Esteban “Seva” Volkov (Trotsky’s Grandson): 1926-2023

By Alan Benjamin | Socialist Organizer

On June 16, Esteban “Seva” Volkov Bronstein, Leon Trotsky’s grandson and last remaining witness to the brutal assassination of Trotsky at the hands of a Stalinist agent, died in Mexico City. He was 97 years old.

Seva, as he was known in the movement, was born in 1926 in Moscow. He is the son of Zinaida Volkova (one of Trotsky’s two daughters with his first wife Alexandra Sokolovskaya) and Platon Volkov, teacher, member of the central committee of the teachers’ union and member of the Left Opposition.

Seva’s father was deported to Siberia in 1928, and was shot in 1936, two months after the first Moscow Trial. Seva’s mother Zinaida, committed suicide in 1933, while living in Berlin.

Seva lived with Leon Sedov in Paris, until Sedov was poisoned to death on February 16, 1938, by Stalinist henchmen posing as doctors.

Seva arrived in Mexico, on August 8, 1939. He was 13 years old. He experienced and survived the first assassination attempt against Trotsky on May 24, 1940 in the house where Trotsky was living; in all, he lived for a year with his grandfather, up to Trotsky’s assassination on August 20, 1940.

Seva assumed the role of guardian of his grandfather’s legacy – a role that culminated in the creation of the Leon Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán, Mexico.  But he was also a partisan of Marxism and a supporter, as he put it, of Trotsky’s “ideals.”

In an interview I conducted with Seva in 2012 [see below], he replied to a question about the relevance of his grandfather’s political tenets as follows:

“Marxism is the only worldview that offers an alternative, the only one that puts forward a solution to a system that is so destructive, so obsolete, a system that leads humankind into greater and greater suffering, to the point of practically destroying the planet – by destroying its very environment.

“We have seen emerge in the past all sorts of new currents and processes which offer no solution whatsoever. We need to remember my grandfather’s last words, which he said to Joe Hansen: ‘I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International.’ This is a task that is still facing us.”

I had the privilege of working closely with Seva over close of 50 years, initially under the guidance of George Breitman, helping to preserve Trotsky’s legacy by raising funds to keep the Museum open. On numerous occasions, the Mexican government came under intense pressure to shut it down. We organized speaking tours with Seva across the U.S. Our efforts were successful, the Museum was never closed.

Seva inspired generations of activists. He will be sorely missed. Seva, Presente!