Diego Rivera was considered a social realist
in life, a form of naturalistic realism focusing
on social problems and hardships of everyday
life. This may be why Rivera felt such a connection
to the Communist movement in Russia and the
plight of the working class.
Rivera’s interest in Russian matters
started at an early age. While his father was
a liberal, anticlerical man, and his two aunts
were very religious, Diego was interested in
military issues, especially those of the Russian
army and the conflict it was facing; the Tsar
and the Orthodox Church versus Marxist Revolutionaries.
In the same year that he helped establish the
Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters,
and Sculptors in 1922, he also joined the Mexican
Communist Party. In his mural The Agitator,
you can see that Rivera was very much engaged
by the Soviet Revolution, as his signature is
marked by the Soviet hammer and sickle.
His interest in communism was further developed
during his time in Europe where he met his first
wife, Russian Angelina Beloff. Although he did
not know Lenin first-hand, he had a fascination
with the fight for the freedom of Russian workers.
Communism continued to be a major source of
motivation and inspiration for Rivera. In 1933,
when commissioned for a mural in the RCA building
of Rockefeller Center, his mural was never completed
because he included a portrait of Lenin and
was adamant about not removing it.
Leon Trotsky was a communist leader and Rivera
sympathized with him. For this reason, Rivera
used his influence over Mexican President Lázaro
Cárdenas to get permission for Trotsky
and his wife to enter the country. Husband and
wife stayed, rent-free, at the Coyoacán
house before they moved to a place of their
own down the road. However, several political
and personal problems developed between Rivera
and Trotsky before they broke apart when Trotsky
announced that he no longer felt “moral
solidarity” with Rivera’s ideas.
He was expelled from the Mexican Communist
party in 1929 for unknown reasons and after
several re-applications to rejoin, he was re-admitted
in September of 1954.