An Afternoon with Leon Trotsky’s Grandson

Adam Richmond

 

Esteban VolkovSuzi WeissmanLindy Laub On Sunday, February 13, 2011 over 175 people attended a San Francisco Bay Area fundraising event for the Leon Trotsky Museum,located in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City, and was sponsored by Bay Area Supporters of International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum.This fundraiser was the first public speaking event by Esteban Volkov, Trotsky’s grandson, in the area for quite some time, and was a rare opportunity to learn about the legacy of the Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky. The event raised in excess of $10,000 and that amount was reportedly matched by an anonymous donor who was unable to attend. The Museum is in need of building maintenance and faces a reduction in its funding by the Mexico City government.

Esteban Volkov was born in Moscow in 1926. As a 14-year-old, he was present at the first assassination attempt on Trotsky, led by Mexico muralist José David Alfaro Siqueiros at the behest of Joseph Stalin. Several months later, on August 20, 1940, Stalin’s agent, Ramon Mercader, succeeded in killing Trotsky. Esteban returned from school to find his grandfather dying and his family and comrades shaken immediately after the brutal murder.

Volkov detailed the history and problems of the Trotsky residence since 1940. He remained at the house, living there with his grandmother, Natalia Trotsky, for several decades. He discussed the struggle of the Trotsky family to retain control of the home, as a both a residence and as a Museum. Today the Museum requires substantial structural and landscaping improvement as well as digitizing the holdings of its library. The home is also the gravesite of Leon and Natalia Trotsky. Natalia died in 1961.

David Weiss Footage

The other highlight of the afternoon was a presentation by socialist historian Suzi Weissman and filmmaker Lindy Laub of a short preview of the immense amount of footage retrieved and shot by David Weiss.  Weiss, now deceased, had intended to develop a comprehensive documentary on Trotsky. Weisman and Laub have taken on the daunting task of completing this work, and expect to finish within a year.  The documentary opens with the tragic and gruesome events of August 20, 1940 and then revisits Trotsky’s role in the Russian Revolution and his political struggle as an untamed, revolutionary Marxist who opposed the rise of Stalin and the accompanying bureaucratic conservatism and strangling of the world’s first socialist republic.

The afternoon was also an opportunity to acknowledge several of theoriginal members of the Socialist Workers Party founded in 1938, Estar and Irwin Baur and Ruth Harer. Unfortunately Harer was unable to attend.

As a fundraiser, the focus of the evening was not the vibrant political thought of Trotsky, but the facts of his life, more as a historic personage.  While the biography of Trotsky should be presented to the young generation of activists, his political legacy must be studied to grasp its revolutionary significance for today. It is through the political legacy of Trotsky that his final home and museum will inspire a new generation to apply revolutionary politics and go on to change the world.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Adam Richmond is a graphic artist and web master for Workers Action. He can be reached at sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org.

 



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Adam Richmond is a writer and graphic designer for Workers Action, and a Teamster. He is a long time political activist and lives in San Francisco. He may be reached at sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org.