The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM)

The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM)

The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) was formed by Andres Nin and Joaquin Maurin in 1935. A revolutionary anti-Stalinist Communist party it was strongly influenced by the political ideas of Leon Trotsky. The group supported the collectivization of the means of production and agreed with Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution. As a result of Maurin's involvement, POUM was very strong in Catalonia. In most areas of Spain it made little impact and in 1935 POUM is estimated to have only around 8,000 members. (1)

After the Popular Front gained victory POUM supported the government but their radical policies such as nationalization without compensation, were not introduced. During the Spanish Civil War the Workers Party of Marxist Unification grew rapidly and by the end of 1936 it was 30,000 strong with 10,000 in its own militia. Luis Companys attempted to maintain the unity of the coalition of parties in Barcelona. POUM was disliked by the Spanish Communist Party. As Patricia Knight has pointed out: "It did not subscribe to all of Trotsky's views and its best described as a Marxist party which was critical of the Soviet system and particularly of Spain's policies. It was therefore very unpopular with the Communists." (2)

Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the journalist, George Orwell, decided, despite only being married for a month, to go and support the Popular Front government against the fascist forces led by General Francisco Franco. He contacted John Strachey who took him to see Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Orwell later recalled: "Pollitt after questioning me, evidently decided that I was politically unreliable and refused to help me. He also tried to frighten me out of going by talking a lot about Anarchist terrorism." (3)

Orwell visited the headquarters of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and obtained letters of recommendation from Fenner Brockway and Henry Noel Brailsford. Orwell arrived in Barcelona in December 1936 and went to see John McNair, to run the ILP's political office. The ILP was affiliated with the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). As a result of an ILP fundraising campaign in England, the POUM had received almost £10,000, as well as an ambulance and a planeload of medical supplies. (4)

It has been pointed out by D. J. Taylor, that McNair was "initially wary of the tall ex-public school boy with the drawling upper-class accent". (5) McNair later recalled: "At first his accent repelled my Tyneside prejudices... He handed me his two letters, one from Fenner Brockway, the other from H.N. Brailsford, both personal friends of mine. I realised that my visitor was none other than George Orwell, two of whose books I had read and greatly admired." Orwell told McNair: "I have come to Spain to join the militia to fight against Fascism". Orwell told him that he was also interested in writing about the "situation and endeavour to stir working-class opinion in Britain and France." (6) Orwell also talked about producing a couple of articles for The New Statesman. (7)

McNair went to see Orwell at the Lenin Barracks a few days later: "Gone was the drawling ex-Etonian, in his place was an ardent young man of action in complete control of the situation... George was forcing about fifty young, enthusiastic but undisciplined Catalonians to learn the rudiments of military drill. He made them run and jump, taught them to form threes, showed them how to use the only rifle available, an old Mauser, by taking it to pieces and explaining it." (8)

In January 1937 George Orwell, given the rank of corporal, was sent to join the offensive at Aragón. The following month he was moved to Huesca. On 10th May, 1937, Orwell was wounded by a Fascist sniper. He told Cyril Connolly "a bullet through the throat which of course ought to have killed me but has merely given me nervous pains in the right arm and robbed me of most of my voice." He added that while in Spain "I have seen wonderful things and at last really believe in Socialism, which I never did before." (9)

After the Soviet consul, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, threatened the suspension of Russian aid, Negrin agreed to sack Andres Nin as minister of justice in December 1936. Nin's followers were also removed from the government. However, as Hugh Thomas has made clear: "The POUM were not Trotskyists, Nin having broken with Trotsky on entering the Catalan government and Trotsky having spoken critically of the POUM. No, what upset the communists was the fact that the POUM were a serious group of revolutionary Spanish Marxists, well-led, and independent of Moscow." (10)

Joseph Stalin appointed Alexander Orlov as the Soviet Politburo adviser to the Popular Front government. Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. On 16th June, Andres Nin and the leaders of POUM were arrested. Also taken into custody were officials of those organisations considered to be under the influence of Trotsky, the National Confederation of Trabajo and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica. (11)

Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." Orlov later claimed that "the decision to perform an execution abroad, a rather risky affair, was up to Stalin personally. If he ordered it, a so-called mobile brigade was dispatched to carry it out. It was too dangerous to operate through local agents who might deviate later and start to talk." (12)

Orlov ordered the arrest of Nin. George Orwell explained what happened to Nin in his book, Homage to Catalonia (1938): "On 15 June the police had suddenly arrested Andres Nin in his office, and the same evening had raided the Hotel Falcon and arrested all the people in it, mostly militiamen on leave. The place was converted immediately into a prison, and in a very little while it was filled to the brim with prisoners of all kinds. Next day the P.O.U.M. was declared an illegal organization and all its offices, book-stalls, sanatoria, Red Aid centres and so forth were seized. Meanwhile the police were arresting everyone they could lay hands on who was known to have any connection with the P.O.U.M." (13)

Nin who was tortured for several days. Jesus Hernández, a member of the Communist Party, and Minister of Education in the Popular Front government, later admitted: "Nin was not giving in. He was resisting until he fainted. His inquisitors were getting impatient. They decided to abandon the dry method. Then the blood flowed, the skin peeled off, muscles torn, physical suffering pushed to the limits of human endurance. Nin resisted the cruel pain of the most refined tortures. In a few days his face was a shapeless mass of flesh." Nin was executed on 20th June 1937. (14)

Cecil D. Eby claims that Nin was murdered by "a German hit squad from the International Brigades". The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of the United States, reported that "individuals and cells of the enemy had been eliminated like infestations of termites." Eby goes on to argue that the "nearly maniacal purge of putative Trotskyists in the late spring of 1937" displaced the "war against Fascism". (15)

As George Orwell had been fighting with Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) he was identified as an anti-Stalinist and the NKVD attempted to arrest him. Orwell was now in danger of being murdered by communists in the Republican Army. With the help of the British Consul in Barcelona, Orwell, John McNair and Stafford Cottman were able to escape to France on 23rd June, 1937. (16)

Many of Orwell's fellow comrades were not so lucky and were captured and executed. When he arrived back in England he was determined to expose the crimes of Stalin in Spain. However, his left-wing friends in the media, rejected his articles, as they argued it would split and therefore weaken the resistance to fascism in Europe. He was particularly upset by his old friend, Kingsley Martin, the editor of the country's leading socialist journal, The New Statesman, for refusing to publish details of the killing of the anarchists and socialists by the communists in Spain. Left-wing and liberal newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian, News Chronicle and the Daily Worker, as well as the right-wing Daily Mail and The Times, joined in the cover-up. (17)

Orwell did managed to persuade the New English Weekly to publish an article on the reporting of the Spanish Civil War. "I honestly doubt, in spite of all those hecatombs of nuns who have been raped and crucified before the eyes of Daily Mail reporters, whether it is the pro-Fascist newspapers that have done the most harm. It is the left-wing papers, the News Chronicle and the Daily Worker, with their far subtler methods of distortion, that have prevented the British public from grasping the real nature of the struggle." (18)

In another article in the magazine he explained how in "Spain... and to some extent in England, anyone professing revolutionary Socialism (i.e. professing the things the Communist Party professed until a few years ago) is under suspicion of being a Trotskyist in the pay of Franco or Hitler... in England, in spite of the intense interest the Spanish war has aroused, there are very few people who have heard of the enormous struggle that is going on behind the Government lines. Of course, this is no accident. There has been a quite deliberate conspiracy to prevent the Spanish situation from being understood." (19)

George Orwell wrote about his experiences of the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia. The book was rejected by Victor Gollancz because of its attacks on Joseph Stalin. During this period Gollancz was accused of being under the control of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). He later admitted that he had come under pressure from the CPGB not to publish certain books in the Left Book Club: "When I got letter after letter to this effect, I had to sit down and deny that I had withdrawn the book because I had been asked to do so by the CP - I had to concoct a cock and bull story... I hated and loathed doing this: I am made in such a way that this kind of falsehood destroys something inside me." (20)

The book was eventually published by Frederick Warburg, who was known to be both anti-fascist and anti-communist, which put him at loggerheads with many intellectuals of the time. The book was attacked by both the left and right-wing press. Although one of the best books ever written about war, it sold only 1,500 copies during the next twelve years. As Bernard Crick has pointed out: "Its literary merits were hardly noticed... Some now think of it as Orwell's finest achievement, and nearly all critics see it as his great stylistic breakthrough: he became the serious writer with the terse, easy, vivid colloquial style." (21)

It is believed that Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov originally intended a trial in Spain on the model of the Moscow trials, based on the confessions of people like Nin. This idea was abandoned and instead several anti-Stalinists in Spain died in mysterious circumstances. This included Robert Smillie, the English journalist who was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), Erwin Wolf, ex-secretary of Trotsky, the Austrian socialist Kurt Landau, the journalist, Marc Rhein, the son of Rafael Abramovich, a former leader of the Mensheviks, and José Robles, a Spanish academic who held independent socialist views. (22)

The P.O.U.M. (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista) was one of those dissident Communist parties which have appeared in many countries in the last few years as a result of the opposition to 'Stalinism'; i.e. to the change, real or apparent, in Communist policy. It was made up partly ofex-Communist and partly of an earlier party, the Workers' and Peasants' Bloc. Numerically it was a small party, with not much influence outside Catalonia, and chiefly important because it contained an unusually high proportion of politically conscious members. In Catalonia its chief stronghold was Lerida. It did not represent any block of trade unions. The P.O.U.M. militiamen were mostly C.N.T. members, but the actual party-members generally belonged to the U.G.T. It was, however, only in the C.N.T. that the P.O.U.M. had any influence.

It must be explained, in order to make intelligible the attitude of the communist police, that Trotskyism is an obsession with the communists in Spain. As to real Trotskyism, as embodied in one section of the POUM, it definitely does not deserve the attention it gets, being quite a minor element of Spanish political life. Were it only for the real forces of the Trotskyists, the best thing for the communists to do would certainly be not to talk about them, as nobody else would pay any attention to this small and congenitally sectarian group. But the communists have to take account not only of the Spanish situation but of what is the official view about Trotskyism in Russia. Still, this is only one of the aspects of Trotskyism in Spain which has been artificially worked up by the communists. The peculiar atmosphere which today exists about Trotskyism in Spain is created, not by the importance of the Trotskyists themselves, nor even by the reflex of Russian events upon Spain; it derives from the fact that the communists have got into the habit of denouncing as a Trotskyist everybody who disagrees with them about anything. For in communist mentality, every disagreement in political matters is a major crime, and every political criminal is a Trotskyist. A Trotskyist, in communist vocabulary, is synonymous with a man who deserves to be killed. But as usually happens in such cases, people get caught themselves by their own demagogic propaganda. The communists, in Spain at least, are getting into the habit of believing that people whom they decided to call Trotskyists, for the sake of insulting them, are Trotskyists in the sense of co-operating with the Trotskyist political party. In this respect the Spanish communists do not differ in any way from the German Nazis. The Nazis call everybody who dislikes their political regime a 'communist' and finish by actually believing that all their adversaries are communists; the same happens with the communist propaganda against the Trotskyists. It is an atmosphere of suspicion and denunciation, whose unpleasantness it is difficult to convey to those who have not lived through it. Thus, in my case, I have no doubt that all the communists who took care to make things unpleasant for me in Spain were genuinely convinced that I actually was a Trotskyist.

Largo Caballero began to realize the need for immediate drastic action. As president of the U.G.T., he summoned the sub-leaders of this Revolutionary Socialist group and impressed upon them the desperateness of the situation. The result was a round-table conference among the U.G.T., the heads of the Syndicalists National Confederation of Labor (C.N.T.), The Federation of Iberian Anarchists (F.A.I.), The Trotsky Communists (Partido Obrero Unificado Marxists - P.O.U.M.), The Stalin Communists and the Left Republicans. In the first agreement which these divergent factions had been able to reach since the beginning of the war they approved the immediate mobilization of all able-bodied men in Loyalist territory. A decree to this effect was issued. Whether they wanted to join or not, all men between the ages of 20 and 45 were pressed into military service. From this moment on, the Loyalist army ceased to be a voluntary army.

The headquarters of the unified Marxist party (P.O.U.M.). It's late at night in a large bare office furnished with odds and ends of old furniture. At a bit battered fake Gothic desk out of somebody's library. Andres Nin sits at the telephone. I sit in a mangy overstuffed armchair. On the settee opposite me sits a man who used to be editor of a radical publishing house in Madrid. We talk in a desultory way with many pauses about old times in Madrid, about the course of the war. They are telling me about the change that has come over the population of Barcelona since the great explosion of revolutionary feeling that followed the attempted military coup d'etat and swept the fascists out of Catalonia in July. 'You can even see it in people's dress,' said Nin from the telephone laughing. 'Now we're beginning to wear collars and ties again but even a couple of months ago everybody was wearing the most extraordinary costumes... you'd see people on the street wearing feathers.'

Nin was wellbuilt and healthylooking and probably looked younger than his age; he had a ready childish laugh that showed a set of solid white teeth. From time to time as we were talking the telephone would ring and he would listen attentively with a serious face. Then he'd answer with a few words too rapid for me to catch and would hang up the receiver with a shrug of the shoulders and come smiling back into the conversation again. When he saw that I was begin- ning to frame a question he said, 'It's the villages. They want to know what to do.' 'About Valencia taking over the police services?' He nodded. 'What are they going to do?' 'Take a car and drive through the suburbs of Barcelona, you'll see that all the villages are barricaded. The committees are all out on the streets with machine guns.' Then he laughed. 'But maybe you had better not.'

'He'd be all right,' said the other man. 'They have great respect for foreign journalists.' 'Is it an organized movement?' 'It's complicated. in Bellver our people want to know whether they ought to move against the anarchists. In other places they are with them. You know Spain.'

It was time for me to push on. I shook hands with Nin and with a young Englishman who also is dead now, and went out into the rainy night. Since then Nin has been killed and his party suppressed.

I have spoken of the militia 'uniform', which probably gives a wrong impression. It was not exactly a uniform. Perhaps a 'multiform' would be the proper name for it. Everyone's clothes followed the same general plan, but they were never quite the same in any two cases. Practically everyone in the army wore corduroy knee-breeches, but there the uniformity ended. Some wore puttees, others corduroy gaiters, others leather leggings or high boots. Everyone wore a zipper jacket, but some of the jackets were of leather, others of wool and of every conceivable colour. The kinds of cap were about as numerous as their wearers. It was usual to adorn the front of your cap with a party badge, and in addition nearly every man wore a red or red and black handkerchief round his throat. A militia column at that time was an extraordinary-looking rabble. But the clothes had to be issued as this or that factory rushed them out, and they were not bad clothes considering the circumstances. The shirts and socks were wretched cotton things, however, quite useless against cold. I hate to think of what the militiamen must have gone through in the earlier months before anything was organized. I remember coming upon a newspaper of only about two months earlier in which one of the P.O.U.M. leaders, after a visit to the front, said that he would try to see to it that "every militiaman had a blankt"'. A phrase to make you shudder if you have ever slept in a trench.

On my second day at the barracks there began what was comically called 'instruction'. At the beginning there were frightful scenes of chaos. The recruits were mostly boys of sixteen or seventeen from the back streets of Barcelona, full of revolutionary ardour but completely ignorant of the meaning of war. It was impossible even to get them to stand in line. Discipline did not exist; if a man disliked an order he would step out of the ranks and argue fiercely with the officer. The lieutenant who instructed us was a stout, fresh-faced, pleasant young man who had previously been a Regular Army officer, and still looked like one, with his smart carriage and spick-and-span uniform. Curiously enough he was a sincere and ardent Socialist. Even more than the men themselves he insisted upon complete social equality between all ranks. I remember his pained surprise when an ignorant recruit addressed him as 'Senor'. 'What! Senor? Who is that calling me Senor? Are we not all comrades?' I doubt whether it made his job any easier. Meanwhile the raw recruits were getting no military training that could be of the slightest use to them. I had been told that foreigners were not obliged to attend 'instruction' (the Spaniards, I noticed, had a pathetic belief that all foreigners knew more of military matters than themselves), but naturally I turned out with the others. I was very anxious to learn how to use a machine-gun; it was a weapon I had never had a chance to handle. To my dismay I found that we were taught nothing about the use of weapons. The so-called instruction was simply parade-ground drill of the most antiquated, stupid kind; right turn, left turn, about turn, marching at attention in column of threes and all the rest of that useless nonsense which I had learned when I was fifteen years old. It was an extraordinary form for the training of a guerilla army to take. Obviously if you have only a few days in which to train a soldier, you must teach him the things he will most need; how to take cover, how to advance across open ground, how to mount guards and build a parapet - above all, how to use his weapons. Yet this mob of eager children, who were going to be thrown into the front line in a few days' time, were not even taught how to fire a rifle or pull the pin out of a bomb. At the time I did not grasp that this was because there were no weapons to be had. In the P.O.U.M. militia the shortage of rifles was so desperate that fresh troops reaching the front always had to take their rifles from the troops they relieved in the line. In the whole of the Lenin Barracks there were, I believe, no rifles except those used by the sentries.

Thousands of loudspeakers, set up in every public place in the towns and villages of Republican Spain, in the trenches all along the battlefront of the Republic, brought the message of the Communist Party at this fateful hour, straight to the soldiers and the struggling people of this hard-pressed hard-fighting Republic.

The speakers were Valdes, former Councillor of Public Works in the Catalan government, Uribe, Minister of Agriculture in the government of Spain, Diaz, Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, Pasionaria, and Hemandez, Minister of Education.

Then, as now, in the forefront of everything stand the Fascist menace to Bilbao and Catalonia.

There is a specially dangerous feature about the situation in Catalonia. We know now that the German and Italian agents, who poured into Barcelona ostensibly in order to "prepare" the notorious 'Congress of the Fourth International', had one big task. It was this:

They were - in co-operation with the local Trotskyists - to prepare a situation of disorder and bloodshed, in which it would be possible for the Germans and Italians to declare that they were "unable to exercise naval control on the Catalan coasts effectively" because of "the disorder prevailing in Barcelona", and were, therefore, "unable to do otherwise" than land forces in Barcelona.

In other words, what was being prepared was a situation in which the Italian and German governments could land troops or marines quite openly on the Catalan coasts, declaring that they were doing so "in order to preserve order".

That was the aim. Probably that is still the aim. The instrument for all this lay ready to hand for the Germans and Italians in the shape of the Trotskyist organisation known as the POUM.

The POUM, acting in cooperation with well-known criminal elements, and with certain other deluded persons in the anarchist organisations, planned, organised and led the attack in the rearguard, accurately timed to coincide with the attack on the front at Bilbao.

In the past, the leaders of the POUM have frequently sought to deny their complicity as agents of a Fascist cause against the People's Front. This time they are convicted out of their own mouths as clearly as their allies, operating in the Soviet Union, who confessed to the crimes of espionage, sabotage, and attempted murder against the government of the Soviet Union.

Copies of La Batalla, issued on and after 2 May, and the leaflets issued by the POUM before and during the killings in Barcelona, set down the position in cold print.

In the plainest terms the POUM declares it is the enemy of the People's Government. In the plainest terms it calls upon its followers to turn their arms in the same direction as the Fascists, namely, against the government of the People's Front and the anti-fascist fighters.

900 dead and 2,500 wounded is the figure officially given by Diaz as the total in terms of human slaughter of the POUM attack in Barcelona.

It was not, by any means, Diaz pointed out, the first of such attacks. Why was it, for instance, that at the moment of the big Italian drive at Guadalajara, the Trotskyists and their deluded anarchist friends attempted a similar rising in another district? Why was it that the same thing happened two months before at the time of the heavy Fascist attack at Jarama, when, while Spaniards and Englishmen, and honest anti-fascists of every nation in Europe, were being killed holding Arganda Bridge the Trotskyist swine suddenly produced their arms 200 kilometres from the front, and attacked in the rear?

Tomorrow the antifascist forces of the Republic will start rounding up all those scores of concealed weapons which ought to be at the front and are not.

The decree ordering this action affects the whole of the Republic. It is, however, in Catalonia that its effects are likely to be the most interesting and important.

With it, the struggle to "put Catalonia on a war footing", which has been going on for months and was resisted with open violence by the POUM and its friends in the first week of May, enters a new phase.

This weekend may well be a turning-point. If the decree is successfully carried out it means:

First: That the groups led by the POUM who rose against the government last week will lose their main source of strength, namely, their arms.

Second: That, as a result of this, their ability to hamper by terrorism the efforts of the antifascist workers to get the war factories on to a satisfactory basis will be sharply reduced.

Third: That the arms at present hidden will be available for use on the front, where they are badly needed.

Fourth: That in future those who steal arms from the front or steal arms in transit to the front will be liable to immediate arrest and trial as ally of the fascist enemy.

Included in the weapons which have to be turned in are rifles, carbines, machine-guns, machine-pistols, trench mortars, field guns, armoured cars, hand-grenades, and all other sorts of bombs.

The list gives you an idea of the sort of armaments accumulated by the Fascist conspirators and brought into the open for the first time last week.

A tremendous dust was kicked up in the foreign antifascist press, but, as usual only one side of the case has had anything like a hearing. As a result the Barcelona fighting has been represented as an insurrection by disloyal Anarchists and Trotskyists who were "stabbing the Spanish Government in the back" and so forth. The issue was not quite so simple as that. Undoubtedly when you are at war with a deadly enemy it is better not to begin fighting among yourselves - but it is worth remembering that it takes two to make a quarrel and that people do not begin building barricades unless they have received samething that they regard as a provocation.

In the Communist and pro-Communist press the entire blame for the Barcelona fighting was laid upon the P.O.U.M. The affair was represented not as a spontaneous outbreak, but as a deliberate, planned insurrection against the Government, engineered solely by the P.O.U.M. with the aid of a few misguided 'uncontrollables'. More than this, it was definitely a Fascist plot, carried out under Fascist orders with the idea of starting civil war in the rear and thus paralysing the Government. was 'Franco's Fifth Column' - a 'Trotskyist' organization working in league with the Fascists.

Prospects for the future of the Republic were quite good as a sort of a liberal progressive administration. Nobody could call it anything other than that. It wasn't a Government of Socialists. The Republican Government was a Government more or less of Liberals, with Socialists and supporting Communists and so on. And the terrible crime of the P.O.U.M. in my view was that they tried to foster the idea that this was a revolutionary war. It wasn't a revolutionary war. It never had any signs of a revolutionary war. The people of Spain were not revolutionary in the sense of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. They were people concerned to expel the Italians and the Germans from their territory, which was a revolt against an invasion by foreigners into their territory, a foreign invasion which was sponsored by the handful of generals led by Franco. I think it was a great tragedy that at a certain period in the struggle there was fighting behind the lines, instigated in my view by those who believed that it was a revolutionary struggle. And this has got to be clearly understood: it wasn't a revolutionary struggle. It had none of the elements of a revolutionary struggle. It was a struggle for the expulsion of foreign invaders. But the lack of unity ensuing created a terrible handicap.

Early in May 1937 news reached the front of the fighting in the streets of Barcelona between supporters of the POUM aided by some Anarchists, on the one hand, and Government forces on the other. The POUM, who had always been hostile to unity, talked of "beginning the struggle for working-class power."

The news of the fighting was greeted with incredulity consternation and then extreme anger by the International Brigaders. No supporters of the Popular Front Government could conceive of raising the slogan of "socialist revolution" when that Government was fighting for its life against international fascism, the power of whose war-machine was a harsh reality a couple of hundred yards across no-man's-land. The anger in the Brigade against those who fought the Republic in the rear was sharpened by reports of weapons, even tanks, being kept from the front and hidden for treacherous purposes.

Many advanced workers, disillusioned with the Socialists and Stalinists, have been willing to believe that in the P.O.U.M. there is some hope that the workers will be able to surmount their difficulties and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and a socialist regime. They point out that the most influential leader, Andreas Nin, was closely connected with Trotsky for many years and was a strong adherent of the theory of peasant revolution. They show that the P.O.U.M. in contradistinction to the other parties in Spain, has called for the rule of the workers, even for Soviets, and has steadily maintained its independence from the other opportunistic organizations.

On the other hand there are those workers who assert that the P.O.U.M. was willing to become a part of the capitalist Catalonian government and that no revolutionary party could possibly have taken such a move. They also declare that the Catalonian government, being capitalist, was as bad as the Madrid government and both were reactionary and against the working class.

In the light of this polemic, it seems to us that the best way to treat the question of revolutionary policy as involved as the actions of P.O.U.M. is to take up the following basic questions:

1. What is the character of the present governments of Madrid and of Catalonia; is it correct to call these governments "reactionary"?

2. Can a revolutionary party at any time enter a government such as that which exists in Madrid or Catalonia?

3. Can the Spanish workers rest their hopes upon the P.O.U.M.?

It seems to us entirely incorrect to estimate the present governments either of Madrid or of Catalonia as "reactionary". Certainly they are not reactionary from the point of view of the bourgeoisie. The present republican-democratic set-up can not be compared with the regime under Alphonso XIII. It is not the habit of Marxists to use the term "reactionary" as a mere expletive. The word "reactionary" means something: it means going backward. A reactionary system is one that would move the social order backward bringing back outworn techniques and methods of production and outworn political forms and social customs.. Alphonso XIII and his forces are clearly reactionary in that sense of the word since they rested state power upon the old feudal grandees and a system of production that was stifling Spain.

The government in Madrid, from the angle of the capitalists, is far from reactionary, since this government intends to unleash all the productive forces of Spain for their benefit. Power will shift from the country to the city, from agriculture to industry, from the landlord to the industrialists and modern capitalist elements. From the capitalist point of view the victory of the present Madrid or Catalonian government means the beginning of the modernization of Spain.

To draw an historical analogy: It might be said that the present Madrid government stands to Alphonso XIII as the French Revolitionary government stood to Louis XVI. There is, however, this vast distinction. In the 18th century the French Revolutionary Government, operating on behalf of modern capitalism, could not help be progressive and clear the road for the new social order. In the 20th century, there has appeared on the horizon a new class, a working class that should be able to make an independent bid for power. No longer tied to the apron strings of capital, the proletariat of Spain is ready to modernize Spain not in the capitalist sense but in the socialist sense. And thus the modernization of Spain in the capitalist sense has to be the work not of a progressive government but of forces that stifle and crush the revolutionary proletariat and the toiling masses.

Many of those who wish to modernize Spain from a bourgeois point of view are now with the forces of Franco precisely for this reason. The insurgents are not of one piece; there are the Carlists and the Bourbonists, but there are also the fascists. The fascists do not wish to bring back the old Spain that has been irrevocably destroyed. They too wish essentially to industrialize and modernize Spain, but they understand clearly that no longer is this the job of revolution - as was the case in France in 1789 - but of counter-revolution.

In this the counter-revolutionary fascists disagree violently with their capitalist brethren who are still behind the Madrid government. The capitalists of the Madrid government who are in the Left Republican Parties, believe that the workers can be controlled, that they will not make a bid for power and that therefore the Madrid government can become, like the government of present day England or of France, a fine vehicle for the development of capital. The fascist capitalists, however, believe that the day is too late for this, that democratic control is too weak, that the working class can no longer be restrained and that the first job of the day is to crush the aspirations of the masses for Socialism. Only thus can capitalism be revived in Spain.

Here, then, are the exploiting classes divided. Generally speaking, it is the big capitalists of heavy industry and the financiers that take the side of the fascists; the landowners go with the monarchists; both units against the present Madrid regime. It is the petty bourgeoisie and the factory owners of small and light industry that tend to support the Madrid Republic or at least not openly fight against it.

Nor can it be said that even from the workers' point of view that either the Catalonian government or the Madrid government was "reactionary". Were these governments engaged in shooting down the working class and putting down the lower orders, were the masses ready to push the revolution forward to socialism and were being kept back by the broad might of these governments, then it might be said that these governments were reactionary in the sense that they were preventing the people from building Socialism, the only system of society that could improve upon the moribund capitalism of the present.

But the fact of the matter is, the masses are more or less imprisoned by the opportunism of the Socialists and Stalinists on the one hand, and the Anarchists and Syndicalists on the other. The Socialists and Stalinists have openly declared that they are not fighting for Socialism but merely for bourgeois democracy. They have become ardent bourgeois democrats and republicans and have no other thought than loyal support of the status quo that was being attacked by the rebel reactionaries. The Socialists and Stalinists do not want Socialism, they do not want even workers' control over production. They make no move to socialize the industries. They do not form Soviets. They do not resists the formation of a new capitalist army under the control of bourgeois officers. They do not break from the Azanas and the Companys, bourgeois leaders of the Madrid and Catelonian governments. They make no effort to carry the revolution forward for the benefit of the people. Instead they carry on bitter war against the Left Wing, especially the P.O.U.M. that tends to go in the revolutionary direction.

The Anarchists also have come out strongly against the dictatorship of the proletariat and it was for this reason that the Anarcho-Syndicalists of the C.N.T. refused to participate in the Asturias revolt of 1934 and quietly saw their own brethren shot down by the Madrid government of those days because the workers refused to pledge themselves to the Asturias revolt that they would not take the power and inaugurate Socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Today, together with the Socialists and Stalinists, the Anarchists and Syndicalists have also become part of the governmental forces of Madrid and of Catalonia. These Anarchists, who would not fight for the rule of the workers, are quit ready to give their lives for the continuance of Madrid rule, and thus they prove to be basically one with the petty-bourgeois reformists of the Socialist and Stalinist parties.

In the light of the fact that all of the big proletarian organizations, Anarchist, Syndicalist, Socialist and Stalinist support the present governments of Madrid and of Catalonia, it is difficult to call these governments reactionary. They would be reactionary only if the mass organizations were ready to go forward beyond the present capitalist system and were throwing themselves against this government. But for this there would have to be a genuinely revolutionary party guiding the masses. Up to the present, unfortunately, this is not the case; the masses through their organizations are heartily supporting the governmental regimes.

But if the Madrid and Catalonian governments are not reactionary, this does not mean that they are not capitalistic. For anyone to idealize the Madrid governments or the Left Madrid government that exists in Catalonia would be to make a criminal error. There is no such thing as a government without classes and class domination. The class that dominates Madrid and to a weaker degree Catalonia, is the capitalist class.

It is true there has been some talk of socialization of the factories in Catalonia and also in Madrid, but the Socialists and Stalinists have seen to it that it is mostly talk. There have been some spontaneous seizures of the factories by the workers and a degree of worker control over them, but private property in the means of production is still retained intact, on the whole. Foreign property is carefully protected; the property of the agrarian landholder is assured, the petty-bourgeoisie is quieted. During the present civil war, there may have to be some severe measures of confiscation, some degree of nationalization of industry and public utilities, as there was in the days of the Jacobins of the 18th century in France, but the system of private property remains secure. That is the situation today where the Republicans control.

I must express the sense of shame which I now feel as a man. The same day that the fascists are busy shooting the women of Asturias, there appeared in the French paper a protest against injustice. But these people did not protest against the butchers of Asturias but rather against the republic who dares to detain fascists and provocateurs of the POUM.

Juan Negrin, former Minister of Treasury under Largo and a friend of the foreign correspondents, was named Premier to succeed Largo. I had known Negrin for several years and sincerely admired him. Even after the stocky, bespectacled multi-linguist became a cabinet minister he continued his nightly visits to the Miami bar for his after-dinner liqueur. I often chatted with him there, getting angles on the financial situation.

The presence of a moderate Socialist at the head of the new government was a boon to the regime because it strengthened the fiction of a "democratic" government abroad. Largo's ouster, however, produced fresh troubles. Feeling much stronger after its critical first test of strength against the Catalonian Anarcho-Syndicalists, the government had ousted the Anarchist members of the Catalonian Generalitat government and followed this up by excluding the Anarcho-Syndicalists from representation in the new Negrin cabinet.

Largo, it had been thought, would step down gracefully, but, bitterly disappointed and angry, the former Premier immediately began plotting his return to power. The Anarchists, equally bitter at their being deprived of a voice in government, suddenly threw their support to Largo, who adopted as his new campaign slogan the Anarchist cry "We want our social revolution now."

Largo has another important, if less powerful, ally, in the outlawed P.O.U.M. Trotskyites. The disappearance and reported murder of the Trotskyite leader, Andres Nin, added to the bitterness of the P.O.U.M. Nin, one of the foremost revolutionaries in Spain, was arrested last June when the government, at the behest of the Stalin Communists, raided the P.O.U.M. headquarters in Barcelona and arrested many of the members.

It was announced that Nin had been taken first to Valencia and then to Madrid for imprisonment pending trial. When the P.O.U.M., supported by the Anarchists and many of Largo's extreme Socialists, became more and more insistent in their demands that Nin be produced and tried, and the government was unable to dodge the issue any longer, it issued a communiqué to the effect that Nin had "escaped" from the Madrid prison with his guards. Even the Anarchist newspapers were obliged to print this version, but Anarchist and Trotskyite circles were convinced that Nin was murdered enroute to Madrid, and he became a martyr.

Largo regards the present government as bourgeois and counter-revolutionary, and is frankly working for its overthrow. With the opposition to the Negrin government now three-way, neutral observers do not believe that a decisive program can long be avoided. The well-disciplined Communists supporting the Negrin cabinet are confident that if an open fight eventuates, as it seems likely to do either before or after the war, it will have the support of a large percentage of Loyalist Spain. The government will be able to count on its "army within an army." Whether this will be able to cope with the powerful labor unions supporting Largo is problematical.

In the Spring of 1937 an organization called the POUM instigated an armed insurrection in Barcelona against the government of the Republic. Consisting of Spanish Trotskyists and Anarchists, the POUM claimed the revolt was an effort at proletarian revolution and the immediate abolition of capitalism in Spain. The government, whose premier was a Socialist, looked upon the uprising as a stab in the back, as treason in the midst of a war against fascism, and proceeded to crush it. We in the International Brigade did not participate in Spain's internal politics and the POUM putsch did not directly affect our units then fighting at the front, but we considered the counter-measures of the government entirely reasonable.

There is a vogue today, set by the late George Orwell, to say the POUM should have been supported and that the government was wrong to crush it. This would mean that the Spanish government should have let itself be overthrown. A comparable situation - perhaps easier for Americans to understand - would be if a group of radicals had organized an armed uprising in Chicago against the Roosevelt government in 1944 when our troops were landing in Normandy. It is hard not to feel that the present-day champions of the POUM seem to want to out-Bolshevik the Bolsheviks.

The POUM claimed that the issue in Spain was proletarian revolution. But this was what the supporters of Franco also claimed, although from the opposite direction. On the other hand, the government and the Communists declared the only issue was democracy versus fascism, and they acted accordingly. Those who think the POUM could have saved Spain should ponder whether the western powers which refused aid to the democratic capitalist government would have helped a revolutionary anti-capitalist POUM regime.

I find it strange, too, that some persons who condemn the Czech Communists for having taken over full power in their country in 1948, can condone the attempt of the POUM to take over in Spain in the mid9t of a life-and-death struggle with fascism.

(1) Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (2003) page 289

(2) Patricia Knight, The Spanish Civil War (1998) page 45

(3) George Orwell, Notes on the Spanish Militias (1937)

(4) Michael Shelden, Orwell: The Authorised Biography (1991) page 275

(5) D. Taylor, Orwell the Life (2004) page 202

(6) John McNair, George Orwell: The Man I Knew (March, 1965)

(7) Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life (1980) page 208

(8) John McNair, George Orwell: The Man I Knew (March, 1965)

(9) George Orwell, letter to Victor Gollancz (9th May, 1937)

(10) The New Leader (30th April, 1937)

(11) George Orwell, letter to Cyril Connolly (8th June, 1937)

(12) Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (2003) page 507

(13) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) pages 330-330

(14) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 392

(15) George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938) page 159

(16) Jesus Hernandez, The Country of the Big Lie (1973)

(17) Cecil D. Eby, Comrades and Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War (2007) page 168

(18) Fenner Brockway, Outside the Right (1963) page 25

(19) Michael Shelden, Orwell: The Authorised Biography (1991) page 305

(20) George Orwell, New English Weekly (29th July, 1937)

(21) George Orwell, New English Weekly (2nd September, 1937)

(22) Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz: A Biography (1987) page 246

(23) Bernard Crick, George Orwell : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(24) Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (2003) pages 684-685


Workers' Party of Marxist Unification

The Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM, Spanish: "Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista" Catalan: "Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista") was a Spanish communist political party formed during the Second Republic, and mainly active around the time of the Spanish Civil War . It was formed by the fusion of the Trotskyist Communist Left of Spain ("Izquierda Comunista de España", ICE) and the Workers' and Peasants Bloc (BOC, affiliated with the Right Opposition ) against the will of Leon Trotsky , with whom the former broke.

POUM was formed as a communist opposition to Stalinism in 1935 by Andreu Nin and Joaquín Maurín , being heavily influenced by the thinking of Trotsky , in particular his " Permanent Revolution " thesis. The party was larger than the official Communist Party of Spain (PCE) (and its wing, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia , PSUC) in Catalonia and the Land of Valencia . It was highly critical of the " Popular Front " strategy advocated by Joseph Stalin and the Comintern . However, they did take part in the Spanish Popular Front initiated by the leader of Acción Republicana , Manuel Azaña . The POUM tried to implement some of its radical policies as part of the "Popular Front" government, but these were resisted by the more moderate factions. The political disagreement would cause Nin to leave the government.

During the Civil War the party began to grow in popularity and, alongside the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), commanded the support of most of the proletariat in the zone not controlled by Francisco Franco 's forces during the war. The British author George Orwell fought alongside members of the Independent Labour Party as part of the POUM militias, an experience recounted vividly in his book " Homage to Catalonia ". Likewise, the film " Land and Freedom ", directed by Ken Loach , tells of a group of POUM soldiers fighting in the war from the perspective of a British member of the British Communist Party, and deals in particular with his disillusionment with Soviet Union policy in the war.

Conflict with the Popular Front

The POUM's support of Trotsky and opposition to Stalin caused huge ruptures between them and the PCE, still unswervingly loyal to the Comintern. These divisions, particularly the accusation of Trotskyism (and even Fascism ) by the Communists, manifested themselves in actual fighting between their supporters, most notably in the events Barcelona May Days of 1937 , when the POUM was attacked by a mostly-Communist coalition of government forces, which included the Guardia Civil. While the much larger CNT initially supported the POUM, its more militant members such as Juan García Oliver and the Friends of Durruti were pushed towards conciliation by the moderate leadership. This left the POUM isolated along with the purely Trotskyist Seccion Bolshevik-Leninista , and both organisations were driven underground and in exile. While Nin was detained and executed, his party was consistently deemed "provocateur" in Stalinist propaganda .

International links

The POUM was a member of the " London Bureau " of socialist parties that rejected both the reformism of the Second International and the pro-Moscow orientation of the Third International . Other members included the Independent Labour Party in Britain, the PSOP in France and Poale Zion . Its youth wing was affiliated to the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations , through which it recruited the ILP Contingent of partisans in the Civil War.

* Iberian Communist Youth
* George Orwell's " Homage to Catalonia ", a memoir of his military service with the POUM militia

* The [http://www.fundanin.org/ Fundación Andreu Nin] has a Spanish-language site containing an extensive collection of documents, biographical notes, and links related to the POUM. English texts include:
** [http://www.fundanin.org/solano29.htm Wilebaldo Solano "The Spanish Revolution: The Life of Andreu Nin" ILP, Leeds, 1974]
* Hernández, Jesús, [http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Pamph/NKVD.html "How the NKVD Framed the POUM"] . Memoir of PCE minister in Republican Governments of Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín . Translated. Excerpted from "Yo fui un ministro de Stalin". 339 pages. G. del Toro, Mexico, 1974. ISBN 84-312-0187-8. Reprinted online by [http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Pubs.html What Next?"] Marxist journal. Retrieved May 11, 2005.
* Nin, Andrés, [http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/History/Maydays.html "The May Days in Barcelona"] . Originally published as "El significado y alcance de las jornadas de mayo frente a la contrarrevolución". Central Committee of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM). Retrieved May 11, 2005.
* Nin, Andrés, [http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/History/Nin2.html "The Political Situation and the Tasks of the Proletariat"] . June 1937. Translation by David Beetham, ed., "Marxists in Face of Fascism". Manchester University Press , 1983. ISBN 0-389-20485-4. Retrieved May 11, 2005.

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The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) - History

Why do tens of millions in the West prostrate themselves before advancing, conquering, oppressive Islam?

Why do millions of Americans still vote for the Democratic Party?

This essay offers a chilling explanation.

It is from Jihad Watch, by Alexander Maistrovoy:

“Progressive man” refuses to recognize the crimes of Islam, not because he is naive, fine-tempered or tolerant. He does it because, unconsciously or subconsciously, he has already accepted Islam as a religion of salvation. As he accepted Stalinism, Hitlerism, Maoism and the “Khmer Rouge” before it

Joseph de Maistre, a French aristocrat of the early 19th century, argued that man cannot live without religion, and not religion as such, but the tyrannical and merciless one. He was damned and hated, they called him an antipode of progress and freedom, even a forerunner of fascism however, progressives proved him right again and again.

It may be true of most people that they “cannot live without religion”, but it is not true of all. We wonder how, since the Enlightenment, and especially now in our Age of Science, people can live with a religion. We agree, however, that those who need a religion are not put off by its being “tyrannical and merciless”.

Is there a religion, whether deity-worshiping or secular, that is not tyrannical and merciless?

In their nihilistic ecstasy, Homo progressicus threw God off the pedestal, trampled upon the humanistic ideal of Petrarch, Alberti and Leonardo Bruni, who relied on Reason and strove for virtue, and … found themselves in complete and gaping emptiness. They realized that they could not live without the God-man — the idol, the leader, the ruler, who would rely on the unshakable, ruthless idea of salvation — not in the other world, but in this real world here and now. And with all the passion so inherent to their shallow, unstable, infantile nature, they rushed out in search of their “prince on a white horse”.

The idols of the progressives were tyrants armed with the most progressive ideology: Robespierre, and after him Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and finally — Islam.

Islam does not, of course, claim to be “progressive”. It derives from – and is stuck in – the Dark Ages. But the self-styled progressives of the West are welcoming it and submitting to it.

In the 20th century, the Western intelligentsia was infected with red and brown bacilli.

Walter Duranty ardently denied the Holodomor.

That is Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine that killed many millions. Walter Duranty denied that it was happening in his New York Times reports.

Bernard Shaw and Romain Rolland justified OGPU terror and the kangaroo court in Moscow Aragon, Barbusse (the author of the apologetic biography of Stalin: Stalin. A New World Seen Through the Man) and Jean-Richard Bloch glorified “the Father of nations”.

“I would do nothing against Stalin at the moment I accepted the Moscow trials and I am prepared to accept those in Barcelona,” said Andre Malraux during the massacre of anarchists from POUM [the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification] by Communists in Barcelona in 1937.

Let’s guess: who is writing about whom? “Lonely overbearing man … damned disagreeable”, “friendly and commonplace”, possessing “an intelligence far beyond dogmatism” … “sucked thoughtfully at the pipe he had most politely asked my permission to smokeI have never met a man more fair, candid, and honest”. Got it? It was Stalin, as portrayed by H. G. Wells.

How many sufferings – Solzhenitsyn recalled — were caused by progressive Western journalists, who after having visited the GULAG, praised Potemkin villages with allegedly heated barracks where political prisoners used to read Soviet newspapers sitting at clean neat tables? Indeed, Arthur Ransome (The Guardian), an American journalist and a fan of Mao, Agnes Smedley, New York reporter Lincoln Steffens (after the meeting with Lenin he wrote,“I have seen the future and it works”), Australian-British journalist Leonore Winter (the author of the book called Red Virtue: Human Relations in the New Russia) and many others sympathized with the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union. Juan Benet, a famous Spanish writer, suggested “strengthening the guards (in GULAG), so that people like Solzhenitsyn would not escape”. The Los Angeles Times published Alexander and Andrew Cockburn, who were Stalin’s admirers.

Hitler? Knut Hamsun, Norwegian novelist who won the Nobel Prize, described Hitler in an obituary as a “fighter for humanity and for the rights of all nations”. The “amorousness” of Martin Heidegger for the “leader of the Third Reich” is well known. In the 1930s, the Führer was quite a respectable person in the eyes of the mass media. Anne O’Hare McCormick – a foreign news correspondent for the New York Times (she got a Pulitzer Prize) — described Hitler after the interview with him: he is “a rather shy and simple man, younger than one expects, more robust, taller … His eyes are almost the color of the blue larkspur in a vase behind him, curiously childlike and candid … His voice is as quiet as his black tie and his double-breasted black suit … Herr Hitler has the sensitive hand of the artist.”

The French elites were fascinated by Hitler. Ferdinand Celine said that France would not go to “Jewish war”, and claimed that there was an international Jewish conspiracy to start the world war. French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet rendered honors to Ribbentrop, and novelist, essayist and playwright Jean Giraudoux said that he was “fully in agreement with Hitler when he states that a policy only reaches its highest form when it is racial”.

The Red Guards of Chairman Mao caused deadly convulsions in China and ecstatic [sympathetic] rage in Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Jan Myrdal, Charles Bettelheim, Alain Badiou and Louis Pierre Althusser. In Paris, Barbusse and Aragon created “the pocket monster” — Enver Hoxha [Communist dictator of Albania] at Sorbonne University, Sartre worked out “the Khmer Rouge Revolution” of Pol Pot, Hu Nima, and Ieng Sary. Noam Chomsky characterized the proofs of Pol Pot’s genocide as “third rate” and complained of a “vast and unprecedented propaganda campaign against the Khmer Rouge”. Gareth Porter, winner of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, said in May 1977: “The notion that the leadership of Democratic Kampuchea adopted a policy of physically eliminating whole classes of people was … a myth.”

In the 70’s, the whole world already knew the truth about the Red Guards. However, German youth from the Socialist Union of German Students went out on demonstrations with portraits of the “Great Helmsman” and the song “The East is Red”.

In the USA, they went into the streets holding red flags and portraits of Trotsky and Che Guevara, and dream of “Fucking the System” like their idol Abbie Hoffman. The hatred of “petty bourgeois philistines”, as Trotsky named ordinary people, together with the dream of guillotines, bayonets, and “red terror”, keep inspiring Western intellectuals like Tariq Ali, the author of the revolutionary manual Trotsky for Beginners.

“The middle class turned out to be captured by ‘bourgeois-bohemian Bolshevism’,” Pascal Bruckner wrote.

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot passed away, but new heroes appeared in their places. Leading employees of CNN – reporter Peter Arnett, producer Robert Wiener and director of news department Eason T. Jordan – had excellent relations with close associates of Saddam Hussein, pretending they didn’t know anything about his atrocities. Hollywood stars set up a race of making pilgrimages to Castro and Chavez. Neo-Marxist professors and progressive intellectuals, such as Dario Fo, Jean Baudrillard and Martin Amis, welcomed the triumph of al-Qaeda on September 11.

The romanticization of the “forged boot” and “iron hand”, the worship of “lonely overbearing” men with “the sensitive hand of the artist” — this explains the amazing easiness with which recent anarchists, pacifists, Marxists, atheists, after having changed a couple of ideologies, burden themselves with the most primitive, barbaric and despotic religion of our time: Islam.

Atheists of the Left only, being atheists who dispense with belief in the supernatural but still need a religion.

What they crave for is not religion as such. They don’t want Buddhism, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, or even the mild Islam of the Sufi or Ahmadiyya version. They want a religion that would crush them, rape their bodies and souls, and destroy their ego — one that would terrify them and make them tremble with fear, infirmity and impotence.

Only bloodthirsty medieval Islam is able to do this today. It alone possesses unlimited cruelty and willingness to burn everything on its way. And they gather like moths flying to the flame: communists Roger Garaudy, “Carlos the Jackal”, Trond Ali Linstad, Malcolm X, Alys Faiz human rights defenders Jemima Goldsmith, Keith Ellison, and Uri Davis, the fighter against Zionism for the rights of the Palestinians. Fathers favor Castro, such as Oliver Stone their sons accept Islam, such as Sean Stone. According to a public opinion poll conducted in August 2014 (Madeline Grant, Newsweek), “16% of French citizens support ISIS”. There are 7% to 8% of Muslims living in France. Who makes up the rest 8% to 9%?

Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn, John Brennan, Hollywood stars, Ylva Johansson, Sweden’s Integration Minister, who like her boss Stefan Löfven claimed that “there was no connection between crime and immigration” Michael Fabricant, a former vice-chair of the Tory party, who said that “some conservative Anglicans are the same as ISIS” German politicians that established a media watchdog to “instruct the press to censor ethnicity and religion in crime reports” (a modification of Soviet censure) the Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Phillips, who believes that it is inevitable to recognize Sharia courts in Great Britain atheist-apologist for Islam (O my God!) CJ Werleman Canadian Liberals, who support the anti-Islamophobia motion Georgetown professor Jonathan Brown, who justifies slavery and raping of female slaves Wendy Ayres-Bennett, a UK professor who is urging Brits to learn Urdu and Punjabi to make Muslim migrants feel welcome Ohio State University, that offered a course on “how Muslims helped build America” the Swedish state-owned company Lernia encouraging the replacement of standard Swedish with the “migrant-inclusive accent” American feminists with the slogans “Allahu akbar” and “I love Islam”, who endorse the BDS movement Swedish feminists wearing burkas in Iran “proud feminists” such as Elina Gustafsson and Gudrun Schyman defending Muslim criminals who raped Swedish girls – all of them and thousands of others have already converted to Islam, if not de jure, then de facto.

They appeal to Islam to escape from their fears, complexes, helplessness, and uselessness. They choose the despotism of body and spirit to deprive themselves of their freedom – the freedom that has always been an unbearable burden for their weak souls full of chimeras. They crave slavery.

They are attracted by Islam today, but it’s not about Islam. It’s about them. If Islam is defeated tomorrow and a new Genghis Khan appears with the “religion of the steppe”, or the kingdom of the Aztecs rises with priests tearing hearts from the chest of living people, they will passionately rush into their embrace. They are yearning for tyranny, and will destroy everything on their way for the sake of it. Because of them, “we shall leave this world here just as stupid and evil as we found it upon arrival”. (Voltaire)


The POUM, in their own words

On my first day in Barcelona during a trip a few years ago, I was walking down the fabled Ramblas street. Barcelona is a very dynamic city, with a much more "European" feel than Madrid, and there's quite a lot to draw your attention. But it was a municipal library which caught my eye more than anything else, and stands out to this day: the Biblioteca Andreu Nin. When I asked the librarian inside, she explained that this was where the POUM's headquarters had been during the Spanish Civil War, "hasta que lo desmantelaron", until they dismantled it.

The POUM, or the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (the name is only slightly less clunky in Spanish) is best known in the English-speaking world as the party whose militias George Orwell fought with during the Civil War. Fans of Ken Loach will also remember that this party was central in Land and Freedom. Yet, although the Spanish Civil War is second only to the Russian Revolution as a historical reference for sect-ists of all types, the reference is always to the dramatic moments and the assorted leaders, with very little attention paid to what the mass of participants, including those in organizations, were thinking or doing.

"Until they dismantled it" - "they" here does not refer to the fascists headed by General Franco, but to the Spanish Republican State, under the influence or domination of the Soviet Union. There's a common refrain in Anarchist milieux that "Leninism" is in itself inherently counter-revolutionary, that all "Leninists" will always repress "Anarchists", and that the proof lies in the repression of the Red Army against revolutionary Ukraine in 1918-1920, or of Republican Spain against the CNT during the Civil War. And yet the POUM were repressed alongside the CNT in Spain, despite being "Leninists" just like the advisors from Stalin's NKVD. In fact, they were repressed first, as a test of strength for the government before going after the CNT, not to mention that the CNT leadership had bought itself some time after the showdown of May 1937 by calling for the working class to lay down its arms - a compromise which the POUM did not make. Without denying that there are definitely counter-revolutionary ideologies and positions, perhaps materialists would also do well to look at the relationship to the means of production when we ask how a party or individual transitions from revolution to counter-revolution.

The POUM is generally not discussed in those narratives, and certainly not in detail. When they are mentioned, one almost gets the impression that the POUM were anarchists without knowing it, that their Marxism was nothing more than an embarassing accident, and that they were simply unaware of the counter-revolutionary path that it would inevitably lead them on. Very conveniently for this narrative, there is almost nothing about the POUM's activity or set of ideas available in English. (A notable exception is the hard to find Spanish Marxism vs Soviet Communism, also by Victor Alba.) Today, on May 4th, it seems appropriate to mention what happened on May 4th, 1937. From Wikipedia:

At eleven o'clock the delegates of the CNT met and agreed to do everything possible to restore calm. Meanwhile, the anarchist leaders Joan García Oliver and Federica Montseny heard an appeal on the radio asking to their followers to lay down their weapons and return to their jobs. Jacinto Toryho, director of the CNT newspaper Solidaridad Obrera, expressed the same sentiment. [. ] By five in the afternoon, several anarchists were killed by the police near the Via Durruti (current Via Laietana). The POUM began to support resistance publicly.

It was on that same trip, at a CNT-affiliated bookstore called La Rosa de Foc, that I ran across an old paperback whose title caught my eye: La Revolución Española en la Práctica. Documentos del POUM. I bought it without hesitation. When I had time to crack it open, I was engrossed. As an anthology, it is in a genre which must have very few other members: a collection of documents dealing with the problems of a revolution, made by participants in that revolution, during the process of the revolution itself. The documents deal with concrete problems of agriculture and industry, public health and the military situation, the dynamics of the various workers' organizations and of the growing reactionary influence of the Soviet Union in Republican Spain. They were not written ahead of time, full of references to Lenin, nor were they handed down from the Party leadership. They read very well even today, and I would say they are worth reading for more than just historical interest. I would like at some point to translate some of these documents - as Victor Alba states in the introduction, which I have translated below, they have a refreshing mix of realism and idealism.

But I'll try to let Victor speak for himself, as I think he's more than capable. As he says, when something is thought through clearly, it is expressed clearly. I'll make only a few other points here. First, there is a common thought that revolutionaries should form organizations based primarily on their specific ideas, and that the organization's actual relationship to the class struggle is only a secondary matter. The problem, when the only discernible difference between one organization and another is a slightly different set of ideas, is that any new ideas in either organization will logically lead to a split. As Hal Draper put it in The Anatomy of the Micro-Sect,

As long as the life of the organization (whether or not labeled “party”) is actually based on its politically distinctive ideas, rather than on the real social struggles in which it is engaged, it will not be possible to suppress the clash of programs requiring different actions in support of different forces. The key question becomes the achievement of a mass base, which is not just a numerical matter but a matter of class representation. Given a mass base in the social struggle, the party does not necessarily have to suppress the internal play of political conflict, since the centrifugal force of political disagreements is counterbalanced by the centripetal pressure of the class struggle. Without a mass base, a sect that calls itself a party cannot suppress the divisive effect of fundamental differences on (for example) supporting or opposing capitalist parties at home in the shape of liberal Democrats and such, or supporting or opposing the maneuvers of the “Communist” world.

The POUM provides an example of the opposite process, of a movement where the life of the organization is based on the real social struggles in which it is engaged, and which does allow for the free play of ideas about the best program to move forward. As Alba mentions, the POUM published classics by Marx, Riazanov, Bebel . and Kautsky.

The second point to make here is that the crucial thing for American revolutionaries should not be to have the right "line" on Spain, or on Russia - we should try to figure out America, and the contradictions that are present here. One of the POUM's strengths, which Alba will show better than I can, is that the POUM attempted to use Marxism to work out a revolutionary strategy for Spain, rather than to take ready made answers from others (whether Stalin, Trotsky, or anyone else) and apply them rigidly. My purpose in translating this text is not to raise the understanding of what did or didn't happen, what could or couldn't have happened during the Spanish Revolution (though I'm not opposed to those dicussions), but to contribute to the questions that can be asked about what an American socialist workers movement would look like. To paraphrase Alba one final time, there are many differences between America in 2015 and Spain in 1937 - but perhaps not as many as we'd expect.
-LLW

Introduction from La Revolución Española en la Practica, by Victor Alba

"In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles, and the enemy. In winter on the Zaragoza front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last. Except at night, when a surprise attack was always conceivable, nobody bothered about the enemy. They were simply remote black insects whom one occasionally saw hopping to and fro. The real preoccupation of both armies was trying to keep warm."

George Orwell, who wrote this paragraph, says in his book about the Spanish civil war that every war, whatever its motives, and whatever animates its combatants, is dirty, boring, and sad. He adds, elsewhere, that

"the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In this community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance."

Orwell knew what he was talking about, because he fought with the militias of the POUM on the Aragon front, where he was wounded, and he lived for weeks and months with the militia fighters, who had no idea that they were with a first-rate writer. This was before Orwell became famous, and he didn't tell anybody that he was a writer. For his comrades, he was just one more foreigner who had come to Spain to fight against fascism. And this seemed natural to all of them. Because in times of revolution, the most unexpected and the least probable things are exactly those which appear most natural and logical.

But revolution, like war, is dirty, sad, monotonous, full of errors and even corruption, just like any other moment of life in any society. And in a revolution, firewood, tobacco, food, and candles are much more present than the enemy, that is, the society that we want to replace and its representatives.

Outside of some spectacular moments of collective emotion - which, however, move only a minority - revolution is a test of patience, as someone once brilliantly put it.

This is because a revolution does not come from a heartstroke, a romantic outburst, but rather arrives because a given society no longer functions well, and cannot resolve its problems. Revolution, after its heroic and exciting gestures, consists in making society function better and solving its problems. If it doesn't achieve both things, it fails, it ceases to be a revolution and converts itself into a continuation, under a new appearance, of what had existed before.

Just as in a war it's very easy to be like Fabricio from The Charterhouse of Parma, fighting in the battle of Waterloo without realizing that it's Waterloo, in a revolution it's very easy to to be occupied with the functioning of an office, a farm, a school, without realizing that one is undertaking a revolution.

In the same way that during a war, the emotional moments - except for fear, which is permanent - moments of heroism and grandeur are the exception, in a revolution the moments of enthusiasm, of vociferous hope, are also exceptional. It's the routine things which are constant, important, and decisive: the daily tasks, everybody in their small plot, doing what needs to be done and doing it in such a way that the result can only be a bit more equality, a bit more freedom.

Because of this, when the emotional moments of a revolution have passed, only the very convinced, the militants and leaders, keep the enthusiasm alive and the hope awake. The others return to their daily routine, without noticing that the context of this routine is different.

The myth of the romantic revolution causes us to lose sight of the reality of the prosaic revolution. The occasional heroism causes us to forget the everyday administration. But without monotonous labor, and without mundane administration, there is no revolution that could win or even be worthy of the name revolution, because the core of the revolution, it's real reason for being, depends not on the heroic and dramatic, but on the mundane and monotonous: the solution of problems, the better functioning of society. "Better" means, of course, less unequal or more equal, freer, more fraternal.

Under the apocalypse of fraternity, which is how André Malreaux described what he saw of the Spanish revolution, there was the routine of efficiency, learning to administrate, direct, make decisions. As in any society, inevitably. But with one difference - and this difference in and of itself was the revolution - that they didn't seek efficiency for efficiency's sake, nor good administration for the simple pleasure of seeing things function. Everything was done because they thought that by doing it they were creating a bit more fraternity, a bit more of that "innate decency" and "anarchist tint" that, according to Orwell, make the initial stages of socialism tolerable.

In the books about the Spanish civil war, which are legion, and about the Spanish revolution, which number far fewer, the writers describe the diplomatic intrigues, the political maneuvers, the good choices and the bad, the heroism and the crimes. But they almost never, not even in passing, refer to the fundamental problems of how to make things function in an age in which the combination of war and revolution paralyzes everything.

What's clear is that things kept moving. In some cases, better than before. In many cases, not worse than before, and almost always, with enough efficiency that nobody suffered for lack of functioning.

I believe that it's an injustice on the part of intellectuals - who are the ones that write the books - that they didn't highlight just how fantastic, how incredible, how surprising and formidable was this fact, so simple in appearance, that things kept going. Because the ones that kept them going were the same ones who'd never learned to make them function, who'd never had a chance to decide anything about how they should function, nor to what end: the workers, the ones who had made the things, but had never enjoyed them.

Writers of books take it for granted when everything works. It's an assumption with no basis, because in every past revolution, from the North American to the Russian, it took a long time to get things working again, and many things worked worse than before for quite some time. In Spain, in the Republican zone, things didn't stop working for more than two days - when the militants went to fight in the streets - and when they began working again, they worked as well as before, in some cases better than before, and for different ends than before. That's the important thing.

Now, what the writers find so normal, and which in reality is so surprising, did not happen by chance, nor was it inevitable. Things kept working because the workers made them work.

Things worked well because the workers were organized and they had unions and parties which occupied themselves with studying the way things worked, with seeing the problems and finding solutions.

We have to insist that it was no accident that things worked well. They worked well because the workers and their organizations took it upon themselves to make things work well. Their goal was not just for things to work - their goal was that things should work in a way that one could hope that, with things working, it would create conditions which would make more fraternity, more freedom, more equality possible.

These phrases seem empty. But those who were in the oversight committees, the village committees, the militia committees, really did think this way. Because they thought this way they could - despite a war, despite internal struggle and rivalries, despite hunger in many cases, despite bombardings and privations - they could occupy themselves not just with making things work, but with finding new ways, less injust ways, for things to work. The grand phrases - in reality, the grand dreams - gave them the strength for the routine and learning, when it would have been much simpler to unload the weight of things onto the politicians and the bureaucrats, and to be content with going to work as before, with getting paid as before, and, most of all, with going to war.

This desire to do things in a different way is, in a way, what makes a revolution. But this desire does not become reality through phrases. The phrases are just to hold on to the desire. To satisfy it, we need many hours of monotonous work, many exasperating discussions, many failed tests, many frustrations, much adding water to the wine of wishful thinking, many balance sheets, and only a few flags being waved in the wind.

It's precisely when there are more balance sheets than flags, but the sheets are being balanced in a different way, that we can see that the revolution is passing from words into deeds.

There is little documentation about these everyday, practical (and therefore vital) aspects of the Spanish revolution. By this I mean the revolution undertaken by the workers - especially those in Catalonia - between July of 1936 and May of 1937, when the counterrevolution began under the Negrín government and the worker's realizations were systematically destroyed, denaturalized, or put under the control of a government which was created to destroy them.

We can resume the political aspects of the revolution in two phrases: the workers wanted to be masters, and without the revolution we could not win the war. The first appears undeniable the second, there was no time to put to the test, although it's enough to say that during the time time of the militias and the collectivizations the fascist advances were halted, Madrid was saved, and only militarily marginal places were lost (Málaga). Later, when the other position dominated, that of "first we must win the war" (which meant, in fact, destroying the revolution), we lost the North, the fascists arrived at the Mediterranean and then occupied Catalonia, and finally won the war. Although we don't know what the results of the revolutionary position would have been, on the other hand we do know the results of the counterrevolutionary position: the war was lost, despite the counterrevolution "justifying" itself on the idea that only by destroying the revolution could the war be won.

Much has been written about this. But little has been written, and only tangentially, about other aspects of the revolution, beginning with the fundamental ones: the problems that the collectivizations tackled, and the solutions which they proposed. Practically nothing has been written about health, the condition of women, the changes in the youth, the transformation in the countryside, the type of army that the revolutionaries extolled, or the question of housing.

The CNT should have information in its archives which I hope that they will eventually publish. The POUM dedicated many of the leaflets that it published to these questions, and it did so without sugarcoating, calling things by their names, without worrying about boring the reader. Reading these pamphlets is essential not only to understand the Spanish revolution, but also to think of the future.

That would be enough to justify publishing this collection of the POUM's pamphlets. I would have wanted it to contain pamphlets from other organizations, from the anarchists to the communists, but I've found, after consulting the collections, that the majority were about abstract questions and principles, not about political practice. I suppose that these aspects must lie in the archives, in bulletins and decisions, minutes of meetings and research. They certainly aren't in print, accessible in any way.

There's another reason why this anthology, by reducing itself to the pamphlets of just one party - and not even one of the main parties - becomes interesting.

That reason is the POUM itself.

The fundamental strategic position of the POUM is still valid, in the minds of many, for today's Spain. It can be summarized like this: Spain, in 1931, as in 1936 (and I'd say this still holds for 1976), needs to carry out a democratic-bourgeois revolution the Spanish bourgeoisie is incapable of carrying it out and therefore the working class has to bring it to its conclusion, in order to pass from it to the socialist revolution. In reality, in July of 1936 we saw how this was completed, in just a few days, without need for decrees and with occasionally brutal methods, how the democratic revolution was completed and the socialist revolution was begun.

These things were felt in other movements - the anarchosyndicalist, the left of the socialists - but, whatever the reasons (ideological formation, in my opinion), only the POUM said them explicitly.

The position of the POUM toward the problems both practical and political of the revolution means that this party was far more important in the overall Spanish worker's movement than its modest size would imply.

An old militant, a founder of the Spanish Communist Party and later the POUM, has given a summary, forty one years later, of what the POUM was:

"The Workers Party of Marxist Unification has more than forty years of history behind it. It was born in the last months of 1935 out of the fusion of the Workers and Peasants Bloc, and the Communist Left. But its origins reach to the year 1920, in which the Spanish Communist Party was founded. Almost simultaneously, a group of militants from the CNT placed themselves resolutely on the side of the Russian Revolution and adopted the principles and tactics of the communists. From 1920 on, these militants of the CNT were grouped around the weekly Acción Sindicalista, from Valencia after 1921, around the weekly Lucha Social, in Lérida and in 1922 they adopted La Batalla, from Barcelona, as their mouthpiece while they were organizing the Revolutionary Union Committees. In 1924 this group of militants joined the Spanish Communist Party, and they exercised a decisive influence in the Party's Catalan-Balearic Federation. In the first months of 1931 this federation fused with the Catalan Communist Party, which had unsuccessfully tried to be admitted as a national section to the Communist International. After fusing, both organizations created, to give the new party a greater power of attraction, the Workers and Peasant's Bloc, and the new party was known under this name, even though the nucleus that it revolved around retained the name of Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation and, after 1932, when its forces began to grow outside of Catalonia, it took the name of Iberian Communist Federation. The Communist Left was the primitive Communist Opposition constituted around the figure of Leon Trotsky, with whom it had broken when he advised his troops to enter the ranks of Social Democracy. The POUM, then, is a legitimate heir of the communist movement's heroic years, of the first years of the Russian revolution, and it contained a mixture of people from the communist old guard as well as those who brought the traditions of struggle from Spanish anarchosyndicalism, militants who had participated in the great battles of 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920. [. ] The Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation began to differentiate itself during the years of the military dictatorship [by Primo de Rivera, from 1923-1931], a little bit more every day, from the leadership of the Spanish Communist Party, which in those days was in the hands of the Trilla-Ballejos group. Above all, the Federation opposed the Communist Party's attempts to carry out splits in the heart of the CNT, an attempt which was disguised under the name of a Committee of Reconstruction. To the degree that Stalin was imposing his methods on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and on the Communist International, and through this on its various sections, the Federation was distancing itself from the international communist organization, which, after a period, it openly confronted. And the POUM was the only party of communist origin which, having broken with the 3rd international, succeeded not only in continuing to exist, but actually consolidated and considerably incremented its forces and its influence. But this was something that, in a time in which the Communist Party claimed everywhere to be the party of the workers, in which the official section of the Communist International in every land claimed to have a monopoly of revolutionary action, in which the communist movement was rigidly monolithic, the International inspired by Stalin and guided in every moment by one or another of his cronies could neither allow nor forgive. The circumstances created in Spain by the Civil War gave Stalin the opportunity to present the bill to the POUM, with heavy interest, for resisting submission to his orders.

After July 19, 1936, in the parts of Spain where it had any forces worth considering, particularly in all of Catalonia, in Valencia, in Castellón, and in Madrid, the POUM's militants went arms-in-hand to confront the military rising, and then organized militias which fought valiantly, frequently heroically, in the field. Many of our comrades died fighting fascism. But if the workers confronted the mutineers, rifle-in-hand, it wasn't to simply begin the game again, to return to the situation that had made the Civil War possible. That's why the struggle took on a revolutionary character in the parts of the country where the mutiny had been smashed in the first moments, that's why the war and the revolution appeared intimately linked in the eyes of the working class. The petty bourgeoisie, whose political expression took the form of the republican parties, found itself overwhelmed in the early moments by the revolutionary tide, but bit by bit, as the war dragged on and the difficulties inherent to any armed conflict piled up, they recovered the positions they had lost. In this they could count on the support of the Communist Party as well as a large part of the Socialist Party. The scant aid which the Spanish republic received from the democratic governments, scared as they were of a revolution in the south of Europe, and nervous about irritating the fascist states, in contrast with the considerable, although not disinterested, aid which the Soviet Union brought from the early stages of the Civil War, gave the Communist Party enormous possibilities to augment its forces and its influence in Spain. Over time the Soviet Union, in return for its aid in war materials, was able to steer the policy of Republican Spain and introduce its agents and methods into the government, the army, the police, even into the economy, into some parties, and into a large part of the union organizations. The idea that Spain should become a socialist country never entered into Stalin's mind, as this would have created difficulties for the Soviet Union's foreign policy, which at that time was playing the card of military alliance with the democratic states without losing hope for a possible understanding with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. From this stems its determination to strip the Spanish Civil War of its revolutionary character, to separate the war and the revolution. While it's true that perhaps the war could have been won even if the revolutionary conquests of the early days had been lost, and that without securing the military victory, the revolution would certainly have succumbed, it's no less true that those who wanted to sacrifice the revolutionary conquests to win the war lost everything. The POUM considered the war and the revolution inseparable and opposed the policy of the Communist Party and the petty bourgeoisie. This gave cause to the agents of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party to unleash a campaign of lies and slander which was unprecedented in this country, the first step to the repression which began in May of 1937, in which many of our best militants were assassinated, including Andrés Nin, political secretary of the POUM. The very tribunal which judged the leaders of our organization, although it condemned them for high treason for their attitude around the events of May 1937 in Barcelona, solemnly recognized their spotless revolutionary past, and rejected the calumnious accusations that they had been subjected to. History has judged all of us, slanderers and slandered, persecutors and persecuted. It's clear now that those who once upon a time defamed and persecuted us don't feel proud today about their past behavior.

At the end of the civil war, the POUM was caught by two overlapping repressions: the first, undertaken by the Communists, was joined by the other, the repression which hit all of Republican Spain. Even in 1939, our militants who refused to leave or could not leave Spain began to regroup themselves and to carry out clandestine action, under great risk. In September 1939, in Barcelona alone, 26 of our militants were executed. It was our Party who denounced the execution of Catalan President Luis Companys in a manifesto. In 1945-1947 the POUM collected, above all in Catalonia, a growing number of enthusiastic militants. Just like the other parties, after this year our party suffered due to the continuing repression as well as the demoralization caused by the survival of the Franco regime after the victory of the allied armies over the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. Additionally, there was the difficulty that every party and union experienced to one degree or another caused by the existence of two leaderships, one in exile and one in the interior, or else just the exile leadership."

Even though it wasn't one of the biggest workers organizations, the POUM, in the context of that time in Spain, was the second largest workers party in Spain, much smaller than the Socialist Party, but, at least until November of 1936, much larger than the Communist Party, if we take into account the numbers produced by researches and not those given by the CP itself. The unions which the POUM led in Catalonia united 60,000 workers. That is to say, they formed the third largest union federation in the country, a distant third after the CNT and the UGT.

But to say just this would be misleading. The POUM was still a small party. It made its influence felt in in Catalonia, the key location of the Spanish workers movement, and it had began radiating out into the Levant, where it had growing sections, as well as Asturias, where its sections had participated in the Workers Alliance [a cross-organization alliance involved in the abortive 1934 uprising], and it was beginning to set down roots in Madrid, Extremadura, and other isolated locations.

So it wasn't a party whose positions could decide anything in the march of Spanish politics. But the POUM had some very prestigious leaders and well-rounded militants, with a long history of struggle. This, then, both allowed and obliged it to take clear positions about the principal problems. Even knowing that they wouldn't necessarily be followed, since it couldn't bring the masses around to them, we trusted that they would influence other organizations and help to create the zeitgeist that the POUM desired.

The civil war arrived before the POUM, which was a product of a recent fusion, could completely unify. Its principal leader and general secretary, Joaquín Maurín (1896-1973), was surprised by the military uprising during a propaganda trip in Galicia, where he hid. Finally detained, he was placed on a list for prisoner exchanges and therefore his life was spared, although he was held in prison until 1946.

Andrés Nin (1892-1937), who took his place, was arrested in June of 1937 by the communist police, tortured by Russian NKVD agents, and died without "confessing" to the existence of something which never existed: the complicity with Franco that the communists accused the POUM of. Many members of the POUM were themselves assassinated, others died at the front, still others were executed in Spain after 1939, more would end up in Nazi concentration camps for their participation in the French resistance, and some were assassinated by Spanish Communists in that very resistance.

If we look at it this way, the history of the POUM appears to be a bloody list of victims. And indeed it was. But, at the same time, it was a long series of actions, of hopes, of initiatives, of opinions. It was these, more than the victims, that gave the POUM its place in the history of the workers movement.

The POUM was the first party which dissented from the official communist movement which succeeded in becoming larger than the party from which it had separated (at least until the end of 1936, when the ranks of the Communist Party were swelled by the blackmail of the Soviet arms and its own counterrevolutionary policy). During an era when there was a blackmail of silence "to avoid favoring Hitler", the POUM was one of the few parties who denounced the Moscow Trials, and which began a Marxist analysis of the phenomenon of Stalinism (even if there were still many illusions about the supposedly working-class and socialist character of the Soviet system, which the reader will note in the texts). The members of the POUM, and Nin above all, succeeded in doing what the Old Bolsheviks, Lenin's former comrades, had not: they resisted the tortures and the pressures of the Stalinist police. At the same time, they knew to maintain their distance from the politics of Trotsky, whom they considered both dogmatic and ignorant of Spanish reality. The POUM formed part of the nucleus of revolutionary socialist parties that, separated from both the Second and Third internationals, tried to create a new independent movement with the International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Parties.

On the other hand, the POUM was probably the the only Marxist party which gained the respect and the solidarity of the anarchists, not so much for its viewpoint (as we in the POUM would have preferred), as for its activity and its independence.

This irreducible independence cost the POUM its best militants, inspired many calumnies, and caused it to be outlawed. But it was this same independence which gave it the place it occupies in the history of the workers movement, in a moment when the majority of the workers organizations allowed themselves to be blinded or manipulated.

The POUM had concrete opinions about the problems, whether economic, social, political, educational, or martial, of the Spanish revolution. While the socialists were absorbed in the intrigues of their leaders (Prieto and Negrín with the communists against Largo Caballero, then Negrín and the communists against Prieto), while the communists turned their backs on the entirety of their traditional rhetoric to take up the first counterrevolutionary campaign of their history, and while the anarchists and the anarchosyndicalists believed that with self-management (the collectives, as they were called then) they already had the revolution, the POUM received the not always satisfying mission of of trying to keep some here and there from forgetting that the civil war could not be won without the revolution (in which it agreed with the anarchists) and that the revolution could not be won without the working class taking political power (which is where the anarchists departed).

At the same time that they were repeating these general principles, the POUM's membership (10,000 in June and July of 1936, 35,000 in December, 70,000 in March of 1937 and hundreds of dead, imprisoned, and persecuted after June of 1937) formed part of the militia committees, of the staff of the militia columns, of the Generalidad government, of city councils, of the oversight committees for the collectives in the city and the country, as well as the committees in unions and cooperatives. In addition to making propaganda for theoretical positions, they had to develop day by day a practical labor, nothing romantic, of administration, leadership, legislation, execution of laws, that is, they had to participate actively in this unspectacular but fundamental part of every revolution, which deals with making life work for the citizens. They knew, as well as anyone else, that though it was monotonous and routine, this activity was vital for the triumph of the revolution. Some members, personally or as members of committees, wrote about the problems that were stirred up by the revolution's development. It is these writings, above all, which are collected in this book. Because it is these that are not found anywhere else and which carry the most lessons for the future.

It's time to resume the most important of these lessons - which each reader can, for their part, add to those that they've learned in their personal experience. Here they are:

The independence of an organization, that is to say, its ability to to adopt decisions by itself, without having to deal with exterior influences, is fundamental to its ability to analyze realistically the situation of a country, recognize the yearnings of the class that it belongs to, and try to represent them. The POUM was absolutely independent, it didn't need to give answers to anyone but itself, that is to say, to its own members, who were the ones who decided on its political line and elected the leaders who were responsible for carrying it out. The lack of this independence among the communists caused them to adopt positions which, in all probability, they would not have wanted if they were independent of the Third International and the Russian Communist Party. The lack of independence made them counterrevolutionaries when many of them (at least those who were already members before February 16, 1936) would have spontaneously been inclined towards the revolution.

Flexibility with one's own ideology is another condition of being realistic, that is to say, in order to analyze the situation and to act according to this analysis. The POUM, as its title indicates, was marxist, but its marxism was not fossilized by dogmas, its ideology was flexible, in the sense that it responded to reality instead of trying to to place reality in the straitjacket of ideology. If the anarchists had been more flexible on the question of their anti-political stance, they would have taken power on July 19, 1936, when it was lying in the street and they had enough strength to take it and share it with other workers tendencies. They didn't do so and therefore were forced, by the circumstances, to be flexible, but with fewer results, that is, by entering two governments - the central and the catalan - alongside the bourgeois forces, and they saw themselves limited, by that participation, to defending what had already been conquered in the early days, rather than expanding it.

Economic power alone is not sufficient to guarantee it's own continuity. Feudalism and capitalism both knew this, which is why the lords and the bourgeois did not stop at the possession of the means of production, but in order to protect those means they also exercised political power. The conquest of the land and the factories, in the days that followed July 19, was indispensable. But these fields and factories could not remain in the hands of the workers unless the workers defended them through political power, whether this government be called a committee of militias or anything else. Not taking power on July 19 led, in time, not only to the government of Negrín and the communists, and with that to the loss of the revolutionary conquests, of the means of production, but also to the loss of the civil war.

Psychology has an enormous influence in both politics and economics. The bourgeoisie knows this very well, while it has been completely forgotten by the workers movement, especially the Marxist part. The POUM's standpoint, which was also shared to a lesser degree by the CNT and the left of the Socialist Party, was that the war and the revolution were inseparable, that without making the second the first could not be won. This view was based on psychological factors. Basically, while it was lacking in military organization and experience, in arms and in officers, the working class could only compensate for this imbalance through their enthusiasm, and this enthusiasm could not come from the idea of defending a republic which had persecuted a large part of the workers movement and had permitted the civil war to erupt.

Finally, the months of revolution - from July 1936 to May 1937 - showed that the workers didn't just believe themselves to be as capable or more than the bourgeoisie to administer the economy, to direct the factories, but that in fact they were. With all the the defects, corruptions, errors and exaggerations that might be named, the collectives functioned, they functioned in particularly difficult conditions - all-out war, with few arms and no military organization - and they functioned thanks to the workers. The reader will see that the studies included in this volume were made by workers, on the move, confronting the problems which surged from reality, and that these studies were analysis of problems and proposals for solutions which could easily rank (and with less pedantic language) with those made by the technicians, economists, and managers from the bourgeoisie. The capacity of the workers to administer was proven. Unfortunately, the lack of ideological flexibility among some, and of political independence among others, prevented the workers from showing their capacity to govern, from showing their political quality.

Whoever lived through those days of July 1936 and remembers how things actually happened, how decisions were adopted, how the situation was analyzed and how solutions were sought and applied to the problems will arrive, I believe, at another conclusion that is generally applicable: the proletariat, and and in a wider sense the Spanish people, is better than its leaders, it has more determination, more combativity, and, at the same time, more sensibility. The event that we call the Revolution of July 1936 was not made by the organizations, nor the leaders, but rather by the people, the workers, without waiting for orders or signals from anyone they acted independently of their own organizations and ideologies, reflecting only their intimate convictions, their deepest yearnings. That is what would allow them to win and to show themselves to be effective and full of imagination.

We could also point out that revolutions, despite a certain mythology which is in vogue, do not appear in moments of desperation and misery, but rather in moments of hope and some improvement in living conditions. The situation of the people in July of 1936 was better than in 1931 or 1919, for example. Even if slowly, things had begun to change with the Republic. It was this relative wellbeing, this hope, which made the people want more changes and more wellbeing, and strive to achieve this in the opportunity created by the coup of the Right.

All of this, expressed directly or even implicitly, can be found in the texts that were selected for the volume.

A few clarifications, then, about the criteria that guided this selection.

First of all, why documents of the POUM and not of other groups or multiple organizations? The reason is practical, and was already touched on: because only the POUM, for some reason which should be analyzed in detail, publicly presented the problems of the revolution and proposed solutions to the same.

This doesn't mean that other organizations and parties didn't deal with these problems, they certainly studied them and tried to bring solutions. But they did this in private, inside the committees, and they didn't publish the results of these studies. Only the CNT, in its economic conference, did something of the sort.* [*See Jose Peirats, The CNT in the Spanish Revolution, chapters 17, 19, and 26. - VA]

Therefore, the material of the POUM is the only material we have access to that's available, printed, done in the trenches, not a posteriori.** [** It wouldn't be out of place here to clarify that even though they had many more resources than the surviving groups of the POUM, the other organizations which participated in the civil war, on both sides, have not gathered, as we have here, their documents of 1936-39 (except, fragmentarily, the CNT). There must be a reason. - VA]

On the other hand, the POUM constituted a rare case in the context of Spain at the time: A party which was a minority but not weak, Marxist in a land where the worker's movement was divided between reformists and anarchists, communist but anti-stalinist and independent, always between the wall of fascism and the saber of the official stalinists. The POUM had militants who, even if only to stand up to the strong "competence" of the more powerful organizations, had to be prepared and maintain the habit and the strength of going against the current. The members of the POUM sincerely believed that "the truth is revolutionary", as Marx and Lenin had affirmed, and they tried to say the truth, even if they had to risk their hide - and many of them lost that for saying it. The members of the POUM weren't better, clearly, but they were obliged by their situation to be more realistic and, at the same time, more idealistic than the rest.

Between its constitution in September of 1935, and July 19 1936, the POUM published only one pamphlet, presenting itself to the workers. This pamphlet is a synthesis of its thought, its strategy, its tactics, and its organization.

It also had the weekly papers Avant, in Catalan, and La Batalla, which had a long tradition stretching back to its foundation in 1922, as well as the monthly review La Nueva Era.*** [***To see more about what was published in this, consult La Nueva Era: Antología de una revista revolucionaria. Ed. Júcar, Madrid, 1977 - VA]

After July 19, 1936, La Batalla became a daily paper, and daily or weekly POUM papers were published in multiple Catalan and Levantine cities. This press was not appropriate for serious inquiries. Those were published by the Editorial Marxista, founded in 1936, which during the 11 months that it operated published a dozen classics of Marxism (Bebel, Kautsky, Riazanov, Marx) and some fifty-odd pamphlets, of which more than half were translations. Furthermore, it published a monthly international review in German, French, English, and Italian.

In June of 1937, when the Communist police seized the offices of the POUM, tens of thousands of the Editorial Marxista's books and pamphlets were destroyed. Only the copies held by individuals survived, since the police, following a process which has continued without interruption to present-day Spain, looked over all of the newsstands and bookstores, seizing the copies that were already distributed for sale.

From June of 1937, when the Negrín government obligated the POUM to go underground, until the fall of Barcelona in June of 1939, La Batalla, Juventud Obrera, and several pamphlets were published, aiming at agitation as well as defense of the persecuted POUM members. A large amount of this material was lost at the end of the civil war. But we have been able to find copies of the most important pamphlets and studies, which are the ones that we are reproducing here.

In choosing them, we have begun by eliminating everything which doesn't refer directly to the revolution and which wasn't produced directly by POUM members. Then, we classified the documents into several sections: the party politics the economy the society persecution. In front of each text there is an explanatory note, which situates it in its moment. For reasons of space, we have cut out some prologues dealing with the circumstances, and some resolutions of very local or transitory interest. None of this alters the ideological content of the texts. These cuts are indicated wherever they occur. At the end, the reader will find a bibliography about the POUM.

The reader should remember, when reading these texts, that every single one of them was written and edited by workers. There were no intellectuals in the POUM. Sure, there were a few teachers, doctors, journalists, and students. But they did not produce the bulk of the writing that we've collected here. It was written by workers who had prepared for the moment of the revolution in the Marxist School which was run by the POUM (and the BOC before it), and who had been working with the worker's press for a long time already.

The militants of the POUM were young. The members of the Executive Committee, when they were judged, were less than 40 years old. The majority were Catalan, but there were others from the rest of Spain, particularly from Madrid and the North (Basque Country and Asturias).

I don't say this to try to excuse poor quality in these texts. On the contrary, these documents have depth, and they present original or necessary ideas. Whether compared with the political literature of their age or of ours, they hold up very well. Above all, they remain accessible for workers, without making concessions to simplification or to reducing things to schematics. To put it simply, they explain complex ideas in a language which is sympathetic to the reader, and they do this because, as they say, whatever you think through clearly, you can express clearly.

This is not, I believe, the smallest lesson that the reader might take home.

It's not the only lesson, either.

The problems we face in a comparable situation in the future will be different (though perhaps less different than we believe). But the problems which come from trying to apply solutions which are handed down will be very similar, even if the solutions handed down are different from those which were handed down in 1936-37.

In the future, as in 1936, solving the problems of a revolution will require real independence on the part of the workers movement, in regards to countries as well as dogmas it will require self-confidence on the part of the workers, in their capacity to reach better solutions than the bourgeoisie it will require a desire to replace the latter and it will require a mixture of realism and idealism which is, perhaps, the note which stands out the sharpest in all of these documents from forty years ago.


Sisällysluettelo

POUM:n perustivat vuonna 1935 Lev Trotskia esikuvanaan pitäneet Andrés Nin ja Joaquín Maurín vastavoimaksi stalinistiselle Espanjan kommunistiselle puolueelle (PCE). Uusi puolue onnistui nopeasti kasvamaan jäsenmäärältään PCE:tä suuremmaksi. Jäseniä oli sen oman ilmoituksen mukaan parhaimmillaan noin 70 000 ja todellisuudessakin ainakin 30 000. POUM oli mukana myös tammikuussa 1936 perustetussa Espanjan toisen tasavallan kansanrintamahallituksessa, vaikka suhtautuikin siihen kriittisesti Stalinin johtaman Neuvostoliiton suuren vaikutusvallan vuoksi.

Heinäkuussa 1936 syttyneen Espanjan sisällissodan aikana POUM:n jäsenet muodostivat tasavaltalaisten 29. divisioonan, joka taisteli Aragonian rintamalla. Sen miliisijoukoissa palveli tammi-toukokuun 1937 ajan vapaaehtoisena englantilainen kirjailija George Orwell, joka myöhemmin kertoi sotakokemuksistaan kirjassa Katalonia, Katalonia. [1] Sisällissodan alkaessa POUM oli anarkistien ohella mukana käynnistämässä Espanjan vallankumoukseksi kutsuttuja yhteiskunnallisia uudistuksia. Lähinnä Barcelonassa ja Katalonian alueella tehty vallankumous käsitti muun muassa teollisuuden ja maatalouden kollektivisoinnin.

Toukokuussa 1937 käytiin Barcelonan toukokuuna tunnettu tasavaltalaisten keskinäinen valtataistelu, jossa toisella puolella olivat POUM ja anarkistisen CNT-ammattiliiton työläiset vastassaan hallituksen joukot ja PCE. Kuusi päivää kestäneiden taistelujen jälkeen aloitti kommunistinen puolue POUM:n jäseniin kohdistuneet puhdistukset, jotka tehtiin todennäköisesti Stalinin määräyksestä. Tämä johti lopulta puolueen kieltämiseen kesäkuun puolivälissä. POUM:n johtajana toiminut Andrés Nin vangittiin ja surmattiin Madridissa sijainneella vankileirillä. Murhan takana oli ilmeisesti tasavaltalaisten tukijana toimineen Neuvostoliiton turvallisuuspoliisi NKVD. Puolueen jäseniä pakeni Ranskaan, josta heitä joutui maan natsimiehityksen aikana muun muassa Dachaun, Mauthausen-Gusenin ja Buchenwaldin keskitysleireille.

Kansallismielisen koalition voittoon päättyneen sisällissodan jälkeen POUM toimi maanalaisena vuodesta 1947 kenraali Francon kuolemaan ja Espanjan demokratisoitumiseen saakka. Muista vasemmistopuolueista poiketen se ei kuitenkaan enää onnistunut vakiinnuttamaan asemaansa ja lakkautettiin vuonna 1980.


Flag of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), a Communist party that fought in the Spanish Civil War and in which George Orwell served.

Wow. I had no idea that George Orwell served in the Spanish Civil War.

He wrote a book about it called Homage to Catalonia.

It's worded weirdly, but makes sense.

He was a hardcore socialist

Red and white is so much nicer than red and yellow.

It's not a very wise color choice though as white often symbolizes authoritarianism.

POUM is the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista in Spanish.

I took a class on the Spanish Civil War and wrote a paper on how the republicans lost the war due to infighting, largely because of the soviets. I don't know which would have been better/worse, Franco's fascist dictatorship or Stalin's western European satellite state.

Stalin's Western European satellite for sure, Franco might have been bad but he atleast understood Spain as Spain is, was and should be, the Republicans (The Socialists more specifically) wanted to destroy everything Spain represented and stood for in order to conduct their little engineered society model experiment (which as we've seen with the countless of socialist regimes on earth would've utterly and completely fail).

I dislike Franco, his authoritarianism, his relationships with fascist states and organizations and his brutality. But he was the least evil of both. His legacy is not the best (this "democracy") but at least it's better than the post-socialist legacy we would've gotten were the Republic to win.

Is everyone socialist on this subreddit? One cannot fucking criticise them without getting downvoted. Do you pinkos not understand that downvotes aren't an "I disagree with this person" button but a "This person doesn't add to the discussion" button?


The Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) - History

Orwell, the tall figure in the middle fighting in Spain with the Marxist POUM Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista.

Orwell's wife Eileen is seated to his left .Orwell was shot in the throat His wife helped him escape to France after the members of the POUM were arrested by the republicans .

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

In December 1936, Orwell went to Spain as a fighter for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War that was provoked by Francisco Franco's Fascist uprising . He did not join the International Brigade as most leftist did , but the little known Marxist POUM .In conversation with Philip Mairet, editor of New English Weekly , Orwell said: 'This fascism . somebody's got to stop it'.To Orwell, liberty and democracy went together, guaranteeing, among other things, the freedom of the artist the present capitalist civilization was corrupt, but fascism would be morally calamitous.

The POUM Barcelona 1937 Orwell in back

John McNair (1887&ndash1968), quotes him: 'He then said that this [writing a book] was quite secondary, and [that] his main reason for coming was to fight against Fascism'. Orwell went alone his wife, Eileen, joined him later. He joined the Independent Labour Party contingent, which consisted of some twenty-five Britons who had joined the militia of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM - Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), a revolutionary communist party. The POUM, and the radical wing of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (Catalonia's dominant left-wing force), believed General Franco could be defeated only if the Republic's working class overthrew capitalism &mdash a position at fundamental odds with the Spanish Communist Party, and its allies, which (backed by Soviet arms and aid) argued for a coalition with the bourgeois parties to defeat the fascist Nationalists. After July 1936 there was profound social revolution in Catalonia, Aragón, and wherever the CNT was strong, an egalitarian spirit sympathetically described in Homage to Catalonia .

George Orwell - Spanish Civil War and Tea

Fortuitously, Orwell joined the POUM, rather than the Communist International Brigades, but his experiences &mdash especially his and Eileen's narrow escape during a Communist purge in Barcelona in June 1937 &mdash much increased his sympathies for the POUM, making him a life-long anti-Stalinist and firm believer in what he termed Democratic Socialism, socialism with free debate and free elections.

In combat, Orwell was shot through the neck and nearly killed. At first, he feared his voice would be reduced to a permanent, painful whisper this was not to be so, though the injury affected his voice, giving it "a strange, compelling quietness". He wrote in Homage to Catalonia that people frequently told him he was lucky to survive, but that he personally thought "it would be even luckier not to be hit at all".

' People then had something we haven't got now. They didn't think of the future as something to be terrified of..'

George and Eileen Orwell then lived in Morocco for half a year so he could recover from his wound. In that time, he wrote Coming Up for Air , his last novel before World War II. It is the most English of his novels alarums of war mingle with images of idyllic Thames-side Edwardian childhood of protagonist George Bowling. The novel is pessimistic industrialism and capitalism have killed the best of Old England, and there were great, new external threats. In homely terms, Bowling posits the totalitarian hypotheses of Borkenau, Orwell, Silone and Koestler: "Old Hitler's something different. So's Joe Stalin. They aren't like these chaps in the old days who crucified people and chopped their heads off and so forth, just for the fun of it . They're something quite new ."


1935 Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) poster.

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Anarcho-Syndicalist Workers’ Revolution in Catalonia

In an interview with world famous Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Paassen, Anarcho-Syndicalist leader and Spanish Loyalist general Buenaventura Durruti said:

“We are giving Hitler and Mussolini far more worry with our revolution than the whole Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and Italian working class on how to deal with Fascism.” 1

Durruti may have been overly optimistic about the abilities of the Spanish Anarchist militias (which were more than excellent) vis-a-ve the Soviet Russian Red Army. After all, the Red Army of Soviet Russia performed very well during the Second World War—what Russians call The Great Patriotic War. But the Spanish Loyalists did have many surprising successes.

As told by Spanish survivors of Spain’s Civil War, (1936 to 1939) the beginning of the Spanish Revolution was July 19 th , 1936. 2 Juan García Oliver, Spanish Anarchist leader and Minister of Justice in the popular front government, at an early stage of the Spanish Civil War, made the remarkable point that this was the first time the people defeated the army. 3 (Also, see footnote 2.)

But the roots of the revolution go back to at least the year 1868, with the beginning of the Anarchist movement in Spain. The ability of the Anarchists to quickly and spontaneously resist the Fascist military rebellion in late July of 1936, together with the ability to take over industry and form effective agricultural communes, goes back three generations. To paraphrase John Adams, the revolution was in the hearts and behavior of the Anarchists, Syndicalists, and Anarcho-syndicalists. The best history of this is The Spanish Anarchists by Murray Bookchin. 4

The Anarchists were by no means the only ones involved with the Spanish Revolution, or for that matter, Loyalist Spain itself. Other significant groups included, but were not limited to:

  • Spanish Socialists trade Union (UGT)
  • Basque Catholics. Catholic Priests in the Basque, organized trade unions.
  • Liberal Republicans.
  • Calvinists from the new Calvinist revival that started in Republican Spain in 1931. Pierre Van Paassen has written about this in Days of Our Years. (The library of The War Resisters League has a copy of Van Paassen’s book.)
  • Catalan Nationalists
  • The POUM (“Workers Party of Marxist Unification” aka “Marxist Unity Organization”).
  • Other non-Stalinists Marxists.
  • A small number of actual Trotskyites.
  • An originally relatively small number of Communists, whose influence greatly grew due to the fact that the major Western Nations embargoed the arms from going to Loyalist Spain. 5.
  • Basque Nationalists.
  • United Proletarian Brotherhood made of mostly of coal minors from the Asturias area. “UHP…Unions Hermanos Proletarious.” 6
  • United Youth Movement—UHO 7

“Working Class in the Saddle”:

When he arrived in Barcelona in December 1936, George Orwell witnessed a true workers society. The Anarchists were in control of Barcelona, “the working class was in the saddle.” In the POUM militia, in which he served, there was almost complete equality. Fear of the boss, doing people out of something, etc. were almost entirely absent from its ranks. In describing life in the POUM on the Aragon Front in 1937, Orwell said, “One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship…. One had breathed the air of equality.” 8

This revolutionary atmosphere is written about in the New York Anarchist newspaper Spanish Revolution 9 (not to be confused with the Socialist newspaper with a similar name The Spanish Revolution) which was established to bring information and perspectives on the Spanish revolution to the public, especially to left oriented people. It was published by the Vanguard Group and United Libertarian Organizations. My father, Sidney Solomon, was one of the main editors of both Vanguard and Spanish Revolution. My mother, then Clara Freedman, was very active in its distribution. Anyway, the Anarchist Spanish Revolution, together with Vanguard, constitute two of the best sources on the Spanish Revolution. The Spanish Revolution, which reported on Orwell—Comrade Blair—during his service on the Loyalist side in The Spanish Civil War, see below. Freedom Press in Britain published Spain and the World.

In the first issue of Spanish Revolution (Vol. 1, No.1 August 19 th , 1936 the lead item identified, “From the Press Service of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I.” dated Barcelona, Spain, July 24 th [1936]:

“At the price of bloody battles and sorrowful losses, the Catalon capital has reconquered its title of Red Barcelona. It was a spontaneous popular uprising which answered the first onslaught of the Fascists. The city, deserted in the early morning hours deserted in the early morning hours, suddenly awoke as if by magic drum call the people seemed to rise from the pavements. The armories were sized and in a flash almost everybody was armed.

“The groups of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. with the help of various workers’ parties and organizations marched resolutely against the Fascists whose aim was to take possession of the strategic points of the city. The latter employed military experts and war technicians, using cannons and machine guns, and though in the minority, they did succeed in delivering death ‘scientifically.’ But nothing could check the popular surge. The hatred against Fascism wrought miracles party differences and political quarrels disappeared before a ‘popular front,’ not the one which arose from the elections, but the popular front spontaneously created in the streets…. [Emphasis in the original]

“After the battle the anti-Fascist Military Committee of Catalonia was formed. Its composition as follows:

“C.N.T.: Juan Garcia Oliver, Buenaventura Durruti, and Jose Asensi.

“U.G.T. (Socialist trade unions): Jose del Barrio, Salvador Gongalez, and A. Lopez.

“F.A.I.: Aurelio Fernandez, Dilgo Abad de Santillan.

“E. R. de C. (Catalonian left republicans): S. Miratvilles, Artemio and J. Pons.

“Socialist Party and ‘Marxist Unity’ factions: Jose Muste and Pousa.

“Coalition of Republicans: Fabrega.

“The strength of each of the components of this committee can be judged the following figures of the anti-Fascist militia:

“Marxist Unity Org [POUM, i.e. Workers Party of Marist Unification]…….. 3,000 men

“Police and Civil Guards 4,000 men”

Many women also served in the militias, and were involved in the street fighting when the fascists were beaten down in the cities.

The C.N.T. and F.A.I. were Anarchist organizations, the first being a trade union and the second, a political group, aimed at maintaining the purity of Spanish and Portuguese Anarchism. According to the Spanish documentary “Living Utopia,” a member of the FAI could not have been married in the Catholic Church, must not have served in the military, must—if affordable—have sent their children to a Ferrer Modern School, and must not have had any addiction to alcohol or cigarettes, or other substance, and had to be in a faithful relationship. The Marxist Unity Organization is what we call the “P.O.U.M.”, more commonly called the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, or Party of Marxist Unification. This was the militia that George Orwell was a part of. It worked with the British Independent Labour Party (ILP) not to be confused with the British Labour Party. The Labour Party actually steamed from the Independent Labour Party.

Four interesting and important facts emerge from the recruiting statistics above:

  1. The POUM (“Marxist Unity Org,”) was considered a small party. They, at that time had more people in its Militia in Catalonia, than the U.G.T., which is considered a big party. This tends confirm that the P.O.U.M. played a very significant role in the Spanish Revolution and Spanish Civil War.
  2. Anarchists and police were fighting on the same side. As they say, politics makes strange bed-fellows.
  3. The Anarchist, that is the CNT and FAI militia members, outnumbers, all the other militia groups together—at least in Barcelona, at that time—13,000, as opposed to 9,000.
  4. The most revolutionary groups, the CNT, the FAI, and the Marxist Unity Organization (POUM), had, at that point almost three times the number of men in the militia (16,000) as did the others (6,000.)
  5. As the article indicates, these numbers changed as the war went on.

When the fascist generals rebelled against the Spanish Republican government, three things happened that they did not count on:

First, the Spanish Navy remained loyal to the Government.

Second, the Catholic Basque region remained loyal to the Government. There was also a considerablef Anarchist and socialist organizing in the Basque. with local Catholic Priests even having their own labor unions.

Third, there was a massive spontaneous popular resistance. This resistance resulted in a far reaching revolution, which went further in Catalonia than in some other parts of Spain Spanish Revolution was devoted to this revolution.

On page two, the mission statement of Spanish Revolution is given. Its mission was briefly described as follows:

“A publication dedicated to current labor news from Spain, published by the United Libertarian Organizations Against Fascism and for support of Spanish Workers.”

Another source for the information on the Spanish Loyalist Revolution is the chapter on Spain in Pierre Van Paassen’s Days of Our Years. One of the interesting facts that Van Paassen tells us is that in the years 1931-1939, the years of the Spanish Republic, there was a large Calvinist movement in Spain.

Orwell came to Spain in December of 1936. In order to gain more understanding, and historical information, about the situation he found, I continue to cite and quote Spanish Revolution.

There were many far reaching elements of social and economic revolution in Anarchistic Catalonia. For example Spanish Revolution reports, “Libertarian Youth Organize the People’s Univ. of Barcelona.”

There was a “Committee to Aid Fascist Victims.” Workers had taken over factories. Peasants had taken over estates and farms. An exodus of Children was organized. All this was reported in Spanish Revolution.

The extent of Anarchist control of Catalonia was recognized by the British Government. On page 4 of the first issue of Spanish Revolution, under the small headline “Great Britain Recognizes C.N.T.” the following is reported:

“The English consulate in Barcelona has sent a list of all its citizens residing in Spain so that the necessary measures might be taken for their security and eventual return. To whom has the English consulate sent these lists? To the official authority which is in Barcelona, the Catalonia government? On the country, the lists were officially sent…to a committee of the C.N.T.

“It is the C.N.T. which plays the predominate role in Catalonia and is the one tremendous force to be reckoned with there. This is so in spite the of ‘radical’ newspapers [decision] to ignore the existence of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I.”

In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell commented that inside Spain no one doubted the existence of the Revolution, while no one outside of Spain was aware of the existence of the Spanish Revolution.

Spanish Revolution reported on the anti-revolutionary reporting of both the Capitalist press and the nominally left-wing press: “On the other hand, the capitalist newspapers find it necessary to report the activities of the anarchists. But they, of course, do so in a vicious, shameless manner, calling the armed workers of the C.N.T. and F.A.I. who are heroically fighting against Fascism, ‘gunmen” (at times ‘revolutionaries join the same attack, e.g. Ilya Ehrenburg’s recent article in ‘New Masses’ entitled ‘Enemies of Spain’.)

But revolution and war was occurring in other parts of the Spain. Let us look at what this first issue of Spanish Revolution says about the struggle in Valencia. On page four of issue one, titlted “Victory In Valencia,” and datelined “Valencia, Spain (FP)—(By airplane to Paris)” I do not know who wrote this report about Valencia. The story went on to say:

“For a week the tension in Valencia was so great that nobody slept or went home. The workers camped in the streets.

The civil authorities had refused to open the arsenals and arm the people as Madrid had ordered. At the end of the town, across the river, three regiments of soldiers were confined to the barracks. They gave no sign of sympathy. But their officers were known to be adherents to the fascist rebellion. Any moment it was feared that the troops march in, and occupy the town, and set up a white terror. The workers covered the city with barricades in anticipation of a fierce struggle. They were going to receive the military with cobblestones and kitchen knives and with their bare hands if need be.

“The colonel commanding the regiment called his men in the square of the barracks. ‘We will occupy Valencia this morning’ he said. ‘Tomorrow we will take Madrid.’

Immediately following this pronouncement, “a sergeant named Jose Fabra…killed him. A moment later all the officers” were killed. The soldiers left the fortress and distributed arms to the people. “Fascists in the city began to fire on the loyalists from roof tops.” But the revolutionary forces triumphed in Valencia—at least for the time being.

Spanish Revolution published an appeal “TO THE WORKERS OF ALL COUNTERIES.” They noted that a Cable to The Nation confirmed the reports.

There was a new system of fighting crime. There were civilian patrols. Defendants in criminal cases could be represented by a lawyer or a non-lawyer. People employed in nursing homes were chosen on the basis of their compassion. Workers and peasants controlled most of the in Catalonia. Businesses where the boss was not pro-fascist were usually not ceased. Also, the British government delivered a list of businesses to the CNT-FAI that where not to be touched.

Michael Shelden reports his discovery that Orwell’s serving in the POUM militia during the Spanish Civil War was used for pro-revolutionary propaganda. He cites and quotes a socialist publication called The Spanish Revolution (not to be confused with the Anarchist publication Spanish Revolution) featuring his service in the POUM Militia. (please note that Eric Blair was Orwell’s birth name, and he never legally changed his name to George Orwell.) In attempting to recruit people to serve militia in Revolutionary militia’s it said:

“Comrade Blair came to Barcelona, and said he wanted to be of some use to the workers’ cause. In view of his literary abilities and intellectual attainments, it appeared that the most useful work he could do in Barcelona would be that of a propaganda journalist in constant communications with socialist organs of opinion in Britain. He said, ‘I have decided that I can be of most use to the workers as a fighter on the front.’ He spent exactly seven days in Barcelona, and is now fighting with the Spanish Comrades of the POUM in the Aragon front.” 10

A number of members of the Industrial Workers of the World fought on behalf of the Spanish Loyalists, that is on behalf of the Spanish Revolution in what George Orwell said was essentially a class war. 11

“The …IWW…maintained friendly relations with the anarchist International Workingmen’s Association. Many IWW fought with CNT forces.” 12

Sadly this revolution was betrayed by the Soviet Union and defeated by Franco’s forces, with German and Italian weapons and manpower.

The struggle for Orwell was symbolized by a pro-Loyalist Italian militiaman whom he met in the POUM: “In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona the day before I joined the militia. He was a tough-looking youth of twenty-five or –six.” When the Spanish Civil War was almost over, he wrote a poem about this militiaman, whom he assumed had been killed. You can read it in the various collections of his works, or on the internet. 13

One of the ironies of the Spanish Civil War was that the Spanish Anarchists welcomed the Republic in 1931, and would have been willing to live under a republican form of government. But once the fascist rebellion had started, the response was the Spanish revolution. 14

Many books have been written on the Spanish Civil War, but few on the Spanish revolution that happened at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

In late November of 1936 Durruti was killed at the front. There were at least 500,000 in Durruti’s funeral precession. 15 Emma Goldman believed that his ideas and ideals lived on. The survivors of the Spanish Revolution believed that they were fortunate in have lived through that revolution. 16

Raymond S. Solomon

1 .Interview with Buenaventura Durruti by Pierre Van Paassen from the Toronto Daily Star. 1936.

2. Gamera, Juan Director) (1997) Living Utopia: The Anarchists & The Spanish Revolution (Film documentary) TVE Catalonya. Also, in 1938 Felix Morrow wrote, “The Barcelona proletariat prevented the capitulation of the republic to the fascists. On July 19, almost barehanded, they stormed the first barracks successfully. By 2 p.m. the next day they were masters of Barcelona.

“It was not accidental that the honour of initiating the armed struggle against fascism belongs to the Barcelona proletariat. Chief seaport and industrial centre of Spain, concentrating in it and the surrounding industrial towns of Catalonia nearly half the industrial proletariat of Spain, Barcelona has always been the revolutionary vanguard. The parliamentary reformism of the socialist-led UGT had never found a foothold there. The united socialist and Stalinist parties (the PSUC) had fewer members on July 19 than the POUM. The workers were almost wholly organized in the CNT, whose suffering and persecution under both the monarchy and republic had imbued its masses with a militant anti-capitalist tradition, although its anarchist philosophy gave it no systematic direction. But, before this philosophy was to reveal its tragic inadequacy, the CNT reached historic heights in its successful struggle against the forces of General Goded.” Revolution and Counter Revolution in Spain, by Felix Morrow.(1938) See. Felix Morrow internet archives.

3. Living Utopia, Ibid. Also, see footnote 2.

4. The Spanish Anarchist: The Heroic Years—1968—1936, by Murray Bookchin. Free Life Editions, New York, 1977

5. Living Utopia. Op Cite. Also see, Raymond Solomon, “Beyond Spanish Bases” in correspondence column of Christian Science Monitor, February 25 th , 1963.

6. Davison, Peter (ed.) George Orwell Diaries. Liveright Publishing Corporation. 2012. Page 94.

8. All quotes from George Orwell are from Homage to Catalonia, Harcourt Brace, 1952 unless otherwise indicated.

9. Since reference to the Anarchist publication Spanish Revolution is embodied in the text, I have not footnoted it.

10. “British Author with the Militia” in The Spanish Revolution, February 3, 1937. Cited in, Orwell: The Authorized Biography, by Michael Shelden. New York HapersCollinsPublishers. 1991. Pages 252 to 253 and page 471,foot- note 16.

11. In his essay “Looking Back on the Spanish War.” This has been republished in various collections of his essays.

12. Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology by Joyce L. Kornbluh, Daniel Gross, Fred Thompson and Franklin. Charles W. Kerr Publishing, Page 378. See also, “In November We Remember IWW Members Who Fought In The Spanish Civil War” by Matt White, in Industrial Worker, November 2013. Page 9. One of the fellow workers memorialized by White was a German Wobbly who was in a concentration camp, escaped to Denmark and later fought in The Durruti Belgrade. Compare the play Watch on the Rheine by Lillian Hellman. Some German and Italian refugees fought for Loyalist Spain.

13. The poem is titled “The Spanish Soldier Shook My Hand.” appears at the end of his essay “Looking Black on the Spanish War.”


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