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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #272 - history, 1937: In Spain, the triumphant counter-revolution (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Thu, 15 Jun 2017 09:51:23 +0300
The Spanish revolution had begun well, but as early as 1937, under the impact of the
Stalinist blows as errors of the anarchists, it retreated. ---- The Spanish Revolution of
1936 constitutes a page, or even the most important page in the history of our current,
with the mass practice of our libertarian communist ideal. This creative dynamic was,
unfortunately, prevented and stopped as of December 1937. ---- The retreat of the
revolutionary process is due to external causes (the advance of the Francoist armies) but
also to internal causes in the anti-fascist camp: the weight of Stalinism on the one hand,
the hesitations and strategic mistakes of revolutionaries on the other . ---- And if the
social work of this revolution, like the idea of fighting fascism in hand, is part of the
" heroic heritage " of the international libertarian movement, it is not the same with
the positions taken Policies of the CNT-FAI Directorate. Here we touch the most sensitive
aspect of this revolution. For it is a question of understanding and analyzing the reasons
for its failure, including by sifting through the obvious responsibility of certain
sectors claiming our ideals.
Stalin and the German lesson
First and foremost, the role played by the USSR and the Spanish Communist Party, which
will be at the forefront of this counter-revolution.
For the USSR of Stalin, and in connection with the new policy of the Communist
International, the Comintern, the idea is to promote Popular Front policies and a policy
of conciliation with the progressive aid of the bourgeoisie, The socialist parties.
In this, this Popular Front tactic takes the absolute opposite of the offensive period "
class against class " (1928-1933) which had precisely determined a very sectarian
attitude of the Communist Party with regard to the Socialists.
In the eyes of the Soviets, the danger has changed: brown Europe directly threatens the "
fatherland of socialism ". The German example is the fundamental element which is
changing the international policy of the USSR and the Comintern. It is indeed in Germany
that the tactic " class against class " is pushed to the extreme.
Electoral poster of the German Communist Party (KPD) of July 1932. At the time, Moscow's
"class against class" line sends socialists and Nazis back to back.
Taking advantage of the political and social crisis, the German Communist Party (KPD) won
6 million votes in the 1932 elections. This electoral success led the KPD to two
conclusions: once the struggle for the establishment of a Communist regime Is the order of
the day, we must consider all the forces which oppose it as a bloc of the bourgeoisie. In
arguing that the KPD is the only alternative to the fascist danger and to Hitler, the
socialists opposed to the proletarian revolution are considered as enemies on the same
footing as the other factions of the bourgeoisie. Socialists are called " socio-fascists ".
Cette tactique sera maintenue jusqu'à l'avènement d'Hitler au pouvoir. Sur la base de
l'échec de cette politique qui a, finalement, facilité la prise de pouvoir d'Hitler,
Staline et le Komintern lui préférèrent désormais la tactique de Front populaire.
La lutte antifasciste devient désormais la priorité du Komintern, à l'heure où les visées
expansionnistes à l'Ouest de l'Allemagne et à l'Est du Japon, menacent l'intégrité
territoriale de l'Union soviétique. D'où désormais une politique faite de modération et de
conciliation avec la social-démocratie.
Another factor, finally, feeds the fears of Stalin: the revolution in Spain represents a
danger because its essence is an anti-authoritarian alternative of rupture with
capitalism. A model that is still opposed to the " barracks communism " of the USSR of
the Peoples' Father, where the GPU, the purges, the domestication of the unions and the
Gulags have definitively killed any revolutionary ideal.
However, there is a big problem for the Kremlin. If he wishes to intervene in the land of
Spain, and to counteract this revolutionary influence, he must rely on an organization
capable of putting his plans into practice. But this organization does not exist or does
not exist. The history of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), before July 1936, is that of
a party without influence, without real implantation except in Asturias and Seville. An
anonymous member of the PCE, author of a Historia del partido comunista, revealed that it
barely counted " 800 militants in 1931 ".
On 23 July 1936, in Catalonia, several socialist and Stalinist groups merged into the PSUC.
During the civil war, however, its weight continues to grow for several reasons. In
Catalonia, he merged with the Catalan Socialists to found the Catalan Unified Socialist
Party (PSUC). But it is especially Soviet aid (military and food) to the Spanish Republic
in its fight against fascism that will increase its prestige.
Soviet aid is not totally disinterested: The USSR is delivered beforehand 500 tons of gold
from the Bank of Spain, following secret agreements between the Prime Minister Largo
Caballero and the Russian representative in Spain .
Using this weight and the support of the Russian big brother, the Spanish Stalinists,
assisted by Russian " advisers " (Osvenko, Rosenberg), will do their utmost to counter
the influence of the revolutionaries. They skillfully weave their web. And quickly, the
army, the police, the intelligence services (SIM) are all under communist control.
At the same time, the PCE wins new militants. Indeed, the revolution and its
accomplishments have caused many dissatisfaction among the middle classes in particular.
The PCE will be their Party. The program of the Spanish Stalinists is very moderate, and
the PC is the champion of the defense of private property. Shopkeepers, a part of the
intelligentsia, bourgeois employees and republicans joined the Communist Party.
The PCE is now in a strong position to tackle the revolutionary achievements. Pravda , the
official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party, announced on December 16, 1936: " In
Catalonia, the elimination of Trotskyites and anarcho-syndicalists has begun ; It will be
conducted with the same energy as in the USSR. "
Andrés Nin, one of the leaders of the Poum, was tortured and assassinated by the
Stalinists on 20 June 1937.
In fact, Andres Nin, leader of the POUM, an anti-authoritarian Marxist party, and the
Italian anarchist Camilo Berneri, will thus be found dead after being tortured in the
aftermath of the barricade week in Barcelona in May 1937. Soon the POUM will be officially
declared illegal. Other anarchist militants and the POUM will be liquidated later on. At
the institutional level, the PCE is at the forefront of all measures aimed at reducing
While the role of the PCE and Stalin is indisputable in the retreat of the revolutionary
process, another factor relates to the strategic errors committed by the revolutionaries
themselves (the CNT and the POUM in particular). By accepting to participate in republican
governments, the leaders of these organizations will be complicit in the revolutionary
setbacks. In fact, the governmental participation of the CNT-FAI in the Governments of the
Generalitat de Catalunya and Madrid in October and November 1936 has serious consequences.
For the Spanish libertarians, it is punctual to join the Popular Front anti-fascist the
time to beat the armies of Franco. The Spanish libertarian historian César Lorenzo
summarizes the arguments of the " circumstantialist thesis " defended by an overwhelming
majority of the eminent members of the CNT-FAI.
This " circumstantialist thesis ", as its name implies, defends the idea that particular
circumstances justify a particular policy. It will serve to justify the entry into the
government of Madrid of four members of the CNT. César Lorenzo, in his book The Spanish
Anarchists and Power writes:
" The government and the parties were beginning their great offensive against the CNT.
With patience, they reconstituted the state, a classical army. At the same time, they did
not provide any financial assistance to the industrial or agrarian communities, leaving
them destitute for lack of capital. They hampered commercial operations by making their
relations with foreign countries difficult, blocking their imports and exports by a
skilful distribution of licenses. At the same time, they systematically refused to give
arms to the CNT columns ... Thus, day after day, the libertarian militias were weakening
compared to the militias under Communist command, day after day the collectivized economy
risked succumbing by asphyxiation. The CNT was in an untenable situation: It had neither
been able to destroy power, nor possess it; It coexisted with power, but this existence
became a real war which would cease only with the disappearance of one of them. Since it
was not possible to defeat power, the CNT was condemned to defeat. There was only one way
for the anarchists to share power, enter the state, prevent it from devouring everything,
participate in government to protect communities through republican law and order. In a
word, to melt into the state machine to prevent it from the inside of any grinding, to
brake it at least. " Since it was not possible to defeat power, the CNT was condemned to
defeat. There was only one way for the anarchists to share power, enter the state, prevent
it from devouring everything, participate in government to protect communities through
republican law and order. In a word, to melt into the state machine to prevent it from the
inside of any grinding, to brake it at least. " Since it was not possible to defeat power,
the CNT was condemned to defeat. There was only one way for the anarchists to share power,
enter the state, prevent it from devouring everything, participate in government to
protect communities through republican law and order. In a word, to melt into the state
machine to prevent it from the inside of any grinding, to brake it at least. " In a word,
to melt into the state machine to prevent it from the inside of any grinding, to brake it
at least. " In a word, to melt into the state machine to prevent it from the inside of any
grinding, to brake it at least. "
Anarcho-syndicalists showcase the UGT-CNT alliance.
For the leaders of the CNT-FAI, the social revolution, which is above all the fact of the
base of the CNT and partly that of the UGT, the socialist union, becomes secondary. The
priority remains to defeat fascism, according to the expression " Sacrificamos a todo
menos la victoria " (" We sacrifice everything but victory "). They are convinced that
victory against Franco is inevitable. The revolution is simply postponed by strategy.
Capitulations of " comrades-ministers "
As libertarian communists in 2017, just over 80 years after events that we have not
experienced, it may seem easy to take a critical look. Nevertheless, we can, because the
historical facts give us reason, estimate that this " circumstancialist " way has
failed, and this on a double level.
The constitution of an anti-fascist Popular Front, with a view to making victory a
priority, failed. In March 1939, in spite of the sacrifice of the social revolution, in
spite of the state unity of all the anti-fascists, despite the Soviet help, the sound of
the boots of the Francoist armies returning to Madrid symbolized the end of this hope of
life Better for the exploited of Spain.
Anarchist speaker Frederica Montseny, "Comrade Minister" of Health.
Government participation, conceived as the best means of controlling the
counterrevolutionary impulses of the Republican " partners ", was a failure. The "
comrade-ministers " did not control anything. By their presence in the ministerial
offices, their repeated calls for calm and responsibility during the crucial hours of the
revolution, they and their accomplices were complicit in the setbacks. In particular, at
the time of the dissolution of the anti-fascist militia committee, a real guarantee of the
armed power of the people. Then when the various revolutionary institutions were destroyed ...
Finally, in the course of events in May 1937 in Barcelona, when the CNT base revolted
against the weight of Stalinism, barricades rose as in July 1936, the CNT leadership was
guilty of political capitulations Dramatic consequences. On radio Barcelona, García
Oliver, a historical activist of the Iberian libertarian movement and Minister of Justice,
summoned his comrades to leave the barricades and fraternize with the Stalinist enemy. He
denounces those who resist and do not hesitate to treat them as irresponsible in the pay
Lenin and Stalin on the Hotel Colon, seat of the PSUC in Barcelona.
Some sectors of the CNT will defend, despite the blackmail of the governing bodies of the
CNT-FAI, a hard line and the idea of a radical break with the various republican
components. We find these sectors, first of all, among the libertarian youths, but also
within certain libertarian militias fighting on the front of Aragon. This is the case, for
example, with the iron column. The opposition sector, nevertheless, the best known is
found around the group The Friends of Durruti, in reference to the mythical libertarian
"Alert the 5 th column ! "
Poster of the Provincial Council of Valencia (1937). But who can constitute this " fifth
column" ready to betray the Republic for the benefit of the fascists ? The Lung ? Anarchists ?
In a leaflet, the latter proclaim: " The revolutionary and anarchist spirit of July 19 was
mystified ... The CNT and the FAI which, during the first days of July, were the ones who
best expressed the revolutionary sense and the" Potential energy in the streets, are now
in a diminished position for not having given full value to their personality during the
days mentioned above. We have accepted collaboration on a minority plan while our strength
on the street has a great majority value. We have strengthened the representatives of a
decrepit and counter-revolutionary petty bourgeoisie. In no way can we tolerate the
postponement of the revolution until the end of the military conflict. Workers, do not
give up the street. Revolutionary junta. Execution of the guilty parties. Disarmament of
armed bodies. Socialization of the economy. Dissolution of political parties that have
assaulted the working class. We salute the comrades of the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist
Unity) who have fraternized with us in the street. Long live the social revolution. "
These critical sectors will, alas, be gagged, by the CNT-FAI management, who will not
hesitate to exclude these preventers and preventers from going round in circles. Violent
reality which poses, in substance, also another fundamental problem. The CNT, a
libertarian organization, supposed to develop a self-managed and horizontal functioning,
ends up reproducing an authoritarian and vertical operation with a bureaucracy and a
direction that decides by itself, and excludes opponents and opponents.
Also to be read, in the editions of AL: Valentin Frémonti , Solidarité internationale
antifasciste (1937-1939). A humanitarian and libertarian action in the Spanish war , ed.
Alternative libertarian, 2017, 156 pages, 6 euros.
The teaching of this Spanish revolution, if we are to derive anything from it: it is
because in a revolutionary situation, not to break with the old world and its institutions
has consequences. Notably, when this absence of rupture is materialized by the alliance of
the revolutionary forces and the defenders of the republican order. An interclassist
alliance, it could only endanger the very fate of the social revolution.
A topical debate, during these hours of election campaign. A debate which reminds us once
again that the only alternative, as Cornelius Castoriadis defended, remains today, today
and tomorrow: " Socialism or barbarism ".
Jérémie Berthuin (AL Gard)
 Part of this gold will be used also to build the CPF Pharaonic office in Paris, metro
Colonel Fabien, after the Second World War. It was used to finance, as early as 1936, the
Communist daily Tonight, directed by the poet Louis Aragon.
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