82 years since the assassination of Leon Trotsky

Eighty-two years ago, on August 20, 1940, Leon Trotsky was assassinated by the Stalinist agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky's assassination was the greatest political crime of the 20th century. Alongside Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky was the leader of the 1917 October revolution in Russia, which led to the establishment of the first workers’ state in history, and the preeminent strategist of world socialist revolution.

In 1923, Trotsky founded the Left Opposition to oppose the growth of a nationalist bureaucracy, headed by Joseph Stalin, as it usurped power in the Soviet Union. In 1933, following the coming to power of the Nazis in Germany, facilitated by the disastrous policies of the Comintern that Trotsky had opposed, Trotsky began to work toward the building of the Fourth International, which was founded in 1938 as the World Party of Socialist Revolution.

In a new period of revolutionary upheavals and imperialist wars, the political and historical principles and perspectives that Trotsky fought for are of immense relevance to workers today. They are embodied in the history and daily political work of the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site. In this exhibit, we are publishing a selection of major statements and essays about the enduring political significance of Leon Trotsky, and the investigation by the ICFI into his assassination, known as Security and the Fourth International.

Leon Trotsky
The political and historical significance of Leon Trotsky
The assassination of Trotsky: The greatest political crime of the 20th century

Trotsky’s assassination was the most conscious attempt by Stalinism and world imperialism to decapitate the leadership of the international working class in the midst of the slaughter of World War II. And yet, for decades, the circumstances surrounding the assassination remained shrouded in secrecy. The massive scale of the Stalinist conspiracy against Trotsky was the subject of a carefully orchestrated cover-up. 

In 1975, the International Committee of the Fourth International launched the first systematic investigation by the Trotskyist movement into the assassination, known as Security and the Fourth International. The investigation was met with bitter hostility and opposition from the Pabloite revisionists, who had abandoned the struggle for Trotsky’s program in 1953 and instead sought to liquidate the forces of the Fourth International into the Stalinist and social democratic parties as well as the national bourgeois liberation movements. Despite political and physical threats, including the assassination of Tom Henehan in 1977, the ICFI, and in particular the Workers’ League in the US, carried out an extensive investigation into the circumstances of Trotsky’s assassination. 

This investigation not only presented indisputable evidence about the large-scale network of GPU informants and agents who worked to murder the head of the world socialist revolution. It also exposed the crimes of Stalinism against the working class and its revolutionary leadership, and the counter-revolutionary nature of Pabloite revisionism. The ICFI has continued this investigation to the present day and published significant new findings about the role of Sylvia Ageloff in Trotsky’s assassination in 2021.

Mexican police hold the pickaxe that Mercader used to murder Trotsky in 1940
Security and the Fourth International
Critical works by Leon Trotsky

The voluminous writings by Trotsky on the method and theory of Marxism, perspective, program and history, remain central to the political orientation and education of revolutionaries today. We are presenting here only a small subsection of his most important writings on war, fascism, the lessons of the October revolution and the Marxist method.