Paul Nizan 1936
Source: Paul Nizan, Intellectuel Communiste Maspero, Paris, 1967;
First published: Correspondance Internationale no. 31;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2008.
In Toledo the memory of the Moors, the ceramic patios of the houses, El Greco’s paintings and the “Inn of Blood’ where Cervantes lived are less moving than the great meetings of the united front that on certain Sundays fill the city with militia men in blue shirts. The “imperial city” has become Toledo the Red. A new history is being made there. In Burgos, Avila, Toledo, in all of Castile the ancient history of Catholic Spain is giving way before the revolution.
I was told in Madrid: “Go see the “kolkhozes” of the province of Toledo.
In May the Castilian plateaus are more flower-covered than Central Asia in springtime. It’s a discreet landscape and one can’t help but remember Asia there. You roll for hours without meeting a village. They are large white villages gathered around points in the water. Villages where there is a Firmin-Galon Street, a Dolores Ibarruri Street. In the fields the peasants greet you by raising their fists. You seek villages, like that one there, yesterday, a lost isle. Having passed Toledo, having passed Lillo here is Villa de Don Fabrique: a big town. 6,000 inhabitants, 6,000 hectares in the commune. A communist “alcalde.”
It was one of those villages dominated by the “terratenientes.” There was a Duke of Medina-Celi and the Countess of Gabria, his daughter. There was Sandoval, and the lord that the peasants called “Don Golfo,” “the hooligan.” In 1933 the occupation of the land began. The Civil Guard intervened. But the peasants worked and planted vines; the Guards weren’t always there.
The February elections came. From Madrid came the engineers from the Agrarian Reform Institute. Perhaps less to distribute land than to see to it that the peasants remain patient. Two engineers came every two weeks. Nothing happened. The alcalde set out for Madrid. The Institute declared the lands of several lords “of public utility.” A decree was issued in March. In April the people of the village received seven “fincas” and comrade alcalde Cicuentes recites their names like he would a song: la casa de las Vinas, la Ortiza, El Viejo, La Cereventa, Villalobillos... A little more than 2,600 hectares, half the land of the commune.
The acts were signed. There was a big meeting in the large wine cellar of one of the landowners, deep down in one of those feudal homes as big as a village, where there today remains only a distraught manager and, in the patio, paintings from the 17th Century.
A peasant union and a worker’s union were formed. The peasants parceled out the land. The workers decided to collectively exploit it. But in both cases the land is ceded to unions who pay an annuity to the institute.
The workers put the tools, work and animals in common. The mayor of the village and the secretary of the union say: We have established an organization. So everyone brings the same force to the work...
The members of the commune in the first place receive the legal salary and then, when the harvest is in and sold, they receive a portion of the profit in function of the labor they furnished. Another part goes to capitalization. A cooperative sale of the products is organized with the assistance of the powerful federation of land workers.
In the fields of the commune the buildings of the “finca.” From the gable a red flag with the hammer and sickle. The alcalde, who had been part of a delegation that went to the USSR, who speaks a little Russian, said to me: “And we called it the “coljoze Vorochilov.”
In the gardens of the finca roses are growing. In the cellars, with their large clay amphorae, we drink orange wine.
The secretary of the union said: “Our fields extend beyond the horizon...”
Mule teams labor. The first barley of the “kolkhoz” is going to ripen. All the men who made the “kolkhoz” are there. Their names are Firmin, Jesus, Jacinto. Already they say “our” land, “our’ fields...
In the evening the militia men paraded. From the depths of the night they arrived in step to the sound of a single solemn drum. The whole village was there. On the streets we heard the “salud, camarada” of the peasants. Speeches fell from the balcony of the Casa del Pueblo that the peasants built with their own hands with a “capital” of three pesetas.
In the village there were more than 100 party members, 1,400 union members, 300 militia men of the unified youth, 200 pioneers.
This was a town where May 1 was first spoken of in 1928... The church is a club, the sacristy a library.
A village in Castille among others. The agrarian revolution didn’t stop at the division of land; it went much further: it went as far as the consciousness of socialism. And this is how it is at the same time in other villages of the province; this is how things are at Malpica, where the leaders of the commune took back the titles dating from the peasant insurrection of the Middle ages.
In this province of Toledo what was fascinating wasn’t really the paintings painted by El Greco, nor the cathedral vaults; it was the peasants who knew the joy of victory; these young girls in blue shirts who raised their fists and shouted U.H.P.; these revolutionary chiefs of the village who thought of the future of the revolution and who, far into the night, spoke around a table of Lenin’s policies and Trotsky’s errors.