From Fourth International, vol.6 No.5, May 1945, p.159.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
A conference of the Spanish party of the POUM took place in Toulouse, France, on Nov. 11 and 12, 1944. Delegates were mostly Spanish refugees in France.
According to reports we have just received, the conference made a very important decision for the future of the party. The POUM had been formed some ten years ago by a fusion of the Catalonian Party of Maurin, the Bloque Obrero y Campesino, and the Spanish Group of the Left Opposition, led by Andres Nin, subsequently killed by the GPU.
While Nin made unwarranted concessions to Maurin’s party, and had to break with our international organization, the fusion represented a step forward, however, for Maurin’s party; namely, the emergence from the purely Catalonian political life, and the entering of the national political scene of Spain.
Now the last conference of the POUM has taken the reverse step. It has decided to become again a purely Catalonian party, and to abandon organized activity on a national scale. This organizational step is naturally the product of incorrect political conceptions. The party is impregnated with petty Catalonian national arrogance. It considers that Catalonia has the “peninsular mission” of saving Spain. That the Catalonian workers and peasants have a decisive role to play in the future Spanish revolution, there is no doubt. However, that role can be fulfilled only if their vanguard is organized in the same party with the advanced workers of all of Spain, in a party emancipated from all petty nationalist prejudices about some predestined role it has to play as a savior of the workers of other nationalities.
The opportunist nature of the POUM’s recent decision is quite obvious. One of the reasons given for limiting itself to the Catalonian scale was that, in attempting to be a national Spanish party, the POUM would inevitably come into conflict with the opportunist Socialist Party. According to the reports, the leadership declared at Toulouse: “To attempt to permeate the whole peninsula would, therefore, be a grave error. It could only be done at the expense of the Spanish Socialist Party, and would thus create violent hostility and opposition?”
The recent nationalist turn of the POUM could not fail to lead it into compromising combinations with all kinds of petty bourgeois nationalist Catalonian politicians. The Toulouse conference decided that “the Party will embark upon the constitution of a Catalonian Bloc uniting all the working class and democratic forces in Catalonia.” The party is calling for the formation of a United Resistance Movement, supported by that Catalonian Bloc, which “must have an institutional character, placing itself under the orders of the first legal authority who, at the moment, is the president of Catalonia, M. Irla.”
However, there is something to rejoice about in the reports of the Toulouse conference. The opportunist turn of the leadership was not accepted unanimously. A minority arose. We hope that this minority will disentangle itself from the opportunist and nationalist line of the party, and orient itself toward a consistent revolutionary policy. On that road the minority will find the friendly advice and support of our comrades, the Spanish members of the Fourth International.
The century old land-hunger of the Italian peasantry is one of the burning questions that confronts this country. After making demagogic promises to solve the agrarian problem by means of the so-called “appoderamento” (division of land into small estates), the Fascist regime throughout its reign of more than twenty years acted only brutally to suppress every attempt of the peasants to gain the land. Coming to the end of its tether, Fascism in Italy sought to gain the support of the peasants by passing a law in December 1938 expropriating the large estates. This law has remained on paper so far as the peasants are concerned.
Among the materials we have recently received from Italy there are several documents pertaining to the land question and emanating from the ranks of organized labor in Northern Italy. Of particular interest is a report delivered in January 1944 at Bari before the Foggia Labor Council by Romeo Mangano, a prominent member of this Council. In his report Mangano analyzes the situation in the Tavoliere region of the province of Foggia, one of the largest agricultural areas in Italy. Tavoliere is primarily devoted to grain growing and livestock breeding.
It comprises, according to Mangano, of “54,959 agricultural estates, covering an area of 626,562 hectares, of which 300,930 hectares were under direct management; 174,761 were rented; 12,958 were under absentee ownership and 137,913 under a mixed management. ... Large scale property prevails, comprising 63 percent, with every large estate exceeding 200 hectares.”
The “small estates” (poderi) created by the Fascists in Tavoliere number 2,500, covering some 80,000 hectares, with a body of approximately 12,000 agricultural workers. These “poderi” run in size from 14 to 30 hectares, depending on the type of cultivation.
Pointing out that the whole “colonization” project of the Fascists was a fraud from beginning to end, Mangano cites in his report the fact that the new settlers were not at all bona-fide tillers of the soil.
“Because in the choice of colonists political favoritism has prevailed, and I may say without fear of contradiction, that at least 30 percent of the settlers have been replaced by families which have had only one connection with the land-that of having walked upon it.”
The program of colonization remained throughout – and still is – under the direction of Fascistcreated bodies, the Opera Nazionali Combattenti, Cenzorio Generale di Bonifaca, and the private landowners. It was a source of large-scale graft. More than 250 million had been expended in Tavohere alone, with little or nothing to show for the money.
Virtually the same conditions, declares Mangano, prevail in Sicily and other agricultural areas.
“Insofar as I have been able to learn from Sicilian comrades the situation there is no different from Tavoliere also with regard to the attitude of the qatifondists’ (large scale landowners).”
He then adds:
“The landowners, you will recall, contributed generously first in creating and then in supporting Fascism from 1922 to 1938; but when by the law of 1938 they found their lands expropriated, they became anti-fascists for their own class interests, and now many of these people are participating in the parties adhering to the `committees of liberation.’ ... It is the hope of the landowners to regain the expropriated lands, and steps are already being taken in that direction by the government.” Let us add that the Stalinists have assumed upon themselves the treacherous task of aiding and covering up the maneuvers of the landowners – by accepting the post of the minister of agriculture in the government.
The conclusion drawn by Mangano is that the workers’ organizations in collaboration with the Tavoliere peasant leagues must “replace immediately” the landlords and the bodies set up by the Fascists-Opera Nazionali Combattenti (ONC) and Cenzorio Generals di Bonifaca (CG di B) “both in the prosecution of the work of ‘appoderamento’ already in progress or projected, as well as in the management of the ‘poderi’ already existing.”
Upon hearing Mangano’s report and the demand that labor not only oppose the maneuvers of the landlords but act immediately to gain the transfer of “all land to the peasants in the interest of the whole proletariat,” the Foggia Labor Council passed the following resolution:
The General Federation of Labor, meeting in its first Convention to discuss the urgent problems of the colonization of Tavoliere
the report of Comrade Mangano, delegate from the Labor Council of Foggia;
that it is in the interest of the workers of the soil to continue the work of colonization undertaken by fascism solely with demagogic aims;
that only these same workers of the soil can and must concern themselves with the problem; therefore
to demand of the Government that the Federation of Peasant Leagues of Tavoliere take the place of the ONC, the CG di B, and the private owners in the management of the farms already functioning and in the prosecution of the works already in progress and projected, with all the prerogatives given until now to the ONC.
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