Ted Grant

Spain: Towards Revolution

Source: Militant International Review, no. 10 (March 1976)
Transcription: Francesco 2013
Proofread: Francesco 2013
Markup: Francesco 2013

On the world arena, the bourgeoisie of the main imperialist countries have lost confidence and become partially demoralised as a result of the end of the titanic world economic upswing and the political defeats which world imperialism, especially American, have suffered in the recent period – the defeat of the USA in the Vietnam war being the most outstanding.

The deepest recession since the Second World War, reaching the proportions of a minor slump, has resulted in a pool of unemployed of over a million in the major EEC countries, nearly 2 million in Italy over a million in Japan, and over 10 million in the mightiest power, the USA.

All serious bourgeois economists and commentators understand that this is now a permanent army of unemployed which, as a minimum, will fluctuate round the million mark, in the main capitalist powers, apart from America, where the minimum will be 7 to 8 million.

Thus the illusion of permanent full employment and permanent economic growth, and an upswing under capitalism, is shattered. Moreover, the stability of social relations is undermined by the continuing inflation even at a lower pace in all capitalist countries. Only in this period have we had the phenomenon of falling production with rising prices; this at a level far higher in every country than the “normal” rise of prices in a boom.

This is an indication of the incurable sickness of capitalism in this epoch. The three post-war decades have been decades of turbulence and upheaval in the former colonial and semi-colonial world. The collapse of the Portuguese empire, signalled by the revolution in Lisbon, is an indication of this process.

The civil war in Angola is an attempt by the imperialists to retain a firm grip on one of the richest endowed countries of Africa. The feebleness of the rejoinder, and the stupidity of the rulers of America and Western Europe in egging on South Africa to intervene, despite its character of a racialist slave state, is an indication of their weakness.

Despite the desires of the Pentagon-arms industrial complex, American imperialism has not only been unable to intervene with men, but Congress, for fear of being sucked into a Vietnam-type situation, has largely prevented direct American arms and supplies being sent to the counter-revolutionary forces.

However, the paralysis of capitalism is indicated by the failure of open and direct intervention against the Portuguese revolution. The collapse of the Greek and Portuguese dictatorships has been witnessed with anxiety and concern on the part of the strategists of capital. It opens up a new period of storm and stress in Western Europe, Japan and America.

The ruling class is pinning its hopes on a new rise of the economy which will undoubtedly begin in this year (1976). But the new cycle of booms and slumps which has begun, a much shorter cycle than in the past, will undermine the capitalist system even more, especially in the eyes of the workers.

The new booms (unlike the 30 year upswing) will not dampen down the class struggles but intensify it, beginning with the coming rise in production.

The workers in all the industrialised capitalist countries will endeavour to regain in struggle what they have lost in the last two years. Thus a new epoch of intensified class struggle opens up. The main capitalist countries are entering a period of social turbulence and turmoil, a period of unrest and instability of social relations, very similar to the process in the colonial or ex-colonial world, which in its turn will see an intensified period of upheavals and revolutions.

This is the world background to the Spanish revolution which is now definitively in its preliminary stages. The Spanish bourgeoisie is now looking longingly to the EEC for political and economic succour. This is even more of a mirage than the illusions of the British bourgeoisie for their entry. For Greece and Spain it is far too late to gain any enduring economic or political advantages. Two percent of the EEC’s exports go to Spain while 50 percent of Spain’s exports go to the EEC.

The EEC itself, because of the difficulties of its most powerful countries, will be even more plagued with crises and convulsions, which will render it nothing more than a shell in reality. The reactionary utopia of building a more powerful imperialist super state than the USA will be dissipated by the growing social and economic contradictions of capitalism. No solution for the problem of Spanish capitalism can be found on this road.

Now, just when the dialectic of history is going to present its bill to the rulers of France, Italy, Britain and West Germany, in the agony of long-drawn-out crises, one after another, for which the capitalists have no real solution – as Italy and Britain demonstrate – the proletariat is faced with further impediments to the taking of power by the policy of the mass organisations it has created.

The disdainful contempt for theory, in reality, of the leadership of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party exacts its toll. The long period of boom has sapped the revolutionary will of these leaderships – if they ever possessed any. They have a haughty contempt for the workers. Their actions reveal how they despise them. It is just in the epoch of revolutionary convulsions that the CP tries to outbid the socialist leaders as “respectable” allies of the liberal bourgeoisie.

The Moscow bureaucracy has paid the penalty of decades of advocacy of class collaboration in the West, in aid of its social stability and also of foreign policy. It no longer has the same tight grip on the leadership of the CP which plays a semi-independent or independent role, on the basis of “the nation” (fruits of the “theory” of socialism in one country), and looks to the bourgeoisie of its own country. Repudiating “extremism” they stand on reformist programmes just when the economic basis for reformism in the long upswing has disappeared.

The Italian CP looks longingly to the fruits of office, in the embrace of the Christian Democrats, while advocating an even more hopeless version of reforms which are impossible within the framework of capitalism. It tries to embrace the Catholic church and supports a watered-down Abortion Bill in order not to offend the church and to get in its good graces.

Its spokesmen get a favourable reception from the Italian Federation of Industry when speaking to its representatives. These look with favour on the “revisionist CP” – which will not prevent them from trying to destroy the CP, the trade unions and other workers’ organisations at a later stage. The CP’s open support for “private industry” cannot but arouse their tepid support. As a “Tribunite” British Labour MP remarked wryly after discussions with the leaders of the Italian CP, “they are to the right of even Roy Jenkins”.

Massive strikes

The French CP has made haste to follow in the Italian CP’s footsteps. Afraid to be outstripped by the SP after decades of domination of the big majority of the working class, they try to show their “independence” of Moscow, of course, in a reformist and not a revolutionary way, by publicising opposition to the holding of the mathematician Pliusch for “psychiatric treatment” in a mental hospital for opposition to the regime. The social reasons and explanations for these abominations are avoided. It would open the road to revolutionary policies in France too!

Now 56 years late they openly repudiate – what they have abandoned in practice long ago – revolutionary policy, the Marxist policy of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” or genuine “workers’ democracy” (as the democracy of the bourgeoisie is nevertheless a basis for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie).

This policy was adopted at the congress of the Socialist Party at Tours in 1920, and led to the split of the reformist wing which then formed the SFIO. No wonder that Mitterrand, leader of the Socialist Party declared ironically, that if that had been the policy of the CP in 1920, there would have been no necessity for a split!

Thus the CP in half repudiating proletarian totalitarianism – all right for backward Russians, but not for us “cultured” Western Europeans – abandons in reality the last vestiges of revolutionary theory and the idea of real democracy, full and free workers’ democracy.

Thus before the crisis, these parties are raised to the pinnacle of reformist degeneration. The coming crises will put both the reformist Communist Party and the reformist socialist parties to a decisive test.

As capitalism moves to yet another long drawn-out death agony, crises will affect all these parties. They will be put to the test again and again. What we have seen in Greece and in Portugal will be on the order of the day in Western Europe too. In this situation the developing revolution in Spain is crucial. It is the key to the revolution in Europe and to developments in the deformed workers’ state.

One of the most repellent versions of reformism is that of the Spanish CP leadership. Having learned nothing from the destruction of the revolution in Spain and the crushing defeat in the Civil War, for which they bore the chief responsibility, they put forward an even more repulsive version of the Popular Front, or a provisional government to include the “good Falangists”, or “reformed fascists.” This is taking class collaboration to an unheard of extent. They cringe before big business, stand – as in the Civil War – for the rights of private property.

The Popular Front of the Democratic Junta, as that of the Democratic Platform, has as decoration various individuals of the liberal bourgeoisie. The brunt of the struggle against the now enfeebled regime has been borne by the working class, whose struggles in turn have provoked a wave of opposition in the petit-bourgeoisie also.

The most fundamental problem of the situation in Spain lies in the lack of a powerful Marxist movement. The rise of Stalinism and the events of the Second World War and those of the decades following it, have resulted in an eclipse of the genuine doctrines of Marxism, and all sorts of petit-bourgeois adventurism, opportunism, terrorism and guerrillaism, Maoism and Castroism have raised their heads as a reaction to the opportunism of the CP and SP leadership. The “cure” has been worse than the disease. From this source only defeat and disaster for the working class can come. They strengthen the hold of the leadership of the SP and CP on the decisive layers of the working class.

Under these circumstances, the key to the key is the process of revolution developing among the masses. The workers will move in tens and hundreds of thousands and in their support, millions – to their traditional organisations, mainly the Socialist Party (PSOE) and partly the Communist Party in the course of the revolution.

The traditional anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists CNT-FAI, as Trotsky predicted, were broken by the revolution, which proved their complete incapacity to put forward a revolutionary alternative to the popular frontism of the Stalinists and reformists; and by the transformation of Spanish industry on more modern lines. As a result of the policies of the CP and SP – because of despair and for want of an alternative – they may gain some support, but will never recover the massive and powerful support they possessed in the past.

The masses will go through the experience of the revolution, especially the advanced, active layers of the working class, round and in the SP and CP, which will become the decisive forces in the Spanish revolution. The process of awakening to revolutionary activity and the possibility of winning large sections of advanced workers to Marxist-Leninist ideas will be, in the main, in the Socialist Party and the Socialist Youth. This will be the main school and the arena which will decide the fate of the revolution, in the sense of the direction the revolution will take.

The Spanish revolution, in far greater depth than that of the Portuguese, will have far-reaching effects on the European continent, in Africa, Latin America and in Asia. It is the key to the European and world revolution.

Middle class moves

As the examples of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany showed, fascist reaction threw the workers back. Without a mass organisation to explain the reasons for the defeat to the advanced workers, and with the atomisation of the working class and the destruction of their organisations, moods of deep pessimism and despair pervaded the advanced workers.

One of the psychological bases for the idea of Stalinist-reformism and neo-reformism in the working class is the tendency of the militant active layers, the more advanced workers, to put the blame for the defeats which the working class suffers on the backwardness and apathy of the more inert sections. This is a conception, of course, which is encouraged by the leaders of the CP and SP internationally, as it provides them with a useful alibi for the inevitable results of their policies.

They constantly bring forward the argument that the working class is too weak on its own to overthrow fascism and needs the assistance of the “people”. By this they mean the bourgeoisie and their “liberal” politicians and lawyers, the “good Falangists” and ex-Falangists who are prudently looking for a new base, as the regime is visibly crumbling.

They do not mean the petit-bourgeois masses though this is their pretence, because these strata have supported the direct action of the workers during the course of the last ten years. There have been strikes of lawyers, actors, and the closing of small shops and businesses by their owners in sympathy with the actions of the workers. The white-collar workers in many cases have even initiated such actions.

The overwhelming majority of the population is now thoroughly saturated with hatred for the corruption and repression of the regime. Two generations have utterly rotted the totalitarian system. In every layer of the population there is a consuming hatred of the regime. The stupefaction of defeat has been thrown off by the workers and the middle class layers in the cities.

All the conditions for a successful revolution have been maturing for more than a decade. If the Spanish revolution is still in its early infantile stages, that is because of the policy and propaganda of the CP leadership and to a secondary extent of that of the Socialist Party in addition. This has led to a lack of Marxist consciousness on the part of the active advanced workers who, though with many reservations, have accepted the “theory” of stages in the revolution.

They have accepted it – though this will be thrown off in the experience of the revolution – and therefore there is a lag of consciousness of the advanced layers, as to the reality of the situation and its ripeness for the revolutionary overthrow of the dying dictatorship. Thus it is the confusion sown by the leadership which is responsible for the lack of the necessary understanding of the revolutionary tasks by the advanced layers, who could then communicate these ideas to the working class as a whole, and thence to the petit-bourgeois masses. Thus the revolution is still in its early stages, because of the level of consciousness of the advanced guard.

The CP and SP leadership have strengthened illusions in the panacea of bourgeois democracy – that same “democracy” which prepared the way for the rise of the fascist forces, the rebellion of the generals and the nightmare of civil war, and bestiality of fascist repression. The same thing as was to be seen in Chile, decades later.

The big majority of the bourgeoisie sees the imperative need for a change in the regime. In this they have the prompting of the West European bourgeoisie (if not the Americans, who besides being the most powerful, are the most myopic and ignorant) who fear the reverberations and repercussions of a revolutionary change of the system and would prefer a smooth transition from dictatorship to bourgeois democracy, especially after the experience of Portugal.

Perhaps the decisive section of the capitalists are behind the scenes urging reforms and a change of regime. The entire bourgeoisie understands that it is impossible to continue ruling in the old way. They feel the ground quaking under their feet. The ruling class is split from top to bottom. The situation is very similar, in this respect, to the situation in Russia of 1916. The difference being in the decades of revolutionary propaganda disseminated by the Bolsheviks and their forerunners, especially the irreconcilable attitude of Lenin to the cowardly liberal bourgeoisie, which like that of Spain, had always bowed down to the reaction and would treacherously deceive the working class.

As in Russia, where the decision lay in the hands of the Tsar and the court camarilla, so in Spain the clique round the “Cortes” and the National Council is not reconciled even to the mildest of reforms which would mean their political extinction and the end of their comfortable, parasitic existence. Like the court clique in Tsarist Russia. most of them are blind to the enormous dangers to the regime and see the situation developing as a result of the lack of “firmness” and decisive repression of the workers. Bullets, repression, jail, and torture are their remedies. They cannot understand that the regime no longer possesses the forces for such a policy, that even the political police are now thoroughly demoralised and that an attempt to use the methods of Francoism of the past would undoubtedly provoke a bloody insurrection.

Splits at the top

On the top of society, in the governing circles, there is a struggle between the “reformers” and the irreconcilables. For a whole historical period, perhaps more than two decades, the regime has been one of Bonapartism, in the sense of naked repression, “rule by the sword”. The Francoists have long lost any support they may have had in the middle-class layers of the population. They ruled by means of the political police, the gendarmerie, and, in reserve, the army.

Police repression was their only real means of support. The “National Movement” had in reality been reduced to the shell of the aged and pathetic “old guard” of the Falange – incapable of readjusting – and the sections of the bureaucracy which were dependent on and benefited from the regime. It is their vested interests which stand in the way of change.

But in the same way as the Bonapartist regime in Argentina, which ruled purely by means of military repression, had to make way for a new version of the Peronist Bonapartism – basing itself on the support of the Peronist unions – so a similar process is developing in Spain.

The attitude of the leaders of the workers’ organisations encourages this wing of the rulers to believe that the decision is still in their hands. Thus their policy militates against a peaceful or relatively peaceful change.

The king and the ruling clique want to retain Bonapartist and dictatorial rule, but a rule with a much wider political base, and one which can balance between the contending classes and forces. They want a transition to a regime like that of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, with a far freer atmosphere, and less limitation of rights. Like that dictatorship they want to allow the Socialist Party, and even probably the UGT, to be legalised, alongside the bourgeois parties. But also like that dictatorship, they want to maintain the illegality of the Communist Party, probably the Workers’ Commissions, and – for the sake of old-time memories – the anarchists and, of course, the Maoists and ETA. Because of the craven attitude of the CP and SP leadership such a regime – for a period – is not excluded.

If the decision is to be left in the hands of the government, and the “good Falangists” and with the harping on “peaceful transition” by the leadership of the CP, which is dominant in the Workers’ Commissions, and is, at present, the most powerful in members and organisation among the workers, their policies make such a stage quite possible.

Such a regime would try and balance between the dead Falange with its gangster-thug wing and new virulent varieties of fascists which have grown up under the protective and benevolent cover of the regime, and the Socialist Party and the trade unions. Though the fascist forces are pitifully small, like the Falange in the period before the civil war, in the main, the regime will try and maintain itself in this way.

They have decided apparently for a government of two Houses, where the present fascist “Cortes” will become the Upper House and with elections, possibly with universal suffrage, in 18 months to two years. But even this time-scale will not save the regime. The Primo de Rivera Bonapartism lasted seven years. The monarchy followed it into oblivion with the results of the local elections which were allowed as a concession and which precipitated the upsurge of the masses.

A new attempt at such a dictatorship would not be likely to last seven months, let along seven years! The rulers hope by such measures of “reform” to pacify the masses and split them. They will succeed only in infuriating them to the maximum extent.

This is a different period with a thousand times more powerful working class, where the middle class is in a revolutionary mood, where the repressed national minorities of the Basques and Catalans, and even the Galicians, are raising their heads and demanding national rights. The only viability of the regime is the cowardice and lack of perspective of the leadership of the workers’ parties, especially the CP.

Death bed repentants

The CP leadership, with the policy of the Democratic Junta, dragging behind it the leadership of the SP with their own version of the Popular Front in the platform of the Democratic Convergence, wants an agreement for reforms from the top. Already the press openly interviews the publicised leader of the SP. The regime, partly under pressure of the social-democratic governments abroad, obligingly provides him with a passport to attend meetings of the 2nd International and conferences of the social democratic parties and return unmolested – this despite the illegality of these trips according to fascist law.

But with the actions of the masses such laws are increasingly meaningless. Thus the leadership of the CP and SP want a change in agreement with the Bonapartist rulers and bourgeoisie. The actions of the masses are not conceived as preparations for the overthrow of the government, but only as a means of exerting pressure on them. Thus the sophistry of “peaceful change” as a means of preventing the workers from drawing revolutionary conclusions. They want the movement of the masses to prepare changes from the top. They actually are afraid and do not believe in the initiative of the masses. This is despite the magnificent tradition of improvisation and “spontaneous” action of the masses in the revolution of 1931-37. Again and again, the movement of the workers “corrected” the mistakes of the “leaders”. If it depended on the movement and mass action of the workers, the socialist revolution would have been achieved over and over again in the period of 1931-37.

Instead of pinning their faith on the mass action of the new generation of workers, aroused to newly-awakened activity, drawing behind them the sympathy and support of the overwhelming majority of the petit bourgeoisie, the petit-bourgeois leaders try to do “deals” with the Bonapartist government. They scrutinise the desperate demagogic statements of the Prime Minister and King with magnifying glasses to try to discern some concessions to the “democratic spirit”. They grovel in front of them and are cast into almost tearful despondency when their hopes are naturally dashed and disappointed.

In no way do they advocate militant mass action to destroy the fascist – or rather now Bonapartist – state, root and branch. Lenin and Trotsky’s tireless appeals to the workers to rely on their own strength, power and organisation, to have faith in their own cohesion and solidarity, are utterly foreign to them. They have learned nothing from history, particularly the history of Spain and the Spanish working class.

Hence, their own frantic efforts to come to agreements with the government, the ex-Falangists now parading as “democrats”, and the various phantom and phoney parties of “Christian-democrats” and “liberals”, who realising the real situation, adopt demagogic “socialist” conceptions and “policies” as a means of gaining a simulacrum of some support. If it has any result at all, it encourages a hardening of the policy of the Ariases, who believe wrongly that, after all, they still have the reins in their hands and can control events. Consequently their policy has the opposite result to that intended.

Both the “irreconcilables” and the “concessionaries” are emboldened and the way out of a “cold” change is weakened. The attempt to “combine” the Falangists and legal workers’ organisations is thereby strengthened.

However, fortunately, it does not depend on the decisions of the government or even of the leaders of the SP and CP. Delay and procrastination in conceding rights will infuriate the workers and people as a whole. On the other hand “concessions” to trade union and political rights will encourage the movement of the workers also.

Whatever the twists and turns of the government and the reaction of the opposition leaders, the psychological log-jam of fascism is now definitively broken.

The masses have begun to move into action, and whatever setbacks and defeats they may suffer, their determination to destroy the regime will not be broken. They want democratic rights and the socialist transformation of society. As Trotsky graphically expressed it, “no-one can break the will of the working class to change society”.

Thus the shades of fascism are constructing very “concrete” edifices as bulwarks and safeguards against the masses. These will crumble into dust under the simultaneous movement of the masses on a national scale, which is inevitable, probably even during the course of this year.

Once constitutional reforms, however carefully qualified, conceived and hedged, have been given, the genie will have been let out of the bottle! Appetite comes with eating, and the masses will demand the reality and not the appearance of change.

On the other hand, further long delay of stonewalling by the “irreconcilables” will provoke a furious movement of the masses which will sweep away every vestige of fascism or Bonapartism in a tidal wave of mass action and strikes. Events will be completely out of the control of the bourgeoisie. Consequently, the ruling class has different roads to ruin.

The ruling class is hoping for a change of regime – Italian style. The switch from Mussolini to Badoglio was intended to forestall the movement of the masses; just as the change from “Caudillo” to King is intended for the same purpose.

But in the Italian case, it provoked the intervention of the masses. Over a period the king was compelled to abdicate, ignominiously dismissed by a referendum. “Juan the Brief” is making certain of the same fate by his conciliation of the “national” movement and the fascist “Cortes”.

However, Italian bourgeois democracy had endured for more than three decades, thanks only to the policies and support of the leaders of the workers’ movement, on the basis of the powerful upswing of the post-war period, which was sufficient to give Italian democracy a relative stability.

But the Spanish events are taking place on an entirely different economic and political outlook. The post-war boom of Spanish capitalism is slowing down. They face far more intensive competition on the world market. There is no room for “newcomers”. In addition there is the inflation rate of around 20 percent. Internally, the political uncertainty and industrial strife does not encourage foreign or indigenous investment of capital. The outlook is one of stress and crisis over the next period of boom and slump.

Workers’ action

The monarchy, as in Britain and Scandinavia, is intended as a reserve weapon, around which the forces of reaction can gather as a counter pole of attraction to the labour movement. It will be revealed as a broken reed for the bourgeois to lean on. The local elections and the national demonstrations of 1931 forced Alfonso, grandfather of the present king, to flee. His son will have no better luck in the great events which impend.

King Alfonso gave power to the dictator Primo de Rivera and was forced to dismiss him because of the effects of the depression of 1929-33. This led inexorably to the loss of his throne.

His grandson was installed in power by an even more ferocious dictator. His threshings and manoeuvres will condemn the monarchy to extinction. He will have even less luck than his grandfather. The monarchy in Spain – now an artificial graft – is doomed. The accolade of Franco is the kiss of death from the regime to the barely restored king. His attempt to be all things to all men will not save him from the downfall of the monarchy.

Grudging concessions, and the attempts of the king to be “above factions”, will alienate him completely from the Catalan, Basque, and Spanish workers and middle class. Once the masses rise against the regime, any attempt of the monarchy to deck itself in red will be treated with derision.

What has caused all the scurryings and furious manoeuvrings, and suggestions from the top, has been the movement of the masses from below. The intervention by the direct action of the masses has acted as a battering ram against the Spanish state. The last three years have seen an unprecedented strike wave. Each year the numbers of strikes and the numbers of participants have risen. Despite the illegality of strikes, Spain, apart from Italy, in proportion to population has the highest strike wave in Europe. Practically every year there have been strikes in every region of Spain.

Because of the inflation of 20 percent, which with low wages has meant particularly harsh conditions of poverty and penury to the low paid workers – who apart from the Portuguese workers, have one of the lowest standards of living in capitalist Europe – the workers are enormously embittered. Unemployment of over 500,000, according to some estimates, with the safety valve of emigration closed, has particularly enraged the working class.

The accumulated resentments of 40 years repression have boiled over. Within weeks of Juan Carlos’s accession, with the fake amnesty, imposition of a freeze on wages, and no moves towards “reforming” the regime, despite the illusions of the workers’ leaders, the dam has burst. Beginning in Madrid, a wave of strikes has spread to every region of the country. This marks a turning point. Spain will never be the same again!

There were more strikes in January than in the whole of the preceding two years. Most industry and practically every region of the country has been involved. In Madrid there has been a mini-general strike involving at least 400,000 workers. The metro, transport, postal, engineering, railway, building, docks, bank and insurance workers have all been involved. Beginning with the metro, building and engineering workers in Madrid, spreading to the car workers and dockers of Barcelona, the textile workers of Catalonia, the engineering workers in Bilbao and the Basque country, the building workers in Seville, the engineering workers of Valencia, the miners and engineers of Asturias, and workers in other cities – more than a million workers were on strike. Apart from Italy, this was the biggest movement of workers in Europe since the French workers’ sit-in of May 1968!

This magnificent movement of the working class marks a new stage in Spain. It is the definite preliminary moves of the Spanish revolution. Practically every strike had not only economic demands but political ones prominently to the fore. Free trade unions, democratic freedoms, the right of assembly and strike, reinstatement of formerly victimised militants were the demands on the regime.

This is the first genuinely national, and not area or regional, movement and struggle of the working class since the victory of Franco in Spain. The movement has developed from the isolated strikes of a decade ago to the national strike wave of today.

These strikes, under the most difficult conditions, have not been passive but have involved mass demonstrations, with clashed with the security police. In Madrid it came to barricade fighting, if only for a brief period. At the end of January the workers of Barcelona swung into action with the biggest illegal demonstration since the Civil War – 40,000 according to reports, and barricade fighting against the police too.

The workers have digested the refusal of the government to “open a road to democracy”, as the leaders of the CP put it, and are drawing salutary conclusions from it. Not only were the general slogans put forward by the workers’ organisations chanted – “amnesty for political prisoners”; “free trade unions”; “liberty and democracy” – but the workers added chants and carried placards: “down with the government” and “down with the monarchy”. This at a demonstration initiated by the Catalan nationalists, who have adopted a Christian-democratic, vaguely demagogic, “socialist” anti-capitalist programme.

At the congress of the Christian-democratic parties, which included Catalan and Basque parties, held openly in Madrid, with the unspoken tolerance of the police and the government, demagogic anti-capitalist and anti-government speeches were given. This congress took place at around the period of the demonstration in Barcelona.

It is an ironical comment on the real situation when the liberal and Christian-democratic spokesmen of capitalism, in order to try and rally some support among the workers and the petty-bourgeois masses, are compelled to attack “capitalism” in however vague terms, while the CP and SP try and persuade their followers that “the time is not yet ripe for an attack on capital”. They must join in a “popular”, sometimes “national”, government of reconciliation, including sections or even the majority of the present government, in a “provisional government” to introduce democracy.

The bursting of the masses on to the scene of action against the government has intensified the split and the demoralisation of the capitalist “forces of order”. The strategists of the bourgeoisie are at their wits’ end for some formula, which would bring a transition with more freedom and trade union rights, but with firm and reliable control in the hands of the state and their representatives.

Class appraisal

They look over their shoulders at the “horrible” example of Portugal. Santiago Carrillo is there to reassure them that “Spain is not Portugal”. But the serious representatives of capital understand what is involved much better.

Hence the split in the ruling regime and the bourgeoisie. Numbers of leading Falangists and ex-ministers have switched to Christian democracy, “social democracy”, “popular socialism” and other allegedly “socialist” groups. From their contacts in the ministries and the police, they know that practically the entire population is seething with unrest and opposition.

The political police are demoralised, and many of the worst torturers are preparing to flee as soon as the floodgates of the revolution opened. Thus the sole reliable prop of the ruling class is rotted through and through and beginning to fall apart at the seams. The top layers of the bourgeoisie have been salting money in Switzerland, Bonn, New York and London for years. This process is now intensified as the ruling class looks with dread to the future.

The ruling clique itself is split as the dominant section, refusing to face reality, wants to cling to power. So it was with Caetano’s Portugal in the last years before the army coup. Any attempt at “liberal” concessions by Caetano, feeling the charged atmosphere of Portugal, was met with resistance and sabotage. The regime held on till the floodgates of revolution were opened by the actions of the middle and lower layers of the officer corps. So it was also in 1916, when the Tsar, under the influence of the court camarilla, was not prepared to concede power to the Duma. So it is in Spain, where the ruling clique is racking its brains to find a way to concede the appearance of democratic rights while maintaining the realities of dictatorship, and has come up with the “happy solution” of a new Primo de Rivera experiment.

As the experience of Barcelona demonstrates, the workers in their suburbs and districts, in the factories, are more and more openly discussion and making their own appraisal of events. They are making a balance sheet of the sacrifices and the gains of the strikes and demonstrations.

They feel the support of practically the entire nation in their battering at the doors of fascist absolutism. The friendly support of the professional people, small shopkeepers, priests, lawyers, small businessmen, hawkers, and the myriad layers of the petit-bourgeoisie gives them confidence. Even the most oppressed stratum of the class, the land workers, in some areas have struck, and they must feel the support, inarticulate and silent perhaps, of the small peasants.

The refusal of the government to concede anything of substance to the workers, while not being capable of launching the savage repression of the past, merely adds fuel to the determination of the workers to get rid of the dictatorship once and for all.

Now according to the (British) Economist the recession in Spain will intensify in 1976. Under conditions of demoralisations and defeat, economic decline can further intensify such moods and emboldened by modest successes, the opposite process will develop. The working class in Spain, after ten difficult years of partial struggles, now feels itself as a united and cohesive class. It feels as if it has risen from its knees to do battle with its oppressors.

The intensification of the recession will add to the store of grievances against the regime accumulated for two generations. It will act as a further spur to the working class.

The victimisation, imprisonment and sacking of thousands of militants in the strikes of recent years has not dampened down the struggles of the workers. New leaders and fighters have taken their place. The demand for the reinstatement of sacked militants, and for complete and unconditional amnesty for political prisoners, among other reasons, has gained such insistent popularity, because the workers feel deeply the plight of their victimised brothers. It is not a sentimental and abstract demand for them, but a class demand for fallen fighters in the class struggle.

All the pressure will produce further splits in the already frightened and isolated cliques at the top. But the incapacity and unwillingness of the ruling class to make a decisive change in the regime – for fear of being overwhelmed by the mass movement which it would precipitate, with millions moving into political activity – will nevertheless bring about the downfall of the regime in a different way (from the point of view of the ruling class and that is what makes the liberals tremble): the direct intervention of the masses.

When they see, despite the phrases of their party leaders, that there is no solution from the top – there will be intervention from the bottom. The Marxists in Spain must be very sensitive to the situation. In Spain, too, as the January strikes reveal, there is now a period opening up of sharp turns, sudden shocks and changes.

The workers, digesting the experience of January 1976, and the last decade of scattered strikes in cities and regions, will come to the conclusion that city and regional strikes are not enough to “get rid of these bastards”. “We must all act together”. The idea of an all-national general strike arises naturally from this situation! This will be one of the main slogans of the coming period!

As usual, with the irony of history, probably the SP and CP leaders will be too busy fussing and negotiating with the liberals and the “good Falangists” wing of the government, doing their endless pacts and deals, to bother with what is happening below among the rank and file of the working class.

It is apparent that Fraga Iribarne and Arias are incapable of resolute reforms but are trying for endless agreements with the Bourbons or the regime from which they have sprung. They wish to square the circle. They cannot appeal to the masses, or the army, whom they hate and fear, because they are afraid of the consequences. An agreement between gentlemen at the top is one thing, but the intervention of the uncouth masses in a private quarrel is another. Moreover the quarrel is precisely on how best to put it over and oppress the working class!

The entrenched Falangist clique, nicknamed “the bunker” after the last stand of Hitler, is holding on desperately to the last possible moment. They see the dilemma posed by the liberals, that after opening a chink in the door the masses will burst through, breaking down the door in the process. They see it opening up the way to chaos and revolution. Therefore they try every trick to delay and hamper any concessions, whatever to the realities of the situation.

Whatever the cliques of the ruling class decide to do, they will open the road to the workers. In that sense the Spanish revolution has begun and is preparing the way for the great revenge of the working class.

In a sense, the putrid programme of the Communist Party leaders is one of the last bulwarks of capitalism. Decades of non-Bolshevik propaganda among the workers, the misleading of an active layer of the workers, the failure to analyse the disasters of the Civil War, have turned the CP into one of the most conservative and even counter-revolutionary factors within the ranks of the working class. The drivel about a necessary bourgeois-democratic revolution in Spain, before any question of socialism can be posed, acts to confuse and frustrate the workers.

Thus the CP, dragging the Socialist Party leaders behind it, is the main exponent of class collaboration at the period of greatest danger for the ruling class and mortal peril for their rule. In a different historical national and international context they perform the same perfidious role as they did in 1938-39. If it depended on them they would be preparing an even bigger catastrophe than the defeat of 1936-39. Their policy of class collaboration weakens and disarms the workers in the face of the enemy. Nevertheless, the confidence of the workers is shown by the barricade fighting, even on a primitive basis, of the workers in Madrid and Barcelona.

The working class – despite the leadership – is beginning to assimilate the experience of the last years of struggle. The refusal of the ruling clique, despite continual promises, to carry out real meaningful reforms is infuriating the workers. In the workers’ districts and factories – especially the big factories – the advanced workers are generalising this experience and carrying it to wide layers of the working class. “Look how far we got with a series of strikes, from one part of the country to the other. The government was rocking. Now we need a final push. Not one after the other in isolation – but all together – to get finally rid of this nightmare of reaction.”

General strike

Thus the refusal to grant real reforms is preparing a social explosion. If the regime continues to delay and procrastinate, in coming months, beginning with an isolated clash, there can develop an all-Spain general strike.

Instead of preparing the workers for the struggle along these Leninist lines, the workers’ leaders appeal continually to the “liberal” wing of the government in cringing terms, which paradoxically makes these “liberals” in the government, in their turn, depend on and cringe to the “hard liners” for concessions, thus achieving the opposite effect of what they desire!

The work of the Marxist current in the Socialist Party will be patiently to explain that the masses, in order to make real gains, must rely only on their own consciousness, power, strength and organisation. The workers have broken some of the chains of fascism. They have in action recovered their cohesion, class solidarity and, in a measure, power of organisation.

No reliance on perfidious fascists and former fascists! Workers, rely on your own power! The slogan round which the Marxist current will crystallise is that of an all-national general strike, to force the overthrow of the government. This general strike must prepare mass demonstrations, culminating in mass insurrection against the regime.

The practically unanimous support of the population for the huge illegal demonstrations in Barcelona is an indication of the social void in which the ruling clique is functioning. The support, again and again, over the last ten years, of professionals, technicians, small shopkeepers, small businessmen shows that the nation is behind the movement of the working class, to get rid of Francoism.

So isolated has the regime felt, that last year it decreed that night watchmen, caretakers and so on, were conscripted as auxiliary policemen, and ordered to provide information to the police about all illegal activities. The secret police and their informers were not sufficient to cope with the more and more open activities of the CP and SP and of the “guerrilla” activists. The threats of imprisonment for knowingly not providing information indicated the vanishing of the last shreds of social support.

The general mood of the nation has undoubtedly affected wide layers of the army. This is in accordance with the traditions of the Iberian peninsula. The change from one regime to another has often been ushered in by a “pronunciamento”. In the officer caste in previous eras, there has always been a vaguely “republican” wing.

The situation has now developed much further. The MDU, a secret, “socialist” and democratic organisation, has developed among the lower and middle layers of the armed forces. This is composed of captains and majors, as well as lieutenants. Under illegal conditions it has attained, according to sober estimates, a membership of 1,200. This is a very important segment of the officer caste.

How could it be otherwise? The officer caste in its middle and lower layers comes overwhelmingly from the middle class, from a similar social milieu as the students. The students of all faculties are overwhelmingly radical, anti-regime and anti-capitalist. The moods of the middle class pervade and infect the officer caste. According to reports, as in France in 1968, large numbers of the student sons and daughters of the officials and even ministers have portraits of Castro and Guevara in their bedrooms, to which their parents discreetly turn a blind eye.

That indicates that Spanish fascism – neo-Bonapartism – is in an advanced stage of disintegration and decay. If it clings to life, it is partly due to the weak-kneed character of the opposition, especially the leadership of the Communist Party.

The strategists of capital in Western Europe try and console themselves that Spain is not Portugal. Moreover there is no unending colonial war to undermine the army! The colonial war undoubtedly played an important role in radicalising large sections of the officer caste in Portugal. But it was the social relations and conditions in Portugal under Salazar-Caetano which was of decisive importance.

The refusal of Barcelona officers to accept orders to spy on workers constructing the metro, and the sentencing of others for protests against the imprisonment, the petitions signed by army officers calling for amnesty, are indications of the real situation in the armed forces. The fact that 500 top civil servants petitioned for “democracy” is proof of the fact that, in reality, there is hardly a live thread left in the regime.

Army split

That explains the prudent retreats from the former Spanish Sahara by the government and the acceptance of this by the Spanish generals. Though their armed forces are ten times as strong as the Moroccans in fire-power, numbers, discipline and supplies in the empty spaces of the Sahara, with an indigenous population of only some 60,000 to 72,000, they have surrendered. Though there may be valuable minerals and even oil, and the valuable and lucrative phosphates are partially being worked already, Juan Carlos and the army regime preferred to do a deal.

The same generals who were prepared to wade in blood to defeat the Spanish workers are revealing a “pacifist” outlook. General Vega the commander in the Sahara declared “valiantly” that the phosphates were not worth one drop of Spanish blood – despite the blood-drenched history of Spanish colonialism in Africa. In reality, they were afraid to put the army to the test. It was not for military reasons, nor a new-found love for self-determination of the colonial reasons, nor a despite declarations to the contrary – that they handed them over to the tender mercies of the autocracy of King Hassan, but for fear of social complications. They could have easily defeated the army of King Hassan, but they were afraid of social reactions in Spain and in their own army.

They have demonstrated by their action that they know they cannot rely even on the officer caste in the event of social upheavals in Spain. That is the sole explanation of the acceptance of the defeat by the generals, without even firing a shot. They fear the latent radicalism of the army. That is the explanation of the persecution of the MDU and the demand to “keep politics out of the army”, or as one general explained in a circular to all officers of the armed forces on the activities of the MDU, “the Spanish army defends the people, but not the people in a state of seditious rebellion!”

If that is the situation in the officer caste, how much graver is the position for the regime in the rank and file of the conscript army? The brothers of the workers and peasants discuss the situation in the country, with their parents, brothers and sisters: probably, more and more openly in the barracks as well. They observe the arrests of officers, and come to the conclusion that even these more privileged layers cannot stomach the corrupt and oppressive regime. They are watching and waiting. At the first sign of a serious attempt to overthrow the regime, the army would break.

No more than it would have been possible to use the French army in 1968, had there been a serious attempt by the mass workers’ parties to seize power, so even more in Spain, the army would split in the generals’ hands if an attempt were made to overthrow the regime by mass action. But the mass of soldiers must be convinced that the leaders of the workers’ organisations mean business, before they would risk court-martials. That is another aspect of the perniciousness of “popular frontism” and the constant attempts at “compromise” with the government.

Class demands

How much is the method of Lenin and Trotsky, harnessed to a mass movement, missed in this situation! But the illusions of the international bourgeoisie that the Spanish army is “different” to the Portuguese will be rudely dispelled at the lifting of the “lid” of fascist reaction screwed to the air-tight discipline and smothering of any form of dissent.

Just as in Portugal, where the psychological effect of April 25 opened up a period of intense ferment and discussion in the armed forces where only the radical officer had any real authority with the ranks, with Spanish traditions there will be even a more powerful reaction. The armed forces, at least in the first phase, even as far as the officer caste is concerned, will be a broken reed for reaction to rely on.

Short-sighted American imperialism, the main counter-revolutionary force of the epoch, is preoccupied with propping up reaction and counter-revolution. Learning nothing from the defeat in Vietnam, they try and shore up everything obscurantist, reactionary and “terrorist” in all countries, in defence of capitalism, and their own chain of alliances and bases. They find congenial the authoritarian regimes, with whom they can easily do business. That is why behind the scenes they egg on the “irreconcilables” and try to encourage and prop up the dying Franco-Arias regime.

In contrast to the EEC countries, which recognise the consequences of an explosion from below leading to “unpredictable” consequence, and leaving the bourgeoisie without control over or check on events, they encourage the doomed regime to “stand firm”, especially against concessions to the “Communist” Party, for fear of an “Italian”, or even worse, a “Portuguese”, situation developing in Spain.

On the other hand, the attitude of the EEC partners is not dictated by a love for “democracy” but an attempt to help the Spanish bourgeoisie to ride and overcome the inevitable social storm. This is with an eye cocked to developments in Greece and Portugal. They advise cautious and slow measures of reform, with the former fascists as conductors regulating the pace of change. Fond illusions! Either an attempt to delay will bring an explosion and the overthrow of the social aberration of the regime – which only gained power because of the sorry policies of the leadership of the workers’ organisations – or otherwise even the most cautious real steps forward, as with King Alfonso’s concessions of municipal elections, will bring the intervention of the masses, on to the streets, and in the factories. This intervention had in any event already begun.

What the government is refusing will be taken by the direct struggle and intervention of the working class, with the sympathy of the broad petit-bourgeois masses. The struggle – for the masses – as in Portugal – will be on a higher level in many senses than in the February revolution of Russia 1917, certainly on a far higher level than in Spain of 1931.

But of course, the process is contradictory, because of lack of Marxist leadership and organisation. Decades of propaganda by the mass organisations for abstract “democracy” plus the reality of a chained, repressive and stifled society, have cast with a rosy hue the realities of the bourgeois republic of the past. As Trotsky wisely observed, if Marx was right that revolution is the locomotive of history, then fascism is an enormous brake.

It will require the light of democratic freedoms, to show the limitations and hollowness of bourgeois democracy. One thing is now certain. If the period internationally is one of sharp turns and sudden changes in the political, diplomatic and social situation then even more, in Spain we are entering a period of explosive sharp turns and explosive sudden changes. The strike movement and the demonstrations of January 1976 which began the year on a high note are the beginning.

For a time the movement may die down, while the working class and the active layers in the factories and among the youth digest the results. With a demoralised political police the atmosphere will be easier and freer. Political discussion will be far more open, even in the cafes, canteens and streets. Arias’ two-year programme for reforms will be treated with ridicule. A Primo de Rivera dictatorship will be an addled egg. This fine balance of power between the social forces and between the fascists and workers is not what the workers or the middle class want. Attempts to introduce or act on such a constitution may be the last match lighting an explosion.

That is why the programme the Marxists will develop in the SP and YS and mass organisations, which are in the process of coming into existence, must be those which have been taken up by popular acclaim:

* An amnesty and the unconditional release of political prisoners.
* Free trade unions with the right to organise.
* Universal adult suffrage from the age of 18.
* No botched-up constitutions from those guilty of the crime of fascism and repression. Let the people decide!
* Self-determination and national autonomy for the Basques, Catalans and, if they wish, the Galicians.
* For a 40 hour week! For a sliding scale of wages and hours to relieve unemployment! For a national living minimum wage!
* Down with Francoism without Franco!
* Down with the fascist monarchy!
* For the expropriation of the banks, trusts, and monopolies responsible for the hireling dictator Franco and his servants Arias, Fraga and the other new “democrats”.
* For a revolutionary constituent assembly!
* For a workers’ democracy!
* For workers’ committees to inquire into the corruption of the regime – the salting away and export of millions by the Franco family and his millionaire backers. Let the bank employees and trade unionists examine the books and reveal how tens and hundreds of millions have been deposited in Bonn, London, New York and Geneva.

Despite the fears and hopes of the more “progressive” members of the cabinet, the “bunker” will hold on to the last possible moment, in fact as far as they are concerned till the situation is out of their hands. Marxists in the Socialist Party will advocate taking advantage of every hold wrested from the granite face of totalitarianism, already torn and fissured by the pressure of the mass movement of the working class. They must advocate, as the movement develops, the setting up of workers’ juntas, embracing all workers, as a means of defending the rights of the workers and as organs of struggle.

These arose in Pamplona, and may rise again in the heat of the struggle. On the other hand, with the traditions of Spain, and the policies of the nascent mass organisations, as in Portugal, the moment the dictatorship begins to collapse, or even before, the workers will begin to stream into the mass trade unions.

This leads naturally to the problem of trade union unity. In the Basque country and Asturias, apparently the old UGT is the organisation to which the workers look to defend their economic rights and demands. In many other areas it is the Workers’ Commissions. The CP, as in Portugal, is demanding demagogically trade union unity. While supporting trade union unity the Marxists will point out that it must be voluntary trade union unity, on the basis of the democratic decision of the majority of the workers in any industry. It must not be bureaucratic unity, totalitarian unity, imposed from above. The workers do not want to replace the fake “trade unions” of the fascist sindicatos by bureaucratic unions, with leaders responsible only to themselves.

Unions with full democracy, freedom of election and discussion will be enthusiastically accepted by all the workers. This means freedom to advocate any workers’ programme. The workers must select their leaders and decide their programme with the right to change their minds and their leaders, at least at regular intervals. Only on this basis can there be a genuine unity and genuinely free trade union. Otherwise a split between socialist and communist unions is inevitable. The first principle of free trade unions is the right to elect and select leaders on the basis of programmes. Marxists will advocate a programme including roughly the demands enumerated above, with other concrete demands, on the basis of industry, craft and trade, according to the objective and subjective situation.

The revolution in Spain, with periods of lull and recession, even reaction, with an ebb and flow of workers’ action and movement, is in the process of unfolding with a new magnificence and splendour. Pessimists and sceptics who belittle the possibilities and potential of the working class are always confounded by the wonder of the workers’ movement. Periods of reaction are long and periods of revolution are often short because of the class nature of society, and often because of the fatal mistakes of the workers’ leaders.

But as Marx long ago observed, the workers overcome every terrible defeat and setback. Despite exceptional difficulties, the workers’ struggle is always reproduced again objectively on a higher level. This in turn is due to the class nature of society, which forces the workers, embattled and hardened in action, to face the oppressor class.

With a Marxist leadership, and with a far more favourable environment nationally and internationally than in Russia in 1917 and in Spain in 1931, the victory of the working class would be inevitable and fairly easy and painless. Indeed, under such circumstances, it would have been possible for an immediate transition from the Franco dictatorship to the rule of the working class. However, with the weakness of the Marxist forces and the lack of foresight and understanding of the leaders of the labour movement in Spain, the struggle will be far more protracted.

The model of the Portuguese revolution indicates this, as did the experience of Spain in the 1931-37 revolution. But with the traditions of struggle of the Spanish workers the 40-year break of the Franco period will add an additional explosive urgency to the movement of the working class. The situation will be back to 1931-37. The knot of history, cut by fascism, will be firmly retied.

The example of Portugal indicates the movements which will take place throughout Spanish society. Every section will be affected. A ferment of discussion involving every section of the workers and middle class, of the armed forces will take place. Like their counterparts in Portugal the Spanish generals will find it impossible to maintain the unquestioned acceptance of military discipline, in the interests of capitalism as in the past.

In the course of the struggles and clashes which will develop over the needs and conditions of every section of the workers in their fight for improvement and rectification, swift changes of mood and consciousness will develop.

The CP, according to reports, even under illegal conditions has 15,000 members. The Socialist Party (PSOE) more than 8,000. These figures must have been added to after the January events. This, in fact, means organisationally that these tendencies are stronger than Bolshevism emerged in nominal numbers after the February revolution in Russia! However there will be an enormous growth, especially of the SP and Socialist Youth in hundreds of thousands, in the weeks and months following the inevitable collapse of the regime. The Socialist Party, especially in the first period, will have the crushing majority of support among the workers and within the population. What happens in the Socialist Party and within the Socialist Youth organisations will be decisive for the fate of the Spanish revolution.

Right from the early stages, many cracks will appear in the Communist Party, which has gathered numbers of self-sacrificing workers, who have not seen any revolutionary alternative. Because of the painful ten-year rise of the workers’ movement, the crisis within the CP far more than in Portugal will grow swiftly within its ranks.

The PSOE will assume a left-reformist or even a centrist posture. There will be an enormous ferment within its ranks, far greater than in the 1931-37 period.

As can be worked out theoretically, there are enormous illusions in the results that can be expected from democracy – bourgeois democracy – among the workers, as well as the middle class. This is the consequence of two generations of fascism. The past is seen with rosy colours. And, of course, comparing the arbitrary helplessness of the population in the face of fascist tyranny, the contrast is naturally felt very deeply. But it is these very expectations of the mass that, when frustrated and contrasted with reality, will be replaced by a burning anger.

Because of the new uncertainties and crises of the capitalist system on a world scale, an “Italian” development of the revolution is excluded. The illusions of “democracy” will come up against the realities of the weakness of Spanish capitalism on the world market. The problems of the Spanish people will be revealed as insoluble under the present system.

The ruling class will prepare to switch back to the road of open dictatorship and ferocious repression as the only basis for the maintenance of capitalism. This the working class, even more than in 1934-36 would not be prepared to accept. A series of titanic battles will ensue.

The traditions of the Spanish workers are “red”. All social layers will be involved in the revolution, even more than in Portugal. The isolation of big business and the capitalists will be far more apparent. The domination of the proletariat in the revolution will be even more decisive than in the Russian revolution.

The refusal of concessions by the regime will lead to revolution. On the other hand concessions will open the road to the masses. Either way is a road to ruin for the doomed regime. The difference between Spain and Portugal is that the army, or sections of the officer caste, moved in Portugal opening the way to the movement of the masses. In Spain for ten years it has been the movement of the workers which has undermined the regime and will lead to its destruction. The revolution from the first days will have the stamp of the proletariat on it.