From The Militant, Vol. V No. 4 (Whole No. 100), 23 January 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
When Azana became President of the Council of Ministers after the resignation of Maura and Alcala Zamora there were many who interpreted the change of ministry as an evolution to the Left. Maurin went so fur as to say that the new government was “typically petty bourgeois” and to put it on a level with the Kerensky government. We, on the contrary, from the first moment maintained that this solution of the crisis meant, a step forward in the direction of the big bourgeoisie and of its bloc with the socialists.
“In reality”, we said in the third number of El Soviet, which was confiscated by the governor of Barcelona, representing the so-called “Kerensky government”, “the real master of the situation is Lerroux, that is, the big bourgeoisie. Still the time has not yet come to take off the mask, to take over completely the reins of power in the name of those who see in Lerroux, as he said in his speech at Santander, ‘the lifebuoy in which the shipwrecked man sees the hope of salvation’.”
The facts have proven, and keep proving, that our evaluation was correct. On the adoption of the “law for the defense of the republic” there followed a policy, continually more aggressive, of repression against the working class and of systematic strangulation of the democratic revolution. Nourished by the weakness of the working-class organizations, the incapacity of the anarcho-syndicalist leaders of the C.N.T., who have learned nothing from experience, and the absence of a strong Communist party, the bourgeoisie keeps consolidating the ground which it has gained, and lying in wait for the opportune moment to upset the democratic cart and to install its unmasked dictatorship.
Today this is not possible. Democratic illusions are still quite alive among the petty-bourgeoisie masses and a large part of the working class. The bourgeoisie finds it necessary to maintain these illusions temporarily, making use of a political force which is not completely discredited among the masses, and by its name at least, represents a guarantee of radicalism. This political force is the socialist party, whose leaders show themselves disposed as usual to serve as auxiliaries to the exploiting class.
Still, to form an exclusively socialist government would be a risky adventure. Inevitably it could do nothing else than continue the policies of the bourgeoisie, and the socialist party would discredit itself irretrievably in the eyes of the working masses. With it, the bourgeoisie would find itself deprived of one of its most important reserve weapons.
The socialists, who are fully aware of this, are horribly afraid of taking over the entire responsibility for the state power, and declare themselves for a concentration government, over which they should preside. Largo Caballero was in a hurry to state that such a government by its very composition, would be unable to realize the party program. Yet, according to the declaration of the Minister of Labor, “the party, having made greater renunciations than any other for the welfare of the republic, will accept this sacrifice too for the ‘national interest’.”
Under these circumstances the socialists, free of all responsibility for the policies of the government, will contribute to maintaining democratic illusions among the masses and will make it possible for the bourgeoisie to consolidate its position and to prepare, behind the socialist screen, a genuine Fascist dictatorship. The Azana government was the first step in this process; the government presided over by the socialists will be the second.
The events of the last few days fully confirm this evaluation. While public opinion is being prepared for a Largo Caballero government, and the alertness of the masses is being put to sleep, Lerroux, in an interview given to the editor of the reactionary Madrid journal Ahora, expressed the opinion that the socialists in power, “far from being a difficulty” would be “prudent collaborators”. In a few truly classic words, stripped naked, without reserves – the class character of the regime; “I can assure you”, he said, “that I am realizing the prophecy which I made years ago when I said (too emphatically, as some thought), ‘I will govern’. Now I can say that I am governing, since one can have the power and not the government. One can have the government and not the power. I have the government and not the power.” Lerroux is the representative of the big bourgeoisie, the Spanish Miliukov; the workers must not forget this.
Let them not forget, too, that, the leader of the “radical” party is no platonic individual. When he entertains the masses on the tambourine of the “socialist government”, Lerroux is making serious preparations, not only to govern on the political stage, but to take over the power, to become the direct instrument of a bloody dictatorship of the Fascist type.
The constitution of the nationalist party, “Young Spain”, announced recently, is the first important step in this direction. Its organization, based on a militia of 500,000 men, who are to “wear a distinctive costume with the attributes of the legion, a gray-green shirt and a collar of the same color”, is modeled on Italian Fascism. The warning to abstain from joining, made to “the timorous and cowardly, and those who are not capable of facing all the dangers of a bloody battle”, show clearly what are the intentions of the promoters of this new organization.
The proletariat would commit an error which might have fatal consequences if it does not give this fact all the attention which it deserves and fails to see in the announced intention of this group more than a mere manifestation of boasting.
It is more than probable that “Young Spain” will fail to recruit the 500,000 men which it needs to put out the democratic revolution for good and to crush the proletariat. Still they can become an imposing force tomorrow. The worst thing we can do is to close our eyes to this incipient danger. In 1920, and even in 1921, the Italian revolutionists looked with disdain on the Fascists, whom they saw as nothing more than “bandit gangs” without real force. These “bandit gangs” took the power at the end of 1922 and dragged along with them the large petty-bourgeois masses, these same masses who had followed the socialists and who, disillusioned by the downfall of the proletarian revolution, threw themselves into the arms of Mussolini.
Are there factors in Spain which are capable of favoring the development of a strong Fascist, movement? There are beyond a doubt.
The first factor, and the most important, is the petty bourgeoisie. As in Italy, the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie constitutes the immense majority of the population. Because of the very role which it fulfills in the economic life of the country – dependence on big capital – this class is incapable of carrying out its own policies, and constantly vacillates between the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To win it over, or at least to neutralize it, is a task of fundamental importance for the cause of the revolution.
After the ruin of the great working class movement of 1917–1920 it supported in fact the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Still, since this experience did not free it from the burdensome load which weighed down on it, nor improve its situation, it developed toward republicanism. With the fall of monarchy and the proclamation of the republic, the petty bourgeoisie gave free rein to its democratic illusions and hopefully followed the demagogues of the left. Still the illusions are disappearing, and these great fluctuating and indecisive masses find themselves irresistibly drawn to that social class which offers a clear and concrete program, and has. the unshakable determination to put it into practice.
That class can only be the big bourgeoisie or the proletariat. The big bourgeoisie has this program: the crushing of workers’ organizations, the consolidation by fire and sword of the domination of capital. The instrument for the realization of this program is being forged by Lerroux and his “Young Spain”. Nothing is easier than to attract the disillusioned petty-bourgeois masses with this program, conveniently seasoned with a good dose of demagogy. Let us not forget that, at the beginning, Italian Fascism declared itself anti-capitalist and republican.
Still, there is a second factor, no less important: the proletariat, which has a unique opportunity to give definitive battle to the bourgeoisie and to take the power. The objective circumstances could not be more favorable to such an end. But subjectively it is disarmed. From a trade union point of view it is divided: the leaders of the U.G.T. collaborate openly with the bourgeoisie, and those of the C.N.T. either fall into a reformism which fully equals that of Largo Caballero and Co. (the Peiro-Pestana group) or into adventurism (the F.A.I.) which can only lead to a bloody and profitless putsch.
(To Be Continued)
Last updated on 23.3.2013