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Socialist Appeal, February 1937, Volume 3 No. 2, Page 21-24
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Draft Resolution on the Spanish Situation

NOTE: The following resolution was approved by the City Executive Committee of the New York Y.P.S.L. for discussion prior to the Yipsel city convention. It is the best resolution thus far formulated and we print it for discussion and adoption by the membership of the Socialist party.

THE SPANISH workers are writing vivid new pages in the history of the international working class. The overthrow of Alfonso in 1931, the insurrection and the Asturias Commune of 1934, the great strikes and street demonstrations of February 1936, and now, the great struggle against the fascist uprising – all these world-shaking events demonstrate once again what deep resources of devotion, self-sacrifice, and heroism are stored in the reservoirs of the proletarian revolutionary movement.

Now our heroic Spanish comrades are engaged in the battle whose outcome will be a decisive factor in deciding the fate of .international socialism for years to come. A victory for the Spanish workers will give a tremendous impetus to the second great world revolutionary wave – an upsurge which can accomplish the overthrow of world capitalism. A defeat for the Spanish workers will help the onslaught of world reaction and will check accordingly the prospects of a Socialist France, England and America. Therefore, in our own interests we stand firmly in support of this struggle and will render it every service within our power.

From the very first moment of the fascist revolt in July, the militant workers of Spain moved rapidly along the path of revolutionary struggle. Without waiting for action by their “own” People’s Front government, they seized arms, set up their own committees which took over control of production and organized the anti-fascist struggle. The old bourgeois state machinery was revealed as impotent; the old police force, shattered. The dual power of workers’ committees, organized parallel to the existing “legal” state, was the de facto ruler of “Republican” Spain.

And yet, in spite of the enormous independent power of the workers, in spite of their ability and desire to fight against fascism for proletarian power, the fascists today control half of Spain. They pound at the walls of Madrid. They slaughter thousands upon thousands of courageous workers in a long and bitter civil war.

Why? It is the duty of Socialists everywhere to explain to the workers that the successes of the fascist uprising are the rotten fruits reaped by the policy of reformist and Stalinist compromise with the class enemies of the workers. Every heap of workers’ corpses testifies to the truth that the road of reformism is the road of death and defeat for the workers.


The policies of reformism outside of Spain have in effect meant the betrayal of the interests of the Spanish workers.

From the very first day of the fascist uprising, arms, munitions, technicians, every material aid – poured into reactionary-fascist bands from their brothers in Italy, Germany, and Portugal, the vassal of British imperialism.

At the same time, in the name of “neutrality,” parties which claim to represent the interests of the working class surrounded the Spanish proletariat with an iron blockade through which no matiarls of war could pass.

The Blum government which is chained to the bourgeoisie through the People’s Front, initiated the blockade. The C.P. of France raises the slogan of Arms to Spain but instead of using its mass influence to mobilize the workers in sending arms across the border in spite of government prohibition, merely assigns them the task of “mass pressuring” the government into lifting the arms embargo and materially aiding Spain, thus sowing the fatal illusion that bourgeois government may be depended upon to fight fascism. When the question of neutrality came up in the French Chamber of Deputies, the C.P. did not carry through its opposition but rather abstained on the vote; and even this abstention is negated by its continued support of the Blum government. It bears equal responsibility for the blockade.

After four months of strict adherence to the neutrality agreement, the belated response of the Soviet Union to the call of the Spanish workers for arms is another demonstration that the actions of the Soviet Union are motivated not by the needs of the international proletariat, but by the necessities of its national foreign policy.

The Labor and Socialist International and its major national sections remain hopelessly bound up with the governments of the democratic capitalist nations. The L.S.I, offers a pious criticism of the neutrality blockade. Instead of appealing for independent mass action by the workers to break the blockade and send arms to the Spanish proletariat, it confines itself to calling for pressure upon liberal bourgeois governments to lift the embargo.

With these parties, we take sharp issue. Rather we join in solidarity with the revolutionary socialists of all countries and especially of France, who, in spite of their governments, call for independent organization by workers’ groups for the sending of arms to their comrades in Spain.

From bourgeois governments we expect nothing in support of the Spanish workers. We demand only that they not prevent our own independent action. We appeal to the workers of the world. Break the neutrality blockade! Arms to the Spanish workers!


The policies of reformism inside of Spain have likewise had as their effect the betrayal of the interests of the Spanish workers. The workers’ parties inside of Spain, in the name of a fight for democracy against fascism, have led the workers into a People’s Front – an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie.

But the liberal bourgeoisie in Spain is not progressive, it is reactionary. It is incapable of even carrying through its own bourgeois democratic revolution. Confiscation of the landed estates, real destruction of the power of the Church, ousting of the reactionary officers’ corps, the development of Spanish industry – these, the traditional accomplishments of the bourgeois democratic revolution, mean at the present stage of development of capitalism, an attack on the very basis of bourgeois society. The bourgeoisie will and can do nothing to carry them out.

Against the background of the decline of world capitalism as a whole, there is no firm basis for bourgeois democracy in Spain today. The whole history of the six years of the Republic has been a story of bitter civil war, open and concealed, a struggle between extreme reaction and the proletariat. In its very infancy, Spanish capitalism betrays all the characteristics of senility. There is but one consistent force for progress in Spain – the gravedigger of capitalism, the proletariat. Only a proletarian revolution can solve the problems of the Spanish people. Capitalism and reaction on the one hand – Socialism and progress on the other. These are the alternatives posed before the Spanish masses.

The liberal bourgeoisie serves but one prime function. It shields the growth of fascism.

In the face of the great mass strikes and demonstrations and the forcible freeing of class-war prisoners in February 1936, the bourgeoisie of every stripe recoiled in horror. To stem this tide, to divert the proletarian stream into peaceful channels, to demoralize and disillusion the workers – these were the tasks of the liberal face of capitalist reaction. The instrument for this was the People’s Front.

By the use of democratic phrases, by entering into paper alliances with the workers’ parties in the People’s Front, by promising everything and doing nothing to prevent fascism, these liberal democrats built a mighty bulwark upon which the February proletarian wave was broken, and behind which, protected from the workers, reaction prepared its uprising.

But without the moral prestige and support received from the workers’ parties through the medium of the People’s Front, the bourgeois democrats, however, would have found it impossible to carry out their mission.


By Joining with the republican bourgeoisie in a People’s Front, the Socialist and Communist parties objectively lined up on the side of the bourgeoisie.

The price of the bourgeoisie for making paper declarations against Fascism is that the workers surrender every slogan really capable of defeating fascism, that they accept the program of the bourgeoisie. In the People’s Front, the working class parties regardless of their subjective intentions, became the instrument by which the capitalist class has checked the revolutionary movement, thereby maintaining itself in power.

The whole history of the People’s Front in Spain has been one of the bolstering up of the bourgeoisie, the expulsion of peasants from the land, attacks on workers’ organizations, maintenance of colonial oppression, the protection of the reactionary officers’ caste.

In the face of the revolutionary wave unleashed by the workers against the fascist counter-revolution, the bourgeois ministers found themselves without the power to govern. They negotiated frantically with the reformist labor leaders to enter the cabinet and pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them. Caballero, after holding out for months against the People’s Front tendency, finally capitulated to the bourgeoisie and entered the government.

In the face of a situation wherein the interests of the proletariat required the organization of more workers committees, their centralization and increased power, centralized control of the Red Army by the Central Workers Committees, Caballero, because of his bourgeois alliances necessarily abandoned a revolutionary program, and used his prestige as a Socialist to dissolve the dual power of the workers’ committees and their influence over the armed forces, and to restore the shattered bourgeois state machinery. He failed to call upon the peasants to seize the land and refuses to grant freedom to Morocco. The Caballero Government calls upon the proletarian to submerge their political differences with the bourgeoisie, that is, to subordinate itself to the program of the bourgeoisie.

Caballero calls for the proletariat to swim against the fascist current but at the same time ties the dead weight of the People’s Front around its neck.

The Caballero Government is a bourgeois-coalition government. The seats held by workers’ parties do not change its character. Rather, this fact points to the non-revolutionary character of the workers’ parties.

The Catalonian government, in which not only the Socialists and Communists but also the POUM and the anarcho-syndicalists participated, was even more of a hollow shell than the Madrid government. All the essential functions of the State had been taken over by the workers’ committees, making the government merely a rubber stamp. Here also, the left-republican petty-bourgeois parties, including the more “left” party of Companys, showed that their role was to destroy the dual power of the workers and keep them within the narrow confines of bourgeois democracy.


To defeat fascism the proletariat needs a revolutionary program.

The keystone of such a program is the fact that the Socialist revolution is on the order of the day in Spain at the present time. The alternative is clearly nothing-less than Socialism or Fascism, not the defense of bourgeois democracy.

From this basic plank flows a series of demands which are not only necessary to bring about the transition to socialism, but are also important with respect to mobilizing the masses for the immediate military victory over the fascists.

Land to the peasants, confiscation of the landed estates and their control by peasant committees – this is essential to mobilize the greatest masses behind the proletariat and to disintegrate the peasant sections of the fascist armies.

Freedom of Morocco. This slogan is elementary. It can drive a wedge between Franco and the Moors and make the latter what they rightfully should be – allies of the workers.

For workers’ control of production. Employers, government agents or supervisory personnel may try to use their position to sabotage production against the interests of the masses and for reactionary purposes. To prevent this, the workers in every factory must through their committees establish contact over all phases of production (examine the books of each establishment, check up on prices, speed of production, etc.). This control will enable the workers when the time is ripe to pass over more easily to ownership and operation of industry by a government of workers, peasants and militiamen.

For the organization of workers’ councils, centralization of these on a national and regional scale as the basis for the new workers’ state, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Centralized control of the army by the workers’ councils. All power to the Workers, peasants and soldiers committees. Only the realization of these slogans can make possible the transition to socialism which alone can avert a second civil war. Without the realization of these slogans there is the ever present danger of the re-solidification of the bourgeois state apparatus, and of a compromise with the fascists.

But none of these slogans can be raised without a break with the bourgeoisie whose existence they threaten. The first step toward a revolutionary program must therefore be a complete break with the bourgeoisie.


The success of the Spanish revolution demands a revolutionary Socialist party!

None of the Spanish parties can at the present time be regarded as that party, or as capable of leading the working class to the seizure of power.

The Communist party, in line with the decisions of the 7th Congress of the Comintern, has become the most outspoken exponent of reformism. It champions the defense of bourgeois democracy as against the Socialist revolution, and everywhere, in Madrid and Barcelona, has acted to curb all tendencies toward the seizure of power by the working class. Its leaders heatedly insist that they are not guilty of any intentions of seeking a workers’ state even after the military struggle with fascism is over.

The Caballero wing of the Socialist party, which prior to February gave promise of the adoption of a revolutionary policy, has taken the road of People’s-Frontism, participation in the coalition government and the defense of bourgeois democracy. It is moreover a grave indictment against Caballero that he supported the merger of the Socialist Youth the Young Communist League, with the result that the previous leftward development of the Young Socialists has been checked by the general Stalinist cast of the united organization. The Prieto wing of the SP has long been the representative of traditional reformist and opportunist policies; indeed, it is the practical line of this tendency which is in effect being carried thru by Caballero today. But in spite of the desertion of Caballero, there are significant left-wing forces in the Socialist party and in the Youth which represent the future of revolutionary socialism.

Neither the POUM nor the anarcho-syndicalists have consistently fought the policies of People’s-Frontism, or consistently carried through the policy of building the dual power of the workers in opposition to the “official” government. The POUM, however, has continued to maintain that the issue is Socialism versus Fascism, not the preservation of democracy, and its general revolutionary program is in contrast with the vague and chaotic “program” of the anarcho-syndicalists; its expulsion from the Catalonian government – at the demand of the CP – affords it the possibility of making a turn in the direction of revolutionary Marxism. But this will happen only if the POUM learns the lessons of its recent experiences.

The workers cannot automatically find the road to revolutionary Socialism. The foundering of all the parties of the working class in the mire of reformism proves that without the leadership of the party firmly grounded in revolutionary Marxism, the proletariat is doomed to failure.

Only when such a party tears away the workers from collaboration with the bourgeoisie and establishes itself as the leader of the Spanish workers can Fascism be permanently defeated and a proletarian government established.

The forces for such a party are present in Spain today, first and foremost in the left wing of the Socialist party and in the Socialist youth, as well as the POUM. In addition, sections of the anarcho-syndicalists and the CP can be won over. And the militancy of the Spanish workers and peasants attests to the mass forces that are available for the building of such a revolutionary Socialist party.


The Spanish revolution needs for its success the support of the international working class.

The struggle in Spain has already taken on the character of an international civil war. French, German, Italian, Belgian workers fight side by side with their Spanish brothers against the armies of fascism. The major parties of the LSI have surrounded the fighting Spanish workers with a blockade against the shipment of arms. The parties of the Third International lead the workers to rely upon pressure on the democratic bourgeois governments to break the neutrality blockade of Spain. The Soviet Union has only at the very last second, when the fascists are knocking at the very doors of Madrid, sent arms to the Spanish workers.

But the international working class can and must give effective aid to the Spanish workers. Independent working-class aid for the Spanish revolution!

Our Socialist party and YPSL must take immediate steps to mobilize the widest support possible for all types of such aid. We must act as the initiating and organizing force of a great mass movement to prevent American recognition of the Franco regime and to oppose the “neutrality” policy of the Roosevelt administration. We must participate in and initiate wide united front actions for the purpose of collecting food, clothing, medical supplies, etc., to the Spanish workers. Above all, we must heed the insistent cry of our Spanish comrades that their most pressing need is not for food or medical supplies, but for arms, munitions, machine guns, airplanes. The progressives and liberals who “support Spanish democracy” will draw the line here; it devolves upon us to carry on the campaign for arms to the Spanish workers. We likewise endorse the action of our party in helping on a national scale, the sending of trained men to Spain to join the International Brigade, in particular the organization of the Debs Column. All of these concrete and practical forms of aid must be linked up with a simultaneous campaign of education and propaganda on the Spanish Civil War and the issue of Socialism versus Fascism which is being fought out, in order to mobilize working class and progressive sentiments behind these slogans and actions.

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