Artist Turned Assassin: When a Marxist Mexican Muralist Attempted Political Murder

David Alfaro Siqueiros “The Echo of a Scream”

Perhaps the Screams of his Victims? 

 

“Our primary aesthetic aim is to propagate works of art which will help destroy all traces of bourgeois individualism.”

-David Alfaro Siqueiros

 

How much is forgiven to perpetrators of villainy, when they parrot the politically favored ideology. A case in point is the renowned artist David Alfaro Siqueiros  (1896-1974). This painter has works in prestigious museums around the world. Public art he created remains in prominent locations to this day. His experimental artistic techniques were said to have inspired the drip paintings of his one-time student, Jackson Pollock. Art history proclaims Siqueiros one of heroes of Mexican Muralism, a Modern art movement that claimed to be an art for the people.

Unless you were one of the people that didn’t agree with Siqueiros’s radical Stalinist viewpoint. In that case, Sisqueiros might have literally attempted to murder you and your family in your sleep. That’s precisely what he tried to do to the exiled Leon Trotsky on May 24, 1940.

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik leader, the heir apparent to take over the Soviet Union when the original cult leader Vladimir Lenin died in 1924. Instead, he lost out to the thuggish Joseph Stalin. By 1929 Trotsky was exiled and on the run, fleeing Stalin’s vengeful inclinations to tie up loose ends permanently by means of murder.  For years Trotsky wandered around Europe, Soviet pressures and intrigues denying him any safe location. In 1936 he was sentenced to death in absentia during a Moscow show trial. Russia’s secret police, the NKVD, now had a mandate: kill the traitor.

Trotsky received an unexpected lifeline in 1937, when the Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera pulled strings and got the Mexican government to offer asylum in Mexico City. When Trotsky arrived Rivera was too ill to meet him, but Diego’s wife, the fascinating Frida Kahlo, turned up to welcome him.

Safe at Last? Frida Kahlo Greets the Trotskys

 

For a time the Trotskys lived at Frida’s home, La Casa Azul.  She and Trotsky soon became lovers. She even dedicated a painting to him. In the work she holds a slip of paper which reads,  “To Trotsky with great affection, I dedicate this painting November 7, 1937. Frida Kahlo, in San Angel, Mexico.”

 

Frida Kahlo, “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky”

 

Diego Rivera didn’t seem to mind. He had plenty of affairs of his own, and he was secure in his stature in the art world as one of the Big Three of Mexican Muralism, along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

A Prisoner of  his Politics:  David Alfaro Siqueiros

Unfortunately, Siqueiros wasn’t just another artist. He was a ruthless partisan working with Stalin’s secret police on a final solution to the Trotsky problem. In May 1940 the painter personally led an attempted hit on Trotsky and his family.

David Alfaro Siqueiros, The Sob 

The story is told on Marxists.org:

MEXICO – At approximately four o’clock in the morning of May 24, some twenty-five men under the direction of Stalin’s GPU penetrated the high walls surrounding Leon Trotsky’s house in Coyoacan, and riddled with machine gun slugs the bedroom where Trotsky and his wife, Natalia, slept. Robert Sheldon Harte, the secretary-guard on duty and member of the Socialist Workers Party, was kidnapped and murdered, his body thrown into a shallow pit filled with lime…

Trotsky had been working very arduously the day prior to the assault, and as is his custom on such occasions had taken a sleeping powder. He awoke hazily, thinking he heard the explosions of firecrackers with which Coyoacan commemorates the special days on the calendar. But the explosions were too frequent and they were not far away, as it had at first seemed, but almost within the room. With the acrid smell of powder, Trotsky realized that this was the attempt which he had been expecting for twelve years. Stalin at last had commanded his GPU to correct what he once termed his “major error” – exiling the leader of the 1923 Opposition.

Natalia Trotsky was already out of her bed. She and her husband huddled together in a corner of their bedroom. Natalia made an attempt to shield Trotsky with her body; he insisted they lie flat on the floor without moving. Bullets tipped through two doors of their bedroom, thudding in the wall just overhead. Where were the police who had been stationed outside the walls? Where the guards inside? Surely bound hand and foot, or kidnapped, or already dead.

The door to the room where Trotsky’s grandson Seva slept, burst open and a few moments later an incendiary bomb flared up around a small cabinet standing there. In the glare, Natalia saw the dark silhouette of one of the assailants. They had not seen him enter before the bomb flamed, but a number of empty cartridges within the room and five or six shots directly through each of the empty beds proved that this assassin had been assigned to make the final check, to still any movement that might still exist after the cross-fire from the French window opening on the patio and the door to Trotsky’s study. In the darkness of the room, and hearing no sound whatsoever now that the machine guns were silent, the assassin undoubtedly mistook the form of the bed clothes for the lifeless forms of Natalia and Leon Trotsky. He emptied his gun on those forms and fled.

The old revolutionists then heard what was to them the most tragic sound of the night, the cry of their grandson from the neighboring room, “Grandfather!”

Natalia found her way into his room. It was empty. “They’ve kidnapped him!” she cried. This was the most painful moment of all.

Seva, however, had awakened when the assailants machine-gunned the door opening from his room onto the patio, the bullets striking the wall barely above him. He immediately threw himself out of bed and rolled underneath on the floor. The assassins smashed through the door and as they passed his bed, one of them fired into it, the bullet striking Seva in the big toe. When they had gone, Seva called out, and then ran from his room, crying, certain that his grandfather and grandmother were dead. He left splotches of blood behind him on the pathway in the patio and in the library…

David Alfaro Siqueiros was eulogized in Futuro, Lombardo Toledano’s monthly magazine, as “an artist of great prestige and of universally recognized qualities. Throughout America, from New York to Buenos Aires his work as a painter is appreciated. He is a man who honors Mexico. In any country in the world a person of this class is an object of consideration no matter what might be his political affiliation. In Mexico it is not like this. Lately he has been the object of arbitrary abuses by the city police.”

It was this painter whose qualities were not given due consideration by the city police who, donning dark glasses, a false mustache, and a uniform of the city police, headed the gang which made the actual assault….

So Siqueiros failed in his efforts to kill an old man and woman. His network only managed to murder a guard and wound a little boy. But Trotsky didn’t have long left. On August 20,1940, another Stalinist assassin stuck an ice axe through his skull; Trotsky died the next day.

So what were the consequences for Siqueiros’s cruel act of terrorism? Not much. He managed to escape imprisonment:

 

The police department of Mexico City on June 18 announced that it had solved the case. Twenty-seven members of the Communist Party were under arrest. Among them, a number had made complete confession as to their participation. David Alfaro Siqueiros, the man who was an “honor to Mexico” according to Lombardo Toledano’s Futuro, was named as the actual leader of the assault. Above him were individuals from whom he took orders whose names were unknown to the staff members of the GPU caught in the police net. Haikys, formerly in the Soviet legation in Mexico and Soviet ambassador to Spain following the purge of Rosenberg in the civil war, was suspected to be one of these higher-ups. Carlos Contreras, GPU assassin in Spain, appears in the same category. Siqueiros, the Arenal brothers, Antonio Pujol, all members of the Communist Party, had fled Mexico.

The Stalinist press announced the arrests without mentioning the political affiliation of the prisoners, except indirectly in the case of Siqueiros, formerly the “honor of Mexico” but now “mad,” “undisciplined” and a “pedant.” The false mustache and dark glasses were undoubtedly the “pedantic” touch to his use of machine guns and bombs. It is not clear why they called him “undisciplined.”

 

Siqueiros lived a long life after he attempted to end Trotsky’s. He had highs and lows ranging from prison to star turns at Biennnals and vast public art projects, including the one of the biggest murals in the world, Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros, part of the Mexican World Trade Center. There didn’t seem to be any repercussions  for his murderous impulses. He was redeemed by the same elitist denial that ignores the estimated 100,000,000 human beings slaughtered by world communism. It falls right in line with predictions by Barack Obama’s mentor, Bill Ayres, that 25,000,000 Americans would have to be killed to advance socialism’s utopia schemes.

In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I describe the contemporary cognitive dissonance that occurs when creativity succumbs to ideology:

 

…Postmodernists don’t see the predictable Marxist pattern that today’s obedient flock will be tomorrow’s barbeque.

The spiritual life of Postmodernism has been misdirected from transcendental and enduring values to ponderous politics. Nothing is sacred. There is no sense of continuity; only the needs of the moment matter. Where there should be a human spirit engaged with the eternal choice between good and evil, Postmodernists substitute slavish devotion to those who reduce morality to dominance.

Frida Kahlo provided a horrifying coda to this disgraceful episode. Later in life, her artistic skills degenerating along with her health, she created a painting paying fawning homage to Stalin, the ruthless dictator who had ordered the brutal execution of her once cherished friend.

Echoing the depressing final line of George Orwell’s 1984, Frida loved Big Brother. She shares that trait with too much of our current artistic establishment.

 

Sellout: Frida and Stalin XOXOX

 

Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the state of the arts. 

 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Artist Turned Assassin: When a Marxist Mexican Muralist Attempted Political Murder

  1. In the Russian show trials of the 30’s old Bolsheviks were seen thanking the prosecution for their sentences of death.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s