Chapter 11: Moscow's Campaign of Lies Against the CNT

Norman Thomas, the well known leader of the Socialist Party of the United States, who recently returned from an investigating trip in Spain, relates in "The Nation" that there is a joke current there to the effect that when anyone is too conservative to join the Left Republicans he joins the Communists. In reality, however, this is not a joke, but a stubborn fact that there is no way of getting around. Concerning the role of the Communist Party in Spain there is only one opinion among men of every political shade. Thus, the Liberal "Manchester Guardian" states:

"The Communists in Spain are the Right wing supporters of the government. They are in a sense conservatives, seeing that their declared aim is to re-establish republican democracy...

"The anarchists, who command the majority of labor in Catalonia, are the only party which puts revolution first. They, alone of all the Spanish political movements, remain true revolutionaries, with the exception of the rather vveak P.O.U.M."

Even the conservative "New York Times" was obliged to confirm this:

"The Communists are today perhaps the most moderate faction in Spain, and in comparison with the Anarchists, who stand to their left, they are flatly conservative. Notwithstanding this, the prospects for a Communist regime after the Russian pattern are very small, as the Anarchists are too strong."

And Dr. Trabal, one of the best-known Catalonian Nationalist leaders, who a short time ago joined the Communist P.S.U.C., declared with cynical frankness:

"Yes, I am now among the Socialists. But let no one tell me that I have changed my position. I stand just where I always stood. It is the Socialists and the Communists who have changed their position. With their help I can go on working for my ideals."

While the Spanish Stalinists were aligning themselves with the Spanish bourgeoisie against the mass movement of the workers and peasants, there began in the Russian press a savage campaign against the so-called "Trotzkyists" in Spain and the C.N.T., which for cowardly deceit and meanness of sentiment excelled anything that the most perverted fancy could invent. It is extremely sign)ficant that just at the time when the Russian consul at Barcelona was assuring the "Manchester Guardian," in the interview referred to, that "for these reasons Russia could not but look sympathetically upon the Catalan wQrl;ers' movement. It certainly has no intention of preventing their working out of their own salvation in the manner most suited to their national characteristics" -- just then "Pravda" thought it fitting to report:

"So far as Catalonia is concerned, the cleaning up of Trotzkyist and Anarcho-Syndicalist elements there has already begun, and it will be carried out there with the same energy as in the U.S.S.R." (Pravda, December 17, 1936)

And these cowardly and conscienceless attacks stiffened just in the measure that the Stalinists, with the aid of the official representatives of Russia, succeeded in gaining ground, until at last the Spanish correspondent of "Pravda" published in that paper a sensational article, which we here reproduce verbatim:

"The central organ of the Anarchists in Barcelona, 'Solidaridad Obrera,' carried in its March 16th issue, an insulting attack on the Soviet press. It is significant that the writer directs his attack more particularly at those reports in the Soviet press which related to the counter-revolutionary activities of the Trotzkyist P.O.U.M., and makes the assertion that 'these injurious tactics are meant merely to rouse dissension in the ranks of the anti-Fascist front in Spain.

"This obscene defense of the Trotzkyist traitors proceeds from those shady elements which have sneaked into the ranks of the Anarcho-Syndicalist organization. They are the former colleagues of Primo de Rivera in the 'Fascist Phalanx' and the Trotzkyists. It is no secret that these plague spots flourish best today in 'Solidaridad Obrera'; for it is known that the actual literary director of this sheet is Canovas Cervantes, former editor of the Fascist paper, 'La Tierra.'

"These agents of Franco have today intrenched themselves behind the Anarchist organization to destroy the Spanish Popular Front; but they are not going to succeed. The Anarcho-Syndicalist masses every day understand better the necessity for an iron discipline and a strong people's government. That is the reason why these enemies of the Spanish people have crept into the ranks of the Anarchists and are combating the Popular Front with redoubled frenzy.

"It is no accident that just at the moment when the Italians are setting themselves for an offensive on the Guadalajara front, the tricky Trotzkyists are preparing an armed revolt against the Valencia government. It is also necessary to note that the sheet, 'Nosotros', in Valencia is pleading every day for the release of all those who are in jail for taking part in an armed uprising, among whom are to be found a number of outspoken Fascists. And this demand is always accompanied by threats against the government.

"The anti-Soviet story in 'Solidaridad Obrera' is proof that behind the central organ of the Anarchists stand Trotzkyists and the agents of the German secret police. This fact has already alarmed those leaders of the Catalonian Anarchists who seriously intend to combat international Fascism." (Pravda, March 22, 1937)

With such contemptible charges, every word of which is a deliberate lie thought out with cynical calculation, dishonorable calumniators, who in the service of their political patrons have made Iying a trade, dare to belittle a movement which by its heroic resistance has saved the country from the attacks of the Fascist conspirators; a movement whose adherents are fighting and dying with une::ampled bravery on every front; a movement which produced a Durruti, whose name will live in Spanish history when only a monstrous blot of shame will stand for the breed that now slanders his comrades. They will never forget in Spain that it was chiefly the militia of the C.N.T. which, under men like Mera, Palacios, and Benito y Vallanueva, hurled themselves at the enemy before Madrid and blocked his way with their bodies. "And without Durruti and his heroic troops Madrid would today long have been in the hands of the Fascists," as "Frente Libertario," organ of the confederated militia could assert with full justice.
No other movement has made such enormous sacrifices during the frightful war against Fascism as the C.N.T.-F.A.I. None has lost so many of its best in this desperate struggle. Everyone knows this in Spain. Their bitterest opponents cannot refuse them that recognition. The five hundred thousand who made up the last escort of their comrade Buenaventura Durruti, fallen by a cowardly assassination, gave powerful expression to this universal conviction.