Hi-Jacking the Revolution: L. Nicholas* reveals some interesting facts about the betrayal of Spanish Workers by the "friends" from Moscow. Translation and Introduction by Joseph Wagner


I am presenting the readers of the One Big Union Monthly another translation on the Spanish situation, written by another old-time revolutionary syndicalist, for the Revolution Proletarienne of Paris. The writer is entirely at home in Spain, and is intimately acquainted not only with the political situation, but with the personnel of the various workers’ political and economic organizations of that country. He has written in the past many valuable and informative articles on Spain for the French revolutionary press, and continues to do so. Many months before the outbreak of the Franco rebellion, and even before the historic convention of the C.N.T. in May 1936, he predicted pretty accurately what would take place in Spain in the near future, including the present long drawn out civil war.

Perhaps a large portion of the article will seem superfluous to the readers of this magazine, as they are already acquainted with the facts; other parts will appear to be obscure. The reason for these shortcomings is that the article was written for the French reading public and I, as translator, could and would not take too many liberties with the writing of others. But I am sure that the article contains also some very valuable information for the majority of our readers. It throws additional light on the mission of the Stalinists in Spain and on the role they are playing.

The arrest and kidnapping of “Marc Rein” is not exceptional, but rather a typical case of the work of the bolshevik “comrades.” Whatever the outcome of the present phase of the class struggle in Spain, when the history of it will be written, among the black pages that that history will necessarily contain, I am not sure that the blackest of these will be those furnished by Franco and his outspokenly fascists, gory beasts, I am not sure but that the first prize will be awarded to the Stalinist gangsterdom. For while the fascists are openly declared enemies of the working class, the Stalinists, as the champions of proletarian revolution, profiting by the crying need of the Spanish working class for weapons, sold them some, but at what price! They not only had to pay in gold for the arms and services received, but in addition they had to turn over the country, their army, their government, and their freedom to the Stalinist gang and allow them to set up their own private police and jails and death chambers, and to offer their best and sincerest friends and warriors as sacrifices to the hatred of the new masters in exchange for Russian arms and ammunitions.

And perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that a portion of the leading element of that excellent proletarian militant organization, the C.N.T., are accepting the situation, are willingly accepting the Stalinist tutelage, and are proud of what they are doing.

In the light of the above, the vacillating policy of England and even of France, toward the Spanish situation will seem a little less puzzling.

In the meanwhile history is marching on, the class struggle will continue until the working class achieves complete victory, in spite of all the stumbling blocks and betrayals and desertions.


The Difficulties of the “Whites”

by L. Nicholas *

Public opinion in loyalist Spain is mainly preoccupied with the situations that are being created at the war fronts, on the one hand by the fascist advances, which after having taken Bilbao and Santander, are now seriously menacing Asturia; on the other hand by the governmental offensive in Aragon, where for the first time since July 1937 the government forces succeeded in capturing a very important position, namely Belchite.

Unfortunately, it must be conceded that the successes of the governmentals are far from equaling in extent and importance the successes of the fascists. Inevitably, therefore, the question arises: If tomorrow the Asturias are taken by the fascists, will all revolutionary resistance in the North be crushed? Will this fascist triumph be as lasting as that of Hitler in Germany and as that of Mussolini in Italy? Or will the Russian phenomenon of the Civil War, where the occupation of Siberia by Kolchak and of Ukraine by Denikin brought about the disintegration of the whites, be repeated in Spain?

There is no doubt but that one has to take with the greatest of reserve the news dished out constantly by the government dispatches, announcing riotings in all parts of the zones ruled over by Franco. And yet, on this subject there is much information coming from fascist sources evidencing that as a matter of fact, the situation in fascist-ruled Spain remains unstable and the revolutionists are continually harassing the Francoist power. One instance is the ban of Guiepo [Queipo] de Llano, published in the ABC of Seville and reproduced in the Solidaridad Obrera of August 28, which plainly reveals how extensive is the menaced zone in the fascist rear and the extent of the support of the civilian population given to the revolutionists; moreover these things are taking place in regions occupied by the whites almost since the beginning of the civil war. Part of this ban reads us follows:

Article 1. The region composed of the Province of Huelva and by the corresponding parts of the Provinces of Seville and Badajoz, up to the Seville-Badajoz road will be delimited and considered a war zone in which all services demanded by the authorities will have to be performed in the same manner as on the battlefield, when facing the enemy; these limits may be extended and they will be so as to include all the zones necessary in order to fight and to defeat the unsubmissive Marxist elements.

Article 3. (This article designates the additional offenses, revealing the existence of extremely summary Martial Courts).

The following shall be considered as acts of rebellion:

a) acts tending to furnish alimentation or any other aid to fugitive persons within the prescribed zone;

b) furnishing information on the situation of the forces, or of their movements to fugitives in the villages;

c) leaving the proscribed villages in the mountains without the possession of documents, issued for the purpose by the military chief of the zone;

d) disobedience of any orders given by the military as well as civil heads of the zone;

e) neglect or lukewarmness in the execution of orders and of military services demanded by the chief of the zone;

f) giving shelter in urban or rural properties to fugitives considered rebels;

g) failing to inform the regular authorities of the existence of rebels, by possessing such information will be considered as rebellion;

h) traveling in the mountains or to stay there without a clear justification of the reason and the object of the travel.

Another proof of the efficiency of the action of the civil population in the rear of the white front is the account of the Italian legionnaire Albert T. de Parme, fighting at Guadelajara, published in Libro e Moschetto, organ of the Italian Fascist Students and reproduced by the Nuovo Avanti of September 18:

In the occupied villages some of the best elements of the population whom we have respected were hostile to us; they signaled to the reds, by radio, the positions of the nationalist forces, indicating the objectives to the aviators, directing the artillery of the reds. This was done by a few traitors whom we had spared because they were unarmed. In the meantime we were being methodically bombarded both from above and from the land and we found ourselves menaced by the insidious blackguards. In spite of that our moral and material strength was not lessening…. every evening we shouted with pride our “Saluto al Duce!” Every night we sang with passion the songs of Italy, in answer to our enemy, who by means of loud speakers, invited us to go over to him in order to attain finally liberty, well being, and other such foolishness…

This activity of the reds that presupposed a perfect knowledge of our positions, filled us with stupor, but we were entirely amazed when that same plane, flying very low over us, scattered thousands of tracts, written in Italian, stating that we were being betrayed and inviting us to pass over to their side. What did that mean? What was going on behind our backs? Why did the division command’s telephone no longer answer our appeals? Why was it that our artillery, usually so prompt and precise, did not at present heed our plea for fire and failed to counterstrike the rapid and correct firing of the enemy artillery? Only much later have we learned that our telephone line had been cut by the spies and that our artillery was being bombarded from the sky as well as from the earth. Everyone of us, without saying a word, was being tormented by the suspicion of having the enemy behind his back, while on the front an unusual movement could be discerned”.

Difficulties of the “Governmentals”

But the rear of the “governmentals” is also extremely divided. The main internal fight is that led by the communist party against the C.N.T.-F.A.I. The Stalinist leaders understood that they were not yet sufficiently strong to destroy the syndicalist on a frontal attack. So they consented to some concessions, preparing the spirits for the acceptance of the latest note of the Political Bureau of that party as told in L’Humanite (Paris) of September 16:

…The communist party is disposed to enter into friendly conversations with the C.N.T. in order to definitely dissipate misunderstandings and to arrive at a collaboration that will become more efficient from day to day.”

It was necessary to throw out some ballast in order to keep the boat afloat. The French press announced the liberation of J. Acaso [Ascaso] (C.N.T. militant), ex-president of the dissolved Aragonian Council. Furthermore, the trial of Tortosa, which resulted in death sentences, will be revised. According to Solidaridad Obrera of September 9 all the defendants who were present at the trial were acquitted, only those of the accused who could not be arrested were sentenced to 15 years each.

It would be in order here to reproduce the answer of Vidella, Minister of Labor in Catalonia and member of the United Catalonian Socialist Party, to a delegation composed of the parents of the prisoners: Here are the essential passages quoted from Solidaridad Obrera of September 9:

…The judges could not admit the charges based on acts of revolutionary character that sprung out of the movement provoked by the rebellious generals, for that would be placing the revolution itself on trial.

…For these reasons, the judges not only ought not to have accepted charges of this kind, but they ought not to have accepted them when these charges came from persons whose flats were requisitioned on the ground that they were considered fascists, or that they have abandoned them themselves. The judges ought to accept only concrete charges against such persons who, instead of having acted as revolutionaries, actuated by mercenary spirit, have availed themselves of the revolutionary situation in order to eliminate their personal enemies or were inspired by the base desire of stealth.

This thesis was accepted unanimously by the Generalidad, (the Catalonian government), and that means that the persons at present imprisoned for various causes arising out of the revolutionary facts, should immediately be given their freedom.”

It would however be an error to believe that these concessions mean an intention to practice a policy of understanding between all the anti-fascist sectors. It is only maneuvering to cover up new measures of repression. Thus it is taken for granted that the members of the P.O.U.M. and the syndicalists arrested for the May events, will continue remaining in prison. In the place of Acaso [Ascaso], who has been set at liberty, we have now in the Carcel Modelo, Aurelio Fernandez, well known C.N.T. militant, ex-Minister of Hygiene, ex-director of Police, charged with participation in the attempt against Andreu, presiding judge of one of the important Courts of Barcelona. It is to be noted here that the F.A.I. and the C.N.T. have repudiated immediately any solidarity with the attempt, and that there is not the least presumption that Fernandez had any share of guilt. Tens of political refugees, Germans and Italians, tried and true syndicalists, are being conducted under escort to the border as rewards for the months they put in on the war front. The C.N.T. limits itself to sending messages to the C.G.T.S.R.(Revolutionary Syndicalist General Confederation of Labor) of France, asking that body to come to the aid of these twice outlawed revolutionists.

And on the economic field, the counter-revolutionary attacks inspired by the Catalonian United Socialist Party are developing also. A violent campaign is led by the communist press towards the militarization of the railroad employees; it is a question of taking away even the last vestiges of the workers’ right to have a say so in the conduct of that industry, a right accorded to them by the nationalization of the railroads.

Solidaridad Obrera of September 8 informs us that the dispositions of the new Administration forbids the Shop Committees from giving the workers any information which would enable them to judge as to the progress of the institution.

When it comes to the agrarian question, it is only now that it is fully understood how much the workers’ collectives have been encroached upon. An underground paper, Liberdad, published by the P.O.U.M. and by the minority anarchists of Barcelona, in its August 1 issue describes, with much detail, a series of attacks, confiscations and arrests the collectives of Catalonia were subjected to. And, it is this paper that also gives for the first time a precise account of the kidnapping of the young Russian social-democrat, Marc Rein Abramovich, son of the militant social-democrat Abramovich, member of the Executive Committee of the Second International.

The Work of the Cheka in Barcelona

The night of April 9-10, the Cheka, of which we have previously spoken, cleverly seized the journalist Marc Rein. Rein had come to Barcelona at the end of February and was lodging at Hotel Continental, Rambla Canelatas.

But, who was this Marc Rein and what was he doing in Barcelona?

Marc Rein” is an alias, which would betray North American nationality. In reality he was the editor of Social-Demokraten of Stockholm, a paper that published sensational but true information about political problems of the USSR. The great Soviet leaders were extremely embarrassed by this paper, that often unmasked their most intimate secrets, and led them to suppose that it was an important communist party member who gave out the information, furnishing all the data, details and documents.

Marc Rein came to Catalonia to see the revolution at close range. On his arrival in Barcelona he gathered around him a small group of socialists—anti-fascists and anti-P.S.U.C., who considered themselves his collaborators. He published several articles on the Spanish situation, criticizing some aspects of the activities of the C.N.T. anarcho-syndicalists; he explained that the reason he criticized exclusively the activities of the C.N.T. was because the C.N.T. is the only one that was creating something.

The G.P.U. having learned of the presence of Marc Rein in Barcelona, conceived the plan of getting hold of him. For that purpose it brought over some of its best elements with the double mission of seizing the social-democrat journalist and of perfecting the Cheka in the service of the communist party.

The night of April 9-10, Marc Rein was writing one of his articles in the room he was occupying at the hotel. Soon the phone rang; an agreeable feminine voice was heard through the receiver asking for an immediate interview on matters of great interest. Marc Rein interrupted his writing and left the hotel.

What happened?

Shipped to Russia by the G.P.U.

What became of Marc Rein? Some believe that he has been murdered by Herz’s gang. (Herz is the chief of the Cheka in Barcelona according to Libertad—Author’s note.) We, who are better informed, do not believe so. Well, in order to efface all trace of that “raid” that was clumsily enough performed, Marc Rein was constrained to write a letter by his own hand to one of his friends, Nicholas, whose wife is at present detained in prison, after having been horribly manhandled, and one to the owner of the hotel. In these letters the journalist is taking farewell from them, begging them to forgive him for his flight and for the expenses he has caused them. The letters seem to have been written in Madrid but it could be seen without much trouble that the date was written in by another person. This ruse does not betray much intelligence on the part of the elements working under the orders of Alfred Herz.

We said that Marc Rein was not assassinated in Barcelona. But one could be informed with more authority and knowledge by a certain Schaya Kinderman, a Polish Jew, a militant communist who lived in Barcelona for some time and who was the “chief of the foreign police of Valencia;” this function enabled him to keep track of all the movements and plans of the other parties, especially when these parties wanted to get in contact with their respective Central Committees in Valencia or in Madrid, and creating difficulties in the contacting of all non-communist parties.

Marc Rein was not murdered; it can be affirmed with certainty that he is at present in Russia, in the hands of the G.P.U., having been transported there “as a package” on board of a ship, between the dates of the 11th, and 30th of April.

The Retort of the C.N.T.-F.A.I.

When the maneuvering tactics of the communist party are too raw, the C.N.T.-F.A.I. answers with written or verbal protests; but at the same time the anarcho-syndicalist leaders are not missing a single opportunity for hinting the idea of rapproachement with the communist party and its boss, the Russian government.

Thus, the infamous speech of Commorea, in which he referred to the first heroic confederal militias as “tribes,” led the Regional Committee of the C.N.T. in Barcelona to refuse the invitation of the communist party to celebrate September 11, the National Day of Catalonia, in common; yet these same leaders, a few days later, accepted a similar invitation from the Catalanist Union (which includes the communist party).

The campaign carried on in the communist press against the now dissolved Aragon Council provoked a break in the parleys between the C.N.T. and the communist party; but later and without any retraction of the insults, the parleys were resumed.

The anarcho-syndicalist officials are attaching great importance to their re-entering in the Cabinet; they are carrying on an active campaign in that direction. They seek by all means to prove that the foreign bourgeois governments would not be displeased by the collaboration of the C.N.T. in the government of Spain. They widely publicized the conclusions of their militant Augustin Souchy (ex-secretary of the I.W.M.A.) just returned from a tour in Europe. We reproduce them from Solidaridad Obrera of August 28:

The liberal and democratic powers of Europe see in anarcho-syndicalism the most authentic expression of the character of the Spanish people.

The participation of the C.N.T. in the government is considered by them a strong guarantee of the independence of Spain.

…A Federal Republic of a socialist character, created with the participation of the C.N.T. would be acceptable to the foreign powers.”

The same in regard to Russia, the anarcho-syndicalist press is displaying, in big letters and boxed, hossanahs extolling the Stalinist foreign politics. Here are a few examples: Solidaridad Obrera, August 9: “The Rock of the USSR in the Pool of European Diplomacy;” same paper, of September 12: “The Voice of the Only One that Arose at Nyon;” same paper, on September 9: “The World Proletariat Should Support the Position of the USSR in its Activity.”

Their concessionist policy is growing in the interior also and the leaders of the Libertarian Youth are following the same road. Only a few months ago this organization had formally refused the invitation to join in a common front of Youth; the reason for the refusal was that the Stalinists within the United Socialist Youth, who were the inspirators of this front, as a preliminary condition, demanded the non-admission of the Youth movement of the P.O.U.M., qualifying them as fascists. At that time the Libertarian Youth indignantly and categorically protested against that conception of a Youth Alliance.

However, as early as September 2, Solidaridad Obrera reproduced from Ahora, a summary of an accord, grouping the Libertarian Youth, the United Socialist Youth, the Syndicalist Youth with the bourgeois organization such as the Youth of the Left Republicans and the Federal Union of Spanish Students. The summary follows:

This accord establishes the collaboration for unity of all the political and syndical anti-fascist forces; it pledges action by the Youth in the popular army, in the field of production and in the other manifestations of life; it determines that the Youth will intensify its efforts towards better production in the fields and in the shops, and will increase its sacrifices by furnishing fresh thousands of soldiers to the people’s cause.

For moral principle, this Alliance of the Youth will combat the use of insulting terms, slanders and acts tending to produce discord on the front as well as in the rear; it will fight against anything that weakens the unity of the anti-fascist forces.”

It is plain that there was no longer question of including the P.O.U.M. Youth in this anti-fascist alliance. This changing in the attitude was decided by the Peninsular Committee of the Libertarian Youth, without a convention and without consulting the rank and file of the organization. As a result of this policy we now see Fidelio [Fidel] Miro, the young Libertarian, making speeches from the same platform with the worst of the Stalinist valets, Santiago Carillo, and this only a few weeks after the “extra-legal” murder by the Cheka of the eleven Libertarian Youths at Barcelona, after the May events; all these after the mysterious kidnapping and “disappearance” of the Libertarian Youth leader, Martinez, at Barcelona.

The National Committee of the C.N.T. is going in the same direction: it accepted the invitation of the “Friends of U.S.S.R.” (an organization to serve the Spanish Stalinists) to celebrate in common the Russian national holiday, November 11, the committee appointed its militant Alfonso Miguel to arrange in common the details of the common parade where the Spanish syndicalist workers will march arm in arm with the assassins of Andres Nin and of Berneri, in honor of Saint Stalin!

At the same time the Madrid paper C.N.T. reproduces from Solidaridad Obrera the answer to the underground tracts published by the P.O.U.M., appealing for a coalition of that body with the C.N.T., in order to create a revolutionary workers’ front in opposition to the Negrin-Stalin government. The text follows:

The comrades of the P.O.U.M. should not let themselves be misled by the advise of those who are not living our revolution, nor by their state of spirit that was necessarily the result of the treatment they received. Demagogy leads nowhere. The anti-fascist front should be defended with the greatest determination by all those who really wish to win the war and assure in the rear the conditions that will open the road for the march towards social and political progress.”

How odd! The press informs us that the journal C.N.T. will be suspended for an indefinite period by the censure of the… government.

* L. Nicholas was the pseudonym of Nicholas Lazarevitch (1895-1975).

From: One Big Union Monthly, November, 1937. Translated by: Joseph Wagner.