Arthur Landis on the Spanish Civil War

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“The electoral victory of the Popular Front Government of Spain in February, 1936, has been argued in many ways; with the figures so juggled in certain analyses of the Right as to prove that the victory was actually theirs. The Left on the other hand—the ‘Left’ in this case being the Popular Front, which was quite different from the real Left, as we shall see—included the separatist Basque Nationalist Party, which was strongly catholic-conservative in its politics. Essentially, if the Basque vote were to be added to the Center, and both of these given to the Right, then indeed would the final tally be almost equal.

There are no exact figures on the votes for Socialists, Republicans, C.E.D.A., etc. But the proportionate representation given each party as a result of the total vote indicates that the Republican vote within the Popular Front was at least as large as the combined Communist-Socialist vote and those others of the Left Independents, inclusive, of, perhaps, 700,000 votes of the Anarcho-Syndicalists who at this time had voted for the amnesty.

That is to say that in terms of a true vote in-re the simplistics of capitalism versus socialism, the then grouping of Right-Center-Republicans outnumbered the bona-fide Left at three to one. Considering, however that a large percentage of the Anarchist votes had gone to Republicans rather than to Socialists or Communists, and that in the villages, for the simple reason that they had to live there, great numbers of villagers voted Right who were strongly Left, the real tally would be like two to one. The true Left, in other words, was still outnumbered; with about 33% of the total vote.

A salient point of the Popular Front, however, was that its Republican adherents wanted no part of the Center or of the Right; certainly no dictatorship from any source. They were bourgeois and they wanted a bourgeois state of laws, governed by a mandate of the people, preferably themselves. But when one writes of Republicans, one writes primarily of the mass of Republican voters; not the leadership. The difference being, a limited but positive idealism on the part of the mass, and a propensity for class-collaboration and corruption on the part of the leadership.

Considering all these facts one must conclude that the Popular Front vote was no mandate for ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat,’ the nationalization or industry, or the creation of communes in the areas of agriculture, as some would have others believe . . . . But it was the form of government under which these concepts—as of that moment in time—could be advocated and worked for freely, and with a minimum of interference from the Republican bourgeoisie.

Fascism would most certainly not grant the Left this right. Indeed, the prime objective condition here was that the Financial Oligarchy could not countenance the continued existence of the Popular Front for precisely these same reasons. That the ultra-left, the F.A.I., the P.O.U.M., etc., could not understand this, to a point where they would fight the Popular Front far harder than they would ever fight the real enemy was, over the years, the tragedy of the Spanish Republic.

Alone among the parties of the Front and of the Left, the P.C.E. did seem to understand the above facts. This is not to say that hundreds of thousands of socialists, republicans, anarchists, workers, intellectuals and students did not. But it is to say that their organized leadership seemed forever abysmally ignorant of the facts.

That a Rightist rebellion was now imminent was common knowledge; to everybody, that is, except the majority of the Republican leaders and some Socialists. The threat of it lay like a miasmic cloud over the length and breadth of the country, ominous and foreboding. The force of the rising, when it came, would be disciplined and terrible. And there it would be but one weapon in the people’s arsenal to hold it and destroy it. That was the now proven weapon of Left-Republican unity embodied within the structure of the Popular Front of the Spanish Republic.

The battles won thus far, for amnesty and for the restoration of all gains of the 1931 elections, had been won within that structure; had been won by the whole of the people who had fought for and created the Front; who had worked for the Front; who had voted for the Front, and who had not sat on their hands.

The P.C.E. too had fought wholeheartedly for the Popular Front; were in fact its initiators, its creators. And it was, perhaps, because of this reason, that they continued an almost selfless support to this same ‘unity of the people’ that their strength grew rapidly from the days of February to the days of July.”

– Arthur Landis, “Spain: the Unfinished Revolution”

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