100 years of the PCE: Stalinism and democracy. The compressed history of the PCE and its last bankruptcy | Ideas


Burial of the lawyers murdered in the Atocha massacre (Madrid), in January 1977.
Burial of the lawyers murdered in the Atocha massacre (Madrid), in January 1977.EFE

Chance breaks into history at times. This is what has happened with a Communist Party that seemed doomed to disappear, turned into a companion of Podemos under the orders of Pablo Iglesias. His withdrawal created by surprise an exceptional situation where a communist politician, Yolanda Díaz, personifies the social pressure on President Pedro Sánchez, and is even emerging as his rival in the leadership of the left.

New chance. The return of the PCE coincides with another reappearance, that of its main myth: Pasionaria. As a best-seller, we have a militant biography that skips every black spot in the life of Pasionaria and the PCE, touring the country with presentations of her exemplary figure. Dolores’s granddaughter, recovered for the family tradition, takes part in them. He predicts that Yolanda Díaz will play “an enormous role in the political life of the country.”

The news of the October Revolution filled many Spanish workers with hope at a time of intense conflict, but the idea of ​​forming a communist party did not come from below. There were two emissaries of Lenin, in charge of selling jewels of the Russian aristocracy and installed in the Palace hotel, who initiated contacts with young socialists in the Madrid Athenaeum to form a communist party. The Spanish Communist Party was born on April 15, 1920, with which, by decision of the Communist International, the pro-communists splintered from the PSOE were merged. On November 14, 1921 they unified into the Communist Party of Spain. Its 6,000 affiliates would be leaving it during the following decade. “In Spain we do not have a party”, stated in 1929 an observer from the International. On April 14, 1931, the PCE was as irrelevant as the truck from which its militants shouted in Madrid: “Long live the soviets!” Moscow obliges.

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The weakness of Spanish communism was compensated in the 1930s by the enormous prestige achieved in the construction of communism in the USSR. Eisenstein’s films, illustrated magazines, radio broadcasts recounting the virtues of the kolkhoz (collective farms), the tales of travelers fed with caviar spread the impression that a new world was born, the only alternative besides Nazism. Rafael Alberti was the symbol in Spain of that fascination with Soviet Russia, which reaches many intellectuals of liberal roots throughout Europe, García Lorca included. Without forgetting sectors of socialism (Largo Caballero) and particularly the Socialist Youth, with Santiago Carrillo, who have taken the path of Bolshevikization since 1933.

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It is then that the PCE was really born, and not because its true boss, Victorio Codovilla, delegate of the International between 1932 and 1937, contributed more than dynamism and an authoritarian sense. José Díaz, and not Pasionaria, was his first collaborator and only that. Both gave proof, however, in 1934 of their sensitivity to absurd united front tactics, but never decided, contrary to the official version. Meanwhile, Stalin defined before Dimitrov, soon at the head of the International, his revaluation of democracy, taking into account its attraction to the workers. Free way to the popular fronts.

The leaders of the socialist and communist youths, forged in that period 1933-1936, henceforth based their strategy on this combination of democracy and Stalinism. Nothing to do with the dynamics of the Italian Communist Party, although dependent on Stalin. Carrillo will specify it in the eighties: his Eurocommunism did not come from Gramsci or Togliatti, but from Stalin. It was the communist party of always acting in democracy.

Communists, anarchists and many socialists committed crimes that must be included in the historical memory

By decision of the International, from the sowing of soviets, the PCE becomes the defender of republican democracy, the prelude to a “democracy of a new type.” From 1936 to 1939 he will be the one who leads the resistance against the military coup, with Dimitrov and Togliatti (Ercoli) as guides, Pasionaria as an active symbol and at his side men like José Díaz at the head of a great mobilization, to which Moscow contributed the International Brigades . The price was to remain as “the party of war.”

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The other side of the coin consisted in the adoption of the Stalinist formula for the annihilation of the adversary, from the Fifth Column to demonized Trotskyism. The Paracuellos massacre reminds us that, although Franco led a genocide, sectors of communism, anarchism and socialism practiced crimes that should be included in historical memory. Punitive attitude that in the postwar PCE punished both confessions to Franco’s police and dissent. According to what Amaro Rosal, historical leader of the UGT, told me, the response of the communist leader to his old friend Marino (Amaro) was unequivocal, when he censored in 1981 the anger against the “renovators”: The revolver”.

Towards a democratic communism?

From 1939 to 1963 (Grimau’s assassination), the “war party” became a “prison party”, also a victim of mass executions. Once the guerrillas were defeated, it was only possible to maintain minimal networks, for which Jorge Semprún made a work of art from his underground in Madrid in 1953-1962. At the same time, under Pasionaria’s foreign leadership the faith in communism, the cult of her personality and the repressive Stalinist vocation were guarded: “A mangy sheep infects the flock,” explained Dolores. Semprún will attract intellectuals, organizing the 1956 university protest, over and above the republican or Francoist origins of the “troublemakers.” It was the test of “national reconciliation” that constituted the axis of the PCE’s policy until the Transition and the 1977 Amnesty Law. Pasionaria announced it already in April, proclaiming “the sense of the new”, but it was Carrillo who assumed management until 1982.

There is also the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1956, although internal de-Stalinization remains in the formal plane, as the debate on strategy showed, which later ended with the expulsion by Carrillo of Fernando Claudín , his “other self”, and Semprún. Not so in the international order, with the resounding condemnation in 1968 of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact. Green light for democracy. Before a change in labor legislation, with collective agreements, made possible the rise and effectiveness of Workers’ Commissions. The PCE assumed that it was “the Party”, capable, furthermore, when Franco died, of exhibiting its responsibility by controlling the protest for the murder of the laborists in Atocha. And to promote both the constituent process and the painful salvation of the economy by the Pacts of La Moncloa. It is the zenith of democratic communism in Spain, of “Eurocommunism”. Only that the PSOE at the polls snatched hegemony from him, while the crisis blocked all economic reform and Carrillo, a disciple of Stalin, showed himself incapable of channeling internal conflict, making “the party appear Eurocommunist on the outside and the opposite on the inside.” . Marcelino camacho dixit. The “pruning culture” of which Vázquez Montalbán spoke will culminate.

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Self-destruction was inevitable, the PCE limiting itself to surviving under the mask of the United Left. There was a transitory recovery under Julio Anguita, a skillful sower of expectations when the PSOE declined in the 1990s, but avoiding reality (“the two shores”) and imposing a dualistic vision, new class against class, later inherited by the founder of Podemos and by the current IU leader, both faithful to the legacy of Lenin and the October Revolution. Vision hardly compatible with democracy. It is now up to Yolanda Díaz to follow or avoid that “only path”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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