Communist International: The Struggle for Workers’ and Peasants’ Alliances in Spain

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Photo of Alcala Gate,Madrid, 1936

Communist International, August 1936

The question of strengthening and organizing throughout the country the workers’ and peasants’ alliances, which are the main buttress of the People’s Front, is now the central point of discussion among the workers’ organizations in Spain.

A serious change has taken place in the position of the Left wing of the Socialist Party, which was against creating workers’ alliances considering them to be only organs of uprising.

Proof of this is to be found in the moods of the members of the Left wing of the Socialist Party. A number of Socialist organizations endorsed the draft of the program of the party drawn up by the Madrid organization, and are demanding that still greater stress be laid upon the need for establishing workers’ and peasants’ alliances.

Comrade Carrillo, secretary of the Young Socialist League wrote an interesting article on the question of the “alliances” in the newspaper Claridad (May 13) in which he emphasizes the point that for the revolution to be victorious the necessary precondition is that the need for creating organs of proletarian democracy be recognized. The Socialist Party in its present state cannot, in the opinion of Carrillo, give leadership to such a mass organization. Only by “purging and uniting the Socialist and Communist Parties will it be possible to hammer out such an organization as will be able to guide the organs of proletarian democracy”.

On May 11 of this year, at a meeting of the Socialist parliamentary deputies and the so-called Compromisarios (delegates appointed to elect the president), Largo Caballero, the leader of the Left wing of the Socialist Party, spoke and expressed himself in favor of establishing alliances to include also the Anarchist National Confederation of Labor.

The reactionary section of the leaders of the Socialist Party continue as hitherto to declare themselves against workers’ and peasants’ alliances. El Socialista wrote on May 16:

“To create alliances at the price of rejecting all that we must preserve at all costs, namely, the leading role and the discipline of the Socialist Party, means to call the masses to pass over to other organizations with flags flying.”

The Congress of the Anarchist National Confederation of Labor took place at the beginning of May in Zaragoza. At this Congress the question of unity (or, as it was called on the agenda of the Congress the question of a “Revolutionary Alliance”) was one of the chief questions.

The masses of Anarchist workers, who were convinced by their own experiences during the October struggles (in Asturias, Leon, Valencia and other provinces) of the need for working class unity, insisted that the Congress should categorically express itself in favor of unity and alliances. This imperative demand of the masses was also expressed in many telegrams from the lower organizations. For instance, the Gijon organizations of Anarchists, together with the local branch of the C.N.T.,* sent a telegram to the Congress which reads: “Fifty thousands toilers demand the creating of a revolutionary workers’ alliance”. The Anarchist trade union of Cardona sent a wire to the Congress, as did the railroad workers of San Geronimo (Seville). Forty thousand members of the Seville Federation of the C.N.T. demanded “trade union unity and the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ alliances”, etc. In their speeches at the Congress a number of delegates demanded unity. For instance, the delegate from Barcelona, Faris Oliver, in his speech stated:

* Anarchist Confederation of Labor.

“The heroic legions of Asturias showed us very glaringly that in the existing situation, faced by a well-organized state power, we cannot count on victory; we need the union of all.”

Alvarez, a delegate from Gijon, told the Congress that during the journey of the Asturian delegation, Anarchist workers mandated the delegation to demand from the Congress that alliances be set up everywhere.

Under the influence of these demands, the Congress of the C.N.T. was forced to express its attitude towards this question. The resolution of the Gijon organization proposed that close connections be set up between the C.N.T. and U.G.T.* to struggle for the immediate improvement of the conditions of the working class, and for the “victory of the social revolution in Spain”, and also that a revolutionary workers’ alliance be established to unite both trade union confederations. This resolution also made provision for the possibility of political parties affiliating to the alliance. To obstruct the adoption of this proposal the leadership of the C.N.T. introduced a resolution of their own (which was adopted by the Congress) which proposed that the U.G.T. conclude a “pact of revolutionary alliance”, on the condition that the latter refuses “political and parliamentary collaboration”. In other words, the leaders of the C.N.T. proposed to the U.G.T. that in essence they should break with the People’s Front and limit the alliances to the participation in them of only the C.N.T. and the U.G.T., excluding the political parties.

* Union General de Trabajadores.

There is a special supplementary point to this decision proposed by the C.N.T. leaders which states that the proposals are only of a temporary character, and should serve as a basis for establishing contacts with the U.G.T. until the latter drafts its own counter-proposals. This forced reservation is proof again of the profound urge among the masses for unity, and opens up the possibility for further negotiations.

After the Congress of the C.N.T., the Mundo Obrero, the central organ of the Communist Party of Spain, began a friendly polemic in its pages with the Anarchists as regards the decisions adopted by them regarding unity and the “revolutionary alliance”. For instance, in the issue of May 19, the paper wrote:

“We consider that the decisions on the alliances are positive because they express the desire of the masses for unity, and are negative because they place the question of alliances very narrowly…. We wish to tell our comrades of the C.N.T. that that which they call a ‘revolutionary alliance’ is a liaison or coordinating committee, a very good thing in itself from the point of view of united action in the struggle for economic demands…. Workers’ and peasants’ alliances are organs of the united front which guarantee united action and raise it to a much higher level.”

In his article entitled “About the Workers’ and Peasants’ Alliances”, published in the Mundo Obrero of May 14, Comrade Diaz, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, noted with satisfaction the statement made by Caballero about the workers’ and peasants’ alliances, and wrote:

“From February 16 till today we have only achieved the first victories; we must go further…. The reactionaries are attempting to create difficulties of all kinds. They provoke conflicts, close down factories and organize sabotage. The task of the workers’ organizations in the ranks of the People’s Front is with the aid of the workers’ and peasants’ alliances to achieve the fulfillment of the demands of the workers and peasants, and at the same time to put an end to the criminal maneuvers of reaction.”

The Communist Party is the consistent supporter and organizer throughout the country of workers’ and peasants’ alliances, which are organs of defense of the Spanish Republic against the fascists and the counter-revolution.

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