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SPAIN has been widely pictured as in the grip of communist mobs engaged in arson, murder and plunder. Yet if we look closely at the forces of mass revolution on the march there we see that as yet the Moscow variety of communism is merely a detail on the canvas. To this particular observer at any rate, the cause of democracy has seemed to be on a firmer footing since Azaña became Prime Minister a few days after the elections of February 16 than when he first took office after the Republican revolution of April 14, 1931. However, in Spain the tides of political action have a way of veering suddenly in the night; and so it remains to be seen what will be the effect of Azaña's translation to the presidency on May 11.
Immediately after the declaration of the Republic in 1931 a violent antagonism asserted itself between the revolutionary masses (except the Socialists) and the government. If one looks back at the news reports of the first two years one reads about wave upon wave of revolutionary outbreak. Finally, even the Socialists abandoned the government. The 1936 Azaña ministry, however, came into power on the basis not only of a binding agreement with a number of "proletarian" parties but of a certain toleration by other revolutionary groups. Moreover, when the new government took hold it showed that it was cognizant of those past errors which made its predecessors distrusted. So far the parties have shown a loyal disposition to abide by the terms of the pact. The resulting stability is a fact, notwithstanding the scattered incidents of mob action which in their global aspect are somewhat appalling. This gives grounds for hope that the government, by adopting a realistic attitude toward the disorders, by refusing to be incited to undue acts of retaliation and repression, and by an understanding attitude toward the needs of labor, may avert the prophesied red doomsday.
As to the long list of church and convent burnings and similar occurrences, often produced by the deliberately provocative acts of fascist elements and their kind,[i] the important thing would appear to be, not what happened, but what might have happened yet did not. The spread of mob action was in each instance checked, without undue violence, after the initial outburst. It would well have suited the fascist and other anti-popular elements for the government to have resorted to cruel repression after the classic Spanish manner. Indeed, their manoeuvre was to place the government in the dilemma: either violent repression or failure in its duty. The first would once more have given the Right the pretext for accusing the government of terrorism, as they had done in the Casas Viejas affair -- not without justice, although they themselves had been guilty of far worse cruelty in Asturias; the second course would have offered grounds for charging the government with weakness. Indeed the government of the "first biennium," April 1931 to November 1933, had fallen into just such a trap. If it had done so again it would almost surely have released mass retaliation; the issue would have been pitched between the "proletariat" and the reactionary forces, and the Republic would have been crushed between them.
The electoral pact was effected between a group of three left parties, forming the Republican wing, and three revolutionary parties, the Socialists, the official (Moscow) Communists, and a Syndicalist fraction. The "Popular Front" so constituted has 286 deputies in a Cortes of 470 members. Of these 286 seats, 118 belong to the "proletarian extreme;" the Socialists have 99, and are thus the strongest individual party in the Cortes; the official Communists have 16 seats; and the Syndicalists and others have three. The terms of the pact constitute a minimum program of social legislation and include such features as land colonization, public works, and the enforcement of existing social laws. The Socialists make certain reservations: they have a program of their own which goes beyond the pact, such as the nationalization of land and the turning over of industry to the workers. It is part of the Socialist tactic that, while supporting the government, they shall not collaborate in the ministry, thus preserving their independence for the future and standing absolved of responsibility for the acts of a bourgeois régime.
The Socialist Party is an old one with roots deeply sunk. It maintains contact with its members through the Casas del Pueblo, which are social, recreative and cultural centers scattered all over Spain, in some places nearly as powerful as the local governments. The party controls Spain's most important trade organization, the U. G. T. (Unión General de Trabajadores) or Workers' General Union, with a membership said to have been as high as 2,000,000 and which perhaps numbers 1,500,000 at present. It was this organization which sponsored the 1934 revolution in Madrid, Asturias and other parts of Spain, except Catalonia.
Curiously, the most revolutionary leader and spokesman of the Socialists is a man who formerly represented its right wing and who during the late dictatorship consented to be one of the King's privy councilors, Largo Caballero. He is the leader of an important body of extremists in the party, particularly the younger elements. It is worthy of note, however, that another bloc of extremists is wary of him, affirming that while he abounds in strong words he did not reveal himself as a man of action during the 1934 uprising. This group follows Gonzales Peña, now a deputy, who led the Asturias revolution and thereby demonstrated himself a man of action. Caballero's strength lies in the fact that he has the party's bureaucratic apparatus in his hands. His swerve to the extreme left is explained by his dissatisfaction with the treatment accorded the Socialists by the first Republican government. He also became aware of the deep dissatisfaction of the many workers and peasants who felt that, despite their loyalty to a bourgeois government, they had been used and were now being cast aside, as in Germany and Austria. Moreover, the peasants considered themselves defrauded of their lands. Caballero, fearful lest the masses be captured by the Syndicalists or the Communists, raised his revolutionary cry.
Note must be taken, however, of opposite currents in the Socialist party, strong currents which are not without their disruptive possibilities. The opposition is in the center and in the right. That of the center is the most insistent, its leader being Indalecio Prieto who, like Caballero, was a minister of the "first biennium" and who was requested by Azaña to head the new government when he assumed the presidency. Although disposed to do so, Prieto refused in view of the opposition on the left. He accuses Caballero of trying to establish a dictatorship within the Socialist Party. Prieto is an opportunist, but also a man of action and a most agile politician. His strength lies in the small bourgeoisie belonging to the party. His tendency is to watch developments and take advantage of them, it being said that he is quite as capable of repressing as of accepting revolutionary action. He inspires confidence by the fact that once he has decided upon a course of action he is capable of following it out to the end. No doubt Azaña felt that Prieto at the head of the Republican government would be a valuable factor in stemming the revolutionary tide. On the right of Prieto are the reformists, led by Julian Besteiro and Saborit. They are the intellectuals who believe in a process of slow revolution.
The showing made by the official Communists in the recent elections has caused some surprise. After having no great strength in the past, this party now has 16 deputies. The explanation lies not in any sudden increase of strength on their part but in the Spanish electoral laws. Under this system they obtained places on a number of Popular Front tickets in return for their support. The victory of the Front swept them in, not as Communists but as members of the ticket. The fact is that although Moscow has been maintaining close contact with Spain during all these revolutionary years -- her first appearance on the scene is said to have been in 1927 -- and has had her party nuclei and her field workers, the strength of the Soviets has remained negligible. The real Soviet plan seems to have been to assume a passive attitude toward Spanish democracy as providing a bulwark against fascism, to allow a free hand to the revolutionary activities of the proletariat as preparing the soil for revolution, and to wait. All this would be in accordance with the rules laid down by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, well explained by Ludwig Lore in the pages of this review last January. Recently there returned to Spain a hundred or more Spaniards who had taken refuge in Russia following the 1934 movement. After having been trained in Russian revolutionary concepts and technique, they are now expected to sow the seed at home. There is little evidence to support tales of Moscow's lavish expenditures in Spain. Such money as she sends is devoted largely to press propaganda, particularly to maintaining the official Communist papers, mostly weeklies and the Madrid daily, Mundo Obrero.
Spanish individualism, a very real thing as everyone who has had much contact with Spaniards knows, is a strong obstacle to the spread of the Moscow brand of collectivism with its notions of submerging the individual in the state. The Spaniard will not submerge himself in anything. He has no concept of the life-of-the-bee collectivity essential in communism. New generations of Spaniards will need considerable "behavior conditioning" before they are ready for it. It may be observed, however, that the Spaniard's individualism does not necessarily imply indiscipline, as is so frequently said. My own observation is that the Spaniard, and in particular the worker, is quite amenable to what he considers a reasonable and proper discipline; though he can be persuaded, he can not be driven. Those Spaniards who traditionally have held to the formula, hay que pegar, meaning that in order to govern it is necessary to rain blows on the governed, have not understood their own people.
Account must here be taken of a movement which is increasing in strength, that of the Unified Youth. This is a recent amalgamation of the Socialist Youth and the Communist Youth. It has an aggressive and militant nature, goes in for sports and cultural activities, and has as its principal object the preparation of youth to give solid support to the revolutionary parties. It further proposes to meet on equal terms the strong-arm tactics of the youth organizations of the Right. Though new, the movement is growing, and it is said now to have some 60,000 followers.
Such then -- Socialists, official Communists and a Syndicalist fraction of no great importance -- is the picture presented by the Popular Front's extreme wing.
Standing aloof from the Popular Front is the Unified Marxist Party (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), a consolidation of two political fractions, the Trotskistas, inspired by Trotsky in exile, and the Workers' and Peasants' bloc. Both have their main strength in Catalonia. The leaders are Andreu Nin, a disciple and former collaborator of Trotsky in Russia, and Joaquim Maurin, former leader of the bloc. The party claims 10,000 enrolled members and an influence over some 60,000 workers. They have scattered centers throughout Spain. They consider that the Socialists and Communists are committing a great tactical blunder by compacting with a bourgeois régime; that in the end these parties will but have served the ends of the bourgeoisie, gaining nothing for themselves or the workers. The workers, perceiving this, will abandon their leaders. That, think the Unified Marxists, will be the psychological moment to capture the workers and carry the revolution through. It may be said that in 1934 this group showed some strength by organizing various revolutionary parties into the Workers' Alliance and intervening in the revolution of that year.
The revolutionary parties just named, whether within or outside the electoral pact, constitute the political wing of the revolutionary movement, that is to say, the organizations that accept political action. But there is another and important revolutionary wing, the Anarcho-Syndicalists, who do not believe in political action, styling themselves apolitical. The Syndicates are trade unions with the social philosophy of anarchy. Their organization is known as the C. N. T. (Confederación Nacional de Trabajo) or National Confederation of Labor. It is bound up with another organization known as the F. A. I. (Federación Anarquística Ibérica). The C. N. T. thus stands in the same relation to the anarchist organization as the U. G. T. stands to the Socialist Party. During the past two decades and more they too have been engaged in a life-and-death struggle for the allegiance of the Spanish worker. While the Socialists control the workers of Madrid and the interior cities, the Syndicalists, whose activities radiate from Barcelona, have a considerable strength in all the ports. They sponsored numerous revolutionary movements during the first years of the Republic, including the Barcelona general strike of September 1931, which culminated in the impressive movement of December 1933. Though this failed, it had the effect of demonstrating the Anarcho-Syndicalists' strength in many parts of Spain. They have claimed a membership of a million, but in two years of outlawry their membership fell greatly. At the national Congress just held at Saragossa they reported that their "troops" had risen again to 600,000. The Anarcho-Syndicalists, as will soon be seen, have taken steps to end their old enmity with the Socialists and to wage revolution together with them.
The outstanding peculiarity of the Syndicalists as a labor body lies in their Sindicatos Unicos, or unified syndicates. These represent the grouping of labor syndicates according to industries, as for instance in metals or textiles where a dozen or more trades are frequently included in a single industry. This system has a revolutionary significance, for it is the goal of Syndicalism for each syndicate completely to possess and control its particular industry all the way from planning and management through production and distribution.
The Syndicalists are the adherents of the First International and of its apostle, Bakunin, although they have made their social philosophy less Utopian and more realistic to adapt it to Spanish temperament. In particular they emphasize "the sovereignty of the individual." They have a double aim, the destruction of the state and of capital, and, as a corollary, the establishment of a confederation of free communes. Comunismo Libertario they call the new social order which they envisage and in which the central idea is the liberation of the individual from the state. The name distinguishes their projected social order from the state-ordained and state-controlled communism of Russia. It would have two main categories of action, economic and social. It is the communism most commonly in mind when reference to that doctrine is made in Spain.
As set forth at the Fourth International Congress of the C. N. T. held in Saragossa during the first twelve days of May, the economic mechanism would be as follows. Each factory or shop is to be governed by the shop council, which would have the additional function of maintaining contact with the other shop councils and with their respective syndicates. The Council of Statistics and Production is to be the coördinating organ between syndicates and it "shall establish a network of contacts among the producers of the Iberic Federation." This body, therefore, is a kind of superior economic council intended to regulate the entire economic system of the new society. In the rural districts it is to have the collaboration of the agricultural councils. Its principal function is to control production and consumption. It is likewise to maintain contact with the political bodies known as communes, which also have certain functions of trade control both within their own confines and among each other. The economic council is to take care of the surplus and supply their necessities. Finally, it is to promote foreign trade.
Money is to be abolished and credit for a day's work becomes the unit of value, each credit being good for a year. Thus the able bodied person is entitled to consume only upon proof of having produced. Each commune is to make provision for the young, the aged and the incapacitated. No doubt some exchange medium would be established for trade beyond the communes and abroad. (One wonders, however, whether in the end some form of capitalism would not again appear on the scene.)
As to the social aspect, the report of the recent congress states: "The political structure of our revolution is based on the individual, the commune, the federation." The individuals of the towns, the villages and the localities are to be grouped into free communes, the communes into federations of districts or regions, and finally the federations into the Confederation of the Iberian Peninsula, a super-organization taking the place of the abolished state. It is to be known as the CICAL, from Confederación Ibérica de Comunas Autónomas Libertarias, ruled by the general junta, or council, just as the federations and the communes have their respective juntas. Authority, so repugnant to anarchist ideology, is considered abolished: only the will of the people, as expressed through the communes, prevails. The various councils may be dissolved or their officers dismissed at any moment by the communes, since they have no fixed terms of office as in the state. The people preserve the most absolute liberty of criticism. Although the economic council and the CICAL are quasi-independent bodies, they have related functions and are to converge in the National Congress.
Some other aspects of Comunismo Libertario in action will be interesting. It is opposed to the idea of crime and punishment. "Corrective action is to be based on medicine and pedagogy . . . whenever any individual, the victim of pathological phenomena, offends against the harmony which must prevail among men." Women are to have complete equality with men. The family, "the first civilizing nucleus of the species," is to be preserved, but is to be based upon mutual accord, not marriage formalities. Armies are to be abolished as dangerous to the liberties of the people, although they may be employed to bring on the revolution, and are to be disbanded immediately thereafter. Armed communes are considered the best defense of popular liberties. The proletarians of other countries are to be persuaded to oppose any aggression against the Spanish Confederation.
Religious liberty is permitted "within the sanctuary of the individual conscience," but there must be no ministers, no rites, no churches but the free air. The report of the Saragossa Congress says:
Religion has a primordial origin and objective . . . to give unity to that spiritual inquietude which the investigation into the beginning and the end of things, closely bound to being and to not being, to the life and the death of things, is capable of awakening in man. . . . [Also] to serve as a civilizing element of the human species before the conquests realized by science. . . . God, in the abstract, the personification of the end of good, of goodness, of beauty and of justice, might have served, and indeed did serve, so long as God was enshrined in the heart and in the sanctuary of the family. But since God died in the heart of man, and his image was exiled from the hearthside . . . religions have failed. . . . The idea of God, instead of serving man as a guide and a sustaining force, a firm buttress of morality and justice, has become the cloak which conceals and sanctifies all monstrosities, while the militant defenders thereof have become the champions of privilege and of sumptuosity, sustained by the extortion of the working classes. . . . Civilization is not, as pretended, the product of religion, but religion is the product of a civilizing sense latent in good men. . . . If religion were cleansed of its parasitical elements, the religious orders and the clergy, there would disappear those causes of friction which exist between religion and the people.
The foregoing extracts illustrate the essentially mystical character of the Spaniard, a mysticism which interweaves itself with his realistic sense and which would make it impossible for him to accept the stark realism of Russia. They shed light, moreover, on the attitude of masses of Spaniards toward the Church.
Education is to be liberal and scientific and train the individual to have an independent criterion; there is to be no regimentation. The individual is to have access to the arts and the sciences, and the right of research insofar as is compatible with productive activities. Man's bent "to surpass, to create in an artistic, scientific or literary way," is to be given full scope. "The producers must not divide themselves into the manual and the intellectual classes, but all shall be both at the same time." And again: "Since evolution is a continuous line, even though at times it is not straight, the individual will always have aspirations, desires for greater enjoyment of life, to surpass his forefathers, his kind, himself, and society cannot smother those desires."
These lines would seem to express a great spiritual driving force which must be taken into account in considering Spanish mass movements and which is quite as important as the economic motivation. If the Spanish workman is impelled by a desire to better his material condition, he moves also in an aura of mysticism, and is imbued with a spiritual élan which causes him deeply to feel that he has a destiny of his own, an inalienable right to opportunities that will enable him to follow it out to its end.
The Socialists and the Anarcho-Syndicalists, as well as other revolutionary groups, are veering toward a new tactic, that of unified action. This tactic is the consequence of the failure of the various revolutionary movements during the past five years. The history of their respective revolutionary attempts has been, that whenever one side went into action the others stood aside because the movement was not just their kind. Indeed, in the "first biennium" the Socialists collaborated with the government in putting down the Anarcho-Syndicalists and sending their leaders into African exile. The following revealing picture of what happened in 1934 is given in a press report of the Saragossa Congress:
The Asturias delegates said that they aided the revolution. Those of Madrid said they were in contact with the revolutionaries -- the Socialists -- and even though they decided to take no part, many of their members actually did participate. Those of Barcelona said that when requested to aid the revolution they agreed to do so, believing that it had a nationalist, and not a separatist, significance. But although in the beginning they aided the revolution, in the end they were eliminated by the separatists themselves, who even attempted to assassinate some of the Syndicalist leaders. The Saragossa leaders said that when required to aid the revolution there, they replied they would do so when they saw the Socialists in action in the streets.
There is nevertheless to be noted in the foregoing report a tendency to collaborate which was lacking in previous movements. And this tendency is now finding issue in the negotiations looking toward solidarity. Some months ago Largo Caballero took the initiative for a pact with the Anarcho-Syndicalists of a purely tactical nature, each side retaining its identity and its doctrines. There is also a tendency on the part of other groups to make common cause, and in fact they have been invited to do so. Indeed, Nin and Maurin of the Unified Marxists were the organizers three years ago of the Workers' Alliance which had precisely that end in view.
The Anarcho-Syndicalists gave at Saragossa a more positive form to the unification movement by adopting proposals which have now been transmitted to the Socialists. By accepting these proposals the U.G.T. would confess the failure of their past policy, would cease to support the government, would recognize that "the existing political and social régime must be destroyed," and that "only by unified action is it possible to defend the revolution and ward off the attacks of national and foreign capital." The Socialists are invited to convoke a congress to consider counter proposals, and this they have done. Both sets of proposals are to be studied by a joint committee and the final report submitted to all the members for approval or rejection. An interesting point in the Syndicalists' proposals is the third article which reads: "The new social régime born of the revolution shall be determined by the free election of the workers, freely united." This appears to be an admission that the revolution, should it come about, might result in something that would be neither socialism nor syndicalism as at present conceived by their respective organizations. The answer of an Anarcho-Syndicalist leader who was asked by this writer what might be expected to follow the success of a unified revolution, was as follows:
The historic law of revolutions will prevail. A realist idea always follows a revolutionary movement. It is impossible to elaborate a theory of the future. It is possible, and even probable, that something neither Syndicalist nor Socialist will be born of the revolution. The important thing is that it shall be the working class which commands.
Can the Republic weather the storm? Can it ride through the revolutionary waves that from all sides beat upon it, coming to a safe harbor at last?
The various revolutionary groups have a theory of what might be called the gestatory period of revolution. "Revolution," according to the report of the Saragossa Congress, "is merely a phenomenon giving status of fact to a state of things that has long been in the collective conscience. . . . It is a psychological phenomenon which takes shape in an organization with power to realize its biological finality." The creation of favorable psychological and material conditions, this is the two-fold aim of the revolutionists. Clearly the Republic's immediate task is the creating of counteracting conditions favorable to itself. Here there arise three related problems. The first is to capture the confidence and the good will of the masses; the other two are to effect their economic and cultural improvement.
Spain is witnessing the spectacle of the participation of new social classes in political power. The inevitable consequences are conflicts and violences. Long submerged multitudes are feeling their strength, are making an unaccustomed assertion of rights, are turning in violent protest against those whom they feel have for so long deprived them of those rights. Señor Azaña in a recent speech in the Cortes caught the spirit of protest when he said: "A society cannot found itself upon the cruel sacrifice of the masses for the benefit of privilege, in order to raise pyramids which shall serve as the sepulchres of a demi-god, call it king or call it state." The common man in Spain, if at times unruly, is human and simple and, withal, proudly respectful of self. He is quick to respond to whoever, or whatever, is simpático; he is just as quick to repell the antipático. If the Republic can capitalize these reactions by convincing the worker of its interest in his welfare, it will have made a great advance toward capturing his good will and would have an uncommonly rich resource of human material from which to draw strength.
In the field of economics, the provision of work for the worker and of land for the peasant constitutes the most immediate task. Important strides have been made in both directions although it remains to be seen with what permanent effect. The forced return of many thousands of discharged workers may prove a greater load than business and industry can bear. Thousands of peasants have been placed on the land, yet there is complaint that these lands are mostly arid and that the peasant cannot make a living from them. It is questioned, also, whether the solution adopted is suited to the Spanish peasant. The government has important irrigation projects in mind, but they will take time. The giving of land to the peasants does not suit the purpose of the revolutionary leaders, particularly of the Anarcho-Syndicalists, who consider that it creates a new class of petite bourgeoisie, in league with capital and the state. Here, then, is a potential brake on the revolutionary movement.
But to provide work and land is but to start the task of "reanimating Spanish economy," as Señor Azaña has expressed it. Among outstanding problems may be mentioned the improvement of wage scales with their implications of increased consumption and production; a policy for the improvement of foreign trade; a new structure for the national finances.
Because of reduced wages, the worker is condemned to buy the barest and cheapest necessities, and rarely has a penny to save. Articles which should be classed as necessities are luxuries, not only to the workers but to the middle classes. When higher standards of living ensuant upon higher wages have made staples of food and wear and convenience into necessities, priced so that all can afford them, Spanish production and foreign trade will be stimulated immensely.
With respect to foreign trade Spain is in an exceedingly bad way. High tariffs, a somewhat antiquated system of customs regulations, blocked credits, and a lack of aggressiveness in seeking trade on the part of the Spanish exporter have all had their share in creating an unfavorable trade balance and in establishing a diminishing curve for trade in general. Until a few years ago remittances from Spaniards abroad were a compensating factor, but these have now vanished. The amount of clearances owed Great Britain on May 1 is put at $26,500,000 and payments are seven months behind. In the case of the United States the situation is worse. During eighteen months practically no payments have been made excepting on cotton and rubber, which are considered prime materials. The total amount due the United States for imports on May 1 equaled the sum of United States sales to Spain during twelve months, about $47,000,000. In addition there are the blocked earnings of American companies doing business in Spain. Under such conditions Great Britain is putting up bars against Spanish imports, and the United States is withdrawing from the Spanish market.
Some headway toward improved state finances was made during the "first biennium," but the gains made were undone in the following two years. It is a hopeful sign that the government is determined to end the old system of budgetary extensions and extraordinary budgets which covered a multitude of sins. A costly and corrupt system of tax collection by private monopolies stands in need of reform. The oil and tobacco monopolies are restrictive, both of state revenues and of trade; also, one might add, of good fuel and tobacco. The bureaucratic army of civil employees who work only half a day when they work at all, is top heavy.
Some indication has now been given of the forces which would impose a new and revolutionary social order upon Spain, and of the remedies which the Republic has at hand as a possible means of healing discontent and averting revolution. Prophecy cannot be attempted. No one who has observed the determined persistence of the revolutionary forces, their resurgence after repeated repressions, can doubt that the revolutionary tide is deep and strong. Time and again I have seen thousands of bronzed men who, after toiling all week, after traveling all night in uncomfortable third class trains, stand in a bull ring of a Sunday for three hours or more, silent, almost immovable, their faces uplifted toward orators expounding the doctrine of salvation through revolution. On the other hand, no one who observes the earnestness with which another class of men are bent upon creating a new Republican Spain, will reject the possibility -- and the hope -- that in the end they will triumph.
[i] See the debate in the Cortes and in particular Azaña's speech, April 3. See also the ministerial declaration in the Cortes on April 5 and 16, in which Azaña charged: "We are witnessing a complete plan of aggression against the public peace and the Republican régime."