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painstaking description of the parallelogram of forces now operative in embattled Spain, it has the importance of an historical document.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.
Roberto


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

Howard Zinn's 'Marx in Soho'

Review of 'Marx in Soho' by Howard Zinn (Published by South End Press. Distributed by Pluto Press) that originally appeared in the Socialist View, the journal of North East Branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Granted his request to return to earth for just one hour, to clear his name and refute the rumour that his ideas are dead, a bureaucratic mix up finds Karl Marx in Soho, New York, instead of Soho, London where he once lived.

This short, one-man play sees Marx alone on stage, with only a table, a chair, books, newspapers and a glass of beer as props, reminiscing about his family life, enthusing about the Paris Commune and reliving an imaginary confrontation with the 'shaggy anarchist' Bakunin.

Zinn's Marx can be humorous one page, and deadly serious the next in vitriolic condemnation of a system he spent his life trying to overthrow.

One moment Marx is recounting his countless journeys home from the British Museum, past open sewers telling how it was "only fitting that the author of Das Kapital should slog through shit while writing the condemnation of the capitalist system." The next he is grappling on the floor with a drunken Bakunin. Then, just as suddenly, we can hear the bearded man launch a vehement attack upon the notion that the Soviet Union was socialist: "Do they think that a system run by a thug who murdered his fellow revolutionaries is communism? Scheisskopfen . . . can that be the communism I gave my life for? . . . [Angry] . . . Socialism is not supposed to reproduce the stupidities of capitalism!"

For anyone coming into contact with Marx's ideas for the first time, dreading the thought of long, studious hours in front of volumes of insipid texts on political economy, having only ever heard second-hand and distorted accounts of Marx's theories, fear not; this is a welcome first point of reference in which Zinn makes his ideas accessible and the man himself. less the spectre that haunted Europe, than some 19th century alternative comedian who just happens to know what capitalism is really all about.