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Mieczyslaw Bortenstein (M. Casanova)

Spain Betrayed

How the Popular Front Opened the Gates to Franco

6. Can the Francoist Army be Disintegrated?

Whilst my battalion comrades were inspired by revolutionary ideology, however confused, our leading spokesmen, for example at Matamala, made frankly reactionary propaganda, which often resembled that of Franco like two peas in a pod, which could not demoralise the opposing forces and could not in any case provoke any revolts among them. For instance one slogan was “Somos de la raza española!” (We are of the Spanish race), aiming to prove that our side was more Spanish than Franco.

A revolutionary policy could have made the ‘Bolshevik plague’ penetrate even among the most backward and reactionary elements. Did we not see how even Cossack detachments passed over to the Red Army in the course of the Russian Revolution?

Why did we not witness the same phenomenon in Spain? Was the fanatical Requete with his Cristo-Rey proof against revolutionary propaganda? Not in the least. To be sure he loved the Blessed Virgin, but he also loved other virgins, and in general more material things. Yes, he was a fervent Catholic, but he was also a peasant, always being pushed around, always exploited. What has the democratic republic ever given him, whether under Mr Azaña’s presidency [32], or when Largo Caballero was a minister (which he already was in 1931)? Misery and bullets. And what more did the Popular Front promise him than Franco? The continuation of the same republic. The republic, it is true, promised to be better and fairer. But hadn’t he already heard the same tune and the same promises?

And the Moroccan, what has the Popular Front promised him, whether under Negrín or under Caballero, Hernández [33] or that terrible ‘Anarchist’, García Oliver? National independence perhaps? Only a Trotskyist criminal would have thought of that. The wise and realistic leaders and ministers of the Popular Front only made declarations about their respect for treaties and the inviolability of the protectorate, in other words, the inviolability of the enslavement of Spanish Morocco.

It may not have completely reassured Chamberlain, who was far more comfortable with Franco, but it was not the sort of thing to inspire the Moroccan. As far as he is concerned there is little to chose between slavery under Franco or under Negrín. Perhaps some wise guy will say he is wrong. As far as we are concerned, perhaps the Negrín regime is less evil than that of Franco. But Ben Mahomed isn’t very strong on sociology. In this particular instance, despite his shrewdness, he thought a bit like Stalin, that is to say, with his feet: for him, Social Democracy and Fascism were not antipodes, but twins! [34] And the Italian and German “volunteers”? Were they, perchance, all mad Fascists? I do not think so. Of course among them they have mercenaries, as well as enthusiasts for another Cristo-Rey, called Mussolini or Hitler, but the great bulk of them were very much like the bulk of the human race, deceived men. Were they told that there were no longer any French, Germans and Italians, but simply all proletarians, and that we were fighting for a worldwide republic? Or were they told, as Jaurès [35] once said, that the word ‘foreign’ has no meaning for the proletariat? No!

Unfortunately, for some years back home in France the Popular Front has also worked night and day to make French workers more patriotic and more chauvinist.

Quite so. It was the same over there. We were told that we were fighting against foreigners and for a free Spain which would be strong and happy. The Italian and the German brought to Spain under duress by the Fascist bandits reacted accordingly, and were confirmed in their nationalist prejudices – if the others are fighting for Spain to become strong, why shouldn’t I also fight so that Italy can become strong? After all, I”m an Italian, aren’t I?

And that applied to the workers, for there were some in the Francoist army. When they found out that we were fighting for a return to that same republic where capitalist property would be as sacred as they have known it, and when they found out, not only through the channel of Fascist propaganda, but by the intermediary of prisoners of war, that the CNT was being persecuted in Barcelona, all this could hardly predispose them to risk their lives and revolt against the discipline of the Francoist army.

It is true that soldiers, sometimes even small groups of them, came over into our ranks, but that has mainly been on account of temporary military reverses by Franco, but in the course of these last two years, there haven’t been any real revolts. This is striking, but it will only surprise those who do not understand that for a mutiny to take place inside an army it has to be worked on from within as well as from without by revolutionary propaganda, and not by sermons about ‘the legitimate government’!

Some would like to explain the absence of a revolt against Franco by the terror. As if the workers are slaves by nature! The leaders of the Popular Front do not know that revolutionary propaganda is stronger than all the terrors, and all the apparatuses. They will understand it one day!

Didn’t terror also hold sway within the White armies in Russia? Were the Japanese angels during their occupation of Siberia, and did they not commit atrocities whose memory still makes you shudder? Didn’t the armies of democratic France hang people around Odessa and did they not torture? Didn’t the expeditionary forces of another a very Popular Front-minded democrat, Mr David Lloyd George, commit atrocities as well? [36]

Open the final pages of Upton Sinclair’s Jimmy Higgins, and you will see the Bolshevik propagandist being tortured by the democratic representatives of the expeditionary forces of His Majesty the King of England. This was no mere literary imagery but in spite of the tortures, the ‘Bolshevik plague’ penetrated everywhere, and dislocated not only the White armies, but also the foreign expeditionary forces – French, English, Czechoslovak, etc.

From where did this magic force stem, that existed in Russia, but was missing in Spain? It stemmed from the powers of attraction of the proletarian revolution. All this just goes to show that the feeble language and the rotten policy of bourgeois democracy and the Popular Front were incapable of dislocating and demoralising a Fascist army, although this army was made up of elements that were easy to win over: exploited peasants, colonial slaves, and even Germans and Italians, who were fighting for a cause that was not their own.

You see, everything is difficult for the charlatans of the Popular Front, and they even try to persuade the proletariat that it is impossible to destroy the capitalist regime because the capitalists have Fascists, tanks, and an unlimited number of aeroplanes at their disposal, etc. All they forget to do is to look at themselves in a mirror, and add that capitalism can only maintain itself largely thanks to flunkeys such as Blum, Stalin, Thorez [37], Negrín and Comorera.



32. Manuel Azaña de Díaz (1880-1940) was president of that Republic during the Spanish Civil War, and Francisco Largo Caballero (1869-1946) was the left wing Socialist Prime Minister of the Republic during the first part of the civil war, and leader of the UGT trade union.

33. Jésus Hernández Tomas (1906-1972) was Communist Minister of Education in the Popular Front government; after the Civil War he denounced the machinations of the Communists in a famous book Yo Fuí un Ministro de Stalin, Mexico, 1953.

34. “Social Democracy and Fascism are not antipodes, but twins”, was the brilliant and very successful phrase of Stalin’s that was the ‘theoretical’ basis for the famous ‘Social Fascist’ policy that allowed Hitler to be installed in power in Germany. [Author’s note]

35. Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), famous French Socialist orator and defender of Dreyfus.

36. David Lloyd George (1863-1945) was coalition Prime Minister at the time of the British intervention during the Russian Civil War from 1918-1922. In the mid-1930s he was a fervent admirer of Hitler, and later on he was a supporter of the Popular Front.

37. Léon Blum (1872-1950), a Socialist, was Popular Front Prime Minister of France in 1936-37; Maurice Thorez (1900-1964) was leader of the French Communist Party during the same period.

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Last updated on 27.7.2003