“Leon Trotsky, a man to be killed”, on LCP: how Stalin eliminated his capital enemy


Portrait of Leon Trotsky, in 1920-1925.


Irony or simple malice, the Parliamentary Channel of the National Assembly rebroadcasts a documentary on the assassination of Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), the very week when we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the disappearance of his sponsor, Joseph Stalin ( 1878-1953). “Operation Duck”, piloted from Moscow, aimed to complete the elimination of the capital enemy of the “Red Tsar”.

Read also (in 1965): Article reserved for our subscribers The Last Day of Trotsky, the Disarmed Prophet

Almighty in October 1917, put in withdrawal as soon as Lenin died in 1924, became an outcast, in turn expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), deported, expelled and systematically extradited from the countries which welcomed, Trotsky, founder of the Red Army, remains a fighter, a militant for the worldwide diffusion of the proletarian revolution.

In Mexico, where he settled in January 1937 with his wife, Natalia Sedova (1882-1962), in the Casa Azul (“blue house”) of the painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, he wrote and refuted the responsibility for the crimes that imputes Stalin to him, who condemned him to death in absentia. If the American Dewey Commission (April 1937) absolves him, the net tightens and this is where the man in charge of liquidating the hero of 1917 comes into play.

Also read (in 1969): Article reserved for our subscribers Leon Trotsky, the philosopher of the “permanent revolution”

Descended from the wealthy Catalan bourgeoisie by his father and from the Cuban aristocracy by his mother, Ramon Mercader (1913-1978) shares a maternal devotion to Stalin. Recruited by the NKVD (future KGB), he will be the armed wing of the plot. At the cost of training as a secret agent where his charm proves his trump card. Nothing is missing from this romantic intrigue: borrowed names, professions and nationalities… A sentimental idyll with the naive Sylvia Ageloff (1910-1995), a New York Trotskyist militant whom Mercader met in Paris, served to integrate Trotsky’s inner circle .

Benevolence without nuance

Archive images and sober reconstructions thrill the slow convergence of the two destinies, the prey facing the hunter. With, as a bonus, the testimony of Trotsky’s grandson, Sieva – renamed “Esteban” upon his arrival in Mexico in August 1939 – who, on returning from school on August 20, 1940, met the defeated and groaning murderer, supervised by the police, even before measuring the crime that had just taken place in the library.

One is surprised, however, at the unqualified benevolence of the brushed portrait of Trotsky. Admittedly, the man hunted down, betrayed, hurt by the disappearance of all his children, some murdered both in the USSR (Sergueï, in October 1937) and in Paris (Lev, in February 1938), arouses empathy, but from there to erase any allusion to its repressive and brutal practice of power…

As one remains perplexed on the personal motivations of Mercader, who assumes without qualms a mission which he pays for by twenty years of imprisonment and which only earned him, released in 1960, a very discreet Soviet recognition, decorated, under another assumed name, of the order of Lenin without being treated as a hero. Mercader-Mornard-Jackson-Lopez is an enigma whose secret remains to be revealed.

Leon Trotsky, a man to be beaten, documentary by Marie Brunet-Debaines, in collaboration with Elin Kirschfink (Fr., 2022, 52 min). Broadcast as part of the “DébatDoc” program on LCP-National Assembly.


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