Counter-Theses for the Conference of the POUM
The annual conference of the POUM was due to meet at the time the party was suppressed. Greatly disturbed at the vacillations of the party with regard to the Popular Front government, a left wing had grown in Barcelona led by José Rebull with the name of ‘Cell 72’. As by then they were all in illegality these documents were never published in Spain. The following text is translated from the French monthly journal L’Internationale of the Union Communiste, no.30, fourth year, new series, 1O August 1937, pp.11-12. This was a small organisation of a state capitalist character led by Gaston Davoust (Henri Chazé, 1904-1984).
As we have had occasion to note with several reminders, the leadership of the POUM puts back indefinitely the convocation of the party conference. Nevertheless, it was to have been held in June, but the arrest of the party militants took place some days before the conference was due to be held.
Since the beginning of April, discussion has been quite lively inside the POUM, and a left current has begun to crystallise, as these counter-theses published in the Internal Bulletin put out by the Barcelona local committee show, which we will try to demonstrate in L’Internationale.
In this issue we are only giving an article from one cell, an article which provides some explanation of certain points in the counter-theses.
The value of a party, and above all of its leadership, is tested in great events. As the saying goes, in calm weather everyone is a good sailor.
However, the fundamental problem for which a revolutionary Marxist party must provide a solution is the problem of power, what it consists of and the method of seizing it....
We take the following from Avant (organ of the POUM):
21 July: ‘ What is required is the formation of a government with the participation of all the components of the Popular Front ...’ that is to say, a government of those whom we have accused of being responsible for the military insurrection!
23 July: Dealing with how the armed workers must get their pay, Avant says: ‘We believe that it is the government of the Generalitat which must provide the soldiers’ pay.’
What this presupposes is implicit recognition of the government of the Generalitat.
In an article entitled La terra ha d’esser repartida, Avant restricts itself to saying about the power that could assure the poor peasants’ possession of the land: ‘The workers’ army will overthrow the power of the cacique and will institute a system of justice and security among the poor peasants’. So fully ‘installing a system of justice’ is talked about. How? On this the leadership of the POUM maintains a prudent and diplomatic silence.
24 July: The EC of the POUM to All Workers is the title of 12 demands proposed to the working class. The only point which in an indirect manner concerns the question of power is no.8, ‘Revision of the Statute of Catalonia in a progressive sense’. No doubt it is by means of this revision that workers will later attain the dictatorship of the proletariat that comrade Nin tells us about.
Concerning the land problem, we see in the same issue of Avant that it comes out in favour of a Popular Committee of Distribution.
Distribution under the political domination of the bourgeoisie? Fortunately, the peasants are following another road.
26 July: Whilst maintaining the most profound silence on the question of power, Avant gives over its headlines to the victory obtained in the payment of wages to workers in arms. It celebrates it in the following terms: ‘Our party was the first fo launch the demand for wage payments to the workers who, by the general strike and their armed struggle, put fascism to rout and won the victory’. A victory, in the final reckoning, for the petty bourgeoisie and for the PSUC, which did not as yet even exist.
27 July: The POUM declared: ‘Not only do we envisage no obstacle to getting in contact with your committee (The Esqerra Front), but we consider this contact to be indispensable for examining current problems and establishing unity in action on all guestions in which an agreement will be possible’. The first step towards the Popular Front.
28 July: Nor could the JCI (POUM Youth) find a better way in these critical days: ‘Our militias and our guns are the only guarantee, the sole guarantee of our liberty, our rights, and our lives’ (Solano in his radio broadcast, reproduced in Avant of the 28th). In order to constitute a guarantee, it was necessary for the militias and their guns to be under control of working class power, not under the control of the Generalitat, which then made them into its regular people’s army.
29 July: At last, ‘Revolutionary Workers’ Alliances’, that is the slogan launched by Avant. But through editorial negligence, this slogan has not been mentioned for a good deal of time already.
30 July: It does not talk about the destruction of capitalism and its form of political domination, but that ‘what is necessary is the requisition of the property of the church and of all the reaction’. This partial attack without posing the question of power could only lead to the working class having to pay for the property of the church and the reactionaries.
1 August (last issue of Avant): Referring to the first governmental crisis of the Generalitat since 19 July, it expresses itself thus in its editorial: ‘A total crisis of the government has passed unnoticed by the working class’. It is evident that this was the fault, neither of the government, nor of the working class, but of its supposed guide, the revolutionary Marxist party, which confined itself to comment without pointing out the revolutionary solution: ‘All power to the Central Militia Committee’.
And further: ‘We can affirm from today that the government that has been formed is a thousand leagues from reality...and does not correspond to the present stage of the revolution’. What was the reality? What form of government did correspond to that phase of the revolution? In the same editorial: ‘For all over Catalonia new institutions arise that are destined to transform themselves into mass popular organs’. Yes – destined to transform themselves into true mass popular organs, thanks to the ‘Government of the Revolution’ (in which the POUM took part), that abolished the Central Militia Committee and all the anti-Fascist committees by decree.
The POUM drifted aimlessly in the stormy seas of July, like a ship that had lost its captain.
The Spanish Left in its Own Words
Last updated on 30.12.2002