L. Trotsky

A Letter to Andres Nin

The Catalonian Separatists, Soviets
and the Communists

(September 1931)

Written: 1 September 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 36 (Whole No. 95), 19 December 1931, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2013. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 .

Dear Friend:

I have received your letter of August 25th. You pose the question to yourself: shall we call upon the workers to join the Party or the (Catalonian) federation? The local conditions speak in favor of the federation. The general Spanish – conditions speak in favor of the Party. From the practical point of view, that is, from the point of view of the relationship of forces at the given moment, it is difficult to solve this problem, but it seems to me that our principle position is really of decisive importance: we declare that we are a faction of the Party, a faction of the Comintern. The main struggle against us is carried on along the line that we are “enemies” of the U.S.S.R. and the Comintern. Even Maurin lives on the crumbs that fall from this table.

If we call upon the workers to join the federation, we compromise ourselves on the whole Spanish and on the International scale. Do we gain at all, on the Catalonian scale? If we consider the present results of the co-operation with the federation, we find that we have derived more harm than profit from it. The entire Comintern press, and the Pravda in particular, has held us responsible for Maurin’s opportunist confusionism. Comrade Mill’s articles in La Verité also contributed to a great extent in the matter. Nevertheless, we have been forced to break with the federation and we have left almost empty-handed. In other words, the experiences of the co-operation with the federation have weakened us on the whole Spanish, as well as international, scale without helping us any on the Catalonian scale It is time to draw up the balance. In my opinion, we ought to execute an abrupt turn of policy here, to avoid continuing to be confused with Maurin – to his advantage and to our own disadvantage.

It would be most correct to call upon the workers to join the Communist Left faction, to build up their own units and to demand admission into the Party. That does not at all prevent us from simultaneously building up Left wing units in the federation as well as in the official Party. But such a policy requires an official center, no matter how small, of the Left Opposition in Catalonia. You will perhaps recall that I insisted on this from the very first day of your arrival in Barcelona, but, unfortunately, without success. At the present time, too, I cannot see any other way.

The Slogan of Soviets

Maurin has issued the slogan: “All the power to the proletariat.” I think you are quite right in pointing out that he has chosen slogans of this sort in order to put up a bridge for himself to the syndicalists and to lend himself the appearance of greater strength than he actually possesses. Unfortunately, the pursuit of appearances is very strong in politics, and very disastrous in revolutionary politics. I ask myself (at times) why there are no Soviets in Spain. What is the cause of this? In my former letter, I expressed several ideas in this respect. I have developed these much more amply in the article I sent you on workers’ control in Germany. It appears that the slogan of the “Juntas” is associated in the minds of the Spanish workers with the slogan of Soviets, and for this reason it seems too sharp, too decisive, too “Russian” to them – that is to say, they look at it in a different light than the Russian workers did at the corresponding stage. Are we not confronted with an historical paradox, when the existence of Soviets in the U.S.S.R. paralyzes the creation of Soviets in other revolutionary countries? This question must be given the utmost attention in private conversations with workers in different parts of the country. At any event, if the slogan of Soviets (juntas) does not catch (not yet?), then we must concentrate on the slogan of factory committees. I wrote on this subject in the article on workers’ control mentioned above. On the basis of factory committees, we can develop the Soviet organization without referring to them by name.

Workers’ Control

On the question of workers’ control, you are, in my opinion, absolutely correct; to renounce workers’ control only because the reformists – in words – want it, would be an enormous stupidity. On the contrary, that is just why we should seize upon it all the more eagerly and force the reformist workers to put it into practice by means of the united front with us, and on the basis of this experience push them into opposition to Caballero and the other fakers.

We succeeded in creating Soviets in Russia only because they were demanded, together with us, also by the Mensheviks and the S.R., though for other ends. We cannot create any Soviets in Spain precisely because neither the Socialists nor the syndicalists want Soviets. That means that the united front and the organizational unity with the majority of the working-class cannot be created under this slogan. But here is Caballero himself, forced to it by the pressure of the masses, seizing upon the slogan of workers’ control and thereby opening the door for the united front policy and to an organization embracing the majority of the working-class. We must take a hold of it with both hands. Certainly, Caballero will want to transform workers’ control into the control of the capitalist over the workers. But that question already belongs in the domain of the relationship of forces inside the working-class. If we succeed in creating factory committees all over the country, then in this revolutionary epoch that we are witnessing, Messrs. Caballero will have lost the decisive battle.

The Separatist Movement and the Iberian Soviet Federation

You describe how one can aid Madrilene liberalism by distorting the idea that the Balkanization of the Iberian peninsula is inconsistent with the aim of the proletariat, and by employing it indiscriminately. You are quite right. If I have not underscored it sufficiently in my preceding letter, I am prepared to do so with ten-fold stress right now. The analogy between the two peninsulas really needs to be completed. There was a time when the Balkan peninsula was unified under the domination of the Turkish gentry, the militarists and the proconsuls. The oppressed people longed for the overthrow of their oppressors. If the idea that we do not want any partitioning of the peninsula had been counterposed to these aspirations of the people, that would have meant acting as lackeys to the Turkish pashas and beys. On the other hand, however, we know that the Balkan peoples liberated from the Turkish yoke, have been at one another’s throat for decades. In this question, too, the proletarian vanguard can apply the point of view of the permanent revolution: liberation from the imperialist yoke as the most important element of the democratic revolution leads immediately to the Federation of Soviet Republics as the state form for the proletarian revolution. Not opposing the democratic revolution, but, on the contrary, supporting it completely even under the form of separation (that is, supporting the struggle and not the illusions), we at the same time bring our own independent position into the democratic revolution, recommending, counseling, propagating the idea of the Soviet Federation of the Iberian peninsula as a constituent part of the United States of Europe. Only under this form is my conception complete. Needless to say, the Madrid comrades and the Spanish comrades in general should use particularly great discretion with regard to the Balkanization argument.

Kadikoy, Sept. 1st, 1931


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