File: secI8.html

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anarchism 9.5-1
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  • area: main
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<html>
<HEAD>

<TITLE>I.8 Does revolutionary Spain show that libertarian socialism can work in practice?</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>

<h1>I.8 Does revolutionary Spain show that libertarian socialism can work in practice?</h1>
<p>
Yes. As Murray Bookchin puts it, <i>"[i]n Spain, millions of people took
large segments of the economy into their own hands, collectivised them,
administered them, even abolished money and lived by communistic
principles of work and distribution -- all of this in the midst of a
terrible civil war, yet without producing the chaos or even the serious
dislocations that were and still are predicted by authoritarian
'radicals.' Indeed, in many collectivised areas, the efficiency with
which an enterprise worked by far exceeded that of a comparable one in
nationalised or private sectors. This 'green shoot' of revolutionary
reality has more meaning for us than the most persuasive theoretical
arguments to the contrary. On this score it is not the anarchists who are
the 'unrealistic day-dreamers,' but their opponents who have turned their
backs to the facts or have shamelessly concealed them."</i> [<i>"Introductory
Essay,"</i> in <b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, Sam Dolgoff (ed.), p. xxxix]
<p>
Sam Dolgoff's book is by far the best English source on the Spanish
collectives and deserves to be quoted at length (as we do below). He
quotes French Anarchist Gaston Leval comments that in those areas 
which defeated the fascist uprising on the 19th of July 1936 a 
profound social revolution took place based, mostly, on anarchist
ideas:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In Spain, during almost three years, despite a civil war that took
a million lives, despite the opposition of the political parties . . . 
this idea of libertarian communism was put into effect. Very quickly
more than 60% of the land was very quickly collectively cultivated by 
the peasants themselves, without landlords, without bosses, and without 
instituting capitalist competition to spur production. In almost all the 
industries, factories, mills, workshops, transportation services, public 
services, and utilities, the rank and file workers, their revolutionary 
committees, and their syndicates reorganised and administered production, 
distribution, and public services without capitalists, high-salaried 
managers, or the authority of the state.
<p>
"Even more: the various agrarian and industrial collectives immediately
instituted economic equality in accordance with the essential principle 
of communism, 'From each according to his ability and to each according 
to his needs.' They co-ordinated their efforts through free association 
in whole regions, created new wealth, increased production (especially 
in agriculture), built more schools, and bettered public services. They
instituted not bourgeois formal democracy but genuine grass roots
functional libertarian democracy, where each individual participated
directly in the revolutionary reorganisation of social life. They
replaced the war between men, 'survival of the fittest,' by the 
universal practice of mutual aid, and replaced rivalry by the principle 
of solidarity . . .
<p>
"This experience, in which about eight million people directly or
indirectly participated, opened a new way of life to those who 
sought an alternative to anti-social capitalism on the one hand, 
and totalitarian state bogus socialism on the other."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
pp. 6-7]
</blockquote><p>
Thus about eight million people directly or indirectly participated in 
the libertarian based new economy during the short time it was able to 
survive the military assaults of the fascists and the attacks and 
sabotage of the Communists. This in itself suggests that libertarian
socialist ideas are of a practical nature. 
<p>
Lest the reader think that Dolgoff and Bookchin are exaggerating the
accomplishments and ignoring the failures of the Spanish collectives, 
in the following subsections we will present specific details and answer 
some objections often raised by misinformed critics. We will try to present 
an objective analysis of the revolution, its many successes, its strong 
points and weak points, the mistakes made and possible lessons to be 
drawn from the experience, both from the successes and the mistakes. 
<p>
This libertarian influenced revolution has (generally) been ignored 
by historians, or its existence mentioned in passing. Some so-called 
historians and <i>"objective investigators"</i> have slandered it and lied 
about (when not ignoring) the role anarchists played in it. Communist 
histories are particularly unreliable (to use a polite word for their 
activities) but it seems that almost <b>every</b> political perspective 
has done this (including liberal, right-wing libertarian, Stalinist,
Trotskyist, Marxist, and so on). Indeed, the myths generated by
Marxists of various shades are quite extensive (see the appendix
on <a href="append32.html"><i>"Marxists and Spanish Anarchism"</i></a> 
for a reply to some of the
more common ones). 
<p>
Thus any attempt to investigate what actually occurred in Spain and 
the anarchists' role in it is subject to a great deal of difficulty. 
Moreover, the positive role that Anarchists played in the revolution 
and the positive results of our ideas when applied in practice are 
also downplayed, if not ignored. Indeed, the misrepresentations of 
the Spanish Anarchist movement are downright amazing (see Jerome R. 
Mintz's wonderful book <b>The Anarchists of Casa Viejas</b> for a 
refutation of the historians claims, a refutation based on oral 
history, as well as J. Romero Maura's, <i>"The Spanish case"</i>, 
contained in <b>Anarchism Today</b>, edited by J. Joll and D. Apter. 
Both are essential reading to understand the distortions of 
historians about the Spanish anarchist movement). 
<p>
All we can do here is present a summary of the social revolution 
that took place and attempt to explode a few of the myths that 
have been created around the work of the C.N.T. and F.A.I. during 
those years.
<p>
In addition, we must stress that this section of the FAQ can 
be nothing but an introduction to the Spanish Revolution. We 
concentrate on the economic and political aspects of the 
revolution as we cannot cover the social transformations 
that occurred. All across non-fascist Spain traditional social 
relationships between men and women, adults and children, 
individual and individual were transformed, revolutionised, 
in a libertarian way. C.N.T. militant Abel Paz gives a good 
indication of this when he wrote:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Industry is in the hands of the workers and all the production
centres conspicuously fly the red and black flags as well as
inscriptions announcing that they have really become collectives.
The revolution seems to be universal. Changes are also evident
in social relations. The former barriers which used to separate
men and woman arbitrarily have been destroyed. In the cafes and
other public places there is a mingling of the sexes which would
have been completely unimaginable before. The revolution has
introduced a fraternal character to social relations which has
deepened with practice and show clearly that the old world is
dead."</i> [<b>Durruti: The People Armed</b>, p. 243]
</blockquote><p>
The social transformation empowered individuals and these, in
turn, transformed society. Anarchist militant Enriqueta Rovira
presents a vivid picture of the self-liberation the revolution
generated:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The atmosphere then [during the revolution], the feelings were
very special. It was beautiful. A feeling of -- how shall I say
it -- of power, not in the sense of domination, but in the
sense of things being under <b>our</b> control, of under anyone's.
Of <b>possibility</b>. We <b>had</b> everything. We had Barcelona: It
was ours. You'd walk out in the streets, and they were ours
-- here, CNT; there, <b>comite</b> this or  that. It was totally
different. Full of possibility. A feeling that we could,
together, really <b>do</b> something. That we could make things
different."</i> [quoted by Martha A. Ackelsberg and Myrna 
Margulies Breithart, <i>"Terrains of Protest: Striking City
Women"</i>, pp. 151-176, <b>Our Generation</b>, vol. 19, No. 1, 
pp. 164-5]
</blockquote><p>
Moreover, the transformation of society that occurred during the
revolution extended to all areas of life and work. For example,
the revolution saw <i>"the creation of a health workers' union,
a true experiment in socialised medicine. They provided medical
assistance and opened hospitals and clinics."</i> [Juan Gomez Casas,
<b>Anarchist Organisation: The History of the FAI</b>, p. 192] We
discuss this example in some detail in 
<a href="secI5.html#seci512">section I.5.12</a> and so
will not do so here. Therefore, we must stress that this section
of the FAQ is just an introduction to what happened and does
not (indeed, cannot) discuss all aspects of the revolution.
We just present an overview, bringing out the libertarian
aspects of the revolution, the ways workers' self-management
was organised, how the collectives organised and what they did.
<p>
Needless to say, many mistakes were made during the revolution.
We point out and discuss some of them in what follows. Moreover,
much of what happened did not correspond exactly with what
many people consider as the essential steps in a communist
(libertarian or otherwise) revolution. Economically, for
example, few collectives reached beyond a mutualist or
collectivist state. Politically, the fear of a fascist
victory made many anarchists accept collaboration with the
state as a lessor evil. However, to dismiss the Spanish
Revolution because it did not meet the ideas laid out by 
a handful of revolutionaries would be sectarian and elitist 
nonsense. No working class revolution is pure, no mass
struggle is without its contradictions, no attempt to
change society will be perfect. <i>"It is only those who do 
nothing who make no mistakes,"</i> as Kropotkin so correctly
pointed out. [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>, 
p. 143] The question is whether the revolution creates
a system of institutions which will allow those involved
to discuss the problems they face and correct the decisions 
they make. In this, the Spanish Revolution clearly 
succeeded, creating organisations based on the initiative,
autonomy and power of working class people. 
<p>
For more information about the social revolution, Sam Dolgoff's <b>The
Anarchist Collectives</b> is an excellent starting place. Gaston Leval's
<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b> is another essential text.
Jose Pierat's <b>Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution</b> and Vernon
Richards' <b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b> are excellent critical
anarchist works on the revolution and the role of the anarchists.
Robert Alexander's <b>The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War</b> is a 
good general overview of the anarchist's role in the revolution 
and civil war, as is Burnett Bolloten's <b>The Spanish Civil War</b>. 
Noam Chomsky's excellent essay <i>"Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship"</i> 
indicates how liberal books on the Spanish Civil War can be 
misleading, unfair and essentially ideological in nature (this
classic essay can be found in <b>The Chomsky Reader</b> and <b>American
Power and the New Mandarins</b>). George Orwell's <b>Homage to Catalonia</b>
cannot be bettered as an introduction to the subject (Orwell was
in the POUM militia at the Aragon Front and was in Barcelona during
the May Days of 1937).
<p>
<a name="seci81"><h2>I.8.1 Wasn't the Spanish Revolution primarily a rural phenomenon and therefore inapplicable as a model for modern industrialised societies?</h2>
<p>
Quite the reverse. More urban workers took part in the revolution
than in the countryside. So while it is true that collectivisation 
was extensive in rural areas, the revolution also made its mark in 
urban areas and in industry. 
<p>
In total, the <i>"regions most affected"</i> by collectivisation
<i>"were Catalonia and Aragon, were about 70 per cent of the
workforce was involved. The total for the whole of Republican
territory was nearly 800,000 on the land and a little more
than a million in industry. In Barcelona workers' committees
took over all the services, the oil monopoly, the shipping
companies, heavy engineering firms such as Volcano, the
Ford motor company, chemical companies, the textile 
industry and a host of smaller enterprises. . . Services
such as water, gas and electricity were working under
new management within hours of the storming of the
Atarazanas barracks . . .a conversion of appropriate
factories to war production meant that metallurgical
concerns had started to produce armed cars by 22 July 
. . . The industrial workers of Catalonia were the most
skilled in Spain . . . One of the most impressive
feats of those early days was the resurrection of 
the public transport system at a time when the streets
were still littered and barricaded."</i> Five days after
the fighting had stopped, 700 tramcars rather than
the usual 600, all painted in the colours of the
CNT-FAI were operating in Barcelona." [Antony Beevor,
<b>The Spanish Civil War</b>, pp. 91-2]
<p>
About 75% of Spanish industry was concentrated in Catalonia, 
the stronghold of the anarchist labour movement, and widespread 
collectivisation of factories took place there. However, 
collectivisation was not limited to Catalonia and took place
all across urban as well as rural Republican Spain. As Sam Dolgoff 
rightly observes, <i>"[t]his refutes decisively the allegation that 
anarchist organisational principles are not applicable to industrial 
areas, and if at all, only in primitive agrarian societies or in 
isolated experimental communities."</i> [<b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, 
pp. 7-8]
<p>
There had been a long tradition of peasant collectivism in the Iberian
Peninsula, as there was among the Berbers and in the ancient Russian
<b>mir.</b> The historians Costa and Reparaz maintain that a great many
Iberian collectives can be traced to <i>"a form of rural libertarian-communism
[which] existed in the Iberian Peninsula before the Roman invasion. Not 
even five centuries of oppression by Catholic kings, the State and the 
Church have been able to eradicate the spontaneous tendency to establish 
libertarian communistic communities."</i> [cited, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 20] So it 
is not surprising that there were collectives in the countryside. 
<p>
According to Augustin Souchy, <i>"[i]t is no simple matter to collectivise
and place on firm foundations an industry employing almost a quarter of a
million textile workers in scores of factories scattered in numerous
cities. But the Barcelona syndicalist textile union accomplished this
feat in a short time. It was a tremendously significant experiment. The
dictatorship of the bosses was toppled, and wages, working conditions and
production were determined by the workers and their elected delegates. 
All functionaries had to carry out the instructions of the membership and
report back directly to the men on the job and union meetings. The
collectivisation of the textile industry shatters once and for all the
legend that the workers are incapable of administrating a great and
complex corporation"</i> [cited, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 94].
<p>
Moreover, Spain in the 1930s was not a <i>"backward, peasant country,"</i> 
as is sometimes supposed. Between 1910 and 1930, the industrial
working class more than doubled to over 2,500,000. This represented
just over 26% of the working population (compared to 16% twenty
years previously). In 1930, 45 per cent of the working population
were engaged in agriculture. [Ronald Fraser, <b>The Blood of Spain</b>,
p. 38] In Catalonia alone, 200,000 workers were employed in the 
textile industry and 70,000 in metal-working and machinery 
manufacturing. This was very different than the situation in 
Russia at the end of World War I, where the urban working class 
made up only 10% of the population.
<p>
Capitalist social relations had also penetrated agriculture much 
more thoroughly than in <i>"backward, underdeveloped"</i> countries by
the 1930s. In Russia at the end of World War I, for example, 
agriculture mostly consisted of small farms on which peasant 
families worked mainly for their own subsistence, bartering or 
selling their surplus. In Spain, however, agriculture was 
oriented to the world market and by the 1930s approximately
90% of farm land was in the hands of the bourgeoisie. [Fraser,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 37] Spanish agribusiness also employed large 
numbers of labourers who did not own enough land to support 
themselves. The revolutionary labour movement in the Spanish 
countryside in the 1930s was precisely based on this large 
population of rural wage-earners (the socialist UGT land
workers union had 451,000 members in 1933, 40% of its total
membership, for example).
<p>
Therefore the Spanish Revolution cannot be dismissed as a product 
a of pre-industrial society. The urban collectivisations occurred 
predominately in the most heavily industrialised part of Spain 
and indicate that anarchist ideas are applicable to modern 
societies (indeed, the CNT organised most of the unionised 
urban working class). By 1936 agriculture itself was 
predominately capitalist (with 2% of the population owning 
67% of the land). The revolution in Spain was the work (mostly) 
of rural and urban wage labourers (joined with poor peasants) 
fighting a well developed capitalist system. 
<p>
Therefore, the anarchist revolution in Spain has many lessons
for revolutionaries in developed capitalist countries and cannot
be dismissed as a product of industrial backwardness.
<p>
<a name="seci82"><h2>I.8.2 How were the anarchists able to obtain mass popular support in Spain?</h2>
<p>
Anarchism was introduced in Spain in 1868 by Giuseppi Fanelli, an
associate of Michael Bakunin, and found fertile soil among both the
workers and the peasants of Spain. 
<p>
The peasants supported anarchism because of the rural tradition of 
Iberian collectivism mentioned in the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci81">last section</a>. The urban workers 
supported it because its ideas of direct action, solidarity and free 
federation of unions corresponded to their needs in their struggle 
against capitalism and the state. 
<p>
In addition, many Spanish workers were well aware of the dangers of 
centralisation and the republican tradition in Spain was very much
influenced by federalist ideas (coming, in part, from Proudhon's work). 
The movement later spread back and forth between countryside and cities 
as union organisers and anarchist militants visited villages and as
peasants came to industrial cities like Barcelona, looking for work.
<p>
Therefore, from the start anarchism in Spain was associated with the
labour movement (as Bakunin desired) and so anarchists had a practical 
area to apply their ideas and spread the anarchist message. By applying 
their principles in everyday life, the anarchists in Spain ensured that
anarchist ideas became commonplace and accepted in a large section of
the population. 
<p>
This acceptance of anarchism cannot be separated from the structure 
and tactics of the C.N.T. and its fore-runners. The practice of direct 
action and solidarity encouraged workers to rely on themselves to 
identify and solve their own problems. The decentralised structure 
of the anarchist unions had an educational effect of their members. 
By discussing issues, struggles, tactics, ideals and politics in 
their union assemblies, the members of the union educated themselves
and, by the process of self-management in the struggle, prepared 
themselves for a free society. The very organisational structure of
the C.N.T. ensured the dominance of anarchist ideas and the political
evolution of the union membership. As one C.N.T. militant from Casas
Viejas put it, new members <i>"asked for too much, because they lacked
education. They thought they could reach the sky without a ladder . . .
they were beginning to learn . . . There was good faith but lack
of education. For that reason we would submit ideas to the assembly,
and the bad ideas would be thrown out."</i> [quoted by J. Mintz, <b>The
Anarchists of Casas Viejas</b>, p. 27]
<p>
It was by working in the union meetings that anarchists influenced
their fellow workers. The idea that the anarchists, through the
F.A.I, controlled the C.N.T is a myth. Not all anarchists in the 
C.N.T were members of the F.A.I, for example. Almost all F.A.I 
members were also rank-and-file members of the C.N.T. who took part 
in union meetings as equals. Anarchists were not members of the FAI
indicate this. Jose Borras Casacarosa notes that <i>"[o]ne has to
recognise that the F.A.I. did not intervene in the C.N.T. from
above or in an authoritarian manner as did other political 
parties in the unions. It did so from the base through militants
. . . the decisions which determined the course taken by the
C.N.T. were taken under constant pressure from these militants."</i> 
Jose Campos notes that F.A.I. militants <i>"tended to reject control
of confederal committees and only accepted them on specific
occassions . . . if someone proposed a motion in assembly, the
other F.A.I. members would support it, usually successfully.
It was the individual standing of the <b>faista</b> in open assembly."</i> 
[quoted by Stuart Christie, <b>We, the Anarchists</b>, p. 62]
<p>
This explains the success of anarchism in the CNT. Anarchist 
ideas, principles and tactics, submitted to the union assemblies, 
proved to be good ideas and were not thrown out. The structure of 
the organisation, in other words, decisively influenced the <b>content</b> 
of the decisions reached as ideas, tactics, union policy and so
on were discussed by the membership and those which best applied 
to the members lives were accepted and implemented. The C.N.T
assemblies showed the validity of Bakunin's arguments for
self-managed unions as a means of ensuring workers' control of
their own destinies and organisations. As he put it, the union
<i>"sections could defend their rights and their autonomy [against
union bureaucracy] in only one way: the workers called general
membership meetings . . . In these great meetings of the sections,
the items on the agenda were amply discussed and the most progressive
opinion prevailed."</i> [<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 247] The C.N.T
was built on such <i>"popular assemblies,"</i> with the same radicalising
effect. It showed, in practice, that bosses (capitalist as well as
union ones) were not needed -- workers can manage their own affairs
directly. As a school for anarchism it could not be bettered as it
showed that anarchist principles were not utopian. The C.N.T, by
being based on workers' self-management of the class struggle, 
prepared its members for workers' self-management of the revolution
and the new society.
<p>
The Spanish Revolution also shows the importance of anarchist 
education and media. In a country with a very high illiteracy 
rate, huge quantities of literature on social revolution were 
disseminated and read out loud at meetings by those who could 
read to those who could not. Anarchist ideas were widely 
discussed. <i>"There were tens of thousands of books, pamphlets
and tracts, vast and daring cultural and popular educational 
experiments (the Ferrer schools) that reached into almost 
every village and hamlet throughout Spain."</i> [<b>The Anarchist 
Collectives</b>, p. 27] The discussion of political, economic and 
social ideas was continuous, and <i>"the centro [local union hall] 
became the gathering place to discuss social issues and to 
dream and plan for the future. Those who aspired to learn to
read and write would sit around . . . studying."</i> [Jerome R. Mintz, 
<b>The Anarchists of Casas Viejas</b>, p. 160] One anarchist militant
described it as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"With what joy the orators were received whenever a meeting
was held . . . We spoke that night about everything: of the
ruling inequality of the regime and of how one had a right 
to a life without selfishness, hatred, without wars and 
suffering. We were called on another occasion and a crowd
gathered larger than the first time. That's how the pueblo
started to evolve, fighting the present regime to win
something by which they could sustain themselves, and 
dreaming of the day when it would be possible to create
that society some depict in books, others by word of mouth.
Avid for learning, they read everything, debated, discussed,
and chatted about the different modes of perfect social
existence."</i> [Perez Cordon, quoted by Jerome R. Mintz, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 158]
</blockquote><p>
Newspapers and periodicals were extremely important. By 1919, more than
50 towns in Andalusia had their own libertarian newspapers. By 1934 the
C.N.T. (the anarcho-syndicalist labour union) had a membership of around
one million and the anarchist press covered all of Spain. In Barcelona 
the C.N.T. published a daily, <b>Solidaridad Obrera</b> (Worker Solidarity), 
with a circulation of 30,000. The FAI's magazine <b>Tierra y Libertad</b> 
(Land and Liberty) had a circulation of 20,000. In Gijon there was 
<b>Vida Obrera</b> (Working Life), in Seville <b>El Productor</b> 
(The Producer), 
and in Saragossa <b>Accion y Cultura</b> (Action and Culture), each with a
large circulation. There were many more. 
<p>
As well as leading struggles, organising unions, and producing books, 
papers and periodicals, the anarchists also organised libertarian schools, 
cultural centres, co-operatives, anarchist groups (the F.A.I), youth groups 
(the Libertarian Youth) and women's organisations (the Free Women movement). 
They applied their ideas in all walks of life and so ensured that ordinary 
people saw that anarchism was practical and relevant to them.
<p>
This was the great strength of the Spanish Anarchist movement. It was a
movement <i>"that, in addition to possessing a revolutionary ideology [sic],
was also capable of mobilising action around objectives firmly rooted in 
the life and conditions of the working class . . . It was this ability
periodically to identify and express widely felt needs and feelings that,
together with its presence at community level, formed the basis of the
strength of radical anarchism, and enabled it to build a mass base of
support."</i> [Nick Rider, <i>"The practice of direct action: the Barcelona 
rent strike of 1931"</i>, p. 99, from <b>For Anarchism</b>, pp. 79-105]
<p>
Historian Temma Kaplan stressed this in her work on the Andalusian
anarchists. She argued that the anarchists were <i>"rooted in"</i> social 
life and created <i>"a movement firmly based in working-class
culture."</i> They <i>"formed trade unions, affinity groups such as
housewives' sections, and broad cultural associations such
as workers' circles, where the anarchist press was read and
discussed."</i> Their <i>"great strength . . . lay in the merger of 
communal and militant trade union traditions. In towns where 
the vast majority of worked in agriculture, agricultural
workers' unions came to be identified with the community as a
whole . . . anarchism . . . show[ed] that the demands of
agricultural workers and proletarians could be combined with
community support to create an insurrectionary situation . . . 
It would be a mistake . . . to argue that 'village anarchism'
in Andalusia was distinct from militant unionism, or that
the movement was a surrogate religion."</i> [<b>Anarchists of Andalusia: 
1868-1903</b>, p. 211, p. 207, pp. 204-5]
<p>
The Spanish anarchists, before and after the C.N.T was formed, fought 
in and out of the factory for economic, social and political issues. 
This refusal of the anarchists to ignore any aspect of life ensured 
that they found many willing to hear their message, a message based 
around the ideas of individual liberty. Such a message could do nothing 
but radicalise workers for <i>"the demands of the C.N.T went much further 
than those of any social democrat: with its emphasis on true equality, 
<b>autogestion</b> [self-management] and working class dignity, 
anarchosyndicalism made demands the capitalist system could not 
possibly grant to the workers."</i> [J. Romero Maura, <i>"The Spanish case"</i>, 
p. 79, from <b>Anarchism Today</b>, edited by J. Joll and D. Apter] 
<p>
Strikes, due to the lack of strike funds, depended on mutual aid 
to be won, which fostered a strong sense of solidarity and class
consciousness in the CNT membership. Strikes did not just involve 
workers. For example, workers in Jerez responded to bosses importing 
workers from Malaga <i>"with a weapon of their own -- a boycott of
those using strikebreakers. The most notable boycotts were against
landowners near Jerez who also had commercial establishments in
the city. The workers and their wives refused to buy there, and
the women stationed themselves nearby to discourage other shoppers."</i> 
[Jerome R. Mintz, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 102]
<p>
The structure and tactics of the C.N.T encouraged the politicisation, 
initiative and organisational skills of its members. It was a federal, 
decentralised body, based on direct discussion and decision making from 
the bottom up. <i>"The C.N.T tradition was to discuss and examine everything"</i>, 
as one militant put it. In addition, the C.N.T created a viable and 
practical example of an alternative method by which society could be 
organised. A method which was based on the ability of ordinary people to 
direct society themselves and which showed in practice that special ruling 
authorities are undesirable and unnecessary.
<p>
The very structure of the C.N.T and the practical experience it provided 
its members in self-management produced a revolutionary working class 
the likes of which the world has rarely seen. As Jose Peirats points 
out, <i>"above the union level, the C.N.T was an eminently political 
organisation . . ., a social and revolutionary organisation for agitation 
and insurrection."</i> [<b>Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 239] 
<p>
The C.N.T. was organised in such a way as to encourage solidarity and 
class consciousness. Its organisation was based on the <b>sindicato unico</b> 
(one union) which united all workers of the same workplace in the 
same union. Instead of organising by trade, and so dividing the workers
into numerous different unions, the C.N.T united all workers in a
workplace into the same organisation, all trades, skilled and unskilled,
where in a single organisation and so solidarity was increased and
encouraged as well as increasing their fighting power by eliminating
divisions within the workforce. All the unions in an area were linked
together into a local federation, the local federations into a regional
federation and so on. As J. Romero Maura argues, the <i>"territorial 
basis of organisation linkage brought all the workers from one area
together and fomented working-class solidarity over and above
corporate [industry or trade] solidarity."</i> [<i>"The Spanish case"</i>, 
p. 75, from <b>Anarchism Today</b>, edited by J. Joll and D. Apter]
<p>
Thus the structure of the C.N.T. encouraged class solidarity and 
consciousness. In addition, being based on direct action and
self-management, the union ensured that working people became
accustomed to managing their own struggles and acting for themselves,
directly. This prepared them to manage their own personal and 
collective interests in a free society (as seen by the success
of the self-managed collectives created in the revolution). Thus
the process of self-managed struggle and direct action prepared
people for the necessities of the social revolution and the an
anarchist society -- it built, as Bakunin argued, the seeds of the
future in the present.
<p>
In other words, <i>"the route to radicalisation . . . came from
direct involvement in struggle and in the design of alternative
social institutions."</i> Every strike and action empowered those
involved and created a viable alternative to the existing
system. For example, while the strikes and food protests in 
Barcelona at the end of the First World War <i>"did not topple
the government, patterns of organisation established then
provided models for the anarchist movement for years to
follow."</i> [Martha A. Ackelsberg and Myrna Margulies Breithart, 
<i>"Terrains of Protest: Striking City Women"</i>, pp. 151-176, 
<b>Our Generation</b>, vol. 19, No. 1, p. 164] The same could 
be said of every strike, which confirmed Bakunin's and 
Kropotkin's stress on the strike as not only creating class 
consciousness and confidence but also  the structures necessary 
to not only fight capitalism, but to replace it.
<p>
It was the revolutionary nature of the C.N.T. that created a militant 
membership who were willing and able to use direct action to defend 
their liberty. Unlike the Marxist led German workers, organised in 
a centralised fashion and trained in the obedience required by 
hierarchy, who did nothing to stop Hitler, the Spanish working 
class (like their comrades in anarchist unions in Italy) took to 
the streets to stop fascism.
<p>
The revolution in Spain did not "just happen"; it was the result of 
nearly seventy years of persistent anarchist agitation and revolutionary
struggle, including a long series of peasant uprisings, insurrections,
industrial strikes, protests, sabotage and other forms of direct action
that prepared the peasants and workers organise popular resistance to the 
attempted fascist coup in July 1937 and to take control of the economy when
they had defeated it in the streets.
<p>
<a name="seci83"><h2>I.8.3 How were Spanish industrial collectives organised?</h2> 
<p>
Marta A. Ackelsberg gives us an excellent short summary of how
the industrial collectives where organised:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In most collectivised industries, general assemblies of workers
decided policy, while elected committees managed affairs on a
day-to-day basis."</i> [<b>Free Women of Spain</b>, p. 73]
</blockquote><p>
The collectives were based on workers' democratic self-management 
of their workplaces, using productive assets that were under the 
custodianship of the entire working community and administered 
through federations of workers' associations. Augustin Souchy 
writes: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The collectives organised during the Spanish Civil War were workers' 
economic associations without private property. The fact that collective 
plants were managed by those who worked in them did not mean that these 
establishments became their private property. The collective had no right to 
sell or rent all or any part of the collectivised factory or workshop, The rightful custodian was the C.N.T., the National Confederation of Workers 
Associations. But not even the C.N.T. had the right to do as it pleased. 
Everything had to be decided and ratified by the workers themselves through 
conferences and congresses."</i> [cited in <b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 67]
</blockquote><p>
According to Souchy, in Catalonia <i>"every factory elected its administrative
committee composed of its most capable workers. Depending on the size of
the factory, the function of these committees included inner plant
organisation, statistics, finance, correspondence, and relations with
other factories and with the community. . . . Several months after
collectivisation the textile industry of Barcelona was in far better shape
than under capitalist management. Here was yet another example to show
that grass roots socialism from below does not destroy initiative. Greed
is not the only motivation in human relations."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p 95]
<p>
Thus the individual collective was based on a mass assembly of those
who worked there. This assembly nominated administrative staff who
were mandated to implement the decisions of the assembly and who
had to report back to, and were accountable to, that assembly. For
example, in Castellon de la Plana <i>"[e]very month the technical and
administrative council presented the general assembly of the
Syndicate with a report which was examined and discussed if 
necessary, and finally introduced when this majority thought it
of use. Thus all the activities were known and controlled by all
the workers. We find here a practical example of libertarian
democracy."</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 303]
<p>
So, in general, the industrial collectives were organised from
the bottom-up, with policy in the hands of workers' assemblies
who elected the administration required, including workplace 
committees and managers. However, power rested the at base
of the collective, with <i>"all important decisions [being]
taken by the general assemblies of the workers, . . .
[which] were widely attended and regularly held. . . if
an administrator did something which the general assembly
had not authorised, he was likely to be deposed at the
next meeting."</i> An example of this process can be seen
from the Casa Rivieria company. After the defeat of the
army coup <i>"a control committe (Comite de Control) was
named by the Barcelona Metal Workers' Union to take
over temporary control of the enterprises. . . A few
weeks after July 19th, there was the first general
assembly of the firm's workers . . . It elected an
enterprise committee (Comite de Empresa) to take control
of the firm on a more permanent basis. . . . Each
of the four sections of the firm -- the three factories
and the office staff -- held their own general assemblies
at least once a week. There they discussed matters ranging 
from the most important affairs to the most trivial."</i> 
[Robert Alexander, <b>The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War</b>, 
vol. 1, p. 469 and p. 532]
<p>
A plenum of syndicates met in December of 1936 and formulated norms for
socialisation in which the inefficiency of the capitalist industrial
system was analysed. The report of the plenum stated: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The major defect of most small manufacturing shops is fragmentation 
and lack of technical/commercial preparation. This prevents their
modernisation and consolidation into better and more efficient units 
of production, with better facilities and co-ordination. . . . For us,
socialisation must correct these deficiencies and systems of organisation
in every industry. . . . To socialise an industry, we must consolidate 
the different units of each branch of industry in accordance with a 
general and organic plan which will avoid competition and other 
difficulties impeding the good and efficient organisation of 
production and distribution. . ."</i> [cited by Souchy, <b>The Anarchist
Collectives</b>, p. 83]
</blockquote><p>
As Souchy points out, this document is very important in the evolution of
collectivisation, because it indicates a realisation that <i>"workers must
take into account that partial collectivisation will in time degenerate
into a kind of bourgeois co-operativism,"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 83] as discussed 
earlier (see 
<a href="secH7.html">section H.7</a>, 
for example). Thus many collectives did not 
compete with each other for profits, as surpluses were pooled and 
distributed on a wider basis than the individual collective -- in most 
cases industry-wide. 
<p>
We have already noted some examples of the improvements in efficiency
realised by collectivisation during the Spanish Revolution (
<a href="secI4.html#seci410">section I.4.10</a>). 
Another example was the baking industry. Souchy reports that, <i>"[a]s in the
rest of Spain, Barcelona's bread and cakes were baked mostly at night in
hundreds of small bakeries. Most of them were in damp, gloomy cellars
infested with roaches and rodents. All these bakeries were shut down. 
More and better bread and cake were baked in new bakeries equipped with
new modern ovens and other equipment."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 82]
<p>
Therefore, the collectives in Spain were marked by workplace democracy 
and a desire to co-operate within and across industries. This attempt 
at libertarian socialism, like all experiments, had its drawbacks as
well as successes and these will be discussed in the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci84">next section</a> as
well as some of the conclusions drawn from the experience.
<p>
<a name="seci84"><h2>I.8.4 How were the Spanish industrial collectives co-ordinated?</h2>
<p>
The methods of co-operation tried by the collectives varied considerably.
Initially, there were very few attempts to co-ordinate economic activities
beyond the workplace. This is hardly surprising, given that the overwhelming
need was to restart production, convert a civilian economy to a wartime one 
and to ensure that the civilian population and militias were supplied with 
necessary goods. This, unsurprisingly enough, lead to a situation of anarchist
mutualism developing, with many collectives selling the product of their own
labour on the market (in other words, a form of simple commodity production).
<p>
This lead to some economic problems as there existed no framework of
institutions between collectives to ensure efficient co-ordination of
activity and so lead to pointless competition between collectives (which 
lead to even more problems). As there were initially no confederations of 
collectives nor mutual/communal banks this lead to the inequalities that
initially existed between collectives (due to the fact that the collectives
took over rich and poor capitalist firms) and it made the many ad hoc
attempts at mutual aid between collectives difficult and temporary. 
<p>
Therefore, the collectives were (initially) a form of <i>"self-management 
straddling capitalism and socialism, which we maintain would not have 
occurred had the Revolution been able to extend itself fully under the 
direction of our syndicates."</i> [Gaston Leval, <b>Collectives in the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, pp. 227-8] As economic and political development are closely
related, the fact that the C.N.T. did not carry out the <b>political</b> aspect 
of the revolution meant that the revolution in the economy was doomed to
failure. As Leval stresses, in <i>"the industrial collectives, especially in
the large towns, matters proceeded differently as a consequence of 
contradictory factors and of opposition created by the co-existence
of social currents emanating from different social classes."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 227] 
<p>
Given that the C.N.T. program of libertarian communism recognised that a 
fully co-operative society must be based upon production for use, C.N.T. 
militants fought against this system of mutualism and for inter-workplace 
co-ordination. They managed to convince their fellow workers of the 
difficulties of mutualism by free debate and discussion within their 
unions and collectives.
<p>
Therefore, the degree of socialisation varied over time (as would be 
expected). Initially, after the initial defeat of Franco's forces, 
there was little formal co-ordination and organisation. The most 
important thing was to get production started again. However, the 
needs of co-ordination soon became obvious (as predicted in anarchist
theory and the programme of the CNT). Gaston Leval gives the example
of Hospitalet del Llobregat with regards to this process:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Local industries went through stages almost universally adopted in
that revolution . . . [I]n the first instance, <b>comites</b> nominated
by the workers employed in them [were organised]. Production and
sales continued in each one. But very soon it was clear that this
situation gave rise to competition between the factories. . . 
creating rivalries which were incompatible with the socialist and
libertarian outlook. So the CNT launched the watchword: 'All 
industries must be ramified in the Syndicates, completely socialised,
and the regime of solidarity which we have always advocated be 
established once and for all.
<p>
"The idea won support immediately"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 291-2]
<p></blockquote>
Another example was the woodworkers' union which a massive debate on 
socialisation and decided to do so (the shopworkers' union had a similar 
debate, but the majority of workers rejected socialisation). According 
to Ronald Fraser a <i>"union delegate would go round the small shops, 
point out to the workers that the conditions were unhealthy and 
dangerous, that the revolution was changing all this, and secure 
their agreement to close down and move to the union-built Double-X 
and the 33 EU."</i> [Ronald Fraser, <b>Blood of Spain</b>, p. 222]
<p>
This process went on in many different unions and collectives and, 
unsurprisingly, the forms of co-ordination agreed to lead to different 
forms of organisation in different areas and industries, as would be 
expected in a free society. However, the two most important forms can 
be termed syndicalisation and confederationalism (we will ignore the 
forms created by the collectivisation decree as these were not created 
by the workers themselves). 
<p>
<i>"Syndicalisation"</i> (our term) meant that the C.N.T.'s industrial union ran 
the whole industry. This solution was tried by the woodworkers' union after 
extensive debate. One section of the union, <i>"dominated by the F.A.I. [the 
anarchist federation], maintained that anarchist self-management meant that 
the workers should set up and operate autonomous centres of production so as 
to avoid the threat of bureaucratisation."</i> [Ronald Fraser, <b>Blood of Spain</b>, 
p. 222] However, those in favour of syndicalisation won the day and 
production was organised in the hands of the union, with administration 
posts and delegate meetings elected by the rank and file.
<p>
However, the <i>"major failure . . . (and which supported the original anarchist
objection) was that the union became like a large firm . . . [and its]
structure grew increasingly rigid."</i> According to one militant, <i>"From the
outside it began to look like an American or German trust"</i> and the workers
found it difficult to secure any changes and <i>"felt they weren't particularly
involved in decision making."</i> 
<p>
In the end, the major difference between the union-run industry and a
capitalist firm organisationally appeared to be that workers could vote for 
(and recall) the industry management at relatively regular General Assembly 
meetings. While a vast improvement on capitalism, it is hardly the best 
example of participatory self-management in action although the economic 
problems caused by the Civil War and Stalinist led counter-revolution 
obviously would have had an effect on the internal structure of any
industry and so we cannot say that the form of organisation created was
totally responsible for any marginalisation that took place. 
<p>
The other important form of co-operation was what we will term 
<i>"confederalisation."</i> This form of co-operation was practised by the 
Badalona textile industry (and had been defeated in the woodworkers' 
union). It was based upon each workplace being run by its elected 
management, sold its own production, got its own orders and received 
the proceeds. However, everything each mill did was reported to the 
union which charted progress and kept statistics. If the union felt 
that a particular factory was not acting in the best interests of 
the industry as a whole, it was informed and asked to change course. 
According to one militant, the union <i>"acted more as a socialist 
control of collectivised industry than as a direct hierarchised
executive"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 229]
<p>
This system ensured that the <i>"dangers of the big 'union trust' 
as of the atomised collective were avoided"</i> [Fraser, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 229] as well as maximising decentralisation of power. Unlike 
the syndicalisation experiment in the woodworkers' industry, this 
scheme was based on horizontal links between workplaces (via the 
C.N.T. union) and allowed a maximum of self-management <b>and</b> 
mutual aid. The ideas of an anarchist economy sketched in 
<a href="secI3.html">section I.3</a> 
reflects in many ways the actual experiments in 
self-management which occurred during the Spanish Revolution.
<p>
Therefore, the industrial collectives co-ordinated their activity 
in many ways, with varying degrees of direct democracy and success. 
As would be expected, mistakes were made and different solutions 
found. When reading this section of the FAQ its important to remember 
that an anarchist society can hardly be produced <i>"overnight"</i> and so 
it is hardly surprising that the workers of the C.N.T. faced numerous 
problems and had to develop their self-management experiment as 
objective conditions allowed them to. 
<p>
Unfortunately, thanks to fascist aggression and Communist Party 
back-stabbing, the experiment did not last long enough to fully 
answer all the questions we have about the viability of the 
solutions they tried. Given the time, however, we are sure they 
would have solved the problems they faced.
<p>
<a name="seci85"><h2>I.8.5 How were the Spanish agricultural co-operatives organised and co-ordinated?</h2>
<p>
Jose Peirats describes collectivisation among the peasantry as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The expropriated lands were turned over to the peasant syndicates, and it
was these syndicates that organised the first collectives. Generally the
holdings of small property owners were respected, always on the condition
that only they or their families would work the land, without employing
wage labour. In areas like Catalonia, where the tradition of petty peasant
ownership prevailed, the land holdings were scattered. There were no
great estates. Many of these peasants, together with the C.N.T., organised
collectives, pooling their land, animals, tools, chickens, grain,
fertiliser, and even their harvested crops. 
<p>
"Privately owned farms located in the midst of collectives interfered with
efficient cultivation by splitting up the collectives into disconnected
parcels. To induce owners to move, they were given more or even better
land located on the perimeter of the collective.
<p>
"The collectivist who had nothing to contribute to the collective was
admitted with the same rights and the same duties as the others. In some
collectives, those joining had to contribute their money (Girondella in
Catalonia, Lagunarrotta in Aragon, and Cervera del Maestra in Valencia)."</i> 
[cited <b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 112]
</blockquote><p>
Peirats also notes that in conducting their internal affairs, all the
collectives scrupulously and zealously observed democratic procedures. 
For example, <i>"Hospitalet de Llobregat held regular general membership
meetings every three months to review production and attend to new
business. The administrative council, and all other committees, submitted
full reports on all matters. The meeting approved, disapproved, made
corrections, issued instructions, etc."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 119] 
<p>
Dolgoff observes that <i>"supreme power was vested in, and actually
exercised by, the membership in general assemblies, and all power derived
from, and flowed back to, the grass roots organisations of the people"</i> 
and quotes Gaston Leval: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Regular general membership meetings were convoked weekly, bi-weekly, 
or monthly. . . and these meetings were completely free of the tensions 
and recriminations which inevitably emerge when the power of decisions 
is vested in a few individuals -- even if democratically elected. The 
Assemblies were open for everyone to participate in the proceedings. 
Democracy embraced all social life. In most cases, even the 'individualists' 
who were not members of the collective could participate in the discussions, 
and they were listened to by the collectivists."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p 119f] 
</blockquote><p>
It was in these face-to-face assemblies that decisions upon the distribution
of resources were decided both within and without the collective. Here, when 
considering the importance of mutual aid, appeals were made to an 
individual's sense of empathy. As one activist remembers:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"There were, of course, those who didn't want to share and who said that 
each collective should take care of itself. But they were usually convinced 
in the assemblies. We would try to speak to them in terms they understood. 
We'd ask, 'Did you think it was fair when the cacique [local boss] let people 
starve if there wasn't enough work?' and they said, 'Of course not.' They 
would eventually come around. Don't forget, there were three hundred 
thousand collectivists [in Aragon], but only ten thousand of us had been 
members of the C.N.T.. We had a lot of educating to do."</i> [Felix Carrasquer, 
quoted by Martha A. Ackelsberg in <b>Free Women of Spain</b>, p. 79]
</blockquote><p>
In addition, regional federations of collectives were formed in many
areas of Spain (for example, in Aragon and the Levant). The federations 
were created at congresses to which the collectives in an area sent 
delegates. These congresses agreed a series of general rules about how 
the federation would operate and what commitments the affiliated collectives 
would have to each other. The congress elected an administration council, 
which took responsibility for implementing agreed policy.
<p>
These federations had many tasks. They ensured the distribution of surplus
produce to the front line and to the cities, cutting out middlemen and
ensuring the end of exploitation. They also arranged for exchanges between 
collectives to take place. In addition, the federations allowed the 
individual collectives to pool resources together in order to improve the 
infrastructure of the area (building roads, canals, hospitals and so on) 
and invest in means of production which no one collective could afford.
<p>
In this way individual collectives pooled their resources, increased 
and improved the means of production they had access to as well as 
improving the social infrastructure of their regions. All this, combined 
with an increase of consumption at the point of production and the
feeding of militia men and women fighting the fascists at the front.
<p>
Rural collectivisations allowed the potential creative energy that
existed among the rural workers and peasants to be unleashed, an energy
that had been wasted under private property. The popular assemblies allowed
community problems and improvements to be identified and solved directly,
drawing upon the ideas and experiences of everyone and enriched by 
discussion and debate. This enabled rural Spain to be transformed from 
one marked by poverty and fear, into one of hope and experimentation (see
the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci86">next section</a> 
for a few examples of this experimentation).
<p>
Therefore self-management in collectives combined with co-operation in rural 
federations allowed an improvement in quality of rural life. From a 
purely economic viewpoint, production increased and as Benjamin Martin 
summarises, <i>"[t]hough it is impossible to generalise about the rural 
land take-overs, there is little doubt that the quality of life for most 
peasants who participated in co-operatives and collectives notably improved."</i> 
[<b>The Agony of Modernisation</b>, p. 394]
<p>
More importantly, however, this improvement in the quality of life included 
an increase in freedom as well as in consumption. To requote the member 
of the Beceite collective in Aragon we cited in 
<a href="secA5.html#seca56">section A.5.6</a>, <i>"it was 
marvellous. . . to live in a collective, a free society where one could 
say what one thought, where if the village committee seemed unsatisfactory 
one could say. The committee took no big decisions without calling the 
whole village together in a general assembly. All this was wonderful."</i> 
[Ronald Fraser, <b>Blood of Spain</b>, p. 288]
<p>
<a name="seci86"><h2>I.8.6 What did the agricultural collectives accomplish?</h2>
<p>
Here are a few examples cited by Jose Peirats: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In Montblanc the collective dug up the old useless vines and 
planted new vineyards. The land, improved by modern cultivation 
with tractors, yielded much bigger and better crops. . . . Many 
Aragon collectives built new roads and repaired old ones, installed 
modern flour mills, and processed agricultural and animal waste 
into useful industrial products. Many of these improvements were 
first initiated by the collectives. Some villages, like Calanda, 
built parks and baths. Almost all collectives established libraries, 
schools, and cultural centres."</i> [cited <b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, 
p. 116]
</blockquote><p>
Gaston Leval points out that <i>"the Peasant Federation of Levant . . .
produced more than half of the total orange crop in Spain: almost four
million kilos (1 kilo equals about 2 and one-fourth pounds). It then
transported and sold through its own commercial organisation (no
middlemen) more than 70% of the crop. (The Federations's commercial
organisation included its own warehouses, trucks, and boats. Early in
1938 the export section established its own agencies in France: 
Marseilles, Perpignan, bordeaux, Cherbourg, and Paris.) Out of a total
of 47,000 hectares in all Spain devoted to rice production, the
collective in the Province of Valencia cultivated 30,000 hectares."</i> 
[cited in <b>Ibid.</b>, p. 124] 
<p>
To quote Peirats again: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Preoccupation with cultural and pedagogical innovations was an event 
without precedent in rural Spain. The Amposta collectivists organised 
classes for semi-literates, kindergartens, and even a school of arts 
and professions. The Seros schools were free to all neighbours, 
collectivists or not. Grau installed a school named after its most 
illustrious citizen, Joaquin Costa. The Calanda collective (pop.
only 4,500) schooled 1,233 children. The best students were sent to the
Lyceum in Caspe, with all expenses paid by the collective. The Alcoriza
(pop. 4,000) school was attended by 600 children. Many of the schools
were installed in abandoned convents. In Granadella (pop. 2,000), classes
were conducted in the abandoned barracks of the Civil Guards. Graus
organised a print library and a school of arts and professions, attended
by 60 pupils. The same building housed a school of fine arts and high
grade museum. In some villages a cinema was installed for the first
time. The Penalba cinema was installed in a church. Viladecana built an
experimental agricultural laboratory.
<p>
"The collectives voluntarily contributed enormous stocks of provisions and
other supplies to the fighting troops. Utiel sent 1,490 litres of oil and
300 bushels of potatoes to the Madrid front (in addition to huge stocks of
beans, rice, buckwheat, etc.). Porales de Tujana sent great quantities of
bread, oil, flour, and potatoes to the front, and eggs, meat, and milk to
the military hospital.
<p>
"The efforts of the collectives take on added significance when we take
into account that their youngest and most vigorous workers were fighting
in the trenches. 200 members of the little collective of Vilaboi were at
the front; from Viledecans, 60; Amposta, 300; and Calande, 500."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, 
pp. 116-120]
</blockquote><p>
Peirats sums up the accomplishments of the agricultural collectives as
follows: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In distribution the collectives' co-operatives eliminated middlemen, 
small merchants, wholesalers, and profiteers, thus greatly reducing 
consumer prices. The collectives eliminated most of the parasitic 
elements from rural life, and would have wiped them out altogether 
if they were not protected by corrupt officials and by the political 
parties. Non-collectivised areas benefited indirectly from the 
lower prices as well as from free services often rendered by the
collectives (laundries, cinemas, schools, barber and beauty parlours, 
etc.)."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p114]
</blockquote><p>
Leval emphasises the following achievements (among others): 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In the agrarian collectives solidarity was practised to the greatest 
degree. Not only was every person assured of the necessities, but the 
district federations increasingly adopted the principle of mutual aid 
on an inter-collective scale. For this purpose they created common 
reserves to help out villages less favoured by nature. In Castile 
special institutions for this purpose were created. In industry this 
practice seems to have begun in Hospitalet, on the Catalan railways, 
and was applied later in Alcoy. Had the political compromise not 
impeded open socialisation, the practices of mutual aid would have 
been much more generalised. . . A conquest of enormous importance 
was the right of women to livelihood, regardless of occupation or 
function. In about half of the agrarian collectives, the women 
received the same wages as men; in the rest the women received 
less, apparently on the principle that they rarely live alone. . .
In all the agrarian collectives of Aragon, Catalonia, Levant, Castile,
Andalusia, and Estremadura, the workers formed groups to divide the 
labour or the land; usually they were assigned to definite areas. 
Delegates elected by the work groups met with the collective's 
delegate for agriculture to plan out the work. This typical 
organisation arose quite spontaneously, by local initiative. . . 
In addition . . . the collective as a whole met in weekly, bi-weekly
or monthly assembly . . . The assembly reviewed the activities of
the councillors it named, and discussed special cases and unforeseen
problems. All inhabitants -- men and women, producers and non-producers
-- took part in the discussion and decisionns . . . In land cultivation 
the most significant advances were: the rapidly increased use of 
machinery and irrigation; greater diversification; and forestation. 
In stock raising: the selection and multiplication of breeds; the 
adaptation of breeds to local conditions; and large-scale
construction of collective stock barns."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, pp. 166-167]
</blockquote><p>
Martha A. Ackelsberg sums up the experience well:
<blockquote><p>
<i>"The achievements of these collectives were extensive. In many
areas they maintained, if not increased, agricultural production
[not forgetting that many young men were at the front line], 
often introducing new patterns of cultivation and fertilisation. . .
collectivists built chicken coups, barns, and other facilities
for the care and feeding of the community's animals. Federations
of collectives co-ordinated the construction of roads, schools,
bridges, canals and dams. Some of these remain to this day as
lasting contributions of the collectives to the infrastructure
of rural Spain."</i> [<b>The Free Women of Spain</b>, p. 79]
</blockquote><p>
She also points to inter-collective solidarity, noting that the 
<i>"collectivists also arranged for the transfer of surplus produce
from wealthier collectives to those experiencing shortages."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>]
<p>
Therefore, as well as significant economic achievements, the
collectives ensured social and political ones too. Solidarity
was practised and previously marginalised people took direct
and full management of the affairs of their communities, 
transforming them to meet their own needs and desires. 
<p>
<a name="seci87"><h2>I.8.7 I've heard that the rural collectives were created by force. Is this true?</h2>
<p>
No, it is not. The myth that the rural collectives were created by 
"terror," organised and carried out by the anarchist militia, was 
started by the Stalinists of the Spanish Communist Party. More 
recently, some right-wing Libertarians have warmed up and repeated 
these Stalinist fabrications. Anarchists have been disproving these 
allegations since 1936 and it is worthwhile to do so again here.
<p>
As Vernon Richards notes, <i>"[h]owever discredited Stalinism may appear 
to be today the fact remains that the Stalinist lies and interpretation 
of the Spanish Civil War still prevail, presumably because it suits the
political prejudices of those historians who are currently interpreting 
it."</i> [Introduction to Gaston Leval's <b>Collectives in the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, p. 11] Here we shall present evidence to refute claims 
that the rural collectives were created by force.
<p>
Firstly, we should point out that rural collectives were created in many
different areas of Spain, such as the Levant (900 collectives), Castile (300)
and Estremadera (30), where the anarchist militia did not exist. In Catalonia, 
for example, the C.N.T. militia passed through many villages on its way to
Aragon and only around 40 collectives were created unlike the 450 in Aragon. 
In other words, the rural collectivisation process occurred independently of 
the existence of anarchist troops, with the majority of the 1,700 rural
collectives created in areas without a predominance of anarchist troops.
<p>
One historian, Ronald Fraser, seems to imply that the Aragon Collectives were 
imposed upon the Aragon population. As he puts it the <i>"collectivisation, 
carried out under the general cover, if not necessarily the direct agency, 
of C.N.T. militia columns, represented a revolutionary minority's attempt to 
control not only production but consumption for egalitarian purposes and 
the needs of the war."</i> [<b>Blood of Spain</b>, p. 370] Notice that he does not
suggest that the anarchist militia actually <b>imposed</b> the collectives, a
claim for which there is little or no evidence. Moreover, Fraser presents
a somewhat contradictory narrative to the facts he presents. On the one
hand, he talks of a policy of <i>"obligatory"</i> collectivistion imposed on 
the peasants by the C.N.T., while on the other hand he presents extensive
evidence that the collectives did not have a 100% membership rate. How
can collectivisation be obligatory if people remain outside the collectives?
Similarly, he talks of how <b>some</b> C.N.T. militia leaders justified forced
collectivisation in terms of the war effort while acknowledging the
official C.N.T. policy of opposing forced collectivisation, an opposition
expressed in practice as only around 5% of the collectives were total
(and expressed in his own book as collectivists interviewed continually
note that people remained outside their collectives!).
<p>
Thus Fraser's attempts to paint the Aragon collectives as a form of <i>"war
communism"</i> imposed upon the population by the C.N.T. and obligatory for
all fails to co-incidence with the evidence he presents.
<p>
Earlier he states that <i>"[t]here was no need to dragoon them [the peasants] 
at pistol point [into collectives]: the coercive climate, in which 'fascists' 
were being shot, was sufficient. 'Spontaneous' and 'forced' collectives 
existed, as did willing and unwilling collectivists within them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p.349] Therefore, his suggestion that the Aragon collectives were imposed 
upon the rural population is based upon the insight that there was a <i>"coercive
climate"</i> in Aragon at the time. Of course a civil war against fascism would 
produce a <i>"coercive climate,"</i> particularly at the front line, and so the 
C.N.T. can hardly be blamed for that. In addition, in a life and death 
struggle against fascism, in which the fascists were systematically 
murdering vast numbers of anarchists, socialists and republicans in the
areas under their control, it is hardly surprising that some anarchist troops 
took the law into their own hands and murdered some of those who supported 
and would help the fascists. Given what was going on in fascist Spain, and 
the experience of fascism in Germany and Italy, the C.N.T. militia knew 
exactly what would happen to them and their friends and family if they lost.
<p>
The question does arise, however, of whether the climate was made so coercive 
by the war and the nearness of the anarchist militia that individual choice 
was impossible.
<p>
The facts speak for themselves -- rural collectivisation in Aragon embraced 
more than 70% of the population in the area saved from fascism. Around 
30% of the population felt safe enough not to join a collective, a 
sizeable percentage. 
<p>
If the collectives had been created by anarchist terror or force, we would
expect a figure of 100% membership in the collectives. This was not the case,
indicating the basically voluntary nature of the experiment (we should point 
out that other figures suggest a lower number of collectivists which makes 
the forced collectivisation argument even less likely). Historian Antony
Beevor (while noting that there <i>"had undoubtedly been pressure, and
no doubt force was used on some occasions in the fervour after the
rising"</i>) just stated the obvious when he wrote that <i>"the very fact that
every village was a mixture of collectivists and individualists shows
that peasants had not been forced into communal farming at the point
of a gun."</i> [<b>The Spanish Civil War</b>, p. 206] In addition, if the
C.N.T. militia had forced peasants into collectives we would expect the
membership of the collectives to peak almost overnight, not grow slowly
over time. However, this is what happened:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"At the regional congress of collectives, held at Caspe in mid-February 1937, 
nearly 80 000 collectivists were represented from 'almost all the villages
of the region.' This, however, was but a beginning. By the end of April 
the number of collectivists had risen to 140 000; by the end of the first
week of May to 180 000; and by the end of June to 300 000."</i> [Graham Kelsey, 
<i>"Anarchism in Aragon,"</i> pp. 60-82, <b>Spain in Conflict 1931-1939</b>,
Martin Blinkhorn (ed.), p. 61]
</blockquote><p>
If the collectives had been created by force, then their membership would
have been 300 000 in February, 1937, not increasing steadily to reach that
number four months later. Neither can it be claimed that the increase was
due to new villages being collectivised, as almost all villages had sent
delegates in February. This indicates that many peasants joined the
collectives because of the advantages associated with common labour, the 
increased resources it placed at their hands and the fact that the surplus
wealth which had in the previous system been monopolised by the few was
used instead to raise the standard of living of the entire community.
<p>
The voluntary nature of the collectives is again emphasised by the number of
collectives which allowed smallholders to remain outside. According to evidence 
Fraser presents (on page 366), an F.A.I. schoolteacher is quoted as saying that 
the forcing of smallholders into the collective <i>"wasn't a widespread problem, 
because there weren't more than twenty or so villages where collectivisation 
was total and no one was allowed to remain outside..."</i> Instead of forcing
the minority in a village to agree with the wishes of the majority, the
vast majority (95%) of Aragon collectives stuck to their libertarian 
principles and allowed those who did not wish to join to remain outside.
<p>
So, only around 20 were <i>"total"</i> collectives (out of 450) and around 30% of the 
population felt safe enough <b>not</b> to join. In other words, in the vast majority 
of collectives those joining could see that those who did not were safe. 
These figures should not be discounted, as they give an indication of the 
basically spontaneous and voluntary nature of the movement. As was the 
composition of the new municipal councils created after July 19th. 
As Graham Kesley notes, <i>"[w]hat is immediately noticeable from the results 
is that although the region has often been branded as one controlled by 
anarchists to the total exclusion of all other forces, the C.N.T. was far 
from enjoying the degree of absolute domination often implied and inferred."</i> 
[<b>Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism and the State</b>, p. 198] 
<p>
In his account of the rural revolution, Burnett Bolloten notes that 
it <i>"embraced more than 70 percent of the population"</i> in liberated
Aragon and that <i>"many of the 450 collectives of the region were 
largely voluntary"</i> although <i>"it must be emphasised that this 
singular development was in some measure due to the presence of 
militiamen from the neighbouring region of Catalonia, the immense 
majority of whom were members of the C.N.T. and F.A.I."</i> [<b>The
Spanish Civil War</b>, p. 74]
<p>
As Gaston Leval points out, <i>"it is true that the presence of these forces 
. . . favoured indirectly these constructive achievements by preventing 
active resistance by the supporters of the bourgeois republic and of
fascism."</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 90]
<p>
In other words, the presence of the militia changed the balance of
class forces in Aragon by destroying the capitalist state (i.e. the local
bosses - caciques - could not get state aid to protect their property) 
and many landless workers took over the land. The presence of the militia 
ensured that land could be taken over by destroying the capitalist <i>"monopoly 
of force"</i> that existed before the revolution (the power of which will be
highlighted below) and so the C.N.T. militia allowed the possibility of 
experimentation by the Aragonese population.
<p>
This class war in the countryside is reflected by Bolloten's statement that
<i>"[if] the individual farmer viewed with dismay the swift and widespread
collectivisation of agriculture, the farm workers of the Anarchosyndicalist 
C.N.T. and the Socialist UGT saw it as the commencement of a new era."</i> 
[<b>The Spanish Civil War</b>, p. 63] Both were mass organisations and 
supported collectivisation. 
<p>
Therefore, anarchist militia allowed the rural working class to abolish the
artificial scarcity of land created by private property (and enforced by the
state). The rural bosses obviously viewed with horror the possibility that 
they could not exploit day workers' labour. As Bolloten points out <i>"the 
collective system of agriculture threaten[ed] to drain the rural labour 
market of wage workers."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 62] Little wonder the richer peasants
and landowners hated the collectives.
<p>
Bolloten also quotes a report on the district of Valderrobes which indicates 
popular support for the collectives:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Collectivisation was nevertheless opposed by opponents on the right and
adversaries on the left. If the eternally idle who have been expropriated
had been asked what they thought of collectivisation, some would have
replied that it was robbery and others a dictatorship. But, for the
elderly, the day workers, the tenant farmers and small proprietors who
had always been under the thumb of the big landowners and heartless
usurers, it appeared as salvation"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 71]
</blockquote><p>
However, most historians ignore the differences in class that existed in 
the countryside. They ignore it and explain the rise in collectives in
Aragon (and ignore those elsewhere) as the result of the C.N.T. militia. 
Fraser, for example, states that <i>"[v]ery rapidly collectives . . . began 
to spring up. It did not happen on instructions from the C.N.T. leadership -- 
no more than had the [industrial] collectives in Barcelona. Here, as there, 
the initiative came from C.N.T. militants; here, as there, the 'climate' 
for social revolution in the rearguard was created by C.N.T. armed strength: 
the anarcho-syndicalists' domination of the streets of Barcelona was 
re-enacted in Aragon as the C.N.T. militia columns, manned mainly by 
Catalan anarcho-syndicalist workers, poured in. Where a nucleus of 
anarcho-syndicalists existed in a village, it seized the moment to carry 
out the long-awaited revolution and collectivised spontaneously. Where 
there was none, villagers could find themselves under considerable pressure 
from the militias to collectivise. . ."</i>  [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 347]
<p>
In other words, he implies that the revolution was mostly imported into Aragon
from Catalonia. However, the majority of C.N.T. column leaders were opposed to
the setting up of the Council of Aragon (a confederation for the collectives)
[Fraser, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 350]. Hardly an example of Catalan C.N.T. imposed 
social revolution. The evidence we have suggests that the Aragon C.N.T. was 
a widespread and popular organisation, suggesting that the idea that the
collectives were imported into Aragon by the Catalan C.N.T. is simply <b>false.</b>
<p>
Fraser states that in <i>"some [of the Aragonese villages] there was a 
flourishing C.N.T., in others the UGT was strongest, and in only too many 
there was no unionisation at all."</i> [<b>Blood of Spain</b>, p. 348] The question 
arises of how extensive was that strength. The evidence we have suggests 
that it was extensive, strong and growing, so indicating that rural Aragon 
was not without a C.N.T. base, a base that makes the suggestion of imposed 
collectives a false one.
<p>
Murray Bookchin summarises the strength of the C.N.T. in rural Aragon as 
follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The authentic peasant base of the C.N.T. [by the 1930s] now lay in Aragon
. . .[C.N.T. growth in Zaragoza] provided a springboard for a highly
effective libertarian agitation in lower Aragon, particularly among
the impoverished labourers and debt-ridden peasantry of the dry steppes
region."</i> [<b>The Spanish Anarchists</b>, p. 203]
</blockquote><p>
Graham Kelsey, in his social history of the C.N.T. in Aragon between 1930 
and 1937, provides the necessary evidence to more than back Bookchin's
claim of C.N.T. growth. Kesley points out that as well as the <i>"spread of
libertarian groups and the increasing consciousness among C.N.T. members
of libertarian theories . . .contribu[ting] to the growth of the
anarchosyndicalist movement in Aragon"</i> the existence of <i>"agrarian unrest"</i> 
also played an important role in that growth [<b>Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian
Communism and the State</b>, pp. 80-81]. This all lead to the <i>"revitalisation
of the C.N.T. network in Aragon"</i> [p. 82] and so by 1936, the C.N.T. had built
upon the <i>"foundations laid in 1933. . . [and] had finally succeeded in 
translating the very great strength of the urban trade-union organisation
in Zaragoza into a regional network of considerable extent."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 134]
<p>
Kelsey and other historians note the long history of anarchism in Aragon,
dating back to the late 1860s. However, before the 1910s there had been
little gains in rural Aragon by the C.N.T. due to the power of local bosses 
(called <b>caciques</b>):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Local landowners and small industrialists, the <b>caciques</b> of provincial 
Aragon, made every effort to enforce the closure of these first rural
anarchosyndicalist cells [created after 1915]. By the time of the first
rural congress of the Aragonese C.N.T. confederation in the summer of 1923,
much of the progress achieved through the organisation's considerable
propaganda efforts had been countered by repression elsewhere."</i>  
[Graham Kelsey, <i>"Anarchism in Aragon,"</i> p. 62]
</blockquote><p>
A C.N.T. activist indicates the power of these bosses and how difficult
it was to be a union member in Aragon:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Repression is not the same in the large cities as it is in the villages
where everyone knows everybody else and where the Civil Guards are
immediately notified of a comrade's slightest movement. Neither friends
nor relatives are spared. All those who do not serve the state's repressive
forces unconditionally are pursued, persecuted and on occasions beaten
up."</i> [cited by Kelsey, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 74]
</blockquote><p>
However, while there were some successes in organising rural unions, 
even in 1931 <i>"propaganda campaigns which led to the establishment of scores
of village trade-union cells, were followed by a counter-offensive from
village <b>caciques</b> which forced them to close."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b> p. 67] But even in
the face of this repression the C.N.T. grew and <i>"from the end of 1932. . . 
[there was] a successful expansion of the anarchosyndicalist movement into 
several parts of the region where previously it had never penetrated."</i> 
[Kesley, <b>Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism and the State</b>, p. 185]
<p>
This growth was built upon in 1936, with increased rural activism which had 
slowly eroded the power of the <b>caciques</b> (which in part explains their support
for the fascist coup). After the election of the Popular Front, years of
anarchist propaganda and organisation paid off with a massive increase
in rural membership in the C.N.T.:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The dramatic growth in rural anarcho-syndicalist support in the six
weeks since the general election was emphasised in the [Aragon C.N.T.'s
April] congress's agenda. . . the congress directed its attention
to rural problems . . . [and agreed a programme which was] exactly
what was to happen four months later in liberated Aragon."</i> [Kesley,
<i>"Anarchism in Aragon"</i>, p. 76]
</blockquote><p>
In the aftermath of a regional congress, held in Zaragoza at the start 
of April, a series of intensive propaganda campaigns was organised
through each of the provinces of the regional confederation. Many 
meetings were held in villages which had never before heard anarcho-
syndicalist propaganda. This was very successful and by the beginning 
of June, 1936, the number of Aragon unions had topped 400, compared to
only 278 one month earlier (an increase of over 40% in 4 weeks). [<b>Ibid.</b>,
pp. 75-76]
<p>
This increase in union membership reflects increased social struggle
by the Aragonese working population and their attempts to improve their
standard of living, which was very low for most of the population. A 
journalist from the conservative-Catholic <b>Heraldo de Aragon</b> visited
lower Aragon in the summer of 1935 and noted <i>"[t]he hunger in many homes,
where the men are not working, is beginning to encourage the youth to
subscribe to misleading teachings."</i> [cited by Kesley, <b>Ibid.</b>,  p. 74]
<p>
Little wonder, then, the growth in C.N.T. membership and social struggle
Kesley indicates: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Evidence of a different kind was also available that militant trade 
unionism in Aragon was on the increase. In the five months between 
mid-February and mid-July 1936 the province of Zaragoza experienced 
over seventy strikes, more than had previously been recorded in any 
entire year, and things were clearly no different in the other two 
provinces . . . the great majority of these strikes were occurring in 
provincial towns and villages. Strikes racked the provinces and in at 
least three instances were actually transformed into general strikes."</i> 
[<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 76]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, in the spring and summer of 1936, we see a massive growth in
C.N.T. membership which reflects growing militant struggle by the urban
and rural population of Aragon. Years of C.N.T. propaganda and organising
had ensured this growth in C.N.T. influence, a growth which is also 
reflected in the creation of collectives in liberated Aragon during the
revolution. Therefore, the construction of a collectivised society was 
founded directly upon the emergence, during the five years of the Second 
Republic, of a mass trade-union movement infused by libertarian, anarchist 
principles. These collectives were constructed in accordance with the 
programme agreed at the Aragon C.N.T. conference of April 1936 which
reflected the wishes of the rural membership of the unions within Aragon
(and due to the rapid growth of the C.N.T. afterwards obviously reflected
popular feelings in the area).
<p>
In the words of Graham Kesley, <i>"libertarian dominance in post-insurrection 
Aragon itself reflected the predominance that anarchists had secured before 
the war; by the summer of 1936 the C.N.T. had succeeded in establishing 
throughout Aragon a mass trade-union movement of strictly libertarian 
orientation, upon which widespread and well-supported network the extensive 
collective experiment was to be founded."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 61]
<p>
Additional evidence that supports a high level of C.N.T. support in
rural Aragon can be provided by the fact that it was Aragon that was the
centre of the December 1933 insurrection organised by the C.N.T. As Bookchin
notes, <i>"only Aragon rose on any significant scale, particularly Saragossa
. . . many of the villages declared libertarian communism and perhaps the
heaviest fighting took place between the vineyard workers in Rioja and the
authorities"</i> [M. Bookchin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 238]
<p>
It is unlikely for the C.N.T. to organise an insurrection in an area within
which it had little support or influence. According to Kesley's in-depth
social history of Aragon, <i>"it was precisely those areas which had most 
important in December 1933 . . . which were now [in 1936], in seeking to 
create a new pattern of economic and social organisation, to form the basis 
of libertarian Aragon."</i> [G. Kesley, <b>Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism
and the State</b>, p. 161] After the revolt, thousands of workers were jailed,
with the authorities having to re-open closed prisons and turn at least
one disused monastery into a jail due to the numbers arrested.
<p>
Therefore, it can be seen that the majority of collectives in Aragon 
were the product of C.N.T. (and UGT) influenced workers taking the opportunity
to create a new form of social life, a form marked by its voluntary and
directly democratic nature. For from being unknown in rural Aragon, the
C.N.T. was well established and growing at a fast rate - <i>"Spreading out from 
its urban base... the C.N.T., first in 1933 and then more extensively in 1936, 
succeeded in converting an essentially urban organisation into a truly 
regional confederation."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>, p. 184]
<p>
Therefore the evidence suggests that historians like Fraser are wrong to 
imply that the Aragon collectives were created by the C.N.T. militia and 
enforced upon a unwilling population. The Aragon collectives were the natural
result of years of anarchist activity within rural Aragon and directly
related to the massive growth in the C.N.T. between 1930 and 1936. Thus
Kesley is correct to state that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Libertarian communism and agrarian collectivisation were not economic 
terms or social principles enforced upon a hostile population by special
teams of urban anarchosyndicalists . . ."</i> [G. Kesley, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 161] 
</blockquote><p>
This is not to suggest that there were <b>no</b> examples of people joining
collectives involuntarily because of the <i>"coercive climate"</i> of the front
line. And, of course, there were villages which did not have a C.N.T. union 
within them before the war and so created a collective because of the 
existence of the C.N.T. militia. But these can be considered as exceptions 
to the rule.
<p>
Moreover, the way the C.N.T. handled such a situation is noteworthy. Fraser 
indicates such a situation in the village of Alloza. In the autumn of 
1936, representatives of the C.N.T. district committee had come to suggest 
that the villagers collectivise (we would like to stress here that the 
C.N.T. militia which had passed through the village had made no attempt 
to create a collective there). 
<p>
A village assembly was called and the C.N.T. explained their ideas and
suggested how to organise the collective. However, who would join and how 
the villagers would organise the collective was left totally up to them (the 
C.N.T. representatives <i>"stressed that no one was to be maltreated"</i>). Within
the collective, self-management was the rule. 
<p>
According to one member, <i>"[o]nce the work groups were established on a 
friendly basis and worked their own lands, everyone got on well enough,"</i> 
he recalled. <i>"There was no need for coercion, no need for discipline and
punishment. . . A collective wasn't a bad idea at all."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 360]
This collective, like the vast majority, was voluntary and democratic - 
<i>"I couldn't oblige him to join; we weren't living under a dictatorship."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 362] In other words, <b>no</b> force was used to create the 
collective and the collective was organised by local people directly.
<p>
Of course, as with any public good (to use economic jargon), all members of 
the community had to pay for the war effort and feed the militia. As Kesely 
notes, <i>"[t]he military insurrection had come at a critical moment in the 
agricultural calendar. Throughout lower Aragon there were fields of grain 
ready for harvesting. . . At the assembly in Albalate de Cinca the opening 
clause of the agreed programme had required everyone in the district, 
independent farmers and collectivists alike, to contribute equally to 
the war effort, thereby emphasising one of the most important considerations 
in the period immediately following the rebellion."</i> 
<p>
In addition, the collectives controlled the price of crops in order to ensure 
that speculation and inflation were controlled. However, these policies
as with the equal duties of individualists and collectivists in the war
effort were enforced upon the collectives by the war.
<p>
Lastly, in support of the popular nature of the rural collectives, we 
will indicate the effects of the suppression of the collectives in August 
1937 by the Communists, namely the collapse of the rural economy. This
sheds considerable light on the question of popular attitudes to the 
collectives. 
<p>
In October, the Communist-controlled Regional Delegation of Agrarian 
Reform acknowledged that <i>"in the majority of villages agricultural 
work was paralysed causing great harm to our agrarian economy."</i> 
This is confirmed by Jose Silva, a Communist Party member and general
secretary of the Institute of Agrarian Reform, who commented that
after Lister had attacked Aragon, <i>"labour in the fields was
suspended almost entirely, and a quarter of the land had not
been prepared at the time for sowing."</i> At a meeting of the 
agrarian commission of the Aragonese Communist Party (October 9th, 
1937), Jose Silva emphasised <i>"the little incentive to work of 
the entire peasant population"</i> and that the situation brought 
about by the dissolution of the collectives was <i>"grave and 
critical."</i> [quoted by Bolloten, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 530] 
<p>
Jose Peirats explains the reasons for this economic collapse as a result
of popular boycott: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"When it came time to prepare for the next harvest, smallholders could 
not by themselves work the property on which they had been installed 
[by the communists]. Dispossessed peasants, intransigent collectivists, 
refused to work in a system of private property, and were even less 
willing to rent out their labour."</i> [<b>Anarchists in the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, p. 258]
</blockquote><p>
If the collectives were unpopular, created by anarchist force, then why did 
the economy collapse after the suppression? If Lister had overturned a
totalitarian anarchist regime, why did the peasants not reap the benefit of 
their toil? Could it be because the collectives were essentially a 
spontaneous Aragonese development and supported by most of the population
there? This analysis is backed up by Yaacov Oved's statement (from a paper 
submitted to the XII Congress of Sociology, Madrid, July 1990): 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Those who were responsible for this policy [of "freeing" the Aragon
Collectivists], were convinced that the farmers would greet it joyfully
because they had been coerced into joining the collectives. But they were 
proven wrong. Except for the rich estate owners who were glad to get their 
land back, most of the members of the agricultural collectives objected and 
lacking all motivation they were reluctant to resume the same effort of in the 
agricultural work. This phenomenon was so widespread that the authorities and 
the communist minister of agriculture were forced to retreat from their 
hostile policy."</i> [Yaacov Oved, <b>Communismo Libertario and Communalism in 
the Spanish Collectivisations (1936-1939)</b>] 
</blockquote><p>
Even in the face of Communist repression, most of the collectives kept going. 
This, if nothing else, proves that the collectives were popular institutions.
As Yaacov Oved argues in relation to the breaking up of the collectives: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Through the widespread reluctance of collectivists to co-operate with the 
new policy it became evident that most members had voluntarily joined the 
collectives and as soon as the policy was changed a new wave of collectives 
was established. However, the wheel could not be turned back. An atmosphere 
of distrust prevailed between the collectives and the authorities and 
every initiative was curtailed"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Jose Peirats sums up the situation after the communist attack on the 
collectives and the legalisation of the collectives as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It is very possible that this second phase of collectivisation better
reflects the sincere convictions of the members. They had undergone a
sever test and those who had withstood it were proven collectivists. Yet 
it would be facile to label as anti-collectivists those who abandoned
the collectives in this second phase. Fear, official coercion and
insecurity weighed heavily in the decisions of much of the Aragonese
peasantry."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 258]
</blockquote><p>
While the collectives had existed, there was a 20% increase in production  
(and this is compared to the pre-war harvest which had been <i>"a good crop."</i> 
[Fraser, p. 370]); after the destruction of the collectives, the economy
collapsed. Hardly the result that would be expected if the collectives were 
forced upon an unwilling peasantry. The forced collectivisation by Stalin
in Russia resulted in a famine. Only the victory of fascism made it possible 
to restore the so-called <i>"natural order"</i> of capitalist property in the 
Spanish countryside. The same land-owners who welcomed the Communist 
repression of the collectives also, we are sure, welcomed the fascists
who ensured a lasting victory of property over liberty.
<p>
So, overall, the evidence suggests that the Aragon collectives, like 
their counterparts in the Levante, Catalonia and so on, were <b>popular</b> 
organisations, created by and for the rural population and, essentially, 
an expression of a spontaneous and popular social revolution. Claims that 
the anarchist militia created them by force of arms are <b>false.</b> While acts 
of violence <b>did</b> occur and some acts of coercion <b>did</b> take place 
(against C.N.T. policy, we may add) these are the exceptions to the rule. 
Bolloten's summary best fits the facts:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"But in spite of the cleavages between doctrine and practice that plagued
the Spanish Anarchists whenever they collided with the realities of power,
it cannot be overemphasised that notwithstanding the many instances of
coercion and violence, the revolution of July 1936 distinguished itself
from all others by the generally spontaneous and far-reaching character of
its collectivist movement and by its promise of moral and spiritual
renewal. Nothing like this spontaneous movement had ever occurred before."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 78]
</blockquote><p>
<a name="seci88"><h2>I.8.8 But did the Spanish collectives innovate?</h2>
<p>
Yes. In contradiction to the old capitalist claim that no one will 
innovate unless private property exists, the workers and peasants exhibited 
much more incentive and creativity under libertarian socialism than they 
had under the private enterprise system. This is apparent from Gaston
Leval's description of the results of collectivisation in Cargagente: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Carcagente is situated in the southern part of the province of Valencia. 
The climate of the region is particularly suited for the cultivation of
oranges. . . . All of the socialised land, without exception, is cultivated
with infinite care. The orchards are thoroughly weeded. To assure that
the trees will get all the nourishment needed, the peasants are
incessantly cleaning the soil. 'Before,' they told me with pride, 'all
this belonged to the rich and was worked by miserably paid labourers. The
land was neglected and the owners had to buy immense quantities of
chemical fertilisers, although they could have gotten much better yields
by cleaning the soil. . . .' With pride, they showed me trees that had
been grafted to produce better fruit.
<p>
"In many places I observed plants growing in the shade of the orange
trees. 'What is this?,' I asked. I learned that the Levant peasants
(famous for their ingenuity) have abundantly planted potatoes among the
orange groves. The peasants demonstrate more intelligence than all the
bureaucrats in the Ministry of Agriculture combined. They do more than
just plant potatoes. Throughout the whole region of the Levant, wherever
the soil is suitable, they grow crops. They take advantage of the four
month [fallow period] in the rice fields. Had the Minister of Agriculture
followed the example of these peasants throughout the Republican zone, the
bread shortage problem would have been overcome in a few months."</i> [cited in
Dolgoff, <b>Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 153]
</blockquote><p>
This is just one from a multitude of examples presented in the accounts 
of both the industrial and rural collectives (for more see 
<a href="secC2.html#secc23">section C.2.3</a> 
in which we present more examples to refute that charge that <i>"workers' 
control would stifle innovation"</i> and 
<a href="secI8.html#seci86">I.8.6</a>). The available evidence proves
that the membership of the collectives showed a keen awareness of the 
importance of investment and innovation in order to increase production 
and to make work both lighter and more interesting <b>and</b> that the 
collectives allowed that awareness to be expressed freely. The Spanish 
collectives indicate that, given the chance, everyone will take an interest
in their own affairs and express a desire to use their minds to improve
their surroundings. In fact, capitalism distorts what innovation exists 
under hierarchy by channelling it purely in how to save money and maximise
investor profit, ignoring other, more important, issues.
<p>
As Gaston Leval argues, self-management encouraged innovation:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The theoreticians and partisans of the liberal economy affirm that 
competition stimulates initiative and, consequently, the creative spirit
and invention without which it remains dormant. Numerous observations made
by the writer in the Collectives, factories and socialised workshops permit
him to take quite the opposite view. For in a Collective, in a grouping 
where each individual is stimulated by the wish to be of service to his
fellow beings research, the desire for technical perfection and so on 
are also stimulated. But they also have as a consequence that other
individuals join those who were first to get together. Furthermore, when,
in present society, an individualist inventor discovers something, it is
used only by the capitalist or the individual employing him, whereas in 
the case of an inventor living in a community not only is his discovery 
taken up and developed by others, but is immediately applied for the 
common good. I am convinced that this superiority would very soon manifest
itself in a socialised society."</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>,
p. 247]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore the actual experiences of self-management in Spain supports the 
points made in 
<a href="secI4.html#seci411">section I.4.11</a>. 
Freed from hierarchy, individuals will 
creatively interact with the world to improve their circumstances. This 
is not due to "market forces" but because the human mind is an active 
agent and unless crushed by authority it can no more stop thinking and 
acting than the Earth stop revolving round the Sun. In addition, the 
Collectives indicate that self-management allows ideas to be enriched 
by discussion, as Bakunin argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The greatest intelligence would not be equal to a comprehension of the
whole. Thence results... the necessity of the division and association
of labour. I receive and I give - such is human life. Each directs and
is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant
authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all,
voluntary authority and subordination"</i> [<b>God and the State</b>, p. 33]
</blockquote><p>
The experience of self-management proved Bakunin's point that society is 
more intelligent than even the most intelligent individual simply because 
of the wealth of viewpoints, experience and thoughts contained there. 
Capitalism impoverishes individuals and society by its artificial boundaries 
and authority structures.
<p>
<a name="seci89"><h2>I.8.9 Why, if it was so good, did it not survive?</h2>
<p>
Just because something is good does not mean that it will survive. 
<p>
For example, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis failed but that
does not mean that the uprising was a bad cause or that the Nazi regime 
was correct, far from it. Similarly, while the experiments in workers'
self-management and communal living undertaken across Republican Spain 
is one of the most important social experiments in a free society ever
undertaken, this cannot change the fact that Franco's forces and the 
Communists had access to more and better weapons. 
<p>
Faced with the aggression and terrorism of Franco, and behind him the 
military might of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the treachery of the 
Communists, and the aloofness of the Western bourgeois <i>"republics"</i> (whose
policy of <i>"non-intervention"</i> was strangely ignored when their citizens
aided Franco) it is amazing the revolution lasted as long as it did.
<p>
This does not excuse the actions of the anarchists themselves. As is well
known, the C.N.T. co-operated with the other anti-fascist parties and trade
unions on the Republican side (see 
<a href="secI8.html#seci810">next section</a>). This co-operation lead to 
the C.N.T. joining the anti-fascist government and "anarchists" becoming 
ministers of state. This co-operation, more than anything, helped ensure 
the defeat of the revolution. While much of the blame can be places at
the door of the would-be <i>"leaders,"</i> who like most leaders started to
think themselves irreplaceable and spokespersons for the organisations
there were members of, it must be stated that the rank-and-file of the
movement did little to stop them. Most of the militant anarchists were 
at the front-line (and so excluded from union and collective meetings)
and so could not influence their fellow workers (it is no surprise that
the <i>"Friends of Durruti"</i> group were mostly ex-militia men). However, it
seems that the mirage of anti-fascist unity proved too much for the
majority of C.N.T. members (see 
<a href="secI8.html#seci812">section I.8.12</a>). 
<p>
Some anarchists still maintain that the Spanish anarchist movement 
had no choice and that collaboration (while having unfortunate 
eeffects) was the only choice available. This view was defended 
by Sam Dolgoff and finds some support in the writings of Gaston 
Leval, August Souchy and many other anarchists. However, most 
anarchists today oppose collaboration and think it was a terrible 
mistake (at the time, this position was held by the majority of
non-Spanish anarchists plus a large minority of the Spanish 
movement, becoming a majority as the implications of 
collaboration became clear). This viewpoint finds its best 
expression in Vernon Richard's <b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b> 
and, in part, in such works as <b>Anarchists in the Spanish 
Revolution</b> by Jose Peirats and <b>Anarchist Organisation: The 
History of the F.A.I</b> by Juan Gomaz Casas as well as in a host 
of pamphlets and articles written by anarchists ever since.
<p>
So, regardless of how good a social system is, objective facts will 
overcome that experiment. Saturnino Carod (a leader of a C.N.T. Militia 
column at the Aragon Front) sums up the successes of the revolution 
as well as its objective limitations:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Always expecting to be stabbed in the back, always knowing that 
if we created problems, only the enemy across the lines would 
stand to gain. It was a tragedy for the anarcho-syndicalist 
movement; but it was a tragedy for something greater -- the 
Spanish people. For it can never be forgotten that it was the 
working class and peasantry which, by demonstrating their 
ability to run industry and agriculture collectively, allowed 
the republic to continue the struggle for thirty-two months. 
It was they who created a war industry, who kept agricultural 
production increasing, who formed militias and later joined 
the army. Without their creative endeavour, the republic
could not have fought the war . . ."</i> [quoted by Fraser, 
<b>Blood of Spain</b>, p. 394]
</blockquote><p>
<a name="seci810"><h2>I.8.10 Why did the C.N.T. collaborate with the state?</h2>
<p>
As is well know, in September 1936 the C.N.T joined the
Catalan government, followed by the central government
in November. This followed on from the decision made on
July the 21st to not speak of Libertarian Communism
until after Franco had been defeated. In other words,
to collaborate with other anti-fascist parties and
unions in a common front against fascism. 
<p>
This, initially, involved the C.N.T agreeing to join a 
<i>"Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias"</i> proposed 
by the leader of the Catalan government, Louis Companys.
This committee was made up of representatives of various
anti-fascist parties and groups. From this it was only
a matter of time until the C.N.T joined an official 
government as no other means of co-ordinating activities
existed (see <a href="secI8.html#seci813">section I.8.13</a>).
<p>
The question must arise, <b>why</b> did the C.N.T decide to
collaborate with the state, forsaking its principles and,
in its own way, contribute to the counter-revolution and
the loosing of the war. This is an important question.
Indeed, it is one Marxists always throw up in arguments
with anarchists or in anti-anarchist diatribes. Does the
failure of the C.N.T to implement anarchism after 
July 19th mean that anarchist politics are flawed? Or,
rather, does the experience of the C.N.T and F.A.I
during the Spanish revolution indicate a failure of
<b>anarchists</b> rather than of <b>anarchism,</b> a mistake
made under difficult objective circumstances and one
which anarchists have learnt from? Needless to say,
anarchists argue that the latter answer is the 
correct one. In other words, as Vernon Richards
argues, <i>"the basis of [his] criticism is not that 
anarchist ideas were proved to be unworkable by the
Spanish experience, but that the Spanish anarchists
and syndicalists failed to put their theories to the
test, adopting instead the tactics of the enemy."</i> 
[<b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 14] The
writers of this FAQ agree.
<p>
So, why <b>did</b> the CNT collaborate with the state
during the Spanish Civil War? Simply put, rather than
being the fault of anarchist theory (as Marxists like
to claim), its roots can be discovered in the situation
facing the Catalan anarchists on July 20th. The objective
conditions facing the leading militants of the CNT and
FAI influenced the decisions they took, decisions which
they later justified by <b>mis</b>-using anarchist theory.
<p>
What was the situation facing the Catalan anarchists
on July 20th? Simply put, it was an unknown situation.
Jose Peirats quotes from the report made by the C.N.T
to the <b>International Workers Association</b> as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Levante was defenceless and uncertain . . . We were
in a minority in Madrid. The situation in Andalusia
was unknown . . . There was no information from the
North, and we assumed the rest of Spain was in the
hands of the fascists. The enemy was in Aragon, at
the gates of Catalonia. The nervousness of foreign
consular officials led to the presence of a great
number of war ships around our ports."</i> [quoted in
<b>Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 180]
</blockquote><p>
He also notes that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"According to the report, the CNT was in absolute
control of Catalonia in July 19, 1936, but its
strength was less in Levante and still less in
central Spain where the central government and the
traditional parties were dominant. In the north of
Spain the situation was confused. The CNT could have
mounted an insurrection on its own 'with probable
success' but such a takeover would have led to a
struggle on three fronts: against the fascists,
the government and foreign capitalism. In view of
the difficulty of such an undertaking, collaboration
with other antifascist groups was the only alternative."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 179]
</blockquote><p>
In the words of the CNT report itself:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The CNT showed a conscientious scrupulousness in the
face of a difficult alternative: to destroy completely
the State in Catalonia, to declare war against the Rebels
[i.e. the fascists], the government, foreign capitalism,
and thus assuming complete control of Catalan society;
or collaborating in the responsibilities of government
with the other antifascist fractions."</i> [quoted by Robert 
Alexander, <b>The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War</b>, 
vol. 2, p. 1156]
</blockquote><p>
Moreover, as Gaston Leval later argued, given that the 
<i>"general preoccupation [of the majority of the population 
was] to defeat the fascists . . . the anarchists would, 
if they came out against the state, provoke the antagonism 
. . . of the majority of the people, who would accuse them 
of collaborating with Franco."</i> Implementing an anarchist 
revolution would, in all likelihood, also <i>"result . . . 
[in] the instant closing of the frontier and the blockade 
by sea by both fascists and the democratic countries. The 
supply of arms would be completely cut off, and the 
anarchists would rightly be held responsible for the 
disastrous consequences."</i> [quoted in <b>The Anarchist 
Collectives</b>, p. 52 and p. 53]
<p>
While the supporters of Lenin and Trotsky will constantly
point out the objective circumstances in which their
heroes made their decisions during the Russian Revolution, 
they rarely mention those facing the anarchists in Spain on 
the 20th of July, 1936. It seems hypocritical to point to the 
Russian Civil War as the explanation of all of Bolshevism's 
crimes against the working class (indeed, humanity) while 
remaining silent on the forces facing the C.N.T-F.A.I at 
the start of the Spanish Civil War. The fact that <b>if</b> the
CNT had decided to implement libertarian communism in 
Catalonia they would have to face the fascists (commanding
the bulk of the Spanish army), the Republican government
(commanding the rest) <b>plus</b> those sections in Catalonia
which supported it is rarely mentioned. Moreover, when
the decision to collaborate was made it was <b>immediately
after the defeat of the army uprising in Barcelona</b> -- the
situation in the rest of the country was uncertain and
when the social revolution was in its early days. 
<p>
Stuart Christie indicates the dilemma facing the
leadership of the CNT at the time:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The higher committees of the CNT-FAI-FIJL in Catalonia
saw themselves caught on the horns of a dilemma: social
revolution, fascism or bourgeois democracy. Either they
committed themselves to the solutions offered by social
revolution, regardless of the difficulties involved in
fighting both fascism and international capitalism, or,
through fear of fascism (or of the people), they
sacrificed their anarchist principles and revolutionary
objectives to bolster, to become, part of the bourgeois
state . . . Faced with an imperfect state of affairs
and preferring defeat to a possibly Pyrrhic victory,
the Catalan anarchist leadership renounced anarchism
in the name of expediency and removed the social
transformation of Spain from their agenda.
<p>
"But what the CNT-FAI leaders failed to grasp was
that the decision whether or not to implement 
Libertarian Communism, was not theirs to make.
Anarchism was not something which could be transformed
from theory into practice by organisational decree
 . . . [the] spontaneous defensive movement of 19
July had developed a political direct of its own."</i> 
[<b>We, the Anarchists!</b>, p. 99]
</blockquote><p>
Given that the pro-fascist army still controlled a third
or more of Spain (including Aragon) and that the CNT was 
not the dominant force in the centre and north of Spain, 
it was decided that a war on three fronts would only aid 
Franco. Moreover, it was a distinct possibility that by
introducing libertarian communism in Catalonia, Aragon
and elsewhere, the workers' militias and self-managed
industries would have been starved of weapons, resources
and credit. That isolation was a real problem can be seen 
from De Santillan's later comments on why the CNT joined 
the government:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The Militias Committee guaranteed the supremacy of the
people in arms . . . but we were told and it was 
repeated to us endlessly that as long as we persisted
in retaining it, that is, as long as we persisted in
propping up the power of the people, weapons would
not come to Catalonia, now would we be granted the 
foreign currency to obtain them from abroad, nor
would we be supplied with the raw materials for our 
industry. And since losing the war meant losing 
everything and returning to a state like that
prevailed in the Spain of Ferdinand VII, and in
the conviction that the drive given by us and our 
people could not vanish completely from the new
economic life, we quit the Militias Committee to
join the Generalidad government."</i> [quoted by
Stuart Christie, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 109]
</blockquote><p>
It was decided to collaborate and reject the basic ideas 
of anarchism until the war was over. A terrible mistake,
but one which can be understood given the circumstances
in which it was made. This is not, we stress, to justify
the decision but rather to explain it and place it in
context. Ultimately, the <b>experience</b> of the Civil War
saw a blockade of Republic by both "democratic" and 
fascist governments, the starving of the militias and
self-managed collectives of resources and credit as well 
as a war on two fronts when the State felt strong enough 
to try and crush the CNT and the semi-revolution its members 
had started. Unfortunately, the anarchist movement did not 
have a crystal-ball with which to see the future. Ultimately,
even faced with the danger of fascism, the liberals, the
right-wing socialists and communists preferred to undermine 
the anti-fascist struggle by attacking the CNT. In this, 
history proved Durruti totally correct:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"For us it is a matter of crushing Fascism once and for all. Yes, 
and in spite of the Government. 
<p>
"No government in the world fights Fascism to the death. When the 
bourgeoisie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to
Fascism to maintain itself. The liberal government of Spain could 
have rendered the fascist elements powerless long ago. Instead it
compromised and dallied. Even now at this moment, there are men in 
this Government who want to go easy on the rebels. You can never tell, 
you know-- he laughed -- the present Government might yet need these 
rebellious forces to crush the workers' movement . . .
<p>
"We know what we want. To us it means nothing that there is a Soviet 
Union somewhere in the world, for the sake of whose peace and
tranquillity the workers of Germany and China were sacrificed to 
Fascist barbarians by Stalin. We want revolution here in Spain, right
now, not maybe after the next European war. We are giving Hitler and 
Mussolini far more worry to-day with our revolution than the whole 
Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and 
Italian working class on how to deal with fascism.
<p>
"I do not expect any help for a libertarian revolution from any 
Government in the world. Maybe the conflicting interests of the 
various imperialisms might have some influence in our struggle.
That is quite possible . . . But we expect no help, not even from 
our own Government, in the last analysis."</i> 
<p>
<i>"You will be sitting on a pile of ruins if you are victorious,"</i> 
said [the journalist] van Paasen.
<p>
Durruti answered: <i>"We have always lived in slums and holes in the 
wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, 
you must not forget, we can also build. It is we the workers who 
built these palaces and cities here in Spain and in America and 
everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. 
And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are 
going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about 
that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it 
leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our 
hearts. That world is growing this minute."</i> [quoted by Vernon
Richards, <b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, pp. 193-4f]
</blockquote><p>
Isolation, the uneven support for a libertarian revolution 
across Spain and the dangers of fascism were real problems, 
but they do not excuse the libertarian movement for its 
mistakes. As we discuss in sections 
<a href="secI8.html#seci811">I.8.11</a> and 
<a href="secI8.html#seci813">I.8.13</a>, the 
biggest of these mistakes was forgetting basic anarchist 
ideas and an anarchist approach to the problems facing 
the Spanish people. If these ideas had been applied in
Spain, the outcome of the Civil War and Revolution would
have been different. 
<p>
In summary, while the decision to collaborate is one
that can be understood (due to the circumstances under which 
it was made), it cannot be justified in terms of anarchist 
theory. Indeed, as we argue in the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci811">next section</a>, attempts 
by the CNT leadership to justify the decision in terms of 
anarchist principles are not convincing and cannot be done 
without making a mockery of anarchism.
<p>
<a name="seci811"><h2>I.8.11 Was the decision to collaborate a product of anarchist theory, so showing anarchism is flawed?
</h2>
<p>
As we indicated in the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci810">last section</a>, the decision to
collaborate with the state was made by the CNT due to
the fear of isolation. The possibility that by declaring 
libertarian communism, the CNT would have had to fight
the Republican government and foreign interventions 
<b>as well as</b> the military coup influenced the decision
reached by the militants of Catalan anarchism. They
argued that such a situation would only aid Franco. 
<p>
Rather than being the product of anarchist ideology,
the decision was made in light of the immediate danger
of fascism and the situation in other parts of the 
country. The fact is that the circumstances in which the
decision to collaborate was made are rarely mentioned
by Marxists, who prefer to quote CNT militant Garcia 
Oliver's comment from over a year later:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The CNT and the FAI decided on collaboration and democracy, 
renouncing revolutionary totalitarianism which would lead to 
the strangulation of the revolution by the anarchist and 
Confederal dictatorship. We had to choose, between Libertarian 
Communism, which meant anarchist dictatorship, and democracy, 
which meant collaboration."</i> [quoted by Vernon Richards,
<b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 34]
</blockquote><p>
It is this quote, and quotes like it, which is ritualistically
trotted out by Marxists when attacking anarchist ideas. They
argue that they expose the bankruptcy of anarchist theory. So
convinced of this, they rarely bother discussing the problems
facing the CNT after the defeat of the military coup we discussed
in the 
<a href="secI8.html#seci810">last section</a> 
nor do they compare these quotes to the 
anarchist theory they claim inspired them. There are good
reasons for this. Firstly, if they presented the objective
circumstances the CNT found itself it then their readers 
may see that the decision, while wrong, is understandable
and had nothing to do with anarchist theory. Secondly, by
comparing these quotes to anarchist theory they would 
soon see how at odds they are with it. Indeed, they invoke
anarchism to justify conclusions the exact opposite of
that theory.
<p>
So what can be made of Garcia Oliver's argument? 
<p>
As Abel Paz notes, <i>"[i]t is clear that the explanations 
given . . . were designed for their political effect, hiding 
the atmosphere in which these decisions were taken. These 
declarations were made a year later when the CNT were 
already far removed from their original positions It is also
the period when they had become involved in the policy of
collaboration which lead taking part in the Central
Government. But in a certain way they shed light on the 
unknown factors which weighted so heavily on these who 
took part in the historic Plenum."</i> [<b>Durruti: The People 
Armed</b>, p. 215]
<p>
For example, when the decision was made, the revolution
had not started yet. The street fighting had just ended
and the Plenum decided <i>"not to speak about Libertarian
Communism as long as part of Spain was in the hands of
the fascists."</i> [Mariano R. Vesquez, quoted by Paz, <b>Op.
Cit.</b>, p.214] The revolution took place <b>from below</b> in
the days following the decision, independently of the
wishes of the Plenum. In the words of Abel Paz:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"When the workers reached their workplaces . . . they
found them deserted . . . The major centres of production
had been abandoned by their owners . . . The CNT and
its leaders had certainly not foreseen this situation; 
if they had, they had, they would have given appropriate
guidance to the workers when they called off the General
Strike and ordered a return to work. What happened next
was the result of the workers' spontaneous decision to
take matters into their own hands.
<p>
"Finding the factories deserted, and no instructions
from their unions, they resolved to operate the
machines themselves."</i> [<b>The Spanish Civil War</b>,
pp. 54-5]
</blockquote><p>
The rank and file of the CNT, on their own initiative, 
took advantage of the collapse of state power to transform 
the economy and social life of Catalonia. Paz stresses
that <i>"no orders were given for expropriation or
colectivisation -- which proved that the union, which
represented the will of the their members until July 18th, 
had now been overtaken by events"</i> and the <i>"union leaders 
of the CNT committees were confronted with a revolution 
that they had not foreseen . . . the workers and peasants 
had bypassed their leaders and taken collective action."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 40 and p. 56]
<p>
As the revolution had not yet begun and the CNT Plenum had 
decided <b>not</b> to call for its start, it is difficult to see 
how <i>"libertarian communism"</i> (i.e. the revolution) could 
<i>"lead to the strangulation of the revolution"</i> (i.e. 
libertarian communism). In other words, this particular
rationale put forward by Garica Oliver could not reflect
the real thoughts of those present at the CNT plenum and
so, in fact, was a later justification for the CNT's actions.
<p>
Similarly, Libertarian Communism is based on self-management,
by its nature opposed to dictatorship. According to the 
CNT's resolution at its congress in Zaragonza in May,
1936, <i>"the foundation of this administration will be the 
Commune"</i> which is <i>"autonomous"</i> and <i>"federated at regional 
and national levels."</i> The commune <i>"will undertake to
adhere to whatever general norms [that] may be agreed
by majority vote after free debate."</i> It stressed the
free nature of society aimed at by the CNT:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The inhabitants of a commune are to debate among themselves 
their internal problems . . . Federations are to deliberate 
over major problems affecting a country or province and all 
communes are to be represented at their reunions and assemblies, 
thereby enabling their delegates to convey the democratic 
viewpoint of their respective communes . . . every commune 
which is implicated will have its right to have its say . . . 
On matters of a regional nature, it is the duty of the regional 
federation to implement agreements . . . So the starting point 
is the individual, moving on through the commune, to the 
federation and right on up finally to the confederation."</i> 
[quoted by Jose Peirats, <b>The CNT in the Spanish Revolution</b>, 
vol. 1, pp. 106-7]
</blockquote><p>
Hardly a picture of <i>"anarchist dictatorship"</i>! Indeed, it
is far more <i>"democratic"</i> than the capitalist state Oliver
describes as <i>"democracy."</i> 
<p>
Clearly, these often quoted words of Garcia Oliver cannot be 
taken at face value. Made in 1937, they present an attempt to 
misuse anarchist ideals to defend the anti-anarchist activities 
of the CNT leadership rather than a meaningful explanation of 
the decisions made on the 20th of July, 1936. 
<p>
Moreover, the decision made then clearly stated that Libertarian 
Communism would be back on the agenda once Franco was defeated. 
Oliver's comments were applicable <b>after</b> Franco was defeated 
just as much as when they were made. The real reasons for the 
decision to collaborate lies elsewhere, namely in the objective
circumstances facing the CNT after the defeat of the army
in Barcelona, July 20th, 1936, and <b>not</b> in anarchist theory. 
<p>
This can clearly been seen from the report made by the CNT
to the <b>International Workers Association</b> to justify
the decision to forget anarchist theory and collaborate
with bourgeois parties and join the government. The 
report states that <i>"the CNT, loyal to its ideals and 
its purely anarchist nature, did not attack the forms 
of the State, nor try publicly to penetrate or dominate 
it . . . none of the political or juridical institutions 
were abolished."</i> [quoted by Robert Alexander, <b>The 
Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War</b>, vol. 2, p. 1156] 
<p>
In other words, according to this report, "anarchist" ideals 
do not, in fact, mean the destruction of the state, but 
rather the <b>ignoring</b> of the state. That this is nonsense, 
concocted to justify the CNT leaderships' betrayal of its 
ideals, is clear. To do so we just need to look at Bakunin 
and Kropotkin and look at the activities of the CNT <b>before</b> 
the start of the war.
<p>
Bakunin had argued that <i>"the revolution must set out 
from the first to radically and totally destroy the State"</i> 
and that the <i>"natural and necessary consequence of this 
destruction"</i> will include the <i>"dissolution of army, magistracy, 
bureaucracy, police and priesthood."</i> Capital would be
expropriated (i.e. the <i>"confiscation of all productive capital 
and means of production on behalf of workers' associations, 
who are to put them to use"</i>) and the state replaced by <i>"the 
federative Alliance of all working men's associations"</i> which
<i>"will constitute the Commune."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected 
Writings</b>, p. 170] Similarly, Kropotkin had stressed that
the <i>"Commune . . . must break the State and replace it
by the Federation."</i> [<b>Words of a Rebel</b>, p. 83] 
<p>
Thus anarchism has always been clear on what to do with 
the state, and it is obviously not what the CNT did to it!
Nor had the CNT always taken this perspective. Before the
start of the Civil War, the CNT had organised numerous
insurrections against the state. For example, in the spontaneous
revolt of CNT miners in January 1932, the workers <i>"seized town
halls, raised the black-and-red flags of the CNT, and declared
<b>communismo liberatario.</b>"</i> In Tarassa, the same year, the workers
again <i>"seiz[ed] town halls"</i> and the town <i>"swept by street 
fighting."</i> The revolt in January 1933 began with <i>"assaults by
Anarchist action groups . . . on Barcelona's military barracks
. . . Serious fighting occurred in working-class <b>barrios</b> and
the outlying areas of Barcelona . . . Uprising occurred in
Tarassa, Sardanola-Ripollet, Lerida, in several <b>pueblos</b> 
in Valencia province, and in Andalusia."</i> In December 1933,
the workers <i>"reared barricades, attacked public buildings,
and engaged in heavy street fighting . . . many villages
declared libertarian communism."</i>  [Murray Bookchin, <b>The 
Spanish Anarchists</b>, p. 225, p. 226, p. 227 and p. 238]
<p>
It seems that the CNT leadership's loyalty to <i>"its ideals 
and its purely anarchist nature"</i> which necessitated <i>"not 
attack[ing] the forms of the State"</i> was a very recent 
development! That enemies of anarchism quote Garcia
Oliver's words from 1937 or from this document and others
like it in order to draw conclusions about anarchist theory 
says more about their politics than about anarchism!
<p>
As can be seen, the rationales later developed to justify
the betrayal of anarchist ideas and the revolutionary
workers of Spain have no real relationship to anarchist
theory. They were created to justify a non-anarchist
approach to the struggle against fascism, an approach
based on ignoring struggle from below and instead forging
alliances with parties and unions at the top (in the
style of the UGT <i>"Workers' Alliance"</i> the CNT had
correctly argued against before the war).
<p>
Rather than trying to cement a unity with other organisations
at the top level, the leadership of the CNT should have
applied their anarchist ideas by inciting the oppressed
to enlarge and consolidate their gains (which they did
anyway). This would have liberated all the potential
energy within the country (and elsewhere), energy that
clearly existed as can be seen from the spontaneous
collectivisations that occurred after the fateful Plenum
of July 20th and the creation of volunteer workers'
militia columns sent to liberate those parts of Spain
which had fallen to Franco. 
<p>
The role of anarchists, therefore, was that of <i>"inciting 
the people to abolish capitalistic property and the 
institutions through which it exercises its power for the 
exploitation of the majority by a minority"</i> and <i>"to 
support, to incite and encourage the development of the 
social revolution and to frustrate any attempts by the 
bourgeois capitalist state to reorganise itself, which 
it would seek to do."</i> This would involve <i>"seeking to
destroy bourgeois institutions through the creation
of revolutionary organisms."</i> [Vernon Richards, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 44, p. 46 and p. 193] 
<p>
In other words, to encourage, what Bakunin called 
the <i>"federation of the standing barricades,"</i> made 
up of <i>"delegates . . . vested with binding mandates
and accountable and revocable at all times"</i>) which could 
have been the initial framework for both defending and 
extending the revolution (to <i>"defend the revolution"</i> 
a <i>"communal militia"</i> would be organised, the revolution
would <i>"radiate . . . outwards"</i> and communes would
<i>"federate . . . for common defence."</i>) [Michael Bakunin, 
<b>No Gods, No Masters</b>, vol. 1, p. 155 and p. 142] The 
equivalent of the <i>"Sections"</i> of the French Revolution, 
what Kropotkin argued <i>"laid the foundations of a new, 
free, social organisation"</i> and expressed <i>"the principles 
of anarchism."</i> [<b>The Great French Revolution</b>, vol. 1, 
p. 206 and p. 204] Indeed, such an organisation already
existing in embryo in the CNT's <b>barrios</b> defence committees
which had led and co-ordinated the struggle against the
military coup throughout the city.
<p>
Later, a delegate meeting from the various workplaces (CNT 
and UGT organised as well as unorganised ones) would have to 
had been arranged to organise, to again quote Bakunin, <i>"the 
federal Alliance of workers associations"</i> which would 
<i>"constitute the Commune"</i> and complement the <i>"federation 
of the standing barricades."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155] In more
modern terminology, a federation of workers' councils
combined with a federation of workers' militias and
community assemblies. Without this, the revolution was
doomed as was the war against Franco's forces.
<p>
Such a development, applying the basic ideas of anarchism 
(and as expounded in the CNT's May resolution on Libertarian
Communism), was not an impossibility. After all, the CNT-FAI 
organised something similar in Aragon. The fear that if 
libertarian communism was implemented then a civil war 
within the anti-fascist forces would occur (so aiding
Franco) was a real one. Unfortunately, the conclusion draw
from that fear, namely to win the war against Franco before
talking about the revolution, was the wrong one. After all,
a civil war within the Republican side <b>did</b> occur, when
the state had recovered enough to do start it. Similarly,
with the fear of a blockade by foreign governments. This
happened away, confirming Durruti's comment that he <i>"did
not expect help for a libertarian revolution from any
government in the world . . . not even from our own
government in the last analysis."</i> [quoted by Vernon
Richards, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 194f] Organising a full and proper
delegate meeting in the first days of the revolution would 
have allowed these ideas to be discussed by the whole membership
of the CNT and, perhaps, a different decision may have been
reached on the subject of collaboration.
<p>
By thinking they could postpone the revolution until after the 
war, the CNT leadership made two mistakes. Firstly, they should 
have known that their members would hardly miss this opportunity
to implement their ideas so making their decision redundant
(and a statist backlash inevitable). Secondly, they abandoned 
their anarchist ideas, failing to understand that the struggle 
against fascism would never be effective without the active 
participation of the working class. Such participation could 
never be achieved by placing the war before the revolution
and by working in top-down, statist structures or within 
a state. 
<p>
Indeed, the mistake made by the CNT, while understandable, cannot 
be justified given that their consequences had been predicted by 
numerous anarchists beforehand, including Kropotkin decades 
previously in an essay on the Paris Commune. In that essay he 
refutes the two assumptions of the CNT leadership -- first, of 
placing the war before the revolution and, second, that the 
struggle could be waged by authoritarian structures or a state.
<p>
Kropotkin had explicitly attacked the mentality and logic
begin the official CNT line of not mentioning Libertarian 
Communism <i>"until such time as we had captured that part of 
Spain that was in the hands of the rebels."</i> Kropotkin had 
lambasted those who had argued <i>"Let us first make sure of 
victory, and then see what can be done."</i> His comments are 
worth quoting at length:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Make sure of victory! As if there were any way of transforming 
society into a free commune without laying hands upon property! 
As if there were any way of defeating the enemy so long as the 
great mass of the people is not directly interested in the triumph 
of the revolution, in witnessing the arrival it of material, moral 
and intellectual well-being for all! They sought to consolidate
the Commune first of all while postponing the social revolution
for later on, while the only effective way of proceeding was
<b>to consolidate the Commune by the social revolution!</b>
<p>
"It was the same with the governmental principle. In proclaiming 
the free Commune, the people of Paris proclaimed an essential 
anarchist principle . . . If we admit, in fact, that a central 
government is absolutely useless to regulate the relations of 
communes between each other, why do we grant its necessity to 
regulate the mutual relations of the groups that constitute
the Commune? . . . A government within the Commune has no more
right to exist than a government over the Commune."</i> [<b>Words
of a Rebel</b>, p. 97]
</blockquote><p>
Kropotkin's argument was sound, as the CNT discovered. By waiting
until victory in the war they were defeated. Kropotkin also 
indicated the inevitable effects of the CNT's actions in 
co-operating with the state and joining representative bodies. 
In his words:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Paris . . . sent her devoted sons to the Hotel-de-Ville [the
town hall]. Indeed, immobilised there by fetters of red tape,
forced to discuss when action was needed, and losing the 
sensitivity that comes from continual contact with the masses, 
they saw themselves reduced to impotence. Paralysed by their 
distancing from the revolutionary centre -- the people --
they themselves paralysed the popular initiative."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 97-8]
</blockquote><p>
Which, in a nutshell, was what happened to the leading militants of 
the CNT who collaborated with the state. Kropotkin was proved right, 
as was anarchist theory from Bakunin onwards. 
As Vernon Richards argues, <i>"there can be no excuse"</i> for the CNT's
decision, as <i>"they were not mistakes of judgement but the deliberate
abandonment of the principles of the CNT."</i> [<b>Lessons of the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, pp. 41-2] It seems difficult to blame anarchist
theory for the decisions of the CNT when that theory argues the
opposite position.
<p>
However, while the experience of Spain confirms anarchist theory
<b>negatively</b>, it also confirms it <b>positively</b> by the Council of
Aragon. The Council of Aragon was created by a meeting of 
delegates from CNT unions, village collectives and militia 
columns to protect the new society the people of Aragon were 
building. Its creation exposes as false the claim that anarchism 
failed in during the Spanish Civil War. In Aragon, the CNT <b>did</b> 
follow the ideas of anarchism, abolishing both the state and 
capitalism. If they had followed this example in Catalonia, the 
outcome of the Civil War may have been different.
<p>
In spite of opposition from the two Catalan militia leaders, the 
Aragonese delegates at the Bujaraloz assembly, encouraged by Durruti, 
supported the proposals and the Regional Defence Council of Arag´┐Żn 
was born with the specific objective of implementing libertarian 
communism. The meeting also decided to press for the setting up of 
a National Defence Committee which would link together a series of 
regional bodies that were organised on principles similar to the 
one now established in Aragon.
<p>
The formation of the Regional Defence Council was an affirmation 
of commitment to the principles of libertarian communism. This
principled stand for revolutionary social and economic change 
stands at odds with the claims that the Spanish Civil War
indicates the failure of anarchism. After all, in Aragon the
CNT <b>did</b> act in accordance with anarchist theory and its own
history and politics.
<p>
Therefore, the activities of the CNT during the Civil
War cannot be used to discredit anarchism although it
can be used to show that anarchists can and do make 
terrible decisions in difficult circumstances. That
Marxists always point to this event in anarchist
history is unsurprising, for it was a terrible mistake.
<p>
However, to use this to generalise about anarchism
is false as it, firstly, requires a dismissal of
the objective circumstances the decision was made in
(see <a href="secI8.html#seci810">last section</a>) 
and, secondly, it means ignoring 
anarchist theory and history. It also gives the impression 
that anarchism as a revolutionary theory must be evaluated 
purely from one event in its history. The experiences of
the Makhnovists in the Ukraine, the U.S.I and U.A.I. 
in the factory occupations of 1920 and fighting fascism 
in Italy, the insurrections of the C.N.T. during the 
1930s, the Council of Aragon created by the CNT in the 
Spanish Revolution and so on, are all ignored when 
evaluating anarchism. Hardly convincing, although 
handy for Marxists. As is clear from, for example, the
experiences of the Makhnovists and the Council of
Aragon, that anarchism has been applied successfully 
on a large scale, both politically and economically, 
in revolutionary situations.
<p>
As Emma Goldman argued, the <i>"contention that there is
something wrong with Anarchism . . . because the leading
comrades in Spain failed Anarchism seems to be very faulty
reasoning . . . the failure of one or several individuals
can never take away from the depth and truth of an ideal."</i> 
[<b>Vision on Fire</b>, p. 299] This is even more the case when
anarchists can point to anarchist theory and other examples 
of anarchism in action which fully followed anarchist ideas. 
That opponents of anarchism fail to mention these examples 
suggests their case against anarchism, based on the experience
of the CNT in the Spanish Civil War, is deeply flawed.
<p>
Rather than show the failure of anarchism, the experience
of the Spanish Revolution indicates the failure of anarchists
to apply their ideas in practice. Faced with extremely
difficult circumstances, they compromised their ideas in
the name of anti-fascist unity. Sadly, their compromises
<b>confirmed</b> (rather than refuted) anarchist theory as
they led to the defeat of both the revolution <b>and</b> the
civil war.
<p>
<a name="seci812"><h2>I.8.12 Was the decision to collaborate imposed on the CNT's membership?</h2>
<p>
A few words have to be said about the development of the 
CNT and FAI post 19th of July. It is clear that the CNT and 
FAI changed in nature and were the not same organisations as 
they were <b>before</b> July 1936. Both organisations became more
centralised and bureaucratic, with the membership excluded 
from many major decisions. As Peirats argues: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In the CNT and among militant anarchists there had been a
tradition of the most scrupulous respect for the deliberations
and decisions of the assemblies, the grassroots of the
federalist organisation. Those who held administrative
office had been merely the mandatories of those decisions.
The regular motions adopted by the National congresses
spelled out to the Confederation and its representative 
committees ineluctable obligations of a basic and general 
nature incumbent upon very affiliated member regardless of 
locality or region. And the forming of such general motions 
was the direct responsibility of all of the unions by means of 
motions adopted at their respective general assemblies. Similarly, 
the Regional or Local Congresses would establish the guidelines 
of requirement and problems that obtained only at regional or 
local levels. In both instances, sovereignty resided always 
with the assemblies of workers whether in their unions or 
in their groups.
<p>
"This sense of rigorous, everyday federalist procedure was abruptly 
amended from the very outset of the revolutionary phase. . . This
amendment of the norms of the organisation was explained away by 
reference to the exceptional turn of events, which required a greater 
agility of decisions and resolutions, which is to say a necessary 
departure from the circuitous procedures of federalist practice 
which operated from the bottom upwards."</i> [<b>The CNT in the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, vol. 1, p. 213] 
</blockquote><p>
In other words, the CNT had become increasingly hierarchical, 
with the higher committees becoming transformed into executive 
bodies rather than administrative ones (<i>"it is safe to assert 
that the significant resolutions in the organisation were
adopted by the committees, very rarely by the mass constituency.
Certainly, circumstances required quick decisions from the
organisation, and it was necessary to take precautions to
prevent damaging leaks. These necessities tempted the committees
to abandon the federalist procedures of the organisation."</i> 
[Jose Peirats, <b>Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 188]).
<p>
Ironically, rather than the <i>"anarchist leaders"</i> of the CNT 
failing to <i>"seize power"</i> as Trotsky and his followers lament, 
they did -- <b>in their own organisations.</b> Such a development 
proved to be a disaster and re-enforced the anarchist critique 
against hierarchical and centralised organisations. The CNT higher 
committees became isolated from the membership, pursued their 
own policies and compromised and paralysed the creative work 
being done by the rank and file -- as predicted in anarchist 
theory. However, be that as it may, as we will indicate below,
it would be false to assert that these higher committees simply
imposed the decision to collaborate on their memberships (as,
for example, Vernon Richards seems to imply in his <b>Lessons
of the Spanish Revolution</b>). While it <b>is</b> true that the
committees presented many decisions as a <b>fait accompli</b> 
the rank-and-file of the C.N.T and F.A.I did not simply
follow orders and ratify all decisions blindly.
<p>
In any revolutionary situation decisions have to be made fast 
and sometimes without consulting the base of the organisation. 
However, such decisions must be accountable to the membership
who must discuss and ratify them (this was the policy within 
the CNT militias, for example). The experience of the CNT and 
FAI in countless strikes, insurrections and campaigns had proven 
the decentralised, federal structure was more than capable of 
pursuing the class war -- revolution is no exception as it is 
the class war in its most concentrated form. In other words, the 
organisational principles of the CNT and FAI were more than 
adequate for a revolutionary situation.
<p>
The centralising tendencies, therefore, cannot be blamed on
the exception circumstances of the war. Rather, it is the
policy of collaboration which explains them. Unlike the
numerous strikes and revolts that occurred before July 19th,
1936, the CNT higher committees had started to work within
the state structure. This, by its very nature, must generate
hierarchical and centralising tendencies as those involved
must adapt to the states basic structure and form. The
violations of CNT policy flowed from the initial decision
to compromise in the name of <i>"anti-fascist unity"</i> and a
vicious circle developed -- each compromise pushed the
CNT leadership further into the arms of the state, which 
increased hierarchical tendencies, which in turn isolated 
these higher committees of the CNT from the masses, which 
in turn encouraged a conciliatory policy by those committees.
<p>
This centralising and hierarchical tendency did not mean that
the higher committees of the CNT simply imposed their will on 
the rest of the organisation. It is very clear that the decision 
to collaborate had, initially, the passive support of the majority 
of the CNT and FAI (probably because they thought the war would
be over after a few weeks or months). This can be seen from various 
facts. As visiting French anarchist Sebastian Faure noted, while
<i>"effective participation in central authority has had the
approval of the majority within the unions and in the groups 
affiliated to the FAI, that decision has in many places encountered 
the opposition of a fairly substantial minority. Thus there has been 
no unanimity."</i> [quoted by Jose Peirats, <b>The CNT in the Spanish 
Revolution</b>, vol. 1, p. 183] 
<p>
In the words of Peirats:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Were all of the militants of the same mind? . . . Excepting some 
vocal minorities which expressed their protests in their press 
organs and through committees, gatherings, plenums and assemblies, 
the dismal truth is that the bulk of the membership was in thrall 
to a certain fatalism which was itself a direct consequence of the 
tragic realities of the war."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 181]
</blockquote><p>
And:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"We have already seen how, on the economic plane, militant anarchism 
forged ahead, undaunted, with its work of transforming the economy. 
It is not to be doubted -- for to do so would have been to display 
ignorance of the psychology of libertarian rank and file of the 
CNT -- that a muffled contest, occasionally erupting at plenums and 
assemblies and manifest in some press organs broke out as soon as
the backsliding began. In this connection, the body of opinion 
hostile to any possible deviation in tactics and principles was 
able to count throughout upon spirited champions."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
Thus, within the libertarian movement, there was a substantial 
minority who opposed the policy of collaboration and made their 
opinions known in various publications and meetings. While many
(if not most) revolutionary anarchists volunteered for the
militias and so were not active in their unions as before, there
were various groups (such as Catalan Libertarian Youth, the 
Friends of Durruti, other FAI groups, and so on) which were
opposed to collaboration and argued their case openly in the 
streets, collectives, organisational meetings and so on. Moreover, 
outside the libertarian movement the two tiny Trotskyist groups 
also argued against collaboration, as did sections of the POUM. 
Therefore it is impossible to state that the CNT membership 
were unaware of the arguments against the dominant policy. 
Also the Catalan CNT's higher committees, for example, after 
the May Days of 1937 could not get union assemblies or plenums 
to expel the Friends of Durruti nor to get them to withhold 
financial support for the Libertarian Youth, who opposed 
collaboration vigorously in their publications, nor 
get them to call upon various groups of workers to stop 
distributing opposition publications in the public transit 
system or with the daily milk. [Abe Bluestein in Gomez Casas's 
<b>Anarchist Organisation: The History of the FAI</b>, p. 10] 
<p>
This suggests that in spite of centralising tendencies, the higher 
committees of the CNT were still subject to some degree of popular 
influence and control and should not be seen as having dictatorial 
powers over the organisation. While many decisions <b>were</b> presented 
as <b>fait accompli</b> to the union plenums (often called by the
committees at short notice), in violation of past CNT procedures, 
the plenums could not be railroaded into any ratifying any 
decision the committees wanted. The objective circumstances
associated with the war against Franco and fascism convinced most 
C.N.T. members and libertarian activists that working with other
parties and unions within the state was the only feasible 
option. To do otherwise was to weaken the war effort by provoking
another Civil War in the anti-Franco camp. While such a policy
did not work (when it was strong enough the Republican state did 
start a civil war against the C.N.T. which gutted the struggle 
against fascism) it cannot be argued that it was imposed upon 
the membership nor that they did not hear opposing positions.
Sadly, the call for anti-fascist unity dominated the minds of
the libertarian movement.
<p>
In the early stages, the majority of rank-and-file militants believed 
that the war would be over in a matter of weeks. After all, a few days 
had been sufficient to rout the army in Barcelona and other industrial 
centres. This inclined them to, firstly, tolerate (indeed, support)
the collaboration of the CNT with the <i>"Central Committee of Anti-Fascist
Militias"</i> and, secondly, to start expropriating capitalism in the
belief that the revolution would soon be back on track (the 
opportunity to start introducing anarchist ideas was simply
too good to waste, regardless of the wishes of the CNT Plenum). 
They believed that the revolution and libertarian communism, as 
debated and adopted by the CNT's Zaragoza Congress of May that 
year, was an inseparable aspect of the struggle against economic 
and social oppression and proceeded appropriately. The
ignoring of the state, rather than its destruction, was seen as
a short-term compromise, soon to be corrected. Sadly, there were
wrong -- collaboration had a logic all its own, one which got
worse as the war dragged on (and soon it was too late).
<p>
Which, we must note indicates the superficial nature of most Marxist 
attacks on anarchism using the CNT as the key evidence. After all, it 
was the anarchists and anarchist influenced members of the CNT who
organised the collectives, militias and started the transformation
of Spanish society. They did so inspired by anarchism and in an
anarchist way. To praise their actions, while attacking "anarchism",
shows a lack of logic -- it was anarchism which inspired these
actions. Indeed, these actions have more in common with anarchist
ideas than the actions and rationales of the CNT leadership. Thus,
to attack "anarchism" by pointing to the anti-anarchist actions
of a few leaders while ignoring the anarchist actions of the majority
is flawed. 
<p>
Therefore, to summarise, it is clear that while the internal structure 
of the CNT was undermined and authoritarian tendencies increased by 
its collaboration with the state, the CNT was not transformed into 
a mere appendage to the higher committees of the organisation. 
The union plenums could and did reject the calls made by the 
leadership of the CNT. Support for <i>"anti-fascist unity"</i> was 
widespread among the CNT membership (in spite of the activities 
and arguments of large minority of anarchists) and was reflected 
in the policy of collaboration pursued by the organisation. While 
the CNT higher committees were transformed into a bureaucratic 
leadership, increasingly isolated from the rank and file, it
cannot be argued that their power was absolute nor totally at 
odds with the wishes of the membership. Ironically, but 
unsurprisingly, the divergences from the C.N.T's previous 
libertarian organisational principles confirmed anarchist 
theory and became a drag on the revolution and a factor in 
its defeat.
<p>
As we argued in 
<a href="secI8.html#seci811">section I.8.11</a>, 
the initial compromise with the 
state, the initial betrayal of anarchist theory and CNT policy, 
contained all the rest. Moreover, rather than refute anarchism, 
the experience of the CNT after it had rejected anarchist theory
confirmed the principles of anarchism -- centralised, hierarchical
organisations hindered and ultimately destroyed the revolution.
<p>
The experience of the C.N.T and F.A.I suggests that those, 
like Leninists, who argue for <b>more</b> centralisation and for 
<i>"democratic"</i> hierarchical structures have refused to understand,
let alone learn from, history. The increased centralisation 
within the C.N.T aided and empowered the leadership (a minority)
and disempowered the membership (the majority). Rather than
federalism hindering the revolution, it, as always, was
centralism which did so. 
<p>
Therefore, in spite of a sizeable minority of anarchists <b>within</b>
the C.N.T and F.A.I arguing against the dominate policy of
<i>"anti-fascist unity"</i> and political collaboration, this policy
was basically agreed to by the C.N.T  membership and was not
imposed upon them. The membership of the C.N.T could, and did,
reject suggestions of the leadership and so, in spite of the
centralisation of power that occurred in the C.N.T due to the
policy of collaboration, it cannot be argued that this policy
was alien to the wishes of the rank-and-file.
<p>
<a name="seci813"><h2>I.8.13 What political lessons were learned from the revolution?</h2>
<p>
The most important political lesson learned from the Spanish Revolution 
is that a revolution cannot compromise with existing power structures. 
In this, it just confirmed anarchist theory. 
<p>
The Spanish Revolution is a clear example of the old maxim, <i>"those 
who only make half a revolution dig their own graves."</i> Essentially, 
the most important political lesson of the Spanish Revolution is 
that a social revolution will only succeed if it follows an 
anarchist path and does not seek to compromise in the name of 
fighting a <i>"greater evil."</i> As Kropotin put it, a <i>"revolution
that stops half-way is sure to be soon defeated."</i> [<b>The Great
French Revolution</b>, vol. 2, p. 553]
<p>
On the 20th of July, after the fascist coup had been defeated in 
Barcelona, the C.N.T. sent a delegation of its members to meet the 
leader of the Catalan Government. A plenum of C.N.T union shop 
stewards, in the light of the fascist coup, agreed that libertarian 
communism would be <i>"put off"</i> until Franco had been defeated (the 
rank and file ignored them and collectivised their workplaces). 
They organised a delegation to visit the Catalan president 
to discuss the situation:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The delegation. . . was intransigent . . . Either Companys 
[the Catalan president] must accept the creation of a 
Central Committee [of Anti-Fascist Militias] as the ruling 
organisation or the C.N.T. would <b>consult the rank and file 
and expose the real situation to the workers.</b> Companys 
backed down."</i> [Abel Paz, <b>Durruti: the people Armed</b>, p. 216, 
our emphasis]
</blockquote><p>
The C.N.T committee members used their new-found influence in the 
eyes of Spain to unite with the leaders of other organisations/parties 
but not the rank and file. This process lead to the creation of the 
<i>"Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias"</i>, in which political 
parties as well as labour unions were represented. This committee 
was not made up of mandated delegates from workplaces, communities
or barricades, but of representatives of existing organisations, 
nominated by committees. Instead of a genuine confederal body (made 
up of mandated delegates from workplace, militia and neighbourhood 
assemblies) the C.N.T. created a body which was not accountable to, 
nor could reflect the ideas of, ordinary working class people 
expressed in their assemblies. The state and government was not 
abolished by self-management, only ignored.
<p>
This first betrayal of anarchist principles led to all the rest, 
and so to the defeat of the revolution and the civil war. As Emma 
Goldman argued, the Spanish anarchists had <i>"come to realise that 
once they went into the so-called united-front, they could do 
nothing else but go further. In other words, the one mistake, 
the one wrong step inevitably led to others as it always does. 
I am more than ever convinced that if the comrades had remained 
firm on their own grounds they would have remained stronger than 
they are now. But I repeat, once they had made common cause for 
the period of the anti-Fascist war, they were driven by the 
logic of events to go further."</i> [<b>Vision on Fire</b>, pp. 100-1] 
<p>
The most obvious problem, of course, was that collaboration with 
the state ensured that a federation of workers' associations
could not be created to co-ordinate the struggle against fascism 
and the social revolution. As Stuart Christie argues, <i>"[b]y 
imposing their leadership from above, these partisan committees
suffocated the mushrooming popular autonomous revolutionary
centres -- the grass-roots factory and local revolutionary
committees -- and prevented them from proving themselves
as an efficient and viable means of co-ordinating communications,
defence and provisioning. They also prevented the Local
Revolutionary committees from integrating with each other
to form a regional, provincial and national federal network
which would facilitate the revolutionary task of social
and economic reconstruction."</i> [<b>We, the Anarchists!</b>, 
pp. 99-100]
Without such a federation, it was only a matter of time before 
the C.N.T joined the bourgeois government.
<p>
Rather than being an example of <i>"dual power"</i> as many 
Trotskyists maintain, the <i>"Central Committee of Anti-Fascist 
Militias"</i> created on July 20th, 1936, was, in fact, an organ
of class collaboration and a handicap to the revolution. Stuart 
Christie was correct to call it an <i>"artificial and hybrid
creation,"</i> a <i>"compromise, an artificial political solution,
an officially sanctioned appendage of the Generalidad
government"</i> which <i>"drew the CNT-FAI leadership inexorably
into the State apparatus, until then its principal enemy."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 105] Only a true federation of delegates from 
the fields, factories and workplaces could have been the 
framework of a true organisation of (to use Bakunin's 
expression) <i>"the social (and, by consequence, anti-political) 
power of the working masses."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected 
Writings</b>, pp. 197-8]
<p>
Therefore, the C.N.T forgot a basic principle of anarchism,
namely <i>"the destruction . . . of the States."</i> Instead, like
the Paris Commune, the C.N.T thought that <i>"in order to combat 
. . . reaction, they had to organise themselves in reactionary 
Jacobin fashion, forgetting or sacrificing what they themselves 
knew were the first conditions of revolutionary socialism."</i> The 
real basis of the revolution, the basic principle of anarchism,
was that the <i>"future social organisation must be made solely 
from the bottom upwards, by the free association or federation 
of workers, firstly in their unions, then in communes, regions, 
nations and finally in a great federation, international and 
universal."</i> [Bakunin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 198, p. 202 and p. 204] By 
not doing this, by working in a top-down compromise body rather 
than creating a federation of workers' councils, the C.N.T 
leadership could not help eventually sacrificing the revolution 
in favour of the war. 
<p>
Of course, if a full plenum of CNT unions and <b>barrios</b> 
defence committees, with delegates invited from UGT and 
unorganised workplaces, had taken place there is no 
guarantee that the decision reached would have been in
line with anarchist theory. The feelings for antifascist
unity were strong. However, the decision would have been
fully discussed by the rank and file of the union, under
the influence of the revolutionary anarchists who were
later to join the militias and leave for the front. It
is likely, given the wave of colllectivisation and what 
happened in Aragon, that the decision would have been 
different and the first step would have made to turn 
this plenum into the basis of a free federation of 
workers associations -- i.e. the framework of an
anarchist and self-managed society -- which could have
smashed the state and ensured no other appeared to 
take its place.
<p>
The basic idea of anarchism, the need to create a federation of
workers councils, was ignored. In the name of <i>"antifascist"</i> unity, 
the C.N.T worked with parties and classes which hated both them 
and the revolution. In the words of Sam Dolgoff <i>"both before and 
after July 19th, an unwavering determination to crush the 
revolutionary movement was the leitmotif behind the policies 
of the Republican government; irrespective of the party in 
power."</i> [<b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 40] Without creating
a means to organise the <i>"social power"</i> of the working class,
the CNT was defenceless against these parties once the state
had re-organised itself.
<p>
To justify their collaboration, the leaders of the C.N.T-F.A.I argued 
that not collaborating would have lead to a civil war within the civil 
war, so allowing Franco easy victory. In practice, while paying lip 
service to the revolution, the Communists and republicans attacked 
the collectives, murdered anarchists, cut supplies to collectivised 
industries (even <b>war</b> industries) and disbanded the anarchist militias 
after refusing to give them weapons and ammunition (preferring to arm 
the Civil Guard in the rearguard in order to crush the C.N.T. and so the
revolution). By collaborating, a civil war was not avoided. One occurred
anyway, with the working class as its victims, as soon as the state felt
strong enough. 
<p>
Garcia Oliver (the first ever, and hopefully last, "anarchist" minister 
of justice) stated in 1937 that collaboration was necessary and that the 
C.N.T. had <i>"renounc[ed] revolutionary totalitarianism, which would lead to 
the strangulation of the revolution by anarchist and Confederal [C.N.T.]
dictatorship. We had confidence in the word and in the person of a Catalan
democrat"</i> Companys (who had in the past jailed anarchists). Which means that
only by working with the state, politicians and capitalists can an anarchist
revolution be truly libertarian! Furthermore, in the words of Vernon Richards:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"This argument contains . . . two fundamental mistakes, which many 
of the leaders of the CNT-FAI have since recognised, but for which 
there can be no excuse, since they were not mistakes of judgement 
but the deliberate abandonment of the principles of the CNT. Firstly, 
that an armed struggle against fascism or any other form of reaction 
could be waged more successfully within the framework of the State 
and subordinating all else, including the transformation of the 
economic and social structure of the country, to winning the war. 
Secondly, that it was essential, and possible, to collaborate with   
political parties -- that is politicians -- honestly and sincerely, 
and at a time when power was in the hands of the two workers 
organisations. . .
<p>
"All the initiative . . . was in the hands of the workers. The   
politicians were like generals without armies floundering in a   
desert of futility. Collaboration with them could not, by any   
stretch of the imagination, strengthen resistance to Franco.  
On the contrary, it was clear that collaboration with political 
parties meant the recreation of governmental institutions and the 
transferring of initiative from the armed workers to a central 
body with executive powers. By removing the initiative from the 
workers, the responsibility for the conduct of the struggle and 
its objectives were also transferred to a governing hierarchy, 
and this could not have other than an adverse effect on the morale 
of the revolutionary fighters."</i> [<b>Lessons of the Spanish Revolution</b>, 
p. 42]
</blockquote><p>
The dilemma of <i>"anarchist dictatorship"</i> or <i>"collaboration"</i> raised
in 1937 was fundamentally wrong. It was never a case of banning 
parties, and other organisations under an anarchist system, far 
from it. Full rights of free speech, organisation and so on should 
have existed for all but the parties would only have as much 
influence as they exerted in union, workplace, community and 
militia assemblies, as should be the case! <i>"Collaboration"</i> yes, 
but within the rank and file and within organisations organised 
in an anarchist manner. Anarchism does not respect the "freedom" 
to be a boss or politician.
<p>
In his history of the F.A.I., Juan Gomaz Casas (an active F.A.I. 
member in 1936) makes this clear:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"How else could libertarian communism be brought about? It would 
always signify dissolution of the old parties dedicated to the idea 
of power, or at least make it impossible for them to pursue their 
politics aimed at seizure of power. There will always be pockets of 
opposition to new experiences and therefore resistance to joining 
'the spontaneity of the unanimous masses.' In addition, the masses 
would have complete freedom of expression in the unions and in the 
economic organisations of the revolution as well as their political 
organisations in the district and communities."</i> [<b>Anarchist 
Organisation: the History of the F.A.I.</b>, p. 188f]
</blockquote><p>
Instead of this <i>"collaboration"</i> from the bottom up, by means
of a federation of workers' associations, community assemblies
and militia columns as argued for by anarchists from Bakunin
onwards, the C.N.T. and F.A.I. committees favoured <i>"collaboration"</i> 
from the top down. The leaders ignored the state and co-operated 
with other trade unions officials as well as political parties in 
the <b>Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias</b>. In other words, 
they ignored their political ideas in favour of a united front 
against what they considered the greater evil, namely fascism. 
This inevitably lead the way to counter-revolution, the destruction 
of the militias and collectives, as they was no means by which
these groups could co-ordinate their activities independently
of the state. 
<p>
In particular, the continued existence of the state ensured that 
economic confederalism between collectives (i.e. extending the 
revolution under the direction of the syndicates) could not 
develop naturally nor be developed far enough in all places. 
Due to the political compromises of the C.N.T. the tendencies 
to co-ordination and mutual aid could not develop freely 
(see <a href="secI8.html#seci814">next section</a>).
<p>
It is clear that the defeat in Spain was due to a failure not of 
anarchist theory and tactics but a failure of anarchists to <b>apply</b> 
their theory and tactics. Instead of destroying the state, the 
C.N.T.-F.A.I. ignored it. For a revolution to be successful it 
needs to create organisations which can effectively replace the 
state and the market; that is, to create a widespread libertarian 
organisation for social and economic decision-making through
which working class people can start to set their own agendas. 
Only by going this route can the state and capitalism be 
effectively smashed.
<p>
In building the new world we must destroy the old one. Revolutions 
are authoritarian by their very nature, but only in respect to 
structures and social relations which promote injustice, hierarchy 
and inequality. It is not <i>"authoritarian"</i> to destroy authority and 
not tyrannical to dethrone tyrants! Revolutions, above all else, 
must be libertarian in respect to the oppressed. That is, they 
must develop structures that involve the great majority of the 
population, who have previously been excluded from decision-making 
about social and economic issues. As such, a revolution is the
most <b>libertarian</b> thing ever.
<p>
As the <b>Friends of Durruti</b> argued a <i>"revolution requires the absolute
domination of the workers' organisations."</i> [<i>"The Friends of Durruti 
accuse"</i>, from <b>Class War on the Home Front</b>, p. 34] Only this, the 
creation of viable anarchist social organisations, can ensure that 
the state and capitalism can be destroyed and replaced with a just 
system based on liberty, equality and solidarity. Just as Bakunin,
Kropotkin and a host of other anarchist thinkers had argued decades
previously.
<p>
Thus the most important lesson gained from the Spanish Revolution
is simply the correctness of anarchist theory on the need to
organise the <i>"social power"</i> of the working class by a free
federation of workers associations to destroy the state. Without 
this, no revolution can be lasting. As Gomez Casas correctly
argues, <i>"if instead of condemning that experience [of collaboration],
the movement continues to look for excuses for it, the same
course will be repeated in the future . . . exceptional
circumstances will again put . . . anarchism on [its] knees
before the State."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 251]
<p>
The second important lesson is on the nature of anti-fascism. The 
C.N.T. leadership, along with many (if not most) of the rank-and-file, 
were totally blinded by the question of anti-fascist unity, leading 
them to support a <i>"democratic"</i> state against a <i>"fascist"</i> one. While 
the basis of a new world was being created around them by the working 
class, inspiring the fight against fascism, the C.N.T. leaders 
collaborated with the system that spawns fascism. Indeed, while
the anti-fascist feelings of the CNT leadership were sincere, the
same cannot be said of their <i>"allies"</i> (who seemed happier attacking
the gains of the semi-revolution than fighting fascism). As the 
Friends of Durruti make clear, <i>"Democracy defeated the Spanish 
people, not Fascism."</i> [<b>Class War on the Home Front</b>, p. 30]
<p>
To be opposed to fascism is not enough, you also have to be 
anti-capitalist. As Durruti stressed, <i>"[n]o government in the
world fights fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees
power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to fascism
to maintain itself."</i> [quoted Vernon Richards, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 193f]
<p>
In Spain, anti-fascism destroyed the revolution, not fascism. As 
the Scottish Anarchist Ethal McDonald argued at the time, <i>"Fascism 
is not something new, some new force of evil opposed to society, but 
is only the old enemy, Capitalism, under a new and fearful sounding 
name . . . Anti-Fascism is the new slogan by which the working class 
is being betrayed."</i> [<b>Workers Free Press</b>, Oct 1937]
<p>
Thirdly, the argument of the CNT that Libertarian Communism
can wait until after the war was a false one. Fascism can only
be defeated by ending the system that spawned it (i.e. capitalism).
In addition, in terms of morale and inspiration, the struggle
against fascism could only be effective if it was also a struggle
<b>for</b> something better -- namely a free society. To fight fascism
for a capitalist democracy which had repressed the working class
would hardly inspire those at the front. Similarly, the only hope 
for workers' self-management was to push the revolution as far
as possible, i.e. to introduce libertarian communism while
fighting fascism. The idea of waiting for libertarian communism
ultimately meant sacrificing it for the war effort.
<p>
Fourthly, the role of anarchists in a social revolution is to
always encourage organisation <i>"from below"</i> (to use one of
Bakunin's favourite expressions), revolutionary organisations
which can effectively smash the state. Bakunin himself argued
(as noted above) in favour of workers' councils, complemented 
by community assemblies (the federation of the barricades) and 
a self-managed militia. This model is still applicable today
and was successfully applied in Aragon by the CNT.
<p>
Therefore, the political lessons gained from the experience of the
C.N.T come as no surprise. They, in general, confirm anarchist theory.
As Bakunin argued, no revolution is possible unless the state is smashed,
capital expropriated and a free federation of workers' associations
created as the framework of libertarian socialism. Rather than
refuting anarchism, the experience of the Spanish Revolution confirms
it.
<p>
<a name="seci814"><h2>I.8.14 What economic lessons were learned from the revolution?</h2>
<p>
The most important lesson from the revolution is the fact that ordinary 
people took over the management of industry and did an amazing job of 
keeping (and improving!) production in the face of the direst circumstances.
Not only did workers create a war industry from almost nothing in Catalonia, 
they also improved working conditions and innovated with new techniques and
processes. The Spanish Revolution shows that self-management is possible
and that the constructive powers of ordinary people inspired by an
ideal can transform society.
<p>
From the point of view of individual freedom, its clear that self-management 
allowed previously marginalised people to take an active part in the decisions 
that affected them. Egalitarian organisations provided the framework for a 
massive increase in participation and individual self-government, which 
expressed itself in the extensive innovations carried out by the Collectives. 
The Collectives indicate, in Stirner's words, that <i>"[o]nly in the union can 
you assert yourself as unique, because the union does not possess you, but 
you possess it or make it of use to you."</i> [<b>The Ego and Its Own</b>, p. 312]
A fact Emma Goldman confirmed from her visits to collectives and 
discussions with their members:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"I was especially impressed with the relies to my questions as to 
what actually had the workers gained by the collectivisation . . . 
the answer always was, first, greater freedom. And only secondly,
more wages and less time of work. In two years in Russia [1920-21]
I never heard any workers express this idea of greater freedom."</i> 
[<b>Vision on Fire</b>, p. 62]
</blockquote><p>
As predicted in anarchist theory, and borne out by actual experience, there
exists large untapped reserves of energy and initiative in the ordinary
person which self-management can call forth. The collectives proved 
Kropotkin's argument that co-operative work is more productive and that if 
the economists wish to prove <i>"their thesis in favour of <b>private property</b> 
against all other forms of <b>possession</b>, should not the economists demonstrate 
that under the form of communal property land never produces such rich 
harvests as when the possession is private. But this they could not prove; 
in fact, it is the contrary that has been observed."</i> [<b>The Conquest of Bread</b>, 
p. 146]
<p>
Therefore, five important lessons from the actual experience of a libertarian
socialist economy can be derived:
<p>
Firstly, that an anarchist society cannot be created overnight, but is a 
product of many different influences as well as the objective conditions.
In this the anarchist collectives confirmed the ideas of anarchist
thinkers like Bakunin and Kropotkin (see 
<a href="secI2.html">section I.2</a>). 
<p>
The lesson from every revolution is that the mistakes made in the process 
of liberation by people themselves are always minor compared to the results 
of creating institutions <b>for</b> people. The Spanish Revolution is a clear 
example of this, with the <i>"collectivisation decree"</i> causing more harm than 
good. Luckily, the Spanish anarchists recognised the importance of having 
the freedom to make mistakes, as can be seen by the many different forms 
of collectives and federations tried.
<p>
The actual process in Spain towards industrial co-ordination and so 
socialisation was dependent on the wishes of the workers involved -- 
as would be expected in a true social revolution. As Bakunin argued,
the <i>"revolution should not only be made for the people's sake; it 
should also be made by the people."</i> [<b>No Gods, No Masters</b>, vol. 1, 
p. 141] The problems faced by a social revolution will be solved 
in the interests of the working class only if working class people 
solve them themselves. For this to happen it requires working class 
people to manage their own affairs directly -- and this implies
anarchism, not centralisation or state control/ownership. The
experience of the collectives in Spain supports this basic idea
of anarchism.
<p>
Secondly, that self-management allowed a massive increase in innovation 
and new ideas. 
<p>
The Spanish Revolution is clear proof of the anarchist case against 
hierarchy and validates Isaac Puente words that in <i>"a free collective
each benefits from accumulated knowledge and specialised experiences of 
all, and vice versa. There is a reciprocal relationship wherein information 
is in continuous circulation."</i> [cited in <b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 32]

<P>
Thirdly, the importance of decentralisation of management. 
<p>
The woodworkers' union experience indicates that when an industry becomes 
centralised, the administration of industry becomes constantly merged in fewer 
hands which leads to ordinary workers being marginalised. This can happen even 
in democratically run industries and soon result in apathy developing within 
it. This was predicted by Kropotkin and other anarchist theorists (and by 
many F.A.I. members in Spain at the time). While undoubtedly better than 
capitalist hierarchy, such democratically run industries are only close 
approximations to anarchist ideas of self-management. Importantly, however, 
the collectivisation experiments also indicate that co-operation need not 
imply centralisation (as can be seen from the Badelona collectives).
<p>
Fourthly, the importance of building links of solidarity between workplaces
as soon as possible. 
<p>
While the importance of starting production after the fascist uprising 
made attempts at co-ordination seem of secondary importance to the 
collectives, the competition that initially occurred between workplaces 
helped the state to undermine self-management. Because there was no 
People's Bank or other communistic body to co-ordinate credit and 
production, state control of credit and the gold reserves made it 
easier for the Republican state (through its monopoly of credit) to 
undermine the revolution and control the collectives and (effectively) 
nationalise them in time (Durruti and a few others planned to seize the 
gold reserves but were advised not to by De Santillan). 
<p>
This attack on the revolution started when the Catalan State issued a decree 
legalising (and so controlling) the collectives in October 1936 (the famous 
<i>"Collectivisation Decree"</i>). The counter-revolution also withheld funds for 
collectivised industries, even war industries, until they agreed to come 
under state control. The industrial organisation created by this decree 
was a compromise between anarchist ideas and those of other parties 
(particularly the communists) and in the words of Gaston Leval, <i>"the 
decree had the baneful effect of preventing the workers' syndicates 
from extending their gains. It set back the revolution in industry."</i> 
[<b>The Anarchist Collectives</b>, p. 54]
<p>
And lastly, that an economic revolution can only succeed if the existing 
state is destroyed. As Kropotkin argued, <i>"a new form of economic organisation 
will necessarily require a new form of political structure"</i> -- capitalism 
needs the state, socialism needs anarchy. [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary
Pamphlets</b>, p. 181] Without the new political structure, the new economic
organisation cannot develop to its full potential.
<p>
Due to the failure to consolidate the revolution <b>politically,</b> it was 
lost <b>economically.</b> The decree <i>"legalising collectivisation"</i> <i>"distorted 
everything right from the start"</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>, 
p. 227] and helped undermine the revolution by ensuring that the mutualism 
of the collectives did not develop freely into libertarian communism (<i>"The 
collectives lost the economic freedom they had won at the beginning"</i> due 
to the decree, as one participant put it. [Ronald Fraser, <b>Blood of Spain</b>, 
p. 230]).
<p>
As Fraser notes, it <i>"was doubtful that the C.N.T. had seriously 
envisaged collectivisation of industry. . .before this time."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 212] C.N.T. policy was opposed to the collectivisation 
decree. As an eyewitness pointed out, the C.N.T.'s <i>"policy was thus 
not the same as that pursued by the decree."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 213] 
Indeed, leading anarchists like Abad de Santillan opposed it and 
urged people to ignore it: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"I was an enemy of the decree because I considered it premature . . .
when I became councillor, I had no intention of taking into account or 
carrying out the decree: I intended to allow our great people to carry 
on the task as they best saw fit, according to their own inspiration."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 212] 
</blockquote><p>
However, with the revolution lost politically, the C.N.T. was soon forced 
to compromise and support the decree (the C.N.T. did propose more libertarian 
forms of co-ordination between workplaces but these were undermined by
the state). A lack of effective mutual aid organisations allowed the 
state to gain power over the collectives and so undermine and destroy 
self-management. Working class control over the economy (important as it 
is) does not automatically destroy the state. In other words, the economic 
aspects of the revolution cannot be considered in isolation from its 
political ones.
<p>
However, these points do not diminish the successes of the Spanish 
revolution. As Gaston Leval argued, <i>"in spite of these shortcomings
[caused lack of complete socialisation] . . . the important fact
is that the factories went on working, the workshops and works
produced without the owners, capitalists, shareholders and
without high management executives."</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish
Revolution</b>, p. 228] 
<p>
Beyond doubt, these months of economic liberty in Spain show not 
only that libertarian socialism <b>works</b> and that working class 
people can manage and run society ourselves but that it can 
improve the quality of life and increase freedom. Given the 
time and breathing space, the experiment would undoubtedly have 
ironed out its problems. Even in the very difficult environment 
of a civil war (and with resistance of almost all other parties 
and unions) the workers and peasants of Spain showed that a 
better society is possible. They gave a concrete example of
what was previously just a vision, a world which was more
humane, more free, more equitable and more civilised than
that run by capitalists, managers, politicians and bureaucrats.
<p>
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