Ted Grant

Spain—Elections show class tensions

Source: Militant, No. 360 (June 17, 1977)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010

The Spanish Revolution is still in its early stages. The Spanish and world capitalist class must count themselves as exceedingly fortunate in making the transition from a totalitarian police system in an advanced stage of putrefaction and dissolution to a sham monarchist-capitalist “democracy”.

From the illusions of totalitarian control—when the reality has collapsed—the capitalists, in order to maintain their power, have moved to a form of parliamentary rule. The capitalist class is very flexible in the form of its control of society—so long as its ownership of property and the means of production, which means its domination over society and the source of exploitation and wealth, is guaranteed.


They have set the framework of a rigid bonapartist constitution with the monarchy having a veto and the right to nominate 41 out of 248 senators. They have given the rural areas in both the senate and the assembly a disproportionate share of the seats. Many times more votes are necessary for the election to the assembly or senate from the highly populated towns and areas than from the rural provinces.

This bias in the rigged constitution is intended to maintain firm control in the hands of the King and the “new” regime. The regime has maintained intact all the forces of repression: the army, the civil guard, the police, the top civil servants, i.e. the state machine, including the most odious torturers.

Voting for the congress is by lists and proportional representation for the individual constituency. But for the senate it is by simple majority vote. The senate, apart from the king’s nominations, will be rigged even more heavily in favour of the rural, more conservative inclined voters, who are also more under control and fear the local landlords, local bosses, the police and state authorities. Many will vote in the way they are instructed by these gangsters.

No wonder the Financial Times, journal of the British Stock Exchange, comments ironically: “inevitably the rules have been affected by the entrenched members of the Franco regime seeking to ensure a superficial, controlled democracy weighed against the vociferous demands of the left.” (June 9, 1977)

The regime, in its provisions, has many of the aspects of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship of the 1920s. But because of the situation it is a more “democratic”-looking form of rule, balancing between the different classes. The rights of the trade unions and of the main political parties of the working class, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Communist Party have been formally restored especially during the election period. But the rights of meetings, to demonstrate, etc., are still subject to the whim of the superintendent of police. The banning of meetings and of demonstrations have been almost a daily occurrence before the elections.

It is only the policy of the leaders of the CP and the PSOE which have allowed Suarez, the Prime Minister, to pose and strut as a new found “Democrat”. With a Marxist policy on the part of the leaders of these organisations the whole pretence could have been swept away by the working class. In reality the rights obtained by the workers’ organisations, to strike, to demonstrate and free speech have been won by the heroic battles and struggles of the last ten years. Nothing has been given that has not been conceded and won by the sacrifices, struggles and blood of countless Spanish workers during the past period.

The ruling class understood that if they did not introduce niggardly reform from the top it would mean revolution from the bottom. The experience of Portugal is haunting the Spanish capitalists. In the elections Suarez is being pictured as the man who benevolently and graciously gave democracy to Spain. The CP leaders have gone out of their way to declare the Franco flag the national flag of Spain, to accept the monarchy, and to picture Suarez as a democrat.

In an interview in the Morning Star (June 9, 1977) Federico Melchor, editor of Mundo Obrero, the Communist Party paper, declared

“take for example the question of the national flag. It must not be forgotten that Franco fought the civil war under that flag, against the legally elected government of the republic which had a different flag. But when at our meetings we tell people, most of whom are republicans, that the state flag is also our flag and should not be allowed to become the possession of the ultra-right [!?!], they applaud our actions.

“People also show their approval when we declare that while Premier Adolfo Suarez is our political adversary, but not our enemy, the enemy is the ultra-right…then there is the question of fear. There is a real fear among the people, and it is in the first place the fear of those fascist elements who did well out of 40 years of Franco dictatorship and of what they might do in defeat.

“In small towns people are very conscious of the fact that the local civil guard, sergeants and officers are the same who were beating people up not so long ago, while the Mayors, the local police chiefs and most of the army commanders are also the same.

“…they [people] also know that Suarez legalised the CP, the trade unions, liquidated Franco’s fascist movement, the only legal political party, gave access on radio and television to the opposition parties and insisted that on television the CP should be treated like other parties…

“…And we think so, too, that Suarez is making this contribution despite his own fascist past. But who has not got a fascist past in the ruling circles of this country? The important thing is what people are doing now.”

This disgusting crawling on all fours in front of Suarez and the ruling class marks a peak in the degeneration of the CP. Imagine Lenin or Trotsky or even any of the Mensheviks behaving in this way before the revolution of 1917! It is as if Suarez and the ruling class had suddenly had a religious conversion and seen the light of “democracy”. The rigged constitution—passed by Franco’s Cortes—provides an annihilating comment on the CP which has completely lost the rudder of Marxist theory and Marxist perspectives.

It trails behind the ruling class and imagines that the former fascists and their masters the capitalists have had a “change of heart”. This snivelling crew has no confidence in the power developed by the Spanish working class, with precarious or almost non-existent organisation, in their strikes and demonstrations.

Having learnt nothing from the history of the Civil War and the disastrous policy of class collaboration with the “democratic”, “liberal” capitalists and their representatives and spokesmen, which led to defeat in the 1930s, the leaders of the CP have adopted an even worse policy.

If there is not a Popular Front in the election it is because the capitalist Liberal parties and the Socialist Party—for the moment—have rejected it despite the plans of the CP leaders. They will adopt this “strike-breaking policy” when the movement of the workers becomes impossible to contain in any other way.

Meanwhile the policy of the Communist Party leaders is far to the right of that of Felipe Gonzalez, leader of the Socialist Party. Despite weaker organisation the Socialist Party is gaining heavily, among other reasons because of the more left, more “socialist” policy Felipe and the other leaders of the party are putting forward. They may gain 25-35 percent of the votes in the election.

General Strike

The workers’ parties together may come close to gaining between 35 percent and 50 percent of the votes. In comparison with the first free election in Portugal where they gained more than two thirds, that seems small. But in Portugal that was after the overthrow of the dictatorship which unleashed an enormous movement in the working class. Mass action strengthens the organisations of the proletariat. Thus in Portugal with only one third of the population working class in composition, they drew behind them all the viable sections of the peasantry and middle class.

A dynamic policy of the workers in action has consequences on the electoral field also. But the electoral statistics are only a barometer of support and relations between the classes at one particular moment in time. Even if Suarez and the ruling class succeed by a rigged system in gaining a majority they will not be able to maintain this for any length of time.

The whole artificial structure will either be “reformed” or collapse under the blows of the workers. The light-mindedness of the regime in thinking that they can preserve intact the whole framework of the old system and keep control in their hands is demonstrated by events in the Basque Country during the course of the election campaign itself. The demand for amnesty for all political prisoners resulted in a mass demonstration of workers which was fired on by Civil Guards, killing a few.

The reply of the workers was a 24 hour General Strike in the Basque country involving 500,000 workers. This was joined by the shopkeepers and small business people, professional people and practically every section of the working population. The government which had been adamant was forced to concede to this mass movement and all or practically all Basque prisoners have been released.

Had it not been for the sabotage and strike-breaking of the Communist Party and the leaders of the Workers’ Commissions the General Strike would have been of an all-Spain character and profoundly affected and quickened the tempo of events.

But the strike in itself is a demonstration of the utopian dream of the old regime of a “controlled” democratic bonapartism. Spain more than any other country will reveal lightning-like changes and complete turns in the situation in the coming period.

With the world economic background and the sickness of Spanish capitalism, the disease of all the sick men of Europe (Italy, Britain and France) infects also the Iberian Peninsula. With over 30 percent inflation, falling investment, a massive flight of capital abroad and over a million unemployed in a population of 35 million the way is being prepared for future social explosions. The frustrations of military and police repressions, the nightmares and insecurity of the last 40 years cannot be exorcised by lifting the lid in order to create a makeshift safety valve.

The concession of municipal elections after the brief dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in the 1920s, despite his leaning on the rural “Royalist” votes in the countryside could not prevent the immediate collapse of the monarchy in 1931 and give an impetus to the developing revolution.

With the temperament and tradition of the Spanish workers, with 35 to 50 percent of the votes for the left parties, in spite of the role of their leaders, feeling cheated in a rigged poll, it is not excluded that there could be a massive movement of strikes and demonstrations bringing down a Suarez dominated government almost immediately.

In the election campaign there have been very large meetings—rousing demonstrations—of tens and hundreds of thousands by the workers’ parties. This marks the first movements by some sections of the workers and middle class who have been previously inert. Events and even accidental conflicts will bring more and more layers of the workers into movement in strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations and other actions.


The ruling clique sought to tame and harness the revolution in a “controlled” i.e. sham “democracy”. They have miscalculated completely despite the leaders of the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. In the same way the CIA and the leaders of German and Swedish Social Democracy hope to have a “controlled” Socialist Party in the PSOE.

Militant predicted that the PSOE would become the principal mass tendency of the working class and the UGT (the Socialist Party trade union) possibly the most powerful trade union force. That prediction is being realised, the PSOE will become the principal medium for the revolutionary workers.

Despite this or that lull or bafflement of the workers, despite the illusions in capitalist democracy, like the illusions in the 1920s and 1930s of the workers in the Republic, and partly because of these illusions, sharp movements of indignation and sudden explosions of anger are inevitable. The young workers in the PSOE and the Spanish Young Socialists, in a whole series of waves, can be won over to the ideas of Marxism. The PSOE can be transformed in this process. Over a period of months and even years there will be a series of crises of policy within the working class and the party. Events, events, events will drive the working class in Spain towards the policies of social revolution.