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Mieczyslaw Bortenstein (M. Casanova)

Spain Betrayed

How the Popular Front Opened the Gates to Franco

20. The Miaja-Casado Pronunciamento

Power reflects the relationship of forces between the different classes in society and between the different political organisations that express the interests of different social layers. When the equilibrium is broken, when the relationship of forces changes, power passes from the hands of one faction into those of another.

A reminder is necessary here. There were two powers after July: the bourgeois state power, formal and powerless, and the power of the workers’ committees. This second power clearly predominated during the first three months, up to the formation of the coalition governments, that of Largo Caballero and that of Taradellas in Catalonia. The government of Caballero rested upon all the working class organisations, the CNT included. The effective power of this government was limited.

Elements of the second, working class power, continued to exist, above all in Catalonia, until May. However, their gradual weakening encouraged the right wing of the Popular Front to liquidate them completely. Such was the meaning of the Stalinist coup and of the May events in Barcelona. The Anarchist ministers asked the workers to leave the barricades. The destruction of their base in the CNT not only disarmed the Catalan proletariat, but it made the existence of Anarchist Ministers in the government redundant.

The new relationship of forces was the basis for the formation of the Negrín government at the end of May 1937. Without the May Days we would not have had the ‘Government of Victory’. The CNT was thrown out of the government after May. The fact that it was offered a decorative post in the second Negrín government changed nothing in this respect. The Anarchist Minister of Instruction was only a piece of furniture in the Council of Ministers. Since May, state power was divided between two factions: the Stalinists together with the bourgeois Republicans and the Socialists. These two factions formed a bloc against the proletariat, against the CNT, the FAI, the POUM and the committees: they gave each other mutual favours. The bourgeois Republicans gave the Stalinists a free hand against ‘Trotskyism’. They said to the GPU:

You can settle your accounts with your enemies the POUMists. That is of no concern to us. But in return you must support our programme of social reversal in Spain and of the liquidation of the collectivisations because you well understand that all these socialisations, they are not serious. What will the Quai d”Orsay [161] and the British Foreign Office think? And send us weapons.

“Well true enough, we agree”, replied the GPU. “Socialisations and committees? Only agents of the Gestapo can support them. Our war is a national war. Our revolution is bourgeois, and we are fighting for a parliamentary democratic republic. We will sell you weapons, but allow us to exterminate the Trotskyists.”

That was the agreement that served as the basis for the foundation of the ‘Government of Victory’. Only when the revolutionary proletariat had been smashed did the contradiction between these allies start to appear and deepen. In March 1939 it culminated in a violent shock – the Miaja-Casado Pronunciamento. Events do have an internal logic, and crime gets its reward. The logic of the Popular Front turned against its architects, the Stalinists. The arm that they had forged broke them in their turn.

The Republicans used the Stalinists against the working class, but once the servant had done his job, he was expected to go. Moreover, the servant embarrassed the Republicans because he wanted to keep his own control of the administration and the army. Even though the Stalinists had proclaimed themselves a hundred times a day to be reformist, democratic, patriotic and chauvinist, the Republican bourgeoisie only accorded them a limited measure of confidence. The Stalinists had said that revolutionary measures prevented help from the democracies. This concept was the basis of their entire policy against the CNT and the POUM, the left wing of the Popular Front. A year later it was turned against them, too, when the Republicans said that Chamberlain and Daladier disliked the presence of Communists in the government. The Republicans were right. They only forgot to add that the City and the Comité des Forges [162] preferred Franco to both of them.

The fall of Catalonia gave the strongest bastion of the anti-Fascist resistance to Franco. With the recognition of Burgos [163] by France and Britain, the entire perspective of the Popular Front broke down. The leaders of the Popular Front had said that France would not allow Franco to consolidate his position along the entire Pyrenean frontier. They had placed their confidence in the anti-German and anti-Italian imperialist interests of France. This was a false hope. We have explained why many times.

In any case, after the recognition of Burgos by France and Britain, this perspective broke down even in the eyes of the ostriches of the Popular Front. What possibilities for resistance against Franco remained after the fall of Catalonia? Even if it did not encompass regions as industrialised as Catalonia, nonetheless central Spain contained some important wealth. War factories had been installed there in expectation of the fall of Catalonia. Well-fortified Madrid had withstood numerous assaults. The whole centre was surrounded by fortifications which in the event of serious resistance would be a hard nut for Franco to crack. Moreover, Franco’s rear in Catalonia was not secure and it might conceal some disagreeable surprises for him.

If the proletariat of Madrid and central Spain woke up, if it abandoned all its false hopes, if it finally leapt over the rotten policy of the Popular Front and devoted itself to the revolutionary task of reconstituting the committees, if it cleaned up all the barely concealed Fascists and agents of the enemy in the rear, then the resistance would be transformed, and a counter-attack would be possible.

But this route was closed to the Republicans. It was not only closed for Besteiro, Miaja and Casado [164], but for Negrín as well, who, when abroad, denied that he had ever believed in resistance at any price; and finally, for the Communists too. Once the revolutionary road was blocked, the road of capitalism remained. To this road were committed Besteiro, Miaja and Casado. This trio repeated against the Communists the operation of the other trio of Comorera, Ayguadé [165] and Rodríguez Salas [166] during the May Days in Barcelona against the Anarchists and the POUM.

The objective significance of the pronunciamento was pro-Francoist and capitulationist. It was not a matter of a struggle of the UGT, Caballerists or Republicans against the Communists. It was a conspiratorial affair whose aim was to open the gates to Franco by smashing the revolutionary rank and file of the Communist Party.

We Bolshevik-Leninists are adversaries of Stalinism. We hate Stalinism because we understand the criminal consequences of its policy of strangling the proletariat. But only those who do not understand and do not see further than their own noses can imagine that our political positions and our appreciations can be determined by our hatred of the Stalinists who have murdered so many of us, or by our thirst for revenge.

We are not enraged petit-bourgeois, but revolutionary proletarians. The Fourth International can proclaim, after the example of the Communist League, that it has no “interests separate from those of the proletariat as a whole”.

Even though we hold the Communist leaders responsible for the pronunciamento, we declare that the duty of all honest workers (and the Bolshevik-Leninists claim to be their vanguard) was to fight against the Miaja-Casado junta arms in hand by the side of the Communist workers and militants, who were so lightly abandoned by the Stalinist leadership.

There is an internal logic in our political conceptions and in our attitude. The militants of the Fourth International were on the barricades with the Anarchist workers during the May Days, even though our concepts had nothing in common with those of Bakunin and Kropotkin. A member of the Spanish Section of the Fourth International, Cid, gave his life on the Ramblas fighting alongside the rest of the workers, who were, in their overwhelming majority, Anarchists. Why? For the pleasure of fighting at every opportunity? No, gentlemen of Libertaire [167], Anarchist defenders of Miaja’s junta! Cid and others fought on the Barcelona barricades at the side of the CNT because it was a question of defending the conquests of the revolution of 19 July, because the interests of the proletarian movement were to defend what remained of the organs of the second, working class, power: the Defence Committees, the control patrols, etc.

Today in Madrid it is a matter of a stab in the back on the part of the disloyal generals who wanted to prepare the ground for their capitulation to Franco by the destruction of the Communists. Bolshevik-Leninists are not scribblers who condemn everybody and contemplate their own navels, as do certain far-leftists of the Bordigist type. [168] We cannot remain neutral in the conflict which at this moment is covering Madrid with blood. We take part. We are at the side of the Communist fighters against the traitors of the Junta of Defence.

Who are these traitors? Besteiro, a supporter of compromise since the start of the Civil War. Casado, who was sheltered by Negrín. But also to be found there is Carrillo [169], who belongs to the Caballerist faction of the Socialist Party. The Stalinists are using this fact to declare (see Pravda) that “the Trotskyist generals have revolted against the government of Negrín”. If Trotskyists did not exist, Stalin would need to invent them. For him it is a matter of justifying the catastrophic results of his policy, and of offloading all earthly evils onto a scapegoat. The Tsarist government organised pogroms and claimed that the Jews were responsible for the misery of the people. Hitler is imitating it at present. Even though Stalin represents other social layers – the Soviet bureaucracy, and not the landowners or the bourgeoisie – he must also have someone on whom to lay the blame for all his failures and the reversals of his own policy. The Caballerist faction has as much relationship with authentic Trotskyists, the Fourth International in other words, as the latter has with Lucifer in person.

Even if the Caballerist faction was excommunicated by the Stalinists because it was not prepared to execute all the orders of the GPU, and even if some of the representatives of the London Bureau who had come to Spain were flirting with that disgraced dignitary and considered the Caballero tendency as progressive, it should be recalled that the Bolshevik-Leninists had often denounced this faction of the powerless, who in the course of the last 18 months knew only how to moan.

Moreover, does this Caballerist faction exist? We would like to believe that there did exist a tendency capable of opposing other conceptions and other policies to those of the Stalinists and Negrínists. Caballero considers that the Stalinists and Negrínists have mistreated him, and that he was the victim of their filthy aims. He was indeed one of the victims, but not one of those for whom we have to feel much sympathy.

His conservative policy at the time when he was Prime Minister prepared the way for Negrín. This dignitary in disgrace, whose abilities as a statesman were unrecognised, was very upset. Although outraged, he abstained from publicly speaking out under the pretext that the Civil War demanded silence. According to him circumstances were too serious to denounce forcefully the Stalinist betrayals. There is nothing surprising in this. He did it in government as well. We do not know if he approved of the entry of one of his supporters into the Junta of Casado.

As for the attitude of some of the representatives of the CNT, Mera along with them [170], it can only surprise those who did not know the profoundly reformist character of the leadership of the CNT. Didn’t the García Olivers and the Frederica Montsenys betray the Barcelona proletariat, and in particular the rank and file of their own organisation to Stalinist repression? Val [171] and Mera continued on this criminal path. This time they betrayed the Madrid proletariat to a band of capitulationists, and indirectly to Franco. Mera, moreover, is the representative of the extreme right wing of the CNT; he fought its left wing, the Friends of Durruti, and was praised for it by the Stalinists.

But the important lesson of the Madrid events is yet another failure of all the conceptions of the policy of the Popular Front.

You criminals, look at yourselves in the mirror! What is the value of the Republican army from whose leadership you have driven all the revolutionaries? How faithful is it to the Republican regime? It carries out ‘pronunciamentos’, just as in the old days of the monarchy.

What is the value of the republican democratic state apparatus? It supports the ‘pronunciamento’. Let the politicians recall the fate of the authentically proletarian organs like the Control Patrols. It was the Stalinists who forged the weapon that has now been turned against them and unfortunately against the proletariat as well.

The Miaja-Casado pronunciamento marked the end of the Negrín government. We should notice also the cowardice of the Communist Party leadership which abandoned its own militants and fled abroad.

The French Anarchists (cf. Libertaire) supported the Miaja-Casado junta because they saw it as an attempt to halt a pointless massacre of Spanish workers. Was not the situation lost? The main thing was to save the lives of the endangered militants, because the Spanish Revolution can only be made by the living, and not by the dead. These ideas can be found in Libertaire and Juin 36.

However, those who wish to stop the ‘pointless massacre’ have misunderstood the nature of Fascism. They hope for clemency on the part of Franco. Now the fundamental trait of Fascism is precisely that it tolerates no independent organisation of the proletariat, and that it even suppresses all independent bourgeois organisations. An armistice with Franco that would allow anything whatever to be safeguarded for the working class is impossible.

García Oliver was never rewarded for his betrayal in May, any more than Comorera and Negrín. The fate of Miaja-Casado and their allies will be no better. But as for the proletariat, it has no choice. Even in the event of a total defeat, it is only to the extent to which it resists and makes Franco pay dearly for his successes that it can regroup its forces afterwards and prepare its revenge.



161. Quai d’Orsay: the French foreign office.

162. The Comité des Forges was the very right wing association of the largest French capitalists, mostly in heavy industry at that time.

163. Burgos was the administrative capital of Nationalist Spain for the duration of the Spanish Civil War.

164. Julián Besteiro Fernández (1870-1940) was a right wing leader of the Socialist Party who had already opposed taking up arms during the Asturian Commune of 1934.

165. Dr Jaime Ayguadé Miró (1882-1943) was a Catalan nationalist in the Negrín government, and also in the Generalitat during the May Days in Barcelona.

166. Eusebio Rodríguez Salas was an ex-member of the Maurínist BOC who went over to the Communist Party in 1934. He was PSUC Commissioner for Public Order and responsible for the attack upon the Telephonica that began the Stalinist provocation which triggered off the May Days.

167. Le Libertaire was a French Anarchist newspaper edited by Sebastien Faure.

168. Bordigism is an ultra-left tendency that takes its name from Amadeo Bordiga (1889-1970), who split from the Italian Communist Party in opposition to the policy of the United Front. During the Spanish Civil War the Bordigists took a position of extreme abstention from the conflict, arguing that both sides represented different factions of the bourgeoisie backed by different foreign capitalist interests.

169. Alonso Wenceslao Carrillo (  -1964) was a left wing Socialist and supporter of Largo Caballero. His son Santiago, with the majority of the Spanish Socialist Youth, went over to Stalinism, and was for many years the General Secretary of the Communist Party.

170. Cipriano Mera (1897-1975) was the Anarchist commander of Casado’s Fourth Army Corps, and a firm supporter of the militarisation of the Anarchist militias into the regular army.

171. Eduardo Val was a CNT militant from Madrid, an associate of Mera’s.

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Last updated on 27.7.2003