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The New International, November 1934



The First Letter from Spain

From New International, Vol. I No. 4, November 1934, pp. 102–103.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


IN ASTURIAS, the Workers’ Alliances have been functioning for a year. Supplied from the arms smuggled in by the steamer Turquesa, all the workers’ organizations succeeded in arming themselves. Thence the splendid results obtained in the first forty-eight hours. In addition, there were no disagreements in the objectives pursued by the organizations, in view of the fact that there existed the Alliances, instruments of the insurrection in Asturias, which oriented, defined and led the movement. Later on, when the governmental repression will have ended, a clearer idea will be had of the role of the Alliances and the fate of each organization in it. Up to the moment that it finally entered them, the communist party in Asturias dragged along at the tail-end of the Alliances.

The prevailing impression among the enemy forces, and especially among the Fascists, was that if the insurgents had begun the armed struggle on the Friday night, the victory of the revolutionists would have been guaranteed. It was asserted that had there been three Asturiases in Spain, the triumph of the revolutionists would have been a crushing one.

On Friday night it would have been possible to get the forces of the army to rise, for the fate of the official power seemed to hang in the balance. On Saturday morning, however, it was already impossible because the suspected soldiers had been arrested and the spirit of the troops had completely changed.

It was shown that the transport strike is the backbone of the general strike. From the moment when the railroad workers’ union refused to paralyze railway traffic, the insurrection could have been considered as lost.

Arms existed in abundance, and an ample supply of bombs was stored in depots. As soon as the movement appeared to be heading towards a collapse, these depots were discovered by the police as if by magic.

With the exception of Asturias, the Spanish proletariat was lacking in the consciousness of the necessity of the conquest of power for the purpose of shattering every counter-revolutionary attempt and of beginning to build up a new order wherever the socialist party enjoyed the greatest influence, which was the case throughout Spain, save in Catalonia. The working class had not received the lessons that the revolutionary party of the proletariat is duty-bound to inculcate in the minds of the popular masses. The socialist party interpreted in a vague and diffused manner the desires and aspirations of the working class. The latter wanted to get out of its difficult position, and it had no other way out except the revolution. But it had not been told what this revolution consists of, what means must be employed in order to achieve it. A cheap literary campaign was made around the question of revolution: “Attention, comrades! This October will be our October!” Appeals were launched for the armed struggle without an appropriate organization for it, without having propagated the necessity of the insurrection. When one recalls the insistence with which Lenin proclaimed this necessity from the July days onward, he sees the error into which the October Spanish revolution fell.

* * * *

Saturday morning, at six, the Workers’ Alliance marched along Las Ramblas [main boulevard of Barcelona] in triple file. They gave the impression of a disciplined army, imposing by the very order in which they marched. Their number was about 4,000 ... They turned towards the Generality to ask to be armed in order to defend the Catalonian republic.

Deucas urged them to disperse in the same order because it was not necessary to arm and all the measures had already been taken.

The members of the Esquerra Catalan and the Estat Catalan had confidence in General Baret who was meanwhile taking all the necessary steps to break up the movement.

The three hundred socialists who belonged to the Workers’ Alliance had asked of Joaquin Maurin, of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc, and our comrade Andres Nin, of the Communist Left, that the Workers’ Alliance should take the leadership of the movement led to defeat by Deucas and Badia.

At eleven o’clock in the evening, when all the strategic points had been occupied by the forces of the central government, Deucas telephoned the Workers’ Alliance to ask for its support and that it send its militants to the Generality where they would be armed. At that hour, the militants were at home, demoralized by the treason which they suspected on the part of the Catalanist leaders. In addition, it was impossible for them to respond to this appeal without being assassinated in little groups in the streets militarily occupied by the repressive Central forces.

At Lerida, it was the radical-socialists who launched the movement, throwing up barricades in the hope that they would be occupied by troops coming over to the side of the revolutionists. But when they perceived that the great majority of the troops remained in the camp of the counter-revolution, they abandoned the barricades to the governmental forces.

On all hands one could see the incapacity of the petty bourgeoisie to prepare, guide, organize and lead a revolutionary movement to a successful conclusion.

The most remarkable thing about the repressive forces of the state was their ability to shift rapidly from one place to another, and also the fact that the most warmly defended strategic points were the bridges.

The morale of the troops in the first forty-eight hours was low. Their demoralization came from their indecision as to the nature of the movement and of those who were directing it.

In Asturias, it is said, there are 10,000 dead. It is a veritable catastrophe, but what glorious and fruitful lessons to be learned!

In Viscaya, there were some thirty dead and 500 prisoners. No street fighting took place, but there were nocturnal fusillades. At Bilbao, an extraordinary enthusiasm prevailed among the combatants, armed with knives, carbines, rifles and revolvers.


Barcelona, October 1934

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