Felix Morrow

Empty Seats Greet Del Vayo’s
‘Explanation’ of Spanish Defeat

(June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 38, 2 June 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Negrin’s last-minute failure to appear, the failure of Del Vayo and the other speakers to answer any of the questions which have been troubling Communist Party members, and thousands of empty seats, sent the audience away with no questions answered and new ones raised, at the Negrin-Del Vayo mass meeting at Madison Square Garden Monday night, May 22.

The meeting took place under the shadow of the revelations of Walter Krivitsky, former chief of the Soviet Military Intelligence in Western Europe, and of Luis Araquistain, left wing Spanish Socialist leader.

Corroborating authoritatively the charges made by revolutionists in Spain and abroad concerning the scabby and sabotaging role of the Stalinist-Negrin regime, these revelations have aroused throughout the Communist Party and its sympathizing circle a widespread demand for an answer from Negrin and the Communist leaders.

But Negrin did not appear, and the explanation finally given for his absence was obviously lame. That very morning an advertisement appeared in the New York Times, announcing Negrin’s appearance that evening. But at the far-end of the meeting – after the collection – it was suddenly announced that Negrin had been unable to “return” because he was busy arranging for the entry of refugees into Mexico. The announcement conveyed the implication that Negrin was in Mexico.

But if so, why the advertisement that morning? Even more pertinent, why was he listed as a guest the following evening in New York at a party for Dorothy Parker? Negrin’s failure to appear indicates a new schism within the ranks of the Stalinists and their allies. They deny it? Let them produce Negrin on a platform!

Two other speakers prominently advertised that morning failed to appear – Archibald MacLeish and Fannie Hurst. A polemic in the next issue of the New Masses against MacLeish indicates a break there too. As for the distinguished woman novelist, I am authoritatively informed that she refused to share the platform with Negrin and Del Vayo after reading Araquistain’s exposure of their role in destroying the Loyalist cause in Spain.

Thousands Stay Away

Krivitsky’s and Araquistain’s exposures, and the truth told by the revolutionists finally seeping down into the ranks of the Communist Party and its sympathizers accounted, too, for the thousands of empty seats in the Garden. Workers, disgusted with Stalinist policy in Spain and with the failure of the Stalinist press to answer the insistent questions raised on all sides, voted with their feet, staying away in droves,.

This was particularly significant since the Communist Party had staked its prestige on filling the Garden. Weeks of whirlwind preparations for the meeting, front-page banners in the Stalinist press, had been climaxed on the day of the meeting with an editorial exhortation in the Daily Worker: “Not an empty seat in the Garden tonight.” Nevertheless, a good third of the auditorium was a panorama of gaping rows of empty seats.

The only other Stalinist-sponsored Garden meeting in many years which was as poorly attended was the February 27 Communist party rally which was held just a week after the great February 20 demonstration organized by the Socialist Workers Party against the Nazi Garden meeting; the Stalinist boycott of the anti-Nazi demonstration was answered by thousands of Communist party members and friends who stayed away from the Stalinist meeting.

Del Vayo Ducks

Conscious that his audience wanted an answer to the Araquistain and Krivitsky charges, Del Vayo began by saying that it was no time to make a political speech. When would be the time? He did not say. His opening formula was, however, merely a pretext for not answering the charges. For his masters, the Stalinists, would not and could not answer.

The only reference to the charges that they permitted him was: “Certain elements say we blocked the social revolution in Spain; but the same elements also say we are Reds.”

This tricky attempt to find a contradiction in the charges is of course thoroughly dishonest. There is no contradiction. They did block the social revolution in Spain, destroyed the workers’ and peasants’ morale, and made possible the victory of Franco. And they did so in alliance with the Stalinist leadership which wanted no social revolution in Spain, taut on the contrary, sought to demonstrate by their conservative, counter-revolutionary policy, that Stalin deserved an alliance at the hands of British and French imperialism.

As soon as Del Vayo stated that he was not going to make a political speech, a large number in the audience left. They had come to hear the answer of Negrin and the Communist Party to the mountain of evidence growing against these destroyers of the anti-fascist struggle. They heard nothing, because the Stalinists cannot and dare not answer.

Last updated on 17 January 2016