Chapter 15: The Advance of the Counter-Revolution

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

That after a victorious war against Fascism, Spanish history would not just start on again from the point at which the nineteenth of July surprised it, was plain to everyone who had an eye for realities. Only the Communists did not want to see it, must not see it, since they were worl:ing in the service of Russia; but Russia was looking after the business of her imperialist allies. Spain had entered upon a social revotution. No one could suppose that the rebellious workers and peasants after a successful conclusion of the war would patiently submit themselves once more to the old yoke and surrender the social achievements which they had bought so dearly with the blood of their best. On the other hand, however, no one could suppose that after the end of the war the Spanish bourgeoisie would forbear to try to regain whatever there was for them to regain. That while things were in this state not everything would run along smoothly was also plain to everyone who could see.

The further the great transformation in economic and social life proceeded and brought agriculture and industry under the control of the workers' syndicates, the harder would it be for the old powers in Spain to re-establish the old conditions. And this was just what the foreign capitalists dreaded most and were seeking by every means to prevent. But no one had rendered them such invaluable service in this matter as the Russian government and its instrument, the Communist Party of Spain. It was they who had everywhere put the most serious difficulties in the way of the constructive activity of the workers' syndicates and who today are wantonly seeking to destroy a work which is of the very greatest importance for the social development of the country.

Everywhere where the membership of the U.G.T. was made up of genuine workers and peasants its representatives worked beside the workers of the C.N.T. in the management of the industrial and agricultural enterprises in the most perfect harmony. Only where the Communists had gathered the whole of the petty bourgeoisie into the U.G.T., as, for example, in Barcelona, did it seek pettily and contemptibly, in order to prepare the way for the return to the old capitalist conditions, to nullity by secret or open sabotage the magnificently conceived work of socialization which the C.N.T. had begun. When the C.N.T. in Catalonia took over the Ministry of Defense and in exchange turned over the responsibility for the supply of food-stuffs to the U.G.T., the Communist minister, Comorera, undertook by every sort of demagogic trick to undermine the work of the syndicates and to put the control of the food supply for the city of Barcelona into the hands of the small retail tradesmen and the middlemen. At the same time thc Communists and the bourgeois press were waging an incessant war against the constructive work of the C.N.T. and were holding it responsible for all the evils which their own representatives were causing. Even though they were having no luck with the great masses, still this systematic work of disintegration served to poison public opinion and to instill in the ranks of the anti-Fascist front a spirit that could but operate ruinously. In January of 1937 they even organized in the little city of Faterell a revolt against the C.N.T., which was of itself of little importance, but which showed what these people were capable of.

It might perhaps be objected that our account rests only on reports in the C.N.T. press and is therefore not impartial. That would, however, be a serious mistake. One finds this same opinion expressed even in those papers whose managers just shortly before the Fascist revolt were roundly damned by the Communists as Menshevists and "traitors to the proletariat." Thus, "Adelante," organ of the Socialist Party in Valencia, wrote with bitter irony, concerning the treachery of the Stalinists:

"At the outbreak of the Fascist revolt the labor organizations and the democratic elements in the country were in agreement that the so-called Nationalist Revolution, which threatened to plunge our people into an abyss of deepest misery, could be halted only by a Social Revolution. The Communist Party, however, opposed this view with all its might. It had apparently completely forgotten its old theories of a 'workers' and peasants' republic' and a 'dictatorship of the proletariat.' From its constant repetition of its new slogan of the parliamentary democratic republic it is clear that it has lost all sense of reality. When the Catholic and conservative sections of the Spanish bourgeoisie saw their old system smashed and could find no way out, the Communist Party instilled new hope into them. It assured them that the democratic bourgeois republic for which it was pleading put no obstacles in the way of Catholic propaganda and, above all, that it stood ready to defend the class interests of the bourgeoisie." (Adelante, May 1, 1937.)

That this is not saying too much is shown by the fact that the female Communist leader, "La Passionaria," in Madrid, openly advocated an alliance of the Communist Youth with the Catholic Youth organizations. The same paper ("Adelante") a little while ago sent a special questionnaire to the secretaries of all the field-workers' trade-unions of the U.G.T. in different parts of the country, in which, along with other questions, were the two following: 1. Who is opposing the peasant collectives? 2. Is the work of the Communist Party in rural districts helpful or harmful to the activities of the trade-unions? The result of the inquiry was as follows:

"The replies to these questions revealed an astounding unanimity. Everywhere the same story. The peasant collectives are today most vigorously opposed bv the Communist Party. The Communists organize the well-to-do farmers svho are on the lookout for cheap labor and are for this reason, outspokenly hostile to the co-operative undertakings of the poor peasants.

"It is the element which before the revolution sympathized with the Fascists and Monarchists which, according to the testimony of the trade-union representatives, is now flocking into the ranks of the Communist Party. As to the general effect of Communist activity on the country, the secretaries of the U.G.T. had only one opinion, which the representative of the Valencia organization put in these words: 'It is a misfortune in the fullest sense of the word'."

There is no doubt that all these underground machinations met with the approval of the Left Republican and Communist ministers in the Valencia government. This reveals itself not only in the deliberate sabotaging of the new co-operative economy in city and country, but also in the systematic boycott of the Aragon front by the central government, in which the Russian embassy in particular and, no doubt, its English and French colleagues as well, had a hand. On the Aragon front there stood for the most part C.N.T. formations. Therefore it was sought to prevent at all costs, equipping them with large armament. For months the front remained without flying machines, tanks, and heavy artillery. Its defenders had to depend almost entirely on hand-arms and machine-guns, and were deficient even in these. And yet an offensive on this very front would have been of the greatest strategic importance. It would not only have been able to prevent the fall of Bilbao, but would in large measure have relieved the brave defenders of Madrid. The C.N.T. press had been denouncing this outrageous game for months. Miguel Martin Guillen, one of the military leaders of the C.N.T. in Aragon, even spoke of outright treachery:

"Send us weapons, armored cars, airplanes, etc., and all Aragon will be ours! Less treachery and a better comprehension of the actual situation! Less politics and more action, and Huesca, Teruel, and Zaragosa will fall into our hands! We can no longer endure being condemned here to forced inactivity. Still less can we endure the cowardly and underhand attacks from certain political circles, which reproach us for our inaction, whose cause they know only too well. Fewer intrigues and more impartiality..." (Orientaciones Nuevas, May 22, 1937.)

It is a fact that as we write these lines, Franco, with great technical superiority, has opened an offensive at Teruel, against which whole troops have been sacrificed uselessly because they lacked the large armament necessary for a successful resistance. But England, France and Russia were just as little interested in a decisive victory for the Loyalists as they were in a victory for Franco. And it was still less to their liking to arm the Aragon front, where the C.N.T. was most strongly represented. And while the Aragon front was being systematically boycotted, the Communist press in foreign countries was telling its readers that the C.N.T. men did not want to fight, those defenders of the same front where once stood Durruti, who had been called "the hero of the Aragon front."