C.L.R. James 1937
First Published: in Fight,Volume 1. No. 4. April, 1937, p. 16, signed CL Rudder;
Transcribed/Marked up: by Ted Crawford/Damon Maxwell.
In our last issue, No. 4, there appeared a remarkable extract from Lenin’s denunciation of bourgeois democracy. We must get this question of democracy clear. That is the great political issue of the Spanish revolution. Is the revolution for bourgeois democracy against Fascism or is it for a Soviet Spain? All the Liberals say it is for bourgeois democracy. We know them. They are for bourgeois democracy because that means the protection of capitalist property. But the Communist Party is also for democracy. In the International Press Correspondence of August 8, 1936, Harry Pollitt says “The people of Spain are not fighting to establish soviets, or the proletarian dictatorship. Only downright lying scoundrels, or misguided self-styled “Lefts” declare that they are – and both combine to help the aims of the fascist rebels.”
The Marxist Group and the Fourth International are the “downright lying scoundrels” who condemn the Communist Party policy. That is why we give critical support to the P.O.U.M. because although they are not Trotskyist, they stand for the socialist revolution. And that is one of the reasons why we and the P.O.U.M. and all in Russia who oppose Stalinism, are slandered, called agents of Franco and of the German Gestapo, etc. These lies are necessary to the Stalinists. They have to lie for they cannot argue. What is our idea about democracy? We shall let one of our comrades express it.
“It is just there that people calling themselves teachers of Marxism have come forward with the banner of democracy, not understanding that democracy, so long as the capitalists keep their property, is only a thoroughly hypocritical covering for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and there cannot even be any question of emancipating labour from the yoke of capital unless that hypocritical covering is torn aside, unless we put the question as Marx always taught us to put it, as the daily struggle of the workers has taught us to put it, as every strike, every sharpening of the trade union struggle has put it. The question has to be put in this way, that so long as property remains in the hands of the capitalists any kind of democracy is only a hypocritically concealed bourgeois dictatorship. All kinds of talk about universal suffrage, about plebiscite, about equality in voting, is only utter deceit so long as there is no equality between exploiters and exploited, between the owners of capital and property and the modern wage slaves.”
That is our position exactly. We say that as long as the capitalists have the property, whether the Government is Popular Front or Labour, wage-slavery remains. But if it were possible for our comrade to be with us at a meeting in London and say this, the Stalinists would shout at him, “Agent of Hitler,” “Trotskyist mad-dog,” “Friend of Franco,” etc., etc. That unfortunately cannot happen. For the comrade is Lenin. All youth should read his little pamphlet on “Democracy and Trade Unions.” The Stalinist bureaucracy, rich, powerful, privileged, is using Lenin’s name to deceive the workers. It wants no more socialist revolutions anywhere and organises great trials in Russia and huge campaigns of slander against all who still fight for the socialist revolution. Trotskyism means Leninism.
But it is here that an important question arises. Caballero is for democracy. But Caballero is fighting Franco. If we fight Caballero we may weaken the fight against Franco. Suppose I put it this way.
Even now we must not support the revolution of Caballero. It would be a failure of principle. How then, it will be said, must Franco not be fought? Certainly, yes. But between fighting Franco and supporting Caballero there is a difference. We wage and shall continue to wage war on Franco, but we do not support Caballero; we unveil his feebleness. There is a difference. That difference is subtle enough, but it is most essential, and it must not be forgotten.
Now supposing we were the party of the P.O.U.M. in Madrid where Caballero is still fairly strong, and the revolutionary socialist movement not strong enough as it is in Catalonia to raise the slogan of the immediate seizure of power. We would say to our party: we must at the same moment agitate against Caballero, but let the agitation be indirect rather than direct, but insisting on an active war against Franco [a war of attack which at last Caballero, under pressure, is just beginning]. Only the active development of that war can lead us to power, but of that we must speak as little as possible in our agitation (we keep it well in mind that even tomorrow events may compel us to take power, and that then we shall not let it go).
The policy is that while fighting against Franco we constantly point out the things that the Caballero Government does not do, cannot do, being a bourgeois government. And when sufficient of the masses see from the way the war is going that the Caballero Government is not mobilising the full force of workers and peasants (they are seeing it today already) they will turn to the party which will lead a really revolutionary war.
It is along those lines that we think the battle should be fought in Spain, a United Front against Franco with the Azana-Caballero Government but building up the Socialist Revolution to seize power and abolish capitalism and parliamentary democracy. That is the policy for which the P.O.U.M. is called Mola’s Fifth Column in Madrid, agents of Franco, etc. by the Stalinists. But every line that is in italics was written by Lenin a few weeks before October 1917. All I have done is to substitute Franco for Kornilov and Caballero for Kerensky. I could have put Azana for Kerensky but Caballero works hand in glove with Azana the Republican. By lining themselves up with Azana and Caballero in a Popular policy against the Leninist line, the Stalinists have broken every principle of Leninism. They cannot argue. All they can do is to slander.
Get into contact with us, comrades, so that we can discuss these things together and organise assistance to P.O.U.M., slandered and persecuted not only by the bourgeois but by the Stalinist murderers of everything revolutionary inside and outside Russia.