POUM 1936

The General Policy of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM)


Source: La RÚvolution Espagnole, No 1, September 3, 1936;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2011.


The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) which, especially in Catalonia, represents an important fraction of the workers movement, has decided to create this information bulletin as much to refute the more or else biased legends surrounding the events in Spain as to lay out its position concerning these events.

It is impossible to understand the Civil War that is unfurling today if we don’t go back to the revolution of April 14, 1931 which led to the fall of the monarchy.

The “Republic of April 14” was nothing but a monarchy without a monarch. It is true that it proclaimed the need for agrarian reform and the separation of church and state, but it did nothing to realize the great democratic and secular reforms expected by the people. Not touching the military and civil framework of the monarchic state and discontenting the workers and peasants, the democratic parties divided and were then crushed in the elections of 1933. From 1933 until 1936 it was the bloc of the right that governed under the leadership of Gil Robles. This bloc represented the interests of the church and large-scale property owners, closely tied to Spanish and international high finance. Its goal was the progressive fascisization of Spain, and the creation of a clerical and corporative state like that of Austria. In October 1934 the working class rose up against the clerico-fascists. But except for Asturias, which resisted for two weeks and where the complete unity of the proletariat was realized, the proletariat, weakened by the abstention of the anarchists and the pusillanimity of the Catalan republicans, was rapidly crushed.

Though defeated, the insurrection of October 1934 realized the forms of a new revolutionary power in Asturias. Its base was in the Workers Alliance Committees, in which were brought together the delegates of the proletarian parties and the union organizations, committees that both deliberated and acted. In the Asturian insurrection for the first time an army composed strictly of workers militias was constructed in Spain.

With the Popular Front winning over all the anti-fascist parties, both proletarian and bourgeois, the republican experience of 1931 was renewed in the same constitutional and administrative framework.

The Popular Front Government is in the hands of Aza˝a’s republican left, and the program written by the parties doesn’t go any further than the aspirations of this bourgeois reformist party. This new experiment in bourgeois liberalism has led to catastrophe. Respectful of private property, it is unable to satisfy the demands of the working peasants; it refuses to confiscate feudal and clerical wealth; it doesn’t attack the all-powerful banks. Politically, it avoids striking the reactionary elements which, with a consummate science, prepared today’s wide scale rebellion.

The five months of Popular Front Government suffice to demonstrate bourgeois democracy’s inability to ensure the workers’ bread and defend their freedom. The capitalist regime in Spain can only be guaranteed by the establishment of a Francoist military dictatorship.

The republican bourgeoisie is abandoned by ITS army and ITS bureaucracy. Only the armed working class is today saving the freedom of the Spanish people.

The workers, peasants, and sailors aren’t fighting to defend the old bourgeois republic which brought them nothing, but rather to establish the future regime: the workers republic. They know this despite the propaganda of the parties of the Popular Front which claim that the workers militias defend the current constitution. If in Madrid the working class, under the leadership of the Socialist Party, the UGT, and the official Communists still follows the directives of the Popular Front, in Barcelona the government of the Generalitat is nothing but an official fašade without any power. True power there is exercised by the Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias, for the most part made up of delegates of working-class organizations. Alongside it the economic council’s mission is that of reorganizing the Catalan economy in a socialist direction. The governments of the provinces of Lerida, Gerona, and Tarragona are in the workers’ hands. Our POUM has a preponderant influence there. In Catalonia there is thus not what is called “dual power:” the working class effectively controls all of society. Through the channel of the unions the proletariat assures the management of all public services and many private enterprises. The clergy and the reactionaries are expropriated; the homes of the rich and convents transformed into centers of education or sanatoriums. Committees are being formed in enterprises and villages, among sailors and republican troops. Our POUM, which is doing everything possible to create others like these and to connect them, sees in these committees the basis of the workers and peasants republic that is in gestation. Every day we see that the old bourgeois democracy is dead in Spain. And so the slogan of POUM is the creation of a government of working-class alliance relying in part on the regular organizations of the proletariat and the peasantry, as well as on the local committees. Such a government would have the greatest amount of authority and initiative to crush fascism and to accelerate the transformation of Spain in a socialist direction. A constituent assembly formed of delegates of worker, peasant and soldier committees would give Spain its definitive constitution.

But to reach this supreme goal of the struggle the proletariat must fulfill the following two conditions:

The first is that of not disarming, of not surrendering its arms to the bourgeoisie. This is all the more necessary in that many elements of the republican bourgeoisie seek to arrive at a compromise with the fascist soldiers, a compromise that would be a betrayal of the Spanish people. We declare that whoever seeks a compromise with our enemies will be treated in the same way as them; that whoever seeks to disarm the proletariat will be considered an accomplice of our enemies.

The second condition is the maintaining and reinforcement of the unity of action of the workers. Unity in action has been sealed with the blood of the thousands of fighters who have died for the proletarian cause. It must be indestructible and not again allow the working class trail behind the republican bourgeoisie for the defense of the capitalist regime.

Today, in this difficult and inexorable struggle, the Spanish working class, wide strata of the peasantry, the middle class, intellectuals, and technicians have become aware of the malfeasance of capitalism, of the horrors it leads to. Our party aspires to guide them towards the Union of Iberian Socialist Republics, a new stage in the world-wide socialist revolution.