Revolution or War n°15

(May 16th 2020)

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Spain 1936: Can There be a Proletarian Revolution without Insurrection and Destruction of the Bourgeois State?

The key question of every revolution is undoubtedly the question of state power. Which class holds power decides everything. (…) It is the key question determining everything in a revolution’s development, and in its foreign and domestic policies.
(Lenin, One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution, Sept. 1917)

The ’Spanish Revolution’ remains a mystification, a myth for many, which is largely maintained by the left and the leftists, Trotskyists and Anarchists who have made it their stock-in-trade. Unfortunately, there are revolutionary forces that still support it today. Among them, comrades of the communist group Emancipation (better known under the name of its Spanish blog Nuevo Curso) defend that there was a ’Spanish revolution’ in 1936, that "on 19 [July] the ‘unexpected’ general insurrection of the Spanish proletariat disarmed the armed reaction [Franco’s military coup] and took power over 4/5 of the territory" [1]. Claiming a so-called ’Spanish Communist Left’ around the figure of the revolutionary militant Grandizo Munis, they take up its tradition and positions, especially on Spain. As we showed in our previous issue [2], these positions are not those of the international Communist Left, but those of the Trotskyist Workers’ Opposition of the 1930s, when the Trotskyist current was still part of the workers’ movement, although already very weakened by the political opportunism that was eating into it.

The clarification of the nature of Spanish events cannot be reduced to a simple historical debate on the legitimacy of a current, the International Communist Left, at the expense of the Workers’ Opposition, which would only refer to theoretical and principled questions. It extends to the issues of today, more particularly to the situation that is developing these days, and with which revolutionaries and the proletariat as a whole are beginning to find themselves confronted. Indeed, the violence and the depth of the crisis that the coronavirus merely precipitated – it’s not the root cause – are already forcing the bourgeoisie to take ’state’ measures, aiming at concentrating even more the national productive apparatuses around each state, while abandoning the sectors that are presented to us today as ’non-strategic’, that is to say, not indispensable to the relentless and merciless defence of national capital that the crisis imposes on the world stage. The phase that is beginning is already reviving state, economic, political, ideological policies, having the same historical function that the policies of the Popular Front or the New Deal had in the 1930s: to definitively defeat the international proletariat and to prepare the generalized imperialist war. As such, the Spanish question is crucial and full of lessons, since the defeat and massacre of the proletariat in Spain was the final episode of the counterrevolutionary course, indispensable to definitively clear the way for the generalized imperialist war.

In 1942, when Munis wrote his book on the Spanish experience, Lessons of a Defeat, a Promise of Victory, the Spanish and international defeat was widely consumed and the World War had won all continents. Nevertheless, he continued to defend the thesis of the Spanish Revolution. As early as July 1936, it was clearly rejected and fought against by the then international Communist Left, in fact almost only by the so-called Italian Left through its French-language review Bilan (1933-1938). At the heart of the divergence between the two currents, the Workers’ Opposition and the Communist Left, is the question of the relation of the proletariat to its insurrection, to the destruction of the capitalist state, to the establishment and exercise of its class dictatorship. "We remain faithful to Marxism when we maintain in all circumstances, in all events, the banner of the violent destruction of the capitalist state, the seizure of political power by the proletariat, which is the basis of any social transformation of society" (Bilan #36, Oct. 17-Oct. 36, Oct. 1936 [3]).

The Trotskyist Workers’ Opposition, including the Munis of 1942, claimed the first four congresses of the Communist International (CI) and the policies of united front and ’workers’ government’, that is, government formed on the basis of alliances with the Socialist Parties. It was in Germany that this policy of alliance with the SP and the USPD (German Independent Socialist Party) to form ’workers’ governments’ was first put forward and put into practice by the German Communist Party (KPD), but also by the German Communist Workers Party (KAPD), and finally adopted and theorized by the CI. In doing so, it abandoned the lessons of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and the theoretical lessons that Lenin had developed in particular in the April Theses and in The State and the Revolution: proletariat’s autonomy in face the bourgeois state, proletarian insurrection, destruction of the capitalist state, dictatorship of the proletariat. Faithful to these, only the Communist Left of Italy, leading the CP of Italy from its foundation in 1921 until 1924, openly opposed within the CI itself – particularly through the interventions of its principal leader Amadeo Bordiga – this united-front policy with the Socialist Parties that had gone to counterrevolution and opposed also the substitution of the slogan of ’dictatorship of the proletariat’ for ’workers’ government’, which was adopted in the CI’s 3rd Congress in 1921. This is why, even today, the international Communist Left claims only the first two congresses of the International. It is precisely this fundamental divergence at that time, a divergence referring to questions of principle and theory, therefore, that separated the two currents, that of Trotsky and the Communist Left, on the nature and significance of the events of July 1936 in Spain and on the nature of the war, ’civil’ or imperialist, that followed.

In his book, Munis essentially develops four arguments, which he repeats tirelessly throughout the pages and chapters, to justify the thesis of a proletarian revolution in Spain :

- the proletarian masses were ready for revolution, "nothing could oppose to the torrential avalanche of the masses [which had] gradually become conscious of their socialist task " [4] ;

- On July 19, 1936, "the state and capitalist society collapsed after the triumph of the working class over the reactionary insurrection", that is, Franco’s military coup d’état, to the point that "by exaggerating a little [sic!], we can say that Spain was bourgeois and capitalist on July 18, proletarian and socialist on July 20" ;

- "the Central Committee of Militias was undeniably a revolutionary government (...) on 19 July [having] brought into being in Spain a multitude of organs of revolutionary power (...) even more explicit than that of the Russian Revolution", organs that Munis calls "government committees".

- "accompanying the general collapse of the capitalist state, private property was liquidated the day after July 19, 1936 (...). A new system was born, the socialist system (...) thanks to the organization of the Colectividades [Colectivities] that followed the expropriations carried out by the various militias and Patrol Vigilance and by the government committees".

Proletarian Masses Ready for Revolution?

Faithful to the Trotskyist premise of the Transitional Program that "the multimillioned masses again and again enter the road of revolution" regardless of the course of class struggle and events throughout the 1930s, Munis believes that in 1936 "the national and international balance of power was even more favorable than in 1917" and that "the masses [had] gradually acquired a consciousness of their socialist task [to the point that] in the course of international struggles the masses have rarely had so many opportunities for revolution. At the beginning of 1936, their situation was optimal, frankly socialist".

This favourable valuation of the international and historical balance of power in the 1930s puts fully aside the counter-revolutionary course throughout the 1920s and 1930s following the German defeat, which was definitive in 1923, and the isolation of the Russian Revolution; and that it may have had some influence on the Spanish situation in the 1930s. The bloody historical, political, ideological and physical defeats of the Russian, Italian and German proletariat under Stalinist, Mussolini and Nazi terror, which had been at the forefront of the post-war international revolutionary wave, and the degeneration of the Communist International, were followed by often no less bloody failures of international workers’ struggles and mobilizations, as in China in 1927, each time more profound. The economic crisis of 1929 and the subsequent renewal of proletarian combativeness did not change this dynamic of defeats, and these became moments in the historical process leading to the generalized war. Admittedly, these massive proletarian mobilizations, such as the massive strikes of May-June 1936 in Belgium and France as well as the proletarian insurrection in Spain in July 1936, were not inevitably destined to become additional moments of the course to the war and indispensable to its continuation. Consequently, it was then precisely up to the weak political forces remaining faithful to communist internationalism to take into account the international proletarian retreat and to firmly establish the class defence line, a line preserving the autonomy of the exploited and revolutionary class and its specific economic and political interests vis-à-vis the bourgeois state; and on which the international proletariat would have been able to recognize itself and regroup in a defencive position even if the probabilities were very reduced. Now, it was precisely in Spain that the establishment of this class line of defense was most likely to be erected, due to the very fact of proletarian combativeness, acute class instinct and ’revolutionary’ aspirations (and not the "consciousness of the socialist task"), however confused they were, reigning among the great masses. But precisely, as an expression of the unfavorable historical course, no revolutionary force, no party, or fraction sufficiently influential, emerged to establish this line and spread it with a minimum of scale among the masses.

For Munis and the Trotskyist vision, "a simple shift to the left on the part of the large workers’ organizations  [5], the public decision to liquidate the capitalist state and organize the new revolutionary power, would have been enough to win. (...) Workers’ organizations faithful to capitalism is the tragedy of the proletariat, not only in Spain but worldwide". This way of posing the problem, a class ready for revolution and ’workers’ parties faithful to capitalism’, ignores the fact that the capacity of the proletariat to equip itself with its party, as the highest expression of its class consciousness, is precisely an indicator of the degree of extension of this consciousness among the proletarian masses and an element of the balance of power between classes as well as revolutionary potentialities. In the Spain of July 1936, the absence of a significant party or even group, or fraction, still faithful to communism and capable of assuming tasks of political leadership and orientation in the turmoil contradicted Trotskyist and Munis’s hopes about the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat in Spain. And it allowed, from the very beginning of the military uprising, to glimpse the contours and limits of the expected proletarian reaction, in particular with regard to the bourgeois state

"In Spain lacks a class party and there are no prospects for it to emerge in the heat of current events. And here we do not affirm a thesis that, to be didactic and scholastic, would be of immeasurable stupidity. It would consist in believing that the proletariat cannot intervene as a class in the situation because previously a group of theorists would not have compiled a program with a complete and impeccable architecture. (...) We base ourselves on concrete elements, on the situations that preceded the one that has just opened and that show that if the Spanish workers have managed to write – especially in the last five years – pages of epic that no other proletariat has yet to its credit, they have unfortunately found it impossible to forge their class party" (Bilan #33, En Espagne, bourgeoisie contre prolétariat, July-August 1936 [6]).

The combativeness and ’revolutionary spirit’ of the proletariat enabled it to launch a general strike and to defeat, with very few weapons in hand, Franco’s military coup d’état in the main cities. But its political unpreparedness, one of the manifestations of which was precisely the absence of a class party, made it very easily, too easily, diverted from the confrontation with the republican state, from the insurrection against it, and mobilized on the military front with the sending of the militias to Zaragoza, just four days after the so-called disappearance of the capitalist state. In doing so, the revolutionary class immediately abandoned its autonomy and classist terrain for ’class collaboration’ with the republican forces and against fascism [7]. "By their incorporation into an army, [the workers] will no longer have the strength to find the path through which they defeated the military in Barcelona and Madrid on July 19", Bilan was saying in October. Contrary to Munis’s thesis, and despite its combativeness, heroism, radicalism and even revolutionary ’aspirations’ or feelings, the proletariat in Spain was far from being "conscious of its historical task".

Disappearance and Disintegration of the Bourgeois State?

According to Munis, "once its coercive institutions were defeated and destroyed, the capitalist state ceased to exist (...). By destroying it on July 19, the Spanish proletariat got rid of the main obstacle to progress. (...) At the precise moment when the bourgeois state disintegrated, anarcho-syndicalism and the POUM made an act of allegiance to it, strengthening the unity of all workers’ organizations against the organization of the new proletarian state".

On many occasions, he himself contradicts his thesis on the disappearance, disintegration, disaggregation, dissolution, and even destruction of the state: "of capitalist society, only the Popular Front coalition remained, teetering on the brink of the abyss. Its government was a useless shadow, an immaterial embodiment of capitalist power. (...) As soon as the first detachments of militiamen left for the sierra of Guadarrama and Aragon, the Popular Front and the government began to slyly destroy the work carried out on 19 July". Not only does he recognize that the State was not destroyed, but also that its immaterial incarnation exerts a very material political action from the day after July 19. The Spanish government in Madrid is still there and the government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, presided by Companys, remains in place with the support of the anarchist CNT and the POUM. Two days after Franco’s defeat in Barcelona, the Central Committee of Militias, led by the CNT, was formed and Munis presented it as "the new political power". Its first decision is to call the proletarians to leave for the Zaragoza front, from the 24th, to engage in the anti-fascist struggle and the defence of the republican state, to stop the general strike. By doing so, this so-called new revolutionary power of the Central Committee of Militias, at the head of which the CNT reigns supreme, pushed the proletarians to turn away and ignore the question of real power, class power, which the insurrection of the 19th had objectively posed without the proletariat being able to resolve it. This period that saw the bourgeois power stagger ended on the 28th with the alignment of the POUM with the CNT and the left parties, its definitive adhesion to the Popular Front, and its call, in its turn, to stop the strike where it was still going on. "By its slogan of re-entry [to work], the POUM will clearly express the turning point of the situation and the success of the bourgeoisie’s maneuvering to obtain the cessation of the general strike, then launching decrees to avoid the reactions of the workers  [8] [workweek, requisitioning of companies, ’workers’ control’, etc.] and, finally, pushing the proletarians out of the cities towards the siege of Zaragoza" (Bilan #36, La leçon des événements d’Espagne).

If Munis still speaks of revolution and destruction of the State in 1942, from July-August 36 the Italian Fraction is very clear on the reality of July 19 and on the outcome of the confrontation. Where Munis sees a victory, Bilan sees a defeat: "when they threw themselves into the streets on July 19, [the workers] could not point their weapons in a direction that would have allowed them to break the capitalist state and defeat Franco. They left the Giral [the head of the Spanish government in Madrid at the time], the Companys in Barcelona at the head of the state apparatus, simply burning down churches, ’cleaning up’ capitalist institutions such as the Public Security, the police, the civil guard, the assault guard.... From 19 to 28 July, the situation would have allowed the armed workers, at least in Barcelona, to take full power, albeit in confused forms, but which would nevertheless have been a formidable historical experience. The turn towards Zaragoza saved the bourgeoisie" (ibid.).

Government Committees and the Central Committee of Militias, Organs of Proletarian Power?

The chapter that follows the one on July 19 is entitled Duality of Power: The Preponderance of Workers. In other words, it contradicts the thesis of a monopoly of power, that is, the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and thus the destruction of the capitalist state and a proletarian revolution that was put forward earlier and is yet reaffirmed in this chapter. This vision tries to take up the schema of the Russian Revolution, particularly the period of effective double power, between the Russian state and its government and the workers and soldiers councils, which runs from February to the October 1917 insurrection. "Without even knowing it, without even being conscious of it [sic!], the Central Committee of Militias was converting itself into a revolutionary government and its apparatus into the outline of a proletarian state apparatus. (...) The exercise of political power by the proletariat and the poor peasants nevertheless remained a reality of weight, inescapable. The entire area freed from military power was in the hands of a multitude of unconnected government committees at the national level, with no clear consciousness of their incompatibility with the old state. (...) Even during the Russian Revolution, there was no such clear-cut victory" (!).

Drawing a parallel between the soviets, or workers’ councils – "the Russian government committees" according to him – in Russia and the "multitude of organs of revolutionary power" that appeared in Spain after July 19, Munis even states that "the example of the Spanish organs of power is even more explicit than that of the Russian revolution". He even goes so far as to claim that "in many villages, the Cenetist [CNT] militants proclaimed anarchy through a committee that corresponded exactly to the Marxist conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat"! The theoretical and of principle abomination lies not in the fact that anarchists are given a role in the affair, but in the affair itself, namely the conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat presented to us here: an addition, at best a hypothetical federation, of local committees having established anarchy village by village! Far from these anarchizing aberrations, Bilan, on the contrary, defends that "the workers of the Iberian Peninsula remain, despite their admirable heroism and sublime sacrifices, below all the experiences lived by the workers’ movement" (Bilan #36, October 17-October 36).

What was the reality like? It is clear that some of the peasant collectives and village committees were emanations of the poor peasants and their class struggle organs in the countryside. However, as Munis himself shows us elsewhere, these colectividades did not, and could not, go beyond being mere organs of immediate struggle and subsistence for the peasants themselves. As for the government-committees and other committees in the cities, he tells us that in fact most of them were not the emanation of general assemblies in the factories or neighborhoods, but the result of alliances and agreements between the parties and unions of the Popular Front, CNT and POUM included of course, but also the Catalanist Esquerra Republicana of Companys, which divided up the composition of the committees. On the substance, on the very dynamics of the class struggle in progress, the fact that some delegates were elected by the village or factory assembly or appointed authoritatively by the parties does not change that most of these committees were not the emanation, nor the expression, and even less a factor, of a dynamic of an autonomous proletarian struggle as was the case with the soviets in Russia, quite the contrary. The Trotsky of 1924 in Lessons of October, the one who was not yet a Trotskyist, so to speak, rightly defined the soviets as organs of insurrection and organs of proletarian power, and not as mere forms of organization. For the most part set up by the CNT, the UGT and the POUM, and directed by them, the "government committees" and the CC of the militias were at no time organs of the insurrection. On the contrary, it must be clear that the latter was constituted precisely to prevent it. "Far from being an embryo of the Red Army, the columns [of militia] will be constituted on a ground and in a direction that do not belong to the proletariat" (Bilan). If the committees and the CC of the militias were organs of power, it was of bourgeois power and its maintained state.

"The constitution of the Central Committee of Militias was to give the impression of the opening of a phase of proletarian power and the constitution of the Central Economic Council the illusion that we were entering the phase of the management of a proletarian economy. However, far from being organisms of dual power, they were indeed organisms with a capitalist nature and function, because instead of being constituted on the basis of a proletarian thrust seeking forms of unity of struggle in order to pose the problem of power, they were, from the outset, organs of collaboration with the capitalist state. The CC of the Barcelona Militias will be, moreover, a conglomerate of workers’ and bourgeois parties and trade unions and not an organism of the soviets type arising on a class basis, spontaneously and where an evolution of the workers’ consciousness can be verified" (ibid.).

Destruction of Capitalism and Socialist Measures?

"The Spanish proletariat destroyed capitalism and its values", said Munis. "Accompanying the general collapse of the capitalist state, private property was liquidated the day after July 19, 1936. The proletariat killed two birds with one stone. By striking a blow to the state of the property-owning class, by destroying it, it struck a mortal blow to property itself, as naturally as the fall of a meteor. The factories, the land, the trade, the transport, the mines were in the hands of the workers and the peasants. As soon as the shooting ceased in the cities, the Spanish economic system began to function on a new basis. The management of the economy by and for the bourgeois class ceased. A new economic system was born, the socialist system" [9].

Munis’s book accumulates contradictory assertions, sometimes from one line to another, destruction of the capitalist state-maintaining state, revolution-not revolution, capitalism’s disappearance-maintaining [10], etc. These incessant contradictions express, among other things, a theoretical and political confusion of the widest kind vis-à-vis the elementary principles of Marxism and the historical experience of the proletariat. This confusion spreads to the point where Munis speaks of "socialist property" after July 19 1936, of "expropriation of the proletariat" (sic!) after May 1937. That private property has been ’liquidated’, that is, that either the bosses have fled, or that they have been imprisoned or even shot, does not mean that the private appropriation of the means of production has disappeared. That the factories are controlled by their workers, are "in their hands", does not mean that the proletariat no longer suffers the exploitation of capital. The fact that economic management is no longer assumed by capitalist individuals keeping property or share titles in their safes does not mean that capitalist relations are no longer. That money, paper money, is abolished in the peasant collectives of Aragon by the CNT-FAI or the POUM does not mean that exchange value is no longer valid. This would not even be the case if the proletariat had destroyed the capitalist state apparatus and established its class dictatorship. So in the Spanish case where the ’republican’ capitalist state has remained in place, the disappearance or elimination of the ’owners’, mostly pro-Franco, of factories and land is only a moment of strengthening and concentration, not of a ’socialist’ economy even if it is draped in anarchist red and black and under so-called ’worker control’, but of national capital around the state, and more precisely of a capitalist war economy indispensable to the needs of the military front against Franco’s regime, to the needs of the struggle between two equally bourgeois fractions, which soon became a local imperialist war.

Munis finally falls on the terrain of this war in the course of the pages and chapters identifying the interests of the Spanish proletariat with the success of the war against Franco’s army. He thus comes to praise the virtues of the superiority of ’socialist production’ over ’capitalist production’ [11] : "The productive superiority of socialism over capitalism was clearly demonstrated by the work of the workers and peasants Colectividades. (...) In 1936, workers and technicians (...) rejoiced in being able to develop a socialist industry and produce the materials necessary for the triumph of the new society. They quickly sent a large quantity of war material to the fronts (...). By the end of 1936, several factories had been built and started up, producing chemicals for war, which were difficult to find even in the more industrialized countries".

It suffices to let him speak, or write, to see confirmation that the capitalist relations had not disappeared, that they continued to impose their diktat on the so-called ’socialist economy’ and that the exploitation of the proletariat continued. "Although the war absorbed an ever-increasing number of men, worker unemployment appeared in all industries not directly related to the needs of the front. At first, the Collectives continued to pay a daily wage to unemployed workers, but their resources were limited and trade relations were deteriorating. Since they did not confiscate financial capital, the Collectives had to live on their own capital. Most of them had to take out loans, which were always refused by the government". Proof if proof were needed that "capitalism and its values" had not been destroyed.

In fact, as Bilan writes, "where the bosses had fled or were shot by the masses, factory councils were formed as an expression of the expropriation of these enterprises by the workers. Here the trade unions intervened (...) to defend the need to work at full capacity for the organization of the war without excessive respect for labour and wage regulations. Immediately stifled, the factory committees, the control committees of the companies where the expropriation was not carried out (in consideration of foreign capital or for other considerations) were transformed into organs that had to activate production and, in this way, were distorted in their class meaning. They were not bodies created during an insurrectional strike to overthrow the State, but bodies oriented towards the organization of war (...). From now on, the workers in the factories that they had believed they had conquered without destroying the capitalist state will once again become its prisoners and soon, in October, under the pretext of working for the realization of a new era, of winning the war, the workers in the factories will be militarized to work for socialism" (Bilan #36, La leçon…).

It seems to us that we can end here with our demonstration. Neither revolution, nor workers’ power, nor even dual power, still less socialism, existed in Spain in 1936.

Were the International Defeat and the Spanish Massacre Inevitable?

As combative, heroic, and even revolutionary, could be the proletarian masses in Spain, as acute could be the class antagonisms, the historical conditions proper to the country and the succession of defeats of the international proletariat did not allow the emergence of a proletarian political minority of Marxist vanguard, of a party, able to defend and spread a clear class line for the proletariat in front of the bourgeois state. No force was able to establish any April Theses for Spain, even less to try to spread, defend and put them into practice in Barcelona, in the factories, in the streets, in the neighborhoods. Lenin’s lessons on insurrection, taking up Marx’s lesson about the "insurrection as an art" [12], make it a central element of the revolutionary act destroying the state of the bourgeoisie and the indispensable premise for the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat. "Just like Lenin in April 1917, we have to operate on the central core of the problem and it is there that the only ‘real’ political differentiation can be made. The capitalist attack can only be answered on a proletarian basis. (...) From the present situation where the proletariat is squeezed between two capitalist forces, the working class can only move to the other opposite by taking the path leading to insurrection..." (Bilan #34, Au front impérialiste (…), il faut opposer le front de classe, August-Sept. 36 ).

Forgotten, abandoned, ignored, betrayed, the proletarian insurrection as a principle that Bilan was practically the only one to defend still, would have at least allowed the revolutionary minority to warn the proletariat as early as July 36 of the dangers of letting itself be misled by the illusion of a power that guns seemed to give to the proletarians, of leaving in place the bourgeois state power in Barcelona, the mystification of the so-called ’socialist’ conquests which were intended for war production, and of rushing to the fronts to be massacred for the interests of the enemy class.

No doubt the Fraction could have gone further in the case of a hypothetical situation that would have seen some of its members go into exile in the mid-1920s in Barcelona rather than in Paris, Marseilles and Brussels. For contrary to the false criticism that the Italian Fraction manifested itself through a fatalistic vision, because of its recognition of a counterrevolutionary historical course that it never presented as an unstoppable mechanism, and through an indifferentism towards the proletarian struggle in Spain, there is little doubt that it would have developed the same militant will that its members displayed in France and Belgium, when they intervened in factories and meetings, sometimes with revolvers in their pockets to protect themselves against Stalinist repression. From July onward, abandoning the principles of insurrection and dictatorship of the proletariat, most of the last left opposition groups, and sometimes even of the Communist Left – within Bilan itself – thought there were seeing a revolutionary proletarian power in the photos of Spanish workers in blue overalls, one hand on the gun, the other brandishing a raised fist, wearing red and black caps, marching in the Plaza de Catalunya, electing their officers and leaving for the front; and proletarian internationalism in action in the influx of brigadists from all over. As we have seen, it was nothing of the sort.

In this hurricane of confusion and panic causing so much class betrayal, Bilan was the only voice that held firm to the principles. "One of two things: either the revolutionary situation exists and it is necessary to fight against capitalism, or it does not exist and then speaking of revolution to the workers, when, unfortunately, it is only a question of defending their partial conquests, means substituting for the criterion of the necessity of a measured defence to prevent the success of the enemy, that which consists in throwing the masses into the abyss where they will be crushed" (Bilan 36, La consigne de l’heure : ne pas trahir, October 1936).

Bilan was the only voice that advanced orientations that could have avoided the catastrophe and imposed on all the struggling fractions of the Spanish bourgeoisie the terrain of class demands: "The only way to salvation for the workers consists in their regroupment on class bases: for partial demands, to defend their conquests at the same time as they will base themselves on the persuasive force of the events themselves to raise as the only possible governmental solution, that of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to launch the slogan of insurrection when the favorable conditions have matured" (Bilan #33, En Espagne : bourgeoisie contre prolétariat, July-August 1936).

RL, April 2020.



[2. See our letter to Emancipation in Revolution or War #14 (

[3. All the quotations of Bilan we make in this text are translated by us from their French original version.

[4. We translate from the French version republished by the Éditions sciences marxistes in 2007. All the quotations presented here come from the second part of the book, mainly from chapters 12, 13 and 14. The repetition of the same arguments and the succession of contradictions throughout the pages and chapters, which in no way detracts from the ’pleasure’ and the interest of the reading but makes the subject matter and the political coherence particularly confused, forced us to choose scattered quotations and to gather them together for the clarity of our argumentation.

[5. By this he means the main organizations of the Popular Front, the trade unions UGT and CNT, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the POUM and the then CP, PCE and PSUC (the Catalan Stalinist Communist Party infamous for the extortion, kidnapping, torture and assassinations it championed under the direct orders of the Stalinist NKVD), which have, at least for the PSOE and the UGT, already completely passed into the bourgeois camp or were passing into it like the CP since the death of the CI when it adopted ’socialism in one country’.

[7. The national resistance framed by the CPs during World War II was a continuation of this.

[8. The main demands that the CC of the militias made public on the 24th: "36-hour work week; 10% increase in wages; reduction of rents; payment of strike days; compensation for the unemployed; control of production by the committees of factories, workshops, mines..." (quoted by Munis). The Generalitat issued a decree endorsing most of these demands – "it is necessary that the workers leave [to the front] with the feeling that they obtain satisfaction about their demands" (Bilan #36, La leçon...) – which were not applied, with a few exceptions, to ensure war production for the military fronts. This time Munis rightly defends that "workers’ control of production only finds revolutionary application in connection with the general expropriation of capitalism and the exercise of political power by the proletariat". But it is still necessary to agree on what is and under what conditions can we speak of expropriation of capitalism and on what is the exercise of political power by the proletariat and under what conditions it takes place.

[9. This quotation and those that follow can be found in Chapter 17, The Property.

[10. A few pages after the previous quotation justifying socialism by the liquidation of property, Munis tells us exactly the opposite, and rightly so this time: "Capitalism does not disappear because industry ceases to be individual property, because its essential characteristic is the alienation of the means of production in which it keeps the workers whose labour power it buys like any other commodity"!

[11. The Trotskyist view, Trotsky himself, finds itself alongside Stalinism to justify the ’superiority of socialism’ by productivity and growth rates allegedly higher than capitalism. This argument betrays a mistaken understanding – in the case of pre-war Trotskyism – the mark of political opportunism, of communism of course, and even of the management of the economy by the ruling proletariat during the transition period, when, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the classes and commodities relations are not yet totally destroyed.

[12. Lenin, Marxism and Insurrection, 1917 (