International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 1 (March 1988)

A Tribute to Harold Robins: Captain of Trotsky’s Guard 1908-1987

Harold Robins, a lifelong proletarian revolutionist who devoted 59 years to the struggle for Trotskyism, died on September 12, 1987 in his home in New Hampshire at the age of 79. With his death, there passes from the scene one of the last genuine living links to Leon Trotsky, whom Comrade Robins served as the captain of the guard in Coyoacan during the last year of Trotsky’s life.

Harold Robins was the first to respond to Trotsky’s anguished appeal for help after he had been struck with an ice pick by the Stalinist GPU assassin, Ramon Mercader, on August 20, 1940. Bursting into Trotsky’s study, Robins felled Mercader with a blow to the head and seized the .45mm automatic which the assassin had been holding in his hand. Robins then systematically delivered blows to Mercader’s ribs until the killer cried out that he had acted because “they”—the GPU—were holding his mother.

For years, that admission, extracted by Robins, remained the sole definitive evidence that Mercader was a Stalinist agent; because once the Mexican police arrived and took the assassin into custody, Mercader regained his composure and made no further statements incriminating the GPU.

Harold Robins survived the “Old Man” whom he so deeply loved and respected by more than 47 years. But even the passage of nearly a half-century could not dim in his consciousness either the grandeur of Trotsky’s personality or the pain he felt over the events of that terrible day in August. And yet, there was not the slightest trace of sentimentality or pathos in Robins’s recollections of Trotsky’s life and death.

For Harold, the assassination of Trotsky was an event of vast historical significance, which had to be both understood and avenged. Indeed, without understanding the historic meaning of Trotsky’s death, the necessary political retribution could not be realized.

When talking about the assassination, Harold would often return to Trotsky’s account of the notorious discussion between Hitler and the French Ambassador Coulondre on the eve of World War II, when the latter warned the German dictator that, in the event of military conflict, the only victor would be Trotsky!

“Both of them,” Trotsky wrote in the passage cited by Harold, “Coulondre and Hitler, represent the barbarism which advances over Europe. At the same time neither of them doubts that their barbarism will be conquered by socialist revolution. Such is now the awareness of the ruling classes of all the capitalist countries of the world.”

Harold always insisted on placing events in their law-governed historical context. From this standpoint, the assassination of Trotsky represented the bloody reflex action of world imperialism, working through the medium of its Stalinist agents, to the threat of proletarian revolution.

In killing Trotsky, the capitalist enemy struck at the brain of the working class, just as the German bourgeoisie had in 1919 when it eliminated, with the assistance of social democracy, Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

Whatever the means and agencies employed, the killing of proletarian revolutionists by the capitalist state is, under certain conditions, no less an expression of the inner laws of bourgeois society than the eruption of wars.

Having been an eyewitness to the political crime of the century, Harold was not inclined to an abstract and academic attitude to the workings of the police agencies of imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy. He certainly did not elevate the police agent to an independent historical factor and was too deeply absorbed in the study of historical materialism, the intellectual passion of his life, to take conspiracy theories seriously.

But he had an acute understanding of the reality of the class struggle and the many forms through which the imperialists perpetuate their domination of the working class. The agent-provocateur is no less rooted in the material subsoil of class society than the priest. The CIA and KGB were, as far as Harold was concerned, part of the basic operating formula of world imperialism and its Stalinist accomplices.

Thus, Harold was not a believer in “innocent explanations” for dubious actions which had catastrophic consequences for the revolutionary party and the working class. After all, the Fourth International had paid too terrible a price in blood for its past inattention to matters of security. And so, he devoted the last years of his life to uncovering and exposing the role played by the combined agencies of imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy in the assassination of Trotsky and the subversion of the Fourth International.

For this he was never forgiven by so many of his former associates in the SWP who preferred to forget the past and avoid unpleasant facts. This is why, when death finally came to Harold Robins, his passing went unmentioned in the revisionist press.

The Workers League only learned of his death on Sunday, November 22, nearly 10 weeks after his passing. He was living alone in New Hampshire to where he had retired nearly two years ago. It took some time until an intimate friend, sifting through his belongings, found an address of a Workers League member who had visited Harold several weeks before his death. Hence the delay in this announcement.

We have no doubt that many of his old associates from the SWP, some still active in radical politics, must have learned of his passing much earlier. But they have remained silent, knowing that the example of Harold’s courage and unshakable fidelity to his revolutionary ideals makes their own betrayal of Trotskyist principles all the more glaring.

A Working-Class Militant

Harold Robins will not be forgotten by the international working class. His life is bound up with the history of the Fourth International. He was one of the finest representatives of those young working class militants who, inspired in their early youth by the October Revolution, joined the Communist movement in the United States in the early 1920s.

Of Russian-Jewish extraction, Harold Robins was born in January 1908 in New York’s Lower East Side, from whose impoverished immigrant tenements were to emerge so many dedicated revolutionaries. In the rough-and-tumble world in which he grew up, Harold lived by his wits and by his fists. Tall and muscular, Harold was never at a loss to find his way out of a difficult situation when all appeals to reason failed.

This was one of the reasons why James P. Cannon, Max Shachtman and Martin Abern were delighted when the tough young member of the Communist Party’s youth organization declared his agreement with Trotsky in late 1928 and joined the Communist League of America, the American branch of the International Left Opposition.

In those early days, the pioneers of American Trotskyism could not sell their newspaper, the Militant, or hold public meetings without confronting violent attacks by organized squads of Stalinist goons wielding metal clubs and knives. Harold played a leading role in defending the CLA meetings. At that time and in the years that followed, his relations with Cannon were far from the best. He never sought to ingratiate himself with the leading group in the party, nor was he loathe to criticize its shortcomings.

Throughout his many years of membership inside the movement headed by Cannon, Robins retained something of the image of a maverick, deliberately keeping his distance from any identifiable faction. However, whatever his episodic disagreements with Cannon over organizational questions, Robins was invariably in agreement with him on the decisive political issues, and that determined his practical orientation inside the SWP.

The first great opportunity for the American Trotskyists inside the class struggle came in early 1934 during the strike of New York City hotel workers, which was led by a member of the Communist League of America, B.J. Field. In the course of the strike, Field refused to stay in contact with the party or follow its policies.

Despite Field’s celebrity, the CLA publicly expelled him, an act of political courage which not only surprised Field, but the capitalist press as well. Despite Field’s betrayal, Harold Robins was among the Trotskyist cadre who played an active role in the strike. Following a scuffle provoked by police and strikebreakers, he was sentenced by a notorious antilabor judge named Corrigan to a term in Sing Sing prison on the charge of having beaten up several scabs.

Harold recalled with gusto his days as a “class-war prisoner.” While the CLA mounted a campaign for his release, Harold passed the time in Sing Sing as a teacher, lecturing some of the most hardened Prohibition-era gangsters on English poetry. To the amazement of the warden, mobsters with terrifying Mafia sobriquets were pleading to be admitted to Robins’s class, where even lifers were to be found reciting English masterpieces with tears streaming down their cheeks!

Following his release, Harold became a taxi driver and, as a result of the skill he acquired in the handling of automobiles, this led to the event which had the most profound impact upon his life: his appointment in 1939 to serve as one of Trotsky’s guards in Coyoacan.

Discussions with Trotsky

Those who knew Harold well and heard him speak of Trotsky could never doubt the enormous impact the “Old Man” had on his political, intellectual and personal development. Virtually all the stories he told of Trotsky illuminated his role as a teacher infinitely concerned with the political education of the movement’s cadre, especially those from a proletarian background.

Often, in his stories of his encounters with Trotsky, Harold described himself in ironic and self-deprecating terms, as if he still found it hard to believe that his path had crossed that of one of history’s titans. But these stories were of unquestionable authenticity and they should not be lost with Harold’s death, but passed on to future generations.

There are several stories which stand out. He described an event which occurred not long after Harold had arrived in Mexico. Trotsky’s car had broken down and had been taken in for repairs at a local garage. It was returned, but broke down again within one day. Harold was asked to look the car over. As he was doing so, Trotsky came by and asked Harold why the car had broken down a second time.

“Well, you know these Mexican mechanics,” Harold replied in a thoughtless way.

Trotsky fixed a hard stare which Harold never forgot, and replied: “So, Comrade Robins, am I to assume that your Yankee mechanics never commit an error?” He then walked away. The internationalism which Harold had previously taken for granted suddenly acquired, as a result of Trotsky’s rebuke, a profound immediacy.

Another story Harold told threw light upon the class significance of the 1940 faction fight against the petty-bourgeois minority, when Trotsky was fighting for a proletarian orientation. While Harold was doing guard one morning, he was approached by Trotsky and asked what he had written for the party press. Harold could not remember having written anything. Why not?, Trotsky inquired. Well, Harold replied, writing is best left to the party intellectuals.

Trotsky shook his head vigorously. “How can you say that, Comrade Robins? What do you think this struggle is all about?”

Taken aback by this reprimand, Harold then wrote an article on the party’s tactics in the trade unions which he showed to Trotsky. The latter expressed his satisfaction with Harold’s debut as a writer and recommended that it be published by the party. However, that request was somehow ignored and the article never saw its way into print.

In a similar vein, Harold recalled the discussions held between Trotsky and the SWP leadership in June 1940 on the question of the party’s attitude toward the presidential elections. There was a disagreement over whether the SWP, having been unable to field a candidate of its own, should give critical support to the Stalinist candidate, Earl Browder. In one of the sessions attended by Harold, he sided with the SWP leadership and opposed Trotsky’s suggestion that critical support be given to Browder as a means of approaching the Stalinist workers and exploiting the contradictions in the Communist Party’s temporary antiwar line.

When his turn to speak came, Harold launched into a vitriolic denunciation of the Stalinists, enumerating their many betrayals of the working class, and their slavish collaboration with the bourgeois politicians. At the height of his passion, Harold proclaimed that there wasn’t “any god-damn difference between the Stalinists and the Democrats.”

Trotsky raised his hand and broke into Harold’s speech. “Permit me a question, Comrade Robins. If there exist no differences between the Stalinists and the Democrats, why then do they retain an independent existence and call themselves Communists? Why do they not simply join the Democratic Party?”

Harold was taken aback by these simple questions. This elementary lesson in dialectics immediately made it clear to Harold that his own position was wrong. But the story did not end there.

With the issue still undecided, the meeting broke for lunch. Trotsky approached Harold and asked him what his position was.

“Well, I now think you’re right, Comrade Trotsky.”

The “Old Man” beamed with satisfaction. “Then, Comrade Robins, I propose we form a bloc and conduct the struggle together when the meeting resumes.”

Harold remembered thinking that he could not believe the “Old Man” was serious. “Why the hell would Trotsky want or need a bloc with Harold Robins?”

At any rate, he accepted Trotsky’s offer and looked forward to the start of the afternoon session. However, as the lunch break was coming to a close, Robins was approached by another guard, Charles Cornell, who was bitterly disappointed that he was to remain on duty during the afternoon and would not be able to participate in the discussion with Trotsky. Cornell pleaded with Robins to change places with him, and Robins relented. And so Cornell went into the discussion while Robins patrolled the premises.

Late in the afternoon, soon after the meeting ended, Harold found himself suddenly confronted by an obviously angry Trotsky. ‘Where were you, Comrade Robins?” Trotsky demanded.

Harold sought to explain the circumstances which had intervened during the lunch break. Trotsky brushed his arguments aside. “We had a bloc, Comrade Robins, and you betrayed it.”

Harold recounted such incidents without the slightest sense of embarrassment, even though they hardly placed him in the best light. But for Harold, these events were precious examples of Trotsky’s utter completeness as a revolutionary, inflexibly devoted to principles in all aspects of his life and under all conditions.

Here was a man, Harold seemed to be saying, who had led the greatest revolution in history, organized an army of millions, and participated in epochal political struggles alongside of the legendary figures of the international Marxist movement. And yet this same man, Trotsky, could propose a bloc with an unknown rank-and-file “Jimmy Higgins” and view it as seriously as he once viewed an alliance with Lenin! Harold was more than happy to “diminish himself’ and recount his own youthful mistakes in order to convey the moral grandeur of Trotsky.

In not all of Harold’s stories did he come off second best. On one occasion, not long before Trotsky’s assassination, Harold noticed that the window slats on the guard towers that had been erected above the walls of the villa were too narrow to shoot through in the event of an attack. He decided to widen them, and so he climbed up one of the towers and, hammer and chisel in hand, began chipping away at the stone around a window slat.

Trotsky happened to observe Harold from the ground, and demanded an explanation for his strange behavior. From the distance, it was hard for Harold to convincingly explain the reason for his actions.

“What are you doing, Comrade Robins?” Trotsky shouted. “You are a vandal.” Under the circumstances, Harold felt obliged to stop his work. But not long afterwards, he noticed Trotsky carefully surveying the tower as if he were now wondering about the size of the slats on the tower. Sure enough, Trotsky climbed up to the tower, and soon, with the same hammer and chisel, was working away furiously to widen the slat.

Now it was Harold’s turn to do some shouting. “What are you doing, Comrade Trotsky? You are a vandal.” Trotsky smiled sheepishly and then broke out into laughter. “This time, Comrade Harold, you were right!”

The point of the story was not, however, to score one for Harold. Rather, it was simply to illuminate, with this apparently trivial incident, Trotsky’s lack of pomposity, his easy ability to acknowledge error, and even his humor.

The assassination of Trotsky

But these stories were incidental to the two events that dominated Harold’s recollections about his life at Coyoacan: the first attempt to assassinate Trotsky on May 24, 1940, from which Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, miraculously escaped; and the second successful attempt three months later.

In the attempt of May 24, 1940, a squad of Stalinist assassins headed by the famous painter David Alfaro Siqueiros succeeded in obtaining entry into the Coyoacan compound—most likely through the complicity of a guard, Sheldon Harte—and burst into Trotsky’s bedroom in the early morning hours, their machine guns blazing. On the other side of the compound, Harold and the other guards were pinned down by machine gunfire. Finally, the killers withdrew, apparently convinced that they had successfully completed their assignment.

But they had failed. Trotsky and his wife had managed to take cover on the floor beside the bed. Moments after the attackers withdrew, with the smoke still hanging over the grounds of the villa, Trotsky strode across the courtyard looking for his guards. Robins knew that they had completely failed in their assignment, and that Trotsky’s survival was the result of luck, not the existing security system.

Efforts were made in the weeks that followed to improve Trotsky’s security. The walls were fortified and towers were erected. But the next attack, relying on a lone assassin rather than a squad of killers, was successful and Trotsky died on August 21, 1940, one day after he suffered a blow to the head.

On the day of Trotsky’s funeral, Harold stood on the running board of the car which carried Trotsky’s coffin as the cortege passed through the streets of Mexico City, where 300,000 mourners had assembled to pay their final tribute to the coleader of the October Revolution.

Harold then returned to the United States and continued work as an active member of the SWP. He was drafted during the world war, but the authorities decided that it would be taking too much of a risk to permit Robins to circulate freely among soldiers at the front. So he was kept stateside during the war years.

After the war, Harold was active in SWP branches in Detroit and New York. In the early 1950s, he was among the first to speak out against the revisionist political line of Bert Cochran and George Clarke, the American supporters of Michel Pablo, and supported the issuing of the “Open Letter” in November 1953 which soon led to the establishment of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

However, in the years following the split, Harold became increasingly frustrated with the steady drift of the SWP toward the right. The abandonment of its proletarian orientation in favor of “regroupment” with all sorts of petty-bourgeois radical and protest groups alienated him. Like many others in the late 1950s, he was deeply discouraged by the evolution of the SWP.

Harold was one of the very few members of the SWP to carefully follow the developments in world economy after the war and its effects on the United States. In the late 1950s, he prepared a pre-Congress discussion document, hoping to convince the SWP that objective conditions existed to renew systematic work in the trade unions. But finding no response and hostile to the SWP’s submergence into the middle class milieu of protest politics, he resigned from the SWP in 1960.

Nevertheless, Harold still considered himself a Trotskyist, and, after the SWP reunification with the Pabloites in 1963, he established contact with the International Committee. However, it did not prove possible to win him to the positions of the ICFI. The combined impact of the protracted degeneration of the SWP, the extreme isolation of the revolutionary elements inside the trade unions, and his long personal separation from the organized struggle against Pabloite revisionism inside the Fourth International could not but have an effect on his own development.

For a very brief period, he associated himself with the Workers League, which had been founded in 1966. But, following a series of sharp clashes with its leadership, Harold severed political relations with the Workers League and went his own way.

Security and the Fourth International

But in the spring of 1975, the International Committee of the Fourth International contacted Harold Robins to discuss his recollection of the circumstances surrounding Trotsky’s death. The work on Security and the Fourth International had only just begun, and the ICFI was still at the stage of attempting to assemble the basic facts relating to the murder of Trotsky.

Harold immediately agreed to meet with representatives of the ICFI and the Workers League to relate what he knew and answer questions. He reacted as if the appointment had been long overdue. There were many aspects of the security setup in Coyoacan and the events of May and August 1940 that had troubled him for 35 years.

He had questions for us. Did we know that when Harold had arrived in Mexico in October 1939, he learned to his amazement that while Joseph Hansen was an expert marksman, all the other guards working under his supervision had not fired a single practice shot in an entire year and knew absolutely nothing about handling firearms?

Did we know that all the weapons in the possession of Trotsky’s guards in the early morning hours of May 24, 1940 had jammed and were unworkable, apparently because the guards had been issued the wrong ammunition—by Joseph Hansen? He also found it strange that Hansen made a point of introducing new guards, immediately upon their arrival in Mexico City, to the local brothels.

At the time, Harold never directly stated that he believed that Hansen had been an agent. But in August 1975, he was stunned to learn from documents uncovered by the International Committee that Hansen, according to information he personally related to the American consul in Mexico City, had been approached by a GPU agent in 1938 and asked to defect to the Stalinists.

Moreover, Hansen claimed that with Trotsky’s approval he had played along with the GPU and for several months had met with an agent identified only as “John.” Harold flatly labeled this a “cock-and-bull” story.

As Harold studied Hansen’s answers to the facts uncovered by the International Committee, he pointed out one lie after another, and in Hansen’s systematic dissembling detected the skilled hand of a professional provocateur. He recalled another distant incident that had long troubled and mystified him.

One day, while making the rounds in Coyoacan, Harold was approached by Hansen, who told him that Trotsky had expressed strong disapproval over Natalia’s habit of leaving the grounds of the compound unattended. Trotsky, Hansen claimed, wanted the guards to issue a severe and forceful reprimand to Natalia if she did that again. Harold acknowledged the instructions.

It was not long before Harold saw Natalia make her way toward the door which opened onto the Avenida Viena. Following the orders which had been issued by Hansen, Robins raced after her and delivered a vehement tongue-lashing. Natalia pulled back, burst into tears, and quickly returned to her quarters.

Within minutes, Trotsky emerged from the house and confronted Harold.

“Was it necessary, Comrade Robins, to speak to my wife in such a manner?,” he asked indignantly. “Has she not suffered enough?”

Harold recalled the shame he felt, and admitted that he did not know what to say. He could not bring himself to excuse his own actions by stating that he had merely done what he had been told. But as Trotsky walked away, Robins saw Hansen standing in the distance, following the action, with a grin on his face!

A Letter to the SWP

On December 23, 1975, Harold Robins took the decisive step of issuing an open letter to the Socialist Workers Party National Committee, in which he demanded that it “publicly repudiate the inexcusable and politically criminal response by Joseph Hansen in the November 24, 1975 issue of Intercontinental Press, where Comrade Hansen absolutely rejects the proposal for an ‘Inquiry into the Assassination of Leon Trotsky,’ proposed by the International Committee of the Fourth International.

In support of their proposal, the comrades of the International Committee have made available to Trotskyist circles serious evidence hitherto covered over or buried during the course of developments of the last three and a half decades. Much of this newly published material has been found in official US government records. One of the primary considerations for every serious comrade and organization requires periodic reviews of threats to Trotskyist organizations from bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class enemies. Political conflicts always find expression in ‘security’ experiences, evaluations and practices. Can the forthright rejection of an investigation of the ‘Assassination of Leon Trotsky’ be justified by any Trotskyist organization, especially since the SWP never made any effort to document the recollections of the comrades who served in Trotsky’s bodyguard.

There has been and there is an obvious spread of assassinations as an instrument of political confrontation. It is inconceivable that any ostrich policy can prevail in any organization characterizing itself as ‘Trotskyist.’

The role of the Kremlin gangsters and disruption cadres runs like a poisonous thread throughout the entire history of revolutionary struggle of Trotsky and Trotskyists fighting to end societies based upon special privilege.

The role of labor spies, of the frame-up of trade union militants and the hounding to death of social opponents of capitalism at the hands of the capitalist and pre-capitalist states runs back through the entire course of class society. Always—without any exception—the question of ‘security’ necessarily had to be on the agenda for rebels and revolutionaries. Comrade Hansen’s views take a diametrically opposite ‘line.’ Can you continue to go along with that policy?

The SWP leadership did not answer Harold’s letter. In the months that followed, he sought to contact numerous old associates in the SWP to discuss with them the facts uncovered by the International Committee. It was always the same: they knew nothing and wanted to know nothing. They were tired, did not want to get involved, and did not want to do any more fighting.

But in the late summer of 1976, some of those who had been visited by Harold and had confessed total ignorance about the newly-emerged facts signed a public “Verdict” condemning the International Committee and declaring their full support for Hansen. Harold was contemptuous of Hansen’s old “friends,” and he penned an angry denunciation of these ex-Trotskyists who manifested “an inexcusable bashfulness” when asked to speak out in favor of a commission of inquiry into the death of Trotsky.

These surviving ‘friends’ lose their bashfulness and unabashedly signed Hansen and company’s ‘Verdict’ before there was a trial of the issues in dispute! Let us recall that Trotsky, in his article ‘Stalin Seeks My Death,’ called for an investigation of the false stories appearing in the Press, but that is absolutely contrary to the policy of the surviving ‘older and more experienced friends.’

This lamentable condition of bashfulness prevails even after Hansen admits to meeting with GPU agents! This admission he voluntarily made to the US consul in Mexico City a few days after Trotsky was murdered. But by Hansen’s own admission this remained a secret which he kept to himself for some 38 years—from the surviving ‘older and more experienced friends.’

To this day Hansen has not given those ‘older and more experienced friends’ any accounting of what passed between him and the top-level GPU representatives with whom he met—admittedly for three months. Nor do the ‘friends’ ask! And Hansen has established a record of profound disrespect for truth, and for truthfulness, and for an ‘Inquiry into the assassination of Leon Trotsky.’

How are ‘friends’ such as these to be distinguished from political enemies?

In concluding his article, Harold recalled Lenin’s warning that in politics, only idiots accept someone’s word on important matters without investigating the facts,

Yet such ‘idiots’ populate the Socialist Workers Party and its circle of sympathizers today who are prepared to accept the ‘word’ of Hansen and Novack and refute the International Committee’s demand for a Commission of Inquiry into Trotsky’s murder.

In the years that followed, Harold did everything in his power to assist and facilitate the investigation conducted by the International Committee. Despite his worsening emphysema, he was indefatigable when it came to analyzing documents and commenting on their significance. The notes written by Comrade Harold on matters pertaining to Security and the Fourth International and the Gelfand case, which he supported no less enthusiastically, total hundreds of typewritten pages.

And that was not all he did. He accompanied ICFI investigators to Mexico to help reconstruct the attacks of May 24 and August 20, 1940. And on more than one occasion, he traveled across the country, and even across the Atlantic, to speak in support of the ICFI’s call for a commission of inquiry.

Harold moved to New Hampshire in January 1986, but he still remained in contact through the mail and telephone. The last letter I received from Harold was dated September 7. It enclosed a news clipping dealing with rumors of Trotsky’s rehabilitation, and commented:

Perhaps you all have missed this report of ‘glasnost’ in Russia which deals with a slight mention of Trotsky’s role in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, etc., published recently in the Christian Science Monitor (which apparently does not deal with the political science subject at all). This report, however, does raise a matter that affects the splitting tendencies in the world-wide apparatus of the Kremlin, both the ‘open’ and the secret varieties.

It would appear to me that your press and your organization-orientation might do well to further the campaign to expose the secret agent-operatives employed by the Kremlin bureaucracy and its joint cover-up ally, the US imperialist ‘intelligence’ agencies. The effect of publicizing the extension of ‘openness’ by calling upon Gorbachev to publicly expose by name the criminals who were secretly involved in the clandestine operations related to the more open, actual assassination apparatus for the murder of Trotsky, would, if properly-artfully employed, sharply raise the call for exposing the secret operatives who were ‘covered’ in their criminal activities by becoming ‘double-agents’ for the US government in many instances, such as with Hansen and with the assassin of Trotsky, Mercader, as well as with Sylvia Franklin, etc.

The letter arrived at the offices of the Workers League on September 11, and upon reading it I immediately telephoned Harold to express my agreement with his proposal. He sounded somewhat tired, but was as alert as ever. But now, having received after such a long delay the news of his death, it emerges that our discussion over the telephone took place during the last hours of his life. As his last letter proves, the captain of Trotsky’s guard remained an irreconcilable fighter against imperialism and the Stalinist gangsters to his last breath.