Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/949/25485

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 May 2017

Barcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

'POUM' militia fighters being captured at the Battle of Guadarrama - at the start of the Spanish Civil War, POUM fighters held the line before other forces got organised

'POUM' militia fighters being captured at the Battle of Guadarrama - at the start of the Spanish Civil War, POUM fighters held the line before other forces got organised   (Click to enlarge)

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the 'May Days' in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Below is a reply to an article in the Observer on 7 May (both this and a shorter version were unpublished) by Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe.

Professor Paul Preston's attack on George Orwell and the veracity of the latter's account of the Barcelona events of 1937, 'Homage to Catalonia' (Observer 7 May), is a scandalous distortion of events and cannot be left unanswered.

Orwell's was a relatively accurate account of the attempts of the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unity) to defend and extend the gains of the Spanish Revolution against the capitalist-Stalinist counter-revolution being waged within the civil war.

True, the POUM committed a big error in entering the Catalan government, sacrificing its class independence. But the 'Popular Front' government's attempt to take the Barcelona telephone exchange (Telefonica) - a symbol of workers' control - in May 1937 met with mass resistance.

The government's attempt to take over the telephone exchange, led to Barcelona workers arming themselves and building barricades. Very quickly, the whole of Barcelona was in their hands.

Anthony Beevor, a capitalist historian but more honest than Preston, wrote: "The anarchists had an overwhelming numerical majority, holding almost 90% of Barcelona and its suburbs."

He added: "These overwhelming advantages were not used because the CNT-FAI knew that further fighting would lead to a full civil war within the civil war, in which they would be cast as traitors, even if the nationalists were unable to take advantage of the situation."

Counter-revolution

Yet a "civil war within the civil war" was already taking place through the onslaught of the counter-revolution against the gains of the working class. Such processes unfold in all revolutions, which see shifts to the left leading to attempts at counter-revolution and to a further movement forward of the revolution.

This was a classic case where a small but determined revolutionary party like the POUM could have won over the masses. But, instead of openly campaigning for a militant, conscious policy of resistance and for the completion of the revolution, the POUM leaders went for diplomacy behind the scenes with the CNT leaders. This gave the initiative to the counter-revolution, which denounced the POUM and the anarchist organisation, Friends of Durruti, as 'agents provocateurs'.

Cheered on and organised by the Stalinists, the counter-revolution crushed the movement in Barcelona and effectively liquidated the Spanish revolution. All the horrors of Stalinist barbarity were now unleashed in the secret prisons, the use of torture, the assassination of the POUM leaders Nin and Andrade, and the similar deaths of anarchists and other workers, which Preston concedes.

The Barcelona events represented the high point of the revolution. The 'civil war' afterwards took on a purely military character. Accordingly, the masses became increasingly indifferent to its outcome.

Rather than follow the distortions of Professor Preston, it would be better if those interested in the Spanish Revolution read the works of Leon Trotsky (The Spanish Revolution, 1931-37) and Felix Morrow (Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain).

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 17 May 2017:


Kick out the Tories! Corbyn can win

Kick out the Tories: For a Corbyn-led government

Tories out! Corbyn can win with socialist policies

Corbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

TUSC confirms no candidates in June

Suprise rally with Jeremy Corbyn in Morley

Corbyn's alternative for young people

Corbyn could re-win Scotland with a socialist approach to independence


Socialist Party news and analysis

One in three borrow for rent, Corbyn pledges housing revolution

Tories escape election fraud charges

NHS cyberattack: budget cuts and spy agency to blame

31,000 more kids at risk of abuse or neglect


Socialist Party workplace news

PCS election: Increased majority for Democracy Alliance

Support Corbyn's call to renationalise Royal Mail

CWU walkout wins large concessions

Blackpool deserves better - anti-austerity rally

Unison must back Corbyn's pledge to abolish zero-hour contracts with action

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Socialist ideas are energising young people

Fund the fight against the Tories

Packed meeting sets out socialist policies needed to defeat the Tories


International socialist news and analysis

Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

Brazil: General strike against Temer regime


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Barcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

Hull workers who fought in the Spanish Civil War

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 May 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Spanish revolution:

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Spanish revolution 1936-37

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: Lessons of the Spanish Revolution 1936

triangleFebruary revolution 1917 - what lessons for today?

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: The lessons of the Spanish Revolution

War:

triangleAnniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

triangleCapitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

triangleHow capitalist restoration led to war and 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans

triangle75th anniversary of the Attlee Labour government

Revolution:

triangleCuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

triangle100 years since the foundation of the Communist Party of Great Britain

triangleReform or revolt? How was the slave trade abolished?

Counter-revolution:

triangleCounter-revolution in Sudan

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: 1979 - Revolution and counter-revolution in Iran

Anarchists:

triangleSalford Socialist Party: Why we are not anarchists

Peter Taaffe:

triangleSocialist Party executive committee positions

Trotsky:

triangleCWI rally: 80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky

Catalonia:

triangleCatalonia: Draconian prison sentences of independence leaders provokes mass protests and strikes

George Orwell:

triangle70 years since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four: "But if there was hope, it lay in the proles"

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

22/7/20

Cuba

Exciting Cuban spy thriller exposes US-sponsored terrorism

22/7/20

Letters

The Socialist inbox

22/7/20

Socialist Party

I joined the Socialist Party to fight back

15/7/20

Housing

TV: Ross Kemp - Living with Forced Out Families

15/7/20

Bolsheviks

Books that inspired me: The Mother

15/7/20

Black Lives Matter

How the FBI and Chicago police murdered a Black Panther

8/7/20

School

TV: The school that tried to end racism

8/7/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

8/7/20

Racism

Books that inspired me: The Fire Next Time

1/7/20

TV

From slavery to Black Lives Matter - racism and capitalist injustice exposed

1/7/20

US

Readers' opinion

1/7/20

Socialist Party

I left Labour and want to end capitalism - join us in Socialist Party

24/6/20

Letters

The Socialist inbox

24/6/20

Covid

A timely read about a pandemic that overwhelms society

17/6/20

Windrush

Tears and anger over the treatment of the Windrush generation

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999