James P. Cannon & Farrell Dobbs

Funds Are Needed to Safeguard
Trotsky from Further Attacks

Defense of House Being Organized

Cannon and Dobbs Issue Appeal to Party And Sympathizers
to Help Finance New Arrangement in Coyoacan

(20 July 1940)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. No. 29, 20 July 1940, p. 1.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive/Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors, translators, proofreaders etc. above.

Warning that Stalin will undoubtedly make another attempt on Trotsky’s life, the Trotsky Defense Fund has issued this week an appeal to all members and friends of the Socialist Workers Party for funds to complete the reorganizing of the defense arrangements at Trotsky’s house.

Reorganizing of the defense was begun immediately after the May 24 attack, for it was realized that Stalin, already having the discredit for the attempt to murder Trotsky, would as soon as possible seek to wipe out the stigma of his failure.

An appeal for funds at that time secured a very generous response from S.W.P. members and friends. Undoubtedly they will similarly respond now, for all party members and friends realize the seriousness of the situation and the necessity of taking adequate steps to meet it, no matter what the cost may be.

The text of the appeal follows:

To All Party Members and Sympathizers:

Stalin’s latest and most serious attempt to murder Trotsky was meticulously planned and carried out in a workman-like manner. There is abundant evidence of the experienced hands of the GPU assassins. Feminine agents of the GPU were assigned to seduce the members of the regular police guard for the purpose of obtaining detailed descriptions of the inside of the house and the defense mechanism. Others were assigned to take residence in the neighborhood and watch the house for months carefully to study the movements of the household.

The attackers were well supplied with necessary equipment for all possible emergencies – machine guns, incendiary and high explosive bombs, scaling ladders, portable electric saw, etc., etc. The thirty members of the murder band were dressed in military and police uniforms. Tremendous resources were necessary for such large-scale preparations.

After brutally murdering Robert Sheldon Harte, the secretary-guard who was on watch, the attackers proceeded toward the – main objective in their gruesome task, the assassination of Comrade Trotsky. Hundreds of rounds were fired from the machine guns into the patio and the house. An incendiary bomb was exploded in the house in an unsuccessful attempt to burn Comrade Trotsky’s archives.

Thought They Succeeded

Scores of bullets were found embedded in the floor and walls of Comrade Trotsky’s bedroom. Slugs ripped huge gashes in the bedding and mattresses of the beds of both Comrade Trotsky and Comrade Natalia. Powder burns in the mattress gave mute testimony of the assassins standing at the foot of the bed to fire what was to have been the coup de grace.

Confident that they had accomplished their objective, the attackers fired a final volley and departed. But they had failed. The intended victims were not in their beds; they had quietly concealed themselves in a protected corner of the dark bedroom. Comrade Trotsky remains alive to hound Stalin with his merciless exposures of every step taken by this hangman of the October Revolution and the world proletariat.

8 GPU Agents Confessed

Intensive investigations by the Mexican police have resulted in the arrest of a large number of suspects. Confessions have been obtained from eight GPU agents who were actual participants in the assault. Stalin now has world discredit for the attempt on Trotsky’s life. But more intolerable to him than the brand of murderer is the stigma of failure in an attempted murder. He will try again, no doubt soon. And the next time on an even larger scale and in a more desperate manner.

Events during the Mexican national elections on Sunday, July 7, and the turmoil which has arisen over the counting of the ballots, indicate plainly the dangers of the period ahead. The outbreak of an insurrection is not excluded. There are certain to be periodic flare-ups of open conflict between the contending parties. In either case a good cover will have been provided for a new attack on Trotsky’s life by Stalin and his GPU.

Efforts of the Socialist Workers Party and its friends and sympathizers played an important role in saving the life of Comrade Trotsky. Had he been without any special defense it would have been an easy matter for the GPU to invade his home and take

ample time to make sure that they had accomplished their task. But the very existence of a special defense made it necessary for the GPU to organize on a large scale for the attack and to hurry through with the job.

Defense Depends On Us

This experience demonstrates that the defense must be entirely revamped and made much more intricate and complete. It is necessary to build fire-towers for the guard, redoubts, bomb-proof shelters and anti-bomb screening. Provisions must be made for more efficient lighting, additional alarm protection, automatic defense mechanisms and numerous other measures. The services of military architects, recommended by the Mexican government, have been engaged to assure technical precision in this work Considerable quantities of material are needed. Skilled workmen must be employed. And above all else, the job must be done quickly.

Thanks to the prompt response of the branches to our first appeal, funds were provided to begin construction and keep it in progress. But substantial additional funds are required to complete the job. It will take approximately $2,500.

Bob Harte has forfeited his young life for the workers’ cause. He accepted his assignment like a soldier and made the supreme sacrifice with the courage, devotion and selflessness of a revolutionary fighter. He joins the ranks of our honored dead, but his name lives on as an inspiration to all. Others have come forward to fill the gap left by his tragic loss, others who know that the reward for their services may be death. But, just as Bob did, they serve loyally and without thought of self.

We have no doubt that all members of the party and all sympathizers will recognize the importance of doing everything possible to re-enforce the defense of Comrade Trotsky. Under the present world conditions we alone are in a position to provide this defense. It depends on us alone and we must do it on top of our other obligations to maintain the party press and organization.

Make all checks and money orders for the defense of Leon Trotsky payable to Coyoacan Fund, and mail them to Rose Karsner, 116 University Place, New York City.


James P. Cannon
Farrell Dobbs

Last updated on 23 May 2020