Betrayed by a Brother: When Stalin Assassinated Trotsky

Betrayed by a Brother: When Stalin Assassinated Trotsky

Caroline - December 26, 2016

The Russian Revolution in 1917 was, in part, started by a prominent Communist leader known as Leon Trotsky. Leon Trotsky, whose birth name is Lev Davidovich Bronstein, was born in Yanovka, Ukraine on November 7, 1879. Prior to his involvement with Lenin, his activities got him exiled to Siberia, several times. He fought alongside Vladimir Lenin and defeated those against Bolshevik control. When Joseph Stalin came into power, Trotsky struggled against him for control of the party; a battle he eventually lost. Trotsky was exiled again, and then eventually murdered in Mexico City.

Trotsky Coming into Power

Leon Trotsky was born to Jewish farmers, David and Anna Bronstein, and attended school in Odessa. In his final year of school, he became obsessed with Marxism, and in 1897 founded the South Russian Workers’ Union.

After forming this union, he was arrested within a year, tried and then exiled to Siberia where he met his first wife, Alexandra Lvovna. They had two daughters together. After two years, in 1902, Trotsky left his wife and two daughters, escaping exile to London. He met Lenin and joined the Socialist Democratic Party. At this time, Trotsky also remarried and had two sons.

Trotsky was initially supportive of the Menshevik Internationalists section of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. At first, he and Lenin were at odds, with Lenin supporting the Bolsheviks, however, Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks prior to the 1917 Revolution — fighting alongside Lenin. They founded the first Politburo together, set up to manage the Bolsheviks.

Trotsky was set up in the position of Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Post WWI, he was tasked with making peace with the Germans and reaching territory/reparation agreements. Trotsky believed that it would be wise to wait and see if the government would be defeated by the Allies, but Lenin had other plans. He wanted to make peace with Germany so they could concentrate on making their own Communist government. Trotsky resigned after this disagreement.

Trotsky was set up as the leader of the Red party once the Bolsheviks took control. The White Army, who was in opposition to Socialist control, needed to be defeated. Trotsky was able to do so, leading an army of 3 million. By 1920, the Red army had soundly defeated their enemies and Trotsky was number two in command, next to Lenin.

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Betrayed by a Brother: When Stalin Assassinated Trotsky
Leon Trotsky in 1918

Dispute Within the Party

In 1920, following the revolution, there was a huge debate within the Bolshevik party over trade. Trotsky believed that trade unions should be incorporated into the state and trade activities should be regulated by the state. Lenin disagreed and he was fearful this feud would splinter the party. At the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, Lenin’s side won and Trotsky’s supporters lost a number of leadership positions. As a result, the Kronstadt rebellion formed but was suppressed by Trotsky in order to show his allegiance to Lenin. This was the last major rebellion against Bolshevik rule.

Lenin’s health began deteriorating in late 1921. He had a series of strokes which severely limited his mobility and eventually caused his death in January 1924. During this time, Stalin made a grab for political power.

He was given the position of Central Committee general secretary and formed a troika consisting of him, Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. Trotsky would have been the obvious choice to succeed Lenin, but Stalin was making moves to prevent this from happening.

Just before Lenin died, he wrote of his fear of the party splitting. The relationship between Lenin and Stalin soured, and eventually ended when Stalin insulted Lenin’s wife. Lenin wrote that Stalin should be replaced as secretary, but nobody heeded him. Stalin was able to move the party in his favor and Trotsky was slowly, but surely, pushed from his political positions and power.

Trotsky in Exile, His Record Erased

Trotsky was soon pushed from Russia completely. Stalin began a campaign to rewrite the record, besmirching his accomplishments and character. In January, 1928, Trotsky was exiled to present-day Kazakhstan. In February 1929, he was banished from the Soviet Union entirely. Trotsky moved around but eventually settled in Mexico City, continuing to write about the Soviet government. 16 of Trotsky’s allies were executed in 1936.

Stalin and his regime were dead set on assassinating Trotsky, and went about finding him. While sitting at a desk in Mexico City in 1940, Trotsky was murdered by a Russian agent with a pick-axe to the skull. He died at the age of 60 at a nearby hospital.

Stalin, threatened by Trotsky’s authority and influence, waged a war against his image and political power, even after his death. He attempted to wipe the record clean of Trotsky’s actions during the revolution. However, in 2001, the Russian government rehabilitated his image and attempted to give him back some of his former glory.

Many people believed Trotsky to be instrumental in creating the Soviet Union. He was brilliant, but often lonely and misunderstood. Despite the “rehabilitation” of his image, much damage still remains.