The ideological essence of syndicalism - Galo Díez Fernández

Galo Díez Fernández

In this essay first published in 1922, Galo Díez Fernández, the National Secretary of the CNT, explains the importance of the rationalist education that was such a major part of the CNT’s propaganda at the time, with particular emphasis on the education of women and the moral regeneration of the workers.

The Ideological Essence of Syndicalism – Galo Díez Fernández

Essence and Matter

Dough without leaven, as you have often heard, will be bland, insubstantial, incomplete, and useless. In real life there are many things and many causes that, if their material part is not animated and divinized by a spiritual substance, would be crude and offensive. Life itself, reduced exclusively to its material part, would be irrational and not worth living.

We are saying that all matter needs something essential that gives it life, animates it, vivifies it, beautifies it or gives it form, and gives it direction and harmony, so that it is more acceptable and useful.

A tree without the sap that enables it to live and reproduce would merely be a log that could be burned or used as a fencepost. Statues and paintings without the intelligence and artistic skill of the sculptor or painter would be nothing but stones, colors or other materials without expression, useful for landfill or painting walls. Man without intelligence would be just another animal, and without blood he would be a piece of spoiled meat. Clay, limestone and sand, the completely material stuff from which windows are made, without the carbonate or sulfate that when fired with the other materials transforms them into a compact and manageable mass, and without the manganese that gives it color, would be a just a pile of debris that could be used to fill a hole. Likewise, workers organizations, if their sole aspiration, goal or end, were just to fight against what they consider to be the effects of their misery without attacking their causes and trying to abolish them, would be like a donkey that turns the millwheel, that spends its whole life going around in circles and never getting anywhere.

In the workers organizations whose members have not made their stomachs the supreme arbiters of all their actions, there are, as in all living things, a material part and an essential, mental or ideological part, call it what you will. If only the material part is developed, whether it be for the purpose of the conquest of wage increases or the reduction of working hours, it will never transcend the status of a kind of appetizer or antacid and it would imitate the donkey at the millwheel or the horse on the merry-go-round: that is, after several centuries of tenacious struggle, its members will still be the same as the day they started, a mass of exploited wage workers who can hardly satisfy their most pressing needs. And that is how it must be: if the worker, as a producer and a consumer, does not attack the very foundations of the unjust right of private property which allows a minority to appropriate the product of the majority and thus to obviate economic equality, the foundation of human harmony and fraternity and the source of real freedom and justice, every dollar and every penny that he makes as producer, will be immediately taken from him again in his condition as consumer, because the higher the cost of labor, the higher the price of the products on the market, so that after years of struggle, he will have done nothing but waste his time in inconsequential brawls and internal disputes only to find himself stagnating in the circle of exploited wage labor.

All of this is a consequence of confusing what is secondary, the materialism of making more money and working fewer hours, with the essential question, which is the abolition of private property. For achieving the former, you only need to engage in a few violent strikes; for the latter, you need to undergo the tragedy of revolution and since this is not, nor can it be, the work of this or that trade union, but of all the exploited and despised, the workers will have to associate for what is essential, for the great common effort for the revolution, together with all the workers. And since this cannot be done by means of saying the Lord’s Prayer, with atrophied brains or crossed arms, and because it is the only possible means of liberation, the workers organizations that really aspire to emancipation must devote the greater part of their efforts and activities to the propagation of revolutionary consciousness and will.

What I have said about organizations also applies to newspapers, books, and pamphlets: do not forget to include in your pages the most virile ideological and spiritual vibrations from which the essential is distilled, revolutionary doctrine and sap that gives life and invigorates the spirit of those who are held down by ignorance.

Altruism and self-abnegation must be the rule for each and every one in these times, so that, leaving behind all materialism, we will realize what is essential: the revolution, the only way to put an end to age-old slavery.

Channeling and Giving Direction

In the previous section I tried to show that matter without essence was lowly and crude, and bordered on the condition of irrational animals. I applied this point to try to show that the workers associations whose sole goal is making enough money to fill their bellies or who give this higher priority than what should be the primordial and fundamental issue—the conscious and resolute struggle against the basic principles of the prevailing economic inequality—will never transcend the status of so many stomach guilds, over the doors of whose headquarters should be inscribed: “Everything by the belly and for the belly.”

And precisely the same thing could be said of their newspapers, their spokesmen or professional agitators. Were their workerist or trade unionist literary stews not spiced and given taste by means of an ample amount of ideological sauce they would not be digestible. Those newspapers that from the beginning to the end do not talk about anything but this demand, this conflict, this official, this bourgeois, etc., etc.: the slogans on their mastheads that say “The Organ of the Workers” should also say “Their brains have descended into their stomachs and only by and for their stomachs do they think”.

We shall therefore continue to maintain that, for working class materialism, the vivifying sap of a just and human ideal is an absolute necessity, whose well-defined goals aim directly for the abolition of the classes and the inequalities that are the causes of the fratricidal battles in which humanity is today embroiled; and more than ever before, it is the case that, in these times when the entire world is suffering from the spasms of its insemination that, with rivers of blood, introduces into its entrails the engendering and germinating microbe of new ideals; in these times when the programmatic madhouse, with its shouts and roars, fishes in troubled waters and disguises itself with new titles and fancy names, there is a regrettable and dangerous degree of confusion.

Should or must the workers fall in behind the first person who comes along and offers a program, in these times when there are so many charlatans who present themselves as saviors and when there are even those who, their former medicines having failed, in order to make it appear that they are different, although they are the same, have altered their old clothes and changed their tone of voice? No; absolutely not. The twenty centuries they spent wasting their energies and sacrificing their lives in the service of mythological religions and political farces that only facilitated their usefulness as sheep to be shorn, should be of some use to the workers. Men must be judged by their actions rather than by their words: by their ideas rather than by the literature of their programs, by the essence, the substance and the clarity of their principles. Following this advice, a brief analysis is enough to enable us to understand that they can and must only accept as the guide to their progress towards emancipation, that idea whose principles lead them directly to emancipation and whose ways and means of struggle leave no room for the infiltration of the insincere, careerists and opportunists without even a speck of idealism and with an excess of egoism, those in search of comfortable jobs, fame and sinecures. And better yet, an idea that has proven its revolutionary quality.

Is it good enough to have found this ideal and to know that there are some people who are familiar with it and understand it? No.

Just as the river which, due to the weakness and unreliability of the walls and dikes that channel its waters, leaks here and there and these leaks further weaken and undermine those walls and dikes, and just as the boiler that leaks steam cannot generate enough pressure; so, too, in the case of thousands and thousands of men who form an army, however numerous they may be and however powerful they may seem, if their united action is only weakly channeled, if they do not flow in the same stream, their boldness as individuals will be of no help to them against a numerically inferior but more disciplined enemy, and they will have to retreat in shameful flight.

Thus, in order for the ideological currents that serve us as guides to be fruitful and vigorous, they must be well channeled and guided, to prevent, in case of a lack of coordination or if some forces should be cut off from the main body, any leak, any hemorrhage, and any failure to act as a disciplined whole.

The organizations that belong to the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo do not have to waste any time looking for an ideal guide, since they already have one: libertarian communism.

We shall carefully channel and direct our struggles and our activities; we shall carefully channel and direct education and action with regard to their principles; we shall be on the lookout to immediately rectify any missteps and plug any leaks, whether individual or collective, and then you will see how, with the least waste of energy and effort, their most likely revolutionary currents will speedily lead us to sail on the beautiful sea of our aspirations.

Let us begin at the beginning

Carrying on the work that we have proposed to undertake, the work that according to our principles must be the essential labor that the trade unions must address; after having affirmed that the entire project, if they really want to rapidly and consciously arrive at a goal of positive conquests and, invigorated by an unyielding justice; if they really do not want to squander their energies and immobilize their enthusiasms in that minor revolt of base aspirations in which their noblest desires have been strangled up until now, they must principally strive to ensure that their materialism is victorious but that it not absorb or replace the essential or the spiritual, the only weapons with which they can win the final battle, but, especially, to know how to properly channel it, to give it direction and to focus it on the principal goal: this is, in short, the summary of what I was trying to show in the previous sections; now we shall see, in this and in the following sections, if we can discern the broad outlines of what we understand must be the means and the goal of revolutionary syndicalism.

First of all, we must state that Syndicalism, although effective, extremely valuable and even indispensable, is no more than a means to achieve a sought-for goal; it is never the end in and of itself; it is something like the necessary vanguard, the scout and escort looking out for obstacles, of a column on a forced march towards the conquest of a position that is the key to final victory; it is the appropriate effect of a particular cause that, when the cause has disappeared, by a natural and logical law, will dissolve or concentrate in the idea or the principles that imbued it with life and vigor; it is the arm that by means of a forward impulse executes what the brain orders.

Syndicalism, in a material sense, is the aggregate of the trade unions that have certain orientations.

The trade unions are something like concentration camps where all the prisoners of an unjust regime of social iniquity voluntarily converge, but it attracts the majority of them, at least these days, with something more elevated and practical than the wretched aroma of the cattle yards; it attracts them with the noble intention of associating together and creating a power, to conspire, to drill and to train for the ultimate purpose of breaking the chains of the infuriating economic inequality, bonds that make it impossible for them to live together in Freedom, Justice and Fraternity without wigs or makeup.

They, and we, come driven forward or dragged along by twenty centuries of deceit, betrayals and disasters of all the religious and political systems that promised to exploit them, and they were exploited by the ignorant; they often changed their names, titles and systems, without changing their situation. But these twenty centuries of deceit and disasters, while causing them to lose their faith in everything, parties and people, that was not the product of their own efforts, nonetheless were incapable of serving as a strong enough purgative capable of undoing the tremendous surfeit of prejudices, routines and vices that have been amassed by the forces of a terrible education elaborated by religious fanatics, opportunist chauvinists, degenerate moralists, imbecile legislators and ruling class warmonger parasites.

This means that, just as people with wounds, ulcers and bodily illnesses go to the hospital; and just as those who are insane and suffer from mental debilities go to the madhouses and those whose poverty is stamped on their features and their clothing go to the poorhouses, so do those who are dispossessed and exploited, bearing the exhausting burden of their appalling moral, spiritual and material misery, go to the non-religious and non-political trade unions in the 20th century, and we shall see if goodwill does not flourish at the passage of this century.

What are we to do with such a painful reality? Attack it with tooth and claw at once? Prolong its misery in order to exploit its victims for particular ends as the others do? Thrust them into the line of fire with the same weapons, munitions and methods that they used in the long-forgotten parties or among the retinues of the leaders of military coups, without even taking cognizance of the use and development of new weapons? No. Just as in the case of the institutions mentioned above, the first thing that must be done with those who come to us is to strip them of their rags, give them a good bath and provide them with a good tonic; in short, give them the appearance of humans rather than human garbage.

That is the first thing that we have to do: we have to transform those who come to us in an almost bestial condition into men. We will begin by giving them a shower of rational education.

A shower of rational education

“In order to make men you have to start by treating all those who come with a shower of rational education”; this is how we concluded our previous section.

Undeniably, education is the fundamental basis of harmony, prosperity and social respect; but education in itself can be either the shining light that guides the individual towards the right to call himself a man, or it can be a narcotic that turns him into a manageable thing, an exploitable material or a puppet with no will of his own.

Can we avail ourselves of this swill or hogwash of official education, spiced with crumbs and leftovers of the education exclusively devoted to training bureaucrats, skillfully prepared by cooks who are acting at the behest and will of the “masters”? No. Absolutely not.

We cannot and must not continue to tolerate this straightjacket education that, distilled from a religion as absurd as it is traditional, transforms individuals into submissive, patient, cowardly, hypocritical, superstitious creatures and into all these abject and degenerate semblances of human-things: who seek refuge in mystery, in the unknown and the improvable: who slyly counsel patience, humility and resignation in the only real and palpable world, offering in exchange prosperity and joy in another, unknown and unattainable world. An education that wants to make men good, not from their own convictions, but out of the desire for or fear of the rewards and punishments that it promises or that it brandishes as threats: and which finally ends up accommodating to circumstances of all situations and systems, it facilitates not only with its complicity, but with its collaboration and its efforts, this unjust and criminal social inequality that is the cause of so many misfortunes, and this education is one of its strongest supports.

We cannot and must not accept as a good education the official variety which, clashing on most occasions with the truth, reason and Nature, and in constant promiscuous proximity with religion, makes man an automaton without will, principles or freedom, causing him to live in constant inequality and inferiority, annihilating his individuality and reducing him to a controllable, exploitable and contemptible material.

We cannot and must not continue to admit as acceptable this so-called secular education that is so lauded and bragged about by statist democrats and radicals, because the way it differs from the previous kind of education does not go beyond the abolition of the methods of the religious fraud, in order to increase the dose of another even more pernicious fetishism: that of the worship of the fatherland, at whose altars thousands and millions of men and dollars are sacrificed and which fosters racial and national hatred by setting up a barrier to the universal fraternal harmony of all men.

But we need to destroy the sentiments, dethrone the will and open the sluiceways to reason of those who, under the impulse of a flood of deception, attempt to block the channels of our project, so that their traditional prejudices do not neutralize their good intentions of renewal.

Anything that is done without this previous shower of education, will be unfruitful because the poison of the old passions and of the corrupting environment will weaken and will continue to taint the collective harmony that is so indispensable in every transformative labor. Without transforming individuals it is impossible to transform customs and principles.

What kind of education will we use to carry out this work? The kind that flees from pernicious sectarianisms and dogmatisms, the kind that is derived from Nature, and based on experimental science, the education that follows the paths of proven truths to find its rest in the domain of reason; in short, the education that is known by the name of Rationalist teaching.

Every individual must transform his brain into a laboratory where his decisions, initiatives and actions are constantly analyzed in order not to be an eternal follower. Every individual must work in accordance with the impulses of the dictates of his conscience and not under the spell of divine nonsense with offerings of childish eternal bliss or the threat of horrible tortures in an invented future. The individual must be good by conviction rather than due to fear or egoism: finally, it is necessary for the individual to have well grounded moral integrity, and when the individual achieves all of this, he will be a man because he will have become his own master, god and king. This can only be achieved in the forges of a rational education; because, to begin with, we consider that a shower of rational education is indispensable.

The mission of rational education in the trade unions

Considering the fact that people join the trade unions more by intention than by conviction and that they arrive burdened with a pernicious baggage of prejudices and passions, the essential labor is imposed on us of lightening their terrible load by transforming their good inclinations into conscious convictions, especially when we consider the fact that they have grown up in a vicious and corrupt environment, and it is necessary for them to express their personalities in anticipation of a regenerative and transformative ideal, and everyone knows that you can never offer any greater guarantee than that of one’s own self-sufficiency and example. This is the mission of rational education in the trade unions: to forge individuals in the crucible of their natural and rational truths and to return them to the collectivity, but to complete this mission is the higher labor of an entire generation, if one seeks in the worship of humanity a justice, a fraternity and a love that is more rooted in the heart than the lips; and of a vigorous revolutionary spirit and character always prepared to fight altruistically against the causes, the men and the means that are opposed to its advent.

As long as men do not recognize their rights and their duties, and the origin, the why and wherefore of things, they are ill prepared to fulfill their rights and duties or to command respect.

By virtue of a series of circumstances, among which education, tradition, ancient beliefs and social environment stand out, the individual, as a general rule, believes that his origin was due to the will or design of an invisible entity or spirit with its own laws and rules, and, divorced from all rational principles of the causes, incapable of understanding the enigma, in horrible confrontation with doubt, he vegetates by accepting, in whole or in part, these irrational laws and rules, and is more or less likely to live and die in witness to their cruelty. The rational education that knows no laws and rules other than those rooted in that immense whole called Nature, shows him that his origin or existence is the result of a natural law of procreation, continuity and transformation, and that his “ego” is his own god, and his conscience his own judge, and that this law is the only law upon which organisms regulate their physiological, sexual, sensory and social acts: and now we have in principle formed the man who is god and king.

By virtue of these same circumstances and divine rules, the individual who is ignorant of the origin of the elements and things and who accepts the stale social organization and its injustices, and immoral and inhuman principles as natural and indisputable designs, also tolerates with greater or lesser resignation the miseries and sufferings that issue from this merciless inequality, and restricts himself to at most demanding crusts of bread to fill his belly. Rational education shows him that the earth, like all the other natural elements, air, sun, light, etc., even if it was the exclusive properties of a god (admitting the assumption of this absurdity), just as if it was the result of the harmonious workings of Nature, is not, nor can it be, the exclusive property of any persons, but can only for the exclusive use and service of all, and therefore the principle of private property that prevails today cannot be anything but customarily legalized theft and exploitation carried out by a minority of people, sheltered by the ignorance of the others; that the earth with the help of the natural elements and the efforts of man, contains, creates and produces more than what man needs to live decently with respect to the material order; that money is nothing but metal, whose value, apart from its natural uses, is null if men do not grant it any other function; that everyone is born under natural law, without any other titles or honorifics than the simplicity of being “one more being” and with the same needs as consumers, they (the useful persons), by the law of life and reciprocity, must be producers. And with this we have in principle formed man, who is god, king and master.

By virtue of the two postulates and circumstances mentioned above, the individual tolerates a condition in which all the knowledge and scientific discoveries and the diverse lessons gained from the latter are monopolized by a minority of people and that this minority should exploit inventions and progressive discoveries for its own private benefit and to the detriment of humanity; he consents, and even elects other men, not any better than him, but just more clever, to assume responsibility for making unjust and inhuman laws that are then imposed upon him, and even if he is relatively happy, he lives surrounded by miseries, scarcities, outrages, hatreds and grudges based on class, race and national antagonisms. Rational education, after having shown him their origin, the why and the wherefore of things and the elements that science will teach him and that its advances are the offspring and product of the collective whole and that it is due to the latter, that no man must appoint himself the arbiter of the actions of others, unless he is a tyrant; and that poverty, ignorance and slavery, like class and race hatred, etc., are the effects of the cause mentioned above, our bad form of social organization, and to the extent that the latter is transformed these evils will be radically eliminated; and then individual freedom will have no other limits than those which impose mutual respect, and each person will have a full understanding of his rights and duties, and, having been ridden of the impediments of inequalities, will be able to satisfy all his physical and material needs, and all the hatreds and grudges will disappear and will be replaced by universal brotherhood, complete freedom and dignity, and a salutary well being. Man will have taken shape; man who is god, king and master, conscious of his rights and duties, or, which is the same thing, the anarchist revolutionary.

The education of women

This is an extremely important task that the trade unions, the syndicalists and many self-described anarchists have abandoned and it is one that must be tackled without delay if we do not want to allow the survival of a serious obstacle to our revolutionary labors and to the revolution itself.

Women, who have for ages been the most enslaved of the slaves, the lowest of the low; today, after twenty centuries, when we have arrived at civilization, are still slaves, mocked and scorned by tradition, gender prejudices, customs, laws and their own upbringing, and as if this were not enough, they also must be the slaves, except on rare occasions, of the arrogance, egoism and tyranny of the men, their companions.

Years ago, because of the muscular efforts required by labor and due to the traditional concept of their alleged weakness, except for agricultural labor, women were nothing but objects of luxury and display, flesh for the pleasure and service of men; their mission and domain did not surpass the bounds of the bed and the hearth. But today, thanks to the necessary advances, the simplification that technology has introduced in every kind of trade and profession, and also due to the severity of social struggles and to the ambitions and egoism of the employers, who would dare to deny that women have, by breaking through their old frontiers, invaded without a struggle, and even with self-interested collaboration, domains from which they had been forbidden until now? But this breaking of the old molds, which we cannot and must not oppose although we are aware of its drawbacks, has not only not been a step forward towards their liberation and independence, but has actually been a new means of augmenting their slavery.

The egoism and ambition of the employers, seeing women as more submissive than men, and faced with the ongoing revolts and demands of the men, seeking to kill two birds with one stone, saves a few dollars in wages and replaces the rebels by opening their doors on a basis of equality to women and children who are barely adolescents. In this new position, in this new system of being exploited for half the wage given to their husbands, sons or brothers, who are now unemployed, how many of these women have not only sacrificed their youth, their health and, what is worse, their honor as a result of bribes, threats or promises in the nooks and crannies of the factories or behind the windows of the filthy offices with the luxurious slime of the bourgeoisie or the playboy?

Furthermore, we must not forget that women comprise half the human race; that they are just as indispensable as the circulation of the blood for our existence; and finally, that, even when they are reduced to the role of companion, mother and housewife, we should not forget that they have a sacred and extremely important mission to fulfill and one that has a major influence on the attitudes of men.

Women have an extremely important influence on the development of the feelings of children; as they are thus so indispensable we must agree to the urgent need to work for their moral emancipation, so that they may in turn be transformed from an obstacle to a loving collaborator.

We do not believe it would be too bold to say that any attempt to free half of humanity while leaving the other half a slave of the prejudices, routines and deviations of the past, is unjust and dangerous.

Nor do we believe that anyone could doubt that women are an element of the highest degree of moral and material impact on the development and prosperity of an ideal and in the carrying out of the actions that are implied by that ideal, since we need only refer to the very close interest shown by religion and the church in maintaining control over the will and the sympathies of women, and the great influence that the confessional still exercises over women, in order to be convinced of this.

What observer or psychologist would dare to deny that in very many cases women play the role of a barometer for the actions of many men? Who can deny that the tears or the caresses of a woman often melt indomitable wills and lead to the abandonment of the most intransigent decisions? Who would dare to deny that women, due to her predisposition and her false concept of life, have accomplished great deeds and have even betrayed many men in social struggles and strikes?

Women, except for very rare exceptions, have always held men back in the moments of conflict when energy and decisiveness were most needed. We have always seen her crying over her lack of food in the corner of the kitchen and standing in the doorway of the house to prevent her husband from leaving and trying to fight for a better life. And we have also seen brave and resolute comrades who were not afraid to face gunfire surrender to the tears of their women.

And because this is true, the trade unions that seek to emancipate the workers and transform society by means of the revolution will have to deal with this question and must not rest until women, instead of being a burden and a ball and chain on men, encourage them to push forward towards revolution: and even more, to conquer their enthusiasms and collaboration for such a glorious enterprise.

Statistics

Having outlined in the previous sections, although perhaps in very broad strokes, what we consider to be the raw material, the sap and the essence, the determinate and driving force of all conscientious revolutionary principles, we believe we have provided an organized list of the most important elements, materials and nourishment that are within our reach, in order to carry out that work that we consider to be the indispensable precondition for any transformative revolution, which is to create spirits, temper wills and model feelings; now all that remains for us is to point out in a few lines what we consider to be the fundamental preparation and training with regard to the material order.

It is likely that there are those who find it strange that we have devoted seven sections to what we could call spiritual initiation and that we shall only devote a few lines to material preparation. We shall briefly explain our reasons for doing this.

Revolutions can take place in various ways and as a result of various causes. Among these we may describe two, to make it understood that they are the only ones that have any relation with our purposes. The revolution can be conscious, or, which is the same thing, the product of conviction or reason; or else it can be the effect of an explosion of indignation caused by an excess of poverty, tyranny or both at the same time, in which the stomach and instinct play a larger role than the brain. For the former, a pre-revolution of consciousness carried out by education is indispensable; those enlisted in its ranks are neither bribed nor persuaded by gifts, nor are they intimidated with threats and punishments, and when they succeed and achieve their goals, they do not stagnate or rest on the laurels of their victory. For the latter, all that is necessary is for hunger, injustice or abuse to be gradually concentrated, in order to provoke the violent explosion of hatred and indignation; those involved in such outbursts have on an infinity of occasions been plied with sham promises, bribed with gifts, or simply given bread by revolutionaries in order to placate their pangs of hunger and to keep them busy chewing, and if the revolution is successful, it is hard to expect anything else from them than, after the first clash, they should lie down and digest their meal.

The first kind of revolution is destructive and creative, it destroys in order to clear the way forward and creates in order to continue and to consolidate its gains. The second kind of revolution destroys in order to satiate itself, but once it is full, it stagnates without direction. We are indisputably supporters of the first kind of revolution. Does this mean that we agree with those who say that it is essential to wait before starting the revolution until all of humanity is prepared and capable of participating in it and worthily consolidating its gains; and in the meantime leaving the starving, the disinherited and the scorned to wait and endure their sufferings? Not at all. We, despite the fact that we understand that the more prepared and capable we are for carrying out the revolution, the sooner it will be over, the more easily it will take place and the less violence will be required—and its results will be more productive and more secure and its consolidation will be more firmly established—nonetheless understand that we must capitalize on any favorable opportunity to launch the revolution and even provoke it; in addition, we believe that we must make a little revolution every day, that we must engage in collective training for the revolution; without, of course, confusing the work of the revolution with the brawls of troublemakers or with just any individual violence, or much less with the systematization of procedures concerning the results of which we believe we have been sufficiently disillusioned.

These training exercises, just like the way they are directed, are intimately linked to the material part of revolutionary education and are fully and clearly determined in the tactics and procedures recommended for the economic question by Revolutionary Syndicalism, which is currently embodied in the Confederación del Trabajo of Spain; strikes, boycotts, union label, sabotage, etc., and because most people are familiar with them, we do not believe it is necessary to go into details about them and comment on them here.

We have, however, claimed and sought to prove that the revolution is indispensable for human emancipation; furthermore, we have attempted to show that without the revolution all proletarian and human demands for positive change will never amount to anything but the status of the donkey at the millwheel that, after going around in a circle thousands of times, is always in the same spot because it is harnessed around its neck by a yoke; having demonstrated this, we logically conclude that the essential task of Revolutionary Syndicalism must be to channel consciousness towards this end and to temper spirits for its realization: but we have also claimed that we are enthusiastic proponents of revolutionaries who are capable of carrying out a revolution and sustaining it. And because we have until now only explained the way to create consciousness so that it is inclined towards the revolution and how to create spirits capable of realizing the revolution, in order to complete our mission we believe we are obliged to explain what in our judgment can serve as the fundamental basis for consolidating the revolution, especially in light of the useful lessons provided by Russia. We shall now briefly set out to do so:

We have often heard the old refrain, “man does not live on bread alone”: with regard to the revolution, however, reversing the terms, we should not forget that without eating man cannot live and that hunger is his worst enemy; what we mean by this is that, if on the day after the revolution confusion and hunger are added to the numerous natural enemies of the revolution, as a result of a lack of information with regard to the collective production and consumption, imports and exports, distribution and organization of supply, the result will be that, even the majority of those who helped us to carry out the revolution will turn their weapons against us if we are not prepared to provide them with even the sparse rations they enjoyed the day before. This would imply not just the delay of the moment of our liberation but also the discrediting of our principles.

How can this be avoided? We understand that the means to avoid this outcome is very simple; by initiating, practicing and encouraging in the trade unions what is called statistical work, not only on the local and national levels, but also on the international and world scale. Syndicalism must know how much, how and where things are produced in the world, at least for those things that are indispensable for human life; with what materials and what quantity of them things are constructed that are not natural products; what means we depend on to transport them; if there is a deficit in production in one region or nation; if there is a surplus in other regions or nations; what land is most appropriate for certain products, etc. Once these things are known by the trade unions and fully studied by their members, not only will we be able to answer the employers when they say they cannot grant one of our demands, but we will not have to be afraid that on the day after the revolution confusion and hunger will cause us to be the targets of dissatisfaction.

We believe we have explained clearly enough what we consider to be essential and materially indispensable for launching and consolidating a revolution, and we shall conclude by saying that if syndicalism proceeds in the channels we have indicated, it will not be long before the greatest and most conscious revolution that the world has ever seen will take place; if it does not, do not come to us asking for help when it drowns in its own materialism. The anarchists already gave the necessary advice; as much as is within our power, we shall continue to follow our road without looking either to right or left, without looking backward on how we got this far.

The fruits and benefits of rationalist education

We shall now briefly and very generally describe the mission of rationalist education as a trade union weapon; now that we have traced the basic outline of its results, we think it advisable not to overlook another series of its fruits and benefits, of both a moral and a material order, which it can provide.

It is undeniable that, with regard to the constitution of the trade unions and the necessary coexistence of the workers in comradely association, there has been a change for the better in terms of the practices, habits and inclinations of many workers; ignorance, vice, emotional outbursts and especially that self-love and misconceived manliness that leads men go about hitting and stabbing their class brothers, has been dealt a hard blow. Just a few years of trade union association has cured more social ills than centuries of Christianity, codes and laws.

All of this is true; but to be honest, we must confess that, unfortunately, a great deal remains to be done. Moral integrity is one of the virtues that men can most proudly display and it is especially important for the guerrilla volunteers of sincere ideals, for whom it serves as a guarantee, whose mission is to find a way forward amidst ignorance and tradition, following those paths that were previously broken in by so many traitors and careerists, who left in their wake so much mistrust, discouragement and disillusionment. Anyone who has spent any time in the trade unions will undoubtedly be able to appreciate, especially in these times, so much will, enthusiasm and self-denial; a brilliant record of achievements as a trade unionist and a worker, but still deficient for a man and a thinker, and we are not saying that actions performed outside of the boundaries of trade union affairs only pertain to private life, no, that could be excused, but we are referring to those who strive to accomplish something else, those who are convinced that the social transformation cannot and will never be achieved by paying union dues and complying with other rudimentary resolutions of the assemblies: in short, those who call themselves libertarians or conscious syndicalists do not, cannot and must not have private vices that are the foundations of hypocrisy, amorality or degeneracy.

You cannot preach fraternity and then be nitpicking, vindictive, complaining, troublemaking, slanderous or envious. You cannot brag about being a lover of freedom and a fighter for emancipation and then be an uncompromising bully in your social relations among your friends and at meetings, and at home, with your companion and children, a tyrant and inquisitor, when not a miserable exploiter. You cannot boast of being enlightened, cultivated and regenerative, when you are an immoral, gambling, vice-ridden, degenerate alcoholic; and there are unfortunately enough of these types, especially the last-mentioned, in the ranks of those who brag about being modern revolutionaries and regenerators, and even worse, among those who are known as propagandists or tribunes—the press, etc.—of the new good. And because we understand that we have to preach, to make converts, and to inspire confidence by way of setting a good example and displaying moral integrity in every field of life, we can see how beneficial our adult education night classes in the Trade Unions will be.

It is among the trees that they were tamed and guided when they were young; we could do the same thing by educating the children of the workers in our own schools and in our own way. We have to remove them, if they show some interest in anything and if we appreciate it, from those schools where, after their brains are stuffed full of lies, absurdities and fantasies, the state, the bureaucracy, the clergy and the bourgeoisie domesticate them and mold them according to their fancy; where that whole dung-heap that includes bootlickers, snitches, cops, prison guards, monks and scabs is manufactured. We have to prevent the egoism, self-love and sense of status which helps the bourgeoisie, which does so out of ignorance or false education, to implant within our ranks every variety of lackey, flunkey, thug and stooge that, for a miserable day’s pay, for a few crumbs, gun in hand, and at the risk of his life, will defend the usurping tyrant of his own interests by shooting at his brothers.

It is because of ignorance or false education that such absurd acts are committed by humanity, acts that will astound future generations. It is because of ignorance or false education that the disinherited build palaces while they live in caves or attics; construct universities while they do not have access to a good school; produce rich feasts and beautiful clothing, while they eat garbage or crusts and wear rags and tatters; build prisons, asylums and hospitals so that only they, the kings of production, should be imprisoned or grow old or be mistreated by any despicable wretch. They shoulder their rifles and march without protest to kill and be killed by other men, slaves like themselves, without knowing why, or for whom they do so, while nonetheless fawning and respectful towards those who exploit and mock them.

Thousands and thousands of workers do this and much more as a result of ignorance and false education. Can anyone deny the fruits and benefits that rationalist education would provide for revolutionary syndicalism with its power to destroy errors and lies?

Galo Díez Fernández
National Secretary of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo

Published by El Vidrio (the journal of the Spanish Federation of Glassworkers) in Gijón, 1922.

Translated from the original Spanish in February-April 2013.

Source: http://www.fondation-besnard.org/article.php3?id_article=667