Leon Trotsky

The Task in Spain

(April 1936)

Written: 12 April 1936.
Source: New International [New York], Vol.5 No.4, April 1939, pp.125-126.
Translated: New International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Public Domain: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2005; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

The letter reproduced below was written by Leon Trotsky to a Spanish comrade before the outbreak of the civil war in July 1936. It dealt with the tasks of the Bolshevik Leninists in Spain. Notwithstanding the date on which it was written or rather precisely because of that, the letter is exceptionally noteworthy for its analysis of the developing situation at the time and for its forecast of the fate which would inevitably overtake the policies of the Popular Front, and the working class or any section of it which adopted and practiced it. The recent catastrophe was not unforeseen! – Editor.

THE situation in Spain is once more revolutionary.

The development of the Spanish revolution is taking place at a slow rhythm. In this way the revolutionary elements have obtained a fairly long interval in which to take shape, to rally around themselves the vanguard, in order to measure up to the task at the decisive moment. At present we must say openly that the Spanish “left communists” have allowed this extremely favorable interval to pass by completely and have revealed themselves as in no way better than the socialist and “communist” traitors. Really, there has been no lack of warnings! All the greater is the culpability of an Andres Nin, of an Andrade, etc. – With a correct policy the “Communist Left”, as a section of the Fourth International, might have been at the head of the Spanish proletariat today. Instead of this, it vegetates in the confused organization of a Maurin – without program, without perspective, and without any political importance. Marxian action in Spain begins with an implacable condemnation of the whole policy of the Andres Nins and Andrades, which was and remains not only false but criminal.

What does the removal of President Zamora signify? It signifies that the political evolution is once more passing into an acute stage. Zamora was, so to speak, the stable pole of the leading summits. In different conditions, he played the same rôle that Hindenburg played in Germany during a certain period; it was at the time when the reaction (even the Nazis), on the one side, and the social democracy on the other, placed their hopes in him. The Bonapartism of modern times is the expression of the extreme exacerbation of class contradictions in the period when these contradictions have not yet lead to the open struggle. Bonapartism may find its point of support in the quasi parliamentary government or else in the President “above the parties”; that depends only upon the circumstances. Zamora was the representative of the Bonapartist equilibrium. The exacerbation of the contradictions lead to each of the two principal camps wanting first to use and then to rid itself of Zamora. The right wing not having succeeded in this in its time, it is now the “Popular Front” which does it. However, that signifies the beginning of an acute revolutionary period. The profound effervescence of the masses as well as unintermittently violent explosions prove that the workers of town and country and the poor peasants along with them, deceived over and over again, are pushing with all their strength, again and ever, towards the revolutionary solution. And what rôle does the Popular Front play in face of this powerful movement? That of a gigantic brake, built and set in motion by traitors and servile scum. And only yesterday Juan Andrade signed the thoroughly infamous program of this Popular Front!

After the removal of Zamora, it is Azaña who, hand in hand with the new President of the Republic, must be charged with the rôle of a stable Bonapartist pole, that is, try to raise himself above the two camps in order all the better to direct the weapons of the state against the revolutionary masses who lifted him into power. But the workers’ organizations remain completely caught in the nets of the Popular Front. The convulsions of the revolutionary masses (without a program, without a leadership worthy of confidence), thus threaten to throw the doors wide open to the counter revolutionary dictatorship.

That the workers are pushing forward in the revolutionary direction is proved by the development of all their organizations, but especially by that of the Socialist party and the socialist youth. Two years ago, we posed the question of the entry of the Spanish Bolshevik Leninists into the Socialist party. The Andres Nins and Andrades rejected this proposal with the disdain of conservative philistines: they wanted “independence” at all costs, because it assured them tranquillity and committed them to nothing. Yet, adherence to the Socialist party in Spain would have yielded, in the given conditions, infinitely better results than, for example, in France (on the condition, of course, of avoiding the big mistakes committed by the leading French comrades). Meanwhile, Andrade and Nm have fused with the confusionist Maurin, in order to run together at the tail of the Popular Front. [1] The socialist workers, however, aspiring to revolutionary clarity, have become the victims of the Stalinist deceivers. The fusion of the two youth organizations (socialist and Stalinist) signifies that the mercenaries of the Communist International will abuse and destroy the best revolutionary energies. And the “great” revolutionists, Andres Nin and Andrade, stay on the sidelines to conduct with Maurin a wholly impotent propaganda for the “democratic socialist” revolution, that is, for social democratic treason. [2]

Nobody can know what aspect the next period will take in Spain. The tide which has brought to power the clique of the Popular Front is, in any case, too powerful to ebb in a short time and to abandon the field of battle to the reaction. The genuinely revolutionary elements still have a certain interval at their disposal, not too long, to be sure, to take stock of themselves, to gather their forces and to prepare the future. This concerns, in the first place, the Spanish partisans of the Fourth International. Their tasks are as clear as day:

  1. To condemn and denounce mercilessly before the masses the policy of all the leaders who take part in the Popular Front.
  2. To understand fully and to bring clearly before the eyes of the advanced workers the pitiful rôle of the leadership of the “Workers Party of Marxian Unification” [POUM] and especially of the former “left communists”, Andres Nin, Andrade, etc.
  3. To rally around the banner of the Fourth International, on the basis of the Open Letter.
  4. To join the Socialist party and the United Youth, in order to work there as a fraction in the spirit of Bolshevism.
  5. To create fractions and nuclei in the trade unions and other mass organizations.
  6. To direct their main attention to the spontaneous and semi spontaneous movements, to study their general traits, that is, to concern themselves with the temperature of the masses and not that of the parliamentary cliques.
  7. To be present in every struggle in order to give it clear expression.
  8. To insist always on the masses forming their committees of action, elected ad hoc (juntas, soviets) and to enlarge them constantly.
  9. To oppose the program of the conquest of power, of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the social revolution to all the hybrid programs (à la Caballero or à la Maurin).

There is the only real road of the proletarian revolution. Another road does not exist.

April 12, 1936


1. The “turn” made by La Batalla towards the Popular Front cannot inspire us with any confidence. You cannot say on Monday that the League of Nations is a band of brigands, on Tuesday invite the voters to vote for the program of the League of Nations, and explain on Wednesday that yesterday it was a question only of an electoral action and that you are now going to resume your real program. The serious worker must ask himself: And what are these people going to say on Thursday or Friday? Maurin seems to be the very incarnation of an agile, superficial and versatile petty-bourgeois revolutionist. He studies nothing, he understands nothing, and sows confusion all around.

2. Marx wrote in 1876 on the incorrectness of the term “social democrat”: socialism cannot be placed under the control of democracy. Socialism (or communism) is enough for us. “Democracy” has nothing to do with it. Since that time, the October Revolution has demonstrated vigorously that the socialist revolution cannot take place within the framework of democracy. The “democratic” revolution and the socialist revolution find themselves on two opposite sides of the barricades. The Third International confirmed this experience theoretically. The “democratic” revolution in Spain is already made. It has known a resurrection by the Popular Front. The personification of the “democratic” revolution in Spain is Azaña, with or without Caballero, The socialist revolution must be made in the implacable struggle against the “democratic” revolution, with its popular Front. What then does this “synthesis” of the “democratic socialist” revolution mean? Nothing at all. It is only an eclectic gallimathias.

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Last updated on: 19.4.2007