Andres Nin, the leader of the POUM — Partido Obrero de Unificacin Marxista, or Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity — in Catalonia, Spain, made his party larger and stronger than the official Soviet-backed Spanish Communist party in the 1930s.
A Trotskyite from the early 1920s, Nin fled to the U.S.S.R. when he was sentenced to death for revolutionary activity in Spain. But his Trotskyite beliefs brought him into conflict with Joseph Stalin, who in 1930 forced Nin out of the country with no official papers.
Nin made his way back to Spain, persuaded the Spanish Communist party to break with the Soviet regime, and became an influential leader of the workers. In 1936, when the Spanish Republican government was elected, Nin was made minister of education and became the target of a slander campaign backed by Moscow.
In June 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Stalin’s agents persuaded the Loyalist government to arrest the POUM leaders for working with Franco, but Nin could not be found. There is no indication that he was ever officially arrested.
The trial of the other POUM leaders, held the following year, revealed no proof that they had been involved in espionage, but five out of the seven tried were found guilty of attempting to put into place “a political and economic social order different from the present one,” and received sentences of 11 to 15 years.
Similar to the KGB
Nin was taken to a Spanish villa used by the Government Political Administration (GPU), an administrative branch of the Soviet government handling security, similar to the later KGB organization.
He was tortured for several days. Jesus Hernandez, a member of the Communist party and a Popular Front government official, remembered it this way: “Nin was not giving in. He was resisting until he fainted. His inquisitors were getting impatient. They decided to abandon the dry method. Then the blood flowed, the skin peeled off, muscles torn, physical suffering pushed to the limits of human endurance. Nin resisted the cruel pain of the most refined tortures. In a few days his face was a shapeless mass of flesh.”
Andres Nin died on June 20, 1937. In 1938, his body was found in the streets of Madrid.