Spain and the World. Vol. 1, no. 14 (supplement)
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SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO SPAIN AND THE WORLD Supplement to VOL. 1, No. 14. FRIDAY, JUNE 11TH, 1937. PRICE 1d. — U.S.A. 3 CENTS. The dilemma "war or revolution" has no longer any meaning. The only dilemma is: either victory over Franco, thanks to the revolutionary war, or defeat. - Camillo Berneri. ANARCHISTS MALIGNED ONCE MORE THE TRAGIC WEEK IN MAY. FROM May 3rd to May 8th, Barcelona lived in a state of civil war. But this time the fight was not against an open fascist enemy; it was a struggle between the different tendencies composing the anti-fascist front. It was a struggle between those who represent the anti-fascist front in the outside world. The entire affair had a tragic significance. While in Aragon, Viscaya and other parts of Spain, the struggle is being waged against the fascist generals, in Barcelona it was a fight amongst brothers. The purpose of this pamphlet is to expose the origins of the entire affair and to present a picture of the events. We shall be absolutely honest, neither omitting nor coloring the facts. The facts will speak for themselves. INTRODUCTION. On July 19th, 1936, the Spanish generals rose against the people. The workers of Barcelona, under the leadership of the Anarchists, succeeded in smashing the fascist rising within two and a half days. The Anarchists did not want to conquer power for themselves, nor did the unions seek to establish a dictatorship. As in all other parts of Spain, an anti-fascist united front was formed. It ranged all the way from the various republican tendencies of the bourgeoisie to the most extreme tendencies of the proletariat:— the Anarchists. Naturally there was not complete harmony among the various tendencies composing the anti-fascist block, either with respect to aims or choice of means. Some wanted merely to smash the power of the generals and the clergy, but, otherwise, maintain a bourgeois capitalist society; others sought a fundamental change in all phases of social life. High finance was on the side of the fascist generals. With the defeat of the generals, they lost their positions of power. The workers organizations assumed the functions of organizing public life. The economic transformations took the form of Socialization, All big enterprises were either collectivised or socialised. The former owners of these big enterprises can offer no more resistance. However, the petty bourgeoisie, even though it did not have the strength to resist the new developments during the first months of proletarian victory, did not accept completely the new order. In the course of this development, divergent trends began to appear. The masses of the workers were for the most part organized in the anarcho-syndicalist organization, the C.N.T.; the petty bourgeoisie, during the months that followed the 19th of July, affiliated itself with the U.G.T. Not only workers, but traders, owners of small shops, market salesmen, etc., joined the U.G.T. The developments in Spain took a course totally different from that of other countries. Forms of organization arose, especially in Catalonia, which had been seen nowhere else. In all other European countries, especially in the democratic ones, the political parties form the currents of public life, but in Catalonia the trade unions have this function. This is due to the syndicalist character of the Spanish labor movement. In the spirit of these traditions, the petty bourgeoisie also organized themselves into trade unions. There is a fundamental difference in the workers' organization, the C.N.T., and that of the petty bourgeoisie, the U.G.T. — in whose ranks workers have also been organized — both as to politics and as to their final goal. The U.G.T. accepted collectivization only under compulsion: they wanted nationalization, that is, the power of control to lie in the hands of the state and the political parties represented in it rather in the hands of the workers' organizations. Friction arose, leading to collisions. Among the workers themselves, in the factories and in the management of enterprises, complete understanding and harmony reigned. Only in political questions did opinions differ. When the C.N.T. entered the government on September 28th, 1936, after the dissolution of the Anti-fascist Militia Committee which had been functioning for two and a half months, it took over, officially, the Department of Food Supplies. A central department for food supplies was created under the direction of the syndicalist, Domenech. He established an internal trade monopoly for the control of prices. The provisioning of food for the cities was to be taken over entirely by the unions of the transport workers and of the various branches of the food industry, who were to substitute — in accordance with a special plan — for the big enterprises and the small traders who had controlled the food industry until then. The small traders became — as members of their unions — equal to the workers of town and country. Or, rather, they were supposed to become such. Continuous conflicts arose between the members of the C.N.T. and those of the U.G.T., over ways and means of conducting the work. The conflicts created a scarcity of certain food articles. Things became more expensive; sharp political discussions arose as to their cause, and as to the value of the methods. Three months later, December 16th, 1936, a new Catalan government had to be organized. This crisis was of a purely political character. The POUM, Workers' Party of Marxist Union, was being viciously attacked by the leaders of the U.G.T., official communists for the most part. They declared the POUM, because of its Trotzkyist tendency, a counter-revolutionary party. Soviet Russia herself, through her official representatives, took part in this campaign. The crisis was created in the Generality in order to remove the POUM, whose leader, Andres Nin, was Minister of Justice, from the government. The C.N.T. was opposed to this political manoeuvre but, being in the minority in the coalition government, the POUM was expelled from the government. The dictatorial aims of the Communists manifested themselves clearly in the new order. The Communists had always been an unimportant minority in Catalonia, as well as in the rest of Spain. By a series of clever manoeuvres their influence increased in Catalonia. They united with the Socialist Party and formed the United Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC), which joined the 3rd International. Although they called themselves socialists, they had the support of the communist organizations, and succeeded in winning the new party over to their line. To the Communists of the PSUC the POUM signified a rival party that had to be eliminated from the scene. The Soviet Union strongly supported these manoeuvres. Some shipments of food arrived from the U.S.S.R. They also sent some armaments. The propaganda machine started using this support for their political purposes. The POUM began to lose influence. The influence of the PSUC grew in proportion as that of the POUM declined. The differences between the two parties were extended into the U.G.T. The members of the POUM belonged to the UGT and even held a number of important positions there. The PSUC wanted to expel them from their posts. A bitter conflict began between the two Marxist brothers for control of the trade unions, a conflict such as is known only too well in many other countries. The political atmosphere among the anti-fascists in Catalonia became ever more unbearable. The CNT acted loyally toward the antifascist cause when the new government was formed. It wanted to stop the fighting among the political parties. It made the proposal, and succeeded in having it accepted, that the Trade Unions, and not the political parties, should be represented in the new government. These trade unions were the CNT and the UGT. The Catalan Left, as a special expression of the Catalan Nation, and as partisans of the presidency, was also allowed to participate. To get the Ministry of Defense, until then in the hands of the Catalan Left, the CNT gave up the Department of Food Supplies to the UGT. Immediately after taking over the Department, Comorera, the new Minister, erased, with one stroke of his pen, the entire work of his predecessor: the inner trade monopoly, the fixed prices for articles of food, was wiped out. Comorera's aim was to break the power of the unions. He therefore wanted to turn over the function of supplying food to private companies. Thus small proprietors, petty traders, and tenants were able to make greater profits through higher prices. The scarcity of bread became chronic. Things became more expensive and the masses more discontented. Economically, as well as politically, the fuel had been assembled, and demogogy helped set it ablaze. On October 22nd, 1936, a pact was ratified, by the CNT-FAI on one side, and the UGT—PSUC on the other. They agreed to a program of minimum demands. Both organizations, especially the CNT, made concessions in the struggle against the rebel generals. The workers rejoiced over this pact, and a great mass meeting in the vast bullring of Barcelona, where all of the city's workers were assembled, sealed it by acclamation. But there were those who still put their partisan interests above the interests of the proletariat as a whole. A campaign was begun against the CNT and the FAI of the same character as that employed against the POUM. The Anarchists and Syndicalists were held responsible for everything that did not function too smoothly. Even though the CNT—FAI gave up the idea of collectivization in those sections where the small tenants were in a majority, and absolutely rejected the proposal for compulsory collectivization, they continued to campaign against the CNT—FAI among the small tenants and peasants. They appealed to the property instinct, made the idea of collectivization appear hostile to the lovers of property, and went so far as to denounce the advocates of collectivization as enemies of the people. Such a malicious campaign had its effect. In January, 1937, an insurrection, arranged by the politicians, broke out against the CNT-FAI in the town of Fatarella. The insurrection, as such, was unimportant: but it was symptomatic. Six months had passed since the victory over the fascists, six months of revolutionary development which led, and had to lead, toward socialization. But certain parties wanted to reverse the trend of this development. They wanted a national war, not a Social Revolution. The slogan, "the war and the revolution," for which the CNT—FAI stands, was opposed by the slogan of all the other political parties: "First, we must win the war. Everything else, a new political order, establishment of social justice, etc., must be left untouched till the end of the war." The conflicts became more intense. They wanted to manoeuvre the CNT—FAI out of their political positions. Blood flowed in Fatarella. Although both organizations issued a joint declaration regarding the events and their origin, the PSUC press continued its campaign of slander against responsible members of the CNT—FAI, ministers in the Generality, in connection with the outbreak. Certain elements of the Catalan Left and the Catalan Nationalists (Estat Catalan) also joined in this insidious campaign. Grave discontent reigned among the workers. The revolutionary workers of Catalonia felt humiliated by the gradual curtailment of their revolutionary conquests after the 19th of July. The representatives of the CNT—FAI vigorously opposed the application of police measures to meet the discontent of the masses. The bourgeois elements, therefore, tried to remove the advocates of the syndicalists and the anarchists from their positions The workers' Patrols of Control, composed of those fighting elements who had smashed fascism in Catalonia on July 19th, have been functioning as anti-fascist guards, and were legalized as such. The majority of the members of these Patrols are members of the CNT, and when the UGT demanded equal representation with the CNT, to which they were obviously not entitled since they were not equal in membership in the region, bitter conflict sprang up again. The UGT members left the Patrols and devoted their attention to winning over the police to their side. Instead of building bridges of unity, they were broadening the gulfs that kept the proletariat separated. The communists and the elements of the Catalan Left, the Esquerra, started an intense propaganda among the existing police bodies: Assault Guards, Civil Guards, and Catalan City Guards, a propaganda directed against the syndicalists and the anarchists. The latter had been demanding, from the very beginning, that the old police units be dissolved and replaced by a single body for Public Security. The other parties and organizations opposed it. Friction arose between the police and the workers' Patrols. In some places fighting broke out; there were wounded, and even dead. The following is an example of the preparations being made by certain elements for a fratricidal war against the anarchists: On Friday, March 5th, 1937, a few individuals presented an order, signed by Vallejo, director of the arms factories, to the arsenal in Barcelona, to give them ten armoured cars. The director of the arsenal found the document in order and delivered the cars. At the last moment doubts arose as to the authenticity of the order, and the director telephoned to Vallejo for verification. The document proved to be forged, but, in the meantime, the armoured cars had been driven away. They were followed and observed to go into the Voroschilov Barracks, belonging to the PSUC, that is, the communists. Premier Tarradelles intervened. At first the barracks' officers denied all knowledge of the deed. Only when threatened with a forced investigation of the barracks did they admit that the armoured cars were there. The purpose for thus stealing and hiding the armoured cars became more than clear to the people of Barcelona during the tragic May days. Premier Tarradelles issued a decree prohibiting the members of the various police bodies from joining any political parties or unions, which aroused great indignation among the workers. Special plenums of the CNT were held and the representatives of the CNT in the government were instructed to demand the annulment of the decree. At the same time the workers' organizations of the CNT demanded the reform of the Department of Food Supplies and, therefore, the resignation of Comorera. A new crisis of the Generality was precipitated on March 27th. The solution of this crisis proved to be very difficult. The demands of the PSUC, hiding behind the UGT, became ever more arrogant. When, after a week of negotiations, a new program for the government of the Generality had been agreed upon, the UGT broke it at the very last moment. Unity, so painfully achieved, was again spoiled. Companys, president of the Catalan Generality, created a provisional government, with a peaceful coup d'etat. The syndicalists and anarchists would have been perfectly justified if they had rejected this arbitrary solution. They had proved their good will and patience; they could face public opinion; justice and sympathy were definitely with them. Yet, not to break the anti-fascist front, they swallowed this bitter pill too. On April 16th, the crisis was finally solved, the CNT proving very complying. They renounced their former demands, modified the desires of the proletariat by pointing out the necessities of the war against fascism, and urged them to concentrate their forces for the period after the defeat of the fascists.
|Archive collection||Publications from the archive of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland|
|Archive folder||Journal of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Union : Spain and the World|
|Document title||Spain and the World. Vol. 1, no. 14 (supplement)|
|Issuing organisation||Anarcho-Syndicalist-Union (Shepherd's Bush (London, England))|
|Author||Souchy, Agustín, 1892-|
|Document date||11 June 1937|
|Copyright status||Copyright expired. With the exception of the article by Augustin Souchy: current copyright holder unknown.|