Minutes of the Commission II
(Comrade Field reports on the problems of the Spanish revolution and the International Left Opposition.)
Field: The relations between the Spanish Left Opposition and the international organization have developed badly, especially in the last period. To correctly evaluate the crisis of the Spanish Opposition, one must begin with the Spanish Left Opposition’s assessment of the situation over the course of time.
In a letter of [ ] Comrade Lacroix denies the importance of the student movement and fails to see its symptomatic significance.
Comrade Nin in his letter of January 26, 1931, speaks against the [electoral] boycott in and of itself. If, however, the Republicans go through with the boycott, the Communists must do likewise. He did not expect the April  revolution and was unprepared for it.
Trotsky: He did not sufficiently appreciate the bind that the bourgeoisie was in.
Field reports further on Comrade Nin’s letter of December 7, 1931, in which he does not share L. D. [Trotsky]’s assessment of the situation.
The theses of the national conference rest on an identical standpoint. The present situation is described as a “slump” (August issue of Comunismo).
Trotsky: It has to be determined whether that appraisal was made before or after the revolt of General Sanjurjo.
Field: That formulation goes back to last December.
Trotsky: In January Spain experienced a general strike. Before that there was of course something of an upsurge and after the repression a certain lull.
Field: At the beginning of December Comrade Nin put out the call for sporadic strikes.
The question of the fascist danger or the monarchist counterrevolution was never clearly raised. In the theses it says that the present government does everything that a fascist government could do. That roughly corresponds to the Stalinists’ appraisal of the German situation.
Trotsky: It’s even worse. In Germany the holdings of large landlords were not expropriated.
Field: This attitude contains more or less unwittingly the theory of social fascism.
The national conference raised twelve democratic slogans without tying them to revolutionary slogans. (Far-reaching freedom of the press, of assembly and strike, etc. — Abolition of the Law for the Security of the Republic and of administrative arrests. — Abolition of the civil guard. — Confiscation of church property and large landholdings without compensation and their distribution among the peasants. — Recognition of the right of self-determination for Catalonia up to and including separation. — Relief for the unemployed, etc., etc.) These slogans are in no way communist.
Field: Because they also appear in the Social Democratic platform.
Trotsky: But the Social Democrats don’t fight for them.
Field: These slogans must be posed in connection with the seizure of power.
On the question of the elections the Spanish Left Opposition follows a zigzag policy. On the all-important agrarian question it takes no clear-cut stand. The theses themselves haven’t even been published three months after the conference.
The attitude of the Spanish Left Opposition, and that of Comrade Nin in particular, towards Maurín's group was very equivocal.
Trotsky: The bad part of it wasn’t the attempt to work within the Maurin group — the worst part was that no independent propaganda was carried out and no independent group was formed. These errors weren’t accidental, otherwise joint work with Maurin would have been impossible, even for one hour. Comrade Nin even kept quiet about his Left Opposition views, for which he was indicted by Comrade Lacroix.
Field: Comrade Nin edited the theses of the Maurin group, although he was not on their central committee. Despite his relations with thousands of workers in the Maurin group, he was still thrown out by Maurin and he took no workers with him. He writes only of “sympathies.”
Trotsky: One can say that this was an example of the worst form of united front policy, a Kuomintangization of the policy of the Left Opposition. Comrade Nin posed this question as a purely personal one in the hope of winning Maurin for the Left Opposition. It is important to use this opportunity to emphasize that comrades often place personal above political considerations. That is petty-bourgeois in the most concrete and worst meaning of the word.
Field: We come to the question of the last conference. The theses were not sufficiently prepared before the conference. There was no opportunity for an international discussion and probably not for a national one. The handling of the theses at the conference itself revealed a poor state of affairs within the organization. The most important theses went back to the individual groups because no agreement could be reached.
Trotsky: What were the differences of opinion over? That must be ascertained.
Field: There were two views on the agrarian theses, for example:
1. The land has to be divided among the peasants.
2. Division of the land among the peasants is very damaging for a future collectivization, therefore no division of the land.
The conference itself did not come to any resolution of the question.
Trotsky: The fact of the two tendencies is more significant than the conference itself. All nuances should be well assessed and classified in advance.
Field: The internal life of the organization does not emerge from its press. There is no indication of whether there is any political discussion at all. There is no sign of collective leadership.
There is no longer any Spanish leadership — it has already broken down officially.
One of the most important questions, the training of the cadres, is handled neither in the correspondence nor in the press. Comrade Nin puts great store in reports, personal correspondence with individuals, and diplomatic relations with the leaderships of other organizations.
As regards the party, it can be said that the Spanish Left Opposition understands unity of a communist party to be the same as trade union unity — namely, an association of all tendencies. This emerges from the correspondence and the conference theses.
Trotsky: Comrade Nin writes, for example, that there is no Communist Party in Spain, that the Maurin group is actually the party. He also denies the development of the CP throughout Spain.
Field: In a letter of August 25, 1931, Comrade Nin asks whether the new elements that join the Left Opposition should be sent into the party or into Maurín's federation. The theses’ evaluation of the party is completely vague. It is said for example, “The greatest obstacle to the construction of a large Communist Party is the Comintern and in our country the CP.”
Trotsky: Is any characterization made of the party and the Maurin group?
Trotsky: Are the politics of the party evaluated theoretically? It is a sign of a petty-bourgeois attitude if the party is generally referred to as “nitwits,” etc. Is it stated why we are Left Oppositionists?
Field: That is contained in special theses.
Trotsky: That is the most important. What is said about the party must be studied. It must be demanded of the Spanish comrades that they analyze party policy over a period of time, in chronological order.
Field: They do that in special theses on the party.
Trotsky: These theses must be gone over. It is entirely possible that the party in many cases carries out a more correct policy than our comrades. If we reinforce the errors of our comrades, then we are cutting ourselves off from future perspectives.
Field: The question of a “broad” or a “narrow” faction has never been understood by Comrade Nin. He poses the question of whether new members should be sent into the party or into the Maurin group. Later he writes that it is right for new members to be sent to the party. He believes that it is impossible to take new members directly into the Left Opposition since that would signify laying the groundwork for a second party. On December 3, 1930, he himself spoke out for a second party — for a “communist unity” against the party.
The theses themselves are very vague. At the end is an entirely formal renunciation of any second party, but this itself is again in contradiction with the practice of the Spanish Left Opposition. In the theses the party is called the “party of opportunism.”
Trotsky: Nothing about adventurism?
Field: Not in this context. It is said, “Only the Left Opposition can create the weapon of the proletariat, a mass party.”
In the provinces the confusion is even greater. A group in Seville issued a leaflet “To the Workers” which ended: “Long live the united front based on the CNT! Long live the International Left Opposition!” With this attitude the Spanish Left Opposition is presented as “one more” communist group which is against the Communist Party in the style of the Maurin group. Also the handling of international questions reveals the astonishing weakness of the Spanish section.
Trotsky: In one of his most recent letters Comrade Lacroix admits that the line of the Spanish conference meant a second party line, and he was opposed to this.
That also explains why the Spanish section is taking on another name.
Precisely around the question of a second party we have had major disputes — in Russia with the Sapronov group, in Germany with the Leninbund, in Belgium with Overstraeten. All of these experiences and lessons are being ignored by the Spanish. The struggle over the question of the second party went on for long years and created an important body of literature. Comrade Nin was with the Sapronov group in Russia during these disputes.
But despite everything the Spanish comrades declare: We have no differences of opinion with the ILO.
Field: There is no sign that international questions are discussed in the ranks of the Spanish section.
Trotsky: It is necessary to say that all the accusations that Comrade Lacroix now makes against the leading comrades of the ILO are nothing more than the mindless repetition of what Rosmer, Landau, and Urbahns have already said.
There were often elements expelled from the party who could not come to terms with revolutionary discipline. They have also at times come to the Left Opposition because they hoped to find in it a playground of indiscipline and a haven for all possible and impossible ideas. But as these elements saw that the Left Opposition unerringly followed its revolutionary line and demanded revolutionary discipline, they screamed that the Left Opposition was worse than the party. The character of the petty bourgeois was thus revealed.
Field: That is expressed for example in the demand of the Spanish section that every imaginable splinter group should be allowed to participate in the international conference.
The trade union question: Only draft theses are under consideration and the criticisms have been sketchily incorporated. The formulations of the relations between party and trade union are extremely bad. It is stated that trade unions should not serve the goals of a party. They oppose trade union unity inside the CNT. Not a word is said about the Social Democratic UGT.
Trotsky: What is the relationship of forces?
Frank: CNT, then UGT.
Frankel: In a letter Comrade Nin wrote that in Barcelona the UGT had the leadership in an action.
Trotsky: Then what do they call “unity”? With whom? Does there now exist a purely communist trade union? An RGO?
Frank: Only in Seville.
Field: The Spanish comrades even go so far as to say in their political theses that it was the anarchists who best understood the political situation. But later on they say that the anarchists contributed the most to the maintenance of democratic illusions.
Trotsky: So an anarcho-syndicalist trade union center exists and a second, Social Democratic one. Aside from them there are still small local centers, those of the Communists. The anarchists and the Social Democrats want no unity and the Communists want unity under their own banner. The Left Opposition wants to make the CNT the basis of unity.
Are there any reports on Left Opposition work in the trade unions?
Field: There is at present no trace of any real mass work. El Soviet reports nothing about trade union work in its column on the inner life of the organization.
The draft theses on trade union work contain a slogan for a national proletarian congress as a counterpart to the bourgeois parliament. That is a syndicalist idea.
Field: Because it is only proposed as a trade union gathering.
Frankel: For his part, Maurin demanded that the trade unions take power.
Trotsky: That reflects the Catalonian tradition: we don’t need soviets, we have the unions.
The Spanish section’s slogan is an attempt to carry out a political action on the trade union plane. Why shouldn’t one try to counterpose other bodies to the Cortes [parliament]? Why shouldn’t one propose that the Spanish proletariat proclaim its position as a class — for example, on the agrarian question? At the congress itself the different tendencies would wrestle over the solution to the agrarian question.
I conceive of such a congress as a congress of the working class. In a revolutionary epoch it can have good results. This congress would naturally also serve the cause of trade union unity.
Field: The comrades demand this congress from the trade union centers.
Trotsky: It should be suggested that the congress be broadened, but it is not a mistake to have the trade union base.
Frankel: It is a complicated contrivance for the creation of trade union unity, and the congress is only supposed to serve that goal.
Trotsky: It is entirely possible that among the Spanish syndicalists the idea is prevalent that it is impossible to unite with the Social Democratic trade unions, who in fact serve a party. Perhaps the Spanish comrades are therefore searching for ways to make unity possible.
Field: The Spanish comrades have absolutely no fear of a syndicalist danger. They say the anarcho-syndicalists will be our allies, and not our opponents.
Trotsky: One must know whether this formulation is meant in general or only for certain cases. In Russia too the anarcho-syndicalists took part in the October Revolution. In Spain, however, the relationship of forces is just the opposite and the syndicalist danger therefore stronger. But if the Spanish comrades only mean that one can go into the struggles shoulder to shoulder with the anarcho-syndicalists, then one shouldn’t draw any further conclusions from it.
Field reads aloud a quotation in which the approach of large sections of the anarcho-syndicalists to Marxist ideology is discussed.
Trotsky: It is an inevitable process. At the moment when the syndicalists push away the anarchists they unavoidably come closer to Marxism.
Field: We must ask for a more precise formulation of this notion from the Spanish comrades.
A few suggestions: a new Spanish conference, fully prepared and held with the participation of the ILO.
The following questions, among others, must be on the agenda: the political situation, the relationship with the party, trade union work, organizational questions inside the Spanish Left Opposition.
A work plan for a specific period of time must be worked out beforehand by the leadership with consideration given to the creation of fractions within the party, trade union work, and the press. The Spanish section must publish the International Bulletin in the Spanish language.
Here is a statistical presentation on eleven issues of El Soviet concerning international questions:
In the last two issues nothing at all on international affairs. Each issue has 20 columns, of which 18 columns are used for purely Spanish questions. On an average, international questions are conceded 1½ columns per issue, that is 7.5 percent. Of 350 pages in Comunismo, 49 pages are for international questions, that is, 14 percent.
Trotsky: In the next session the question of faction or party must be taken up in detail.
Field: The commission will prepare a sort of bibliography on the individual questions.
Trotsky: A convenient point of departure for the handling of this question is: (1) the decision of the conference, and (2) Comrade Lacroix’s recognition that this decision represents nothing other than a tendency toward a second party. The question of the history of the ILO should then be taken up briefly. It is an historical-political question, a question of context and timing. The life and death of the Left Opposition depends on it.
Just as dangerous is putting up independent candidates in a situation where, for example, we cannot even publish a weekly newspaper.
Very important, furthermore, is the characterization of the Spanish comrades’ individual-psychological method in dealing with all questions.
The Spanish comrades must be told that we are sure that 99 percent of the Spanish section is with the ILO and not with Urbahns, Landau, and the others. But we accuse the Spanish leadership of not clearly posing all questions, of always presenting them as only purely personal questions. The Spanish leadership wants Rosmer’s participation in the international conference, but it has never expressed itself on Rosmer’s position. The political posing of a question must be counterposed to the personal-psychological.
Frankel: Special prominence must be given to the inadequate orientation to the proletarian revolution.
Trotsky: If there is evidence of their pessimistic views, we must say to the Spanish comrades: The most damaging thing for a revolutionary organization is to fail to measure up to a revolutionary epoch, to a revolutionary situation, to view them from a minimalist standpoint, and to regard a revolutionary perspective with skepticism and distrust. We are far from ascribing such a conception to the Spanish comrades, but there is a series of factors which appear serious to us, for example the orientation toward a second party. We are sure that on this question also the majority of the Spanish comrades are with us. Yet these questions have not been clearly posed inside the Spanish section, and never on the scale of the international experiences of the Left Opposition.
We should also indicate the ambiguities on the trade union question, the relation to Sorel, etc.
We should say to them finally: We draw optimistic conclusions. We are certain that we shall reach agreement through political and theoretical discussion, and that at a new national conference — one that must be well prepared — the Spanish comrades will treat these questions thoroughly.
(In the next session the Spanish commission will present its draft of a letter to the members of the Spanish section.)