Chapter 13: Gangster Terrorism and Russian Chekist Methods in Spain

But the Spanish Stalinists and their Russian prompters did not rest content with sowing discord in the ranks of the anti-Fascist front and assailing the popular revolution with open and secret boycott. They proceeded to clear unpleasant opponents from their path by assassination and to intimidate the populace by a system of secret terrorism. There is today not the slightest doubt that terrorist groups exist in many parts of Spain which operate after the method of the Russian Cheka.

Last April the C.N.T. succeeded in uncovering such a Chekist cell in Murcia and in arresting its most important members. For months the populace had been alarmed by the sudden disappearance of residents, a large number of whom belonged to the C.N.T. When the local police made no effort to get to the bottom of the matter, the C.N.T. took things into its own hands. It turned out that all the people arrested in connection with the affair were members of the Communist Party. We quote from a public statement that w as signed by representatives of the Popular Front the Libertarian Youth, and the Provincial Committee of the C.N.T.:

"We have been awaiting a disavowal by the Communist Party and its press of the arrested members of the 'Cheka' who had been working in co-operation with the governor of Murcia. We have not yet seen anything of the kind. Therefore we are now going to speak plainly and say to those who are trying to import terror-systems and political dictatorships into Spain from abroad that they are reckoning without their host. The Spanish people have not the souls of slaves and will never put the guidance of their fate into the hands of tyrants. We are today fighting to drive the foreign intruders who are laying our country to waste, from our soil. We shall know also how to drive out those other elements who wish to introduce among us political terror-systems which belong to the past and are repugnant to the thought and feeling of our people."

In Castile, and particularly in Madrid and its vicinity, where the C.N.T., before the revolt of the Fascists, had only a strong minority of the workers behind it, much has been changed since that revolt. Whole groups of the U.G.T. went over to the C.N.T., so that the latter is today almost equal in membership to the U.G.T. in the central part of the country, and includes, moreover, the most active elements in the labor movement. Such a development was naturally unwelcome to the Stalinists, because it was in the highest degree favorable to the alliance with the U.G.T., which the C.N.T. incessantly advocated. It is therefore very understandable that in that same Madrid and vicinity, where the influence of the Communist Party is strongest, especially since it succeeded in driving the followers of Largo Caballero out of the leadership of the U.G.T., no means was left untried to hinder the advance of the C.N.T.

Thus, Cazorla, Communist representative on the Madrid Committee of Defense, availed himself of his position as chief of police to initiate a savage persecution of the militants of the C.N.T. This went so far that one day he had one of the most successful military leaders of the C.N.T., Verlardini, Chief of Staff of the Mera Division, arrested as a Fascist. Of course, he had to be released at once, because even General Miaja characterized Cazorla's action as inexpedient ("improcedente"). So the Communist Cheka set to work still more energetically. From February to April of this year more than eighty members of the C.N.T. fell victim to these cowardly assassins in Madrid and vicinity.

In the village of Villanueva in the Province of Toledo, the headquarters of the field-workers' organization of the C.N.T. were raided bv order of the Communist mayor, and sixteen of the C.N.T. workers were murdered by the Cheka. Similar proceedings took place in the neighboring town of Villamayor, which had likewise a Communist mayor. When the C.N.T.-F.A.I. press demanded a rigorous investigation of these proceedings, the Stalinists set every agency at work to prevent it. "El Mundo Obrero," the central organ of the Communist Party in Madrid, defended the mayor of Villanueva to the uttermost and proclaimed him an "honest and sincere anti-Fascist." That, however, could not prevent the Communist mayors of both Villanueva and Villamayor along with the other murderers of the sixteen field-workers being, under the pressure of public opinion, brought to trial before a people's court. At this trial incredible things came to light, such as the horrible rape and murder of a mother and daughter, which shook the entire population to its depths. The people's court sentenced the two Communist instigators of this frightful crime to death. One can understand why the Communists are today urging the abolishment of the people's courts so strongly.

On May 24 of this year two persons, accompanied by the Communist mayor, appeared at the home of Gonzales Moreno, secretary of the C.N.T. of Mascaraque, and told Moreno that they were messengers from the Lister Brigade and were under orders to arrest him and take him to the city of Mora de Toledo. Moreno at first refused to obey the order, until the Communist mayor of Mascaraque promised to accompany him. But when Moreno had climbed into the waiting auto, the mayor calmly walked off. Next day Moreno was shot behind the Christ Church in Mora de Toledo. In this case there was involved just an ordinary act of revenge, for Moreno, who had formerly been a member of the Communist Party, had left it to join the C.N.T. "Solidaridad Obrera," from which we take this account, commented:

"Including this new victim there have now been sixty people murdered in Mora de Toledo. Among them were men and women who had done nothing except to belong to the C.N.T. and to condemn the criminal acts of the Communists which kept the neighborhood in terror. Such horrors are not to be explained by the antagonism of different political convictions, nor even by the lust for power of certain advocates of revolution. The perpetrators of crimes so base are simply provocateurs in the service of Fascism. We demand the punishment of the guilty persons. Those in responsible positions in our organization have always admonished the comrades to dignity and self-control. Now, however, we feel ourselves obliged to bring the horrible crimes which threaten to plunge anti-Fascist Spain into a fraternal war to the knowledge of the public, so that the Spanish people may know who are the real provocateurs among the working class." (Solidaridad Obrera, July 1, 1937.)

These are only a few facts from a long list that since the May events in Catalonia has been growing at a frightful rate. The instigators of these crimes, who today are to further Stalin's political plans with wanton hands shattering the anti-Fascist front, are directing all their efforts toward driving the C.N.T. to violent resistance and so dealing a deathblow to the social revolution in Spain. The C.N.T. has risked its best human material to bring the war against the foreign intruders to a victorious conclusion. Its leading spirits know only too well that on the outcome of the war depends not only the fate of Spain, but the fate of their own movement. This awful responsibility has driven them to things whose dangers cannot be overlooked. In their honest effort to weld all revolutionary forces together against the threatening Fascism they could not bring themselves to attack the enemy within their own ranks with the same healthy vigor which they had so gloriously displayed in their open battle with Fascism. The less so as they could not fail to recognize that an open war within the anti-Fascist front could but be to the advantage of Franco and his allies.

Their conscientiousness toward a foe who from the very beginning had a definite object in view and was not bothered by conscientious scruples, led the C.N.T. into a situation which might perhaps have been avoided if the danger had been recognized and correctly estimated earlier. Those are matters about which it is hard to pass judgment from without. Besides, it must not be forgotten that in such situations, where decisions of far-reaching importance have to be made every moment, not even the best of us has any magic safeguard against mistakes. Far be it from us, therefore, to look for real or fancied blunders at a moment like this, when the whole movement is threatened from every side with the most serious dangers.