163 comments on “Remember the Heroes Who Fought in Spain

  1. Geoff Collier on said:

    It often seems that those who fought in the International Brigades are rarely forgotten. Its those others who fought in the POUM militia ,for example, who are in more need of remembrance. I suppose it depends whether you think that the issue was purely democracy versus fascism (not that Franco was actually a fascist, of course) or whether you recognise that there was a revolution going on.

  2. #1 Yes it’s commonplace for people nowadays outside of the ranks of the left to talk about the British volunteers in the IB. Nonsense! There can never be too much done to remember their sacrifice.

    The reality is that a tiny number of people from the British Isles were with the POUM, and thanks to Orwell’s (admitedly well-written) account being one of the best read books on the war, the relative importance of the two is completely distorted. If you read and believed Orwell you’d think the IB was barely relevant.

    That’s not to disparage the POUM by the way. The civil war within the civil war that broke out was tragic and could hardly have helped the war effort against fascism which WAS the enemy.

  3. lone nut on said:

    “I suppose it depends whether you think that the issue was purely democracy versus fascism”
    I suppose it might depend on who you think contributed more to the military struggle against Francoism (you might wish to compare casualty rates on the Madrid front, or at Guadalajara or Salamanca, with those incurred in the rather irrelevant engagements POUM was involved in). Still, as always, we can expect more of the same from those who think “Land and Freedom” was a fly on the wall documentary.

  4. “… we can expect more of the same from those who think “Land and Freedom” was a fly on the wall documentary.”

    I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the real-life letters on which those that formed the structure to Land and Freedom were written by a British IB volunteer rather than someone who fought with the POUM.

    That’s not to disparage Loach as a film maker or as a committed Socialist and I admire him on both counts.

    #2 I hardly think anyone’s celebrating Guernica.

  5. The Undertaker on said:

    For anyone especially this clown nutjob to refer to the heroic struggle of those who fought with the POUM as irrelevant shows what a complete tosser he is

  6. No pasarán! on said:

    What an excellent film “Land and Freedom” is, especially so if the extra disc is watched as it makes the whole thing doubly educational as well.

  7. Your hero Trotsky would have butchered the POUM men if he’d been running the show in Spain, Underpants.

  8. Your hero Trotsky would have butchered the POUM men if he’d been running the show in Spain, Underpants.

  9. lone nut on said:

    #6 It is possible to be both heroic and irrelevant, Undertaker. Your own struggle to master basic English and elementary logic is heroic in its way, but it doesn’t alter the fact that you are utterly irrelevant.

  10. #6 Well Lone Nut has at least referred to some statistics. How about refuting him/ her?

    And if you read, he/she was discussing the respective relevance of military engagements. I assume he means engagements whith Franco’s forces and not those in Barcelona with other Republicans (and I make asign no blame here in relation to that tragic episode).

    Even Orwell makes it clear that the front he was on was fairly inactive.

    So if you can prove that Lone Nut is a complete tosser on this subject with reference to some historical facts rather than a mixture of dogma and insult, please go ahead.

  11. lone nut on said:

    I presume the leading SWP expert on the Spanish Civil War, Andy Durgan, can be taken as a reasonably objective witness here:
    “Up to 700 foreigners fought with the 10.000 or so militia organised by the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) between July 1936 and June 1937. They were from at least 28 different countries; French, Italian and, above all German fighters being the most numerous.

    From a military point of view, these volunteers played a far less significant role in the Civil War than those of the International Brigades, not only because they were far fewer in number, but also they spent most of their time away from where the most important fighting took place.”
    http://libcom.org/history/international-volunteers-poum-militias

  12. The Undertaker on said:

    # 10 no i didn’t tom sorry my butler did
    # 13 not quite ‘ irrelevant’ tho is it nutjob

    Your comments reflect only your stupidity as for Tom …now there’s a political genius

  13. The Undertaker on said:

    # 10 no i didn’t tom sorry my butler did
    # 13 not quite ‘ irrelevant’ tho is it nutjob

    Your comments reflect only your stupidity as for Tom …now there’s a political genius

  14. lone nut on said:

    “not quite ‘ irrelevant’ tho is it nutjob”
    No, but is “rather irrelevant” which is what I said.

  15. #18 Idiot.

    #17 There are 2 interelated issues as far as the POUM were concerned.

    One was the question of whether the view that the important thing was to carry out a common struggle against Franco or whether it was to deepen the class struggle, or indeed it was necessary to do the latter in order effectively to do the former.

    The POUM in fact were nowhere near as hardline on the issue as Trotsky thought they should be.

    The other question was, for those who believed that the important thing was stability, discipline and unity of command and that class stuggle within the anti-fascist camp would weaken rather than strengthen the struggle, whether those who pursued the opposing line were objectively or subjectively aiding the fascists and therefore the extent to which repression was justified.

    Following from that of course was the questtion of the extent to which certain elements (such as the GPU) actually believed that those to the left were agents of fascism in any way and simply wanted to destroy their rivals on the left.

    In my view it is perfectly possible to hold the view that the class struggle position was ultra-left and that many of those who supported the repression acted in good faith but that it was wrong and that the POUM and other victims such as the anarchsists were themselves acting in good faith, unlike the GPU.

    It would be a good thing if we tried to learn the proper lessons of history rather than making the same mistakes all over again.

  16. George Hallam on said:

    You misrepresent the NKVD’s view of the POUM. They could see as well as anybody else that many POUM members were sincere. However they also had evidence, from their agents in the POUM, that the Fascists had infiltrated agents into the POUM.

    Even George Orwell acknowleged that it was to be expected that Fascists would represent themselves as Trotskyists and repeat Trotskyist slogans.

  17. #20 So they had evidence that the POUM was the target of infiltration by fascists- I’m sure that the Communist and Socialist Parties were as well- but depicted the POUM as a whole as an organisation in league with fascism (just as they said about the Trotskyists).

    Either they believed this to be the case or they did not.

    Not that it matters, but are you sure that it was the NKVD at this stage?

  18. Those are indeed the questions. In deciding them two things usually underestimated by those in the orthodox Communist tradition. Firstly that the anarchist movement (the trots were mostly pretty irrelevent if truth be told) were the reason why there was anything left to fight about. The socialists and the liberals attempted to deal with the fascists locally when the coup happened: and were put to death for their pains. In areas where the liberals and the social democrats followed this path the fascists came to power immediately. Where workers militias intervened they did not.

    So the liberal wing of the bourgoisie was not a great force in the anti-fascist struggle. The schema of class struggle breaking the unity of the anti-fascist alliance sounds plausible and sensible at first sight. But it neglects the fact that the fascists were beaten back most ferociously in areas where the class struggle and the traditions of the class struggle were at their highest.

    The civil war behind the lines instigated against the contiuation of the militias did not strengthen the resistance to the fascists one iota. It strengthened the civil power against the militias and actually demobilised as well as killing some of the best militants against the fascists. In the end defenders of this disasterous strategy end up having to argue that the fascists won because they were stronger and that the international bourgoisie intervened on the side of the international bourgoisie: as if they would ever do anything different.

    In other words a defeatist argument treating defeat as inevitable (where not occassionally blaming the ‘romanticism’ of the mobilised working class). It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out demoralising such arguments would have been. They’re demoralising enough now.

    Thats my take anyway.

  19. #21
    It is undoubtedly true that the fascists in Spain (and the police in every social system) infiltrate opposition groups. (Our even think cyclists are a threat to the security of the state).
    The point is, however, that police provocateurs (as opposed to intelligence gathering and monitoring infiltrators) only become a big problem when the tactics and strategy of the host objectively aid the enemy objectives. That was the entirely rational basis for targeting the POUM.

    John g argues that ‘he fascists were beaten back most ferociously in areas where the class struggle and the traditions of the class struggle were at their highest.’. What a surprise. He leaves unanswered the obvious question, what were the correct tactics for denying the fascists a base of support among those sections of the population who were not already veterans of the class struggle?

    The logic of his argument is that the subjective reigns supreme. If only the wicked Stalinists had ‘believed’ enough the revolution would have triumphed. Tactics thus become a pure function of subjective will, the actual correlation of class forces domestically and internationally becomes irrelevant. And in this process all those who argued and worked for a broad alliance, a careful evaluation of the objective circumstances – and who concluded that international solidarity and the mobilisation of the Brigades were necessary given the balance of forces – are treated (at least in the screenplay of Loach’s ludicrous film and the columns of the Trotskyite press) as betraying the revolution.
    Dangerous nonsense in Spain in the 30’s, posturing pretence in 2011.

  20. The Undertaker on said:

    These stalinists still cant get over their day is gone their bastardisation of the symbols and language of the revolutionary bolshevik tradition as much dust as the Berlin wall.
    Trotsky called stalinism the syphilis of the labour movement l think he was being kind judging by the posters on here

  21. Watch out Undie! on said:

    Hey Undertaker, some idiot’s posting in your name and trying to make you sound stupid.

  22. Karl Stewart on said:

    Sad isn’t it? JohnG and Nick Wright – from different marxist traditions – exchange sharp, but thoughtful differences of opinion and then Undertaker spouts off the kind of infantile sectarian rant that illustrates the mindset that has prevented the UK left from achieving anything in recent decades.
    The only effect pathetic comments like that at (24) have is to objectively strengthen capitalism by making the opposition to it look ridiculous.

  23. #24 Were the CP members and fellow travellers who went to Spain to risk death, imprisonment and torture at the hands of the fascists part of this ‘syphilis’?

    Syphilis you may not be but poison you certainly are.

  24. Yet again the Underachiever resorts to abuse rather than engaging with the argument. He must be a real embarrassment to the fellow-members of his sect, whatever it is.

  25. JellyTot on said:

    Sadly but unsurprising, the Trotskyites have succeeded again in derailing a thread that should have been about honouring the sacrifice of the brave and principled Brigadistas. But then again, sabotage has always been their speciality, then and now. It’s in their political DNA.

    The Brigades serve as an inspiration to those fighting the good fight today. They will never be forgotten.

  26. Anonymous on said:

    #22 I think the world is a better place without being subjected to your take, to be frank. Fucking psycho that you are.

  27. Ecolefty on said:

    The POUM were not Trotskyist – in fact they were more closely linked to the right oppostition figures like Bukharin. They were fairly small but played a more honorable role than the Stalinist leaders who sacrificed the revolution in Spain and in the end many of the brave volunteers both international and Spanish.

  28. Anonymous on said:

    Even if you accept the Communists ‘sacrificed’ the Spanish revolution, where is the evidence that, so long as Britain and especially France maintained the laughable pretence of non-intervention, that this mythical joint anarchist-Trotskyist revolutionary government which was to replace the Republic, would have somehow avoided being drowned in blood by Franco?

    The only reason the Republicans fought as long as they did, at least after 1936, was because of the Soviet Union and the Spanish Communists.

  29. Anonymous on said:

    …was rather the point. You’re talking about it like the internal politics of the Republican camp were the life or death struggle, rather than the Western democracies’ betrayal.

  30. #28

    Underpants is a laughable Dave Spart Swuppie. Actually my guess is he’s a SWSS member at a FE college who spends his time trying to sell that awful paper, always find it amusing how they display its crappy front page like a placard. Do you learn that at the Martin Smith Sexual Harassment and Fake Cockney Accent Camp?

  31. I’m reminded of football matches were old firms clash. not particularly edifying. Over the summer I found myself reading more and more about the anarchist tradition in Spain. A very large part of the mass organisations of the working class in Spain were anarchist. The interesting thing is that on the ground, when the fascist coup happened, the local anarchist organisations distinguished themselves from other currents inside and outside the working class movement by the pre-emptive action they took to prevent the fascists seizing power (in my view this had less to do with local sympathies for the fascists and more to do with arguments about the use of force, arguments which often had little more then about half an hour to be had. The survival of local labour movement hung on decisions taken by local commitees over a few minutes: to march to the local barracks and seize weapons…or to keep your powder dry and negotiate. Those who did the latter were generally dead within a few days).

    All this is well known (or should be) documented by historians of both right and left. What is less well known (although its certainly well known in the anarchist movement) is that subsequently the leadership of the mass anarchist organisations joined the popular front government and actually ended up taking part in the repression of these mass organisations on behalf of the socialists and communists in the government (who were not in fact acting on behalf of the bourgoisie, who, certainly in these areas were socially and politically irrelevent: this was a GPU show as Vanya correctly conceded).

    This raises very interesting (and painful) questions for anarchists, which continue to haunt them into the present (Spain for anarchists is much like Russia for Communists…its where they came closest to victory but also where the controversy and bitterness reaches feverpitch). Here questions about discipline and organisation are raised but not in the way the orthodox Communists here raise them.

    At last years Marxism I along with hundreds of others watched stuart christie speak along side andy durgan. Those expecting fireworks were disapointed. stuart’s talk was a monograph on anarchist organisation in spain and you caught a glimpse of the depth of the controversies which I only half understand myself and which I suspect left most of the audience baffled as well as fascinated. Andy did a good job of attempting to put things in perspective. Unfortunately for me many comrades intervened in a rather hackish way (although they were a model of sophistication compared to most of the contributers on this thread).

    Anyone actually familiar with the history of the spanish working class movement would not make so cavelier with references to ‘imaginary anarchist governments’. That much to me is pretty clear.

  32. Oh I have two words for those who think the anarchists ‘wrong but womantic’ on the military front.

    Madrid. Durruti column.

  33. #39

    John there are interesting points there, but the acrimonious tenor of this discussion was set by Geoff Collier – one of your comrades – who in response to a moving song commemorating the 30000 brigadistas killed, including 500 dead of the 2500 British volunteers, he remarked that we should be stressing instead the handful of volunteers with the POUM, most of whom avoided serious action.

    As I have recently been made aware with the FBU thread an ill-judged first comment can set the wrong hare running.

    In fact, as most peoples first acquaintanceship with the war is Orwell’s Homage to catalonia, the balance is already heavily tilted towards the POUM, and not the IB.

    Regarding your other points – interesting. Indeed we are dealing with history in all its rich complexity. The anarchists joining the government does indeed show the iron compulsion of military necessity, that a well organised army at the front, and discipline at the rear were vital; as trotsky recognised during the Russian Civil war. The anarahcists dio have a point when they are bewildred that Trotskists take different attitides to Krondstadt and Barcelona

    The problem is in assuming that what happened proved the inferiority of the official Communist strategy, and relies upon a tendentious counter-factual history based upon trotsky’s writings.

    Al that history actually rpoves is that the fascsist were better armed,. better organised, better supported, and won the war.

  34. The Undertaker on said:

    Can you believe it , that sparks meeting spent all night discussing Mr mainstreams attack on Matt wrack , jellys fantasy membership of the SWP and the key role played by aunty vanyas Respect rump in the dispute.
    And to top it all everyone said they were off home to abuse about the that Undertaker fella,the one worker Tom knows is at an FE college ( how lower class)
    How wrong I’ve been to regard this site as a home for the lost and the lonely when in fact it sets the pace for the entire working class

  35. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    “Al that history actually rpoves is that the fascsist were better armed,. better organised, better supported, and won the war.

    Comment by Andy Newman — 23 October, 2011 @ 11:17 am”

    That is an interpretation not a fact.

  36. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    My interpretation of Franco’s victory over the is that Stalin’s policies of class collaboration of Popularism defeated the Spanish working class and poor who fought bravely with international working class support against the proto-fascist. The Spanish working class could have taken control many times over that period. But who am I but a Trotskyite fantasist

  37. Ipitythefool on said:

    There is a legitimate debate to be had about what was the right strategy to follow.

    However it is very hard to debate it since one side in that debate (the Communist side) deliberatley set out to crush anyone who dissented and happily murdered and tortured innocent people. You can agree with the broad Communist strategy without supporting their murderous tactics. On the other hand failure to condemn those murderious tactics, or even mention them, makes it hard for any real socialist to take that side seriously.

  38. prianikoff on said:

    #43 Some questions to the “Undertaker”;

    Why have you adopted such a silly internet name?
    It seems calculated to be threatening to the people you debate with; rather like some twerp calling themselves the “Masked Avenger”.

    Except you don’t actually debate with anyone seriously. All you ever do is say how you’ve been going to all these sparks meetings

    Are you, or have you ever trained as an Electrician “Undertaker”?

    Why exactly do have this desire to slander and abuse people who discuss political ideas that differ from your own?

    Why do you feel so threatened by debate?

    If you think this site is so shit, why do you comment on it so often?

  39. Anonymous on said:

    The tale of the Spanish exiles may be worth a thought at this time. French Xenophobia made it hard for many, those with professional qualifications, the intelligentsia etc. moved on to the Americas, forced basically, the ordinary punters were given the choice of enlisting in the French Army ((RMVE)or going back. 1000’s died at the hands of the Nazi’s in the death camps. After the war those who were conscripted to do manual work for TODT were then imprisoned by the Allies.

  40. Well all counter-factual narratives are to some extent tendentious and it is indeed rather hard to ‘prove’ matters with ‘history’. But such is the stuff of political debate and if we rule out counter-factual narratives we certainly can learn nothing at all from history (there would be no mechanism for doing so). Whether or not the points I attempt to make above ‘prove’ anything or not, or indeed rely on a ‘trostkyist’ framework, they do represent a not implausible response to the facts as we know them if not the only one.

    I think, aside from the old firm narratives bouncing around here, one of the interesting things about the anarchist arguments and experiance is how little known they are, given the reality that the great bulk of the organised and class consious working class were affiliated to them.

    For trots debating with anarchists one of the interesting things is the way they behaved like vanguardists when it came to combating the coup (and did so successfully: as noted without this there would not have been any territory for the Republic which gives some indication of the size and importance of the organised Spanish working class in general and the anarchist component of it in particular), but effectively behaved like a trade union or social democratic bureacracy when it came to the question of the government.

    The standard Trotskyist critique is the anarchist disavowel of politics simply meant that other political forces triumphed: other political forces which grew rapidly in the face of this vacuum. I had not realised quite how dramatic this was until I familiarised myself with the scale and depth of anarchist organisation in the Spain of the period.

    Its something those of us on the left might have been expected to study more closely given this (despite having taken part in endless debates with representatives of the orthodox communist tradition, this was something I knew much less about, despite it encapsulating the history of the Spanish working class up until that point…well largely).

    I think for Trots and anarchists both, despite the fact that the IB’s were occassionally quite consiously used by the GPU to crush the radical wing of the Spanish revolution, there is no problem with honouring the militants who went to fight for the Repuvlic: there is a problem with the political tradition they come from and what the result was for the spanish proletariat: in the anarchist documentry a particularly choking point is the record of the militants of barcelona trying to get across the pyranees and many dying in the snow as Franco’s forces took this proletarian stronghold: a woman who was a young girl will never forget her father in France ringing the CNT headquarters there and hearing ‘viva l’espania, viva Franco’ and breaking down in tears. They knew that such a defeat was ‘forever’. And in many ways it was.

    I happen to think that Trotsky’s latter day position on Kronstadt wasn’t too good to be honest (We now know that a GPU agent had wound him up about Serge) and I suspect we need a grasp of the complexities of history here too…: but these frozen postures also sometimes are the result of being too trapped in the present.

    So the arguments about the ideological problems of winning over areas under Franco’s rule seem to me to underestimate the realities of repression. And I don’t really buy the idea that the problem was that the workers had been too militant and put off the bourgoisie (essentially the rationale for the imposition of the Popular Front strategum)… All of these arguments seem to combine old orthodoxies with contemporary controversies which have little to do with the time itself.

    Above all though, if want to discuss this period, I think we all need to find out more about the actual spanish proletariat of the period and its own mass organisations. This forms far too little a component of these by now ritual arguments. So by all means honour the IB. But lets not forget the central agent and finally victim of this whole process: the Spanish proletariat.

  41. George Hallam on said:

    @ 22
    The belief that the anarchist movement was decisive in defeating the military coup at the local level is widely and sincerely held.

    Hence the argument that, “the anarchist movement.. were the reason why there was anything left to fight about.”

    However, I have some (sincerely held) doubts about how far it is true.

    While there may be some instances where socialist and the liberals prevaricated (and lost) while anarchists fought (and triumphed) I think it is a mistake to generalise from a small number of cases.

    There are three major problems with the ‘anarchists were decisive’ argument:
    1. The strength of anarchist movement in Spain is overestimated. Experience showed that it was not strong enough to sustain insurrections against the Spanish state prior to 1936. Why should the movement have had the strength of defeat a united military coup.
    2. The balance within the pro-coup forces in misunderstood. Support for the coup within the Spanish Army was weaker than is usually assumed, while civilian support is underestimated.
    3. The actual pattern of the coup’s successes and failures across Spain does not follow one that might be expected if the anarchists had been decisive in defeating the coup.

  42. Well there are a number of sources. The most recent Beevor’s book on the war (and he’s hardly a trotskyist, or, I think, an anarchist). The argument about failure to sustain an insurrection is not very compelling. The same could be said of anyone and it is not an indication of the absence of a very substantial tradition. Quite aside from old firm rivalries I think there is difficulty in comprehending the idea that the anarchists were the dominant hegmonic force in some countries (in the way social democracy and/or marxists) were in other parts of the world. It remains true however and something I think we have’nt really come to terms with in our (english) internal debates about the matter. But we’re now on the kind of terrain where the real historians move in. In the absence of further research of my own I can’t really say much aside from promise to keep reading.

  43. George Hallam on said:

    #49 “Above all though, if want to discuss this period, I think we all need to find out more about the actual spanish proletariat of the period and its own mass organisations. This forms far too little a component of these by now ritual arguments.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I would only add that this investigation of the concrete conditions should not be confined to the Spanish proletariat. Anyone who really wants to understand the Spanish Civil War needs to study ALL the classes and strata of Spanish society.

  44. But for us as socialists, we have a somewhat special interest in the proletariat. is all i would say.

  45. George Hallam on said:

    Personally I have no difficulty in comprehending the idea that the anarchists being the ‘dominant hegmonic force’ in some countries. Though ‘dominant hegmonic force’ is not a phase I would choose myself, I often feel that anarchism is pretty dominant is parts of South London.

    As regards Spain:

    How strong was the anarchist movement?

    While the anarchist ‘movement’ was undoubtedly big, relative to either the Stalinists or the POUM, it was not that big in the context of Spanish society as a whole.

    The problem is the anarchist ‘movement’ in Spain was not very cohesive.

    I think Thomas estimated it at around one and a half million. Certainly, CNT had nearly 2 million members. On the other hand, the FAI, which effectively led the CNT, was far smaller, perhaps 30,000.

    It seems that many ‘anarchists’ were closer to being militant trade unionists than consistent philosophical anarchists. The evidence from the elections of indicates that many nominal anarchists must have voted for Popular Front (or Left Front in Catalonia) candidates. It is difficult to believe that the Popular Front could have gained 4,700,000 votes if anything more than a small proportion of CNT members had abstained.

  46. actually there is the controversy George: at a certain point they instructed their members to vote…I can’t remember the details but its a fascinating story by all accounts. But the figures you give…they’re staggering actually. Compare them to figures for the rest of the working class movements all around Europe. And yes the FAI etc…some have argued it was an attempt to set up a kind of Leninist core, others furiously refute that. On Militant trade unionists…well yes of course. Similar studies and remarks could (and have been made) about social democratic consiousness. But it was, similarly, a kind of world within a world. More widely though we may just have to differ on the relative importance of the classes politcally in capitalist societies, even late modernising ones of the kind that spain was.

  47. George Hallam on said:

    #53. “But for us as socialists, we have a somewhat special interest in the proletariat. is all i would say.”

    This may be so, though in my experience, their interest is not that great that they feel compelled to undertake any special effort.

  48. Of course beyond mutual acrimony on the left some of the difficulty here is franco’s burial of the past…i was reading an oral history originally written in spanish that documents the self censorship and silences of spanish society after the war. one can see how any kind of thompsonian oral history excercise trying to recreate this world would run into enourmous difficulties given the years that have passed and the distortions of the intervening period. In many ways a terrifying story.

  49. George Hallam on said:

    #56. “at a certain point they instructed their members to vote…I can’t remember the details but its a fascinating story by all accounts. But the figures you give…they’re staggering actually.”

    In 1933 election the anarchists did call for a boycott and the turnout was 67.5%. In 1936 was 73.1%.

  50. Jimmy (45), the main problem is not whether you are, in your words, a “Trotskyite fantasist”, but that your hackneyed, superficial formulations add nothing to what – Underachiever apart – has been an interesting discussion (thanks to thoughtful contributions from the likes of Andy, johng and Nick Wright).
    For example, repeating the lazy mantra that “Stalin’s policies of class collaboration of Popularism [you mean Popular Frontism?] defeated the Spanish working class and poor” means nothing. Be concrete. Which forces should the Republican government have turned upon and thereby probably driven into the fascist camp? How significant were they? If they were supposedly powerful enough to have diverted Spain from a path of socialist revolution, how would it have helped the anti-fascist struggle to have put them on Franco’s side instead?
    Did Franco’s forces, support from fascist Germany and Italy and British-French non-intervention play any significant role in Franco’s victory? Which forces refused to fight – or stopped fighting – Franco because they were put off by “Stalinist class collaboration”, Popular Frontism etc.? How significant were such forces, if they existed at all?
    You assert that “the Spanish working class could have taken control many times over that period”. Could it? Was it all so simple then, as Comrade Streisand put it? If it was mainly a question of the “correct revolutionary leadership”, and bearing in mind that a large section of the anarchist movement was represented in the Republican movement while the Trotskyist movement was tiny to non-existent, where would the leadership come from? Why did it not emerge anyway?
    Was the relatively small Spanish weorking class really in a position not only to exert hegemony and win state power at that time, but to do so against the fascist insurgents AND the non-fascist but non-socialist elements of the bourgeoisie and peasantry as well (including most sections of the Basque nationalist movement)?
    The leadership of the working class movement was largely Socialist, anarchist and (smallest of all at the beginning of the Spanish war) Communist. They and the majority of their supporters believed that the overriding priority was to unite, be in government and devote their energies and resources to defeating the fascists. Almost all of the left in Spain since, up to and including the present day, believe that that was the only realstic and correct course. That doesn’t put it beyond challenge or criticism, of course, but I think those of us in another country, in different conditions and in a different time have a duty to go beyond simplistic, loaded, point-scoring dogma when doing so.
    Ipitythefool (46) makes some important points despite the emotive over-statement ( – happily tortured and murdered all dissenters?). Most Communists and socialists today accept that some actions taken by Communists and other Republican supporters were wrong, unacceptable and in some instances counter-productive. But, as Ipitythefool also says, even the most reprehensible actions do not necessarily invalidate the correcteness of the anti-fascist strategy being pursued at that time.

  51. john l on said:

    If he were around at the time newman would have denounced the IB as ultra left macho posturing.

  52. Sorry, I meant to write (61): “a large section of the anarchist movement was represented in the Republican GOVERNMENT”.

  53. Small point Rob. Whilst sections of the anarchist leadership went into the government, this was by no means contested, and it is far from clear that this policy had anything like universal assent..its quite legitimate to contrast the tiny minority of trotskyists to the reality of mass organisations not under their influence…its very much less straightfoward to harness the mass anarchist organisations to the same policy (although of course the internal controversy amongst anarchists up until this day is quite how easy this proved to be). I’d quibble also about the notion that the peasentry was in some sense totally external to the forces the anarchists represented. If I was in the mood for grinding axes I’d also suggest that, with few exceptions, its not really the case that what was coming from the orthodox communist side in this thread was any more concrete (or well informed) then anything coming from the trotskyist comrades. More generally I get the sense that the orthodox communist position is always in danger of descending into a dour big power realism, which ought, at least in principle, to be distinguishable from Leninist realpolitick.

    One small point. Franco didn’t come from nowhere. For all the talk of the irrelevence of the radical left etc, etc, its clear that a section of the ruling class felt mortally threatened by the Spanish proletariat as it existed and as it was organised. Threatened enough to risk everything in civil war. Of course this doesn’t prove the case one way or another, but it is perhaps worth remembering. If the working class was really that irrelevent, the old order wouldn’t have collapsed and there would not have been a civil war.

  54. ‘sorry by no means uncontested’. what i meant to say is that if the trots were small or irrelevent, the anarchists were not, and on the ground at least its very hard to point to unamity or thunderously overwhelming majorities for the policies actually pursued. In other words trot bashing doesn’t settle the question.

  55. prianikoff on said:

    The Spanish Civil War is an interesting topic. Of course the position of Trosky was that the polictics of the Anarchists was just as reformist as the Popular Front’s.

    But I would have thought it might be more relevant to examine the relations between the so-called “Anarchists” and the Communist Party in Greece at the moment.

    The KKE Central Committee issued a Press Office Statement on October 20th:

    ” Concerning the Organized Murderous Assault Against PAME’s Rally in Syntagma and the Death of the Trade Unionist of PAME Dimitris Kotzaridis”

    “…organized groups with specific orders and anarcho-fascists unleashed an attack with Molotov cocktails, teargas, stun grenades and stones, in attempt to disperse the majestic rally of workers and people in Syntagma Square and especially in the area where PAME was concentrated. A result of this attack is the death of the trade unionist of PAME, Dimitris Kotzaridis, 53 years old, secretary of the Viron branch of the Construction Workers’ Union. Dozens more PAME demonstrators were injured.

    The hatred of the hooded ones against the labour and popular movement and PAME expresses the fury of the forces which serve the system and bourgeois power. The government has massive responsibilities for this. The operation to intimidate, slander and suppress the labour and people’s movement is rooted in state structures, centres and services. History demonstrates this, today’s barbaric and murderous assault also proves this. The hooded ones, anarcho-autonomists, fascists or whatever they call themselves tried to achieve what the forces of repression, the blackmail and threats failed to do: to intimidate the people so that they submit.”

  56. George Hallam on said:

    #56

    How strong was the anarchist movement?

    The following is not to be taken as a scientific estimate. It’s just an attempt to see what we get when we use the limited information we have.

    In 1933 election the anarchists did call for a boycott and the turnout was 67.5%. In 1936 was 73.1%.

    Just under 9.5 million people voted in the election of 1936 out of a total electorate was around 13 million.
    If we assume that the 5.6 percent increase in turnout on 1933 was due entirely to anarchists deciding to participate then this would suggest that there were 725,000 committed anarchists.

    This is big, but as I said previously, “not that big in the context of Spanish society as a whole”.
    For comparison the ‘Right’ had around 4 million votes and the centre 450,000.

  57. I think for Trots and anarchists both, despite the fact that the IB’s were occassionally quite consiously used by the GPU to crush the radical wing of the Spanish revolution, there is no problem with honouring the militants who went to fight for the Repuvlic: there is a problem with the political tradition they come from and what the result was for the spanish proletariat

    I’d go with that johng, yeah.

  58. It does depend how you measure influence or size though. Its also very unclear that you could prove that all those who thought the boycott idea was a mistake (despite being a principled component of many anarchist programs, my understanding is, given the political situation it was controversial) were not under the influence of anarchist organisation. I think it might be useful to compare these figures with European social democratic organisations and movements. Its also true that given the (relatively) smaller size of the working class, these figures are very impressive. Think of it this way. Imagine 750,000 committed CP(B) members in Britain today. Or SWP members. That would be smaller then what your talking about here.

  59. John G makes some pertinent points about the role and nature of the ‘anarchist’ (more properly syndicalist) tradition in Southern Europe. In present day politics – far removed from these early and immature beginnings of the labour movement – and today from a more developed industrial working class, we tend to neglect the fact that this was a genuinely revolutionary trend, marked often by conspicuous bravery and driven by powerful utopian streams of thought arising from desperate poverty and oppression.
    It was a complex political battle to incorporate these tendencies into a disciplined military apparatus capable of resisting the fascist onslaught but the fact is that this was accomplished primarily by convincing – by experience and example – the masses influenced by the FAI and the CNT that a unified military machine was the best defence of the republic.
    The POUM rsesisted this process, its counter revolutionary ‘stab in the back’ was authoritatvely reported by Claud Cockburn at the time in his despatches frmo Spain.
    He reported from Barcelona on 17 May 1937
    ‘La Noticias, organ of the UGT (trade union centre), commenting on the resolution (of the POUM central committee) says:
    ‘The leading elements of the POUM, who, during the tragic days of the struggle, were issuing leaflets and manifestoes inciting to revolution, and backing the grous that had risen against the legally constituted government of the Generalitat, and who recommended to all these groups and their own members to keep their arms, have had to confess it was a movement without any revolutionary objective, and without direction.
    ‘The Trotskyite agent-provocateurs took part in the rising and now publicly state that the affair was a putch.’
    He then goes on the report that they were repudiated by the CNT and describe the integration of thse forces into a unified military command.

  60. Nick you well know that many of us would treat cockburn’s statements about ‘stabbing the republic in the back’ as about as authoritive as those liberals who happily reported on the enourmous fairness of the moscow trials. It is, to say the least, provocative. Especially when we know how many revolutionaries perished at the hands of the GPU during this period in Spain itself.

  61. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    #61, I could always put my History dissertation of 15,000 words on the Spanish Revolution/Civil war I wrote in my final year of my first degree in 1995/96. But I expect Mr Newman would consider it toooo long and toooo boring to be allowed. The first book I read on the events in Spain in the 1930s was Hugh Thomas’s “The Spanish Civil War”, third edition, in 1977 along with a plethora of other information, which includes Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” and Ronald Fraser’s “Blood of Spain” from then up until now. I would highly recommend the book from the Revolutionary History Series on “The Spanish Civil War: The view from the Left”, it is a collection of a number of essays the effect of the Spanish Revolution had on the Left in Spain and internationally. Along with “Britons in Spain: A history of the British Battalion of the XVth International Brigade” by William Rust published in 1939. Or the collection of essays by anarchists in “The May Days Barcelona 1937” published by the Freedom Press and with the inscription of “To the memory of CAMILLO BERNERI (1897 -1937) and all the victims of the counter-revolution in Catalonia, May 1937. I could go on but I do not want to seem to PATRONISE you #61. But I shall because I did not only do my history dissertation on the Spanish Revolution in my final year of my first degree, but I did a second dissertation for my Social Science course on the politics in post second war Scotland. I did two dissertations in my final year because basically I was shit at exams, due to the fact I left school at 15 without any qualification and had no exam technique drummed into me when I was young. Now I only received a 2:1 for my history dissertation but I received a first for my social science dissertation which with everything together I received a high 2:1 for my BA (HONS), which eventually allowed me to do, and pass, my Masters in Applied Social science. Now did I not do well no 61.

  62. George Hallam on said:

    #69 “Imagine 750,000 committed CP(B) members in Britain today. Or SWP members.”

    Day-dreams (or nightmares) like this will not advance your understanding of the Spanish Civil War.

    You are clouding the issue by bring in comparisons with non-anarchist organisations in developed economies. That’s two extra variables.

    750,000 ‘committed’ CP(B)/SWP members in country with 30 million wage workers and a trade union movement of ? million is a different kettle of fish from an anarchist ‘movement’ of three quarters of a million to two million in a country with 10 million small farms.

    In the case of the UK, the proletariat is the largest single class. This means that party that gained influence amongst a significant number of wage workers, even if they were quite wishy-washy, would have a tremendous social and economic weight.

    As I am sure you know, the anarchist ‘movement’ in Spain was nothing like the CPB or even the SWP. The Spanish economy was different too. Strong urban trade unionism did not translate itself into influence in rural areas in the way it would in a developed economy.

  63. JellyTot on said:

    @42 All that history actually rpoves is that the fascsist were better armed,. better organised, better supported, and won the war.

    Thanks Andy for reminding everybody that the conflict was, primarily, an actual WAR ! Correctly nuanced policy positions don’t count for much when you’re under artillery fire ! The Popular Front and Army were the most realistic option that the anti-fascist side could have followed. In the end, tragically, fascist guns were stronger.

    @73 Ronald Fraser’s “Blood of Spain”

    Superb book – best on the war IMO

  64. #72
    The phrase was not Cockburn’s.
    However, Claud Cockburn was there, nobody on this thread was.
    He was a renowned journalist with an impeccable antifascist pedigree (Editor of The Week etc). thus his 1st hand eyewitness reports must bear a certain credibility compared to the views expressed here.

    On the question of people who perished (at the hands of the GPU, the military authorities or the Republican security bodies) I remain a militant agnostic. I don’t know who was a counter revolutionary and who wasn’t and nor does anyone posting here.

    But only a liberal, a anarchist of the idiot tendency or an innocent will doubt the necessity of maintaining military discipline in a combat situation or when faced with an attempted putsch in the face of a fascist attack.

    Permit a slight expedition into counterfactual speculation. Imagine that the balance of forces in Barcelona had gone the other way and the POUM putsch has succeeded. Would not the repercussions be not ‘bloody and administrative’?

  65. JellyTot on said:

    @42 The anarahcists dio have a point when they are bewildred that Trotskists take different attitides to Krondstadt and Barcelona

    That’s because their man was in the driving seat at Kronstadt.

  66. JellyTot on said:

    @75 On the question of people who perished (at the hands of the GPU, the military authorities or the Republican security bodies) I remain a militant agnostic.

    The non-anarchists on here who moralistically condemn the activities of the GPU in Spain will support the equally “harsh” (to put it mildly) methods of the CHEKA in Russia less than twenty years before ?

  67. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’m interested by JohnG’s statement that the resistance to the July 1936 coup was largely dependent on whether anarchists were the dominant working-class political trend in particular localities.
    I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I’d previously thought that the Spanish anarchism only enjoyed significant popular support in Barcelona/Catalonia.
    Was anarchism widely supported in Madrid, Valencia and the Basque region too? (Genuine question)

  68. Karl Stewart on said:

    On the wider question of the anti-fascist popular front, despite its defeat in Spain, this same policy did defeat Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

  69. George Hallam on said:

    #69 the figure of 725,000 (not 750,000) was based on the assumption that the 5.6 percent increase in turnout between 1933 and 1936 was due entirely to anarchists deciding to participate.

    This is a bit far-fetched.

    The Centre parties got 2 million votes in 1933. This crashed to 450,000 in 1936.

    These voters did not all go the ‘Right’ parties. Their vote increased but only by 634,000.

    Some of these votes would have come from the 300,000 increase in the electorate, but let’s ignore this assume that all 634,000 voters were all former centre-party voters.

    Assuming that this is why the vote for the ‘Right’ increased, where did those 970,000 voters go?

    Turnout increased: so they couldn’t all have stayed at home.

    The obvious explanation is that they voted for the Popular Front and its Catalonian equivalent.

    If so then 6 of 10 of the extra votes for the Popular Front came from former centre-party voters.

    This leaves a maximum of 615,000 putative anarchists, who had abstained in 1933, to make up the balance.

    Of course, all these assumptions can be challenged. Perhaps there are better methods.

    Please feel free to propose them.

    I don’t mind so long as we can get closer to an estimate of the strength of the anarchist movement in Spain in 1936.

    At the very least, we should be able to agree a maximum size of the movement.

    Then, perhaps, you will be able to see why the anarchist failed to hold small towns against the army and the police forces in 1933 and why they weren’t strong enough to account for the failure of the coup across large swaths of Spain in 1936.

  70. #75 But Orwell was also there.

    I don’t think you need to be a paid up Trotskyist to be pretty clear that huge numbers of innocent people perished at the hands of the various security police organisations in the USSR in the ’30s for the crime of having the wrong political line, and nor is it a closed secret that this was imported into Spain.

    You probably need not to be a paid up Trotskyist to acknowledge that this was also happening from around 1919 if not earlier.

    #77 As one of the contributors who referred to the GPU I agree about the double standards. I have long believed that there was an unbroken line from the CHEKA to the GPU and NKVD.

    #78 Yes it was also my understanding that anarchism was predominant in Catalonia and not so much elsewhere but we could both be wrong.

  71. JellyTot on said:

    @82 nor is it a closed secret that this was imported into Spain.

    To listen to some people you’d think that Trotskyites and others the Left side were the ONLY victims of the GPU !

    For every Trot interviewed there were probably 50+ geniune fascists or reactionaries interrogated (the so-called ‘5th Column’).

    It points to their narcissism and feeling of self-importance that they were the primary ‘victims’.

    I have always been opposed to the use of the clumsy term ‘social fascist’ as it was and is inaccurate and doesn’t explain much. However, this was common currency in the 30’s and in the literal life-and-death struggle against fascism, and in the context of the times, it led to excesses and mistakes.

  72. Jimmy (73), I appreciate that you must have read a lot about 1930s Spain and the anti-fascist war. So, I’m sure, have other contributors on this thread from their various perspectives. That is all the more reason why you should give us the benefit of your knowledge, not regurgitate the tired, shallow and loaded cliches that you have picked up in the course of sectarian indoctrination.
    For what’s it worth (ie. probably very little), my first ideas and impressions about the Spanish war were formed when reading Collectives in the Spanish Revolution (Gaston Leval), Orwell and Felix Morrow. A little later, I read the standard pro-CP and pro-Popular Front stuff together with critiques of Orwell and of the Trotskyist analysis, then some of the recent work by liberals such Paul Preston and Rob Stradling. My earliest published articles on Spain reflected that earlier reading, but my views have long since changed – not least after talking in depth with Spanish socialists and communists, International Brigaders etc.
    I’m not saying that proves my standpoint in later life must be correct. But I think it’s important to read all sides and retain one’s critical faculties. Hence my irritation when dogmatic cliches take the place of reasoned argument and evidence – especially when, as in your case, something far more useful and constructive could have been said. Sorry if that sounds patronising, but I’m calling it as I see it.

  73. john Martin on said:

    84 that is the same as me. The first book i ever read about the spanish civil war was homage and the first film i ever saw about it was ken loach’s. I held a completely different view back then to what i do now after reading histories by liberals, social democrats and communists.

    For whom the bell tolls, although literature not history gave a balanced view that although the communists an
    d
    socialists were often more cynical, embittered and even corrupt, their leadership was the only realistic chance of winning the war in comparasion to the overzealous, divisive ultra-left

  74. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    “79. On the wider question of the anti-fascist popular front, despite its defeat in Spain, this same policy did defeat Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.”

    #79 another interpretation not a fact. And a somewhat Stalinist style interpretation at that. Because of the ending of the Revolution in Spain in the May Days 1937 in Barcelona meant that the War between various capitalist powers for the resources of the world would take place at some point in the next period. British and American capitalism armed and financed Hitler, specifically, partly because of the threat of revolution in Germany, which would have come to the revolutionary aid of the Soviet Union if it was successful and also in the hope and expectation that German imperialism under the tutelage of Hitler could be unleashed against the Soviet Union. The arms from Hitler and Mussolini to Franco came indirectly from big business Britain and Americas. While at the same time there was an arms embargo to the Republicans in Spain. In Fact, Spain was a dress rehearsal for the Second World War, Germany tested the military tactics and hardware, the blitzkrieg of Guernica for instance, deployed on a massive scale in the attacks on France, Belgium and particularly in the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941.

    The ‘appeasers’ of the late 1930s to Germany were representatives of British capitalism who attempted to mollify and accommodate the ambitions of Hitler, and German imperialism, when they gave the concessions made over Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement. And of course they were hoping that Hitler would turn his fire power against the Soviet Union. But Hitler’s intervention in Poland was the crossing of the Rubicon for British and French imperialism, as it threatened their profits and resources throughout Eastern Europe.

    Amazingly, and appallingly, as Hitler’s armies were about to crash into Poland, Stalin chose this moment to rush to Hitler’s aid and sign the notorious Hitler-Stalin Pact and eight days later the Nazis launched their attack and the 2nd world war began. Where was the popular front when you need it? Hitler was not ready to take on the Soviet Union and Stalin hoped to insure the Soviet Union against attack from the Nazis. The Pact allowed Hitler to gain control of Poland and then turn west to France and so on. And for two years Hitler waited until there had been enough fire power built so he could attack the Soviet Union to destroy the economic basis of the Soviet Union, the planned economy, and grab its resources particular its oil and grain. Stalin facilitated this task by the whole scale executions of the cream of the Soviet Union’s military general staff in the Purges. Such as the brilliant military strategists like Mikhail Tukachevsky who had earlier anticipated the blitzkrieg tactic as a mean to win military battles.

    The Purges started because the revolution in Spain took an turn forward in 1936, along with the massive strike action in France which could have initiated a revolutionary wave within Europe to provoke the Soviet workers to politically overthrow Stalin and the stifling social bureaucracy that had arisen over the past 15 years or so. That was the reason for the Moscow trials and the death of thousands of Bolshevik revolutionaries in the Soviet Union.

    The war that began in September 1939 was a continuation of the 1914 -18 war. It was a struggle between Anglo-French imperialism on the one side supported by, and eventually drawing in, the new giant of US imperialism, and the Axis powers led by Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Japan for the redivision of the world in their own interests after the economic crash in 1929 and its second dip in 1938.

    Yet the war despite all its brutality did produce the beginnings of a revolutionary wave and enormous radicalisation of the masses initiated by the Italian Revolution of 1943 and the overthrow of Mussolini and his replacement Marshall Badoglio, as well as the struggles of the working class in northern Italy. The Parisian working class took to the streets and erected barricades, in a new Paris Commune, when General de Gaulle was over 50 miles from the capital. Paris was never going to an Allied objective but once the workers rose against their Nazis the Americans rushed de Gaulle in order to prevent Paris liberation becoming the spark for a new French Revolution this time socialist and working class in character. I suggest the marvellous book Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre to see the socialist processes developing at that time in the war; and watch the brilliant film of the same name to feel the revolutionary ethos taking place. Contrast that to the Warsaw Uprising that started three weeks before the Paris Uprising when the Warsaw people heard the guns of the Red Army coming to help them. Stalin ordered the Red Army to stop outside Warsaw until Hitler had put down the uprising because he did not want revolution to infect the Army and turn then against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

    From 1943 onwards to about 1948 a revolutionary wave swept Europe and that includes Britain through the form of a labour Government to the mass radicalisation of French workers, the Greek Revolution, which was sold down the river by Stalin, and elsewhere in the world. Stalin and the bureaucracy were strengthened by the war through the extension in eastern Europe of the planned economy and the victory of the Chinese Revolution but they collaborated with the ‘leaders’ of Social democracy and capitalist reformism to betray the revolutionary movement. Ironically this led to create the political preconditions for the world boom that followed between 1950 and 1975. And I recommend the brilliant work of the late Andrew Glyn on the post war economic period to understand the developments of the boom and its eventual decline.

    Of course all the above will be treated with distain and be called “dogmatic clichés” by individuals like Rob1; so be it. But the lessons of the Spanish Revolution/Civil War and the World wars and the revolutionary movements after need to be discussed and learned as a means to understand that popular front movements, that is worker class movements/parties and bourgeoisie/capitalist parties working together will sow illusions in capitalism and will eventually lead to defeat of the working class movement. Now Mr Newman none of this was cut and pasted, as I never do that anyway, and if you delete this because YOU think this is too long or boring I will be slightly annoyed.

  75. George Hallam on said:

    #86

    “#79 another interpretation not a fact. And a somewhat Stalinist style interpretation at that.”

    Well, that settles that then. Why bother to say any more.

  76. #86 So the defeat of the fascist powers by an alliance of the working class and most of the ruling class in Britain and the USA, the USSR and the resistance movements in the occupied countries (some bourgeois, some communist) was not a fact, but merely an interpretation?

    Jimmy, it’s what happened.

  77. George Hallam on said:

    #85 The first book I ever read about the Spanish Civil War was ‘Biggles in Spain’
    (First published in 1939 Johns, W. E. 1992 edition ISBN 9780099938101)

    I found it a very useful introduction to the topic.

    Politically, Biggles takes a non-intervention line. Though he and his pals meet up with number of British IB volunteers (who are shown in a generally positive light). Ginger actually joins the Republican air force.

    Barcelona is portrayed as being full of spies. The main villain is an evil Republican security policeman. Interestingly Johns made him Spanish not Russian.

    Spoiler warning.
    I hope it won’t spoil the story if I say that he turns out to be a fascist fifth columnist.

    I remember being disappointed that Johns was rather vague about the aircraft types used and their characteristics. – but then I was only twelve.

    The best thing about the book is that it makes no pretence that it is anything other than fiction.

  78. George Hallam on said:

    The first non-fiction work on the Spanish Civil War I remember reading was an account of the 1936 siege of the Toledo Alcázar that was run as a serial in “The Eagle”.

    I can’t recall it very well, though there were lots of technical details about the mining of the walls. In think it tried to be politically balanced though I imagine that this favoured the Fascists.

  79. George Hallam on said:

    #91

    Sorry, my memory fails me.

    I could guess that, with his background, he would support the POUM, but it’s so unfair to stereotype people, don’t you think.

  80. The Lies of Stalinism on said:

    #89 `#86 So the defeat of the fascist powers by an alliance of the working class and most of the ruling class in Britain and the USA, the USSR and the resistance movements in the occupied countries (some bourgeois, some communist) was not a fact, but merely an interpretation?

    Jimmy, it’s what happened.’

    Comment by Vanya — 24 October, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    That isn’t what happened though is it? Britain and the US weren’t fighting fascism they were fighting Germany, Italy et al and there was no alliance with the working class unless you call complete subordination an alliance. Britain was fighting, unsuccessfully, to save its empire whilst the US was, successfully, trying to establish its hegemony over the Western imperialist world. There was a temporary alliance with Stalin of course which rapidly degenerated into the Cold War but that can hardly be described as an alliance with the working class either can it?

  81. #92 In the USA and Britain the organisations of the working class supported the war effort agianst the fascist powers. In Britain the Labour Party, supported by the Trade Unions, was in the government.

    Given that the bourgeoisie held state power and controlled the economy (a common feature of capitalism) any alliance would put the working class in a subordinate position. That does not stop it from being an alliance.

    Trotskyists didn’t agree with this, and still wish that things had been done differently. But they weren’t.

    Whether we dispute that the ruling class saw this as fighting fascism or not, it is indisputable that they were fighting the fascist powers.

    And yes after the common enemy was defeated, Stalin and the western powers fell out. Which proves what exactly?

  82. Auntie Vanya on said:

    #95 `Given that the bourgeoisie held state power and controlled the economy (a common feature of capitalism) any alliance would put the working class in a subordinate position. That does not stop it from being an alliance.’

    Of course it does wing nut. What you call an alliance is the complete subordination of the proletarian policy to that of the `democratic’ imperialist powers. Lenin and the Bolsheviks developed an independent proletarian policy during WW1. Trotsky developed it for WW2. Stalin ditched it in the 20s and forever thereafter in the same way the social collaborators of the Second International ditched it in 1914 after which they became the bigger schills for imperialist war than the imperialists themselves culminating in the logic of Tony Blair and his Stalinist chum Alastair Campbell walking into Iraq next to the neo-con George W. Was that some kind of alliance between the workers and the imperialist capitalists. An alliance of the slave with the slave owner for his own enslavement if it was.

  83. Jellytot on said:

    @96 Trotsky developed it for WW2.

    Would that been the “proletarian military policy”?

    Thankfully that never had any bearing on WW2. It would have meant sabotage of Allied war industries and the formentation of muntinies among allied soldiers by Trotskyite elements.

    There was sabotage during the war but thankfully it involved German war industry and was carried out mainly by the “Ost arbeiter” – press-ganged Eastern workers, some of whom would have been Communists.

  84. Jellytot on said:

    @86 Stalin ordered the Red Army to stop outside Warsaw until Hitler had put down the uprising because he did not want revolution to infect the Army and turn then against the Stalinist bureaucracy.

    Never heard that interpretation before of the reasons behind the halt before Warsaw.

    Are you pulling this stuff out of your arse ?

  85. George Hallam on said:

    Enough of the persiflage, let’s get back to the discussion on anarchism.

    Back at post 50 I made the point that the “strength of anarchist movement in Spain is overestimated. Experience showed that it was not strong enough to sustain insurrections against the Spanish state prior to 1936.” And so “Why should the [anarchist] movement have had the strength of defeat a united military coup”?

    Johngd immediately dismissed this in post 51
    “The argument about failure to sustain an insurrection is not very compelling. The same could be said of anyone it is not an indication of the absence of a very substantial tradition.”

    To clarify: when I said “the strength of anarchist movement in Spain” I was referring to its corporeal strength in bodily, material and more specifically military sense. I was not suggesting that the anarchist tradition in Spain was weak.

    I like the idea that one can dismiss a string of military/political failures as an indication of weakness on the grounds that “The same could be said of anyone”.
    In a strange way I feel flattered. I want to nod sagely in agreement and say,
    “Well, we’ve all launched unsuccessful insurrection, haven’t we.”

    [The customary, “You win some: you lose some” doesn’t quite work in this case.]

    The urge is almost irresistible.

    But only almost, because: no, this can’t be truthful said of just anyone.
    While, on a world scale coups and insurrections are a common enough occurrence, very few people or groups are involved in actually initiating them.
    Spanish anarchists in the first half of the Twentieth Century were exceptional in their alacrity in launching insurrections.

    There is no denying that the anarchists were very game in taking on the army, Civil Guard, etc. I would not for a moment doubt their courage, far from it. The problem was they weren’t very good at winning. I suggest that if they did start ending up on the winning side something must have changed.

    Finding out what factors were involved investigating the concrete circumstances of each engagement.

  86. #96 So you think that the overthrow of the fascist powers was not in itself in the interests of the working class?

    And you think that the defeat of those powers can be compared with the imperialist intervention in Iraq?

    The first would have objectively put you in the camp of fascism, where in fact the overhelming majority of trotskyists refused to put themselves.

    The second puts you objectively in the camp of the neo-cons who argued precisely that analogy to help justify the war against Iraq.

    And you can rant and rave and insult as much as you like. But there you are.

  87. Another example out leftie outsiders coming into an area trying to stir up the population for their own ends. They should have petitioned the local council for a ban on the Falange.

  88. Uncle Albert on said:

    #96 “… complete subordination… ”

    That’s toy-town nonsense. And assumes the subordinated relationship achieved a stability which did not exist. In fact the relationship was a compromise and, generally, worked to the advantage of all parties. It’s just like Spinoza said, the subordinated partner/s “never transferred their right or surrendered their power so completely that they were not feared by those very persons who received their right and power… “

  89. prianikoff on said:

    Jellytot # 98
    “Never heard that interpretation before of the reasons behind the halt before Warsaw.”

    You’re extremely ill informed in that case, because it’s been widely written about and debated.

    For example:-

    Zygmunt Zaremba, The Warsaw Commune, Betrayed by Stalin, Massacred by Hitler

    An account of the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Nazis by a leading participant. Includes for the first time in English the political programme adopted by the Commune.
    45 pages, £3.00
    Published in 1997 by Socialist Platform Ltd, BCM 7646, London, WC1N 3XX

    A review of the above by Jim Higgins (also of a pamphlet on the Asturias Miners’ Uprising in 1934)

    http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists/archive/higgins/2002/xx/asturwarsaw.htm

  90. Its History Stupid on said:

    #95 You don’t seem to know much about history do you ?
    Its true the vast majority of workers were in favour of the military defeat of fascism,but that is not the same as support for how the war was carried out.
    Many British workers were very wary of a right winger like Churchill who they remembered as the man who sent armed troops to crush South Wales Miners and whom was supportive of Mussolini being suddenly now anti fascist’
    Also the support given to the US and British war effort by the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour Party was resented by many militants because it entailed a strike ban,which allowed employers to undermine terms and conditions and to make enhanced war profits.
    In the US many on the left felt it was hypocrisy for the US to claim to be fighting in defence of ‘democracy’ when large number of black people were effectively disenfranchised and the army was segregated.
    I suggest you read CLR James writings on Fighting racism in World war 2 or Crouchers excellent book Engineers at War.
    Both give a much more critical picture of how workers viewed the war against fascism.
    There seems to be a strange nostalgia here by some based on a rose tinted view of how the War was fought.
    If the ruling class as Vanya claims were fighting fascism its odd that they did nothing to remove Franco or Salazar and were prepared to do deals with Italian fascists to get rid of Mussolini. This would of course include many elements of the ruling class who gave tacit support to Mosley and who had no problem with the Daily Mails ‘Hurray for the Blackshirts’position.What they were interested in was defending their economic interests . Hitler had been in power for 6 years and Mussolini for 17 by the time of the start of the war. Whilst sections of the ruling class may have disapproved of some aspects of fascist rule ( many openly admired it ) it was only when the fascist regimes threatened Britains imperial interests that war became likley. And as we know the British ruling class was prepared to go to enormous lengths to appease Hitler.
    The faith Vanya you have in the British Ruling class’s ‘anti fascism’ is touching but hopelessly misplaced

    That Stalin deliberately let the Nazis massacre the Warsaw rising is a matter of historical record ,though I look forward to Jellytots defence of the Hitler /Stalin pact or have you already done so !

  91. Jellytot on said:

    @103 Its true the vast majority of workers were in favour of the military defeat of fascism,but that is not the same as support for how the war was carried out

    That could well be true but if you tried to encourage those workers to (literally) put a spanner in the works in their tank factory you’d be given short shrift and, quite righty, get yourself arrested.

    It’s not about having “faith” in anybody. It is about recognising who the main enemy is and uniting to defeat it.

    There’s no middle way.

    though I look forward to Jellytots defence of the Hitler /Stalin pact or have you already done so

    There was an interesting debate a few months ago on here. Powerful arguments were put forward to counter the hysterical Trotskyite condemnations of the Pact; condemnations that where familiar to the criticisms by the Macarthyites of the fifties.

  92. ‘In the US many on the left felt it was hypocrisy for the US to claim to be fighting in defence of ‘democracy’ when large number of black people were effectively disenfranchised and the army was segregated.’

    Yes and this was a good point to make, even though Goering also made it at Nurenburg trial.

    And don’t forget that many of those fighting for civil rights and against segragation in the US Army were those horrible stalinists.

    It still begs the question of whether the working class had a vested interest in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

    Why do so many trotskyists skirt around the question? It’s not a hard one is it?

  93. George Hallam on said:

    #104

    This is some way from the Spanish Civil War, but I must say that the thing I enjoy/find compelling about this site is the way people free to make the most sweeping statements without regard to the evidence.

    For example:

    “That Stalin deliberately let the Nazis massacre the Warsaw rising is a matter of historical record”.

    To be able to say this with any certainy we would have to know:

    a) Stalin’s intentions,
    b) the military fesibility of the Red Army taking Warsaw. Even if we ignore the outcome of the battle of Radzymin (1st – 10th August 1944) there are still some important logistical issues to be addressed.

    Neither of these things are a matter of historial record.

  94. #104

    I look forward to Jellytots defence of the Hitler /Stalin pact or have you already done so !

    In fact, the pact with the Devil that the USSR signed with Hitler was indispensible in buying time for rearmament.

    According to Walter Dunn’s “The Soviet economy and the Red Army 1930 to 1945″, a book by an American academic more inerested in the military than in politics, from January 1939 to June 22nd 1941, the Red Army received 82000 new artillery pieces and morters, 7000 more tanks, and 18000 new combat aircraft.

    the third five year plan under Voznesenskii started in 1938 was extremely successful in bringing on line new American capital plant and factories, and the imbalances between raw material supplies and industrial requirements had been brought into equilibrium by summer of 1940, providing the industrial capacity for the mammoth military production during the war years. By 1941 Soviet armaments production was more efficient, better tooled and had higher throughput than their German competitors, what is more, a lot of it had been moved east of the Urals.

    In 1939, much of the industrial capacity for war production was still not on line, and there were serious skilled labour shortages and fuel shortages – the extra time gained by the Molotov pact really did provide the foundation for the future sucess of the Red Army.

  95. #104

    Its true the vast majority of workers were in favour of the military defeat of fascism,but that is not the same as support for how the war was carried out.

    Well certainly the Communist party did not support the way the war was caried out, hence the significant campaign for a second front in Europe.

  96. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “I could always put my History dissertation of 15,000 words on the Spanish Revolution/Civil war I wrote in my final year of my first degree in 1995/96″

    I am not so sure that an undergraduate paper on the War would be of much interest (for the record I once wrote an undergraduate thesis on the class composition of IB volunteers from the UK — I am sure its quite unreadable).

  97. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “In fact, the pact with the Devil that the USSR signed with Hitler was indispensible in buying time for rearmament.”

    Of course if Stalin had not liquidated a huge portion of the Red Army’s officers the USSR might have been more prepared for war. As an aside, was it also indispensable to annex the portions of Poland that the USSR invaded? Let us not also forget the German–Soviet Trade and Credit Agreement which followed the Pact — if Stalin was trying to buy time it seems to have been unwise to also help his “enemy”.

  98. George Hallam on said:

    #111
    “Of course if Stalin had not liquidated a huge portion of the Red Army’s officers the USSR might have been more prepared for war.”

    Yet another example of a sweeping statement made without regard to the evidence.

    Even if what you said was true it all happened in 1937-38. This was three or four years before the Nazi invasion of 1941, i.e. almost as long as the Soviet-German War itself. As Molesworth would say, “any fule kno that this was more than enough time to overcome any putative loss of expertise.”

    It was obvious to observers at the time that the Soviets expanded their military forces in the period 1938 -41. Many had doubts about their quality but this was not new: most pre-war Western commentators had always doubted Soviet military capabilities.

    Post-1945 and prior to 1956, some Western military writers speculated that the military ‘purges’ had strengthen, rather than weakened, the Soviet military.

    The image of the Stalin slaughtering his officer corps was largely a product of the Cold War.

    But that is all old hat.

    Since 1991 historians have had access to the Soviet archives and we now have an accurate estimate of the actual numbers of officers dismissed and arrested.

    On the basis of this documentary evidence we can say with some certainty that:

    a) those dismissed did not form a “huge portion” of the RKKA’s officer corps
    b) ‘dismissed’ did not equal ‘arrested’
    c) ‘arrested’ did not ‘liquidated’

    Anyone who is interested in the evidence could try reading Roger R. Reese “The Red Army and the Great Purges” in ‘Stalinist Terror’ (1993) J, Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning.

  99. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    ““any fule kno that this was more than enough time to overcome any putative loss of expertise.” ”

    I can only assume that you’ve never served in the military.

  100. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Of course, the purge impacted the most senior officers most: 3 of 5 marshals, 13 of 15 army group commanders, 50 of 57 army corps commanders and 150 or so of 190 division commanders.

    But I am sure they could all be replaced in 3-4 years of peace time — “more than enough time” I am sure.

  101. #112

    Yes indeed, that is a very useful article by Reese. He points out that the impact on the army was overestimated by Western historians, not least because they underestimated the size of the offcier corps, and also because many of the officers were rapidly rehabilitated and reinstated.

    We know that the Red Army’s own assessment of the first Finnish war was that their difficluties were caused by poor planning of supply lines, and that the command structure worked well.

    Of course none of this is to in any way justify or condone the Great Terror, but let us not perpetuate cold war myths.

  102. #111

    Let us not also forget the German–Soviet Trade and Credit Agreement which followed the Pact — if Stalin was trying to buy time it seems to have been unwise to also help his “enemy”.

    Trade between the USSR and Germany was seen by Stalin as a move that would make war less likely.

    You don’t have to be a support of Stalin to understand his rationality.

  103. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Simple arithmetic — dividing the number of those purged by the total number of officers is misleading as — as I note above — the purge affected the higher ranking officers disproportionally.

  104. #117

    Indeed, the higher ranks of the officer corps were decimated. Nevertheless, history shows that oveer the longer term the Red Army did prevail over the Nazi invadors.

    The disparity between the real scale of the purge and that reported by Western historians is however remarkable. Reese convincingly shows that in its worst year 7.7% of the officer corps were discharged (although many rehabilitated and readmitted); whereas Service reports this as 50%, and implies they were killed or disappeared.

  105. Karl Stewart on said:

    The problem is that if one deviates in the slightest from the “officially approved” version of history, then one is immediately attacked as a “stalinist.”

    The facts are that the policy of the united anti-fascist front, which was adopted by the international communist movement in 1935, suceeded in its aim of defeating nazisim and fascism.

    In 1945, 10 years after the strategy had been adopted, fascism and nazism had been utterly defeated, the working class movement had been immeasurably strengthened,and in those countries where capitalism remained in power, the ruling class was forced to concede unprecedented social and welfare gains to the working class.

    The policy was undoubtedly a successful one and, even today, when organised fascism raises its head, then those same basic principles – of building the broadest possible alliance against a specific danger – are almost always applied.

    Experience has proved that, while this strategy of the broadest possible unity is not the best strategy to deal with everything, it is the best proven strategy for fighting fascism.

    However, it’s not a completely infallible strategy and yes, the anti-fascist forces were ultimately defeated in Spain. But this was due to other factors.

  106. UTistheSWPsbestadvert on said:

    #96 Has the undertaker decided that even he is an embarassment to himself and the SWP and gone deep undercover and reinvented himself as an Auntie?

    Spy in the house of love or more like tinker, tailor, soldier, Div!

  107. Uncle Joe on said:

    #116

    `#111

    `Let us not also forget the German–Soviet Trade and Credit Agreement which followed the Pact — if Stalin was trying to buy time it seems to have been unwise to also help his “enemy”.

    `Trade between the USSR and Germany was seen by Stalin as a move that would make war less likely.

    You don’t have to be a support of Stalin to understand his rationality.’

    Comment by Andy Newman — 25 October, 2011 @ 12:42 am

    Stalin invited Hitler to move his concentration camps east and gave him political cover to do so.

  108. #121

    Well given that the USSR did not have the military capacity to fight Hitler in 1939, then I don’t know what you are suggesting.

    Generally, it is good statecraft to avoid war with uncertain outcome that may devour your country, and lead to it being subjugated to a Nazi invader.

  109. Given the typically ultra left hostility to the ‘officer corps’ of the labour movement i.e. full time trade union officials– is this interest in the integrity of the Soviet military leadership a sign that knee jerk ‘rank-and-filism’ is becoming less fashionable? Or do they think that – like the Catalonian anarchists – that the class struggle is best conducted with spontaneity and individual discretion.

  110. prianikoff on said:

    #112 J.Arch Getty is a revisionist historian who argues that the Stalinist Purges weren’t centrally planned.
    -almost that they were some kind of spontaneous movement from below.
    His views are often described as ‘controversial’.
    A more appropriate term might be ludicrous.

    The 1935 turn in the policy of the Comintern was not as Karl Stewart presents it here.
    First of all, there is the little matter of the Molotov-RIbbentrop Pact, which stands out like a sore thumb right in the middle of the period between 1935-45.

    The Poles and the ethnic minorities who suffered after the partition of Poland had little reason to be grateful for it.
    Nor is it clear that it “bought the USSR time”.

    The Nazis weren’t ready to attack the USSR in 1939 and all the evidence is that Stalin wasn’t expecting an attack in 1941.
    So the defeat suffered by the Red Army in 1941 was far more serious than would have been the case in an organised strategic retreat.
    It was more like a rout; hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops were killed and taken prisoner, large amounts of equipment were lost, food growing and mining areas captured by the Nazis
    The transfer of Soviet Industries across the Urals had not been completed before Barbarossa.
    It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that the Soviet Air force began to reappear in numbers west of Moscow.

    Then there’s the question of what the policy actually represented;
    The Comintern’s official line under Dimitrov may have born a superficial resemblance to the “United Front of the Workers Parties” that Trotsky had proposed since before the German defeat.
    But the Stalinist bureaucracy often imitated policies first proposed by the left Opposition, to cover its rightward historical trajectory; from internationalism to bureaucratic nationalism and the restoration of capitalism.
    The 1935 turn rapidly evolved into a “Popular Front” that tied the workers parties to their own ruling classes.
    It made their made their policies subservient to the alliance with the Bourgeois Democracies.

    This was refected in the CPGB’s vacillations before the War Started.
    Pollitt’s dismissal from the leadership and Dutt’s hardline anti-war position after the Pact was announced were two sides of a debased coin.
    Once Britain enterred the War the CPGB gave slavish support to Churchill and the National Government.
    To the extent that DN.Pritt’s called for unofficial strikers and the Trotskyists who supported them to be jailed.
    The line had particularly damaging consequences in France, Italy and Greece at the end of the war.
    By then the Comintern had been dissolved in the interests of the wartime alliance with Churchill and Roosevelt.

  111. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “Given the typically ultra left hostility to the ‘officer corps’ of the labour movement i.e. full time trade union officials– is this interest in the integrity of the Soviet military leadership a sign that knee jerk ‘rank-and-filism’ is becoming less fashionable?”

    I’ve never had a problem with TU full timers; but then I’ve never been accused of being ultra-left either.

  112. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “to the extent that DN.Pritt’s called for unofficial strikers and the Trotskyists who supported them to be jailed.”

    One of the mines that struck was Betteshanger Colliery in Kent; the Kent NUM was then and remained til the area’s closures a CPGB stronghold.

  113. The motives behind Soviet policy between August 1939 and June 1941 were complex, and so were the outcomes. The Soviet leadership knew that war with Germany was virtually inevitable, and that it was not ready for it in 1939. Given that the attempts to get agreement on collective security and collective defence up to 1939 had failed, the only sensible way to try to postpone the war was to cut a deal directly with Germany. The carve-up of Poland, and the annexation of the Baltic states and Bessarabia etc. was partly strategic, partly a matter of national/imperial pride for the Russians (regaining territory lost after 1917), and partly about ensuring that national groups did not straddle Soviet borders, which was always a worry for Stalin (Koreans, Karelians and others were deported into the interior in the late 1930s in an attempt to avoid cross-border ideological contamination). The Winter War with Finland was aimed at removing the border away from Leningrad, as well as an attempt to punish the Finns for having the temerity to reject Soviet demands, unlike the Baltic states.

    The outcome was very mixed. The Germans had further to go before they reached the Soviet interior. The time bought was crucial overall. But Soviet keenness to keep the pact operative for as long as possible made them reluctant to appear to mobilise for war, which accentuated the initial losses. The redrawn border with Finland was worse than useless, in that it ensured Finnish participation in the war on the German side, making the encirclement of Leningrad that much easier. Similarly, the territories annexed from Romania gained the USSR nothing but Romanian hostility and a particularly grim theatre of war in the South West. Later on of course, the USSR was able to insist on its June 1941 borders in the post-war carve-up. Further into the future, the simmering resentment of the Poles over Soviet brutality in 1939-41 and the massacre of many Polish officers was a major factor in the eventual breakup of the system of satellite states in Eastern Europe,

    Overall then, it is a bit pointless to argue over whether the Stalin-Hitler pact was “a good thing” or “a bad thing”. Some kind of deal with Hitler was necessary, given the state of Soviet military preparedness in 1939. The way the Soviet leadership used that breathing space was certainly not always wise, and very rarely humane.

  114. prianikoff on said:

    #126 The CP always retained a strong position in the local Union committee, as they did in most mining areas, but it wasn’t a monolithic grouping by any means.

    During the Miners’ strikes in the 1970’s hundreds of copies of ‘Socialist Worker’ were sold at Betteshanger Colliery every week. Quite a few rank and file miners joined the IS and some of them later held official positions in the union.
    The East Kent Area President Jack Collins was always quite friendly to the IMG and the LPYS -Militant had supporters in the East Kent pits.

    You would have found it very hard to find any miner who didn’t support the Wartime strike, as many of their fathers and uncles had been out and some of them were jailed.
    The national line of the CPGB was to oppose unofficial strikes, but the CP at Betteshanger didn’t push itm because to do so would have meant losing support. In fact, quite a lot of CP members and sympathisers struck and joined the picket of the jail in Canterbury.

  115. #128

    Tends to show that it’s important not to be over-simplistic about these things.

    The most hostile anti-NUM response I ever got during the 84-85 strike was as a student at Essex while getting something from a shop in Wivenhoe (wher the docks were being picketed) wearing a Support the Kent Miners badge. The woman behind the till came out with a load about how these people had gone out on strike while her dad was fighting the Germans.

    Looking back I suppose this stuff may have been whipped up by the press, but it was interesting how passionate she seemed about it.

    (For the avoidance of doubt that was purely an ancedote, not a point one way or the other on the discussion!)

  116. The Undertaker on said:

    Who can forget the marvellous internationalist position adopted by the paper of the British Communist Party on the issue of the use of nuclear weapons on the by then effectively defeated state of Japan.
    You know Jelly/Andy and the rst of you Stalinist apologists the little bombs that incinerated tens of thousands of Japanese civilians in the defenceless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki now what was it now ?

    Oh yes it was to call for the ‘Employment of the new weapon on a substantial scale’ and for good measure it referred ( in a non racist way of course ) to the ‘japs’
    and on the eve of the bombing of Nagasaki the Daily Worker carried a delightful cartoon of a swarm of bombers dropping bombs labelled ‘ATOM Bombs’ with the truly socialist message ,designed to extent the hand of fraternity to the oppressed workers of Japan,’Surrender or Die’
    Oh happy days eh Jelly ,but he’ll probably denounce the condemnation of the use of these weapons as ‘Trotskite Hysteria’ and you wonder why the tradition you belong to likened to syphillis
    I look forward to Field Marshall Newman of the GMB telling us how necessary the levelling of these two cities were.

  117. Jellytot on said:

    @131 Overall then, it is a bit pointless to argue over whether the Stalin-Hitler pact was “a good thing” or “a bad thing”. Some kind of deal with Hitler was necessary, given the state of Soviet military preparedness in 1939. The way the Soviet leadership used that breathing space was certainly not always wise, and very rarely humane.

    Good point and the fairest summation

    @131 You know Jelly/Andy and the rst of you Stalinist apologists the little bombs that incinerated tens of thousands of Japanese civilians in the defenceless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki now what was it now ?

    I am not a ‘Stalinist’ (indeed being one in 2011 is as pointless as being a Trot or and Leninist IMO) and I neither know or care what the “Stalinist” line is on the atomic bombings of 1945.

    As somebody who has been to both Nagasaki and Hiroshima (in the later elderly, scarred survivors were visible on the streets) I personally regard them as appalling acts, which I suspect may have had as much to do with sending ‘warning shots’ to the Soviet Union as finishing off Japan. That stated, they did have the desired effect.

  118. #124

    Arch Getty is a revisionist historian who argues that the Stalinist Purges weren’t centrally planned.

    Absolute nonsense.

    The 1999 book “The Road to Terror” co-authored with Oleg Naumov extensivley includes translations of hundreds of complete archive documents to establish the foundations of his analysis; and in particular Getty argues in the preface:

    “Stalin’s guilt for the terror was never in question. We can now see his fingerprints al over the archives. Although he approved suggestions and draft documents from others as often as he launched his own initiatives, he played the leading role in the terror”

    What Getty argues is that there was no “master plan” behind the terror, but rather that Stalin muddles along, using terror to consolidate his position.

    The reason that Getty is controverisal among Trotskyists is that Getty establishes with enormous amounts of hard historical evidence that the terror was a mass popular phenomonon which hundreds of thousands of Communiat Party members particiapted in. Furthermore, Getty argues, somewhat convincingly, that the ideology of Leninist Marxism, based as it is on an assumption that there is a correct line (which is often textually based and to follow it requires careful analysis of exact turns of phrase); and categorisation/demonisation of opponents, under certain historical circumstances can become akin to a deliberately constructed ruling ideology that can justify terror.

  119. Jellytot on said:

    @124 To the extent that DN.Pritt’s called for unofficial strikers and the Trotskyists who supported them to be jailed.

    Having read the Goebbels Diaries, and noted with interest the excitment with which he greated news of the strikes in America and Britain in 1944/45, I’d say Pritt was correct.

  120. #124

    But the Stalinist bureaucracy often imitated policies first proposed by the left Opposition, to cover its rightward historical trajectory

    Or alternatively, we could use this same evidence to argue that there was little substantial policy difference between Stalin and the Left Opposition

  121. “I am not a ‘Stalinist’ (indeed being one in 2011 is as pointless as being a Trot or and Leninist IMO) and I neither know or care what the “Stalinist” line is on the atomic bombings of 1945.

    As somebody who has been to both Nagasaki and Hiroshima (in the later elderly, scarred survivors were visible on the streets) I personally regard them as appalling acts, which I suspect may have had as much to do with sending ‘warning shots’ to the Soviet Union as finishing off Japan. That stated, they did have the desired effect.”

    JT, apart from the fact I have never visited Japan I concur fully with what you have written there.

    I also concur with you on what Francis wrote. Thiere’s a lot to be said for not being in a Leninist box, whichever one it might be.

  122. #135 Well the best position Trotsky took was for the United Front and against 3rd Period sectarian leftism in Germany, his line on Spain had much in common with that same 3rd Period position, the POUM were in fact closer to the Right Opposition whose German elements (SAP and Bradlerites) had also opposed the 3rd Period, and who supplied the majority of foreign fighters in the POUM militias.

    Trotsky wanted the POUM to follow a MORE leftist position.

    The reality is that Trotsky and Lenin bore as much responsibility for fostering ultra-leftism in Germany as Stalin by imposing a sectarian position on the KPD and all other affiliates to the Comintern.

    Even though they knew that ultra-leftism was playing a disastrous role in Germany in the 20s, they put the interests of maitaining a homogenous party loyal to a Moscow dominated Comintern before that of uniting the best elements of socialist working class politics.

  123. Uncle Joe on said:

    #137 You are just full of shit aren’t you? Prejudiced and unsubstantiated opinion from a Stalinist opponent of radical socialism. `The reality is…’ What the fuck do you know about reality you curdle brained trollope?

    As for Newman we expect no less from this public school trained, low grade trade union bureaucrat champion of anti-Marxist Gramscian waffle and intellecualised Stalinist garbage.

  124. #138 Not one substantive point there. Just bizzare insults you useless tosser.

    Why don’t you fuck off and bore everyone somewhere else?

  125. Jellytot on said:

    @138 trollope

    There’s a term you don’t hear much anymore.

    intellecualised Stalinist garbage

    “garbage” which has knocked your arguments for six Undertaker :-)

  126. #139 I know, but as we are discussing Spain I thought we might as well go onto Germany which is nearer than the USSR was :)

  127. prianikoff on said:

    Of course the Betteshanger miners won their dispute.
    All the prison sentences were dropped and only 9 miners ever paid their fines.

    In 1944, miners in Scotland, Yorkshire and South Wales also took strike action against low pay.
    This forced the Government and coal owners to agree to a national minimum wage which lifted mineworkers from eighty-first to fourteenth place in the wages league.

    In 1942 6,000 Vickers shipyard workers at Barrow struck against terrible working conditions and piece work, calling on the trade union movement to support them.
    The recently legalised Daily Worker printed a story saying. “Barrow has become a cockpit of Trotskyist agitation”.

    On Tyneside at the beginning of 1943, workers at the Neptune ship repair yard came out for six weeks over the refusal of five men at their firm to join the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
    They received massive support from workers in other firms and trades, forcing the employers to concede a closed shop agreement and setting a national precedent.

    Important victories were also won at Rolls Royce Glasgow, when a WIL steward was dismissed, at Chryslers and amongst the Engineering Apprentices.
    These organised around a Charter of Union rights, striking for better pay and conditions and against industrial conscription during the “Bevin Boys” strike.
    3 WIL members were arrested in the course of the latter dispute, but freed after a campaign in their support.

    The number of strikes increased as the war progressed, reaching a record 2,194 stoppages with 3,700,000 days lost in 1944.

    During the Spring of 1943, soldiers serving in the 8th Army responded to pressure on them to denounce strikes back home.
    The 8th Army News ran an article headlined “The Right to Strike is one of the Freedoms we fight for”.

  128. Why not try France? That’s even nearer, and another good subject for lots of set-piece 3rd vs 4th International grandstanding. (Cue music: “Let’s do the Timewarp again…”)

  129. Uncle Joe on said:

    #140 `Why don’t you fuck off and bore everyone somewhere else?’

    You are the bore of this blog you stalinist twerp.

  130. prianikoff on said:

    #133 “What Getty argues is that there was no “master plan” behind the terror, but rather that Stalin muddles along, using terror to consolidate his position.”

    Harry Wicks in his memoirs “Keeping my Head”, made the point that the “Chitska” (purge) began when he was at the International Lenin School in Moscow in 1927. Stalin himself visited the school in order to get the Red Professors to write factional material against Trotsky and his supporters.

    Then a campaign of intimidation was launched at Party Meetings, during which Oppositionists were shouted down. Things got much worse after the Kirov assassination, leading to expulsions, exile and actual acts of violence between party members.
    Once that had happened, there was precedent for the wave of terror that engulfed the Party in 1937.

    It’s hardly surprising that Getty discovered local party documents that called for stiff penalties against oppositionists.
    Witch-hunts always create an atmosphere of mass hysteria and local petty apparatchiks who try to outbid each other to prove their loyalty to the leadership.

    All this proves is that very few people have the courage to swim against the stream in such situations; it says nothing about the authenticity of their views, or whether they’re being politically manipulated.

  131. ‘During the Spring of 1943, soldiers serving in the 8th Army responded to pressure on them to denounce strikes back home.
    The 8th Army News ran an article headlined “The Right to Strike is one of the Freedoms we fight for”.’

    Yes, Stalinist that I am, I referred to that on another recent thread that discussed WW2.

  132. #146 I wonder if it was worse to be caught up in repression following the asassination of Kirov or the attempted assasination of Lenin?

  133. prianikoff on said:

    “Uncle Joe” seems to want to raise the factional atmosphere by resorting to personal insults.
    He may just be rather immature, but it makes me doubt his authenticity as a socialist.

  134. #150 I agree, I won’t be responding to him further, or to his various other identities- Jon H etc

  135. prianikoff on said:

    #148-9 The point is, in the period 1927-37 there was no need to launch a wave of terror, least of all an internal one inside the party.
    When Lenin was shot by the SR Fanya Kaplan, the country was still at war and the internal Civil War was raging.
    Take a look at the measures that the USA took against those alleged to have been involved in Lincoln’s assassination sometime, including Mary Surratt, who probably was innocent. Not very pretty.

    The Terror of the 1930’s was of a completely different character and designed to draw a line between the Stalinist bureaucracy and early Bolshevism. It was completely reactionary in form, even if it didn’t succeed in overthrowing all the social foundations that 1917 had created.

    Certainly it’s true that the failure to reintroduce the right of tendencies to exist in the party and to develop a New Course in the economy made it easier for Stalin to pervert the institutions of state.
    But that was a criticism that Trotsky made at the time.
    So it’s just not valid to draw an equals sign between his policies and Stalin’s, or to say it was just a matter of personalities.

    That is a totally superficial analysis.
    Trotsky wanted Soviet society to democratize and for the economy to be run on the basis of workers control.
    Stalin wanted to use rigid centralised planning and enforce it by the use of Terror.
    These were completely different policies and they represented the interests of different strata in Soviet Society.

  136. # 148 PS: I remember seeing an interview on Russian TV in the early 1990s with an old ex-NKVD man, who recalled that when the new regulations on arrest and interrogation came out at the end of 1934, his colleagues remarked that it was just like 1920 again…

  137. #153 The primary difference was precisely that in the main the victims in the 30s were party members because by then there were no other parties to oppress as they had all been banned as a consequence of the civil war which the Bolshevik revolution precipitated.

    My view is that the revolution was a tragic error and that had they been aware of the outcome, only those with a Pol Pot mentality would have agreed with it (Stalin was quite reluctant btw).

    But once it had happened someone had to keep it going in the face of massive imperialist opposition.

    Trotsky had the benefit of being relieved of that responsibility. How he would have behaved in power we only have the ruthless manner he pursued his responsibilities when he had them to base our judgement.

    A repressive one party state was already in existence and if Trotsky et al were primarally concerned about that, they could have made an alliance with Bukharin and others in defence of what democracy was left, but refused to do so.

  138. Jellytot on said:

    @153 The Terror of the 1930’s was of a completely different character and designed to draw a line between the Stalinist bureaucracy and early Bolshevism.

    I am in no way am defending the Terror (as I also wouldn’t defend the terror enacted earlier during Lenin’s rule), but it had as much to do with ‘tenor of the times’ with the growing external threat of an expansionist Nazi regime and the coming war (and the paranoia it engendered), the internal pressures of rapid industrialisation and the deep, in-built fault lines in the Leninist Party model, which seems to almost encourage factions and splits.

    This idea of Stalin being some ‘pantomime bad guy’ who had some long term “evil” master plan is way off the mark.

    It was completely reactionary in form, even if it didn’t succeed in overthrowing all the social foundations that 1917 had created.

    “Degenerated Workers State” caveat

  139. The Undertaker on said:

    Hey talk about hegemony old jelly gets his stalinist knickers in a twist yet again.
    Sorry to disappoint Im not uncle Joe must say Im warming to him/her seems to have the measure of you pseudo intellectuals and your oh so profound analysis of 20th century marxism .l suppose there’s little scope for such ‘debate’ in red eds labour party or in respect if ypur can find a functioning branch.Even less l assume in the solitude that is jellys sad existence.
    Yes Lenin and trotsky were responsible for everything with their damn insistence on international revolution.Why oh why didn’t they just leave it Mr kerensky because we all know ( well at least the half dozen who post on here) that the bolshevik revolution led directly to the gas chambers.
    And the SWP is responsible for global warming and the world crisis .
    Now where’s that dog whistle
    ever get a reply to your letter to Francis ogrady Andy l asked her about you but strangely she had no fucking idea who you were !

  140. Jellytot on said:

    @157 Sorry to disappoint Im not uncle Joe

    Apologies UT but his/her hysterical abuse and swearing kinda reminded me of your good self.

    must say Im warming to him/her

    There’s no surprise.

    jellys sad existence

    Well, at least I’ve got one thing going for me….I’m not you !

  141. Although I profoundly disagree with Prianikoff’s analysis, he puts it forward with reasoned argument and facts. Johng, Andy, Nick Wright, Vanya, Harsanyi etc. do likewise – from social-democratic, CP and Trotskyist standpoints. But who on earth do The Underachiever and Uncle Joe think they are influencing with their childish abuse?

  142. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “#126 The CP always retained a strong position in the local Union committee, as they did in most mining areas”

    I disagree — the CP strength was not monolithic of course (the miners, after all, voted Labour mostly) — but CP strength varied greatly by area. Kent, South Wales, Scotland were strong CP areas. Lancashire and Notts and Leicestershire were very weak and the north east, Yorkshire, and North Wales were quite weak.

    I do agree that the local Kent CP was supportive of the strike to a large extent.

  143. john Martin on said:

    161- you are certainly correct that the cp had the greatest support in the pits of south wales, scotland and kent, but lets not forget that in the other areas, yorkshire, midlands, north east, north wales, the cp maintained workplace branches and even party pit papers.

    Although relatively weaker in these areas, the cp had much much more organization here than anything any left group could dream of today.