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution, commander of the Red Army and founder of the Fourth International—was a monstrous political crime. It was the pinnacle of a wave of violent counterrevolution that included the coming to power of fascism in Germany in 1933, the defeat of the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39, and the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Within the Soviet Union, a campaign of political genocide was carried out by the Stalinist regime against workers and intellectuals trained in the Marxist tradition, including nearly all the principal leaders of the Russian Revolution. Over 800,000 people were murdered in the Great Terror of 1936-39. As Trotsky wrote in the 1937 essay “Stalinism and Bolshevism”: “The present purge draws between Bolshevism and Stalinism not simply a bloody line but a whole river of blood.”
Trotsky led the political movement that opposed the bureaucratic and nationalist degeneration of the Soviet Union. Trotsky’s struggle against Stalin was not, as countless historians have falsely argued, motivated by subjective ambition for personal power. Rather, the struggle reflected two diametrically opposed political perspectives.
Stalin’s consolidation of power in the Soviet Union, facilitated by the death of Lenin in 1924, was a usurpation of power by a nationalist and conservative bureaucratic caste that emerged within the framework of an economically backward and internationally isolated workers’ state. The Stalinist theory…