Barcelona, May 1937: manifesto of the communist left

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Alf
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May 9 2007 11:52
Barcelona, May 1937: manifesto of the communist left

We have just republished the manifesto of the Italian and Belgian fractions of the communist left in response to the May Days in Barcelona in 1937.

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/304/May-1937-manifesto

Thoughtful comments welcome.

Battlescarred
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May 9 2007 16:49

"The deaths in Barcelona have cleared the ground for the construction of the party of the working class."
Visionary!

Battlescarred
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May 9 2007 16:51

"Your class" repeated several times, rather than "our class". How so? Were the "Italian and Belgian fractions of the communist left" outside of the class?

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May 9 2007 20:22

A discussion of the party isn't really the aim of this thread, but some thoughts come to mind when considering Battlescarred's posts.

"This organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently, into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier".

Before criticising this formulation from the Communist Manifesto, it is necessary to recognise its truths. The 'Bordigist' view of the party is by no means identical with the so-called 'Leninist' view of consciousnes as coming from outside the class. It understands that Marx's vision of the entire proletariat forming itself into a political party was a profoundly revolutionary concept, because it was an attempt to portray not only the awakening of a particular class to self-awareness, but above all the first full emergence of the human species. For the Italian left tradition, the party is the organ of the class - a brain of the body, not a spirit outside the body. As we say in our introduction, we don't accept this notion of the party as the brain of the class, because the consciousness of the class arises in innumerable brains or minds, not all of them inside the political party; but we agree entirely that without forming the party, the working class will not make the revolution.

In any case, before getting into this question any further, where do you stand on the central issue of the text: the new class barricades marked by the events of May 1937? In particular, the manifesto's argument that the events of May 37 have created a definitive and irrevocable gulf between those 'official' anarchist organisations which lined up with the bourgeois state, and those, like Berneri, who was murdered for staying on the proletarian side of the barricade, along with the Friends of Durruti and Trotskyists such as Munis.

Spikymike
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May 9 2007 20:59

With reference to Alfs last para' new practical distinctions in the evolution of revolutionary minorities undoubtedly emmerged through the experience of May 37 in Spain, an important post 1914 experience and one of many to emmerge in the different circumstances of places within and outside of Europe as the development (degeneration?) of modern capitalism changed circumstances in different parts of the world, to a greater or lessor extent and at differing paces.

That probably doesn't count as a 'thoughtful comment' since it only picks up on the last posting, but hey, I just couldn't resist.

I will try and read the article referred to soon.

I

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OliverTwister
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May 10 2007 07:30

I'm glad you all put it up, it's something i'd been wondering about for a bit.

I thought it was good, though in addition to the 'class brain' bit the implication that the italian left was speaking for the 'proletariat of the entire world' was a bit off-putting.

Black Badger
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May 10 2007 14:58

The manifesto contains a few problematic assertions based on wishful thinking (aka ideology), that are constant obstacles to any cooperation between revolutionary anarchists and libertarian communists beyond informal defensive tactics. The discussion of a revolutionary minority (which is continually called a party) that must come from outside a particular struggle or class will always be galling to anarchists. (It's telling that the manifesto refers to "your class" rather than "our class" as Battlescarred already noticed.) The idea that the correct revolutionary line or strategy can only be injected into a particular struggle from outside its actual participants is where anarchists diverge quite seriously from Marxists, and Lenininsts in particular. The constant separation between those who struggle and those who (try to) direct the struggle is a contradiction and tension that has yet to be resolved among Marxists and anarchists. The manifesto does nothing to contribute to that resolution.

Among other things, the tone of the manifesto (and it comes out explicitly a few times) is that ‘if only there were/had been something that we know will be the decisive instrument of victory…’ (ie a Party). Yet in the places and times where there was a party apparatus, the victory was that of the party, not the workers…

This spurious lesson is the basis for the allegation that Bilan was (and its current supporters are) stuck with a Leninist/Boshevist perspective on the role of the party and its place within an emancipatory struggle: to guide the revolutionary passions of the people in arms into a suitable form: the dictatorship of the party over the proletariat. Any discussion about the so-called victories of October 1917 that refuses a critique of Bolshevism (both ideology and methodology, strategy and tactics) will forever be unsatisfying to anarchists. The notion that things started to go wrong in Russia because there wasn't enough dialog and/or theoretical dialectic among left fractions misses the point that by the time something like that discussion started happening, the autonomous factory committees had been suppressed or absorbed, and the soviets had been turned into rubber-stamping state/party organs.

The main lesson for Leninists (as it is with other social democrats) is that it’s always only a crisis of leadership…

The Spanish experience was both a tremendous victory for Spanish working class self-activity and a horrible tragedy for the international movement for working class liberation. May 1937 marked the death of old-style anarchism (as the left of the left of social democracy) as well as the end of the illusion that Leninism could be a vehicle for any kind of liberation.

Kevin Keating
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May 10 2007 19:22

Black Badger posts:

"The Spanish experience was both a tremendous victory for Spanish working class self-activity and a horrible tragedy for the international movement for working class liberation. May 1937 marked the death of old-style anarchism (as the left of the left of social democracy) as well as the end of the illusion that Leninism could be a vehicle for any kind of liberation.'

1.. This begs the question: If the anarchist movement's inability and/or total incompetence in carrying out of a social revolution in the one place in the world where anarchism was the mass politics of the working class marks "the death of old-style anarchism," what other kind of anarchism is there? It's been more that 70 years now.

Maybe the events in Spain from July 1936 to May 1937 marked the final historical dead-end of anarchism as such, except perhaps as an ideology of passive social criticism and a subcultural identity phenomenon.

2.. And who had the "illusions" about Leninism, reffered to above? The governement anarchists of Catalonia, perhaps, in regard to their anti-fascist "comrades" the Stalinists?

In any case, anarchism isn't the only phenomenon to the left of Leninism -- and it wasn't back in the 1930's, either. Left communism has its limits and flaws, and it can't be mechanically transposed to the early 21st century. But it is more useful as a point of departure for the early 21st century that the last hurrah of anarchism in the Spanish Civil War.

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May 10 2007 22:20

Black Badger says that the manifesto shows that "the main lesson for Leninists (as it is with other social democrats) is that it’s always only a crisis of leadership…".

This reveals the extreme theoretical poverty and imprecision of the term 'Leninist'. Presumably the accusation is that the Italian left were just the same as the Trotskyists, whose 'Transitional programme of the 4th International' of 1938 does indeed talk about the crisis of humanity being a crisis of leadership. But the Italian left completely rejected the voluntarism of the Trotskyists even before the 4th International was formally constituted, as the following passage from the manifesto shows:

"The international battle which Spanish capi­talism has launched against the proletariat has opened up a new chapter in the life of the fractions in different countries. The world proletariat, which must continue to fight against the ‘builders’ of artificial Internationals, knows that it can only build the proletarian International in a situation where a profound transformation of class forces on a world scale has opened up the way to the communist revolution. In the face of the war in Spain, itself a sign of the development of revolutionary ferment in other countries, the world proletariat feels that the time has come to forge the first international links between the fractions of the communist left".

In other words: because it is an organic product of the class, the party (or the International) can't just be proclaimed, above all in a period of proletarian defeat like the 1930s; it can only emerge in a period of rising class movements, because it both expresses and advances the growth of class conssciousness.

Black Badger
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May 11 2007 15:40

Response to Keating:
First off, I make a distinction between those promoting anarchy and those promoting anarchism. Because of the limitations of English, there’s no single word describing that distinction; “anarchist” has to fill in for both, unless we accept the neologism “anarchyist,” which is just a bit awkward. Personally, I’m not interested in promoting the ideology of anarchism, whether in its syndicalist or communist forms. “Anarchy,” while definitely vague, best summarizes the idea I have about a condition of social existence without hierarchy, the state, and capitalism. Others on this forum would call it “communism.”

That said, it’s annoying that the “inability and/or total incompetence” of a particular form of anarchist organizing (mass-based syndicalism) and the lack of foresight of its “influential militants” (leaders or hierarchs or bureaucrats, take your pick) always takes the fall for “anarchism as such.” Most serious students of the history of radical politics know that there have always been non-syndicalist tendencies among anarchists, and even Spanish syndicalists who opposed the pro-Popular Front collaborationists (most of the Libertarian Youth, and the Friends of Durruti). Yet it is much easier to blame “anarchism as such” for the mistakes and failures of the CNT leaders.

And since I defined precisely what I meant by old-style anarchism—the left of the left of social democracy—it’s clear that any form of anarchism that is not beholden theoretically or strategically to social democracy is the “what else.” The anarchist communism of the Galleani type, the insurrectionary anarchism of the Makhno and/or Bonnano type, the illegalist non-ideological anti-anarchist anarchism of Os Cangaceiros. These kinds of pro-anarchy—not pro-anarchism—anarchy are not marked by “passive social criticism” or “subcultural identity”; they can be imitated and expanded. And the "subcultural" things (micropower radio, infoshops, zines, journals, conferences, websites, etc) are important for building and sustaining a climate of contestation.

Response to Alf:
My labeling of the idea of a party of self-conscious revolutionaries whose plan is to inject either revolutionary consciousness or to direct autonomous (that, is non-ideological) workers’ struggles as “Leninist” is as precise a dismissal as I can muster on a theoretical level.

Kevin Keating
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May 11 2007 17:41

We are beginning to drift into the realm of idealist philosophy, where anarchism originates and from which it has never fully escaped...

Anarcho-syndicalism was the only form of mass revolutionary politics that ever emerged from anarchism -- nothing else that grew out of Bakunin's wing of the First international compares. Nothing before or since has been as relevant. None of the rest of it comes even close.

So, if this, with all its problems, somehow didn't live up to you expectations it begins to sound like what you want can only exist in some vague, ideal form -- and whatever is really revolutionary has to live and breathe among living and imperfect human beings.

Black Badger
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May 11 2007 18:10

When I hear/read the word "relevant" I reach for my Browning...

Seriously though, how subjective can you be? By what criteria are you proclaiming something to be "relevant" or not? Seems to me that events and movements can only be so judged AFTER they have occurred and we have the luxury of analyzing them at a comfortable distance of time and space.

Kevin Keating
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May 11 2007 19:36

"... By what criteria are you proclaiming something to be "relevant" or not?..."

Is this for real? How 'bout, "had a real big impact on the world around us -- unlike all those other forms of anarchism."

Or next are you going to post that there was some occult brand of anarchism that nobody ever noticed or even ever heard of that was somehow more relevant than anarcho-syndicalism?

Black Badger
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May 11 2007 20:35

Yep, just as I suspected, your criteria are not just in the past--"had a real big impact" (I can read your sneer)--but tautological. An "impact" is one that is "relevant" no doubt.

There is no way to tell if the discussions that occur among those desiring autonomous anti-state and anti-capitalist revolution will ever have any impact in the real world or on people who may instigate such a revolution, yet they seem pretty damned relevant to us anyway. We plod along, doing what we can, what we hope will have some kind of impact, some relevance, regardless of not seeing immediately the linear causality between our words and actions and the furthering of moments and sustained attempts to reach that revolution.

That your experiences with anarchists over the years have been unsatisfying politically is not the exclusive fault of those anarchists, or of anarchism in general.

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May 11 2007 20:40
Kevin Keating wrote:
Or next are you going to post that there was some occult brand of anarchism that nobody ever noticed or even ever heard of that was somehow more relevant than anarcho-syndicalism?

I agree with the basic sentiment here, but it's pretty funny coming from someone so fascinated by the Situationists!

jack straw
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May 11 2007 22:03

Sorry, Black Badger; you've lost me now. This must be from some installment of a philosophy class that I skipped. I was probably getting stoned in the parking lot during this installment in the discussion of "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics."

Anyway, I don't do the authentic subversive current or currents of the increasingly distant past called anarchism the disservice of confusing them with the doggie's dinner of entertainment culture phenomenon, subcultural identity ghetto, passive social criticism, left-liberal whining, compulsive voting and ideological accessory to a hygenically-challenged life in the drop-out culture that gets called anarchism in the US today.

Plently of people -- intelligent, thinking people, MJ -- have noticed the Situationists, MJ, even if you obviously haven't -- what's "MJ" stand for, anyway, mother-jumper? -- many more than will ever notice anything as baroque as a 21st century version of Platformism.

Black Badger
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May 11 2007 22:29

Sorry jack, but I have no idea what you're on about. If you want to address a comment to me, please make it have at least some tangential relationship to what I've actually posted here. If you have a problem with the characteristics of the more visible (ie spectacular) antics of stupid American (excuse the redundancy) anarchists, that's fine by me. Having been around in this anarchy stuff for longer than most of them have been alive, I share much of your distaste. But what does that have to do with what I've posted?

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May 12 2007 02:05

Kevin, why the second account?

Kevin Keating
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May 12 2007 03:20

Hey MJ, if I threaten to throw a bar of soap and a pail of clean water into this discussion, will you do us all a favor and run away? You repeatedly proven that you have nothing to say, you say it poorly -- and you keep repeating yourself.

Isn't there another kiddie-pool you can go stink up with your presence?

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May 12 2007 15:40

OK so you've:

- said I haven't read the Situationists (I have);
- insinuated I rape my mother? (I don't);
- started a sock-puppet account, to defend yourself in another thread, then accidentally posted under it in this thread (haha);
- insinuated I smell bad and have poor hygiene (I don't)

I don't see where you could possibly go from there, but I'm listening!

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May 12 2007 18:03

Not to mention, when the fuck were left-communists "relevant" outside of Italy '43 and france '68 (and that's only if you count the situs as left-communist and not anarchist, which is pretty tenuous)?

Oh yes, lets conveniently ignore that anarchists also had a mass impact in those events, not to mention in several other events where left-communists were noticeably lacking.

Kevin, what does ti say about the relevance of left-communist ideas that you can't even form or join a group? You're still bitter that the two people in London calling themselves "Wildcat" didn't accept you 15 years ago, but you've had all that time to join any of the many existing left-communist groups, or form your own.

How the fuck can you claim that left-communist ideas (and especially your own) canhave a "real big impact on the world around us" when you've failed at something even the most braindead trot can pull off, building a functioning organization to promote those ideas?

FFS, there are probably more left-communists, or sympathizers, in the SF Bay Area than any other region of the US - and not a single one will work with you!

Kevin Keating
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May 12 2007 18:34

admin, final warning, this happens again and bye bye

1. There are lots of leftists in the Bay area -- there are no left communists.

Some of these leftists call themselves anarchists. And nowadays, a very small number of these leftists have an extremely superficial affinity for ultra left marxism. THIS DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO ACTION.

I have clearly described in the article 'Muni Social Strikout...' how the authors of the 'Fare Strike! 2005' document acted, every step of the way, beginning, middle and end, like conventional Bay Area leftists. Their conventional leftist ineptitude and irrelevance and most importantly inability to draw attention to the issue at hand was amply facilitated by the Toys-Are-Us anarchists kids I was stuck working with. Now, to make it real clear, this doesn't mark any of them as bad people -- it just means that their politics are no different from the rest of the left -- left-wing of the Democartic Party, Trotskyists, the Greens, etc.

If the only problem for ultra-left perspectives around here is me, then why was it that in the fight over gentrification in SF's Mission District 8 years ago, acting almost single-handedly, I was more effective in getting a subversive message out on a large scale in my neighborhood, and elsewhere even, than all these supposed "left communists" were acting together around a left communist initiated effort like the 2005 Muni self-reduction effort?

There were upwards of two dozen so-called anarchists and more mainstream leftists involved in the Muni effort -- and the effort was still largely invisible, and this is a small city where with a little, effort, wit and skill you can get a message of this sort out in a big way.

If the problem is just me, then, now that I'm not involved, all these supposed ultra-lefts should be able to get something together. Okay, so, where is it?

-- Where are the publications that would exist, if what you say is true?

-- Where are the actions -- public, collective efforts, that are qualitatively different from what other ineffectual leftist protesters get together?

I know what revolutionaries are like -- I've met them in Europe and Argentina, and I've read about them in history books. What exists in this part of the world is more akin to the kind of cliques that kids in middle school or high school form -- and it shows in the total invisibility of these supposed revolutionaries perspectives in the larger working class reality around us.

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May 12 2007 22:39

I propose that these issues should be taken up on another thread (isn't thee one already?) and that this one return to he discussion on May 37 and the Italian left.

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May 12 2007 23:50

I'm sympathetic to Kevin's comment about the basic irrelevance (in history) of the forms of anarchism other than mass-based syndicalist politics. I'll just respond to two comments by Black Badger.

First, the organizing by the Federation of Anarchist Organizations of Ukraine -- Makhno's political group -- were in fact mass-based syndicalist-style organizing. The revolutionary army itself derived from a union militia that Makhno had helped the peasant's union set up, to defend its land seizures. Makhno was a foundry worker and president of his local branch of the Russian metal workers federation, and he was also elected president of the local horizontal soviet which was set up by the unions in that town. The revolutionary army was intended to be accountable to the Council elected by the periodic People's Assemblies, much as the Aragon Defense Council, set up by the CNT unions, was to be accountable to the regional congress of collectivized communities...the one area in Spain where the CNT held governing power. Since Makhno's organization worked in and organized unions and soviets -- mass organizations -- i'm not so sure i see the difference from that to the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists.

Second, it seems to me that you may be trying to draw a distinction between the anarchists and mass-based syndicalist politics in Spain, and perhaps seeing the capitulation to the popular front as deriving from the mass-based syndicaliist politics? I'm not sure if that is your view, tho there are those who have suggested this.

The thing is, that distinction can't be maintained. In reality the internal split in the CNT was internal to Spanish anarchism itself. At the key meeting in July 23, 1936 where the CNT regional plenary decided not to overthrow the government of Catalonia, and to cooperate "temporarily" with the Popular Front parties, the main speakers pushing for this were the official representatives of the FAI. They were famous anarchist writers, not members of the CNT (de Santillan, Montseny). The push for overthrowing the government and carrying out the CNT's libertarian communist program came from the rank and file anarcho-syndicalists of the unions of Baix Llobregat, a suburban industrial region (blast furnaces, metal factories, textile mills) south of Barcelona. Juan Garcia Oliver's memoir contains an insightful description of this debate and the players.

Garcia Oliver's account says it was "the petit bourgeois anarchist intellectuals" who argued from fear, and persuaded the delegates to not go for the unions taking over the region. The point of view of the unionists of Baix Llobregat was taken up again by the Friends of Durruti group in 1937.

Now, one can come up with all sorts of proposed reasons for this failure. Cesar Lorenzo suggests the failure to discuss the issue of power at the May Congress in Zaragoza left them "improvising in incoherence." Others have suggested that if only there were the "right" political organization. But as Garcia Oliver points out, the FAI was formed precisely to attack reformist tendencies in the CNT...but then it became the source of a reformist error at a crucial moment.

But I can't see that the "mass-based syndicalist politics" were the problem. Without the massive social base they'd built up over decades of practical union organizing, i can't see how there would have been an actual revolution (expropriation of capitalists, formation of a workers' militia etc).

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May 13 2007 01:39
Quote:
It's nice to see that olivertwisteradmin removed-- can actually attempt to engage with the substance of an argument, instead of whinning for his mommy to censor others perspectives.

Wow, what an amazing critique. Clearly you are the incarnation of communism in San Francisco.

Kevin Keating
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May 13 2007 05:49

Olivertwister:

"...Clearly you are the incarnation of communism in San Francisco."

Given the piss-poor reality of that in these parts, my pet cat could be the leading incarnation of communism around here.

Kevin Keating
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May 13 2007 05:59

On a more significant note:

I strongly feel that, in its day, anarcho-syndicalism was far in advance of what grew out of Marx's wing of the First International, prior to the emergence of the German and Dutch communist left in the years immediately before World War One. I don't think that social democracy was completely valid and useful until it suddenly became "decadent" at some precise moment in 1914.

Unfortunately, that was a product of a completely different phase in the development of capitaist exploitation than what we face today.

Kevin Keating
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May 13 2007 06:08

These points about the POUM are in a footnote, #4, to one of the many lovely articles on my 'Love and Treason' web page, at:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/munis_meese.html

Info here refers to a work titled ,Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism, a History of the POUM, by Victor Alba and Stephen Schwartz, published in 1988 by Transaction Books, in connection with Rutgers University. The work was mostly written by Alba, and either poorly written by him, badly translated by Schwartz, or both. It is to date the only definitive history of the POUM, the ‘Workers Party of Marxist Unification’ in English. Like Schwartz’s song of homage to the SUP, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism is the product of a Ptolemaic perspective where all that goes on in the world artificially revolves around the subject of the story.

"...The POUM has acquired a revolutionary aura based on the presence of foreign radicals like George Orwell in the POUM militia, the occasional extremism of the POUM’s rhetoric, and the martyrdom of POUM militants at the hands of Stalinist butchers. But the fact that Stalinist counter- revolutionaries slandered and murdered POUMists doesn’t in itself mean that the POUM was a revolutionary organization.

The POUM was essentially a pro- Bolshevik social democratic party of a type not uncommon in Europe in the pre-World War II period, an amalgam of ex-anarcho-syndicalists, formerly pro- Moscow "Communists" and left-wing social democrats. The POUM was slightly to the left of Labor parties of the Second International stripe, but well to the right of ultra-left Marxist revolutionaries like the German/Dutch and Italian left communists. The politics of the POUM did not break with the old social democratic conceptions of class struggle and social change.

In the period from 1931 to the May Days of 1937, tens of thousands of combative wage workers came together in the tendencies that gave rise to the POUM. If the POUM had been an authentic communist revolutionary organization, with a perspective centered around the violent destruction of the capitalist state, the POUM could have played a decisive role in the events of 1936-37.

On July 19-20, 1936, a proletarian revolution had begun in two-thirds of Spain, and was especially advanced in Catalonia. But the revolution had only been made half-way; in Barcelona and Madrid the state had lost much of its power, but it hadn’t been decisively overthrown and replaced by an armed, anti-capitalist, working class power. In the subsequent, crucial early months of the revolution, the POUM became as much a part of the counter-revolutionary course of events as the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-FAI did: the POUM joined the Popular Front government in Barcelona, and in doing so helped to shore up the power and credibility of a left-wing capitalist government in a period of revolutionary upheaval.

After July 19, 1936, an authentic revolutionary party or organization would have remained outside of the Popular Front government and fought to exacerbate hostilities between the Popular Front and the working classes of the Republican zone, with the goal of inciting the most radical sections of the working class to overthrow the Popular Front government by force of arms and establish their own monopoly of power. The POUM did not do this. For the POUM, the "revolution" was to be carried forward from within the Popular Front, by all of the parties of the Popular Front, including the middle class Catalan Nationalists of the Esquerra:

"...the Esquerra has a profoundly popular nature, with the peasant masses and working class sectors that support it unmistakably evolving toward revolution...The new government must declare that it seeks to transform the impulses of the masses into revolutionary legality [sic!] leading toward socialist revolution..."

(Resolution of the POUM Central Committee, published in the POUM’s newspaper "La Batalla", Sept. 18, 1936)

On September 8, 1936, POUM leader Andreu Nin declared that in Catalonia the dictatorship of the proletariat already virtually existed; subsequent to this the POUM became a part of the capitalist government in Barcelona, ostensibly with the goal of "legalizing" revolutionary gains. Nin became the Minister of Justice, the chief law enforcement official, of this bourgeois state. In the words of "Juventud Comunista," the newspaper of the youth wing of the POUM:

"Our party has agreed to enter the Generalitat [the Catalan regional government -- the bourgeois state in Catalonia] because it has not wanted to go against the stream in this extremely grave moment and because it considers that the socialist revolution can be pushed ahead through the Generalitat." (emphasis mine.)

(Spanish Marxism, p. 135.)

One member of the POUM’s Executive Committee, Juan Andrade, objected to this, but even he came up with a rationalization for it:

"If we refused to join, the Stalinists would have used it as a pretext to outlaw us...we had no intention of outlawing ourselves in a revolutionary situation..."

Like numerous tepid socialists before and since, it appears that the POUM wanted to get rid of capitalism peacefully and legally, without getting rid of the government apparatus and destroying the old legal system, and without causing excessive discomfort to the property-owning classes and their political representatives.

"...Nin and the three CNT members [of the government] were almost always in a minority, and thus had to give tacit approval, with their presence, to measures of which they disapproved." (ibid., emphasis added, p. 138)

These measures included the passage of laws that reduced the independence of collectivized industries and the decision-making involvement of workers’ organizations in the economy. Two weeks after its formation, on October 9, this government agreed to dissolve the revolutionary committees in Catalonia and bring back regular organs of municipal administration. When combative POUMists in the town of Lleida said they objected to this, Nin traveled to Lleida to ensure their cooperation.

In the mother of all understatements, Alba writes, "This was, unquestionably, a low point for the party."

"On November 16, with all resistance now vanquished -- and there had not been much -- the Generalitat decreed the suppression of three thousand official posts in committees, people’s tribunals, commissions, etc., the majority of them held by workers. The structure of working class power was, thus, eliminated." (ibid., p. 140)

In spite of its authors’ intentions, Spanish Marxism offers a substantial confirmation of Munis’ epitaph for the POUM:

"...The blunders and capitulations of the POUM during the civil war are far from being circumstantial...And if one wanted to provide a frightful and ugly example...of worthless practical leadership, of sluggishness in movement and failure to take advantage of opportunities, the [Spanish] Communist Left would provide the most obvious one." (Jalones de derrota, promesa de victoria pp.61-66)

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May 14 2007 12:33

Comments on Kevin Keating on another thread at Alf request to keep on topic:
http://libcom.org/forums/thought/kevin-keating
Devrim

Leo
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May 14 2007 19:37

Back to the topic, I really liked this document. We were planning to publish a pamphlet, perhaps a short book about Bilan with the translations of all the texts available by them which we can find.

Black Badger
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May 15 2007 14:08

In response to gatorojo:

The difference is that the Makhnovists, while certainly trying to keep their militia/army under at least the nominal purview of the federation of peasants and workers, were in fact an autonomous offensive formation. And the Makhnovists were able to promote widespread expropriation and the formation of a worker/peasant militia in the absence of mass-based syndicalist politics.

My understanding of insurrectionary anarchism is that its partisans organize to attack, not defend. Anarcho-syndicalism is, like other union organizational forms, defensive; what few offensive activities syndicalists engage in are generally limited to acts of sabotage and/or small-scale expropriations. Even the widespread expropriations that accompanied the Spanish civil war and revolution were essentially defensive (the questions needing answers from the cenetistas were: how to create an armament industry to supply the defeat of the anti-Republican clerico-military coup? How to provide the necessities of a socialist [that is, state-controlled] economy in cooperation with other, non-revolutionary unions and parties?).

The CNT capitulation to the Popular Front had something to do with mass-based syndicalist politics, simply because the CNT was a mass-based syndicalist political movement whose majority capitulated to the anti-revolutionary policies of the Popular Front. I am reluctant to draw linear causal analyses and conclusions from that fact, however. There were always tensions between anarchists and syndicalists within the CNT. They were often, but not exclusively, along the lines of reformists versus revolutionaries, and many of those tensions carried over into the FAI—especially after 1932, once the FAI had completed its self-described task of ridding the CNT of the most reformist elements.