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Mieczyslaw Bortenstein (M. Casanova)

Spain Betrayed

How the Popular Front Opened the Gates to Franco

10. Was there a Proletarian Revolution in Spain?

Was there a proletarian revolution in Spain? It is worth asking the question, and replying to it.

Del Vayo, Dimitrov, Díaz, Marty [67], and even certain ‘Anarchists’ reply that this is an invention of excited people and of Trotskyists.

Let us look at this a bit more closely. I ask, therefore, for a moment’s attention from the members of the parties of the Second and Third Internationals and of the Anarchist International: I leave aside the ‘over-excited’ people who are constructing the Fourth International ... Look at your party membership cards. There you will see how the revolutionary aim of your organisations is defined. The means of production must pass into the hands of the proletariat, which at the same time must take political power. This revolutionary aim, which at the same time defines the proletarian revolution, will be found in the statutes of those parties which are described as Marxist. As regards the Anarchists, they put forward the aim of the revolutionary transformation as the immediate suppression, not only of capitalism, but of the state as well; consequently, according to the Marxists, the proletarian revolution is the seizure of the means of production and of political power by the working class, which must take the form of the dictatorship on the proletariat.

After this simple reminder, let us return to Spain. When the generals and the whole reactionary rabble had their army coup on 18 July, the working class understood instantly the meaning of the coup d’état. They took to the barricades. The proletariat, and it alone, saved the situation. The majority of the bourgeois government machine went over to the Fascist side.

But the workers did not take to the barricades for the sake of bourgeois democracy. They went over to the Socialist revolution. In great capitals and small villages they took the bourgeoisie or landed proprietors by the scruff of the neck and laid hold of their possessions. Whether this took the form of collectivisation, of socialisation, or of ‘the foundation of libertarian Communism in a single village’ is only of secondary importance. What is important is that the phenomenon was general. The workers seized the entire wealth of the country.

As for the political side of the revolution, that commenced just as surely in Spain in 1936; the workers created their organisations independent of the bourgeois state: the militias, with the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias; the Control Patrols, an authentically revolutionary organisation intended to protect public order against counter-revolutionary attacks; workers’ committees, which existed in all the villages, and which, independently of their varied forms, constituted the sole real authority during the first months that followed 19 July.

Two powers existed. One, the official Republican state power, was a phantom power. Another, real this time, was that of the committees and the workers’ organisations. Even if the second power never took the coordinated, organised and centralised form of soviets, it dominated the life of the country for the first three months, up to the formation of the coalition governments involving all the working class parties, and they still remained until the counter-revolutionary army coup of May 1937. Consequently, the working class revolution both in the economic and political sphere, had well and truly begun in Spain in July 1936.

Obviously, it had to be completed. The old state apparatus of the bourgeoisie had to be completely destroyed and everything that remained of it. The committees had to broaden their basis and transform themselves into democratic organs of the proletariat. They had to take power in the country, centralise the economy, nationalise the banks, elaborate an economic plan, and conduct the war against Fascism on a revolutionary proletarian basis.

But this social revolution was criminally strangled by the leaders of the Popular Front, who along with the leaders of all the working class parties, preferred portfolios in the government and the Generalitat to the revolutionary road. It was the application of the formula, “Win the war first, and then make the revolution”, that, as we foresaw as early as 1936, led to their losing, first of all the revolution, and then the war.



67. André Marty (1886-1956) was a French Communist and a commander in the International Brigades notorious for his stupidity and brutality. He later broke with the French Communist party and flirted briefly with the French Trotskyists of Pierre Frank’s tendency.

Chapter 9 | Chapter 11

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Last updated on 27.7.2003