Saturday, September 30, 2006

Marx, People and Society (1979)

From the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

These days it is fashionable to write long, confusing, dull books about Marx. The qualifications for the job are a commitment to Leninism, a selective bibliography and a capacity for dialectical distortions. The search to discover what went on in Karl Marx's mind has beaten the question of what a Scotsman wears under his kilt as the number one talking point in trendy pubs. To play the game you don't have to be a socialist - but it helps if you learn by heart the required Leninist cliches. Thanks to these modern Marxist scholars we have not just one Marx but many: Hegelian Marx, Young Marx, Mature Marx, not to mention Dead Marx who passed his words of wisdom beyond the grave to Young Lenin. One of the favourite topics of those who treat Marxism as a spectator sport is what they call 'Marx's ontology' (his conception of the nature of Man).

Marx's view of 'human nature' is essentially different from all others because it is historical (seeing people as socially developing beings) and dialectical (seeing humanity and Nature as two parts of the same whole). Marx speaks of 'reality' as being both 'naturally human' and 'humanly natural'. The idealist philosophers had always constructed their own model of the human race and placed it in Nature. It was not coincidental that these models corresponded to the ideals of the ruling class of the day. Thus, capitalist philosophers depict humanity as selfish, lazy aggressive and incapable of co-operation. Unlike the Utopian Socialists, Marx did not construct an ideal being to fit into a preconceived pattern of socialist society. His conception involved two questions, firstly, what are the general characteristics of a natural being, and secondly, what are the specific characteristics of a human being? He divided these human attributes into dialectically interdependent powers and needs.

Marx associates three powers and needs with human life; work, eating and sex. He did not say that people must work or eat or have sex in one way as opposed to another in order to be 'natural', but simply that these activities are in the nature of their being. The attributes of 'Species-Man' are more extensive, for it is these that separate it from the unthinking animals. Marx's concept of human nature, then, is concerned with natual and specific attributes of homo sapiens, not the particular moral predilections of the philosopher.

But he doesn't leave it that. Marx's view was that in private property society, an especially under capitalism, people are alienated from their real selves (or, to borrow a Feuerbachian term, alienated from their human essence). By alienation is meant - not surprisingly - the absence of unalienation, people living in accordance with their species and their nature: Socialist society. This is where the Redbrick intellectuals lose Marx's point entirely. He was not concerned with alienation as some kind of existential void to which 'modern man' is doomed. The existentialist, Hyppolite, has it wrong when he writes that alienation is a 'tension inseparable de l'existence' and is inherent in 'la conscience de soi humaine'. Marx consistently relates alienation in property societies to socialist unalienation:
[Communism is] "the complete return of Man to himself as a social (i.e. human) being - a return become conscious, and accomplished with the entire wealth of previous development."

This will mean:
"the positive transcendence of all alienation - that is to say, the return of man from religion, family, State, etc, to his human, i.e. social, mode of existence." (1844 Manuscripts).

In his only complete outline of his theory of alienation, Marx indicated four relations which cover the whole of human social existence. Firstly, people are said to be alienated from their activity. Marx especially refers to productive activity, for that is the most important form of human creativity:
" . . . labour is external to the worker, i.e. it does not belong to his essential being: that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not a home. His labour is therefore not voluntary but coerced; it is forced labour. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it." (1844 Manuscripts).

Secondly, Marx explains how we are alienated from the product of our labour:
" . . . the more the worker by his labour appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in the double respect; first, that the sensuous external world more and more ceases to be an object belonging to his labour - to be his labour's means of life; and secondly, that it more and more ceases to be means of life in the immediate sense, means for the physical subsistence of the worker."1844 Manuscripts).

The third relation of alienation, according to Marx, is that people are alienated from each other because of class divisions and inevitable social conflict:
"Just as [Man] estranges himself from his own activity, so he confers to the stranger activity which is not his own . . . a man alien to labour and standing outside it . . . the capitalist or whatever one choosed to call the master of labour." (1844 Manuscripts).

Finally, men and women are alienated from their species-being:
"In tearing away from the object of his production . . . estranged labour tears from him his species life, his real species objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his organic body, nature, is taken from him. Similarly, in degrading spontaneous activity, free activity, to a means, estranged labour makes Man's species life a means to his physical existence. "(1844 Manuscripts).

There have been those who have questioned whether these early writings of Marx (only published in English in the early 1930's) should be treated as being consistent with his later developed theories, Clearly, any of Marx's writings, taken in isolation and detached from socialist conclusions, can be futile and even misleading. Used by socialists in the battle to free the working class from the world of capitalism, the concept of alienated people - with its dialectical negative, unalienated humanity - is a vital aspect of a coherent Marxist theory. For trendy academics the exercise is about as vital as a fortnight's holiday in Highgate Cemetery.
Steve Coleman

Will Labour Lose? (2006)

From the October 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The present Labour government appears to have run out of steam, but trading one group of career politicians for another is not the answer.

An astute observer once said "governments are not elected . . . they are dismissed". According to this view, after a party has had a period in power the electorate consciously aims to get rid of it by voting for a rival party in a decision regarded as the "lesser of two evils". And it is undoubtedly true that every government - regardless of political banner - has always ended by alienating the electorate that once supported it. Many voters believe politicians are dishonest or have become cynical about elections, reasoning that "60-seconds of democracy" is small recompense for five years of neglect and policies that rarely express their preferences. If elections are so meaningless, some reflect, then there can be little point in voting - a sentiment borne out by low electoral turnout.

Despite being unable to find lasting solutions to workers' problems, political parties must always try to combat voter disillusionment. Behaving like chameleons, they must search for ways to improve their image, reinvigorate old policies and give the appearance that this time things will be different, this time the electorate will be given exactly what it wants. Before the 1997 general election the Labour Party successfully engineered its own metamorphosis, re-branding policies and redefining its agenda. The commitment to nationalisation enshrined in the 1918 Party constitution was abolished and Trade Union influence over policy - always more mythical than real - was publicly abandoned. Its image, thus transformed, seemed revitalised and business, media and the electorate acclaimed the party that now called itself New Labour.

But nine years after the Labour Party was enthusiastically swept into government, the same electorate cannot wait to dismiss them. Reviewing the May local elections results the Electoral Reform Society concluded the Labour government faces "wipe-out" in the next general election and "predicts that Labour stand to lose 149 of its present 355 MPs bringing its commons strength down to 206 - even worse than 1983". Ministers have responded with conciliatory messages that Labour will listen more closely in future and, in the words of John Prescott, "renew itself after nine years in government".(Observer, 28 May)

In the third week of June this year, Labour's tattered image took another knock when an Ipsos Mori poll revealed that one in four Labour supporters wants their party to lose the next election. The poll deduced that "the leadership is becoming increasingly divorced from its own grass roots, 23 per cent agree Labour should be kicked out of power". Supporters wanted the party to experience "a period out of office to rethink what they stand for and what their vision is for the future". A majority of those polled expects the next general election to end with either a hung parliament or a Tory majority, believing a re-launched Conservative Party to be more in touch with what ordinary people think. In the wake of hospital cutbacks, Home Office scandals and the 'peerages for cash' fiasco, Hazel Blears conceded, "the voters are angry that we have taken our eye off the ball". (Observer, 18 June).

At the end of June, Labour Party fortunes went from bad to worse. In the double election in Blaenau Gwent - where Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly by-elections were held simultaneously - an embittered electorate took revenge by voting down both Labour Party candidates. The elections were prompted by the death of Peter Law, who had defected from Labour and succeeded in overturning a 19,000 Labour majority in 2005. Until it was lost, Blaenau Gwent, whose past MPs include Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot, was regarded as Labour's safest seat. Defeat in the Assembly election denied Labour of the majority it hoped to regain in the Welsh Assembly.

The wave of disillusionment is not just confined to Labour voters, however, with disaffection spreading inside the Labour Party itself. Labour Party membership has declined dramatically since 1997 and is now below the 200,000 mark - the lowest level since Ramsay MacDonald split the party in the 1930s. The membership has grown weary of being implicated in what the media call a "conspiracy of lies," and resentful of arrogant leadership. A YouGov poll presented to the Compass conference on 17 June found that only 25 percent of Labour Party members believe they influence Party policy, while three-quarters felt policy had been hijacked by rich donors whose influence has grown as membership has shrunk. The Labour Party, desperately short of funds and like many of the electorate struggling with debt - estimated at 27 million pounds -, must either depend on millionaires or turn to state funding, a move not popular with the public.

Aware of growing hostility, many senior members are distancing themselves from Prime Minister Blair by announcing that the Labour Party under Brown's leadership will revitalise itself and re-brand unpalatable policies. "The trouble with the current approach is that we will go out of power for 15 years," grumbled Michael Willis, speaking to the Compass conference. Like many, he blames Iraq and Blair's presidential style for the electorate's resentment. (Guardian, 19 June). Every effort is being made to show 'clear water' between Labour under Blair and what Labour might be like under Brown. "Too many traditional Labour supporters felt the government had taken their goodwill for granted and said government was getting more difficult," said Ed Balls, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Brown's political allies promise greater Party equality, reducing dominance of Whitehall and "restoring progressive politics." (Guardian, 19 June)

But if forecasters can be believed it now seems likely, irrespective of who actually leads the Party, that Labour will lose the next general election. Yet does it really matter which party forms the next government?

Capitalism is a splintered society; divided not just by sectional ownership of the means of production but by the economic rivalry of independent states striving to exercise authority over given geographical areas. Conventional political parties endorse the framework of capitalism and compete to win control over the state and to administer the economic system within its boundaries, which necessarily means perpetuating the wages system and the persistent hardship for wage and salary earners. The policies propounded by these parties are similar because they are manifestations of the same political imperative - a continuation of capitalism - and are distinguishable only to the extent that they propose different organisation methods to administer the same economic system.

Voters vote governments out because they appear incompetent, incapable of finding solutions to the daily problems that confronts wage and salary earners. But government can never solve these problems because their permanent solution lies only in the abolition of capitalism and the wages system. Economic laws that politicians are powerless to change and leave little room for manoeuvre determine what politicians do and how they must react. It is not the deceitfulness of politicians that is the problem but rather the economic structure of society.

But it is not just political parties that refuse to think outside the framework of capitalism. Most wage and salary earners rarely question the structure of society and passively support the system that always works against them. In misguided expressions of defiance that flow from frustration and lack of understanding, voters repeatedly swap Labour governments for Conservative, or Conservative governments for Labour - as they have on seven separate occasions since the second world war - in the hope that it will somehow make a difference. They are always disappointed by the outcome. Mandating a political party to administer capitalism means that workers surrender political power to their class enemy and condone the continuation of their own exploitation, their insecurity and their poverty - a lesson that workers seem unable to grasp as the same mistake is slavishly repeated over and over again.

But while trading one group of careerist politicians for another can never be the answer, changing society's economic structure is the only answer.

Capitalism exists only because workers allow it to exist. Changing the structure of society, however, is not as simple as changing political allegiance to a party. Capitalism is based firmly on a principle of leadership, where a minority in secret makes decisions and the excluded majority is told what they should do and how they should think. Changing the world's economic structure by converting the means of production from class ownership to common ownership requires that workers individually understand what they want and actively combine to change their condition. Socialism cannot be delivered by leaders and is achievable only by the concerted action of a politically conscious mass movement without direction or leaders, for only then will the majority become the decision-makers.

The task may be daunting but must begin somewhere. Workers would do well to start by considering whether capitalism - under any political party - is really the future they want.
Steve Trott

Friday, September 29, 2006

The role of the soviets in Russia's bourgeois revolution: the point of view of Julius Martov

This article originally appeared in the French political journal, Economies et societes, cahiers de l'ISMEA, Paris, serie S, Number 18, April-May 1976 issue. It is appearing on the internet for the first time.

The basic principle defended by Marx throughout his forty years of socialist activity can be summed up in the clause of the General Rules of the First International that "the emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the working classes themselves". This is a rejection of the view that socialism can be introduced for the working class or that the working class can be led to socialism by some enlightened minority.

Those who set themselves up as leaders of the working class fall into two groups. First, there are the parliamentary reformists who tell the workers: "vote for us and we will introduce socialism for you". And then there are the various "vanguards" who see themselves leading the workers in a violent assault on the capitalist state. Both groups, despite being bitter antagonists, share a common standpoint: a denial that the majority of workers are capable of understanding and of organising themselves, without leaders, in order to achieve it.

But to deny this is to in effect deny that socialism can be established. For socialism, as a fully democratic society based on the common ownership of the means of production(1), demands, in order to function, the voluntary co-operation and conscious participation of the immense majority of the population. It is a society which simply cannot be established by a minority, however enlightened, determined or benevolent. Leaders, whether reformist parliamentarians or insurrectionist vanguards, cannot establish socialism; all they can and have established is some form of state capitalism.

During and after the first world war a number of working class thinkers and militants (such as Luxemburg, Gorter and Pannekoek) came to recognise that the traditional Social Democratic policy of seeking to win a parliamentary majority on an electoral programme of reforms of capitalism could never lead to socialism but only to state capitalism. They re-asserted that only the working class, socialist-minded and democratically-organised, could establish socialism. However, under the impact of the events of November 1917 in Russia, they imagined that the form of working class organisation to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism has been found in the workers' "soviets" or councils that had come into being after the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917.

It is understandable, and perhaps excusable, that in the early days of the "soviet regime" people outside of Russia should have been mistaken about its nature. War-time censorship and the lies of the capitalist press, together with the exaggerations of some of its supporters, meant that little accurate information about what was happening in Russia was available. On the face of it, in November 1917 the Congress of Soviets, a body of working class delegates from all over Russia, had deposed the capitalist Provisional Government and itself taken control of governmental power; capitalist rule had been overthrown and a socialist regime established - at least this is what appeared to have happened.

But those who had some knowledge of Marx's theory of social development ought to have quickly had some doubts. Without denying that capitalist political rule had been overthrown or that power had passed into the hands of people calling themselves socialists, they could have questioned whether the outcome could be socialism. Quite apart from the fact that socialism could only have been established as a world system, neither the economic nor the political conditions for a socialist revolution existed in Russia in 1917. Russia was an industrially backward country, with an overwhelmingly peasant population engaged in individual, rather than socialised, production. The workers and peasants of Russia certainly were discontented, but wanted "Peace, Bread and Land" (as the slogans put it) rather than socialism properly-understood.

To be fair, those who supported the Bolshevik coup d'etat because they believed it to have been a soviet or workers' council revolution did eventually - by about 1921 - come to recognise the real nature of the Bolshevik regime as a minority dictatorship forced by economic circumstances to continue the development of capitalism in Russia. But these "Left Communists" (or "Council Communists" as some of them later called themselves) still continued to believe in workers' councils as the form of working class organisation for establishing socialism.

One man, however, was not taken in by "sovietism": Julius Martov. Martov was one of the second generation of Russian Social Democrats who, at the turn of the century, worked to build up the Social Democratic movement inside Russia. With Plekhanov, Lenin and others he was one of the editors of the journal Iskra which had been launched in 1900 to counter the nebulous theories of "economism". When, however, the Iskra group, together with the rest of Russian Social Democracy, split over the organisation question Martov was amongst the minority (or "Mensheviks", from the Russian word for minority) who opposed Lenin's proposal for a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries which was supported by a majority (or "Bolsheviks"). Martov favoured the traditional Social Democratic idea of a mass, open - and, let it be admitted, reformist - workers' party. Unlike most Mensheviks, however, Martov was an opponent of the first world war, being a member of the small group of "Internationalists" who took up a working-class position on this issue. He was a respected writer (even by Lenin) on Marx and socialist theory and, indeed, it was because of his criticism of the Bolshevik regime from a Marxian point of view that he was forced into exile in 1922, where he died a year later.

Some of the articles he wrote in the period 1919-23 were published in English translation in 1939 under the title The State and the Socialist Revolution (2). Reading these articles it is easy to see why he was such an embarrassment to the Bolshevik government. Not for one moment was he taken in by their claims that the "soviet regime" represented the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as envisaged by Marx (3). For him, it was a cover for the dictatorship, albeit revolutionary, of the Bolshevik Party.

It is instructive to see why the Bolsheviks were, for a few years, advocates of workers' councils. The "constitutional' basis for their seizure of power in November 1917 had been a decision of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets to depose the Provisional Government of Kerensky and set up instead a "Provisional Workers and Peasants Government". Thus the Bolsheviks popularised the slogan, in the rest of Europe as well as in Russia, of "all power to the soviets" (i.e., workers' councils). After they had dissolved the Constituent Assembly in January 1918 they were forced, in order to justify this action, to step up their propaganda in favour of the soviets as an alternative to parliament. The election of a Constituent Assembly, which would decide the future constitution of Russia, had long been a demand of all Russian revolutionaries, including the Bolsheviks. Elections, even though held after the Bolsheviks take-over of power, gave the Bolsheviks only a quarter of the seats, a majority going to the peasant party, the Social Revolutionaries. Lenin gave a number of reasons why the Assembly had had to be dissolved such as out-of-date electoral lists and a split in the Social Revolutionary party between the presentation of candidates and the election. But all these could have been remedied by fresh elections. This the Bolsheviks wished to avoid since they were fully aware that the result would be more or less the same. They determined to hold on to power, while still wishing to be regarded as democrats. Hence Lenin proclaimed that the soviet system was a higher form of democracy than the "bourgeois" parliamentary system.

Martov knew this to be hypocrisy. Lenin favoured the soviet rather than the parliamentary system because he knew that he could get a majority under the former but not the latter - a sure sign, we may add, that the soviet system was not more representative or democratic than the election of a central assembly by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot.

The reason for this was that the soviets - the soviets as they really existed in revolutionary Russia as opposed to the ideal workers' councils of Left Communist theory - as loose makeshift bodies were easily manipulable by a well-organised group such as were the professional revolutionaries of the Bolshevik Party under Lenin's leadership. Indeed it could be said that it was precisely because they were the best-organised and disciplined group that the Bolsheviks finally emerged as the government of revolutionary Russia following the collapse of the Tsarist regime - and they came to power by successfully manipulating the soviets.

The soviet system served the Bolsheviks' purpose because elections to the All-Russia Congress of Soviets were neither universal nor direct nor secret. The Congress was composed of delegates from local soviets who were in their turn delegates from local factories. Its members were thus only indirectly elected. Urban areas were over-represented. There were no set procedures for the election of the delegates to the local soviets; in most cases they would have been chosen by a show of hands at a general assembly of the workforce of a factory, with all the drawbacks of this method of election.

We mention these points not to defend parliamentary democracy but to show how the soviet system was far from being the highest form of political democracy.

It is of course a reasonable point to say that in a revolutionary situation such as existed in Russia in 1917 democratic perfection was not to be expected. The soviets were only makeshift representative organisations which had come into being precisely because working class opinion had been denied expression under the Tsarist regime. They thus played a useful role, filling a void until such time as a more permanent, and structured, system of representation could be set up. To praise their makeshift, unstructured character as being a sign of their ultra-democratic nature is to make a virtue out of necessity and to forget that this made not just for flexibility but also meant that it was easier for a determined minority to manipulate them.

A second argument put forward by the Bolsheviks in favour of the soviet system was that it gave power to the more determined revolutionary elements in Russia whereas to have let power pass into the hands of a parliamentary government responsible to a Constituent Assembly elected by universal suffrage would have led to a slowing-down of the revolutionary process. This is undoubtedly true, but it shows clearly that the Russian revolution was essentially a bourgeois rather than a socialist revolution.

The socialist revolution can only be a revolution carried out consciously by the immense working-class majority acting in their own interests. In these circumstances any system of representation - whether soviets or parliament - would give a majority for the revolution. This is not necessarily the case during a bourgeois revolution, however, where the revolutionaries can find themselves impeded by the lack of revolutionary will of the masses. Martov describes a typical bourgeois revolution thus:
"The role of active factor in the overturn belonged to minorities of the social classes in whose interest the revolution developed. These minorities exploited the confused discontent and the sporadic explosions of anger arising among scattered and socially inconsistent elements within the revolutionary class. They guided the latter in the destruction of the old social forms. In certain cases, the active leader minorities had to use the power of their concentrated energy in order to shatter the inertia of the elements they tried to wield for revolutionary purposes. Therefore, these active leader minorities sometimes made efforts - often successful efforts - to repress the passive resistance of the manipulated elements, when the latter refused to move forward toward the broadening and deepening of the revolution. The dictatorship of an active revolutionary minority, a dictatorship that tended to be terrorist, was the normal coming-to-a-head of the situation in which the old social order had confined the popular mass, now called on by the revolutionaries to forge their own destiny". (The State and the Socialist Revolution, p. 16).

That an enlightened minority of revolutionists were justified in ignoring the views of the unenlightened majority in order to carry through the revolution was an idea that had first made its appearance, in the form of Jacobinism, during the French bourgeois revolution. It was inherited by utopian Communists such as Buonarotti, Weitling and Blanqui. And it was, as Martov points out, an element in Bolshevik thinking too.

The Bolsheviks supported the soviet system because it enabled them, as a determined revolutionary minority, to come to power:
"The 'soviet regime' becomes the means of bringing into power and maintaining in power a revolutionary minority which claims to defend the interests of a majority, though the latter has not recognised these interests as its own, though this majority has not attached itself sufficiently to these interests to defend them with all its energy and determination." (p. 19).

This, Martov goes on, applied equally to the partisans of the soviet idea (workers' councils) outside of Russia. They too saw workers' councils as a short-cut to power, as a means of by-passing the need to have majority socialist understanding amongst the working class before trying to overthrow capitalism:
"The mystery of the 'soviet regime' is now deciphered. We see now how an organism that is supposedly created by the specific peculiarities of a labor movement corresponding to the highest development of capitalism is revealed to be, at the same time, suitable to the needs of countries knowing neither large capitalist production, nor a powerful bourgeoisie, nor a proletariat that has evolved through the experiences of the class struggle.

"In other words, in the advanced countries, the proletariat resorts, we are told, to the soviet form of the dictatorship as soon as its elan toward the social revolution strikes against the impossibility of realizing its power in any other way than through the dictatorship of a minority, a minority within the proletariat itself.

"The thesis of the 'finally discovered form', the thesis of the political form that, belonging to the specific circumstances of the imperialist phase of capitalism, is said to be the only form that can realize the social enfranchisement of the proletariat, constitutes the historically necessary illusion by whose effect the revolutionary section of the proletariat renounces its belief in its ability to draw behind it the majority of the population of the country and resuscitates the idea of the minority dictatorship of the Jacobins in the very form used by the bourgeois revolution of the 18th century. Must we recall here that this revolutionary method has been repudiated by the working class to the extent that it has freed itself from its heritage of petty-bourgeois revolutionism?" (p. 21-22).

The view that a revolutionary minority could and should establish its dictatorship in order to try to introduce socialism is of course a denial of the basic principle upheld by Marx that "the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself". That this view should be popular amongst revolutionaries in Russia was no coincidence. For, as we have seen, the Russian revolution - as the process of overthrowing, root and branch, the Tsarist social order - was essentially bourgeois. The soviets had a role to play in this bourgeois revolution: to allow the determined revolutionary minority to come to power. After noting how in July 1917, when the Congress of Soviets was dominated by the vacillating Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, Lenin had thought of abandoning the slogan "all power to the soviets" in favour of an open demand for "all power to the Bolshevik Party", Martov goes on:
"The consequent course of the Russian revolution cured Lenin of his passing 'lack of faith'. The soviets fulfilled the role expected of them. The rising tide of bourgeois revolutionary enthusiasm set in motion the worker and peasant masses, washing away their 'meanness'. Lifted by the wave, the Bolsheviks possessed themselves of the government apparatus. Then the role of the insurrectionary element came to an end. The Moor had accomplished his task. The State that came into power with the aid of the 'Power of the Soviets' became the 'Soviet Power'. The Communist minority incorporated into this State made itself secure, once for always, against a possible return of the spirit of 'meanness'" (p. 28).

The coming to power of the Bolsheviks did not represent, as they themselves believed, progress from Russia's bourgeois revolution to its "proletarian revolution". It was, says Martov, echoing what Marx had said about the so-called Reign of Terror in France in 1794, "a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself". Commenting on the passage in Marx's 1847 article in which this phrase occurred (4), Martov says:
"One might say that Marx wrote this specially for the benefit of those people who consider the simple fact of a fortuitous conquest of power by the democratic small bourgeoisie and the proletariat as proof of the maturity of society for the socialist revolution. But it may also be said that he wrote this specially for the benefit of those socialists who believe that never in the course of a revolution that is bourgeois in its objectives can there occur a possibility permitting the political power to escape from the hands of the bourgeoisie and pass to the democratic masses. One may say that Marx wrote this also for the benefit of those socialists who consider utopian the mere idea of such a displacement of power and who do not realize that this phenomenon is 'only a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself', that it is a factor assuring, under certain conditions, the most complete and radical suppression of the obstacles rising in the way of this bourgeois revolution" (p. 59-60).

It only remains to add that, unlike in 1794 in France where the determined minority were replaced by the traditional bourgeoisie after having done their dirty work for them, in Russia the determined minority remained in power and that it was from amongst their ranks that evolved the ruling and exploiting class of the capitalist Russia they had no alternative but to develop.

So, from a bourgeois revolutionary point of view, the Bolsheviks were justified in maintaining their minority dictatorship. Where they were wrong was in imagining, and propagating amongst the workers of the rest of Europe, that this had something to do with "socialism". Their sympathisers in the West, including the Left and Council Communists, were equally mistaken in imagining that the soviets (or workers' councils), which had served as a cover for the Bolshevik minority to come to power, were the form of working class organisation for socialism in advanced capitalist countries.

Certainly, workers' councils or something akin to them, as workplace organisations of the workers, are bound to arise in the course of the socialist revolution. But to claim that they are the only possible form of working class self-organisation is to go too far, is in fact to make a fetish of a mere organisational form. What is important in working class self-organisation, however, is not the form but the principle.

The principles of democratic self-organisation - which are in fact democratic principles generally - can be applied, given a sufficient democratic consciousness, to any working class organisation, including even organisation to contest elections and to control central parliaments and local councils. There is no reason whatsoever in theory why a workers' socialist political party could not be organised on the same basis as has been proposed by Left Communists for workers' councils: no leadership and so no division into leaders and led; the candidates, including those elected, just like the delegates to the ideal workers' council, could be subject to continual control and, if need be, instantly recalled; they could be strictly mandated to fight for socialism and not to pursue reforms of capitalism. In other words, there is no necessary connexion between the principle of democratic working class self-organisation and organisation at the place of work. As stated, what is important is not the form of organisation but the democratic - and socialist - consciousness of the working class. This can express itself in a great variety of organisational forms, including a mass political party. Indeed, this was the form Marx himself expected it to take.

Martov, whose writings are unfortunately not generally known, must be given credit for having demystified a little the idea of workers' councils by showing the essentially bourgeois revolutionary role that the soviets played in Russia in 1917.
Adam Buick

(1) Common ownership is not the same as State ownership. Since the State is a feature only of class societies State ownership is a form of sectional or class monopoly of the means of production. In socialism the State is replaced by the democratic administration of social affairs, including production which would be directed solely to satisfying human needs, with the resulting disappearance of production for sale, profits, wages, money, banks and all the other paraphernalia of buying and selling.
(2) The State and the Socialist Revolution, translated by Integer, International Review, New York, 1939. Integer gives as the source of the articles translated:
"The first two sections of this book, The Ideology of Sovietism and The Conquest of the State, were written early in 1919. They form a compact whole and should be read as such. The first essay appeared serially in the periodical Mysl of Kharkov. The introductory section of the second was first published in the issues of July 8 and September 1, 1921, of the Sozialisticheski Vestnik (Berlin). The remainder of the second essay appeared for the first time in Mirovoi Bolshevism (World Bolshevism), Berlin, 1923, from the text of which the entire present translation was made. The final section, entitled Marx and the Problem of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was first published in 1918 in the Workers International of Moscow, edited by Martov".
(3) For Marx the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was the political form of the period during which the working class would be transforming capitalism into socialism. He advocated that it take the form of a fully democratised State controlled by the working class. See H. Draper 'Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat', New Politics, Vol. I, Number 4, Summer 1962.
(4) "Die moralisierende Kritik und die kritische Moral". A recent English translation of the passage in question reads:
"If the proletariat destroys the political rule of the bourgeoisie, this will only be a temporary victory, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in 1974, so long as in the course of history, in its movement', the material conditions are not yet created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production and thus the definitive overthrow of bourgeois political rule" (Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, edited by T. B. Bottomore and Maximilien Rubel, Penguin Books, London, 1963, p. 244).

The Julius Martov page at the Marxist Internet Archive
Review of Martov's 'The State and the Socialist Revolution' that originally appeared in the Socialist Standard in 1940.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Socialism, sudden and gradual change (2002)

From the March 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

In modern times the idea of a new society, or a change from capitalism to socialism, goes back to the turn of the 19th century when it was discussed by utopian writers. These ideas were developed by Marx and Engels as a political and economic criticism of the capitalist system and in 1848, in the Communist Manifesto, they set out a revolutionary programme for achieving this change. The pamphlet became a great influence on the growth of working class movements when the many Communist, Social Democratic and Labour Parties were founded. Some were eventually successful in winning power and forming governments. Even now, in China, a so-called Communist government wields power over nearly a quarter of the world's population.

As we now look back over the struggles of countless millions of working people throughout the world during the l9th and 20th centuries, which were dedicated to the idea of building a new society, it is important to ask what has been achieved? And if the aims that inspired all these movements have not been realised, what went wrong? It has to be accepted that they made no progress towards a socialist society, and it should now be asked why the methods and policies of these movements were doomed to failure.

Though it was a great influence it would be unjust to blame the failures on the Communist Manifesto. However, whilst we may still admire that great historical document we should also accept that the revolutionary programme it set out was fatally flawed. One problem with this programme was that it envisaged that socialism would be established after a period of time following the capture of power by a working class government:
"The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organised as a ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible."

So the expropriation of the capitalists was to take place gradually and would include the continued use of such features of capitalism as money, rent from land, income tax, private property and a national bank with state capital. It was in effect, a recipe for state capitalism.

A process of change, by degrees, from capitalism to socialism is not possible. This would have to assume that at each stage there would be, side by side, wage labour producing commodities for sale on the markets with people co-operating voluntarily to produced goods solely for needs. It would also have to assume that sales of goods would operate side by side with free access to goods. But if the function of state capital was that it should be invested in labour, machinery and materials with a view to its circulation and accumulation throughout production and the sales of commodities, then this could only have resulted from the exploitation of workers. That this function of capital would gradually disappear from the system, and voluntary co-operation with free access to goods would displace wage labour producing commodities for sale, is, once again, just not credible.

Taking the works of Marx as a whole, we can understand that the productive relationships of capitalism and socialism are mutually exclusive and cannot operate together. In fact, a capitalist basis compels each part of the productive system to be profitable or at least solvent, and if they are not they tend to drop out because they are not viable. These are the pressures of economic selection which tend to maintain the system as an exclusively capitalist structure.

It is true that later in his political life Marx came to see the revolutionary programme of the Communist Manifesto differently, but by that time the idea of nationalisation and state control as providing a road to socialism had become the received wisdom of working class movements and tragically, it all was to lead to failure, disaster and disillusion. It was the founder members of the Socialist Party who insisted that the change from capitalism to socialism could only be achieved by a majority of socialists taking democratic control, bringing in the common ownership of the means of production and commencing the organisation of socialist society from that point.

On the face of it, this suggests that the change from capitalism to socialism would be a sudden leap from one social system to another. But, seen against the background of continuous development and the particular factors that would be involved, it would not be a total social change so much as a change in the social relationships through which society is operated. This would be the new basis on which people would reorganise society to meet their needs.

An example of a "sudden" and far-reaching change in social relationships was that carried out by the Bolsheviks as part of their state capitalist revolution in 1917. Not the nationalisation of industry and manufacture, which was not so much a basic change as a transfer of private ownership to the benefits of monopoly and control for a new class of state bosses. But, in the countryside, the Bolsheviks destroyed the landed aristocracy overnight. These feudal relationships had existed for centuries and involved millions of people over the entire land mass. This destruction of an entire class and its corresponding mode of agricultural production was enacted at 2.30 in the morning on 9 November 1917.

But this is not to suggest that this sudden change can be explained solely in terms of the events of 9 November 1917. Although the power of the landed aristocracy had remained barely unaltered for centuries, the pressures on it from a wide range of external sources had been gradually intensifying. In this broader context, the sudden destruction of the landed aristocracy in Russia is explained in relation to the slow pace of social development during the preceding century including the failure to develop more efficient capitalist agriculture compared with other European Powers. This lack of proportionate development meant that in the First World War Russia was unable to sustain its war effort on equal terms. The failures of the Russian Army, the bankruptcy of the state, and the desperate condition of the Russian masses in poverty and famine led to social and political breakdown, which gave the Bolsheviks their opportunity to seize power. So the sudden changes enacted by the Bolsheviks in l917 were the outcome of these tensions which acted as a more gradual build up of predisposing factors. Although the circumstances would be totally different this may be a useful analogy in considering sudden and gradual change as elements in a socialist revolution.

At the time of the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels believed that one of the limitations on what could be achieved was the relative lack of capitalist development. This meant that, though the political and economic arrangements were vague, the first thing the working class would have to do with its "political supremacy" would be to "increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible." But 150 years later this has been massively achieved by capitalism itself. In fact it has done much more.

A key concept in the materialist view of change is what Marx referred to as the conflict between the "material productive forces of society" and the "existing relations of production". Applying this to capitalist society, its productive relations of class ownership, wage labour and capital have not changed over more than two hundred years. These define capitalism as a system and cannot change. But its productive forces have changed enormously. These have increased and spread to every corner of the globe to become a world system. Means of production of every kind, transport and advanced technique have been developed together with instant world communications, administration and institutions. These developments over time now pre-dispose the ease with which a majority of socialists could stop the operation of capitalism and immediately commence the organisation of socialist society.

These changes have altered the conditions in which the work for socialism is carried on. For example, the existence of great powers of production which cannot be used for the benefit of all people because they are constrained to serve the interests of a few in a profit system sharpens the conflict between human needs and the prevailing class relations. We are also able to learn from the political experience of failure. Mainly the disastrous idea that socialism can be established over time by a "working class government" through nationalisation and state control.

In practical terms the change from capitalism to socialism will not mean the introduction of anything materially new so much as the immediate removal of redundant features of an existing structure of production and social organisation. The establishment of common ownership does not and could not imply a sudden transformation of all the material processes of living. There could be no sudden change in the actual work processes of people in mining, industry, manufacture, transport and distribution, farming, building and construction, energy supply, health services, etc. All these people would carry on with what they are doing but within the new relationships of voluntary co-operation. From this point a period of rapid re-organisation and development would also be commenced after production and administration has been released from the economic constraints of capitalism. This will necessarily take time. Seen in this practical perspective the change from capitalism to socialism can be seen as combining elements of both short and long-term change.
Pieter Lawrence

Redefining War (2001)

From the December 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

George W. Bush has said that the best way to keep "peace" is to redefine war on his own terms. Our own war against Bush and his ilk, the class war, needs no redefining.

Whatever the post-Taliban set-up in Afghanistan one thing is a forgone conclusion. Any new government will have to be ready to bow with supplicant's knee before the interests of US and in particular its oil hounds, paying back the support their military wing the US air force and US army afforded them. But by all accounts Afghanistan looks to be years away from any semblance of peace and order - which of course gives the US an ideal excuse to maintain a military presence in an oil rich region.

Whilst Tony Blair has been globetrotting, drumming up support for the US cause like some keen-to-impress US foreign secretary, there has been every sign that George W is attempting to fulfil his father's prophecy, mouthed during his presidential inaugural address all those years ago, that the 21st Century would be "another American century".

For anyone interested in US domestic politics, aware that George W could never sway an electorate by the power of his words, it perhaps came as no surprise to learn that he could so blatantly repay his corporate backers and grassroots supporters so early into his administration. Within months of coming to office the gun lobbyists, oil companies, and defence contractors had their services recognised for the world to see. The 1997 Kyoto protocol on emission reductions is now history. The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - the cornerstone of all arms-control negotiations during and since the cold war is now only fit to wipe the presidential arse with, and down the proverbial toilet went the comprehensive test-ban treaty and the UN treaty on the control of small arms. Bush even denounced the recent UN convention on slavery.

On 25 July, the US scuppered a decade of international negotiations by announcing in Geneva its intention not to back a draft protocol to reinforce the biological weapons and toxin convention, which was initially signed in 1972. Its reason? Such a move threatened US commercial interests. The protocol would have included verification measures that would have given international inspectors access to laboratories in the signatory countries. Perhaps the US has some stronger reason for denying inspections at thousands of its defence plants and biotechnology sites. What on earth are its commercial interests that it can nonchalantly destroy a treaty signed in the interest of humanity? What is the US developing? And wasn't it the US that was so insistent that an international scientific inspectorate search behind every Iraqi door capable of being locked?

In effect, President Bush has told the world: "Fuck off, it's US first. The world will be ruled by force and on behalf of US corporate interests".

The evidence has been ever present since 11 September. Colin Powell, when asked to publicly provide evidence of bin Laden's links to the attack on New York and Washington, avoided the issue by claiming such a disclosure would be a breach of national security. When the Taliban wished to negotiate, offering to hand bin Laden to a third party, Bush replied: "I said no negotiations and I mean no negotiations." And while the US is keen to point out it has a "coalition" of support against the Taliban it has bombed Afghanistan virtually unilaterally, except for a few token cruise missiles fired from a British submarine (a doggie-snack for the ever-loyal poodle) on the first day of the attack upon Afghanistan.

It is now not only full steam ahead with the prized National Missile Defence (NMD) system with a target date for the deployment of the system set for 2005 (See March 2001 Socialist Standard), but plans are now afoot in the US to develop a space bomber that could destroy targets on the other side of the globe within 30 minutes; the bomber travelling 15 times faster than conventional bombers, able to hit a target from 60 miles up and paving the way for a new era of stratospheric warfare. And research is ongoing into direct energy weaponry, to be precise, the future use of air-based lasers and space-based lasers, able to hit even moving targets from 400 miles away at the speed of light.

NMD, however is clearly a sign that the US is moving towards becoming a more aggressive and threatening military power. Experts now maintain that the issue is not so much whether an anti-missile system is feasible or desirable, but what kind of diplomatic and military policies the world's only superpower would pursue from beneath the relative safety of a nuclear umbrella. It seems less the case that NMD is about protecting the USA from 'rogue states', and more the likelihood that such a sophisticated system of defence will ensure the profits flow in the right direction and that the global schoolyard bully can streamline its protection racket, safe in the knowledge it will meet little resistance.

Back in 1992, Paul Walfowitz (now Deputy Secretary of Defence) and Lew Libby (Bush's National Security Adviser) formulated ideas which were presented as a confidential Pentagon document by none other than vice-president Dick Cheney:
"The US must hold global power and a monopoly of force. It will then protect the new order while allowing others to pursue their legitimate interests as Washington defines them. The US must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership, or seeking to overturn the established political order, or aspiring to a larger regional or global role . . . we will retain the pre-eminent responsibility for addressing those wrongs which threaten not only our interests but also those of our allies and friends. The US alone will determine what are those wrongs and where they are to be selectively righted." (quoted by Noam Chomsky in Year 501).

This is an extremely revealing document - a document that is also very worrying. And it's not a one-off. There are others, take for instance the US Space Command's document "Vision 2020" which, now five years old, well telegraphs US designs for the 21st Century, suggesting that globalisation will lead to greater misery, to a lot more "have-nots" with an axe to grind and who will have to kept in line:
"Although unlikely to be challenged by a global peer competitor, the United States will continue to be challenged regionally. The globalisation of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between the haves and have-nots. Accelerating rates of technological development will be increasingly driven by commercial interests not the military. Increased weapons lethality and precision will lead to new operational doctrines . . . only military dominance will protect US interests and investments."

In 1998, the US government report "The Long-Term Plan" reiterated this notion of there being trouble ahead from the dispossessed:
"The US will remain global power and exert global leadership. Widespread communications will highlight disparities in resources and quality of life, contributing to unrest in developing countries . . . The gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' will widen, creating regional unrest. The US will remain the only nation able to project power globally."

It is a fair bet that such sentiments have been prominent components of the US worldview for some years - at least since 1945 and definitely since 1989 and the collapse of Russian-style state capitalism. Moreover, it's no bold assertion to suggest that China is the chief enemy in waiting - not the allegedly "rogue states" such as Iraq and North Korea, nor the threat of international terrorism which has really been a US favourite since the days of Reagan - for the simple reason that China is an economic and military power on a collision course with the US over domination of the Pacific. And if the US learns anything from its military history it is to get in first - hence the dire necessity of a fully functioning NMD.

At the beginning of July this year, only days before the New York Times announced Bush's plans to ditch the comprehensive test ban treaty, his administration enquired of nuclear laboratories just how soon they could begin testing again - clearly intent on breaching agreements made 16 months earlier by 187 countries who had negotiated steps to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty.

On the 14 July, the US launched a missile from the Marshall Islands. Twenty-nine minutes later a second missile, launched from Vanderburg, California, intercepted it at an altitude of 144 miles. The success not only strengthened Republican arguments for a competent star wars system, but was the order for similar multi-million dollar tests to be carried out every month and helped justify the mobilisation of contractors into Fort Greeley, Alaska, to begin foundation work on a new missile silo.

Just over two years ago George W Bush, gave a speech at Charleston, South Carolina. He spoke of the "contagious spread of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction" and hence the necessity of strengthening the unrivalled military power of the US. He then boldly announced that "the best way to keep peace is to redefine war on our terms." Which just about says it all - "to redefine war on our terms." Forget all the crap that George W's father mouthed when he became president. The "peace dividend" that was supposed to replace cold war hostilities and benefit all after the collapse of "communism" was as fictitious as fairies. The agenda now is as it was then and 50 years previous - US global domination in the military and economic fields and woe betide anyone foolish enough to think otherwise.

As socialists we certainly do not need to redefine our war. The war we must fight to end the insanity and horror Bush and Co would hurl us headlong into is the Class War. And this can not be fought with missiles, but something more powerful - our minds, our imagination, our solidarity and preparedness to unite as the majority exploited class and to wrest control of the planet from the madmen before it is to late.

Are you with us? Don't take too long to think of a reply - the doomsday clock really is ticking.
John Bissett

For more information about the World Socialist Party of the United States, please click on the picture below:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Venezuela and Chile

Film Review from the forthcoming October 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Video by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain. 74 minutes. Available from Power Pictures - Screen Scene, 41 Upper Mount St, Dublin 2.

In 1992 Hugo Chavez, a junior parachute officer, tried to seize power in Venezuela in a traditional South American coup. He failed and spent some time in jail. He then tried another way and in 1998 was elected President, with 56 percent of the votes cast; he was re-elected in 2000 with a 60 percent vote. In elections held to a constituent assembly in 1999 his supporters obtained 120 of the 131 seats.

Chavez is a populist nationalist and radical reformist not a socialist, but his programme of radical reforms and moving from private capitalism towards state capitalism threatened the vested interests of powerful private capitalist groups. According to anarchist and anti-parliamentarist theory, which says that even if power can be won via the ballot box for radical change it can't be retained, what should have happened next was that the powerful groups whose interests were threatened should stage a coup and unleash a bloody repression. As, for instance, in Chile in September 1973:
"Socialism cannot come through the Parliament. If we look at a country like Chile we can see why. In 1973 the people elected a moderate socialist government led by President Allende. This democratically-elected government was toppled by a CIA backed military coup. Repression followed in which the workers movement was smashed and thousands of militants lost their lives". (From "What is Anarchism?")

(This statement is both factually wrong and logically flawed. Allende became president in 1970 and so was not immediately overthrown as is suggested. And if he was a "moderate socialist", i.e. a mere reformist like the Labour and Social Democratic parties of Europe and Australasia, there have been plenty of other such governments, which have not been toppled in a coup; in fact, most haven't. Having said this, socialism cannot come through electing such governments but for quite other reasons than that they come to power through elections.)

On 11 April 2002, true to anarchist theory, a group of top Venezuelan army officers and business leaders did stage a coup. Chavez was arrested and taken to a secret destination where he was put under pressure to resign (he refused). It so happened that an Irish film crew, which had come to make a documentary about Chavez and Venezuela, was actually in the presidential palace at the time. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a fascinating and instructive record of how events unfolded over the next few days (together with material from the originally-planned film and lots of Spanish with sub-titles): the dejected ministers, the installation of the usurper president, the recapture of the palace by the presidential guard, the arrest of some of the plotters, the pro-Chavez street demonstrations and the return of Chavez two days later. He is still there.

So the coup failed. It failed because those who had voted for Chavez were prepared to take to the streets to back up their vote and because the bulk of the armed forces remained loyal to the constitution and the constitutionally-elected president. The anarchist theory that power obtained by the ballot box to effect radical changes can't be retained was disproved by experience.

What happened confirms rather our view that a socialist majority can both win and retain power via the ballot box if that majority is sufficiently organised and determined and if there is no question as to their democratic legitimacy. If pro-capitalist elements were to stage a coup after a socialist election victory it could prove to be even more short-lived than in Venezuela in April 2002. The slogan that anarchists and other chant on demonstrations that "the people united can never be defeated" is actually true, to back up an electoral victory too.

The film is being shown at the Anarchist Bookfair in London this month*. It will be interesting to see how they will explain away the events it records. Perhaps they'll change the text of their leaflet to:
"Socialism may be able to come through the Parliament. If we look at a country like Venezuela we cannot see why not. In 1998 and 2000 the people elected a radical reformist government led by President Chavez. An attempt was made in 2002 to topple this democratically elected government but it failed because the government enjoyed majority popular support and the loyalty of the armed forces".

The film was actually shown at the 2005 Anarchist Bookfair. The general point being made still stands, though.

Further Reading:
Hugo Chavez: revolutionary socialist or left-wing reformist?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spain Turns (1937)

"From 1936 to 1939 a magazine called International Review was published in New York, with contributions from exiles from Germany and other European countries. It was responsible for the first English translation, from the German, of Rosa Luxemburg's 'Reform or Revolution' and Julius Martov's 'The State and the Socialist Revolution'. Its general political line can be best described as "Anti-Bolshevik Marxism", rejecting Lenin and Trotsky's vanguardism and arguing that the socialist revolution, to be successful, required the conscious understanding and active participation of the working class.
A MySpace exclusive: this is the first time that this article has appeared on the web."

'Spain Turns' by Roberto.
From the International Review, Vol.2 No.3, New York, April 1937.

We print in full the following statement (introduced in no. 2, vol. 2) because we believe that, as a carefully reasoned, painstaking description of the parallelogram of forces now operative in embattled Spain, it has the importance of an historical document. Now, before the situation has reached its full development and the outlines of tendencies are again obscured, it is necessary to speak plainly and without fear.

Six months after the February elections, the increasing strikes of the industrial workers and the renewed "lawlessness" in the countryside began to push the government of the Spanish Republic into a situation that appeared strangely similar to its position six months after the proclamation of the Republic in 1931. It felt again the need of leaning on the military, on the generals. There was little likelihood of immediately bettering the economic condition of the country, and the discontent of the poor three quarters of the population began to overflow the dams set for it by the labor parties. The speeches of Calvo Sotelo and his fellow reactionaries in the Cortes were taunts thrown at a government that was said to be afraid to execute its sworn duties - that is, afraid to repress social disorder. The Martinez Barrio cabinet swung between the menace of anarcho-syndicalism and the complaints of the reactionaries. And at the first report of the revolt, it offered the Ministry of War to General Mola. But it was too late. The progressive Mola was already marching on Madrid to overthrow the republic that was offering him its Ministry of War.

Left without an army, the government in Madrid had no other recourse than to recognize as its own the call to arms immediately raised by the labor organizations. Only the day before July 19 it saw some of these elements as its chief enemy. But if Mola did not want to defend the Republic, why not accept the anarchists?

In Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, the military revolt was smothered by the spontaneous action of the population. With the arming of their membership, the labor parties and trade anion organizations began to acquire a governmental status. In Catalonia and the Asturias, their committees assumed some of the functions of the official apparatus, especially the army and police control. There appeared the phenomenon of "dual power," with the militia committees and other representative labor bodies seeming to take to the "'legitimate'" government the relation that the Petrograd Soviet had toward the Provisional Government in the period between March 1917 and October 1918.

The observer comparing the role of the Petrograd Soviet of 1917-1918 with that of the anti-fascist committees in the first months of the Civil War in Spain, will notice that the Provisional Government derived its power from the Petrograd Soviet, through its inclusion, first as its Minister of Justice, then as its chairman, of the vice-president of the Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers, Alexander Kerensky. The first "Provisional Government" and the consequent "Coalition Government" survived and fell with the backing of disapproval of the Workers' and Soldiers' and the Peasants' Soviets, which, in a joint conference, on July 5, 1917, on the motion of its Menshevik members (sic), recognized themselves as the supreme authority in the country. The original, genuine, functioning Soviets were - before their destruction by the Bolsheviks - houses of representatives speaking and acting for the able-bodied manhood of Russia, then, for the most part, in the army. They were the only popular representative bodies in the country. The word means "council." All representative bodies are councils. But the Russian Soviets were haphazardly and indirectly chosen representative bodies. Because of this defect they lent themselves to manipulation by politicians' caucuses. Their rise and disappearance, their loss of sovereign power to the inner clique of the Bolshevik party, are explained by the chaotic conditions under which they functioned as organs of government and the political backwardness of the Russian masses. One of the huge jokes played by history on the labor movement of the world is that these backward Russian Soviets are held up to it, by well-intentioned counsellors, as the only form under which the domination of the working class can be realised.

In Spain we had in 1936 a typical bourgeois parliament, the Cortes; municipal councils; two great national trade union organizations; a number of strong political parties. Even the factory committees, common in non-rebel territory, after July, are trade union committees. In places, there are rival factory committees, representing both the C.N.T. and U.G.T.

None of these organizations wanted to fade away in the classic soviets - to be manipulated either by a Scheidemann for the preservation of the status quo or by a "revolutionary vanguard" for the institution of its dictatorship. Political life in Spain is not ingenuous enough to permit the easy application of that beautifully simple technique which so many good people, who confuse the dictatorship of party "big shots" with the proletarian dictatorship, have come to believe is the unconditional mode of proletarian revolutions. (First you have a "revolutionary situation" - disorder, in which the old State collapses. Then, soviets arise. Then the "revolutionary vanguard," the revolutionary party, captures control of the soviets. Then the party institutes its dictatorship using the name, and, as long as it is convenient, the form of the soviets as a false-face for its totalitarian rule.) The rivals to the previously constituted government in Spain and Catalonia during the first months of the Civil War - they remain that to a lesser extent even now - were the parties and trade union organizations that had put armed men in the field. In the Basque provinces, for example, the conservative, Catholic Basque nationalist organizations play this role.

The passage of the anti-fascist defence into a socialist revolution was not hindered by the unwillingness of the party and trade-union committees to change into soviets model 1917. Neither was it necessarily aided by the appearance of these committees, though it is true that through them a certain section of the population came closer than before to exercising direct control over the State machinery. Dispensing with the parliament, based on universal franchise, has no socialist significance. The opposite is true. Bourgeois democracy is not bourgeois because it wields a parliament. A government, democratic or other, is bourgeois because its legislative and executive apparatus serves the interests of the eaters of surplus-value, who by reason of their economic position are the real masters of the instruments of repression that make up the State. In capitalism, the parliament, by offering the population an opportunity to exercise some influence over the acts of the executive branch, compensates for the bureaucratic-military features of the State.

The realization of a socialist revolution in Spain is not decided, automatically, by the appearance or absence of regulation soviets. It is decided in Spain, as elsewhere, by the conscious stand of the population on the question of the abolition of capitalism as expressed through its representative organs - and, of course, by the level of economic development.

The principal purpose of the State we know is to assure, with the aid of its armed force, the economic oppression of the propertyless majority by a privileged minority. This description applies also to the "Soviet State" of today. In the socialist revolution, the working class, the propertyless, will take hold of the machinery of State and transform it from an instrument for oppression of the majority by the minority into an instrument for constraint of the minority by the majority - in order to free this majority from the yoke of social inequality. The military, bureaucratic, police type of State cannot be a means of this emancipation. The instrument of social emancipation can only be a State based on the self-administration of the people.

For the socialist revolution, which does not stop at the seizure of power, will be the "deepest" of all historic actions to date. It will suppose the widest possible increase of political activity by the population. It will call for the merging of the executive functions of the State with the people by means of all manner and means of parliaments, the "talking shops" for which the sovietists and fascists show so much contempt.

The Russian Soviets of March 1917-October 1918 were based in a very defective manner, on popular self administration. Because of their defective character, they were easily replaced by an egregious form of the old bureaucratic, military, police type of State that calls itself the Soviet State. The lion swallowed the lamb and called itself lamb. We can understand why people who seek a party dictatorship should cry for soviets.

But a genuine Bolshevik party - with its characteristic realist grasp of the situation - does not insist on soviets where none arise, or where the existing soviets do not lend themselves to its ends. A genuine Bolshevik party is interested in power - in as much power as suits its purpose, and in any form that it may be gotten. In Spain it is the Trotskyites and, to a lesser degree, the quasi-Trotskyite P.O.U.M. that clamor for soviets. But these are pseudo-Bolshevists, isolated from reality by their own dogma, by their Anabaptist belief that the socialist revolution and its methods have been revealed, once for all time, in Petrograd in October 1918.

The Communist Party of Spain, on the other hand, has by now forgotten that it peddled the soviet idea for sixteen years. Its guides in Moscow have evaluated the realities of the situation. They have concluded that their diplomatic needs, the Weltpolitik needs of the parent body, the original and only Soviet State, are suited perfectly by the pre-war rationalizations of Araquistain, the theorist of the Caballero wing of the Socialist Party, who wrote shrewdly on the question of State forms applicable to revolutionary Spain.

The interests of the U.S.S.R. in the arena of international - imperialist - politics can be best served by the revival of the "legitimate," ministerial, regime in Spain. It can be best served by returning to Azana's government the functions and authority it had lost to the party and trade union committees during the first months of the civil war. It can be best served by combatting the attempts of some worker organizations to turn the anti-rebel defence into a social revolution and resort, with that objective, to all sorts of "social excesses and economic experiments." It can be best served by realizing further State centralization, and if necessary the party's own (veiled, of course) bureaucraticdictatorship - in order to defeat the internationally irresponsible elements who, slighting the interests of the U.S.S.R., want to complicate the European situation by trying to tie up the anti-fascist struggle with revolution.

In 1931, the Communist Party of Spain and its trade union affiliate were practically paper organizations. The party polled less than six thousand votes in the elections that brought the Republic in April 1931. It was resuscitated by the fine, charitable activity of the Trotskyites. By February 1936, it already had a definite function to perform in Spain. It grew, but still owed most of its deputies to the cooperation of its Republican and Socialist allies and was insignificant compared to the hugely expanded Socialist Party.

The outbreak of the rebellion, the first months of the Civil War, increased the importance of the C.N.T. and seemed to offer an opportunity for the greater influence of the P.O.U.M., which even now, however, counts no more than 40,000 members, in the country and whose membership in Madrid does not exceed 3,000. The C.N.T. became a dominant force through its immediate, almost barehanded, rush to grapple with the revolting militarists, its organization of anti-militia committees, its immediate seizure of industry, in Catalonia, the Asturias and to a lesser extent in the Madrid and Valencia regions.

The Socialist Party, on the other hand, was now the government party, par excellence, first entering and then heading the "legitimate" State apparatus centered in Madrid.

The political lineup in Republican Spain has changed a great deal since October 1936. The Communist Party has superseded the Socialist Party as the most influential political group in the Madrid-Valencia sphere. It is now the second most important political force in the Basque country and Catalonia.

Nominally the Socialist Party is still an independent body, adhering to the Second International. In fact, the Socialist Party of Spain is the same kind of organization as the Catalonia P.S.U.C. It has been captured by the Communists. The official announcement of the fusion of the two organizations (the Communist and Socialist parties) under the name of United Socialist Party of Spain waits for the propitious international moment. The Prieto faction, still holds out for independence, which is, however, no longer fact. With the Socialist Party, the Communists took control of the Social-Democratic labor union federation, the U.G.T. Through the influence and official activity of the Communist Minister of Agriculture, the Communist Party has captured the control of the Federation of Agricultural Workers. By lumping together several Catalonian liberal groups; two insignificant Social-Democratic parties and their own paper organizations, the Communists brought into existence the mentioned P.S.U.C. (the United Socialist Party of Catalonia). Several months after its appearance on the scene, the P.S.U.C was a powerful political instrument, basing itself on the small property holders of the Generalitat and manipulating the blown-up U.G.T. of Catalonia as a potent check on the revolutionary ambitions of the syndicalist C.N.T.

The Communists have attained their present supremacy in republican Spain not merely because of the highly publicized aid of the U.S.S.R., aid that came rather late, aid that did possibly exceed the silent, unadvertised help offered by Blums associates in France, aid that was heavily paid for with Spanish bullion and is rationed out to the "safe" sectors of the anti-rebel front, aid that fluctuates with the diplomatic situation in Europe and may be cut off entirely any moment. Neither is it explained by the Communist "capture," through their "innocents'" organizations, of control over the supplies and men coming from the various liberal, labor and anti-fascist trends in Europe and America, so that the Communist Party in Spain appears in the country to be the sole bridge to the labor and anti-fascist movement of the world.

The Bolsheviks of Spain have attained their present hegemony especially because they best express - now that the initial, emphatically revolutionary, enthusiasm of July and August is gone - the outlook of numerous sections of the population on the nature of the civil war and in its issues.

The preponderant petty-bourgeois population of Republican Spain is seeking an answer to the question: "What will come after the civil war - after victory?" It does not accept the answer offered by the politically advanced worker elements, represented in the C.N.T. and P.O.U.M., who continue to talk now as in July, the language of social revolution.

This may wound the sensibilities of the happy people who find a short cut to revolutionary satisfaction by simply imputing to the mass their own outlook and their own desires. This may read like treachery to the good revolutionists in Chicago who assert, according to the time-honored trick of the Communist International, that the Spanish population is blazing with a desire for world revolution but it is being deceived by "bad leaders." Why, in this "revolutionary situation," the mass follows the bad leaders, instead of following the revolutionaries, these guides of history will never tell.

The Spanish Bolsheviks - the Communist Party of Spain - are receiving the support of the great mass of workers who have recently been drawn into political life and into the trade-unions. They are supported by the urban petty-bourgeoisie and the rural workers and small property-holders, who form the overwhelming majority of the population of the country. The Communist Party chooses to reflect the outlook of the overwhelmingly petty bourgeois population of Spain and thus take a successful stand in opposition to the elements that want to make the civil war and social revolution one, because that way it ministers to the interests of the world power whose servant and instrument it is.

Here is the program of the Communist Party of Spain, a program shared by the bourgeois Republicans and the majority of the Socialist Party:
1. The civil war is not a part of a social revolution but a war for national liberation, a war for independence, fought against Germany and Italy and comparable to the war waged by the people of Spain against Napoleon in 1808.
2. Not a people's army but an army organized and controlled along the traditional bureaucratic lines and manipulated under the rules of the old military codex, free from interference by "uncontrolled committees."
3. No social excesses and revolutionary economic experiments in industry, trade and agriculture, excepting the State control necessary to suit the exigencies of war. "Collectivized" industry must be freed from control by worker committees and put under direct State supervision. Hands off - that is addressed to the syndicalists - private property in city and country.
4. Take the worker and militia committees out of government. Return all State functions and State powers to the "legitimate" apparatus - that is, to the Cortes, to the President, to the Ministers and ministries and their appointees.

Such is the program that is winning popular support in Republican Spain. The influence of the Communist Party, its conquest of the allegiance and backing of the urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie, its capture of the huge Socialist Party, and the Social-Democratic trade unions, its understanding and partnership with the bourgeois Republicans who are the official holders of the government treasury - are unquestionable signs that loyalist Spain is experiencing a revulsion from the program of revolution, which was said to have taken hold of the population when the rebellion broke out, and is still clung to by the C.N.T. and the less important P.O.U.M.

The first two articles of what may be described as the common program of the C.P., the Social-Democracy and the bourgeois Republicans seems to be shared even by the C.N.T. and the P.O.U.M. at this time. There are, however, important differences. These tend to be wiped away as the mentioned proponents of "law, order, safety and patience" prove themselves to be the stronger and are favored by the arguments of circumstances.

The swift suppression of the insurgent Barcelona and Madrid garrisons in July as a result of the immediate action of the city workers had the effect of firing the labor organizations with the desire to complete the defeat of the militarists by taking to the field as civilian armies. Experience soon demonstrated that a well-equipped army, moving as a single machine at the orders of a professional general staff, could not be crushed by a number of independent little armies, bound to one another by little more than their opposition to the common enemy. The advantages of the militarists, accounting to a great extent for their victories over the more numerous popular forces, were:
1. technical equipment,
2. military training and discipline,
3. a single command.

These requisites had to be matched by the anti-rebel forces to avoid defeat and make a bid for victory. Unification remains the most important of these problems. The Madrid-Valencia government may have chosen to commit a "blunder" by not encouraging guerrilla warfare. It is nevertheless true that the civil war has become a "first-class" war, in which guerrillas are important only on the fringe of the activity guided by the general staff. Furthermore, the duration of the war makes general mobilization imperative. The Republican ranks cannot continue to be filled with volunteers. It is impossible to imagine an obligatory general mobilization without a single military authority. Apparently modern wars do not favor people's armies.

Both the C.N.T. and the P.O.U.M. have pronounced themselves for a unified army command. True to its anarchist tradition, the C.N.T. did not part easily with the idea of a revolutionary, people's army. This attitude was not entirely ingenuously traditional. The fact is that the guides of the C.N.T. hoped to take over the entire works. They wanted a "confederal" army. They struck against the shrewd cautiousness of the bourgeois Republicans and their Social-Democrat and Communist allies, who, more afraid of the syndicalists than of the rebels, preferred to keep the C.N.T. at a distance from professional staffs and supplies.

The P.O.U.M. was for a unified army and one command from the start of the rebellion. It now proposes to match the single central command and the subordinate professional staffs of the various sectors with political committees named by all the party and trade union organizations. The central and sectional professional commands are to be named by the War Ministry of Commissariat. The latter is to be composed of representatives of all the anti-fascist bodies and supplemented with committees elected by soldiers in the unified army.

The unification of the Republican forces that is emerging at this time must move in the direction of complete power by a general staff and its backers. The return of the rule of the bureaucratic-military machine is made inevitable by the duration and bitterness of the struggle. The present proposal of the Communist-Socialist Republican combination promises to include "dependable" representatives of "dependable" anti-fascist organizations in the general staff and in the single command. Together with the reapplication of the disciplinary rules of the old military codex, this will favor victory, but will prove decidedly unfavorable to the schemes of the revolutionists. In the Madrid-Valencia sphere the C.N.T. is obliged to give way and merely attempts to introduce itself into, or exert some control over, the united command. In Catalonia and Aragon, however, it still strives to dominate the armed forces through a plan approaching that proposed by the P.O.U.M. This pretension can only be explained by the belief common among the Catalonian syndicalists that only the C.N.T. can be the necessary inclusive organization of workers acting in a revolutionary manner.

I omit, because of lack of space, the pretty scheme of the "Bolshevik-Leninists", the Trotskyites, which provides for a pyramidal structure of militians' committees, peaked by a central committee of all the militia. This is again an idealization of what these intransigeant revolutionists believe to have happened in the Russian Revolution and in the Russian Civil War. The fact is that the appearance of the Russian soldiers' soviets marked the breakup of the Tsarist army, while it was their disappearance that marked the emergence of the Red Army, amidst the exigencies of the Civil War. The same reconstitution of the traditional army, displacing the popular militia, is taking place with the development and sharpening of the Spanish Civil War.

Now the Communist qualification of the struggle as a national war for the winning of the independence of Spain from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany reflects a viewpoint prevalent among the anti-fascist fighters, who are faced with the fact that they have to contend with an opposition built, to a great extent, of German, Italian and Portuguese arms and men. Garciá Oliver, the Anarchist Minister of Justice, gives the position of the membership of the F.A.I, and the C.N.T. when he says: "The Spanish proletariat will never be able to realize its ideal if it has not first assured the independence of its country." That is, according to him, the Spanish proletariat will place itself in the position to accomplish its social emancipation only by safeguarding the independence of Spain now threatened by Italian Fascist and German Nazi intervention. Of course, for Garcia, the revolution - that is, the workers' appropriation of means of production - does not stop during this war for independence.

The belief that this is a fight against Italy and Germany is not only well founded but is, to a certain extent, a guarantee of the allegiance of the population to the Republican cause. Victory will be facilitated by the spread of this belief. This is in itself an emphatic sign of the historic level of the Spanish revolution.

On the other hand, the Communist comparison of the present struggle to the Napoleonic war, which took place in 1808 - more than a hundred years ago - , expresses pointedly the desire of the Spanish Bolsheviks, or their Kremlin guides, to keep the range of popular action today in Spain at the level of an 18th century revolution. Their speakers and writers are in the habit of emphasizing that the aims and scope of the Spanish Revolution are identical with those of the French Revolution of 1789.

The Spanish Revolution - and a revolution is taking place - is limited by the following conditions:
1. The unsocialist outlook of the population of Spain.
2. The unsocialist outlook of the population of the rest or Europe.
3. The low level of the economic development of Spain, working for the eventual defeat of revolutionary action that is limited to Spain.

By all signs we have here another Russian Revolution. And that is exactly what the Spanish Bolsheviks are afraid of. They are afraid to have the international situation muddled with another "Russian Revolution." They were quite willing, last October, to have the civil war serve as an excuse for the timely start of a World War waged by "democratic powers against fascist powers." But they were and are afraid to have the Spanish revolutionism carry over into the rest of Europe, weakening militarily or scaring away the allies whom Moscow has or seeks.

Great Britain and France are the powers wooed by the Kremlin. The British Foreign Office dominates France. It has a phobia for revolutionaries that commit acts of expropriation. The Bolsheviks in Spain must prove that an alliance with the U.S.S.R. is a safe deal. They must, at the same time, not allow the Nazis to push France away from the yet incomplete Soviet pact by means of a trump-card snatched up in Spain.

For these reasons, much of the present activity of the Communists in the Madrid-Valencia sphere and in Catalonia consists in unmaking the revolutionary acts that marked the first months of the rebellion, in neutralizing the influence and military strength of elements that may mar the picture which they, political artists in the hire of the Kremlin, would like to paint in Spain. But all of this must be managed with great caution, so that the confidence of the anti-rebel fighters is not alienated. It is best managed in the name of anti-fascist victory.

When the Spanish trade union organization rose to face the revolting militarists, they accompanied their political acts with the "expropriation" of industrial and commercial properties found on hand. This was a natural step for the C.N.T. It fitted in with its program. Soon after the smashing of the revolt in Barcelona and Madrid, the C.N.T. turned to all anti-fascist organizations with a general program of "expropriation" for the entire Spain.

The rebellion brought the following social array:
The petty-bourgeoisie, the workers and peasants, the liberal professions, faced in struggle the army, church, the big land-owners and some important Spanish capitalists. In Spain most small enterprises were owned by natives. Most large industrial enterprises had foreign owners. In the "expropriation" that took place, (I am referring especially to Catalonia) there was little reason for seizing the small industrial and commercial units. The C.N.T. proposed worker control in such concerns. For sound political reasons, the foreign owned enterprises were only "borrowed" by the labor organizations that took them over. Later they were paid for, fully or in part, by the "legitimate" State. Other industrial units that were taken over by the labor organizations were the public services run by the municipalities. In such cases the committees of the C.N.T. and the rival U.G.T. replaced the officials that previously managed these enterprises.

The developing war situation brought the rationing of food, control of prices by the government and the labor organizations, and to a certain extent, the control of trade. The attempt of the C.N.T. in Catalonia and Aragon to organize internal commerce on a "cooperative" basis, replacing private merchants through "food committees" was frustrated by the opposition of the Communists and the bourgeois Esquerra and the cynical sabotage by the Communist Minister of Public Provision Camorera. Catalonia could not get foodstuffs, on credit, from the rest of loyalist Spain while the C.N.T. took charge. Comrade Uribe, the Valencia Minister of Agriculture saw to that. In Barcelona, Comrade Minister Camorera smiled gleefully when, inspired by some clever people, housewives started to demonstrate against the "committees'" control of provisions and for free trade. At the proposal of the C.N.T. to have the nation, through its worker economic organizations, take over the exportation of oranges, an important item in the foreign trade of Spain, the Communist Minister of Agriculture Comrade Uribe warned: "The legitimate government of the Republic had not authorized anybody to requisition the products of the land."

The early proposal of the C.N.T. for a planned general program of "socialization" for the entire Republic through the medium of the labor organizations and peasants' unions, under inclusive national councils, was received by the social-democrats, the bourgeois republicans and the Communists with the cries: "Insanity! Fascist provocation!" Already in the days of its greatest influence the ambition of the C.N.T. to act as an inclusive labor organization and the organizer of the economy of entire Catalonia was frustrated by its lack of money and the refusal of the Caballero government to give any of its gold, even the Catalonian savings held in the Bank of Spain, to purposes controlled by the C.N.T. And these purposes were pure war needs as well as economic. (One of the first acts of the C.P. in Madrid was to throw a ring of followers around the banks.) The "legitimate" government knew whom it had to fear. The difficulties of financing the "collectivized" economic enterprises in Catalonia and the inability to get money for arms led to a compromise with the Companys government, which for a time seemed to have been replaced entirely with the Central Anti-Fascist Committee, in which the C.N.T. predominated. Companys backed by the P.S.U.C. (United Socialist Party of Catalonia adhering to the Third International) had the confidence of the holders of gold in Madrid and Valencia. The alternative to an immediate, famine, panic and turmoil was the revival of the Companys government, by having the labor representatives take ministries in his government and the replacement of outright worker control of industry with a sort of State control through an Economic Council representing the trade unions as well as the government.

At present, each collectivized industrial unit in Catalonia has an "interventor" representing the "legitimate" State. He is named by the Economic Council after agreement with the workers. The same way, the choice of a factory director must be approved by the Economic Council. The Esquerra and the Communists, using their credit with the Valencia government and later their monopoly of the Valencia purchases from Russia, prevailed in obtaining that the so-called socialized industry should not be handed over directly to the trade unions. Using the same power, they insisted on and succeeded in getting the immediate indemnification of foreign factory owners and the indemnification in principle, with a provision for future settlement, of all other expropriations by the workers. At the same time the central government (Valencia) boycotts the enterprises held by the Catalonian labor unions by buying abroad the manufactured goods heretofore [hitherto] bought in Catalonia.

With the outburst of the rebellion, the peasants took land wherever they could. This was especially true in Catalonia, where the large estates were said to be nationalized by a decree of the Companys government after the general seizure by the peasants had already taken place. The C.N.T. with its typical directness went to the country to organize "cooperatives." Its attempts at tying up the agricultural cooperatives with the "socialized" industry were smashed by the joint opposition of the Esquerra (Catalonian bourgeois nationalists) and the P.S.U.C. (adhering to the Third International).

We saw that in Catalonia, the C.N.T., representing the most ambitious and socially self-conscious section of the Spanish working class, attempted to clothe in fact its immediate program of a mixed economy, with a socialized sector in industry and agriculture and a surviving sector of private economy subjected to the control of the trade unions. The realization of this program was hampered by war conditions, by the mistrust of the Valencia government, by the opposition of the Catalonian bourgeois nationalists and the Catalonian Communist Party (disguised as the P.S.U.C.). With the arrival of Russian aid, munificently paid for with the gold of the Bank of Spain, the influence of the P.S.U.C., heretofore numerically small, started to rival the C.N.T. The program of the C.N.T. is now threatened with famine and the total immobilization of the syndicalist armed forces. With the failure of this program, which but for the mentioned untoward influences is not as Utopian as it appears, the C.N.T. and its guiding inner organization, the Iberian Anarchist Federation, may be destroyed as a power in Spain, and the proposed merging of the C.N.T. and U.G.T. may be the first step in that direction.

In the rest of the country, that is, wherever the C.N.T. does not exert its influence, the "collectivization" is a sort of happy-go-lucky "war socialism," arising with the efforts of a government to meet the exigencies of a national calamity.

The Labor union is the preferred instrument of the new social structure that the anarcho-syndicalists want to build in Catalonia. But they do not exclude for the present the use of the autonomous municipality, nor the district, regional and national political apparatus. These political forms, however, say the anarchist theorists can at most nationalize industry. They may help to trace the general lines of the new society. Only through the perfected labor union, which can take in all the elements of the working population, from the technician to the mill hand, will the economic base of society be put directly in the hands of the producers. "The organic super-structure of the labor unions, that is to say, the National Federation of Industry, through its General Economic Council is the instrument with which to procure and distribute raw material and adjust the capacity of the production of industry to the needs of national consumption and export." (Peiro, Tierra y Libertad, February 27, 1937.)

In the Soviet Union, with the development of its present State-capitalist system (catering to the interests of a special section of Russian society), the State, in its movement to serve those special interests, overcame and subjected the labor unions, leaving them the status and function of company unions. But in the social-economic structure that the Catalonian anarcho-syndicalists have in mind, the described national systems of labor unions (say the F.A.I. theorists) will hold and run all economic activity on a federative basis and soon displace the present State (the autonomous municipality and the district, regional and national, strictly political, setups).

An important problem in this scheme is the question of finance. How will the initial economic movement of the new social structure be financed? For it is obvious that in the social-economic transformation that the Catalonian anarcho-syndicalists say has already begun, but is delayed and hampered by war conditions, the factor money remains for some time a key consideration.

According to the Juan P. Fabregas, the Anarchist Minister of National Economy, the severest offensive against the Catalonian Revolution takes the shape of a financial blocade, which is "a thousand times worse than the blockade of our coasts and frontiers; an economic-financial blockade that menaces to choke us in its monstruous tentacles if we do not know how to react to it rapidly and practically. The revolutionary task in Catalonia has not met with the necessary aid and collaboration on the part of the central government of the Republic. It is these inner and exterior difficulties that oblige Catalonia to resort to its own devices in order to build its own financial regime, and, if circumstances impose this, also establish its own monetary system."

Fabregas points out that a monetary system can be formed in three ways: 1. "with 'Pure Gold,' constituted on the basis of the pure and simple circulation of the precious metal; 2. with the on the basis of a fiduciary circulation guaranteed by stocks of gold and silver; or 3. with a 'Gold Bullion Standard,' 'Gold Exchange Standard,' based on the circulation of notes guaranteed by a stock of devises having parity with gold."

The existing lack of reserves of the precious metals in Catalonia rules out the first two systems. Fabregas considers the third system, based on the "Gold Exchange Standard" quite practicable in the given circumstances "if we prove ourselves capable and if conditions permit us to mobilize the intrinsic riches of the autonomous region (Catalonia)." Fabregas made an exhaustive study of the natural and industrial resources of the entire peninsula in 1931, immediately after the proclamation of the Spanish Republic. (Let us not forget that the anarcho-syndicalists are not separatists. They make immediate plans for Catalonia because it is there that they have some power. It is the fact that they have little power in the rest of Spain that limits their overt program to Catalonia. The ultimate idea, of course, is a National Federation of Industry covering the entire Iberian peninsula, including Portugal.) "The mineral, agricultural, industrial and commercial wealth of Cataloniathe only positive wealth, because it is the genuine product of labor translated into the creation of values" must be mobilized "in order to constitute with it the base and expression of the instruments necessary for the construction of the norms of our new monetary regime."

This calls for a single, central directorship of all "economic-financial activity." It calls for the immediate monopoly (by the national federation of labor unions, the Federation of Industry) of all production and of domestic and foreign trade. The monetary elements necessary to set the plan in motion '"the monetary means that will surely not be given to us by the central government (Madrid-Valencia government) are at hand, says Fabregas. "The treasury of the Generalidad (Catalonia) possesses sufficient valorizable and quotable elements to lay hold of the 300 million francs that we shall need to put the machine in motion."

Let us jump over the barriers that stand now in the way of applying the plan. Let us apply it.

Functioning for any length of time in the midst of the world market, the industrial enterprise taken over by the Catalonian trade union and coordinated into a national system through the "Federation of Industry," must undergo the same influences that act on any producers' cooperative. They must "pay." They must be profitablein the capitalist sense, the only sense possibleor go under. Effected on a national scale, complemented by the State or Federation monopoly of the country's foreign trade and by this single control of the economic-financial activity of the nation, such "socialization" might work again, in the capitalist sense.

For as a result of this monopoly, the national "cooperative would assure itself of a constant market at home and thus subtract itself, on the domestic field, from the laws of competition. But the national "cooperative" will not be able to escape the laws of competition in the international arena. There it will have to stand up against all comersall other sellers and buyersin order to dispose of its goods at a profit and to pay for credit. (For Fabregas' "Gold Exchange Standard" notes can no more save Catalonia or Federated Iberia from the need of credit and the influence of the world money market than the Russian "socialist rouble" could save the vastly larger and richer U.S.S.R.). In order to be able to do that, the National Federation of Industry its central control will have to adopt toward its workers the erstwhile free cooperators the same attitude that any capitalist entrepreneur takes to his employees. The national cooperative soon the national capitalist will have to squeeze out of the producers working in the total national enterprise enough surplus-value to realize at least an average rate of profit on the world market. It will have to do that or drop out of the world market and collapse into backward sel-sufficiency.

Merrily I have skipped over all the difficulties facing the scheme at this moment. For the first thing to be done in preparing this dish is to catch the rabbit. The Catalonian labor unions have taken possession of a number of industrial enterprises but by far not of all. The Catalonian unions have not the monopoly of the country's foreign trade. They have not the control of the entire economic activity of the country. They have not the power the political powerto mobilize the wealth of the country. Their efforts - utopian? - to make real the rule of the workers in Catalonia are being checkmated on every side, by the Madrid-Valencia government and the Social-Democrat, Communist and bourgeois Republican bloc at home. The nearest, the best customer, of Catalonia is France. But according to the clearing system established by the French-Spanish commercial treaty, only the central government of the Republic and not any power in Catalonia can be the monopolist trader dealing with France. Catalonia, in so far as it is syndicalist, is openly boycotted by the Caballero government, and the pressure will increase in the future. The Catalonian workers have not even the political power to put their hands on the 300 million francs needed to start the ball rolling in accordance with Fabregas' plan. The C.N.T., desiring to win the workers in the Social-Democratic and Communist labor union federation (U.G.T.) for the cause of an immediate social transformation, offers to merge with the U.G.T, But who will win in the merger? This may be the first move to the disintegration of the C.N.T, Already a new kind of trientismo (for the lack of space I shall describe this as a tendency among the anarcho-syndicalists to compromise and slide into the ways of the Social-Democratic trade unions) is raising its threat within the C.N.T. itself.

If the F.A.I, remains dominant within the C.N.T. and if a single inclusive Catalonian labor federation, resulting from the united anarcho-syndicalist and Social-Democrat trade unions, really obtains political power for revolution in Catalonia, in the midst of a victorious Republican Spain, the condition must lead to an open even armed clash with the Madrid-Valencia government.

The defection of the greater part of the army in July left the defence of the Republic to the militia organized and recruited by the laborite, nationalist, and trade-union organizations. Here was a real people's army. With the development of the struggle, after every defeat, the part of this people's army that was under the control of the Madrid-Valencia government tended to assume the characteristics of the traditional armed forces. The recent militarization decree marks the complete return to the rules of the regular army.

This development is somewhat similar to what took place during the Civil War in Russia. We must not forget, however, that the Russian Red Army thus formed consisted almost entirely of experienced soldiers. The former people's militia transformed by the traditional military codex equals the Red Army. The bourgeois republicans and the Communists (who are by now in control of the Socialist Party of Spain) see in a traditional army a more efficient war instrument but also security against revolution. We must not forget that the question: "What will happen after victory?" is never out of certain minds. (I am not so sure that the general and adequate arming of the population, producing profuse guerrilla bands, might not have stopped Franco's advance. The Spaniards take to guerrilla warfare. This did not need to interfere with the perfecting of a regular army, especially in the technical branches, as aviation, tanks, etc. All organizations, including the C.N.T. are for a unified central control. Denikin and Kolchak were defeated by the joint action of the partisan bands and the regular Red Army. But the Valencia-Madrid military experts decided to apply to the Spanish Civil War the lessons they learned in the last World War. Lessons you cannot play with and revise to suit new needs are lessons not learned.)

"Why is there no attack on the Aragon front?" asks the paper of the Anarchist youth. The answer is: "Because there are no arms . . . On the Aragon front, there are no machine guns, no tanks, no aviation. In the advance posts of Osera and Farlete, hand grenades have the value of treasures for our militians . . . Stop these tricks! Enough party manoeuvres! We cannot tolerate to have differences exist between different fronts - to arm some and abandon others. You cannot play politics with the blood of the people!"

The Aragon front is the C.N.T. and P.O.U.M. front. On the Aragon front Catalonian workers are opposing enemy aviation, tanks and artillery with rifles that the C.N.T. itself is still purchasing in France. (Michael Koltzov, the Pravda correspondent in Madrid makes a point of describing in his dispatches sent home the "cowardice" of the P.O.U.M. militia, just as comrade Louis Fischer is wont to suggest that much about the syndicalists in his reports to the European and American liberals. The story of how Andres Nin, the P.O.U.M. Minister of Justice, was pushed out of the Generalitat is, however, not for publication. Neither Koltzov nor his fellow employe Fischer have yet told their readers that the C.N.T. yielded to the insistence of the Soviet Consul-General at Barcelona that Nin go only on the Russian official's promise of Soviet arms for the Aragon front - a promise he apparently never intended to make good. Bolsheviks have ever been clever.

With adequate arms, the Catalonian militia would have taken Zaragoza and Huesca early in the war. It would have threatened Pamplona and Burgos, the immediate center of the rebellion. It would have made impossible the invasion of the Basque country. It would have eased the pressure on Madrid. But as the young complainant writes: "The Aragon front is an Anarchist front." That is what they who hold the gold say. It was quite possible, however, that the capture of Madrid and threat to Valencia might have come by the way of the alley between Zaragoza and Madrid.

The same untrustworthy elements - the least trustworthy, the F.A.I, itself - ask for a general mobilization of man power and all wealth in order to make victory possible:
"Six months of war have taught us well enough, in a practical manner, that to the criminal, barbarous and iron organization of fascism . . . we must oppose another organization which, without resorting to methods that are insulting to our militia, will enable us to function with the maximum of efficiency against the despotism of our enemy. . . . Modern wars, like the one that is raging now in Spain, cannot be won by leaving the chances of victory of the good will of a number of idealistic comrades. Neither can this war be won by subjecting everybody to the despotism of people who would like to have our anti-fascist action serve their party or organizational purposes." (Tierra y Libertad, February 20, 1937).

The F.A.I. and C.N.T. ask for the incorporation of all able men in a people's army. Together with the single military command, they want the "purification and control of the military command by the anti-fascist organizations." For they do not relish the idea of placing completely the management of the war in the hands of persons whose attitude on the question of social change and whose class loyalties are dubious. (The debacle at Malaga was not due to the lack of a single military control. It was not due to the absence of the traditional military bureaucracy; there was plenty of it at Malaga. It was in great part attributable to the bungling of "military experts.")

The F.A.I. and C.N.T. also ask for the "frank, permanent and effective cooperation of the central government to suit the needs of all fronts."

They also ask for the "progressive socialization of the economy, as a fundamental step that, in the spirit of the revolution, will permit a greater industrial output, an equalization of economic conditions . . . the suppression of irritating privileges and of chaotic production."

Indeed the slogan of all the worker organizations, since the morning of July 19, has been: "Unity to defeat the reactionary rebellion!"

But we see that with the call for unity, certain groups couple, to this day, the demand for a basic social change. There was no unity because the loyalist militia represented different organizations, where were suspicious of each other. There was no unity especially because through the entire anti-fascist front there ran a definite crack, dividing the organizations that stood for an immediate social transformation from those that were for the status quo.

However, it is this desire for unity - together with the awakening of the small propertyholders to the realization that it was time for him to defend his own particular interests, backed up, of course, with the gold argument and the indefatigable activity of the Communists, armed with the prestige of the Soviet Union - that explains how the "legitimate" government gradually retrieved the functions appropriated by the labor organizations and their fighting organs during the first months of the Civil War. It is this desire for unity that motivated the merging of the labor organs of government with those of the "legitimate" government that appears to be represented by the establishment of the Caballero cabinet, the abolition of the Catalonian Central Anti-Fascist Militia Committee and the entry of the representatives of the worker organizations into the Companys government in Barcelona. The autumn threat to Madrid sent the anarcho-syndicalists into the Madrid government. The chances to re-introduce a single military administration for the entire Republican area were further strengthened by the Málaga defeat.

The appearance of the labor committees functioning as government organs marked the first two months of the civil war, when the avowed revolutionary elements in the Spanish labor movement seemed to be dominant politically. A new stage was ushered in when the labor organizations began to concede the supremacy of the "legitimate" government, which had the confidence of the "democratic" and "proletarian" States abroad (where the treasury of Spain had been deposited). Little by little the traditional State apparatus in the Madrid-Valencia sphere and Catalonia regained its usual powers and functions.

At the time when this is being written, the fact that everybody in the Republican camp is genuinely interested in securing a complete victory over Franco and his fascist allies is further manipulated to blank the aims of those labor organizations that want to use the anti-fascist enthusiasm of the population for more than the defeat of the rebels for a socialist revolution.

The need for military organization and unification is made to serve the purpose of "normalizing" social relations, which were badly shattered when the population rushed to defend the Republic against the generals. The "democratic" and "proletarian" powers must consider loyalist Spain safe enough to help against Fascist and Nazi aggression. Thus the Spanish and Catalonian Communists use the prestige of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union to attack the P.O.U.M. - and as yet surreptitiously, for the C.N.T. still commands numbers - the "uncontrolled committees" sponsored by the F.A.I. Thus Azana is called back from the monastery, where he went to forget the worries of the rebellion in the study of the classics. Back in the fray for a progressive bourgeois Spain, he takes the occasion to remind the country that the Cortes and he are the only "legitimate" government and that the Civil War is a war "not for a socialist or syndicalist Spain but for Freedom and Independence."

War sometimes breeds revolution. Continued for any length of time, it seems to defeat revolution.

The system of government by party and trade-union committees could not have been long-lived. It lacked the unanimity of support to enable it to function easily as a regular and inclusive State apparatus. The committees were manned almost exclusively with the revolutionary elements that first rushed into the fight. The more numerous newcomers that have by now been drawn into the struggle - especially through the U.G.T. and the agricultural organizations - have a viewpoint typical of the numerically preponderant petty-bourgeois population of Spain. (A viewpoint much akin to that of the more prosperous French petty bourgeois and peasants.) They frown on the "revolutionary experiments and social excesses" that were proposed and executed by the worker committees. They want a return to social and political "normalcy." They want to win the war, to win peace, even peace without strikes. They want a political and military national organization that is dependable and smoothly working, and will win the confidence and support of the "democratic" States, and thus bring victory and peace as soon as possible. It is possible to imagine a unified military control for the entire anti-rebel front, with the committees of the labor organizations continuing as government organs to which the professional military experts of the general staff will be responsible. But such an arrangement is posited on a marked degree of agreement among the organizations forming the anti-rebel front, or on a marked degree of political maturity of the population of the country, and therefore the merging of the several organizations into one.

The fact is that the anti-fascist committees which assume State powers and State functions in July and August, are not representative of the population at this moment. Their regime was at most a makeshift, transitional arrangement that sent to cope with a sudden crisis but had to lead to any of these three replacements:
1. A revolutionary constitutional convention (assembly).
2. A return of the powers of government to the chosen legislative and executive apparatus, represented by Cortes and Azana's office.
3. The institution - especially as a result of the exigencies the war - of a military-bureaucratic dictatorship, similar to which appeared in Russia as a result of the Civil War.

In Russia the military-bureaucratic dictatorship arose on a foundation provided by the debris of the soviets (ruined by the Civil War). The Russian soviets of 1917-1918, therefore, seem to parallel both the Spanish anti-fascist committees and the proposed revolutionary constitutional convention. In Spain a military-bureaucratic dictatorship, also built by the demands of the war, tends to rise out of the rehabilitated traditional "democratic" apparatus. We may expect it to bear the name of "Democratic Republic." So in Russia the military-bureaucratic dictatorship that arose with the destruction of the soviets as holders of State power bears the name of "Soviet Power." Spain is not Russia however. The fact that anarchism, as a system of political thought, has blossomed to the appearance of maturity in Spain seems to be a guarantee against the successful domination of the country by any totalitarian scheme.

Sooner or later we shall have an open clash between the avowed revolutionary elements within the anti-fascist camp and the people that take a stand against "excesses" and experiments. This collision has been delayed by the rebellion. Both sides united against a common enemy. However, the continuation of the Civil War will possibly so weaken the revolutionaries that the clash I am referring to may take the form of a or less peaceable suppression of the revolutionary minority and will not call for the use of arms on a large scale. For the effort to achieve victory puts into the hands of the worthies who are for the social status quo a powerful instrument, fashioned popular support, bureaucratic efficiency and military strength.

The workers and small property-holders of Spain have demonstrated that, given a fair chance, they can vanquish the hired and borrowed armies manipulated by the rebel generals. Spanish people will win a complete victory over the rebel generals if the popular forces obtain the equipment they need and if the aid in men and war material offered to the reactionaries by their foreign friends is kept from mounting. In other words, the fate of the Spanish Republic rests in the hands of the great European powers. With Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany extending their intervention in Spain, the Republic can only be saved through the open or covert interposition, for the Republic, of the "allies:" France, Russia, and especially Great Britain. The British Foreign Office is the master of the situation. Italian and German intervention will stop when the Foreign Office decides it is time to stop it. The Spanish Republic will again be given the treatment usually accorded to a sovereign power in international dealings as soon as the British Foreign Office considers that this coincides with the interests of Great Britain, with the interests of capitalism in general.

It should be evident by this time that a step of this kind does not signify a clash between democracy and fascism, though it has been described as such by well-meaning persons and though this description will figure in an important way in the publicity of the coming World War.

We shall have here, as we already have in the present acts of the interventionists, a struggle between the haves and have-nots of imperialism.

What are the roles played by the European powers in the Spanish Civil War? Let me retell the story. (See Roberto's communications in previous issues of International Review, especially November 1936.)

A certain section of British capitalism with investments in Spain was scared by the social discontent sweeping Spain. These people were the first to finance the militarists plotting their rebellion. Immediately the Italians and Germans, who want the Spanish market and Spanish raw material and cast their eyes on the natural resources and strategic position of Morocco, also bid heavily and officially. France and England did not like to have the allies of the Nazis and Fascists win over a democratic government that protects the property of their nation against bad anarcho-syndicalists. But neither did they like the prospect of a wide attempt at a social revolution that appeared to loom on the horizon by July 1936 and seemed to have become an imposing fact with the wave of anti-rebel resistance by the Spanish people. It was true that, if Franco won as an ally of Germany and Italy, the Mediterranean line and the Pyrenean frontier of the Anglo-French partnership would be endangered. But Franco and his generals could always be bought. It seemed so obvious that a reactionary government not having the approval of Great Britain would have a very hard time in Spain. Then Great Britain was not yet ready for war. It needed time to complete its armament. Nobody but Russia was ready for war. Great Britain therefore immediately proposed general non-intervention. After some time it became evident that the official non-intervention did not stop Italian and German intervention. The British therefore allowed Russia and - quite secretly - France to help enough to keep the loyalists going. Franco was held but not defeated. Italy and Germany were checkmated in Spain.

What exactly was the role of Russia?
Stalin's Russia made no effort to help during the first three months of the Civil War. For some time there was little reference to the struggle in the Soviet papers. Stalin's Russia clung to its immediate ally, France, which clung to Great Britain.

But it soon became clear that the Italian and German governments were using Spain as a lever to pry France away from its Soviet pact. The Soviet government first retorted to the attempt to isolate her - taken with disinterest and therefore tolerance by Great Britain - with the threat to incite immediate war in the West, using the Spanish civil war as a starting point. A war that had its western front in Spain could not but involve England and France and willy-nilly make them allies of the U.S.S.R. The Soviet government did not want to fight against Germany and Japan without partners on the German West. But the impassively skillful British politicians merely transformed the Soviet threat - which helped to save Madrid in November - into a means of neutralizing the intrusion of the Fascists and the Nazis into the Spanish situation.

The Soviet aid - paid for heavily with Spanish gold - had the effect of saving the "proletariat" face of the U.S.S.R. The allies (Great Britain, France and Russia) will find the "proletarian" pretensions of the Soviet government a great asset in the coming war. Successful wars are fought with popular enthusiasm, with the help of beautiful ideals and rhythmically spoken slogans.

The Soviet aid (that is the permission to have the Republicans buy Soviet war material) created in the population of Spain a sort of psychosis in favor of the Soviet Union and its Spanish representative, the Communist Party. This Party stands, together with the bourgeois Republicans and the Social-Democrats, for the smashing of any attempt to trouble the peace of Europe with a continuing and expanding revolution in Spain. This is in itself an eloquent appeal to Great Britain.

The open or indirect intervention of the "allies" in Spain which will save the Republic from the reactionary generals and Germany and Italy will not be given as long as there is a possibility that a republican victory will encourage the Spanish Revolution. It may be given, as it was given by Russia, to neutralize the influence of the revolutionaries.

The revolutionary(*) elements in the Spanish anti-fascist front know that their cause of revolution is joined to the need of defeating the reactionary generals. They also understand now that the aid that will bring the defeat of the reactionaries will be paid for in part with the suppression of the revolution they are working for. Great Britain, France, Russia will help the Spanish Republic openly and conclusively as soon as it is clear that the forces of law and order have the situation well in hand in Spain.

(*) I am always referring to the F.A.I., its "outer body," the C.N.T., and the P.O.U.M. The fact that the attempts of these organizations are defeated by existing historic conditions, by the dominant outlook of the population, by the strength of the opposition, and the possibility that their programs are utopian, does not make them any less revolutionary. Of course, my "anti-fascist front" is the commonly used expression, which while inexact, succeeds in telling who and what is meant.

Further Suggested Reading:
From the September 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard: The Civil War in Spain
From the May 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard: The SPGB and Spain
From Issue 18 of the journal Subversion (published 1996): Spain 1936, The End of Anarchist Syndicalism?
From the August 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard: For Whom The Bell Tolled