Tuesday, December 31, 2013

***The Life And Times Of Michael Philip Marlin-Trouble Is Still My Business –Preface     


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman-with kudos to Raymond Chandler 

I like to think that one Michael Philip Marlin who worked out of Ocean City just south of Los Angeles back in the day now incorporated into the vast city had many of Marlowe’s attributes-and Chandler’s too.
Preface by Peter Paul Markin

If you get one thing right in this wicked old world, or the literary segment of the beast, or better, the crime novel sub-segment  (okay, okay genre) you know that one Michael Philip Marlin’s business was trouble, trouble pure and simple. And sisters and brother while you are getting that right you best put it down that trouble, trouble with a capital T added, was this classic hard-boiled private detective Marlin’s business. We have previous followed old school Marlin through thick and thin in the many short sketches that make up this collection.

Our intrepid private eye, private dick, shamus, gumshoe or whatever you call a guy that, privately, and for too little dough scraped off other people’s dirt, and did it not badly at that, in your neighborhood. And kept his code of honor intact, well mostly intact, as he, for example, tried to spare an old man some anguish, some wild daughters anguish, or tried to find gigantic Moose’s Verna, Verna, sweet Verna who did not want to be found, not by Moose anyway, or find some foolish wayward daughter despite his client’s ill-winded manners. And on it went.

Oh yah, about Frank Jackman, about the guy who wrote this selection of short Marlin sketches. Like I said in another review he, following along in the train of Brother Raymond Chandler and Brother Dashiell Hammett has attempted to turned the dreary gentile drawing-room sleuth by-the-numbers crime fighters and high-tech wizards masquerading as detectives that dominate the reading market these days on its head and gives us tough guy blood and guts detectives we can admire, can get behind, warts and all.

[Hammett, the author of The Thin Man, and creator of The Maltese Falcon’s Sam Spade, maybe the most famous tough guy detective of them all. Chandler the prodigious creator of the Philip Marlowe series of novels and short stories. Sam and Marlowe, who come to think of it like Marlin, also had judgment problems when it came to women, women wearing that damn perfume that stops a man, even a hard-boiled detective man cold, in Marlowe’s case an assortment of Hollywood women and Sam’s a frill who was looking for the stuff of dreams up north in Frisco town.]

In Jackman’s case he has drawn strength from his startling use of language to describe Marlin’s environment much in the way a detective would use his heightened powers of observation during an investigation, missing nothing. Marlin was able to size up, let’s say, a sizzling blonde, as a statuesque, full-bodied and ravishing dame and then pick her apart as nothing but a low-rent gold-digger. Of course that never stopped him from taking a run at one or two of them himself and then sending them off into the night, or to the clink, to fend for themselves. He also knew how to blow off a small time chiseler, a grifter, as so much flamboyance and hot air not neglecting to notice that said grifter had moisture above his upper lip indicating that he stood in fear of something if only his shadow as he attempted to pull some caper, or tried to pull the wool over Marlin’s eyes. Or noticing a frayed collar or a misshapen dress that indicated that a guy or gal was on cheap street and just maybe not on the level, maybe scratching like crazy for his or her coffee and cakes.

The list of such descriptive language goes on and on -sullen bartenders wiping a random whisky glass, flighty chorus girls arm in arm with wrong gee gangsters, Hollywood starlet wannabes displaying their wares a little too openly, old time geezers, toothless, melting away in some thankless no account job, guys working out of small-time airless no front cheap jack offices in rundown buildings on the wrong side of town doing, well, doing the best they can. And cops, good cops, bad cops, all with that cop air about them of seen it all, done it all blasé, and by the way spill your guts before the billy- club comes down on your fragile head. (That spill your guts thing, by the way a trait that our Marlin seemed organically incapable of doing, except when it suited his purposes. No cop or gangster could force anything out of him, and they tried, believe me they tried. ) He had come from them, from the cops, from the D.A.s office in the old days, had worked with them on plenty of cases but generally he tried to treat them like one might a snake not quite sure whether it is poisonous or not.

At the same time Jackman is a master of setting the barebones detail of the space Marlin had to work in- the high hill mansions and the back alley rooming houses (although usually not the burgeoning ranchero middle class locales since apparently that segment of society has not need of his services and therefore no need of a description of their endless sameness and faux gentility). He had a fix on the museum-like quality of the big houses reflecting old wealth California, mostly in the south where he plied his trade. And he has a razor sharp sense of the arrivisite, the new blood all splash and glitter, all high-ceiling bungalow, swimming pools, and landscaped gardens.

But where Jackman has made his mark is in his descriptions of the gentile seedy places, the mansions of old time Los Angeles Bunker Hill turned to rooming houses with that faint smell of urine, that strong smell of liquor, that loud noise that comes with people living too close together, too close to breath their simple dreams. Or the descriptions of the back alley offices in the rundown buildings that had seen better days populated by the failed dentists, the sly repo- men, the penny- ante insurance brokers, the con artists, the flotsam and jetsam of the losers in the great American West night just trying to hang on from rent payment to rent payment. Those denizens of these quarters usually had a walk on role, or wound up with two slugs to the head, but Jackman knows the type, has the type down solid.

Nor is Jackman above putting a little social commentary in Marlin’s mouth. Reflections on such topics as that very real change after World War II in the kind of swarms that were heading west to populate the American Western shore night. The rise of the corner boys hanging, just hanging, around blasted storefronts, a few breaking off into the cranked up hot rod hell’s highway night. The restless mobsters for broken back east looking to bake out in the southern California sun while taking over the vast crime markets. The wannabe starlets ready to settle for less than stardom for the right price. The old California money (the gold rush, gold coast, golden era money) befuddled by the all new waves coming in. And above all a strong sense of the rootlessness, the living in the moment, the grabbing while the grabbing was good mentality that offended old Marlin’s code of honor.

And of course over a series of sketches Jackman has expanded the Marlowe character, expanded his range of emotions, detailed his growing world-weariness, his growing wariness, his small compromises with that code of honor that he had honed back in the 1930s. Yes, Marlin the loner, the avenging angel , the righter of wrongs, maybe little wrongs but wrongs in this wicked old world. The guy who sometimes had to dig deep in his office desk drawer to grab a shot or six of whiskey to help him think things through. Marlin the guy of a thousand punches, the guy of a hundred knocks on the head, the guy who had taken a more than one slug for the cause, the guy who was every insurance company’s nightmare and a guy who could have used some serious Obamacare health insurance- no questions asked . Yah, Marlin.

From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-The Spanish Left In Its Own Words (Spanish Civil War)

... I have been interested, seriously interested, in drawing the lessons of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s since childhood. As many of the blog entries will also testify to as well, I have probably spend more time, with the exception of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Paris Commune of 1871, thinking through the problems of that struggle in Spain than any others. Why? Well, as not less than of an authority than the great Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky has pointed out, the situation in Spain during the 1930s posed the question of the creation of the second workers state point blank. In short, the Spanish working class was class conscious enough, Trotsky would argue more than the Russian working class of 1917, to carry out this task. I believed that proposition, in a much less sophisticated form than Trotsky’s, to be sure, well before I read his views on the situation. Why did it fail?

Obviously, depending on the point of view presented (or ax to grind) there are a million possible subjective and objective reasons that can be given for the failure. Some, such as the general European situation, the perfidious role of the Western democracies, the shortcomings of the various bourgeois governments are examples of situations that I had believed at one time to be the prime reasons. However, since I have come of political age, in short, have gone beyond the traditional liberal explanations for the failure in Spain I have looked elsewhere for an explanation.

That elsewhere hinged more on the role that the various working class organizations and their policies than the objective world situation or other factors that have been used to argue the impossibility of success. Again, some organizations came up short. For a long time I followed the reasoning, in a general sense at least, of Trotsky’s dictum, repeatedly argued out all through the 1930s, about the crisis of revolutionary leadership. With this proviso- for a long time, a very long time I absolved the POUM (Party Of Marxist Unification in English) and the Nin/Andrade leadership from political responsibility for the debacle, especially in Catalonia. I was more than happy to blame the Stalinists (blameworthy in the end on other grounds, without question), the vacillations of the Social Democrats (ditto the Stalinists) and the theoretical idiocies of the Anarchists. But not the POUM, after all they were the most honest revolutionaries in Spain (along with, perhaps, the Friends of Durritti). Honest I still believe they were but revolutionary in the Bolshevik sense. Hell, no.

The leading cause of that long time absolution of the POUM, initially in any case came from my reading of George Orwell’s “Homage To Catalonia”. Orwell found himself in a POUM military unit and spent much of his time in Spain before being wounded with that unit, as well around POUM organizations. Hey, they were fighting Franco, right? They had their own militias, right? That was enough for me for a while. But then the fatal mistake occurred many years ago. I read Trotsky’s work on Spain in the 1930s, “The Spanish Revolution, 1931-39, and, more importantly, the Trotsky/Nin correspondence in the appendix. No one who truly reads those documents and looks at the real POUM actions (including that left/right unification with friend Maurin to form the POUM in 1935) will ever be the same after. That is where every mistake that the POUM made becomes a veritable indictment against them.

Okay, so I got ‘religion’ on the POUM. So, as the linked article points out, why then, and now did serious leftist militants alibi this group. Well, read the article. But, bear this in mind, if those who defended the POUM and Nin/Andrade then, and now, are right that means that, subjectively they believe that Spain could not be a workers state in the 1930’s. That same subjectivity has led to their view of the Russian October revolution of 1917 as a failed experiment as well. But, my friends, such reasoning leaves only this conclusion. Outside the short-lived Paris Commune we have to go back to the revolutions of 1848 for our models of what is possible for the modern international working class to do. If that is the case then we better start thinking about a possibility that Trotsky pointed to in the 1930s- the working class may be organically incapable of ruling in its own name. As an orthodox Marxist I cringe at that notion. Better this- abandon this abject defense of the POUM and accept that, honest party that it may have been, however, in the final analysis it was a roadblock to socialist revolution in Spain

Click below to link to the Revolutionary History Journal index.


Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s leftist militants to “discover” the work of our forebears, particularly the bewildering myriad of tendencies which have historically flown under the flag of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International, whether one agrees with their programs or not. But also other laborite, semi-anarchist, ant-Stalinist and just plain garden-variety old school social democrat groupings and individual pro-socialist proponents.

Some, maybe most of the material presented here, cast as weak-kneed programs for struggle in many cases tend to be anti-Leninist as screened through the Stalinist monstrosities and/or support groups and individuals who have no intention of making a revolution. Or in the case of examining past revolutionary efforts either declare that no revolutionary possibilities existed (most notably Germany in 1923) or alibi, there is no other word for it, those who failed to make a revolution when it was possible. 

The Spanish Civil War can serve as something of litmus test for this latter proposition, most infamously around attitudes toward the Party Of Marxist Unification's (POUM) role in not keeping step with revolutionary developments there, especially the Barcelona days in 1937 and by acting as political lawyers for every non-revolutionary impulse of those forebears. While we all honor the memory of the POUM militants, according to even Trotsky the most honest band of militants in Spain then, and decry the murder of their leader, Andreas Nin, by the bloody Stalinists they were rudderless in the storm of revolution. But those present political disagreements do not negate the value of researching the POUM’s (and others) work, work moreover done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

Finally, I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries from the Revolutionary History journal in which they have post hoc attempted to rehabilitate some pretty hoary politics and politicians, most notably August Thalheimer and Paul Levy of the early post Liebknecht-Luxemburg German Communist Party. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read, learn, and try to figure out the
wheat from the chaff. 

Santiago Carillo

The Spanish revolution in practice:why we make this invitation


This document was written in 1935 by Santiago Carrillo (1916- ), the son of the prominent Socialist leader Wenceslao Carrillo, and then secretary of the 200,000 strong Socialist Youth of the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party). In August 1935, with the support of UGT (General Workers Union) leader Largo Caballero, Carrillo wrote to Joaquim Maurin (1893-1973), leader of the Bukharinist Bloque Obrero y Campesino (Workers and Peasants Bloc) asking the Bloque to enter the Socialist Party, help transform it into a real Marxist party, and use it as a basis for creating a new revolutionary International opposed to the Second and Third Internationals. Maurin refused, and instead in September 1935 the Bloque united with the ex-Trotskyist Izquierda Communista (Communist Left) of Andrés Nin to form a small isolated party, the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification).
Ever since 1934 Trotsky had been pointing to the left-wing ferment going on in the ranks of the Socialist Party and asking the Izquierda Communista to enter that party in a body and win its mass left wing to Marxism. The agreement of Nin and Maurin to fuse into a small party and stand outside cost the POUM its only opportunity for a mass base before the events of 1936, and in the end handed over the Spanish Revolution and the lives of many of its own members to Stalinism.
During the Popular Front election of February 1936 the Socialist Youth were so far to the left of the Communist Party that they campaigned with the sarcastic slogan ‘To Save Spain from Marxism, Vote Communist!’, but left without Marxist leadership and convinced of the inadequacy of the PSOE, they came under increasing pressure to unite with the Communist Party. Their leaders were taken to be fêted in Moscow, and in June 1936 the Socialist Youth fused with the Communist Party’s youth organisation to give Spanish Stalinism a mass base in the country for the first time (in February 1936 there were less than 5,000 of them). The treacherous part in this manoeuvre, as in so many others, was taken by Alvarez del Vayo.
Carrillo was rewarded for his services in the long run by being made secretary of the Spanish Communist Party, which by the end of Franco’s rule was probably the strongest working class organisation in Spain. But being the leading theoretician of Euro-communism he splintered his party into a thousand fragments, and is currently leader of one minute Stalinist sect among many. The text should serve as a warning to others of the costs to be met in refusing to undertake revolutionary entry when the mass workers’ organisations are in ferment.
Joaquin Maurin, on the other hand, was elected as the only POUM member of the national cortes (parliament) on the Popular Front slate in February 1936, and he was accidentally caught in the Francoist zone at the time of the uprising in 1936. The POUM protected him by claiming that he was dead, and although he was arrested he was not recognised until 1937, when his life was saved by the fortunate accident that his cousin had risen to be Bishop General in the army, and interceded for him. He was released from prison in 1946 and emigrated to the USA.

An article of mine published in La Batalla with no intention of provoking a polemic has merited the honour of evoking an answer from Joaquin Maurin. I’d like to clarify my article which only at the end of the day spoke of the necessity for all Marxists to enter our party. This is why, no doubt, that Maurin has given my words a wrong interpretation, which gives his arguments a wrong basis. In fact ‘to say enter the Socialist Party is to put the problem in an abstract manner’. If the question is thus defined, Maurin is correct when he says ‘The important thing isn’t that the Communists unite with Besteiro and Prieto but that Communists and left-wing Socialists get together and march together, which is not at all the same thing’.

However this isn’t the question. We aren’t asking Spanish Marxists outside our ranks to collaborate with reformism, far less to waste their forces under a reformist leadership. No, our position within the party is characterised by intransigence towards that tendency for whose removal we struggle. It would be wrong to try to reconcile this intransigence with the demand, in an abstract manner, for the entry into our party of other workers’ groups.

If this invitation was made in a normal period, Comrade Maurin’s reservations would be justified. But the Socialist Party is certainly not in a state of internal normality. The point has been reached where the polemic has reached the streets. Now everyone knows that in the Socialist Party there is a struggle which won’t be resolved without the elimination of one or another side: Marxists or reformists. It’s impossible to re-establish unity because the masses see clearly what the problems are. Maurin recognises this clearly in his book, Towards the Second Revolution, ‘The Socialist Party has gone through the reformist experience, confirming that it nearly produced a catastrophe in the party’. So if the party has been capable of understanding the disaster of the reformist attempt, it will also know how to purge itself to prevent catastrophe.

When we invite other groups of workers to come in, we think not of quantity but of quality. Not for them to collaborate with the right, but that they help us to throw them out by helping us to pose the problem with greater clarity and accuracy. Besides, we know the effect which the party spirit has on our masses: from inside, with the banner of the party in our hands, victory will be not just possible but probable, from outside all attempts at renewal will provoke a dangerous reaction of party spirit which will have only negative effects.

On page 81 of Towards the Second Revolution Maurin says:

The masses of workers who follow the Socialist Party have learned by experience that only by a violent revolution of the working class will they be able finally to emancipate themselves. And in the Socialist Party they have made a fundamental correction.

Well, to carry through this fundamental correction that has begun to overcome the ‘crisis which the Socialist Party is undergoing’ – these words of my cordial opponent contradict the rest of his thesis – is the reason why we ask all Spanish Marxists to enter into it.

Observe, Comrade Maurin, our invitation isn’t at all abstract, nor does it attempt to destroy the revolutionary energies of those whom we would like to unite with us.

What would you lose by this experience even if reformism triumphs?

In his article Maurin discounts the possibility that the Socialist Party will be able to ‘Bolshevise’ itself, that is to say that it is condemned perpetually to be a Social Democratic Party. Such a conclusion contradicts some parts of his book already cited. But we will return to this later. Now, for the sake of argument we will accept the hypothesis that he is right.

After all, he isn’t the only one who thinks so. We know from various sources that other working class forces, particularly official Communism, think so too. They estimate that Spanish socialism is incapable of purging itself and of taking a definite revolutionary line. In this situation, recognising the vitality of the socialist left its ideological coherence, incompatible with permanent coexistence with a reformist faction, official Communism considers it inevitable that we will break, voluntarily or not, from the Socialist Party and believes that this will give new life to the Third International.

I’ve said that I will return to this question later. But for now, imagine friend Maurin, that the victory of centralism and reformism in our party will happen anyway in spite of the entry of the Bloque, that the right are not expelled but the left are. What would you lose?

On leaving you would have more prestige than when you entered: much more. You would have been able to demonstrate to the mass of workers your desire to unify the working class, showing this by facts, not by slogans which don’t succeed. You would have gained support among the socialist masses, binding yourselves to them, educating them and attracting them to you on your departure. If your predictions as to the future of the Socialist Party should become a reality, if it falls into the hands of the right, you would be like those rivers which disappear momentarily below the earth’s surface to reappear a little further on, stronger and more powerful.

What fears should you have in attempting an experience which, even in the event of the most unfavourable outcome, a reformist triumph, would leave you strengthened? Lenin has said that the proletariat should only fear the contact with other forces when it isn’t confident of its own ideas and abilities. Why should you fear even the worst contingencies?

Because, I don’t want to believe like some do, that precisely what you fear is that the Socialist Party should Bolshevise.

The purge of Spanish socialism is probable and near

Why can’t the Socialist Party be Bolshevised? There is an error here which I consider basic in the world of Comrade Maurin. It’s a matter of a fatalistic conception which is hardly Marxist. ‘We have never seen a party of a Social Democratic type’ – says Maurin, ‘where the Bolshevik tendency has won out. In the German, French, Belgian, Dutch, Swedish and Austrian parties the left-wing advocates of a revolutionary policy have invariably been crushed. We don’t know of any reason why things should turn out differently in Spain.’

This fatalism resembles that of those who have an interest in preserving this society, and therefore reason in the following manner: ‘as there have always been rich and poor it will always be impossible to transform the existing order’.

My opponent himself affirms in his book that I have already cited, something that contradicts the basis of his argument: ‘The Austrian Socialist Party realised the gravity of the situation too late. By contrast, the Spanish Socialist Party has known how to react in time and has partially been able to prepare to fight.’

If our party has reacted in time, and has prepared itself to fight even partially, why is it impossible that this reaction should be carried through with a revolutionary purge? If the Socialist Party has shown its superiority over the rest of the Socialist International, going over at times to the camp of insurrection, why doesn’t it have the capacity to fulfil the process of Bolshevisation? Isn’t this October a stage of this process?

Besides, to claim that it is impossible that the left should triumph in the Socialist Party, basing oneself on the belief that this position is justified by previous experience is incorrect. It’s true that in most cases this has been true, however, international Social Democracy is not dead, and we don’t know what its ultimate destiny will be. But if Comrade Maurin pays attention to the history of the Russian proletariat he will see his affirmation disproved by the facts.

The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was also, until 1903, a mosaic of contradictions inherent in its composition. However, at a certain point it became Bolshevik. Why? Undoubtedly because there were objective circumstances and men capable of using them to eliminate Menshevism. One can say that the Spanish Socialist Party lacks a vanguard with an ideological grasp comparable to the Russians. But it isn’t correct to leave it at that without pointing out that neither does our Menshevism have a Plekhanov, a Martinov, a Martov, a Vera Zasulich and so other many powerful minds who raised the reformist banners in the midst of the Russian proletariat.

Objectively the revolutionary tendency looked at as a whole is better than the reformists. It has more roots in the party masses; it mainly controls the party leadership and nearly all the local and provincial periodicals. It also has the advantage of the cooperation of the best veterans who represent the healthy socialist tradition which has known how to behave in critical times. This element has a decisive influence in a party which historically still venerates its traditions.

It’s undeniable that the left vanguard, in the circumstances that our masses, because of the constant struggles which they have waged, don’t know the softness of the German Social Democracy. They are masses imbued with a spirit of struggle, of a spirit of rebellion, of an undeniable capacity for sacrifice, and with them we can undoubtedly achieve the revolutionary purge of the Socialist Party.

Santiago Carrillo

The Programme of the POUM in 1936

This programme seems strangely divorced from the actual practice of the POUM which took part in the elections of February 1936 on the Popular Front slate, but its careful omission of the need for a Fourth International (point seven) and its remarks about ‘a democratic socialist type’ of revolution shows that it is far from being a Marxist one. It appeared in What the Workers Party of Marxist Unification is – And What it Wants, by the executive committee of the POUM, Barcelona 1936, pp.7-9.

The Problem of Marxist Unity

Unfortunately the great revolutionary socialist party which the revolution needs does not yet exist in Spain ...

Neither is the Spanish Communist Party our revolution’s Bolshevik Party. As an official section of the Communist International subject to the fluctuations of the foreign policy of the Soviet state, it is obliged to act, not according to the needs of the revolutionary movement in our country, but with the needs of Soviet diplomacy which are frequently contradictory ...

The Workers Party of Marxist Unification, the product of the fusion of the Workers and Peasants Bloc and the Communist Left, believes that it isn’t possible to work towards the entry of all Marxists in an already existing party. The problem isn’t one of entry or absorption but of revolutionary Marxist unity. It’s necessary to form a new party through revolutionary Marxist fusion.

The Workers Party believes that the basic agreements for the achievement of revolutionary Marxist unity are these:

First: The Spanish revolution is of a democratic socialist type. The dilemma is socialism or fascism. The working class will not take power peacefully but through armed insurrection.

Second: Once power is achieved there will be a transitional dictatorship of the proletariat. The organs of power will be the Workers’ Alliances. The dictatorship of the proletariat presupposes the most wide and complete workers’ democracy. The revolutionary party should not and cannot smother workers’ democracy.

Third: The need for the Workers’ Alliance both locally and nationally. The Workers’ Alliance must necessarily pass through three phases: Firstly, as the organ of the United Front leading both defensive and offensive, legal and illegal actions. Second, leader of insurrection; and thirdly, instrument of power.

Fourth: Recognition of the problem of the nationalities. Spain will become an Iberian Union of Socialist Republics.

Fifth: In the first period a democratic solution to the land problem. The land for those who work it.

Sixth: Faced with war the transformation of imperialist war into civil war. No confidence in the League of Nations which is imperialism’s United Front.

Seventh: The united party will remain outside the Second and Third Internationals, which have both failed, and will fight for world revolutionary socialist unity built on new bases.

Eighth: Defence of the USSR but not by support for its policy of pacts with the capitalist countries, but through international revolutionary working class action. The right to criticise those politics of the USSR’s leaders which are counterproductive to the march of world revolution.

Ninth: A permanent regime of democratic centralism in the unified party.

The Communist Party Denounces the POUM

This morsel appeared in the Stalinist militia newspaper Frente Rojo (Red Front), Valencia, on 6 February 1937, and marked a new stage in the preparation of the pogrom against the POUM. The newspaper Mundo Obrero (Workers World) mentioned is still the chief organ of Spanish Stalinism.

The fascist Trotskyist party should be dissolved and tried as fascist. The guttersnipe POUM has become desperate now that its infamy has been unmasked, and has unleashed a demogogic campaign against the solid wall of anti-fascist unity at the orders of its foreign masters.
We have continued to accuse them, conclusively showing their adventurism and showing that they are a faction organised behind our back. It’s not a matter of ideological disagreement nor even of physical revulsion towards a party of traitors, but of something deeper and more important. It’s a matter of the distance between those who are in the vanguard of our people and of the agents of the Gestapo. It’s a matter of a group of bandits which fascism has left amongst us.
Even now in the slander sheet called La Batalla, published in Barcelona, they defend themselves with the following inconsistent and comical arguments: referring to the trial against the Trotskyists they say it is an ‘iniquitous farce’ and in the following line accept that the ambassadors of France and the United States were present. That is to say, that a trial held in the presence of hundreds of foreign journalists and of the diplomatic corps, with legal guarantees for the accused such as no other country would provide, is described by the POUM as a farce. Naturally its Spanish accomplices are not going to recognise the justice exercised on a group of assassins. In Spain when we come to judge the Trotskyists – for we and our fraternal colleague – Mundo Obrero – demand that a people’s court try the fascist leaders of this organisation – their accomplices of some other place will say that our people’s justice has been an iniquitous farce.
In this same number of La Batalla ... against the anti-fascists they write that they have received numerous protests from ‘comrades and sympathisers’ over an article by Goltsov in L’Humanité, protests that they don’t reproduce ... for lack of space. Of course, they won’t print Franco’s congratulations.
Their cynicism elsewhere makes them state in answer to a report in the Official Monday Bulletin that ‘there was no picture of Trotsky in the meeting organised by the POUM in Barcelona.’ These contemptible people, conscious of the indignation which the picture of the leader of these international bandits arouses, don’t dare to exhibit it before their own members.
The secret aims of fascism are not well served by association with the criminal Trotsky. Who knows what new possibility they are seeking in order to serve the interests of the fascist agents amongst us.
Here is another proof that the POUM guttersnipes serve fascism and nothing but fascism. As all the world knows, the legitimate government has dissolved the so-called security patrols and has organised a single police force in the rear.
As all the world also knows, this force is formed from members of all the anti-fascist forces and the trade unions. Therefore, La Batalla of Wednesday shouts ... ‘Long live the security patrols’ and writes elsewhere that the police force in the rear is the armed reserve of reaction. That is to say, they rabidly oppose the government’s measures and slander the people’s police force. If all who sabotage the government and insult its defenders should be considered fascists, then the provocateurs of the POUM are fascists.
That’s why it’s necessary to finish with this band of bandits and mete out the justice which these fascists deserve.


The Communist Party Calls for a Professional Army

The article following appeared in Catalan on 10 February 1937 in Treball, the daily paper of the PSUC (United Socialist Party of Catalonia), the Catalan Stalinist party set up by a merger of Stalinists, right social democrats and Catalan nationalists in July 1936. It was an essential part of the Kremlin’s plan to create a professional army commanded by bourgeois officers responsible to the Republican government, and to reduce the workers’ militias to impotence, disarm, and finally dissolve them, as a full counter-revolution could not be achieved whilst so many weapons remained in the hands of the workers’ organisations. Naturally this propaganda was justified by the military situation at the front; the justification for it in this case was the fall of Malaga to Franco’s troops.

‘Facts are obstinate’ – once, twice and a hundred times we have insisted and will continue to insist until the necessary measures are taken, until we see a unanimous desire to achieve what the people want and which can’t be denied if we want to triumph.

We don’t intend here to analyse the causes of the fascists’ easy entry into Malaga. Rather than bemoan the causes of this or that loss, however recent, we wish to insist on the only measures which will ensure the triumph of our cause and make possible lhe regaining of all our losses.

A Popular Army is what all the organisations want, but it encounters many obstacles which impede its realisation.

Working people of all tendencies are able to judge for themselves and are clamouring for the victory which some people’s suicidal irresponsiblity puts in peril.

Malaga has fallen into the hands of the fascists just as San Sebastian, Bodajoz and Toledo, while there are still people who believe that we can win without doing anything. We have repeatedly said that the people must be told the truth. We have to tell the truth whether it’s favourable or unfavourable and decide to do what the situation demands.

The people want victory. It’s necessary because millions of families want to return to their ruined lands occupied by the enemy forces.

And time presses. We don’t have much time to act. The enemy is lurking in ambush and is preparing new attacks.

We lack a Popular Army, the mobilisation of the necessary recruits for whom we have arms, and the others whom we need to give military training: strengthening of the fortifications. Live for the war! It’s time to finish with everything which gets in the way, with everything which attacks us in the rear, with everything which opens the doors to the enemy! Genuine unity, unity in war, unity for victory! A strong, new, determined campaign by the whole country will encourage the popular will for victory.

The POUM attacks the Nationalism of the Spanish Stalinists

The following article appeared in La Batalla on 4 April 1937. It drew attention to the chauvinism of Spanish Stalinism and announced an action programme for the POUM in the Civil War.

Please, let’s be serious. The theoretical degeneration of ‘official communism’ produces truly unexpected surprises. During the early period of the Republic, their agitation called for a soviet Republic ... minus soviets. That was during the bourgeois-democratic stage. Now, at the height of the socialist revolution, they spend their energy in promoting the bourgeois-democratic Republic.

However, that’s not the worst of it. Trying to explain the fact of the invasion by the German and Italian armies, they put their hands on their hearts and speak about the independence of ‘our’ country. They mention the Napoleonic invasion and, the more erudite ones, the Arab invasion. Pelayo, El Cid Campeador, Mina, El Empecinado, Velarde, and many others are the heroes of the day. They justify reactionary movements in this way and, what is worse, claim them as our own. The so-called re-conquest prevented the Arabs extending their superior civilisation over the peninsula and the war of independence prevented the fresh wind of the French Revolution from entering our country. This is the tone of 100 per cent superpatriotic Stalinism.

The official bulletin of the Committee for the Defence of Madrid, of 20 March, publishes a cartoon with a slogan, ‘In opposition to Mussolini and his friends raise the old banner of Bailen’. Here one doesn’t know what sticks out most, ignorance of today’s problems or ignorance of history. The flag of Bailen? Do you know what this flag of Bailen is? It’s the red and yellow symbol of the monarchy which Franco has decreed the ‘national’ flag.

Faced with this we can ask for nothing but a little sobriety.

The POUM’s central committee held on Sunday of last week, published a note regarding the crisis of the council of the Generalidad, reiterating a 13-point programme which a government formed by all the workers, political and trade union forces would apply as the only rational, logical and viable solution of the crisis. We reproduce these specific points as they are of interest at this time.

  1. Socialisation of the big transport undertakings.
  2. Nationalisation of the banks.
  3. Municipalisation of housing.
  4. Formation of an army controlled by the working class.
  5. Constitution of a single internal security force based on the security patrols and the investigation force, created by the revolution, incorporating the previous forces which have shown their loyalty to the working class.
  6. An immediate offensive in Aragon.
  7. Reduction of high salaries.
  8. A monopoly of foreign trade.
  9. The creation of a strong, rigidly centralised, socialised war industry.
  10. Nationalisation of the land, giving its use to those who work it, and extending the necessary credits to them. Collective working of the large estates and economic aid to collective enterprises created in the course of the revolution which have demonstrated their viability.
  11. An implacable struggle against profiteers and hoarders through a rigorous and direct control of goods and prices.
  12. The calling of a conference of workers’ and peasants’ unions and of soldiers’ organisations which will establish the basis of the new regime, and elect a workers’ and peasants’ government which will be the most democratic we have ever known, as it will express the unequivocal will of the immense majority of the country and will have the authority to maintain the new revolutionary order.

The Anarchists Defend the Gains of the Spanish Revolution Against the ‘Communists’

This telling complaint was printed in Solidaridad Obrera, the chief daily of Spanish Anarchism, on 30 April 1937, p.12. It carefully avoids identifying the reasons for the Stalinist propaganda barrage as an operation on behalf of the Republican bourgeoisie in Spain and British and French imperialism abroad.

Why does the Confederal Press arouse such hostility? What is happening to the Anarchist and confederal press is inexplicable. It is persecuted and constantly abused just like in the good times of the monarchy. Incredible but true. At the moment, two of our dailies are suspended and we don’t even know the real motive for this. The papers are the CNT of the North of Bilbao, and Nosotros of Valencia. What are they trying to achieve by these suspensions? The behaviour of these two libertarian organs has been strictly revolutionary and anti-fascist. It couldn’t be otherwise. This being so why does the confederal press arouse such hostility?

We are forced to the conclusion that it arouses hostility precisely because it is revolutionary. It would be better if we were told this clearly so that we knew what attitude we should take with regard to the persecutions of anarcho-syndicalist periodicals.

What we know is that the persecution to which the confederation is being subjected, by capriciously suspending periodicals, is part of a plan and shows irresponsible hatred to those for whom a true revolutionary would have nothing but respect.

Everything has a purpose and so does the campaign to kill our press. But unless our press has full freedom to propagate and develop our ideas we will have to stop asking and start demanding. They are playing a dangerous game.

Consider the counter-revolutionary campaigns – to oppose the socialisation of industry is to wreck the revolutionary economy.

Opposition to the socialisation of industry is one of the counter-revolutionary defences of those who fight to destroy the workers’ gains, of those who prefer to be the left wing of imperialist capitalism rather than the right wing of a workers’ Spain.

This unthinking calculation attributes everything which is wrong in the rearguard to the attempts at socialisation. Any shortage, difficulty or mishap is included in the indictment against this idea, which after all is nothing less than the supreme aspiration of the working class which fascism tries to crush with the valuable help of our ‘comrades’. At a Communist meeting they spoke of the chaos of the Catalan economy produced solely and exclusively by premature attempts at socialisation; these words, spoken by one of the leading members of the Party which organised the meeting, are counterrevolutionary and aid the enemy who lies in wait.

Many arguments are used against the idea of socialisation; one of these – the most delightful – says that by socialising an industry we simply take it over and run it with the consequence that we have flourishing industries where the workers are privileged, and unfortunate industries where the workers get less benefits but have to work harder than workers elsewhere.

We will be generous and accept that such anomalies exist. There are differences between the workers in prosperous industries and those which barely survive. For example the workers in war industry are obliged by the circumstances they find themselves in, to work longer than the legal working day and get wages which are linked to the sacrifice of all working class Spain faced with the menace of reaction.

Such anomalies, which we don’t deny exist, are attributed to the attempts at socialisation. We firmly assert that the opposite is true; such anomalies are the logical result of the absence of socialisation.

The socialisation which we propose will resolve these problems which are used to attack it. Were Catalan industry socialised, everything would be organically linked – industry, agriculture, and the trade union organisations, in accordance with the council for the economy. They would become normalised, the working day would become more equal or what comes to the same thing, the differences between workers of different activities would end.

One of the measures which would do most to eliminate these inequalities would be the institution of a family wage. The workers would earn a just system of remuneration and we would see the disappearance of the remnants of barbarous feudal times which are seen today in the last intermediaries between the producer and consumer: all the industries would unite their forces for victory over the fascist hordes; commerce, socialised and controlled by the trade unions, would be freed from the abuses which the workers and peasants, the true heroes of the revolution, are subjected to, who put their face to the furrow to harvest the food for those who fight for the cause; they will be free of exploiters and of uncontrolled elements who grab the fruit, of their efforts.

Socialisation is – and let its detractors hear it – the genuine authentic organisation of the economy. Undoubtedly the economy has to be organised; but not according to the old methods, which are precisely those which we are destroying, but in accordance with new norms which will make our people become an example to the world proletariat.


Negrete and Oehler report from Barcelona

Hugo Oehler (1903- ), ‘a very capable mass worker’ according to James P Cannon, was a veteran militant from the US Communist Party with a brilliant record as a trade union organiser in the southern textile mills and the mines of Colorado. He was the organiser of the Kansas district of the CPUSA when he sided with the Trotskyists in 1930. Two years later he was sent on a speaking tour of Germany to help alert the German working class to the menace of Hitler. In 1933 he played a notable part in the hotel strike in New York led by B.J. Field and organised the unemployed to assist the strikers during the famous Minneapolis strike in 1934. He opposed the French Turn to entryism at the plenum of the international Trotskyist movement in October 1934 and, continuing to oppose the practice of entryism, was expelled from the US Trotskyists in October 1935. His organisation, the Revolutionary Workers League, persisted for some years, but then disintegrated into a bewildering variety of groups-Stammites, Marlenites, etc.

Rosalio Negrete was the party name of Russell Blackwell (1904-1969) who joined the CPUSA in the l920s and was sent to Mexico to help build up the Communist youth movement there, working with Vittorio Vidali (Carlos Contreras) who was later to play such a sinister part in Spain and in the murder of Trotsky. Negrete was converted to Trotskyism by reading the US Militant and founded a Trotskyist group inside the Mexican Communist Party, for which he was expelled from the country. He handled the Spanish language correspondence of the US Trotskyists, but left them along with Hugo Oehler. Whilst in Spain he allied with the ‘Cell 72’ opposition inside the Barcelona POUM. He was twice arrested by the GPU working through the Spanish police and was twice released on the intervention of the US authorities.

These reports describing the gathering tensions in Barcelona were written for the US Revolutionary Workers League and appeared in Fourth International, Vol.2 No.12 1937, pp.l7, l8 and 25.

An organisation known as the Friends of Durruti has been organised within the CNT. Although it has a legal status it is being sabotaged by the leadership of the CNT because its policy is far to the left of the reformist top. Sunday, 18 April 1937, they held their first public meeting at a theatre with about 1000 workers present and four speakers.

From a Marxian point of view the ideological level of the speeches were low, but considering the present position of the CNT in collaboration with the Generality the speeches was a left reaction to the whole past trend. Whereas the small Anarchist Group of the Ideal that has distributed some leaflets has swung back to ‘pure’ Anarchism, the Friends of Durruti are of a far higher and more serious type.

They are not against collaboration in bourgeois governments in principle, but are against the collaboration in the Generality and Valencia governments today. They are against it today because they say the Stalinists are not sincere. They demand that their leaders leave at once. This is a fundamentally false position. But the demand for the leaders to leave the government must be utilised by the revolutionists to show these workers the road to the revolution.

In the speeches the Stalinists were bitterly assailed as bourgeois and agents of the bourgeoisie. One speaker pointed out that the Russians promised them modern arms if they would carry through centralised military work through the government, which the CNT agreed to, but to this day the supplies have not been sent. (They have been sent to the Valencia government). The speaker said they would only get arms if the CNT troops give up their flags, etc. He pointed out that one Durruti Column had already pulled down its red and black flag, and stated that the CNT had yielded too much already.

One speaker stated that Lenin’s method of revolution was correct but the Stalinist method in Spain is completely false.

At no time during the meeting did any speaker mention the POUM.

A message was read from a group, ‘Those of Yesterday and Those of Today’ of adherence to the meeting. It seems as though the Friends of Durruti are organising throughout Spain.

They demand the cleansing of the CNT union. They want complete socialisation of industry. They are alarmed at reaction showing its head more every day. ‘If the rear does not improve we will bring up the armed forces from the front and will again clean up. If necessary we can be master of the situation again in 24 hours.’ This was greeted with an uproar. Although it is an exaggerated statement with excellent intention it shows the sentiment of the workers attending.

One speaker wanted to know why the national guard was not sent to the front. Against whom was it going to be used in the rear? They understand, or are beginning to understand, the bourgeois policy.

They demand the syndicates take over power and coordinate their local power through a national executive committee and establish workers’ rule. Any revolution that does not create its own organs of power, economic and political, is not a revolution.

The Anti-Fascist Committee of 15 was the embryo organ of the revolution. The Council of Defence of the Generality is bourgeois power. The first big mistake of the CNT was to agree to dissolve the Anti-Fascist Committee of 15 and the local committees.

One speaker gave a fairly good analysis of the imperialist conflict in Spain and the two bourgeois groups in Spain, and said we must fight both groups.

Barcelona, 18 April 1937

In brief, the past week of developing Civil War in Catalonia witnesses the following:

  1. The government crisis is solved for the bourgeoisie by the ‘suspension of cabinet meetings’ and the establishment of dictatorial power.
  2. Dissolution of the People’s Courts.
  3. Individual terror practised by organisations with representatives in the government against each other.
  4. Armed struggle and resistance by lower units of the CNT and the POUM.
  5. Disarming of many workers by the Civil Guards.
  6. Arresting of CNT-FAI regional leaders by the Generality.
  7. Leadership of CNT and POUM represented reformist positions, and capitulated before the pressure of the bourgeoisie.
  8. Left wing of anarchists, the Friends of Durruti, and the left wing of the POUM are driving forward, with a conect line for the situation, and are giving backbone to the struggles, but as yet are not sufficiently strong to openly take direct lead of a concentrated struggle.
  9. Workers reveal readiness to fight if they have leadership.
  10. The bourgeois forces are represented by the Esquerra, other left bourgeois parties and the Stalinists and Socialists. The proletarian forces are represented by the CNT and the POUM with a fundamental contradiction between the leaderships on the one hand and the membership and the left wings on the other.

May Day in Barcelona saw the bourgeoisie and their agents further consolidate their death grip on the workers. The revolutionists and Marxists will have to use May Day in Spain as another starting point, to learn these lessons and to drive forward. Time demands quick action.

Barcelona, 1 May 1937

The only meetings in Barcelona on May Day were an indoor, small meeting by the ‘Those of Yesterday and Those of Today’ adhering to the Friends of Durruti, and an Anarchist nudist group meeting on the value of music. The Friends of Durruti meeting was Sunday 2 May.

In Valencia the united front May Day meeting of the youth of the anarchists and POUM was called offby the CNT leaders to allow a united front meeting of the CNT and UGT.

May Day, Saturday, was ‘Work and War’ Day to prevent a workers’ demonstration. But Sunday 2 May, a bourgeois holiday day, the factories did not have to work. Furthermore, the evening indoor meetings in the large halls in the city usually start at about 10 or 10.30. Even an evening indoor meeting, after the workers came from ‘work for war’ the POUM did not see fit to call.

Barcelona, 3 May 1937

Manifesto of the POUM During the Barcelona May Days

This proclamation appeared in the pages of La Batalla on Tuesday, 4 May 1937 at the height of the Barcelona street fighting. Whilst claiming that ‘the working class is strong and will know how to crush all attempts at counter-revolution’, it says nothing about what should actually be done about the Stalinists who were responsible for them, or about the central and regional governments on whose behalf they were organised.

The working class faces the attack of the counter-revolution. The counter-revolution has a plan. The reformists of the PSUC have called it the ‘Victory Plan’. The latest events are stages of this plan. Attempts to seize Puigcerda by the police force, an attempt to seize the city of Figueras, a punitive expedition to Molins de Llobregat. Disarming of workers in the street and yesterday evening an armed assault on the telephone building in the square of Calalunya. Counter-revolutionary provocations to test the working class’s capacity for resistance. Preparations for an attack on the basic conquests of the revolution.
But the working class response couldn’t have been stronger. Thousands of workers have taken to the street, arms in hand. Factories, workshops, stores, have stopped work. The barricades of freedom have reappeared all over the city. The spirit of 19 July 1936 has emerged with renewed strength in Barcelona. The majority of the towns of Catalonia have responded to the capital’s gesture. The working class is strong and will know how to crush all attempts at counter-revolution.
We have to remain alert with gun in hand. We have to maintain this magnificent spirit of resistance and of struggle, the guarantee of our triumph, and we have to make sure that the counter-revolution never raises its head again.
Therefore we demand:
  • The resignation of Rodriguez Salas, Commissioner of Public Order who is directly responsible for the provocations.
  • Abolition of the public order decrees.
  • Public order in the hands of the working class.
  • A revolutionary workers’ front of the organisations which fight for triumph over fascism at the front and victory of the revolution in the rear.
  • The creation of Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in all the districts, towns and places of work.
Executive Committee of the POUM.
Executive Committee of JIC.


POUM Policy During the May Events

As soon as the attack on the Barcelona Telephonica (telephone exchange) brought the expected results – the insurrection of the Barcelona prolelariat – the central committee of the Communist-controlled UGT called for the suppression of the POUM. The central committee of the POUM replied with this resolution, published in La Batalla on 13 May 1937.

The enlarged central committee of the POUM meeting in Barcelona on 11 and 12 May, after examining the revolutionary events which occurred in Barcelona, studying the present situation, and the perspectives and experiences derived from them, unanimously adopted the following resolution:

  1. The constant provocations of the counter-revolution embodied in reformist parties of the PSUC and of the petty bourgeoisie, provocations that in the fields of the war, the economy and of public order tend to liquidate the revolutionary conquests gained by the working class on the 19 July, arms in hand, which culminated on the 3 May with the attempt to seize the telephone buildings, produced the working class’s armed protest.
  2. The POUM’s political position cannot be other than active solidarity with the workers who spontaneously declared a general strike, raised the barricades in Barcelona’s streets and with exemplary heroism knew how to defend the endangered revolutionary conquests.
  3. As the workers who fought in the streets lack concrete objectives and a responsible leadership, the POUM is unable to do more than order and organise a strategic retreat, persuading the revolutionary working class of the need for this and preventing a desperate action which could degenerate into a putsch and which would result in the total crushing of the most advanced part of the working class.
  4. The experience of the May Days demonstrates unequivocally that the only progressive way out of the present situation is for the working class to take power, and for this it is essential to coordinate the revolutionary action of the masses by the creation of a Workers’ Revolutionary Front that unites all the organisations which intend to fight for the total crushing of fascism which can be achieved only by a military victory on the fronts and by the victory of the revolution in the rear. The enlarged Central Committee considers that the political line followed by the party during the events has been entirely correct and it solidarises with the executive committee, convinced that it knew how to defend the interests of the revolution and of the mass of workers.

Manifesto of the National Committee of the CNT regarding the May Days in Barcelona

Since everything in life has an origin, we must seek for the origins of the May Days in what was taking place before. The history of the opposition to our movement in Catalonia is a long one. The Communists, the Estat Catala and certain stool-pigeons have been working actively to discredit us both in Catalonia and abroad. But few people are aware of the strange series of events that accompanied their operations, which finally culminated in the events of last May.

Nobody knows, for instance, that Casanovas, Lluhi Vallescá, Xicota Sancho, Polo and Ventura Gassol were travelling about France last January, working for the ‘independence of Catalonia’. The process of preparation was similar to that carried on during the dictatorship. But with a difference. At that time, Italian fascism operated through the agent-provocateur, Garibaldi. Now Mussolini uses Dencas, the agent-provocateur separatist of October in Catalonia.

As far back as December a conspiracy came to light, which resulted in the execution of Roberter, Commissioner of Public Order, and the flight of Casanovas, President of parfiament, who had given away his complicity in the frustrated coup d’état.

The separatists, bourgeois in the last analysis, could not reconcile themselves to the fascist uprising that resulted in proletarian victory and threatened them with the loss of all their wealth. And in their search for some substitute solution, they entered into negotiations with Italy, in order to provoke internal strife that would furnish the opportunity for foreign intervention and facilitate the recognition of Catalonia as an independent state, thereby undermining the anti-fascist front at the same time. All those who wanted Catalonia to return to the status quo prevailing on 18 July, accepted these proposals.

They carried on their conspiracies in France. Many prominent individuals were involved. An agent of the intelligence department at the service of Spanish anti-fascism discovered certain documents.

Just as he was completing his startling investigations that would have unmasked all the traitors in our midst, this agent was assassinated. By whom?

He was working for the government of the Republic. He was therefore assassinated by those who were conspiring against the government, and yet by some means or other, knew all about the work of this important agent.

We must recall that Aiguadé was the Councillor of Internal Security; that he is a member of the Estat Catala and that he fell under suspicion of being implicated in the conspiracy.

On 20 April, Comorera, leader of the Communist Party in Catalonia, was in Paris. Among the people he visited was the secretary of Ventura Gassol and a certain Castañer. Who is this Castañer? We are told an ‘Agent of the Generality’. Investigators have found out that he is in contact with a certain Vintro, secretary of Octavio Saltó, journalist in the service of the Spanish fascists. He has also been seen with other well-known members of the fascist movement living in Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. He also maintains close relations with members of the Estat Catala, especially with Dencás and Casanovas. The former visits Castaner in his house, and the latter is visited, in turn, by Castañer.

Polo, another police agent of the Generality, who was in the confidence of Badia, operates in France under the orders of Vizcaíno, agent of the fascist counterespionage, which is functioning under orders of Beltrán and Musitu. What is the meaning of this peculiar mixture of fascists and separatists? Can we not find the cause of certain provocations here? We are convinced that we can. And whoever examines the case objectively must agree with us.

In addition to all this the fascists were making preparations to land both men and materials on a large scale all along the coast from Almeria to Rosas. They failed to carry this plan out because they could not get together the necessary war materials. The project was postponed until the middle of May. And if they have still failed to carry it out, it was due to the fact that their plans fell into the hands of the police of a neutral country.

We must also add, incidentally, that the Estat Catala had concentrated all the armed forces at its disposal in France on the frontier.

And one thing more. The Gazette of the Republic published a list of officers and privates who were to be discharged from the National Republican Guard, as well as being subject to the punishments established by the decree of 21 July. However, one captain, four ensigns, 19 brigadiers, four lieutenants, 18 sergeants, 23 corporals, and 55 guards among those included in the discharge were not dismissed, either because of the charity or the direct complicity of Artemio Aiguadé, ex-Councillor of Internal Security of the Generality and in the forefront of the May events.

We must point out that large contingents of guards were sent to the frontier during these days, and when one of these contingents arrived at Figueras, instead of presenting himself to the town council, the commanding officer went directly to the local headquarters of the PSUC, demonstrating by this simple action, that they were an armed force, not at the disposal of the people or of the government, but of the Communist Party.

All these details clearly prove that the events in Barcelona had been carefully planned, and that the spark that caused the outbreak did not come from the CNT.

Attitudes during the events

From the very first moments the CNT tried to bring the fighting in the streets to an end. This committee, together with the executive committee of the UGT, came to Barcelona and made superhuman efforts to settle the conflict. We looked for a solution. We found one that was accepted by everyone except the communists, who refused to accept it immediately. They held up the settlement in the hope that the Valencia government, no longer able to tolerate the tense situation, would assume control of public order, which actually happened.

And when on Thursday the CNT and the UGT issued the order to return to work, and the city became rnore calm, bands of separatists and Communists roamed the streets, stopping and searching people, tearing up CNT membership books and attacking CNT locals. The members of the CNT who had already stopped fighting, were compelled to set up their defences again. When the first trolley car started to make its run down the Paseo de Gracia toward Plaza de Catalonia, guards and members of the Estat Catala shot at it from behind their barricades at the streets of Paris and Diagonal, and so that the public services were unable to resume functioning.

The repair squads who had gone out to repair the lines were also shot at. When, on Friday morning, at the hour agreed upon, the firing stopped, the Communist and separatist strongholds started all over again in the hope of renewing the conflict. And on Friday night, when the car carrying the secretary of the national committee passed the commissariat at the Calle de Paris on his way to Valencia, some 70 shots were fired at him by the guards of the Estat Catala. The affair becomes more serious when one realises that the car was an official car of the Ministry of Health, and the shots might well have been intended for Federica Montseny, Minister of Health at the time.

The national committee immediately sent delegates to all regions in order to avoid repercussions in other parts of Catalonia.

At the same time a delegation was sent to the Aragon front to prevent the troops from leaving the trenches. None of the libertarian forces left the front. We would like to point out the assassination of the well-known anarchist, Professor Berneri, respected by anti-fascists all over the world. He was arrested, ostensibly, by agents at the service of Rodriguez Salas. Why? We suspect that he was killed more for possessing irrefutable documentary proof of Italy’s preparations, over a period of time, for the military uprising in Spain, than for being an Anarchist. These documents, which were to be turned over to the government of the Republic, were very dangerous for Italy.

And now, after the movement has been stopped, the conduct of those sectors who want to crush the CNT and anarchism in Catalonia has been more despicable than ever.

In the first place, the barracks of the Communists and the Estat Catala could be seen everywhere weeks after the May events had been ended, while our barricades disappeared on the same Friday that the fighting stopped. Secondly, a wave of blood and terror devastated the towns of Catalonia. Assassinations, with full impunity for the murderers, have been the order of the day. Our libertarian movement has remained silent and suffered the loss of our best militants without resisting. We have tolerated, not through cowardice but out of an exalted sense of discipline and responsibility, the assault upon the collectives and the destruction of the constructive work of the proletariat.


And after this exemplary conduct, they still speak, who, if they had any sense of honour at all, would have withdrawn from public view in the face of the overwhelming evidence of their criminality, their barbarism and their treachery to the anti-fascist cause. And still they continue to threaten and to fume, and even try, with unbelievable cynicism, to throw the blame upon the CNT. It is clear that there is a combination of interests in Catalonia mortally opposed to us. The Estat Catala, the Communist Party and the Esquerra (left Republicans), each have their own party interests; but they are all in agreement, for different reasons, upon the necessity of crushing the CNT. And in full agreement with them, giving them much indirect aid, through Dencás, is Mussolini. We want to make it clear that we do not commit the folly of confounding the Communist Party with the fascists. We affirm categorically that the Communist Party does not have the least connection with the fascists. But that is not the case with the Estat Catalan; and when they join hands in the streets, who gives the orders?

We assume the full responsibility for everything we have said. We have said nothing that is not in full accord with reality, and no one can deny our statements, because they were based upon the facts and documented evidence.

Aiguadé, Dencás, Mussolini, Casanovas, Lluhí Vallescá, Ventura Gassoh, Sancho, Xicota, Castañer, and many others whom we are not mentioning, all grouped together in a series of sinister plots and treason. These are the responsible agents of the bloody events of Barcelona.

No one can say that the CNT is a provocateur, a disrupter, or a traitor to the anti-fascist fight. The CNT has a much cleaner conscience than these despicable men who cannot attract the masses by honourable means, and therefore resort to underhanded deals, gangster-like intrigues and conspiracies, in order to suppress us.

But the CNT will not be liquidated by such traitors. They can only overcome the CNT by operating with greater honour, nobility, and austerity, and those who participated in the Catalonia intrigues are incapable of that.

Counter-Theses for the Conference of the POUM

The annual conference of the POUM was due to meet at the time the party was suppressed. Greatly disturbed at the vacillations of the party with regard to the Popular Front government, a left wing had grown in Barcelona led by José Rebull with the name of ‘Cell 72’. As by then they were all in illegality these documents were never published in Spain. The following text is translated from the French monthly journal L’Internationale of the Union Communiste, no.30, fourth year, new series, 1O August 1937, pp.11-12. This was a small organisation of a state capitalist character led by Gaston Davoust (Henri Chazé, 1904-1984).

As we have had occasion to note with several reminders, the leadership of the POUM puts back indefinitely the convocation of the party conference. Nevertheless, it was to have been held in June, but the arrest of the party militants took place some days before the conference was due to be held.

Since the beginning of April, discussion has been quite lively inside the POUM, and a left current has begun to crystallise, as these counter-theses published in the Internal Bulletin put out by the Barcelona local committee show, which we will try to demonstrate in L’Internationale.

In this issue we are only giving an article from one cell, an article which provides some explanation of certain points in the counter-theses.

The Leadership of the POUM During the July Days

The value of a party, and above all of its leadership, is tested in great events. As the saying goes, in calm weather everyone is a good sailor.

However, the fundamental problem for which a revolutionary Marxist party must provide a solution is the problem of power, what it consists of and the method of seizing it....

We take the following from Avant (organ of the POUM):

21 July: ‘ What is required is the formation of a government with the participation of all the components of the Popular Front ...’ that is to say, a government of those whom we have accused of being responsible for the military insurrection!

23 July: Dealing with how the armed workers must get their pay, Avant says: ‘We believe that it is the government of the Generalitat which must provide the soldiers’ pay.’

What this presupposes is implicit recognition of the government of the Generalitat.

In an article entitled La terra ha d’esser repartida, Avant restricts itself to saying about the power that could assure the poor peasants’ possession of the land: ‘The workers’ army will overthrow the power of the cacique and will institute a system of justice and security among the poor peasants’. So fully ‘installing a system of justice’ is talked about. How? On this the leadership of the POUM maintains a prudent and diplomatic silence.

24 July: The EC of the POUM to All Workers is the title of 12 demands proposed to the working class. The only point which in an indirect manner concerns the question of power is no.8, ‘Revision of the Statute of Catalonia in a progressive sense’. No doubt it is by means of this revision that workers will later attain the dictatorship of the proletariat that comrade Nin tells us about.

Concerning the land problem, we see in the same issue of Avant that it comes out in favour of a Popular Committee of Distribution.

Distribution under the political domination of the bourgeoisie? Fortunately, the peasants are following another road.

26 July: Whilst maintaining the most profound silence on the question of power, Avant gives over its headlines to the victory obtained in the payment of wages to workers in arms. It celebrates it in the following terms: ‘Our party was the first fo launch the demand for wage payments to the workers who, by the general strike and their armed struggle, put fascism to rout and won the victory’. A victory, in the final reckoning, for the petty bourgeoisie and for the PSUC, which did not as yet even exist.

27 July: The POUM declared: ‘Not only do we envisage no obstacle to getting in contact with your committee (The Esqerra Front), but we consider this contact to be indispensable for examining current problems and establishing unity in action on all guestions in which an agreement will be possible’. The first step towards the Popular Front.

28 July: Nor could the JCI (POUM Youth) find a better way in these critical days: ‘Our militias and our guns are the only guarantee, the sole guarantee of our liberty, our rights, and our lives’ (Solano in his radio broadcast, reproduced in Avant of the 28th). In order to constitute a guarantee, it was necessary for the militias and their guns to be under control of working class power, not under the control of the Generalitat, which then made them into its regular people’s army.

29 July: At last, ‘Revolutionary Workers’ Alliances’, that is the slogan launched by Avant. But through editorial negligence, this slogan has not been mentioned for a good deal of time already.

30 July: It does not talk about the destruction of capitalism and its form of political domination, but that ‘what is necessary is the requisition of the property of the church and of all the reaction’. This partial attack without posing the question of power could only lead to the working class having to pay for the property of the church and the reactionaries.

1 August (last issue of Avant): Referring to the first governmental crisis of the Generalitat since 19 July, it expresses itself thus in its editorial: ‘A total crisis of the government has passed unnoticed by the working class’. It is evident that this was the fault, neither of the government, nor of the working class, but of its supposed guide, the revolutionary Marxist party, which confined itself to comment without pointing out the revolutionary solution: ‘All power to the Central Militia Committee’.

And further: ‘We can affirm from today that the government that has been formed is a thousand leagues from reality...and does not correspond to the present stage of the revolution’. What was the reality? What form of government did correspond to that phase of the revolution? In the same editorial: ‘For all over Catalonia new institutions arise that are destined to transform themselves into mass popular organs’. Yes – destined to transform themselves into true mass popular organs, thanks to the ‘Government of the Revolution’ (in which the POUM took part), that abolished the Central Militia Committee and all the anti-Fascist committees by decree.

The POUM drifted aimlessly in the stormy seas of July, like a ship that had lost its captain.


The Programme of the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists

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.

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)