Category Archives: Myth-Busting

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): Stalin


Excerpts from a talk held in the Dominican Republic on the 50th anniversary of the death of Comrade Stalin, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Labour.

During his lifetime Comrade Stalin won the admiration and affection of the working class and all the peoples of the vast Soviet Union, as well as the respect and friendship of the workers of the five continents, the fervour and enthusiasm of the communists of all countries. Of course, he elicited the hatred of the reactionaries, imperialists and bourgeois who felt deeply hurt by the colossal achievements of the Soviet Union, by the great economic, cultural, technological and scientific feats of the workers and socialist intelligentsia, by the great and resounding triumphs of the revolution and socialism, of the communists.

In this plot against Stalin by which they fought communism, the Nazi propaganda stood out for its slander and persistence, which did not let one day pass without launching its dire diatribes.

Of course, this counter-revolutionary and anti-communist hatred also characterized Trotsky and his followers.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, the voices of the “communists” who had assumed the leadership of the Soviet Party and the State were added to the chorus of the reactionaries and anti-communists of all countries who had always reviled Stalin.

From then until our day, anti-Stalinism has been the recurring voice of all the reactionaries, of the ideologues of the bourgeoisie, of the Trotskyists, revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

By attacking Stalin, they are trying to tear down the extraordinary achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union and in what had been the socialist camp; they want to minimize and even ignore the great contributions of the Red Army and the Soviet peoples in the decisive struggle against Nazism, to denigrate the Communist Party and the socialist system as totalitarian, as the negation of freedom and democracy. By attacking Stalin they are aiming at Lenin, Marx and socialism. To denigrate Stalin as bloodthirsty and a bureaucrat means to attack the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby deny the freedom of the workers and peoples, socialist democracy. To slander Stalin as being ignorant and mediocre is to refuse to recognize his great contributions to revolutionary theory, to Marxism-Leninism. To attack Stalin means to deny the necessity of the existence and struggle of the communist party, to transform it into a movement of free thinkers and anarcho-syndicalists, to remove its Leninist essence, democratic centralism.

The height of anti-Stalinism is to call Stalinists those who betrayed the revolution and socialism in the name of doing away with the “crimes of Stalin” and of making the Soviet Union a “democratic country”. The folly of the reactionaries and opportunists does not allow them to recognize that the confessed anti-Stalinists, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, destroyed brick by brick the great work of the Soviet working class and peoples, of the communists, of Lenin and Stalin.

The attacks on Stalin are of such magnitude that even a significant number of social fighters, leftists and revolutionaries have fallen victim to these slanders. Basically, they are sincere people, interested in social and national liberation, who do not know the personality and work of Stalin and therefore join the chorus of these distortions. There are also some petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who attack Stalin from supposedly “humanist” positions.

It is up to us communists to defend the revolutionary truth about Stalin, and it is our responsibility because we are his comrades, the ones who are continuing his work.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was one of the great events of humanity. The workers and peoples of the world’s largest country stood up, undertook a long revolutionary process, led by the Bolshevik Party, which led them to victory in October of 1917. This great feat of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and the intelligentsia was a complex process, full of twists and turns and advances and retreats.

The proletarian revolution that smashed the tsarist empire to pieces was inconceivable without the guidance of Marxism, which established itself as the emancipatory doctrine of the working class; without the efforts of Russian communists, mainly of Lenin by his creative application in the social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions of old Russia; without the building, existence and struggle of the Bolshevik Party; without the decisive participation of the working class and the millions of poor peasants; without the social and political mobilization of the broad masses; without the existence and fighting of the Red Army; and without the important contribution of the international working class.

Several decades of strikes and street battles; the utilization of parliamentary struggle and the participation of the communists in the Duma; the ideological and political struggle against the bourgeoisie and the tsarist autocracy; the organization of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers; the great theoretical and political debate against opportunism within the party that led to the isolation of the Menshevik theses and proposals and to the formation of the Bolshevik Party governed by democratic centralism; the fierce battles against social chauvinism and social pacifism on an international scale; the profuse and fruitful propaganda activity of the communists; the fight to win ideological and political hegemony within the Soviets; the Revolution of 1905 and its lessons; the February Revolution of 1917, its results and consequences; the great armed insurrection of October; the Brest-Litovsk peace agreements; the revolutionary civil war; the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, these constitute the most salient features and characteristics of the struggle for power of the Russian communists, organized in the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin was born in Gori, a small town close to Tbilisi, in Georgia, on December 21, 1879. His father was a shoemaker, the son of serfs, and his mother, a servant, was also the daughter of serfs.

He joined into the ranks of the party in 1898, when he was 19 years old, and since that time his life, thoughts, dreams and his intellectual and physical effort were devoted to the cause of communism, to the fight for the revolution and socialism.

Until March of 1917 when he moved to Petrograd and joined the editorship of Pravda, Stalin had been and was a tireless organizer of trade unions and the party, of demonstrations and strikes, of newspapers and magazines, a student of Marxism and the author of various documents and proposals. He had been in prison and exile, at Party congresses and conferences. He was a fighter and leader of the revolution.

The revolutionary period that began with the February Revolution was the scene of great ideological and political confrontations against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, but also against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, and also within the Party. The whole process of winning the majority of the Soviets for the policy of the Bolsheviks had in Stalin a great leader and architect. The preparation of the insurrection, the technical and military contacts and preparations and also the debate within the leadership of the Bolshevik Party found in Stalin a protagonist of the highest order; he was a great comrade of Lenin in all aspects of political work.

Stalin was part of the first Soviet government as a People’s Commissar of Nationalities; he participated actively in the revolutionary civil war as a Commissar and Commander on various fronts and showed his military and political ability in forging and consolidating the young Soviet power and strengthening the Red Army. He was one of the most outstanding leaders of the party, the government and the army.

In 1921, by decision of the party and together with Lenin he participated actively in the foundation of the Third or Communist International, which would play a great role in the organization and leadership of the revolution on the international level.

A great task that the proletarian revolution took up was the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which meant concretely the application of the line of the Party with regard to the nationalities and peoples. The “prison-house of nations” that was the tsarist empire became a community of nations, nationalities and peoples, governed by socialism, which put forward the defence and development of the national cultures and their inclusion in the building of the new society.

Having taken up these responsibilities, his dedication and selflessness in their fulfilment and his theoretical ability made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party in 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, the Political Bureau of the Party designated Stalin as the main leader of the party.

The Communist Party (Bolshevik), under the leadership of Stalin, faithful to the Leninist legacy, pushed through the New Economic Policy (NEP) during the 1920s. Amidst great difficulties, relying on the mobilization of the working class and peasantry, defeating the blockade, sabotage and resistance of the defeated reactionary classes and the force of individual capitalism that emerged in the peasant economy, it succeeded in overcoming the disastrous material, economic and social situation that Russia had been in after the Civil War, with production reduced to 14% of the pre-war period, and which was seen in widespread famine and the profusion of diseases.

In this period a bitter ideological and political battle was being waged within the party between the Bolsheviks and the so-called “‘Left’ communists,” who wanted to “export the revolution” and place the weight of the economy on the peasantry, liquidating it as an ally of the proletariat.

In 1929, the NEP was concluded and the accelerated collectivization of the countryside was begun, the great battle against the kulaks who wanted to reverse the revolutionary process in the countryside.

In 1930, the process of large-scale industrialization was pushed forward with great material efforts and supported by the mobilization of the working class. It was a great feat that required large investments and therefore limited the possibilities for the well-being of the great masses of workers and peasants. Despite this, the revolutionary fervour and enthusiasm allowed for the fulfilment and even over-fulfilment of its goals.

In the West, this was the time of the Great Depression; in the country of the Soviets it was the time of the victorious construction of socialism. The Soviet Union became the second greatest economic and commercial power in the world, after the United States. For eleven years, between 1930 and 1940, the USSR had an average growth of industrial production of 16.5%.

A good part of socialist accumulation had to be invested in the defence and security of the Soviet Union, which had to deal with the arms race to which all the capitalist countries of Europe, the USA and Japan were committed.

For 1938-39, the danger of imperialist war hung over Europe and the world. The German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese reactionaries were moving quickly to form the Axis. The Western powers headed by the Anglo-French alliance worked feverishly to conclude a pact with Germany in order to encourage it to direct its attacks against the Soviet Union, in order to liquidate the communists, wear down the Germans and enter the war under better conditions. It was a devious and cunning diplomatic game that handed over the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Soviet Union was a developing economic and military power, but its military capability was much weaker than that of Germany, France, England or the USA. It was surrounded by powerful enemies and needed material resources and time to prepare itself for the eventual war which was announced with cannons and aircraft.

The Soviet Union needed to combine international diplomacy and politics with its industrial development and military power. This circumstance forced the communists to devote a large quantity of material resources in this direction, but also to seek diplomatic alternatives that enabled its defence.

Several international meetings, endless proposals and projects were addressed to the chancelleries. The Soviet Union could not establish an alliance against Nazism since the main interest of the Western powers made the Soviet Union their target. In these circumstances and for its defence, in August 1939, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact of “non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union” was signed.

This international treaty gave the Soviet Union precious time to push forward its military industry. Utilizing large material resources and the will of the peoples, in a short time it was able to build planes, tanks, cannons, weapons and ammunition in large quantities and simultaneously it could relocate its key industries located in European Russia to the East, behind the Urals.

World War II broke out in 1939. The Germans invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium and Netherlands and utilizing “blitzkrieg” tactics, the lightening war, in few weeks they destroyed the armies of those countries and imposed puppet governments.

When it came to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans did not have the military capacity to carry out and win with the blitzkrieg; they ran into the resistance of the Red Army, the guerrillas and the great masses of workers and peasants who defended the socialist fatherland. The Red Army put up a fierce resistance and gave way to the Nazi troops, forcing them to penetrate into a vast territory, teeming with guerrillas who persistently harassed them. They could not take Leningrad much less Moscow. In Stalingrad a major battle was waged, street by street, house by house, man by man. The reds resisted and then took the initiative and defeated the German army. That was the beginning of the end of the fascist beast.

The Red Army launched the re-conquest of its territories occupied by the Nazis and advanced victoriously across the mountains and plains of Europe, contributing to the liberation of several of the countries of Eastern Europe, up to Berlin, which was taken on May 9, 1945.

This great victory of the Soviet Union was the fruit of the fortress of socialism, of the unity and will to action of the working class and peoples, of the valour of the Red Army, but it was also a consequence of the diplomatic, political and military genius of the General Staff and the leadership of the Soviet Party and Government, led by Stalin.

At the end of the war, the victory of the revolution took place in several countries of Europe, which established people’s democratic governments, and the victory of the revolution in other Asian countries. The Soviet Union emerged as a great economic and military power that won the affection and respect of workers and peoples of the world, of the patriots and democrats, of the revolutionaries and especially the communists. The Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist Party were the great protagonists in the defeat of fascism.

The Great Patriotic War meant great human and material sacrifices for the Proletarian State. The victory achieved was built upon the great spiritual heritage of socialism that protected the workers and peoples of the USSR; it was made possible by the great patriotic sentiments with which the Communist Party was able to inspire the bodies and minds of the Soviet peoples, by the deep affection of the workers for Soviet power, by the brave and courageous contribution of the communists who put all their abilities and energy into the defence of socialism. The contribution of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was more than 20 million human beings, of which slightly more than 3 million were brave members of the Bolshevik Party. The Party gave over its best men to the war, it lost invaluable political and military cadres, but it also further tempered the Bolshevik steel, and at the end of the war it had gained more than 5 million new members.

At Yalta and Tehran, at the peace negotiations, the workers and peoples of the world had a great representative, Comrade Stalin, who knew, with wisdom, prudence and composure, how to restore the rights of the peoples and countries that had been victims of the war and fascism, how to contribute to the establishment of agreements and open the way to new levels of democracy and freedom in the world.

World War II was the prelude to the national liberation of dozens of countries on the five continents, who won their independence by breaking with the old colonial order. The Soviet Union led by Stalin was always the safe and reliable rear of this great liberation movement.

In the field of the revolution, the victories achieved in Albania and other countries of Eastern Europe, in China, Korea and Vietnam, gave rise to the formation of the powerful socialist camp. A quarter of the population living on a third of the Earth’s surface were building socialism and had in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, an enlightening example and unreserved support. In the rest of the world, the working class, the peasantry, the youth and the progressive intelligentsia saw the socialist future of humanity with certainty and confidence.

On the other hand, the end of the Second World War established a new order within the capitalist sphere. The United States became the main world power and had hegemony over the capitalist countries.

There arose a new contradiction in the international sphere: one that opposed the old world of capital to the new world of socialism. The bourgeois ideologues and politicians called this the “cold war”, alluding to the antagonism of the dispute.

Once more the superiority of socialism became evident. In the Soviet Union, but also in the other countries of the socialist camp, the culture and well-being of the masses, science and technology, the social and material progress of the workers and peoples flourished. In 1949 the USSR was able to build the atomic bomb and in 1957 it launched the space race, taking the lead.

Neo-colonialism, a form of imperialist domination that emerged after the independence of the dependent nations and countries, always had a counterweight in the Soviet Union led by Stalin. The peoples of the former colonies always had a loyal friend.

Within a few years, from 1917 to the early years of the 1950s, the proletarians, led by the communists organized in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, built the dreams of a new world, the world of socialism. They built the essentials, many things were lacking, some failed, but humanity never knew a broader and truer democracy, never before were men in their multitudes able to have material and social well-being, equality among their peers. This was proletarian democracy.

It was an epic of the workers and peoples, the realization in life of the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, the gigantic effort of the communists, the serene and bold work of the leaders, Lenin and Stalin.

When we speak of Stalin we are referring to the leader, the organizer, the head, the comrade and friend, who was really one of the great builders of the new man, of the new humanity.

This understanding of Stalin cannot be conceived without discovering and learning about his extraordinary theoretical work.

From the beginning of his communist activity he correctly evaluated the role of theory in the process of organizing and making the revolution. He studied the Marxist materials that he had at hand, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the works of Plekhanov, and soon he began to familiarize himself with Lenin, by his writings and directives, his valour as organizer and head of the communists, until he saw him in person at party events. From that time on they had a great friendship affirmed in militancy and the great commonality of opinions and concerns. Stalin was also a great reader of Russian literature. He was a man of vast culture, which grew daily throughout his life.

How can one not keep in mind in the training of communists in all countries his most outstanding works: Anarchism or Socialism?, Marxism and the National Question, On the Problem of Nationalities, The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists, The Foundations of Leninism, Concerning Questions of Leninism, Trotskyism or Leninism?, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Marxism and Linguistics, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the Reports to the Congresses of the Communist Party.

Stalin was a theoretician of the revolution, a Marxist who recreated and developed revolutionary theory in order to provide answers to the problems put forward by the revolution. He was not a theoretician who speculated with knowledge to try to generate ideas and proposals. No, his theoretical work addressed burning issues that had to do with the development of the class struggle, with the problems that the party, the trade unions, the state and the revolution were facing on an international scale.

The depth of his writings is not at odds with the simple form of making them understood. Stalin is rigorous in his theoretical analysis, his positions are valid; they provide a real guide to action, as he himself pointed out referring to Marxism, but also they are simple and easy to understand.

Stalin’s detractors insist on some issues that we should analyze. All of them: the confessed reactionaries of anti-communism, the Trotskyists, the revisionists and opportunists of all shades agree principally on the following charges: intellectual mediocrity, Lenin’s testament that supposedly condemned him, the building of socialism in a single country, forced collectivization, the bureaucratization of the party and state, the liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard, the great purges, his tyrannical and bloodthirsty character, forced industrialization, his incompetence in the war, the cult of personality.

With regard to Stalin’s intellectual mediocrity, the facts, history and its vicissitudes speak emphatically. The October Revolution, the building of socialism in a large country and for the first time in the history of mankind, his skill in leading the party, the working class and the peoples of the USSR in the great feat of building a new world would not have been possible with a mediocre leader who was poor intellectually. These diatribes fall under their own weight. Trotsky, who claimed to be a great theoretician and man of culture and was one of his detractors in this area, was defeated precisely, in theory and practice, by one who, according to him, was a mediocrity.

In regard to the so-called “Lenin Testament,” a lot of nonsense has been written, such as that Trotsky was the one anointed by Lenin to replace him as head of the Party, as if those notes of Lenin had been hidden by the Central Committee. We say that Lenin’s health was very shaky in those days in which he is supposed to have written the famous “testament”, his sensitivity was weakened by the complaints of his companion. However, Lenin had the revolutionary culture, the Bolshevik training to understand that he could not have written a testament, a last will; he also knew that one leader, whatever his rank, can only give his opinions, not orders, in the collective. For these reasons one must understand these notes of Lenin as opinions; moreover, they were out of the context of the everyday life of the leadership of the Party and State and in no way were they orders to be complied with without question. On the other hand, it is completely false that these notes were hidden from the Central Committee; the latter knew about and discussed them. The results were known; Stalin was chosen the Main Leader of the Bolshevik Party and that was a correct and wise decision. History has shown these facts irrefutably. The one supposedly anointed by Lenin as leader of the Party, Trotsky, was placed by life and the revolutionary struggle in the dustbin of the counter-revolution.

The Leninist thesis of the building of socialism in one country takes into account the uneven development of capitalism and as a consequence the various stages of the class struggle. That situation made it possible to break the chain of imperialism at its weakest link, old Russia. Stalin was the one who continued this line. Relying on the workers and peasants, on the great spiritual and materials reserves of the Soviet peoples he carried out the great feat, defended the revolution and defeated the detractors of this thesis. Those who raised the impossibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union as long as the revolution did not succeed in the capitalist countries of Europe and labelled the peasants as reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries were proven to be wrong. The USSR developed and so far there has been no revolution in any of the capitalist countries in Europe.

On the forced collectivization of the countryside, Stalin’s detractors claim that “he violated the will of the peasants, destroyed the agrarian economy and eliminated the social base of the revolution made up by the medium and rich peasants, the kulaks”. The facts are diametrically opposite. The necessary carrying out of the NEP in the countryside developed the rural bourgeoisie in a natural way and stripped millions of poor farmers of the land, depriving the population of cereals. Basing itself on Marxism-Leninism and taking social reality into account, the Party proposed to bring socialism to the countryside. Relying on the millions of poor peasants, it pushed forward a great social and political movement for the formation of cooperatives, the kolkhozes; this meant the expropriation of the kulaks, in some cases people’s tribunals and drastic sanctions. International reaction spoke of repression and massacres. In reality there was a socialist revolution in the countryside, the work of millions of poor peasants who assumed their role as the protagonists in the life of the country of the Soviets. And, as we know, a revolution unleashes the initiative and achievements of the masses, but also the anger of its enemies. As a result, agriculture and livestock flourished, the Soviet Union became the largest producer of wheat, the mechanization and the modernization of agriculture reached unprecedented levels, at the forefront on the international scale.

Stalin is continually blamed for the bureaucratization that was in reality growing in the party and State. Stalin was never in his life a bureaucrat. Quite the contrary, his dynamism was always expressed in direct contact with the base of the party and with the masses; he was one of the leaders of the Soviets before the revolution. His whole life was in action.

Bureaucracy is a social phenomenon, a degeneration that arises in the bourgeois administration (remember that a good part of the Bolshevik administration had to resort to old tsarist functionaries) that penetrated into the revolutionary ranks, into the party and State. Bureaucracy was really present in the life of the Socialist State; it affected many activists and leaders. In some cases the responsibilities of power were transformed into small or large privileges that were creating a caste of bureaucrats who undermined the functioning of the party and the state administration, which separated the party from the masses.

Stalin did not promote the bureaucracy, but in reality he did not have either the ability or the experience to eliminate it. Several offensives of an ideological character aimed at eliminating it took place, precisely under Stalin’s initiative. The political education, ideological struggle, the validity of democracy in the party, the party elections were expressions of the struggle of the communists against bureaucracy. They cannot be dismissed having been useless. They achieved results; among other things they allowed for the continuation of the social and material achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ideological, political and organizational cleansing of the party and State, the isolation and expulsion of several groups of opportunists and traitors. However, in fact, they were not able to eradicate the bureaucracy and opportunism. Various opportunists and traitors evaded the ideological struggle and hid. They would return later, after the death of Stalin.

It is clear that bureaucracy is an ideological illness which is persistently reborn and which must be fought relentlessly to the end. Stalin did not promote bureaucracy; rather he was one of its victims.

The accusation made against Stalin that he was a bloody dictator and despot and refers to the ideological cleansing, to the revolutionary repression of the counter-revolutionary outbreaks in the city and countryside, to the alleged liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard.

It is necessary to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a wedding party in which everything is rosy. No, quite the contrary. A whole armed, economic campaign, a trade boycott, an ideological and political penetration by imperialism and the international bourgeoisie was orchestrated against the dictatorship of the proletariat. In opposition to the new power of the workers, from within society, the old ruling classes, overthrown by the revolution but not physically eliminated, repeatedly carried out acts of sabotage; they tried many times to organize rebellions and uprisings, using mercenaries and men and women of the people who were deceived; they based themselves on religion and the priests, on feudal traditions, on liberal elements in the administration and on some occasions they infiltrated their agents into the party and the Soviet State. Within the party itself, in the new State and in the Red Army, there appeared over and over again degenerate elements who made attacks on the dictatorship of the proletariat in theory and practice, who tried to divert the party, to assume its leadership, to organize coups d’état. Some of these elements had been, in the past, outstanding members and leaders of the party and the revolution and they tried, therefore, to take advantage of their positions to change the course of socialism.

The fight to preserve and defend the line of the Party, its ideological, political and organizational unity was bitter and persistent, because again and again, the counter-revolution grew stronger in its attacks and, during Stalin’s life, it was again and again defeated by the force of reason, by the firmness of the Bolsheviks, by the support of the base of the party and the army, by the support of the masses of workers and peasants.

In reality the Bolshevik old guard, those comrades who dreamt of and organized the Great October Revolution, were falling behind. Some fell in combat for the revolution, others were assassinated by the counterrevolution. Others paid the physical tribute of their lives. Some survived Stalin.

The old Bolsheviks, the veteran communists knew how to face their responsibilities, they learned how to solve problems and unknown issues as they arose, they were put at the head of the great feat of building socialism, and were called “old Bolsheviks” not because they were old, but because of their qualities, for their militant and permanent adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, for their quality as communist cadres and fighters.

The fight against the opportunist factions within the Party and State were real battles that mobilized the party, all its members, they were a demonstration of the proletarian firmness of Stalin and his comrades in arms; they constituted one victory after another, that guaranteed the life of the Soviet State, the building of socialism and the continuation of the revolution.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were the main chieftains of the counter-revolution, who were confronted and defeated, in theory and practice, with the material and political achievements by the political correctness of the party leadership, headed by Stalin.

The dark legend of the work camps, of the confinement, of psychiatric hospitals, of prisons overcrowded with workers and communists, of the mass executions and mass graves are nothing more than the infamous slander of the reactionaries and imperialism, of the Nazis and social democracy, of the Trotskyists and revisionists, of the opportunists. They cannot be proved by any records much less by the existence of concentration camps and mass graves. They fall under their own weight.

Much has been said about Stalin’s incompetence in leading the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality Stalin was not a soldier by training, he did not study in any academy nor could he claim mastery of the military arts, a thorough knowledge of weapons and military strategy and tactics. But it is clear that he was a proletarian revolutionary soldier who learned this art in the very course of the revolutionary civil war in the first years of Soviet power, that he was steeled as such in the difficult years of the building of socialism and that he played an outstanding role in the leadership of the Great Patriotic War, in the resistance against the Nazi invading hordes and in the great political and military offensive that drove the Red Army to take Berlin. No one has claimed that Stalin was a great Military Leader, all the revolutionaries recognize him as the leader of the Soviet proletariat and the peoples, as the political leader of the international proletariat, as a proletarian revolutionary, as a communist.

The accusations that Stalin promoted and used the whole gamut of praise and exaggerations that have been called the “cult of personality” for his prestige continue to be a part of the anti-communist arsenal.

In fact, Stalin daily received praise and recognition from his comrades and friends, from the workers and peasants who expressed them from their heart to express gratitude and recognition. There was also the praise of the opportunists who sought favours from him. The former demonstrations were sincere, a product of the generous spirit of the workers and people, the latter had a dual intention, based on facts; they tried to elevate Stalin above others, above the events and in this way to personally take advantage of this situation.

The cult of personality was in fact a defect of the first experience in the building of socialism. It began with good intentions, but finally it degenerated, it hurt Soviet power and Stalin himself. This is an incontestable fact. But to argue from there that Stalin himself encouraged these campaigns, that he became an egomaniac, a narcissist is a big lie.

Many pages and books can be written about Stalin. In fact there are thousands of publications about his life and work. There are those of his comrades and friends, but also those of his enemies and detractors. In fact the life of Stalin is the life of the first proletarian revolution itself. Stalin did not make the revolution to his measure; the revolution projected Stalin as one of its best sons and leaders.

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012


Thoughts About the Class Roots of Counter-Revolution in the Territory of the Soviet Union


Alexei Danko

I will not try to give a solid and complete answer to the question posed above given the shortness of this article and the lack of proper preparation. However, I feel obliged to at least draw the attention of revolutionary proletarians to the need to study this question deeply and scientifically for the benefit of the future class struggle of the Russian and international proletariat. Moreover, if we call ourselves Marxists we should not ‘close our eyes to reality’, regardless of how bitter and tough this truth may be for us. We need to clarify the truth and its fundamental essence among the proletarians so that the workers are not deceived by the tricks of the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to explain the essence scientifically from the point of view of dialectical and historical materialism so that the working class can see itself as the maker of historical progress and so that it does not leave all the class responsibility to the vanguard or its leaders.

In the conditions of the bourgeois system the working class is the progressive class, which develops the revolutionary class struggle against the reactionary class of capitalists. The Communist Party is essentially the political vanguard, the most advanced section of the working class. In the process of class struggle political leaders arise, i.e. the cadre who are best prepared and capable for revolutionary struggle, ‘the best of the best’ of a small group of professional revolutionaries.

In correspondence to the Marxist-Leninist teachings, the leading force of the revolution is the most advanced class in the concrete stage of historical development, which opposes the decadent system and the class that embodies it. The role of the individual in the process of revolutionary struggle (including any political leader) is undoubtedly great, but can become determining only in particularly tense moments of the struggle, i.e. temporarily.

Therefore it would be fundamentally wrong to state that the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union depended mainly on the leadership and political activity of comrade Stalin, and that the counter-revolution in the country after the death of comrade Stalin was successful as a result of a conspiracy and the will of a bunch of Soviet revisionists who took over political power (the so-called ‘Khrushchevites’).

During the period of socialism, after the proletarian revolution and the suppression of the open class resistance of the bourgeoisie and the most obvious class enemies, for a long time there remain non-antagonistic, non-belligerent classes and social strata, as well as remnants of capitalism and certain social inequalities. As a result of this it is natural that under socialism the class struggle continues to exist in different manifestations and forms and, given certain negative class conditions, counter-revolution may become a real threat. The main revolutionary force capable of preventing counter-revolutionary threats or suppressing counter-revolutionary activities, as before, is the working class led by its political vanguard – the communist party. Therefore the most important task of the party is to establish a tight and relentless control over the purity of its members and to develop a continuous ideological struggle against anti-proletarian ideologies and political ‘teachings’ – a tenacious dictatorship against any counter-revolutionary expression and for a general political party line aimed at the liquidation of remnants of capitalism.

The essence of the existence of the party consists in that it becomes the brains of the working class and essentially becomes a monolithic organism together with the working class. If it is isolated from the working class, the Communist party ceases to be its political vanguard and necessarily degenerates from the class point of view; the party should be able to predict the social-class issues in society, to understand them in a timely manner and to recommend to the working class the most effective methods to ‘cure them’.

The petty-bourgeois ideology and its consolidation in society is particularly dangerous for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The intelligentsia (including officers of the army and whatever repressive organs) and the peasantry are objectively massive conductors of the petty-bourgeois psychology. The influence of petty-bourgeois ideology on the working class is also significant, since the working class to a sufficiently large degree includes recruits from the petty-bourgeoisie and it is not separated from it by a ‘Chinese Wall’. At the time of the Great Patriotic War (most commonly known as the Second World War, editor’s note) the working class suffered tremendous losses especially in terms of old party cadre who had experience in the class struggle and a stable class psychology. They were replaced by youths without sufficient class solidity.

The proletarian ideology and the petty-bourgeois ideology express different class interests. Therefore it is necessary to have a very clear conception about the differences between the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie and the interests of the working class

It is the petty-bourgeois masses who reproduce bourgeois aspirations in socialist society and who engender a new bourgeoisie. To neglect the struggle against the petty-bourgeois ideology and to lose revolutionary awareness of this cowardly enemy of the proletariat may become a mortal danger for the interests of the proletarian revolution and socialism.

Under capitalism a certain fraction of the petty-bourgeoisie becomes an active ally of the proletariat, especially when the contradictions between large capital and that of the petty owner deepen. Under socialism the petty-bourgeoisie, in conformity to its class essence and its class ambiguity, may become a dangerous counter-revolutionary force when the struggle against the petty-bourgeois ideology by the communist party and the working class loses momentum. The petty-bourgeoisie then goes on the offensive when opportunities for personal profiteering exist and when certain goods or services become scarce. The petty-bourgeois easily change their class attitude depending on the situation and due to the selfish class interests of the petty owners since they function only according to considerations of the individual or family, purely animal instincts and they cannot think about social life in perspective, in global terms. The attitude and political activity of the petty-bourgeoisie often even becomes irresponsible and rather aggressive.

The realisation of petty-bourgeois aspirations under socialism happens through the necessary preservation of certain elements of capitalism and the application of the ‘bourgeois right’, which it is impossible to liquidate in a short period of time. For instance, take the distribution according to labour, which necessarily results in income differentiation and the existence of significant differences between mental and manual labour and between the city and the countryside. A concrete expression and source of petty-bourgeois aspirations are the existence of private peasant plots, private real estate and dachas, goods of excessive luxury, the special status of managerial and intellectual labour, the existence of commodity-money relations in the sphere of distribution of products, commodities and services of broad demand and so forth. These elements can only be eliminated by means of gradual liquidation of ‘bourgeois right’ in the process of the progressive development of the material and technical basis of socialism. Only in this way can the conditions which reproduce the petty-bourgeois system with all its negative manifestations be liquidated.

The forms of class struggle are diverse: from the ideological struggle to armed struggle including civil war. Marxists acknowledge all forms of class struggle. In order to secure victory in the class struggle as a whole, Leninist Bolsheviks should first attain victory in the ideological struggle. At that time they became victorious. Nevertheless the ideological struggle continued. The ideological struggle between petty-bourgeois ideology, which has a multiplicity of forms, and proletarian ideology continued in different forms during the years of proletarian socialism: at times it weakened; at times it became more prominent. The thesis of comrade Stalin about the continuation of the class struggle in the process of construction of socialism is convincingly confirmed by real practice, by real life, since the only criterion of truth is practice.

Marxism-Leninism teaches that the pre-conditions for the change of one social system to another develop within society long before the revolutionary events. I am convinced that this fundamental thesis also applied to the case of counter-revolution in the socialist country.

Since we are dealing here with the victory of counter-revolution and the defeat of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR, therefore in the Soviet Union during the post-war period decisive changes in the correlation of class forces took place, not in favor of the proletarian forces, especially within the Bolshevik party. As a result of the class struggle these anti-proletarian forces took over. No other interpretation here is possible if we are to stick to the science of classes and class struggle.

The invasion by fascist Germany of the socialist Soviet Union should not be considered in a primitive fashion, from the point of view of a regular aggression of one country against another. In this deadly conflict two irreconcilable class forces faced each other: the most reactionary forces of capitalism siding with fascist Germany and the progressive communist forces represented by the Soviet Union, which made a breakthrough in the future of world civilisation and was dangerous for capitalism as a whole. While paying the price of countless victims and sacrifices, the Soviet people led by the Bolshevik party defended the independence of the proletarian state, expelled the aggressor from the territory of its socialist country and crushed the fascist beast in its own lair. The working class of the Soviet Union ferociously defended its revolutionary conquests against the same reactionary forces of world capital. However, at the same time the class enemy managed to inflict a mortal wound on the Bolshevik party and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union from which later the power of the working class and proletarian socialism died in the USSR.

The Bolshevik party was the vanguard of the working class of the Soviet Union not only as a result of its specific political position. The Bolshevik party continuously directed its best party cadre to the most difficult and responsible sections of practical work, where they outstandingly demonstrated the high level of authority and respect enjoyed by party members among non-party comrades due to success in concrete practical deeds. In the years of the Great Patriotic War the Bolshevik party directed its best party cadre and the best representatives of the working class to the hardest sections of the front and the rear. The communists were the first to enter battle and the first to die. Therefore the losses among party cadre were extremely severe, especially during the first years of the war. However, the party membership grew, its ranks filled to a great degree by heroes of the front since heroism in the front was not only a mass phenomenon but an obvious one and the communists were the best of those heroes. Therefore the title of communist became a special distinction.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of new party cadre did not have party and political experience helped to dilute the class content of its ranks. As a result of this development especially during the years of the war, the party suffered a significant qualitative damage in the political sense of the word. Nevertheless, this should not be considered an error or lack of political foresight by the Bolshevik party. During the war the fate of the proletarian state was being decided at the front. Therefore the most important political goal, slogan and task at the time was: EVERYTHING FOR VICTORY. All the politics and life of the Bolsheviks were devoted to the latter. Therefore, by virtue of this the heroes of the front were not only heroes but were the political vanguard in the most advanced aspect of the practice of the class struggle, i.e. they essentially made up the base of the party under those conditions. This completely conformed to the politics of the party and the class demands of the war period, but it had within itself the threat of petty-bourgeois degeneration of the party ranks especially due to peasants and intellectuals.

During wartime the consciousness of the peasant masses was dominated by the psychology of the peasant-labourer. Why? The proletarian revolution and the success of socialism greatly improved the standards of living of the peasantry. The proletarian power provided the peasants with land and the necessary means, modern agricultural technique under preferential conditions through the creation of the machine-tractor stations (MTS), support in case of poor crops, many social-cultural benefits, it liberated the peasantry from the dangers of chaotic market relations when realising their production, etc. Under the tsars, the peasants could not even dream about such things. Therefore soldiers from peasant background displayed great heroism in the front lines, defending their class interests, and through this, the defence of the proletarian revolution and the proletarian state from the belligerence of the fascist invaders. Because of this the communist psychology dominated in the consciousness of the peasant-labourer during the years of the war, compelling many peasants to join the Bolshevik party, which defended the interests of the peasantry at the cost of many lives of the best children of the party.

In the post-war period the situation fundamentally changed. Having returned from the front, the peasantry faced significant material difficulties. The kolkhozes, many of which were destroyed during the war, could barely fulfill the state contracts. Industry faced the need to accommodate to the requirements of peaceful times and could not provide the peasants with the necessary industrial goods and technique rapidly enough, while at the same it justly demanded that the peasants increase the production of food and agricultural products. The private plots of peasants were not productive enough; food, clothing and many other necessary means for a modest family life were scarce. Those who fought in the front had already suffered severe scarcity, enjoyed war glory and many dreamed of a better life. This impelled the peasantry to focus on its own material interests,and that included taking advantage of the glory earned in the war and the party membership. These factors encouraged the peasantry to develop strong elements of private thinking in their consciousness. However, as a result of the duality of the peasants’ psychology, the psychology of the petty owner and the psychology of the labourer, most of the peasant masses trusted the Bolshevik party with regard to the construction of communism since they were already convinced of the economic benefits brought by socialism. On the other hand, with regard to questions of everyday life and activity, the peasants as a rule gave priority to their private interests over the interests of society.

Such is the dialectics of the psychology of the peasant, a petty owner and a labourer at the same time. This psychology was inherited and further propagated even more aggressively by city inhabitants originally coming from the peasantry.

To defend the party ranks from the dangerous contaminations from elements with the psychology of the petty owner was already a very complicated task. Firstly, such elements already had become a large section of the party. Secondly, these elements had war achievements in serving the socialist Fatherland and this prevented other comrades from exposing them.

The intellectuals, by virtue of their social position, always serve the dominating class regardless of the social system.

Under capitalism the intellectuals, on the one hand also relate to the exploited class. On the other hand, the intellectuals, as a result of their social functions, participate in the accomplishment of the exploitation of the workers and peasants, since it is though the intellectuals that the capitalist class exerts and regulates its direct domination, i.e. the intellectuals are used as tools for the exploitation of the workers and peasants.

Under socialism the intellectuals are bound to execute the will of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Many intellectuals see themselves unwillingly forced to offer such a ‘service’, since they have to serve the interests of the workers and peasants whom the intellectuals had traditionally considered as lower classes. The standard of living of the intellectuals depends on their social position in society. This explains the tendency of the intellectuals to indulge in such social illnesses as careerism, bureaucratism, idealism, overestimation of their social role and the will to have a special position in society. To a great degree this explains the tendency of the intellectuals to join the Bolshevik party. As a result of their social-class specifics, the duality of their class position, the intellectuals are easy targets for petty-bourgeois influence and decomposition.

It is common to the intellectuals and peasants, who are influenced by individualism, to make the country’s leadership responsible for the organization of social life and the party.

In the post-war period the Bolshevik party was dangerously infiltrated by such petty-bourgeois elements.

It is necessary to note that ‘if we do not close our eyes to reality we must admit that at the present time the proletarian policy of the Party is not determined by the character of its membership, but by the enormous undivided prestige enjoyed by the small group which might be called the Old Guard of the Party. A slight conflict within this group will be enough, if not to destroy this prestige, at all events to weaken the group to such a degree as to rob it of its power to determine policy’ (V.I. Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, volume 33, page 257).

As a result of the class struggle during the war and in the post-war period this ‘small group … of the Old Guard of the Party’ also suffered great losses and became even smaller and after the death of Stalin ‘slight conflicts within this group’ weakened it to the extent that it did not have the ‘power to determine policy.’

The war and the severe military consequences inflicted tremendous losses on the Soviet Union not only from the class, material point of view and in terms of population, but also strengthened a number of dangerous tendencies for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The war period demanded that the economy re-direct the focus of the development of the forces of production and the efforts of all of society on the needs of the struggle against the fascist aggression. In the course of accomplishing this goal the production relations also suffered changes toward a strictly top-down structure. This shift took place not only in the organisation of the economy but in all fields of social life including politics. The need to liquidate the most severe consequences of the war also required a speedy economic restoration and the development of the forces of production under a regime of general mobilisation.

The development of production relations seriously lagged behind the development of the forces of production as a result of these extreme measures and conditions, and not only as a result of the inertia so characteristic of production relations in general.

Under the pressure and the disguise of these and other adverse conditions the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the development of proletarian democracy were significantly hampered. The dictatorship of the proletariat was then applied from top to bottom, mostly as a result of the activity and authority of the leading organs of the Bolshevik party, and the development of proletarian democracy in society was basically reduced to endorsing the government and party decisions produced at the top.

The strictly top-down character of the management of economic and social life seriously weakened the class control from below of the activity of the apparatus and the intellectual elite. This lack of control from below led to the social alienation and petty-bourgeois decomposition of the apparatus. As a result, the petty-bourgeois interests and actions of the managers and intellectual elites began to diverge from the class interests of the proletariat.

The situation worsened from the class-political point of view due to the replacement of managerial cadre as the result of personnel losses during the war. The replacements came mostly from demobilised army cadre and specialists of war industry who traditionally, in virtue of the organisational specifics of their previous activity, resisted the development of proletarian democracy in production and social relations, and even most probably did not understand the danger to the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism concealed in their actions.

The class and social-economic phenomena described above represented a substantial danger for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but while Stalin was alive the proletarian forces within the party managed to maintain the political situation under control in the party and in society. How can this be explained?

The most honest and deepest trust of the Soviet people towards the Bolshevik party and the proletarian power was engendered by real life and was tested to death during the years of the war. It was specifically the monolithic class unity of the Bolshevik party and the working class in alliance with the labouring masses (non-party members) of the Soviet Union that was one of the most determining factors that made possible the successful and rapid development of practical life of the socialist society. Therefore it is disturbing and laughable when today bourgeois ideologists claim that the Bolsheviks and their leadership allegedly usurped power and remained in power with the help of mass violence and terror. Such ignorant garbage and irreverent slanders would be denied by even the most vicious enemy of the Bolsheviks and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

When we say Lenin we mean the party. By analogy, the name of Stalin incorporated the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union during the so-called Stalinist period. This was related not only to Stalin’s greatest contributions to the Bolshevik party and the working class. This phenomenon also has a social-class explanation. The victory of the proletarian revolution and the tremendous success of socialism during the dictatorship of the proletariat under the leadership of the Bolshevik party created a strong morale among the masses and their hopes for a bright future. The dreams of a better life turned into reality in a planned and rapid fashion. The petty-bourgeois consciousness, first of all of the peasants and the intellectuals, was used to link the good and the bad in their lives, victory or defeat, with the name of a given leader and not with the politics of the leading class; in the concrete historical case we are dealing with the dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Bolshevik party. This way it was easier for the petty-bourgeois consciousness to understand, and the successes of the country were indeed legendary. Therefore while Stalin was alive, through such manifestations, the influence of the proletarian nucleus in the party was further strengthened by the authority of the party attained during the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Marxist-Leninist line of the party did not suffer changes and the party formally displayed class unity among its members; this all corresponded to the post-war period while comrade Stalin was still alive.

After the death of comrade Stalin the petty-bourgeois forces within the party (the Soviet revisionists, the so-called ‘Khrushchevites’) worked hard to seize the key party positions, since to achieve control in the party structures gave them the chance to take over political power and ideological control. However, in order to change the politics of the CPSU towards the opposite class direction, i.e. to bring it in correspondence with the real power, it was necessary to discredit the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat and to isolate it from the Leninist party of the Bolsheviks,even though the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat solidly followed the Leninist party of the Bolsheviks.

It was because of this that the 20th Congress of the CPSU had to replace the class dictatorship of the proletariat and the vanguard role of the Bolshevik party with the ‘cult of personality of Stalin’, it had to replace the class struggle with the unilateral dictate of the leader and to slander his name after his death. This completely contradicts Marxism-Leninism as a science of classes and class struggle and the whole world practice of class struggle, but it is easily comprehended by primitive petty-bourgeois consciousness.

The 20th Congress of the CPSU should be considered as the date that formally marks the defeat of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR and the execution of a counter-revolutionary coup.

The counterrevolution did not hesitate to resort to slanders, intrigues, terror and threats to use the armed forces directly in order to attain power.

It is true that not all the party leaders agreed with the concrete actions of the class enemy. In particular Malenkov, Kaganovich, Molotov, Shepilov and other party members tried to remove Khrushchev after a while. But their actions were not reflected in the class struggle and were more like a struggle for power among the high party echelons, as if their actions had nothing to do with the class struggle and the class enemy and were a result of private organisational inner-party discussions. It is due to this that their ‘struggle’ did not become an example of revolutionary class struggle. Khrushchev and his supporters declared this group ‘anti-party’ and expelled them from the party leadership in their entirety.

Power in the territory of the Soviet Union fell completely into the hands of the new class forces forged in the petty-bourgeois medium who defeated the dictatorship of the proletariat in the class struggle.

These were communists only in words, but capitalists in practice. The new party leadership was obliged, above all, to transform the party documents according to the new essence of power and the real situation in society. Fundamental class concepts such as the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘class struggle’, the ‘political vanguard of the working class’ and other concepts which make up the basics of the Marxist-Leninist teachings simply disappeared. At the same time theses about the ‘complete and final victory of socialism in the USSR’ were introduced, which pointed without proof to the impossibility of restoring capitalism and excluded the possibility of class struggle, about the ‘party of the whole people’, etc. In other words, Marxism-Leninism was subject to open and conscientious petty-bourgeois revision. However, the external attributes of the CPSU remained untouched; the party preserved its communist name; the state was still called socialist and the party propaganda still called for loyalty to Marxism-Leninism. This was also consistent with the psychology of the rank-and-file Soviet petty-bourgeois of that time. The revision of Marxism-Leninism also had another hidden aspect: the revisionists concealed their true (bourgeois) selves using Lenin.

Lenin was transformed by them into an icon for mass oration, which was harmless for the new power, and Marxism-Leninism was transformed into a petty-bourgeois pseudo-science under the excuse of ‘creative development’ and ceased to inspire revolutionary action among the working class and the communists.

The representatives of the petty-bourgeois forces, who seized power and destroyed the dictatorship of the proletariat, took over all the socialised means of production; therefore de facto they became corporate owners, i.e. capitalists. From this point on we are dealing here with a bourgeois state and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Now the corporate capitalist, by virtue of the main economic law of capitalism, the law of maximum profit, should distribute the means of production accordingly. These class aspirations force changes in the economic basis at all levels with respect to ownership of the means of productions and the corresponding state policies.

A fundamental example of such transformation in the basis is the decision to liquidate the machine-tractor stations (MTS). The liquidation of the MTS represents the liquidation of social property of the means of production in the countryside, the return to group property of the machine stations and their inclusion in the system of commodity-money relations. That is a fundamental turning point in the essence of the economic relations between industry and the countryside towards capitalist relations.

The dictatorship of the proletariat or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie determines the existence of socialism or capitalism; there is no intermediate step between them.


Published in Proletarskaya Gazeta, No. 26



Court Proceedings of the Moscow Trials

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Communist International: The Spanish Revolution

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.


Alliance (Marxist-Leninist): Globalisation; Do Lenin’s Criteria of Imperialism still Hold?



Submission to Third Conference of International Struggle Marxist-Leninist. October 1999; Paris.

Goal Of This Article

We intend to discuss the most important features of imperialism as defined by Lenin; to ask whether the essential features of capital are so changed by recent events that we must revise the importance of the National Question and the general call of Communists to support the national movement:

“Fully and completely up to the point of secession the rights of self-determination.”

What this meant for Marxist-Leninists in relation to colonial and dependent countries, was explained by Lenin and Stalin:

“The Communist International must enter into temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in colonial and backward countries.”

V.I.Lenin: Preliminary Draft of Theses on the national and Colonial Countries, 2nd Congress CI, in “Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946; p.237.

“The task of the communist elements in the colonial type countries is to link up with the revolutionary elements of the bourgeoisie.. against the bloc of imperialism and the compromising elements of ‘their own’ bourgeoisie, in order.. to wage a genuinely revolutionary struggle for liberation from imperialism”.

J.V.Stalin :”The Results of the Work At the 14th Congress of the RCP(B), in “Works” Volume 7, Moscow, 1954, p.108-9.

What Is Globalisation? Definitions and Our Analytic Task

An acceptable working definition of “Globalisation” is needed for this analysis. It should be one that assumes the normal current position about “globalisation”, and makes the link between the “eclipse” of nations and “globalisation” explicit. The left leaning Hugo Radice (we assume him to be a social democrat) offers this:

“A process through which an increasing proportion of economic, social and cultural transactions take place directly or indirectly between parties in different countries; the term is then synonymous with “internationalisation”. This sort of definition used for example by Hist & Thompson (1996) presupposes an ‘original condition’, a starting point for the process in which the world is made up of distinct and self-sufficient economies, each under the jurisdiction of an independent national-state. It leads to the hypothesis that if globalisation proceeds ‘far enough’ it must lead to the replacement of an ‘inter-national’ world economy by a single integrated global economy; and this the globalisation process confronts threatens or undermines the nation-state”.

Radice, Hugo: “Taking Globalisation Seriously”; In “Socialist Register 1999: “Global capitalism versus democracy”; editors: Panitch Leo & Leys Colin. 1999; London; p.3.

Of course, as Radice points out, “international transactions” have taken place well before the advent of industrial capitalism. After all international trade is at least as old as the Phoenicians. The term “globalisation” is meant to imply a wider and deeper phenomena.

If that is so, what are the claims for a qualitatively new situation in the world economy, based upon?

It seems to be agreed by ideologists of the business and capitalist houses as well as the social democrat “left-leaning” like Radice, that a key element is an “inter-penetration” of business interests around the world. Thus, John H. Dunning is a fervent supporter of what he and others term the new era of “Alliance Capitalism” in today’s world economy. He adopts the definition of Antony McGrew from the work “Globalization & the Nation State”; 1992:

“Globalization refers to the multiplicity of linkages and interconnections between the states and societies which make up the present world system. It describes the process by which events, decisions and activities in one part of the world come to have significant consequences for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe. Globalization has two distinct phenomena: scope (or stretching) and intensity (or deepening). On the one hand it defines a set of processes which embrace most of the globe or which operate world-wide; the concept therefore has a spatial connotation On the other hand it also implies an intensification of the levels of interaction interconnectedness, or interdependence between the states and societies which constitute the world community. Accordingly alongside the stretching goes a deepening of global processes.”

Cited by John H. Dunning in: ” Alliance Capitalism & Global Business”; London; 1997; p.33.

Dunning then makes the general definition operational and explicit in relation to the needs of big business:

“In short then, the economic globalization is a process towards the widening of the extent and form of cross-border transactions and of the deepening of the economic interdependence between the actions of globalizing entities – be they private or public institutions or governments – located in one country and those of related or independent entities located in other countries. The shallowest form of globalization is where and economic entity in one country engages in arm’s length trade in a single product with another economic entity in one other country. The deepest form of globalization is where an economic entity transacts with a large number of other economic entities throughout the world; where it does so across a network of value-added (i.e. profit added -Ed) chains; where these exchanges are highly coordinated to serve the world-wide interests of the globalizing entity; and where they consist of a myriad of different forms of transactions.. Thus a typical global firm will own or control subsidiaries and engage in a value added business alliance and networks in each continent and in each major country. It will source its inputs of labour, capital raw materials and intermediate products from wherever it is best o do so; it will engage in financial transactions independent of time and space; and it will sell its goods and services in each of the main markets of the world.”

Dunning; Ibid; p. 34.

Whether any of this is “new”, is assessed below. But, for now, the link for these ideologists with the role of the nation state is explored. What do these definitions mean for the individual nation-state? For the proponents of “globalization”, to enhance “value-adding” activity, all countries must be “fully open” to the forces of international globalization:

“Similarly a country which is fully open to the forces of globalisation is likely to be geographically diversified in its financial, trading, and investment relationships, and the value added associated with these relationships should constitute a significant part of its Gross National Product (GNP).”

Dunning; Ibid; p. 34.

Well what does this mean?

There is little doubt that at the simplest level it is a demand for free entry of goods and services and capital across all borders. Indeed an explicit anti-protectionism call. But beyond this, is intended a further dimension – the actual erosion of independent nations. As always, to assuage the fears of the “overly-anxious” capital calls upon trusted ideologues to clear the way and provide their “rationale”. The ex-Communist Eric J Hobsbawm, is given accolades by the bourgeoisie for his historical analyses. He presents the viewpoint of the bourgeoisie on the matter of “nationalism in the 20th Century”:

“In spite of its evident prominence, nationalism is historically less important (today). It is no longer as it were, a global political programme, as it may be said to have been in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. It is at most a complicating factor, or a catalyst for other developments. It is not implausible to present the history of the Eurocentric nineteenth century world as that of “nation-building”, as Walter Baghot did Is anyone likely to write the world history of the late twentieth and twentieth-first century in such terms? It is most unlikely. On the contrary, it will inevitably have to be written as the history of a world which can no longer be contained within the limits of “nations” and nation-states” as these used to be defined, either politically, or economically, or culturally, or even linguistically. It will be largely supranational and infra national, but even infra-nationality , whether it dresses itself up in the costume of some mini-nationalism, will reflect the decline of the old nation-state an operation entity. It will see “nation-sates” and “nations” or ethnic/linguistic groups primarily retreating before, resisting, adapting to, being absorbed or dislocated by the new supranational restructuring of the globe. Nations and nationalism will be present in this history but in subordinate and often rather minor roles. This does not mean that national history and culture will not bulk large-perhaps larger than before-in the educational systems and the cultural life of particular countries, especially the smaller ones, or that they may not flourish within a much broader supranational framework, as, say, Catalan culture today flourishes, but on the tacit assumption that it is Catalans who will communicate with the rest of the world through Spanish and English, since few non-residents in Catalonia will be able to communicate in the local language.”

Hobsbawm EJ: “Nations & Nationalism Since 1780. Programme, Myth & Reality”; Cambridge; Revised second edition; 1997; p.190-191.

Hobsbawm has filled the need of capital for a progressive patina-veneer to cover Capital’s worst aims with a “rationale”. This matches well the view of the more openly pro-bourgeois-capitalist ideologues like Lester C. Thurow, the former Dean of MIT Sloan School of Management. Thurow has no bones about concurring with the sense of Hobsbawm:

“Ethnic separatism (i.e. National separation in the sense in which Thurow is using the term – Ed) is a common phenomenon in periods of economic uncertainty periods when national borders are moving are much more common than periods when they are frozen into place. Since the Berlin Wall has come down, twenty new countries have been created and two countries East and West Germany have become one country Once borders begin to move anywhere in the world it legitimates the idea that they can move elsewhere. Nations hold together because of outside challenges or powerful inside ideologies. Communism was such a powerful inside ideology. It persuaded ethnic groups to live together (if not to like at least to tolerate each other) who had never lived together peacefully before. Communism was the powerful outside challenger that held ethnic forces in check elsewhere Ethnic divisions (i.e. national divisions) are not the twenty-first’s century’s wars of religions. The nation-state is a nineteenth or twentieth century phenomenon and in most cases it is difficult to devise common principles explaining why today’s nations and not some other grouping of nations exist. What is occurring is not religious wars but the phenomenon of ethnic splintering or of religious splintering where the ethnic or religious fault liens are so minor that outsiders often cannot see them even after they are told they exist. Blood and belonging are in the mind, not on the ground. The issue is not “who is us” but an “us” who often exists when no one else can see why. . Where homogeneous ethnic groups exist in different parts of the same country, large states are breaking up or threatening to break up- as in Canada and India. Challenges to existing borders have succeeded, are succeeding and will succeed. Bosnia and Yugoslavia are the wave of the future. They have echoed already in Czechoslovakia, Chechnya, Armenia-Azerbaijan and Georgia. If neither a powerful inside ideology nor a powerful outside threat exists, nations break into warring ethnic, racial or class groups. Why not break up into tribal ethnic groups and fight it out? Such sentiments are legitimated by today’s world economy. Everybody now understands that one does not have to be a big economy with a big internal market to succeed. City-states like Hong Kong or Singapore can succeed. It used to be that everyone thought that breaking up a country into smaller pieces meant a lower standard of living; today everyone knows that isn’t true. As a result one can go it alone and does not have to cooperate with other ethnic groups to have a high standard of living. With this knowledge goes one of the previously existing impediments to ethnic feuding.”

Thurow LC: “The Future of Capitalism. How Today’s Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow’s World.”; New York; 1996; pp –241.

In agreement that there has been a diminishment of nation-states, are key progressive forces actively fighting back against the impacts of global capital. For example, in colourful and vivid language, “Sub-Commandante Marcos” echoes the overall analysis. Although Marcos wrongly identifies the “Cold War” as the “Third World War”, and also wrongly identifies the Castro and Khruschev regimes (among others) as socialist – Nonetheless his perspective is that of a militant progressive fighter for his working peoples, in this case in Chiapas. Marcos clearly identifies the main enemy as “globalisation” – a process of active re-division of the world where:

” As a world system, neo-liberalism is a new war for the conquest of territory a new world war – the fourth. Like all major conflicts, this war is forcing national states to redefine their identity. The world order seems to have reverted to the earlier epochs of the conquests of America, Africa and Oceania . . . .Vast territories, wealth and, above all, a huge and available workforce lie waiting for the world’s new master . . the fourth world war is being conducted between major financial centres in theatres of war that are global in scale and with a level of intensity that is fierce and constant. . . One of its first victims has been the national market. . . . One of the fundamental bases of the power of the modern capitalist state, the national market, is wiped out by the heavy artillery of the global finance economy. The new international capitalism renders national capitalism obsolete and effectively starves their public powers into extinction. The blow has been so brutal that sovereign states have lost the strength to defend their citizens’ interests. . . . Are megalopolises replacing nations? No, or rather not merely that. They are assigning them new functions, new limits and new perspectives. Entire countries are becoming departments of the neoliberal mega-enterprise. Neoliberalism thus produces, on the one hand, destruction and depopulation, and, on the other, the reconstruction and reorganisation of regions and nations.”

“Why We Are Fighting-The fourth world war has begun” By Sub-Commandant Marcos; Zapatista National Liberation Army (ZNLA).” September 1997; In Le Monde Diplomatique; Also at: web site:

Marcos sees during all, this an increased polarisation of the world between ultra-rich and poor. Of course he is right. The raw reality and figures behind today’s world human misery, are frankly very difficult to fully comprehend:

“The earth has five billion human inhabitants: of these, only 500 million live comfortably; the remaining 4.5 billion endure lives of poverty. The rich make up for their numerical minority by their ownership of billions of dollars. The total wealth owned by the 358 richest people in the world, the dollar billionaires, is greater than the annual income of almost half the world’s poorest inhabitants, in other words about 2.6 billion people. . . . . In the 1960s and 1970s, the number of poor people in the world (defined by the World Bank as having an income of less than one dollar per day) rose to some 200 million. By the start of the 1990s, their numbers stood at two billion. . . . The world’s economically active population (EAP) went from 1.38 billion in 1960 to 2.37 billion in 1990. A large increase in the number of human beings capable of working and generating wealth. But the new world order arranges this workforce within specific geographical and productive areas, and reassigns their functions (or non-functions, in the case of unemployed and precarious workers) within the plan of world globalisation. The world’s economically active population by sector (EAPS) has undergone radical changes during the past 20 years. Agriculture and fishing fell from 22 % in 1970 to 12 % in 1990; manufacture from 25 % to 22 %; but the tertiary sector (commercial, transport, banking and services) has risen from 42 % to 56 %. In developing countries, the tertiary sector has grown from 40 % in 1970 to 57 % in 1990, while agriculture and fishing have fallen from 30 % to 15 % (2). This means that increasing numbers of workers are channelled into the kind of activities necessary for increasing productivity or speeding up the creation of commodities. The neoliberal system thus functions as a kind of mega-boss for whom the world market is viewed as a single, unified enterprise, to be managed by “modernising” criteria. But neoliberalism’s “modernity” seems closer to the bestial birth of capitalism as a world system than to utopian “rationality”, because this “modern” capitalist production continues to rely on child labour. Out of 1.15 billion children in the world, at least 100 million live on the streets and 200 million work – and according to forecasts this figure will rise to 400 million by the year 2000. In Asia alone, 146 million children work in manufacturing. And in the North too, hundreds of thousands of children have to work in order to supplement family incomes, or merely to survive. There are also many children employed in the “pleasure industries”: according to the United Nations, every year a million children are driven into the sex trade. The unemployment and precarious labour of millions of workers throughout the world is a reality which does not look set to disappear. . . . In the countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), unemployment went from 3.8 % in 1966 to 6.3 % in 1990; in Europe it went from 2.2 % to 6.4 %. The globalised market is destroying small and medium- sized companies. With the disappearance of local and regional markets, small and medium producers have no protection and are unable to compete with the giant transnationals. Millions of workers thus find themselves unemployed. One of the absurdities of neoliberalism is that far from creating jobs, the growth of production actually destroys them. The UN speaks of “growth without jobs”. But the nightmare does not end there. Workers are also being forced to accept precarious conditions. Less job security, longer working hours and lower wages: these are the consequences of globalisation in general and the explosion in the service sector in particular. . . . The number of those coming within the ambit of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has grown disproportionately from 2 million in 1975 to more than 27 million in 1995.”

“Why We Are Fighting-The fourth world war has begun” By Sub-Commandant Marcos; Zapatista National Liberation Army (ZNLA).” September 1997; In Le Monde Diplomatique; Also at:

Summary: Globalization entails one single world market; enormous inter-penetration of capital; minimization of national-border interference’s with trade and commerce; fostering of an indifference to national differences.; at enormous and incalculable costs to the world’s working peoples.

2. Our Current Analytic Task As Marxist-Leninists

When Marxist-Leninists raise the matter of “Nationalism Today, in the era of Globalisation” – we mean the relevance of the Marxist-Leninist theory of the colonial question, and the relations between the imperialists themselves and the national liberation struggle.

Naturally the views of Dunning, Hobsbawm, Thurow upon the National Question today, stand opposed to the views of Lenin and Stalin, as stated long ago in build-up to the world of the socialist revolution in Russia that they shepherded into being. But, perhaps there have been so many changes in the world that a qualitative change has taken place to render the views of Lenin and Stalin on the importance of the National Question as being immaterial?

After all times change, and dialectical materialists recognise reality. Moreover if revolutionary socialists adopt the strategy and tactics that will further the socialist revolution and not retard it, these must be consistent with reality.

All who call themselves Marxist-Leninist accept the role of Stalin as the defender of Lenin’s work. In this context, Stalin pointed out in the last work he wrote in 1951 – “The Economic Problems of the USSR” – that the economic positions of capitalism are constantly changing. He explicitly therefore asks whether adjustments to Lenin’s and analyses are needed:

“a) Can it be affirmed that the thesis expounded by Stalin before the Second World War regarding the relative stability of markets in the period of the general crisis of capitalism is still valid?
b) Can it be affirmed that the thesis expounded by Lenin in the spring of 1916 – namely that in spite of the decay of capitalism, “on the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before” – still valid.”
I think that it cannot. In view of the new conditions to which the Second World War has given rise, both these must be regarded as having lost their validity.”

Stalin J.V: “The Economic Problems of the USSR”; Foreign Languages Press Peking; p.32

Stalin agrees that there must be a change of the assessment of capitalism. But he is talking only in terms of the relative strength of capitalism, and not about its fundamental attributes. Stalin here recognised that new conditions had placed a brake upon un-fettered capitalist development. Naturally Stalin explicitly placed this brake, in the context of the successful defense of socialism in the USSR against Hitlerite and capitalist attacks, the victory towards the peoples Democracies world wide; and the denial of markets to the world capitalists, by virtue of the link between the Peoples Democracies and the USSR:

“Disintegration of the Single World Market & Deepening of the Crisis of the World Capitalist System: “The disintegration of the single all-embracing world markets must be regarded as the most important economic sequel of the Second World War and of its economic consequences. It has had the effect of further deepening the general crisis of the world capitalist system.”;

Stalin; Ibid; p. 30.

“China and other, European , people’s democracies broke away from the capitalist system and, together with the Soviet Union, formed a united and powerful socialist camp confronting the camp of capitalism. The economic consequence of the existence of two opposite camps was that the single all-embracing world market disintegrated, so that we now have two parallel markets confronting one another.. It should be observed that the USA & Great Britain and France, themselves contributed – without themselves desiring it of course – to the formation & consolidation of the new parallel world market. They imposed an economic blockade on the USSR, China, & the European people’s democracies, which did not join the “Marshall Plan” system thinking thereby to strangle them.”;

Stalin; p. 30-31 Ibid;

If that brake had been placed upon capitalism by the socialist system of the USSR and the development towards People’s democracy, it is inevitably true that the destruction of socialism in the USSR in 1953 and the revisionist led distortions inside the People’s democracies would lead to a resurgence of the capitalist system.

Returning to Stalin’s lifetime, Stalin pointed out this brake on capitalist development by 1951, meant that markets would decrease and competition between capitalism would grow:

“But it follows from this that the sphere of exploitation of the world’s resources by the major capitalist countries (USA, Britain, France) will not expand but contract; that their opportunities for sale in the world market will not expand, but contract; that their opportunities for sale in the world market will deteriorate and that their industries will be operating more and more below capacity. That is in fact, what is meant by the deepening of the general crisis of the world capitalist system in connection with the disintegration of the world market”.

Stalin; Ibid; p.31.

Of course this means that capitalist wars remain inevitable.

“Part 6: Inevitability of Wars between Capitalist Countries”; Some comrades think that owing to the development of new international conditions since the Second World War, wars between capitalist countries have ceased to be inevitable. These comrades are mistaken Outwardly everything would seem to be going well”; the USA has put Western Europe, Japan, and other capitalist countries on rations; Germany (Western), Britain, France, Italy & Japan have fallen into the clutches of the USA and are meekly obeying its commands. But it would be mistaken to think that things can continue to “go well” for ” all eternity”, that these countries will tolerate the domination and oppression of the United States endlessly, that they will not endeavor to tear loose from American bondage and take the part of independent development.”

Stalin; Ibid; p.33.

While no one in their right minds would dispute that capitalist wars are inevitable nowadays, following the USA-led NATO attack upon the Balkans, there are still some who claim that significant changes have occurred to capitalism that demand a change in our overall strategy and tactics. It is our task today to begin to prepare an answer to this.

There have indeed been some significant changes since Stalin wrote the Economic Problems. We itemize some of those most important in our view:

The most important political change has been the fall of all Socialist states and their reversion to a single world market driven by profit. This has temporarily prolonged the final phases of international capitalism and imperialism both by providing a new market; but more importantly by temporarily “discrediting” Marxism-Leninism. The removal of the brake of the socialist countries, has meant a temporary revival and growth of capitalism. This has been analysed before by Bland (See “Restoration of Capitalism In the USSR”; Wembley 1984; see also web site of Alliance for the whole book at: GO TO SUBJECT INDEX).

The advent of new technology, exemplified by the computer. These new technologies have transformed both the role of “financial capital” and that of “industrial capital”. In financial capital their impact has been to dramatically expand the role of money and what is considered as “money”. In industrial capital they have tremendously accelerated the rate of exploitation of workers; accelerated the flooding of markets with goods chasing buyers; by virtue of the cost of computer aided systems dramatically enhanced the rate of the fall of profit predicted by Marx. (these events have all been analysed in some detail by Alliance in :”Number 3: Protectionism, Inflation & Free Trade. Economics of the 20th Century”; Toronto 1993; Also on the web site of Alliance: See Inflation in subject index at: GO TO SUBJECT INDEX).

The transformation of overt naked colonialism into disguised neo-colonialism. (A neo-colony ie. a former colony which has become nominally “independent” but which continues to have its economic system largely controlled for the benefit of the ruling class of the same dominating Great Power which formerly ruled it directly). This has led to at least three specific changes. Firstly is the dispersal of industrial localization to the periphery – with a consequent rise in unemployment in the former Western industrialized countries and the dramatic fall in their industrialized bases in terms of plants actually operating on their “home” territory. Secondly it has resulted in the evolution of some industrial competitors usually termed Newly Industrialised Countries (NIC). These weak though they might be, and though they might initially start under the control of foreign imperialism, they end up offering some potential or actual competition to the giants of the so-called Triad (The USA, the European powers of the European Economic Community EEC); and Japan. In combination with (ii) above, the inevitable consequence has been to accelerate the general crisis of over-production. Thirdly, in association with (ii) above, there has been a progressive NARROWING of the space (or as Lenin termed it “There is no Chinese wall between the first and the second stage of the revolutions”) between the first democratic stage of the colonial revolution and the second socialist stage. This has NOT eliminated the need for the first stage in many neo-colonial countries, but it has made the allies of the working class and the peasantry – the national bourgeois even more weak-willed and vacillating than before. (Alliance has discussed these issues in some detail, before in issue 29 & 5 in particular. For issue 5 entitled: The Role Of The Bourgeoisie In Colonial Type Countries – What Is The Class Character Of The Indian State ?” See:
For Issue 28 entitled : Upon The Polemic Between Proletarian Path & Revolutionary Democracy – Concerning The Stage Of The Indian Revolution. See:

See also Alliance on Lenin and Stalin’s views on the Chinese revolution” – on the web at:(See under China at GO TO SUBJECT INDEX)

But we will argue that none of these has fundamentally changed either the nature of capitalism or the general picture of world imperialism and its need to dominate smaller economies of independent nations.

Summary: In 1951 Stalin had identified that the changes associated with socialist development in the USSR and its leadership of the People’s “Democracies” had retarded the progress of capitalism. It is natural that the demise of socialism has led to its changes on the function of capital. Other major political changes over this period include the development of the NIC’s and the transformation of naked colonialism into disguised neo-colonialism. Finally some major technological advances related to the computer industry has taken place.

3. Has Capitalism Fundamentally Changed Up to 1951?

Granted these dramatic changes have taken place, it is our purpose in assessing the impact of these changes. But in trying to assess these changes and their impact upon our revolutionary strategy, it might help to ask:

“What is the basic law of capital?” – and then to ask: “Whether the basic law of capitalism has changed?”

Stalin asked this question in 1951. Of course Stalin’s main intent was to compare and contrast the economic laws under socialism in the USSR, with those of capitalism. (Other intents included the fighting of internal revisionism in the USSR as led by Khruschev and Vosnosenksy. The Communist League (UK) has dealt with these matters in separate publications: (Reprinted by Alliance as Issue 17: “On Revisionist Economics”; Toronto 1995; See also ‘Varga & Vosnosensky at GO TO SUBJECT INDEX web site Alliance).

But there is good reason for us now, to re-consider Stalin’s views on the essential laws of capitalism with respect to the current views on capitalism in the era of “globalisation”. After all Stalin reasoned that it was important to explain capitalism’s functioning. This is no less true today. As Stalin pointed out:

“The importance of the basic economic law of capitalism consists among other things, in the circumstance that since it determines all the major phenomena in the development of the capitalist mode of production, its booms and crises, its victories and defeats, its merits and demerits, – the whole process of its contradictory development – it enables us to understand & explain them”;

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid; p. 40.

Before re-examining Stalin’s views, it should be remind ourselves that indeed Stalin made the observation that Lenin’s and Stalin’s estimations of the stage of capitalism’s expansion in 1915 and 1930, needed to be revised in 1951 (See above). But at no time did he challenge the characterization of capitalism as being “monopoly capitalism”. To the contrary Stalin constantly in his writing of “Economic Problems Of Socialism In The USSR”, identifies “modern capitalism” with “Monopoly capitalism”. In the following quotations we have bolded these references.

Thus Stalin at no stage gives any indication of appraising Lenin’s estimation of “monopoly” capitalism as being fundamentally in need of change.

So what Laws of Capitalism did Stalin evaluate for their capacity to stand as the “basic economic law of capitalism

First he assessed whether the root economic law of capitalism was the Law of Value, and he answered it was not, nor was the “law of competition and “the law of uneven development”:

“Is the Law of Value the basic economic law of capitalism? No the law of value is primarily a law of commodity production. It existed before capitalism, and like commodity production will continue to exist after the overthrow of capitalism Not only does it not determine the essence of capitalist production and the principles of capitalist profit it does not even pose these problems. Therefore it cannot be the basic economic law of modern capitalism. For the same reasons, the law of competition and anarchy of production or the law of uneven development in the various countries cannot be the basic economic law of capitalism either.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid; p. 37-38.

Stalin then asked whether the basic law was the obtaining of the “Average rate of profit?” He answered that it was not:

“It is said that the law of the average rate of profit is the basic economic law of modern capitalism. That is not true, Modern capitalism, monopoly capitalism cannot content itself with the average profit, which moreover has a tendency to decline, in view of the increasing organic composition of capital. It is not the average profit but the maximum profit that modern monopoly capitalism demands, which it needs for more or less regular extended reproduction.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid; p. 37-38.

Stalin did identify the Law of Surplus Value as the most “appropriate to the concept of a basic economic law of capitalism”. But he pointed out that this was “too general a law and does not cover the problem of the highest rate of profit the securing of which is a condition for the development of monopoly capitalism.” :

“Most appropriate to the concept of a basic economic law of capitalism is the law of surplus value, the law of the origin and growth of capitalist profit. It really does determine the basic features of capitalist production. But the law of surplus value is too general a law; it does not cover the problem of the highest rate of profit; the securing of which is a condition for the development of monopoly capitalism. In order to fill this hiatus, the law of surplus value must be made more concrete and developed further in adaptation to the conditions of monopoly capitalism, at the same time bearing in mind that monopoly capitalism demands not any sort of profit but precisely the maximum profit. That will be the basic law of modern capitalism.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid; p. 38-39.

So what according to Stalin IS the “Basic economic law of modern capitalism”? He replies:

“The main features and requirements of the basic economic law of modern capitalism might be formulated roughly in this way: the securing of the maximum capitalist profit through the exploitation, ruin, and impoverishment of the majority of the population of the given country, through the enslavement and systematic robbery of the peoples of other countries, especially backward countries , and lastly through wears and militiarization of the national economy which are utilized for the obtaining of higher profits.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid; p.39.

Alliance feels that this operating definition FULLY stands as the current operating definition of the basic economic law of capitalism and is un-necessary to modify. We argue, that if this is so, then the rest of Stalin’s understanding of the connection between the stage of “modern monopoly” capitalism and the National Question remains – basically intact.

We should note the intimate connection of the National Question, the Colonial Question and the matter of “modern monopoly capitalism” – linked into one seminal analysis by Lenin, in “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism”; written in 1916.

In this regard, Stalin gives us no indication in 1951 that there is any need to break the chain of reasoning between the stage of “modern monopoly capitalism”, the chase for markets and the “enslavement and plunder of colonies and backward countries”:

“It is said that the average profit might nevertheless be regarded as quite sufficient for capitalist development under modern conditions. That is not true. The average profit is the lowest point of profitableness, below which capital production becomes impossible. That is not true. The average profit is the lowest point of profitableness, below which capitalist production becomes impossible. But it would be absurd to think that in seizing colonies, subjugating peoples and engineering wars, the magnates of modern monopoly capitalism are striving to secure only the average profit. No, it is not the average profit, nor yet super-profits- which as a rule represents only a slight addition to the average profit- but precisely the maximum profit that is the motor of monopoly capitalism precisely the necessity of securing the maximum profits that drives monopoly capitalism to such risky undertakings as the enslavement and systematic plunder of colonies and other backward countries, the conversion of a number of independent countries into dependent countries, the organization of new wars – which to the magnates of modern capitalism is the “business” best adapted to the extraction of the maximum profit – and lastly, attempts to win world economic supremacy.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; Ibid; p. 39.

In the light of all the general hype about the “New Age of Computers” etc; we should give some specific considerations to the matter of new technologies. There is no doubt about the important and revolutionary impact of computing science upon daily life and capitalist production. But has the advent of new technology OF ITSELF changed the situation vis-à-vis capital’s functioning? Stalin would argue that even dramatic technological changes are subordinate to the operation of the fundamental basic economic law of capital: The securing of the highest profit levels:

“Capitalism is in favour of new techniques when they promise it the highest profit. Capital is against new techniques and for resort to hand techniques when the new techniques do not promise the highest profit.”

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems Of Socialism In the USSR”; “Part 7: The Basic Economic Laws of modern Capitalism & Socialism”; Ibid.; p. 40.

We will argue below that the advent of computerisation has simply exacerbated the impact of Lenin’s analysis, and that it has not fundamentally changed the relationship between the dependent countries and the large metropolitan blocks.

All this must lead us to considering the economic forces described by Lenin in “Imperialism – The Highest Stage of Capitalism”, written in. Have there been such critical economic changes since Lenin described the features of the “highest stage of capitalism”, as being imperialism in his classic work, as to lead us to need to revise his thoughts?

Summary: Up to 1951, there was no essential change in the operation of “modern monopoly” capitalism, that operated out of the necessity to extract the highest possible rate of profit and which impelled it to predatory wars and enslavements of dependent countries. The essential basic economic law underlying its development, seems to Alliance NOT to have changed since 1951.

5. Lenin’s “Imperialism As the Highest Stage of Capitalism”.

Lenin defined imperialism as a very specific stage where the earlier stages of capitalism were being mutated into their opposite. By this he meant that a marked feature of capitalist development is “free competition” and individual enterprise. This was being turned into its opposite – cartelisation and monopoly:

“Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental attributes of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental attributes began to change into their opposites, when the features of the epoch of transition from capitalism to a higher social and economic system began to take shape and revealed themselves in all spheres. Economically, the main thing in this process is the displacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly. for Free competition is the basic feature of capitalism, and of commodity production generally; Monopoly is the exact opposite; but we have seen the latter being transformed into monopoly before our eyes, creating large-scale industry and eliminating small industry, replacing large-scale industry by still larger-scale industry, and carrying concentration of production and capital to the point where it has grown and is growing monopoly: cartels, syndicates and trusts, and merging with them, the capital of a dozen or so banks manipulating thousands of millions. At the same time monopoly which has grown out of free competition, do not eliminate the latter, but exist over it and alongside of it, and thorny gives rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, friction and conflicts. Monopoly is the transition from capitalism to a higher stage. If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. Such a definition would include what is most important, for on the one hand finance capital is the bank capital of the a few very big monopolist banks, merged with the capitals of the monopolist associations of industrialists; and on the other hand the division of the world is transition from a colonial policy which ahs extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolist division of the territory of the world, which has been completely divided up.”

V.I. Lenin: “Imperialism – The Highest Stage of Capitalism”; ” In Selected Works; Moscow; 1977; p.699-700.

In the same section, Lenin distills the key features of imperialism:

“We must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features:
1) The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;
2) The merging of bank capital with industrial capital and the creation on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;
(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;
(4) the formation of international monopolist capitals associations which share the world among themselves, and
(5) The territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.”

Lenin Ibid; p. 702.

We propose here to consider whether any of these “basic features” identified by Lenin, have changed to such a qualitative degree, that we would agree that “globalisation” is a distinctly new phase in capitalist development and mandates a different strategy and tactics for the proletariat and peasant working masses of the world.

The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;

Lenin pointed out that the vast scale of company mergers challenged the state.

This process has vastly accelerated. Even by 1951, Stalin was already commenting that this feature of modern monopoly capitalism was far more pervasive than it had been before. He proposed that the term “coalescence” was now superseded by the term “subjugation of the state machine to the monopolies”:

“(4) Coalescence of the monopolies with the state machine: The word “coalescence” is not appropriate. It superficially and descriptively notes the process of merging of the monopolies with the state, but it does not reveal the economic import of this process. The fact of the matter is that the merging process is not simply a process of coalescence, but the subjugation of the state machine to the monopolies. The word “coalescence” should therefore be discarded and replaced by the words “subjugation of the state machine to the monopolies”.

Stalin Ibid: “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”; “Part 8.Other Questions.”; Ibid; p. 43-44

But nowadays, the process is even more highly concentrated leading to vast giants of corporations.

“The pace of corporate change is impressive. Hardly a week goes by without the media announcing some new marriage between major companies, the creation of some new colossus, a mega-merger designed to create the super-giants of the future. Among the most spectacular, we have recently had the acquisition of the Chrysler auto company by Daimler-Benz (for a sum of $43 billion); the Citicorp bank by Travelers ($82.9 billion); the Ameritech telephone company by SBC Communications ($60 billion); the pharmaceuticals giant Ciba by Sandoz ($36.3 billion, creating Novartis); MCI Communications by WorldCom ($30 billion); the Bank of Tokyo by Mitsubishi Bank ($33.8 billion); the Société de Banque Suisse by the Union des Banques Suisses ($24.3 billion); and the recent merger decision between the two historical giants of the German steel industry, Thyssen and Krupp, which, according to their managements, will generate a combined turnover of $63 billion In 1997 the total for mergers and acquisitions was running at upwards of $1,600 billion. The sectors most susceptible to this monolith-mania have been banking, pharmaceuticals, media, telecommunications, food and agro-industry and the auto industry. . . . . . As a result of successive consolidations, some firms have now achieved gargantuan proportions. Their turnovers are sometimes higher than the GNP of some industrialised countries. For instance, General Motors’ turnover is higher that the GNP of Denmark; Exxon’s is bigger than that of Norway, and Toyota’s is bigger than that of Portugal (François Chesnais, La Mondialisation du capital, Syros, Paris, 1997.). The financial resources available to these companies often exceed the financial incomes of whole countries, including major industrialised countries. They are also greater than the foreign exchange reserves held by most major countries’ central banks (François Chesnais, La Mondialisation du capital, Syros, Paris, 1997). . . . . . ” In the run-up to the millennium, we are witnessing a strange spectacle: the growing power of planetary business giants, against which the traditional countervailing powers (governments, parties, trade unions etc.) seem increasingly impotent. The main phenomenon of our age, globalisation, is in no sense under the control of governments. Faced with these giant corporations, the state is losing more and more of its prerogatives. The question is, can we, as citizens, really turn a blind eye to this new-style global coup d’état?”

Le Monde Diplomatique; June 1998: “Leader: Giant corporations, dwarf states”; by Ignacio Ramonet

The same Le Monde editorialist notes that the types of mergers now taking place go beyond the previous seen, in another way: They include areas that until now were the sacrosanct purview of Government such as in the auto industry:

“The mergers are happening in areas that would once have been considered taboo. For instance, at one time most governments would have seen the auto industry, along with steel and telecommunications, as a sector of prime strategic importance. However, this has not been the case in Britain for the past twenty years and, since the purchase of Chrysler by Germany’s Daimler-Benz, it is no longer the case in the United States either. . . . .”

Le Monde Diplomatique; June 1998: “Leader: Giant corporations, dwarf states”; by Ignacio Ramonet

In this process nothing is “off-limits”, and the signal for all this was the advent of the de-nationalizing of key sectors of the British Industrial heights. This socially destructive process now is dignified and known by the name of “privatisation”, and was initiated by Thatcher:

“In a kind of push-pull effect, as the mergers lead to the creation of ever larger corporations, the advance of privatisation means that the state is reduced to the stature of a dwarf. Ever since Margaret Thatcher launched the first privatisations in the early 1980s, more or less everything has been up for sale. Most governments, from North to South, from right to left, have embarked on massive pruning operations in their state apparatuses. Between 1990 and 1997, at world level, governments have off-loaded onto a grateful private sector sections of their national heritage to the tune of $513 billion ($215 billion in the European Union alone). Privatised concerns are particularly valued by investors since they may have benefited from restructuring financed by the state and are also likely to have had their debts wiped out. They are very attractive propositions. Particularly the public amenities (such as electricity, gas, water, transportation, telecommunications and health), which promise a highly profitable, regular income which is free of risk and where prior investment made by governments is good for decades to come.”

Le Monde Diplomatique; June 1998: “Leader: Giant corporations, dwarf states”; by Ignacio Ramonet

What explains this current super fervor of mergers? Some of the same factors identified earlier play in, such as the vast amount of money and credit expansion:

“What explains this ferment of activity? Operating within a context of increasing globalisation, the major companies of the Triad (North America, the European Union and Japan) are making the most of economic deregulation in order to establish truly global presence for themselves. They are looking to become major players in the world’s leading countries and aiming to take significant shares in those countries’ markets. A combination of factors such as the fall in interest rates (which prompts a shift from bonds into shares), a large quantity of capital seeking a way out of the Asian stock markets, the massive financial capabilities of the large pension funds, and the improved profitability of companies in Europe and the United States, has created a certain headiness in the stock exchanges of the West, and this is what lies behind the merger frenzy.”

Le Monde Diplomatique; June 1998: “Leader: Giant corporations, dwarf states”; by Ignacio Ramonet

But more mundane factors are also involved such as competition, securing of research & development (R &D) gains of competitors, and job cutting:

“From the predators’ point of view, such mergers offer several advantages. Competition from other companies can be eliminated by buying them up because in most cases these mergers arise not out of a desire to diversify, but as an attempt by competitor companies to achieve quasi-monopoly positions in their respective sectors (2); they also provide an opportunity to catch up in R&D terms, by taking over firms that are technologically more advanced; and finally they open the way to mass sackings under the pretext of cutting costs (for example, in its first year the merger between UK firms Glaxo and Wellcome resulted in the elimination of 7,500 jobs – one tenth of the total workforce).”

Le Monde Diplomatique; June 1998: “Leader: Giant corporations, dwarf states”; by Ignacio Ramonet

In Summary: We do not feel that this part of Lenin’s definition of imperialist monopoly capital has changed.

2) The merging of bank capital with industrial capital and the creation on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy.

Lenin identified that :

“Imperialism .. is marked by..the merging or coalescence of banking with industry..”

V.I.Lenin, ” Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism “

But Lenin emphasised that, despite merging of bank and industrial capital in imperialism, this stage brings about an increasing separation between industry and its main sources of financial investment, and an increasing dependence of the former upon the latter:

“Generally speaking, under capitalism.. money capital is separate from industrial or productive capital; the rentier living entirely on income obtained from money capital is separated from the entrepreneur.. Imperialism, or the rule of finance capital, is the highest stage of capitalism in which this separation reaches vast proportions. The supremacy of finance capitals over all other forms of capital means the rule of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy.”

V.I.Lenin, op cit; p. 53.

In the same work, Lenin drew attention to the:

“The extraordinary growth of .. the category of bondholders (rentiers).. who take no part in production, whose profession is idleness, The export of capital one of the essential bases of imperialism, still more completely isolates the rentiers from production and sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country that lives by the exploitation of the labour of several overseas countries and colonies.. The world has become divided into a handful of money-lending states on the one hand and a vast majority of debtor states on the other.. The rentier state is a state of decaying capitalism.”

V.I.Lenin, op cit.

But there have been several changes in the nature of the alliance between the wings of capital within one nation.

For an interim period the Banks were not the prime source of finance for capitalist industry. In Britain for example, banks (mainly merchant banks) own only:

“0.3%..of company shares.”

Cited in Combat, Communist League, London, Data from “Stock Exchange Official Year Book: 1984-85 ” London; 1985. p. 969.

Furthermore, banks in Britain provide only 6% of the external funding of industry in the form of loans and these have been traditionally short term loans to provide:

“Working (as opposed to investment) capital.. “

G.Ingham “Capitalism Divided”, Basingstoke, UK.1984. p.67-8.

Industry itself began to finance much of its own investments. The huge multi-nationals had such currency reserves that they eroded the power of the banks to some extent:

“The old economy is highly leveraged and deeply in debt. The emerging New Economy isn’t.. There has been enormous structural changes since the era not long ago, when the US corporate sector regularly incurred large financial deficits.. In the first quarter of 1992, Corporate America generated a financial surplus of $109.6 billion (US) – the largest such surplus in US history (Surplus is cash flow minus capital spending and working capital requirements)..Today’s huge surpluses stem from the fact that corporate cash flows in the New Economy – in industries like pharmaceutical, software and computers – exceed internal requirements to finance capital spending inventory and the like.. the shift to surplus is driving interest rates lower.. Gone are the days when the US sector was a net user of the personal saver’s savings.. The corporate sector is driving the US economy to a degree unthinkable in the old economy. Conventional wisdom that the economy is driven by consumer spending is no longer as true as it once was. “

Globe And Mail, Toronto, Business News. p.B26, Sep 22,1992.

These divisions between the wings of capital are recognised overtly by the business community. Thus when the U.S. Democrats were resistant to a monetary policy, preferring to have their own representative, an industrialist Mr. G.William Millar at the Federal Reserve Board “was seen by many within and outside the Federal Reserve System as being too closely tied to President Carter and insufficiently attuned to the needs of the financial sector, was replaced by Paul Volcker. As the Wall Street Journal later reported it:

“Wall Street shoved Volcker down Carter’s throat.”

G.Epstein, ‘Federal Reserve Behaviour and the limits of monetary policy in the current economic crisis. ‘ Contained in “The Imperilled Economy. Book One. ” New York. 1987. p. 250

In fact the relation between the profits of the financial capitalist class, and the industrial capitalist class are inversely related. This can be seen for the USA in the accompanying graph, on Graph 1.


From: “Federal Reserve behaviour and the limits of monetary policy in the current economic crisis”.G.Epstein p.253. In: ” The Imperilled Economy ” New York. 1987.

We have discussed these matters before, in Alliance 3, referenced above. But as Lenin pointed out, “history moves in zig-zags”:

“History is moving in zigzags, and by round about waysit is un-dialectical, unscientific and theoretically wrong to regard the course of world history as smooth and always in a forward direction, without gigantic leaps back;”

V.I.Lenin Collected Works; Vol 22; pp 377-378 Albanian edition-cited in “Problems of Current World Development”; Institute to Marxist-Leninist Studies; CC of the PLA of Albania; Tirana 1979; p.71.

It should not be surprising therefore if there has been another change.

The relationship between Finance and industrial capital, did indeed go through “a divorce”, as first identified by Comrades of the Communist League. The Communist League and we have described this before in relation to the war between “monetarist” economists and their political representatives and the “Keynsian-laissez-faire” capitalism and their political and economic representatives.

However, the situation has again changed such that the enormous funds available from the explosion of the new forms of money and new computerized forms of “money trading” have fostered a new re-marriage between finance and commodity-industrial capitalism:

“Many in the Clinton Administration and in the U.S. Congress.. justify various schemes to enhance the power and profits of the financial industry. . . . The game has taken a radical turn in the new Congress as factions of the Senate Banking Committee and the Treasury Department have launched serious efforts which go beyond the melding of “financial services” to permit a full-scale marriage of banking and commerce — a total rollback of the Bank Holding Company Act’s proscription against banks and commercial corporations owning each other. .. breaching the wall of separation between banking corporations and commercial firms could bring about major changes in the economy — and enable corporate conglomerates to enhance their power through a new and powerful leverage of bank credit .. . .Undersecretary of the Treasury John (Jerry) Hawke, author of a draft plan being circulated within the administration, argues that financial reform cannot succeed without mixing banking and commerce. Hawke says that banks will be “handicapped” and “less competitive” unless the traditional prohibitions are lifted entirely. . . . … Senator Alfonse D’Amato, R-New York, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, has fired the opening shot in the campaign to allow common ownership, introducing a comprehensive package to tear down the existing wall between commerce and banking.. . . . . . the loudest and most forcible message has come from Paul Volcker, the former chair of the Federal Reserve Board and a long-time opponent of mixing banking and commerce. Volcker told a House Banking subcommittee in March that “modernization” was not “worth the risks and costs of embarking on a new experiment — an experiment foreign to our traditions and experience — of relaxing prohibitions on combinations of banking and commerce.”

Jonathan Brown: “The Monopoly Makers: A Dangerous Mix II The Case for Preserving the Separation Between Banking and Commerce”;. “The Multinational Monitor”; April, 1997 · Volume 18 · Number 4

In Summary: We do not feel that this part of Lenin’s definition of imperialist monopoly capital has changed.

3) The export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;

In essence this has not changed in importance, But we feel that certain new elements should be considered

i) New Forms of Money and Credit

The advent of new technology from computerisation has meant the increase in rapid fluxes of “hot money” around the world in search of a profit. As Alliance 3 pointed out; the total amount of monies in the market place has rapidly increased. This led to the new markets of money trading. This in turn led to the further and new way of eroding the “national” policy decision-making capacity of any dependent nation. Thus we have seen the major crises initiated by single traders such as the rogue trader from Barings recently. The financial attacks on the currencies of many of the Asian countries show the depth of attack:

“Globalization is in crisis. That is the most profound meaning of the ongoing Asian financial meltdown. The Asian meltdown was caused in large part by South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia’s heavy reliance on short-term foreign loans. When it became apparent that private enterprises in those nations would not be able to meet their payment obligations, international currency markets panicked. Currency traders rushed to sell their won, baht, pesos, ruppiah or ringgit. As the traders converted their money back into dollars, the Asian currencies plummeted, making it impossible for the Asian nations to pay off their loans (which had to be repaid in dollars or other foreign currencies, and therefore appeared more expensive after the devaluation). For reasons that included corruption and insufficient financial regulation, domestic and foreign banks made imprudent loans to companies that were engaging in wasteful, unnecessary and speculative investments in areas like real estate, and, especially in South Korea, to corporations that were overinvesting in manufacturing for markets that were saturated. Most of these problems are rooted in globalization. The unregulated financial flows into the region reflected IMF and World Bank influence and more generally the Asian countries’ strategy to attract foreign capital. But reliance on foreign investment left these countries vulnerable to the sudden withdrawal of foreign monies. The overinvestment in factories is the logical consequence of globalizers’ entreaty that all nations produce for export and deemphasize the local market. Both overinvestment and real estate speculation reflect insufficient and inequitably distributed domestic demand that would encourage investment in production to meet local needs.”

Editorial:”The Multinational Monitor: “Lessons from the Asian Meltdown”; January/February 1998 · Volume 19 · Numbers 1 & 2

Lately this has become so potentially destablising that the more far seeing captislast have recongised the need to put some sort of currency controls back on the agenda. This includes those like George Soros whose fortunes to large part are built on these very predatory tactics that he now condemns. Says the Multinational Monitor:

“Among the counterproductive conditions imposed by the IMF and Rubin on the Asian countries are requirements that they open up their economies further to foreign investors. (These demands relate to foreign “direct investment” in factories, agriculture and service operations ranging from tourism to banks, not just “portfolio” investment in stocks, bonds and currency.) Rubin has specifically and successfully pressured South Korea to open up its financial sector. Translation: the very U.S. banks which contributed to South Korea’s crisis now stand to buy up lucrative sectors of the South Korean economy. Similar demands have successfully been made in other troubled Asian countries. Not only is the double subsidy to the Big Banks unjust, it helps perpetuate the very problem it is designed to remedy. When the IMF bails out the banks — in effect providing free insurance — it sends a message: “Don’t worry about the downside of your international loans. As long as enough banks get in too deep, we’ll rescue you at the end of the day.” That encourages more reckless bank lending, since the banks can earn high interest on high-risk loans without having to absorb losses. In this sense, the U.S./IMF bailout of Wall Street in the 1995 Mexican economic collapse paved the way for the current crisis.”

Editorial: “The Multinational Monitor: “Lessons from the Asian Meltdown”; January/February 1998 · Volume 19 · Numbers 1 & 2.

ii) The Transfer of Export Capacity of Industrial Goods

In fact the imperialist metropolitan country bourgeoisie have utilized the various national bourgeoisie of the developing countries, to foster the growth of certain types of industry in those countries. This ahs allowed them to off-load certain more ecologically damaging industries to the more distant areas of the world; and utilize the lower cost of labour power to accrue further profit. They have been assisted by “bad loans” made both by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and by banks – who essentially know that their loans will be “covered” by governmental agencies of the metropolitan world in the case of a default by the developing country:

“With their currencies in free fall, the Asian countries needed outside assistance to meet their debt payments and reinstate confidence in their economies. The United States squashed a Japanese attempt to lead a regional initiative to buttress the Asian economies, insisting that any rescue attempt be undertaken through the IMF. Enter the IMF and U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. .. they diagnosed the essential Asian problem not as too much globalization, but too little. And they prescribed the most vicious version of globalization — structural adjustment. The IMF programs, agreed to by the Asian countries as a condition for receiving the money needed to pay off debts to foreign banks, forced interest rates up in an effort to re-attract foreign capital. They envision the Asian countries exporting their way out of economic distress. They therefore do not worry about depressed wages and workers thrown out of their jobs — indeed, in this view, lower wages make exports more competitive. And, out of concern that public sector debts will exacerbate balance-of-payments difficulties, they demand governments maintain balanced budgets, even as tax revenues drop due to declining economic activity. The overriding “logic” of these measures is that harsh medicine now will prevent worse pain later; that high interest rates, devalued currencies and balanced or surplus budgets will attract the foreign investment that will jumpstart the Asian economies.. . . In Indonesia, the IMF has forced the removal of fuel and food subsidies on which the poor have relied for three decades; food riots are becoming more prevalent as the Monitor goes to press. Economic collapse has led hospitals to conserve on the use of thread during surgery. In South Korea, the IMF has forced the closure of banks and corporations — one million workers are expected to be thrown out of their jobs by the end of the year. None of this pain has been shared by the big European, Japanese and U.S. banks that made bad loans in Asia. The IMF bailouts, and the complementary bailout packages from the U.S. and other rich countries, are all about injecting money into the Asian economies so they can pay back their foreign debts. The money comes in and goes out. The banks get their money, the countries contract new debts to the IMF and get stuck with the IMF austerity demands. By all rights, one of the consequences of the crisis should be that the banks which made bad loans in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia should have to eat their losses. The amounts at stake are not insignificant: U.S. banks’ exposure in South Korea is estimated to total more than $20 billion. BankAmerica alone reportedly has more than $3 billion in outstanding loans to South Korean firms, and Citicorp more than $2 billion. The other major U.S. banks with outstanding loans to South Korea include J.P. Morgan, Bankers Trust, the Bank of New York and Chase Manhattan.”

Editorial:”The Multinational Monitor: “Lessons from the Asian Meltdown”; January/February 1998; Volume 19 · Numbers 1 & 2

iii) The Direction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

It is of interest that there ahs been a major change in the targets of FDI (i.e. capital exports). Whilst in 1915 the target was mainly the colonies, even then Lenin identified that the imperialist were interested in any geographical area of potential profit. Thus Lenin ridiculed Kautsky’s view that the essence of imperialism was that of an exploitation of rural areas:

“The characteristic feature of imperialism is precisely that it strives to annex not only agricultural regions, but even highly industrialized regions (German appetite for Belgium; French appetite for Lorraine), because 1) the fact that the world is already divided up obliges those contemplating any kind of new division to reach out for any kind of territory, and 2) because an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between a number of great powers in the striving for hegemony i.e. For the conquest of territory, not so much directly for themselves but also to weaken the adversary. (Belgium is chiefly necessary to Germany as a base for operation against England; England needs Baghdad as a base for operation against Germany etc.)”;

Lenin Op Cit; p. 702.

In this regard, there have been two changes:

One is the decline in capital exports from the United Kingdom; but this is entirely consistent with the British decline as an imperialist power.

This is Lenin’s law of “uneven development” i.e. swings in fortunes of different imperialisms.

But Secondly, the destination of much capital export has also changed. Much more than before it now flows towards the developed world:

“It was during the 1960’s that the UK began to re-build its pre-war reputation as a pre-eminent capital exporter, although unlike the interior years, the greater part of the new capital flows took the form of direct rather than portfolio investment. While traditional Commonwealth markets continued to attract the bulk of investment, an increasing amount of manufacturing and service activities by UK Multinational enterprises was beginning to be directed to the US and Continental Europe”;

Dunning Ibid; p.2.

Furthermore as Graph 2: below shows, outward and inward flows of FDI (Capital exports) to the USA either favoured the outward direction, or were balanced – on the whole – over the period 1970-1993 (Data from UNCTAD cited by Dunning Ibid; p. 307).

Graph 2: In hard copy only.

The reasons for this change of direction – from colonial to developed country – reflects several factors including A need to obtain higher research & Development; a need to obtain new markets; a need to incapacitate foreign competition. None of it ever did away with a continuing export of capital to the under-developed neo-colonies.

In Summary: We do not feel that this part of Lenin’s definition of imperialist monopoly capital has changed.

(4) the formation of international monopolist capitals associations which share the world among themselves,

We have already dealt with this under 5.(1) above.

(5) The territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.”

It must be quickly acknowledged that this has not only not changed since Lenin’s day, but the operation of this colonialisation has if anything become even more intense.

The inevitable war for markets between the dominant imperialisms continue. Today, this competition has become even much more intense, than in Lenin’s day. The formation of huge trading blocks, of which the most obvious examples are: NAFTA; EEC; ASEAN.

Jaques Attali (former and Founding head of the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development) puts it this way:

“Having overcome their strategic subordination to the rule of military force with the end of ideological hostilities between the US and the Soviet Union, two new powers – a European sphere stretching from London to Moscow and a Pacific spheres based in Tokyo – will contest for supremacy Certainly the United States does not intend to retire voluntarily from center stage…In the 21st century a fierce struggle for supremacy will take place among cities, nations even continents.. The most likely result is likely to be the continued juxtaposition of two contending spheres (the Pacific and the European) with two centresIN the Pacific and in Europe questions must be asked: Who will have the dominant currency? Who will control defense? Where will the principal financial markets be located? Sadly none of this will cause tension to disappear.”

Attali J: “Millenium. Winners & Losers in the Coming World Order”; New York; 1991; pp.10; 40; 64-65;

In Summary: We do not feel that this part of Lenin’s definition of imperialist monopoly capital has changed

Overall Summary To Part 5:

We are forced to conclude that there has been no QUALITATIVE change in Lenin’s working definitions. We note only an EXACERBATION of ALL of the underlying tendencies to:

A crisis of over-production; an increasing

rate of exploitation; a decreasing rate of profit; a drive to further fights over markets; and an increasing need to subjugate dependent countries by imperialist capital.

The OBJECTIVE corollaries are that revolution is even more inevitable and even more needed to resolve the underlying contradictions of an increased socialized mode of production owned by a small, private and exclusively small coterie of profiteers.

OBJECTIVELY, the role of the National Question remains important, but the role of the national bourgeois – and its ability to fight against foreign capital is ever decreasing. That OBJECTIVELY means that the working class and peasantry have even greater responsibility to ensure they capture the leadership of national struggles as in East Timor, Kosova etc.

But – This is only hindered by the SUBJECTIVE weaknesses of the revolutionary movements and the lack of a unitary Marxist-Leninist party in each country.

6. Increasing Economic Crisis

We pointed out in Alliance 3, that neither Keynsian economics nor monetarist economics could solve the capitalist problem, Keynsian economics led to “cheapening” of money by inflation and depressed profits of the financiers.

Monetarism depressed the profits of industrialists and led to unemployment.

The capitalist system continues to lurch from crisis to crisis:

“For Southeast Asia the “golden age” of exponential growth, rising real incomes, and social consensus is over. After years of speculative euphoria and wildly inflating asset prices fuelled in large part by external capital flows, the East Asian financial bubble has burst with a vengeance. Southeast Asian countries have become the victims of the very process of economic internationalisation and integration to global capital flows which accounted for their accelerated, albeit highly uneven, development throughout the decade. While the first phase of economic takeoff of Southeast Asia’s “dragons” was triggered by large inflows of Japanese direct investment, their growth pattern has over the past decade been increasingly shaped and distorted since the early 1990s by vast nomad financial inflows seeking high returns on investment in emerging markets (Net private capital flows to emerging countries was multiplied by six since 1990, from $50 billion to over $300 billion in 1996.) In 1995-96 East Asia became the world’s chief recipient of foreign capital. Volatile by nature, these flows – portfolio investment, bonds, and bank loans with short maturities – sustained the very high rates of domestic investment (productive and speculative), capital accumulation, growth and indebtedness which fuelled the “East Asian miracle”, but they also quite classically inflated endogenous bubbles in the property and equity markets. The phenomenon was particularly evident in Thailand, epicenter of the crisis, where net external portfolio investment rose from $2.5 billion in 1994 to $4.1 billion in 1995, and short-term debt from $29.2 billion to $41.4 billion, despite warning signs of a coming deflation of the over-invested property sector and strains in the over-exposed banking system. The deflation of the Thai property and stock market bubble in 1996 (stock market values fell by 40%) prefigured the far more brutal crisis which struck this year Currency speculation began against the Thai baht in May 1997 and then spread in waves to the rest of the region in the summer, leading to the massive and uncontrollable repatriation of capital which followed. The impact of the shock was in direct proportion to the dependence of these economies on external flows. By contrast, far less internationalised economies such as India or Vietnam have been largely insulated from the crisis. . The 25-40% depreciation of local currencies has mechanically increased foreign debt. At the end of October, Indonesia’s debt, already $110 billion (50% of GNP), increased by 37%, that of Thailand (43% of GNP) by 35% and that of Malaysia by 27%. As these are mostly private debts contracted by local banks borrowing on the international inter-bank market for onward lending, at enormous interest rate differentials, to now insolvent domestic customers, the depreciations have caused a wave of defaults in already shaky banking systems. Nor are these depreciations likely to lead to an export-led recovery. The region’s manufacturing sector will be penalised by high-interest rates regimes (bond spreads have exploded since the beginning of the crisis), designed to reassure foreign investors. While the high import content of Asian exports, notably in the electronic sector (where products are assembled from components manufactured outside the exporting country) means that there will be little competitive gain accruing from depreciation. These mechanical deflationary effects will be compounded by the dampening effects of austerity cures and “stabilisation programmes” demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for financial aid packages designed to shore up the region’s financial markets ($23 billion in Indonesia and $17 billion in Thailand).”

Le Monde Diplomatique; “Asia’s Financial Crisis, An Uncontrollable Contagion. A turning point for globalisation by Philip S. Golub; January 1998

The Great Surge in the markets is clearly a part of a “bubble economy”; as even very recent scares revealed:

“Stock and bond prices fell around the world yesterday as data showing higher wholesale prices in the US and cautionary remarks on equity prices by Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, combined to fuel investors’ fears of imminent interest rate rises. On Wall Street the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 266.9 points, or 2.6 per cent, to 10,019.7, having dipped briefly below the 10,000 level for the first time in six months. It ended the week down 5.9 per cent, or 630 points, its largest weekly point drop. Bonds rallied slightly after stock prices fell, and the long bond yield dropped to 6.266. The DAX index in Frankfurt followed three days of 1 percentage point declines with a further 0.7 per cent loss. In Paris, the CAC 40 fell 1.3 per cent, while in London, the FTSE 100 index dropped through the 6,000 level, falling 132.1 points to 5,907.3. Earlier the Tokyo market dropped 1 per cent, while Singapore and Malaysia were more than 2 per cent lower. The dollar fell sharply across the board, hitting seven-month lows against the euro, and dropping rapidly against the yen and sterling. The euro pushed above $1.09 in London trading before settling just below that level, a cent and a half up on the day. With the imminent 12th anniversary of Black Monday, some traders saw echoes of 1987 when a falling dollar, rising US trade deficit and rising bond yields prompted a stock market crash. Yesterday’s rout followed a warning late on Thursday Mr. Greenspan that markets might be underestimating the degree of riskiness of equity investments. The negative impact of the remarks was reinforced by the Commerce Department’s report yesterday that US wholesale prices jumped by 1.1 per cent in September from the previous month, the fastest rate in nine years, driven by increases in food, energy, tobacco and car prices. The unusual concurrence of inflationary factors led some economists to suggest the producer price figures might not reflect a broader upward trend in prices. Fuel costs have been rising for some time in response to the global increase in oil prices and food costs are always volatile on a monthly basis. Excluding these components, the core index increased by 0.8 per cent. But this figure was distorted by a once-off 8.4 per cent rise in tobacco prices in response to legal settlements, and a 2 per cent rise in car prices. If these are excluded the increase in the index drops to just 0.3 per cent. But many economists warned that the overall trend in prices was clearly upward”.

“World stock prices fall as fears grow of rising inflation”; By Gerard Baker in Washington, Lesia Rudakewych in New York and Philip Coggan in London “, Financial Times, Saturday October 16 1999

There is also a great over-production of goods with the inevitable anarchic glut of goods amidst increasing poverty, that is characteristic of the capitalist systems.

7. What This Means for The National Question

We think that both the recent Asian crises and the currency manipulations in Malaysia, show the first implications for a foreign independent nation trying to stand up to foreign capital. The next stage of smashing defiance is shown by the USA_NATO led aggression in the Kosovan war and the more recent East Timor crisis and war.

Both show the Implications of globalisation for the National Question for Marxist-Leninists today.. These can be codified as below:

i) Trample national rights by both economic and currency manipulations via speculation; and denial of foreign markets for countries that stand defiant;

ii) If continued resistance to the will of the imperialist countries occurs, open invasions on the pretext of “international law and order”;

iii) The resulting denial of national rights means the current (i.e. today’s – even in the era of so called “globalisation”) validity of Lenin’s original formulation regarding the strategy and tactics of the revolution in colonial type countries. These were essentially formulated at the Second Congress of Comintern. We have discussed these elsewhere in detail and their application and their revisionist distortions by Trotsky and Kussinen (See Alliance 5; Alliance 29); by Khruschev (See Alliance 25 January 1997); and by Ho Chi Minh (See Alliance 27 December 1997).

iv) Marxist-Leninists must avoid false designations of “national status” as in the so called “Black Nation” of the USA (See Alliance 23); while also avoiding support to the bleating of Nationalists of the smaller “minor” partners of capital and imperialism who while being imperialists are themselves subject to predation by bigger imperialisms (e.g. The minor partners of imperialism like the Canadian bourgeoisie etc.)

v) Marxist-Leninists must continually strive to win the leadership of the national liberation struggles that continue to break out, especially since the historical space for the progressive potential for the national bourgeoisie is ever decreasing in the era of greater inter-penetration of capitalism and imperialism.

Lenin’s Differentiation of the “bourgeois-democrat” and the “nationalist-revolutionary”

In brief here, the only change made in Lenin’s original Draft Theses as adopted by the Second Comintern Congress was to make clear that the working class in a colonial type country should support a bourgeois-led movement only if it was genuinely revolutionary- the term “bourgeois democratic” being replaced by the term “nationalist-revolutionary”:

“We came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was .. nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we Communists should and will, support bourgeois liberation movements in the colonial countries only when these movements are really revolutionary.”

Lenin. Report of the Commission of the National and Colonial Questions. 2nd Congress CI, In Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946, p.241.

Lenin explained in more detail why this was needed then:

“I would like to particularly emphasise the question of the bourgeois democratic movements in backward countries. It was this question that gave rise to some disagreement. We argued about whether it would be correct, in principle and in theory, to declare that the CI and the CP’s should support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of this discussion we unanimously decided to speak of the nationalist-revolutionary movements instead of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. There is not the slightest doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.. But it was agreed that if we speak about the bourgeois-democratic movement all distinction between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in recent times this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in the backward and colonial countries, for the imperialist bourgeois is trying with all its might to implant the reformist movement also among the oppressed nations.. In the commission this was proved irrefutably, and we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we communists should, and will, support bourgeois liberation movements only when these movement do not hinder us in training and organising the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit.. The above mentioned distinction has now been drawn in all the theses, and I think that, thanks to this, our point of view has been formulated much more precisely.”

Lenin. The Report Of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions, “Selected Works”, Vol 10, London, 1946, p.240-1.

Like so much of what we have discussed in this article, Lenin saw very clearly.

We submit that neither regarding Imperialism’s character, nor upon the National Question – is there any need to “update” (i.e. Revise) Lenin and Stalin in fundamental ways. What astonishes us is how accurately the general un-folding of imperialism in the era of “globalisation” conforms to Lenin’s analyses made so long ago.

Finally, the under-developed neo-colonies have progressive forces that recognise the need for NATIONAL FORMS OF STRUGGLE:

“The Zapatistas believe that in Mexico recovery and defence of national sovereignty are part of the anti-liberal revolution. Paradoxically, the ZNLA finds itself accused of attempting to fragment the Mexican nation. The reality is that the only forces that have spoken for separatism are the businessmen of the oil-rich state of Tabasco, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party members of parliament from Chiapas. The Zapatistas, for their part, think that it is necessary to defend the nation state in the face of globalisation, and that the attempts to break Mexico into fragments are being made by the government, and not by the just demands of the Indian peoples for autonomy. The ZNLA and the majority of the national indigenous movement want the Indian peoples not to separate from Mexico but to be recognised as an integral part of the country, with their own specificities. They also aspire to a Mexico, which espouses democracy, freedom and justice. Whereas the ZNLA fights to defend national sovereignty, the Mexican Federal Army functions to protect a government which has destroyed the material bases of sovereignty and which has offered the country not only to large-scale foreign capital, but also to drug trafficking. It is not only in the mountains of southeast Mexico that neoliberalism is being resisted. “

“Why We Are Fighting-The fourth world war has begun” By Sub-Commandant Marcos; Zapatista National Liberation Army (ZNLA).” September 1997; In Le Monde Diplomatique

It is the responsibility of the Marxist-Leninists to both harnesses this recognition – and to enable it to fulfill its goal of liberation of the people, by utilizing the strategy and tactics of the National Liberation struggle as worked out by Lenin and Stalin.




October 1999.


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


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

Charles-Maurice Talleyrand (1754-1838)


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.


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 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).


“… 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).


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).


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).


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).


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 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).


“… 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).


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:



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



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


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


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


(‘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 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).


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).


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).


“… 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).


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).


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 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).


“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 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.



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).


“… 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.


“… 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).


“… no one from the Politburo”.

(Henry L. Roberts: op.cit.; p.375).


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).



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.
-‘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


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


“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!”


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


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.


Grover Furr: German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937


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]


[1] S Lifshits, “Preslovutyi Doklak Khrushcheva, ili CACATUM NON EST PICTUM”. In Moskva Sadovoe Kol’tso, , 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

[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 

[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

Grover Furr: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Scholarly Work: Ronald Radosh’s “Spain Betrayed”


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 <>.

Review of Spain Betrayed in First Things 116 (October 2001). Cited at <>

Hitchens, Christopher. “Who Lost Spain?” Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001. Cited at <>

———, “The Unfolded Lie.” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001. Cited at <,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 <>

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.


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 <> 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 <> (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 <>.

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.


Arthur Landis on the Sectarianism of the POUM


“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”

Arthur Landis on the Spanish Civil War


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Arthur Landis, “Spain: the Unfinished Revolution”

POUM on playing football with Fascism


“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.”

–  POUM militia member from the “Lenin” Division at Huesca, quoted by New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews in H.L. Matthews, “Two Wars and More to Come,” New York, 1938, p. 294.