Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The New International, March 1935


L. Fersen

The Political Situation in Spain

From New International, Vol.2 No.2, March 1935, pp.52-57.
Translated By Russell. L. Blackwell.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE MOST surprising phenomenon of the recent Spanish proletarian insurrection is the fact that although the revolutionary camp was defeated, the Vaticanist reaction found itself, as regards power, in exactly the same position as before. The reactionary cliques tried in vain during the wild days of the insurrection, to sweep everything before them and to gain complete control of the state. After having employed all of the coercive means at their command, they were forced to give up in the face of resistance encountered. The repression, with the violent forms it assumed in Asturias, did not adapt itself to their plans; nor has it been able to surmount the temporary arrangement represented in the ruling parliamentary coalition.

We attribute this phenomenon to the opportuneness of the moment chosen for the insurrection. From a revolutionary point of view it would not be good judgment to use one’s last recourse when there are still other less desperate means that can be employed. But far from justifying it, this fact is the complete condemnation of the expectant attitude of the socialist party in the months leading up to the insurrection. One may use one’s final recourse while others still exist, but, of course, only on condition that these other weapons are being utilized at the same time. On the other hand, if the labor and popular uprising had been defeated at a later date, it would have been difficult to keep the Vaticanist reaction within the bonds that now temporarily hold it back. Once the popular mass forces were defeated, the arbitrator of the situation in the midst of the antagonisms that might have arisen would have been the army. Against the will of the army, or without its support, nothing serious could have been attempted. And here we find the explanation, why it is that in the conflict between the President of the republic and the government, which incidentally is the key to the present situation, the point of view of the former has prevailed. It may be assumed that had the events taken place a few months later, the story would have been different, because the most important military posts, held at the time of the formation of the Lerroux-Gil Robles government by elements in sympathy with the republican regime, would have been replaced by elements loyal to the Vaticanist reaction.

In the very first days of the insurrection, when the general strike in the country had not yet been broken, and while the government forces were still unable to penetrate Asturias, a sharp antagonism developed between the President and the government on the matter of the death sentences decreed in Catalonia against the military chiefs who had served under the autonomous government. We all know that after the operatic act, beyond which the uprising did not go, the Catalonian autonomists were the first force to succumb. It was rather because those condemned had but recently been his own associates and collaborators, than because of any qualms about capital punishment, in general, against those defeated, that the President of the republic opposed sanctioning the death penalties in Catalonia. In the beginning there were differences of opinion within the government itself on this point, but it did not take long for the Vaticanists, to whose will all the other elements of the coalition are completely subjected, to prevail. Thus the government was able to face the President of the republic with a practically unified opinion. There can be no doubt that had it involved ordinary worker elements, the President would not have offered such obstinate opposition to the executions as he did. But as for the execution of the Catalonian army officers, the President’s intransigeance was absolute. The Vaticanist reaction was doubly hindered: first, the commutation of the Catalonian officers set a precedent that would have to be followed when the Asturian workers, still in open rebellion, were brought to trial; and secondly, it frustrated the hopes of the reactionaries to take advantage of the circumstances by a great leap forward in their political career, being obliged instead to resign themselves to continued struggle based on the parliamentary coalition.

After a long drawn out dispute, the Cabinet gave in to the President, retreating under cover of various dilatory formulae, the main purpose of which was to prevent the news of these commutations of sentence for the Catalonian army officers from being made public until after the defeat of the Asturias movement could be assured. When the government actually had for decision the sentences imposed in Asturias, commutations were granted for all of the 23 that had been condemned to death, with the exception of two poor wretches chosen to enact a ghastly comedy considered necessary in order to demonstrate that on some points the severity of the law is inflexible. The government commuted the death sentences, reserving all explanations as to the reasons for so doing until such time as might be deemed opportune.

The governmental clemency during the repression was only apparent. What it did in reality, due to its own conflict with the President, was to moderate the action of the courts, while at the same time intensifying the fury of the soldiery. While the matter of commutations of sentences was being discussed in the higher circles of the state, the armed forces of this same state were devoting themselves to the most frightful butchery. Supported by martial law and an extremely severe press censorship over all information coming out of the Asturias region, the soldiery for days on end committed the most monstrous crimes with all impunity- By a discreet and impenetrable silence, the government opened this channel for the crimes that it was unable for political reasons to carry out officially and publicly.

If reaction had been able to count on the support of the army, no attention would have been paid to the opinions of the President, and in all likelihood the results of this antagonism, and therefore the immediate consequence of the proletarian defeat would have been either a military dictatorship or a government organized to the taste of the army officers. But the position of the army at the time of the insurrection, just as today, was such that it did not seem disposed to take part in any intrigue or plot of the various political groups, going only so far as to support official power. Any attempt of the Vaticanists to take power by force would have met with the opposition of most, if not all, of the army. If the political crisis of October which became the signal for the uprising had been solved in a manner unfavorable to the counter-revolutionists, then the situation would have been very dangerous for them, for if they had attempted a violent assault on power failure would have been inevitable. The fact that the President of the republic was the main hope of both of the two antagonistic camps in the weeks preceding the revolution, in that he could throw the whole apparatus of the state either one way or another, was the reason for his importance in the weeks preceding the revolution. Reaction realized its own weakness, and labor and the democratic (democratic and social democratic) camp harbored such fear of an audacious revolutionary overthrow of the regime, as to keep it in a state of passivity and watchful waiting until the last moment. Being unable to use violence, what other means did reaction have of achieving power during the recent events? None at all. A protest in the Cortes could only have provoked a Cabinet crisis, while the whole country was engaged in an armed struggle, and this would have meant risking the loss of the positions which had been won in the government at such great cost and with such tremendous difficulty.

We therefore have as the fruit of the desperate struggle that has been waged in Spain between the revolution and the counter-revolution, a hybrid political situation. Everything is almost lost – the parliamentary system, Catalonian autonomy, freedom of the press and of propaganda, labor organizations – but nothing has yet been completely lost.

* * * *

In order to arrive at an understanding not only of the exact road taken by the counter-revolutionary course in Spain, but also in order that we may understand the changes and antagonisms that may very soon appear, we believe it advisable to describe briefly the forces that now share governmental power in the country.

Niceto Alcala Zamora, head of the first government and today President of the republic, by consequence of a whole series of factors, is the man who has exercized greatest influence over the march of republican politics from the last months of the monarchy until the present, in spite of having no party base of his own. The extraordinary role that he has played is due solely to his personal significance. His monarchist and Catholic affiliations, his quality as ex-minister of the fallen regime, made of him a banner to be followed during the last pre-republican period. The fact that such a prudent man should place himself at the head of a republican movement should be the best proof of the decomposition of the monarchy, as well as the most valid guarantee to the “best families” that the new regime would not aspire to alter the principles and customs of the established social order. With no parliamentary representation save himself and a few friends, he commenced during the constituent period of the republic to bring forward his militant Catholic opinions within a government where all of the other parties were fiercely secular without being much of anything else, for it is well known that parliamentarism and secularism are the only two goddesses of liberalism, and especially of Spanish liberalism.

The Leftists explained the continual subordination of the government to the will of Señor Alcala Zamora by pointing to the necessity of maintaining the unity of the government. At the same time, however, this necessity interested them as a means of justifying the abominable transactions and horse trades of their policies, which they preferred, like good parliamentarians, to the radical application of the ideas they claimed to profess.

After having worn down and chiseled away the most essential parts of all the secular legislation projects, as well as all of the other most important proposals of the Constituent Cortes, Alcala Zamora finally left the government together with the other Catholic, Maura, declaring his dissatisfaction with what little of the secular legislation had finally remained.

These projects were: that calling for the formal dissolution of the Company of Jesus, accompanied by the still more formal expropriation of the latter’s estates – prudently placed in safekeeping beforehand; and the law prohibiting the religious orders from teaching in schools. As he abandoned the government, Alcala Zamora announced his intention of taking the initiative and of placing himself at the head of a public campaign for the purpose of revising the constitution, at least in the matters of secular legislation.

In order to prevent the “bad effect” of discord with the ex-head of the government and to pay the homage due his person, the new Leftist government could think of nothing more fitting than to retire him from active politics by naming him President of the republic, by which he was charged with the supreme vigilance over the Constitution that he himself – and rightly so – had declared incompatible with his whole ideology. What happened afterwards may not have been entirely predictable, but quite obviously it was to have been feared. To no one who understands a little about Spanish politics is it a secret that the cause of the fall of the republican-socialist coalition and the dissolution of the Constituent Cortes in the summer of 1933, was to prevent the going into effect during the coming autumn of the secular legislation that had been passed by the Constituent. Precisely at that time, the President dissolved the Constituent Cortes, resolved to face all of the dangers that a Rightward course might bring rather than to permit the secular laws to prosper.

But in spite of his social ideology, which was identical with that of the Monarchist and Vaticanist reaction, of whose privileges he has been the most ardent champion, the sectarian hatred of the monarchists and Catholics against Señor Alcala Zamora has at all times been extraordinarily sharp. The churchgoing public sees but the hateful spectre of heresy and hypocrisy in those Catholics who assumed the leadership of the republican movement. On the other hand, the marked disdain with which reaction views the republic as such, and certain of its basic institutions – parliament, Catalonian autonomy – is sufficient reason why the President should, on his own score, feel the greatest of misgivings toward the reactionaries.

The Vaticanists found the docile instrument to fit their plans in the Radical party, the representative of socalled “historical republicanism”. It would be difficult to find a party comparable to this one at the head of a government in any other country. In every parliamentary regime, the lowest political level is occupied by the parties or individuals of exalted liberal extraction, experts in parliamentary intrigues, who make a profession of being in permanent opposition. All of the vermin of politics and journalism, the most illiterate and the most mercenary, occupy this zone. The Spanish Radical party is one of the purest and most unbelievably picturesque representatives of this species.

The Radical party never dreamed that it might some day reach the seats of power. After long years of existence as a party, the coming of the republic was, for it, an unforeseen accident which raised it from the lowest and dirtiest steps of the political ladder to the very highest plane.

In the early years of the century, a great political effervescence dominated the country’s life, and at that time, when the existence of the monarchy was not considered to be even remotely menaced, the Radical party came into being and immediately seized upon the banner of the most exalted republicanism. The big bourgeoisie which was then coming into existence along with the process of industrialization, in spite of clashing at many points with the old bureaucratic state, did not go beyond the stage of a clever and purely formal liberalism, while the proletariat was still in diapers ideologically and organizationally. Republican ideas were at that time most appropriate for the Radical leeches of the permanent opposition. The most important work of the Radical party consisted in serving as the agent of the monarchist governments for combatting the autonomist demands of the Catalonian bourgeoisie, utilizing the general incomprehension of the nationalist problems by the masses as well as their hatred of the exploiting bourgeois class. This campaign was often conducted under direct orders of the Madrid governments, and always serving as an excellent means for blackmail, it carried forward by means of lofty invocations to the “social republic” obscene anti-clerical harangues, and even anathemas against the automobile, that “detestable bourgeois vehicle”.

The tales of prowess of the Radical party cannot be told without risk of being charged with exaggeration, or the simple desire to tell stories. The invitation to the masses to “violate the novitiates of the convents, making mothers of them”; the ostentatious and succulent meat dinners called “Feasts of Promise” given on fast-days, so as to counterpose the Radical rite to the religious rite; these and other extravaganzas will give some ideas of the political stature of these people. The Youth Militias of the Radical party operated under the nom de guerre of “Barbarous Youth”, through the absurd ranks of which not a few of today’s revolutionists have passed. The activities of the Radicals left indelible marks on Catalonian politics and especially on the municipal administration of Barcelona. Their press frequently initiated furious campaigns against the Moroccan war, against some form or other of governmental authority, against some particular banker, or capitalist, in any of which cases those under attack knew how to silence these campaigns by asking one or the other of the responsible Radical leaders to drop around to the servant! entrance, where an envelope would be absentmindedly slipped into his hand.

The annals of Spanish parliamentarism since the beginning of the present century are filled with accusations against Radical party elements for cheating, trickery or bribery, in spite of the small desire that bourgeois parliamentarians have for bringing such matters officially into the open. Even in the recent Constituent Cortes, one of the most outstanding leaders of the Radical party, famous for the record-breaking number of scandals in which he has been involved, had to be expelled from the Cortes for “moral incompatibility”, it having been proven that he attempted to bribe the parliamentary commission in charge of investigating the secret activities carried on by the multi-millionaire, Juan March, sinister figure of the Spanish plutocracy during recent years. The evidence was such that his own party was obliged to accept the sacrifice and public dishonor of the “old militant” without any protest or objection being raised. However, when the first Radical ministry was formed, the multi-millionaire Juan March escaped from the prison of Alcala. to which the republican-socialist government had transferred him in fear that he might be able to escape from the Madrid prison; and the already mentioned “old militant” who had been excluded from the Cortes with the silent permission of his own party came to occupy in the new Cortes the leadership of his party’s parliamentary minority, which post he still holds. The internal life of the Radical party is like a madhouse. The dominant theme of party life in general and that of its various leaders individually is made up, on every hand, of accusations of graft and job-seeking. However, they pretend to live in rapturous adoration of their “chief” Alejandro Lerroux – founder and main force in the party, old cynic and adventurer, and in fact, quite a political clown, who with great frequency brings the party’s bright lights together in love-feasts so that he may talk to them, “appealing” – to use his own words – “sometimes to their heads and other times to their hearts”.

When the country felt the pressing need for a change of regime, the attempt was made to organize a new republican movement barring the Radical party – which had become known also as “His Majesty’s republican opposition” – because of its extremely filthy history. The most intransigeant in their opposition to the participation of the Radicals in the new movement were precisely those elements who, being of monarchist origin (especially Alcala Zamora), knew best for what class of services the old regime had used the Radicals, and who, because they were serious in founding a movement to establish a republic, considered it advisable to exclude such a party of demagogues and professional blackmailers. However, it proved impossible to get along without the Radical party which may be said to have been the only representative of republicanism of some years’ standing and which enjoyed a certain legendary popularity, with electoral strength in various localities throughout the country giving it a certain safe parliamentary base. The elections to the Constituent demonstrated this, giving! the greatest representation to the Radical and Socialist parties, which were of longest standing, while the other republican parties were but last-minute makeshifts. But no sooner was the Radical victory known, than the socialist Minister Prieto declared unexpectedly, at a time when the final line-up of forces was not yet clear, and the greatest of harmony seemed to reign among the parties of the republic, that the socialists would by every means oppose giving the reins of power to the Radicals. How is this violent reaction of the socialists to be explained? In the same way as Alcala Zamora’s previous refusal to allow them to participate in the republican bloc. Even today these considerations cause him to prate in his affectedly pompous tone, which, while it forms an integral part of his oratory, is at present greatly exaggerated, because of the vagueness of the language he is obliged to use by the nature of his office. The President of the republic now raves and rants on the “morality of rulers” and whether or not there can be “authority without morality”, etc., etc.

It must be historically established that the discord between socialists and Radicals did not originate on questions of program, and that only during the course of the Constituent did it acquire a content of ideas and interests. At the outset, the opposition to the Radicals was based on considerations of political decorum, on the simple need for a minimum of morality – in appearances at least; it was an echo of the horrible reputation of the Radicals. On the other hand, the possibility of the Radicals governing the country was viewed with horror by their adversaries, and even their allies were unable to conceal a certain alarm which they were obliged to overcome in the name of the supreme interests of their cause. The socialists could have no principled political opposition to the Radical party at a time when they themselves entered the government as the principal prop of the bourgeois regime, in a movement where all the groups participated and where the most reactionary elements held the highest posts.

The Radical party was for the time being converted into the party of the bourgeoisie, which, not having traditional bonds with any particular group, has been ever adverse to changes in the government. The Radical party now acquired enormous strength and we are of the opinion that no party specifically representative of the Spanish bourgeoisie has ever been so powerful. Furthermore, the recently defeated monarchic classes supported it, as constituting for them a lesser evil. But the months have passed, showing that the Radical party is incapable of leading its great following. Incapable by nature of orienting itself by objective standards, the party is lost in the scramble for lucrative posts and positions of power; all of the party activity is wasted in squabbles or goes up in the incense of hero worship. Politically it continues to live off the moment and the opportunities that present themselves. A curious example of its attitude is to be seen in the eternal religious question, one of the central problems of Spanish politics.

Without at all foreseeing the alliance it was to form shortly, the Radical party prepared to keep faith with its original ideas on such matters, so often repeated in the “Feasts of Promise” held under its auspices. At the time of voting for the secular laws, the Radials pointed out that they considered this legislation completely inadequate and recommended that more rigorous measures be employed against the clergy. But when attempts were made to apply this legislation in such minor respects as the removal of crucifixes and religious images from the walls of official educational institutions, the “chief” – in response to inquiries on the subject – remarked that no one had ever been more “secular” than he, nor for a longer period of time, but this matter of removing the crucifixes and images seemed to him a detestable annoyance. And finally, when the attempt was made to suspend and invalidate the secular legislation already voted, Lerroux was placed in power.

* * * *

If the hegemony of the reactionary movement passed so easily into the hands of the feudal Vaticanist party, this was due to the organic weaknesses of the bourgeois party. The strong point of the former was that it held the political control of the villages, where the backwardness and lack of independence of the population makes it possible for a privileged minority, consisting usually of two or three families – which may be either big landholders or middle class elements, according to the characteristics of the locality – to decide the elections. This is what is commonly known as the cacique [boss] system. The republic wanted to make an end of this system – by means of the ballot! In the cases of certain municipal councils where it was claimed that their election was not a result of the “popular will”, these councils were removed, but with the same voters taking part in the new elections under the same conditions as existed previously, the results were naturally the same. These impregnable electoral positions and the tremendous economic resources at their disposal for propaganda purposes permitted the clerical-landlord party to win whatever the bourgeois party should lose. With keen political sense it was able to place class interests in the foreground of its demands, ignoring for the time all controversial matters of the political regime. The wealthy non-aristocratic classes of city and county, who looked askance at sectarian monarchism in which they saw nothing but a political demand as disturbing as it was non-essential, gravitated towards the feudal elements with their program of social reaction covered by a futile demagogy borrowed from the rising European fascism. This program of reaction however made no impression on the Spanish working class, which on the contrary but tightened up its own ranks. No one, however, can deny the success of this program – which has a clear purpose though ambiguous form – among the well-to-do classes.

Upon the initiative of the Vaticanists, the monarchistic parties did not go forth to the electoral struggle with the crown and cross for emblems, but united as an “anti-marxist front”. However, the marked monarchistic character of this bloc prevented the “historically republican” bourgeois Radical party from entering it. But faithful to the only thing really authentic in its whole past, the Radical party made haste to lend its services in the form of a series of local partial coalitions wherever such arrangements were convenient. The victory of this powerful reactionary bloc in the November 1933 elections was such as to surpass all expectations.

* * * *

The sharp relief in which the problem was posed indicated clearly what the attitude of a conscious, genuine workers’ party, such as the socialist party decidedly was not, either by its theoretical foundation or practical action, should have been. Thanks to the the tricky electoral mechanism existing in the country, the Cortes was the stronghold of reaction and the weak spot for the proletariat. On the other hand, the strong points of the latter were the broad well-disciplined laboring masses possessed of a great spirit of combativity, which clerical Fascism was entirely lacking. The “concentrations” twice attempted by the latter (April 22, 1934 in El Escorial, September 8 and 9 in Madrid and Asturias) were answered by determined strikes of the proletariat which successfully reduced to the ridiculous the great show of forces by a reactionary movement without real masses. The reactionary cadres were made up in these “concentrations” of the domestic help of the rich, and poor persons obligated to them.

Where should the main proletarian attacks have been directed? At the Cortes. It was necessary to decide on this course from the outset, or else allow reaction to come to power gradually, exposing ourselves to that which has happened: to the necessity of fighting a decisive struggle under the least favorable circumstances.

But this was too much to have expected of the main working class party, the socialist party, for like all of the democratic parties, if the socialists decide to break with the formal rules of democracy, they do so only when the water has risen a little above their necks, when there is absolutely no further hope of saving themselves.

The position of the socialist party was, in brief, as follows: “If Vaticanist reaction should take power, we shall then make the insurrection against the government and against the Cortes.” The interests of the labor movement on the other hand, counselled proceeding with the decision against parliament for the purpose of preventing the armed clash at this time, if possible, and placing the proletariat in an aggressive rather than in a defensive position. In vain did certain labor minorities – the Communist Left, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc (Maurin), and to a certain extent the Syndicalist Opposition – attempt to turn the struggle in this direction. The events of April 22 and September 8 and 9 were the only events of importance that have to an extent separated the socialist movement from its traditional policy of prudent timidity. The demoralizing effect of these events on the reactionaries was clearly visible. The socialist Left wing, best represented – at least in the field of propaganda – by the young socialists, did not possess the maturity, seriousness or sufficient sense of responsibility to adopt this point of view. They preferred to make a big noise about their newly-discovered revolutionarism which in practise became the complement of their traditional organizational timidity. To the demand that all energies be devoted to bringing about the overthrow of the Cortes, they replied that it was not necessary to concentrate the struggle on positions beyond which the proletariat had advanced, and that what was now necessary was the preparation of the insurrection for the overthrow of the capitalist regime. This over-simplified formulation of the objectives of the proletariat has exerted during recent months the same disorienting influence over the masses as did the anarchist propaganda of a-politicism in previous periods.

In the few months of its existence, from the time of its election until the insurrection, the second Cortes of the republic was noted for its instability. The governments during this period lacked a real parliamentary base and were made up of the least objectionable individuals, carefully selected for the role they were expected to play – that of governing by the consent and instructions of the Vaticanists, who themselves had no direct participation in the government. The instability of the regime was constantly evident, and government crises were frequent. But in spite of having such a weak foothold that could have been washed away by the first unfavorable tide, the Vaticanists were nevertheless able to continue advancing because their only opposition consisted of some noisy socialists in parliament, as loud-mouthed as they were weak-kneed. Instead of organizing a strong outside campaign which could give a more concise and urgent character to the struggle against the Cortes, this parliamentary opposition limited itself to useless imprecations and loud talk. The position of the socialist Left on this point was pitifully ingenious. They favored walking out of parliament as an expression of injured dignity, but without thinking of doing anything outside of the Cortes, other than “preparing for the insurrection”, that is to say, preparing for the blow if it is inevitable, but doing nothing to prevent it, which latter problem, in our opinion, was also worth worrying about. With the summer harvest, the agricultural workers’ strike broke out as a consequence of the annulment of the labor agreements. At the same time the Cultivation Laws, voted by the Catalonian parliament in the interests of the peasants, led to a break between the autonomous government of Catalonia and the Madrid governments, one of the most notable manifestations of which was the withdrawal of the deputies representing the Catalonian Left Esquerra from the national parliament.

If the socialist deputies had backed up the Catalonians and if the industrial workers had supported the rural workers on strike, demanding the dissolution of the Cortes which was attempting to nullify the conquests already achieved by the masses, it would have been next to impossible for the Cortes to weather the storm. At any rate, the labor movement could not have fared the worse if such a course had been followed. But at this decisive moment, as in others before it, the passivity of the socialists was complete. The agricultural workers lost their strike, their organizations were suppressed and their class consciousness, always less clear and less firm than that of the industrial proletariat, was severely shaken. Thus was the autumn ushered in. The reactionaries, screwing up their courage, again attempted their grotesque “concentration” as a prelude to their activities for the conquest of power.

The proletariat responded to these provocations just as it should have. Then came the crisis in the government, with a solution favorable to reaction. The working class then had no other way out but to rebel. To have hesitated would have been criminal. The agricultural regions, demoralized by the outcome of the summer strike, did not take part in the insurrection, but even had they intervened this could not have had a decisive influence on the outcome of the uprising. That which, from the very first days, could have decided the success or failure of the movement was the course of the struggle in Madrid.

* * * *

The major antagonism today, with the regime on its last legs, is that which exists between the reactionary liberalism of the President of the republic, a God-fearing man who fears also the fall of the regime, and pseudo-Fascist Vaticanism. We must first point out that no prediction as to the results of this conflict can be made. The role played in this situation by the Radical party can be deduced from the explanations we have already made: its presence in the government is the result of the rivalry between the President and the Vaticanists, and serves as a screen for the real impotence of the former. We should like to call the attention of the reader to our intention to state the facts with rigorous exactness in this analysis of the role of the Radicals; no irony is intended and there is no metaphoric generalization such as is frequently used for the purpose of bringing out the salient points of a situation. The Vaticanists are free to break the coalition with the Radicals at any time. The lack of any clear political orientation by the Radical party, eliminates any importance that antagonisms which may arise between it and the Vaticanists could possibly have. Whatever position the Radicals may hold cannot influence the course of political events to the slightest degree.

The disagreements between the Radicals and their allies, when they are manifested at all, are shown to be of weak, unclear, and therefore scattered and ineffective character. The Vaticanists operate within the coalition in a cold calculating Jesuitical fashion, utilizing the Radical party to the extent that they consider necessary and being in a position to eliminate individuals who have become persona non grata at any time they may wish. With time the gradual dissolution of the Radical party may result. The partial cabinet crisis after the insurrection, by which the Minister of War and Senor Samper, chief of the previous cabinet, were eliminated from the government is illustrative of this condition. The Vaticanists had not raised any objections to these two ministers at the time they were included in the October government. When the former first gained entry to power, it was realized that the raising of petty difficulties at that time would endanger their own attempts to advance. But once the coalition was firmly in power, they were able by a well-directed blow to force the resignation of the two undesirables. Had the other Radicals come to their support, there would have been a general crisis of the government. This was something greatly feared by the Radical party and thus it was that they tolerated the mutilation imposed on them, contenting themselves with filling the vacancies. This eloquent example, to which could be added others of similar nature, suffices to give an idea of the character of the ruling bloc, wherein the greater intelligence and audacity of the Vaticanist wing as contrasted with the personal corruption and political weaknesses of its allies, permits the latter to utilize the Radicals as pawns without fearing them in the least.

The President of the republic is the only consequential barrier within the regime that blocks the advance of the Vaticanists. This problem will ultimately be decided by the situation within the army. After the militant uprising of August 10, 1932, the army was well purged of the most rebellious monarchist elements that had been involved in the conspiracy. The primary task of reaction in past months was to liberate these elements and try to squeeze then? back into their former military posts. The second of these objectives is today the most important activity of the clerical-agrarian forces.

As to the possibilities of the proletariat or of the democratic tendencies intervening in the situation at the present junction one should be guided by an analysis of events as they occur and not by pseudo-revolutionary flights of fancy. The proletariat has just been defeated in an armed struggle and, although it has emerged from the experience with a high revolutionary morale, its cadres nevertheless have suffered the consequences of a serious repression, its organizations and propaganda are for the moment suspended and threatened with definite illegality. A certain reactionary newspaper, in reply to those who base excessive hopes on the conflicts existing between the reactionary factions and which we have just reviewed, asked if the Lefts could expect to win by a mere cabinet crisis that displacement of reaction which they were unable to achieve by force of arms. This question is very timely, in order that those under illusions may be brought to understand the realities of the movement. It is especially forceful when applied to those in the proletarian camp who are under such illusions, and who after a great defeat still dream that the proletariat may be able in a short time to strike out again for power. Nonetheless, the frictions and breaches existing in the ranks of those who now share governmental power open the way for the working class once more to win its elementary rights and liberties. The weight of the proletariat will be decisive and will permit it to thwart the aims of its enemies, converting the situation into one favorable to itself. Furthermore, the immediate future of the Spanish proletariat does not depend on itself alone, but in still greater measure on the course and tempo of the international labor movement.

Madrid, December 1934

Top of page

Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 21.7.2006