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Mieczyslaw Bortenstein (M. Casanova)

Spain Betrayed

How the Popular Front Opened the Gates to Franco

4. The Republican Army and its Contradictions

We understand the effects of the policy of the Popular Front, because they were the same in France, but all the same the government had an army with a centralised command, which had resisted victoriously in Madrid, and had several times engaged in operations such as those at Belchite, Teruel, on the Ebro, etc. [25] Did the return to bourgeois conceptions have an effect in reinforcing the discipline, coordination and morale of the Republican army?

Well, mando unico (a single command) was the slogan of the Stalinists and all the Republicans, the Socialists included, and that was correct. They even reminded us of the enormous service it rendered the Allies during ‘The Great War’. But let us not forget that in Spain it was a question of a civil war.

A single command was urgently necessary from the start, but we needed a proletarian and a revolutionary general staff, devoted to the working class and under its control. But on the contrary, some of the General Staff was comprised of senior officers from the monarchy, like General Pozas [26] who came into favour by singing the praises of ‘the Great Stalin’ (later to be dismissed in mysterious circumstances after the Aragon debâcle), of some others whose ‘Republicanism’ did not prove to be reliable in all circumstances, and of some newcomers, who were ready to accept medals and promotions to lieutenant-colonel, or even colonel, but who went over to Franco with the plans at the critical moment. Obviously, there were honest and devoted men on the General Staff, but they were in a tiny minority.

A single command that proceeds with an iron hand was necessary, but it had to be a command like that of Leon Trotsky in Russia in 1917-21. A prerequisite for that was a revolutionary power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and a revolutionary party conscious of its tasks in the image of the Bolshevik Party of 1917. None of this existed in Spain.

It has been theoretically proved, and now alas empirically as well, that a strong army, the expression of a strong power, was only possible in Spain on the basis of Fascism or on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Negrín government did not know how to create a strong and coordinated army. Obviously this is not a question of Negrín personally, who is only the expression of a particular conjunctural relationship of forces between different social classes and political currents, but of the whole orientation toward the democratic republic.

Do you want proof of the bankruptcy in military affairs of the experts of the Popular Front? Here is one, and a weighty one at that. They kept on saying in the official speeches: “The time of chaotic militias in the first romantic period of the revolution, of these accursed ‘barbarian tribes’, was over. [27] Now we have a regular army, disciplined and organised. New cadres have been formed.” But when the critical moment came, the whole house of cards collapsed – and then they appealed to the workers’ organisations – ‘the accursed committees’, the alleged cause of the mess, and the volunteers. This was repeated twice. In the months of March-April 1938 Prieto [28] made an appeal for 100,000 volunteers for the army and 50,000 for fortification works. They joined up through the headquarters of the organisations and the parties, just as in the ‘accursed period’ of the militias. This was repeated yet again at the end of December 1938; an appeal was made for volunteers and to the class organisations.



25. Belchite (August-October 1937), Teruel (December 1937-February 1938) and the Ebro (July-November 1938) were partially successful Republican offensives in the Civil War.

26. General Sebastian Pozas Perea (1876-1946), then a Republican commander, was Director General of the Civil Guard.

27. That is how the Stalinist Comorera described the heroic columns of Durruti, Jubert and Rovira, which set off in the direction of Huesca and Saragossa in July 1936. From the organisational point of view there was much truth in Comorera’s description, but the columns did fight, whereas the Ejercito Popular was commanded by traitors. [Author’s note]

28. Indalecio Prieto y Tuero (1883-1962), right wing Socialist leader and creator of the hated Republican secret police torturers, the SIM.

Chapter 3 | Chapter 5

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Last updated on 27.7.2003