How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine
The Case Against Incrementalism
BARCELONA is breathing again, carrying on after the cruelest episode of street warfare in its history. On May 3 -- just a week ago, as these lines are written -- workers were in arms against workers, making war on each other from behind stone barricades, from windows, from armored cars in the streets. Today the abandoned barricades stand like stone-age ruins, monuments to the fleeting tragedy.
Only a week or so before May 3 all those forces which in Spain had fundamental notions about the right of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- Republicans, liberals, peasants and workers alike -- seemed united against what they perforce regarded as dark powers sprung from the tomb of dark ages, compounding revolution with sinister forces from outside Spain to crush everything that free man held sacred. On May 3 that common front seemed broken. The workers' solidarity seemed crumbling away. Over in the Basque country the common enemy was cruelly wiping out towns, snuffing out the lives of the innocent, smashing churches and convents, killing their priests and their nuns as it invoked the name of religion. It was slaughtering the Basque workers. It was threatening to come on the morrow to Barcelona. And yet to all this the Catalan workers suddenly seemed oblivious, seemed actuated by passions even deeper than their love of life and freedom. Or was this warfare between workers the result of those same passions reduced to more elemental and concrete modalities? If so, what was their meaning for the future of the broad general struggle against Fascism in Spain?
Before trying to answer these questions let us try to get a picture of the general situation in Catalonia. It will reveal that Catalonia is in some sense a cross section of the Spanish revolutionary movement. Anarcho-Syndicalist, Socialist, Communist and other active elements radiate their influence from Barcelona into the country at large.
The "capture" of the Barcelona telephone building by the shock police on the afternoon of May 3 was the spark that touched off the tinder of smouldering hates between the Anarchist labor syndicates, known as the C.N.T. (Confederación Nacional de Trabajo), and the Socialist labor union, the U.G.T. (Union General de Trabajadores). The C.N.T. is sponsored by the F.A.I. (Federación Anarquística Ibérica); the U.G.T., in Catalonia, by the P.S.U.C. (Partido Socialista Unificado de Cataluña). The bitternesses between the Anarchists and the Socialists is an old one, dating from the very beginning of "social movements" in Spain. May 3 merely provided a climactic chapter to the story.
Although last September the C.N.T., heretofore "apolitical" and "anti-governmental," took three seats in the Catalan cabinet and made a peace pact with the Socialists, latent fires smouldered too deeply. The peace did not last long. The C.N.T. accused the leaders of the government party, the Esquerra Republicana, of being really bourgeois at heart and of preparing at a favorable moment to sabotage the new program for the collectivization of industry and property. It accused the U.G.T. of playing selfish politics with a view to obtaining position and power and of being in league with the Esquerra to wreck the revolution. The U.G.T., in turn, accused the Syndicalists of responsibility for disorder and violence in the "rear guard," of sabotaging the war, of harboring elements in league with the common enemy. Both U.G.T. and the Esquerra accused the Syndicalists of failing in their pledge to abide by the governmental program which they themselves helped to adopt. Such, in general lines, was the setting of the conflict.
The central Government was concerned because the C.N.T. committees had taken control of Puigcerda and Port Bou, the principal points of entry to Spain from France, and also had possessed themselves of important telephone stations between Valencia and Barcelona, intercepting official messages. Valencia bluntly informed the Catalan Government that such a situation could not continue. The Socialists saw here their chance to bring matters to an issue, and their General Commissioner of Public Order sent the police to seize the telephone building. Matte s were already at white heat due to the assassination, a few days before, of a militant Socialist leader, supposedly by C.N.T. gunmen.
Looking behind the scenes, one finds indications that in the Syndicalist ranks there existed a secret government which did not respect the decisions of their leaders in the cabinet, although perhaps they were in under-cover relations with one or more of them. For several days the Syndicalists had been arming. The feeling gained ground that they had decided to force an issue now or never, to set up Syndicalist rule in the region, crushing the Socialists and the Esquerra, and even defying the central Spanish Government. The Syndicalists no doubt saw that the Generalitat Government was getting more authority and would soon be able to enforce its decrees. They opposed many of these decrees, such as the municipalizing of public transport (which would take it out of the Syndicalists' hands) and the unification of the forces of public order (which the Syndicalists also had aspirations to control). Moreover, the Syndicalists disliked the building up of a strong military force, feeling that it might be used against them. They also must have sensed that they were growing unpopular and that unless they struck on the first pretext they were lost. So much for a glimpse at the inner mechanics of a revolutionary movement.
The attitude of the police in the May 3 affair was significant. Those who intervened were the shock police and the former Civil Guard, now called the Republican National Guard.
After the military rebellion of General Franco began last July, the shock police and that part of the Civil Guard which remained loyal at first threw in their lot with the proletariat and made common cause against the rebels. For a time they doffed their regulation uniforms in favor of blue overalls or some nondescript attire and a forage cap or beret, like any other proletarian miliciano. They were hailed as proletarian brothers who had at last realized that they also were of the people and were not to be used as "instruments of oppression." For a time they fraternized with the workers in arms. But the effect was to weaken governmental authority. This was as true of the situation in Madrid and other places in loyal territory as in Barcelona.
After the Madrid Government moved to Valencia it took a firm stand, forbade its police as well as its regular military forces to join any political party or labor union or syndicate, and made them strictly amenable to its orders. That marked a turning point in rehabilitating the Spanish Government's authority. In Almería, in February, an energetic civil governor, Don Marón Díaz, using a small force of sixty shock police together with seamen from the battleship Jaime I, held in check and disarmed a horde of desperados, criminals and demoralized, untrained and dangerous militiamen who had invaded the town after the fall of Malaga, along with some 200,000 bona fide civilian refugees. In March the Valencia Government used its shock police to put down a rebellion of the Anarchists' "Iron Column" which was marching on the city from the Teruel front to protest against the Government, order that it be militarized and get into uniform.
But in Barcelona the newly created Order of Proletarian Brother Policemen had not yet been extinguished. The Syndicalists continued to demand that these be "controlled" or "assessed" by workers, and the Catalan Government, although it had emitted decrees in a contrary sense, was too weak to offer opposition. Now, when refractory Syndicalist elements took to their barricades, these again asked the public forces to remember that they too were of the workers, to step aside, to remain neutral. In isolated cases the appeal had some effect. But the general temper and line of conduct of the public forces promptly became well defined. They felt conscious of being the forces of order, and as such they acted. When there were aggressions against them, their sense of solidarity replied. They were the victims of some very barbarous acts, such as when some of their members and shock police were taken from ambulances and killed. That gave the coup de grâce to the proletarian brother theory. From that moment they were officers of the law performing their duty with as much energy as the law allowed -- and perhaps more. And today in Barcelona, as in the rest of Republican Spain, they again go about in regulation uniforms.
Let us now try to distinguish the principal social elements at work in Catalonia and relate them to the social transformation going on in the rest of Spain.
First of all, in the background are a special class whose sympathies are hardly with the Government and who must have been heartened by the evidence of dissension in its ranks. They are those whose property interests have suffered by the new order -- the large landowners whose fields have been divided among the peasants, and the industrialists and capitalists whose profits have ceased. Some of them undoubtedly formed part of the "Fifth Column," which in the rear guard was working in devious ways for the victory of the enemy.
Next came two forces which are distinctly Catalan, namely the Rabassaires or Land Cultivators' Party, and the Separatists who articulate their aspirations through their party, the Estat Català.
The peasants' slogan is "The Land for those who cultivate it." For centuries, land hunger has been a dominating passion among Catalan peasants. Peasant revolts constitute several important chapters of Catalan history. First it was the revolt of the slaves, owned body and soul by feudal masters, then the revolt of those who were little better than slaves. The peasants often joined issue with the citizens of Barcelona to rid Catalonia of tyranny, as in 1640 when they drove the Viceroy, the Count of Santa Coloma, into the sea to his death and participated in a horrible massacre of Castilians. In Catalan history the day is called "The Bloody Corpus Christi." The Catalan national anthem is "Els Segadors" -- "The Reapers." The picture it gives of extreme misery has scarcely corresponded to truth in recent years in the Catalan hinterland, which is far more prosperous than other parts of Spain. But the revolutionary images it calls up are still compelling. Its hate for "monks and young gentlemen with their bellies full" while "we, bending over our fields, dig a pit for our bones," survives. It explains the burning of churches and monasteries on a wide scale more than a hundred years ago in 1835, long before Anarchists and Communists were thought of. The Catalan peasants of today are simply the sons who "reap for themselves."
In the recent revolt, the peasants were allied with the Socialists who supported them in their demand to own and farm as they saw fit the land which they held. The peasants regarded as enemies the Syndicalists who menaced that claim and who would enforce "libertarian communism." In such matters, the Catalan peasant may be regarded as favoring the more moderate policy of the Valencia Government.
The Separatists are the exponents of complete Catalan independence. In their eyes, the central Government and the Syndicalists and the Communists are alike intruders. Their "race spirit" has points of similarity with that of the Germans, although springing rather from ancient convictions than from any ready-made and artificial philosophy. "Catalonia for Catalans" is their motto. Something of the revolutionary spirit of "Els Segadors" pervades them too, for they, like all real Catalans, are the sons of peasants and are steeped in peasant tradition. The Separatists are not numerous, but they are compact and determined. In the conflict they were on the side of the Catalan Government, inasmuch as they considered the issue one of Catalonia versus Intruders. At the same time, they have far from approved of the Catalan Government in general, which they have accused of temporizing with outsiders and of weakening Catalan prestige.
The Esquerra was one of the parties that helped bring the Republic into being. Indeed, it virtually was born with it, for it was organized in haste by Catalans of Republican sympathies on the eve of the April 1931 elections. By all logic it should cast its lot with the Spanish Republic, and so it did. Yet it is imbued with Catalan particularism which rationalizes itself in the formula of Federalism. Which is to say that while it is not separatist, it continuously tries to wangle for Catalonia all the authority and power that it possibly can and maintains the vision of Catalonia as a quasi-sovereign state in confederation with other regions. It recognizes the necessity of Catalonia's union with Spain; and reciprocally it maintains the right to intervene in Spanish national politics. It has always had one or more ministers in the Spanish Government whenever that government was Republican. Indeed, when, in the period 1933 to 1935, things appeared to be going badly for the Republic in the face of Right onslaughts, it justified its claim to being the Republic's most important redoubt. Its members are also sons of peasants and their hymn, too, is "Els Segadors." The charge that they have bourgeois tendencies and do not heart-and-soul favor a social order which would completely upset the old one is probably true. Yet from the start they have had advanced social ideas, as shown by the ley de cultivos of 1934, which provided a means whereby the cultivator could get ownership of the land he tilled, and by the Catalan statute adopted by the regional parliament in the previous year, which provided for the socialization and municipalization of public utilities and of certain types of industries as part of a future program. The Esquerra of course was in the fray on May 3 as a supporter of the government, though fighting also for its own hegemony.
What deeper meaning can we attribute to the Anarcho-Syndicalists' action in Catalonia, and to their conflicts there with the Socialists and other Left parties?
First, some description must be given of the maverick revolutionary party called the P.O.U.M. (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), mortal enemy to the Socialists but with certain points of contact with the Syndicalists.[i] The P.O.U.M. represented a union of the former Left (or Trotsky) Communist Party with the Workers' and Peasants' Bloc, founded by the late Joaquin Maurin, killed in Galicia by the rebels. Being strongly Trotskista, it claimed to be the exponent of unadulterated Communism and accused Moscow of "reformism" and heresy. It hoped to take a leading part in a world Communist revolution leading to the overthrow of Stalin. The powers in Moscow regarded it with quite as deadly a hate as they did Trotsky himself. The Russian papers pictured it as a Fascist party in disguise, and there is no doubt that Soviet influences were at work in Catalonia to bring about its suppression. Last December, in fact, it was eliminated from the Catalan cabinet at the insistence of the Catalan Socialist Party in agreement with Moscow.
The P.O.U.M. was intransigent and doctrinaire. It had cut out its own pattern into which revolutions should fit; when the Spanish revolution did not fit, it was the revolution that was wrong, not the pattern. It lacked the perspicacity to understand that its particular pattern could never fit Spain. A frank exponent of revolutionary terrorism as "an historic necessity," its tactic was to arouse discontent and to incite workers in other parties to extreme revolutionary action in the hope of creating an "overflow" which would carry the revolution along over all obstructions. In other words, it sought to "overwhelm" other parties by an upsurge of revolutionary zeal among their members. It paid particular attention to the Syndicalists' C.N.T. by encouraging its extremist groups, such as Las Juventudes Libertarias (the Libertarian Youth) and Los Amigos de Durruti -- the friends of Buenaventura Durruti who had organized the first workers' column to march to the Aragon front and who was killed aiding in the defense of Madrid. Indeed, the P.O.U.M. considered the recent Barcelona affair just such an "overflow" as was hoped for, and gloried therein. Although it was distinctly a minority party, its trouble-making capacities in Catalonia were great. It had nuclei in Madrid, Valencia and other parts of Spain, where the same tactics had negative results. This fact is a commentary on the difference in temper between the Syndicalists in Catalonia and their brethren elsewhere.
The rivalry between the Syndicalists and the Socialists dates from their beginnings. Madrid was the cradle of Socialism, Barcelona of Anarcho-Syndicalism, and each has been the traditional stronghold of its offspring. The fact sheds light on the particularism of the Catalan Socialist Party, which usually went its own way without paying much attention to the Spanish Socialist Party.
Marxism and Bakuninism appeared simultaneously, though feebly, on the Spanish scene in 1868 after the fall of Isabella, when agents of both wings of the First International went there to organize the workers. There was little response, for in those days the Spanish workers, bending patiently under their burdens, knew little of "social revendications." Nevertheless the seed of anarchy was sown, finding virgin soil in Spanish individualism. Nuclei of the Spanish Federation of the First International were formed, and both Marxists and Bakuninists for a time found a haven therein. But within a few years the Bakuninists excluded the Marxists, and the federation remained a clandestine affair with a small membership.
In 1879 the leader of the Marxists, Pablo Iglesias, a printer revered today as the father of Spanish Socialism, secretly formed the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. This came into the open at the Congress of Barcelona of 1888, when the U.G.T. was likewise created. In the meantime the Bakuninists had entrenched themselves in Barcelona and through their Anarchist Confederation they formed syndicates and inculcated the workers with the principles of direct action. While the Socialists, established in Madrid, adopted a "quietist" attitude, the Anarcho-Syndicalists were aggressive and thus came under the constant displeasure of the authorities.
The Anarchist's program calls for a confederation of free communes and the collectivization of industry. He argues that the free commune corresponds exactly to popular aspirations and that if individualism is at the bottom of his concept it nevertheless does not exclude a harmonious social organization. He believes that the workers are the most qualified to organize an industry: they know its technique, its details, its diverse needs. The bourgeois régime of private property, he says, offers no concept of production adjusted to the requirements or the rights of the masses. "Each one has a right to his share," runs one of his formulae; "the goods of all belong to all and to no one." He draws an idealistic picture of community life which, he says, " begins in the heart of the family, extends to the people and finally envelops the whole world." Federalism, he thinks, assures the rights of the people through and within the free commune, and favors their unity. He desires that each region -- such as Catalonia, Galicia and Aragon -- organize itself according to its own traditions and wishes. "A concert of wills and intelligences tending towards a life of veritable fraternity, without foreign intromissions which bring on tyranny -- that is what we wish," he affirms. These are to exist "within a community of goods necessary to all." More, the true Anarchist is not only a mystic but a moralist. He reveres the family and women. Materialism, mysticism and moralism are combined into his "religion."
Contrasting with the Anarchist's theory of fraternization and peace on earth is his belief in violence, in death to his enemies. Anarchist mysticism takes its extremest and most repellent aspect in the axiom, "Kill without hate." This formula is founded on Bakunin's realistic teachings that there is no way to dislodge the oppressor from the backs of the workers except by killing him. There is no peaceful evolution, no "quietism" about Spanish Anarchists. Their defense of their religion and their earthly gods -- for they do not believe in a beyond -- assumes most ferocious forms.
This summary of Anarchist philosophy does not explain why the Anarchists' ranks, particularly those of the C.N.T., are filled with hordes of persons who are not true Anarchists -- professional revolutionists, gangsters, gunmen and even traitors to the popular cause in the present war. The Valencia organization, recognizing this situation, some time ago ordered a revision of all membership cards. Another feature must be noted. One finds in the Spanish anarchist groups the same kind of decadence and corruption that in other times grew up within religious movements or bodies, and which were purged by such drastic reformers as St. Benedict or Savonarola. Orthodox Anarchists can only rationalize about these: "There are good men and bad in all movements."
These remarks may help explain the Barcelona rising. The Anarcho-Syndicalists felt they were fighting a battle the outcome of which would be either the triumph or the eclipse of their system. In the rest of Republican Spain they had lost ground; Catalonia was their last stronghold, and unless they could establish their supremacy there, they might miss their "revolutionary moment." They struck at the regional government because it would have liked to dislodge them, and by that act they struck also at the régime in Valencia which refused to temporize in its effort to make them submit to authority. They struck against the Catalan Socialist Party, not only because it was their declared enemy, but because they suspected that, due to its close alliance with the Moscow-inspired Communists, it was in reality obeying the latters' orders to liquidate them, since as enemies of the Soviet system, they represented a potential danger for it. Their Libertarian Youth, who seem to have been incited by the P.O.U.M. (on which Moscow had declared open war), were the most reckless in throwing themselves into the combat. Also in the fray was a small army of professional killers, trained in the technique of direct action.
A split between the moderate C.N.T. elements and the Anarchists is not impossible. Indeed, such a cleavage is already taking place in Valencia, where the Spanish Anarchist organization, the F.A.I., with its own rather violent newspaper, Nosotros (occasionally suppressed), stands apart from the C.N.T. and its organ, La Fragua Social, which in the main backs the central Government.
There remains to be considered the Catalan Socialist Party. Its position vis-à-vis the P.O.U.M. and the Anarcho-Syndicalists and its relations to the regional government have already been pictured. Its outstanding characteristic seems to be its close understanding with the Moscow Communists. Like the Spanish Socialist Party, it has an alliance with the Communists, whose workers are admitted into the U.G.T. But the suspicion is growing that the bond in Catalonia has been closer than admitted and that what lay behind it was an understanding that Catalonia, when the time came, might become a testing ground for Communism in Western Europe. Meanwhile, the Catalan Socialists gave whole-hearted support to the new socialization and "collectivization" decrees, which its spokesmen heralded as the Magna Charta of a new social order; it supported the Government, upon which it relied for the enforcement of those decrees; and it protected the small bourgeois and property owner, as well as the peasant's right to farm his parcel of land in his own way. Joan Comorera, chief of the Catalan Socialist Party, remarked to me in the course of a conversation: "Spain is heading toward a socially-advanced democratic Republic. Our theory is that after the Republic is more firmly established there will be a more complete socialization. But we cannot know precisely what the future holds."
Just how far the Spanish Socialist Party under Largo Caballero and Indalecio Prieto might actually go after the war in the direction of more complete socialization is problematical. What is certain is that today the Party still stands by the principal tenets of the Popular Front agreement made before the 1936 elections, namely that there must be a truly representative and parliamentary government wherein shall be respected the rights and interests of all citizens, including those of Catholics, and that within those limits they are prepared to accept an advanced social program. Should some of the Spanish Socialists wish to go farther, and particularly should they wish to do away with the Constitution and with representative government, a violent clash is to be expected.
In Valencia the two great unions -- the C.N.T. and the U.G.T. -- are seriously at work on the problem of amalgamating into a single big union in which questions of ideology shall not enter, and wherein the worker shall merely concern himself with the protection of his interests as such. In Catalonia such a single union seems far away. In the country at large, however, there is an increasing tendency of the workers to discuss unification and this is hopeful. Another hopeful sign is the Socialist Youth movement, which envisages the organization of youth without regard to social doctrine or religious belief for collaboration in the social and economic reconstruction of Spain. At a recent congress held in Valencia the tolerance and earnestness which pervaded the meetings were revealing. Particular stress was laid on the right of Catholics to play their rôle in this reconstruction; young Catholics from the war front were present, spoke and received a warm welcome.
The defeat of Fascism seems to the Spanish workers and peasants a necessary phase in their struggle for redemption and freedom. But the Barcelona rising shows that separate creeds and gods still seem important to them also.
[i] For a detailed study of these parties, see the author's "Mass Movements in Spain," in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1936.