Did Frida Kahlo Know About Communist Crimes?

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIt has become a major political firestorm in Mexico. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau made a controversial comment rhetorically asking whether renowned Mexican artist and feminist Frida Kahlo knew anything about the crimes and atrocities committed in the Soviet Union during the time of Joseph Stalin? In short, the answer was no. She died in 1954, so she had no idea about the revelations of the crimes perpetrated by Stalin when Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin in a secret speech in 1956—two years after Kahlo had died. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, almost nothing was known about Stalin’s crimes since there were very few testimonies and almost no evidence produced in those decades that would have shown what had really happened in the Soviet Union or other Communist states at the time.

What we should know is that Kahlo joined the Communist Party of Mexico in 1927, and through that party had met her fellow artist and soon husband to be Diego Rivera. They got married in 1928, and both believed that socialism was the wave of the future. At first, they had sided with the Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but when Trotsky had a falling out with Rivera, both Rivera and Kahlo sided with Stalin. To the end, Kahlo remained a committed Communist, and at her funeral a Communist flag lay over her body. It would not be until the late 1950’s and 1960’s that any hint of Stalin’s crimes would come out. The famous book, The Great Terror by Robert Conquest, was not published until 1968, and the Kremlin archives which revealed the full extent of Stalin’s crimes were not available until after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s. Frida Kahlo was very much a product of her time, and for better or worse was heavily involved in the political left because like everyone else had little to no idea what was really taking place under Communism in that time period.

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