Spain One Year After Franco’s Victory
Source: Grandizo Munis, Spain One Year After Franco’s Victory, Fourth International, August 1940 pp. 102-105, ;
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Since the end of the Spanish civil war not a few transformations have occurred among the victors as well as among the defeated. Far from having consolidated his regime upon gaining the victory, Franco gives the appearance of living only provisionally, menaced from without by the rivalries of the imperialist bandits and from within by the heterogeneity of his own forces whose opposition is sharpened from day to day. As for the workers’ parties in emigration, they are affected by crises and internal struggles which can have important consequences above all in view of the size of the Spanish emigration, in which the proletarian proportion is very high.
The price Franco must pay for the military and diplomatic support of Italy and Germany has not been disclosed. It is certain enough that this help was not gratuitous, and the concessions to Italy in the fishing industry, to Germany in the metallurgical, represent nothing more than a public advance on the secret war commitments. Besides this there is talk of concessions to Italy in connection with the Balearic islands which cut the maritime communications between France and her colonies, of concessions to Germany in Spanish Morocco, of fortifications along the French frontier, of the fortification of Sierra Carbonera which was prohibited to Spain in the treaty ceding Gibraltar. Situated immediately behind the Rock, at a higher altitude, large caliber artillery on Sierra Carbonera would nullify the strategic value of Gibraltar, especially with possession of the African side of the straits. Although we do not know its details, without doubt there is a secret treaty with Germany and Italy along these or similar lines. If during the war of 1914-18, Germany in return for nothing more than favorable neutrality offered Spain all of the French province of Rosellon, a part of French Morocco, Tangiers, and a free hand in Portugal, the promises at the present time must be much more extensive and tempting to the sclerotic “new empire” of Franco.
According to Franco’s Minister of the Interior, more than seventy percent of the railway transportation equipment and more than fifty percent of the highway transportation equipment was destroyed during the civil war. A considerable percentage, although not made public, of the electric industry was also lost; the fishing industry has dropped to less than half; the textile industry has been equally affected for the worse and paralyzed for lack of cotton; many coal mines require costly repairs before they can again be exploited; three-fourths of the Spanish ports have suffered damages so extensive that they are in urgent need of repairs; destroyed buildings present a grave problem and the merchant fleet has almost completely disappeared. Where to turn in order to reconstitute this destroyed constant capital? Despite its accentuated tendency in favor of Hitler, the Franco regime found itself obliged to deal amicably with the democracies. Commercial treaties already signed with England and France carry provisions to furnish Spain for the first year with consumption goods in exchange for certain war materials, whereas during the succeeding years Spain must provide them with consumption goods. The United States for its part has already authorized credits in cotton for Franco which will place a part of the Catalan industries in movement. In war, more than in peace, these treaties have no other objective except obtaining certain guaranties in foreign policy.
This is the source of the neutrality decreed by Franco and tolerated for the time being by Hitler and Mussolini. But the problem is barely in its preliminary phase. For their part Italy and Germany will demand that Franco fulfill the promises contracted to the extent required by the development of the military operations. If Mussolini sends his troops to reinforce those of Hitler, they will not be satisfied with Spain’s neutrality, no matter how partial it may be.
The corporative state, which constitutes the maximum aspiration of the Spanish Falange, is very far from being a reality. The function of the fascist trade unions has been decorative up to this time All the measures and projects of corporatism remain suspended because of the opposition which they excite among the victors. The regime is today a mixture of the classical Spanish clerico-military dictatorship with a fascist tint contributed by the Falange. Franco, who as head of the State is at the same time the “Caudillo” of the Falange, reformed the statutes of the Falange, suppressing the anti-clericalism which Primo de Rivera would have liked to borrow from Hitler. In truth, every reactionary regime in Spain is inseparable from the domination of the clergy, which at the same time is the biggest capitalist and the biggest landowner. Franco was quick to give it satisfaction to a degree unknown even under the monarchy. All its properties have been returned, completely free from levies, as at the height of the Middle Ages. The big landowners have also been reinstated in their properties and indemnified for whatever damages they suffered. Likewise all the capitalists expropriated “by the reds” who have not been able to recover their properties are to be indemnified by the State. Naturally this will be at the expense of the working class.
Under the deceitful name of Agrarian Reform, a project for the irrigation and cultivation of lands has been announced, with regulations to be established by the state experts. The project provides for indemnified expropriation of landowners who refuse to accept the official regulations and subsidies for those affected by the reforms. The peasants do not receive the least benefits. Actually it is nothing more than a project motivated by the total lack of agricultural implements and of capital. If Franco succeeds in obtaining these, the landowners would be able to realize upon the double business of accepting subsidies for their fertile land and of selling to the state the almost valueless barren lands.
The same absence of capital and of basic materials paralyzes the major part of industry. The Spanish bourgeoisie cannot speculate on the profits of war and enrich themselves as in 1914-18. To accomplish this with Germany would present insurmountable difficulties during the war period. On the other hand, the Spanish bourgeoisie, in their reactionary anxiety to humble Catalonia, laid the basis for competition with it, promoting industry in other regions. If circumstances favor the development of industry in other provinces than Catalonia, the results will be contrary to those envisaged by its promoters. The power of the Catalan proletariat, which up to now has been disproportionate to rest of the country, will gain an equally powerful auxiliary in the coming social crisis.
It cannot yet be said that fascism in the form familiar to us in Germany and Italy has triumphed in Spain. Nor can it be identical ; it must be adapted to the semi-feudal and clerical nature of the country. Yet Spain, “one, great, free,” is far from being “one” even leaving aside the political activities of the exploited classes; it is far from being “great,” nor can it become so without the proletarian revolution; as for “freedom,” it does not exist either for the victorious classes or for the political heads, who must throw themselves at the feet of this or that imperialism.
Bearing in mind the internal disputes of the victors and the desires of the British bourgeoisie, the Republican, Socialist, and some anarchist leaders dream of the re-establishment of “constitutional normalcy” in the near future. If is a stupid chimera, it at least gave them a good pretext for unconditionally supporting the French-British bourgeoisie. Certainly in view of the demoralization of the Spanish proletariat, brought about by the betrayal of all those who dream of constitutional normalcy, the monarchy can perhaps hope to renew the constitutional farce of the beginning of the century. Despite everything, it can be assured that no reactionary regime would survive any half-way democratic election in Spain. With or without the Spanish Falange, with or without the military dictatorship or clerical monarchy, the Spanish workers and peasants will time continue to be shot, persecuted, and exploited. The difficulties of the Franco regime can facilitate the revivification of proletarian class-consciousness.
Spain during four centuries was a country of continuous repression; under Franco it suffers one of the most barbarous of its history. In order to commit crimes against the freedom, the life, or the possessions of any one not a fascist, the Law of Political Responsibility was promulgated administered by the courts of exception. All those who directly or indirectly collaborated with the “reds” or those who simply permitted the defeat of the fascist uprisings through their passivity are subject to the penalties provided by this law. All those who were not active reactionaries before 1936 can be condemned at any moment. Any private denunciation is sufficient for the special court constituted in each province to decree trial and prison. The entire trial is secret, the defendant has no right to know the accusation or to defend himself and can he condemned without him questioning the accuser. The sources of information which the courts utilize in applying the Law of Political Responsibility reflect perfectly the physiognomy of the country. The parish priest, the commander of the Civil Guard, and the chief of the Spanish Falange in the locality of the defendant submit what information the court needs. The penalties vary from confiscation of property to thirty year prison sentences or death. No more is necessary to make clear that the immense majority of the people are involved under the Law and live in constant terror. As a result the entire country has been swept by a wave of denunciations unheard of since the days of the Inquisition. The courts arc incapable of handling all the cases. Bull rings, theaters, all the places capable of housing men in the manner of cattle have been converted into jails now jammed with a half million men. The majority of those who constituted the Republican army still remain in the concentration camps.
The number of shootings decreed by the courts is so high that the fascist press has ordered that the executions not he published. Nevertheless, in February, 1940, a French governmental source gave the number as 800 monthly. But along with the courts, the young gentlemen of the Spanish Falange act as assassins. Frequently making incursions in the jails and concentration camps, they seize those detained and already condemned to twenty or thirty years, or not even brought to trial, and take them out to the cemetery to be killed. In March we were notified from Asturias that thirty miners had been assassinated in this manner by the young Falangist gentlemen. This terror has begun to affect their own conservative elements, obliging Serrano Surer, chief of the butchers, to recommend publicly to his paid assassins “clemency for the defeated.”
Despite the terror, the activity of the revolutionists preoccupies the authorities. In the mountains of Andalusia and Asturias numerous groups of armed guerillas remain, who oppose and disarm the Civil Guard, descending unexpectedly on the highways and villages, and carrying out audacious executions of isolated fascists. The authorities drop proclamations by airplane inviting them to surrender. The solidarity of the people animates and maintains them. In Madrid a clandestine organization of the CNT (anarchists) was recently discovered which maintained an active printed propaganda. Internal relief exists which works with surprising success: From the concentration camps, and from the jails themselves, it has succeeded in delivering and placing safety in France, individual militants whose lives were in danger. It appears that recently the CNT celebrated a national plenum in an unnamed city.
As for the mass of the people, they remain passive and demoralized, but profoundly hostile. A militant Bolshevik who lived in Barcelona for a year after the entrance of the fascists made the trip to the French frontier on foot without money, asking the peasants for ways and means of evading the vigilance of the Civil Guard. Not a single person denied him lodging and advice.
We do not pretend to build illusory hopes about the capacity of this hostility to defeat Franco in the near future, but it is a base which will soon permit the development of underground revolutionary organizations of great strength.
For obvious reasons unemployment is almost complete in industry and is very extensive in the rural districts. The majority of the proletarian and peasant population is in complete lack of any income. Those who work make six or seven pesetas in the city as the ordinary wage, in the rural districts the daily wage has dropped to two or three pesetas. The cost of living on the contrary is triple that of the pre-war level. And this figure covers only the prices established by the official rationing. In reality this figure is nothing more than a fiction. Food is distributed very irregularly and in small quantities. Meat has been set at one hundred grams a person and the distribution is not weekly. As for vegetables, wheat, cooking oil, rice, the Minister of the Interior has confessed that “we are very far from covering the necessities of consumption.”
Consequently, speculation has been unchained so violently that the government finds itself obliged to impose increasing fines and to jail some merchants. This does not do away with the necessity of turning to the speculators in order to secure the necessary food. Quite the contrary, among the hierarchs of the “new empire” the speculators have their fixers and associates. In this market, prices are far above the reach of the best paid workers, including the lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie. Hunger extends from the proletarian aristocracy to those comfortably placed. In order to eat satisfactorily in Spain today, it is necessary to be rich or at least a local chief of the Spanish Falange. The general misery is much worse than during the war, constituting one of the gravest problems facing the fascist authorities. In order to get an evil-smelling bowl of soup distributed by the women of the “Social Aid,” queues form of such size they terrorize the official press. The partisans of a monarchical restoration utilize the misery of the masses in order to picture the return of the Bourbons as the only road to health. And without the least doubt, the urgent problem of supplies will he one of the most powerful determinants of Franco’s foreign policy. His rule cannot long support itself if it does not succeed in soon solving this problem.
After the hour of defeat follows the hour of recriminations. The Spanish emigration has confirmed this often repeated affirmation with an extensiveness proportionate to the high number of its emigrants. In all the parties raised voices are bringing to light secrets and corruption which were no secret to anyone. Other voices reply in identical terms and the polemic thus acquires the characteristics of a dispute between fishmongers. But this gives a perfect image of what the Popular Front was. That Negrin, del Vayo, the Stalinists, almost all the Republican chiefs and workers’ leaders committed thefts and now live richly in the emigration is generally known and does not merit consideration in a serious polemic.
Put what has been written as political polemic is equally miserable and reveals the profoundly reactionary nature of the Popular Front. The ex-president of the Republic, Manuel Azana, has just published a book, decadent in style and saturated with hate toward the proletariat. “La Velada de Benicarlo.” The glorious epic of July 19, the heroic struggle betrayed during a period of almost three years, is judged by one of the principle initiators of the Popular Front as a mad daughter of rancor, thirst for blood, crime. The workers in arms are qualified as assassins, the taking over of property as rape, and while he lacks a single word of condemnation for the assassinations perpetrated by the fascists, the sallies in defense of the reactionaries shot by the workers, representing them as martyrs. Without changing a comma, the book could have been subsidized by Franco’s propaganda service Here is an ally of Stalinism.
To find this class of sworn enemies of the proletariat who appeared during the civil war as its leaders, it is not necessary to search among the Republicans. Among the Socialists two men have spoken with as much hate for the masses as Azana: Indalecio Prieto, Minister of the National Defense, and Julian Zugazagoitia, Minister of the Interior. They too see in the revolution nothing but crimes, personal revenges, blood, robbery. Prieto has said cynically that the workers provoked the fascist insurrection by carrying out too many strikes and asking too high wages. With such ministers one wonders how the Spanish people could resist fascism for three years.
From the left Socialist wing, Largo Caballero, in accordance with his custom, or better his incapacity has written scarcely more than a few letters to his friends. In these he tries to unburden the responsibility for the defeat upon Russia and Stalinism, representing himself honest man, who did not fill his pockets with gold. But they are not full of gold, they are drenched with the blood of May, 1937.
All this literature, like that of the anarchists, appearing in newspapers and magazines, speculates upon the Stalinists and the Russian influence. Each one of these people who were Stalin’s most cowardly servants tries to save himself by casting off in this way the burden of responsibility. Vague gestures of opportunists! If in their time the crimes of Stalinism, its propaganda were tolerated and esteemed by Republicans and Socialists it was because it served the interests of both the one and the other. If the Stalinists had not existed in Spain, Prieto, Negrin, and other Socialists did not lack the qualities of a Noske. For their part the anarchists revert to the same expedient in their anxiety to hide their own complicity or incapacity to understand the fundamental laws of the proletarian revolution.
Not one of them has characterized even with half-way accuracy the fundamental causes of the defeat. Not one has analyzed the reactionary nature of the Popular Front with the Stalinists or without them; nor analyzed the embryo of the proletarian State which surged up in the committees and the reconstitution of the capitalist State with the collaboration of the extreme left, CNT, FAI, POUM and the liquidation of the organs of the dual power. Some anarchist comrades begin to speak of the necessity of having to take power, but they are far from understanding what this signifies and requires without mentioning that some of them collaborated with an enthusiasm worthy of Stalinism in the destruction of the committees. In its entirety, the balance of the Spanish revolution cannot be completed except by the Spanish comrades of the Fourth International.
From now on classical anarchism in Spain can be considered liquidated. The heads of the CNT have repeatedly recognized that the anarchist books did not correspond to reality, In France, Garcia Oliver himself has taken the initiative in the creation of a political party followed, it seems, by the former anarchist military chiefs. This has nothing to do with a revolutionary evolution but constitutes only the confirmation and fixation in a political party of the betrayal of Garcia Oliver. Like that of Angel Pestaña years ago, the new party will be one more reformist appendix of the bourgeoisie. Those who said to the workers in May 1937, “cease firing,” thereby allying themselves with the Assault Guards, are forever finished as revolutionary leaders. The mass of the CNT workers react violently against Garcia Oliver. Without doubt, the idea of taking power is no so strange to the proletariat as before the civil war. Many have clearly understood this necessity and are orienting themselves hesitatingly in a political direction. Two camps will shape out little by little in Spanish anarchism. On one side there will be the chiefs who consummated the betrayal together with the opportunists whom they supported; on the other side the revolutionary workers will acquire political consciousness and swell the ranks of the future party of the Spanish proletariat Our Spanish comrades are in connection with anarchist workers in Mexico, Santo Domingo, and France which permits us to hope for important progress in this direction.
The POUM, which passed through a sharp crisis of differentiation upon the declaration of the European war, has remained atomized and inactive. For the right wing, which retains the leadership, the war has been almost providential. In distinction from the growing activity of the revolutionary wing, represented by the factions of Rebull and the Bolshevik-Leninists, the right wing (Rovira, Gorkin) has remained at rest and in possession of a power which in reality represents nothing and is good for nothing. The Right wing supports and defends all the errors committed by the POUM during the revolution. Adhering to the phantasmagoric London Bureau, it expresses an exacerbated anti-Trotskyism. Finally, it joined the JARE (Junta de Auxilio a Refugiados Españoles). This organization of Idalecio Prieto is very explicit in its support of French-British imperialism. It has declared its support and invited the Spanish workers to serve the democracies. In this way the POUM collaborates today with the social-patriotic betrayers. In, order to confirm this tendency even more, Gorkin was present at the convention of the American Socialist Party, thus establishing a direct political relation between the POUM and the rotted social-democracy. Gorkin, whom Negrin’s courts gave the unmerited favor of condemnation for the May successes, shakes hands with those who supported the governmental repression.
For its part, the left wing has understood the fundamental errors of the POUM, traced a program, is orienting toward a break with the centrists and either sympathizes with the Fourth International as in the case of Rebull, or belongs to it as in the case of the Bolshevik faction. The war, while retarding this process of differentiation, will not block it. Between the militant revolutionaries of the POUM and us, collaboration will each day grow stronger until we find ourselves in one party under the program of the Fourth International.
The Stalinists have come out of the Spanish experience organizationally decimated and politically hated. The petty-bourgeois elements conquered by the politics of the Popular Front or by its predominating position, are returning to their original position, denouncing Stalinism. Even Negrin and del Vayo, who were its unconditional straw dummies, have broken with it, hypocritically pointing their fingers. Self-interest commands. Negrin’s and del Vayo’s interests are not in Moscow but intertwined with the democratic bourgeoisie. They cannot support the politics of the Hitler-Stalin pact without breaking completely with the international social-democracy.
The workers at the base who still remain with Stalinism, are either old communists, or isolated without knowing where to go, or have begun to move toward our tendency. In any case the collapse of Spanish Stalinism is complete. Although the money which they appropriated in Spain enables them to sustain a large press and to feed a few corrupt intellectuals, the Stalinist nuclei in emigration are composed of bureaucrats, agents of the GPU, gunmen for whom Stalinism is a lucrative business. As in Germany, Italy, and other countries, so in Spain, the Stalinist party is a bureaucratic fiction well sustained by large quantities of money.
Finally, the Bolshevik-Leninists have excellent nuclei of militants in Mexico, France, and Spain. Contacts with revolutionary workers of all tendencies enables them to carry on work of great importance in the emigration. The enormous experience through which they passed predisposes the workers of all the different tendencies to our principles. With fraternal assistance it will be possible to constitute a good revolutionary leadership in the emigration and to lay the basis for illegal work in fascist Spain. In this and that place in Spain the revolutionary spirit has not died.
Last updated on 25.9.2004