The Communist Party of Spain (pce) was among the communist parties which went furthest in its condemnation of the Soviet military intervention in Czechoslovakia and the Husakian ‘normalization’. This led to a serious deterioration in its relations with the cpsu and provoked a deep internal crisis in the party, the gravest since the years 1931–32. At that time the leading group, headed by Jose Bullejos, tried to resist the directives of Moscow and was replaced without further ado. Today, the tendency represented by the general secretary, Santiago Carrillo, still controls the apparatus of the party, but a group led by Enrique Lister, Eduardo Garcia and Agustin Gomez footnote1 has raised the banner of unconditional loyalty to the Kremlin and is waging an open struggle against Carrillo, accusing him of anti-Sovietism, nationalism, revisionism and dictatorial methods. Encouraged and aided by the Soviet Union, this group has carried an important fraction of the party with it, but has failed in its primary objective: to remove Carrillo and his supporters from the leadership. In view of this, it is now aiming to split the party and constitute itself as the ‘authentic’ Communist Party of Spain, in opposition to that presided over by Dolores Ibarruri and led by Santiago Carrillo.

In the present article we intend to analyse the course taken by this crisis in the pce and its significance in the context of the general crisis through which the communist movement is passing.

In 1968, some commentators were surprised that the pce opposed the Soviet leadership on the Czech question. The party was, in fact, famous for its unquestioning loyalty to Moscow.

Its attitude was not substantially modified by the trauma of the Twentieth Congress. It accepted the mythical explanation of the Stalinist epoch summed up in the formula ‘the cult of personality’, and saw in Khrushchev’s line a sure road to socialist democracy and the triumph of communism internationally. After Khrushchev’s fall, it made some gestures of independence on marginal questions but otherwise it continued to be subservient to the Soviet Party. Thus it adopted a virulently hostile attitude to the Chinese Party in the course of the Sino-Soviet dispute and bitterly denounced the cultural revolution. The pce’s publications asserted that Mao’s policy consisted in provoking a war between the Soviet Union and the United States:

‘Out of the fabulous destruction that war between both giants would bring, an untouched and omnipotent China would arise, led by Mao, deciding the destiny of the earth . . . the realization in the middle of the twentieth century of the aims of Genghis Khan.’ footnote2

Nevertheless, the pce did combine its basically ‘pro-Soviet’ stance with some gestures of independence on minor questions, above all after Khrushchev fell. Confronted by some within the leadership who tried to pass from criticism of the ‘cult’ to criticism of the Stalinist system, Carrillo presented Khrushchev’s policy and personal characteristics as the definitive guarantee against any return to Stalinist methods. footnote3 Thus Khrushchev’s unexpected disgrace came as a rude blow to the credibility of the pce leader’s analysis of the nature and perspectives of the existing régime in the ussr. Any informed reader will notice that Carrillo’s writings between 1965 and 1967 lack enthusiasm for the new leading team in the cpsu.

In 1966 it was the pce general secretary himself—not, just as in the pcf, an intellectual spokesman of the party—who publicly expressed his disgust at the procedure of the Soviet authorities in the case of Sinyavsky and Daniel. footnote4 And at the end of 1967 the ‘Ardatovski incident’ occurred. Izvestia published an article on the Spanish situation by V. Ardatovski, political commentator of the Novosti agency. The pce leadership considered that the article distorted its policy, by attributing to it the intention of supporting the restoration of the monarchy in Spain; through an editorial in Mundo Obrero it called the Izvestia article ‘irresponsible’. It pointed out that, given the character of the newspaper as an official publication of the Soviet government, the Ardatovski article could be interpreted as a ‘correction’ of the pce’s policy. ‘We’, concluded the Mundo Obrero editorial, ‘elaborate our policy ourselves’. A few days later Izvestia published a note of correction, admitting that Mundo Obrero’s criticism was justified. The editorial in the following issue of Mundo Obrero declared that the incident could be considered ‘satisfactorily and totally resolved’ and it extolled the ‘great friendship’ between the pce and the cpsu.