Netflix and the Russian Government Join Forces to Spread Lies About Trotsky

Leon Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov and Mexico and Argentina CEIP-LT Centro de Estudios, Investigación y Publicaciones Leon Trotsky began a petition repudiating the slanderous mini-series "Trotsky". The show was first produced in Russia and aired on Channel One in 2017, then in 2018 it was purchased and aired on Netflix.

Distinguished Academics, Writers, Journalists, Artists and Political Activists from around the world have joined in repudiating this defamatory show, including authors Slavoj Žižek, Robert Brenner, Fredric Jameson, Michael Löwy and Susan Weissman. The Socialist Feminist authors of the book: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto have also signed: Cinzia Arruza, Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser. Other prominent Politicians have signed on as well, including a member of Argentine National Congress and former Presidential candidate, Nicolas del Caño of the PTS, as well as the Brazilian PSOL’s mayoral candidate: Marcelo Freixo.

If you would like to add your name to the signatories of this letter or you need information about the Statement, email [email protected]

US entertainment company Netflix recently broadcast the mini-series Trotsky, directed by Alexander Kott and Konstantin Statsky. The show, which first premiered on the popular state-controlled Channel One of the Russian Federation in November 2017 claims to be a portrait of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but is really little more than a political attack disguised as historical drama. While the historical inaccuracy of the series is obvious to even the most amateur historian, its very existence raises an important question. Why is it, a hundred years after the Russian Revolution, that Vladimir Putin’s state-run broadcaster has chosen Leon Trotsky as the subject for this big-budget TV production?

Knowing Putin’s own Stalinist past as a director of the KGB and his undisguised nostalgia for Tsarist Great Russia, one could hardly expect Russian state TV to commission a series that honestly and objectively portrays the life and work of the man who was, along with Lenin, the most important leader of the October Revolution. What is Putin’s aim in giving in this show a new lease of life to the falsehoods surrounding Trotsky? Why heap further abuse on past revolutionaries when Russia has already restored capitalism and nothing seems to seriously challenge the new Russian bourgeoisie or Putin, who has run the country for the last 18 years? And why would Netflix, a media outlet reaching millions of people in the world, choose to stream a series like this?

Here are some of the main historical falsifications presented in the show:

1. While the series is not strictly a documentary, its creators allege that it is based on fact. Nevertheless, the show perpetuates the very same lies employed by imperialists, Tsarists and Stalinists in the 20th century in order to undermine Trotsky and his followers as the bureaucratization of the USSR progressed. These falsehoods were refuted back in 1937 by the Dewey Commission, a special investigation conducted in Mexico which absolved Trotsky of the charges leveled against him during the Moscow Trials.

2. Against all historical evidence and in contradiction with the views of his contemporaries, Trotsky’s personality is shown as egocentric, messianic, authoritarian and competitive, which the show implicitly links to his Jewish roots. In his old age, he suffers from hallucinations, tormented by remorse over his “crimes” during the revolution.

3. Frank Jackson (the pseudonym of Stalinist agent Ramón Mercader) is represented in the show as an honest, critical and sensitive Stalinist journalist who establishes a relationship with Trotsky in order to write his biography. In fact, Trotsky was unaware of Mercader’s Stalinist affiliation and their relationship was restricted to brief encounters; these meetings were always initiated by Mercader, who, as a member of the NKVD, was assigned the task of assassinating Trotsky. He would go on to murder Trotsky in August 1940.

4. The show painfully misrepresents the Russian revolutions. The workers, peasants, soldiers and the Russian people are shown as being completely coerced by ambitious leaders like Lenin and Trotsky who make all of their decisions for them. The Soviets of 1905 are disparaged as mere platforms for these individuals’ speeches. There is no representation of class struggle, reducing all conflict to petty confrontations between individuals and quests for revenge. In reality, the revolution of 1917 was one of the largest and most radical mass movements in history, not only against Tsarism but also against the provisional bourgeois government and Kornilov’s counter-revolution. It established Soviet power with the active participation of the exploited and oppressed, led by the Bolshevik Party. The series, on the other hand, portrays the revolution as a petty struggle for power and the revolutionaries as manipulative psychopaths.

5. It denigrates Trotsky’s relationships with women. Trotsky’s first wife Aleksandra Sokolovskaia, a great Bolshevik in her own right, is portrayed as a housewife whom Trotsky abandons along with his two daughters. In truth, Aleksandra was the leader of the first Marxist circle that Trotsky joined, when he was 16 years old. The two were deported to Siberia with their daughters and Aleksandra helped Trotsky to flee while she stayed in Russia. The series goes on to show Natalia Sedova, his second wife, captivating Trotsky with her beauty and subsequently settling into the role of personal secretary and dedicated housewife. But Natalia also belonged to the Soviet Commissariat of Education after the revolution and oversaw the protection of museums and ancient monuments during the fighting.

Even more problematic, however, is the show’s depiction of Trotsky’s relationship with his children. The series makes Trotsky out to be a neglectful and distant parent consumed with his own political ambitions, going so far as to show him using his own sons as human shields during an alleged assassination attempt during the revolution. The series repeatedly refers back to Trotsky’s guilt over the deaths of his sons, which haunts him until his death; unsurprisingly, it makes no mention of the part Stalinists played in the murder of these children. In reality, all four children supported their parents’ political activity, especially Leon Sedov, Trotsky’s closest collaborator and promoter, and the main organizer of the clandestine Russian Left Opposition. What’s more, the great Larissa Reissner is reduced to a femme fatale, the (mainly sexual) companion of Trotsky on the armored train. In reality, Reissner wrote about the civil war and had an important place in the Fifth Army and the revolution. She embarked on the Volga flotilla, took part in the fighting and participated in the German revolution – she was one of the most prominent Bolshevik female cadres until her death in 1926.

6. Trotsky’s relationship with Lenin before and during the revolution is presented as a relationship of occasional convenience and a bitter struggle of egos, to the extent that Lenin at one point considers throwing Trotsky off a balcony! The series fails to show that Lenin played the leading role in the October Revolution. It also omits the fact that from September 1917 Lenin was arguing in the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party for an immediate insurrection which he and Trotsky agreed would be the beginning of the dictatorship of the proletariat. After the seizure of power, while waiting for the Congress of Soviets to start, the two rested together on blankets on the floor and made preparations for the Congress. Furthermore, Stalin is presented merely as Lenin’s secretary, but Lenin’s true assessment of Stalin can be seen in his Testament and also in his criticism of Stalin’s “Great Russian chauvinism” over the Georgian question.

7. During the Brest-Litovsk negotiations with the German empire, Trotsky orders the distribution of subversive pamphlets to provoke a rebellion against the Kaiser, which subsequently fails and later justifies the German offensive. The great opponents of the signing of the treaty are the former Tsarist generals, and not the Social Revolutionary Party, as was actually the case. Jackson, in turn, blames Trotsky for not having defended Russia with the Cossacks. The series omits the fact that the Soviet Congress approved the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty which ended Russia’s participation in World War I (one of the most important demands of the Russian masses) and that, in the absence of a response from the Allies, Russia had finally begun negotiations with Germany, where the imperialist war efforts were being supported by the German Social Democratic Party. Both Lenin and Trotsky saw the Brest negotiations as a platform to advance the world revolution, especially the German revolution.

8. When Trotsky is tasked with the formation of the Red Army, the show portrays him leading the armored train like a combination of a rock star, sex symbol and murderer, who even approves the massacre of villagers at a funeral. It shows Trotsky responding to a mutiny in Kronstadt in 1918 (which actually took place in 1921) by forging charges and coercing witnesses with the sole purpose of condemning the mutiny’s leader to death. The show only names the Czech offensive and not the 14 imperialist armies and the Tsarist Whites that the Red Army had to face throughout the immensity of the Soviet territory. It also fails to mention the years of the imperialist economic blockade. With regard to the actual Kronstadt mutiny in 1921, it must be taken into account that the composition of its garrison was totally different from what it was in 1917 when it had been the vanguard of the revolution. The counter-revolutionary character of the mutiny was confirmed by the appearance of news, both in the international press and that of the Russian exiles, two weeks before the events took place. Trotsky also highlighted how the stock markets rose as the news of the Kronstadt mutiny spread.

9. The founding of the Third International is never mentioned in the TV series, but Trotsky declares his ambition to conquer the world! The history of the revolution ends with Lenin’s death; that is, it omits the Left Opposition founded by Trotsky; it erases the counter-revolutionary era of Stalin and the Moscow Trials, as well as the detentions, tortures, confinement in concentration camps, and executions suffered by almost all the Bolshevik leaders of the revolution and anyone suspected of opposing the power of the bureaucratic regime. Turning history on its head, the show attributes all these crimes to Trotsky, including the murder of the Romanovs.

10. Only in the last episode does Jackson’s real name appear, when someone from the NKVD demands that he fulfill his task to assassinate Trotsky. A sick Trotsky asks Jackson to come into his house. Meanwhile, a telegram arrives from the Canadian embassy warning Trotsky that Jackson is actually Mercader. Trotsky then strikes Mercader, who responds by hitting Trotsky on the head with an icepick that was hanging on the wall in Trotsky’s room; the series suggests that Trotsky provoked Mercader and that Mercader killed him in self-defense, concealing the fact that Stalin wanted to kill Trotsky because he knew that the conditions of World War II could trigger the political revolution that Trotsky envisioned for the USSR. Because of this and with the perspective of achieving a socialist revolution in the imperialist countries, Trotsky and his followers founded the Fourth International. In an interview between Hitler and the French ambassador Robert Coulondre in August 1939, the latter says “Stalin has abused the dual game” and that in the event of war “the real winner will be Trotsky”. The imperialist bourgeoisie gave the specter of revolution a proper name: Trotsky.

All in all, the series is a justification for the assassination of this “monster” called Trotsky.

We, the undersigned, repudiate this falsification which seeks to bury the most important event in the struggle for the emancipation of the laboring classes from capitalist exploitation and oppression, along with the heritage of its main leaders.

Esteban Volkov (Trotsky’s grandson) and CEIP (Centre of Studies, Research, and Publications) “Leon Trotsky” (Argentina, Mexico)


Suzi Weissman, Professor of Politics, Saint Mary’s College of California, Jacobin Radio, co-producer of the forthcoming documentary "Trotsky: The Most Dangerous Man in the World". (USA)

Robert Brenner, Historian, UCLA, Director of Center for Social History and Comparative History. (USA)

Mike Davis, Writer. (USA)

Mike Goldfield, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Relations and Human Resources in the Department of Political Science, Wayne State University, Detroit. (USA)

Fredric Jameson, professor, Duke university. (USA)

Nancy Fraser, professor of philosophy and politics and the New School for Social Research. (USA)

Tithi Bhattacharya, Director, Global Studies, Purdue University. (USA)

Cinzia Arruzza, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The New School for Social Research. (USA)

Paul Le Blanc, Professor of History, La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (USA)

Bhaskar Sunkara, Jacobin Editor. (USA)

Slavoj Žižek, philosopher. (Slovenia)

Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies and Global Studies, Purdue University. (USA)

David McNally, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Houston. (USA)

Charles Post, Sociologist, City University of New York. (USA)

Warren Montag, Occidental College, Los Angeles. (USA)

Srecko Horvat, Philosopher. (Croatia)

Mihai Varga, sociologist, Free University of Berlin. (Germany / Romania)

Charles-André Udry, Director of Editions Page and A l’encontre (alencontre.org). (Switzerland)

Michael Husson, Economist. (France)

Eric Toussaint, historian and Political Sciences Ph.D., University of Liège (Belgium).

Edwy Plenel, journalist, director of Mediapart (France)

Michael Löwy, emeritus director of Research, CNRS, Paris (France).

Sebastian Budgen, Editor, Verso (London - New York).

Eric Aunoble, Historian. (Geneva)

Helmut Dahmer, Professor in Sociology. (Austria)

Alex Callinicos, Professor of European Studies, Department of European and International Studies, King’s College(UK).

Isabelle Garo, Philosopher. (France)

Catherine Samary, Economist, University of Paris Dauphine. (France)

Stathis Kouvélakis, Philosopher, King’s College (England).

Jean-Jacques Marie, historian (France).

David Pavon Cuellar, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo. (Mexico)

Eric Aunoble, historian (Geneva).

Isabelle Garo, Philosopher (France).

Franck Gaudichaud, political scientist, University of Grenoble Alpes (France).

Jean Baptiste Thomas, Professor of Hispanic Studies, Ecole Polytechnique. (France)

Jean Batou, professor of International history, University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

Ugo Palheta, sociologist, University of Lille and director of Contretemps web (France).

Beatriz Abramides, Professor from PUC SP and leader of APROPUCSP. (Brazil)

Antonio Moscato, historian, University of Salento-Lecce (Italy).

Rolf Wörsdörfer, Professor at Darmstadt Technical University. (Germany)

Gabriel García Higueras, historian, University of Lima (Perou).

Daniel Gaido, historian, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. (Argentina)

Florian Wilde, Historian. (Germany)

Jaime Pastor, political scientist, National University of Distance Learning (Spanish State).

Juan Fajardo, Director of the Spanish Marxist Internet Archive Department.

Juan Dal Maso, Writer and Politologist. (Argentina)

Wladek Flakin, Historian. (Germany)

Leonidas “Noni” Ceruti, Historian. (Argentina)

Massimo Modonesi, historian, sociologist and political scientist, professor at the National Autonomous University (Mexico).

Claudio Albertani, Professor at Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México. (Mexico).

Pablo Pozzi, historian from Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Osvaldo Coggiola, University of San Pablo, USP (Brazil).

Eduardo Grüner, sociologist and essayist (Argentina).

Miguel Vedda, Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, UBA (Argentina).

Stéfanie Prezioso, professor of International history, University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

Jean-Numa Ducange, historian, University of Rouen (France).

Patrick Silberstein, physician, editor of Éditions Syllepse (France).

Antonio Liz, historian (Spanish State)

Joel Ortega Juárez, activist of the 68’, teacher of journalism and retired professor of the UNAM (Mexico).

Esteban Mercatante, Economist, Member of the Editorial Board of Ideas de Izquierda Magazine. ( Argentina)

Emmanuel Barot, Philosopher, Universidad Toulouse Jean Jaures. (France)

Mathieu Bonzon, Professor of American Studies, Universidad Paris I. (France)

Diego Giacchetti, Historian. (Italy)

Héctor Sotomayor (Professor – researcher at the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla (Mexico).

Ariadne Diaz, Editorial Board “ Ideas de Izquierda” Magazine. (Argentina)

Raquel Barbieri Vidal, regisseur from Teatro Colon de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Paula Varela, Professor and Politologist, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Sandy Mcburney, Labor Party- Glasgow. (Scotland)

Alejandro Gálvez Cancino, professor at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (Mexico).

Claudia Mazzei Nogueira, Professor, UNIFESP-DS. (Brazil)

Jamila M.H.Mascat, Philosopher, Utrecht University. (Holland)

Alicia Rojo, Historian, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Pablo Oprinari, Sociologist, CEIP Leon Trotsky. (Mexico)

Esteban Fernandez, Professor of Philosophy, Universidad de Costa Rica. (Costa Rica)

Fernando Rosso, journalist, La Izquierda Diario. (Argentina)

Bernhard H. Bayerlein, Historian and Romance Studies Scholar, Ruhr University. (Germany)

Miguel Candioti, Professor of Universidad Nacional de Jujuy. (Argentina)

Juan Duarte, Professor, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Paula Bach, Economist, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Pablo Anino, Economist, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Gabriela Liszt, CEIP “Leon Trotsky”. (Argentina)

Gaston Gutierrez, Editorial Board “Ideas de Izquierda”. (Argentina)

Andrea Robles, Editor, IPS-CEIP “Leon Trotsky”. (Argentina)

Gaston Remy, Professor of Economy, Universidad Nacional de Jujuy. (Argentina)

Matias Maiello, Sociologist, Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Gloria Rodriguez, Director of Núcleo de Estudios del Trabajo y la Conflictividad Social, Professor at Humanities and Arts Department, Universidad Nacional de Rosario (Argentina).

Nick Brauns, historian and journalist. (Germany)

Max Delupi, journalist and actor (Córdoba, Argentina).

Livia Vargas Gonzalez, Professor of philosophy and history, UCV-UFOP. (Venezuela-Brazil)

Hernan Camarero, historian and researcher from Universidad de Buenos Aires. (Argentina)

Leonidas “Noni” Ceruti, historian (Rosario, Argentina).

Political Parties:

Nicolás del Caño, Myriam Bregman, Emilio Albamonte, Christian Castillo, from Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (Argentina); Santiago Lupe from Corriente Revolucionaria de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (Spanish State); Sulem Estrada y Miriam Hernandez, from Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas (México); Ángel Arias, from Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (Venezuela); Javo Ferreira, Violeta Tamayo y Elio Aduviri from Liga Obrera Revolucionaria por la Cuarta Internacional (Bolivia); Juan Cruz Ferre, from Left Voice (EEUU); Simone Ishibashi from Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (Brazil); Stefan Schneider from Revolutionären Internationalistischen Organisation (Germany); Damien Bernard y Daniela Cobet from Révolution Permanente (France); Sebastián Artigas from Corriente de Trabajadores Socialistas (Uruguay) [Fracción Trotskista por la Cuarta Internacional (FT-CI)].

Néstor Pitrola, Romina del Plá, Marcelo Ramal, Gabriela Solano, leaders of the Partido Obrero (Workers Party) (Argentina).

Juan Carlos Giordano, Mercedes Petit (Left Socialist, Argentina); Orlando Chirino (PSL, Venezuela); Enrique Fernández Chacón (UNIOS, Perou).

Enrique Gómez Delgado, Movement to Socialism (UIT-CI) (Mexico).

Brais Fernández, South Wind and Anti-capitalists; Paula Quinteiro, deputy in the Galician Parliament for the Anti-capitalists; Manuel Garí, Economist, Anti-capitalists; Raul Camargo, Deputy in the Assembly of Madrid, Anti-capitalists; Jesús Rodríguez, economist, Anti-capitalists; Ángela Aguilera, deputy in the Andalusian Parliament, Anti-capitalists; Ana Villaverde, deputy in the Andalusian Parliament, Anti-capitalists; Mari García, deputy in the Andalusian Parliament, Anti-capitalists; Sonia Farré, deputy in the Spanish Parliament, Anti-capitalists (EE).

Edgard Sanchez, leader of the PRT (Revolutionary Workers Party), (Mexico).

Manuel Aguilar Mora, historian, Autonomous University of Mexico, leader of the LUS (México). Roman Munguia Huato, Ismael Contreras Plata, LUS and Movement for the Teaching Union’s reconstruction (Mexico).

José Luis Hernández Ayala, Pedro Gellert, Heather Dashner Monk, Marcos Fuentes, Emilio Téllez Contreras and Héctor Valadez George (Members of the Socialist Revolutionary Organization) (Mexico).