Spanish Marxism vs Soviet Communism: A History of the P.O.U.M. in the Spanish Civil War - Victor Alba

Book cover

Spanish Marxism Versus Soviet Communism is the first historical study of the P.O.U.M. to appear in English. Drawing from his multi-volume work on the subject, which was published in Spanish and Catalan, Victor Alba has collaborated with Stephen Schwartz to produce a condensed and amplified study that is far more than a translation.

Outside Spain, the political movement known as the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxist or P.O.U.M.) is chiefly known as the revolutionary group with which George Orwell fought during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The events in which the P.O.U.M. found itself at the center of conflict between Iberian revolutionaries and Soviet interests remain a controversial topic for historians and other writers. This book presents a detailed picture of the organization and its main antecedent, the Workers' and Peasants' Bloc, in the context of a stimulating working class political culture.

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Posted By

Reddebrek
Feb 29 2016 12:27

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  • The socialists, among whom there were only a few genuine Marxists, saw a panacea in the concept of the republic; the anarchist answer was a society of federated communes.

    Victor Alba

Comments

Reddebrek
Oct 8 2019 22:05

At the time I found this book somewhat disappointing, and on re-reading I can see why, a key impression I got from reading it was that the POUM and its ancestors were confused if not hypocritical.

But bizarrely Alba despite giving a lot of evidence of this doesn't seem to have noticed and puts a positive spin on everything aside from a few sharp comments about early membership figures.

Quote:
The Bloc offered no hopes for the impatiently ambitious. It held positions that were anything but simple: it was Communist, but outside the Communist International; revolutionary and worker-based, but defending at that moment the necessity of a bourgeois democratic revolution in favor of the Republic, while working to avoid illusions among the people about it; Marxist, and, therefore, an adversary of anarchism, but working within the ranks of the C.N.T. internationalist, but defending the right of nationalities to self-determination. It demanded discipline in a country where it was "every man for himself; and individual initiative and activism in a country where heretofore political parties had concentrated on the personalities of leaders ("personalismo").

This is him praising the character of the B.O.C but either they were incorrigible liars, or completely incoherent and torn between their high minded rhetoric and day to day interventions.

He also does that thing a lot of bad theorist do where they'll criticise rivals (real and imagined) for doing something and then praising his own organisation, but in reality they were both largely doing the same thing.

At one point he documents their attacks on the anarchists in the CNT approvingly, but he includes things his organisation also did, and even events that he himself had just explained in the same chapter were carried out by the CNT membership that had opposed the anarchist current.

Its full of information but its like Alba bases his analysis on how much he liked whoever he's describing at that particular time in the chronology.