The following article was prepared for, but not included (because of the space available) in the special double issue of Revolutionary History on the Spanish Civil War (Vol.4 Nos.1/2). It was first published in the journal Socialist Current, which was the voice of a long lived but small, independent Trotskyist group led by Sam Levy and Frank Rowe. (Obituaries for both of these comrades can be found in the back issues of Revolutionary History. Work is continuing on indexing and annotating the files of Socialist Current, and it is hoped at some stage to make available a selection of their most important analytical articles.)

For a full obituary of the author, Grandizo Munis, see Revolutionary History Vol.2 No.2, Summer 1969, which also published 3 articles by Munis, and a personal memoir of him by Ernest Rogers.

SPAIN: The Politics of the Underground

In 1962 an alliance between the principle underground organisations in Spain was signed. The following comment is from ALARMA (see end footnote).

The agreement signed between the CNT, UGT and STV (the Anarcho-Syndicalist, Social Democratic and Basque “underground” unions respectively – Eds) cannot be applauded. The Declaration of Principles and Working Agreement adopted by these three organisations does not contain a single revolutionary point and does not even inspire a vague impulse of revolt against the social conditions which are the result of the Franco dictatorship. A superficial analysis is enough to convince one of this. In effect the third point of the Agreement, the most radical of all, only commits the signatories, “To re-establish civil liberties until the full enjoyment of the rights of man, as defined in the declaration of the Rights of Man, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10th 1948, is reached” (That is freedom of association, of propaganda, both oral and written, and so on.)

To the younger generation, overwhelmed by the daily routines of the dictatorship, there is perhaps an attractive promise here. But nothing is further from reality. The stated declaration of the United Nations protects no more than the right of men to submit to the exploitation and political dictates of capitalism. It would be difficult for it to be otherwise since the UN is an association of the property-owning states of world capital. And, incidentally, these same rights, agreed in the declaration, are a dead letter in the majority of the countries of the western bloc and the so-called neutrals, as they are in all the states of the Eastern bloc. But let us suppose for the moment that, tomorrow, these rights were fully implemented in Spain. Would they thus solve the problems of a society that has been established for more than 30 years? Would they, hell! As far as the rights which are necessary and immediately achievable, the stated declaration hardly represents those agreed by the regulations of a prison for condemned men. Thus the third point of the agreement is limited to creating a rational capitalist society.

However it is worth the toil involved to note the very deliberate formulation of this point in the agreement “To re-establish civil liberties UNTIL the full enjoyment is reached … (etc.)”. That is to say the signatories, even if they had the power to do so, would not grant the full normal rights and liberties of bourgeois legality, but setting themselves up as the tutors of a people supposedly overcome by pettiness, incapacity, indifference etc, they would simply define, according to their own views, what such “liberty” means. At the most the pact is merely a promised ‘Constitution’.

It is of course quite natural that the so-called “Sindical de Trabajadores Vascos” (Basque Workers Union – Eds) should “rise in revolt” in this sort of way, because, being just a clerico-paternalistic organisation, it considers itself called upon to ward off a new revolution with volleys of harsh words. And neither is it a wonder that the UGT tends to the same sort of thing. For decades now the “Socialist” Parties have adopted all the values of existing society – exploitation included. The new feature is that the CNT now makes an act of contrition and also bows down before the same “legality”. But the novelty is only relative because, after the first few months of the civil war, it was they who permitted the Stalinists to get away with the destruction of revolutionary conquests. The signing of the pact gives a dominant character to bourgeois tendencies, and from its birth, this will give it an organic stability.

For many years we have maintained that a revolution based on trade union organisations is an impossibility, and that is irrespective of whether they are anarchist or marxist. All trade unionism becomes, sooner or later, useful to capital, and in the course of society’s development it has shown a great partiality to State Capitalism: that is to say with the same thing that the enemies of the working class call “Socialism”. Humiliating themselves before the UGT and the little men of the crucifix who lead the Basque union, the CNT has reached the end of its evolutionary cycle. Now it can be no more than an another body within capitalist legality. Thus the revolutionary defence of the economic interests of the working class will need new forms of organisation: directly elected committees in the work-places. By this means, the working class can achieve the expropriation of capital and the abolition of wage labour, a task that, if nothing else, is incompatible with Trade Union organisation (including the best that can be imagined).

Point no.4 of the Agreement promises in vain “to oppose any other anti-democratic regime” that tries to succeed the Franco one. But world forces will not be stopped or diverted by words. The dictatorial tendencies of Spanish capitalism, until now embodied in the clergy and army, are a necessity imposed by their particular characteristics within a concrete historical framework. This tendency can find new outlets in State Capitalism, which has already given proof of its reactionary efficiency in so many countries, but cannot be abolished except by the death of capitalism itself. And if the Pact in question reveals itself to be ineffective in limiting the misconduct of the clergy and army, it would not represent much of an obstacle to a State Capitalist dictatorship. It is impossible to move to the future without ending the economy of capital and wage labour.

The same sort of ideas has also given birth to the so-called “Frente de Fuerzas Democraticas” (Front of Democratic Forces) These democratic forces are partly composed of ex-falangists that now call themselves, “monarchists” and “Christian Democrats”, and partly of adherents of the Socialist Party. Like other similar organisations built in the past, it is probable that the “Frente” does not reach any circles outside (inside? ERC) Spain, though most of the aforementioned string along with prominent people inside Spain who, at the same time, have their own fish to fry. The one thing they will not do is to rally the people against the regime, and even less to encourage the revolt of the oppressed. Their clear intention is the opposite: to guarantee that the succession to Franco takes place takes within the existing social order.

These pseudo-democratic pact-makers promise to submit the question of the kind of regime that would have to be established in Spain to the popular will. They abuse the words. They will promise to hold elections, whether very monarchist or very republican, which are only two of the many forms of the same capitalist society. A real choice of regime has to be based on the property system: socialism or capitalism, precisely establishing that state property is no less capitalist than the individual variety. But in making this choice, the labouring masses find themselves in a plain position of inferiority, since all resources and means of influence are in the hands of their opponents. Neither the gentlemen of the “Frente”, nor the worshippers of Stalin, ever called upon them to take this sort of decision.

The concrete problems to decide are these: either the army and the professional police or their dissolution and the arming of the working class; either an economy based on capitalism and wage labour or an economy based on the workers of production and distribution; either a parliamentary democracy or a government based on workers’ committees. But, as in 1936, these and other decisive questions will have to be resolved by working class struggle.


Footnote. The editorial board wish to point out that they do not necessarily agree with all the views and ideas expressed in the above article. Since however the article is a) informative and b) the considered assessment of a Spanish grouping on the political situation in Spain, they hope that its appearance in English will prove useful. ALARMA (organ of the group known as ‘Fomento Obrero Revolutionario’) is published in France, but also circulates illegally in Spain.

from Socialist Current, pp.16-18, October 1962

Updated by ETOL: 28 November 2009