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Socialist Alternative, November 1936, Volume 2 No. 10, Pages 11-13
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.



IT IS impossible now to go directly by train from Barcelona to Madrid. One has to go south along the eastern coast to Valencia and then west to Madrid.

The train that goes to Madrid via Valencia used to belong to the Madrid-Saragossa-Alicante Company. Now the large red characters CNT. UGT proclaim proudly that it has been collectivized by the two leading trade unions in Spain, the anarchist-led National Confederation of Labor and the socialist-controlled General Union of Workers. Riding on a collectivized train is adequate preparation for anything that one may see in Valencia, a city of some 400,000 inhabitants.

The civil war has not disturbed to any extent the flow of life, of people filling the streets, or sitting outside of the cafes. But the collectivization has advanced at least as far as in Catalonia. Transport, public services, and many industries have been taken over by the workers’ organizations. The militiamen are housed in confiscated hotels and a general supervision has been established. The workers have gotten better conditions, the 40-hour week, a 15 percent increase in wages and a 50 percent decrease in their rents. It was thought in Barcelona that they had even established a complete workers’ government but this turned out to be incorrect.

What has been established is an autonomous government. Valencia used to be under the jurisdiction of the Madrid government. Its autonomy is due to the simultaneous character of the Fascist rebellion. The workers’ organizations had to take things into their own hands. An army of thousands of militiamen was raised and sent to the front. It was necessary to cope with all the economic problems raised by the civil war. It was necessary to create order out of chaos. In such a situation it was too much to expect any direction from the Azana government in Madrid. The latter could not solve its own situation without the workers’ organizations taking a decisive hand in the conduct of things. In the national chaos, Valencia was left to its fate and as a separate sector it sought to solve the manifold problems, military, economic and political, that confronted it.

Popular Front in Valencia

Reflecting, though inadequately, the part played by the workers in their struggle against Fascism and their intervention in the state of affairs, is the composition of this autonomous government of the province of Valencia whose capital is the city of Valencia. It is called the Popular Executive Committee and has twelve members, eight of whom are from the workers’ parties and four from different shades of the parties of the liberal bourgeoisie. There are from the workers’ parties and trade unions the following: one from the Socialist party, one from the Communist party, one from the POUM, one from the Syndicalist party, two from the UGT, and two from the CNT.

What is this then but another edition of the Popular Front? But the amazing thing about this Popular Front is the inclusion within it of the anarchists and the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, or the POUM as it is more popularly known. All the other workers’ parties, socialist and communist, were known supporters of the Popular Front and hence their participation was not surprising; indeed it was expected. In the case of the anarchists their participation is at once a step forward and perhaps a greater step backward. A step forward because their participation deals a severe blow to their negative attitude towards the state. A great burden will be lifted when by participation in a workers’ government the anarchists will cease to give aid to any other kind of government. But if the anarchists in practise give up the idea of being against all government, they should not go to the other extreme and participate in a coalition government with the bourgeoisie. Fortunately the anarchists are not consistent even in this, as will be shown later on.

For the POUM’s participation, however, there is no justification. The fact that the bourgeoisie is in the minority is no valid reason. The Popular Executive Committee, in spite of the collectivization and other measures taken to the detriment of the bourgeoisie, measures resulting largely out of the chaos of the civil war and the need to prosecute it, is nevertheless a government within the confines of the bourgeois system, a government of bourgeois democracy. The coalition with the bourgeoisie has meant the subordination essentially to the politics of the liberal bourgeoisie, that is, to the politics of bourgeois democracy.

Bourgeoisie Permitted to Regain Power

The workers’ parties must retain their complete independence without for a minute giving up their struggle for proletarian power and socialism, the more so as the bourgeoisie represents no substantial force and plays no real role in the actual struggle against Fascism. On the contrary, it looks in every direction for a compromise and its generals have already been accused of slowing down the campaign against the Fascists.

Furthermore, little by little, the government takes back for itself more and more of the authority formerly exercised by the workers’ organizations. In Catalonia, the Generalidad, some weeks ago virtually without any power. now emphasizes that the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, in which the workers’ organizations have a majority, and the Council of Economy composed in the same manner, are subordinate to it. All acts and decrees are issued in its name. The Civil Guard, always unreliable and discredited before the masses, has merely changed its name to the National Guard and its forces are greatly augmented. This has happened throughout Republican Spain.

The National Guard is the instrument of the bourgeois democratic government and is kept in the capitals fully armed in order to defend this bourgeois democracy. Potentially it is the enemy of the workers if they should attempt to go beyond the confines of this “democracy” but so far have the Socialist and Communist officials degenerated that they have hailed its formation. Another evidence of the attempt of the bourgeoisie to reestablish its power is the recent subjection of all the Catalonian militias now being formed to the authority of the Generalidad. Thus yesterday, in a parade of thousands of militia-men in Barcelona, the usual red and black banners of the workers’ organizations were entirely absent and in their place floated hundreds of striped banners of yellow and red of the Catalan government.

Masses Ready for Proletarian Revolution

That the masses are for the proletarian revolution is beyond dispute. But in a large measure they still believe that the Socialist and Communist parties are leading them there. Many of them believe that the occupation of these parties with bourgeois democracy is just a tactic. They do not as yet realize that such capitulatory politics is helping the bourgeoisie to regain its strength every day. The lack of a party with a clear view and intransigeant revolutionary practise, keeps them confused.

An indication of what could be done by such a party is the meeting held by the POUM in Valencia last Sunday. The place of the meeting, one of the large cinemas, was packed with about three thousand persons. Gorkin and Nin delivered very effective speeches in which they attacked the parties that advocate bourgeois democracy. At every exposure of the vacillations and compromise of these parties the audience indicated its awareness by the nodding of heads. Unlike meetings of the other parties the audience here was made to think, and time and again they showed their approval by tremendous outbursts of applause.

All this indicates what could be done, but unfortunately the practice of the POUM itself invalidates some of its good revolutionary criticism. It is difficult to say how the POUM will develop under the pressure of events. It is possible that a Bolshevik force may yet emerge from it. But this much is clear – there is no party comparable to the Bolsheviks of 1917.

Madrid is above all a center of administration. It has a population of about 1,000,000. It does not have the importance economically of Barcelona nor is its proletariat as numerous and advanced. Politically, however, it is of great importance. The manner in which it develops politically is of decisive importance for all of Spain. It is here that the Socialist and Communist parties have their greatest strength. Anarchism has not taken the same hold as in Barcelona. As for the POUM, there are only a few hundred of its members here and some 500 more in the militia at the Madrid front. Thus the field is more or less clear for the Socialists and Communists.

The latter have grown considerably in the recent period and this is testimony to the ripeness of the revolutionary situation. The Communist party, however, does not deserve this confidence, for this so-called party of the social revolution has more actively than all the other parties become the champion of bourgeois democracy. What used to be the Right wing of Prieto in the Socialist party is hardly to be distinguished from the bourgeoisie itself and it is a certainty that it will find itself arrayed against the proletarian revolution.

Caballero Joins Bourgeois Government

But what is one to say of Largo Caballero, this so-called “Lenin of Spain,” whose politics is now indistinguishable from that of Prieto’s, that is to say, that of the bourgeoisie? Gone are the differences on the nature of the proletarian revolution – and this in a revolutionary situation? It is not at all an accident that side by side in the new government, fatally chained together are the bourgeoisie, Prieto. Caballero and the Communist party. True, this government is more representative of the real relation of forces but like the government that preceded it, its politics is the politics of the bourgeoisie. It is hoped that this government will appease the discontent of the masses particularly as regards the prosecution of the war. What is more shameful is that all the revolutionary initiative of the masses, so admirably demonstrated, is being studiously canalized by it into the channels of bourgeois democracy.

A few days ago there was held in Madrid a parade of about 30.000 workers, militiamen, and the newly formed National Guard. Incredible as it may seem, there was not a single banner with any kind of proletarian slogan in the entire parade. The Socialist and Communist leaders successfully made inarticulate all the strivings and aspirations of the masses, all that they have fought for with so much loss of their blood. On the red banners were only the slogans of “Viva La Democracia.” “Viva La Libertad,” and “Abajo El Fascismo” (Down with Fascism).

All this was reviewed by a bourgeois general who made a speech to the National Guard as they approached the balcony where he stood. Then the band played the Spanish National Anthem until, yielding to the demands of the crowd who cried for the “International.” they played that too. Considerably augmented and fully armed, the National Guard showed its strength. It seemed as though Communist and Socialist leaders were doing their best to reestablish the toppling bourgeoisie and presenting them gratis with the forces that would turn against the working class at a later stage. The POUM with its few hundred supporters would not participate in this sickening show of “democracy and liberty.” They held their own parade and in all Madrid only their banners called for workers’ power, for proletarians of all countries to unite, for the struggle to the end and for the world revolution. The crowd greeted these slogans with enthusiasm and joined in the cry of “Viva Lenin y Trotsky.”

The attitude of the anarchists to the new government in Madrid is, to say the least, extraordinary. They have recognized that it represents a better picture of the relation of forces in the country and they hope that it will use all its means to pursue better the military struggle. But they insist that the need of the hour is a Junta or council (they hate to use the word “government”) of workers, peasants and militiamen. Contrary to anarchist doctrine, in some places they have actually done this. This comes very close to what the POUM advocates, but like the latter the anarchists cannot lay claim to any clear and consistent policy. They participated, together with the bourgeoisie in the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias and the Council of Economy, both of which, in Catalonia, are under the bourgeois Generalidad and they participate in the Popular Front government of Valencia.

Workers’ and Peasants’ Councils Necessary

Furthermore, it is not sufficient to have such a council from the top. This council must be the result of free elections from councils or Soviets previously formed throughout the land. And this must be done immediately, this is really the need of the hour. These Soviets and a central power are the only guarantee that the attainments thus far will be kept. They are the only guarantee that the military struggle against Fascism will be firmly and efficiently carried to the end. They are the only guarantee that capitalism, the breeder of Fascism, will be done away with once and for all.

The military struggle against Fascism does not go too well. The “neutrality” farce results only in the continual arming of the Fascists with the latest and best equipment by Italian and German Fascism. The lack of a class policy inside and outside of Spain by the Communists and Socialists has only resulted in little aid from the world proletariat. Only the latter can really help the Spanish workers but they are hamstrung by their People’s Front and a degenerated Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia that pursues more relentlessly the persecution of the October revolutionists than it does its aid to the Spanish working class. So glaring is this degeneration that even members of the Communist party in Spain do not hide their disgust.

One hopes that the proletariat will break through the mass of calumny and deceit in order to judge the present accusers and go forward unhampered in the struggle, against world capitalism and Fascism. The cries of “Airplanes for Spain” must become louder and louder until they burst through the bureaucratic shell; the strikes in the French factories in support of the Spanish proletariat must take on the character of a gigantic, wave that will sweep everything before it. The huge bombing planes supplied and flown by Italian and German Fascists must be countered by more and better airplanes supplied by the world working class. All this is possible, the Russian working class can help supply it. What the Fascists have dared, the working class must match with even greater audacity. Whoever stands in the way of this, no matter what he calls himself, is a traitor to the Spanish revolution and to the cause of the world working class.

Madrid, Sept. 7, 1936.