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Grandizo Munis and Spanish Proletarian Revolution in 1937

Saturday 4 January 2020, by Robert Paris

Grandizo Munis and Spanish Proletarian Revolution in 1937

The Bourgeois State in Crisis (April 1937)

Although our edition was closed for this issue, the crisis of the Generalitat obliges us to comment, holding up our publication a little bit.

It is public knowledge that these periodic crises of the Generalitat represent the flowering of a continuous friction between the various forces integrated into the Council. What is making impossible the normal functioning of the government is the contradiction between the bourgeois or petit-bourgeois republican forces, the PSUC and the UGT, and the workers’ forces (CNT). But the aim of these governments is precisely to defeat the revolutionary resistance of the proletariat through integration of its organisations into the bourgeois state. The bourgeoisie, through its Stalinist and Socialist servants, will get rid of the CNT, as soon as the collaboration of this organisation has created the necessary conditions. If the government that is formed continues to count on the collaboration of the CNT, however slightly, the crisis will have served the bourgeoisie to overcome a little more resistance to it and to prepare the next phase. In this way, if the crisis shows that in the bourgeois state there are class forces alien to it, the resolution will show to what point the bourgeoisie can utilize against the revolution the proletariat’s own organisations. For this reason there is no possible positive outcome for the road of the Generalitat. The return of the CNT to the government will accentuate the latter’s reactionary, antiproletarian character. It is the bourgeois state that is in crisis. The proletarian forces should not aid but should destroy it, and make way for a revolutionary state.

The way out can never be, as the Central Committee of the POUM has said, ‘A government formed by the representatives of all the political and union organisations of the working class’. However radical the programme that it might propose, this is a parliamentary conception of the revolution without the least viability. We point in passing to the speed with which the POUM leaders lost their heads once they smelled the aroma of Power. Their own youth today shout with all their strength, while harshly deprecating the slogan of Committees, ‘A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government in the Generalitat’ (our emphasis).

We affirm, on the contrary, that the only revolutionary solution is the total abandonment of collaboration, but preventing this action from having repercussions in insurrectionary adventures, and constituting a Revolutionary Front of the proletariat which will demand from the street what cannot be gained through the bourgeois state, and open the way toward revolution by launching the constitution of committees of workers, peasants and soldiers. The revolutionary force of the proletariat, freed from its chains, will ably stop the counter-revolutionary forces of Stalinism, the reformists, and the republicans, and will guarantee the further development of the Revolution. With their collaboration, the leaders of the CNT condemn the proletariat to death.

The Road to Victory Begins with the Revolutionary Front of the Proletariat (April 1937)

While the politics of the Popular Front lead events toward a reactionary solution, whether through transformation of the civil war into an imperialist war, or armistice with the Fascists, or the triumph of the latter, in the mind of the masses there has emerged a praiseworthy reaction against that course, which it is necessary to channel, directing it toward well-determined objectives.

We were the first to formulate the need for a Revolutionary Front of the proletariat as the only force capable of defeating all the dangers, and of giving a vigorous impulse to the war and the revolution. A little after that, the Madrid newspaper CNT launched the slogan of a Revolutionary Workers’ Alliance, and Juan Andrade, in the Daily Political Note in La Batalla (the POUM’s paper] called for the revolutionary workers’ front. This suffices to show that in the consciousness of the masses there gravitates the need for a United Front that will renew the implacable struggle of class against class, to the point of ending the political and economic power of the bourgeoisie, whose most solid pillar today is the Popular Front. On the decision of the parties and organisations not linked to the reformist and Stalinist bureaucracies, to break their coexistence or tolerance, more or less hidden, toward the Popular Front, depends the beginning of this road.

It is necessary to declare that until now neither CNT nor La Batalla concretised the thrust of their respective slogans or fixed their immediate objectives. They invite the danger of falling into a limited or leftist Popular Front which will not save us from the dangers to which the current one has led us.

CNT bases its alliance on the necessity of avoiding the ‘embrace of Vergara’ and of opposing itself to the manoeuvres of the ‘old style politicians’, that is to say the Stalinists, reformists and Republicans. But it goes on to declare that the Revolutionary Workers Alliance will not be an instrument opposed to, but rather an auxiliary weapon of the Popular Front. This is like raising the hand to strike and ending up offering it to the enemy. Such an alliance would be a fine libertarian tonic for the Popular Front, the representative of the bourgeoisie, which carries in its heart the spirit of the ‘embrace of Vergara’ as well as of the murders committed by Noske and Stalin. In La Batalla Andrade also plays dishonestly with the United Front. A typical centrist, however often he ventures to declare that he should be opposed and irreconcilable toward the Popular Front. In a burst of audacity Andrade points to the example of the youth. But the Revolutionary Youth Front is an example to be corrected, not followed. Its fundamental error, which condemned it in large part to sterility, lay in not separating itself from the capitalist state, but aspiring to control it. ‘Win the war and make the revolution, is the mission of the Revolutionary Youth Front’ reads the first paragraph of its basic document, but all the justice of the proposal, as in general with all its other slogans, disappears when one sees they have forgotten it is the bourgeois state that is preventing making the revolution and winning the war.

Inspired by this unbreakable principle, common to every proletarian revolutionary, the Bolshevik-Leninist Section has pointed out the dilemma: either with the Popular Front against the revolution or with the Revolutionary Front of the proletariat, and for Communism. All the wounds suffered by our workers’ movement – the military defeats, the reorganisation of the repressive apparatus of the bourgeoisie, the repression against the press and the revolutionaries, the extension of speculation with its train of miseries for the workers, as well as the greater dangers of armistice or imperialist war – originate in the political power still held by the bourgeoisie and supported by the workers’ organisations belonging to or tolerant of the Popular Front. The first basis for any genuine united class front is opposition to bourgeois and petitbourgeois governments, whatever shadings of proletarianism they adopt.

The war situation in which we find ourselves and its revolutionary nature, impose on the Revolutionary Front the double obligation of stopping its degeneration into an imperialist war and its sabotage by the friends of reconciliation of all Spaniards. This is the second indispensable basis.

But it is necessary to prevent the Revolutionary Front of the proletariat constituting a governmental bloc, whatever may be its programme. The Spanish revolution has developed without having matured, in the proletariat, any ideological current capable of guiding it victoriously. Furthermore, the government of social revolution will have to be based in organisms directly elected by the masses, in no way on political or union organisations. The struggle for Committees of Workers, peasants, and soldiers, is the third indispensable condition for the Revolutionary Front.

Only on these three fundamental bases can a great class movement be organised that will rapidly turn events around.

The slogans of revolutionary rationing, repression of speculation, war on manoeuvring and on political lying will lose all viability if they do not take these three points as their bases and any initiative towards class regroupment which is attempted without them is condemned in advance to sterility.

The Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain Demand Your Aid in the Struggle for the Social Revolution (May 1937)

The bloody insurrection of May in Barcelona gave fresh proof of the revolutionary energy and magnificent heroism of the Spanish working class. For several days the Catalonian government was at the mercy of the workers. In spite of this the struggle ended with a setback to the workers, because they carried it on without a plan, without leadership.

The Stalinist officials were on the other side of the barricades; the Anarchist leaders showed once more their reformist and conciliatory character; the POUM leadership was not even capable of an independent policy: it timidly clung to that of the CNT and slavishly repeated their defeatist slogans. The tragedy of the Spanish proletariat is always the same: it is without a revolutionary party which would be capable of leading it to victory.

But in spite of this lack the situation is not hopeless. Ten months of revolution are a long and rich experience. Today in every revolutionary party the best revolutionaries are organising fractions which approach – if only tentatively – the correct line. The Friends of Durruti – now expelled by the Anarchist bureaucracy are the most important among them. No doubt they are still imbued with Anarchist prejudices, but they are beginning to pose the problem of the seizure of power in a semi-Bolshevik sense. The ‘revolutionary Junta of workers, peasants and soldiers’, their principal slogan, is nothing else than the Soviets advocated by the Bolshevik-Leninists. One of the most important signs of the progressive character of the Friends of Durruti is that the slanders of the Stalinists against the Trotskyists have no effect on them: on the contrary they are ready to collaborate with us. In the Libertarian Youth an analogous wing is forming. In the POUM also, differentiation between the incorrigible centrists and consistent revolutionaries is making considerable progress. The violent campaign of the Executive Committee of the POUM against Trotskyism has not prevented the left wing from taking up our criticisms and to some extent our slogans. Its expulsion is only a question of time.

The speed with which all these fractions develop towards the political positions of the Fourth International depends, in the first place, on the effective activity of the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain. The Friends of Durruti, like the other revolutionaries who have seen the Trotskyists by their side on the barricades during the May days, are ready to listen to them in discussion, to read their papers and leaflets, to think over what they propose.

The Bolshevik-Leninist organisation was rebuilt with enormous difficulty. When Nin and Andrade had betrayed the flag of the Fourth International, while they liquidated their own organisation and sowed confusion among the militants, the situation seemed without issue. In a period when thousands and tens of thousands of new members were flowing into the existing workers’ parties, it was not easy to muster a few reliable comrades faithful to Marxism and the Fourth International. In the months which have passed, the Trotskyists lacked the most convincing argument, that of force. Ideas alone are not enough.

Still today the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain see before them enormous obstacles which they cannot surmount without international aid. In this country, in spite of the war, there is considerable unemployment, not to be under the protection of a party means not to be able to find work, and to be exposed to poverty, as in every other capitalist country. For many oppositionists, expulsion from their party means the loss of their livelihood. Many of our militiamen were sent back from the front for ‘Trotskyist activity’, that is to say for their revolutionary propaganda, and they lost their salary of 10 pesetas a day with which they were supporting their organisation. How are we to find the necessary means for the organisation, for printing and leaflets? We are forced to rely on the solidarity of all sections and groups of the Fourth International, and all sympathisers. With their aid we shall soon get over this critical period, which is only transitional.

We apply to all sister organisations and ask them to help us. In all countries make campaigns to help the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain! In every Trotskyist paper an appeal for the Spanish organisation of the Fourth International; In every gathering and every public meeting a collection for the Trotskyists of the country of the revolution.

The Spanish Revolution is at stake. Victory is closely linked with the creation of a new party for the Fourth International. The effective solidarity of the whole international vanguard is necessary for victory.

– The Executive Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain

Barcelona, 29 May 1937

The Programme of the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists (July 1937)

The group, only eight people altogtlher, left after the entry of the Izquierda Communista into the POUM, put out La Voz Leninista and three issues of its journal. (During this period of demoralisation the Spanish Trotskyists had split, the other group putting out a paper called El Soviet.) The money for this actually came from Leon Narvitch, an agent of the GPU who had penetrated the Spanish Trotskyists after the work he had already done in informing on the POUM. After a POUM action squad had avenged the death of Andres Nin and Narvitch’s body was found at the start of February 1938 in the environs of Barcelona, practically the entire Spanish Trotskyist organisation was rounded up on 12 February and charged with killing him, spying for Franco, striking, sabotage, and organising the May Days insurrection. Just for good measure was added the accusation that they were planning to kill Negrin, Prieto, and Stalinists Comorera, La Pasionaria, and José Díaz.

After much pressure and torture the trial was fixed for 29 January 1939, but three days before it was to take place Franco’s troops entered Barcelona. Both jailers and prisoners scrambled to escape, and Munis and his comrade Carlini got across the French border. From there he proceeded to Mexico, from which he led the Spanish Trotskyists in exile, and became a close political ally of Trotsky’s widow, Natalia, in objecting to what they believed to be the rightward drift of the US SWP during the Second World War. They opposed the American Military Policy, the support for the actions of the Red Army in Eastern Europe, and later the support for Tito and Mao Tse-tung. Munis returned to Spain to take part in the Barcelona strike of 1951, and was picked up again the following year and given another 10 years in prison. After his release he retired to France where he led a small far-left organisation.

What do the Trotskyists want?

1. To defeat Fascism with the only effective weapon, the weapon of the proletarian revolution. To destroy Fascism and its roots, which flourish only in the rotten soil of capitalist democracy, by the expropriation of the exploiters and by the total destruction of the old state apparatus. During a transition period we wish to set up the dictatorship of the proletariat, directed solely against the remains of the bourgeoisie, who, with the aid of foreign capitalism, will try to re-establish private property and the bourgeois regime. The best example of attempts like this are the dishonest manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie at the present time, and above all of the PSUC. The dictatorship of the proletariat will be genuine working class democracy, because the privileges of money will have disappeared and the workers, freed from capitalist exploitation, will decide their fate for themselves.

2. So long as the proletariat is not in a position to take power, we shall defend the democratic rights of the workers within the framework of the capitalist transitory regime. That is why we have publicly, and without any sort of manoeuvre, demanded the United Front of Struggle, CNT-POUM-FAI; we shall never allow the class enemy to destroy workers’ organisations, even when it is a question of our political adversaries. Yesterday we demanded the protection of the POUM; today we protest against those who want to exclude the FAI from the popular tribunals; and tomorrow, with arms in hand, we shall defend the CNT. We have been and we remain partisans of proletarian democracy.

3. We stand for the formation of revolutionary councils of workers, peasants and soldiers. These councils should be democratically elected in each factory, village and company. It must be possible to recall the delegates at any moment if the majority so decide. Councils of this sort were formed during the July days. The true wish of the masses is allowed the freest possible play in them. These councils will have for their task the defence of the conquests of the revolution, the maintenance of public order, and the control of the economy and distribution. Each party will propose its solutions: the masses will decide.

4. We are against the so-called Popular Front Government, which is in reality a government in which the vast majority of the people is not represented. We are against class collaboration because it is a trap for the representatives of the working class. Compromises in such a government lead inevitably to treason. The only solution is to set up everywhere revolutionary councils, to convoke a congress of all the delegates of the councils, and to elect a Central Committee from the delegates of the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils, which will take in hand the management of the country. In such a revolutionary council there will be no treachery, and it will thus be able to bring the war to a victorious conclusion.

5. Our aim is the complete expropriation of the capitalists. So far the banks have not been touched, and the means of exchange are under the control of the bourgeois government. We categorically reject the ‘municipalisation’ feverishly demanded by the PSUC, which means in reality taking away the enterprises from the syndicates, and putting them under the control of the reactionary government. Our slogan is complete socialisation, and the establishment of a monopoly of foreign trade, under the direction of an economic committee of the revolutionary council.

6. We demand the nationalisation of the land: that is to say the abolition of private landlordism. The usurers shall no longer be able to take the land from the peasants. We stand for the collectivisation of agricultural enterprises only where the peasants consent to it without constraint. Distribution of the land must be made by the peasants’ councils according to the principle: ‘The land for those who work it’.

7. We are of the opinion that only a centralised army under a united command can ensure military victory. But it must be a revolutionary army in which each soldier enjoys political rights, in which the officers are elected and can be recalled by assemblies of soldiers. The same salary for everyone. The united command under control of a Council of War of the Revolutionary Council. In such an army, the enthusiasm of the soldiers and their revolutionary vigilance will counterbalance the lack of material and technique. It will be a victorious army.

8. We stand for the right of national minorities to dispose of themselves, and for the absolute freedom of the people of Morocco, including the right of separation, Morocco for the Moroccans; the moment that this slogan is publicly proclaimed it will foment insurrection among the oppressed masses of Morocco and cause disintegration in the mercenary fascist army. We stand for a Federation of Socialist Republics, because this corresponds best to the interests of the working class. It must be constituted without constraint by the free and fraternal unification of all the workers.

9. We fight the Stalinist bureaucracy which pretends to construct ‘socialism’ in Russia while sabotaging the socialist revolution in Spain and throughout the entire world. Our final aim is the world revolution and the establishment of socialism over the whole world, which is the only guarantee against the usurpation of the proletarian conquests by a bureaucratic layer like that of the Soviet Union. We are against non-intervention as practised by the Peoples’ Commissars of the Third International and by the bourgeois ministers of the Second International. We demand the revolutionary, intervention of the proletariat and the transformation of the Spanish revolution into European revolution.

10. The old organisations have led us into an impasse. Deeply convinced that victory against the fascist barbarians and the whole capitalist class depends entirely upon capable leadership, we shall concentrate our efforts on the creation during the struggle of a new revolutionary party, to be equal to that task. Its granite base will be the programme of scientific socialism, laid down by Marx and Engels, and continued by Lenin and Trotsky. Before the disgraceful treason of the Second and Third, Internationals we shall bring together again all consistent revolutionaries in the new, the Fourth International, which will be the world party of social revolution. Beneath its unsullied banner socialism will triumph! Comrades! We know that our first task is to put Franco’s bands to rout. But you, like us, know that military victory is inseparable from the social revolution. Openly and without manoeuvres we fight against a policy which seems to us disastrous. The deepening of the social revolution, far from weakening the united front in the trenches, will strengthen the fighting spirit of our militias. We wish to revive the spirit of July 1936.

With the enthusiasm of those days and the arms and experience of today, we shall celebrate July 1936 in a socialist Spain free from the capitalist yoke.

To all revolutionaries who feel that they are approaching us, we appeal; come and join our ranks! In friendly discussion we shall clear up points of disagreement and, united in struggle, we shall put to rout our common enemy!

Down with Fascism and capitalism!

Long live the Spanish proletarian revolution!

Long live the world revolution!

Barcelona, 19 July 1937

Bolshevik-Leninist Section of Spain

(Fourth International)

Note 1. The statement here following was put out on 19 July 1937 by the Bolshevik-Leninist Section of Spain, the small Spanish Trotskyist group led by Grandizo Munis. It is reproduced here from Fight, monthly paper of the Marxist Group of CLR James, vol.1, no.10, September 1937, pp.4-5.

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