Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 2
Theory and Practice
THIS book is the second volume of the collected works of Grandizo Munis (1912–1989), who is best known as the leader of one of the two Trotskyist groups in Catalonia during the revolution and Civil War, and a defendant in the frame-up trial mounted by the Stalinists in 1938 (see Revolutionary History, Volume 4, no. 1/2). Franco’s victory interrupted the trial, and Munis and his comrades were able to escape to France. He subsequently visited Trotsky in Mexico. He was close to Natalia Sedova and supported her denunciation of the American Socialist Workers Party for continuing to regard the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state. Most of his remaining life was spent in France, but he returned to Spain following the Barcelona tramway strike in 1951, where he was arrested for his clandestine work in support of that struggle, and was jailed until 1961.
By that time, Munis had long abandoned Trotskyism for what is generally described as ultra-leftism, having come to regard trade unions and left parties as instruments of capital. These writings, which date from 1961 to 1986, do not describe that transition, so it would be interesting to know if he adopted those positions in the 1940s or later. They were, of course, common among the earlier ultra-left, notably the followers of Bordiga. Curiously, Munis continued to have a high opinion of Trotsky, and regarded his ideas on the USSR, the united front, trade unions, etc., as merely mistaken or outmoded, and not counter-revolutionary.
One of the longer pieces, Pro Segundo Manifiesto Comunista, is, as its title suggests, an attempt at a Communist Manifesto for the twentieth century. It makes general statements of principle and advocates specific demands, but there is no indication of how the workers would implement the proposals, or agitate around them. Munis’ main theme was that the entire labour movement was counter-revolutionary. He did not see it as his task to examine the economy or struggles between the various tendencies in the labour movement, so inevitably there is considerable repetition and a certain monotony to his writing. There is little examination of how the counter-revolution developed, and none on how supporters of non-revolutionary positions might be persuaded to question their allegiance to Stalinism, social democracy or other tendencies. Munis was associated with a journal, Alarma, and an organisation, Fomento, but his writing style suggests a solitary effort. It would be interesting to know how many people read his works, and whether they emerged from solitary cogitation or from discussion with others. As this volume does not describe that background, we are thrown back on Ernie Rogers’ account of meeting him in Paris in the 1960s (Revolutionary History, Volume 2, no. 2, Summer 1989, p. 53) which gives a lively picture of a Quixotic figure who talked continually, and who did not allow interruptions.
It would be interesting to know more of his life, most of it spent either in exile or prison, but Munis would have seen little point in autobiography. His best known work, Jalones de Derrota, gives a sustained narrative account of the Spanish revolution and Civil War. In the present volume, he is not constrained by chronological narrative, so the story is less focussed.
It must have taken incredible stubbornness to resist so long in isolation, but Munis had fought against the stream, since joining the Communist Left as a youth, being framed in a Stalinist trial in 1938, followed by exile in Mexico and France and imprisonment Franco’s Spain. Given that background, the harsh conditions of his last exile must have seemed relatively easy.
Updated by ETOL: 17.10.2011