The Communist Party (PCE) in Spain was founded in November, 1921 by dissident members of the Socialist Party, the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT).
As the country had several powerful left-wing groups and it remained fairly small in size. By 1936 it had a membership of only 40,000 people.
On 15th January 1936, Manuel Azaña helped to establish a coalition of parties on the political left to fight the national elections due to take place the following month. This included the Communist Party, the Socialist Party (PSOE), and the Republican Union Party.
The Popular Front, as the coalition became known, advocated the restoration of Catalan autonomy, amnesty for political prisoners, agrarian reform, an end to political blacklists and the payment of damages for property owners who suffered during the revolt of 1934. The Anarchists refused to support the coalition and instead urged people not to vote.
Right-wing groups in Spain formed the National Front. This included the CEDA and the Carlists. The Falange Española did not officially join but most of its members supported the aims of the National Front.
The Spanish people voted on Sunday, 16th February, 1936. Out of a possible 13.5 million voters, over 9,870,000 participated in the 1936 General Election. 4,654,116 people (34.3) voted for the Popular Front, whereas the National Front obtained 4,503,505 (33.2) and the centre parties got 526,615 (5.4). The Popular Front, with 263 seats out of the 473 in the Cortes formed the new government.
The Popular Front government immediately upset the conservatives by releasing all left-wing political prisoners. The government also introduced agrarian reforms that penalized the landed aristocracy. Other measures included transferring right-wing military leaders such as Francisco Franco to posts outside Spain, outlawing the Falange Española and granting Catalonia political and administrative autonomy.
As a result of these measures the wealthy took vast sums of capital out of the country. This created an economic crisis and the value of the peseta declined which damaged trade and tourism. With prices rising workers demanded higher wages. This led to a series of strikes in Spain.
On the 10th May 1936 the conservative Niceto Alcala Zamora was ousted as president and replaced by the left-wing Manuel Azaña. Soon afterwards Spanish Army officers, including Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano and José Sanjurjo, began plotting to overthrow the Popular Front government. This resulted in the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on 17th July, 1936.
President Manuel Azaña appointed Diego Martinez Barrio as prime minister on 18th July 1936 and asked him to negotiate with the rebels. He contacted Emilio Mola and offered him the post of Minister of War in his government. He refused and when Azaña realized that the Nationalists were unwilling to compromise, he sacked Martinez Barrio and replaced him with José Giral. To protect the Popular Front government, Giral gave orders for arms to be distributed to left-wing organizations that opposed the military uprising.
In September 1936, President Azaña appointed the left-wing socialist, Francisco Largo Caballero as prime minister. Largo Caballero also took over the important role of war minister. Largo Caballero brought into his government two members of the Communist Party: Jesus Hernández (Education) and Vicente Uribe (Agriculture).
The May Riots in 1937 severely damaged the Popular Front government. Communist members of the Cabinet were highly critical of the way Francisco Largo Caballero handled the disturbances. President Manuel Azaña agreed and on 17th May he asked Juan Negrin to form a new government. Negrin was a communist sympathizer and from this date Joseph Stalin obtained more control over the policies of the Republican government
Negrin's government now attempted to bring the Anarchist Brigades under the control of the Republican Army. At first the Anarcho-Syndicalists resisted and attempted to retain hegemony over their units. This proved impossible when the government made the decision to only pay and supply militias that subjected themselves to unified command and structure.
Negrin also began appointing members of the Communist Party (PCE) to important military and civilian posts. This included Marcelino Fernandez, a communist, to head the Carabineros. Communists were also given control of propaganda, finance and foreign affairs. The socialist, Luis Araquistain, described Negrin's government as the "most cynical and despotic in Spanish history."
By June 1937, the Socialist Party had 160,000 members. The growth in the Communist Party was even more dramatic which now had nearly 400,000 members. The communists also controlled the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSUC) and the PSOE youth movement, Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU).
On 27th February, 1939, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain recognized the Nationalist government headed by General Francisco Franco. Later that day Manuel Azaña resigned from office, declaring that the war was lost and that he did not want Spaniards to make anymore useless sacrifices.
Juan Negrin now promoted communist leaders such as Antonio Cordon, Juan Modesto and Enrique Lister to senior posts in the army. Segismundo Casado, commander of the Republican Army of the Centre, now became convinced that Negrin was planning a communist coup. On 4th March, Casedo, with the support of the socialist leader, Julián Besteiro and disillusioned anarchist leaders, established an anti-Negrin National Defence Junta.
On 6th March José Miaja in Madrid joined the rebellion by ordering the arrests of Communists in the city. Negrin, about to leave for France, ordered Luis Barceló, commander of the First Corps of the Army of the Centre, to try and regain control of the capital. His troops entered Madrid and there was fierce fighting for several days in the city. Anarchists troops led by Cipriano Mera, managed to defeat the First Corps and Barceló was captured and executed.
Segismundo Casado now tried to negotiate a peace settlement with General Francisco Franco. However, he refused demanding an unconditional surrender.
The leaders of the Communist Party were forced to flee from Spain when General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army took control of the country in March 1939.
Jesus Hernández went to the Soviet Union and became an executive member of Comintern. He soon became disillusioned with the rule of Joseph Stalin and went to live in Mexico. In his memoirs published in 1953, Hernández admitted that he was following orders from Stalin to oust Francisco Largo Caballero and to get him replaced by Juan Negrin. He also claimed that Stalin did not really care about the Republicans winning the Spanish Civil War and was more concerned with blocking German influence in the country.
On 16 November 1935, as a prelude to Communist rule, the Comintern instructed Spanish party members to join hands with Socialist and Left-wing Republicans. Without antagonizing the middle classes, they were to intensify their campaign of violence against the Church and the Right and maintain peasants and other workers in constant turmoil and unrest. These instructions were scrupulously executed during the months that followed.
The tactics thus propounded were not new. Lenin had already prophesied that Spain would be the first country after Russia to adopt Communism. Trotsky shared this opinion.
One noticed, during the restless period that preceded the 1936 elections, that the working class was divided in two. The bootblacks, an enormous class to themselves in Spain, the waiters, and most of the mechanics, along with the miners and factory workers, were either anarchists or Reds. It was expected that the anarchists would abstain from voting: or might even vote for the Right, with whom, in their liking for liberty, they have more in common than with the Communists. Amongst the anarchists were to be found some of the most generous idealistic people, at the same time as the real "phonys" - like the ones that dug up the cemetery in Huesca, held parades of naked nuns, and out-babooned in atrocity anything I had ever read of before. But they were warm-blooded - unlike their ice-cold compéres, the "commies", who were less human. You could beg your life from an anarchist. It was not long before most of the anarchists wished they had gone Right for they were unmercifully massacred by their Red Comrades.
The whole of Comintern policy is now subordinated (excusably, considering the world situation) to the defence of U.S.S.R., which depends upon a system of military alliances. In particular, the USSR is in alliance with France, a capitalist-imperialist country. The alliance is of little use to Russia unless French capitalism is strong, therefore Communist policy in France has got to be anti-revolutionary. This means not only that French Communists now march behind the tricolour and sing the Marseillaise, but, what is more important, that they have had to drop all effective agitation in the French colonies. It is less than three years since Thorez, the Secretary of the French Communist Party, was declaring that the French workers would never be bamboozled into fighting against their German comrades; he is now one of the loudest-lunged patriots in France. The clue to the behaviour of the Communist Party in any country is the military relation of that country, actual or potential, towards the USSR In England, for instance, the position is still uncertain, hence the English Communist Party is still hostile to the National Government, and, ostensibly, opposed to rearmament. If, however, Great Britain enters into an alliance or military understanding with the USSR, the English Communist, like the French Communist, will have no choice but to become a good patriot and imperialist; there are premonitory signs of this already. In Spain the Communist 'line' was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that France, Russia's ally, would strongly object to a revolutionary neighbour and would raise heaven and earth to prevent the liberation of Spanish Morocco. The Daily Mail, with its tales of red revolution financed by Moscow, was even more wildly wrong than usual. In reality it was the Communists above all others who prevented revolution in Spain. Later, when the right-wing forces were in full control, the Communists showed themselves willing to go a great deal further than the Liberals in hunting down the revolutionary leaders.
The question of possibly merging the Socialists and the Communists into one party (as in Catalonia) does not have, according to my preliminary impression, any immediate, current significance since the Socialist party, as such, at least in the central region, does not make itself much felt and since the Socialists and Communists act in concert within the framework of a union organization - the General Workers' Union - headed by Caballero (abbreviated UGT), the activity and influence of which far exceed the limits of a union.
Except for La Pasionaria, the leadership of the Communist party consists of people who do not yet have authority on the national level. The party's real general secretary was an individual about whom I wrote you. Because he occupied just such a position not only within the Central Committee but also outside it, he besmirched the reputations of two institutions with all the people in the Popular Front. However we evaluate his role, in any case, the fact that he himself took the place of the leadership hindered the formation, from the leadership cadres, of independent political leaders.
The Communist party, which has attracted some of the more politically conscious elements of the working class, is, all the same, insufficiently organized and politically strong to take on even to the slightest degree the political work for the armed forces of the revolution. In Catalonia, about which I can judge only through partial evidence, the party is significantly weaker and undoubtedly suffers from the provocative activities of Trotskyists, who have won over several active leaders, like, for example, Maurin. Undoubtedly the party is still incapable of independently rousing the masses to some kind of large-scale action, or of concentrating all the strength of the leadership on such an action. What is more the example of Alcazar has been in this connection a notoriously negative test for the party. However, I will not give a more definite evaluation of the cadres and strength of the party, since this is the only organization with which I have had insufficient contact.
What are our channels for action in this situation? We support close contact with the majority of the members of the government, chiefly with Caballero and Prieto. Both of them, through their personal and public authority, stand incomparably higher than the other members of the government and play a leading role for them. Both of them very attentively listen to everything that we say. Prieto at this particular time is trying at all costs to avoid conflict with Caballero and therefore is trying not to focus on the issues.
I think it unnecessary to dwell at this time on the problem of how an aggravation in class contradictions might take shape during a protracted civil war and the difficulties with the economy that might result (supplying the army, the workers, and so on), especially as I think it futile to explore a more distant prospect while the situation at the front still places all the issues of the revolution under a question mark.
In the period from 18th July to 1st September, the members of the Communist party were absorbed with the armed struggle. Thus, all of the work of the party was reduced to military action, but largely in an individual sense, rather than from the standpoint of political leadership of the struggle. At best, the party committees discussed urgent questions (the collection of weapons and explosives, supplies, questions of housing, and so on) but without setting forth perspectives for the future or still less following a general plan.
Beginning on 18th July, many leaders headed the struggle and remained at this work later, during the formation of the columns. For example. Cordon is the assistant commander of the Estremadura column; Uribe, the deputy for Valencia has the same position in the Teruda column; and Romero is in the column that is at Malaga; del Barrio is in the column at Saragossa. But it must be said that only a very few of the leaders have the requisite military abilities (I do not mean personal bravery). Thus, of the four just mentioned, Cordon is a brilliant commander, del Barrio is quite good, and the rest are worthless from a military point of view.
The political activity of the party has been reduced to the work of the leadership (editorship of the newspapers, several cells, demarches to the ministries). Party agitation, not counting what is carried out in the press, has come to naught. Internal party life has been reduced to the discussion of important, but essentially practical and secondary, questions.
Meanwhile, recruiting has moved and continues to move at a very rapid pace. The influx of new members into the party is huge. For the first time intellectuals and even officers are being drawn into the party. Already the most active elements from the middle cadres began in July to set up militia units which subsequently were transformed into the Fifth Regiment. The general staff of the Fifth Regiment, consisting of workers or officers who are Communists or sympathizers - this is the best thing that we have in the entire fighting army.
Our party (the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia - PSUC) is not united. It continues to remain merely the sum of the four component parties from which it was created. From the point of view of the Communist party, despite the fact that the leadership is in our hands, it does not have an ideological backbone. There is significant friction from this. Despite this fact, the party's correct policy vis-a-vis the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie enhances its powerful influence daily. The PSUC is the third party in Catalonia (after Esquerra and the CNT). A majority of the members of the party are members of the UGT, which has significantly increased the number of its members. Unfortunately, the erratic policy of the party, especially on the question of cadres, gave the opportunity to raise Sesé to the head of the UGT- a man who is suspect from every point of view (see the protocols of the Catalan Commission at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern International in September 1935).
The leadership of the Socialist party in Madrid (the Workers' Party of Spain) continues to work in the PSUC, and it often happens that the local groups direct their letters to it instead of writing to the PCE. On the other hand, Caballero is striving to seize the leadership. Fifteen days ago in Madrid he handed three million pesetas to Comorera, the general
secretary of the PSUC, for whom we sent to discuss the question of Catalonia, and we heard this information about him.
The party's union policy. Nothing practical has been done. The CNT continues to follow an ever increasing number of UGT declarations, but generally for political reasons. Our groups assemble but do not work on the problems of everyday demands. In general, our activists remain in the UGT (the work is easier). It is my opinion that the struggle for the unification of the unions is becoming a pressing task. I proposed that the unions that are under our influence appeal for unification with two aims: i) unity of the working class to defend the interests of the workers against the employers; 2) unity in production to defeat fascism. Mije in principle accepted this proposal on unification (without pointing out the aims) at a large mass meeting organized by the party in Madrid on 27th September. This proposal elicited very strong applause, but I would have preferred that this had been done as I proposed. It is my opinion that union work requires radical restructuring.
Agrarian policy. In general the policy is correct (see the decision by the Ministry of Agriculture on the question of land), but it has not been popularized in the villages. They do not demonstrate the deep difference between our line and the methods of the anarchists. And in this area a colossal work still must be accomplished.
It is difficult to convey briefly and accurately the feeling for the Communist Party - so young, and until recently so small - which exists in Spain today.
It is not on the other hand, difficult to understand it.
As the situation grew tougher and tougher and more people who had previously been suspicious of, and even hostile to the Communist Party, began - sometimes rather grudgingly and sometimes "with full acknowledgments" - to accept the fact that a great many things the Communists had said, which seemed sensational or alarmist at the time, were, as a matter of fact, true: that when the Communists talked about the "need for unity" they really were talking about a matter of life and death, as obvious and urgent as the provision of machine-gun ammunition and sandbags: that when the Communists declared that every other political consideration must be secondary to the question of how to win the war, they meant just that: that when they called upon others to subordinate sectional aims to the need for supporting the democratic government of Spain against the Fascists they were the first to put their propositions into practice: and above all, that, as a result of their highly disciplined yet highly democratic form of organisation, they were able more easily than any other single organisation to translate intentions into action.
Of course it would be possible to put all this in a more formal way, and a full analysis of the work of the Communist Party in the united defence of Spain by all the parties of the People's Front would be a very valuable thing.
Here, since the part being played by the Communist Party in the defence of Madrid is now in the centre of the world stage, I only want to draw attention to one or two of the points which have brought the Communist Party to this immensely responsible and honourable position in the democratic alliance, where it shares with Socialists, Republicans, anarchists and Catholics, the task of holding the front line of the world's democracy against the world Fascist threat.
It is, for instance, no secret that the very first move for the creation of the People's Army of Spain came from the Communist Party. Nor did it come simply in the form of a "suggestion" or a manifesto or a report.
The relationship between our people (the Communists) and the anarcho-syndicalists is becoming ever more strained. Every day, delegates and individual comrades appear before the CC of the Unified Socialist Party with statements about the excesses of the anarchists. In places it has come to armed clashes. Not long ago in a settlement of Huesca near Barbastro twenty-five members of the UGT were killed by the anarchists in a surprise attack provoked by unknown reasons. In Molins de Rei, workers in a textile factory stopped work, protesting against arbitrary dismissals. Their delegation to Barcelona was driven out of the train, but all the same fifty workers forced their way to Barcelona with complaints for the central government, but now they are afraid to return, anticipating the anarchists' revenge. In Pueblo Nuevo near Barcelona, the anarchists have placed an armed man at the doors of each of the food stores, and if you do not have a food coupon from the CNT, then you cannot buy anything. The entire population of this small town is highly excited. They are shooting up to fifty people a day in Barcelona. (Miravitlles told me that they were not shooting more than four a day).
Relations with the Union of Transport Workers are strained. At the beginning of 1934 there was a protracted strike by the transport workers. The government and the "Esquerra" smashed the strike. In July of this year, on the pretext of revenge against the scabs, the CNT killed more than eighty men, UGT members, but not one Communist among them. They killed not only actual scabs but also honest revolutionaries. At the head of the union is Comvin, who has been to the USSR, but on his return he came out against us. Both he and, especially, the other leader of the union - Cargo - appear to be provocateurs. The CNT, because of competition with the hugely growing UGT, are recruiting members without any verification. They have taken especially many lumpen from the port area of Barrio Chino.
They have offered our people two posts in the new government - Council of Labour and the Council of Municipal Work - but it is impossible for the Council of Labour to institute control over the factories and mills without clashing sharply with the CNT, and as for municipal services, one must clash with the Union of Transport Workers, which is in the hands of the CNT. Fabregas, the councillor for the economy, is a "highly doubtful sort." Before he joined the Esquerra, he was in the Accion Popular; he left the Esquerra for the CNT and now is playing an obviously provocative role, attempting to "deepen the revolution" by any means. The metallurgical syndicate just began to put forward the slogan "family wages." The first "producer in the family" received 100 percent wages, for example seventy pesetas a week, the sec- ond member of the family 50 percent, the third 25 percent, the fourth, and so on, up to 10 percent. Children less than sixteen years old only 10 percent each, This system of wages is even worse than egalitarianism. It kills both production and the family.
In Madrid there are up to fifty thousand construction workers. Caballero refused to mobilize all of them for building fortifications around Madrid ("and what will they eat") and gave a total of a thousand men for building the fortifications. In Estremadura our Comrade Deputy Cordon is fighting heroically. He could arm five thousand peasants but he has a detachment of only four thousand men total. Caballero under great pressure agreed to give Cordon two hundred rifles, as well. Meanwhile, from Estremadura, Franco could easily advance into the rear, toward Madrid. Caballero implemented an absolutely absurd compensation for the militia - ten pesetas a day, besides food and housing. Farm labourers in Spain earn a total of two pesetas a day and, feeling very good about the militia salary in the rear, do not want to go to the front. With that, egalitarianism was introduced. Only officer specialists receive a higher salary. A proposal made to Caballero to pay soldiers at the rear five pesetas and only soldiers at the front ten pesetas was turned down. Caballero is now disposed to put into effect the institution of political commissars, but in actual fact it is not being done. In fact, the political commissars introduced into the Fifth Regiment have been turned into commanders, for there are none of the latter. Caballero also supports the departure of the government from Madrid. After the capture of Toledo, this question was almost decided, but the anarchists were categorically against it, and our people proposed that the question be withdrawn as inopportune. Caballero stood up for the removal of the government to Cartagena. They proposed sounding out the possibility of basing the government in Barcelona. Two ministers - Prieto and Jimenez de Asua - left for talks with the Barcelona government. The Barcelona government agreed to give refuge to the central government. Caballero is sincere but is a prisoner to syndicalist habits and takes the statutes of the trade unions too literally.
The UGT is now the strongest organization in Catalonia: it has no fewer than half the metallurgical workers and almost all the textile workers, municipal workers, service employees, bank employees. There are abundant links to the peasantry. But the CNT has much better cadres and has many weapons, which were seized in the first days (the anarchists sent to the front fewer than 60 percent of the thirty thousand rifles and three hundred machine guns that they seized).
A secret F.A.I.' - Federacion Anarquista Iberica - 'circular of September 1938 pointed out that of 7,000 promotions in the Army since May 5,500 had been Communists. In the Army of the Ebro out of 27 brigades, 25 were commanded by Communists, while all 9 divisional commanders, 3 army corps commanders, and the supreme commander (Modesto) were Communists. This was the most extreme case of Communist control, but the proportions for the Anarchists were nearly as depressing elsewhere. In all six armies of Republican Spain the Anarchists believed the proportions to be 163 Communist brigade commanders to 33 Anarchists, 61 divisional commanders to 9 Anarchists, 15 army corps commanders to 2 Anarchists (with 4 Anarchist sympathizers), and 3 Communist army commanders, 2 sympathizers and one neutral.
Communist Party of Spain (PCE) - History
The Spanish revolution attracted international support as many workers and youth saw it as a crucial struggle against fascism, immortalised in George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia . But why did the Spanish Revolution fail?
During the night of 17-18 July 1936 General Franco launched the Spanish army's long prepared rebellion against the Spanish Republic. During those same days, thousands of miles away in Mexico, Leon Trotsky was revising the final draft of his book, The Revolution Betrayed.
Charting the degeneration of the Russian Revolution under Stalin's bureaucratic regime, Trotsky noted:
"At the present time, the 'Communist International’ is a completely submissive apparatus in the service of Soviet foreign policy, ready at any time for any zig-zag whatever". (The Revolution Betrayed p186- 7)
The events in Spain over the next two years were to tragically confirm that statement. Soviet foreign policy, in the wake of the Stalin-Laval pact and the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in the summer of 1935, dictated that the Spanish Revolution be crushed. And so it was – consciously, mercilessly, and murderously.
This fact in itself required Trotsky to re-evaluate the nature of Stalinism. Until the civil war in Spain he had continued to view Stalinism as “bureaucratic centrism”, pursuing a policy of zig-zags. Trotsky had recognised that the 1935 Seventh Congress of the CI was important,
" . . . because it marks - after a period of vacillation and fumbling - the final entry of the Communist International into its fourth 'period'." (Writings 1935/36 p127)
This policy of reconciliation with the “peace loving” democratic bourgeois states at the expense of the socialist revolution succeeded the “ultra-left” Third Period. For a while, Trotsky did not rule out the possibility of the Popular Front (i.e. the 'fourth period'), leading to impasse and further defeats, and being succeeded by another turn to ultra-leftism.
However eighteen months of Stalin’s intervention in Spain forced Trotsky, once and for all, to abandon this view. If the Popular Front was born in France, in Spain it was to be baptised in blood. In early October 1937 Trotsky told his American comrades that in the light of the Spanish events the term “bureaucratic centrism” was out of date. In December of that year, in The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning, he elaborated
"I once defined Stalinism as bureaucratic centrism and events brought a series of corroborations of this definition. But it is obviously obsolete today. The interests of the Bonapartist bureaucracy can no longer be reconciled with centrist hesitation and vacillation. In search of reconciliation with the bourgeoisie, the Stalinist clique is capable of entering into alliance only with the most conservative groupings amongst the international labour aristocracy. This has acted to fix definitively the counter-revolutionary character of Stalinism on the international arena.” (The Spanish Revolution p311 )
The actions of the Spanish Stalinists and Stalin's international agents during the Spanish Civil War, in particular during its first year (July 1936-June 1937) led the whole Fourth International to conclude that Stalinism was "the crudest form of opportunism and social patriotism". It is these actions, imbued with cynicism and carried through with murderous vindictiveness against the flower of the Spanish proletariat, which are the subject of this article.
The Second Republic is born
Spain in the early 1930s was a predominantly agricultural nation. Agriculture accounted for half the national income and some two-thirds of all exports. About 70 per cent of the population was rural. However, the agricultural yield per hectare was the lowest In Europe the techniques of production were extremely primitive.
The brief agricultural boom of the war years 1914-18 had boosted profits but the landowners had not re-invested these on any scale. The world depression, especially after 1929 hit Spain particularly hard. Fierce competition from the more productive plains of South America and Australia put economic pressure on the landlords to reduce wages in this labour intensive industry. This was added to by Anglo-French retaliation against Spanish, agriculture due to the high tariff walls that had been erected, to protect Spanish industry from collapse.
One-third of Spain's agrarian land was owned by the great lords. Sometimes an “estate” covered a whole province. Another third was in the hands of smaller, though still large, landlords The rest were either sharecroppers or semi-proletarians hiring themselves out for starvation wages to the estate owners for 90 to 150 days a year.
In the depth of the word recession the military dictatorship of Primo de Rivera collapsed in January 1930. The monarchical rule of King Alfonso VIII was left exposed and fragile.
Over the next period a rising tide of opposition swept away the last supports of the King. First municipal and then national elections in April and June 1931 brought a Republican Socialist coalition to power, which drew up and passed a bourgeois democratic constitution for a second Spanish Republic.
The bourgeoisie played virtually no role in the downfall of Rivera and Alfonso. During student and worker demonstrations in May 1930 and general strikes and the arming of the workers in the spring of 1931 they resisted the downfall of the monarchy. Only the massive popular hostility to the monarchy forced the bourgeoisie to call itself republican.
Significantly the oldest and largest republican group - the Radical party led by Lerroux - turned its back on the government of the Second Republic almost as soon as it was born. Power was left in the hands of the smaller left republican parties and the social democratic PSOE.
The weak Second Republic did little to solve the real task at hand: the handing of the vast estates to the peasantry and the provision of state aid in order to boost agricultural productivity.
Yet there was a spurt in the growth of the agricultural unions and significant wage rises were achieved. But the failure to advance a radical solution to the peasants' plight by the republican bourgeoisie led to despair, apathy, and us a result, the election of a reactionary Catholic nationalist government in November 1933.
Spanish industry was weakly developed. The country only accounted for 1.1 per cent of world trade in 1930. There were few centres of industry – which accounts for the meagre eight thousand miles of railway in Spain at the time. Yet Spanish industry, and hence the working class was highly concentrated. Of the two million industrial workers most were in one province – Catalonia, in the North East. Barcelona, the largest port and industrial centre accounted for 45 per cent of the Spanish working class!
This high concentration allied to immense union organisation and the political tradition placed the working class in the leading role in the Spain of the Second Republic.
In early 1934 the right wing republican Lerroux took power. He began to undo such reforms of the Second Republic as the raising of the minimum agricultural wage. Wages on the land fell by as much as 50 per cent. In many areas peasant worked for food only. By the end of 1935 rural discontent was intense.
The Third Period
Throughout this period the small Spanish Communist Party (PCE) operated under the sway of the policies of the Communist International’s Third Period. From the ninth ECCI in February 1928 its Stalinist leadership declared that the Comintern had now entered a new period of revolutionary offensive. Capitalism was declared to be in profound crisis. A fresh series of imperialist wars was predicted with “gigantic class battles.” Every strike would assume “A political i.e. general class character” and it was declared that the:
“More militant elements of the working class were abandoning the social democrats and coming over to the communist camp.” (Theses of the Sixth Congress on the International Situation.) The major obstacle to communist revolutions was Social Democracy, "the main social prop of the bourgeoisie".
These parties were now designated as being as dangerous, if not more so, than the fascists. They represented, "social fascism". In Stalin's words at the time, "social democracy and fascism are not antipodes, they are twins".
From 1928 to 1935 this Third Period dominated the Comintern. The tactics that flowed from it involved the complete rejection of the united front except under the leadership of the communists, and then only “from below”. Therefore no approaches were to be made to national or local leaders of Labour or Socialist parties. Revolutionary trade unions were encouraged as Red Unions, organisationally separate to the majority “scab” unions affiliated to the Second International. All electoral co-operation with the “social fascists” was to be stopped immediately.
This line was to have disastrous consequences for the fledgling PCE which claimed less than 1,000 members. In 1930 its National Conference rejected the idea that a bourgeois-democratic regime was possible in Spain. Events over the following year and a half refuted the PCE's claims but failed to change either its mind or its tactics. Even the Communist International was to find the PCE overly sectarian in its passive application of the Third Period line.
An article in Communist International in spring 1931 called the PCE "very sectarian". The article claimed that in the spring of 1931 the PCE's:
"organisation in many towns followed incorrect tactics. When the masses streamed into the streets to celebrate the proclamation of the Republic, the Communists, together with the Monarchists cried: “Down with the Republic” so isolating themselves from the masses".
Above all the Stalinists refused to recognise that after 17 years of dictatorship the masses had profound democratic illusions that had to be positively elated. The PCE did argue for the disarming of the civil guard the dissolution of the secret police and the arrest of the monarchist ministers – all correct in themselves, but they refused to advance slogans of political democracy that could test and break through the illusions of the workers and peasants.
At best they could only agree to not contest those illusions for opportunist reasons, with an anti-republican slogans. In contrast to the later slavish attitude to bourgeois democracy., the Stalinists at the time turned their backs on the revolutionary democratic character and potential of the struggle against the monarchy. In this they were entirely at one with the Third Period of the Comintern.
The tiny PCE was left isolated offering the mass of workers, who looked to either anarchist or socialist leaders, a 'united from below' while denouncing their leaders as the “mass bulwark of the counter revolution” or servile props of the bourgeoisie.
This line was persisted in and insisted upon right up until the summer of 1934. There were regular denunciations of the Socialist Party PSOE and Anarchist leaders. Moreover, the then Prime Minister and the future President of the Republic and chief Republican ally in the Popular Front Azana, was referred to as a “fascist’”constantly in these years.
In the November 1933 national elections the leader of the PSOE left, Caballero, was denounced as a social fascist and leading Stalinist Dolores Ibarruru (La Passionaria) even compared his legislation while Minister of Labour between 1931 and 1933 with that of Adolf Hitler.
Consistently the PCE reacted to Lerroux’s attempt to undo the reforms of the Second Republic by insisting that he was no different to the previous government.
In April 1934 the PCE finally got round to forming their own trade union federation - the CGTU - which was affiliated to the Profintern. It counted for very little in the Spanish labour movement but red unions were an obligatory Third Period tactic. At the same time the Communist Party of Catalonia (CPC) was founded to contest Maurin and Nin's grip in that province (Maurin and Nin established a Left Communist Party in 1931. This was later to become the centrist Workers Party of Marxist Unification - POUM - In September 1935).
Most revealing, however, was the PCE and CPC's reaction to the Workers Alliance - set up by Caballero in February 1934 as a united front organisation to resist the new government's counter-reforms. The First Congress of the CPC called it "an abortion" and "an alliance against the united front and the revolution". In response the PCE tried, without success, to launch its own anti-fascist front completely in line with the “united front from below” perspective.
The Third Period was to reap its most bitter fruit in Germany. It meant that the largest non-Soviet Comintern section the German Communist Party (KPD) - concentrated its fire against the “social fascist” Social Democrats and grossly underestimated the threat of real fascism.
In reality the policy itself coincided with the Soviet bureaucracy's view that German nationalism was less a threat to its interests than was Social Democracy's attempts to integrate Germany into an alliance with France and Britain. As triumphant German fascism increased its hostility to the USSR so the Stalinist regime's foreign policy - and with it the tactics of the Comintern - underwent a profound change.
Just as the Third Period squared with the Stalin group's orientation to alliance with the German bourgeoisie, so the jettisoning of that line was the result of a major re-orientation of the Stalin clique's foreign policy. Once Its attempted bloc with Germany was definitely broken the Kremlin bureaucracy set its sights on securing an alliance with 'democratic' imperialism - principally with France - and embraced a new set of tactics for the Comintern in order to exert maximum pressure to that end.
The French Communist Party (PCF) was given the go ahead to pursue 'a united workers and broad popular front' in 1934. This entailed political unity with the social democrats and bourgeois radicals. The Comintern's Seventh Congress in August 1935 committed the entire Comintern to the pursuit of the Popular Front. Meanwhile the USSR had. secured the Stalin-Laval pact with France in May 1935 which was based on what Stalin called his:
"Complete understanding and approval of state defence, carried out by France 'with the aim of maintaining its armed forces at a level commensurate with the needs of Its security".
The effects of this shift on Spain and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) were not immediate although the Popular front line was eventually to. triumph. In early 1934 the Comintern did not see the threat of fascism in Spain 'us being as great as in France. The Republic's government was so right-wing as to not be un obvious candidate for being placed in the camp of the USSR's 'democratic friends'. However a shift of line on the part of the PCE is observable from the summer of 1934.
In July 1934 the PCE wrote to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) executive informing them that they would be prepared to cease all attacks on the PSOE leaders if their proposals for united front action were accepted. The PSOE replied that the PCE was free to join the 'Workers Alliance' formed against the right-wing government. This the PCE refused to do.
The position on the Workers Alliance was to shift in the Autumn. By this time the Comintern's main agent in Spain - Codovilla - had been present at a July preparatory commission for the Seventh Congress and returned insisting on an unconditional shift of perspective.
The focus of the shi ft was he Workers Alliance and the occasion was the September 11th/12th meeting of the PCI: leadership. n the previous months the PCE had refused to join in the preparations for the General Strikes n Catalonia, Madrid and Asturia. even as late as September 11th The PSOE was attacked as "the rallying point of reactionary forces". At a fiercely contested meeting of the PCE that weekend, Codovilla succeeded in shifting the PCE. A resolution supporting the Workers Alliance was passed. The resolution argued for the Workers Alliance to be broadened to embrace the peasantry.
The PCE's change of line on the Workers Alliance enabled it to participate fully in the Asturias uprising of October 1934. The rising was prompted by the entry into the Madrid government of three members of the CEDA, the arch-reactionary party of Gil Robles. He openly modelled himself on Dolfuss in Austria, the bonapartist dictator who had recently come to power. CEDA's promotion, everyone knew, prefigured further attacks on the Spanish workers. In turn, the risings were an attempt to forestall them.
The risings and General Strikes in Madrid and Barcelona were quickly suppressed, but the Asturian miners were more successful. The 50,000 miners were politically dominated by the anarcho-syndicalist National Confederation of Labour (CNT). However the PSOE's General Union of Labour (UGT) and even the PCE had significant support. Within three days Asturia was in the hands of a fully armed proletariat joint workers committees held political power.
The weakness of the revolution, however, as with the Paris Commune, was its isolation from the rest of the country. In days the Republican government assembled a massive army led by General Franco and marched on Asturia. Defended by the Foreign Legion, the army savagely destroyed the uprising. After fifteen days of fighting, nearly 2,000 workers were killed and some 3,000 wounded. More were butchered in the atrocities that followed: about 30,000 were taken as political prisoners in the following weeks.
Severe repression of the workers continued unremittingly throughout early 1935. When the Republican leaders decided to let up on this, CEDA provoked a crisis by resigning in protest at this leniency. That crisis was resolved in CEDA's favour in May when they were given two extra Cabinet seats. One of them - the Ministry of War - went to their hated leader Gil Robles.
It was on the basis of these events that the Comintern took the decision to proceed to create a Popular Front in Spain. Early in June the PCE issued its first popular front programme. Gone was the spectre of revolution. It was constructed for the radical democrats and republican bourgeoisie rather than the workers and peasants. Its four points demanded: the resignation of the government and fresh elections, the confiscation of large estates, self-determination for Catalonia etc. and the dissolution of the fascist groups, such as the paramilitary Falange Espanola established in 1933.
There was, however, one major problem fur the PCE in winning socialist support for this bourgeois programme. The leader of the PSOE left Caballero was himself moving further left under the pressure of events. His star was rising in the PSOE and its trade union federation the UGT.
He was spitting blood at the entire bourgeoisie, whether monarchist or republican. In October 1935 the PCE wrote to Cabellero proposing unconditional unity of organisations that is, on Caballero's programme. Unfortunately, the PCE was forced to recognise that this entailed, "the organic political unity of the proletariat. (with) . . . full Independence vis-à-vis the bourgeoisie, and a complete break-up of the social democratic bloc with the bourgeoisie." (E.H.Carr, The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War p2).
This alarmed the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCl). Stalin immediately decided to go to the heart of the problem. He dispatched the PCF leader - Duclos - as a personal envoy to Caballero to get him to shift his stance, arguing that the Prieto led right/centre of the PSOE should be supported because it could command greater electoral support. There were to be no more 'deviations' by the PCE. The late summer Seventh Congress of the Comintern had sealed the total victory of the Popular Front. Henceforth, the PCE would be making a hundred and one declarations in tune with the November 1935 speech of Jose Diaz
". . . at the present moment we understand that the struggle taking place is not in the area of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat but in the struggle of democracy against fascism as its immediate objective". (Quoted in D. Catell 'Communism and the Spanish Civil War' p30/31)
From this time the PCE's main task was to win adherents to the 'Bloque Popular'. With, elections only' months away, Cabellero wanted only a united front with the PCE, spurning the republicans. The PSOE right led by Prieto wanted a popular front with the republicans without the PCE. PCE wanted an three. This was to prove its strength for the bourgeoisie and its danger to Spanish workers.
The Popular Front in power
The PCE emerged from the Austrian rising with increased credibility. They continued to grow during 1935 recruiting mainly from the left-wing of the PSOE. Estimates for the PCE's membership vary widely but it is likely that by the time of the February 1936 elections they were between 20-30,000 strong. This strength was reflected in the division of seats agreed for those Popular Front elections, since it was agreed that the PCE should receive 6% of the seats (19) in case of victory. Previously, they had had only one.
The election results revealed the rapid class polarisation that had been taking place in Spain. The total vote for the Popular Front (PSOE, PCE, republicans) was evenly matched by that for the Catholic, monarchist, crypto-fascist right. The parties of the centre - the large moderate Republican groups were obliterated the previous premier, Lerroux, didn't even, get a seat.
After the election, the PCE's first programme for the new government was a watered down version of that of the previous slimmer. Even Minimum working class demands, were displaced. The PCE called for the immediate seizure of the largest estates, the separation of Church and State, and an end to Church subsidies and the formation of a 'people's army'.
Time and again the PCE and the ECCI stressed the 'democratic' character of the revolution. In his opening speech to the Cortes Jose Diaz said on April 15th that the PCE "loyally supports the left Republican government."
At a May meeting of the ECCI Dimitrov heaped praise upon the PCE for criticising,
"the leftist slogans of the left socialists headed by Largo Caballero, who proposes to begin Immediately the struggle for the socialist republic".
Nevertheless, a determination to confine the revolution to democratic tasks did not exhaust the problem of strategy and tactics in Spain at this time. There were urgent democratic tasks to be carried out. The PCE's Popular Front programme gave muted recognition to this.
The key question of February to July 1936 was by what methods were these tasks (e.g. land redistribution) to be carried out? Piecemeal by legislative reform at a pace and scope suitable to the Republican government? Or radically, from below, by workers and peasants at a pace and scope that frightened the republican bourgeoisie and even threatened to go far beyond the boundaries of radical democratic demands?
Although the PCE reported favourably some of the early land seizures, after February it became increasingly alarmed when the workers and peasants took steps far in advance of the Popular Front programme. For these reasons the Popular Front government that emerged in February 1936 was doomed. Class polarisation had gone too far. Azana, the new President of the Republic said in the Cortes on 3rd April, that the government would fulfil its Popular Front program me, "without removing a period or a comma, and without adding a period or a comma."
(Quoted in B. Bolloten 'The Grand Camouflage, p.26)
However, the former was unacceptable to the CEDA and the Falange, while the latter was unacceptable to the workers and poor peasants.
The key to the Spanish revolution was the agrarian question. The Popular Front passed a mild agrarian reform law on taking office. Without satisfying the peasants it encouraged them to action. The peasants
"calculate that the agrarian laws plans fifty thousand settlements a year which means it will take twenty years to settle a million peasants and more than a century to give land to all. Realising this, the peasants just occupy the land." (Quoted in Bolloten p.20)
In the cities the situation was the same. In the spring there were innumerable strikes over wages, conditions, and to win amnesty for prisoners. The prisons had been thrown open and all the victims of the repression after October 1934 had been released by workers and taken by them back into the factories to their former jobs.
The decisive strike wave began on June 1st when 70,000 building workers struck indefinitely for higher pay. Although by the 4th July the Ministry of Labour had conceded the original demands the strike had gone far beyond them. Many workers were armed, originally to protect themselves from Falangist attacks. The CNT had formed a Central Defence Committee. The workers were also realising their strength in incidental ways: .
"the strikers, weapons In hand, force the shopkeepers to serve, them, seized restaurants and ate without paying" (P.Broue and E.Temime 'The Revolution and' Civil War in Spain' p94)
As the revolutionary tide accelerated the PSOE and PCE leaders in the UGT called off the strikes after the original concessions, but the CNT refused to do likewise.
Faced with this tide the Falange and the army had been making preparations for an uprising. Ever since August 1932 the right had been openly discussing a coup d'etat. A meeting of top generals took place in early March 1936 and preparations were set in train.
This was well known to the Republican leaders who preferred to cover it up. The Popular Front's War Minister proclaimed on March 18th that he had
"the honour of making public that all the officers and non-commissioned officers of the Spanish Army maintain themselves within the strictest discipline. . . and, needless to say, to obey the orders of the legally constituted government. "(13. Bolloten p.27)
On the night of July 17/18th General Franco forced him to eat his words. Fifty garrisons revolted. Only 500 of the 15,000 Army officers stayed loyal to the republic, together with about 5,000 of the 34,000 civil guards. Within weeks the Army and Falange controlled half of Spain. The Civil War had begun.
Stalin's foreign policy
Early in 1936 a favourite slogan of the left-wing of the PSOE was "if you want to save Spain from Marxism, then vote Communist". But what was a half serious election campaign jibe turned into grim reality during the Civil War. To understand why and how, it is necessary to start with an understanding of the Kremlin's attitude to Spain in the wake of the Franco rebellion.
After the signing of the Stalin Laval Pact Moscow felt it was in its political interest to block the rise of fascism in Spain. Stalin argued at one level that this was in the interests of France and Great Britain since Italian and German success in Spain would threaten both of them.
However, Stalin recognised well enough that the leading factions of the French and certainly British ruling class regarded the USSR as the greater evil in Europe as compared to fascist Germany or Italy. They were unwilling to see Hitler defeated to the degree that Germany was a bulwark against the USSR. Stalin's foreign policy was reduced, in effect, to the attempt to get governments elected in Europe which were hostile to German war aims in Europe.
British imperialism, on the other hand, was interested only in deflecting Germany's advance so as to allow it time to rearm. The Soviet bureaucracy's whole aim in Spain was thus, first, to prevent the success of socialist revolution in Spain, which would antagonise Britain and France and run the threat of throwing them into a block with Germany against the USSR. Secondly, to bend all efforts to enlist France and Britain to help the Republic beat off Spanish fascism. The best statement from a Spanish Stalinist of this perspective came from a PSUC (Catalonian Communist Party) leader at a public meeting:
"in the democratic - bloc of powers, the decisive factor is not France it is England. It is essential for all party comrades to realise this so as to moderate (their) slogans at the present time. . . we should realise that the big capitalists in England are capable of coming to an under,. standing at any time with Italian and German capitalists if they should reach the conclusion that they have no choice with regard to Spain. (Therefore) we must win, cost what it may, the benevolent neutrality of that country, if not its direct aid." (Quoted in B Bolloten The Grand Camouflage.)
'Cost what may' was a threat issued to the Spanish workers. This reactionary schema was based on the false premise that Britain preferred the victory of the Republic over Franco. In fact the reverse was true, 'because Britain rightly feared that a Republican victory would be but a passing phase in the Spanish socialist revolution or long drawn out instability in European politics.
Thus, the opening weeks of the Spanish Civil War gave the Comintern and the PCE cause for concern. The working class were on the offensive. In the North and East they had disarmed the army, stormed the barracks and everywhere were in control. Within a week dual power had been established in the Republican held areas. By September 1936 Koltzov - Stalin's personal agent in Spain - estimated that about 18,000 industrial enterprises had been taken over by the work
In Catalonia about 70% of the factories kicked out all management from the plant. In Madrid it was more common for managers to remain but under the direction of the workers. Only in the Basque region was there hardly any workers' control at all. Whenever the CNT was strongest in gun industry the firms were collectivised to use resources more efficiently. In Catalonia the CNT/UGT closed down 46 out of the 72 foundries and did everything in the remaining 24.
The most dramatic upheavals took place on the land. In Catalonia the mass of peasants were small holders and leaseholders who were glad to be rid of rents and gain more land. Collectivization of the land was limited there. But in Aragon it was a different story. To begin with the fascists had encroached into the Aragon countryside and It took the best anarchist and socialist workers of Barcelona to repulse them. But in the process they were also revolutionary agitators. Durruti, the CNT leader of the militia, said:
"we are waging a war and making the revolution at the same time. . . Every village we conquer begins to develop along revolutionary lines."
The bigger estates were collectivized by the agricultural workers of Aragon. Very soon 70% of the population (about 500,000) in the area were in collectives.
The greatest advances of all were at the political level. PCE leader Ibarriri could reflect in these weeks that:
" . . . the whole state apparatus was destroyed and state power lay in the street."
While the state was not destroyed it was certainly in complete disarray. The Republic hold no army except that of the workers' militia. The Republican government continued to exist but it was impotent. President Azana commented:
"Faced by the revolution the government had the choice either of upholding it or suppressing it. But even less than uphold it could the government suppress it."
Dual power In Spain
Real political power was being exercised by the workers' militias operating both as an armed and a political force. The cabinet of Giral had no authority beyond the suburbs of Madrid. There, however, the workers' political alternative was weakest. By 27 July the official police had reestablished control of the streets. In Barcelona tile workers were in power. Workers in ordinary clothes controlled the streets. Tens of thousands of arms had been distributed. No bourgeoisie were to be seen their posh haunts had been closed down, their restaurants and hotels ,commandeered. The beggars were off the streets and being cared for.
The Revolutionary Committees that ruled Republican Spain went by dozens of different names from region to region and they were under the control of different political parties in each area. In the villages of Catalonia and Aragon the CNT/FAI had exclusive control. In the towns, apart from Sabadell and Lerida, they were also in control but with much greater representation from the UGT, PSUC, POUM and even the Esquerra.
The committees were appointed or elected in a variety of ways. Sometimes they were elected by mass meetings in the factories, sites and villages. In others, they were elected by trade unions or political parties. Everywhere, however, they were the political rule of the armed militia rather than of the factories or villages.
In Catalonia power was exercised by the Anti-Fascist Militia Committee. It existed alongside and over the Generalidad of President Companys - the regional government of Catalonia. In Valencia the Popular Executive Committee existed alongside Barrio's Provisional junta. In Malaga it was the Committee of Public Safety which ruled!
Yet it was in Aragon that the most democratic power existed the Defence Council. It was the only regional body in Spain that drew its authority from direct elections from local town and village committees. Enforcing the political power were the armed militia, organised and controlled according to political allegiance. There were fifty thousand in the CNT militia, thirty thousand in the UGT, ten thousand in the PCE/PSUC and about five thousand in the militia of the POUM.
In these first weeks nothing was done unless it was through or by these revolutionary committees. The anarchist leader - Sentillan - gave a good picture of all of them when he described the functions of Catalonia's Anti- Fascist Militia Committee:
"An establishment for revolutionary order at the rear, an organisation of forces more or less on a war footing, with school for communications and signals, food and clothing, economic organisation and legislative and judiciary action, the Anti-Fascist Militias Committee was everything, supervised everything the transformation of the peacetime industries into war industries, propaganda relations with the government in Madrid, help for all the fighting centres, relations with Morocco, the cultivation of available land, health, supervision of coasts and frontiers, and a thousand and one problems of every kind."
The flawed revolution
Despite all of this the revolution suffered from considerable internal weaknesses that were a reflection of the failings of the politics of anarcho-syndicalism and left reformism. First, there were certainly 'excesses' in the sense that in the towns even the smallest petit-bourgeois, opticians, bakers, etc - were 'collectivised'. On the land the CNT refused to consider at all the possibility of land division even where it may have been more appropriate. The PCE was to use these mistakes as ammunition against the revolution.
Secondly, the factories, rather taken under workers control as a stage on the road to complete expropriation and management within a planned economy, were most often turned into "producers' co-operatives", still content "to be subject to the laws of capitalist economics" (F Morrow Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain). Most disastrously, the CNT allowed the Republic to retain control over the Treasury and the banks. The committees merely prevented payments to fascists and encouraged loans to collectivised factories.
The greatest defect in the revolution was the political weakness of anarchism. To start with the anarchists allowed the Republican bourgeoisie to be represented on the revolutionary committees. In Catalonia delegates from the Generalidad were allowed to sit in on the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias:
This popular frontism was the logical outcome of the anarchist prejudice against 'the state in general and its opposition. in the midst of revolution, to the undivided rule of the working class. Sentillan displayed this weakness when he said, in accepting the offer of 'advice' from President Companys:
"We could have remained alone, imposed our absolute will, declared the Generalidad null and void and imposed the true power Of the people in its place, but we did not believe in dictatorship when it was being exercised against us, and we did not want it when we could exercise it ourselves only at the expense of others. The Generalida would remain in force with President Companys at its head."
Felix Morrow accurately summed up the contradictions and limits of the revolution in its early period, a weakness that was to allow the Stalinists to take back the initiative. He correctly stated that at a local level the power of the revolutionary committees was possibly greater than pre-October 1917 in Russia and certainly greater than that of the German revolution of 1918/19. But unlike those examples, the Spanish revolution gave birth to no national, centralised alternative to the government of the Republic. Despite its immediate disarray, this gave the bourgeoisie a toe hold on power. Morrow observed:
"One power, that of Azana and Companys, without an army, police or. other armed force of its own, was already too weak to challenge the existence of the other. The other, that of the armed proletariat. was not yet conscious enough of the necessity to dispense with the existence of the power of Azana and Companys. "
Finally, the revolutionary committees did not embrace the widest layers of the exploited and oppressed. They represented – aside from Aragon - the political rule of the vanguard organised in militias, rather than the masses.
Nevertheless, the anarcho-syndicalists did want to see the revolution go forward. The PCE. on the contrary, wished to see it halted and reversed from the very start. Even in the period of revolutionary rise, when the most left of the Republican bourgeoisie dared not contest the situation, the Stalinists assumed total responsibility for standing against the stream of revolutionary events. Even before the Stalinists entered the government they railed against the land seizures. The PCE repeatedly stated in Its press:
"To embark on such projects is absurd and equivalent to playing the enemy's game".
Springing to the defence of the Republican landlords - who, although being considerable employers of agricultural labourers, were consistently dubbed 'small farmers' – the PCE declared ominously:
" . . . that those who attack this property must be regarded as enemies of the regime.
Needless to say their attitude to workers' control in the factories was the some. They supported only the nationalisation by the Republican government of openly pro- fascist capitalists, rather than workers' control. They constantly attacked the collectives as. 'wasteful' and as undermining the maximum mobilisation of resources for the war effort.
Politically, Stalin and the PCE had set definite limits to the Spanish revolution. On the day of the fascist uprising - 18 July - the PCE declared: "The government commands and the Popular Front obeys.
Later the Spanish delegate to the ECCI said that the PCE's motto must be "All for the Popular Front, all through the Popular Front." For the Comintern Andre Marty stated:
"The working class parties in Spain, and especially the Communist Party, have on several occasions clearly indicated . . . that the present struggle in Spain is not between capitalism and socialism but between fascism and democracy. In a country like Spain, where feudal institutions and roots are still very deep, the working class and the entire people have the immediate and urgent task, the only possible t ask not to bring about the socialist revolution but to defend, consolidate and develop the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
This argument was false to the core. The techniques of production on the land may have been 'feudal' but the property relations were thoroughly capitalist. Land had been bought and sold for years. like any other commodity. The big landowners were, in fact, completely tied up with - in many cases identical with the captains of industry and finance. The notion of fascism as being a feudal reaction to democracy was a threadbare justification for the Popular Front. Spanish fascism, as with its German twin, was an instrument' of finance capital against the working class.
'La Passionaria' herself, for the PCE, assured the bourgeoisie:
"Cease conjuring up the spectre of Communism, you generals . . . In this historic hour the Communist Party. . . places itself at the side of the government which expresses this will (i.e. of the people), at the side of the Republic, at the side of democracy."
The PCE did not confine itself to mere propaganda. During the early weeks, while the workers and poor peasants were consolidating and extending their gains, the Stalinists tried to intervene to call a halt. In Valencia, for instance, as early as 23 July the Provisional Junta challenged the authority of the Popular Executive Committee (PEC) and declared the latter's rule null and void. In response the PEC split the CNT, UGT, PSOE and. POUM rejected the ultimatum, while the PCE and the Republican left alone urged compliance with the edict. The Junta took fright and dissolved four days later. Nevertheless, the PCE remained unabashed.
In Aragon, the PCE consistently attacked the town and village committees as 'factionalist' and 'cantonist'. In Madrid where the rule of the revolutionary committees was weakest, the Republic tried early in August to demobilise the militias. To this end, they passed conscription measures. The PCE immediately agreed. Fortunately, the CNT/UGT did not and the cabinet was forced to allow recruits to join the militia.
Without doubt the worst example was in Catalonia. On 2 August the. bourgeois nationalist Casanovas attempted to restore Republican authority by forming a cabinet. He offered the PSUC three ministries which they immediately accepted. The CNT and POUM workers reacted so ferociously that on 8 August the PSUC had to resign or lose all credibility with the masses.
So concerned were the Stalinists for the interests of the bourgeoisie that the PCE formed the GEPCI a federation for traders and small employers in the towns, which had a membership of 18,000 within a month or so of the civil war. The CNT mercilessly exposed this organisation of "Intransigent employers, ferociously anti-labour" which included one of the main textile employers who had backed the failed army rebellion of 1932.
At an international level the diplomatic manoeuvres of the Kremlin coincided completely with this conservative line. During the last two weeks of July Moscow's press carried a good deal of coverage on the civil war. Trade union levies were organised and money strictly for medical aid - was sent to the Republican government. Relations with the revolutionary committees were shunned. This period of support culminated in a mass rally in Red Square of. 120,000 workers in support of the Republic on 3 August.
At the end of that week, however, Britain proposed a Non-Intervention Committee. On 6 August the USSR replied:
"The government of the USSR subscribes to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of Spain."
To show its sincerity the Kremlin ceased reportage on Soviet support for the Spanish Republic, and no attack was made on the policy of neutrality. Nothing was done to hinder negotiations between the imperialist powers leading to the creation of such a committee. The USSR ratified the treaty setting up the committee on 24 August and Germany the next day. The Non-Intervention Committee met on 9 September for the first time with 26 countries present.
From its inception to its demise this committee was a pure farce whose only purpose was to restrain the hand of the USSR and absolve Britain and France from giving military aid to the Republic. Meanwhile Germany and Italy continued to pour troops (e.g. 40,000 Italian troops) and arms into Spain to help Franco.
Many Stalinist writers have claimed that the lack of arms doomed the Republic from the start and that it was impossible to provide more. Even those with POUM sympathies - such as Orwell - came to the same conclusion.
The truth was that fascism succeeded above all because the Republic failed to arouse the peasantry to its side with a bold programme of land reform. Eventually the peasantry fell into despair and saw no qualitative difference between Franco and the Republic and hence no reason to defend the latter.
Everything the Stalinists did in Spain from the very first weeks of the uprising was designed to prevent the success of the revolution. While they did not wish to see Franco triumphant. their murderous policies ensured it nevertheless.
The battle for Barcelona
By early 1937 the Stalinists in Spain were in an increasingly strong position to enforce their perspectives against the wishes of the working masses. They held many key governmental positions and by March were the largest single political party. The party and the Stalin led Communist International were committed to ruthlessly destroying all those forces who wished to wage the struggle against fascism as the struggle against the capitalist system that gave birth to it. The flower of the Spanish working class was to pay for this with their blood.
There were, however, serious obstacles that still lay in the path of the PCE in their drive to destroy the social gains and political organisations of the masses. Prime Minister Caballero wanted to marginalise the POUM but was not prepared for an all out attack on the mass of workers and peasants'. He was fearful of losing his mass UGT base by attacking workers' control In the factories and completely destroying land reforms. Under pressure from the PCE to launch attacks he struck up an alliance with the CNT In order to obstruct such measures. Similarly he tried to ally with the CNT In order to retard the dissolution of the militias into a 'mixed brigade' regular army.
The Stalinists attempted to put heavy pressure on Caballero to dissolve the militias and place their key figures in command positions. Soviet Ambassador Rosenberg visited Caballero daily in order to press this. matter. Yet in February Cabellero re-assigned several top PCE military men and replaced them with his own supporters. At the same time he was obstructing proposals to. fuse the PSOE and PCE and attempts by the Stalinists to secure leading positions within the UGT.
It is no surprise therefore that the March Central Committee decided to attempt to oust Caballero. This was done in alliance with the leaders of the right wing of the PSOE - Negrin and Prieto. They had both realised that the PCE was the best bulwark against revolution. Hand in hand, the Stalinists and the PSOE right were prepared for a show down with the vanguard of the Spanish proletariat - the workers of Barcelona. Caballero was to be a victim of the Barcelona proletariat's defeat.
Barcelona was a focus of discontent with the course the Republic was taking. Living' conditions were deteriorating. Queues, black markets and corruption were evident. Even the bourgeoisie felt confident enough to put in a public appearance again. On April 14th women workers In the city led a huge demonstration against food rises.
The growing mood of proletarian discontent was reflected In a radicalisation within both the POUM and the CNT. Once they had been expelled from the Catalonian government the POUM leader Nin had concentrated his efforts on regaining entry to that government. Not so the POUM youth and militia who pressed for more radical action. Under their pressure the POUM leaders published a March call for the formation of a 'revolutionary government' while at the same time calling for the Catalonhll1 Stalinists (PSUC) to be In It! In April the official Trotskyists, who now operated inside the POUM, secured the support of the small Madrid section for an oppositional programme. The Barcelona section voted for the Immediate organisation of Soviets on April 15th. In the face of these militant stirrings in the POUM's ranks Nin forbade the formation of factions. Dissidents were called back from the front and expelled.
These developments coincided with a small break in the CNT's ranks. In late April the 'friends of Durruti' declared' themselves for 'all power to the working class' and the creation of "democratic organs of workers, peasants and combatants power".
Together the POUM and Anarchist youth were able to mount an effective challenge to the Sta1inlsts In Catalonia. In February 1937 the POUM youth (JCO and the anarchist Catalan Libertarian Youth were able to bring 14,000 young militants together to form the Revolutionary Youth Front (RYF). In opposition. Santiago Carillo formed the Alliance of Anti-fascist Youth (AAFY) which comprised the Stalinists and some republicans. The Stalinists were to become Increasingly alarmed as the RYF' succeeded in causing several splits in the ranks of the AAFY and winning sections of It.
The threat of revolutionary opposition In Barcelona stung the PSOE right and the Stalinists Into action. PSUC leader Benauldes coined the notorious slogan 'before taking Saragossa, we must take Barcelona'. The Stalinists set out to crack down on CNT power. Relations between the Republic and the CNT militia broke down after Negrin sent the Carablneros to take control Of frontier customs posts out. of the hands of the CNT militia. On May 3rd Barcelona police chief and PSUC member, Sala, took three truck loads of Civil Guards to take control of the Telephone Exchange out of the hands of the CNT militia.
In response the Barcelona workers Immediately struck. Within two hours the workers had stopped all Industry and covered the city with barricades. The city was their's again.
At a Joint CNT IF AI/POUM meeting the POUM, sensing what was at stake, argued:
"Either we place ourselves at the head of the movement to destroy the enemy within or the movement falls and that will be the end of us."
However the CNT IFAI rejected a confrontational course with the Stalinist bourgeois coalition. Fatally, the POUM refused to break with the CNT and strike out on an independent course.
for three days the CNT leaders toured the area urging the workers to lay down their arms while they sought a compromise with the Republic. Yet the workers were in a strong position to advance and seize power throughout Catalonia. In Lerida and Hostofrancos the government forces surrendered to the workers. The POUM/CNT militias seized the PSUC Headquarters at Tarragona and Geron.
Despite this the CNT leaders surrendered the Initiative to the Stalinists and, In turn the POl1M surrendered leadership to the CNT. There was massive working class disgust at the behaviour of the CNT leaders. Ripped up copies of the CNT paper littered the barricades. But the POUM made no attempt to lead this militancy against the conciliating CNT leaders. On May 6th the CNT ordered their men out of the Telephone Exchange. The POUM commanded their forces
the Telephone Exchange. The POUM commanded their forces to leave the barricades.
The agreement struck with Catalan President Companys at the end of the strike had called for all troops to leave their positions. This was supposed to hold for militia and civil guard alike. Yet while the CNT/POUM militias observed .every letter of the agreement the Republic shipped in hundreds of Assault Guards to secure the city. The police moved In to the Telephone Exchange to prevent communications between CNT forces.
The Barcelona workers paid dearly for the cowardice of their leaders. 500 were killed and 1500 were wounded In the three days of the rising. Hundreds more were killed or wounded In the 'mopping up' operations.
Having defeated the Barcelona workers the Stalinists stepped up their offensive against the revolution. Target number one was the POUM. The POUM were constantly misnamed Trotskyists by the Stalinists. This was not simply because of Nin's one time connection to the Left Opposition.
In the Moscow trials and Siberian camps Stalinism was slaughtering all potential opposition in the name of rooting out a Trotskyite fascist world conspiracy. Designating the POUM as Trotskyite signified it as being on the hit list for Stalinist terror.
This was made abundantly clear by PCE General Secretary Jose Diaz on May 9th. Speaking at a public meeting he proclaimed that some 'enemies' of the Republic:
"call themselves Trotskyite which is the name used by many disguised fascists who use revolutionary language in order to sow confusion. I therefore ask . why does (the government) not treat them like fascists and exterminate them pitilessly? . I must ask: Is it not perfectly clear that the Trotskyites are not a political or social organisation of a definite tendency like the Anarchists, Socialists, or Republicans, but a gang of spies and provocateurs in the service of international fascism? The Trotskyite provocateurs must be swept away". (B. Bolloten. p308)
At the May 13th Cabinet meeting the two PCE ministers demanded the complete suppression of the POUM. When Caballero refused to sanction this the PCE ministers walked out and resigned. In turn Negrin and Prieto announced their refusal to serve in a Cabinet without the Stalinists. Caballero's government fell on May 15th and was replaced by one headed by Negrin himself.
The drive against the POUM could be stepped up now that the Negrin-PCE coup had succeeded. On June 16th the POUM was.
outlawed, its leaders and Its militia arrested. The Soviet Consul General In Barcelona - Antonov Orvseenko - ordered its headquarters to be transformed into a prison. Nin was summarily executed after the International Brigades cooperated in staging a supposed Nazi attempt to liberate him from prison.
The Stalinists also turned their attention to pushing the CNT out of the government of Catalonia. President Companys, pressured to bring into his Cal. Pedro Gimpera - a seasoned reactionary and monarchist had in response the CNT withdrew from the government on 30th.
There was nothing now to stand in the way of the full scale operation of the Stalinist terror machine. The Stalinists had a practised apparatus of terror. Oglov of the Soviet internal security force (NKVD) had been sent by Stalin to supervise the operation. In June 1937 Togliatti, one of the heroes of today's communists - in order to supervise the action of the PCE and PSUC on Stalin’s behalf. The main centre of it was at Albacete where the International Brigade's secret police (the SIM) had its headquarters. This was completely independent of Republican control and in hands of PCE chief and ECCI member Andre Marty. The force was enormous. In Madrid it was 6000 strong.
After the Civil War Marty was to boast that he personally had sent 500 members of International Brigade to their deaths. However it was the POUM and Anarchist workers who to bear the full brunt of the oppression. The Stalinists consolidated their grip on the m forces and used this to up the repression of those stood in their way. By June 60% of the army were members of the PCE - many of them joined the party in order to serve The Stalinists controlled key positions in the army's command structure from this position of strength they could send POUMists on suicidal assaults as they did on Aragon front. The alternative to simply shoot them in the back of the head.
Control of the armed forces and of their own terror machine made It relatively simple for PCE to proceed to crush the remaining militias and incorporate them into the standing army.
Negrin government supported PCE's demand for tight control over the CNT militias. The leaders surrendered to Negrin.
By the autumn of 1937 the Republic had finally eliminated all militias independent of its direct command. It now had over half a million troops in 152 brigades dancing to its tune. That tune was being called by the Stalinists.
The militias were the last remaining force protecting workers' control in the plants and on the agricultural collectives. Once the militias had been put down It was only a matter of time before he Republic could attack these gains of the working masses. Workers control was undermined by nationalisation at the hands of the Republic which appointed a manager to rob the workers of their power. Things were to prove less easy for the Stalinists on the land.
In June 1937 the left socialist federation of Land Workers demanded that the October 1936 .and Decree be extended to all landowners who:
"had violated labour contracts, discharged workers unjustly because of their ideas, denounced them, (to the police) without good reason, (and) encouraged strike-breaking."
In reply not only did the PCE Minister of Agriculture turn down his demand. He also ordered that and be handed back to proprietors "who had employed under 25 workers. The CNT General Secretary of the Peasants Federation of Bastille complained:
"We have fought terrible battles with the Communists, especially with brigades and divisions under their control, which have assassinated our best peasant militants and savagely destroyed our collective farms."
When the harvest was completed n August the Stalinists began their biggest reign of terror. They went out to destroy the Aragon collectives by force. The PSUC had no base in the area which vas the power base of the CNT. the PSUC's onslaught began with the dissolving of the council of Aragon - the last remaining revolutionary committee - and the appointment of a Governor General. The attack was backed up by a Stalinist press campaign that accused the Aragon peasants of all manner of crimes Including.
terror, theft, the maintenance of arms stores and even forced collectivisation. Those who had herded the Russian peasantry Into collective farms at bayonet point now turned on the self organisation of the Aragon peasants. The Aragon peasants made serious inroads into the very private property system the Stalinists were set on defending.
Eventually Enrique Lister PCE leader of the II th division marched into Aragon and proceeded to destroy collectives. Municipal committees were closed down. Land and implements were handed back to their old owners. At least 600 CNT leaders were arrested.
From this time onwards the fate of the republic was sealed. Proof of the fact that only the defence and extension of the social revolution could defeat fascism is to be seen in the fate of the Aragon front. It was to collapse within months of the Republic's attack on the Aragon peasantry That same Republic could no longer command the selfless support of the workers and peasants of Aragon.
Stalin the executioner
In the face of Franco's advance the Comintern entertained not the slightest thought of changing tactics or perspectives. At the same time the pro-bourgeois socialists and the last remnants of a republican bourgeoisie began to consider ways of making peace with Franco. The Comintern's response was to call on the PCE/PSUC to urge popular front policies on the government and on the CNT/UGT rank and file. There could be no questioning of the strategy that was paving the way for the victory of fascism over the Spanish proletariat.
Stalin had cynically sought to use the Spanish Revolution and Franco's offensive as a means' of pressurising Britain and France into an alliance with the USSR.
Stalin hoped that these democratic imperialist powers could be forced to ,protect their own Interests by fighting Germany and Italy In Spain. In this way they would also be preventing a war against Russia.
In March 1938, Jose Dial stated:
"We want (the democratic states) to help us, and believe that in this way they will be defending their own Interests . . . fascist aggression is going forward at such a pace that national Interests, In a country like France, for Instance, must convince all men who desire the liberty and Independence of their country of the necessity of standing up to this aggression. "
Always a false perspective, the dependence on "those who desire liberty" in France and Britain was becoming more and more evidently false throughout 1938.
Britain and France had never wanted a loyalist victory for fear of precipitating a social revolution. A victory for the Republic would also, they feared, provoke a German-Italian Invasion and so bring war with Great Britain and France that much nearer.
Whilst the British and French bourgeoisie could not openly side with Franco they could and did achieve the same result through the force of the Non-Intervention Committee.
At the end of 1938 Britain and France ended that farce. At Munich Britain signed a 'peace pact' with Hitler. After this Stalin and the ECCI effectively abandoned the perspective of turning Britain and France against Hitler and began to shift the CI toward an accommodation with Hitler. This was revealed in a caustic attack on Britain and France by Dimitrov in Pravda in November 1938. In the United Front Against Fascism after Munich, he blamed the failure of Stalin's foreign policy upon the:
"reactionary Imperialist who, out of fear of the growth of the working class movement in Europe, of the movement of national liberation in Asia, out of hatred for the land of Socialism, sacrificed to fascism the Interests of their own people."
That Stalin abandoned the Republic to Franco after this point was evident in the removal of Soviet .personnel and equipment from Spain from the autumn of 1938. In November the remaining 10,000 of the International Brigade were pulled out.
Yet the cynical, lying propaganda of Stalinism continued to spew out the necessity for the International Popular Front. Even in defeat the PCE refused to abandon it. With the fall of Catalonia to Franco on February 23rd 1939 the Politburo of the PCE said:
"It is a profound error to believe that we can hope for nothing or for very little from abroad and that the democratic countries. . . will not help us now that we have lost such an Important position. . ."
Stalinism continued to push the illusion that the Imminent victory of Franco:
"opens the eyes of those who until now have not wanted to face reality, and Increases the possibility of direct and indirect aid for the Spanish people."
Four days later Britain and France recognised Franco's forces as the legal government of Spain, a full month before the fall of Madrid and the end of the Civil War.
The final eighteen months of the Civil War within Spain itself reflected these political shifts’ within the ECCI. On the one hand, the PCE continued to become politically isolated although this was masked by their total control over the bloody apparatus of terror. At the end of 1937 the PCE added the Ministry of Justice to their spoils in order to push more vigorously their campaign for “the complete extermination of the Trotskyist POUM gang". (ECCI letter to PCE. July 1938) Togliatti’s only answer to the political shift to the right was to lead it and give It a political expression. Toglliatti and Stepanov submitted, on behalf of the PCE, a new draft programme for adoption by the government In April 1938.
It was the most nationalistic document yet produced. Its commitment to democrracy insisted on the inclusion of a clause protecting the property of foreigners.
None of this, however, could prevent the shadow of the bourgeoisie defecting from the Popular Front. Negrin opened negotiations with Franco In February 1938. But this delay and hesitation In publicly dumping the PCE Irritated the Spanish military command - now’ left to their fate by the departure of the USSR ’advisors’. On March 5th/6th Casedo as head of the Madrid garrison formed a Council of National Defence thus usurping .Negrin’s ministerial authority. Having done that he oversaw the fall of Madrid on March 29th. By then the PCE had abandoned the Republic. In hiding, Toglliatti issued a PCE statement on March 10th calling for an end to the resistance.
On that same day in Moscow Stalin presided over the CPSU’s 18th Congress. The events in Spain were hardly referred to. The lessons of defeat would not be drawn in Moscow. To ensure that they would not be drawn, Stalin silenced dozens of his henchmen on returning from their operations In Spain. Stalin thereby hoped to hide from history the crimes of Stalinism. But this was impossible. The Spanish revolution had been drowned in the blood of those who dared to make it.
As Trotsky himself argued:
” . . . Stalin in Spain in 1937 is the continuator of Stalin of the March 1917 Conference of the Bolsheviks. But in 1917 he merely feared the revolutionary workers In 1937 he strangled them. The opportunist had become executioner."
In this connection, workers everywhere will do well to recall the words of the Spanish Stalinist Ibarruri who in 1937 proclaimed:
"We must always remember this. An unbridgeable abyss of blood lies between us and the Trotskyists. “
If we understand by ’Trotskyism’ the vanguard of the Spanish proletariat, whether socialist, anarchist, centrist or genuinely Trotskyist, then we agree. We merely reply to those who carry her mantle and celebrate her party’s achievements fifty years on: the abyss was filled to overflowing by your murderous activities. The blood of Spain still stains your hands.
CNT (CONFEDERACION NACIONAL DE TRABAJO)
The National Confederation of Labour, founded in 1910. was the anarcho-syndicalist trade union.
FAI (FEDERACION ANARQUISTA IBERICA)
The Iberian Anarchist Federation was mainly an anarchist pressure group within the CNT
PSOE (PARTIDO SOCIALIST A OBRERO DE ESPANA) The Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party had a ’left socialist’ wing which followed Largo Caballero, and a ’right socialist’ wins which followed Prieto and Negrin’s social democrat direction.
VGT (UNI6N GENERAL DE TRABAJADORES)
The trade union of the socialists.
PCE (PARTIDO COMMUNISTA DE ESPANA)
The Spanish Communist Party.
PSVC (PARTIDO SOCIALIST A UNIFICADO DE CATALUNA)
The United Socialist Party of Catalonia was an amalgamation of Catalan socialist parties in the early summer of 1936 which was completely taken over by the communists.
POUM (PARTIDO OBRERO DE UNIFICACION MARXISTA)
The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification was led by Andres Nin (Trotsky’s former secretary from whom he had disassociated himself) and Joaquin Maurin. Its main strength lay in western Catalonia. The party was not ’Trotskyist’ as the Stalinists claimed.
A brief history of the armed struggle of GRAPO in Spain
The First of October Anti-fascist Resistance Groups (GRAPO) were formed in the summer of 1975. At that time twenty members of the Communist Party of Spain (reconstituted) -PCE(r)-, underground party formed five months before, carried out their first armed action against the fascist security forces. On 2nd August 1975 a couple of Civil Guard members (a repressive military police force) were shot in the centre of Madrid. One of them was dead and another one seriously injured. It was the first strike back of GRAPO against the wave of fascist-inspired terror known as the summer of terror.
The PCE(r) had its own technique section created to carry out bank expropriations to support the revolutionary struggle and punishing police informers from the core of this section it emerged the GRAPO.
On 1st October 1975 five different GRAPO commandos executed four policemen and seriously injured another one in Madrid. It was the answer to the assassinations of five anti-fascists (2 ETA members and 3 militants of FRAP -an extinct organization-) killed by police firing squads on 27th September in application of death penalties ordered by the military authorities.
GRAPO didn’t claim responsibility for all these actions till 18th July 1976 when 60 bombs blasted fascist targets throughout the country. It was the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War (1936-39) won by the fascists.
In January 1977 the police arrested 40 PCE(r) and GRAPO members in Madrid and Barcelona and succeeded in freeing Lieutenant-General Villaescusa and the Spanish oligarch Oriol, who had been kept prisoners by GRAPO commands for 60 days to exchange them for political prisoners in order to force the government to apply an amnesty. Some days before two GRAPO commands have executed two policemen and one civil guard in Madrid and left injured three more civil guards in two separate attacks on the fascist repressive forces as a reaction against the killing of five leftist lawyers by a paramilitary gang acting under Civil Guard orders.
On 4th June two civil guards were shot dead in Barcelona, it was the very day of the first general elections since 1936 and the reformist farce was going on. This action was a clear sign that showed that the revolutionary organizations will no accept the renewal of fascism under any democratic mask.
On 27th September the captain of the National Police, Herguedas, was shot dead by a GRAPO command in Madrid. He had been one of the fascist volunteers who executed five anti-fascists just two years before.
In 1977 and 1978 GRAPO actions went on, mainly bombs against police and military buildings and also against government facilities. But some selective annihilations were also carried out. On 22 March 1978 the Manager General of Prison, Jesus Haddad, was shot dead near his house in Madrid. He was responsible for the killing of one anarchist prisoner in Carabanchel Prison, beaten to death by the wardens that tried to take information from him. about a escape plan of GRAPO and PCE(r) prisoners.
1979 was the year in which GRAPO carried out more actions: on 9th January a Judge from the Supreme Court was shot dead in Madrid on 5th March an Army General was executed when his car came under fire from a GRAPO team in a centric street of Madrid on 6th April a chief of the anti-terrorist Brigade of the National Police (NP) was executed in Seville totally, 20 members of the fascist police were executed that year in a combination of actions of urban guerrilla throughout the country many bombs blasted that year, too.
On the other hand GRAPO and PCE(r) militants paid a high price for it: 100 people were jailed accused of membership to those organizations (police claimed that both PCE(r) and GRAPO were the same thing and many PCE(r) militants were arrested without any evidence against them -this revolutionary communist Party remained prosecuted as under Franco’s dictatorship-). Seven members of PCE(r) and GRAPO were killed by the police that year: on 28th June Martin Eizaguirre and Fernandez Cario were assassinated by a special team of the Spanish military secret service in Paris. They were members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the PCE(r) and were exiled. Martin Eizaguirre was also a member of the Central Committee of the PCE(r).
On 20th April Juan Carlos Delgado de Codes, a member of the Central Committee of the PCE(r) was shot dead by the secret police in Madrid, he was unarmed and didn’t belong to the guerrilla. Only between April and May GRAPO carried out 30 armed actions in response to the killing of Delgado de Codes. This was criticized later by the PCE(r) as falling into a blind militaristic tactics. From that moment on GRAPO addressed all its efforts to maintain the armed struggle and to give it a protracted character, assuming that it is not only possible but also necessary to follow a Protracted People’s War strategy and that it is possible to develop this strategy in an European developed capitalist country.
The repression launched against the PCE(r) dismantled its mass organizations as ODEA, Pueblo y Cultura, UJA, etc. Many of their members and supporters were arrested and most of them also were jailed. ODEA (Organización Democrática de Estudiantes Antifascistas), meaning Democratic Organization of Anti-fascist Students Pueblo y Cultura (People and Culture), the organization of the anti-fascist and communist intellectuals UJA (Union de Juventudes Antifascistas), the anti-fascist youth union, etc… all those mass organizations were dismantled by repression and most of their members had to choose between giving up the struggle or going underground.
On 17th December 1979 five GRAPO leaders escaped from Zamora Prison using a tunnel dug for months by GRAPO and PCE(r) prisoners (some of them were miners). It was a strong shock for the government, that tried to recapture them at any cost. Three of them were finally killed by the police (in 1980, 1981 and 1982) and the other two ones were recaptured soon because all of them joined again the struggle.
In 1980 and 1981 GRAPO was a weak organization due to the repression launched against its supporters. In those years GRAPO carried out eight executions, including two Army Generals and one Colonel, to denounce the role played by the Army in the dirty war and counterinsurgency. Some policemen and civil guards were also executed. GRAPO, as an organization that aims to become the core of the future People’s Army has never targeted innocent civilians nor use dangerous tactics for civilians in its military actions and sabotages.
GRAPO members arrested in 2007
In 1980-81 nine GRAPO members were killed by the police in a clear shoot-to-kill policy. The PCE(r) militant, Jose España Vivas, died while he was being tortured on 6th September 1980. On 19th June 1981 Kepa Crespo Galende, PCE(r) prisoner, died in his 94th day on hunger strike against the policy of torture, isolation and annihilation of the political prisoners. The government was forced to reunify the prisoners and allow them to keep Communes in the jails. (The Karl Marx Commune -80 male prisoners of PCE(r) and GRAPO- in Soria Prison lasted till 1989 when the socialfascist (PSOE) government dismantled it. The female prisoners of PCE(r) and GRAPO maintained the Carmen Lopez Commune in Yeserias (Madrid) Prison till 1989).
In October 1982 the PSOE (socialfascists) arrived to the government. The PSOE began killing Juan Martin Luna, leader of GRAPO, shot dead six times in Barcelona in a cover-operation. He was unarmed, some years later three policemen were charged with murder, but in practice, they were acquitted. On the eve of the general elections (28th October), GRAPO had planted 30 bombs in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other twelve different parts of the country the blasts were aimed to promote boycott and to denounce the electoral farce.
In 1983 and 1984 GRAPO recovered from its previous weakness and carried out many armed actions. In those years they planted about 70 bombs against police targets, in support of the workers strikes, in support of revolutionaries from other countries, etc. and also against the reactionary and bourgeois mass media (e.g.. blast in the German consulate in Barcelona in support of the RAF prisoners, bomb against the Employers Association, etc.)
In those years GRAPO also carried out some executions: in April 1983 a lieutenant of the National Police and a civil guard were executed in Valencia and Coruña, the first one with a blast in his car and the second one being shot dead. Those actions were carried out in support of the shipyards workers who were on strike and were being savagely repressed by the police forces.
On 2nd January 1984 two policemen were shot dead in Madrid. Throughout that year GRAPO made frantic efforts to support the proletarian struggles all over the country (46 bombs blasted that year), to strike back the repressive forces and to collect the revolutionary tax needed to keep the struggle alive (about one hundred Spanish businessmen paid the revolutionary tax that year).
On 5th September three different GRAPO commands launched an offensive to force the exploiters to pay the revolutionary tax. In Madrid a businessman who had refused to pay was shot dead in Seville another GRAPO team executed Manual de la Padura, well-known exploiter and chairman of the Employers’ Association and, finally, in Coruña the responsible of the Spanish National Radio broadcasting (state-controlled radio) was seriously injured in retaliation for his counter-revolutionary propaganda. It was a warning for the reactionary mass media who continually discredit the revolutionary struggle. One of the GRAPO militants who had carried out the action in Coruña was killed by the police some hours later and another one was injured and captured when the GEO-Squad (NP special assault squad) raided the house where they were hidden.
The repression launched against GRAPO and the PCE(r) that year was very hard. In June Manuel Perez Martinez comrade Arenas, Secretary General of the PCE(r), left prison after having been jailed since 1977 accused of unlawful association (the legal expression used by the fascist Spanish state to prosecute revolutionaries when they don’t have evidences against them -the PCE(r) is banned-). Arenas, as many other former prisoners of PCE(r) had to go underground again as the only way of developing the struggle out of the police control. Since the 70s part of the PCE(r) and GRAPO leadership and clandestine organization has been based in France, the Spanish police has never been able to destroy it.
On l9th January 1985 the Spanish political police succeeded in capturing most of the GRAPO militants in Spain: 19 of them were captured in nine different provinces, the police discovered 17 flats, lots of weapons and ammunition and money collected through the revolutionary tax. This disaster was possible due to the breaking of many security and clandestine rules by the GRAPO in its aim at carrying too many actions in support of the proletarian struggles. The strict compartmentalization within the Organization had been broken and this allowed the police to deal this strong strike in only 48 hours.
The reorganization of GRAPO was slow and difficult, in 1985 it had almost ceased to exist but the spirit of sacrifice of the new militants, most of them without any previous guerrilla experience, allowed to go on with the struggle. In 1985 and 1986 they carried out some bank expropriations, some went wrong and seven GRAPO members were captured. Money had become the main problem since they were not strong enough to collect the revolutionary tax GRAPO needed secure flats, cars and every kind of facilities to develop urban guerrilla successfully from the underground. Weapons-were also desperately needed.
1987 was a small turning point, in that year they carried out six armed actions according to police sources. There were some successful bank expropriations and a Station of the Local Police was assaulted in Malaga to seize arms: a GRAPO command raided the police station, disarmed three constables and tied them up. (They were not executed since they were not considered proper targets, Local Police is mainly concerned with traffic and plays no special repressive rote). In another operation a GRAPO command tried to raid a National Police station in Valencia to seize blank identity cards, there was a shooting and a policeman was seriously injured.
In 1988 GRAPO carried out some armed actions to collect the revolutionary tax again. On 27th May Claudio Sanmartín, President of the Bank of Galicia was shot dead in his house in Coruña. He had refused to pay alerting the police about GRAPO activity and was also a well-known exploiter who had empoverished many people (specially pour peasants) with credit loans. He was also responsible for the closing of many factories due to banking speculation. Two months later another businessman who had refused to pay the revolutionary tax was seriously wounded in Coruña.
On 4th October GRAPO succeeded in seizing 800 blank identity cards from a police station in the centre of Madrid. During the raid one policeman was shot dead and his gun was seized (most of GRAPO weapons came from its actions against the police and security guards).
On 10th March 1989 GRAPO executed two civil guards in Santiago the same day that the TREVI group was holding a meeting in Madrid (TREVI was at that time the visible head of repression in Western Europe). In July 1989 GRAPO solved its economical problems expropriating 148 million pesetas (one million dollars) from a bank in Castellón.
In November the political prisoners of GRAPO and PCE(r) started an indefinite hunger strike asking for the end of isolation and their Reunification in a single jail. (The Communnes of political prisoners had been dismantled by the PSOE government in 1987). To support the struggle of the prisoners GRAPO launched an urban guerrilla offensive in December: On 13th an Army Commander was shot in Madrid, he was seriously injured on 15th, a HQ Army Colonel was shot in Valencia, he was shot three times and became handicapped on 18th, a member of the secret police was shot dead near Barcelona and, finally, on 28th two civil guards were executed in Gijón while they were guarding an official building. The government responded arresting two members of the PCE(r), jailing them and trying to involve them in these armed actions. (One of the lies spread by the reactionary mass media says that GRAPO members are only recruited from the ranks of the PCE(r) trying to present this clandestine communist Party as the GRAPO political branch).
As the hunger strike went on many prisoners were moved to hospitals where they were tied to their beds, disturbed by police and forced to undergo forced nourishment in a desperate and torturing measure of the government to avoid the deaths of these revolutionaries at that very moment (the Govt. preferred to annihilate them slowly and silently in the prisons).
On 27th March 1990 a GRAPO command executed doctor Muñoz in Saragossa. In their statement assuming this action GRAPO called him. a torturer ready to follow the Govt. instructions and policies to submit the prisoners by pain to the agony and torture of the so-called forced nourishment. He had refused orders from a judge to stop this kind of torture and was a firm supporter of the governmental. plans of extermination (casually he was the cousin of the Spanish General Attorney). As a consequence of the forced nourishment the hunger strike became very long. On 25th May 1990, the prisoner Jose Manuel Sevillano died after 177 days on hunger strike, he was a member of GRAPO and had been imprisoned since 1987. GRAPO decided to avoid entering a tit-for-tat tactics because this only could benefit the already alerted security forces and after a retaliation action (the execution of an Army Colonel in Valladolid on 15th June), GRAPO centred themselves on carrying out an offensive to take the initiative again in next September.
In September 1990 GRAPO planted six bombs in Madrid, Tarragona, Barcelona and Gijón. On 6th three bombs exploded in Madrid: one in the Stock Exchange building, another one in the Supreme Court and the last one in the Ministry of Economy). In none of these actions were any civilian casualties. On 8th September a bomb blasted petrol facilities in Tarragona causing the monopolist company Repsol damages valued at 400 million pesetas (3 million dollars) on 10th the PSOE central office in Barcelona was bombed causing damages valued at 100,000 dollars. That month ended with a GRAPO action in Gijón on 28th when a commando raided an official building seizing one thousand blank driving licenses and then planted a bomb that blasted the facilities. In November 1990 two more bombs blasted two official buildings in Barcelona.
In 1991 and 1992 GRAPO continued with the bombing campaign against official buildings and monopolist facilities: sixteen bombs exploded in those years causing important damages. In February 1991 a GRAPO bomb cut for six hours the military NATO pipeline that feeds the US air bases in Spain. This action was intended to sabotage this pipeline which was being used by the US military aircraft that devastated Irakian cities during the Gulf War. In April 1992 GRAPO bombed the National Institute of Industry and the Ministry of Employment in Madrid, two civil guards were injured. Some bank expropriations were also carried out in those years.
On 7th April 1993 three GRAPO militants died in Saragossa in an attack against an armoured van that was blasted with explosives to expropriate the funds that it contained. One security guard also died and two more were seriously wounded. In 1993 a total of seven bombs exploded in official buildings in Madrid: in the Employers’ Association, PSOE offices, and other offices involved in the industrial restructuring which had fired thousands of workers in the last years.
In 1994 GRAPO actions were intended to seize funds that were desperately needed. Some bank expropriations were carried out. In January two bombs exploded in Madrid on the eve of a general strike: a Tax Office and an Unemployment Office were blasted. In July and December two armoured vans were assaulted using explosives in Vitoria (Basque Country) and Barcelona and some money and guns were expropriated (about half million dollars).
In 1995 GRAPO carried out one of the most important and decisive actions of the last years. On 27th June GRAPO kidnapped Publio Cordón in Saragossa Cordón is a wealthy businessman, president of the insurance company PREVIASA he was freed on 17th August in Barcelona after paying 400 million pesetas (about three million dollars). He had to pay other 800 million pesetas to GRAPO after his liberation and he preferred to fly away (his business are no very clean, he was also consul of Guatemala and has important business in that country. In November the police arrested three GRAPO members in Barcelona and Valencia but they could no recover the money.
On 9th January 1996 the political prisoners of PCE(r) and GRAPO started an indefinite hunger strike to ask for their Reunification in a single jail, the release of the sick prisoners and of all the prisoners who having served their sentences still continue imprisoned. The prisoners stopped their protest on 1st February after having received promises by the government in order to stop isolation and releasing the sick prisoners but all of this proved to be a mere trick to force the prisoners to abandon the struggle which was taking place in the middle of the general elections. The hunger strike was started again on 15th February after realizing that the government has no any real intention to negotiate. It concluded on 21st March due to the aggravated health of most of the prisoners and after having received favourable informs for the release of the sick prisoners.
Nowadays it seems that GRAPO is undergoing a new reorganization and there is one clear thing: the fascist Spanish state has lest the battle in the sense that it has no been able to annihilate the armed organization nor the revolutionary party, the PCE(r).
Along those 21 years 3,000 people have been arrested in relation to GRAPO and the PCE(r), from whom 1.400 have been jailed. Nowadays there are 54 prisoners of PCE(r) and GRAPO in Spanish jails.
From 1975 to 1995 GRAPO have carried out about 60 executions, more than 300 bombs have been planted and the armed actions carried out are about 3,000 (the Spanish government officially recognizes 545).
20 GRAPO militants have died by police action or as consequence of blasts. Seven PCE(r) militants have been killed by the police and the paramilitary gangs. According to police sources about 100 GRAPO and PCE(r) members are in the underground.
We hope you like this brief history of the armed struggle of GRAPO, unique one in Western Europe due to the Protracted People’s War strategy followed by the PCE(r) and GRAPO.
1936: Socialist-Communist Coalition Comes to Power in Spain
On this day in 1936, the socialist-communist coalition won the elections in Spain. A few months later, a civil war broke out after right-wing forces led by General Francisco Franco conducted a military coup.
The left-wing coalition which won the elections on this day was called the Popular Front (Spanish: Frente Popular) and consisted of around 15 different parties, including the Communist Party of Spain (Spanish: Partido Comunista de España – PCE).
The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Spanish: Partido Socialista Obrero Españo – PSOE) was individually the strongest party in the coalition. In fact the same party is currently the strongest social-democratic party in Spain (it remained in power until 2011).
The party called the Republican Left (Spanish: Izquierda Republicana) was almost as strong. The leader of that party – Manuel Azaña – received the mandate for forming a government and became the Spanish prime minister (later that year he also became the Spanish president).
For most of its history, the PCE’s main aim had been to overthrow Franco’s regime by way of popular uprisings, clandestine activity, and armed struggle. Its leaders, living in exile in Paris and Moscow, passed on directives to younger militants inside Spain, tasking them with fomenting a culture opposed to the regime. Anguita saw himself as a descendent of those who had been forced to flee the country after defeat in the civil war.
However, for many young Communists born in Spain during the dictatorship, the leaders of the “external” PCE were hopelessly out of touch. This was most apparent when Carrillo’s leadership gave the order for a general strike in 1958. Such a call disregarded on-the-ground reports from Jorge Semprún and Fernando Claudín that a combination of rising living standards, foreign recognition of the regime, and aggressive state-backed anticommunism in fact made such uprisings unlikely.
The “internal” PCE current of modernizers or renovadores — associated with the likes of Anguita, Semprún, and Claudín — felt that Carrillo’s image of Spain remained stuck in 1936, when the population had no choice but to call for international aid in its fight against the forces of reaction. Only after expelling Semprún and Claudín did Carrillo accept that Franco would be removed by democratic means rather than by a popular uprising led by the PCE in exile.
Championing Eurocommunism, Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti’s polycentrism, and the idea of collaborating with a given institutional framework, Carrillo gave the PCE a more moderate image in Spain. He was later to be hailed a hero of the Transition, as someone who had managed to work with the monarchy and existing institutions to legalize the Party. Yet not only had his condemnation of Moscow’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 offended many pro-Soviet figures, but Eurocommunism was insufficient for many modernizers.
This particularly owed to the PCE’s relations with Felipe González’s PSOE. The Carrillo wing had always encouraged cooperation with the PSOE, because it recognized it as a democratic “institution” that could be worked through on the road to socialism. The Left, however, was infuriated by Felipe González’s labor, pension, and industrial reforms, as well as his pro-NATO stance. Anguita’s own project of “Left Unity,” ultimately leading to the formation of Izquierda Unida, rejected such close cooperation with the more liberal PSOE.
After the disaster of the 1982 election, Carrillo resigned as secretary general, singling out Gerardo Iglesias as his successor. Knowing that Iglesias had never wanted the job, Carrillo hoped to persuade his successor into sharing power. So, when Iglesias, a former miner, stepped up to the role and refused the secret offer, Carrillo was incensed, and worked to actively undermine the “internal” leadership sympathetic to the renovadores. Iglesias worked together with Anguita, liberals, and renovadores to expel Carrillo and his followers in 1985, accusing these of disobeying party directives. With Carrillo gone, Iglesias initiated a process of “Communist Unity,” absorbing Enrique Lister’s pro-Soviet PCPOE and Ignacio Gallego’s PCPE.
This all prepared the ground for Anguita’s own unity project. Charismatic, authoritative, experienced at the municipal level, and committed to tackling the “pseudo-left,” he drove the formation of Izquierda Unida (IU) in 1986 from a broad coalition of groups to the left of the PSOE. On the back of consistently strong performances in Andalusia, Anguita took over from Iglesias as secretary general of the PCE in 1988 and of the IU in 1989.
Despite such advances, the broader historical conditions threatened disaster for the PCE. This was, after all the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, deep crisis in the Italian Communist Party, and the rise of third-way social democracy. Yet in the October 29, 1989 general election IU took seventeen seats — up from just four in 1982 — even as Felipe González’s PSOE achieved a third consecutive majority. Anguita had managed to reproduce his local electoral success at the national level.
The young IU remained riven by internal tensions — accentuated by the debate over the Maastricht Treaty, the founding document of the European Union and in particular the single currency. IU was, in part, the product of the increasing number of Marxist-Leninist, anti-Carrillo, and pro-Soviet splinter groups emerging from the rubble of the PCE. But it also had to appease its more centrist pro-European wing, including by showing itself to be a credible electoral force. In 1992, the IU leadership abstained on Maastricht to appease its small but influential and pro-Europe “New Left” current — in spite of the majority’s opposition to the Treaty.
How much of the Spanish republics in the Spanish Civil War were Communists?
How much of the Spanish republics in the Spanish Civil War were Communists? Does anyone have any data in regards to this?
This is sort of a relevant question in determining whom one exactly should support in this war. After all, Communists don't exactly have a good track record in regards to maintaining democracy.
How much of the Spanish republics in the Spanish Civil War were Communists? Does anyone have any data in regards to this?
This is sort of a relevant question in determining whom one exactly should support in this war. After all, Communists don't exactly have a good track record in regards to maintaining democracy.
Communist Party of Spain - Wikipedia
"Being a well-knit and highly disciplined organization, the PCE could in spite of its numerical weakness play an important part in the war. In the first five months of the war, PCE grew from 30,000 members to 100,000. It also founded a Spanish branch of the International Red Aid, which assisted the Republican cause considerably."
I'm not fond of any dictators, but Communists have a nastier history than run-of-the-mill right-wing dictators.
Note: Hitler was not a run-of-the-mill right-wing dictator. He was much more brutal than Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Horthy (pre-1944), et cetera.
Everything depends on what do you understand for being a communist. remember Lee Harvey Oswald. he was asked if he was communist and he said.. No, I am not a communist.. I am a Marxist - Leninist.
Truth, PCE as FALANGE were very minority political organizations before the War.
However we can´t forget PSOE was a Marxist Party. in three wings: Largo Caballero (Marxist Leninist), Indalecio Prieto (Marxist) and Julian Besteiro (the only moderated).
PSOE was a MARXIST PARTY till the year 1979 (XXVII Congress).
So. The main Marxist forces in Spain was PSOE not PCE.
Can you see this page from the EL SOCIALISTA (The Socialist.. PSOE´s official paper)
In this editorial from the year 1931, PSOE say they want the PROLETARIAT dictatorship. "Queremos lograr nuestras aspiraciones legalmente". (we want to achieve our aspirations legally (we want to socialize the Private Ownership). Also, PSOE declare they want to destroy the "democracia burguesa y el liberalismo"
(bourgeois democracy and liberalism. because they are enemies of this Republic).
Remember. the editorial is from 1931.. previous event to the Constitution. So. PCE was almost impossible to be popular when PSOE was the large MARXIST party in Spain. PSOE wanted to finish with all the political parties and to establish the Proletariat dictatorship and prohibit the private owneship.
Communist Party of Spain (PCE) - History
Spain has the only government in the European Union with communist ministers. Likewise, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) has 4 deputies and 2 MEPs.
The PCE and the youths of United Left begin the year praising Castroism
This January 1, to start the year, that totalitarian party – to which the ministers Alberto Garzón and Yolanda Díaz belong – published this message celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the communist dictatorship in Cuba:
The youths of Izquierda Unida (United Left), one of the members of the United We Can coalition that is part of the coalition government, also joined in the celebration of the anniversary of that tyrannical regime:
Communists’ custom of supporting brutal dictatorships
It is not the first time that the PCE and Izquierda Unida have launched themselves to support a communist dictatorship. In April 2020, the PCE called to follow the “example” of the dictator and genocidal Lenin, whose terror regime murdered one million people in six years for political reasons. It is not surprising that the PCE and Izquierda Unida are very displeased with the parliamentary monarchy in Spain. Judging by what they support in Cuba, they don’t mind the idea of a monarchy, but rather that we have one that is democratic and parliamentary.
Cuba under communism: 62 years of oppression and misery
Like other times, we must remember what that anniversary means: Cuba has been subjected to an undemocratic one-party regime for 62 years, without free elections and with constant and systematic violations of human rights, including harassment, persecution, detention and torture. to those who oppose this tyranny, which has 137 political prisoners in its jails.
To this must be added the misery in which the Cuban people are plunged as a result of this criminal regime. The average salary in Cuba is the lowest in Hispanic America: only $ 30 a month. To give us an idea, the one for Spain is $ 1,574.56. While Cubans live in poverty because of the communist dictatorship, their leaders get rich by stealing from the people: for example, the dictator Fidel Castro accumulated a fortune of 900 million dollars at his death. A scandalous situation that has been repeated in many communist dictatorships. That this regime is the benchmark of the PCE is an announcement of what the communists want to do in Spain.
In September IU affirmed: “No more exalting dictators”
On the other hand, we must remember what the socialist Carmen Calvo said in September 2020 about her law of “democratic memory”: “This law will prohibit all spaces where the glorification of dictatorships occurs.” Izquierda Unida, to which the PCE belongs, issued a Unidas Podemos coalition poster with this slogan: “No more exalting dictators.”
The logical question is: will the Government promote the outlawing of the PCE and Izquierda Unida? It’s a rhetorical question, of course. If the far-left has shown something for decades, it is that if they do not like certain dictatorships, it is not because they are dictatorships, but because they are not communist dictatorships, these being among the most savage and criminal that history has known.
COMMENTS ON THE HISTORY OF SPAIN
This text shows the process of ideological redefinition of the PSOE, the party was abandoning the more radical thesis (Marxism-Leninism, revolution . ) in exchange for the inclusion in a democratic system of parties that could contest elections released .
[. ] discussion of the XXVIII Congress.
1. The PSOE has a fundamental text: its maximum program, which [. ] is the foundation of all our thinking and action and should be an essential element in the disclosure of which is our party. But precisely to facilitate such disclosure, it seems sensible to clarify ideas of the text in a series of clear and accessible explanations.
2. The PSOE is defined as a socialist because its agenda and action are aimed at overcoming the capitalist mode of production through the seizure of political and economic power and the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange for the working class. We understand socialism as an end and as the process leading up to this at last, and our ideology leads us to reject any path of accommodation to capitalism or the simple reform of this system.
3. We declare that we advocate a socialist society must be self-managed. Nationalization and planning does not necessarily mean socialism. We want to build a model of society [. ] which all men to be masters of their work and their conscience, in which the empowerment and social benefits to the community jointly owned and not dominant minorities, whatever their sign.
[. ] up a democracy requires a democratic socialist parties and unions in all organs of power and decision, to be elected and recallable. It requires complete freedom of creation and criticism. In summary, the control and the autonomy of workers in all fields.
4. The PSOE party reaffirms its class character and, therefore, mass Marxist and democratic. We are a class party as we stand and fight for the historical project of the working class: the disappearance of the exploitation of man by man and the construction of a classless society. We are a Marxist because we understand the scientific method of understanding the transformation of capitalist society through class struggle as the motor of history. Understanding of Marxism as a non-dogmatic, that is developed and that has nothing to do with the automatic translation of theoretical or practical schemes experience some of the labor movement. Critically accepted contributions from all the thinkers of socialism and the different historical experiences of the class struggle. We define ourselves as a party democratic because they are composed as an organization with the most scrupulous internal democracy and functioning, like the new society we want to build, as greater assurance is in the democratic structure of the organizations that fight for it.
5. The PSOE advocates a dialectical method of transition to socialism that combines the parliamentary struggle with popular mobilization in all its forms, creating democratic organs of power base (neighborhood associations cooperatives, village committees, districts, etc.), which seeks to deepen the concept of democracy by overcoming the formal political freedoms that have in the capitalist state and access to real freedoms, to bring the demands of the moment, and the alliances that were precise, connected with the perspective of socialist revolution, and there can be no freedom without socialism, no socialism without freedom . Until such that final goal of a classless society, with the consequent disappearance of the State, [. ] there will be a transitional stage of building socialism in which will require strong and decisive intervention on acquired rights and economic structures bourgeois society. Consist of the actual implementation of democracy, not its abolition. The degree of pressure should be applied according to the present bourgeois resistance to the democratic rights of the people and not rule, of course, measures of force that are necessary to enforce the rights of the majority by irreversible, through workers' control, the achievements in the fight for workers.
6. The PSOE is an internationalist and anti-imperialist party that sees the release of workers will only be effective when performed on a universal scale, and global struggle for the emancipation, the PSOE will always show solidarity with the liberation struggle of oppressed peoples economic or political imperialism of other powers.
7. [. ] his conception of a classless society and ensuring real freedom of man makes for the PSOE is essential principle of his doctrine the struggle for the conquest of political power as a lever for the construction of socialism and the adoption of the state media our own goals of freedom, their defense and protection and development more authentic. Each won freedom is historically a milestone in the struggle of classes and serves as unquestionable support for the next conquest, and must be defended with no limitation other than that derived from the priority of social needs and caring about the individual or selfish.
'Not completely Communist': regionalism and the Spanish Communist Party, 1920-1941.
In August 1924 Juan Andrade, a founding member of the Spanish Communist Party (Partido Comunista de Espaha, PCE), reported that the party members he had encountered on a visit to Barcelona were, 'not completely communist'. (1) His sense that communism in Catalonia was developing in ways that were not completely orthodox was, in fact, a common view among the party's leaders based in Madrid. It was also reciprocated by many Catalan communists, who were aware that their desire to follow their own interpretation of bolshevism was under suspicion. Nor were they alone in wanting to guard their independence. Two years later, in October 1926, the Catalans issued a general appeal for wider support in their campaign to be allowed to run their own affairs, accusing the central leadership of the party of the, 'systematic demoralisation and destruction of the [regional] Federations'. (2) Years of mutual recriminations and internal conflict were to follow over what kind of party the PCE was to become: a centralised organisation or a confederation of regional groupings.
Although this particular period of dispute was eventually resolved, seemingly in favour of the centralised model favoured by the Communist International (Comintern), this article explores the extent to which regionalism was a feature of Spanish communism. While the regionalist tendencies of Catalan communists have been well documented, I will argue that the development and activities of the PCE as a whole were persistently and deeply marked by local and regional influences throughout the inter-war period. While all communists in Spain saw themselves as true Bolsheviks, united in not just a national but an international movement, paradoxically they did not necessarily recognise each other as such.
This unprecedented recognition of a regional communist organisation was taken in the face of opposition from the leadership of the PCE--exiled in Moscow at the end of the Spanish Civil War--which resented this division of Communist forces in Spain, and even more so the direct challenge to the authority they claimed over all 'Spanish' communists. (5) In fact, the decision to recognise the PSUC was only reluctantly taken by the Comintern as a means to avert a repeat of an even more disastrous schism with Catalan communists that had previously destroyed party unity in Spain. From the initial creation of the PCE in 1920 onwards, many Catalan Communists claimed a special status for their region, in recognition of its political importance in one of the most industrially-advanced and working-class areas of Spain, but also because of its distinctive regional language and culture. Tensions first surfaced in 1924 when a group of former revolutionary syndicalists from Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, led by Joaquin Maurin, joined the PCE to form the Federacidn Comunista Catalano-Balear (Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation or FCC-B). In 1926, Manuel Adame, a leading figure in the PCE, commented:
In fact, the FCC-B was not openly separatist--unlike other socialist and marxist parties in Catalonia in the inter-war period--but its members were largely from the Catalan-speaking working-class and were naturally affected by the wider appeal of Catalan nationalism. (7) Nevertheless, the unwillingness of the Catalan communists, and Maurin in particular, to subordinate themselves to the authority of the central party led to a protracted series of disputes in which the principal aim of the Comintern was to preserve the unity of the PCE, almost at all costs. Eventually forced to choose in 1930, and with great hesitancy, the Comintern sided with the central party leadership and ratified the expulsion of Maurin. This led to the virtually wholesale defection of the FCC-B to a new movement, the Bloc Obrer i Camperol (Workers and Peasants Bloc or BOC), led by Maurin, which declared itself to be a Bolshevik party outside of the Communist International. (8) Losing a significant section of its small overall membership left the PCE seriously weakened as a result, and its remaining adherents in Catalonia were in complete disarray. The process of rebuilding an 'official' communist presence in Catalonia proved painfully difficult in the face of continued rivalry with the BOC. This deepened further in September 1935 with the creation of the Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista (Workers Party of Marxist Unification, POUM), which united the BOC with Andreu Nin's small dissident Bolshevik party, the Izquierda Comunista de Espaha (Spanish Communist Left, ICE). In comparison the Catalan section of the PCE stubbornly remained a minority movement, both in comparison with its regional competitors as 'authentic' Bolsheviks--labelled as Trotskyists by the Comintern--and with the anarchosyndicalist Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour, CNT), which was the predominant working-class organisation in Barcelona. (9) As a result, in July 1936, just days after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Catalan section of the PCE joined with three other small socialist and marxist regionalist parties, which were open supporters of Catalan separatism, to form the PSUC--without the permission of the leadership of the PCE--and immediately proclaimed its adhesion to the Comintern as an independent party. It was only when faced with this evidence that communism in Catalonia was truly viable as a regional movement, separate from the 'national' Spanish party and at least sympathetic towards Catalan nationalism, that the Comintern reluctantly recognised the PSUC three years later. (10)
The complex relationship between the PCE and PSUC has dominated discussion of regional and local dimensions to orthodox communism in Spain. In other respects, the PCE's commitment to the centralist model of a disciplined and hierarchical party organisation, as promoted by the Comintern, has tended to be taken as the reality, with the Catalan communists seen as the notable exception to this rule. The fact that no other Spanish region, including Galicia and the Basque Country, produced communist groupings within the PCE that were either tacitly or explicitly separatist would seem to confirm this analysis. Indeed, the sheer importance of Catalonia has tended to overshadow discussion of the degree to which other local and regional affinities might have existed within the PCE. Discussions of centre-periphery issues have, as in the historiography of international communism as a whole, tended to focus upon relations between the PCE and the Comintern, rather than within the party itself. (11)
This is not to say that there has been a lack of attention to communism in local and regional settings within Spain in many respects the opposite has been true. There are many local studies of the PCE, often written by local historians, as well as quasi-official histories produced by local and regional party organisations of the PCE. In addition, regional studies of labour and working-class movements often contain information about communist organisations and activities. (12) However, these studies are, in themselves, reflections of traditions of local history that underpin strong regional loyalties in Spain, including in many regions which have not nurtured separatist movements. (13) While they provide important information about some of the local environments in which the PCE developed, the impact of regionalism upon the party has not been systematically examined.
Perhaps the separatist tendencies made Catalonia an extreme case, but it was more symptomatic of the wider importance of local and regional factors within Spanish communism than we might suppose. This was not, however, a result of a conscious or calculated policy on the part of the party. On the contrary, successive leaderships showed themselves strongly committed to the Comintern's model of a centralised party in which local and regional organisations were clearly subordinate. Indeed, how the PCE approached its Catalan adherents was symptomatic of the efforts it made to try and erase manifestations of local autonomy as much as possible. These were themselves a tacit recognition that regional variations in communist outlook and political practices existed and were perceived as a problem. Ultimately, a truly centralised model of political organisation and activity based upon working-class solidarity proved impossible to construct, at least in any deep and lasting manner, for a whole variety of different reasons that were largely beyond the control of the party or its leadership as a whole.
It would have been astonishing if Spanish communism had not been affected by regionalism, given its profound importance to every other aspect of culture, society and politics. No other political organisation in the country (or any other kind of organisation for that matter) had overcome the strength of local and regional cultures in Spain. This was most obvious in the case of the so-called linguistic regions and their traditions of regional nationalism--Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia--and particularly Catalonia, where a virtually self-contained nationalist political culture evolved, covering political groupings across the entire ideological and social spectrum. (14) Elsewhere, outright support for regional nationalism tended to be confined to groups outside the working class, with liberal and conservative outlooks. But strong attachments to locality and region were also evident in Castilian-speaking Spain (often described as the patria chica or 'little fatherland'), particularly in southern areas such as Andalucia and Extremadura, which had their own distinctive social and cultural loyalties, but also in the heartlands of Castile. Historians now posit the emergence of a plurality of Spanish (i.e. Castilian) nationalisms, alongside other regional nationalisms, with extensive effects upon the nature of forms of governance and politics. (15) Economic development was also highly regionalised, with modern industries concentrated into peripheral areas (particularly in the north and north-east), alongside diverse and developing agrarian regions in the rest of Spain. The relative weakness of the central state in modern Spain and a decentralised system of political power have both reflected and reinforced these tendencies. For example, caciquismo (local political bossism) was a marked feature of Spanish politics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and affected a wide range of political movements, not just those on the political right. Thus, in many senses Spain did not have a truly national system of politics or political parties in the early twentieth century.
The development of organised labour movements in Spain, from which the PCE partially developed, was also highly fragmented and regionalised. The unusually deep and persisting division between anarchism and socialism was the clearest sign of this, with both movements also having distinct local constituencies. By definition decentralised and self-governing, the anarchist CNT took very different forms in rural Andalucia compared to industrial Barcelona and Valencia. Its organisation and ideology proved remarkably adaptive to Spanish social and political conditions. Likewise, while the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol or PSOE) and its trade union federation (Union General de Trabajadores or UGT) had aspirations to operate nationally, they were also decentralised in practice. Socialism also attracted a diverse regional coalition of support, from miners and metalworkers in the industrialised north of Asturias and the Basque Country, to craft workers in Madrid and rural labourers in the south-west and central Spain. In Catalonia, where the CNT was anti-nationalist, the PSOE/UGT tended to find its support among Catalan-speaking workers. Meanwhile, in Bilbao and the mines of Vizcaya in the Basque Country, the socialists represented Castilian-speakers against the conservative and catholic nationalists. (16) The PCE was in direct competition with both these movements for working-class support. While it constantly struggled to differentiate itself from them, emphasising its adherence to Bolshevik organiation and aims, in practice it was also deeply influenced by their varied experiences and outlook. The most tangible means by which these experiences were transmitted into the party was from its early recruits, who were mostly defectors from the ranks of both its anarchist and socialist rivals.
From the start there was no single centre to communism in Spain, and it developed in a number of different regional nuclei, each of which initially attracted supporters with distinctive social and political backgrounds. Every region and city eventually had some communists, particularly during the period of the civil war when the party achieved a mass membership. Nevertheless the tendencies towards regional clusters of communist support persisted throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The earliest converts to communism came from the socialist movement, albeit from different sections. Trade unionists from the northern mining regions of Asturias and the Basque province of Vizcaya were the founding members of the party, alongside 'intellectuals' from the PSOE's youth movement centred in Madrid. In 1924 they were joined by Maurin's group of revolutionary syndicalists in Barcelona and then finally by a faction of anarchists from the southern province of Seville in 1927. These regions were to remain the heartlands of the PCE, even after it began to increase its small membership following the creation of the Second Republic in 1931, and then to spread its influence geographically as it became a mass party during the Civil War of 1936-39. Even then the party's recruitment corresponded almost exactly with areas in which existing traditions of labour organisation and leftist politics were already strong. The relative proportions of party members found in areas of Spain shifted over time. The northern regions had the largest concentration of members in the early years of the party. Barcelona then predominated in the mid-1920s during the period of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, though the party as a whole had hundreds, rather than thousands, of adherents at this time. In the late 1920s and during the early 1930s, after the inauguration of the Second Republic and a growth in membership, western Andalucia provided the largest cohort. Finally, during the civil war it was Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia that became the main centres of recruitment, as the party reached the absolute height of its strength, with a formal membership of some 340,000 in late 1937. (17) These converts inevitably viewed bolshevism as a tried and tested vehicle for achieving their own revolutionary ambitions, particularly as knowledge of the realities of Soviet communism remained vague and idealised. But even as the PCE tried to develop its own autonomous culture and organisation, attempting, like most communist parties, to educate its members as 'true Bolsheviks', their social backgrounds and the outside influences of other political groups on party members could never be eradicated entirely. (18)
Although the party promoted the exclusivity of membership, in practice Spanish Communists were closely connected to wider communities and the broader labour movements, rarely forming discrete neighbourhood groups. As such they always co-existed alongside anarchists and socialists, with whom they were in a relationship of competition and dependence. As with most communist parties, PCE membership was never fixed and stable, but was, rather, transient and fluctuating. Converts to the party from other organisations were just as likely to drop out and return to them, or to leave organised political activity entirely, as to stay permanently within the ranks of the PCE. Within Barcelona and Valencia, this permeability also extended to the Bloc Obrer i Camperol. The leadership of the PSUC during the civil war, for example, contained a number of figures who had previously been members of the BOC and of the FCC-B before that. (19) Even in cities and regions in which the party became well-established it never completely displaced its rivals. During 1937, for example, Madrid had the single largest concentration of communist support ever achieved, with some 85,500 members claimed by the party. (20) Yet, in a city of over a million inhabitants, socialist party and trade union members still outnumbered them. Likewise, the cities of Barcelona and Seville were considered 'red' in the 1920s and 1930s, not because of their associations with the PCE as such (or with any other communist groupings) but because of their traditions of anarchist organisation and agitation. In March 1932, for instance, the 1447 communists recorded as party members in the city of Seville--the largest contingent in the party at the time--were a tiny force when set beside the ranks of anarchists in the CNT. (21) However, there was a tendency for communists to be clustered into particular districts within cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Occupational and residential patterns certainly accounted in part for this. The area of Clot in Barcelona, for example, contained a well-settled working-class community of Catalan speakers which became a stronghold of the PSUC during the civil war. (22) But the nature of communist recruitment, which was overwhelmingly by personal contacts and recommendations rather than through general campaigns, also encouraged the growth of membership 'hot spots'. In addition, by the 1930s the mainly youthful recruits to the PCE tended to have no previous political allegiances, making the party their first experience of working-class organisation and politics. However, this did not mean that communists lived in self-contained isolation, cut off from wider influences. Party members still lived and worked alongside anarchists and socialists, while membership reports indicated that young recruits were often the children of parents who belonged to these same organisations. (23) The persistent failure of the PCE to develop an independent trade union movement was symptomatic of the party's difficulties in developing a truly separate and national identity. By 1934 the party abandoned its own union federation, accepting the fact that it could not create majority communist support in any industry, and instead encouraged its members to create communist groupings within the CNT and UGT. As a result, communists in different regions tended to take on many of the characteristics of their social and political surroundings, bringing to the party their own particular concerns and outlook.
The organisational structure and operation of the party both reflected and served to reinforce regionalist tendencies. Indeed, despite often strenuous efforts, the PCE never truly developed a national organisation in anything but name. From early on the party adopted a decentralised organisation of twelve regional federations, each of which contained a number of provincial parties, plus a separate organisation for colonial Morocco. This in turn mirrored the existing administrative units of the Spanish state, including its linguistic boundaries. This organisational structure was partly pragmatic--reflecting the diverse reality of regional support for bolshevism--but it was also a result of negotiation. The PCE was originally formed from two communist groupings whose creation pre-dated the Comintern. Their differences reflected the division between northern trade unionists and Madrid-based young socialists. (24) A regional structure to the single party made unification easier, but it also encouraged a parochialism that was further encouraged by the wider political climate in which the PCE had to operate. The suppression of communism by the Primo de Rivera dictatorship of 1923-30, shortly after the foundation of the party, further helped to destroy any possibility of creating a national organisation. Successive leaderships of the party were imprisoned or forced into exile, leaving the regions largely to run themselves as rump organisations. This necessity for local autonomy reappeared again during the civil war, when effective communication and travel were difficult, and regions such as the Basque Country and Catalonia were more or less isolated from the other parts of republican territory by the military advances of the Nationalists from other areas in which the PCE was still free to operate. (25) The party was able to operate relatively openly for only a relatively brief period during the Second Republic of 1931-1936, and even then it suffered periods of harassment and outright suppression, particularly following the abortive Asturian rising of October 1934. (26) The federations and provincial parties became used to the absence of strong central direction and to the idea that many decisions of a day-to-day nature within the party were essentially local matters, especially during the 1920s. This question of the degree to which the party was, in practice, a confederation of local and regional communisms became a long-running tension which at various times spilled over into open dispute.
As a consequence, the federations and provincial party organisations became powerful bodies that often guarded their independence--particularly but not exclusively in the case of Catalonia--to the detriment of any stable, fully-accepted central leadership. The most significant federations naturally tended to view themselves as the 'real' centre of the party and to assert their own importance and independence. The FCC-B and later the PSUC were the obvious manifestations of this but they were by no means alone. During the 1920s, for instance, communist groupings in Asturias, Salamanca and even Madrid, displayed exactly the same dissenting tendencies as the FCC-B towards central direction. The Agrupacidn Comunista de Madrid (Communist Grouping of Madrid or ACM), formed by communists in the capital who wished to preserve their autonomy of action and decision-making against the party leadership, were just as vocal in their attitudes as the Catalans. In one clandestine leaflet produced in 1928, at the height of the party's suppression under Primo de Rivera, the ACM devoted as much space to criticising the attempt by the PCE leadership to assert their control over the federations and provincial party organisations as it did to attacking the dictatorship. This included a prominent cartoon showing a figure in a suit and top-hat, carrying a bag of money and labelled Executive Committee, being kicked up the backside by a second character labelled 'proletariat' (agrupaciones), with the caption: 'How the agrupaciones should treat the Executive Committee'. (27) This neatly summed up the battle over where real power lay within the party between a central leadership trying to assert control and local communists who did not recognise their legitimacy to do so (both then and subsequently). This struggle for power and autonomy was the underlying reason, rather than any significant ideological differences, for the internal disputes that wracked the PCE during the inter-war period. (28)
Successive groups of leaders grappled with these internal tensions along regional lines: this proved to be the greatest difficulty faced by the Comintern in its quest to establish a stable leadership and central control for the PCE. In the 1920s and early 1930s the search for leadership and unity by the Comintern rested largely upon the relative strengths of the different regional federations and local parties. Leadership swung between different groups able to draw upon significant support, with the Comintern often too fearful of endangering the fragile existence of the PCE to act decisively. This included frequently switching the physical location of the central party leadership, which was moved successively from Madrid to Barcelona, back to Madrid, and finally, during the civil war, to Valencia and Barcelona. In the earliest period, there was almost complete instability. The Comintern attempted to solve this by offering the leadership of the PCE to Maurin. However, he declined, in recognition that this was really an attempt to weaken support for a decentralised party and respect for autonomy. (29) After 1926 the leadership of the party was reluctantly given to Jose Bullejos and the Vizcayan section of the party. It was their attempts to centralise control that were strenuously opposed by many of the regional parties, ultimately leading to the defection of the FCC-B in 1930. This was followed in 1932 by a mixture of centralisation and local accommodation under a new leadership, this time drawing heavily upon the Seville section of the party for its members, including its leader Jose Diaz (party leader from 1932 to 1942). (30) A tightening of central control was achieved by the new leadership, though at the expense of numerous expulsions, but this lasted for only a relatively short-lived period immediately prior to the outbreak of the civil war. New organisations were created, such as the Partido Comunista Vasca (PCV) and Partit Comunista de Catalunya (PCC), as a means to accommodate the various linguistic regions without actually making these independent organisations. (31) However, this did not succeed in preventing the formation of the PSUC in July 1936. Even this leadership, the most successful of the 1920s and 1930s, displayed a tendency to lurch between attempts to assert central control over local parties and the frequent necessity to accommodate them. This was felt most strongly in attempts to create national policies and codes of conduct to be followed by all party members. Changes in the official 'line' that flowed from the Comintern were all adopted by the PCE, but translating these into uniform practice often proved very difficult. Not infrequently, the party leadership would outline a general policy and then accept the fact that it would be up to federations and provincial party organisations to choose how to interpret and implement it--if at all.. As a result, the practical impact of regionalism was felt in myriad different ways throughout the party, affecting many aspects of its activities.
A favourite negative description of the PCE by the Comintern was that it was prone to 'anarchist tendencies'. This meant a number of things, but it also referred exactly to this supposed 'indiscipline' within party ranks and a tendency to 'spontaneous' rather than planned action. This was also in many ways a fairly accurate description of the ways in which some communists did act, particularly those in regions where the CNT was dominant. In Seville and Barcelona, for example, communist supporters often joined in strikes and demonstrations organised by the CNT. The same happened in the mining regions of the north when the socialist unions called strikes. This was largely in an attempt to try and exert their own authority, but in practice they were dragged along by the actions of non-communists. Party members from Vizcaya also tended to adopt the same attitudes towards the use of violence as a revolutionary weapon as local socialists and this was often denounced by the Comintern as counterproductive. (32) Indeed, people were partly attracted to bolshevism precisely because they saw it as a means to carry out a forceful seizure of power on behalf of the working class. These actions were usually uncoordinated. The most striking example was in Asturias where it was really local circumstances, and the particular relations between the different working-class organisations in the region, that precipitated the events of the October rising in 1934. The same was to be true, in great part, during the civil war, when the PCE largely failed to exert any kind of unified control over party members. In the case of the Basque Country, this led to semi-independence for the PCV, which was left in physical isolation from the central party and largely conducted its own activities, in co-operation with the socialist and Basque Nationalists who dominated the regional government. Following the capture of the region by the advancing Nationalists, the leader of the PCV was denounced and expelled from the party for this autonomy. (33)
In many respects the PCE was never a unified national party in the sense intended by the Bolshevik model as expounded by the Comintern. Indeed, in some periods of the party's history, particularly in the 1920s and during much of the Civil War, this was literally so: there was no effective national centre or leadership, and the party only really existed in its local and regional contexts. But the powerful hold that local and regional identities and environments exerted over party members was actually a permanent feature of the party which could never be completely be effaced, even during the short-lived period of the Second Republic when the leadership came closest to governing a disciplined and united party. As such, far from being an exception in Spanish political and working-class organisation, the PCE was actually much more typical, despite its claims to the contrary. Almost every aspect of party policy and organisation was affected by regionalism, and every debate and dispute within the party had, in some way or another, a local and regional dimension. The party was forced to work with the grain of that reality, and where it did not, or could not, the consequences were serious. There was, therefore, a tendency for fissures to appear, leading, in the case of the FCC-B and the PSUC, to public divorce. Looked at this way, however, a logical conclusion could be to suggest that there was, in fact, no single Spanish communist party as such. This was clearly also nonsense, if for no other reason than the fact that party members certainly believed in its existence, and were, in fact, often very reluctant to collectively abandon the party, even in the case of the FCC-B and the PSUC. Perhaps, therefore, we should be asking a different question: what actually held it together, given all the differences that existed within the PCE? The answer was, perhaps, a shared belief in the promise and the myth of bolshevism something that was symbolised by the Comintern. Just as in the USA, where the constitution and the flag are symbols of unity signifying a mythological history, so membership of the Comintern served the same purpose. Within the generalities of marxism-leninism, different groups of people could all find some aspects of bolshevism that attracted them, and could fit these to suit their own circumstances and aspirations. While Spanish communists inevitably drew many of their cultural and political influences from their own daily environment, and from non-communists around them, they still looked to the red flag as a common symbol, one that also represented unity. In that sense, the deeper desire to identify with bolshevism could help overcome the suspicion that other party members were 'not quite communists'.
(1.) Archivo del Partido Comunista de Espana (hereafter APCE), Film 1 Apartado 14 (hereafter Film 1/14), 'CC del PCE al Comite Regional, 28 August 1924).
(2.) Archivo Historico Nacional (hereafter AHN), Tribunal Supremo, Seccion F. C. Reservado, Expediente 32 Rollo Numero 1231/1928 Caja 1, Legajo 2, Partido Comunista de Espana, Federacion Catalano-Balear a todos los Comites Regionales, Barcelona 24 October 1926.
(3.) Josep Puigsech Farras, Entre Franco y Stalin. El dificil itinerario de los comunistas en Cataluha, 1936-1949, Barcelona: El Viejo Topo, 2009, pp180-200 J.L. Martin Ramos, Rojos contra Franco. Historia del PSUC, 1939-1947, Barcelona: Edhasa, 2002.
(4.) Like the Soviet Union, the PCE tended to play lip service to national minorities. The party never broke with the idea of a unitary state but promised a federal structure that would recognise, in particular, Catalan, Basque and Galician rights. How this was to be done was never properly defined. For examples of the PCE's attempts to elaborate a federal policy see PCE, La cuestion nacional y el movimiento nacional revolucionario, Barcelona, 1936 V. Uribe, Elproblema de las nacionalidades en Espaha a la luz de la guerra popular por la independencia de la Republica Espahola, Barcelona: Ediciones del PCE, 1938.
(5.) Josep Puigsech Farras, 'El peso de la hoz y el martillo: la Internacional Comunista y el PCE frente al PSUC, 1936-1943', Hispania, LXIX, 232, 2009.
(6.) AHN, Tribunal Supremo, Seccion F. C. Reservado, Expediente 32, Rollo Numero 1231/1928, Caja 7, Manuel Adame a querido Espartaco, 9 November 1926.
(7.) On the relationship between Catalan nationalism and the labour movements see Josep Termes, La Catalanitat obrera: la Republica Catalana, lEstatut de 1932 i el moviment obrer, Catarroja: Afers, 2009.
(8.) The BOC was formed in 1931 by defectors from the FCC-B and members of a small independent Catalan Communist Party (PCC), founded in 1928. A.C. Durgan, B.O.C. 1930-6. El Bloque Obrero y Campesino, Barcelona: Laertes, 1996, pp17-35 and 'The Catalan Federation and the International Communist Movement' in Centenaire Jules Humbert-Droz, Colloque sur l'Internationale Communiste: Actes, Geneva: Fondation Jules Humbert-Droz, 1992, pp20-42.
(9.) The PCE's Catalan section reorganised itself as the Partit Comunista de Catalunya (PCC): Manuel Moreno, Abono inagotable. Historia del P.C.C. 1932-1936, Barcelona: Debarris, 1997. On competition for support in Barcelona between the different Marxist groups see Andrew Durgan, 'The search for unity. Marxists and the trade-union movement in Barcelona, 1931-6' in Angel Smith (ed), Red Barcelona. Social Protest and Labour Mobilization in the Twentieth Century, London: Routledge, 2002, pp108-26.
(10.) One the formation of the PSUC and its position in the Civil War see J.L. Martin Ramos, Els origens del Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (1930-1936), Barcelona: Curiel, 1977 and 'El partido del Frente Popular' in Giaime Pala (ed), ElPSUde Catalunya. 70 anys de lluitapel Socialisme, Barcelona: Ediciones de Intervencion Cultural, 2008, pp21-50 Josep Puigsech Farras, Nosaltres, els comunistas catalans. El PSUC i la Internacional Comunista durant la Guerra Civil, Vic: Eumo, 2001 and 'Popular Front, war and internationalism in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War', Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 37, 1, 2013.
(11.) On this 'classic' question of autonomy within international communism see M. Narinsky and J. Rojahn (eds.), Centre and Periphery. The History ofthe Comintern in the Light of New Documents, Amsterdam: International Institute of Social History, 1996.
(12.) Manuel Bueno et al (eds), Historia del PCE, I Congreso, 1920-1977, Madrid, Fundacion de Investigaciones Marxistas, 2007 contains an excellent historiographical essay on the PCE and also numerous articles offering a local perspective on the development of the party. Other book-length studies include: Chimo Masmano Palmer, Comunistas en Buhol. Historia del PC, Bunol: Partido Comunista de Espana, 2003 Hector Blanco Gonzalez and Luis Miguel Pinera, Las Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas en Gijon, Gijon: Ateneo Obrero de Gijon, 2002 Francisco Moreno Gomez, La ultima utopia: apuntes para la historia del PCE andaluza 1920-1936, Cordoba: Comite Provincial del Partido Comunista de Andalucia en Cordoba, 1995 Partido Comunista de Albacete, Los comunistas en la historia de Albacete, Alicante: Graficas Antar, 1990 Valentin Burgos et al, Los comunistas en Asturias (1920-1982), Gijon, 1996 and Victor Manuel Santidrian Arias, Historia do PCE en Galicia (1920-1968), A Coruna: Edicios do Castro, 2002.
(13.) Xose-Manoel Nunez, 'The Region as Essence of the Fatherland: Regionalist Variants of Spanish Nationalism (1840-1936)', European History Quarterly 31, 483, 2001.
(14.) Josep Termes, (Nou) resum d'historia del catalanism, Barcelona: Base, 2009 is a good overview demonstrating the influence of Catalan nationalism from the conservative right to the marxist left.
(15.) Nunez, 'The Region as Essence of the Fatherland' gives a useful overview. See also Jose Alvarez Junco, Mater dolorosa, Madrid: Taurus, 2001 (trans. Spanish Identity in the Age of Nations, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011).
(16.) The literature on the development of labour movements is extensive, including many regional studies. For an overview of urban and rural developments see B. Martin, The Agony of Modernization. Labor and Industrialization in Spain, Ithaca N.Y., ILR Press, 1990 and J. Rodriguez Labandeira, El trabajo rural en Espaha (1876-1936), Madrid: Anthropos, 1991.
(17.) On development of the party membership see Rafael Cruz, 'Del partido recien llegado al partido de todos. El PCE, 1920-1939' in Bueno et al (eds), Historia del PCE, I Congreso, 1920-1977, pp143-58 T. Rees, 'Counting Communists: the Spanish Communist Party and its Membership, 1920-1939' (forthcoming) F. Hernandez Sanchez, Guerra o revolution. El Partido Comunista de Espaha en la guerra civil, Barcelona: Critica, 2010, pp237-318 APCE Film 16/197 El Partido: desarrollo numerico del P. desde diciembre de 1935 a diciembre de 1937.
(18.) On the evolution of the PCE's political culture see Rafael Cruz, 'Como Cristo sobre las aguas. La cultura politica bolchevique en Espana' in A. Morales Moya (ed), Las claves de la Espaha del siglo XX, vol. 4, Madrid: Sociedad Estatal Espana Nuevo Milenio, 2001, pp187-202 and Mayte Gomez, El largo viaje. Politica y cultura en la evolucion del Partido Comunista de Espaha, 1920-1939, Madrid: Ediciones de la Torre, 2005.
(19.) APCE Film 16/208, Comite Central del Partido Socialista Unificada de Cataluna n.d. but 1938.
(20.) Film 16/197 El Partido: desarrollo numerico del P. desde diciembre de 1935 a diciembre de 1937.
(21.) APCE Carpeta 12, Relacion de los delegados que asistieron al congreso nacional, numero de afiliados que representaban y su composicon social. On the 'red' cities see Smith, Red Barcelona and J.M. Macarro Vera, Sevilla la rioja, Sevilla: Munoz Moya y Montraveta, 1989.
(22.) See the wartime reports on Madrid and Barcelona: APCE Film 16/197, Celulas y militantes en Madrid (capital unicamente), and APCE Film 17/216 Estadisticas del PSUC. See also J. L. Oyon, La quiebra de la cuidad popular. Espacio urbano, inmigracion y anarquismo en la Barcelona de entreguerras, 1914-1936, Barcelona: Ediciones de Serbal, 2008.
(23.) For example see the report from Madrid in the early 1930s that makes this clear: APCE Film 6/92, La Juventud Comunista del radio oeste de madrid en 1932-33.
(24.) See L. Arranz, 'La ruptura del PSOE en la crisis de la Restauracion: el peso del Octobre ruso', Estudios de Historia Social, 32-33, 1985, pp7-91 J. Aviles Farre, La fe que vino de Rusia: la revolucion bolchevique y los espaholes, Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1999 F.J. Romero Salvado, 'The Comintern Fiasco in Spain: the Borodin Mission and the Birth of the Spanish Communist Party', Revolutionary Russia, 21, 2, 2008, pp153-77.
(25.) Tim Rees, 'The Highpoint of Comintern Influence? The Communist Party and the Civil War in Spain', in T. Rees and A. Thorpe (eds.), International Communism and the Communist International, 1919-1943, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998, pp143-67 covers these problems.
(26.) On the PCE during the Republic see Rafael Cruz, El Partido Comunista de Espaha en la Segunda Republica, Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1987.
(27.) AHN Tribunal Supremo, Seccion F.C. Reservado, Expediente 32 Rollo Numero 1231/1928 Caja 5, Comite Local de Madrid, Hoja No. 2.
(28.) On these internal battles see Tim Rees, 'Deviation and Discipline: Anti-Trotskyism, Bolshevisation and the Spanish Communist Party, 1924-34', Historical Research, 82, 215, 2009, pp131-56.
(29.) Yveline Riottot, Joaquin Maurin. De l'anarcho-syndicalisme au communisme (1919-1936), Paris: L'Harmattan, 1997, 84-91.
(30.) On the new leadership see Tim Rees, 'Living Up to Lenin: Leadership Culture and the Spanish Communist Party, 1920-1939 History, 1, 2012, pp243-4.
(31.) On these two bodies see Moreno, Abono inagotable. Historia del P. C. C. 1932-1936 Antonio Elorza, 'Moviemiento obrero y cuestion nacional en Euskadi (1930-1936)', in Estudios de Historia Contempordnea Vasco, 1982 N. Ibanez Ortega and J.A. Perez Perez, Ormazabal. Biografia de un comunista vasco (1910-1982), Madrid: Latorre Literaria, 2005, pp46-7.
(32.) On this violence see E. Gonzalez Calleja, El Mduser y el sufragio: Orden publico, subversion y violencia politica en la crisis de la Restauracion, 1917-1931, Madrid: CSIC, 1999 F. Hernandez Sanchez, 'La formacion del PCE. Juventud y violencia politica (1920-1931)', Historia, ccclxxx, 2007, pp56-73.
(33.) APCE Carpeta 18, Resolucion del Pleno del Comite Central sobre Juan Astigarrabia.
Born in the small town of El Vendrell, Tarragona, Andreu Nin was the son of a shoemaker and a peasant. Despite humble beginnings, Nin moved to Barcelona in 1909 and excelled as an educator and journalist. An interest in activism steered him towards a life in politics, and in 1917 he joined the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). He soon became a leader of the Spanish workers’ movement and, subsequently, one of the founders of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).
Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, Nin left Spain in 1921 to work for Communism International in the Soviet Union, where he stayed for almost a decade. Working in the USSR, Nin became disillusioned with Joseph Stalin’s ascending faction and, as a result, joined the Left Opposition against Stalin, working briefly as Leon Trotsky’s secretary in Moscow. It was there that Nin, like Trotsky, became threatened by Stalin’s purges of the Left Opposition, and in 1930 he was expelled from the country.
On returning to Spain, Nin set about forming the Spanish Communist Left (ICE), a small Trotskyist group. In 1935, after several disagreements with his former mentor, Nin split from the Trotskyist ICE and created the POUM, the Marxist Unification Workers’ Party. Still a left-leaning party, the POUM offered an alternative to the Moscow-aligned Spanish Communist Party, being both revolutionary and highly critical of Stalin. It frequently published articles denouncing the atrocities in the USSR, rousing hostility from pro-Stalinist communists in Spain.
“Here on June 16th, 1937, Andreu Nin (1892-1937) was seen by his companions for the final time. Political Secretary of the POUM, a fighter for socialism and freedom, a victim of Stalinism.
Barcelona. June 16th, 1983.”
This animosity turned violent during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The POUM was one of several left-wing groups united against Franco on the front line. Behind the lines, however, the POUM faced continuous isolation as Soviet influence over the Spanish Republican government began to grow.
During the ‘May Days’ of 1937, as chronicled in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), the POUM were blamed for the street fighting that erupted among left-wing groups in Barcelona. The government declared the POUM an illegal party and the pro-Stalinist Communist parties began a violent campaign against them. On June 16th, 1937, Nin was arrested near La Rambla, and was never to be seen again by his comrades.
The fate of the POUM leader was not revealed until the Nineties when Moscow archives were opened to Spanish researchers for a brief time. A file was found stating that Nin had been handed over to the NKVD (predecessors of the KGB) and tortured to death in a Soviet-controlled encampment outside Madrid.