From Fourth International, January 1946, Vol.7 No.1, pp.28-30.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
We publish below the second section of the thesis approved by the Internationalist Communists, Spanish section of the Fourth International, at their conference in May 1945. The first section of the document was printed in the December issue of Fourth International. Translation by Chris Andrews.
The POUM, Centrist Party
28) The most genuine centrist Party in the workers’ movement, the POUM, undertook to demonstrate in Spain, where a policy leads which tries to merge revolutionary language with centrist formulas, intermediary between the revolution and reformism.
To continually invoke the revolution, and to turn one’s back on its needs when they arise, can only lead to alienating the confidence of the masses, to deprive them of leadership, and, what is worse: to deceive people into believing that such a leadership exists.
29) The POUM proclaimed from the mouth of its most typical and best known representative that the Spanish revolution presented the “particular case” of being able to achieve the proletarian dictatorship without the necessity of an insurrection, since the workers’ representatives were already in the government of the Generalidad. This position it maintained up until shortly before the May Days. The POUM trampled on the Marxism that it professed and disarmed itself and disarmed the working class in the face of the events which were threatening both the Revolution and its own head.
This characterization of the Spanish revolution, contradicted by the May Days when the masses instinctively sought power, demonstrates the congenital incapacity of centrism to comprehend the tasks and problems of the proletarian revolution.
30) The participation of the POUM in the Popular Front of February 1936 demonstrated that when, forced by the pressure and interests of the masses, it is necessary to pass from the terrain of revolutionary propaganda to actions, centrism shows all its weakness, and falls into the morass of reformism. Far from swimming against the stream, the POUM saw itself dragged into the infamous bloc of the Popular Front, not by the masses (who were in their turn being forced into this policy) but by the reformist and Stalinist leadership-subscribing to a program which gave substantial support to the maintainance of the capitalist regime.
It was sufficient to have one’s ear attuned to the masses in order to realize the revulsion which they felt toward collaboration with the bourgeois republicans, who had condemned the Asturian insurrection. A superficial analysis of the situation at that time would have sufficed to make clear that when the bourgeoisie rushed to substitute elections for repressive methods (Asturias) it was because of the aggravation of the crisis, and a resurgence of the revolutionary movement, which brought forth the Popular Front government as the first violent eruption of the class struggle.
31) Participation in this government was nothing more than the corollary to all its former policy, a policy which led the POUM to agree to the dissolution of the Central Committee of the Catalonia Militia, and to the reestablishment of the Catalonia Municipal Governments which displaced the local Revolutionary Committees in the Catalonia region.
The dissolution of the Committees was agreeable to the traditional leaders of the Spanish proletariat and their policy of maintaining the bourgeois Republic. This counter-revolutionary policy was aided by the POUM leadership by its endorsement of these first measures of the reestablishment of the state apparatus.
32) The policy of the POUM towards the CNT was no more brilliant and was impregnated with this spirit of accommodation, characteristic of centrism. Far from attempting to provoke a break between the masses and their leadership—whose separation was revealed in the May Days—the POUM leaders at all times trailed behind the “non-political” CNT government officials, in whom they sought a bulwark to protect themselves against the blows of Stalinist repression.
The counter-revolutionary offensive of Stalinism could not be stopped except by mobilizing the workers and peasants, including the “syndicalists,” with revolutionary slogans. The POUM preferred the policy of adjusting themselves to the anarcho-Syndicalism leadership.
33) The POUM policy in relation to the trade union problem was disclosed in its worthlessness before the Revolution of 1936 with the setting up of the FOUS. Instead of persevering in propaganda for trade union unity and for the reinclusion in the CNT of the excluded trade unions, the POUM further divided the trade union movement by the establishment of the FOUS – an organization which has disappeared without leaving behind it the slightest trace.
34) To sum up, the failure of the POUM as a party which aspired to be the Party of the Spanish Revolution is at the same time the failure of the false political orientation followed in its last period by the Left Communists (Spanish Section of the International Communist Opposition). From the majority policy of the old Workers and Peasants Bloc, in which confusion vied equally with opportunism, the Spanish revolution could draw no benefit. Only by defeating this policy under the blows of a Bolshevik-Leninist criticism was there hope to make of the POUM a point of departure for the building of the Revolutionary Party. In actuality, the Workers and Peasants Bloc by fusing with the Left Communists only took a small step towards shaking off some of its confusionism. The Left Communists for their part simply took two steps backwards with the fusion, but afterwards never advanced again at all.
35) The origin of this orientation of the old Left Communists has its roots in two historical factors which limited the Fourth International movement in all countries.
Despite its policy of adventurism and later, of class collaboration, the Spanish Communist Party gathered around itself the nucleus of industrial workers and youth who were moving toward Communism and who saw in it the Party of the USSR and of the October Revolution. Thus they prevented the formation of an authentic revolutionary party.
This reflected the retrogression and the defensive situation in which the revolution found itself in the entire world, causing the Left Communists to become a political nucleus, organized on the basis of some complex political principles. Its working class composition was small compared to the petty bourgeoisie, intellectuals and students, who unconsciously permitted their methods of life, of work and of thought, alien to Communism, to penetrate into the organization. The abandonment of intransigent struggle against the current, the lack of confidence in its own ideas, characteristics typically petty-hourgeois, all pushed the (Spanish) Left Opposition in spite of the advice and the warnings of the International Opposition, into opportunism with the setting up on an intermediary, centrist base of the POUM.
36) Although the POUM recognized the postulates of Trotskyism in words, thus reflecting the unconscious aspirations of the masses, in the arena of deeds the POUM leaders broke with these principles and adhered to organizations on the international field that represented an obstacle to the building of the World Party of the Revolution.
The London Bureau, heterogeneous merger of centrist groups, was where the POUM took refuge, fleeing from Trotskyism, that is to say, from a true internationalist program. On the other hand, their adherence to the other hybrid conglomeration, the “Workers International Front against Imperialist War,” constituted in 1939 and which proposed to struggle against the world conflagration, proved the incapacity of revolutionary centrism, which separated into two distinct parts the struggle against imperialist war and the struggle for the proletarian revolution.
The political impotence of the London Bureau as well as that of its creation is the destiny that is reserved for centrism when great events appear (imperialist war and the revolution crisis).
37) Naturally, the Franco regime has not been able to provide any stable solution for the chronic crisis of capitalism and of the Spanish bourgeoisie. All the counter-revolutionary forces (the bourgeoisie, army, church), which completely supported the military rebellion, were able to conquer the proletariat, paralyzed by its traditional bureaucratic leadership. In spite of the favorable economic conjuncture that the international situation and their neutrality made available to them, they could not succeed in placing Spanish economy upon a solid base.
This country “which was going to rebuild itself” has seen on the contrary an increase in forced unemployment, ridiculous salary levels, the ruin of complete layers of the petty-bourgeoisie and the disorientation and growing apathy of the bourgeoisie themselves.
38) Notwithstanding the revival of production, especially in the metallurgical and mining industries, brought about by the war demands of the belligerent countries, working class unemployment continues without being reabsorbed and the cost of living increases in greater proportion each day.
Franco’s neutrality and all his plans of economic autarchy have been transformed into greater dependency upon foreign capital, to which Franco must turn in an attempt to ease the crisis. Exports, however, have not come to represent an actual economic counterweight capable of permitting the real equalizing of the balance of trade.
39) The Franco regime, by smashing the workers’ movement, has thereby accomplished the tasks of a Fascist regime. All its present policies against the predominance of the Falange with the aim of subordinating and integrating it under the leadership of the military, as well as the projects for restoration of the monarchy and “democratization” of the dictatorship, reveal the bourgeoisie’s need to “find a way out” of the situation, characterized by the decomposition of the regime and the international rise of the revolution. It is unnecessary to say that the bourgeoisie, while wishing to discharge Franco, understands the necessity of clinging to the Army, the only guarantee against a thunderous overthrow of the State apparatus. The bourgeoisie seek a way of replacing Franco through the expedient of some other governmental combination essentially supported upon the Army. This bourgeois perspective fits into the general perspectives of Anglo-American imperialism.
40) What makes it necessary to replace the Franco regime is the fact that the present situation is not being resolved but that the materials for a new revolutionary explosion are accumulating and becoming aggravated, even though the replacing of Franco offers no guarantee—quite the contrary—against the revolutionary peril. the Spanish bourgeoisie again find themselves in the situation defined by Lenin: “the ruling classes cannot continue to go on living as they have up to now.”
Only under the pressure of the masses and in order to avoid greater evils will the bourgeoisie turn to the “democratic” solutions which its former servitors are offering. Whatever the official combinations may be, the fall of Franco will be determined by the acuteness of the decomposition of the regime, already begun, and by the entry on the scene of the masses, factors which closely condition each other.
41) The new revolutionary crisis toward which Spain is heading, in spite of any measures the bourgeoisie take or can take, will be marked by the three following characteristics:
42) Different facts indicate that the new revolutionary period which will open in Spain will not be a simple, schematic and automatic progression from the Franco dictatorship to the proletarian revolution. One can predict, on the contrary, a development and a succession of advances, retreats, partial actions, combined developments which will test the leadership capacity of the revolutionary party.
The party will have to adapt its tactics with great flexibility to these developments in the situation. It will need to know how to conduct an orderly retreat as well as an audacious attack. Without abandoning one iota of its revolutionary principles, the revolutionary leadership will have to avoid all simple repetition of the “sacred principles” all tendency to a sterile sectarianism which in such a period is the principal danger for a revolutionary party.
43) It is probable that the new revolutionary crisis will recapitulate very rapidly the rich experience of the past and that it will accelerate the rhythm of the revolutionary radicalization of vast layers of the workers and peasants. But this first wave is destined not to reach its goal, precisely because of the lack of a potent revolutionary party, firmly rooted in the masses. The strategy of the bourgeoisie is conditioned by its determination to prevent this revolutionary crystallization. Its policy is naturally based not on a return to 1936, but upon the establishment of a new military dictatorship which should cautiously open the door for “the reconciliation” of the Spanish people.
But the first revolutionary wave, even while not achieving its goal—the taking of power by the proletariat—will cut openly across the plans of the bourgeoisie. The events in the other European countries will intimately influence the rhythm of the Spanish revolutionary developments. The role played by Stalinism in Europe will also be evidenced in Spain where its policy of class collaboration can still refurbish the anarchist shield, which hides its reformist content behind “revolutionary” phrases.
44) In this complex development of the revolutionary crisis, wherein the bourgeoisie will try to maintain its domination by economic and political concessions, aided by the policy of the Stalinists, reformists, and anarchists, it is probable that situations will appear in which the democratic slogans and the transitional slogans (republic, constituent assembly, freedom of the press, speech and assembly, dissolution of the Army, etc.), skillfully combined with the slogans for the arming of the masses and with systematic propaganda for the whole program of expropriation of the bourgeoisie, will play an important part in the formation and expansion of the influence of the revolutionary party.
45) Similarly, situations will be produced in which it would be fatal for the revolutionary party to fossilize itself around such slogans when the situation demands a rapid and audacious transition of our policies, placing in first rank the struggle for the complete program of the proletarian revolution, the seizure of power by the working class.
46) The bureaucratic leadership of the traditional working class organizations mould their policies upon the plan of softening the shock of the fall of Franco, wishing to make history retreat to the date of the 14th of April. This policy of betrayal classes with the instinctive aspirations of the rank and file. Their discontent shows itself in a great confusion, which grows to the degree that the revolutionary party is not present. In the CNT, in the PSOE (Socialist Party), in the Communist Party, in the POUM, internal struggles, cleavages, and embryonic splits are on the order of the day.
47) While the reformist bureaucracy busily strives to return to their positions under the Republic, in the ranks of the Socialist Party voices are rising of elements that reject this policy as insufficient. However, they apparently identify themselves with the rest of the Party under the sign of opposition to the maneuvers and attempts at hegemony by the Stalinists, such as the Union National, whose existence definitely strengthens the reformists of the PSOE.
48) The fact that the Social Democratic leaders, who in the past led opposing tendencies, today find themselves united in the policy of collaboration, does not mean that the differences have been liquidated in the rank and file of the Party. The opposition to the Union National by the reformist bureaucracy is not so much determined by the contradictions on the national scale as by those which exist between Anglo-American imperialism and the USSR. The anti-Stalinism common to reformists of every kind is not based upon a revolutionary position. It is purely and simply anti-Communism and consequently the taking of a position with reference to the possible future imperialist aggression against the USSR.
49) The possibility of a come-back by Prieto in the ranks of the Socialist Party, as a conciliatory—and anti-proletarian—figure, can count on the full support of foreign capitalism and of a considerable part of the Spanish bourgeoisie. For them, the “Prieto solution” is a suitable solution in the events which will follow the fall of the Franquistas. The anti-Stalinism of Prieto can combine in itself the different currents of the Party-currents among the bureaucrats and could also obtain the support of the anarchist leaders and the POUM.
50) the policy of the Union National carried out by the Communist Party has placed it within the framework of the policy carried out by Moscow in the different European countries, and of which mention has already been made in the course of this thesis. Today, as well as yesterday, Stalinism seeks in Spain an ally for the USSR. Its policy of the Union National, opposed to that of the Junto of Liberation, has no other perspective than that. The pressure of London and Washington shows itself in Spain as well as in the other spheres of world politics. Consequently, one cannot exclude the hypothesis of new Stalinist turns, withdrawals, and adaptations of policy to the demands of the policies of the imperialist allies.
51) The influence of the Communist Party in Spain is less than in other countries, France, for example. Its market value as a brake upon the revolution has a limited importance. From this fact flow its desperate efforts to reach an agreement with the most reactionary layers that would permit it to raise itself into an instrument of counter-revolution, in exchange for a possible Spanish-Soviet Pact.
This action and orientation of Stalinism makes its most class-conscious militants feel more and more separated from the leadership. The prestige and influence of the USSR, the absolute lack of democracy in the country, and above all, the absence of a real revolutionary Party in the Spanish scene, causes the most advanced militants still to remain in the ranks of the Communist Party.
52) Jesus Hernandez’ break with the Communist Party assumes its real significance in the evolution of a part of the Stalinist bureaucracy which is starting to leave the tutelage of Moscow, not in order to join in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, but in order to place themselves directly at the service of a section of the Spanish bourgeoisie and of world imperialism. Nothing else could be expected from Jesus Hernandez who played a pre-eminent role in the counter-revolutionary politics of Stalinism before, during, and after the Civil War. In the struggles that may develop between the Stalinist leadership and Jesus Hernandez, it is not excluded that we shall see him described as a Trotskyist. Nobody will accept such a coarse slander. The principal preoccupation of Hernandez has been precisely to differentiate himself from Trotskyism. That is to say: from the interests of the proletarian revolution. This movement emerging from Stalinism will not even reach the level of a centrist party, despite its apparent evolution in that direction. It will regroup, in a transitory manner, so to speak, the proletarian part of the Communist Party. It does not hold any perspective of long life.
53) The strength of a revolutionary party lies, among other things, in its capacity to enrich itself with the lessons of its own wounds and errors. That is not the case with the POUM. The opportunist, Catalonia petty-bourgeois current, inherited from the loose group which called itself “Workers and Peasants Bloc,” has exposed itself completely in the present crisis of the POUM. The right wing faction seeks to abandon Marxism entirely, orienting itself toward the building of a Catalan reformist Party (Socialist Movement of Catalonia) and towards a full integration in bourgeois politics (adhesion to “Catalonian Solidarity”).
54) This orientation clashes violently with the sentiments of the worker militants that adhered to the POUM in the belief that party was a revolutionary Marxist formation. But this proletarian current was not able to find the necessary leadership in the actions and orientation of the POUM’S left-wing, which today centers all its activity in defending and rebuilding the traditional POUM. That is to say, the hybrid intermediary policies which from 1936 to 1939 showed not only their impotence, but also the injury these intermediary centrist formations can inflict in a revolution as an obstacle to the formation of a true revolutionary leadership. The POUM left wing has not been able to comprehend the fundamentally false character of all its previous policy, neither on the plane of Spanish politics nor on the plane of international working class politics. Consequently, it proposes to continue in the same way.
In the political documents of this left wing, the perspective outlined is that of the restoration of the Republic and the workers’ conquests. The Spanish Revolution, it is added, impelled by its three essential forces (the workers, the peasants, and the nationalities), will be a “democratic socialist” Revolution. It is then not a question of a revolution, proletarian in content, in its organic form, of the political hegemony of that class which is fundamentally revolutionary, that resolves the problems still pending from the democratic bourgeois revolution, but of a revolution impelled by its three essential forces, and unfolding itself within the framework of the republic.
(To be continued)
This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Last updated on 8.2.2009