Soviets in Spain -The October Armed Uprising Against Fascism

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  Soviets in Spain -The October Armed Uprising Against Fascism

Harry Gannes

Published by WORKERS LIBRARY Publishers

P. 0. Box 148, Sta, D, New York City January 1935

 The sword of revolution is drawn in Spain and the scabbard is thrown away.

For fifteen days during the October 1934, armed uprising, all of capitalist-feudal Spain trembled with fear at the spectre of a successful proletarian revolution. No decisive defeat has marked the end of the offensive of the Spanish toiling masses. The "victory" gained by the Lerroux-Robles government was not the victory of Mussolini or Hitler. The armed battles of the Spanish workers, led by the united front, the Workers' Alliance, carried the fight against world fascism and for Soviet Power to a higher stage. Their aftermath, also, will lead to greater storming of the heavens of capitalism and speed the day of victory of the proletarian revolution.

Why was the October armed uprising not victorious in this tremendous assault of the working class? What were the mis­takes made? What was the situation that developed after the fighting, between the classes, victor and vanquished? And what are this; perspectives for the future of the revolutionary movement?

The October uprising swept through all of Spain. But in each center of the fighting,it was influenced and marked by special characteristics of the class relationships and the particular type of leadership existing among the toiling, struggling masses. Throughout the October revolutionary events, we shall see, more­ over, that the failure to carry out the correct Bolshevik tactics in the struggle for national autonomy in Catalonia at the most critical moment of battle turned the tide in favor of the forces of reaction.

The three most important centers of the revolutionary siege were: (1) the Province of Catalonia, where the revolution was marked by the fight for national independence, by the vacillation and treachery of the national bourgeoisie, and the shameful betrayals of the anarcho-syndicalist leaders; (2) Madrid, the. capital of Spain, where the weaknesses of the Socialist leaders determined the untoward outcome of the battle there, and (3) the glorious Asturias Province, where the workers heroically seized power, Socialists and Communists firmly united, and established the rule of Soviet Power for 15 days, holding out long after their brothers in the rest of Spain had been forced to give up the fight.

For nearly a year the necessity had been maturing in the minds of the workers for combating with force of arms the Republic which had promised to be one "of workers of all classes", established in April, 1931, after the flight of King Alfonso. Their hopes were destroyed by the constant rise in fascist attacks under the camouflage of the Republic of 1931. The fulsome promises made by the Socialists of the peaceful solution of the agrarian, national and other pressing questions were ex­ posed by the realities of the brutal class battles.

After more than three and a half year of the Republic, the reactionary landlord-capitalist regime was massing its forces and consolidating its fascist base, chiefly in the powerful Catholic Church and among the rich peasants, financiers, and industrialists, sufficiently to risk drastic measures against the rising revolutionary discontent.

What little the workers had gained in social legislation and wage increases in the early part of the Republic was rapidly being whittled away and their conditions reduced, in many in­ stances, to a state worse than under the open reign of the big exploiters at the time of King Alfonso. The growing resistance of the working class and peasantry, indicating the rising tempo of revolutionary anger, is shown in the rapid increase of strike struggles before the armed uprising. In 1931, the official figures show 869,000 strikers, though actually there were more than 3,600,000; in 1933, it is officially recorded that 1,032,000 struck (though it is estimated 6,000,000 were involved) against wage cuts, against worsening of conditions, and primarily against in­ creased fascist assaults; and in the first quarter of 1934 alone, more than 1,900,000 workers had struck, the major number of strikes being political.

At least 1,500,000, in a country of 23,000,000, were unemployed at the beginning of 1934. The intensified impoverishment of the masses is shown by the fact that the wages of the agricultural laborers alone had been slashed by 30 per cent.

Revolutionary unrest among the peasants had broken through repeatedly since 1932, when 69 cases of violent land seizures were officially registered. In 1933 the number rose to 267, while in the first three months of 1934 there were 264 seizures of land by the peasants and 306 seizures of property.

The Republic, which had held out to the peasants the phantom of an easy, peaceful solution of the land question, had actually consolidated and strengthened the power of the feudal landlords. In Spain 60 per cent of  the working population are either land or forest workers. The agrarian revolution is a central  task in the victory over fascism. The largest landowner is the Catholic Church, which is the foundation-stone of the attempts to in­ augurate a fascist structure on the basis of the most reactionary section of the Spanish banking and industrial class.

There are 3,000,000 landless agricultural workers in Spain. They earn from four to six pesetas (from 50 to 75 cents) a day. Two per cent of the Spanish landowners possess 67 per cent of the land; while 37 percent own from 2½ to  17½ acres each.  In Andalusia and Extremadura, the land is divided into such small fractions that out of 800,000 peasants only 100,000 can produce sufficient on their own land to make a bare livelihood.

As a result of the land reforms of the Republic of 1931, only 10,000 peasants profited even in the slightest. By 1933, 100,000 acres of land had been distributed. It was estimated by one capitalist newspaper in Spain that it would require 5,000 years to "solve the agrarian question at this rate".

In speaking of the establishment of the "authoritarian" or fascist State in Spain the leading fascist forces, particularly Gil Robles, spokesman of the Right concentration and the reactionary "Popular Action", always characterizes Spanish fascism by ad­ mitting that the Catholic Church will form its chief mass base.

To understand the scope of the Church it is necessary to point out that, besides being the largest landowner, it is itself one of the most powerful forces of capitalism. The Jesuits, for example, the largest and most militant section of the Church (whose poli­ tical head is Gil Robles), control the Urguijo Bank in Madrid with a capital of 125,000,000 pesetas. This institution further controls four hanks in the provinces with a capital of 85,000,000 pesetas.

Besides this, the Jesuits are interested in the Madrid tram­ ways, in mining ventures, in the South American steamship line, "Transatlantica", and in many other enterprises.

The potential fascist mass base of the Church, together with the rich landowners and the finance capitalists, is shown by the ramifications of its institutions. The Catholic Church in Spain has 4,804 "cultural" institutes, with 601,950 students. There are, furthermore, 27,000 students in secondary schools, and 17,103 in professional institutions.

This whole feudal-capitalist structure was not only left intact by the 1931 "democratic" Republic, hut was permitted to strengthen itself against mass assault to the point where it could boldly and cynically prepare for the bloody institution of its fascist regime.

To understand the course of the revolutionary battles of October, it is necessary to emphasize that there were three forces at the head of the proletariat. First, there was  the Socialist Party, having the largest section of the organized proletariat behind it. Second, the anarcho-syndicalist leaders, strategically holding leadership in the storm center of Catalonia, where the crux of the revolutionary fighting was hound up with the national question and the proletarian revolution. The anarcho-syndicalists were entrenched in that part of Spain where over one-third of the whole proletariat is concentrated.

Previous to the armed battles, the Communist Party strove with might and main to perfect the united front of the toiling masses. In Asturias, where the Socialists voted overwhelmingly to achieve the united front nearly one year before the armed uprisings, victory was gained, and the Soviets established. But in the rest of Spain, it was not until September 13, after negotiations delayed by the Socialist Party leadership, that the Workers' Alliance was transformed by the Communist Party into the instrument of the united front in the fighting.

Long before the actual battles, the Communist Party of Spain presented the question of preparation for the revolution, and the tactics for assuring its success, clearly before the workers and peasant masses. It fought against the vacillation of the Socialist leaders. the counter-revolutionary plans of the anarchists, and the disruptions and anti-Communist free-lancing of the Trotskyite remnants.

The hordes of revolution and counter-revolution stand facing each other, front to front", declared the Resolution of the Central Committee   of   the   Communist   Party   of Spain many months before the   armed uprisings, "and  decisive   battles will take   place shortly.

This is the situation in Spain.

In this situation the fundamental problem of securing the victory of the revolution is the organization and bringing together with the forces of revolution under a firm leadership conscious of its aims.

On October 5, 1934, after the pre-arranged resignation of the Samper cabinet, the signal for the inauguration of a drive to­ wards an open fascist regime, a general strike was called through­ out Spain by the Workers' Alliance. The general strike was followed quickly by the armed struggle against fascism, though the struggle was weighed down with fateful vacillations and wrong tactics of the Socialist leaders, and outright sabotage and treachery of the anarchists, assisted by the Trotskyites.

It will be seen, however, that the treachery and counter­ revolutionary deeds of the anarchist leaders were the greatest single factor that robbed the working class of victory.

On the eve of the revolutionary battles, the Communist Party of Spain flung all of its forces into forging the united front for the armed battles, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for Soviet Power, for inspiring the victory of the revolution.

Where the Communist Party's program won out, there victory was gained. But since its program had not swept all of Spain, the treachery of the anarchists, the previous vacillation of the Socialist leaders, and their failure to draw in the peasants for the seizure of the land, isolated the Asturias proletariat, giving the advantage to the forces of fascism.

Soviets in Spain -From Strike to Armed Struggle

Soviets in Spain -Asturias

Soviets in Spain - No spirit of defeat