Joel Whitney in Jacobin:
Diego Rivera painted Pan American Unity for the 1940 San Francisco World’s Fair in an airplane hangar, accompanied by an armed guard. Shortly before he commenced work on the mural, his wife — the artist Frida Kahlo — and Leon Trotsky began an affair. Though Rivera remained an admirer of the hero of the October Revolution, he expelled Trotsky from his home in Mexico. The security budget required to protect the former military leader had already been putting a strain on the household’s finances. This was the last straw.
Pan American Unity features no image of Trotsky. Stalin appears on the painting’s fourth panel as one set of a triad of ghouls cloaked in a gray ether, alongside Hitler and Mussolini. They are surrounded by portraits of actors, chief among them Charlie Chaplin, who assumes a number of his satirical personas. A single arm, tattooed with a swastika and holding a dagger tightly, emerges out of the cloud, but it is held at bay by another, much larger, arm draped in an American flag and flanked by bombers and paratroopers. This is Rivera’s ode to anti-fascist Hollywood.