Lev Davidovich Bronstein —better known to the world as Leon Trotsky— died on August 21, 1940, in Coyoacan, Mexico. One could think that the name of this Russian revolutionary would have come to my ears in my contemporary history classes in my first year of high school here in Cuba.
Nevertheless, the name Trotsky was not written in the history book that I carried around when I was 14 and 15. From the classes of that period I can only remember the figure of Lenin, who was glorified by my teacher.
Like the more than 30 other students in my class, I knew of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as the primary and practically sole leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The only other memory that I retained of those classes was the day we learned about the causes for the collapse of the USSR; for some reason, many of the students in the room looked at each other as if we had been double-crossed.
The history lessons concluded, as did my high school studies, without me ever learning that there had been a Leon Trotsky. Only a few days before I began my program at the university —and by pure chance— I heard a song by a Cuban folk singer about how Trotsky had been one of the main figures in the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The name of that revolutionary stuck in my mind, but any information about him was scarce in every place one could go to look him up. It wasn’t until my third year at the university that the fact that I found myself among a very particular group of people allowed me to discover the full story of a part of history that no one had thought it necessary to reveal to me.
Finally the name of Trotsky stopped being just a name and for me turned into a person who had carried out actions of critical importance for the Russian Revolution. He had been the principle representative of the St. Petersburg’s soviets (workers’ councils) as well as in the organization of the Red Army.
Perhaps the fact that I had never before known about Trotsky made me become an assiduous reader of most of his works, among which I have to highlight Permanent Revolution (1930) and The Revolution Betrayed (1936).
August 20th will mark 70 years since the fateful attack carried out by a Stalinist clique against a man who exhibited in his deeds and writings a love for the world proletariat. He was confident that a social structure different from capitalism could free life of all wrongs.
Yet despite everything, this Trotsky still doesn’t appear in Cuban history books. There’s no mention of the founder of the Fourth International, an organization committed to the struggle against bureaucracy, against those who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of other people’s labor, against those lacking scruples in accentuating the differences between classes in a society that aimed to construct socialism, and against those who did not allow the workers to either participate or decide.
So isn’t it important to reclaim him in the history taught on the island, a person truly committed until the final few days of their life to the non-degeneration of societies that are called socialist.