Andres Nin

Revolutionary Progress in Spain

The Tasks of Spanish Communists

(April 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 10, 15 May 1931, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Having exhausted every resource to maintain himself upon a throne that has been, tottering for years, Alfonso of Bourbon found himself compelled to quit the country on April 14. The monarchy fell to pieces at one blow, nobody – absolutely nobody – stood up to defend it. It really fell like a rotted fruit. And the republic was proclaimed all over the country without combat, without the spilling of blood, in an immense eruption of delirious enthusiasm.

This circumstance has only still further stimulated the democratic illusions of the masses who naively imagine that the victory over the monarchy was obtained thanks to the municipal elections of the 12th. This illusion is also shared by the anarcho-syndicalist elements of the National Confederation of Labor. Thus, Pestaña declared a few days ago in a trade union meeting that the recent events had demonstrated the possibility of a peaceful evolution, without violence, towards libertarian Communism, and Solidaridad Obrera, the official organ of the N.C. of L., wrote literally on April 23: “Under a regime of liberty, the bloodless revolution is still more possible, still easier than under the monarchy.”

The Republican Government

Thanks to this state of mind of the masses, the provisional government of the republic has been able to carry out with impunity a policy whose guiding thought is to maintain the status quo as far as possible, that is, to confine itself in substance to a change of label. Its essential interest consists of maintaining under the republican banner everything that threatened to fall to pieces under the monarchy. In reality, the proclamation of the republic is a desperate attempt of the most clear-sighted part of the bourgeoisie and the large landowners to preserve their privileges. From this point of view, the composition of the provisional government is extremely significant: the presidency is in the hands of Alcala Zamora, landowner and fervent Catholic, one of the most typical representatives of feudalism and of absolutist and reactionary unitarianism; the portfolio of finances is held by the social democrat Prieto, intimately linked with Basque finance capital; the minister of economy, Nicolan d’Olwer, is the representative of the Catalonian Bank; finally, at the head of the ministry of labor is Largo Caballero, socialist leader, former Councillor of State under the dictatorship, secretary of the reformist trade union center, the General Union of Workers, whose task in the government is quite clear: to stifle the labor movement, to tame it for the greatest profit of the consolidation of bourgeois exploitation under the republican form.

It is obvious that such a government cannot solve a single one of the fundamental problems of the democratic revolution; the problem of the land, of nationalities, of the relations between church and state of the transformation of the apparatus of the old regime, of the struggle against reaction.

In its first official declaration, the provisional government expressed itself in terms which show clearly that it is prepared to leave intact the foundations of the large landed estates. In this regard, It only formulates one very precise assertion: “Private property is guaranteed by law” and it “can be expropriated only for reasons of public utility and with a corresponding indemnity”. As a solution, the note confines itself to giving the vague promise that “the agrarian law must correspond with the social function of the land.”

It is clear that the republic has not the slightest intention of touching either the sacred rights of the large landowners or the feudal survivals except in the form of “foros”, “metayage”, “rabassa morta”. and so forth, which exist in the country.

In the question of nationalities, one of the most serious in Spain, the attitude adopted by the government of Alcala Zamora is no less significant. It is indisputable that the proclamation of the Catalonian republic, which preceded that of the Spanish republic at Madrid, was the most revolutionary act accomplished on April 14. An authentic democratic government would have had to recognize without reservations an act which was supported by the overwhelming majority of the Catalonian people. However, the new central power stood up against the young republic and demonstrated a chauvinist, absorptive, assimilative spirit, in no way more preferable than that of the central power which has disappeared.

As to the relations with the church, the provisional government has confined itself to decree the liberty of cults and the secularization of cemeteries, without saying a word about what constitutes one of the traditional demands of democracy – the separation of the church from the state – nor of the confiscation of the wealth of the religious congregations nor of the dissolution of the latter.

And the state apparatus? It remains the same as under the old regime, the most ardent partisans of which continue to occupy the most important positions.

Finally, what has the provisional government done to parry the probable blows of the reaction which conspires and which finds itself in an extremely advantageous position since it has in its hands the decisive levers of the state apparatus? It allowed Alfonso of Bourbon as well as the leaders of the organizations of assassins founded by the former governor of Barcelona. Martinez Andio, to escape: it takes no measures against the army officers who are conducting open and conspirative monarchist propaganda against the new order of things: it leaves intact and fully armed, the “Guardia Civil”, those butchers of the working class, deeply hated by the masses: it refuses, finally, to take any swift and energetic measures capable of disarming the enemy and rendering impossible every attempt at restoration.

Who Will Carry Through the Democratic Revolution?

All this goes to show in a striking manner what we have constantly contended in these recent months: that the bourgeois-democratic revolution cannot be accomplished by the bourgeoisie, that it can only be the work of the proletariat in power supporting itself upon the peasant masses who, in Spain, represent seventy percent of the laboring population More concretely: the bourgeois democratic revolution can be realized in our country only by the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But can the dictatorship of the proletariat be the slogan of the Communists in the present stage of the revolution, or, to put it differently, can it be not a slogan of propaganda but a slogan of agitation? In our opinion, it would be a profound error in tactics which would be in manifest contradiction to all the teachings of Marx and Lenin.

Our fundamental task must be that of winning the decisive majority of the worker and peasant masses. These masses are at the present time hypnotized by democratic illusions. It is on this ground that we must win them, showing them, by their own experience, the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to solve the problems of the democratic revolution, and thus winning them, always on the basis of experience, by means of a constant criticism of the work of the republic, to the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Our slogan, then, must at the present moment be the complete realization of the democratic revolution, solving the agrarian problem by the unindemnified expropriation of the large landed estates and the distribution of the land to the peasants; the recognition of the right of Catalonia and the other nationalities to dispose freely of their destinies, without excluding separation if that is their desire; the separation of the church from the state and the expropriation of all the wealth of the religious orders; the destruction of the state apparatus; the disarming of the “Guardia Civil” and the arming of the workers and peasants; the trial by a revolutionary tribunal of all the avowed enemies of the people.

Parallel to this, we must work energetically to organize the masses and effectively direct their struggle, by strengthening the revolutionary trade unions, by creating factory councils, by establishing everywhere revolutionary Juntas of workers, peasants and soldiers, and above all, by unifying all the Communist forces that exist today in the country. The organization of the revolutionary vanguard into a powerful Communist party is a question of life or death for the Spanish proletariat. The Communist Left Opposition will spare no effort nor sacrifice to contribute towards furnishing the working class of our country with the weapon of struggle which it needs so urgently. This weapon must be forged at all costs. The whole future of the Spanish revolution depends upon it.

Barcelona, April 1931

Last updated on 2 September 2019