International Communist Party Against Capitalist Wars



Lessons from the Counter‑Revolution Spain 1936

(This series of articles is related to the series on the Popular Front that we published in 1965: so the reader will have to refer to it).

 

If the anti‑fascist "tactics" of the Communist International in the 1930s succeeded in distracting the Western proletariat from its aims and its revolutionary program, and in leading the working class to politically support the second world imperialist war as an anti‑fascist pseudo-crusade, when the real struggle – i.e. an armed struggle with the character of a civil war – lied nowhere near anti‑fascism. Since the anti‑fascist adventures remained until then entirely verbal and parliamentary (the only episodes of real struggle that took place in Italy were of an anti‑capitalist and communist inspiration, not anti‑fascist and democratic), it would have been rather poorly armed to take the helm of the war against the Axis powers in the name of supposedly common interests between the proletariat and the democratic bourgeoisie, if the events in Spain, in the period between 1936 and the outbreak of the second imperialist conflict, had not come to give at least the appearance of truth to this way of presenting history, which is now a staple of opportunism: no longer a conflict of classes each rooted in totally opposed types of society, but a struggle "between the forces of democracy and those of fascism." Having received in Spain a sort of baptism in blood, this empty and absurd thesis, contradicted by all of previous history – not to mention the principles of Marxism – took on a monstrous strength and influence, until it became the ideology of the new imperialist massacre.


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This alone is enough to make the "revolution" and the Spanish war of 1936 worthy of the attention, thirty years later now, of all those who want to learn from the counter-revolution in order to orient themselves in a proper revolutionary line against the depressing chaos of today: because, examining them with a cool head and with all the advantages of historical detachment, it’s very easy to discover that this "revolution" and this war proved the opposite of what opportunism, which exploits its events without scruples, pretends to prove.

But that’s not the only reason it’s interesting, because these events cruelly illuminate the meaning of another struggle that perhaps has not yet become completely "outdated": that of revolutionary Marxism (which its opponents had hastened to lock in the same tomb as the great October Revolution of 1917 at the time of Stalin’s victory) against anarchism reinvigorated by the defeat of the proletariat. Spain in 1936 was, in fact, the place where anarchism held the most influence in the entire world, which then had a unique opportunity to "do its revolutionary tests" but, in the midst of the insurrectionary momentum, suffered the most egregious fiasco that any current, any school of political and social struggle, perhaps ever had to suffer the harsh test of the facts. Thus anarchism, whose theoretical and practical weaknesses had always been more than evident, but which had been given new moment by the Russian counterrevolution and the defeat of the proletariat there, as it could now cry against the “reactionary fatalism” that’s supposedly inherent in Marxism, proved the lethal impotence that was actually contained in its own apoliticalism, in its hostility to centralism, and in its democratic and libertarian ideology.

Unlike what happened in Russia, another country of underdeveloped capitalism, the whole history of the workers’ movement in Spain is characterized by the impotence of the proletariat to constitute itself as an independent class in the face of an industrial bourgeoisie so weak and so indissolubly linked to the agrarian landowners, an impotence that can be hard to identify behind its political disguises. This powerlessness took two forms: first of all, and most importantly, that of anarchism, which was well suited to the workers of an industry that had for a long time preserved for the most part the characteristics of the manufacturing era, and even more so to the thousands of impoverished people of the cities and the miserable peasants of the latifundios; secondly, mainly found in the areas of large modern industry, the form of a reformist and electoralist socialism, however capable, in times of crisis, of the most extraordinary "revolutionary" disguises. As for this impotence in its own right, one cannot help but notice that it prollonged that of the bourgeoisie itself in the epoch in which it could still play a revolutionary role, because the proletariat was not there to exert pressure on it to go further. And if the bourgeoisie missed such an opportunity because of its compromises with the conservative power of the Church and its concessions to popular prejudices during the war of independence against Napoleonic France (1808‑14), in short because of what Marx called its lack of revolutionary audacity, it never found it again. That is why Spanish capitalism developed with a great deal of trouble – and above all as a product of foreign importation – which took the form of a dynastic state periodically shaken by the revolutionary attempts ofa liberalism that became increasingly impossible and never came to complete the political revolution from which, elsewhere, the modern centralized state was born.

If the thousands of links that unite reformist socialism to the capitalist regime are obvious (if only because of how blatant they become due to its periodic participation in bourgeois governments) it may seem paradoxical to say that the deployment of the Spanish working class on the front of anarchism did not ensure any real class independence. The fact is that such an independence is not the "autonomy" so often claimed by the anarchists (for which abstentionism could, strictly speaking, have been sufficient, but the anarchists were not satisfied with it, nor could they be satisfied with it, oscillating as they did between refusals out of principle and practical compromises, for example in 1873 when they calmly participated in the local governments or juntas of the federalist republicans, the proponents of the absurd cantonalist insurrection, thus compromising the First International in the eyes of the masses and giving the world, as Engels said in his critique of them, "a masterful example of how not to lead a revolution"): class independence is the faculty of the proletariat to act in all the stages of its struggle according to its communist program, if according to its own principles and methods, which supposes the faculty of recognizing exactly the class enemy under whatever disguises he may present himself in. Such an understanding could have only been lacking in a movement whose program was limited to a utopian "repression of the State" by decree, a movement in which anti‑authoritarian principles, an expression of bourgeois democratic individualism, took the place of the doctrine of class consciousness and historical intelligence, and whose methods consisted in a completely adventurist, purely local insurrectionism.


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This inability of the Spanish proletariat – even though it was harshly exploited and deeply revolutionary in the strict sense of the word – to constitute itself as a class, that is as a revolutionary party for social reorganization, instead of as an electoral force, bore the most monstrous fruits in 1936. In fact, the insurrection meant to crush Franco’s pronunciamento, which had nothing to do with creating a centralized revolutionary power, what could it signify if not the illusions of the Spanish proletariat that its only task was to carry through, in the 20th century, a revolution of the previous century, and to impose on an archaic and backward capitalist society the typically bourgeois, and maybe even reformist, form which had long since become the main obstacle to social revolution? Even if animated by the most generous social utopias, such an attempt could only fail, the "same old military, bourgeois and landowning reaction" reincarnated in Francoism and mistakenly labeled as "fascism" (fascism is an ultramodern political form, not an archaic one) won over the absurd coalition of classes of the "republican" camp by political superiority much more than by military strength. Not only that: within the same republican coalition, the openly bourgeois and conservative forces that gathered around the Communist Party took it upon themselves to show the proletariat that for them, in the words of Marx, "utopia becomes a crime as soon as it wants to realize itself ". The Spanish proletariat had not been able to draw from the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Russian Mensheviks its universal lesson: that in the 20th century a “revolution" can only be proletarian and communist, otherwise it’ll turn into a counterrevolution in an instant. If it escaped the seductions of anarchism, it was only to fall into the nets of a placid reformist socialism, of a party that in its time had refused en bloc to join Lenin’s International. The attempt, weak and contradictory, made by the P.O.U.M. to implant revolutionary Marxism in Spain, had barely touched the proletarian class precisely because of its weakness and contradictions. In the essential questions, the proletariat had continued to follow en masse the anarchism, which, as an advocate of the fossilization of the 20th century Spanish revolution in the schemes of the past or, if you prefer, of its liberal deviation in politics and utopian deviation in the economic and social field, was also the first ring of the counterrevolution. The second was that of the bourgeois ally of the "republican" coalition (recognized and denounced too late on one hand, and on the other hand not with sufficient clarity), which this time took on the features not of bourgeois republicanism, but of "Stalinism". Only much later, when the proletariat had ceased to participate as a class in the conflict (even if workers were forced to fight in the republican army, like other citizens) because it was disinterested as a class in its ultimate aims, was the third link added to complete the chain of the counter-revolution: the Francoist victory.

Thirty years later, there are still those who deplore the fact that the anarchists betrayed their principles: they don’t realize that amounts to claiming for oneself the absurdity of stopping the counterrevolution with its first link, that is, with its inception, with its very germ. And even more numerous are those who regret that the republic was destroyed, as if it made more sense to choose the second link; the maturity of the counterrevolutionary process. Counterrevolutions are like rivers; no force can prevent them from following their bed.


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This framework for understanding the war that we have quickly set up has nothing arbitrary about it: it corresponds to a Marxist critique, almost a century old, of the false extremism of libertarianism, and to Lenin’s critique of bourgeois democracy and workers’ reformism long before the reconstitution of the revolutionary International; it derives from the immense historical experience that goes from the great classical revolutions of the bourgeoisie to the proletarian revolution of 1917 in Russia. Without this framework it is not possible to understand the tangled facts of the Spanish revolution and war of 1936.

The electoral victory of the Popular Front after the dissolution of the Cortes (which followed the proletarian insurrection in Asturias, its repression and the bourgeois hardening of the "black biennium"), was the signal of an intense social agitation, both political (liberation of political prisoners) and economic (wage demands) and it also caught fire to the countryside (Extremadura, Andalusia, Castile, Navarre). However, this social tension was far from being matched by a clear political orientation of the proletariat. The electoral pact coalesced in the battle "against the right" before the February elections had brought together organizations that were completely disparate: left‑wing republican parties, the socialist party and the UGT (socialist trade union), the syndicalist party, the communist party and even the POUM opposition movement, which eloquently demonstrates the absence of a class delimitation. The program adopted by this anti‑establishment alliance was purely and simply the old republican program (reform of the Cortes, of the municipalities, reorganization of finances, protection of small industry, development of public works and, theoretically, once again, agrarian reform): a program that the workers’ parties had accepted as is, thus abdicating any shadow of class independence in the process, although each of its points "resembled a prank". And, if the anarchists had remained outside this shameful front, they had nevertheless participated this time in the elections against a promise of political amnesty.

As for the government, it was composed of bourgeois republicans, which the workers’ parties supported without participating in it. Feeling the storm approaching, the Socialist Party, which in 1931 had not been afraid of ministerialism, in the first republican government, suddenly invoked the principles and the need to maintain its independence. While the demagogue Largo Caballero, ex‑minister of the bourgeois State, tried to anticipate the moves of his competitors by launching the watchword of the "workers’ government", and even of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" exercised by an ultra-reformist party like his, while multiplying the "openings" in the direction of the anarchists and rhetorically inviting the republicans to leave, and a military coup d’état to mature, destined to "re‑establish order”, disturbed by the workers’ and peasants’ movements. On 17 July it broke out. Socialist opportunism, running for cover and denying its claims to exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat, begs the government for weapons that the government predictably refuses.

A new government is formed, while the military revolt brings back victory after victory in Andalusia (where Cordoba and Seville fall thanks to the complicity of the State and to the foolish trust that the workers’ organizations put in legal power) and in the North, in Zaragoza, Oviedo and other nearby regions. On the other hand, in Barcelona, Madrid, the Basque Country, Valencia, and Malaga, the insurrection failed due to both the workers’ response and indecision. One part of Spain is in the hands of the army, another apparently in the hands of the armed proletarian and popular masses, because in the clash the republican state has been shattered and committees have sprung up everywhere which group together "democratically" the representatives of all the workers’ organizations and exercise both legislative and executive functions in place of the legal authorities which have vanished or fallen back into the shadows.

"Defensive at first, the workers’ response has become offensive and aggressive": "mass terrorism" is unleashed on the parish priests. Small and big bosses, bourgeois politicians, judges, policemen, prison guards, spies and torturers; trade unions take confiscation or control measures against industrial and commercial companies, public transport, public services, etc.: in certain rural areas, libertarian communes are born which superbly abolish money on their own account. All of this obviously comes out of the framework of "political anti‑fascism" into which the opportunist parties would like to force the movement, and it certainly showed all the violence of social antagonisms, of the conflict between capital and labor; but it’s not enough to make a modern proletarian revolution.

A revolution is fundamentally a question of power and a question of program, not a question of forms of organization. In the Spain of July 1936, in which so many false Marxists have believed and still believe they see a "duality of powers" between proletariat and bourgeoisie, no party, no force, actually poses the problem of overthrowing the bourgeois republic embodied by the Giral government, under the pretext that such a thing has "lost all importance." All initiatives are local: each city, each company, each village acts on its own account, without concern for an overall plan. The declared enemies of the social revolution – collaborationist socialists, and above all false communists – waited for the storm to pass in order to pose the question of power in their own way. It was not until September 4 that the "workers’ government" of Largo Caballero was formed, expressly designated by the bourgeois republican Giral as the only one capable of "governing" a Spain boiling with agitation, which is to say, the only government capable of bringing it back to order. But in the incandescent weeks from July 21 to September 4, the anarchists, false extremists, refused to pose the problem of power and then to "fill the gap opened by the collapse of the Republican state”. In Catalonia, where they nevertheless dominate the situation, since July and in the heat of the events their alleged apoliticalism is revealed once again as an opportunism ready to all collaborations, and they boast:

"We could be alone, impose our absolute will, proclaim the Generality of Catalonia forfeited and impose in its place the true power of the people [sic]; but we did not believe in dictatorship when it was exercised against us and we do not desire it when we could exercise it in our turn at the expense of others. The Generality will remain in its place with President Companys at its head and the popular forces will organize themselves into militias to continue the struggle for the liberation of Spain." Thus was born the central committee of the anti‑fascist militias of Catalonia, in which the anarchists boasted of having brought together "all political sectors, liberals and workers" and in which many pseudo-Marxists wanted to see a "proletarian power", as if a true proletarian power would not have subordinated the military struggle against the Francoist offensive to the pursuit of social revolution and as if it could have tolerated "liberals" in its very bosom! Thus was born, a few weeks later, the new central government, in which only a month and a half after its constitution the anarchists would not only accept but demand to participate, making a mockery of all their alleged principles, revealing the opportunism that was disguised behind their libertarian and insurrectionist poses:

"The entry of the CNT into the central government is one of the most important facts that the history of our country has recorded. The CNT has always been by principle and conviction anti‑Statist and an enemy of all forms of government.... But circumstances have changed the nature of the government and the Spanish State. The government has ceased to be a force of oppression against the working class, just as the state is no longer the organism that divides society into classes [sic!]. Both will increasingly cease to oppress the people with the intervention of the CNT in their organs."

Thus ended the first stage of the counterrevolution, the most decisive. The other two followed with implacable consistency, and the course of events will show what the "revolution" and the Spanish war have historically proved: not the reality of a conflict between democracy and fascism, but the counterrevolutionary and anti‑proletarian role of anti‑fascism, bloody flag of the second world imperialist war; and, more particularly, the deeply opportunist nature of anarchism.


The Launch of the Proletariat and the Opportunist Betrayal

It is a fact that, in spite of its lack of unity, its provincial particularism and its extreme confusion regarding the problem of political conditions and the ways of emancipation, the workers’ response to the Francoist coup d’état of July 17, 1936 went partly out of the purely political and therefore bourgeois framework of the "defense of democracy."

In the same way that the victory of the Popular Front, i.e., the bourgeois republican and opportunist workers’ parties, had given the signal for social agitation in the cities and countryside that naively believed in the social intentions of the new Republic (had the French workers not made the same mistake after the revolution of February 1848?), the pronunciamento was the signal of a social explosion that not only targeted the most hated constituted bodies – judiciary, police and clergy – but also largely attacked the sacrosanct right of property, the foundation of the bourgeois order. As anarchic and naive as they were, the confiscations of land and of industrial and commercial enterprises, handing them over to trade unions, their direct management and control by workers’ organizations, cannot pass for purely "political" measures against the "enemies of democracy", contrary to what the reformist socialists and Stalinists claimed at the time. The latter, on the other hand, did not hesitate to denounce the "absurdity" of such attempts (which in their eyes made the Spanish working class "Franco’s accomplice"), nor did they hesitate to deplore the "breakdown of the sacred front" between workers, peasants and democratic petit-bourgeois, which the workers "risked" provoking. But it was precisely this "anti‑fascist" interpretation and this hostility that attest, in the best way possible, that not only was the proletarian initiative not at all welcome to political democracy, but that it had to be at all costs made part of the bourgeois framework of a respectable, non‑revolutionary struggle against fascism and the "anti‑constitutional" military revolt. Although confused and incoherent, the social tendencies of the workers’ response were nevertheless clear enough to draw against it the thunderbolts not only of the bourgeois republicans and Caballero’s socialist left (too clever, moreover, to not conceal its hostility for long) but of the tiny Spanish Communist Party of Stalinist obedience and of the anarchist leaders themselves.

From the very beginning the PCE formulated a program that explains the increasing popularity it had with the Spanish petty bourgeoisie terrified by the revolutionary "excesses" of the first weeks:

"We cannot today speak of a proletarian revolution in Spain, because the historical conditions do not allow it. We want to defend the small and medium industry that suffers no less than the workers. We wish to fight for only a democratic republic with an extended social program. It cannot be a question, today, neither of dictatorship of the proletariat nor of socialism, but only of the struggle of democracy against fascism" (Official statement of August 8, 1936 by the Spanish Stalinist Jesus Hernandez and the General Secretary of the PCE José Diaz). The equivocation this statement speaks of is not even possible!

As for the anarchist leaders, they are even more eloquent in their terseness: "Today there’s no libertarian communism: there’s the faction that must be crushed!"

The success of this speculation so dear to opportunism, on the "immaturity of historical conditions" or even just on the "pressing needs of the hour", was all the more assured because the clearest result of a Spanish workers’ "revolution" that did not respond to any coherent program of social transformation was the maximum economic disorganization. The "collectivized" companies had become the de facto property of their employees who, while taking advantage of the situation to introduce some favorable measures of the wage‑earners, had to suffer all the conditions of bourgeois competition, that is, of the precariousness of the mercantile economy. In short, in the absence of an overall plan, the libertarian collectivization based on the Malatesta scheme of "destruction of bourgeois property" had the same inequalities and absurdities that its advocates had condemned in capitalism. Echoing, more than half a century later and in spite of himself, the Marxist critique of "corporate socialism", a Spanish anarchist made the following balance of this initiative of the libertarian revolution:

"We saw the private ownership of the instruments of labor and in the capitalist apparatus of distribution as the primary cause of injustice and misery. We wanted the socialization of wealth so that not even one individual could be excluded from the banquet of life. To the former owner we have substituted half a dozen others who consider the workshop, the means of transport controlled by them, as their own good, with the drawback that they do not always know how to organize another administration and achieve a better management than the old one".

Only philistines can reject the revolution because of its "disorders", as if it were possible to strike at the foundations of bourgeois society without resulting, at least momentarily, in a decrease in ever so holy "productivity". The hateful cries launched by the Spanish Stalinists against the chaotic initiatives of the first weeks of insurrection were thus not directed against libertarian reveries, but against the revolution itself. In other words, as the following events will show, these cries did not express at all the indignation of serious revolutionaries in the face of the umpteenth anarchist demonstration of "how not to make a revolution", but the need for order of all the champions of social conservatism. This does not detract from the fact that the conceptions, indeed the whole outline of anarchism about the way towards the abolition of capitalism were enough to vibrate the most terrible of blows to the proletarian cause. Reducing the whole problem to a transfer of property from the owner to the factory or company committee, or to the union, while in reality it was a question of transforming the very framework of productive activity (the company fighting only for itself) in order to arrive at a truly coordinated, socialized management, the libertarians succeeded only in replacing ordinary capitalism with what was then called – with a very fair though apparently paradoxical term – "trade union capitalism," the practical results of which were the inability to give the working class the strength needed to resist the counterrevolutionary campaign of the regular democrats...

In fact, it’s impossible to separate the practical errors of the libertarians in the field of social transformation from their profound political opportunism. We have already seen how they prided themselves on rejecting power in the name of "freedom," a rejection that amounted to the abandonment of power in favor of the enemies of the revolution (who finally, at the right moment, used it against them). If, as a movement, international anarchism drew no lessons from the fatal consequences of this refusal, the bourgeoisie, by the mouth of the Spanish republican Azana, was far more perceptive:

"As a backlash to the military revolt, there came a proletarian uprising that was not directed against the government... A revolution must seize command, install itself in government, direct the country according to its views. Now, they did not do so. The old order could have been replaced by another, revolutionary one. It was not. There was nothing but impotence and disorder."

All further developments were conditioned by this impotence: the first gravedigger of the cause of the proletarian revolution in Spain was the false "libertarian communism".


The Drama Unfolds

It would make no sense, thirty years later, to ask what would have happened if the proletariat had had the strength to take power during the weeks of intense social agitation in which the bourgeois state seemed to have disappeared, and better sense to speculate on its chance of winning in the struggle that would have ensued. The purpose of Marxist critique is not to provide "infallible recipes", which, already impossible in the midst of struggle, becomes simply ridiculous in retrospect. In fact, if the right policy has been lacking, it is because (due to major historical reasons) men capable of conceiving and applying it have been lacking. Now, even such men are never sure to win: Marxist critique aims only at showing, behind the often confused appearances of the struggle between parties, the real class interests at stake; and, if it compares the perspectives of the actors in the drama with the historical results of their struggle, it does so not for the sterile satisfaction of triumphing in retrospect over their blindness or their ignorance, but in order to nail the traitors to their responsibilities, and so that the proletariat may no longer make the same mistakes and believe the same lies. If, for the sake of demonstration, we take the Spanish insurrection of 1936 at face‑value and consider it as a revolution, we must admit that the fatal error of this revolution was a very old libertarian error: that is to say, to believe that, overnight, society could do without any central power and that it was possible to transform society and the economy without a political revolution. This explains the strange behavior of the Spanish revolution, which "purges" the cities and the countryside of their bourgeois elements, patrols the streets in arms, talks a lot and acts, even, without fear of resorting to violence, but which does not worry at all about the survival of a legal government which, momentarily hidden at the bottom of the ministerial offices in Madrid, has, however, the entire gold reserve and, on the other hand, the only authority recognized by the foreign powers, other forces that were not negligible at all, such as the fleet, and takes advantage of this to order the latter to leave the roadstead of Tangier (where it prevents the sending of Moroccan reinforcements to Franco) because its presence in those waters is unwelcome to the English and French colonialists! Of course, the facts could only confirm the equally ancient Marxist criticism of such an error; two months went by and the objective need for a central power, whatever it was, was imposed on this revolution not by force of arms but by evidence. This explains why, in spite of its principled opposition to "any kind of government", it did not consider the constitution of a new government on September 4, 1936 as an act directed against itself. A remarkable blunder, if one considers that the program of the latter was not the continuation of the revolution but the union of the forces fighting for republican legality, which left no doubt as to the fate reserved for the countless regional and local committees and councils, combat and investigation militias, or revolutionary tribunals, in which it had completely thrown itself and in which it recognized itself.

An even more singular blunder if one considers that, originally, the restoration of the central power was not at all envisaged as a simple "enlargement" of the bourgeois government of Giral through the addition to the republicans of socialists, communists and representatives of the UGT but as a kind of coup d’état in which the able Largo Caballero of the UGT had invited the representatives of the anarchist unions of the CNT, and which should have consisted of the political elimination of the republicans. Now, significantly, the revolution pushed its bonhomie to the point of admitting that such a coup would have constituted a grave error because it was not to the liking of the ambassador of the USRR; because, without "republican legality", President Azana would have carried out his terrible threat of resignation and, in that case, foreign democracies could no longer be counted on to help against Franco. In short, faced with a dilemma: either to sacrifice itself or to see the vanishing hope of the Russians sending the weapons they had promised, and the Westerners sending the weapons they had never even promised, the Revolution (which was not difficult to disorient in political matters because it had never had any clear ideas about them in the first place, and was not at all sure of its military strength) said: we will see. After all, hadn’t the CGT safeguarded the principles by refusing to enter the government and declaring that "the masses would be frustrated if we continued to live in bourgeois institutions"?

Well, it happened! After Madrid, it was the turn of Barcelona:

"Companys, who had recognized the right of the workers to govern (between July 19 and September 4), and had even offered to abandon his post, maneuvered with such skill that he succeeded little by little in reconstituting the legitimate organs of power to reduce the workers’ bodies to mere appendages of executive power.... Normality was restored." This took place no later than September 26. But the clear vision of things expressed in these words cannot be attributed to the revolution, because the person who pronounced them was a bourgeois, Catalan republican.


The Disaster

In fact, since the months of September and October, the revolution is nothing more than a shadow of its former self. It witnesses without batting an eyelid the apparently most extraordinary events in Catalonia. It hears itself told by the same mouths of the anarchist leaders: "It is not possible, for your own sake, for the future of the working class, that the duality of powers should persist". The revolution hears the same intransigent pseudo-Marxists of the POUM explain: "We are living in a stage of transition in which the force of the facts obliges us to collaborate directly with the other working class tendencies, let us add: and with the bourgeoisie in the government of Catalonia". They promise better days ahead: "From the formation of the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers, a new proletarian power will emerge". The Revolution had no intention of founding such soviets: how would it, and for what purpose, when every single faction explains that the critical issue is to win the war against Franco and that for it "there is only one dilemma: to give in or to aggravate the conditions of the struggle"? The Revolution, therefore, remains on hold...

Victim of its lack of political ideas, and therefore of its tendency to embrace ideas that were not only foreign to its nature (a nature that, in truth, it ignored itself) but destined to be fatal to it, the Spanish Revolution suffered its worst blows without realizing that not only the Communists, not only the leftist socialist demagogues, but also the anarchists were threatening its very life. In October 9, it let the government dissolve by decree all the popular committees, the last supports of her languishing existence.

The military situation, which continually worsened, powerfully contributed, moreover, to sap the little that remained of her will to be true: between the pathetic appeals of the government that proclaims itself democratic and the fierce threats of the military revolt that closes its grip around Madrid, the government completely loses its head: it’s greatly indignant when at the end of October the anarchists enter, in person, the central government after typically parliamentary discussions on the number of portfolios to be obtained: it is in a deathly silence that it listens to the explanation of this shocking curveball:

"The international bourgeoisie refused to supply us with arms. We had to give the impression that our masters were not the Revolutionary Committees, but the legal government: otherwise, we would have nothing at all. We had to bend to the inexorable circumstances of the moment, that is, to accept governmental collaboration."

It is only a matter... of giving "false impressions" to the international bourgeoisie and playing the trick of inducing it to arm the Revolution itself with its own hands! Is the Spanish Revolution so absurd as to believe it: or is it not rather that it lost all confidence in itself? In any case, it now accepted everything from the anti‑fascist government: the complete liquidation of everything it had believed in, its weapons, and even worse, the legalization of what it had believed to be its conquests. Just as it had never known how to understand well the revolutionary nature of its problems, so it had never known how to understand the counter-revolutionary nature of democratic power. That is why it tolerated not only the fact that the legal power made a flag out of its now completely bloodless body during the terrible November battle for Madrid, but also that it covered this body with ridiculous trappings, under the pretext of making it resemble the glorious Soviet revolution. Thanks to this despicable staging, the legal power will bring back its only two victories over the Francoists: Madrid and Guadalajara. In spite of its promises, the Revolution would not gain any serious advantage from this; quite the contrary, poverty and sacrifice, juxtaposed with scandalous display of bourgeois luxury, political scandals, the open counterrevolutionary cynicism of the majority of the government, would push it to a last stand. In May 1937, in Barcelona, the revolution found the strength to erect barricades and resist for three days behind them.

The legal power would then send warships into the harbor to terrorize it, and anarchist leaders (Frederica Montsenys and Garcia Oliver, "state anarchists") to brutalize it. And the motorized column of 5,000 assault guards removed from the front to launch against her will restore order in Barcelona not to the open, honest cry of "Down with the revolution!" but to the cry of "Long live the FAI"!

After that, everything that happens no longer even concerns a revolution. The socialist "left" of Largo Caballero was expelled from the "democratic" government, and the anarchists and those of the POUM were repressed and massacred; it is no longer the revolution who is affected, because it was already dead: it is rather its death that removes the entire basis of existence of those who had confusing her already imprecise ideas as their sole historical role. The revolution will not be there to draw the last conclusion: they had killed it under the pretext that only on this condition would Franco be beaten, that they could obtain arms from England and France and continue to receive them from Russia; or rather, it was in this foolish hope that it killed itself. And this sacrifice had been all in vain. Neither English imperialism nor French imperialism ever sent weapons to the Spanish Republic, no matter how adorned with bourgeois respectability it had wanted to be. In July 1938, it was the turn of the USSR to drop out of the game. On March 29, 1939, five months before the outbreak of world war, at the end of a week of confused and shameful struggles between cynical partisans of the resistance to the end and "imbecilic partisans of an honorable peace based on justice and brotherhood", after two thousand deaths added to the hundreds of thousands of the previous years of warfare, the last democratic Spanish leader clandestinely embarks or crosses the border. Having disposed of the democrats and the false proletarian leaders of the only adversary they could fear – the Proletarian Revolution – Franco won.


* * *

And yet, thirty years later (twenty years after the end of the 1939‑45 massacre, of which these tragic events were the prelude for, and for which they prepared the European proletariat in a manner most favorable to Capital), there are still those who judge that this Spanish Revolution – which we have seen was so fragile, so helpless and, to say the least, so pitiful – had "historically surpassed the level" of the Bolshevik Revolution, the revolution which was able to direct without hesitation all its blows against the worst enemy of the revolutionary proletariat – bourgeois democracy – and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat!

Such nonsense is nothing but the eternal lies of the counterrevolution! And a stupidity no less eternal than opportunism!