Part 4: Towns and isolated achievements

Submitted by libcom on January 3, 2006

Chapters XIII-XIV

  • XIII: Town Collectivisations
  • XIV: Isolated Achievements



    In the variety of forms of social reconstruction the organisation which we shall call municipalist, which we could also call communalist, and which has its roots in Spanish traditions that have remained living, deserves a place to itself. It is characterised by the leading role of the town, the commune, the municipality, that is, to the predominance of the local organisation which embraces the city as a whole. The other institutions, even the most modern and which, because they are the most modern, are not as deeply rooted: Syndicates, cooperatives, even communities, are a part of the whole, except for some Collectives, especially those in Aragon, but are not the whole, do not embody the collective soul. It is what one finds in a small industrial town such as Granollers in Catalonia with 18,000 inhabitants, in an important village such as Binefar in Aragon or in provincial capitals with bigger populations but relatively less industrialisation, such as Castellon de la Plana, or Alicante in the Levante. Even when the Syndicate exists and plays an important role it does not direct the whole of social life, contrary to the concepts of the theoreticians of syndicalism.

    In some cases, as in Fraga, and in Rubi, the direct organisation by the city, embracing the whole, merges with that of the producing Collective, and one could say that the two structures interpenetrate. Locally, self-determination of the whole asserted itself, and the of the town was confirmed, which reinforced its personality vis-a-vis the State as well as the freedoms and the practice of independence so far as social life was concerned.

    1. Elda and the S.I.C.E.P.

    Situated in the province of Alicante, Elda is a small town with a population of 25,000. It is at the same time the centre of an agricultural area and of industrial production, being well situated for transport and on a river which is harnessed for hydraulic power.

    As so often was the case in the Levante region, our movement was solidly established there for more than three quarters of a century. Elda was the scene of social conflicts, historic strikes as dramatic as any in Spain. Combats marked by an extraordinary grandeur were waged, such as the one lasting for three months by the workers in the shoe-making industry to demand that a militant blacklisted by the employers should be re-engaged. One should never forget that moral reasons have at least as much as material reasons, inspired and supported the activities of the Syndicates founded and activated by the Spanish libertarians.

    With such antecedents and experience of the struggle it is obvious that once the fascist menace had been strangled, at least at local level, and our comrades being, as were the republicans and socialists, convinced that Franco would soon be defeated, [1] they undertook the social transformation for which they had struggled for so long. Nevertheless the political situation in Elda was not the same as in Alcoy, not far distant, and furthermore our comrades had maintained a residue of the communalist spirit which is to be found, alongside more modern concepts, in the historic work of the libertarian sociologists. These reasons and the desire so widespread among the population to maintain the united anti-Francoist front so long as the struggle lasted at a national level, resulted in the libertarians of Elda accepting to enter the municipal Council renewed under the pressure of circumstances.

    The representatives of the different movements and parties, were appointed. The U.G.T. and the C.N.T. each had five delegates though the latter was numerically stronger. The Left Republicans, whose leader was Manuel Azaña, the cantankerous President of the Republic, had two, as did the Socialist Party; the Communist Party only had one and was by far the weakest of the political parties.

    In this sharing out the socialist current was somewhat at an advantage, for the members of the U.G.T. would normally act in concert with the Socialist Party. But on the other hand the situation often tended to make the reformist syndicates of the U.G.T. follow the revolutionaries (though one can also cite many cases, and this book is full of such cases, in which these same reformists were the active opponents of socialism).

    It was not the case here. Nevertheless, from the first day, the initiative for the new social structure came naturally from our comrades. It was undoubtedly due to the fact that as in Granollers, Gerona, Hospitalet and Valencia to name a few, the mayor was a libertarian.

    The new councillors began to transform the structure of the municipal organism from the bottom to the top. Until then it had been above all a haven for an inert petty bureaucracy without initiative, and unorganised. The mayor had two deputies and a councillor who had to advise him in his activities, but that small world slept the sleep of small provincial monarchist or republican towns. Traditions were therefore turned upside down, and the council structured more or less in the same way as in the collectivised villages, by large active groupings. First a "defence section was set up, then one for public education, one for work based on the socio-economic situation of the locality, one for agriculture, one for health and social assistance.

    Up to then public education had been more than neglected, and many children did not go to school. The municipal section concerned tackled this problem without considerations of cost, appealed to the building workers' Syndicate and within five months two new schools were ready, one for 400 and the other for 70 children. More would have been done if it had not been necessary to requisition the club where previously those of "higher" social circles in Elda used to meet, in order to billet militiamen in training before going to the front. Then it was necessary at the same time to organise reception centres for youngsters from Madrid, who were among the 1,500 refugees who had been evacuated to relieve the congestion in the besieged city. The libertarian Ateneo and the local federation of syndicates had to put their premises at the disposal of these unexpected guests.

    All these difficulties did not prevent the section for health and hygiene from making changes in the organisation of the hospital, the services of which had been quite inadequate. Three new doctors were engaged as well as two auxiliaries and two midwives whose services were free, which was an innovation. In the early months of 1937 a project was on foot for the installation of sanatoria and clinics. In a word, they marched boldly towards the municipal socialisation of medicine.

    But Elda, as we have pointed out, was an industrial centre. Around this centre which was known for the important shoe industry that developed there, for its tanneries, and leather industry, gravitated four other localities of less importance, engaged in the same industry, a number of whose workers were employed at the factories in Elda. The small town of Petrel alone had 3,500 shoe workers of both sexes while Monovar, Novelda and Sax 2,000; 7,500 were employed in Elda of whom 4,500 were members of the C.N.T. But the important social achievements could not be realised everywhere equally.

    These achievements appear in two different forms. In Elda there was a group of a dozen factories entirely socialised, which employed 2,800 workers. Their organisation reminds one of what one observed in other cases so far as the characteristics of the work are concerned. Each factory had at its head a comité consisting of five technical delegates (our comrades insisted on the adjective, which they thought removed any authoritarian connotation from the delegation) representing the five main operations in the manufacture of shoes. To these five delegates a sixth was added, representing the work and the workers engaged in the stores.

    The twelve socialised factories were, then, managed by these twelve comités controlled by the ordinary and extraordinary workers' assemblies. At the same time these twelve comités acted in concert with the Syndicate which coordinated the work, centralising the statistics of production and reserves. Thus whatever autonomy was possible in the organisation of activities was allied to solidarity in the collective effort.

    Naturally, the factories did not trade on their own account. All the sales operations were carried out under the auspices of the Syndicate. It was in the socialised factories of Alcoy that I encountered a new kind of delegation: the moral delegation. In each undertaking two workers, one from the U.G.T., the other from the C.N.T., elected by their comrades, were instructed to maintain good relations, encourage enthusiasm, and a spirit of harmony, and stimulate if need be a sense of responsibility. (And yet the precaution was probably not necessary. As my comrades pointed out, "There was no need to impose any kind of discipline for from the first hour there was the kind of self-discipline which comes from the conviction that one is working for the community.")

    Apart from some details, which have their importance, the form of organisation that we have briefly described was no different from the kind we have observed elsewhere. But what was most original in the achievements at Elda was the creation of the S.I.C.E.P. (initials for "Syndicate of the Footwear Industry in Elda and Petrel").

    This Syndicate was more like a consortium of a new kind. It was founded in August 1936, only a month after the events that shook Spain. The shoe industry which was already working at only 60% of its productive capacity, was threatened with a complete stoppage. And with it, the whole economic life tottered, as well as the new order which had to be supported at all costs to prevent Francoism from making inroads. It was then that, through the initiative of the C.N.T. and with the agreement of the U.G.T., it was decided that all available means had to be brought together to prevent a collapse which would have grave repercussions. And thanks to the guarantees offered by the two Unions, they persuaded the employers to raise loans from the local banks on their properties and assets, with which to deal with the situation. The Syndicates undertook to be co-guarantors. In addition the Ministry for Industry granted a credit of 7 million pesetas. 575,000 pesetas a week was needed, of which 300,000 for wages. Only then could production be resumed, and maintained. But all this required coordination in the economic and financial efforts as well as in the management of work.

    The S.I.C.E.P. was therefore set up, and covered eighty establishments, large and small, dotted all over the region and to the four localities mentioned and involving 12,500 workers, men and women.

    Constituted by the factories which were at the control stage (the employers still remained, but served mainly to provide the funds taken out of their bank accounts), the S.I.C.E.P., the effective management of which was in the hands of the workers' delegates, centralised and coordinated the whole of production. It purchased and distributed raw materials according to the needs and Specialisations of the different undertakings, it made payments and settled debts. It handled income from sales, giving nothing to the employers that could be described as profits. Anyway, profits were not possible in the situation as it was, for the non socialised factories were closed several days a week and S.I.C.E.P. helped them, thanks to help from the socialised industries, by sharing out the orders for army boots received from the government.

    S.I.C.E.P. worked hard to find new buyers. Having asked the factories to produce new shoe models, it received 900 and they managed through a marketing organisation which extended from the coasts of the Cantabrian sea, and the North Atlantic to North Africa, to dispose of quite large quantities. But not in sufficient quantities to escape the difficulties resulting from the war. The warehouses owned by the S.I.C.E.P. in Elda, Valencia and Barcelona, as well as the factory warehouses, were full of unsold goods, valued at some 10 million pesetas.

    2. Granollers

    Situated a little to the north of Barcelona, Granollers which had a population of 18,000 in 1936, was at the same time a cantonal chief town, an important commercial and industrial centre, as were many others in this part of Catalonia. Our movement went back to the beginnings of socialism in Spain, that is to about 1870. As almost everywhere, union activity predominated, with bitter struggles, determined efforts at organisation, repressions, empty periods and magnificent revivals. Our effective strength depended on circumstances.

    But for a very long time, the number of workers belonging to the C.N.T. averaged 3,000. It was less during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and also, after a passing reawakening under the Second Republic, the first government of which was socialist and republican, the second openly Rightist, and acted with the kind of brutality which reminded one of the worst days of the monarchy. So much so, that in July 1936, in spite of the amnesty that had meant the release of 30,000 libertarians from the prisons, there were not more than 2,000 members in the Syndicates of Granollers. With the unleashing of the Civil War and the Revolution, soon the Syndicates of the C.N.T. had 6,000 workers from the factories, workshops, building trades, transport, etc. The remainder-technicians who considered themselves a class apart, Council employees, civil servants and bureaucrats-totalling 1,000, joined the U.G.T.

    Our militants, enlightened workers who were inspired by the ideal, had always given proof of their organising capacities. But the war made first demands and most of them left immediately for the Aragon front. Only some six or seven of those who played a leading role in the syndicates at local and regional level were left.

    Nevertheless, a libertarian spirit was manifesting itself among a section of the population, with a very clear conception of our goals of human emancipation. Thus, two days after the end of the struggle in Barcelona, that is on July 22, 1936, the building workers decided-and historically it was one of the first initiatives of its kind-to socialise their work. They called an assembly to which they invited the employers, mostly small contractors, and proposed to them to "collectivise" syndically all building trades. And what may appear surprising is that the employers accepted straight away. Thus was public spirit inspired by the ideas of social transformation in some regions of Spain.

    Then, the same situation occurred immediately afterwards in the printing trade. It was followed by shoe retail shops; and it spread as if by a miracle in all branches of work and human activities where until then the social classes had opposed each other.

    Granollers socialised but in its own way, and the way it did so deserves looking at more closely.

    The general pattern was that from the beginning the Syndicates were both the initiators and managers of the new creations. Hence the term "syndicalisation" which we have used purposely in order to avoid the kind of confusion caused by the different methods adopted or followed, especially in Catalonia. But this syndicalising conception was accompanied by communalism which often took first place. This explains why our comrades in Granollers made up their minds to carry out a communal structural plan, as proposed by our comrade Dr. Isaac Puente [2] a talented propagandist who had elaborated a project for the town of the future in a series of articles published by the magazine Estudios, and in which he advocated a reorganisation of society on the basis of federated communes. These articles had been gathered into a booklet of some 60 pages with the title Comunismo Libertario, and the clear and attractive text, completed with diagrams and graphs, had been absorbed by many libertarians.

    In reality, in spite of very positive indications at local level, these proposals were insufficient if one approached the economy with the mentality of an economist, bearing in mind existing organic solidarity at a national level; and furthermore, the existence of the federations of industry which in fact leaned in the direction of that Organisation in terms of the whole of Spain, was also in contradiction with that limited vision of things.

    But because Isaac Puente's concepts were communalist, they were better understood and more easily accepted when our comrades in Granollers suggested to the other anti-fascist sectors to put them into operation. And when the writer went to study the Organisation and the functioning of the new social Organisation on the spot, he noted on the one hand that the exploitation of man by man had disappeared, that there were no more employers or employees, and on the other that all the anti-fascists including our movement had come together fraternally in the municipal Council, which had supreme control over local life as a whole.

    The general administration of Granollers was managed by eleven departments, taking in all social activities, established at the municipal Council, and which consisted of twenty-two delegates; six from Azaña's Left Republicans, six from the C.N.T., four from the U.G.T., two from the share-croppers union (Catalan rabassaires, whose only desire was to become the owners of the land they cultivated) and two from the P.O.U.M. (the Marxist party with Trotskyist leanings).

    Of the eleven departments, five were entrusted to the C.N.T., which shows clearly its importance, more economic than political. In addition this Organisation, ever enterprising, had established independently an Economic Council consisting of a delegate from each Syndicate, for the Syndicates were the driving force of all local industries.

    This Council met every week with the representative of the corresponding municipal department. Thus municipal section and Council coordinated their efforts; but in fact the initiative mostly came from our comrades and from the general assembly of the local Federation of C.N.T. Syndicates which was the best informed on matters concerning production and the Organisation of work.

    The economic section of the commune set up a "technical bureau" consisting of three experts, and which in agreement with the syndical Economic Council, steered the work of the industrial undertakings. Graphs and charts referring to each industry, were constantly in the hands of the experts, so that if one enquired about any industry, coloured charts, one colour for each industry, would be produced showing where each undertaking was located, thus building up a network of coordinated activities.

    Managed in this way, all the undertakings, factories and workshops passed into the hands of the workers but at the same time belonged to the municipality. And the major policy decisions were not the result of syndical initiative only, for over and above the latter are interests which, let us face it, direct the whole. But one should recognise that the mutual toleration met with there was quite, exceptional.


    The Syndicate was at all times a prime-mover. All kinds of initiatives tending to improve the operation and structure of the local economy could be attributed to it. Thus in a very short time, seven collectivised hairdressing salons were set up through its efforts, replacing an unknown number of shabby establishments. All the workshops and mini-factories on shoe production were replaced by one large factory in which only the best machines were used, and where necessary sanitary provisions for the health of the workers were made. Similar improvements were made in the engineering industry where numerous small, dark and stifling foundries were replaced by a few large working units in which air and sun were free to penetrate. The joiners and cabinet makers' shops underwent the same changes. Socialisation went hand in hand with rationalisation.

    This industrial reorganisation did not prevent changes dictated by circumstances in the machinery of distribution. They were considered necessary from the beginning by the corresponding section of the municipal Council on the grounds of social justice. If one agreed to build a more just social order, it was imperative that every inhabitant of Granollers should have the same possibilities of securing nourishment. The members of the Economic Office of the Municipality set up five communal distributive warehouses located in the different quarters according to their population density, replacing the all too numerous small shops.

    They had started with a fundamental measure which was also taken in other places; from the beginning the agricultural councillor purchased from the peasants in the neighbouring areas who were very individualistic and very suspicious, and did not organise themselves collectively -- the produce of their toil. The rapacious middleman, the tout and the speculative buyer disappeared altogether. But they also wanted him to disappear in the relations between producer and consumer. Force of circumstances offered the opportunity and the justification for new measures to be taken: the rationing of foodstuffs as a result of the war, fortunately made it necessary to take steps in time to prevent serious food shortages. [3] A food office was therefore set up which started by controlling produce received and sold by the tradespeople. Then a card index file was prepared, in which was entered the number and age of the members of each family. The quantity and type of foodstuffs to which everyone was entitled was stipulated in agreement with the doctors. And on these bases every family received each week a booklet in which their entitlement to bread, oil, dried beans, groceries, etc., was marked. In this way the daily and weekly consumption of different foodstuffs could be obtained for the whole town and arrangements made for securing the necessary supplies in advance.

    A similar control was maintained on quantities of foodstuffs coming into the communal warehouses.

    It was also by this means that that part of socialisation which was acceptable to the peasants, came to the countryside, for the peasants welcomed the elimination of the middlemen. In most of the 42 cantonal villages traditional commerce disappeared.

    The profits from the sale of various commodities provided the municipal Council with the resources needed for other communal tasks. Nobody was condemned to isolation or distress. Tradespeople obliged to close up shop by competition or municipal action [4] found themselves being given more useful jobs -- even if it were only in the distribution centres. Nobody remained without work, and unemployment, which was widespread before July 19, had completely disappeared. All workers, whether they worked the stipulated numbers of hours or not, had their material existence assured thanks to the principle of equality of remuneration.

    The comrades of Granollers had given thought to public education. The schools were few and old, insanitary and ill-lit. On the other hand there were three comfortable, well built convents whose occupants had evaporated into thin air. They were converted into three fine schools which accommodated all the town's children. Indeed there was enough room for now pupils.

    The classrooms I visited were spacious, light, and sunny. Modern equipment was introduced and I was touched at the sight of the small, square and movable tables for the very young, and the small chairs made to match. The interior galleries, the shower room, the courtyards, the lavatories, central heating, all this was installed, or purchased, in a matter of a few months.

    The initial expenditure amounting to 300,000 pesetas and more had been set aside.

    [Postscript. Later on Granollers was razed to the ground by the Francoist air force.]

    3. Hospitalet del Llobregat

    Situated to the south of Barcelona, Hospitalet was divided into three quite distinct districts with a population of 50,000. 13,000 out of the 14,000 registered wage earners were employed in industry. A thousand more were engaged in intensive horticulture, which contributed to feeding the large neighbouring city

    The spinning mills absorbed most of the labour forces. But engineering had also developed. There were two blast-furnaces, foundries, engineering workshops. Cabinet making, building and chemical industries completed the general picture of its productive activities.

    Hospitalet had developed only recently. The social movement only went back to World War 1. But even before the revolution the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. were engaged there in social activity on an intensive scale. By July 18 the C.N.T. had 8,000 members; eight months later membership had risen to 12,000. The U.G.T. in spite of the desperate efforts of the official socialists and the communists on its behalf, had only 1,000 members.

    The local struggle and the state of alert which followed the Francoist attack, mobilised the population for five or six days at the end of which the C.N.T. as in the other Catalan towns, gave the order for a return to work. To prolong the general strike would have been to the detriment of the workers themselves, who were assuming the responsibility for their own future. Thus the responsibility for the economic and social life passed from the hands of the employers and of the government into those of the workers.

    But while work was being resumed, and workshops, factories and works once more being set in motion, the popular forces continued to mount guard at the barricades, keeping a watch on two roads leading to Barcelona in order to prevent any enemy concentration, and to wipe out any offensive advance in the large centres.

    It was in the midst of this state of affairs that the constructive revolution began.

    It started with agriculture, which was in the hands of a great number of small proprietors who employed skilled labour (thus nothing in common with the latifundia in Aragon, Castile, Andalusia or Estremadura). And just as the owners of workshops and factories abandoned production in face of expropriation which they were expecting, so the landed proprietors gave up their cultivations which were being shrivelled up by the sun and the lack of irrigation, or which were being invaded by weeds.

    On the other hand a quarter of the landworkers were unemployed and others worked only a three day week. Unemployed and employed called an assembly to which the small proprietors were also invited and where all agreed to socialise immediately work on the land.

    And the "Peasants' Collective" was born; former employers and employees joined as equals, and it affiliated to the C.N.T. whose militants were, once again, the best organisers.

    Work techniques changed immediately. Large scale cultivation based on a general plan replaced the strips worked by the individual owners, often with poor equipment, or by the day worker engaged two or three times a week.

    But money subsisted in Catalonia, and was an indispensable instrument for obtaining machinery, tools, working animals, or for securing the means of existence in-between harvests. All resources were requisitioned, including those at the disposal of the former proprietors, and realising that exceptional efforts were needed, for a social revolution is not a musical festival, they rejected, as did the workers of Barcelona, the 15 % increase in wages and the establishment of the six hour day demagogically decreed by the Catalan government, which demonstrated by this attempt to win over the workers its political skill and its ignorance of the most important problems.

    After that the workers of the agrarian Collective were organised in brigadas as in Tarragona and Tortosa, and perfected their organisation. The brigadas would leave in the morning, each to its task, according to what were considered to be the most urgent jobs. The area cultivated was increased by a third. It consisted of 1,470 hectares divided into 38 zones, 35 of which were irrigated.


    Local industries went through stages almost universally adopted in that revolution. First came the control of the undertakings, large and small, by the Comité nominated by the workers on the spot. That was for the more prosperous factories, those where the employees had only part time employment -- and there many -- were immediately collectivised, and their owners put on the same footing as the producers.

    Simultaneously the C.N.T. and F.A.I. were creating the Councils for the intensification of production, which obliged the supervised employers to engage the unemployed. But this measure could not produce lasting results, for the lack of raw materials in the textile industry and the lack of outlets for the manufactured cloth inevitably produced a reduction in output and sales at the expense of the general economy.

    Furthermore, again through the initiative of the C.N.T., popular Commissions for food supplies were started and organised by the Municipality, which our comrades had joined. These Commissions had as their task to provide food for the unemployed; they were kept going later, for the arrival of large numbers of refugees from those parts of Aragon overrun by the Francoist army created a new kind of unemployment.

    We have seen that the collectivised enterprises had at their head in the first instance Comités nominated by the workers employed in them. Production and sales continued in each one. But very soon it was clear that this situation gave rise to competition between the factories, or a lack of solidarity, creating rivalries which were incompatible with the socialist and libertarian outlook. So the C.N.T. launched the watchword: "All industries must be ramified in the Syndicates, completely socialised, and the regime of solidarity which we have always advocated be established once for all."

    The idea won support immediately. The first to start were the hairdressers, then workers in the entertainments industry, whatever their trade, and the woodworkers (cabinet makers, joiners, carpenters), building workers, food workers and urban transport. In January 1937 the metal workers joined the movement. The chemical industry soon followed.

    In such complex circumstances unexpected problems arose and made themselves felt. In Hospitalet as elsewhere economic upheaval made some industries more prosperous while others were working at a loss. Some workers and their families were better paid than others. To right this injustice it was decided to apply a uniform wage for everybody.

    Now this would have been impossible to achieve without the solidarity of the different industries. And the problem was to start a common fund which would ensure that all workers, whether they were in a job or not, would receive the same remuneration.

    As a first step, financial solidarity was established between industries with the setting up of a general Economic Council on which they each had two representatives. Industries making a profit would inform the administrative Commission of the Council, which closely scrutinised the accounts of the different enterprises. The resources thus made available were used to assist the loss-making industries which would receive the money required to purchase raw materials and equipment needed for production.

    When such amounts were large, all the delegates from the different industries would examine the financial and technical state of the industry requiring aid and after hearing observations, opinions, advice, and criticism when there was reason for it, the funds were provided.

    This solidarity was soon to be completed by the introduction of the family wage. A detailed census was made on this subject, the results of which were in the hands of the Municipality.

    At the time of my visit, they were also examining the question of the restructuring of industries. A general inventory had been drawn up, not only to establish the needs of the population and its resources, but also as to which industries should be retained and which eliminated.

    As happened everywhere, our comrades in Hospitalet also dealt immediately with the problem of public education. Out of 8,000 children of school age, only 4,000 attended school regularly. The others could not due to a shortage of school places, clothing, footwear and books. The C.N.T. and F.A.I. did not want to solve such a grave problem with their means only. They decided to join their efforts to those of other anti-fascist bodies from whom they expected a favourable response. At a meeting to which invitations were sent to the militants of the U.G.T. and the Left Republicans, our comrades presented their plan for reforming public education, which was accepted. And nobly united, the three factions set about the renovation of schooling.

    In six months, in spite of the difficult general situation, they achieved wonders. Buildings were constructed, others transformed or adapted, and 2,500 new pupils were able to sit in new classes, roomier, brighter, better ventilated than anything that had been seen before. The men and women teachers overtaken by the revolution that was being extended by events even in the field of pedagogy were replaced by elementary schoolteachers of both sexes who were more in sympathy with the spirit of the new times, and who held weekly meetings to discuss their respective experiences.

    The care shown for children did not end there. The municipality organised a large créche where parents could leave their babes while they went about their business. In the factories where women worked, children's nurseries were set up; the first was inaugurated in the workers' Collective T. Sala. [5] They also succeeded in fitting out a maternity home where working women, who until then had had their children under deplorable insanitary conditions, received the treatment prescribed by their condition. A gynaecologist inspired the architect who carried out the necessary alterations.

    And every Thursday free cinema shows for children were given in all the halls, to instruct, and amuse depending on the programmes intelligently selected.


    Supplementary details regarding health: immediately after their victory the revolutionaries decided that the people of Hospitalet should have clinics, dispensaries, hospitals, doctors, all the attention to which they were entitled. It was rapidly put into effect, and as widely as means allowed, that is to say to a lesser degree than had been desired, for in Hospitalet doctors continued to live on what they received from their parents. In July 1937, socialisation of medicine had not yet been fully achieved. Nevertheless, besides the maternity hospital a large cantonal hospital had been built which conformed to modern concepts of medicine.

    From all that has been said, it is clear that to syndical activity was added communal activity, and that both often advanced together, for the communalist spirit was strong among our comrades in Hospitalet (José Xena, the mayor, was an anarchist). They could have taken over the local Council had they wished. Their honesty, their feeling for anti-fascist solidarity, and because they did not want to provoke too hostile reactions from the other anti-fascist sectors, prevented them from doing so. They invited the U.G.T. and the Republican Left to join them in setting up the Municipal Council which would consist of twenty four members. They replied with a refusal. As a result there were only eight councillors, ours, who dealt with the essential aspects of local life: health and social assistance; public education, the economy; defence; work and agriculture; public services; food supplies and public work...

    Nevertheless, collaboration continued to a certain extent. At the time of our enquiry the situation was that each of the three sectors nominated special Commissions which submitted to the councillor entrusted with these matters initiatives which they considered useful; he decided when the issues were not of importance; when they were it was the Municipal Council which decided. The C.N.T. called popular assemblies, either in the largest hall in the centre of the town, or in the outlying districts, where it informed the people, who freely attended, what had been done and what it was proposed to do. The audience was free to ask questions and express any objections.

    There was no question therefore of party politics, of decisions taken in secret, of sleight of hand by comités sitting behind closed doors and acting against the will of the people. Close contact with the people was maintained for they remained among the people, and applied as best they could the libertarian solutions which they had always advocated.

    In brief, the libertarians of Hospitalet acted according to a municipalist concept which corresponded to their preferences and which imposed itself. They defined the functions of the commune, and of the Syndicate. From them the functions of the latter were integrated with those of the former, as the part is to the whole. And just as the isolated syndicate no longer existed, each one of them having to consult the others before launching itself on a new enterprise, so neither did the Syndicates and their federation impose themselves when the matters discussed concerned all the inhabitants. Thus, education, transport, public works, health, social assistance, planning, concerned everybody. Therefore all the population was invited to decide.

    To conclude, the following is the text of a leaflet which the T. Sala Collective distributed in the town and which was addressed to mothers with families.

      "Comrade: We offer you the Children's House so that your child can receive there, up to the age of five, the best attention during working days when in the past and until now, he was turned out onto the street; and even when you could leave him with someone he was not receiving the education and attention needed to make eventually a physically healthy and balanced person.

      "The aim of the Children's House is not only that of providing him with every attention, and to relieve you of some of your chores. It goes much further. The conditions in which you have lived have prevented you from getting the information you need in order to bring up your child sensibly. For this reason we have organised, as well as we can, all the necessary conveniences, and to ensure pleasant surroundings for your child, we have made sure that he lacks nothing in the way of hygiene, education, food, and medical supervision. All will be in the hands of skilled personnel.

      "The Children's House will be organised in two main sections: one for the youngest from birth up to 2 years of age; the other for children between 2 and 5 years. At each stage he will receive all that he needs so far as diet, recreation and development of his aptitudes are concerned. And it will be a good thing if mothers take account of the guidance offered by the personnel so that the work of the Children's House is continued within the home.

      "For all these reasons, you will understand that it is in the interests of the child that we are today offering you the Children's House."

    One certainly finds stylistic clumsiness in the text, but there is nothing clumsy about the feelings behind this initiative.

    4. Rubi

    This small Catalan town had 10,000 inhabitants in July 1936. Half the workers were engaged in various employments, the most important of which was the textile industry. The only syndical organisation that had established roots was the C.N.T. which in normal times had from 1,500-2,000 members. But to the activities involving the class struggle and direct action which belong to that fighting organisation -- which were completed by a libertarian force organised in the F.A.I. -- there was a practical spirit and achievements too often overlooked. Since 1893 Rubi boasted a cooperative, organised by our comrades, with an average membership of 400 which was doubled during the Revolution. Furthermore in 1920 members of the C.N.T. had bought a piece of land on which to build a rationalist school to further the work of Ferrer. For this purpose every member contributed a minimum of 10 centimes a month and when the Civil War broke out, not one but two such schools were open and functioning.

    Let us add, in order to appreciate more fully the balanced outlook of our comrades, that from the end of the last century. a number of them, for propaganda reasons, belonged to the republican Centre, thus indicating a spirit of tolerance which could only augur positive results.

    All around Rubi agriculture was of some importance. The large estates, though not as large as in other regions, dominated it, were generally farmed by the owners who, besides, leased some of their land in return for a quarter, a third or a half of the harvest. This ruthlessness was confirmed by a detail which reminds one, though it was worse, of a similar case mentioned in the chapter on Gratis in Aragon: the drinking water that was consumed in Rubi had its source on the land of one of the proprietors, and he charged for it . . .

    In Rubi the Revolution was the counter-attack to the Francoist attack, for without it our forces, important as they were, could not have achieved their objectives. It clearly underlines the failure of insurrectional attempts before 1936, to which we have already referred.

    But faced with the attack, all enemies of fascism found themselves side by side. From the bourgeois Catalanists to the anarchists, unity had been established. And as was the case almost everywhere, our comrades more resolute, more prepared for 'the struggle, were soon masters of the streets. Once the danger had passed, men were sent (or men went) to the Aragon front which was being established in the course of the fighting, at the same time as reinforcements were on their way to Barcelona to consolidate the situation. And to consolidate it further, collectivisations were started.

    To guarantee food supplies, basic foodstuffs were the first concern. In Rubi there were a dozen bakeries on which bread supplies depended. The C.N.T. decided to deal with the matter and concentrated the whole production in its premises where most of the employers and all the workers agreed to work with a sense of responsibility that brooked no failures.

    Next in importance were the means of transport. On the initiative of the Syndicate a professional Collective was created. The small employers joined, bringing with them some 200 lorries, a number of buses, and some 15 motor cars. The administration of this Collective was established at the headquarters of the Syndicate. [6]

    Almost simultaneously the building industry was integrated with the social transformation that was taking place. There were some 100 masons and about 150 labourers; in Rubi, as in Granollers and Alicante, these small contractors joined and brought with them their tools and equipment. A detailed list was made of these. The member with the highest professional experience was nominated as the technical councillor, with the task of supervising and guiding all the work on the various sites. And accountancy was put in the hands of the specialist deemed the most able.

    In Barcelona the building industry was paralysed by the departure of the employers, who had no intention of building blocks of Hats, or carrying out repairs to rented premises when the lot would be taken away from them if the Revolution triumphed. But in Rubi there was plenty of work, for what was being done was urgently needed by the inhabitants in general, and the Municipality had the funds to guarantee payment. For instance two bridges were being built to span a wide ravine, a project which had until then remained a wild dream in spite of the need for it. Work was also proceeding under the aegis of the Municipality on a group of school buildings which would provide hundreds of children with places and for which incidentally the Catalan government of the Generalitat was contributing to the cost, though it should not be overlooked that public education was in the hands of the libertarians. [7] A length of the road which crossed the town was widened to make it easier for the buses; a great number of houses were repaired; a 1,500 metre channel was constructed to carry water to the land being worked by the peasants and in this connection abandoned and filled-in wells were reinstated and water raised by electric pumps specially installed to irrigate the cultivations.

    All this work was managed by a technical Commission of five or six members nominated by the assembly of the Collective. Of this personnel the only ones paid in their capacity as professionals were the director and two secretaries.

    In order to be assisted in these many tasks, the builders Collective asked for and obtained the help of factory workers on these contracts for two hours every Sunday.

    The cabinet-makers and joiners also, created their Collective which established itself in a huge workshop equipped with modern tools and providing hygienic working conditions previously unknown. Never had they produced so much furniture in Rubi, I was to be reminded by one of the prime-movers in recollecting this worthwhile initiative.

    The agricultural Collective was constituted with the farms seized from the large proprietors. That represented three-quarters of the cultivable area. 250 agricultural workers joined this extensive productive undertaking. There were six organised zones; each concerned with a speciality: market gardening, forestry, viticulture, pasture, cereals, fruit. The managing Commission was nominated by the general Assembly, and it in its turn nominated the delegate for each section.

    As we have seen, and it was generally the case where Collectives were concerned, the corporative spirit had disappeared. Workers moved from one section to another when necessary. And they admitted measures which went against their own production speciality. Among the initiatives taken under pressure from immediate necessities, was the grubbing of vines in order to plant wheat. And though the land was not the most suitable for the purpose, in Rubi they would have almost succeeded in growing sufficient wheat to satisfy the needs of all the inhabitants if the economic difficulties which extended throughout the region had not had severe repercussions on this small town.

    There remained a few "individualists" outside these revolutionary transformations; but the majority advanced with the new order. So much so that a number of young men and women had left their families in order to join. Bachelor quarters had to be organised for them. One of the prime-movers assured me that "nothing immoral ever took place" between these youngsters, who anyway were housed in segregated quarters.

    The cooperative did not rest on its laurels. Apart from doubling its membership, the part it played in the distribution of goods consequently expanded and nine new depots or sales points were set up. This did not prevent the continuation of private trading, obviously under some control. The retailers were supported by the food supplies section of the Catalan government.

    Rubi offers a very characteristic example of development so far as the general organisational structure of society is concerned. When the events of July 1936 took place the majority of the municipal Council consisted of Left Catalanists whose leader, Luis Companys was president of the Catalan government; on August 6, that is three weeks after the Revolution started, faced with the predominance of our forces and the social upheavals which took place through their efforts, this majority resigned. Its situation was made even more difficult because the farmers -- the rabassaires -- supported the upheaval, as did also the P.O.U.M.

    But because our comrades did not wish to misuse the victory; because the urgency of the war demanded that they remain united to prevent Spain from being handed over to Franco; because the Left Republicans supported the social reforms, [8] the new Municipal Council that was then set up consisted of six members of the C.N.T. and six representatives of the Catalanist avant-garde. But the new law of February 1937 having ordained that all the political parties should be represented (this was one of the first counter-revolutionary manoeuvres) the definitive Council consisted of seven members of the C.N.T., seven Left Catalans, two U.G.T.-ers (the local section of which was then set up by the efforts of the Communists who sounded the alarm for the small reactionary proprietors in order to scotch collectivisation), and two members of the Acció Catalana party. So many different tendencies coexisting against their wills in the Council chamber, could only give rise to friction and confrontations, for clearly those who were opposed to the establishment of libertarian socialism considered that the C.N.T. was going much too far. For their part our comrades were opposed to the Council's traditional way of operating which was essentially political, and in which the sterile party games, frequently conducted over the telephone by the Committees established in the large cities, would end by reviving the old order of things. But, strengthened by the support of the Syndicates, the various Collectives and even the Cooperative, they did not give in.

    So the parties decided not to collaborate any longer in the practical tasks of a municipal nature, or within the jurisdiction of the Council. Our comrades had therefore to take over the most important duties: food supplies, public works, industry and agriculture. They were so successful that the organisers with whom I discussed these achievements fifteen years later had tears in their eyes in recalling that lost paradise.

    5. Castellon de la Plana

    Castellon de la Plana, chief town of the province bearing its name, had a population of 50,000 when the revolution exploded. Our movement there was not important. There is a twofold explanation for this weakness: on the one hand industry was not very advanced, and this had not given much scope for a powerful syndical force; on the other, if in the surrounding countryside one frequently came across proprietors with a libertarian outlook, the great majority did not go beyond republicanism.

    Now, in Castellon and its environs, republicanism was popular, and as the Republic was only five years old its supporters had not had time to be swallowed up in the morass created by the new regime. Which explains why on July 19, 1936, the fascist were defeated at local level, and why the population accepted without too much difficulty the local task of transformation undertaken by our comrades. It is worthwhile adding that a majority of republicans who were union men chose the C.N.T. for they feared the danger of statism and state control which they foresaw in a traditional socialist future, and in the party claiming to lead it. This was, in fact, not unusual in Spain. [9]

    The U.G.T. had more members than its rival the C.N.T., but they were workers whose socialist aspirations had remained intact. These circumstances resulted in the following situation: that at our meetings more than a half of the audience though not libertarians, applauded our speakers.

    Circumstances made the task of our comrades easier without, for all that, sweeping away the obstacles. The professional politicians were helpless in this new situation in which for them everything had been turned upside down. Furthermore many employers and landowners were fascists or crypto-fascists; others were not but all the same belonged to the Right parties and hoped for a victory of the insurgent generals. Our comrades knew beforehand what they wanted in a situation such as the one that presented itself. They started therefore by organising control Comit9s in the undertakings. These Comités had already been accepted three years earlier when Largo Caballero was Labour Minister and in order to calm the revolutionary passions of the workers and to limit their demands, had legalised the creation of these new organisations.

    There was now therefore no reason for legally opposing their extension, and the political parties were obliged to allow them to be created and developed.

    And new positions were rapidly captured; the employers were not concerned to maintain production at its normal level, even less to construct armoured cars and to manufacture combat weapons. So the workers, guided by the C.N.T., took their places and started managing the work.

    Thus it was that on October 20, 1936 the metal workers' Syndicate decided to take over some workshops. To that end they nominated a Comité for expropriation, technical administration and economy which took on the spot the following measures:

      1) Proceed to a detailed inventory of all the workshops and local garages.

      2) Prepare statistics of wage earners and employers of those garages and workshops.

    Then it organised five sections to be in charge of work; engineering, foundry, metal work, tinplating, garages. Soon the building workers and woodworkers organised themselves similarly and almost all, if not all, industrial production was socialised under the aegis of libertarian Syndicates.

    We will take the organisation of the metal workers and the garages that had joined them, as the model for all the industries. One reason for such a choice is that it was the most important branch of production.

    To start with the syndical Comité, which included in the first place a technical Commission concerned with general management of work in all establishments; this Commission was elected by the general assembly, and replaced the specialised employers and the technicians who had defected.

    It was also entrusted with allocating labour in the workshops and garages according to possibilities of production equipment, organisation and importance. Indeed one proceeded as more or less elsewhere to a regrouping which eliminated the installations that were too small to be economic, and constituted or enlarged other production units, making them more modern and better equipped for the work to be done and for the workers.

    In every workshop or garage the workers' assembly nominated a non-bureaucratic management committee. All the commissions were in contact with the syndical technical Commission, and those in charge met every evening with it to direct general activities.

    The administrative Commission specially concerned itself with the handling of money, which continued to exist for, let us repeat it unceasingly, we were in a mixed society, the political pattern of which was predominantly republican and where the petty bourgeoisie, even without always being really hostile, constituted an important local element. It was this Commission which paid workers in accordance with the categories established by the syndical assemblies: technicians, commercial agents, skilled workers, semi-skilled workers, apprentices. It was furthermore divided into five sections ' corresponding to the work categories. The most important sections had one employee nominated by the syndical council.

    The workshops and garages carried out the work (repairs, replacement of parts, etc.) required by the customers living in Castellon and its environs, or even by passing customers. If for example the owner or driver of a car wanted repairs to be done to it, he would go to a garage and ask for an estimate. The responsible delegate would tell him how much it cost and the customer would pay not the workers doing the work but to the Syndicate and given a receipt for payment which he would then take to the garage or workshop where the work was to be carried out.

    Thus all accounting was centralised, and all garages, engineering workshops and foundries had a common treasury. But each operation was scrupulously recorded, so as to be in a position to follow in detail the economic life, of each work unit. Which did not prevent sections enjoying surpluses from giving support to those working at a loss when the case arose. [10]

    Every month the technical and administrative council presented the general assembly of the Syndicate with a report which was -examined and discussed if necessary, and finally approved or turned down by a majority. Modifications were introduced when this majority thought it of use. Thus all the activities were known and controlled by all the workers. We find here a practical example of libertarian democracy.

    Such were the norms adopted in all trades, and all locally socialised industries. But let us go deeper in our analysis.

    As one can well imagine, former employers were not admitted into the Syndicate; nevertheless they were accepted as producers in the workshops. Those who for physical or mental reasons could not work and were without means of subsistence received a wage similar to that of the workers.

    From the professional point of view workers wishing to advance to a higher category could do so, but were required to undergo an examination in theory and practice before the central council of the Syndicate and the workshop delegates.

    Finally, when the case arose, the Syndicate applied -- on the acceptance by the general assembly -- disciplinary measures. This is the only case that we have met and noted but cannot affirm that there were not others. In the first months of the Revolution, and believing that the disappearance of the employer justified unusual negligence, some workers displayed excessive laxity (this also occurred among building workers in Alicante). In consequence, at the assembly held on December 30 a resolution was adopted -- we do not know whether by a majority or unanimously -- the text of which was printed on posters which were displayed in all the workshops.



      1) The workshop delegates are nominated in accordance with the rule made by you and by the Comité.

      2) In accordance with Article 5 of the regulations, these delegates are responsible for technical and administrative questions in the workshops.

      3) In agreement with, the general assembly of December 30, 1936, a vote of confidence was given to these Delegates, in cases of indiscipline or failure to carry out their duties by the comrades comprising the workshop personnel, disciplinary measures considered necessary should be taken to ensure the smooth running and satisfactory progress of the work in the Syndicate's workshops.

      4) These delegates will not be able to apply severe sanctions, such as the dismissal of a comrade from a workshop, without the agreement of the Comité and of the management Commission of the Syndicate.

      5) Any comrade having cause to complain of the delegate either for union matters or in connection with the work should, in order not to create confusion, abstain from direct and personal criticism; but will refer to the comrades of the administrative Council who will take the necessary decisions.

      6) All current matters concerning the work or union matters which will arise among comrades in the workshops will have to be dealt with through the respective delegates.

      All of which we communicate to delegates and comrades for their information.

      Castellon, January 1, 1937.

    Once again we observe that the seriousness with which everything is dealt with to ensure the success of the workers' achievements, implies a discipline freely accepted, and considered as a guarantee for success. And undoubtedly, all said and done, it is better that there should be excessive demands so far as responsibility is concerned than an irresponsibility which would lead to a melting away and failure.

    But the activity of our comrades was not limited to the organising of industries. They were integrated in the municipal Council, where, incidentally, they were in a minority. They were not good talkers or brilliant orators, but intelligent, their practical or human sense was not deformed by a politician's mentality, and they knew how to defend with conviction the constructive initiatives which flowed from their ideas and from the new situation. Among the proposed reforms was the family wage and the socialisation of medicine by the municipality, The other councillors, republicans and socialists (supporters of Largo, Caballero) who advocated many reforms when they were in opposition, turned them down, invoking the republican constitution, existing laws and economic difficulties.

    But unfortunately for the politicians, the Council sittings were public, and the workers as well as their womenfolk attended these meetings with interest. The result was that many U.G.T. members, disappointed by the antisocialist behaviour of their socialist leaders, went over to the C.N.T. and throughout the province the membership of the C.N.T. rose at an unexpected rate. It was the internal development of a society in a period of revolutionary transformation.

    The membership of the U.G.T. did not correspondingly fall, for the small artisan-employers, opposed to socialisation, caretakers, generally the defenders of the established order, office employees with the souls of bureaucrats, tradesmen, enemies of cooperatives, and smallholders: who believed that we intended to, leave them without the means of subsistence and deprive them of their harvest when the time came, joined en masse the reformist organisation U.G.T. in which the communists were spreading their influence. Right-wingers also infiltrated it in order to make it into a fortress, or at least a defensive bastion for their privileges, whilst waiting to recover what they had lost.

    In spite of everything our comrades succeeded in obtaining basic reforms. Most of the doctors who were unwilling to be under the control of the State bureaucracy, but to work inspired by their professional duty and the social problems which they were able to see for themselves, joined our movement and supported the social solutions it propounded.

    In the communal field our comrades succeeded in introducing the socialisation of housing. Rents for lodgings were no longer paid to the landlord -- so much the worse for the Constitution and Roman Law! -- but to the Municipality which had abolished almost all local taxes; and workers' families could enjoy a sanitary and comfortable home, for the building repairs and necessary building were undertaken as soon as the need for them was realised. It should be pointed out that just as the dispossessed landlord not able to work would receive a normal wage, the small proprietor was allowed to occupy the house which he had built by his own efforts. This socialisation of housing was not uncommon.

    The example of Castellon de la Plana appears to us to have had special characteristics. It proves the possibility of achieving very bold reforms in a society which has not entirely emerged from its original political framework. It demonstrates that the struggle against the exploitation of man by man [sic ­] can, if conducted intelligently, with practical ability, tact, and nobility of spirit, loses much of its harshness and gain in effectiveness. In any case it opens up new horizons, as it did in those localities where only some industries were socialised because they were the only ones with sufficiently strong revolutionary cadres, whereas the others had none at their disposal. The twelve million members of consumers cooperatives in Britain do not prevent the existence of private commerce. For the partisans of the creation of a new society, many steps could be taken without the shedding of blood.

    6. Socialisation in Alicante

    With Elda, Jativa and Castellon, Alicante, capital of the province in which these towns are located, had a social movement with a libertarian outlook of long standing which kept going come hell or high water throughout the social history of that region. And in the events which opened the road to the social revolution, the traditional solidarity existing between those towns, their syndicates and their federated libertarian groupings made possible the achievement of what each isolated town would undoubtedly have been unable even to undertake.

    For the armed forces of the C.N.T., the anti-fascist combat groups set up by our comrades or with their participation, prevented, here too, the reactionary elements from taking, indeed of even attempting to take, by assault the republican institutions. Peace was not therefore seriously upset, and the Civil Guard allowed itself to be disarmed.

    To realise their ideal our comrades had behind them our Syndicates: firstly the metallurgists', numerically the most important one, grouping all metal workers. Then the building Syndicate, with an industrial structure and including masons, quarrymen, plasterers, joiners, carpenters, painters, roofers, etc. Then the clothing Syndicate with tailors, dressmakers, hosiery and lingerie specialists; then, in order of importance came the Food Syndicate, the chemical industry, and finally the land and maritime transport Syndicate.

    Nevertheless it should be noted that the U.G.T. also had a Building Syndicate, a Fishing Industry Syndicate (a branch of the Food Syndicate) and another in the chemical industry. This did not in fact constitute an insurmountable obstacle for forging ahead. Alicante is one of the examples where socialist rank and file workers, though members of the U.G.T., refused to obey the anti-revolutionary directives of their leaders.

    The facts we are reproducing were not obtained on the spot. They are based on the testimony of militants who took part in this constructive task and who explained it to the author in discussions he had with them after Franco's triumph. We reproduce what seems to us to be most important, and in a certain sense, original, aspects for they corresponded to a particular social and local situation as well as, it must be said, to the outlook of the people concerned.

    Socialisation of Building -- The building industry was in the hands of small contractors. At an assembly specially called, the Syndicate of the C.N.T. building workers decided to take possession of building plant and equipment and to socialise its use. This was done. In each case, an inventory was drawn up of all the tools and raw materials controlled by each of the dispossessed employers, for the purpose of compensation. An unusual procedure and contrary to the basic principle of the libertarian movement, but it should not be forgotten that the contractors were small employers, and as was very often the case, they often worked harder than their employees. We will soon be seeing the consequences of this.

    For, in the first place, in the system which made the Syndicate into the coordinator and director of work as a whole, it was necessary to select on each site someone to be responsible to his comrades and to the syndical coordinating committee. This person, inevitably, had to be capable of running the site; that is, someone having technical experience. Now, in general, the employers in the building industry were better tradesmen than the wage earners. And as they did not wish to run the risk of failure with serious, immediate consequences, it was from among the employers that the site managers were selected.

    On the other hand, in practice it transpired that these ex-small contractors who accepted the new situation without too much difficulty, had a greater sense of duty than that of the average worker, accustomed to being given orders and not to taking responsibilities. And that they paid more attention to the quality of the work than their new comrades. In this case, as in others, it was not possible to put into operation at one stroke the absolute equality of wages, for in the middle of a revolution it was unwise to provoke conflicts which would only hamper production. For all these reasons the Syndicates felt obliged to establish a difference in remuneration. Workers without technical responsibilities received 10 pesetas a day and those with received 14.

    This was in all probability facilitated by the relative importance of the numbers of members of the U.G.T. who, had supported the syndicalisation and were upsetting our comrades. But once again what was essential was the smooth running, and quality, of the work; one could not risk having new constructions or repaired buildings needing attention after only a few months. That would have been a justification for a return to the capitalist system.

    It should be pointed out, anyway, that wages were fixed by the general assembly of the Syndicate, consequently with at least the approval of the majority of workers who bowed to these facts of life.

    The building Syndicate therefore exercised control over the sites as a whole, of the former undertakings transformed into sections or cells, in a regime the framework of which had remained republican. A situation reminiscent of the situation in Castellon de la Plana. An important part of social life still conformed to the established juridical principles; social classes still existed as did parasitic or privileged strata -- though the importance of the latter had considerably diminished and was going on decreasing -- finance capital, with very reduced powers, middlemen in distribution continued to exploit the population but were tending to be reduced to straitened circumstances by growing cooperatives; but also operating along parallel lines were trades, industries, services and production activities, often among the most important, which were in the hands of the workers, previously wage earners subjected- to the employing class, who had now become masters of their own destiny.

    The building Syndicate consisted of 500 masons, 85 painters in addition to the roofers, the locksmiths, architects, etc. The units of work were duly organised and repair work on buildings and repainting brickwork on houses was started and chargeable to the proprietors. Contact was made with the municipality for public works, and construction work which depended on its goodwill and financial resources. Such work included repairs to schools and hospitals. New buildings sprang up, and as air raids were expected, shelters for the civil population constructed.

    The administrative mechanism demonstrates once again the tendency already noted in many places to get everybody to take on general responsibilities [11] or to participate in the management of the life of the community.

    But as well as having a technical representative in charge of the work on each site, there was also a union delegate chosen, by the workers. Between them they prepared estimates for projects. There was close and constant collaboration, every effort was made to encourage enthusiasm, moral support, and to appeal to the individual conscience. And when a contract was completed and the balance sheet showed a profit the Syndicate congratulated the workers on the site, just as it expressed disapproval when a loss was made.

    One may well ask why the profits were not shared among the workers whose efforts produced them. Simply because any profits were kept for acts of solidarity. Thus, the disappearance of the estate owners or the postponement of building contracts, created a certain amount of temporary unemployment, but for all that there were no real unemployed. Thanks to the funds held by the Syndicate it was possible to allow groups of masons, painters, etc., to take a rest in turn. Unemployment was thereby converted into holidays or leisure days.

    The Canning Industry -- This industry was concerned above all with fruits and vegetables, which were produced in large quantities in this region of the Levante. But following the concept or principle of organisation being interdependent with related industries it included also the workers dealing with the manufacture, preparation, packing -- and not only wooden packing boxes for dispatch but also tin cans. The structure and operation of the general organisation was as follows:

    The undertakings generally employed a large number of hands, and the assemblies where women were in a majority, named at their places of work a delegate, man or woman, responsible for 20 workers. In their turn the responsible delegates met to nominate a person to be responsible for the whole enterprise. There was also a delegate from the Syndicate for each section, to supervise workers' working conditions in the offices, workshops, warehouses, depots, etc. Naturally the delegates were themselves workers in the undertakings.

    Fruit and vegetables were supplied by the agrarian collectives. The fraternal coordination between workers on the land and in industry and between their respective organisms was therefore being extended and completed. If one adds to it the collaboration existing between the Syndicates and the Municipalities one can see the constitution of a social organism the different parts of which harmonised and completed, instead of opposing, each other.

    The preserves were warehoused and put at the disposal of the Food Syndicate, which sold them to the municipal Councils of the region and to the provincial commissions for food supplies; the Quartermaster-General's department itself was among the buyers.

    Bread making -- Between them the U.G.T. and C.N.T. Syndicates socialised the bakeries. The hornos (the bakehouses) became bakery No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and so on. Flour supplies were equitably shared among them, and finances were held in common. As described in other cases, the personnel of each undertaking elected a responsible delegate who was supervised by the Syndicate, which in its turn was responsible to them.

    Clothing -- Most of the factory and workshop owners retired from the undertakings where they no longer gave the orders, and of which they were no longer the owners. The undertaking delegate selected by assemblies of the enterprise, and responsible to the Syndicate which coordinated the whole, constituted the axle of the organisational mechanism.

    A customer requiring a suit or an overcoat would select the workshop of his choice, where he would be provided with a list of prices according to the quality of materials required. In exchange for the money paid out he would be given a receipt from a triplicate receipt book and the whole, procedure was as already described. [12]

    Cutters and other workers replaced employers in managing the work. Wages were 10 pesetas a day for men and women. Some of the best tailors would be paid 12 pesetas. These hangovers of inequality can be explained for the same reasons as advanced for the building workers. But this inequality wag very small compared with what it had been when there was an employer. Nevertheless, these are problems which a movement of change should study.

    The Metallurgical Industry -- In the somewhat summary classifications inspired by the desire for unification, metallurgy in Alicante encompassed everything from the jewellery trade to the iron boiler works. But naturally the jewellery trade played no part in the general organisation of syndical production.

    On the other hand the U.G.T. and C.N.T. were in agreement and worked together. They constituted the I.M.S.A. (the Socialised Metallurgical Industries of Alicante). This complex was organised in sections which included a general Council integrated by a work Commission, a technical Commission, a purchases and sales Commission, an administrative Commission, etc. The workers nominated on the spot their delegates who acted in agreement with the union Council.

    The two syndical organisations were in contact with the delegates on the Council of I.M.S.A. The workshops like the bakehouses, were identified by numbers. They were parts of a large interdependent whole.



    The Revolution did not always manage to socialise all the workshops, works, and factories of the established industries in a locality or in a region. The resistance of the political forces allied to what remained of the bourgeoisie itself, made it impossible to go beyond certain limits. On the other hand some undertakings were frequently cut off somewhere in the province. Or again the workers had not been won over quickly enough by the organisation of industrial federations on a national scale. And according to the circumstances, some establishments which had remained outside were collectivised, or organised themselves through acting on their own initiative -- or by imitating what was being done elsewhere.

    Such was also the case with agrarian Collectives in Catalonia. Achievements of this kind were fairly rare in the Catalan countryside, the peasant there being more inclined towards individual smallholdings, than towards the social community. The Catalan agrarian Collectives resulted therefore in groupings which cannot be compared with the Federation of Aragon, the Levante and the Centre.

    Nevertheless these achievements were numerous and deserve to be listed and studied in depth. And even though it is not possible to include their history in the general structure -- local, regional, national -- they are of considerable interest. In many cases each would deserve a monograph to itself. If just one of them had been realised, today it would arouse the interest of reformers on an international scale. Here are some examples, one agrarian, the remainder of an industrial nature, which surely serve to further illustrate the multiplicity of creative initiatives about which one cannot ever say enough.

    1. The Boot and Shoemakers of Lerida

    A few days after the Francoist uprising, and under the influence of the hopes that the Civil War had aroused, some shoemakers in Lerida (capital of the province of the same name) who were members of the libertarian movement met not only to see in what way they could participate in the struggle but how to organise a new way of life. The Republican authorities had virtually disappeared so nothing prevented them from making the experiment.

    With them at that meeting was a small employer and his son. Soon other workers attached themselves to the original groups; other small employers did likewise. And they organised themselves on a collectivist basis.

    This transformation brought with it a revolution in methods of work. It was no longer the case to sew the leather with awl and needle. A few machines were available and these were put to full use, for the orders were increasing and included a growing demand from the authorities for laced boots for the militiamen. More workers joined and in the end there were about fifty collectivists. More machines were bought and- soon there were 23 at work.

    The responsible management Comité consisted of six workers, three from the C.N.T. and three from the F.A.I.; an assembly of collectivists elected replacements on the Comité.

    Production increased and, at the time of the bombing of Lerida in December 1937, as well as satisfying local needs the community of shoemakers were producing 1,500 pairs of shoes a day.

    The Catalan government increased its orders for the militiamen. Shortage of money (according to the communist Comorera who was then Minister of Industry) was the reason given for defaulting on payments for goods received. And when the fascist advance started the said minister owed the Lerida shoemakers' Community some millions. Fortunately the members managed by shoe repairs, by making shoes to measure, as well as by growing some of their own food, to maintain themselves and their families.

    2. The Valencia Flour Mills

    The upheaval caused in the political domain by the Francoist attack naturally had repercussions in the economic field too. A more or less intensive disorganisation took place in those sectors of vital importance to the population. The authorities were incapable of taking any action of the slightest usefulness, and it was left to the workers, mainly those who thanks to the syndical organisation had an understanding of what needed to be done, to undertake to replace the largely inefficient private capitalism.

    For instance one saw this in the case of flour supplies for Valencia, where the central government had set itself up with all its bureaucracy. Some delegates of the U.G.T. and C.N.T. who worked in the food industry, had to meet to deal with the grave shortages which very soon appeared, and constituted one of the factors leading to disorganisation which the fascists would have sought to exploit. And on October 1, 1936 an organism with the name "Socialised Flour Mills" started to operate under the management of a workers' council of members of the two workers' unions: U.G.T. and C.N.T.

    In normal times Valencia received and consumed 1,000 sacks of flour daily. But the situation had become more complicated as a result of the Civil War, and more bread was needed to make up for shortages of other foodstuffs. From the French frontier to Gibraltar, Eastern Spain was not a producer of wheat; the great corn belts, as we have pointed out, were in Castile and Andalusia, which fell to Franco in the early days. Furthermore the Levante had the additional burden of an ever-growing number of refugees.

    In such circumstances, where there was no time to lose, since the daily bread had to be assured, the fairly modern mills quickly passed into the hands of the workers. But the supplies of wheat required were soon under the thumb of the Minister of Agriculture, the communist Uribe, who was certainly obliged to economise and plan his stocks, but who on the other hand took good care not to seek to establish agreement with the "Socialised Flour Mills" grouping. Kill the revolution that they cannot control: such has always been the attitude of the communists from Marx onwards.

    That grouping operated just the same. The general organisation was divided into two sections. One, the purchasing section whose agents scoured the countryside and even went into some regions occupied by the Francoists, for supplies of wheat. The other, the sales section, which undertook the distribution of the flour to the Valencia bakers. A third, complementary section of an administrative nature, was concerned with statistics, correspondence, archives, accounts.

    From the beginning the organising Comité, consisting entirely of comrades of the U.G.-T. and C.N.T., presented the Minister of Agriculture with their conclusions based on the gravity of the situation:

      1) All corn stocks in the national territory to be requisitioned.

      2) Distribution to the provinces on the basis of their respective needs.

      3) Freeze the price at not more than 45 pesetas per 100 kilos.

      4) Import immediately supplies from Russia and Argentina.

    Their demands were ignored. The precious cereal was soon to be in short supply, which came as no surprise to anyone ever so slightly conversant with the Spanish economy. But so long as there was wheat and flour they were distributed thanks to the "Socialised Flour Mills" of the Valencian region.

    3. The Chocolate Cooperative of Torrente

    In the province of Valencia, Torrente was renowned for its production of confectionery, especially chocolate. The industry was in the hands of some 45 small working owners who, depending on their means, might each employ one or two workers.

    But driven by the desire to modernise production and safeguard the health of workers, members of the C.N.T. called a meeting which took place on September 1, 1936. The employers were invited as well as the wage earners. And as happened on many other occasions, employers and workers were in agreement to go forward.

    Thus it was that they unanimously agreed to organise the "Cooperative of the Chocolate Workers of Torrente". Work was started immediately on the construction of a large building sited near the railway, in order to facilitate the unloading of raw materials and the dispatch of the finished articles.

    The whole consisted of five sections, each 50 metres long by 30 wide. The first, used for manufacture, soon had 45 machines all at work; some had been provided by their owners while the others had to, be specially acquired.

    The second section of the building was used for lesser operations which consisted in giving the articles their characteristic shape. The third was for storing raw materials; the fourth, for the process of torrefaction or of preparation; finally, the fifth was the well-equipped cold store.

    Never before had one seen in Spain a chocolate and confectionery factory as well organised or as large. The hundreds of men and women workers who were employed in the undertaking gave proof of a touching support for the enterprise. When from the beginning there was a question of paying them a higher wage than the employers had paid in the past they refused to accept, deciding to wait until the cooperative had made its first profits. It was also largely due to their initiative that the production of a local "turron" (nougat) was undertaken as well as of a number of articles of a similar kind.

    The cooperative -- which in fact was more like a community than a cooperative -- was managed by a workers' council consisting of six workers from the establishment, each equally responsible for the smooth running of the factory and of the quality of the product.

    4. The Agrarian Groups in Tarrasa

    Tarrasa was essentially a manufacturing centre situated 30 km. from Barcelona. For a long time the principle industry there was the manufacture of woollen cloth from raw materials provided principally by the sheep from La Mancha, rich in windmills and poor pastures and thistles. The workers' movement here goes back a long way, and the syndical tradition was taken to heart by the town's 30,000 inhabitants. But at the moment of the Revolution the workers' organisations of Tarrasa were, like those of many other towns, far from having acquired the technical preparation needed to undertake the reorganisation of society. That and the opposition of the political parties with whom we co-existed, explains in part why long after the workers had seized the factories and workshops, the Syndicates had still not taken over their management.

    With the exception of the building industry which truly had been socialised, the other industries were still, after six months. at the stage of control or management Comités, that is to say, at the stage of absorbing the employer when he was on the scene -- but the large factories often belonged to anonymous share holders-and with the management and administration of the undertaking by the workers employed there. [1]

    I visited the most important of these factories, where I had worked as a labourer some twenty years previously. It was managed by a "technical Comité divided into seven parts; technical, syndical, work, administrative, commercial, propaganda, insurance.

    1,300 men and women worked there. Nothing indicated any slowing up of their efforts. In all their tasks these workers showed the same diligence as under the previous regime. No employers, or foremen as in the past; but one could read on the faces the joy that came from the satisfaction of working for' and by oneself.

    But what was being done on the land around Tarrasa went much further than what went on in the factories.


    The Syndicate of landworkers which directs and supervises them was founded after July 19. Before that there had in fact not been any agricultural union organisation except for a peasant section of the local general Syndicate. But with the triumph over the Francoists and, consequently, over the reactionary and conservative Rightists, most landowners disappeared. Some were Barcelona gentlemen, who had had second residences built and surrounded by lawns and where they went to relax for two or three months a year. The others were unenterprising semi-agriculturists who abandoned their estates to the brambles and wild rabbits.

    Our comrades knew this and set to work at once. The Peasants' Syndicate immediately took over this new source of wealth. Its members were reinforced by industrial workers sufficiently discerning to see how much could be done.

    At the end of six months, sixteen collective farms had been organised. The terrain was too uneven for large scale cultivation to be possible; but here again a general trend in the whole constructive effort in libertarian Spain was manifest. The lands of neighbouring farms and estates were brought together in agricultural units. Thus six properties became one community with a single management Comité in order the better to coordinate, the general activities.

    To manage the overall work the Syndicate was divided into two main sections: one agricultural, the other for forestry. The first section dealt with everything connected with agriculture and livestock, the forestry section with arbriculture. The Syndicate prepared records from data supplied by the farm managing Comités of the local area of each and the different cultivations. In this way the future yields could be estimated.

    The Syndicate's role was limited to this and to the creation of new communities when it could secure more land. The communities were organised on the spot; their management Comité consisted of a delegate for agriculture, one for livestock, one for working tools and equipment; one for the means of transport. The workers who nominated them, just as the delegates themselves, worked from sunrise to sunset in accordance with decisions taken at their meetings.

    Some hundred workers were engaged in forestry, based on the same zone and also managed by a technical Comité consisting of representatives of different sections, There too the members of the Comité worked alongside their comrades.

    The agrarian communities of Tarrasa were not content with securing as much from the seized lands as they could. They had greater ambitions. More and more land was being cleared of thistles, brambles and ploughed ready for cultivation. And on the hillsides and the heights which they also cleared of weeds they sowed.

    One typical example was that of the community Sol y Vida (Sun and Life). The owner had normally employed six workers. There were now forty who were kept busy all the time, intensive cultivation having replaced arable farming.

    But not only was most of the cultivable land not cultivated, or left as poor pasture, there were also whole areas of forest with dense undergrowth which were not producing a worthwhile return. The tractor and men's efforts produced miracles. In a short time 140 hectares were brought under cultivation. Wheat, potatoes, fruit trees, vegetables, were sown or planted on the hillsides, and in the valleys. And work was proceeding with 150 willing helpers, to transform the wide bed of a former river-torrent into a sheltered apple, pear and peach orchard.

    Meanwhile they had to live in between sowing and harvesting. That was where solidarity came into the picture. The forestry section which sold its products without difficulty (coal was no longer arriving from the Asturias and logs for fires and charcoal were welcome) helped the agrarian Collectives. Comrades from the town also made their contribution. Some would come on Sundays to work on the land, and help on repairs to the landworkers' homes, all without payment. Among these recruits there were some who had voluntarily given up a 90 pesetas a week wage in the factories to come and join in this creation of a new life, for 60 pesetas.

    After visiting almost all the communities I went to inspect one of the finest accomplishments in this region. As most of the masons were unemployed their Syndicate made arrangements with the Peasants' Syndicate, and sent 150 men to clear and clean land, in the mountainous parts, which served only to shelter rodents and other creatures who were playing havoc with the crops. I saw these comrades fell trees, remove tree roots, chop and saw branches, stack logs and faggots, prepare the ovens and raw materials for making charcoal. Each team accomplished a precise part of the task and they left behind them land ready for cultivation.

    On the basis of guidance coming from the landworkers' Syndicate some communities specialised in keeping pigs, others cows. The work was rationalised on the basis of available land and climatic conditions. Many comrades were sent to the Agricultural School in Arenys-de-Mar nearby, to study the best agricultural techniques.

    The area cultivated by the 16 communities was 700 hectares and they were proposing to double the area by clearing some of the level land from the 4,000 hectares of forest lands.

    Footnotes - Chapter 13

    1. The republican governments engaged in demagogy which completely deceived the masses, and greatly contributed to the final defeat.

    2. Shot by the Francoists.

    3. It should be borne in mind that Catalonia was mainly industrial, and even a large part of the Levante produced neither corn nor meat, nor the dried vegetables which they consumed. It was to weigh heavily on the situation in due course.

    4. One of the means used was to stop supplying them and to reserve the goods that could be obtained for the communal warehouses.

    5. See at the end of this chapter the leaflet that was distributed on the subject.

    6. It should be noted that in this case the professional Collective was not independent of the Syndicate. Indeed it emanated from it.

    7. We must honestly recognise that the government of the Generalitat sometimes helped useful enterprises with finance; and while regretting that all too often it dispensed funds indiscriminately, creating stagnation, which as we shall see later, could do untold damage.

    8. One can logically assume that the relations, often cordial, that had been established over many years between the libertarians and republicans made mutual understanding possible.

    9. See Libertarians and Republicans in Part V of this volume.

    10. For instance, the garage workshops established along the road from Barcelona to Valencia had more work than those dotted about the town.

    11. To assist this general enterprise and the collaboration between the Syndicates and the Municipality, the latter waived all taxes on the Building Syndicate for three months.

    12. See chapters on Fraga and Castellon de la Plana.

    Footnote - Chapter 14

    1. In present-day (1973) terms we could speak of self-management.