The FAI inside the CNT

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nastyned
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Dec 27 2006 11:54

If I remember rightly two of the four CNT ministers were also members of the FAI.

I find this strand of syndicalism which blames all the faults of the CNT on the FAI strangely similar to a strand of council communism (and equally unconvincing): if only the pure workers weren't corrupted by those politicos...

The fact is everyone has political views. Why shouldn't anarchists organise to advance theirs? Reformists and reactionaries do.

Sorry.
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Dec 27 2006 13:22
Devrim wrote:
What is a universal point of no return though? Would you say that the CGT’s actions in 1914 were one?

Well I don't think there is one, there's not an objective set of criteria you can apply to all organisations. You participate in what is useful.

Quote:
I am not quite sure what authoritarian structures
are.

Structures with formal hierarchies, in which statutory power is held over the mass of the membership by a leadership group.

Quote:
You seem to be suggesting that the politics are flowing from the structures, and not the other way round.

I think that it happens both ways.

Quote:
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.

Well, the Spanish state is weaker than the German one, the workers' movement is less controllable (less integrated into the state), and crucially anti-militarism was demonstrably more deeply felt in Spain (it's only 5 years since conscription caused a general insurrection).

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 27 2006 19:03

revol is right that the Friends of Durruti were anarchosyndicalists. but they were also a FAI group. again, the FAI didn't have a unitary line. it was more akin to a synthesist model of anarchist organization. when the question of collaborating with the Popular Front was debated in July 1936 in Catalonia, the Nosotros opposed it, and they were also a FAI group. There were FAI groups on both sides of the question. it was strange, tho, that the CNT delegates voted for collaboration at a meeting held in the former building of the employers' association that had just been seized as a revolutionary act. they were aware that they COULD overthrow the Generalitat, so why not do so?

t.

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888
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Dec 28 2006 01:46
John. wrote:
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.

Possibly. The FAI successfully fought off tendencies like the treintistas led by Angel Pestanya, who wanted to adopt a much more reformist line. The CGT had a secret anarchist group in it, but not it was not as strong as the FAI and mainly focused on fighting off the communists (See Skirda's big book).

Quote:
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.

Who? I don't know where you get the idea that it was flooded with reformists. The FAI "leaders" like Oliver, Abad de Santillan and Montseny weren't reformist until the start of the civil war (and the decision to join the govt wasn't made on the basis of reformism but in a mistaken belief that it was necessary to fight the fascists first).

Also it's arguable whether the majority of the CNT would have approved a proposal to join the government in 36 - if it hadn't already happened.

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

Yes that is good. Althouhg it has been many years since I read it.

Also it's far too simplistic to claim that the CNT was either reformist or revolutionary.

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888
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Dec 28 2006 02:09
Devrim wrote:
It is the same old anarchist refrain. It was a ‘mistake‘, or there were ‘bad leaders’, or:
‘democratic procedures, and libertarian structures’ were bypassed.

In the determisinist's world it is impossible to have "mistakes" - things were going to happen like that anyway, due to the extent of the development of the forces of production, or the level of class struggle, or some other after-the-fact rationalisation. The determinist (i.e. marxist) is incapable of conceiving that things could have gone another way.

syndicalist
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Dec 28 2006 02:21

Ok, two questions come to mind:

1. Should anarcho-syndicalists have a political organization (dedicated to the goals of a libertarian society) outside of anarcho or revo. syndicalist unions?

2. If not for the facist uprising in 1936, would the CNT and the FAI moved towards some of the posititions it took (collaboration with a left government)? That is, was there something inherent in the post-terentista period which would have caused a rightwards drfit?

---mitch

Feighnt
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Dec 28 2006 05:23
syndicalistcat wrote:
they were aware that they COULD overthrow the Generalitat, so why not do so?

well, there've been a number of reasons stated as to why they didnt, including the (silly, imo) view of folk like Montseny that it would only lead to an "Anarchist dictatorship," or the fear of what might happen to Anarchists/Cenetistas in "republican" areas where the CNT wasnt as strong, or, of course, the overriding fear of the Generals and opinion that they couldnt be properly beat if the CNT didnt ally with the non-Nationalist side.

accept these or reject these as you see fit.

syndicalist wrote:
1. Should anarcho-syndicalists have a political organization (dedicated to the goals of a libertarian society) outside of anarcho or revo. syndicalist unions?

i think this is a difficult question. part of the idea of having a more specific political organization for Anarchists is to try to give their stance a stronger and more coherent face - amongst groups which are ideologically amorphous and deemed suitable for action by the Anarchos (which could include types of unions, revolutionary councils, soviets, certain activist groups, etc). it would've made great sense during the Russian Revolution, for example, as the revolution embraced many socialist/semi-socialist tendencies, and with a strong, cohesive voice, arguably the Anarchists could've had much more effect than they did. however, if we're talking about an *Anarchist* syndicate, it seems almost akin to in-fighting, rather than the aforementioned strong-face'ism (uh... yeah). however, while the CNT was supposed to be an *Anarchist* syndicate, it did, undoubtedly, house many who were not Anarchists, so perhaps it could be argued the CNT genuinely did need a separate, specific organization to argue the Anarchist side in a strong way (which, probably, the FAI did not properly achieve - like your feline counterpart said, syndicalist, the FAI really was something of a synthesis group with varying tendencies inside it, though most were Cenetistas too).

actually, i might come on the side of those who may say that even with an Anarchist-Syndicate, you'd do well to have a specific, separate Anarchist political organization. i dont necessarily believe that the inherent tendency of a union/syndicate is towards reformism (as some people argue), but it WILL, by nature, absorb many people of different ideals (ie: it will, by nature, become a bit of a synthesis organization in itself, though with a more focused goal and direction - if it's a real union/syndicate, it'll be fighting for the betterment of the working class, and you'd less likely see large numbers of lifestylists or similar getting involved in a way which would distract it from organizing workers). along with this line of thought, perhaps an "Anarchist" Syndicate cannot exist, in the purest sense of the term. IE: It could not take the sort of role that a specific political organization does.

however, i think that syndicalism/revolutionary unionism/whatever ought to be strongly supported by the Anarchist movement nonetheless, and that Anarchist political organizations should strive to get the syndicate/etc to be a stronghold for Anarchism or Anarchistic action/organization - always arguing their point very openly and straight-forward, not in a particularly conniving manner.

Quote:
2. If not for the facist uprising in 1936, would the CNT and the FAI moved towards some of the posititions it took (collaboration with a left government)? That is, was there something inherent in the post-terentista period which would have caused a rightwards drfit?

another difficult question, which i cant claim to answer in any definitive manner. i imagine there would've been an element within the CNT and FAI which *could* always have inclined them towards a rightward shift, but i'm not sure if it *must* have emerged. if the civil war had not happened, i dont imagine the rightward shift would have emerged without another great, society-shaking event. perhaps, if the civil war had not happened, Spain would have participated in WWII on one side or another? even if it didnt, individuals may have gone off to fight in the war nonetheless (some Spanish far-righters volunteered to fight for Hitler. most of them died in Russia). though, with this in thought, i'm still undecided as to how the CNT/FAI may have reacted.

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Durruti
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Dec 28 2006 12:04

Here something maybe slightly offtopic i posted on my website www.alasbarricadas.org a time ago. (google translator) ...

For many the FAI does not have because to exist within the CNT since, the CNT, is enough thus same to occur those ideological contents that create necessary at every moment. However, this argument, like all the others that are used against the FAI, sins of an ignorance on the same one, the FAI does not exist within the CNT, the Federation Iberian Anarchist is a federation of compatible groups anarchists whom, as it are expressed in its declaration of 1927 principles, “the anarcosindicalista organization watches with affection”, but its aim far from it is exhausted in a union organization. Trying to see locked up the anarchism in a union organization is only a very poor thought, although this organization is or could be like the CNT. The FAI neither dominates nor has never tried to dominate the CNT. The FAI and the CNT have common aims and for that reason it is logical that they can go confused suspiciously for interested eyes or, could be, disinformed. In the declaration of the National Congress of the CNT of the 10 of December of 1919 in the Theater of the express Comedy: “In agreement with the essence of the postulates of the First International of the Workers, it declares that the purpose that persecutes the CNT is the Anarchical Comunism”. On the other hand, the belief, equally false, of some in the sense that the FAI is bound to the pumps and the pistols and that him something could be considered as well as the arm armed of the CNT does not deserve commentaries, the FAI is not arm armed of anybody. The Federation Iberian Anarchist as well as the National Confederation of the Work, along with the Iberian Federation of Libertarias Youths, Free Women and the Athenians Libertarios form the Movement Anarchist, are organizations sisters but they are not confused at any moment. The CNT is compound of Unions and has exclusively union methods of fight, although that yes, anarchical revolutionaries and; the FAI is compound of compatible independent groups to each other with the aims and means that are wanted to give thus same but, of course, do not have much to do with the sindicalismo. The fact that an anarchist organized in a group of the FAI is afiliated to the CNT is by the fact of being a worker and nothing else.

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Steven.
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Dec 30 2006 13:49
888 wrote:
Also it's arguable whether the majority of the CNT would have approved a proposal to join the government in 36 - if it hadn't already happened.

Is that true though? I just quoted this on another thread which states the opposite:

Quote:
The decision to join the Catalan government "Generalidad" was ratified by plenums of local, district and regional committees in August 1936 and the decision to join the central government was ratified in a national plenum of regions in Madrid on 28 September 1936 (the CNT actually entered the government on 6 November 1936). From 19 July 1936 to 26 November 1937, seventeen regional plenums and dozens of local plenums and district federations were called as well as various regional congresses of unions. (See Jose Peirats, Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution, pp. 185, 186.)

Source

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syndicalistcat
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Dec 30 2006 18:57

The CNT regional federation in Catalonia didn't join the Generalitat government til Sept. 26, 1936. But collaboration with the popular front parties goes back to the agreement on July 23rd, 1936 to go along with Companys' proposal for CNT participation on an Anti-fascist Militia Committee which was dominated by the Popular Front parties. That decision was ratified by majority vote at a regional plenum, that is, a meeting of the local federation (labor council) delegates of Catalonia, a meeting of over 500 delegates. This vote took place after a lengthy debate. There was a debate before this, with the same result, on the evening of July 20th at a meeting of the Barcelona local federation (labor council), with Nosotros arguing for the unions to take power and Carresquer and de Santillan, for the FAI Peninsular Committee, arguing against.

It's true, however, that this proposal was not first discussed by the rank and file of the unions. Nonetheless, i think it was ratified again by a regional plenum in August. Throughout Sept. and October Solidaridad Obrera in Barcelona and Castilla Libre in Madrid were beating the drum for the CNT proposal to replace the national Popular Front government with a joint UGT/CNT revolutionary labor government (a National Defense Council to run a unified people's militia controlled by the unions).

It was at the national plenum of Sept. 28th, after having joined the Generalitat, that the national committee was given a free hand to negotiate whatever it could with the UGT, including participation in the Popular Front government. But officially the CNT was still committed to the original proposal for a national defense council, and this continued to be advocated by the two daily papers, Solidaridad Obrera and Castilla Libre, until Nov. 4th when the CNT officially joined the Popular Front government. That's when Liberto Callejas and Jaime Balius, later initiators of Friends of Durruti, were fired from Solidaridad Obrera for continuing their opposition to Popular Front government participation.

The process leading up to joining the government is discussed in "Los anarquistas y el poder" by Cesar Lorenzo.

t.

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Devrim
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Jan 1 2007 15:24
888 wrote:
Devrim wrote:
It is the same old anarchist refrain. It was a ‘mistake‘, or there were ‘bad leaders’, or:
‘democratic procedures, and libertarian structures’ were bypassed.

In the determisinist's world it is impossible to have "mistakes" - things were going to happen like that anyway, due to the extent of the development of the forces of production, or the level of class struggle, or some other after-the-fact rationalisation. The determinist (i.e. marxist) is incapable of conceiving that things could have gone another way.

It is interesting that I am slandered both as a determinist, which I am not, and as a Marxist, which I have never claimed to be.

Things could have gone another way. They didn't.

Anarchists are all to willing to see the Bolshevik Party's betrayal as a consequence of their ideology, but when it comes down to the CNT's betrayal, it is possible to dismiss it as a mistake.

Devrim

Jason Cortez
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Jan 2 2007 12:07

Ahhh, Dev and his pets.

nastyned
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Jan 2 2007 12:15

... and his odd definition of left communism if he's not a Marxist.

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Devrim
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Jan 2 2007 14:22
Jason Cortez wrote:
Ahhh, Dev and his pets.

I never understand what you are talking about, Jason.

nastyned wrote:
... and his odd definition of left communism if he's not a Marxist.

What I said was:

Devrim wrote:
a Marxist, which I have never claimed to be.

I haven't. I don't think it is a very useful term.

Devrim

mk12
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Jan 12 2007 21:17

Did the FAI ever criticise CNT's actions in retrospect?

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2007 04:19
mk12 wrote:
Did the FAI ever criticise CNT's actions in retrospect?

Or their own?

I believe the CNT-FAI both did at a conference in exile (for some reason the year 1948 is in my head for this). I'm sure someone else will have more details...

mk12
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Jan 13 2007 15:45

That's what i'm looking for, but can't find it on libcom where someone originally said it...

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syndicalistcat
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Jan 13 2007 17:50

Actually the FAI began to criticize the CNT's government collaboration towards the end of the civil war. After the civil war the CNT exile community split. Montseny said that joining the government had been a mistake. She repeated this on Spanish TV in an interview in 1984. Peirats, who was in Montseny's faction, has some criticisms of the Popular Front collaboration in his "official" history of the CNT. The year 1948 probably refers to the split in the CNT exile community.

t.

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2007 19:07
syndicalistcat wrote:
Peirats, who was in Montseny's faction, has some criticisms of the Popular Front collaboration in his "official" history of the CNT.

Didn't he write some new, critical epilogue to accompany the first book (Anarchists in the spanish revolution) a few years later? I've seen it I think but not read it. And I can't remember much of the first book embarrassed

Quote:
The year 1948 probably refers to the split in the CNT exile community.

I've started a thread asking about this here

syndicalist
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Jan 14 2007 00:19

Hey, for what it's worth, the first anarcho-syndicalist criticism of the Spanish comrades came from members of the IWA/AIT. Primarily through the voices of Alexander Shapiro and Pierre Besnard. Due to Besnard's criticism of the CNT, he was removed as Secretary-General of the IWA. Furthermore, the CNT initiated the International Anti-facist Solidarity (SIA) in an effort to re-channel international aid away from the auspices of the IWA.

syndicalist
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Jan 14 2007 01:03

As an aside, folks may want to check out this interesting aricle on Span and Portugal, and the role of anarchist organization.

Creating unity or division? The origins of the FAI
The CGTP, like the CNT, continued to function underground and. in exile, but the repression in the two countries effectively ended attempts to create... http://www.sussex.ac.uk/history/documents/jg.pdf

On the FIJL: A history of Spanish libertarian youth paper 'Ruta'
http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/spain/ruta.html

syndicalist
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Jan 15 2007 03:02

An example of this criticism can be found in this article:

1937. August One Big Union Monthly

WAGNER, Joseph. "Class Collaboration—Old and New"
A timely reminder of working class political experience, and Shapiro’s Open Letter to the C.N.T.

http://raforum.info/article.php3?id_article=3770