Republican Revolution in Spain

(April 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 8, 15 April 1931, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Alfonso has quit the soil of Spain [and] the bourgeois republicans, assisted [by their] socialist allies, have proclaimed the [repub]lic. The universal acclaim with which departure of the royal family was met by the people furnishes eloquent testimony to the profound unpopularity of the monarchy. In the proclamation of the republic, the Spanish masses have taken their first big step in breaking with the old regime and towards establishing their own rule tomorrow.

But the bloodless victory of the republican-socialist alliance over the Spanish monarch guarantees neither the radical uprooting of monarchical rule, the establishment of the republic, nor the real people’s regime of tomorrow. The essential evils with which the reign of the Bourbons inflicted the people still remain. More, the republican bourgeoisie, even with the servile aid of the social democrats, is incapable of solving any of the tasks which press with such burning urgency for solution.

The Spanish bourgeoisie now in power is bound by a thousand threads to the old monarchical system and the semi-feudal relationships on the land. In its turn, the monarchy is intimately intertwined, in its essence as well as in the person of Alfonso himself, to the prevailing mode of capitalist exploitation. Proceeding from both of them are the ties with the reactionary clergy, the big landowners, the military cliques, all of which form the chain that has, and still does fetter the emancipation of the people, of the workers and the peasants upon whose misery the strength of the ruling class has been built.

Bourgeois and monarch – those two are infinitely closer to each other than they are to the proletariat and the peasantry. As has happened before in history, and in Spain’s history as well, these two ruling forces will find no great difficulty in being reconciled in the face of an independent insurrectionary proletariat and peasantry. The monarchy is not at a definite end in Spain. Alfonso is far from having given up the expectation to return. In his declaration, he has proclaimed that he does not “renounce any of my rights ... I am waiting to learn the real expression of the collective opinion of my people”. The bourgeoisie, which proved its capacity to unload the king under pressure of the masses and out of fear of itself being unloaded, is equally capable of effecting a reconciliation with the Bourbons under the pressure of other circumstances.

Can the new republican socialist combination rule, or shall we have in Spain a repetition of the abortive republic of 1873? That depends upon a number of indefinite factors, primarily upon the next stages in the development of the proletarian movement. What is already quite clear is the attitude of the new rulers towards the working class which assisted it to power. With the reactionary fury that characterizes every exploiting class that has just come to power – even though by revolution – it has already turned upon that section of the working class which has been first to manifest its class independence. In Barcelona, center of working class ferment, the rulers of rhe “Catalonian republic” crowned only the day before, have proclaimed martial law against the workers, killed two of them, and suppressed the 24-hours general strike. How instructive is the violence with which the “revolutionary republicans” attack the “revolution in permanence”!

The Barcelona movement is only an initial skirmish. The proletariat of Spain will yet have adequate opportunities to produce its revolutionary Communist party and to place itself at the head of the popular nation. The powerlessness of the bourgeoisie to solve the problems of the Spanish people wll be a source of strength to the real revolution. Alcala Zamora, the provisional president, and the government itself, have already announced the program of the new government, and it is filled with the empty promises with which the bourgeoisie always feeds the masses. “The republic will guarantee rights to private property which may have been confiscated.” But it is precisely these “rights” that must be destroyed if the proletariat is to live. The industries, the railroads and the banks must be put under the control of the proletariat; the land must be confiscated and given to the peasants; the strangulating hand of the Catholic clergy must be torn from the throats of the people; the right to national self-determination for the Catalonians and Basques must be guaranteed in reality and not in words; feudalism and clerical reaction and capitalist exploitation must be burned out – if the revolution is to mean the liberation of the masses and not the perpetuation of class rule. But the bourgeoisie is utterly incapable of taking these steps, which means its own destruction. The task fails to the only class capable of taking them: the revolutionary proletariat.

The bourgeoisie leads because the proletariat has as yet no leadership. The years of Stalinist reaction and incapacity have left deep scars on Spanish Communism, reducing it to impotence. It can be revived and become equal to its tasks. Here the Left Opposition has an enormous mission. That our Spanish comrades have already furnished many prisoners to the Spanish reaction attests their activity and devotion. That the bourgeois press is even now reporting the appearance in Barcelona and elsewhere of “revolutionary literature with pictures of Lenin and Trotsky” is another harbinger of coining successes. Feeble as Communism is in Spain today, it can grow with phenomenal rapidity out of a soil enriched by the revolutionary fervor of the masses. In the white heat of the revolutionary struggles that are on the order of the day, the troops of the real revolution can be tempered, hardened and fitted for the magnificent task that must be performed – which only they can perform.

The Spanish bourgeoisie is in power today only because the proletariat as a class is not yet strong and conscious enough to take power itself and hold it. Tomorrow may bring a new relationship of forces in Spain. The last word has not yet been spoken.

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