Barcelona, May 1937: manifesto of the communist left

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May 16 2007 07:16
Black Badger wrote:
the insurrectionary anarchism of the Makhno and/or Bonnano type,

Are you seriously trying to claim there is a similarity? There isn't, apart from the word insurrection. Have you been taken in by Anarchy/AJOD? They are full of shit. Also, saying that something is an ideology does not constitute a valid critique. Nor does using the word "voluntarism".

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May 16 2007 15:01

Saying someone or something is "full of shit" doesn't constitute a valid critique. I have never used the word "voluntarism." My explanation of how I understand and use the term "insurrectionary" is explained in my previous post. Maybe you should have read that before you opened your yap.

Perhaps I should explain a bit more about the difference between anarchism as ideology and anarchy as a social condition. The ideology of anarchism prescribes certain organizational forms and certain types of society and certain areas of the struggle against the state and capitalism. In order for anarchism to become a reality, an anarchist society needs to have a majority of anarchists living in it.

The condition of anarchy is one that exists without the state and capitalism and you don't have to an anarchist to fight for it or live there. Any person who celebrates an existence that refuses hierarchy, politics, an economy, and promotes voluntary cooperation and mutual aid can live there. No ideology necessary (indeed, preferred).

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May 16 2007 20:16

Right and that has what to do with Makhno?

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May 16 2007 20:43

black badger:

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My understanding of insurrectionary anarchism is that its partisans organize to attack, not defend. Anarcho-syndicalism is, like other union organizational forms, defensive; what few offensive activities syndicalists engage in are generally limited to acts of sabotage and/or small-scale expropriations. Even the widespread expropriations that accompanied the Spanish civil war and revolution were essentially defensive (the questions needing answers from the cenetistas were: how to create an armament industry to supply the defeat of the anti-Republican clerico-military coup? How to provide the necessities of a socialist [that is, state-controlled] economy in cooperation with other, non-revolutionary unions and parties?).

The CNT capitulation to the Popular Front had something to do with mass-based syndicalist politics, simply because the CNT was a mass-based syndicalist political movement whose majority capitulated to the anti-revolutionary policies of the Popular Front. I am reluctant to draw linear causal analyses and conclusions from that fact, however. There were always tensions between anarchists and syndicalists within the CNT. They were often, but not exclusively, along the lines of reformists versus revolutionaries, and many of those tensions carried over into the FAI—especially after 1932, once the FAI had completed its self-described task of ridding the CNT of the most reformist elements.

in july-august 1936 the CNT unions, on the initiative of the local activists, expropriated over 18,000 enterprises, millions of acres of land, thousands of urban buildings, in fact most of Spain's economy. it is utterly ridiculous to describe this as "defensive". they expropriated: the entire motion picture industry, the opera, dairies, the entire haircutting industry, the entire furniture making industry, the department stores, the garment and textile industry, the railways, the motor freight industry, the port, the entire merchant marine, the public transit systems, created a socialized health care system, expropriated all the hospitals, created large numbers of child care centers. this was a vastly more economically "offensive" accomplishment than what happened in Ukraine. the Makhnovist movement did very little in the way of constructive work, in part because things never stabilized and they were focused on the fighting.

you still repeat your distinction -- without explaining it -- between "anarchists" and "syndicalists", hinting that the capitulation to the Popular Front government was the product of the "syndicalists" rather than the "anarchists". Yet i gave evidence to the contrary,
based on the key debate at the CNT regional plenary of July 23, 1936 at the Casa de Cambo in Barcelona.

The key group who pushed within CNT for the overthrow of the regional government of Catalonia in July of 1936 were the unions of Baix Llobregat, a gritty blue collar industrial belt south of Barcelona. The people who argued a timid line of collaboration with the Popular Front parties and appealed to fear and interpreting union power as "dictatorial" were two famous anarchist writers who weren't members of the CNT, Montseny and de Santillan, who were there as official representatives of the FAI Peninsular Committee.

Also, saying that the majority of the CNT "capitulated to the Popular Front" is true but you don't really offer a good explanation for why that might have been so. Referring to "mass based syndicalist politics" wouldn't be a plausible explanation. That's because there wouldn't have been a libertarian revolution in Spain without "mass-based syndicalist politics". and the people who opposed Popular Front collaboration were equally rooted in "mass-based syndicalist politics" -- the unionists of Baix Llobregat in July 1936, the Friends of Durruti group in 1937.

The working class cannot liberate itself from the class system without its own organizations through which the class en masse are in control. It can't be liberated by substitutionist means. An insurrectionary vanguard over which the mass of the working class has no effective control is a substitutionist approach, as far as I can see.

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May 17 2007 01:36
Black Badger wrote:
Saying someone or something is "full of shit" doesn't constitute a valid critique. I have never used the word "voluntarism." My explanation of how I understand and use the term "insurrectionary" is explained in my previous post. Maybe you should have read that before you opened your yap.

Perhaps I should explain a bit more about the difference between anarchism as ideology and anarchy as a social condition. The ideology of anarchism prescribes certain organizational forms and certain types of society and certain areas of the struggle against the state and capitalism. In order for anarchism to become a reality, an anarchist society needs to have a majority of anarchists living in it.

The condition of anarchy is one that exists without the state and capitalism and you don't have to an anarchist to fight for it or live there. Any person who celebrates an existence that refuses hierarchy, politics, an economy, and promotes voluntary cooperation and mutual aid can live there. No ideology necessary (indeed, preferred).

1) Sorry, my voluntarism comment was directed more at Alf and co.
2) You're wrong about a-s not being about attack. Ever heard of revolutionary gymnastics? How can a revolutionary general strike be called defensive? That is what the CNT was preparing towards (this was unfortunately interrupted by the need to defend against the fascist coup). However the expropriations, etc., made during the revolution were once again attacks. (Gatorojinegro puts it better in the post above this one.)
Attack or defense is a question of tactical necessity, not a permanent political position - in 1917, Makhno was in a position to attack while the CNT was for most of its existence in a position of defense (although I don't quite see how striking for better conditions is defense - striking to protect conditions is defnese but the former isn't). Insurrectionists make a big point of attack but that emphasis doesn't make much sense, except as a critique of the quietism of certain anarchist groups.
3) AJOD is pro-famine, anti-organisational, and tolerates people who romanticise fascism and paedophilia. But let's ignore that for now.
4) To achieve anarchy as a social condition surely requires some kind of method and analysis, or are you a passive observer just waiting for anarchy to spontaneously occur? If the former, that is anarchism. An anarchist society doesn't need a majority of anarchists, it needs people who "refuse hierarchy, politics, an economy, and promote voluntary cooperation and mutual aid" (they sound like anarchists to me...) In other words, I fail to see any difference between your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, except that apparently you are in favour of vagueness - yes, certain organisational forms (note the plural) are necessary, isn't that blindingly obvious? Once again at the end of your post you're using ideology as a magic word.

Gatorojinegro, interesting stuff about the Baix de Llobregat. I didn't know that, normally the history focuses on the debate going on around the "leaders".

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May 18 2007 16:53

Response to gato: The question of expropriation is one thing; the question of what happens next is another. The expropriations carried out with our without the urgings of cenetistas was indeed widespread. However, these expropriated businesses and agricultural collectives were almost immediately—and without much protest—subsumed and integrated into an explicitly socialist (that is, as I previously mentioned, state-controlled) economy. Certain segments of the agricultural collectives, especially in those areas protected by the Council of Aragon, were more autonomous, but those were the exceptions. Who knows what might have happened had the civil war ended differently? Would the CNT collectives have disentangled themselves from the clutches of the Catalan and Central governments? Would they have moved away from self-managed wage-labor and commodity exchange?

The expropriations represented huge part of the Republican economy and they were instrumental in giving the Republican politicians a lot to worry about apart from the power on the streets of the armed proletariat, but the creeping reversion to government control of the entire economy began almost as soon as the creation of the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias. The acquiescence to government oversight and eventual control of
the economy proceeded with as much speed and lack of practical CNT objection as did the reconstitution of the functions of government. So yes, I would still call those expropriations defensive, as were the general strikes that defeated the generals’ rising. Neither the general strikes nor the expropriations directly attacked the state or capitalism with the explicit goal of destroying them. This statement should not be considered a condemnation; I have great respect for all those who rose up against the generals, the Church, and the landowners (as I do for all those who try to make revolutions). But without the goal of an anarchist future, which the CNT had explicitly adopted at the Saragossa Congress a mere two and a half months earlier, the CNT-FAI (and all the other revolutionaries who were not affiliated with either) were pulled into the realm of statecraft, compromise, and collaboration with their declared enemies on the Left. All they could do was try to defend their gains (the expropriations, the control patrols, the transformation of social relations) from each successive insinuation of state control and the steady erosion of all forms of revolutionary autonomy. They were consistently outmaneuvered by more experienced politicians (friend and enemy alike), and were completely unable to maintain, let alone extend, those gains. So yes, unfortunately, that’s defensive.

The distinction I’m drawing is that between reformists and revolutionaries. I wrote that this distinction was “often, but not exclusively” between anarchists and syndicalists. Whatever “hints” you detect are those of your imagining. The capitulation to the Popular Front was the product of reformists; anarchist and syndicalist reformists of the CNT. Bringing up the exception of the delegation from Baix Llobregat is significant. Among the hastily gathered participants in the regional plenary, they were the only ones who argued in favor of “going all the way” toward the CNT’s stated goal of Libertarian Communism. That they were subsequently dissuaded by some “influential militants” says a lot about the dynamics of peer pressure, unswerving loyalty to the organization (whether the form, the content, or both), charismatic leadership, and the power of persuasion found in unscripted oration. Those problems are endemic and intrinsic in mass-based organizations, anarchist or not.

The fear of dictatorship originating from a majority organization of a majority of the regional population (that is, the CNT) was objectively unfounded, yet the “influential militants” of whatever organization (and the FAI was a mass-based organization as well, with upwards of 20 thousand members by that time) were able to convince the majority at the regional plenum—as well as a majority of the CNT nationally (and their uncritical supporters internationally)—that collaboration with the Catalan and Central governments was the only way forward for their revolution. That revolution had been made without—and in spite of—those very authorities, and largely without the “influential militants” but somehow the majority of cenetistas were convinced that becoming allies with forces who until then had been their implacable foes, would be the only way to guarantee and extend their revolution.

Nowhere have I said anything about an “insurrectionary vanguard.” That’s a red-and-black herring.

Response to 888: Sure I’ve heard of “revolutionary gymnastics.” And as I’m certain that my comrade gato can confirm, the “influential militants” of the CNT roundly condemned those who practiced it.
The Makhnovist movement didn’t get started until the spring/summer of 1918 by the way, but what’s one year more or less among friends?

I have no idea where you get the idea that I have no analysis and no method. Similar to the comment on “voluntarism” you must be thinking about somebody else. I thought my position was clear, but I’ll repeat it: I am in favor of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid; I am against hierarchy, politics, and economy. My method is consistent critical analysis of current conditions and the ways revolutionaries (anarchist or otherwise) try to destroy those conditions. I engage in critical discussions with other interested people (mostly in person or in the pages of periodicals, but more recently on the web); my goal is not to “win” arguments or show how others are wrong, but to bring up critical questions and interpretations. I have a particular perspective based on critical appraisal. I am always prepared to engage in struggles, as I have in the past, where people can gain increasing confidence in their own abilities to control their own lives (whether it’s a labor action around pay or benefit increases, or at least not decreases—I am a union member after all—or a rent strike or a protest against police brutality, there’s always a potential to connect those practical goals with wider critiques of capitalism and government). In other words, and contrary to your absurd allegation, I’m not just hanging out passively observing, and waiting for some magical spontaneous moment of mass self-enlightenment and insurrection. I have never trusted things to “sort themselves out” spontaneously; anarchy must be deliberate and consonant with the desires and goals of the people involved.

Even though you insist on bringing it up, I’m happy to ignore—for now—your by turns offensive and amusing—but most importantly inaccurate and dishonest—parodies of what and who is printed in Anarchy; A Journal of Desire Armed (you forgot the last word in the title).

I’m sure that the people who post on this forum who refuse to call themselves “anarchists” take umbrage to your inclusion of them under the anarchist label. Whether they call themselves libertarian Marxists, or council communists, or anti-state communists, or left communists, or whatever else, they have deliberately and specifically chosen those appellations. I recognize them as being against (most) hierarchies, against the state, against capitalism, and against politics. Therefore they are my allies. But they are certainly not anarchists—not because I say so, but because they say so. What I call “anarchy” they would call “communism” but who cares? It’s the condition that I want to live in, not the label.

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May 18 2007 20:57

Reply to BB:

I think you should give us some criteria for when a struggle is "defensive" versus "offensive". of the massive expropriations of Spain's economy:

Quote:
Neither the general strikes nor the expropriations directly attacked the state or
capitalism with the explicit goal of destroying them.

This seems obviously incorrect to me. The expropriations were called socializations. Their aim was to carry out the Zaragoza program. In many industries they obliterated distinctions between firms, closed down many small facilities with poor working conditions or which were uneconomic. They were clearly aiming at creating a socialized economy to replace capitalism. of course they didn't interpret "socialization" in a state socialist sense.

Also your attempt to distinguish "influential militants" from the people who carried out the expropriations isn't clear. An "influential militant" is an activist or someone who has been elected as a delegate or to some other position in the union. The expropriations of industry were initiated by the activist layer of the CNT local unions. The shop steward committees converted themselves into workplace administrative councils.

It's true that the higher committees -- national committee, regional committee of Catalonia -- didn't call for these expropriations to happen. Maybe that's what you mean.

Quote:
these expropriated businesses and agricultural collectives were almost immediately—and without much protest—subsumed and integrated into an explicitly socialist (that is, as I previously mentioned, state-controlled) economy.

No, the state didn't gain control til after the defeat suffered by the CNT and revolution in May 1937. Those events were triggered by the Communists' use of the police to seize the CNT-managed telephone system. State control advanced forward after that partly due to increased Communist power, but also due to dependency of the worker-managed industries on state credits. This means the failure to get rid of the state would ultimately come back to subordinate the industrial self-management. But this was a longer and more tortured and conflicted process than you describe.

The earliest attempt to circumscribe the revolutionary initiatives of the CNT in regard to restructuring industry was the collectivization decree of October, 1936, which legalized takeovers that had occurred in workplaces of 50 or more employees. But the CNT simply ignored the fact that legalization of the takeovers of the smaller businesses didn't happen.

Quote:
the CNT-FAI (and all the other revolutionaries who were
not affiliated with either) were pulled into the realm of statecraft, compromise, and
collaboration with their declared enemies on the Left.

Here i think you don't have a good grasp on the task that faced the CNT in the revolution. The working masses had to be unified if they were to succeed in liberating themselves, in this case because they needed to unify to defeat the fascist army. There were two possible ways to do that being advocated at the time. The Communists were beating the drum for the Popular Front and rebuilding the state, proposing a topdown unity of leaders through the state. The alternative way to unify the working class would have been to construct some sort of workers congress by regions and nationally in which all the mass organizations of the immediate producers would be present, such as the UGT and FOUS (POUM union) in Catalonia. In other words, the answer to the charge that a CNT takeover would be a "dictatorship" (Montseny's appeal to oppose CNT power) would be to invite the other unions, that way, the other viewpoints that had an authentic base in the working class, even if minoritarian in Catalonia, would not be frozen out. Moreover, at the Zaragoza congress the CNT had commited itself to a "revolutionary workers alliance" with the UGT. What could this mean if not building new institutions of popular power jointly with the UGT? Although the CNT was the majority labor union (majority of union members), it was only a slight majority throughout Spain, and was a minority in Asturias and Castille. The CNT members knew they would have to come to an accommodation with the UGT.

But your reference to the CNT's enemies here sort of fails to make a distinction between the other Left political tendencies in the working class and the class enemies. So you're lacking a class analysis of the revolution here. After all, there had been bad blood between the Left Socialists and POUM and the anarchists in the '20s and early '30s. But they needed an accomodation with these "enemies"...who very shortly became allies in the struggle against the Communist Party's drive for power. And this brings me to your rather overly linear view of the process in Spain:

Quote:
Bringing up the exception of the delegation from Baix Llobregat is significant. Among the hastily gathered participants in the regional plenary, they were the only ones who argued in favor of “going all the way” toward the CNT’s stated goal of Libertarian Communism. That they were subsequently dissuaded by some “influential militants” says a lot about the dynamics of peer pressure, unswerving loyalty to the organization (whether the form, the content, or both), charismatic leadership, and the power of persuasion found in unscripted oration.

But the delegates from Baix Llobregat did NOT meekly submit. They stormed out in anger when the decision was made, shouting that they would not go along. They proceeded to overthrow the city government of Hospitalet de Llobregat, replacing it with a CNT revolutionary committee. (They invited the UGT to participate but they refused.) They also expropriated the entire economy of that city and instituted equal wages for everyone.

Moreover, the debate didn't end but continued in the union federation over the next six weeks. Finally the thing that provoked a change in direction was the Communists' campaign for rebuilding a conventional hierarchical army, which they would aim to control via gaining the officer positions. To head this off, the CNT, at a national plenary on Sept 3 1936, switched gears and adopted a proposal, which they presented to the Left Socialists and the UGT, of the CNT and the UGT overthrowing the national Popular Front government, replacing it with a joint CNT-UGT national defense council, accountable to the National Workers Congress the Zaragoza program had called for, which would replace the parliament. They proposed a revolutionary, unfiied, people's militia, controlled by "CNT-UGT joint commissions". So the unions would have direct control over the armed forces. This was their strategy for heading off the CP's game plan.

in Abel Paz's biography of Durruti, he notes that Durruti saw that Largo Caballero would vacilate and that it was necessary to force his hand to get him to agree to the national defense council proposal. This was why, according to Durruti, it was crucial for the CNT in Aragon to carry out the defense council program, by invoking a regional congress of delegates from the assemblies in the villages and elect a regional defense council...which they did. The problem was...their major mistake...was not doing this in Catalonia which was a much more important region. Instead they went the other way and joined the Generalitat government on Sept 26. This completely undermined the credibility of their national defense council program as far as persuading Caballero was concerned.

Quote:
The fear of dictatorship originating from a majority organization of a majority of the regional population (that is, the CNT) was objectively unfounded, yet the “influential militants” of whatever organization (and the FAI was a mass-based organization as well, with upwards of 20 thousand members by that time) were able to convince the majority at the regional plenum—as well as a majority of the CNT nationally (and their uncritical supporters internationally)—that collaboration with the Catalan and Central governments was the only way forward for their revolution.

again, this is too linear. you're overlooking their national defense council proposal, which is precisely what explains the building of the regional congress and defense council in Aragon...that was an attempt to carry that program out, to push the Left Socialists, as that quote from Durruti indicates. also, the FAI was not a mass organization but a specific organization. an authentic mass organization groups people on the basis of their willingneess to fight, as with the unions, the willingness to fight the bosses. in other words, the FAI grouped only a particular anarchist vanguard. in Spain the anarchsit activist layer was very large but still a minority of the working class.

Quote:
They were consistently outmaneuvered by more experienced politicians (friend and enemy alike), and were completely unable to maintain, let alone extend, those gains. So yes, unfortunately, that’s defensive.

The problem with this criterion is that, by definition, nothing can be offensive if it's defeated. There can be offensive actions that are defeated, tho.

syndicalist
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May 20 2007 23:32

Ok, nice historical piece (seriously), but where there any left-communists of the Bilan tendency on the ground in Spain during this time? Or was this written simply as a commentary on the events?

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May 21 2007 01:20

There were both Bilanists investigating and dissident Bilanists fighting in Spain.

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May 21 2007 02:17

Gato,

what would "success" have looked like?

I feel like the elephant in the room with your analysis of "what went wrong in spain" (as well as with the standard anarchist analysis), is this: assuming that everything you mentioned as a mistake had not happened, assuming that CNT-UGT joint committees controlled everything (and somehow the UGT portion of these committees did not end up as a 'back-door' for the socialists or communists to return to power), assuming that Durruti had gotten the gold (and that there were arms dealers willing to trade, as I doubt the USSR would have), that the CNT had been able to foment a Moroccan revolt, and ultimately defeat Franco as well as the Republic and the NKVD... assuming all this, AND assuming that the democracies and/or the USSR did not send an intervention force to "restore the democratically elected government of Spain from "irresponsible bloodthirsty anarchists"/"Trotskyite-fascist fifth columnists" (take your pick)...

...What would the anarchists have done about the inevitable German invasion?

the much better armed France fell to the Germans in a matter of weeks, and the Russians (who had spent years mobilizing for war with Germany) were almost defeated - moreover, neither of them had the remnants of what had recently been an oppositional army in the country. To me there's no doubt that an 'anarchist Spain' would have fallen easily to Hitler's Germany.

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May 21 2007 03:08
Quote:
tsiatko: There were both Bilanists investigating and dissident Bilanists fighting in Spain.

Ok, fair enough. Where were the Bilanists active? Did they have their own organization?

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May 21 2007 03:56

I believe the ones who fought joined the POUM militia?

There were also the 'trotskyists' of the Leninist-Bolshevist tendency, around G Munis, who were close to being left-communists. However I remember reading that they had only 8 people? Which I think is less than the Bilanists in Spain (15 IIRC).

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May 21 2007 06:40

Oliver, even prior to the question about a German invasion, there is the issue
of the massive arms support given by Italy and Germany to the fascist side. I think the USSR would still have had to sell arms to Spain, to save face, even if the CNT's program had been carried out. The PCE would have still controlled a sizeable fraction of the UGT and been a minority element in the working class government. As to your worries about backdoor Socialist and Communist control, the CNT would have had a veto, and they were able to gain sufficient support among the Left Socialists and POUM...especially as the power drive of the Communsits built...to stave off the Communists, IF they had carried out that program.

However, there is still the issue of arms. Sending the gold to Russia was a massive mistake. The CNT-UGT defense council could have prevented that. It caused the peseta to lose half its value. The CNT could have used the gold to build its own arms industry. A German invasion would not have happened before 1941. Would Germany have regarded a Spanish invasion as a higher priority than a Russian invasion? It would have been hard to commit huge resources to both.

The Germans would have faced strong resistance if the revolution had been consolidated, not defeated, and the fascist army put on the run or defeated. The Germans would have faced an experienced foe, even if they had inferior arms. Even during the civil war there were moves to start production of a native arms industry in Spain, making knock offs of the Soviet I-16 fighter and various armored vehicles and such. Much of the Iberian peninsula is rugged mountain country that would have been favorable to guerrilla resistance.

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May 21 2007 06:51

The defeat of France by Germany wasn't inevitable - the French military leaders were lethargic and incompetent, I have seen military scenarios that show that France could have done much better. Also, in some senses the situation was a repeat of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 where the French bourgeoisie was more concerned with maintaining business as usual... It was more concerned with interning radicals than preparing for invasion. Also there are big mountains between France and Spain rather than flat lands stretching from Germany through Holland and Belgium to France.

If an anarchist spain had adopted a guerrilla strategy it could have resited a nazi invasion... Also there might have been the possibility of revolution in France if the anarchists had won. However overall the odds were not very good, I agree... But this is all speculation anyway.

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May 21 2007 07:56

What i'm saying is that even the most in-depth analyses of the Spanish revolution, and what went wrong, that i've seen (from anarchists at least) do very little to place the Spanish situation in the context of the impending world war.

I mean, at one point Germany either occupied, or was allied with, nearly the entire current mass of the EU - the only notable exceptions were neutral Sweden and Britain, which was hard-pressed to defend itself, much less to project itself into the continent.

Why would the Germans have had to wait until 1941, instead of just rolling into Spain right after France? Stalin was stalling (no pun intended) as much as possible, and Britain was knocked off the continent at Dunkirk. Spain may have been hilly, and they may have been able to wage fairly effective guerilla warfare, but that wouldn't have stopped them. I mean Russia had the largest army in the world (possibly smaller than China's in terms of sheer numerical strength) and a horrible climate, and different gauges of traintracks, yet Germany still almost took Stalingrad. They would have rolled through Spain, even if they would have faced fierce partisan resistance afterwards - but they dealt with that in every other country, what's one more?

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May 21 2007 10:55

On the activity of the 'Bilanists': when the war broke out, they had no militants in Spain. Left communism had nothing like the influence in Spain after world war one that it had in Germany or Italy. The war led to intense discussions in the Italian fraction, and a minority, supporting the anarchist/Trotskyist thesis that the Spanish revolution had already begun and needed to be defended militarily, decided that its duty was to go to Spain, where as Oliver says they enlisted in the POUM militias. They actually formed a Barcelona section of the communist left, but I have no idea whether they carried out any political activity in addition to fighting in the militias.
The majority position argued that the conflict had been rapidly transformed into an imperialist war and that the CNT expropriations had the function of tying the working class to a bourgeois war economy. They rejected the call for international brigades and arms for Spain. However, they did send a delegation to Spain to meet with any elements with whom they thought joint work might be possible. They met Berneri who is mentioned in the manifesto, but I don't know what if any contacts they had with groups like Munis or the Friends of Durruti.
We have republished some of the documents relating to the debate in the fraction in an old International Review but they are not online yet. Although the majority did everything it could to avoid a split before the debate had reached a cocnclusion, the two positions were incompatible and did result in a split.

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May 21 2007 11:28

I've done much of that political fiction. Spain was an underdevelopped country compared to the rest of western Europe. There wasn't good arms factories, and they had to improvise everything. In fact revolution started when workers seized their companies in order to re-activate the economic life of the country. Militarly, the Republic managed to organise around 100 000 militiamen/women and other 20 000 soldiers by the end of 1936. A year later, there were around 400 000 soldiers. [It's often said that the revolution was made by the people in arms (militias) and the war was lost by the people's army.]

If the anarchist had won... they'd have to re-build the whole country (facing an international embargo). In don't know if they could have spread the revolution. In fact, that was the only way out. They should have spread anarchist and anarchosyndicalist ideas to Northern Africa. Morocco CGT had around 60 000 members, CGT Algeria 80 000, CGT Tunisia, 20000. So, there were already some kind of workers organisatiosns. A clear position on the spanish morocco independence could have lead to a chain of civil wars in north africa. That was one of the biggest fears of the French socialist government, they were scared by the spanisg intentions of giving an autonomy or independence to Rif (north morocco), sidi Ifni, and the rest of the spanish colonies.

Another move, could have been to smash the stalinist influence in the european worker movement. For instance, french CGT was already controled by the stalinists, the same was true in other countries. Also in France there were lots of exiles from Germany, Italy, Czecoslovakia, Hungary... Spain could have host them, or at least the most conscious. In two or three years, many honest communists might have turned anarchist or revolutionary syndicalists.

However, in a war against the powerful Germany, could not have been won. Germany was years above Spain, both culturally, economicly, militarly... A hypothetical revolution in France (for instance the 1938 general strike, a colonial war ), and a was the only chance to stop German's plans. The resulting coalition between Spain, France and some northernafrican countries, could leave them a chance. All these moves would have left Russia alone, and the pacts with Germany might have been signed even before.

Wining a world war is not an easy thing.

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May 21 2007 12:46
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Alf: Oliver says they enlisted in the POUM militias. They actually formed a Barcelona section of the communist left, but I have no idea whether they carried out any political activity in addition to fighting in the militias.

Thanks Alf.

Did this section have a name, a publication or anything public? In regards to fighting with the POUM, are there any written references to this?

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gatorojinegro
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May 21 2007 15:30

Gerald Howson's book "Arms for Spain" points out that all the countries that sold arms to the Spanish Republic cheated Spain extensively, including Russia. in hindsight, it would have been more efficient use of the funds to build an arms industry. the Stalinists getting 70% of the gold to Russia was really a case of looting Spain. it undermined the war effort. forcing the UGT to agree to the National Defense Council proposal in Sept 1936 could have prevented that. de Santillan had said "if we can't get arms we'll make them" but that required money to develop a war industry. the Stalinists were able to deny money to Catalonia.

Hispano Suiza, one of the companies in Barcelona taken over by the CNT to build a war industry, had made 12-cylinder high performance aircraft engines before the civil war. the Spanish Republic only tried to build aircraft at the end of the civil war and the effort was snuffed out by the fall of Barcelona in Jan 1939.

if the fascist army had been defeated, it seems that one of the first places to extend the revolution would have been Portugal. Portugal was a military ally of the Spanish fascists. it's likely that a defeated Spanish fascist army would have retreated to Portugal. the Portugese CGT still had some underground networks. the second place to extend the revolution would be Morrocco. the anarchists had negotiated an agreement with the Morroccan Action Committee, a bourgeois independence group, to declare Morrocco independent and give them arms, but they could have supported the unions in Morocco instead of a bourgeois national liberation group.

of the various countries Germany invaded before Russia, Yugoslavia gave them the greatest trouble. They had to send troops to Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941 to put down a rebellion. that's why the invasion of Russia was delayed from April to June 1941. if they'd invaded in April, they might have taken Moscow. if the fascist army in Spain had been defeated, Spain would have had an experienced revolutionary army to fight a German invasion. this would have made them a tougher foe than the other countries the Germans invaded in western Europe. the Germans probably could have occupied the Iberian peninsula but it wouldn't have been a walkover.

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Alf
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May 21 2007 22:52

syndicalist:: I haven't come across any public literature by the Bilan minority in Spain. Some of their texts were published in Bilan and we have published some of them.

Without going into the details, some of the speculations on this thread about whether an anti-fascist Spain could have beaten Germany in military terms seem to be very much in the logic of what Bilan was criticising: that the conflict in Spain had become part of the inter-imperialist battleground, part of the praparation for world war two.

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OliverTwister
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May 22 2007 04:37

Alf, that was sort of my point: to show that the only "way out" was the spread of revolution, that even if everything had gone perfectly in Spain they would have been invaded by Germany, whom they never could have resisted.

Even if they somehow resisted Germany militarily (or were invaded but threw them out), but they only spread the revolution to France, that would see Britain and America (and probably the USSR) send in troops to restore the 'democratic government'.

Salvoechea
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May 22 2007 10:59

That's right Oliver. Britain would've never being in war against Germany with an ongoing revolution in France (+Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia...). In a war with Italy, the revolutionary forces could have won. But Germany was years ahead from the technology and preparation than France, not even Spain. The only way out was to spread the revolution as far as possible, including South America and Africa (with the important links between Spain/Portugal with their american ex-colonies).

One of the countries which helped most the spanish republic was Mexico. They sold arms to spain, and at first they wanted to give them for free. Let's remember that Cardenas was implementing a kind of zapata's program in the countryside.

The situation in fascist Italy, yugoslavia, greece and bulgaria was quite unstable for the fascists and semi-fascists regimes that ruled them. There was a chance to insurrect the population while attacking militarly those countries.

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May 23 2007 22:48

I wasn't really responding to you in this Oliver, but to others who seem less able to distinguish between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. If it's true that Cardenas was implementing a Zapatista programme in his day, this is because the Zapatistas are bourgeois nationalists. In past issue of the International Review we published texts by the Mexican left communists in the 30s denouncing the Cardenas programme of nationalisations as entirely capitalist. We need to get those texts online as soon as possible. From seeing Cardenas as being on the side of the revolution it's only short step to seeing an anti-fascist war as being the same thing as the proletarian revolution, whereas in reality the first, like fascism, was only possible on the basis of the defeat of the second.

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May 24 2007 00:59

Well I agree with Alf. The fact that Cardenas gave arms to Spain does not make him any more revolutionary than Uncle Joe or Leon Blum.

Perhaps it was possible that there could have been a large enough 'revolutionary bloc' that Germany would not have been able to attack, at the time... however eventually it would come down to the Stalinist or Democratic regimes attacking, allied possibly with Germany.

After all, both Joe and Churchill were open to alliance with Hitler, and that was without a revolutionary situation occurring...

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May 24 2007 02:02
Salvoechea wrote:
But Germany was years ahead from the technology and preparation than France, not even Spain.

Actually French tanks were better than the German ones in 1940 - the Germans just used theirs better.

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May 24 2007 02:03
Alf wrote:
If it's true that Cardenas was implementing a Zapatista programme in his day, this is because the Zapatistas are bourgeois nationalists.

Major non sequitur there.

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gatorojinegro
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May 24 2007 04:52

atually the German military technology was not all that superior. in the Spanish civil war the Russian tanks were far superior. and the Soviet biplanes were far superior to the Italian biplanes used by the fascists. the problem was that the Italians and Germans supplied far more aircraft. the German Messerschidt was a superior single-wing higher altitude fighter than the Russian I-16 at that time, but it wasn't a big difference. and the American and British single-wing aircraft in WWII were superior. The Germans however understood better the imporance of organization and coordination. this is why each German tank in WWII was supplied with a mobile radiophone.

Salvoechea
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May 24 2007 07:29
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Zapatistas are bourgeois nationalists.

what ?!? Zapatistas were (are) peasants. Their mexican nationalism is behind their extreme localism. In fact they could've conquered all the southern Mexico and didn't want.

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May 24 2007 07:30

888 said:

"Alf wrote:
If it's true that Cardenas was implementing a Zapatista programme in his day, this is because the Zapatistas are bourgeois nationalists.

Major non sequitur there".

Did I express this badly? The post I was criticising was arguing that Cardenas was revolutionary because he was doing what the Zapatistas are doing now. This argument might work if the Zapatisas were carrying out a proletarian revolution. But they are bourgeois nationalists. And so was Cardenas.