Partit Socialista Unifacat de Catalunya (PSUC)

The Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC) was formed in July 1936. Most of the members came from Catalan branches of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Communist Party (PCE). Members also came from the left-wing Partit Catala Proletari and the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT). Juan Comorera was elected general secretary of the PSUC.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the PSUC joined other left-wing groups to establish the Antifascist Militias Committee. By the middle of 1937 the PSUC claimed to have a membership of 50,000.

During the war the PSUC, Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) and the Communist Party (PCE) played an important role in running Barcelona. This brought them into conflict with other left-wing groups in the city National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) and the Worker's Party (POUM).

On the 3rd May 1937, Rodriguez Salas, the Chief of Police, ordered the Civil Guard and the Assault Guard to take over the Telephone Exchange, which had been operated by the CNT since the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Members of the CNT in the Telephone Exchange were armed and refused to give up the building. Members of the CNT, FAI and POUM became convinced that this was the start of an attack on them by the UGT, PSUC and the PCE and that night barricades were built all over the city.

Fighting broke out on the 4th May. Later that day the anarchist ministers, Federica Montseny and Juan Garcia Oliver, arrived in Barcelona and attempted to negotiate a ceasefire. When this proved to be unsuccessful, Juan Negrin, Vicente Uribe and Jesus Hernández called on Francisco Largo Caballero to use government troops to takeover the city. Largo Caballero also came under pressure from Luis Companys not to take this action, fearing that this would breach Catalan autonomy.

On 6th May death squads assassinated a number of prominent anarchists in their homes. The following day over 6,000 Assault Guards arrived from Valencia and gradually took control of Barcelona. It is estimated that about 400 people were killed during what became known as the May Riots.

The PSUC, now mainly controlled by the Communist Party (PCE), emerged from the May Riots in a strong position and now had a greater influence in the political affairs of the region. In the new Catalan government the PSUC held the cabinet posts of labour, supply and economy. It also played an important role in integrating Catalan affairs into those of the Republic.

Juan Comorera and the PSUC gave its full support to Juan Negrin and his new government. Negrin was a communist sympathizer and from this date Joseph Stalin obtained more control over the policies of the Republican government Comorera and the PSUC also favoured Negrin's policy of bringing the Anarchist Brigades under the control of the Republican Army. At first the Anarcho-Syndicalists resisted and attempted to retain hegemony over their units. This proved impossible when the government made the decision to only pay and supply militias that subjected themselves to unified command and structure.

Leaders of the PSUC were forced to flee from the country when General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army took control of Spain in March 1939.

Primary Sources

(1) George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)

It is necessary to explain that when one speaks of the P.S.U.C. 'line' one really means the Communist Party 'line'. The P.S.U.C. (Partido Socialista Unificado de Catalunya) was the Socialist Party of Catalonia; it had been formed at the beginning of the war by the fusion of various Marxist parties, including the Catalan Communist Party, but it was now entirely under Communist control and was affiliated to the Third International. Elsewhere in Spain no formal unification between Socialists and Communists had taken place, but the Communist viewpoint and the Right-wing Socialist viewpoint could everywhere be regarded as identical. Roughly speaking, the P.S.U.C. was the political organ of the U.G.T. (Union General de Trabajadores), the Socialist trade unions. The membership of these unions throughout Spain now numbered about a million and a half. They contained many sections of the manual workers, but since the outbreak of war they had also been swollen by a large influx of middle-class members, for in the early 'revolutionary' days people of all kinds had found it useful to join either the U.G.T. or the C.N.T. The two blocks of unions overlapped, but of the two the C.N.T. Was more definitely a working-class organization. The P.S.U.C. Was therefore a party partly of the workers and partly of the small bourgeoisie - the shopkeepers, the officials, and the wealthier peasants.

(2) Ilya Ehrenburg, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg (17th September, 1936)

To add to today's telephone conversation, I report: Companys was in a very nervous state. I spoke with him for more than two hours, while all he did the whole time was complain about Madrid. His arguments: the new government has not changed anything; slights Catalonia as if it were a province and this is an autonomous republic; sends instructions like to the other governors - refuses to turn over religious schools to the generalitat; demands soldiers and does not give out any of the weapons bought abroad, not one airplane and so on.

As yet, neither Caballero nor Prieto has managed to find time to receive him. And so on. He explained that if they did not receive cotton or hard currency for cotton within three weeks there would be a hundred thousand out of work. He very much wanted to trade with the Soviet Union. He believed that any sign of attention being paid to Catalonia by the Soviet Union was important. As for the internal situation, he spoke rather optimistically; the influence of the FAl was decreasing, the role of the government growing.

I spoke with Trueba, the PSUC (Communist) political commissar. He complained about the FAI-ists. They are not giving our men ammunition. We have only thirty-six bullets left per man. The anarchists have reserves of a million and a half. Colonel Villalba's soldiers only have a hundred cartridges each. He cited many instances of the petty tyrannies of FAI. People from the CNT complained to me that Fronsosa, the leader of PSUC, gave a speech at a demonstration in San Boi in which he said that the Catalans should not be given even one gun, since the guns would just fall into the hands of the anarchists. In general, during the ten days that I was in Catalonia, relations between Madrid and the generalitat on the one hand, and that between the Communists and the anarchists on the other, became very much more strained. Companys is wavering; either he gravitates toward the anarchists, who have agreed to recognize the national and even nationalistic demands of the Esquerra, or he depends on the PSUC in the struggle against FAI. His circle is divided between supporters of the former and of the latter solutions. If the situation on the Talavera front worsens, we can expect him to come out on one or the other side. We must improve relations between the PSUC and the CNT and then try to get closer to Companys.

(3) Abad de Santillan, member of the Catalan government (1937)

We had seen in the private ownership of the means of production, of factories, of means of transport, in the capitalist apparatus of distribution, the main cause of misery and injustice. We wished the socialization of all wealth so that not a single individual would be left out of the banquet of life. We have now done something, but we have not done it well. In place of the old owner, we have substituted a half-dozen new ones who consider the factory, the means of transport which they control, as their own property, with the inconvenience that they do not always know how to organize as well as the old.

(4) André Marty, letter sent to the General Consul of the Soviet Union in Barcelona (14th October, 1936)

In the period from 18th July to 1st September, the members of the Communist party were absorbed with the armed struggle. Thus, all of the work of the party was reduced to military action, but largely in an individual sense, rather than from the standpoint of political leadership of the struggle. At best, the party committees discussed urgent questions (the collection of weapons and explosives, supplies, questions of housing, and so on) but without setting forth perspectives for the future or still less following a general plan.

Beginning on 18th July, many leaders headed the struggle and remained at this work later, during the formation of the columns. For example. Cordon is the assistant commander of the Estremadura column; Uribe, the deputy for Valencia has the same position in the Teruda column; and Romero is in the column that is at Malaga; del Barrio is in the column at Saragossa. But it must be said that only a very few of the leaders have the requisite military abilities (I do not mean personal bravery). Thus, of the four just mentioned, Cordon is a brilliant commander, del Barrio is quite good, and the rest are worthless from a military point of view.

The political activity of the party has been reduced to the work of the leadership (editorship of the newspapers, several cells, demarches to the ministries). Party agitation, not counting what is carried out in the press, has come to naught. Internal party life has been reduced to the discussion of important, but essentially practical and secondary, questions.

Meanwhile, recruiting has moved and continues to move at a very rapid pace. The influx of new members into the party is huge. For the first time intellectuals and even officers are being drawn into the party. Already the most active elements from the middle cadres began in July to set up militia units which subsequently were transformed into the Fifth Regiment. The general staff of the Fifth Regiment, consisting of workers or officers who are Communists or sympathizers - this is the best thing that we have in the entire fighting army.

Our party (the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia - PSUC) is not united. It continues to remain merely the sum of the four component parties from which it was created. From the point of view of the Communist party, despite the fact that the leadership is in our hands, it does not have an ideological backbone. There is significant friction from this. Despite this fact, the party's correct policy vis-a-vis the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie enhances its powerful influence daily. The PSUC is the third party in Catalonia (after Esquerra and the CNT). A majority of the members of the party are members of the UGT, which has significantly increased the number of its members. Unfortunately, the erratic policy of the party, especially on the question of cadres, gave the opportunity to raise Sesé to the head of the UGT- a man who is suspect from every point of view (see the protocols of the Catalan Commission at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern International in September 1935).

The leadership of the Socialist party in Madrid (the Workers' Party of Spain) continues to work in the PSUC, and it often happens that the local groups direct their letters to it instead of writing to the PCE. On the other hand, Caballero is striving to seize the leadership. Fifteen days ago in Madrid he handed three million pesetas to Comorera, the general secretary of the PSUC, for whom we sent to discuss the question of Catalonia, and we heard this information about him.

The party's union policy. Nothing practical has been done. The CNT continues to follow an ever increasing number of UGT declarations, but generally for political reasons. Our groups assemble but do not work on the problems of everyday demands. In general, our activists remain in the UGT (the work is easier). It is my opinion that the struggle for the unification of the unions is becoming a pressing task. I proposed that the unions that are under our influence appeal for unification with two aims: i) unity of the working class to defend the interests of the workers against the employers; 2) unity in production to defeat fascism. Mije in principle accepted this proposal on unification (without pointing out the aims) at a large mass meeting organized by the party in Madrid on 27th September. This proposal elicited very strong applause, but I would have preferred that this had been done as I proposed. It is my opinion that union work requires radical restructuring.

Agrarian policy. In general the policy is correct (see the decision by the Ministry of Agriculture on the question of land), but it has not been popularized in the villages. They do not demonstrate the deep difference between our line and the methods of the anarchists. And in this area a colossal work still must be accomplished.

(5) Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, General Consul of the Soviet Union in Barcelona, top secret document sent to NKVD (18th October, 1936)

My conversations with Garcia Oliver and with several other CNT members, and their latest speeches, attest to the fact that the leaders of the CNT have an honest and serious wish to concentrate all forces in a strengthened united front and on the development of military action against the fascists. I must note that the PSUC is not free from certain instances that hamper the "consolidation of a united front": in particular, although the Liaison Commission has just been set up, the party organ Treball suddenly published an invitation to the CNT and the FAI that, since the experience with the Liaison Commission had gone so well, the UGT and the PSUC had suggested that the CNT and the FAI create even more unity in the form of an action commission. This kind of suggestion was taken by leaders of the FAI as simply a tactical maneuver. Comrade Valdes and Comrade Sese did not hide from me that the just-mentioned suggestion was meant to "talk to the masses of the CNT over the heads of their leaders." The same sort of note was sounded at the appearance of Comrade Comorera at the PSUC and UGT demonstration on 18 October - on the one hand, a call for protecting and developing the united front and, on the other, boasting about the UGT's having a majority among the working class in Catalonia, accusing the CNT and the FAI of carrying out a forced collectivization of the peasants, of hiding weapons, and even of murdering "our comrades."

The PSUC leaders-designate agreed with me that such tactics were completely wrong and expressed their intention to change them. I propose that we get together in the near future with a limited number of representatives of the CNT and the FAI to work out a concrete program for our next action.

In the near future, the PSUC intends to bring forward the question on reorganizing the management of military industry. At this point the Committee on Military Industry works under the chairmanship of Tarradellas, but the

main role in the committee is played by Vallejos (from the FAI). The PSUC proposes to put together leadership from representatives from all of the organizations, to group the factories by specialty, and to place at the head of each group a commissar, who would answer to the government.

The evaluation by Garcia Oliver and other CNT members of the Madrid government seems well founded to me. Caballero's attitude toward the question of attracting the CNT into that or any other form of government betrays his obstinate incomprehension of that question's importance. Without the participation of the CNT, it will not, of course, be possible to create the appropriate enthusiasm and discipline in the people's militia/Republican militia.

The information concerning the intentions of the Madrid government for a timely evacuation from Madrid was confirmed. This widely disseminated information undermines confidence in the central government to an extraordinary degree and paralyzes the defense of Madrid.