Ever since the fall of 1930 when the Spanish Revolution began there has been no surcease of the struggle in Spain. For a long time there was a deadlock of forces, an equilibrium in the tug of war between the property holders and the destitute. Now the equilibrium is being definitely broken. The issue before Spain is either Communism or Fascism. The matter is being fought out not with ballots but with bullets and ruthless civil war. Slowly the political revolution is being definitively turned into a social revolution.
From the very beginning, the mass of workers of Spain, both in the city and in the country were the decisive elements. When the students rioted before the universities in 1930 it was only when the workers joined them with a vast general strike that the regime of the military dictator, Primo de Rivera, fell and the temporary regime of General Berenguer set up. When General Berenguer tried to hold fake elections without extending the franchise to all, it was another general strike that overthrew the regime, compelled new elections, forced the king to flee and established the republic in April 1931.
At this point the Syndicalist and Anarchist workers began to miscalculate their forces. Syndicalism and Anarchism, in spite of their revolutionary phraseology were able only to overthrow the old regime and to allow the new democratic republic to be set up; but these movements could not go forward to the positive constructive tasks of setting up the rule of the workers. These antiquated movements were good enough to accomplish the negative and critical tasks of overthrowing an antiquated monarchy; they did not know how to deal with a modern bourgeois republic.
In the course of the revolutionary movement there was set up what in fact amounts to a dual power, the masses respecting the authority of the unions and the revolutionary organizations, the government being forced at times to yield to the opinions of these mass organizations on vital questions. At one time the bourgeois government was even forced to declare that Spain was a workers republic and to feign friendliness toward the Soviet Union.
The leaders of the toilers’ organizations, however, did not know what to do with their power. The lending groups were composed of four principal elements: the Anarchists, the Syndicalists, the Socialists and the Communists. The Anarchists were powerful enough within the trade union movement to exercise decisive influence for a time upon the whole situation. With their Bakuninist idealism they did not appreciate the necessity of preparing for revolt by building powerful organizations in all discontented strata of the population. They attempted one adventure after another and believed that the State could be abolished and all oppression ended by one blow struck by a militant minority. After each failure of the Anarchist workers, the working class would lose some of its strength, the reaction would pick up its head, the government would consolidate its position. All that the Anarchists could do was to wear out the working class in ill prepared battles, in fruitless adventures and to strengthen the reactionary forces.
The failure of the Anarchists who controlled goodly sections of the trade union movement brought about with it also a failure of the Syndicalist movement. A split occurred among the Syndicalists, some breaking from Anarchism and urging the formation of centralized authoritarian bodies leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. These Syndicalists, however, agreed with the Anarchists in boycotting the State and in ignoring the work of the political parties, in failing to reach the widest strata of the population, etc.
As the Syndicalists too began to be discredited and the working class forces to turn a bit weary, the masses began to flock to the Socialist party banner. In the beginning of the revolution the million organized Spanish workmen had been divided somewhat as follows: about 200,000 belonging to the General Labor Union controlled by the Socialists and about 800,000 under the control of the C.N.T. , the National Federation of Labor led by the Syndicalists and Anarchists. With the deepening of the revolution, however, the masses began to move from the Anarcho-Syndicalists and to join the General Labor Union, so that by 1934 the relation was changed the other way around, 800,000 workers being members and sympathizers of the General Labor Union of the Socialists.
In the meantime the Socialists themselves had undergone somewhat of a change. In the early days of the republic it was the Right Wing Socialists typified by Prieto who controlled the Socialist Party. These were the gentlemen who took office in 1932 together with the Liberals and who at that time declared that they hoped they would not receive a majority of the votes since Spain was not yet ready for Socialism, the masses evidently, being too dumb, to understand our Socialist heroes. Within the government the Socialists aided the Liberals to put the people back to work under capitalist control, to stop the revolution and restore order. If hitherto the revolutions in Spain had mostly of a palace and camarilla variety now it was to be a superficial political revolution only, leaving the basic problems entirely untouched.
Thanks to the Socialist Party, none of the chief demands of the masses were carried out. The land of the wealthy was neither confiscated nor partitioned and given to the poor peasantry, thus the land question still remained a burning one. Inflation robbed the workers of any gain that they might have won through strikes, thus the labor question remained unsolved. The church property which was supposed to be confiscated was left intact and the government proved very slow in separating church from state and in disbanding the disloyal religious orders. Thus the religious question has been left for mass direct action to solve. On their part, the leaders of the workers organizations made no attempt really to arm the people and to establish a workers militia; they did not try to raise the question of workers’ control over production to guaranty to each worker security and life; they did not make the slightest effort to set up revolutionary organs, soviets, to take state power.
Thus, the workers, after turning from the Anarchists and Syndicalists to the Socialists, could not find any better solution to their problems. In time of revolutionary advance it was the Syndicalists that led the way, but since these advances were always defeated, it was the Socialists that gained ultimately. In times of retreat, the workers took to parliamentary actions and to day-to-day economic struggles that placed them under the banner of the Socialists without involving them in a battle for political power. At least under the Socialists the workers were able to build authoritarian centralized mass organizations that recognized that the workers had to capture the state. Only the Socialists believed that they could take control of the state in a peaceful and parliamentary manner.
The Stalinist Communist Party showed itself completely bewildered and futile in all of this action. The entire Spanish revolution caught the Communist International unprepared. In the beginning the Communist Party did its best to attack the Socialists and rejected the united front of all workers’ organizations to fight the capitalist enemy. Instead of the united front they began their crazy tactics of building paper unions, splitting up labor’s forces, etc. The result of this was miserable failure. In the end the Stalinists gave up their special trade union organizations and fused them with the Socialists’ General Labor Union.
In the meantime the Spanish reactionaries had taken heart at the defects and disunity of the workers and prepared one blow after another. They were able to see to it that all the revolutionary measures which the masses had favored were postponed by the Liberal-Coalition government which continued to live only because of the collaboration of the Socialists with it and because the workers did not know what to do with the power they had organized. Having stalled the revolution, the monarchist reactionaries then began their counter-offensive, the most important phase being the attempt of General Sanjurjo with part of the army and Civil Guards.
It was in such periods when reaction threatened that the masses were able to isolate the reactionary cliques and give them crushing blows. The Sanjurjo revolt was quickly put down and the masses demanded death to the traitors and the confiscation of their property. Again the Liberals of the Zanorra-Azana stripe ran to the aid of the reactionaries to protect them from the wrath of the people. Thus the deadlock continued for a number of years. However, this unstable equilibrium could not last forever. The intensifying contradictions throughout the world and within Spain compelled the political movements to give permanent answers to the burning problems of the day.
The great growth of Fascism in Europe, particularly its brutal victory in Germany and Austria, compelled the masses of France and Spain to draw the necessary lessons that the ruling class would never give up its power without a fight. The murder of so many Socialists broke up the Socialist International and caused certain parties to revise their position on legalism and parliamentarism. The Socialists got angry because, in spite of their servility to capitalism, capitalism in its Fascist phase, was kicking the Socialists out of office and making them lose their social reform and nice jobs. These reformists saw that they would have to fight to keep their reforms. The masses, under Socialists influence, were demanding action against Fascism. As the Socialist International now split into fragments, in France and in Spain the Right Wing began to lose influence and to separate itself from the Socialist Party proper. Now it was the turn not of Prieto, but of Caballero, leader of the Socialist “Left” to take control.
The rise of Fascism also occasioned the bankruptcy of Stalinism; these Stalinists now rushed to hide behind the mass organizations of the Socialists and in joining forces with the Socialists, the Stalinists could not but add to the Left Wing strength. The Trotskyites also capitulated and joined the Socialist Party. Thus encouraged by this unification, the Socialist workers demanded that the aims of the Spanish revolution begin to attain realization. The workers called for social insurance, for workers’ control over production, for the division or confiscation of estates, for the real separation of church and state, etc. Then the Liberal-Radical government, now thoroughly under the influence of reactionary forces led by Lerroux, Robles and March, tried to deny the will of the masses, in 1934 there took place, under the banner of the united alliance of Socialists, Communists and certain elements of the Syndicalists who broke away from the Anarchists, the great insurrectionary movement among the miners and other workers in the Asturias region of Spain. The revolt was put down by the government with much cruelty, many hundreds being shot and thousands perishing in the battles.
The Asturias revolt was of enormous significance to the Spanish people. In the first place, it showed the capitalists and large land holders that the people were not going to wait further but were going to divide the land and control their jobs. These reactionaries now began to mobilize their power in earnest. The monarchist agrarian elements now began to cement their close alliance with the capitalist city forces led by Juan March and Gil Robles and others who were forming Fascist groups. As the property even of the Liberal Azana began to be invaded by the peasants, these worthies, the Azana Liberals, leaned all the more closely to the reactionaries, permitting them to have the greatest leeway politically, especially in the organization of their forces in the army. The Liberals no longer would form a coalition with the Socialists under the new terms that the Socialists were compelled to ask but formed a coalition with the rightist element and thus the Socialists were placed outside the ruling bodies of the government. However, by this action the government only made itself still more unpopular and made the Socialist Party lend itself even more to activities of the left groups. The Socialist politicians saw that they could hold their jobs and their heads only by yielding to the demands of the masses and organize them for action.
In the second place the Asturias revolt taught the masses that to win they would have to knock out the state apparatus and set up their own dictatorship. The workers broke forever with rotten Anarchism that had stood aside in the most treacherous manner while the masses were fighting and being shot down. The C.N.T. had refused to take part in the Asturias action; this damned the Anarcho-Syndicalists forever in the eyes of the conscious workers of Spain.
In the third place the fighting gave the masses many lessons in the art of civil war. While it had unified all forces temporarily under the banner of the opportunist Socialist Party, whose opportunism and cowardice was directly responsible, incidentally, for the defeat and isolation of the workers of the Asturias, it had taught the workers and toilers the value of unity in action and the meaning of revolution. The defeat of the workers forced the revolutionary masses to take to parliamentary activity for the time being. This they could do only under the banner of the Socialist Party and at the next election the mass of people for the first time sent an overwhelming leftist delegation to the Cortes. This leftist delegation was made up of Communists, Socialists and Left Radicals, who being more responsive to the masses, at once made an attempt to execute the decrees already passed in 1931 but not yet executed. It is to be noted that the Socialist Party of Spain, under the pressure of the Left Wing, did not take part in forming the government but kept in opposition. By this fact alone, the Socialist Party of Spain showed how more advanced it was than the Socialist Party of France, whose leader, Leon Blum, is premier to do the dirty work for the capitalist class of France and who uses the government to prevent the French from attaining Socialism. In this respect the Spanish revolutionary movement is far more advanced than the French.
In order to execute the decrees desired by the people, the government had to take real control of the army and thus was forced very timidly to begin the reorganization of the army by removing certain Fascist and reactionary generals and officers. The reactionists, however, could not afford to lose the army. They would have to fight rather than give up their chief weapon. At the moment time was pressing heavily against the reactionists. The government in Spain was being pushed to the Left not only by the Spanish masses but by the “People’s” government in France. The great general strike movement in France had shown that the workers were not following the “People’s Front” government in France so much as the “People’s Front” government was following the workers. It was the workers that were taking the initiative and spontaneously forcing the hand of the government, compelling the government to yield on one demand after another. Faced with such powerful support the Leftist government of Spain could not help but go forward and allow the masses to have their will. And in this they were aided by the great strike movement that began to shake Spain as it shook France. The workers were becoming increasingly bolder. Now was the time for the Fascists to strike their blow or never. Such, at least, was the opinion of those sections of the former ruling class and land owners who could no longer wait for favorable world conditions to break for them.
It should be remembered, too, that in Spain the army had always been a paramount political force in the country. He who controlled the army, controlled Spain and the army men had been accustomed to make and unmake governments. This was owing to the fact that for centuries Spain had stagnated and up to recently there had been no class capable of challenging the will of the monarch who ruled through the army and ____ who was displaced by palace revolutions led by men controlling that army. The Spanish army was no good in foreign war. It was, however, an invaluable weapon internally to ________ any resistance to the dictatorships set up within Spain. The Spanish army was also a place where grandees could regain their lost fortunes and get fat salaries doing nothing.
The Spanish revolution, however, had unleashed new forces that were changing the entire character and role of the army. No longer was the army necessarily a decisive force in Spanish history. It was the people who were speaking now in their own name, who demanded the entire dissolution of the old army and the establishment of a workers militia. Up to 1934 the Socialists and others were able to sabotage that demand for a workers’ militia, but with the Asturias uprising and afterward the workers army became a fact and showed its great potentialities. The day of the mercenary standing army with its great pack of generals and officers was doomed, once the revolution was allowed definitely to swing to the Left. No wonder these officers, as one man, looked with hatred and fury upon the revolution and aspired to crush it.
But to put down the masses, the Rightists now had to put down the Leftist parliamentary regime that showed itself so weak before the people. The revolt, therefore, had to be a revolt against the government itself. Thus the Spanish revolution now shows itself to be a replica of the Russian Revolution, as the Revolution had moved to the Left, the Right Wing capitalist elements had conspired against it and were forced to fight the government of the Liberal-Radicals of Kerensky. And in Russia, too, although the masses hated Kerensky and the whole parliamentary frame work and wanted to give all power to the Soviets, yet the workers were compelled to defend Kerensky and parliamentarism. but in the course of this defense the masses were taught to go still further to the Left and wipe out both Kerensky and parliament and establish the Soviet regime and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Comparing the Russian with the Spanish revolutions, we can see that the Russians moved much faster than the Spaniards. It took only nine months for the Russians to complete their revolution and cap it with the rule of the workers. It is now six years since the first “February” days of the Spanish Revolution in 1930 and the Spaniards are no further advanced than the Russians were at the end of six months. The principal reason for this slowness is that the Russian Revolution occurred during the terrible time of the world war when solutions had to be made quickly. Another reason for the slowness is that there is no genuine revolutionary party in Spain. Not as in Russia where there was a Lenin and a genuine Bolshevik party already in existence, long tested and strong, in Spain the workers must now only begin to form their real revolutionary organization. The Spanish workers are groping their way and must create their revolutionary party while they fight. This is a costly and slow process.
The present rebellion offers many important lessons which it will pay the workers of the world to learn very carefully. In the first place we must note that the counter-revolution was evidently carefully prepared and that it was practically able to take with it almost all of the officers. Furthermore, in a very large number of cases, the soldiers have gone with the officers or at least only in a small number of cases have the soldiers revolted from the reactionary officers or has the government been able to use their regular troops against the reactionary rebels. Only in the case of the navy has the government been able to find firm adherents.
All this requires explanation. One of the first things that a revolution must accomplish is to win control over the army. When the revolution first broke out and a republic was formed, it was only the Internationalist Communists who insisted on the necessity of forming Soviets and of reorganizing the army. In fact, the army was left untouched, thanks to the Liberals, Radicals and Socialists who supported the government. The army was left practically untouched because the government was afraid that the masses would go further than a mere republic and begin to form Soviets and to take over industry and land as in Russia. The Liberals then made a firm alliance with the officers of the army to put down the people. We have seen how, in 1934, in the Asturias revolt, it was this very group of Fascist and monarchist officers that did its best to save the bourgeois republic against the proletariat.
A similar situation occurred in the German revolution right after the war. Although in this case it was the German Socialists that took the power, the Socialist leaders, Noske and Scheidemann, allied themselves with the Prussian officers of the Kaisers general staff to shoot down the workers by the hundreds and thousands. This alliance of Liberalism and Socialism with the reactionary military officers in Germany was the only thing that prevented the victory of Communism in that country in 1918, just as it was the only force that prevented the victory of the Asturias revolt in 1934, that is, if we leave out the mistakes made by the workers themselves.
In refusing to clean out the army, the Liberals and the Socialists always like to appear as though they were polite gentlemen and the revolution is to give everyone a new deal. There is to be no more brutality __________ no more struggles; everything is going to work out fine and all will join hands to preserve the revolution. With such a theory there is then no real reason for changing the army or its officers. Socialism will come through the army, which is now democratic, as well as through persuasion. This is the tripe which the yellow Socialists and Liberals always hand out to the workers – with disastrous results. Already in the counter-revolution led by General Sanjurjo in 1933 it was clear that Sanjurjo had recruited all his forces in the national army and Civil Guards and that it was absolutely necessary to clean out that stable of intrigue. But the Liberal government did its best to protect Sanjurjo. It refused to let the masses kill him but promised to give him a trial and execute him itself; then it postponed the trial and did not execute him so that finally he was allowed to leave the country and go to Portugal there to plot against the safety of the Spanish Republic. As a reward for the goodness of the Spanish people to him, General Sanjurjo became the leading light in the present reactionary rebellion until he was killed in an airplane crash.
From the widespread character of the revolt, which occurred simultaneously in the Canaries, in the Balearic Islands, in Africa and in three parts of Spain, in the Basque country, in Catalonia, and in Southern Spain, as well as outbursts elsewhere as in Madrid itself, it is clear that the government forces must have known of the plot and conspiracy against the people. The treacherous Azana type, however, did absolutely nothing to prevent the consummation of the plot. It is only with the new government that came in recently that the first effort is made to cope with the problem. Thus we can see that it is the Liberals and so-called Republican bourgeois who prove their treachery from first to last, who fill the army with monarchists and Fascists, who allow the leading Fascists like Juan March and Gil Robles and Sanjurjo to go scot free, who join hands with them in fact to shoot down the masses. These Liberals and Radicals prove to be the agents of counter-revolution in all of their activities.
Why, then, are these traitors to the people allowed to remain in the government? Solely because the Socialist and Communist Parties give them permission to do so, protect and defend them. The People’s Front that contains these Liberal and Radical scoundrels could not last one minute were it not for the Socialist and Communist bureaucracies which support them. And why are they supported? Because the Socialists and Stalinists refuse to take the power, they refuse to establish Soviets, they refuse to take over the factories, they have degenerated from instruments of the revolutionary masses to instruments to save capitalism in spite of itself.
Why have not the soldiers broken from their rebellious officers? Why cannot the government rely on its regular troops, why must it call in the workers and toilers of Spain to do the fighting? The answer is very simple. In all the course of the Revolution, the Socialists were allied with the Liberals who in turn supported the officers against the soldiers and who ordered the soldiers to shoot down the people. The Socialists and Communists did nothing to protect the soldier, did nothing to work within the army so as to form revolutionary nuclei in advance. Both Socialists and Communists wanted to concentrate on legal, parliamentary work. Work within the army was too dangerous for these politicians. Thus the army was entirely neglected with fatal results.
Only in the Navy did the government get adequate support. The sailors here killed their officers or jailed them and ran up the Republican and Red flags. It is the navy that has done yeomen work. The ships have prevented the passage of thousands of Moroccan troops controlled by the Rightists which would have been used against the Spanish people. The seamen of the Spanish navy by their action illustrate again what has been noted in the German and Russian revolutions and also seen after war in France and in England, namely, that the sailors are the closest to the proletariat in the armed forces of the state and respond the quickest to the calls of the proletarian revolution.
There are many reasons for this which we shall give briefly: First, the sailors are recruited from elements of the proletariat in the cities: Second, the work of the seamen on modern warships is work similar to that of a regular mechanic and workman. Third, the work is extremely disagreeable, tedious and monotonous and the tyranny of the officers is especially irksome. Fourth, the seamen are never called on to shoot down the people. This is left to the army. They are totally unused to handling mobs of their own nationality and have instead been always accustomed to look for foreign enemies only. Fifth, the travels and mode of life of the sailors permit them to look at events from an international angle and to discuss all matters thoroughly on the ship. Communication and organization of sailors one with the other is extremely simplified and easy. There are many other reasons to explain the difference between the two arms of the military machine, the land and sea forces, but these are enough to account for the revolts in the Black Sea, in the Baltic and in the Kiel Canal in the various revolutions in the past, as well as for the more recent outbreaks in the British, Dutch and Chilean navies.
The chief force behind the government is the workers and the peasant toilers. Here again lengthy explanations are needed to account for this. It is possible that the government can really rely on a number of regiments of soldiers and on thousands of police and Civil Guards. The reports are not clear. At any rate these soldiers and policemen are not being sent to the front. They are being kept to protect the government from its own supporters, the workers and peasants who may get out of control of the Socialist and Communist parties and may begin to get reckless and take over private property in their own interests. Thus we read this ominous account in the Chicago Tribune: “Refugees from Barcelona reported… that the full force of the Civil Guard had been mobilized to combat what they called ‘anarchy’.”
In ordinary revolutionary situations the masses try to win over the army but are forced to exterminate the professional police against the regular army. But if this is true, such a situation could only come about first because of the failure of the workers’ organizations to do serious work in the army, and second, through the fact that the workers are being taught to be merely coolies to help out the Liberal bourgeois republic. Soon enough the masses will begin to shoot down the police as their most bitter enemies the moment the revolution goes beyond mere defense of the “People’s Front” government. Incidentally, it is here seen just what sort of a “people’s government the present government is when it can be supported by the scum of the Spanish police force which has been founded and constantly used to kill the workers and the peasants.
But if the government can not rely on its regular force but must arm the workers and toilers then why should the latter fight for the bourgeoisie? Why don’t these workers form their own revolutionary bodies and take over the government? Since the only real force on the side of the government is the masses, then why should not the masses go the whole way? Here we see the counter-revolutionary role of the Socialists and Communists clearly exposed. Whereas the tactics of Lenin in the Russian Revolution was as follows: The Soviets should call out the masses to fight the counter-revolutionary Kornilov but not to support the Kerensky regime which also was against the people, even thought immediately it would be the Kerensky regime that would be saved from Kornilov. The line of the Spanish Stalinists is not that of Lenin, namely to organize the separate forces of the proletariat to defeat reaction but not to support the government bosses, but rather the Stalinist line is to defend the government and merge the workers’ troops with those of the government bosses.
Thus here again the Socialists and Stalinists show the workers that they are to fight for the government bosses and not for themselves. Instead of demanding a change in the government, instead of forcing Soviets and increasing their dual power, instead of raising the cry of a workers’ and people’s militia, instead of marching separately toward power and toward Socialism, the Socialists and Communists do all in their power to keep in office the bankrupt treacherous Liberals and bourgeois forces whom all despise and who have no supporters of their own any more.
Thus the workers and toilers who should be fighting to overthrow the capitalist government of Spain are now its chief defenders. The Communists and Socialists who should be exposing the aid to the enemy that the government has given is covering up the crimes of Azana and the rest. In short, the policy of the Communists is exactly the policy of the Mensheviks and Socialists in all countries to save capitalism.
However, there is one very bright side to the situation. The masses have actually been able to obtain arms and have been able to meet the forces of the regular army. Frederick Engels long ago had pointed out that a civilian population could not hope to defeat a regular army unless it could split this army. Here the army is practically a unit and is not split, so far as we can see from reports which state that the government does not use regular troops much against the rebels. On the other hand, it has the navy and some few of the aviation corps with it and has also neutralized and paralyzed a section of the army. Thus the people have some of the armed forces on their side. This has been sufficient to encourage the workers and to make them feel that they can meet the regular army and defeat it in open battle. It is to be noted too that the rebels have been much scattered and unable to form one single great force.
In the cities like Barcelona the garrison was crushed soon enough by the mighty force of the proletariat. In Madrid the process was a bit longer since Madrid is not an industrial center like Barcelona but eventually the same result was obtained. Similarly in other cities. Thus the ordinary aspects of internecine civil war, street by street and house by house have as yet been avoided. Because of the smallness of the active rebel army, the people have been able to stop the army by means of guerrilla warfare of which the mountainous terrain of Spain and the training and traditions of the people are peculiarly adapted.
The fact of the matter is that Frederick Engels’ statement must be modified in the light of present day events. In many countries the whole population today is trained to the use of arms or had served in the army. In the present period marked by perpetual violence, war and civil war, it is quite possible that there exist elements among the population able to defeat the regular army in open battle, relying on their overwhelming numbers to overcome the army’s superior organization and techniques. Especially is this true where the army is small, weak, mercenary and unused to real battles, while the population has gone through the experiences of world wars and revolutionary battles.
The present battles are unifying the whole Spanish people and are putting an end to the interminable provincialities and narrow petty sectionalisms that divided the Spanish workers and toilers. After the Asturias revolt it has become clear that reaction can be defeated only when the entire Spanish proletariat gets into action all together and simultaneously. On the other hand it is seen that reaction is well aware of the need of national concerted effort to defeat the Spanish proletariat. Thus one of the great results of the Spanish battles will be to kill the old Liberal and Anarchist particularisms and federalisms that have flourished for so long a time in Spain. The people will become more unified than ever.
Particularly significant in the struggle of the masses against reaction is the attitude of the Spanish women, many of who have entered into the people’s army and are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Only a few months ago the Spanish Socialists were bewailing the “reactionary” character of the Spanish women. They were weeping that the Socialists were forced to introduce votes for women in Spain when the women were affected by the priests and would be against the Socialists. Now the women are in the very forefront of the struggle. This shows how little the Socialist Party understood the situation, how little they understood the Spanish women and the revolutionary potentialities of the Spanish masses. Because the Spanish women didn’t fool around with the trivialities of ballot box parliamentarism, because they could see through the Socialist pompous phrasemongerers and careerists, this did not at all mean that once the revolution really started the women of the working class would not show themselves infinitely more revolutionary than the Socialist officials and their philistine philosophers.
The prolongation of the fighting is only turning the civil war into deeper and deeper channels and driving the masses more and more to the Left. This is the best guarantee that the rebellion will be liquidated entirely and the reactionists thoroughly defeated. But the prolongation of the struggle has permitted the Spanish fighting to take on an international aspect. Italy and Germany are openly aiding the Spanish rebels and it is reported that in return the rebels will turn over certain Spanish African colonies to the Fascists.
The English, now thoroughly alarmed for their own empire, have been forced to put aside their favoritism for the Spanish reaction and take a more favorable view of the Leftist government. At first the British would not at all help the navy of the Spanish government, refusing it coal, oil and supplies. But this is changing, what with the shipping over of airplanes and materials by Italy to the Rightists.
France, too, is beginning to be worried. The Blum regime has been compelled to take a friendly view of the Spanish Leftist government since it is practically of the same character. But the Blum government could look on complacently enough while the reactionary forces were beating the government which lacked supplies and was looking to France for help. Only when it had become clear that should the rebels win France would be surrounded by Fascist states, that Spain would then ally itself with Italy and thus greatly diminish the power of France in the Mediterranean, that the Spanish victory of the Right would precipitate civil war in France too, that French Morocco is also moving to revolt as Spanish Morocco has done, only when all this had become acute did the French Socialist regime make a move to help the Spanish government. Of course should the rebellion fall and the Spanish government need help to put down the threatening masses, of course the French government will help with all its might.
In the meantime all the governments of Europe are arming, feverishly preparing to intervene if necessary for their own imperialist aims. There is, for example, the great prize of Spanish Morocco. What would not Italy or Germany give for this prize! Even before the world war, the attempt on the part of Germany to win a foothold in this part of Africa led to the Algeciras affair and almost precipitated armed conflict then. Now the same situation is arising. England can maintain her hold on Gibraltar only if a weak and friendly country controls both sides of the Straights. England could never permit an Italy or a Germany to hold this ground. But this is precisely what the Spanish rebels are offering to Italy in return for support. This can only mean war should Italy accept the offer.
But there is something else of great importance to worry the “People’s Front” governments of France and Spain. It is highly significant that the chief forces of the reactionists come from Morocco. We do not refer to the Foreign Legion stationed there. The Foreign Legion is made up of the scum and criminal element of the world and is everywhere ready for Fascist adventure and for slaughter of the civilian population at the behest of its leading butchers. We refer to the native Moroccan troops. Why do the Moroccan troops take this side against the government? The reason is that the workers’ organizations, the Socialists and Communists of Spain never bothered their heads with demanding the freedom of Morocco from Spanish imperialism. The Spanish Republic has carried on the same policy of imperialism as King Alphonso. And to this day the Communists make no demand nor does the “Leftist” government utter one word on the question of freedom for Morocco. Thus the Spanish Communists show themselves to be imperialists or capitalist tools interested in maintaining their domination in Africa over the Moors and the Negroes. Is it any wonder, then, that the Moroccans should retaliate with a struggle to the death against the Socialists and Communists who support the imperialist government of Spain? The crimes of the Socialists and Communists have furnished to the General Francos and Mollas, reactionists , their best troops against the people of Spain. Of course, Franco does his work with promises that he will help the Moroccans. In the meantime the rebellion would have been crushed a long time ago had the “People’s Front” government come out for the self-determination and liberation of Morocco and the other African colonies.
A similar situation is brewing in France. The wonderful “People’s Front” government of France under the premiership of Leo Blum has also refused to free the French colonies. Already a revolt had to be crushed in French Morocco and the French Fascists are now busy stirring up discontent against the “People’s Front” government and are preparing to use the African Colonial troops in France in the same way that the Spanish general, Franco, has used them in Spain. Thus the treachery of the Socialist and Communist parties on the colonial question is costing thousands of workers’ lives and making it extraordinarily difficult to put down the enemy bourgeoisie. This is only another illustration of the rule that the workers are not fit to win unless they can burn out all the garbage and pus that capitalism has filled them with. If they do not know how to free the colonial slaves, if they work hand in glove with their bosses, then the workers will be defeated and perish by the hundreds of thousands and even millions until they learn the basic lesson that workers can not win freedom without fighting for the freedom of all.
What are the perspectives for the Spanish Revolution and what are the lines of struggle of the workers? The general principles have been well laid down by Marx some 85 years ago when he declared (See his “Two Speeches”): “The democratic petty bourgeoisie, far from desiring to revolutionize the whole society, are aiming only at such changes of the social conditions as would make life in existing society more comfortable and profitable… As for the workingman–well, they should remain wage workers; for whom, however, the democratic party would procure higher wages, better labor conditions and a secure existence. The democrats hope to achieve that part through state and municipal management and through welfare institutions. In short they hope to bribe the working class into acquiescence and thus to weaken their revolutionary spirit by monetary concessions and comforts.”
“The democratic demands can never satisfy the party of the proletariat. While the democratic petty bourgeoisie would like to bring the revolution to a close as soon as their demands are more less complied with, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, to keep it going until all the ruling and possessing classes are deprived of power, the governmental machinery occupied… with us it is not a matter of reforming private property but of abolishing it.”
“It is a matter of course that in the future sanguinary conflicts as in all previous ones, the working men by their courage, resolution and self-sacrifice will form the main force in the attainment of victory. As hitherto, so in the coming struggle, the petty bourgeoisie as a whole will maintain an attitude of delay, irresolution and inactivity as long as possible in order that, as soon as victory is assured, they may arrogate it to themselves and call upon the workers to avoid so-called excesses and thus shut off the workers from the fruits of victory… The workers must not be swept off their feet by the general elation and enthusiasms of the new order of things which usually follow upon street battles; they must quench all ardor by a cool and dispassionate conception of the new conditions and must manifest upon distrust of the new government.”
“Besides the official government they must set up a revolutionary workers government, either in the form of local executives and communal councils or workers clubs or workers committees so that the bourgeois democratic governments not only immediately lose all backing among the workers but from the commencement find themselves under the supervision and threats of authorities behind whom stands the entire mass of the working class. In short, from the first moment of victory we must no longer direct our distrust against the beaten reactionary enemy but against our former allies, against the party who are now about to exploit the common victory for their own ends.”
It can be seen that the Stalinists and Socialists have violated all the precepts laid down by Marx just as they have violated the fundamental advice of Lenin. Under the lethal influence of Stalin, the petty bourgeois government is supported in all of its criminal activities and the workers become the coolies for the property holders.
However, what is very hopeful in the situation is that there is the strongest possibility of the masses breaking away from the Socialist and Communist parties in the course of the present struggles and really adopting a revolutionary line that will lead to the building up of genuine revolutionary organizations.
There is no doubt but that the Spanish Revolution must take a great jump to the Left in the immediate future. The present rebellion, from all reports, will be put down within Spain itself. The whole army will then have to be reorganized and for once there will be approximated a people’s army or workers’ militia. The government will oppose this tooth and nail but the government will be pushed aside. The masses will be armed. The prestige of the workers’ organizations is enormous. There will be no force within Spain capable of defeating the workers movement now, except the blunders of the masses themselves. The peasants will begin more fiercely than ever to seize the land, the workers will begin to institute a control over industry to guaranty a living wage and security for all. Once the rebels are defeated the workers will have to solve the problem of unemployment and sabotage of the bosses. This can only lead them to the question of taking power themselves. The government has become thoroughly exposed as completely impotent and utterly dependent upon the masses.
All this must lead the workers to join en masse their organizations and take over the situation. Already the union membership has jumped to 1,500,000 according to all reports. The workers in their shop committees and unions will come together into joint councils and begin to take action in their own behalf. Thus will the dual power really be established. Out of these shop committees will come real Communists who will build a new internationalist Communist force capable of leading the workers to victory.
From press reports we learn that all the so-called “revolutionary” parties have now come together in Catalonia where the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Party of Marxist Unity (Maurin-Nin groups) have come together to form one organization. This will prove to be a step forward in spite of the combined bureaucracy which now confronts the workers. The consolidation was effected not in order to protect the gains of the revolution but to prevent the masses from breaking the discipline set down by the Socialists and Stalinists and to stop the masses from going too far in overthrowing capitalism.
The masses will want to dissolve the parliamentary regime and set up their own dictatorship through revolutionary juntas or soviets. This the Socialists and Stalinists will do their best to prevent. If these parties lose control of the masses, then we shall see the very Liberals who gave the workers arms, presumptively, to fight the Fascists now go over wholesale to the side of the reaction. The Civil Guards and the rest of the soldiers will be used against the people. The British and French regimes will send in their armed forces to crush the Spanish proletarian revolution.
And yet the formation of Soviets and the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat is the only real way out for the Spanish people. Now is the time, when the people are armed, to form Soviets, to socialize industry, to create the rule of the workers and peasants and stamp out the enemy, capitalism. Such resolute action in Spain will be bound to precipitate the proletarian revolution in France and to throw the whole European situation into the vital struggle of Communism or Fascism. From that battle there can come but one result. Faced with a victorious worker’s revolution in France and Spain from the West, and with a mighty Red Army that will have brushed aside Stalinism, from the East, the Fascists of Central Europe will be torn to pieces.
If the workers follow the Socialists and Stalinists, however, then the bourgeois governments will remain, the workers will lose their gains, chaos will return, reaction will raise its head, ultimately the People’s Front government will be defeated by Fascism even in France. Here is the terrible price the workers will have to pay unless they can build up their own Communist parties and Fourth International.
Since the above article was written events have crowded thick and fast upon the Spanish scene. Revolution, that locomotive of history, is moving at terrific spead making evident once more to all observers how mind limps after matter and how far behind is even the keenest watcher during such moments. In this postscript we jot down some additional remarks we deem of importance.
Because of the miserable mistakes of the workers’ leaders and the ample preparations of the counter-revolution the present civil war is entering into an extremely bitter phase. This is fortunate rather than otherwise since it means that it will take the utmost heroism of all the people to win the day; consequently in the heat of the struggle the opportunism and blundering so prevalent in the beginning of the action will be burned out and the masses will be able to form new revolutionary organizations steeled in struggle and truly their own. Each day’s prolongation of the civil war draws new layers into the struggle and strengthens the workers’ forces. Each day’s struggle makes the tasks of the Fascist-Monarchist coalition harder to perform.
The hope of all such minority rebellions lies in their superior organization and technique, in the use of their preparations to the fullest advantage, in striking hard and suddenly at the important points, demoralizing the centers and taking control before the masses can be aroused. This was the original plan of the counter-revolution but it failed. Now the reaction must conquer every hill and road only after heavy casualties. No sooner does it win a point when it must settle down with large forces to hold that point. To survive the reactionists must terrorize the countryside and carry on ruthless executions of masses of people. Thus every day’s continuance of the war sinks the reaction deeper and deeper into a swamp from which they cannot hack themselves out and where they cannot be sustained.
In the meantime the volunteer corps of the workers are becoming formidable armies. Lessons are being learned, old mistakes are no longer repeated. The enemy is being physically wiped out everywhere. The government is forced to rely entirely upon the strength of the toilers who sooner or later must take things completely into their own hands and decide their destiny for themselves. Already they have exposed how the government republican officials are playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie by refusing to let the workers fight the battles in the way that will bring victory. The miners want to blast out the enemy from their strongholds with dynamite which they know hot to use with great effectiveness. It is the republican government that refuses to let them do so. Daily the treachery, the weakness, the idiocy of the government republican officials became known to the masses. The government begins to lose its standing. The masses became ready to take over for themselves.
We have already noted that it was only when in the last elections the Lefts had polled about 4 1/2 million votes and had obtained 266 delegates to the Cortes to the 217 of the Rights and Centrists, that the first steps had been taken to push the revolution forward. Amnesty was given to the 30,000 prisoners of the 1934 revolt; the statute granting Catalonian autonomy was restored, payments by tenant farmers pending redistribution of the big estates were suspended, the church and state were separated an army shakeup occurred and the Fascist Falange Espanola was dissolved. It was these measures that provoked the counter-revolution; but at the same time it was the bourgeois republicans who hoped to use these measures to keep control of the situation and prevent the ‘rods’ from going farther.
Although the elections had thrown out Zamorra as President of the Republic and had installed Azana (Zamorra had been responsible for the use of force against the 1934 revolt) Azana had no love for the real left forces since already the peasants were seizing his (Azana’s) estates and partitioning them and as a “Left” he could hardly protest. But as “Current History” reported at the time: “Responsible banking quarters feel Azana will do everything in his power to resist Socialist pressure for extreme measures pointing out that in the Popular Front program he rejected the Laborites’ demand for nationalization of land and banks and a dole for the unemployed. (May, 1936, p 92)
All the signs point to the desertion of the ship of state by the bourgeois republican rats. In the course of the struggle the Socialists headed by Largo Cabellero who is playing with the title of the “Spanish Lenin”, will have to take over the government. Of course the Socialists will not want to transform the government into Soviets. Indeed, the Socialists will take over the government only in order to prevent the Soviets and the organizations of the workers from dominating the scene and deciding events. Rather than allow Soviets to be formed the bourgeois republicans will turn parliament over to the Socialists. Once in power the Socialists may temporarily talk about nationalization of certain industries, but that will be only while the fighting is on. By no means will they countenance the taking over the factories by the workers. But the workers will begin to do this anyway. Thus the very taking over of power by the Socialists will mean the rupture with the republican bourgeoisie who will go over to the side of the reactionary enemy. This will result in an intensification of the civil war which in turn will make the compromising position of the Socialists utterly untenable and the Socialists too will be forced to quit the scene as a progressive force.
Within the Anarchist and Syndicalist ranks there exists great confusion and the best of these elements are abandoning their old theoretical positions and moving closer to the Communist one. That is, instead of being Communist-Anarchist or Communist-Anarcho-Syndicalists they are becoming Communists although retaining to some extent their Anarchist or Syndicalist traditions and tendencies. Thus, for example, we see that a special committee of fifteen is taking over the government of Catalonia and that several Anarchists and Syndicalists are on this committee. Anarchists on a government committee! Who would have possibly believed that this evolution would take place! And yet, all that this means is that the Anarchists are keeping their old name and some of their tendencies but that the revolution has caused them to wake up to the real situation, namely that the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable and is the only method by which to crush the enemy. It is the same with the Syndicalists. In spite of their different traditions and concepts they have been forced into the general direction of genuine Communism.
As these Anarchist and Syndicalist groups move to the Left it is natural that they begin to regain their influence, especially when the masses are forced to turn away from the fake Communists, the Stalinists, in increasing number. While some of the Anarchists and Syndicalists actually want to form the dictatorship of the proletariat and have the workers take over the factories, build a red army and crush the enemy, the scurvy of the Stalinists are reported to have the following position: “The Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party, an important element in the Popular Front regime in Madrid, announced through the French Communist Party tonight that it planned no ‘installation of a dictatorship of the proletariat. The Spanish Communists said they were fighting the Fascists with other Spanish republican organizations ‘only for the defense of the republican order in respect to property.”‘ (N.Y. Times report, Aug. 2nd, Paris dateline)
An increasingly important role is being played by the Proletarian Party of Marxist Unity. The program of this party (led by Nin) is the closest approximation to the one that we have set forth and calls for the taking over of the factories, the confiscation of the land and the moving forward towards Soviets. Nothing, however has been reported as to its policy on Morocco. Only recently Trotsky was denouncing Nin for not joining the Socialist party. Like the Communist League of Struggle, Nin has taken the course away from the Socialist Party and had broken from Trotsky on this. Now Nin’s group is playing a far greater revolutionary role than the Trotsky followers ever could hope to play within the socialist Party. Here, again, Trotsky has missed up.
In the meantime we have to note the poor role that Russia is playing in all of this affair. After it was announced that the Russian unions were going to collect money to help the Spanish revolution, suddenly, without explanation, the Russian bureaucrats called off the drive. This, apparently, in deference to the wishes of Leon Blum and the French capitalists, or at least that is how the matter was reported. Even if this money had been collected it would have been sent to the Spanish government, that is to the traitor Azana and not to the Spanish workers’ organizations although the money was collected not by the government itself but by workers. In the meantime the Fascist countries, Italy and Germany, are playing an increasing role in aid of the rebels. Were Russia to help the Spanish government this would call for no objection from the capitalist governments since it has been long established that a friendly government can aid another government but not a rebellion against that government. It is Italy and Germany who are openly violating this international rule. On the other hand Russia would have been entirely within her rights even from a capitalist angle had she shipped aid to the Spanish Leftist Government. But she has done nothing of the sort. As usual Stalinism, with its theory of Socialism in one country, says to the workers of the world, “We have got ours, the hell with you.”
It has now become increasingly clear that the backbone of the rebels’ army is the Moroccan troops. The Moroccans, after the capture of Abd-El-Krim, were disarmed by the Spanish government; the Fascists have now rearmed the Moroccans. This is a step forward for the Moroccans. How could the Moroccans have refused to take these arms when it means the possibility of making another fight for freedom? Nor is it incorrect for the Moroccans to fight the Spanish Government! Whom else shall the Moroccans fight? It is the existing government of Spain that has oppressed them and this is the real enemy they must overthrow. Thus the colonial troops have a fine spirit and morale. They eagerly kill the Spanish workers who refuse to call for the independence of Morocco. And in a measure they are correct. They are correct to take arms wherever they can get them. They are correct to resist and fight the Spanish government. They are correct too in their estimation that their real enemy is the existing government no matter who composes it and that after they defeat the Spanish government they can defeat the few officers in their ranks who might try to prevent them from obtaining freedom.
There is only one way to deal with this problem and that is for the workers of Spain themselves to fight their capitalist republican government, to overthrow it and show to the Moroccans in deed that their cause is one and that the same fight that will free the Spanish workers will free the colonial toilers and masses of the world.
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Ever since the fall of 1930 when the Spanish Revolution began there has been no surcease of the struggle in Spain. For a long time there was a deadlock of forces, an equilibrium in the tug of war between the property holders and the destitute. Now the equilibrium is being definitely broken. The issue before Spain is either Communism or Fascism. The matter is being fought out not with ballots but with bullets and ruthless civil war. Slowly the political revolution is being definitively turned into a social revolution.