Revolutionary Spain: unionists vs politicians

An article by 'Vizzittelly' on the situation for revolutionary syndicalism in Spain. Originally appeared in the [i]Industrial Worker[/i,] February 14, 1933 (Vol. 14, No. 109, Whole No. 842).

Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 15, 2016

Occasionally the old Madrid Socialists put their senile heads together to devise new laws and devise more intrigue and intimidation through which they hope to suppress the revolutionary unions of Spain. But invariably these clandestine efforts against the working class are quickly shattered by the united action of the syndicates, whose splendid fighting qualities has aroused the admiration of all the militant workers.

Before the fascist De Rivera became dictator of Spain, the number of the revolutionary syndicalists there was put up to a million. De Rivera rode into power en he arms of the blackest reaction of Europe; the Spanish Catholic Church, the "very poor but very haughty" nobility and the degenerated members of the royal house. The Dictatorship was necessary. The "scum" was to be suppressed by all costs and De Rivera was the man. During the comparatively long period of the dicatorship the syndicalist element seemed to have been stamped out, but in reality it was only the revolutionary cry that was muffled, for with the passing of the dictatorship, in a very short time, the syndicalist unions numbered again to hundreds of thousands of members. This proved again the contention that the C.N.T. (the National Confederation of Labor) is too deeply rooted in the soil of Spain and in the hearts of its proletariat, and it will triumph.

The membership of the National Confederation of Labor—which embraces all revolutionary syndicalists—is put up to one million and three hundred thousands. It publishes many regional weekly and bi-weekly papers, also two daily papers of large circulation - The Solidaridad Obrera and the C. N. T., which is the official paper of the Confederation.

Syndicalism, as it is exemplified today by the C. N. T., differs in many respects from the pre-war syndicalism and the classic French type of it. One of these differences, and which will ultimately effect the whole structure of the C. N. T.—is that he syndicates must not be abolished, as was their prewar position, but they must retained and strengthened and be the units of production and distribution and the deciding factors of all social questions. Naturally, once upon such theoretical grounds the C. N. T. will more and more orientate towards more centralization and Industrial Unionism.

Deeply involved in the affairs and workings of the Confederation is the F. A. I. (Iberian Federation of Anarchists). This federation is claimed to have about 800 to 1000 groups, each group averaging six or five members.

According to these Anarchists the relations of their groups towards the syndicates is simply one of guidance and propaganda. That is, to keep the unions from falling into the hands of politicians and keep said unions on the revolutionary line. However, the contacts between the syndicates are more than ideological as it was shown by the expulsion of Pestana, the erstwhile secretary of the C. N. T. The case of Pestana and his group is interesting. Ostensibly his expulsion was occasioned by theoretical errors on the part of Pestana and his group. According to the F. A. I., Pestana flirted with the socialists and had become a conservative. The facts are, however, always Pestana stood against any outside control of the union no matter who they may be. He demanded even from the anarchists to keep their hands off the syndicates and fought against them, sometimes, just as savagely as he fought the communists. For a while the squabble seemed as if it would split the C.N.T. and as yet the matter of the relations of the F. A. I. to the C.N.T. have not been settled. All the editorial boards of the papers are now Anarchists and they also hold the most strategic positions of the unions.

Other organizations in Spain are the U.G.T..—Socialist--and the Communist Trade Union Unity Committee, which was organized for the sole reason of "penetrating" the syndicalist unions..

The socialist U.G.T. at first collected a large membership, but it was quickly discredited to the eyes of the workers for it became apparent that the sole aim of the socialist unions was to scab the syndicalists out of existence. Now the U.G.T. has not more than about 156,000 members.

As to the T.U.U.C. (communist) its membership is put to from 2,000, but the strength of this organization can better be judged, by the total circulation of their papers—the "Frenter Roho", which has a circulation of about 2,000 and the "La Masa" with a circulation of five to six thousand. There is still other group in Spain, the Troskyites.

Small as these groups may be, under the mask of friendship they have caused much harm within the C.N.T., and especially the one controlled by the "official party" which sabotaged all the efforts of the Spanish workers for no other reason than that they were directed by other organization than the communist "leadership".

Presently the eyes of all militant workers, tired of looking at the hopeless sterility of Russia, have sifted towards the other extermity of Europe. A syndicalist revolution in Spain holds possibilities. The reverberations of it may shatter the exclusive and conservative barriers of the English Trade Unions. It may even arouse from its stupor the once very militant French syndicalism. Portugal will surely go with Spain, so will Northern Africa. (The C.N.T. has organizers in those parts). And who knows, syndicalism is not dead in Italy, either.

But on the other hand, will the black crow of Italy shut its bulging eyes at a conflagration in Spain, only a short distance away? During the last riots in Spain, Mussolini said, "I can land 150,000 black shirts in Spain in 24 hourw." Or will the militaristic and reactionary present day Spain abide the company of a red Spain.

But the' revolution in Spain holds probably far greater possibilities than these. The future developments there may swerve the labor movement into a different course. Continuous, abortive efforts or an unsuccesful revolution may be the death-knell of present day syndicalism.


Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker February 14, 1933 (Vol. 14, No. 109, Whole No. 842)
Typed up by Juan Conatz for