Reply to the Enemies,
Slanderers and Wavering Elements
August 10, 1937 — Valencia, Spain
COMRADES and friends of Valencia, anti-fascists throughout the whole of Spain!
If we compare the present situation with what existed in the country in July, 1936, we can be satisfied, although at the same time profoundly aware of the terrible sacrifices which have had to be made as a result of the mistaken military policy of the previous governments; as a result of the fact that these governments did not understand the urgent need for making a thorough purge of the rear.
Three days have hardly passed since I returned from heroic Madrid, from that tragic city, from the fronts of Brunete, Quijorna, Villanueva de la Canada and Villanueva del Pardillo. The appearance and splendid spirit of our fighters convinced me that we have a tried and tested army capable of crushing fascism in our country, of driving out the invaders, of destroying in their own nests the bloody fascist executioners who aim to transform Spain into a huge concentration camp and to introduce fascist “civilization“ at the bayonet point into countries which call themselves democratic and which systematically capitulate to the fascist governments. These democratic countries should remember the words of a great thinker who said “Peoples die not out of weakness, but out of cowardice.” These words today assume exceptional urgency and will serve as an example to future generations and as a source of shame to those who now settle the fate of these countries and have left us to our own fate.
A few days after the military-fascist rebellion broke out, the Communist Party, which made a profound analysis of the factors operating in our struggle, defined our war not only as a civil war called into being by the enemies of the people, and consequently a war for social liberation, but also as a war for the maintenance of our national independence, a war against the forces of intervention which are aiming to divide our country between them.
The months of war that have gone by have given the clearest proof of the correctness of our Party, of the justice of its assertions. It is clear to all today that Franco and the remaining perfidious generals have been pushed into the background in the leadership of the struggle against our people. Fighting against our men are not only the people whom the traitors to our native land on our own territory have succeeded in recruitin1g, but also regular troops of Italy and Germany. And it is no accident that Italy and Germany are sending all the most up-to-date military equipment, their most tested military leaders, their most reliable shock troops into our country.
Now it is no longer a question of aid being rendered to traitors who have risen up in revolt against the Republic and against Spain, but of a plan to divide up the riches of our country; to seize all the sources of raw material that exist in our country; to divide Spain; to transform our native land into a colony of foreign powers, to transform it into a strategic base for the world war being prepared by the fascist firebrands.
But neither the traitors who rose up in revolt on July 18, nor the fascist powers which think of dividing our country between them know of the greatness, of the feeling of self-sacrifice and of the heroism of our people. They have heard of Spain of the Castanets, of the fatalistic submission of our people, but they do not know that — side by side with the thousand-year woe inherited from past generations as a result of the slavery forced on the people by the ruling castes aided by the church leaders — an ardent feeling of independence and an indomitable love for liberty dwell in the hearts of all Spanish men and women. They have forgotten that Spain has already outlived one war for its independence and that our people have inscribed the heroic and glorious pages of Gerona, Saragossa, Bilen and Madrid in history; that it is not so long since they also succeeded in inscribing the golden pages of the glorious October of Asturias in the revolutionary history of the proletariat. They do not know our people.
After a year of the war, however, they have begun to understand that the Spain of the Castanets is the fruit of their own stupidity and fevered imagination. Their own experience has succeeded in convincing them that the army made up of ill-clothed, semi-starving and poorly armed people succeeded in burying German divisions at Jarama, and in wiping out Italian divisions on the fields of Guadalajara. They gradually discovered what we were through a year of struggle. But we also have learnt something during this year. We have learnt to recognize those who want to stamp the slavish sign of fascism in letters of fire on the brows of our people; those whose design it, is to yoke the masses of our people to the shameful chariot-wheel of fascist slavery. We have also learned to know the worth of those who cover themselves in the colorless and mouldy clothes of democracy, so as to shamelessly serve the interests of fascism.
The reactionary bourgeoisie and the conservative elements in the governments of the bourgeois-democratic countries are well aware that the big landlords who enslave peasants no longer exist on the territory of Republican Spain; they are well aware that there are no longer any bankers there who enrich themselves by usury and at the expense of the humble savings of the people; they are well aware that the workers are no longer exploited in the factories by voracious capitalism; they are well aware that after our victory Spain, which has been a hundred years behind the democratic countries of Europe, will begin to outdistance them, and therefore they do not wish our people to live a democratic life. This is the chief cause of the cunning tricks of the notorious Non-Intervention Committee, and also of all the waverings of the governments of the bourgeois-democratic countries in connection with the question of allowing our people and our government to acquire all that they need for the war, as they have a right to.
Our workers, our peasants and the whole of our people should know what has been and is now the position of the governments of these countries. They should know of the crime committed — and we shall never forgive those guilty of it — when Irun fell because there were no bullets left, whereas a few kilometers away from Irun, on the other side of the Spanish border, there stood wagons filled with millions of bullets for the rifles of our fighters. Our people should know who (and why) held back on French territory the planes sent by our government to the aid of the Basque Country — when the latter urgently begged for aid so as not to fall in unequal struggle. We shall never succeed in forgiving the crimes committed against the Spanish Republic.
As against the cowardliness of some and the secret maneuvers of others there stands forth the victorious land of socialism, the Soviet Union, which not only defends the interests of the Spanish people firmly and resolutely before the whole world, but also uninterruptedly gives us the clearest proof of its solidarity. The enemies of the Spanish people are attempting to call into being a separatist movement in Catalonia with a view to carving up Republican Spain. They are attempting to prove to some people that Catalonia can live under a French protectorate, just as the Basque country can become a British protectorate, just as Majorca and certain Spanish ports in the Mediterranean Sea can pass into the hands of Italy, and just as Morocco, part of the Canary Islands and other Spanish possessions can be yielded to Germany. These plans are well known in the so-called upper circles of international politics. We wish to direct the attention of our people to these secret designs of international fascism; I repeat, I say secret designs because if these things were spoken of openly, the agents of the enemy in Catalonia and throughout Spain would be wiped off the face of the earth. Therefore, be on guard and keep a careful watch on those who fall for this bait of ending the war in Catalonia or in any other part of the country. The mark of treachery can be seen on all this.
Our people should know of the base machinations of these elements, whose actions are calculated to introduce disruption behind our lines, to hinder the work of the government of the People’s Front and to create difficulties so as to clear the way for the foreign intervention in our country, intervention which means the parceling out of Spain.
In order to fulfil these treacherous plans they wish to destroy the influence of the Communist Party, and to achieve this they stop at nothing. What is the main accusation advanced against our Party? We are accused of “hunting for souls.” They do not say of our Party that it “hunts for souls” by seizing the houses occupied by workers and by forcing the payment of rent under the threat of throwing them on the streets as was done in days gone by, by the former house-owners; they do not say of our Party that it compels the peasants to join collective farms under the threat of arms which could be made better use of at the front; they do not say of our Party that it establishes committees which live at the expense of the factory workers. They say of our Party that it “hunts for souls” at the front. So there, comrades, I want to let you into a secret. I myself while at the front near Madrid spent my time “hunting for souls.” And what is more, I did so from the very beginning of the military operations. I went to the men who had been sent into battle, and of whom the majority belonged to the Communist Party, to remind them that they were members of our Party, to tell them that they must sacrifice themselves, that they must not spare their lives in defense of the Republic, and they must hold aloft the banner of the People’s Front and of our Party . . . that they must sacrifice themselves so that their wives and children may live a free life, in peace and well-being.
And these people who went to face death replied with the greatest of enthusiasm: “Tell our comrades of the Central Committee that we shall be able to hold high the banner of the Party, that we shall be able to hold aloft the banner of the Republic and that we shall fight without sparing ourselves so as to help the Northern front, so as to compel the enemy to withdraw his troops from there, so that our comrades in the Basque country, Santander and Asturias may be able to reorganize and consolidate their forces and so that the children and women of Madrid may be able to sleep in peace, because we shall exert all our energy to drive the enemy back from the gates of the capital of the Republic.”
There you have the “hunting for souls” in which I engaged. And these people who maintained their honor as Communists by promising to fight to the last drop of their blood, beat off during a period of three weeks, and I saw it myself, the most furious attacks that ever took place in this war; they fought manfully and did not yield an inch of their ground until they received the order to retreat, because, as the rebels themselves have admitted, the enemy fired ten thousand shells on Brunete during these attacks, not counting aerial bombardments.
And when, on orders from the High Command, these people retreated in order to straighten out the front I went there again so as to acquaint myself with their morale and political state of mind, I found them just as they were before the offensive, full of the ardent desire to renew the fight against the enemy as soon as they received the command. But when I saw the devastation in the ranks of our comrades, I had to struggle with myself in order to withhold the sobs that were stifling me. At the same time I clenched my fists and choked with indignation at the memory of the foul campaigns carried through in the press against these heroes.
And so if you) engage in “hunting for souls” it means to fight best of all; if you engage in “hunting for souls” it means to send the best people in our Party to the fronts and to work in the rear, and if to engage in “hunting for souls” means to do heroic deeds as was shown by our comrades from Malaga, then I vow to you, comrades, that we shall continue to engage in this “hunting for souls” in the future as well. These people will have to be put on trial, and I can assure you that some of those who occupy very high posts will have to face, if not a firing squad then at least a tribunal.
We quite well understand the source of the hatred which is felt toward our Party; but we want the fact burned in letters of gold in the mind of every worker and every peasant that those who fight against the Communist Party, however picturesque the banners behind which they hide, are enemies of our revolution and of our people.
We are on the eve of great battles. Fascism has no intention of releasing from its claws the booty which it has seized, and which it already considers its own; and we on our part have no intention of allowing fascism to fulfil its criminal plans. But in order to prepare for those big battles which await us in the very near future, it is necessary to organize not only the army which has succeeded in becoming steeled in battle, but also order in the rear. An end must be put once and for all to the carelessness and flippancy that exist in the rear. Places still exist which have not yet been reached by the sound of the war, and where people consider it a burden to provide a few refugees with food and shelter.
There are those who think it possible to live their lives apart from the war, and to use the war only for their own personal gain. We must get clear on the point that if our army is to carry on a successful fight, those behind the lines are in duty bound to provide it with all that is necessary.
Above all, it is necessary to put an end once and for all to the “Fifth Column.“ We have already grown hoarse with constantly repeating this, and we hope that the government will at last hear us. This “Fifth Column” as Comrade Jose Diaz has said, is such a long one that for some reason or other its end cannot to this day be seen. We must help the government in its work of purging the rear, and, in addition, each one of us in particular must be watchful regarding those who surround us. All sentimentality must be cast aside, and we must, without any wavering, expose all those whom we suspect of hostility to our system.
An end must be put to the leveling of wages. The workers must receive sufficient to enable them completely to satisfy their elementary requirements. But an end must be put to the leveling of wages. A correct wage scale must be established and every worker paid according to his output. You cannot say to the workers: “Sacrifices must be made, and therefore you should not ask for wage increases” — when we see that people who profiteer on the hunger of the people, that unscrupulous tradesmen and various committees which desire to grow rich at the expense of the people raise prices to an unheard of degree on articles of prime necessity.
War must be declared on the profiteers! People who trade on the hunger of the population must be hunted down like wild animals. We must see to it that the government — and we hope and know that the government is ready to do this — puts an end to those who refuse to take account of the efforts of the workers and screw up prices to such a degree that they cause discontent among the people. And we must tell the government that in this work of cleansing the rear, all the anti-fascist forces of Spain will be on their side and help them; and we must remember that the history of our country provides splendid examples of how to behave toward those who violate the law, who do not subordinate themselves to the laws issued in the interests of the people.
We must get rid of all enemies and their hangers-on! Every one of us should place the interests of the war above all other interests. Those people who rest on their past revolutionary services and consciously or unconsciously help fascism in fulfilling its plans behind our lines must be told that we shall not permit them to engage in disruptive work. And those workers who still doubt whether these people are capable of serving the interests of the enemies of the people must be reminded of the living examples of history. Was not Mussolini once the editor of the Socialist Paper Avante, and Bordiga the leader of the Italian Maximalist Group? Yet Mussolini is the leader of fascism today while Bordiga is his henchman.
Why can’t the same thing happen in Spain? The facts go to show us one thing, namely, that among the people who formerly fought in the ranks of the proletariat, there are those who are now on the other side of the barricades, while others of them who remained in the ranks of the proletariat serve the interests of the enemy by their opposition to unity and by disorganizing and sabotaging the work of the government.
When we point to the need for a struggle against Trotskyism, we meet with a very strange phenomenon, for voices are raised in its defense in the ranks of certain organizations and among certain circles in certain parties. These voices belong to people who themselves are saturated with this counter-revolutionary ideology. The Trotskyists have long been transformed into the agents of fascism, into the agents of the German Gestapo. We saw this in practice during the May putsch in Catalonia; we saw this clearly in the rebel outbreaks in various other localities. And everybody will see this when the trial begins against the P.O.U.M. leaders who were caught in their spying activity. And we see the hand of fascism in all the actions which are directed toward demoralizing our rear, toward undermining the authority of the Republic. Therefore it is essential that we destroy Trotskyism with a firm hand, for Trotskyism is no longer a political trend in the working class, but a weapon of the counter revolution.
Trotskyism must be rooted out of the proletarian ranks of our Party as one roots out poisonous plants. The Trotskyists must be rooted out and destroyed like wild beasts, for otherwise at each decisive moment when our men wish to undertake the offensive, we shall be unable to begin because of disorders provoked by the Trotskyists in the rear. An end must be put to these traitors once and for all, so that our men at the front may be able to fight without fearing that they will be stabbed in the back.
But if all these tasks are to be fulfilled, if the work of organizing industry is to be fulfilled; if the needs of the front and the rear are to be satisfied; if the rear is to be thoroughly purged of enemies, one basic condition must be satisfied, one of which Comrades Palao and Camorera have already spoken. Comrade Camorera has told us of the great significance for Catalonia of the establishment of a united party of the proletariat, and although we never rest content with the work that has already been done (because we always think that much more could be done), in general we are satisfied with the work done by our United Party of Catalonia. We also point, and not only now but have long done so, to the need for uniting the two proletarian parties into a single party of the proletariat.
We have on many occasions spoken of the character of our struggle, of the significance of our revolution, and we have always asserted that in the bourgeois-democratic revolution the proletariat fulfils the historic mission of rallying all the democratic forces around itself so as to arouse them to march shoulder to shoulder with the revolutionary vanguard. The proletariat will only succeed in fulfilling this task if it is united as a class both in the political and trade union fields. And then all antifascists will advance in a solid front with greater rapidity towards the great, prosperous and happy Spain for which our people are now shedding their blood.
Therefore our Party, a Party which has succeeded in becoming a tremendous political force in Spain, understands that it is essential to move rapidly toward the merging of the two parties so as to be able to give successful leadership to the war and to ensure victory for the revolution taking place in our country. From the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party we have met a strong desire to bring about this merger, but within the Socialist Party voices have been raised of people who do not agree, of people who but yesterday considered themselves to be leading figures and who, not daring to oppose the general will of the workers, spoke of unity. However, in spite of these individual voices, the striving for unity is so great among the rank and file of the Socialist Party that certain organizations, as, for example, in Albacete, have already established not liaison committees but merger committees, and now jointly discuss all problems directed toward the defense of the interests of the proletariat.
Details and trifles must be put aside. We must not give way to feelings of personal injury. We must rise above these petty personal disagreements which spur on some people to oppose unity, and remember that the individual person by himself is nothing, that the people are everything, and we must remember the common interests of our people.
Every one of you must become a resolute fighter for liberty — and follow his leaders when they are filled with the spirit of unity and march along with you; but you must advance without leaders when they create obstacles, and pass over their heads when they oppose the unity of the proletariat.
Comrades, the Communist Party is once again showing you the way to victory, namely: The rear cleansed of the fascists; industry working for defense; the village working intensively; the proletariat satisfied with their position and conscious that they will never any more be a source of exploitation; the People’s Front uniting all the antifascist forces; a united party of the proletariat, which in alliance with all antifascist forces leads the revolution in our country.
Impress deeply on your minds the line indicated by the Communist Party for the achievement of victory, and after you become convinced of the correctness of our line, after you perceive that the Communist Party does not limit itself to mere general slogans, but that at the cost of the sacrifices made by our people it clothes these slogans in flesh and blood, after you have done so — come to us, workers of Valencia and throughout Spain so that with your help we may be able to lead you to final victory.
Source: Communist International Vol. XIV, No. 11, November 1937, pp. 808-813.