Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Some Lessons from Spain (1937)

From the February 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

While the war clouds are fast gathering in Europe, the Spanish Civil War continues its devastating course, taking heavy toll of working-class lives and spreading ruin and misery over Spain.

Although six months have passed since it commenced the murderous attack of Franco and his international cohorts has not yet accomplished its object. While the avowed aim of Franco and his supporters is to keep the old order in Spain as it was the indiscriminate bombing and artillery barrage of towns is fast wiping out the objective evidence of old Spain.

We are accustomed to the sanctimonious reverence of the ruling class for the art treasures of the past but the savage methods of the Franco group shed a dear light on the object that inspires the real reverence of the property owner. Pictures, statuary, fine buildings, cathedrals and all the other irreplaceable relics of the artistic passion of the past weigh as nothing in the balance against the possible loss of revenue to the erstwhile rulers of Spain. And so it has always been and always will be while one set of people see an opportunity of living on the backs of the rest of the population. .

Again and again we are given evidence of the emptiness of the protestations of the property owners and their mouthpieces when an opportunity comes to give effect to their views. When war is called for, or resistance of any kind, by the rulers of society then priest and politician will find reasons why the war should be prosecuted or workers should be prepared to lay down their lives for a State that is not theirs.

Last October Dr. Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking at a Diocesan Conference at Canterbury, urged that complete pacificism was harmful as it left the State at the mercy of violent men. The object of his remarks was to impress upon his audience and the world at large that a defensive war was a just war. As all combatants in war claim that they are on the defensive (witness the last European War, and the statements of all leading European spokesmen now that they all want peace) this is equivalent to supporting any war on behalf of capitalism.

In the course of his remarks the Archbishop is reported as having put forward the following points: —
  The use of force of the sword by the State was the ministry of God for the protection of the people. If that were true of the State in its domestic relations, it was equally true for the State in its international relations. It all depended upon the motive or intention with which it was used.
 If the force of an army were used for national aggression or acquisition or self-assertion it was wrong. If it were used for the defence of the people it was right.
(News Chronicle, 13/10/36.)
In Spain a democratically-elected government has been subject to the onslaught of a rebellious military and land-owning clique who have carried out the attack with extreme brutality and have enlisted in their support native tribesmen as well as thousands of alleged volunteers from aggressive dictatorships. As far as we are aware neither Dr. Lang nor his friends have taken any practical step to see that aid was given to a government that was employed in just that defensive action for which he pleaded. Are we to assume that in reality Dr. Lang was simply giving his blessing to the rearmament projects of the British Government and thus fulfilling his function as a pillar of capitalism? It certainly looks as if this were the case.

The agony of Spain is only a matter of concern for the capitalists of other nations if any of them have interests involved or if there is any prospect of gain by fishing in troubled waters. For the rest it is a matter of minor importance to them that thousands of Spanish workers are losing their lives just because landowners and the Catholic Church want to keep intact their privilege to rob the wealth-producer of the product of his toil.

One of the spokesmen of the Spanish Government recently said that over a million lives had already been lost in the present civil war. It is a sad thought that in spite of the many and bitter lessons during the last hundred years, in which millions of workers’ lives have been sacrificed, the mass of the workers of the world still fail to grasp the fact that capitalism offers nothing to them but toil and misery, and they still turn away from the Socialist message. Yet, in the advanced countries at any rate, the workers produce and distribute the wealth upon which all live. While the capitalists control this wealth they use their position to live in idleness and luxury. The workers can, and some day will, obtain control of the means of production. When they do so they can banish want and economic misery and the bestialities of the struggle between classes. The lesson is a simple one and so easy to learn if only workers will look facts in the face.

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