Murder in Mexico
BY ALBERT E KAHN and MICHAELM SAYERS
CHAPTER XXI from The Great Conspiracy: the secret war against soviet Russia
None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.
THE chief defendant at all of the three Moscow Trials was a man five thousand miles away.
In December 1936, following the Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial and the arrests of Pyatakov, Radek and other leading members of the Trotskyite Center, Trotsky was forced to leave Norway. He crossed the Atlantic, and reached Mexico on January 13, 1937. Here, after a brief stay at the home of the wealthy Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, Trotsky set up a new headquarters in a villa in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. From Coyoacan, during the following months, Trotsky looked on helplessly while piece by piece the intricate and powerful Fifth Column in Russia fell apart under the hammer blows of the Soviet Government... .
On January 26, 1937, Trotsky gave a signed statement to the Hearst press in the United States on the trial of Pyatakov and Radek. "Inside the Party, Stalin has put himself above all criticism, and above the state," said Trotsky, commenting on the testimony at the trial. "It is impossible to displace him except by assassination."
An American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, engineered by Trotsky's followers in the United States, but nominally headed by anti-Soviet Socialists, journalists and educators, was established in New York City. The Committee originally included a number of prominent liberals. One of them, Mauritz Hallgren, author and associate editor of the Baltimore Sun, withdrew from the Committee as soon as its real purpose as an anti-Soviet propaganda agency became clear to him. On January 27, 1937, Hallgren made public a statement to the Committee which read in part: -
I am . . . convinced, as I must be under the circumstances, that the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky has, perhaps unwittingly, become an instrument of the Trotskyites for political intervention against the Soviet Union. . . . You will, therefore, withdraw my name as a member of the committee.
The Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky undertook an intensive propaganda campaign picturing Trotsky as the martyred "hero of the Russian Revolution" and the Moscow Trials as "frame-ups by Stalin." One of the Committee's first acts was to set up a "Preliminary Commission of Inquiry" to "inquire into the charges made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow trials of August, 1936, and January, 1937. The members of the Commission were the aging philosopher and educator, John Dewey; the author, Carleton Beals; the former Socialist member of the German Reichstag, Otto Ruehle; the former American radical and anti-Soviet journalist, Benjamin Stolberg; and the fervently pro-Trotsky journalist, Suzanne La Follette.
With much fanfare and publicity the Commission of Inquiry began holding hearings in Coyoacan, Mexico, on April 10. The only witnesses were Leon Trotsky and one of ' his secretaries, Jan Frankel, who had first become a member of Trotsky's personal bodyguard in Prinkipo in 1930. Acting as legal counsel for Trotsky was his American attorney, Albert Goldman.(1)
The hearings lasted for seven days. Trotsky's "testimony," which was widely publicized in the American and European press, consisted chiefly of violent denunciations of Stalin and the Soviet Government, and of extravagant self-praise of his own role in the Russian Revolution. The detailed evidence presented against Trotsky at the Moscow Trials was, for the most part, completely ignored by the Commission of Inquiry. On April 17 Carleton Beals resigned from the Commission. Beals issued a public statement which read in part: -
... The hushed adoration of the other members of the committee for Mr. Trotsky throughout the hearings has defeated all spirit of honest investigation. . . . The very first day I was told my questions were improper. The final cross-examination was put in a mold that prevented any search for the truth. I was taken to task for quizzing Trotsky about his archives.... The cross-examination consisted of allowing Trotsky to spout propaganda charges with eloquence and wild denunciations, with only rare efforts to make him prove his assertions. . . . The commission may pass its bad check on the public if it desires, but I will not lend my name to the possibility of further childishness similar to that already committed.
Under the auspices of the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, a campaign was started to bring Trotsky into the United States. Books, articles and statements by Trotsky were widely circulated throughout the United States, while the truth about the Moscow Trials remained locked in the State Department files or in the minds of correspondents in Moscow who believed, as Walter Duranty later wrote, in the "extreme reluctance of American readers to hear anything but ill of Russia."(2)
In Mexico, as in Turkey, France, Norway and everywhere else he had lived, Trotsky rapidly gathered around himself a coterie of disciples, adventurers and armed guards. Again, he lived in a fantastic atmosphere of intrigue.
The villa at Coyoacan where Trotsky made his Mexican head-quarters was a virtual fortress. A wall twenty feet high surrounded it. In towers at the four corners sentinels armed with tommy guns stood watch day and night. In addition to the Mexican police unit specially detailed to duty outside the villa, Trotsky's armed bodyguards kept his headquarters under unceasing patrol. All visitors had to identify themselves, going through examinations as formidable as those at frontier posts. Their passes had to be signed and countersigned. After gaining admittance through the gates in the high wall, they were frisked for concealed weapons on entering the villa itself.
Inside, the atmosphere was one of tense activity. A considerable staff was at work taking instructions and carrying out assignments from the leader. Special secretaries were preparing anti-Soviet propaganda, Trotsky's proclamations, articles, books and secret communications in Russian, German, French, Spanish and English. As at Prinkipo, Paris and Oslo, many of Trotsky's "secretaries" had guns on their hips, and the same fantastic mood of intrigue and mystery surrounded the anti-Soviet conspirator.
Mail was heavy, pouring into the Mexican headquarters from all parts of the world. Not infrequently the mail required chemical treatment, the actual messages being written in invisible ink between innocuous visible lines. There was continuous telegraphic and cable correspondence with Europe, Asia and the United States. An endless stream of journalists, celebrities, politicians, mysterious incognito visitors, came to interview or confer with the "revolutionary" leader of the anti-Soviet movement. There were frequent delegations of foreign Trotskyites - French Trotskyites, American Trotskyites, Indian Trotskyites, Chinese Trotskyites, agents of the Spanish P.O.U.M.
Trotsky received his visitors with the air of a ruling despot. The American journalist Betty Kirk, who interviewed Trotsky in Mexico and had him photographed for Life magazine, described his histrionic and dictatorial manner: -
Trotsky looked at his watch and autocratically said he would give us exactly eight minutes. As he commanded his Russian secretary to sit for the picture of him dictating, he shrilled at her slowness. He commanded Bernard Wolfe, his North American secretary, to sit also, and while Wolfe was crossing the room, Trotsky stood beating on the edge of the table with his pencil, exclaiming, "Quick, don't waste time!"
From the fortified Coyoacan villa, Trotsky directed his world-wide anti-Soviet organization, the Fourth International.
Throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America, intimate ties existed between the Fourth International and the Axis Fifth Column network: -
In Czechoslovakia: Trotskyites were working in collaboration with the Nazi agent Konrad Henlein and his Sudeten Deutsche Partei (German Sudeten Party). Sergei Bessonov, the Trotskyite courier who had been a counselor at the Soviet Embassy in Berlin, testified when he was on trial in 1938 that in the summer of 1935 he had established connections in Prague with Konrad Henlein. Bessonov stated that he personally had acted as an intermediary between Henlein's group and Leon Trotsky.
In France: Jacques Doriot, Nazi agent and founder of the fascist Popular Party, was a renegade Communist and Trotskyite. Doriot worked closely, as did other Nazi agents and French fascists, with the French section of the Trotskyite Fourth International.
In Spain: Trotskyites permeated the ranks of the P.O.U.M., the Fifth Column organization which was aiding Franco's Fascist uprising. The head of the P.O.U.M. was Andreas Nin, Trotsky's old friend and ally.
In China: Trotskyites were operating under the direct supervision of the Japanese Military Intelligence. Their work was highly regarded by leading Japanese Intelligence officers. The chief of the Japanese espionage service in Peiping stated in 1937: "We should support the group of Trotskyites and promote their success, so that their activities in various parts of China may benefit and advantage the empire, for these Chinese are destructive to the unity of the country. They work with remarkable finesse and skill."
In Japan: Trotskyites were called the "brain trust of the secret service." They instructed Japanese secret agents at special schools on the techniques of penetrating the Communist Party in Soviet Russia and of combating anti-fascist activities in China and Japan.
In Sweden: Nils Hyg, one of the leading Trotskyites, had received a financial subsidy from the pro-Nazi financier and swindler, Ivar Kreuger. The fact. of Kreuger's subsidization of the Trotskyite movement were made public after Kreuger's suicide, when the auditors found among his papers receipts from all sorts of political adventurers, including Adolf Hitler.
Throughout the world, the Trotskyites had become the instruments by which the Axis intelligence services sought to penetrate the liberal, radical and labor movements for their own ends.(3)
The final debacle of the Russian Fifth Column at the Moscow trail of the Bloc of the Rights and Trotskyites was a stunning blow to Trotsky. A note of desperation and hysteria began to dominate his writings. His propaganda against the Soviet Union grew increasingly reckless, contradictory and extravagant. He talked incessantly about his own "historical rightness." His attacks against Josef Stalin lost all semblance of reason. He wrote articles asserting that the Soviet leader derived sadistic pleasure from "blowing smoke" in the faces of infants. More and more, his consuming personal hatred of Stalin became the dominating force in Trotsky's life. He set his secretaries to work on a massive, vituperative 1000-page Life o f Stalin.(4)
In 1939, Trotsky was in contact with the Congressional Committee headed by Representative Martin Dies of Texas. The Committee, set up to investigate un-American activities, had become a forum for anti-Soviet propaganda. Trotsky was approached by agents of the Dies Committee and invited to testify as an "expert witness" on the menace of Moscow. Trotsky was quoted in the New York Times of December 8, 1939, as stating he considered it his political duty to testify for the Dies Committee. Plans were discussed for Trotsky's coming to the United States. The project, however, fell through... .
In September 1939, a European Trotskyite agent, traveling under the name of Frank Jacson, arrived in the United States on the French liner Ile de France(5). Jacson had been recruited into the Trotskyite movement by an American Trotskyite, Sylvia Ageloff, while he was a student at the Sorborne in Paris. In 1939 he was contacted in Paris by a representative of the secret "Bureau of the Fourth International" and told he was to go to Mexico to serve as one of Trotsky's "secretaries." He was given a passport which had originally belonged to a Canadian citizen, Tony Babich, a member of the Spanish Republican Army, who had been killed by the Fascists in Spain. The Trotskyites had obtained Babich's passport, removed his photograph and inserted Jacson's in its place.
Jacson was met on his arrival in New York City by Sylvia Ageloff and other Trotskyites, and taken to Coyoacan, where he went to work for Trotsky. Subsequently Jacson informed the Mexican police: -
Trotsky was going to send me to Russia with the object of organizing a new state of things in the U.S.S.R. He told me I must go to Shanghai, on the China clipper, where I would meet other agents in some ships, and together we would cross Manchukuo and arrive in Russia. Our mission was to bring demoralization to the Red Army, commit different acts of sabotage in armament plants and other factories.
Jacson never went on his terroristic mission to the Soviet Union. Late in the afternoon of August 20, 1940, in the heavily fortified villa at Coyoacan, Jacson murdered his leader, Leon Trotsky, by smashing his head in with an Alpine pickax.
Arrested by the Mexican police, Jacson said he had wanted to marry Sylvia Ageloff, and that Trotsky had forbidden the marriage. A violent quarrel, involving the girl, broke out between the two men. "For her sake," said Jacson, "I decided to sacrifice myself entirely."
In further statements, Jacson declared: -
.. in place of finding myself face to face with a political chief who was directing the struggle for the liberation of the working class, I found myself before a man who desired nothing more than to satisfy his needs and desires of vengeance and of hate and who did not utilize the workers' struggle for anything more than a means of hiding his own paltriness and despicable calculations.
... in connection with this house, which he said very well had been converted into a fortress, I asked myself very often, from where had come the money for such work. . . . Perhaps the consul of a great foreign nation who often visited him could answer this question for us... .
It was Trotsky who destroyed my nature, my future and all my affections. He converted me into a man without a name, without country, into an instrument of Trotsky. I was in a blind alley. . . . Trotsky crushed me in his hands as if I had been paper.
The death of Leon Trotsky left only one living candidate for the Napoleonic role in Russia: Adolf Hitler.
1. On December 1, 1941, Albert Goldman was convicted in a Federal Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on charges of having conspired to under mine the morale of the United States Army and Navy. (See footnote, page 317.)
2 Trotsky offered various "explanations" for the admissions made at the trials by his former intimate friends, chief lieutenants and allies. At first, he had explained the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev by declaring that the accused had been promised their lives by the Soviet Government on condition they made false accusations against him. "That is the minimum that the G.P.U. could not renounce," Trotsky had written, "it will give its victims a chance for their lives on condition it obtains this minimum." After Zinoviev and Kamenev and their accomplices in the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center were shot, Trotsky declared they had been double-crossed. But this explanation became hopelessly inadequate when Pyatakov, Radek and the other accused at the second Moscow Trial also pleaded guilty and made even more damaging admissions. Now Trotsky asserted the testimony of the accused was the product of fiendish torture and mysterious, potent "drugs." He wrote: "The G.P.U. trials have a thoroughly inquisitorial character: that is the simple secret of the confessions! ... Perhaps in this world there are many heroes who are capable of bearing all kinds of tortures, physical or moral, which are inflicted on themselves, their wives, their children. I do not know...."
In one article Trotsky would describe the defendants at the trials as men of "noble character," ardent and sincere "Old Bolsheviks" who had taken the path of opposition because of Stalin's "betrayal of the revolution," and who accordingly had been liquidated by Stalin. In another article, Trotsky would violently denounce Pyatakov, Radek, Bukharin and the others as "despicable characters," men of "weak will," and "puppets of Stalin."
Finally, in answer to the question as to why, if they were not guilty, veteran revolutionaries should make such admissions and why not one of the accused had taken advantage of the open court to proclaim his innocence, Trotsky declared at the Hearings in Mexico in 1937: "In the nature of the case, I am not obliged to answer these questions!"
3. Even after Trotsky's death, the Fourth International continued to carry on its Fifth Column activities.
In Great Britain, in April 1944, Scotland Yard and police officials raided the Trotskyite headquarters in London, Glasgow, Wallsend and Nottingham, after discovering that Trotskyites were fomenting strikes throughout the country in an attempt to disrupt the British war effort.
In the United States, on December 1, 1941, eighteen leading American Trotskyites were found guilty in a Federal District Court in Minneapolis of conspiring to undermine the loyalty and discipline of American soldiers and sailors.
Convicted along with Trotsky's lawyer, Albert Goldman, were James P. Cannon, national secretary of the Socialist Workers' Party (the name under which the Trotsky movement operated in the United States); Felix Morrow, editor of the Trotskyite newspaper, the Militant; Jake Cooper, one of Trotsky's former bodyguards in Mexico; and fourteen other leading members of the American Trotskyite movement. They received prison sentences ranging from a year and a day to sixteen months.
Grant Dunne, one of the chief Trotskyites in the American labor movement, who had been named in the Federal indictment, committed suicide three weeks before the trial began.
In March 1943, the Trotskyite organ, the Militant, was barred from the U.S. mails on the grounds that the publication was seeking "to embarrass and defeat the government in its effort to prosecute the war to a successful termination." After an investigation of the Militant, the Department of Justice issued a statement which read in 'part: "Since December 7, 1941, this publication has openly discouraged participation in the war by the masses of the people. . . . The lines of this publication also include derision of democracy . . and other material . . . appearing to be calculated to engender opposition to the war effort, as well as to interfere with the morale of the armed forces."
The American foreign correspondent, Paul Ghali of the Chicago Daily News, reported from Switzerland on September 28, 1944, that Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo, was making use of the European Trotskyites as part of the planned Nazi underground for postwar sabotage and intrigue. Ghali reported that fascist youth organizations were being trained in Trotskyite "Marxism," supplied with false papers and arms and left behind Allied lines with orders to infiltrate the Communist Parties in the liberated areas. In France, Ghali revealed, members of Joseph Darnand's fascist Militia were being armed by the Nazis for terrorism and postwar Fifth Column activities. "This scum of the French population," Ghali's report added, "is being now trained for Bolshevik activity in the tradition of Trotsky's International under the personal orders of Heinrich Himmler. Their work is to sabotage allied communication lines and assassinate De Gaullist French politicians. They are being instructed to tell their fellow-countrymen that the presentday Soviet represents only a bourgeois deformation of Lenin's original principles and that it is high time to return to sound Bolshevik ideology. This formation of groups of red terrorists is Himmler's most recent policy, aimed at creating a fourth international, amply contaminated by Nazi germs. It is aimed against both British and Americans and Russians, particularly the Russians."
4 Trotsky's friends in the United States made arrangements to have this book published by a New York publishing house with a reputation for conservatism and integrity. Although the book was set up in print, the New York publishers decided at the last minute not to distribute the book; and the few copies that had been sent out were withdrawn from circulation. Sections of the book had previously been published in article form by Trotsky. The last article to be published before his death appeared on August 1940, in Liberty magazine; the article was entitled, "Did Stalin Poison Lenin?"
5 Frank Jacson's real name was Jacques Mornard van den Dresche. Among his other aliases were Leon Jacome and Leon Haikys.
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