Grandizo Munis (1912-1989) was one of the earliest Spanish Trotskyists.
Born Manuel Fernandez Grandizo in Larena, Estremadura, Munis joined Izquierda Comunista (ICE), the Spanish section of Trotsky’s International Left Opposition at its conference in Liege in Belgium in February 1930.
The majority in ICE, led by Andrés Nin, soon came into conflict with Trotsky over the section’s semi-detached relationship with the rest of the International Left Opposition (ILO) and its positive attitude towards the “Right Oppositionist” Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc (BOC).
These differences erupted into a full-scale split when, in 1934, Nin and the ICE majority opposed the ILO’s tactic of entry into the mass social-democratic parties, known as the “French Turn” because it was modelled on the entry of the French Trotskyists into the French Socialist Party (SFIO) after fascist riots brought down the Daladier government on 7 February.
Munis sided with Trotsky and the ILO against Nin, and joined the youth section of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) in 1935. He opposed the subsequent liquidation of the ICE into the Partido Obrera Unificacion de Marxista (POUM), a centrist organisation formed by the merger of Nin’s group and the BOC.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, Munis became the leader of the Spanish Trotskyist organisation, the Bolshevik-Leninists. The group opposed the Popular Front and sought to influence the rank-and-file of the POUM, despite attempts by the POUM’s leadership to exclude the Trotskyists. It also took part in the “May Days” in 1937 along with the anarchist Friends of Durruti organisation, and published a newspaper called La Voz Leninista, proposing a revolutionary programme against the Stalinists and bourgeois republicans.
The Bolshevik-Leninist group, however, was infiltrated by a GPU spy, Leon Narvitch, and after Narvitch was killed by a POUM squad avenging the murder of Andrés Nin by the Stalinists, Munis and his group were arrested. They were accused of the murder, and of plots to murder leading Republican politicians. After torture and Munis’s simulated execution, a trial date was set for 29 January 1939 in Barcelona.
Three days before the trial was due to begin, Franco’s troops entered the Catalan capital and Munis escaped amidst the chaos of the evacuation. Fleeing to Mexico via France, he reconstituted the Spanish section in exile and met Trotsky in the spring of 1940. Munis attended the Emergency Congress of the Fourth International in New York in April of that year, and returned to Mexico to speak at Trotsky’s funeral in August.
Munis collaborated closely with Trotsky’s wife Natalia Sedova in denouncing the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for their de facto support for the Red Army’s occupation of eastern Europe in 1944-5.
In a 1945 article called “Defence of the Soviet Union and Revolutionary Tactics”, Munis wrote that the Fourth International’s original position of “unconditional defence of the Soviet Union” must be abandoned: “The only criterion must be the revolutionary advance of the proletariat and the peasants in the territories coveted by the bureaucracy... The slogan ‘an end to the Nazi occupation’ must be complemented with another one: ‘an end to the Stalinist occupation.’”
At the Second Congress of the Fourth International in 1948, Munis sided with Max Shachtman’s Workers’ Party and with Natalia Sedova against the “orthodox Trotskyists”.
In 1951 Munis returned to Spain to attempt to organise in the underground following the Barcelona tramway strike. He was arrested the following year and imprisoned until 1957. Basing himself in Paris, Munis began to drift away from Trotskyism, and by the 1970s organised his followers in several countries into a small left-communist international called the Revolutionary Workers’ Ferment.
Munis was a brave and talented militant who raised the banner of international socialism high in the most adverse of circumstances.
A witness to and participant in one of the 20th century’s most important revolutionary struggles, Munis is a true hero of our movement.