Leon Trotsky and the Perils of Over-thinking
Author’s Note: This piece of writing was begun in December 2021 whilst I was living in Coyoacan, Mexico City, where Trotsky died. Somewhere I got lost mid-way, no longer sure if I was writing comedy or tragedy. So I left it. But I wanted to complete it, so that is now done.
Dateline 1922 and the mysterious, ongoing demise of Vladimir Lenin becomes the first, tangible sign that all is not well with Russian Communism. But, don’t worry, this is not a piece about politics.
With the demise of Lenin, so Joseph Stalin ascended to Party leadership. And, within a few years, all the members of the original politburo - bar one - would meet a mysterious fate. The concentration of power that the Russian Revolution left in its wake had unfortunately acted like blood in the water. The biggest shark had taken control.
Only Leon Trotsky survived the cull of those who might oppose Stalin. However, he too soon found himself expelled from Russia, where he continued to seek support for his opposition to the direction that Communism had taken. But Stalin, not a man content with half-measures, arranged the murders of his remaining family and set hit-men upon his trail.
After spending time in Turkey, France and Norway, and in the end finding himself unwelcome in each of those, Trotsky eventually found sympathy in newly-revolutionised Mexico. In 1937, President Lazaro Cardeñas welcomed Trotsky and his wife to his country. He found himself housed in Coyoacan, Mexico City by artists Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo, in a property owned by Kahlo’s father - Casa Azul.
Trotsky had done well to survive this far. But what course of action would he now take, to deal with the reality that he was still being pursued by a ruthless psychopath, intent upon his murder? What would he do to ongoingly protect himself? He chose the path he had always taken - that of the intellect. He began to write an extensive biography of Stalin, cataloguing his many personality flaws in great detail.
Whilst domiciled at Casa Azul, despite being deeply engrossed in his work, Trotsky also found himself embarking on an affair with Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo. Kahlo, enraged by her husband’s recent fling with her sister, had decided upon revenge. She sought out Trotsky as a person of suitably high status with whom an affair would drive her husband mad with jealousy. This it did.
Unfortunately, Trotsky’s wife, a woman unlikely to turn many heads in the Parque de Alameida, also found out and demanded that they leave the relatively safe confines of the Casa Azul. They found a smaller house nearby, on the Avenida Rio Churubusco, which, although it featured a couple of sentry posts, was nevertheless considerably less well protected.
Now installed in a new location, cut off from the siren Kahlo, Trotsky found himself cooped up with his pissed-off wife and his unfinished biography of Stalin. With little incentive to do anything other that write, he began to do just that, averaging ten hours a day at his desk. He even installed a single bed in the corner of his room, so that he could power-nap once in a while, before returning to his endeavours.
But this strategy was to prove to be Trotsky’s undoing. Descending so fully into his intellectual pursuits, determined to prove to the world what a bad guy Stalin was, left him sleepless and overly absorbed with his mind. In such a state, he failed to notice, one afternoon, the entrance into his room of local hit-man, Ramon Mercador, armed with an ice-axe. Leon died in hospital a day later.
What might we learn from the tragic fate of Leon Trotsky, clearly a well-meaning and idealistic man, willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk? I’m actually not entirely sure. As I mentioned in the Author’s Note at the beginning, I started this piece off as light comedy but began to see the tragedy of Trotsky as I continued along, and so lost my direction. But if you are spending too much time at the screen, then maybe get up and move your body for a while. Trotsky’s biography of Stalin never got completed and his adversary lasted nearly a decade and a half longer. What I’ve learned is to try to recognise if I’m getting over-stimulated mentally and also introspect on what I’m feeling.
Thank you for reading.