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Fourth International, December 1945


Facing the New Revolutionary Period in Spain


From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.12, December 1945, pp.379-382.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


We publish below the first section of the thesis approved by the Internationalist Communists, Spanish section of the Fourth International at their conference in May 1945. The full text was published in the June 1945 issue of Communismo, theoretical organ of the Spanish Trotskyists.

This political document constitutes an important step forward in the elaboration of the revolutionary strategy and tactics of the proletariat in the revolutionary epoch now opening up for Spain. The general line presented in this thesis coincides with the positions expressed in the resolution on the European Revolution and the Tasks of the Revolutionary Party adopted by the Socialist Workers party convention in November 1944.

This document was translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. The remaining sections will appear in subsequent issues of Fourth International.

1. The Transformation of the Imperialist War into a Civil War

1) Like the war of 1914-1918,the second imperialist war is above all the brutal manifestation of the revolt of the productive forces against the form of private property and the narrowness of the National State which destroys the organic unity of the world market – and against the anarchic functioning of the capitalist economy.

The immediate origin of the Second World War had its roots in the change in the correlation of imperialist forces which no longer correspond to the division instituted by the Versailles Treaty.

In a much greater stage of decomposition of the capitalist regime, the second world war broke out at the moment in which, on the one hand, the whole capitalist world was threatened with a new economic collapse, and in which the growth of military preparations constituted the only artificial market capable of replacing the lack of a real market; and in which, on the other hand, the revolutionary threat, the principal obstacle to the outbreak of the war, had just been liquidated in France and Spain.

Pushed by the internal logic of their own development, the American, German and Japanese imperialisms entered the struggle to fight for the markets and wealth of the world; at the same time for capitalist penetration into the USSR for suitable profit.

The English and French imperialisms entered the battle to guard the fruits of their previous robberies. The other imperialisms, dominated by the force of these five great powers, have seen themselves relegated more and more to a secondary role.

Continuing its efforts for economic reconstruction, the USSR developed a defensive war against the pressure and attacks of the different imperialisms.

Only the renegades in the workers’ movement can preach the concept of a war for the liberation of the peoples and against Fascism, thus covering up this most brutal expression of the decay of capitalism, which is at the same time the expression of a future of decomposition awaiting humanity if the proletariat does not manage to destroy the system and vanquish its defenders.

2) As was summed up in the Theses of the European Conference of the Fourth International (February 1944) “with inexorable necessity, the imperialist war transforms itself into civil war.” In June 1944, the English and American imperialists discontinued their waiting attitude and hurled in force their armed masses upon the fields of Europe, in order to smash German imperialism and at the same time definitely repress the revolutionary movement; also to neutralize the influence of the USSR in hope of attacking her in due time; to consolidate their dominant positions in this manner. Anglo-American imperialism has come in order to substitute itself for Hitler in his role of gendarme of Europe.

The Counter-revolutionary character of their intervention has been evident in the different European countries, now shaken by the first struggles of the proletarian revolution (Italy, Belgium, Greece). No difference exists on this plan, not only between the Allies and Berlin, but also between England and North America, who have opposing material interests in the entire world, to the degree that the expansion of American imperialism will not be able to develop except to the great detriment of the British interests.

3) The counter-revolutionary policy of the Allied imperialists is aided to the extent that it can count on the aid of the socialist and Stalinist leadership. Both are rivals in hiding the true plans of the bourgeoisie from the masses, participating in the governments of Sacred Unity, betraying the first revolutionary eruptions of the masses and the colonial peoples. the bourgeoisie accepts the services of the reformists and the Stalinists while it prepares new totalitarian solutions.

4) The Kremlin bureaucracy has shown itself definitely no less hostile and opposed to any revolutionary development in the international situation. In the countries occupied by the Red Army, the capitalist regime is maintained; the national military apparatus continues to maintain its prerogative a and even the Fascist generals that took part in the war against the USSR, continue to participate in the different ministerial combinations, at the side of the Stalinist ministers.

Having elevated its privileged position in the USSR upon the basis of the isolation of the Russian revolution, of the degeneration and defeats of the international revolution, having physically liquidated the old revolutionary cadres, and having abandoned all Marxist politics in a development from the reactionary theory of “Socialism in one country” up to the dissolution of the Third International, the Soviet bureaucracy reaches today the apogee of its treachery, blocking the international proletariat from its class objectives and cancelling the efforts of the Red Army soldiers.

5) The experience of the liberated countries, demonstrates that the bourgeoisie in the present historical conjuncture, cannot give the masses any true concessions. The era of a relatively long, stable, “democratic” period up to the decisive triumph, either of the Socialist revolution or a new Fascism, is revealed as impossible. This impossibility does not exclude, nevertheless, “democratic” maneuvers, in operation alongside of the revolutionary offensive of the masses. These manoeuvers are destined to have an episodic and limited character within the framework not only of the continuation of the imperialist war but also of the liquidation and ending of military hostilities.

6) If the tactic of a revolutionary party must be based on the most exact appreciation of the conjunctural changes that occur in each situation in order to adapt to them the propaganda and action of the Party, the strategy must he firmly grounded, not in exceptional circumstances, that can permit certain countries to go through the experience of a “democratic” regime for a limited period, brought about by the pressure of the masses, but on the general line of the bourgeoisie toward dictatorship and in the instinctive orientation of the masses toward its class revolution.

We are at present at the opening of a vast Revolutionary period that will extend for months and perhaps for years through a series of struggles that will objectively pose the problem of the seizure of power by the proletariat, within the perspective of the international revolution. In spite of the weakness of the workers’ vanguard, the struggles and experiences of the masses will teach them to discard the traditional bureaucratic leaders, and will orientate them toward the proletarian insurrection and the taking of power, on condition, of course, that they secure in their experience and struggles the aid of a party and of an International that is truly Communist and internationalist.

If, during this period, the proletariat and its vanguard do not manage to find for society the road to workers’ power and the Socialist United States of Europe, and later of the world, it is undeniable that imperialism will again lead the peoples to new imperialist wars, will liquidate the nationalized and planned economy in the Soviet Union, causing it to retrogress to capitalism, and will sink humanity, Europe first of all, into the most frightening barbarism, destroying the very bases of industrial civilization.

It is from this general perspective that affects all peoples equally, whether or not they were dragged into this war, that we must approach the problems and tasks of the new revolutionary period in Spain.

* * * *

2. Characteristics of the Spanish Social Structure

7) The dominating characteristic of Spanish capitalism resides in the great quantity of feudal vestiges that persist in the midst of a full capitalist regime. The Spanish bourgeoisie, born historically very late and very weak, was not able to carry to the end, nor even to the degree attained in the great imperialisms, its own bourgeois democratic revolution. The backwardness stems from the peculiar development of the Spanish bourgeoisie. The great extension of the Empire overseas, offered to the monarchy by an historical accident, augmented the economic forces of the dominant feudalism. It offered a safety valve beyond the narrow limits of the national framework to the energies of the growing bourgeoisie that otherwise would have clashed more directly with the apparatus of absolutism.

This fact, added to certain natural characteristics of the Iberian Peninsula (lack of essential raw materials, geography, etc.) not conducive to a strong economic development, retarded the growth of a strong bourgeoisie in Spain, in the period when world capitalism was ascending. The natural riches of the colonies on the one hand and the loss of the merchant fleet on the other hindered industrial development of the metropolis from attaining the level of other countries.

8) But to deduce from this that the bourgeois democratic revolution has not yet been realized in Spain would be to demonstrate a total ignorance of the dialectical law of the transformation of quantity into quality. Although obviously the democratic revolution was not completed a sufficient number of its tasks have been accomplished so that these can be considered the determining factors: the regime in Spain is capitalist and not feudal.

The contrary theory that the Spanish regime is predominantly feudal has been contrived by the Stalinists and social Democrats in order to theoretically justify their treacherous and shameful collaboration with the bourgeoisie against the proletarian revolution.

Such a theory is not based in any way upon economic reality in Spain. Nor can one hold, for example, that agriculture is backward and “feudal” in regard to its methods of exploitation. The land has been bought, sold, mortgaged just like any other resource for two centuries. Therefore, the problem of the land in Spain is a problem of the capitalist type. The question of an exact definition of the Spanish regime is of first-rate importance, since from this definition will have to be deduced the general line of all revolutionary Spanish politics in the period which we are now facing. It is the touchstone; and to permit the slightest inexactness or error on this problem will again prove fatal for the revolution.

9) The regime of large estates, the economic influence and power of the Church, the preponderant role of the Army and the social roots of its commanding cadres are a number of the feudal vestiges which remain in the midst of the Spanish social structure. The permanence of these feudal vestiges during the epoch of the Republic is conclusive proof that the bourgeoisie, even though it solved those problems of the bourgeois democratic revolution of which it was capable in the period of capitalist decline, cannot advance further in the solution of the remaining ones. Only the proletariat is capable of solving the problems which are still contained in the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. That is to say: the proletarian revolution will have to carry them to their end at the same time that it undertakes the tasks of the socialist revolution.

10) The incapacity of the bourgeoisie to fully resolve the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution was clearly shown during the Republican epoch of 1931-1936.

The land question, that is to say, the liquidation of the great landholders’ property, lay from a formal point of view, within the framework of the Republican-Socialist bloc. This problem was absolutely shunted aside and canalized into the dead hands of the “Institute of Agrarian Reform,” with its bureaucratic expedients, its expropriations with indemnification, and – what is worse – with its policy towards the peasants, who were constantly under threat of being despoiled of their miserable piece of land if they did not appear at the time fixed for the payment of the debts contracted through the State. The so-called policy of intensified cultivation was negated by the lowering of agricultural prices, which aggravated even more the economic situation of the farmers, small proprietors and tenants. By not being resolved in a revolutionary manner, the land problem presented a series of questions (revision of rents, cancellations of contracts of tenancy, regulation of partnerships) which the Republic attempted to solve, now in an empirical manner, now by a generalized policy, all of which made more evident the injustice to the peasants.

Always shunting aside revolutionary solutions of the agrarian problem, the Republic found it necessary, under the pressure of the masses, to provide employment in public works to the immense population of agricultural workers without plan or method, or in agricultural work which was imposed principally upon the small proprietors and middle tenants with the sole aim of reabsorbing the unemployed. the loans in cash or in kind forced from the small urban petty bourgeoisie in order to relieve the crisis accelerated their economic ruin and caused the petty bourgeoisie to consider itself apart and in opposition to the interests of the working class.

11) The same impotence of the Republic as in the land problem was revealed in the question of the Church, in the timid measures with which it tried to solve it.

What gives the Church and the religious congregations all their power is their immense economic strength. All measures to counterbalance this power are sterile unless they include the expropriation of the ecclesiastical riches. The Republic of the Republican-Socialist coalition was more fruitful in anti-clerical demagogy than in practical and consistent accomplishments.

12) The impotence of the Republic of April 14 was further demonstrated in its handling of the problem of the Army. The weakness of the Spanish bourgeoisie shows itself most nakedly in the frequency with which it is obliged to have recourse to the power of the Army, which has its roots in the semi-feudal remains of the Spanish social structure. The Spanish Army has played the role of the executioner’s arm for the bourgeoisie, which for its part has employed all its zeal to defend it.

One of the first measures of the Republic should have been the dissolution of the military caste, which could not reconcile itself to any other regime than that which gave it its character of a predominant and parasitic caste. But such a measure was only conceivable within the framework of a policy of arming the masses, basing oneself on the people, on the revolutionary workers and peasants; a policy of organizing militias in the cities and towns, and of raising to the commanding posts new military cadres, taken from the ranks of the soldiers, the lower ranks of the officers, etc. The Republican-Socialist coalition attempted contrariwise to solve the problem by separating from the active Army all those generals and officials who so requested, while maintaining all their rights.

13) The centrifugal tendencies existing in Spanish society, and which have been concretized in the problems of the nationalities likewise reflect the decay and putrefaction of Spanish society.

The struggle of the industrial bourgeoisie against the centralization of power, a centralism which bore down on the nationalities, was abandoned by this sector of the bourgeoisie as soon as the popular masses made their own the slogan of the self-determination of peoples. The struggles of the masses, through its own internal logic, went beyond the confines of the democratic state for solution of the problem, thereupon causing the bourgeoisie to attach itself to centralized power.

14) The impotence and collapse of the Republic is also the expression of the incapacity of the petty bourgeoisie to play an independent revolutionary role.

The struggle of the intellectual liberals against the Church; that of the tenants against the landlords, and, in general, the struggle of the Spanish peasants for the land; the protest of the small artisans and shopkeepers against the domination of the great monopolies; all these saw their aspirations realized for the first time in the early period of the Civil War of 1936. That is to say, the period in which the proletariat – and not the radical petty bourgeoisie – was holding the power in fact.

But the workers’ movement did not stop there but simultaneously attacked its class enemy. The factories, the transportation system, the great city properties, the big gas, electricity, and navigation companies, the publishing houses, the broadcasting stations, passed into the hands of the Workers’ Committees and the Trade Unions. With that history affirmed the socialist character of the Spanish Revolution and the leading role of the proletariat.

* * * *

3. The Workers Organisations and the Spanish Revolution

15) The lack of a revolutionary proletarian leadership has made itself felt through the whole course of the Spanish Revolution, so that the working class missed the opportunities in which it was possible to take the destiny of society into its hands, to destroy the State apparatus and replace it with the power of the proletariat in arms.

From 1917 to 1923, from 1931 to 1939 power has been at times within the reach of the proletariat. The reformist and anarchist leadership, and later the Stalinist leadership, turned the working class aside from its historic objective.

Downfall of Anarchism Ideology

16) The test of the Spanish Revolution brought about the downfall of anarchist ideology and its offspring: anarcho-Syndicalism. Both represent the punishment that the proletariat pays for the faults of its reformist leaders. Anarcho-syndicalism developed as an instinctive revolutionary reaction of the working class against the reformist policy of the Spanish Socialist Party. But it was only a reaction “against,” that is to say: with no constructive, consistently revolutionary perspective. Through the whole process of the Spanish Revolution has been seen this lack of perspective, this absence of viable principles. The exaltation of violence for the sake of violence and the condemnation of all politics, reflects the myopia which characterizes anarchism and reveals its inconsistency.

17) Its ultra-leftism of the 1931-1933 period (the adventures of Figols, Andalucia, Rioja) made manifest the heroic capacity of the CNT (Federation of Anarchist-led trade unions) workers; but nothing more. Their fighting abilities were dispersed in gestures that did not go much beyond revolutionary infantilism. The radicalization that surged in Spain after 1933 exercised considerable influence in the CNT ranks. The Regional Section of Asturias Leon affiliated with the Alianza Obrera (Workers Alliance) while the rest of the Sections of Spain retained their traditional policy of indifference to political struggles. The electoral abstention in 1933 helped the reaction, just as the abstention in 1934 from the political struggle against the bourgeois reaction, caused the CNT to play the game of the counter-revolution in deeds, by ordering the calling off of a strike in Barcelona “that they had not ordered,” while the Asturian miners – and among them members of the CNT – continued the struggle against the Army and set up workers’ power in the mine pits.

18) The consequences of the proletarian insurrection of 1934 left their mark on the CNT. The incorporation of the Regional CNT into the Asturian Alianza Obrera revealed that in decisive moments the non-politicalism of the anarchists is an empty phrase. Sooner or later they are forced to adopt a positive policy: that of the working class in the case of Asturias, or that of the bourgeoisie, in the case of their participation in the government from 1936 to 1939.

In spite of their change of attitude in the elections of February 1936 made with the justification – as always for sentimental reasons, even if political – that is, because of the amnesty, the CNT held to a position, which, although not correct, at least did not mix them up with the counter-revolutionary amalgamation of the Peoples’ Front. The masses separated the CNT from the infamous Republican-Socialist alliance in the election voting.

The CNT appeared before the eyes of the workers at the time of the military-Falangist uprising as the only force not involved in the guilty complicity of the Peoples’ Front and its men with the reactionaries.

From that came its preponderance in the first months of the movement; the largest part of the proletariat came into its ranks, and its revolutionary influence stood out above all other parties.

19) Sentimental motivations, no matter how fine they may appear, are insufficient for conducting the proletariat to victory. The lack of a clear vision, of an understanding of the situation, and of political perspective carried the Anarchist movement from failure to failure – sometimes drifting, sometimes in the role of collaborator of the counter-revolution. Such is the role that the “non-political” CNT and Anarchist Ministers played in’ Largo Caballero’s government, in the first tasks of rebuilding the bourgeois state and in maintaining the Assault Guards, the Carabineros, the installation of Tribunals which displaced the class justice set up by the Committees of July 19. All this within the framework of the international policy of the League of Nations; in order later to play the game of the bourgeoisie more completely with the attitude adopted by the CNT leaders towards the proletarian insurrection in Barcelona of May 1937 and against the violent and desperate reaction of the worker of Madrid who fought the armistice with Franco in March 1939 (Junta Miaja-Casado).

Combining sectarianism and opportunism, the CNT leaders, pushed by their unprincipled and blind “anti-Stalinism,” stood at the side of the capitulators of the Miaja-Cassdo Junta, without the slightest understanding of the fundamental difference between the reaction of the rank and file fighters against the capitulators – facts to which every revolutionary organisation must adjust its conduct – and the political designs of the Stalinist leadership.

With such a position, the CNT leaders were incapable of giving any orientation in these last struggles of the proletariat, and lacking, as always, their own line, were unconsciously converted once more into an auxiliary agent of bourgeois politics.

20) The May Days in which a great number of militants of the CNT and Anarchist Youth rose up against the latest counter-revolutionary acts of the government put in sharp relief the gulf that existed between the most conscious part of the anarchist movement and the anarchist leaders who were participating in the (bourgeois) government. The great mass of anarchist workers contributed in these days their heroism. The non-politicalism of the anarchist-Syndicalism leaders consisted in serving the interests of the bourgeoisie, giving the order to cease fire, in a struggle described by them as “fraticidal.”

Despite the efforts of the young “Spanish Bolshevik-Leninist Group,” the absence of a revolutionary Party prevented the differentiation between the advanced elements of the CNT and its leaders being brought to a break, which would undoubtedly have altered the correlation of forces in the workers’ camp and thus opened up new revolutionary possibilities. The nucleus, which by the lesson of this experience, turned toward a policy that approximated the Bolshevik position, recognizing the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat (“Friends of Durruti Group”), only had a brief life. The ebb of the revolution and later, illegality and exile, are the reasons why these two minority groups were not able to crystallize, lacking the necessary self-criticism.

21) The contradiction of the “theoretical” disquisitions of anarcho-Syndicalism with the concrete reality of events have made evident the incapacity of the anarchist leadership to carry the working class to power.

The establishment of the Republic had previously provided the opportunity in Barcelona for the first idyll of the CNT leadership (Pestana-Peiro) with the Generalidad. Afterwards, the split of Pestana, the constitution of the “Treintista Group” and of the “Syndicalism Party,” collaboration with the government in 1936 and the present policy of the incorporation of the CNT into the council of Liberation in France, and to the “National Alliance of Democratic Forces” in Spain, are clear examples of the gap between the conceptions of Anarchist communism and reality.

Social-Democratic Reformism

22) The Spanish Socialist Party had a predominantly working class composition but it never had – and that has also characterized all the other sections of the Second International – the support of qualified Marxist theory.

The diverse currents (not factions, since they did not have that organizational form) were expressed not by principled differences but in badly drawn political positions, “provisional:’ which reflected the instinctive expression of the masses.

The Caballero current – as the left wing tendency was denominated – is the result of the radicalization of the Spanish Social Democracy after the collapse of the collaborationist experience of the two-year Azana government. This radicalization coincided with the same phenomenon in the European Social Democracy, after the collapse of “evolutionary” methods came to its climax in Germany in 1933. The Vienna insurrection, carried to a head by the Austrian Socialist Party in 1934, revealed the existence of a centrist current in the midst of Social Democracy through which the rank and file cadres were instinctively orienting themselves toward Bolshevik positions.

23) In Spain the radicalization of the Social Democracy was shown in the insurrection of October, 1934, challenging the advances of the counter-revolution under a defensive slogan wherein the masses revealed their combative capacity and their instinctive impulse toward revolutionary positions.

It can be said that the Spanish Social Democracy saw itself obliged by the pressure of events and the masses, to participate in this revolutionary struggle, but without possessing a clear perspective of the organic development of the insurrection and of its dynamic drive toward the taking of power.

Incidental positions that do not rest upon a solid principled position but have been determined by the pressure of a situation disappear at the moment that this pressure leaves off. But not without leaving traces. This trace was manifest in the suspicions attitude displayed by the socialist masses toward their leaders, who persisted in renewing the alliance with the republicans through the formula of the Popular Front. All the bureaucratic and coercive power of the socialist leaders was necessary, as also the campaign for the amnesty of the 30,000 prisoners, in order to stem the non-collaborationist attitude of the great mass of the Spanish Socialist Party and of the UGT (Socialist-led trade unions), in the absence, we repeat, of revolutionary leadership.

The Policies of Stalinism

24) The period opened up by the proclamation of the Republic in 1931 should have provided great perspectives of growth to the Spanish Communist Party. On condition, naturally, that it defend a policy inspired by the lessons of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution and that it base itself on the objective conditions in the situation.

But in 1931 the Communist International was nothing but a monstrous bureaucratic deformation of Bolshevism. In 1931 the Spanish political situation was characterized by the necessity of resolving the demands of a democratic character: the land, the nationalities, the Church and the Army. Confronted with these problems, a true communist policy would involve presenting oneself as the most firm and consistent defender of such demands; and thus to aid the masses through experience to realize as rapidly as possible the impotence and treachery of its traditional leaders and make the proletariat understand that only its armed power would be capable of realising and assuring such demands. Only through such an experience could the masses be won to the conceptions of Bolshevism and the proletarian dictatorship. That was the position maintained by the “Left Communist Opposition,” which upheld the necessity of combining the democratic demands with those of a transitional character, a policy which was determined by the nature of the complex and varied problems bequeathed by the past.

25) Instead, throughout this period, the Communist Party oriented its policy by the slogans: “Down With the Republic,” “All Power to the Soviets,” “Social-Fascism,” “Anarcho-Fascism,” and “the United Front Only From Below.” The Stalinists opposed the Workers Alliance of 1934, calling it “the Holy Alliance of the counter-revolution and Fascism,” only to end by adhering to it much later under the pressure of the masses.

The about-face from the ultra-leftist policy to the political opportunism of the Peoples Front, at a time when the masses were beginning to assimilate the experiences of 1931 to 1935 and were instinctively orientating themselves toward class struggle solutions – this completed the counter-revolutionary policy of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The policy of the “Peoples’ Front,” of subjecting the proletariat to the leadership of the Republican petty-bourgeoisie took on a more cynically reactionary character in Spain because of the fact that it followed the experience of independent action and unity in struggle of the Alianza Obrera.

26) During the period opened up by the military-Falangist uprising, the Spanish Communist Party was in the front rank of the opposition to the revolutionary conquests of the proletariat, thus serving not only the interests of the Moscow bureaucracy – opposed to all proletarian revolution – but, definitely, the interests of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie did not hesitate later in directing its fire against the very same Communist Party, once it had saved them from the revolution.

27) The counter-revolutionary policy of the Communist Party naturally strengthened world imperialism which was heading toward a conflagration. One should not deduce from this that there do not exist fundamental divergences between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy, derived from two distinct and opposed systems, whatever may be the deformation suffered by the October Revolution. The contradictions between imperialism and Stalinist policy are overcome by the reciprocal coincidence of opposition to the proletarian revolution. These contradictions come to the surface when the revolutionary threat disappears. This was made manifest at the end of the Spanish Civil War when the frictions between the Moscow bureaucracy and British imperialism showed themselves openly. While the Stalinists strove for a foreign policy of the Republican government favorable to Stalinist policies, English imperialism, having drawn all possible profit from the counter-revolutionary services of Stalinism, developed its own policies, which were translated into the attempt to form a Besteiro government without Communist participation, and later in the Miaja-Casado Junta, a clear example of “democratic” intervention to definitely liquidate the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939.

(to be continued)

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