Robert Sheldon Harte

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Robert Sheldon Harte (1915–1940) was an American Communist who worked as one of Leon Trotsky’s assistants and bodyguards in Coyoacán, Mexico. During the Stalinist attack against Trotsky’s household on May 24, 1940, Harte was abducted and later murdered by the Stalinist agents, among them David Alfaro Siqueiros (accused of the murder). Pablo Neruda is also accused of conspiring in the plot, in helping the latter to escape to Chile. However, Neruda denied this and claimed that he had issued the Chilean visa on the orders of Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho. Harte's body (shot in the head) later was found alongside the road to Desierto de los Leones and Trotsky commissioned a plaque and had it placed at the front of the house with the text: "In Memory of Robert Sheldon Harte, 1915–1940, Murdered by Stalin."

In The Assassination of Trotsky, he is portrayed under the name "Sheldon Harte."

A picture of Robert Sheldon Harte.

The Fourth International, the theoretical journal of the US Socialist Workers Party, published an article by Walter Rourke titled The Murder of Bob Harte,[1] calling him the first American Trotskyist to fall victim to Stalin. In the article Burke notes that Trotsky wrote in the Mexican press that “The corpse of Bob Sheldon Harte is a tragic refutation of all the slanders and false denunciations made against him.” In his account of the attack Trotsky wrote that if Sheldon Harte were an agent of the GPU he could have killed me at night and gotten away without setting in motion 20 people all of whom were subjected to a great risk.[2]

It was later found, contrary to Trotsky's opinion, that Robert Sheldon Harte was indeed a Soviet agent operating under the name 'Amur' and an accomplice in the May 24, 1940 attack on Trotsky. However according to statements made by the man in charge of this GPU operation, General Leonid Eitingon in March 9, 1954, Harte was liquidated afterwards because he had expressed second thoughts. Eitingon is thus on record saying that:

"during the operation it was revealed that Sheldon was a traitor. Even though he opened the gate to the compound, once in the room there was found neither the archive, nor Trotsky himself. When the participants in the raid opened fire, Sheldon told them that, had he known all this, as an American he never would have agreed to participate in this raid. Such behavior served as the basis for deciding on the spot to liquidate him. He was killed by Mexicans."[3]

A picture of the plaque in memory of Robert Sheldon Harte, commissioned by Leon Trotsky, located at Casa Museo Leon Trotsky, Coyoacan, Mexico.

References[edit]

Strikes and lockouts—Drama. Typescript of play by Robert Sheldon Harte, "Strike Scenes: Four Scenes of the Opentown Strike of '39," ca. 1939-1940 Register of the Trotsky collection, 1917-1980 Online Archive of California (OAC), an initiative of the California Digital Library http://www.oac.cdlib.org

  1. ^ "The Murder of Bob Harte". Fourth International 3 (5): 139–142. May 1942. 
  2. ^ Leon Trotsky, Stalin Seeks My Death.
  3. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin: The Sword and the Shield: - The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (Basic Books), 1999, p.87-88, Ocherki istorii rossiiskoi vneshnei razvedki, Vol. 3 (1933-44) p.98 & p.100-101; see also Robert Service. Trotsky: Robert Service: A Biography. Belknap Press. 2009. p. 485.