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Help Preserve the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico City
Source Alan Benjamin
Date 10/07/28/12:57

Please Help Preserve the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico City; Your Support is Needed Urgently!

July 24, 2010

Dear Friends:

I am writing this letter to ask for your support for the "International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum" in Mexico City.

I -- along with many others around the world -- was asked by the Museum's new director, Olivia Gall, and by Trotsky's grandson, Esteban Volkov, to help raise funds for the Trotsky Museum in Mexico City. I am attaching below for your information the Info Packet issued by the "International Friends" Committee so that you can see why funds are needed so urgently to maintain and renovate the home where Leon Trotsky; his wife, Natalia; and his grandson "Sieva" (Esteban Volkov) lived from May 1939 to August 21, 1940, when Trotsky was assassinated by an agent of Joseph Stalin.

As many of you may know, the Trotsky house on Calle Viena No. 19 in Coyoacán became a Museum and landmark building in 1975. In August 1990 the house adjacent to the Museum on Avenida Churubusco was annexed to the building, and in November 1996, the Museum was legally registered as a non-profit civil institution. Among the people gathered from around the world to celebrate the expansion of the Museum in 1990 was Jake Cooper, one of the many bodyguards sent down to Mexico by the Socialist Workers Party of the United States to protect the renowned Russian revolutionary leader.

The Museum is also dedicated to the right to asylum, particularly to then Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas' decision to grant asylum to Trotsky, at the behest of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, both supporters at that time of Trotsky and of his movement internationally. In fact, the full name of the Museum is the Institute on the Right of Asylum, House-Museum of Leon Trotsky.

The Museum is a magnificent repository of this rich moment in Mexican and world history.

For more information about the Trotsky Museum, please go to the following websites:



(Also, if you go to google, you will find hundreds of links to the Museum, with photographs, guided electronic tours in English, and more.)

For the past 20 years, the Museum has been funded by the fees charged to visitors (tens of thousands per year) and by a grant from the Cultural Department of the Mexico City Government.

Unfortunately, because of the deep economic crisis in Mexico and the unwillingness of the Mexican federal government to assist the Trotsky Museum -- in fact, the Fox and Calderón administrations have been reducing the budgets for public museums, universities, schools, and other public institutions and services at an alarming pace -- the continued existence of the Trotsky Museum is at risk. The Mexico City Government has promised funding for the next fiscal year, but not necessarily after that. The reason is a shrinking city budget.

Given this alarming situation -- and, moreover, given the rapidly deteriorating state of the Museum itself -- the new director of the Museum, Ms. Gall, has launched an international campaign to raise US$1 million to preserve the Museum, to renovate the building (which is needed desperately), and, just as important, to ensure the improvement and modernization of the services offered by the Museum itself.( All these are documented in the attachment below from the "International Friends" Committee.)

Thanks to Global Exchange, we have now obtained "fiscal sponsorship" for this project. This means that all checks from individuals, organizations and foundations in the United States will be tax-deductible, benefiting from Global Exchange's 501 (c) (3) status.

We have set out to raise $250,000 in the United States in the coming months. We would like to be able to announce significant progress in our fundraising project in the United States at the official launching of the "International Friends" Committee at the Trotsky Museum on August 21, 2010 -- the 70th anniversary of the assassination of this central leader of the revolutionary-socialist movement.

To reach this goal, we urgently need the support of everyone concerned about preserving the Leon Trotsky Museum and this important legacy. (When you read the Info Packet below, you will also find other ways that you and/or your organization can help the Leon Trotsky Museum.)

Please make your checks payable to Global Exchange and indicate "Trotsky Museum" on the bottom left Memo line of your checks. After your check has been received, Liza Gonzales of Global Exchange will send you a thank-you letter, accompanied by a letter to be submitted with your tax return acknowledging your tax-deductible contribution. You will also receive a letter from Olivia Gall and Esteban Volkov thanking you for your support.

Global Exchange has asked me to collect all the checks and to submit them directly to their office on a regular basis to avoid having the checks mixed in with the other Global Exchange fund-raising projects. After they receive your checks, Global Exchange will wire the money directly to the Trotsky Museum's bank account in Mexico City.

I therefore ask that you send your checks, payable to Global Exchange (write "Trotsky Museum" on Memo line), to International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum, P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140. [Please fill out the Donation Coupon below to let us know that your check is in the mail.]

For more information about this project, and/or if you would like to help raise funds for the Trotsky Museum, please call me me at 415-216-5346.

Many thanks, in advance, for your support to this extremely urgent and important campaign.

In solidarity,

Alan Benjamin
The Organizer Newspaper

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[ ] I will contribute $ _____ to the fund to preserve the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico City. My tax-exempt contribution will be made out to Global Exchange (with Trotsky Museum on Memo line of check) and sent to International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum, P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.







(please fill out this coupon and return to ]

* * * * * * * * * *


International Friends of the
Leon Trotsky Museum (IFLTM)

(Abridged from Declaration of Principles)


To raise funds and find support -- in cash, goods and human resources -- in order to help the IDA-CMLTAC (Instituto del Derecho de Asilo - Casa Museo Leon Trotsky, A.C. -- Institute on the Right of Asylum, House-Museum of Leon Trotsky) operate in the best possible conditions (see the history of the Museum in Attachment No. 1), and develop:

- the different aspects of its social objective (see Attachment No. 2),
- the renovation project (see Attachment No. 3)
- any other project approved by the IDA-MCLTAC Board of Directors, based in Mexico City, and that could benefit the museum.


To contribute to the survival, the enrichment and the flourishing of the IDA-MCLTAC which in this way, with the figure of Leon Trotsky as its central axis, will be able to work, on an international level, for the benefit of the historical memory of the socialist movement and of the Mexican Revolution, and for the defense of the right of asylum and of public freedoms.


IFLTM will seek resources provided by individuals, public or private institutions and/or foundations, seated anywhere in the world. It will accept any help approved by the IDA-MCLTAC Board of Directors and Director.

If the donors in Mexico wish to benefit from tax exemption, the Director of IDA-MCLTAC (a non-profit organization) will provide the necessary legal and fiscal documents, and any other help needed. [In other countries, different provisions for obtaining tax-exemption for the fund-raising efforts may apply.]


The IFLTM will seek to support the IDA-MCLTAC with human resources -- that is, with the help of people working on a professional level in any of the areas of the IDA-MCLTAC (research, education, networking, museology, documentation services, etc.). This work can be either voluntary or financed through a system of scholarships or through the payment of salaries by external institutions (or eventually, through the payment of salaries by the IDA-MCLTAC if the institution has the appropriate economic resources).

The decision about the temporary or permanent integration of one or several persons with these characteristics to the IDA-MCLTAC executive staff will be taken by the IDA-MCLTAC's Board of Directors and Director. The Director will be in charge of procuring lodging for these persons, and will oversee their well-being during the time of their contribution to our institution.

IFLTM will be officially launched
on August 21, 2010, at 5:00 P.M.
at the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico City


Appendix No. I

A Brief History of the Institute on the Right of Asylum - House-Museum of Leon Trotsky (IDA-MCLTAC)

Lev Davidovich Bronstein was born in Ukraine on November 7, 1879. He studied in the City of Odessa, and in 1896 began his long revolutionary journey. He escaped from prison in Siberia in 1902, adopting the nom de guerre Trotsky. In 1905, he returned to Russia and participated in the first Russian Revolution as President of the Soviet of Petrograd.

Despite his criticisms of some of Lenin's policies, in 1917 he joined Lenin and participated with him in the October Revolution, becoming one of its principal leaders. In January 1918 he was appointed Commissar of External Affairs, and headed the Russian delegation to Brest-Litovsk. On March 13, 1918, Trotsky was appointed General in Chief of the Red Army and led the army to its victory in the Civil War and against the aggression of the foreign powers that attacked the Revolution.

In April 1922. Stalin was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party. Lenin, wounded in 1918, was forced to retire temporarily from political activity. Stalin created a triumvirate (Troika) with Kamenev and Zinoviev. Trotsky severely criticized the Troika for attempting to bureaucratize the Party. In 1922 Lenin wrote his Last Testament, stating the need for Stalin's dismissal and stopping the bureaucratic trend.

Lenin died on January 21, 1924. The Communist Party Central Committee did not follow his recommendation to dismiss Stalin, and voted that Lenin's Last Testament would not be published. Trotsky was then singled out as the main enemy of the regime. In 1926 Trotsky headed an open oppositional current to Stalin. In November 1926 Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Politburo; in 1927 he was expelled from the Communist Party, and on January 12, 1928, he was deported to Alma-Ata, in the Russian province of Kazakhstan.

Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova -- exiled since 1929 -- in arrive México

Expelled from the Soviet Union in February 1929, Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, resided until December 1936 in three different countries: Turkey (1929-1934), France (1934-1935) and Norway (1935-1937). During his stay in the two latter countries, which had Social-Democratic governments, Trotsky was watched and subjected to constant and increased censorship due to the pressure applied by Stalin over the Norwegian government, and Trotsky was secluded to an almost total isolation.

During his exile, Trotsky dedicated himself to organizing the Russian and foreign followers of the International Left Opposition and to writing about the political situation in the USSR and the world.

In August 1936, Stalin -- whose goal was to eliminate all the remaining internal opposition to his regime -- ordered the opening of the first of the three "Moscow Trials," sending to the firing squad prominent personalities of the old Bolshevik Party leadership. All of them were accused of "serving foreign powers" and conspiracy against the USSR, and these "confessions" presented Trotsky as the organizer of the "terrorist conspiracy" and as an ally of the German Secret Police and the Japanese Empire.

Toward the end of 1936, the world became for Trotsky a "planet without a visa" (to quote André Breton). A group of people decided to seek asylum for him in Mexico. In December 1936 President Lázaro Cárdenas accepted. On January 9, 1937, Trotsky and Natalia arrived in the Mexican port of Tampico as political refugees. They were received by the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Trotskyist symphatizers since 1933. Trotsky and Natalia Sedova lived in the "Blue House" -- today the Frida Kahlo Museum- until May 5, 1939.

Life in the house at Calle Viena (May 1939-August 1940)

In April 1939, after political disagreements between Trotsky and Rivera, Jean Heijenoort --Trotsky's secretary since 1931-- rented the house at Calle Viena No.19. The house was remodeled and secured, building living quarters for security guards. Trotsky began to plant cactuses and to raise rabbits.

Thanks to funds provided by the Socialist Workers Party from the United States, Trotsky bought the house. He had limited economic resources, mainly resulting from the copyrights of his books.

Despite the tense atmosphere, the house was full of young people from several countries and very loyal Mexican workers. They were always happy and very animated, holding discussions about world and Mexican politics. On August 8, 1939, Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer brought with them from France Trotsky's grandson, Vsievolod "Sieva" Volkov, son of Zinaida Bronsteina (Trotsky's older daughter) and Platon Ivanovich Volkov. Sieva was then 13 years old, and already an orphan. By then, all of Trotsky's children -- Nina, Lev and Sergei -- were dead; all victims, directly or indirectly, of the Stalinist regime.

On the dawn of May 24, 1940, twenty men, almost all of them Communist Party militants and all heavily armed under the direction of the painter and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, himself a member of the Mexican Communist Party and member of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War -- tried to assassinate Trotsky. Strangely, they failed, and the police arrested some of them. After that, the house on Calle Viena was converted into a fortress.

Trotsky somehow knew that his days were counted. In order to accomplish its objective, the NKVD (Stalinist Secret Police) used another instrument: Catalonian Ramón Mercader, a.k.a. Jacques Mornard or Frank Jacson. Mercader carefully planned befriending Trotsky's household since 1938. On August 20, 1940, Mercader attacked Trotsky with an ice axe. Trotsky died on August 21, 1940.

Natalia's house (1940-1962); the Volkov's house (1962-1975) and the Museum

On November 22, 1940, in accordance with a presidential agreement, the Department of the Federal District of Mexico (the capital city) purchased the house in Coyoacán from Natalia Sedova, with the objective that she would have her economical well-being secured. The acquisition of the house had also the purpose of converting it into a museum. Natalia decided that the house would remain just as her companion left it, in order to keep his memory alive. She died in Corbeil, France, on January 23, 1962. Her cremated remains rest with Trotsky's in the home in Coyoacán.

Esteban Volkov, who graduated as a chemical engineer in 1953, married Palmira Fernández, a Spanish exile. They had four daughters: Verónica, Nora, Patricia and Natalia. The family occupied the building that served as living quarters for Trotky's secretary and guards. While the Volkovs inhabited the house, they received visits from several people interested in the house. The Volkovs lived in the house until 1972.

In 1975 the house became a museum. During the administration of José López Portillo (1976-1982), the museum was declared a National Historical Monument. In August 1990, with Manuel Camacho Solís now the mayor of Mexico City, the adjacent lot was annexed to the museum.

On November 15, 1996, the institution was legally registered as a non-profit civil institution, located in Mexico, covered and directed by the Mexican laws, and named "Instituto del Derecho de Asilo - Museo Casa de León Trotsky A.C. - IDA-MCLTAC": The Institute on the Right of Asylum - House-Museum of Leon Trotsky.


Appendix No. 2

The IDA-MCLTAC's Board of Directors and Social Objectives

The IDA-MCLTAC Board of Directors was established in 1996. It was presided by Lic. Javier Wimer (1996-2009) and now (since October 2009), it is made up by the following people:

* Esteban Volkov, President
* Patricia Volkov. (Director of Infectology at the National Cancer Institute), Secretary
* Marilina Barona (Municipalist and cultural promoter), Treasurer
* Víctor Flores Olea (political expert, former director of the FCPyS-UNAM, and editorialist of La Jornada).
* Olivia Gall (Historian and Sociologist, Senior Academic at CEIICH-UNAM)
* Adolfo Gilly (historian and Professor Emeritus at the Political Sciences Faculty UNAM)
* José Antonio González de León (Former Director of the Magazine Este País, México)
* Carlos Payán (Director Founder of the newspaper La Jornada and Director of the Center for the Study of the Socialist Workers Movement (CEMOS).
* Jorge Ruiz Dueñas (Former Director of the Editorial Fondo de Cultura Económica and of the General National Archive in Mexico)

Starting February 2010, Olivia Gall was appointed Director of the IDA-MCLTAC.

Olivia Gall is the author, among other works, of the book "Trotsky in Mexico" (Era editorial, México, 1991). She was Director of the Multi-discipline Investigations Program on Middle America and the (Mexican) South East, (PROIMMSE, in Spanish acronym) of the Mexican National Autonomous University (UNAM) (San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, 1998-2000) and Director of the Leadership Institute Simone de Beauvoir, A.C. (2000-2009).

The Social Objective of the Institution is:

1. To maintain, protect, preserve, restore, guard and improve in all pertinent and necessary ways, the Leon Trotsky House-Museum, who must offer its visitors the best possible museology services.

2. To maintain, protect, preserve, guard and increase, in all pertinent and necessary ways, the existing materials in the Rafael Galván Library and in the association's Documentary Center, which must offer its visitors the best possible information and research services.

3. To promote and develop research, analysis, education and effective communication regarding the topic of the right of asylum, and, when related to asylum, on those of migration and refuge.

4. To promote and develop the study, analysis, education and effective communication regarding "the defense of public rights and public freedom."

5. To manage the association's assets and resources, as well as those received through donations, contributions, transfers, bequests, wills, liens, trusts, funding, agreements or employment contracts, in cash or in kind, coming from individuals or corporations, domestic or foreign, public or private. These funds and resources will be used exclusively for the purposes of the Association.

6. To establish partnerships through agreements or other legal forms provided by existing legislation, with any cultural, artistic, social or academic national or international institution, both public and private, which may contribute to the better attainment of its goals.


Appendix No. 3

Renovation Project

The Directive Council of the Institution has developed a project consisting in gradually transforming the IDA-MCLTAC into an institution that takes the figure of Leon Trotsky as its central axis, but also approaches the different ideological and political currents of socialist thought, actions and debates, the right of asylum and the history of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico, in which Trotsky was admitted as a political refugee. The goal is to create an institution that will establish agreements with academics, museums and documentary, visual and bibliographical archives from all over the world, in order to offer the public:


* A well-preserved house-museum that will give its visitors an idea of the real environment in which Trotsky, his friends, guards, secretaries and guests lived between May 1939 and August 1940: a tense and anguished environment, not always but sometimes joyful, not very prosperous, but of hard work and comradeship.

* Permanent as well as temporary exhibits built on visual, audiovisual, documentary and interactive materials.


* Consultation of printed, graphic, audiovisual and interactive materials, in situ or via the web,

* The development of educational and cultural programs, which will consist in conferences, symposia, book presentations, courses and workshops.

* A small bookstore in which our visitors will find books -in three languages, if possible- related to the institution's subjects.


In it, old and new short films, movies and documentaries, organized according to different subjects of historical, political, intellectual and cultural interest will be shown and discussed.


A space that will try to constitute an original, simple, elegant and international cultural option that will harbor:

* Diverse cultural expressions of our contemporary world: sculptors, painters, mimes, actors, storytellers, dancers, poets, musicians, etc.

* The house's garden, such as it was kept by Natalia Sedova and by Sieva Volkov's family between 1939 and the early 1970s.

* A cafeteria that will serve very good coffee, tea, pastries and appetizers, and that will offer in Coyoacán a touch of originality given by four combined elements: (a) a simple international menu made by a few Baltic, Jewish, Balkan, Turkish, French, Norwegian and Mexican dishes, typical of the countries where Trotsky lived or was exiled, (b) the access to reading, in situ, some international newspapers and magazines, (c) a decoration that will portray the style of Mexican restaurants in the thirties, and (d) some music or poetry evenings.

* A shop, selling posters, little boxes, mugs, pens, calendars book markers, agendas, etc., so that our visitors may take home some of the museum's souvenirs.

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