POUM 1937

POUM’s Response to
the Articles in Pravda and l'Humanité

Source: La Révolution Espagnole, Supplement #3, January 24, 1937;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2011.

Last Sunday’s issue of “l'Humanité” reproduces an article by Mikhail Koltsov,[1] Pravda’s Madrid correspondent, with the tawdry title of “The Trotskyist Criminals in Spain are Franco’s Accomplices,” where he pours out ignoble slanders against the Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). He speculates on the ignorance of the Russian and international proletariats concerning the political position of POUM and the role the latter played in the first days of the revolution and in the period since then, an ignorance caused in large part by the confusion and the more or less voluntary errors published in the Popular Front press — particularly the Stalinist press — concerning the events in Spain.

Naturally, Mikhail Koltsov only says what he is ordered to say without taking the truth into account, using the weapons of lies, slander, and blackmail against the true defenders of the revolution.

If we had any hope of succeeding we'd ask Koltsov to prove his claims. Our only task is to reestablish the truth for those tempted to believe it:

These are the main accusations:

  1. That our Madrid section was founded after the fascist uprising and this without success;
  2. That the elements who come to our party are a small number of people driven out of other parties for having committed acts of sabotage, thefts, and swindles;
  3. “Three commanders of POUM columns had the habit of leaving the front of their section at the very moment when it was a question of engaging in combat.”
  4. That of having abandoned a strategic position on the Aragon front before the beginning of operations, which a Stalinist detachment had to occupy in our place and which was cut off from other troops;
  5. That in another sector of the same front a Republican offensive was prevented because the POUM militiamen had fled at the moment of attack;
  6. That on the central front, in the Seguenza sector, we suddenly withdrew our forces and a battalion of railway workers came in our place to protect the retreat of governmental troops;
  7. That the battalions of POUM were dissolved and the commanders were expelled from the front;
  8. That Trotsky gave us directives that provoked the division of POUM into two camps; that as secretary of POUM Nin was his representative when he went to public meetings and spoke out against the Popular Front and slandered the Republic in order to prevent the transformation of the popular militias into a people’s army;
  9. That all the political organizations and parties of Catalonia called for the removal of Nin from his position of Councilor of Justice because of his duplicity, and he was expelled from the Catalan government;
  10. That the workers under POUM rule, confronted with the danger of being beaten by the workers because of their anti-Soviet agitation, thought to “deny” Trotsky in order to operate in the shadows by organizing coups de main and expeditions: “The people in POUM increasingly employ terrorist methods,” they say.
  11. That a group of POUM youth went to the offices of the newspaper “Treball” to threaten the people there;
  12. “A few days later an assassination attempt was made against Juan Comorera, secretary of the Unified Socialist Parties of Catalonia (PSUC) , of which ‘Treball’ is the organ”

We will respond point by point to all these impostures:

  1. Our Madrid section is the result of the fusion of the Workers and Peasant Bloc and the Communist Left, each of which had a Madrid group in which were found the elements who were the first to rally to communism in Spain. The fusion dates from 1935 (October). POUM currently counts 3,000 members in Madrid.
  2. Since the fascist uprising our party has not known a growth analogous to that of the Stalinist party precisely because we maintain communist positions and don’t admit members lacking a clear political history. All the lowlifes l'Humanité speaks of entered the Stalinist party (PSUC). Despite its severity POUM has 40,000 members throughout the country.
  3. Which POUM commanders abandoned the front? Why doesn’t he give their names? We ourselves would have severely punished such an act.
  4. We have never abandoned any position. It has happened that on a front of several kilometers (the Alcubierre sector) defended by some 500 militiamen without any artillery or aviation cover and possessing but a few machineguns we have had to pull back from the attack of 6,000 well armed enemies after having resisted for 48 hours and exhausted our ammunition. Colonel Villalba approved the operation at the war council. It must be added that on that occasion the Stalinist columns, which were operating on our right, instead of assisting us remained quietly at their posts. There’s no question but if they had lost half their effectives they would have loudly broadcast the news.
  5. This is false from one end to the other. What we can affirm is that during the attack on Huesca the militias that advanced the furthest were those of POUM, which was recognized by the high military command.
  6. On the Siguenza front, in a desperate situation, the last forces to resist were those of POUM. A hundred militants heroically died defending the cathedral, notably Comrade Etchevere, at a time when everyone had completely abandoned the city.
  7. Pure invention. No POUM detachment was sent away from the front, nor were any of its leaders. On the contrary, the POUM columns were recognized by the entire foreign and Spanish press as models of organization, discipline, and courage, cited as examples, appreciated on all fronts and solicited for the most important and dangerous posts.
  8. POUM currently has forces in the northern sector of Saragossa, in front of Huesca, in the Teruel sector, the Alcaniz sector, the Madrid front, the Asturias front, and controls several artillery batteries. They count some 6,000 combatants.
  9. Trotsky was unable to give us directives for the simple reason that POUM has nothing to do with the Fourth International. Its only international affiliation is with the International Unity Bureau of London, of which the Independent Labour Party of England , the Italian Maximalist Party, the German SAP, and other independent revolutionary socialist and communist parties are members. The latest Central Committee (“La Batalla” of December 19) spelled this out for the last time and was unanimous on the question.

Vociferating at meetings is not one of our methods, as it was among the Stalinists at the time of “fusion at the base,” social-fascists, etc. We practice democratic centralism based on the widest internal democracy.

What is more, Nin is not the secretary of POUM.

On the question of militias and the military problem, the same Central Committee defined our opinion (no. 139 of “La Batalla,” January 10, 1937).

Aside from the Stalinists, no one has demanded our elimination from the government. The comrades of the CNT defended us as much as they could. In the end they capitulated before the blackmail that consisted in refusing weapons and ammunition if they persisted in wanting to keep us in the government.

Nin’s labors as councilor of justice have earned him nothing but praise. He presided over the creation of the revolution’s popular tribunals, the lowering of the age of majority to eighteen, and the issuing of civil laws on marriage and divorce, etc.

  1. We cannot accept the accusation of preparing coups de mains formulated by those who decimate the revolutionaries of October for reasons of state. This is opposed to our concept of the Revolution. All they are doing is attributing to others their own projects.
  2. It was not a group of young people who went to the editorial offices of “Treball,” but a delegation sent by the Central Committee of POUM to submit a written protest against the campaign of slander and provocations unleashed against us, a protest that appeared in “La Batalla.”
  3. As far as the attack on Comorera, it never took place and “Treball” itself confirmed this by publishing the police communiqué. In fact, “Treball” of December 13, 1936 announced that Comorera’s car was fired on when returning at 1:30 a.m. from Granollers and says: “The competent authorities will decide if this was an error or an attack.”

“Treball” of December 15 explained that after an investigation it was learned that a sentinel whistled down the councilor’s car which, having stopped too late and not being recognized, was fired on without any damage. And the Stalinists now accuse POUM of having fomented an attack on the secretary of the PSUC. This gives the measure of the veracity and good faith of their accusations.

We recommend that the French proletariat distrust information in the Stalinist press, which has risen up against the socialist revolution begun in Spain in order to avoid the creation of a new pole of attraction within the international revolutionary movement.

But POUM and the National Confederation of Labor (CNT), which are alert to these intrigues, have united their forces in order to lead the socialist revolution to victory in Spain, despite the ignoble methods employed against us.





1. Koltsov was later recalled to Moscow and executed in 1940.