Anarchists and Bolsheviks in the Spanish Revolution

Maximoff described the doggedly heroic and bloody struggle of the Spanish proletariat against its fascists and international fascism. The vast majority of Spanish workers subscribe to the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin and belong to the CNT, the FAI and the Libertarian Youth. They make up a mass of almost three million members.

The war – which has dragged on for so long – is the outcome of the intrigues of British imperialism which, in order to hold on to its hegemony, conjured up Hitler and rescued Mussolini, which serve it by keeping France and Russia under the thumb. It has resorted to Franco in order to wipe out the Spanish revolutionary movement and protects its capital investment in Spanish industry. 

Thus the Spanish proletariat is obliged to wage war not just on Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, but also, against imperialist England, the Stalinists, the Blum-style socialists and finally against the discreet assistance rendered by the Second International socialists to their bourgeois. Ground down by this struggle, the Spanish proletariat nevertheless had to fight on whilst carrying out a creative revolution in tandem with it.

Using facts and figures, Maximoff offered a stirring account of the gains made by the workers under the anarchists’ guidance. A brand-new life was organized, industry was overhauled, farms were collectivized and every effort was made to lay the groundwork for victory over fascism and the advent of libertarian communism. 

The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, actually find themselves in the camp of counter-revolution; they openly state that they want to combat social revolution in order to re-establish bourgeois democracy. Stalin has not only insisted upon payment in gold for all shipments, but also upon political concessions. Initially, this meant the eradication of the POUM (a dissident communist organization) and then came provocations and attacks targeting the CNT and the FAI.

Which led to the creation of an out-and-out Cheka which began by murdering the most active anarchists, orchestrated the May provocation in Barcelona and now it seeks to meet Anglo-French demands, leading to the arrests of lots of anarchists and their removal from a range of institutions and it is out to disarm the CNT forces, etc.

Simultaneously, Moscow was feeding wheat and oil supplies to Hitler and Mussolini, which were then forwarded on to Franco which makes war on the basis of that oil and uses that wheat to feed his army. There is Russian wheat to be found in the belly of a Spanish fascist.

Why is Stalin doing this? He has two reasons:
    1. He needs an alliance with Anglo-French imperialism, of which he has made himself a lackey.
    2. The danger of the real example set by a social revolution carried out by the Spanish proletariat, whilst he, Stalin, is carrying out a counter-revolution inside Russia and consolidating his power by killing off Old Bolsheviks.

This is the issue being decided in Spain: whether social life is going to evolve in the direction of State expropriation of personal rights, or, rather, whether the individual is about to embark on the expropriation of the State through the widening of personal freedom and independence.

Together with the Spanish proletariat we will have many more set-backs to face but final victory will be ours.

From: (Dyelo Truda, No 101, March-May 1938) Reprinted in Le Réveil (Geneva) 2 July 1938: 'Two talks delivered by our Russian comrade Maximoff in Detroit (Michigan). [Here] we offer a summary of them.' The talks were 'What Is Going on in Russia? Where Is She Being Led?' and 'Anarchists and Bolsheviks in the Spanish Revolution'. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.