Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain


Fascist soldiers and workers’ militiamen, entrenched near each other. In a lull in the fighting, they shout arguments back and forth:

“You are sons of peasants and workers,” shouts a militiaman. “You should be here with us, fighting for the republic, where there is democracy and freedom.”

The retort is prompt; it is the argument with which the peasantry has answered every reformist appeal since the republic came in 1931:

“What did the Republic give you to eat? What has the Republic done for us that we should fight for it?”

In this little incident, reported casually in the press, you have the essence of the problem of the civil war.

The peasantry, which is seventy percent of the population, has yet to be won to the side of the proletariat. It played no role in bringing the Republic in 1931. Its passivity and hostility led to the triumph of reaction in November, 1933. It played no part in the proletarian October revolt of 1934. Except in Catalonia and Valencia where the proletariat has declared for confiscation of the land and is already turning it over to the peasantry, and in parts of Andalusia where the land workers have seized the land themselves, the masses of the peasantry are not yet rising to fight beside the working class.

No civil war as profound as the present one in Spain has ever been won without advancing a revolutionary social programme. Yet the sole programme of the coalition government headed by Caballero appears to be a military struggle. “Only after victory shall we be allowed to defend the political and social problems of the various groups composing the Left Popular Front,” says a government spokesman (New York Times, Sept. 20). “There is only one point in our programme and that is to win victory.” As a matter of actual fact, however, the coalition government’s slogan, “Defend the Democratic Republic,” does contain a social programme; but it is the reformist programme of defending the “kindest” political instrument of the bourgeois mode of production.

In the great French Revolution, the slogan of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” meant, quite concretely, land to the peasants, freedom from serfdom, a new world of labour and enrichment, wiping out the economic power of feudal oppressors, putting France into the hands of the revolutionary bourgeoisie. In the Russian Revolution, the slogan of “Land, Bread and Freedom” successfully rallied the people against Kornilov and Kerensky, because it meant the transformation of Russia. The proletariat of Spain will raise equally revolutionary slogans, or it will not win the civil war.

The Catalonian proletariat has already recognised this great truth. Its revolutionary programme will not long remain confined within its own borders. Only today news has come that another party of the People’s Front, the Syndicalist party formed after the October revolt by anarcho-syndicalists who recognised the need for participating in political life, has demanded a socialist programme for the successful prosecution of the civil war. The Premiership of Caballero, the “extreme” left wing of the Popular Front, is itself a distorted recognition that the masses will not fight for the maintenance of capitalism. But Caballero’s former laurels cannot and will not be a substitute for the very concrete content of a programme of revolutionary socialism.

In the following pages are told the rich history of revolutionary experience which five short years have brought the Spanish proletariat. Out of the wisdom extracted from that extraordinarily concentrated experience, the Spanish proletariat is learning how to take its own destiny into its own hands. To the lessons of the Russian Revolution, are now being added the equally profound lessons of the Spanish Revolution.

New York, September 22, 1936.

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