Part 3: Industry and public services

Submitted by libcom on January 3, 2006

Chapters XI-XII

  • XI: Industrial Achivements
  • XII: Achivements in the Public Services



    According to the last census which preceded the Civil War and Revolution, 1.9 million people were employed in industry in Spain out of a total population of 24 million. At the top of the list we find 300,000 wage earners in the Ñclothing industry" but one must bear in mind that more women were employed than men.

    In second place was the textile industry which exported large quantities of cloth, even to Britain. It also employed 300,000 workers, men and women. But among the latter were included those employed in the manufacture of women's underwear.

    The third industry in order of importance was building. 270,000 men were engaged in the most varied trades of this industry. The fourth was the food industry: canning, salting, manufactured groceries, employing 200,000 people. A further 150,000 were engaged in the fishing industry.

    It is only then that we come to basic production, the kind which for the advanced industrial nations consists of what are called, with justification, the key industries: the mining industry on the one hand employing 100,000 miners, and the steel industry with 120,000 workers.

    Though Spanish industry was not important in comparison with the more advanced nations, it cannot be said that it did not exist, the more so since that approximate figure of 1.9 million workers is out of a population of 24 million and not of 40 million, if for example one were making comparisons with France or Britain at the same period. And though by far the greater part of the population was making a living from agriculture, it would be a mistake to gauge the possibilities of revolutionary socialisation from the activities of the peasants alone.

    To these basic statistics it should be added that 70% of industry was concentrated in Catalonia where the abundant waterfalls from the Pyrenees had for a long time made possible the harnessing of water power, while proximity to France, and the opening onto the Mediterranean towards Italy, North Africa and even South America via the Straits of Gibraltar, favoured its commercial expansion, the introduction of raw materials and the export of some finished products. Thus the textile industry which attracted the largest capital investment could be developed with the cotton imported from the United States, Brazil and Egypt, while wool came from La Mancha and other Spanish regions where natural agricultural difficulties and the poor production of the steppes which covered part of Spain obliged the peasants to specialise in the rearing of sheep.

    We complete this brief list by including the 60,000 workers engaged in the category "means of transport, transmission equipment and electricity enterprises" and finally the 40,000 employed in 4,000 small works producing chemical products the existence of which indicated a tendency towards the modernisation of the general economy.

    To sum up then, according to official statistics, industries absorbed from 22% to 23% of the "active population", agriculture 52% and what is called the third sector, which at that time (July 1936) included a large number of domestic servants. about 25%. (1)

    As will be readily appreciated, this economic structure influenced the constructive achievements of the Spanish Revolution as did also, at a certain stage, the lack of raw materials, power, the exhaustion of cotton stocks (which did not arrive because of the coastal blockade) or wool which no longer arrived from La Mancha, most of which was in Franco's hands or cut off from Catalonia.

    Finally - it should suffice to demonstrate the importance of some economic difficulties of which one is too often aware when it is already too late (2) - the building industry which in Barcelona employed some 40,000 workers was paralysed overnight for in all periods of crisis building is the first industry to come to a halt, the employers disappearing or no longer investing their capital either in new building projects or for keeping in good repair what they already have.

    It was at the congress in Madrid (known as the Congress of La Comedia - the name of the theatre where it was held) in 1919 that the C.N.T. (founded in 1910) had decided to abandon throughout Spain the traditional trade unions (Sindicates) and trades Federations, offspring of the First International recommended by Bakunin and the extension of which he had advocated for the reconstruction of the whole of Europe. This first workers' organisational structure, which is still to be found in a large number of countries, no longer corresponded, in the opinion of the libertarian syndicalist militants to the development of capitalist structures which made necessary greater combative concentrations.

    But also, for that end had never been forgotten and ranked with the class struggle in capitalist society, it was a question of making better preparations for the social organisation of the future. The intercorporative struggles of which the Middle Ages and the Renaissance provide such lamentable examples, did not correspond to the spirit of our Spanish militants for whom federalism had always been synonymous with association and practical solidarity. Thus from that point of view, in the syndical and working domain, a labourer, a surveyor, a mason, a brick maker, a cement worker, a plasterer, an architect, a plumber, an electrician all collaborated and participated in the construction of a building or of houses. It was therefore logical and necessary to have them all united in the same syndicate. Similarly, the printing of a book or a newspaper, from the paper making stage to its emergence from the printing presses or the rotary presses; or the construction of a boiler from the making of the sheet metal to the caulking, requires a series of operations carried out by different trades, all interdependent. The problem was to unite all these trades, converging in the double objective already described.

    But that union had not to be established without system or by ignoring the practice of freedom. After all, an industrial syndicate was a federation of trades and of workers of different trades; each of those trades constituted a technical section, and all those sections were interdependent. (3)

    In the short term, when one of them was involved in struggle, the others backed it up with solidarity, which made victory certain. The industrial Syndicate at the same time as it increased 'immeasurably the capacity for workers' organisations to engage in the struggle, succeeded in preparing a better economic framework for a socialised society.

    The acceptance of industrial federations, logical complement of the constitution of the industrial Syndicates, just as the trades Federations were the complements of trade unions, came up against uncomprehending and demagogic opposition from the "anarchist Left", to which was added the disorganisation created by too many local and general strikes, insurrectional attempts, boycotts, persecutions and also, it must be admitted, a lack of militants technically prepared to carry through this complementary task. (4) Nevertheless the broad outlines had been drawn at the congresses, and one resolution adopted in 1936 incorporated all the activities in production and services throughout the country in seventeen federations: iron and steel, textile industry, chemical industry; and its by-products; water, gas and electricity; land and sea transport; health services; teaching; entertainment (cinema, theatre, etc.); wood industry; tobacco production; heath services; agriculture; banking and financial services; building construction; mines; technology in general.

    Later, in 1938, the Economic Plenum held in Valencia, introduced some modifications which were determined in part by the war in a situation that was becoming increasingly complicated because of the difficult relations with the political factions. The industrial federations - which frequently overlapped in their activities, were reduced to fifteen.

    Before describing the constructive achievements in the industrial field, which were the work of the Syndicates, and for that reason we would prefer to call them "Syndicalisations", some further information is called for. What has been referred to as "Collectives" and "collectivisations" in the agricultural regions was, in fact, in various forms, what at other times would have been called socialisation. But genuine socialisation.

    As we have demonstrated, Collectives and collectivisations included then the interdependent whole of the inhabitants of each village, of each commune, or each fragmented Collective organised by those who identified themselves with it. In them one did not come across different material standards of life or rewards no conflicting interests of more or less separated groups. The over" riding law was that of equality and fraternity, in fact and for the benefit of all equally.

    But in what have been called the industrial collectives, especially in the large towns, matters proceeded differently as a consequence of contradictory factors and of opposition created by the coexistence of social currents emanating from different social classes. Too often in Barcelona and Valencia, workers in each undertaking took over the factory, the works, or the workshop, the machines, raw materials, and taking advantage of the continuation of the money system and normal capitalist commercial relations, organised production on their own account, selling for their own benefit the produce of their labour. The decree of October, 1936 legalising collectivisations did not allow them to do more, and this distorted everything right from the start.

    There was not, therefore, true socialisation, but a workers' neo-capitalism, a self-management straddling capitalism and socialism, which we maintain would not have occurred had the Revolution been able to extend itself fully under the direction of our Syndicates. And while we were engaged in all-out war, with a massive Francoist offensive in Aragon in the direction of Catalonia, in Old Castile in the direction of Madrid, in Andalusia, in the Basque country and against the Asturias, our Syndicates could not join issue with the bourgeois social forces and the anti-fascist parties whose conduct was equivocal, for even with all our united forces we were not powerful enough to contain the enemy armies.

    Some of those who today recall this unpleasant situation were, at the time, by their opposition to our enterprises in social transformation, more responsible than we were for these semi socialisations. And they have no right now to be the accusers.

    Meanwhile, in spite of these shortcomings, which the author was exposing in December 1936, the important fact is that the factories went on working, the workshops and works produced without the owners, capitalists, shareholders and without high management executives; and we know of visitors, such as the Belgian sociologist Ernestan, who later expressed to us their amazement at the fact which they had been able to verify on the spot.

    Then very quickly reactions set in which were not given the attention they deserved. In the engineering industry which became the most important industry because of war production, matters had had an equally bad start so far as integral libertarian socialisation was concerned. (5) But the Syndicate succeeded in exercising a strict administrative control on the working of the enterprises where the management Comites soon accepted a book-keeping discipline which reinforced the spirit and practice of socialisation. The Catalan government called for this control. which however could only be exercised because the Syndicate agreed that it was necessary.

    At all times in the engineering Syndicate the desire to do better was ever present among the militants who were often overwhelmed by complex situations which cannot be visualised from a distance or with the passage of time. It was because of this that the Comite of that Syndicate instructed the present writer to prepare a "syndicalisation" plan for engineering production in Barcelona, and which was accepted unanimously by an assembly "attended by thousands of members. I was unable to observe what efforts were then made (the problem of the technical preparedness of the workers also came into it) to put this plan into operation.

    But other reactions were expressed, such as that of the Syndicate of the wood industry (cabinet makers, joiners, carpenters and allied trades). One will be better informed by reproducing the most important parts of a manifesto published on December 25, 1936 by them which clearly shows that our militants were aware of the situation: (6)

    "Instead of a thoroughgoing takeover of the workshops, instead of giving complete satisfaction to the people, the employers are being obliged to pay wages, which are being increased as the working hours are being reduced. And this in the middle of a war!

    "Now that the government of the Generalitat (7) has secured all the moneyed wealth, it agrees to the payment of imaginary debts, (8) and distributes such huge sums that those who are doing so will regret it later when the time comes to render accounts, when it will be seen how many millions have been spent without producing, and thereby causing great harm to the economy.

    "An enormous number of parasitic bureaucrats have been created, which the Wood Syndicate within the sphere of its own activities has sought to reduce in the undertakings.

    "We have been opposed to this waste from the beginning, and within the limits of our possibilities have intensified output in industry. We too could have followed the current, and tolerated the milking of the governmental cow, by dragging money out of the Generalitat for unprofitable workshops, and by paying hypothetical invoices which will not be reimbursed by insolvent debtors.

    "Having reached this point, we seek to demonstrate our capacity as producers by practical achievements, and at the same time save the economy and eliminate the bourgeoisie with all its mechanism of parasitic intermediaries, its fraudulent book-keeping, and its stipends.

    "In the first days of the Revolution, we could not collectivise our industry because we saw and thought, and still think, that many sections of our Syndicate will have to disappear. And also because from the very beginning there had been a misunderstanding between us and the official world which had not wanted to recognise the rights of the Syndicates; (9) but it is quite clear that if one had acted otherwise one could, by spending many millions less, have improved all the industries, for we must make an effort to ensure that in Catalonia and everywhere, our national industry develops; it has the means to do so.

    "Technical organisation must be adapted to the needs of the moment, white thinking of the future. Faced with the demands of the hour, the Wood Syndicate has wanted to advance not only along the road of Revolution, but also to orientate this Revolution in the interests of our economy, of the people's economy. To that effect we have grouped all the small insolvent employers without means of existence, we have taken over alt the tiny workshops employing an insignificant number of workers, irrespective of their syndicate affiliation, seeing in them simply workers whose inactivity was harming the economy.

    "And thanks to our resources and the dues of our members we have organised C.N.T. workshops, workshops with 200 and more workers, as have never been seen in Barcelona, and of which there are very few in the rest of Spain.

    "We could have, and it would have been much easier for us, collectivised the workshops whose future was assured but instead we let them go on producing for as long as they were able to, and only collectivise those which are having real economic difficulties.

    "There is a misunderstanding when it is stated that we do not accept the Collectivisation Decree. On the contrary we accept it, but quite simply we interpret it from our point of view. What, for some, would have been understandable, would have been the organisation of large cooperatives which only the favoured industries could have started. In return they would have left those without resources to their difficulties, which means creating two classes: the new rich and ever poor poor."

    Following the ideas expressed in this Manifesto, general assemblies were called, attended as on other occasions by the workers in their thousands. The situation was examined, and in the end it was decided to take steps to put things right. A fair number of the largest workshops passed over to syndical control, each with its community number. The authority of the Syndicate, that is to say that of the assemblies whose decisions were final, in the end prevailed. Where there was a surplus of manpower, some of the workers were moved to other undertakings producing useful goods in the new situation, such as simple furniture instead of luxury furniture. The use of available techniques was rationalised, and where the situation created by the war permitted, there was a return to the spirit and practice of libertarian syndicalism. New general constructions were being formulated and from these eager attempts to overcome the difficulties of the moment a general setting of things to rights would not have taken long.

    In spite of everything, industrial libertarian achievements were not lacking, and these alone, would have justified a Revolution. (10)

    Syndicalisations in Alcoy

    So far as syndicalisations are concerned, Alcoy seems to us the most conclusive example and the one with the most lessons. The second largest town in the province of Alicante, it had a population of 45,000 in 1936. It was an industrial and commercial centre of some importance. The total number of industrial workers was 20,000, a very high proportion for a country where the active population nationally was from 33% to 35%. Textile production which supplied not only fabrics but also hosiery, and ladies' underwear, was the most advanced, and employed a fairly large complement of women. Paper making came second.

    Our movement goes back to the origins of socialism, to the time of the First International. It went through quiet periods, as happened everywhere, as well as suffering bitterly in times of repression. But from 1919, the organisation of industrial syndicates breathed new life into it.

    Anarchist groups here were numerous and generally knew how to struggle at syndical level while at the same time carrying on among the workers (after all they themselves were also workers) their work of social education, the results of which were to be seen in July 1936. And it was in Alcoy that the beautifully produced libertarian periodical Redencion appeared for seven years under Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923-1930). At the time, and later, it was undoubtedly the town that had in relation to its population the highest proportion of militant libertarians including many young people.

    At the time of my first visit in February 1937 our Syndicates had 17,000 members, men and women. The U.G.T. had 3,000 including functionaries, who were not revolutionaries, and the anti-revolutionary small tradesmen who hoped to find in that organisation the guarantee of their social status.

    These same people also counted on the support of the political parties, naturally hostile to what our comrades might undertake. But our comrades were in control of all activities essential to social life. This was thanks to our Syndicates a list of which follows: Food supplies; Printing (paper and cardboard); Building (including architects); Hygiene (medical, sanitary services, pharmacy, hairdressers, laundries, sweepers); Transport; Entertainment; Chemical Industry (laboratories, perfumery, soap, etc.); Light Textiles; Wood Industry; Industrial technicians; Travelling salesmen; Liberal professions (teachers, artists, writers, etc.); Clothing; Engineering; Agriculture (based on the market gardeners in the surrounding districts).

    The very clear image of their mission made our comrades act with precision and speed. Alcoy did not pass through the too often prolonged stages experienced elsewhere of control Comites feeling their way, of isolated management Comites as happened elsewhere. From the first day, and quickly, the Syndicates took over control of the revolutionary initiative which they were encouraging and this happened in all industries without exception.

    Let us attempt to trace the development of their achievements.


    On July 18, 1936 rumours of the impending fascist attack which were rife throughout Spain also found an echo in Alcoy. They expected an attack by the military and the conservatives supported by the Civil Guard; our forces mobilised to meet the attack and took up combat positions in the streets. But the attack did not take place. So our forces who, by their initiative had outflanked the local authorities, turned to them and presented certain demands mainly motivated by the unemployment in the textile industry (our Syndicate at the time had 4,500 members, soon to become 6,500). These demands, without breaking the anti-fascist unity, were for assistance for the unemployed and control over industrial enterprises. All the demands were agreed to.

    But new difficulties soon loomed. The employers were quite prepared for the workers' control commissions to examine their books where transactions of purchases and sales, profits and losses were presumably correctly entered. But the workers and more especially the Syndicates wanted to go further. They wanted to control the whole capitalist mechanism which absurdly held back production when there were people insufficiently clad, and which created an unemployment which could not be accepted seeing that there was an unsatisfied demand. And very soon they came to the conclusion that they would have to seize control of the factories, and change everything in society.

    Furthermore the employers soon declared their inability to pay wages to the unemployed, which in that critical period was probably true. One part of the factories appeared to be insolvent because of the crisis and could not even pay the workers who were at work. So much so that the point was reached in this absurd situation where the employers asked the workers' associations to advance them the cash to pay the unemployed.

    So, the Syndicate of the workers in the textile industry, whose history we know best of all, nominated a commission which studied the situation and presented a report in which it concluded that the textile industry of Alcoy found itself in "a situation of systematic paralysis, financial bankruptcy and of absolute deficiency administratively and technically".

    This determined the decisive step taken: on the proposal of the Syndicate, control commissions in the textile industry transformed themselves into management Comites. And on September 14, 1936 the Syndicate officially took over 41 cloth factories, 10 thread, 8 knitting and hosiery factories, 4 dyeing, 5 finishing, 24 flock factories as well as 11 rag depots. All these establishments constituted the whole textile industry in Alcoy.

    Nothing remained outside the control and management of the Syndicate. But one must not imagine hiding behind this name were simply a few higher, bureaucratic Comites making decisions in the name of the mass of unionists without consulting them. Here, too, libertarian democracy was practised. As in all the Syndicates of the C.N.T. there was a dual current: on the one hand that at the base by the mass of unionists and the militants who were part of it. On the other, the directing impulse coming from above. From the perimeter to the centre and from the centre to the perimeter, as Proudhon demanded, or from the base upwards above all, as Bakunin demanded. There were five general branches of work and workers. Firstly weaving which employed 2,336 workers; then thread making with 1,158 skilled men and women; knitting and hosiery employed 1,360 and carding another 550.

    At the base, the workers in these five specialities chose at their factory meetings the delegate to represent them in integrating the factory Comites. One then finds these five branches of work, through the intermediary of the delegations, in the management Comite of the Syndicate. The general organisation rests therefore on the one hand on the division of labour and on the other on the synthetic industrial structure.

    Before expropriation took place, the enterprise Comites consisted only of representatives of manual workers; later a delegate from the office staff was added and another from the stores and depots for raw materials. The role of these comites now consisted in directing production according to instructions received, and emanating from the assemblies, to transmit to the Comites and responsible sections of the Syndicate reports on the progress of work, to make known the needs for new technical material and of raw materials. They also had to pass on large invoices and pay the small ones.

    But the representatives of these five branches of work constituted only a half of the management Comite. The other half consisted of the control Commission nominated by the Syndicate Comite and by the representatives of the manufacturing sections.

    The technical commission was also divided into five sections: administration sales purchases manufacture insurance It was provided with a general secretary to ensure an indispensable coordination. We will cast a rapid glance at the operation of this commission.

    Chosen from among those who were considered more suitable to fulfil this role, the general secretary supervised, and if necessary guided the general activity.

    A comrade whose ability for this kind of work was recognised was put at the head of the sales section. He supervised work in his section; this section received orders, arranged deliveries of goods to the various warehouses where they were stored and methodically classified. When a warehouse made a delivery it would notify the accounts department for it to deal with securing payment. Furthermore, the sales section communicated to the manufacturing section the kind and quantity of articles sold so that they could be replaced in good time. Thus the state of all the textile reserves in Alcoy could be ascertained daily.

    Warehousing was also the business of this Commission. The stores specialised in different articles (knitwear, hosiery, blankets, overcoats, sheets, different cloths, etc.). (11)

    When the orders were for cash, the sales chief authorised them to be executed. He could also in the case of credit customers, but if a longer credit was asked for the decision to supply would \rest with the Commission.

    As with all the others, the buying section had a comrade with special competence, a specialised professional who also joined the Syndicate. His task was to buy wool, cotton, jute, silk, nock, etc., according to the requirements notified to him by the corresponding sections. When necessary other specialised technicians would be sent to different parts of Spain and even abroad, with the agreement of the technical Commission. This Commission kept an up to date account of the reserves of raw materials in the warehouse, recorded the transfer from one depot or factory to another. Not a pound of materials could be moved without it, being duly noted.

    The manufacturing section being the most important and having e more diversified functions, was divided into three sub-sections: 1) Actual manufacture; 2) Technical organisation of the factories and machine maintenance; 3) Control of production and statistics.

    The first of these sub-sections distributed work in accordance with the technical possibilities and specialisations of the factories. After receiving the orders from the sales section, and having decided which workshop and factories would have to carry out the work the criterion being that they possessed the most suitable plant - and naturally the most skilled labour - it transmitted the necessary facts to the purchasing Commission for it to obtain, the raw materials.

    The personnel of the whole industry was divided into specialities; manual workers, designers and technicians. Orders were not distributed and the work involved in carrying them out not discussed without first consulting the factory technicians themselves. Decisions were not taken from above, without seeking information from below. If for instance a special cloth had to be manufactured containing more cotton than wool, or vice versa, five of the most able mechanics among them would be called in to consider if, and where, the technical means of production existed, and in what way they could be used. As to the manual workers, they accomplished their task as scrupulously as possible: they participated in the responsibilities at the level of their activities; if necessary they informed the technical sections, through the works Comite, of the difficulties which arose in carrying out their part of the work.

    Every Monday, in each factory, the designers, technicians, and worker delegates met, examined the books and the accounts of the enterprise, the production figures, quality of work, orders in hand and all that made up the common effort. These meetings did not take decisions but their results were communicated to the corresponding syndical sections.

    The machines sub-section had as its objective to deal with the maintenance of the mechanical equipment and the buildings in which they were housed. It ordered the repairs asked for by the works Comites, but had to consult the technical Commission when the costs exceeded a fixed ceiling.

    The control sub-commission for manufacture and statistics prepared reports on the individual balance sheet of each factory or workshop, on the return from the raw materials, on experiments in new uses of materials, and the special problems created by them in the distribution of work and manpower, the consumption of power involved, and all other connected matters which could orientate production in general. It also recorded the transfer of plant from one factory or workshop to another.

    The administrative sub-section was divided into three sections: counting house, accounts, urban and industrial administration. The counting house dealt with payments connected with the local textile industry in general, on the instructions given by the director of the corresponding sections. But on the other hand he had to have the agreement of the factories he dealt with. The second section recorded administratively all purchases, sales, credit, etc., effected. We will explain later its methods of working, which will give one a better insight into the improvements introduced into the book-keeping system introduced in Alcoy by the Revolution.

    Finally the sub-section for urban and industrial administration dealt with the payment of contributions and rents and on all, insurance matters involving accidents, and with maintaining permanent relations with the Friendly Society of the Levante. (12)

    On the fringe of these five sections or sub-sections, two groups were organised to deal with the archives, one provisional the other permanent. Not only were the share certificates of the former owners preserved there as well as the signed renouncement of their titles at the time of the expropriation, but also everything connected with every activity of the textile industry, both under the new system and under the old, including production figures and the state of affairs under the capitalist regime.

    We think it necessary to deal separately with the way the book-keeping was organised. It was almost entirely the work of a Left republican who joined the C.N.T. and approved of the transformations that took place. This comrade applied a method which was not entirely original for countries with a developed organisation, but new so far as Spain was concerned. Its first advantage was to carry out with a staff of 70 the work which previously required at least one accountant, and often two, for each of the existing establishments (factories, workshops, goods depots, etc., 103 in all). And he provided me with the information to demonstrate this.

    Under the old system invariably adopted in Alcoy the entries in the Big Book for any one day occupied some 25 pages, whereas under the new system all the daily operations for the textile industry were contained in a page and a half of the accounts book; only the summaries were entered. The detailed figures were entered in the books of the thirteen different sections (counting house, banks, Bill-cases, etc.).

    Each section entered immediately what concerned its speciality, then filed on the spot the relevant documents. Accounts were balanced each day at four o'clock and the summary entered in the Big Book.

    Furthermore each section had its card-index systems which were in the hands of specialised workers. It was possible therefore, at any moment, to go through any account and check every detail. One also knew on the spot what a customer owed, or the balance sheet of a factory, just as easily as the petrol expenses for any one of the representatives.

    In this huge coordinated and rationalised organisation the Syndicate was therefore the directing organism which encompassed everything. The general assemblies which every single worker was entitled to attend passed judgement on the activities of the technical Commission and of the sections that sprang from the factory Comites. It was the Syndicate which also assumed the juridical and social responsibility both for the expropriation undertaken and the general management. It established the rate of remuneration and coordinated all activities on a higher level in the collective interest.


    As we have already pointed out, the other industries in Alcoy were organised and administered in the same way as the textile industry. The whole organisation was in the hands of the Syndicates. And the Syndicate was in the hands of the workers who effectively participated in the organisation of the industry - and not only of the factory - and rose to the collective responsibilities in the individual sense.

    They were hard at work in the engineering workshops I visited, and they too were organised on the principles of libertarian democracy and syndicalism. They had even successfully improvised an armaments industry to assist the armed struggle. The improvements favourably surprised some technically qualified visitors, and the government placed orders for the army.

    On the other hand, paper making met with difficulties resulting from a decrease in reserves of raw materials. Once again one can see that if this experiment had taken place under more favourable circumstances the results would have been very much more successful than they were.

    Nevertheless the solidarity of the libertarian organisations allowed the printing, paper and cardboard Syndicate to meet the difficulties. In fact, the sixteen other Syndicates which composed the local Federation in Alcoy, gave financial assistance (since the money symbol was retained) to industries which were in the red. They had conquered the corporate spirit, even of narrow corporate syndicalism.


    The organisation of production was technically excellent in Alcoy at the time when I studied it, and as generally happened, it is probable that it went on improving. The weak point was, as in other places, the organisation for distribution. Without the opposition of tradesmen and the political parties, all alarmed by the threat of complete socialisation, who combated this "too revolutionary" programme, it would have been possible to do better. This opposition obliged them to create their own antifascist Comite de control which had no combative role to play, but under this guise centralised the purchases of agricultural products, paying on the one hand less to the peasants for their products, and on the other holding down prices and the cost of living. It was not an easy matter to assert themselves so as to avoid friction among the anti-Francoist sectors. For the socialist, republican, and communist politicians actively sought to prevent our success, even to restoring the old order or maintaining what was left of it.

    Nevertheless in Alcoy 20,000 workers (13) administered production through their Syndicates and proved that industry functions more economically without capitalists or shareholders and without employers fighting among themselves and thereby preventing the rational use of technical plant, just as the chaos in individual agriculture prevented the rational use of the land and the means of agricultural production.

    The government could only bow before these achievements and order arms from the syndicalised engineering workshops in Alcoy, just as it ordered cloth from the socialised textile industry to clothe the army, and ankle-boots from the factories in Elda in the same province of Alicante which were also in the hands of the libertarians.

    Footnotes to Chapter 11

    [1] Naturally these figures have since radically changed. According to the most recent census which is for 1960, the active agricultural population represents 39.7%, the industrial population 33%, the sector defined as "services" 28 %. The category of metallurgy and heavy industry employed 230,000 workers in 1961, and light industry 386,000, building and construction 603,000, textiles 335,000. But here too, in order to make comparisons one must bear in mind the increase in population from 24 million in 1936 to 30.5 million at the time of the census (and to 33 million in 1970).

    [2] But which revolutionaries wanting to bring down existing society and proclaiming the need to build a new one have ever worried about these problems. Marx himself poked fun at the "recipes" for the cooking pots of the future society. Curiously enough only the anarchist or libertarian school has produced some more or less serious anticipations And the concern for the constructive task to be undertaken has certainly been one of the factors which prepared the militant constructors whose work we are examining.

    [3] Solidarity implies interdependence, or it is no more than a word. Here is an example demonstrating all the difference that existed on the subject between the old French Revolutionary syndicalist militants and the Spanish comrades. At a kind of round table at which the author was explaining to blast furnace delegates that the wages of iron-foundry workers in Barcelona was the same for all the trades, one of these delegates declared that he could not accept that an iron-smith should have any say in what he, a fitter, should be paid. I explained that in Spain they had gone beyond the corporate morality and for them it was human rights that took precedence. The French comrade was not entirely convinced.

    [4] In El Proletariado Militante op. cit. Anselmo Lorenzo demonstrated that already at the time of the First International this absence of militants with technical preparation constituted a serious handicap.

    [5] This was certainly hindered for, in the name of the demands of the war, Indalecio Prieto, the right-wing socialist, intervened in the organisation of the engineering industries and, in agreement with the Communists given key positions, prevented the development of syndical socialisation. See chapter on The Internal Counter-Revolution.

    [6] Another Manifesto denouncing the deviation of the Collectives and declaring that they were the opposite of libertarian communism was issued at the same time by the F.A.I. The author of these lines had been instructed to draft it.

    [7] Official name of the Catalan Government.

    [8] This refers to real or cancelled debts, payment of which was demanded by a number of contractors.

    [9] The decree recognising and containing the Collectives was not published by the Catalan Government until October 24, 1936, three months after the events had started and as a result of the growing number of expropriations by the workers.

    [10] In Valencia things happened along the same lines in the wood industry. In engineering they did not take things farther than Barcelona for reasons already given.

    [11] One must not forget that one was still a long way from integral socialisation in the country as a whole. Business practices persisted as well as a number of aspects of capitalism, which we were unable to get rid of completely.

    [12] The Mutua Levantina created by the libertarians which will be discussed in the chapter on the "Socialisation of Medicine".

    [13] The 3,000 belonging to the U.G.T. accepted the majority decisions not without regret.



    1. Water, Gas and Electricity in Catalonia

    The workers' Syndicate which from the beginning of the Revolution guaranteed the supply or production of drinking water, gas and electricity in Catalonia had been founded in 1927 under, and in spite of, the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera. Others had been started throughout Spain, and the federation of these industries was set up in the canton of Barcelona. Next appeared the Catalan regional Federation and finally, uniting all the regional federations constituted in Spain, the national Federation, the secretariat of which was set up in Madrid.

    No doubt this structure was facilitated, and encouraged by the nature of the production, especially electricity mainly from hydraulic power (1) and based on the exploitation of the heads of water from the Pyrenees or of barrages situated at great distances - sometimes hundreds of kilometres - from the transformer stations and the distribution centres.

    On a national scale, most workers joined promptly. In Barcelona the C.N.T. Syndicate had normally between 2,500 and 3,000 members, and 7,000 in the whole of Catalonia. Then after 19 July, in the new situation created by the Revolution, workers and technicians together numbered 8,000. For its part the U.G.T. had a little less than that number, in Catalonia that is.

    The technicians, semi-technicians, and establishment had set up their own Syndicate independent of the two workers' organisations. But the vitality of the solidarity sprung from the Revolution drove them towards closer union with the manual workers, a necessary union for maintaining production. And an assembly resolved, by acclamation, to dissolve the separate Syndicate and to constitute the technical section of the single Syndicate affiliated to the C.N.T. Later ideological preferences came into play and fifty of these technicians left the C.N.T. to form a section with membership of the U.G.T.

    The directors of the power stations who earned anything up to, 33,000 pesetas a month while the workers earned less than 250 were mostly foreigners. They received orders from their Consulates to return home. Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of all workers, and in spite of a lack of some technical staff of international origin, water, gas and electricity continued to be supplied right until the end of the Civil War. Only the bombardments caused temporary breaks in supply.

    The initiative in the early days did not come only from our Syndicate as the constituted organism. Just as for the tramways and railways, it came from militants knowing how to shoulder responsibilities. The very day of the Francoist uprising, a handful of them were meeting to guarantee the continuation of these, public services. Immediately works Comites were set up as well as a central liaison Comite between the two workers' organisations. Later this Comite supervised the general organisation of work and production for the four Catalan provinces of Barcelona, Tarragona. Lerida and Gerona.

    The definite take-over did not occur until the end of August 1936. During the transitional period, of about six weeks, they were prepared to continue production with the existing capitalist organisation, without attempting expropriation. Every worker remained at his job as before; major decisions, which involved a taking over of a technical-administrative nature, were taken by syndical assemblies of the two workers' organisations. And the curious thing was, though it happened on other occasions, that not only did the Syndicates take over the organisation of work to be done from the capitalists, but they assumed the responsibilities that the latter had previously undertaken. Thus it was that they took over the financial commitments and the debts from their predecessors, and paid all the invoices, undoubtedly in order not I to jeopardise workers employed by the suppliers, and who were also inheriting the situation as bequeathed to them by their employers.

    The only debts that were cancelled were the obligations to Spanish moneylenders, most of them privileged people - small savings were to all intents and purposes non-existent in Spain. What money people had was used to acquire some of the necessities they badly needed.

    At the beginning of 1937, total income had dropped by 20%. Possibly some consumers had omitted to pay their bills, but there was also another explanation. The unit price of electricity had been reduced; some water rates had risen from 0.70 to 0.80 pesetas a cubic metre and in other cases had dropped from 1.50 to a standard tariff of 0.40 pesetas. And there was no longer a meter charge.

    Naturally the attitude of workers in the U.G.T. was combated by the politicians who were at the head of the reformist Union. But their stubborn opposition could not breach the resolve of members, and agreement continued to reign among all the workers.

    The system of organisation that was put into operation encouraged this good understanding. Its point of departure was at the place of work, at the undertaking, and rose to the Syndicate. We will take a closer look at how things worked.

    In the undertaking itself, the first nucleus is the job speciality. Each speciality sets up a section immediately with groupings by factory, workshop or "building" of at least 15 workers. When there are not the numbers to do so, workers from many trades collaborating among themselves, meet and constitute a general section. The sections are more or less numerous and varied, depending on the size of the factories or of the organisations. Each section nominates two delegates which the assemblies choose: one of a technical calibre who will participate in the Comite of the undertaking, and another entrusted with the management of work in the section.

    The "building Comite" (as it is called) comes next. It is nominated by the section Commissions and consists of a technician, a manual worker and an administrator. When deemed necessary a fourth member is nominated so that the two syndical organisations shall have equal representation.

    The manual workers' delegate has to solve, or try to solve, difficulties which might arise between different sections, those arising within a section being settled by the interested parties themselves. He receives suggestions from workers in the different trades for the nomination or the transfer of personnel. And the sections give him daily reports on the progress of work.

    He also acts as go between for the rank and file and the general Council for Industry. Periodically he calls the sections to general meetings which take place at the Syndicate, which tightens the links between the workers from the different undertakings. During these meetings proposals and initiatives are studied which are likely to improve productivity and production, as well as the workers' situation, or be of interest to the syndical organisation. A copy of the deliberations is sent to the Council for Industry. It should be noted that the specific activities of the manual workers' delegate do not prevent him from continuing to work at his job alongside his comrades.

    The delegate with administrative functions supervises the arrival and warehousing of materials, records requirements, deals with book-keeping for supplies and reserves, and keeps an eye on the state of income and expenditure. He also deals with correspondence and it is his responsibility to see that balance sheets and Reports addressed to the Council for Industry are prepared.

    The delegate with technical functions supervises the activities of his section, and uses every endeavour to increase productivity, to lighten the worker's burden by introducing new methods. He checks on production at the power stations, the state of the network, prepares statistics and charts indicating how production is developing.

    Let us now examine more closely the workings of the Councils of Industry at the summit of the organisation.

    There are of course three: one each for water, gas and I electricity. Each is composed of eight delegates: four for the U.G.T., and four for the C.N.T. Half those delegates are nominated by general assemblies of syndicates, (2) the other half by the delegates of the technical sections in agreement with the central Comite. This latter measure has as its objective to ensure, in the composition of the Councils for Industry, the nomination of men who are technically and professionally suitable, which I was told does not always happen in syndical assemblies where oratorical gifts, ideological or personal affinities can relegate the more necessary considerations to secondary importance. All this is capped by the general Council of the three industries, which is also composed of eight members with, as before, four from each union organisation. This Council coordinates the activities of the three industries, attunes the production and distribution of raw materials from a regional, national and international point of view, modifies prices, organises general administration, indeed takes and uses all initiatives bearing on the producers' production and needs as a whole. Meanwhile, it is obliged at all times to submit its activities to the scrutiny of local and regional syndical assemblies.

    Let us now examine the results of this example of workers' management. From a technical point of view some achievements deserve to be underlined, such as that most basic one of all which we constantly come across, of concentration and of coordination.

    Not all the stations, by a long chalk, were as important as those of Tremp and Camarasa which are the main generating stations fed by large barrages. Apart from these two giants, most of the 610 units (including the transformers) dotted all over Catalonia had a small or insignificant output; to keep them in operation suited some private interests, but the public interest hardly at all. It was necessary to link them, to eliminate and to reorganise which is what was done. Six months after socialisation had begun 70% of stations representing 90% of output constituted a perfectly homogeneous technical whole: and 30% which represented but 1% of this output were kept apart.

    Among other things this represented a saving in labour which was used on improvements and alterations often of importance. For instance 700 workers constructed a barrage near Flix which increased the available electricity by 50.000 k.w.

    Gas production was economically less important, and did not gather statistics on the subject comparable with my researches into electrical power. The more so as the growing lack of coal due to the sea blockade made it impossible to make noteworthy improvements in production.

    By contrast water, especially drinking water the supply of which required a large and costly organisation, generally for every tenant in every apartment, was never lacking even in the towns that had suffered bombing raids. In Barcelona the daily supply of 140,000 cubic metres before the Revolution rose rapidly to 150,000 and went on increasing. Nevertheless the increase was not great for it was not easy in a region so broken up, to set about creating new catchment areas, all the sources having long ago been put to use.

    2. The Barcelona Tramways

    The tramways were the most important means of transport in Barcelona. Sixty routes criss-crossed the city and served the suburbs and the surrounding localities: Pueblo Nuevo, Horta, Sarria, Badalona, Sens, etc. The General Tramways Company was a private company mainly with Belgian capital and employed 7,000 workers, not only as drivers and conductors but also in the eight tram depots and in the repair workshops.

    Out of the 7,000, about 6,500 were paid up members of the C.N.T. where they made up the section of the industrial transport Syndicate corresponding to their occupation. The other, much less important, sections were from the underground (two lines), the taxis which in due course created their own Collective, the buses and, finally, the two funicular railways of Montjuich and Tibidabo. (3)

    The street battles had brought all traffic to a standstill, obstructed the roadways by barricades that had been set up all over the city and for which buses and trams often were the main materials used. The roads had to be cleared, and public transport so indispensable for this large city had to be got moving again. So the syndical section of the tramways appointed a commission of seven comrades to occupy the administrative offices whilst others inspected the tracks and drew up a plan of clearing work that; needed to be done.

    In front of the offices of the company the Commission found a picket of civil guards who had been instructed to prevent access. The sergeant in charge declared having received orders to let no one pass. Armed with guns and grenades, and some of them well protected in the armoured car which the company used for transporting money, our comrades adopted a threatening attitude. The sergeant phoned his superiors for authorisation to withdraw and this was agreed to.

    One must stress one small detail which has something quite piquant about it. All the top level personnel had left, and the syndical delegation found in the offices only the lawyer instructed to represent the company and to parley with them. Comrade Sanches, a leading militant, the most active and experienced of them, knew that gentleman only too well for two years before he had sentenced our comrade to 17 years in prison following a strike that had lasted twenty-eight months; the defender of the interests of the company had actually demanded a sentence totalling 105 years in prison. (4) This gentleman received him most cordially, declaring that he accepted the new situation, and even that, as a lawyer, he was putting himself at the service of the workers. Sanchez comrades wanted to shoot him on the spot but he was opposed to that. He even gave the personage permission to withdraw. It was a Friday and an appointment was made with him for the following Monday. His confidence restored, the man asked to be accompanied to his house as there were rather a lot of armed revolutionaries in the streets . . . He was escorted, but the following Monday did not show up. He was not seen again.

    The Comite of seven immediately called together the delegates from the different syndical sections: electric power station, cables, repairs, traffic, conductors, stores, accounts, offices and administration, etc. Yet once more the synchronisation of the industrial Syndicate was working perfectly. It was unanimously agreed to get the tramways moving without delay.

    The following day a call was made over the radio - as the engineers had already done for their members - calling manual workers and technicians. Most of them responded; known fascists kept away. All the engineers put themselves at the disposal of the Syndicate, including a former colonel whose active sympathy for the workers had resulted in his demotion from head of the traffic section and director of the Metro to a job in the archives section.

    Five days after fighting had stopped seven hundred tramcars instead of the usual six hundred, all painted in the colours of the C.N.T.-F.A.I., in red and black diagonally across the sides, were operating in Barcelona. The number had been increased in order to do away with the trailer-cars which were the cause of many accidents. To do this work had gone on night and day repairing and putting back into service a hundred tramcars which had been discarded as being beyond repair.


    Naturally, things could be organised so quickly and well because the men involved were themselves well organised. One finds here therefore an ensemble of sections constituted by trades and put on an industrial base, according to the organisation of the work to be done, of the enterprise of the Syndicate. Drivers, conductors, repairers, joiners, etc., as many complementary groupings going beyond the simple traditional professional cadre, and brought together in a single organisation.

    Each section had at its head an engineer nominated by agreement with the Syndicates, and a representative of the workers and this was how the work and the workers were dealt with. At the top the assembled delegates constituted the local general Comite. The sections met separately when it was a question of their specific activities which could be considered independently; when it was a question of general problems, all the workers of all the trades held a general assembly. From the bottom to the top the organisation was federalist, and in this way they maintained not only a permanent material solidarity but also a moral solidarity which linked everyone to the general task, with a nobler vision of things.

    Agreement was therefore also permanent between engineers and workers. No engineer could take an important decision without consulting the local Comite, not only because he agreed that responsibility should be shared but also because often, where practical problems are involved, manual workers have the experience which technicians lack. This was understood by both parties, and thereafter, very often when the Comite of the Syndicate or a delegate thought up an interesting idea, the specialist engineer would be called in for consultations; on other occasions it was the engineer who proposed the examination of a new idea and in that case manual workers were called in. There was complete collaboration.

    It was not enough to put the tramcars, even in larger numbers back onto the tracks, nor just to repaint them in the colours of the Revolution. The different corporations decided to carry out this additional work without any overtime pay. The creative drive dominated all. In the sheds there were always twenty or thirty tramcars being checked and done up.

    The technical organisation and the traffic operation was improved; the importance of the improvements achieved was remarkable. To start with, 3,000 metal poles holding up the electric cables supplying the current were eliminated as they were interfering with the traffic and causing many accidents and were replaced by a system of aerial suspension. Then a new safety and signalling system was introduced consisting of electric points and automatic discs. Furthermore the company for Agua, Luz y Fuerza (water, light and power) had installed in many places and right in the middle of the routes taken by the tramcars, transformer cabins or power distributors, which made all kinds of detours and bifurcations necessary, sometimes very sharp (very often a single line), and resulted in accidents. This had gone on from when the services had first been laid, arid were determined by the whims of financial or political interests. The comrades of Agua, Luz y Fuerza moved these cabins to where they would be in nobodyºs way, thus making it possible to straighten out once for all the tramway lines.

    Sections of track that had been damaged during the fighting were reconstructed, such as the double track for Route 60 which was completely relaid. In other cases the roadway was asphalted.

    These improvements took some time to complete as did some modifications of the general infrastructure. From the beginning the organisers, without for all that forgetting the interests of the workers in the vast enterprise, sought to perfect the tools being used. In less than a year a number of notable acquisitions were made; first of all there was the purchase in France of an automatic American lathe, the only one in Spain, and costing £20,000, which was able to produce seven identical parts at the same time.

    Two ultra modern milling machines, and electric warning machines allowing one to be notified of breakdowns and broken cables; new cables replaced the old. And an electric furnace was bought for melting down bearings. Much more technical equipment was thus purchased, including Belgian electrode welding sets for use on the tracks which cost the then high price of £25,000.

    Thus tooled it was possible to make appreciable strides forward, and a start was even made on building tramcars, including two new models of funicular cars for the Rebasada line which climbed the Tibidabo and for the one in Montjuich. (5) The new cars weighed 21 tons compared with 35 tons for the old type which also carried fewer passengers.

    Before that the whole system of power supply had been reorganised and the dynamos repaired.

    Let us take a brief look at the financial results of the new organisation. Some figures were supplied to us by the principal organisers of this revolutionary creation; we have obtained other, official, figures published in the workers' press at the time. They go from September 1936 when the accountancy was taken in hand and the figures can be relied on.








    The monthly increase in receipts varied between 12% and 15%, and it might be thought that the increase was the result of an increase in fares. Not so, for steps were actually taken to lower fares in general. Formerly they were based on distance and varied from 0.10 to 0.40 peseta. In September a uniform charge of 0.20 peseta was made which mainly benefited workers who lived on the outskirts and had been paying the higher rate, and especially those who had to pay the night rates. (6)

    Such reductions in fares would have resulted in losses under the previous administration, but the suppression of capitalist profit and of high salaries for the administrative executives and technicians actually made it possible to show an operating surplus.

    The balance sheet of services rendered is equally positive. During the year 1936 the number of passengers carried was 183,557,506. The following year it had gone up by 50 million to 233,557,506 passengers. This is not all, for the kilometres covered also increased from 21.7 million to 23.3 million, an, increase of 1.6 million kilometres.

    It must be recognised of course that these figures can in part be explained by the growing shortage of petrol for motor vehicles as a result of the blockade of the Spanish coasts. Nevertheless the fact is that the new organisation was able to provide an answer, and more, to the growing needs of the public.

    To get there they did not have to be satisfied with continuing along capitalist lines; much more had to be done. They did so, even more so than would appear from the brief outline given here. For before the Revolution the workshops of the Tramways Company of Barcelona manufactured only 2% of the material' used, and generally speaking were set up to deal only with urgent repairs. The tramways sections of the workers' Syndicate for communications and transport of Barcelona, in its eagerness t o work, reorganised and improved the workshops which at the end of the year were producing 98% of the materials used. 1n a year the proportion had been reversed, in spite of an increase of 150% in the price of raw materials which were getting more and more scarce, or coming from abroad at exorbitant prices.

    And not only did the tramway workers of Barcelona not live on the reserves of capitalism, as the detractors of collectivisations, or syndicalisations, maintain or imply, but had to deal with financial difficulties they inherited from capitalism, as did the Syndicate in the textile industry of Alcoy, and the shoe factory in Elda. On July 20, while the battle still raged, the tramworkers' wages, amounting to 295,535 pesetas, had to be paid (they were paid every ten days). Shortly afterwards bills totalling 1,272,528 pesetas for materials previously purchased by the company had to be paid. And up to. the end of 1936 general operational expenses amounting to 2,056,206 pesetas were paid, a further 100,000 pesetas for medical services and accident benefits, 72,168 pesetas in bonuses for economies made in power and materials - a scheme operated by the old company; finally 20,445 pesetas in insurance payments for staff. (7)

    Nothing was overlooked. It is true that we are not yet at the stage of the complete and completely humanist socialisation of the agricultural Collectives, with the application of the principle "to each according to his needs". But we cannot repeat too often that in the towns the republican regime with State institutions had not been, and could not be abolished; that a fair proportion of the bourgeoisie and the traditional political currents still existed, that it had not been possible to socialise commerce. It was inevitable that even the most daring achievements should feel the effects of this. Nevertheless what was done by syndical socialisations was in itself far reaching.

    For the spirit of the workers of Barcelona and other cities such as Valencia was probably the most likely in the whole world to bring about economic equality and the application of mutual aid. It was thus that both in order to help them to meet temporary difficulties and to contribute to their development, the tramways section of Barcelona financially assisted other sections of urban transport. The buses received 865,212 pesetas, the funicular lines of Tibidabo and Montjuich 75,000, Barcelona port transport 100,000, and the Metro undertaking 400,000. And on December 31, 1936 the Barcelona tramways had 3.3 million pesetas in hand.

    An odd fact: not only did the Spanish libertarian workers agree to settle with suppliers all debts contracted by the company, but they also wanted to deal with the shareholders. There must have been quite a number of them, the capital consisting of 250,000 shares each of 500 pesetas, but they probably all lived abroad. Our comrades by means of posters and press announcements invited shareholders to a general assembly. Only one, a middle-aged woman, who owned 250 shares turned up. Quite unalarmed by events, she declared herself satisfied to entrust the management of her small capital to the workers' Syndicate with whom she would henceforth maintain relations of trust. I do not know the end of this story but if this woman had no other resources I would be surprised to learn that she had been deprived of all her means of support. Such inhumanity was not common among our comrades.


    It now remains to see what part of the profits went to the tramway workers. At the time of the uprising the peones (labourers) earned between 8 and 9 pesetas a day, traffic controllers received 10, lorry drivers and skilled engineering workers (lathe operators, fitters, etc.) 12. All wages were readjusted so that labourers received 15 pesetas and skilled workers 16. One was approaching a state of basic equality.

    But other improvements in working conditions deserve to be mentioned. Firstly washbasins were installed in the sheds and workshops, which had never been done before. Showers were installed (and one should bear in mind that this was 1936) in all undertakings employing numbers of workers. Tramcars were disinfected weekly. Then a medical service was organised from which we can draw some lessons.

    This service was based on the division of Barcelona and its surrounding districts into thirty sectors. A doctor was in charge of each sector and was paid by the Tramways Syndicate of Barcelona. These doctors did not only treat tramway workers but their families as well. A home help service was also set up, the members of which looked after the sick and brought them human warmth, advice, moral support, all those things which often are more needed than medical treatment itself. At the same time, it was used for checking up on possible malingerers - one had not yet attained human perfection. When it did happen - and it was not often for the outlook was not what it was under capitalism - the Syndicate took steps which could go as far as withholding a week's money. Normally a sick person received his full wage. (8)

    To this organisation of home helps was added the use of a fine clinic which until then had been available only to the rich. Apart from being comfortably appointed in contrast with the traditional hospitals in Barcelona, the walls were repainted, decorations provided, radios installed, specialised treatment was provided by a gynaecologist, a specialist in the digestive tracts, and a specialist in general surgery. All three were working in the service of the Syndicate.

    Spontaneous discipline, workers' morality, were recognised by all. There was support of, and participation in, the common task, and efforts were constantly made to sharpen the imagination to find technical improvements and new methods of work. In the different workshops "ideas boxes" were put up so that anybody with an idea could submit it in writing.

    This participation went even beyond the framework of the undertaking and of the Syndicate. As they were well tooled the workshops produced rockets and howitzers for the Aragon front. The workers worked overtime without pay and even came in on Sundays to do their share for the common struggle, without pay.

    To conclude this aspect of things, it is worth underlining that honesty was general. Not that there were no cases of unscrupulous actions but in three years they amounted to six cases of larceny which would not even deserve to be mentioned but for the fact that we do not wish to appear to gloss over the negative aspects. The most serious case was that of a worker who from time to time took away small quantities of copper which he would sell when he had made up a kilo's worth. He was dismissed, but as his wife came to tell the undertaking's comite that she had a child which would suffer the consequences, she was given three or four weeks' wages and her husband was moved into another workshop.

    3. The Means of Transport

    During the Spanish Revolution, an attempt was made, particularly in Catalonia, to coordinate the means of transport by land and sea which the growing difficulties created by the war, itself absorbing a growing volume of human energy and mechanical and thermal power, undoubtedly prevented from being brought to a successful issue. But what was done deserves to be recounted. We shall see it in the description of the organisation of the railway network of Madrid-Saragossa-Alicante (M.S.A.) which I had the opportunity to study at first hand, and which will assist the reader to understand how the railways as a whole operated in anti-Francoist Spain when the workers were responsible for their operation.

    There were two large railwaymensº associations in Spain: the National Syndicate of Railways which was a part of the U.G.T. and the National Federation of Railway Industries was part of the C.N.T. In July 1936 the first of these two organisations grouped, on a national level, a majority of members, but the difference in the months following was no longer very large as our Federation watched its numbers steadily growing. In Catalonia the C.N.T. was in a majority.

    Once the militaro-fascist forces had been defeated in the streets of Barcelona, and obliged to withdraw to the barracks and allow themselves to be disarmed, our railway workers did not lose their time dancing in the streets to celebrate the victory. On July 20 they summoned the top management in order to dispense with their services. On the 21st those who took on the responsibility of getting the trains moving, which was a matter of urgency if contact with the other regions was to be maintained, and replenishing food stocks in the city and transporting the improvised militias to the Aragon front, started organising without waiting for the tracks to be repaired. And the same day, the first trainload of militiamen made its first run under revolutionary control.

    The discarded technicians were replaced by militant workers who though they obviously lacked the specialised training of the men they were replacing, would with the support of the rank and file who had nominated them, manage to do their work adequately. That was all that mattered.

    The network that has been expropriated comprised 123 large and small stations grouped in nine sectors. The administrative personnel remained at their posts and continued to work. The railwaymen likewise. Agreement was complete and expropriation, accepted with a high degree of responsibility. In a few days services were back to normal.

    All this had been achieved on the sole initiative of the Syndicate and militants of the C.N.T. Those of the U.G.T. in which the administrative personnel predominated had remained passive, never having found themselves in such a situation. Accustomed to carrying out orders coming from above, they waited. When neither orders nor counter-orders came, and our comrades forged ahead, they simply followed the powerful tide which carried most of them along with it.

    Thus five days after the triumph of the Revolution, four days after the seizure of the railways by the members of the C.N.T. Syndicate, a U.G.T. delegation came to ask to be a part of the central revolutionary Comite consisting of six of our militants. The Comite was therefore reorganised with eight members. Though fewer in number, and of no worth from a revolutionary point of view, the reformist section was, on sufferance and by a desire for brotherhood. given equal representation so that there were four delegates from each side.

    But that number was clearly insufficient. With the technical sections organising themselves, it was realised that ten and a chairman and a director general, a total of twelve delegates, six from each syndical movement, were needed. In this way they expected to deal with the various activities; the Operational division, then the commercial division, electrical services, accounts and treasury, traction services, various supply depots, sanitary organisation, tracks and works, matters in dispute, finally control and statistics.

    From the beginning, the control of these divisions did not operate from above downwards, as in a statist and centralised, system. The revolutionary Comite had not such powers. The restructuring was carried out from the bottom to the top; in each section and subsection an organising Comite, entrusted with the responsibility of work, had been formed. It disappeared fairly quickly, for it was necessary to mobilise many people to assume these functions; there only remained therefore in each section and subsection one delegate chosen by the meeting of workers ,from the stations in the small towns, villages or in the large towns.

    Norms for organisation, initiative and control were established. All the workers of each locality would meet twice a month to examine all that pertained to the work to be done. Parallel with it, the militant primemovers met once a week. Then the local general assembly named a Comite which managed the general activity in each station and its annexes. At the periodic meetings, the management of this Comite, whose members worked, after hearing reports and answering questions proceedings at which se present could take part, would be subjected to the approval or disapproval of the workers.

    The impulse retained its clearly federalist character. One cannot say that the direction was determined by the central revolutionary Comite of Barcelona. Quite simply work went on everywhere, as before July 19. The members of the Barcelona Comite being content to supervise general activity and to coordinate that of the different routes that made up the network. They slowly drew together the different parts of the organism and prepared a better management for the morrow.

    It is important that as in the factories and works, even still imperfectly socialised, without shareholders, without engineers, without the usual hierarchy, the trains continued to move, the stations were manned, passengers and goods were transported, the regions that had been supplied before went on being supplied.

    They even went further for the sake of a revolutionary pride, by increasing the number of train services which was, as one will see, a mistake they were to appreciate later.

    From July 19 onwards they operated 292 trains a day on the network. In October of the same year the number was 213, the drop being partly due to a reduction in freight tonnage and passengers, as a result of the severing of links with Aragon and beyond Aragon with that part of Castile occupied by the fascists, and along which train convoys to and from Madrid had been operating. In October 1935 there were 28,801 wagons recorded: in October 1936 as a result of the events which had upset everything there were only 17.740; but by December the total had risen to 21,470. The difference would have been much smaller if Spain had not been cut in two.

    In spite of everything such figures make one realise the importance of the train movements of just the one network we have examined. Even so they give only an incomplete picture. For instance the ten specialised administrative sections which we have already listed, were subdivided in their turn into technical sub-sections. For instance the operational service included control of train timings, general movements of trains, distribution of railway materials, goods traffic and services at all the stations. General organisation therefore was much more complex than one might suppose at first sight.

    We said that it was a mistake to want to immediately increase the number of services operated. Firstly because there was a need to economise on coal that came from Asturias, surrounded and besieged by Franco, and from Britain which, because our ports were blockaded by the enemy's fleet, would not risk its ships. Another technical weakness was soon to be revealed: 25% of the boilers on the locomotives were out of service at the time of the takeover; and tubular boilers were built in the Basque country which was also besieged by the Francoist forces, and where every man was mobilised for the armed struggle. Rationing of transport was as essential as of consumer goods. It was only realised rather late in the day.

    The problem of remuneration for the workers came up for wages varied from 2.50 pesetas a day for women employed as level crossing gate keepers, 5 pesetas a day for unskilled railway workers to the princely salaries paid to the chief engineers. The average wage was 6.50 pesetas and at the time, depending on the regions, one kilo of mutton cutlets cost from 4 to 6 pesetas. A basic wage of 300 pesetas a month was established for all workers without exception. Those who received more than 500 pesetas - such as the recently engaged engineers - were the exception and a lack of qualified technicians had made this compromise necessary, and my comrades told me in February 1937 that five engineers had joined the management and their demands had to be satisfied by paying them 750 pesetas a month That is more than twice as much as the general run of railway workers. (9) Nevertheless much ground had been covered in relation to the injustices that existed under the capitalist regime.


    But somewhat unexpected difficulties, though not altogether surprising, arose from the U.G.T. side, where higher officials, who from Madrid must have moved on to Valencia, after having accepted syndical socialisation in principle (presumably in order not to be let out of the railway brotherhood) changed their minds and replaced the authorised representatives of their Union who were part of the railway Comite of Barcelona. In their stead they appointed delegates of their own choice who, being more manageable, would oppose the socialisation that had been undertaken, or at least slow it down. And this was done without consulting their members.

    Yet our comrades had, at the beginning, sought a middle of the road solution, which could have been widely applied. In the Centre and South of Spain, faced with the departure of the executives, administrators or foreign engineers who managed the other railway networks, the State, unable to do anything by itself, had to call in the syndical organisations. An "Operational Committee" was organised; it was composed of three members each from the C.N.T., the U.G.T.. and three from the government whose members left the task of getting things moving again and of supervision to the syndical delegates. But with the growing success of the railwaymen's efforts - that is in the SouthEast and Centre - the State as is its custom increased its control and wanted to take over everything. Official bureaucracy was asserting itself on the workers' achievements, and the Syndicates resisted.

    In Catalonia the same offensive had been launched due to the bias of the U.G.T. in which were to be found more and more socialists with a bureaucratic-statist mentality, and Communists who, to camouflage their game, called themselves the Catalan United Socialists (P.S.U.C.). Thus our comrades, who were, after all, in a majority, and who distrusted State intervention, even under the pretext of innocent statistical information, did not allow their administration of the Madrid-Saragossa-Alicante network to be supervised.

    It certainly was not the case that they could not present their accounts, for they opened their books to this writer from the start. But before attempting to summarise them we should note the modifications introduced into the operations of the Catalan network which, as a result of the reduction in traffic and the traditional imbalance between receipts and operation costs, (10) were showing a deficit. It should be borne in mind that the M.S.A. network gave financial aid to the Northern network, which also always showed a deficit. The fact is that operation costs in Spain were three times as high as in France because it is an extremely mountainous country, with relatively little traffic due to the low density population and the low tonnage of freight carried. To all these causes must be added the cost of constructing 30 km. of tracks in a very badly serviced area in the Republican zone of Aragon. ,

    Let us now cast a quick glance at the accounts of the M.S.A. network. On July 19, 1936, the Company had 1,811,986 pesetas in cash and 2,322,401 in the bank: a total o£ 4,134,381 pesetas. The directors at the central office in Madrid withdrew 1.5 million pesetas from the bank, leaving 2,634,787 pesetas at the end of July. Furthermore the company owed current creditors one million pesetas. Also the staff had to be paid. The expropriating workers, who also accepted the company's debts, found themselves when all was said and done with a deficit of 502,660 pesetas. What is more all transport in the direction of that part of Aragon which was under our control, that is towards the East-West front, was carried out without payment. To all this had to be added the increase in the cost of the small amount of coal from the Asturias that arrived with difficulty at the Mediterranean ports and the price of which rose from 45 pesetas a ton in July 1936 to 67 and by February 1937 was costing 150 pesetas a ton; the difficulties of coastal transport had become overwhelming, and were getting worse. (11)

    In spite of all these difficulties, and a general falling off in traffic which resulted in average daily receipts dropping from 236,363 to 192,437 pesetas in the second half of January 1937; and though aid to the railways of the Northern network amounted to 26-27% of total receipts; (12) and in spite of aid to branch lines and an increase in wages, fares had still not been increased in March 1937, that is in nine months since the Revolution had begun. And there was no question of increasing them. To deal with the difficulties plans were being laid for a general reorganisation of the means of transport.

    It needed the libertarian revolution in Spain to ventilate the idea of coordinating production in almost all the industries and services throughout the country. Naturally the initiative came from militants of the C.N.T. In the case under discussion they started by considering a technical reorganisation of the railways as a whole, and a financial and economic synchronisation.

    Just as for the land cultivation, or the running of workshops and factories, the dispersal of forces represented an enormous loss of energy, an irrational use of human labour, machinery and raw materials, a useless duplication of efforts. It was what Proudhon in the first place and then Marx, who had thoroughly read his Proudhon, had pointed out demonstrating the advantages, of the large enterprise which uses collective labour and benefits therefrom, compared with the small enterprise. Our comrades had not read Marx and knew nothing of the Proudhonian theories, but commonsense was their guide. They therefore developed a project for reorganising the Catalan railways. I possess a copy of that project or to be more precise the plan, for it had been accepted and was in the course of being applied.

    Firstly it brought together in a single federation of railway operation the Catalan network of M.S.A., the North network and Catalan system of secondary lines. Each of these networks constituted a sector and all these sectors were locally and regionally linked by liaison Comites.

    "We constitute," we read in the first line of the plan "the regional central Comite which regroups all the railways of Catalonia." Then come the outlines of the revolutionary reorganisation.

    There are three main divisions: traffic, technical services administration (here they are following the model of the M.S.A. network).

    The section for research and purchases aims to improve the railway services, by the introduction of new methods and suitable materials, which will make it possible to prove "all the time a high sense of the constructive capacity of the new organisation of rail transport".

    It has to purchase raw materials, tools, fuel, construction and manufacturing materials, etc.... It provides all the local sections with these supplies to get the work done and centralises all the statistics on the general activities of the network.

    The traffic division is spread over three sections: operation, control and statistics, commercial and complaints.

    The first section deals with everything affecting the personnel in stations and depots, the organisation of trains, timetables and loading and unloading operations, freight transport and deliveries, the distribution and movement of wagons, etc. Thanks to the commercial section it studies the traffic requirements for passengers and freight, prepares the timetables, organises the depots, hotels, transfers, and so on.

    The control and statistical section supervises the general movement, undertakes all payments, deals with the distribution and sale of tickets, settles the accounts for the networks according to their category on the information provided by the stations.

    The commercial and complaints section settles the different rates, whilst seeking to simplify them; it avoids the competitiveness of the capitalist system, organises combined services in which all the means of surface, sea and air transport will be coordinated.

    It still has to study foreign legislation, revise Spanish legislation, modify certain agreements, maintain friendly relations with companies in other countries, apply all the new official decisions, especially fiscal ones taxes have to be paid to the State deal above all with changes of a syndical nature, and finally with complaints tending to continually improve the services.

    The technical services consist of three sections: rolling stock and transport, power, permanent way and construction.

    The first deals with the maintenance of rolling stock, depots, locomotives, wagon supplies, workshops. The second with everything connected with electricity and coal over the networks, the stations, traction power, telephones, signalling. The third with construction and maintenance of the permanent way, bridges, tunnels, stores, minor stations, etc.

    The auxiliary administrative division is also subdivided into three sections: sanitation, accountancy and treasury, provisioning.

    The first ensures hygiene in the means of transport, deals with sick and injured employees, and first aid posts set up in the stations.

    The second, where all the financial resources of the railways converge, receives daily the receipts from all the stations; it constitutes the centre for all the various sources of income, and closely observes the returns from each service.

    The provisioning section has to supply employees, at cost, price, with food and refreshments.

    The divisions must have at their head a representative from' each network. The sections will have the technicians needed, who will be answerable to the central Comite of which they could belong as advisers. The divisional secretaries will take part in the deliberations of the central Comite, so that no decisions can be taken by the latter without knowing the opinions of the different branches, lines and networks.

    In the general organisation the personnel will not belong definitively to one section or division in particular but will have to agree to transfers in accordance with the demands of their, work.

    All the divisional Comites are constituted by an equal number of comrades of the C.N.T. and of the U.G.T. In the general organisation of traffic the demarcation zones will be defined by a special Comite whose members, representing each service. will be at work like their comrades except in unusual circumstances recognised as such and will meet after their day's work to examine the results obtained. Nominated directly by their comrades in the zones or by the central Comite with the agreement of the respective zones, they will have to control the general activities and submit to the divisional Comites their observations and their initiatives. Each demarcation Comite will choose someone to be responsible for the administrative functions of the office.

    In each office, station, workshop or gang, workers will freely elect a delegate responsible for the management and coordination of the services. When it is deemed necessary by the sections they will form control comites. In localities where there will be many sections of different networks or lines, a liaison comite will be set up.

    Each service, or division, will have mobile technicians whose task will be to continually go on improving the smooth running of the railways.

    Finally, technical schools will be organised to further technical and administrative knowledge for workers so that they do not continue to be, as has been the case hitherto, simple mindless cogs in a machine, the life and functioning of which escapes them.

    The idea of the coordination of all the means of transport came almost immediately after the seizure of the railways by the workers. We have evidence of it in a circular dated September 5, 1936 a month and a half after the Revolution started the gist of which was:

    "The profound socio-economic transformation which has taken place in our country obliges us to open new and wide horizons for the exploitation of the railways. We must therefore multiply new activities and to that end gather, in all the rail zones, informed assessments which will make it possible to study the process of production and that of consumption, so intimately linked to the railways. The results will be in the public interest.

    "We therefore ask all our comrades to reply as soon as possible to the following questions:

    1. What localities are covered by your station?

    2. Which is the zone of influence of the railways in your region?

    3. What are the means of transport between the station and the villages situated on the perimeter of this zone of influence?

    4. What is the industrial and agricultural production and to what places are surpluses sent?

    5. What are the means of transport most used?

    6. If this transport is not by rail what are the reasons and what can be done about them?

    7. Is there a coordination of services between rail and road?

    8. If there is not, how can it be established and what hope of a solution?"

    This questionnaire was followed by a second one which was more complete and with a surprising amount of detail. To facilitate its distribution they succeeded not without difficulty in arranging for its distribution by the Statistical and Transport Service of the government of Catalonia.

    In this document no fewer than fifty-seven questions were asked concerning the geo-physical surroundings, the means of communication, dispatch and reception of goods, the importance and location of schools, the number, quality, of taxis, buses, lorries, cars, boats in the case of maritime localities, and the degree of collectivisation of each branch of transport. Finally information was requested on the syndical aspect of the problem.

    A great number of replies were received. They were classified in two card index files, one dealing exclusively with the municipal life of each locality in which the station was situated; the other at the periphery of economic influence and on the means of transport.

    In the archives of the administration of the M.S.A. railway network there were detailed reports from 200 towns and villages and others were expected to arrive.

    More information was obtained by these methodical means, such as the exact number of lorry, bus, coastal shipping services for the whole of Catalonia. The total number of undertakings was ascertained as well as the number of owners, passengers and tonnage of goods transported. Everything was recorded, classified and marked on special charts which at the same time served to prepare the new order of things as well as to demonstrate the absurdity of the capitalist system.

    Indeed, alongside a railway line shown in black, 8, 10, 12 red lines represented that number of companies and road transport services which were competing with the railways and among themselves. It was a useless duplication which was to be found especially on the Mediterranean littoral, in the densely populated and prosperous province of Barcelona.

    By contrast, on the chart showing means of transport for the province of Lerida, in the interior of Catalonia, there were great expanses, whole cantons without regular communications. Huge areas which, because they were impoverished, were condemned to stagnate in isolation, ignorance and poverty though an improvement in the means of transport could, as often happens, favour some aspect of development of production. And my comrades, who always put social interest, viewed in its global aspect, above corporative self-interest, or of narrow syndicalist outlook, decided that some of the lorries and buses in overabundance in the province of Barcelona should be sent to the province of Lerida. At the beginning, at least, the services would be run at a loss, but profitable services in the Barcelona area would more than compensate for these losses. What was required was to ensure to all the inhabitants of Catalonia then, and later for all the people of Spain, the same chances of well being and happiness. Did not the Collectives in Aragon, the Levante and Castile act in this way?

    The general reorganisation extended to the merchant fleet. Not all was done, nor could be done at the time in view of the Francoist naval supremacy. But a start was made. Once again maps were produced. On one of them two parallel lines in red, one of which hugs the coast; it is a coastal shipping service Barcelona-Tarragona; the other red line followed the same coastline but on land. It was a railway line. The coastal service was withdrawn. But what they were dreaming of doing in the future was to coordinate rail, road and sea transport: ever Coordination!

    4. The Socialisation of Medicine

    By 1937 the National Federation for Public Health, a section of the C.N.T., had 40,000 members and it goes without saying that such large numbers could not have been assembled so quickly had not the way been shown by others over the years.

    Some precedents explain, only partly, the creative drive that was to take place. A number of doctors were among the best Spanish libertarian militants. There was Dr. Pedro Vallina, a courageous fighter (13) who played such an important role in the social struggles in Andalusia; Dr. Isaac Puente, by far his junior, was one of the most outstanding personalities in the libertarian movement during the years following the establishment of the second Republic; Dr. Amparo Poch y Gascon, was the most cultured woman in that movement; Dr. Roberto Remartinez's knowledge was encyclopaedic, and Felix Marti Ibanez, was a brilliant representative of the young generation of sociologist-doctors, a humanist and specialist in sexual and psychoanalytical problems. Along with these doctors, best known because of their writings and activities, there was a large number of others who supported the constructive concepts of the libertarian ideal of a new civilisation, a more rational and just organisation of society. At the local level, these men, often in contact with the workers' Syndicates, performed wonders of human solidarity. In the chapters on agrarian Collectives we have given examples of mutual aid societies founded or administered by the libertarians in the villages or small provincial towns. The disinterested collaboration of one or two or more doctors was secured by them. Sometimes it would even go much further. Thus, in Valencia, then the third largest city in Spain, was the headquarters of a Mutua levantina or Mutual Aid Society of the Levante, founded by libertarians whom this writer got to know in his youth, and who brought together many doctors with different specialities, professional people with experience in the different fields of public health. More than a simple society for mutual aid, it was, basically, an association of practitioners of medicine which extended over the whole region of the Levante and in which the spirit of mutual aid dominated in its most human implications. (14)

    When the Civil War broke out, there was no doctors' Syndicate specially organised in Barcelona, but a "Syndicate of the Liberal Professions" with various sections: journalists, writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors. How many of the latter? We do not know, but their number must have been fairly large to judge by the speed with which initiatives sprung up when the time was ripe.

    There are two reasons for this. In the first place, the sanitary problems; questions of social hygiene; infant mortality; the struggle against tuberculosis, venereal diseases and others, were subjects openly discussed in our press, particularly in the libertarian review Estudios which as we have already mentioned had a circulation of up to 75,000 copies (in a country of 24 million inhabitants of whom 40% were illiterate). The minds of many militants were therefore aware of these problems. (15) Then the disorganisation of the sanitary services, administered by a religious personnel which, after July 19, disappeared overnight from the hospitals the dispensaries and other charitable institutions, made it necessary to improvise new methods of organisation and to set up new establishments not only to continue to succour the sick, the blind, the infirm, but also to operate, to tend and treat the wounded from the Civil War who were being brought in all the time.

    Individual and collective initiatives were encouraged; stately homes were requisitioned and the rooms were furnished, and beds set up all in good order. Then the importance of the sanitary question loomed large, so large that the Federation for corresponding services soon appeared among the sixteen large organic divisions in which the whole life of the country had been divided on the basis of a national plan which was perhaps excessively organising.

    It was thus that in Barcelona the Syndicate for Sanitary Services came into being in September 1936.


    But before proceeding further we must in the name of objectivity mention the emergence at the same time of a new element in this vast improvisation. In that month of September 1936, faced with the public's demand for a unification of the anti-Francoist forces, the C.N.T. decided to join the Catalan government and, shortly afterwards, the national government led by the socialist Largo Caballero. Among the three Catalan "councillors" it nominated, one of them, Garcia Birlan, the best known contributor to the Spanish libertarian press (using the pseudonym Dionisios) was appointed Minister of Health. He chose his collaborators from among his ideological comrades, and it was thus that Dr. Felix Marti Ibanez was nominated director general of sanitary services and of social assistance in Catalonia.

    A study in depth would reveal that in many similar situations the government used libertarians to carry out practical programmes for their ministries. Thus in Catalonia, the work of the Ministry of Public Education was performed, so far as practical achievements were concerned (and some were most laudable), by pedagogues who were militants of the C.N.T. Thus in the Asturias the control of activities connected with the fishing industry, one of the most important economic factors at the time, was given to a specially constituted governmental organism which in its turn entrusted militants and the syndicates of the C.N.T. with the practical task of getting the job done.

    One of the reasons which explain this official attitude towards the official sanitary services was that the C.N.T. could, thanks to its, contact with the working masses, and its constructive and organising spirit, be a valuable and even necessary aid, though the government, or whatever was in its place, held the advantage of disposing of the financial resources which those on the revolutionary side lacked.

    The result of the situation created in Catalonia was that the existence of these two forms of activity, at the same time divergent and convergent, were to provoke a fraternal and inevitable rivalry. Dr. Marti Ibanez in his book Obra (Work) published in November 1937 bears witness to this. In it the author, who was obliged to give up his post as a result of Stalinist manoeuvres, describes what he and his collaborators had achieved. His Ministry did more in ten months than other Catalan ministries had done in the five years of the Republic. It is true of course that the revolutionary situation, and the participation of C.N.T. militants, made it possible to speed up the rhythm of achievement.

    We are only too anxious to establish a parallel between the action of the governmental organism and that of the syndical organism, both in the hands of the libertarians. On this subject Dr. Marti Ibanez starts by paying a tribute to the creative drive of members of the C.N.T. to which he belonged. From the first day of the struggle, he writes, "We, the doctors of the C.N.T., constituted, thanks to the workers' sanitary organisation, the first sanitary control which was also the first effort at organic cohesion of the sanitary services in Catalonia. When the time is ripe we will describe those hectic days during which the sanitary control by the C.N.T. improvised, at high speed, solutions which the innumerable problems that arose continuously demanded."

    This "hectic" activity of our independent movement continued, and it explains the powerful take-off by the Syndicate that was constituted as a result. And that the balance sheet of the two forms of organisation was all in favour of the direct creation according to the principles of the C.N.T. For, right at the beginning, as we have seen, it was from the syndical movement, from the syndicalist militants, even though the specific sanitary organisation had not yet been constituted, that everything stemmed: in fact Garcia Birlan and Felix Marti Ibanez simply transferred to the Ministry of Health what was already living in the thoughts, in the souls of the utopians, impatient to convert utopia into reality.

    Apart from the financial advantages that a Ministry could enjoy, and the aid that it received from the syndical organisation (thanks to fraternal action shown by the militants who knew each other) and from the industries providing the necessary technical elements, we note that the new hospitals placed under a kind of governmental aegis, were only the old establishments with a change of name, whereas those, much more numerous, taken over by the Syndicate were, with considerably less means, created all of a piece.

    We are not underlining these facts for petty reasons but in order that the importance of the achievements of our syndical organisation should be better understood.

    The Syndicate for Sanitary Services, as we have already said, was constituted in Barcelona in September 1936. (16) Five months later it included 1,020 doctors with different specialities; 3,206 male nurses; 330 midwives; 633 dentists; 71 specialists in diathermy; 10 unspecified specialists; 153 pharmacists; 663 assistant pharmacists; 335 preparers of dressings, an unspecified number of masseurs, and 220 veterinary surgeons. In all more than 7,000 people organised according to the libertarian and industrial norms of the Syndicates of the C.N.T. so as to integrate all the activities contributing to a global task and to harmonise its different aspects. (17) The significance of these numbers can be appreciated when one takes into account that the population of Catalonia was then 2.5 millions.

    Once again the moral principle of human solidarity and that of technical coordination aiming at the greatest efficiency amalgamated. Which is even more understandable since it was a question of at the same time confronting a grave temporary situation and of fundamentally reorganising, inspired by a great social ideal. the whole practice of medicine and of Public Health Services. A very necessary task in Spain where out of 24 million inhabitants 80,000 children less than a year old died annually from causes mainly social; where, for instance in the 5th District of Barcelona which was entirely working class, infantile mortality was more than double that recorded for the 4th District which was specifically a bourgeois area. (18) Demographic statistics at the time indicated that for the whole population the death rate reached 18-19 per 1,000, one of the highest percentages in Europe in spite of the salubrious climate.

    Thus our comrades laid the bases, from the beginning, for a general restructuring of sanitary services. I was unable to learn in detail, bearing in mind the all-absorbing activities of the primemovers. how this groundwork was achieved and what was its real extent. I can only therefore summarise it imperfectly, indicate some of the results obtained, summarise the plans established for the future at the time when I was able to undertake this research, and note what palpable facts I was able to collect.

    In Catalonia the region was first of all divided into nine large sectors: Barcelona, Tarragona, Lerida, Gerona, (19) Tortosa, Reus, Bergueda, Ripoll and the Pyrenean zone to a certain extent lost in the mountains. Then, around these nine centres 26 secondary centres were constituted according to the population density and the demands of public health. In all, 35 centres of greater or lesser importance, covering the whole of the four provinces in such a way that no village or hamlet, no isolated farm or mas, no man, woman or child was without sanitary protection or medical care.

    Parallel and complementary each large sector included a technical medical centre, a syndical centre the cantonal Comite of which controlled and to an extent directed the services.

    In their turn, the cantonal Comites on the federal principle, had ramifications in Barcelona which had greater technical facilities and specialised establishments, and where patients requiring urgent or special treatment were taken by ambulance or taxi.

    The sections constituted on the basis of specialities were autonomous so far as their method of organisation within the Syndicate was concerned, but their autonomy did not imply an absolute independence, and even less isolation or indifference of Barcelona, which the plenary assembly would periodically reappoint or modify if the case arose met with the delegates of the first nine zones. Technically and geographically the spirit of togetherness was always present, and their federalism was always constructive.

    Very soon the population felt the benefits of this vast undertaking. In a year, in Barcelona alone six new hospitals had been created, including two military hospitals for war casualties. At the same time nine sanatoria had sprung up in different parts of Catalonia. They were generally established in properties that had been taken over and which were situated in open mountainous sites, in the middle of pine forests, the heights of which dominated the countryside or the sea.

    The internal equipment of the hospitals was less easy. New appointments had to be improvised which would serve the sanitary demands and needs immediately.

    Nevertheless, to summarise: there were in Barcelona at the time (June 1937) 18 hospitals managed by the Medical Syndicate (of which 6 were created by it), 17 sanatoria, 22 clinics, 6 psychiatric establishments, 3 nurseries, one maternity hospital as well as 2 annexes to the General Hospital, one for bone tuberculosis and another for orthopaedic treatment. "That," some of my comrades told me with pride, "will make this hospital into one of the best in the world."

    Out-patients departments were set up in all the principal localities in Catalonia, to which the smaller localities were attached. They had the services of medical specialists and were provided with sanitary equipment which made it possible to prevent the crowding of patients and the injured in a few large centres.

    Just as with other workers, doctors were sent where the need for them was being most felt. In the past the rich areas were over-doctored but this had changed. When the inhabitants of a locality requested the Syndicate for a doctor, it would first check up on local needs and then select from its list of available members the practitioner whose qualifications were most suited to the sanitary conditions of the place. And he would have to give good reasons for refusing the post. For it was considered that medicine was at the service of the community, and not the other way round. Social duty was in the forefront.

    The Syndicate lacked money and so financial resources for the hospitals were supplied in part by the Catalan government and partly by the municipalities. The funds for the out-patients departments in the small towns and villages came from contributions by local municipalities and the Syndicates as a whole who also supported and administered the dental clinics.

    Such were the first achievements in the socialisation of medicine.


    Nevertheless at the end of a year it had still not been possible to eliminate private practices, and perhaps in the interests of the patients it was probably not altogether desirable. But already the Syndicate had got rid of the abuses which had previously been so frequent. It had fixed the fees for consultations and operations and it exercised a strict control by the method which we have observed in practice by other services in Castellon de la Plana, in Alicante and Fraga. Patients who had recourse to the services of a doctor or a surgeon privately, paid for services rendered through the intermediary of the Syndicate which maintained a close check on fees charged.

    In the new clinics, operations were carried out free of charge and so was treatment in psychiatric hospitals.

    What was the attitude of doctors to this upheaval? Different answers can be given, indeed contradictory ones. But as my comrades explained to me, there are essentially two groups: that of the "old ones" who constituted the privileged class a part of whom left Catalonia and crossed over to France and for whom medicine was above all a source of considerable material gain; that group, as was to be expected, was not at all satisfied with the changes that took place. The other group which had not yet "arrived" offered no resistance and even collaborated with good grace in this general series of changes.

    By contrast the young joined with enthusiasm. For many of them the future was problematical. After having qualified they had to work virtually unpaid in the hospitals and the sanatoria. In the clinics the official doctor, handsomely remunerated, hardly ever showed up; a younger doctor would stand in for him, waiting for the "boss" to die so as to step into his shoes. Alongside him, a younger doctor still acted as secretary, waiting for a shake-up in the hierarchy to move up in his turn.

    Under the new system, all hospital doctors received 500 pesetas a month for three hours work a day. (20) They had in addition their private patients who paid along the lines already indicated. We know only too well that this was not yet economic equality but within the limits of what was possible, a great step had been taken. There were no longer "senores doctores" receiving huge fees while other doctors lived virtually in conditions of poverty. In the hospitals, clinics, etc., no one could receive two salaries. More than half the practitioners collaborated voluntarily in activities in their competence, in their own time.

    And they did it with pleasure, in agreement with the Syndicate even when they were not members, and without the need for the use of authority. The secretary of the doctors' section, an enthusiastic and indefatigable Basque, told me that "what is so encouraging is the moral revolution that has taken ' place in the profession. Everybody is doing his work honestly. The eminent doctor who is being sent once a week to work without a fee in a district dispensary never fails to go. The r important personage who in the old days would go through the I wards in the hospital followed by a retinue of some half a dozen less qualified colleagues, with one carrying a wash-hand basin, another a hand towel, a third the stethoscope, the fourth opening the door, the fifth closing it and all of them prostrating themselves before | an authority who was not always scientific that personage has disappeared. Today there are only equals who esteem and respect each other."

    Having seen what was done just for medicine and related activities, let us observe the projects that were developed in the Syndicates and in the Commissions specially nominated by them. One of the steps taken deals with the general organisation of everything to do with pharmaceutical products. At the end of 1937 a plan had been drawn up which divided the related activities into four groups: laboratory and research centre; manufacture; large scale distribution to the consumer. (21)

    The four sectors in the process of organisation were represented in a study Commission which assumed complete responsibility for the undertakings designed to satisfy public needs. Efforts were made to get the U.G.T. to join in these efforts for many of the pharmacist-shopkeepers joined the rival organisation which officially opposed socialisation. The role of each of these sectors had been defined as follows:

    The research laboratory must be the axis around which the general initiatives will develop. It will coordinate the studies as a whole and dispose of the technical means the use of which will be centred on it.

    In disposing of the necessary means, the manufacturing section will group the laboratories and the factories manufacturing pharmaceutical products, coordinating and planning their activities.

    The general warehouse will be used to control the centres for bulk supplies; it must also centralise the whole administration.

    Finally, the distributive section will see to the setting up of, local sales points in accordance with the needs of the people, and of course by arrangement with the first-hand distributors.

    But new initiatives were being taken all the time. Improvements f in the treatment given for injuries suffered at work according to f the nature of the injuries; in large factories and works full-time medical services were organised which would make it more, possible to reduce the powers of the insurance companies. Permanent injuries and deaths would be dealt with by the national Insurance Fund which was in the hands of the State. (22)

    So far we have seen what had been done in Catalonia with, as the driving force, the Barcelona Syndicate which grouped more than 7,000 professionals in many fields of medicine and allied activities. There is no doubt that more was done later which the writer was not in a position to study on the spot. Nevertheless a noteworthy fact of great importance allows one to see further. The Spain that was struggling against Francoism had then about half the Spanish population, that is 12 million inhabitants from which number one had to deduct, if we do not accept the demagogy of the time, those who had voted for the Rightists (23) and who were, more or less, pro-fascists. Now in February 1937 a congress was held in Valencia by the Federation of the Health Syndicates. These Syndicates, spread throughout the different towns of "Republican" Spain, about 40 in all grouped 40,000 members, representing a variety of functions similar to those we found in the example of Barcelona. This makes it possible to guess at the number of tasks and initiatives that were undertaken in that period of creative effervescence.

    But even if I could not go from town to town, from hospital to hospital, and from clinic to clinic, to produce a bulky volume, information and original documents reached me, the contents of which prove once again that without the initiative of C.N.T. syndicates in taking over the medical and sanitary services, not only would the private and public organisation of the hospital and sanitary services not have developed: but the existing organisation would have for the most part been in jeopardy.

    For in this connection official initiative was virtually nil. It was the Syndicates and their members who undertook, often with the responsible military personnel, to organise field hospitals behind the various fronts. It was they who obliged recalcitrant cryptofascist or fascist pharmacists, to open their shops, or who seized the shops when the owners had disappeared. It was the sanitary Syndicates of the C.N.T. who organised, again often with the aid of the corresponding military services, the evacuation of large numbers of old folk, women and children from the threatened war zones; it was they who organised the anti-gas brigades and very often, with the help of the municipalities, street shelters; and it was they who took part in building bomb shelters.

    And though we lack detailed information on the subject, it is certainly true that it was also thanks to them that a fair number of hospitals, dispensaries, clinics, rest homes, sprang up in the Levante, Castile, in Asturias, etc. The State in these matters revealed its incapacity and the Health Minister, unsuited and inept, spent most of his time making demagogic speeches instead of fulfilling the task entrusted to him. There would be many anecdotes to retail on the subject. (24)


    It was under the inspiration of this effervescence that the February 1937 congress was held, exactly seven months after the unleashing of the Francoist attack.

    Let us see what were the main resolutions adopted by this congress. The first paragraph of the motion which was presented by the sanitary federations of Catalonia, the Centre and the Levante on the General and Specific Functions of the Unitary Syndicates of Public Health (25) reads:

    "The unitary Syndicates of Public Health have as their principle mission the putting into practice of a Sanitary and Social Assistance Plan in their respective regions so; that in the whole organisation cantonal and local federations constitute the links of a general chain. On such bases the national plan will be constituted and put into effect taking into account the initiatives approved by the local cantonal and regional federations, all combining to form the superior organism."

    One cannot say more in so few words. And we do not believe that any regime, of free enterprise or of the State, has ever enunciated such precise aims, nor specified a plan as general, as concrete, as well as how to achieve it.

    The resolution then went on to insist on the social ends aimed at and on the principles of organisation adopted, as well as on the problems posed by the general structuring of the sanitary services and the defence of public health. But in extending the one and the other:

    "It is on the whole a question of establishing services having as their objective to protect or restore health, on the one hand by encouraging economic prosperity and by increasing well-being, while on the other by eliminating what is prejudicial to public health: to this end the unitary Syndicates of Public Health propose the union of workers, technicians and intellectuals, an indispensable union for public health and for the national economy."

    A sociological concept of medicine: it embraces all that is connected with medicine, all that depends on it and on which it depends. Solidarity of all aspects of social life is present here. And the resolution, which leaves out nothing, tackles other factors which influence the achievement of the aims being pursued: it asks for the "reorganisation of technical teaching", "in order to raise the intellectual level of workers in Public Health", the organisation of classes, schools and workshops for "professional training": "the sanitary education of the people and the spread of information for first aid": the formation of "specialists for the abnormal, for the blind, etc." Finally it recommends "the organisation of an Economic Council in the sanitary Syndicates" and of "Comites for technical and administrative control of clinics, sanatoria and other related institutions, having statistical sections, taking adequate measures to stimulate collective organisation. and organising work centres to encourage the development of different sections and services."

    The tasks o£ the Syndicate were divided into four principal groups:

    a) General medical care.

    b) Social hygiene and health, in relation to the general organisation of society as a whole.

    c) Sanitary inspection.

    d) Social assistance.

    The different aspects of the tasks of medical care as a whole were enumerated under twenty-one headings of which we cite: domiciliary visits by doctor and consultations in surgeries, surgical clinics, in paediatric, psychiatric, gynaecological and dermatological-venereal clinics. The clinics would be organised on local, cantonal, regional levels as would also be the case for maternity hospitals, sanatoriums, Roentgen Institutes' convalescent homes, etc. These specialised establishments as a whole should constitute a network through which everything would be rationally coordinated.

    The resolution adopted on the second point of the Agenda envisaged also a sanitary organisation at the different geographical levels; the creation of institutes of hygiene; the generalisation of physical education with stadiums, swimming pools, gymnasia, etc., a campaign against rodents and harmful insects all things which had been partially achieved in other countries but not in Spain, and above all not realisable without a social plan that was not feasible in an individualist economic regime, or in which bureaucracy dominates almost everything.

    This vision of the whole and of the different complementary aspects of the problems explains why the treatment of animals and the methods of feeding them should have been considered as one of the tasks of public health, forming part of the social responsibilities of the Federation. Once again we are coming out of the corporative framework, and if some correlations may shock, they seem to be justified with regard to the general interest.

    At that same congress projects and plans were presented for dealing with certain diseases, especially with contagious diseases, the most important of which was tuberculosis. The Catalan delegation, through the intermediary of its Basque secretary, presented a project which after careful examination was to serve as a model for other regions. A reading of it allows us to gauge the intensity and scope of the effort which would have been realised had fascism not triumphed.

    Following an expose illustrated with telling statistics on the gravity of the disease, the forms and social causes of contagion, the proposers outlined the different aspects of the struggle for its prevention: examination of mothers-to-be, general progress in hygiene, greater use of "the pick and shovel" to knock down more insalubrious houses and slum quarters, veritable breeding grounds, and to rebuild on bases dictated by hygienic considerations; transformation of school sites, preferably outside the town centres There followed the enumeration of the means of direct struggle against the evil.

    So far as the towns, large and small, were concerned the basic ingredient accepted was that o£ anti-tubercular dispensaries strategically situated, always according to a general plan corresponding at the same time with the number of homes affected, and the density and way of life of the inhabitants. Thanks to the specialist doctors at their disposal, these dispensaries would engage in a systematic tracking down of the disease in the Collectives, especially among the young (schools, institutes, universities, workshops, barracks). The doctors thus detailed would maintain a necessary and obligatory contact, preparing reports and card indexes which would be carefully classified and utilised.

    The towns would be the seat of the central dispensaries which would coordinate the activities of those established in less important localities in order to follow methodically the results obtained and to modify or improve the methods of acting on the strength of the lessons learned from experience. Each district in Barcelona would have to have at least one dispensary and it was also proposed to establish one in some (26) Catalan towns including the provincial capitals.

    All these centres would have to be in organic contact with the epidemiological control set up in the Catalan capital, in order to follow the progress of the struggle being waged throughout the region.

    So far as the immediate tasks were concerned there was a precise statistic of numbers of tuberculous patients admitted to the hospitals of Catalonia, the number of beds available and the number to be installed urgently. It had been possible to collect and coordinate this information as a result of the work done by the Syndicates and at the Federation which encompassed the whole enterprise.

    Much research still remained to be done and these initiatives had to be implemented in the other regions of Spain. We do not know when this would have been done. But if the new society had been established, such an organisation would not have been long in emerging everywhere. For the socialisation of medicine was not just an initiative of militant libertarian doctors Wherever we were able to make a study of villages and small towns transformed by the Revolution, medicine and existing hospitals had been municipalised, expanded, placed under the aegis of the Collective. When there were none, they were improvised. The socialisation of medicine was becoming everybody's concern, for the benefit of all. It constituted one of the most remarkable achievements of the Spanish Revolution.

    Footnotes to Chapter 12

    [1] Before 1936 the production of electricity for the whole of Spain had for years remained at about 3,000 million k.w., all from hydraulic power sources. A great number of barrages were later constructed but it was realised a little late in the day that they only filled to about a third of their capacity. It therefore became necessary to intensify thermic production.

    [2] Because of the dispersal of the personnel in production units throughout Catalonia the question poses itself as to how the general assemblies nominated these delegates. And we must admit to not having enquired into this point when we were gathering the material for this study.

    [3] A mountain rising to 580 m. its lower slopes covered with pines dominates Barcelona.

    [4] Sanchez had come out of prison with thousands of other comrades as a result of the amnesty granted after the elections of February 1936.

    [5] A hill in Barcelona dominated by a fortress where Francisco Ferrer was executed in 1909.

    [6] The first increases took place twenty months after the beginning of the Revolution. This was the result of the increase in the prices of raw materials and the cost of living, which involved wage increases.

    [7] To these sums must be added taxes which other socialised undertakings also paid. The Valencia central government demanded 3 % on the gross receipts; but the Catalan Government, with its seat in Barcelona, demanded what it had been previously receiving from the foreign capitalist company: no less than 14 different taxes which made a total of 4 million pesetas. The Syndicate requested meeting with the government and after minor discussions agreement was reached with a lump sum payment of 11 million pesetas.

    [8] Work discipline about which the new social order was, generally speaking, more strict because there was a concern not to fail, but to prove a greater administrative ability and greater production was to be found also in the tramways syndicate, whose decisions in the cases of drunkenness, very rare and deeply repugnant to Spaniards, were always taken in general assemblies. The steps taken would consist in suspension from work and the man's pay would be handed to his wife, for several weeks, thus giving her the possibility to exercise her rights to deal with the household budget.

    [9] In U.S.S.R. the ratio was and is in the order of 18 to 1.

    [10] For this reason the Spanish government guaranteed payment of a fixed interest on foreign capital invested in the Spanish railways.

    [11] In the first two or three months of the war the Republicans were masters of the seas thanks to the superior power of the cruiser Jaime I which was in their hands. This allowed them to maintain coastal shipping which was of importance seeing that most of the principal cities were on the coast. But when the Francoists reversed the situation with the cruiser Canarias, coastal shipping suffered and eventually supplies of coal to the Mediterranean region completely dried up.

    [12] The coordination of the activities of the two networks through a Liaison Comite located in Barcelona was, it should be noted, a permanent arrangement.

    [13] Who died recently in exile in Mexico.

    [14] In 1970 that Society continued to exist in spite of Francoism.

    [15] We should also mention that many lectures had been given over the years by sympathetic doctors in the Centros Obreros (workers' centres), the equivalent of the Bourses de Travail in France, and though the architecture was less imposing the spirit was more militant.

    [16] Similar organisms certainly arose at the same time in other towns in Spain: the figures given at the Valencia Congress make it possible to assume this. But the author was unable to carry his enquiry further.

    [17] As well as the number of direct supporters one must add the support given by numbers of doctors, nurses, etc., who did not think it worth joining the Syndicate.

    [18] These differences were not limited to Spain, but were more pronounced in Spain than in other countries, and put greater pressure on the need for change.

    [19] These towns were the capitals of the four Catalan provinces.

    [20] A means of comparison: in Barcelona at that time (July 1937) a good worker earned an average of 350 to 400 pesetas a month for an eight hour day.

    [21] One finds here what is perhaps rather more a human tendency and moral philosophy than a rational organisational principle for the coordination and continual harmonisation of efforts.

    [22] That the libertarians should have thought of such a solution which implies the recognition of the existence of the State (but the recognition of a fact does not imply approval of it) may surprise and shock the theoreticians who ignore the practical facts. But firstly neither this Syndicate nor any Syndicate possessed the funds accumulated by the State services thanks to special legislation, and which must have involved vast sums. Then as we have repeated many times, we were in a mixed and most complicated situation in which tho State, the government and the political parties, remnants of private capital and individual property persisted, in which even the socialised economy paid taxes, etc. In this situation, many activities escaped our control.

    [23] We have not at hand the figures of votes cast for the Right wing parties at the February elections of 1936 in the provinces which constituted "Republican" Spain in the period 1936-39 but it is clear that there were quite a large number. Furthermore, anti-Francoists living in the provinces occupied by Franco were reduced to silence. If one recognises that at the end of the first year Franco dominated a half of the Spanish population, the numerical advantage was already on his side, unlike what was being affirmed by demagogues who were stupid enough to actually believe what they were saying.

    [24] Here is just one which we recount without pleasure, but which speaks volumes on the moral corruption that the exercise of power brings with it. Two libertarian nurses had organised at great cost in time and ingenuity, a cottage hospital in the small Andalusian town of Ronda, in the province of Malaga. As they lacked financial resources to purchase some of the equipment they decided to go to Valencia to see the Health Minister who belonged to the same movement. They called at her residence but only found the chauffeur, who took them in the minister's car to her office. The minister's only reaction was to inveigh against the chauffeur for having taken the two women in her car and without her permission. Then our two Andalusians let fly, and the minister winced. But the two nurses left empty handed.

    [25] And signed respectively by Jose Ibuzquiza (the Basque earlier referred to), Candido Pena and F. Tadeo Campuzano.

    [26] We had not yet come to the end of the civil war.