CNT Counter Revolution?

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Devrim
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Apr 12 2006 23:38
CNT Counter Revolution?

Now that we have had the national liberation argument out again, lets look at what Peter actually said about the counter revolution in Spain:

Quote:
There doesn't seem to be a huge difference between NEFAC and Trots on the important questions that demarcate social democratic and communist positions. Arguments about Kronstadt and Spain are not so important IMHO especially when anarchists who make a big song and dance denouncing the Bolshevik counter-revolution turn around and glorify the CNT counter-revolution.

Revol replied:

Quote:
For example, how the fuck can you label the entire CNT counter revolutionary? If that was the case who the fuck was carrying out the revolution that needed countered? Would that be CNT members?

And there is a big difference between the CNT ministers collaborating, and the Bolsheviks whose programme from the outset was opposed to workers control.

Gurrier said:

Quote:
The CNT counter revolution against.... um... the CNT membership? The organisation without which there certainly wouldn't have been a revolution was responsible for the counter revolution? Unspeakably silly.

and revolutionrugger concluded:

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CNT counter revolution. blah. Hardly. When I was in NEFAC, "Towards a Fresh Revolution" by the Friends of Durruti Group was required reading in the Baltimore Local Union. Also, you argue that the difference between troskyism and NEFAC is historical posturing (kronstadt, ukraine, etc) and then you bring up the spanish civl war, who's posturing now?

Great, with the ‘left communists’ having been suitable chastised as being:

Quote:
Unspeakably silly

, we call all sleep safely in our beds at night.

Except… er… there was actually a counter revolution in Spain. Now, there are two ways that we can look at this. Either we can say that everything was ok, and that the revolution was only defeated by fascist military power, and Stalinist counter revolution, in which case you can go off to bed now, and sleep soundly, or we can think about what happened in Spain, what went wrong, and what can be learnt from it.

While many, even a majority, of the anarchist workers may have been revolutionaries when the CNT as an organization was tested in July 1936, and in May 1937, it failed to act in a revolutionary manner.

In 1936 when the working class had power in its hands, the CNT propped up the bourgeois state, and sent ministers to join the government. I am sorry to bring this up again, but it is actually important. Not just the entrance of the ministers into the government, but the fact that the CNT as an organization put the brakes on the revolution.

To quote Sam Dolgof:

Quote:
As I write these lines I read a review by my old friend and comrade Abe Bluestein further emphasizing this point:

...and I saw equally strong commitment to anarchist principles in Barcelona. I saw a regional meeting of the CNT with more than 500 representatives affirm the policy of participating in the government of Catalonia. At the same time, they voted to continue financial support to the Libertarian Youth of Catalonia who opposed such government collaboration publicly in their uncensored leaflets and pamphlets distributed throughout the city. [Social Anarchism No. 7, P. 9]

The accusation that there was no control from below is emphatically denied by Gaston Leval in his chapter on libertarian democracy. Leval, after describing in meticulous detail the democratic libertarian procedures embedded in the nature and structure of libertarian organization, declares that libertarian procedures, the fullest people's direct grass-roots democracy, were practiced

...in ALL the syndicates THROUGHOUT SPAIN. In ALL trades and industries. In assemblies which in Barcelona brought together - hundreds of thousands of workers.... In ALL the collectivized villages... which comprised at least 60% of Republican Spain's agriculture. [Collectives in the Spanish Revolution, Freedom Press, p. 206- Leval's emphasis]

In its report to the Extraordinary Congress of the International Workers' Association (IWA-anarchosyndicalist), the National Committee of the CNT refuted charges that the National Committee violated anarchist federalist principles by imposing its own decisions on the rank-and-file local and regional organizations. The decision to join the Catalan government "Generalidad" was ratified by plenums of local, district and regional committees in August 1936 and the decision to join the central government was ratified in a national plenum of regions in Madrid on 28 September 1936 (the CNT actually entered the government on 6 November 1936). From 19 July 1936 to 26 November 1937, seventeen regional plenums and dozens of local plenums and district federations were called as well as various regional congresses of unions. (See Jose Peirats, Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution, pp. 185, 186.)

I think that this is quite clear.

Certainly 'The Friends of Durruti' belived that it was:

Quote:
Such conduct has to be described as treason to the revolution which no one ought to commit or encourage in the name of anything. And we know how to categorize the noxious work carried out by Solidaridad Obrera and the CNT's most prominent Militants

In May 1937 when the working class in Barcelona made one last attempt to take power into their own hands, the CNT ended up by ordering the workers to go back to work. Is this the action of a revolutionary organization?

The 'Friends of Durruti' had this to say on the aftermath of the Maydays in Barcelona:

Quote:
Guarantees were needed that we would not be persecuted. But the chieftains of the CNT gave assurances that the organisation's representatives in the Generalitat would look out for the working class. Nonetheless, the second part of what had come to pass hours earlier in Valencia emerged.

The barricades were abandoned without our having good reason to do so. As the Catalan scene was returning to calm, the excesses perpetrated by the marxists and the public forces came to light. We had been right. Comrade Berneri was snatched from his home and shot to death in the middle of the street: thirty comrades were discovered, horribly mutilated in Sardanola; Comrade Martinez of the Libertarian Youth lost his life in a manner unknown, in the private dungeons of the Cheka, and a large number of comrades from the CNT and FAI were brutally murdered.

In my opinion, I think that these examples show that the CNT as an organization played its part in the counter revolution in Spain. I am not saying that it was the only organization involved in it, nor even that it had the main role. The Stalinist PSUC definitely had an important role to play, but the CNT did play its part in it too.

revolutionrugger says that:

Quote:
When I was in NEFAC, "Towards a Fresh Revolution" by the Friends of Durruti Group was required reading in the Baltimore Local Union.

Yes, but did you learn anything from it?

In 1936 the CNT as an organisation joined the side of counter revolution. Yes, there were still revolutionary workers in it, but their own organisation had turned against them. Elements of the CNT like the 'Friends of Durruti' struggled against this, but also so did groups like the Trotskist influenced Bolshevik-Lenninsts led by Munis. The name that a group calls itself means very little, anarchist, marxist, left communist...Organisations must be judged on the sides that they take in the class war.

Gurrier says:

Quote:
The CNT counter revolution against.... um... the CNT membership? The organisation without which there certainly wouldn't have been a revolution was responsible for the counter revolution? Unspeakably silly.

This is about as logical as saying that we can't critisise Manchester United's performances in Europe this year because if they hadn't managed to get into the champions league in the first place, they wouldn't have been there to play, and had the possibility to play so badly. I am not even going to bother arguing against it.

Revol's point was more interesting:

Quote:
And there is a big difference between the CNT ministers collaborating, and the Bolsheviks whose programme from the outset was opposed to workers control.

On the question of the Bolsheviks, do you believe that they were evil Machiavellian schemers planning to establish their rule over the working class? I don’t. If you had said that Lenin had very little idea of the content of socialism, and was tied to Social Democratic ideology, you may well have had a good point. The Bolsheviks also joined the side of counter revolution. I am not going to get into an argument about exactly when, as I believe that isn’t the main point here. I would definitely say that in 1914 when Lenin advocated turning the imperialist war into a civil war , he took the side of the working class, and that by 1921 when the Bolsheviks sent soldiers to attack the revolutionary sailors, and workers at Kronstadt, they had gone over to the other side.

To summarize, both the Bolsheviks, and the CNT joined the side of counter revolution. If we want to put dates on the points when these events happened, I would say that the former by 1921 at the latest (though I personally think it was much earlier), when they declared open war on the working class, and the later in 1936 when they led the workers into collaborating with the state. This does not mean that after these points there were not still good worker militants in these organization, but it does mean that they organization themselves had joined the counter revolution.

afraser
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Apr 13 2006 00:24

Perhaps an expose of the CNT in the Civil War period is long overdue? Murray Bookchin has said that they, in practical effect, re-created USSR style state socialism in the factories, quickly paying only lip service to the anarcho part of anarcho-syndicalism.

Diego Abed de Santillan, their (arguably Anarcho-Syndicalism's) greatest intellectual out of office and the Catalan Economics minister in office, had before the war proposed in his writings a system similar to USSR style state socialism, and to modern Parecon, with 'federal economic councils' in charge of all substantial economic decisions.

The FAI had siezed and exercised control over the CNT with no platform (they comprised anarchists-without-hyphens affinity groups only) so were open to de Santillan style State-Socialism-under-another-name. Can hardly criticze the FAI/CNT for their accomodations with the Cheka, if they were in effect identical in all but name to Stalinists. Under that analysis the CNT leadership (which I think means the FAI almost in its entirety) were of one mind with the Chekists, Stalinists, on the Barecelona barricades as much as on the factory floor and everywhere else.

I'm not saying that's how it actually was. I am saying that critical debate along those lines could be overdue.

Skraeling
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Apr 13 2006 01:55

I thought Devrim's post was a good one, and raises many, many key points. I think one of the most concise arguments that the CNT played a counter-revolutionary role in Spain comes from Gilles Dauve. Its also worth considering in my humble opinion.

Quote:

In the same way, the integration of Spanish anarchism into the state in 1936 is only surprising if one forgets its nature: the CNT was a union, an original union undoubtedly but a union nonetheless, and there is no such thing as an anti-union union. Function transforms the organ. Whatever its original ideals, every permanent organism for defending wage laborers as such becomes a mediator, and then a conciliator. Even when it is in the hands of radicals, even when it is repressed, the institution is doomed to escape control of the base and to become a moderating instrument. Anarchist union though it may have been, the CNT was a union before it was anarchist. A world separated the rank-and-file from the leader seated at the bosses' table, but the CNT as an apparatus was little different from the UGT. Both of them worked to modernize and rationally manage the economy: in a word, to socialize capitalism. A single thread connects the socialist vote for war credits in August 1914 to the participation in the government of the anarchist leaders, first in Catalonia (September 1936) and then in the Republic as a whole (November 1936). As early as 1914, Malatesta had called those of his comrades (including Kropotkin) who had accepted national defense "government anarchists".

From one compromise to the next, the CNT wound up renouncing the anti- statism which was its raison d'etre, even after the Republic and its Russian ally had shown their real faces and unleashed their fury on the radicals in May 1937, not to mention in everything that followed, in the jails and secret cellars. Then, like the POUM, the CNT was all the more effective in disarming proletarians, calling on them to give up their struggle against both the official and Stalinist police bent on finishing them off. Some of them even had the bitter surprise of being in a prison administered by an old anarchist comrade, stripped of any real power over what when on in his jail.

from http://libcom.org/library/when-insurrections-die

bastarx
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Apr 13 2006 02:35
afraser wrote:
Perhaps an expose of the CNT in the Civil War period is long overdue? Murray Bookchin has said that they, in practical effect, re-created USSR style state socialism in the factories, quickly paying only lip service to the anarcho part of anarcho-syndicalism.

There's just such an expose right here in the Libcom library, Michael Seidman's book, "Workers against Work"

http://libcom.org/library/workers-against-work-michael-seidman

It's been a while since I read it but basically Seidman documents workers resistance to their CNT bosses who weren't so different from the old bosses (who the CNT often retained as advisors).

There's also this short article from Wildcat, 'Revolution or Self-managed Capitalism'

http://www.angelfire.com/pop2/pkv/spain.html

Which fans of Durruti should definitely read. It would be a worthwhile addition to the library seeing as it's hidden away on one of the more obscure ultra-left sites.

Devrim, thanks a lot for coming to my aid in the arguments spawned on the AWG thread.

cheers

Pete

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Apr 13 2006 02:58

that is possibly one of the worst critiques of the the spanish revolution i have ever fucking read. it is is simle minded nonsense that condemns everything that doesn't immediately move to communism. On the basis of such criticism there has never been a revolutionary movement worth supporting, from the Commune to the CHiapas.

I the comment that the Spanish revolution could hardly be any less revolutionary for women is just fuckng idiotic, it doesn't even mention the Mujuere Libres ffs.

bastarx
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Apr 13 2006 03:05
revol68 wrote:
that is possibly one of the worst critiques of the the spanish revolution i have ever fucking read. it is is simle minded nonsense that condemns everything that doesn't immediately move to communism. On the basis of such criticism there has never been a revolutionary movement worth supporting, from the Commune to the CHiapas.

Do you mean Seidman or Wildcat?

Anyway do you think that the process of communisation (the only revolution worth having) can pass through a stage of self-managed capitalism?

Pete

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Apr 13 2006 03:14
Peter wrote:
revol68 wrote:
that is possibly one of the worst critiques of the the spanish revolution i have ever fucking read. it is is simle minded nonsense that condemns everything that doesn't immediately move to communism. On the basis of such criticism there has never been a revolutionary movement worth supporting, from the Commune to the CHiapas.

Do you mean Seidman or Wildcat?

Anyway do you think that the process of communisation (the only revolution worth having) can pass through a stage of self-managed capitalism?

Pete

well i'd say self management is a fundamental in implementing communisation, unless your waiting for some Hegelian spirit to bring it about vis a vis the Ideal dressed up in the marxist rhetoric of the "historical programme". Nowadays of course with advances i communication and such a material abundance the process of communisation would be much quicker, but it still has to be co ordinated and that requires workers counicls/soviets/assemblies co ordiinated with communes, neighbourhood assemblies etc.

In this i'm much much closer to the Dutch/German left communists focus on structure and power mechanisms than the Bordigists faintly hidden historical determinism that see's everything as a transcendent battle between some te "programme" and "capital".

p.s.I meant the Wildcat one BTW, i'm not joking when I say it's unworthy of a GCSE paper.

bastarx
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Apr 13 2006 03:20
revol68 wrote:
well i'd say self management is a fundamental in implementing communisation

I have to get back to work, stupid split shift so I'll only note that I didn't say 'self-management' I said 'self-managed capitalism'.

Pete

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Apr 13 2006 03:30

but anarcho syndicalism has never suggested self managed capitalism, infact the CNT is the only mass movement in history to adopt libertarian communism as it's goal.

The continuation of money and a wage system in Spain 36 was possibly much more to do with the actual "concrete" facts on the ground ie you know those little details many left communists seem to overlook, guns, the need to import goods, a raging civil war, half the country in fascist hands, limited communications, the desire of most of the revolutionary workng class to save their comrades under the nationalist jack boot from execution.

There are serious issues to do with the CNT, the role of the leadership and the lets not forget the actual potentiality within the proletariat, the left communists in their puritan semantic slurry spraying aren't fit to analysis such issues.

Skraeling
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Apr 13 2006 04:07
revol68 wrote:
but anarcho syndicalism has never suggested self managed capitalism, infact the CNT is the only mass movement in history to adopt libertarian communism as it's goal.

I'd disagree with the first part. I'd say the major aim of anarcho-syndicalism is self-managed capitalism, that is, workers owning and running 'their' factories themselves which then compete with other worker owned businesses on the market. (and this is just not a left communist critique, but one put forward by many anarchist communists like the Kropotkinesque non-market anarchist commies such as the Japanese "pure" anarchists). From reading Leval, self-managed capitalism in Spain took place mainly in the urban areas, while in the rural areas there were more attempts to establish communism.

now to the second part. Yes the CNT did adopt libertarian communism as a goal. But it was very very vague over exactly what it meant by libertarian communism. It never really defined it. Sometimes libertarian communism meant communism. Sometimes it meant worker run capitalism (as in Puente's pamphlet Libertarian Communism). Sometimes it meant a vague mixture of the two. Sometimes it meant free experimentation between communism and worker run capitalism and mutualism and everything else in between (as in Abad de Santillan's book After the Revolution). Sometimes it meant communism was held up as an abstract ideal which people would never reach immediately, so various transitional measures had to played out before hand (again, as in de Santillan). This vagueness was played out in the Spanish revolution.

revol68 wrote:
The continuation of money and a wage system in Spain 36 was possibly much more to do with the actual "concrete" facts on the ground ie you know those little details many left communists seem to overlook, guns, the need to import goods, a raging civil war, half the country in fascist hands, limited communications, the desire of most of the revolutionary workng class to save their comrades under the nationalist jack boot from execution.

Now where have i heard this type of argument before? Oh yes, Leninists use it to justify their counter-revolution in Russia. The fact is that no matter what the circumstances the CNT decided to postpone and suppress libertarian communism and fight fascism instead.

revol68 wrote:
There are serious issues to do with the CNT, the role of the leadership and the lets not forget the actual potentiality within the proletariat, the left communists in their puritan semantic slurry spraying aren't fit to analysis such issues.

Your dismissal of left communist analysis sounds a little dogmatic here. I'm not a left communist, and i do find some of their stuff to be annoyingly purist, sectarian and dogmatic. But i do find some of their analysis to be good and worthy of consideration, such as Dauve's analysis. Seidman's work is also very challenging, if flawed.

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Devrim
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Apr 13 2006 08:33

Revol,

First, what does 'slurry' mean as in 'slurry spraying'? This is a real question, not sarcasm. I don’t like insults that I don’t understand wink .

Second was there a counter revolution in Spain, and was the CNT a part of it, as I stated in the original post?

You said that:

Quote:
The continuation of money and a wage system in Spain 36 was possibly much more to do with the actual "concrete" facts on the ground ie you know those little details many left communists seem to overlook, guns, the need to import goods, a raging civil war, half the country in fascist hands, limited communications, the desire of most of the revolutionary workng class to save their comrades under the nationalist jack boot from execution.

I feel that Skraeling was absolutely right on this one. It does sound a bit like the old material circumstances line that the Leninists trot out about the Russian revolution. Of course material circumstances are important, and they can even explain why revolutions are defeated, but they don’t explain why the Bolsheviks ended up attacking the working class instead of 'white reaction' coming to power. The same is true about Spain.

It doesn’t explain why the CNT joined the government in 1936, and it doesn’t explain why they sent the workers back to work in May 1937.

Were the methods used by the anarchists, basically abdicating power to the bourgeois state, ‘postponing’ the revolution until fascism has been defeated the best way to:

Quote:
save their comrades under the nationalist jack boot from execution.

According to the 'Friends of Durruti, it didn't even manage to save militants on the Republican side of the lines from Stalinist execution.

Quote:
Guarantees were needed that we would not be persecuted. But the chieftains of the CNT gave assurances that the organisation's representatives in the Generalitat would look out for the working class. Nonetheless, the second part of what had come to pass hours earlier in Valencia emerged.

The barricades were abandoned without our having good reason to do so. As the Catalan scene was returning to calm, the excesses perpetrated by the marxists and the public forces came to light. We had been right. Comrade Berneri was snatched from his home and shot to death in the middle of the street: thirty comrades were discovered, horribly mutilated in Sardanola; Comrade Martinez of the Libertarian Youth lost his life in a manner unknown, in the private dungeons of the Cheka, and a large number of comrades from the CNT and FAI were brutally murdered.

The points people have made here about self management are, I believe, a bit of a red herring. The basis of this criticism derives from a recognition that communism is not just capitalism with workers control. I don’t think that in any way you are suggesting that, but it does remain its validity in that there are plenty of ‘anarchists’ who are (there were some very bizarre ideas about communes exchanging goods on the ‘Are you a communist?’ thread.) In an immediate post revolutionary situation, obviously there would be no point in ‘self managing’ insurance companies, we would just close them down, but there are things that capitalism has that we will need, like a functioning telephone system for example. Of course the best people to run it are the people who know how it works, Telecom workers. In that sense of course there will be self management.

On a more personal level, I actually enjoy my job. There are lots of things that I hate about it e.g. the management, and how the fact that it is a business, and they want to make profit has a distorting effect on how every thing works there. I do actually enjoy the work itself though, it is something that I consider is social useful, and I am sure would continue under communism, and under communism, and freed from the domination of the money, and the market, it would be a lot better. I would like to manage it though, along with my workmates, and I would like to do it because I think we could do it better. Actually, I think we could do it better now inside of capitalism. Our management is absolutely incompetent, and inept. Freed from, the fetters of the market, however, work could become a liberating experience.

In solidarity,

Dev

I am quite surprised that the 'anarchists' haven't been screaming in outrage yet. Maybe it is because I put the first post up late last night. I didn't finish work until 9.30, then I had to go home, wash the blood off my hands (see gurriers posts on nationalism) wink, and have something to eat before wrote it. I expect the attacks will begin today. If the 'anarchists' are in need of a good insult 'infantilism' is one with a bit of history. It goes back to Lenin.

knightrose
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Apr 13 2006 09:01

Surely the point of this discussion should be to try and understand what happened? I love hindsight. It makes everything so simple. But to ignore it is criminal. Clearly by understanding we make the first steps to not repeating.

Now that's a nice, vague fence-sitting statement, isn't it?

martinh
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Apr 13 2006 09:27

The CNT was mistaken in joining the govt and not pushing for revolution full on in Catalonia. Few anarchists would disagree (and most of those are probably in Australia wink ). There are anarchists who cannot see what else could have been done at the time, but that, as Knightrose pointed out, means we don't learn and take advantage of what hindsight has to offer.

Did the CNT do the same thing everywhere? No, the revolution was pushed further in those parts of Aragon not under fascist control. Nor did the CNT there choose to join the govt. So, rejecting anarchist principles isn't something that is inherent to anarchism.

The next question should be whether anarchists/the CNT have learnt anything from this. If the answer is no and we seek to replay the same strategies then we belong in the same dustbin of history as Leninists and their spawn. But it is quite clear that we don't and you would have to look very hard to find any anarchist tracts that take a different line to saying they were wrong, though you will find plenty that seeks to justify it by historical circumstances. The big difference here is that anarchists will say that the CNT were wrong to join the govt and argue for postponing revolution, while apologists for Lenin never quite go that far.

Regards

Martin

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Devrim
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Apr 13 2006 10:15

Hi Martin,

I didn't suggest that 'rejecting anarchist principles is something that is inherent to anarchism'. I would suggest that at the time anarchism in Spain had certain theoretical weaknesses, which in my opinion were one of the factors leading to the betrayal.

I think that one of them is the way that anarchism ignored the question of state power. Far from wanting to ‘smash the state’ , the anarchists actually ignored it. They thought that they could create their revolution through building up the collectives, and taking over the factories. Some of the most interesting things from the Spanish revolution were happening in the collectives in Aragon, but if you can’t have ‘socialism in one country’ you certainly can’t have ‘socialism in a few villages’. The power of the capitalist state does exist, and does need to be smashed. This power is concentrated in certain organs, and they do need to be destroyed. I don’t think the CNT recognized that. Also the CNT in Aragon can’t be absolved of the crimes of the CNT in Catalonia. Did they protest against them as an organization? I think the CNT in Aragon as an organization went along with it, and as such as equally guilty.

The important question is whether anarchists have learnt anything from this. In my opinion in order to learn anything from it, they must start by clearly rejecting the CNT’s treachery. It is not possible to justify it by historical circumstances. This is the same tired old line that the Leninists trot out. It sounds pathetic when it comes from them, but even more pathetic when it comes from ‘anarchists’ who constantly criticize the Leninists for doing it.

Then I think the first question that has to be asked is why it happened. I have heard some ‘anarchists’ argue that it was just four ‘bad leaders’ in an organization of over 2,500,000 workers. This is not trying to understand what happened. It is like saying that the counter revolution in Russia happened because Lenin was a bad man. But why it really happened is an important question, and it starts by rejecting the treachery of the CNT.

By the way, I wouldn’t consider myself an apologist for Leninism. I wrote:

Quote:
The Bolsheviks also joined the side of counter revolution. I am not going to get into an argument about exactly when, as I believe that isn’t the main point here. I would definitely say that in 1914 when Lenin advocated turning the imperialist war into a civil war , he took the side of the working class, and that by 1921 when the Bolsheviks sent soldiers to attack the revolutionary sailors, and workers at Kronstadt, they had gone over to the other side.

I think that that is quite clear. Would you disagree with it? Notice that I said by1921. I actually think that it happened earlier, but I didn't want to get into the Russian, and Spanish arguments at the same time.

I hope you are well,

Dev

martinh
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Apr 13 2006 11:37
Devrim wrote:
Hi Martin,

I didn't suggest that 'rejecting anarchist principles is something that is inherent to anarchism'. I would suggest that at the time anarchism in Spain had certain theoretical weaknesses, which in my opinion were one of the factors leading to the betrayal.

I wouldn't disagree, the point about rejecting anarchist principles is that some critics of the CNT argue that it is something inherent.

Devrim wrote:
I think that one of them is the way that anarchism ignored the question of state power. Far from wanting to ‘smash the state’ , the anarchists actually ignored it. They thought that they could create their revolution through building up the collectives, and taking over the factories.

Again, I wouldn't disagree that there was insufficient analysis of the state. I think we can understand why, and if anything there was not enough criticism of "democracy", chiefly because they'd so little experience of it. There were hopeful signs in this area, like with the distrust of the PSOE exhibited in 1934, but it was too little too late.

Devrim wrote:

Some of the most interesting things from the Spanish revolution were happening in the collectives in Aragon, but if you can’t have ‘socialism in one country’ you certainly can’t have ‘socialism in a few villages’. The power of the capitalist state does exist, and does need to be smashed. This power is concentrated in certain organs, and they do need to be destroyed.

I agree, again, though the achivements of the collectives didn't fall from the sky. They came from decades of a-s organising and propaganda. I also think in rural Spain it was an easy trap to fall into to ignore the state, as it basically consisted of Civil guards and a few records in the Town Hall. That excuse isn't, however, available to anarchists in Barcelona.

Devrim wrote:
Also the CNT in Aragon can’t be absolved of the crimes of the CNT in Catalonia. Did they protest against them as an organization? I think the CNT in Aragon as an organization went along with it, and as such as equally guilty.

TBH I don't know how they reacted on this and it's probably worth finding out. I also think crimes is the wrong way of putting it - errors, perhaps.

Devrim wrote:
The important question is whether anarchists have learnt anything from this. In my opinion in order to learn anything from it, they must start by clearly rejecting the CNT’s treachery. It is not possible to justify it by historical circumstances. This is the same tired old line that the Leninists trot out. It sounds pathetic when it comes from them, but even more pathetic when it comes from ‘anarchists’ who constantly criticize the Leninists for doing it.

Hmm, I thought that was pretty much what I just said.

Devrim wrote:

Then I think the first question that has to be asked is why it happened. I have heard some ‘anarchists’ argue that it was just four ‘bad leaders’ in an organization of over 2,500,000 workers. This is not trying to understand what happened. It is like saying that the counter revolution in Russia happened because Lenin was a bad man. But why it really happened is an important question, and it starts by rejecting the treachery of the CNT.

Yes, it's always been more of a concern to me that there wasn't more of a reaction to the leadership's treachery by the rank and file. As an anarchist, the treachery of leaders, even anarchist ones, is to be expected and organised against. While this happened, it didn't happen on the scale it should have, and in part I think this is down to the role of the FAI and how it had become corrupted by the role it was playing within the CNT.

Devrim wrote:
]By the way, I wouldn’t consider myself an apologist for Leninism.

I don't consider you as one, apologies if it came across that way. I think the Bolsheviks were sincere (and right) in 1914, and again in 1917. Where they went wrong is a whole separate thread. I'd also argue that where they went wrong was predetermined by their beliefs.

Regards

Martin

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Apr 13 2006 11:57

This might be appear like pedantry but by the 'CNT', and Devrim's unwittingly touched upon this, what exactly do we mean? Do we take all members and organs of the organisation together in this shared treachery? Weren't a good number, perhaps even a majority, of those members in support of ceasing work on May 1937? So who was it that 'ordered' them? (I'm not just being rhetorical, I don't really know the answer). As for the 'treachery' itself; who was it against? That majority of workers, or an Ideal that was crushed? In the former case, if there was a clear treachery by a few against the interests of the many, how come, as Dolgoff cites, "people's direct grass-roots democracy, were practiced, "...in ALL the syndicates THROUGHOUT SPAIN.""?

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The power of the capitalist state does exist, and does need to be smashed. This power is concentrated in certain organs, and they do need to be destroyed. I don’t think the CNT recognized that.

The first is obvious and clearly wasn't carried out by the mass movement organised under the name and terms of the CNT. But your last point is just bad ultra-leftism - power uses organs for its ends, it is not inherent and residing in those organs themselves but mixed and reproduced in human relations. So whilst the 'organs' remained and were not en mass attacked by the organised workers, what's more important is the basis for ignoring that attack and where (and why) relations of power, in various forms, were still present in the mass movement - from the collaborationists to the 'Friends of Durrutti' and the way in which syndicates worked round governmental presence etc.

I'm of course of the opinion that the counter-revolution itself, which must've existed, was more of a play between those 'objective conditions' that are mentioned, and the active and ideological dynamic of what revolution there was. We all find it so easy to look at the situation in terms of the organisational, and self-imposed definitions that existed at the time - saying 'the CNT was part of the counter-revolution' is just too plain easy, as well as simplified.

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I would suggest that at the time anarchism in Spain had certain theoretical weaknesses, which in my opinion were one of the factors leading to the betrayal.

This is likewise quite vague, and misleading. You're using 'anarchism' like the other concepts - anarchism was undoubtedly against the existence of the state in Spain as everywhere - was it therefore about a need for a 'better theory' in Spain?

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Apr 13 2006 11:59

Hi Martin,

Well, we seem to agree on everything except the word 'crimes'. I will go with the 'Friends of Durruti' on this one, and settle for 'treason to the revolution'. I did actually expect more of an 'anarchist' reaction on this.

Take care,

Dev

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Apr 13 2006 12:18

Volin,

I didn’t touch on that point unwittingly, I did it deliberately. When I said that the CNT as an organization joined the counter revolution I meant as an organization. I didn’t deny that there were still revolutionary workers in the CNT. The same could be said about the Bolshevik party.

As for who ordereed the return to work it was the committees of the CNT, and the newspaper ‘Solidaridad Obrera’. I would have to do some research to find out exactly which committees, but I think we can say the CNT as an organization did it.

I think that the idea of power being concentrated in certain organs of the state is not abstract. I meant things like the police, the army, the legal system, and the government. These are not abstract things, but real weapons that were used against the working class, and have to be smashed.

The phrase “in Spain” is something I may have used badly. I used it as we were talking about Spain. It wasn’t a necessary phrase. I could have just as easily been talking about anarchism in general.

Quote:
I'm of course of the opinion that the counter-revolution itself, which must've existed, was more of a play between those 'objective conditions' that are mentioned, and the active and ideological dynamic of what revolution there was. We all find it so easy to look at the situation in terms of the organisational, and self-imposed definitions that existed at the time - saying 'the CNT was part of the counter-revolution' is just too plain easy, as well as simplified.

I could equally argue that anarchist explanations of the Russia counter revolution are 'just too plain easy, as well as simplified'. It doesn't alter the fact that the Bolshevik party joined the counter revolution as did the CNT.

Devrim

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Apr 13 2006 13:20

Hi Devrim I can accept that the objective conditions in Russia led to the Bolsheviks counter revolutionary "state capitalism", but I also think the actual Bolshevik programme prior to the revolution itself was a product of it;s material conditions, the class composition of it's leadership and as such the Bolsheviks acted as a surrogate bourgeois.

I don't know if it the objective conditions would have allowed a successful revolution in Russia, but I do know that the Bolshevik programme has never had fuck all to do with communism, and that the Bolshevik programme itself has to count as a huge condition in the destruction of "working class" self organisation.

For all it's faults the CNT was a proletarian organisation and it's errors came in abandoning it's programme rather than ruthlessly implementing it.

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Apr 13 2006 13:43

Excellent contributions by Devrim on how the CNT as an organisation joined the counter-revolution (but then I would say that). It seems to me that the method many use on these boards when we talk about the CNT (or trade unions in general) is really the same as the Trotskyists use for characterising the Labour Party as a workers' party, i.e. 'because it contains many sincere workes who join it because they want to see a better world'. The problem then becomes one of the 'bad leaders' who betray the true nature of the organisation.

This approach avoids the real issue the actual, objective function of an organisation, and in particular its relationship to the state. Once an organisation has been integrated into the capitalist state, the subjective intentions of its members not only can't alter its nature and function - those very 'good intentions' are manipulated to become the very means for preserving the working class image of the organisation, and thus enable it to play its role for capital.

The point Devrim makes about the Bolsheviks is basically correct - that we have to see them not as 'bourgeois from the beginning' but as a prime example of a proletarian current which degenerated and passed to the enemy. In the past I would have said that 1921 was the point of no return but I think the ICC has moved on from there. Our book on the Russian left communists argues that it was not finally dead for the working class until the last proletarian expressions had been eliminated from it (ie by the end of the 20s). In fact this was the point of view of Miasnikov, who formed his Workers Group in 1923 as a fraction of the Bolshevik party. In this sense his approach had a lot in common with the Italian left, which was in favour of fighting for proletarian organisations for as long as they had any sign of life within them.

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Apr 13 2006 13:44

Having read a bit of Lenin, I'd say he was basically a 19th century social democrat, operating in conditions of near illegality. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Apr 13 2006 13:45

Hi again Revol,

I have just finished answering your points on the AWG thread when up you pop again smile . First can you tell me what 'slurry' means. I have only got a small dictionary at home, and I don't like there being words that I don't know.

On your points here, I don't really disagree. I have just tried to keep off the subject of the russian counter revolution to avoid derailing the thread.

I am open to discussing it though if you want to start a new thread. You might be quite surprised to find that we are not that far apart. There were deep problems with the Bolshevik party even prior to the revolution. I do think in lots of ways that they were just radical social democrats. Maybe a new thread will be interesting. I, for one, will be arguing against the ICC instead of alongside them.

What I don't agree with is the word 'errors'. If you can use it to excuse the CNT, then the Leninists can use it to excuse what happend at Krondstat. I will use the term that the anarchists used themselves 'treason to the revolution'.

Dev

knightrose
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Apr 13 2006 13:46

I think slurry is a kind of liquid shit used to fertilise farms.

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Apr 13 2006 13:47
knightrose wrote:
Having read a bit of Lenin, I'd say he was basically a 19th century social democrat, operating in conditions of near illegality. Nothing more, nothing less.

I'd like to add he was just a jumpedup lil middle class prick who was a tad upset that his brother got jacked up by the Tsar and was pissed off at the lack of industrial development.

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Apr 13 2006 13:49

You have such a better way with word s than I do revol.

People realised at the time too. There's an interesting text by Luxemburg written before 1910 about Lenin. http://af-north.org/other%20pamphlets/luxemburg.htm

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Apr 13 2006 13:53
Devrim wrote:
I could equally argue that anarchist explanations of the Russia counter revolution are 'just too plain easy, as well as simplified'. It doesn't alter the fact that the Bolshevik party joined the counter revolution as did the CNT.

You pose that as if I'd disagree - sure, most 'anarchist' explanations, whilst containing much truth, are generally very simplistic in nature. The obvious ideological and practical differences between the CNT and the Bolsheviks as groups puts things in a very different light. Their goals, concept of organisation and praxis are more than passing points of divergence - and to put it bluntly, comparing the CNT to the Bolsheviks is shoddy. I'm certainly not disputing that the role of the organisation, as its conveniently defined, was most definitely (in the end) one which very much undermined the independence of the workers and their own actions - that is, against the revolution. It's just, and again I'm ignorant, how can an apparently 'directly democratically-run' organisation (very unlike the Russian party-model) then order its own members against their will? Re-impose work when the majority were -clearly- for pushing beyond it?

Quote:
I think that the idea of power being concentrated in certain organs of the state is not abstract. I meant things like the police, the army, the legal system, and the government. These are not abstract things, but real weapons that were used against the working class, and have to be smashed.

I didn't say otherwise, actually. Rather that smashing them relies on revolutionising a whole social milieu, in toto. So obviously, destroying them is a must but it goes much further than that, and the reason why that didn't happened cannot be (solely) pinned to the collaborationists, or the specific actions of the CNT, but in the unfolding of the people's own revolutionary forces. I'm completely in agreement with the view that dependence on a permament organisation, disempowered those capable of producing social revolution. [mandatory Dauve quote;]

"The question is not: who has the guns? but rather: what do the people with the guns do? 10,000 or 100,000 proletarians armed to the teeth are nothing if they place their trust in anything beside their own power to change the world. Otherwise, the next day, the next month or the next year, the power whose authority they recognize will take away the guns which they failed to use against it"

Quote:
For all it's faults the CNT was a proletarian organisation and it's errors came in abandoning it's programme rather than ruthlessly implementing it.

I would like to believe this, but in all honesty I think when it came to the point it couldn't implement that programme, which was as you say the only real mass movement to speak of communism, by the very nature of its existence.

knightrose
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Apr 13 2006 13:57

Luxemburg said this in 1904. Wade through the language and see how perceptive she was:

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Lenin perceives then in the absolute power of the central committee and in the strict hedging off of the party by statute, the one effective dyke against the opportunistic current, the specific earmarks of which he denotes as the inborn academic predilection for autonomism, for disorganisation, and the wincing at strict party discipline and at any bureaucratism in the party life. In Lenin's opinion, only the socialist Literati, thanks to his innate instability and individualism, can oppose such unlimited powers of the central committee; a genuine proletarian, on the other hand, must, even as a result of his revolutionary class instinct, experience a sort of rapture at all the stiffness, strictness and smartness of his highest party officials, and so subjects himself to all the rude operation of party discipline with joyously closed eyes. Bureaucratism as against democratism," says Lenin, "that is precisely the organisational principle of Social Democracy as opposed to the organisational principle of the opportunists." He appeals insistently to the fact that the same opposition between the centralistic and the autonomistic conception in Social Democracy is becoming noticeable in all countries where the revolutionary and the reformist or revisionist tendency stand facing each other.

That's 17 years before 1921.

revolutionrugger
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Apr 13 2006 14:32

devrim don't quote me out of context. its annoying.

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Apr 13 2006 14:47

Which quote was out of context? Also it is on a thread, people are aware of the previous arguments. The quotes are just to jog the memory of which point is actually being addressed. If you feel I have misrepresented you opinion, I am sorry. I didn't mean to do it.

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Apr 13 2006 14:54

Why does the anrchist defense of the CNT always seem to hinge on "look at the Bolsheviks-theywere worse than us." ? I made it quite clear that I wasn't a Leninist, and that I believe the Bolsheviks led the counter revolution in Russia. The subject here is the CNT in the Spannish revolution, not comparative blame spreading.

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Apr 13 2006 15:26

Hi Devrim

I do think that your comparisons of the CNT to the Bolsheviks are simplistic. Revol has put it most accurately, the CNT failed to implement its programme, the Bolsheviks ruthlessly implemented theirs.

In response to you asking if RevolutionRugger had learned anything from "Towards a Fresh Revolution", Platformists/Anarchist-communists have drawn lessons from Spain: The most important is that if worker's councils allow themselves to co-exist with the state, they will be co-existed out of existence.

The other important thing which is not being addressed is that the CNT, as opposed to the Bolsheviks, was a mass, directly-democratic organization - it contained 1.5 million workers of varying political stripes. I won't deal with Alf's assertion that it was part of the State because it was a 'union' (and I think Dauve's estimation is about as ridiculous and far below his usually competent thought), when they are clearly using a definition of 'union' taken from the experiences of Germany and the UK.

The sources i've seen have always claimed that the decision to join the government was made by the upper committees of the CNT in the early days because they feared an 'anarchist dictatorship' - in particular this was people like Montseny, with Garcia Oliver and Durruti arguing for the recognition of the fact that the workers had near-total power and could finish off the state, in Catalunya at least. If anything that could provide a decent argument for the counter-revolutionary nature of the FAI in promoting anarcho-liberals like Montseny. But there are many who claim that the decision to join the government was decided democratically, particularly at the later stages. If that is the case then the excuse of 'material reality' constraining our options is legitimate, because it is not hard to imagine that the majority of workers in this case would rather have a fighting chance against fascism than a make a noble, but doomed stand.

Either way, this is where the platformists draw the lesson: there ought to be a 'specific' anarchist organization based around strict theoretical and tactical unity which seeks not the mechanical leadership of any organization but tries to put its ideas as the leading ones among the class and in the class organs. It should be autonomous from any larger structure (and in that sense we do have a good grasp of the critique of democratism). Groups like the FdCA have solidified a lot of theory around the relationship between the 'specific organization' and the 'mass organization' (i.e. the class and its organs): to paraphrase, that the 'specific organization' has a responsibility, if it sees a threat to the revolution, to mobilize all possible force against it and to fight alone if absolutely necessary. What we propose is in every way the opposite of what the FAI was; the Friends of Durruti should have existed sooner and stronger - it should have used direct action to rob the gold of the Bank of Spain (against the orders of the national committee of the CNT) and it should have been willing to mobilize the greatest force possible to finish off the state in Catalunya and carry on the war against the bourgeoisie, including those within the CNT/FAI (such as Montseny). If such an organization had existed and had tried to mobilize around its programme, there is a real chance that both the Republic and Franco could have been defeated; whether the Second World War would have started in Spain, and what the outcome would have been for the proletariat from that is hard to say, though it is doubtful that things would have been worse.

Those who are afraid of "anarchist dictatorship" (by which they mean proletarianj) should be excluded from anarchist organizations, because that is exactly what we propose.