Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War
In the early 1930s Joseph Stalin was deeply concerned about the spread of fascism in Europe. To counteract the growing power of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, he encouraged the formation left wing coalitions. This resulted in the Popular Front government being formed in February 1936. This was followed by Popular Front government in France in May 1936.
On the 10th May 1936 the conservative Niceto Alcala Zamora was ousted as president of Spain and replaced by the left-wing Manuel Azaña. Soon afterwards Spanish Army officers, including Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco, Juan Yague, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano and José Sanjurjo, began plotting to overthrow the Popular Front government. This resulted in the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on 17th July, 1936.
In July, 1936, José Giral, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in Spain, requested aid from France. The prime minister, Leon Blum, agreed to send aircraft and artillery. However, after coming under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of his own cabinet, he changed his mind.
Baldwin and Blum now called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. In September 1936 a Non-Intervention Agreement was drawn-up and signed by 27 countries including Germany, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and Italy.
Benito Mussolini continued to give aid to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces and during the first three months of the Nonintervention Agreement sent 90 Italian aircraft and refitted the cruiser Canaris , the largest ship owned by the Nationalists.
On 28th November the Italian government signed a secret treaty with the Spanish Nationalists. In return for military aid, the Nationalist agreed to allow Italy to establish bases in Spain if there was a war with France. Over the next three months Mussolini sent to Spain 130 aircraft, 2,500 tons of bombs, 500 cannons, 700 mortars, 12,000 machine-guns, 50 whippet tanks and 3,800 motor vehicles.
Adolf Hitler also continued to give aid to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces but attempted to disguise this by sending the men, planes, tanks, and munitions via Portugal. He also gave permission for the formation of the Condor Legion. The Legion, under the command of General Hugo Sperrle, was an autonomous unit responsible only to Franco.
Joseph Stalin now became concerned that the Nationalists would defeat the Republicans in Spain. He took the view that four extreme right-wing governments in Europe would pose a serious threat to the security of the Soviet Union. Although Stalin continued to support the idea of the Nonintervention Agreement, he was now willing to supply the necessary military aid to stop a fascist regime being established in Spain.
Stalin encouraged the Comintern to organise the formation of International Brigades. He also sent Alexander Orlov of the NKVD to advise the Popular Front government. Orlov supervised a large-scale guerrilla operation behind Nationalist lines. He later claimed that around 14,000 people had been trained for this work by 1938.
The Soviet Union provided considerable help to the Spanish Communist Party to improve its position in the Popular Front government. This included the removal of the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero as prime minister and replacing him with the communist sympathizer, Juan Negrin.
Alexander Orlov also used NKVD agents to deal with left-wing opponents of the Communists in Republican held areas. 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).
The Soviet Union were the main suppliers of military aid to the Republican Army. This included 1,000 aircraft, 900 tanks, 1,500 artillery pieces, 300 armoured cars, 15,000 machine-guns, 30,000 automatic firearms, 30,000 mortars, 500,000 riles and 30,000 tons of ammunition.
The Soviets expected the Republicans to pay for these military supplies in gold. On the outbreak of the war Spain had the world's fourth largest reserves of gold. During the war approximately $500 million, or two-thirds of Spain's gold reserves, were shipped to the Soviet Union.
(1) George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
The whole of Comintern policy is now subordinated (excusably, considering the world situation) to the defence of U.S.S.R., which depends upon a system of military alliances. In particular, the USSR is in alliance with France, a capitalist-imperialist country. The alliance is of little use to Russia unless French capitalism is strong, therefore Communist policy in France has got to be anti-revolutionary. This means not only that French Communists now march behind the tricolour and sing the Marseillaise, but, what is more important, that they have had to drop all effective agitation in the French colonies. It is less than three years since Thorez, the Secretary of the French Communist Party, was declaring that the French workers would never be bamboozled into fighting against their German comrades; he is now one of the loudest-lunged patriots in France. The clue to the behaviour of the Communist Party in any country is the military relation of that country, actual or potential, towards the USSR In England, for instance, the position is still uncertain, hence the English Communist Party is still hostile to the National Government, and, ostensibly, opposed to rearmament. If, however, Great Britain enters into an alliance or military understanding with the USSR, the English Communist, like the French Communist, will have no choice but to become a good patriot and imperialist; there are premonitory signs of this already. In Spain the Communist 'line' was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that France, Russia's ally, would strongly object to a revolutionary neighbour and would raise heaven and earth to prevent the liberation of Spanish Morocco. The Daily Mail, with its tales of red revolution financed by Moscow, was even more wildly wrong than usual. In reality it was the Communists above all others who prevented revolution in Spain. Later, when the right-wing forces were in full control, the Communists showed themselves willing to go a great deal further than the Liberals in hunting down the revolutionary leaders.
(2) Ilya Ehrenburg, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg, Soviet ambassador to the Spanish Republic (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 Garcia Oliver. He was also in a frenzied state. Intransigent. At the same time that Lopez, the leader of the Madrid syndicalists, was declaring to me that they had not permitted and would not permit attacks on the Soviet Union in the CNT newspaper, Oliver declared that they had said that they were "criticizing" the Soviet Union because it was not an ally, since it had signed the non-interference pact, and so on. Durruti, who has been at the front, has learned a lot, whereas Oliver, in Barcelona, is still nine-tenths anarchist ravings. For instance, he is against a unified command on the Aragon front; a unified command is necessary only when a general offensive begins. Sandino, who was present during this part of the conversation, spoke out for a unified command. They touched on the question of mobilization and the transformation of the militia into an army. Durruti made much of the mobilization plans (I do not know why - there are volunteers but no guns). Oliver said that he agreed with Durruti, since "Communists and Socialists are hiding themselves in the rear and pushing the FAI-ists out of the cities and villages." At this point he was almost raving. I would not have been surprised if he had shot me.
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.
In Valencia our party is working well, and the influence of the UGT is growing. But the CNT has free rein there. The governor takes their side completely. This is what happened when I was there: sixty anarchists with two machine-guns turned up from the front, as their commander had been killed. In Valencia they burned the archives and then wanted to break into the prison to free the criminals. The censor (this is under Lopez, the leader of the CNT) prohibited our newspaper from reporting about any of this outrage, and in the CNT paper there was a note that the "free masses destroyed the law archives as part of the accursed past."
(3) Ilya Ehrenburg, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg, Soviet ambassador to the Spanish Republic(18th September, 1936)
Today I again had a long conversation with Companys. He proposed to form a local government in this way: half Esquerra, half CNT and UGT. He said that he would reserve for himself finance and the police. After my words on the fact that the anarchists' lack of personal responsibility would interfere with manufacturing, he declared that he "agreed" to put a Marxist at the head of industry. He called Oliver a fanatic. He reproached the PSUC for not answering the terror of the anarchists with the same. On the conduct of the Catalan militia in Madrid, he said that that was the FAI-ists and that the national Guardia and the Esquerrists would fight anyone. He said that Madrid itself wanted the CNT militia, while not hiding the fact that the latter left to "establish order in Madrid." He advised sending them back from Madrid.
The whole time he cursed the FAI. He knew that I was going from him to the CNT and was very interested in how the FAI-ists would converse with me. He requested that I communicate the results of the conversation with him. He complained that the FAI-ists were against Russia were carrying out anti-Soviet propaganda, or more accurately, carried out but that he was our friend, and so on. A steamship, even if it held only sugar would soften his heart.
(4) Ilya Ehrenburg, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg, Soviet ambassador to the Spanish Republic(30th September, 1936)
Undoubtedly one of the main tasks is to attract to the revolution's side, at this stage, the healthier elements from among the anarchists. It is characteristic that in the last conversation that I had with Galarza, the minister of the interior (a Socialist), he mentioned that his attempt at cooperation with the anarchist labor federation had produced positive results, and that lately several of the confederation leaders had begun to recognize that many alien elements were interspersed among their members. One of the anarchists' "idols," who provokes great doubts of a nonideological sort, is Juan Lopez, who is now the boss of Valencia.
The question of possibly merging the Socialists and the Communists into one party (as in Catalonia) does not have, according to my preliminary impression, any immediate, current significance since the Socialist party, as such, at least in the central region, does not make itself much felt and since the Socialists and Communists act in concert within the framework of a union organization - the General Workers' Union - headed by Caballero (abbreviated UGT), the activity and influence of which far exceed the limits of a union.
Except for La Pasionaria, the leadership of the Communist party consists of people who do not yet have authority on the national level. The party's real general secretary was an individual about whom I wrote you. Because he occupied just such a position not only within the Central Committee but also outside it, he besmirched the reputations of two institutions with all the people in the Popular Front. However we evaluate his role, in any case, the fact that he himself took the place of the leadership hindered the formation, from the leadership cadres, of independent political leaders.
The Communist party, which has attracted some of the more politically conscious elements of the working class, is, all the same, insufficiently organized and politically strong to take on even to the slightest degree the political work for the armed forces of the revolution. In Catalonia, about which I can judge only through partial evidence, the party is significantly weaker and undoubtedly suffers from the provocative activities of Trotskyists, who have won over several active leaders, like, for example, Maurin. Undoubtedly the party is still incapable of independently rousing the masses to some kind of large-scale action, or of concentrating all the strength of the leadership on such an action. What is more the example of Alcazar has been in this connection a notoriously negative test for the party. However, I will not give a more definite evaluation of the cadres and strength of the party, since this is the only organization with which I have had insufficient contact.
What are our channels for action in this situation? We support close contact with the majority of the members of the government, chiefly with Caballero and Prieto. Both of them, through their personal and public authority, stand incomparably higher than the other members of the government and play a leading role for them. Both of them very attentively listen to everything that we say. Prieto at this particular time is trying at all costs to avoid conflict with Caballero and therefore is trying not to focus on the issues.
I think it unnecessary to dwell at this time on the problem of how an aggravation in class contradictions might take shape during a protracted civil war and the difficulties with the economy that might result (supplying the army, the workers, and so on), especially as I think it futile to explore a more distant prospect while the situation at the front still places all the issues of the revolution under a question mark.
In this kind of circumstance, such as I have touched on above and which I went into in my summary telegram, there is no need to prove that supplying the Spanish with technology may turn out to have a huge influence on the final outcome of the civil war. It is clear that however significant the temporary successes of the rebels may be, they have in no way guaranteed a definitive advantage. The steadfast military cadres of the revolution will be forged in the very process of the civil war.
(5) Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, General Consul of the Soviet Union in Barcelona , top secret document sent to NKVD (14th October, 1936)
The relationship between our people (the Communists) and the anarcho-syndicalists is becoming ever more strained. Every day, delegates and individual comrades appear before the CC of the Unified Socialist Party with statements about the excesses of the anarchists. In places it has come to armed clashes. Not long ago in a settlement of Huesca near Barbastro twenty-five members of the UGT were killed by the anarchists in a surprise attack provoked by unknown reasons. In Molins de Rei, workers in a textile factory stopped work, protesting against arbitrary dismissals. Their delegation to Barcelona was driven out of the train, but all the same fifty workers forced their way to Barcelona with complaints for the central government, but now they are afraid to return, anticipating the anarchists' revenge. In Pueblo Nuevo near Barcelona, the anarchists have placed an armed man at the doors of each of the food stores, and if you do not have a food coupon from the CNT, then you cannot buy anything. The entire population of this small town is highly excited. They are shooting up to fifty people a day in Barcelona. (Miravitlles told me that they were not shooting more than four a day).
Relations with the Union of Transport Workers are strained. At the beginning of 1934 there was a protracted strike by the transport workers. The government and the "Esquerra" smashed the strike. In July of this year, on the pretext of revenge against the scabs, the CNT killed more than eighty men, UGT members, but not one Communist among them. They killed not only actual scabs but also honest revolutionaries. At the head of the union is Comvin, who has been to the USSR, but on his return he came out against us. Both he and, especially, the other leader of the union - Cargo - appear to be provocateurs. The CNT, because of competition with the hugely growing UGT, are recruiting members without any verification. They have taken especially many lumpen from the port area of Barrio Chino.
They have offered our people two posts in the new government - Council of Labour and the Council of Municipal Work - but it is impossible for the Council of Labour to institute control over the factories and mills without clashing sharply with the CNT, and as for municipal services, one must clash with the Union of Transport Workers, which is in the hands of the CNT. Fabregas, the councillor for the economy, is a "highly doubtful sort." Before he joined the Esquerra, he was in the Accion Popular; he left the Esquerra for the CNT and now is playing an obviously provocative role, attempting to "deepen the revolution" by any means. The metallurgical syndicate just began to put forward the slogan "family wages." The first "producer in the family" received 100 percent wages, for example seventy pesetas a week, the sec- ond member of the family 50 percent, the third 25 percent, the fourth, and so on, up to 10 percent. Children less than sixteen years old only 10 percent each, This system of wages is even worse than egalitarianism. It kills both production and the family.
In Madrid there are up to fifty thousand construction workers. Caballero refused to mobilize all of them for building fortifications around Madrid ("and what will they eat") and gave a total of a thousand men for building the fortifications. In Estremadura our Comrade Deputy Cordon is fighting heroically. He could arm five thousand peasants but he has a detachment of only four thousand men total. Caballero under great pressure agreed to give Cordon two hundred rifles, as well. Meanwhile, from Estremadura, Franco could easily advance into the rear, toward Madrid. Caballero implemented an absolutely absurd compensation for the militia - ten pesetas a day, besides food and housing. Farm labourers in Spain earn a total of two pesetas a day and, feeling very good about the militia salary in the rear, do not want to go to the front. With that, egalitarianism was introduced. Only officer specialists receive a higher salary. A proposal made to Caballero to pay soldiers at the rear five pesetas and only soldiers at the front ten pesetas was turned down. Caballero is now disposed to put into effect the institution of political commissars, but in actual fact it is not being done. In fact, the political commissars introduced into the Fifth Regiment have been turned into commanders, for there are none of the latter. Caballero also supports the departure of the government from Madrid. After the capture of Toledo, this question was almost decided, but the anarchists were categorically against it, and our people proposed that the question be withdrawn as inopportune. Caballero stood up for the removal of the government to Cartagena. They proposed sounding out the possibility of basing the government in Barcelona. Two ministers - Prieto and Jimenez de Asua - left for talks with the Barcelona government. The Barcelona government agreed to give refuge to the central government. Caballero is sincere but is a prisoner to syndicalist habits and takes the statutes of the trade unions too literally.
The UGT is now the strongest organization in Catalonia: it has no fewer than half the metallurgical workers and almost all the textile workers, municipal workers, service employees, bank employees. There are abundant links to the peasantry. But the CNT has much better cadres and has many weapons, which were seized in the first days (the anarchists sent to the front fewer than 60 percent of the thirty thousand rifles and three hundred machine guns that they seized).
(6) 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.
(7) Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, General Consul of the Soviet Union in Barcelona , top secret document sent to NKVD (November, 1936)
The dispatch of aid to Madrid is proceeding with difficulty. The question about it was put before the military adviser on 5 November. The adviser thought it possible to remove the entire Durruti detachment from the front. This unit, along with the Karl Marx Division, is considered to have the greatest fighting value. To put Durruti out of action, a statement was issued by the commander of the Karl Marx Division, inspired by us, about sending this division to Madrid (it was difficult to take the division out of battle, and, besides, the PSUC did not want to remove it from the Catalan front for political reasons). However, Durruti refused point-blank to carry out the order for the entire detachment, or part of it, to set out for Madrid. Immediately, it was agreed with President Companys and the military adviser to secure the dispatch of the mixed Catalan column (from detachments of various parties).
A meeting of the commanders with the detachments on the Aragon front was called for 6 November, with our participation. After a short report about the situation near Madrid, the commander of the Karl Marx Division declared that his division was ready to be sent to Madrid. Durruti was up in arms against sending reinforcements to Madrid, sharply attacked the Madrid government, "which was preparing for defeat," called Madrid's situation hopeless, and concluded that Madrid had a purely political significance - and not a strategic one. This kind of attitude on the part of Durruti, who enjoys exceptional influence over all of anarcho syndicalist Catalonia that is at the front, must be smashed at all costs. It was necessary to interfere in a firm way. And Durruti gave in, declaring that he could give Madrid a thousand select fighters. After a passionate speech by the anarchist Santillan, he agreed to give two thousand and immediately issued an order that his neighbour on the front Ortiz give another two thousand, Ascaso another thousand, and the Karl Marx division a thousand. Durruti was silent about the Left Republicans, although the chief of their detachment declared that he could give a battalion. In all, sixty-eight hundred bayonets are shaping up for dispatch no later than 8 November. Durruti then and there put his deputy at the head of the mixed detachment (Durruti agreed to form it as a "Catalan division"). He declared that he would personally be with the detachment until the appointment (of the new head). But Durruti unexpectedly pulled a stunt, holding up the dispatch. Learning about the "discovery" of a kind of supplementary weapon (Winchester), instead of sending the units from the front on a direct route to Madrid, he sent these units unarmed into Barcelona, leaving their weapons (Mauser system) at their own place on the front and instead calling up reserves (without weapons) from Barcelona. His anarchist neighbours did the same thing. Thus Durruti got his own way - the Aragon front was not weakened.
About five thousand disarmed frontline soldiers were gathered in Barcelona, and Durruti raised the question about immediately arming them at the expense of the units of the Barcelona gendarmerie and police. Through this, Durruti would achieve a continual striving by the CNT and the FAI to undermine the armed support of the present government in Barcelona. Since the weapons seized from the Garde d'Assaut and Garde Nationale (about twenty-five hundred rifles) were still not enough, it was proposed to get them from the "rear soldiers," and instead of weapons of a different sort, the Garde d'Assaut and Garde Nationale would also, according to Durruti, receive Winchesters in place of Mausers. Here the government's decree on the handing over of weapons by the soldiers at the rear has already been frustrated.
(8) Emma Goldman, speech at the International Working Men's Association in Paris (1937)
I have seen from the moment of my first arrival in Spain in September 1936 that our comrades in Spain are plunging head foremost into the abyss of compromise that will lead them far away from their revolutionary aim. Subsequent events have proved that those of us who saw the danger ahead were right. The participation of the CNT-FAI in the government, and concessions to the insatiable monster in Moscow, have certainly not benefited the Spanish revolution, or even the anti-fascist struggle. Yet closer contact with reality in Spain, with the almost insurmountable odds against the aspirations of the CNT-FAI, made me understand their tactics better, and helped me to guard against any dogmatic judgment of our comrades.
The revolution in Spain was the result of a military and fascist conspiracy. The first imperative need that presented itself to the CNT-FAI was to drive out the conspiratorial gang. The fascist danger had to be met with almost bare hands. In this process the Spanish workers and peasants soon came to see that their enemies were not only Franco and his Moorish hordes. They soon found themselves besieged by formidable armies and an array of modern arms furnished to Franco by Hitler and Mussolini, with all the imperialist pack playing their sinister under-handed game. In other words, while the Russian Revolution and the civil war were being fought out on Russian soil and by Russians, the Spanish revolution and antifascist war involves all the powers of Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that the Spanish Civil War has spread out far beyond its own confines.
With the most fervent desire to aid the revolution in Spain, our comrades outside of it were neither numerically nor materially strong enough to turn the tide. Thus finding themselves up against a stone wall, the CNT-FAI was forced to descend from its lofty traditional heights to compromise right and left: participation in the government, all sorts of humiliating overtures to Stalin, superhuman tolerance for his henchmen who were openly plotting and conniving against the Spanish revolution.
Of all the unfortunate concessions our people have made, their entry into ministries seemed to me the least offensive. No, I have not changed my attitude toward government as an evil. As all through my life, I still hold that the State is a cold monster, and that it devours everyone within its reach. Did I not know that the Spanish people see in government a mere makeshift, to be kicked overboard at will, that they had never been deluded and corrupted by the parliamentary myth, I should perhaps be more alarmed for the future of the CNT-FAI. But with Franco at the gate of Madrid, I could hardly blame the CNT-FAI for choosing a lesser evil - participation in the government rather than dictatorship, the most deadly evil.
Russia has more than proven the nature of this beast. After twenty years it still thrives on the blood of its makers. Nor is its crushing weight felt in Russia alone. Since Stalin began his invasion of Spain, the march of his henchmen has been leaving death and ruin behind them. Destruction of numerous collectives, the introduction of the Cheka with its 'gentle' methods of treating political opponents, the arrest of thousands of revolutionaries, and the murder in broad daylight of others. All this and more, has Stalin's dictatorship given Spain, when he sold arms to the Spanish people in return for good gold. Innocent of the Jesuitical trick of 'our beloved comrade' Stalin, the CNT-FAI could not imagine in their wildest dreams the unscrupulous designs hidden behind the seeming solidarity in the offer of arms from Russia.
Their need to meet Franco's military equipment was a matter of life and death. The Spanish people had not a moment to lose if they were not to be crushed. What wonder if they saw in Stalin the saviour of the antifascist war? They have since learned that Stalin helped to make Spain safe against the fascists so as to make it safer for his own ends.
The critical comrades are not at all wrong when they say that it does not seem worthwhile to sacrifice one ideal in the struggle against fascism, if it only means to make room for Soviet Communism. I am entirely of their view - that there is no difference between them. My own consolation is that with all their concentrated criminal efforts, Soviet Communism has not taken root in Spain. I know whereof I speak. On my recent visit to Spain I had ample opportunity to convince myself that the Communists have failed utterly to win the sympathies of the masses; quite the contrary. They have never been so hated by the workers and peasants as now.
(9) Walter Krivitsky, I Was Stalin's Agent (1939)
Stalin's intervention in Spain had one primary aim - 'and this was common knowledge among us who served him' - namely, to include Spain in the sphere of the Kremlin's influence... The world believed that Stalin's actions were in some way connected with world revolution. But this is not true. The problem of world revolution had long before that ceased to be real to Stalin... He was also moved however, by the need of some answer to the foreign friends of the Soviet Union who would be disaffected by the great purge. His failure to defend the Spanish Republic, combined with the shock of the great purge, might have lost him their support.
(10) John Gates, The Story of an American Communist (1959)
Today it is difficult to appreciate the enormous prestige which the Soviet Union enjoyed in Spain. The Soviet Union, with Mexico, was almost alone in coming to the assistance of the Republic. The only government willing to sell arms to Spain, the Soviet Union from the very beginning sent in massive shipments, especially while the French border was still open. Most of the volunteers were Communists and credit for the International Brigade went to the Soviet Union too, although no large number of Russians ever came to Spain. The words, "the cause of republican Spain is the cause of all advanced progressive humanity," had been spoken by Joseph Stalin, an idea that was to plant itself deep in the conscience of mankind.