Chapter 9: The Communist UGT in Catalonia

The agents of Moscow were now concerned above all else in finding a broader basis for the execution of their plans and in building up everywhere, organizations which they could at the proper time play off against the C.N.T. and even against the U.G.T. Long before the July events the C.N.T. had made sincere efforts to bring about an alliance with the workers of the U.G.T. After the victorious suppression of the Fascist revolt in Catalonia, C.N.T. leaders set to work with all their energy for this goal, which they rightly regarded as the first prerequisite for victory over the Fascists and as the necessary basis for the development of a new social life infused with freedom and the spirit of socialism. Just to take up any of the daily or weekly organs of the C.N.T. or the F.A.I. is enough to convince one that here we are not dealing with the hollow phrase-mongering of professional demagogues, but with the expression of opinions inspired by the loftiest motives, which just by reason of its sincerity is able always to find the right word of conciliation.

The agents of Russia now sought by every means to defeat these efforts for the unity of organized labor, as they recognized very clearly that it was from this direction that the greatest danger to the carrying out of their plans threatened. Out of their practical collaboration in the management of the socialized plants and the rural co-operatives there had grown up between the C.N.T. and the U.G.T. a friendly relationship which was all the time being strengthened in the war against the common enemy and by immediate necessities of daily life. This was especially true in those sections of the country where this collaboration was not disturbed by the interference of political parties from without, and where the U.G.T. had for years had behind it a genuine workers' element, as in Asturias, Castile, Andalusia, and the Levante.

The situation in Catalonia, and especially in Barcelona, where the U.G.T. had hitherto never been able to gain a foothold and never counted more than a few thousand members, shaped itself very differently. A peculiar change set in there after the July events. The necessity of belonging to a trade-union organization impressed itself even on those classes which had previously had no connection with organized labor, had often, indeed, even been hostile to it. In that stirring period after the defeat of the Fascist revolt, when the armed patrols of the workers' syndicates were standing guard and looking after the public safety, the membership card of a trade-union played an important role and, one might say, served its possessor as a pass.

So it came about that thousands of small managers, tradesmen, local politicians, saloon-owners, government employees, etc., flocked into the U.G.T. unions, which naturally were more to their liking than the old storm-tried organizations of the C.N.T. And this went on at greater pace as the Communist P.S.U.C., under whose political guardianship the syndicates of the U.G.T. in Catalonia stand, came out more plainly with its attacks on the efforts at socialization of organized labor. Thus the U.G.T. in Catalonia gradually became the catchbasin for all the reactionary elements who were interested in the restoration of the old conditions.

The Stalinists, the actual originators of this strange development, today are telling their credulous followers in foreign lands that the U.G.T. has a membership of 450,000 in Catalonia. This, of course, is just one of the ordinary propagandist lies which those delightful fellows, under Russian guidance, manage so cleverly. They wanted in this way to make the public forget as far as possible that behind the Catalonian Federation of the C.N.T. there stands a million organized workers, who are the backbone of the Spanish labor movement. Still it is not to be disputed that the U.G.T. is today a serious hindrance to the C.N.T. in Catalonia, and that under the special protection of the Negrin government in Valencia it had grown into a grave danger to all the economic and political achievements of the Spanish working class. However, what the Communist wire-pullers in Spain are careful not to mention to their adherents abroad is that the present U.G.T. in Catalonia is not a workers' organization at all, but a tool of the reactionary bourgeois elements who are trying by every means to further the counter-revolution in that country.

The most important component of the U.G.T. in Catalonia at present is the G.E.P.C.I. (an alliance of the Catalonian small industrialists and tradesmen), which was formerly among the most outspoken opponents of organized labor and is today the most loyal ally of the Communist P.S.U.C. The central office of this organization is located in the premises of the Catalonian textile-mill managers, Calle Santa Ana, Nr. 2. Moreover, the president of the so-called "textile workers'"section is none other than Se-or Gurri, former president of the association of Catalonian textile manufacturers. One also finds there Se-or Fargas, previously known as one of the richest and most brutal employers in Barcelona, with whom the C.N.T. has waged many a hard-fought contest. Besides these there are found here a lot of well-known personalities out of the old managers' world of Barcelona, such as Se-or Armengol and many others who today carry on their light-shunning existence under the protection of the Stalinists of the U.G.T. These are the men who are today, at home and abroad, accusing the C.N.T. of "treason to the interests of the proletariat" and whose implacable hatred is directed at everyone who opposes the restoration of the old capitalist order.

In other parts of the country, as, for example, in the Levante, the Stalinists have revived the notorious "sindicatos libres," in which under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera were gathered the most depraved elements in the district to do the required dirty work for the employers. From their ranks came the so-called "pistoleros", whose job it was to terrify the workers by assassinations and other infamous crimes. Many a valuable life fell prey to these bandits who are now the most valuable allies of the Spanish Stalinists.

After the Communists had in this manner gained for themselves the necessary foothold in the country there began a regular crusade against everything that the workers and peasants had accomplished and, in particular, a systematic boycott of those industrial plants conducted by the C.N.T. and U.G.T. syndicates and the rural village co-operatives. Anything was right for these men that served to spread the spirit of disintegration and to bring to maturity the secret plans of their taskmasters. These people, who, over night, had forgotten their old principles and started caroling the siren song of the United Front in every tongue on the globe, are the ones who by their vile intrigues have broken the anti-Fascist front in Spain.