***The Lessons Of The Spanish Revolution-1936-1939-Felix Morrow’s “Revolution And Counter-Revolution In Spain (1938)
What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, was the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political and economic organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.
Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat, as then U.S. Socialist Workers Party leader and author of this tract under review, Felix Morrow, noted, certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees that sprang up in 1936 after Franco’s insurrection. Of all modern working class revolutions after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, in his own more general works written during this period, noted that the political class consciousness of the Spanish proletariat was higher than that of the Russian proletariat in 1917. Yet it failed in Spain. Trotsky's writings on this period represented a provocative and thoughtful approach to an understanding of the causes of that failure. Felix Morrow’s work fills in the more specific terms and details and provides more hands-on account of ebb and flow of the struggles of the period. In short he names names, from the vapid “shadow of the bourgeoisie’to the various anarchist configurations including the heroic Friends of Durutti to the POUM to the fledgling Bolshevik-Leninists, the few adherents of Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International in Spain. Moreover, with all proper historical proportions considered, his analysis has continuing value as the international working class struggles against the seemingly one-sided class war being waged by the international bourgeoisies today.
The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 has been the subject of innumerable works from every possible political and military perspective possible. A fair number of such treatises, especially from those responsible for the military and political policies on the Republican side, are merely alibis for the disastrous policies that led to defeat. Morrow, like Trotsky, was actively trying to intervene in the unfolding events in order to present a program of socialist revolution that most of the active forces on the Republican side were fighting, or believed they were fighting for. Thus, again like Trotsky, Morrow’s analysis brings a breath of fresh air to the historical debate. That in the end Trotsky and his followers could not organize the necessary cadres to carry out his program or meaningfully impact the unfolding events in Spain is one of the ultimate tragedies of that revolution. Nevertheless, Morrow had a damn good idea of what forces were acting as a roadblock to revolution. He also had a strategic conception of the road to victory. And that most definitely was not through the Popular Front which he patiently and mercilessly subjects to his close analysis.
The central question Morrow addressed throughout the whole period under review here was the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the proletarian forces. That premise entailed, in short, a view that the objective conditions for the success of a socialist program for society had ripened. Nevertheless, until that time, despite several revolutionary upheavals elsewhere, the international working class had not been successful anywhere except in backward Russia. Morrow, like Trotsky, thus argued that it was necessary to focus on the question of forging the missing element of revolutionary leadership, subjecting the various claimants to leadership, various social-democratic contingents most forcefully a look at the Caballero government, the perfidious and treacherous role of the Stalinists as active agents of counter-revolution, the know-nothingness of the anarchists and there main organization, the FAI, and, most tellingly the insularity of the POUM and its leadership, especially Nin and Andrade, that would assure victory or at least put up a fight to the finish. One came almost see the withering away of the revolutionary élan after the failure of the Barcelona uprising of May 1937, a key event in this period and a serious test for all parties, which he subjects to close analysis. For that and other events in Spain during this period read this book. And then you, like I did, will have a much clearer idea of what went wrong in that troubled land.
Labels: felix morrow