Today in World History: August 20th

Leon Trotsky, one of the seven first leaders of the Russian Red Army, and a major player in early Soviet politics, was wounded fatally on this day in 1940. Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution against the Romanov family, and became allied to seven of the most powerful men in Russia, including Lenin and Stalin. However, this alliance would not last, as by the end of the 1920’s his conflicting ideals with Joseph Stalin led to his removal from power, his expulsion from the Soviet Communist Party, and in 1929, his expulsion from Russia itself. Moving to Mexico, Trotsky began a new mission, and started undermining Stalin’s regime and the communist agenda. Trotsky’s missions in Central America as head of the Fourth International, a new communist party opposed to the Soviet’s Comintern Faction due to the rise of Stalinism. Trotsky’s party began to disrupt the Comintern’s missions overseas, resulting in Stalin’s targeting of Trotsky. In 1940, on this day, a Spanish-born Soviet assassin named Ramón Mercader attacked him in his study after other failed Soviet assassination attempts. Mercader struck Trotsky on the head with a mountaineer’s ice-axe, wounding Trotsky. Mercader was arrested by Trotsky’s bodyguards, and Trotsky was taken to a hospital and operated on. Despite the best efforts of the surgeons, Trotsky died a day later, on August 21, 1940, of severe blood loss and shock, at the age of sixty.

“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”

-Leon Trotsky

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