Chapter 17: Upheaval in the FAI

17

Upheaval in the FAI

This acronym stands for the Iberian Anarchist Federation, a specifically anarchist institution of Spain, which played an outstanding role in the guerrilla activities that took place in Spain, but a negative one with regard to the valorization of the ideological postulates that correspond with its name.

It was first active in 1927, with a definite program—according to declarations published to justify its existence as a specifically anarchist organization—of working in the CNT in order to reinforce the anarchist orientation that was instilled in the workers who were members of this working class trade union confederation and to win support for the cause of emancipation.

It is undeniable that the work of training and expression of our ideas that was undertaken by the FAI was beneficial and that its members had to endure the harsh persecution directed at them by the right and left wing governments that succeeded each other in Spain, over the last few years. But this acknowledgement does not prevent us from explaining, with all frankness, our opinion of opposition to the contagious way of operating that has appeared over the last few years among the anarchists, in that they organize a specifically [separate] anarchist organization, because this brings in its wake a dual focus of activity, a groundless pride in appearing to be “guides” and a dangerous “innovative” tendency for the workers movement with an anarchist goal.

In South America we are very familiar with the “restless spirits” and the activities of some similar institutions: the Argentine Libertarian Alliance, now reborn as the FACA, in Argentina, and the Anarchist Federation of Uruguay, in this country—now defunct—institutions that have been a breeding ground for deviations and more than one split among anarchist militants. Instead of helping to develop the FORist working class federations, they have impeded their normal federalist development and have sowed confusion within many working class organizations, facilitating their absorption by Marxist elements.

However, because it is not our purpose to conduct an in-depth analysis of the problem of “Specificism”, we shall return to our examination of the various facets presented by the FAI in its disconcerting pilgrimage between theory and practice.

The contradictions are many and the regressions of such a magnitude that they deserve to be highlighted in order to erase from the feverish minds of the panegyrists of the FAI the following definition of what these three letters mean: “a sun that shines on those who suffer persecution and a force that encourages those who hunger for justice; a torch for the pariahs and a promise for the oppressed”, as the Barcelona journal Tierra y Libertad proclaimed.

***

When the ghastly birds of ill omen, of pillage and destruction, nourished by Spanish militarism, the clergy and capitalism, began to circle over the soil of Spain, the FAI felt spurred on—for the last time—by the spirit of its ideological patrimony to hammer its alert, filled with redemptive concepts, into the consciousness of the Spanish people, urging them to fight in defense of their rights, under assault by statist arrogance, and of their freedom that was under threat from the reactionaries.

Here is the resolution approved at the FAI Plenum of Regional Federations, held on February 1, 1936:

“Considering the extreme gravity of the current conjuncture in Spain, due as much to economic difficulties and domestic policies, as to the influence and impact of the international situation, and having learned from the experience of other countries and from the very logic of the events and issues;

“Considering that, because of the size of the revolutionary proletariat in Spain, the latter has more responsibility than in other countries with regard to confronting any reactionary attempts;

“That the phenomenon of fascism, embodied in the totalitarian State, is a system of reaction, of which the street violence and the bestial attacks of the reactionaries constitute merely one aspect of a vast complex of ideas and liberticidal aspirations, which are manifested in the absolute suppression of all rights of criticism and all human dignity and which tend, furthermore, to persist by recruitment from the very beginning. That the fascist reaction is the direct result of the bankruptcy of the economic system of capitalism, that it can be resisted only on the terrain of the suppression of capitalism and in the establishment of a regime of life that will render impossible the monstrous contradictions of the economy, of privilege and of monopoly.

“That the world historical experiences have demonstrated the impotence and the deception of so-called democracy, an alleged political equality grafted onto the most obnoxious economic inequality, in order to modify the essence of the established order.

“The Regional Federations of the Iberian Anarchist Federation set forth their position in the following manner:

“a) They deplore the fact that working class institutions which had blazed a frankly revolutionary and proletarian path in October 1934, should align themselves with the democratic-bourgeois parties in order to find a solution where no such solution exists.

“b) They advocate a total break by the proletariat with all the statist democratic illusions, and its concentration around the working class and peasant solution, which implies the possession of the social and natural wealth by the producers themselves.

“c) They maintain that only in the world of labor, in the workplaces, can an effective and definitive remedy be found for all forms of reaction.

“They state that the agreement of the producers is possible under the following conditions:

“1. The exclusion from the workplace of elements affiliated with fascist institutions, by way of the joint action of the anti-capitalist trade union organizations.

“2. Employment of the insurrectionary method for the conquest of the social wealth usurped by privileged minorities, and its administration by the producers themselves.

“3. Establishment of a regime of life, of labor and of consumption that responds to the common needs of the population and does not allow exploitation and the domination of man over man to exist in any form.

“4. The defense of this new regime of life cannot be entrusted to professional armies or political bodies, but must be in the hands of all the workers, without the latter losing contact with their workplaces.

“5. Respect and toleration for the diverse proletarian and revolutionary social conceptions and guarantees for their free exercise.

“6. The struggle against fascism, an international phenomenon, must be carried out internationally, by the working class and revolutionary institutions, to the exclusion of all nationalist ideas and sentiments.”

***

As one can see from the document presented above, one may now observe what is essentially a surrender to “alliancism” and the use of the term “anti-fascism”; but this backsliding seems quite insignificant when we compare it to the later treasonous positions.

Let us see how the FAI presented its views after it had already fallen some way down the “fatal slope”:

“All the propaganda and all the action of anarchism are based on anti-capitalism and anti-statism. These two forms of economic and political domination imply the negation of the rights of the producer and of the freedom of the individual.

“In the State, capitalism finds its weapon of defense. The exploitation of the workers, of the peasants, of the technicians, allows the accumulation of wealth and economic power—the force majeure to which the disinherited are subjected—in the hands of an unproductive minority. By means of the laws that assure the bourgeoisie the right of property with all its repressive system, with its armed force, the State constitutes the most solid bastion of the capitalist system. As opposed to the Marxist position that attributes to the State transitional functions in the creation of a new society, and which maintains that the State will gradually wither away until it disappears when class differences will have disappeared, anarchism proclaims the uselessness of the State and states that its presence after the revolutionary events would signify the resurgence of a new power, of a new dictatorship, with the consequent emergence of a privileged bureaucracy and the logical establishment of a party government or preferentially one based on the leaders of the ruling party.

“Economic organization upon socialist foundation, being practicable, causes the new economic order to require a new political form. The anti-capitalist and anti-statist position of anarchism is confirmed by historical experience and by the certainty of being able to organize collective life, providing everyone with the possibility to satisfy their own needs, in exchange for their labor in a regime based on the socialization of the means of production.

“Federative organization, from the bottom up—from the base to the summit—will take the place of the state system. This reaffirmation of principles is fully justified at the present time. Constrained by the circumstances that accompany the war, the FAI and the CNT have had to participate in the governmental machinery. The collaboration imposed by the supreme and unavoidable necessity of defeating fascism and coexistence alongside the anti-fascist sectors led us to reluctantly abandon our ideological position. But this does not mean that we have renounced the anarchist ideal and tactics. The occupation of posts of responsibility in the departments of the central government and of the Generalitat, posts that we had to occupy, being compelled by the circumstances of the war, by no means implies a change in our theoretical conceptions. No; we shall continue to be anarchists as before, and we shall always have the same opinion of the State and the dictatorial solution (regardless of what name it is given).

“Before the entire world, before our comrades in the anarchist movement, before those who have deliberately distorted the interpretation of the events in Spain and our temporary participation in the government, we can state without any exaggeration that this resolution of the FAI has an incalculable historical value.”

***

The concepts expounded by the FAI, apart from many inconsistencies and contradictions, break all records for arrogance.

We could reproduce, in order to support our view, a sensible commentary written by comrade A. Schapiro in response to the pathetic appeal issued by the FAI to the international anarchist movement calling upon the latter to imitate the FAI, and to enter into “alliances” with the political sectors of the different regions, but we shall refrain from doing so because the text is already so well known.

We shall, however, transcribe the resolutions approved by the Congress of the French Language Anarchist Federation at its congress held on August 14-15, 1937, concerning the delicate and ridiculous position of the FAI and the CNT, together with the commentary by the editors of Solidaridad (No. 143, April 1938), the official organ of the FORU, on these resolutions, because they will save us the trouble of elucidating fundamental objections and because the text containing them is a lapidary counterstroke:

“We shall transcribe some resolutions of the French Language Anarchist Federation, approved at the Congress held on August 14-15, 1937 in the city of Clermont-Ferrand. In view of the chaos that prevails in international anarchism, caused by the Spanish events, which brought confusionism to a large part of our movement, the firm position of the anarchists of the French Language Anarchist Federation merits our attention, who, with great courage, made a firm stand against revolutionary mystifications, sallying forth in defense of the propaganda and of the practices of struggle that are consistent with the principles of anarchism. Even when we do not totally agree with the interpretation they offer regarding the practical application of anarchism in the workers movement—since while they seek to instill the latter with an anarchist character from the outside, from the groups, we, based on the experience of a long revolutionary history, which demonstrates the superiority of the FORist interpretation, opt for the system that recommends that the anarchists must not act in the trade union sections as members of other groups outside of them, but as members of these same trade unions, and by this means successfully impress upon the workers movement a definitely anarchist orientation, adopting in advance the practices of struggle of direct action, a federalist system of organization by trade and anarchist principles and goals—despite this, we say, we consider it to be of great importance that the French anarchists have returned to activity within the trade unions, which will allow them to gain the influence among the workers that they have lacked until now, due to the erroneous practice of organizing in specific groups outside the working class organization.

“Something else that deserves emphasis, is the fact they have broken with the prejudice of alliances with politicians and the trade union mergers that advocate the absurdity of attempting to amalgamate all the workers in a single bloc, ‘outside of all ideology’, when they openly declare that they are working for the growth of the CGT-SR (affiliated with the IWA), providing it with increasingly greater material and ideological power, which could counteract the emasculating work of the reformist CGT, saving the proletariat from opportunistic ambiguities and political demagogy and liberating it from all obstacles that could hinder it in its progress towards its emancipation.

“We attribute the highest importance to these resolutions, both with regard to the position against ‘statist anarchism’, as well as with regard to militant action in the working class movement, since it is to be hoped that this attitude will be at least imitated, if not surpassed, by the anarchists of the other countries, which are losing their sense of direction or vegetating in the vicious circle of ‘specificism’, and that those revolutionary aberrations should be abandoned and the comrades should resolve to create a real trade union movement, in which the activity of the anarchists who, for one reason or another do not belong to the trade unions, will not only be allowed but encouraged, on the basis of which one can work freely to forge anarchist consciousness, for the purpose of being able to expose the entire population to the details of our ideal, leading it to conceive the possibility of the existence of a society without a State, based on free agreement and mutual aid, which will lead it to fight consciously for the destruction of the authoritarian regimes and for the establishment of Anarchist Communism.”

Resolutions of the Congress of the French Language Anarchist Federation:

“Considering that, faced with the situation in which a part of the CNT-FAI has committed, from the very beginning, deplorable errors with respect to their positions, this Congress deems that the only way to rectify the situation in Spain, both from the anarchist point of view as well as from the perspective of our final victory, is to immediately abandon all governmental, political, militarist and diplomatic activity and return to revolutionary methods of struggle. That all the non-conformist elements of both organizations are the only ones who can accomplish this, but that the international anarchist movement finds itself obliged to break with the political and politicizing elements of the CNT-FAI, who still speak in the name of the organization and the revolution.

“The Congress declares that it is profoundly saddened and angry because of the official lack of concern on the part of the CNT-FAI regarding the persecution of the anarchists in Spain, and calls for a campaign of energetic protest in every country.

“In favor of the anarchist prisoners and victims of the Stalinist repression—The odious repression underway in Spain must be denounced before the international workers movement and the defamatory campaign waged by the Third International against those who devote themselves totally to the struggle against fascism and who have for more than a year carried out prodigies of heroism to crush the mercenary gangs of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, must be repudiated.

“We call upon the organizations of the CNT-FAI to respond with firmness and to provide the material and moral solidarity that is owed to the foreign comrades arrested after the May Days of 1937 in Barcelona, to energetically defend them and to attempt by all means to prevent them from being executed, and decide to undertake a campaign to break the code of silence around the ‘anti-fascist’ and ‘popular’ fronts, in order to denounce the organized murder of the best revolutionaries by the lackeys under the orders of Moscow.”

***

It has been demonstrated that, in the name of the FAI, the “enlightened” ones have been sent to govern the Spanish people. Moreover; when the Marxist politicians did not need their good services and they were “dismissed” from their posts, the FAI attempted to transform itself into a political party in order to prepare itself to once again occupy certain ministerial posts, in case they are summoned—they thought they were indispensable—by the “anti-fascists”.

Despite the fact that they so earnestly desired such positions, the ministerial “crises” that subsequently took place did not provide the faístas with an opportunity to continue to demonstrate their great abilities as statesmen, diplomats and sociologists.