Chapter 6: The first contradictions

6

The first contradictions

From the brief descriptions related above, we see that the day-by-day expectation of the social revolution was a reality imposed by the circumstances. The oral and written propaganda that had been carried out; the bloody strikes waged against Iberian capitalism; the imprisonment and trials and shootings inflicted on the militants of the CNT and the FAI, over decades throughout Spain, had born their long awaited fruit.

The people in arms had destroyed a regime of opprobrium, tyranny and exploitation and had decided to build a new society where everyone would enjoy liberty and wellbeing.

The anarchist militants, who were the first to man the most dangerous positions, would also be the first to orient the people towards their emancipation, taking care that they would not have to experience what the Russian people had to go through, after November 7, 1919 [sic: should be 1917], when the politicians took advantage of all the enormous efforts and so many lives lost: so that now the Russian people live under the rule of a bloody dictatorship.

We were sure that it could not happen in any other way. That was when we received a communiqué, which had been sent by the CNT to the members of the confederation and the Spanish people in general, issuing a warning with regard to the ongoing events, in the following terms:

“Comrades: Compelled by the events and understanding that every hour that passes requires a different approach, because the great counterrevolutionary offensive is basically different both in form and substance, we are issuing this manifesto today, ready as always to provide orientation and assistance to those who are accessible to our message, the Spanish revolutionary masses.

“This is a dangerous time for the interests of the proletarian community. On the horizon we can observe, with increasingly well-defined outlines, the implacable unfolding of the bloody maneuvers of the Spanish bourgeoisie.

“Those who, like us, do not participate in the political leadership of the country, although with our attitude we have on more than one occasion caused a change of course in the governmental sphere, must now set forth, as we have on so many other similar occasions, our position on the nation’s government.

“Everyone knows about our aversion to participating, we repeat, in the political fate of the population. Politics is the infectious dunghill that pollutes the entire body with its miasmas. That is what we have always thought and now each passing hour reinforces our convictions about this matter, that the roads of the revolution cannot be squeezed into the narrow and constraining lanes offered by the despicable everyday politics. The latter are full of blind alleys and deceptive crossroads that cause individuals and collectives to lose their proper features. That is why the National Confederation of Labor, in accordance with the orientations of the First International, once again says to the insurrectionary masses: do not trust anyone else to do something for you; the leaders, in the great turning points of history, always advise calm and discipline. This is why we now seek, in order to impel the revolution towards its final goal, to convince the masses to disregard the appeals of those who turn their backs on the crude and sharply defined reality, and who prefer a democracy draped in the shroud of hunger and persecutions, rather than a profound and transformative revolution. As for fascism, the criminality of the powerful castes elevated into a system, you can only abolish it by destroying capitalist society at its roots.”

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What a difference there is between the actual positions these organizations were to adopt and the beautiful concepts proclaimed above! The breeze of reality left quite a pile of dead leaves behind it!

Those who controlled the fate of an enormous population and an immense territory, such as is represented by Barcelona and Aragon, within a few hours of having become aware of their victory committed their first mistakes and publicized their first acts of betrayal with regard to matters of principle. They joined a Committee of Militias, in shameful association with the politicians, and the CNT and the FAI proclaimed that their organizations were “in favor of collaboration and democracy, renouncing the revolutionary totalitarianism that would necessarily lead to the suffocation of the republic by a confederal and anarchist dictatorship”, in the words of García Oliver; they “recognized the priority of collective responsibility”, adding that “not allowing ourselves to be swept away by the excitement, nor to be intoxicated by the rapid, definitive and overwhelming victory that we had won”, they issued the order to “conquer the towns controlled by fascism”. “There is no libertarian communism.” “First we have to fight the enemy wherever he may be found”, according to Mariano Vázquez.

They had forgotten, a few days after signing them with their own hands and publishing them, those lapidary phrases of the CNT’s communiqué: “Do not trust anyone else to do anything for you; the leaders, at the turning points of history, always advise calm and discipline….”

The Spanish people, who had been the eternal victims of the priests, the village caciques and political caudillos, were now the victims of the confederal “caudillos”.

The concepts disseminated by the CNT and the FAI in their newspapers and magazines, which were numerous in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, etc., in order to justify these first retreats with respect to principle, do not merit comment, even if they are in their own way emotionally compelling. They sought to put the brakes on the people’s innate yearning for redemption, the social revolution, so that the Marxist politicians of Spain and the bourgeois and “proletarian” democracies—France, England and Russia—would help the Spanish people in their battle against fascism!!

From then on, everything was disconcerting and shameful. In order to drive home the nail of their inconsistencies, of their betrayal of their own ideas, they initiated a spirited campaign in favor of “unified command”, “control and discipline”, “all arms to the front”, and “win the war”.

They had ceased to be anarchists and instead became plain “anti-fascists” and sought, indeed begged anxiously, for “unity” with all the politicians, and positions of “responsibility” in Spain’s central government.