From Revolutionary History, Vol.2 No.2, Summer 1989. Used with permission.
We are sad to have to announce the death of Grandizo Munis on 4 February this year.
Manuel Fernandez Grandizo was born at Larena in Estremadura, and joined the Spanish section of the International Left Opposition at its conference abroad in Liege in Belgium in February 1930, where he supported Francisco Garcia Lavid in his disagreements with Andres Nin inside that organisation. He also supported Trotsky’s policy of the entry of the Spanish section into the youth of the Socialist Party, which he joined in 1935, and opposed the liquidation of the Spanish Trotskyists into the POUM. He left Spain for a brief while to join his family in Cuba, returning on the first boat on hearing of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
On his arrival he reconstituted the Section of the Left Opposition as the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists, who published the first issue of their paper La Voz Leninista on 5 April 1937 after their exclusion from the POUM. They took part with the Friends of Durruti in the defence of the revolution against Stalinist provocation during the Barcelona ‘May Days’ in 1937, but their small group of comrades was penetrated by a GPU spy, Leon Narvitch, and, after he had been killed by a POUM action squad revenging the death of Nin, Munis and his group were arrested on 12 February 1938. They were accused of killing Narvitch and of planning the assassinations of Prieto, Comorera, Negrin, La Pasionara and Diaz. After much torture, including a simulated execution of Munis, their trial was fixed for 29 January 1939 but, three days before this, France’s troops entered Barcelona, and both prisoners and jailers made off. Munis escaped to France, and then managed to get out to Mexico, where he led the Spanish Trotskyists in exile and was a close collaborator of Natalia Trotsky.
During the Second World War Munis objected to the terms of the defence of the SWP leaders during the Minneapolis trial in October 1941. (G. Munis and J.P. Cannon, Defence Policy in the Minneapolis Trial, June 1942) which he regarded as making concessions to Defencism and Social Patriotism. Together with Natalia Trotsky, he also denounced the SWP’s support for the actions of the Red Army as it passed through Eastern Europe in 1944-45 and later the support of the International Secretariat for Tito and Mao Zedong. His group left the post-war Fourth International, whose 1948 Second World Congress delegate elections they believed to be rigged, also having deepening political differences. In 1951, although a marked man, he returned to Spain to take part in the Barcelona strike, was arrested by the Francoist authorities, and given another term in prison. His group, the Fomenta Obrero Revolucionara, developed ultra-leftist positions on the trade unions and in 1975 Munis published a state capitalist analysis of the Soviet Union, Parti-Etat, Stalinismo, Revolution. His account of the Spanish Civil War is to be found in Jalones de Derrota: Promesa de Victoria (Mexico 1947) and his differences with the Trotskyist movement after the Second World War in Les Revolutionnaires devant la Russie et le Stalinisme mondiale (Mexico, 1947) and Analyse d’un Vide: Cinquante Ans apres le Trotskysme (Paris, May 1982). Although his path diverged substantially from Trotskyism in his later life, Munis was a courageous militant, a sincere supporter of the struggle of the working class, and a man of sturdy independence of mind. Revolutionary History is proud to publish the following pieces from his pen in tribute to his memory, the first two from La Voz Leninista, no.1, 5 April 1937, translated into English in The Alarm, February/March 1981, and the third from La Lutte Ouvriere, 8 July 1937, translated in Fight, vol.1 no.9, August 1937. Ernest Rogers provides a brief memoir of his meetings with Munis.
(Editors of RH)
While the politics of the Popular Front lead events toward a reactionary solution, whether through transformation of the civil war into an imperialist war, or armistice with the Fascists, or the triumph of the latter, in the mind of the masses there has emerged a praiseworthy reaction against that course, which it is necessary to channel, directing it toward well-determined objectives.
We were the first to formulate the need for a Revolutionary Front of the proletariat as the only force capable of defeating all the dangers, and of giving a vigorous impulse to the war and the revolution. A little after that, the Madrid newspaper CNT launched the slogan of a Revolutionary Workers’ Alliance, and Juan Andrade, in the Daily Political Note in La Batalla (the POUM’s paper] called for the revolutionary workers’ front. This suffices to show that in the consciousness of the masses there gravitates the need for a United Front that will renew the implacable struggle of class against class, to the point of ending the political and economic power of the bourgeoisie, whose most solid pillar today is the Popular Front. On the decision of the parties and organisations not linked to the reformist and Stalinist bureaucracies, to break their coexistence or tolerance, more or less hidden, toward the Popular Front, depends the beginning of this road.
It is necessary to declare that until now neither CNT nor La Batalla concretised the thrust of their respective slogans or fixed their immediate objectives. They invite the danger of falling into a limited or leftist Popular Front which will not save us from the dangers to which the current one has led us.
CNT bases its alliance on the necessity of avoiding the ‘embrace of Vergara’ and of opposing itself to the manoeuvres of the ‘old style politicians’, that is to say the Stalinists, reformists and Republicans. But it goes on to declare that the Revolutionary Workers Alliance will not be an instrument opposed to, but rather an auxiliary weapon of the Popular Front. This is like raising the hand to strike and ending up offering it to the enemy. Such an alliance would be a fine libertarian tonic for the Popular Front, the representative of the bourgeoisie, which carries in its heart the spirit of the ‘embrace of Vergara’ as well as of the murders committed by Noske and Stalin. In La Batalla Andrade also plays dishonestly with the United Front. A typical centrist, however often he ventures to declare that he should be opposed and irreconcilable toward the Popular Front. In a burst of audacity Andrade points to the example of the youth. But the Revolutionary Youth Front is an example to be corrected, not followed. Its fundamental error, which condemned it in large part to sterility, lay in not separating itself from the capitalist state, but aspiring to control it. ‘Win the war and make the revolution, is the mission of the Revolutionary Youth Front’ reads the first paragraph of its basic document, but all the justice of the proposal, as in general with all its other slogans, disappears when one sees they have forgotten it is the bourgeois state that is preventing making the revolution and winning the war.
Inspired by this unbreakable principle, common to every proletarian revolutionary, the Bolshevik-Leninist Section has pointed out the dilemma: either with the Popular Front against the revolution or with the Revolutionary Front of the proletariat, and for Communism. All the wounds suffered by our workers’ movement – the military defeats, the reorganisation of the repressive apparatus of the bourgeoisie, the repression against the press and the revolutionaries, the extension of speculation with its train of miseries for the workers, as well as the greater dangers of armistice or imperialist war – originate in the political power still held by the bourgeoisie and supported by the workers’ organisations belonging to or tolerant of the Popular Front. The first basis for any genuine united class front is opposition to bourgeois and petitbourgeois governments, whatever shadings of proletarianism they adopt.
The war situation in which we find ourselves and its revolutionary nature, impose on the Revolutionary Front the double obligation of stopping its degeneration into an imperialist war and its sabotage by the friends of reconciliation of all Spaniards. This is the second indispensable basis.
But it is necessary to prevent the Revolutionary Front of the proletariat constituting a governmental bloc, whatever may be its programme. The Spanish revolution has developed without having matured, in the proletariat, any ideological current capable of guiding it victoriously. Furthermore, the government of social revolution will have to be based in organisms directly elected by the masses, in no way on political or union organisations. The struggle for Committees of Workers, peasants, and soldiers, is the third indispensable condition for the Revolutionary Front.
Only on these three fundamental bases can a great class movement be organised that will rapidly turn events around.
The slogans of revolutionary rationing, repression of speculation, war on manoeuvring and on political lying will lose all viability if they do not take these three points as their bases and any initiative towards class regroupment which is attempted without them is condemned in advance to sterility.
Although our edition was closed for this issue, the crisis of the Generalitat obliges us to comment, holding up our publication a little bit.
It is public knowledge that these periodic crises of the Generalitat represent the flowering of a continuous friction between the various forces integrated into the Council. What is making impossible the normal functioning of the government is the contradiction between the bourgeois or petit-bourgeois republican forces, the PSUC and the UGT, and the workers’ forces (CNT). But the aim of these governments is precisely to defeat the revolutionary resistance of the proletariat through integration of its organisations into the bourgeois state. The bourgeoisie, through its Stalinist and Socialist servants, will get rid of the CNT, as soon as the collaboration of this organisation has created the necessary conditions. If the government that is formed continues to count on the collaboration of the CNT, however slightly, the crisis will have served the bourgeoisie to overcome a little more resistance to it and to prepare the next phase. In this way, if the crisis shows that in the bourgeois state there are class forces alien to it, the resolution will show to what point the bourgeoisie can utilize against the revolution the proletariat’s own organisations. For this reason there is no possible positive outcome for the road of the Generalitat. The return of the CNT to the government will accentuate the latter’s reactionary, antiproletarian character. It is the bourgeois state that is in crisis. The proletarian forces should not aid but should destroy it, and make way for a revolutionary state.
The way out can never be, as the Central Committee of the POUM has said, ‘A government formed by the representatives of all the political and union organisations of the working class’. However radical the programme that it might propose, this is a parliamentary conception of the revolution without the least viability. We point in passing to the speed with which the POUM leaders lost their heads once they smelled the aroma of Power. Their own youth today shout with all their strength, while harshly deprecating the slogan of Committees, ‘A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government in the Generalitat’ (our emphasis).
We affirm, on the contrary, that the only revolutionary solution is the total abandonment of collaboration, but preventing this action from having repercussions in insurrectionary adventures, and constituting a Revolutionary Front of the proletariat which will demand from the street what cannot be gained through the bourgeois state, and open the way toward revolution by launching the constitution of committees of workers, peasants and soldiers. The revolutionary force of the proletariat, freed from its chains, will ably stop the counter-revolutionary forces of Stalinism, the reformists, and the republicans, and will guarantee the further development of the Revolution. With their collaboration, the leaders of the CNT condemn the proletariat to death.
The bloody insurrection of May in Barcelona gave fresh proof of the revolutionary energy and magnificent heroism of the Spanish working class. For several days the Catalonian government was at the mercy of the workers. In spite of this the struggle ended with a setback to the workers, because they carried it on without a plan, without leadership.
The Stalinist officials were on the other side of the barricades; the Anarchist leaders showed once more their reformist and conciliatory character; the POUM leadership was not even capable of an independent policy: it timidly clung to that of the CNT and slavishly repeated their defeatist slogans. The tragedy of the Spanish proletariat is always the same: it is without a revolutionary party which would be capable of leading it to victory.
But in spite of this lack the situation is not hopeless. Ten months of revolution are a long and rich experience. Today in every revolutionary party the best revolutionaries are organising fractions which approach – if only tentatively – the correct line. The Friends of Durruti – now expelled by the Anarchist bureaucracy are the most important among them. No doubt they are still imbued with Anarchist prejudices, but they are beginning to pose the problem of the seizure of power in a semi-Bolshevik sense. The ‘revolutionary Junta of workers, peasants and soldiers’, their principal slogan, is nothing else than the Soviets advocated by the Bolshevik-Leninists. One of the most important signs of the progressive character of the Friends of Durruti is that the slanders of the Stalinists against the Trotskyists have no effect on them: on the contrary they are ready to collaborate with us. In the Libertarian Youth an analogous wing is forming. In the POUM also, differentiation between the incorrigible centrists and consistent revolutionaries is making considerable progress. The violent campaign of the Executive Committee of the POUM against Trotskyism has not prevented the left wing from taking up our criticisms and to some extent our slogans. Its expulsion is only a question of time.
The speed with which all these fractions develop towards the political positions of the Fourth International depends, in the first place, on the effective activity of the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain. The Friends of Durruti, like the other revolutionaries who have seen the Trotskyists by their side on the barricades during the May days, are ready to listen to them in discussion, to read their papers and leaflets, to think over what they propose.
The Bolshevik-Leninist organisation was rebuilt with enormous difficulty. When Nin and Andrade had betrayed the flag of the Fourth International, while they liquidated their own organisation and sowed confusion among the militants, the situation seemed without issue. In a period when thousands and tens of thousands of new members were flowing into the existing workers’ parties, it was not easy to muster a few reliable comrades faithful to Marxism and the Fourth International. In the months which have passed, the Trotskyists lacked the most convincing argument, that of force. Ideas alone are not enough.
Still today the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain see before them enormous obstacles which they cannot surmount without international aid. In this country, in spite of the war, there is considerable unemployment, not to be under the protection of a party means not to be able to find work, and to be exposed to poverty, as in every other capitalist country. For many oppositionists, expulsion from their party means the loss of their livelihood. Many of our militiamen were sent back from the front for ‘Trotskyist activity’, that is to say for their revolutionary propaganda, and they lost their salary of 10 pesetas a day with which they were supporting their organisation. How are we to find the necessary means for the organisation, for printing and leaflets? We are forced to rely on the solidarity of all sections and groups of the Fourth International, and all sympathisers. With their aid we shall soon get over this critical period, which is only transitional.
We apply to all sister organisations and ask them to help us. In all countries make campaigns to help the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain! In every Trotskyist paper an appeal for the Spanish organisation of the Fourth International; In every gathering and every public meeting a collection for the Trotskyists of the country of the revolution.
The Spanish Revolution is at stake. Victory is closely linked with the creation of a new party for the Fourth International. The effective solidarity of the whole international vanguard is necessary for victory.
– The Executive Committee of the Bolshevik-Leninists of Spain. Barcelona, 29 May 1937.
It was in 1962, along with Dennis Levin and Colin Henry of the Workers League, that I had a two-day discussion with Munis in Paris. The discussion was mainly on the civil war in Spain. He mentioned that Hugo Oehler, Rosalio Negrette, Witte (Demetrios Giotopoulos) and, I believe, August Thalheimer were all living, for a period, in the same house in Barcelona. Although amiable and generous, in discussion he was very undisciplined. You would listen to him in silence whilst he made his contribution, then in the middle of your first sentence in reply he would interrupt and keep on interrupting. The Anarchist in him coming out? It was most exasperating. No wonder the discussion went on through the night and the empty wine bottles piled up.
Natalia Trotsky, with whom he had a close friendship and collaboration over several years, old, ill, and in hospital, was not allowed to see him before she died. Over this Munis was not so much bitter as sad – sad that comrades in the movement should have been so ungenerous. He was concerned over what to do with the many letters Natalia had written to him.
Whilst walking with him on the Left Bank, he pointed out Rudolf Klement’s favourite cafe. A Spanish guitarist had played there. I mention this as it does not quite accord with the picture of Klement’s ‘almost complete clandestinity’, given by Pierre Broué in the first issue of Revolutionary History (Spring 1988, p.16). The last time I saw Munis was in the winter of 1965 in Paris. By this time he had a daughter about two years old, Natalia, named after Natalia Trotsky. She was very bright. The striking thing about her appearance was the whites of her eyes – they were pale blue. She had just been out and seen her first snow, carried a snowball up to the flat, tried to clean it under the hot water tap and ended up in tears looking at a wet puddle on the floor. Villon’s phrase ‘Where are the Snows of Yesteryear’ prompts the thought: where is Natalia Munis now?
Munis’s companion and mother of young Natalia, Arlett, worked in a Spanish hospital on the outskirts of Paris. My wife was concerned at Natalia being looked after, all day in a small room, by a constantly cheroot smoking, thesis typing Munis. Heredity, I am sure, favoured Natalia’s survival.
Last updated on 16.8.2003