This speech was translated from the German by Ester Leslie. We have the late Willie Brandt’s permission to publish it. Alas space considerations prevented it appearing in The Spanish Civil War – the View from the Left. As can be seen from the text Brandt seems to support the Popular Front strategy at the time though critical of the CP.
A Lecture delivered by Comrade Brandt at a session of the extended party leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (SAP), early July 1937.
Spain’s revolutionary war has now been raging for a whole year.
For one whole year, we have been witnesses to one of the most momentous events in the history of the International labour movement since the great Russian Revolution. We knew great things were to be expected of Spain back in October 1934, when the Asturian miners rose up to translate into deeds their slogan “Victory or Death”. At the time, it signalled a new mood in the wake of the demoralising effects of the German defeat. Opposition was finally being forged against the Fascist reaction, This was irrefutable evidence of the revitalisation of Socialist forces.
The first open battle against International Fascism has been fought for the past year on the soil of the Iberian peninsula. This battle represents a preliminary round in the great world-wide clash between progress and reaction, Fascism and Socialism, looming on the horizon. Up until this moment, Spain has championed progress, freedom and Socialism. Tens of thousands of both Spanish and International Socialists and Communists have given their lives in this struggle. Amongst them are comrades of ours, Trude, Rudolf, Wolf, Erich, comrades from the Communist Party, such as Hans Beimler, comrades from all over the world. We salute them, this true vanguard of International proletarian solidarity.
However, we are concerned about the fate of the Spanish revolution, the revolutionary war. We are conscious of the accumulation of severe dangers. But, it must be said, even greater than our present-day fears, is our respect for what has already been accomplished. As members of the defeated German working class movement, our major task is both to learn from and aid these Spanish revolutionaries. In addition, we are duty bound to make known any criticisms we may have of the Spanish movement, based on the knowledge gleaned from the experience of our own defeat. Thus, we may benefit in our own future struggles. We must offer both support and criticism in order to ensure ultimate success.
What did we know about Spain and the Spanish before this great struggle began in July of last year? Or, let’s turn the question round: what did they know of us? Spain has undergone rapid and dramatic change. It was once the premier cultural state in Europe, prior to its steady ruination by the Bourbon and the Hapsburg dynasties, as well as the rule of the Catholic church. Eventually, it became an isolated and backward vassal country, a scruffy member of the European family of states. Bismarck is supposed to have once said:
However, let us not get caught up in attractive present day parallels, but look rather at the background to the current situation.
Spain has never completed its bourgeois revolution. Moreover, the major tasks of the bourgeois revolution are still to be carried out: the breaking of the power of the church, the nobility and the big land owners and the eradication of other elements of Feudalism, which still remain. Spanish Feudalism is intimately intertwined and related to the forces of both Spanish and International big capital.
Spain is an agrarian country. According to a survey of occupations from 1920, almost 3/5 of the working population are in agriculture, and only barely one quarter work in industry. The Spanish agricultural system is one of the most primitive in Europe. This backwardness served to secure the maintenance of feudal relations of land ownership, which were protected by high tariffs even before the turn of the Century. The price of corn in Spain was four times higher than the price on the world market. 12,000 people owned half of the rural estates. The great mass of the rural population consisted of millions of small owners and tenant farmers, who tended to live under the most dire conditions, and rural labourers, who, like those in Andalusia, lived together with cattle in huts made of straw and lime, and whose daily wages fell as low as 60 centimos, despite the legal minimum wage of 3.5 pesetas. One glaring example of Spain’s backwardness is the fact that even today there are over 5,000 towns with populations of more than a thousand inhabitants where there is not one drop of water drunk which has not been arduously fetched from far away.
In some parts of the country a small amount of industry has developed. For example, in the North there is a little heavy industry. There is a textile industry in Catalonia and a consumer durables industry in Madrid. Industry tends to be controlled by foreign capital. Foreign banking lords and Spanish grandees sit in state while the great mass of the population live in misery and servitude.
The Church and the Army were undoubtedly the best organised sections of Spanish society. In 1924 the Church could count on an army of 12,000 monks and 42,000 nuns. The Catholic Church represented a powerful economic force, Not only was it the first mine owner of the country, but it also possessed all number of enterprises, from banks and factories to newspapers and brothels. But the other side of the coin testified to the cultural or rather anti-cultural power of the Church: half the population were completely illiterate, 50% of children did not attend school. Of the remainder, half went to Church schools.
The state of affairs in the army was such that there was an officer for every six soldiers! The officer corps offered a refuge not only for the sons of Feudal lords, but also for a number of bourgeois youth, who were, subsequently, employed by the economic and state apparatuses of the more developed regions. The state machinery was riddled with unbelievable corruption and putrefaction.
Another factor, which must be taken into account, is the greater social weight of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie compared to those in Russia at the time of the Revolution. The petty bourgeoisie has played a special role within the bourgeois intelligentsia as the champions of democracy and, therefore, generally the Separatist movements. On the other hand, the developments prior to last year’s outbreak of war, proved that in Spain as well, the petty bourgeoisie was completely incapable of playing an independent political role, let alone of carrying out the tasks of the bourgeois revolution.
The Spanish labour movement is clearly marked by its country’s backward traits. The origins of the labour movement lie in the 1830s and 1840s. Anarcho-Syndicalism has been a strong influence since 1870. It was one of Bakunin’s pupils who spread the word and set up organisations in Catalonia. Anarcho-Syndicalism, with its postulates of direct action, strict anti-parliamentarianism, anti-clericalism and decentralism, found fertile ground amongst a working population, which was viciously exploited yet had no opportunity to participate in political life. The same was true for the rural population who suffered inhuman living conditions. At the same time as Anarchism took special root in Catalonia, Pablo Iglesias made initial moves towards the establishment of the Marxist wing of the labour movement, which would later become reformist. The revolutionary traditions of the Spanish labour movement lie predominantly with the anarchists.
Directly after the last war, Spain was gripped by a broad revolutionary movement, which grew out of the political and social tensions, prevalent in war time (as you are well aware, Spain remained neutral). These tensions radicalised the labour movement to such an extent that the CNT, for a short while, even went as far as the Moscow radicals.
The present development of the Spanish revolution dates from 1930, following the resignation of the dictator Primo de Rivera. The world-wide economic crisis of 1929 gripped Spain, as elsewhere, with a vengeance and caused the old order to fall to pieces. In April 1931, the monarchist parties suffered a severe setback in the local elections. The monarchy fell and a republic was proclaimed on 16th April. In September 1933, a victory for the reactionaries the polls signalled a hefty blow to the left, but, by now, the labour movement had matured a little. The defeat caused it to undergo a process of clarification. In October 1934, Asturian miners rose up in an heroic struggle against the admission of Gil Robles people into the government. Asturias was defeated and many thousands were murdered. 30,000 people were locked up. The bloodiest period of the revolution had begun. These years became known as the “Two black years” and saw the violent suppression of the labour movement. But the stream could no longer be dammed. The repressive measures carried out by reaction, led to the spreading of a powerful democratic mass movement, huge strikes by workers and the setting up of various groupings, which included rural labourers, tenant farmers and small farmers. All of this forms the basis of the Spanish Popular Front, under whose banner the Spain of 1935/36 now stands.
To summarise: in Spain the bourgeois revolution has yet to be carried out. It can only be carried through as a popular revolution under the leadership of the working class. The workers must not, however, stop at the fight for democratic reforms. They must fight for the Socialist completion of the revolution. The elements of Socialist revolution and Democratic revolution are intimately bound up in each other and, as such, are inseparable. For this reason, we must characterise the Spanish revolution as one which will be Democratic-Socialist.
The Experience of the Spanish Popular Front.
We have already established the fact that the Popular Front’s base was built on democratic mass movements – especially the movement formed in opposition to October’s injustices. The basis of the Popular Front was built on working class strikes and the organisation of the agrarian movement. A radicalisation of the working class had occurred and a battle was under way for unity amongst its members. The necessity of a firm alliance amongst the broad popular masses was recognised. The election agreement of the left wing parties, known as the Popular Front election pact proposed a relatively modest agenda, but it included, at least, the concrete goals of toppling Lerroux – Gil Robles, and an amnesty for political prisoners. This pact was first signed in January 1936. In February, the Popular Front won the majority of the seats and (contrary to other reports which, suggest the opposite) also the majority of votes. For the first time, the Anarchists renounced their policy of abstention.
February’s election victory meant two things; it gave new impulse to the Popular Front mass movement and produced a Popular Front government, first under Azana’s leadership, then under Quiroga. However, government and mass movement are not identical. The government not only put the brakes on the movement but also increasingly alienated from it and on many issues, set itself up in opposition to it. For the most part the old state apparatus was left intact. Mola was given an important command in the army. Franco was also transferred to a position of decisive military importance. The government left untouched the power of both the Catholic Church and big business. Agrarian reform was to be carried out at a snail’s pace. And not only that but the Guardia Nacional were deployed where the peasants were taking it upon themselves to take steps to redistribute the land. The old colonial system was left intact. In short the Popular Front government pursued weak, wavering and to a large extent reactionary policies.
Does all of this mean that the tactics of the Popular Front are of no use at all to the proletariat? Not at all. There are people who denigrate the Popular Front and its tactics drawing the conclusion that the Popular Front was to blame for the July putsch. Popular Frontism they argue could result in nothing else but this reactionary uprising. And the slogan “All’s ill that ends ill” is quoted in order to sum up the whole question of the Popular Front. Yes, the Popular Front government carries the burden of vast historical guilt by allowing the preparations for the putsch. But that is only one side of the story. On the other hand it can be argued that the Popular Front movement had led to such an intensification of class struggle, and to such a strengthening of working class power, that reaction was then forced into the position of making a preventative counter-revolution. The opening shot in Morocco on the 17th July may have been somewhat premature. But it was only by a matter of days. It has now been proved that without the shadow of a doubt, just one week after the February elections, a Fascist conference took place in Valencia in which not only were plans for a putsch hatched but also the active support of Nazi Germany was reported. We contend that reaction grasped at a preventive counter-revolution. For what seems formally to be an attack against the Democratic Republic was, in reality, a blow by reactionary forces against the now imminent second revolution.
Reaction was pushed into the playing the part of rebels opposed to the present legal order. This not only offered advantages in terms of domestic and foreign policy but also contributed to the formation of an alliance consisting of some sections of the army and police in unison with the workers. You may remember that on the 12th July a young officer of the Guardia de Asaltos was murdered by reactionaries in Madrid. The following day the reactionary politician Sotelo had to take the blame for this incident. The activist elements of the Asaltos were eager to resort to desperate measures. And the Guardias de Asaltos, the republican protection guard, were as good as 100% on the side of the government and the workers. But, 90% of army officers and two thirds of the soldiers went over to Franco, as well as the majority of the Guardia Nacional. Much of the navy and the air force did, however, come over to the Asaltos’ camp and joined the third of the soldiers who backed the Republicans. The relevant question here, of course is what might have happened, had there been a government policy of decisive opposition to reaction. Now we can seriously raise the question of whether or not, after the February elections, it might have been in the best interests of the Spanish Revolution to have allowed the working class to participate in government.
We have another axe to grind with the Popular Front. In July, Martinez Barrio, leader of the Republican Union and participant in the Popular Front, attempted to form a compromise cabinet in which Mola of all people was to be war minister. In various towns, the Republicans refused to hand over weapons to the workers, which caused several important places to fall under the control of the Fascists. It was not until 19th July that Giral ordered the formation of a peoples’ militia and the arming of the workers. All this is undeniable. But it is important to scratch beneath the surface. No revolutionary would dispute the unreliability of the bourgeoisie as an alliance partner of the working class. But only a fool would deny the fact that something much more significant was actually happening during this period. A real alliance between the working class and the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry was being forged. Working class leadership of the movement was increasingly accepted. This is the necessary prerequisite for fruitful Popular Frontist politics.
The Ambiguous Character of the War
The putsch, carried out by the military Fascists against the Republic represents something very significant. It has unleashed powerful social tensions. This is evident if one looks at the composition of the warring factions. Franco is backed by the entire remnants of Feudalism and the overwhelming majority of the bourgeoisie. From the very beginning, Franco’s mass basis was pretty weak. At most, he could rely on the traditional, religious and monarchist attitudes of the petty bourgeoisie, especially in Navarre and Galicia. Meanwhile, the Spanish Phalange, which was made up of activist tendencies amongst the Nationalist petty bourgeois youth, had to be suppressed by reaction itself. These people dreamt of “National Syndicalism” and were greatly influenced by the achievements of Nazi Germany. But this was no option for reaction. They do not have the necessary base. They rely instead purely on brutal terror. But one should not underestimate the power of a total dictatorship which is based purely on bloody repression. The Fascist Unity Party is a visible expression of totalitarianism. However, in the long term, these things cannot prevent the progressive decline of the Franco camp, already evident especially in the current friction between Nationalist Spanish officers and their foreign counterparts.
Franco is not only the representative of Spanish reaction, feudalism and big capital. He is also the agent of German and Italian Fascist imperialism. In the course of this conflict in Spain, Hitler-Germany has proved itself to be an old war horse for the interests of International counter-revolution, Nazi Germany is desperate to stamp out the revolutionary epicentre in Spain. Hitler has his eye on the raw materials which are to be found in Spain and Spanish Morocco. Iron ore from Morocco and copper from Rio Tinto mines played an essential role in German rearmament last year. At the same time, Hitler-Germany is also anxious to get its strategic zone ready for the approaching world war. It would like to put the screws on France and destroy the pact between Russia and France. Italy is also pursuing similar imperialist and class goals. Its specific aim is the subordination of Spain, in order that Italy itself might be ruler of the Mediterranean. Italian Fascism is backed by the Vatican, which is witnessing the collapse of one of its strongest bulwarks in Spain and is, therefore, setting to work with a vengeance, reminiscent of its persecution of heretics.
The common struggle of workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie, the broad masses of the Spanish people against Feudalism, big capital and its international executors is, first and foremost, a class struggle. From the start, though, the struggle for national independence has also played a part. A Marxist analysis must incorporate the fact that the degree of national independence, still possible in the imperialist epoch, represents a precondition for the fight for Socialism. When the Proletariat proves itself to be a defender of the historic national interests betrayed by the bourgeoisie, it becomes much more attractive to the broad masses. We have been able to witness how, in the course of massive intervention by the big Fascist powers in Spain, there has been an increased emphasis on the aspect of national liberation. It would be quite wrong, and would lead to anti-Socialist conclusions, if one were only to recognise the war of independence and deny the class war, as was the case with the CP. It is just as wrong to forget, as did much of the POUM and some of the Anarchists, that this is also a struggle for freedom from the yoke of the Fascist imperialist bloc. A correct politics can only be derived from the recognition that the struggle for a new order in society and the struggle for national independence are bound up with each other.
The attitude of the International bourgeoisie at the outbreak of the Spanish conflict was fascinating. Despite the contradiction between national interests and partial imperialist interests, the most conscious elements of the big bourgeoisie in France and England cast in their lot with Franco, de Kerillis, the Jour, Matin etc, in France, the Rothermere press, but also more moderate conservative newspapers in England. The “democratic” big bourgeoisie, faced with a choice between the renunciation of imperialist partial interests and national interests or the prospect of a victorious Socialist revolution, plumped decisively for the first alternative, i.e. Franco’s victory. Two things may be deduced from the policies of the French and English governments: on the one hand, the attitude of the big bourgeoisie, on the other hand, evidence of the pressure exerted by the working class, which, despite much manoeuvring, is unambiguously sympathetic to the anti-Fascist camp in Spain. This constellation gave rise then to the notorious policy of non-intervention, started by Blum. This policy of non-intervention placed the legitimate government of Spain on a par with the rebels. This worked to Franco’s advantage. Anti-Fascist Spain was blockaded, preventing the possibility of a cease-fire or plans for a compromise. The official policy of non- intervention was in fact a cover-up and meant that, in objective terms, aid was given to the Fascist interveners.
The International working class has made known its solidarity with its Spanish brothers to an extent never before witnessed. Many millions have been collected. Food, medication and hospitals have all been sent. Tens of thousands of the best Socialists and Communists from all over the world have joined the ranks of the militias and People’s Army, and vast numbers of them have sacrificed both their blood and their lives. But at the same time, the leading labour organisations have supported the policy of non-intervention, propagated by their governments. They have justified their action in the name of preventing the world war which would surely follow. In reality, however, this course leads to one thing only: the prevention of large scale working class activity and the consequent steady advance of Fascism. The great war will not be prevented by allowing the “Little one” to be lost. The choice between Fascism and Socialism, which will take place in a world-wide arena, is undergoing a preliminary round in Spain today. The International working class must not remain passive.
From the July Struggles to the Fall of Bilbao
An alliance of workers, peasantry and petty bourgeoisie in July secured several relatively easy victories in the important centres of Spain. Broadly speaking this resulted in a relaxed attitude towards the ensuing tasks. The doggedness, which a class, destined for historical obsolescence, can muster, was underestimated. On the other hand, the anti-Fascist front was probably not entirely sure of the strength of the powers backing the rebellious generals.
Firstly, Franco had the great military advantage, due to his control of much of the old army. His forces have been estimated at about 180,000 men, including the Foreign Legion and the Moroccans, who were brought to Spain right at the start of the conflict. He commanded a well-armed, well-trained and well-disciplined army. From the beginning, it included foreign advisers. And what were its opponents like? Not a army, but a mass of heroism from revolutionary Spain, which flung its naked bodies against the weight of the Fascist army. The early skirmishes led to the formation of anti-Fascist militias, which tended to be the special militias of various anti-Fascist organisations. The “milizianos” were devoid of any military training. They lacked ammunition, weaponry and military leadership. From top to bottom, there was a distinct lack of co-ordination amongst the anti-Fascist forces. The Mallorca escapade is a case in point. The revolutionaries may have proved themselves in the July days. But they were less successful in the days after July, when it came to matters of war management.
We can identify several fairly distinct phases in the development of the Spanish war.
The first phase includes the July battles in the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, etc. This phase culminated in the defeat of the military Fascist rebellion in the most important centres.
The second phase witnessed the formation of the various fronts, following directly on from the July battles. The rebels had armies in the North and the South of the country. In mid-August, following a thrust along the Portuguese border, undertaken after the fall of Bajadoz and the terrible massacre in the bull-fighting arena, the rebels were able to unite both armies. They directed this unified army towards the capital. Madrid’s fall was supposed to seal the fate of the war. The Fascists had the ball in their court, They took Irun and, by so doing, put the Republican North in a precarious position. At the end of October, they took Toledo. For the most part, they deployed tanks and aeroplanes from Germany and Italy, manned by Germans and Italians. Madrid’s situation appeared completely hopeless.
The third phase of the war begins after 7th November and the collapse of the Fascist assault on the capital. Weapon supplies from the Soviet Union and the heroic courage of the population of Madrid, as well as the courageous sacrifices of the International Brigade, all combined to smash the Fascist offensive. The situation seemed to settle down temporarily. The anti-Fascist forces were learning, even if they did suffer some pretty heavy blows, such as the fall of Malaga on 7th February. Anti-Fascist Spain was building up an army, whose formation owed much to the International.
The Peoples Army carried out its first large-scale exercise in mid-March. This repulse of the Fascist offensive at Guadalajara effectively annihilated the Italian units. This fourth period saw the initiative passed over to the anti-Fascist camp. Following Guadalajara there were further successes on the central front, victories at Pozoblanco etc, in the south, victories in Asturias and the revival of the Aragon front. Great progress was made in undermining the Fascist camp. There were as many deserters registered each day as there had been previously each week. The number of partisans increased. This situation caused the Fascists to undertake a massive advance against the Basque front. The terrible, destructive bombardments of Durango and Guernica in the first weeks of April demonstrate just what Franco–Hitler–Mussolini are capable of.
The fifth phase of the war commences around the middle of July. Bilbao, the bravely defended regional capital of the Basque area, was taken on 18th June. The Aragon offensive, which had been on the agenda for some time, failed, despite a huge deployment of weaponry. The critical nature of the military situation was not so much due to the fall of Bilbao, which had long been on the cards, but was rather due to demoralising events in the rear, which I will mention shortly. The military situation was critical, but not hopeless. The latest advances on the central front show what the anti-Fascist soldiers can achieve, even in times of severe internal strife. Apart from its standing army of half a million soldiers, anti-Fascist Spain has at its command a large supply of reserves. Franco cannot depend on anything like the same number of reserves. Anti-Fascist Spain may suffer its fair share of debilitating back-stabbings in the rear areas. But Franco’s army is in a much worse position. It has a poisonous worm nesting in its very core. This is much more dangerous, in military terms. Today, it is possible to say, without being unjustifiably optimistic, that if the present balance of forces continues, anti-Fascist Spain stands a somewhat better chance of success in the war against Franco.
The revolutionary war is now one year old, and anti-Fascist Spain has still not managed to build up an efficient or sufficient war industry. Due to a failure to appreciate the gravity of the situation and a misjudgment of the possible length of the conflict, and, most important of all, the internal contradictions (Catalonia!), this essential matter has been neglected. It is perhaps on precisely this point that military victory will be decisively determined. Russian weapon supplies are now being obstructed en route to Spain. However, it has been reported that, in the last few months, the basis for the production of ammunition, artillery, tanks, aeroplanes and even torpedo boats has been established in Spain itself.
Anti-Fascist Spain is the Spain of cultural revolution. The broad masses are eager to learn how to read and write – and to teach. In the trenches, young soldiers are lapping up good literature and theoretical texts. Magnificent cultural centres are emerging in the rear areas. The Spanish girl is now more emancipated. The anti-cultural stranglehold of the church has been smashed.
Anti-Fascist Spain is carrying out a programme of agricultural reconstruction. Peasants and rural workers are expropriating the land from the powerful and mighty. In many important regions, the initial steps towards collectivisation have been taken under Anarchist influence. The implementation of coercive measures, in the early days, caused a lot of damage. On the whole, our opinion is that the policy of collectivisation is incorrect. Firstly, because it cannot simply be transposed to Spain, given the country’s present structure. The necessary industrial basis is lacking, which means that it is impossible to produce the essential agricultural machinery for collectivisation. Secondly this popular revolution should not be concerned with kindling class struggle between agricultural workers and the rural poor on the one hand, and the slightly better-off peasantry on the other. It is essential to win these small landowners over to the fight and to the war against reaction. However, the damage caused by collectivisation is of relatively little importance today. Of more relevance is the effect of measures, supported by the Communist party which amount to the abolition of voluntary collectivisation. There is a prevailing hatred of the “committees” in the countryside and a real danger that the peasantry could turn nasty, given that they long for a hasty peace. For it is only then when the war ends that they will be able to benefit from the effective implementation of their achievements. Their longing for peace at any cost could quite easily become the basis of a lazy capitulation. The current danger is not so much the blunders of radical excesses but rather the lack of a uniform line in the agrarian question. This also makes the problem of providing and distributing food supplies in this difficult and bitter war more extreme. That is not, however, to belittle actual achievements. It is enough to mention that this year, in the liberated part of Aragon, more potatoes were harvested than ever before in the whole of Spain put together. Any unified perspective must demand the nationalisation of the soil and the creation of production and distribution co-operatives under the control of the peasantry.
The workers have made steps towards taking over the factories and the public transport system, which had been so terribly neglected by the capitalists. This process is most visible in Catalonia. Catalonia has decided on the collectivisation of all firms with over one hundred employees, plus certain modifications for smaller firms. We certainly respect the great creative powers exerted by the Catalonian proletariat in the factories they have seized. But we must not close our eyes to all the inefficiencies and problems which now exist as a result. The Anarchists pushed through this policy of collectivisation of the factories, because they thought that in this way, State-Capitalist aberrations and a new bureaucratisation could be avoided. But in many cases, it seems something quite different has been achieved. We shall call it “trade union Capitalism”. Above all, the vitally important centralisation of the economy, which is the necessary precondition for a successful intervention in the war, has been prevented. The current situation is that 80% of factories in Catalonia are unprofitable. In the rest of Spain, there are even bigger capitalist operations, which are under workers’ control, while the enterprises of war production are also in state hands, and under workers’ control. This situation necessitates a strict and controlled centralisation of the economy. This is probably the most pressing problem all. In many cases, control of production has become a bureaucratic function of the trade unions. Up until now the urgency of increased productivity has not been fully grasped. One typical example of this is the actions of the CNT leadership in a large and important factory in Barcelona. They ordered the Youth Shock Brigade newspaper to be ripped down from the wall, because they feared that the Brigade’s speed-up methods of work would only mean increased exploitation. And when Comrade Andrade of the POUM leadership wrote an article on factory work in May or early July, he spoke only of party propaganda and said nothing about the importance of increased production as a prerequisite for ensuring a swift military victory.
The ludicrousness of collectivising small enterprises, like cobblers, was quickly realised. On the other hand, it is necessary to recognise the fatal influence exerted by the GEPCI, the trade union for traders and small business men inside the UGT in Catalonia. It was, and still is, of course, necessary to offer guarantees to the petty bourgeoisie. At the same time, however, it is essential to wage a rigorous war against all speculators, and it has long been essential to put the country’s food provision in state hands.
On a political level, a dual leadership with a most peculiar character grew up in anti-Fascist Spain, after the July revolution. New formations appeared alongside the remains of the old power relations. The anti-Fascist militias took their place alongside the old army. Coexistent with the loyal sections of the police force, there appeared rear militias and control patrols. People’s courts were set up. Proletarian influence was the main force in all of these institutions. “Committees”, appointed by local or central leaders, arose out of the various anti-Fascist organisations, including left- bourgeois ones. Because the “committees” were set up that way it is ridiculous to confuse them with “workers’ councils”. The most developed “committee” was the “Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias” in Barcelona, which represented the real government of Catalonia for a short period, while, at the same time, the old government of the “Generalidad”, under President Companys, eked out a miserable shadow existence.
In time, this situation of dual power became impossible to sustain. One side or the other had to seize control. The tasks necessitated by war demanded single-mindedness. There were two possible lines of development: either, the across-the-board development of entirely new organisations, based on the fighting power of the masses, i.e. organs of anti-Fascist democracy. Proletarian hegemony would have had to be secured and then expanded within these new organs. The other alternative – and this was the path that was actually taken – called for a reconstitution of former bodies of power, refurbished however with new authorities, such as the representatives of workers’ organisations. This is the sense behind the new formation of Caballero’s government on 4th September, later strengthened by the entry of Anarchists in November. It is also the reasoning behind the formation of the Catalan government under Taradellas, on 30th September, in which both Anarchists and the POUM participated. Of course these governments were not identical to the pre-July governments, but they did inaugurate the line, which has progressively shifted emphasis in the anti-Fascist front away from the working class, and which has prevented the erection of new organs, while, simultaneously, breathing new life into old and powerless structures (e.g. February’s Rump parliament).
The Failures of the leadership.
What would a real government of victory look like? It would be a government under the leadership of the working class itself, not their old leaders. An anti-Fascist government comprised of representatives of the workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie, based on the organs of anti-Fascist democracy. A government with one aim: to win the war, and to create the preconditions for this one aim by building a centralised army and by centralising the economy, This is the only way to ensure the further development towards Socialism.
The leading workers organisations did not carry out this policy. Their failures in vital matters of revolution and war will now be described.
The Communist Party
The CP, currently the main political force in anti-Fascist Spain, has just experienced a period of rapid growth. Thanks to the Popular Front, they managed to win 14 seats in the February 1936 elections. Prior to that election, they had one seat in Parliament. Currently, their membership is about 250,000, whereas, a few years ago their entire membership could have fitted into one medium sized conference room. There is no shadow of a doubt that this growth is, for the large part, a result of the entry into the party of Petty bourgeois members who see their interests best represented by the CP. But this factor is of less importance than the fact that the CP were very successful at exerting a very strong influence on proletarian and activist youth. Formerly, Left Socialist youth made up the bulk of the Left wing of the Socialist Party. The United Socialist Youth, entered by a few thousand young Communists, now has 300,000 members (though this figure may be a little exaggerated), and is largely dominated by the CP. On top of all this, the PSUC forms the basis of Catalonia’s Comintern section. The PSUC’s 50,000 members must also be counted in with the CP. How can this quite extraordinary growth be explained? For a start, it has something to do with the effects of United and Popular Front slogans, which CP members employed, in order to conquer the hearts and minds of the masses, following the VIIth Congress of the Comintern in Spain. The CP championed a politics of united forces. This stance brought about the February election successes. It is also difficult for us to understand what sort of knock-on effect stems from the fact that the CP are the Spanish representatives of the USSR, the country which is providing weapons. But it is also glaringly obvious that, in the eyes of the broad masses, the CP is the most consistent champion of military needs. The CP drums in day in, day out: united command, united army, shock brigades at the front and, in the rear, pre-military training of the youth etc, etc. All that is not only for appearance’s sake. Without seeing the merits of the Communists in military questions and without recognising the intricacies of progressive and regressive elements in CP policies, you will draw completely wrong conclusions.
The Comintern and its Spanish sections, the CP and the PSUC, as well as the United Youth, claim to be striving for a radical democracy with a pronounced attention to social matters. In the early months, their stance was simply: first win the war, we’ll talk about other matters later on. That had a corrupting influence. It was also true though, that this selfsame CP was arguing, in its central organ, for a democratic republic while propagating socialism in its newspapers for distribution at the front. Recently, Jose Diaz attempted to launch a slogan which emphasised more acutely the dual nature of the struggle, by saying: win the war and save the people’s revolution. What is this actually all about? What it really means is that the leadership of the USSR, to whom the Comintern is subordinated, is hoping for the defeat of Germany and Italy in Spain. The leadership of the USSR is very aware of the danger of an all-out world war. But it lost its faith in the International working class a long time ago. It is attempting to defeat Hitler and Mussolini and prevent Franco coming to power through pacts, especially with England and France. That is why the Comintern must endeavour to restrict the Spanish revolution to the bourgeois-democratic realm.
The Russians really do want to smash Franco. Without Russian armaments, the fight down there would have been over long ago. That needs to be stated quite unambiguously. But, on this point, it is quite easy to see the interconnections between progressive and regressive forces. With the active intervention of the Russians last October, the Soviets made a clean break with their previous foreign policy strategy. They began once more to pursue an active, independent line of foreign policy. At this point, their interests matched those of the Spanish and International working class. The commitment of the Russians to the cause of destroying Franco was a sign of their genuine support of a progressive undertaking. But the Russians developed their new foreign policy activity precisely within the framework of their altered vision. They delivered the goods, but not without strings attached, Now, of course, no-one but a madman, would have demanded from them that they provide arms with an explanation attached: to be used only for a proletarian victory. All they had to do was offer support to the legitimate Spanish government. But they went further than that. They attached political conditions to their supplies. Conditions which were a result of their conception, that, for international reasons, Spain, should and could, go no further than achieving a democratic republic.
But thus carries its own consequences. Being forced into a democratic framework meant that the revolutionary achievements wrought in the July revolution had to be abandoned. That led to a clash with the more advanced elements of the working class. Its knock-on effect is a shift of weight in the anti-Fascist camp to the petty bourgeoisie and the anti-Fascist sections of the bourgeoisie. Thus the influence of the English and the French bourgeoisie on the direction of anti-Fascist Spain is growing. The revolution can not be put into cold storage. The Russians are aware of that. What conclusions do they draw? It seems that they are trying to give the democratic republic a new face – and to bring Spain under their monopolistic control. We will speak shortly of the effects that such a line must have on the front and in the rear. It is perfectly obvious that they have not had the success they desire. In spite of a normalisation on the bourgeois level, the governments of England and France have not given up their policy of so-called non-intervention. On the contrary, they have begun to exercise their policy of compromise at the cost of the Spanish working class more freely and more impudently than ever before.
The Communists will stop at nothing to achieve the monopoly of power they so desire. But in a situation where everything depends on the collation of all forces opposed to Franco, the methods of the CP (the tactics of slandering their proletarian opponents, and the exercise of blind terror and persecution against them, and the absorption or destruction of everybody else) eventually undermine morale and jeopardise the anti- Fascist war-effort. Such methods threaten to once more poison the whole International working class movement and to set it back massively. They threaten to turn attempts at united development into a pile of shards. In Spain, these methods have already effectively put a brake on the positive development of the Anarchist mass movement and, in part, have unleashed a dangerously regressive development.
The CP is currently the leading political force in anti-Fascist Spain. Even if it does not lead the government, it is certainly true that a major part of the state apparatus is under its control. The officers are largely organised in it, policies are largely under Communist Party dominion. Spain is developing into a Communist Party dictatorship. If it is quite clear that we are not progressing towards a Communist Spain perhaps we can argue that we are, in fact, on the road to a CP Spain.
Upon entering the July government, the Socialist Party was in the throes of a difficult internal crisis. Three factions were engaged in a fierce dispute. After the July movement, the party could no longer be regarded as a unified whole. Only recently has this changed. A reorganisation of the Socialist Party came about as a result of new struggles between Caballero and Prieto, and as a defence against the monopolistic claims of the CP. It was a necessary precondition for the unified development of the party, promoted by one section. It is estimated that the SP now has between 150,000 to 200,000 members.
There has been a complete change of alignment in the SP. For a long time, Caballero was not only an ally of the CP, but, further the CP, both in Spain and internationally, regarded him as the epitome of a revolutionary Socialist, even a “Spanish Lenin”. The current policy of the CP is quite different. It tries to treat Caballero as if he were a dead dog. It is quite difficult to identify the real reasons for the split between him and the CP. It definitely has something to do with the fact that he protested against the dictatorship of the CP. He also witnessed, with disgust, the absorption by them of his friends on the Left, especially the youth. As a trade unionist, the democratic realignments of the CP went too far for him to stomach. It is much more difficult to ascertain whether the CP’s allegation that Caballero is militarily incapable of leading the fight, was justified. Following “May Week”, the CP called for an advance on Barcelona. This demand resulted in an open dispute and, immediately afterwards, the fall of Caballero.
The CP’s latest ally is the group which controls the SP’s party apparatus, the Prieto Group. Fundamentally, Prieto is a right wing Social Democrat. That is why, in the present situation, he is so close to the CP. The Prieto faction is working together with the CP to create a unified party, while, simultaneously, using governmental positions to exert its influence at the cost of the CP. The development towards a unified party is strongly supported by the United Youth organisation. It is being all the more promoted now, because both the CP and Prieto are interested in clamping down on the regrouping of the Caballero faction. It is quite certain that this united party would be under the control of the CP and it would ignore the wishes of the Socialists. It is difficult to estimate whether or not it would represent an advantage in the present situation.
A Left opposition had begun to organise itself within the United Youth organisation before the Caballero crisis. After Caballero’s demise and the CP press’s efforts at dragging his name through the mud, important sections of the SP unconditionally took his side. Even today, Caballero’s most important base is still amongst the UGT, the Socialist trade union congress, which totals about 1,5 million to 2 million members. Caballero maintains that the majority of the membership are behind him. He certainly enjoys the support of the executive, though only a minority in the National Committee back him. The influence of the CP in the trade unions has been greatly exaggerated. At a recent UGT election in Asturias, the CP candidate got only 12,000 votes, as opposed to 87,000 votes for the Socialists. Even in Madrid, the bastion of the CP, they trailed behind the Socialists in many important trade union elections. All of this means that despite the growth of the CP, the core of long standing organised Socialist workers are still in, or close to, the SP, while other circles are being alienated from the CP as a result of their current politics.
One final point: we are now experiencing a conflict between trade union unity and party unity. The Caballero crisis was, in part, born from co-operation between Caballero and representatives of the CNT. Caballero took up the CNT’s demand for trade union unity. It is clear that trade union unity under the present leadership of the CNT and the UGT could build a barrier against the attempted monopolisation by the CP. That is why the Communists and their allies amongst the Socialists, especially those in the National Committee of the SP, have emphasised the call for a united party, rather than trade union unity. And they are probably correct in their assumption that such a united party could push the Caballero faction in the UGT into a minority and hamper attempts at trade union unity with the CNT.
The Anarcho-Syndicalist CNT claims to have a membership of 2,000,000, of whom, 1,000,000 are in Catalonia. They are about as strong as the UGT. The Anarchist FAI is smaller, with a membership of several tens of thousands. Apart from them, there is the Juventudas Libertarias, the youth organisation of the CNT/FAI, with over 200,000 members. Many foreign observers assume a contradiction between the Syndicalist CNT and the Anarchist FAI, but this contradiction is no longer of any importance. Some time ago it did exist and it led to those Syndicalists, who were opposed to the “Bolshevist” FAI, splitting off. Nowadays, the FAI, organised into small, discrete units, plays the role of a cadre organisation inside the CNT. Most of the CNT functionaries belong to it.
To a large extent, it is the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist movement, which bears the revolutionary traditions of the Spanish proletariat. Admirable moral qualities, such as great courage and a strong willingness for action of its militants form an important part of this movement. Their decentralisation encourages an anti-bureaucratic attitude, which can only seem healthy when counterposed to the bureaucratic deformations which have taken over the rest of the working class movement. Comrades in many other countries have only a distorted view of Anarcho-Syndicalist movements. They see them as a few quirky anarchistic sects on the fringes of the real labour movement. It is quite different in Spain. The Spanish movement showed its best side in July. It played a crucial role in the defeat of the military Fascist uprising. Following that, it proved itself capable of analysing questions of state power, of the military etc, in terms of the real situation. Since then, it has unleashed great creative forces. But it has not been able to complete the jump from the past into the present. Its ideology was a guide to practical action only insofar as it was necessary to carry out destructive tasks. When it was necessary to go beyond that it became clear that the CNT/FAI wavered between opportunistic exploitation of given circumstances and remaining bound to old dogmas and prejudices. They were not able to come to terms thoroughly with the demands of an acute situation, i.e. they were unable to work their way towards Marxism. In decisive matters, they had no concrete conceptions and were therefore unable to play a leading role in the further development of the Spanish conflict.
The degeneration of the revolution and the threats to the position of the working class and, in particular, the position of the CNT itself, have led to some differentiations within the Anarcho-Syndicalist camp which bring little cause for joy. On the right wing, there is a group, which to all extent and purposes, has adopted a reformist stance. In the previous government, Garcia Olliver was the embodiment of this tendency. The group around the National Committee of the CNT, which includes Vasquez, Federica Montseny, Santillan and several others, is currently of the opinion that the revolution has now failed. Now the only historic task left can be the winning of the war with the assumption that a victory over Franco would at least bring about a progressive bourgeois democracy. Once this has been achieved it would then be necessary to continue the fight. This idea leads, on the one hand, to a tolerance of the present governments and, on the other hand, to a subordination of all other activities to the goal of unity with the UGT. In spite of these weaknesses, we must however realise that this group around the National Committee is currently the most progressive group in the Spanish CNT/FAI. But at the same time we most acknowledge with horror that large sections of the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement are returning to outmoded positions, simply out of bitter disillusionment. They have regressed to an apolitical and decentralised stance, which can only give credence to ideas such as “let the others fight the war, then afterwards we’ll make the revolution”. Disappointment is widespread. All the more so because the vision of Anarchists as wild men with knives between their teeth has proved itself so inaccurate. In these internal disputes, they have showed themselves to have the patience of saints. In fact, over many matters, they have shown an almost touching naiveté . The elements of the CNT/FAI most capable of development are probably in the youth organisation. But, in the last few months, there too, one can observe a definite relapse into old Anarchist dogmas. The grouping, “Friends of Durruti”, which split off from the CNT/FAI in Barcelona, comprises various shades of opinion and in our view, represents neither a new approach, nor a serious expression of broader trends in the CNT. The development outlined above has further led to a general feeling of despair amongst the Anarcho-Syndicalist masses. Sporadically, these feelings have led to desperate moves and could, if the situation develops further, allow the dangerous emergence of terroristic-putschist trends.
The Politics of the POUM
This last section is an analysis of the politics of the POUM, the Workers’ Party for Marxist Unity. In Catalonia, the POUM represents several thousand of the best leaders of the Marxist wing in the labour movement. In the rest of the country they have only a weak base. The POUM exemplifies a fundamental thesis: the inseparability of war and revolution and they emphasise the necessity of the hegemony of the working class in the revolution. Before we analyse the actual politics of the party, it is essential to make it quite clear that, from the beginning, it has not been easy for such a young party, which, at the outbreak of war, had hardly had time to organise itself into a party. Consequently, its character was rather that of a propaganda organ than an active party unit. Many of its leading cadres were lost in July. Its leader was murdered very early on by the Fascists. Its position was not made any the easier by the fact that the Comintern, backed by the authority and direct aid of the USSR favoured the CP and the PSUC and actively worked against the POUM as an independent revolutionary party.
If we wish to undertake an objective evaluation of the politics carried out by the POUM then we must say quite openly that the picture which emerges is not too favourable. It is important to realise that, in spite of correct premises, many fatal mistakes have been made. In the past few months, above all, the party has taken an incorrect position in virtually all practical questions. The party has been unable to concretise fundamental Marxist insights in the light of the Spanish situation and transform them into practical politics. Most of the mistakes of the POUM are of the ultra-left, sectarian variety. They represent a relapse into attitudes promoted by the Comintern and with which we found fault during the infamous “Third Period”. At the same the same time, however, the POUM contains an opportunistic element which has yet to truly reveal itself. It is rather risky to speak openly at a time when the party, which is being discussed, is exposed to potentially disastrous consequences. But we cannot allow ourselves to conduct politics guided by sentimentality. It is our duty to say, openly and clearly, what has occurred and what the present situation is. Firstly, the POUM has does not have a correct analysis of the character of the war. They took little notice of the great transformation which was effected by the massive intervention of the Fascist superpowers. They incorrectly estimated the effective forces in Spain because they only saw Catalonia. They had no concrete idea of international forces, because, on the one hand, they let themselves be led by schematic comparisons with the Russian Revolution and, on the other hand, endowed the International working class with the power to miraculously effect world revolution. They have also forgotten that Spain is made up of another larger portion, which is dominated by Franco. They have not been able to account sufficiently for the seriousness, depth and length of the Spanish conflict. For these reasons, the POUM has not been able to develop a proper idea of military needs. As a revolutionary party, they must make themselves the most decisive party of war. They must not delegate this responsibility to anyone else. They must not restrict themselves to abstract formulas about the need for a Red Army and critical observations on the activities of others. That is insufficient. That has proved wrong and it cannot be compensated for by the selfless deployment of POUM formations on the front.
The party made another cardinal error in the question of the United Front and Popular Front. Their participation in the Popular Front election pact in February was enacted under duress. They perceived that they could only receive the desired proportion of the vote if they took part in this election and, thus, they joined in. But they abstained from intervening in the Popular Front itself. They did not align themselves with the masses, mobilised by the Popular Front, in order to push them further forwards. The slogan should not have been, “Against the Popular Front”, but rather, “Beyond the Popular Front”. The POUM became involved in Popular Front politics once more at the end of September, when they participated in the Catalan Generalidad. But here they were unclear about its content. They suggested that the issue at stake was a Socialist workers’ government when, in actual fact, it was a Popular Front government. First of all, this attitude blurs the issue of power. Secondly, by this attitude, a correct position on the problem of the Popular Front was ruled out. Later on, the POUM justified their opportunistic participation in the government by arguing that, had they acted differently, they would have been isolated from the masses. The POUM also rejected the tactic of the proletarian United Front. They demanded a “Revolutionary Workers’ Front” together with the CNT and the FAI. The argument was bandied around that one could not possibly form a United Front with Noske types and Comrade Nin wrote in his theses that the CP was more dangerous than the bourgeoisie. This represented much more than relapse into old CP theories of “Social Fascism”. Firstly, it is not quite that simple with the “Noskes” of this world. While in Germany in 1918/1919, it was Ebert and Noske who stood, brandishing whips, against the working class on the other side of the barricades. In this situation it is important small difference. In Spain, the whole workers’ movement, including those sections who are not prepared to go beyond bourgeois democracy, are standing united in bloody battle against the Fascist revolution. Secondly, the orientation of the POUM outlined above, in the question of alliances, served to confirm the CNT/FAI in their anarchistic prejudices. Thirdly, it should have recognised and unambiguously declared, that no victory over Franco and no victory of the revolution is possible without the common activity of the masses of workers who, above all, stood, and still stand behind the SP, the CP and the United Youth. The example of the failed Young People’s United Front on the 1st May in Barcelona is particularly instructive. The Anarchists had the initiative and PSUC people then caused some difficulties. Subsequently, the POUM youth declared in their party paper: there could be and would be no common activity between revolutionary youth and counter- revolutionary youth – represented, for them, by the United Youth movement.
These are the decisive questions: those concerning the war and unity. But, there are others which are hardly less important. The party has not understood that it must solve the problem of new organisations of power in concrete terms. They satisfied themselves with abstract formulae. They confused the “committees” with workers’ councils and the Catalan Popular Front government with a Socialist workers’ government. Due to this, they had an incorrect relationship to the alliance partners – the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry – without whose support victory is impossible. The POUM overestimated its own power. They crashed headlong through all the other groupings, attaching victory to their own flags. This led them into a sectarian rather than a leading position. They did not recognise the necessity of a correct relationship to the other factors at play. The POUM youth was quite capable of raising a banner in the streets of Barcelona in the final weeks: Fight to the end against Fascism and Bourgeois Democracy!
Of course, the party has not had it easy. It was affected by the slander and rabble-rousing propaganda of the CP and the Comintern. But the POUM can parry these attacks. However, they have allowed these slanders to push them even further up an ultra-Left cul-de-sac. Since the end of the year this tendency towards an ever-increasing ultra-Leftist subjectivism has been particularly characteristic.
All these criticisms must be conceded and much more to boot. But nobody is then able to come along and maintain that the present persecution of the POUM is therefore justified. No, that would just entail collaboration with the lunatic aims of the Comintern which desires the eradication of all forces which refuse to fall into line behind it. The entire International working class movement must parry this blow by the Comintern. The question is, whether it is acceptable that the bearers of a different conception, i.e. revolutionary workers, should be wiped out by the use of dirty tactics of forgery, rotten defamation, lies and terror. We must spike the falsifier’s guns!
Does the fate of the POUM demonstrate the impossibility of creating an effective independent revolutionary organisation? That would only be the case if we had to concede that the failure of the POUM is rooted in its independence and not in its politics. Since the latter is the case, the Spanish experience does not augur badly for the chances of independent revolutionary parties. On the contrary, the Spanish experience has demonstrated that the development of an independent revolutionary political force has become a matter of vital importance to the labour movement. We must, however, learn from the mistakes of the POUM, so that the old mistakes will not be repeated.
The Crisis of the Revolutionary War
Recent developments have led to the accumulation of various serious problems and have brought the revolution and the war to the point of grave crisis. Not so long ago, we experienced the perils of the bloody May weeks in Barcelona, which were an expression of all the tensions between the proletarian and anti-Fascist camps. The Communists, i.e. the PSUC, reached out their hands for hegemony. Anarchist revolutionaries rebelled against normalisation, which often went hand in hand with the sabotage of the Catalonian war effort. Methods of terror were practised daily. The provocations of the separatist “Estat Catala” and the PSUC leadership caused the tensions to erupt. The May week signalled the possibility of potentially dangerous repercussions in the rear areas and the threat of intervention by the democratic powers.
The Caballero crisis was next. The CP took the lead and left its mark on the new government. Bourgeois influence had strengthened the CP. CP politics began to shatter their own movement. They started to saw off the branch on which they were sitting! The Trade Unions, the mass organisations of the workers, did not take part in Negrin’s government. The contradictions intensified. The Anarchists were shunned in spite of their willingness to compromise. The Left Socialist opposition regrouped around Caballero. With their backing, Caballero managed to get into a leading position in the UGT. The opposition did not succeed in their objective of centralising forces in the interests of waging the war. Even within the new government, clique disputes and speculations continued all to the detriment of the war against Fascism.
In mid-June, there was a direct attack on the POUM. Simultaneously the arrest of Anarchists and then Socialist functionaries started. Several hundred POUM comrades were arrested and their houses expropriated, their press suppressed and the commander of the POUM troops, Rovira, arrested at the front. Much of this was carried out by the Communist police, unbeknown to the Government. Attempts have been made to wipe out these sections of the labour movement by the production of counterfeit documents and fabricated charges. It can only be hoped that, as a consequence of International protest and open criticism which is now being voiced all over Spain, it will be impossible for such criminal plans to be put into action. But, even now, serious damage and demoralisation at the front and in the rear has occurred as a result.
Bilbao fell at the same time. It probably could not have been held. But the Aragon offensive failed as well, and also the attempted advances on Madrid. Militarily, Franco’s people are proving themselves the stronger. Our political crisis is accompanied by a military crisis. But, we have not lost yet. We must fight against defeatism to the end. We need not be too pessimistic about military victory if we have only to deal with Franco’s current level of armed capability from now on. But the conflict must not be regarded solely in military terms. The conflicts in the rear have a poisonous effect on the front. Added to that there is also the threat of increased foreign intervention.
Barcelona suffered an overt crisis, which resulted in the expulsion of the CNT from the government. And yet the CNT continues to represent the main force in Catalonia. In Valencia there was a concealed crisis which has still not been decisively resolved and which affects the relationships between the Communists and a number of other participants in government. In terms of foreign policy, we are witnessing the intervention of the Germans and Italians on an ever larger scale. And, at the same time, under the guidance of the English bourgeoisie, the forces who are demanding a cease-fire, a compromise, have been boosted.
Is there any hope for us? Yes! We have already made it quite clear that every sign of defeatism must be challenged. Even when everything looks so grim and it seems that there is very little of worth that can be achieved, remember: Franco is still Enemy Number One! To secure victory over him the resolute unity in action of all the forces of the working class and all anti-fascist elements is essential. Whoever opposes that, or hinders it by his actions, bears a vast historical responsibility upon his shoulders. The German labour movement was defeated without a struggle, because it did not wage a united war against a united enemy. The Spanish war of liberation must not bleed to death from the wounds of its own internal battles. To prevent that and to save the achievements of the revolution it is necessary to gather together, in a solid defensive and offensive alliance, all our forces from Socialist, Communist, Anarchist and independent camps, under the umbrella of broad unity. Only in this way can the war be won and the revolution salvaged.
There is a lot that the International working class movement can do to decisively influence the final outcome of the Spanish conflict. The result of the Spanish conflict is of crucial importance to the International labour movement, freedom and Socialism throughout the whole world. The struggle on Spanish soil has already affected Fascism to the extent that it has exploded the myth of Fascism’s invulnerability. German aeroplanes were destroyed at Madrid and Italian divisions were routed at Guadalajara. The Italian working class and, even more so, the enslaved workers of Fascist Germany, have gleaned new energies from the heroic struggle of their Spanish brothers.
Now its task is to engage itself actively in the struggle. One year has passed, and a unified International solidarity movement, so essential to victory, has not yet emerged, mainly due to sabotage by the leaders of the II International and the IGB. Pressure must be exerted to this end.
A unified support movement of the International working class must offer direct aid to Spain. It must vehemently oppose the Fascist interveners, by insisting upon the withdrawal of the Fascist armies and fleets. Above all however it has to exert pressure on the governments of democratic countries. The blockade of anti-Fascist Spain must be lifted. Franco’s preferential treatment must be no longer tolerated. The working class must prevent the murderous trade of the English and French governments, carried out behind the backs of the fighting and suffering Spanish people. They must oppose all plans for compromise. They must ensure a complete victory over Franco.
But the International labour movement must also fight against the continuation of internecine strife which results in the persecution of the POUM and other revolutionaries.
There is not much that we, as German revolutionaries, can do at the moment. But we promise our Spanish comrades that we will continue to intensify the illegal struggle against the Hitler regime, the butcher of Spanish workers women and children. We will attempt to spread more information about the criminal activities of German power mongers in Spain. If we can do all of this to a sufficient extent – though this, of course, presupposes some form of united action – perhaps Hitler too will never recover from the Spanish disease. We promise the Spanish workers, that we will work seriously at learning lessons from the Spanish experience for our own liberation struggle. In this spirit we greet the Spanish heroes and cry:
Updated by ETOL: 25.10.2003