Bilan 35: A slaughter-house for the proletariat in Spain

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The fascists launch their attack in Spain. The traitors to the working class everywhere rush to their posts and demand that their governments send arms and muni­tions to the ‘legal government of the Republic’. This is very different from calling on the working class of each country to mobilize itself for a bitter struggle against ‘its own’ capitalists. That is the class struggle; that is the only way of expressing solidarity with the Spanish workers. The traitors could not even con­ceive of taking such a course of action, which would lead to the weakening of capitalism in every country and would ricochet back to foil the fascist offen­sive in Spain. But such a position is restricted to a few very small proletarian groups, and, almost daily we can watch their number dwindle. Thus the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification), the CNT, and the FAI have all protested against M. Blum’s mystifying speech at Luna-Parc only to call upon the French workers not to launch a struggle against their own imperialism, but rather to force the Popular Front government (in France) to lift the blockade of arms shipments to Spain and thus neutralize the aid given by Hitler and Mussolini to the Spanish fascists…

…If we reflect on the profound differ­ence between the first and second phase of events, we can begin to understand the cruel logic of the present situation. On 19 July (1936) the proletariat rose up against the fascist attack and unleashed a general strike. The proletariat was on its feet, the class itself, the only class capable of beating back the fascist offensive. And it was fighting with its own weapon of struggle - the strike. Armed struggle? Yes, but in the service of class resistance. And at that moment there was no government at the workers’ side, no Republicans, no separatists.

The proletariat was terribly strong, because it was terribly alone. After that the whole situation changed. From then on the Spanish workers had the Popular Front government next to them and the sympathy of other powerful governments: the French, the British, the Russian. But the proletariat no longer existed as a class, since once it had left its own elemental class terrain it was nailed to a terrain that was not its own, and was actually in opposition to it - the terrain of its class enemy.

And so the tragedy began. The fascists grew in strength the more the workers - through the Popular Front government - clung to their own bourgeoisie. In Barcelona the capitalist state machine was not only left intact, it was made inviolate, because the workers were being persuaded to make it function as effectively as possible in order to wage the war. The strengthening of the state machine in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and its corollary - the strengthening of the same machine in Seville and Burgos - allowed the fascist attack to have an even greater chance of success.

The traitors of various countries are urging the workers to call for government intervention. What would be the result of that? The lesson of 1914-18 is tragically and eloquently applicable. Even if a world conflict did not ensue and an improvement in the military position of the ‘loyalist’ armies allowed them to defeat the generals, the Spanish workers fighting under the leadership, control, and for the objectives of the Popular Front government would dis­cover, just like the French and British workers in 1918, that the price of falling for the deceptions of their exploiters would be an intensification of their slavery. Even if the manoeuvres of capitalism, setting worker against worker, were limited to Spain, even if they do not lead to a world conflict, it doesn’t mean that the Spanish proletariat will be alone in paying the price.

But this hypothesis (of a victory of the Popular Front) does not seem to correspond to the evolution of the terrible events in Spain. Our initial impressions seem to have been confirmed. Capitalism was forced to undergo a bloody conversion from its ex­treme left to its extreme right - the initial plan of crushing the workers of Spain in one fell swoop did not succeed. To achieve that the bourgeoisie has had to make use of a force which acts in a complimentary manner to the general’s frontal attack. This force is represented by the Popular Front.

The manoeuvres of the Popular Front have succeeded in tearing the workers away from their own class front, from street battles against the bourgeoisie, in order to push them onto a purely territorial front. And with every defeat on this front capitalism has fortified its positions of strength within the masses. The defeat at Irún was accompanied by the formation of the extreme-left Caballero government; the fall of Toledo was followed by the entry of the POUM and the anarchists into the Barcelona Generalitat. In this way Spanish capitalism has suffocated the slightest response of the class.

The workers of Spain and of the entire world will remember today’s horrible tragedy. They will add it to the list of similar tragedies in Germany, Italy, Russia, and other countries. The capitalist enemy will enter it into its list of victories against the proletariat, but in historical terms capitalism is definitively condemned. In revenge for being incapable of developing the productive forces it is piling up a mountain of proletarian corpses. But from these countless victims will spring up anew the invincible power that will build a communist society. The workers of Spain are fighting like lions, but they are being beaten because they are being led by traitors, led to fight within the enemy’s bastion on the territorial fronts. From their defeat will arise that wall of steel of class struggle against which the weapons of capital will be powerless, because the workers will no longer be fighting against their brothers but against their class enemies and for the victory of the revolu­tion.

(Bilan, no.35, September-October 1936)

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