The 1936-9 war in Spain was to be a decisive test for the left groups which had come out of a IIIrd International by now definitively in the camp of the bourgeoisie. Beginning as a sudden, spontaneous response by the workers to the military insurrection led by Franco, this class response was very quickly diverted from its class terrain with the help of the ‘left’ -- the Socialist and Stalinist parties, the anarchists of the FAI and the syndicalists of the CNT. It was thus transformed into a capitalist war.
The fact that the Socialist and Stalinist parties should have exalted the war effort and put themselves at its head was hardly surprising. Since they had long since gone over to the capitalist camp, these ‘workers’ parties were only doing their job; the war was simply the continuation of their policy of national defence in another form. Because of their ‘working class’ and ‘socialist’ past, these parties were, out of all the political forces of the bourgeoisie, the best equipped to mystify the working class, derail it from its own struggle, and mobilize it for the imperialist massacre.
With these big parties of the left, then, their position in favour of the war and their participation in it were perfectly in order. Anything else would indeed have been a baffling surprise. But how are we to understand the fact that currents like the anarcho-syndicalists, the CNT, the Trotskyists, and, behind them, the great majority of left groups, were dragged into the whirlpool of the war? Some, like the CNT and the POUM went as far as to participate in the (Republican) government of national defence; others, though opposed to participation in the government (the Trotskyists), still called for participation in the war in the name of the widest possible anti-fascist front. Others, more radical, marched off to war in the name of a workers’ antifascist resistance; still others, in order to fight enemy Number One (Franco) on the war front, the better to wage class struggle after the victory (?!). There were even those who considered that the state in the republican zone had completely disappeared or that it was simply a facade without any real meaning.
The immense majority of these left groups, who for years had taken their strength and their raison d’être from the struggle against the degeneration of the Communist Parties and the Communist International and who had ruthlessly fought against Stalinism in the name of proletarian internationalism, allowed themselves to be caught up in the spokes of the war in Spain. It is true that this was often done with a heavy heart, with many criticisms and reservations and with all kinds of justifications to calm their anxiety; nevertheless these groups actively supported the war in Spain. Why?
First of all there was the phenomenon of fascism. This problem had never been clearly and correctly analyzed in the Communist International, which had very quickly drowned it in the tactical considerations and clever manoeuvres of the United Front. The difference in the forms of the bourgeois dictatorship -- democracy and fascism -- had little by little become a fundamental social antagonism which took the place of the historic class opposition between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In this way class frontiers were completely covered over and confused: democracy became a terrain for the mobilization of the proletariat, fascism a synonym for capitalism. In this new version of the divisions in society, the historical terrain of the proletariat -- the struggle for communism -- disappeared completely, and the only remaining choice for the working class was to serve as an appendage to one or another bourgeois clan. The workers’ natural revulsion and hatred for the overt, barbaric repression meted out by the bloodthirsty fascist gangs was exploited by all the so-called ‘democratic’ forces of capital to derail the proletariat, to fix its gaze on the ‘main enemy’ in order to make it forget that the fascists were just one element of a class which in the face of the proletariat, would always be a united and enemy force.
Anti-fascism, as a substitute for anti-capitalism, as the immediate priority in the struggle against capitalism, became the most effective programme for trapping the proletariat in the quicksands of capital; and the majority of left groups allowed themselves to be led into the same quicksands. Although isolated militants were able to recover after the war, this was not to be the case for political groups like Union Communiste in France, the League des Communistes Internationalistes in Belgium, the GIC in Holland, the minority of the Italian Fraction, and many others who were unable to save themselves from drowning.
Another touchstone which these left groups were to trip over was their complete incomprehension of the profound historical significance of war in the epoch of capitalist decline. They only saw the immediate, contingent motivations behind inter-imperialist confrontations. They didn’t see that beyond these immediate factors, imperialist wars in this epoch are an expression of the historic impasse reached by capitalism as a system. The only solution to capital’s insurmountable contradictions was the communist revolution. In the absence of this solution, society was caught up in an inexorable process of decay and self-destruction. Imperialist war was the only alternative to the revolution. The historic character of this movement of destruction and self-destruction, in direct opposition to the revolution, was a hall-mark of all wars in this epoch, whatever form they took on -- local wars or generalized wars, so-called anti-imperialist wars, wars of independence or national liberation, wars for democracy against totalitarianism, or wars inside a country between fascism and anti-fascism.
Two groups, anchored solidly on the terrain of marxism, were able to pass the two-fold test represented by the war in Spain: the Italian and Belgian Fractions of the Communist Left. Despite weaknesses, their work remains a serious contribution to the revolutionary movement and to this day remains a precious source of theoretical reflection for militants. They suffered the most terrible isolation, but their convictions remained firm, because they knew that this was the inevitable lot of any authentically revolutionary group in a period of defeat for the proletariat, a period that was leading to war. But even though the deafening roar of the cannons and bombs in Spain smothered the weak revolutionary voice of the Communist Left, there came from the other side of the world, from the Marxist Workers’ Group (Grupo de Trabajadores Marxistas) in Mexico, a manifesto which Bilan saluted as a “ray of light”.
In the tragic light of the war in Spain, a group of revolutionaries, some of whom came from a break with Trotskyism, situated themselves on a class terrain and denounced the imperialist war, denounced all its conscious and unconscious defenders, and called upon the workers to break from the repulsive alliance of classes represented by the antifascist war front. The effort to set up this revolutionary group was a particularly difficult one; it was tragically isolated in a distant country like Mexico, it was subjected to heavy repression by the democratic state, it was attacked from all sides, particularly by the Trotskyists, who launched against it a furious campaign of slander and denunciation to the police. Beginning with a position of opposition to the ‘anti-fascist’ war in Spain, the group quickly felt the imperious necessity to consider the whole historical situation and to make a critical examination of all the theoretical and practical postulates of the Trotskyist movement.
On many fundamental questions, we share with this group the same concerns and the same political conclusions, particularly on the period of decadence and the national question. We salute them as our predecessors and as a moment in the historical continuity of the proletarian programme. By publishing a first series of documents by this group, we are demonstrating the life and reality of this evolving political continuity. These documents, which have been almost totally ignored by the revolutionary movement, will, we are sure, be of great interest to all revolutionary militants, since they bring new elements to the work of reflecting on the problems of the proletarian revolution.
In another issue of the International Review we will publish two theoretical texts by this group, one on nationalizations, and the other on the national question.
International Communist Current
The massacre in Barcelona, a lesson for the workers of Mexico!
The defeat suffered by the workers of Spain must not be repeated in Mexico. Every day we are told that we live in a democratic republic, that we have a workers’ government, that this government is our best defence against fascism.
The workers of Spain believed that they were living in a democratic republic, that they had a workers’ government, that this government was their best defence against fascism.
While the workers’ guard was down, while they were putting their trust in a capitalist government and not in their own strength, the fascists prepared their coup in July last year in full view of the government, just as the Cardenas government is allowing Cedillo, Morones, Calles etc to prepare their own coup, while lulling the workers with its ‘proletarian’ demagogy.
How was it possible that the workers of Spain didn’t see last July that the ‘antifascist’ government had betrayed them by allowing the fascists to prepare their coup? How is it possible that Mexican workers didn’t draw any lessons from this painful experience?
It is because the Spanish government has carried on with its demagogy and because it faced the workers with the deceiving slogan: ‘Fascism is the only enemy!’
By taking over the leadership of the war that the workers had started, the bourgeoisie converted a class war into an imperialist war, a war in which the workers have given their blood to defend the republic of their exploiters.
Their leaders, having sold themselves to the bourgeoisie, put forward the slogan: ‘Don’t raise any class demands until we have beaten the fascists!’ And for nine months of the war, the workers didn’t organize a single strike; they allowed the government to suppress the base committees which were thrown up in July, and to subordinate the workers’ militias to the generals of the bourgeoisie. They sacrificed their own struggle so that it wouldn’t get in the way of the struggle against the fascists.Why is Cardenas giving support to Azana?
Is it to give the workers confidence in their own class instincts? The Cardenas government has a vital interest in preventing the workers of Mexico from understanding why the anti-fascist government in Spain allowed the fascists to prepare their coup. Because they understand that what happened in Spain is also about to happen in Mexico.
This is why Cardenas has given his support to the legally constituted Azana government and sent arms to it. He claims demagogically that these arms are for the defence of the workers against fascism.
The most recent news from Spain has destroyed this lie once and for all: the legally constituted Azana government has used these arms to crush the heroic workers of Barcelona when on 4 May this year they dared to defend themselves against the government which was trying to disarm them.
Today, as yesterday, the Cardenas government is aiding the legally constituted Azana government not against the fascists but against the workers.
The bloody repression which has come in the wake of the Barcelona workers’ uprising has shown up the real situation in Spain like a flash of lightning lights up the night. The illusions of nine months have been shattered. In its ferocious struggle against the workers of Barcelona, the ‘anti-fascist’ government has cast off its disguise. Not only did it send its special police, its assault guards, its machine-guns and tanks against the workers -- it even released fascist prisoners and brought back ‘loyal’ regiments from the front, thus exposing this front to Franco’s attack!
These facts have proved that the real enemies of the Popular Front are not the fascists, but the workers!Workers of Barcelona!
You have struggled magnificently, but you have been beaten. The bourgeoisie has been able to isolate you. Your own strength alone was not enough.
Workers of the rear-guard, you must struggle alongside your comrades on the front against the same enemy: not, as your bourgeoisie tell you, against Franco’s army, but against the bourgeoisie itself, whether fascist or ‘anti-fascists’.
You must send agitators to the front with the watchword: rebellion against your own generals! Fraternization with soldiers of Franco -- the majority of whom are peasants who have fallen prey to fascist demagogy because the Popular Front government has not fulfilled its promise to give them land! A common struggle of all the oppressed, whether workers or peasants, Spaniards or Moroccans, Italians or Germans, against our common enemy: the Spanish bourgeoisie and its ally – imperialism!
For this struggle you must have a party which is truly your own. All of today’s organizations from the socialists to the anarchists are servants of the bourgeoisie. In the recent events in Barcelona they once again collaborated with the government to re-establish ‘order’ and ‘peace’. The precondition for your victory is for you to create an independent class party.
Forward, comrades of Barcelona, to a soviet Spain!
Fraternization with the peasants who have been duped into joining Franco’s army, for a struggle against your common oppressors, whether fascist or anti-fascist!
Down with the massacre of workers and peasants in the interests of Franco, Azana and Companys!
Transform the imperialist war in Spain into a class war!
Workers of Mexisco!
When will you rise up?
Will you allow the Mexican bourgeoisie to get away with the same deception as in Spain? No! Will it take nine months of massacre to make you see through this deception? No! Let us learn the lesson of Barcelona! The deception carried out by the Spanish bourgeoisie has only been possible because the leaders have betrayed the workers, as in Mexico, by abandoning the defence of the workers’ interests to the magnanimity of the ‘workers’ government’, and because they have been able to convince the workers that the struggle against fascism demands a truce with the republican bourgeoisie.
The social leaders in Mexico have abandoned the struggle for economic demands and have bound the workers to the government.
All the trade union and political organizations in Mexico support the sending of arms by the Cardenas government to the murderers of our comrades in Barcelona. They all support the demagogy of the government. Not one organization has exposed the real function of the Cardenas government.
If the workers of Mexico don’t create a truly independent class party, we will suffer the same defeat as the workers of Spain! Only an independent proletarian party can counteract the work of the government, which is dividing the peasants from the industrial workers with the farce of dividing up a few strips of land in the lagoon.
The struggle against the demagogy of the government, the alliance with the peasants, and the struggle for the proletarian revolution in Mexico under the banner of a new communist party -- this is the guarantee for our victory and the best help we can give to our brothers in Spain!
Be on the alert, workers of Mexico! We mustn’t be taken in by the fake ‘workers’ rhetoric of the government! No more arms for the murderers of our brothers in Spain!
Fight for an independent class party! Down with the Popular Front government! Long live the dictatorship of the proletariat!
Marxist Workers’ Group
(Grupo de Trabajadores Marxistas)
May 1937, Mexico
In the first moments of the struggle in Spain the proletariat struggled as an independent force. Thus the struggle began as a civil war. But very quickly the betrayal of all the parties transformed the class struggle into class collaboration, the civil war into an imperialist war.
All the parties (including the anarcho-syndicalists) broke the strike movement with the slogan: “No class demands until we have won the war!”. The result of this policy was that the Spanish proletariat abandoned the class struggle and gave its blood for the defence of the capitalist republic. Thanks to the war in Spain the bourgeoisie has managed to convince the workers of Spain and the rest of the world that its class interests are the same as those of bourgeois democracy; it has made the workers abandon their own methods of class struggle and accept the methods of the bourgeoisie: territorial struggle, worker against worker. We can thus see how the more the heroism of the Spanish proletariat and the solidarity of the world proletariat grows, the more the class consciousness of the workers is being reduced.
The world bourgeoisie, especially the so-called ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie, gives its approval to the heroism of the Spanish proletariat and the solidarity of the international proletariat in order to derail the struggle from a national terrain to the ‘international’ terrain; from being a struggle against the bourgeoisie at home into a struggle against the fascism of Spain, Germany, and Italy. This method has brought great advantages to the bourgeoisie in all countries: it has been used to break strikes. The war in Spain and the way the bourgeoisie has made use of it have tied the proletariat of each country more tightly to its own bourgeoisie.
The government of Mexico has outdone all the capitalist governments in the systematic and demagogic way it has supported the war in Spain to strengthen its own position and bind the Mexican proletariat to the bourgeoisie.
The workers’ organizations who demand that their government should send arms to Spain are actually giving their support not to the Spanish workers but to the Spanish bourgeoisie and their own bourgeoisie. Similarly taking up collections and sending volunteers to the battle-front can only serve to prolong the illusions held by the workers of Spain and the rest of the world and to provide cannon-fodder to the Spanish and international bourgeoisie.
The present government of Mexico has the task of continuing the work of its predecessors, ie destroying the independent movement of the workers in order to convert Mexico into a safe source of exploitation by international capital. What has changed from the previous government is only the form in which this task is being carried out, ie the intensification of its leftist demagogy. The present government presents itself to the masses as the expression of true democracy.
The duty of the vanguard of the proletariat is to warn its class and the toiling masses in general that:
-- democracy is simply a form of capitalist, dictatorship and that the bourgeoisie uses this form when it can’t use more overt forms of dictatorship;
-- the function of democracy is to corrupt the ideological and organizational independence of the proletariat;
-- the bourgeoisie always matches violent methods of oppressing the workers with corruption;
-- the democratic methods of today have the role of preparing the brutal repression of the workers’ movement and the setting up of an open dictatorship tomorrow;
-- and finally the Cardenas government is allowing reactionary elements both inside and outside the government to forge the weapons for this coming brutal oppression (amnesty, etc).
The present government is attempting to separate the workers from their natural allies, the poor peasants, and to incorporate the organizations of both classes into the state apparatus. The government is organizing and giving arms to the peasants so that the latter will use them against the proletariat in the future. At the same time it is trying to get rid of all the organizations of the proletariat and form a single party and one union apparatus directly tied to the state. The government is taking advantage of the divisions within the proletariat in order to weaken all the existing organizations: first of all by setting one against the other and secondly by unifying regional and local sections through aid given out by the state. Recently the government has been using Trotsky and the Trotskyists to weaken the CTM (Confederation of Mexican Workers) and the Stalinists. The duty of the vanguard of the proletariat is to systematically denounce and fight against the manoeuvres of the government, intensifying the struggle against the government to the same degree that the government is intensifying its work of corruption and demagogy; it is to hasten the work of preparing a class party; it is to elaborate a revolutionary tactic for the unification of the trade union movement totally independent from the state; it is to begin systematic work amongst the agricultural workers and small peasants in order to undermine their confidence in the state and forge an alliance with the workers in the towns.
Every capitalist government of a semi-colonial country is an instrument of imperialism. The present government of Mexico is an instrument of American imperialism. Its policies can only serve imperialism and intensify the slavery of the Mexican masses. The duty of the vanguard of the proletariat is to unmask the anti-imperialist demagogy of the government and to show to the masses of this continent and of the whole world that the collaboration of the Mexican government is today indispensable for the extension of imperialism, as can be seen, for example, in the role played by the Mexican delegation to the Conference of Buenos Aires. The result of the Conference was the intensification of American domination, above all in Mexico.
The demagogic methods used by the present Mexican government in its dealings with the workers’ movement and the agitation in the countryside has so inspired the confidence of American imperialism that the Wall Street banks have offered a huge loan to the Mexican government on condition that the revenues of the oil companies serve as a guarantee for the payment of interest. The government accepted this condition without meeting any opposition from within the country, which didn’t happen with the previous government. This was possible because of the popularity the present government has gained by sending aid to the Spanish government and distributing land in the lagoon, and also because of its promise that the loan will be used to build machinery. Thus we can see that the proletariat cannot struggle against the internal policy of the Mexican government without systematically struggling against its foreign policy, and that you can’t struggle against Cardenas without struggling against Roosevelt.
Since the whole policy of the Mexican government is dictated by the needs of American imperialism, the same can be said for the right of asylum granted to Trotsky. It is clear that Cardenas only conceded the right of asylum to Trotsky with the authorization of his master: American imperialism, which is banking on using Trotsky for its international diplomatic manoeuvres, especially for its negotiations with Stalin.
The duty of the vanguard of the proletariat is to warn the workers of this situation, while naturally continuing to struggle for the right of asylum for Trotsky.
Marxist Worker’ Group, MexicoAn appeal by Mexican revolutionaries to workers organizations of this country and abroad
An organization which claims to be communist and internationalist has just committed an act which shows that it is neither communist nor internationalist. The Mexican section of the Internationalist Communist League has committed the crime of denouncing a foreign comrade who lives in Mexico, attacking him for conducting activity within the working class of this country against the policies of the government.
Our enquiry has enabled us to establish the fact that this comrade was for eleven years, from 1920 to 1931, a member of the German Communist Workers’ Party and the General Union of Workers of Germany. From 1931 to 1934, he was a member of the German emigre group of the Communist League and broke with it when Trotsky ordered the different sections of the Opposition to enter the Second International. For several years this comrade was a militant of the Revolutionary Workers’ League (the Oehler Group) in the USA, under the pseudonym of Eiffel, and was a member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau. Forced to leave the USA when the authorities refused to renew his passport, Eiffel took refuge in Mexico as a representative of the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Workers’ League, and then he worked in our organization.
As a response to our enquiry, to our request for an explanation, which is the proper way of relating to other workers’ organizations, the League replied with new slanders, culminating in a denunciation to the police -- the review Fourth International gives the name of this comrade, his nationality and political pseudonym.
We are also accused, as an organization, being in the pay of Hitler and of ... Stalin.
We know that such methods are typical of organizations who no longer have anything proletarian about them. These are the methods of Stalinism, and prior to that the methods used by Social Democracy in its struggle against the revolutionary vanguard, the internationalists. The fact that the Communist League is following the same path is the sign of a political degeneration which makes it afraid to openly and honestly explain the differences between our two organizations.
We will now explain the content of these differences.The case of Trotsky
Since Trotsky’s arrival in Mexico, the League has stopped attacking the Cardenas government, and has begun defending it. It calls the government ‘anti-imperialist’, ‘antifascist’, ‘progressive’ etc. Seeing the danger of such a policy, which will reduce the vanguard to the level of Stalinism, comrade Daniel Ayala, then a member of the Mexican League, demanded that the League should not consider itself hound by the compromise Trotsky had to make in order to obtain the right of asylum and that it should also free Trotsky of his political links with the organization. The obvious duty of any workers’ organization is to fight for comrade Trotsky’s right of asylum, without changing a single line of its doctrine, of its propaganda.
The Communist League has not understood things in this way, and by taking responsibility for Trotsky’s acts, has provided the government with an excuse to expel this comrade whenever the activity of the League is inconvenient to it. Our proposition therefore gave a better guarantee to Trotsky and allowed the League to fully maintain its ideological independence.
Daniel Ayala became a member of the Marxist Workers’ Group and was accused of being a provocateur, an agent of the GPU, by the Mexican section of the IVth International.
Since then, the new policy of the League in Mexico has been the same as that of Stalinism, but with a different theoretical argumentation. One example: Diego Riveira, one of the leaders of the League, speaks openly of the necessity for the workers to defend “the independence of our country” (Excelsior, 3 September 1937). The Mexican Trotskyists joined the social patriots when they gave them the task of “defending the independence of our country” against the attempt to “subordinate the administration of our country to Moscow” (Excelsior, 3 September 1937).The war in Spain
In our leaflet of May 1937 on the massacre in Barcelona, we said:
“All the trade union and political organizations support the sending of arms by the Cardenas government to the murderers of our comrades in Barcelona.”
This judgment applies both to the Communist Party and the League, because they are both an integral part of the anti-fascist united front whose function is to destroy the ideological independence of the workers’ organizations and to incorporate them into the bourgeois state.
Formerly, the League fought against the Stalinists for giving support to the Cardenas government, of which it said:
“It is in reality the dictatorship of the capitalists in a camouflaged form, and represents the interests of Yankee capital. The sole reason for its existence is to maintain oppression by using radical phrases.”
Since Trotsky’s arrival, the League has given up this correct marxist position on bourgeois democratic states, and acts as though the government stands above classes. The slogans of the League echo what can be read in the Stalinist press: ‘The government must put an end to abuses by the capitalists”; “It’s necessary to fight the passivity of the government”, etc.
On the war in Spain, the League criticizes the Stalinists’ support for the bourgeois democratic government, but it associates itself with this treason, because it does not explain to the workers that the war in Spain has become an imperialist war; on the contrary, it takes up the language of the Stalinists when it says that it’s necessary to fight on the fronts.Our position on the war in Spain
We are against supporting the republican power, but not for supporting the power of Franco. We don’t accept the alternative “with Azana or with Franco”. On the contrary, we think that the only way to beat fascism is, first of all, for the workers to break out of the discipline of their ‘democratic’ oppressors, because the only front on which the proletariat can win is the class front.
The war in Spain, like all wars led by the bourgeoisie, is an imperialist war, and not a civil war; consequently, those who call on the workers to support this war are betraying the real interests of the oppressed class. Only by following the policy of the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary marxists during the world war can the workers make their revolution -- by rising up against their own generals and fraternizing with the soldiers of Franco. This is the only way to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war.
…..Lenin, Liebknecht worked for the defeat of their own government, ie of the bourgeoisie, and for the victory of the proletariat. In Russia the revolution triumphed on the basis of the defeat of the Russian government. But the Russian revolutionaries used this defeat to make the proletarian revolution not only in Russia but in Germany as well. The same thing will happen in Spain. The rebellion of Azana’s soldiers will be the signal for the rebellion of the soldiers under Franco’s domination. This is the only way of making the proletarian revolution arise out of the present imperialist war. Those who say that the revolution will come after the victory of the Azana government are lying. What will follow the victory of the republican government will be a terrible repression of the workers and peasants of Spain, a repression much bloodier than the massacre of the workers of Barcelona by the ‘democratic’ General Pezas.The war in China
Forgetting what he said for years about the Chinese revolution, Trotsky says today that in China “All the workers’ organizations ... will carry out to the end their duty in the war of liberation….”. Today Chiang Kai-shek is the hero of the war of liberation, and it is the workers’ duty to support the war. But Trotsky doesn’t explain how a war led by the bourgeoisie can be a war of ‘liberation’. Stalin also says that the workers “will carry out to the end their duty to the war of liberation”, but he doesn’t worry about the “programme and political independence” which Trotsky says the workers absolutely must not abandon. Trotsky continues to speak of this independent struggle at the same time as he abandons it in deeds. It’s worth drawing attention to a minor fact here. A note inserted into no.13 of the Fourth International review rectifies an error in the text of Trotsky’s article on the war in China which he gave to the Mexican journal Excelsior; in Excelsior the words “absolutely without abandoning” were replaced by the Stalinist phrase “without taking into consideration ...”. What is so serious and so tragic is that the Fourth International originally reproduced the same version of Trotsky’s article without correcting it. If the leaders themselves confuse the Stalinist with the Trotskyist version, how are the workers supposed to recognize the right one?
In the case of China as in the case of Spain, the workers will remember one thing: by asking them to do their duty, the League and the Communist Party are asking them to abandon their own struggle and give their support to the ‘liberating’, ‘anti-imperialist’, ‘anti-fascist’, ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie.Our position on the war in China
The only safeguard for the workers and peasants of China is to struggle as an independent force against the two governments. By organizing a struggle against their own bourgeoisie, the Chinese revolutionaries will sow the seeds of revolt against the Japanese government, and out of the fraternization of the workers and peasants of both countries the proletarian revolution will arise. If the revolutionaries unite themselves with the bourgeoisie to defend the fatherland until the war is over, as Stalin and Trotsky advise them to do, they will assist in the destruction of the flower of the proletariat and peasantry of both countries; and at the end of it all the two conflicting bourgeoisies will come to an agreement to ensure the joint exploitation of the Chinese masses.
In all situations, our position is based on one criterion: the class interests of the proletariat require its absolute independence. Its only hope is the proletarian revolution. All ‘wars of liberation’, all ‘anti-fascist wars’ are fundamentally directed against the proletarian revolution. To give ones’ support to these wars is the same as struggling against the proletarian revolution.
The comrades of the Marxist Workers’ Group conclude that they are neither agents of Hitler, nor of Mussolini, nor of Stalin. They continue to be marxists, whereas on the fundamental questions confronting the workers’ movement, the Stalinists and the Trotskyists have arrayed themselves on the same side.
“National defence and democracy: these are the solemn formulae for capitulation by the proletariat to the will of the bourgeoisie.” (Manifesto of the Second Congress of the Communist International)
Never has the communist movement been in such ruins and degeneration as it is today. The so-called Stalinist and Trotskyist ‘communists’ have long since abandoned the communist road, capitulating before the twin fetishes of our class enemy: democracy and the fatherland. Of true communists there remain only small groups in a few countries, like the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left, which in exile prepares for the day of the proletarian revolution in its country, and another “fraction” with similar political positions in Belgium. It is the work of these two groups which has inspired us in our effort to create a communist nucleus in Mexico.
In May last year, when we had only just held our first talks with several other comrades, the majority of them ex-members of the Internationalist Communist League, the massacre of our class brothers in Barcelona by the hangmen of the ‘workers’ government of Azana and Companys forced us to launch our first publication: our leaflet entitled ‘The Barcelona Massacre: A Lesson for the Workers of Mexico’.
We stated in that leaflet our opposition in principle to the participation of workers organizations in the war in Spain, which must be characterised on both sides an imperialist war, and we put forward the slogan of revolutionary defeatism, as the only watchword that can separate the proletariat from ‘its’ bourgeoisie and bring it towards the revolution.
At the same time we denounced the complicity of the ‘workerist’ government in Mexico, and all the worker organizations in the country, in the massacre of our class brothers in Spain.
However, such basic errors are not something special to Mexico. On the contrary, they are common to the communist movement in all colonial and semi-colonial countries, as was shown with cruel clarity by the defeat of the proletarian revolution in China. Such false assumptions had their origin in the unfinished and, in part, incorrect state in which the Communist International left the problem of the proletarian struggle in countries like Mexico and China.
Our first task, consequently, is a critical study of the positions of the Communist International (naturally not of today’s Comintern which shares nothing with communism except the name, but that of Lenin’s time) concerning the appropriate tactics for the colonial and semi-colonial countries. Only provided that we complete that task can we prepare a solid basis for the future Communist Party in Mexico.
Departing from the same marxist principles which Lenin and the other communists of that time did, but profiting from the great experiences since then (particularly the Chinese Revolution of 1926-28), we shall revise the tactical conclusions arrived at by these comrades.
In other words, to publish a new thesis on the struggle in the colonial and semi-colonial countries is our most urgent task. We have not yet completed this task, owing in the first place to our still fairly reduced numbers and to our lack of experience in such theoretical work. This is the first time in Mexico that a group of workers is dealing with the problems of the country in an independent way, solely and exclusively from a class standpoint. Our friends, in Mexico and in other countries, must be indulgent of the slowness or imperfections with which we complete our first task.
While the discussion continues within our group regarding the fundamental problems of the proletarian revolution in Mexico, everyday events, like the ‘nationalization’ of the oil industry, oblige and at the same time allow us to deal with some of these problems even before arriving at a complete position, which must be based in an analytical study of the whole history of the workers’ movement in Mexico and in other countries of a similar social structure.
In this sense, we initiate with this first number of our review Comunismo, the discussion of the fundamental problems of our struggle, a discussion which is indispensable for the foundation of the future Party of the proletarian revolution, if it is to be based upon solid and truly marxist foundations.
For this work we invite the co-operation of all comrades in Mexico and abroad.
We conclude by affirming the urgency of initiating the work of preparing the programmatic and organizational bases for a new Communist Party in Mexico, completely independent from all the currents which, within the workers’ movement, represent – consciously or unconsciously – the interest of our class enemy.
The publication of our leaflet dictated by our desire to awaken proletarian consciousness against the massacre in Barcelona and in Spain in general, was nevertheless premature in so much as at that time we did not yet have a clear position on the problems of our own country. But its publication had a double effect:
1. On the one hand, it provoked against our group a furious campaign of calumnies on the part of the so-called Internationalist Communist League and particularly Leon Trotsky, who accused us of being ‘agents of fascism’ and denounced to the police those comrades who shared our point of view.
2. On the other hand, our first leaflet brought us the solidarity of the proletariat of two countries: the Italian and Belgian Fractions of the Communist Left, who not only defended us from these accusations, but also published translations of the entire text of our leaflet in their reviews Prometeo (in Italian), Bilan (in French) and Communisme (also in French), expressing their satisfaction that, at last, there had appeared in Mexico the first “rays of light”.
Stimulated by this international support and by the letters which the Italian and Belgian comrades sent us, we are trying to accelerate the discussion already started within our young group. But the political and personal difficulties created for us by the accusations and denunciations of the Trotskyists were so grave, that we lost whole months in mere self-defence.
In the end we did advance from negative work to positive work, but we found it more difficult than we had anticipated. The fundamental reason is that in reality in our country never before has there been posed in a correct form, the problems of the proletarian revolution. During its whole existence, the communist movement in Mexico was poisoned with the idea of co-operation with the ‘anti-imperialist’ and ‘progressive’ bourgeoisie of the country.
Our work, therefore, cannot base itself in the positive experiences of the Mexican proletariat, because these have been non-existent. On the contrary, it has to start with a Marxist critique of the false bases upon which the communist movement in Mexico was built.
(Comunismo, no.1, August-September, 1938)