Gerry Healy



Assassin at Large

Statement by the International Committee of the Fourth International

Security and the Fourth International

News Line, 4 January 1977, Page 7

      The man who assassinated Leon Trotsky, Lenin’s co-leader in the Russian Revolution, is still on active service with the murderous Soviet secret police.

   Ramon Mercader del Rio, now aged 65, works full-time on the secretariat of the exiled Spanish Communist Party. He was described to us as an aid to Dolores Ibarruri, known as “La Passionaria”. For her part in the murder of POUM leader Andreas Nin in 1928, she has been aptly named “La Assassinaria”.

   After his release from a Mexican prison in 1960, Mercader was spirited aboard a plane to Cuba. According to a recently released Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) despatches dated 18 May and 23 May 1960, Mercader left Havana on board the merchant ship Dolinsk for Riga, capital of Latvia.

   His first home was in Prague where he joined a small circle of Spanish Stalinists carrying out translation and editing duties. For some time he was a tutor at a KGB “School for Spies”. He instructed in the art of assuming false identities, resisting interrogation and infiltrating rival parties. And he also talked about the deadly art for which he had been trained in Moscow in the 1920’s – assassination. How to approach the victim, the choice of weapon, the mental and physical training.    

   To the gloating Stalinists, whom he tutored in murder, infiltration and provocation, Mercader came to be known as “El Padre” – The Father.

   Today this sinister team is back in business around Santiago Carrillo, the Spanish CP general secretary. Among those in the action is General Henrique Lister, an old-time Stalinist hatchet-man from the 1930’s.

   Mercader’s value to the KGB was demonstrated during the Czech spring of 1968. Four days before Soviet tanks rolled into Wenceslas Square, Mercader was taken to Moscow for protection.   

   The KGB figured that if the situation “got out of hand” a prime target for the wrath of the Czech workers might become Trotsky’s assassin.


   Their fears were probably well founded. One oppositionist newspaper, printed by the workers, carried a front page photograph of Trotsky.

    There is considerable mystery surrounding Mercader’s missions abroad. He was apparently in Cuba in 1962 at the time of the missile crisis and in Algeria a year later. He has been observed a number of times on holiday in France, his favourite resort being Marseilles.

   In 1967 a man wearing dark sunglasses and carrying false diplomatic papers arrived at Mexico City airport. He caught a taxi and asked to go to Coyoacan. As they approached Avenida Viena he ordered the driver to slow down.

   At the fortress like building which is No. 19, the taxi stopped while he peered through the car window for a full five minutes. Then he settled back in his seat, telling the driver to take him to his hotel.

   Mercader had returned to the scene of the crime of the century. Here, on 20 August 1940, Mercader had stood behind Trotsky’s back while the founder of the Red Army was sitting at his desk. He pulled an icepick from under his raincoat and plunges it into Trotsky’s skull. The following day Trotsky died.

   Among Stalinists in Mexico, Mercader is almost hero-worshipped. Poet Nicolas Guillen has written an “Elegy to Jacques Monard”, one of Mercader’s aliases. It reads:

Severe and harsh he was

his voice sombre

and his vocation was steel.

(Not was, is,

For still, still now

The man is whole)

He is,

Of steel

Of steel he is,


He is.

   We found correspondence from Stalinist women in the United States who wrote love letters to Mercader while he was in prison promising to marry him when he got out.

   None of this was necessary. Mercader’s paymasters in Moscow provided him with a sleeping bag named Roquelia Mendoza while he was locked up for 20 years. (Conjugal visits are allowed under Mexican law).

   The woman received enormous sums of money for her services, mysteriously deposited in her bank account each month.

   Mexican lawyer, Eduardo Ceniceros, keeps in regular correspondence with Mercader, swapping cards at Christmas. He received a letter in September 1976 from Donyetsk, the Ukrainian mining city where Mercader was on a convalescent holiday.

   Ceniceros, a Stalinist for 40 years, runs a curious law practice. Although he has an expensive elegantly furnished office, plus two secretaries, there is hardly a law book (or a client) in sight. Yet despite what appears to be a lean practice, Ceniceros maintains a generous life-style. He spoke to us glowingly about his client Mercader.

Q. When did you see Mercader for the first time?

A. I agreed to defend him in approximately 1945 or 1946.

Q. What impression did he make on you?

A. My first impression was that he was a very cultured person, who spoke several languages, somebody who acted out of conviction.

Q. How was it that you became his lawyer?

A. The person who convinced me to do it was the person he later married, Senora Roquelia Mendoza. It was this friend. Roquelia, who took responsibility for the defence of Mercader.

Q. Was there great pressure on you to become the defence lawyer?

A. What pressure? It was a professional matter. There was no pressure to take it on.

Q. As Mercader was in prison and had no relatives, how were you paid for your services?

A. Yes, but Senora Roquelia Mendoza used to go to the jail, and she was the one who got me to take on his defence. On the question of payment, I would like to maintain professional discretion on that. I was contracted professionally. I was paid when stipulated.

Q. When did you learn his true identity?

A. I think his identity was known to all the Spanish exiles who came over here after the war in Spain. I knew who he was from the start. I knew it from many people. He went under a false name because he was afraid of reprisals against his mother, his brother and sisters. This is why he went under a false name. But he always told me who he was.

   (Mercader gained access to Trotsky’s household after a well-prepared infiltration which began in Paris in 1938 at the time of the founding of the Fourth International. He courted Sylvia Ageloff, a member of the Socialist Workers Party [USA], and then followed her to Mexico to carry out the murder.)

Q. When he first saw Sylvia Ageloff, he told her he was interested in the Trotskyist movement?

A. I think it’s established that all that is true, isn’t it? I think the way he got close to Trotsky is very well documented – a lot has been published about it.

   He was convinced that Trotsky was dividing and weakening Marxism throughout the world, so Ramon del Rio Mercader decided it was necessary that there should no longer be two leaders, Stalin and Trotsky, that this divided the forces of Marxism. He considered that if Trotsky was suppressed Marxism and Stalinism could go forward and the USSR could be strengthened internally.

   I think he was wrong because it is not certain that Trotskyism was finished off with the death of Trotsky. He had a wrong conception of it, because Marxism didn’t die with Trotsky – I mean Trotskyism didn’t die with Trotsky. Trotskyism still goes on today. Possibly if he hadn’t died Trotskyism would have been more of a force, but I do feel Trotskyism didn’t die with Trotsky.

Q. Afterwards, did he ever feel remorse about the crime?

A. Yes, I think that later on he thought he had been wrong to try to kill Trotsky. I think he did repent, because he saw that the killing of Trotsky hadn’t finished off Trotskyism, that he hadn’t achieved his objective of making Trotskyism disappear. It didn’t achieve what he wanted. So in that sense, I think he came to believe he had been wrong.

Q. And later, when he read that in the Soviet Union they were saying that Stalin had been wrong – did that have an impact on him?

A. I can’t really speak on that, but I imagine so.

Q. There have been reports that there was a plan to help him escape in 1946?

A. Ramon del Rio Mercader never wanted to escape, nor tried to escape. Sometimes they let him out of the grounds – he needed to but materials for his work, and they had such confidence in him that sometimes they let him out to buy things. He could have escaped several times, but he didn’t. He wanted to finish his sentence. He was always prepared to comply with the law – he never tried to escape.

Q. When was the last time you saw him?

A. In 1967 I was with him in Prague. I was on a world tour at the time. When I got to Prague I spent two or three days with him. That was the last time I saw him.

Q. What was he doing then?

A. He was working, doing translations of books from Spanish into Czech. He has worked as a translator ever since.

Q. Has Mercader been back to Mexico?

A. No.

Q. And does Mercader carry out any political activity these days?

A. I don’t think so. No, he dedicates himself completely to translation work.

Q. Do you still correspond?

A. Yes. He writes me news of his family etc. He doesn’t write about the events of the past. It’s too painful for him to recall it. He writes about the children, about his wife …

   Mark Zborowski, the Stalinist agent who masterminded the murder of Leon Sedov, Trotsky’s son in Paris in 1838, takes the same view – he wants to “forget the past” as well.

   When the International Committee located Zborowski in comfortable semi-retirement in San Francisco in August 1975 he did not want to talk about the murder of Leon Sedov, the assassination of Trotsky’s two secretaries Rudolf Klement and Irwin Wolf, and the machine gunning of Ignace Reiss.

   Mercader and Zborowski have allies, There are self-styled “Trotskyists” who are pulling out every stop to prevent a commission of inquiry into the assassination of Trotsky and GPU crimes in the Trotskyist movement.

   They gather in London for a joint meeting on 14 January for this precise purpose: Ernest Mandel, Michel Pablo, Pierre Lambert, George Novack, Tim Wohlforth and Tariq Ali.

   Although they can’t be present. Mercader and Zborowski have no doubt heard about this revisionist get-together and they will be applauding it from Donyetsk and San Francisco respectively.

   Ramon Mercader was a hand picked specially trained assassin. When his Stalin worshipping mother, Caridas, joined a GPU spy unit in Paris in 1928, it was only natural that she inducted her 16 year old son as well.

   He showed a flair for languages. He picked up French so well that only a trained ear could detect the give-away inflections of his native Spanish. Ten years later he was able to pass himself off as “Jacques Monard” when he infiltrated the Trotskyist Movement.

   In 1936 Caridad Mercader was sent to Mexico City to drum up support for the Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War. She entered the country using false papers and began a speaking tour of Communist Party branches and cells.

   Her fanatical devotion to Stalinism impressed the Mexican artist Diego Rivera who was a founding member of the Mexican CP and on its Central committee. He was also beguiled by her daughter, Montserrat, and painted her portrait. (A copy of the painting is reproduced on this page).

   Later that same year, with the start of the first Moscow Trials, Rivera broke from the Communist Party. In a moment of demonstrative opposition to Stalinism he called on the government of Lazaro Cardenas to offer a home to Trotsky who was under expulsion from Norway and barred from every country in Europe.

   There was a flurry of diplomatic dispatches between Mexico city and its embassies abroad. President Cardenas was bombarded with protests as the Stalinists organised an international write-in to stop their mortal enemy from finding a safe haven.

   Eventually, on 16 December 1936, Foreign Minister Eduardo Hay sent a cyphered telegram to the embassy in Stockholm saying:

   “Department informs you quote it has been agreed Leon Trotsky be permitted to enter Mexico and admitted with his secretaries and members of his family with the status of political exiles stop. They will not be asked to fill in any forms as this agreement is to be taken as exemption from presenting repatriation papers stop. They will be required only to undertake to respect the laws and not propagandise their political and social doctrine on national territory unquote. Please communicate to Trotsky concepts outlined in final paragraph. Respects. Transmit in code. Eduardo Hay.”

   Trotsky sailed from Oslo on board Ruth on 19 December arriving in Tampico on 9 January 1937

   Almost at the same time Trotsky was disembarking a band of Stalinists led by another Mexican artist, Alfaro Siqueiros, was leaving for Spain to fight in the civil war. Siqueiros had a letter of introduction to Caridad Mercader written by his friend and erstwhile party comrade, Diego Rivera.

   At Caridad’s home he was introduced to the family including her son, Ramon. These two would meet again many times.

   By now Caridad was a leading apparatchik in the Spanish CP, working closely with Senora Ibarruri (“La Passionaria”). Because of her GPU connections Caridad was in almost daily contact with the Soviet agents, among them the notorious Leonid Eitingon and Vittorio Vidali, the Italian Stalinist.

   At the height of Stalin’s counter-revolutionary policies in Spain, Eitingon and Vidali were organisers of assassination units specially set up to liquidate Trotskyists and POUM-ists.

   On 16 June 1937, Andres Nin, the POUM leader, was arrested by policemen at his headquarters in Barcelona and never seen again.

   In his memoirs Jesus Hernandez, a leading Spanish Stalinist and member of the Comintern until its dissolution, confessed that Nin was tortured to death at the hands of Vidali and his GPU thugs.

   The technique of dressing up as police officers to attack opponents was used by the GPU later – in Mexico on 24 May 1940, when Siqueiros led a raid on Trotsky’s house.

   In 1938 Mercader was pulled out of the Spanish bloodbath and given fresh instructions. He was briefed by top GPU operatives on his next assignment, ordered by Stalin himself. Mercader was to infiltrate the fledgling Fourth International, travel to Mexico and carry out the assassination of Trotsky.

   Now the whole GPU organisation internationally began to move.

   In New York Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz, head of the Russian Red Cross (and also the GPU in the US) gets in touch with Ruby Weil, a local Stalinist. He tells her to take a holiday with Sylvia Ageloff, the Trotskyist who is going to France for the founding of the Fourth International in September 1938.

   (See sworn testimony of Sylvia and Hilda Ageloff and Ruby Weil, House Un-American Activities Committee, 4 December 1950, sworn affidavit of Louis Budenz, former managing editor of the Stalinist Daily Worker, dated 11 November 1950.)

   Rabinowitz goes to Chicago to contact Sylvia Callen, a Stalinist carrying out Anti-Trotskyist activities. He brings her to New York and instructs her to penetrate the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party. In no time at all she is James P. Cannon’s personal secretary and shortly becomes office manager. (See sworn affidavit of Louis Budenz. 11 November 1950, HUAC).

   Rabinowitz contacts Stalinist agent in the Socialist Workers Party, Thomas L. Black, and tells him to prepare to go the Mexico to join Trotsky’s household. He tells Black that he can expect to meet other Soviet agents in the household when he gets there.

   (See sworn testimony of Thomas L. Black to US Senate judiciary committee, 17 May 1956)

   Rabinowitz has regular meetings with Joseph Hansen, one of Trotsky’s secretaries, for a period of three months in New York. First news of this contact was uncovered and published by the International Committee of the Fourth International in August 1975. Hansen admitted the meetings in August 1976 (Intercontinental Press 9 August 1976).

   He says that Trotsky asked him to meet Rabinowitz. The International Committee has branded Hansen’s statement as a lie and called for a commission of inquiry to investigate all the SWP and Coyoacan correspondence dealing with Hansen’s “small manoeuvre” with Rabinowitz.

   In Paris the GPU easily arranged for Sylvia Ageloff to meet Jaques Monard alias Ramon Mercader. Easily? Yes, because the man responsible for organising the founding Conference of the Fourth International – after he had helped murder Leon Sedov, Rudolf Klement and Irwin Wolf – was Mark Zborowski, another GPU agent.

   Mercader swept the young American girl off her feet and became her lover. When Ageloff returned to the United States, Mercader kept in correspondence and said he would be over soon.


   Under a new name, Frank Jacson, Mercader arrived in New York on 9 September 1939, on the Ile de France from Southampton. He created maximum confusion with the US immigration authorities.

   Under nationality he wrote “Great Britain” and place of birth he put Lovinak, Serbia, Yugoslavia”. His last address he listed as 47 Rue des Acacias, Paris. He gave his occupation as an engineer.

   (Extracts taken from US naval attaché report, dated October 1947)

   He explained to Sylvia Ageloff that he had changed his name from Monard to Jacson to get out of Europe to avoid mobilisation for the war.

   He said that he had bought the Canadian passport for $3,500 and that he had no money problems since his mother had given him $10,000. A month later he left for Mexico to see his “Boss” about some “business deals”.

   Mercader smelt to high heaven. He had no visible means of support and yet he was always rolling in money. He described himself variously as a business agent, a broker’s assistant and a journalist.

   Albert Goldman, Trotsky’s Lawyer, gave details of two curious happenings in Paris in his booklet, The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: The proofs of Stalin’s Guilt. Goldman wrote:   

   “In the latter part of July 1938, he (Mercader) informed Sylvia that his parents had been in an automobile accident and that he must leave for Brussels immediately. Sylvia went to Prague and on the way back to Paris, stopped off at Brussels, intending to meet Mercader there.

   “Instead, a woman met her at the place where she was supposed to meet Monard, and told her that Monard had been suddenly called away to England. Sylvia came back to Paris without seeing Monard, and while in Paris she received letters from him. He returned to Paris some time in September 1938 and told Sylvia that he had been in Brussels all the time but was under military arrest because of his failure to serve in the army."

   This extraordinary tale by Mercader does not appear to have alerted Ageloff. Nor does another item of information which Goldman recounted in his booklet.

     “When Sylvia told him that she could not remain in France without working, he arranged to have her write articles on psychology, which he claimed he sold to an Argos Publishing Co., a company that sold articles on various subjects to different magazines. He gave her 3000 franks a month for the articles she wrote, but refused to put her in touch with the Argus Publishing Co. and refused to show her any magazines where her articles were published, claiming that such was the rule of the company.”

   In January 1940 Ageloff trailed down to Mexico to renew her relationship with Monard. They stayed in room 113 at the Hotel Montejo in Avenue Reforma. [Photograph on News Line page – Ed]

   The fact that they stayed at one of the most chic hotels in the city did not arouse any suspicion from any of those in charge of Trotsky’s security, like Joseph Hansen.

   Monard began showing up outside Trotsky’s house each afternoon to drive Ageloff home. He became friendly with the guards and went out of his way to develop a grovelling friendship with Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer who lived in the small flat inside the Coyoacan household. He took them to dinner and made his car available to take them on long drives.

   In the shadows the GPU network was gathering. Leonid Eitingon and Vittorio Vidali were in town George Mink, the American Stalinist who became notorious for assassinating Trotskyist “trouble-makers” in Spain, was there too.

   Suspicion again fell on Monard when there was some confusion about where he worked. Albert Goldman explained what happened in “The Proofs of Stalin’s Guilt”:

   “On different occasions Sylvia Ageloff asked Jacson where his office was and he told her it was inn room 820 of the Ermita Building. One day Sylvia’s sister went to look for him in that building and found that there was no such room.

   “Jacson explained that he had made a mistake in the room number, and that it was room 620 instead of 820. Sylvia became suspicious about the nature of his work, and asked Marguerite Rosmer to find out whether Jacson actually has an office in room 620. Marguerite  Rosmer went to the building and actually found an office boy in this room who told her that this room was Jacon’s office.

  “(Later it turned out that this room was used by David Alfaro Siqueiros, organiser of the May 24 assault on Trotsky.)

   “Neither Sylvia Ageloff nor Marguerite Rosmer then had any suspicion that he was a GPU agent. They thought that he was involved in work which was not strictly legal and that he consequently refused to divulge its nature.”

   No matter what Ageloff and Mrs. Rosmer thought, Trotsky was unhappy about Jacson/Monard. He began to come in and out of the household from the end of May 1940 talking about financial speculations and his boss and what he was going to do to help “the movement”.

   “These brief conversations displeased me”, wrote Natalia Sedova in The Life and Death of Leon Trotsky.

   “Leon Davidovitch was also struck by them. ‘Who is this very rich boss’. One should find out. It may after all, be some profiteer or fascist type perhaps – it might be better for us not to receive Sylvia’s husband any more.”

   On 24 May 1940, in the dead of night, Siqueiros and a group of Stalinists dressed in police uniforms raided Trotsky’s household. They gained access to the courtyard because a guard, Robert Sheldon Harte, violated security regulations and opened the gate to the raiders.

   Trotsky’s bedroom was machine gunned by Siqueiros, but he miraculously escaped death when Natalia rolled both of them off the bed and onto the floor. Today the walls still carry the bullet-spray marks.

   When the raiders left, Harte went with them. Hansen wrote that Harte opened the gate probably because he recognised the person on the other side. This was a reasonable assumption. Who, therefore, did Harte know in Mexico?

   He had only arrived six weeks before, on 7 April 1940, so he hadn’t time to make too many friends. But he had been drinking with Monard: they had been seen together in the Kit Kat Club on Independencia Street. [Photograph on News Line page – Ed.]

   But although this was known to Hansen, there is no record that Trotsky was ever informed. In other words, Trotsky and Natalia were kept completely in the dark about the friendship between Harte and Monard and the suspicious life-style that Monard was leading.

   On 20 August 1940 Monard entered Trotsky’s household on the pretext of showing him an article he had written. While Trotsky began reading it, Monard took out an ice pick and struck Trotsky the death blow.

   Harold Robins, who was on duty in the gatehouse, heard a groaning sound. When he heard it a second time he ran to Trotsky’s study. He found Trotsky standing near the doorway clutching his forehead with both hands and blood trickling over his brow.

   Monard was standing in the room with a revolver in his hand. Robins pushed Monard to the floor and began to gun-whip his head.

   Hansen and Natalia removed Trotsky to the adjoining room and laid him down to rest until the ambulance arrived.

   Robins was at least having success in making Monard talk. He was saying, “they have imprisoned my mother”, when Hansen re-entered the room. Robins recalls that Hansen began to shout in a loud, high-pitched voive and fell upon Monard beating him with his fists.

   Robins laconically remarked that if Hansen kept it up he would break his fist. That is in fact what happened. When another guard, Charles Cornell came in, Robins suggested that he work over Monard’s ribs with the but of his gun to make him talk. But now Monard had lapsed into saying that the guards ought to kill him, and nothing else.

   With Trotsky in hospital, Hansen compiled a press release on the assassination. We quote the first two paragraphs of the statement:

   “Leon Trotsky is now struggling with death, the odds greatly against him. He was struck down by an agent of Stalin’s GPU. This second assault was foreseen and predicted by Leon Trotsky immediately after the previous assault on 24 May 1940. The form it would take was not known. The facts of yesterday’s attack are briefly as follows: Mr. Trotsky knew the assassin, Frank Jacson {sic}, personally for more than six months. Jacson enjoyed the confidence of Leon Trotsky because of his connections with the Trotskyist movement in France and the United States.

   He was known as a generous financial sympathizer. Jacson visited the house frequently. At no time did we have the least ground to suspect that he was an agent of the GPU.”

   The “facts” as presented by Hansen to the world are a pack of lies.

Lie No. 1. Trotsky did not know the assassin personally for more than six months.

Lie No. 2. The assassin did not “enjoy the confidence” of Trotsky. As we have shown earlier, Trotsky distrusted this playboy and loudmouth who seemed obsessed with talk of business deals.

Lie No. 3. The assassin had no connections with the Trotskyist movement in France or the United States. Or, if he did, Hansen has never revealed them. Sylvia Ageloff testified before the House of Un-American Activities Committee on 4 December 1950 that Monard was almost apolitical when she met him in France. “He seemed completely disinterested in politics of any kind”, she said. “He never even read ordinary news articles. He seemed interested in sports and theatre and music and things of that sort. He seemed very disinterested in politics.”

   When he passed through New York at the end of 1939 on his way to Mexico City and when he revisited New York in June 1940, the assassin had no official contact with Hansen’s SWP.

Lie No. 4. That the assassin was a “generous financial sympathiser” has never been amplified in the Trotskyist movement by Hansen or anyone else. Is It true? How much did he give? Who did he give it to?

Lie No. 5. The assassin did not visit the house frequently. He made ten visits in all, according to the guard book. He saw Trotsky on perhaps three occasions and the total time he spent with him was perhaps 20 minutes and no more than one hour, according to the testimony collected by Albert Goldman.

   The lies in Hansen’s press release had a specific purpose. It was to create the impression that Monard was a Trotskyist, a close collaborator of Trotsky’s and someone who was an intimate of the household.

   Imagine the confusion that this mis-information created in Trotskyist circles when it was relayed over the wire services.

   Mexican journalists who spoke to the International Committee’s investigators in Mexico City in December 1976 said that they were left with the distinct impression that the murder was an “inside Job”.

   Who would benefit from the lying theory that Trotsky had been killed by one of his own followers? THE GPU!

   For that was the line the Stalinist press throughout the world started to report. It was also the first line of defence of the assassin himself. In his statements to the police and throughout the trial Monard pretended to be a dissident “Trotskyist” who fell out with Trotsky because he was being asked to go to the Soviet Union to carry out assassinations.

   It was a continuation of the Moscow Trial frame-up charges which Trotsky had fought so ferociously to crush.

   Both in his booklet The Proofs of Stalin’s Guilt and at the trial, Albert Goldman was pre-occupied with tearing apart the web of lies and showing that Monard was nothing more or less than a GPU killer.

   Goldman destroyed Monard’s statements insinuating that he had been in league with Trotsky to carry out murders in the USSR saying:

   “And who is Jacson? A complete stranger to Trotsky. A man who came from France without any credentials. A man who had no experience as an organiser and was not even a member of the Fourth International. A man who spoke no Russian, and who talked with Trotsky at most for one hour.” (The Proofs of Stalin’s Guilt.)

   How different is the picture presented by Goldman and the one painted by Hansen. The question is why? The necessity for a commission of inquiry to investigate is irrefutable – except to the GPU and its accomplices!


The assassin is unmasked


Security and the Fourth International

News Line, 5 January 1977, Page 7

Unmasking of the Assassin

Statement by the International Committee of the Fourth International

(Continued from News line 4 January 1977)

   As Leon Trotsky lay on the floor of his villa at Coyoacan bleeding from the skull wound delivered by a GPU agent, he told Natalia Sedova:

   “Don’t kill him. He must talk. He must talk”

   That was on 20 August 1940. Since that date the assassin has never talked. No one has made him talk – not the Socialist Workers Party of the United States nor the Mexican government which had the greatest stake in finding out the truth. [After the Fourth International and the world working class – Ed]

   After 20 years in jail – in which he was treated like a lord – the killer went to the Soviet Union to resume active service with the secret police of the Soviet bureaucracy, now called the KGB

   The International Committee of the Fourth International has collected and published hitherto unknown facts about Trotsky’s murder and the GPU network who did it.

   The commission of inquiry called by the International Committee must regards Trotsky’s dying words – “He must talk” – as an imperative.

   Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the revisionist Socialist Workers Party have never sought an investigation into Trotsky’s death, and oppose one today. They have never wanted the assassin to speak.

   They decamped from Mexico City with embarrassing haste soon after Trotsky’s death. They wanted Coyoacan to be a sealed tomb where they erected a monument for Trotsky … a legend for themselves.

   When the International Committee carried its investigation to Mexico City in 1976, we discovered that Hansen and Novack never bothered to learn the assassin’s true identity. It was established by sources who have nothing to do with the Trotskyist movement.

   When Trotsky’s killer went to jail for 20 years for premeditated murder, the Mexican prison authorities registered him under three names:

   Jacques Monard, the name he first used when he met Sylvia Ageloff in Paris in 1938 at the time of the founding conference of the Fourth International.

   Jacques Monard-Vandendreschd, the Belgian identity used to confuse the police after his arrest.

   Frank Jacson, the name in the Canadian passport he used to enter the United Stated in September 1939.

   There were stories in the world’s press – many of them planted by Stalinists – that he was French, Bulgarian, a Czech or a Yugoslav.

   The first proof of his real identity came from Julian Gorkin, a leading POUMist, who came to Mexico in 1940 after the defeat of Spain and the Nazi occupation of Europe.

   He was well acquainted with the murder techniques of the GPU. He was in the POUM headquarters in Barcelona the day the police abducted Andres Nin and took him to Madrid where he was tortured to death and all traces of his body lost for ever.

   In Mexico City, Gorkin was able to connect up with the Spanish exiles and pick up information on the grapevine. By 1947 he had established that the killers mother was Caridad Mercader, a well-known Stalinist hack.

   Gorkin made his revelation in an appendix to the book, Murder in Mexico, which he wrote with General Sanchez Salazar, the Mexican police chief who worked on the Trotsky case. Gorkin wrote:

   “This book, which is the result of a scrupulously exact investigation based on the only complete and official documentation which exists, would, however, be incomplete if the real identity of Trotsky’s assassin remained in doubt.


   I refer, of course, to the actual assassin, the simple instrument of execution, for regarding the instigator there can be no doubt.

   “At last I have these proofs. The mother of the assassin is still alive, and is called Caridad Mercader. She is a Catalonian, resolute, energetic, fanatical, a woman who has always blindly carried out Stalinist policy to the letter. She lived in Belgium and in France for many years. Her five children were brought up in these countries – four sons and a daughter. This explains the perfect French which they all speak, and why Trotsky’s assassin, the third child, could try to pass off as Belgian.”

   But although Gorkin identified the assassin’s mother, he was not certain of the son’s name, his age, or other personal details.

   That was successfully carried out by Dr. Alfonso Quiroz Cuaron, now a professor of criminology, a leading world criminologist and an expert in detecting counterfeiters. Astonishingly, it took Dr. Quiroz ten years of painstaking research to track down the assassin.

   In December 1976, the International Committee interviewed Dr. Quiroz at his apartment in Mexico City where he told his story.

Q: How did you become involved in the case of Leon Trotsky?

A: It’s very simple. At that time I was a professor of criminal medicine and criminology, and I did a lot of court cases – I worked on criminal cases as a psychiatrist, to clarify whether a person was sane or sick. So I was very busy in the courts as a psychiatrist. You could say it had become fashionable.

   When Trotsky was assassinated, the judge in charge of the case was Carranca Trujillo, who was also a professor of criminal law in the university, like me.

   So when the case was heard – the second case, the assassination, he came looking for me and said, “This is the most important case of my life. So I have to use the most advanced techniques and I want you, in accordance Mexican law, to make a study of this man, from the first moment, so that you can tell me if he is sick or sane, what his personality is like”.

   Mexican law – Article 52 – provides for an exhausting study of the personality of the criminal. There have to be two doctors on the case, not just one. So the judge asked me who I wanted to work with, and I chose a friend of mine, Gomez Robleda – we worked well as a team, and we were pleased to do the job.

   The first move in the legal proceedings then was that Gomez Robleda and I were appointed to the case by Carranca Trujillo to study the personality of the assassin. We were able to see him in the first 48 hours after the crime, and we began our study of him. This was how we were put on to the case, as technical experts to study the personality of the assassin.

Q: When did you first meet the assassin?

A: One Saturday. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was a Saturday. The Crime was committed on a Thursday or Friday, and it was on the Saturday I saw him, in the 6th. Region police station where he was detained.

   He said he didn’t speak Spanish so in very bad French I explained to him that I had come to give him a medical examination, and to make a psychological and social study of him, and that this would be in his own interests, because I would be able to verify whether he was sane, whether he had any illness, anything wrong with his lungs etc. His first reply was a refusal: “Non, jai fermé la bouche”. (“No, my lips are sealed”.) “You have come to fish and I will not speak.”

   On the Monday morning I went back, with my colleague and we talked again. We went on the Monday and Gomez Robleda was the same psychological type as the assassin – very quick minded and extrovert.

  So Gomez Robleda, who knows French better than I, got on with him better than I did. He explained to him that from every point of view it would really be in his interests to collaborate in this study, since we were not political, we were not there to take sides, we were not prosecutors of police or defence. So we could understand him psychologically much better than the judge, the interrogators, the prosecution, and see him in quite a different light.

   So he was convinced, and he said all right. And we then said we would come every day, morning and evening etc., and we would follow a plan and carry out very methodical work.

   So from that Monday we were working on it every day, morning and evening, carrying out first a medical examination – pulse, cardiogram examination, everything that could be done to verify a man’s state of health, but always with a plan.

   There was nothing improvised about it. We used to meet early each morning. Gomez Robleda and I, in the office of our surgery, draw up a plan of work and share it out, work out which of would question him and which would take notes. Generally speaking we didn’t take many notes when we were with him, just the bare essentials, pulse rate etc: we made notes after we left.

   But in this way we began to gather quite an extraordinary amount of material – very important things, beginning with very simple things – how tall he was, how much he weighed: but proceeding with very precise techniques.

   For example, biologically, we took all the measures developed by the Italian school, by Casinto Viola, to find out whether the man corresponded to a certain type of psyche, etc. It was the same with everything else, we used the same methods.

Q: Can you explain some of the experiments you carried out?   

A: Yes, we can begin with the simplest, defining how the man was in general, physically, then examining his physiology, to ascertain the state of his nervous system; adrenalin is an essential test of that. Since Gomez Robleda and Mercader were the same physical type, it was very interesting – like two souls in the same body.

   You administer two cc of adrenalin and see how the pulse reacts – it’s a test of the nervous system. So I administered one cc to Gomex Robleda, changed the needle and gave the other to Monard.

   I measured the tension in their arteries, took their pulse and temperature – normally it goes up; the pulse goes up, the temperature goes up, tension in the arteries increased, and you find out the person’s capacity for emotion.

   There were other tests. One day he mentioned that he had studied journalism. So we switched on the tape recorder – they weren’t quite like this kind in those days – and put on a radio which was broadcasting the racing, news of what was happening, and we recorded the man’s voice at the same time to make a phonetic study of it and find out about his language.

   Another example. At one point we were studying his co-ordination. Firstly with tests, psychological tests. But then he said he could load or unload an automatic pistol blindfolded. So we brought in a .38 automatic pistol – unloaded of course – to try him out, and made him close his eyes, and it turned out he really could load and unload it without looking, amazingly quickly.

Q: Is it true that on one occasion you sent him a massage in Russian?

A: Yes, this was a good experiment. In the year we were doing this work, electro-encephalography had been discovered. So we asked the judge if we could have authorisation to take him out and take him over to the surgery of Dr. Ramirez Moreno, who was the only person at that time who had an electro-encephalograph.

   So we took him over and used the room there -  it was a room specially lined with lead to prevent interference with the current – to carry out tests with the electro-encephalograph with the aim of finding out whether he could ever have had epileptic spasms. This was important because he had been beaten about the head with a pistol, and it was important to find out if his wounds had any consequences, and eliminate any pathological problems.

   We took advantage of being there, in this special room or cell. We had electrodes attached to him, around his heart. We had previously asked for the services of the official Russian translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the message he had written out for us said something lie “You’re sunk. Your accomplices have squealed. Say nothing. Your mother is in prison.”

   But we began by showing him some neutral photographs, for example, a photo of the main square of Xhoca here in Mexico. No reaction – no change in pulse. Other pictures without any emotive content. And when we had shown him several things without getting a reaction – well, we already knew that when he became emotional, he went white. He clenched his back teeth,

   When he was shown the message, he went white as a sheet, and his pulse, which was around 70, shot up to something like 110. This was experimental proof that the man understood the contents of the written message.

Q: When you began the investigation, what did you suspect about him?

A: I didn’t. I insist. I wasn’t political then and I am not now. I detest politics, national or international. My interest was purely technical, to find out the truth, to investigate the man’s mentality, what kind of man could commit such a monstrous crime, without being mentally ill.

Q: Why was his identity a secret for so long?

A: Because it wasn’t considered important. Our interest in finding out arose in the following way: One of many things we did was a very careful psychological examination, using the techniques of psycho-analysis.

   We analysed his evasions and slips, we analysed his dreams- to find out the missing elements. For example, one day when I had been giving him the Rorshach test, with in blobs, he himself said to us: “The damp marks on the ceiling are more interesting – up there it looks like Franco’s profile with his helmet on.”

   And at that time, or course, there was no television and what pictures there were in the paper were very poor. So we interpreted this as a slip, as something he let escape, and that what he was saying to us was, “I was in Spain”.

   One day we had given him a novel, The Gods are Thirsty by Anatole France to read. It was to try to provoke some reaction from him. Commenting on the book, when we came back, he said: “You don’t now the Marseillaise right the way through, do you? I now four versions.”

   So first he sang us the Marseillaise right through, and then two of the versions on the Marseillaise they used to sing in the Spanish Civil War. And that was it. We analysed it in the same way – it was another slip, a way of telling us, “I was in the Spanish Civil War. I was in Spain.”

   So a number of psychological points came out, which in isolation meant nothing, but adding them up gave us leads. So we had to test out, scientifically, if what we believed was right or not. In terms of scientific doctrine, the problem is not believing or not, if it’s science can be tested.

   So we were interested in finding out if we had been right or wrong. So my method for finding out his identity was to put to the test the things we found out about him. I took advantage, after the war, of the first international conference of psychiatry and criminology, in Paris in 1950. The university has sent me, as its representative.

  It was then that I was able to clarify things further.

   We had certain impressions from him to check out. He said he had lived in Paris, but we found no traces of him. He said he was Belgian, from Brussels, but it turned out he had no relatives there, or in Italy. Then it came out, as you know, that he had a Spanish identity card and that he was Spanish. But on the question of motives – he didn’t answer any questions.

Q; How many homicide cases have you worked on?

A: As a professional psychiatrist, I would say about 50.

Q: My question is why in this case was it so difficult to establish identity?

A: For this reason: Firstly, we were at war; secondly it came out at the trial that he was giving a false identity. At that time Mexico was not in Interpol. Also at that time no one was interested in establishing his identity.

Q: Nobody?

A: Not that I know of. No Mexican.

Q: From anywhere in the world?

A: I don’t think so either. His own people were not against his identity being revealed. His enemies may have been in favour of it. But I was involved as neither friend nor foe, but out of scientific interest to find out if the work we carried out was any good or not.

Q: When and how did you establish his identity?

A: Precisely through the Paris criminology conference in 1950, when I went from one city to the other with these impressions to check out. First I went to Barcelona. There I spent time with an extraordinary man, a policeman. Don Pedro Polo Borrequero. My contact with him was a piece of good luck, because I went to the general police station and introduces myself to the inspector in charge. I said to him, “can you give me the record of this person”, and showed him the identity card.

   The inspector, a man of some scepticism and much professional experience, said to me, “leave it with me and come back in two days time.” In the inspectors office there was an old man who stopped and said, “let me show you out”, and he asked me, “do you have some special interest in what you have just given us”?  “Yes, can you tell me?”, I said. “Yes, what I have just left there is the identity card of Trotsky’s assassin.” And he said “Really, but he is well known here. Come with me.”

   We came out of the commissariat and waled as far as No 7 Calle Aracha. He said, “I now that boy. This is where he was born. I now his father, his father lives here. His mother is, what’s her name, Caridad Mercader, who was used as a courier at the time of the civil war, on the Red side.

   So we went off to eat together and he gave me a lot of detailed information, saying, “I arrested him as a youth. He was part of a youth club – Miguel de Cervantes y Seveda. His card must be around somewhere. Not here because in Barcelona, with all the changes in government there have been, archives have been destroyed. But the Madrid archives have survived very well and there may be a file on him there.”

   I went back two days later and saw the inspector who said he had got no record of him, and then went on to Madrid where the I met other professors of the Criminal  Medical Faculty there. They put me in contact with Don Florentino Santa Maria, who was Chief Inspector for Identity in the whole of Spain.

   One afternoon I went to see him with them, and said,” I have a very simple question, how long does it take to get the authenticity of an identity card checked out here?” “Very quick”, he said, “Antonio Valcares lives here in Madrid, he’s an archivist.” And this Valcares came back with the card carrying a photograph of Mercader. That’s how and when I found out.

Q: What happened when you came back and told Monard?

A: I said nothing to him. I no longer saw him. The last time I saw him was about six months after the assassination, and after that I had nothing to do with him, except on one occasion when Lopez Rey y Roja came to Mexico, the secretary of the Criminal Prevention Department of the United Nations.

   He wanted to visit the penitentiary so we went, me, Maria Lavalle Urbina, Lopez Rey and an assistant. It was Maria Lavalle Urbina who had denied him parole. And as we entered the penitentiary Meceder himself was coming down the corridor, and Maria Lavelle said to me “is something going to happen?” I said no. He was very worked up, very pale, but I said “nothing is going to happen, absolutely nothing to you.”

Q: In other words after six months you never saw him again?

A: No. I had no reason to see him. My work was over.

Q: We have done our own investigation into the death of Trotsky – do you think Merceder had committed other murders?

A: I suspected he may have been involved in something like that in Paris, but I couldn’t confirm it. I did suspect it.

Q: It is thought Merceder may have murdered another of Trotsky’s secretaries called Rudolf Klement. Do you know this case?

A: More or less. I knew about it at the time. It is possible he was involved in this or in other crimes, but in some murder or other over there.

Q: You can’t say definitely?

A: No

Q: Why do you suspect this?

A: I suspect it because of the analysis I made of certain slops of his, maybe his dreams – I don’t remember exactly. But it was from data from our psychological examination of him.

Q: Do you know that Rudolph Klement was found without any head or legs or arms?

A: I think Merceder was involved in this case

Q: Do you think Mereder was capable of such a killing?

A: Of course he was capable of it!

Q: Were you familiar with the name of Robert Sheldon Harte?

A: Of course. After the first attack they discovered his body here in the desert area.

Q: Did Merceder ever mention Sheldon Harte?

A: Never.

Q: Do you think it is possible he played a part in the death of Sheldon Harte?

A: It was never talked of. The case is very well documented in the hearings on the first attack. I couldn’t really answer from what I recall. But I know that in that case Siqueiros was involved and the Arenals, the brothers of Siqueiros’ wife, Angelica Arenal. There was considerable mention of some Frenchman.

Q: The French Jew?

A: The French Jew

Q: Who was he?

A: It must have been Mercader. Because one of the clearest things he let slip at the trial, was when he was asked, “What was the first place you came to in Mexico?” And He said, “Ermito Building number such and such”. This was the address where Alfaro Siqueiros had a studio at the time. You have to remember Alfaro Siqueiros had been active in Spain in the civil war. And when this man arrives the first place he goes is Alfaro Siqueiros’ apartment.

Q: Do you think it was a well planned crime?

A: I don’t believe in the perfect crime – I know this from years of experience. But it was certainly planned. They had to plan it. But weighing up the pros and cons, you have to say that for the resources they had in those days it was not all that well planned. If you think that they had to make two attempts before they managed to assassinate him.

Q: do thou think this case is of great historical importance?

A: Yes. Obviously Trotsky is a great political figure in Russian and world history. It is of great world importance.

   I travel around Latin America a lot, and I must say that wherever I go, in the universities, and especially among the youth, there is an extraordinary amount of interest in the figure of Trotsky. I don’t like talking about it, because for me it is all history – but for example in the School of Law in San Paolo, the young people insist that I talk to them about the case of Trotsky. But I can’t talk about Trotsky. I talk about Trotsky’s assassin.

Q: Have the Mexican or American Trotskyists ever asked you about the case?

A: No. In Mexico it is known that I am someone who’s involved in my own work and I’m not interested in politicians or politics. They now it too and they don’t seek political interviews.

Q: But have the Trotskyists never asked you questions on a purely professional level? About what happened, who Merader was?  

A: No. never.

Q: Did Mercader ever show that he repented the crime?

A: Never. Here we have his written answers to our questions about what he thought, the letter he had in his pocket when he committed the crime, saying it was a voluntary act to do justice etc. – he didn’t want to repent. He was denied parole in Mexico because he was dangerous.

Q: There are two theories about Mercader; the first is that he was psychologically sick and that it was the action of one man against Trotsky; the second is that he was part of a big international GPU operation and that it was highly political.

A: A fanatic manipulated by the GPU – and by his mother, who was an instrument of the GPU. He was not sick, he was not abnormal. He was a fanatic. He was motivated – ideologically in love with the USSR.

Q: We were told Merader often used to go to expensive restaurants with prison warders, that he had exceptionally good conditions …

A: I don’t believe he went out of the prison. Within the prison, yes, though it varied according to who was in charge. If it was someone honest who wouldn’t accept money, he was treated like anyone else. If they were corrupt – he got privileges.

Q: he had money?

A: Not when he was arrested. But during the six months that we were visiting him he was smoking the best cigars. US brands which are dear in Mexico, and his food was brought in from high class restaurants. But by the end of six months he didn’t finish his cigars, he kept them to smoke again. You could see he was running out of money, he was more careful with it.

Q: Who brought him the money?

A: His lawyer was a great friend and admirer of his

Q: Why did he admire him?

A: There’s nothing unusual about an archaeologist, say, falling in love with his work or the artist with his. From their own standpoint lawyers can do the same thing. There are all kinds of reasons for people to be enraptured by what’s ugly and evil. The French have a word for it, for people who fall in love with the crime and the criminal.

Q: What happened to Mercader after he got out of jail?

A: He was freed – he went to Cuba – and after Cuba I don’t know. I know nothing of his life. I’ve heard rumours; rumours that he worked for Radio Prague in Czechoslovakia; but that afterwards he went to Moscow.

Q: Is it true the Mercader often went to France of holiday?

A: Yes. He went to stay in Marseilles.

Q: is it true that the police had to give him protection? Isn’t Mercader afraid?

A: Mercader afraid? He went to Marseilles quite calmly


The assassin is unmasked



Trotsky’s Assassin Refused Parole

New Line January 6 1977, Page 7

   Early in 1955 Dr Alfonso Quiroz Cuaron, the noted Mexican criminologist, was asked to prepare a report on whether Trotsky’s assassin should be paroled or not.

   He had served 15 years of his twenty year sentence and he was now eligible for early release. Behind the scenes, the GPU network in Mexico City and the local Stalinists began an orchestrated campaign to secure his parole.

   Letters pleading for leniency began arriving on the president’s desk, favourable articles began appearing in the Mexican press and palms were greased in the prison service and the government.

   Dr. Quiroz reviewed the 1332 page report that he had written for the trial judge in 1940 after painstaking psychological tests. He concluded that Ramon Mercader was still a “socially dangerous person.”. On his advice it was decided to keep Mercader locked up.

   Dr. Quiroz has made available the summary of his report  Senorita Licenciada Maria Lavalle Urbina, head of the crime prevention department, Mexico Federal District Administration. It reads:

   “We will outline three classes of characteristics: a) physiological:  b) psychological: c) sociological.

a) His ease of movement, skilful hands, need for movement, (agitation), his aptitude for sport and his sexual inadequacy, making him a man whose conduct was little influenced by women.

b) Perceptive with minute attention to detail, a good memory, fantasies (mitomania), (taquipsquia), an emotional type with cerebrally-controlled reactions, impulsive and suggestible. Oedipus complex which has not been overcome, tendency to self-punishment, tendency to hide.

c) Correct bearing, clean, tidy and well dressed, his lordly attitude, sociableness, gift for humour, facility for learning languages, in appearance conservative and the negative side, his revolutionism (however wordy and picked up), and the essence of his social conduct, which is hypocrisy and deception.

   We concluded therefore that the subject of our study unites the most important characteristics of the kind of individual who can be sent on an assassination.”



February 28, 1955


1. The crime corresponds to an impulsive act.

2. The instrument used to commit the crime was an ice-pick, but in another sense the convict also used as weapons his ability to wield this instrument and his ability to cover up, deceive and pretend.

3. The damage done was the loss of the victim’s life from the wound the accused gave him by striking him on the head with the ice-pick.

4. Because of the careful preparation and pre-meditation of the crime the convict was not exposing himself to serious danger, not even in the moments immediately following the assassination, because the victim ordered that the life of the attacker should be spared. The convict suffered a beating around the head which only damaged the skin and surrounding hair, without affecting the skull, which suffered no serious consequences, because an examination revealed that the organs contained in the cephalic mass were undamaged and functioning normally.

5. The age given by the accused should not be believed because he is a mythomanic (inveterate liar): nonetheless we can say with certainty that he is in the stage of development known as adult.

6. Taking education to be the level of culture, that of the accused is very superficial and notoriously deficient. He has a basic but superficial knowledge of communism (without having the necessary background) and is self-taught and talks a lot about dialectical materialism.

7. Taking into account his level of education, the accused is an ignorant person (considering his age, his ability to learn and his experience), whose educational level is below that of secondary education.

8. His habits as observed during his stay in Mexico, both before and after the crime are bourgeois in character, he did not work, he was constantly travelling (by car and plane) and going on trips, he had expensive entertainments (sports like ski-ing and motoring.) He lived in dear apartments and went to clubs frequented by aristocrats and capitalists.

9. His behaviour before the crime was always suspect and abnormal, he had a false name, a false passport, he was isolated, he did not work but he spent money (he paid for expensive accommodation, expensive clubs, expensive entertainment, expensive transport – he bought two cars.)

10. The impulsive criminal act was apparently determined by hatred of Leon Trotsky. Its more remote origin was of a subconscious nature (a highly active Oedipus complex), in line with the most serious externalisation of an ongoing neurotic state, which must have started very early in infancy as the consequence of some trauma. Subsequently motives derived from the psycho-social crisis of the adult (he was a social failure), he became involved, through the circumstantial effect of his environment, putting him in the category of a destructive “revolutionary” with a generic vocation for murder and especially for assassination.

11. An unproductive, destructive individual who spends money he cannot justify as the product of some kind of honest human work.

12. At the moment the crime was committed he was probably in an emotional state, but was nonethe less fully conscious of his actions, since he is an emotional type with cerebrally controlled reactions.

13. He should be judged an ignorant person, a communist (with rudimentary knowledge), a social failure, sane from the medical-social point of view (even when he shows a neurotic state not corresponding to that of the neuropathically ill), with an aptitude for professional, surgical work: he has all the characteristics of someone who would be sent to do a murder, and probably has accomplices.

14. No relationship with the victim.

15. He pretended to be a friend of the victim and his followers.

16. He pretended to share the victim’s political ideas.

17. It should be noted the victim was an old man, a famous political figure, in good health, the head of a political group and in full possession of his intellectual faculties.

18. The convict acted in the period following an attack on Leon Trotsky in the victim’s house, on an occasion set up by him, with premeditated treachery and deception, cold-bloodedly putting himself at unquestionable advantage.



    Monard reacted furiously to the government’s decision against him. His lawyer Eduardo Ceniceros told us in Mexico in December 1976:

   “He had full right to parole because of his good conduct. He was always an exemplary prisoner. He worked hard, he gave lessons to the criminal prisoners – he gave himself over completely to the service of the community.

   He was always an exemplary prisoner. He fulfilled all his duties. He always collaborated with every prisoner and with the prison authorities.”

   There was even more bitter news for the assassin the following year. At the 20th Congress of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev dropped the political bombshell of the post-war decades when he confessed Stalin’s crimes in his “secret speech”.

   We were told that when Mercader read the newspapers he retreated to his cell and began weeping. He hated the new generation of bureaucrats who were daring to tarnish the reputation of his beloved Stalin.

   The resident Stalinist agent rushed to prison to assure him that all was not lost. The MVD was changing names to KGB, that was all. It was a cosmetic job. The old firm was still in charge.  When he returned to Moscow in 1960, Mercader was awarded a medal. Some reports say that it was The Order of Lenin, the prize given to his mother 20 years earlier.

   The fact that a clinically-diagnosed psychopath was awards a medal, while political dissidents were being rounded up and detained indefinitely in mental hospitals was convincing proof that Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy was right – with or without Stalin.