On the anniversary of Leon Trotsky's assassination, we commemorate the life and ideas of this inspiring revolutionary, theoretician, and leader.

On the anniversary of Leon Trotsky's assassination, we commemorate the life and ideas of this inspiring revolutionary, theoretician, and leader.

Today marks the 78th anniversary of the death of Leon Trotsky, the great revolutionary leader, who was assassinated on 20th August 1940 by a Stalinist agent whilst living in his home in Coyoacán, Mexico.

Trotsky's death was an enormous blow to the revolutionary movement worldwide, leaving the Fourth International rudderless without its key theoretician.

To commemorate the life and ideas of Leon Trotsky, we republish this article from 1990 by Ted Grant, the founder of Socialist Appeal and the International Marxist Tendency, who was an active and leading figure in the British Trotskyist movement at the time of Trotsky's death.

In this piece, Ted recalls the day when news of Trotsky's murder was announced on the news and the impact that his death had on the forces of Marxism internationally.

"It still brings tears to the eyes"

Trotsky largeOne can't imagine the fury, anger and frustration felt by all the comrades throughout the world. It was the 19th time they had tried to assassinate him; this time they succeeded.

The events of the war at that time were so stupendous that Trotsky's death didn't have the impact it would have had in peacetime. That is why Stalin calculated on murdering Trotsky at that time. He thought it wouldn't be noticed in the general turmoil of the war. But it made an enormous impact on us and made us even more determined to carry on Trotsky's work, as we have done in Britain and internationally in the succeeding years.

We were a bit critical at the time of the American Socialist Workers' Party for not having guarded him better but of course we didn't say anything publicly. What was the use after the assassination had already taken place?

Our immediate response was to launch a campaign to expose the Stalinists' crimes. The news of the assassination was presented by JR Campbell in the Communist Party's Daily Worker of those days in an absolutely scandalous way, as if one of Trotsky's followers had murdered him and Stalin and the bureaucracy had nothing to do with it. We exposed this lie.

At the time I was involved in the Workers' International League, building up the struggle against the imperialist war. We were campaigning for a Labour government to come to power and then, if necessary, wage a revolutionary war against Hitler, after having nationalised the economy.

Without Trotsky we would have been blind. He was in many ways even greater than Lenin, in the theoretical work he did between 1923 and 1940 to deepen and develop the ideas of Marxism and Leninism. His analysis of the events in Spain, particularly the 1931-37 revolution, France, Britain at the time of the general strike, China in 1925-27 and Germany in the struggle against Hitler, armed his followers for the struggles that lay ahead.

Above all, without Trotsky we would not have had an analysis of Stalinism. His criticisms of the Communist International were shown over and over again to be correct in the light of events.

We felt a burning regret, because perhaps Trotsky's best work was done in the last year of his life. His book, In Defence of Marxism, remains correct to this day in its analysis of the Soviet Union and the processes of Stalinism.

He showed that the bureaucracy was not a new class or new formation but an aberration from socialism which could not bring socialism. His marvelous book on Stalin was also written at that time, though it was only published in 1945. Stalin exerted pressure on the governments of the United States, Britain and other countries to prevent the publication of Trotsky's work until after the end of the war.

These works gave a sound theoretical foundation to the movement. If he had lived for another five years, turning out material of that sort, it would have been an enormous plus for the development of the workers' movement.

If Trotsky had lived on into the post war period it would not have made a fundamental difference to the course of events - the victory of Stalinism on the one hand and the revival of capitalism on the other. This was due to the policies of Stalinism and reformism which prevented the carrying through of the revolution, which Trotsky had looked forward to.

In France, Britain, Germany and other countries if the so-called Communist Parties had been revolutionary parties they could have carried through the revolution on the European continent and solved the problems of the working class nationally and internationally once and for all.

But had Trotsky lived on he would have armed the workers better. There would not have been the absolute disasters perpetrated by those who claimed to be supporters of Trotsky but in reality completely distorted his ideas. And there would not have been so many losses from the movement at that time and later if Trotsky had been there to direct and guide it.

He would have supported our analysis of these events - that there would be a consolidation of capitalism, in the industrialised countries at least, and a consolidation of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union for a temporary period, a period which has now passed.

These ideas have been completely vindicated and they will be even more vindicated in the period of struggle that opens up in the course of the 90s. In particular the news from the Soviet Union - the openly counter-revolutionary movement of Gorbachev to turn back to capitalism - shows how correct was Trotsky's analysis of Stalinism and the processes taking place in the world.

The bureaucracies are being compelled to try and maintain their privileges by turning themselves into capitalists and going over openly to the side of the counter-revolution, as Trotsky predicted.

They are trying to seek assistance and support from people like Bush, Thatcher and Kohl. It's absolutely nauseating to see the way that Gorbachev cringes in front of the imperialists. In the period that opens up, capitalism will go into decline, disease and disintegration, much as Stalinism has already disintegrated in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

In the last 50 years, we have been building, defending and deepening Trotsky's ideas and have built a movement that will be victorious in transforming the Labour Party, the trade unions and society in Britain and internationally. We will prepare the way for the complete vindication of Trotsky's ideas.

Even now, when one thinks back to the assassination of Trotsky it brings tears to the eyes.

What enormous sacrifices he made. His family was murdered, his comrades, the old Bolsheviks, were entirely annihilated. There was a victory for Stalinist and reformist reaction. Trotsky went right through all that but it did not stop him from doing the necessary work to prepare the cadres for the development of the movement. It is on the basis of his ideas, extending and deepening them however, that we will go forward to victory.

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this education guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs below to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, videos and audio talks for different topics. Read More
Check out this selection of writings for an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory, providing a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the ideas necessary in order to fight for socialism. Read More
Dialectical materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. We must seek to understand the laws of society and nature in order to change them. Read More
Historical materialism is the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how capitalism works. Read More
Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society, allowing us to understand why capitalism perpetually goes into crisis, where inequality comes from, and what the alternative is. Read More
The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. Studying the events of 1917, and understanding why the Revolution degenerated into Stalinism, provides vital lessons for revolutionaries today. Read More
For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral. We must understand the state’s real basis and strip away its mysticism by treating it historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall. Read More
Anarchism is naturally attractive for those wanting to abolish capitalism. But only Marxist ideas can explain why bureaucracy and oppression exist - and how to overthrow the exploitative capitalist system. Read More
Marxists are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fight determinedly for liberation and against discrimination. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle - to abolish the oppressive capitalist system. Read More
The madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism. But it could have been avoided if the working class had a united revolutionary leadership, prepared to take power. Read More
Nations have not always existed, nor will they always exist in the future. Marxists are internationalists, fighting for world socialist revolution as the only way forward for humanity and our planet. Read More
Wars represent the sharp extreme of capitalism’s impasse. Imperialism, Lenin said, was the "highest stage of capitalism". As long as the profit system exists, there will be wars over markets and spheres of influence. Read More
All written history, Marx stated, is the history of class struggle. Our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future. Read More
Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, amongst workers and youth. In order to do this, we must study the history and traditions of the working class. Read More
  • Educate Yourself
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism: suggested reading
  • Dialectical Materialism and Science
  • Historical Materialism
  • Marxist Economics
  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
  • The State
  • Anarchism
  • Women's liberation
  • Fascism
  • The National Question
  • Imperialism and War
  • Revolutionary History
  • Revolutionary Strategy