Chapter 25: Summary

25

Summary

The grave, suicidal and outrageous betrayals that we believe have been clearly exposed in the preceding chapters, cannot be understood to be based on and must not be attributed to fortuitous events, circumstantial necessities or imperatives of the war that began on July 19, 1936, but must rather be understood as previously existing, very deeply rooted methods of activity and conceptions, or, more precisely, a pernicious characteristic that had contaminated the highest ranks of the Spanish workers movement, a characteristic which certain “celebrity” elements, who at that time occupied responsible positions in the CNT and the FAI, further accentuated with their shameful activities.

We must not commit the absurdity or the injustice of accusing all the anarchist militants of complicity in this treasonous surrender, because we know that many good comrades were swept aside by the authoritarian avalanche and those who were not shot as “uncontrollables” were imprisoned in the jails of “loyalist” Spain; but we are not exaggerating when we say that the failure and the stifling of the social revolution—which had such an auspicious beginning—was argued and decided in advance, in the secret meetings, held behind the backs of the majority of the working class and anarchist militants, in the halls of the government palaces. This assertion has its indisputable source in the political machinations that had been underway for quite some time; in the “reasonable propaganda”—as Santillán called it—that had been disseminated by the cenetista and faísta press in advance of the elections of 1936 that made it possible for the leftists to win, and even more distinctly in the liaison committee formed by the National Confederation of Labor and the Generalitat of Catalonia even before the military uprising.

It is therefore not the fruit of “circumstantial necessities”—a concept that was abusively conceived in self-defense—but the work of apostate and careerist elements who, basking in their literary reputation and in the posts that they filled, waited hypocritically for their chance to victoriously participate in the privileged legion of bureaucrats and thus to obtain the much sought after reward for their authoritarian ambitions and sentiments. These men had no anarchist roots at all. They were dominated by scepticism with regard to the possibility of a successful social revolution. They never wanted it and they opposed any attempt to make it happen, out of fear or convenience. They had already established their position on this question. It was a risky enterprise and far beyond their collaborationist convictions.

Taking a closer look at the analysis of their activities and the concepts that they revealed over the course of the events that we have commented on, we come to the conclusion that they have a particular tendency, which translates a faithful copy of other events and the activity of other men from now distant but not forgotten epochs. History repeats itself.

Let us take a look back in time. Let us go back to the year 1870 and there we shall see identical episodes, men, phrases, slogans and consequences.

A pioneer, an active militant and a valiant propagandist of anarchism—Bakunin—describes for us in the beautiful pages of his books—pages that we must re-read to refresh our memories, strengthen our spirit and reaffirm our convictions—the events that took place in France during that year, which are the same events that took place in Spain just recently.

Change the names, the date and the country and you will have a picture of Spain, with its personalities, its passions, its intrigues, its betrayals and the strangulation of the social revolution.

Let us see what Bakunin tells us in his letters to “a Frenchman”, published in the book, The Social Revolution in France:1

“All of them are sincere patriots of the State. Separated on so many points, they are completely united on only one issue: they are all equally political, all men of the state.

“As such, they only have faith in the regular means, in the forces organized by the State, and are all equally horrified by the prospect of the downfall, that is, in effect, the dishonor of the State, not of the nation, not of the people; a horror towards uprisings, towards anarchistic movements of the popular masses, which are the end of bourgeois civilization and the certain dissolution of the State.

“They want, then, to save France by the regular means only and by the organized forces of the State, only resorting as little as possible to the savage instincts of the multitudes, which becloud the exquisite delicacy of their feelings, of their tastes, and what is even more serious, that threaten their position and the very existence of the society of the fortunate and the privileged.

“They are forced, however, to resort to it, because the situation is very serious and their responsibility immense. A formidable and magnificently organized power has no other means of resistance than an army that is half-destroyed and an incompetent, brutalized and corrupt administrative apparatus, which only barely functions and is incapable of creating in a few days a force that it was not capable of producing in twenty years. It is therefore incapable of undertaking any serious effort, if it is not supported by the public confidence and assisted by popular sacrifices.

“They were forced to appeal to this sense of sacrifice. They proclaimed the reestablishment of the National Guard throughout the country, the incorporation of the Mobile Guards in the army and the arming of the whole nation. If all of this was sincere, they would have ordered the immediate distribution of arms to the people throughout all of France. But this would mean the abdication of the State, the social revolution in fact as well as in theory, and they by no means wanted to do that.

“This was so unappealing to them that if they had to choose between the triumphal entrance of the Prussians in Paris and the salvation of France by the revolution, there is no doubt that all of them, except for Gambetta and company, would opt for the former. For them the social revolution is the death of all civilization, the end of the world and therefore of France as well. And it would be better, they would think, to have a dishonored, dismembered France, momentarily subject to the insolent will of the Prussians, but with the sure hope of rising again, than a France that is forever dead as a State, killed by the social revolution.

“As politicians they had to face, then, the following problem: to issue a call to arms to the people without arming the people, but taking advantage of the popular enthusiasm in order to attract, under different names, many voluntary recruits to the army; under the pretext of reestablishing the National Guard, they wanted to arm the bourgeoisie, excluding the proletarians, and especially the former soldiers, in order to have a force powerful enough to oppose the revolts of the proletariat, who would be emboldened by the absence of the troops; to incorporate into the army the Mobile Guards, who are sufficiently disciplined, and to dissolve or leave unarmed those who were not disciplined enough and who displayed sentiments that were too red. Not to allow the formation of free military units except on the condition that they would be organized and led only by commanders belonging to the privileged classes: the Jockey Club, noble landowners and bourgeoisie, in a word, men of means.

“Lacking the coercive power to contain the population, they used its patriotic enthusiasm, provoked as much by the events as by their declarations and compulsory decrees, to preserve ‘public order’, disseminating among the population ‘that false and disastrous conviction’ that in order to save France from the abyss, from the annihilation and slavery posed by the Prussian threat, the people must, at the same time that they remain sufficiently enthusiastic to feel capable of the extraordinary sacrifices that would be demanded of them, for the salvation of the State, ‘remain calm, inactive, and place themselves in a completely passive way into the hands of the State’—and of the provisional government that has now taken control of the latter—and to consider as an enemy of France, and as an agent of Prussia, anyone who attempts to disturb this confidence and this popular tranquility, anyone who wants to provoke the nation to engage in spontaneous acts of public salvation, in a word, anyone who, not having complete confidence in the capacity and good faith of its current rulers, wants to save France by way of the revolution.

“As a result, there are today among all the parties, without excepting the red Jacobins and naturally also the bourgeois socialists, those who are intimidated and paralyzed by the fear that the really popular socialist revolutionaries inspire in them—the anarchists or, so to speak, the Hebertistes of socialism, who are also profoundly detested by the authoritarian communists, by the State communists, as well as by the Jacobins and the bourgeois socialists—among all these parties, without excepting the State communists, ‘there is a tacit agreement to prevent the revolution as long as the enemy is in France’, for the following two reasons:

“The first reason is that, since all of them can only perceive the salvation of France as coming from the action of the State and in the excessive exaggeration of all its powers and capabilities, they are all sincerely convinced that if the revolution were to break out now, it would have the immediate effect, naturally, of destroying the present State, since the Jacobins and the authoritarian communists would necessarily lack the time and all the indispensable means to immediately rebuild a new revolutionary State, it, that is, the revolution, would hand over France to the Prussians, ‘by first handing it over to the socialist republicans’.

“The second reason is merely an explanation and a further consequence of the first reason. They fear and detest equally the revolutionary socialists and the workers of the International, and, understanding that in the present conditions the revolution would inevitably triumph, they want at all costs to prevent the revolution.

“This position is uniquely balanced between two enemies, one of which—the monarchists—is condemned to disappear, and the other—the socialist revolutionaries—which threatens to be victorious, imposes on the Jacobins, the bourgeois socialists and the State communists the harsh necessity of secretly and tacitly making an alliance from above with the reaction against the revolution from below. They do not fear the reaction as much as they fear this revolution. For they see that the former is excessively weakened, up to the point of not being able to exist any longer without their consent, so they temporarily associate with it and use it in a very disguised way against the latter….

“What is the result? The radical opposition, doubly constrained by the instinctive repugnance that it has for revolutionary socialism and by its patriotism, completely nullifies itself and marches against its will behind this government which it reinforces and sanctions with its presence, with its silence, and sometimes even with its deeds and hypocritical expressions of sympathy.

“This forced agreement between the Bonapartists, the Orleanists, the bourgeois republicans, the red Jacobins and the authoritarian socialists, naturally redounds to the benefit of the first two parties and to the detriment of the latter three. If there were ever republicans working on behalf of the monarchist reaction, they are certainly the French Jacobins led by Gambetta. The reactionaries, driven into a corner, no longer feeling the ground under their feet, seeing all the old means broken in their hands, all the necessary instruments for imposing the tyranny of the State, have at this time become excessively humane and courteous, Palikao and Jerome David himself, so insolent yesterday, are today extremely affable. They shower the radicals, and especially Gambetta, with all their praise and with every kind of expression of respect. But in exchange for these courtesies, they obtain power. And the radical left is completely excluded from power.

“Basically, all these men who are today’s leadership in power: Palikao, Crevreau [Crémieux?] and Jerome David on the one side, Trochu and Thiers on the other, and finally Gambetta, that semi-official intermediary between the government and the radical left, cordially detest one another and consider each other to be mortal enemies, and profoundly mistrust each other, but, all of them are engaged in plotting together, they are forced to march alongside each other, or rather ‘are forced to give the appearance’ that they are going forward in agreement. All the power of this government is exclusively based today on the faith of the popular masses in their harmonious, complete and iron unity.

“Since this government could only survive as a result of the faith of the public, it is absolutely necessary that the people should have, so to speak, an absolute faith in that unity of action and in that identity of opinions of all the members of the government; for if the salvation of France must be achieved by the State, this unity and this identity is the only thing that can save it. It is therefore necessary for the people to be convinced that all the members of the government, putting aside all their differences and all their past ambitions, and absolutely setting aside all party interests, should frankly be concerned about nothing but the salvation of France. The instinct of the people is perfectly well aware of the fact that a divided government, pulled apart in every way, in which all its members are conspiring against all the others, is incapable of serious energetic action; that such a government would surrender the country instead of saving it. And if they knew everything that was really taking place within the current government, they would overthrow it.

“Gambetta and company know everything that takes place in this government, they are intelligent enough to understand that the government is too disunited and is too reactionary to deploy all the energy required by the situation and to take the necessary measures for the salvation of the country, and remain silent—because if they were to say what they know they would provoke the revolution, and because ‘their patriotism as well as their bourgeois sympathies reject the revolution’.”

***

All the posturing, innovative ideas and the fireworks of bellicose slogans that are being disseminated by the collaborators of “anti-fascism” were the logical consequence of the compromises made in the vicious circle of the political mania they had succumbed to voluntarily and in a premeditated way, and of all the crude justifications that reflected the simple fairy tales of minds dominated by confusion and by a demeaning passion, once they felt that they had failed in their role as rulers and once they knew that they had been transformed into reprehensible scum in the eyes of international anarchism.

Now that they are tumbling down the fatal slope of their betrayals, they do not feel the least trace of remorse, nor do they have any scruples about sowing confusion in all directions in order to find allies. They are not worried about the future. It was the present that offered them praise for their superman pedantry. Not only the connections and the bowing and scraping with and before the powerful, the politicians and the military staff but their performances as statesmen, diplomats, petty bosses and, at the same time, as lapdogs of those same individuals.

***

The most notable aspect of the activities and speeches of the “ministerialists” that deserves to be highlighted is the ease with which they enshrouded in obscurity an entire past of glorious and honorable revolutionary history that the Spanish proletariat could boast of and how they emphatically disseminated capricious theories and sophistical conceptions.

It is not possible to grasp the scalpel of critique to dissect the complex range of practices and ideas offered by the geniuses of “anti-fascism” and “democracy”, meticulously examining its ineffectiveness and its contents. The output of slogans and excuses was so copious that it would be a most daunting task to provide a chronological account of them. We must, however, make a special allowance for the thesis that was simultaneously upheld by Oliver, Santillán, Peiró and others, which can be summarized as follows: “the social revolution meant an anarchist dictatorship” or “revolutionary totalitarianism”. It might be said that once the activity of the authors of these ridiculous phrases became known, they were bereft of any value. However, since there are many people who find it easy to identify with the acrobatics of the ideal and model their thoughts and their words on the latest fashions—especially if the latter support their eccentric interpretations—we shall undertake a refutation of this notion.

It would be sufficient to offer some opinions from the prestigious pioneers and theoreticians of anarchism who addressed and resolved the social problem in all its enormous range. But we already know that for the “ministerialists” it is a heresy to feel admiration and respect for the “venerable beards” and the many years that they spent in study and research mean nothing to them, nor do they value the enormous amount of oral and written propaganda they produced; their outstanding activity in various popular insurrections; their cruel pilgrimage from one country to another and from one prison to another and their beleaguered life as militants.

According to the thesis of the “ministerialists”, the fact, once the social revolution breaks out, the capitalist monstrosity is completely destroyed; the population of a region, a city or a town then declares the complete equality of economic conditions; all the privileges that a small minority enjoyed by virtue of the imperative of the brute force of arms are repudiated and annulled; it is proclaimed that there is no more exploitation of man by man; the coercive means that the bourgeoisie today possesses are seized and the proletarian multitudes are encouraged to fully realize their well being and to defend their freedom and their right to Life—all of this signifies, according to the “ministerialists”, “anarchist dictatorship”, “confederal totalitarianism”, or “tyrannical ambitions”.

Captious and sensationalist arguments are crafted in order to disorient the workers, seeking to draw a parallel between the opprobrious reigning system, with its shocking economic and social inequality—where any fool who becomes rich by means of bold robbery or mental derangement and who dreams of surpassing Napoleon becomes, overnight, the master of the lives and the wealth of the people—with the structural harmony that would emanate from a system based on mutual aid, understanding and reason, justice and love for one’s fellow man.

An attempt was made to make the common people feel inferior who, having staged a revolt in favor of a complete social transformation, were supposed to adopt certain precautionary measures against the possible reactions of the drones of the human hive, who, if they would only grudgingly give up the lavish habits that they practice today at the cost of other people’s sweat and blood, would thus give themselves the opportunity to dignify their existence with honorable labor, for the benefit of the collective.

And in accordance with this sophistry, the “ministerialists” put the brakes on the events and chose to submit to those who tyrannized over, exploited and humiliated the people in the name of the principle of authority—the State—saying, with complete glibness, that they adopted this tactic “without considering themselves to be outside the mainstream of anarchism and without having abandoned their principles”.

***

The cruel consequences of the sudden initial reversal and of the betrayals executed by the cenetistas and the faístas during the Spanish conflict are now well known, since besides besmirching, with their maneuvers and shady deals and alliances, the greatest emancipatory epic of all time, they also led the Iberian masses to a senseless sacrifice and betrayed them by surrendering them to the authoritarian fiends.

It will be objected that this opinion of ours is the result of our “sectarian isolation”.

If, as Companys told them, “You have won and everything is in your power”; if, as Santillán confirmed in his book, The Revolution and the War in Spain, “the dissolution of the defeated army gave us a quantity of arms that made it impossible for the enemy to carry out any attempt to recover its lost positions…. we could have single-handedly imposed our absolute dictatorship, declared the dissolution of the Generalitat and established, in its place, the real power of the people”; if, during the events of May in Barcelona, when the people erected barricades and immediately dominated the entire city and, furthermore, could rely on approximately 100,000 armed militiamen in nearby provinces, the leaders of the CNT and the FAI had been men of integrity and anarchist convictions, there can be no doubt that in that particular region of Spain, encompassing Barcelona and Aragon, within a few months, days or hours, a system of social life based on the most sublime accord, solidarity and the just ideal of redemption would have been established—Anarchy—and the red and black flag would have flown above many buildings, the symbol of liberty and love for suffering and exploited humanity.

This is not just a dream. The veteran anarchist fighter, Emma Goldman, who was an eyewitness of the events in Spain, declared, several months after the beginning of the civil war:

“I am profoundly convinced, indeed I am certain, that if the CNT-FAI, taking into its hands and under its control, had blockaded the banks, dissolved and eliminated the assault guards and the civil guards, padlocked the Generalitat instead of entering it to collaborate, given a moral blow to the entire old bureaucracy, swept away its enemies near and far, today, one may be certain of this, we would not be suffering from the situation that so humiliates and insults us, because the revolution would have had to consolidate its logical course of development. Having said this, I do not mean to say that the comrades could have realized anarchy, but they would have been able to move in that direction, coming as close as possible to the anarchist communism they talk about here.”

We shall be told in response that if this had been attempted and carried out, all the powers—totalitarian and “democratic”—would have blockaded the emancipated territories and populations by land and by sea and, in addition, the “anti-fascist” political factions would have united to fight them and to suppress this revolutionary experiment.

However, did anything different happen? Were the anarchists not persecuted, massacred and imprisoned by all their enemies? Was there not an agreement between the totalitarian and the other powers to eliminate the hotspot of rebellion represented principally by Barcelona? And as for the “anti-fascists” of “loyalist” Spain, everyone knows about the outrageous personal intrigues carried out by all the wolves of politics, playing the game, some with the totalitarian countries and others with the “democratic” countries, but all of them with international capitalism.

It would have been more dignified, more heroic and more exemplary to devote their lives, all the lives that were lost, for the realization of the system of life that we anarchists yearn for, rather than diligently choosing to deceive the workers and volunteer to collaborate with the State.

R. González Pacheco was right when he wrote, upon his return from Spain, his leaflet, “Todo” [Everything], whose final paragraph reads as follows:

“At that instant of the world, whether yes or no, good or bad, only those who were cowards or weaklings could not contribute something. They are the ones who always take advantage of the defeats of the courageous and the strong. Those who, between the two extremes of the virile everything or nothing, of the leap towards the infinite or the return to the caves, remain in the middle, between two bold stances, which, for them, are two fears…. The people want everything. Anarchy is everything. Now and always, the anarchists for everything!”

***

The anarchist ideal has not suffered any kind of setback, nor has it been devalued with regard to its social greatness with the unfortunate and disastrous activity of the comrades of the CNT and the FAI during the course of the thirty months of the civil war in Spain. It is these comrades who have rejected its ideological conceptions, cast a shadow upon its beautiful revolutionary history and have demonstrated their incomprehension or their lack of knowledge with regard to the emancipatory basis that the anarchist idea encompasses.

Anarchy is virile action, creative unrest, responsibility, altruistic thought and goodness and complete freedom. It destroys prejudices, stirs the hearts of the faltering, wipes out border posts and capacitates men and makes them able to live together in an environment of frank camaraderie, mutual aid and fraternal affection.

To the extent to which historical events compel us to compare it with all the sociological doctrines that combat it and reject it, the brilliance of its structure and principles distinctly stands out, and it is perceived that as a product of the human mind it cannot be surpassed.

The anarchist ideal still radiates—with exhilarating flashes—beautiful rays of love and hope upon the consciousness of the beleaguered, sorrowful and downtrodden peoples, and these flashes merely represent the first glimmer of the red dawn of its redemptive dreams.

As for the collaborationist practices engaged in and policies advocated by the cenetistas and faístas, we are determined to see to it that they will neither flourish nor be instilled into the marrow of the FORist workers movement or in the milieu of the anarchist militants—on both banks of the Plata—which provide the FORist movement with direction and defend it, because both the former as well as the latter have been tested by experience and have learned lessons from the vast, imperishable economic conflicts and solidarity struggles which, by virtue of more than 40 years of organic federalist existence and energetic efforts to keep the banner of revolt and direct action aloft against Capital and the State, have affirmed, with a cherished optimism and an immense spirit of sacrifice, the true north of the Anarchist Communist goal.

State repression has often wreaked havoc among the proletarian FORist ranks; the confusionist current has often arisen to display its practice-oriented “innovations”, but the FORists have always been able to weather the reactionary tempest and neutralize the authoritarian inroads in their organizations. So, too, on this occasion, we must emerge victorious from the confrontation with the serious problems that the Iberian events have posed for the international proletariat.

***

In spite of the bitterness and skepticism that now characterize the attitudes of many proletarians, after becoming acquainted with all the details of the tragedy the brave Spanish people experienced and are still undergoing, we must not throw ourselves into the arms of desperation and inertia, or declare that we are defeated. There are defeats that are victories.

The facts, the red shafts of light that streak the panorama of the social struggle, which becomes more cruel and bloody the more intense it becomes, regardless of how discouraging and unfavorable they may seem, always leave a resplendent wake that illuminates the path that must be followed to reach the redemptive goal and prepare the peoples to trust more in their own efforts than in the promises of the parasites of politics who, with revolutionary posturing, lower themselves to the level of the multitudes in order to take advantage of their sincerity and generous natures in order to increase their own prestige, which they need in order to make the deals that will give them a better position among the privileged castes. Capitalism has its coffers well filled, in order to buy those who might disturb their plans for dominance and exploitation.

Thus, the anarchists face an enormous labor of training and sowing the seeds of rebellion in the consciousness of the working masses.

In order to destroy the confusionism that is being injected into the working class milieu by the betrayers of our ideal, it is necessary to become more active, to devote ourselves more tenaciously and more passionately to trade union actions. The FORist cadres must be on the lookout for the revisionist virus and must reinforce their ranks with new revolutionary contingents.

If the violent repression unleashed by the “democratic” States against our militants has not made a dent in our anarchist consciousness, the disaster undergone by the Spanish proletariat must spur us on to fight with more zeal for the emancipation of the human species. The future belongs to us and we must advance towards the future for Anarchy.

Manuel Azaretto
1939

Translated in May-June 2014 from the Spanish original, Las Pendientes Resbaladizas (Los anarquistas en España). Originally published in 1939 by Editorial Germinal, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Source of the Spanish text: The Website of the Fondation Pierre Besnard:
http://www.fondation-besnard.org/auteur.php3?id_auteur=360.