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Trotsky in Tijuana by Dan La Botz

Trotsky in Tijuana

by Dan La Botz

472 pages
What if Trotsky had not died in August 1940? Would he succeed in building his revolutionary Fourth International? Would he ally with his old friend Serge? Would he have another affair like his affair with Frida? Would his wife Natalia stand by him? Might he try Freudian analysis? Would Stalin still kill him? Would a Trotskyist try to kill Stalin?

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About the Book
In this counter-historical novel, Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary, survived the assassination attempt of August 1940. To prevent another such attempt, his protector, Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas, had him moved to the small, isolated border town of Tijuana. There Trotsky, continues to write political analyses and books and attempts to lead his worldwide revolutionary organization, the Fourth International, though he is frustrated by his isolation from the center of developments in Europe.

Watching over Trotsky, among others, are his bodyguard Ralph Bucek, a young leftist and baseball fan from Chicago, and the French-educated Mexican Army officer Colonel de la Fuente. Through them Trotsky learns about his new home, Tijuana, a surprisingly cosmopolitan town.

Living with his wife Natalia and his grandson Sieva, served by secretaries and protected by bodyguards, Trotsky’s domestic circle is small and his life narrow. He is growing old and losing his sight. Then along come the Broadway theatrical agent Morrie Gold and his friend the stand-up comedienne Rachel Silberstein. Trotsky’s wife, Natalia, worried about his psychological well-being insists that he see the famous Freudian (and one-time Reichian) psychoanalyst Dr. David Bergman.

While we observe Trotsky in exile, we also see Stalin in power, in his “Little Corner” in the Kremlin, in his dachas, with members of the Central Committee and with his daughter Svetlana. We see him planning the failed assassination of Trotsky in August 1940. In his reveries, we learn of his difficult life as a young man, his great love, his first child, his experiences in prison. We see Stalin carrying out the purges, executing the industrialization of Russia, dealing with Adolf Hitler, heading the Soviet Union in war. We watch as Stalin’s anti-Semitism drives the prosecution of Rudolf Slánsky for the supposed Tito-Trotsky plot in Czechoslovakia of as he goes after the Jewish doctors in the Soviet Union.

As time goes on Trotsky is surprised that that his predictions for the post-war period don't seem to be working out. One day, Étienne, the Eastern European who worked for Trotsky’s International in Paris and who some believe may have murdered Trotsky’s son, appears in Tijuana, offering to serve as his Russian secretary. And Trotsky’s erstwhile ally Victor Serge visits and asks Trotsky to join him in an attempt to build a new socialist movement in post-war Europe. Meanwhile, Trotsky’s brilliant former secretary, the mathematician Jan van Heijenoort, has sworn to murder Stalin, but the odds are not good. With the coming of the Cold War, Senator Joseph McCarthy calls on Trotsky to testify before his committee. Was it a coincidence that Stalin and Trotsky died on the same day on the same day, March 5, 1953?

Through all of this we see just what sort of a man Trotsky was.

 

Reviews
Trotsky’s final exile in Mexico was one of solitude, the world of his concerns an ocean away. He wrote in profusion, analyzing and responding to events of gigantic magnitude, but his milieu, the revolutionary generation of Bolsheviks, were wiped out by Stalin. And then Trotsky was assassinated.

Imagine now that Stalin’s assassin missed his mark, and Trotsky was whisked off to Tijuana, the southern border of San Diego, but still in Mexico, to live out his days, alive but even more remote. That is the premise of Dan La Botz’s riveting historical novel, a ‘what if’ immersed in Left Oppositionist thought and praxis that convincingly creates an alternative reality. La Botz masterfully weaves the history, politics and people into a gripping tale with twists and turns that are no less amazing than the history itself. You won’t be able to put it down, and you’ll argue with it long after.
- Suzi Weissman, author of Victor Serge: A Political Biography
I anticipated that this book would be a fun read and it was. The versatile Dan La Botz imparts an enormous quantity of political history while inventing some fictional but intriguing characters and situations, all combined in a smooth-flowing and accessible fashion.
- Alan Wald, author of The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War.

 

 

About the Author
Dan La Botz is a retired professor and writer who lives in Brooklyn. Born in Chicago, he grew up in Imperial Beach, California, on the Pacific Ocean and the border of Tijuana, Mexico. A Fulbright Fellow, he is the author of a dozen books of biography, history, and politics.

 

 

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