Manuel Fernández Grandizo (Munis) and Jaime Fernández Rodríguez
Corrections to the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 3
This section is intended as a supplement to the previous issues of our magazine devoted to the Spanish Civil War (Volumes 1, no 2, Summer 1988, and 4, nos 1-2, Winter 1991-92). Our first item was translated from ‘Rectificaciones a Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 3’, published in the Quaderni of the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, Studi e Ricerche series, no 26, October 1992, and appears here by kind permission of Paolo Casciola. It contains a number of necessary corrections to the historical record of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the Spanish Civil War made by Jaime Fernández and Grandizo Munis shortly before the latter’s death.
A necessary prelude to the Spanish Civil War was the Asturian uprising of 1934. We draw our readers’ attention to the account by one of its leaders, The Asturian Commune, issued last year by this magazine’s publishers, Socialist Platform.
H H H
HE police chief referred to on page 126, Colonel Burillo, was not a ‘notorious Stalinist’. However, like many other military professionals, since July 1936 he had been attracted by Stalinism’s counter-revolutionary policy. Burillo held the rank of captain in the first regiment of infantry in Madrid before it was dissolved along with the rest of the army following the proletarian victory of 19 July.
Page 129: the political accusations against the POUM are hardly explained in the quotation made here from the book by Andrés Suárez (Iglesias). They were substantially those of a revolutionary programme, a programme which, as Trotsky said, the POUM in no way defended.
Page 130: Incorrect. Munis was born in 1912. His entry into the Socialist Youth was not a personal matter, but the decision of a group of the Izquierda Comunista (Communist Left), which entered it as a faction with its own programme. The group was made up of Esteban Bilbao, Fersen, A Rodríguez and Munis, among others. So far as Munis was concerned, his entry was not effective. Munis did not leave for Cuba, but for Mexico, and for other than family reasons. He returned to Spain on the first boat, the Magallanes, with a cargo of weapons. As soon as he had embarked at Cartagena, he made for Madrid, where he attempted unsuccessfully to lead the POUM to break its collaboration with the Generalitat (Catalan government) and the Popular Front, and where he occupied himself with the reconstruction of the Spanish Trotskyist organisation. The leadership, to the extent to which we can talk about a leadership with reference to an inexperienced group, was carried on by Munis and Jaime Fernández, R Carlini, Moulin, and others who later came to the group in Barcelona.
Page 131: Luís Zanon did not join ‘the Bolshevik Leninist Group at a recent date’. He was a member of the POUM, and worked for the POUM. He was expelled from the party and dismissed from his employment for distributing a Trotskyist pamphlet. He was later won to our group, but only as a technical assistant on account of his linguistic knowledge. He was neither a Fascist nor a Stalinist, contrary to what Fosco put about, followed by the Cahiers, no 3, but quite simply an extraordinarily frightened man.
Pages 131-4: Almost everything said here about Narvitch, the Moscow-type trial and the accusations against the Trotskyists is incomplete or false, often malevolently so. The GPU agent Narvitch did not carry on the slightest activity in the Spanish Section of the Fourth International, and he did not claim to belong to it. He presented himself as a militant of the POUM and attended its military conference. Our contacts with him were limited to two or three meetings in cafés. Fernández never met him. Thus it would have been difficult for him to finance the publication of La Voz Leninista, contrary to what El Soviet asserted according to the Cahiers (El Soviet consisted of a few typewritten sheets in French inspired by Molinier), an assertion that is taken up by Andrade in document no 7 on page 133.
The indictment against the Trotskyist group (which amounted not to seven members, but to more than double that) in the political sphere consisted of what all who have talked about it have kept quiet about, including Broué, the organisation of the insurrection of May 1937 (which we denied having organised but unreservedly defended the insurrection) and the appeal for a general struggle to overthrow the Popular Front government (a struggle envisaged as a perspective because it was necessary for the proletarian revolution). In the criminal sphere, the indictment included espionage, destabilisation and terrorism behind the front in order to work for the victory of Franco, and plans to assassinate Negrín, Prieto, Comorera, José Diaz and La Pasionaria, and then the assassination of Narvitch, which was a ‘trial run’. According to the GPU, the author of this murder was Munis, aided by J Fernández — not Carlini. The death sentence was requested for the first two. But contrary to what is said on page 131, the GPU accusation could not have mentioned the Austrian — not German — Joan or Max, since it was Munis who introduced this second name at the time of his interrogation by the police by denouncing this Austrian as an agent provocateur of the GPU, a denunciation he extended to the police who were interrogating him. It was this Austrian — not Narvitch — who was really the agent whom Stalin’s police representatives in Spain had ordered to contact us. A blunder by this man informed us that he was carrying on him a document made out in the name of Max — not Joan — and that his master, if not his boss, was Narvitch. The police refused to allow the name of Max to appear in the dossier. A few days before our arrest, we learned that Narvitch was suspected inside the POUM of having taken part in the murder of Nin. Now nobody among the leaders of this party, with whom we had enquired through the intermediary of one of our people, Sanz, expressed an opinion on this subject. That was in January 1938. Now according to Andrade’s document, he, along with his prison companions, knew six months before what was known as regards Narvitch, and had alerted the militants who had escaped arrest.
Kielso’s escape sounded the alarm about our situation and where we were kept to the anti-Stalinist organisations, such as the CNT and the Fourth International, thus opening up a protest campaign. Here we must make a mention of Teodoro Sanz, who had come from the front wounded and found himself accused in a Moscow-type trial mounted with help from abroad. We were able to send documents from prison to Paris. All this forced the trial fixed for 15 days after our appearance before the judge to be put back to a later date.
As far as Hans Freund (Moulin) is concerned: the ‘sympathisers of the Fourth International’ within the POUM in Madrid with whom, according to what is said on page 135, Moulin was linked, could be none other than all the militants of this local section, for none of them came from the Bloque Obrero y Campesino (Workers and Peasants Bloc), but all of them had come from the Izquierda Comunista. The so-called efforts of Moulin in Barcelona to unite with Fosco and Ayach, the sole components of El Soviet, were not made by Moulin in our presence, and he could not have done them without it. As for our influence over the Amigos of Durrutti (Friends of Durrutti), it was above all effected by the first Trotskyist leaflet during the 1937 May Days. Direct contacts with this group were only established after the armed struggle.
In Document no 7, Juan Andrade lets slip: ‘For a long time the entire Spanish Trotskyist organisation lived off this GPU money. Three numbers of its journal were published and… lived in luxury with this money.’ The Cahier’s editors note at the foot of the page that ‘the original typescript includes a blank, filled in by hand, which we do not think we should reproduce’.
On our part we request in a most insistent manner of these so-called editors in the following edition to reprint the text with the missing word, so that nobody is deceived by the malevolence committed. The truth must be shown entirely in full about all who lie as about those who do not lie.
Shall we say that from the prison where he had been since June 1937, Juan Andrade followed the traces of all our steps and six months afterwards knew whether the GPU was providing a little or a lot of money to finance a journal essentially directed, so Andrade tells us, against the POUM when Andrade himself was in conditions that prevented him from reading this journal or of knowing more than most the sort of life that it seemed we were living…
Let us leave gossiping and return to the facts: if, as Gorkin says in Canibales políticos it was the men of the POUM who executed Narvitch, then what are we to think of the revolutionaries responsible, who, accused of espionage because they were Trotskyists, defended themselves against this accusation without for once denouncing the counter-revolutionary character of the accusation against the Trotskyists and the POUM, and who appealed to Munis to free them from the charge of Trotskyism? Who kept silence for many years and left Trotskyism and two of its representatives — Munis and Fernández — under a charge: the murder of Narvitch, for which they themselves were responsible?
To conclude, we Trotskyists defended the POUM against the lies of the Stalinists. On the other hand, we have never seen a single word of the POUM defending us against the same slanders. We could say far more here and much worse, but we will stop there.
Page 138: Nin did not oppose Trotsky’s proposal to enter the Socialist parties as a faction at that time, and this for the irrefutable reason that this proposal was made by Esteban Bilbao in Spain many months before Trotsky made it, and Nin was in agreement with Bilbao. Then he changed his mind in order to ally with Maurín in the ‘Marxist unification’ indicated by the POUM initials, whose declared aim was to unite into one party the Socialist Party and the Stalinist Party, as shown by the Maurín-Carillo correspondence.
Paris, April 1982
PS: In the chronology set out in the same Volume 3, the second entry referring to 1941 reads: ‘Press campaign in Mexico and provocations against the anti-Stalinist refugees Victor Serge, Julián Gorkin, Gustav Regler, Marceau Pivert.’ Now this campaign was directed not against four, but against five. A strange omission in a work that wishes to retrace the history of Trotskyism and does not mention the only Trotskyist out of the five, the only one among them who struggled at the height of the imperialist war in the name of internationalism. Do we have to name him?
. In this text Munis and Jaime Fernández are referring to the material in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 3, July-September 1979: the article by René Revol, ‘Procès de Moscou en Espagne’ (pp121-32), Juan Andrade’s document, ‘L’affaire Léon Narvitch’ (pp133-4), the biographical box entitled ‘Freund, dit Moulin (1912-1937)’ (p135), and the ‘Chronologie’ (pp237-41).
. Andrés Suarez (Ignacio Iglesias), La represión y el proceso contra el POUM, Ediciones del POUM (Barcelona), 1938. New edition: Un episodio de la revolución española. El proceso contra el POUM, Ruedo Ibérico, Paris, 1974.
. This date, among others, is confirmed by the obituary of Munis that appeared in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 38, June 1989, pp123-4. A different date of birth — 18 April 1911 — was on the other hand used by Agustín Guillamón Iborra, ‘Munis. Vida y obra de un revolucionario desconocido’, Generació. Revista d’opinió i anàlisi, Barcelona, no 2, 1991, pp49-65. The erroneous date of birth used by René Revol in the article mentioned — 1900 — was later taken up by the French editors of the memoirs of Domenico Sedran (Alfonso Carlini), ‘Mémoires d’un prolétaire révolutionnnaire’, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 29, March 1987, n25, p96.
. The pseudonym of the Spaniard Enrique Fernández Sendón.
. The pseudonym of the Italian Domenico Sedran. Cf his ‘Memorie di un proletario rivoluzionario’ (edited by Antonio Moscato), Critica Comunista, Milan, second year, nos 8-9, July-October 1980, pp133-83. A French translation of part of this document was published under the title of ‘Mémoires d’un prolétaire révolutionnaire’, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no 29, March 1987, pp80-97. An English translation of the entire part concerning the Spanish Civil War was published under the title ‘Carlini in Spain: An Italian Trotskyist in the Spanish Civil War’, in ‘The Spanish Civil War: The View from the Left’, Revolutionary History, Volume 4, nos 1-2, Winter 1991-92, Socialist Platform, London, 1992, pp253-64.
. The pseudonym of the German Hans David Freund.
. This refers to the Italian Luigi Zanon.
. The pseudonym of the Italian Nicola di Bartolomeo. On this subject, cf the biography prepared by Paolo Casciola, ‘40 anni fa moriva un rivoluzionario: Nicola di Bartolomeo (Fosco) (1901-1946)’, Il Comunista, Foligno, seventh year, nos 20-22 (New series), February 1986, pp68-71; now in ‘Appunti di storia del trotskysmo italiano (1930-1945)’, Quaderni del Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, Foligno, series ‘Studi e ricerche’, no 1, May 1986, pp35-43. Fosco arrived in Barcelona in April 1936, and had immediately begun to collaborate with the small Bolshevik-Leninist group in Barcelona (in whose name he wrote a letter to Trotsky on 4 August 1936) and with the POUM. Accused by the representative of the International Secretariat of the Movement for the Fourth International, Jean Rous, of wishing to liquidate the Trotskyist grouping by dissolving it into the POUM, Fosco was then expelled from the group. This expulsion was confirmed in January 1937 by the Sección Bolchevique-Leninista de España — the new name adopted by the Spanish Trotskyist group in November 1936 (cf the communiqué ‘A nuestras camaradas y simpatizantes’, La Voz Leninista, Barcelona, first year, no 1, April 1937, p3, where ‘F’ means Fosco). In the meantime he had, however, formed an independent group (cf the following note) which sternly polemicised with the ‘official’ group led by Munis and his comrades.
. This typewritten bulletin should really be called Le Soviet, since it was published in the French language, and not El Soviet, such as has been erroneously declared by all those who concerned themselves with this subject. At least 10 numbers of this bulletin were published up until June 1937, although no example has been found in the archives. Some of these articles were afterwards reproduced in the Molinierist press in Paris. The bulletin was the organ of a small ‘dissident’ Trotskyist group — the Grupo (or Célula) Le Soviet de Barcelona, linked with the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste of Raymond Molinier and Pierre Frank — which collaborated closely with the POUM and consisted of the following militants: Nicola di Bartolomeo (Fosco) and his companion Virginia Gervasini (Sonia), the only militant in the group to hold a POUM membership card; Cristofano Salvini (Tosca); Maurice and Henri Aiache; Georges Chéron and his companion, Louise (information of Virginia Gervasini to Paolo Casciola, Varese, 23 January, 1983). It is interesting to note that the short biography of Maurice Aiache put out by Jean-Michel Brabant for the Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier français, Volume 17, Éditions Ouvrières, Paris, 1982, p42) does not mention his membership of this group, whereas in a far shorter — and anonymous — note devoted to Henri Aiache (ibid) it is said that ‘as opposed to his brother, he was linked with the Parti Communiste Internationaliste’, without however indicating to which group he belonged during his stay in Spain.
. It is a question of the Danish militant Aage Kielso.
. It was really one of the two Aiache brothers, probably Henri, who was responsible for maintaining the contacts between the Grupo (or Célula) Le Soviet and the French Molinierist organisation.
. The historian who is interested in such petty affairs would do better to consult La Voz Leninista and the Trotskyist leaflets to contrast them with Andrade’s statements (note by G Munis and J Fernández).
. Julián Gorkin, Canibales políticos. Hitler y Stalin en España, Ediciones Quetzal, Mexico, 1941.
. This is obviously a question of Munis himself.