1970s >> 1978 >> no-886-june-1978

La Pensionaria

The other morning, switching on the BBC overseas service, I heard the rhythmic spelling out and clapping of what I assumed to be the name of Manchester United or some similar outfit. However, after endless repetition, I became aware that the name was I-B-A-R-R-U-R-I and I then realised that the chanters were Spaniards who had the cheek to call themselves communists and that this was a broadcast from the proceedings of the first legal congress of the Spanish Communist Party since Franco’s Civil War victory.

The first reflection one had to make, upon this realisation, was on the mindlessness. Here were supposedly politically aware workers who had taken an apparently momentous decision (more of that later) and who had the effrontery to claim to be in the vanguard of working class thought, and yet here they were mouthing slogans in praise of leadership, like so many Pavlov dogs. As if all this was not sufficiently depressing, one then had to listen to the inane commentary of the BBC reporter at the five-star luxury hotel, in Madrid, where pseudo-communists were holding their jamboree. In a voice vibrant with emotion he said that this scene was a celebration of the name of the President of the Party and he went on to say that during an interval in the proceedings this woman had enchanted the delegates by singing Asturian folk songs in the same beautiful voice which, forty years before, had thrilled the Spanish people and given her the name of La Pasionaria. What this commentator forgot to mention was that when this melodious voice was heard during the Civil War, it struck a note of horror in the hearts of thousands of people fighting in the Civil War on the Republican side many of whom La Pasionaria would condemn to torture and death in the Communist Headquarters.

Anyone who is unaware of these facts and wants to get to know more about them has only to read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. Still better, if it is possible to get a copy, they should read Listen, Comrades by El Campesino. This was the nickname given to a famous peasant general who led a Communist army in the Civil war and the book describes not only what went on in Spain but in Stalin’s Russia to which he and La Pasionaria and other Communist leaders fled from the victorious Franco. This Communist harridan continued her murderous career, under Stalin’s wing, by liquidating Communist opponents, including her husband, and it was only because El Campesino was actually able to escape from Stalin’s Russia — an even more difficult task than from Franco’s Spain — that we can learn about these things. Unfortunately, it seems that even the “reformed” Communists in Spain have not read about their former hero, El Campesino. Or perhaps they prefer to remain in ignorance. (It is worth a little digression here to mention that his memoires include some very revealing pages about the utter collapse of nerve on the part of the Stalin regime when the Germans were approaching Moscow in 1941. It is well known that millions of Russians showed that they looked to Hitler as their deliverer from the tyranny of Stalin. There is certainly a good case for arguing that, if the Nazis had behaved with some semblance of humanity towards the Russians in the area they had conquered, then even greater numbers of Russians would have changed sides).

The Spanish Communist Party has now achieved world-wide fame as the most advanced outpost of so-called Euro-Communism. It does not seem to have occurred to the scribblers of the western press that there is something remarkably inconsistent, even for Communists, in those circumstances, in appointing as their president a notorious Stalinist witch. The majority of Spanish people are a little less naive. They remembered her windy rhetoric during the Civil War about dying for liberty, rather than living under tyranny, but they noted that far from dying, she ran away to become a pensioner of Stalin, and with their mordant Spanish wit changed her sobriquet to the one at the head of this article. The Spanish Communist Party has now officially abandoned Leninism but, whatever that means, in practice none of the pundits seems to have noticed that this means they have thrown out the baby and the bathwater and the bath as well. What on earth can the party stand for minus its Leninism? They claim that the answer to that is that they are Marxist Democrats. But their new found adherence to democracy is exposed as a sham by the continuation of secrecy and leadership in their own organisation. As to Marxism, the word in their mouths is the same meaningless shibboleth as the so-called Marxist-Leninism that the Communist parties of the world have been prating about ever since 1917.

The real position now seems to be that the Euro-Communists of the western countries wish to divest themselves of the aura of conspiratorial leadership with the objective of a minority seizure of power. All they are left with is a programme of nationalisation. But, of course, there is already a plethora of so-called Social Democratic and Labour Parties who have been playing the rôle for generations. There is but one service which the Communist parties can perform and that is to leave the stage, where they now have no rôle whatever to play.

L. E. Weidberg