Leon Trotsky was murdered by a Stalinist agent 80 years ago. He was attacked with an ice-pick on 20 August 1940, and died in hospital the day after, 21 August 1940.
Trotsky was one of the chief leaders of the Russian workers' revolution of October 1917, and the foremost leader of the revolutionary socialist resistance to the Stalinist reaction and counter-revolution which followed that revolution and eventually killed it.
His legacy is still central to the fight for working-class socialism, and against Stalinism of all shades.
Below are the tributes to Trotsky from the "heterodox" Trotskyist weekly Labor Action of 26 August 1940, and the cover of the issue of the "orthodox" Trotskyist magazine Fourth International which marked the killing.
Stalin Has Murdered Our Comrade Trotsky
Farewell, Leon Trotsky!
Leon Trotsky has fallen. Our comrade, the great leader of the world revolution is dead. He was murdered at the dictate of Joseph Stalin.
Jacques Dreschd [one of the names used by Ramon Mercader] who wielded the axe that struck Trotsky is beyond any doubt a GPU agent. The last possible doubt was removed by the murderer's statement to the police that he had acted as he did because Trotsky had wanted him to commit acts of sabotage in Russia. So vile a lie could be mouthed only by the GPU.
Assigned the task of murdering Trotsky in the event that other attempts failed, Dreschd wormed his way into the household, pretending to be a "friend." The GPU gave him time, time to ingratiate himself, time to pretend that he had been "won over" to Trotsky's views.
The Stalinists, trying to cover the trail that can lead only to themselves, will claim that Jacques Dreschd or Monard or Jackson was a "follower" of Trotsky, that he acted in disillusionment. So too they dared accuse Trotsky of himself organising the May murder attempt. But Jacques Dreschd was not a follower of Trotsky. Jacques Dreschd was a follower, and an employee, of Stalin who has levelled the muzzle of his murder machine at the man whose very life was a challenge to the Kremlin tyrant.
One by one, that murder machine has struck down those closest to Trotsky, trying more desperately each time to strike at Trotsky himself.
There was Blumkin, loyal soldier of the Russian revolution. Stalin murdered him in 1929.
There was Erwin Wolf, secretary to Trotsky, who was kidnapped and brought to Russia in 1936 by the GPU.
There was Ignace Reiss who was found dead in Switzerland in 1937 after he had severed his connections with the reactionary GPU. Stalin murdered him.
There was Rudolph Klement, secretary to Leon Trotsky, whose mutilated body was found in the Seine River in 1938. Stalin murdered him.
There was Sheldon Harte, bodyguard to Trotsky, who was spirited away from Trotsky's Coyoacan home when the GPU's May attack failed. Stalin murdered him.
There were the sons and daughters and countless friends of Leon Trotsky. Each of them, directly or indirectly, fell prey to Kremlin gangsterism. Only two years ago, Leon Sedov, Trotsky's son and close collaborator, suddenly died in Paris under mysterious circumstances. Stalin murdered them all.
Trotsky alive was an indomitable threat to the rotten regime of revolutionary betrayal that Stalin has foisted with knout and bullet upon the Russian masses. Each in his turn, the leaders of the glorious revolution of 1917, that liberated one sixth of the earth until Stalin again enslaved it, have met death at the decree of Stalin. Only Trotsky, organiser of the Red Army, co-worker of Lenin, remained alive - a living challenge, epitomising the spirit of socialism and of revolution. And now he is dead - murdered.
For twelve years, ever since he was driven by Stalin from the land whose rebellious forces he led to victory in 1917, Trotsky was the target of the GPU murder machine. They hounded him from country to country, striking at his friends and collaborators. And, finally, in Mexico, they laid fine plans for the dirty business of his assassination. George Mink, a notorious GPU agent, was in Mexico for the express purpose of organising the murder. Last May they staged an armed assault on Trotsky's home which failed in its aim only by the merest accident.
But they had reckoned with that possibility.
They kept another avenue open they had Jacques Dreschd in reserve.
How carefully they planned their foul scheme! Two years ago he began to establish connections with the Trotskyist movement. Months ago they brought him to Mexico - to finish the job that others might not complete, In time he gained entrance to the Trotsky home, and struck when he could act without prior suspicion.
Stalin could not abide Trotsky alive. He therefore left no plan untried to destroy the body that breathed but for one purpose - so that it might do its part in liberating humanity from tyranny and from oppression.
The breath in that body has been quenched. No more will it hurl thunderbolts of revolutionary inspiration at the tyrants of the world. But Stalin rejoices too soon if in destroying the body of Trotsky he dares think the spirit and teachings
of the man have also been destroyed. These can not be murdered. They will live forever and guide us as we tread the path to revolutionary victory.
Stalin has been the victor - but only for the moment. There is not a person in whom the spark of decency still is vibrant, there is not a worker who has not been corrupted or intimidated by Stalinist gangsterism, who will not rise indignantly against this monstrous deed of Stalin.
We, in the Workers Party, who proudly carry the name Trotsky on our banner, will never rest until the Kremlin criminal is pilloried before the world working-class. We will never rest until Joseph Stalin, who directed the hand of the assailant, who stops at nothing in the pursuit of his reactionary ends, is brought before the bar of proletarian justice — there to account for his crimes.
Our final answer will come on that day when the workers in Russia and everywhere unite hands in socialist revolution. That will be Trotsky's answer. That is what he taught us.
Farewell, Leon Trotsky
Our leader, teacher and comrade, Leon Trotsky is dead. Thus on historical epoch is ended. Lenin's co-worker and co-thinker, the leader of the October insurrection and the organiser of the once glorious Red Army is the last of the Old Bolsheviks.
Leon Trotsky is the victim of Cain Stalin, the gravedigger of the Russian Revolution, the assassin of brave revolutionists. For almost twelve years the Kremlin oligarch has sought to take the life of Trotsky, but each time he failed. The unspeakable GPU acting through its hireling Van Den Dreschd finally succeeded. Gaining the confidence of our warm-hearted and genial Leon Trotsky, pretending to be a disciple of our great comrade, this scoundrel in the pay of the GPU struck down the lion of October in a brutal attack. But Joseph Stalin is the real assassin, as real as if his own hand had struck the treacherous blow.
Stalin mortally feared the man whom he had driven into exile, whose comrades he murdered, whose family he destroyed. Stalin mortally feared that the deep dissatisfaction in the Soviet Union would grow to revolutionary proportions and turn to Leon Trotsky for guidance and leadership in the overthrow of his regime of terror. Stalin mortally feared that the world working class, unfettered by the treacherous teachings of the usurpers, would turn to Trotsky and the Fourth International for leadership in the struggle against reaction and for world socialism.
Stalin's hands drip with the blood of a host of fighters for proletarian emancipation, But if he thought to wipe out the revolution, he has struck in vain! If Trotsky is no more, he has left an imperishable heritage. In the period of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, in the triumph of reactionary Stalinism, his voice and his pen remained alive to explain and to teach a new generation of young revolutionaries to fight against the decaying order of capitalism and for the new socialist society of universal freedom for the masses of our planet.
To our brave, sorrowing comrade Natalia Ivanovna, lifelong companion of Lev Davidovitch, we extend our most heartfelt sympathy in this dreadful hour. You have been the comrade-in-arms of our L.D. for many decades and you have been our beloved comrade for many years. Your great devotion to your comrade and companion under the most perilous and trying conditions of the Russian revolutionary movement, in the gigantic events of the October insurrection and through the period of Stalinist degeneration and reaction, is a glorious lesson in revolutionary devotion and comradely sacrifice. Dear Natalia Ivanovna, you are not alone! Thousands stand with you in this dark and bitter hour, sworn to carry on.
Leon Trotsky, the greatest disciple of Marx, Engels and Lenin, is no more, But he lives in his heroic deeds, in his great teachings! The Kremlin Borgia has finally succeeded in his villainous deed. But let him not think that thereby he has broken the living spirit of Trotsky. There are thousands now, there will be millions tomorrow who will avenge his death. They will not only avenge the murder of our dear Leon Trotsky. They will avenge the murder of the hundreds and thousands whom Stalin hos destroyed in his counter-revolutionary ravages. They will march onward in the spirit of revolutionary Marxism, in the spirit of Lenin and Trotsky.
A new generation of revolutionaries is emerging. They will grow up in the spirit of Bolshevik courage and devotion to carry on until the victory of socialism. Under the banner of the Fourth International, founded by Leon Trotsky, the new movement will triumph. By his teachings, by his devotion and by his peerless courage in the face of the greatest dangers, the Fourth International will be nourished. Rising upon the edifice of the epoch of Lenin and Trotsky, it will sweep away the rubbish of the old order and give birth to the new movement of socialist emancipation.
Farewell Leon Trotsky! Hail the Fourth International! Hail the liberating world revolution!
National Committee, Workers Party. National Council, Young People's Socialist League (4th International)