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Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista
Leader Joaquín Maurín
Ideology Communism
Political position far left
Official colours Red
Plaque honoring Andrés Nin at the historical site of the POUM headquarters on La Rambla, Barcelona

The POUM or Partido Obrero Unificación Marxista (Catalan: Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista; English: Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) was a Spanish communist political party formed during the Second Republic, and mainly active around the time of the Spanish Civil War. It was formed by the fusion of the Trotskyist Communist Left of Spain (Izquierda Comunista de España, ICE) and the Workers and Peasants' Bloc (BOC, affiliated with the Right Opposition) against the will of Leon Trotsky, with whom the former broke.



POUM was formed as a communist opposition to Stalinism in 1935 by Andreu Nin and Joaquín Maurín, being heavily influenced by the thinking of Trotsky, in particular his Permanent Revolution thesis. The party was larger than the official Communist Party of Spain (PCE) (and its wing, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia, PSUC) in Catalonia and the Valencian Community. It was highly critical of the Popular Front strategy advocated by Joseph Stalin and the Comintern. However, they did take part in the Spanish Popular Front initiated by the leader of Acción Republicana, Manuel Azaña. The POUM tried to implement some of its radical policies as part of the Popular Front government, but these were resisted by the more moderate factions. The political disagreement would cause Nin to leave the government.

During the Civil War the party began to grow in popularity and, alongside the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), commanded the support of most of the proletariat in the zone not controlled by Francisco Franco's forces during the war. British author George Orwell fought alongside members of the Independent Labour Party as part of the POUM militias, an experience recounted vividly in his book Homage to Catalonia. Likewise, the film Land and Freedom, directed by Ken Loach, tells of a group of POUM soldiers fighting in the war from the perspective of a British member of the British Communist Party, and deals in particular with his disillusionment with the Soviet Union's policies in the war.

Orwell estimates that their membership was roughly 10,000 in July 1936, 70,000 in December 1936, and 40,000 in June 1937, although he notes that the membership numbers are based on POUM sources and may be high.[1]

Conflict with the Popular Front

The POUM's independent communist position, including opposition to Stalin, caused huge ruptures between them and the PCE, still unswervingly loyal to the Comintern. These divisions, particularly the accusation of Trotskyism (and even Fascism) by the Communists, manifested themselves in actual fighting between their supporters, most notably in the events Barcelona May Days of 1937, when the POUM was attacked by a mostly-Communist coalition of government forces, which included the Guardia Civil. While the much larger CNT initially supported the POUM, its more militant members such as Juan García Oliver and the Friends of Durruti were pushed towards conciliation by the moderate leadership. This left the POUM isolated along with the purely Trotskyist Seccion Bolshevik-Leninista, and both organisations were driven underground and in exile. Nin was detained and tortured to death by NKVD agents in Madrid and his party was consistently labelled as provocateur in Stalinist propaganda.

International links

The POUM was a member of the "London Bureau" of socialist parties that rejected both the reformism of the Second International and the pro-Moscow orientation of the Third International. Other members included the Independent Labour Party in Britain, the PSOP in France and Poale Zion. Its youth wing was affiliated to the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations, through which it recruited the ILP Contingent of partisans in the Civil War. Foreign supporters of POUM during the Civil War included Lois Orr.

See also


  1. ^ Orwell, George (1980). "V". Homage To Catalonia. introd. by Lionel Trilling. New York, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-15-642117-1. OCLC 9517765. "The figure for P.O.U.M. membership are given as: July 1936, 10,000; December 1936, 70,000; June 1937, 40,000. But these are from P.O.U.M. sources; a hostile estimate would probably divide them by four. The only thing I can say with any certainty about the membership of the Spanish political parties is that every party over-estimates its own members."  



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