From Socialist Action, Vol. III No. 16, 17 March 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The seizure of power in Madrid by the General Staff of the People’s Front Government was only the logical development of the role played by the military throughout the course of the civil war. A glimpse of the functioning of the Loyalist High Command is given below in an extract from an interview with Fernando Grandizo-Muniz, leader of the Spanish Bolshevik Leninists, which appeared in La Lutte Ouvrière, organ of the Fourth International in France. Muniz was held prisoner by the Negrin Government in Barcelona until a few hours before the fall of Barcelona, when he succeeded in escaping from the doomed city.
PARIS, Feb. 24 – Despite the stifling censorship and Stalinist propaganda, the incompetence and outright disloyalty of the General Staff was long obvious to every one.
Let us cite one well-known case – that of Antonis Guerra, commissar-general of the army of the south, member of the Communist Party, and Borribar, communist deputy, the two men chiefly responsible for the fall of Malaga. The former remained in Malaga and became the right-hand man of the Franco inquisition in the repression of the workers.
The Negrin government was compelled to bring Borribar to trial but it was never completed.
Another example occurred at Bilbao. The two commanders of the famous “iron belt” of fortifications around the city went over to Franco, who thus knew the plan of the city’s defense far better than the government command.
During the Zaragoza offensive a whole section of the governmental staff – belonging to the Communist Party – went over to Franco. That is how the Belchite campaign was lost after terrific losses in men and equipment.
What happened in the army was only a reflection of the general situation in the country, of the relationship of forces which existed between the classes. Without class base the army could not exist as a stable force. Despite all its efforts, the People’s Front was unable to win the confidence of the national and international bourgeoisie. Its army therefore necessarily reflected the inconsistency that derived from its lack of a social basis, since it was neither the army of the capitalists nor the army of the workers.
The superiority in armaments of the Franco forces was incontestable but the underlying causes for the debacle in Catalonia, like the causes of all the government defeats in the civil war, were to be found in the policy pursued by the People’s Front.
This policy consisted from the beginning in weakening the conquests of the working class. Militarily, despite the People’s Front propaganda, this policy led to the establishment of “discipline” in the bourgeois sense of the term, mechanical and repressive, without providing the soldiers with organization or technical capacities nor the solidarity of a bourgeois army. The concrete result was the monopoly of all commanding posts by careerists entirely without military ability who maintained “discipline” over the soldiers only in order to preserve their own privileges. The true proletarians who had fighting experience and had acquired military ability remained simple soldiers or were relegated to inferior posts.
The soldiers soon got the feeling that the famous “People’s Army” was organized only to guarantee the privileges of the careerists and the military caste and at the same time to check and abolish political activity in the ranks.
At every dangerous and decisive moment this led inevitably to the flight of the command, or its desertion to the enemy, panic among the troops who felt they had been betrayed, a chaotic retreat, heavy losses in equipment – all due more to the incapacity or defeatism of the commanders than to the actual advance of the enemy.
To show the characteristic attitude of the professional militarists, we can cite the case of Gen. Vicente Rojo, commander at the beginning of the war, and directly responsible for the defeats of Borox, Illiesca, and Getafe, along with General Puydengolas. The militia committees judged both men responsible for deliberate treason. They arrested Puydengolas and shot him. They passed the same verdict on Rojo, but he was able to escape and place himself under the protection of Largo Caballero in the war ministry. He emerged to become – Chief of the General Staff.
Innumerable other examples like this could be cited to show the attitude of the professional soldiers who remained “faithful” to the “Republic.”
Last updated on 28 November 2015