Joseph Hansen

How Stalin Murdered Trotsky

Jacson and the Mexican Stalinists Who Made Earlier Attempt Are Now on Trial

(February 1941)

Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 7, 15 February 1941, p. 3.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2015 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2015; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

The murder of General Walter Krivitsky by Stalin’s GPU, recalls the machine-gun assault organized by GPU gunmen on Trotsky’s bedroom on May 24, 1940, and their assassination of Trotksy on August 20 last year.

In the machine gun assault Robert Sheldon Harte, secretary guard on duty was kidnapped and murdered. His body was found a month later in a shallow grave lined with lime. Whereas Krivitsky was killed with one shot in the temple from a .38 caliber pistol, Harte was shot twice, once at the base of the brain, and once in the temple. The pistol was the same caliber as the one used to kill Krivitsky.

Leon and Natalia Trotsky escaped death on May 24 only by accident. They lay silently in a corner of the room while the score or more of assassins filled the walls and their bed with machine gun slugs. Apparently the assassins, when they made their escape, were convinced that they had succeeded.

Trotsky estimated that it had cost Stalin at least £10,000 for the material preparations alone of this assault. Only a powerful organization such as the GPU, with unlimited resources and personnel, could have organized such an assault on such a scale.

Stalin Lies Lead Police off Trail

Immediately following the assault, the Stalinist press began a vicious campaign to throw the guilt for the assault on – Trotsky. They accused him of having organized the assault himself in conjunction with the Dies Committee. The accused Harte, whom they had just murdered – this was before his body was found – of planning the assault in agreement with Trotsky.

The Mexican police, like the Washington police in the case of Krivitsky, were taken in at first by the Stalinist propaganda. They began their investigation among Trotsky’s friends, and even investigated Diego Rivera the famous mural painter. However all these “clues” ran against a blank wall.

The assassins had left behind a number of incendiary and explosive bombs, the incendiary bombs designed to burn Trotsky’s archives. They left rope ladders, electric saws, and when they abandoned the automobiles they stole from Trotsky’s garage, they left in them some of the police uniforms they had used as disguises in order to surprise the police.

Trail Leads to Communist Party

Checking of the uniforms led directly to the Communist Party. The police proved that David Serrano, member of the Central Committee of the Mexican Communist Party, had ordered certain members of the Communist Party to obtain these uniforms.

Further investigation along these lines brought the arrest of two women Stalinists who had been delegated by the GPU to seduce the police guard stationed at the Trotsky house and to act as spies.

One of these women was Serrano’s former wife, both were members of the Stalinist organization. These women revealed the names of other Stalinists involved and likewise the various preparations for the assault such as the renting of a number of houses in Coyoacan and the hiring of Stalinists who had served in the Spanish Civil War to act as the machine gunners.

Police succeeded in arresting a number of the assailants. They were either members of the Communist Party or closely associated with it. A number of those who had participated gave full confessions. These confessions named David Alfaro Siqueiros as organizer of the assault. Siqueiros had been a well-known Stalinist for years, first as a leading member of the party and then as one of the Stalinist minions prominent in Spain in connection with GPU activities there. As late as a few months before the assault Siqueiros had been prominently identified with the Communist Party in Mexico.

Also named in the confessions of the Stalinists were the Arenal brothers and Anthony Pujol. These three together with Siqueiros were named as the organizers of the assault under the guidance of a mysterious “French Jew,” who was evidently the liaison with higher GPU circles.

Siqueiros went into hiding. He wrote a number of articles which he sent to the press, attacking Trotsky. He accused Trotsky of having organized a “self-assault.”

When he was captured by the police after the murder of Trotsky, he tried to justify the assault as his “own” idea and to shield the GPU.

The Arenal brothers and Pujol are still at large, but Siqueiros and Serrano are in jail. Siqueiros named the Arenals as the ones who actually murdered Harte. The Arenals were known in the United States as prominent Stalinists. Their drawings were featured in the Stalinist press in Mexico for many years.

In a careful analysis of the assault, Trotsky showed exactly how the GPU is organized, how its key agents sit in the Central Committee of every Communist Party section and direct its activities. Ambassador Oumansky, in Trotsky’s opinion, heads the GPU at present in North America, working out of Washington where the GPU last Monday killed Krivitsky. Oumansky is an old career man in the GPU – he was never known as a diplomat until he came to Washington prior to the organization of the May 24 assault and the August 20 assassination. Krivitsky sent Trotsky an affidavit which Trotsky presented to the Mexican court as part of the evidence he had accumulated irrevocably branding the GPU as organizer of the May 24 assault. The affidavit described the organization of the GPU, substantiating what Trotsky himself wrote from his own experience concerning the GPU. Stalin undoubtedly chalked up Krivitsky’s aid to Trotsky as an additional reason for killing the former head of the Soviet Intelligence Service in Western Europe.

Trotsky predicted another attempt on his life by Stalin’s GPU. It would occur, he said during one of the next great campaigns of the war in Europe, so that the story of attempt or success would be lost in the battle-front headlines. Desperate efforts were made by friends of Trotsky to strengthen the fortifications of the house.

The GPU, however, had been preparing for some time an alternative method of doing away with Trotsky. In the spring of 1939 the GPU had altered a Canadian passport taken from a dead member of the Stalinist-controlled International Brigades in Spain, and placed on it the picture of a GPU agent who took the name “Frank Jacson.” Jaeson had already succeeded in inveigling himself into the graces of Sylvia Ageloff, who had been known to Trotsky’s friends for years as dependable and loyal. He became her husband and thus paved the way for his becoming accepted in the Trotsky household as a person worthy of confidence.

Jacson travelled with apparently unlimited funds. He stayed in the best hotels, bought himself an automobile, journeyed between New York and Mexico by airplane. He gave out the story that he was working for a wealthy merchant, in order to account for his funds, and spread the impression that he was connected with a commission buying material for the Allied powers.

On August 20, by a stratagem, Jacson, succeeded in getting into Trotsky’s study alone. Raising a pick axe, he buried it in the brain of the world’s greatest living revolutionary. Stalin’s long campaign against Trotsky had succeeded.

When Jacson was searched by the police they found in his pocket a “confession.” This document was apparently written for the eventuality that Jacson might not succeed in escaping and would be killed by the guards after committing the murder. Unfortunately for Stalin, his agent was seized alive. The “confession” praised Stalin as being “correct” and repeated many phrases concerning alleged connections between Trotsky and the Dies Committee and Wall Street which might have been lifted without a single change out of the Stalinist press. It also claimed that Trotsky had ordered Jacson to go to Shanghai, fly to Russia, and there Commence sabotage and attempts against the lives of Soviet leaders.

When he was questioned in court concerning this “confession,” Jacson was unable to remember important parts of it was unable to remember any of the circumstances of his alleged conversations with Trotsky, and finally refused to answer any questions on the subjects mentioned in his confession. It was clear that, since the document had been prepared by the GPU for the eventuality of his death he had not memorized its contents.

Albert Goldman, attorney for Natalia Trotsky, was easily able to prove in court that Jacson had never carried on the alleged conversations with Trotsky.

Jacson was branded as an agent of the GPU. His “confession” itself became a proof that he was one of the professional killers who constitute Stalin’s terror organization.

Stalin stands branded as the greatest Cain of all time. His murder of Krivitsky adds another to the almost incredibly long list of his crimes. But the brazenness of the murder of Trotsky and now of Krivitsky, measures the closeness of the end for Stalin. In the coming period the workers of the Soviet Union will seize the first opportunity to draw a close to the long bloody score. They will smash the GPU and along with it the monster who as its head rules in the Kremlin.

And the re-awakened Russian revolution will put on its banner Trotsky’s last words: “I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International. Go forward!”


Last updated on: 3 October 2015