Andres Nin, the son of a shoemaker, was born in El Vendrell, Tarragona, on 4th February, 1892. He moved to Barcelona in 1914 and during the First World War he taught at a secular anarchist school. In 1917, he joined the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).
Nin helped to form the Communist Party (PCE) in November, 1921. It was made up of dissident members of the Socialist Party, the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT).
In 1931 he wrote in The Militant: "The unusual situation through which our country is passing presents the Communist Left Opposition with gigantic tasks. Although the situation is objectively favorable for the development of Communism and for the preparation of the victory of the proletariat there is the danger that the revolutionary process that has begun may end in a miscarriage that will have fatal consequences not only for the revolutionary movement of our country but for the whole world. Those dangers have their origin in causes of various kinds: in the influence exercized in our movement by anarcho-syndicalism, in the strength that the Socialist party still has in certain points of Spain, and above all in the extreme feebleness of Spanish Communism and the disastrous policy of the International. In reality, there is no Communist party in Spain. There exist various factions that fight each other and lack, with the exception of our own, ideological cohesion. Under these circumstances, the constitution of a powerful Communist party is urgently imposed upon us. But this will be impossible without a clear policy, capable of taking advantage of the inevitable discontentment that will not be long in developing among the broad popular masses of the country, deceived by republicanism, in order to win them to our cause and to lead the proletariat to the conquest of power. It is obvious that this can be achieved only under the banner of the Communist Left Opposition. In spite of the difficulties under which we are fighting, we have already achieved in recent times very satisfactory results. But these would be infinitely greater were we to have the possibility of making our voice heard more directly by the masses."
Nin moved to the Soviet Union and associated with those opposing the dictorial rule of Joseph Stalin. During this period he was briefly secretary to Leon Trotsky. On his return to Spain in 1935 he joined with Joaquin Maurin to form the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). This revolutionary anti-Stalinist Communist party was strongly influenced by the political ideas of Trotsky. The group supported the collectivization of the means of production and agreed with Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution.
Nin later wrote: "Our party has repeatedly insisted, during these recent times, on the need to provide a political solution to the problems which have arisen during the war and revolution. We even declared that the working class could take power without the need to resort to armed insurrection: it would be enough to bring its enormous influence into play for the relationship of forces to decide in its favour, to achieve a workers’ and peasants’ government without violence of any kind. Failure to confront the problem in these terms, on the political plane, would sooner or later produce a violent explosion, of the accumulated anger of the working class and, as a result, a movement that would be spontaneous, chaotic and lacking in immediate perspectives."
As a result of Maurin's involvement, POUM was very strong in Catalonia. In most areas of Spain it made little impact and in 1935 POUM is estimated to have only around 8,000 members. After the Popular Front gained victory Nin became councillor of justice. He supported the government but his radical policies such as nationalization without compensation, were not introduced. During the Spanish Civil War the Workers Party of Marxist Unification grew rapidly and by the end of 1936 it was 30,000 strong with 10,000 in its own militia.
The American journalist, John Dos Passos, went to interview Nin in 1936: "Nin was well-built and healthy looking and probably looked younger than his age; he had a ready childish laugh that showed a set of solid white teeth. From time to time as we were talking the telephone would ring and he would listen attentively with a serious face. Then he'd answer with a few words too rapid for me to catch and would hang up the receiver with a shrug of the shoulders and come smiling back into the conversation again."
During the Spanish Civil War the Workers Party of Marxist Unification grew rapidly and by the end of 1936 it was 30,000 strong with 10,000 in its own militia. Luis Companys attempted to maintain the unity of the coalition of parties in Barcelona. However, after the Soviet cousul, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, threatened the suspension of Russian aid, he agreed to sack Nin as minister of justice in December 1936. Nin's followers were also removed from the government.
Joseph Stalin appointed Alexander Orlov as the Soviet Politburo adviser to the Popular Front government. Orlov and his NKVD agents had the unofficial task of eliminating the supporters of Leon Trotsky fighting for the Republican Army and the International Brigades. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the Worker's Party (POUM), National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).
Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "Stalin had a secret and extremely important aim in Spain: to eliminate the supporters of Trotsky who had gathered from all over the world to fight for the Spanish revolution. NKVD men, and Comintern agents loyal to Stalin, accused the Trotskyists of espionage and ruthlessly executed them." Orlov later claimed that "the decision to perform an execution abroad, a rather risky affair, was up to Stalin personally. If he ordered it, a so-called mobile brigade was dispatched to carry it out. It was too dangerous to operate through local agents who might deviate later and start to talk."
Alexander Orlov ordered the arrest of Nin. George Orwell explained what happened to Nin in his book, Homage to Catalonia (1938): "On 15 June the police had suddenly arrested Andres Nin in his office, and the same evening had raided the Hotel Falcon and arrested all the people in it, mostly militiamen on leave. The place was converted immediately into a prison, and in a very little while it was filled to the brim with prisoners of all kinds. Next day the P.O.U.M. was declared an illegal organization and all its offices, book-stalls, sanatoria, Red Aid centres and so forth were seized. Meanwhile the police were arresting everyone they could lay hands on who was known to have any connection with the P.O.U.M."
Nin who was tortured for several days. Jesus Hernández, a member of the Communist Party, and Minister of Education in the Popular Front government, later admitted: "Nin was not giving in. He was resisting until he fainted. His inquisitors were getting impatient. They decided to abandon the dry method. Then the blood flowed, the skin peeled off, muscles torn, physical suffering pushed to the limits of human endurance. Nin resisted the cruel pain of the most refined tortures. In a few days his face was a shapeless mass of flesh."
Andres Nin was executed on 20th June 1937.