Leon Trotsky

The May 24th Attempt to Assassinate Trotsky

(June 1940)

Written: 1 June 1940.
First Published in English: Fourth International, Vol.1 No.5, October 1940, pp.138-139.
Translated: By Fourth International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Mexican press published on June 1 a letter, written by Leon Trotsky to the attorney general of Mexico, the chief of the federal police, and the foreign minister. By this letter Trotsky successfully thwarted attempts to direct away from the Stalinists the investigation of the May 24 attempt to assassinate Trotsky. The letter follows:

It is first of all necessary to affirm that the attempted assassination could only be instigated by the Kremlin; by Stalin through the agency of the GPU abroad. During the last few years, Stalin has shot hundreds of real or supposed friends of mine. He actually exterminated my entire family, except me, my wife and one of my grandchildren. Through his agents abroad he assassinated one of the old leaders of the GPU, Ignace Reiss, who had publicly declared himself a partisan of mine. This fact has been established by the French police and the Swiss judiciary. The same GPU agents who killed Reiss trailed my son in Paris. On the night of November 7, 1936, GPU agents broke into the Scientific Institute of Paris and stole part of my archives. Two of my secretaries, Erwin Wolff and Rudolf Klement, were assassinated by the GPU; the first in Spain, the second in Paris. All the theatrical Moscow trials during 1936-37 had as their aim to get me into the hands of the GPU.

In saying this I do not exclude the possibility of the participation of Hitler’s Gestapo in the assassination attempt. Up to a certain point, the GPU and the Gestapo are connected with each other; it is possible and probable that in special cases the same agents are at the disposal of both. Authoritative representatives of the German government have publicly indicated that they consider me a dangerous enemy. It is completely possible that these two police forces cooperated in the attempt against me.

How the GPU Is Organized

The general scheme of the GPU organization abroad is the following: in the Central Committee of each section of the Coinintern there is placed a responsible director of the GPU for that country. His status is known only to the secretary of the party and one or two trustworthy members. The other members of the Central Committee have but a slight inkling of the special status of this member.

As a member of the Central Committee the country’s GPU representative has the possibility of approaching with full legality all members of the party, study their characters, entrust them with commissions, and little by little draw them into the work of espionage and terrorism, appealing to their sense of party loyalty as much as to bribery.

This whole mechanism was discovered in France and Switzerland in connection with the murder of Reiss and the later moves against my dead son and other persons. As for the United States, Krivitsky established that the sister of Browder, general secretary of the party, became a GPU agent through her brother’s recommendation. This example proves the rule rather than an exception.

Agents of the GPU upon coming to a foreign country for a specific task always work through the local head of the GPU, the above mentioned member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party; without this they could not orient themselves in the local situation and select the indispensable executors of their mission. The emissary from abroad and the local resident and their trustworthy aides work out the general plan of their undertaking, study the list of possible collaborators and draw them into the conspiracy step by step.

I do not have any information concerning the real role played by sergeant Casas and the five police under him who were on guard outside my house. I know only that they are arrested. One cannot be sure that they were not in the conspiracy; the GPU has means as no other institution in the world of convincing, coercion and bribery. They could have systematically insinuated to the police that I am an enemy of the Mexican people; promised them a career; and finally they could have offered a high price for their services. But foreign agents could not approach the Mexican police; local agents were necessary.

Stalinist Agents Prepared Public Opinion

The GPU is particularly concerned with the problem of preparing public opinion for a terrorist act, especially when a person well-known nationally and internationally is the victim. This part of the job is always assigned to the Stalinist press, Stalinist speakers and the so-called “friends of the Soviet Union.” The judicial investigation, it seems to me, from this point of view cannot fail to examine the work of the newspapers El Popular, La Voz de Mexico, and some collaborators of El Nacional. I am not referring to criticism of my convictions, for such criticism, even though most severe, is the most elementary democratic right of everybody. But La Voz de Mexico and El Popular have never occupied themselves with such criticism.

I recall that many times they have accused me of connections with all the reactionary circles in Mexico as well as abroad; in one speech Toledano declared that I am preparing a general strike against the Cardenas government; in El Machete and afterward in La Voz de Mexico they accuse me, every Sunday, of preparing a revolution together with General Cedillo and many other real or supposed counter-revolutionaries; they pictured me in secret sessions with a certain Dr. Ati; in collaboration with the German fascists in Mexico, etc. etc. In recent times Futuro, El Popular, as well as La Voz de Mexico, systematically repeat that I am in secret contact with the reactionary US Congressman Dies and that I gave him certain information against Mexico. All these accusations, it is easy to see, make no sense, for they ascribe to me acts which are not only contrary to my convictions and my life’s work, but also against my immediate interests, since I would have to lose all reason to commit disloyal acts against the Mexican government which has accorded me such generous hospitality.

I need but recall that through the press I have called upon my accusers repeatedly to bring their case before an impartial commission, appointed by the government or the (government) Party of the Mexican Revolution, in order to publicly examine the accusations made against me. Toledano and the Communist Party chiefs have always been careful enough not to accept my proposition.

With this I do not wish to say that Toledano and the Communist Party chiefs took direct part in preparing the attempt against me. The GPU has a strict division of labor. Known persons are assigned the task of propagating the slanders against me. Lesser known but more serious agents are assigned the task of assassination. Nevertheless Mr. Toledano is no youngster. He knows perfectly well the methods of the GPU, particularly the systematic persecution to which the members of my family, my friends and I have been and are exposed throughout the world. It is no secret to Toledano that the GPU is out to annihilate me physically. I am therefore within my rights in saying that, in occupying himself systematically with the poisonous campaign against me, Mr. Toledano took part in the moral preparation of the terrorist act. Consequently Toledano as a witness should be of immense interest to the investigation.

It cannot be doubted in the least that the former and present chiefs of the Communist Party know who is the local director of the GPU. Permit me also to assume that David Alfaro Siqueiros, who took part in the civil war in Spain as an active Stalinist, may also know who are the most important and active GPU members, Spanish, Mexican, and of other nationalities who are arriving at different times in Mexico, especially via Paris. The questioning of the previous and the present general secretary of the Communist Party and also of Siqueiros, would help very much to throw light on the instigators of the assassination attempt and together with them discover their accomplices.


return return return return return

Last updated on: 22.4.2007