Joaquin Maurin

Political Parties in Spain

(13 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 60 [38], 13 September 1923, pp. 664–665.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2023). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Socialist Party of Spain has been a sickly creature up to now. Up to the year 1919 it was bound to the Republican Party by the closest ties. Many of its present leaders have come from the ranks of bourgeoisie republicanism. In fact it is itself nothing more nor less than an ordinary bourgeois-republican party. Its propaganda centres much more around the forms to be adopted by governmental activity than around economic questions or class warfare.

Until the time of the split to which the Communist Party of Spain owes its existence, the Socialist Party numbered about 40,000 adherents. Today, its membership is considerably less. It exercises its chief influence in Madrid, Biscaya, Asturia, Galicia, and Andalusia. At the last ejections in April 1923, it gained seven seats in parliament, five of which were in Madrid, one in Bilbao, and one in Austunia. In the two provinces last named it openly enjoyed the support of the government. In Madrid, on the other hand, its victory was due to its campaign against the monarchy, which was held responsible for the military collapse in Morocco.

During the most active period of the Morocco campaign, the Socialist Party preserved a discreet silence. It also carefully Preserved silence at the time when the White Terror raged in Barcelona. Delighted with this description of “socialist action”, the bourgeois government acted most benevolently towards the socialist candidates in the provinces.

The socialist press is confined to the Madrid daily paper: El Socialist, with an edition of about 2,000, and to about 7 or 8 provincial weekly papers, each of which has also an average of about 2,000 subscribers. Almost all the notables of bourgeois republicanism contribute to El Socialista. If the party has, up to now, never nominated a candidate for bourgeois state power this is not owing to class consciousness, but solely to a republican state viewpoint, it cooperates zealously with the government in the institution for social reforms, where socialists and bourgeois intelligenzia make a joint study of social laws.

Pablo Iglesias is the best known representative of Spanish socialism, but his age and poor health have obliged him to abandon all public activity. His fundamentally republican standpoint has always prevented the Spanish socialists from separating from petty bourgeois radicalism. Iglesias is responsible to a very great extent for the error of making Madrid the centre of socialist activity, and for abandoning Barcelona, a great industrial city with over 300,000 proletarian inhabitants, to monarchist influences.

On the trade union field, the Socialist Party works through the organ of the General Labor Union, built up on the local unions and the national industrial federation. At the turn of the year 1919–1920 the General Labor Union comprised about 250,000 adherents. At its last congress, held in November 1922, the business report mentioned 218,000 members. As a matter of fact the number of members cannot much exceed 100,000. About one half of its members are peasants. It possesses not the slightest influence in the industrial districts, as for instance Catalonia. I he socialist tactics pursued by its leaders, Largo Cabaliero and Saborit, have completely disorganized the labor groups in Biscaya and Asturia, so that here there is nothing left of the old trade union organizations except the old bureaucratic framework. The reformist policy of the General Labor Union has caused some important trade unions, such as the Madrid Woodworkers’ Union, to leave this Union and to remain autonomous. Shortly before its November congress it expelled several revolutionary sections and some Biscayan trade unions from its ranks. And since this congress 29 further trade union sections have been punished for their communist views by expulsion. The leaders of the General Labor Union are at the present day the firmest pillars of Spanish capitalism in its wage cutting offensive.

Between 1902 and 1912, the working masses in Barcelona were under the influence of a governmental agent, the republican Lerroux. When the dissolution of the radical party set in, anarchist propaganda found an excellent soil in the Barcelona environment. Workers who had been led by the nose for 10 years by a “revolutionist” in the pay of the government, were very easily induced to follow the slogan: “Down with all politicians!” Pablo Iglesias, this remarkable socialist, withdrew himself entirely from the great labor centre, Barcelona, so that the small anarchist groups were able to seize upon the leadership of the proletarian movement.

Segui, who was murdered on March 11, of this year, showed the Spanish workers the road from anarchism to syndicalism. Thus the anarchists heading the labor movement became syndicalists. Between 1912 and 1915, Barcelona went through a period of complete confusion. The radicalism of Lerroux became disintegrated, and anarcho-syndicalism arose. In the year 1918, the National Labor Confederation of Catalonia was founded. This was the beginning of the formation of unified industrial labor unions.

The mass movement centred round the fight for higher wages. The terrorism exercised by the workers, the formation of united unions, and the relatively good state of the markets, tended to increase wages. There was a triumph for the National Labor Confederation, which held its second annual congress in December 1919, attended by the representatives of nearly a million workers.

Until April 1920 this magnificent Catalonian labor movement was under the leadership of the syndicalist elements of the confederation, headed by Segui. Then the anarchists commenced to fight to obtain power. The trade union committees passed into their hands. Suice this time the organizations – this must be plainly stated here – have gone from one defeat to another. The great lock-out was followed by the period of suppression, two great strikes in Barcelona were lost, and in November 1920, the government began a White Guard regime. The murder of all workers’ functionaries became systematic. This period of murder and violence lasted until November 1922.

The reorganization of the trade unions was taken up at the end of the year 1922. The National Labor Confederation of Spain, whose main centre of support is in Barcelona, survived the White Terror and probably comprises about 250,000 workers at the present time. In Barcelona it has a daily pa|ier at its disposal: Solidaridad Obrera (Labor Solidarity); this has a circulation of 30,000. The confederation has also about 8 weekly periodicals with an average edition of 3,000 copies.

The National Labor Confederation is composed of local trade union sections and regional unions and confederations. Affiliation to the Communist International was resolved upon at its annual congress held in 1919. But in June 1922 the national council of the confederation withdrew from the R.I.L.U. in consequence of a campaign of anarchist agitation. At the present time the National Labor Confederation is undergoing a severe crisis. The anarcho-syndicalism which has hitherto maintained the leadership is in a state of complete dissolution, and this dissolution reacts on the trade union organizations. Before the period of White Terror, the watchword of the movement was “direct action”. Terrorism was frequently held to be a means of attaining improvements. This description of direct action led however to a collapse. The employers were equally skilful in the employment of terrorism as a weapon, indeed they far outdid the workers in this. When the period of suppression neared its end in 1922, the anarchists were ready with the new slogan of “cultural work”: The salvation of the proletariat was now to be sought in the organization of schools, in instruction, in lectures. The anarcho-syndicalist press speaks of nothing but education, of moral qualities, and such desirable things. No stone is left unturned to make strikes impossible. The masses are offered a program for the improvement of housing conditions, betterment of street hygiene, etc. on a – communal basis!

The anarchists still at the head of the movement show an obvious lack of understanding of class war. Most of them are still exponents of the republican radicalism of Lerroux. They are one-time republicans who have been converted to anarchism. Having once been deceived by bad leaders, they cherish a deep antipathy against anything under the name of politics. They are inveterate federalists, speak unceasingly of liberty, revel in admiration of the French revolution, maintain closest intercourse with the republicans, but create an ever-widening chasm between themselves and the socialists and communists.

The situation resulting from these facts is exceedingly critical. The masses stream into the trade unions, but the lack of any revolutionary leadership and the hollow phraseology on individual culture disappoint them bitterly. The trade union committees resign their offices one after the other, and the persons composing them change frequently. Strikes break out, even extensive wage strikes, as for instance the last transport workers strike in Barcelona, but there is no one to undertake their determined leadership.

Under such conditions there can naturally be no victory. On the contrary, every struggle is bound to lead to defeat as soon as it becomes prolonged. The disintegration of anarcho-syndicalism will last some time yet. A reorganization centre has already been formed: the revolutionary trade union committees, composed of communists and syndicalists, these are gradually gaining ground. We believe that they will succeed in inducing the National Labor Confederation to descend from its Utopia of anarchist philosophy and to return to the solid ground of class warfare, so that it may be once more a powerful trade union organization fully equal to its tasks.

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Last updated on 29 April 2023