Hugo Dewar 1937

The GPU in Spain

Source: Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky, Information Bulletin, July 1937. Scanned, prepared and annotated for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

The Daily Herald [1] of 25 June 1937 carries a statement from Fenner Brockway [2] on the subject of John McNair’s [3] arrest in Barcelona. In the course of that statement Brockway is reported as saying: ‘The leaders of our brother party (Spanish Trotskyists) have been arrested on the charge of being fascist agents.’ It is quite certain, in the first place, that Brockway did not characterise the POUM as ‘Spanish Trotskyists’. He has been at some pains over the last few months to emphasise that the POUM is not connected with the international ‘Trotskyist’ movement. Trotsky has been strongly criticised by Gorkin (General Secretary of the POUM) in the columns of La Batalla. [4] Trotsky himself, while praising its heroic militia and its revolutionary rank-and-file members, has many times stated his fundamental disagreements with the policy of the POUM. In spite of these facts, a considerable part of the press of this country continues to call the POUM ‘Trotskyist’.

It is not the task of the Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky either to attack or defend the policy of the POUM. Nevertheless, the POUM has played a great part in the struggle against fascism in Spain, and now finds itself subjected to the same abuse and calumny as has been hurled against Leon Trotsky, and with as little justification. It is therefore the duty of all honest workers, irrespective of political difference, to stand by the POUM in the elementary demand for justice.

The entirely unprincipled methods employed in the campaign against the POUM, the abuse and slander heaped upon it, the language of the charges made against its leaders, together with the ‘evidence’ in support of those charges, indicate only too clearly the source of this filth which is polluting the working-class movement of the entire world. The Soviet bureaucracy, aided by the Communist International, seeks to export the GPU’s technique of terror and frame-up to Spain.

In the same issue the Daily Herald has a leading paragraph commenting on this matter. In its usual lucid way it heads the paragraph ‘Anarchists’ and says: ‘Unlike the Communists, its [the POUM’s – HD] members still take Marxism seriously...’, and then goes on to suggest that ‘the right course is to intern them, and let them free when the rebellion is crushed’. The Daily Herald, which prides itself upon its democratic outlook, suggests the internment (read imprisonment) of members of the working class because – they ‘still take Marxism seriously’. Such action would, in effect, be yielding ‘to unprincipled present-day Communist strategy’ (vide Daily Herald, same paragraph), and preparing the way for further repression and new acts of terror on the part of the Communist bureaucracy.

Sooner rather than later, the truth about the Moscow trials, the ‘purges’, the executions, and the attempted repression of the POUM, will be revealed. But, to the end that the truth shall be known and justice be done, all who pride themselves upon their progressive opinions must take a stand against the attempted railroading of the POUM leaders, and do all in their power to bring pressure to bear on the government of Valencia and the Catalan Generality in order that these men and women may be set free.


1. The Daily Herald was a newspaper that reflected the views of the Labour Party leadership – MIA.

2. Archibald Fenner Brockway (1888-1988) was General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party during 1933-39, and was a public critic of the Communist International’s Popular Front strategy and tactics during the Spanish Civil War – MIA.

3. John McNair (1887-1968) was a prominent member of the ILP, and became its National Organising Secretary and international representative in 1936; he then ran the ILP’s office in Barcelona, returned to Britain after the suppression of the POUM in the aftermath of the Barcelona May Days, and subsequently became the ILP’s General Secretary – MIA.

4. Julián Gómez García Gorkin (1902-1987) was a leading member the Bloque Obrera y Campesino in Valencia, and became a leading member of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) upon its formation in 1935. He was a defendant in the show trial of the POUM, and managed to escape from jail into exile. A prolific writer on political and historical issues, his outlook after the Second World War reflected that of Cold War social-democracy. La Batalla was the POUM’s newspaper – MIA.