Category Archives: Communist Party of Spain (PCE)

Isaac Asimov Reviews ‘1984’

Originally published in The New York Times.

REVIEW OF 1984

By Isaac Asimov

I’ve been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at the beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of the approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so – but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply sent me a copy of it and said, ‘Read it.’

So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.

I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight. (I’m sorry; I love setting people straight.)

A. THE WRITING OF 1984

In 1949, a book entitled 1984 was published. It was written by Eric Arthur Blair under the pseudonym of George Orwell.

The book attempted to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.

This evil world was placed only thirty-five years in the future so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.

I, for instance, was already a married man when the book appeared and yet here we are less than four years away from that apocalyptic year (for ‘1984’ has become a year that is associated with dread because of Orwell’s book), and I am very likely to live to see it.

In this chapter, I will discuss the book, but first: Who was Blair/Orwell and why was the book written?

Blair was born in 1903 into the status of a British gentleman. His father was in the Indian civil service and Blair himself lived the life of a British Imperial official. He went to Eton, served in Burma, and so on. However, he lacked the money to be an English gentleman to the full. Then, too, he didn’t want to spend his time at dull desk jobs; he wanted to be a writer. Thirdly, he felt guilty about his status in the upper class. So he did in the late 1920s what so many well-to-do American young people in the 1960s did. In short, he became what we would have called a ‘hippie’ at a later time. He lived under slum conditions in London and Paris, consorted with and identified with slum dwellers and vagrants, managed to ease his conscience and, at the same time, to gather material for his earliest books.

He also turned left wing and became a socialist, fighting with the loyalists in Spain in the 1930s. There he found himself caught up in the sectarian struggles between the various left-wing factions, and since he believed in a gentlemanly English form of socialism, he was inevitably on the losing side. Opposed to him were passionate Spanish anarchists, syndicalists, and communists, who bitterly resented the fact that the necessities of fighting the Franco fascists got in the way of their fighting each other.

The communists, who were the best organised, won out and Orwell had to leave Spain, for he was convinced that if he did not, he would be killed From then on, to the end of his life, he carried on a private literary war with the communists, determined to win in words the battle he had lost in action.

During World War II, in which he was rejected for military service, he was associated with the left wing of the British Labour party, but didn’t much sympathise with their views, for even their reckless version of socialism seemed too well organised for him. He wasn’t much affected, apparently, by the Nazi brand of totalitarianism, for there was no room within him except for his private war with Stalinist communism. Consequently, when Great Britain was fighting for its life against Nazism, and the Soviet Union fought as an ally in the struggle and contributed rather more than its share in lives lost and in resolute courage, Orwell wrote Animal Farm which was a satire of the Russian Revolution and what followed, picturing it in terms of a revolt of barnyard animals against human masters.

He completed Animal Farm in 1944 and had trouble finding a publisher since it wasn’t a particularly good time for upsetting the Soviets. As soon as the war came to an end, however, the Soviet Union was fair game and Animal Farm was published. It was greeted with much acclaim and Orwell became sufficiently prosperous to retire and devote himself to his masterpiece, 1984.

That book described society as a vast world-wide extension of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, pictured with the venom of a rival left-wing sectarian. Other forms of totalitarianism play a small role. There are one or two mentions of the Nazis and of the Inquisition. At the very start, there is a reference or two to Jews, almost as though they were going to prove the objects of persecution, but that vanishes almost at once, as though Orwell didn’t want readers to mistake the villains for Nazis. The picture is of Stalinism, and Stalinism only.

By the time the book came out in 1949, the Cold War was at its height. The book therefore proved popular. It was almost a matter of patriotism in the West to buy it and talk about it, and perhaps even to read parts of it, although it is my opinion that more people bought it and talked about it than read it, for it is a dreadfully dull book – didactic, repetitious, and all but motionless.

It was most popular at first with people who leaned towards the conservative side of the political spectrum, for it was clearly an anti-Soviet polemic, and the picture of life it projected in the London of 1984 was very much as conservatives imagined life in the Moscow of 1949 to be.

During the McCarthy era in the United States, 1984 became increasingly popular with those who leaned towards the liberal side of the political spectrum, for it seemed to them that the United States of the early 1950s was beginning to move in the direction of thought-control and that all the viciousness Orwell had depicted was on its way towards us.

Thus, in an afterword to an edition published in paperback by New American Library in 1961, the liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm concluded as follows:

‘Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.’

Even if Stalinism and McCarthyism are disregarded, however, more and more Americans were becoming aware of just how ‘big’ the government was getting; how high taxes were; how increasingly rules and regulations permeated business and even ordinary life; how information concerning every facet of private life was entering the files not only of government bureaux but of private credit systems.

1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for dictatorship in general – but merely for government. Even governmental paternalism seemed ‘1984ish’ and the catch phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control. It was not only big government and big business that was a symptom of 1984 but big science, big labour, big anything.

In fact, so thoroughly has 1984-ophobia penetrated the consciousness of many who have not read the book and have no notion of what it contains, that one wonders what will happen to us after 31 December 1984. When New Year’s Day of 1985 arrives and the United States is still in existence and facing very much the problems it faces today, how will we express our fears of whatever aspect of life fills us with apprehension? What new date can we invent to take the place of 1984?

Orwell did not live to see his book become the success it did. He did not witness the way in which he made 1984 into a year that would haunt a whole generation of Americans. Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital in January 1950, just a few months after the book was published, at the age of forty-six. His awareness of imminent death may have added to the bitterness of the book.

B. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF 1984

Many people think of 1984 as a science fiction novel, but almost the only item about 1984 that would lead one to suppose this is the fact that it is purportedly laid in the future. Not so! Orwell had no feel for the future, and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.

The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles east in space to Moscow. Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme. The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s. The Soviets converted one of their revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky, into a villain, leaving his opponent, Joseph Stalin, as a hero. The Ingsoc, therefore, convert one of their revolutionaries, Emmanuel Goldstein, into a villain, leaving his opponent, with a moustache like Stalin, as a hero.

There is no ability to make minor changes, even. Goldstein, like Trotsky, has ‘a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard’. Orwell apparently does not want to confuse the issue by giving Stalin a different name so he calls him merely ‘Big Brother’.

At the very beginning of the story, it is made clear that television (which was coming into existence at the time the book was written) served as a continuous means of indoctrination of the people, for sets cannot be turned off. (And, apparently, in a deteriorating London in which nothing works, these sets never fail.)

The great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom. Hence, the meaning of the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

This is an extraordinarily inefficient system of keeping everyone under control. To have a person being watched at all times means that some other person must be doing the watching at all times (at least in the Orwellian society) and must be doing so very narrowly, for there is a great development of the art of interpreting gesture and facial expression. One person cannot watch more than one person in full concentration, and can only do so for a comparatively short time before attention begins to wander. I should guess, in short, that there may have to be five watchers for every person watched. And then, of course, the watchers must themselves be watched since no one in the Orwellian world is suspicion-free. Consequently, the system of oppression by two-way television simply will not work.

Orwell himself realised this by limiting its workings to the Party members. The ‘proles’ (proletariat), for whom Orwell cannot hide his British upper-class contempt, are left largely to themselves as subhuman. (At one point in the book, he says that any prole that shows ability is killed – a leaf taken out of the Spartan treatment of their helots twenty-five hundred years ago.)

Furthermore, he has a system of volunteer spies in which children report on their parents, and neighbours on each other. This cannot possibly work well since eventually everyone reports everyone else and it all has to be abandoned.

Orwell was unable to conceive of computers or robots, or he would have placed everyone under non-human surveillance. Our own computers to some extent do this in the IRS, in credit files, and so on, but that does not take us towards 1984, except in fevered imaginations. Computers and tyranny do not necessarily go hand in hand. Tyrannies have worked very well without computers (consider the Nazis) and the most computerised nations in today’s world are also the least tyrannical.

Orwell lacks the capacity to see (or invent) small changes. His hero finds it difficult in his world of 1984 to get shoelaces or razor blades. So would I in the real world of the 1980s, for so many people use slip-on shoes and electric razors.

Then, too, Orwell had the technophobic fixation that every technological advance is a slide downhill. Thus, when his hero writes, he ‘fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. He does so ‘because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil’.

Presumably, the ‘ink-pencil’ is the ball-point pen that was coming into use at the time that 1984 was being written. This means that Orwell describes something as being written’ with a real nib but being ‘scratched’ with a ball-point. This is, however, precisely the reverse of the truth. If you are old enough to remember steel pens, you will remember that they scratched fearsomely, and you know ball-points don’t. This is not science fiction, but a distorted nostalgia for a past that never was. I am surprised that Orwell stopped with the steel pen and that he didn’t have Winston writing with a neat goose quill.

Nor was Orwell particularly prescient in the strictly social aspects of the future he was presenting, with the result that the Orwellian world of 1984 is incredibly old-fashioned when compared with the real world of the 1980s.

Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco. He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but surely one would expect him to invent some differences.

In his despair (or anger), Orwell forgets the virtues human beings have. All his characters are, in one way or another, weak or sadistic, or sleazy, or stupid, or repellent. This may be how most people are, or how Orwell wants to indicate they will all be under tyranny, but it seems to me that under even the worst tyrannies, so far, there have been brave men and women who have withstood the tyrants to the death and whose personal histories are luminous flames in the surrounding darkness. If only because there is no hint of this in 1984, it does not resemble the real world of the 1980s.

Nor did he foresee any difference in the role of women or any weakening of the feminine stereotype of 1949. There are only two female characters of importance. One is a strong, brainless ‘prole’ woman who is an endless washerwoman, endlessly singing a popular song with words of the type familiar in the 1930s and 1940s (at which Orwell shudders fastidiously as ‘trashy’, in blissful non-anticipation of hard rock).

The other is the heroine, Julia, who is sexually promiscuous (but is at least driven to courage by her interest in sex) and is otherwise brainless. When the hero, Winston, reads to her the book within a book that explains the nature of the Orwellian world, she responds by falling asleep – but then since the treatise Winston reads is stupefyingly soporific, this may be an indication of Julia’s good sense rather than the reverse. In short, if 1984 must be considered science fiction, then it is very bad science fiction.

C. THE GOVERNMENT OF 1984

Orwell’s 1984 is a picture of all-powerful government, and it has helped make the notion of ‘big government’ a very frightening one.

We have to remember, though, that the world of the late 1940s, during which Orwell was writing his book, was one in which there had been, and still were, big governments with true tyrants – individuals whose every wish, however unjust, cruel or vicious, was law. What’s more, it seemed as though such tyrants were irremovable except by the chance of outside force. Benito Mussolini of Italy, after twenty-one years of absolute rule, was overthrown, but that was only because his country was suffering defeat in war.

Adolf Hitler of Germany, a far stronger and more brutal tyrant, ruled with a steel hand for twelve years, yet even defeat did not, in itself, bring about his overthrow. Though the area over which he ruled shrank and shrank and shrank, and even though overwhelming armies of his adversaries closed in from the east and west, he remained absolute tyrant over whatever area he controlled – even when it was only over the bunker in which he committed suicide. Until he removed himself, no one dared remove him. (There were plots against him, to be sure, but they never worked, sometimes through quirks of fate that seemed explainable only by supposing that someone down there liked him.)

Orwell, however, had no time for either Mussolini or Hitler. His enemy was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin had ruled the Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever increasing strength. – And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother.

Of course, that was not the way it really was. Orwell didn’t live long enough to see it but Stalin died only three years after 1984 was published, and it was not long after that that his regime was denounced as a tyranny by – guess who – the Soviet leadership.

The Soviet Union is still the Soviet Union, but it is not Stalinist, and the enemies of the state are no longer liquidated (Orwell uses ‘vaporised’ instead, such small changes being all he can manage) with quite such abandon.

Again, Mao Tse-tung died in China, and while he himself has not been openly denounced, his close associates, as ‘the Gang of Four’, were promptly demoted from Divinity, and while China is still China, it is not Maoist any longer.

Franco of Spain died in his bed and while, to his very last breath, he remained the unquestioned leader he had been for nearly forty years, immediately after that last breath, Fascism abruptly dwindled in Spain, as it had in Portugal after Salazar’s death.

In short, Big Brothers do die, or at least they have so far, and when they die, the government changes, always for the milder.

This is not to say that new tyrants may not make themselves felt, but they will die, too. At least in the real 1980s we have every confidence they will and the undying Big Brother is not yet a real threat.

If anything, in fact, governments of the 1980s seem dangerously weak. The advance of technology has put powerful weapons – explosives, machine guns, fast cars into the hands of urban terrorists who can and do kidnap, hijack, gun down, and take hostages with impunity while governments stand by more or less helplessly.

In addition to the immortality of Big Brother, Orwell presents two other ways of maintaining an eternal tyranny.

First -,present someone or something to hate. In the Orwellian world it was Emmanuel Goldstein for whom hate was built up and orchestrated in a robotized mass function.

This is nothing new, of course. Every nation in the world has used various neighbours for the purpose of hate. This sort of thing is so easily handled and comes as such second nature to humanity that one wonders why there have to be the organised hate drives in the Orwellian world.

It needs scarcely any clever psychological mass movements to make Arabs hate Israelis and Greeks hate Turks and Catholic Irish hate Protestant Irish – and vice versa in each case. To be sure, the Nazis organised mass meetings of delirium that every participant seemed to enjoy, but it had no permanent effect. Once the war moved on to German soil, the Germans surrendered as meekly as though they had never Sieg-Heiled in their lives.

Second – rewrite history. Almost every one of the few individuals we meet in 1984 has, as his job, the rapid rewriting of the past, the readjustment of statistics, the overhauling of newspapers – as though anyone is going to take the trouble to pay attention to the past anyway.

This Orwellian preoccupation with the minutiae of ‘historical proof’ is typical of the political sectarian who is always quoting what has been said and done in the past to prove a point to someone on the other side who is always quoting something to the opposite effect that has been said and done.

As any politician knows, no evidence of any kind is ever required. It is only necessary to make a statement – any statement – forcefully enough to have an audience believe it. No one will check the lie against the facts, and, if they do, they will disbelieve the facts. Do you think the German people in 1939 pretended that the Poles had attacked them and started World War II? No! Since they were told that was so, they believed it as seriously as you and I believe that they attacked the Poles.

To be sure, the Soviets put out new editions of their Encyclopaedia in which politicians rating a long biography in earlier editions are suddenly omitted entirely, and this is no doubt the germ of the Orwellian notion, but the chances of carrying it as far as is described in 1984 seem to me to be nil – not because it is beyond human wickedness, but because it is totally unnecessary.

Orwell makes much of ‘Newspeak’ as an organ of repression – the conversion of the English language into so limited and abbreviated an instrument that the very vocabulary of dissent vanishes. Partly he got the notion from the undoubted habit of abbreviation. He gives examples of ‘Communist International’ becoming ‘Comintern’ and ‘Geheime Staatspolizei’ becoming ‘Gestapo’, but that is not a modern totalitarian invention. ‘Vulgus mobile’ became ‘mob’; ‘taxi cabriolet’ became ‘cab’; ‘quasi-stellar radio source’ became ‘quasar’; ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ became ‘laser’ and so on. There is no sign that such compressions of the language have ever weakened it as a mode of expression.

As a matter of fact, political obfuscation has tended to use many words rather than few, long words rather than short, to extend rather than to reduce. Every leader of inadequate education or limited intelligence hides behind exuberant inebriation of loquacity.

Thus, when Winston Churchill suggested the development of ‘Basic English’ as an international language (something which undoubtedly also contributed to ‘Newspeak’), the suggestion was stillborn. We are therefore in no way approaching Newspeak in its condensed form, though we have always had Newspeak in its extended form and always will have.

We also have a group of young people among us who say things like ‘Right on, man, you know. It’s like he’s got it all together, you know, man. I mean, like you know -‘ and so on for five minutes when the word that the young people are groping for is ‘Huh?’

That, however, is not Newspeak, and it has always been with us, too. It is something which in Oldspeak is called ‘inarticulacy’ and it is not what Orwell had in mind.

D. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF 1984

Although Orwell seemed, by and large, to be helplessly stuck in the world of 1949, in one respect at least he showed himself to be remarkably prescient, and that was in foreseeing the tripartite split of the world of the 1980s.

The international world of 1984 is a world of three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia – and that fits in, very roughly, with the three actual superpowers of the 1980s: the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

Oceania is a combination of the United States and the British Empire. Orwell, who was an old Imperial civil servant, did not seem to notice that the British Empire was in its last throes in the late 1940s and was about to dissolve. He seems to suppose, in fact, that the British Empire is the dominant member of the British-American combination.

At least, the entire action takes place in London and phrases such as ‘the United States’ and ‘Americans’ are rarely, if ever, mentioned. But then, this is very much in the fashion of the British spy novel in which, ever since World War II, Great Britain (currently about the eighteenth strongest military and economic power in the world) is set up as the great adversary of the Soviet Union, or of China, or of some invented international conspiracy, with the United States either never mentioned or reduced to the small courtesy appearance of an occasional CIA agent.

Eurasia is, of course, the Soviet Union, which Orwell assumes will have absorbed the whole European continent. Eurasia, therefore, includes all of Europe, plus Siberia, and its population is 95 per cent European by any standard.

Nevertheless, Orwell describes the Eurasians as ‘solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces’. Since Orwell still lives in a time when ‘European’ and ‘Asiatic’ are equivalent to ‘ ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, it is impossible to inveigh against the Soviet Union with the proper emotion if it is not thought of as ‘Asiatic’. This comes under the heading of what Orwellian Newspeak calls ‘double-think’, something that Orwell, like any human being, is good at.

It may be, of course, that Orwell is thinking not of Eurasia, or the Soviet Union, but of his great bête noire, Stalin. Stalin is a Georgian, and Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus mountains, is, by strict geographic considerations, part of Asia.

Eastasia is, of course, China and various dependent nations. Here is prescience. At the time Orwell was writing 1984, the Chinese communists had not yet won control of the country and many (in the United States, in particular) were doing their best to see that the anti-Communist, Chiang Kai-shek, retained control. Once the communists won, it became part of the accepted credo of the West that the Chinese would be under thorough Soviet control and that China and the Soviet Union would form a monolithic communist power.

Orwell not only foresaw the communist victory (he saw that victory everywhere, in fact) but also foresaw that Russia and China would not form a monolithic bloc but would be deadly enemies.

There, his own experience as a Leftist sectarian may have helped him. He had no Rightist superstitions concerning Leftists as unified and indistinguishable villains. He knew they would fight each other as fiercely over the most trifling points of doctrine as would the most pious of Christians.

He also foresaw a permanent state of war among the three; a condition of permanent stalemate with the alliances ever-shifting, but always two against the strongest. This was the old-fashioned ‘balance of power’ system which was used in ancient Greece, in medieval Italy, and in early modern Europe. Orwell’s mistake lay in thinking there had to be actual war to keep the merry-go-round of the balance of power in being. In fact, in one of the more laughable parts of the book, he goes on and on concerning the necessity of permanent war as a means of consuming the world’s production of resources and thus keeping the social stratification of upper, middle, and lower classes in being. (This sounds like a very Leftist explanation of war as the result of a conspiracy worked out with great difficulty.)

In actual fact, the decades since 1945 have been remarkably war-free as compared with the decades before it. There have been local wars in profusion, but no general war. But then, war is not required as a desperate device to consume the world’s resources. That can be done by such other devices as endless increase in population and in energy use, neither of which Orwell considers.

Orwell did not foresee any of the significant economic changes that have taken place since World War II. He did not foresee the role of oil or its declining availability or its increasing price, or the escalating power of those nations who control it. I don’t recall his mentioning the word ‘oil’.

But perhaps it is close enough to mark Orwellian prescience here, if we substitute ‘cold war’ for ‘war’. There has been, in fact, a more or less continual ‘cold war’ that has served to keep employment high and solve some short-term economic problems (at the cost of creating long-term greater ones). And this cold war is enough to deplete resources.

Furthermore, the alliances shifted as Orwell foresaw and very nearly as suddenly. When the United States seemed all-powerful, the Soviet Union and China were both vociferously anti-American and in a kind of alliance. As American power decreased, the Soviet Union and China fell apart and, for a while, each of the three powers inveighed against the other two equally. Then, when the Soviet Union came to seem particularly powerful, a kind of alliance sprang up between the United States and China, as they co-operated in vilifying the Soviet Union, and spoke softly of each other.

In 1984 every shift of alliance involved an orgy of history rewriting. In real life, no such folly is necessary. The public swings from side to side easily, accepting the change in circumstance with no concern for the past at all. For instance, the Japanese, by the 1950s, had changed from unspeakable villains to friends, while the Chinese moved in the opposite direction with no one bothering to wipe out Pearl Harbour. No one cared, for goodness’ sake.

Orwell has his three great powers voluntarily forgo the use of nuclear bombs, and to be sure such bombs have not been used in war since 1945. That, however, may be because the only powers with large nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have avoided war with each other. Were there actual war, it is extremely doubtful that one side or the other would not finally feel it necessary to push the button. In that respect, Orwell perhaps falls short of reality.

London does, however, occasionally suffer a missile strike, which sounds very much like a V-1 or V-2 weapon of 1944, and the city is in a 1945-type shambles. Orwell cannot make 1984 very different from 1944 in this respect. Orwell, in fact, makes it clear that by 1984, the universal communism of the three superpowers has choked science and reduced it to uselessness except in those areas where it is needed for war. There is no question but that the nations are more eager to invest in science where war applications are in clear view but, alas, there is no way of separating war from peace where applications are in question.

Science is a unit, and everything in it could conceivably be related to war and destruction. Science has therefore not been choked off but continues not only in the United States and Western Europe and Japan, but also in the Soviet Union and in China. The advances of science are too numerous to attempt to list, but think of lasers and computers as ‘war weapons’ with infinite peaceful applications.

To summarise, then: George Orwell in 1984 was, in my opinion, engaging in a private feud with Stalinism, rather that attempting to forecast the future. He did not have the science fictional knack of foreseeing a plausible future and, in actual fact, in almost all cases, the world of 1984 bears no relation to the real world of the 1980s.

The world may go communist, if not by 1984, then by some not very much later date; or it may see civilisation destroyed. If this happens, however, it will happen in a fashion quite different from that depicted in 1984 and if we try to prevent either eventuality by imagining that 1984 is accurate, then we will be defending ourselves against assaults from the wrong direction and we will lose.

Source

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the Spanish Civil War

1936 March of Leningrad for Spain

Spanish Revolution of 1931–39

a revolution during which there evolved in Spain a democratic republic which for about three years from the middle of 1936 struggled for its existence, waging a national revolutionary war against fascist insurgents and Italo-German invaders. The specific features of the Spanish Revolution were in large measure attributable to certain distinctive characteristics of Spain’s historical development, above all the exceptional vitality of feudal vestiges (the landlords, who are the chief heirs of the feudal traditions, have formed a close alliance with the financial-industrial oligarchy in the years of the fascist regime). The axis of the political struggle that unfolded on the eve of the revolutionary eruption was the antagonism between the bloc of landowning aristocracy and the financial oligarchy (its dominance personified by the monarchy) and the Spanish people as a whole. The contradictions of the social and political system that prevailed were exacerbated by the economic crisis that enveloped Spain in the middle of 1930.

Striving to avert the collapse of the monarchy, which then ruled Spain, the government of Berenguer, which had replaced the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera in January 1930, issued a decree scheduling elections to the Cortes for March 19. This maneuver failed, because with the revolutionary upsurge in the country the opposition forces refused to take part in the elections and forced Berenguer to resign (Feb. 14, 1931). King Alfonso XIII (ruled 1902–31) named Admiral Aznar as head of the government in place of General Berenguer. The new government immediately announced municipal-council elections for April 12. The elections developed into a decisive antimonarch-ical plebiscite. The republicans won the elections in every city in Spain. The overwhelming majority of Spain’s population came out for a republic. The day after the elections, the leader of the Catalonian national movement, Maciá, proclaimed the creation of a Catalonian republic. On Apr. 14, 1931, the Revolutionary Committee (created by leaders of the bourgeois republican movement on the basis of the Pact of San Sebastián of 1930) gathered in the Ministry of Internal Affairs building and formed a provisional government, headed by Alcalá-Zamora (leader of the Democratic Liberal Party). That day the king abdicated. On June 27, 1931, the Constituent Cortes assembled and on Dec. 9, 1931, adopted a republican constitution.

This peaceful revolution took power away from the landowning aristocracy and big bourgeoisie; the bloc that took over represented the entire bourgeoisie except certain groups of monopoly capitalists. Striving to build themselves a base among the masses, the bourgeoisie recruited the Socialist Party to participate in the government. In December 1931 the pressure of the masses led to the removal from power of the two most right-wing political parties in the government bloc: the Conservatives (led by M. Maura) and the Radicals (led by A. Lerroux). Leadership of the government proved to be in the hands of petit bourgeois republicans, who did not take the path of radical socioeconomic reforms. The new bourgeois-democratic system preserved the latifundia system, rent in kind, and métayage (sharecropping) and failed to carry out an agrarian reform—a reform that was so essential for Spain, “a country of land without people and people without land,” and one demanded by millions of downtrodden peasants and farm workers. Republican and Socialist ministers alienated the masses from the republic, pursuing a policy of flirtation with reactionaries and of violence against the working class and the peasantry, thereby clearing the path for counterrevolutionary forces that started to prepare to restore the old order. That is why the military revolt of Aug. 10, 1932, led by General Sanjurjo, became possible, but it was quickly suppressed because of retaliatory action by the masses (Sanjurjo, who was first sentenced to death and then to 30 years in prison, was released in 1934 by the Lerroux government). In September 1933, as a result of a drive by the reactionaries, the Socialists were ousted from the government. The split in the Republican-Socialist bloc, which resulted from the government’s contradictory and inconsistent domestic policy, produced a political crisis. The republican parties, under the pressure of rightist forces, split into small groups. The parliament was dissolved. New elections (Nov. 19, 1933) brought victory to the Radical Party and the right-wing profascist forces. The Socialist Party lost almost half of its seats.

Having scored a victory in the 1933 elections, the reactionaries were in a position to seize power legally and to undermine the republic from within. With this objective, the reactionary forces merged into the Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), headed by Gil Robles. In early October 1934 the CEDA, after a series of preparatory maneuvers, joined the government.

During this period the Communist Party of Spain (CPS; created in 1920) was becoming the leader and organizer of the masses, which were uniting against the forces of counterrevolution. The Communist Party advanced agrarian reform as the most important measure aimed at democratizing the country. It demanded that the domination of the country’s economic and social life by large national and foreign banks and monopolies be restricted. The party strongly supported the right to self-determination of Catalonia, the Basque Provinces, and Galicia, the granting of full independence to Morocco, and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from North Africa. In the opinion of the Communists, the republic had to carry out a democratic rejuvenation of the state apparatus and above all of the command of the Spanish Army. The Communist Party contended that it was essential for the consistent democratization of the country that the working class act as the leader of the popular masses, with the unification of all the forces of the working class being the most important precondition of this democratization. Therefore, the party made the struggle for the unity of the working class the mainspring of its policy. The policy of unity was making headway in the masses; it also found a sympathetic response in the ranks of the Socialist Party, which was going through an acute crisis since the party had been ousted from the government. While the defeat and failure of their policy prodded some Socialist leaders into an overt move to the right, toward liberalism, and into an abandonment of class positions, a segment of the leadership closer to the proletariat, led by F. Largo Caballero, actively joined the antifascist struggle. This made it possible during 1934 to achieve the first successes in establishing unity of action between the Communist and Socialist parties.

When the CEDA joined the government on Oct. 4, 1934, the masses, led by the Socialist and Communist parties, immediately expressed their opposition. A general strike was declared in Spain, which in Asturias, the Basque Provinces, Catalonia, and Madrid grew into an armed revolt. The struggle was sharpest and broadest in Asturias. The government flung against the working people units of the Foreign Legion and Moroccan units, which dealt with the Asturian miners with particular brutality. The repressions against the rebel movement in October 1934 were led by General F. Franco, who was already preparing a plot against the republic. Although the October Uprising of 1934 was defeated because of inadequate preparation and lack of coordination of action, it was able to delay the realization of the reactionaries’ plans and generate throughout the country a mass movement of solidarity with the insurgents and hatred for the reactionaries, thus preparing conditions for the formation of the Popular Front.

Two months after the struggle in Asturias ended, an underground liaison committee of the leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties was created at the initiative of the Communist Party. In May 1935 the CPS, enjoying the support of the antifascist bloc that had been in operation for several months, proposed to the Socialist Party that a popular front be formed. But the Socialist Party, under the pretext that it was unwilling to cooperate with the bourgeois republican parties that had expelled it from the government, refused. Although the Communist proposal was not accepted on a nationwide scale, numerous local Popular Front committees and committees of liaison between the Socialists and Communists sprang up, and they carried out the policy of unity in practice. Based on the decisions of the seventh congress on the Comintern (July 25-Aug. 20, 1935, in Moscow), the Communist Party began exploiting the successes achieved in creating the Popular Front. In December 1935 the General Confederation of United Workers, which was under Communist influence, joined the General Union of Workers (UGT), which was led by the Socialists. This was an important step toward trade union solidarity.

In December 1935, under the pressure of the masses, the reactionary government was forced to resign. The new government was headed by the bourgeois democrat Portela Valladares, who dissolved parliament and scheduled new elections. This was a victory for the democratic forces that hastened the creation of the Popular Front. On Jan. 15, 1936, a pact was signed forming the Popular Front, which incorporated the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Left Republican Party, the Republican Alliance, the UGT, and a number of minor political groups. The anarchist National Confederation of Labor (CNT) remained outside the Popular Front, although rank-and-file CNT members collaborated with workers of other political orientations despite the sectarian tactics of their leaders. In the elections held February 16, the democratic forces scored a convincing victory. The Popular Front parties won 268 of 480 seats in parliament.

The triumph of the Popular Front inspired Spain’s progressive forces to struggle for the implementation of a profound democratic transformation. Large street demonstrations held in Madrid and other cities attested to the determination of the masses to solidify and develop their victory. The people demanded the release of political prisoners, and this demand was met without delay. The influence of the Communist Party was on the increase: its membership totaled 30,000 in Feburary 1936, 50,000 in March, 60,000 in April, 84,000 in June, and 100,000 in July. The Popular Front, whose leading force was the working class, grew stronger. The merger of the Socialist and Communist youth organizations into the United Socialist Youth (April 1936) laid the foundations for the unity of the entire youth movement. In Catalonia, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia was created as a result of the merger of four workers’ parties (July 1936). The Popular Front revived the prospect of a peaceful and parliamentary development of the democratic revolution. The result of the Popular Front’s victory was a republican government supported by the Socialists and Communists, who did not belong to it. The Communist Party favored creation of a Popular Front government, but the Socialist Party objected to this.

The governments of Azańa (Feb. 19-May 12, 1936) and Casares Quiroga (May 12-July 18, 1936), formed after the victory of the Popular Front, did not take account of the stern lessons of the first years of the republic and failed to implement the necessary measures to defend the democratic system. The majority of reactionary generals and leaders were in their old places in the army (including Franco, Mola, Goded, Queipo de Llano, Aranda, Cabanellas, and Yagüe), where they were preparing a plot against the republic. In close contact with such reactionary political groups as the Spanish Falange (the fascist party), founded in 1933, and the Rejuvenation of Spain organization, headed by Calvo Sotelo, a former minister under dictator Primo de Rivera (whose rule lasted from Sept. 13, 1923, to Jan. 28, 1930), these generals completed preparations for the revolt. They were backed by a landowning and financial oligarchy, which was striving to establish a fascist dictatorship and thereby solidify its position in the country.

In preparing the revolt against the republic, the reactionaries leaned on the support of Hitler and Mussolini. As early as 1934, representatives of Spanish reaction concluded an agreement in Rome with Mussolini, who promised to provide arms and money to extreme right-wing Spanish forces. In March 1936, after the victory of the Popular Front, General Sanjurjo (who was to have led the revolt; his death in a plane crash on July 20, 1936, opened the way for General Franco to become the principal leader) and the leader of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, set off for Berlin to settle the details of fascist Germany’s participation in the struggle against the Spanish people. On July 16, General Mola notified all the generals taking part in the conspiracy that the revolt would begin on July 18 and develop over the next two days. Military men serving in Morocco acted ahead of schedule (on the morning of July 17). The first units used by the insurgents were mostly soldiers of the Foreign Legion (11,000) and Moroccan soldiers (14,000). The military, after brutally crushing isolated attempts at resistance, took over the cities of Melilla, Ceuta, and T–touan. On July 18 the conspirators who rose up on the Iberian Peninsula captured Cédiz and Sevilla.

The fascist military revolt left the republic without an army. In a situation that demanded energetic and immediate action, the most prominent republican leaders showed weakness and indecision. The head of the government, Casares Quiroga (Left Republican Party), and Azańa, the president of the republic (since May 1936), opposed until the last moment arming the people and attempted to reach an agreement with the insurgents. But the working class and the popular masses would not agree to the surrender that the government was proposing to them. As soon as word of the revolt in Morocco reached Madrid, all enterprises ceased operation and the people came out into the streets, demanding arms from the government to defend the republic. A Communist Party delegation went to the head of the government and endorsed the demands of the masses. On July 18 a commission of representatives of the Popular Front again visited Casares Quiroga and demanded that the people be armed.

A formidable popular wave rose up to repel the reactionary revolt. Casares Quiroga, who had lost control of the situation, resigned. President Azańa charged D. Martines Barrio (leader of the Republican Alliance) with forming a government that was to reach an agreement with the insurgents, which in effect would mean surrender. A vigorous protest by the people foiled this attempt. On July 19 a new government, headed by one of the leaders of the Left Republican Party, José Giral, took office. However, three days were lost in disputes about whether to arm the people, and the conspirators used these days of vacillation to capture 23 cities. The people paid with their blood for the vacillation of the republican leaders.

Nonetheless, the insurgents soon became convinced of the determination of the popular masses to block fascism. In Barcelona and Madrid the revolt was quickly suppressed. Workers, peasants, artisans, and intelligentsia throughout Spain rose up to defend the republic.

In early August 1936 the advantage was still with the republic. The republicans still had Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia, Asturias, the Basque Provinces, New Castile, Murcia, and a large part of Estremadura. The republic controlled the chief industrial and mining centers, the ports (including Barcelona, Bilbao, Santander, Málaga, Almería, and Cartagena) and the richest agricultural areas. The revolt, for the most part, was suppressed. The republic was saved from the first fascist onslaught.

The Spanish working masses succeeded in defeating the fascist revolt because of the Communists persistent attempts to achieve unity of action among the workers and all antifascists and to obtain mutual understanding and concord between the Communist and Socialist parties.

After the first blows dealt to the insurgents, the war could have ended if it had been waged within a national framework, but Hitler and Mussolini came to the reactionaries’ aid, sending German and Italian troops equipped with modern weapons. This altered the character of the war that had unfolded in Spain. It was no longer a civil war. As a result of the foreign intervention, the war for the Spanish people turned into a national-revolutionary war: national because Spain’s integrity and national independence were being defended and revolutionary because it was a war for freedom and democracy against fascism.

To some degree the war in Spain affected every country, every people, and every government. To carry out his aggressive plans aimed against Europe and the whole world, Hitler needed the Iberian Peninsula as a strategic base to move into France’s rear, to obtain control of routes to Africa and the Orient, and to get closer to the American continent. The British, French, and American governments not only allowed Hitler to carry out open intervention in Spain but aided his aggressive plans by declaring with regard to the republic and the Spanish people the criminal policy of “nonintervention,” which was crucial to the outcome of the war in Spain and hastened the unleashing of World War II.

The Italo-German intervention played a decisive role in the first stage of the war in Spain and, as the republicans’ resistance grew, took on greater and greater scope. Mussolini dispatched 150,000 soldiers, including several divisions that had had combat experience in Ethiopia. The Italian Navy, which included submarines, was operating in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian aircraft deployed in Spain carried out 86, 420 sorties (during the war in Ethiopia they carried out 3,949 sorties) and 5,319 bombings, during which 11,585 tons of explosives were dropped on Spanish communities.

Hitler’s contribution to Franco was a sizable quantity of planes, tanks, artillery, and communications facilities and thousands of officers, who were supposed to train and organize the Franco army; he also sent the Condor Legion, under General Sperrle and later under Richthofen and Volkmann. The fact that 26,113 German servicemen were decorated by Hitler for services in the war in Spain shows the scale of German intervention.

Large US monopolies did their bit to support the insurgents: in 1936 Franco received from Standard Oil and other US companies 344,000 tons of fuel; this rose to 420,000 tons in 1937, 478,000 tons in 1938, and 624,000 tons in 1939 (according to the data of H. Feis, an economic officer of the US embassy in Madrid). Deliveries of American trucks (12,000 from Ford, Stude-baker, and General Motors) were of no less importance for the insurgents. At the same time the USA prohibited the sale of arms, planes, and fuel to the Spanish Republic. The USSR, which resolutely rose to the defense of Spanish democracy, supplied the republicans with arms despite all kinds of difficulties. Soviet volunteers, mostly tanktroops and pilots, fought for the republic. A broad movement of solidarity unfolded in support of the republic’s struggle, exemplified by the International Brigades, which were organized chiefly by Communist parties.

The heroic struggle of the Spanish people and their first victories were the best proof that fascism could be fought and defeated. Yet the Labor and Socialist International, by turning down repeated proposals by the Comintern to unite the efforts of the international workers’ movement in defense of the Spanish people, in effect supported the policy of nonintervention..

For 32½ months, from July 17, 1936, to Apr. 1, 1939, the Spanish people resisted fascist aggression in extraordinarily difficult conditions. In the first stage, until the spring of 1937, the main tasks were the struggle for the creation of a people’s army and the defense of the capital, which was threatened by the insurgents and interventionists. On Aug. 8, 1936, the fascists captured Badajoz, and on September 3 they took Talavera de la Reina, about 100 km from Madrid.

To combat the increased threat, a new republican government, headed by F. Largo Caballero, the leader of the Socialists, was formed on September 4; it included all the parties of the Popular Front, including the Communist Party. Some time later the Basque National Party joined the government. On Oct. 1, 1936, the Republican Cortes approved the Statute of the Basque Provinces, and on October 7 an autonomous government headed by Aguirre, a Catholic, was created in Bilbao. On Nov. 4, 1936, representatives of the CNT were incorporated into the Largo Caballero government.

By November 6, Franco’s troops had approached the outskirts of Madrid. During this period the historic slogan of Madrid’s defenders was heard round the world: “They shall not pass!” The fascist troops crashed into the steely heroism of the republican fighters, the fighters of the International Brigades, and the entire population of Madrid, who rose to defend every street and every house. In February 1937 the fascists’ attempts to encircle Madrid collapsed as a result of the Jarama operation conducted by the republican army. On March 8–20, 1937, the people’s army won a victory near Guadalajara, where several regular divisions of Mussolini’s army were smashed. Franco had to abandon his plan to take Madrid. The center of gravity of the hostilities shifted to northern Spain, to the region of the Basque iron mines.

The heroic defense of Madrid demonstrated the correctness of the policy of the Communist Party of Spain, which aimed at creating a people’s army capable of repulsing the enemy and which was being carried out despite the resistance of Largo Caballero. He was increasingly falling under the influence of the anarchists and of professional military men who did not believe in the victory of the people. His complicity with the anarchist adventurists caused the takeover of Mélaga by the fascists on Feb. 14, 1937. Largo Caballero’s connivance enabled anarchic Trotskyist groups, in which enemy agents were operating, to whip up a putsch in Barcelona on May 3, 1937, against the republican government. The putsch was suppressed by the Catalonian working people under the leadership of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia. The seriousness of the situation dictated the persistent necessity of radically changing the policy of the republican government. On May 17, 1937, a new Popular Front government was created, headed by Socialist J. Negrín.

In the second stage of the war (from the spring of 1937 until the spring of 1938), many of the members of the UGT, which was led by Largo Caballero, and the CNT refused to support the new government; nevertheless, successes were achieved in the creation of an army, which was able to launch offensive operations near Brunete (in July 1937) and Belchite (in August-September 1937). But Largo Caballero left a grim legacy behind him. The situation in northern Spain was extremely difficult, and there was no possibility of holding back the fascist offensive, which was not effectively opposed by the bourgeois-nationalist policy of the government of the Basque Provinces. This government preferred to yield the enterprises of Bilbao intact to the fascists and did not organize consistent resistance. On June 20 the fascists entered Bilbao, and on August 26 Santander fell. Asturias resisted until the end of October 1937.

In order to thwart Franco’s new drive on Madrid, the republican army launched an offensive of its own on December 15 and captured the city of Teruel. However, as at Guadalajara, this success was not exploited by the government. A negative feature of this stage of the war was the activity of the minister of defense, the Socialist I. Prieto. Fanatically anticommunist and lacking any faith in the people, he impeded the strengthening of the popular army, seeking to replace it with a professional army. Events quickly proved that this policy was leading to defeat.

Having solidified his forces thanks to new aid from the Germans and Italians, the enemy broke through the Aragon front on Mar. 9, 1938. On April 15 the fascist troops reached the Mediterranean Sea, having cut the republic’s territory in two. The grave military situation was further complicated by the policy of direct complicity with the fascist aggressors that was being pursued by the Western countries. Without encountering any resistance from Great Britain, the USA, or France, Hitler seized Austria in March 1938. On Apr. 16, 1938, Chamberlain signed an agreement with Mussolini that signified Britain’s tacit consent to the Italian troops’ participation in the struggle on Franco’s side. In these conditions a capitulationist outlook began to crystallize in the ruling circles of the Spanish Republic, an outlook fostered by Socialist leaders such as J. Besteiro and Prieto, some republican leaders, and the heads of the Federation of Iberian Anarchists (FAI).

The Communist Party warned the nation of the mortal danger. A mighty patriotic surge engulfed the Spanish people, who at enormous demonstrations, such as the one on Mar. 16, 1938, in Barcelona, demanded that capitulationist ministers be ousted from the government. With the formation on April 8 of the second Negrín government, in which the previous parties were joined by both trade union centers (the UGT and the CNT), the war entered a new period. The Communist Party of Spain began to fight for a broad national alliance aimed at achieving mutual understanding among all the patriotic forces and resolving the military conflict on the basis of guarantees of national independence, sovereignty, and respect for the democratic rights of the Spanish people. The expression of this policy was the so-called Thirteen Points, published on May 1, 1938. The points provided for the postwar declaration of a general amnesty and the holding of a plebiscite in which the Spanish people would choose their form of government without foreign interference.

In order for the policy of national alliance to make headway, it was necessary to intensify resistance and strike hard at the fascists. By May 1938 the situation on the front had stabilized. On July 25, 1938, the republican army, which was defending a line on the Ebro River and was led mostly by Communist military commanders, suddenly attacked and broke through the enemy’s fortifications, demonstrating its readiness and high combat capacity. The Spanish people again displayed miracles of heroism. But the capitulationists, who had entrenched themselves at headquarters and other command posts, paralyzed the operations of other fronts while the army units on the Ebro were exhausting their resources in repelling the attacks of Franco’s main forces. The governments of Paris and London continued to tighten the noose of nonintervention.

On Dec. 23, 1938, with Italian troops in the vanguard and enjoying a huge superiority in equipment, Franco began an offensive in Catalonia. On Jan. 26, 1939, he took Barcelona, and by mid-February all of Catalonia had been occupied by the fascists. On February 9 a British squadron sailed up to Minorca and forced that island to surrender to Franco.

Despite the loss of Catalonia, the republic still had the possibility of continuing resistance in the central and southern zone. While the Communist Party exerted all its efforts in the struggle against fascism, the capitulationists, incited by the imperialist circles of Great Britain and encouraged by Negrín’s vacillations in the last phase of the war, rebelled against the legal government on Mar. 5, 1939. In Madrid they created a junta headed by Colonel Casado that included Socialist and Anarchist leaders. Under the pretext of negotiations for an “honorable peace,” the junta stabbed the people in the back by opening the gates of Madrid (Mar. 28, 1939) to the hordes of fascist murderers.

Two Spains collided in the National Revolutionary War of 1936–39—the Spain of reaction and the Spain of progress and democracy. The revolutionary character, political maturity, and social and political conceptions of workers’ organizations and of leftist political parties were tested. In those days of difficult struggle, the political role of party leaders was determined above all by their attitude toward unity. Those leaders of the Socialists, Anarchists, and republicans who really tried to strengthen the alliance of democratic forces made an invaluable contribution to the cause of combating fascism. The Communist Party of Spain was the soul of the Popular Front, the driving force of the resistance to aggression. Honor is due to the Communist Party for creating the 5th Regiment—the foundation of the popular army. To counter the reckless Anarchist policy of coercive collectivization, the Communists put forth a program of turning land over to the peasants and, after joining the government, implemented this program, carrying out a radical agrarian reform in Spain for the first time. The nationalities policy of the Communist Party contributed to the adoption of the Statute of the Basque Provinces. At the initiative of the Communists, institutes and universities were opened to workers and peasants, who were guaranteed their previous earnings. Women began to receive wages on a par with men.

Not only were big landowners stripped of their property, but large banks and enterprises came under the control of the democratic state. During the war the republic radically changed its class essence. Workers and peasants played the leading role in it. A sizable segment of the new army was commanded by revolutionary workers. During the war a new type of democratic republic evolved in Spain, created by the efforts and blood of the popular masses.

The Spanish popular-democratic republic lives in the memory of the Spanish people, who continue the struggle for liberation from the yoke of fascism.

REFERENCES

Diaz, J. Pod znamenem Narodnogo fronta: Rechi i stat’i, 1935–1937. Moscow, 1937. (Translated from Spanish.)
Díaz, J. “Ob urokakh voiny ispanskogo naroda (1936–1939).” Bol’ shevik, 1940, no. 4. (Translated from Spanish.)
Díaz, J. Tres años de lucha. Barcelona, 1939.
Ibárruri, D. V bor’be: Izbr. stat’i i vystupleniia 1936–1939. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i ispanskii rabo-chii klass. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. Edinstvennyi put’. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. “Natsional’no-revoliutsionnaia voina ispanskogo naroda protiv italo-germanskikh interventov i fashistskikh miatezhnikov (1936–1939),” Voprosy istorii, 1953, no. 11.
Istoriia Kommunisticheskoi partii Ispanii: Kratkii kurs. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from Spanish.)
Voina i revoliutsiia v Ispanii, 1936–1939, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Spanish.)
El Partido comunista por la libertad y la independencia de España. Valencia, 1937.
Lister, E. La defensa de Madrid, batalla de unidad. Paris, 1947.
García, J. Ispaniia Narodnogo fronta. Moscow, 1957.
García, J. Ispaniia XX veka. Moscow, 1967.
Minlos, B. R. Agrarnyi vopros v Ispanii. Moscow, 1934.
Maidanik, K. L. Ispanskii proletariat v natsional’no-revoliutsionnoi voine 1936–1937 gg. Moscow, 1960.
Ovinnikov, R. S. Za kulisami politiki “nevmeshatel’stva.” Moscow, 1959.
Maiskii, I. M. Ispanskie tetradi. Moscow, 1962.
Ponomareva, L. V. Rabochee dvizhenie v Ispanii vgody revoliutsii, 19311934. Moscow, 1965.
Dokumenty ministerstva inostrannykh del Germanii. Vol. 3: German-skaia politika i Ispaniia (1936–1943 gg.). Moscow, 1946.
Epopée d’Espagne: Brigades internationales, 1936–1939. Paris, 1957.
Alvarez del Vayo, J. Freedom’s Battle. New York, 1940.
Cattell, D. Communism and the Spanish Civil War. Berkeley, 1955.
Norden, A. Die Spanische Tragödie. Berlin, 1956.
Taylor, F. The United States and the Spanish Civil War. New York, 1956.

D. IBARRURI

Source

Are Popular Fronts Necessary Today?

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Raul Marcos
Member of the Communist Party of Spain ML
August 2014

The answer is a resounding YES. They are necessary and indispensable given the condition of oppression and exploitation that are worsening, and from which the people are suffering. The proletariat, with its party at the forefront, should be at the head of the popular masses, to organize and lead their struggles. It is not an easy task, but all difficulties can be overcome. For that to happen, it is necessary to work to link up in a broad manner with the advanced masses, to win their recognition.

The Congress of the Communist International (1921) stated that “The United Front [of the proletariat] is the unity […] of the workers who are decisive in the fight against capitalism”. Dimitrov insisted that the Popular Front, given the circumstances that existed in the world, was an urgent necessity and that its essential basis must be the United Front of the Proletariat.

The fundamental contradictions of the period in which we live and struggle, are perfectly defined: The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; the contradiction between capitalism and socialism; the contradiction between oppressed peoples and nations on the one hand and imperialism on the other; the contradiction among imperialist and financial powers. The last contradiction manifests itself in the local wars, the aggressions against the peoples, the contention for geostrategic zones and the exploitation of the neo-colonies, the manipulation of the democratic and patriotic sentiments of the peoples. It is a rapidly growing contradiction.

We live in the period which Lenin defined, but with new characteristics and forms. Presently, we see the expression of a tendency towards fascism as organized groups of neo-Nazis carry out actions in various countries, and this should concern us. In many cases they are protected by the governments (such is the case in Greece, Hungary, Spain, etc.). Power and state apparatus, with some exceptions, are in the hands of parties and governments which are reactionary and anti-popular. The big powers and their puppet governments speak of democracy, of human rights, of peace among the people… while they are savagely subjugating and exploiting the people, who are oppressed, in many cases through force of arms.

This is a general situation, not in this or that country: in different degrees and different forms and intensity; it is a general tendency. The communist parties must daily confront situations of repression, of struggles for social conquests, against laws which encroach upon and suppress labor and social rights which had been achieved through many decades of struggle.

In his report to the VII Congress of the Communist International (1935), and with a similar situation at hand, Dimitrov focused on the importance of creating popular fronts against the conditions which arose with the growth of Nazi-fascism (Italy, Germany, Portugal, Japan, etc.). Despite the years which have passed and the events that have taken place, the report is still very relevant and can serve as a general orientation to the parties. It is evident that the present circumstances are not the same as the 1930s. The context in which we live is very different from that period, and it is enough to recall the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the opportunist degeneration of many of the parties at that time, and that today, with some rare exceptions, the Marxist-Leninist parties are very weak, without much influence upon the broad masses.

The importance of Dimitrov’s writing is undeniable, yet we should keep in mind that the international situation is not the same, although there are problems of a similar nature (which are reflected in the fundamental contradictions), and it is also necessary to act according to the particular circumstances of each country and party. The work of a front cannot be carried out in the same manner in every country, since we have to take into consideration the inevitable unequal development, of the political forces as well as the Party and of society itself. Its undeniable that we cannot compare the situation which Ecuador is living under (in all of the aspects pointed out), with that of Germany, for example, in Spain, Denmark, Turkey, Morocco, France, Venezuela, etc. etc., there are different conditions and therefore, tactically there will be differences, secondary differences, but in the end differences.

Defending the importance and the present aspects of Dimitrov’s speech should not lead us to apply every detail, each and every aspect which his text deals with. To study, analyze and discuss the writings of great communist leaders, and Dimitrov is one of them, should not lead us to convert them into catechism, infallible doctrines, something which is opposed to the Marxist Leninist dialectic.

Each of our parties should consider these questions. There are no prefabricated answers. Only the dialectic examination, that is of the moment which can change from one day to the other, without separating ourselves from tomorrow’s strategy, whose course cannot be predicted or defined, will allow us to take up tactical positions and measures to confront and attempt to solve the problems.

The important thing is to keep in mind at all times the reality in which our parties live and evolve, work and struggle. Therefore, we must keep in mind a decisive fact: In almost all countries, with different levels of development, the working class is the most revolutionary and its advanced members are at the head of the struggles for justice. But the working class is not the only class exploited by capitalism. There are sectors of the small and middle bourgeoisie which also suffer oppression. And although their mentality is not that of the conscious proletariat, we should take those sectors into consideration and try to get closer to them. We should keep in mind that if the working class and its party do not try to unite the other working classes, including certain patriotic and democratic sectors of the middle classes, these could be manipulated by some faction of the bourgeoisie. Undoubtedly, the working class must win over, in the ideological and political combat, the role of vanguard of all those exploited and oppressed sectors and defend their demands.

This could be the basis for forging tactical, momentary alliances. But we should not confuse or counterpoise those tactical alliances of a given moment, to the strategic alliances. That is, we do not subordinate strategic alliances to questions of the moment, circumstantial ones, but neither do we subordinate tactical alliances to the establishment of possible strategic alliances, so long as this does not imply abandoning essential questions. To be clearer: we should be vigilant so as not to confuse with the Popular Front tactical, partial, or momentary alliances, in many cases local ones or of a city, region or province, including agreements with special sectors, but which cannot include the  most advanced general sectors.

The Popular Front should respond to the general needs of the struggle, to political questions which are proposed, and above all, to mobilize the advanced masses to incorporate them into action.

The working class, theoretically the proletariat, should be the principal force of the Popular Front. This means that in practice it should also be the leading force. We should keep in mind that theory without practice is just empty words, and that practice without theory is like blindly striking out blows.

Given the broad political nature of the forces which could become part of the Front, the Party should strive to be at the head, be the leader (in relative terms depending on the circumstances) so that the proletariat can exercise its influence as the main force. That leading role is not achieved by force of will, or by a decree; it must be won in daily practice, by the clarity of our political proposals, with the respectful and faithful application of agreements.

If the party does not fulfill that role, in the long run it will tail behind the petit bourgeoisie and that would be a grave error. Here we should keep in mind the “Law of the unity and struggle of opposites”.

This leads us to the question of the ideological independence of the Party. A Popular Front, built upon minimum agreements (depending on the circumstances), cannot take up all our proposals. But that should not lead us to renounce our political and ideological positions. Within the framework of the tasks of the Front, communists are, and will be, very careful at the time of fulfilling our agreements even if these are not exactly what we would have preferred.

The policy of unity in any alliance, and also in the Popular Front, should not lead us to forget the class struggle. In fact, the alliances, agreements or tactical compromises with other political forces should help us to reinforce the strength of the Party and not the other way around. That is not always understood, so that if the Party, communists, become diluted as a result of such an alliance, that would result in a grave weakening or possibly the disappearance of the Party.

With much ability and tact, and without high-handedness or strange maneuvers, the Party should, as Lenin stated, lead everything. This forces us to carry out a clear and sincere work with the forces which make up the Front, to respect and fulfill the agreed-upon commitments and programs, but without forgetting that:

”…only the political party of the working class, i.e., the Communist Party, is capable of uniting, training and organizing a vanguard of the proletariat and of the whole mass of the working people that alone will be capable of withstanding the inevitable petty-bourgeois vacillations of this mass (Lenin, Preliminary Draft Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P. on the Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviation in Our Party. Our emphasis.)

We should be with the advanced masses, becoming more and better, to mobilize within the Popular Front and in all the fronts created which include the masses. That requires defeating the relative weakness of the parties, (without forgetting the inevitability of unequal development), since without a strong party we can do very little; and it is also necessary to be conscious of the fact that regardless how big and powerful a Party may be, we will always be a minority in society:

“…We communists are but a drop in the ocean, a drop in the ocean of the people”, but “without a party of the proletariat we cannot even consider the defeat of imperialism, the conquest of the dictatorship of proletariat…” and also the Party “is the vanguard of a class and its duty is to guide the masses, and not to reflect the average mental state of the masses,” Lenin sharply stated.

For communists it is of prime importance to carry out a constant work face-to-face with the masses. But this must be well planned and we should not speak of the masses in a superficial way, without being precise: we should lead the advanced masses and keep in mind that there are various levels of understanding among them regarding the struggle. Dimitrov said that Sectarianism finds expression particularly in overestimating the revolutionization of the masses…” and he quoted Lenin, “…we must not regard that which is obsolete for us, as obsolete for the class, as obsolete for the masses.”

Lenin, like Stalin, Dimitrov, the great leaders, were constantly concerned about the work towards the masses. Lenin specified and warned:

There is nothing more warranted than the urging of attention to the constant, imperative necessity of deepening and broadening, broadening and deepening, our influence on the masses, our strictly Marxist propaganda and agitation, our ever-closer connection with the economic struggle of the working class, etc. Yet, because such urging is at all times warranted, under all conditions and in all situations, it must not be turned into special slogans, nor should it justify attempts to build upon it a special trend in Social- Democracy. A border-line exists here; to exceed the bounds is to turn this indisputably legitimate urging into a narrowing of the aims and the scope of the movement, into a doctrinaire blindness to the vital and cardinal political tasks of the moment.

But for the very reason that the work of intensifying and broadening our influence on the masses is always necessary, after each victory as after each defeat, in times of political quiescence as in the stormiest periods of revolution, we should  not turn the emphasis upon this work into a special slogan or build upon it any special trend if we do not wish to court the risk of descending to demagogy and degrading the aims of the advanced and only truly revolutionary class. (On Confounding Politics with Pedagogics, 1905)

To overestimate the role of the masses is as dangerous as to underestimate it, since both errors distort the role of the Communist Party. This also has to do with the Popular Front since its work is oriented precisely towards the popular masses. One of the conditions for considering an alliance as a Popular Front is that it include, as a minimum, sectors of the exploited and oppressed classes whether they are organized or unorganized.

It is necessary to pay attention, in all our activity, the Leninist Communist Party, leader of the proletariat, of the advanced sectors of the working class, so as not to confuse it with the “mass party” which is amorphous and includes the revisionists and right-wingers of every type. There exists a line of demarcation which must not be underestimated. For communists, what we define as “mass line” is to implement our politics and proposals in a decisive and capable manner outside of the Party. We should not limit ourselves just to our own members and intimate friends.

It is important to have a clear understanding of the lines of demarcation between Marxist-Leninists and opportunists, Khrushchevites, Maoists, including those who preach socialism of the 21st century. Does this mean that we should not have agreements, compromises, and unity pacts with all those who do not share our principles? Clearly not! If we only unite with those who share our ideas and principles, we would not be talking about alliances, popular fronts, etc.; we would only be talking about unity with communists. And that is a different problem.

Presently, many of our parties have a problem which is a history of weak organizing, which is trying to fulfill the role of leaders. This is not achieved through decrees; there are no magic formulas. It will be achieved, depending upon the circumstances, through our work and dedication. Alliances tactical agreements, etc. with other political forces or groups are proposed to us. We are not in a situation in which we can impose our positions. However, we should not refuse the offer because of that. On the contrary, we should participate loyally and in the discussions present our political proposals; we should discuss and confront opinions and little by little go about winning political and ideological ground.

A very simple question, but one which we do not always keep in mind, is that alliances of broad fronts are not meant to last forever. They must be seen as developing; they are not static alliances; what we propose and approve today as just and valid, can stop being so at another time.

The Popular Front is created depending upon the circumstances and we do not create circumstances; we find ourselves in them and we must take them up, always having in mind the evolution of these circumstances. As Dimitrov warns with a great deal of reason: “…it is particularly dangerous to confuse the wish with fact. We must base ourselves on the facts, on the actual concrete situation.”

The Popular Front is an important task which must be dealt with under all circumstances in which the political struggle is developing; it is not an option, it is a necessary task. To promote it and to advance in completing that task, the revolutionary party of the proletariat must draw up a correct revolutionary policy which takes into consideration the concrete conditions, always keeping in mind the strategic objectives. The application of that policy depends not only on its correctness, but also on the potential of the Party, of its forces. A just and correct revolutionary policy can remain as a proposal if there is not a firm decision to carry it out with the advanced sectors of the masses.

The experience of the international communist movement leads us to seriously consider the danger of deviations which can occur. Generally, the existing opportunism has been, and is, of the right. But we cannot forget that there is also left opportunism; both are particularly harmful to the work of a broad front. It is convenient to remember Marx’s warning in his Critique of the Gotha Program: “no bargaining about principles.”

Right-wing opportunism tends to appear with the following expressions or characteristics: to make concessions of principles in order to make allies; to reduce the level of the struggle for fear of the enemy; to lag behind the level of consciousness of the masses instead of going in front of them; to exaggerate the importance of national or regional particularities without taking into account the general principles; and liberalism in matters of organization, of which the most dangerous is to hide the Party as if it did not exist. We should always keep Lenin in mind: Eenter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principle.” (What Is To Be Done?)

Opportunism of the left has the following main characteristics: the false criteria of all or nothing; not knowing how to make the needed concessions and compromises useful for the development of this work; not knowing how to adapt Marxism-Leninism to the particular conditions of the reality in which we live, allowing us to be influenced by the experiences of others, which leads to not know how to adapt or to make mistakes about the level and forms of the struggle and the objective conditions of the masses; in adopting rigid criteria in matters of organizing.

In his Poverty of Philosophy, Marx criticized opportunism. Quoting Juvenal: “Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas”, in other words, “And for the sake of life to lose the reasons for living!” Let us not forget this old lesson.

Source

Communist International: Towards the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of Spain

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Communist International, August 1936

The Development of the Democratic Revolution in Spain

By J. HernandezI. Economic Sabotage by the Big Bourgeoisie and Landowners

In February, 1936, the People’s Front in Spain won a splendid victory. The Azaña government came to power. Two years of rule by a reactionary government had reduced Spain to a state of serious economic ruin. As compared with 1931, production in the textile industry had declined by 40 per cent, the cause being the sharp decline in the purchasing power of the people. In the mining industry tremendous reserves of coal, amounting to more than 300,000 tons, had accumulated, there being no market for them.

The reactionary government, in order to ensure itself a market for oranges, olives and other agricultural products in England and France, had allowed the Spanish market to be swamped by cheap goods, including coal from England and France. Many enterprises where big sums of foreign capital are invested make exclusive use of imported British coal, while there are no purchasers for Spanish coal – the result being that mountains of coal lie about on the pit tops. Former governments tried to compensate the losses of the mining industry by the granting of loans, but this only led to a further increase in the deficit in the state budget, which as it was was unfavorable enough. From the year 1932, the deficit in the state budget increased from 410,000,000 pesetas to 506,000,000 in 1934. As a result of this policy, imports increased while exports declined (the only increase, though insignificant, being the export of ore to Britain and Germany).

This is the situation which met the new Azaña government. In reply to the victory of the People’s Front, the bourgeoisie resorted to economic sabotage and acts of provocation such as the export of capital, the withdrawal of capital from the banks, and the undermining of the exchange rate of the peseta. The employers and big merchant firms are threatening a lockout if the government does not withdraw the law regarding the giving of three to six months’ compensation to those who were dismissed for participating in the battles of October, 1934. The big landowners, supported by the bankers, are also threatening a sort of land “lockout”. They have declared that they will not cultivate their lands this autumn, since cultivation will not pay for itself. The pretexts they resort to are numerous. The government, they say, is preparing an agrarian reform, but what price the landowners will receive for the land is not known. Or else, they say, the agricultural laborers are demanding the restoration of their former wage rates, arbitrarily reduced two years ago. Or else, they add, there is the law regarding the cultivation of the land which makes it obligatory to employ a definite number of workers. Basing themselves on all this, the landowners are cutting down cultivation of the fields.

The government and the working people are faced with the question as to how to break down this policy of economic sabotage, how to lead the economy of the country out of this blind alley, and how to help the masses of the people.

What Have the Masses of the People Received Following the Elections of February 16?

First and foremost, there is the decree regarding compensation according to which all those dismissed on political grounds after January 1, 1934, are given back their jobs, and receive financial compensation to the extent of three to six months’ wages.

Further, there is the general amnesty for all those arrested in October, 1934, and for all those awaiting trial and investigation for political offenses.

Catalonia has had restored her status (of broad autonomy) and is provided with democratic rights; the autonomy of Biscay will soon be recognized.

The state has already provided 87,000 peasants with land, together with their families approximately half a million people are thus affected. In addition a law was adopted by the Cortes on May 28, regarding the re-examination of the cases of all peasants expelled by the former government from the land they rented for the non-payment of rent. According to this new law, tens of thousands of peasant families will have the right to return to the land they rented formerly.

The social legislation of the first period of the Republic has been restored, the reactionary legislation partly annulled and democratic rights restored.

A section of the fascist leagues and kindred organizations such as, for instance, the Spanish Phalanx, the Requetes, etc., have been disarmed and disbanded. At the present time, 5,000 to 6,000 fascists are in jail.

A clean-up has been begun in the police force, the gendarmerie and the army to rid them of reactionary monarchist elements.

Finally, a juridical commission has been appointed to clear up the question as to who were responsible for the repressions of October, 1934; as a result of the work of this commission several prominent reactionaries have been arrested.

This, in general, is what the masses have received from the government which came into being as a result of the victory of the People s Front.

It is not difficult to understand that the reactionaries and fascists did not and will not retreat without a struggle. A tremendous growth of the strike movement is to be observed throughout the whole country. Economic and political strikes are taking place both in town and country. The employed and unemployed are taking joint action in the effort to secure work for the latter. Partial and general strikes take place, accompanied by the occupation of factories and coal mines, and in the villages by the mass seizure of estates by the peasants and agricultural workers.

The majority of these strikes conclude with the complete or partial victory of the workers. They all take place under the flag of unity – Socialist, Communist and Anarchist workers acting jointly in them. Strikebreaking has vanished. In those cases where the government considers it necessary to interfere, through its labor representatives, these latter, under the pressure of the workers, make decisions favorable to the workers. Thus it is that big victories are being achieved. For instance, the bus workers had only to declare a strike in Madrid for their wages to be increased from eight to fourteen pesetas. The rest days, which had been done away with, were restored to the extent of four per month, and in addition an eight-day holiday is now provided once per year at the expense of the employers. As a result of the strike of the seamen and dockers, which completely paralyzed the entire work of the port for eleven days, the strikers achieved official recognition of their organizations. In addition the workers have been granted the right to regulate the order of shifts, and they are allowed one month’s holiday per year.

In some cases the strikers seized the enterprises. This is how the tramway workers in Madrid behaved when their employers refused to pay them wages. Then the workers themselves took charge of the trams, painted them red and printed on the trams the three letters “U.H.P.”,* the fighting slogan of the Asturian workers, well known through the whole of Spain. This affair was settled by the intervention of the authorities and the municipal council. As a result, the demands of the workers were satisfied and, what is more, the tramway lines passed into the hands of a joint committee, composed of representatives of the municipality and of the workers’ committee.

* U.H.P. – “Union Hermanos Proletarios: = Brother Proletarians, Unite!”

The villages are the scene of the seizure of the land by the peasants. Although the Communist Party for the time being is refraining from advancing the slogan of the seizure of the land by the peasants as a general slogan, in those places where the local conditions permit and where the agricultural workers’ unions, along with the municipalities and peasants’ organizations, are proceeding to seize the land, the Party supports this movement and does everything possible to ensure that it is carried through in an organized fashion, avoiding conflicts, provoked by the enemies of the Republic and agents of the counter-revolution, between the peasants and the armed forces of the state.

The reactionaries are attempting to set the Catholic section of the population, among whom there are many peasants, against the other section of the population which is free of religious sentiments. To this end they are attempting to make use of the burning of churches.

What has been responsible for the burning of the churches? It cannot be explained simply by hatred for the churches felt by a section of the people who have freed themselves of religious prejudices. The fact is that the churches in Spain are organizational centers of the fascists and serve as stores for their weapons. In the overwhelming majority of cases, hidden stores of arms are discovered after the churches have been set aflre. It is from these stores that people who took action against the workers’ demonstrations received arms. It was in the churches that the fascists who murdered workers received sanctuary. The wrath of the masses against the churches (but not against the Catholics), which sided with reaction and fascism is understandable. There are numerous cases when it was not the people who directly set fire to the churches, but the forces of reaction which provoked the fire so as to give rise to discontent among the believers. The Communist Party is explaining to the masses that the burning of churches and monasteries only plays into the hands of counter-revolution.

Of tremendous importance both in securing the victory of the People’s Front at the elections of February 16, and in the further development of the movement, was the part played by the women, who by their indignation at the black reaction of the two previous years moved to the Left with remarkable rapidity and force. A very important point was the active participation of the Anarchists who, in spite of the objections of their leaders, took part in the elections, and overwhelmingly voted for the People’s Front. This movement of the masses to the Left is also to be observed among the elements which were formerly under the influence of the Rights. After the victory of the People’s Front, this Leftward movement has become still more marked.

For instance, in Granada and Cuenca, where the Rights originally achieved victory by making use of a number of violations of the law, they received only an insignificant number of votes at the re-elections. In Granada, the pressure of the masses resulted in a Communist deputy, not included in the list in the first round, being included in the list of candidates of the People’s Front. And although the candidature of this comrade was only put forward by a minority, the number of votes he received was beyond all expectations, and he was elected deputy. At the same time, great developments in the organization of the workers’ parties, trade unions and also the Left Republican Parties are to be observed.

Certain of the Rights are pretending that they have become reconciled with the present political situation, and are in agreement with parliamentary and more or less democratic forms of government. They are declaring for a republic of a “Christian-Social” character. The representative of this tendency is Jimenez Fernandez, leader of the C.E.D.A.,* who is now trying to put a stop to the increase in the influence of the Left Republicans. Others are preparing a new blow against the People’s Front and the republic, while not giving up their plans for a coup d’état. At the same time a certain increase in the strength of fascism is to be noted. The fascist type of monarchists have also increased their activity. The situation is becoming more and more tense, and is threatening to split the Popular Action Party.** For the time being the church has succeeded in preventing this split by reason of its tremendous influence inside the C.E.D.A.

* Confederación Económica de Agrarios, a reactionary landlord organization.

** Acción Popular, a fascist party headed by Gil Robles.

Parallel with the main line of development, namely, the growth of the influence of the parties and organizations in the People’s Front, the consolidation of the position of the Communist Party and the development of the popular anti-fascist movement, there is to be noted the rallying together of the forces of the most reactionary fascist and monarchist groupings (Spanish Phalanx, monarchists, the fascist wing of the Popular Action Party) which are preparing to deal a new and decisive blow at the People’s Front and the Republic.

The Development of the People’s Front

Immediately after the October battles in 1934 when a furious riot of reaction and fascism began, the Communist Party told the masses that the united forces of the enemy must be countered by the front of all advanced forces, of all who are devoted to liberty. In March, 1935, Comrade Jose Diaz, General Secretary of the Communist Party, made a speech at a big meeting in Madrid where he very clearly outlined the specific forms which this People’s Front must take. This speech met with a tremendous response throughout the country.

After the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, which exerted exceptionally great influence on Spain, this idea of the People’s Front attracted the support of tremendous masses of people throughout the country. The campaign popularizing the decisions of the Seventh Congress in Spain was one of the most successful campaigns organized by the Communist Party. Throughout the country, in spite of the reaction raging at that time, we succeeded in gathering at our meetings thousands and sometimes more than 20,000 workers and peasants, who heartily endorsed the line indicated by Comrade Dimitroff at the Seventh Congress. The name of Dimitroff became most popular among the masses of people. Not only Communists, but also many Socialists engaged in popularizing the decisions of the Seventh Congress. It is interesting to note that the demagogic speeches of the reactionaries and fascists frequently led to the opposite results. Thus, for instance, during the election campaign they pasted huge posters in all the streets which read as follows:

“A vote for the People’s Front is a vote for Dimitroff. Vote for Spain and against Dimitroff.”

It is clear that the Spanish people, faced with such a dilemma, replied by voting for Dimitroff.

To the masses, Dimitroff is the embodiment of the victorious struggle against reaction and fascism. To the workers he is the standard- bearer of the idea of proletarian unity, the leader of the Communist International. To all the Left Republicans in Spain, Dimitroff means the salvation of the democracy won from the fascism which threatens it. All these people voted “for Dimitroff”, and the People’s Front was victorious in Spain and dealt a crushing blow at the fascist reactionaries. But this does not mean that the question of organizing the People’s Front did not meet with great obstacles in its path. Doubts arose among some of the Left Socialists as to the need for establishing the People’s Front.

Another tendency among the Socialists, headed by Prieto, approached the People’s Front as though it was a case of class collaboration, and adopted the same attitude as formerly, beginning from the moment when the Republic was declared in our country.

As regards the Republicans, when they decided to link up with the People’s Front, they understood this People’s Front to be a mere electoral coalition which must come to a conclusion after the election, after they came to power.

However, in the long run we succeeded in getting our comrades, the Left Socialists and also a considerable part of the Republicans, to alter their point of view as regards the People’s Front. In reality the People’s Front not only exists, but is growing and strengthening. In agreement with the Socialists, the leaders of the General Workers’ Union and the League of Youth, a decision was taken that the leaders of the workers’ organizations belonging to the People’s Front should come together periodically to discuss urgent questions of the struggle inside and outside Parliament. We have convinced the Republicans of the need for the Committee of the People’s Front coming together periodically with a view to discussing the plan of work, and to introducing various questions and bills into Parliament. At these meetings of the People’s Front, a preliminary study is made of all the bills being proposed by the government, and we try to bring about unanimity among all participating, so as to act unitedly in the Cortes against the reactionary bloc.

In the provinces, meetings of the People’s Front are not held with particular regularity. Usually they are called together when some important event takes place. Thus, for instance, a meeting of the People’s Front was called together in Cadiz, in order to discuss the fact that work had been completely stopped in the wharves at Echevarria. The representatives of the People’s Front arranged a joint meeting with the governor of the province, and decided to propose to the government that it confiscate this enterprise. The government examined this declaration and handed over the enterprise to be managed by the workers. The latter immediately renewed production without waiting for the government to appoint its representative and a director for the enterprise. In other places, the representatives of the People’s Front come together, discuss the poverty-stricken conditions of the workers, and amid general approval advance demands to the government or the municipality. All this indicates the further prospects of the People’s Front, its further consolidation, in spite of all existing obstacles.

Our Relations with the Government

Casares Quiroga, chairman of the Council of Ministers, made a declaration in Parliament in the name of the government, in which he pointed out that the government would in all its activity base itself on the masses and take all measures to bring about the speediest possible fulfillment of the program of the People’s Front. In relation to the question of action against the fascists, he declared the following:

“The period of the defense of the Republic has come to an end and now the period of the offensive has begun…. My Republican conscience is indignant at and condemns the fact that there are reactionary officials in the legal apparatus who when we hand over the enemies of the Republic to the Tribunal, set them at liberty…. As to the fascist organizations which occupy themselves with making onslaughts on the democratic republic, it is clear that the government cannot remain unaffected by this. In relation to fascism, the government is a fighting force.”

Will Casares Quiroga keep to his promises? Judging by the first measures adopted, even though with some inconsistency, we may reply that he will, with the aid of the People’s Front, with the aid of the people. Some measures have already been adopted in the army, the police force, the law courts, etc. The government declares that laws will be immediately presented to Parliament, in the spirit of the program of the People’s Front, laws such as would satisfy the demands of the peasants and unemployed, and that a progressive income tax will be introduced, etc. The adoption of these laws will serve still further to consolidate the People’s Front and the development of the popular democratic revolution in Spain.

The policy of the Communist Party is directed towards consolidating, strengthening and extending the People’s Front, and not towards breaking it up. The Communist Party is urging on the government and the republican parties which belong to this front to be as speedy as possible in satisfying the economic and political demands of the people, as formulated in the platform of the People’s Front. This is the best means of suppressing reaction and fascism. The consistent way in which our Party has operated the policy of the People’s Front has raised its authority high not only among the workers, but also in the ranks of the Left republican parties.

We do not leave out of account the fact that the present government is a Left Republican government. None the less, on the basis of facts, we see that at the given stage we can fight alongside of them to improve the conditions of living, the labor, culture and well-being of the masses of the people in our country and to ward off the blows of reaction end fascism.

The Struggle for Trade Union Unity

The biggest factor in the development of the working class movement in Spain was the unification of the Unitary General Confederation of Labor (C.G.T.U.) and the General Workers’ Union (U.G.T.), which led to a colossal development of the activity of the trade union organizations in Spain. The overwhelming majority of the independent trade unions in existence linked up with the General Workers’ Union. After the unification had taken place, many unorganized workers joined the union. The joint U.G.T. has 745,000 industrial workers and 253,000 agricultural laborers in its ranks, and more than 200,000 workers who are in the process of being accepted as members of the union. Here are a few facts to show the growth of the trade union organizations. In Malaga prior to the merger between the U.G.T. and C.G.T.U., both we and the U.G.T. had a number of very weak trade union organizations, but now, after the merger there are more than 31,000 workers in the joint organizations, while the leadership belongs to the Communists and Left Socialists. In the province of Seville, the trade unions have doubled their membership, and have more than 50,000 members in the union, while the leadership is in the hands of the Socialists and Communists jointly, the President and Secretary of the Federation being Communists. In Asturias, apart from a few local unions which are led by Communists and Socialists, there are two secretaries – Communists – in the Executive Council of the Miners’ Union, co-opted as a result of the increase in our influence. A similar situation exists in Toledo, Cordova and Jaen, etc. Many workers who formerly, when the C.G.T.U. was separate, considered us splitters, now have faith in us and put us forward for leading positions in the trade unions.

The workers- have seen that the Communists pursue a firm policy in relation to the People’s Front and trade union unity. They have seen that we are the warmest defenders of the unified U.G.T., that we are seriously concerned about strengthening the trade unions, that we assist the remaining trade unions and unorganized workers in affiliating to the U.G.T.

The Congress of the National (Anarchist) Confederation of Labor (C.N.T.) which took place recently, was compelled to take account of the tremendous urge for unity existing among the majority of the members of the C.N.T. The Anarchist leaders, taking account of these sentiments of the workers, introduced a demagogic proposal about the need for establishing “alliances” for the exclusive purpose of “carrying on the revolutionary struggle”, and on condition that political parties are not accepted into the “alliances”. In harmony with this, the Congress of the C.N.T. demanded that the U.G.T. immediately break relations with the bourgeois parties and leave the People’s Front. Objectively, this “arch-revolutionary” decision is being used by the enemies of the people for their own ends.

The maneuver of the Anarchist leaders was not clearly understood by some of our comrades, especially those of the Mundo Obrero.* The Central Committee of our Party immediately introduced clarity into this question. This mistake is also the result of the fact that our Party, especially in recent times, has not been paying sufficient attention to the problem of anarchism as a whole. Especially now is it necessary to undertake an ideological struggle against anarchism, since this problem at the present time is linked up with the problem of the “alliances” at the very moment when there are prospects for their development. The establishment of alliances is very much hindered by the failure of some of our Socialist comrades to understand the real importance and purpose of this movement. After the recent declarations made by Comrade Largo Caballero about the need for establishing “alliances” (although he does not raise the question of the direct election of delegates in the factories), the question of organizing “alliances” throughout the country will, we presume, move far forward.

* The central organ of the Communist Party of Spain.

The Situation in the Socialist Party

In the Socialist Party there are the following three trends: the Right current headed by Besteiro, the Center headed by Prieto, and the Left, headed by Francisco Largo Caballero.

The main forces of the Socialist Party which have the greatest support among the masses undoubtedly follow Largo Caballero. They are honestly striving to adopt a revolutionary position. And we are trying to help them to get their bearings in these problems. For it is precisely with the aid of these Lefts that we shall establish a single revolutionary party of the proletariat in Spain.

The Left wing in the Socialist Party facilitated and rendered possible the merging of the C.G.T.U. and the U.G.T. and also assisted in bringing about the fusion of the Communist and Socialist Leagues of Youth. The Left wing does not hide its sympathies for the Communist International. Its program also contains the idea of the establishment of a single party of the proletariat; it declares itself an adherent of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the armed uprising for the seizure of power. At the last meeting of the Madrid organization of the Socialist Party, headed by Largo Caballero, a decision was adopted to introduce a resolution at the forthcoming congress of the Socialist Party to establish a united party of the proletariat on the basis of a discussion of the programs of the Communist and Socialist Parties, with a view to drawing up a final program for the united party.

Such is the position of the Left wing in the Socialist Party.

Although the Center tendency does not openly declare against trade union and political unity, there are elements in its ranks which lean more to the Right tendency which is openly against the Communists and against unification. Still, many Socialists of the Center could be won to the side of the revolution. This is why our Party is exerting all its efforts to ensure that the struggle within the Socialist Party should develop on a high political plane, and should not be reduced to a polemic of a personal character. For if the Centrists have hitherto maintained great influence over the revolutionary workers of Asturias, it is only because political problems which separate the Lefts from the Centrists in the Socialist Party have not been sufficiently explained to the Socialist workers. This is the reason why the workers of Asturias still continue to support the Centrist leadership, and keep at a distance from the Left tendency in the Socialist Party as represented by Largo Caballero.

The danger of a split in the Socialist Party has grown considerably. The entire press is now speaking of the possibility of a split in the Socialist Party, and of the establishment of a party of the Republican Radical-Socialist type.

A split in the Socialist Party would only lead to a weakening of the revolutionary forces. That is why we are striving to prevent a split, for the workers who support the Centrist leaders are in the main revolutionary, and can and should follow the Left wing of the Socialist Party, so as jointly with us to form a united party of the proletariat.

The Experiences of the United Organizations of the Youth

The fusion of the Communist and Socialist Leagues of Youth in Spain is a tremendous political event. As the result of discussions among the youth, and also contact with the Young Communist League, the Young Socialists carried on a struggle against Trotskyism as a counterrevolutionary current. The Madrid organization of the Young Socialist League condemned the factional activity of the group led by the renegade Bullejos and expelled him and some of his supporters from the Young Socialist League.

To show the growth of the organization of the youth, we quote the following data: at the time when the fusion took place, the Young Communist League had 50,682 members (prior to February 16, 1936, 14,000), while the Young Socialist League had 65,600 members (prior to February 16, 24,000). In the course of two or three weeks after the merger, the united organizations of the youth already had 140,000 members. This fact shows that the fears of those people who think that the revolutionary character of the youth movement may be lost or altered as the result of the merger are superfluous. Now it is not 50,000, but 140,000 members of the United League who are defending the revolutionary line of the Young Communist International. The first issue of the Juventud (Youth), the organ of the United League of Youth, was printed in 150,000 copies. The leaders and the press of the Socialist Youth heartily defend the Young Communist International and the Comintern, and occupy a clear and loyal position in relation to the problem of the united front, the Alliances, the People’s Front, the organization of a united party of the proletariat, and also the question of the character of our revolution.

Workers’ and Peasants’ Militia

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Militia* is in the stage of organization, and as yet there are no exact data about it. The most important thing at the present time is the re-organization of the former shock groups which belonged to the Socialist and Communist Leagues of Youth into a broad organization of the masses of the people. Predominant in the ranks of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Militia are the young people, many workers and a tremendous number of peasants. There are also in the Militia a great number of young people who belong to the Republican Left, while in Catalonia groups of the Estat Catala (national revolutionary party in Catalonia) are in the Militia. After the merger of the youth organizations, the Militia adopted a uniform like that formerly worn by the Young Communist League, namely, a blue shirt with a red tie. In actual fact the Militia exists throughout the country. The Militia defends the People’s Front organization against attacks and aggression by the fascists and reactionaries, and defends the liberties of the people, and the Republic.

* Militant self-defense groups directed against reaction and fascism.

What is the nature of the activity of the Militia? Here are a few characteristic facts:

In Madrid the fascists make a practice of shooting from automobiles at revolutionary workers and demonstrations. And so the Militia assists the government by placing guards at the entrances to and exits from the city to keep a check as to the occupants of automobiles and the nature of the luggage they carry with them. With the same end in view, groups of militiamen at night time parade working class quarters, and check up the documents of pedestrians. If they meet a fascist, then on the first occasion they notify the authorities of his address, but on the second occasion they turn him over to the authorities for detention. Whenever the forces of reaction and fascism have attempted to organize a coup d’état, to stir up rebellion among the troops, etc., the militia has been constantly on the streets and acted in such a way that there was not a single case of encounter or friction between the police on the one hand and the Militia on the other.

The Militia is now a well-disciplined force, and will, as time goes on, become one of the biggest mass organizations in our country.

The Struggle to Democratize the Army

A most serious problem facing the Communist Party of Spain is that of work in the army, since while our work in the army is still weak, the forces of reaction and fascism which constantly organize conspiracies against the republic and hatch plots against the state are still concentrated there.

It is true that in the recent period, a certain turn in favor of the People’s Front and our Party can be noted among the officers. The violence of the fascists, as for example the murder of Captain Faraudo, has hastened this process. The funeral of this captain was turned into a real demonstration of their anti-fascist feelings by the soldiers and officers of the Madrid garrison. The speech made by the representative of our Party at this funeral created a tremendous impression on the army men. The speaker emphasized the point that the Communists are not at all hostile either to the soldiers or to the army itself, that we are not striving to undermine discipline, but that all we want is to purge the army of fascists and reactionaries who murder both working people as well as military men of anti-fascist sentiments, merely because these latter honor the will of the people and remain true to the republic.

Characteristic of the sentiments prevailing among the soldiers was the event in Alcala de Anares, where reactionary officers attempted to incite the soldiers to mutiny, who not only did not obey the orders of the officers but reported these efforts of incitement to insurrection.

We are striving to prevail on the government completely to purge the army of all reactionary and fascist elements, and of the considerable number of monarchists who hold commanding posts in the army. We are striving by energetic work to create a powerful republican and anti-fascist movement within the army for the purpose of democratizing it. The army must serve the interests of the working people and not of the reactionaries, as has been the case up to the present time.

What Our Party Was, and What It Is Now

After the temporary defeat of October, 1934, our Party succeeded in regrouping its forces without being seriously weakened. We suffered heavy losses during the uprising and after it, as a result of the repression. But on the whole, our cadres were saved throughout the country, with the exception of Asturias, where our Party suffered very great sacrifices.

By the struggle carried on by the new leadership of the Party to eliminate all remnants of sectarianism; by the struggle it wages in creating the People’s Front; by the exceptional activity of the entire Party during the days of the darkest reaction; and by the work we did towards unifying the forces of the proletariat, the workers, and particularly the Socialist workers, became convinced that our Party knows what it wants and where it is going. Our Party has shown itself to be a monolithic Party organizationally and ideologically, a fact which has greatly increased its influence over the masses. Thanks to the correctness of its tactics, substantiated by the results of the elections of February 16, the masses of the people consider the Party to be the initiator of the victory over reaction and fascism. Our Party is a big factor in the political life of the country. For the first time the Party has real representation at its disposal in Parliament. The activity of the seventeen Communist Deputies in the Cortes is facilitating the growth of the popularity and authority of the Party. Similar successes are being achieved by our representatives in the city councils. The Communist Councillors are the most popular people throughout Spain. They know how to approach what appear to be the most complex problems and to solve them. Here, for example, is the way our comrades acted in the case of the “land sabotage” when the big landowners ceased cultivation of the land, depriving the agricultural laborers of work. Our comrades invited the representatives of both the landowners and the agricultural workers to the Municipal Hall. If they could not reach an agreement during the first exchange of opinions, then our comrades would place the question in this way: “You shall not leave the building of the City Council until you carry out a decision which will be acceptable to the workers.”

This is one of the thousands of various methods of work used by our comrades, who carry on a great amount of work to improve sanitary conditions in the working class districts, to secure the distribution of relief during strikes, the repairing of workers’ houses, etc.

The popularity and the influence of the Party can be excellently demonstrated by figures. Prior to the elections of February 16, our Party had 20,000 members, while at the present time it has 83,967 members. This is still not a big figure, but then our Party has only just begun to be transformed into a big mass party. We set ourselves the task of bringing the numerical strength of the Party up to 100,000 by the time of the opening of our Party Congress, and this figure will undoubtedly be exceeded.

The largest influx of new members into the ranks of our Party is taking place in the agricultural districts of our country, and in the cities of the semi-industrial type, such as Malaga, Seville, Jaen, Valencia, Badajos, etc., and in the mining centers as, for example, in Asturias, and to a lesser extent, in Biscay. New members are also joining our Party directly in the large enterprises, including the railways. The majority of the new members are workers organized in the U.G.T., while only a minority are unorganized. The growth of the Communist Party at the expense of the Socialists constitutes a comparatively small percentage, as the Communist Party is not carrying on a special campaign to draw the members of the Left wing of the Socialist Party into its ranks. The increase in the membership of our Party from among the members of the trade unions affiliated to the C.N.T. is still insufficient, a fact which testifies to the general weakness of our work in Catalonia.

The important question of training these new members is one facing our Party at the present moment. This question deserves all the more attention since it concerns the question of the lack of cadres. Up to the present moment we have not carried on any regular work to train new members and to set up cadres. There is a decision of the Party periodically to call meetings of active Party members for the exchange of experiences in Party work and methods of work, taking into consideration the fact that the new members of the Party came to us from organizations whose methods of work differ sharply from ours.

Our work in Catalonia deserves the greatest amount of self-criticism. Here the successes of the Party are too insignificant. The membership of the Communist Party of Catalonia is not more than 2,000. It is precisely in Catalonia and Biscay – the basic industrial districts of Spain – where the Party is growing at an exceedingly slow pace, yet the people of Catalonia have elected a number of our comrades to leading positions in the trade unions. This fact shows that while they have confidence in the Communists as individuals, the Party as such has not been able organizationally to cover them and to consolidate its influence among them. It is true that the situation in Catalonia is more complicated than in any other place in Spain. There are ten or twelve organizations of a nationalist type, two Socialist organizations, an Anarchist and counter-revolutionary Trotskyist groupings. And, of course, the factional cancer of the past has made the growth of our Party in Catalonia more difficult. But this is only one reason. The basic mistake lies in the fact that the national question, the question of our national policy, has not been put forward correctly.

Now conditions are favorable for growth of the revolutionary movement in Catalonia. Such parties as the Union of Socialists of Catalonia, the Socialist Party and the Proletarian Party of Catalonia, have agreed to merge with the Communist Party on the basis of our general line and tactics, and to join in principle with the Communist International. We are aiming towards creating a single mass Workers’ Party of Catalonia by uniting the Communist Party with the above mentioned organizations, while at the same time striving to ensure cooperation with the peasants’ union (Rabassaires).

Whither Is Spain Going?

Two forces are struggling against each other in Spain – the force of fascism and the forces of the anti-fascist People’s Front – revolution and counter-revolution. The outcome of this struggle has not yet been decided. At the present time we occupy a much more advantageous position than the enemies of the people. We can come out of this struggle victorious. The Party is growing rapidly. But the leadership of the Party does not forget that the successes which have been achieved are not yet finally consolidated. At the present time we are not putting forward the transition from the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the socialist revolution, for the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship, as the immediate task. But we aim at completing and carrying to its conclusion the people’s democratic revolution. This is the basic task of the Spanish people at the present moment.

The weapons of victory are in our hands. The Communist Party of Spain sets itself as the main and most pressing immediate task at the present moment – the achievement of the complete victory of the democratic and revolutionary forces over fascism and counter-revolution, and by operating measures of an economic and political character which lead along the path towards the completion of the democratic revolution, to isolate the fascists from the masses of peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie on whom they have based themselves up to the present time; to disorganize the forces of fascism, to undermine the material base of the counter-revolution, and to strengthen the position of the proletariat and its allies. Will we be able to solve these tasks, to solve the questions which face the proletariat and the people as a whole? The basic condition for the successful solution of these tasks lies in strengthening to the utmost and in further developing the struggle of the People’s Front against fascism and counter-revolution, and in defense of the revolution and the republic. We are carrying out a clear line, and understand our aims – we know what we want and where we are going. In our struggle we are inspired by the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

The Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of Spain, which is called for August of this year, will sum up the results, and set the perspectives of the struggle against fascism and the counter-revolution, for the political unity of the proletariat, and for the victorious development of the revolution in Spain.

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.

Source

Communist International: The Spanish Revolution

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By M. Ercoli
Member of the Executive Committee of the Communist InternationalWorkers Library Publishers
New York City
First Printing, December, 1936
Second Printing, February, 1937
Third Printing, March, 1937

The Spanish Revolution

The heroic struggle of the Spanish people has deeply stirred the whole world. It is the greatest event in the struggle of the masses of the people in the capitalist countries for their emancipation, second only to the October Socialist Revolution of 1917.

The struggle against the remnants of feudalism, the aristocracy, the monarchist officers, the princes of the church, against fascist enslavement, has united the vast majority of the Spanish people. The workers and peasants, the intellectuals and lower middle class people of the towns, and even certain groups of the bourgeoisie, have taken their stand in defense of freedom and the republic, while a handful of insurgent generals are waging war against their own people with the aid of Moroccans, whom they deceived, and the international criminal riffraffs of the Foreign Legion.

The struggle of the Spanish people bears the features of a national revolutionary war. It is a war to save the people and the country from foreign bondage, since the victory of the insurgents would mean the economic, political and cultural decline of Spain, its disintegration as an independent state, the enslavement of its peoples by German and Italian fascism. It is a national revolutionary struggle for the further reason that its victory will bring liberation to the Catalonians, the Basques and the Galicians who have been oppressed by the old aristocracy of Castile.

The victory of the people will deal fascism in Spain a mortal blow and will destroy its material basis. It will hand over the large landed estates and the industrial enterprises of the fascist insurgents to the people, and will create the conditions for the further successful struggle of the mass of the working people of Spain for their social liberation.

The victory of the People’s Front in Spain will strengthen the cause of peace throughout the whole of Europe, primarily by preventing the warmongers from converting Spain into a military base for the fascist encirclement of, and attack on, France.

The struggle of the People’s Front in Spain is setting into motion the democratic forces of the whole world. Success in this struggle will strengthen the cause of democracy in all countries, will weaken fascism wherever it is in the saddle, and will hasten its downfall.

A People’s Revolution

The revolution in Spain, which is part and parcel of the anti-fascist struggle all over the world, is a revolution having the broadest social basis. It is a people’s revolution. It is a national revolution. It is an anti-fascist revolution.

The relation of class forces within Spain is such as to render the cause of the Spanish people invincible, but the forces of world reaction, first and foremost the German and Italian fascists, hinder the victory of the Spanish people over fascism. They are supporting the insurgents, supplying them arms with the connivance of the democratic governments of the capitalist countries. It would not be correct to draw a complete parallel between the present Spanish revolution and the Russian revolution of 1905, and still less with the Russian revolution of 1917. The Spanish revolution has its own peculiar features which arise out of the specific internal as well as international situation. Big events and movements in history do not repeat themselves with photographic exactness either in time or space.

The Spanish people are solving the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The reactionary castes, whose power the fascist insurgents wish to restore, ruled and domineered over the country in such a way that it became the poorest, the most backward country in Europe. All that is healthy, creative and alive in the various strata of the Spanish people felt and still feels the stranglehold of the past which is now irrevocably doomed to disappear. In Spain all that is creative and possesses vitality expects a radical improvement as a result of the solution of the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

This means that in the interests of the economic and political development of the country, the agrarian question must be settled by abolishing the feudal relations which dominate the countryside. It means that the peasants, the workers, and the working population as a whole must be relieved of the intolerable burden of an outworn economic and administrative system. It means further that the privileges of the aristocracy, the church and the religious orders must be done away with and the uncontrolled sway of the reactionary castes must be broken.

But Spanish fascism stands in the way of the solution of these problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Spanish fascism is not only the vehicle of capitalist reaction but also of medieval feudalism, of monarchism, clerical fanaticism and bigotry as well as the Inquisition of the Jesuits; it is the defender of the reactionary castes and of the privileges of the nobility, which like a dead weight act as a drag on the country and hinder its economic development. Spanish fascism is not only the representative of trustified capital, which resorts to social demagogy, too, as a means of crushing the masses; it brings with it open violence without demagogy. It is the representative of the old order, rotten to the core and hated by all. Therefore, in a country like Spain, where the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution have not yet been accomplished, fascism has not succeeded in forming a party based on the masses of the petty bourgeoisie. By rising in armed rebellion against the lawful government, the fascists alienated even some of those bourgeois elements which, under a bourgeois constitution, would have sought to come to terms with them. Fascism has succeeded in swinging the petty bourgeoisie definitely over to the side of the proletariat, in forcing the reformist elements in the labor movement who stood for “constitutional” development to side with the people. Fascism has consolidated against itself, as never before, all the parties and organizations of the People’s Front, from Martinez Barrio to the Communists, from the Basque nationalists to the Catalonian Anarchists.

The Spanish people is solving in a new way the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution which is in accordance with the deepest interests of the vast mass of the people. In the first place, it is solving them in circumstances of civil war brought on by the insurgents. In the second place, it is forced in the interest of the armed struggle against fascism to confiscate the property of the landlords and employers involved in the insurrection, because it is impossible to secure victory over fascism without undermining its economic position. In the third place, it is able to draw on the historical experience of the proletariat of Russia, which completed the bourgeois-democratic revolution after it had conquered power, for the great proletarian revolution splendidly achieved “in passing” the very objectives which form the basic content of the revolution in Spain at its present historical stage. Finally, the Spanish working class is striving to accomplish its leading role in the revolution, and place upon it a proletarian imprint by the sweeping range and the forms of its struggle.

The Role of the Working Class

At all stages of development of the revolution in Spain, the working class has taken the initiative in every important action against the forces of reaction. The working class was the soul of the movement which overthrew the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the monarchy. Strikes and demonstrations of the workers in all the big industrial towns lent the initial impetus to the mighty mass movement that swept the Spanish towns and villages as well as the army, a movement whose onslaught the monarchy proved unable to withstand. The tireless, heroic struggle of the working class has invariably helped to accentuate the character of the revolution as a people’s revolution in spite of all the efforts of the bourgeoisie, of the republican leaders and even of the Socialist Party to retard and crush the mass movement. The working class of Spain has done a great historic service: the general strike and the armed struggle of the Asturian miners, in the unforgettable days of October, 1934, erected the first barrier against the assault of the fascist bands. In spite of its bloody defeat, the working class after October was, and continues to be, the organizer and backbone of the anti-fascist People’s Front.

But the special character of the revolution in Spain consists above all in the peculiarity of the conditions in which the proletariat is making its hegemony in the revolution effective. The split in the working class of Spain has its own special features. In the first place the working class of Spain overthrew the monarchy in 1931, before there was a real mass Communist Party. At that time the Communist Party was only in its formative stage, not only organizationally but also ideologically and politically. In the second place, while in the process of the revolution a mass Communist Party was taking shape, the Spanish proletariat remained under the powerful influence of the Socialist Party. For decades the Socialist Party had been the means by which the influence of the bourgeoisie was exercised over the working class, and for two and a half years it formed a coalition with the bourgeoisie. This Party had a much stronger foothold in the working class than, for example, the Russian Mensheviks in 1905 or in 1917. In the third place – and this distinguished and still distinguishes Spain from all other countries of Europe – the Spanish proletariat has also mass Anarcho-Syndicalist organizations in addition to the Communist and Socialist Parties. The ideology and practice of these Anarcho-Syndicalist organizations frequently hinder the principles of proletarian organization and proletarian discipline from penetrating into the ranks of the working class.

Spanish Anarchism is a peculiar phenomenon, a reflection of the country’s economic backwardness, of the backwardness of its political structure, of the disunity of its proletariat, of the existence of a numerous group of declassed elements, and, finally, of a specific particularism – all features characteristic of countries with strong survivals of feudalism. At the present time, when the Spanish people are exerting every effort to drive back the furious attack of bestial fascism, when the Anarchist workers are fighting bravely at the fronts, there are not a few people who, under cover of the principles of Anarchism, weaken the solidarity and unity of the People’s Front by hasty projects for compulsory “collectivization”, the “abolition of money”, the preaching of “organized indiscipline”, etc.

It is the great merit of the Communist Party of Spain that, while tirelessly and consistently struggling to overcome the split in the working class, it fought and is still fighting to create the maximum prerequisites for ensuring the hegemony of the proletariat, the prime condition for the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The formation of a united front between the Socialist and Communist Parties, the establishment of a single organization of young workers, the creation of a single party of the proletariat in Catalonia, and, last but most important, the transformation of the Communist Party itself into a huge mass party enjoying tremendous and ever-growing influence and authority are all a sure guarantee that the working class will be able still more effectively to exercise its hegemony by assuming leadership over the whole revolutionary movement and carrying it to victory.

The Peasantry

Such is the situation in the ranks of the working class. How do matters stand with the peasantry? It is a known fact that the majority of the army, consisting fundamentally of the sons of peasants, was carried along by its officers, and so in the first days of the insurrection it was to be found in the camp of the enemies of the people. And the fact that the fascist officers were able to win relatively large groups of soldiers to their side is the penalty which the republican parties, the Socialists and the Anarchists are paying for their many years of neglect of the demands of the peasantry. However, there are tremendous possibilities for enlisting the active participation of the Spanish peasants in the revolution.

In the Spanish countryside there are two million agricultural workers. In many of the northern districts they are still partly under the influence of the landlords and the clergy; nevertheless they constitute an element of revolutionary ferment even in the most backward provinces. This large agricultural proletariat in Spain holds out vast opportunities to the various working class organizations of influencing the masses of the peasants, of making them active participants in the struggle against fascism, of consolidating the alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and strengthening the leading role of the proletariat in this alliance. Moreover, most of the remaining three million peasants are poor people who have been mercilessly exploited and oppressed for centuries, and now passionately hope for land and liberty from the revolution. Freed from the thralldom of monarchist prejudices, these peasant masses are gradually becoming emancipated from the influence of the church, and undoubtedly sympathize with the republic. And although the military units of the People’s Militia already contain solid groups of peasants, the reserves of millions of peasants have not yet entered the active struggle against the fascist insurgents. With the exception of Galicia, there is as yet no widespread guerilla movement. The peasants in the rear have as yet caused little trouble to the insurgents. But their entrance into the active struggle is inevitable. The millions of the peasant reserves are getting into motion and will soon have their decisive say.

The illiterate Spanish peasants have long lived beyond the pale of politics. It is a distinguishing feature of Spain that its peasants entered the revolution without a national party of their own. The only attempt to form a peasant party was made in Galicia. There a priest named Basilio Alvarez formed the Galician Agrarian Party whose program attacked the local feudal privileges known as “foros”. This party broke up in 1934-35. But it is interesting to note that Galicia is the only province where the peasants have entered en masse the armed struggle against the insurgents and are now organizing guerilla warfare in the rear of these reactionary bandits. The Catalonian organization of sharecroppers and tenant farmers, called “Rabassaires”, also has some of the distinguishing features of a political party of the peasants. And it is also worthy of note that in the Catalonian villages, where this organization is influential, the fascists have had no success whatever.

The only party which fearlessly supported the immediate demands of the peasants as well as the demand for the confiscation without compensation of all the land of the landlords, the church and the monasteries for the benefit of the peasants was the class party of the proletariat, the Communist Party. Unfortunately, it was not yet sufficiently strong to carry with it the broad masses of the peasantry.

The Urban Petty Bourgeoisie

As far as the urban lower middle class is concerned, the vast majority of its members are on the side of democracy and the revolution, and against fascism. Here, their yearning for liberty and social progress, their hatred for the past, steeped in poverty and superstitious ignorance, playa decisive role. This deprives Spanish fascism of the possibility of gaining mass support among the petty bourgeoisie, as was done or is being done by fascism in other capitalist countries. Its social demagogy breaks down when the urban petty bourgeoisie, the handicraftsmen, intellectuals, scientists and artists, see the fascist leaders march shoulder to shoulder with the hated big landlords, the “casiques”, with bishops, who have waxed fat on the poverty of the people, with such crafty politicians as Lerroux and such corrupt bankers as Juan March. It is true that the political representatives of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie did not immediately take up their present Jacobin position. They wavered. After the fall of the monarchy, they supported the policy of coalition. When they entered the People’s Front movement, they stubbornly refused to put into their program the demand for the confiscation of the land. Even after February 16, the Azaña government, which relied on the parties of the People’s Front, showed indecision concerning the cleansing of the government offices and the army of fascists. Many representatives of the lower middle class sought a compromise in their endeavor to avoid an open fight against fascism.

But the cruel and treacherous attack of the fascists on the lawful government caused an outburst of indignation in the ranks of the urban petty bourgeoisie, and resolved many of their doubts. Under the pressure of events, the republican leaders took to the path of determined and consistent struggle against the fascist insurgents.

“What was left for us to do,” stated Azaña, “when the greater part of the army had broken its oath of allegiance to the republic? Should we have renounced all thought of defense and submitted to new tyranny? No! We owed it to the people to give them a chance to defend themselves.” The republican petty bourgeoisie resorted to plebeian methods in the fight against fascism, consented to giving arms to the workers and peasants, supported the organization of people’s revolutionary tribunals, which are acting no less energetically than the Committee of Public Safety at the time of Robespierre and St. Just. This means that in Spain the urban petty bourgeoisie is playing a role which differs greatly from that played, for example, by the petty bourgeoisie in Germany or Italy immediately before and at the time fascism came to power. This special feature must be taken into account when describing the present stage of the Spanish revolution.

The Bourgeoisie

Lastly, the bourgeoisie. Being interested in the restriction of feudal privileges, it took a fairly active part in the overthrow of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the monarchy. The industrial bourgeoisie expected from the republic more favorable conditions for its development. The bourgeois parties sought to reach this goal by compromising with the privileged feudal and semi-feudal castes, and, unfortunately, for over two years they influenced the republican petty bourgeoisie and even the Socialist Party to follow them along this path. The policy of the coalition government thoroughly disillusioned the masses of the people. Fascism made use of the weakened position of democracy which resulted, and took up the offensive, mobilizing and rallying all the most reactionary elements in the country.

This strengthening of fascism brought the masses to a realization of the need to build a barrier against its advance. The masses rose in defense of the republic (October, 1934). The process of differentiation among the bourgeoisie was becoming more intense and a crisis began to develop in the traditional bourgeois parties. For example, the Radical Party of Lerroux, that party of political corruption which mirrored all the weakness and vice of the Spanish big bourgeoisie, rapidly broke up, and after the 1936 elections disappeared from the political scene. From it a group was formed which, led by Martinez Barrio, the present chairman of the Cortes, is taking part in organizing the repulse of the fascists and has entered the People’s Front. The considerable success at the polls of Barrio’s party cannot be explained otherwise than by the anti-fascist sentiments of part of the bourgeoisie who had nothing to gain from the reactionary designs of the fascists and their ally Lerroux. From its very inception Martinez Barrio took an active part in the formation of the People’s Front. When, after the fall of Toledo, a tense situation had arisen at the front, he presided at the October session of the Cortes devoted to preparing the defense of Madrid.

In the various republican governments formed after the elections of February 16, 1936, there were people who undoubtedly represented certain sections of the bourgeoisie. These remained on the side of the republic when the fascist insurrection broke out, e.g., José Giral, member of the Left Republican Party and minister in the present government, a fairly big landowner whose estates had been affected by the agrarian reform in the very first years of the republic; Francisco Barnes, Casares Quiroga, Enrico Ramos and Manuel Blasco Garzon, industrialists and landowners who formed part of the ministry of José Giral, i.e., were members of one of the governments which organized the defense of the republic against the fascist insurgents. Had the course of events been different, some of these people would possibly have sought for a compromise with the reactionaries. By depriving them of this possibility, the fascist rising made clear to them the need to defend the republic and democracy by all the means at their disposal, and thus linked up their fate with that of the fighting masses of the people.

Numerous groups of the bourgeoisie of the nationalities that used to be oppressed by Spanish feudalism are also acting on the side of the republic. There are districts in Spain where the whole population has been fighting for centuries to throw off the yoke of national oppression. This applies principally to Catalonia and the Basque Provinces (Biscay). The bourgeoisie of these districts cannot support the fascists or even sympathize with them, as they know perfectly well that a fascist victory would reduce to naught any chance of national independence or autonomy. Such a victory would mean a return to the old regime of national oppression.

In Catalonia, the so-called Catalonian League and its reactionary leaders have disappeared from the arena of struggle. But in the ranks of the Catalonian Left – the Esquierres – there are still a number of representatives of the industrial bourgeoisie who occupy high places in the Catalonian government. And there is no doubt that in Barcelona, and, it may be said, throughout all Catalonia, the rebellion of the fascist generals was put down more rapidly than elsewhere not only because great numbers of the Spanish proletariat are concentrated here, but also because almost the whole population enthusiastically took part in crushing the insurrection, even some bourgeois circles being in sympathy with this.

With regard to the Basque provinces, the Basque National Party, which has a representative, Manuel Irujo, in the Madrid government, takes an active part in the struggle against the fascists. Manuel Irujo is a big industrialist who has always fought for the national liberation of the Basques. He was against the coup d’état of Primo de Rivera, and was a determined opponent of the monarchy. In the first days of the fascist revolt, he personally led military operations against the fascist officers in Bilbao. All his relatives, including his 70- year-old mother, are held as hostages by the fascists. This Catholic and industrialist is acting loyally in defense of the republic, and declares that his party is fighting “for a regime of liberty, political democracy and social justice”. The Basque National Party, of which he is the leader, is a party of the Catholic bourgeoisie which for a number of years has been fighting for the national independence of Biscay. Priests constitute a considerable part of its membership. Not so long ago the French reactionary, de Kerillis, expressed his surprise at the fact that members of the clergy in the Biscay provinces were fighting heroically against the reactionary gangs of General Mola. But there is nothing surprising in this. The part played by these groups of the Basque bourgeoisie who, arms in hand, fought side by side with all the other heroic defenders of Irun, San Sebastian and Bilbao, is undoubtedly more progressive than that played by those leaders of the British Labor Party who trail behind the British policy of “nonintervention”. There is every reason for applying to these groups of the Basque bourgeoisie the following words written by Comrade Stalin in the year 1924:

“The struggle the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of his country is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his entourage, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism…. The struggle the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of their country is, objectively, revolutionary despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois calling of the leaders of the Egyptian national movement and despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the fight the English Labor government is waging to perpetuate Great Britain’s domination over Egypt is, for the same reasons, a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origin and the proletarian calling of the members of that government, and despite the fact that they are ‘for’ socialism.”*

* Stalin, “The National Question”, Foundations Leninism, p. 67.

What conclusion, then, should be drawn from the position occupied by these groups of the Spanish bourgeoisie as described above?

There can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the bourgeoisie sympathizes with the insurgents, and supports them, but there are bourgeois groups, especially among the national minorities, which, although they do not play a leading part in the People’s Front, took part in the anti-fascist People’s Front before the insurrection and continue to do so to this day. Therefore, these groups must not be left out of account in the anti-fascist camp, for their participation in the People’s Front extends it and thus increases the chances of victory for the Spanish people. In times of so sharp a conflict, a wide social basis is one of the main factors guaranteeing the successful outcome of the revolution.

In 1927, Comrade Stalin, that master of the art of revolutionary strategy, wrote that correct leadership of the revolution is impossible unless certain tactical principles of Leninism are taken into account:

“I have in view such tactical principles of Leninism as: (a) the principle of never failing to take into account the national peculiarities and specific national features in each individual country,… (b) the principle that the Communist Party of each country must never fail to make use of even the slightest possibility of securing for the proletariat a mass ally, though he be temporary, shaky, unstable and unreliable, (c) the principle of never failing to take into account the truth that propaganda and agitation alone are not enough for the political education of the millions of the people, but that this requires that the masses acquire political experience of their own.”*

* Stalin, About the Opposition, p. 615, Russian edition.

The Spanish People’s Front

Guided by these principles, the Communist Party of Spain has fought not only to bring about joint action by the working class, but also to establish a broad anti-fascist People’s Front, which reflects the peculiar form of development assumed by the Spanish revolution at its present stage.

This front embraces the working class and its organizations, namely, the Communist and Socialist Parties, the General Workers’ Union and the Syndicalist Organization of Pestana; it is now supported by the Anarchist National Confederation of Labor. Furthermore, it covers the petty bourgeoisie through the Republican Party of Azaña, and the Catalonian Party Esquierra. It also includes the groups of the bourgeoisie represented by Martinez Barrio’s party, the “Republican League”, and by the Basque nationalists; it is supported not only by the Catalonian “Rabassaires” organization, but also by millions of Spanish peasants who have no party of their own, who hate fascism and are hungry for land. The Spanish anti-fascist People’s Front, as the specific form of union of various classes, in face of the fascist danger, differs, for instance, from the French People’s Front in that it operates and carries on the struggle in circumstances of a revolution, which solves its bourgeois-democratic problems in a consistent, democratic way, in circumstances of a civil war which demands exceptional measures to ensure the victory of the people.

Similarly, it does not explain the real character of the Spanish People’s Front to define it simply as “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. In the first place, the People’s Front in Spain bases itself not only on the workers and peasants; it has a broader social basis. In the second place, under the pressure of the civil war, it is adopting a series of measures which go somewhat further than the program of a government of revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. It is a further peculiarity of the Spanish People’s Front that the split in the ranks of the proletariat, the relatively slow pace at which the masses of the peasantry are being drawn into the armed struggle, and the influence of petty-bourgeois Anarchism and of Social-Democratic illusions which have not yet been outlived, which are expressed in the endeavor to skip the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, are all creating a number of additional difficulties in the struggle of the Spanish people for a democratic republic.

The democratic republic which is being established in Spain is unlike the usual type of bourgeois-democratic republic. It is being born amidst a civil war in which the working class plays the leading part, at a time when socialism has been victorious on one-sixth of the earth’s surface, while in a number of capitalist countries conservative bourgeois democracy has already been routed by fascism. It is a distinctive feature of this new type of democratic republic that fascism, which has taken up the struggle against the people, is being suppressed by the armed force of the people, and that in this republic there will be no place for this chief and bloodthirsty enemy of the people. Should the people be victorious, fascism will never be able to enjoy there such freedom as, for instance, in France, the U.S.A., or England, where it makes use of bourgeois democracy and the rights granted under it to destroy democracy and establish completely arbitrary rule. Secondly, the material basis of fascism will be destroyed in this republic. All land, all enterprises belonging to participants in the fascist revolt have already been confiscated and handed over to the Spanish people. Already the Spanish government has been compelled by the military situation to institute the control and regulation of the country’s economic machinery in order to promote the defense of the republic. And the more obdurately the insurgents carry on the war against the lawful government, the further will the latter be forced to go in the direction of strict regulation of the whole economic life of the country. Thirdly, should the people be victorious, this new democracy cannot but be alien to all conservatism; for it possesses all the conditions necessary for its own further development, it provides the guarantees for further economic and political achievements by the working people of Spain. And it is precisely for this reason that all the forces of world reaction desire the defeat of the Spanish people.

German and Italian fascism not only organized the revolt of the Spanish generals, but are now giving every possible support to the insurgents, and are working for the defeat of the republic. All parties of extreme reaction and war in all capitalist countries are sympathetic to the insurgents and ready to support them. The fighting Spanish people is faced not only by the insurgent generals, but by the whole front of world reaction. Hence the difficulties encountered by the Spanish people in suppressing the revolt. These difficulties are further enhanced by the pressure of parties in the capitalist countries which formally endorse bourgeois democracy, but actually support fascist intervention under the cloak of “neutrality”. This second camp, to which belong, for instance, the British conservatives and the French Right Radicals, is essentially in league with world reaction. In fact this camp has the support of certain reactionary Social-Democratic leaders as well.

Lastly, there is the opposite camp, the camp of the working class, the camp of democracy. The foundation of this camp is the working class of the world, which wholeheartedly sides with the Spanish people. This camp includes all honest anti-fascists, all true democrats, all those who realize that to allow the Spanish republic to be crushed means to suffer a blow to be struck at the entire international anti-fascist front, means encouraging fascism to make further attacks on the working class and on democracy.

Playing With Fire

Fascism is playing with fire. It set the war machine going not only against a people of distant Africa, but is now attacking one of the peoples of Europe. It cannot now cover up its predatory actions with cries about Versailles. It is tearing up not Versailles, but the liberty and independence of the Spanish people, and is thereby letting loose against itself a new flood of hatred among the working people. By this fascism is giving the impetus to a new wave of anti-fascism throughout the whole world. When German fascism came to power in Germany, it also counted on intimidating the nations by staging the Leipzig trial. It achieved the opposite. Fascism’s wild frenzy in Germany made it easier to form the People’s Front in France and Spain, inaugurated the movement for the People’s Front throughout the whole world. But the Italian and German fascists are pursuing imperialist and annexationist aims, as well. They want to crush the Spanish revolution so as to seize part of the colonies of Spain, occupy part of her territory and convert it into a base of operations for their further onslaughts on the peoples of Europe. The insurgent generals are agents of foreign imperialism, which is threatening the independence and integrity of the country. In 1919, Lenin, speaking about the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, said: “With us the difficulty in the situation was that we had to bring Soviet power into being against patriotism.”* The struggle of the people against the insurgent fascist generals in Spain has the character of a national struggle in defense of the country against foreign enslavement, and this factor still further extends the basis of the revolution. The People’s Front not only continues the revolutionary traditions of the Spanish people, but also the glorious traditions of the struggle of the peoples of Spain to rid their country of foreign oppression and barbarism.

* Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXIV, p. 219, Russian edition.

Thus, we are faced in Spain with a situation which, in the fire of revolutionary struggle, supplies proof of the historical correctness of the political line mapped out by the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International. This correctness is being confirmed not only by the scope of the anti-fascist struggle which has developed in Spain, but also by the part being played in this struggle by the young Communist Party of Spain. At the Seventh Congress Comrade Dimitroff said:

“We want the Communists of each country promptly to draw and apply all the lessons that can be drawn from their own experiences as the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat. We want them as quickly as possible to learn how to sail on the turbulent waters of the class struggle, and not to remain on the shore as observers and registrars of the surging waves in the expectation of fine weather.”

In the turbulent waters of the class struggle, the Communist Party of Spain is being transformed into the stalwart pilot of the destinies of its people. With every day that passes it is gaining increased authority among the masses by its whole-hearted devotion to the cause of the revolution, by its strict adherence to principle, its steadfastness at the front and in the rear, the discipline of its commanders and fighters, and its profound conviction that the road outlined is correct. Organizer and inspirer of the People’s Front and fully conscious of its own historical responsibility, the Party is fighting for the final victory of the People’s Front over fascism.

Source

Trotskyism in the Service of Franco

Franco

By GEORGES SORIA

FACTS AND DOCUMENTS

“To the Generalissimo: – I communicate personally the following: In executing the order you gave me, amongst other things, I went to Barcelona to interview the leaders of the P.O.U.M. I gave them all your information and suggestions. …”

(Document found at the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid where there was a spying organisation.)

“The Witness: All the espionage material discovered by the other group, which is made up of the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., was transmitted to Perpignan by me….”

“The Witness: The outrage against Prieto and the heads of the Modesto and Walter divisions had been prepared by the group of secret agents of the P.O.U.M. which is directed by General Franco’s espionage centre at Perpignan….”

(The above is an extract from the cross-examination of Joaquin Roca Amich.)

This pamphlet pleads its own case. It is written after spending a year and three months in Republican Spain. It is based on first-hand observation and on the study and analysis of official documents and papers.

Experience of the political situation in Republican Spain throughout the war, and the daily study of the problems which arise, have convinced me that the P.O.U.M. is one of the most important instruments which the Spanish rebels use in their struggle against the legitimate Spanish Government. I believe it to be my duty to make public the facts on which this conviction is based. And it will be instructive to find out if there are people who are still eager to defend the P.O.U.M. in the face of the evidence which I bring forward.

Trotskyism, typical of the parasitic growths which attach them-selves to all great popular movements, has become today the refuge in Spain of all the enemies of the Spanish Republic. The lesson to be drawn from this is of vital importance.

Police papers, documents, official reports of cross- examinations which speak for themselves, and accuse the P.O.U.M. and its leaders of having held, and of holding, relations with the rebels, have been sub-mitted to me. They prove the liaison of the P.O.U.M. with the secret spying organisations which the rebels maintain in Government Spain.

The P.O.U.M. was the result of the fusion of the workers’ and peasants’ block, founded in 1930 by the Catalan, Joaquin Maurin, and a group of those who had been expelled from the Spanish Communist Party, amongst whom were Nin, Gorkin and Andrade. Until their arrest in 1937 they led the P.O.U.M. and were engaged in sabotaging the Republican institutions and in espionage. My aim in writing this pam-phlet has been to advance no accusations which cannot immediately be supported by documents.

This will appear before the trial of Trotskyist leaders has taken place. The search, which was begun after the disturbances caused by the P.O.U.M. in Barcelona in May 1937, led to the discovery of documents which indisputably established the spying activities in which the prin-cipal leaders of the P.O.U.M. were engaged. This search is still going on. The public prosecutor of the Republic and his chief assistant have lately been working intensively on the files of the case. In a few weeks justice will be meted out. This news is comforting to all friends of the Spanish Popular Front, for then all the Fascist Press campaign, fed by the ar-guments of the Trotskyists and their allies, will be clearly revealed as a plot against the Spanish Republic.

The attempt on the part of the P.O.U.M. to break up the anti-Fascist organisations goes back to the formation of the Spanish Popular Front. Since its formation in Madrid, on June 2nd, 1935, the P.O.U.M., through its leaders, Maurin, Nin and Gorkin, fought and intrigued against the Popular Front which was destined to be successful at the general elections some months later and to throw clerical and agrarian reaction out of power. After the two years of terror which Spain had just experienced, the desire of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed national minorities was to unite together against the forces of reaction. At that time the P.O.U.M. had only some 2,000 members and did not dare to come out openly against the growing forces of the Popular Front. But the reactionary bourgeoisie and aristocracy had already discovered that the P.O.U.M. and its liaisons with foreign powers could be turned into a most useful counter-revolutionary in-strument. Owing to the conditions of the political struggles in Spain at this period the dividing line separating the Popular forces of the Centre from the Right was so distinct that the ruling classes could not them-selves undertake the work of disorganising the Popular Front. They needed a reliable group, which would be bound to them by special considerations such as the concessions which they could give it once they had gained power, to lead a struggle against the Popular Front, a struggle which would have an air of revolution about it. Only an or-ganisation which could penetrate right into the ranks of the Popular Front, adopting a revolutionary phraseology, could play this role without being exposed. The document which is reproduced below, found during a search made in Fascist quarters in Barcelona, is proof of the first contacts of the Trotskyist organisation with reaction. This is a letter from a Catalan lawyer to Gil Robles, who as Minister of War during the Lerroux Government was the personification of oppression against the working class.

“MY DEAR GIL ROBLES,

“A friend from Barcelona, the lawyer Jose Maria Palles, who on account of his position and interests frequently travels abroad, where he has important connections with the international world, has brought to my notice the fact that he intends to arrange for an agreement between the White Russian organisations and the Trotskyists, who would be able to put them in touch with the activities of the Communists against Spain….”

The following are some of the questions to which the White Russians and the Trotskyists propose to give exact replies:

“(1) Information about the Spanish section of the Third International, about the leaders of this section, their advisers and their movements.

“(2) Information about the illegal activity of the C.P. in Spain.

“(3) Information about the formation of the Popular Front and the parties of the Left in Spain.”

In the months which followed, the Trotskyists gradually showed their hand. Having entered into the struggle against the Governments which followed one another until July 19th, 1936, they were bound, once the insurrection of the generals had been suppressed in two-thirds of Spain by the Popular forces, to take up again after a short delay the struggle against the Caballero Cabinet. They were committed to a policy of sabotaging the Popular Front, and this policy was to lead them to insurrection and treason. They went, with absolute impunity, from provocation to provocation and finally to the Barcelona putsch, while at Madrid the most important members of their organisation, working hand in glove with the Fascist spy centres, daily gave the enemy military information about the position of troops, the situation of the fortifications, and helped to direct the artillery bombardment of Madrid.

SPIES IN THE PAY OF THE REBELS

On June 16th, 1937, the Republican police, by order of the Minister of the Interior, arrested the P.O.U.M. leaders, Nin, Gorkin and Andrade, and accused them of treason. The evidence against Nin in particular was of such a nature that the relations of the organisation with the rebels were no longer in any doubt. In the course of a search which was made at the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid a mass of the most sensational and incriminating documents was discovered. The Phalangists and the Fascists had not been able to destroy their papers before they were arrested, for the police had worked cautiously and cleverly. They had been on the trail for over a month gathering evidence and following developments before they made their pounce. When they did act they arrested over 200 people and amongst them some who had been manoeuvred into high positions in the general staff of some brigades, and in the Army supply service.

It was also discovered that the leaders of the P.O.U.M., in co-operation with Franco’s Fifth Column, had installed a receiving and transmitting station in Madrid and were using it to keep in touch with the Fascist zone. This organisation, whose workings were strictly secret, had found cover for some of its most important members in some of the foreign embassies in Madrid and had succeeded until then in keeping them screened from the police. Amongst the documents found at the Peruvian Embassy were plans showing the exact positions of the anti-aircraft batteries defending Madrid and of the Republican batteries in the Casa del Campo; plans of the distribution of the army of the centre, staff maps, and many other plans of so strictly military a character that there could be no doubt that they had been taken from general headquarters. There was also a detailed large-scale map of Madrid, carefully annotated with instructions for the Fascist artillery. From now on, the complicity of the Trotskyist leaders in the great spying organisation, which, as we shall see they had never ceased to assist, was proved in the main.

On the back of one of the maps of Madrid was written, in invisible ink and in code, the following:

”To the Generalissimo communicate personally the following: We are telling you all the information we can collect about the dispositions and movements of the Red troops; the latest information given out by our transmitting station testifies to an enormous improvement in our information services.”

The message continues:

”We have 400 men at our disposal. These men are well armed and favourably situated on the Madrid fronts so that they can form the driving force of a rebellious movement. Your order about getting our men to penetrate into the extremist ranks has been successfully carried out. We must have a good man in charge of propaganda. In executing the order you gave me, amongst other things, I went to Barcelona to interview the leaders of the P.O.U.M. I gave them all your information and suggestions. The lapse of communication between them and you is explained by the breakdown of the transmitting station, which began to work again while I was there. You should already have had an answer about the most important question. N. asks that you should arrange that I should be the only person to communicate with them apart from their ‘foreign friends They have promised me to send people to Madrid to ginger up the work of the P.O.U.M. If it is reinforced, the P.O.U.M. here will become, as it is at Barcelona, a firm and effective support for our movement. We shall soon be sending you some fresh information. The organisation of the action groups will be speeded up.”

Here is the text of a letter found at the headquarters of the P.O.U.M. in Barcelona, addressed to the leader of the P.O.U.M., Andres Nin.

”Bayonne, July 12th, 1937, to the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M. I confirm my former instructions. At last the split has become accentuated amongst the groups in the lower Pyrenees which we have already mentioned. If we can take advantage of this dissension we might be able to form a new group of our own party. The best of the lot, amongst them Walter and Bobinof, whose influence is particularly strong, are disagreeing with those from St. Jean de Luz because they refuse to send people out on a precarious mission before they have had full instructions. We must get proper authorisation, although the Bayonne people will only take action if they are quite confident of results. One thing is particularly interesting: they send us material from Barcelona, and several and all sorts of indications from which we can gather the distribution of the party; we will go ahead trying to form a group which will be absolutely firm and decided on all questions. . . .

”Franco’s wife is now in France. You may remember that in a previous communication it was suggested that she should go to Barcelona. What opportunities would this give us in the matter which Bonet discussed with Quim? I insist, however, that it is vitally necessary to support both materially and ideologically this group which can be of such enormous use to us; but for this you must make certain that Walter goes to Barcelona. C. has already established contact with Perpignan. Where I am today, it is difficult to get any news for certain. You must acknowledge the receipt of all this by telegraph and let me know whether you intend to act on it. Salut and P.O.U.M.

Signed: ”IMA.”

The above document is only one of the many proofs of the com-plicity of the leaders of the P.O.U.M with Franco s agents. The fol-lowing, for instance, is one of the statements published by the Barcelona Prefect of Police on August 20th, 1937, after the discovery of a secret centre of the P.O.U.M. at 158 Bailen Street in Barcelona.

“The owner of the house, Carmen Llorenis, and her daughter Maria Antonia Salines and the German Walter Schwarz were arrested. Secret publications of the P.O.U.M. were discovered on the premises as well as Fascist propaganda.”

The statement adds that it has been proved that the arrested persons, who had several times crossed the French frontier, were in contact with Franco’s agents.

And here is the latest case, which dates from October 23rd, 1937, the echoes of which have not yet died down.

On October 23rd, 1937, the Chief of the Barcelona Police, Lieut. Colonel Burillo, a Regular Army officer who had distinguished himself at the defence of Madrid by his remarkable energy and the struggle he had carried on against the spirit of defeatism, called a conference of the international Press representatives and gave them the following communiqué, the contents of which follow below, and which also establishes the complicity of the P.O.U.M. with the Spanish rebels:

“The police have discovered an organisation of spies, of a military character, which, directed by the rebels’ general staff, has extended its activities throughout the entire territory of the Republic, and especially Catalonia.

“This organisation has introduced its agents into the vital centres of the Army – infantry, artillery, tanks – Air Force and Navy. It has sent secret information to the enemy about the preparation and plans of our military operations, about aero-dromes and the positions of troops, about supplies of ammu-nition, and various military activities, both in the front line and in the rear.

“In order to direct movements of these spies working in Republican territory, and to make better and more rapid use of the information they collect, ex-General Franco had organised a branch of the secret service section of his general staff at Perpignan. This secret service section at Perpignan had estab-lished contact with the spying organisations by means of liai-son agents who maintained regular communications between Perpignan and the different towns of the Republic. As a result of the search which we have made, we are now in possession of a series of papers, bearing the signatures of those under arrest, containing secret information of a military character which was to be transmitted to the enemy.

“The statements of the prisoners, as well as the documents found, show that the organisation was also engaged in sabotage and that it intended to destroy important military buildings, bridges, arsenals, etc., and that it was planning the assassination of some of the leading members of the Government and the leaders of the Army.

“The search, which was carried out at the house of Roca, one of the leading members of the organisation, revealed, between two mattresses, some extremely important documents which, together with Roca’s own statements, show that one of the most important centres of this espionage organisation was composed of a large and well organised group many of whom were members of the P.O.U.M. This group had as its distinc-tive sign the letter C and each one of its agents in the network of spies was designated by the letter C and a corresponding number.

“In a letter found in the bookshop belonging to Roca’s fa-ther, in the course of a search carried out on September 18th, was found the following information which had been sent to Franco’s general staff:

‘(1) The group led by agent C.16 succeeded on the 5th of last August in putting out of action three artillery pieces in Divisions K and M, in a decisive moment during operations.

‘(2) The organisation is preparing to blow up the bridges across the Ebro.

‘(3) The organisation informed General Franco’s staff that a military train carrying arms had arrived and a specification of the arms was given.

‘(4) Information about the artillery on the Aragon front.

‘(5) On the question of food, the organisation has provoked protest demonstrations amongst the population.

‘(6) Suggestions were made for the assassination of Walter and Modesto, leading figures in the People’s Army.

‘(7) Suggestions were made for an attempt on the life of one of the Ministers of the Republic, the idea being to make the attempt when he was driving in his car…. Two cars with men armed with hand-grenades should follow the Minister’s car. The carrying out of this attempt against the Minister’s life had been entrusted to two members of the P.O.U.M. registered as C.18 and C.23.’

“A plan of the P.O.U.M. workshop in which the hand-grenades were made was found in the letter.

“The leaders of the P.O.U.M.’s espionage organisation were complaining in this letter of not being able to make use of all their network of agents as the full list of secret P.O.U.M. agents was only known by two leading members of the P.O.U.M., and both of these were under arrest in Valencia awaiting trial.”

This official document communicated to the Press of the world by the Spanish police raised the veil covering this gigantic case of spying, and once more made plain the complicity of the P.O.U.M.

Such great variety of documents were found that the Barcelona police had to condense into the above report only the essentials. After the discovery, the first consideration of the authorities had been to get their agents to make out a list of the objects and documents found which one of the accused signed with his own hand (facsimile of this published in the Appendix). Here is a verbatim text of the police document:

”In the town of Gerona at two o’clock on the morning of September 10th, 1937, the agents Isidro Nogues, Luis Fabrigat, Fernando Quadrado, Eduardo Montero, Miguel Parraga, Antonio Rupat, Stanislav Ferres and Antonio Gonzales, attached to the State department of information (the last-named in the position of secretary), put into execution the search-warrant issued by the Chief of Police, in the domicile of José Roca Falgueras, aged 58, widower, native of Gerona, son of Andres and Anna, living on the third floor of 6 Carreras Peralta Street. They went into a book-shop situated in Number 2 of the same street belonging to him, and in the presence of himself and his son, Joaquin Roca, they proceeded to a thorough search of all the offices and furniture of the shop in question. A chestnut-coloured fibre suitcase 48 cms. long, 30 cms. wide, and 14 cms. high was found at the back of the shop in the left-hand corner of a room. Also an iron box 24 cms. long, 18 cms. wide, and 9 cms. high. Inside the suitcase the following documents were found:

”Twenty-five plans describing the manufacture of different kinds of bombs and hand-grenades. Ten other plans giving details on the construction of different kinds of war materials. Two diagrams describing the composition of the bomb in question as well as a detailed plan of the mechanism of several engines.

”At the bottom of the documents in question there is a stamp as follows: ‘War Department, P.O.U.M., Central Military Committee.’

”A letter addressed to Mme. Barolet for M. Ferrer, 40 Rue des Augustins, Perpignan, and inside three sheets of paper and a mass of printed notes in the text of which several words had been written in by hand in capital letters, referring to questions of espionage and the organisation of acts of terrorism against members of the Republican Government.

”The suitcase also contained fifty newspapers of different dates. The iron box already mentioned contained Bank of Spain notes amounting to 11,825 pesetas in notes of 100, 50, and 25 pesetas, and the remainder in coins.

”In the safe of the shop were notes to the value of 135 pesetas, 2 pesetas in silver. In the desk was a letter and a postcard and a revolver.

”In a coat belonging to Joaquin Roca, a letter and unused envelope were found, the envelope bearing the number 8 and containing three 1,000-peseta notes.”

This document was signed by each of the agents that took part in the search and also by the principal accused, Joaquin Roca.

Now follows the entire text of the letter referred to in paragraph four of the police report. This letter was to be sent from Barcelona to Perpignan and thence to Franco’s headquarters:

”We take notice of your instructions that the liaison agents should not know all the secret groups of informers. Provisionally, we have put the agent of group C.4 in touch with group C.12 as the agent C.19 has not shown up for a fortnight – we learned later that he has been ill. In accordance with your wireless message we will send you all the secret information which we get from P.O.U.M. agents who have not yet been arrested; we will send this only by means of ‘Litus’. Information from other secret agents will be sent to you as before. The job of speeding up the work of our secret P.O.U.M. agents goes very slowly. We don’t even know all our agents, as a complete list was only known to ‘Autor’ and ‘Clavel’ who, as you know, are in prison in Valencia awaiting trial. As I said above, I send you herewith by `Litus’ the following information gathered by agents C.5 and C.8.

”(1) Our people succeeded in putting out of action on the 25th August three of the guns of the 25th Division at a most critical moment. As you know, they had already put out of action four guns of the 45th Division. This job was done by group C.16 whose leader seems to be distinctly promising.

”(2) In answer to your question C.16 has noted that there are not ninety 75-mm. guns on the Aragon front but nine. It seems that a typing error had got into our first report. There are only seven 76-mm. guns. We should like to draw your attention to the fact that even if there is enough ammunition for the other guns there is not enough for the 76-mm. guns. We are concentrating our attention on putting artillery out of action.

”(3) Our people are getting ready to blow up the bridges over the Ebro. We have enough explosives and some of our men are experienced dynamiters. We are studying the control of the bridges and trying to find out how they are guarded.

”(4) We have not yet had reports from our agents on the subject of aviation. ‘Imperial’ comes back from Cancasnos next week and will also touch at Caspe.

”(5) I have been promised that they will get ready for the assassination of Walter and Modesto as soon as the fighting begins again.

”(6) You wanted to know how much material arrived on 4th September in the ship which unloaded at Rosas. Approximately there were 140 cases of light machine-guns and over 1,000 cases of Mauser rifles.

”(7) You ask me who C.29 and C.41 are. I told you in one of my previous letters that they are active leaders of groups of secret agents – Rosalio Negrete (Blackwell) and Gisella Winter Gerster. Walter Schwarz in whom you are interested is now out of prison; he hasn’t come to see me yet but that is caution on his part.

”(8) I myself gave C.18 and C.23 your instructions about Prieto. I sent them to Valencia to stimulate the work of the P.O.U.M. group. Enclosed is the letter from C.18 and C.23. As you can see, your instructions are being carried out successfully.

”I am enclosing the designs for the manufacture of bombs which you sent me.

”(9) I am waiting for the spare valves for the radio – I must have them or the first time anything goes wrong we shall be cut off.

”PS. (1) I have just been told that the commander of the 45th Division, Kleber, has been dismissed and Hans has been put in his place. (2) I have just seen Flor. Vigorous preparations are being made for an insurrection in which the majority of the active members of the P.O.U.M. will take part. We have taken good advantage of the food shortage to organise a demonstration amongst the women. This should take place within two days.”

It will be seen that the above document (facsimile of which is given in the Appendix) has been counter-signed by its author and certified as authentic. We now proceed to the following note, which was also found amongst this batch of documents, and which reveals what were the ”instructions ” given to agents C.18 and C.23 – to assassinate Prieto, the Minister of National Defence, with handgrenades.

(The attempted murder of General Walter, one of the most popular commanders of the Spanish People’s Army was not carried out according to plan and failed; when Walter was in Madrid an attempt on his life was made one night but luckily it was unsuccessful.)

Here is the text of the document concerning the attempted assassination of Prieto:

Letter Number 4

”With regard to P., after keeping a careful watch we have come to the following conclusion: we must give up the idea of arranging for an interview with P. in his office, as he is too well guarded. We have also to reckon with the fact that there are always a great many people walking about in this region. We have kept a very careful watch on the cars and we think that the road to Betera will be the best; traffic on this road is very irregular. We have already got two cars for the job. We have decided that hand-grenades will be best for him. I am now busy teaching our people the proper way of throwing them. Signed.

Lastly, here is a further long but intensely interesting piece of evidence. This is the official report of the cross- examination of Joaquin Roca, one of the principal accused:

”In the town of Barcelona, at 12.55 on September 20th, 1937, before Antonio Gonzales Cruz, examining agent, and José Maria Balart Ramon, in the capacity of secretary, I, Joaquin Roca Amich, aged 23, native and inhabitant of Gerona, son of Joaquin Roca Falgueras and of Carmen Amich Escuero, living at Flat 2 on the third floor of No. 6 Dr. Carreras Peralta Street, state freely and spontaneously:

”(1) Question to Accused: Do you confess that you have formed part of a spying organisation and that you have taken reports of military secrets to send them to representatives of the general staff of Franco?

Accused: Yes. It is true that I was part of an espionage organisation and that I have taken reports of military secrets in order to send them to a representative of the general staff of General Franco.

”(2) Question to Accused: Who, until now, has directed the work of espionage for General Franco and where is this person directing the organisation or his chief?

Accused: I don’t know who was directing the spying in Spain, but I do know that the man in charge of espionage work at Perpignan is my chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, who lives in the town of Perpignan.

”(3) Question to Accused: Where are the headquarters of General Franco’s intelligence service and who are the most prominent people at this headquarters?

Accused: I don’t know where Franco’s espionage headquarters are. All I know is that there is a centre which directs espionage for General Franco at Perpignan and the chief of this centre is Ramon Xifra Riera.

”(4) Question: What sort of instructions have you had from your chief on Franco’s staff about military espionage?

Accused: My chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, has asked me to give him information about the nature and quantity of war-materials entering Spain, about the defence works on the Catalonian coast, about the morale and feelings of the population behind the lines. He has also asked me for reports on the situation on the Aragon front and for various other information of a general character.

”(5) Question: In what way was communication organised between you and the agent of Franco’s staff?

Accused: My chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, wrote to me that I should write my information in invisible ink and send it to him by post. He advised me to use postcards as these would be less likely to arouse suspicion of the authorities. Riera also told me that later he would arrange to have my information carried by a man who would present himself at Cosme Dalmau Mora’s house under the name of Dax. This man never turned up. I told my chief Riera that I did not want to send him any more reports by post and in future I would always send them by one of the people whom Cosme Dalmau Mora employed to help Fascists and deserters cross the border into France. Cosme Dalmau Mora had other agents working with him and with Franco’s representative at Perpignan. Cosme Dalmau Mora also organised the fight of Fascist refugees abroad. This same Cosme Dalmau Mora was a most important person in Catalonia and the chief of a group of spies working for Franco. On Monday 13th of this month (I am not quite sure if it was 13th or 14th) Mora told me that the next Sunday he was going to smuggle fifteen people into France through the mountains.

”Owing to the exhaustion of the accused this statement finished at three o’clock on the day already mentioned. It will be continued at a convenient time. The examining agent, the accused, and myself, signed the document, which I certified in my capacity of secretary.

The accused Signed:
JOAQUIN ROCA.

In the capacity of secretary the examining agent Signed:
ANTONIO GONZALEZ.”

Second Statement

”In the town of Barcelona at 1.15 on September 22nd, 1937, before Isidro Nogues Porta and José Maria Balart Ramon, secretary, I, Joaquin Roca Amich, declare freely and spontaneously

”(1) Question to the Accused: Are you the only spying link between Catalonia and Franco’s headquarters at Perpignan?

Accused: No. There are other lines of spying as the following facts show. I got letters by means of Cosme Dalmau Mora and lately I have had another letter sent to me by means of a man who came to me under the name of Ferrer. There is another fact. Mora once showed me a paragraph in a letter from Ramon Xifra Riera which said: It would be useful if you could put us in touch with Roca (Litus).’ This was the first invitation I had to join the espionage group in the service of General Franco.

”(2) Question: Is the espionage group of which you were a member the only group working in Catalonia under the direction of Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: No. There are other groups directed by Franco’s staff in Perpignan which work in Catalonia, but I don’t know them because they are secret.

”(3) Question: What is the character of the reports which you have sent to Franco’s espionage service in Perpignan and what are the most important pieces of information that you have communicated to them?

Accused: Reports which I have sent to Franco’s spy group at Perpignan are of a secret military nature, as you can see from the letter written in my handwriting and found between the mattresses of my bed.

I was preparing to send this letter to the agent of Franco’s staff at Perpignan. Actually, my reports dealt with the batteries on the Catalonian coast, the calibre and number of the guns, anti-aircraft defences, aerodromes, petrol supplies. In my report on the Aragon front I sent information about tanks, information a bout the Army, and especially about the existence of important groups of Fascist officers whom we thought we might be able to use against the Republican Government. I also sent reports on the number of gunners who were attached to the Fascist cause.

”(4) Question: Have you only practised espionage, or have you also taken part in acts of sabotage and in the destruction of material which is indispensable to the National Defence of the Republic?

Accused: No, I have not been engaged in any work of sabotage or destruction.

Question: That’s not true. We know that your organisation was engaged in sabotage.

Accused: I only suggested to my chief Riera, Franco’s representative at Perpignan, that one of the three bridges over the rivers Ter, Fluvia and La Muga, on the railway line from the front to Barcelona, should be destroyed by bombing from the air, as a great deal of war-material, for the defence of the Republic is carried along this line. In my letter to Riera I said that there would be no danger in carrying out the air raid as there was no anti-aircraft defence, only an old half-useless machine-gun. I also wrote to Riera and told him that it was necessary to destroy three petrol depôts near the railway station at Celra which are camouflaged and covered with branches.

”(5) Question: Who destroyed the three guns of the 25th Division and the four guns of the 45th Division mentioned in the letter that the police found at your house?

Accused: I don’t know who destroyed them because that job wasn’t done by our group but by another group which was also working under the orders of Franco’s agents at Perpignan, one of whom sent me the letter to which you have referred.

”(6) Question: The organisation of which you were a member has committed acts of terrorism against members of the Republican Government or against some of its representatives, hasn’t it?

Accused: I have not personally been concerned in any acts of terrorism, I have only carried on espionage.

Question: That is not true because the letter which was found in your place mentions an attempt against Prieto on the Betera road as well as one against the Republican Army Commanders, Modesto and Walter.

Accused: The attempted assassinations of Prieto and the Army Commanders, Modesto and Walter, was prepared by the secret group of agents of the P.O.U.M., which is directed by Franco’s spying centre at Perpignan. The letter, which was given me together with other documents by one of the agents of the group in question who works illegally in Spain, testifies to this. The agent in question told me that he would come back to collect the documents on the 19th of this month.

”(7) Question: Who is Litus?

Accused: I am Litus.

”(8) Question: If you are Litus how do you describe your relations with the other espionage groups directed by Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: All the information collected by the other group, which is composed of the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., was sent to Perpignan through me, but I am not a member of this group and therefore am not responsible for what it does.

”(9) Question: Who is the person who sent you the letter containing reports on military espionage and in which the attempted assassinations are referred to?

Accused: I don’t know who sent me the letter with the military reports and the mention of the assassinations of Prieto, Modesto and Walter. As I told you before, this person called himself Ferrer. Physically he is short with a delicate skin, thin nose, black wavy hair and ordinary-looking mouth. I should think he was about twenty-five. He wore a brown suit with coloured stripes, a showy tie with a large knot. Altogether he was a very well dressed young man smelling of scent and with a slightly feminine appearance.

”(10) Question: Do you know if Cosme Dalmau Mora knew the group formed by the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., or whether he knew any one of these agents?

Accused: I don’t know.

”(11) Question: Tell me the names of the people who have given you reports which you have communicated to Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: Reports on the petrol depôts at Celra were given me in all good faith by a schoolmaster in the village called Ciurana. I should like to state that this man is entirely loyal to the Republican régime. The reports on the Aragon front were given me verbally by Cosme Dalmau Mora, who added that in the event of an advance by Franco’s forces the Republican Army would blow up the railway bridges. The information in my letter about Lerida (where there is no garrison) I got from a schoolmaster at Aíguaviva who is an officer.”

The accused Signed:                                   Examining agent Signed:

JOAQUIN ROCA.                           J. NOGUES.”

These are the facts and in view of them any lengthy discussion is unnecessary. The documents speak for themselves and constitute a full condemnation of the criminal actions of the Trotskyist organisation in Spain. And these are only a selection from dozens of similar documents now in the posession of the Minister of the Interior establishing beyond all doubt the rôle of the P.O.U.M. as a spying organisation on Government territory. For months, since the search at the Peruvian Embassy, after which the leaders of the P.O.U.M.were arrested and imprisoned in Valencia, not a week has passed without the Minister of the Interior accumulating further evidence to show that the Trotskyist leaders were spies in the pay of the rebels and worked in close co-operation with the underground organisations of Phalangists and Monarchists.

One of the leaders however, Andres Nin, has escaped from the prison where he was shut up and we will now see to what fabulous legends and rumours this escape, which has been deliberately surrounded with mystery, has given rise.

NIN’S ESCAPE

After his arrest on June 16th, 1937, Nin was transferred to the civil prison at Valencia and thence to Madrid where he was immediately sent to the town of Alcala de Henares, about twelve miles from the capital, where he was locked up under a close watch by the police.

One night several men dressed as officers of the Regular Army, wearing badges of their rank, overpowered the guards of the prison, gagged and bound them, and went in and carried off the prisoner. From that moment, in spite of the most intensive search by the police, no trace of Nin has been found and no one has any idea where he is, whether he is a refugee in one of the foreign embassies which provide such generous hospitality to the Fascists of Franco’s Fifth Column; or whether he managed to get through to the rebel territory and preserves his anonymity in order not to compromise his friends who are in Republican gaols.

Around the facts of Nin’s escape the Trotskyists abroad built up, and continue to carry on, a tremendous Press campaign. The Fascist Press of the whole world gloats, intensifies its attacks against Repub-lican Spain, and makes the escape the subject of all sorts of monstrous rumours about the Spanish Communist Party and the Soviet Union. The lying rumours which were circulated in Paris at the time of the Koutiepov affair were revived. Queipo de Llano, in one of his daily mouthings from Seville over the air, declares that Nin has been mur-dered by order of the Negrin Government. The Fascist Press at San Sebastian claims that Nin has been assassinated by order from Moscow. The secret groups of the P.O.U.M. are circulating leaflets in which they hold Comorera (Catalan United Socialist leader), Prieto and Negrin responsible for Nin’s “death” and demand their heads in expiation. All sorts of different versions have been published in the Press: some say that Nin has been murdered and some that he is being kept in secret confinement.

There is nothing really astonishing about all this nonsense, which is just what history teaches us to expect. If we read the evidence of one of the prison warders who was gagged and bound by the men dressed as officers, the ”mystery” of Nin’s disappearance itself disappears. The warder’s statement is explicit. He said: ”Nin went quietly out of the prison with the officers.” The warder repeated that he went quietly without any sign of protest and added that at no moment did he try to call for help.

If Nin had been taken away against his will he would surely have made some attempt to attract the attention of the people outside and around the prison. The official statement mentions that there were some soldiers standing about outside the prison not far from the wall. They said that Nin got into the car with the officers in the most natural manner possible, and when they were questioned afterwards they all said that they had noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

All the evidence points to the fact that Nin was taken away by his friends, disguised as officers in uniforms which they could easily have procured in Madrid or Valencia. They had every reason for wanting to get him away before his examination, which would inevitably have revealed a mass of further incriminating evidence. Moreover, had he been found guilty by the people’s court, he would certainly have been condemned to death for high treason and espionage.

The Republican Government and the Communist Party could have had no possible reason for wanting Nin to disappear and not stand at his trial. He was the most important of the accused, one of the principal leaders of the P.O.U.M., and the evidence against him was of an overwhelmingly grave nature. His cross-examination would have elicited most important information about the underground activity of his organisation and its relations with the Fascist rebels. In reality, Nin’s escape was nothing but one more act in a long series of provocations against the Republican Government.

THE MAY PUTSCH IN BARCELONA

By the beginning of May 1937, some days before the criminal rising in Barcelona began, the military situation of the Spanish Government was more favourable than at any time since July 1936 when Franco’s rebellion broke out. The Italian troops were still recovering with difficulty after the tremendous defeat which had been inflicted on them at Guadalajara. The People’s Army, formed after months of bitter defensive fighting and heavy losses, had at last shown its offensive potentialities. The relations between the various trade union and political organisations had improved. The great mass of the people was enthusiastic over the success of the Republican forces and was expressing its desire for the formation of a powerful, organised and disciplined army.

To any detached observer who was well informed about the situation at the front and behind the lines on both sides, it was obvious that the best way of discounting the advantages which the Republic had won would be to strike a blow at Catalonia. The rebels had just started their campaign against Bilbao and had good reason to fear that Catalonia would harass them by taking the offensive on the Aragon front.

Nothing could have been more acceptable to the Fascists than a diversion in Catalonia. The P.O.U.M., which for months had been trying to sabotage the Popular Front, was daily clamouring for its disruption and intriguing for the insurrection which would bring this about. The internal situation in Catalonia was such that the Government had to concentrate all its attention on it when dealing with it and was unable to assist the Basques. Caballero, and his Minister of the Interior, Angel Galarza, refused to see the danger and when pressed by the United Socialist Party of Catalonia as well as by the Spanish Communist Party gave evasive and dilatory replies.

Meanwhile, the P.O.U.M. was carefully planning the details of the insurrection. On May 3rd it was suggested that the Catalonian military authorities should take control of the telephone service. It was intolerable, for instance, when the Minister of the Interior was talking to one of the provincial governors, telling him what action to take against those responsible for various provocative activities, that the P.O.U.M.’s agents should be listening in and able to warn their people to clear out.

At the same time, the Catalonian authorities had decided to dissolve once and for all the so-called ”control patrols”, which had been formed immediately after Franco’s rebellion began and which had become inundated with all kinds of disruptive elements and adventurers. It was also taking in hand the organisation of the army on the Aragon front.

The P.O.U.M., finding that its situation was daily growing more unfavourable and that the masses were disapproving of its policy, chose this moment for its putsch.

Inevitably, the question arises: What were the real aims of the P.O.U.M. in fomenting this putsch? With only some thousands of supporters at its disposal it could not hope to seize power for itself. But it could hope to disrupt and split the two great trade union organisations just when their relations were improving. This is shown by the fact that as soon as the putsch began the leaders of the P.O.U.M. tried to win over to their own side some of the wilder elements of the C.N.T. (National Confederacion of Labour, the Anarcho-Syndicalist organisation) and tried to get them to take part in street fighting against both the forces of the U.G.T. (Socialist Trade Union) and those of the Catalonian authorities and of the Central Government. Thanks to the calmness and energy of the leaders of these two organisations, this disaster was avoided and the Trotskyists found themselves on the barricades alone with the Fascists of the Fifth Column and a handful of disorderly elements.

The P,O.U.M., whose official organ, La Batalla, had been able to write without being suppressed that ”the rebellion of July 19th broke out because the Popular Front was formed”, had declared several days before the putsch that it was in favour of the constitution of a revolutionary junta which would take power by force. In a series of articles that appeared in La Batalla during the days before the putsch the Trotskyist leaders openly agitated for a coup d’état.

In the manifesto published by the P.O.U.M. on May 1st, we read:

“Conscious of its direct responsibility, the P.O.U.M., the Party of the Revolution, calls on all workers, on this 1st May, to form a workers’ revolutionary front to fight against the common enemy, which is capitalism, to advance the Socialist revolution, to destroy bourgeois institutions and create a workers’ and peasants’ government.”

The following paragraph is taken from a manifesto signed by the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M.:

”Rifles in hand, the workers are aroused because the working class has lost patience. The workers are tired of this wavering policy, of the sabotage on the Aragon fronts, with military disasters. That is why we are coming out into the streets.”

The miserable demagogy of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. with their Leftist phrase-mongering did not stop there. Having accumulated behind the lines arms, munitions and tanks that had been intended for the front, they announced:

”There are tanks, planes, and arms enough, but they won’t give them to Catalonia; they won’t let the revolutionary proletariat have them.”

It should be noted that after the Barcelona putsch thousands of rifles were discovered, which the Trotskyist leaders had diverted from the front. The arms and war-materials which the P.O.U.M. had managed to collect by May 3rd included thousands of rifles, several hundred machine-guns and dozens of tanks.

On May 3rd, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the Catalan Com-missioner of Public Order, Rodriguez Salas, went to the central telephonic exchange which the evening before had been taken over by fifty armed members of the P.O.U.M. Shock troops entered the building, turned out the fifty men, and the telephone exchange was in the hands of the Government.

So far there had been not the slightest trouble, but the Minister of Public Order made the mistake of thinking matters would end there and failed to take further precautionary measures. The fifty men were let go, and they roamed the streets of Barcelona and got together a mob. During the night several shots were heard.

The comment of La Batalla on this incident was as follows

“As soon as the news went round the workers set up barricades.”

The members of the P.O.U.M. were called together by a notice printed in La Batalla which read as follows:

”All militant members of the P.O.U.M., including those belonging to the Popular school of War, must come at once to the premises of the Military Executive Committee at No. 10 Ramblas de Estudios. This is urgent.”

Barcelona then experienced the disorder which the leaders of the P.O.U.M. had so carefully planned. On the Plaza de España the Trotskyists brought into action the batteries of 75’s which they had stolen from the Aragon front, and the blood of the workers flowed. Thanks however to the cool headedness of the leaders of the U.G.T. and the C.N.T. the fighting was localised. The Trotskyists resisted for some time, but were obliged to retreat before the overwhelming forces of the Catalan working class. In the course of this outrageous insurrection 900 were killed and 2,500 wounded.

A great wave of popular indignation swept through Barcelona and the entire people demanded justice. The first obvious measure seemed to be the dissolution of the P.O.U.M. and the suspension of its paper, La Batalla. But the Minister of the Interior of the Caballero Government, after hesitating for several days, refused to take any action against the P.O.U.M. Encouraged by this extraordinary attitude, the Trotskyists renewed their agitation. And while work was beginning again in the city and the forces of public order were disarming scattered uncontrolled groups, the members of the P.O.U.M. were found on the barricades side by side with members of Franco’s Fifth Column.

The Fascists needed prolonged disturbances so that it would be impossible for Catalonia to send any help to the Basques, and so that a further Press and propaganda campaign could be carried on against Government Spain abroad. This indeed was exactly what happened. In the days that followed the reactionary and Fascist Press of the world raved about the chaos in Catalonia and the ”rebellion of the people against the Soviet dictatorship”. Meanwhile, the rebel radio stations of Salamanca and Saragossa repeated incessantly day and night the same advice as the P.O.U.M.:

”Hold on to your weapons – don’t give up the struggle at any price – unite with your brothers at the front and hurl the Russian dictators out of your country.”

On May 7th La Batalla appealed as follows to the soldiers:

”Leave the front and go and fight against the Government in Catalonia.”

During this period the enemy suspended all activities on the Aragon front. It has since been discovered that Fascist planes were going to be sent to the assistance of the putschists. It is a strange coincidence that the aims followed by the P.O.U.M. should be identical with those of the Fascist general staff.

By the time that P.O.U.M. had been declared an illegal organisation by the Negrin Government, so many revelations had been made about its criminal activities that these were uppermost in the public mind and there has been a tendency to forget the long struggle which it had carried on against the Popular Front. Actually the later and brazenly treacherous activities of P.O.U.M., such as the Barcelona putsch and its contacts with Franco’s espionage organisations, have their roots in its political history ever since the formation of the Popular Front.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE POPULAR FRONT

We have already referred to the formation of the P.O.U.M. in 1935, as the result of a coalition between the workers and peasant bloc founded by Joaquin Maurin and a tiny group of Leftists led by Nin, Gorkin and Andrade, and related how, from the day of its formation, the P.O.U.M. set out to wreck working-class unity in Spain. After the victory of the Popular Front at the elections, the P.O.U.M. redoubled its efforts. Its Press and its platforms poured out attacks against the leading figures of the Popular Front. At this time one of the P.O.U.M.’s leaders was a member of the Catalonian Government. After his expulsion the attacks became even more violent.

On December 15th, 1936, at a meeting of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M. it was decided that the struggle against the Popular Front must be intensified. At this crucial time in the history of the Spanish people, when it was clear that their only hope of victory against the forces of Fascist intervention lay in Unity, the P.O.U.M. embarked on a policy the essential aim of which was to split the ranks of the People’s Forces.

In the eyes of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. the alliance between the proletariat and the middle classes, which enabled vigorous resistance to be made against the Fascist rebellion and the formation of a Government in which working-class representatives collaborated with the forces of the Republican petty bourgeoisie, was infamous. A resolution adopted by this same Plenum of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M., regarding the fundamental institutions of the Republic, demands:

”The dissolution of the bourgeois Parliament and in its place an Assembly composed of delegates from factory committees, representatives and delegates from the peasants and from the Fronts; a workers’ and peasants’ government, a workers’ democracy.”

These demands were made at the very moment when the mass of the workers had achieved active participation in the Popular Front Government, and when the workers and peasants had seen their conditions of life entirely transformed. The land had just been given to the poor peasants; the wages basis had been entirely revised; and Spanish democracy was organising the framework of social justice.

From the moment of its formation, and especially &ler July 19th, the Popular Front was the instrument of the liberation of the Spanish people. It was the means by which the United working class was able to shake off the yoke of feudalism, and when Germany and Fascist Italy intervened in Spain it was plain that the fight which the Popular Front led against foreign invasion was the fight for Spanish independence. While straining every nerve to overcome Fascism, both native and foreign, the Popular Front was struggling to transform Spanish society, which until then had been more or less feudal, into a parliamentary republic of a new type. The future of this new type of republic, which has already changed the conditions of life of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, was and still is indissolubly linked with the struggle for Spain as an independent nation.

What was the attitude of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. on this question? Gorkin categorically stated at a meeting:

”It is impossible for a Marxist, a revolutionary, to say that he is fighting in a war of independence. Marx and Engels said that a revolutionary has no country, this war is a class war.”

Following their usual practice of taking phrases from Marx and citing them out of their context, the Trotskyists tried to sow the seeds of doubt and dissension everywhere. It is easy enough to correct their distortions. In the sense in which Marx used it, the word ”country” has nothing in common with a Spain set free from feudalism by the Popular Front. Marx was applying his analysis to ”countries” in which the situation was radically different. It will be remembered how vigorously Lenin fought against the method of applying classical texts to historic situations whose individual peculiarities were clearly defined, and of trying to draw practical conclusions from the application. To-day the Spanish workers are defending the country which they themselves have conquered, while the Trotskyists, claiming to be the only true disciples of the founder of scientific Socialism, merely try to weaken the defence of the Republic.

Let us now consider the method which the P.O.U.M. employed against the political and trade union unity of the workers and anti-Fascist organisations.

The working-class organisation which was the object of the P.O.U.M.’s most vigorous attacks was the Spanish Communist Party. It will be reckoned the outstanding historic achievement of the Spanish Communist Party that, from the first weeks of the Fascist generals’ rebellion against the legitimate Government, it clearly defined the war as the struggle of the entire Spanish people against its oppressors at home and their allies from abroad. By describing the war of Spanish independence the Communist Party entirely identified the Popular Front with the Spanish nation and thereby enlarged the basis of resistance against the invader. At the same time, it pointed out the needs which were essential to the conduct of the war: creation of a powerful war-industry, the re-establishment of order and discipline so that all the resources and energies of the country could be effectually mobilised.

What was the attitude of the P.O.U.M. in its opposition to the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C. (United Socialist Party of Catalonia)? The leaders of the P.O.U.M. suddenly started describing the Spanish Communist Party as the party of counter-revolution. The P.O.U.M. opposed all the main points of Communist-Party policy by putting forward a mass of demagogic demands. For instance, when the Communist Party sanctioned giving to the poor peasants the land which they had cultivated, but which they had not possessed, the P.O.U.M. clamoured tempestuously for the immediate and forcible socialisation of all land.

In order to try and delude the masses about the aims which it was really pursuing, the P.O.U.M. branded the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C. as reformists. Declaring themselves the “Guardians of the revolution” the leaders of the P.O.U.M. started a Press campaign, couched in seductively “theoretical” phrases, about the “degeneration of the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C.”, hoping to attract the few workers and peasants who had not understood the Communist and Socialist political line. In La Batalla, April 4th, there was an article about the “theoretical degeneration” of the Communist Party which actually claimed that the Communist Party had “put too much emphasis on German and Italian intervention”. Another line of attack took the form of declaring that the Communist Party was “to the right of all parties in the Popular Front, even to the right of the Republicans.”

Against the P.S.U.C. (United Socialist Party of Catalonia) the P.O.U.M. brought forward the usual accusation about the inactivity on the Aragon front:

”Listen, you workers who are kept in a state of paralysis at the front and paralysed behind the lines through lack of arms. The P.S.U.C. would like to make the revolutionary movement responsible for the inactivity on the Aragon front.”

And all this time, while it was spreading these infamous lies, the P.O.U.M. itself was busy storing enormous stacks of munitions stolen from the fronts and waiting for the moment to tum these arms against the workers.

In its attempts to disrupt working-class unity, the P.O.U.M. also got to work amongst the Youth organisations. The Socialist and Communist Youth organisations had been united since June 1936 and from the beginning of the war onwards they have constituted one of the most powerful anti-Fascist organisations in the country, numbering 315,000. They provided a mass of troops and important cadres for the People’s Army. The J.S.U. (United Socialist Youth) had been working hard for over a year to achieve the unity of Spanish youth and to form a National Alliance of Youth into which they have succeeded in incorporating the Anarchist youth. The P.O.U.M., with a great display of Leftist phrasemongering, began to form a skeleton Youth organisation of its own, which it called the Iberian Communist Youth and the aim of which was to prevent the young from taking part in the National Youth Alliance. The leader of the Young Iberian “Communists” described the National Youth Alliance as “a monstrous crime.” Fortunately, however, the leaders of the young Anarchists did not allow themselves to be deceived by the P.O.U.M. and joined the National Youth Alliance.

La Batalla launched the most venomous attacks against the J.S.U., whose members were fighting on all fronts, and described it as counter-revolutionary and tried to discredit it in the eyes of the leaders of the young Anarchists. The P.O.U.M. followed the same tactics in trying to split trade union unity. Here is an example. On March 25th, 1937, Pedro Bonet, one of the Syndicalist leaders of the P.O.U.M., who had already made several venomous attacks against the U.G.T. (General Workers’ Union – Socialist), declared:

”The S.E.P.I. [an organisation of small shopkeepers] must be the first to leave the U.G.T. This organisation of small employers and shopkeepers can survive if it likes, but only outside the organisation of the U.G.T. The workers of the U.G.T. cannot breathe in an organisation in which there are non-proletarian elements.”

At the same time La Batalla ran a campaign which aimed to oppose the two great unions, the U.G.T. and the C.N.T. The C.N.T.’s answer to this piece of provocation was embodied in the call for unity of the masses of both trade unions which its leaders sounded on the day after the P.O.U.M.’s insurrection in Barcelona. Once again the disruptive plans of the Trotskyist leaders had failed.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT

All the attempts of the P.O.U.M. to wreck the unity of work-ing-class and anti-Fascist organisations were part of a determined campaign against the Popular Front as such. Numerous quotations from Trotskyist literature can be cited to support this contention. According to the Trotskyist leaders the Popular Front is “a paper Government, an anti-workers’ Government”. Sometimes the P.O.U.M. was carried away by its provocative fury and forgot all political tact and attacked all the organisations which supported the Government. These attacks were met by an indignant reply from the C.N.T. organ in Madrid, which wrote:

”We cannot agree with the tone which La Batalla and the Red Fighter [another Trotskyist paper] adopt towards the Government Press in their grossly mistaken campaign against the Popular Front.”

At the same time the P.O.U.M. was carrying on a shameful campaign, the aim of which was to popularise rumours that were circulating abroad about an approaching armistice. It did this at the moment when Madrid had won the admiration of the entire world for its glorious resistance and when the Republican Army, having checked the German and Moroccan troops on the Jaramma front, had won a great victory over the Italians at Guadalajara. The weakness which the Caballero Government showed in allowing the P.O.U.M. to carry on their intrigues and agitation against the Republic was almost incredible, especially as the P.O.U.M. was quite as active against Caballero’s Cabinet as against the Catalonian authorities and, later, against the Negrin Government. Caballero’s Minister of the Interior, in particular, displayed an extraordinary tolerance towards the P.O.U.M.

Sometimes the Trotskyists tried to play off the Central Government against the Catalan Government, but the general line of attack against both Governments was equally violent.

We have already explained that whilst the Trotskyists were storing arms which were intended for the front they attacked the Government and blamed it for the delay. For instance, on January 17th at Castellon Gironella, one of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. said in a speech:

”You wonder why there is no advance on the Aragon front. No offensive has been launched on the Aragon front because the Government does not wish to take the offensive, and the reason why it does not wish to take the offensive is because it does not wish to arm the revolutionaries who are on that front.”

The P.O.U.M., however, were not content with storing arms, but they also negotiated to buy them from abroad as the following letter shows. This was sent from Prague, by the Alarm Group, to Gorkin:

”Prague.

February 22nd, 1937.

”DEAR COMRADES,

”We have the opportunity of getting fifty machineguns (Masch inengewehre, Model 6) from the Czechoslovakian Government at a very reduced price in a perfectly legal manner. We are writing to you because we think you will have a better chance than ourselves of being able to arrange this sale for the P.O.U.M. If you can be the intermediary in this sale please let us know at once. The price of the guns will be 15,000 Kc. in all.

”In awaiting your reply to this confidential letter we beg you, dear comrades, to accept our most cordial greetings.

”For the Alarm Group,

(Signature illegible.)

”P.S. We cannot give any credit and you will have to pay for the arms immediately.”

Another form of Trotskyist provocative slander was to declare that the Central Government had given autonomy to the Basques, to Catalonia and to Aragon because, as Arquer said in a speech: ”they haven’t the strength to govern them themselves.” This idiotic rumour was spread in spite of the fact that the political forces of the working class and especially the Communist Party have always been the champions of National minorities. Meanwhile, the P.O.U.M. did everything they could to discredit the Catalonian Government, which they described in La Batalla (December 20th, 1936) as

“the cause of the troubles behind the lines and of the dis-turbances and confusion at the front. The new Cabinet is in itself an advantage to the Fascist forces.”

This attitude coincided exactly with the propaganda which was being poured out by the Fascist radio-stations at Salamanca and Seville. Indeed, it coincided with it on a great many other points, especially the question of the relations of the Spanish Government with the democ-racies of Europe. These relations the P.O.U.M. did their best to make as difficult as possible.

The P.O.U.M. incessantly attacked the Soviet Government, which by its generous attitude to the Republic had won the sympathy and friendship of the people of Spain. The effective solidarity of U.S.S.R. and Spain exasperated the Trotskyist leaders. They let loose a violent campaign against ”Soviet aid” and used every one of the arguments which were being printed in the Fascist Press of the world, claiming that Russia was intervening in Spanish affairs and clamouring:

”We want the working class of Catalonia to be absolute master of its own fate.”

On December 18th, 1936, a resolution of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M. concerning the question of Soviet aid declared:

”We want to stop this system by which, in exchange for material help, they are able to intervene in the leadership of the Spanish workers.”

Thus the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M. embraced the standpoint of international Fascism. It repeated stories which had appeared in Fascist newspapers and stories which had been spread by Gestapo agents abroad.

On December 9th it was announced that Victor Serge, who had been expelled from the Soviet Union, had joined the staff of La Batalla. Hitherto, the P.O.U.M. had denied having any relations with the Trotskyists. They persisted in this denial and on January 24th, 1937, La Batalla announced:

”We are not Trotskyists but we consider that this tendency in the working-class movement is quite as legitimate as any other.”

This farce was not kept up very long, however, as the leaders of the P.O.U.M., who had all formerly been expelled from the Communist Party and who had adopted Trotskyist ideology, soon showed themselves in their true light. A delegation from the P.O.U.M. went to visit Trotsky in Mexico; Trotsky’s son, Sedov, made more and more secret trips and his relations with the leaders of the P.O.U.M. became closer. The phantom section of the so-called Bolshevik Leninist Fourth International worked in full accord with the leaders of the P.O.U.M. A mass of documents found when a search was made at Gorssin’s flat in Barcelona is evidence of this.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE PEOPLE’S ARMY

The formation of the Spanish People’s Republic’s Regular Army, organised on the same basis as the most up-to-date armies of Europe, was an achievement made possible by extraordinary determination and patience. It is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable feats which the Spanish Popular Front has performed since the rebellion of Franco and his generals. To transform the gallant but disorganised groups of workers’ militia, hurriedly gathered together on July 19th and armed with relics from the museums and anything that lay to hand, into a centralised united force properly commanded and trained in modern military technique, this was the urgent task which the Spanish people demanded of the Popular Front. It was a heavy and difficult task and it entailed months of patient effort in the course of which many disappointments and defeats had to be endured. But the loyalty and enthusiasm of the Spanish workers overcame all difficulties, as it will overcome all difficulties in the future. And with the valuable co-operation of several hundred officers of the Regular Army who had remained loyal to their oath to the Republic, the militiamen were organised into a force which was capable of holding Franco’s mercenary troops in check.

To this task, on which the very future of the country depended, and which constituted the only possible safeguard against the invasion by foreign Fascism, each of the parties of the Popular Front devoted their energies in proportion to their ability to size up the situation. For Spain it was a matter of life and death.

The P.O.U.M., true to its habitual line, devoted all its efforts to hindering the creation and organisation of the Regular Army. In Catalonia, where, at first, local traditions tended to oppose the introduction of military discipline, the P.O.U.M. used the demagogic slogan: ”The workers’ militia overcame the rebellion, they will win the war,” and resisted all the efforts of the United Socialist and Communist Parties to organise a regular army. The P.O.U.M. argued as follows:

“We don’t want a regular army because that means the recognition of militarism, it means using the same methods and forms as those which existed in the old army, we want only revolutionary militias.”

But in spite of this obstruction the People’s Army took shape; and when it proved itself at Madrid by checking the Fascist troops at the gates of the capital the Trotskyists changed their tactics, for, although they had been masquerading as revolutionaries, their open opposition to the Regular Army had revealed them in their true colours.

The P.O.U.M. then adopted its traditional splitting tactics. In the newly organised army, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Catholics and Republicans were fighting side by side. The P.O.U.M. opposed this with the conception of ”a purely working-class army ”, and one of its leaders, Solano, declared in a meeting at Castellon

”We cannot tolerate the formation of an army which included a crowd of young Liberals, petty bourgeoisie and Catholics.”

La Batalla added: ”an army without proletarian control is no guarantee for the revolution.” This insinuation was a direct lie because the Spanish working class had just provided the new Regular Army with the majority of its officers and a host of thoroughly tried leaders.

Alongside this criminal campaign, which aimed at undermining the very foundations of the Army, the P.O.U.M. conducted a venomous attack against the officers of the old Army who had remained loyal to the Republic and used every means in its power to try and provoke their hostility to the new régime. It based this attack on the suggestion that the sole control of the Army was in the hands of professional soldiers ”who could not be trusted”. And it spread this idea at the moment when numbers of military leaders were springing up from the ranks of the people in a way which was reminiscent of the French Revolution, providing the Spanish Army with such commanders as Modesto, Lister, Campesino, Mera, etc., and while professional soldiers like General Miaja, the life and soul of the defence of Madrid, and General Bosas were making glorious history for the Republic and giving the best possible proofs of their loyalty to the Spanish people.

Every step which represented a real advance in the task of organising the People’s Army was selected for attacks by the P.O.U.M. The General Military Commission, an institution which had been responsible for giving the Republican soldiers the high degree of political understanding which they have today, was also the object of Trotskyist provocation. The P.O.U.M.’s fundamental tactic was to cause disunity on all questions, and its leaders therefore urged that another military commissariat should be set up. This was the demand of Andres Nin when, on December 16th, 1936, he broadcast from Radio Barcelona, without the slightest compunction, all sorts of infamous abuse of this Republican organisation.

The practical result of this calculated piece of provocation was that the Trotskyists formed a division out of such dubious elements as expelled Phalangists and named it after Lenin. They opened a military school at Lerida and went on training officers there right up till May. The leaders of the P.O.U.M. hoped that they would have enough men on whom they could rely to influence any recruits whom Caballero, who was so tolerant towards them, would be foolish enough to provide.

Meanwhile the anti-Fascist organisations were sending thousands of their members to defend the capital. The P.O.U.M. then announced, with a great flourish, that its first contingent was about to leave for Madrid. The contingent actually did leave, but when it arrived at the capital its fighting strength amounted to the grand total of eighty men (this figure is corroborated on all sides).

As for the behaviour of the P.O.U.M. militiamen and the ”famous Lenin division” at the front, their constant fraternisation with the Fascists during their long stay on the Aragon front was notorious. In some districts, notably at Huesca, they even played football several times a week with the Fascists. Evidence of this fraternisation is provided by a young English volunteer, a former member of the I.L.P. He reports:

”Since, throughout my life, I have been devoted to justice, I became a Socialist, and when Fascism launched its attack against the Spanish people, I came to Spain in order to take part in the fight together with three worker comrades.

”I arrived in Spain with a group of I.L.P. volunteers on January 11 th with the intention of going to Madrid. But for reasons I have never been able to learn, I was kept in the ‘Lenin Barracks ‘ in Barcelona, which was controlled by the P.O.U.M. The only thing we did there was to take part in the daily march through the streets. This irritated our English group. Then we were incorporated in the P.O.U.M. militia on the Alcubierra sector of the Aragon front and placed under the command of Commandant Kopp.

”Here was a number of things we began to notice. Food in general was very scarce and we noticed that when the mules that brought the food to the front lines arrived the better kinds were always missing.

”Every night at 11 p.m. the sentries heard the rattle of a cart and we could tell from its light that it was crossing the space between the position on our left and the Fascist lines. We were ordered never to shoot at this light and when we grew inquisitive about it we were forbidden to try to find anything out. Our superiors gave us no satisfactory explanation and we each behaved as though none of us knew anything about any mysterious cart which crossed regularly to the enemy lines without being fired on. One day in the course of a skirmish we found, on the route that the cart must have taken each night, a small hut which must have been occupied by the Fascists. We succeeded in slipping past the sentries and trying to follow the cart on the next occasion, but the plan failed because the very same night there was a general recall and we were moved to another sector.

”Near Huesca there were the same difficulties about food. Our clothing was poor. And during a forward movement one night we saw Commandant Kopp returning from the Fascist lines.

”In their political work, also, the P.O.U.M. was similarly working for Fascism. The political reports given by representatives of the P.O.U.M. always painted defeat as inevitable, and was directed to make us believe that the workers were oppressed behind the front and about to be faced with a reign of terror. From time to time we were told of bloody clashes against the workers in the hinterland.

”When I got back to the front it was obvious that there was open fraternisation between the P.O.U.M. troops and the Fascists. Newspapers, tobacco and drinks were exchanged. Our positions were about 150 yards from the Fascist offensive, and despite the fact that the Fascists kept appealing to us to desert we had orders never to answer their fire. I realised more and more the pro-Fascist line of the P.O.U.M. and, with a friend named Arthur, asked permission to go home. I need not repeat all the excuses that were given for refusing permission. An American Trotskyist, on the other hand, was allowed back to Valencia, as soon as he asked.

”Arthur and I declared our refusal in advance to act for the P.O.U.M. against the Spanish Government, but offered to take part in building fortifications much needed in our sector. The P.O,U.M. then threatened to imprison us. We escaped to Barcelona and stayed there several days until we heard from a friend that the idea of resistance was abandoned. We then returned to the front and three weeks’ later incorporation into the People’s Army took place without incident. These experiences for a long time shook my faith in the Socialist movement. Today, however, I realise that, despite the baseness of certain leaders whom I once trusted, we workers must carry on the fight. And now I hope that more experienced than before, I may be able to give useful service in the struggle against Fascism and for Socialism. Long live the Republican Spanish people ! Long live the victory of all the workers of the world!”

Barcelona, August 21st, 1937.
Signed: ”J. A. FRANKFORT.”

The Trotskyists also issued, in the form of anonymous leaflets, a flo od of atrocious propaganda about the heroic International Brigade composed of volunteers from all countries who have come of their own free will to help the Spanish people. The following quotation, for instance, is worthy of Franco’s most faithful supporters:

”Anarchist comrades! Do not trust the International Brigade. It will provide the core of the army which the Communists of Catalonia and Spain will hurl against you. In the same way that the Communists during the Russian revolution destroyed the Anarchists.”

THE P.O.U.M.’S ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE DISCIPLINE BEHIND THE LINES

It is an established fact of military experience that in a war between two forces which have more or less identical offensive opportunities the morale behind the lines plays a decisive part. In spite of its disadvantage in the face of German and Italian intervention, Republican Spain could count on the overwhelming superiority of its reserves, made up of enormous numbers of workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie, who were fundamentally hostile to Fascism not only on ideological grounds but also because of their own economic interests. From the early days of the civil war when Franco had to rely on his Moorish troops to begin his offensive in the Tagus Valley, it was plain that he could only carry on his struggle against the Spanish people with the help of mercenaries and foreign allies. The overwhelming majority of the people of Spain were against Fascism and had lined up on the side of their legitimate Government. The result was that the superiority of the Government’s reserves helped to compensate for lack of arms and military technique. And it was clear that the rebels would try and counteract this superiority by every possible means.

Owing to the incredible weakness of the first two Governments the P.O.U.M. was allowed to become the open instrument of the rebels behind the Republican lines, and to disturb order and discipline and sow the seeds of discord everywhere.

The first obvious task of any Government after a rebellion has been crushed is to restore order. And the Republican Government could no longer tolerate the insistence of undisciplined bands which had rendered good service during the first days of the rebellion, but most of whose original members had left for the front and which had now become nothing but rallying centres for disorderly elements and Fascists of the Fifth Column. These patrols, which the Central Government replaced by forces recruited from the workers and set on a legal footing, continued to disturb the economic life of Catalonia and the coastal provinces. As fast as the original members left for the front to join the People’s Army, disorderly elements joined the patrols and turned them into a real menace to public order. They occupied cross-roads, arbitrarily took over the control of villages and looted them. The P.O.U.M. became the most ardent champion of these patrols and although the President of the General Council of Catalonia announced to the Press that he could not allow this disorderly state of affairs to continue, the Catalonian Government, in which the Trotskyists had influence, were not able to effect a clean-up until after the Barcelona putsch in May.

Another instance of the P.O.U.M.’s criminally disruptive tactics is shown by its attitude towards the refugees who poured into Catalonia. In November 1936 when the situation in Madrid suddenly became critical and the civilian population was exposed to the terrible bombing raids of the German and Italian planes, the Government speeded up the evacuation of civilians from Madrid to the coastal provinces, which was already being organised. Hundreds of thousands of women and children were welcomed with open arms by the people of Catalonia, but the P.O.U.M. at once took the opportunity of trying to stir up bad feeling between the refugees and the local inhabitants. Andrade, one of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. who is now under arrest, made the following outrageous statement in La Batalla on December 8th, 1936:

”The refugees must remember that we are living in a time of civil war and not keep on making complaints, the only object of which is to try and get more comfortable lives for themselves than they had in Madrid.”

The P.O.U.M. blamed the refugees for the food shortage and the overcrowding in houses, trams and public places.

CONCLUSION

In a pamphlet of this length it has not been possible to give a detailed history in chronological order of the various activities of the P.O.U.M. But it is plain that all these activities are part of a general policy, the aim of which is to wreck the Spanish People’s Front. It is no accident that the men who attacked the Popular Front from the moment of its foundation later worked in open association with the Fascist rebels.

All active members of the Popular Front have been convinced for a long time that the struggle against Trotskyism is a vitally necessary measure of defence against the common enemy. The Republican parties have openly denounced the P.O.U.M. as the direct instrument of Fascism in Spain. Led by the Negrin and Prieto group the Spanish Socialist Party has come out strongly against the Trotskyists and put all its energies into establishing and strengthening the Popular Front. The militants of the Left Wing, such as Del Vayo, the Spanish representative on the League of Nations Committee, are pledged to anti-Fascist unity and have taken a firm stand against Trotskyism. They stressed the necessity of the fight against it at the time when the Caballero group was wavering and hesitating.

For a time, indeed, the situation was curiously contradictory, for while the Caballero Government, which remained in power until May, was refusing to take any measures against the Trotskyists and treating them with extraordinary tolerance, the Madrid Junta, which had been entrusted with the defence of the capital, insisted on firm action. It suppressed their Press which had been slandering the Government and the People’s Army, and took control of their radio-station from which they had been communicating with the rebels.

The People’s Front took a firm line while the Caballero Cabinet wavered and hesitated irresponsibly. Whether this was due to weakness on the part of the Caballerists or mere political shortsightedness, the fact remains that even on the day following the May putsch in Barcelona, the Caballerists refused to take the measures which the people and the majority of the Government demanded – namely, the prosecution of the criminal instigators of the putsch. This brought the Ministerial crisis to a head. Fortunately the Negrin Government which took over power adopted an uncompromisingly strong attitude towards the P.O.U.M. and arrested its leaders after the discovery of the documents at the Peruvian Embassy. This was the reason for the intensified hatred of the P.O.U.M. against the Negrin Government and the attempted assassinations which have been described. These attempted assassinations mark the beginning of a new phase of terrorism on which the P.O.U.M. embarked. But the true face of the P.O.U.M. is now unmasked. The ”Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista” is revealed as an instrument which foreign and Spanish Fascists are using against the people of Spain. The disguise of its Leftism and revolutionary phraseology is torn away by the discovery of documents which establish its connection with the Fascists and their friends abroad.

The trial of the spies of the P.O.U.M. will soon take place. Its approach is causing considerable apprehension amongst all the friends of the P.O.U.M. Meanwhile, the Fascist Press is doing its best to work up a campaign and this campaign is being echoed in certain ”Left” quarters. Articles have appeared in both English and French publications, notably Le Populaire, which are harmful to the Spanish Republic and which make use of statements which they allege to have been made by certain members of the Spanish Government.

I should like to stress once again the indignation which the whole affair of the Trotskyists and the P.O.U.M. has aroused in Spain. At the moment of writing this I have just returned from Spain where I had interviews with several leading members of the Government. All the statements made by the various members of the Government whom I saw agreed in every particular. There is not a word of truth in the article which appeared in Le Populaire of September 7th quoting a long statement supposed to have been made by members of the Government. There was absolutely no foundation whatever for the allegations which were made in this article. The Minister of the Interior, Zugazagoitia, has already replied to this article as follows:

”Some of the gentlemen of the Left adopt a very strange method of helping Spain. Whatever the authors of the article published in the Populaire have done to help our cause in the past has been entirely undone by their recent actions. They have delighted the Spanish rebel newspapers who have filled their columns with the unfounded statements which were made in this article. The authors of this article represent us, the Spanish Government, to the people of France as the tools of a foreign power which is exactly how we are described by the Fascist radio-stations. This description is grossly untrue. Our police are not an independent power working on their own apart from the Government, their only concern is to work for victory.”

In the second part of his statement the Minister of Interior indignantly denies the suggestions which Maxton, Marcel Pivert and Daniel Guerin have made about the part played by the ”foreign police of the G.P.U.” He adds:

”We have good reason for being suspicious about the activities of certain embassies, but we have no doubts about ‘this Embassy’ [Soviet Embassy] which is the only one that does not conceal foreign individuals among the members of its staff. We only wish all the other embassies were like it, for then it would take our police much less time to clear the matters they are investigating. A long series of disillusionments gives us the right to ask many of the men of the Left whether they are really trying to help us or to strike us in the back.”

I can still remember the expression of disgust on the face of Prieto’s private secretary when he told me the impression which the Populaire article had made on his chief. ”The Minister will never descend to arguing with these kind of people,” he said, ”and he has no intention of doing so.”

The Under-Secretary of State, Garcia Pratt, was also thoroughly disgusted and told me:

“This article is an appalling mixture of incomplete sen-tences distorted and rearranged out of their context for a defi-nite political purpose. All I said to the members of the inter-national delegation who came to see me was that definite, concrete accusations of espionage been made against certain leaders of the P.O.U.M. They represented me as saying that I did not believe that there arrested leaders were spies. It is really absolutely incredible. Is this the way these people whom we thought were friends of Spain propose to help us?”

The part of the article in Le Populaire which attempts to show that the Trotskyists who were arrested after the discovery of the documents at the Peruvian Embassy were innocent, attributed the following statement to both the Minister of Justice and, in another form, to the Public Prosecutor:

“There is no longer any question of accusing any leader of the P.O.U.M. of espionage.”

I had a long conversation with the Public Prosecutor himself at Valencia and he entirely refuted this statement. In effect he said:

“You understand, of course, that there is no foundation whatever for this suggestion. A legal enquiry has been opened against the leaders of the P.O.U.M. on the charge of espionage because we possess certain definite facts and documents. The case is now being proceeded with and until it is ready to be put before the courts the investigation is being carried out secretly. There is no question whatever under the circumstances of saying that the charge of espionage has been dismissed, very much to the contrary….”

There will be no unnecessary delay in the administration of justice, but it is instructive to consider the foreign pressure which has been brought to bear and the manoeuvres which have been made in certain quarters, all forming part of an attempt to try and make out that the May putsch in Barcelona and the espionage are separate matters, whereas in fact they are both really part of the same case. Now that Nin has escaped the rumour is being spread in Trotskyist and Fascist circles that the Barcelona putsch will be investigated first and that the charges of espionage will not be dealt with until Nin has been found.

Public opinion in Spain is absolutely convinced of the guilt of the P.O.U.M. The discovery of the espionage at Barcelona and the at-tempted assassinations have convinced the Government that weakness or hesitancy would be fatal. The Valencia Socialist paper, which voices official opinion, sums up the matter in its issue of October 24th:

”Spies and traitors ! When will we have done away with them or when will they have done away with us? Are they spies in the service of a party, or is it a party in the service of spies?”

Commenting on the affair at Barcelona it adds:

“The P.O.U.M., the refuge of spies… the most dangerous acts of sabotage have been entrusted to two spies who are members of the P.O.U.M. The most dangerous of those who have been arrested belong to this party.”

I think that in the course of this pamphlet I have provided enough material for people to form their own judgments. I hope that it will be of some service to the Spanish Republic which, in the course of the affair, has been made the subject of such slanderous attacks.

The Communist League: The Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War

no-pasaran-ugt

‘Non-Intervention’? Between ourselves, it’s the same thing as profitable intervention – but profitable only for the other side’.

Charles-Maurice Talleyrand (1754-1838)

INTRODUCTION

In January 1996, the Association of Communist Workers and the Association of Indian Communists held an extremely interesting meeting in the Conway Hall, London, devoted to exposing the slanderous misrepresentation of the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War presented in Ken Leaches recent film ‘Land and Freedom’.

The main speaker was Bill Alexander, author of ‘British Volunteers for Liberty’. Bill Alexander himself fought in the British section of the International Brigade and movingly and eloquently disposed of Leaches attempt to whitewash the near-trotskyist ‘Party of Marxist Unification’.

In particular, Bill Alexander paid tribute to Stalin’s policy of military aid to the Republican forces and characterised the policy of ‘non intervention’ pursued by the European imperialist powers as the principal cause of the Republic’s defeat.

This stimulated a member of the audience to point out that the Soviet government participated in the Non-Intervention Agreement, and to ask if this indicated some duality in Soviet foreign policy, perhaps between rival groups in the leadership of Communist Party of the Soviet Union — one pursuing a Marxist-Leninist policy and one not.

Ella Rule replied front the platform that she felt that there was no duality in Soviet policy on Spain, since the Soviet policy of non-intervention was not simultaneous with, but succeeded by the Soviet policy of military aid to the Republican government.

While respecting Ella’s long-standing defence both of the Soviet Union and of the Spanish Republic, we do not believe that her theory on Soviet policy on Spain can be reconciled with known facts.

THE OUTBREAK OF THE CIVIL WAR

In January 1936, a number of ostensibly left-wing Spanish parties and organisations created an electoral bloc called the ‘Popular Front’. This adopted

“… a liberal programme set in a bourgeois framework and deliberately excluded Socialist demands”.

(Pierre Broué & Emile Témime: ‘The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain’; London; 1972; p.76).

At elections in February 1936, the Popular Front gained an overwhelming majority of deputies —

“… 277, as against 132 from the Right and 32 from the Centre”.

(Pierre Broué & Emile Témime: ibid.; p.77).

Despite the moderate nature of the Popular Front’s programme, it was unacceptable to the Spanish aristocracy, and in July 1936

“… a revolt against the Spanish Republic broke out in many military garrisons in Spanish Morocco. From thence the revolt spread rapidly throughout Spain…

The rebel forces… were led by General Franco.”

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 2; pp.2199, 2290).

The rebel military junta

“… had at their disposal the greater part of the armed forces of the country… They had also … the promise of Italian and German tanks and aeroplanes if necessary. Against these the Government had only the Republican Assault Guards and a small and badly armed air force”.

(Gerald Brenan: ‘The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Civil War’; Cambridge; 1971; p.316).

THE ATTITUDE OF THE WESTERN IMPERIALIST POWERS

The attitude of the British imperialist government was made clear at the very beginning of the civil war. It was to deny, on 31 July 1936, the legitimate Spanish government its traditional right under international law to purchase arms to defend itself. This action was disguised as

“… an arms embargo against both sides”.

(Robert H. Whealey: Foreign Intervention in the Spanish Civil War’, in: Raymond Carr (Ed.): ‘The Republic and the Civil War in Spain’: London; 1971; p.213).

But since Spain’s neighbour, France, also had a Popular Front government

“… the only other Popular Front regime in Europe” —

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica’, Volume 19; Chicago; 1994; p.520).

On 20 July 1936 the Spanish government

“… asked France . . . for 20 planes. Minister of Air Pierre Cot and Premier Léon Blum … agreed”.

(Robert H. Whealey: op.cit.; p.213).

“In 1935, the Spanish government had signed a trade agreement with France. One of the clauses stipulated that in case of need the Spanish Government could not purchase arms from any country other than France. With this agreement in its hand, the Republican government appealed to the French for the arms and equipment needed to protect the nation from aggression”.

(Dolores Ibarruri: ‘They shall not pass: The Autobiography of La Pasionaria’; London; 1960; pp.201-202).

However, the sympathies of the British imperialist government, headed by Stanley Baldwin, lay with the Spanish rebels, and

“… at the beginning of August (1936– Ed.) M. Léon Blum was informed (by London — Ed.) that the guarantee given by Great Britain to maintain the frontiers of France would not remain valid in the event of independent French action beyond the Pyranees”.

(André Géraud (‘Pertinax’): Preface to: Eleuthère N. Dzelepy: ‘The Spanish Plot’; London; 1937; p.viii).

“The British warning, as we knew at the time was conveyed to M. Yvon Delbos,. the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the course of a visit by Sir George Clerk, British Ambassador to Paris. Sir George is understood to have said that, if France should find herself in conflict with Germany as a result of having sold war material to the Spanish Government,. England would consider herself released from her obligations under the Locarno Pact and would not come to help”.

(Julio Alvarez del Vayo: ‘Freedom’s Battle’: London; 1937; pp.69-70).

In other words, if France were to give military assistance to the Spanish Government, its defensive alliance with Britain would be declared null and void.

Thus, according to Blum’s testimony to the French Chamber of Deputies in July 1947,

“… after visiting London on 22-23 July, Blunt was forced to reverse his decision to aid the Republic”.

(Robert H. Whealey: op.cit.; p.220).

So, on 25 July 1936,

“… the Blum government issued a decree forbidding the export of arms from France to Spain”.

(Ivan Naisky: ‘Spanish Notebooks’; London; 1966; p.29).

“The refusal of the French Government to hand over to the Republic the arms that had long ago been ordered and paid for was a veritable stab in the back for Spanish democracy”.

(‘International Solidarity with the Spanish Republic: 1936-1939’ (hereafter listed as ‘International Solidarity’; Moscow; 1976; p.362).

The United States imperialist government applied the 1935 Neutrality Act to the Spanish Civil War, but US corporations exported large quantities of much-needed oil to the rebels, this being exempted from its provisions:

“United States neutrality… favoured Franco, since American companies took advantage of the Neutrality Act’s failure to classify oil as a war material and began sending tankers to Lisbon on 18 July”.

(David Mitchell: ‘The Spanish Civil War’; London; 1982; p.70).

On the other hand, like Britain and France, the USA

“… refused to sell arms to the Republic”. (Harry Browne: ‘Spain’s Civil War’; Harlow; 1983; p.38).

But the arms embargo did non affect both sides in the civil war equally, since the rebels were in receipt of large supplies of arms from Germany, Italy and (to a lesser extent) Portugal:

“The Nationalists enjoyed the advantage of… military supplies from Italy and Germany. These played a crucial role in the Nationalist victory, especially at the end of July (1936 — Ed.,) when German and Italian aircraft facilitated the ferrying of the Army of Africa to Spain, thus allowing the Nationalists to sweep through Andaluzia and Estremadura.

(Gerald N. D. Howat (Ed.): ‘Dictionary of World History’. London; 1973; p.1,421).

On the other hand,

“… the fascist government of Italy and the Nazis met no obstacles in sending arms… to the assistance of the rebel generals”.

(Luigi Longo: ‘An Important Stage in the People’s Struggle against Fascism’, in: ‘International Solidarity ; op.cit.; p.11).

“While the legitimate government was being denied the right to purchase any type of arms, the insurgents were receiving all they needed from Germany and Italy”. (Dolores Ibarruri: op.cit.; p.202).

Furthermore,

“… the strongly pro-rebel government in Lisbon was not only supplying material but permitting transhipment of German and Italian supplies across its country”

(David T. Cattell: ‘Soviet Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War’ (hereafter listed as ‘David T. Cattell (1957)’; Berkeley (USA); 1957; p.21).

As Australian-born author and translator Gilbert Murray said in a letter to the ‘Times’ in October 1936:

“The professedly double-edged embargo really cuts only one way. It keeps the Government forces unarmed for the benefit of the well-armed rebels”.

(Gilbert Murray: Letter to the ‘Times’ (22 October 1936): p.12).

SOVIET HUMANITARIAN AID TO THE SPANISH PEOPLE

From the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, both the Comintern and the Soviet Union organised extensive humanitarian aid to the Spanish people.

On the outbreak of the civil war, the decision was taken

“… to give financial aid to the republicans through the trades unions…

All public statements at this time about shipments from the USSR to Spain emphasised that they consisted of food and other supplies for the civilian population”.

(Edward H. Carr: ‘The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War1; London; 1984; p.16, 24).

By 6 August 1936,

“… there were already 12.1 million roubles in the open current account of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions Fund of Aid to Republican Spain, and by the end of October this sum had risen to 47.6 million roubles.

Food and clothing were purchased and sent to Spain with the money collected by Soviet people…

In December (1938 – Ed.) . . . the trade unions and other organisations had raised another 14 million roubles”.

(‘International Solidarity’; op.cit.; p.301-303).

Soviet and Comintern relief for Spain

“… consisting of food and clothing for women and children, started at the very beginning of the Civil War. In every city and town in the Soviet Union meetings were held during the first weeks of the rebellion to demonstrate solidarity with the Spanish people”.

(David T. Cattell: ‘Communism and the Spanish Civil War’ (hereafter listed as ‘David T. Cattell (1955)’; Berkeley (USA): 1955; p.70).

In addition to organisations linked with the Comintern, a

“… new network of organisations solely for the support of Spain… A typical organisation was the ‘International Committee for Aid to the Spanish People’ in Paris which, between August 1936 and June 1938 collected over half a million dollars”.

(David T. Cattell (1955): ibid.; p.71).

THE QUESTION OF SOVIET MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO SPAIN

On the question of whether the Comintern and the Soviet government should give material assistance to the war effort of the Spanish Republic, there were from the outset different views in high Soviet circles.

On this question,

“… no word came from the Soviet government or from Comintern…

The only decision taken was to give financial aid to the republicans through the trade unions”.

(Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; pp.15, 16).

and for two months the Comintern was silent on the question of the war:

“There does not appear to have been a Comintern statement on the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in July 1936”.

(Jane Degras (Ed.): ‘The Communist International: 1919-1943: Documents Volume 3; London; 1965; p.392).

“It was not until September 18 1936 that the Secretariat of ECCI… set out to define the attitude of Comintern to the Spanish War, now just two months old”.

(Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; p.20).

NON-INTERVENTION

On 1 August 1936, France addressed a Note to the British government

“… proposing that they associate themselves with the French action and strictly observe a policy of non-intervention in Spanish affairs…

On 4 August Britain returned a positive answer to the French proposal…

Then the French government addressed their proposal to other European powers”.

(Ivan Maisky: op cit.; p.29).

As Julio Alvarez del Vayo, who was Spanish Foreign Minister for most of the Civil War period, relates: the British government allowed it to be thought that the initiative for non-intervention’ came from the French Popular Front government in order to make the policy more acceptable to democratic public opinion than if it wore known to emanate front a British Tory government:

“The simple truth is that Non-Intervention was fathered in London. The legal experts in the British Foreign Office … made such efforts to attribute its paternity to a person less suspect than they of hostility to democratic principles. In M. Blum and the French Government they found the ideal sponsors for their creation. … Millions of supporters of the Popular Front in France … would certainly have raged against the plan had it been frankly labelled for what it was, the work of a British Tory Government. On the other hand, they were able to justify the plan… , in Parliament and in the country, by evoking its supposed paternity.

From that day on, the Quai d’Orsay (the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)– Ed.), in all that referred to Spain, became a branch of the Foreign Office…

While in July 1936 France ostensibly took the initiative in proposing Non-Intervention, for the next three years she was to be denied any initiative whatever”.

(Julio Alvarez del Vayo: op. cit.; pp.68, 70).

On 23 August 1936,

“… the Soviet government adhered to the Agreement on ‘Non-Intervention’ in Spanish Affairs”

(Ivan Maisky: op.cit.; p.31).

As historian Edward Carr notes:

“Soviet acceptance, in view of the campaign in the USSR and in communist parties abroad in support of the republican government, at first sight seemed a surprising gesture”.

(Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; p.17).

The People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Maksim Litvinov, admitted to a plenary session of the League of Nations in September 1936 that the Soviet government had adhered to the ‘Non-Intervention’ Agreement solely in order to oblige the French imperialists:

“The Soviet government has associated itself with the Declaration on Non-Intervention in Spanish Affairs only because a friendly power (i.e., France — IM) feared an international conflict it we did not do so”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Speech to Plenary Session of League of Nations (28 September 1936), in: Ivan Maisky: op.cit.; p.31).

THE ‘NON-INTERVENTION COMMITTEE’

On 26 August 1936 the French government put forward a new proposal;

“… the creation in London of a permanent Committee of representatives of all the participating countries, the main aim of the Committee being supervision of the exact observance of the Agreement by the powers which had signed it”.

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.29).

The Non-Intervention Committee’ functioned on

“… the unanimity principle’, (Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p 36).

the Soviet delegate — and every other — having the right of veto over all decisions.

All the European powers adhered to the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’ –officially called the ‘Committee for Non-Intervention in the Internal Affairs of Spain’ — except for

“… Spain, as the country around which the ‘quarantine of non-intervention’ was to be established, and Switzerland, which refused to participate”

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.30).

On 28 August 1936, an order was issued by the Soviet

“… People’s Commissar of Foreign Trade prohibiting the export of war supplies to Spain”.

(Max Beloff: ‘The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia: 1929-1942’, Volume 2: ‘1936-1941’; London; 1949; p.32).

On 9 September 1936, the Non-Intervention Committee had

“… its first meeting, and agreed that it should have a permanent Chairman. This post was offered to the British representative, Lord Plymouth”.

(Ivan Maisky: op.cit.; pp.30-31).

THE TRUE ROLE OF ‘NON-INTERVENTION’

The Non-Intervention Agreement

“… deprived states of the legal right to give aid to the legitimate government of Spain”.

(David T. Cattell (1957); op.cit.: p.15).

denying

“… the Spanish government the traditional right of buying arms to defend itself against domestic treason”.

(Harry Browne: op.cit.; p.37).

Although Germany. Italy and Portugal had signed the ‘Non-Intervention Pact’, they had not the slightest intention of adhering to its provisions, but continued to supply arms in large quantities to the Spanish rebels. Thus the real role of the Non-Intervention Agreement’ was to provide a screen behind which the Fascist powers could arm the rebels.

‘Non-Intervention’ was a farce which assisted the Fascist powers in their war against the Spanish Republic:

‘While the legitimate government was being denied the right to purchase any type of arms, the insurgents were receiving all they needed from Germany and Italy”

(Dolores Ibarruri: op.cit.; p.202).

“When the war ended, the Non-Intervention Pact had leaked copiously — and overwhelmingly in Franco’s direction”.

(David Mitchell: op.cit.; p.72).

“Throughout September 1936, while the flow of arms and equipment to the Nationalists from Italy and Germany steadily increased, the ban on shipments from . . . the USSR to Republican Spain remained effective”.

(Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; p.23).

“The policy of non-intervention ended by developing into a veritable blockade and an effective intervention in favour of the rebels”. (Eleuthère N. Dzelepy: op.cit.; p.77)

“Non-Intervention became one of the greatest farces of our time”.

(Julio Alvarez del Vayo: op.cit.; p.50).

“The so-called policy of non-intervention… in effect meant aiding and abetting the aggressor”.

(Dolores Ibarruri: ‘The Fight goes on’ in: ‘International Solidarity’; op.cit.; p.7).

“Non-intervention… contributed to the victory of fascism in Spain”.

(‘Great Soviet Encyclopaedia’, Volume 31; New York; 1972; p.176).

The true role of ‘Non-Intervention’ was admitted by Maksim Litvinov , who was People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs between 1930 and 1939:

“If the Non-Intervention Committee had anything to boast of, it was that it had genuinely interfered with the supplies for the legitimate Republican army and with the provision of food for the civil population in the territory occupied by the latter”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Speech at Political Committee of League of Nations (29 September 1938), in: William P.& Zelda Coates: ‘A History of Anglo-Soviet Relations’; London: 1943; p.569).

and by the German Ambassador to Britain, Joachim von Ribbentropp, who declared that the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’

“… might have been better called the Intervention Committee”.

(Joachim von Rippentropp, cited in: David Mitchell: op.cit.; p.71).

Stalin, in his report to the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939, put the matter even more strongly — implying that ‘Non-Intervention’ was immoral and treacherous:

“Actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war and, consequently, transforming the war into a world war. The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the aggressors in their nefarious work…

Far be it from me to moralise on the policy of non-intervention, to talk of treason, treachery and so on. It would be naive to preach morals to people who recognise no human morality”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Report on the Work of the Central Committee to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (B) (March 1939), in: ‘Works’, Volume 14; London; 1978; pp.365, 368).

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST ‘NON-INTERVENTION’

As the true character of ‘Non-Intervention’ became increasingly clear, outspoken opposition to it arose in democratic and anti-fascist circles. This opposition was reflected in circles normally supportive of Soviet policy:

“The strict neutrality adopted by Moscow in the Spanish struggle was giving rise to embarrassing questions even in the friendliest quarters”

(Walter C. Krivitsky: ‘I was Stalin’s Agent’; London; 1939; p.101).

These circles included sections of the international communist movement, particularly in France. For example, headlines in L’Humanité, (Humanity), organ of the Communist Party of France, in September 1936 read:

“GUNS! PLANES!

END THE BLOCKADE WHICH IS KILLING OUR BROTHERS IN SPAIN”.

(‘L’Humanité’, 5 September 1936; p.1).

“FOR REPUBLICAN SPAIN.

FOR PEACE AND THE SECURITY OF FRANCE”.

(‘L’Humanité’, 7 September 1936; p.4).

“TO THE AID OF THE REPUBLICAN FIGHTERS OF SPAIN”.

(‘L’Humanité’, 14 September 1936; p.4).

“IT IS NECESSARY TO RECONSIDER THE PRINCIPLE OF NON-INTERVENTION”

(‘L’Humanité’, 20 September 1936; p.4).

“THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE RISES EVER MORE STRONGLY FOR THE LIFTING OF THE BLOCKADE”..

(‘L’Humanité’, 21 September 1936; p.4).

Maurice Thorez, General Secretary of the Communist Party of France, wrote in ‘L’Humanité’:

“For the honour of the working class, for the honour of the Popular Front, for the honour of France, the blockade that is killing our Spanish brethren and that is killing peace must be lifted”.

(Maurice Thorez, in: ‘L’Humanité’ (9 September 1936), in: David T. Cattell (1957): op.cit.; p.24).

In August 1836, Paul Nizan wrote in the Comintern journal, ‘International Press Correspondence’

“This ‘neutrality’… is definitely to be challenged from the point of view of international justice…

While the government in Madrid is being actually affected by real sanctions, the rebels and the rebel government… have every sort of supply they can wish for at their disposal.

The actual blockade of Republican Spain must be raised at once. . .

The Communists will take the lead in this fight for the support of the

Spanish people”.

(Paul Nizan: ‘To the Aid of the Spanish Republic!’. in: ‘International Press Correspondence’, Volume 16, No. 37 (15 August 1936); p.990).

In a speech during the first week in September 1936, interrupted by shouts of ‘Aeroplanes for Spain’, French Prime Minister Léon Blum countered the campaign against ‘Non-Intervention’ by the reminder that the policy was supported by the Soviet government:

“Do not let us forget that the international convention of non-intervention in Spain bears the signature of Soviet Russia.” (Léon Blum: Statement, in: David T. Cattell (1957): op.cit.; p.24).

THE DIVISION IN THE CPSU

The campaign against ‘Non-Intervention’ was reflected within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. From early in the civil war, a rift was observable in the higher circles of the CPSU between those who stood for the furnishing of arms to the Spanish Republic — that is, the Marxist-Leninists and genuine anti-fascists — on the one hand, and those who stood for collaboration with the Western imperialist powers in the policy of ‘Non-Intervention’ on the other hand.

Lieutenant-Colonel Simon, the French military attaché in Moscow, reported to the French Minister of National Defence Edouard Daladier in August 1936, the existence of two rival factions in the leadership of the CPSU.

“The moderate faction . . . would wish to avoid all intervention.

The extremist faction on the other hand, considers that the USSR should not remain neutral but should support the legal government”.

(Lt.-Col. Simon: Letter to Edouard Daladier (13 August 1936). in: ‘Documents diplomatiques français: 1932-1939’, 2nd Series (1936-1939). Volume 3; Paris; 1966; p.208).

“Influential circles in the Russian Party, like most Leftists in Western countries, pressed for support for the Spanish republic. But this pressure was, for the time being, subject to the restraint of diplomatic expediency”. (Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; p.15).

“In foreign affairs, fundamentalist Bolsheviks tended to dislike Maksim Litvinov’s conciliatory approach to the West…

The Soviet press was hostile to the whole idea of Non-Intervention”

(Michael Alpert:: ‘A New International History of the Spanish Civil War’; Basingstoke; 1994; pp.50, 51).

THE CHANGE OF SOVIET POLICY TOWARDS SPAIN

As a result of the democratic pressure instanced above, the Marxist-Leninists in the leadership of the CPSU were able to bring about a fundamental change in Soviet policy towards the supply of arms to the Spanish Republic.

On 7 October 1936, Samual Kagan, Counsellor at the Soviet Embassy in London (who was Acting Soviet Representative on the Non-Intervention Committee) presented Lord Plymouth with a list of violations of the Non-Intervention Agreement and concluded with an ultimatum

“… that unless violations of the Agreement on Non-Intervention cease forthwith, it (the Soviet government — Ed.) will consider itself as freed from the obligations arising from the Agreement”.

(Samuel B. Kagan: Statement of 7 October 1936, in: Ivan Maisky: op. cit.; p.47).

On 15 October 1936, Stalin sent a telegram to José Diaz, leader of the Communist Party of Spain, saying:

“The workers of the Soviet Union are merely carrying out their duty in giving help within their power to the revolutionary masses of Spain. They are aware that the liberation of Spain from the yoke of fascist reactionaries is not a private affair of the Spanish people but the common cause of the whole of advanced and progressive mankind”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Telegram to CC, CPSp (15 October 1936), in: ‘Works’, Volume 14; London; 1978; p.149).

On 23 October 1936, Soviet Ambassador to Britain Ivan Maisky, who had now taken over as Soviet representative on the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’, sent a further statement to Lord Plymouth, saying:

“The Agreement has turned out to be an empty, torn scrap of paper. It has ceased in practice to exist. Not wishing to remain in the position of persons unwittingly assisting an unjust cause, the Government of the Soviet Union . cannot consider itself bound by the Agreement for Non-Intervention to any greater extent than any of the remaining participants of the Agreement”.

(Ivan Maisky; Statement of 23 October 1936, in; Ivan Naisky: op.cit.; p.48-49).

On 27 August 1936, Marcel Rozenberg arrived in Madrid as the first Soviet Ambassador to Spain

“… with an impressive retinue of military, naval and air attachés and experts

(Edward H. Carr; op.cit,; p.22).

SOVIET MILITARY AID TO THE SPANISH REPUBLIC

The defector Walter Krivitsky, who was at the time Chief of Soviet Military Intelligence in Europe, states that

“… the first communication from Moscow about Spain reached him on September 2”,

(Edward H. Carr: op.cit.; p.24).

and that it stated:

“Extend your operations immediately to cover Spanish Civil War. Mobilise all available agents and facilities for prompt creation of a system to purchase and transport arms to Spain”.

(Walter H. Krivitsky: op.cit.; p.100).

Within days,

“… an apparatus based upon Arms Purchase Commissions in European capitals and supervised by the NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs — Ed.) . . was set up to organise the purchase of arms”

(Harry Browne: op.cit.; p.38).

“The first appearance of Soviet tanks and planes in the defence of Madrid late in October (1936– Ed.) and early in November made a tremendous Impression”.

(David Mitchell: op.cit.; p.63).

During the war:

“… the sending of military aid was never acknowledged…

No official Communist publication ever mentioned the sending of military equipment”.

(David T. Cattell (1955): op.cit.; p.72).

However,

“… the Soviet Union sent to the Spanish Government 806 military aircraft, mainly fighters, 362 tanks, 120 armoured cars, 1,555 artillery pieces, about 500,000 rifles, 340 grenade launchers, 15,113 machine-guns, more than 110,000 aerial bombs, about 3.4 million rounds of ammunition, 500,000 grenades, 862 million cartridges, 1,500 tons of gunpowder, torpedo boats, air defence searchlight installations, motor vehicles, radio stations, torpedoes and fuel”.

(‘International Solidarity’; op.cit.; p.329-30).

and under the new Soviet policy,

“… a little more than 2,000 Soviet volunteers fought and worked in Spain on the side of the Republic throughout the whole war, including 772 airmen, 351 tank men, 222 army advisers and instructors, 77 naval specialists, 100 artillery specialists, 52 other specialists, 130 aircraft factory workers and engineers, 156 radio operators and other signals men, and 204 interpreters”.

(‘International Solidarity’: op.cit.; p.328).

THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES

In September 1936,

“… the Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the Communist International took a decision to organise the recruitment of men with military experience”.

(Bill Alexander: ‘British Volunteers for Liberty: Spain 1936-1939’; London: 1982; p.53).

and the Spanish Republican Government

“… agreed, on 12 October 1936, to the formation of the International Brigades’1.

(Bill Alexander: ibid.: p.53).

On 17 October 1936,

“… the first recruits to the International Brigades arrived in Spain”.

(David Mitchell: op.cit.; p.63).

The International Brigades

“… formed a corps d’elite involved in all fighting of any importance until the end of 1938”.

(Pierre Broué & Emile Témime: op.cit.; p.375).

The total number of foreigners

“… who fought for the Spanish Republic was probably about 40,000, about 35,000 being in the International Brigades”.

(Hugh Thomas: ‘The Spanish Civil War’; London; 1977; p.982).

According to Dimitri Manuilsky at the 18th Congress of the CPSU, Spanish resistance

“… was made possible by the international support given to the Spanish people by the working people and above all the political support given them by the nations of the Soviet Union and by the father of all working people — Comrade Stalin”.

(Dimitri Manuilsky: Report on the Delegation of the CPSU (B) in the ECCI to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (b) (March 1939), in: ‘The Land of Socialism Today and Tomorrow ; Moscow; 1939; p.71).

THE SOVIET UNION AND SPAIN AFTER SEPTEMBER 1936

To sum up, in September 1936 the Soviet government reversed its previous policy and began to supply much needed military assistance to the Spanish Republic.

It might, therefore. seem at first glance as though the thesis presented at the January 1996 meeting by Ella Rule (p.1) — that there was no duality in Soviet foreign policy at the time of the Spanish civil war, since the Soviet policy of ‘non-intervention’ was succeeded by the Soviet policy of military aid to the Republican government — had validity.

Indeed, some well-known revisionists, like Dolores Ibarruri, assert precisely this:

“When the Soviet Union saw that in practice the Non-Intervention Committee was a cover for activities of the fascist and ‘democratic’ powers in favour of the insurgents, the Soviet Union declared on October 7 1937 (clearly an error for 1936 — Ed.) that it would withdraw its participation in the Non-Intervention Committee”. (Dolores Ibarruri: op.cit.; p.263).

But in fact, even after it had begun to supply military equipment to the Republican government, the Soviet Union did not withdraw from the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’. On the contrary,

“The Soviet Union did not make a move to leave the committee’1.

(David T. Cattell (1957): op.cit.; p.50).

“The USSR participated in the Agreement on ‘Non-Intervention’ and in the Committee for the same almost until they ceased to exist”.

(Ivan Maisky; op.cit.; p.32).

To be exact, only on 4 March 1939 did the TASS news agency announce the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’:

“The Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR decided on 1 March of

this year to recall its representatives from the Committee for ‘Non-Intervention'”

(TASS News Agency: Statement (4 March 1939), in: Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p. 202).

This was a few days after the British and French governments had officially recognised the rebel government:

“On 27 February 1939 Britain and France officially recognised Franco and broke off diplomatic relations with the Republican government (Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.199).

and only a few weeks before the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’ was dissolved:

“On 20 April 1939 the Committee as a whole officially ceased to be”.

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.203).

A leading role in the decision to remain in the Non-Intervention Committee, and to ‘work closely’ on it with the British and French imperialists, was played by the Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Maksim Litvinov:

“The Soviet Union’s new policy generally took the form of working closely with France and England on the committee. It is believed that Litvinov was able to persuade the … rasher elements among the Soviet leaders and remain”.

(David T. Cattell (1957): op.cit.; p.50).

In other words, in the situation existing in the Soviet Union in 1936-39, the Marxist-Leninist forces were able to reverse Soviet policy on the supply of arms to the Spanish Republic, but not strong enough to carry this reversal through to its logical conclusion by repudiating the whole concept of ‘non-intervention’.

THE EFFECT OF CONTINUED SOVIET PARTICIPATION IN ‘NON~INTERVENTION’

The effect of the continued participation of the Soviet Union in the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’ was to continue to lend Soviet prestige to the false view that it was capable of playing a progressive role.

Over the next months, the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’ was able to carry through policies which would, without doubt, have been vociferously rejected by progressive opinion had it not been for the screen of Soviet support around them.

Firstly, they were able to sabotage the control plan which was ostensibly designed to make the paper arms embargo internationally effective.

From the very outset of the civil war, the Soviet Union refused to take part in the international naval patrols around Spain, preferring to ‘entrust this to the imperialist powers — Britain and France. As Litvinov said in a speech on 14 September 1937:

“I recall that at the very beginning of the Spanish conflict the Soviet Government proposed that naval control be entrusted to England and France alone, and that it consequently voluntarily renounced the right… to send its naval vessels into the Mediterranean to take part in the control”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Speech of 14 September 1937, in: Jane Degras (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’, Volume 3 (hereafter listed as ‘Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953)’); London; 1953; p.254).

As a result,

“… the coming into force of control during the night of 19-20 April 1937 swiftly demonstrated the futility of this policy”. (Pierre Broué & Emile Témime: op.cit.; p.342).

Even Litvinov admitted in an election speech on 27 November 1937:

“Control is established on the frontiers and coasts of Spain, but the control immediately springs a leak and whole divisions and army corps, with proportionate military equipment, penetrate to the Spanish mutineers1′.

(Maksim Litvinov: Election Speech of 27 November 1937, in: Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953): ibid.; p.267).

And on 17 September 1937, the British and French governments

“… informed the other 25 ‘Non-Intervention’ Powers . . . that they had decided to discontinue their naval patrols of the Spanish coast”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.2,744).

Secondly, they were able to halt the influx of volunteers to the International Brigades which played such an important role in the anti-fascist resistance.

On 4 December 1936,

“… the Soviet government came forward with a new, extremely important initiative”.

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.97).

This proposal was

“… that the Governments, parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement, shall undertake to prevent by every means the despatch and transit of volunteers to Spain”, (lvan Maisky: Letter to Non-Intervention Committee (4 December 1936), in: ibid.; 1). 97).

On 10 January 1937, the British Foreign Office declared that

“… the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 … are applicable in the case of the present conflict in Spain”, (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.2,411).

so that

“… it is … an offence for any British subject to accept or agree to accept any commission or engagement in the military, naval or air service of either party in the present conflict”. (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.2,411).

On 16 February 1937, the Non-Intervention Committee decided

“… to prohibit the passage to Spain of any ‘volunteers’ whatsoever as from 21 February 1937”

(Ivan Maisky: op.cit.; ibid.; p.106).

On 18 February 1937 the French government issued a decree

“… to forbid the recruiting of volunteers for Spain and their transport thither”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.2,463).

and on 20 February 1937 the Soviet government issued a decree stating:

“1. Citizens of the USSR are forbidden entrance into Spain to participate in the military activities underway in Spain’.

2. Recruiting of persons for participation in the military activities in Spain… is forbidden in the territory of the USSR”

(USSR Decree of 20 February 1937, in: Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953): op.cit.; p.234-35).

Thirdly, they were able to bring about the repatriation of volunteer fighters already serving in the International Brigades.

At a meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Non-Intervention Committee on 23 March 1937, Maisky declared:

“There is nothing more pressing and important for us at the present time than the evacuation from Spain of the so-called ‘volunteers'” (lvan Maisky: op.cit.; p.125).

and was not deterred when the Italian delegate, Dino Grandi, who had

“… only just agreed to… the evacuation of foreign combatants from the Pyrenean peninsula”,

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.125-26).

boasted

“Not one single Italian volunteer will leave Spain until Franco is victorious”.

(Dino Grandi: Statement at Sub-Committee of ‘Non-Intervention Committee’ (23 March 1937). in: Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.125).

On 14 July 1937, a new British plan was laid before the Committee. It included

“… the evacuation of all foreign combatants from Spain”.

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.158).

on 31 July 1937, a TASS communiqué stated:

“The Soviet Government considers that all foreigners… taking part in one way in military operations should be withdrawn from Spain. The Soviet Government is ready to co-operate in accomplishing this by all the means at its disposal”.

(TASS Communiqué (31 July 1937). in: Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953): op.cit. p.249).

on 5 July 1938, at a plenary meeting of the ‘Non-Intervention Committee’

“… the British plan for the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain was unanimously adopted”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.3,735).

Although Franco later — on 30 December 1938– rejected the plan, (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.3,384).

on 23 September 1938, Prime Minister Juan Negrin

“… announced that his Government had decided on the immediate and complete withdrawal of all non-Spanish combatants fighting on its side”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 3; p.3,252).

THE DUALITY IN SOVIET POLICY TOWARDS SPAIN

The Soviet policies of military assistance to the Spanish republic and of co-operation in the work of the ‘Non-Intervention Coinmittee are contradictory and yet after September 1936 they were carried on simultaneously.

It is, therefore, clear that there was a duality in Soviet foreign policy towards Spain in this period.

This duality is explicable by the fact that, in addition to Marxist-Leninists like Stalin in the leadership of the CPSU — Marxist-Leninists who favoured military assistance to Spain — there were also revisionists, people who had departed from Marxist-Leninist principles, and who favoured co-operation with the appeasement policy of the West European powers at the expense of the Spanish Republic. The policy actually pursued by the Soviet government towards the Spanish Republic in this period was a compromise between these two opposed policies.

The most prominent Soviet politician in the second, revisionist, category was the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Maksim Litvinov.

THE ROLE OF MAKSIM LITVINOV

Introduction

Maksim Maksimovicb Litvinov was appointed Minister to Britain in January 1918:

“This appointment was officially made by Trotsky”,

(John Carswell. ‘The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov’ London; 1983: p.86)

who was then People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.

After being Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs in 1920-30, in July 1930 he succeeded Georgi Chicherin as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, a post he held until 1939.

Litvinov’s Influence

Litvinov remoulded the Commissariat in his charge, filling it with his nominees:

“The People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, as the Soviet Foreign Office was called, was an organisation largely created by Litvinov. He recruited its staff and designed its system…

The People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, and many of the principal posts abroad, were already (1930 — Ed.) filled with his friends and nominees”.

(John Carswell: ibid.; p.109, 126).

Litvinov, married to an English wife, was steeped in West European culture:

“… Maksim had been soaked in the ways of the West”.

(John Carswell: ibid.; p.103).

“Maksim was the only surviving Old Bolshevik who had thoroughly assimilated Western European culture”.

(Edgar Snow: ‘Journey to the Beginning’; London; 1959; p.312).

and this was reflected politically in Litvinov’s support for cooperation with Western imperialism. He became

“… the best-known Soviet spokesman for . . . cooperation with the West”.

(Alexander Dallin: ‘Allied Leadership in the Second World War: Stalin’ in: ‘Survey’, Volume 21, Nos. 1/2 (Winter/Spring 1975); p.15).

In the period leading up to 1939, Litvinov was particularly associated with Soyiet attempts to form a ‘collective security’ alliance with the more satisfied (and so less aggressive) imperialist powers, such as Britain and France, against the less satisfied (and so more aggressive) imperialist powers, Germany, Italy and Japan:

“The Soviet Government … is prepared, as hitherto, to participate in collective action, the scope of which should have as its aim the stopping of the further development of aggression and the elimination of the increased danger of a new world slaughter”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Press Statement (17 March 1938). in: William P.& Zelda Coates: op. cit.; p 585).

He genuinely believed

“… that Soviet power and influence could best be promoted by collaboration with the West”.

(Voitech Mastny: ‘The Cassandra of the Foreign Comissariat: Maksirn Litvinov and the Cold War’, in: ‘Foreign Affairs’, Volume 54, No. 2 (January 1976); p.376).

Already, on 17 January 1938, Politburo member Andrei Zhdanov criticised the People’s Cornmissariat for Foreign Affairs for its liberal attitude towards certain imperialist powers:

“Almost every foreign power has a consul in Leningrad; and I must say that some of these consuls clearly go beyond their powers and duties and behave in an illegal fashion, engaging in activities prejudicial to the people and country to which they are accredited.

Why does the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs tolerate a state of affairs in which the number of consuls representing foreign powers in the USSR is not equal to but greater than the number of consuls representing the USSR in foreign countries?

Then, comrades, … what are we to think of a situation in which the government of a country (France — Ed.) with which we, the USSR, are in fairly close relations… allows organisations to exist on its territory which plan and carry out terrorism against the USSR?”

(Andrei Zhdanov: Speech on the Work of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (17 January 1938). in: Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953): op.cit.; p.269, 270).

and Vyacheslav Molotov, then USSR Prime Minister, added in a speech to the USSR Supreme Soviet a few days later, on 19 January 1938:

“Comrade Zhdanov’s remarks about foreign consulates …have been carefully noted by the Council of People’s Commissars, which will in the near future take all the necessary steps.

Now to our relations with France. Here again we must recognise that Comrade Zhdanov’s remarks were well founded. . . . Refuge is found on French territory for every kind of adventurist and criminal organisation, nests of vipers, of terrorists and diversionists … How does this accord with the Soviet-French pact of friendship? The People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs should certainly look into this”.

(Vyacheslav Molotov: Speech at USSR Supreme Soviet (19 January 1938), in: Jane Degras (Ed.) (1953): op.cit.; pp.271, 272).

As Litvinov’s wife Ivy commented later:

“At the January (1938– Ed.) session of the Supreme Soviet, Zhdanov, made disparaging remarks about the administrative work of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. Litvinov’s name was not mentioned, but criticism is never lightly made in the Soviet Union…

Maksim was aware that he was out of favour”.

(Ivy Litvinov: ‘To Russia with Love’, in: ‘Observer Review’ (25 July 1976); p.17).

Litvinov and the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact

Even in 1937 British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax was already telling Hitler how much the British government admired his suppression of Communism in Germany:

“The great service the Fuehrer had rendered in the rebuilding of Germany were fully and completely recognised, and if British public Opinion was sometimes taking a critical attitude toward certain German problems, the reason might be in part that people in England were not fully informed of the motives and circumstances which underlie certain German measures…

The British Government were fully aware that … by destroying Communism in his country, he had barred the road to Western Europe, and that Germany therefore could rightly he regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism”.

(Lord Halifax: Record of a Conversation with Hitler (19 November 1937), in: ‘Documents and Materials relating to the Eve of the Second World War: From the Archives of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs’, Volume 1 (hereafter listed as ‘Archives’); Moscow; 1948; pp.19-20).

and was proposing to Berlin the formation of a four-power alliance to include Britain, France, Germany and Italy:

“After the ground had been prepared by an Anglo-German understanding, the four Great West-European powers must jointly lay the foundations for lasting peace in Europe.

The Fuehrer replied that … Lord Halifax had proposed an agreement of the four Western Powers as the ultimate aim of Anglo-German Cooperation”.

(‘Archives’; ibid.; p.29-30, 31).

In other words, the British government was already proposing that

“… Britain, and France as well, should join the ‘Berlin-Rome Axis'”

(Soviet Information Bureau: ‘Falsifiers of History (Historical Information); London; 1948; p.21).

In these circumstances,

“… the Soviet Union faced the alternative:

either to accept, for purposes of self-defence, Germany’s proposal to conclude a non-aggression pact and thereby ensure to the Soviet Union a prolongation of peace for a certain period of time which might be used by the Soviet State to prepare better its forces for resistance to a possible attack on the part of the aggressor;

or to reject Germany’s proposal for a non-aggression pact and thereby permit the war provocateurs from the camp of the Western Powers immediately to involve the Soviet Union in armed conflict with Germany at a time when the situation was utterly unfavourable to the Soviet Union and when it was completely isolated.

In this situation, the Soviet Government found itself compelled to make its choice and conclude the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany”.

(Soviet Information Bureau: ‘Falsifiers of History (Historical Information); London; 1948; p.44).

Litvinov, however, was, and remained, opposed to the Soviet government’s rapprochement with Germany.

“Litvinov . . . disapproved . . . of Stalin’s planned rapprochement with Germany'”.

(Voltech Mastny: op.cit.; p.367).

He

“… never, by word or hint, approved of Stalin’s pact policy with Hitler”.

(Louis Fischer: ‘The Great Challenge’; New York; 1971; p.54).

In May 1939, Litvinov was replaced as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs by Vyacheslav Molotov. The change reflected the preparation for

“… a momentous change of foreign policy”,

(John Carswell: op.cit.; p.145).

for in August 1939 the Soviet government signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany.

It was at this time that Molotov made a more direct public criticism of ‘short-sighted’ people in the Soviet Union who ‘over-simplified anti-fascist propaganda’ and forgot about the danger from other (non-fascist) imperialist powers:

“There were short-sighted people in our country too who, tending to over-simplify anti-fascist propaganda, forgot this provocative work of our enemies”.

(Vyacheslav Molotoy: Statement in Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the Ratification of the Soviet-German Pact of Non-Aggression (August 31 1939); London; 1939; p.8).

In a biographical article on Litvinov, henry Roberts points out that Molotov’s comment

“… may be interpreted as a slap at Litvinov”.

(Henry L. Roberts: ‘Maksim Litvinov’ in: Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert (Eds.): ‘The Diplomats: 1919-1939’; Princeton (USA); 1953; p.375).

The revisionist diplomat Andrei Gromyko, who was USSR Foreign Minister in a later period. writes in his memoirs about an incident in 1942:

“During Molotov’s visit to Washington in June 1942, I was struck by a conversation between him and Litvinov while the three of us were driving to the Appalachian mountains. We were talking about the French and the British, and Molotov sharply criticised their pre-war policy, which was aimed at pushing Hitler into war against the USSR. In other words, he voiced the official Party line. Litvinoy disagreed. This had been the prime reason for his removal from the post of Foreign Commissar in 1939 yet here he was, still stubbornly defending Britain’s and France’s refusal to join the Soviet Union and give Hitler a firm rebuff before he could make his fateful attack upon the USSR. Despite having been relieved of his post for such views, Litvinov continued to defend them in front of Molotov, and consequently in front of Stalin.

It was strange listening to someone who appeared not to have noticed Munich and its consequences”.

(Andrel Gromyko: ‘Memoirs’. London; 1989; p.312),

In 1948, however, the Soviet Information Bureau was still commenting politely on Litvinov’s removal:

“In the complex situation when the Fascist aggressors were preparing the Second World War, … it was necessary to have in such a responsible post as that of People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs a political leader with greater experience and greater popularity in the country than Maksim Litvinov”.

(‘Falsifiers of History’; op.cit.; p.16-17).

Litvinov’s Further Demotion

In February 1941, Litvinov was further demoted: the step was taken

“… of depriving Maksim of the one public position he retained — membership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party”.

(John Carswell: op.cit.; p.148).

This action was taken,

“.. according to the official announcement, because of non-fulfilment of his obligations'”.

(Vojtech Mastny: op.cit.; p.367).

According to Ivy Litvinov,

“… as Stalin was leaving the meeting, Lityinov called after him ‘Does this mean that you consider me an enemy of the people?’. The boss removed the pipe from his mouth to say . . . ‘We don’t consider you to be an enemy of the people’ “.

(Ivy Litvinov: op.cit.; p.17).

and John Carswell, the biographer of Ivy Litvinov, writes that

“… this humiliation… was an important stage in Maksim’s disillusionment with the ‘reality’ which the Revolution claimed to have created”.

(John Carswell: op.cit.; p.149).

Litvinov to Washington

However, in December 1941, some months after the German attack on the Soviet Union,

“… Stalin sent for for Litvinov, shook hands with him in a friendly manner and appointed him to Washington”. (Ilya Ehrenburg: ‘Men, Years — Life’, Volume 6: ‘Post-War Years: 1945-1954’, London; 1966; p.279).

And Litvinov’s biograoher Voitech Mastny remarks that in the new situation of Anglo-American-Soviet co-operation, Litvinov was

“… the right person to be chosen to reassure the West”.

(Voitech Mastny: op.cit.; p.368).

Litvinov Voices Dissent from Soviet Foreign Policy

Litvinov’s biographer Vojtech Mastny notes:

“Towards the end of his long and distinguished career in the Soviet diplomatic service, Maksim Litvinov tantalised his foreign interlocutors with increasingly candid expressions of dissent from his employers’ official line. There are several such incidents on record from May 1943 to February 1947”.

(Voitech Mastny: op.cit.; p.366).

In May 1943, having been recalled to Moscow, he is on record complaining to US Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles

“… that he was unable to communicate with Stalin, whose isolation then bred a distorted view of the West”.

(Voitech Mastny: ibid.; p.368).

However, according to the Soviet revisionist journalist Ilya Ehrenburg, Litvinov

“… was reticent in his opinion of him (Stalin — Ed.) . . . and only once, when speaking about foreign policy, said with a sigh: ‘He doesn’t know the West'”.

(Jlya Ehrenburg: op.cit.; p.278).

At the same time as Litvinov was recalled from the USA,

“… the other official protagonist of pro-Western reputation, Ambassador to London Ivan M. Maisky”,

(Vojtech Mastny: ibid.; p.368).

was recalled to Moscow.

Litvinov

“… still held the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (the title of ‘People’s Commissar was changed to that of ‘Minister’ in January 1946 — Ed.) but was given work of little importance”.

(Ilya Ehrenburg: op.cit.; p,. 279).

In the first months of 1945,

“… Maksim made no secret of his view that the Yalta agreement, Stalin’s greatest diplomatic victory, was a disaster for the future of international relations”.

(John Carswell: op.cit.; p.158-59).

In June 1945 he is on record as complaining to American journalist Edgar Snow:

“We (Litvinov and Maisky — Ed.) are on the shelf…

The Commissariat (for Foreign Affairs — Ed.) is run by only three men and none of them knows or understands America and Britain…

Why did you Americans wait till right now to begin opposing us in the

Balkans and Eastern Europe? You should have done this three years ago.

Now it’s too late”.

(Edgar Snow: op.cit.; p.314, 357).

In June 1946 Lityinov gave an interview in Moscow to the correspondent of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Richard Hottelot. According to Hottelot,

“.. Litvinov’s attitude was one of resignation mixed with disgust and relief that he was not identified with his government’s foreign policy”

(Richard C. Hottelot: Interview with Maksim Litvinov (June 1946), in: ‘Washington Post’ (22 January 1952); p.11B).

According to Hottelot, Litvinov declared:

“The Kremlin cannot be trusted and cannot be appeased”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Interview with Richard Hottelot (June 1946), ‘Washington Post’ (21 January 1952); p.1).

so that any attempt by the Western powers to meet Soviet demands

“… would lead to the West being faced, after a more or less short time, with the next series of demands”.

(Maksim Litvinov: Interview with Richard Hottelot (June 1946), in:

‘Washington Post’ (21 January 1952); p.1).

Because of its content, the interview remained unpublished until after Litvinov’s death in December 1951. Hottelot explains Litvinov’s frankness by his wish to present his ‘political testament to the West’:

“This strange interlude awakened the impression that . . . it was meant as Litvinov’s political testament to the Western world”.

(Richard C. Hottelot: Interview with Makaim Litvinov (June 1946), ‘Washington Post’, 21 January 1952; p.4).

We knew his career had just come to an end… This was probably Litvinov’s last chance to be heard”.

(Richard C. Hottelot: Interview with Maksim Litvinov (June 1946), in: ‘Washington Post’ (24 January 1952); p.13).:

Litvinov’s Final Demotion

In August 1946,

“… ‘Pravda’ printed a brief notice in small type on its back page to the effect that Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov had been relieved of his post as Deputy Foreign Minister.

There was nothing more. He went into oblivion”.

(‘Washington Post’, 24 January 1952; p.13).

Ilya Ehrenburg notes that

“… Litvinov was not arrested, but Stalin removed him from all functions, … He was pensioned off, not at his own request”.

(Ilya Ehrenburg: op.cit.; p.278, 279).

However, he

“… followed the development of Soviet foreign policy with increasing disapproval. Much of his time was taken up in elaborating a long memorandum to Stalin which analysed and commented on what he called ‘Molotov’s’ errors”.

(John Carswell: op.cit.: p.161).

In fact,

“… his years of retirement were overshadowed by the possibility of denunciation and trial”.

John Carswel~: ibid.; p.161).

The Death of Litvinov

At Litvinov’s funeral in January 1952,

“… the highest ranking mourners were Deputy Prime Ministers”

(‘Washington Post’, 25 January 1952: p.21).

with

“… no one from the Politburo”.

(Henry L. Roberts: op.cit.; p.375).

CONCLUSION

Julio Alvarez del Vayo, who was Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republican government during most of the civil war, sums up

“… the whole saga of non-intervention”

(Ivan Maisky: ibid.; p.203).

as follows:

“It was the finest example of the art of handing victims over to the aggressor States, while preserving the perfect manners of a gentleman and at the same time giving the impression that peace is the one objective and consideration”.

(Julio Alvarez del Vayo: op.cit.; p.252).

AND REVISIONIST ELEMENTS IN INFLUENTIAL POSITIONS IN THE CPSU WERE ACCOMPLICES IN THIS REACTIONARY FARCE.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Bill: ‘British Volunteers for Liberty: Spain 1936-1939’; London; 1982.
Alpert, Michael: ‘A New International History of the Spanish Civil War’; Basingstoke; 1994.
Alvarez del Vayo, Julio: ‘Freedom’s Battle’; London; 1937.
Beloff, Max: ‘The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia: 1929-1941’, Volume 2; ‘1936-1941’; London; 1945.
Brenan, Gerald: ‘The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War’; Cambridge; 1971.
Broue, Pierre & Temime, Emile:’The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain’; London; 1972.
Browne, Harry: ‘Spain’s Civil War’; Harlow; 1983.
Carr, Edward H.: ‘The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War’; London; 1984. Carswell, John: ‘The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov’; London’;
Cattell, David T.:’Communism and the Spanish Civil War’; Berkeley (USA); 1955.
Cattell, David T.:’Soviet Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War’; Berkeley (USA); 1957.
Coates, William P. & Zelda: ‘A History of Anglo-Soviet Relations’; London; 1943.
Dallin, Alexander : ‘Allied Leadership in the Second World War: Stalin’, in: ‘Survey’, Volume 21, Nos. 1/2 (Winter/Spring 1975).
Degras, Jane (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’, Volume 3; London; 1953.
Degras, Jane (Ed.): ‘The Communist International: 1919-1943; Documents’, Volume 3; London; 1965.
Dzelepy, Eleuthere N.:’The Spanish Plot’; London; 1937.
Ehrenburg, Ilya: ‘Men, Years — Life’, Volume 6: ‘Post4~r Years: 1945-1954’; London; 1966.
Fischer, Louis: ‘The Great Challenge’; New York; 1971. Gromyko, Andrei: ‘Memoirs’; London; 1989.
Howat, Gerald M. D. (Ed.): ‘Dictionary of World History’; London; 1973. London; 1960.
Ibarruri, Dolores: ‘They shall not pass: The Autobiography of La Pasionaria’;
Krivitsky, Walter C.: ‘I was Stalin’s Agent’; London; 1939.
Maisky, Ivan: ‘Spanish Notebooks’; London; 1966.
Mastny, Vojtech: ‘The Cassandra of the Foreign Commssariat: Maksim Litvinov and the Cold War’, in: ‘Foreign Affairs’, Volume 54, No. 2 (January 1976). Mitchell, David: ‘The Spanish Civil War’; London; 1982.
Molotov, Vyacheslav M.:Statement in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the Ratification of the Soviet-German Pact of Non-Aggression of August 21, 1939; London; 1939.
Roberts, Henry L.:’Maksim Litvinov’, in: Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert: ‘The Diplomats: 1919-1939’; Princeton (USA); 1953.
Snow, Edgar: ‘Journey to the Beginning’; London; 1959.
Thomas, Hugh: ‘The Spanish Civil War’; London; 1977.
Whealey, Robert H.: ‘Foreign Intervention in the Spanish Civil War’, in:
Raymond Carr (Ed.): ‘The Republic and the Civil War in Spain’; London; 1971.

– From ‘Documents and Materials relating to the Eve of the Second World War: From the Archives of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs’, Volume 1; Moscow; 1948.
– ‘Documents Diplomatiques Francais: 1932-1939; 2nd Series (1936-1939), Volume 3; Paris; 1966.
-‘Falsifiers of History (Historical Information)’; London; 1948.
-‘L’Humanite’.
-‘International Press Correspondence’.
–‘International Solidarity with the Spanish Republic: 1936-1939’; Moscow; 1976, — ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives.
— ‘New Encylopaedia Britannica’.
— ‘Observer Review’.
— ‘Times’.

The Intrigues of Franco’s Trotskyist Agents

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On 16 March the anarchists’ central organ, Solidaridad Obrera, published in Barcelona berates the Soviet press with abusive attacks. And in particular, the author judges the dispatches from Soviet correspondents concerning the counter-revolutionary attitude of the Trotskyist organisation, the POUM, as a damaging tactic, the object of which is to sow discord in the ranks of the ‘anti-fascists of Spain’.

This sleazy little article, which rallies to the defence of the Trotskyist traitors, is the work is the work of obscure elements who have wheedled their way into the ranks of the anarcho-syndicalist organisation. These are the erstwhile collaborators of Primo de Rivera, of the ‘Fascist (and Trotskyist) Falange’. It is an open secret that outright reactionaries rule the roost in Solidaridad Obrera and that its real editor is Cánovas Cervantes, former editor of the fascist periodical La Tierra.

These agents of Franco’s have ensconced themselves in the anarchist organisation with an eye to shattering from within the unity of the Spanish people, but their designs will not bear fruit. Daily the anarcho-syndicalist masses are taking more to heart the notion that an iron discipline, a strong Popular Army is sorely needed. This is the reason why the enemies of the Spanish people, having infiltrated the ranks of anarchism, now attack the Popular Front with redoubled fury.

It is no coincidence that at the very time when the Italians were beginning their attack on Guadalajara, these accursed Trotskyists organised an armed uprising near Valencia. We also have to note that the Valencia periodical Nosotros, in its back page articles, issues daily calls for the release of those detained for their part in the armed uprising, among which are a number of self-confessed fascists. These demands are always accompanied by threats to the government.

Solidaridad Obrera’s anti-Soviet item shows us that the Trotskyists and other agents of the German and Italian secret police want to seize control of the anarchists’ main organ. This fact has already alarmed the leaders of the Catalan anarchists, who truly seek to combat the dark forces of international fascism. – N. Oliver

Pravda, 22 March 1937

Wilhelm Faupel on Franco’s Involvement in the Barcelona May Days

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“Concerning the disorders in Barcelona, Franco has told me that the street fighting was provoked by his agents. Nicholas Franco has confirmed this report, informing me that they have a total of 13 agents in Barcelona. Some time ago one of them had reported that the tension between Anarchists and Communists in Barcelona was so great that it could well end in street fighting. The Generalissimo told me that at first he doubted this agent’s reports, but later they were confirmed by other agents. Ordinarily he didn’t intend to take advantage of the possibility until military operations had been established in Catalonia. But since the Reds had recently attacked Teruel to aid the Government of Euzcadi (the Basque provinces), he thought the time was right for the outbreak of disorders in Barcelona. In fact, a few days after he had received the order, the agent in question with three or four of this men, succeeded in provoking shooting in the streets which later led to the desired results.”

German Ambassador to Franco’s Spain Wilhelm von Faupel in a communique to Berchtesgaden dated May 11, 1937, quoted in Progressive Labor, Volume 9, page 113.

Lessons of People’s War in Spain 1936-1939

4 R

Progressive Labor, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct.-Nov. 1974), 106-116.

The Spanish Civil War was the opening act of the Second World War in Europe. It was the military and political proving ground both for European Fascism, and for class-collaborationist policies that the old communist movement never outlived.

In one important respect, however, the Spanish War differed from the major conflict which was to follow. In Spain, the major capitalist powers united–despite their contradictions with one another–against the threat of proletarian revolution, a threat made real by the Asturias revolt of 1934. When the World War came, the lines were not drawn, as the imperialists had wished, with Hitler’s Germany attacking the Soviet Union, with active or “neutral” support from the “democracies.” Instead, the imperialists fought among themselves, leaving the Soviet workers to destroy Hitler virtually by themselves.

The History of the Civil war has long preoccupied red-baiters of all sorts, seeking to vilify Spanish communists, the Communist International, and Stalin. Anti-communist writers have produced almost as many pages of lies about the struggle in Spain as about the October Revolution. This article will be a brief attempt to exhume some of the lessons for the working class that have been buried under this mass of filth.

We will see that study of the war has practical value for communists of today on a number of points. We will see that the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and the Comintern provided the only effective leadership–political and military–in the struggle against Fascism in Spain. The PCE, unlike all the groups of “left” creeps beloved of anti-communist writers from Orwell to Chomsky, was able to organize hundreds of thousands of working people into a powerful military force, despite the enormous material difficulties and their own weaknesses.

As for the errors of the PCE, they confirm major points of PL’s line: (I) communists lose when they abandon the struggle for workers’ dictatorship; (II) fighting fascism is critical for worker’s victory; (III) nationalism and alliances with bosses are disastrous; (IV) “unity” with various phony left groups–Anarchists and Trotskyites–is as fatal as “unity” with bosses.

The Spanish Republic

Spain was and is a minor capitalist power, largely agricultural, with major portions of its industry controlled from abroad. In the ’30s, industry was concentrated along the northern coast in Asturias and the Basque provinces (mainly mining) and in Catalonia on the east coast (light industry). The principal foreign owners were English, French, Belgian, Canadian and U.S. capitalists. The Catholic Church was a large land owner, and the Jesuits owned or controlled major banks, railways, mines, and factories.(1)

The Spanish Republic was established in 1931 when King Alfonso XIII decided to “suspend the use of (his) Royal Prerogatives” and leave the country.(2) Weakened and discredited by many years of colonial war against the Riffs in Morocco (costing over $800 million), and in the throes of the world economic depression, the monarchy was no longer a viable form of bourgeois rule, and was superceded first by a bourgeois republic and then by Fascism.

The Republic established universal suffrage (both sexes), promulgated a skimpy land reform, expanded public education, and reduced the prerogatives of the Army and the Catholic Church. The Catalan and Basque provinces were granted limited independence, and the Barcelona municipal government was reorganized as the Catalan Government, called the “Generalitat.”(3)

In 1932, General Sanjurjo led a small group of monarchists, landowners, clericalists and army officers in a coup against the Republic, but lacking support from the major forces of the ruling class, it failed. In the elections of November, 1933, however, the forces of the Right made substantial gains. The largest party in the Cortes (parliament) was the Rightist catholic party, CEDA, but the first government was formed as a coalition of Center parties, which halted or reversed many of the earlier reforms and amnestied Sanjurjo.(4)

In October, 1934, when a new government was formed with ministers from the CEDA, the Socialists and Communists of the UGT labor federation saw this as the onset of Fascism, and called a general strike in Madrid. The Socialist leadership of the UGT went underground, the large Anarchist-led labor federation (CNT) abstained, and the strike was short-lived. In Catalonia, the Generalitat declared independence from the central government, but the Anarchists again abstained and the rebellion was brief.

In Asturias, however, well-organized Socialist, Communist and Anarchist miners cooperated in a full-scale insurrection–in one place, declaring a Soviet Republic. The government called in the Foreign Legion and Moorish Regulares, commanded by Generals Goded and Franco. Franco, who had made his reputation in command of the Legion in the Moroccan wars, was selected for this similar job by multimillionaire Juan March, of whom we will hear more later.(5)

After bitter fighting, the rising was ruthlessly suppressed. As many as 3,000 workers were killed, mostly slaughtered after they surrendered. 30,000 prisoners were taken.(6)

The Rebellion in Asturias was a turning point in Spanish politics. Unlike the periodic rebellions of the Anarchists, it was sufficiently extensive and well-organized to show that working class revolution in Spain was a possibility to be reckoned with. The bosses learned this lesson well, but, for the most part, the Left did not, a failure which would lead to many future errors.

For the next elections of February, 1936, the parties of the Left formed a so-called “Popular Front” slate. The strategy of the Popular Front was developed at the 7th Congress of the Communist International, the idea being that in view of the dangers of Fascism and imperialist war, communists should form an alliance with Social-Democrats and some bourgeois elements to preserve bourgeois democracy and peace. This program was taken to include attempts to form united Socialist-Communist parties and, in some cases, communist participation in bourgeois governments. Thus the Popular Front was an alliance which included not only the rank-and-file, but also the class-collaborationist leadership of the Social-Democratic parties, and which supported the “good” liberal bosses against the “bad” Fascist ones. This line was made explicit by G. Dimitroff in his otherwise guarded exposition of the Popular Front strategy at the 7th Congress. Dimitroff claimed that those comrades who linked Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to Fascism were guilty of a “stereotyped approach” to the united front:

“One must indeed be a confirmed addict of the use of hackneyed schemes not to see that the most reactionary circles of American finance capital, which are attacking Roosevelt, represent first and foremost the very force which is stimulating and organizing the Fascist movement in the United States.”(7)

However, as subsequent events in Spain and elsewhere were to demonstrate, ruling class differences over Fascism versus bourgeois democracy were merely temporary and tactical. The very same bosses try to ensure their rule with “democracy” at one place or time and Fascism at another. We will see below how English, French and U.S. bosses, to which the Spanish Republic appealed for aid, helped their friendly local Fascists instead. We will also see how the utterly futile attempts of the Spanish communists to get ruling class support eventually cost them the war. The minimum condition for support was, of course, abandoning the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact the PCE agitated against workers’ rule and repudiated it as an immediate goal. This was a line not only for public consumption, but one around which they recruited and organized the party’s base. Thus when the treachery, incompetence and defeatism of the Republican government became absolutely unbearable, the PCE was willing and able to force some of the worst offenders from the government, but not to take power and lead the struggle through a workers’ government.

The Fascist Rising

In the February elections, the Popular Front won a major electoral victory, obtaining 278 seats in the Cortes, while the Right took only 134. The parties of the Center practically ceased to exist. Even Francisco Cambo, biggest capitalist in Catalonia, lost his seat.

The elections were not even completed before planning for another right-wing coup began, this time on a large scale. Franco urged the caretaker Prime Minister to declare a state of war and keep the Popular Front from taking office. His request was refused on the grounds that granting it would provoke a revolution.(8)

With this refusal, Franco began to plot in earnest, together with a number of generals, including Sanjurjo and Mola (both to die within the year under mysterious circumstances, thus incidentally assuring Franco’s ascendancy in the Fascist camp.)

Among others, the plotters included representatives of the feuding monarchist factions, the CEDA, and, through them, various financiers.(9)  Juan March, who reportedly contributed $15,000,000 to the coup,(10)  had left the country for France, but kept in contact with the plotters through his envoy, the Bishop of the Catholic Mission in France.(11) Francisco Cambo also left the country, having deposited the principal assets of his Catalan financial empire in Buenos Aires.(12) Cambo was apparently not directly involved in the coup, but supported it after the fact.(13)  The plotters were assured in advance of German and Italian financial support in exchange for metal ores.(14)

The tiny Falange Espanola, the “official” Fascist party of Spain, took part in the plot and together with the Carlists (monarchists) of Navarre, provided the whole of the minuscule popular support on which the plotters could count. The Falange was supported in its early days by Juan March, the Bank of Vizcaya (partly controlled by the Jesuits), various Basque industrialists and Bourbon monarchists.(15) After the rising, it was transformed into Franco’s party.(16)

Rumors of the plot were widespread. On July 13, PCE deputy Jose Diaz accused the Right in the Cortes: “You cannot deny that you are plotting, that you are preparing a coup.”(17) The same day, PCE spokeswoman Dolores Ibarurri (“La Pasionaria”) spoke in Asturias:

“Asturianos! Be vigilant. Reaction is even now in arms. If they dare attempt to rise, you will know what to do. Retrieve your arms now, from where you have hidden them–and keep your powder dry.”(18)

A good aspect of the PCE actions shown here was their reliance on workers to combat Fascism, but here and for the entire war, their outlook was largely defensive. Not: “let’s go kill the plotters and establish socialism,” but “let’s get them if they try anything.”

On the 16th of July, Franco flew in a British plane from his quasi-exile in the Canary Islands to Mallorca in the Mediterranean. On the plane with him was a certain Captain Pollard, agent of the British Secret Service. Pollard got the British Consul to intercede with the Republican authorities when the plane was seized for lack of papers. It was released.(19)

On the next afternoon, the Fascist rising began in Morocco. Hearing of the events in Morocco, the trade unions and parties of the Left demanded that the workers be armed by the government. In most areas, they were not, but many rebellious garrisons on the mainland were subdued by workers with arms taken from police and army units. At the end of this first phase of the rebellion, two-thirds of the territory of Spain and three-fourths of its population were held by the Republic. The main forces of the Fascists were the Foreign Legion and the Moorish Regulares of the Army of Africa in Morocco, but they could not cross the straits to Spain since the sailors of the fleet had arrested their officers and prevented them from joining the revolt. To get Franco out of this difficulty, Hitler sent the first substantial military aid, 20 transport planes to bring the Army of Africa to Spain. At its peak, German aid to Franco would stand at about 6,000 specialized troops of the Condor Legion, mainly tankmen, pilots, artillerymen and advisors, plus a large amount of material. The maximum size of the Italian forces was about 100,000 troops, with enormous quantities of material.(20) The European “democracies” chipped in with a “non-intervention” policy which began by refusal to sell arms to the Republic and worked up to a naval blockade in conjunction with Germany and Italy.

In May, 1937, the U.S. Neutrality Act became law, supplementing the informal efforts of the State Department to prevent arms sales to Spain.(21) In the first days of the fighting, Vacuum Oil refused to honor a contract to fuel Republican ships in Tangiers, and Texaco diverted five tankers of gasoline bound for the Republic to the Fascists.(22) The State Department tried to prevent the sale of aircraft to the Republic by Mexico.(23)  During the war, Texaco delivered at least 1,866,000 metric tons of petroleum products to Franco. Ford, General Motors and Studebaker sold a total of 12,000 trucks to Franco, as compared to 1,700 from Italy and 1,800 from Germany. Neither fuel nor trucks were sold to the Republic.(24)

U.S. companies also sold arms to the Fascists by first shipping them to Nazi Germany, from which they were transshipped to Spain. In 1938, Dupont-owned Atlas Powder Company sent 60,000 aerial bombs to Germany in this fashion, all marked “For transshipment to an undisclosed destination.”(25) In April, 1938, Roosevelt publicly admitted that the bombs falling on Republican cities were American-made. “It is all perfectly legal,” he said.(26)

Apart from the naval “non-intervention” patrol, Britain confined her aid to Franco to ammunition deliveries through Gibraltar and intelligence reports on Russian aid to the Republic, plus various commercial deals.(27)

For their part, the Popular Front government of France made its contribution to Fascism in a number of ways other than “non-intervention.” After selling the Republic a small quantity of obsolete aircraft, they closed the border to arms and volunteers. Volunteers for the Republic caught in France were imprisoned, but the largely communist-led underground organizations got many over the border. Large quantities of Soviet arms and arms purchased by the Comintern were held on French soil. After the fall of Catalonia, Republican refugees were treated to the best in ruling class hospitality–concentration camps.

Aid to the Republic from the Soviet Union began arriving in Spain in October, 1936, barely in time for a detachment of Soviet tanks to help in the defense of Madrid. The total number of Soviet personnel in Spain at any one time probably never totaled 700.(28) Soviet arms shipments were limited after the closing of the French border by the necessity to run the gauntlet of Italian submarines and aircraft and the “non-intervention” patrol–and also by the desire to avoid a world war, a desire unrealized in the event. According to Franco sources, 53 merchant ships were sunk, 324 captured and 1,000 detained at sea for carrying arms to the Republic. Not all of these were carrying Soviet war material, of course, but among the Soviet ships known sunk were the Komsomol, the Timiriazev, and the Blagoev.(29)

The general effect of foreign intervention of all sorts was that the Republic almost never fought with parity of arms, and typically faced odds in material and men of 3 or 4 to one.(30)

Communists Organize For Victory

After being transported from Morocco by Hitler’s planes, the Army of Africa advanced rapidly north through the open country of central Spain, pushing back the poorly armed and inexperienced militias of the Popular Front. As the militias retreated toward Madrid, however, resistance stiffened. The PCE urged the Republican government, headed by “left” Socialist fatmouth Francisco Largo Caballero, to organize fortification of the city. His reply: “Spaniards might fight from behind trees, but never from trenches.”(31)  Minister of War as well as Prime Minister, Largo displayed his dazzling incompetence only during specified hours; he would sign papers only between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M., and left orders not to be disturbed after 10:00 P.M.!(32) On November 6, the government formalized its abdication of responsibility for defense of the capital and moved to Valencia. All the ministers except the communists left with Largo Caballero, taking even the records of the Ministry of War.(33) On the 9th, as fierce fighting raged in the city, Largo sent a messenger to Madrid for the silverware he had left behind, but received only the reply that “we who have remained in Madrid are still eating.”(34)

Largo had left the defense of the capital to Miaja, an incompetent Republican general of doubtful loyalty, and to a Defense Junta of trade union and Popular Front representatives. Fortunately, Soviet General Goriev, nominally Miaja’s advisor, was on hand to handle the military planning of the defense.(35)

The even more important political side of the mobilization of the city’s population was led by the PCE. At the start of the rebellion, La Pasionaria’s broadcasts and speeches called for the resolute defense of Madrid: “They shall not pass!” “Madrid will be the tomb of Fascism!” Since then, the PCE had organized to make this a reality. Their famous Fifth Regiment had recruited over 60,000 militiamen (half PCE members), which soon became the backbone of the People’s Army. Modeled on the Soviet Red Army of Russian civil war days, the 5thRegiment had a system of political commissars responsible for the political understanding of the troops and commanders, and who acted as commanders themselves when the need arose. Tens of thousands of workers were trained in the Regiment, including the soon to be famous commanders Lister (a quarryman), Modesto (a woodcutter) and El Campesino (“The Peasant”). Barracks, commissary, and training schools were organized, as well as committees to look after families of recruits. Discipline came hard and a special company was organized as an example. The commissar of the 5th Regiment described this company to a journalist:

“We called it the “Steel Company” and made stringent requirements. To join this company a man must know something of arms, must have good health and must be guaranteed by some group as a determined anti-fascist. For this company we established special slogans designed to create an iron unity. ‘Never leave a comrade, wounded or dead, in the hands of the enemy’ was one of these. ‘If my comrade advances or retreats without orders, I have the right to shoot him’, was another.

How Madrid laughed at that. The Spaniard is such an individualist that nobody will accept such discipline, they said. Then our first Steel Company–mostly Communists and metalworkers–paraded through the city: it made a sensation. After that we created twenty-eight such companies of picked men, besides the ordinary muster of our regular Fifth Regiment militia.”(36)

Partly because of the seriousness and effectiveness with which the communists organized the militias, membership in the PCE, JSU (United Socialist Youth) and the PSUC (United Socialist Party of Catalonia, also affiliated with the Comintern) soared: from 30,000 at the beginning of the war to 200,000 at the end of 1936 to 1,000,000 by June, 1937.(37)

Foreign volunteers recruited largely by communist parties were organized into communist-led International Brigades. About 40,000 served in the Brigades, as many as 17,000 at any one time.(38) Like the Fifth Regiment, the Internationals were famous for their discipline and courage. Hemingway described the hill in Teruel defended by the German exiles of the Thaelmann Brigade as “a position that they sold as dearly as any position was sold in any war.”(39) The Internationals played a significant role in the early days of the fighting when troops with any sort of training were scarce, and fought well throughout. Their recruitment was an act of internationalism enormously appreciated by the Spanish workers. In the later part of the war, many Spaniards were recruited to the Brigades. Foreigners were withdrawn in 1938 in a vain effort to secure League of Nations action against German and Italian intervention. By that time, however, there were many crack units in the People’s Army.

As Fascist troops approached Madrid, Communists assumed the functions of the departed civil servants; radio, leaflets and banners urged the workers of Madrid to dig trenches and build barricades. Workers’ districts were organized block by block; 5th Regiment leaflets gave advice on battling tanks and house-to-house fighting.(40)

On November 7th, Franco’s troops, expecting an easy victory, assaulted the city from the west, southwest, and northwest, but were repulsed by the hard-pressed militias, particularly the Fifthh Regiment, in hand-to-hand fighting. For the 8th, the defenders prepared for renewed attacks, which they knew would come throughout the University City. The Fascist forces intentionally avoided attacking through the working-class districts “heavily seeded with Communist workers.”(41)

Resistance was furious in the University, with workers and Fascist troops occupying different floors of the same building. In some places rifles were so scarce that workers waited under cover until those with arms had been shot, then rushed out to pick up the guns and fight on.(42) In the afternoon, the vanguard of the recently constituted 11th International Brigade marched up the Gran Via, singing the Internationale. Crowds cheered the volunteers of the Edgar Andre (Belgian), Dombrowski (Polish) and Commune de Paris (French) battalions, shouting “United Proletarian Brothers,” the motto of the Asturias revolt of 1934. Many believed the Brigades to be Russian and gave vivas for “los russos.”

By nightfall, the much-needed machine guns of the Edgar Andres were in positions in the Hall of Philosophy in the University, and other brigades were distributed to vital points. Twice on the next day the Moroccan Tabors broke through militia lines at the Toledo and Princes Bridges, but were driven back with heavy losses.(43)  In the evening, the Internationals outflanked the Moroccans in the Casa de Campo, driving them back with enormous losses.(44)

From November 8th to the 15th, nine militia units came from other areas to aid Madrid. One, the 3,000-man Anarchist column from the Aragon Front, deserves mention for its example of Anarchist military organization. The column was led by Buenaventura Durruti, whose demands for an independent section of the front “so that their achievements could not then be claimed by other units” were supported by the Anarchist Minister of Justice.(45) 

The Anarchists were given a sector in the University City, with artillery and air support, but refused to attack. The next day, the Fascists attacked and the Anarchists broke and ran, abandoning a key bridge and positions in the University. Counterattacks by exhausted militiamen and Internationals regained some of the lost territory; lines thus established were to remain the same until the end of the war. Ashamed of the performance of his men, Durruti tried to persuade them not to leave Madrid but was shot and killed by one of them.(46)

Aragon and Catalonia: Anarchists and Trotskyites Play at Revolution

The Trotskyite POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification) was formed in October, 1935 by the fusion of two sects led by renegades from the PCE. Their activities were largely confined to Catalonia. Until their suppression in May, 1937, the POUM acted as an adjunct to the Anarchist Federation of Iberia (FAI) and the labor federation (CNT) which the FAI led. Vitriolic in their attacks on “Stalinists,”(47) the POUM merely offered friendly advice to the Anarchists, who held “similar ideas concerning hopes and perspectives on the revolution.”(48)

After the Fascist rising, the FAI-CNT was the strongest political force in Catalonia, dominating the Anti-Fascist Militias committee. This Committee held the real power in Barcelona for the first year of the war, although the Generalitat continued to have some influence in the countryside.(49)

Under Anarchist leadership, workers’ committees took over the factories in Barcelona and established agricultural collectives in rural areas, in some cases by force.(50) A number of foreign-owned plants were not confiscated; 87 British enterprises were protected by agreement with the British Consulate.(51)

Sources sympathetic to the Anarchists claim that their industrial experiments were successful, particularly in the arms industries,(52) and were sabotaged by the lack of credit from the central government. Conflicts with the central government did exist, but a more accurate explanation of the causes of industrial failures in Catalonia is given by Abad de Santillan, Anarchist member of the Militias Committee:

“We have not organized the economic apparatus which we had planned. We have been satisfied with throwing out the proprietors from the factories and putting ourselves in them, as committees of control. There has been no attempt at connections, there has been no coordination of the economy in due form. We have worked without plans and without real knowledge of what we were doing.”(53)

Abad de Santillan thought that this situation was improving at the end of 1936, but noted that 15,000-20,000 workers were still collecting wages without working.(54) The fact is that the individualistic and muddle-headed FAIists were incapable of giving the leadership that would have enabled the working class to organize industry effectively.

After the defeat of the Fascist rising in Barcelona, Anarchists and POUMists organized militias which “fought” on the Aragon front. Their military accomplishments were truly amazing: they made a demonstration in the direction of Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon, and settled in to trade occasional shots with the Fascists. New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews was told by a POUM militiaman from the “Lenin” Division at Huesca that

“We used to play football with the Fascists down there on the plain. They were good fellows. They invited us to spend the weekend in Saragossa and Jaca, and promised they’d let us come back.”(55)

Huesca had been virtually surrounded by the inactive Catalan militias for 11 months when a major attempt was made to capture the city by newly-organized People’s Army forces.(56) The lull had been put to better use than football games by the Fascists, who had built substantial fortifications. The attack failed.(57)

Internationals relieving Anarchist troops on the Ebro Riber a year after the beginning of the war found no fortifications, and positions a full two kilometers from Fascist lines.(58) Exactly two casualties had been admitted to the nearby military hospital in the previous three months.(59) Anarchist militias had elevated chaos into a political principle. A leaflet distributed in Aragon stated that:

“We do not recognize military formations because this is the negation of Anarchism. Winning the war does not mean winning the revolution. Technology and strategy are important in the present war, not discipline which presupposes a negation of the personality.”(60)

If in nothing else, Durruti was certainly right when he lamented that “War is made by soldiers, not by Anarchists.”(61)

The Internationals also found a peasant population embittered against Republican forces by the Anarchist seizures. The commissar of the Lincoln Brigade found one farmer incredulous that he was offered money for food instead of worthless script.(62) The sullen attitudes of the Aragon farmers contrasted markedly with the enthusiastic support that had met the People’s Army forces outside Anarchist-controlled areas.(63)

On the Fascist side, the Aragon front was very weakly held: a Franco historian says that the Fascists were able to remove forces from that front to attack Madrid.(64) POUMists and their defenders have excused their criminal footdragging by the lack of arms for POUM and FAI-CNT forces, claiming that communists withheld Soviet material from Aragon.(65) Orwell, for example, explains their failure to attack, despite the desires of the rank-and-file militiamen, by the lack of artillery and maps, the difficult terrain, and the fact that there was only one machine gun for every fifty men.(66) With the same material difficulties–including one machine gun per fifty men–the communist-led 35th Division forced the Ebro River in July, 1938, advanced 25 kilometers, captured 4 towns and 2500 prisoners.(67)  The POUM leaders’ attitude is amply summed up by a remark Orwell quotes from his POUM commander Georges Kopp: “This is not war, it is comic opera with an occasional death.”(68) As we have seen, things weren’t so comic on the Madrid front.

Still, it must be said that the material shortages on the Aragon front do have a sinister explanation–but not the one the red-baiters offer. After the war, FAIist Abad de Santillan obliged us with a frank confession:

“If all the leaders of the Libertarian (anarchist) organizations had ever seriously resolved to send all their armament, their war material and their best men to the front–the war would easily have been over in a few months�We can no longer conceal the fact that while, at the front itself, we had by 30,000 rifles (and perhaps as many as 24 batteries, 200 heavy guns), in the rear, in the power of the organizations, we had an additional 60,000 rifles with more ammunition than was ever in the proximity of the enemy.”(69)

The intended purpose of these arms the anarchists kept from the front was combat with the other parties after the victory over Franco,(70) although the occasion never arose.

In fact, the opportunity for the supreme act of treachery did not come to the POUM or the Catalan Anarchists, but to Corp Commander Cipriano Mera, the highest ranking Anarchist officer in Spain. Mera’s contribution to Fascism came in 1939, when General Casado ran a coup against the Republican government to prevent further resistance to the Fascists. Communist commanders led their troops against Casado to put down the coup, but Mera brought his troops to Casado’s support and the PCE troops were defeated.(71)

The Trots Lose Their Playground

In Catalonia in late ’36 and early ’37, the disorganization of production, inflation, lack of serious prosecution of the war, and growth of the communist parties (PCE and PUSC) combined to weaken and discredit the POUM and the FAI. Faced with the clear failure of their utopian theories, the Anarchist movement began to disintegrate. In September, ’36, the FAI-CNT compromised their grotesquely anti-political principles and entered the Catalan Generalitat, along with the PUSC and Catalan Nationalist parties, with one delegate from the POUM.(72) Attacking the “Stalinists” for their advocacy of the Popular Front, the POUM was only too happy to be included in this one. Their incredibly sophistical defense of this action was that the “petty bourgeoisie” was collaborating with them, rather than vice-versa!(73)

In March, 1937, the central government ordered the confiscation of arms from the political parties(74); in Barcelona, measures were taken to curb the numerous street murders by the “uncontrollables”–thugs who had attached themselves to the FAI(75) — and to disband the militia “police.” The CNT and POUM declined to surrender arms or submit to the draft.(76)

Numerically insignificant, unable to build a base among workers and discredited by their “sheer inefficiency and incompetence all along the line,”(77)  the political bankruptcy of the POUM was complete. Dropping any pretense of fighting the Fascists, the POUM decided for an all-out battle against the communists instead.

On May 3, 1937, Catalan police chief Rodriguez Sala and the Generalitat representative for the Telephone Exchange went to the Exchange�s censorship department to complain of anarchist interference with government phone calls. Anarchist militiamen, who had held the exchange since the start of the war, fired from an upper floor. Brief fighting ensued, which was stopped by an FAI leader. Rumors of a “provocation” spread among CNT members and barricades were erected throughout the city. As sporadic fighting began between CNT and PUSC members, POUM leaders proposed to FAI-CNT leaders that communists be expelled from the government and “Stalinist” influence be eliminated in Catalonia once and for all.(78) The POUM was turned down flat.(79) Supported only by a small Anarchist group called the “Friends of Durriti” and a section of the Libertarian Youth, the POUM called for the overthrow of the Generalitat and the establishment of a Revolutionary Junta. Anarchist leaders attempted to secure truce in the barricade fighting and eventually did so, after several false starts. The arrival of 4,000 Assault Guards from Valencia assured that it would continue. Total casualties were reported as 400 killed, 1,000 wounded.(80)

In the central government, the PCE demanded the suppression of the POUM for these crimes. Largo Caballero refused, but this was the last straw even for members of his own party. Largo was ousted and Socialist Juan Negrin became Prime Minister. The POUM was suppressed, and about 40 POUMists arrested. Treacherous POUM leader Andres Nin was apparently executed by Soviet agents, small retribution for the deaths in Barcelona.(81) Other POUMists were held for trial on charges of espionage, treason, fomenting the fighting in Barcelona, and removing troops under their command from the front to Barcelona. At the trial, the POUMists denied they had helped to provoke the fighting, conveniently “forgetting” the articles in their own newspaper, La Batalla.(82) They even denied commanding the troops that had left the front at Heusca, some of them forced to return to the lines by the threat of bombing their buses.(83)  POUM “political secretary” Julian Gorkin was able to “remember” that La Batalla had reprinted a Fascist leaflet attacking the government which had been dropped over the lines. When Don Jose Gomis Soler, the public prosecutor, asked Gorkin why the source of the fascist leaflet was referred to in the tiniest type below the proclamation, Gorkin laughingly said: “This is a mere typographical matter.”(84)

The accused were found innocent of espionage and treason; all except one were found guilty of the other charges and sentenced to various terms.

Were the POUM Leaders Franco’s Agents?

The POUM leaders were accused by the PCE of being in the pay of Franco, and some of the incidents reported above indicate why this was plausible and widely believed in Republican Spain.(85)  Plainly, the POUM earned their money, even if they didn’t collect it.

On May 11, 5 days after the fighting began, Faupel, Hitler’s ambassador to Franco, wrote:

“Concerning the disorders in Barcelona, Franco has told me that the street fighting was provoked by his agents. Nicholas Franco has confirmed this report, informing me that they have a total of 13 agents in Barcelona. Some time ago one of them had reported that the tension between Anarchists and Communists in Barcelona was so great that it could well end in street fighting. The Generalissimo told me that at first he doubted this agent’s reports, but later they were confirmed by other agents. Ordinarily he didn’t intend to take advantage of the possibility until military operations had been established in Catalonia. But since the Reds had recently attacked Teruel to aid the Government of Euzcadi (the Basque provinces), he thought the time was right for the outbreak of disorders in Barcelona. In fact, a few days after he had received the order, the agent in question with three or four of this men, succeeded in provoking shooting in the streets which later led to the desired results.”(86)

Soon after the May fighting, a number of Franco agents were caught in Barcelona, and implicated Nin–perhaps for their own reasons.(87)

Some Catalan Anarchists openly expressed their Fascist sympathies. After the war, Abad de Santillan had praise for Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Fascist Falange Espanola:

“Despite the difference which separated us, we can understand this “spiritual kinship” with Jose Antonio, who after all was a fighter and a patriot in search of solutions for his country�Spaniards of his stature, patriots such as he are not dangerous. They are not the enemy. As for changing the destiny of Spain, there had been, before July, 1936, diverse attempts to align with us. If an accord had been tactically feasible, it would have been according to the desires of his father, Primo de Rivera (dictator of Spain under the monarchy).”(88)

Such are the political degenerates lionized by phony leftists who attack and slander communists.

What the Communists Did Wrong–Racism

Throughout the war, Franco relied on troops recruited and conscripted in Spanish (and French) Morocco. Perhaps 100,000 Moors fought for the Fascists.(89)  The Fascists encouraged every sort of atrocity on the part of the Moors, playing on the racism of the Republicans with great success. Fascist General Quiepo de Llano broadcast revolting descriptions of the rapes to be committed by Moorish troops should they capture Madrid.(90) Republican propaganda repeated and embroidered this racist trash. Posters in Madrid depicted Moorish soldiers as “thick-lipped, hideously grinning, powerful turbaned figures attacking defenseless white women and bayoneting white children.”(91)

Republican Minister of Foreign Affairs Alvarez del Vayo characterized Moors as “immune from all political propaganda of a democratic nature.”(92)  The facts are the exact opposite. Representatives of the Riffs of Morocco, who had fought a long war for independence in the teens and twenties, offered to organize against Franco in return for independence from Spain. The Republican government turned them down flat, fearing French reaction to an independence movement adjoining their own colonies in Africa, and hoping to use Morocco for bargaining with other capitalist powers. A Catalan delegation of Communists and Anarchists supported the Moroccan request, but got nowhere.(93)

The PCE never made a public fight over this crucial issue, which should not only have been a matter of principle, but which could have produced a powerful and proven ally in the struggle against Franco. Nor did the PCE combat racism in any other way. Instead, they promoted it! La Pasionaria repeated the filth of Radio Seville, accusing the Fascists of lack of patriotism for urging the Moors to rape Spanish women:

�Peasant girls violated by legionaries, mercenaries, and Moors, who have been tempted from their African villages by the promise of a “good time,” bear witness to this “patriotism” of the fascist murderers.(94)

PCE promotion of racism was far more than a lost opportunity for militant allies in Morocco (and the Spanish mainland); it was an error that contributed to all sorts of weaknesses of line and strategic failures. French bosses were right to fear that an independent Spanish Morocco would ignite independence struggles in the neighboring French colonies. This would have been an excellent development for the Republic, drawing off French and British aid to Franco. A determined struggle against racism would have dealt a major blow to the many nationalist divisions in the Republic. These divisions constituted an enormously important weakness, contributing to Anarchist predominance in Catalonia, where the war was finally lost.

The development of a class understanding of racism and capitalism’s need for it might have force the communist movement world-wide to abandon their wrong line on the nature of Fascism and capitalist rule. In other words, understanding the role of racism under capitalism leads to understanding the necessity for workers’ power; as well as making it possible to fight for it. A key strategy for organizing the struggle for socialism is to unite with and rely on the most oppressed–and the most militant–working people. In the long colonial wars, the Moors had shown themselves to be just that.

Finally, fighting racism in Spain could have helped develop a better line in other countries when their volunteers returned. As it was, the Internationals absorbed the prevailing racist atmosphere and took that home. British volunteers actually called the Moors “niggers.”(95)

Guerrilla War

The racist failure to aid the Moors to rise in Franco’s rear is paralleled by the Republic’s failure to develop partisan warfare in Fascist-held Spain. Stalin (among others) had urged Largo Caballero to organize partisans in December, 1936,(96)  but the policy was rejected on the grounds of lack of trained cadre and arms.(97)

If the PCE had understood that the war must be won by relying on the workers and peasants of Spain and Morocco, rather than waiting for help from foreign capitalists, it would have been obvious that organizing guerrillas in Fascist areas was necessary and possible. Guerrillas had operated successfully in Spain since the Napoleonic Wars, and large numbers of leftist sympathizers were in Franco-held areas. Disaffection with the Fascist regime was enormous behind the lines. In May, 1938, Franco described 40% of the population in the areas he controlled as “unreliable.”(98)  Nevertheless, guerrilla operations in the war were largely limited to Soviet-organized commando and intelligence operations, and a great opportunity to expand and win People’s War in Spain was lost.

Socialism: The Only Way to Win

Despite the importance of the previous points, the key to victory in the civil war was the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, not as a vague objective for the far-off future, but the immediate program to put into effect. There can be no doubt that the opportunity for taking power existed: the PCE and PUSC were the real organizers of the war against Fascism, and could have united the working class even more completely around worker’s dictatorship than around “a new type of parliamentary-democratic republic”(99) –a fig-leaf for bourgeois rule.

The effect of not taking power was to leave it in the hands of bosses’ agents who sabotaged the struggle against Franco. “Socialist” Largo Caballero was more than an incompetent egomaniac–he went so far as to bargain with the British and French to exclude the communists and Soviet aircraft.(100)  His successor in the Ministry of War, “Socialist” Indalecio Prieto, went around telling everyone who would listen that the Republic was bound to lose, and did virtually nothing to oppose a successful Fascist drive to cut the Republic in two in March, 1938.(101) Instead of taking power, the PCE organized an enormous demonstration in Barcelona, demanding that Prieto be ousted (which he was). But purging the government of such criminals after they have done irreparable damage cannot win. It is merely a defensive strategy to stave off defeat a little longer.

In contrast, the Bolsheviks of 1917 used the self-exposure of the Social-Democrats in the government to show that only workers’ rule can accomplish what the working class needs–and they took power.

Instead of this revolutionary policy, the republic, supported by the PCE, mounted military offensives not to win, but to hold out and impress the capitalist “democracies.” Like the NLF’s Tet offensive, the Ebro offensive in July, 1938, had no real chance of defeating the enemy militarily. Like the Tet offensive, it was aimed at achieving a favorable position in negotiations with the enemy; the Republic hoped to exploit the developing contradictions of England, France, and the U.S. with the Fascist powers by showing that the Republic was still an anti-Fascist force to be reckoned with.(102)  Thus, a main element of Popular Front strategy was to rely on the very bosses who were supporting Franco, and the strategy worked no better in Spain that it did in Vietnam. The bosses can be relied on for racism, murder and exploitation, but not for help! The only alternative is to rely on the workers, and that means fighting for workers’ power. Spain shows clearly what relying on the bosses means, since 400,000 people–apart from those dead in the fighting–were slaughtered after the Republic fell.(103)

The policy of attempting to exploit contradictions among the imperialists was also followed by the Soviet Union during the Spanish War, despite the fact that the “democracies” were busy inciting Hitler to wipe out workers’ power in Russia. During the thirties, the Soviet government tried to concoct alliances for the forthcoming war with almost every combination of European powers, finally signing a pact with Hitler himself. Even though the imperialists were finally unable to overcome their rivalries and unite against the Soviet Union, Soviet workers were left to defeat the Nazis virtually alone.(104)

Thus, the clear lesson of Spain and the larger conflict which was to follow is that workers have absolutely nothing to gain from alliances with bosses. We must rely on our own strength, fight racism and settle for nothing short of workers’ power and socialism. If we learn this lesson and put it into practice, the struggles and sacrifices of Spanish workers, though representing a temporary defeat, will contribute to final victory over capitalism and put into practice the motto of Asturias: “UNITE PROLETARIAN BROTHERS!”

Footnotes

1. Frank Jellinek, The Civil War in Spain, London, 1938, Chaps I, II, IV.

2. Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, New York, 1961, p. 19.

  1.  Ibid., Chapters III, IV, V, VI, VII.
  2.  Ibid., Chapters VII, VIII.

5. Arthur Landis, Spain! The Unfinished Revolution, Baldwin Park, Cal., 1972, p. 58. Cited as “Landis.”

6. Thomas, pp. 80-5

7. G. Dimitroff, United Front Against Fascism, New York, 1937, p. 100.

8. Thomas, p. 96.

  1.  Ibid., p. 96.

10. G. Jackson, The Spanish Republic and Civil War, 1931-1939, Princeton, 1965, p. 417.

11. Jellinek, p. 285

  1.  Ibid., p. 75.

13. Richard Robinson, The Origins of Franco’s Spain, Pittsburg, 1970, p. 291.

14. Jellinek, p. 279.

15. Stanley Payne, Falange, Stanford; 1961, p. 45.

16. Jackson, pp. 356-8.

17. D. Ibarurri, They Shall Not Pass, New York, 1966, p. 185.

18. Quoted in Landis, p. 136.

  1.  Ibid., p. 105.

20. Jackson, p. 333.

21. Landis, p. 205.

  1.  Ibid.

23. Ibid., p. 207.

  1.  Ibid., p. 208.
  2.  Ibid.
  3.  Ibid.

27. German Charge d’Affairs in Fascist Spain, quoted ibid., p. 239.

28. Stanley Payne, The Spanish Revolution, New York, 1970, p. 324. Cited as “Payne.”

29. Landis, p. 243.

30. Arthur Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, New York, 1967, passim. Cited as “Landis, ALB.”

31. Landis, p. 246.

  1.  Ibid., p. 247.

33. Thomas, p. 319.

34. Quoted in Landis, p. 269.

35. Burnett Bolloten, The Grand Camouflage, New York, 1961, p. 239.

36. Anna Louise Strong, Spain in Arms, 1937, New York, 1937, pp. 42-3.

37. P. Broue & E. Temime, The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain, Cambridge, Mass., 1970, p. 229.

38. Landis, p. 252.

39. Quoted in Landis ALB, p. 376.

40. Landis, p. 262.

41. Quoted in ibid., p. 259.

  1.  Ibid., p. 267.
  2.  Ibid., pp. 268-9.
  3.  Ibid., p. 370.
  4.  Ibid., p. 273.
  5.  Ibid., pp. 275-6.

47. The Spanish Revolution, (POUM English-language newspaper), 2/3/37.

  1.  Ibid., 3/31/37.

49. Broue and Temime, pp. 130-3; Thomas, 187-92.

50. Quoted in Landis, p. 324. The source is J. Petro, Anarchist Minister in the Republic Government.

51. Payne, p. 246.

52. G. Brennan, The Spanish Labyrinth, Cambridge, U.K., 1943, p. 321.

53. Abad de Santillan, After the Revolution, New York, 1937, p. 122.

54. Ibid, p. 134.

55. Quoted in H.L. Matthews, Two Wars and More to Come, New York, 1938, p. 294.

  1.  Ibid., Thomas, p. 443.

57. Matthews, p. 295.

58. Landis ALB, pp. 252-6.

  1.  Ibid.

60. Quoted in Ibarurri, p. 285.

61. Quoted in Landis, p. 323.

62. Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, New York, 1953, p. 175.

  1.  Ibid.

64. M. Anzar, Historia Militar de la Guerra de Espania (1930-1939), Madrid, 1958; quoted in Landis, p. 320.

65. The Spanish Revolution, 2/17/37.

66. G. Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, New York, 1952, pp. 32-5.

67. Landis, p. 331; the battle is described in Landis ALB, p. 517ff.

68. Orwell, p. 32.

69. Abad de Santillan, Porque Perdimos la Guerra, Buenos Aires, 1940, pp. 67-8; quoted in Landis, p. 321.

  1.  Ibid.

71. Thomas, pp. 586-603.

72. Landis, p. 337.

73. The Spanish Revolution, 11/4/36.

74. Payne, p. 294.

  1.  Ibid.
  2.  Ibid.

77. F. Borkenau, quogted in Landis, p. 320.

78. Julian Gorkin (POUM leader), Nota sobre las Jornadas de Mayo de 1937, unpublished MS in Hoover Institute; cited in Payne, p. 297.

  1.  Ibid.

80. Thomas, pp. 424-9.

  1.  Ibid., pp. 452-5.

82. “The Treason Trial of the POUM,” World News and Views, vol. 18 (1938), #50, pp. 1143-4.

83. Ibarurri, p. 286.

84. E. Rolfe, in The Daily Worker, 12 Oct., ’38.

85. Claude Bowers (U.S. Ambassador to the Spanish Republic), My Mission to Spain, New York, 1954, p. 356.

86. Quoted in Ibarurri, p. 282.

87. Thomas pp. 454ff, 568; relevant documents are reprinted in The Communist International, vol. 16 (1939), p. 165ff.

88. Abad de Santillan, Porque Perdimos la Guerra, as quoted in Landis, p. 312.

89. Barton Whaley, Guerrillas in the Spanish Civil War, Detroit, 1969, p. 40.

90. Thomas, p. 181.

91. Whaley, p. 42.

92. Quoted ibid., p. 39.

93. Whaley, passim; Payne 270-2.

94. D. Ibarruri, Speeches and Articles, 1936-1938, New York, 1938, p. 130.

95. Whaley, p. 42.

  1.  Ibid., p. 15
  2.  Ibid., p. 13.

98. Jackson, p. 429.

99. D. Ibarruri, “The Time Has Come to Create a Single Party of the Proletariat in Spain,” Communist International, vol. 14 (1937), #9, p. 651.

100. Payne, pp. 270-2.

101. Landis, p. 372; Landis ALB, p. 401ff.

102. Jackson, p. 454.

103. Landis, p. 405. Executions were still taking place in 1944 (ibid.)

104. In the Battle of Stalingrad, military and political turning point of World War II, the Red Army destroyed 113 Fascist divisions, two and one half times the German forces facing the Normandy invasion. (See, for example, G. Deborin, Secrets of the Second World War, Moscow, 1971, pp. 100, 163). While the Soviet workers were making enormous sacrifices to destroy the German armies, the capitalist “allies” were delaying a second front, fooling around with minor operations in North Africa and Sicily for public relations. When the second front was finally launched in Normandy, a year and a half after the Stalingrad victory, one main motive was simply fear of communist revolution in Europe (with Soviet army support), which would have denied the imperialists any slice of the European pie. Omar Bradley, commander of the U.S. troops in Europe, put this point with some frankness after the war:

To avoid chaos on the continent it would have been necessary for us to move such forces as we had, cross the Channel at one, move on into Germany, disarm its troops and seize control of the nation. (quoted in Deborin, P. 161)

In the final reckoning, the Red Army destroyed 507 German divisions, plus 100 of her allies’, as against 176 on all other fronts (Deborin, p. 269). U.S. and British aid to the Soviet Union provided only 1.9% of the guns, 8.3% of the planes and 10.5% of the tanks used by the Red Army, many of them of very inferior quality, plus some food and a quantity of trucks (Deborin, pp. 130-3, A. Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945, New York, 1964, pp. 575-7). No significant aid reached the Soviet Union in time for Stalingrad.

Communist Party of Spain (PCE) Denounces the POUM

Pce2

Originally printed in the newspaper Frente Rojo on 6 February 1937

The fascist Trotskyist party should be dissolved and tried as fascist. The guttersnipe POUM has become desperate now that its infamy has been unmasked, and has unleashed a demogogic campaign against the solid wall of anti-fascist unity at the orders of its foreign masters.

We have continued to accuse them, conclusively showing their adventurism and showing that they are a faction organised behind our back. It’s not a matter of ideological disagreement nor even of physical revulsion towards a party of traitors, but of something deeper and more important. It’s a matter of the distance between those who are in the vanguard of our people and of the agents of the Gestapo. It’s a matter of a group of bandits which fascism has left amongst us.

Even now in the slander sheet called La Batalla, published in Barcelona, they defend themselves with the following inconsistent and comical arguments: referring to the trial against the Trotskyists they say it is an ‘iniquitous farce’ and in the following line accept that the ambassadors of France and the United States were present. That is to say, that a trial held in the presence of hundreds of foreign journalists and of the diplomatic corps, with legal guarantees for the accused such as no other country would provide, is described by the POUM as a farce. Naturally its Spanish accomplices are not going to recognise the justice exercised on a group of assassins. In Spain when we come to judge the Trotskyists – for we and our fraternal colleague – Mundo Obrero – demand that a people’s court try the fascist leaders of this organisation – their accomplices of some other place will say that our people’s justice has been an iniquitous farce.

In this same number of La Batalla … against the anti-fascists they write that they have received numerous protests from ‘comrades and sympathisers’ over an article by Goltsov in L’Humanité, protests that they don’t reproduce … for lack of space. Of course, they won’t print Franco’s congratulations.

Their cynicism elsewhere makes them state in answer to a report in the Official Monday Bulletin that ‘there was no picture of Trotsky in the meeting organised by the POUM in Barcelona.’ These contemptible people, conscious of the indignation which the picture of the leader of these international bandits arouses, don’t dare to exhibit it before their own members.

The secret aims of fascism are not well served by association with the criminal Trotsky. Who knows what new possibility they are seeking in order to serve the interests of the fascist agents amongst us.

Here is another proof that the POUM guttersnipes serve fascism and nothing but fascism. As all the world knows, the legitimate government has dissolved the so-called security patrols and has organised a single police force in the rear.

As all the world also knows, this force is formed from members of all the anti-fascist forces and the trade unions. Therefore, La Batalla of Wednesday shouts … ‘Long live the security patrols’ and writes elsewhere that the police force in the rear is the armed reserve of reaction. That is to say, they rabidly oppose the government’s measures and slander the people’s police force. If all who sabotage the government and insult its defenders should be considered fascists, then the provocateurs of the POUM are fascists.

That’s why it’s necessary to finish with this band of bandits and mete out the justice which these fascists deserve.

Source

Grover Furr: German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937

speciale11[1]

Originally posted by Grover Furr

German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937

I’m writing an article on the falsifications in Khrushchev’s infamous 1956 “Secret Speech.” A few weeks ago I ran across the following statement, in an article on the subject of this speech:

“…в угоду политической конъюнктуре деятельность Троцкого и его сторонников за границей в 1930-1940 годах сводят лишь к пропагандистской работе. Но это не так. Троцкисты действовали активно: организовали, используя поддержку лиц, связанных с абвером, мятеж против республиканского правительства в Барселоне в 1937 году. Из троцкистских кругов в спецслужбы Франции и Германии шли “наводящие” материалы о действиях компартий в поддержку Советского Союза. О связях с абвером лидеров троцкистского мятежа в Барселоне в 1937 году сообщил нам Шульце-Бойзен…Впоследствии, после ареста, гестапо обвинило его в передаче нам данной информации, и этот факт фигурировал в смертном приговоре гитлеровского суда по его делу.” (| Судоплатов, П. “Разведка и Кремль.” М., 1996, с. 88; | Haase, N. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin, 1993, S. 105) [1]

English translation from Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov, _The Intelligence Service and the Kremlin, Moscow 1996, p. 58: 

“In the interests of the political situation the activities of Trotsky and his supporters abroad in the 1930s are said to have been propaganda only. But this is not so. The Trotskyists were also involved in actions. Making us of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organized a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937. From Trotskyist circles in the French and German special intelligence services came “indicative” information concerning the actions of the Communist Parties in supporting the Soviet Union. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schuze-Boysen… Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this fact figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case.” 

This passage is indeed in Sudoplatov’s book. But the footnote to the Haase volume is not. I assume it was added either by Lifshits, author of the Russian-language article, or by Trosten, author of the German version. 

So I obtained the Haase volume. The text on pp. 105 ff. is the actual text of the German Reichskriegsgericht (Military Court of the Reich) against Harro Schulze-Boysen, charged with espionage for the Soviet Union (Haase, Norbert. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen die nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin: Druckerei der Justizvollzugsanstalt Tegel, 1993).The relevant paragraph, also on p. 105, reads thus:

Anfang 1938, während des Spanienkrieges, erfuhr der Angeklagte dienstlich, daß unter Mitwirkung des deutschen Geheimdienstes im Gebiet von Barcelona ein Aufstand gegen die dortige rote Regierung vorbereitet werde. Diese Nachricht wurde von ihm gemeinsam mit der von Pöllnitz der sowjetrussischen Botschaft in Paris zugeleitet.

English translation: 

“At the beginning of 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the accused learned in his official capacity that a rebellion against the local red government in the territory of Barcelona was being prepared with the co-operation of the German Secret Service. This information, together with that of Pöllnitz, was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris.”

“Pöllnitz” was Gisella von Pöllnitz, a recent recruit to the “Red Orchestra” (Rote Kapelle) anti-Nazi Soviet spy ring who worked for United Press and who “shoved the report through the mailbox of the Soviet embassy” (Brysac, Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra. Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 237). 

* * * * *

By itself Sudoplatov’s statement only proves that Soviet intelligence sincerely believed that Trotskyists were involved with “persons with ties to German military intelligence” in preparing this revolt. By the time he wrote his memoirs, in the 1990s, Sudoplatov was very anti-Soviet, and showed much remorse for many of the things he had done in the Soviet secret service. The fact that he insisted that the Trotskyists were involved with the Nazis in the “May Days” revolt of 1937 in Barcelona surely means that he sincerely believed it was true.

The information from the German Military Court published by Haase provides independent confirmation of Sudoplatov’s statement and of Soviet contentions at the time. It fully confirms Communist suspicions that German intelligence was involved in planning the Barcelona revolt of May 1937. Communist hostility towards Trotskyists and Trotskyism becomes understandable in the light of this information. 

There’s good evidence that the real panic over clandestine Trotskyists did not take place, even in the USSR, until after the May Days in Barcelona, 1937. Stalin’s speeches (two of them) to the February – March 1937 Central Committee Plenum, minimized the dangers of Trotskyists; declared them marginalized; and encouraged CC members not to discriminate against people who used to be Trotskyists but no longer were. [2]

By June or July this had all changed. At the enlarged session of the Military Soviet, held on June 1-4 to discuss the just-uncovered and very serious Tukhachevsky conspiracy, Stalin gave a speech in which he states that Tukhachevsky and the rest “tried to make out of the USSR another Spain.” [3] The meant create a civil war, of course. But specifically it seems to have meant: Do what the Trotskyists and others had done in the May Days in Barcelona — stab the USSR in the back in the course of a war with the fascists.

The Soviet NKVD had very credible evidence that Trotskyists were collaborating with the German military and Japanese. Soviet leaders certainly believed it. Pavel Sudoplatov believed it, in his memoirs, and he became very, very “anti-Stalin” and anti-Soviet in his old age.

The real panicked hunt for hidden oppositionists, Rights, Trotskyists, and others, began after that Plenum, in the atmosphere of the Tukhachevsky conspiracy. But the Tukhachevsky conspiracy was preceded by the Barcelona “May Days” revolt. 

The German Military Court evidence cited above shows that the German Secret Service was involved in the planning of the “May Days” revolt. Later in May 1937 Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky wrote out by hand a lengthy statement in which he admitted to conspiring against the Soviet Union with the German General Staff. [4] Tukhachevsky stated that the commanders discussed their planned revolt with Trotsky. These events provide the most likely explanation for the beginning of the fervent persecution by Communists of Trotskyists in Spain. [5]

Notes

[1] S Lifshits, “Preslovutyi Doklak Khrushcheva, ili CACATUM NON EST PICTUM”. In Moskva Sadovoe Kol’tso, http://m-s-k.newmail.ru , downloaded July 5 2004. The same article is published as a pamphlet in German: Gersch Troston, Chruschtschows berüchtigte Rede, oder CACATUM NON EST PICTUM (hingeschissen ist nicht gemalt). «Marxistisch-leninistische Schriftenreihe für Geschichte, Politik, Ökonomie und Philosophie» (ISSN 1861-2954), Heft 45. Berlin: Ernst-Thaelmann-Verlag, n.d. I have verified all the Russian and English quotations in this article with the originals.

[2] J.V. Stalin, Mastering Bolshevism. NY: Workers Library Publishers, 1937, pp. 26-7; 43-4. Cited from http://ptb.lashout.net/marx2mao/Stalin/MB37.html

[3] J.V. Stalin, “Speech by J.V. Stalin at the Ministry of Defense,” Secret Documents. Toronto, CA: Northstar Compass, n.d. [1996], p. 115: “These people tried to make out of the USSR another Spain…” Original in Lubianka. Stalin i Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosbezopasnosti NKVD 1937-1938. Eds. V.N. Khaustov et al. Moscow: “Materik”, 2004, p. 206; Stalin, Sochineniia [Collected Works], vol. 14, at http://grachev62.narod.ru/stalin/t14/t14_48.htm 

[4] Partial English translation in Steven J. Main, “The Arrest and ‘Testimony’ of Marshal of the Soviet Union M.N. Tukhachevsky (May – June 1937),” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 10, No. 1 (1997), 151-195. Trotsky and his followers are mentioned throughout Tukhachevsky’s statement.

[5] It’s important to emphasize that there is no evidence that any Trotskyists were killed by Soviet or other communists in Spain, with the exception of Andres Nin, POUM leader and former secretary of Trotsky. See Grover Furr, “Fraudulent Anti-Communist Scholarship From A “Respectable” Conservative Source: Prof. Paul Johnson,” at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/pol/pauljohnsonfraud.html

Grover Furr: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Scholarly Work: Ronald Radosh’s “Spain Betrayed”

9780300089813

Grover Furr

Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War by Ronald Radosh (Editor), Mary Radosh Habeck (Editor), Grigory Sevostianov (Editor). Annals of Communism series. Yale University Press, June 2001.

1. Long awaited and published to rave reviews — albeit predictably by Cold War conservatives (Arnold Beichman) and anti-communist liberals (Christopher Hitchens) — Radosh’s commentary on the 81 documents from the Comintern archives in Moscow concerning its involvement in the Spanish Civil War turns out to be notable for quite another reason: it is an utterly fraudulent work. [1]

2. In the course of this review-essay I’ll present a lot of evidence to substantiate this serious charge. I’ll also discuss, though briefly, the major positive reviews of the book. They are full of the same stuff. In several instances, an innocent reader might think that the reviewers had not actually read the documents themselves, but only Radosh’s commentary. For how could anyone compare what the Comintern documents state with what Radosh says about them, without noticing the enormous discrepancies between the two?

3. I won’t say much in this report about the documents themselves. Many of them are fascinating and valuable, though Radosh, in his zeal to arraign the communists, basically neglects them.

4. But one conclusion is so striking that it cannot be left unstated. Far from showing Soviet “betrayal,” these 81 documents make the Comintern, the International Brigades, and the massive Soviet aid to Spain appear in an extremely positive light. Reading the documents alone, and ignoring Radosh’s “commentary,” any objective person will come away with tremendous respect for the communist effort in the Spanish Civil War, not only by the Comintern and the justly famed International Brigades, but of the Soviet Union — or, as Radosh says it, in his crude demonizing synecdoche, of “Moscow” and “Stalin.”

5. Despite itself, Radosh’s book represents something valuable: an object lesson in the rhetorical strategies of anti-communism. Perhaps the biggest question of all — “Why lie, if the truth is on your side?” — will require a few remarks about the uses of anti-Stalinism in foreclosing any objective understanding of the successes and failures of the communist movement.

6. Radosh’s book contains so many errors and distortions that even a much longer review could not discuss them all. Therefore, I examine the documents in which the major “revelations” are supposedly to be found. To identify those, I’ve used (a) the four-page publicity handout from Yale University Press that accompanies the book, and (b) a number of the major reviews favorable to this volume, from leading publications (all are listed at the end). A few other documents were chosen because they seem to me particularly interesting. This close examination constitutes the bulk of the review.

7. I’ll also point out some examples of simple editorial incompetence. Radosh could have provided useful summaries of long and significant documents, or helpful and specific references to other scholarly work — surely the duty of a competent commentator — but scarcely ever does.

8. At the end of the review I’ve included some remarks of a more general nature about the issues raised both by these documents themselves and by Radosh’s commentary. There’s a good deal that can be said by Marxists in criticism of the Bolsheviks and the Comintern during the Stalin period — or of any political group, communist or not, at any period — and in conclusion I’ll allude to one or two things with special reference to Spain. But any and all criticism should be based on what actually happened as that can be deduced from the best evidence available, rather than on fabrications or demonization, as with Radosh and many other Cold-War writers, either from the Right or, not infrequently, the so-called Left.

9. What follows is a short outline of the main ideological frameworks for interpreting the Spanish Civil War. Some knowledge of them is essential to an appreciation of Radosh’s interpretation, the documents themselves, and the present review. Considerations of space preclude any more detailed discussion of the foundational texts of these frameworks. (I am planning a critique of Orwell’s influential book at a future time.)

10. The Spanish Civil War has always posed a special problem for the kind of anti-communist who is determined to argue that the leadership of the international Communist movement never acted out of any idealistic motives. Such people are convinced — at any rate, they are determined to convince others — that all communist struggles, no matter how noble in appearance, were in reality aimed at manipulative, cynical, authoritarian goals, ultimately far worse than those of the capitalist exploiters they professed to oppose. Khrushchev’s portrayal of a malevolent, virtually demonic Stalin after 1956, while it differed little from Trotsky’s, was far more influential, and except in China and Albania quickly became widely accepted within the Communist movement itself. It was essential in smoothing the path for Trotskyist and, in terms of Spain, Anarchist narratives, hitherto current only among tiny, marginalized groups.

11. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is basically such an account, though Orwell’s superior literary ability, British patriotism during World War II, and subsequent endorsement of mainstream Cold War ideology, gave his work the status of a somewhat independent authority. Orwell’s book remains the main representative of these anti-communist paradigms, the only book about the Spanish Civil War that most people ever encounter.

12. According to this interpretation, further popularized in British director Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom (1995), Trotskyists and, especially, Anarchists are the true revolutionaries, collectivizing the land, ceding control of factories to the workers, and promoting egalitarian relations generally. The Communists are portrayed as counter-revolutionaries, whose rank-and-file think they are fighting to defeat the fascists in order that, in the victorious bourgeois-democratic Spanish Republic, they can then initiate a struggle for working-class revolution, but whose leadership — Stalin — aims in reality at a bleak authoritarian dictatorship of the kind Trotskyists, Anarchists, conventional capitalist anti-communists and even fascists, claimed was the state of affairs in the USSR itself. This creates a certain tension within the otherwise “united front” of anti-communist versions of the Spanish Civil War, since capitalist anti-communism is normally aimed at the radical, not the putatively conservative, nature of the communist movement.

13. The Communist version, on the other hand — the version by far the best supported by the evidence — is that the “United Front Against Fascism” and for a liberal, bourgeois-democratic (and therefore capitalist) society was the only way to unite as many social forces as possible, including nationalists, urban capitalists, and wealthier peasants, to defeat the fascists. According to this view, upon victory a Spanish Republic would have a strong, organized working class which would continue the fight for progressive social reforms and, ultimately, socialist revolution. The Communists held that to begin a revolutionary struggle in the midst of the war against the fascist armies would guarantee the defeat of the Republic — a defeat which, in fact, happened.

14. A critique of the Communist view from the Left is certainly warranted — indeed, essential. But what passes for a “left” critique, the Anarchist-Trotskyist version outlined above, accepts the basic premises of the reactionary Cold War critique, to the point that it can be cited in service to the latter, as Radosh does here. To clear the ground for a real Left critique, it is first necessary to recover the historical truth of what did, in fact, happen, both in the Spanish Civil War and in the Soviet Union itself. A real Left critique of the Comintern’s politics which both fully and correctly appreciates its successes and goes beyond it to identify the main roots of its failures, is yet to be made, despite a few promising starts which have long been available, albeit little known (see below, and note 6).

15. Radosh’s own view, as represented in his commentary in Spain Betrayed, is contradictory. In places Radosh argues, according to the fashion of conservative capitalist anti-communists, that the Comintern was hiding its truly revolutionary intentions. In other passages, however, he endorses the Orwell-Trotskyist-Anarchist view that the Communists were a conservative force that “betrayed” the revolutionary potential in Spain. Radosh seems untroubled by, indeed unaware of, this basic contradiction, as in the case of the many passages in which he — in the most generous description of his practice — makes flagrant and egregious errors in reading the very texts upon which he is “commenting.”

Document 5

16. Document 5, a report by Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to the Secretariat of the ECCI (Executive Committee, Communist International) of July 23, 1936, contains the following lines:

We should not, at the present stage, assign the task of creating soviets and try to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in Spain. That would be a fatal mistake.

Radosh claims that this statement (a statement repeated in the press release)

. . . supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (5-6)

But it does not. It clearly states that there are “stages,” the present one being the stage of “maintaining unity with the petty bourgeoisie and the peasants and the radical intelligentsia . . .” (11). Radosh’s claim could only be true if he gave evidence that the Communists were denying what everyone would have expected of them — to wish to move to another “stage,” once the fascists were defeated. Radosh gives no evidence that the Communists were making any such claims to have abandoned the ultimate goal of a Soviet-style revolution in Spain. So there can be no question of “disguising their true objective.”

17. It ought also to be noted that Radosh also wants it “both ways.” Sometimes he criticizes the Communists for opposing social revolution, which the Anarchists supposedly stood for. This is Ken Loach’s main contention in Land and Freedom. But other times, as here, Radosh criticizes the Communists for wanting social revolution but supposedly “disguising” their intentions.

18. Document 5 also offers an obvious mistranslation from the Russian. Immediately after the lines quoted above, Radosh et al. allege that Dimitrov wrote the following:

Therefore we must say: act in the guise of defending the Republic. . . . (p.11; emphasis added)

In his commentary Radosh states:

The very careful use of these terms, as well as the injunction to “act under the semblance of defending the republic,” supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (pp. 5-6; emphasis added)

19. Evidently Radosh is referring to a different translation of the document than that which finally ended up in the volume, although arguably “in the guise of” and “under the semblance of” convey much the same thing: duplicity, dishonesty. However, there is an interesting footnote in the text of Document 5 attached to the phrase “in the guise.” That note, number 11 on page 515, reads thus: “Literally, ‘under the banner.'” In other words, what Dimitrov actually said is this:

Therefore we must say: act under the banner of defense of the Republic. . . .

20. The question is: What does “under the banner” — in Russian, “pod znamenem” — mean in Russian? The answer is: it means the opposite of what Radosh says it means. Rather than “under the semblance” or “in the guise,” it means “in service to” or “in defense of.” At exactly this time, one of the foremost Soviet philosophical journals was titled “Pod Znamenem Marksisma“: literally, “Under the Banner of Marxism,” often translated as “In Defense of Marxism.” No one would even think of translating that title as “In the Guise of,” or “Under the Semblance of,” Marxism! “Under the banner of” is a military metaphor, meaning “In the ranks of.”

21. In other words, what Dimitrov actually said was:

. . . act in defense of the Republic. . . .

There must be an interesting story behind that footnote. Whoever translated Document 5 — Radosh tells us (p. xxxi) that there were two translators for the Russian documents — that person evidently knew that “in the guise” was not the correct translation, and wanted to tell the world, even if by a footnote, that he or she was not responsible for this particular mistranslation.

22. This is the only mistranslation from the Russian that can be discerned in this collection, because Radosh et al. don’t give us the documents in the original languages (mostly Russian, but a few in Spanish, German and French). This would have been easy to do — on a book-related web page, for example. But the way this mistranslation is treated makes one wonder whether there may be more.

Document 42

23. Radosh spends a lot of words on Documents 42 through 44 because one of the central points of his book is that in these documents, especially Document 42, is to be found the proof that the Communists instigated the Barcelona uprising of May, 1937 as a pretext for violently suppressing their Anarchist opposition.

24. Briefly, the context for Radosh’s comments is as follows, in the words of Helen Graham, who has written authoritatively and most recently on this event (Graham 1999, p. 485):

On the afternoon of Monday 3 May 1937 a detachment of police attempted to seize control of Barcelona’s central telephone exchange (Telefónica) in order to remove the anarchist militia forces present therein. . . . Those days of social protest and rebellion have been represented in many accounts, of which the single best known is still George Orwell’s contemporary diary account, Homage to Catalonia, recently given cinematic form in Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom. It is paradoxical, then, that the May events remain among the least understood in the history of the civil war.

25. Radosh takes Document 42 to be directly related to this event:

. . . we have the proof that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern and Moscow, had decided to provoke a clash, in the full understanding that the outcome would give them precisely the opportunity they had long been seeking. (174)

Radosh does not bother to tell us what would have been wrong with the communists’ seizing the telephone exchange from the anarchists. After all, the government, not one of the various parties, should have been in control of the exchange. And the assault was led by the Police Chief of Barcelona who, though a communist, was also a government official.

26. The anarchists had clearly been prepared for such an attack for a long time — after all, they had a machine-gun nest in the first floor which prevented the police from seizing the building at once. What justification did the anarchists — not the government, but one of the political parties in Barcelona — have controlling the telephone exchange in the first place?

27. The words that Radosh takes as “proof” that “the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct” — I emphasize “essentially” because even Radosh feels he has to qualify this statement, evidently realizing he is on weak grounds here — are as follows:

. . . the author of the report noted that the Communists had decided not to wait for a crisis, but to “hasten it and, if necessary, to provoke it” (emphasis added).

But Document 42 says nothing whatsoever about the attack on the telephone exchange, or about any plan for confrontation with the anarchists. The sentence quoted in part by Radosh in his commentary reads this way in full:

In a word, to go decisively and consciously to battle against Caballero and his entire circle, consisting of some leaders of the UGT. This means not to wait passively for a “natural” unleashing of the hidden government crisis, but to hasten it and, if necessary, provoke it, in order to obtain a solution for these problems.  . . . The leadership of the party is more and more coming to the conviction that with Caballero and his circle the Republic will be defeated, despite all the conditions guaranteeing victory. (194)

These lines do not refer at all to the attempt by the Communist Chief of Police to take possession for the Republican government of the telephone exchange that had been unlawfully seized and held by the anarchists, the event that precipitated the “May Days” in Barcelona and to which Radosh tries to tie this statement, or to any plan to incite any actions against the anarchists. Instead, the paragraph quoted just above refers to the previous points 8 through 14 of Document 42, in which the unnamed communist author says that the PCE has decided to take action against the Caballero government. There is nothing whatsoever in this document that connects it with the attempt to retake the telephone exchange.

28. Radosh’s allegation — one of the “bombshell” findings Radosh claims to have found — is a lie. This whole “discovery” is a complete swindle on the unsuspecting reader. I stress this point because Radosh’s supposed “discovery” here has been so widely touted as one of the major “revelations” of these Soviet documents. For example, the Press Release from Yale University Press that accompanied the books publication lists seven documents and summarizes what Radosh says they contain. The blurb on Document 42 reads:

Barcelona — the civil war within the Civil War. The five-day street battle in Barcelona was portrayed by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia and by Ken Loach in the film Land and Freedom. The historical dispute has always been: Was the anarchist reaction deliberately provoked? Document 42 shows that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern, decided to provoke the clash. (emphasis added)

We should also note, in passing, the esteem in which Loach and Orwell are held by establishment anti-Communist ideologues like Radosh, and the way in which the echo-chamber of the “big lie” functions in the blurb above by pairing these supposed “authorities” with the specious “facts” that Radosh is creating here.

29. Richard Bernstein, whose very positive review of Radosh’s book appeared in the New York Times, tacitly recognizes that Document 42 did not prove what Radosh says it proves:

Two weeks later, the Communists, in the view of this book’s editors, did provoke the desired crisis, unleashing the Barcelona street battles that essentially eliminated the anarchist leadership and led to the replacement of Largo Caballero by a more malleable premier. [emphasis added]

(Bernstein makes it sound like Caballero was the leader of the anarchists; in fact, he was head of the government and a Socialist.)

30. In the interest of good sense, I would like to make a few additional remarks at this point.

1. The assumption, in Radosh’s Commentary and in other anti-communist accounts Radosh quotes, is that, by taking the Telephone exchange away from the anarchists and returning it to government control, the Communists were “provoking” the anarchists.

2. The anarchists had no business whatsoever holding the telephone exchange. The Police Chief, besides being a communist, was also a government officer. If removing an armed group of occupiers who have taken control of the telephone exchange is not a legitimate matter for the police, what is?

3. Imagine if the Communists had occupied the telephone exchange, fortified it with a machine-gun nest, interrupted government phone calls whenever they wanted to, and then a non-Communist police chief had tried to oust them? Would Radosh not take that as evidence that the Communists wanted to take over?

Document 43

31. One of Radosh’s statements about Document 43 has been cited in several favorable reviews of his book:

As the Comintern document cited earlier revealed, Stalin had in mind a Spanish version of the Moscow purge trials most likely to be held in Barcelona. (209) [2] 

The document in question, No. 43, is a report from an anonymous source, presumably to the Comintern. In it the informant states:

The immediate political consequences of the putsch [the anarchist attempt to seize power — this is the way this writer interprets the “May Days” in Barcelona] are very great. Above all, the following one: the Trotskyist-POUMists revealed themselves to the nation as people who belong totally to Franco’s fifth column. The people are nourishing unbelievable animosity toward the Trotskyists. The masses are demanding energetic and merciless repression. This is what is demanded by the masses of people of all of Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona. They demand complete disarmament, arrest of the leaders, the creation of a special military tribunal for the Trotskyists! This is what the masses demand. (196-197)

In his discussion of this document on p. 176, Radosh wrote:

In other words, the call was out for the creation in Spain of the equivalent of the Moscow purge trials. . .

“In other words” (why not use the same words?) “the call was out for” can only mean one thing: Radosh assumes that our unnamed informant, writing to the Comintern in Moscow, is speaking for someone other than himself. But this assumption is invalid. This document does not mean that any “call is out.” So far as we know, it’s the opinion of the writer alone. After all, he’s reporting to the Comintern. If the PCE, or Soviet advisers, had “put out the call” for a Moscow-style purge trial, he would have said so, for why hide it to the Comintern? And if Stalin had expressed interest in a Spanish “purge trial,” surely this writer would have said so as well.

Document 44

32. Document 44 is a report to the Comintern sent to Marshal Voroshilov, Commissar (Minister) of Defense of the USSR and the man whose office oversaw military equipment and material aid for the Spanish Republic, by a certain “Goratsy,” whom Radosh, in another failure of his editorial responsibility, does not further identify. Radosh accuses the Comintern of lying to itself, in that it states the communist belief

that the “uprising” carried out by “the extremist wing [of the anarchists] in the block with the POUM” was prepared in advance over a “long period of time.” (177) [This refers to the “May Days” in Barcelona — GF].

33. A few considerations are in order:

1. How does Radosh know that this is false? He has not proven it.

Furthermore, Radosh has already claimed that, in Document 42, he has evidence that the Comintern itself planned the Barcelona uprising, whereas here the Comintern reporter blames the uprising on the Anarchists. Why would the Comintern lie to itself? If the Comintern had successfully provoked this confrontation, as Radosh claims, why wouldn’t they be gloating over their success? Instead, they blame it on the anarchists, even in private communications within the Comintern. (206)

2. The document itself claims that the uprising was unexpected by the Communists. Once again: if it had been not only expected, but in fact “provoked,” as Radosh would have it, why would this not be noted, with pride, as a successful operation?

Document 1

34. Here a Spanish Communist in Moscow is writing to the Communist Party in Spain.

Radosh: “. . . the imperative tone taken by Moscow made it clear that there was little room for argument or maneuver by the small and relatively powerless PCE . . . (1-2).

Doc. 1: “After considering the alarming situation in connection with the Fascist conspiracy in SPAIN, we advise you: — . . . Please let us know your opinions on our proposals.” (7,9; emphasis added)

Conclusion: This document is not “imperative” in tone. Radosh is simply trying to make “Moscow” appear dictatorial and high-handed. The text will not support that interpretation, so he simply puts it into his commentary.

35. I put “Moscow” in quotation marks because this message, while certainly sent from the city of Moscow, was sent by a Spanish Communist, “Dios Major,” who signed the document. Why doesn’t Radosh mention this, saying only that “Moscow” sent it? Perhaps because to say that one Spanish Communist is “advising” other Spanish Communists does not support the impression — which Radosh evidently wants to give — that the Bolsheviks, Stalin, the Politburo, or whatever “Moscow” usually conveys, was trying to say anything to anybody. It appears that through metonymy, a linguistic trope in which “Moscow” represents any Communist leader, anywhere, allows Radosh to reduce all Communist leaders to “Moscow,” and “Moscow” to “Stalin.” Demonize Stalin, then, and all Communist leadership is automatically demonized as well.

36. Radosh gives other invidious readings of Document 1, but is rather vague about it. I’ll mention only one more example.

37. Document 1 reads, in part:

4. It is necessary to take preventative measures with the greatest urgency against the putchist attempts of the anarchists, behind which the hand of the Fascists is hidden.

The worst one could say about this piece of analysis — given, we recall, by one Spanish Communist to others, all of whom had extensive experience with the Spanish anarchists and hated them just as the anarchists, in turn, hated the communists — is that it was rhetorical over-statement to say that “the hand of the Fascists is hidden behind” the anarchists’ attempts at seizing power.

38. But here is what Radosh himself says about the anarchists:

Throughout the conflict, Soviet and Comintern advisers would decry the ‘subversive’ activities of the anarchists, and particularly their refusal to curtail revolutionary activities or to allow the formation of a regular, disciplined army. (3, emphasis added)

Radosh admits that the anarchists took this attitude towards the army. Yet how could the Fascists — who certainly had “a regular, disciplined army” — ever be defeated unless the Republic had one too? Guerrilla warfare — what Mao Tse-tung and Vo Nguyen Giap later refined into the doctrine of “People’s War” — is very important. But no theoretician of guerrilla or people’s war ever suggested that a war could be won without “a regular, disciplined army.”

39. In refusing to form such an army the anarchists played directly into the hands of the Fascists. Yet even while admitting this, Radosh attacks the Communists for stating the obvious: that this played into the Fascists’ hands. Elsewhere, in passages Radosh does not comment on, the Communists expressed the view that Fascist agents chose to infiltrate the Anarchists precisely for this reason.

40. Radosh’s Commentary continues:

The demand to establish a single union also stemmed from a new understanding of how to construct a socialist state: not through open revolution, but through the absorption of independent unions or parties into a single entity controlled by the Communists.

Radosh gives no evidence to support this statement at all. He certainly can’t cite Document 1, the document he is supposedly elucidating, because in it Dios Mayor proposes that

the C.G.T. (U.) [the Communist-led union movement] ought to propose to C.N.T. [the Socialist-led union movement] the immediately construction in the center and locally of joint committees to fight against the Fascist insurgents and to prepare the unification of the syndicates.

. . . At the same time you must establish broad social legislation, with extensive rights reserved in the unified C.G.T. . . .

41. Dios Mayor is proposing that the Communists call for unified action and a unified trade union organization. Radosh suggests that there is something underhanded about calling for unification: the Communists want to “absorb independent unions into a single entity controlled by the Communists.” But there is no suggestion of this in the document itself. I would note also Radosh’s concept of “absorption” here is standard anticommunist rhetoric. Other parties might “win a political struggle” for leadership of an organization, but communists only “control” — never “lead” — and “absorb,” with connotations of “suffocation,” “snuffing out independence.” [3] 

42. One might say, “Well, Radosh hates Communism, so for Radosh the communists can never do anything right.” But it’s more than that. For Radosh, if a non-communist makes a good proposal — say, trade union unity — that is good; whereas when Communists do the same thing, it’s bad. That’s because, for Radosh, communists never do anything honestly; their “dishonesty” is a given.

43. The interesting thing is that Radosh, using the documents his collaborators have selected, cannot demonstrate “dishonesty” on the part of the communists. An honest researcher would consider the possibility that, if the evidence at hand did not suggest the communists were “dishonest,” it just may possibly be because the communists were not dishonest.

Document 79

44. Radosh confesses that the previous document, no. 78, “suggests that he [Negrín] enjoyed a degree of autonomy from Communist control” (497). Radosh further acknowledges that even some anti-communist scholars of the SCW believe Negrín was “a more independent figure.” Radosh stresses that Document 79, a report by Marchenko, a Soviet and a Comintern representative, to Litvinov (Soviet Foreign Minister) and Voroshilov,

. . . makes it clear that the Spaniard’s views of politics closely coincided with the Soviets’, while the similarities between his vision for postwar Spain and that of the Soviet Union are striking This document suggests that if the Republicans had won the Civil War, Spain would have been very different from the nation that existed before 18 July 1936 and very close to the post-World War II “people’s democracies” of Europe.

This is false. Document 79 itself reveals that Marchenko was not supportive at all of Negrín’s outline of what a post-war Spanish Republic might look like:

I reacted in a very reserved way to Negrín’s idea and drew his attention to the difficulties and complications that the organization of a new party would cause. . . . If there are military successes, he can begin the formation of “his” united-Spanish political party, with the participation of the Communists if they will allow it, and without the Communists (and that means against them) if they refuse. (499; emphasis added).

The post-WWII “people’s democracies” of Eastern Europe were (a) propped up by the presence of the Red Army; (b) directly on the borders of the USSR; and (c) governed by Communist Parties (or communist-socialist united parties) run frankly by pro-Soviet communists. Negrín’s conception of a post-war Spanish Republic is very different from the post-war pro-Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe, sharing no essential similarity with them at all. Yet the allegation that a post-war Republic would have been forced into the mould of the post-WWII Eastern European regimes is, supposedly, one of the major “discoveries” of this collection of documents. This document alone shows that this claim of Radosh’s is without foundation.

Document 62

45. This is an important report by Palmiro Togliatti, head Comintern representative in Spain, to Dimitrov in Moscow. It is of great interest, and Radosh can find nothing to say about it that is at all negative. He makes false statements about its contents, however.

46. For example, Radosh writes:

Togliatti’s reports of are special importance. It is clear that, unlike other apparatchiks, Togliatti was extremely candid and forthright in his observations. (370, emphasis added)

But Radosh gives not a single example of these “other apparatchiks,” supposedly not-candid and not-forthright. Since Togliatti was later the head of the Italian Communist Party and a major leader of the Comintern, it does not seem to have hurt his reputation to have been “extremely candid and forthright.”

47. Note, too, Radosh’s use of a Russian term for an official of the Italian Communist Party. Radosh would never refer to an official of the Spanish Socialist party as an “apparatchik.” The point here is to give the impression, by whatever means possible, that “Moscow” controls everything.

48. Radosh’s discussion of this report contains several outright lies, including one that is very blatant — always provided that one actually reads the document itself. Radosh states:

At the same time, in Catalonia, Togliatti called for a policy of reinforcing the moderation of the Popular Front, rather than demagogic appeals to a revolution-minded populace. If the anarchists tried to move toward open revolt and stage a coup, he advised one solution only: “We will finally do away with them.” (emphasis added)

Here is the passage (390):

As for the anarchists, on this question, in my opinion, we have not merely hesitated, but made absolutely real mistakes in our tactics [Togliatti is referring to methods of political struggle — GF.] On the role from Barcelona to Valencia, I posed the question to the comrades accompanying me. Their opinion was very simple: the anarchists have lost all influence, in Barcelona (!) there is not even one anarchist worker, we are waiting until they organize a second putsch, and we will finally do away with them [emphasis added].

So this attitude is not that of Togliatti, but of some “comrades.” Here is what Togliatti wrote about this attitude; this passage begins immediately after that above:

This opinion is very widespread in the party, in particular in Catalonia, and when we stick to such an idea, it is impossible to carry out a policy of rapprochement with the anarchist masses and differentiation of their leaders. (390; emphasis added)

Radosh attributed to Togliatti the very views that Togliatti cites in order to strongly oppose them!

49. Again, Radosh writes:

While publicly advocating attempts at cooperation with opposition anarchists, Togliatti noted that their leaders were “scum, closely tied to Caballero,” and had to be fought via “large-scale action from below.” (371)

It is clear from the context of p. 390 — see the emphasis in the quotation above — that the “large-scale action from below” that Togliatti hoped for was action by the “anarchist masses,” as he stated in the passage quoted above, which alone can lead to “differentiation of their leaders.” In other words, Togliatti proposed relying on a democratic plan — winning over the anarchist masses to replace or repudiate their own leadership. Communist authors show appreciation for the political instincts of the anarchist rank-and-file many times in these documents; it is the anarchist leadership they see as the stumbling blocks to effective unity against Franco.

50. In addition to Togliatti, another Soviet adviser, Antonov-Ovseenko comes across very well in these documents. Radosh seriously distorts Document 22. Antonov-Ovseenko wrote:

The PSUC repeatedly proposed to the government that weapons at the rear [i.e. in areas not involved in battle] be seized and put at the disposal of the government. (p. 80)

Radosh calls this “Communist attempts to seize all the weapons at the rear (and thus to disarm the anarchists)” (p. 71). In reality, the PSUC (the Unified Socialist Party) — not just the communists, who were only a part of the PSUC — was proposing that armed men should be at the front fighting the war, and that arms were needed at the front, not in the rear. Orwell himself complains time and again about the obsolete, broken, and useless arms available to his own unit at the front, and that even these arms were in short supply. If, as Radosh suggests here, the armed anarchists were all in the rear, what were they doing there? If armed communists had been “all in the rear,” would Radosh not think this sinister?

51. In Document 21 Antonov-Ovseenko quotes an informant, “X,” who told him that the anarchists were carrying out mass executions in Catalonia and that they had executed 40 priests.

X. told me . . . [t]hree days ago, the government seriously clashed with the anarchists: the CNT seized a priest. . . . The priest pointed out another 101 members of his order who had hidden themselves in different places. They [the anarchists] agreed to free all 102 men for three hundred thousand francs. All 102 appeared, but when the money had been handed over, the anarchists shot forty of them. (76-7; emphasis added).

52. Radosh does not condemn the anarchists at this point for shooting the priests. Nor does he suggest that this charge against the anarchists is false (p. 71). Imagine if the communists had been executing up to 50 people a day, as “X” told Antonov-Ovseenko — would Radosh have let this pass without criticism? Rather, such a document would have been featured as a major find, one of the most important documents in the book. Yet when anarchists are alleged to be committing mass murder, and Communists are opposed to it, Radosh scarcely mentions the matter, and certainly does not praise the Communists for stopping such massacres. This illustrates one of the central weaknesses in Radosh’s commentary: he is, in fact, not much interested in these documents except insofar as they can be used to show the communists as “bad.”

53. A strongly positive review of the Radosh book in First Things states baldly: “Although leftist atrocities against the Church, including the execution of thousands of nuns and priests, were widespread, they are nowhere mentioned in these documents.” In his rush to provide Radosh with another positive review, this anonymous reviewer in a right-wing, “pro-religion” journal clearly never read even Radosh’s own commentary, much less the documents themselves.

Document 46

54. This is a report by Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to Marshal Voroshilov. Radosh makes many false statements about the contents of this 14-page report. For example, Radosh states that “the writer [of the report] came to the stunning conclusion that the war and revolution “cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands.” (212). In fact, Dimitrov explicitly refuses to endorse the idea that the only way to victory is if the Communist party takes power.

The influence of the party is growing more and more among the masses, and chiefly among the soldiers; the conviction is growing among them that the war and the popular revolution cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands. Who knows, that idea may indeed be correct. (232; emphasis added)

Arnold Beichman’s review makes the same inaccurate statement: “It is sad to read these Soviet archives and read the words of a Soviet agent to the Comintern’s Georgi Dimitrov: ‘The war cannot end successfully if the Communist Party does not take power in its own hands.'”

55. In fact, this is a very interesting statement, especially coming from Dimitrov, famous since the Seventh Comintern Congress in 1935 for championing the concept of the Communist International’s abandoning its independent advocacy of socialist revolution in order to make possible “united fronts” with all anti-fascist parties, as in Spain. The Spanish Communists, with the support of the Comintern, were struggling hard to make the United Front in Spain work. Here Dimitrov shows that he himself has doubts about it. The documents published in this volume could indeed provide much evidence for an argument that it was precisely the insistence on a United Front with the Spanish socialists and Anarchists that doomed the Republic. A competent commentary should have discussed this issue.

Document 70

56. This long report by General Walter (a Polish communist general whose real name was Karol Svershevsky) is of special interest since it includes the longest discussion of the International Brigades among the documents in this volume. These pages give Radosh a chance to slander not only the Soviets, but the members of the International Brigades as well, and he tries his best to do so by ignoring positive statements made about the Brigadistas in the documents at hand, while emphasizing the criticisms made about some of them.

57. Radosh begins with the following statement:

By early 1938, the international units were important to the Soviets and the Comintern only as a means of scoring points in the propaganda war and as bargaining chips in negotiations with the other great powers. (431)

Radosh continues immediately with the words, “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow.” However, nowhere in these documents is the statement above documented in the least.

58. Walter shows admirable frankness in discussing both strengths and weaknesses within the Brigades. Radosh ignores the strengths and distorts Walter’s words about the weaknesses.

59. For example, Radosh generalizes Walter’s criticism of some Brigadistas, that they thought themselves superior to the Spanish, and implies Walter said it was true of all Brigadistas. (431)

In Sverchevsky’s words, they [the international soldiers] believed they had come to Spain to save it from the fascists. This viewpoint had led directly to their superior attitude toward the Spanish, whom they treated like second-class citizens. (431)

60. In reality, Walter’s remark is a general one, critical of an ideological attitude to be found in the Brigades (438). The words “second-class citizens” are never used. Rather, Walter’s incisive political criticism is directed towards a shallow understanding of internationalism among many Brigadistas, as illustrated in the following passage:

It seems to me that the fundamental reason for, and primary source of, our troubles lies, first and foremost, in a deeply rooted conviction which stubbornly refuses to die that we, the internationalists, are only “helping,” that we “save” and “are saving” Spain, which, they say, without us would not have escaped the fate of Abyssinia. This harmful theory prevents the German and Italian comrades from seeing the silhouettes of “Junkers” and “Fiats” in the fascist air force; they forget that here, on Spanish soil, they are fighting with arms in hand, that is, in the most effective and revolutionary way, first and foremost against their own enemy, which has already oppressed their own countries and peoples for many years. French “volunteers” do not always notice the direct connection between Franco, De la Roque, and Doriot; they forget . . . that their vital interests lie in preventing a fascist sentinel from looming on the last border, the Pyrenees. The Poles do not completely comprehend that every one of their victories here is a direct blow against the Pilsudski gang, which has turned their country into a prison for the people. . . . (438)

61. Walter is unsparingly frank in his criticisms of the shortcomings of the Brigades. His analysis appears to be a model of honest criticism, including much criticism of the performance of communists. But Walter’s report also contains the highest praise for the Brigades (for example, see the first three paragraphs, p. 436). Typically, Radosh’s commentary is utterly one-sided; he mentions many of Walter’s critical comments, but not a single one of the positive ones.

62. In his extremely positive review, Schwartz is more shameless yet in quoting some of Walter’s frank criticisms of the political problems in the Brigades as though they were characteristic. Radosh and Schwartz are of the same kidney; see Radosh’s praise of Schwartz on p. xxv.

Schwartz: “Anti-Semitism was a serious problem among these “progressive” fighters.”

Document 70: “It is true that even then there were more than enough petty squabbling and strong antagonisms in the international units. The francophobia was most transparently obvious . . . anti-Semitism flourished (and indeed it still has not been completely extinguished). . . . (448)

Schwartz: “Above all, the International Brigades possessed transport, food, and other supplies far in excess of their Spanish counterparts, with whom they resolutely refused to ‘share their wealth.'”

Document 70: “The English and American soldiers not long ago were smoking ‘Lucky Strikes,’ not paying attention to the Spanish fighters next to them, who had spent days looking for a few shreds of tobacco. The internationalists receive frequent packages from home but are very rarely willing to share them with their Spanish comrades.” (453)

Schwartz: “International Brigade officers accounted exactly for the numbers of foreigners killed and wounded in battle, but ‘never knew of the casualties of the Spanish personnel.'” [emphasis added]

Document 70: “Richard, the commander of the 11th Brigade, reporting on the casualties suffered by the brigade at Brunete and Saragossa, always gave the exact number of dead and wounded and frequently even the names of the internationalists. But he never knew the casualties of the Spanish personnel.” (454)

In this case, Schwartz transformed the behavior of one commander, in one battle — behavior that the Communist general Walter was holding up for criticism — as typical of “International Brigade officers” generally. (Schwartz gives no page numbers, so verifying his dishonest quotations is a tedious job.)

63. Neither Radosh nor Schwartz put Walter’s criticisms of the Brigades into context. But Walter does. In addition to high praise for the International Brigades’ heroism and importance in the war (see pp. 436 and 459) Walter explains the difficult problems of overcoming national chauvinism, racism and distrust among nationalities:

The International Brigades and units were created literally within the course of one or two days from those volunteers who were on hand at the time . . . there were subunits that contains dozens of nationalities all of these were people who were absolutely unacquainted, not accustomed to one another, and right off found themselves in a battle. If you add to this the extremely acute shortage of political workers, the lack of qualified military cadres, and a whole number of other needs, then the weaknesses and the solution to this problem (adequate at that time) are not surprising. (448)

Schwartz: “According to Walter, the International Brigades, inspired by slogans of worldwide unity against Fascism, were plagued by a ‘petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another. . . . Everyone was superior to the French, but even they were superior to the Spanish, who were receiving our aid and allowing us to fight against our own national and class enemies on their soil.'”

Immediately preceding the passage quoted by Schwartz (449) occurs the following passage (Document 70):

The great, very exalted, and revolutionary objective, armed struggle with fascism, united everyone, and for its sake Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, and representatives of the world’s numerous nationalities, including blacks, Japanese, and Chinese, had to agree among themselves, found a common language, suffered the same adversities, sacrificed their lives, died heroes, and were filled with the very same hatred for the common enemy.

But at the very same time as the volunteers were unifying, this petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another was going on. . . .” (448-9)

64. At a time when every army in the world except communist-led armies were organized along officially racist lines (and some, like the Israeli army, are officially racist even today), this struggle for internationalism inspired millions around the world. Yet the venomous Schwartz sees the racist attitudes among Brigadistas as “the most shocking element of the picture, especially for those who for sixty years have witnessed the Lincoln veterans preening themselves for their antifascist virtue” (emphasis added). The International Brigades set a standard for anti-racism and internationalism that has never been equaled before or since. Schwartz’s insult is simply a measure of his contempt for such values.

Conclusion: Why Lie If You Have the Truth On Your Side?

65. The flagrant inadequacy of Radosh’s discussion of these very important and fascinating documents itself would fatally mar any work with scholarly pretensions. But there is a deeper problem with Radosh’s work. It is not merely that Radosh fails to comment accurately on the documents he publishes (Habeck did most of the translations; Sevostianov did the archival work in Moscow). More than that: Radosh actually lies, time and again, about the contents of documents which readers can study themselves a few pages after his commentary.

66. Radosh is one of a small number of former Communist Party members who, once they realized that the Soviet-led world Communist movement no longer championed an egalitarian, non-exploitative world and was not the answer to human liberation, simply decided that the other side must, therefore, have been right all along and became uncritical supporters of American capitalism and imperialism. Anyone familiar with Radosh’s history — any reader of his autobiography, Commies and the many reviews of it — might expect to find a lot of anti-communist prejudice — for example, giving a document the most anti-communist possible interpretation whenever there was any ambiguity.

67. But even a wary reader would also expect at least a couple of real “revelations” of communist deviousness, dishonesty, double-dealing, some kind of “betrayal” — something that would at least partially substantiate the claims of Radosh, and of those who reviewed his book positively. Even the wary reader would be unprepared for the extent of Radosh’s dishonesty. Not a single of Radosh’s allegations of Comintern or Soviet trechery is born out by the documents he himself publishes and comments on.

68. Is Radosh deliberately lying about the documents on which he’s commenting? Is he hoping that his only readers will be like-mindedly anti-communist drones that will simply take his word at face value? Or that those who notice his mendacity will be ignored or marginalized? Some of the distortions in the commentary are so blatant that one cannot account for them in any other way.

69. Yet I think that dishonesty and incompetence cannot provide the whole answer. On a deeper level, Radosh’s anti-communism, and specifically his allegiance to the demonization of Stalin, seems to produce a kind of tunnel vision that imposes a systematic distortion on everything he sees or reads.

70. Radosh mentions the name of Stalin dozens of times, although none of his documents were written by Stalin or are under his name, and only a few were sent to him. For Radosh, the word “Stalin” no longer denotes an individual, but is a synecdochal signifier for — depending on the circumstance — the Comintern, the Soviet political leadership, or even any Communist, anywhere. Like a kind of mirror-image of the “cult of personality” that existed from about 1930 until Stalin’s death in 1953, Radosh too attributes all the initiative and agency of all communists to Stalin alone. A more radical reductionism can scarcely be imagined, and is all the more noteworthy since Radosh seems entirely oblivious to his own practice here. It never occurs to him to justify it theoretically, historically, or in any way at all.

71. This ideological distortion is more serious because more pervasive. Many who think of themselves as “liberal” or even “left” share with Radosh a kind of reflexive assumption that, whenever “Stalin” — read, the Comintern — seems to have been acting according to its professed motives of supporting the exploited and oppressed around the world, it must really have been acting out of selfish motives which, if not obvious, are simply cleverly disguised. [4] 

72. I hope that readers of this review will be inspired to read Radosh’s book and see for themselves. In view, however, of the inaccurate and misleading nature of Radosh’s commentary there is only one way to read this book:

First, ignore Radosh’s commentary entirely. Read the documents themselves, and only them, very carefully.

Only after doing that should you read Radosh’s commentary. But every time Radosh makes any kind of assertion about any document, go to that document, find the relevant passage, and note what the document really says.

Often this is not easy to do. Radosh does not include page numbers to the passages of the documents when he gives his comments or summaries. Often he will write things like “As we have seen . . .” ( p. 502); “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow . . .” (p. 431); “The documentary evidence, as we have shown . . .” (p. 372). Here the job of finding the passage in question can take quite a long time. It’s always worth taking the time, though, because what one usually discovers is that that NO previous document has shown anything of the kind.

73. Radosh reminds us that one of the main stumbling blocks for Marxists is the figure of Stalin. Stalin has been demonized — by Trotsky and those who have relied on Trotsky; by some Soviet émigrés, also imitators of Trotsky, in the main; and by Khrushchev and those who have been accustomed to believe that Khrushchev’s so-called “revelations” about Stalin were true. As Robert Thurston has written, the demonized “Stalin” is “a powerful cultural construct in scholarship, film, popular works, etc. The difficulty is to try to get past that construction as best we can.” (Thurston, 2000). Radosh has not even tried.

74. As Roger Pethybridge, a well-known British Sovietologist, commented long ago:

If one considers all the well-known biographies of Stalin, a common feature emerges: the volumes are a quite accurate reflection of biographical method current at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, when historical biographies dwelt on so-called “good” and “bad” kings. The personality who reigned appeared to dominate not only the political but the social and economic life of his kingdom, so that by a sneeze or a yawn he could magically change the whole socioeconomic pattern of his reign. This method of historical biography has long been discounted in the treatment of authoritarian rule in earlier history. It has also been discarded with regard to the study of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, it still remains as a specter from the past in the study of Soviet personalities in high politics. (Pethybridge, 1976).

75. Since the end of the Soviet Union, many formerly secret Comintern and Bolshevik documents have been published, with more coming out all the time. Like the Comintern documents in Radosh’s book, most of them contradict the widely-propagated, and widely-believed, horror stories about the history of the Communist movement during the Stalin years. [5] 

76. It’s up to us all of us who recognize the desperate need for a truly classless, egalitarian society to learn from the successes and failures of our predecessors, including, especially, the Bolsheviks during the time of Stalin’s leadership. But in order to do this, we must first convince ourselves that we do not already know these things.

77. For example, many of the Comintern documents in this collection support the suggestion made by some on the Left that the United Front Against Fascism was doomed from the outset, even as a tactic in fighting fascism. [6]  For no matter how devotedly the communists supported only bourgeois democratic goals, many capitalist forces refused to co-operate with them, in effect preferring to risk a fascist victory rather than take their chances in a liberal capitalist state with a strongly organized working class and peasantry under communist leadership. The subsequent fate of the communist parties of Western Europe and the USA after World War II, who were viciously attacked by the capitalists despite their adherence to a reform-oriented, non-revolutionary program, further suggests that the united front strategy was wishful thinking.

78. That is, we have to be ready and willing to question the Cold-War, Trotskyist, and Khrushchevite versions of this history, and “do it all again,” so we can actually begin to understand what really happened. [7] 

79. If that’s what we’re about — and I think we should be — then Radosh’s book can help us, by reminding us not to be like him.

Reviews used in this essay 

Beichman, Arnold. “Deceit in the Spanish Civil War.” The Washington Times, Op-Ed, July 17, 2001, p. A21.

Bernstein, Richard. “Aiding Dictatorship, Not Democracy.” The New York Times, July 23, 2001. Cited at <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/23/books/23BERN.html>.

Review of Spain Betrayed in First Things 116 (October 2001). Cited at <http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0110/reviews/briefly.html#spain>

Hitchens, Christopher. “Who Lost Spain?” Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001. Cited at <http://wwics.si.edu/OUTREACH/WQ/WQCURR/WQBKPER/BOOK-1.HTM>

———, “The Unfolded Lie.” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001. Cited at <http://www.calendarlive.com/top/1,1419,L-LATimes-Books-X!ArticleDetail-38407,00.html>

Schwartz, Steven. “The Red and the Black. The end of the myth of the Spanish Civil War.” Weekly Standard, July 16, 2001. Cited at <http://www.weeklystandard.com/magazine/mag_6_41_01/schwartz_bkart_6_41_01.asp>

Other materials

Graham, Helen. “‘Against the State’: A Genealogy of the Barcelona May Days (1937).” European History Quarterly 29(4), 485-542.

Pethybridge, Roger. 1976. Review of Ronald Hingley, Joseph Stalin: Man and Legend (New York, 1974), in Slavic Review 35 (March 1976): 136.

Thurston, Robert W. Post to H-RUSSIA list, August 24, 2000.

Notes

1 There is absolutely no question that Radosh is lying in some places — e.g., in Document 62 where, as I discuss in the text, he attributes to Togliatti the views that, in the document itself, which any reader can study a few pages later, Togliatti explicitly criticizes. Radosh does this kind of thing many times.

The book is also an example of incompetence. Radosh simply does a poor job at what a commentator should do: summarizing the documents, isolating the most important aspects of them, putting them into an overall historical context, and so on.

These kind of faults should have been red flags to any editor. But there is a long history of anti-communist works getting published even though filled with errors that would doom any other kind of research.

The uncritical praise of so many reviewers suggests that one purpose of Radosh’s book is to influence those who will not read it carefully. Perhaps someone made the estimation that few people will read such a book anyway, and most of those who do will probably rely on the commentary, rather than study the documents themselves. Again, this is no excuse for the kind of mendacity displayed in Spain Betrayed, but rather a grasping after some kind of explanation for so poor a work.

Finally, the book is a failure. Radosh had boasted for years — in some ways, since the ’80s, when he began publishing stuff about the Spanish Civil War, but explicitly since he began working on this book — that it would “prove” the USSR (“Stalin”) betrayed Spain. In the event it not only fails to “prove” any betrayal; it fails to come up with a single example of anything devious, dishonest, anything at all to make the communist side or the USSR specifically look bad.

2 Radosh betrays his ignorance of Soviet history. “Purge trials” is a term no longer used even by anti-communist Sovietologists. The chistki, or “purges,” were expulsion of Communist Party members for many reasons, most commonly drunkenness, neglect of duty, etc., though sometimes for political deviations. They were completely separate from the three famous Moscow Trials of 1936-8, of persons who confessed to plotting to overthrow the Soviet government. The best, and classic discussion of this is J. Arch Getty, Origins of the great purges: the Soviet Communist Party reconsidered, 1933-1938. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

3 See the excellent typology of anti-communist rhetoric in James R. Prickett, “Anti-Communism and Labor History,” Industrial Relations 13 (October, 1974), 219-227.”

4 For example, Stalin stated that “The cause of Spain is the cause of all humanity.” The USSR sent huge amounts of aid, in materiel and men, to the Republic both itself and through the Comintern, much of which was not, in fact, repaid. Yet Cary Nelson, a staunch supporter of the American veterans of the Spanish Civil War and a prominent left-liberal, still feels compelled to explain Soviet aid in this way: “Stalin’s motivations, no doubt, were pragmatic. He probably hoped, for example, to use an alliance to help the Spanish Republic as a way of building a general antifascist alliance with the Western democracies.” (“The Spanish Civil War: An Overview,” accessed at <http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/scw/overview.htm> on 20 February 2003). “Pragmatic” in this context explains nothing; the Soviets knew very well that the antifascist alliance they aimed at was jeopardized by their aid to the Republic, but did it anyway. For Nelson, the International Brigade volunteers can, and did, have idealistic motives, but Stalin cannot, even though the whole effort could hardly have taken place without his strong support at every step.

5 For example, the interrogations and confessions by such major figures as NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda and Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky have been published, making it clear that the accusations leveled against them by the Soviet government in the late ’30s were substantially accurate. There is also some additional evidence of Leon Trotsky’s contacts with oppositionists in the USSR who were plotting the overthrow of the government, as well as the first evidence of Trotsky’s contact with the Japanese fascist government, both central claims of the Communist movement in the ’30s but both strongly denied by Trotsky’s followers.

6 See, for example, “Lessons of People’s War in Spain 1936-1939,” Progressive Labor, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct.-Nov. 1974), 106-116, cited at <http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/pws.html> (February 22, 2003). For more on a left critique of the consequences of the Popular Front strategy upon the world communist movement, see “Road to Revolution III: The Continuing Struggle Against Revisionism” (1970), at <http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/rr3.html#RTFToC5>.

7 J. Arch Getty, the dean of the younger generations of American historians of the USSR, is quoted by the prominent (and very anti-communist) Russian historian Yuri Zhukov as having said Soviet history is poisoned by Cold War “propaganda,” and has to be done all over again. See Aleksandr Sabov, “Zhupel Stalina” (“Stalin’s Boogeyman”), Komsomolskaya Pravda, Nov. 5, 2001.

Contents copyright © 2003 by Grover Furr.

Format copyright © 2003 by Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087.

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Arthur Landis on the Sectarianism of the POUM

poummanifestacionpopular

“Dare one ask how long the Viet Minh or the Viet Cong would have lasted, first against the French, and then the U.S.A., the greatest military power in the history of the world, across twenty years of battle, if they had had to contend simultaneously with a F.A.I. plus a combination of quasi-Trotskyists such as the P.O.U.M. The answer to that should be obvious.

[….]

This was hardly the case, however, with the Ultras of the Partido Obrero Unificado Marxista, or P.O.U.M. In the words of dogma they ‘had little to lose and a world to win.’

The P.O.U.M., the Party of Nin, Andrade, Gorkín and Maurín was, like the P.S.U.C., an amalgam of a number of small Left parties. Its political base was supposedly Marxist; a significant part of its leadership, however, leaned toward Trotskyism.

To the P.O.U.M. and similar groups—to the delight of the Fascist-Military and establishment historians across the years—all who were not POUMIST or ANARCHIST were COMMUNIST and STALINIST. The Government of Caballero was Stalinist controlled, as was the new ‘People’s Army’ and all other armed forces of the Republic. George Orwell, in the jargon of his ‘sources,’ even refers to the Assault Guards as ‘Stalinist troops.’ The program of the Stalinists, according to the P.O.U.M., was to destroy all true Marxists such as themselves, annihilate their hoped-for associates in counter-revolution, the Anarchists, and either create a totalitarian police state of the Stalinist variety, or return the hard-won gains of the July ‘revolution’ to the Spanish bourgeoisie—who were also ‘Stalinist controlled.’

To them the war seems to have been but an unreal shadow ‘happening.’ Something which they preferred not to discuss seriously or in its proper context, such as what its loss would mean to all the Spanish people. Indeed, the simplistics of their position suggests that they were incapable of lifting their polemics above the level of dogma—lest this negate pat conclusions which only had meaning if the war itself had no meaning.

Poumist or Faista thinking: that all not derived of themselves was essentially counterrevolutionary, and therefore to be fought more bitterly than they ever fought the real enemy, seems to have ignored the very perilous possibility of a Fascist victory over every segment of the Left, plus the Spanish people as a whole. Forcing the question: ‘Would not that ‘Bourgeois Republic’ with all its faults, the one to which the Left-Socialists and Communists had supposedly sold out; the one that had won the electoral victory in February by a quite narrow margin—would not it still be preferable to the Spanish people than the horror of a Fascist victory?’

Apparently not, to the Extremists of the F.A.I. and the P.O.U.M., that is. Indeed they were willing to risk this possibility, ignoring all referendums past or present. For to them both Fascism and the Popular Front Government of the Spanish Republic were but two sides of the same coin.”

Arthur Landis, “Spain: the Unfinished Revolution”