The CNT-FAI in the Central Committee of Antifascist Militias of Cataluña1
“All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.”
George Orwell, 1984
“Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit.” (Compliance raises friends, and truth breeds hate.)
POWER IS IN THE STREETS
The real power of decision and execution was in the streets, it was the power of the proletariat in arms, and it was exercised by the local committees, the defense committees and the workers control committees, spontaneously expropriating factories, workshops, buildings and land; organizing, arming and transporting to the front the groups of volunteer militiamen that had previously been recruited; burning churches or converting them into schools or warehouses; forming patrols to spread the social war; manning the barricades, which were now class frontiers, and which controlled all traffic and manifested the power of the committees; resuming production at the factories, without employers or managers, or converting them to military production; requisitioning cars and trucks, or food for the supply committee; taking bourgeoisie, fascists and priests “for a ride”; replacing the obsolete republican municipal governments, and imposing in each locality their absolute authority in all domains, paying no attention to any orders from the Generalitat, or the Central Committee of Antifascist Militias (CCMA).
On the night of the 19th there was no other real power besides that of “the federation of the barricades”, and this power had no other immediate goal besides the defeat of the rebels. The army and the police, either dissolved or confined to their barracks, disappeared from the streets after July 20. They were replaced by Popular Militias composed of armed workers, who fraternized with the discharged soldiers and civil and assault guards, many of them in civilian clothing, in one victorious mass, which transformed them into the vanguard of the revolutionary insurrection.
In Barcelona, during the following week, while the CCMA was still only a provisional power, neighborhood committees2 , as the expression of the power acquired by the defense committees, coordinated their activities in an authentic urban federation that, in the streets and the factories, exercised all power, in every domain, in the absence of any effective exercise of power by the municipal governments, the national government, or the Generalitat. The dozens of barricades erected in Barcelona were still manned in October, controlling vehicular traffic and checking for identification papers and the requisite passes, issued by the various committees, as a means of consolidating, defending and controlling the new revolutionary situation, and above all as a symbol of the new power of the committees.
THE CONTRADICTIONS OF GARCÍA OLIVER AND STATE ANARCHISM
In order to understand the obvious and numerous contradictions of García Oliver, and the dense smokescreen that his memoirs cast over the events of this period, it is necessary to explain his conception of the adaptability of abstract ideological principles to the pressing needs of more immediate political tactics, as well as his conception of the nature of leadership in the confederal organization.
How do we interpret the fact that García Oliver, in El eco de los pasos, in his account of the regional plenums of the 21st and the 26th of July, claims he said that the CCMA was a lid3 on the revolution, while on August 3, only a week later, he considered the CCMA to be the best guarantee of the progress of the revolution?4 How can we resolve the permanent contradiction of García Oliver, between what he did and what he says he did? Did he really propose, at the Regional Plenum of July 21, that the CNT should seize power?
In order to understand the García Oliver of July 1936 we must compare his attitude and his activities of that period with his attitude and activities during the electoral campaign of February 1936. During this electoral campaign, the anarchosyndicalist leaders never explicitly told the workers to vote. They claimed that, regardless of the outcome of the elections, a few months later an armed confrontation was inevitable; if, however, the workers were to vote for the Popular Front, besides obtaining the release of thousands of prisoners, the circumstances of the armed confrontation would also be more favorable for them, since they would benefit from republican legality and republican control of the state apparatus. Therefore, what the CNT-FAI did was much more than to renounce their traditional appeal for abstention from voting in the elections, as García Oliver himself unequivocally explained: “WE ADVISED THE WORKING CLASS TO DO WHATEVER THEY THOUGHT BEST WITH RESPECT TO VOTING, BUT WE DID TELL THEM THAT, IF THEY DID NOT VOTE FOR THE LEFT, ON THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTIONS THEY WOULD HAVE TO CONFRONT THE FASCIST RIGHTISTS WITH ARMS IN HAND. WHILE IF THEY VOTED FOR THE LEFT, BEFORE SIX MONTHS HAD PASSED AFTER THE VICTORY OF THE LEFT WE WOULD HAVE TO CONTRONT THE FASCIST RIGHTISTS WITH ARMS IN HAND. Naturally, the working class of Spain, which had for many years been advised by the CNT not to vote, interpreted our propaganda in exactly the way we wanted them to, that is, that they should vote, since it would always be better to confront the fascist rightists if they were to revolt after being defeated in the elections and ousted from the Government.”5
We note the curious and contorted argument of García Oliver, who, without himself renouncing the abstentionist principle, INDIRECTLY advised the militants and sympathizers to abide by the tactic that was most beneficial for the CNT’s organization by voting. This is the same parallelism that we have to apply in order to grasp García Oliver’s speech at the Plenum of July 21: without himself renouncing “going for broke”, he encouraged the militants to draw the conclusion of how absurd and ridiculous it would be, at that time, to impose an “anarchist dictatorship”.6
In short, García Oliver was capable of making a speech that was formally consistent with the sacrosanct acratic principles, but simultaneously induced the militant rank and file to choose the tactic that he considered most appropriate at the time, however inconsistent it was with respect to those ideological principles.7
This pernicious and baroque way of exercising leadership and “leading the masses” allowed him to indulge months later in a kind of “victimism”, by which he attributed the catastrophic choice of collaborationism exclusively to the CNT rank and file. Forty years later, with the historians unable to consult the minutes of the Plenums of the 21st and the 26th of July, which have conveniently disappeared, who would deny the claim of the author of El eco de los pasos that he proposed “going for broke”, or even that later he unwillingly assumed leadership of the CCMA, or that he would later resist being appointed as anarchist Minister of Justice under Largo Caballero, or that, very much against his will, but for the benefit of the confederal organization, he performed the necessary role of “fire chief” during the Events of May 1937, and then later was the frustrated candidate for Chancellor of the Government of the Generalitat, and then a long etcetera of contradictory sellouts, each one more surrealistic than the last.
In any event, no one is what he says he is, but what he really does, and what the others say he is. And this also applies to García Oliver. Juan García Oliver was an anarchosyndicalist leader who, from his position as the effective president of the CCMA, suffocated the revolution of the committees, when the revolutionary initiatives of these committees superseded the directives of the confederal organization. The collaborationism of the CNT, however, did not just consist of the entry of a few of its leaders into the government; it was the entire organization that was implicated in the various levels of the state apparatus. And this fact was more important than the more than dubious position of the individual García Oliver in favor of an ambiguous “going for broke”. The CNT lacked a program and a tactic that would have prepared it for the seizure of power; and that is why its leaders did nothing but improvise, and sought to collaborate with the other antifascist forces and the government of the Generalitat, despite the “provisional setback” this implied for their anti-state prejudices, which led to the hybrid CCMA. In fact, if the CNT had such a program and such a tactic it would not have been an anarchist trade union, but a Marxist party. The anarchosyndicalist organization and ideology foundered on the rocks of the openly revolutionary situation that arose following the insurrectional victory of July 1936.
And here we return to our analysis of García Oliver’s idea of leadership in the CNT. Not all the militants were equal, nor did their opinions, or proposals, carry the same weight; one only needed to pay heed and give consideration to the speeches of those who, before they mounted the podium, had risked their lives and their liberty for the organization, rather than those who had limited their intervention to talk. Those who had become leaders did so by means of their dedication and courage. This leadership of “the man of action” and, on a secondary level, of the “intellectuals”,8 was an integral aspect of the CNT, although this was not enunciated in its regulations and statutes.
The theoretical horizontal and egalitarian structure of the CNT rapidly disappeared, if it had actually ever prevailed at the highest decision-making levels. The superior committees provided a screen for the upper echelons of the leadership, which debated and decided everything secretly, in its own environment of friends and acquaintances. The great trade union Plenums on a national and regional scale, only served to ratify the resolutions already made by the superior committees, and to make them public.
The CNT functioned in a pyramidal and quasi-Leninist manner, in which a small vanguard debated and decided everything, and this was only made worse by the fact that it was impossible for tendencies to form within the organization that were capable of organizing with their own programs and leaderships against the majority, since the CNT was formally a unitary and horizontal trade union organization.
THE FIRST DAYS OF THE CCMA
The first informal meeting of the CCMA took place during the evening of the 20th, for informational and preparatory purposes, once the CNT delegation had obtained the provisional consent of the Joint Regional Committee. Representing the government of the Generalitat and the ERC were Josep Tarradellas, Artemi Aguadé and Jaume Miravitlles; for the Unió Socialista, Comorera; for the UGT, Vidiella: Peypoch for Acció Catalana; Gorkin for the POUM; and Buenaventura Durruti, Juan García Oliver and Aurelio Fernández represented the CNT-FAI.
Tarradellas proposed the exclusion of Estat Català, as he considered it to be a right wing organization, since its leader Dencás was a fascist who had taken refuge in Italy. García Oliver proposed a representational scheme for participation in the CCMA: three posts for the CNT, three for the UGT, and three for the ERC; two for the FAI, and one for each of the following organizations: Acció Catalana, POUM, the socialists, and the Rabassaires. On that same night the decree concerning the formation of Citizen Militias was sent to be printed in the Official Bulletin of the Generalitat, which was published on the following day. In this decree, Lluís Prunés was named Minister of Defense by Companys, and Pérez Farrás was appointed chief of the militias. The militias were an institution that assumed the responsibility for Defense, without any participation from the national government, which lacked any presence in the government of the Generalitat.9
On July 21 at eleven in the morning, at the Naval School, the first official meeting of the CCMA took place, where García Oliver, ignoring the published decree and the delegates named by the Generalitat, submitted for debate and approval his project for the constitution of a Central Committee of Antifascist Militias that would impose a new “revolutionary order”. The CNT had renounced any intention of seizing power, but it was not ready to become a simple bit player in the Generalitat and thus renounce its armed victory in the streets, which the rank and file militants would never have tolerated. After a debate in which Artemi Aguadé argued against Juan García Oliver’s idea of the concept of “revolutionary order”, the CCMA was officially founded. The leadership of the CCMA was exercised de facto by García Oliver. The delegates at the meeting10 approved the following text, which was published as a Decree:
“The Committee of Antifascist Militias of Cataluña having been constituted, this institution, in accordance with the Decree published by the government of the Generalitat of Cataluña in today’s Official Bulletin, has approved the following resolutions, with which all citizens must comply:
“1. Revolutionary order is established, which all the organizations represented on the Committee are pledged to uphold.
“2. For control and security, the Committee has appointed the necessary squads for the purpose of ensuring rigorous compliance with its orders. Towards this end, the squads will bear the corresponding credentials that will identify their personnel.
“3. These squads will be the only ones accredited by the Committee. Any other persons or groups that act outside the purview of these squads will be considered to be rebels and will suffer the punishments that the Committee considers appropriate.
“4. The night squads will be especially strict with regard to those who disrupt the revolutionary order.
“5. Between one and five in the morning traffic will be restricted to the following elements: a) all those with credentials proving that they are members of any of the organizations that constitute the Committee of Militias; b) those persons who are accompanied by any of the above elements who will vouch for their moral character; c) Those who can prove that they had to leave their homes for reasons of force majeure.
“6. For the purpose of recruiting elements for the Antifascist Militias, the organizations that constitute the Committee are authorized to open corresponding recruitment and training facilities. The conditions regarding this recruitment will be set forth in detail in internal regulations.
“7. The Committee hopes that, given the need to construct a revolutionary order to confront the fascist groups, it will not have to resort to disciplinary measures in order to enforce obedience.
The decree forming the CCMA was therefore nothing extraordinary, and was primarily oriented towards measures to ensure public order. The term, “revolutionary order” does not allow us to seriously speak of anything like dual power, as some historians have. Nor did the contemporary press emphasize the constitution of the CCMA as anything extraordinary, nor did it at any time view the CCMA as a revolutionary government that was a rival of the Generalitat. The Generalitat, for its part, continued to lead a phantom existence, assuming responsibility for the secondary tasks that the CCMA delegated to it, and its authority was practically limited to publishing the Official Bulletin.
In Barcelona, the defense committees, having been transformed into revolutionary neighborhood committees, in the absence of any directives from any organization and without any other coordination than was required by the revolutionary initiatives of each moment, organized the hospitals, overwhelmed by an avalanche of wounded, organized popular kitchens, requisitioned cars, trucks, weapons, factories and buildings, searched private homes and arrested suspects, and created a network of supply committees in each neighborhood, which were coordinated in a Supply Committee for the entire city, in which the Food Supply Trade Union played a significant role. The revolutionary contagion affected all social sectors and all organizations that were sincerely sympathetic to the new revolutionary situation. This constituted the only real power of the CCMA, which appeared to the people in arms as the antifascist institution that must conduct the war and impose the new revolutionary order.
We have already seen how a Plenum of Local and District Committees had on July 21 renounced the seizure of power, understood as a dictatorship of the anarchist leaders rather than as the imposition, coordination and extension of the power that the revolutionary committees were already exercising in the streets. On the 23rd a secret joint plenum of the superior committees of the CNT and the FAI closed ranks around the decision made to collaborate in the CCMA, and to prepare to overcome the resistance of the militants at the upcoming Plenum on the 26th. On that same day García Oliver broadcast a speech directed at the workers of Zaragoza, calling upon them to go into the streets and let themselves be killed by the fascists.12 At a bar across from the Pino church, the Unified Socialist Party (PSUC) was formed, as a merger of four small socialist and Stalinist groups.
We have also seen how, on the 24th, the first two anarchist columns departed for the front under the command of Durruti and Ortiz. Durruti broadcast a speech over the radio in which he warned his listeners of the need to be vigilant against a possible counterrevolutionary coup. The revolutionary situation in Barcelona had to be consolidated, in order to “go for broke” after the capture of Zaragoza.
On July 25 Companys appeared at the Naval School to accuse the members of the CCMA of being ineffective in assuring public order, in the face of the indifference of García Oliver who dismissed him in a threatening manner.
On the 26th of July, the definitive collaboration of the CNT-FAI in the CCMA was ratified that morning at the Regional Plenum, a decision that had already been approved by the superior committees of the CNT-FAI in their debate on the 23rd and at the previous Regional Plenum held on the 21st.
The Plenum of the 26th unanimously confirmed that the CNT would maintain the same position approved already on the 21st of July to participate in this new institution of class collaboration known as the CCMA. This same plenum of the 26th created a Supply Commission, dependent on the CCMA, to which the various supply committees that had emerged all over the city were ordered to submit,13 and at the same time ordered a partial termination of the general strike. The summary of the main resolutions approved at this Plenum was published in the form of a Decree,14 in order to ensure that they were understood and observed. The CCMA met on the evening of the 26th to create a flow chart and schematic of various departments: War, Militias of Barcelona, Regional Militias, Supply Commission, Propaganda, Authorizations and Permits, Control Patrols, Military Hospitals, Transport and Subsidies.
García Oliver was in charge of the Department of War. Abad de Santillán was responsible for supplying the militias, assisted by Miret and Pons. Aurelio Fernández was named chief of the Department of Investigation, or, which amounts to the same thing, the real chief of the revolutionary police, with the assistance of José Asens and Tomás Fábregas (Acció Catalana), who led the Control Patrols. Marcos Alcón (who replaced Durruti) was responsible for the Transport section, with the assistance of Durán Rosell (who replaced Antonio López Raimundo, who was killed on the front at Huesca), from the UGT. Josep Miret (Unió Socialista, later to merge with the PSUC) and Joan Pons (ERC) were in charge of the Department of Regional Militias. Miravitlles (ERC) was made leader of the Department of Propaganda and Torrents (Unió de Rabassaires) was appointed head of the Supply Commission. Rafael Vidiella (replacing José del Barrio, the delegate of the Carlos Marx Column) was also appointed to the Department of Investigation, which was led by Aurelio Fernández. Joan Pons Garlandí (ERC) was named to head the Department of Authorizations and Permits (passports). Artemi Aguadé (ERC) led the War Hospitals department. Josep Tarradellas was appointed to head the decisive department of the Economy and War Industries. The brothers Guarner, Díaz Sandino and Pérez Farrás were named as military advisors. Lluís Prunés, Minister of Defense of the Generalitat, soon resigned from his ostensible but scarcely effective position (which was not recognized) as president of the CCMA.
The dominance of García Oliver and his clashes with the government of the Generalitat were constant features of the CCMA until its dissolution, although they diminished in intensity, importance and interest with each passing week, both because of the fact that García Oliver lost the support of the Regional Committee, and because of the ineffectiveness of the CCMA and the very early secret decision of the CNT to dissolve it. The most serious confrontation was undoubtedly García Oliver’s veto of the Casanovas government, proposed by Companys on July 31, 1936, in which two PSUC Ministers were admitted: Joan Comorera and Rafael Vidiella, and one from the Unió de Rabassaires: Josep Calvet. García Oliver’s ultimatum, which included a threat to overthrow the Generalitat, because he saw the new government as an attack against the existence of the CCMA, ended with Companys relenting and modifying the composition of the government (now with only republicans) just a few days after having published the decree of its constitution.
The position of the superior committees15 of the CNT-FAI was incoherent, unsustainable and contradictory. Their ideological principles prevented them from entering the Government of the Generalitat, but they did not want that government to pose a threat to the CCMA, either, and thus sought to keep the government subject to an institution that was not, and did not want to be, a revolutionary government that was an alternative to the Generalitat. The CCMA did not hold all power in its hands, nor did it want to leave all power in the hands of anyone else. The anarchosyndicalist leaders wanted to consolidate the existing revolutionary situation. If this has been called dual power it is only because there was no understanding of the fact that dual power entails a ferocious and merciless struggle, carried out between two opposed poles, to destroy the rival power.16 In the case of Cataluña it was more appropriate to speak of a duplication and complementarity of powers divided among various ministries of the government and the CCMA, which occasionally proved to be problematic, ineffective and irritating for everyone involved. García Oliver’s threat against the formation of the Casanovas government had no other purpose than to preserve this duplication of powers. The anarchosyndicalist participation in the tasks of the government by way of the CCMA was unsatisfactory. But no one dared to propose to the armed masses of libertarian militants that the anarchosyndicalists should directly enter the government. When reality clashes with principles, it is the latter that usually have to give way.
In the meantime, the CCMA created the Council of the Unified New School (July 27, 1936), the Commission of War Industries (August 7, 1936), the Control Patrols (August 11, 1936) and the Council of the Economy (August 11, 1936). There was a tendency underway towards an exclusively military specialization of the CCMA. In reality what was taking place was a process of integration of all the revolutionary initiatives into the government machinery. All these mixed commissions had a high degree of autonomy and independent power of decision, besides counting on a notable working class presence, even at the presidency and the leadership levels, but they were always organically embedded in the various departments of the government of the Generalitat, which was beginning to acquire prestige, presence and portions of power, to the permanent detriment of the CCMA and the revolutionary committees. The most notable case was that of the Commission of War Industries, in which Tarradellas was able to form a team of professional technicians, such as Colonel Jiménez de la Beraza, the Head of the Air Force Miguel Ramírez and the Artillery Captain Luís Arizón, who, together with highly skilled workers, such as the metal worker Eugenio Vallejo,17 a pioneer in creating an incipient war industry after July 20, who brought the collaboration and enthusiasm of the various trade unions and committees, and successfully created a war industry from absolutely nothing, which attained significant production levels in only a few months.
THE COUNCIL OF THE ECONOMY
The purpose of the Council of the Economy was to “provide a suitable structure for and normalize the functioning of the Catalan economy”, as the Decree of the Generalitat that ratified its creation stated on August 11, 1936. It was an institution of class collaboration between the different antifascist forces that composed the CCMA, in a revolutionary situation dominated by the political and military hegemony of the CNT, and its goal was to channel, control, regulate and neutralize, or minimize as much as possible, the methodical expropriation of the bourgeoisie that the proletariat was carrying out. It was the point of departure for the counterrevolution to recover the functions lost by the state apparatus, first transforming the expropriations into collectivizations, which were nothing more than appropriations of the enterprises by their workers, reflecting a kind of “trade union capitalism”,18 and finally established rigid control over the Catalan economy, which was planned, centralized and directed by the Generalitat. In this manner a parallel evolution was underway, of a legislative character, but also one that imposed effective control over the enterprises by the Generalitat which, starting with the Plan of Socialist Transformation (August 17, 1936), concluded with the Decree on Collectivizations and Workers Control (October 24, 1936), which imposed an inspector appointed by the Generalitat on the collectivized enterprises. The explanation of the Collectivization Decree, and its public introduction and imposition on the working class that took place during the Conference on the New Economy on December 5-6 of 1936, although presented as a kind of working class assembly with decision-making powers, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The much-mythologized self-management of the collectives never went beyond a capitalism of trade union management and state planning, against which the industrial workers of Barcelona fought in the spring of 1937, in favor of the alternative of socialization.
THE CONTROL PATROLS
Already during the weeks prior to the military uprising the Nosotros group had organized some requisition patrols, which had been reconnoitering the churches to prepare for their plundering, in order to obtain money, precious metals and artworks with which weapons could be bought from foreign countries.19
These requisition patrols went into action on July 19 and engaged in frenetic activity during the first few weeks. The atomization of power, the confinement of the forces of public order to their barracks, and the absence of control and coordination on the part of the CCMA, caused Barcelona to experience a wave of looting and terror, as a natural continuation of the street battles against the military uprising. It was a kind of extension of the social war in which priests, bourgeoisie and rightists were enemies to be hunted down and killed by patrols of armed men, subject to no authority, who defended themselves from attacks from snipers for a whole week. On July 28 the CNT-FAI published a serious warning that all disturbers of the public order who took justice into their own hands would be shot. And some outstanding militants were in fact shot,20 along with various criminals and opportunists. In order to quell this social disorder the CCMA created the Control Patrols, conceived as a revolutionary police force, on August 11.
The Control Patrols lasted much longer than the CCMA, as they were not dissolved until early June 1937, shortly after the events known as “the May Days” of 1937.
They were formed into eleven sections, distributed throughout all the neighborhoods of Barcelona. At first they had a total of seven hundred men, plus eleven commanding officers, one for each section. They wore uniforms composed of a leather jacket with zipper, corduroy pants, militia cap and a black and red bandana, they carried identification cards, and they were armed. Some of them came from the requisition patrols and others from the defense committees, although many of the latter proved to be reluctant to act as “police” for ideological reasons, which allowed new, unreliable elements to enter the Control Patrols. Furthermore, only half the members of the Patrols were members of the CNT, or the FAI; the other half were members of the other organizations that formed the CCMA: POUM, ERC and PSUC, for the most part.
The Control Patrols were under the authority of the Committee of Investigation of the CCMA, led by Aurelio Fernández (FAI) and Salvador González (PSUC), who replaced Vidiella. The central office of the Committee of Investigation was at Number 617 Gran Vía, where the two delegates of the Patrols, José Asens (FAI) and Tomás Fábregas (Acció Catalana) were based. The Patrolmen’s wages, ten pesetas a day, were paid by the government of the Generalitat. Although all the sections made arrests, and some of those arrested were interrogated at the old Casa Cambó, the central prison was located in the former convent of the Nuns of San Elías. The warden of the prison was Silvio Torrents “Arias” (FAI), the delegate of the central office of the Control Patrols. A tribunal was constituted at San Elías, created by the Control Patrols themselves, without the formal consent of any organization, whose mission was to judge the detainees as quickly as possible. This tribunal was composed of the Patrol members Riera, the brothers Arias, Aubí and Bonet, of the FAI; África de las Heras and Salvador González of the PSUC; Coll from the ERC and Barceló from the POUM. The operations of this tribunal were totally independent of the CCMA, any other organization and the Generalitat. It was led by Aurelio Fernández, Manuel Escorza, Vicente Gil (“Portela”), Dionisio Eroles and José Asens. The detainees were interrogated summarily, without any judicial safeguards of any kind.
The Control Patrols included, at the time of their founding, the following sections: the First, or Casco Viejo, at Number 31 Ancha Street, under delegate Miguel Lastre; the Second, at the intersection of Aragón and Muntaner Streets (Number 182 Aragón Street). The Third, covering Barceloneta and the Estación del Norte. The Fourth included the working class neighborhoods of Poble Sec and Can Tunis. The Fifth, the working class neighborhoods of Sants and Hostafrancs, its headquarters located at the Orfeó de Sants on Galileo Street—its delegate was “Mario” (FAI); the Sixth, the upper class districts of Bonanova and Pedralbes, with its headquarters on Muntaner Street; The Seventh, the Gracia and San Gervasio neighborhoods, with its headquarters on Balmes Street; the Eighth, the working class neighborhood of El Clot—its delegate was Oliver (FAI); the Ninth, the working class neighborhood of San Andrés and its delegate went by the name of Pérez (FAI); the Tenth, Horta; the Eleventh, with its headquarters at the Ateneo Colón, at Number 166 Pedro VI Street, in the working class neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo—its delegate was Antonio López (FAI), and it shared its headquarters with the Patrols of San Adrián. The patrolmen had no other restrictions on their jurisdiction that were clearly expressed other than to respect the rights of the freemasons and the consulates.21
Aurelio Fernández had effective control of the borders. He competed with Pons (ERC) with regard to the issuing and control of passports and travel permits. Aurelio assigned Vicente Gil (“Portela”) to supervise control over the airfields and ports.
Aurelio Fernández worked very closely with Manuel Escorza, the real decision-maker who directed, coordinated and informed the other CNT “police” officials: José Asens, the delegate of the Control Patrols, and Dionisio Eroles, the Secretary of the Council of Workers and Soldiers, an institution created to purge the military and police of elements whose loyalty was in doubt.
Manuel Escorza del Val was the director of the Services of Investigation and Information of the CNT-FAI, that is, an institution that was not under the authority of the CCMA, but of the regional committees of the CNT and the FAI, in other words, it was a libertarian institution that, in accordance with the proposal made by Escorza at the Plenum of July 21, constituted an attempt to create an autonomous and independent armed force that would be capable of “giving the boot” someday to the government of the Generalitat. The central investigation patrol, which was under its authority, made San Elías, which was already the central prison for all the Control Patrols, into a fortress, a power center, a general barracks and the headquarters of the tribunal of the Patrols.
This Investigation Service of the CNT-FAI carried out missions involving information gathering and espionage, even in France, where Minué, Escorza’s brother-in-law, established an efficient information gathering network.
Manuel Escorza del Val, with his office on the top floor of the former Casa Cambó, had confiscated the archives of the employers association (Fomento del Trabajo) and the chamber of commerce (the Lliga), which provided him with many names, dates, relations and addresses, with which he carried out an efficient labor of repression against rightists, priests and individuals dissatisfied with the “new revolutionary order”. It was Escorza, for example, who revealed the scandal and the conspiracy of the plot of Casanovas against Companys, in November 1936.
Salvador González established at the Hotel Colón and the Círculo Ecuestre a prison and a network of repression under the control of the PSUC, similar to that of Escorza, with the help of Olaso, Rodríguez Sala, África de las Heras and Sala. Soler Arumí, of the ERC, set up his own repressive apparatus at the Centro Federal at the Paseo de Gracia.
These repressive institutions had no connection or fealty to the Generalitat or the CCMA, or even to their own organizations. This autonomy of the repressive forces, which allowed them to act with total independence, without having to justify their activities to anyone, degenerated, among the cenetistas as well as the PSUC, POUM and the ERC, into abuses and unnecessary and unjustifiable arbitrary actions. The practice of taking priests, bourgeois, and rightists “for a ride” became a regular occurrence, especially along the roads in Arrabassada, el Morrot, Can Tunis, Somorrostro, Vallvidriera and Tibidabo; and later at the cemetery of Moncada. The shakedowns and payoffs in the form of money, gold or jewels in exchange for allowing arrested persons to avoid imprisonment and trial,22 whether they were priests or rightists, was absolutely odious, corrupt and reprehensible. We must differentiate between the police and repressive duties carried out against those who opposed the “new revolutionary order”, typical of any regime, from the corruption that was practiced on behalf of the patrol members and their leaders, which only grew worse as the impression that the republican side might lose the war began to make headway.
During the first two months of their existence the Patrols generated a climate of social anxiety and insecurity due to their arbitrary actions and their multiplicity of allegiances, since there were the patrols of the CCMA, those of each organization and each neighborhood (or town), factory or barricade. Looking back on this period, those who have focused on the intestine struggle among the antifascists, that is, the struggle of the PSUC and the ERC against the CNT, attributed the repression of the first months solely to the anarchists, overlooking the repression carried out by the ERC and the PSUC, which, after May, established in Barcelona the ubiquitous terror of the Military Investigation Service (SIM).23
The Control Patrols constituted the failed attempt on the part of the CCMA to corral the prevailing public disorder. Not only did they constitute an undesirable political police of the CCMA, but they also acted in parallel with the patrols of the political police of each organization; and in competition with the armed patrols of the militiamen of the defense committees, who were answerable to no other authority other than their own neighborhood, factory or village committees, and who continued to man the barricades months after July, and who at their own initiative and risk carried out requisitions, confiscations and “took people for rides”, which allowed them to finance their own activities and even to buy arms from foreign countries.24 These were the autonomous militiamen or patrolmen, from every organization or from no organization, who were not subject to the orders of the CCMA’s Control Patrols, and who might or might not bring their detainees or plundered booty to San Elías, and who often executed their own justice directly in accordance with their own understanding. In these conditions, no one could clearly differentiate, much less control, or direct, the limits between the necessary class terror, the ambiguous “new revolutionary order” of the CCMA, and mere crime, with the consequent discredit that fell upon anyone who wanted to push forward the “revolutionary conquests” and extend the social war. Once again we find ourselves faced with the atomization of power that prevailed in the summer of 1936: patrols of the CCMA; patrols of the CNT-FAI, of the POUM, the PSUC, and the ERC; patrols of every defense committee, every town, every factory, every neighborhood, and even every barricade; all autonomous and self-financing, acting in parallel, without being answerable to any central authority or outside the control of the authorities to which they were supposed to be subject.
THE MILITARY FAILURE OF THE CCMA AND ITS STRUGGLE AGAINST THE COMMITTEES
With the formation of all these Commissions and Councils (of the Economy, of Supplies) the CCMA was gradually transformed into an institution that specialized exclusively in matters of Defense and Public Safety, and therefore became more and more estranged from any pretense to constitute a revolutionary government that would be capable of replacing the government of the Generalitat. This refusal to become a revolutionary government, however, led irremediably to the CCMA’s failure in its attempts to constitute an institution for the direction and centralization of the war against fascism, due to the political incapacity of this institution to become the sole organizing and leading force of the new army. The improvised militias were formed without a single directive institution. Instead of mobilizing a unitary proletarian army, the militia columns were formed under the aegis of the various parties and trade unions, with the concomitant problems of coordination, homogenization and centralization. The Stalinists and the government of the Generalitat easily used this structure to consolidate the counterrevolutionary advance a few months later. But if the leaders of the CNT had renounced an anarchist dictatorship, how were they going to impose an anarchist army? Furthermore, the absence of a revolutionary theory, program and perspectives led the anarchist leaders, left behind by the revolutionary initiatives of the rank and file committees, to engage in constant improvisation which, combined with their optimistic view that the war would only last for a few weeks, prevented the superior committees of the CNT from understanding the future significance of their erroneous decisions. The CCMA therefore also renounced the main reason for its creation: to create volunteer workers militias, supply them and direct the war. The chronic shortage of weapons and ammunition, which were not distributed to the fronts and the columns that needed them, but wherever the leaders of the parties decided, depending on their ideological affinities, was used by each militia to discredit its rivals. The slogan, “go for broke after capturing Zaragoza”, was turned against its proponents, for if Zaragoza was not taken there would be no anarchist coup attempt; that is, the anarchist militias must not be given arms. The inability to impose a unitary command structure on the militias led to serious deficiencies with regard to their organization and operations, since there was not the least coordination and planning of military operations even among the various militias on the same front.
The CCMA therefore failed with regard to the military question as well. The only function that it performed adequately, and which was the function that all of its components, with the exception of the POUM and the anarchists, explicitly wanted it to perform, was that of defending and strengthening the government of the Generalitat; this was in any case its principal objective after the first week of September, when the CCMA voted to dissolve itself. The Generalitat, as well as the Stalinists and ERC, would deftly capitalize on the opportunity offered by the constant errors of the CCMA. On October 24 the Decree militarizing the militias established the foundations for the bourgeois army of the Republic. The only thing the militiamen could do was to resist the inevitable militarization, which was already implemented by March of 1937.
Meanwhile, the revolutionary situation in the streets was indifferent to the collaborationist directives imposed by the anarchosyndicalist leaders. The atomized power of the various Local Committees extended throughout all of Cataluña, with various degrees of power and autonomy, and which in some locations reached the level of making an absolute break with republican legality and the kind of equilibrium that prevailed at the time in Barcelona between the Generalitat and the CCMA. Thus, in Lérida, the CNT, POUM and UGT did away with the city government and constituted a Popular Committee that excluded the republican forces in order to constitute a power based only on the working class organizations. Not only Josep Rodés (POUM), who assumed the position of police commissioner, but also Joaquín Vila (UGT), who was appointed as the delegate to the Generalitat, usurped these positions to enhance the power of the Popular Committee of Lérida; and to these were added the position assumed by Francisco Tomás (FAI) as the head of the newly-created Committee of Popular Information. These local revolutionary committees constituted authentic city-states, or committee-governments,25 imposing fines and collecting taxes, recruiting militiamen for the front, forming control patrols to impose their authority, carrying out public works financed by revolutionary tax measures to solve the problem of massive unemployment, imposing a new rationalist educational model, confiscating food, etc. These local committees replaced the municipal governments, depriving the Generalitat of the least influence in their towns. Throughout Cataluña, without any directives from the CNT, a methodical expropriation of the factories and properties of the bourgeoisie, the churches and monasteries was carried out, at the same time that, in Barcelona, the CCMA was sharing out among the various organizations the barracks, printing presses, newspapers and some buildings and hotels. The committees complied with the directives of the CCMA if they did not conflict with the interests of the revolution, but mounted enormous resistance when they were thought to be the product of a compromise with the bourgeoisie and the government of the Generalitat. At the same time, however, the CCMA had to rely on these local committees if it wanted its directives to be observed. The internal conflict within the leadership of the CNT-FAI, between those who supported and those who were opposed to collaboration, was also manifested in the problematic relations between the Central Committee of Antifascist Militias and the local revolutionary institutions. The government of the Generalitat restricted itself to providing a legal sanction for the social and economic reality of the collectivizations and “revolutionary conquests”, as the only way it could hope to acquire the prestige and the acceptance that it lacked. The CCMA could barely govern, or give any orders at all, outside of the city of Barcelona, without the acquiescence and collaboration of the local committees or trade unions. The weakness of the latter was rooted in the impossibility of their consolidation as an authentic alternative power on the scale of all of Cataluña, without the coordinating and centralizating support of a working class organization, much less against the opposition of all the existing organizations.
The CCMA and the Generalitat coincided in their policy of supporting the restoration of the powers of the old municipal governments against the usurpation of their powers by the local revolutionary committees, and this mission was performed with great effectiveness by the Department of Regional Militias, led by Josep Miret and Joan Pons. This Department stripped the local committees of the responsibility for the recruitment and organization of the militiamen, which the committees had spontaneously exercised during the first few weeks, and transferred this responsibility to the regional commissions, based on the new territorial division of Cataluña. This regional structure facilitated the subjugation of the various local committees, which had to send delegations to the regional offices, far from the pressure of their local revolutionary conditions.
Thus, not only was the CCMA not a revolutionary government that coordinated the activities of the local committees; it saw the latter as signifying a diminution of its authority. And the anarchist leaders not only helped to consolidate the power of the Generalitat, but were also quite pleased with the weakening of the local committees. That is why they allowed Miret of the PSUC and Pons of the ERC to undermine the power of the local committees in Cataluña. This was another serious error on the part of the leaders of the CNT, because the weakening of the local committees undermined the real basis of the CNT’s power outside the city of Barcelona.
In Barcelona, the defense committees, upon which the real power of the CCMA was based, existed in almost all the neighborhoods and in some confiscated buildings, among which were the Hotel Número 1 at the Plaza de España, the Escolapios at the Ronda de San Pablo, the Estación de Francia, the Estación del Norte, and the defense committees of Barceloneta, Pueblo Nuevo, San Andrés and Gaudí Avenue, among others.
THE MINUTES OF THE MEETINGS OF THE CCMA AND THE DEBATE CONCERNING ITS DISSOLUTION
According to the account of Joan Pons Garlandí, as related in his memoires, two stages of the CCMA’s history can be distinguished, which coincided with the period when its offices were located at the Naval School, next to the Gobernación, at the Plaza Palacio, and the period after their transfer26 at the end of July to the Capitanía at the Paseo Colón. During the first stage no minutes were recorded, or at least none have been located to date. In the second stage, Miravitlles was responsible for drafting them, until he appointed a secretary for the purpose. They exist, but in an incomplete form.27
The nocturnal meetings of the CCMA were usually held on every other day, very late at night, so that the majority of the members could attend, who were busy during the rest of the day with the responsibilities of their various positions. They tended to be somewhat chaotic and disorganized. Problems were resolved as they came up, in an improvised manner. Some members, such as García Oliver, Rovira and Vidiella, exhibited from the beginning their oratorical gifts, with very long, vacuous and boring speeches that interested no one, which is why they were not even recorded in the minutes of the meetings. All the members of the CCMA attended its meetings heavily armed and ostentatiously displayed their enormous pistols. The threats made by Durruti against Miravitlles, reminding him of his authorship of an article in which he proclaimed the equivalence of FAIstas and Fascistas, and García Oliver’s insulting treatment of Companys, caused the first meetings to generate a certain climate of tension, which was definitively dispelled when the offices of the CCMA were moved to the Capitanía.
The meetings of the CCMA were often attended by people who were not members of the CCMA, such as technicians, reporters or advisors. Resolutions were usually unanimously approved. Dissenting views were recorded in the minutes, until, at the meeting of September 6, it was decided to record only the final resolution.
Ever since the end of July 1936, David Antona, the Interim Secretary of the National Committee of the CNT in Madrid, had been receiving offers from the Giral government to collaborate with the republican government and the other antifascist forces, offers that were debated at the National Plenum of Regional Committees held in Madrid on July 28.28 At this meeting the representatives of the Catalan Regional Committee became enmeshed in a debate regarding whether the CNT should or should not seize power. Once the option of establishing libertarian communism was rejected, on the basis of the argument that the CNT was a minority grouping outside of Cataluña, the debate focused on the ways and means of the CNT’s collaboration with government bodies.
During the entire month of August the anarchist “notables” were split over the dilemma of whether they should put an end to the CCMA, without entering the government of the Generalitat, or maintain it. There were two basic approaches: the first consisted in creating technical commissions in the various Councils (Ministries of the Generalitat) as a formula for controlling without participating in the government: this approach was exemplified in the commission of war industries or the Council of the Economy;29 the second was to do the same thing but within the revolutionary institutions, formally based on legal powers, but upholding a revolutionary power that would provide them with a real position of power: this was exemplified in the Control Patrols, the defense committees and the Committee of Investigation of the CCMA, coordinated and directed by Manuel Escorza from the Committee of Information and Investigation of the CNT-FAI, which was answerable only to the Regional Committee of the CNT and the Peninsular Committee of the FAI.
On August 330 , in a resolution signed by Jaime Miravitlles as secretary of the CCMA, various agreements of a minor nature were approved, such as the confiscation of the Elizalde and Anet factories; the creation of an ammunition dump at Lérida, with subsidiary storage depots at Caspe and Monzón; a salute to the Durruti column “for its discipline and organizational acumen”; the approval of a motion to inform in writing the Local Federation of Trade Unions of all decisions of a general nature made by the CCMA; the dispatch of a delegate to oversee the manufacture of bombs at Reus; the selection of loyal officers from a list presented by UMRE; the appointment of Jiménez de la Beraza and the brothers Guarner as technical specialists on the General Staff of the Militias; etc.
Already, on August 17, while a Plenum of Local and Regional Committees of the CNT was being held, the decision to dissolve the CCMA was made, although this was not yet made public to the confederal militants.31 The explanation that was given for the resolutions adopted at this Plenum, in the Report of the delegation of the CNT to the Extraordinary Congress of the AIT, leaves no room for doubt: “It was considered that, in order to avoid the duplication of powers represented by the CCMA and the Government of the Generalitat, the former had to disappear and the Council of the Generalitat of Cataluña had to be formed, carrying out some more positive activities without the hindrance of a clash of powers and to put an end to the pretext that the democracies will not help us ‘because the anarchists are in charge’.”32 The goal of this maneuver was, in short, to replace the CCMA with a system of technical commissions, attached to the Ministries, and to limit the authority of the CCMA to military questions. This resolution was ratified on August 21 at a Regional Plenum of anarchist groups.33
Finally, at the end of August, a secret Plenum of the Libertarian Movement of Cataluña was held. García Oliver, tired of the endless debates, shouted to the delegates, “Either we collaborate, or else we impose a dictatorship: You decide!”34 The Plenum had to decide whether or not to accept the invitation, which arose from numerous conversations between Companys and Marianet, to the CNT to participate in the “Council” of the Generalitat. The Plenum finally decided in favor of the entry of the CNT-FAI into the government of the Generalitat.35
On August 31,36 at 11:30 p.m., a plenary session of the CCMA was held, attended by the majority of the members and delegates. García Matas reported on the situation of the republican forces in Mallorca. He warned the delegates that the enemy possessed six fighter squadrons that posed a threat not only to the Baleares but also to Barcelona and Valencia. He thought that the enemy was preparing for a major offensive in Mallorca. Jiménez de la Beraza, whose argument was then supported by Marcos Alcón, insisted on the necessity of finishing off the assault on Huesca in order to shift the scarce war materiel that was available to operations at Mallorca. Vidiella emphasized the international importance of the Mallorca campaign.
At the next Plenary of the CCMA, held on September 2,37 Aguadé reported on the fate of the hospital ship, “Marqués de Comillas”, filling in the gaps in the information provided at the previous meeting, concerning the damage inflicted on the ship by a bombing attack. Miret proposed, and his proposal was approved, to order Captain Bayo to evacuate the military personnel and remove all war materiel from the ship, which was henceforth to be just a hospital.
Miret reported on the events at Lérida, concerning the theft of provisions, weapons and munitions. A long and bitter debate ensued in which Aurelio Fernández, Gironella (POUM), Abad de Santillán, Artemi Aguadé, Marcos Alcón, Torrents, Fábregas, Vidiella, Asens, and others participated. It was decided that the theft was the result of shortages everywhere, both in Lérida as well as in Barcelona, and that the irregularities that were being denounced had already been abolished due to the new measures implemented by the War, Supply and Health Commissions. It was announced that some of the weapons that had been stolen had already been recovered. And it was resolved that the Commission of War, reinforced with representatives from all the organizations that were members of the CCMA, accompanied by a strong contingent of armed militiamen, should scour all the towns of Cataluña in order to collect all the arms and munitions they could find. With regard to the composition of the Committee of Militias of the city of Lérida,38 it was resolved that it would be required to allow the entry of representatives of the ERC. At the suggestion of the comrades from Lérida, the CCMA resolved that the Commission of War should relocate to that city, which was a strategic point on the Aragón front, for the purpose of resolving the serious problems that continued to accumulate, with regard to troop movements and the provision of arms and other war materiel.
José Asens proposed, and his proposal was approved, to abolish all the special seals of the Militias, and sections of the Central Committee, in order to prevent abuses, and that there should only be one official seal of the CCMA.
Marcos Alcón reported on the problems posed for the Transport Commission by the need to constantly requisition cars and trucks, exposing the abuses of the various organizations and public bodies, which possessed an excessive number of vehicles. It was resolved to grant full powers to the Transport Commission to requisition all the individually owned vehicles in Barcelona and all the trucks that it should need, as well as to deprive the organizations, groups and public bodies of all their excess vehicles.
Asens reported that there was an insufficient number of patrolmen to attend to the volume of services that had to be performed. He thought that all the units of the Militias, including those of the Capitanía, should send contingents for the Control Patrols, which were also supposed to act in coordination with the Investigation Patrols. Aguadé thought that the Patrols had to be motorized, and that it was necessary to carry out a purge of the elements that formed the Sections. It was resolved to increase the number of Patrolmen, the precise number to be established by the Commission, and that the Investigation Patrols should be integrated with the Patrol Sections, and also that the personnel of the Sections should be purged.
Asens also proposed the need to carry out an investigation in Caspe concerning the activity of Antonio Ortiz,39 which was opposed by Aurelio Fernández because he thought that it was improper to attend to matters that were not the result of the conduct of the CCMA.
A proposal of Miret and Fernández was approved, which mandated that, at the next meeting, a project should be undertaken to regulate investigatory proceedings, and that the latter may not be authorized with any other seal than that of the CCMA.
A proposal made by Lluís Prunés was approved to require that all the special taxes, subscriptions, donations and receipts from festivals to raise money for the militias should be controlled by the CCMA.
All the resolutions were unanimously approved, and the session ended at three in the morning on September 3.
On September 3 a National Plenum of Regional Federations was held in Madrid to debate Largo Caballero’s offer to name Antonio Moreno as confederal Minister, an appointment that had been “provisionally” accepted by Moreno and by Interim National Secretary David Antona. The National Committee, basing its deliberations on the resolutions of the recent Plenum held in Cataluña, where the participation of the CNT in the “Council” of the Generalitat was approved, declared its support for participation in the government of Largo Caballero. The delegates, however, rejected this proposal. After lengthy debate a compromise was reached, consisting in the CNT’s support for the new government and the formation in each Ministry of an auxiliary commission composed of representatives of the CNT. At a press conference held on September 4, the formation of the first40 government of the socialist Largo Caballero was announced, without any CNT representation. On September 8, Largo Caballero rejected the CNT’s proposal concerning auxiliary commissions, but remained open to the offer of a Ministry to the CNT.41
At 11:45 p.m. on September 4,42 the CCMA met again, with the attendance of most of the delegates. Giménez de la Beraza reported on the war materiel available for the various fronts. He emphasized the lack of small arms ammunition and the advisability of proceeding to requisition all the supplies of such ammunition throughout Cataluña, and also recommended that gunpowder be manufactured, which would take two months, with all the problems that such a timetable entailed. He mentioned the negotiations being carried out in foreign countries and the positions of the various governments “with respect to our struggle against fascism”.
Aurelio Fernández explained that the Section of Investigation was “proceeding to requisition arms and ammunition, which some organizations had already handed over”, adding that “we have to find and collect all we need”.
Guarner reported that the conquest of Huesca “will require one million bullets”.
García Oliver reported that the retreat from Mallorca had been carried out “without the knowledge of the Committee”, and that it was the result of a powerful bombardment by the enemy and the interference of the Madrid government, “which had ordered the withdrawal without informing Cataluña”.
Prunés informed the delegates that Captain Bayo “had been ordered by the Committee of the ship ‘Jaime I’, in the name of the Squadron Committee and the Government of the Republic, to abandon Mallorca with all the men and materiel, in order to proceed to Málaga, and that he was given two hours to decide and forty eight hours to leave”.
González revealed that some of the militiamen who had returned from Mallorca said that there was a heavy bombardment and that Bayo ordered them to throw equipment into the sea. An order was issued for Bayo to present himself immediately and that various militiamen who were willing to provide testimony should also present themselves before the CCMA.
Aurelio Fernández called attention to the receipt of several messages by the CNT from outstanding comrades in Zaida, requesting that an investigation be carried out concerning the events at Belchite “after the withdrawal of the Ortiz Column”. Santillán said that these reports and the documentation provided did not support “any specific accusation”, but that he was in favor of pursuing the investigation. García Oliver stated that the withdrawal from Belchite was due “to the lack of artillery”. He appointed a commission to carry out the investigation.
A proposal to transfer the gasoline stored at Can Tunis to another location to prevent its destruction by bombing was approved.
Miret (PSUC) and Aguadé (ERC) referred to various border patrols that were organized on the initiative of various individuals and groups, without any effective control on the part of the CCMA. Aurelio Fernández expressed his view “that the border patrols are the responsibility of the Investigation Section and that everything that is currently taking place is a result of organizational deficiencies”; in order to remedy the situation, it was resolved that the Investigation Section should improve its organization of the border patrols, and that the CCMA should exercise strict control and unified direction over these patrols. Likewise, it was resolved to withdraw authorization for the establishment of a hospital that some self-styled Alpine Militias had organized on their own account in Barcelona, without the authorization of the Health Committee.43
The session took a Copernican turn with the appearance of Captain Bayo in the royal chambers of the Capitanía, where the CCMA was meeting. García Oliver asked him why he had ignored the CCMA, with regard to both his decision to embark for Mallorca and then to return. Bayo responded that he sailed for Mallorca after having been requested to do so by a large group of militiamen who had presented themselves to him at the Airfield, and with the consent of the Government Minister, España; and that he returned in obedience to an appeal by the government of the Generalitat, which is why he had not been able to come before the Committee. García Oliver insisted that he had an obligation to obtain the consent of the CCMA, “which holds the power of decision over all matters pertaining to the war”, because if he had done so it would at least have prevented the bad effect that the retrreat from Mallorca had produced with respect to public opinion.
Bayo continued to proffer explanations, relating to the situation of the troops and the way the landing was conducted. He praised the morale and bravery of the troops under his command, “who were ready to fight wherever I sent them”. He pointed out that he had loaded all the materiel he could and that supplies and equipment were only destroyed or thrown into the sea to prevent the enemy from seizing them. He read the order, signed by the committee of the “Jaime I” and by the Squadron Committee, requiring him to withdraw in the name of the Government of the Republic. He accepted the order to withdraw, to save the lives of the militiamen, since the enemy air forces were bombing them with one hundred kilogram bombs. He denied having received any motorcycles, trucks or artillery, and said that if they had been sent they were probably at Mahón.
Marcos Alcón explained the manner in which these expeditions were conducted, without authorization of the CCMA, and that the latter was faced with so many faits accompli, and that the defeat at Mallorca was due to a lack of organization. Vidiella asked for the opinion of the military advisors. Giménez de la Beraza claimed that Bayo’s action was “militarily a defeat, politically a disaster, all because he acted on his own account without consulting the CCMA, and that the political aspect is much more serious than the military aspect”. As for the equipment, he said that throwing the heavy equipment into the sea was justifiable, but not the light arms.
Then a group of militiamen appeared in the royal chamber, arriving from the failed expedition to Mallorca, militants of the ERC, the CNT and the UGT, who provided their reports, confirming the information submitted by Bayo.
After Bayo’s report on the fascist air forces in Mallorca, García Oliver notified the delegates of the agreement between Santillán and Sandino and the Madrid government to send five thousand men to the Central front.
It was resolved that the four thousand militiamen who had returned from Mallorca should depart on Monday: two thousand for the Madrid front and two thousand for the Aragón front, and that one thousand national guards (the new name for the civil guards) should also leave for Madrid, and that the garrison at Mahón should return to their base with the “City of Barcelona”. All these resolutions were unanimously approved. The session ended at 1:45 p.m. on the 5th of September, after a marathon meeting of fourteen hours, in which it had become apparent that the CCMA was incapable of controlling and directing the military operations based in Cataluña.
The Mallorca expedition had been carried out behind the back of the CCMA, organized by Captain Bayo, with the assistance of Companys, and with the support of the UGT (Comorera) and the Maritime Transport Trade Union of the CNT. It failed as a result of a lack of organization of the operations and the sudden order to withdraw issued by the central government. The lack of war materiel for the Aragón front was exacerbated by the loss of equipment and supplies at Mallorca, and the disaster was magnified by the discrediting of the CCMA, which was not only incapable of directing all military operations, but was even incapable of being aware of their existence.
The next meeting was called to order on September 644 at midnight, and was attended by the majority of the delegates to the CCMA. Over the course of the meeting various questions were asked, among which were: the request of the Syndicalist Party, led by Ángel Pestaña, to be admitted to the CCMA; a proposal concerning the advisability of an immediate attack on Jaca; the appointment of Llorenç Perramon as Recording Secretary, without the right to vote, and that the minutes of the meetings should only consist of the resolutions approved, without an account of the debates.
The minutes of September 845 record the replacement of Josep Rovira (the delegate of the Lenin Column of the POUM) by Julián Gorkin. Various resolutions regarding subsidies, the prohibition of collecting money on the street, closer surveillance over the correct use of the food subsidies granted by the CCMA, the clearing of lines of people in front of the Capitanía, and increasing the number of members of the Control Patrols to one thousand six hundred were approved, along with other minor issues.
On September 10 the minutes record the ratification of the resolution to dissolve46 the CCMA and the recommendation that at the next meeting the respective criteria with regard to the form and proportional representation for the posts each organization will occupy in the Council of Defense of the Generalitat should be determined. The resolution to dissolve the CCMA was kept secret.
It was also resolved that the dead should be buried at the front and that the bodies should not be shipped home. It was once again insisted that only the Control Patrols and the Investigation Patrols were empowered to authorize and carry out searches, and that anyone who did so on his own account should be punished. Three delegates, from the CNT, the UGT and the POUM, were appointed to carry out weekly inspections of subsidies, donations, and festivals for raising money for the militias.
All of the above resolutions were unanimously approved.
On September 1247 a resolution was approved, with the abstention of the representatives of the UGT and the POUM, that mandated that the current government of the Generalitat should be replaced by a Council of Defense of the Generalitat of Cataluña, with representatives of all the organizations that composed the CCMA, “which would at the same time be dissolved”.
On September 1448 García Oliver publicized the CNT’s resolution concerning the constitution of the Council of Defense of the Generalitat, replacing the current government of the Generalitat, within the framework of a new political conception of the Spanish state, conceived as a “Confederation of Free Nations, starting with Cataluña”.
Gorkin, in the name of the POUM, stated that the new Council of the Generalitat must be composed of representatives of all the organizations that composed the current CCMA and that “the program of this Council must be of a socialist kind, or one involving socialization”.
Vidiella, for the UGT, agreed with the first point expressed by Gorkin with regard to the representatives on the Council, as well as with the name of “the Council of the Generalitat”, and also thought that its jurisdiction must be extended over all of Cataluña, and that it must embrace all the factions, and that this Council must be the only authority empowered to carry out confiscations, or to proceed with the collectivization or socialization of the country. Vidiella therefore advanced the idea of a strong government, vested with full authority.
Miravitlles, for the ERC and the Generalitat, said that this new government (he dared to violate the acratic taboo concerning calling something that was really a government by the name of “council”) must include all social classes and that as for a program, it must be whatever is necessary to defeat fascism.
Santillán, for the FAI, expressed his view that it was necessary to establish points of convergence that would unite all the factions, as had been the case up until this time, and that the principal goal must be to destroy fascism in all of Spain.
Torrents informed the delegates that it was the view of the Unió de Rabassaires that it was necessary to form a strong government, with the same representatives as the current CCMA: “a single power that would prosecute the war against fascism and establish order in the new economy”.
García Oliver said that everyone was in agreement on the need to transform the country in every respect, establishing a new juridical, political and economic order; and as for a program, “there is already a Council of the Economy responsible for carrying out the economic transformation”.
Gorkin (very meticulously) said that “antifascism is not a program”, which is why it was necessary to specify in what manner the dominant privileges had to be destroyed. Gorkin thought that it was necessary to specify just what economic policies had to be enforced in the rearguard, and to define the purpose of the struggle of the combatants at the front, which was to create a better society. He proposed that alongside each Minister of the new government, as was already the case in the Council of the Economy, there should be a Council composed of representatives of all the organizations.
Miravitlles explained that the time to establish a concrete program, whether communist or anarchosyndicalist, would arrive if the war was won, but in the meantime it was necessary to create a government capable of winning the war against fascism.
Alcón (CNT) maintained “that the government must conduct the war against fascism and the economic transformation must be carried out by the working class organizations in the streets; and that it is useless to oppose this because the organizations will go on with their work regardless of our resolutions”. It was the mission of the government to direct the war, but it must not legislate with regard to economic matters, because this is the job of the workers, operating through the Council of the Economy. He finished his speech by claiming: “the war must be fought by the Government, Collectivization must be carried out by the Council of the Economy.”
Miret, of the PSUC, said that it was indispensable to formulate a concrete program that would assure the unity of all the factions.
Gorkin declared that the formulation of a program did not require that each faction renounce its ideals, but that all the points of convergence and the necessary directives for the defeat of fascism should be established. He did not agree with the proposal that spoke of social classes, but of organizations that represent the classes and that the latter must not reorganize but transform the social and economic foundations of the country, which “is to say, carry out the social revolution”.
Vidiella said that only a strong government would be respected by foreign countries and that socialization in the countryside would entail a confrontation with the peasantry.
García Oliver expressed his view that the revolutionary transformation must affect all the juridical, economic and political aspects of the country, and that each region must proceed in accordance with its own characteristics, since the policies that are appropriate for Cataluña would not be appropriate for Andalucía. He thought that a mere Council must not do anything but prepare the policies that would have to be implemented once the war was over.
And he emphasized that to create this Council all that was necessary was for the CCMA to tell the President of the Generalitat that it wanted it to be formed, so that the Generalitat would proceed to its immediate creation.
Vidiella agreed that it would be the President who would form the Council.
Gorkin and Miret both made proposals. Miret’s was approved, which was as follows:
“The representatives of all the organizations that compose the CCMA should petition the President of the Generalitat of Cataluña, proposing the convocation of a meeting of delegates of all the organizations represented in the CCMA to discuss the organic constitution of a Council of Defense of the Generalitat and of the program that the latter must implement”.
Pons (ERC) referred to the name of the Regional Defense Council, suggested by the CNT, and expressed his view that the word, “Regional”, must be deleted. Alcón expressed his opinion that the word must be maintained, and that a National Council of Defense must be formed in Madrid. Miravitlles seconded the proposal to eliminate the word, “Regional”. García Oliver prudently resolved the dispute, proposing that the first act of the Council would be to give itself a name. Vidiella, for his part, proposed to delete the word, “Defense” and designate it as simply the “Council of the Generalitat of Cataluña”. After the semantic debate the session ended at two-thirty on the morning of September 15.
No one opposed the dissolution of the CCMA. No one, except the anarchists, allowed themselves to be deceived regarding the fact that this entailed the formation of a new government of the Generalitat, whether it was called a “council” or not. The debate on the program of the new government that would supersede the CCMA, revolved around the concepts of “socialization”, proposed by the POUM, or “antifascist”, advocated by the ERC and the PSUC. The CNT-FAI maintained its characteristic ambiguity: the economy was the task of the Council of the Economy, while the war was the job of what they called the Council of Defense of the Generalitat. García Oliver, Marcos Alcón, Aurelio Fernández and José Asens actually thought that the program of the “Council” was of no importance. It was the price that had to be paid to avoid isolation. What was of importance for them was the fact that the CNT would continue to control the various Ministries, by way of technical commissions, like those attached to the Council of the Economy or the commission of war industries, while a good part of the military and police apparatus would be in the hands of the CNT-FAI. This indefiniteness, ambiguity and incoherence led them irremediably to support the program of antifascist unity, that is, of that antifascism that proposed the constitution of a strong government capable of “imposing order” on the economy and winning the war.
On the 15th of September a National Plenum of Regional Committees was held in Madrid, at which it was resolved to approve the intervention of the CNT in the military, economic and political leadership of republican Spain, with the proposal of the formation of a National Council of Defense. This was, in short, a proposal that the CNT should collaborate with the government of the Republic, by means of this Council that was to be composed of five delegates of the CNT, five from the UGT and four republicans. This National Council was conceived as the unified summit of the various regional Councils. It was a federalist conception, so dear to the CNT, in which the economy was to be socialized and the army unified under a unitary command structure and a commissariat of war. Although it persisted in the old trick of not calling things by their names, the CNT’s proposal pointed towards the reconstruction of a strong and centralized state.49
On September 1650 a report concerning the case of Captain Bayo was presented, an order was issued to remove the bales of cotton from the barricades,51 the Control Patrols were authorized to issue a special Section identity card, in addition to the one already possessed by each patrol, and it was agreed to await the return of Tarradellas in order to dispatch a commission from the CCMA to Madrid.
On September 1852 it was agreed to organize coastal defense with militiamen from the local committees, that a commission of information and censorship should be appointed that would be composed of representatives of every organization that was part of the CCMA, to create a new ID card for the members of the Patrols, and that “a commission composed of the comrades García Oliver, Miravitlles, Vidiella and Gorkin should meet with the President of the Government of the Generalitat tomorrow and that the latter should make an appointment to receive them”.
On September 19 a commission of the CCMA, composed of García Oliver, Miravitlles, Vidiella and Gorkin met with Companys in order to deliver the proposal drafted by Miret concerning the formation of the Council of the Generalitat, that is, of the new Government of the Generalitat that would include anarchosyndicalist Ministers, once the great semantic dilemma about calling the Council of the Generalitat what it always really was, the Government of the Generalitat, was finally resolved. On that same day53 Vidiella, Aurelio Fernández and Miravitlles were named as members of the commission that was to travel to Madrid to “negotiate with the government of the Republic as a consequence of the result of the journey of the comrade Minister Tarradellas”.54
On September 2055 , in the royal reception hall of the Capitanía, at 6:00 p.m., a special session of the CCMA convened that was attended by García Oliver, Fábregas, Alcón, Vidiella, Miravitlles, Fernández, Torrents and Gorkin, along with invitees such as Sesé for the UGT, Escorza for the FAI and Calvet for the Unió de Rabassaires, to initiate discussions with the Moroccan delegates Mohammed El Ohazzari and Omar Abd-el-Jalil, the representatives of the Moroccan Action Committee, who had arrived in Barcelona in early September for the purpose of obtaining support for Moroccan independence. At this meeting the support of the CCMA for the Moroccan delegation was solemnly formalized, and it was promised that the CCMA would try to get the Government of the Republic to declare the independence of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco.56 The session, which was conducted in a formal manner, ended at 6:15 p.m.
A photograph exists (“Història Gráfica del Moviment Obrer a Catalunya”, Diputació de Barcelona, 1989), taken after the signing of the agreement by the Moroccan Action Committeeand the CCMA, in which one can recognize, among others (from left to right), Marcello Argila Pazzaglia, the two Morrocan delegates, Juan García Oliver, Julián Gómez García (“Gorkin”), Manuel Estrada Manchón, Rafael Vidiella, Mariano Rodríguez Vázquez (“Marianet”), Manuel Escorza del Val (with crutches) and Aurelio Fernández Sánchez.
On September 2157 it was resolved to add Gorkin to the commission that was to be dispatched to Madrid and that Guarner and Miret should appoint an officer to command the coastal defenses.
At the meeting of September 2258 , the CCMA decided to “prohibit the entry into Cataluña of the families from Madrid and the provinces who are constantly arriving in Barcelona, and that they should be returned to their places of origin”. This resolution was transmitted to the Ministry of the Government and to the railroad workers Committees of Barcelona, Lérida, Tortosa, Mora de Ebro, Valencia and Madrid for its effective implementation.59
On September 2560 the CCMA voted to broadcast a message to the cruiser “Libertad” which, according to the press, was transporting the mortal remains of the heroic militiawoman Lidia Odena, informing the ship’s captain of the resolution of the CCMA according to which the comrades killed at the front were to be buried at the front, and that they could not be shipped back to the rearguard without the express permission of the CCMA, and that if the ship had already left port, that upon its arrival in Barcelona the burial should be carried out without any public demonstration.
This was the last act of the CCMA that we can identify. As soon as September 18, its resolutions were very brief and drafted in a telegraphic style, although according to García Oliver the CCMA held two more meetings, on the 27th and the 28th,61 before its last session when it officially disbanded, which took place on October 1, 1936.
THE BALANCE SHEET OF THE CCMA AND THE NEW GOVERNMENT OF THE GENERALITAT
On September 26 the new government of the Generalitat was constituted, with Tarradellas as Prime Minister, in which three CNT-FAI Ministers participated: Joan Porqueras Fábregas as Minister of the Economy, Antonio García Birlán as Minister of Health and Social Welfare and Josep Joan Doménach as Minister of Provisions.62
The resolution to dissolve the CCMA was not made public until the end of the Regional Plenum of Trade Unions, which was held from September 25 to 27, and which had to formally approve this dissolution, which was presented as the consequence of the entry of the cenetistas into the government, since, in the words of García Oliver himself: “today the Generalitat represents all of us”.
Solidaridad Obrera, in its September 27th issue, insisted on claiming that a new institution called the “Council of the Generalitat” had been created, rather than a new government; after September 29, however, it accepted the new reality and explained the reasons why the CNT entered the new government of the Generalitat at the same time that it announced the dissolution of the CCMA. Curiously, the dissolution of the CCMA was presented as an inevitable consequence of the formation of the Government of the Generalitat, when in reality it was only when, between the end of August and the first days of September, that it was decided to dissolve the CCMA, when anyone began to discuss the entry of the CNT into the government.
On September 28 another National Plenum of Regional Federations was held in Madrid, where the national secretary Horacio Prieto attacked the proposed National Defense Council for its lack of realism. He set forth his arguments in favor of pure and simple participation in the government of Largo Caballero. He insisted that things should be called by their real names and that the CNT should dispense with its ideological prejudices. He did not, however, obtain the support of the delegates to the Plenum, who merely voted in favor of a manifesto that acknowledged the need for antifascist unity.63
On the evening of October 1st, the last, purely ceremonial, session of the CCMA was convened. García Oliver delivered a concluding speech in which he called for the unity of all the parties and organizations. After proclaiming that he had been a staunch defender of the CCMA, but that now he would be a passionate defender of the new Council of the Generalitat, he responded to a query of Miravitlles by asserting that as a Catalanist he could only celebrate the decision of the CNT to enter the government of the Generalitat.
The Official Bulletin of the Generalitat published on October 3 contained the decree, signed on October 1, in which Juan García Oliver was appointed general secretary of the Department of Defense, a new position expressly created for him. In this same issue of the Bulletin the Decree Proclaiming the Dissolution of the CCMA was also published:
“The CCMA, created by the decree of July 21, has understood that, having fulfilled the mission that it certainly performed so appropriately during the first days of the military uprising, it must now dissolve. Therefore, in accordance with the Executive Council, it is hereby Decreed: Article 1. The CCMA, created by the Decree of July 21, is dissolved. Article 2. By decree and in accordance with the orders pertaining thereto, as required, the present Decree will be fulfilled. Barcelona, October 1, 1936. The Prime Minister, Josep Tarradellas.”
In the Official Bulletin published on October 4, by decree signed on October 3, Aurelio Fernández was appointed general secretary of the Committee for Internal Security. For the CNT, this signified the preservation of its grasp on the key positions of Public Order and the Militias.
The new government of the Generalitat proposed to strengthen the economy on the basis of a program initiated by the Council of the Economy and to reinforce the war effort by way of compulsory mobilization and the establishment of discipline and a unitary command structure.
The presence of all the antifascist organizations in the government of the Generalitat implied a major step forward towards the reestablishment of republican legality and the rehabilitation of all state functions. This implied the termination of all those revolutionary committees that, in every locality, exercised sovereign and total power, from the collection of taxes and maintenance of control patrols to the financing of public works to address the problem of unemployment.
The Decree of October 9, complemented by the one issued on October 12, declared the dissolution of all the local committees that were formed on July 19, which were to be replaced by the new municipal authorities. Despite the resistance of many local committees, and despite the delay of several months before the new municipal government bodies could be created, this was a death-blow from which the committees would not recover. The resistance of the CNT militants, who ignored the directives of the superior committees and the orders of the government of the Generalitat, endangered the antifascist pact. The anarchosyndicalist leaders were caught between the Scylla of the CNT militants, reluctant to obey its directives, and the Charybdis of the charge leveled by the other antifascist forces that it was necessary to comply, and enforce compliance with the decrees of the government, and bring “the uncontrollables” into line.
This was the real balance sheet bequeathed by the CCMA in its nine weeks of existence: the transition from a situation where local revolutionary committees exercised all power in the streets and the factories, to their dissolution for the exclusive benefit of the complete reestablishment of the power of the Generalitat. Likewise, the decrees signed on October 2464 concerning the militarization of the militias effective as of November 1 and the promulgation of the Collectivization decree, completed the disastrous balance sheet of the CCMA, that is, the transition from working class Militias composed of revolutionary volunteers to a bourgeois army of the classical type, subject to the monarchical code of military justice, commanded by the Generalitat; and the transition from expropriations and workers control of the factories to a centralized economy controlled and directed by the Generalitat.
The delay in the application of the decrees, provoked by the mute but determined resistance of the confederal militants, who were still armed, caused the government of the Generalitat to make the disarmament of the rearguard its number one priority, initiating a propaganda campaign against the so-called “uncontrollables”, which was conflated with the secondary objective expressed in the constantly repeated slogan: “arms to the front”.
The powerful resistance of the anarchosyndicalist rank and file to the militarization of the militias, to the control of the economy and the collectivized enterprises by the Generalitat, to the disarming of the rearguard and to the dissolution of the local committees, resulted in a delay of several months before the decrees of the Generalitat on these matters could really be enforced. This resistance crystallized in the spring of 1937 in a major outburst of disenchantment, which was intensified by discontent with the progress of the war, inflation and the shortages of food and clothing, and led to the consolidation of a generalized critique on the part of the CNT rank and file militants of the participation of the superior committees of the CNT-FAI in the government, and the antifascist and collaborationist policy of their leaders, who were accused of forfeiting “the revolutionary conquests of July 19”.
STATE ANARCHISM JUSTIFIED BY THE IDEOLOGY OF ANTIFASCIST UNITY
This was the incubator that gave birth to the Events of May 1937, which once again saw Barcelona littered with barricades. This discontent explains the emergence and the power of the Friends of Durruti Group, which in May proposed the necessity of imposing a Revolutionary Junta to replace the Generalitat. After May, the Group was able to express this confederal discontent in an analysis in which it claimed that in July 1936 there was no revolution and that the CCMA was an institution of class collaboration, and elaborated a program that concluded that revolutions are totalitarian or they are defeated. What distinguished the Friends of Durruti from so many other enraged groups of cenetistas and anarchists65 was precisely the fact that the former proposed a program, whereas the others issued appeals to certain abstract and ineffective principles, which were shared by the superior committees they were criticizing.
Only then, after the May Days of 1937, did the anarchosyndicalist leaders elaborate their justifications and distortions concerning what had taken place. Some began to understand, too late, the impact of their errors and improvisations.
It was therefore necessary to find justifications for so many mistakes, and to elaborate a response that would allow the anarchosyndicalist leaders to refuse to assume responsibility for those mistakes. The delegation of the CNT to the Congress of the AIT,66 in December 1937, had to provide the first answer, under the impact of the constant insults and accusations of ineptitude and abandonment of the ideological principles of anarchosyndicalism that they were subjected to by the majority of the delegates to the international congress.
“Political power fell into our hands without our wanting it [….] The CCMA, the institution for the coordination of the combat forces at the front, was created. Our Libertarian Movement accepted this Committee, but first we had to resolve the main problem in our Revolution: antifascist collaboration or anarchist dictatorship. We accepted collaboration. Why? [….] the circumstances made us think it advisable to collaborate with the other antifascist sectors.”67
In fact, the Spanish delegation needed the help of a prestigious intellectual to defend themselves from the attacks of the international, with a report that exuded a certain intellectual stature. This secret report so pleased the Spanish anarchosyndicalist leaders that they decided to publish it in a propaganda pamphlet, translated into Spanish, despite the inconsistency entailed in publishing a text that had been declared “secret”.68
In this pamphlet,69 Helmut Rüdiger fully justified the pragmatic actions of the CNT as being due to the particularities of Spain, averring that it was a working class movement without intellectuals, or any theoretical preparation or political experience, due to its permanent state of clandestinity; and that it was characteristic of extremism, based on a simplification of social relations and an unlimited optimism, to think that all that was necessary was to proclaim libertarian communism in order to transform man into an angelic being.
Rüdiger’s entire argument can be summarized as an assimilation and application to the anarchist movement of the ideology of antifascist unity. According to Rüdiger, July 19 was a victory for the CNT because, for the first time ever, it was able to unite the entire population behind it. The CNT would be victorious when it would once again be able to rally the entire people behind it. That is, antifascist unity justified everything, explained everything and permitted everything. All the pragmatic actions of the leaders of the CNT, the abandonment of the anti-state theories, the abandonment of principles, the collaborationism with bourgeois parties and the government, the militarization of the Militias, the anarchist Ministers, the war economy, everything, absolutely everything, was justified by this ideology of ANTIFASCIST UNITY. Helmut helped the anarchist leaders to justify their errors, their incapacity and their constant improvisations: one could, and must, renounce libertarian communism, and the revolution, in favor of antifascist unity.
Now the anarchosyndicalist leaders were enabled to rewrite their contemporary history. Now García Oliver was enabled to appear as a sacrificial victim of the rejection on the part of the confederal organization of his proposal to “go for broke”.
This made it possible to claim that, “what began on July 19 was not yet the definitive social revolution, but only the first step of that revolution, the beginning of the antifascist struggle”. Helmut crafted a veritable anthology of catchphrases for the supporters of collaborationism: “This was the first time in the history of revolutions that a victorious revolutionary organization renounced its own dictatorship.”
What Helmut did not say was that this ideology of antifascist unity presupposed the acceptance of the methods and goals of the program of the democratic bourgeoisie.
The advocates of State anarchism and those who supported the proletarian revolution were, and are, incompatible. The absence of an ideological and organizational break within the libertarian movement could only lead, first to the suppression, and later to the assimilation of the critical sectors with the worst aberrations of State anarchism. Without such a break a process of clarification and delimitation between the positions of the various factions could not take place. Ambiguity and confusionism comprised the other defeat of the libertarian movement, which was pregnant with consequences for its future.
- 1 Three very interesting theses, unfortunately unpublished, have been written about the CCMA:
Josep Eduard Adsuar Torra, Catalunya: Juliol-Octubre 1936. Una dualitat de poder?, (2 Vols.), Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Contemporary History, University of Barcelona, 1979.
Enric Mompo, El Comité Central de Milicias Antifascistas de Catalunya y la situación de doble poder en los primeros meses de la guerra civil española, Doctoral Thesis read on June 8, 1994, Department of Contemporary History, University of Barcelona.
Josep Antoni Pozo Gonzalez, El poder revolucionari a Catalunya Durant els mesos de juliol a octubre de 1936. Crisi i recomposició de l’Estat, Doctoral Thesis defended on June 21, 2002, Department of Modern and Contemporary History, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
- 2 The Constancia group, at a meeting of anarchist groups and defense committees, proposed “that our representatives in the government should withdraw and that the neighborhood committees should elect a Central Committee.” See “Segunda sesión del pleno local de Grupos Anarquistas de Barcelona […] con asistencia de los grupos de Defensa confederal y Juventudes libertarias”, Barcelona, April 24, 1937. The proposal, although far too late, shows that these neighborhood committees were still active in April 1937.
- 3 Juan García Oliver, El eco de los pasos, Ruedo Ibérico, Barcelona-Paris, 1978, p. 185.
- 4 Ibid., p. 188.
- 5 Responses of García Oliver to a questionnaire from Bolloten (1950).
- 6 In reality, this term, “anarchist dictatorship”, was probably not used by García Oliver, but by Federica Montseny, as a suitable summary of his long speech at the Plenum of July 21.
- 7 According to Peirats, “during the first days of the movement, García Oliver and a few other militants half-heartedly proposed the idea of establishing libertarian communism in Cataluña. I think that this idea was proposed without real conviction. García Oliver was convinced that libertarian communism was impossible in Cataluña”. See the interview with José Peirats in Colección de Historia Oral: El movimiento libertario en España (1). José Peirats.
- 8 Durruti, García Oliver and Aurelio Fernández were the prototypical men of action. Federica Montseny, Abad de Santillán and Pedro Herrera were the prototypical anarchist intellectuals.
- 9 It was therefore by no means a revolutionary government, but an institution of class collaboration, created to fight against fascism under extraordinary circumstances, which required the government of the Generalitat to assume responsibilities for Defense that were not ordinarily within its jurisdiction.
- 10 Juan García Oliver, Buenaventura Durruti and José Asens for the Regional Committee of the CNT; Aurelio Fernández and Diego Abad de Santillán for the FAI; Artemi Aguadé, Jaume Miravitlles and Joan Pons for the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya; Tomás Fábregas for Acció Catalana; Josep Torrens for the Unió de Rabassaires; Josep Rovira for the POUM; Josep Miret for the Unió Socialista; José del Barrio, Salvador González and Antonio López Raimundo for the UGT; and the envoys of the government of the Generalitat, Lluís Prunés, Pérez Farrás and Vicens Guarner.
- 11 All those who attended the meeting signed the above decree, except for the three delegates sent by the Generalitat.
- 12 García Oliver said exactly this in his speech: “Militants of the CNT and the FAI, you have to make them kill you.” See El eco…, p. 196.
- 13 Instead of coordinating these supply committees, created by the revolutionary committees from below, the control of their operations was transferred to the CCMA, to be exercised from above.
- 14 The text of this DECREE is reproduced in the Appendix.
- 15 The Regional Committee of the CNT, the Peninsular and Regional Committees of the FAI, the Regional Committee of the Libertarian Youth, the Local Federation of the CNT, the Local Federation of Anarchist Groups, the CNT-FAI Committee of Investigation, and all the representatives of the regional and local federations, and those who had responsible positions in the CCMA (and later in the government).
- 16 We need only recall the intervening stage between the February Revolution and the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. Only a profound lack of knowledge of what really happened in Cataluña enabled some historians to make an unfortunate historical comparison between the Russian case and the Catalan case, and made it possible for them to speak erroneously of dual power shared by the CCMA and the Generalitat.
- 17 On July 20 he was authorized by Durruti to create a war industry. Vallejo initiated a coordination network among the metallurgical and chemical industry trade unions, together with the miners of Sallent, and supervised the transformation of civilian industrial production to an industry for production of military goods. The collaboration of the cenetista Vallejo with Tarradellas proved to be effective in the medium term, but implied the submission of the initial revolutionary direction to the government of the Generalitat.
- 18 These enterprises also paid taxes to the CNT-FAI; Comorera abolished these taxes in February 1937.
- 19 Miquel Mir, Entre el roig i el negre, Edicions 62, Barcelona, 2006.
- 20 See Peirats, p. 175.
- 21 Interview with Miquel Mir in Quadern, supplement to the Catalan edition of El País (July 27, 2006).
- 22 Bishop Irurita was liberated by high-level officials at San Elías in exchange for jewels. When the patrol staff discovered the identity of the liberated prisoner several days later they were very upset. See Quadern, Catalan supplement of El País (July 27, 2006).
- 23 See Agustín Guillamón, “La NKVD y el SIM en Barcelona. Algunos informes de Gerö sobre la Guerra de España”, Balance, No. 22 (November 2001).
- 24 “It would be advantageous for us to acquire weapons, small arms but of high quality, which are most necessary for the defense of the revolution. The Defense Committee complains about the late delivery of war materiel to Barcelona and explains the situation as follows: There are many neighborhood groups that, independently, supply themselves with all they need from foreign countries, more cheaply and more quickly.” Quoted from “Reunión de comités, celebrada el día 6 de octubre de 1936”.
- 25 This expression is used by Munis in Jalones de derrota, promesa de victoria.
- 26 See Jaime Balius, “En el Nuevo local del CCMA”, Solidaridad Obrera (August 23, 1936).
- 27 I have been able to consult the following records for minutes of the CCMA: August 3 and 31; and September 2-4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18-21, 23 and 25 of 1936.
- 28 “Informe de la delegación de la CNT al Congreso Extraordinario de la AIT y resolución del mismo”, December 1937, p. 96.
- 29 Concerning the Council of the Economy one may consult the book by Ignasi Cendra, El Consell d’Economia de Catalunya (1936-1939), Publicacions Abadia Montserrat, 2006.
- 30 Govern de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Comité de Milícies Antifeixistes: “Acords presos en la reunió del CC de les MA en el dia 3 d’agost del 1936.”
- 31 Pozo, op. cit., p. 236.
- 32 “Informe de la delegación de la CNT…”, p. 97.
- 33 Pozo, op. cit., p. 237.
- 34 César M. Lorenzo [César Martínez was the son of Horacio Martínez Prieto]: Los anarquistas españoles y el poder, Ruedo Ibérico, Paris, 1969, p. 98.
- 35 César M. Lorenzo, op. cit., pp. 99-100.
- 36 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 31 d’agost del 1936.”
- 37 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 3 de setembre del 1936.”
- 38 This Committee had originally been composed solely of working class representatives of the POUM, the UGT and the CNT-FAI.
- 39 Antonio Ortiz was the delegate of the Columna Ortiz (also known as the Sur-Ebro Column).
- 40 It replaced the government headed by the republican Giral.
- 41 César M. Lorenzo, op. cit., pp. 180-181.
- 42 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 4 de setembre del 1936.”
- 43 This issue was one aspect of a struggle between the interests of the Generalitat, defended here by the PSUC and the ERC, and those of the CNT-FAI, concerning the control of the borders, and more specifically the frontier pass at Puigcerdà, which was completely dominated by Antonio Martín, the anarchist leader of La Cerdaña. The attack of the PSUC-ERC concerning the border question was answered by the CNT with an attack on the financing of the hospital of the Alpine Militias, which comprised the embryo of a Catalanist army.
- 44 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Acords presos en la reunió del dia 6 de setembre del 1936.”
- 45 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Acords presos en la reunió del dia 8 de setembre del 1936.”
- 46 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Acords presos en la reunió del dia 10 de setembre del 1936.” The word, “ratification” suggests that a proposal to dissolve the CCMA was made at a previous meeting, a proposal we cannot locate among the previous minutes, although it may refer to certain conversations that took place outside of the CCMA, as Joan Pons Garlandí suggests in his memoires.
- 47 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Acords presos en la reunió del dia 12 de setembre del 1936.”
- 48 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 14 de setembre del 1936.”
- 49 Lorenzo, op. cit., pp. 182-184.
- 50 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 16 de setembre del 1936.”
- 51 There were still barricades on the streets almost two months after July 19. The order to remove the cotton bales was issued due to the shortage of raw materials in the textile industry.
- 52 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 18 de setembre del 1936.”
- 53 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 19 de setembre del 1936.”
- 54 Tarradellas had gone to Madrid to obtain financial and technical assistance to create a military industry in Cataluña. As Tarradellas said: “one of the reasons for my trip—as you must already know—was, besides accompanying the forces of the Civil Guards to place them at the disposal of the military commander in Madrid, to request that the Central Government transfer as soon as possible to Cataluña the Toledo arms and ammunition factory. Accompanied by Colonel Giménez de Abraza, the director of the Oviedo arms factory, and Air Force Colonel Ramírez Cartagena, one of the commanders of the Barcelona air force when the uprising began, accompanied then by these two republican officers, faithful to their oath to defend the Republic, I had several interviews with Sr. Largo Caballero and his advisors. You have no idea of how I felt, I had to return to Barcelona without having obtained the transfer of the Toledo arms and ammunition factory to Cataluña.” Quoted from “Letter from Tarradellas to Bolloten dated March 24, 1971”, published in its entirety in Balance, Issue No. 6 of the archival series (1998).
- 55 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 20 de setembre del 1936.”
- 56 See Abel Paz, La cuestión de Marruecos y la República española, Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo, Madrid, 2000.
- 57 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 21 de setembre del 1936.”
- 58 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 23 de setembre del 1936.”
- 59 This lack of solidarity expressed by the CCMA for the refugees from Madrid could not have been more despicable and shameful.
- 60 Comité Central de les Milícies Antifeixistes de Catalunya: “Resum de la reunió del dia 25 de setembre del 1936.”
- 61 García Oliver, El eco…, pp. 281-284.
- 62 The first two had been members of the former Council of the Economy of the Generalitat.
- 63 Lorenzo, op. cit., p. 185.
- 64 Published in the Official Bulletin of the Generalitat on October 28, 1936.
- 65 See “Segunda sesión del pleno local de Grupos Anarquistas de Barcelona […] con asistencia de los grupos de Defensa confederal y Juventudes libertarias”, Barcelona, April 24, 1937.
- 66 The delegation was composed of José Xena, David Antona, Horacio Martínez Prieto and Mariano Rodríguez Vázquez.
- 67 “Informe de la delegación de la CNT al Congreso Extraordinario de la AIT y resolución del mismo”, December 1937, pp. 75-76.
- 68 Rüdiger’s argument in favor of the necessity of subordinating all the activity, all theory and all the principles of the CNT to antifascist unity, as the only way to guarantee victory in the war, OBVIOUSLY implied the necessity of keeping this report SECRET. If the Russian and Spanish Stalinists were to find out about the blind determination of the CNT to submit to antifascist unity, at any price, then the CNT would run the risk of becoming a puppet in the hands of its political rivals. The National Committee of the CNT, however, did not hesitate to PUBLISH this SECRET report: there was nothing new about the incompetence, naiveté and political immaturity of the CNT leaders. Furthermore, by publishing this pamphlet in 1938, Rüdiger’s secret report could only have scandalized those few simple souls who, in 1938, still believed in the revolutionary nature of the CNT.
- 69 Helmut Rüdiger, El anarcosindicalismo en la Revolución Española, CNT, Barcelona, 1938.