Collectivizations: The Constructive Achievements of the Spanish Revolution. Essays, Documents and Reports—Agustin Souchy and Paul Folgare1
Publisher’s Note from the Spanish Edition of 1977
This work, which comprises one of the main sources that must be referred to for any analysis of the collectivizations that took place during the Spanish Revolution, was first published by “Tierra y Libertad” in Barcelona in 1937. After the Civil War it was republished in Toulouse by the CNT, in an edition that omitted the authors’ names.
The mere fact that the first edition of this book was published in 1937 will be enough to alert the reader to the existence of certain very general limitations imposed on the interpretation of the text. On the one hand, it was written during the critical moments of the Revolution, and vividly reflects one of the Revolution’s most important features; on the other hand, this very fact explains the optimistic tone and the apologetic character of the work, whose shortcomings include the scarcity or absence of criticisms of the collectivization process (a trait that also reflects the obvious didactic and propagandistic purposes of the authors). The positive aspects of the collectivizations, however, far outweigh the negative ones; this book presents a magnificent tableau of revolutionary achievements, and highlights, perhaps more clearly than the vast majority of literature addressing this theme, the interaction between the spontaneous elements of collectivization and the conscious elements of their creation, which were primarily led by the CNT.
The authors, the German anarchists Souchy and Folgare (actually, according to Frank Mintz, the latter name should be spelled Polgare), crafted the book on the basis of a kind of “collage” technique, mixing, as the second subtitle indicates, “essays, documents and reports”. The purpose of this technique is obviously to allow, to the greatest possible extent, by way of documents, proclamations and interviews, the collectivist workers to express themselves in the book. The authors’ role is reduced to a labor of ordering and the minimum amount of editing necessary to confer coherence upon the mass of materials they selected.
This mixture of materials introduces certain structural complications in the reading of the text, so that it is sometimes difficult, for example, to distinguish between the text written by the authors and the text consisting of the reproduction of documents or the transcription of oral accounts. Although the edition published by “Tierra y Libertad” represented a notable effort to resolve this difficulty, in the present edition we have endeavored to enhance the structural clarity of the book, especially by means of the standardization of the styles utilized for the chapter headings, subtitles, sections, etc.
We have strictly adhered to the text of the first edition of 1937. The changes that, without modifying the actual text, we have thought advisable, are as follows:
Rectification of obvious typographical errors, including various sporadic inconsistencies in internal references.
Orthographical modernization in accordance with current norms.
Changing certain initials of numerous names from the upper case to the lower case, although we preserved the upper case usage wherever it was minimally admissible.
We have not eliminated the quite numerous solecisms; only in rare cases, and when it was strongly advisable, have we changed an incorrect word and inserted the correct one, but have on such occasions noted the change in a footnote; on other occasions, we have preserved the incorrect word from the original text, and have inserted a footnote in which we have suggested the word we think is the correct one. Almost always, however, the context makes the meaning of the words that are incorrectly used clear enough to make any such clarification unnecessary.
The punctuation in the text, although often dubious, has been nonetheless preserved as it is in the original, as it does not in any case prejudice a correct understanding of the text.
Workers all over the world have understood that the Spanish struggle is their struggle, too. The obstinate silence of the entire bourgeois press, as well as all the resulting difficulties and the scarce media outlets possessed by the Spanish revolutionaries, on the one hand, and the persecution, the cover-up, and the prohibition of their dissemination of information by the enemies of the working class, on the other hand, have generally prevented the workers from obtaining a veracious account of the revolutionary achievements of the libertarian movement in Spain. Nonetheless, this has not prevented them from expressing all their sympathies for them.
Meanwhile we have deemed it useful and necessary to provide an account, for all those who have long felt sympathy for and acted in support of the freedom fighters, of this labor of liberation that was carried out in the rearguard.
It seemed to us that we would best serve this informational purpose by letting the Spanish revolutionaries speak for themselves as much as possible. The summary that we present here contains, besides some brief schematic explanations (added only in order to provide a more complete picture), original documents, for the most part: confiscation decrees, reports of the trade unions, minutes of meetings, statutes, etc., and the reports drafted by the Industrial committees and by the various local committees for the organs of the revolutionary movement.
Nor have we thought it necessary to change either the style or the content of these documents. Through them the Spanish Revolution speaks, the action of the proletariat as it was expressed at the time, and the quite simple pathos of some of these declarations from those memorable days of struggle provides a better depiction of the events to the foreign reader than the most precise statistics or the most profound analyses.
You will not find within this book either falsifying praise, or distorting exaggerations. We have simply let the Spanish worker speak for himself so he can tell the entire world what he has done to vindicate and defend his liberty and his well being.
The New Collective Economy
1. Collectivization in Spain
The military revolt of July 19, 1936 had wide-ranging consequences for the economic life of Spain. Defense against the militarists and the clergy was only possible with the help of the proletariat. Alone, the republican bourgeoisie would have succumbed. It had to align itself with the proletariat. In 1934, when the Catalonian left sought to challenge Madrid without the workers, and against the anarchists and the syndicalists, Madrid was victorious. The advocates of Catalonian autonomy were defeated. After this conquest, Madrid exacted its vengeance. The Catalonian politicians, beginning with Companys, were sentenced to years in prison.
If the petty bourgeoisie did not want to expose itself this time to the same danger, it had to join forces with the anarchists and syndicalists.
This alliance could not be limited to the political terrain. The anarchists and syndicalists had bad experiences with the bourgeois republic. It was not to be assumed that they would be content to serve as a barrier against the clerical-militarist coup. It was assumed that they would embark on a transformation of the economic system. They did not want to allow economic exploitation to persist, which they perceived to be the cause of political oppression.
The clergy, the military camarilla and the big capitalists allied with them, were aware of this. They knew quite well what was at stake. The victory of the military would have meant the establishment of a military dictatorship, an exacerbated version of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Had this taken place, not only would the privileged classes have saved themselves, but they would also have provided themselves with the opportunity to exploit the workers even more intensively in the future. This is why they supported the military conspirators.
The generals were the active agents, while the big capitalists pulled the strings behind the scenes. They did not show their hand. To some extent, they were not even at the site of the events. Juan March, Francisco Cambó and others from their class were not even in Spain at the outbreak of the uprising. They awaited the development of events from other countries. If the military was victorious, these financiers would have returned. In Catalonia, however, as in more than half of Spain, the coup d’état failed. The capitalist financiers did not return to Spain.
Similarly, the captains of industry, the factory directors and the managers of major enterprises preferred to wait outside Spain for the armed struggle to come to an end. On July 19, and during the following days, all the major businesses were abandoned by their managers. The directors of the railroads, of the transportation network in the cities, of the shipping companies, of the major textile mills and forges, the leaders and delegates of the employers associations, had all disappeared. The general strike of the workers, a defensive measure employed against the military coup d’état, completely paralyzed economic life for eight days.
After having annihilated the resistance of the military rebels, the proletarian organizations decided to go back to work. The trade unions of the CNT were soon convinced that work could not resume under the same conditions as before. The general strike was not a wage struggle. There were no negotiations about a shorter working day or better working conditions. There were no employers. The workers not only had to resume work at their lathes, their locomotives, trolleys and offices; they also had to take over control of the factories, the workshops, and the transport networks. In other words, the management of industry and of all economic life passed into the hands of the workers and employees.
But one cannot speak in this connection of planned socialization or collectivization. For nothing had been prepared, everything had to be improvised. As in all revolutions, practice came before theory. Theories were superseded and modified by reality. The advocates of the notion that social progress can be obtained by way of peaceful transformation were just as mistaken as those who thought that a whole new social and economic system can be created all at once by force, if only political power falls into the hands of the workers. Reality has proven that both assumptions were equally false. It has demonstrated the correctness of the postulate that it is necessary to shatter the official military and police power of the capitalist state in order to clear the way for new forms of social life. It has demonstrated the correctness of the view that the creators of these new forms of life must prepare themselves for their mission in theory and practice, with regard to their program and organization. Every social theory contains a good share of utopia. And this is as it should be; otherwise, there would be no creation. There must be ideas, concepts and concrete understanding of the road that must be followed.
The anarchists and syndicalists of Spain possess a well-defined doctrine, while the Marxists, with regard to the question of socialization, advocate the idea that the state must take over the economy, and that industry must be nationalized. The anarchists, on the other hand, believe that socialization must be carried out by the workers, in the workshops, the factories, and in every activity related to economic life. The latter method proceeds from the bottom up, from the periphery towards the center; the Marxist way, however, leads from the top down, from the state to the village.
In Spain, and especially in Catalonia, the process of socialization began in accordance with the anarchist understanding of the concept, as collectivization. This collectivization must not be understood as the implementation of a preconceived program. It arose spontaneously. The anarchist influence on this process, however, cannot be ignored. For decades the anarchists and syndicalists of Spain have considered the social transformation of society as their fundamental goal. In the assemblies of their trade unions and groups, in their newspapers, pamphlets and books, the problem of the social revolution has been continuously and systematically discussed. What must be done on the day after the victory of the proletariat? The apparatus of state power must be overthrown. The workers must themselves take over the management of the enterprises and administer them on their own; the trade unions must have control over economic life. The industrial federations must direct production; the local federations must regulate consumption. Such were the ideas of the anarchosyndicalists. These ideas were also accepted by the FAI. In its conferences and its congresses it has always defended the theory that economic life must be under the control of the trade unions.
If one compares the course of events in Barcelona and many other population centers of Catalonia and Spain, one sees that practice has largely proceeded in accordance with these theories. The executive public powers passed into the hands of the anarchosyndicalist trade unions and the political parties of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie. The Committee of Antifascist Militias was the superior organ, in which the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the Catalan separatists, the Unió de Rabassaires, the CNT and FAI, the Unified Socialist Party (PSUC) and the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) were represented. The anarchists and syndicalists were capable, in the first weeks after July 19, of seizing all public power for themselves alone. They did not do so; they refused to do so. The Catalan government only existed on paper. The Parliament did not reconvene. Two and a half months later this government disappeared completely. On September 28 a new Council met, composed of all the antifascist organizations that had suppressed the military coup d’état.
Such were the changes in the political arena. On the economic terrain, the trade unions worked alone. After July 19, 1936, the trade unions of the CNT took over the production and distribution of food. The trade unions devoted special efforts to solve the most urgent problem, which was how to provide for the population’s basic needs. Canteens were opened in all the neighborhoods and at the trade union centers. The supply committees created for this purpose withdrew provisions from the warehouses throughout the city and the countryside. These provisions were paid for with coupons endorsed by the trade unions. All the members of the trade unions, the wives and children of the militiamen as well as the general population received free food. The workers did not receive any pay during the days they were on strike. The Committee of Antifascist Militias agreed to pay the workers and employees for the days they were on strike. The moneyless economy of the antifascists lasted about two weeks. When work was resumed and economic life was once again set in motion, the money economy returned. After a few weeks, even the benzene for automobiles had to be paid for again. The trade unions, however, still controlled the consumption of benzene as before.
The first stage of collectivization began when the workers confiscated the enterprises. In each workshop, in each factory, in the offices, warehouses and stores, trade union delegates were elected who assumed responsibility for the management of these enterprises. Quite often, these directors had no theoretical preparation at all and very little knowledge of the national economy. They did, however, have a profound sense of their own needs and understood the demands of the moment. The problem of wages, prices and products; they had never scientifically examined the relation between all these factors. They were neither Marxists nor Proudhonists. But they understood their trades and professions, they were familiar with the production processes in their industries and they were not slow to learn. If there were no orders, they used their ingenuity. In some textile factories they manufactured red and black silk bandanas emblazoned with antifascist inscriptions and offered them for sale on the market.
“How do they determine the price? How do they establish the profit margins?”, asked a foreign Marxist journalist.
“I don’t know anything about profit margins”, answered the worker. “We look in the books to find out how much the raw materials cost, we calculate the current expenditures, we add a surcharge for reserve purposes, we account for the wages and then add another surcharge of ten percent for the Antifascist Militias, and that was the price.”
The bandanas were offered for sale on the market at a price below what could have been charged before; the wages of the workers were higher; the capitalist profit was devoted to the struggle against fascism.
This is how the managerial transition was carried out in most enterprises. The employer was excluded if he opposed the new course of events. A place was found for him if he accepted the change. In the latter case he continued to work as a technical manager or commercial specialist, and sometimes as a worker, and received a wage commensurate with that of the workers or technicians of his trade or profession. This process and this change were relatively simple. Difficulties only arose later. Supplies of raw materials were rapidly exhausted. In the first days after the revolution they were requisitioned. Later, they had to be paid for or obtained on credit. Few raw materials came from foreign countries. The prices of these raw materials began to rise, and as a result so did those of the finished products. Wages were increased. But this measure was not universally applied. In some industries the increase was considerable. During the first stage of collectivization, the wages of the workers and employees were different even within the same industry. By limiting the collectivization process only to the abolition of the privileges of a handful of employers, or to the elimination of the employer’s profits in a corporation, the workers became the beneficiaries, simply replacing the previous owners. This change was a more just arrangement than the one that had previously prevailed, because now the workers effectively obtained the fruit of their labor. But this system was neither socialist nor communist. Instead of a capitalist, there was a kind of collective capitalism. Whereas previously there was only one owner in a factory or a café, now the workers of the factory or the staff of the café became the collective owners. The waiters in a café that did a lot of business enjoyed higher incomes than those in less fortunate establishments.2
Collectivization in Spain could not stop at this stage. This was what everyone felt. The trade unions decided to take over the management of the enterprises themselves. The industrial trade unions were transformed into industrial enterprises. The construction workers trade union in Barcelona took over the management of all the building and construction projects underway in the city. The barbershops were collectivized. In each barbershop there is a trade union delegate, who hands over all the barbershop’s income to the Economic Committee of the trade union every week. The expenses of all the barbershops are paid for by the trade union, including wages.
The workers’ trade unions have replaced the employer-sponsored trade unions. Social justice was obtained within some industries. But some industries are doing better than others. There are poorer and wealthier industries, higher and lower wages. The process of collectivization cannot stop at this stage, either.
In the Local Federation of Trade Unions of Barcelona (CNT) a discussion is currently underway concerning the establishment of a Liaison Committee; the latter would embrace all the economic committees of all the trade unions; all the money would have to be concentrated in one fund, and this one account would be the source of an equitable distribution. In some industries such liaison committees and central accounts have existed from the beginning. The Barcelona Bus Company, managed by the workers, is prosperous and generates a surplus. Part of this surplus is destined for a reserve fund to enable the enterprise to purchase raw materials from foreign countries, and the rest is used to subsidize the Streetcar Company, which does not operate so profitably. Completely unprofitable enterprises, such as the cable car that connects Montjuich with the port of Barcelona, are shut down, for economic reasons, during the winter.
When benzene began to become scarce, four thousand taxi drivers were put out of work; the trade union had to pay their wages. This was a heavy burden on the Transport Trade Union. It was compelled to request aid from the other trade unions and from the Barcelona city administration. The textile industry was running out of raw materials. It cut back on work; some factories only operated three days a week. But the workers had to be paid. Since the manufacturing and textile industries did not have sufficient resources, they had to seek assistance from the Generalitat.
The collectivization process cannot stop at this stage. The syndicalists are calling for socialization. For them, socialization does not mean nationalization, that is, the transfer of the economy to the state. Socialization must be a generalization of the collectivizations: the consolidation of the funds of all the trade unions in a central account, a concentration in the framework of the Local Federation that would be transformed into a kind of collective economic enterprise. This would be socialization from below, or from the workers enterprises to the collectivity as a whole. Without workers organizations there can be no socialization.
Not much has been said up to now about expropriation. It is understood that this is a negative concept that expresses the abolition of one form of property, but it says nothing about the form of the new organization. The Marxist formula: expropriate the expropriators, is not very well known in Spain. Collectivism, on the other hand, possesses deeply rooted traditions; it existed in its ancient form long before the modern proletarian movement. It was given new life in the First International. Unlike various other countries with Roman legal traditions, the form of feudal exploitation in Spain consisted less in individual landownership rights than in the right of usufruct exercised over the products of the land. This form survived to some extent right up to the outbreak of the revolution. Under the leasehold system of the rabassa in Catalonia, the peasants had to pay their rent in the form of agricultural products. In 1934, the issue of the amount of rent due to the landowners led to a serious conflict between Catalonia and Madrid. Madrid proclaimed the right to appoint the magistrates responsible for issuing rulings on the demands of the landowners. The small farmers sought to defend their rights by recourse to support for Catalonian autonomy. The struggle for the political independence of Catalonia has an economic dimension. The big landowners supported Madrid.
But this was true not only of Catalonia; in all the regions of Spain collectivist traditions survive. After crushing the forces of the generals, the desire to collectivize the large estates was felt throughout the rural areas. The syndicalist organizations and the anarchist groups took the lead in these attempts to collectivize the land. They remained faithful to their traditions. At the CNT Congress of Madrid in June 1931 the collectivization of the land was designated as one of the most important goals of the rural workers. The resolution approved at the Congress clearly outlined the road that would be followed by the rural workers in July and August 1936. This resolution demanded:
a) “Expropriation without indemnification of all latifundia, pasturelands, hunting preserves and all fallow arable land, and its designation as social property. Cancellation of the current lease contracts held by the landowners, and their replacement with others that will bring the trade unions into harmony with the needs of each locality.
b) “Confiscation of the surplus livestock, seeds, farming tools and machinery found in the possession of the expropriated landowners.
c) “Free and equitable distribution in usufruct of the lands and appurtenances mentioned above to the peasant trade unions for their direct and collective exploitation and administration.
d) “Abolition of dues, land taxes, debts and mortgage payments that weigh on those properties that constitute the means of life of their owners and are directly cultivated by them without the continuous use or exploitation of other workers.
e) “Suppression of rent in money or in kind which the small leaseholders (rabassaires, colonos, municipal lessees, etc.) are currently forced to pay to the large landowners and their intermediaries who sublet their lands.
“The constructive preparation of the peasants in accordance with our principles is the most important and most difficult mission of syndicalism in the countryside. Most important because, without it, the further development of the social revolution would not be viable. Most difficult, because of the very numerous traditional and subjective obstacles, cultural backwardness, the proprietary instinct and egocentric individualism that hinder the receptivity of the peasant masses to collectivist objectives. The syndicalist peasant movement can and must overcome these obstacles by means of clear, comprehensive and tenacious propaganda regarding its ideological goals as well as educational and trade union activity that will foster habits of collective solidarity among the rural workers and predispose them for and render them capable of collaborating without any hesitations and in their own interests in the establishment of the collectivist or libertarian communist regime.”
“The Congress declares that the socialization of the land and all the means and instruments that make agrarian production possible, as well as its cultivation, use and administration by the agricultural trade unions of federated producers, is the essential precondition for the organization of an economy that would assure to the laboring collectivity the enjoyment of the whole product of its labor.”
The collectivization of the land followed a different course in Spain than in Russia. All the properties of the big landowners were collectivized within each commune. These landowners were supporters of the clerical militarists and fought against the people. The landowners who accepted the economic transformation joined the trade union and worked alongside its other members. These landowners played leading roles in the collectivization movement. Exporters also joined the trade union; in many places even the small landowners joined.
The land is collectively worked by the peasants; all the products are delivered to the trade union. The trade union pays the wages and sells the products. The small landowners who do not want to join the collective remain outside the trade union. They must struggle very hard to survive. They are not forced to do anything, but they cannot benefit from the economic advantages of the trade union, either. In the trade union, on the other hand, labor is organized in a rational manner. In the trade union, the following principle prevails: all for one, one for all. The small landowner, however, remains outside the commune. When the time comes to distribute the agricultural tools, housing, etc., the small landowner is last in line.3
The life of the rural workers has improved economically with the collectivization of labor and the new regulation of consumption; politically, it is now free. The peasant has been able to preserve his customs and his individual freedoms have not suffered any diminution. No one has to live in big apartment buildings; no one has to eat in collective kitchens. The spirit of property, however, the “demon of possession”, which precisely in the countryside reached the highest extremes of crass egoism, has been annihilated.4
Today, the agricultural trade union is an economic enterprise. It is responsible for washing and packing the fruit destined for shipment. The trade union pays the workers. In some communes almost all economic life is in the hands of the trade union. The trade union elects various committees devoted to the organization of labor, consumption, distribution, and defense against fascism. Cafes and movie theaters, where they exist, are under trade union control. In the small villages there are no distinctions between the various trades and unions. All are united in the local federation. The latter is the real brain of economic life and at the same time the political and cultural center of the village.
In Barcelona the victory over fascism assumed the aspect of liberation from a heavy yoke. Everyone enjoyed the recovery of their freedom.
Many people, however, believed that an era of laissez faire had been inaugurated for them, an era in which they could do whatever would bring them profit; the factories, the workshops and the warehouses whose owners were fascists were abandoned. The unemployed rushed into the streets and set up as street vendors and hawkers. This trend spread like an epidemic. All the major streets of the capital were flooded with all sorts of goods, which were sold on the sidewalks and even in the middle of the street. The entire city took on a new look. For the owners of retail stores, the street commerce meant major competition. Soon, however, they discovered the remedy. They hired salesmen to sell their commodities in the streets. The trade union of street vendors grew to gigantic proportions. It grew from a few hundred members to many thousands. In order to sell goods in the street, one had to have the membership card of one’s trade union. The trade union of the CNT assumed responsibility for rectifying the situation. It agreed not to admit any more members. Then the street vendors formed a trade union affiliated with the UGT. Those who were not admitted into the CNT trade union could join the UGT-affiliated trade union. Now, in addition to the superabundance of street commerce, Barcelona was also afflicted by the competition between the two organizations. The matter was brought to the attention of the local federation of the CNT. The latter resolved to put an end to the constant increase in the number of street vendors. It only admitted a limited number of street vendors in its trade union, assigning them certain places in the city to ply their trade. This trade union resolution had the effect of a decree. Thousands of street vendors disappeared overnight from the streets of Barcelona.
This was a transitional stage, which was quite important for the status of the capital of Catalonia. The intervention of the trade unions played a decisive role. They established the course and the pace of the process, they regulated the economic life of the city; they exercised control not only over the workers in the factories, but even over the street vendors.
There was no collectivization in one industry: banking. For reasons that are easy to understand. Collectivization is not carried out by decree from above, but by the intervention of the workers and employees in each enterprise.
Why were the banks not collectivized? The bank staff and employees were largely unorganized. There were two trade unions in the banking sector, one affiliated with the CNT and the other with the UGT; the latter, which controlled the majority of the trade unions in this sector, was against collectivization and advocated nationalization.
Socialization must be implemented, according to the doctrine of the UGT, by governmental decree. The government did not decree the collectivization of the banks. Thus, most of the employees of the banks did not know what they should do. Collectivization was not undertaken.
The CNT minority was unable to convince the majority of the bank employees to accept its ideas about the economic and financial transformation of society.
The collectivization or socialization of the banks would have undoubtedly conferred a different course on the development of events. The wealth of the banks does not consist in machinery and tools, but in means of circulation, nominal values, money. The confiscation of bank accounts would have made it possible to centralize and coordinate the distribution of existing financial means, and thus a planned economy. A controlling center would have intervened in the process. With the collaboration of the representatives of the industrial trade unions, the employees of the banks would have been able to elaborate a program of financial assistance to the enterprises of vital importance. It would therefore have been possible to place the financial institutions at the service of collectivization. In that case, nothing could stand in the way of collectivization; it would embrace all economic life. The process of collectivization is comparable to a construction project; stones are brought from far and wide, and small buildings are built one by one. Had the banks been integrated into the collectivization program, the realization of the latter would have been accomplished in a systematic fashion, like a construction project. This did not take place, and time was lost.
But time lost in one respect was time gained on another. No limits were placed on individual initiative. Within the span of six months of experiences, the trade unions learned that it was necessary to coordinate the efforts of the collectivized enterprises in the various industries. They based their deliberations on practical experience. The leading committees that were now being created no longer needed to appoint subordinate institutions; the latter already existed. The superstructure of collectivization was based on solid foundations, powerfully rooted in the industrial trade unions, in the professional sections, in the enterprises and in the workshops themselves. It is on this basis that the power of collectivization in Spain rests.
In the development of collectivization we encounter the same characteristic as we see in the development of the political situation: a rejection of all totalitarian methods. While the trade unions asserted their influence over the distribution and supply of provisions, they did not want to monopolize them. The trade union of the food industry took over the bakeries (there were no large bread factories in Barcelona). There were also many small commercial ovens. These continued to operate on their own account, as before. The shipment of milk from the countryside to the cities is in the hands of the trade unions. The latter supply most of the dairies. The trade unions of the food industry control the rural farms and collaborate with the collective farms and the agricultural trade unions. Restrictions on imports of condensed milk led to a scarcity of milk. The trade union of the food industry bought condensed milk on foreign markets and solved this problem in Barcelona. In Russia, the stores remained closed during the entire first stage of the revolution. This did not take place in Spain. Wholesale trade passed into the hands of the trade unions. Retail stores obtained their commodities from the trade union. Maximum prices were established for retail goods. Domestic commerce was unified and regulated. At the head of this “monopoly” was the Supply Council. Its purpose was to organize in a uniform manner the entire supply of provisions for Catalonia, in order to provide for the basic needs of all the towns and neighborhoods. Standard prices were stipulated for the collectivized communes, the trade unions of fishermen and other food industries in agreement with the institutions responsible for distribution. The goal pursued by this measure of political economy was to prevent the prices of provisions from rising. It was intended to put an end to speculation and usury.
This policy was suddenly interrupted in the middle of December, however. On December 16, there was a change of personnel in the Council of the Generalitat. The Communists were successful in their attempt to evict the POUM (Partido de Unificación Marxista) representative from the Council. In the newly constituted Council, Comorera was in charge of Provisions. He is a member of the Unified Socialist Party (a tool of Moscow). Doménach, the representative of the CNT, was assigned to a different ministry. Comorera put an end to the monopoly of the Supply Council. He reintroduced free trade. With this, the way was cleared for price increases. The process of collectivization was interrupted on this terrain. It was a kind of NEP in miniature.
In Catalonia, events progressed more rapidly than they did in Russia. What took years to accomplish in Russia, was done here in a matter of months. The new turn towards a Catalonian NEP, however, did not put an end to the process of collectivization. The working class population did not want to stop or retreat. Collectivism could not be exterminated in Spain. The further development of society proceeds along this road. Not even the war can stop this process.
In this book we have systematically described the course of collectivization in each of its stages and industries. We have depicted, with supporting documentation, how the workers took over the enterprises and operated them on their own. We have also tried to evaluate the results of collectivization. Does collectivization have a favorable or unfavorable impact on production? With regard to this question we no longer have to settle for a merely theoretical answer. We have the results from many enterprises right before our eyes. We may also consult the subjective opinion of numerous workers. If they are happy, they work harder. If they feel that they are responsible collaborators, they have a greater interest in production.
In the transport sector, the advantages of collectivization are striking. Despite the general increase in prices, the fares charged by the transport system have not risen in Barcelona. The wages of the workers in the transport sector have not declined, however. Nor have the workers been uninterested in the cleanliness and appearance of the vehicles: freshly-painted streetcars and new buses are seen in the streets. All the taxis have been refurbished.
The textile industry is not doing so well. The shortage of raw materials has caused many factories to operate only three days a week; but they pay their workers wages for four days. The longer this state of affairs lasts the worse it is for the enterprises. Four days wages are not enough. This is not a consequence of the collectivizations, but of the war. The Catalonian textile industry has lost its principle markets. Part of Andalusia, Extremadura, and Old Castile, and all of the northern part of Spain, with its densely populated industrial districts, and Asturias, all are cut off or in the hands of the fascists. No new markets have been found to replace them. This has led to a crisis in the textile industry.5
The collectivization of agriculture and industry opens up a new stage in the proletarian movement: it leads us to the structural transformation of society. It is still too soon to pronounce a final judgment on this development, which constitutes one of the most interesting phenomena of our time.
Collectivization teaches new perspectives; it leads us down new paths. In Russia the revolution took the road of nationalization. In Italy and Germany fascism placed its hopes in the idea of the corporate state. In the democratic countries, too, there is a widespread belief that the solution to the current economic crisis is to be found in a new restructuring of the political and economic bases of society. In America, Roosevelt proceeds along new paths; in Belgium, De Man is proposing a kind of semi-socialism. In France there are democratic theoreticians who base their proposals on the corporative idea. They are recommending the adoption of a collective electoral system, which must supplement the individual electoral system; thus, they propose the establishment of an economic Parliament alongside the political one. The citizen must not only be represented in his capacity as a consumer: the worker must also have his representation as a producer, the representation of his trade in the state and in the national organization of his country.
In these innovations they perceive the solution for the political, economic and spiritual crisis, the cleansing of social life. In Spain no new theories have been elaborated; the people themselves, the peasants, and the workers in the cities, have taken the land and the means of production into their hands. With great efforts, sometimes tentative and error-ridden, but also moving forward, they are striving to construct a more just system of society, one in which the fruits of their labor will be enjoyed by the workers themselves.
This is the meaning of collectivization in Spain. This is what you must keep in mind as you read this book.
2. The Collectivization Decree6
[The criminal military revolt of July 19 has led to an extraordinary disruption of the economy of the country. The Council of the Generalitat must attend to the reconstruction of the damage caused to the industry and commerce of Catalonia by the treason of those who tried to impose a regime of violence on our country. The popular reaction triggered by this revolt has been of such intensity that it provoked a profound economic-social transformation, whose foundations are being laid in Catalonia. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of an ever smaller group of persons was followed by the accumulation of misery in the working class and, because the former group, in an attempt to preserve its privileges, did not hesitate to provoke a bloody war, the victory of the people will be equivalent to the death of capitalism.
It is now therefore necessary to organize production, orienting it in such a way that the only beneficiary must be the collectivity, the workers, to whom the directive function of the new social order will devolve. What is necessary is the suppression of the concept of income that does not proceed from labor.
The principle of the economic-social organization of big industry must be collectivized production.
The replacement of individual property by collective property, is conceived by the Council of the Generalitat as the collectivization of the goods of large enterprises, that is, their capital, while allowing the private ownership of consumption goods and leaving small industry in the hands of their current owners.
The revolutionary effort of the working class, which rose with arms in hand to crush fascism, poses the question of this change in the economic and social structure which endured until quite recently. One of the fundamental problems that this new situation poses is that of an organization of labor that would coordinate the sources of wealth and order their distribution in accordance with social needs.
After July 19, the openly fascist bourgeoisie deserted their posts. Most have fled to foreign countries; some have disappeared. The affected industrial enterprises cannot be left without direction, and the workers decided to intervene and created Workers Control Committees. The Council of the Generalitat must authorize and provide guidance for what the workers spontaneously enacted in their enterprises.
As a result of the situation encountered by some of them, the workers, in order to safeguard their interests, had to confiscate these enterprises, thus creating the necessity of collectivizing the various sectors of industry. The Council of the Economy, responding to the desires of the working class and complying with a program that had already been set in motion, must pay close attention to the wishes of the workers and orient the entire economic life of Catalonia in accordance with their will.
The collectivization of the enterprises, however, would be of no importance if it did not further their development and growth. For this purpose, the Council of the Economy has been assigned the task of studying the basic norms required to proceed towards the constitution of a Bank of Industrial and Commercial Credit that would distribute financial assistance to the collectivized enterprises and organize our industry into large concentrations, which would assure the maximum output and facilitate the major transactions of our foreign trade. A study is also in progress concerning the creation of a research and technical advisory body that would enable our industry to enjoy greater efficiency and progress.
In view of the above considerations, and in cognizance of the report of the Minister of the Economy and with the agreement of the Council,
It is hereby Decreed:]
“Article 1. In accordance with the standards that have been established by this Decree, the industrial and commercial enterprises of Catalonia are classified as follows:
a) Collectivized enterprises, in which the responsibility for management falls upon the workers in these enterprises, who are represented by an Enterprise Council, and
b) Private enterprises, in which management is the responsibility of the owner or manager, with the collaboration and budgetary oversight of the Workers Control Committee.
Article 2. Collectivization will be compulsory for all industrial and commercial enterprises which, as of June 30, 1936, employed more than one hundred wage workers, as well as those enterprises that, employing fewer workers, were owned by individuals who were declared to be rebels or who abandoned their enterprises. However, enterprises employing fewer than one hundred workers may be collectivized if the majority of their workers and their owner or owners agree to do so. Enterprises with more than fifty but fewer than one hundred workers may also be collectivized at any time if three-fourths of the workers support collectivization.
The Council of the Economy may also agree to authorize the collectivization of those other industries that, due to their importance in the national economy or for other reasons, the Council considers to be advisable to withdraw from the influence of private enterprise.
Article 3. For the purposes of the preceding Article, the designation of enterprise owners as rebel elements can only be made by the Peoples Tribunals.
Article 4. As for the working class elements, for the purposes of determining the total number of workers who comprise the employees of an enterprise, every individual who is on the payroll of the enterprise, regardless of his job, whether intellectual or manual, is considered to be an employee of the enterprise.
Article 5. All the assets and liabilities of the original enterprise will be transferred to the collectivized enterprise.
Article 6. For the purposes of collectivization, enterprises composed of independent subsidiaries devoted separately to production or sales, and all other enterprises that have various outlets and factories, will continue to constitute a single organization and can only be separated with the express authorization of the Minister of the Economy, after the latter examines a report from the Council of the Economy of Catalonia.
Article 7. The former owners or managers of the collectivized enterprise will be adapted to serve the latter, and they will be assigned to a job where, due to their managerial or technical skills, their collaboration would be most advantageous to the enterprise.
Article 8. Once collectivization has been implemented in an enterprise, no workers in that enterprise may be laid off, unless they are transferred to another workplace within the same industrial category, if circumstances so require.
Article 9. In those enterprises that are wholly or partly owned by foreign interests, the Enterprise Councils or the Workers Control Committees, in each instance, will notify the Minister of the Economy of this fact, and the latter will convene a meeting of all the interested parties or their representatives in order to address the matter and decide what measures should be undertaken for the purposes of the due safeguarding of those interests.
The Enterprise Councils
Article 10. The supreme management of the collectivized enterprises will be the responsibility of an Enterprise Council elected by the workers, from their own ranks, in general assemblies. The assemblies will determine the number of workers who will form the Enterprise Council, whose numbers will be no less than five and no more than fifteen, and the Enterprise Council will be subdivided into various departments: Production, Administration, Technical Services and Commercial Exchange. Where the size of the enterprise permits, the various trade union federations to which the workers belong will also be proportionally represented on the Enterprise Council.
The term of service in these positions will be two years, and elections will be held every six months to confirm the mandates of the delegates. Delegates to the Enterprise Council may serve more than one term.
Article 11. The Enterprise Councils will assume the functions and the responsibilities of the former Boards of Directors of Corporations and Partnerships.
The Enterprise Councils will be responsible for their management to the workers of their enterprises and to their respective General Councils of Industry.
Article 12. The Enterprise Councils must ensure that, in the execution of their duties, the process of production is adapted to the general plan promulgated by the General Council of Industry, coordinating their efforts in accordance with the principles that regulate the development of the industrial sector to which they belong, considered as a single whole. With regard to the establishment of profit margins, fixing the general conditions of sales, acquisition of raw materials, and in connection with the rate of amortization of the fixed capital and formation of circulating capital, a reserve fund and the distribution of profits, they will also act in accordance with the rulings of the General Councils of Industry.
In the social order they will exercise vigilance to see to it that the rules affecting this domain are strictly complied with, suggesting any other rules that they believe would be advisable. They will take the necessary measures to guarantee the physical and moral health of the workers; they will carry out an intensive cultural and educational labor, and will foster the formation of clubs, recreation centers, sports, cultural events, etc.
Article 13. The Enterprise Councils of the industries that were confiscated before the publication of this Decree and those that will be collectivized henceforth, will submit their constitutions to the Secretary General of the Council of the Economy within fifteen days; a template for these constitutions will be sent to the various offices of the Enterprise Councils.
Article 14. In order to assure continuous monitoring of the overall progress of the enterprises, the Enterprise Councils will elect a Director, to whom shall be delegated, in whole or in part, the functions that are incumbent on the Council.
In enterprises employing more than fifty workers, or in those whose capital exceeds one million pesetas, or which manufacture or assemble products related to national defense, the election of this Director must be approved by the Council of the Economy.
Article 15. Each collectivized enterprise will be subject to mandatory oversight by an Inspector from the Generalitat who will be a member of the Enterprise Council, and who will be nominated by the Minister of the Economy with the approval of the workers.
Article 16. The legal representation of the enterprise will be exercised by the Director, and his signature will accompany the signatures of two members of the Enterprise Council chosen by the Enterprise Council. The names of the nominees will be communicated to the Council of the Economy, which will verify them for banks and other institutions.
Article 17. The Enterprise Councils will post the minutes of their meetings and will send certified copies of the resolutions they adopt to their respective General Councils of Industry. When these resolutions require it, the General Council of Industry will intervene as necessary.
Article 18. The Councils will have the obligation to take note of the demands or suggestions formulated by the workers and these demands or suggestions shall be included in the minutes of the Enterprise Councils, so that they may be brought to the attention of the General Council of Industry where practicable.
Article 19. The Enterprise Councils will be obliged, at the end of each fiscal year, to provide an account of their conduct to their workers, meeting in a general assembly.
Furthermore, the Enterprise Councils will also produce copies of their balance sheets and semi-annual or annual reports for submission to their respective General Councils of Industry; these reports will provide details concerning the business status or business plans.
Article 20. The delegates to the Enterprise Councils may be dismissed from their positions by the workers meeting in general assemblies and by their respective General Councils of Industry, in case of manifest incompetence or refusal to abide by the rules established by the latter.
When their dismissal has been confirmed by their respective General Councils of Industry, if the workers of the enterprise, meeting in a general assembly, agree, they may direct an appeal to overturn this decision to the Minister of the Economy, which appeal, should it then be rejected, with the prior notification of the Council of the Economy, is unappealable.
Concerning the Control Committees in the Private Enterprises
Article 21. In the industries or businesses that have not been collectivized, the formation of Workers Control Committees will be mandatory, in which all the departments of the enterprise will be represented—production, technical support and administration. The number of delegates composing these Committees will be freely decided by the workers, and the representation of each trade union federation will be proportional to the number of their members in the enterprise.
Article 22. The mission of the Control Committee shall be as follows:
a) Exercise control over working conditions, that is, to ensure strict compliance with the legal standards affecting pay, working hours, social benefits, hygiene and safety, etc., as well as to enforce strict discipline on the job. All warnings and notices that must be issued by the manager of the enterprise to its personnel will be passed on to the Control Committee.
b) Administrative control in the sense of inspection and control over income and expenditures, both with regard to cash on hand and cash advanced by banks, with the object of responding to business requirements, and also intervening in all the other operations of a commercial nature.
c) Control of production, consisting in close collaboration with the employer in order to improve the process of production. The Workers Control Committees will seek to maintain the best possible relations with the technical personnel in order to assure the smooth operation of the work process.
Article 23. The employers will be obliged to present to the Workers Control Committees the account books and annual reports of their enterprises, and the Committees will send summary reports of the same to their respective General Councils of Industry.
The General Councils of Industry
Article 24. The General Councils of Industry will be constituted in the following manner:
Four representatives of the Enterprise Councils, chosen in a manner that is most convenient for the Councils.
Eight representatives of the various trade union federations, each federation to be represented in proportion to the number of members it has in the industry. This proportion will be established by a procedure that the trade union federations shall agree upon in advance.
Four technicians nominated by the Council of the Economy.
These Councils will be presided over by their respective delegates on the Council of the Economy of Catalonia.
Article 25. The General Councils of Industry will formulate the general outlines of the operational plans of their respective industries, helping the Enterprise Councils to carry out their functions and, in addition, they will oversee: the regulation of the total production of their respective industries; the standardization of cost prices in those industries to the greatest possible extent, in order to avoid competition among the enterprises; study the general needs of the industries; study the requirements of consumption of their products; examine the opportunities for domestic and foreign markets; observe, furthermore, the general trends in the industries and establish in each case the limits and rate of production for each kind of product; propose the closure of factories or their expansion depending on the needs of industry and of consumption, or recommend the merger of certain factories; submit proposals concerning the reform of certain methods of labor, means of obtaining credit and circulating products; suggest modifications in the levels of customs duties and the terms of trade agreements; organize purchasing consortia and institutions for the acquisition of equipment and raw materials; administer certain commercial agreements with the industries of other parts of Spain or foreign countries; manage bank and credit transactions; organize joint laboratories for technical research; compile statistics for production and consumption; supervise efforts to replace imported materials with domestic sources. Furthermore, the General Councils of Industry will be able to study and adopt those measures that they deem necessary and to be of interest for the improvement of the labor process for which they are responsible.
Article 26. The accords that will be adopted by the General Councils of Industry will be compulsory, they will have the force of law and no Enterprise Council or private enterprise may refuse to comply with them under any pretext that cannot be fully justified. Their only recourse will be an appeal to the Minister of the Economy, whose ruling, after consultation of the report of the Council of the Economy, will be unappealable.
Article 27. The General Councils of Industry will be in constant contact with the Council of the Economy of Catalonia, and will comply with the rulings of the latter at all times, and when necessary these two institutions will undertake joint action.
Article 28. The General Councils of Industry must submit to the Council of the Economy of Catalonia, within a time limit that will be established for each particular case, a detailed document in which the general progress and status of their respective industries will be analyzed and summarized and in which plans for future improvements will be set forth.
Classification of Industries
Article 29. For the purpose of promoting the formation and organization of the General Councils of Industry, the Council of the Economy will draft, within fifteen days after the promulgation of this Decree, a proposal that will include a classification of the different industries and their duly structured organization, in accordance with their respective specialties and requirements of coordination between the sections into which each of them will be divided.
Article 30. For the purposes of this classification, attention will have to be devoted to raw materials, the totality of industrial operations set in motion up to the sale or the industrial consumption of the product, the technical unity and opportunities for commercial management, with the goal of the complete concentration of industries in order to overcome disturbing factors.
Article 31. At the same time that it will be working on the classification of industries with a view to industrial concentration, the Council of the Economy will propose regulations with which the constitutions and functioning of the industries will have to comply.
The Obligations of the Industries
Article 32. In every collectivization or socialization of an enterprise, whether domestic or foreign interests are involved, and regardless of the size of the enterprise, an inventory-balance sheet will be compiled in each case, based on the account books of the enterprise, duly verified, accompanied by a detailed and itemized summary of the goods, both real property and other goods of every description that belong to the enterprise.
Article 33. The inventories submitted in accordance with the previous Article will be revised by a commission formed of six technicians and accountants named by the Council of the Economy, presided over by a Chairman who is a specialist in such enterprises, and this commission carry out its investigation and submit its report for the approval of the Council.
Article 34. The Council of the Economy of Catalonia, once it has studied the report mentioned in the above Article, will be authorized, if it deems that it is advisable, to undertake a second revision of the document, issuing a final ruling and submitting its report to the Minister of the Economy of the Generalitat, against whose ruling no appeal of any kind will be permitted.
Article 35. Once the inventory of social assets has been compiled and debts and liabilities are deducted, and in the event that the result shows a positive balance, it will be filed in the Council of the Economy of the Generalitat for the purpose of determining the identities of their legitimate claimants and the social compensation to which the latter are entitled.
Article 36. For the purposes of calculating the compensation mentioned in the above article, there will be a breakdown of the part represented by the contribution or the participation of foreign assets, what part pertains to the people’s savings and loan institutions, as well as credit establishments, and which corresponds to individuals or other domestic enterprises, and the corresponding announcements will be published in each case by the Council of the Economy, always understanding that all such participation must refer to a date prior to the July 19 just past.
Article 37. The social compensation that corresponds to the first case mentioned in the above Article will be completely recognized by the Generalitat. Its value will be estimated in the national currency of the claimant.
Article 38. The compensation that corresponds to the second case mentioned in the Article 36 will be subordinated to other considerations, in view of their volume.
Article 39. For those small industries and commercial enterprises that have already been subjected to collectivization prior to the publication of this Decree, the Council of the Economy will study their status and propose a just social compensation.
For this purpose, the Council of the Economy will proclaim an open period for information that will conclude on November 30 so that interested parties may present their petitions.
Barcelona, October 24, 1936.—The Prime Minister, Josep Tarradellas.—The Minister of the Economy, Joan P. Fàbregas.”
One may observe that the decree reproduced above did nothing more for the most part than legalize a situation that already existed in most industries and the transport system. It contains no special initiative that goes beyond the framework of the action carried out by the workers.
Practically the only enterprises that preserved their status as private enterprises were artisans and some small industrial workshops, but even in these private enterprises the regulations on workers control and the requirements that these enterprises must comply with the directives of the Councils of Industry left little leeway for the “employer’s authority” and the other characteristics of capitalist property.
By means of this Decree, a “new economy” is legally established in all Catalonian production. For the enterprises, it is the Councils elected by the workers that are responsible for commercial, technical and social management functions; the workers councils themselves, however, consult with each other, and observe the general directives of their trade union federations and of their new institution, the General Council of Industry.7
The collectivized enterprises function almost just like the stock corporations of the capitalist economy. The general assemblies, the workers, proceed to elect the Council within which all the phases of the activity of their workplace are represented: production, administration, technical services, etc. The representatives of the trade union federations are also represented and thus assure a permanent connection with the rest of the industry.
The workers councils, however, are practically limited to the control over management, which is entrusted to a director elected in the largest enterprises, whose election is subject to ratification by the General Council of Industry. This director is often the former owner, manager or director of the enterprise, and the Decree authorizes the employment of these former “captains of industry” if their competence and loyalty permit.
This is more often the case than one would like to think. Many directors and employers, formerly full of a ferocious hatred and an extreme intransigence with regard to the workers and their demands, were compelled to render homage to the constructive effort displayed by those same workers in all the collectivized factories. They had to acknowledge the order and the common sense with which they regulated their affairs and the numerous improvements introduced by the new system, both from the economic as well as the social point of view, and a good number of them voluntarily placed themselves at the disposal of the workers, and the latter, more interested in assuring the future of the common labor than in avenging past injuries, almost always accepted collaboration that was spontaneously offered.
One may observe in this Decree that foreign interests represented in the Catalonian enterprises were respected. One Decree pertaining to this issue, not reproduced here, regulates the various modalities of compensation, of collaboration, etc., with these foreign owners, who are invited to discuss, in each particular case, with the Council of the Economy, the regulation of their participation in these enterprises.
3. A Brief Sketch of the Catalonian Economy
Although it comprises no more than six percent of the total area of Spain, Catalonia is nonetheless, at least in terms of economics, the wealthiest and most important province of the peninsula.
Whereas economic activity in the rest of Spain is essentially oriented towards agriculture, industry is largely concentrated in Catalonia. As a result, Catalonia has a population density twice that of the median population density of the peninsula as a whole.
Besides the riches derived from below the surface of the ground, which can be found almost everywhere in Spain, Catalonia possesses a major share of the national wealth. One will therefore understand why the collective exploitation of enterprises, which is our topic, plays such a considerable role in the intensive development of Catalonian industry.
Thus, for example, the textile industry, the largest in Spain, is almost exclusively concentrated in Catalonia. Ninety-three percent of Spain’s spinning mill workers are employed in factories in Tarrasa and Sabadell, two small industrial towns in the province of Barcelona. These two towns are more central to Spanish industry than Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing are to French industry. This cotton industry, around which all the other textile industries have developed, such as wool production, natural and artificial silks, clothing, dressmaking, etc., employs more than 200,000 workers. It has long been Spain’s leading importer, due to its demand for cotton, and has consistently been one of Spain’s leading exporters of manufactured products.
Vital industries are not yet very highly developed in Spain. Thus, with regard to this issue, Catalonia is the most advanced province in the country. It features a large metallurgical sector, and several major chemical plants transform part of our raw materials into finished commodities.
Today, however, as is the case throughout Spain, most of the minerals extracted from Spanish mines cross the borders in their natural state and are returned to us in the form of various kinds of machinery and other commodities.
To the above samples, other industrial sectors of greater or lesser degrees of development must be added. The production of leather and skins, various kinds of wood—a thriving industry—agricultural production, fisheries, etc., which have made a significant contribution to the overall rate of progress attained, are concentrated in this small region of Catalonia.
If Catalonia’s industry is more advanced today than it is in the rest of the peninsula, its opportunities for development in the future are even greater. Thanks to its abundant variety of important minerals (coal, lignite, iron, lead, zinc, potash, manganese, salt, bauxite, etc.) and thanks to an exceptional abundance of waterfalls and other opportunities for the exploitation of hydraulic energy resources, Catalonian industry will be in a position to rapidly multiply the volume of its production.
Spain as a whole is very close to meeting all the practical requirements of an ideal autarchy (its soil and subsurface resources provide almost everything required by industry and consumption). Catalonia itself seems to be very close to such a self-sufficient economy. Its agriculture, far from possessing the rich soils of Castile, Andalusia and Extremadura, therefore produces a wide variety of indispensable products. Even though the volume of this agricultural production is not sufficient to meet the needs of such a densely populated region, Catalonian agriculture supplies it with cereals, corn, beans and rice as easily as grapes and olives. The latter, planted for the most part along the Mediterranean coast, yield a harvest that exceeds the demand of domestic consumption and therefore constitutes an excellent product for export.
Alongside the cultivation of the land, the geologically diverse topography of Catalonia features grasslands suitable for grazing livestock of every kind, as well as forests containing a wide variety of trees.
Its proximity to Aragon, whose agriculture is even more highly developed, constitutes another food reserve for industrial Catalonia. The most important transport routes in Spain that also pass through Catalonia, and the Mediterranean shipping that arrives at the docks of the great port of Barcelona, assure the technical possibilities for further economic development on the basis of the initial steps taken during the first days of the exploitation of the factories by the workers.
- 1See the short biographical article by Nick Heath at: http://libcom.org/history/partos-pal-1911-1964-aka-paul-polgare-pablo-polgare-folgare for the various pseudonyms employed by Paul or Pablo Folgare, a/k/a Paul Polgare, a/k/a Pal Partos. The original Spanish edition of 1937 utilized the Spanish version of Souchy’s first name, but not Folgare’s [Note added by the translator of the English edition].
- 2The collectivization process in Russia never went beyond this stage. André Gide describes this in his book, Retour de l’URSS, as follows: “We visited a model Kolkhoz in the neighborhood of Sukhum. It dates from six years back. After having struggled obscurely for some time, it is now one of the most prosperous in the country. It is known as ‘the millionaire’ and is bursting with life and happiness. This Kolkhoz stretches over a very large tract of country. The climate ensures a luxurious vegetation. The dwelling-houses, built of wood and standing on stilts to keep them from the soil are picturesque and charming; each one is surrounded by a fairly large garden full of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers. This Kolkhoz succeeded last year in realizing extraordinarily big profits, which made it possible to set aside a considerable reserve fund and enabled the rate of the daily wage to be raised to sixteen and a half roubles. How is this sum fixed? By exactly the same calculations that would settle the amount of the dividends to be distributed among the stockholders if the kolkhoz were a capitalist agricultural concern. So much has been definitely gained: the exploitation of the greater number for the benefit of the few no longer exists in the USSR. This is an immense advance. There are no stockholders; the workmen themselves, that is, share the profits without any contribution to the State. (At least that is what they repeatedly told me.) This would be perfect if there were no other Kolkhozes that were not doing so well. If I understood correctly, each Kolkhoz is independent, and there is no trace of mutual aid. Perhaps I am mistaken? I would very much like to be proven wrong about this.” Agricultural collectivization still appears to be in its initial stage in Russia. They have not yet reached socialization. (See André Gide, Return from the U.S.S.R., tr. Dorothy Bussy, A. A. Knopf, 1937).
- 3I had the opportunity to attend an assembly of an agricultural trade union in the province of Valencia. The small landowners were also represented there. They complained about how they suffered from a shortage of one thing or another. A commission submitted its report on the plan to make improvements in the cultivation of the land. It was quite instructive to observe how the peasants complemented the commission’s proposals with their own experiences.
- 4Here is a brief anecdote. During a visit to the orange plantations, one of my traveling companions, a foreigner, wanted to buy some oranges. “We do not sell them”, said the peasants, who were busy picking oranges. “But it is not possible to obtain oranges here?” “As many as you want, but not with money.” And the peasants gave us a bag containing 50 kilograms of oranges, for free. All of our attempts to pay them somehow by bartering some of our possessions of equal value were futile. “When we come to Barcelona, you can give us some of them….”
- 5During January 1937 the situation has somewhat improved. Work orders have arrived for the production of war materiel. In Sabadell, a major center of the textile industry, with 60,000 inhabitants, the industry has returned to normal output. In Barcelona, some spinning mills are still working part time.
- 6The “Decret de Collectivitzacions i Control Obrer” was elaborated on the basis of a meeting in which representatives of all the organizations of the Council of the Economy of the Generalitat of Catalonia participated. It was promulgated on October 24, 1936. The previous editions of this book omitted the Decree’s Preamble, proceeding directly to the Articles. We have inserted the Preamble in brackets, and in italics, to distinguish it from the rest of the text of the Decree. We have translated the Preamble from the Catalan on the basis of the complete text of the Decree included among the appendices of the work by Albert Pérez-Baró, 30 mesos de collectivisme a Catalunya, Ariel, Barcelona, 1970 [Note from the Spanish edition of 1977].
- 7Up until now only the provisional foundations of these Councils have been established, and while their final form is still being elaborated, many CNT-UGT liaison committees function almost like real General Councils in each industry.