The Federation of Collectives of Aragon
One of the most fruitful experiments conducted by the anarchists during the first months of the war in Spain was undoubtedly the Federation of Collectives of Aragon, where the transformation of capitalist society into a system of social life characterized by solidarity and justice was to some extent actually realized.
Despite all the compromises and backroom deals with the Marxist politicians, a life of freedom, mutual aid and communal labor was assayed in Aragon. The peasants of Aragon, who had a long history of rebellion, were rapidly able to appreciate the difference of the methods, the practicality of the anarchist ideas and the nobility of the social structure without masters, local political bosses, priests or exploiters.
It is true that in Aragon, the authority principle was not totally eliminated, since the anarchists, in their suicidal offer of cooperation and alliance with the politicians, allowed the preservation of disguised state forms in the Council of Defense, but it must be acknowledged that they made the landlords and feudal lords disappear in order to collectivize the land for those who worked on it.
As we said previously, however, the healthy contentment and satisfaction of the Aragonese peasants would not last very long, because the government that had fled to [sic: “from”] Madrid and was reborn with the participation of the “ministerialists” of the CNT and the FAI in Valencia, whose president, under the circumstances—by order of Russia, which was pressured to do so by the “democratic” powers—was the puppet Negrín, decided to abolish the last vestiges of the social revolution, the Collectives of Aragon, and dispatched an expeditionary force under the command of the communist Lister to do the bidding of international capitalism and the “anti-fascist” powers.
This maneuver, which was urgently implemented, is described, with real bitterness, by comrade Ascaso, in an interview with a journalist for Le Reveil, of Geneva, excerpts from which we reproduce below:
“Naturally, we held discussions, we examined the danger, we met more than once, but moderation and a wait and see attitude, and a desire to find a compromise solution, always prevailed. It was necessary to hold discussions, to conciliate, to make a deal with Negrín, to go to Valencia, to meet with the various ministers, etc. And then always to wait, not to become alarmed, not to respond to provocations, in order to experience a debacle, which was the inevitable result of such methods.
“… As I already told you, I and the five comrades who, with me, formed the majority of the Council of Aragon, all agreed. We would have resisted, we would have remained at our posts and assumed responsibility for whatever would have happened. Regardless of the defeatist position of the CNT, we would have defended our Council with arms in hand, because that is how we understood the revolution and we are still to this day the same anarchists and revolutionaries that we were in the past. And I will tell you even more, so you will understand the refined Jesuitism of the politicians. While I was in Valencia on an urgent mission, having been given assurances that we could come to an agreement, the division commanded by the sinister Lister, the communist, marched on Caspe, and I was arrested at the gates of Valencia, after having spoken to the ministers. I am sure that if I had been able to reach Caspe, Lister would not have been able to dissolve our Council, since all the confederal divisions were at our disposal.”
That is how the experiment of the Aragonese collectives ended, which, while they may have suffered from serious operational defects, set the standard that showed that the anarchist ideal had ceased to be a utopia in order to instill in the minds of the peasants the conviction that the capitalist system had denied them the right to Life.