Delores Ibárruri: Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain By Gerry Downing

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02/12/2020 by socialistfight

Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom showed a huge audience of youth and workers the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism in the Spanish Civil War. But on the 28 September 2018 leading Trade union bureaucrats ‘celebrated’ Delores Ibárruri’s vacuous and demagogic speech on 1 Nov. 1938 defending Stalinism’s appalling record on the Popular Front.

Here she defended the Stalinist two stage theory of revolution where it was proposed that the main (and only!) task was to defend bourgeois democracy and the working class had to wait for socialism until ‘democracy’ was restored.

When they would not they had to be shot to maintain the Popular Front. It all came down to appeasing Hitler – less than ten months after the speech Molotov signed his pact with Ribbentrop. And today a broad array of radical artists and trade union ‘left’ bureaucrats are seeking to burnish their leftism by association with a supposedly revolutionary or at least a very radical leftist individual.

Who was Delores Ibárruri?

Dolores Ibárruri was a revolutionary fighter politically corrupted by the counter-revolutionary politics of Stalinism to betray her class. She described the fighting in the streets of Barcelona in May 1937 as a ‘fascist anarcho-trotskyist putsch’. This had the advantage of labelling all revolutionary opponents of the bourgeoisie in Spain as agents of Franco.

She was the public face of Stalinism whose NKVD agents hunted down and executed thousands of revolutionary fighters from the United Marxist Workers Party (POUM), National Confederation of Workers (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) on the basis that if you did not support bourgeois parliamentarianism you were a fascist.

By armed insurrection the Spanish workers had seized the factories, collectivised the land and set up their own popular committees which ruled the local areas; this was actual workers’ rule which only lacked a workers’ state or a revolutionary junta to organise it in the parts of Spain where they had thwarted Franco’s coup.

There are no words for this other than the socialist revolution. The tasks that Ibárruri’s Stalinists set themselves were firstly, to prevent this revolution from seizing state power, secondly, to reverse its gains in order to cement an alliance with Britain and France, and thirdly, when this failed, to neutralise the threat from Hitler by signing a pact with him in which they naively placed their full confidence.

Kidnapping and Murder of the POUM Leader Andrés Nin

The Stalinist General Alexander Orlov used his NKVD agents to deal with left-wing opponents of the Communists in Republican held areas. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the POUM, CNT and FAI. He was responsible for fabricating the evidence which led to the arrest and purge of the leaders of the POUM, many of whom vanished. The evidence also proves he directed the kidnapping and execution of the POUM leader Andrés Nin on 20 June 1937.

In a report to his superiors in Moscow, dated August 1937, Orlov outlined his plan for the capture and liquidation of the Austrian Socialist Kurt Landau. His deputy managed the construction of a crematorium for the untraceable disposal of enemies. Erwin Wolf, Trotsky’s former secretary, and Mark Rein, son of a Menshevik leader, disappeared in Spain, the victims of Orlov’s terror.

Members of the International Brigade were directly implicated in murder of Andrés Nin. After Nin had refused to make a false confession, and faced with the problem of covering up the appalling tortures the POUM leader had suffered at the hands of Orlov, it was the Italian International Brigader Vittorio Vidali who, according to Hernández’s account, organised a group of German brigaders masquerading as fascists to raid the prison where Nin was held and “liberate” him. Nin was then killed and his mutilated body buried somewhere along the road between Alcalá de Henares and Perales de Tajuña. (from  Issue 84 of IS and Bob Pitt Reply to Jeff Sawtell What Next 1996)

Stalin and Molotov- the man who voted to send his own wife to the Gulag- because she was a Jew and Stalin didn’t like Jews

Hitlerism can be accepted or rejected!

The Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov declared in autumn 1939:

“During the last few months such concepts as ‘aggression’ and ‘aggressor’ have acquired a new concrete content, have taken on another meaning…Now…it is Germany that is striving for a quick end to the war, for peace, while England and France, who only yesterday were campaigning against aggression, are for continuation of the war and against concluding a peace.

Roles, as you see, change…The ideology of Hitlerism, like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected – that is a matter of one’s political views. But everyone can see that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force…Thus it is not only senseless, it is criminal to wage such a war as a war for ‘the destruction of Hitlerism,’ under the false flag of a struggle for democracy.” (our emphasis)

Why the Truth Matters

Surely it does not matter today who did what in Spain so long ago? The International Brigaders were brave fighters even if they did not understand anything about the socialist revolution and believed everything they were told by Stalin’s professional liars. But it is only on the basis of the truth that we can even begin to fight anew for the socialist revolution and communist future. In truth neither the POUM nor the CNT/FAI leaders provided any revolutionary alternative to Stalinism, and ultimately betrayed the revolution themselves.

They had entered the anti-working class Popular Front Catalan Generalitat government and refused to support the Barcelona working class in the terrible May Days of 1937 when the revolution was bloodily suppressed by the Stalinists and right Socialists. However they had the overwhelming bulk of the best revolutionists in their ranks, the left Socialists followers of Largo Caballero had many also but the right Socialist of Indalecio Prieto and Ibárruri’s Stalinists had none and stood on the counterrevolutionary right of all the working class forces in Spain at the time.

The bourgeoisie themselves had almost no support in these revolutionary times. And Ibárruri’s rehabilitation is supported by leading trade union bureaucrats; ‘TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady…the TUC and Unison’ and supported by the Stalinist-led International Brigades. Why do they want to sanitise the bloody counterrevolutionary history of Stalinism in Spain, which exactly mirrored the monstrous fraud of the contemporaneous Moscow Trials where all the remaining leaders of the Russian Revolution perished under Stalin’s terror?

Of course it is to defend their own record in dealing with the British working class and to insist that there is no alternative to this class collaboration. So the history of the most class conscious, revolutionary socialist era in the history of the world working class, the revolutionary offensive of the Spanish workers from 1936-39, must be falsified and denigrated and its champions, from the best to the very inadequate ones, libelled as fascists to deny all workers the aspiration of a socialist future. They will not succeed!

They know the truth of Spain but they do not want the working class to know it lest they seek an alternative revolutionary socialist leadership. . All serious revolutionary socialists and anarchists should cooperate in fighting these falsifications. ▲

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