(from Prometeo no.139, 22 November 1936)
The following two articles, both from November 1936, from our paper Prometeo, the fortnightly organ of our Fraction Abroad, reflect even in style the tragic aspect that the attack on the proletarian movement in Spain took on, the only one still able to rise up after the counterrevolutionary wave that followed the October victory and the revolutionary attempts of the 1920s in Europe.
The Fraction was able to, in that terrible reactionary whirlwind that by breaking the traditional divisions between the classes led the proletariat to fight side by side with its enemy in the name of anti‑fascism, to stand firm on the classical positions of revolutionary communism, although it wasn’t a painless process, as a part of the comrades left the organization. Our Fraction was the only one to resist, and it was able to do so, sticking, tooth and nail, at a time when everything seemed to have "changed", to our historical program, to the classical Marxist analysis on the relationship between classes. Once again we must repeat that, reading these pages that "betray" deep participation in the drama that was unfolding in those days and the momentary "impotence" of the revolutionary militants against the counterrevolutionary hounds, there appears before us the tragic actuality of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the massacres of proletarians, the imperialist maneuvers to deepen and widen the conflict by preventing any class reaction, while the party once again seems "impotent", unable to make the proletariat hear its voice. But the very fact that the positions of our Fraction are still alive, are being revived and repeated today having found, sixty years later, a terrible confirmation in the second imperialist war, in the resistance fronts, in anti‑fascism and pacifism, confirms to us that it is only by reconnecting to these principles, to this clear political line free from any compromise with the enemy classes, that there can be, and will be in the not-too-distant future, the resumption of the class struggle and the revolutionary communist victory.
At the suggestion of the French Popular Front government, the "Non‑Intervention Committee" in the Spanish affairs has been formed for about two months now, where all the representatives of World Capitalism are included; the appointees of democratic France and England, of fascist Italy and Germany, of Soviet Russia, to limit ourselves to just the great powers. It is not difficult to imagine the conditions under which the meetings of this Committee had to take place, which, moreover, did not hold many meetings, and this was not because there was a lack of material for work since every day we learned news of the sending of arms, supplies and men, but for another reason. This Committee of "non‑intervention in Spanish affairs" was really nothing but the "committee of business and intense intervention against the Spanish and international proletariat". Since, unfortunately, the success of the traitors was total in all countries – which includes Spain here – since everything was marching beautifully in the interests of world capitalism, no reason existed for this Committee to meet that frequently. That our interpretation is accurate is not difficult to realize from even a cursory analysis of events.
All States had thus proclaimed non‑intervention. Not one of them applied it, not the fascist States, nor the democratic States, nor the Soviet one: all intervened in an iron solidarity dictated by the laws of capitalist society, all threw themselves against the revolutionary proletariat whether through support of Franco’s reactionary right‑wing or the left‑wing of the Popular Front and the extreme left‑wing bloc ruling in Catalonia with the support of the POUM and the FAI. There were polemics of the anti‑fascists against the fascists but this was just a means to fool the proletarians. The war of 1914‑1918 proved to us that business is done magnificently even with the "enemy", and without fail it can be said that when cash is paid, orders are immediately accepted from both camps.
They’ll even be accepted by proletarians and when they’ve paid the money, the cops will be notified about who will "find the booty": a notice to the proletarians around whom provocateurs and speculators are now circling under the benevolent eye of the Popular Front ministers.
Here are the actual conditions under which the "Non‑Intervention Committee" works. The French representative is the first who will say: if the others don’t comply with the pact we should re‑examine the convention as a whole. The Russian one, after much delay, will proclaim: the Spanish Minister Del Vayo has made damning revelations in Geneva; since neutrality is not respected I’ll resume freedom of action. The fascist henchmen, Grandi in the front line, don’t even dream of bothering to refute the accusations, there’s no need. From the first moment Mussolini and Hitler, who had said that the pact should apply to all supplies and not only to arms, had raised the question of sending funds but not that of sending human material to Spain since sending money – a simple polemical pretext, however – was a violation of the pact, but not the formation and sending of legions. Grandi has his collection of “Giustizia e Libertà”, of the reformist and maximalist Avanti!, of the Grido del Popolo, and everywhere, complete with the luxury of photographs, he gives palpable proof that the pact is being openly violated in France. But it’s not worth the effort to produce this documentation, because the real objective is not to "not intervene" in Spain, but the opposite, to "intervene" in all of them to offer the one and the other arm of capitalism, the reactionary right and the left of the Popular Front with the Catalan appendage, arms and men for the massacre of the proletarian class.
Russia proclaimed its freedom of action, at the same time the Social Democratic International and the Amsterdam Trade Union International discussed at length, to reach what conclusion? Not to call the masses not to unleash class movements against their respective capitalists, but to exert energetic pressure on their respective governments to "lift the blockade" against the Spanish government. But did this blockade ever exist? The press coverage of the Popular Front is there to prove that if the Italian fascists came down in Majorca, they are recruiting, with a lot of fanfare, the proletarians to leave for Spain.
There remains the problem of weapons, of airplanes. In this regard it’s necessary to face reality and this will enable us to foil the deception of the traitors. At the beginning of the events the enormous majority of aviation was on the side of the government; if this weapon is – as it’s said – the essential cause of the military superiority of the right‑wing supplied by Italian and German fascism, then why was it not used at the beginning against the territories where the right‑wing had succeeded, or why was it not used when the right‑wing was using the few airplanes it had to communicate with Alcazar of Toledo and supply other encircled cities? And today when, in the naval field, superiority still belongs to the government, why isn’t this weapon used? And finally, don’t the arms factories, the war industry that are in the hands of the government produce enough weapons? Not to mention that we all know that if the Italian proletarians had had a one thousandth of the weapons that the Spanish workers possess today, the fascist gangs would have been crushed like bugs. But a revolver in the hands of workers fighting on their class terrain has proletarian political force; an artillery piece in the hands of a proletarian thrown into the enemy front has no proletarian but rather capitalist political force.
There remains the problem of weapons, of airplanes. In this regard it’s necessary to face reality and this will enable us to foil the deception of the traitors. At the beginning of the events the enormous majority of aviation was on the side of the government; if this weapon is – as it’s said – the essential cause of the military superiority of the right‑wing supplied by Italian and German fascism, then why was it not used at the beginning against the territories where the right‑wing had succeeded, or why was it not used when the right‑wing was using the few airplanes it had to communicate with Alcazar of Toledo and supply other encircled cities? And today when, in the naval field, superiority still belongs to the government, why isn’t this weapon used? And finally, don’t the arms factories, the war industry that are in the hands of the government produce enough weapons? Not to mention that we all know that if the Italian proletarians had a one thousandth of the weapons that the Spanish workers possess today, the fascist gangs would have been crushed like bugs. But a revolver in the hands of workers fighting on their class terrain has proletarian political force; an artillery piece in the hands of a proletarian thrown into the enemy front has no proletarian but rather capitalist political force.
The development of Spanish events had made more than a few proletarians reflect. The bloody victories of the reactionary right occurred after the defeat of the whites had been taken for certain, and proletarians – after three months of cruel experiences – were led to wonder whether finally their very approach of the struggle was not contrary to the interests and objectives of their class. Already there was a loosening of the influence of the traitors over the revolutionary proletarians who increasingly no longer trusted themselves to the moves of the enemy. After the Russian declaration to the "Non‑Intervention Committee" we see on the one hand the intensification of appeals for departures for Spain, and on the other hand the fact that more than a few proletarians expect a change in the situation and are preparing to leave for Spain.
Let us begin by observing that this alleged need for human materiel, for fighters, is a denial of what had been said so far by those calling for new enlistments and who had said that what was lacking was not men, but weapons. And we come to the essential question. On what level can the action of the different governments take place, on which pressure would be brought to bear, and for the moment on the Russian one? No doubt is possible: at the level of the interests of world capitalism. The proletarian who would put himself at the service of his enemy would not only sacrifice his life, but would become a new element of deception for the Spanish proletariat. Indeed, when a worker from another country arrives, immediately the proletarians of the country flock to him for his advice, an indication of the way to face to the enemy attack. The proletarian who arrives with the intention of incorporating himself into the so‑called proletarian militias, and which are and have always been tools of the capitalist enemy since they are dependent on the bourgeois State machinery, this proletarian will further encourage the Spanish workers to persist in a path that leads to the progressive slaughter of proletarian lives and organizations.
These considerations which are not the fruit of our reflections but an unequivocal and terrible lesson from the events must incite the proletarians to reply to the traitors that they won’t leave for Spain, that they want to remain faithful to real proletarian internationalism which doesn’t mean concentration in only one country in struggle, but continuation of the class struggle in all sectors of world capitalism. In Russia, where proletarians whose crime is to have belonged to the leading body of the Russian revolution are exterminated en masse, in Italy and Germany where all the slightest opposition is slaughtered, in the British Empire which fiercely suppresses the uprisings in Palestine, in France where the police are hurled at strikers, in all countries finally. And the only truly proletarian directive to really manifest solidarity with the Spanish proletariat is to move to the struggle against capitalism in the country where one resides. Just as in Spain, in the localities that fascism has not seized power, the duty of the proletariat consists in taking advantage of the greatest opportunities for struggle to attack the machine of capitalist oppression in order to be able to thus weaken the same machine in the territories held by the fascist white terror, just as in other countries it is only by weakening French and English capitalism that one can really help the Spanish proletariat as a whole. It’s a thousand times more difficult to unleash class struggles where fascist reaction reigns, but this means that if in the other areas – where the potential for class struggle still exist – the proletarians, instead of employing them, fall captive to the maneuvers of anti‑fascism and integrate themselves into the front of the defense of democratic capitalism, they ultimately only strengthen the capitalist machine in the fascist areas as well, thus strengthening the chances of the victory of the fascist attack.
As there are two classes, there are two class fronts: the capitalist front and the proletarian front. The laws of class struggle determine the nature of the two opposing fronts. There is no evaluation from one to the other, but once one enters the capitalist front one becomes its instrument and accomplice, and this with the same necessary logic that directs events and history. The revolutionary proletariat may find itself today, faced with too strong an enemy constellation, unable to overturn the situation, but in order to be able to overturn it when the situation again permits it, it mustn’t in any way credit the enemy move. A revolutionary proletariat that accepts the traitors’ order to leave for Spain becomes the standard-bearer of the enemy’s watchwords in the already extremely cruelly tried ranks of the Spanish workers.
In Spain, the gallows of the Spanish and international proletariat are being raised. After the victory of fascism in Germany, the Popular Front took upon itself the task of corrupting, of distorting the consciousness of the proletarians in France, it today with the uniform of "lifting the blockade of republican Spain" sends as many proletarians as it can into the arms of Franco’s bloody reaction. The duty of the worker is to recognize in the traitor who makes the call the function he is to be made to perform: he will not risk, he will not give its life to betray his class, he will not obey as the proletarians of different countries did in 1914. Unable today to overcome the enemy it will acquire the political capacity to beat him tomorrow on the sole condition of not serving him today.
Against the "industrialization" of corpses on military fronts - For the resumption of class struggles!
The Only Class Weapon
(from Prometeo no.139, 22 November 1936)
The more events advance, the thinner the ranks of proletarians who remain loyal to their class, the stronger becomes the business – within the masses – of all enemy political currents. Today, even more than in 1914, since the compulsory conscription of that time in the imperialist armies has been replaced by volunteering in the "anti‑fascist militias" and by the crusade at the head of which are to be found those same forces that worked to crush the revolutionary proletariat in Germany, Italy, China and all countries.
Only a few of us that stood up against the raging enemy propaganda among the workers and until the last July, and we’re even fewer today to hold firmly to the banner of the proletariat while it’s precisely those who until yesterday collaborated, supported or sympathized with our effort which becomes the most influential champions in the defense of political conceptions against which we had together fought.
Reality is here, it follows its iron logic, implacable, it obeys the laws of the capitalist regime; the evolution of situations confirms it and, alas, no longer through a partial success of the enemy but with mountains of proletarian corpses that the bourgeoisie was able to lay on the ground by the thousands, and then tens of thousands, solely because it was able – as in 1914 – to make them believe that they were fighting for socialism and not for the bourgeois republic, to halt the reactionary attack and not laying down the ground, with their own lives, of the strengthening of the regime of capitalist oppression.
In even the most advanced ranks of the proletariat, today – as in 1914 – there’s no longer any discussion, it’s sabotage if one dares to examine the four months of intervention in the Spanish events, the uniform is that of "we march", of "the enemy is there, one must fight, one must not hesitate", reflection has become a crime and capitalism has reached the peak of its success; the proletariat, which can only defend itself and win on the condition that it understands how to build its own battlefront, considers today that regrouping to meditate means missing an opportunity of its success.
And thus the facts are here: not one of them allows it to continue, all of them are a tragic confirmation of teachings already from the last century and from which one cannot deviate without crossing the barricade of social struggle and becoming agents, conscious or unconscious, of the capitalist enemy.
Here is what Senator Morizet, one of Franco’s many accomplices, wrote (in the L’Humanité issue of November 4th 1936): "It’s not a question of two forces that are in the presence of each other and more or less equal, but of a paltry number of rebellious soldiers and military men, some 20,000 men fighting against a people of 22 million men… In truth there are but 5,000 legionaries in total…. Franco has from 6,000 to 7,000 Moroccans. It is necessary to add 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers who were forced to march under the threat of the revolver. You will tell me that this small number of soldiers is compensated by the military quantity of the officers. Now the inability of the Spanish officers is universally known…. No, it’s not them that are capable of doing what they do, it is 200 to 300 German and Italian airmen, it is German and Italian technicians who slaughter the Spanish people and destroy towns and villages".
So, 200 and 300 airmen can get the of hundreds of thousands of armed workers. If this were the case, all that would be left for us to do would be to proclaim the proletarian flag as permanently buried since its struggle is clearly forever doomed. Since, on the terrain of military competition, the working class will never, absolutely never be able to rival the enemy who builds colossal instruments while the revolutionary proletarians are devoid of any possibility in this field. What is more, never before as in Spain at present have the proletarians been so bereft of weapons, neither in Russia during the struggle for power, nor in Germany, nor in Italy, nor in any country. But the proletariat not provided with a militaty army – since it is impossible for it to have one before the conquest of power – was itself an army capable of winning in Russia, fighting in other countries and despite provisional defeats remaining the army that history makes invincible and will surely win, solely because it represents the political expression of a social force that – when the situation reaches the climatic and inevitable point of the maturation of the contrasts on which the capitalist regime is based – will shake, right down to its foundations, the present society, and the capitalist cop whether it be called Mussolini, Stalin, Caballero or Blum, who would give the order to his formidable military apparatus to pull on the weakly armed masses would see his whole army smashed. No, the Spanish tragedy is the most painful of the confirmations of Marxism since it proves that, to nail the proletariat to the enemy front, to annihilate it as a class, Azaña’s deception was not enough, but it was necessary to gradually reach to the extreme socialist left, to the POUM and the anarchists.
The poisoning of enemy propaganda hit the proletariat full force. Even the most advanced militants, until last July, had no more hesitation: democracy makes the bed for fascism. Today they, to those of us who urge them to analyze the events that give grim and new confirmation to this formulation, reply, "we march". But really, who is "marching" in Spain today if not the fascist hordes, piling up thousands and thousands of proletarian victims? Yes, even in Spain, democracy makes the bed of fascism: if it has annexed the POUM and anarchists this is solely because that was the only way capitalism in the country and internationally could carry out this gruesome trick to fool the workers.
It’s from the very bowels of a Proletarian Front government that the fascist attack is fertilized. Republican and socialist leaders, anarchist and POUM, know five days in advance that the offensive will be unleashed: complete silence in the face of the masses who, surprised and directionless, have in spite of everything the strength to repel the attack, especially in the industrial centers. The masses are on the class front, they are invincible, they would have won if there had been a party to maintain them on that line and lead them to victory. The party was not there and the inevitable was produced; all other political forces acting within the masses – in a situation of heightened affairs – were dragged into the inevitable precipitation of their political role, they were progressively won over by the enemy and, like Noske, although with different forms dependent on the new situation, have betrayed then by collaborating with the bourgeois government.
Two classes, two instruments, two class paths. To the two‑faced enemy of the Popular Front, which create fertile ground for fascism, which, aware of the date of the attack keeps silent so that the masses may be more surprised and unprepared, the proletariat responds with its class weapon, the strike. Having thwarted this, the danger remains that the masses will find their way again. And so arises the colossal mystification of territorial military fronts: everyone to the front to stop the attack and the proletariat is uprooted from its class terrain – in the social struggle and especially in the climatic moments, half‑measures are impossible – is thrown into the class terrain of the enemy. And the bourgeoisie which, superficially, appears much weaker than the enemy, are actually the arbiter of situations because its enemy, the proletariat, no longer exists as its own class. The latter has the weapons but, just like in 1914, in different forms but with the same substance, it employs them not for its own class, but for the enemy, in its belt, under its direction, a mere appendage to its State. The capitalist military and social front is opposed to the class front in both the countryside and proletarian urban sprawl. Both at once is impossible and once again one has to choose either one or the other: bourgeoisie or proletariat.
The deep reasons for our disagreement with the Fraction minority rightly lie in the fact that these comrades believed that we should penetrate and even accredit among the masses the front that was and remains that of the enemy. The ideological and brutal rupture that was inevitable will be able – we fervently hope – to keep the Fraction united, on the sole condition that these comrades meditate on the evolution of the situation: reflection will only heal the aberration.
Once the workers joined the enemy front, the massacre of the proletariat was inevitable, and this in the case regardless of whether there’s a fascist or Republican victory: in the two hypotheses the one that emerges strengthened is the enemy regime, as in 1914, in the countries where proletarians were slaughtered in the name of the struggle against Czarism as in the others in the name of the struggle against Germanic militarism.
The events seem to indicate that Caballero, the POUM and anarchists are Franco’s accomplices toward the outlet of a right‑wing victory and not that the latter is – as in April 1931 (1) and February 1936 (2) – the accomplice of Caballero and co. for a victory of the democratic counter-revolution.
Unable to discuss the reality of events, the proletarians who until yesterday were still with us fighting against the two‑faced enemy, of fascism and anti‑fascism, only face of the proletariat and its class, gets from the heroism of the Spanish workers the pretext to persist in the path that leads to massacre. In different times this was called the industrialization of corpses. Demagogy once again proves to be the dirtiest enemy of the proletariat. Indeed, what do these admirable examples of the Spanish workers mean? This and only this: that despite the most heroic resistance and struggle the workers are defeated. So it’s a definitive argument not for, but against the thesis that opposes ours.
Although in unclear forms – and this because of its internal situation – but subsequently with unequivocal expression the Fraction defended the class approach and fought for it! In emigration as on the ground, where clear threats were made against its delegates by Franco’s POUM accomplices. On this ground alone the struggle will be continued.
The fiercest struggle of the proletarians on the current territorial front, which is the enemy’s front, is the cruelest and most desperate of the workers’ defeats, in either scenario, the victory of Franco or the Popular Front. Capitalism piles up corpses today in Madrid: if Franco enters tomorrow, he will have a free field in the face of a beheaded and bloodied mass, and the same would be the case in the opposite case of a republican success.
In 1936 the sinister vocables of 1914 resume course in the ranks of the proletariat, as do those of interventionism and non‑interventionism. In different forms the substance is the same as in 1914. A new victory for capitalism, but the extreme extent of its triumph is a sure symptom of approaching revolutionary storms: from the blood of the Spanish proletarians, from the ignition of the imperialist front will flow the insurrectionary battles of the working class. The cemeteries that Franco and his socialist, Stalinist, POUMist, and anarchist accomplices have opened in Spain, bury not the proletariat and its cause, but the forces that are its enemies and strangers: the proletarian victims have fallen to bury all the enemies of the working class, they will fertilize the cadres of the International, of the revolution in all countries, they carry this flag: our Fraction bears on its shoulders this tremendous responsibility.
1 Reference to April 14, 1931, the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, a trick where the bourgeoisie used the republicans to fool the workers away from truly proletarian demands during its mighty unrest.
2 Reference to February 16, 1936, when the Popular Front defeated the parliamentary right‑wing in the elections, again making workers rely on the bourgeois parliament over real proletarian struggle.