Part 1: Preamble

Submitted by libcom on January 3, 2006

Chapters I-IV



  • I: The Ideal
  • II: The Men and the Struggles
  • III: Material for a Revolution
  • IV: A Revolutionary Situation



    "Now I can die, I have seen my ideal realised." This was said to me in one of the Levante collectives, if my memory servers me well, by one of the men who had struggled throughout their lives for the triumph of social justice, human liberty and brotherhood.

    His idea was libertarian communism, or anarchy. But the use of this work carried with it the risk in all languages of distorting in people's minds what the great savant and humanist, Elise» Reclus, defined as the "noblest conception of order." More especially because very often, and it was the case in France, the anarchists seems to have done their utmost to agree with their enemies, and to justify to negative and nihilistic interpretation which one already finds in such and such and order or edict of Philip the Fair in France. It is therefore to betray the meaning of what the old militant, who had struggled to long and had suffered so much, and who probably was shot by one of Franco's firing squads, was saying to me, thus to stick to the simple expression of a word so widely interpreted. Let us therefore look into the matter more deeply.

    In his pamphlet "El Ideal Anarquista," Ricardo Mella, who was the most genuine and original thinker of Spanish anarchism, gave the following definition of this ideal: "liberty as the basis, equality as the means, fraternity as the ends." Let us bear this well in mind: the ultimate goal, the crowning glory was fraternity, in which freedom would be at the same time both a basis and a consequence, for can there be fraternity without liberty; but equally can one deprive one's brother of liberty?

    Besides, these concepts had not penetrated in Spain with the much debated and debatable word anarchy. In his Book El Proletariado Militante, to which one must constantly return, Anselmo Lorenzo, who after Mella was the most qualified thinker among Spanish anarchists, recounts how these ideas had been revealed to him, first by reading some of Proudhon's books before 1870, among them De La Capacit» Politique des Classes OuvriÀres which had been translated by Pi y Margall. (1) These books, and the articles published by Pi y Margall himself in his journal La Discusion had been demonstrated to him the reality of the social problem, whereas other men were struggling for a republic which could not be other than bourgeois, and they affiliated themselves with the Carbonaro movement or with some other European secret society.

    It was at this time that the Bakuninist influence penetrated into Spain. Its bearer was a distinguished fighter, the Italian Giuseppe Fanelli, a former Garibaldian combatant, later an Independent Liberal Deputy, who have met Bakunin, presumably at the time of his stay in Florence, was to subscribe to his social ideas.

    Bakunin defended and propagated Socialism. At that time, the word anarchy was for him synonymous with disorder, chaos, delinquency. He also founded in Geneva, with friends, including some intellectuals of the first order, (2) the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy. He was known Proudhon during his stay in Paris, during the years 1844-48. (3) As with Proudhon, Bakunin's socialism was anti-statist. It satisfied his Slavonic psychology, his generous Russian nature, his cosmic view of things, and the broad human philosophy based on experimental science which he constructed for himself. His thought matured during the twelve years he spend in detention in the fortress, in prison and in Siberian deportation. The behaviour of the authoritarian and dictatorial Marx during this long and painful period only strengthened his suspicion and aversion to dictatorship, even when called popular.

    So, when in 1869, Fanelli expounded the doctrine of the Alliance to the new friends he had made in Madrid and in Barcelona, he was able to refer to the seven articles of the programme of that secret organisation, written in the hand of its founder:

    "The Alliance declares itself atheistic; it demands the political, economic, and social equality of members of both sexes."

    "The land, working tools, as well as all wealth, by becoming the collective property of the whole of society, cannot be used other than by the workers, that is to say by the agricultural and industrial associations."

    "It demands for all children of both sexes, from the moment they are born, equality of the means for development, that is to say maintenance and education to all levels in science, industry and the arts."

    "It recognises that all political and authoritarian states that exist now will have to be submerged in the universal union of free federations both agricultural and industrial."

    "It not being possible to find a definitive and real solution to the social question, other than on the basis of the international solidarity of workers of all countries, the Alliance rejects all politics based on so-called patriotism and on the rivalries between nations."

    "It demands the universal association of all local associations through freedom."

    In this programme Bakunin went further than Proudhon, for example, on women's equality of rights"he had already done so, among others in his Revolutionary Catechism; he went further than Marx in his vision of a new society constructed on an international basis of workers' economic organisation. For the Statutes of the International don't go so far, they do not imply a clear technique of social reorganisation at the same time as a political doctrine (which was to leave the way open to many surprises and lead to the capture of Parliament and of the State).

    But it is surprising to see with what alacrity and ease, with what precision, the two nuclei " in Madrid and Barcelona " assimilated and spread the fundamental doctrine of the Alliance.

    For, a year later, on June 19, 1870, the first congress of the Spanish section of the First International was held in Barcelona at the Teatro Circo Barcelon»s.

    That congress, at which 40,000 workers were represented out of population of 18 million inhabitants, was characterised by the seriousness and profundity of the discussion, the problems studied and the resolutions passed. The need to have done with the domination of capital and the exploitation of man by man; the establishment of a tactic which belonged to the working class independently of the political parties; the need to prepare oneself to take over from the bourgeois society through the workers' associations, was developed at length. And from the beginning the ways of applying the ideal called for the elaboration of directives which one finds in the revolution relative to the organisation of the workers:

    1. In every locality workers of each trade will be organised in socialised sections; in addition a general section will be established which will include all workers engaged in trades that are not yet included in special sections: it will be a section of different trades.

    2. All sections of trades from the same locality will federate and organise a solidary cooperation applied also to matters of mutual aid, education, (4) etc., which are of great interest to the workers.

    3. Section of the same trade belonging to different localities will federate to constitute resistance and solidarity within their occupation.

    4. Local federations will federate to constitute the Spanish Regional Federation which will be represented by a Federal Council elected by the congresses.

    5. All the trade sections, local federations, trade federations, as well as the Regional Federation will govern themselves on the basis of their own rules worked out at their congresses.

    6. All the workers represented by the workers' congresses will decide, through the intermediary of their delegates, as to the methods of action and development of our organisation.

    Certainly the fundamental postulates of the idea were the work of Bakunin and were brought there by Fanelli. But here one finds a vast organisational concept and a creative initiative going beyond all that had hitherto been done in Europe, indicating to what a degree the idea was understood and assimilated. In this complex and complete structure principles guided action, but the action to follow was to guide and complement the principles. On the other hand we find ourselves confronted by an innovatory spirit, an active will and an ethical sense, which in one bound went beyond the limits of syndical corporatism. One was not only thinking of creating an organisation with a professional character but one that was also humanist and social in the broad sense of the word. Even while an effective weapon of struggle for the immediate future against the class enemy was being forged, the foundations were being laid of a new society.

    Already, what later was to be called the vertical organisation constituted on the basis of national federations, completes the horizontal organisation. At the same time, the local federations set up in the somewhat less important centres, where different craft unions existed, bring together and federate the latter for common struggles. In France, this happened thirty years later in the form of the bourses de travail (labour exchanges) and to achieve this it was necessary that Fernand Pelloutier, who came from the petite bourgeoisie, should become its advocate.

    But the ideal also appears in other resolutions that were adopted, and other tasks are envisaged for the immediate future though often the bitterness of the social struggle prevented the application of the decisions reached. At that same congress, tho question of cooperatives was also taken up. For men who envisaged the radical transformation of society in a very short tune, the cooperatives might have appeared as a dangerous setback. But though they still did not know of the programme of the Rochdale Pioneers, the worker delegates at the Barcelona congress found commonsense and well balanced solutions to this problem. Paragraph 3 of the resolution on which they had voted stipulated that:

    "When circumstances demand it, cooperation in production must favour the production of goods for immediate consumption by the workers, but we take it to task when it does not extend, in fact, its solidarity to the large workers' organisations."

    Nevertheless, the principle of universal solidarity, extended to all the exploited seems specially practicable through consumer cooperation, "the only one which not only can be applied in all cases and in all circumstances, but which must also provide the rudiments and the means for the general development of all those workers whose cultural backwardness makes new ideas difficult to comprehend".

    Finally, the sixth and final paragraph sitpulates that "alongside consumer cooperatism and complementary to it, one can place cooperatives for mutual aid and public instruction" (my italics).

    One must point out that we are talking about June, 1870. At that time Marx's book Das Kapital was still unknown as was the Communist Manifesto, and the Paris Commune was not to explode until the following year. Federalist and libertarian socialism in Spain was therefore to develop by the impulse of its own strength. In one stroke, the ideal was stated in general terms and what was later to be called French revolutionary syndicalism was formulated after that period. But what was elaborated in those historic days was to be added to in the congresses that followed in the next decade.

    Thus in the following year the conference of the organisation comprising the "Spanish Regional Section of the First International" goes further in clarifying these questions. The most able of the militants had been to Switzerland to establish contact with Bakunin who inspired their action thanks to a constructive mind and to organisational gifts embracing life on a world scale. But they added their own ideas to his. In the interests of the immediate struggle, of working class resistance and for the organisation of the new society, Spain was organically divided into five regions by the delegates: North, South, East, West and Central. As had been decided the previous year, the local and national trades federations were founded. A form of cooperation, also by trades, was outlined in order to be able to facilitate and to control this part of general activity. On September 1, 1871, after a week of discussions on various subjects, a declaration of principles against republicanism as the political, but not social, enemy of the monarchical regime was approved:

    "Seeing that the true meaning of the word 'Republic' is 'the public thing', that is what belongs to the collectivity and involves the collective property;

    "That 'democracy' means the free exercise of individual rights, which is not practicable except under Anarchy, that is to say by the abolition of the political and juridical States in the place of which it will be necessary to constitute workers' States (5) the functions of which will be simply economic;

    "That man's rights cannot be subjected to laws for they are indefeasible and unalienable;

    "That in consequence the Federation must simply have an economic character;

    "The Conference of the workers of the Spanish region of the Workers International gathered in Valencia declares: "That the true democratic and federal republic is the collective property, Anarchy and the economic Federation, that is to say the free universal federation of free associations of agricultural and industrial workers, formula which it adopts in its entirety."

    One cannot but admire the richness of this thinking, which has never been improved on by any working class movement since it was first formulated. It took the French working class movement thirty-five years to get as far as the Amiens Charter, which is far inferior both in its theoretical and doctrinal content, in the breadth of the constructive horizons on the practical side, as well as in that sense of universality and internationalism which raises spirits and guides actions. Here, the basic inspiration is in the first place an ideal of brotherhood. It is above all a question of extending to all the peoples, to all the inhabitants of the world, the practice of human solidarity.

    In the following year - 1872 - the International was declared illegal by the Madrid government in spite of its brilliant defence made in the Cortes by Nicolas Salmeron, a noble figure and eminent republican jurist. In Italy the government was to take the same steps. In France, where the Le Chapelier law still prevailed, courts continued to condemn Internationalists to heavy terms of imprisonment. But whereas the Italian Internationalists guided by Malatesta, Covelli, Andrea Costa, Carlo Cafiero and other young enthusiasts from the bourgeoisie, welcomed this measure which they believed would hasten the revolution, and launched out in wild insurrectional attempts which provoked the complete dissolution of the movement, the Spanish militants did not lose sight of the objectives of a constructive nature and of the immediate organic action which stems from it. They began by confirming the positive aspirations in a Manifesto addressed to public opinion by the Federal Council of the Spanish Section of the First International:

    "We want justice to be achieved in all human relations;

    "We want the abolition of ad social classes and their fusion into a single class of free, honest and cultured producers;

    "We want work to be the basis on which society rests; that the world be converted into one immense federation of free working class local collectives which, by federating among themselves, will constitute a completely autonomous local federation; that the local federations in one canton will constitute the cantonal federation, that the various cantonal federations in a region will constitute the regional federation and finally that all the regional federations of the world will constitute the large international federation.

    "We want the instruments of work, the land, the mines, the shipyards, the merchant navy, the railways, factories, machine, etc having become the property of the whole of society should not be utilised except by the workers Collectives who will make them produce directly and within which the worker will receive the full produce of his work; (6)

    "We want for all individuals of both sexes a complete education in science, industry and the Arts (7) so that intellectual inequalities almost entirely imaginary, will disappear, and that the distinctive effects of the division of labour should not recur; one will then secure the unique, but positive, advantages from that economic force by the production of that which is destined to satisfy human needs;

    "We believe that by the organisation of society in a vast federation of workers Collectives based on work, all authoritarian powers will disappear, converting themselves into simple administrators of the collective interests, and that the spirit of nationality and patriotism, so antagonistic to union and solidarity among men, will be obliterated before the great fatherland of work, which is the whole world.

    "Such is the socialism that is proclaimed by the International of which the two fundamental affirmations are: collectivism in economics and anarchy as a political principle. Collectivism, that is the common property in the instruments of work, their use by the workers' Collectives which use them to produce directly, and individual ownership of the whole product of each person's labour. Anarchy, or the abolition of governments, that is to say their conversion into the simple administrators of collective interests."

    Do not these last paragraphs remind one of Proudhon's formula: "The workshop will make the government disappear"? Or better perhaps that of Saint-Simon: "To replace the government of men by the administration of things"?

    Still in the year 1872, the Spanish Section of the First International continued to clarify principles and the means for realising them. A new massive contribution came from the Saragossa congress just before it was declared illegal. The moral level of the matters dealt with, the resolutions that were passed, often prevailed by far over economic problems and solutions, the whole generally interpenetrating for the first time in the working class movement. The subjects dealt with included the fate of woman "whose emancipation is intimately linked to the problem of property", the sections of consumers' cooperatives, the consumer committees organised by workers' sections of resistance and by a specialised Cooperative Federation. A long report, worthy of a jurist, indicates how much, and in what detail, the authors had studied the problem of property. But above all the report on "Integral teaching" holds our attention for it was the first time that this subject gave rise to such a profound analysis.

    It is amazing to find, in the first place, the combined scientific considerations, and the enumeration in order of importance of the relations between the biological development of the child and that of the physiological faculties which were then being propounded. One is tempted to say that since then none of the great masters of pedagogy has gone further. In fact, this report was the work of an intellectual won over to the workers and with whom he collaborated, but how praiseworthy of those metal workers, masons, printers, labourers, weavers, stevedores, to support the launching of pedagogic ideas half a century in advance of their time!

    Viewed as a whole their constructive spirit was exceptional. We can find confirmation of it in the third Resolution approved at the Congress of St. Imier, held on the 15th and 16th September, 1872. That congress brought together those sections of the International which would not bow to the dictates of Marx and to the dissolution of that Association as the answer to the protests of the majority of the sections against the fraudulent expulsion of Bakunin, James Guillaume and the Jura Federation. (8)

    Among the questions on the Agenda was one on the subject of "The organisation of work, statistics". The report presenter had been obviously written by Bakunin, and ended with these words:

    "The Commission proposes to nominate a Commission which will have to present a project to the next Congress for the universal organisation of resistance, and complete tables of statistics of work from which this struggle will seek its inspiration. It recommends the Spanish section as the best up to now."

    The following year, and though, as we have seen, the Spanish Federation was declared illegal, the figures show that there were 162 local federations and a further 62 in the course of formation A year later, according to the Belgian historian Laveleye, the number of members reached 300,000, which in our view is excessive, and probably refers to the influence exercised by the Spanish Section of the International. Then, when the movement became clandestine because of the persecutions, its numbers decreased. Nevertheless, in 1876 a Conference of cantonal federations once again enumerates the principles which have to be applied at the time of revolution:

    "1. The localities where the members of the International may triumph as a result of the International movement will declare themselves free and independent and released from the national structure. (9)

    2. Each locality will immediately declare that what is enclosed within its boundaries belongs to it, that nothing belongs to any individual, to anybody, apart from furniture, clothing and other objects for personal use.

    5. The organisation of the federation of popular forces of all the federations, cantons, and of all countries.

    8. The local councils will subdivide into as many commissions as are considered necessary: defence, subsistence, administration, work, education, cantonal and federal relations, etc....

    9. Dissolution of all the organs of the existing State, destruction and burning of all title deeds and rent certificates mortgages, financial securities, recognisances, etc

    ; seizure and concentration of all gold reserves and paper money, jewellery and precious stones found in the locality; centralisation of all consumer goods and; partial concentration of tools and machines in utilisable workshops.

    11. Cantonal and regional congresses will take over the management, through special commissions, of all that cannot be done by individual communes, cantonal and regional defence, the organisation of public services, the merchant navy, railways, Posts and Telegraphs, etc.; nomination of delegates from the region to the general Congress and in other regions."'

    Clearly, the problems went on being studied in the theoretical sense, without preventing the movement from achieving great material strength. At that time "wild-cat" strikes took place in the countryside, particularly in Levante and Andalusia. Depending on the regions and provinces in which the governors, delegates and representatives of the central power had the right to suspend constitutional guarantees, to close down premises, to arrest and deport administratively whoever they chose to pick on; where the police resorted to torture, where unemployment was rife, where "agitators" and their families were reduced to such a state of penury that a pair of canvas shoes was often a luxury, journals propagating the ideal appeared openly or clandestinely.

    Who will ever know how many? Let us take an example. In the small town of Corunna (on the coast to the north of Portugal), alone, where the number of inhabitants increased from 30,000 to 60,000 between' 1874 and 1923, four libertarian communist or anarchist, and of course also syndicalist, weeklies appeared in succession during those years: La Bandera Roja, La Emancipacion, El Corsario, La Lucha Obrera. Later, after a prolonged period of repression, there were another five: Germinal, La Emancipacion, La Voz del Obrero, Tierra and Solidaridad Obrera (the present writer has contributed to the two latter journals).

    It would be impossible, unless one had the archives of the Ministry of the Interior at one's disposal, to list all the publication that appeared between 1870 and 1936. But let us quote the figures we know for the year 1936 -- and probably the list is not complete: two dailies: Solidaridad Obrera, organ of the CNT, which appeared in Barcelona with a circulation of between 40,000 and 50,000, and C.N.T. the Madrid organ of the same organisation with an average circulation of 30,000. Among the periodicals -- about ten in all -- the veteran of the Spanish anarchist press, Tierra y Libertad, published in Barcelona with a circulation of 20,000; Vida Obrera was published in Gijon (Asturias); El Productor appeared in Seville; Cultura y Accion in Saragossa. But that is not all, for in addition there were the Reviews. There was Tiempos Nuevos in Barcelona with a circulation of 15,000; La Revista Blanca, with a minimum circulation of 5,000; Esfuerzo, also published in Barcelona and with the same circulation; in Valencia Orto had a similar circulation, but above all there was Estudios, with an average circulation of 65,000 copies which at times reached 75,000.

    In all these publications the same objectives were continually put forward. Whereas in other countries, and during periods of struggle, stress was only laid on criticism, the single immediate demand, the denunciation of the ills of society, often with curses, the directing and constructive ideas were here continually recalled. Even during a period of illegality, El Municipio Libre, a journal published in Malaga, could publish the following in its May or June issue of 1880:

    "We want the constitution of free communes, independent from any centralising tie, with no other union than that which stems from federal pacts freely agreed to and always subject to repeal by the contracting communes.

    "The appropriation by the communes of the land, the instruments of work of which the full right of use has been granted to the agricultural and industrial Collectives.

    "The recognition of the social rights of individuals of both sexes who contribute to production.

    "Complete education, and application of all the moral and physical means of development to the education of children.

    "A municipal system guaranteeing in full the rights of the individual.

    "Organisation of work allowing to each worker the enjoyment of the whole product of his labour.

    "Advances to be made in all activities which will allow mankind to take advantage of all inventions and progress, the fruits of man's genius."

    Most certainly some objections on details can be levelled at the ideas on economic organisation, so long as one puts oneself in the context of the period, and takes into account, for instance, the economic structures of Andalusia and other regions. But what matters are the broad outlines, the ever. present constructive spirit, which means that the errors of anticipation can be quickly corrected when the time comes. (10) And one should bear in mind this constant return to "complete education". It has been possible to write, and with justice, that Joaquin Costa, the great republican leader and sociologist, an inspired autodidact, who did so much to raise the cultural level of the Spanish people, and made free education one of the major planks of his struggle, had been preceded by those libertarian workers and peasants whose material existence was so dull but whose spirit was so illumined.

    The period of illegality begun in 1872-73 passed, and after nine years during which innumerable struggles were engaged, the syndical organisation, once more nationally linked, held a congress in Barcelona. At the end of the discussions a Manifesto was drafted for the Spanish people. Exaggerations apart, the same ideal was recalled with the same insistence:

    "We the workers who are the true craftsmen in society, its creative and vital force, who through our material and intellectual efforts (11) are building towns and villages, who work on the land and extract from its bowels the most precious products; who build ships which cross the seas transporting the wealth that we produce; who build the railways which link the most isolated regions; who lay cables at the bottom of the ocean which make it possible for the Old World to communicate with the New; who tunnel the mountains, build aqueducts and dig canals; those of us who take part in all that mankind produces with our bare hands . . . as a result of a terrible contradiction, do not enjoy its riches. Why? Because the power of Capital and of the bourgeoisie reduces our sweat to a commodity which is deemed a wage rate and carries the seal of slavery and is the source from which stem all the evils which oppress us."

    Once again one sees how the problem of social classes is clearly posed: Here now, is the statement of the methods of struggle and the ends to be attained.

    "Our organisation, which is entirely economic, distinguishes itself from all the political bourgeois and workers' parties; it is opposed to them all because all those parties organised themselves to win political power, whereas we organise ourselves to destroy all existing political States and to replace them by a FREE FEDERATION OF FREE ASSOCIATIONS OF FREE WORKERS."

    A further commentary is necessary. The preceding paragraph is clearly aimed at international Marxism and naturally at Marx -who had led his supporters along the road of Parliamentarianism and the State, by submitting at the Congress of The Hague (September 1872) a resolution declaring that "the conquest of political power is the primary duty of the proletariat". The political polemic between the two schools of socialism began in Spain. It has continued to spread and to grow ever since.

    The Manifesto then stressed the internationalism, the universality of the objectives pursued and the vision of the future:

    "The social problem is not only national, but concerns workers in both worlds, for the cornering of raw materials, the introduction of machines, the division of labour, the concentration of Capital, bank transactions and financial speculations, the development of the means of communication are so in any economic forces that have favoured the full rise of the bourgeoisie and its excusive domination of social interests."

    Even the relatively uninformed reader will observe that the drafters of this document had read Proudhon, and especially Qu'est ce que la Propriete? and the Contradictions Economiques. But he will also observe that these workers, some of whom -- Ricardo Mella, Anselmo Lorenzo, Rafael Farga, Pellicer, Federico Urales -- in analysing the structure of capitalism and its development with an extraordinarily profound knowledge, had attained to the level of sociologists. (12)

    This progress and development which were pursued whenever the situation was favourable were on several occasions referred to by Peter Kropotkin who, in the journal Le Revolte which he had founded and which was the only anarchist journal then extant in the French language, wrote in an editorial (November 12, 1881) that the workers' movement was reviving with a new vitality in Europe". Then, referring to Spain:

    "But it is above all in Spain that at the moment there is an important development. After having brooded for the past eight years as the fire under the cinders, it has just appeared openly with the latest congress in Barcelona at which 140 workers' organisations were represented by 136 delegates. Not just sections of seven or eight members who have been drawn together in a district by pure chance, but sections of workers in the same trade, whose members know each other intimately and meet every day, who are inspired with the same hopes and who share a common enemy in the boss, and a common objective -- that of casting off the yoke of Capital; in a word, a real organisation.

    "We look through the issues of La Revista Social, a newspaper produced by the workers themselves and each one informs us both of the creation of new trade sections, the support of existing groups and the federation of groups formerly isolated. In reading the bulletin of the Spanish movement we feel ourselves carried back to the best times of the International with just this difference: more sharpness in the aspirations, a clearer conception of the struggle to be waged, and a more revolutionary outlook among the grouping as a whole.

    "A comparison comes immediately to mind: the comparison between the movement which exists in Spain with that which exists in France all to the advantage of Spain and all to the disadvantage of France."

    After other considerations Kropotkin stresses the difference between the two countries:

    "Faithful to the anarchist traditions of the International these intelligent, active, restless men will not keep to themselves to pursue their narrow ends; they remain in the working class, they struggle with it and for it. They bring their energy to the workers' organisation and work to build up a force which will crush Capital on the day of the revolution: the revolutionary trade association. Trade sections, federations of all the trades of the locality, the region, and combat groups independent of all trades but above all socialists. (13) That is how they constitute the cadres of the revolutionary army . . .

    "We could not do less than advise the French workers to take up again, as their Spanish brothers have done, the traditions of the International, to organise themselves outside all political parties by inscribing on their banner solidarity in the struggle against Capital."

    We would like to comment on this commentary. We note in the first place that it needed, at the time, a Russian to publish in Geneva the only anarchist paper in the French language, the French anarchists being neither numerous enough nor enterprising enough to do so themselves; whereas in Spain . . . This difference is most significant.

    Furthermore, for the French workers it was not a question of returning to the traditions of the First International, for the simple reason that it had never existed in France as an organised movement, and that the few local sections which managed to form themselves were relentlessly persecuted, whereas in Spain the movement had a few years to establish, and to learn how to organise, itself.

    Then also it lacked a Bakunin. In spite of all his qualities Kropotkin could not exercise this influence, this fascination, which were characteristic of the great fighter who was also a great thinker and organiser. He lacked that gift of human, personal attraction and understanding, which made it possible for a peasant or a labourer to feel uninhibited when talking with Bakunin who because of, or in spite of, being a hereditary "lord" understood the common man and knew how to put himself at his level.

    All this explains why Kropotkin, though in favour of workers' militancy and organisation, could not exert an influence over his comrades comparable with that of Bakunin. Furthermore, at the time, the Italian movement, because of the impatience and clumsiness of its outstanding personalities was reduced almost to a skeletal state; and likewise the Swiss Jura Federation.

    It also explains why the French anarchist movement was organised on the basis of groups of "seven or eight members who have been fortuitously brought together in a district" pursuing "their petty ends" and abandoning the great tasks of social transformation.

    In June of the following year Kropotkin returned to the Spanish example. But without effect. It required the disastrous terrorist activity of the so-called "heroic" period, and a kind of internal disintegration as a result of numerous deviations, for some anarchists to decide, from about 1895 onwards, to enter the syndicates where they introduced not only the practice of violence, as Georges Sorel wrote of it, but a body of doctrine of which the main elements were adopted by the school of revolutionary syndicalism.

    But let us return to Spain. Years have passed and in 1887 a congress was held and a Manifesto issued which was reproduced in the newspaper El Productor. (14) In it we read:

    "We declare for anarchy (no-government) and we aspire to a socio-economic system in which, by agreeing on the interests and the reciprocity of rights and duties everybody will be free, all will contribute to production and will enjoy the maximum of happiness, which consists in that the products consumed are the fruits of the labour of each one, without exploitation, and consequently without the curses of a single exploited worker.

    "The land must have no master, any more than the air and the light, or the underground riches, or the forests, or all that is not the fruit of men's work.

    "Science cannot have a master, any more than can the means of production which are the result and application of scientific knowledge.

    "The Land, Science, the machines of heavy industry, have not been created by their custodians, but are created either by causes independent of Man's will, or by the applied work of all men . . .

    "Social unity is fundamentally the producer . . . The first social group is the group of producers in the same line of work. The basic contract is made between the producer and the respective group of producers of the same line.

    "The groups of producers from a particular locality establish a contract -- by which they constitute an entity facilitating exchange, credit, education, health and the local police; and they conclude contracts with other localities for credit and for exchange in a wider sphere, such as communications, general and reciprocal public services . . .

    "The land, the mines, the railways and in general all the means of production, of transport and exchange are conceded for full right of use to the workers' collectives. The final goal of the revolution is:

    "The dissolution of the State.

    "The expropriation of the owners of the common inheritance of the world.

    "The organisation of society on the basis of the work of those who can produce; the rational distribution of the products of labour; help for those who are not yet qualified to work or who are no longer able to; the integral physical and scientific education of future producers . . .

    "For these reasons the congress, which considers the Spanish Regional Federation as a free grouping in which workers can resolve all special cases by common initiative whenever unanimous action is necessary, recognises the freedom of individuals and of the collectives so that they may develop according to the special conditions that regulate the life of each one of us . . ."

    Such declarations, such programmes, to which are often added complementary conceptions or initiatives, indicate that the constructive preoccupations remain always in the forefront. And underlying these preoccupations there is invariably a fundamental doctrinal basis which inspires plans and projects. In that last Manifesto what remains is the collectivist concept proposed by Bakunin and modified by the Proudhonian mutualist concept of which the distinguishing feature is the formula of the contract.

    But in the same period there was an important development, which showed that lively minds were at work. Up to that time, following the collectivist doctrine and, as we have seen on different occasions, each producer had to enjoy "the whole product of his labour". Naturally, this formula had as its aim to destroy every vestige of the exploitation of man by man; but a new problem had been posed by the communist school of anarchism -- and in fact was posed implicitly in the constructive conceptions of Bakunin: many members of society were not qualified to work, so far as a productive contribution was concerned. Society was therefore obliged to keep them and to do so there was nothing for it but to deduct whatever was necessary from that part which, according to the principles maintained until then, belonged to the producers. The latter would not therefore be able to "enjoy the whole product of their labour". The formula which more and more commanded attention was that of true communism "to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability", which Louis Blanc had advocated and which Proudhon attacked partly on the ground that it was conceived in the form of State communism. and partly also because he rejected instinctively, one could almost say with all his being, what he called "the community". We are now assenting to a morality of complete solidarity, which was to find its practical expression in the Collectives of 1936-1939.

    At the instance of Marx and Engels, who sent LaFargue to combat on the spot the Spanish Internationalists who would not submit to their directives, another syndicalist organisation, which was Marxist and reformist, was set up (its founders were seven in number and all lived in Madrid). But it did not present either the moral strength that philosophical and social convictions based on a broad humanism give, or the characteristics of will and historic activity that spring from the ideal incorporated with action. In Spain, anarchism, or rather let us call it anti-authoritarian socialist federalism, preceded authoritarian State socialism, thus turning to advantage the time gained. But because of the influence it exerted on minds it was also better able to win over people: for not only did anarchism reject authority outside the individual, it also influenced society by its cultural activity spread among the masses. Let us not forget that in 1882 La Revista Social, edited by Luis de Oteiza, had a circulation of 20,000 and was probably the journal most read in Spain. Furthermore, in the history of international anarchism we do not know of a cultural manifestation to compare with that of the Segundo Certamen Socialista (15) and it is probably worthwhile underlining, once again, how easy it was for the Spanish anarchists to look upon themselves as one of the schools of socialism. In France such an attitude would have been judged and condemned as an unforgivable heresy . . .

    One will understand even better the importance achieved by this movement when one knows that in 1903 in Madrid, Tierra y Libertad which, as we have already pointed out, was to become the traditional journal of Spanish anarchism, became a daily newspaper under the editorship of Abelardo Saavedra. (16)

    In the following years one observes a kind of irresolution in the thinking of Spanish anarchism, which had previously been lucid and unambiguous. For unfortunately French anarchism, so out of sympathy with Proudhon and Bakunin, exerted an influence which was intellectually and spiritually restrictive. Its late entry into the syndicalist movement brought with it only a part of the militants. The custom of small groups, which Kropotkin deplored, had established itself only too well. It is true that there was much talk about making the revolution, but this was seen as the apotheosis of the General Social Upheaval, romanticised to the point where Jean Grave and Charles Malato had to polemicise with their own comrades for whom all organisation was necessarily authoritarian and threatened the rights of the individual. Then, as the revolution was long in coming about matters of secondary importance were taken up. Individualism appeared, with its Stirnerite demands more or less ably interpreted by the "self"; the revolt became purely negative, when it did not change course in quest of various marginal hobby-horses such as vegetarianism, naturism, aestheticism, Nietzschean exaltation, etc.

    France enjoyed an immense prestige in Spain. It was from France that many new ideas had been introduced or reintroduced such as republicanism, socialism and anarchism. Before long the French anarchist deviations were to be imported by a number of Spanish anarchists. (17)

    These novelties became confused with those of a form of anarchist communism which rejected union activity and the broad organic anticipation of the future by the Spanish anarchists. But on the one hand the very intensity of the Spanish problem limited these fantasies. And on the other the natural social feeling and the spirit of solidarity so strongly present in the Spaniard's nature were too powerful for such a movement to founder in these human follies. Furthermore the existence of the anarchist groups did not prevent, in the first place, social activity, and in the second, syndical action from fomenting this almost mystical dynamic of history which drives people to big dreams and big actions.

    The ideal dwells deep in the Spanish soul. For the ordinary militant it is not a question of philosophical abstractions, but of social justice, of work organised jointly, of a real brotherhood resulting from the equalitarian enjoyment of goods and services.

    The humblest anarchist peasant knows this, partly undoubtedly because his lot is so difficult that he cannot indulge in chimeras when the social question is at stake. And the congress at the Comedia theatre, held in Madrid in 1919, confirms what has always been: the aim of the C.N.T. is libertarian communism; to achieve it, it was decided to transform the traditional craft syndicates into industrial syndicates (18) in order the better to guarantee the management of the new economy. A situation which was to be ratified after ten years of civil and military dictatorship by the Congress of Saragossa in 1936, which marks a new departure in our syndical organisation.

    Let us say so bluntly: the Resolution of a constructive order voted by the delegates in a situation which was felt to be pre-revolutionary was inferior to those that had been voted at previous congresses. But the unceasing repetition of the ends and means, the will for constructive activities by the syndicates, the local, cantonal, regional, national federations, of their cohesion, the idea of communal activities, of widespread instruction, of large scale workshops to replace the decrepit ones in which craftsmen and small contractors were so badly recompensed for their work, all this had remained impressed in the minds of the rank and file militants, and all those who, until then, had given themselves heart and soul to the triumph of the ideal. And it is surprising to see how, though the tracts were unknown to the generation that made the revolution, the resolutions of the congresses of 1870, 1871, 1872, 1882 and others were applied, often to the letter, in the agrarian collectives and in the unions industrial achievements of 1936-1939.

    It should be pointed out, in conclusion, that during the five years of the republic (from 1931 to 1936) many studies were published which sought to prepare the way for the constructive realisations of the revolution. For the first time in the history of world anarchism, in turn D. A. de Santillan, Higinio Noja Ruiz, Gaston Leval dealt with these problems, not in the form of utopias and imaginary anticipations, but basing themselves on the concrete reality of the economy of the country, in the light of the statistics concerning industrial and agricultural production, the problem of raw materials, power, and international exchanges, public services, etc.... Other, but less documented, studies such as the one by Dr. Isaac Puente with the title El Communismo Libertario and other essays of lesser importance appeared at the same time. And five or six books translated from the French were by economists such as Cornelissen, by militant revolutionary syndicalist theoreticians such as Pierre Besnard, and less dogmatic sociologists such as Sebastien Faure. All the foregoing, and in addition many other books and numerous pamphlets issued by at least three publishing enterprises, contributed to preparing the majority of militants for the tasks that lay ahead.

    The ideals pursued by the Spanish anarchist-communists are the same as those followed and propagated by the greatest minds from Plato and perhaps some of the Stoics, right up to our own times. The Spanish revolution achieved what the early Christians were asking, what in the XIVth Century the Jacquerie in France and the English peasants led by John Ball struggled for, and those in Germany whom Thomas Munzer was to lead two centuries later, as well as the English Levellers led by Everard and Winstanley, the Moraves brothers, disciples of Jean Huss. That which Thomas More foresaw in his Utopia, and Francis Bacon, and Campanella in La Citta del Sole and the priest Jean Meslier in his famous Testament (too often ignored) and Morelli in his Naufrage des lles Flottantes, and Mably who like Morelli inspired the noblest minds in the American Revolution, and the enrages of the French Revolution of whom Jacques Roux, the "red priest" was one. And the army of thinkers and reformers of the XIXth Century and of the first thirty years of the present. It is, in world history, the first attempt to apply the dream of all that was best in mankind. It succeeded in achieving, in many cases completely, the finest ideal conceived by the human mind and this will be its permanent glory.

    Footnotes to Chapter 1

    [1] Philosopher and apostle of republican federalism who was -- not for long -- one of the Presidents of the first Spanish Republic (1873-74).

    [2] Not only the Reclus brothers, but men such as James Guillaume, Jules Guesde, Victor Dave, Alfred Naquet, belonged to the Alliance.

    [3] Deported from France by Gizot in 1847, he returned there when the revolution of February 1848 took place.

    [4] Note the importance attatched right from the beginning to schooling, and which continued right up until 1936-39.

    [5] The word State here has been used in the sense of nation, as one will readily see from what follows.

    [6] It will be seen later that the formula of the right of the worker to the full product of his labour will give way, with the introduction of the communist principle, to a more generous approach to things.

    [7] Clearly a Bakuninian phrase.

    [8] Not only was the pretext for expulsion false but Bakunin had not been warned of what was being hatched. He was absent and number of the delegates who voted in the manner desired by Marx were in possession of false mandates.

    [9] It refers to the political structure of the State to construct a different structure, as we shall see in due course.

    [10] This was verified in fact during the revolution, some libertarians had remained at the stage of the free, autarchic commune; they easily rectified.

    [11] It is noteworthy that the proletarian attitude did not exclude a criterion which gave to intellectual workers a place in the struggle.

    [12] Ricardo Mella a worker in the hat-making industry was to become a mining engineer.

    [13] Note that the word socialist was still used by Kropotkin at the time.

    [14] In the 1890s the editors of El Productor were engaged in a polemic with their counterparts on Temps Nouveaux (successor to La Revolte on the usefulness of activity within the workers' movement. Le Temps Nouveaux denied that it was useful.

    [15] The Second Socialist Contest, called a "contest" because rewards were given according to the value of the works.

    [16] A talented journalist from the petit bourgeoisie who rallied to the side of the people; an excellent speaker who could have made his career among the privileged classes and who until his death was a paragon of devotion to the cause which he had adopted. When I met him in 1917 he had already suffered imprisonment on twenty-two occasions.

    [17] Exile in France, during the periods of repression or of prolonged unemployment which obliged people to seek their bread on the other side of the Pyrenees, favoured the making of contact with the numerous little groups where long hair, sandals and the loosely tied bow were the widespread hallmark of the superior individuality of each one.

    [18] Unfortunately under the influence of eloquent demagogues, the congress rejected the constitution of federations of industries which were so necessary. It was only started in 1931 and this delay made itself felt during the revolution.



    For most of those who deal with social history, with the revolutionary achievements or possibilities, it is almost exclusively in the industrial areas and among the industrial proletariat that research has to be directed. The agrarian regions and the land workers are discarded straightaway. What is more, the social class of small peasants is inevitably deemed to be counter-revolutionary, above all by Marxist "science" according to which the conditions of existence and the techniques of work condemned their users to being the pillars of reaction, or its incarnation. Marx insisted on this "law" of history, even affirming that the struggle between the town and the country had been one of the main aspects of the class war.

    It is true that in this matter, the peasants have lagged behind the townsmen on many occasions. Nevertheless, nothing is absolute and events show that one cannot claim to be able to contain the development of the life of peoples within hermetic formulae. Spain is a case in point. In fact, if it is true that the anti-statist collectivist socialism conceived by Bakunin appeared in 1869 in Madrid and Barcelona, it was soon to extend to the exclusively agricultural areas and also to the towns whose economy was linked to the general activities of agriculture. In fact the social and socialist-anarchist movement spread to the North, above all in Catalonia, the most industrialised region, and in the South to Andalusia, a region in which agriculture dominates and occupies almost all the South from the Atlantic south of Portugal to the Levante region on the Mediterranean coast.

    It was in these two regions that before the revolution, and for a long time, most propaganda journals, magazines and pamphlets were sold, and where social activity and sustained struggles have been among the most intensive.

    One can give a number of explanations. Firstly psychological, for the Andalusian is perhaps among Spaniards the most opposed to orders emanating from outside, to the tutelage of the State and to the authority represented by the lawyer or the functionary. Secondly economic, for the structure of agrarian property in the form of cortijos, very large farms, often covering thousands of hectares, which employed locally and on a permanent basis a large number of workers who were miserably paid, predisposed the workers to agree among themselves over resistance and facilitated their grouping. Those who knew that period recount how in the evenings, labourers and harvesters, worn out by the day's work, would gather in the barn where they slept and there, in the small light of the solitary lantern, the one among them who could read would acquaint his comrades with the contents of the revolutionary papers published in Barcelona or in the Andalusian towns. Thus were the ideas spread.

    This does not explain everything, however. For as one will see later it was in certain provinces, most often among the small landowners who were able to engage in the struggle more freely thanks to their economic independence, that our most tenacious, most heroic and able militants were to be found.

    Furthermore, if hunger, unemployment and endemic poverty were factors and causes of the social war, other factors motivated the supporters in their efforts for social renewal. We return to the characteristics of human nature. Abelardo Saavedra recounted to us how, when Francisco Ferrer undertook to spread the new education under the form of escuelas modernas (modern schools) he had in that huge area of Andalusia alone -- he himself was born in Seville -- started 148 small schools. Ferrer supplied the money and equipment, while Abelardo Saavedra organised. But he had to find means of support and the teachers locally. The workers' syndicates supplied them. Almost always the teachers were young self-taught militant workers, who buckled to these new tasks and with success.

    The same happened outside Andalusia. In 1919-1920 I visited in the Levante area, especially in the province of Valencia, several of these schools where they carried on as best they could the work of the martyr of Montjuich. (1) They existed above all in what we might call small rural towns. The resources previously supplied by Ferrer being no longer available, the local syndicate which included workers from all trades, or the local federation where there were several syndicates, brought funds deducted from the dues received. Often, the school became the main, almost mystical, objective of the workers' association. And I have known peasants who would deprive themselves of tobacco, their only luxury, in order to hand over each month, a duro -- five pesetas -- to support the school which was by then, called "rationalist".

    One could write moving pages on the struggle waged locally around and over these achievements in which moral character predominated. For naturally they came into conflict with the active hostility of the caciques, the large landowners, masters of local life, who ganged up with the priest, the civil guard, and sometimes the chemist and the doctor too. Often, applying an ancient custom, the unofficial teacher would be arrested, and deported on foot, handcuffed and walking between two mounted civil guards toward the distant regions where he would live under surveillance. Almost always, the most educated militant in the locality would take his place. Then almost always it would be his turn to experience deportation. And another worker or peasant would replace him, who would also go, from prison to prison, to the distant provinces. Sometimes the authorities succeeded in closing the school. With a determined syndicate there were cases where the pupils would leave for the mountains each morning with their most recently improvised teacher, where he would get them to read, teaching them by writing words and figures in the air, or natural history by direct observation.

    What I have just written only portrays one of the aspects of the social struggles which, it goes without saying, applied to existing conditions of life, but which were also inseparable from a higher objective. It is true that these struggles assumed many forms, such as demonstrations against the State, which so often aroused the peasants of France, Italy and Central Europe against the tax collectors in the times of the great kings and emperors; but to them was added a class war which at the time was more bitter than it had ever been.

    Using information drawn from reliable sources and going back to a particularly troubled period, we will enumerate facts which will allow the reader to grasp the importance of the social struggle engaged in by the disinherited of Spain in revolt. They only refer to a very limited period but the intensity of the events they describe allows one to appreciate the acuteness of the general situation. They do not give an idea of the widespread nature of the general strikes, in Andalusia above all, during the latter part of the l9th Century which brought everything to a standstill in the towns, villages and countryside, where shepherds abandoned their flocks on the mountains, the wet nurses handed over their charges to their aristocratic mothers, domestic staff joined in with industrial wage earners. Nevertheless, what follows, and which started ten years after the birth of the Spanish libertarian movement, will allow us the better to understand the meaning of that social struggle.

    The Year 1879 -- Execution, by garrotting, of the anarchist peasant Oliva, sentenced for social reasons -- presumably for having made an attempt against a cacique. Dissolution of workers' societies in Tarragona (Catalonia) and of a cooperative in the village of Olivera (province of Cadiz). In Valencia a strike of farmers and share-croppers who refuse to pay the landowners. Intervention by the civil guard, many arrests, proclamations by the strikers affixed to trees, 75 peasant strikers are deported, though unconvicted, to the Marianne Islands (archipelago of the Philippines, which were Spanish colonies at the time). In Arcos de la Frontera (province of Cadiz), in Granada, Ronda, Jean -- all in Andalusia -- demonstrations of strikers demanding work and bread. Numerous arrests. In many places, the populace raids the bakers' and butchers' shops.

    In June and July, burning of the harvest, in the vineyards, forests, and grain fields as well as in the barns of the large landowners of Castile, Estremadura, the Valencia region and above all in Andalusia, where the fires blaze for the whole of the month of August. A man named Moncasi is executed for an attempt on the life of a master. He is followed by Francisco Otero Gonzalez, who fired two shots unsuccessfully against a rich man.

    1880 -- Gangs sack churches and tax collectors' offices, hold to ransom a number of rich people in the provinces of Tarragona, Toledo, Ciudad Real (the latter two in the very heart of New Castile). Agitation in Andalusia. According to the Revista Social, 4,566 allotments were seized and sold by the collectors of taxes. Later a further 51,854 were seized but not sold because of a shortage of buyers. In the early months of 1880, 39,000 more allotments suffer the same fate.

    In May and June, fire raising involving small farmhouses and vineyards of the large landowners takes place in the region of Jerez, in Andalusia. In that town, 13 militants have been held in custody for twenty-three months charged with incendiarism which had occurred in Arcos; two of them, Manuel Alvarez and Jose Campos Rodriguez, die. A bomb explodes in front of the mayor's house in Coruna (in Galicia).

    In the province of Huelva (Andalusia) destruction of the flocks by the strikers, and of tree plantations. A dozen or more uprisings against tax collector's agents in various parts of the country (Valls, Arriate, Orense, in Galicia; Almodovar, province of Ciudad Real, etc.).

    Still in 1880, fires are started in the countryside of the province of Cordoba. Thousands of hectares of cereals, including 84 belonging to the Duke of Alba, are destroyed. Once again the homes of the rich are set on fire. Misery is driving the people to despair. The liberal newspaper El Siglo declares: "We prefer to withdraw into private life, as we are convinced that the triumphant revolution in Spain would immediately be captured by all the demagogic elements in the country." A grenade explodes in the Jesuit convent in Gandia (province of Valencia). The inmates move into the house of the Duke of Pastrana, but it is set on fire by the revolutionaries.

    On August 3rd, the three people responsible for a derailment and attack on a train near the Alcazar, in Castile, are executed by firing squad. On the 17th, four sentenced to death are executed in Berzocana, one in Riazza on the 19th, and another in Marchena: ten executions in ten days. An underground journal appears, El Municipio Libre, which is distributed in the towns and countryside. The house of the collector of taxes in Requeiia (province of Valencia) is stormed and the accounts books with some of the archives from the municipality are burned in the public Square. The army intervenes, the people face up to them. In the town of Alcoy, province of Valencia (2) the Jesuits are obliged to leave, faced with the hostile attitude of the people. Militants are arrested in Malaga where the clandestine print shop for the Municipio Libre is discovered.

    1881 -- From 24th-26th September, a congress of comarcal (cantonal) federations is held in Barcelona. By their very structure, many of these federations are based on land workers grouped into the syndical organisations. Two hundred sections are represented, 136 delegates attend. With only 8 votes against, a resolution is accepted declaring their goal as collectivist anarchism. The dissenters subscribe to Marxist State Socialism.

    1882 -- National Congress (referred to as Regional since the libertarians consider Spain as a region of the International) held in Seville; 212 delegates. 10 Regions organically constituted; 218 local federations, 633 syndical sections and 49,711 members. The latter figure is made up as follows: Western Andalusia 17,021 members, Eastern Andalusia 13,026; Aragon 689; Catalonia 13,181; Old Castile 1,036, New Castile 515; Murcia 265; Galicia 847; Basque country 710; Valencia 2,355. These figures are much lower than the number of people who were active in the social struggles.

    Let us also underline the efforts, in some cases extraordinary, that are implied by the presence of so many delegates, a great number of whom had to travel on foot, or cross Spain under unbelievably bad conditions.

    Let us note too that at this congress, it was decided, some thirty years before Francisco Ferrer undertook the task which cost him his life, to establish schools which were under the aegis neither of the Church nor of the State.

    Still in Andalusia, the Local Federation of Seville, where at the time social life was bound up with agrarian activities, consisted of 53 syndical sections and 6,000 members. Immediately after the Seville congresses, seven new local federations are organised in the province, and 19 sections affiliate to the Andalusian regional federation. Each issue of the journal El Trabajo (Work) which appears in Malaga announces the formation of a score of syndical sections which land workers join in large numbers. Of the circulation of 18,000 copies of La Revista Social 8,000 were sold in Andalusia alone. Let us not forget that at that time Spain had a population of 18 million 65% of whom were illiterate. One should add that about 20 regional congresses had preceded the Seville congress in order to study the Agenda and to decide upon the motions to be submitted for it.

    1883 -- La Revista Social announces that at Marchena, a worker earns from 2 to 3 "reales" (1 "real" = a quarter of a peseta) a day. There are 30,000 unemployed in the Andalusian country

    side. the federation helps 3,500 of them (there is therefore a practical mutual aid limited only by available resources). The government "closes libraries and workers' schools".

    But the violent, desperate character of the social struggle has provoked the constitution of a secret society, La Marzo Negra (The Black Hand). More than 400 people are arrested, accused of belonging to it. Militants from the province of Valencia are deported to the Mariannes Islands. Soon 2,000 workers are charged with belonging to the mysterious organisation; terror reigns. The local federations dissolve, house searches take place throughout most of the country, social crimes are committed, the civil guard carries out searches night and day, arrests, imprisons, tortures. A large scale trial is being mounted in Montilla (province of Cadiz-Andalusia). In the library-school in La Linea (province of Cadiz) the civil guard seize furniture, tables, books, equipment, etc.

    In May the first trial of the Mano Negra starts. The Advocate General demands thirty death sentences. Five of the wretches sentenced will be executed. The police make out they have discovered a new secret organisation and arrest twenty o£ its members.

    1885-1886-1887 -- In Coruffa (Galicia) an uprising of peasants against the city toll. Books, papers, registers are committed to the flames. The troops open fire, the insurrection lasts two days. The peasants of Canollas, (3) in the province of Barcelona, refuse to pay taxes, a hundred men armed with sticks oblige the collector to withdraw. According to the libertarian journal El Obrero (The Worker) in December 1886 alone the State seized 75 farms in Jodar, 32,000 in the province of Logrono, 4,000 in the Balearics, for non-payment of taxes. In Onteniente, province of Valencia, the people storm the town hall with the battle cry of "Down with Taxes" and burn all book-keeping documents It is estimated that from 1880-1886 the Finance Ministry seized by order of the courts 99,931 rural and urban, properties. Since the Restoration, in thirteen years, the figure was to reach 999,000. (4)

    The number of seizures was enormous, but we cannot check the exact figure retrospectively. Nevertheless in May 1887 it is announced that in the region of Alcaniz (province of Teruel) 3,000 farms must be sold for non-payment of taxes. New and widespread disturbances are announced in various places against the city tolls, and the civil guard reply by firing on the demonstrators, killing and wounding some. Arrests take place throughout Andalusia to counteract the campaign for the Chicago Martyrs. In Grazanela (province of Cadiz) 24 men and 6 women are imprisoned. In many small towns (for instance in Rio Tinto, province of Huelva, Andalusia) there is active solidarity between the factory workers' movement and that of the miners. Desperate poverty in numerous villages and small towns in Andalusia. In La Loja (province of Granada), Ecija, Los Arcos, Sanlucar, Grazamela, the mayors telegraph to the Madrid government asking for help and troops. The Portuguese newspaper Grito de Provo announces 414,565 confiscations of property (without specifying in what period of time), of which 63,562 in the province of Cuenca (New Castile), 73,395 in the province of Saragossa. The peasants of Old Castile emigrate in large numbers.

    What we have just enumerated, and which is necessarily incomplete so far as it concerns the social struggle during this period of twelve years, allows one to judge the intensity of the battles waged by the people in all the regions of Spain -- with the probable exception of the Basque country.


    Other factors complete the explanation of the behaviour of the people of the countryside, and one would be wrong to judge their attitude simply by the desperate uprising to which we have just referred. Certainly the struggle was punctuated with periods of inactivity, when the forces of repression got the upper hand and drove the peasants' syndicates into illegality for whole years, and when the majority were overtaken by a feeling of resignation. But the libertarian militants were always there as a ferment, as a leaven. They continued to influence through action or by propaganda, the circulation of newspapers and journals, the creation of libraries, even to support of the local section of the republican party when one existed. They gave proof of a will, a stoicism, and heroism often staggering In their hundreds they experienced -- and often for long periods -- prison, banishment to the penal islands, deportation, exile, boycott by the caciques and by their administrators, blacklisting by the bosses, by tradesmen refusing to give credit, by innumerable persecutions. But this struggle hardened men, and forged powerful wills. We have said, and will see increasingly, that often the small proprietors who enjoyed a certain material independence, could act and struggle with greater effect than the wage earners. It is these small, independent libertarian proprietors who contributed most during the years 1915-1920 to the rebirth of the libertarian movement even in the town of Valencia, where, under the monarchy, republicanism had captured the opposition. On Sunday mornings, abandoning their tasks, they came down from the villages and the mountain districts, or from the Huerta, to collaborate with those in the town who were exerting themselves to re-establish the forces that had been swept away by the repressions. They were the supporters, the principal artisans of this revival.


    It was in the region of the Levante that I came to know Narciso Poimireau (5) who lived in the village of Pedralva, in the mountainous and poor region of the province of Valencia where he owned some land and figured amongst the well-to-do of the area. And yet, Narciso Poimireau, tall, spare, with a heart of gold and an illumined mind, was the agitator par excellence in the canton of Liria, which possibly provides the most interesting social history of the region of the Levante.

    He worked in his fields, and at night would leave on foot in order not to tire his mule who like himself had to work the next day -- crossing the rocky paths, going from one village to the next, preaching the libertarian gospel, and organising the peasants. He had realised on some of his assets and maintained a rationalist school at which his daughter was the teacher. At the same time as struggling against the rich exploiters he carried on the struggle against the priest. He also spoke at meetings; but within our movement because of his moral rectitude he was in the region the inspirer and thoughtful guide, who calmed the outbursts of anger and opposed manifestations of hatred.

    When Franco's troops took over, his local adversaries who, after all, had not been pursued by him during the anti-Franco period, arrested him. There was no news of him for some time, then one day the authorities summoned the inhabitants to the village square. And before them, holding him up to ridicule, they paraded a cart on which there was a large wooden cage. In the cage was Narciso Poimireau locked up like Don Quixote on his pitiful return and subjected to the mockery of the public summarily assembled. "But the people did not make fun of me, they looked at me with sorrow, and Franco's men got nothing for their pains," he told my informant from his prison cell. Narciso Poimireau was shot by the Francoists.


    Let us turn to the northern part of Aragon, and to another of those exceptional men who compel admiration. His name is Juan Ric, and he is still alive somewhere in France. He lived in Binefar in the province of Huesca, and owned 15 hectares (37 acres) of good irrigated land -- a small fortune -- and raised and sold some hundred sheep a year, owned two mules and, with his wife, looked after a grocer's shop which belonged to her. At the same time he was the principal activist in the local and cantonal libertarian syndicalist movement.

    Always driving himself with an inexhaustible vitality, he was on a number of occasions pursued for subversive activities. Following a premature uprising in December 1934 in which some civil guards had been killed in the struggle, he found himself condemned twice to a life sentence (which at that time meant thirty-three years in prison) with a further fifteen years added. In all some eighty-two years; Ric no longer remembers exactly how many. He came out of prison with the amnesty of 1936, and of course immediately resumed the struggle. And naturally a few months later he was in the forefront of the antifrancoist counter-offensive. It was also obvious that I should find him, ever active and smiling, as the prime mover in the collectivist organisation of the canton of Binefar, which will be described in a later chapter. He had to cross to the other side of the Pyrenees at the time of the Franco advance, experienced the French concentration camps, (6) and later that of Dachau where he was taken by the Hitler police and from which he came out alive by a miracle, and is ready tomorrow if he can return to Binefar (where the local inhabitants refused to buy his fields which the francoists had put up for auction) to begin again the experiment of an egalitarian and libertarian collectivity with the same enthusiasm, the same willingness, the same illumined faith.

    How many more rich, exciting biographies could be written of exceptional men, of revolutionary libertarians, peasants, small proprietors and salaried workers, stubborn believers in the revolution because they were believers in justice and love! I have in front of me a short account that one such man drafted at my request, and who was the key figure in the peasant struggles in Navalmoral de la Mata, a small town of 7,500 inhabitants in the province of Caceres, in Estremadura. He was twice condemned to death, gravely wounded in the battles against the francoist forces, spent eighteen years in convict prisons, and if he had the strength and the opportunity he too, I am sure, would be ready to resume the struggles which I will now summarise. But this unknown hero, modest and humble, feels it necessary to pay homage to another modest and unknown hero, before writing about himself. This is what he says:

    "Before I start talking about myself I want to speak of Alfonso Gonzalez, the oldest militant of Navalmoral. He was the father of all us anarchists, had been imprisoned many times, twice sentenced to death, arrested by the francoists on 22 July, 1936 and set free in 1942 he was rearrested in 1944 because he was acting as the liaison agent for the guerrillas in the region, was condemned to a convict prison and locked up in the penitentiary of Ocana. He served his sentence and returned; at the age of 84 the authorities expelled him from Navalmoral. He spent six months in the village of Talavuela, and returned to Navalmoral where he died six months later. By a will made before a notary he demanded a civil burial. The authorities sought to ignore his wishes but the notary succeeded in getting the old fighter's wishes respected. A breach was made in the wall of the cemetery so that the passage of the body along the paths blessed by God and the priests should not contaminate other tombs, and he was buried in an isolated corner."

    And now, summarised, what concerns the writer of these lines' Ambrosio Marcos, himself:

    "The liberal opposition, which represented an important step in Navalmoral, appeared, during the years of the monarchy towards the end of the last century, in the persons of eminent republicans who left behind them pleasant memories among the people. One of them founded a large public library where were to be found all the books on general culture as well as those dealing with the social problem, and therefore also books of anarchist sociology, so numerous in Spain. This is not at all surprising, for certain republican currents of thought maintained fraternal relations with the workers' revolutionary movement in the anti-monarchist opposition. Social conflicts arose in the form of agrarian strikes, struggles against the large landowners. We have no details, but at the beginning of the century, there is talk of the Mano Negra (The Black Hand) which caused such terror that mothers threatened their children with it! It replaced the devil."

    In 1905, the people of Navalmoral rose to defend the liberal mayor who had just been elected, and against whom the Marquis of Comillas, who was reputed to be the richest man in Spain, possessing estates within the jurisdiction of Navalmoral as well as in many other regions, applied his veto. A company of Civil Guards hastened there with rifles and light artillery, to give support to the local forces; after skirmishes it ended with their withdrawal and a triumphant people. In the years that followed there are records of demonstrations against the high cost of living. In 1916 a local workers' Federation was founded, which supported the General Union of Workers (U.G.T. -- socialist and reformist). But there were some libertarian militants on the spot who, a year later, won over this Federation to the National Confederation of Labour (C.N.T.). The usual social conflicts took place. In late 1923 Primo de Rivera established his dictatorship. The syndicates were closed, as happened in many other towns and regions of Spain where social agitation was intense. There then emerged that kind of genius for clandestinity which has already been noted. The union movement continued in spite of the closing of the syndicates, the members paid their dues, met in the fields (in other parts it might be in the woods or the mountains). As the law did not forbid the constitution of work groups, nor even of certain forms of association, the carters organised themselves into a work collective. At the height of the repression, they went beyond the wage system. Workers in other trades did likewise. (7)

    Primo de Rivera abandoned power in November 1930. The Syndicate is immediately reconstituted. In one month it boasts a membership of 1,500. The peasants join in their turn. Soon there are 400, some landless, the others possessing only a few ares (1 are = 120 square yards) of "secano" (dry lands). Ambrosio Marcos concerned himself with the agricultural friendly society which had been founded by Catholic militants or socially neutral people. Himself a landowner, and aided by other workers and peasants, he has an influence on the members and wins them over to the struggle for the land, and in January 1931 the field workers and the poor peasants take possession of the estates of the Marquis de Comillas and of other very large owners of these properties which had always remained uncultivated ~ and which they have always wanted. In great numbers they . set about clearing and digging and sowing. The Civil Guard intervene, the workers appear to give in, withdraw with their animals, their carts and their tools; the Civil Guard remain in occupation, triumphant. But instead of returning home, the: peasants go to the other side of the village, on another estate,, where they resume the same kind of work. The women and children bring them drinks and food and then remain on the roads to warn of the arrival of the enemy, who in the end get tired of this game of hide-and-seek and leave to the peasants the fruits of their occupation.

    In April 1931 the Republic was proclaimed. The new authorities did what their predecessors of the monarchy did not. A trial against the peasants lasted for six months. They were condemned to pay compensation for the use of the land but did not. Come July, they gather the harvest. The winter (1931-32) comes. The landowners want repossession of their property, the peasants resist. The Civil Guard intervene armed with rifles, but again beat a retreat.

    On a spring day a caravan of 500 labourers took to the road leading to the fields. A regular ants' nest of humans set to work. The incident caused a sensation - the Madrid newspapers reported it, journalists and photographers turned up for on the spot reports. In other regions, peasants invaded the uncultivated estates, and the Civil Guard, now republican, began to open fire. But not in Navalmoral de la Mata for the time being because, in Ambrosio Marcos, words, "they are afraid of us". Come 1933, The collective work on the estates continues, but relations are more and more tense. There were continuous conflicts between the big terrateraentes, the caciques or their administrators backed by the armed forces on the one hand, and the peasants and the workers' syndicates on the other. In March 1933, eight of the most active militants, which of course included Ambrosio Marcos, were secretly arrested during the night. The order had been given to apply to them the ley de fuga. (8) But within an hour the news was known, the telephone mobilised, and the whole population was in the streets, and all the approach roads blocked to prevent the arrival of the detainees at the provincial prison of Caceres. The authorities arranged for the itinerary of the cars to be changed, and no one dared to apply the ley de fuga, and at three in the morning our comrades arrived safe and sound at their proper destination. But at daybreak in Navalmoral, not only were all the roads still cut off; the Town Hall was taken by assault, the local authorities were taken hostage by the peasants and workers, salaried or otherwise.

    The detainees were not released, as the authorities wanted to destroy the expropriation movement at all costs. But their places were taken by other militants and the struggle in Navalmoral de la Mata continued.

    A strike by the casual workers in May and August at the time of the harvest hits the medium sized landowners. The republican government authorities, a different lot from the apostolic figures of republicanism in its early days, intervene. But the movement extends to the neighbouring villages, to Peralta de la Mata, a village of no importance in which our organisation had 500 members, to Valdeuncar with 200, to Josandilla de la Vera, to Villanueva de la Vera. And it even wins over the nearby Castilian province of Plasencia which had slumbered for centuries.

    In December 1933, as a reaction against the electoral triumph of the right wing parties, the C.N.T. sought to call for a national general strike which in the event proved to be a tactical error. In Olivia de Plasencia, the Town Hall was taken by storm, but it was in Navalmoral that the attack was seen to be the most powerful of all. For three days the people were masters of the town. Battle was engaged, and the Civil Guard managed in the end to oblige the C.N.T. to beat a retreat.

    Thirty-five militants, most of them peasants, appeared before the Courts and were sentenced to terms of hard labour. They emerged from prison when the leftist Popular Front, triumphant at the elections of February 1936, granted an amnesty. In the meantime, the peasants of Navalmoral de la Mata, faced by the superior strength of the adversary, had lost some of the ground it had won. But they had also won some rights of land usufruct. Ambrosio Marcos modestly sums up the results of this epic, which alas ended with the triumph of the francoist forces who soon after their attack on July 19, 1936 made their victorious appearance:

    "One can say, so far as the organisation of agriculture is concerned, that our Collectives were not the integral application of libertarian communism, (9) but that if we take into account the circumstances, there was not a single failure. This is what is most important, for every failure results in a setback and sows confusion in our midst. We had to prove that our ideas were practical and our programme could be realised. In spite of the authorities and the landowners, the first attempt at cultivation in common was carried out. The least fortunate were helped, the strongest helped the weak. Some workers became peasants in order to take part in this new enterprise. People in other districts were helped. When the strike of Duro-Felguera (10) took place in the Asturias, a truck-full of chick peas and many sacks of potatoes were sent to the strikers, as well as money. The strikers at the Central Telephone Exchange were similarly helped by us, and there were other acts of solidarity."

    We have so far only given a brief account -- limited in time and geographically speaking -- of the intensity of the social struggle in the peasant and agricultural areas. But in spite of its intensity, sometimes savage, it was possibly surpassed by the struggle that was waged in the towns. In the first place, especially in Andalusia, town and country often acted together, the social conflicts intermingling. But in the industrial zones, and especially in Catalonia, the movement very quickly spread and with a vigour which was quite exceptional. From the beginning of the century, Catalonia was responsible for 70% of Spain's industry. The use of water power from the Pyrenees, the permanent contact with France, the broad access to the Mediterranean, the contribution of Franco-Belgian capital and local human initiative, resulted in this region, which lacked raw materials, developing in time a manufacturing industry that acquired considerable importance.

    The conditions were therefore brought together for the creation of workers' syndicates which had already appeared in the first half of the 19th century (as was also the case in Italy), so much so that in 1840 there existed not only resistance societies of workers, but also craft federations which, as that of the weavers, extended throughout the region, and that of the three steam industries which, when federated, could be compared by Anselmo Lorenzo to the Trades Unions in England.

    And from 1870 onwards the anarchist syndical movement was a revolutionary school, free from interferences, in which the most important workers' organisations were responsible for their own destiny. Partial and general strikes, sabotage, public demonstrations, meetings, struggle against strike-breakers (they existed too), imprisonment, transportation, trials, uprisings, lock-outs, some attentats.

    The present writer arrived in Barcelona in June 1915. At that time, the Spanish National Confederation of Labour (C.N.T.) which had been founded four years earlier, was going through a difficult period. Meetings against World War 1 organised by our comrades were attracting fewer supporters than were the Republicans' calling for Spain's participation alongside the Allies. Yet in Barcelona there were four workers' centres called "Ateneos" because they each had a library, tables at which one could sit and read, and where lectures were given. The movement of anarchist groups acted in agreement with the C.N.T.

    But then came the Russian Revolution, the influence of which spread to the West, raising so many hopes. Suddenly the membership of the syndicates grew, strikes increased, the social struggle was intensified, always with the confrontation of power between the workers' organisation and that of the employers. It was at that time that our weekly, Solidaridad Obrera, of which Francisco Ferrer had been among the founders, became a daily. Two years later (in 1919) we had six dailies with the same title (in Barcelona, Bilbao, Saragossa, Madrid, Valencia and Seville) and about a dozen weeklies which appeared in different regions of Spain. To these one must add magazines such as Paginas Libres, an excellent publication edited by Dr. Pedro Vallina in Seville.

    In the Andalusian countryside the harvest went up in flames, but in the towns, in Catalonia and in Aragon and in some industrial centres in the North of Spain, strike followed strike.

    The most important of these has come to be known in the social history of Spain as the strike of La Canadiense (the Canadian), which broke out in Lerida, some 90 miles south of Barcelona. This Canadian Company was building a large dam which would have made possible the building of a big electricity generating station. Some workers were dismissed and their comrades immediately came out on a solidarity strike, and in view of the resistance put up by the Company the movement first spread throughout the province, but then to the other three Catalan provinces. There has rarely been a general strike which was more complete, more uncompromising or more impressive. Not only the workshops and factories, but all means of communication came to a halt. Workers' power made the law in the streets. Only doctors could freely circulate. Cafes, hotels, restaurants, all were closed. At night Barcelona had a complete blackout. That strike, which lasted from February 5 up to March 20, 1919 was an extraordinary battle waged against the employers and the authorities.

    But the repression was let loose. Spanish law allowed for -- and never ceased to do so even during the Republic which on the contrary, intensified the repressive legislation -- internment both of common law criminals, even if they had served their sentence, and political opponents, especially militant workers considered to be subversives or constituting a danger to public order.

    This gave the political authorities possibilities of taking action which they used in full measure. In the years from 1920 to 1924, there were times when the internees could be counted in thousands. Not only was the "Model Prison" of Barcelona bursting its sides but internees had to be housed in the monumental Arenas, and boats were loaded with them in the outer harbour, as had been done in France after the Commune using pontoons. Whoever lived through those intensive turbulent days cannot forget.

    But that was not all. So long as Spain had colonies, the enemies of the regime were transported as were the Communards to New Caledonia. At the time of the Canadiense strike, apart from the Isle of Fernando Po the only other available island was Mahon in the Mediterranean. It was not enough, so they had recourse to deportation in Spain itself. Convoys were formed of prisoners chained in pairs and all linked to a common rope. It was for this reason that these convoys were called cuerdas de deportados. Thus groups of 30, 40, 50 would be taken on the highways, escorted by mounted Civil Guards, ever ready to use the Mauser rifle with which each man in the polished cocked hat was armed. It was a case of relegating these revolutionary workers to the more isolated regions, 300, 400 miles and more distant, in order to cut them off from contact with the masses. But when men are possessed of an ideal these measures are of no avail. In the event the cuerdas de deportados produced the opposite results to those intended.

    All along the route, the sight of the deportees aroused sympathy, generosity, solidarity. The announcement of the arrival or the passage of a cuerda swept through the villages, and even before the convoy had reached the first houses voices were raised crying out: "Los presos! The prisoners!"

    And the doors of the houses would open and the women, children and old folk would come out offering them bunches of grapes, bread, melons, while the men came down from the fields bringing tobacco. It was a collective offering which the Civil Guard could not do otherwise than accept.

    And as in those most backward regions to which they were sent our comrades joined in working in the fields and were able to communicate more advanced technical ideas, and teach the children to read, the result was that the Good News penetrated into the socially most backward areas of the countryside.

    However, the forms the repression took did not end there. In Barcelona, at the end of 1919, an employers' lockout was declared in all industries, in order to break the syndical movement once and for all. It lasted seven weeks. But though the workers' organisation emerged from it much weakened, it was not destroyed. So the government suspended constitutional guarantees (a course it had often resorted to in the past and to which it would have recourse frequently in the future) and our movement was made illegal. The "workers' centres" were closed as well as the Ateneos. And the witch-hunt against the C.N.T. began.

    How many were murdered, shot down in the streets of Barcelona? I have before me a list, which is not complete, but which includes 101 names. Among them men of the quality of a Salvador Segui, a manual worker, self educated and an outstanding speaker; of an Evelio Boal, our finest union organiser, and many others, some of whom were my friends. Some gravely wounded survived only by a miracle, as in the case of Angel Pesta³a, who received a shot in the throat and another in a lung as he was coming out of the station in the small town of Manresa where he was to give a lecture. When he came out of hospital he straightway went and delivered the lecture announced two months earlier.

    Footnotes to Chapter 2

    [1] Montjuich, fortress of Barcelona where Ferrer was executed by firing squad in 1909.

    [2] See later the achievements of Alcoy during the revolution of 1936-1939.

    [3] The name of this place must have been misspelt.

    [4] The struggle against the Inland Revenue explains in part, probably, the hostility of the Spanish people for the State.

    [5] The name is more French than Spanish. Narciso Poimireau was a distant descendant of those peasants about whom Taine speaks and who, ruined by the extortions of Louis XIV's tax collector, driven by misery, had to emigrate to Spain.

    [6] Those concentration camps over which hardly anyone was aroused at the time, were guarded by the garde mobile and the Senegalese sharpshooters. Hundreds of refugees died there. Ric managed to escape and took part in the struggle against the Nazi forces in the Rouergue region and, informed against by communists (this is not the only example), he was arrested and sent to Dachau from where he eventually emerged weighing 35 kilos (79 lbs.).

    [7] Ambrosio Marcos does not tell us which.

    [8] Under this law the police, the Civil Guard or others had the right to fire on any detainee who might attempt to escape whilst being transferred to the prefecture, to prison or transportation. The Civil Guard, specialists in such matters, murdered militants in this way with the pretext that they had attempted to escape.

    [9] This statement is debatable, as will be seen by what follows. But the libertarian rank and file militants always wanted to go further.

    [10] A miners' strike which was full of dramatic incidents, as most of them were.



    For an area of 505,000 sq. kilometres including the Mediterranean and Atlantic islands (Balearic and Canary) Spain had a population of 24 to 25 million inhabitants on July 19, 1936 when the francoist attack was launched, which is 48 to the square kilometre. (1) The low population density could lead one to believe that in this predominantly agricultural country economic resources would ensure the well-being of the population. But the wealth of a country, even when viewed from the agrarian angle only, is not just dependent on its size. Lucas Gonzalez Mallada, Spain's most eminent geologist, who was also an excellent geographer, classified as follows the economic value of the land -- and his conclusions are as valid as ever:

    10% bare rocks

    40% really bad land

    40% mediocre land (2)

    10% land which gives us the impression of living in a paradise.

    These natural conditions are confirmed by other basic statistics which dispel any illusions one might have. Of the 50 million hectares an average of 20 million were cultivated; the remainder were more or less unproductive. and only suitable for grazing sheep or goats. In addition, out of the 20 million hectares suitable for cultivation, 6 million hectares on average were always allowed to lie fallow so that the land could renew itself under the system known as ano y vez (one year out of two). Thus in fact the land available for cultivation each year was it only 28% of the total area.

    The orographic situation worsens the statistics already quoted. The average altitude is 660m (2166 ft.) which, according to the geographer Gonzalo de Reparaz is only exceeded in Europe by Switzerland. In the Centre the Castilian plateau covers 300,000 sq. kilometres and its average height is 2625 ft. To the North the mountain range of the Pyrenees predominates on the Spanish side and occupies 55,000 sq. kilometres (a tenth of the area of France). There are in Spain 292 peaks in the 1000-2000m range, 92 from 2000 to 3000m, and 26 from 3000-3500m. This mountainous relief map influences in no small way the climate, which in turn conditions the agriculture. Furthermore, the direction of the Sierras,: which cut and clip the peninsula in all directions, interrupts and often deflects beneficial rains into the wrong direction. Thus it is not only the winter, with the low temperatures that are typical of all high altitudes and which militate against living conditions; but also the summer with its droughts. All these conditions give point to the much quoted remark that "Africa begins at the Pyrenees".

    Take the map of Spain: in the North continuing along the mountain range of the Pyrenees, one meets the Cantabrian mountains parallel to, and 50 km. distant from, the Atlantic coast with peaks at 9000 ft., forming a screen to the passage of clouds which the winds are blowing from the sea. Consequently it rains a great deal in the Asturias, as well as in the Basque country in the province of Santander and as far as Galicia, to the north of Portugal. In all that region there is a recorded annual rainfall of from 1200 to 1800mm.

    But on the other side of the Asturian mountains, on the Castilian plateau, the granary of Spain, the average rainfall is no more than 500mm, and in vast regions of the Ebro basin, the principal river of Spain, fed by the waters that come down from the Pyrenees, often less than 300mm of rain is recorded annually. However these statistics alone do not give a true picture of the reality. For, in general the porous nature of the soil and the intensity of the sun account for losses due to seepage and evaporation of up to 80,Å ( of the atmospheric precipitations.

    Sometimes it is even worse: such as the combined geographic-economic conditions of what Gonzalo de Reparaz defines as the tragico sudeste (the tragic South-East). Over about 500 km. from Gibraltar to Murcia there are rainless years. The same writer points out that Spain is the only European country which experiences this phenomenon on such a vast scale. (3)

    The dryness of the soil is therefore a commonplace in the basin of the Ebro, which covers 5 million hectares, that is a tenth part of the country, "the deserts alternate with the oases, but the former prevail; the Iberian steppe which extends along the whole length of that river is the largest in Europe".

    One must mention other steppes, and first of all that of the Mancha which begins at the gates of Madrid and reaches Cartagena. In all, 40% of the land surface of Spain consists of steppes.

    The Huerta of Valencia, the market gardens of Murcia and of Granada extolled by the poets are no more than islands which blind some romantic travellers to the realities. Thus the average yields of wheat (the most important crop at the time) was of the order of 9 quintals per hectare, very occasionally 10 and more often 8, compared with from 16 to 18 in France (a ten year average in both cases) from unirrigated land, and of 22 quintals in Germany and in England. The highest averages in Spain from irrigated land produced from 16 to 18 quintals which remains the yield to this day, whereas in France without irrigation the average harvest today is in the region of 32-35 quintals. (4)

    We have taken wheat as an example because it constituted the basis of, and the major crop in, Spanish agriculture. For other crops the situation was the same except for potatoes, where the average yield was comparable with that of other European countries, but these were grown on irrigated land. The importance of sheep flocks (18-20 million animals) and of olive groves (5) is unassailable proof of the problems of Spanish agriculture: throughout the Mediterranean periphery the sheep and the olive tree are an indication of poor lands and scant yields.

    A long time ago, when I undertook to make a serious study of the Spanish economy, I thought at first, faced with the disappointing agricultural balance sheet, that for historic, political and religious reasons which had dominated the economic life of Spain, especially after the expulsion of the Moors, the country had taken and pursued a road which was contrary to its natural potential. Spain according to some writers es la bodega mas rica del mundo -- possessed the richest underground resources in the world. The grounds for this optimism, which other, better informed, specialists did not share, were that there was coal, iron, lead, tin, copper, zinc, mercury, silver and wolfram. To all appearances these were grounds for setting up industries the general effect of which would be to change the economic character of the country. But if one studied the serious reports on the subject published by geographers, geologists, hydraulic engineers and even the official technical offices, it was clear that the various minerals and metals existed only in small quantities, and apart from mercury -- the economic importance of which was infinitesimal compared to the national product -- could not offer optimistic prospects.

    Spanish mines have been exploited by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Arabs, the British, even by the Spaniards. They were not inexhaustible and they are now, generally speaking and, with the exception of those supplying iron ore (the reserves of which are not of great importance), more or less exhausted. In 1936 Spain only supplied less than of the world's copper; the Rio Tinto mines were no longer profitable and for some time the company had been transferring its capital to other parts of the world. Lead? Its market value in 1933 amounted to 21 million pesetas, and would be approximately the same in 1936. But to put this in perspective it should be compared with the average wheat crop then valued at 10,000 million pesetas.

    Coal and iron are, and were even more so at the time, basic to industry. Well, Spain produced on average 7 million tons of mediocre coal; Even today when under government pressure production has been raised to between 11 and 12 million tons, it is estimated that the "potential" reserves guarantee supplies of coal and lignite for about 140 years . . . on condition that production is not increased. But, on the present basis of necessary consumption for an average industrial development, these reserves would not last more than about 40 years.

    Spain is no better off so far as iron ore is concerned. Even on the basis of the unsubstantiated "potential" reserves, and average consumption per inhabitant in France, she would have sufficient reserves to last 40 years. And one should not overlook the fact that the population is increasing by 300,000 a year and has already reached 33 million.

    Let us dispel other illusions on one point concerning agriculture. Many people with neither the time nor very often the inclination to be seriously informed, believe in the miracle of irrigation. Unfortunately this hope has no foundation. The volume of water carried by the streams and rivers of Spain is a limiting factor to development: about 50,000 million cubic metres a year, (6) whereas the Rhone on its own, at the level of Avignon, carries 60,000 million. Seeing that one cannot completely dry up all the streams in Spain, that anyway some of them, those which flow towards the Atlantic, cannot be utilised, for there is already too much rain in those regions, (7) the most optimistic calculations allow one to foresee the possibility of irrigating at most 5 million hectares; just a tenth of the country. Of these 5 million, at least 2 million are already irrigated.

    Following the departure of the Moors who had in the Levante increased the acequias (narrow and ditch-like pipe systems) more dams were constructed than many observers imagine. Primo de Rivera himself and Franco have put into practise some kind of hydraulic policy that had been advocated by Joaquin Costa. The trouble often was that after having built many artificial reservoirs it was realised that not enough water was getting there to fill them, and that in many cases it was necessary to replace the hydraulic production of electricity with thermal power.


    Such was the natural cause of social poverty of the Spanish people in 1936; such is the cause of the continued emigration which we are witnessing to this day. But there is another which, because it is man made can be corrected by Man, and it is to this that the Spanish Revolution directed its efforts.

    The problem of land ownership is of capital importance in Spain. It appeared in two basic forms: the latifundia (large estates) and the minifundia (small properties). There are very many small proprietors in Spain: the figures in the cadastral survey dated December 31, 1959 accounted for 5,989,637. An enormous proportion of the present total population. But to begin with, most of the plots are of secano, that is dry lands, which because of their unproductivity are at the present time driving the peasant masses towards the towns where they are packed in the cindades miseras, the shanty towns.

    In 1936 only a partial census of the land and its owners had been made. But the figures available gave a sufficiently clear picture of the terrible social reality which we will have many occasions to observe in the chapters that follow.

    Out of a total of 1,023,000 proprietors, 845,000 could not produce the equivalent of one peseta a day from their land -- and bread then cost on average 0.60-0.70 peseta a kilo. They had to work as day labourers, as shepherds for the rich, as roadmen, or go to look for or "steal" wood in the neglected forests, avoiding arrest by the Civil Guards though not always succeeding, traversing 5, 10, 15 kilometres and more, driving their donkey ahead of them, to go and resell to more fortunate people than themselves the product of their "theft". Or again they would go to work in the town, for some periods of the year as labourers.

    The second category consisted of 16O,OOO medium sized proprietors, who lived independently and frugally.

    The third was of the large landowners. They comprised only 2.04% of the census total but possessed 67.15% of the cultivated lands. Their estates covered from 100 to more than 5,000 hectares.

    It is not difficult to understand the extent of peasant poverty. To start with the peasants represented more than 60% of the population in Spain. To believe that this mass of humanity would put up with and be indefinitely resigned to its lamentable fate, showed a lack of understanding. For the Spanish people are not among those who resign themselves servilely. In past times Andalusians, Extremenos, Galicians, Asturians, Basques, Castilians emigrated in large numbers to Central and Southern America to seek there the means of existence and they still continue to emigrate -- especially in Europe. But throughout its history, whether it was for a just or unjust cause, the Spanish people have been combative and adventurous. They slumbered for a long time after the traumatic experience caused by the expulsion of the Moors, by Catholic dominion and the consequences of the conquest of America, but in the end they woke up with their spirit and character, capable of courage; with, also, that mystical background which predisposes them to struggle for noble causes, for themselves and for others, with a spiritual drive which is almost cosmic (8) and this capital of human dignity which allows them to accept under duress authoritarian interference and to rebel against it when they can; and then also with a sense of solidarity and equality which leaves its mark as much on the morale of the Barcelona worker as on that of the Andalusian peasant.

    These two factors, social poverty and individual dignity, linked to collective solidarity, predisposed a large section of the population to accept libertarian ideas.

    In 1936, two revolutionary organisations embodied these ideas: the National Confederation of Labour (C.N.T.) and the Anarchist Federation of Iberia (F.A.I.). The former was composed of regional federations which in their turn were integrated by comarcales (cantonal) and local federations, these latter remind one of the French Bourses du Travail, but were more structured, more interdependent and owed absolutely nothing to governmental charity. In 1936, the C.N.T. had a million members. That figure is the more important when one bears in mind that the population at the time was between 24 and 25 million people.

    The C.N.T.'s aim, as specified in its declaration of principles, was libertarian communism. It was the exclusive work of the anarchists who struggled in the syndicalist and purely ideological fields, and who were the organisers, propagandists and theoreticians.

    With the proclamation of the Second Republic on April 14, 1931, the advance towards a grave social crisis appeared inevitable. From its birth the life of the new political regime was hazardous. The monarchy had only been routed thanks to the part played by the C.N.T., and by the anarchists who were active outside this organisation (but it was above all the C.N.T. which mattered and that was producing a million votes). Among the forces which had declared themselves against the royal family and had contributed to its overthrow, were the employed industrial workers and peasants who also supported the socialist party and the General Union of Workers (U.G.T.), or who normally voted socialist, which made up another million votes. Finally came the communists. anyway numerically very weak, the federalist republicans, enemies of a jacobin and centralist republic, and regional, separatist forces such as those predominating in Catalonia and the Basque country.

    On the other side, the Right still included considerable forces. Monarchists, dyed in the wool conservatives, reactionaries, dominant in the still slumbering provinces, traditional clerical forces. Of the votes cast, those from true republicans must have represented about a quarter of the total. So much so that Count Romanones, leader of the liberal monarchist party and the most intelligent in this sector, could sum up the situation with the humorous comment: "I can clearly see a republic, but I do not see any republicans."

    In these conditions the new regime could not establish itself solidly except by undertaking bold social reforms which would have weakened the army, the Church and the old caciquism which was still master in almost all the provinces. But the reforms envisaged, and those achieved by the left socialists and republicans who were the government during the first two years (1931-1933), could only appear bold and very important to the jurists, professors, lawyers, journalists and professional politicians who comprised a majority of the members in the Cortes (the parliament). They meant nothing or very nearly nothing, for the people as a whole. If before the Republic the normal diet for many peasants and workers consisted mainly of chick peas with oil, with the Republic it continued to be chick peas with oil, and those who went around in slippers could no more buy shoes with the coming of the Republic than before it.

    And the Spanish people were hungry for bread and for land. For those who had voted Republican with republican feelings and hopes, Republic was synonymous with true freedom, true equality, true fraternity; it implied, above all else, the disappearance of social injustice and poverty.

    Faced with the slowness in applying agrarian reform, peasants began to work on their own account, invading collectively those estates which the large terratenientes kept uncultivated -- and which, one must admit, were generally of very poor quality. Consequently, by order of the government, the Civil Guard which served the Republic as it had served the Monarchy, would intervene. In the first two years of the pseudo-socialist republic, 109 peasants from Estremadura, Andalusia, Aragon and Castile were murdered in the name of republican legality. The tragedy of Casas Viejas, in Estremadura, where the poorest of the poor families would make repayments at the rate of a penny a month for clothes bought on credit; where many peasant women wore the same skirt for the whole of their lives (this could also be seen in Galicia) being content to reverse it on Sundays -- this tragedy, we were saying, aroused the indignation of the population. (9)

    The second period was the consequence of the first. Disgusted and shocked, the majority of the people voted for the conservative "republicans", that is to say for the Rightists who had had the chance to criticise their opponents and to promise to do better. But their triumph implied a dangerous retreat, and the Asturian miners launched a formidable insurrection against the coming to power of those who, visibly and legally, were opening the road to fascism. Too localised, due to a lack of previous agreement with similar forces in the other regions, the insurrection was implacably crushed.

    If what has been called the bienio negro (the two black years) was no more disastrous than the so-called liberal bienio that preceded it, it was equally harsh, and when insurrectional attempts, were made, especially in Catalonia and Andalusia, repression was raised to the level of permanent government practice. The two years passed without the slightest improvement in the standard of living of the masses. Furthermore, the economic crisis which started in the United States and had spread to Europe, struck at Spain too where there were some 700,000 unemployed at least a half of whom were to be found among the industrial workers. Unemployment relief was then unknown. At the same time the number of prisoners -- sentenced at summary trials or held without trial -- reached a total of 30,000, the overwhelming majority of them belonging to the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. (10)

    Faced with the promises of the parties relegated to the opposition, republican workers began again to hope. Once more the non political leftists. forgetting their grievances felt a mutual bond of solidarity and aligned themselves with the parties. And when the elections took place in February 1936, the Frente Popular that had been set up won the day.

    But it was not an easy victory. Once again to avoid the greater evil, the members of the C.N.T., who did not meanwhile forget their principles of direct action, voted in order to deny fascism legal access to power. But in spite of this reinforcement the Leftist bloc secured 4,540,000 votes against the Rightists 4,300,000; it only needed a shift of 150,000 votes for the admirers of Mussolini and Hitler to have triumphed. An additional fact to bear in mind was that there were six political parties of the Right, six of the Centre and six of the Left; a total of 18. This was not a guarantee of soundness.

    By the application of a dishonest electoral law, the Rightist bloc only secured 181 seats whilst its Leftist opponents got 281. And from that moment, the vanquished set in motion preparations for the coup d'etat. Everybody was aware of it. Reports were received at the War Ministry and by the Ministry of the Interior. The Left press, especially the libertarian press, exposed the conspiracy and the secret meetings between high ranking officers of the army and navy who had not resigned, though the first government had invited them to do so if they were not in agreement with the Republic.

    The Madrid government did nothing to deal with the ever increasing threat. It could have armed the people, disbanded the army, arrested or dismissed the conspiring generals. It did not budge, being satisfied with energetic declarations. And when the rebellious army attacked, a good number of the republican governors went over to the enemy and helped him very effectively to arrest the most militant anti-fascists.

    In the circumstances, it was the anarchists, aided in Barcelona, it must be said, by the Assault Guards, (11) who succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of the eleven infantry regiments which the military governor, Goded, had launched against the city. The same happened in Malaga. In the other regions rank and file Madrid socialists, Catalan Cenetistas (C.N.Ters) and anarchists, liberal separatists from the Basque country, very few republicans even among the Catalans, all fighting, in many cases without arms, obliged Franco and his generals to engage in battle for nearly three years before being finally victorious.


    It was in the course of these three years that the social experiment to which this book bears witness took place. This experiment was entirely the work of the libertarian movement, especially of the C.N.T. whose militants, accustomed to practical problems in syndical organisation, were able to create very rapidly, in collaboration with the masses, the new forms of social organisation which we will be describing. Even when men belonging to other political tendencies also organised similar enterprises, they did no more than imitate our comrades' example. It was the libertarians who brought the basic ideas, the social principles and proposed the new forms of organisation based on non-governmental federalism directly controlled. The Spanish revolution was the work of the people, realised by the people, but especially by the libertarians, who came from the people, who were at the heart of the people and of the syndical organisations.

    On the other hand our comrades' success would have been impossible if the libertarian concepts had not satisfied the inner' most psychology, if not of all, then at least of a great proportion of workers, operatives and peasants. Particularly if among the latter in Aragon, Castile, the Levante, Andalusia and Estremadura, natural sociability, a spirit which was at the same time individual and collective, had not allowed for these unique achievements in the history of mankind.

    The author, who had previously lived and struggled in Spain. was domiciled in South America when the civil war broke out. Having to travel illegally, he could only manage to return and disembark in Gibraltar in November. Convinced very soon that the anti-fascists would end by losing the war, and being aware of the importance of the social experiment that had been under. taken by his comrades, he had only one thought: to promote by his propaganda the intensification and spread of this experiment to the preparation of which he had contributed for so long, and to record the results for the future.

    This he did to the extent that the circumstances allowed, and though with a long delay due to the ups and downs of his life as a militant, presents the result of his personal enquiry which was facilitated not only by his direct enquiries in the Syndicates' factories, and village Collectives, but also by the spontaneous contribution of documents made to him by fraternal comrades with whom he maintained contact in his search for materials.

    He has no pretension of presenting a general history of the Spanish revolution, even viewed simply from the constructive point of view; for this was much greater than this book might lead one to believe. Particularly where the Agrarian Collectives are concerned he regrets that, on the one hand, the triumph of the Stalinists who were their implacable enemies, and on the other his imprisonment in France in June 1938, did not allow him to carry his studies further.

    What he presents is therefore a collection of materials for a general history of the Spanish revolution which he is not entirely without hope of writing himself one day if he can return to a Spain freed from the Franco regime.

    Footnotes to Chapter 3

    [1] The corresponding density for the United Kingdom which in 1938 had a population almost double that of Spain was approximately 200 per sq. km. [Translator]

    [2] The "mediocre" land in Spain is similar to the "bad" land in France.

    [3] The lowest rainfall areas in the United Kingdom average not less than 550mm annually. But at the other extreme, in parts of Scotland and Wales average rainfall can be as high as 2,500mm on the Lowlands and 4.300mm in the Highlands. [Translator]

    [4] At present the average yield in Spain is of 9-11 quintals of wheat. On an average it would seem that the increase has been of 1 quintal per hectare in 30 years.

    [5] In 1936, calculated in pesetas, the return on an hectare of olive trees was worth a third of that from an hectare of wheat.

    [6] The Mi³o which flows through Galicia and borders on Portugal is in importance the second river of Spain in terms of its flow. But as there is already too much rain ;n the region of its source, the waters are not used.

    [7] The Mi³o is such a case.

    [8] Keyserling wrote that after the Russian people, the Spaniards of all the people in Europe were the ones who possessed the greatest reserve of spiritual strength.

    [9] All the family of one Seisdedos (thus called because he had six fingers on one hand) were murdered: fourteen (or sixteen) people in all because he had refused to allow the seizure of his few possessions by order of the tax collector.

    [10] The first parliament had voted a ley de vagos, a law against "vagrants" and set up camps for them. Those who were interned in these camps were unemployed, workers without work who were more or less demonstrators. It was also the workers who exposed the incompetence of the regime. The creative imagination of the government of the Left did not go any further.

    [11] Special police force organised by the Republic, and which had until that moment shown itself to be particularly ferocious where the anarchists were concerned.



    When on July 19, 1936 the fascist attack was unleashed the reply to it was centred entirely on resistance to the insurgent army, against the threat which not only put the legal government in jeopardy, but the very existence of the forces of the Left and Centre, as well as the quite relative, but nevertheless tangible, freedoms that were represented by the Republic.

    Already on the eve of the military uprising the C.N.T. had called for a general strike and almost everywhere this call had been followed. It was not a case of social revolution, of the proclamation of libertarian communism as had been attempted prematurely in other circumstances. The offensive was not being taken against capitalist society, the State, the parties and the defenders of established order; one was confronting fascism. As we have seen, in Catalonia and particularly in Barcelona, it was above all the forces of the C.N.T. and of the F.A.I. supported by the Assault Guards who forced back the infantry regiments which had been sent onto the streets by their officers on the orders of the military commander in charge.

    Firstly, to prevent the triumph of fascism; for if they won the struggle, it would be the end of the republicans of the different tendencies, the Prieto and Caballero socialists, Catalanists of the Left wing (the more numerous) but even those of the Right, threatened because of their separatism, of liberals and Basque autonomists, communists, of U.G.T. and C.N.T. members. Solidarity was established spontaneously in varying degrees, depending on the town, village, or region. In Madrid, socialists, U.G.Ters, republicans' libertarian groups and C.N.T. syndicates collectively took by assault the barracks from which danger might come and arrested notorious fascists, and then dispatched forces to reconquer those localities that had fallen into the hands of the enemy, entrenched themselves and halted General Mola's troops in the Sierra de Guadarrama which Napoleon's army had had such difficulty in crossing.

    In fact, there was no official resistance for the government had broken down. Ministers made energetic speeches on the; radio, made gestures in a vacuum, ran round in circles for they no longer had any organised forces, or military machinery at their disposal, not even a bureaucratic organisation in working condition. The officer corps, most of the artillery and airforce had gone over to the mutineers; what remained of the army lacked unity and hesitated, the non-commissioned officers who, did not follow the fascists inspired no more confidence than the, four or five generals who remained faithful to the regime, and of whom no one was sure whether they too would change sides ` at any moment. A government, a ministry, are created to command an organisational whole which functions properly and according to the rules. All this was missing.

    Yes, resistance was in the streets, and for that very reason the government was not in command of it. Political power had been shifted, and the men who had just struck a blow to halt fascism paid scant attention to official orders, for the ministers, who on the eve of the uprising had proved themselves so unworthy of their tasks, had lost most of their credibility. In any case, they had lost it entirely so far as the libertarian masses were concerned, who reproached the politicians of the Left, and not without reason, of having done nothing to ward off the threat they had bombastically denounced

    Still, in Catalonia, which enjoyed an autonomous status, the situation took on a special aspect. The day after the triumph over the military forces and the capture of the barracks at a cost of so many lives, Companys, president of the Catalan government, requested the C.N.T. and F.A.I. to send a delegation for an important meeting. When he had the delegates before him he made the following little speech:

    "Without you, the fascists would have won in Catalonia. You, the anarchists, have saved Catalonia and I am grateful to you; but you have also earned the right to take over the control of public life. We are therefore ready to withdraw and to leave you in charge of the situation." *

    Garcia Oliver, one of the most prominent anarchists, who gave this account of the interview, replied that it was out of the question; the hour was too grave, anti-fascist unity had to be maintained. Companys would have to remain at the head of the Catalan government and assume full responsibility for the situation. (1)

    But in fact the Catalan government was more nominal than real. The dominant power was well and truly in the syndicates of the C.N.T. and to a much lesser degree in the F.A.I. The resistance militias were improvised, action groups of men wearing red and black arm bands replaced the Republican police which stood aside, revolutionary order was being established not only in Barcelona? but in all the towns of Catalonia. It even happened that in many places, such as in Igualada, Granollers, Gerona, the local political parties, composed of Left Catalanists, socialists, federalist republicans, as well as, sometimes, republicans of the Centre in Manuel Azana's party, and libertarians of the C.N.T., would meet as a single group within the municipality, and the new communal authorities, free from ties with the Catalan government, and more so with the Central government (which soon
    moved from Madrid to Valencia) constituted a local management bloc. Life thus assumed an almost autonomous communal character.

    The melting away of the republican State was even more marked in Aragon. Cut off from Castile in the West, where the francoist forces were dominant and threatening, bordering in the North along the Pyrenees with France, and to the East with Catalonia which exerted no political pressure on it, this region was only in contact with the zone where the central government was seeking to dominate along what remained of the common boundaries to the South and South-East of the province of Teruel. Now, that province had been left to its own devices. This ensured almost complete independence for Aragon. (2)

    The civil war thus created a revolutionary situation, for even in the provinces of the Levante which were not yet being threatened, the determining influence exerted by the popular forces which were inspired by the C.N.T. and the F.A.I., was upsetting public organisation. In many cases the united strength of the other parties could surpass the numerical strength of these two organisations, but their personnel were not the men for the situation. The absence of directives and official institutions paralysed them whereas it facilitated the initiatives of the men. who made the revolutionary struggle the basic motive for their historic activity; very often, for this very reason, even when in village committees or municipal councils the C.N.T. was in a minority, it was quite as decisive, our men knowing what they wanted and coming up with solutions where the others could only argue, raising problems for the others as well as for themselves.

    Of new problems there were many, often big and always urgent problems. In the first place that of local defence against attacks launched from nearby villages or from neighbouring towns, the threat of a potential fifth column or forces gathered in the mountains. In Aragon, every village or small town had on the spot to face the francoist army which, after having taken the provincial capitals of Saragossa and Huesca, (3) was advancing on Catalonia. To halt the invaders and then to drive them back as far away as possible: some places were taken, retaken, sometimes lost again and yet again retaken. In other cases the population after liquidating local fascism, sent their available forces (most often they were civilians armed only with shotguns) to help those who were resisting or taking the offensive elsewhere. All this required a spontaneous yet real organisation in spite of inevitable shortcomings. Then the militias would arrive, also improvised, sent by Catalonia and composed for the most part of members of the C.N.T. which suffered heavy losses of militants, often the best ones.

    At other levels, and for other reasons, the need for a new organisation representing a logistics apparatus, even improvised. made itself felt immediately. In Aragon, those mayors who stayed at their posts or the councillors who undertook their civic responsibilities were the rare exceptions. Terrified, outflanked, unsuited to the struggle, or in sympathy with the fascists, almost all stood down or disappeared. By contrast, in many cases militants of the C.N.T. would appear with the advance guard and often took control of the situation. Once the struggle was over -- in the rearguard it was of short duration -- a general organisation in the villages had to be improvised and coordination essential to local life established. There again, in the overwhelming majority of cases the same men took the necessary steps. Their experience as union organisers predisposed them to undertaking the tasks of local administration. They were used to public meetings, responsible committees, administrative boards, and the role of coordinators. It is not surprising therefore that in most cases, if not in all, where the local authorities had disappeared, they should have called all the inhabitants of the village to a public meeting in the public square or in the municipal buildings (just as previously they would call members of the syndicate to a meeting of workers) in order to examine the situation with them and to decide what should be done. And everywhere, in those villages of Aragon abandoned by the authorities, they appointed not another municipal council based on the political parties but an administrative Comite instructed to take in hand the responsibilities of public life.

    This was decided either by a majority vote or by unanimous agreement, and it is not surprising that in general men known for their dynamism, so needed at that moment, were chosen. They also included, but in smaller numbers, and often on the insistence of C.N.T. militants themselves, militants of the U.G.T., occasionally Left republicans who in their personal conduct had not always followed the party directives, and still attributed to republicanism the social content which it advocated in the past.

    But this variety of loyalties did not imply the setting up of fundamentally political authorities. Without hampering themselves with grand definitions, and inspired by the standards which the movement had always advocated, our comrades proposed a new structure for all aspects of collective life. For them, who had struggled so hard and suffered against social inequality and for an equally social justice, since the Republic had collapsed, the occasion presented itself to install a new regime and a new way of life. And instead of reconstructing along the old lines they proposed a natural and functional structure in accordance with the local situation considered as a whole.

    The war came first but the lives of each and all, the problems of general consumption, agricultural production and all activities indispensable to collective life were also important. It would therefore be decided to nominate someone to be responsible for directing or coordinating agricultural work; it was followed by the problem of stock rearing (4) for which another delegate was given the task of preparing a return, of dealing with overall supervision and the rapid increase in the production of butcher's meat. Then followed the small local industries the continued existence of which had to be assured and also if possible expanded. At the same time immediate steps were taken to deal with public instruction, a permanent concern in our movement in view of the scandalous level of illiteracy. Then the public services, health, planning, roads, and the organisation of barter and food supplies. The various delegates composed the Comite. (5) Sometimes, depending on the importance of the localities, the same comrade would have two functions. More often than not these men would be working in the fields or workshops and only one of them would be available during the day to deal with urgent matters.

    It goes without saying that this revolution was accompanied by another quite as fundamental, in the distribution of consumer goods, not only as a consequence of the new needs created by the war, but also by the new social ethic that was manifesting itself. All along in the Aragonese villages -- and it started very is soon in the region of the Levante -- the struggle against fascism seemed incompatible with the capitalist order and its inequalities. Thus, in subsequent meetings of the villages, often even in the first, the family wage was established which equalised the means of existence for all the inhabitants, men, women and children.

    Local finances were soon under the control of the elected Comite, which sequestrated any funds found in the local branches of banks, sometimes issuing a receipt, or in the homes of the rich who generally had decamped. In some cases local currency, based on the nominal value of the peseta, was printed, as well as food vouchers and to which we will refer in due course. In others, all money was entirely abolished and a Rationing Table drawn up and applicable to everybody. The important point was that equality of the means of existence was emerging, and from one day to the next a social revolution was being achieved almost without upheaval.

    In order the better to ensure free consumption, or to avoid both waste and possible hoarding, the Comite took over control of distribution. In some cases the shopkeepers themselves were entrusted with the job or collaborated. In others, commerce disappeared as such, and there were created one or more depots and municipal warehouses, generally referred to as cooperatives, in which often former professional distributors were put in charge. Sometimes, out of a feeling of humanity, small shopkeepers who, after all, harmed nobody were left to go on selling their remaining stocks at controlled prices. Once the stocks were exhausted they joined the Collective.

    One should remember that the Francoist uprising took place on July 19. By then the corn was ripe and the departure of the large terratenientes (most of whom lived in their town houses) or their administrators -- almost always local despots dominating a large section of the peasantry -- carried with it the abandonment and loss of the crop. The question of the harvest therefore presented itself immediately after the general administrative takeover.

    And in agreement with the delegates for agriculture, the prime movers among the peasants called a conference of their comrades. Machines and equipment found on the large estates -- the only ones to possess machines -- were requisitioned as well as the beasts of burden, and the men and women reapers who so often were still cutting the corn with scythes. The corn was cut, the sheaves made and gathered, and the harvest stored in improvised communal barns. Wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, vegetables, fruit, meat became collective assets placed under the responsibility of the local Comite nominated by everybody.

    Nevertheless, collectivisation in the full sense of the word had not yet been achieved. Taking over the usurped property was not enough. Collectivism -- a term widely and spontaneously adopted presupposed the disappearance of all the small, medium and, above all, the large, private properties; the small properties voluntarily, the rest by force, and their integration in a vast system of public ownership and work in common. This was not done everywhere in a uniform manner.

    Whereas in Aragon, 80% of the cultivated land belonged to the large landowners, in other regions, such as the Levante and above all in Catalonia, small holdings very often predominated or played an important role in the villages which had a very diversified horticulture. Though our best comrades were often smallholders, and though in many cases the other smallholders joined the Collectives with enthusiasm and even organised them, it was a fact that in the region of the Levante (provinces of Castellon de la Plana, Valencia, Murcia, Alicante and Albacete) difficulties unknown in Aragon emerged. In the first place, because at that time many inhabitants of the region imagined themselves protected from the fascist danger by the distance that separated them from the front line, and by the superiority of republican armament (official demagogy deceived the people to the very end). Secondly because the various political parties had not disappeared; after a brief moment of panic they had recovered at the same time as the central government was consolidating itself and organising its bureaucracy and police. If the government's transfer to Valencia freed the Central region from its pressures, and facilitated the emergence of the Castilian Collectives, it increased the possibilities in the Levante of an anti-socialisation resistance not only among the parties but also from the bourgeoisie, the petty traders, and peasants who were attached to their property.

    The act of expropriation was therefore directed against the large estates the owners of which were either fascists -- which made things easier -- or were considered as such. In any case, the large estates could not be openly defended, at least in the first period, by what was left of the local authorities. The cultivation of the orange tree, which is one of the features of the Levante, demands heavy outgoings; so much so that almost all the orange-groves belonged to large, often public, Companies and, sometimes, included jurisdiction over many villages. On a small scale, the same situation often obtained in the much smaller rice-growing zone. The seizure of these large estates was justified at that time when the political and the social were interdependent, for the need to disarm economic fascism completed its political and military disarmament. And in one way or another the revolution was establishing itself.

    It did so using other means too. Still in the Levante, our comrades not wishing to provoke clashes with other anti-fascist sectors since the struggle against the common enemy remained in the forefront, had to take initiatives which the republicans, socialists, and other respecters of the Law were demonstratably unable to do. In the villages, more numerous than in Aragon for the soil and the climate made possible a more intensive cultivation and a denser population, in the small agro-industrial towns of from 10-20 thousand inhabitants, provisioning was paralysed or decreased in an alarming manner because the middlemen, doubtful of the morrow and often of the outcome of the war, hesitated at parting with their money and even at selling the goods that they had in stock (thoughts of speculation certainly influenced some of them). In addition, for others who were supporters of fascism, it was a kind of passive resistance. There was fairly soon a growing shortage of groceries, haberdashery, sanitary goods, fertilisers, selected seeds, tools, some foodstuffs and this was beginning to upset daily life. So, faced with the inertia of the other sectors, our comrades who, almost everywhere, had gone into the municipal councils where they increased the number of motions and the initiatives, succeeded in having original measures adopted. Often, thanks to them, the municipality organised provisioning centres which reduced the ascendancy of private business and set in motion distributive socialisation. Then, rapidly, the same municipality undertook to buy from the peasants, still reluctant, the products of their labour, for which they were paid at a higher rate than they received from the normal middlemen or wholesalers. Finally, a stage which had become complementary, integral Collectives, though incomplete in relation to the local population as a whole, appeared in due course and developed.


    As to industrial production in small towns and large cities, the situation often reminded one of that created by small commerce and agriculture. The small bosses, the artisans employing up to four workers often hesitated as to what they should do, not daring to risk their meagre financial resources. So our syndicates would intervene, recommending or demanding as the case might be, that production be continued.

    But inevitably new steps were rapidly taken. It is true that in general the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie was anti-francoist, if for no other reason that that Franco, a son of Galicia and a Spanish nationalist, was anti-Catalanist, and that for the Catalans his triumph would mean the end of regional autonomy won with difficulty, and the suppression of political rights as well as linguistic privileges. But it is probable that between these dangers and those represented by the revolutionary forces advocating libertarian communism and expropriation of the bosses, the former evil soon appeared to them as the lesser; Thus the interruption of work as a result of the closure of factories and workshops on the morrow of the defeat inflicted on the armed forces could quite rightly be viewed as an indirect contribution to the insurgent fascists' cause. Poverty, already symbolised by unemployment, a problem to which the Republic had been incapable of offering any solution, was to increase and would be one of the most potent factors of disorder from which the enemy would profit. Work had to continue therefore, and to make sure of it control committees were set up in every industrial enterprise on the initiative of the C.N.T. or of its militants acting spontaneously, to supervise all aspects of production.

    That was the first step. But another reason, fully justified, obliged them to take another, and in some industries to take both almost at the same time. It was necessary to create without delay an armaments industry to supply a still mobile front 160 miles from Barcelona and 32 miles beyond the boundaries of Catalonia, and which could get closer with dire consequences to Catalonia (the terrain was an easy one over most of its area). We have seen that, once the armed forces employed by the fascists, without being themselves fascists (consisting often of ordinary soldiers) had been driven back at the barracks of Barcelona, militias had been organised which immediately set off for Aragon. To do this it was necessary to get the trains moving again. The railway workers' Syndicate undertook to do so without hesitation. At the same time the metal workers' syndicate first called for a return to work (which had been stopped by the general strike) and then refused, as did the other syndicates, to accept the reduction in working hours proposed by the Catalan government; finally it instructed the workshops to blind lorries and vans so that they could be despatched to the combat areas. (6)

    And it was thus that in the name of the measures necessary to ensure victory, a fair number of industrial enterprises were expropriated, their owners treated as real or potential fascists, which was true in a very large number of cases. In the medium sized enterprises, matters did not stop there, for by an irreversible development systematically carried out, the Control Committee changed into a management Comite, where the boss no longer figured as such, but as a technician when he had the necessary qualifications.

    It is clear, the social revolution which took place then did not stem from a decision by the leading organisms of the C.N.T. or from the slogans launched by the militants and agitators who were in the public limelight but who rarely lived up to expectations. It occurred spontaneously, naturally, not (and let us avoid demagogy) because "the people" in general had suddenly become capable of performing miracles, thanks to a revolutionary vision which suddenly inspired them, but because, and it is worth repeating, among those people there was a large minority, who were active, strong, guided by an ideal which had been continuing through the years a struggle started in Bakunin's time and that of the First International; (7) for in countless places were to be found men, combatants, who for decades had been pursuing constructive objectives, gifted as they were with a creative initiative and a practical sense which were indispensable for local adaptation and whose spirit of innovation constituted a powerful leaven, capable of coming up with conclusive solutions at the required time.


    The situation was therefore revolutionary both by reason of the will of the people as well as by reason of the forces in action. And this obliges us before entering more deeply into the exposition of the directions and the development of the new achievements, to refute some statements concerning these basic factors in the situation.

    In the first place we refer to the contradictory situation resulting from the political participation of our movement in the central government, and in the regional Catalan government.

    "Since you collaborate with the government," the anti-fascists opposed to the Collectives have many times repeated, "you don't have to act outside governmental legality."

    Theoretically the argument seemed logical. In fact things were much less simple. Firstly, we had only four ministers out of 16 in the Valencia government, we were constantly put in a minority position by the other sectors in a coalition against us, and the key ministers -- Finance and War for instance -- were filled by members of that coalition. It would have been too clever and too easy to constrain us to revolutionary passivity in return for an illusory concession at governmental level. And certainly, too often, our ministers tended to be only too ready to accept such a state of affairs.

    We could be told that that collaboration had been ratified by the assemblies, plenums and congresses of our movement. But in fact what happened was that, drowned by the bursts of eloquence of our interminable speechifiers, the delegates of the provinces, the small towns and villages approved of the ministerial collaboration because they were overwhelmed by a situation that was presented to them in the most sombre colours, and lacked information and oratorical abilities to refute the promises, the unverifiable explanations, the arguments the validity of which they were not in a position to check. But once back in their towns and villages, they continued to build the new society. They did not feel tied by the political manoeuvres, and they were right, for not only would we have lost the war anyway, but the magnificent experiment of the Spanish Revolution would not have taken place.

    But some of our adversaries, in particular the Stalinists, made play with another argument which they always use wherever they happen to be, so long as they are not powerful enough to take charge of a situation: the time for the revolution had not yet come, unity among the anti-fascist forces had to be maintained in order to defeat Franco. By expropriating the industrialists, landowners, bosses, shareholders, the terratenientes, one ran the risk of driving them into the enemy camp.

    No doubt this happened on a very small scale. But so long as the situation is not yet ripe for them to seize control of it, the Stalinists will always say that the initiatives of its partners who do not submit to their control are premature, as well as counter-revolutionary. On the other hand does one believe that without socialisation the chances of victory would have been greater? If so, it is to overlook the realities of the situation.

    Firstly the hostility of the dispossessed bosses did not in any way diminish the combative enthusiasm of the workers and peasants who made up the army of militiamen. We have seen that in general the members of the bourgeoisie and of the political parties remained passive or acted as in a vacuum when faced with a situation which was beyond them. The struggle having been transferred from Parliament and the polling booths onto the streets, the reply to the fascist attack could not but adjust itself to the new circumstances and follow the path that it took. If one had had to wait for the triumph of the official organisation duly formed, francoism would have triumphed in a year, perhaps even in three months. (8)

    Footnotes to Chapter 4

    * Translator's note: This is in fact only a summary of part of what Companys said.

    [1] In fact the deeper reasons for Garcia Oliver's attitude were others. Hc expressed them in conversations with comrades. "What would I have done with the power? I was in no way prepared for what was implied, the situation was such that I could not but fail." And it was quite true. Garcia Oliver like all the more or less demagogic orators of the F.A.I. was quite ignorant of the steps that had to be taken to. direct the life, industry and provisioning of a city like Barcelona. The same could be said of Federica Montseny. This did not stop them from becoming ministers of the Republic. It was easier than organising a Collective.

    [2] A similar situation had arisen in the Asturias and in those parts of Andalusia and Estremadura which the francoists did not conquer immediately. In the Basque country the autonomous government had the situation under control for, among other reasons, the libertarian movement of the C.N.T. did not have significant strength there, or at least, it was not comparable.

    [3] Teruel had at first remained in some kind of no-man's land. In order to seize control for themselves, the Republican authorities in Valencia had sent a force of Civil Guards which turned on our forces, destroyed them and handed over the town to the fascists.

    [4] In Spain the raising of livestock is considered as separate from what is referred to as agriculture.

    [5] One encounters here the practical application of almost all the measures and the forms of organisation advocated in the programme that we summarised in the chapter on The Ideal. One could not however affirm that this transition from theory to practice was conscious.

    [6] They were called tanks. Poor tanks, it is true, and how inadequate against which bullets perhaps ricocheted but not so shells, but, in any case, they gave a feeling of security to those who left for the fronts.

    [7] There is no yardstick between the numerical importance of the Spanish libertarian forces in 1936 and those of the Bolsheviks in 1917. Neither as to the existing aptitudes of those forces in the field of production, work, and creative activities. The Bolsheviks were in all some 200,000 to 250,000 in a population of 140 million.

    [8] At the other extreme was Trotsky. He reproached us for not having swept away all the forces, parties, bourgeois and reformist socialist formations, of not taking power to continue the war as the Bolsheviks had done in Russia. One had to be blinded by his prejudice to confuse two quite dissimilar situations. It only needs a modicum of commonsense to realise that is was quite impossible for us to wage at the same time a war against Franco and in the rearguard a second war against the other antifascist sectors who would not have allowed themselves to have been wiped out so easily. It would have been a nonsense and a crime. The war of movement which favoured the forces of the Red Army in Russia could not be repeated in Spain where the enemy soon seized heavy industrial and war production centres and where military forces and high ranking officers such as came from tzarism were not available; and they included war specialists such as General Brassilof, one of the glories of the Russian Army, and Toutkatchevsky who was without a doubt the No. 1 strategist of the Red Army when Stalin ordered him to be shot.