For years the name Trotsky has been associated with an alternative to the crude and violent communism that grew out of Stalin’s dictatorship and the hope for a purer socialism that had seemed to evaporate in the Bolshevik power struggles of the 1920s. Trotsky was in fact a revolutionary nom de plume, which the young Marxist militant Lev Davidovich Bronstein borrowed from one of his jailors in pre-revolutionary Russia. His challenge to Stalin’s encroaching dictatorship not only failed to stem the Stalinisation of the revolutionary state that Trotsky had helped to build, but sealed his personal fate too. On 21 August 1940 Trotsky died in a Mexican hospital from injuries to his head sustained the previous day in an attack by a Soviet agent.
The story of Trotsky’s last years in Mexico, where he arrived in January 1937, is the subject of this haunting and dramatic reconstruction of life and death in exile. The detail is fascinating, almost voyeuristic, culled from the personal records of a group of enthusiastic Trotskyists and from