Leon Trotsky – The life of a revolutionary


We arrived in Mexico in August 1939 from Paris with the Rosmers. It was a radical change, coming from a very sad and dispiriting atmosphere in Paris, together with the widow of Leon Sedov, Jeanne Martin, and to arrive here to the warmth of the family consisting of my grandfather and his wife Natalia, surrounded by young comrades, it was a radical change in my life and a very pleasant change. A country full of colours. I went to school, without being able to speak a word of Spanish. What I did experience and what I felt, was that there was a tremendous campaign of slander against Trotsky organised by Mexican Stalinists. The Mexican Stalinist press – El Popular, Futuro, El Machete, La Voz de México… spread absurd calumnies. My grandfather was alleged to be an agent of Hitler or of the Mikado [the Emperor of Japan]. But then at the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact, their tone changed radically, and so did Trotsky’s supposed affiliation. He was no longer an agent of Germany, but an agent of France’s “Second Bureau” or of the US. And yes, it was a very pleasant change. I got a bit addicted to the adrenaline and the atmosphere that was flowing in the household. With the weapons, the guards moving around… At day, I went to school. I lived a kind of double life. The tranquility of the school, and then, the buzz of the house. But in January 1940, an intensification of the calumnies and attacks by the Stalinist press could be observed. A paroxysm arrived. With the fine irony that was typical of him, my grandfather remarked: “It seems that the journalists are about to change the pen for the machine gun.” I first thought it was one of the comrades, one of the guards or the secretaries. But no, after a few seconds, I heard machine gun fire. It is not really a pleasant feeling to be sleeping in bed and then, all of a sudden, you are transported into a battlefield. These moments seem to last forever: machine gun fire, smell of gunpowder, flames… I threw myself to the floor into a corner. They also machine gunned my grandparents’ bedroom from three angles: from the garden through the window, from the study and from my bedroom. But thanks to Natalia’s rapid reflexes, both saved their lives. Because Natalia, hearing the first shots, pushed my grandfather off the bed towards the darkest corner of the room. And after a few moments, which seemed to last eternally, suddenly silence, a deadly silence, returned to this house. At that moment, somebody opened the door, looked into the garden and somebody shouted: “there are bombs”. And so, the attacker who shot from my room, picked up some jars. But when I heard the word “bomb” I came out from my hiding place and fled into the garden, because I thought the house was going to blow up in a thousand pieces. That was when I felt a pain in my big toe of my right foot, because I had a deep cut by a bullet. I managed to shout out: “Grandparents!” trying to alert them of the danger they were in. Fortunately, these bombs were not explosives, but incendiaries, which went up in a big flame in my bedroom. And my grandfather said: “this was Stalin’s visiting card.” The attackers had planned to burn Trotsky’s archives, which were kept in two big cupboards in my room. The only person who could be interested in destroying these archives was Stalin. Natalia rushed out with towels and whatever she could get hold of, to put out the flames. She burned herself on one arm… And afterwards I ran into the library, and to the rooms of the guards, then I entered the room of Harold Robins and there I remained. Shortly afterward, you could hear my grandfather’s voice, full of life, and we gathered around him. It was impressive the degree of euphoria that grandfather expressed about the fact that our lives had been saved after this attack. There was a phone call in the early hours, and he probably thought that it was the same Stalinists who wanted to find out… so he picked up the phone and uttered a stream of insults and rude words. Harold Robins managed to shoot the silhouette of somebody that appeared to be fleeing from the scene, close to the canal. Shortly afterwards we all got together commenting on the events of the night. But we realised that one of the guards, Sheldon Harte, had disappeared together with the attackers. This caused considerable amount of worry. Finally, the police managed to capture an attacker and the plot was revealed. They managed to capture Siqueiros who was hiding in the mountains of Chihuahua. But my grandfather knew that this was only a brief respite, that very soon there would be another attack. After the assassination attempt of May 24, the U.S. Trotskyist group, the Socialist Workers Party, raised funds, the house was bought and assisted in fortifying the house: They erected walls, watchtowers, metal blinds in the windows, bullet-proof doors… But my grandfather was very sceptical about taking these preparations. He knew that the next attempt would not be the same, and what was unknown is where it would come from. Every morning, when they woke up, Natalia would open the windows and he would say: “Natacha, they’ve given us one more day to live.” And finally, as we know, after the May 24th attack, a GPU agent, a Catalan, skilfully infiltrated the house. He managed to woo a Trotskyist girl and he always kept apart from my grandfather as if he was not interested in politics… As I was coming from school, from a distance I noticed that something strange was occurring in front of our home because the afternoons were usually calm. Vienna St. was very quiet, but not on this occasion. From the neighbouring streets I observed that something strange was happening. There were police at the doors, which were wide open. Police cars were parked outside, all over the street. I was seized by a powerful feeling of anxiety, of something grave taking place. I rushed to the house and I encountered comrade Harold Robins. He was in a state of agitation holding his Colt .38 in his hand, and I asked him, “What’s happening? What’s happening?” and he just said, “Jackson, Jackson”. At first I didn’t understand what was going on so I went into the library and in the corridor I saw a man with a bloody face, restrained by two policemen, shrieking and screaming like a rat in a trap. I’ve always had present that image of these hangmen of the GPU, and compare that to the Trotskyists in Vorkuta falling under the bullets singing the Internationale and shouting “long live Trotsky and Lenin!” They were the same that killed the Trotskyists in the concentration camps. This was what the Stalinist heroes were like. So I went into the library and saw my grandfather on the floor with blood all over his head and Natalia applying him ice. There were two other comrades, I think it was Joe Hansen, and… who else…? Charlie Cornell was also next to him. But later they told me that when my grandfather heard my footsteps, he pointed at me with his finger and said, “take the child away, take Sieva [Esteban], he shouldn’t see me like this.” And before this, according to the comrades, when he heard the howling of the assassin who was still in the study, immobilised by one of the guards, he also said: “don’t kill him, he must talk.” So this is how Trotsky fell in the trenches of the socialist revolution. He wasn’t the kind of man who would die of old age in his bed. He once said that when a man has fulfilled his mission in life, death is not a problem. And I think Trotsky has more than fulfilled his mission. And he has left us a huge arsenal, a Marxist arsenal, which enriches the existing heritage so that all the exploited on the planet can fight for a better world, and eradicate that ruthless, extreme exploitation in which humanity finds itself.

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