The FAI inside the CNT

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Steven.
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Dec 26 2006 13:24
The FAI inside the CNT

Jack said to me in discussion that he thought the CNT may well have gone the way of the French CGT (i.e. become just a normal reformist union) if it hadn't been for the influence of the FAI.

I'm not so sure about this, since it seems that the FAI was as flooded with reformists as the CNT - and it was even them who were the bulk of those who joined the government.

What are people's thoughts on this? Any suggested reading (is Christie's We the Anarchists good?)?

magidd
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Dec 26 2006 13:39

CNT allredy have gone the way of the French CGT. This is modern reality. And i am not sure if FAI todey resist that.
As for 1936- there were FAI activists who protected idea to join the government. But this idea was suported by majority of CNT.
In the same time there were groopes of opposition- inside CNT,like Durruti Friends and olso some groopse FAI, FIJL ets.
There were 2 problems.
1) CNT inqlude alot of not revolutionary workers, not anarchists.
2) Some spanish anarchists have reformist ideas.
The chanse for another development was lost in the end of 20s then the idea to create Spanish FORA failed.
So i tnink CNT-FAI was wrong structure.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 13:43

all the factors that caused the degeneration of the CGT had already played themselves out by the time the FAI was formed...

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 13:50
magidd wrote:
The chanse for another development was lost in the end of 20s then the idea to create Spanish FORA failed.

Like the original FORA failed.

Feighnt
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Dec 26 2006 14:00

Christie's book, which you mentioned, is quite excellent, imo... made me think of the FAI in ways i'd not before.

i cant say a lot on the subject, though... from christie's book, you get the impression that they definitely did have an important influence in keeping the CNT libertarian, and you get the impression that the real shift of the FAI membership towards reformism happened (or, consolidated, perhaps) only much later, closer to the civil war. in between, i recall christie mentioning at least one or two cases where the FAI's influence seemed to be a deciding factor in keeping the CNT on the straight-and-narrow... but i cant say *what* these examples are, as i only recall christie talking about them embarrassed and my copy of the book is buried who-knows-where, so i cant check into it just this night, at least (maybe tomorrow, if i can find it and nobody else hasnt filled in the gaps).

while it's true the FAI did have some, erm... overt-moderates (i'm hesitant in using the term "reformist," as i'm not sure all of them really intended to go towards reformism at first - at least not till the compromises during the Civil War)... it ought not to be completely discounted, even when it started to get a number of said moderates, because there were still a fair number of those who were more pure (i wonder, if Durruti had been able to take Zaragoza, if the FAI might not have taken a different turn. Oliver suggested, before the awful compromises, that they push the revolution all the way in Catalonia with the forces they had available, but Durruti wanted to put it off until they liberated the Anarchist stronghold of Zaragoza. if this had happened, and they did push things all the way in Catalonia, it may have convinced moderates away from their reformist inclinations).

however, imo, i doubt that it was *just* the FAI which did this. spanish Anarchism seemed to have a lot of things going for it, a lot of things which would've contributed to the resistance of reformism in the CNT till the war. i wouldnt, for example, discount the importance of the ateneos in helping to shape strongly libertarian attitudes in a considerable number of people (and also giving people something positive to fight for in the here-and-now). and, of course, there would've been the genuine revulsion many CNT militants would've felt towards the authorities and the traditional ways of organizing (which had failed them so drastically again and again).

and probably a bunch of other factors. but, yeah, i think the FAI had genuine importance, even if it did later get a kind of "reformist" element as it went on.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 14:12
Jack wrote:
Hm, but as the biggest union confederation, was their not an enormous pressure to 'go pragmatic'? Wouldn't the existence of several thousand people largely organised against this have had any effect?

Also - don't really know about French CGT - the comparison was just a union that started revolutionary and became reformist, rather than anything more direct.

It's not the mass membership pre-war CGT that falls into reformism, it happens when the membership collapses during WW1.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 14:22

There are forces within the CGT trying to push it toward reformism before the war, but the last vote on affiliating to the SFIO is won by the libertarians 1,057 to 35 (1912 congress).

The war costs the CGT 550,000 of its 600,000 dues payers, and provides an opportunity for the reformist groups within the union.

nastyned
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Dec 26 2006 14:55

I think the FAI were behind the trientistas being expelled from the CNT

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 15:06
Jack wrote:
Hm, so do you think without that, it wouldn't have drifted towards reformism?

Thing is, there are reformist currents in the pre-war CGT and the membership does resolutely resist them. It was an ideological discussion which the membership understood and fought on those grounds.

The war changes everything, the experienced militants, the way in which knowledge was imparted to new members is completely destroyed. It also gives reformist elements the chance to forge corporatist links with the government (through tri-partite commissions) to consolidate their position, to establish a central committee, and after the war to muddy the waters in terms of ideology.

That said, what chance for a revolutionary organisation that can't survive war and repression? And clearly the CGT's membership, despite its antimilitarism, accepts conscription (only about 2% of eligible French males refuse conscription).

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Dec 26 2006 15:30
magidd wrote:
CNT allredy have gone the way of the French CGT. This is modern reality. And i am not sure if FAI todey resist that.
As for 1936- there were FAI activists who protected idea to join the government. But this idea was suported by majority of CNT.
In the same time there were groopes of opposition- inside CNT,like Durruti Friends and olso some groopse FAI, FIJL ets.
There were 2 problems.
1) CNT inqlude alot of not revolutionary workers, not anarchists.

Now your calling the CNTE reformist? Get a grip.

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Dec 26 2006 15:41
WeTheYouth wrote:
Now your calling the CNTE reformist? Get a grip.

Er, it did join the government WTY. On similar threads you always seem to find it very hard to accept criticism of the CNT...

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Dec 26 2006 15:46

The CGT joined the 'Union Sacrée' in 1914. An act of betrayal of the working class comparable with the German SPD's. Sorry's article states it very clearly:

Quote:
Senior members were even to help with organising the war and disciplining the workforce, when the CGT was invited to join the Union Sacrée (sacred union) in defence against German expansionism.

To quote from the original sources 'Bataille syndicaliste' called on workers to:

Bataille syndicaliste wrote:
Save France from fifty years of slavery... in adopting patriotism, we will save universal freedom”

and the secretary of the CGT, Léon Jouhaux stated that:

Léon Jouhaux wrote:
it is not hatred of the German people that will send us to battle, but hatred of German imperialism!

I think that what saved the CNT from the same fate was the fact that Spain wasn't involved in WWI. After all the CNT joined the 'Union Sacrée' in 1936. By then it was possible to dress class collaboration in war up in much more radical language, anti-fascism.

Sorry's point about the war changing everything misses the whole point. The CGT's collaboration in the war changed everything.

Of course there were those who fought against this trechery. Pierre Monatte resigned from the Confederation committee over the issue, just and others in Germany fought against the SPD, but 1914 marks the end of the CGT as an organisation of the working class just as it marks the SPD's end.

Devrim

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Dec 26 2006 15:50
magidd wrote:
CNT allredy have gone the way of the French CGT. This is modern reality. And i am not sure if FAI todey resist that.
As for 1936- there were FAI activists who protected idea to join the government. But this idea was suported by majority of CNT.

Magidd, why are you still in the IWA then?

Devrim

magidd
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Dec 26 2006 16:00
Quote:
Like the original FORA failed

Coment
See your problem is that you don't understand situation.
FORA work as revolutionary arganisation of proletarian minority. But there was no revolution in Argentina.
CNT olso was organisation of minority and unites revolutionaris and not-revolutionaris. So spanish revolution happened. And than CNT join goverment- that's mean CNT come to the side of contr-revolution.
If there is revolutionarw organisation in Spane (not CNT but FORE) revolution cood have a chanse.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 16:14
Devrim wrote:
Sorry's point about the war changing everything misses the whole point. The CGT's collaboration in the war changed everything.

But who is it that collaborates? What enables them to do so? Look at the CGT's pre-war decision making processes: any major decision is taken through bi-annual national congresses of mandated delegates. None of that happens for the Union Sacree or the Mixed Commissions. There's just a group of leading syndicalists (especially Leon Jouhaux) that take it upon themselves to announce the CGT's participation. Meanwhile those who traditionally resisted the reformist/statist tendencies of any emerging bureaucracy have been packed off to the front, or arrested by the government.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 16:17
magidd wrote:
Coment
See your problem is that you don't understand situation.
FORA work as revolutionary arganisation of proletarian minority. But there was no revolution in Argentina.
CNT olso was organisation of minority and unites revolutionaris and not-revolutionaris. So spanish revolution happened. And than CNT join goverment- that's mean CNT come to the side of contr-revolution.
If there is revolutionarw organisation in Spane (not CNT but FORE) revolution cood have a chanse.

Is it just chance that a revolution happened in Spain and not in Argentina? Or is it related to the relative strengths of revolutionary organisations in both countries?

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Dec 26 2006 16:27
Sorry. wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Sorry's point about the war changing everything misses the whole point. The CGT's collaboration in the war changed everything.

But who is it that collaborates? What enables them to do so? Look at the CGT's pre-war decision making processes: any major decision is taken through bi-annual national congresses of mandated delegates. None of that happens for the Union Sacree or the Mixed Commissions. There's just a group of leading syndicalists (especially Leon Jouhaux) that take it upon themselves to announce the CGT's participation. Meanwhile those who traditionally resisted the reformist/statist tendencies of any emerging bureaucracy have been packed off to the front, or arrested by the government.

I don't know that much about the details, and I don't read French, which makes it difficult to research, but I would say that the CGT collaborated as an organisation. If it hadn't why would Monatte have resigned from the Confederation committee? If it had been just 'a group of leading syndicalists', and the base had sufficient power, they could have expelled them. Even if the decision was taken without the formalities, I would be very surprised if the CGT wouldn't have approved it if there had been a 'national congress of mandated delegates'.

Devrim

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Dec 26 2006 16:33
Devrim wrote:
I don't know that much about the details, and I don't read French, which makes it difficult to research, but I would say that the CGT collaborated as an organisation. If it hadn't why would Monatte have resigned from the Confederation committee? If it had been just 'a group of leading syndicalists', and the base had sufficient power, they could have expelled them. Even if the decision was taken without the formalities, I would be very surprised if the CGT wouldn't have approved it if there had been a 'national congress of mandated delegates'.

Devrim

Well, each time they were given the opportunity to vote on the issue, the CGT membership re-affirmed their anti-militarism. The organisation also organised a series of anti-war demonstrations in July/August 1914. I see very little reason to assume that the CGT as an organisation would've collaborated, and I would see the decision of leading members to join corporatist organisations as lacking precedent in terms of their capacity to make those kinds of decisions.

Sorry.
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Dec 26 2006 16:44

The CCN doesn't meet until the end of November, that's a good 4 months after the general mobilisation. Not that it was the CCN's role to decide such matters.

There's an argument that CGT members voted with their feet, by accepting conscription. But in terms of the libertarian structures of the union and institutional collaboration, it happens after that mobilisation and is enabled by the collapse of the org.

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Dec 26 2006 20:06
Sorry wrote:
Well, each time they were given the opportunity to vote on the issue, the CGT membership re-affirmed their anti-militarism.

So did the membership of the SPD. I have never heard anyone defend their organisation with that line though.

Sorry wrote:
The CCN doesn't meet until the end of November, that's a good 4 months after the general mobilisation.

Everyone knew that war was coming. An organisation must have bodies which are capable of taking these decisions without having to wait for four months.

Sorry wrote:
Not that it was the CCN's role to decide such matters.

In which case, whose role was it? I would imagine that it probably fell to those you describe as ‘leading members’ who actually made the decision to collaborate.

Sorry wrote:
I see very little reason to assume that the CGT as an organisation would've collaborated…

The VGT as an organisation did collaborate. This has the air of Lenin believing that the copy of ‘Vorwarts’ reporting the SPD’s vote for war credits was a fake produced by the German High Command. It is even worse in that it is 92 years after the fact.

Sorry wrote:
I would see the decision of leading members to join corporatist organisations as lacking precedent in terms of their capacity to make those kinds of decisions.

It is the same old anarchist refrain. It was a ‘mistake‘, or there were ‘bad leaders’, or:

Sorry wrote:
But in terms of the libertarian structures of the union and institutional collaboration, it happens after that mobilisation and is enabled by the collapse of the org.

‘democratic procedures, and libertarian structures’ were bypassed.

It may have been lacking in precedent, but it certainly set one for the collaboration of the CNT in 1936, which was ratified by ‘democratic procedures, and libertarian structures’.

Lots of anarcho-syndicalists rightly condemn ‘Marxist organisations, such as the SPD, or the RCP(B), for acting on the side of capital.

And they are condemned lock, stock, and barrel. There are no excuses like it was ‘bad leaders’, or a ‘mistake’, or that ‘democratic procedures’ weren’t followed.

There were militants in the SPD, who foresaw that their leadership would support the war, and tried to organise against it. Is the same true of the CGT. I don’t know for certain, but I doubt it.

There were also militants in the RCP(B) who condemned the suppression of Kronstadt, supported workers strikes against the regime, and ended up in labour camps, or being shot.

This does not stop communists from condemning both of these parties as organisations that had turned against the working class.

One of the problems with anarcho-syndicalism is that in its attempts to hold onto its historical roots, it turns a blind eye to the class collaboration of anarcho-syndicalist organisations in the past.

A far healthier road would be to acknowledge it, but that in turn would ask questions about anarcho-syndicalist ideology in the present

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Dec 26 2006 20:50

To understand the basis of the collaboration with the Popular Front parties by the CNT, I think it's necessary to look at how that actually came about. This began with Companys proposing an Anti-fascist Militia Committee to the CNT the day of the defeat of the military coup. Companys knew that the CNT had seized the army weapons depots and held de facto armed power in Catalonia. They thus had the power to overthrow him. He cleverly created an institution apart from the state, but one dominated by the Popular Front parties, so that anarchists could tell themselves they weren't joining the government. The main activists on the workers defense committee of the CNT, were from the Nosotros FAI group, Durruti, Garcia Oliver, and Ricardo Sanz. They were in favor of the unions overthrowing the government and continuing with the revolution. The workers defense committee did proceed to the building of a CNT army (union militia).

That nite on July 20th the labor council (local federation) of the CNT in Barcelona debated the issue. Carresquer and de Santillan, both intellectuals (a teacher and a writer) were there representing the Peninsular Committee of the FAI. They were opposed to the proposal from Nosotros to overthrow the government, and were in favor of joining the Anti-fascist Militia Committee. They won the debate at the Barcelona labor council. That didn't decide the issue as it had to be decided by the regional federation. That debate took place on July 23rd. The labor council of Bajo Llobregat, a region of blue collar industrial suburbs in the south edge of Barcelona (Hospitalet de Llobregat and surrounding area) wanted to implement the CNT's libertarian communist program, the proposed to overthrow the government and have the unions take power. They were opposed in that debate by Federica Montseny and de Santillan, both writers, representing the Peninsular Committee of the FAI. De Santillan tried to appeal to fear to urge caution, as his reason to join the Anti-fascist Militia Committee and "put off" overthrowing the government. Montseny argued that since the CNT was a minority of the society, for the unions to take power would be a "CNT dictatorship".

The question is, why were Montseny and de Santillan able
to persuade a majority of the labor council delegates present? There were over 500 delegates present, representing all the CNT labor councils (local federations) in Catalonia.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the CNT hadn't worked out a programmatic proposal for how to unite the working class in creating new institutions of working class governance to replace the state. Traditional syndicalism had envisioned the union itself as the means through which society would be run. This conception may have played into Montseny's argument.

The alternative would be to imagine that the new institutions of overall self-management of society would be independent of the union, but created on its intiative. They needed an idea like this if they were to take seriously the proposal for a "revolutionary workers alliance with the UGT." And in Catalonia there were also the 70,000 workers in the ex-CNT unions of the FOUS (the POUM's unions). (These unions had been expelled from the CNT at the urging of the FAI in 1932 as part of their struggle with the Leninist BOC, the predecessor of the POUM.)

Obviously the workers, in a life and death struggle, would want to look outward for broad support, not just rely solely upon the CNT unions, even if these were 60% of the unionized workers in Catalonia (about 38% of all wage-earners).

The real alternatives at the time were only two: A working class alliance with the other unions (taking power jointly), or else the Popular Front proposal for a cross-class unity of the working class and the middle strata through a unity of leaders in the state.

The failure to clearly articulate a practical proposal for the first alternative, helped the fear-mongers like De Santillan get people to go along with the Popular Front proposal.

In his memoir, Garcia Oliver also makes the point that it was the "petty bourgeois anarchist intellectuals" who were the big proponents of Popular Front collaboration. It didn't come from the revolutionary working class militants. Those "petty bourgeois ananarchist intellectuals" also controlled the anarchist press in Catalonia.

I discuss all of this in my essay "Workers Power and the Spanish Revolution":

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

t.

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Dec 26 2006 20:59

So what? This seems to be a long attempt at blaming the CNT's collaboration on somebody else, "petty bourgeois anarchist intellectuals" in this case.

It doesn't look at the problems, for example:

Quote:
Traditional syndicalism had envisioned the union itself as the means through which society would be run.

Quote:
They needed an idea like this if they were to take seriously the proposal for a "revolutionary workers alliance with the UGT."

Actually it does say that:

Quote:
The alternative would be to imagine that the new institutions of overall self-management of society would be independent of the union, but created on its intiative.

It doesn't stop to consider that the institutions of a new society might actually be independent from, and against the unions, which after all were the organisations, which led the collaboration.

Devrim

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Dec 26 2006 22:04

Devrim, I think we might be arguing at cross purposes here. I'm not arguing that the CGT didn't collaborate, nor that it isn't unambiguously reformist after 1914. What I'm trying to talk about is the process that causes that degeneration - from a revolutionary union that continually reaffirms its revolutionary character before 1914, to collaboration.

I'm not trying to apologise for the post-1914 CGT.

If you'd like to discuss whether the CGT is an example of how anarcho-syndicalism is inevitably reformist, then have it, but stop picking at straw men.

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Dec 26 2006 22:30
Sorry. wrote:
Devrim, I think we might be arguing at cross purposes here. I'm not arguing that the CGT didn't collaborate, nor that it isn't unambiguously reformist after 1914. What I'm trying to talk about is the process that causes that degeneration - from a revolutionary union that continually reaffirms its revolutionary character before 1914, to collaboration.

I'm not trying to apologise for the post-1914 CGT.

If you'd like to discuss whether the CGT is an example of how anarcho-syndicalism is inevitably reformist, then have it, but stop picking at straw men.

Ok, sorry 'Sorry'. I did read through your article, and found it very interesting. I think that the topic of the CGT supporting the war was dealt with very briefly though, and not clearly pointed out to be a great betrayal. The point then about how the CGT became reformist after that is not really the most important one in my opinion.

I would presume that all revolutionaries, including anarchists, in it in 1914 abandoned it.

If they didn't it opens the question of when an organisation is dead to the working class.

Devrim

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Dec 26 2006 22:50
Devrim wrote:
Ok, sorry 'Sorry'. I did read through your article, and found it very interesting. I think that the topic of the CGT supporting the war was dealt with very briefly though, and not clearly pointed out to be a great betrayal. The point then about how the CGT became reformist after that is not really the most important one in my opinion.

Well, I think there's two inter-related, but separate issues being dealt with here. The first is the CGT's war participation, the second is how the CGT became a hierarchical union. The article I wrote was probably concentrating on the latter, because that's what I was interested in at the time, how/why it is that workers cede power in their organisations to authoritarian structures.

Quote:
I would presume that all revolutionaries, including anarchists, in it in 1914 abandoned it.

If they didn't it opens the question of when an organisation is dead to the working class.

Well, although the CGT as an organisation plays a reactionary role from 1914 onwards, sections of the CGT are crucial in resisting the war and in the revolutionary activity after it. So I'm not sure the lines are that clearcut.

(apologies to Jack for continuing to burden this thread with CGT stuff)

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Dec 26 2006 23:01
Sorry wrote:
Well, although the CGT as an organisation plays a reactionary role from 1914 onwards, sections of the CGT are crucial in resisting the war and in the revolutionary activity after it. So I'm not sure the lines are that clearcut.

Yes, but you could say the same thing about the Russian Bolshevik party after 1921. There were certainly currents still within it who stood on the side of the working class.

It raises another point, 'when to abandon organisations'

Sorry wrote:
The article I wrote was probably concentrating on the latter, because that's what I was interested in at the time, how/why it is that workers cede power in their organisations to authoritarian structures.

Don't you think that their position on the war has something to do with this?

Sorry wrote:
(apologies to Jack for continuing to burden this thread with CGT stuff)

I made my position on the main point clear:

Devrim wrote:
I think that what saved the CNT from the same fate was the fact that Spain wasn't involved in WWI.

I also think that Jack's comment is a bit of a tongue in check reference to another thread.

Devrim

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Dec 27 2006 00:52
Devrim wrote:
Yes, but you could say the same thing about the Russian Bolshevik party after 1921. There were certainly currents still within it who stood on the side of the working class.

Yes, you could.

Devrim wrote:
It raises another point, 'when to abandon organisations'

A universal point of no return?

Devrim wrote:
Don't you think that their position on the war has something to do with this?

I think their position on the war was initially symptomatic of it, then rapidly necessitated the establishment of authoritarian and class collaborative structures.

Devrim wrote:
I think that what saved the CNT from the same fate was the fact that Spain wasn't involved in WWI.

Hmmm, I'd see the workers' movement in Spain as one of the reasons that it wasn't involved...

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Dec 27 2006 01:00
syndicalistcat wrote:
I discuss all of this in my essay "Workers Power and the Spanish Revolution":

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

I hope you don't mind, but seeing as this text is both very good and is mentioned here a lot I've stuck it in our library here.

Sorry.
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Dec 27 2006 02:11

the one telling us to cease and desist.

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Dec 27 2006 07:55
Sorry. wrote:
Devrim wrote:
It raises another point, 'when to abandon organisations'

A universal point of no return?

What is a universal point of no return though? Would you say that the CGT’s actions in 1914 were one?

Quote:
Devrim wrote:
Don't you think that their position on the war has something to do with this?

I think their position on the war was initially symptomatic of it, then rapidly necessitated the establishment of authoritarian and class collaborative structures.

I am not quite sure what authoritarian structures are. You seem to be suggesting that the politics are flowing from the structures, and not the other way round.

Quote:
Devrim wrote:
I think that what saved the CNT from the same fate was the fact that Spain wasn't involved in WWI.

Hmmm, I'd see the workers' movement in Spain as one of the reasons that it wasn't involved...

This is an interesting point. I don’t think though that the Spanish workers movement was particularly strong in 1914. It certainly didn’t appear to be stronger than the German movement. I think that it was more down to geo-politics.

Devrim

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Dec 27 2006 08:02
John. wrote:
Er, it did join the government WTY. On similar threads you always seem to find it very hard to accept criticism of the CNT...

Yes, the CNT did. But you could as well say the FAI did. Just have a look on how many of the ministers and their staff were FAIstas. Or check if there was anybody who wasn't. There are those who say, that one of the lessons to learn from the Spanish revolution was rather how fast and aimlessly the Spanish FAI anarchists cooperated with the institutions than did the workers organized in the CNTs syndicates.

Another point is the problem the FAI was for the CNTs decision making and internal "democracy". This often was far more dominated by any type of committees without a mandat or a formal delegation rather than by the decision making of the syndicates. There are spanish comrades that will tell you that the same bizarre constellation was repeated in the 90th. As mostly in history the repetition came as a caricature as now a few hundreds tried to keep a handful of thousands on track. Nevertheless the "dictatorshop of the committees" (as a Spanish friend of mine once called it) had an important impact on the process that finally led to the expulsion of the vast majority of the Catalonian syndicates by a small minority just a few years ago.

If there are really lessons to learn from history one of it should be that the CNT-FAI construction should never be repeated. Either the anarcho-syndicalist union is able to tack and take course between reformist temptations and dogmatic isolation or we would have to confess that the leninists were right with their "trade union consciousness" and the necessity for an avantgarde may it call itsself "communist" or "anarchist". As an anarcho-syndicalist I am sure the former is possible and necessary.