First the war … then the revolution
If we were to take account of the abundant rhetoric emitted in the propaganda written by the CNT and the FAI, in order to keep the foreign countries in a state of expectant nervousness and impressionism, it would be very hard for us to discover the tactical reasons that led our Spanish comrades to shape this rhetoric in accordance with the raw reality, which deranged their eyesight. Because it is reasonable to assume that the authors of this propaganda expected it to be read with eagerness, and that it would then be analyzed and compared with the facts.
It is true enough that they exercised their rhetorical skills not in order to conceal their betrayals of their principles, even though they taxed their ingenuity to find arguments to justify their actions. But it is inconceivable that they could have striven to distort their phrases and their concepts to avoid posing the fundamental problem: the rejection of anarchist principles and tactics of struggle that they had propagated and practiced up until then.
“We could have gone it alone, imposed our absolute dictatorship, declared the Generalitat to be abolished and instituted, in its place, the real power of the people; but we did not believe in dictatorship when it was exercised against us, nor can we desire it when we can ourselves exercise it to the detriment of others”, says Santillán in his book, The Revolution and the War in Spain. “The CNT and the FAI decided in favor of collaboration and democracy by renouncing the revolutionary totalitarianism that would have led to the strangulation of the Revolution by a confederal and anarchist dictatorship”, García Oliver says in one of his articles.
And if this is how these men justified their actions, with the support of many others we could name, why did they insist on using, in so many communiqués, newspaper articles and radical speeches, the phrase, “social revolution”? The social revolution had been suppressed by these very same men; indeed, it had been terminated a few days after July 19.
The honest and sensible response was reflected in the slogan: “First the war; then … the revolution”. The latter should be categorized as bait.
If, in the heat of combat; in the spirited assaults led by the anarchists, together with the people, against the military rebels; if in these battles no one considered or sought to completely destroy the very foundations of capitalist society—to do away with the State; and these same “champions” of the social revolution acted, during these events, as “thugs”, upholding and defending the “high” governmental authorities—Companys and Largo Caballero—it was logically, the civil war that had been unleashed. And thus they should have declared this to be so, tacitly, burying, as they had buried anarchist communism, all the terms that signified a deception of the workers.
Because it must be acknowledged, now that they are not in their cabinet offices, in their government departments, in the hustle and bustle of their desk jobs, that they had lived by daily contradicting themselves.
It is true, however, that not all the “responsible” officials demonstrated their reluctance to engage in rational arguments and explanations.
In issue no. 224 of the Information Bulletin of the CNT and FAI, we read the following editorial statement:
“We have, in our collaboration, torn our ideological conception to shreds, we have performed the highest sacrifice, by leaving part of our ideology behind us in our trade union offices.” So why did they become so angry and respond with so many obfuscations, when many of us criticized them for having betrayed their doctrines?
Not even the second part of the slogan, “First the war; then the revolution”, conformed with reality. Because the documents that recount the history of the events prove that we can harbor no illusions that the cenetistas and faístas would have carried out the revolution after the end of the civil war.
They had been “impartial” with regard to the Generalitat. They let the fighters die at the Aragon front and other fronts without weapons because these militiamen rejected the State—the central government of Largo Caballero. These same confederal leaders had allowed the replacement of the militias by a single unified military force. The confederal divisions were merged with international brigades, composed almost exclusively of Marxist elements. The latter advocated and succeeded in obtaining the establishment of rigid discipline and unified military command. The anarchists were expelled from the Council of Defense of Aragon. They were shot throughout “loyalist” Spain and in the streets of Barcelona this crime became the norm. The people were deprived of arms; the cenetistas themselves recommended harsh penalties for those who concealed weapons. The army was Bolshevized in all its branches. The prisons were full of “uncontrollable” anarchists, who were accused of being spies or of belonging to the “fifth column”; but this entire panorama of setbacks and denials was pursued with the refrain: “First the war; then the revolution”.
It cannot be assumed that these geniuses of anti-fascist thought were the victims of their own ingenuousness. If we cannot make this assumption, it is because there is copious proof of the enormous attraction that bureaucratic posts and so many other prerogatives of bourgeois society exercised on certain minds, we believe that the intoxication with comfortable jobs in offices was the cause of so much foolish chatter, so many sophisms, so many contradictions and such grave betrayals that we had to endure and attest to, that were committed by the “responsible” leaders of the CNT and the FAI.
“Arms to the front!” “Gold for the war!” “Unity and discipline!” “Unified Command!” “Win the war to be free!” And … why go on? They shredded themselves with slogans.
And if these same individuals—the direct authors of the powerful resurgence of the authoritarian system—from within, since they had proceeded to reinforce the State, “faced with the overwhelming necessity of directly intervening in the direction of the war, of politics and of the economy, with the object of preventing the continuous sabotage waged against the CNT, the collectives and the militia columns by the central government …” demonstrated the predominance and power of the Bolsheviks in every facet of military affairs and politics; if the “cheka”, organized by the communists, assassinated and imprisoned many anarchists; if, day after day, the CNT lost positions and influence; why did the members of the CNT and the FAI remain in their posts as ministers and government bureaucrats, or continue to seek appointment to these posts? Had they become accustomed to this environment?
The documents we interspersed throughout the previous chapters prove, profusely, that the claims that the “ministerials” offered—once the civil war was over, with the victory of the “anti-fascists”—implied that they would reinforce the state with “very progressive” and wonderful initiatives and with the creation of new government departments, led and controlled by the cenetistas, in order to thereby prepare, from above, for the next revolution….