THE FIGHT WITHIN THE SPANISH LEFT

By Albert Weisbord

The civil war in Spain has gone now for over a year. Its protracted character is due, on the one hand, to the international interference which has isolated the Spanish Republic and surrounded it with a Fascist-Democratic-Soviet blockade. Franco’s forces have been aided by German, Italian and Portuguese arms, as well. On the other hand, the war is protracted due to the serious differences which have developed on each side preventing completely unified action.

On the side of Franco there are at least three principal divisions among his cohorts. There are the monarchists, divided themselves into two sections, the Bourbonists and the Carlists. There is the old Lerroux group which has one wing that favors a constitutional monarchy and another that would tolerate a conservative republic. Then there are the Falangists or Fascists proper who are supported directly by German and Italian troops.

The monarchists represent the interests of the old agrarian grandis whose natural archtype was the king. The struggle between the two monarchical sections is primarily a dynastic one, as it was between the house of Bourbon and the House of Orleans in France. As with the Orleanists, the Carlists in Spain had always posed as being more socially minded, more interested in social reform than the dieŠhard Bourbons and thus, one may say, they pose as the representatives of a more modern system of society catering to classes more recently arrived in influence in Spain.

The Lerroux group represents rather the city capitalist interests who were dominant in the later years of the King and in the early days of the Republic. They want to see a restricted parliament in which the older financial interests would have the definite sway and would push aside the hindering hand of the agrarian chiefs and the Catholic Church and allow free play to the capitalist exploitation of the country. It was the Lerroux group that was responsible for the period of reaction which led to the Asturias revolt in 1934 and the repressive measures thereafter. It, more than any other factor, perhaps, precipitated the great swing of the country to the Left in the elections of February 1936 which in turn led to the Franco rebellion.

The Falangists are of an entirely different sort. In contradiction to the other groups which favor England and France, they are oriented toward Germany and Italy in their foreign policy and toward heavy industry within the country. They are not for the return of old Spain, not necessarily even for the monarchy, although they tend to take Mussolini’s stand on this rather than Hitler’s, that is, to tolerate and use the monarchy as the tool of centralizing and concentrating capital. The Falangists want the modernization of Spain and believe that not the workers through Soviets can accomplish this but only heavy industrial capital regimenting and disciplining the nation.

The struggle between the Falangists and the monarchists recently has become so bitter that Franco was forced to take action, having discovered a plot against himself, and to place on trial the leader of the organization, Manuel Hedilla, for sedition. The outcome of the trial was that Manuel Hedilla has been exiled from the country and has gone to Germany to intrigue further in the interests of the Nazification of Spain.

But if the Spanish Right is so divided as to threaten the unity of command at critical moments, what shall we say of the Spanish Left covered over by the term “Loyalist"? The Spanish Left is divided into at least the following sections: The Republican Union with its allies the Izquierda and the Esquerra, the Socialists and their trade union body, the General Labor Union (U.G.T.), the official Communists and their special branch in Catalonia, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia (P.S.U.C.), the Syndicalists with their powerful trade union center, the National Confederation of Labor (C.N.T.), the Anarchists in their Iberian Federation of Anarchists (F.A.I.) affiliated to the International Workingmen’s Association (A.I.T.), and finally, the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (P.O.U.M.) besides the special interests that are subserved by the Basque Party, the Estat Catala and similar political organisms locally powerful and sometimes even decisive.

The barricade fighting of May 3rd to May 7th in Barcelona showed clearly that the unity of these forces on the Left was coming to an end and that sooner or later open civil war would break out amongst them. In those days, on one side there were ranged up the Anarchists, the Syndicalists, and the P.O.U.M. in Catalonia, and, on the other side, all the rest of the organizations aforementioned which were present and active there. To the outside observer the fight seemed to be utterly unreasonable since the divisions within the country meant that the progressive forces would not be able to defeat the reactionary ones and indeed might give their common enemy the victory. But an entire country is not made up of fools and criminals. It is necessary to study the various component parts of the Loyalist regime to see whether they can actually work together or not and why the struggle has become so sharp within their ranks.

The divergences among the Left are sharper than among the Right for the simple reason that whereas the struggle within the Right is a struggle of various sections of the propertied classes, the struggle within the Left is truly a class struggle, the various groups representing different classes, big capital, small capital, petty ownership and the proletariat.

To the extreme Right of the Loyalist forces is the Republican Union made up of capitalist elements who could not go over to the side of Franco for various reasons. In some cases their interests were locked in regions controlled by the workers and they were compelled to stand by their property and to guard it was long as possible. In others, they had found the republic the best medium for their development or they had traditionally struggled against the monarchical landlord regime and could not now change sides. At any rate, these elements profess loyalty to the government and willingness to help put down any minority rebellion within it.

Close to the Republican Union is the party of Izquiorda (Spanish word for “Left” and better translated as Radical Republican). They stand for the completion of the political revolution in the sense of wanting to clean out all the vestiges of the old monarchical clique if possible. They are willing to coquette in difficult moments with sections of the lower classes. They can agree with the atheism and laissez faire ideas of some of the older and more intellectual Anarchists. At present they are working in agreement with the Socialists and Stalinists in a coalition regime similar to the People’s Front in France. The capitalist group in this party, then, is of a Radical Liberal type; the composition of the party is mostly of the lower middle class, the lawyer, the student, the teacher, the small entrepreneur. If the more important army officers are generally tied up with the Republican Union, the lower commissioned officers are to be found close to the Izquierda.

Similar to the Izquierda but limited to Catalonia is the Esquerra (Catalan term meaning “Left") which besides having the Liberal-Radical ideals of the Izquierda, has the special tradition of having been the advocate of Catalonian autonomy and the creation of a Federation of Autonomous Republics in Spain bound together on a fraternal basis. The Esquerra, then, is more moderate in this respect than the Estat Catala, a purely Catalan petty bourgeois party that advocates the complete independence of Catalonia as a separate republic.

The immoderate activities of the Estat Catala for Catalonian independence has led to charges that this party is even ready to deal with foreign powers hostile to Spain to accomplish its ends. It is said that Dencas, the leader of the organization went to Rome to deal with the Italians just before the outbreak of the rebellion in July 1936. It has been further charged in the press that Casanovas, former President of Catalonian Parliament and also a leader of this political tendency went to France in January of this year to negotiate with similar disloyal elements and that Comorera, the General Secretary of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia, in his special trip to Paris in April also dealt with the same agents who were involved in the activities of the Estat Catala. Incidentally it was the responsible leaders of this party who gave the orders for the attack on the Telephone Building that precipitated the barricade fighting on May 3rd to May 7th and in which the members of the Estat Catala and of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia fought side by side.

The pressure of the masses during the course of the upheaval that followed the July 1936 days has caused all the aforementioned property groups to come closer together. The Estat Catala, together with the Esquerra, for example, welcomed the entrance of the five thousand Valencia troops after the street fighting in May in Barcelona, although formerly they would have protested this “foreign” invasion. They made no complaints when the central government decided to take over the customs, the foreign trade and the internal order of Catalonia and manage it entirely from above. With this, the old semi-alliance that certain elements of these radical parties had maintained with groups of Anarchists who also used the slogans of no centralized State in Spain with each region to be separate and autonomous, came to an end.

At this point there should also be mentioned the Basque Party. This party is made up of the large and small capitalists of Euzkadi (the Basque country) who, like the Catalonian capitalists in Estat Catala and Esquerra had traditionally fought for autonomy against the centralized tyranny of the Madrid Bourbons. Some of them were for complete independence.

Unlike the Catalonians, the Basque Party, however, really had little of Radical ideas, being strongly feudal in its make-up and a fanatical adherent of the Catholic Church. Both the Basque Party and the Esquerra were given representation in the national government as supposedly representing all the people of their regions. In reality this was very far from the truth. Almost all of the industry in Spain is concentrated in Catalonia and the Euzkadi-Asturias regions. The workers of these areas had very little in sympathy with the capitalists, native and foreign, controlling the textile and metal factories and mines of the country.

Yet it is significant that the various workers parties that dominated the government after July 1936 permitted the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist parties of the Basque and Catalonian territories to speak in the name of the whole people there. This representation has permitted the Basque Party to control the armed forces in the field in Euzkadi that led to such disastrous results in Irun, San Sebastian and Bilbao and which is now creating the strongest friction between the Basque and the Asturian miners and other proletarians who want to carry on the civil war to the bitter end and with revolutionary means.

At the beginning of the July events, the aforementioned parties, although containing in their ranks the persons of the President of Spain, Azana, and of the President of the Catalonian Generalidad, Companys, really had very little influence. At that time an Anti-fascist Committee was created composed predominantly of proletarian groups that took control of the factories and of the militia mobilized by the workers to defeat fascism. At one time there was a serious movement for the setting up of this anti-fascist united front as the government, based on the committees of workers, peasants and soldiers, but this movement came to an end, the old apparatus was maintained, and eventually the Anti-Fascist Committee was dissolved and its component parts became members of the new government established under Caballero. Step by step the influence of the bourgeois parties mentioned above has increased so that now instead of having but four out of eighteen members in the Spanish cabinet, they have four out of nine and the most extreme sections of the workers have been entirely eliminated from effective participation.

The interest of these parties is to restore as soon as possible the old republic of 1931-1936, to make peace with the proper elements on the side of Franco, to revive parliament, to rebuild an independent army, to restore capitalist development, to normalize the country by putting an end to the collectivization of the enterprises and workers’ control of the factories that has been established, to reconquer Morocco, in short, to make Spain on the model of France.

Against these views, however, are posed the interests of the proletariat and the poor peasantry of Spain who are united in two great trade union formations, the U.G.T. and the C.N.T. and who are divided into various political factions that war on each other.

Practically every worker is in a union in Spain, and practically every poor peasant has also organized and attached himself to one or the other labor federation. The U.G.T. has been traditionally controlled by the Socialist Party and lately more and more by the Communist Party. It is strong in Asturias, in Valencia and Madrid and also in the Basque region. The C.N.T. is dominated by Anarcho-Syndicalist conceptions. They are strongest in Catalonia, practically monopolizing this most important industrial area, and have strong bases also in Valencia, Asturias and elsewhere throughout Spain.

Both union groups theoretically advocate the termination of the capitalist system and both, therefore, would have to resist any move to oust them from the control of the factories which they have taken over and legalized by the Decree of Collectivization of October 24, 1936. A strong tendency towards the unification of both trade union centers now exists throughout Spain. This tendency emanates not only from the ranks of the workers who believe that their power would become indomitable once they truly become united, but also from the officials who have heretofore been divided by different political programs. In the course of the revolution, both sides have violated their own principles and have been driven to take common action.

The syndicalists believed that the unions themselves should take over the factories and not tolerate for one moment the interference of any kind of State, even a Workers’ State. The Socialists have always advocated the government ownership of the industries with the unions subservient to a general democracy. What has actually happened is that the Syndicalists joined the very State which they had professed to detest while the Socialists were forced to go along with the direct action and control over the factories. But what is driving both sets of officials together is the threat that the working class has been making, as witnessed in the barricade fighting in May, to take things into their own hands, to fuse their ranks from below and organize shop councils and no longer to recognize the authority of their leaders who permit a capitalistic government to continue and the revolution to stop half way. To understand the deep gap that separates both trade union centers we have to discuss the differences that the Socialists have with the Anarcho-Syndicalists.

The Socialist Party for a long time has been divided into two divisions, a Right Wing and a Left Wing. The Right Wing was headed by Prieto seconded by such men as an extreme Right Winger named Dr. Negrin. They were social reformers. They wanted a republic with social reforms that gradually and peacefully would work itself into Socialism with the cooperation of the Liberal-Radical elements. This group swayed the Socialist Party before 1934 and was part of the coalition government that framed the Republic in the beginning. After the Asturias revolt, however, with the definite swing of the Republic to the Right, the Socialists were no longer part of the government and the party became dominated by such as Largo Caballero who was the head also of the U.G.T. Caballero was, therefore, closer to the workers and a leader of the Left Wing in the party that talked of creating in Spain a “Socialism in Our Times.” The Left Wing, at least, was willing to become militant to fight fascism so as to maintain the social reforms of which it was the beneficiary, although it did not at all believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat advocated by the Communists.

The Communist Party has had its own evolution. Before the Revolution it amounted to such an insignificant sect that the events caught it completely surprised. The Spanish Party then adhered to the “Third Period” policies of the Communist International which consisted of rather extreme tactics such as calling every other organization fascist or social-fascist, refusing to cooperate with other workers’ organizations, attempting to split the existing unions and form its own pure Communist unions, concentrating its time in issuing manifestos calling on the workers to revolt, rather than seriously setting about to consummate that revolt. The result of these policies was utter failure on the part of the Communists to get ahead. So much so that in those days the Communist Party had less influence at least in important parts of the country, than the Trotskyist Left Opposition headed by Nin and Andrade, and, in Catalonia, were far behind the Workers-Peasant Bloc organized by Maurin.

By 1935 the crushing victory of Fascism and the destruction of the Communist parties in Central Europe caused a complete volte-face on the part of the Third International which then ran to cover behind the Liberals. It then averred it would defend capitalist democracy with its life as against fascism and would enter into political coalitions with democratic capitalists. It liquidated all its independent mass organizations which it had tried to set up. It tried to fuse itself with the Socialist parties wherever they remained. Stalin made a pact with France pledging himself to defend French capitalism with the last drop of the Russian worker’s life.

In Spain, the effect of this has become very clear after the Fascist revolt of July, 1936. The Communist Party declared that it was not for the social revolution at this time in Spain but only for the maintenance of the bourgeois republic and the defeat of Franco. The main thing was to win the war and not to introduce Socialism. Questions of property would be taken up later. In the international field one had to trust the League of Nations, particularly England and France and by and by no means stir up the masses against the governments of those nations even when they proclaimed a blockade around Spain, even when their international control obviously immensely aided the side of the monarchists. Within the country, the chief job was to keep the workers from going too far and overthrowing the capitalist democratic State of Azana.

With the entrance of Russia into the field, sending in airplanes and tanks, and trained men and equipment to keep them going, the conditions that the Russians laid down in return for their aid had to be accepted and the Communist Party grew immensely, having, perhaps, at the present moment about three hundred thousand members. As yet they have not been able to wrest control from the Socialists in the trade union movement, but they have done everything they can to link themselves together with the Socialists. And indeed the complete modification of the program of the Communist Party is such that there is no longer any fundamental distinction to be seen between the former Socialists and Stalinists. In Catalonia they already have fused together under the name of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia but while the name Socialist has been retained it is the Stalinists who dominate the party completely.

How far the Stalinists have swung in their politics could be seen in the barricade fighting in Barcelona during the early days of May when they fought side by side with the police against the strikers. It was the Stalinists who risked the complete rupture of the anti-fascist front and the demoralization of the struggle. They forced the fall of Premier Caballero in May and the substitution of the Right Wing, Dr. Negrin, on the ground that the former did not know how to keep firm order among the workers in the rear and to disarm them. It is they who have insisted on the reduction of the government from eighteen to nine men with the elimination of the trade union and militant worker element. They have revived the utterly defunct and discredited parliament, most of whose members have run away and all of whom were elected in February 1936 before the rebellion of Franco and under entirely different circumstances. They are the ones most insistent on the reformation of the old workers’ militia into a regular army with its rigid militarized caste system of officers and men, general command and robots.

Naturally, there is a sharp conflict between the Socialists and Stalinists on the one hand and the Anarcho-Syndicalists on the other, although among the latter there is a wide divergence between the theories of the membership and the practice of the leaders. In theory, both Anarchists and Syndicalists are for the smashing of all States of any kind. They have been taught to believe that there is little difference between an Azana government and a Franco one. They view the fight against Fascism as intertwined with their fight for complete emancipation from all capitalist rule which they believe to be immediately possible.

Within the Anarcho-Syndicalist ranks there are also some important differences that should be noted. Earlier in Spain’s history the Anarchists were divided into two main sections, one of an intellectual sort which favored an extreme individualism garnished with poetic phrases, the other, much more proletarian which took to the Bakuninist view of relying on the proletariat and worked with considerable success to influence the secret revolutionary trade union movement then growing in Spain. This section now practically dominates completely the field of Anarchism and has given its theories to the syndicates. It stands for the destruction of all capitalist authority but instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a centralized State, it advocates the voluntary cooperation of free communes with no right for one man to exploit another.

Within the ranks of the Syndicalists also there are considerable disagreements, as would be most natural, since the syndicates are mass unions taking all laborers who work in a given industry (earlier, the syndicates were built along craft lines like the American Federation of Labor, but this has been changed) regardless of each one’s views on social and political questions. As a matter of course, many of the members are mere trade unionists who have joined their union to improve their conditions immediately without regard to the future. But there are others who have developed a trade union philosophy that with the destruction of all States there must arise the authority of the union that has not only the chief job of destroying capitalism but the sole work of constructing a new social order.

Despite the fact that Anarchists and Syndicalists have pretty well come together today in Spain, there can still be noted the following differences, mostly in emphasis, that each section tends to make. The Anarchists stress the destruction of the old political order, the Syndicalists the construction of the new economic system, the former speak of the need of further insurrection, the latter use the weapon of the general strike, the one adopt a more intransigent attitude toward their opponents, the Syndicalists appear more tolerant. The Anarchists are theoretically completely anti-authoritarian and favor Libertarian communes, the Syndicalists would set up the authority of the union that would centralize economy throughout the nation.

Against all of the above groups stands the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (P.O.U.M.), formed of a fusion, after the Asturias rebellion of 1934, of the Workers-Peasant Bloc of Maurin and the old Trotshyist Left Opposition under Nin and Andrade which had broken from Trotsky’s dictatorial control and his capitulation to the Socialists. The P.O.U.M. is against the reformism of the Socialists, against the People’s Front government, against temporizing with the capitalist system, against the remilitarization of the army, against collaboration with the League of Nations. It is for the independence of Morocco, for the social revolution leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and for a workers and peasants government of Soviets, for a new Communist International.

The P.O.U.M., then, tries to stand for the same position in Spain as the Bolshevik Party under Lenin stood in Russia, just as objectively the Socialist-Stalinists of Spain may be compared to the Mensheviks and the Anarcho-Syndicalists appear as the Spanish variety of the Russian Left Social Revolutionaries. The Workers Party of Marxist Unification, however, is by no means as hardened or tested, nor its leadership so intransigent or audacious as the Bolsheviks were under Lenin. The mistakes of the P.O.U.M. have been far more numerous.

The P.O.U.M. has about thirty thousand members but its influence in much too restricted to Catalonia for it to play a decisive role nationally as yet. None the less, there are certain drifts in the Spanish current that appear to give the P.O.U.M. the possibilities for great growth. Among the Anarchists, after the May Days, there have appeared strong groups, like the friends of Durutti, who have become extremely discontented with the actions of the Anarcho-Syndicalists in having been part of the government while the government was shooting down the workers in Barcelona. They are for the capture of power by the workers without further delay, they wish the overthrow of the bureaucracy that has appeared even in the revolutionary Syndicalist unions, they want to resist by force the continued militarization of the army corps and the disarmament of the workers in the rear. The Friends of Durutti during the barricade fighting actually came out in favor of close collaboration with the P.O.U.M.

Among the trade unionists, too, there is a great deal of discontent. The war has dragged on a long time. None of the social problems have been decisively settled. The cost of living is constantly going higher. The collectivization in the factories is being steadily restricted. The workers’ guards are being disarmed and imprisoned, the government unable to make very much headway against the fascist enemy, altogether while the revolution is definitely going backward.

The leaders of the Syndicalists have tried to stem the tide of discontent by ordering the expulsion of all members of the Friends of Durutti. The Socialist union center, in Catalonia under the influence of the P.S.U.C., has come out for the expulsion of all members of the P.O.U.M. The government has taken a hand to arrest the leaders of the discontented, particularly Nin, Gorkin, Andrade and the rest of the executive committee of the P.O.U.M. and, it is reported, about one thousand others, including the responsible P.O.U.M. officers at the front, on the ground that they are fascist agents. La Battalla, central organ of this Party, has been suppressed, their radio discontinued, the Party practically driven underground and hunted as was the case with the Bolsheviks during the days of the Kerensky-Menshevik coalition before the October Revolution of 1917.

Will there be an October Revolution in Spain? The P.O.U.M. has initiated a clever policy in calling for the establishment of a trade union government run by united U.G.T.-C.N.T. for one knows full well that once the unions take over the helm of State there is bound to be created Soviets that will carry the revolution to a Socialist conclusion. But this would mean the complete break-up of the anti-fascist front with departure of all the parties of the Right into a fusion with the fascists. It would bring England and France and the other countries posing as friendly to Spain into complete hostility, it would mark an international intervention in Spain and world war. None the less, Spain is drifting towards that momentous head-on collision day by day.