Written:24 May, 1940
First Published: The Fourth International, Vol. 2 No. 7, August 1941, pages 201-207
Translated: By The Fourth International
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
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The following article, now published for the first time, was written by Trotsky two weeks after the May 24, 1940 attempt to assassinate him. As the article relates, Stalin’s GPU was able to bring powerful pressure on the Mexican police to steer Its investigation away from the GPU murder band which had attempted to kill Trotsky. Shortly after this article was written, however, the investigation was brought back on the right track. Our press at the time published all the details of how the police arrested David Serrano, David Alfaro Siquieiros and a score of other Stalinists; how some of them confessed their complicIty, and the guilt of the Stalinist murder machine was established.
For reasons best known to themselves, the Mexican authorities have not yet completed their case against the GPTJ band. According to Mexican law, the investigating judge is required to complete his investigation and hand down a verdict within a year’s time. Although Slqueiros admitted his participation in the attack upon Trotsky’s house, he and the GPU found judges who released him on the ground that he was not seeking to murder Trotsky! The others are still in prison. Similar delay is occurring in the case of “Frank Jacson,” the GPU assassin who succeeded In striking the death-blow on August 20, 1940.
Trotsky’s article gives us his own description of the May 24th attempt on his life and of the events of the next two weeks. Another article by Trotsky on the attempt was “The Comintern and the GPU” published in the November, 1940 Issue of FOURTH INTERNATIONAL.
The Night of the Assault
The attack came at dawn, about 4 A. M. I was fast asleep, having taken a sleeping drug after a hard day’s work. Awakened by the rattle of gun fire but feeling very hazy, I first imagined that a national holiday was being celebrated with fireworks outside our walls. But the explosions were too close, right here within the room, next to me and overhead. The odor of gunpowder became more acrid, more penetrating. Clearly, what we had always expected was now happening: we were under attack. Where were the police stationed outside the walls? Where the guards inside? Trussed up? Kidnapped? Killed? My wife had already jumped from her bed. The shooting continued incessantly. My wife later told me that she helped me to the floor, pushing me into the space between the bed and the wall. This was quite true. She had remained hovering over me, beside the wall, as if to shield me with her body. But by means of whispers and gestures I convinced her to lie flat on the floor. The shots came from all sides, it was difficult to tell just from where. At a certain time my wife, as she later told me, was able clearly to distinguish spurts of fire from a gun: consequently, the shooting was being done right here in the room although we could not see anybody. My impression is that altogether some two hundred shots were fired, of which about one hundred fell right here, near us. Splinters of glass from windowpanes and chips from walls flew in all directions. A little later I felt that my right leg, had been slightly wounded in two places.
As the shooting died down we heard our grandson in the neighboring room cry out: “Grandfather!” The, voice of the child in the darkness under the gunfire remains the most tragic recollection of that night. The boy — after the first shot had cut his bed diagonally as evidenced by marks left on the door and wall — threw himself under the bed. One of the assailants, apparently in a panic, fired into the bed, the bullet passed through the mattress, struck our grandson in the big toe and imbedded itself in the floor. The assailants threw two incendiary bombs and left our grandson’s bedroom. Crying, “Grandfather!” he ran after them into the patio, leaving a trail of blood behind him and, under gunfire, rushed into the room of one of the guards.
At the outcry of our grandson, my wife made her way into his already empty room. Inside, the floor, the door and a small cabinet were burning. “They have kidnapped Seva,” 1 said to her. This was the most painful moment of all. Shots continued to ring out but already away from our bedroom somewhere in the pation or immediately outside the walls. The terrorists were apparently covering their retreat. My wife hastened to smother the incendiary flames with a rug. For a week afterward she had to treat her burns.
Two members of our guard appeared, Otto and Charles, who had been cut off from us during the attack by machine gun fire. They confirmed the fact that the assailants had apparently withdrawn since no one was to be seen in the patio. The guard on night duty, Robert Sheldon Harte, had disappeared. Both automobiles were gone. Why the silence from the police stationed outside? They had been bound by the assailants who shouted: “Viva Almazan !” That was the story told by the tied-up policemen.
My wife and I were convinced on the next day that the assailants had fired only through the windows and doors and that no one had entered our bedroom—however, an analysis of the trajectory of the bullets proves irrefutably that eight shots which struck the wall at the head of the two beds and which left holes in four places in both mattresses, as well as traces in the floor underneath the beds could have been fired only inside the bedroom itself. Empty catridges found on the floor, and the lining of a blanket singed in two places testify to the same thing.
When did the terrorist enter our bedroom? Was it during the first part of their operation before we had yet awakened? Or was it, on the contrary, during the last moments when we were lying on the floor? I incline toward the latter supposition. Having fired through the doors and windows several scores of bullets aimed at the beds and not hearing any outcries or groans, the assailants had every reason to conclude that they had accomplished their work successfully. One of them might have at the last moment entered the room for a final check. Possibly the bed clothes and pillows still retained the form of human bodies. At four o’clock in the morning the room was in darkness My wife and I remained motionless and silent on the floor. Before leaving our bedroom the terrorist who came in for verification deeming that the task had been already accomplished might have fired a few shots into our beds “to clear his conscience.”
It would be too irksome to analyze here in detail the various legends which were the product of misunderstanding or malice and which have served directly or indirectly as the basis for the theory of “self-assault.” The press carried reports alleging that my wife and I were not in our bedroom on the night of the assault, El Popular (organ of the Stalinist ally, Toledano,) discoursed concerning my “contradictions": according to one version I reportedly crawled into a corner of the bedroom, according to another version, I dropped to the floor, etcetera. There is not a word of truth in all this. All rooms in our house are occupied at night by designated individuals, with the exception of the library, the dining room and my workroom. But the assailants passed through precisely these rooms and did not find us there. We slept where we always did: in our bedroom. As was already stated, I dropped to the floor in the corner of the room; presently, I was joined by my wife.
How did we survive? Obviously, thanks to a fortunate accident. The beds were under a cross-fire. Perhaps the assailants were afraid to hit each other and instinctively fired either higher or lower than they should have. But that is only a psychological conjecture. It is also possible that my wife and I came to the aid of the happy accident by not losing our heads, not flying around the room, not crying out or calling for help when it was hopeless to do so, not shooting when it was senseless but remained quietly on the floor pretending to be dead.
To the uninitiated it may seem incomprehensible that Stalin’s clique should have first exiled me and then should attempt to kill me abroad. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to have shot me in Moscow as were so many others?
The explanation is this: In 1928 when I was expelled from the party and exiled to Central Asia it was still impossible even to talk not only about shooting but arrest. The generation together with whom I went through the October revolution and the Civil War was then still alive. The political Bureau felt itself besieged from all sides. From Central Asia I was able to maintain direct contact with the opposition. In these conditions Stalin, after vacillating for one year, decided to resort to exile abroad as the lesser evil. He reasoned that Trotsky, isolated from the USSR, deprived of an apparatus and of material resources, would be powerless to undertake anything. Moreover, Stalin calculated that after he had succeeded in completely blackening me in the eyes of the country, he could without difficulty obtain from the friendly Turkish government my return to Moscow for the final reckoning. Events have shown, however, that it is possible to participate in political life without possessing either an apparatus or material resources. With the aid of young friends I laid the foundations. of the Fourth International which is forging ahead slowly but stubbornly. The Moscow trials of 1936-1937 were staged in order to obtain my deportation from Norway, i.e., actually to hand me over into the hands of the GPU. But this did not succeed. [arrived in Mexico. I am informed that Stalin has several times admitted that my exile abroad was a “major mistake.” No other way remained of rectifying the mistake except through a terrorist act.]
The Preparatory Acts of the GPU
In recent years the GPU has destroyed many hundreds of my friends, including members of my family in the USSR. In Spain they killed my former secretary Erwin Wolfe and a number of my political co-thinkers; in Paris they killed my son Leon Sedov whom Stalin’s professional murderers hunted for two years. In Lauzanne the GPU killed Ignace Reiss who had left the GPU and joined the Fourth International. In Paris, Stalin’s agents murdered another of my former secretaries, Rudolf Kiement, whose body was found in the Seine with the head, hands and legs cut off. This list could be continued interminably.
In Mexico there was an obvious attempt to assassinate me by an individual who appeared in my house with fake recommendations from a prominent political figure. It was after this incident, which alarmed my friends, that more serious measures of defense were undertaken: day and night guard, alarm system, etc.
After the active and truly murderous participation of the GPU in the Spanish events I received many letters from my friends, chiefly in New York and Paris, concerning agents of the GPU who were being sent into Mexico from France and the United States. The names and photographs of some of these gentlemen were transmitted by me in time to the Mexican police. The outbreak of the war aggravated the situation still further because of my irreconcilable struggle against the foreign and domestic policy of the Kremlin. My declarations and articles in the world press on the dismemberment of Poland, the invasion of Finland, the weakness of the Red Army beheaded by Stalin, etc.-were reproduced in all countries of the world in tens of millions of copies. Dissatisfaction inside the USSR is growing. In the capacity of a former revolutionist Stalin remembers that the Third International was incomparably weaker at the beginning of the last war than the Fourth International is today. The course of the wa may provide a mighty impulsion to the development of the Fourth International, also within the USSR itself. That is why Stalin could not have failed to issue orders to his agents-to finish me as quickly as possible.
Facts known to everyone and general political considerations thus indubitably demonstrate that the organization of the attempt of May 24th could emanate only from the GPU. There is, however, no lack of supplementary evidence.
I. A few weeks before the attempt the Mexican press was filled with rumors of a concentration of GPU agents in Mexico. A great many things in these reports were false. But the substance of these rumors was correct.
2. Very noteworthy is the exceptionally high technique. of the assault. The assassination failed owing to one of those accidents which enter as an integral element into every war. But the preparation and execution of the assault are astonishing in their scope, planning and efficiency. The terrorists are familiar with the layout of the house and its internal life; they are equipped with police uniforms, weapons, electric saw, rope ladders, etc. They succeed completely in tying up the police stationed outside, they paralyze the guards inside by a correct strategy of fire, they penetrate into the intended victim’s room, fire with impunity for three to five minutes, throw incendiary bombs and leave the arena of attack without a trace. Such an undertaking is beyond the resources of a private group. There is to be observed here tradition, training, great resources, and a wide selection of executors. This is the work of the GPU.
3. Strictly in accordance with the whole system of the GPU is the solicitude for switching the investigation to a false track which was included in the very plan of the assault. While tying up the police, the assailants shouted: “Viva Almazan!” These artificial and fraudulent shouts at night before five policemen, three of whom were asleep, pursued simultaneously two objectives: to distract, if only for a few days or hours, the attention of the coming investigation away from the GPU and its agency in Mexico; and to compromise the followers of one of the Presidential candidates. To kill one opponent while casting the shadow of suspicion on anotherthat is the classic method of the GPU, more exactly of its inspirer, Stalin.
4. The attackers brought along several incendiary bombs, two of which were thrown into my grandson’s room. The participants in the assault thus had in view not only murder but also arson. Their only goal could have been the destruction of my archives. This is of interest only to Stalin, inasmuch as my archives are of exceptional value to me in the struggle against the Moscow oligarchy. With the aid of my archives I was able, in particular, to expose the Moscow juridical frameups. On November 7, 1936 the GPU, incurring great risks, had already stolen part of my archives in Paris. It did not forget about them in the night of may 24th. The incendiary bombs are thus something like Stalin’s visiting card.
5. Extremely characteristic of the crimes of the GPU is the division of labor between the secret killers and the legal “friends": while the assault was being prepared, along with the underground work of conspiracy, there was conducted an open slanderous campaign aimed to discredit the intended victim. The same division of labor continues after the perpetration of the crime: the terrorists go into hiding while their attorneys, out in the open, attempt to direct the attention of the police to a false trial.
6. Finally, it is impossible not to call attention to the reactions of the world press: newspapers of all tendencies proceed openly or tacitly from the fact that the assault is the handiwork of the GPU; only the newspapers subsidized by the Kremlin and fulfilling its orders defend an opposite version. This is an irrefutable piece of political evidence!
May 27—The Turn in the Investigation
On the morning of May 24th the leading representatives of the police asked my collaboration in solving the crime. Colonel Salazar and tens of agents called on me for various information in the most friendly way. My family, my coworkers and I did everything in our power.
On May 25 or May 26, two agents of the secret police told me that the investigation was on the correct road and that now it had been at all events already “proven that it is a question of attempted assassination.” I was astounded. After all, was it still necessary to prove this? I asked myself precisely against whom did the police have to prove that the assault was an assault? In any case, up to the evening of May 27 the investigation, so far as I could judge, was directed against the unknown assailants and not against the victims of the assault. On May 28 I transmitted to Colonel Salazar some evidence, which as the third stage of the investigation demonstrated, was very important. But on the agenda at the time was the second stage of which I did not have any suspicion, namely, an investigation directed against myself and my collaborators.
During the day of May 28 a complete and abrupt turn in the orientation of the investigation and the attitude of the police toward my household was prepared and accomplished. We were immediately surrounded by an atmosphere of hostility. What was the matter? we wondered. This turn could not have occurred of itself. There must have been concrete and imperative reasons. Not even a semblance of fact or factual data which might have justified such a turn of the investigation has been revealed nor could have been revealed. I can find no explanation for the turn other than the monstrous pressure exerted by the GPU apparatus, basing itself on all its “friends.” Behind the scenes a veritable coup d’etat occurred. Who directed it?
Here is a fact which might seem insignificant but which merits the most serious attention: El Popular and ElNacional carried on the morning of May 27 an identical story: “Mr. Trotsky Contradicts Himself,” which ascribed to me contradictions on the question of my whereabouts on the night of May 24 and during the very time of the attack. The story, which went absolutely unnoticed by me in those frenzied hours, was a crude invention from beginning to end. Who supplied the “left” newspapers with the story? This is a question of capital importance! The story referred as its source to anonymous “observers.” Who are these “observers?” Just what did they observe and where? It is quite self-evident that this story had as its aim to prepare and justify in the eyes of governmental circles, where these papers are widely read, the hostile turn of the investigation against me and ‘my collaborators. An investigation of this peculiar episode would unquestionably shed light on many things.
Two servants in our household were questioned for the first time on May 28, i.e., on the day when we were already stifling in an atmosphere of hostility and when the minds of the police were already directed toward the theory of selfassault. On the next day, the 29th, both women were again called and taken at 4 P.M. to Via Madero (Guadalupe) where they were questioned until 11 P.M. inside the building and from 11 P.M. to 2 A.M. in the dark yard, in an automobile. No records were kept. They were brought home at about 3 A.M. On May 30 a police agent appeared in the kitchen with a ready-made protocol and both women signed without reading it. The agent left the kitchen a minute or so after entering it. When both women found out from the newspapers that my secretaries Charles and Otto had been arrested on the basis of their testimony, they both declared that they had said absolutely nothing that could have justified arrest.
Why were these two members of the guard arrested and not the others? Because Otto and Charles served as liaison agents with the authorities and with our few friends in the city. Preparing the blow against me, the investigating magistrates decided first of all to isolate our house completely. On the same day a Mexican, S., and a Czech, B., our young friends who had visited us to express their sympathy, were placed under arrest. The aim of the arrests was obviously the same: to cut off our connections with the outside world. The arrested members of the guard were confronted with a demand that they confess in “a quarter of an hour” that it was I who had ordered them to carry out the “self-assault.” I am not at all inclined to exaggerate the importance of these episodes or to invest them with a tragic meaning. They interest me solely from the standpoint of the possibility of exposing those behind-the-scenes forces that were able in the course of 24 hours to bring about an almost magical turn in the direction of the investigation. These forces continue even today to exert an influence on the course of the investigation.
On Thursday May 30 when B. was questioned in Via Madera, all the police agents proceeded from the theory of self-assault, and conducted themselves insolently with me, my wife and my collaborators. During his incarceration for four days, S. had the opportunity to listen to quite a few conversations between the police agents. His conclusion is as follows: “The hand of Lombardo, Toledano, Bassols and others penetrates deeply into police activity and this, with considerable success. The idea of self-assault ... was artificially inspired from this source.”
The Theory of “Self-Assault”
The pressure of interested circles must have assumed truly irresistable proportions in order to compel the representatives of the investigation to take a serious attitude toward the absurd idea of self-assault.
What aim could I pursue in venturing on so monstrous, repugnant and dangerous an enterprise? No one has explained it to this day. It is hinted that I wanted to blacken Stalin and his GPU. But would another assault add anything at all to the reputation of a man who has destroyed an entire old generation of the Bolshevik party? It is said that I want to prove the existence of the “Fifth Column.” Why? What for? Besides. GPU agents are quite sufficient for the perpetration of an assault, there is no need of the mysterious Fifth Column. It is said that I wanted to create difficulties for the Mexican government. What possible motives could I have for creating difficulties for the only government that has been hospitable to me? It is said that I wanted to provoke a war between the United States and Mexico. But this explanation completely belongs to the domain of delirium. In order to provoke such a war it would have been in any case much more expedient to have organized an assault on an American ambassador or on oil magnates and not a revolutionist-Bolshevik, alien and hateful to imperialist circles.
When Stalin organizes an attempt to assassinate me, the meaning of his actions is clear: he wants to destroy his Enemy No. I. Stalin incurs no risks thereby; he acts at long distance. On the contrary, by organizing “self-assault” I have to assume the responsibility for such an enterprise myself; I risk my own fate, the fate of my family, my political reputation, and the reputation of the movement which I serve. What do I stand to gain from it?
But even if one were to allow the impossible, namely, that after renouncing the cause of my whole life, and trampling underfoot common sense and my own vital interests I did decide to organize “self-assault” for the sake of some unknown goal, then there still remains the following question: Where and how did I obtain 20 executors? how did I supply them with police uniforms? how did I arm them? how did I equip them with all the necessary things, etc., etc. In other words, just how did a man, who lives almost completely isolated from the outside world, contrive to fulfill an enterprise conceivable only for a powerful apparatus? Let me confess that I feel awkward in subjecting to criticism an idea that is beneath all criticism.
The GPU mobilized with great skill its agents in order to kill me. The attempt failed owing to an accident. The friends of the GPU are compromised. They are now compelled to do everything in their power in order to fix upon me the responsibility for the unsuccessful attempt of their own chieftain. In accomplishing this they have not a wide choice of means. They are compelled to operate with the crudest methods, and to guide themselves by Hitler’s aphorism: the bigger the lie the more readily it will be believed.
The Reactions of the Press
Extremely valuable conclusions concerning the behindthe-scenes work of the GPU can be drawn from a study of the conduct of a certain section of the Mexican press in the days following the attempted assassination. Let us leave aside La Vo de Mexico, the official Stalinist publication with its crude contradictions, senseless accusations and cynical slander. Let us likewise leave aside the organs of the Right which are on the one hand guided by a chase after sensation and on the other, try to utilize the assault for their own purposes, i.e., against the “lefts” in general. Politically I am further removed from such newspapers as Universal or Excelsior than Lombardo Toledano and his ilk. I employ the above-named papers for self-defense just as I would employ a bus for transportation.
Furthermore the maneuvers of the right wing papers are only a reflection of the politics of the country and, in essence they have a detached attitude on the question of the assault and of the GPU. For our purposes it is much more important to analyze the conduct of El Popular and, in part, El Nacional. The active policy, in this case is conducted by El Popular. As regards El Nacional, the latter only adapts itself to its interested colleague.
“El Popular” and the Assault of May 24
Despite the fact reported by newspapers that Toledano left the capital two or three days prior to the attack, El Popular had at the critical moment very clear and precise directives. The assault did not at all catch the paper off-guard. The editors did not on this occasion try to turn the attack into a joke, nor did it refer to my “persecution mania,” etcetera.-On the contrary, the paper immediately assumed a serious and an alarmed tone. The issue of May 25 across the front page advanced the slogan “The attempt against Trotsky is an attempt against Mexico.” The leading editorial under the selfsame heading demanded the most rigid investigation and an exemplary punishment of the criminals no matter what their political tendency and what foreign power they are connected with. By its phraseology the article seeks to create the impression of highest impartiality and patriotic indignation. The immediate aim is to dig something like an abyss between the editors of El Popular and the terrorists, who might turn up in the hands of the police, if not today then on the morrow. This measure of precaution is all the more necessary the more zealously El Popular had conducted in the preceding period a campaign of slander against me.
However, under the literary shell of impartiality there lurk cautious insinuations which are destined in the next few days to receive a further elaboration. It is remarked in passing, in a single phrase that there are “mysterious and suspicious aspects to the assault.” That day these words passed unnoticed. But now it is completely clear that the author of the article had reserved for himself beforehand the possibility of advancing the theory of “self-assault” in the event of failure on the part of the judicial inquiry. The second insinuation is no less significant: the article predicts that the “enemies of Mexico” will ascribe the attempt to Stalin and Moscow. The enemies of Mexico are here identified with the enemies of Stalin. The solemn call to search out the criminals no matter with what power they are connected, acquires a very limited interpretation.
With all its zigzags and equivocations the article is care fully thought out. The contradictions of the article flow from the contradictoriness and indefiniteness of the situation itself. The outcome of the investigation was as yet unknown. In the event of success of the investigation it was necessary to withdraw as far away as possible. In the event of its failure it was necessary to preserve freedom of action along the lines of old slander and persecution. It was necessary at the same time to distract, so far as possible, attention away from the GPU, without however tying one’s own hands completely. Rereading the article today, one can clearly see the white stitching stick out on all sides.
In the issue of May 26 the same line is continued in the main. El Popular demands of the authorities energetic punishment of the guilty ones. The danger that the participants of the attempt might immediately fall into the hands of the police is still very great; hence the harsh voice of impartiality.
The issue of May 27 already carries the cynical story “Mr. Trotsky Contradicts Himself.” This is the first attempt to develop the insinuation concerning the “suspicious aspects” of the assault. The story avers that I gave conflicting testimony concerning my whereabouts during the attack. The incongruity of this insinuation hits one between the eyes. If a man living in emigre solitude proved capable of mobilizing twenty conspirators and obtaining for them police uniforms and machine guns, then he ought to be capable of preparing an answer as to his whereabouts at the time of the assault. But let us not be captious about the technique of falsification. One thing is clear; El Popular is preparing the ground for the theory of “self-assault.”
The investigation meanwhile runs into great difficulties; the GPU is capable of foreseeing a great deal and of covering up well its tracks. Since the time of the assault three days have elapsed. The danger of the arrest of the chief participants in the assault could be considered as eliminated, inasmuch as during this time they had ample opportunity to cross the border with passports prepared in advance. In correspondence with this, El Popular takes a bolder tone on May 27. The matter is not limited to the above cited story in the news section. The leading article on that day flatly states that the “attempt with every passing day awakens great doubts and seems more and more suspicious and less and less logical"; further on, the word “camouflage” is mentioned. The article ascribes the attempt to American imperialists who seek to intervene in Mexico and who base themselves apparently on my collaboration. Why the imperialists should have selected as the object of the assault none other than myself remains unknown. And just how the assault against a Russian Bolshevik in Mexico could justify intervention by the United States remains even less comprehensible. Instead of analysis and proof, a selection of noisy phrases.
It remains to recall that prior to the conclusion of the Stalin-Hitler bloc, El Popular used to depict me invariably with a swastika. I was suddenly transformed into an agent of the United States only after the invasion of Finland by the Red Army. El Popular tries to dispose of me with the same freedom as Stalin uses in issuing orders to his agents. In their verbal agitation and behind-the-scenes maneuvers Toledano and his allies undoubtedly went much further than they did in their own press. As the events of the next few days show, they engaged in especially intense work among the police.
On May 28 the investigating authorities were already completely swung over to the idea of “self-assault.” Two of my secretaries, Otto and Charles, and two individuals connected with my household, B. and S., were placed under arrest. Having gained this victory, El Popular carefully retreats to the shadows: in the issue of May 28 it once again assumes an objective position. It is clear why the directors of the paper were cautious of engaging themselves irrevocably. They knew more than they told, they placed much less confidence in the version of self-assault than did the police sidetracked to a false trail by them. They were afraid that this version might at any moment be blown up. That is why, after transferring the responsibility to the police, El Popular on May 28 once again assumes the pose of an alarmed patriotic observer.
In the issue of May 29, El Popular published without comment the declaration of the Communist Party which denanded, not the punishment of the terrorists, but the deporta:ion of Trotsky from Mexico. That day my house and all its nhabitants were cut off from the outside world by a ring of antastic suspicions. It is noteworthy that Toledano leaves, )fl this occasion as well, the most candid slogans of the Kremin to be spoken by the leaders of the Communist party, who
have nothing to lose. He seeks to preserve a bridge for his own retreat.
On June 1 the press carried my letter to the Prosecutor of the Republic, openly naming Lombardo Toledano as a. moral accomplice in the preparation of the assault. After this Toledano steps half way out of the shadows. “C.T.M. (Mexican Confederation of Workers) accuses Trotsky of serving as an instrument in the (Yankee) war of nerves (against Mexico) “ proclaimed El Popular on June 6. What does this mean? It is empty rhetoric without meaning and without any basis in fact! In the name of the C.T.M. Toledano submits to the authorities a document in which the assault is woven into a web of an extensive and extremely indefinite international intrigue. Besides myself, suspected of intrigue are a great many factors, institutions and individuals. A great many, but not the GPU. Only “the enemies of Mexico,” as we already know, are capable of suspecting the GPU. Thus in all his maneuvers Toledano remains Friend No. 1 of the GPU.
In contradistinction to all other newspapers of the capital, El Nacional did not even mention the attempt in the first section of its issue for May 25. In the second section it carried a dispatch under the heading “Trotsky Subjected to a Theatrical (!) Attempt in His Home.” On what basis the paper reached its appraisal remained unknown. I am, unfortunately, compelled to assert that in several prior instances the paper attempted to ascribe to me reprehensible actions without a shadow of justification.
It is worthy of the most diligent attention that on the same day on which El Nacional called the attempt “theatrical,” El Popular wrote, “The attempt against Trotsky is an attempt against Mexico.” At first sight it might appear as if El Nacional displayed a much more hostile attitude toward the victim of the assault than did El Popular. As a matter of fact that is not the case. By its conduct El Nacional merely revealed that it is much further removed than El Popular from the sources of Stalinism, and consequently the source of the assault. El Nacional has editors who strive to do all they can to please the Stalinists. They know that the simplest way is to utter some sort of suspicion towards me. When the editors received news of the assault against my home, one of the editors placed in circulation the first ironical formula that came into his head. This very fact shows that the editors of El Nacion.al, in contrast to the editors of El Popular, know not of what they write.
In the following days there is to be observed, however, a drawing together of the lines of these two publications. El Nacional, gathering from the conduct of El Popular that it blurted out very incautiously its hypothesis of a “theatrical” attempt, beat a hasty retreat and assumed a more guarded position. For its part, El Popular, becoming convinced that none of the participants of the attempt had been arrested, began to pass over to the position of a “theatrical” attempt. The story of May 27 “Mr. Trotsky Contradicts Himself” was also carried by El Nacional. On the basis of an analysis of the articles in El Popular and a comparison between them and the articles in El Nacional it is thus possible to state with certainty that Toledano knew in advance of the preparations for the attempt, even if in the most general way. The GPU simultaneously prepared-along different channels-the conspiratorial plot, the political defense and the disinformation of the investigation. During the critical days El Popular received instructions, undoubtedly, from Toledano himself. It is quite probable that none other than he is the author of the article of May 25. In other words, Lombardo Toledano took moral part in the preparation of the attempt and in covering up its traces.
For a clearer understanding of the background of the assault as well as of certain circumstances relating to the investigation, it is necessary to say a few words about my guard. There were reports in the newspapers to the effect that I “hired” almost strangers for the guard, that they were people who worked for pay, etc. All this is false. My guard has existed since the day of my exile to Turkey, i.e., almost 12 years. The composition of the guard was constantly changing depending on the country where I lived, although a few of my collaborators accompanied me from one country to another. The guard has always consisted of young comrades, tied to me by the identity of political views and selected by my older and more experienced friends from among volunteers of whom there has been no lack.
The movement to which I belong is a young movement which arose under unprecedented persecutions on the part of the Moscow oligarchy and its agencies in all countries of the world. Generally speaking, it is hardly possible to find in history another movement which has suffered so many victims in so short a time as has the movement of the Fourth International. My personal and profound conviction is that in our epoch of wars, seizures, rapine, destruction and all sorts of bestialities, the Fourth international is destined to fulfill a great historical role. But this is the future. In the past it has known only blows and persecutions. No one could have hoped during the last 12 years to make a career with the help of the Fourth International. For this reason the movement was joined by people selfless, convinced, and ready to renounce not only material boons but, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives. Without any desire of falling into idealization, I shall nevertheless permit myself to say that it is hardly possible to find in any other organization such a selection of people devoted to their banner and alien to personal pretensions as in the Fourth International. My guard has been throughout recruited from among this youth.
The guard in Mexico was at first constituted of young Mexican friends. However, I soon became convinced of the inconvenience of such an arrangement. My enemies systematically tried to involve me in Mexican politics in order thus to make impossible my stay in the country. And inasmuch as my young Mexican friends, living in my house, actually could to a certain degree appear as agents of my political influence, I was compelled to refuse their participation in the guard and replaced them by foreigners, primarily from among citizens of the United States. They were all sent here after special selection by my experienced and old friends.
Let me add for the sake of complete clarity that the guard is not maintained by me (I lack such resources) but by a special committee which collects the necessary funds among friends and sympathizers. We live—my family and guards—as a small shut-in commune, separated by four high walls from the outside world. All these circumstances suffice to explain why I consider myself justified in placing trust in my guard and believing it incapable of treachery or crime.
Despite all precautions, it is, of course, impossible to consider as absolutely excluded the possibility that an isolated agent of the GPU could worm his way into the guard. The investigation placed under suspicion from the very beginning Robert Sheldon Harte, the kidnapped member of my guard, as an accomplice in the assault. I replied to this: if Sheldon
Harte were an agent of the GPU he could have killed me at night nd gotten away without setting in motion 20 people all of whom were subjected to a great risk. Moreover, in the days immediately prior to the assault, Sheldon Harte was busy with sucii innocent things as buying little birds, repairing a bird cage, painting it, etc. I have not heard a single convincing argument to indicate that Sheldon Harte was a GPU agent. Therefore I announced from the outset to my friends that I would be the last one to give credence to Sheldon’s participation in the assault. [Sheldon Harte proved to be another martyr murdered by Stalin. Trotsky’s article was written on June 8. On June , 1940 the body of Sheldon Harte was found-shot to death by the GM gang which had kidnapped him.—EDITOR.] If contrary to all my suppositions such a participation should be confirmed, then it would change nothing essential in the general character of the assault. With the aid of one of the members of the guard or without this aid the GPU organized a conspiracy to kill me and to burn my archives. That is the essence of the case.
The Expelled Members of the Communist Party
In its official declarations the Communist Party reiterates that individual terror does not enter into its system of actions, etc. No one supposes that the assault was organized by the Communist Party. The GPU makes use of the Communist Party but is not at all merged with the Communist Party.
Among the possible participants in the assault those who are well acquainted with the internal life of the Communist Party have mentioned an individual who was in his day expelled from the party, and was later, in return for some kind of services, reinstated. The question of the category of the “expelled” is generally of great interest from the standpoint of investigating the criminal methods of the GPU. In the first period of the struggle against the opposition in the USSR, Stalin’s clique used to intentionally expel from the party the least stable opposionists, placing them in extremely difficult material circumstances and thus giving the GPU the opportunity for recruiting among them agents for work among the opposition. Later on this method was perfected and extended to all the parties of the Third International.
The expelled may be divided into two categories: some leave the party because of principled differences and turn their back to the Kremlin and seek new roads. Others are expelled for careless handling of funds or other actual or alleged crimes of a moral nature. The majority of the expelled in this second category have become closely attached to the party apparatus, are incapable of any other work, and have grown too accustomed to a privileged position. The expelled of this type constitute valuable material for the GPU which transforms them into obedient tools for the most dangerous and criminal undertakings.
The leader of the Mexican Communist Party for many years, Laborde, was recently expelled on the most monstrous charges: as a man who wap venal, a man who sold out strikes, and even took bribes from... “Trotskyites.” The most astonishing thing, however, is that despite the extremely opprobrious nature of the charges, Laborde did not attempt even to justify himself. He showed thereby that the expulsion was necessary for some mysterious aims which he, Laborde, dared not oppose. Still more, he utilized the first opportunity in order to declare in the press his immutable loyalty to the party even after his expulsion. Simultaneously with him a number of others were expelled who follow the self-same tactic. These people are capable of anything. They will carry out any order, perpetrate any crime, so as not to lose favor with the party. It is even possible that some of them were expelled in order to remove beforehand from the party any responsibility for their participation in the assault that was being prepared. The instructions whom to expel and under what pretext come in such cases from the most trusted representatives of the GPU who hide behind the scenes.
For Stalin it would have been most profitable to have organized the murder in such a way as to represent it before the world working class as a sudden and spontaneous chastisement of an “enemy of the people” by Mexican workers. Worthy of attention from this standpoint is the persistence and eagerness of the GPU in linking me up at all costs with the presidential election campaign, namely, the candidacy of General Alamazan. A number of declarations by Toledano and by leaders of the Communist Party, reveal this strategical plan quite clearly: to find or to create a favorable pretext which would enable them to deal arms in hand with their enemies, on which list I probably do not occupy the last place. There can be no doubt that among the workers’ militia of the C.T.M. there are special secret shock groups created by the GPU for the most risky undertakings.
In order to parry this plan in time I persistently demanded on every occasion in the press the establishment of an impartial investigating commission to sift all false reports. But even without this the public opinion of Mexico has obviously up to now rejected the slander. The Stalinists, so far as I am able to judge, have not succeeded in inculcating workers’ circles with hatred toward me. Stalin, meanwhile, got tired of waiting for the outburst of “popular indignation” and the GPU received from him orders to act through the more customary and direct methods.
Another Assassination Attempt Is Certain
The accidental failure of the assault, so carefully and so ably prepared, is a serious blow to Stalin. The GPU must rehabilitate itself with Stalin. Stalin must demonstrate his power. A repetition of the attempt is inevitable. In what form? Possibly once again in the form of a pure terrorist act where along with machine guns will appear bombers. But it is not at all excluded that they will try to cover up the terrorist act by means of faked “popular indignation.” The slanderous campaign which is being conducted with ever increasing venom by Stalin’s agents in Mexico is aimed precisely for this purpose.
To justify their persecution of me, and to cover up the assaults of the GPU, the agents of the Kremlin talk about my “counter-revolutionary” tendency. It all depends on what one understands as revolution and counter-revolution. The most powerful force of the counter-revolution in our epoch is imperialism, both in its fascist form as well as in its quasidemocratic cover. Not one of the imperialist countries wishes to permit me inside its territories. As regards the oppressed and semi-independent countries, they refuse to accept me under the pressure of imperialist governments or of the Moscow bureaucracy which now plays an extremely reactionary role in the entire world. Mexico extended hospitality to me because Mexico is not an imperialist country; and for this reason its government proved to be, as a rare exception, sufficiently independent of external pressure to guide itself in accordance with its own principles. I can therefore state that I live on this earth not in accordance with the rule but as an exception to the rule. In a reactionary epoch such as ours, a revolutionist is compelled to swim against the stream. I am doing this to the best of my ability. The pressure of world reaction has expressed itself perhaps most implacably in my personal fate and the fate of those close to me. I do not at all see in this any merit of mine: this is the result of the interlacing of historical circumstances. But when people of the type of Toledano, Laborde et al proclaim me to be a “counter-revolutionist,” I can calmly pass them by, leaving the final verdict to history.
June 8, 1940 Coyoacan.
Last updated on: 15.4.2007