‘Dissolution of the Antifascist Militia Committees’ from The Spanish Revolution (P.O.U.M., New York). Vol. 1 No. 2. October 28, 1936.
The Antifascist Militia Committees were the organs of workers power which developed spontaneously just after the July days. They were composed of representatives of all the workers’ parties and organizations and the Popular Front bourgeois parties. The Committees varied in each town both in name and the proportional weight of their components. We shall describe the Central Committee at Barcelona.
In this committee there were 10 proletarian, 1 peasant, and 4 bourgeois representatives. The workers were represented by 3 delegates of the C.N.T. (or Anarchist Trade Unions), 3 delegates of the U.G.T. (or Socialist-Communist Unions), 2 delegates of the F.A.I. (or Anarchist Federation), 1 of the P.S.U.C. (or United Socialist and Communist Parties) and 1 of the P.O.U.M. The Union of Rabassaires had 1 representative. The Esquerra or Catalan Left Republicans, a bourgeois party, had 3 representatives and the Catalan Action which stands to the right of the Esquerra had 1 delegate.
Let no one think, however, that this was all being run without difficulty. The organizations which made up the Committees had up till the fascist rising looked upon each other as enemies. But, if their apprehensions did not disappear, at least the needs of the common struggle forced them into this union of all workers’ organizations.
A period of dual power thus arose in Catalonia. These Committees, which were supported by the only armed force in existence, held the actual power. Acting in conjunction with the member organizations, the Committees helped arm. The workers’ militias and sent them to the front. It then organized, with the help of the food-stuffs and transport unions, the provisioning of the troops at the front and of the civil population.
Once the initial measures were completed, the steps necessary to the continuance of the war and the organization of the social revolution were put under way. Transportation in Catalonia was organized by the unions and the Committees. The War Committee organized hospital facilities at the front and behind the lines for the wounded; it established a strict control over press, radio and all means of communications. The Public Order Committee took over the functions of the old state police, to discover fascist traitors and otherwise guard the public safety. Acting through its member organizations and in collaboration with the Economic Council of the Generality, which was put under workers’ control, the Committees began the organization of the socialized Catalan industry and established certain plants as munitions plants.
The Generality, under pressure from the workers and under the control their representatives on the Antifascist Militia Committee began the reorganization of the school system and the modifications of judicial procedure.
It is evident from this short description of confused responsibility that the period of dual power, so essential in the pre-revolutionary and early revolutionary phases, had outlived its usefulness and was leading to confusion and needless duplication.
The relation of forces which existed before the fascist uprising was of course modified during the revolutionary turmoil. And it naturally was modified in favor of the most revolutionary parties. It is impossible to estimate the quantitative strength; the street fighting and formal activity of the organizations does not lend itself to exact comparison. However, the parties like P.O.U.M. made in two months enormous advances in the growth of their strength. The Esquerra, furthermore, made little resistance to following the upward swing of the revolution. Those workers’ organizations which wished to hold back the revolution in the name of equal speed for the revolution in the diverse regions of Spain, soon had to drop this policy, fearing to lose their influence. The programs which were adopted by the Antifascist Militia Committees were those proposed by the more advanced portions of the working class, and the P.O.U.M. played an important role in drawing them up. The initiative of the working class in economic and political fields was given legal recognition. New directions were given to coordinate the collectivized concerns and at the same time repairing certain decisions made below which might injure the aims in view.
During this period, the Antifascist Militia Committee really held the power; the role of the petty bourgeois government was day by day fading away. The dual power definitely turned to the advantage of the second power. By the decision of the Committee itself this situation was clarified by the elimination of the Casanova government and by the formation of a new working class Council of the Generality to replace the Antifascist Committees. War developments and the participation finally accepted by the anarcho-syndicalists hastened the formation of the new government.
Today Catalonia possesses a government which is clearly proletarian, despite the participation of the Left Republicans and the Catalan Action. The attitude of the P.O.U.M. toward the new Council of the Generality was discussed in the last number of THE SPANISH REVOLUTION. The sharing of seats on the Council, on the terms demanded by the Anarchists, does not give enough weight to the P.O.U.M. The program, however, will be determined by the pressure of the most advanced elements. The Anarchists, restrained by two fears — the possible protest of their anti-parliamentary elements and the difficulty that such a Council may experience, have delegated only one of their chiefs to membership. It can be foreseen that future events may bring changes in this council.
In any case, with the creation of this new government, the Antifascists Committees had served their time. Furthermore to each of the «Commissariats» were attached committees formed on the model of the defunct Militia Committees. In its last session on October 1, the Central Antifascist Militia Committee decided to disband, thus giving its sanction to the new Council of the Generality.
Now the acts of the new government are awaited. Its preliminary steps, which we have discussed in other articles, are encouraging and demonstrate that the working class in Catalonia is actually in a position to build the new society. The revolutionaries have the duty of leading the steps of the Council into the path of proletarian revolution to assure complete power to the working class and an adequate program of social construction.
The Spanish Revolution (not to be confused with the CNT supporters’ paper of the same name, time, and look)) was the English language journal of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM). Edited by American couple Charles and Lois Orr, she a member of the POUM women’s militia, the journal was aimed at British and US audiences through the International Revolutionary Marxist Centre, sometimes called the “Three and a Half International,” from October, 1936 until the arrest of the Orrs and the banning of the POUM after Barcelona’s “May Days” 1937 uprising.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/spain/poum/spanishrevolution/v1n2-oct-28-1936-Spanish%20Revolution.pdf