Spanish Civil War- appeal for help!

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Joseph Kay
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Jun 25 2007 09:43

yeah it is, it's not that useful for EB's research but it's a good book. orwell does say "as far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists" though red n black star

baker
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Jun 25 2007 13:26
Battlescarred wrote:
In this case the Trots were right.
Take just one example, quoting from memory as I don't have the book to hand. Jaime Balius , a leading member of the Friends of Durruti has his death given as in 1937, when in fact he survived the May Days and went to live on a good few years more, dying in France. It's not as if that information was not unavailable or obscure!

Huh, never knew much about that. What about their analysis? Do you have links to the trots critique? Outside of individual factual errors like that, what's the main critique of the Alexander's analysis? Are there points where alexander's facts affect his analysis of the lessons learned from the anarchists participation in the civil war? Because it seemed like he had a decent amount that seemed consistent with other accounts and then he specifically mentioned where his account contradicted other accounts and explains the sources he uses and why. But again, I'm not much of a historian or that well read beyond a handful of books.

Black Badger
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Jun 26 2007 16:19

Alexander, as a good Trot or Trot wannabe, condemns the CNT-FAI for not courting elements of the middle class. He explicitly follows Victor Alba's analysis:

"Alba argued that the anarchists could have carried out: 'a policy of attraction of the middle class. They should have done so--it was perfectly possible without prejudicing the workers' interests, and even benefiting them. They could have incorporated in their ranks a good part of the middle class, to establish permanent relations between the private enterprises--small and middle class--and the collectivized economy, using the services of professionals. On balance they didn't do so, perhaps because they identified the middle class with the worst elements in politics and because it has been the middle class in power which--for very complex reasons--persucuted the labor movement during the Republic'... However, too often, the anarchists in practice did not pay attention to the interests and opinions of the middle class and this had a negative impact, particularly in political terms, in so far as the anarchists were concerned." (pp 465-66)

In typical Leninist fashion, anarchists are condemned for not following a Leninist strategy. That would be analagous to anarchists condemning Leninists because Leninists operate hierarchically.

baker
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Jun 27 2007 05:21

Ah, gotcha. I didn't read that far. I read part 1 and 2 and part of part three (up to page310 or so) and thought that the whole section on the anarchist role in the military (part two) p. 143 - 295 was interesting and had more detailed information in it than I'd seen before. I didn't agree with everything he said. But I thought he was sympathetic to the anarchists and pointed out some of the more blantant smear attempts by stalinist "historians" of the spanish civil war and had more detailed and in some cases totally new information about the military role of the anarchists than I'd read before.

Thanks for pointing that out though and typing that up.

Skraeling
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Jun 27 2007 11:23
Battlescarred wrote:
Then you will need the account of Bruno Salvadori aka Gimenez, Italian anarchist volunteer at
www.plusloin.org/gimenez
and the account of Werner Droescher, German anarchist volunteer at http://www.thrall.orcon.net.nz/spain1.html -
part 3 at http://www.thrall.orcon.net.nz/18glimpses.html

looks like those links are dead, or they've finally pulled the plug on the thrall website (i was one of the editors of thrall), but if anyone is interested i can send you those Droescher articles (PM me). Werner wrote Odyssey eines lehrer (sorry cant remember its exact title, dunno German) -- it's his autobiography in German. It has a chapter on Spain. The English version has never been published, but i have a photocopy of his chapters in Spain. not much info on military stuff tho.

Plus Greville Texidor (Werner's companero) has an unpublished memoir of her experiences in the anarchist militia, called Diary of a Militiawoman. greville's and werner's daughter is currently seeking to publish it in Australia, so that's one to look out for.

Battlescarred
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Jun 27 2007 12:14

The Droescher links still work for me fine, I just tested them

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EasternBarbarian
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Jun 27 2007 22:54

Oh well- thanks for helpKeep posting new stuff, always welcome. I am only at the beginning of collecting materia,l, so its a long way ahead of me..
As for Orwell, yes, I read "Homage to Catalonia", we even have it in Polish wink

Skraeling
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Jun 28 2007 12:26
Battlescarred wrote:
The Droescher links still work for me fine, I just tested them

Good, they now work for me, just didn't work last nite for some weird reason

Anarcho
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Jun 29 2007 10:39

May I suggest "An Anarchist FAQ" (www.anarchistfaq.org). It has sections on Spain (I.8) plus an appendix on Marxists and Spanish Anarchism. Both should be useful and have lots of useful references to other books.

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EasternBarbarian
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Jul 1 2007 22:44

briefly checked so far... didnt see any reference to military part though... ta anyway..

BB
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Jul 6 2007 10:24
revol68 wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I've just finished Anthony Beevor's book again, and it is pretty good, even though it's not written from an anarchist perspective.

i thought that almost made it better, he does come across as very sympathetic to the anarchists, even on the matter of militarism, which is suprising as he is a military historian.

Has anyone read the "battle for spain" as i've read the previous incarnation, how do they compare i can see there's more pics, i got it for fathers day. Got to agree with revol.
Still hunting for decent fascist/fallange books though.

On another note I'm still trolling my way through Free women of spain atm, which i'd say is pretty good although i'd disagree with the author on a few political points, her research is fantastic. Overall it's well worth the read."

Thrashing_chomsky
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Jul 6 2007 12:38

Must put Homage to Catalonia on my next shopping list for AK press...

Look also for a really dirt-cheap DVD called 'Viva utopia' or something like that. Its just the surviving membrs of the revolution talking about their daily lives, the struggle... it depresses me to read about Spain because we were so close...

Thrashing_chomsky
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Jul 6 2007 12:45

Oh and curiously, what areas where of spain did the CNT/FAI control?

MalFunction
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Jul 6 2007 15:21

T_C

what areas did the CNT/FAI control?

At the start of the civil war areas where the CNT was strongest were Andalusia, Murcia, The Levant, Valencia, Aragon and Catalonia. (ie along the Mediterranean coastal zone) . The degree of control it had varied throughout the civil war. It was never completely in control of anywhere, although it was dominant in certain areas / rural collectives / industries.

Even the spread of the militias was fairly haphazard. Paz's biography of Durruti has a map of the Aragon front showing 10 militia columns of which:
1 was catalanist; 2 were POUM; 4 were CNT-FAI; 1 PSUC and 2 smaller columns which weren't originally affiliated. collectives tended to reflect the politics of the columns that passed through them.

CNT membership was very thin (with isolated pockets of members) in central, western and northern Spain (New and Old Castille (including Madrid), Estremadura, Asturias, Leon, Palencia, Basque country, Navarre, Galicia) (The Basque region had its own union and there were also samll Catalan unions)

Andalusia fell to the rebels very early on as did the CNT stronghold of Zaragoza

CNT membership in 1936 is estimated to be approx 1.5 million, very slightly larger than the UGT. A figure of 8 million has been estimated for total spanish working class at this time, meaning the CNT membership was below 20% and even combined with the UGT they only accounted for about 1/3 of the working class. How many union members actually agreed with the politics of their unions is moot. It is fair to say that the areas with the greatest concentration of union members tended to be those which rose up against the military and held out the longest.

Obviously as the civil war progressed and land fell to the nationalists so the areas where the CNT were dominant shrank; also the attacks on the collectives by the Republican forces diminished the CNT's "control" of an area.

Feighnt
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Jul 8 2007 07:10
BB wrote:

Has anyone read the "battle for spain" as i've read the previous incarnation, how do they compare i can see there's more pics, i got it for fathers day, still trolling my way through Free women of spain atm, which i'd say is pretty good although i'd disagree with the author on a few political points, her research is fantastic. Overall it's well worth the read.

i read it. i found it to be fairly similar, but mostly with some more detail on various things. beevor still seems pretty sympathetic to the Anarchists. there was something early'ish in the book i vaguely remember, which struck me as being a statement disparaging to Anarchism (which was not necessarily realistic - seemingly like just an expression of personal opinion), but i cant remember precisely what he said that made me think this way. oh, and iirc, i think he cuts out much (or maybe all) of the heroic recounting of Seisdado's last stand. over the whole book, you get the impression that Beevor is trying to act carefully, and not glorify anybody overtly - i believe some of his earlier idealism has been tempered out, and he's finding it hard to side strongly with anyone in particular (assuming he ever did). still, the book lays things down, and still shows the Anarchists in a very positive light. frankly, it honestly makes me think, from what i've read, that the Anarchists were *genuinely* the most competent of the various factions of the "Republicans" - not just in having good politics, but in military practice. this book reaffirms, quite solidly, how utterly incompetent and worthless the Communists were, not just to the political situation, but to the military matters. it also takes the Nationalist side's military abilities down a peg, too - there were more competent people within their forces, but it was far from a uniformly astounding force. certain figures - like Yague - stand out with little criticism and much praise, but the only force which is portrayed as being exceptionally professional and competent are the Germans. Franco, it is pointed out, made numerous stupid decisions, militarily - where he did the best was as a politician, he was smart at that.

i also recall, vaguely, a little bit of information that i'd never heard before, which explains why Durruti opted to make an instant attack when he and the column got to madrid (which resulted in militians getting machine-gunned at in a concentrated fashion, resulting in them being repulsed embarassingly). most of the time i've heard people tell about this, it gets either no commentary, or is portrayed as a (typically) stupid action of the Anarchists, showing their lack of military competence. this time around, though, Beevor gives a short explanation of why they did it, which makes the action seem much more sensible, rather than being the result of rash, poorly-thought-out heroics. but i cant quite recall what he said at the moment tongue if anyone cares, just ask and i'll dig out my copy of the book and find out, though.

anyway... it's good. even if you read the original (as i had), i think you'll get much out of reading this new edition.

BB
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Jul 9 2007 10:10
Feighnt wrote:
but i cant remember precisely what he said that made me think this way. oh, and iirc, i think he cuts out much (or maybe all) of the heroic recounting of Seisdado's last stand.

I don't remember him recounting that, shows what my memories like, for anyone that doesn't know, it's to do with the backlash against the pronouncement of libertarian communism in the village of Casas Viejas in 1934 (think it was 34) and the death/execution of an anarchist and family.

Feighnt
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Jul 9 2007 23:03
BB wrote:
Feighnt wrote:
but i cant remember precisely what he said that made me think this way. oh, and iirc, i think he cuts out much (or maybe all) of the heroic recounting of Seisdado's last stand.

I don't remember him recounting that, shows what my memories like, for anyone that doesn't know, it's to do with the backlash against the pronouncement of libertarian communism in the village of Casas Viejas in 1934 (think it was 34) and the death/execution of an anarchist and family.

well, it's possible i could be wrong - i'm just working off of memory, and it's been a wee bit since i read the original version of the book. but i thought he did recount it. "execution" isnt really the word for it, though - he didnt submit, so the authorities put his house under seige and eventually ended the fight by setting the house on fire. i think only a few of the kids of the family were able to escape, maybe even just one teenage or 20-something daughter (who was, later, caught by the Nationalists in the Civil War and executed).

Black Badger
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Jul 16 2007 13:22

I've just started to read Peirats' volume three of "The CNT in the Spanish Revolution" and he deals quite a lot with anarchist military participation, especially after militarization of the militias. It's available from christiebooks.

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syndicalistcat
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Jul 16 2007 15:15

i've written an essay (will evolve into a chapter of a book i'm writing):

http://www.workersolidarity.org/spain.pdf

i'm still revising this.

In doing this i mostly relied on Spanish sources. I find that histories by English-speaking authors are almost always filled with inaccuracies or misinformed in basic ways. To take an example of Alexander's inaccuracies, he says that there were 3,000 firms expropriated in the Spanish revolution. Actually, there were 3,000 enterprises in Barcelona alone that were expropriated. The number for Spain was over 18,000. The only thing i've used from Alexander's book is his translation of excerpts from the CNT's libertarian communist program of May 1936. Bolleten's book is useful for his summary of the extent of expropriation. I also found oral histories useful. Ronald Fraser's Blood of Spain contains interviews with people on all sides, from fascists to anarchists. Martha Ackelsburg's book "Free Women of Spain" on Mujeres Libres is very good and also is based on interviews. Two books with useful documents are "Spain Betrayed" (Spanish version is "Espana Traicionada") which translates documents from the Soviet archives. This is very useful for understanding the strategy of the Spanish Communists and the Soviet Union. If you're interested in the military aspects, you should not avoid Gerald Howson's books. He is a military historian who has done exhaustive research on the question of the amount of military hardware obtained by both sides in the Spanish civil war. This is exhaustively documented in his book "Arms for Spain" (Spanish version is "Armas para Espana"). He also wrote a book on the aircraft used in the Spanish civil war. i've not read all the way thru Beevor's military history of the civil war but it seems good.

In regard to the question of the CNT's strength, and that of the UGT, this varied during the course of the revolution and civil war. When talking about the CNT's proportionate strength within the working class, it's necessary to be clear about the distinction between percentage of workers and percentage of union members. For example, Catalonia in 1936 had high union density -- 60% of all wage-earners (there were 900,000) were in unions. And 60% of union members belonged to the CNT. This means not quite 40% of all wage-earners in Catalonia belonged to the CNT in the spring of 1936. According to government statistics, the CNT at that point had 1.65 million members in Spain as a whole, 350,000 in Catalonia. The percentage of workers in the CNT in the early '30s had been higher but the CNT suffered two splits in 1932, losing 60,000 members to what became the FOUS (the POUM unions). In Aragon 80% of union members belonged to the CNT, and in Valencia 70% of union members belonged to the CNT. In Madrid and Asturias the CNT was a minority but a large minority. During the first year of the civil war the UGT grew tremendously in Catalonia as the Communists organized the middle strata, but in Madrid the CNT grew tremendously. By 1937 the CNT and UGT in Madrid and Catalonia were almost equal, so it is said, but it's hard to find corroborating evidence on this.

the CNT's strength in Andalusia was mainly in the western coastal region -- Cadiz, Huelva, Malaga.

Some of the Spanish works i've used:

El eco de los pasos by Juan Garcia Oliver (an excerpt is available in English as "Wrong Steps")
Los anarquistas y el poder by Cesar Lorenzo
Hacia una revolucion nueva by Jaime Balius (English version, "Towards a fresh revolution")
Abel Paz's biography of Durruti
Jose Peirats, Los anarquistas en la crisis espanola (English version, "Anarchists in the Spanish revolution")
Gaston Leval, Collectives in the Spanish revolution

Eduardo de Guzman also wrote a couple books which have not been translated into English. he was managing editor of the big daily in Madrid, Castilla Libre, and was a supporter of the proposal for a CNT-UGT working class government, similar to the viewpoint of Friends of Durruti. there is a good interview with him in "Blood of Spain".

MalFunction
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Jul 16 2007 16:27

a quick bibliographic moment.

Antony Beevor "The Battle for Spain 1936-1939" is a complete re-write of his earlier (1982) book on the Spanish Civil War. The new edition is based on the 2005 Spanish edition. Paperback edition came out June 2007.

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EasternBarbarian
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Jul 17 2007 22:41

thanks. I will have to employ some of my friends living in UK to get some of these for me.
Keep those posts coming!