MOSCOW — In a startling new play, Leon Trotsky accuses dictator Josef Stalin of having him assassinated in Mexico in 1940--the first time the accusation has received such wide publicity in the Soviet Union.
The recently published play, "Further, Further, Further," by Mikhail Shatrov is one of the most extreme examples to date of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of filling in the "blank spots" never before dealt with in official Soviet histories.
Virtually every figure in early Soviet history is mentioned in the play--from the losing generals of the White Armies in the 1918-20 civil war against the Red Army to Communist opponents of the state's founder, V.I. Lenin.
But the chief dramatic moment in the play, published in the January issue of Znamya magazine, comes when Trotsky, the founder of the Red Army who was born Lev D. Bronstein and took the name of an official of a prison where he was once held, tells the audience how he died at the hands of an assassin in Mexico in 1940.
Turning to Stalin in the play, Trotsky says: "You killed me with nothing even resembling a court trial."
Stalin responds: "We are not going to tie our hands with formal considerations and bourgeois moral categories when we are talking about an unprincipled band of spies who long ago stopped representing a political trend in the working class."
Stalin, who died in 1953, then tells the audience that unlike the other characters in the play, he really does not have to introduce himself because "the landmarks of my path will not be forgotten."
"The chief of these is (that) I won the (second world) war--the most terrible war mankind has known, and I preserved the legacy of Lenin and built socialism. I ask you to consider this."
A Western diplomat cautioned, "The mention of Trotsky as the hunted does not indicate any rehabilitation of him (but) only a willingness to de-demonize him . . . a willingness to talk about him."
Stalin deported Trotsky in 1929 after ousting him in a power struggle over who would lead the Soviet Union after Lenin's death. The two men clashed over Communist strategy, with Trotsky pressing for worldwide revolution. Stalin insisted that communism must first be firmly rooted in the Soviet Union.
After his expulsion, Trotsky found refuge in Turkey, France and Norway before settling in Mexico.
In August, 1940, Ramon Mercader, a Spanish-born Communist who had gained access to the Trotsky household months before, drove an alpenstock--an iron-pointed mountain-climbing staff--into Trotsky's brain.
Sentenced in 1943 to 20 years in prison, Mercader would not talk at his trial, and the charge that he was a Stalinist agent was never proved. He was released in 1960 and died in Cuba in 1978 at the age of 65.