The above article by Paul Flewers is devoted almost exclusively to a denunciation of the treacherous activities of the Stalinists in Spain, and therefore down-plays the crucial question of the Popular Front. It must be re-asserted that Trotskyists are not simply opposed to, but rather counterposed to, the Popular Front and every class-collaborationist alliance which subordinates the interests of the proletariat to those of the bourgeoisie.
Flewers’ strong Stalinophobic tilt amnesties the other reformist and centrist working-class tendencies. While the Stalinists were undoubtedly the most energetic and effective propounders and henchmen of the Popular Front in Spain, they did not occupy a social position to the right of the right wing of the Socialist Party: Trotsky spoke repeatedly of a ‘Stalin-Negrin government’. Ernest Erber, an experienced Social Democrat and former Trotskyist who spent some months in Spain during the Civil War as a representative of the American Young Peoples Socialist League, shows more political sense than Flewers: he scoffs at the idea of a Stalinist ‘totalitarian’ takeover of the Republican forces in Spain (see How real is the threat of a Communist “takeover”?, New Politics, Winter 1988).
Flewers treats the POUM, in particular, with kid gloves. But at crucial junctures the POUM – and the left Anarchists and Largo Caballero’s Socialists – each in their own way participated in the Popular Front. We cannot amnesty them from the standpoint of the revolutionary working class. This is particularly important in relation to the POUM.
Leon Trotsky broke all connections with Andres Nin and Juan Andrade when they led the erstwhile section of the International Left Opposition into fusion with the right-wing communists of Joaquim Maurin’s Workers and Peasants Bloc, giving birth to the misnamed ‘Workers Party of Marxist Unification’. The POUM’s first significant political act was to join in a common electoral bloc with bourgeois parties – the Popular Front.
Between the POUM, a member of the London Bureau ‘international of squeezed lemons’, and Trotskyism, there can be no common denominator in a revolutionary situation. Self-proclaimed Trotskyists who attempt to politically reconcile themselves with the POUM only succeed in compromising themselves – like Victor Serge and George Vereecken (the latter ended his political career writing the slanderous GPU Infiltration in the Trotskyist Movement for the political bandit Gerry Healy).
Referring to the ‘Treachery of the POUM’, in his last major work on the Spanish Revolution, The Class, The Party and the Leadership, Trotsky pointed out:
To the left of all the other parties in Spain stood the POUM ... But it was precisely this party that played a fatal role in the development of the Spanish revolution ... It participated in the “Popular” election bloc; entered the government that liquidated workers’ committees; engaged in a struggle to reconstitute this governmental coalition; capitulated time and again to the anarchist leadership; conducted, in connection with this, a false trade union policy; and took a vacillating and non-revolutionary attitude toward the May 1937 uprising ... [A] centrist party invariably acts as a brake upon the revolution, must each time smash its own head, and may bring about the collapse of the revolution.
International Spartacist Tendency