Red Spain - would it have survived?

hariette spierings hariette at
Fri Apr 5 15:34:11 MST 1996

>Taking Lisa R's 'day' seriously, I use its fading hours to seize the
>rapidly vanishing opportunity to address m1 and m2 simultaneously, by using
>the wonderful cybertechnique of sending a posting relevant to two mailing
>lists to both of them simultaneously. Next time I will perform the masonic
>rites with a bag over my head and my foot in a bucket, and if Lisa tells me
>the correct words (Chris B on m1 doesn't think she will, but he's surely
>just being pessimistic about Spoons secrecy, eh?) I will intone them as
>instructed. (Is m2 the product of a 'culture' revolution? I wonder ...)
>In a very recent posting to a forum that shall be unnamable, an equally
>unnamable poster wrote:
>>The questions of the Spanish Civil War are complex and I do not want to
>>enter into details in here - I am not an historiographer.  However, I just
>>want to posit the question about the possibility of survival of a "Red
>>Republic" (i.e. The Commune, because that is what we would have had if the
>>proletariat had seized power in Spain (and that also had to be seen from the
>>angle of whether that seizure could have in fact been possible without the
>>immediate victory of the fascists) without triggering a general
>>anti-communist war with ALL imperialists lined up against Red Spain and the
>>USSSR?  How long Red Spain (possibly reduced at just about parts of
>>Catalonia and the City of Madrid - the rest would have fallen to Franco just
>>about immediately should a political earthquake as the one that would have
>>resulted from the installation of a proletarian dictatorship had broken out)
>>could have lasted against the armies of germany, Franco, Italy, France and
>>Britain, and even possibly Japan and the USA?
>>Would Russia also not have been defeated?  It is possible to envision such a
>>result.  So, for those who jump up and down without having at any time had
>>any responsibility in any strategic considerations which actually have
>>something to do with living problems of a war or a revolution, I recommed a
>>bit of objective thinking.
>This is very revealing indeed. It appears that the greatest catastrophe
>that could have struck the Spanish people was a victory for the Spanish
>proletariat at the head of the peasants and landless labourers.
>Look at it. Without the support of the poor peasants and landless
>labourers, any occupation of government offices by sections of the workers
>would have been a putsch. So did the workers have the support of the
>peasants and landless labourers? Of course they did. And if the policies of
>land reform and some collectivization had been followed through, this
>support would have been overwhelming.
>The poster assumes no national roots for a revolutionary victory in Spain.
>He assumes 'a political earthquake' AGAINST the revolution on the part of
>the Spanish people upon 'the installation of a proletarian dictatorship'.
>He can find no historical justification for this in any of the revolutions
>that have succeeded in this century - they were all at their very strongest
>politically in their initial stages!
>So, in common with many a liberal and empiricist, he is totally unable to
>conceive of the real political power of the working class and the peasantry
>that can be unleashed by a revolution.
>He also sees the rest of the world's workers and peasants just standing
>idly by while 'a general anti-communist war with ALL imperialists lined up
>against Red Spain and the USSSR' is initiated. This in spite of the fact
>that many workers from other countries had already taken a decision to
>fight and if need be die for the Spanish revolution *before* any state
>power was in prospect! If the workers and peasants had seized state power
>and established a dictatorship ofthe proletariat, not only would it have
>brought thousands more flocking to Spain to fight, but it would have
>unleashed a tremendous upsurge of revolutionary mobilization in the
>imperialist heartlands and in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.
>This would have made combined imperialist intervention extremely difficult
>- the armies were composed of workers in uniform, who would have been hard
>put to withstand the appeals of their class brothers and sisters to help
>them instead of the rich and brutal. (Regardless of the lumpen elements in
>these armies - just think of the dissolution of the Tsarist armies at the
>end of WWI, the incredible morale problems of the British army in Ireland
>in spite of its professional, mercenary character, and the performance of
>the US army and even more its South Vietnamese puppet allies in Vietnam!)
>He sees in fact *only* the imperialists and national reaction as having any
>initiative, guts or will to win in the class struggle. And this is in fact
>absolutely typical for such analyses of any revolution defeated by
>Stalinist or Maoist policies. The Stalinists forget that the Soviet Union
>survived an invasion-cum-civil-war during the first three years of its
>existence, with an army that deserted from the Tsar, utterly weary of war
>and life in the trenches. This same army took up its weapons again and
>returned to war (forced by no-one, as no-one was in any position to enforce
>anything against the will of this people in arms) because it was inspired
>to fight for its own freedom and its own interests.
>He rounds off his Jeremiad by asking 'would Russia also not have been
>defeated?  It is possible to envision such a result.' I can tell him that a
>Russia with revolutionary, class-interest policies benefiting both the
>workers and the small peasants/landless labourers, would have been
>invincible. In the first place it would have immediately opened up a second
>front in China, wiped out the Kuomintang and shaken off the Japanese. This
>would have set India alight and had the Brits hotfooting it from Spain.
>This is perhaps enough to get the picture.
>But what the poster fails to see above all in his putdown of the
>revolutionary potential of correct leadership, is the fact that the Spanish
>revolution was fought after the defeat of the most powerful proletariat in
>Europe by the Nazis in Germany, precisely because of treacherous
>counter-revolutionary leadership on the part of Stalinism. The policies of
>successful revolution in Spain were out of the question for the same
>leaders in Moscow and its tame Comintern who had been instrumental in
>preparing the defeat of the working class in Germany.
>I'm glad the poster used a bit of historical imagination and tried to weigh
>up the contending forces in the Spanish revolution. He helped us more than
>he can know.

All that sound very grandiose Hugh, and very courageous - well away from the
bulls watching them from 50 years away.  The question is you were not in
charge, neither your school of though had nothing to do with it, and
nevertheless the world proletariat came out greatly strenghtened from a
formidable historical test.  You have nothing but Nevsky Prospekt politics
to assume all these rosy scenarios.  The facts are that in the class
struggle, something call strategic questions also arise.

Take the People's War in Peru, and read for example Defence Department of
the USA report saying:  Shining Path is claerly capable of cutting off the
main central high way of Peru and holding it for a time.  However, the
course of the Peruvian revolution is such that although all sorts of thing
can be done for show and "spectaculars", that is not the point, since the
question is to prepare the ground not only to be able to seize power, but to
be able to keep it, to be in aposition to confront all possibilities of
invasions, embargoes, etc., and for that you must develop the People's war
as the rganising mechanism for the masses.  Engels put it very clearly:
There are but two powers upon this earth, the organised power of the state
of the ruling classes and the disorganised power of the masses.  The masses
once organised are the master of the world, but that is not a process that
can be undertaken in a few days.

Just to assume that seizure of power in Spain would have been possible, with
a relatively small an inexperience Communist Party, the masses organised,
but in unions counterposed to each other, half the country in the hands of
the Church and Army.  You forget that the Revolution in Russia was also the
product of the war which created the conditions both for the organisation of
millions in the army who went over to the revolution, as well as for the
disorganisation of the bourgeois state.  In Spain there were two sides, it
was a civil war in which the reactionary side was far better organised than
the Republicans.

It is not a question of being pragmatic.  It is a question of concrete
conditions not existing for such a seizure of power.  You blame Stalin for
this state of affairs.  But Stalin also gave advise in China, and much of it
was erroneous.  No one is obliged to listen to advise if they have the
internal forces and can rely on them.

In the case of the peruvian revolutions, what was the "advise" - not from
Stalin, or Mao, but from the left in general, at home and abroad?  It was
not advice but sheer reactionary opposition.  Nevertheless the conditions
for the People's War were there, the leadership existed, it only took 60 men
for the first military actions.  Were there no 60 Trotskysts in Spain?  What
happened, did they need permission from Stalin?

No. There were a few thousand Trotskysts in Spain, but they did not have a
plan, an ideology or a leadership capable of undertaking the revolution
without needing anybody else permission or support.  You only blame Stalin
because you wanted him to do for you what you cannot do yourselves.

In Peru - all the phoney communists (pro-Russian, Pro-Deng Xiao-ping, pro
Castro, pro Albania, pro Trotsky) all of them did not only not support the
revolution but bitterly oppossed it.  At the time the people's war started
their "Union of the Left" was getting 40% of the votes in elections, and
they were screaming "terrorists" against the revolutionaries.

Today, this left cannot even get O.4% of the elctorate, and the revolution
has developed deep and powerful roots despite all difficulties.

Think about that and grow up a bit and stop blaming your own impotence on
others.  The fact is that in Spain nobody was able to seize power, had a
real serious plan to seize power, or seriously had a chance to do it.

It is really immature to blame the failure of a revolution on one person, on
one party, on one political line.  A revolution is defeated when there are
no conditions for it.  Anyway, in Peru the revolutionaries are fighting
under fascist conditions. Peru is not that different than Spain in the
thirties.  What was there to stop the POUM from continuing the revolution
under Franco rule?  They had not established bases of support, they had no
idea about People's War - and why should they have had it, it was only then
being developed in China.

In China, for example, the Maoists were evicted of the Red Republics in
Southern China by Chiang Kai-shek, however they did not give up on the
revolution and undertook the Long march to establish a new base in Northern
China, in Yenan.

There was in Spain no party capable or willing to take this strategy and
hold the course, with or without Stalin.  Wake up!  Stop crying over spilt milk!


 In 1919, Lenin was in Power in Russia and Trotsky had command of the Red
Army, there was revolution and a Soviet Republic in Hungary, and that too
was quashed.  The bolsheviks could not come to their support, and neither
could Russia do more for Spain - The bolsheviks were in a life and death
struggle and Soviet Russia under Stalin had to keep a watch on the moves of
the imperialist bourgeoisie.  I never heard anyone blaming Lenin for not
having rushed troops to defend Hungary.  It seems to me that the only
orphans of Stalin are the Trotskysts - they really give the guy more credit
for magical powers witheld from their pet schemes for painless and ever
successful revolutions that may have been than he actually deserves.  It is
like a form of inverse love/hatred relationship between you guys and Uncle
Joe!  Seriously.

Adolfo Olaechea

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