Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lets get the facts right....

Knowing your people's history is an essential tool for progressive activists in terms of learning the lessons of the past and informing the political work that you intend to carry out tomorrow. However, the contemporary attitude of much of the left in Britain towards, amongst other issues, the Soviet Union, GDR and other socialist nations demonstrates the pervasiveness of what can only be described as a Trotskyite version of history that has a damaging effect upon new generations of left-wing activists.

At this cold time of year in 1936, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy recognized Franco as the legitimate head of Spain's government. The extent to which many young people have swallowed, literally hook, line and sinker, the trotskyite version of events of the Spanish Civil War never ceases to amaze me. More people need to outline misunderstandings about the conflict and, perhaps more importantly, try to identify the provenance of these lies.

The basic slogan that you will get told is:

'The Stalinists (trotskyite word meaning communist)deliberately lost the war and betrayed the Revolution'

This lie will no doubt be backed up by the 'facts' that:

1) All the best weapons were given out only to Communist controlled forces
2) The Communists murdered the true revolutionaries in Barcelona in cold blood
3) The Communists sabotaged the revolution because they did't want socialism

The best way to combat anyone uttering these fallacies, is to replace their misconceptions with stone cold truth. The only country in the world that provided any real assistance to the Republic was the Soviet Union. This came in the form of hundreds of aircraft, artillery, tanks, trucks,armored cars and thousands of machine guns, rifles, shells, cartridges, tons of ammunition. Of particular importance were the T-26 tank and the Polikarpov I-16 fighter airplane, known as the Mosca. These were accompanied by thousands of personnel, mainly tacticans, tank crew and pilots.

There has been an accusation that these weapons only went to fronts where the Communists and Socialists were in control, this is true, yet the reason for this was not Treachery, but the presence of nationalist offensives. The POUM and CNT controlled lines in Aragon were so unactive that many commentators descibed the boredom of life in the trenches, this lead these forces to concentrate on building a revolutionary society in this area.

However, the people in Extremadura, Andalucia and Madrid could not afford to waste time with such speculation due to the unrelentless advances of Franco's Army of Africa and Hitler's Condor Legion in these areas. In these areas people concentrated on the main issue of defeating the fascists, the most effective way of achieving this, in terms of unity of forces and prospect for global sympathy was to fight for the Republic. In these sections, the brutal execution of progressives, the cries of orphaned children and screams of raped women were persuasive in uniting the republican forces around the political argument that stressed making the defeat of the fascists as the main aim.

While the majority of the Republican forces agreed that the only way to defeat the fascists was to establish a unified command, whereby centralised leadership would provide a more effective military campaign and increase industrial production. Fighting to defend bourgious democracy was the only way further international support could be drawn, this would unite liberals, social democrats, communists and socialists. Murdering priests, raping nuns, buring religous items and enforcing land redistribution only led to isolating the Republic. Communist policy did not intend to betray socialism, it was the only policy that could have enabled the republic to win, and it stood in direct contrast with the ultra-left posturing of the POUM.

Those who supported the prioritization of fighting the revolution began to stockpile weapons as they feared repercussion from the Liberal-Socialist-Communist leadership. Overzealous activists from both camps began to engage in unconstructive acts of agression against each other that went far beyond petty bickering. The situation had deteriorated to such an extent that, in 1937, the leaders of the anarchist CNT and socialist UGT trade unions agreed not to hold a May Day demonstration for fears of clashes. Nevertheless, the POUM declared that their supporters should 'begin the struggle for working class power', and urged that they should have 'arms at the ready'. The Government ordered all stockpiles of arms in Barcelona to be given up and attempted to take control of Barcelona's central telephone exchange. CNT members then ignored their leaders and joined the POUM uprising equipped with weapons that had been held back from the front. The Republican, Socialist and Communist government leadership then ordered the army in to restore order.

I hope that this can counter the lies that are spread about the Communists in the Spanish Civil War, that have been spread by George Orwells 'Homage to Catalonia' and Ken Loach's 'land and freedom'. Both the book and the film is more a piece of propaganda that attempts to blame the Communist party for all the left's failures, they are false accounts that are based around trotskyist propaganda, and are not representations that display the true experience of the civil war.

This view of the Spanish Civil War does not only have no basis what so ever in fact, it is a complete disgrace to the memories of those brave people who gave their lives to fight against Franco. It is a falsification that, much like the debate centering around the GDR, correlates with Ruling class ideology more than it does with real progressive ideas.

Anyone who is interested in the real picture should check out the international brigade memorial trust's website and hear about Spain from truly heroic people. (http://www.international-brigades.org.uk)


  1. It's funny how the trots tend to ally themselves with the anarchists over the question of centralisation and military discipline in Spain. It seems like selective memory... *cough*Kronstadt*cough*

  2. 'The Stalinists (trotskyite word meaning communist)deliberately lost the war and betrayed the Revolution' I don't think any 'trotskyite' has said this.

    Your entire defence of the communist line is a nonsense. Of course the communist party in Spain didn't want Franco to win, the leadership like all loyal communist party leaderships by this time wanted only what was best for the Soviet ruling caste. In this case it was a friendly bourgeois government. The revolutionary left in Spain saw the best way to defeat Franco as continuing the workers revolution, something the stalinist leaders were desperate to avoid as it might not prove very friendly to the mass murdering despots in Moscow and all to attractive to the Soviet Workers.

    Now you could argue that the revolution had to wait while Franco was defeated, fair enough, that would be in line with the Stalinist view that every revolution since then has had to wait. At least that would be an honest political position, honest but thoroughly counter revolutionary.

  3. I assure you Phil I get told that by Trotskyites all the time, I am surprised you have never heard a young activist repeat that slgoan.

    How is my defence of the communist line a nonsense? Or not 'honest'?

    Your accusations of 'Stalinist' or slogans of 'Soviet ruling caste' and 'mass murdering despots in Moscow' say much more about yourself than it does about anything.

    This post was an attempt to inform people who spout the 'Stalinists sold out the Spanish people' line in face of the facts. Your reply only vindicates my point that many of the ultra-leftist groups were so navel gazingly, inward focused on dogmatic slogans, that they couldn't see sense on the best method to win the war.

    The only way the Spanish civil war could have been won was to unite Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Communists..etc around the common case of fighting for the democratic state against fascism. Calling for the revolution and going around enforcing atheism, land redistribution..etc was only driving many spanish people into the arms of Franco. As well as isolating potential sympathisers around the world.

    Contrary to the extent to which they have been idolised by the ruling class in britain, groups like the POUM were stockpilling weapons away from the front in order to force a revolution on people who were trying to fight the fascists.

    The argument that the workers revolution will solve every problem makes about as much sense as the SPGB nutters who attack the Stop the War coalition. The SPGB say that capitalism = all the world's problems, therefore there is no point fighting for anything under capitaism as socialism will solve all the world's problems.

    With the Stop the War coalition we seek to unite the broadest possible range of political opinions around the common platform of being anti-war. Some ultra-leftists argue that this is the wrong approach, and that Capitalism will always equal war. Therefore, they argue against the Stop the War coalition, and in favour of calling occupations of workplaces and a general strike against, presumably, the capitalist system. Of course this is nonsense, because that approach would just alienate about 99.9% of the population and discredit the anti-war movement.

    In this same vein, arguing against uniting the broadest possible coalition against fascism during the Spanish civil war was a stupid position.

    But Phill, at the end of the day,unity is what the day calls for and we should be stressing the areas where we can work together rather than arguing about different people's versions of what happened in the Spanish civil war.

    What are you involved in? You interested in getting people to sign up to the people's charter?

  4. Perhaps the not being honest bit was a bit much, I was quite tired, sorry. Generally I dont post on comments but I diagreed with you quite a lot so I opened my big mouth this time!

    I don't think we will agree on the Spanish Civil War question so i wont press that, but your point about the Stop The War coallition is an important one.

    Essentially I think you are wrong about the whole broadest coalition thing. I am a socialist and do accept that is is capitalism that drives us into wars. Therefore to stop the war we need to overthrow capitalism. Now that does not mean i agree with your statement about calling for occupations and the like, we are not at that stage.

    The big question is how do we get from here to there and, has the STWC, run largely by socialists and communists taken the class stuggle forward?

    Now, the STWC has caled massive demos with all strands of political thought, and did not stop the war. Stopping the war on irag was going to be very very difficult, without a mass left wing party to gain from the anti war mood the main parites can weather those massive demos as people have no political alternative to go to.

    So failing to stop the war is not the fault of the STWC leadership. But did the Socialists and Communists who run it use it to further the class struggle, no, did they use it to openly call for a new workers party so desperately needed, no. It is also not clear what is really meant by 'broadest possible coalition'.

    No one is saying that anti war tories should not come on the demos, just that as the things are organised by the far left we should be hearing socialist arguments from the STWC platforms, not inviting Lib Dems on who would move to a 'support our troops' line as soon as the war was underway.

    As for the people charter, i have no problem suggesting people sign it and have done so, but am not really sure of the point of it.

    You can't vote for a charter, they were useful a 150 years ago, but now? It may come in useful as the basic starting programme of a new worker's party, which if it avoided massive arguments at the beginning of such a project might be good. What do you think it will achive? (genuine question)

  5. No worries Phil, where would socialists and communists be if they never 'opened their big mouths'?

    I sympathize with your criticism of the Stop the War coalition/ advocation of a more radical organisation that would use it to further the socialist cause.

    But I fear that if we had taken that approach, we would be left marginalised and unsupported. I think the whole idea was to unite all anti-war forces around a common platform and hope that any people drawn into it who were previously unpolitical may accept our point that it was an imperialist war and see the socialist point of view.

    I mean, we knew that it was an imperialist war, but if we had organised a purely socialist, anti-imperialist war organisation we would have only got over to the same old crowd.

    The same is true for the People's Charter, we can only start where people are at, not where we want people to be. Essentially we can not replace the working class with socialist activists.

    The People's charter is a means by which to get as many people as possible to work around a common programme and this is the only way to get our message out to ordinary working people. In this sense it is not only a way of uniting the progressive movement, but a means to politicize people who are pissed off at the bankers and bourgeois politics, who have no direct. If we don't get to these people the fascists will(/are already!)

    The People's charter is a political platform, without a party. It can be used to test candidates, I.E. 'do you support the people's charter?'.

    At the end of the day we cannot start a 'new worker's party' without the working class. at this movement in time the Labour party is the only mass party of Labour. I think that socialists should concentrate on encouraging unions affiliated to the Labour party to use their financial sway to get results, the contradictions that arise from this will either result in the Labour party returning to being a social democratic party, or the unions leaving.

    If the unions all left as one, we could set up a new workers party based upon the one that was set up over one hundred years ago. The People's charter could certainly be used to press this contradiction between the financing of the Labour party and the paradoxical right-wing, pro-capitalist policies that comes from the Labour party.

    I cannot say what the Charter will achieve, but it certainly has massive potential.

    In terms of elections, I think some people on the left think that the working class are consciously sitting around waiting for a new workers party, and that if we could just get the right platform and people together they would flock to us. I disagree, I do not think that we, as socialist activists, can do anything without the working class.

    I think there is sometimes an overconcentration on elections. What Communists and socialists should be doing at the moment is getting stuck into industrial issues and working to rise the political and class consciousness of britain's working people. The People's charter provides us with a vehicle to potentially do that.

    I hope that answered your questions, what do you feel is the way forward Phil?

  6. "The argument that the workers revolution will solve every problem makes about as much sense as the SPGB nutters who attack the Stop the War coalition. The SPGB say that capitalism = all the world's problems, therefore there is no point fighting for anything under capitaism as socialism will solve all the world's problems."

    Jesus, that wee gobbet indicates that you know bugger all about the SPGB but tanks for the memories, all the same.