The First Congress of the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) (Barcelona, September 8-10, 1911)

Barcelona, July 31, 1909

The Agenda and texts of the Reports presented to the assembly of delegates representing approximately 27,000 workers at the First (official) Congress of the National Confederation of Labor, held in Barcelona in 1911, providing a glimpse of the doctrinal spectrum represented by the founders of the CNT and the most urgent concerns of the membership of the new organization, including the “rights and duties” of disabled members of the CNT, the creation of rationalist schools, the formation of itinerant propaganda squads, and the need for a daily newspaper.

The First Congress of the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) (Barcelona, September 8-10, 1911)

In conformance with the resolutions of the Congress held in Barcelona at the Palace of Fine Arts, from October 30-November 1, 1910, the Committee chosen by the Barcelona trade unions on November 19, 1910, organized and convoked the First Congress of the CNT, as follows:

AGENDA

1. Should the National Confederation of Labor be constituted on the basis of Local and Regional Federations?

2. Is it a matter of imperative necessity for the National Confederation of Labor to have a daily newspaper? If so, how should this be implemented?

3. Is it absolutely necessary to carry out intensive and extensive propaganda campaigns in every region of Spain? If so, how should this be implemented?

4. When a comrade is deprived of liberty while he is serving as a representative of the National Confederation, should all the federations help defray the resulting expenses?

5. Should the Congress stipulate that each member should pay a monthly contribution of one centime for the support of those arrested for participating in the social struggle?

6. Should the payment of the expenses incurred by this Congress, along with those incurred by each delegate, be shared by all the members of the Confederation?

7. Should the National Confederation of Labor allow only those trade unions that belong to the Confederation to attend its future Congresses?

8. Should future Congresses of the Confederation be held every two years?

9. Syndicalism on multiple bases.

10. Is piece-work detrimental to the workers? If so, how should it be abolished?

11. Insofar as it is indisputable that it is absolutely necessary to organize women so that Syndicalism can develop all its forces in workers struggles, what means should the Congress employ to achieve this objective?

12. Should the associations of disabled persons possess the same rights and duties as the other federated trade unions of the Confederation?

13. What tactics should Syndicalism employ with respect to associations of disabled persons?

14. In view of the fact that rational education is the principal factor in the development of the proletariat, what is the most practical means to make it prevail?

15. Is the presence of a political group at the same location where societies of resistance meet beneficial or harmful for the working class, regardless of that political group’s politics?

16. Taking account of the great benefits reaped by the syndicalist organization as a result of its extensive propaganda in the industrial region of the Basque Country, the Mixed Trade Union of Bilbao proposes to found a regional newspaper that will defend and disseminate the principles of revolutionary syndicalism.

17. Should revolutionary syndicalism carry out a struggle for the equalization of wages?

18. If a revolutionary political movement breaks out, what attitude should the trade unions assume towards it?

19. Is it necessary to establish a minimum wage and maximum working hours for the proletariat in general?

The Congress opened with a speech by Josep Negre in his capacity as General Secretary of the Confederation; Miquel Fernàndez and Francesc Ullod served as Chairmen of the first session.

We shall include the first paragraph of the address read by Josep Negre, because we understand that it provides valuable information regarding the controversy concerning the date of the founding of the CNT:

Salut! It was resolved at the Second Congress convoked by the Solidaridad Obrera Regional Confederation, whose sessions were held on October 30 and 31 and November 1 last year in this same meeting hall, that the Regional Confederation should become a National Confederation for the reasons set forth in the assemblies of that Congress and that comrades should be chosen to compose the Federal Committee whose task was to bring this task to fruition, and today we come to give an account of our activities, eager to see whether our efforts deserve the approval of the comrade delegates present at this assembly, the first one gathered at the first Congress of the National Confederation of Labor.”

The information provided by the Committee indicated that the Confederation was composed of a total of 139 societies (78 in Catalonia) with 26,590 members (11,925 in Catalonia) in 44 local federations (15 in Catalonia). More than 16 societies (12 in Catalonia) with 3,400 members remained outside of the Confederal organization.

After Josep Negre’s opening address, a Review Commission was selected, composed of Fernando Vela from Valencia, Francisco Carreras from Barcelona, Juan Ordinas from Palma de Mallorca, Joaquín Feu d’Ayamonte, Emilio Belloque from Valencia, Ángel Lacort from Saragossa and Fransesc Magriñà from Barcelona.

Here is a breakdown of the Review Commission’s report with reference to those who attended the Congress:

121 Delegates
80 Workers Societies (59 from Catalonia)
19+ Societies of the Local Federation of La Coruña
6 Local Federations (4 from Catalonia)
18 Member Societies (5 from Catalonia) (see Note below)
29 Town Federations (12 from Catalonia)

Note: During the second and third sessions several more, previously unregistered, organizations were recognized and admitted as members.

Next, four Commissions were formed to draft Reports on the points of the Agenda:

The first Commission was composed of Miguel Permanyer, Ángel Lacort, Joan Ferrer (from Vilanova i la Geltrú), Emilio Belloque and Fernando Vela.

This Commission drafted Reports on the following topics:

1. Should the National Confederation of Labor be constituted on the basis of Local and Regional Federations?

2. Is it a matter of imperative necessity for the National Confederation of Labor to have a daily newspaper? If so, how should this be implemented?

3. Is it absolutely necessary to carry out intensive and extensive propaganda campaigns in every region of Spain? If so, how should this be implemented?

4. Insofar as it is indisputable that it is absolutely necessary to organize women so that Syndicalism can develop all its forces in workers struggles, what means should the Congress employ to achieve this objective?

5. Taking account of the great benefits reaped by the syndicalist organization as a result of its extensive propaganda in the industrial region of the Basque Country, the Mixed Trade Union of Bilbao proposes to found a regional newspaper that will defend and disseminate the principles of revolutionary syndicalism.

The second Commission was composed of Antonio Garrigó, José Crespo, Juan Ordinas, Salvador Seguí and Tomàs Herreros (També cites Valentí Bach, but he did not participate in drafting the resolutions).

The second Commission was assigned the task of drafting Reports on the following points:

1. When a comrade is deprived of liberty at a time when he is serving as a representative of the National Confederation, should all the federations help defray the resulting expenses?

2. Should the Congress agree that each member should pay a monthly contribution of one centime for the support of those arrested for participating in the social struggle?

3. Should the payment of the expenses incurred by this Congress, along with those incurred by each delegate, be shared by all the members of the Confederation?

4. Should the National Confederation of Labor allow only those trade unions that belong to the Confederation to attend its future Congresses?

5. Should future Congresses of the Confederation be held every two years?

The third Commission was composed of Nicolás Guallarte, Josep María Tort, Ramon Costa, Jaume Bisbe, and Martí Vilanova.

It was responsible for drafting Reports on:

1. Syndicalism on multiple bases.

2. Should the associations of disabled persons possess the same rights and duties as the other federated trade unions of the Confederation?

3. What tactics should Syndicalism employ with respect to associations of disabled persons?

4. In view of the fact that rational education is the principal factor in the development of the proletariat, what is the most practical means to make it prevail?

5. Is the presence of a political group at the same location where societies of resistance meet beneficial or harmful for the working class, regardless of that political group’s politics?

6. If a revolutionary political movement breaks out, what attitude should the trade unions assume towards it?

The fourth Commission was composed of Àngel Capdevila, Joaquín Feu, Pere Mayol, Joan Vives, and Rafael Ávila.

This commission was responsible for drafting Reports on:

1. Is piece-work detrimental to the workers? If so, how should it be abolished?

2. Should revolutionary syndicalism carry out a struggle for the equalization of wages?

3. Is it necessary to establish a minimum wage and maximum working hours for the proletariat in general?

4. Can collective bargaining between the employers and the workers organizations be a means to achieve the total organization of the proletariat?

Once the Commissions were constituted and the topics assigned, the Chairmen of the second session were chosen: Rafael Bernabeu, Ávila (we do not know if his name was Francisco or Rafael), Tomás Herreros, Jaume Bisbe and Ramon Lostau.

The second session, presided over by Tomás Herreros, began at 10:00 p.m.

Herreros read a letter from the veteran anarchist, Anselmo Lorenzo, and another letter from Joaquin Bueso (written from prison).

Next, Josep Negre, as General Secretary of the Confederation, read the Committee’s report on its efforts to organize the National Confederation of Labor (CNT).

The session continued with the reading of the Report on the first point of the Agenda:

Should the National Confederation of Labor be constituted on the basis of Local and Regional Federations?

REPORT

Whereas this Report takes cognizance of the fact that it is sociologically fully demonstrated that the real stability of the human organism logically depends on stability between peoples, since history shows us that those rare animals that did not submit to this rational law of sociability with their own kind have completely disappeared, as well as the fact that the working class has a determined predisposition to the total abolition of borders, which currently stand in the way of the establishment of our trade union goal.

Taking this axiomatic assertion into account, this Commission understands that the local federation, as well as the regional federation, are the most effective means to unite the efforts of the working class.

That is not all, however, there is still one other thing: The Committee of a national federation, even with the best intentions, would be absolutely incapable of encompassing the needs of the different regions of a nation, for in order to do so it would have to live the lives of the people in the various parts of the country, and since the people themselves are necessarily the ones who have an intimate knowledge of their own needs and the conditions of time and place, the logical thing, the human thing, to do, is to form local federations, which will result in the unity of the working class of the locality and therefore a unity of thought, as well as a unity of methods, and therefore the engendering of the spirit of solidarity, which will necessarily constitute the power of the proletariat.

If this is true, however, then we must agree that while the locality itself constitutes a center of force, this force will be immeasurably increased with the formation of a regional federation, and these local federations will be the atoms and the cells of the body: the National Confederation.

Furthermore, we also think that it is necessary, and would be productive of prodigious results, to form at the same time national trade federations that would be members of the National Confederation.

Our Report therefore emphasizes the indispensable necessity of forming local, regional and national trade federations.

We do not know if our poor reasoning powers will be sufficient to convince the comrade delegates of the Congress, but this Report reflects the sincere beliefs of the Commission’s members.

Miguel Permanyer, Fernando Vela, Emilio Belloque, Ángel Lacort and Joan Ferrer.

After a few explanatory remarks by the members of the Commission, the Report’s conclusions were unanimously approved.

Next, the Report on the second point of the Agenda:

Is it a matter of imperative necessity for the National Confederation of Labor to have a daily newspaper? If so, how should this be implemented?

REPORT

This Commission does not think that there can be any doubts concerning the question of the need to create a distinctly working class daily newspaper that would be the voice of the national organization that has convened this Congress.

We understand that the working class needs, just as plants need water, a daily newspaper that will not only be capable of sustaining the existing working class organization, but will also perform a creative, and truly evolutionary and developmental role among the people.

We recognize that the lack of cohesion that prevails among all the exploited is due precisely to the supine ignorance to which the centralism of power has subjected the working class, by way of the backwardness of the educational system.

Although the creation of a daily newspaper is indispensable, this Commission, in spite of all its efforts, has not found the effective means that in a relatively short time frame would ensure the existence of the newspaper.

Not having found these immediate means, this Commission submits the following proposition to the Assembly for debate:

First, that the dues at the federation level should be increased by one centime, and this centime should be earmarked for the Newspaper Fund.

In addition, a permanent Commission should be formed whose purpose will be to promote this newspaper in every region of Spain, with sub-committees that will employ every means to collect resources for the newspaper.

There should also be an ongoing subscription campaign for the newspaper.

Before we resorted to this ambiguous response that solves nothing, we did everything we could to discover the right formula.

Perhaps an excess of scruples in our deliberations about which course to take, or perhaps this Commission’s fear that its choice would yield a completely negative result in practice; one or the other, the fact that we have not definitively declared in favor of a resolution whose immediate consequence would be the establishment of this daily newspaper is mostly due to the fact that we have taken into account such a proposal’s impact on the workers’ take-home wage and therefore on the small amount of dues that is collected by the trade union.

Miguel Permanyer, Fernando Vela, Emilio Belloque, Ángel Lacort, Joan Ferrer.

Various speeches were then made by Josep Negre, Fernando Vela (a member of the Commission), Martínez (first name unknown), Joan Satorra and Salvador Seguí. The latter proposed that 3,000 shares should be issued at the price of one peseta each, which would be collected by the trade unions. Debate on the question was concluded with a new consensus proposal (presented by Salvador Seguí) calling for the collection of a special monthly levy of ten centimes per member for six consecutive months, with the understanding that this levy would be in addition to the dues paid by the members to their respective trade unions. It was resolved to issue a series of 3,000 shares, valued at one peseta per share, so that those comrades who wish to do so could contribute in this way to the fund drive for the daily newspaper.

It should be recalled that the newspaper, Solidaridad Obrera, was only published as a weekly at that time.

Fernando Vela addressed the assembly to argue for the issuing of 9,000 shares, since it was estimated that a daily newspaper would cost more than 7,000 pesetas a month. This increase was unanimously approved.

After naming the Chairmen of the next session, the session adjourned.

Third session

The Chairmen were announced. Presiding Chairman, Josep Belis. Assistant Chairmen, Joaquin Feu, Pedro Mayol and Ramon Prat.

The Report on the third point of the agenda was read:

Is it absolutely necessary to carry out intensive and extensive propaganda campaigns in every region of Spain? If so, how should this be implemented?

REPORT

The Commission believes that it is of the utmost necessity to immediately launch these campaigns, and in order to do so it proposes to the Congress that the affiliated organizations of each locality should assume responsibility for the organization of local propaganda campaigns and should defray the expenses of the comrades who form the teams assigned to them until they arrive at their destinations, where the local trade unions will then be responsible for their expenses.

Miguel Permanyer, Fernando Vela, Emilio Belloque, Ángel Lacort, Joan Ferrer.

After a few brief speeches the Report was unanimously approved.

Next, the Report on the eleventh point of the Agenda was read.

Insofar as it is indisputable that it is absolutely necessary to organize women so that Syndicalism can develop all its forces in workers struggles, what means should the Congress employ to achieve this objective?

REPORT

Whereas this Commission understands that women are just as exploited as men, it cannot be concealed that with regard to women, who are doubly enslaved, we have the unavoidable duty of educating them today, so that they may in turn be capable of also educating others, of training the minds of the men of the future, of those whose mission is the conquest of the future society, and since this is the case, the least we can do is understand that the organization of women is indispensable, but taking into account the fact that we must not centralize this process, we think that it is logical that this work must be assigned to those comrades who form the mobile propaganda squads.

Miguel Permanyer, Fernando Vela, Emilio Belloque, Ángel Lacort, Joan Ferrer.

After the Report was read, three comrades spoke in favor of it, while three spoke against it.

Antonio Salud, Ramón Arom, Fernando Vela, Nicolás Guallarte and Ángel Lacort addressed the Assembly. The Report was approved.

Next, the Report on the sixteenth point of the Agenda was read:

Taking account of the great benefits reaped by the syndicalist organization as a result of its extensive propaganda in the industrial region of the Basque Country, the Mixed Trade Union of Bilbao proposes to found a regional newspaper that will defend and disseminate the principles of revolutionary syndicalism.

REPORT

This Commission understands that, with regard to this question, it would not be appropriate to issue a Report, for the reason that it would encroach upon the purview of the Report issued by this same Commission with respect to the creation of a distinctly working class newspaper, since the latter, if it were to be successfully implemented, would completely fulfill the aspirations of the organization that sponsored this proposal. (The proposal was sponsored by the Mixed Trade Union of Bilbao.)

Miguel Permanyer, Fernando Vela, Emilio Belloque, Ángel Lacort, Joan Ferrer.

After a few short speeches the Report was unanimously approved.

At this time, the Chairmen of the evening session were named.

Fourth session

Carlos Botella d’Alacant was named Presiding Chairman, and Emilio Belloque, Juan Ordinas, Nicolás Guallarte and Florencio Colominas were named Assistant Chairmen.

The Presiding Chairman informed the Congress of the admission of a number of new organizations and then the Report on the topics addressed by the fourth and fifth points of the Agenda was read.

4. When a comrade is deprived of liberty while serving as a representative of the National Confederation, should all the federations help defray the resulting expenses?

5. Should the Congress agree that each member should pay a monthly contribution of one centime for the support of those arrested for participating in the social struggle?

REPORT

It is perfectly logical that those comrades who are taken prisoner while engaged in propaganda on behalf of this Confederation must be duly taken care of; but taking into account the fact that there are other questions that require the allocation of resources, we propose that from now on, of the five centime dues that each member pays to the Confederation, one-fifth should be earmarked (in conformance with the desires of the persons who sponsored this proposal) for the creation of a special fund for social prisoners; leaving the rest for the various needs of the Confederation, understanding that one of these needs must preferentially be to attend to the needs of those comrades who, while in the performance of duties on behalf of the Confederation, are deprived of their personal liberty.

Antonio Garrigó, José Crespo, Juan Ordinas, Salvador Seguí, Tomás Herreros.

José Belis, Joaquín Feu, Ramón Lostau, Rafael Ávila, Pedro Mayol, Pere Sánchez, Tomás Herreros (on behalf of the Commission) and Enrique Ferrer addressed the Assembly during the subsequent discussion. Everyone was basically in agreement, but disagreements about the details made it necessary to submit the Commission’s Report to a formal vote. The result of the vote was 59 delegates in favor of the Report, 7 against and 8 abstentions.

Next, Salvador Seguí read the Report on the sixth point of the Agenda.

Should the payment of the expenses incurred by this Congress, along with those incurred by each delegate, be shared by all the members of the Confederation?

REPORT

This Commission understands that, in order for delegates from all the towns with affiliated organizations to attend this Congress, their expenses must be paid by all the members of the Confederation as a whole.

In order to facilitate the implementation of this proposal, we understand that this resolution must be applied to those localities that, due to their economic conditions, would otherwise be unable to send delegates to the Congress.

Antonio Garrigó, José Crespo, Juan Ordinas, Salvador Seguí, Tomás Herreros.

Francisco Carreras, Jaume Coll, Gerónimo Ferrer and Salvador Seguí then addressed the Assembly.

The Report was approved.

Next, the Report on the seventh point of the Agenda was read.

Should the National Confederation of Labor allow only those trade unions that belong to the Confederation to attend its future Congresses?

REPORT

The Commission understands that, since it is incumbent upon the National Confederation of Labor to give its deliberations the widest possible publicity and to listen to the different orientations of the Spanish proletariat, it must therefore allow all societies of resistance to capital to attend its Congress, and that it must make arrangements for them to take part in debates, although these organizations [which are not members of the CNT] should not be allowed the right to vote.

José Crespo, Juan Ordinas, Salvador Seguí, Tomás Herreros and Rafael Ávila.

The Report was unanimously approved.

Next, the Chairmen for the next session were named. Rafael Ávila, Àngel Capdevila, Ramón Arom, Ángel Lacort and Pere Sánchez were named Chairmen.

Fifth session

The session opened at 10:45 p.m., with the Chairmen named above.

After two letters were read, one from the Center of Workers Societies of Gijón and the other from the sandal makers of Cervera del Río Alhama, the delegate from the Barcelona Graphics Workers Trade Union, Ramon Costa, read the Report on the ninth point of the Agenda.

Syndicalism on multiple bases.

REPORT

This Commission, with absolute unanimity, conceives of this form of workers organization as a veritable, and extremely obvious, utopia. To organize the workers for the economic struggle, for the political struggle, for cooperativism, for medical insurance, for financial support against repression, and for old age pensions, is simply not to organize them for anything at all. It is a project that is as extensive as one could possibly desire, but with hardly any depth.

Amidst the thousands of misfortunes inflicted upon us by bourgeois society, we cannot take shelter in the illusion of saving ourselves with the one resource that it gives us in insignificant quantities: money. Utopia, a thousand times utopia. We will not save ourselves from the evils of this society with the resources that it gives us, but with other resources that are infinitely more intense, more positive, because they reside in our own hearts; ultimately, we will not defeat bourgeois society with fistfuls of money, but with the blows of willpower, blows of energy. It is on these indestructible and fruitful foundations, because they are provided to us by our eternal mother nature, that we must build our syndicalism. There is no other way.

This Commission, therefore, does not believe that syndicalism on multiple bases is advisable, and this is our Report to the Congress.

Ramon Costa, Martí Vilanova, José Maria Tort, Jaume Bisbe, Nicolás Guallarte.

The first speech on this topic was made by Ramón Lostau, who offered an alternative proposal. His proposal was as follows:

The adoption in whole or in part of this system [of syndicalism on multiple bases] must be left to the initiative of the local Trade Unions and organizations, depending on their particular circumstances and views, as it would be very rash and counterproductive to want to hold all of them to the same standard.

Fernando Vela expressed his opposition to this proposal, and Martín Ricart dissented from the Commission’s Report. Josep Negre spoke in favor of the Report, saying that the topic under discussion is one of the most important issues faced by the Congress, since it involves the tactics that should be pursued by the proletariat in order to become capable of winning its emancipation … direct action is the method of struggle that should be followed so that the workers can confront the outrages perpetrated by the bourgeoisie.

The debate continued, with replies and counter-replies exchanged between Lostau, Negre, Vela and Ricart. Due to these disagreements, the text of the Report was submitted to a vote. The result was 72 votes in favor of the Report, 4 against, and 1 abstention.

Following the vote, a letter from the Section of Mixed Trades of Vilanova i Geltrú was read (by its delegate Joan Ferré), declaring that organization’s support for direct action.

Next, the Report on the twelfth and thirteenth points of the Agenda was read.

Should the associations of disabled persons possess the same rights and duties as the other federated trade unions of the Confederation?

What tactics should Syndicalism employ with respect to associations of disabled persons?

REPORT

This Commission faces an extremely difficult problem in its attempt to provide a concrete and well-defined Report on this topic, because the point it must address is, in our view, a completely new one in the history of Spanish trade unionism, and is also one that is very sensitive because it pertains to matters that are very intimately connected with basic human feelings. We shall nonetheless attempt to perform our mission with good will, by speaking the truth, or what we believe is the truth, in a very honest and dignified way, as we must all do at this Congress.

We think it is necessary to clearly define in advance the two groups into which disabled people are divided. For the musician who is deprived of his sight, and the painter who does not have legs, are disabled, too. In Spain there is a very well-known personality, the Count of Romanones, who is lame in one leg, and has served on several occasions as a Cabinet Minister for his master, King Alfonso XIII.

So, if we define “disabled persons” as those individuals who, despite being disabled in some part of their bodies, are not deprived of their condition of being exploited by the bourgeoisie, in this case we have no objections, because these disabled persons are entirely, absolutely workers with equal rights and with identical duties within and outside of the trade union organizations. This is just common sense.

If, however, we define “disabled persons” as those men who can no longer work and who are therefore (and we say this as clearly as possible, the way a doctor speaks to the family of a sick man) compelled, by the imperious and unavoidable need to survive, to seek public welfare or alms from the authorities, in this case we think that their condition does not permit them to be members of the Confederation with the same duties as the other workers, but we do think that they should enjoy the same rights to which, due to the principle of solidarity that we defend as members of the Confederation, they are altogether entitled. So we must accept those who are no longer able to work, for reasons of justice and solidarity, and we must accept their cooperation in our labor of emancipation, but we must not hold them accountable with respect to the duties imposed on the other members of the Confederation. It must be said, however, that the Confederation will always help the disabled to ensure that the indisputable rights to which they are entitled are always respected, if not in their capacity as workers exploited by the bourgeoisie, then as disinherited persons oppressed by authority.

To summarize: We present the following conclusions for the approval of the Congress:

1. The associations of disabled persons who can no longer work will have the same rights, but not the same duties, as the other federated organizations.

2. The tactic that should be pursued by syndicalism with respect to these associations is that of moral and material support whenever they are under threat.

Ramón Costa, Martí Vilanova, José Maria Tort, Jaime Bisbe, Nicolás Guallarte.

Three speeches were made in favor of the Report, and three against.

Evaristo Fernández, a delegate of the Barcelona porters, presented an amendment to the Report that stipulated that the disabled would not have the right to vote in debates concerning strikes. The amendment was accepted by the members of the Commission and the Report was unanimously approved.

Next, the Report on the fourteenth point of the Agenda was presented.

In view of the fact that rational education is the principal factor in the development of the proletariat, what is the most practical means to make it prevail?

REPORT

As our Report on this topic, we believe that rationalist education satisfies one of the generally recognized needs of syndicalism. As for means, we believe the most essential is propaganda on its behalf, a task that we understand must be carried out mainly by the rationalist teachers.

As for material means, the pertinent trade unions can establish a voluntary dues contribution in accordance with their capacities.

Ramón Costa, Martí Vilanova, José Maria Tort, Jaime Bisbe, Nicolás Guallarte.

Miguel Negre made a speech in opposition to the Report and presented an alternative proposal.

It is an undeniable fact that the primary education received by the child is of such a kind as to acclimate him to his future role in society.

Science teaches us that the human being suffers the consequences of prejudices acquired over the course of centuries of fanaticism and barbarism, upheld and promoted by an illogical and immoral educational system that inculcates hatred of foreigners in the mind of the child, while praising and glorifying the great assassins of humanity and castrating the intelligence in favor of the vow that imposes blind faith in religious errors.

As a result of this educational system that is completely alien to the philosophical principle of this century, and is the curse of mankind, and which attacks mankind and thereby reveals the falsehood and immorality of religions, we find among the workers a large number of our comrades who are guided by the prejudices of a false education, and for this reason they are, without being aware of it, the reason why the workers movement suffers constant interruptions in its emancipatory advance, while at the same time they constitute that falange of thugs who volunteer to serve as the executioners of their brothers.

Rationalist education, the reflection of philosophical and scientific teachings, is recognized as the principal factor for the regeneration of humanity and it is for this reason that the Society of Electricians, Brass Workers and Tinsmiths appeals to this Congress to consider the following:

PROPOSAL

Considering that at the present time, given the economic conditions in which the trade unions find themselves, it would be impractical to open purely working class rationalist schools that would be financed by the trade unions alone, we propose:

That the Confederation should assume responsibility, as a test project, for seeking a teacher who would initiate a propaganda campaign in favor of rationalist education, and then carry out a survey of the trade unions in order to discover how many comrades would be willing to contribute their efforts to establishing a distinctly rationalist school, and if there are not enough comrades to operate a school, then proceed to canvass the trade unions for contributions to finance it.

When this propaganda has succeeded in its aims, then the Councils of the Confederation in the respective localities will assume responsibility for appealing to all the trade unions to survey their members so that the comrades who have children and want to provide them with a rational education will enroll them in the districts where they live.

After this information has been collected the Councils will determine which district has enrolled the greatest number of children and at the same time will open the first rationalist school of the Confederation in that district.

The Assembly will determine if this proposal can be adopted in one or more localities.

***

After certain points in the proposal were further clarified, the Report of the Commission was approved, as was the proposal of the Trade Union of Electricians, Brass Workers and Tinsmiths.

Next, the Report on the fifteenth point of the Agenda was read.

Is the presence of a political group at the same location where societies of resistance meet beneficial or harmful for the working class, regardless of that political group’s politics?

REPORT

Considering politics as a factor that is detrimental to proletarian emancipation, the reporting Commission understands that in a situation where a working class trade union and a political group occupy the same offices, the former should seek to separate itself from the latter group, since such a course of action would prevent the contagion that would otherwise be inevitable.

Ramón Costa, Nicolás Guallarte, José María Tort, Martí Vilanova, Jaime Bisbe.

Ángel Lacort and Fernando Vela spoke in favor of the Report, while José Caldero d’Ecija spoke against it.

The Report was put to a vote and was approved by the majority.

Next, the Report on the seventeenth point of the Agenda was read.

Should revolutionary syndicalism carry out a struggle for the equalization of wages?

REPORT

The Commission finds it appropriate to view the first point that it will address in the following way: that it believes that it is a matter of pure necessity to equalize wages in general, except that it is necessary that first the organized workers must be unified and they must wage a propaganda campaign in favor of the need to create a strong and solid organization by means of the syndicalist currents, and when the necessary forces are consolidated, the equalization of wages can be implemented, since all the workers have the same needs.

Pedro Mayol, Joaquin Feu, Ángel Capdevila, Carlos Botella, Rafael Ávila.

Speeches were made by Tomás Herreros, Emilio Belloque, Francisco Carreras and Ávila (first name unknown), but discussion of the topic was temporarily postponed and the Report on the eighteenth point of the Agenda was read.

If a revolutionary political movement breaks out, what attitude should the trade unions assume towards it?

REPORT

Whereas the General Confederation of Labor is an organization whose life and further development require the liberty and the modern civil rights that were conquered in a previous period by our predecessors who paved the way for human evolution and whose work we have come to continue, we will defend the liberties and rights they obtained which are advantageous for us, whenever they are threatened with destruction.

However, if we are faced with a political revolution whose only goal is a mere change of form of the current capitalist State, and which would leave unchanged the same causes of exploitation and economic servitude, we will not contribute to the deception, having learned from experience, and we shall only remain prepared for, and expectantly await, the opportunity to channel the revolution in an economic direction, fulfilling the essential goal of our reason for existence.

Pedro Mayol, Joaquin Feu, Ángel Capdevila, Carlos Botella, Rafael Ávila.

The Report was approved without debate.

Next, the Report on the nineteenth point of the Agenda was read.

Is it necessary to establish a minimum wage and maximum working hours for the proletariat in general?

REPORT

The Commission declares that, concerning the establishment of a minimum wage, its members believe that they must respond in the same way that they did with respect to the first point they addressed [the seventeenth point of the Agenda, on the equalization of wages], in the understanding that it is necessary that, just as with the equalization of the wages of labor, all the workers should have a standard maximum wage, since this is inseparable from the previously addressed equalization of wages.

Pedro Mayol, Joaquin Feu, Ángel Capdevila, Carlos Botella, Rafael Ávila.

The Report was approved without debate.

Next, the Report on the tenth point of the Agenda was read.

Is piece-work detrimental to the workers? If so, how should it be abolished?

REPORT

The finding of the Commission is that piece-work is detrimental to the workers in every conceivable way.

This Commission therefore believes that it is indispensable for all the organized workers belonging to the Confederation to carry out a constant and continuous propaganda campaign in their trade unions, until they achieve the total abolition of piece-work, using for this goal all the means that will facilitate this conviction, which is that of modern syndicalism.

The Report was approved and next a Report was presented by the Trade Union of the Graphic Arts of Barcelona, concerning a point that was not included on the Agenda.

Can collective bargaining between the employers and the workers organizations be a means to achieve the total organization of the proletariat?

REPORT

With respect to this topic, the Commission rejects the idea that collective bargaining between employers associations and workers organizations cannot be a means of organization, and believes that collective bargaining simply will not be harmful provided that it is established on the basis of mutual recognition between both parties.

Pedro Mayol, Joaquin Feu, Ángel Capdevila, Carlos Botella, Rafael Ávila.

The Report was approved without debate.

Next, the Chairmen of the following session were selected.

The sixth and last session was held on the afternoon of Sunday, the tenth.

The session was presided over by Rafael Ávila and the vice-chairmen were Salvador Seguí, Luís Bienzobas and Francisco Magriña.

Next, a Report was read on another topic that was not included on the Agenda.

Is it necessary to unite or merge the two national working class organizations, the National Confederation of Labor (Solidaridad Obrera) and the General Labor Union, which have been at odds with one another over the mere question of tactics, and cause them to yield to the common interests of their principles of resistance to capital and the economic emancipation of the workers? Is this merger furthermore advisable in order to unify the efforts of the workers organizations’ propaganda, to spread working class organization and to make proletarian action more effective in Spain? In this connection, what bases for merger does the present Congress propose to bring about the realization of these goals?

The topic was proposed by Jaume Bisbe, and he and Salvador Seguí drafted the following Report.

REPORT

Rational bases for the merger of the General Labor Union and the National Confederation of Labor:

1. The two national organizations should merge with a pure and simple trade union character.

2. Tactical questions should be determined after the merger, by a referendum that will be submitted to all the member organizations by means of a questionnaire through which the members will express their opinions.

3. The basis of the organization should be federative and autonomous for the individual organizations and local, county and regional federations. Only for the goals of confederal administration, organization, propaganda and culture should the confederated organizations of the nation assume the duty of moral and material contributions. In other cases, as in support for local strikes, prisoner aid, etc., the organizations should contribute voluntarily based on their spontaneous solidarity. However, the organizations and federations that want to establish pacts among themselves for other purposes should be free to do so.

4. Inspired by the above proposals, a basic proposal for confederal administration and operations should be drafted by a joint commission composed of three individuals from each of the two national organizations, presided over by a delegate from the General Confederation of Labor of France.

These proposed bases should be submitted for the direct approval of the organizations that compose the two national trade unions, and should these bases be approved, then the Workers Confederation of Spain will be definitively constituted.

The Presiding Chairman addressed the Assembly and accused those who sponsored this proposal of duplicity, because they had delivered a copy of it to the bourgeois press before presenting it to the Congress.

Then an amendment was proposed that essentially said that when the National Confederation of Labor has as many members as the General Labor Union, this merger should take place. The amendment was accepted by the sponsors of the original proposal and the resulting basic conditions for merger with the General Confederation of Labor were unanimously approved.

Then, at the request of several delegates, Salvador Seguí read a second proposal that had also been published in the press, concerning the general strike and the Report on this topic that was approved at the Congress held between October 30 and November 1, 1910.

The question of the general strike was presented at the 1910 Congress in the following manner:

Should the general strike, in order to successfully defend the proletariat, be peaceful or must it be essentially revolutionary? And in either case, what form does the Congress believe it should take in order to assure its success?

The Report that was approved at the 1910 Congress said:

This is, without a doubt, a difficult, dreadful and immediate problem. The Commission charged with drafting this Report, by carrying out its duties as conscientiously as possible in the relatively brief span of time allotted to it, must frankly declare, as brutal and as harsh as it may sound, that the general strike must be essentially revolutionary. Why? For the following reasons:

The general strike, the withdrawal of labor by all the workers at any given moment, entails such a great disturbance in the ordinary course of today’s society of exploited and exploiters that it will unavoidably have to cause an explosion, a clash, between the antagonistic forces that are now fighting for survival: for just as the earth, if it were to cease to revolve on its axis, would collide with another heavenly body, we, if we were to stop working, would likewise clash with all those who do not want us to escape from the iron circle in which we find ourselves.

It would be impossible for a peaceful general strike to last very long. You can imagine what would happen in the proletarian household when, after a few days, maybe even the day following the work stoppage, the scarce provisions upon which it relies have been exhausted; the worker will then leave his house to look for food, he will join others who are in the same situation, and, since nothing is being produced and since the workers in the markets are also idle, there will be nowhere to legally obtain anything he needs (even should he be in the fortunate situation of having enough money to buy it), and the workers will have to go to the big stores, and the warehouses packed with all kinds of goods, which have so often rotted on the shelves while so many of the disinherited die from starvation. Since these warehouses and stores are private property, however, the forces of public order will be obliged, within the current state of affairs, to defend them, and this will result in one of the many kinds of conflicts that a general strike will bring in its wake.

The general strike must be revolutionary, because the guardians of order, in order to guard it effectively, do not know of, or fail to practice, any other means than those of persecuting and imprisoning the most active strikers, those who from the very beginning lead the struggle, and the rest of the workers will have to protest against the implementation of these means and this protest must be violent, for otherwise instead of defeating the tyrants, new victims will be sacrificed.

We could offer thousands of other arguments in favor of the revolutionary character of a general strike, but since we believe that during the debates on this Report we can bring them to the attention of the Congress, we will wait for the discussion period to elaborate on them.

Since the general strike will have to be revolutionary, when should it be implemented in order to assure its complete success?

This is the problem. Up until now this weapon has been utilized on various occasions; but we declare that it is too powerful a weapon, with results that are so contradictory, that if it is not employed with an understanding of its cause, it might very well be the cause of our moral downfall.

And in order to prevent this from happening, the Commission believes:

That a general strike must not be declared in order to obtain a small wage increase or a shorter working week, but to achieve a total transformation in the mode of production and distribution of products.

For this reason what we need is a strong bond between all the workers, not just in one region, but in all the various regions of the Spanish nation, so that the general strike should be general in the true sense of the word, perhaps in the only sense of the word, when all at once all the wage workers of a country cease to produce; although this should not be an obstacle, when the workers are fully aware of our mission, to the launching, by means of the international Confederations, of the universal strike, which will be the day when the light of justice will really begin to shine.

Even if this does not happen in Spain, experience has taught us that the general strike in one locality, while it may not cause us great harm because we will demonstrate our spirit of struggle and our desires for emancipation, which is now, as a bourgeois said, a wake-up call for the bourgeoisie; instead, we must confess that, when the strike is localized at one point and the workers of the rest of the nation remain completely passive, the forces of public order, at the service of the bourgeoisie, will concentrate on that location, and it will be relatively easy for the government to crush the revolt.

We therefore believe that the general strike, in order to be completely successful, must be implemented when the workers who are members of the Confederation are capable of effectively carrying out the renovation of the bad conditions in which they now work.

It may nonetheless be the case that the bourgeoisie or the government, due to their selfish conduct, will force the declaration of a general strike in one locality or one region, and we believe that, in such cases, the local committee should be responsible for resolving it and studying whether or not the strike should be extended to the national level and only in particular cases, and finally, it must be the Congress that will agree to declare the general strike in the case of imperialist wars, since in such wars it is the proletariat that only sheds its blood and gains nothing.

At the previous Congress, this Report was signed by:

Joaquin Bueso (Graphic Arts Trade Union of Seville), Domingo Serra (Mixed Trade Union of Sabadell), J. Jaumar (Glass Workers Trade Union of Barcelona), Jaume Benet (Glass Workers Trade Union of Badalona), Miguel Mañé (Metal Workers Trade Union of Barcelona), R. Cantó (Textile Workers Trade Union of Alcoy), and Ramon Costa (Graphic Arts Trade Union of Barcelona).

Next, Josep Duran, of the Textile Workers Trade Union of Barcelona, proposed the following motion:

1. That, taking into account the aspiration of the international proletariat to obtain the eight hour day, the Confederation should practically embrace this aspiration, by naming a Commission in each locality and in each region that will persistently engage in propaganda in favor of this reform.

2. These Commissions will work in cooperation with the foreign Federations so that the latter will appoint similar commissions, so that, when the time comes, they will determine whether or not the goal of this movement can be realized.

Genaro Minguet, Joan Ordinas, Francisco Magriñá and Salvador Seguí addressed the Congress in opposition to this proposal. The Chairman put the proposal to a vote and it was approved by the majority of the delegates.

Then, in consideration of the various topics that various persons wanted to propose for discussion and due to the lack of time for further debate, it was agreed to form a Commission, and the individuals who were to compose this Commission were selected. The following persons were named to the Commission: Ramón Lostau, Ángel Lacort and Pedro Mayol, who presented the following questions to the Assembly:

Where should the next Congress be held?

The result of the vote on this question was as follows: Saragossa 40 votes, Valencia 24 votes, Barcelona 5 votes, Gijón and Málaga 1 vote each.

Where should the offices of the Confederal Committee of the CNT be located during the next year?

The results of this vote were as follows: Saragossa 30 votes, Barcelona 27 votes, Valencia 7 votes, La Coruña 2 votes, Málaga 2 votes, Alicante and Gijón 1 vote each.

The closing session

Chairman Rafael Ávila presided over the closing session and Fernando Vela, Florencio Colomias, Carlos Botella, Juan Ordinas, Pedro Mayol, Tomás Herreros, José Crespo, Joaquin Feu, Ángel Lacort, Josep Negre made speeches and, finally, Rafael Ávila declared the Congress adjourned.

*****

For more information, see:

Xavier Cuadrat, Sindicalismo y Anarquismo en Cataluña (1899-1911). Los Orígenes de la C.N.T., Ediciones de la Revista de Trabajao, Madrid, 1976.

Xavier Cuadrat also published an article containing information on the First Congress of the CNT in the Revista de Trabajo, no. 47, third trimester 1974, pp. 430-474.

Antonio Bar, La C.N.T. en los años rojos. Del sindicalismo revolucionario al anarcosindicalismo (1910-1926), Ediciones Akal, Madrid, 1981.

Migeul Iñiguez, Esbozo de una Enciclopédia histórica del anarquismo español, Fundación Estudios Libertarios Anselmo Lorenzo, Madrid, 2001.

*****

Letter from Anselmo Lorenzo read at the First Congress of the CNT
Barcelona, September 8, 1911

Comrades:

Allow me, without any other qualifications than my own boldness, to momentarily distract your attention to wish you a fraternal salute and my most affectionate excitement (sic).

Your meeting, more than just the fulfillment of a commitment and a statutory requirement, represents the moment devoted to engaging in reflective determination before getting to work, not to say wandering unconsciously over the precipice of events.

You believe that you must fulfill the mandate of those who voted for you to serve as delegates, to reinforce and to give a viable and progressive form to the Confederation of which you form a part, without forgetting that every conscious workers movement starts from the rational and vital impulse provided by the International during the last century, proclaiming that the emancipation of the workers is an international problem, that those who gather together to resolve it must call for the extinction of all privilege and that the realization of this ideal must be the task of the workers themselves.

In the light of this perspective you will consider the fact that an immense number of Spanish workers vegetate in ignorance, misery and indifference, serving as pawns to bourgeois and semi-bourgeois mystifiers who ask for their support; that each year, a hundred thousand of them emigrate, not because of a lack of work, for in Spain there is a shortage of means of communication, cultivated land, irrigation, decent housing, culture, hygiene and many other necessary things, but rather because of a lack of wages, due to the fact that employers and capitalists, who monopolize all the means of production, do not need more workers than they already employ in order to increase their profits.

You are aware that the struggle underway between exploiters and exploited, which is becoming more fierce with each passing day all over the world, is now part of history, the experience of which teaches us to abandon errors and not to allow ourselves to be led astray by deviationists, and that the organization of which you form a part is not merely a collection of egoists who propose higher wages and better working conditions as their only goal in exchange for a small dues contribution; nor is it a collection of mutualists who base their idea of rights on the foundation of the payment of monthly dues and who deny their solidarity to any worker who cannot be bought at this price.

Syndicalism is an organization of egoists, mutualists and altruists in a single organization who are trying to unite all the disinherited in a common course of action for the abolition of classes and the reconstitution of human society, not into national fractions enclosed within borders, subject to political States and ruled by democratic Constitutions, but extended to the whole world on the basis of the broadest equality which, respecting and even encouraging all individual aptitudes, constitutes the universal harmony of life by work and by solidarity.

The organization of the workers is good, it is excellent if it is maintained in progressive conditions; but it loses its goodness and its excellence if, due to atavism and because it becomes like a State, it stagnates or if, following the advice of bourgeois politicians or economists, it saves up money in order to have a stronger negotiating position, or to pay its leaders and parliamentary representatives, or to obtain the advantage of some scraps of privilege, and then even disorganization would be preferable if the associated workers, after paying their union dues, believe they have done their duty, and deliver themselves over to apathy, and leave the administrative affairs of the trade union to their more diligent comrades and in addition expel and scorn those who cannot pay their dues.

The syndicalist organization does not admit the worker in order to make the association greater, but, to the contrary, the association offers itself to the worker in order to make the worker stronger and more dignified.

It is now totally obvious that syndicalism does not attain its goals by means of money dues, even if they are used for the needs of everyday life, but by means of dues in kind, composed of thought, will, energy, and hope, dues that must be paid with the engagement, action and responsibility of all the workers in order to achieve the individual and collective goods that correspond to man and to humanity, that is, to realize their emancipation.

With these brief suggestions, and trusting to your youth and your enthusiasm for the idea, your comrade fraternally salutes you.

Anselmo Lorenzo
Barcelona, September 8, 1911.

****

The Committee of the CNT
Elected in Barcelona on November 19, 1910

Josep Negre, General Secretary
Timoteo Herrer, Second Secretary
Miguel Permanyer, Third Secretary
P. Ferrer, Treasurer
Joan Martí, Accountant
Joaquin Bueso, assigned to oversee the establishment of the newspaper, Solidaridad Obrera
Rafael Ávila, Editor-in-Chief of Solidaridad Obrera
Emili Corominas
Joan (?) Esteve
J. Fernández
J. Roca
Joaquin (?) Solà
Miguel (?) Vidal
J. Vives
Francisco Ullod

Translated in January 2017 from Spanish and Catalan. Original title: “Primer Congrés de la Confederació Nacional del Treball (CNT) (Barcelona, 8, 9 i 10 de setembre de 1911)”.

Source: http://www.veuobrera.org/00finest/911congr.htm

Posted By

Alias Recluse
Jan 17 2017 18:43

Share

Attached files

Comments

Steven.
Jan 23 2017 16:27

This is fantastic thanks so much for translating and posting!

Interesting that there was a section on disabled members already (although hardly anything about women workers or gender equality)