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The New International, May 1944

Miriam Gould

Spain, 1936 – A Study in Soviets – II

The Dual Power in the Civil War


From The New International, Vol. X No. 5, May 1944, pp. 149–154.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The other point I would like to consider in terms of the Spanish Revolution is the vitality of the workers’ dual power organs, which ultimately, of course, is synonymous with the vitality of the oppressed classes that create them.

In Russia, from May 1917 to October, the attacks against the incipient workers’ power from the open and concealed counter-revolutionists met clear and forceful opposition from the Bolsheviks. This party called everything by its name, and used its entire apparatus to keep the workers informed as to who was for and who against them. By his skillful and truthful agitation, Lenin won to his party the support of a majority of the delegates to the principal Soviets. His main tactic was to urge the Soviets to the offensive against the counter-revolution being prepared in the government offices and foreign embassies. He succeeded, and thus the inherent vitality and recuperativeness of these basic democratic institutions were fused with a conscious leadership guiding them according to the workers’ historic interests. Spain presents an enlightening case of mass democratic bodies, the committees, acting politically in a revolutionary situation, without any conscious Marxian leadership, and even without official recognition from any labor group on the scene. Counter-revolutionary attacks, such as the Russian Soviets were able to weaken, abort or beat off, gathered their full force against the unauthorized Spanish committees, and beset them from every side.

Even so, the committees held out for months and were only subdued then by armed violence. More than that, as the betrayal of the reformist socialist, Stalinist and anarchist groups became clear, many of the committees, led by rank and file revolutionists, began to give battle to the official parties, and call belatedly for a return to the revolutionary road— with a sharpness that fully equalled that of Lenin. A brief survey of the development of the dual power in Spain will show how the proletariat intervened again and again through its new political bodies to impose its revolutionary will and defend the workers’ power it had established.

Developments of the Dual Power

The anti-fascist committees in the villages proceeded, as I have said, to organize the “new revolutionary order” in both the economic and political spheres and to put into the field an army that could defeat Franco. It was natural that these provincial initiatives should begin earlier and emerge more completely than the revolutions in the big centers. This has been true of other major social revolutions, such as the Russian and the French. [1]

But Barcelona is the Petrograd of Spain, and there the dual power was not declared and “legalized” by the armed proletarians as it was in the provinces. True, the Central Anti-Fascist Militia Committee was formed there on July 21; but under circumstances entirely different from those surrounding the constitution of the revolutionary municipal committees. First, the Central Militia Committee (CMC) was formed only after the anarchist proletariat had subdued the fascists by three days of hard fighting, not before, to organize that fight, as was the case elsewhere. Then, it was formed by the reformist leadership, not the revolutionary workers. And lastly, its announced purpose was not to make the social revolution, but merely to continue military operations against the fascists.

Once the masses had shown their profound anti-fascist feeling by coming out into the streets in thousands, the CNT-FAI leaders stopped their futile wait for the Generality to take the initiative, and gave what leadership it could. Durruti led the mass attack on the Telefónica, Ascaso was killed in storming the Ataranzas Barracks. On Monday, when the entire city was in the hands of the men of the FAI, in a scene strikingly similar to the formation of the Central Executive of the Russian Soviets, the anarchist and bourgeois-democratic leaders set up the Central Anti-Fascist Militia Committee. Companys, the Catalan nationalist president of the Generality, told the CNT-FAI top men, “Catalonia is in your power. You can set up libertarian communism, or do whatever you want. What are you going to do?” The anarchists, like the Mensheviks, emphatically refused to accept state power, and told Companys and the Republicans to remain at the head of the state. At the President’s suggestion, the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias of Catalonia was set up to compensate for Catalonia’s lack of an army. Presumably, had the central republican government allowed Catalonia a standing army, the CNT, like the UGT, would have attempted to enlist the revolutionary proletariat into that army.

No sooner was this Central Committee set up (the CNT allowed other anti-fascist parties what it considered a proportionate representation), than all the isolated committees from villages, factories, city districts, small and large industries, began to pour their problems into its lap. The Central Committee soon became the real executive organ of the workers’ dual economic and political power at the insistence of the bottom committees. Despite the full intention of its anarchist founders not to undermine the state, the CC of the Militias was the sole power in Catalonia within two weeks after the revolution, and remained such until the anarchists dissolved it at the end of September.

Role of the Anarchists

The leadership the CNT-FAI gave to the committees consisted mainly in coordination and centralization of a technical, administrative and bureaucratic nature. They had no solutions for the basic economic and political problems of the committee-led revolution that they tolerated for almost three months. On the points that Lenin emphasized again and again as fundamental, they did nothing. They did not tackle the problem of the banks, the key to the economic situation. They did not smash the old state, which hung on tenaciously for its life in Madrid. They did not formulate a program for the revolutionary conduct of the war, using the great levers for arousing the Spanish and Moroccan peoples that the social revolution offered them (i.e., propaganda for the agrarian revolution and for colonial independence).

The bankruptcy of the anarchist theoreticians in face of the serious and pressing problems of the civil war soon led to a degeneration of the military and economic situation that was marked by the slowing-up of production, and by the victories of the well organized fascist offensive. Terrified by these reverses, the CNT-FAI in September deserted the committee structure for a return to the well worn paths of class collaboration within the state. Ten weeks after its inception, the workers’ dual power structure found itself disowned and leaderless.

But even the short-lived existence of the CMC had convinced the Catalan workers of its superiority over the old order, and sowed ideas in the minds of all the Spaniards that remain ineradicable to this day. The activities of the CMC were prodigious. It helped carry out many varied mass initiatives of military, economic and political character. Militias were organized and sent to the front. Conversion to war production got under way. Revolutionary order in the rear was perfected and maintained. Equal division of food supplies, housing facilities, etc., was arranged. Aid was sent to the revolutionary militias in all parts of Spain.

Naturally the great strides made in Catalonia toward social equality and a democratic mass administration of the economy put fear into the hearts of the bourgeois democrats everywhere, and especially those of the government bureaucracy in Madrid. That city became the center of the opposition to the dual power in the North. The remains of the “Spanish Republic of All Classes” were the bitterest enemy of the anti-fascist committees. And at that, Madrid itself was sharply divided by a regime of two powers, although the proletarian power never reached the strength it did elsewhere. The political situation in Madrid was extremely complex. The proletariat, UGT and CNT alike, had instituted workers’ control of all industry and proclaimed the revolution. Armed socialist and anarchist militia controlled the streets while their brothers were off to fight the fascists at Toledo and in the mountains west and north of the city. In this situation, every bullet or truck from worker-controlled Catalonia was potent propaganda for the dual power there, as the government well knew.

Left-wing UGT Leader Caballero half-way supported the revolutionary masses in order to establish himself as the only one able to control them, and thus force his entry into the government of the republic as premier. After six weeks of maneuvering, the republican circles shoved his rival, Prieto, into second place. Caballero formed his own ministry and the Socialist Party assumed leadership of the bourgeois state. The new premier tried immediately to incorporate the socialist armed bodies into the old state apparatus. The militias resisted and, not trusting them to carry out the open war against the committees that he knew was inevitable, Caballero began reinforcing and augmenting the regular police bodies.

The Madrid government from the first refused to cooperate in any way with the Catalan Central Committee in the military prosecution of the war against Franco, or in the organization of a worker-controlled war economy. Caballero continued this policy. This is not the place to go into the disastrous military results of this treacherous brand of “anti-fascism” which prevented the rapid and successful culmination of the bloody civil war. To make a long story short, the “official” representatives of the workers’ power in Catalonia, the CMC, lacking a revolutionary perspective, capitulated completely to Madrid’s blackmailing refusal to give them gold for their war industry or arms for their troops. The anarchist chiefs dissolved the central dual power body and decided to restore all authority to the Generality, which they thought they could control, in hopes of getting aid from the “anti-fascist” cabinet in Madrid.

The Dual Power versus the Central Government

Dissolution of the new workers’ power bodies was easier to talk about than to accomplish. The FAI chiefs were confronted with the refusal of the uninvited base committees to dissolve. Instead, these groups continued their struggle for power against the republican state and added the Generality to their list of enemies. In this the ranks showed a political insight and wisdom far superior to that of their cowardly leaders. The common people knew from their own experience that the spineless bourgeois democrats were incapable of fighting fascism. And they knew that there was only one social force with sufficient vitality to do the job—the revolutionary committees. They knew, from the events of the last months, that the democrats would compromise the war rather than tolerate the power of the committees over the war industry or the militias. Later events proved these calculations correct.

Since the workers, especially in Catalonia, firmly resisted the demands of their leaders to surrender power back to the state, the top anarchist committees could only surrender to Madrid those organizations that they had set up as the culmination of the basic committee structure. The CMC was dissolved the last of September. The anarchists could not dissolve the thousands of local committees because they belonged to the people. So the dual power was only ended on paper: in reality the revolutionary masses held the upper hand until May 1937 because they still had hegemony of armed power and of the economy.

The CNT-FAI gave up to the state the CMC and the control over Catalonia’s army. Until the end of the war it never got the promised arms or economic support. Catalonia’s production fell steadily until the end of the war. When the anti-fascist army did attack briefly in Aragon in the summer of 1937, it was the Stalinist troops who got the glory. All that the never-ending concessions of the CNT-FAI leadership accomplished was the strengthening of the Stalinist-Prieto reaction which was only waiting Britain’s choice of the proper moment for a compromise with Franco. The state sabotage of Catalan industry became ever more effective in proportion to the amount of power the anarchist chieftains restored to its feeble body. The dismal fruits of anarchist collaboration with the state demonstrated once again the irrefutable logic of the rank and file: If they aren’t with us, they’re against us. The very essence of a dual power situation is its transitory and unstable character. Regulation of the numerous concrete economic and political activities of a class-divided nation cannot remain bi-partisan, dual or neutral: control must be exercised in the interest of one class or another. Hence both classes strive to end rapidly the intolerable division of power. The situation cannot stand still. It either moves forward to complete workers’ power, or backward to capitalist power exercised by the bourgeois state. Until the dissolution of the central dual power organ by the CNT-FAI, the power in Spain was increasingly exercised by the revolutionists. That act reversed the trend. From October on, the counter-revolution advanced step by step and the workers lost ground. Their defeats were not decisive, because they were still armed, but the tide of the battle went against them. The very re-constitution of anti-revolutionary groups (the old police corps, the non-revolutionary Popular Army), which was impossible at first, indicated which way the power was flowing.

Disarming the People

The first victories of the counter-revolution were minor because the proletariat retained hegemony over the decisive element of state power, armed force. Before it could consider itself sovereign in anti-fascist Spain, the reformist-led state had to disarm the people. And it set this as its main task, hiding its true purpose under such phrases as “the need for restoring public order” and “eliminating the fifth columnists in the rear guard.”

From September on, the committees and the state were locked in struggle. The consequent disorganization resulted in an uninterrupted fascist advance on Madrid, after the early period of proletarian victories. The “Loyalist Government” refused absolutely to improvize militarily or economically on the basis of the social revolution already effected, and it accomplished nothing. The proletarian militias ran out of arms; the worker-controlled economy needed credits, machinery and raw materials before it could supply the militias. The state controlled the Bank of Spain and the gold reserves, and refused the revolutionists everything. Result: the fascists advanced. Caballero tried to recruit the workers’ militia into the regular army with no success: they had their own army and didn’t want another. He bought a few planes and arms from Russia. After two months of doing nothing in Madrid, the government deserted that capital for Valencia. In this sanctuary, removed from the pressing threat of the fascist advance, the state concentrated on rebuilding its bureaucracy, recruiting police and regaining enough strength to attack the committee structure. The state’s undivided attention to this matter was rewarded by a constant increase in its power to the detriment of the leaderless and disorganized committees, and by a steady series of military defeats for the anti-fascists at the hands of the rebels.

Madrid was saved by the revolutionary anti-fascists, not by the Popular Front government, which gave it up for lost on November 6. In the crucial months of November and December the anti-fascist committees bent every effort to support Madrid. Some 10,000 militias (excluding the 2,000 International Brigaders) were rushed to the city from Aragon, Catalonia, Levant and other provinces. Convoys of food and clothing were sent from the committees of many different regions. Some day the tremendous gestures of the village communes and factory committees to aid Madrid will be fittingly recorded.

Meanwhile, the control committees of the Catalan industries became more and more impatient with the Central government’s sabotage of production, and the counsels of tolerance for the counter-revolution that they heard from their union chiefs. In November, anti-Stalinist feeling ran high as the proletarian revolutionists realized the criminal role of these traitors to the socialist movement. Unrest within the CNT (into which were organized the decisive sections of the Spanish proletariat) mounted steadily. Many militants turned against the reformist leadership, but they were without a program of their own.

Assaults on Peasant Committees

The power of the “Loyalist Government” increased. In December it felt itself strong enough, thanks to the anarchist and socialist participation, to launch a series of armed assaults against the weakest of the peasant committees, those of Levant and Castille. Newly recruited police broke up the headquarters of the anarchist unions of poor peasants, killing or disarming and jailing the militants. The Communist Party was in the vanguard of this counter-revolutionary attack. The committees fought back, and in some places declared armed mobilizations against the police. This internal warfare lasted until March 1937 but always outside of Catalonia, where the workers’ power was still too strong and the state too weak for an open attack.

The CNT-FAI leaders completely disowned the committees, and joined the state in declaring the mobilizations illegal, undisciplined, and all the rest of it. The revolutionary peasants fought their battle against the police alone, with no help from the increasingly dissatisfied city workers. The leading CNT committees censored all news of the events from their press, while the socialists said the state was putting down “concealed fifth columnists’” The result was that the revolutionary vanguard of poor peasants was disarmed, jailed or murdered, and their claims to communal ownership of the land declared invalid. But collective exploitation of the land continued in anti-fascist Spain until the end of the war in 1937. It even survived the criminal burning and destruction of the collectives by the Stalinist Lister Brigade and the remains of the International Brigade in 1937. In actual fact, the agrarian revolution in Spain was accomplished, and no disarming or killing of a few peasant leaders could change that. But, the proletarian revolution was the only guarantee of the peasant revolution. When the city workers failed to organize a workers’ state to consolidate their power, the peasant collectives were doomed.

As a direct result of the Loyalist Government’s prior concern with breaking workers’ power behind the lines, Malaga fell to the fascists on February 10. Behind this tragedy lay a sorry tale of government refusal to supply munitions to the revolutionary Andalusian militias, of treason by the Popular Army officials and Stalinist political commissars at Malaga. The workers were willing to fight to the end: the People’s Front government to which their leaders had entrusted the conduct of the war made this impossible.

The loss of Malaga confirmed the worst fears of the independent committees and aroused them to renewed action. Lacking a Bolshevik Party to show them the exact steps for ridding themselves of their misleaders, the committees raised all kinds of varied and impossible slogans against the government. Meanwhile, their official leaders continued to assume responsibility for its acts. The CNT ministers chose this juncture to enter into close and intimate collaboration with Caballero. Local groups everywhere, and especially in Catalonia, demanded a general mobilization o£ manpower and economic resources for an all-out offensive against the fascists. This was a fantastic request to address to the Caballero government, for above all things it feared a renewal of the mass action such a mobilization would inevitably entail. And that was just what the ranks wanted: a revival of the widespread and highly effective direct action of July. They understood that only by drawing on the still unexhausted reserves of popular heroism, sacrifice and courage would fascism be stopped.

Caballero was sold completely on the idea of a non-revolutionary anti-fascist war; and he knew that he could never carry out this dream if he allowed the extremely revolutionary anti-fascist masses any direct participation. Hence the People’s Front state answered the rising tide of mass demands for action by asserting that it alone was capable of organizing the war, by calling for ALL power to the government and, more important still, All arms to the front. The democratic defenders of the capitalist regime knew well enough that the best defense is an offense, and renewed their slanderous attacks against the “uncontrollable” committees.

At this point, after five months of a losing war, there was an important change in the orientation of the revolutionary committees. They began to address themselves directly to the people instead of pleading further with their reformist anarchist leaders. The rank and file not only laid the firm foundations of a workers’ state, and forced the CMC to execute its will for a time, but it also proved able to recognize its reformist leaders as betrayers of the revolution, and turned against them.

The Dual Power Struggle in Catalonia

This realization of the role of their leaders, which was confirmed conclusively by the military defeats, had first risen because of internal Catalan developments. On October 11, after having dissolved the CMC, the Generality ordered the dissolution of “all the other organs born from the Revolution,” and their replacement by municipal coalition councils in its own image. This measure restored courage to bourgeois politicians and non-labor elements who tried to stage a comeback in mid-October. The revolutionary municipalities soon stopped that and set up city councils that they could control. This experience started the turn against the CNT’s policy of collaboration.

In Barcelona itself the main repository of workers’ power was not the city government, but the workers’ police. These “patrols of control,” as they were called, obeyed only the orders and slogans of the factory committees, the unions, food supply committees, etc. Even after the CNT entered the Generality government, the patrols would not follow its orders if they conflicted with those of the revolutionary organizations, as those coming from the Stalinist departments invariably did. For this reason the state concentrated its attack in the capital against the workers’ police. The Stalinists and Catalan nationalists inside the coalition cabinet began agitating for a “restoration of order” and a dissolution of the patrols in November. The CNT, backed by the POUM, resisted. In December the Stalinists forced the expulsion of the POUM from the government as the price of continued Russian aid; and in January the CNT-FAI capitulated to the reaction and agreed to reorganize public order. Still the government police did not dare show themselves on the streets.

The uninterrupted series of capitulations by the anarchist leaders, resulting in the surrender of many strategic positions of the dual power organs, did not prevent them from retaining control of these same committees up through February. The mere existence of Soviets was no guarantee of victory for the workers’ cause. Without democracy for the Soviets to exist, without democracy within them, and without a resolute Bolshevik Party bent on exercising this democracy, it was impossible for the workers to advance along the road to power. For seven months, until the proletarian ranks themselves became disillusioned with the anarchist slogans of defeat, the committees blindly followed the FAI. True there were other political groups within the committees, but their democratic rights were not secure (due to notorious CNT strong-arm methods) and they did not have the firm revolutionary line necessary to win the ranks away from the syndicalists. There were POUMists and UGTists (i.e., Stalinists) in most of the municipal committees, factory committees, and workers’ patrols of Catalonia, but the majority was usually anarchist. The Stalinists soon withdrew, leaving the POUM as the main opposition group. But the POUM would not oppose the CNT-FAI top committees publicly: if it could not convince them peaceably it gave up and went along with FAI policy of cooperation with the state.

Hence the committees were limited to a purely negative, defensive role in a situation that could only go forward, or back, and could in no case stand still. Since the committees did not act, the counter-revolution advanced, and when they finally reacted spontaneously, it was too late. After February, groups everywhere began to call the Loyalist government counter-revolutionary, but they had no positive program o£ workers’ power to oppose to it.

The Workers’ Patrols

In Barcelona events took a slightly different turn. Between January and May the top anarchist bureaucrats agreed half a dozen times to dissolve the workers’ patrols. Even Dionisio Eroles, the FAI militant, who had created them and called them “the best guarantee of the brutal defeat of the bourgeois dogs,” urged his men to surrender their guns to the old police. In the patrols was a strong group of POUMists who, after their party had been severely kicked around by the CNT and the Stalinists, finally came out with a strong and open position against the official anarchist line. They issued a manifesto in February urging the men of the FAI to refuse to disband it. The idea had an enthusiastic reception because it exactly expressed the sentiments of the anarchist patrol members. The patrols refused to dissolve, forced the Generality into a six-week crisis over “public order” and so brought the issue of armed superiority into the streets in the last weeks of April. Thus, the first approximation of the Bolshevik tactics of struggle within the workers’ organs to strengthen them, and dominate them, brought immediate success to the POUM and led to an intensification and deepening of the dual-power struggle in Catalonia. But the POUM did not know what to do with its success, since it was not oriented toward a proletarian seizure of power. When the issue came to a head in May, Nin & Co. urged the workers to stay home and not to try to seize and hold the power.

The case of the patrols was exceptional. Most of the anti-collaboration sentiment in the proletarian ranks developed independently of the POUM, which was not really against collaboration in the first place. The POUM remained isolated from this development for two reasons: (1) it avoided open mass agitation against the all-powerful CNT for fear of reprisals and (2) it had no clear program of workers’ power to oppose to the anarchist program of class collaboration. This failure of the one self-proclaimed Marxist party to supply the leaders of the dual power organs with a clear picture of the road to power led different groups and localities to adopt a number of half-way and transitional demands aimed at stopping the counter-revolution. In the course of their struggle to put over these demands, ever larger segments of the CNT lost confidence in the possibility of reforming their leaders. In March the situation had reached a point where only the organization of a workers’ state to crush the old state could stop the counter-revolution.

Despite their lack of understanding of the way to resolve the crucial problem of state power, there was one elementary measure that the Catalan proletariat could and did take. Through their municipal organs, and in Barcelona through a network of more highly specialized committees, they refused to surrender the basic sources of their power—their arms and their factories. In the northern part of Catalonia, the local committees even banded together for defensive action against the counter-revolutionary state. It had taken this state ten months to regain enough strength to test its power against that of the social revolution in Catalonia; the renewed aggressiveness of the revolutionists, and their open attacks on the “counter-revolution in high places” hastened the showdown.

Why Dual Power Lasted

There were several factors responsible for the fact that the dual power in Catalonia (and to a lesser extent in other parts of Spain) was able to last for ten long months without either side winning decisive control of the situation. One factor was the absolute bankruptcy of the labor leadership, which could not control its membership well enough to stop the revolution, and could only sabotage it by refusing to organize it nationally. Another was the clever role played by Great Britain, which had learned from two decades of indecisive class struggles the internal weakness of proletarian movements which lack a convinced Bolshevik leadership. The bourgeoisie forgets nothing: Britain held back from open intervention against the workers’ power for a policy of boring from within the reformist organizations, i.e., buying off the leadership. In the confusion of a two-power regime, given the absence of a determined Bolshevik Party, and given the tremendous power exercised over Spain’s internal economy by the policy of embargo and blockade, the Foreign Office counted on a gradual dissipation of workers’ power, and the concentration of all authority back in the hands of the old state. The presence of strong labor movements in Britain and France also helped to prevent direct military intervention against the workers’ power. A more determined proletarian revolution would have merited direct military intervention by the democracies, as was the case in Russia in 1917. Britain’s desperate pre-war maneuvering to keep the balance of power on the continent added to her desire to avoid open conflict with the Nazis and Italians over Spain.

Thus the workers’ power in Spain, although never crystallized into a workers’ state, was able to last ten months because of a unique international situation, its own organizational weakness at the top, and because the social revolution to which it gave expression was so profound and so inevitable under Spanish conditions that it took the internal counter-revolutionists that long to demoralize it, and organize enough non-labor elements for a frontal assault on it.

Without the Stalinists, it is doubtful if the counter-revolution would have been well enough organized to defeat even the uncentralized, isolated workers’ power organ, and it is quite possible that Prieto would eventually have called for open British military support against the anarchist proletariat. Unfortunately, the Stalinists were there, and directed the seizure of position after position from the leaderless revolutionary proletariat. Their first victories were only on paper. Then came the day when they were prepared to contest for armed superiority with the Catalan workers, which struggle determined the fate of the more primitive dual power organs in the rest of anti-fascist Spain.

It is significant that when this showdown finally came, in May 1937, the committee rose to meet the Stalinist provocation by asserting their complete mastery of Barcelona and most of Catalonia. The District Defense Committees of the FAI, the POUM locals, and armed unionists controlled Barcelona completely. The cannons of Montjuich fortress could have smashed to bits the main opposition focus, the Generality buildings, at a word from the CNT Regional Committee. But the armed superiority of the proletariat, and the final impressive demonstration of its power, availed absolutely nothing because they lacked a Bolshevik Party to apply this power at the crucial point, the conquest of state power.

The CNT-FAI leaders refused rank and file requests to organize a fight against the state to seize power. They insisted that the workers leave the streets and go home. For four long days the bottom committees of the CNT and FAI refused to obey their leaders and insisted on fulfilling their original program of disarming the police. Only the lack of a functioning organization to coordinate their activities prevented the district defense committees from assaulting the government buildings and seizing power. The organization could have been small, but with a correct understanding of the situation only an indispensable minimum of facilities (autos, printing press, paper, guns and agitators) would have been required to turn the May Day armed insurrection into a successful proletarian revolution. But that Organization was lacking, and the counter-revolution triumphed. And, as the Fourth International predicted, proved itself absolutely incapable of bringing the anti-fascist war to a victorious end. Negrin paved the way for Franco.

Role of the Fourth International

Why were the Trotskyists unable to create a functioning revolutionary party in Spain? As I have shown, endless opportunities were opened up to them by the objective situation, especially by the continued struggle of the committees to retain their power after all the official parties had disowned them, and by the realization of the vanguard “where the counter-revolution lay.” The answer to this question can be summed up: the Fourth Internationalists missed these opportunities because they were few, financially weak, foreigners, and at the front. Shortly before the May Days, and especially afterward, they began to grow in numbers. But it was too late for the success of the first Spanish revolution, because of the previous victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution, and the liquidation of the civil war shortly after in 1939. The growth of the Spanish Trotskyists in those last bitter days of illegal underground struggle is indicative of the future: only the Fourth Internationalists emerged from that tragic series of betrayals and defeats with an unsullied banner.

The main lessons of the Spanish Revolution that bear on the coming European struggles are:

  1. Once again it is demonstrated that the proletariat is capable of learning the general historic truths of its epoch, and of reacting to them by decisive political steps without the leadership of any Bolshevik vanguard party. The workers’ committees of Milan have demonstrated this anew.
  2. The increased socialization of the productive process in the last two decades, combined with greater access to means of transportation and communication, resulted in Spain in an immediate and complete confiscation of all social wealth by popular committees created for that purpose. In the industrial centers of Europe, the same reaction will occur, more extensive and rapid than in Russia in 1917, more like what happened in Spain. The terrific economic and political chaos that must precede and accompany Hitler’s collapse will give reality to the basic Marxist concepts in their most primitive and essential form. The economic groupings of the toilers will emerge more clearly than ever before as the only force capable of reviving society in the most immediate sense. Proletarian supply committees, workers’ police patrols and factory committees will appear everywhere to act for the toilers forced to defend their very lives against the most devastating calamity they have ever faced.
  3. We can expect the dual-power organs that come into existence at Hitler’s fall to cling tenaciously to their right to exist, and the struggle for full democratic rights for them is essential. This does not mean that the workers will draw what we consider the correct organizational or political conclusions from the dual power. On the contrary, we can expect to see the workers’ committees in many places (France, for one) welcoming the Allied armies and the AMG. Nor will they be able to distinguish immediately between all the proclaimers of The Revolution and The New Order who will sweep in on the coattails of the imperialist victors.
  4. However widespread and well developed the dual-power structure may be, there is only one kind of party capable of resolving the situation in a socialist direction and creating a workers’ state. That is a revolutionary Marxist party in the full tradition of Lenin and Trotsky, the party of the Fourth International. The experience of Spain, of the whole pre-war era, and of the war itself has shown that. The next task in Europe today is to see and seize every opportunity presented by the independent actions of the masses to forge the vanguard party that can carry out our program of socialist emancipation.


1. This happens because the toilers are a majority everywhere, while the ruling class centers its apparatus and activities in the commercial and industrial towns. So, once the people are aroused. they easily control the power in the rural areas. The same thing happens in many small towns in the United States, where organizing a union in the one big factory will result in labor control of the town government.

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