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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 21

Mayhem in Catalonia

Last nail in the coffin of the Spanish republic

Wednesday 14 May 2008, by Subrata Banerjee


At the beginning of the twentieth century, Spain was one of the most backward countries of Europe. The fabulous wealth plundered by the conquisitadores from America by utmost brutality was wasted in the conspicuous consumption of a decadent feudal aristocracy or senseless wars.

A predominantly agricultural country, Spain remained neutral during the First World War (as also during the Second). The country, or rather its rulers, prospered by exporting agricultural produce to belligerent countries from both the sides. The accumulated capital financed some industrialisation in the Basque country (Santander and Bilbao) and Catalonia (Barcelona), both being areas greatly infected by centrifugal tendency.

The government rested on a coalition of three decadent conservative groups—the church, the aristocracy and the army. Class struggle was sharp and bitter. Seventy per cent of the population lived in the villages. In the main they were landless rural proletariat or semi-proletariat, working at starvation wage for a small aristocracy of caciques and hidalgos. Notwithstanding a twelve-hour work-day and a pittance for wage, the condition of the working class could be considered an improvement on the rural population’s lot. The disinclination of the rural nobles and the bourgeoise to sully their hands were the root cause of the country’s backwardness. Upper-class contempt for the masses were matched in equal measure by the anger and hatred of the latter for the excessive privilege of the rich and the indolent.

Spain’s journey towards democracy was halting and tardy. In the cortes (parliament), monarchists and republicans remained deadlocked in great hostility. Basque and Catalan cessationism faced irreconcilable opposition from the Castilan centralisers of the capital Madrid.

Through a pronunciomento (proclamation) in 1923, General Miguel Primo de Rivera established a dictatorship behind the façade of the monarchy. The measure had the approval of the monarch as a suitable mode of suppressing the disgruntled masses. (Earlier, it may be recalled, Mussolini had done much the same in Italy.)

The collapse of the foreign market after the war followed by the depression raised popular anger and agitation to new heights. Primo de Rivera was constrained to resign and leave the country.

The King called for municipal elections, in an attempt to buttress his absolute rule. His calculations backfired. In the rural areas, the caciques and hidalgos could rig up a victory for the monarchy. But the industrial areas and big towns voted overwhelmingly for the republic. In the capital Madrid, the elections of April 12, 1931 assumed virtually the form of a referendum and even the well-to-do districts refused to endorse the monarchy. The King, Alfonso XIII too want into exile after issuing a statement for his subjects but without formally abdicating. Republican liberals and Left-wing politicians hastily set up a Provisional Republican Government on April 14, 1936. Thus began the Second Republic.1

THE Second Republic, without doubt, suffered from political instability, as did France and Italy in the aftermath of the Second World War. In barely five years it had two heads of state and eighteen Prime Ministers. Three elections and two premature dissolutions of the cortes became necessary.

Yet, the Republic’s record in carrying out much-needed reforms were admirable. All the elections were free and fair. Women were granted voting rights. Civil marriage and divorce were instituted. Compulsory religious instructions in schools were abolished. The army was cut down to size.

The number of army divisions were reduced from sixteen to eight. The number of army officers were brought down from 21,900 to 10,400. Minimum wage and compensation for industrial accidents were instituted. Arbitration courts for industrial disputes were established. Catalan and Basque autonomy were recognised. Some land reforms, though somewhat timid, were carried out.2

Different classes naturally viewed the Republic differently. For the downtrodden, the Republic meant an end to injustice, poverty and hunger. For the landless rural proletariat the Republic meant an end to the scandal of latifunda as in Andalusia where about five per cent of the population owned half the land. For the workers the Republic meant living wage and endurable working hours and above all dignity and self-assertion.3

The church, the nobles and the army were stubbornly unwilling to accept democracy and concede the democratic demands of the masses. The church was not only the biggest latifundist but also a veritable state within a state, with its army of twenty thousand monks, sixty thousand nuns and thirty- one thousand priests. The church, the army, the nobles and the capitalists openly declared war on the Republic. On May 7, 1931, Pedro Segura, Cardinal Primate of Spain, in a pastoral letter urged the faithful to prepare for a struggle against the ‘socialist and atheistic republic’, if necessary by using force. Sensing the revolutionary mood of the workers, the big capital voted with its feet, that is, fled the country in panic.4

The alzamiento, the name given by the Spanish fascists to their rebellion against the Republic, began in Spanish Morocco on July 17, 1936. Fransisco Franco arrived on Moroccan soil on July 19 in a small aircraft belonging to Orley Airways. The tourist airplane had been hired for £ 2,000, ten days before, through the London correspondent of the monarchist daily, ABC.5 Though the rebellion was ostensibly started for defence of the Christian religion and had the wholehearted support of the Catholic church, the rebel army contained Moorishy Moslem mercenaries, atheistic Legionaries and German, Italian and Portugise fascist ‘volunteers’, not particularly known for Christian piety, in large numbers.6

The fall of the monarchy in 1931 led to much chaos and violence. The situation deteriorated after the victory of the Popular Front in the election to the cortes in 1936. Pro-Franko writers have blamed the Federacion Anarquista Iberica for the development. This is only tendencious propaganda. The anarchist mood of the workers and ultra-Left posturing by sections of the Socialists indeed contributed to the chaos. But the root cause of the violence was the determination of the church and the aristocracy to defend their privileges at all costs. The role of the church has already been commented upon. It needs to be pointed out that aristocratic youth formed gangs of pistoleros, drove at full speed along mainstreets shooting down their opponents. Inevitably clashes occurred between the monarchists and workers. Churches and convents were burnt down. Even the headquarters of the Society of Jesus did not escape.7

Much is made of the assassination of the Jose Calvo Sotello, a former Minister under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, who had emerged as the leader of the monarchists and all reactionaries in the cortes by unknown assault guards. However, the assassination came in the immediate aftermath of the failure of a monarchist coup in the Valencia and the murder of a republican officer of the assault guards by the monarchists.8

The first victims of the alzamiento, as the fascists called their rebellion, were army officers who remained loyal to the legal government. In a few hours dozens of loyalist Generals, Colonels and Majors were executed without trial. In Burgos, General Emilio Mola, who eventually became second-in- command to Franco, proclaimed himself Commander of the 6th Military region after having shot his immediate superior, General Domingo Batet. In the 7th Military Region, reserve General Antonio Saliquet usurped charge after ordering the execution of General Nicholas Molero. In Seragosa, General Miguel Cabanellas executed General Nunez de Prado. The list of the summarily executed is long: General Jose Fernandez Villa, Commander of the 2nd Legion in Saragosa; Jose Fernandez Villa Abrile, Commander of the 2nd Region; General Enrique Salcado, Commander of the 8th Region, in Galicia; General Caridad Pita, military Governor of Coruna; General Miguel Campinir at Granada; Major de la Puente Bahamonde, the first cousin of Franco but loyal to the Republic; General Lopez Viota at Seville; the Guardia Civil General Julio Mena Zueco, General Garcia Gomez Caminero, and many more.9 Civilians on either side did not escape death. Gang rape and public humiliation of female relations of leaders of Left parties and trade unions invariably accompanied capture of towns and villages by the rebel army. The Moroccan mercenaries were regularly used for the purpose. The illegal killings and executions by Republican mobs were confined to the first of the three years of conflict. The atrocities by the rebels continued steadily through all the three years of conflict.10

The atrocities by the rebel army appears to have been pre-planned. Quite early, during the conflict, General Mola had issued instructions to the rebels to use excessive violence and exemplary punishment for the opponents.11 Cowing down a hostile populatin seemed to have been the purpose.

The rebel leaders expected their operations to be over in five days. In fact, their ‘crusade’ (La crusade) dragged on for thirtytwo months, largely due to stiff resistance by the working class and the working class parties. As the civil war broke out, France and Britain organised a plan of non-intervention in the war. Germany, Italy and the USSR formally subscribed to the plan. Only the French and the British stuck to the scheme. Germany and Italy flouted the pact from the beginning leaving the legal government dependant exclusively on the Soviet Union for supply of military hardware.12 The result was, naturally, disastrous for the Republic.

In his History of the Second World War, Winston S. Churchill writes:
At the end of July 1936 the increasing degeneration of the parliamentary regime in Spain, and the growing of the movement for a Communist or alternatively an anarchist revolution, led to a military revolt which had long been preparing. It is part of the Communist doctrine and drill book, laid down by Lenin himself, that Communists should aid all movements towards the Left and help into office weak Constitutional, Radical, or Socialist Governments. These they should undermine and from their falling hands snatch absolute power, and found the Marxist State. In fact a perfect reproduction of the Kerensky period was taking place in Spain.13

He explains the motive behind the non-intervention pact quite candidly:
In this quarrel I was neutral. Naturally I was not in favour of Communists. How could I be, when if I had been a Spaniard they would have murdered me and my family and friends? I was sure however that with all the rest they had on their hands the British Government was right to keep out of Spain.14

Churchill’s interpretation of history is brazenly tendencious and hence hopelessly wrong. But his imperialist bourgeoise class instinct was right on target.

As the rebellion reached the mainland, the Republican Government tried to temporise, and refused to arm the workers who were clamouring for it. In his monumental military history, liberal historian Hugh Thomas writes:
Nearly everywhere on July 18 the Civil Governors in the large towns followed the example of the government in Madrid and refused to cooperate with working class organisations who were clamouring for arms. In most cases this brought success of the rising and signed the death warrants of the Civil Governors themselves, along with local working class leaders. Had the rebels risen in all the provinces in Spain on July 18, they would probably have been everywhere triumphant by July 22, when they expected to be. But had the liberal Government of Cassares Quiroga distributed arms, and ordered the Civil Governors to do so too, thus using the working class to defend the Republic at the earliest opportunity, it is possible that the rising would have been crushed.15

In Madrid, the Central Government hesitated till July 20 to distribute arms to the workers. In Catalonia the CNT (Confederacion Nacional de Trabajo, anarchist) and POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista) took arms by force when the regional government refused to arm the people. George Orwell provides this account of the July fighting in the Catalan capital, Barcelona:

It was the kind of effort that could probably only be made by people who are fighting with a revolutionary intention—i.e. believed that they were fighting for something better than the status quo. In the various centers of revolt it is thought that three thousand people died in the streets in a single day. Men and women armed only with sticks of dynamite rushed across the open squares and stormed stone buildings held by trained soldiers with machine-guns. Machine-gun nests that the fascists had placed at strategic spots were smashed by rushing taxis at them at sixty miles an hour.16

As in the Russian Revolution, the phenomenon of “dual power”—on one side the spontaneously created factory committees, the peasant councils and militia units and on the other side the Republican Government of liberal capitalist parties supported by the politicians, cut off from their own class base, which had rallied to Franco—prevailed.

Accurate class instinct led the Spanish aristocracy, the church and the nascent bourgeoise to rally to Franco. The same class instinct led the liberal politicians, who held the reigns of power in the Republic, to refuse arms to the workers and seek accommodation with the rebels for the first few vital days, with disastrous results. Earlier, during the brief Right wing interlude in 1934, the Republican Government had brutally suppressed the communes at Oviedo and Asturias and general strikes led by the Socialists and Anarchists.

Working class parties in Spain and their natural allies abroad failed to show such class instinct. Fernando Claudin, a former member of the Polit Bureau of the Spanish CP, writes:

Neither the Socialists nor the Anarcho-Syndicalists—the two great tendencies that had divided the labour movement between them since the nineteenth century—had any clear notion about the revolutionary process began in 1930-31. The former thought it was a purely bourgeoise revolution, and clung to their ‘minimum programme’. For them, the leadership of the Republic must be assumed by the bourgeoise Republican parties. All that the Socialist Party could do was to collaborate loyally with them in carrying out a programme of reforms that would also be of benefit to the working class. They were ready, in short, to follow in the footprints of European Social Democracy. The Anarcho-Syndicalists started from the same standpoint that the revolution was purely bourgeoise, but drew a quite different practical conclusion: they would in no way collaborate with the Republic born on April 14, 1931. It was necessary to press forward to the social revolution and the establishment of ‘libertarian Communism’. The Communists, being for the first few months without clear guidance from Moscow, improvised in the light of the ultra-Left general line being followed by the Comintern at this period. This position can be summed up in these slogans: ‘Down with the bourgeoise republic of the capitalists, generals and and the clergy! For a republic of Soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants!’17

The net result of the non-intervention pact and the German-Italian perfidy was to make the Republic dependant on the Soviet Union for supply of arms. This provided Stalin with ample opportunity to manipulate the Republican Government at will in the interest of Soviet foreign policy. The PCE (Party Communista de Espana) was virtually taken over by the experts sent by the Comintern (by then transformed into Stalintern) and Russian officials.

FROM the very inception of the Republic, successive governments were formed by liberal bourgeois politicians. The practice continued even after the victory of the Popular Front in the election of February 16, 1936. However, the policy became untenable after the fascist rebellion. A government with a broader base, comprising all parties and unions which comprised the Popular Front, became a necessity. A new government was formed with Largo Caballero as the Prime Minister and Uribe of the PCE as the Minister of Agriculture. Largo Caballero was the leader of the Left-wing of the Partido Socialists Obrero Espanol as well as the Socialist trade union, Union General de Trabajo. The POUM and the Anarchists joined the Regional Government Generalistat in Catalonia.

From day one the PCE launched a virulent campaign against the POUM and the Anarchists. As Largo Caballero did not accept their demand for outlawing and repressing the POUM, Palmiro Togliatti hatched a plan for what Hugh Thomas calls “political assassination” of Largo Caballero. Needless to add, Soviet officials like Marcel Rosenburg, the Soviet ambassador in Spain, and Alexander Orlov, the chief of the Soviet secret service unit on the spot, were deeply involved in this as well as other nefarious deeds.

Eduard de Blaye writes:

In fact, the military civil war was accompanied from the start, in the Republican camp, by a political civil war from which the Communists emerged as victors. Strong in the economic and military backing given by the Soviet Ambasador in Madrid, Marcel Rosenburg, and the Soviet Consul-General in Barcelona, Vladimir Antonov-Obseyenko (the man who led the assault on the Winter Palace in Petrograd during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917), the militants of the Spanish Communist Party behaved everywhere like absolute masters. The Socialist Premier, Fransisco Largo Caballero, who tried to resist the Communist take-over was compelled to give places in May 1937, to a new Premier, the accommodating Juan Negrin, who in his concern to please his all powerful protector, even went so far as to forbid by decree, dated August 14, 1937, any criticism of the Soviet Government.18

Hugh Thomas provides an account of a meeting of the Spanish Communist Party executive in which Togliatti rammed the proposal for “political assassination” of Largo Caballero:

An astonishing meeting of the Spanish Communist Party executive was shortly held, attended by Marty, Togliatti, Codovila, Stepanov, Gero, Gaikins, the Russian Charge, Orlov himself. Togliatti bluntly announced that he wanted Largo Caballero removed from the premiership. The motive for this sudden action, not foreseen even by many Communists, seems to have been Largo Caballero’s reallocation of Communist officers, the resistance to Communist beguiling by the new Under Secretary for War, Baraibar, and the Premier’s contemplated dismissal of Alvarez del Vayo from the Cabinet as a ‘Soviet puppet’. Diaz and Hernandez protested. Diaz added that Spanish Communists ought not to have to follow the lead of Moscow.19

However, the other Spaniards kept quiet and Diaz and Hernandez were persuaded to succumb to Russian and Comintern pressure.20 Eventually, Largo Caballero resigned. The campaign for annihilation of the POUM and the anarchists began in right earnest.

THE beginning of the Spanish Civil War coincided with the first of the Moscow trials. Zinoviev, Kamenev and a large number veteran Bolsheviks were executed in August 1936. The POUM became the bete noire of Stalin, Stalintern and the Spanish Stalinists by denouncing this monstrous fraud for what it really was. Like the Poumitas, the Left Socialists and Anarchists also refused to swallow the monstrosities. The PCE started a strident campaign of slander against the unfortunate sect. As the Central Government abandoned Madrid for Valencia, the Soviet ambassador, Marcel Rosenburg, blocked the inclusion of the POUM in the Committee for the Defence of Madrid. On November 28, 1936 the Soviet Consul in Barcelona sent a note to newspapers describing La Battala, the organ of the POUM, as a journal sold to international fascism. In December the arm-twisting succeeded, the POUM was excluded from the local government. On December 17, Pravda wrote:
So far as Catalonia is concerned, the cleaning up of Trotskyists and Anarchists has began and it will be carried out with the same energy as in the USSR.

In a report to the Central Committee of the PCE in March 1937, General Secretary Jose Diaz states:

Who are the enemies of the people? The enemies of the people are the Fascists, Trotskyists and the uncontrolled elements… our hatred is directed with equal force against the agents of Fascism against those who, like the POUM, those Trotskyists in disguise who conceal themselves behind pseudo-revolutionary phraseology….21 (Uncontrolled and uncontrollable were the PCE’s code words for the Anarchists.)

With the ouster of Largo Caballero began the most sordid as well as the most tragic part of the Civil War which inexorably led to the final defeat of the Republic. From the very beginning the Anarchist and POUM militias were starved of weapons, which were reserved for the International Brigade and the ‘regular’ army units under Stalinist control. George Orwell, who served in the POUM militia and saw action in the Aragon front, provides an account of the pitiful lack of weapons:

The infantry were far worse armed than an English public school Officers’ Training Corpse with worn-out Mauser rifles which usually jammed after five shots: approximately one machine-gun to fifty men; and one pistol or revolver to about thirty men. These weapons, so necessary in trench warfare, were not issued by the government and could be bought only illegally and with greatest difficulty.


A government which sends boys of fifteen to the front with rifles forty years old and keeps its biggest men and newest weapons in the rear, is manifestly more afraid of the revolution than of the fascists.22

The PCE had a great advantage over other Republican parties. They were ready to carry on their campaign of annihilation, without any regard for its effect on the Civil War itself. In May 1937, the PCE staged a provocation. Using its agents in the Barcelona Police, the PCE attempted to siege the telephone exchange, which had been under the control of the CNT from the beginning of the Civil War. The Anarchist telephone operators refused to surrender the exchange and fighting broke out between the workers and the asaltos. Thousands of workers poured into the streets to defend their organisations from police attack. Barricades went up through-out the city.

The Anarchists and POUM accepted a truce and on the basis of a pledge that there would be no reprisals, appealed to the workers to go home.

After the fighting had ended, troops were sent from Valencia, where the capital had to be shifted earlier from Madrid. Anarchists, Poumistas, Trotskyists and militiamen were arrested on sight. A vile slander campaign against the POUM, charging it with being agents of Franco, was launched and taken up by the Stalinist press worldwide. Largo Caballero resigned and was replaced by Juan Negrin.23

The POUM was outlawed, under Stalinist pressure, and its final liquidation began. Hugh Thomas provides a graphic description of the repression:

In Barcelona …..the POUM headquarters at Hotel Falcon was closed. It was immediately and conveniently turned into a prison. The POUM itself was declared illegal, and forty members of its Central Committee were arrested. Andre Nin was taken separately, but his friends all found themselves in an underground dungeon in Madrid. All members or associates of the POUM went in fear of arrest, since the Stalinist habit of visiting the alleged crimes of the leaders upon all possible followers was well known. The Communist newspapers daily screamed accusations against those whom their party had arrested but did not bring to trial. They announced that all sorts of evidence had been discovered giving irrefutable proof of the POUM guilt. And a rumour spread that Andre Nin had been murdered in prison.
... ... ...

In fact, he was in Orlov’s prison in the dilapidated ex-cathedral city Henares…. He was there undergoing the customary Soviet interrogation of suspected deviationists. His resistance to these methods were apparently amazing. He refused to sign any documents admitting his guilt and that of his friends.24

Hugh Thomas describes the murder most foul of Andre Nin and the cynical use made of the International Brigade in the process:

Eventually, Vittori Vidali (Carlos Contreras) suggested a ‘Nazi’ attack to liberate Nin should be simulated. So one dark night, ten German members of the International Brigade, assaulted the house in Alcala where Nin was held. Ostensibly they spoke German during the pretended attack, and left behind some German train tickets. Nin was taken away in a closed van and murdered. His refusal to admit his guilt saved the lives of his friends.25

More or less simultaneously with Nin, who Italian Anarchist intellectuals, Prof Camillo Berneri and his collaborator Berberi, were murdered. Regarding the fate of other POUM leaders, Thomas writes:

October 1938, the leaders of the POUM (except for Nin) were at last brought to trial…When the POUM leaders came to trial, the case against them almost collapsed. All, including Nin, had succeeded in resisting communist pressure upon them to confess. Stalin and Yezov may have planned a show trial with sensational confessions on the model of those in Moscow. If so, they were thwarted. Republican Ministers and ex-Ministers, headed by Largo Caballero and Zugazagoitia, gave evidence in POUM’s favour. The judgement found the POUM to be true Socialists and absolved them of treason and espionage. But five leaders were condemned to various terms of imprisonment for their part in the May uprising of 1937 and for revolutionary activities prejudicial to the war effort.26

Indian Gulagists continue to hold forth, glibly and eloquolently, on the “Spanish Civil War”, treating the Catalan mayhem as an un-event.27 Geographical distance helps. However, Europeans, particularly Spaniards, can ill-afford to do this. Fernando Claudin, a former member of the Polit-bureau of the Spanish Gulagists, admits:

Stalin’s secret service operated in Spain just as they would have done in the Mongolian People’s Republic. The most scalandalous case, though by no means the only one, was the murder of Nin, after the plan to use him in a Spanish edition of the ‘Moscow trials’ had fallen through. As G. Jackson notes, ‘the N in case was a terrible moral blow to the credit of the Negrin Government. Two months afer taking office with strong pledges for restoration of personal security and justice, the Prime Minister had been forced to tolerate the Communist outrage or fight back, at the risk of being destroyed as Largo Caballero had been destroyed.’ This is a thoroughly correct judgement, except that the ‘Communist outrage’ was in reality, even more than an outrage against Negrin’s prestige, an outrage against Communism.28

Referring to the liquidation of the POUM and murder of Andre Nin, Claudin writes:

After the bloody May days there began the final well-known phase of smashing of the POUM…For my part I will only add that the repression of the POUM, and in particular the vile murder of Andre Nin, constitute the blackest page of the PCE, which acted as accomplice in a crime by Stalin’s secret service. We Spanish Communists were undoubtedly put out of our right minds, like the world’s Communists at this time and for a long time after, by the monstrous lies that were fabricated in Moscow. This, however, does not rid us of our historical responsibility. Fourteen years have passed since the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956, yet the PCE has still not made any self-criticism or helped to clear up the facts.29

FERNANDO CLAUDIN was expelled from the PCE for advocating an honest and dispassionate look at the sordid past and a clean break with the Stalinist legacy, in 1965. But in the end, twentyone years after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, even Santiago Carrillo, who emerged as the principal leader of the PCE in the sixties, had to make an attempt to come to grips with the Catalan mayhem. This is how he deals with the vile murder of Andre Nin:

Andre Nin disappeared after the putsch in Barcelona in May 1937. One story claimed that he had been murdered by a ‘parallel police force’; another claimed that he had fled to the enemy camp. Everything that had come to be known since the Spanish War, or rather all that can be deduced from what is known, undoubtedly confirm that Andre Nin was murdered and did not attempt to escape to the enemy camp.

In am in a position to say that the Communist Party, its leading bodies, bore no responsibility for that event and if any Communist took part in it individually—and I do not know that any did—it was done on his own account and not by the decision of the party.30

Carrillo admits that:

There was a time when we Communists were deeply convinced that Trotsky and Trotskyism had become agents of fascism. One cannot deny the impact of the Moscow trials and of the astonishing confessions made at them, not only on Communists, but also on impartial observers who—like ourselves—could not conceive of the infernal machine by means of which those confessions were obtained. It is true that history and the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union have confirmed many of the atrocities denounced by the Trotskyists at the time, but to choose where the truth lay, between what they said and what Stalin and his companions said, was as it were, a question of faith, and we chose to believe the Soviet leaders. The Soviet Union was the first proletarian State and its continued survival, for us Communists, came before everything else.31

Carrillo’s laboured defence, has been demolished in advance by two stalwarts, Charles Bettleheim and Paul M. Sweezy. Writes Bettleheim:
Without being blind to the difficulties and contradictions that marked the process (how could I be, when I was in Moscow in 1936, at the time of the first of the “great trials”, and was able to sense every confusion into which the city’s inhabitants had been thrown and the fear of voicing their opinions that was felt by the most ordinary people as well as by old members of the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International?), I nevertheless considered that not only that the October Revolution had opened a new era in the history of mankind (which I still believe) but also that the economic and social development of the Soviet Union provided a sort of “model” for the building of socialism. The difficulties and contradictions accompanying this development seemed to me, despite their seriousness, to be due above all to the special historical conditions of Russia. I thought there was no reason why they should reappear elsewhere, or should prevent Russia from continuing to advance towards socialism and communism.32

Before citing the passage at length, Sweezy says that this represents the original approach of not only Bettleheim, but also of Sweezy and innumerable other “Marxist Socialists”.33 It is difficult to accept that the members of the PCE suffered from a singular lack of perceptivity, unlike the “innumerable other Marxist Socialists”. Further, Carrillo does not even a attempt an explanation for the twentyone year gap between the Khruschev Report and his enlightenment.

True, Stalin, working through his agents, diplomatic as well as secret service, became an extra-constitutional source of power in the Republic. First, Codovilla and then Togliatti became defacto Secretary of the PCE. Stalintern experts and Russin personnel regularly attended and dominated meetings of the PCE executive. Seasoned experts from the Stalintern, foreign Stalinists in the International Brigade and Soviet officials provided the high-command of the infernal murder machine that Stalin assembled in Spain. But the bulk of the manpower had, of necessity, to have been supplied by the rapidly expanding PCE. The alibis for the PCE and allegations against the POUM, that Carrillo repeats, need not detain us. These have been refuted by unimpeachable historical research long before Carrillo came out with his dubious defence.34

Significantly, Carrillo confines his defence exclusively for the PCE. He treats former leaders of the party, who broke with Stalinism in the thirties and forties as un-persons, though they had been mercilessly slandered by the PCE, earlier. The same can be said of those who had been expelled from the PCE for Titoite deviations and crimes. Last but not the least, his labelling of the May incidents as a military pusch by the POUM is contrary to all other accounts. No wonder, after the collapse of the Soviet Union all the Eurocommunists found their “rediscovery” of the humanist, democratic and pluralist core of Marxism inadequate and abandoned Marxism altogether .


1. Les Evans, Introduction to Leon Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973, pp. 24-26. Eduard de Blaye, Franco and the Politics of Spain, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976, pp. 16-24.
Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, 2nd Edition, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965, pp. 23-50.
- 2. De Blaye, op. cit., p. 10 and p. 28.
- 3. De Blaye, op. cit., pp. 24-25.
Thomas, op. cit., pp. 50-51.
- 4. De Blaye, op. cit., p. 9.
- 5. Ibid., p. 9.
- 6. Ibid., pp. 34-35.
- 7. Ibid., pp. 39-40; also text of Franco’s speech before the Cortes, July 22, 1969, in ibid., p. 524.
- 8. De Blaye, op. cit. p. 86.
- 9. Ibid., pp. 87-96.
- 10. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 170-171.
- 11. De Blaye, op. cit., p. 39.
- 12. Winston S. Churchill, History of the Second World War (twelve-volume paperback edition), vol. 1, Cassel, London 1966, p. 188.
- 13. Ibid., p. 187.
- 14. Ibid., p. 188.
- 15. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 185-186.
- 16. Homage to Catalonia, cited in Evans, op. cit., p. 39.
- 17. Fernando Claudin, The Communist Movement, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1975, pp. 211-212.
- 18. De Blaye, op. cit., p. 125.
- 19. Thomas seem to have relied on the accounts of Jesus Hernandez, Valentine Gonzales (EI. Campesino) and Castro-Delgado, who broke with the PCE during the post Civil War exile. Daiz committed suicide in Tiflis in 1941. (op. cit., pp. 775-776)
- 20. Thomas, op. cit., p. 457.
- 21. Claudin, op. cit., p. 709-710. For other samples of Diaz’s virulence see pp. 712-713 in Claudin, op. cit.
- 22. Controversy, August 1937, cited in Evans, op. cit., p. 44-45.
- 23. Evans, op. cit., pp. 44-45.
- 24. Thomas, op. cit., pp. 579-581.
- 25. Ibid., p. 587.
- 26. Ibid., pp. 713-714.
- 27. Cf. Panchanan Saha in Mainstream, Feburary 22, 1997.
- 28. Claudin, op. cit., p. 241. Emphasis added. The citation is from Gabriel Jackson, The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1965, p. 404.
- 29. Claudin, op. cit., p. 711.
- 30. Santiago Carrillo, Eurocommunism and the State, Lawrence and Wishert, London, 1978, pp. 118-119.
- 31. Ibid., p. 117.
- 32. Class Struggle in USSR, Vol. 1, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1967, p. 10.
- 33. Paul M. Sweezy, Post-Revolutionary Society, Cornerstone Publishers, Kharagpur, 2000, p. 49.
- 34. A representative sample has been cited above. More, if needed can be found in the texts mentioned.

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