COLLECTIVE LABOR IN THE PROVINCES OF CATALONIA
10. Arenys de Mar
THE FACTORIES OF TARRASA
Close to the city, the mountain, the cyclopean pile of San Llorenç del Munt, casts its imposing silhouette. On the plain, an army of smokestacks.
In Tarrasa, a town with some forty thousand residents, the manufacturing industry predominates, in which some fourteen thousand workers are employed, eleven thousand of whom are members of the CNT and the rest affiliated with the UGT.
Almost all the factories are working at full capacity. There are plenty of factories devoted to spinning wool (acortiments) and weaving fabrics, which are especially dedicated to working to supply war materiel. A forty-hour workweek is in effect, although when it is necessary to increase production due to the impact of the war, the workers work overtime, Saturdays and Sundays, without pay.
As for the technicians, they work the same number of hours as the other workers. The distinctions and privileges of the different categories of workers have been erased.
In the Manufacturing and Textile Trade Union, fund-drives are frequently held and large quantities of money are sent to the Militias. In addition, this Trade Union has spent a large amount of money for the purpose of acquiring wool that the workers transform into jerseys for the militiamen. When the workers are idled in their usual manufacturing jobs, they report to the Trade Union to be assigned jobs making jerseys for the militiamen.
Almost all the factories are subject to the authority of Control Committees, except the factory known as “Tarrasa Industrial”, which has been confiscated by workers who are sympathizers of the Confederation.
IN THE “TARRASA INDUSTRIAL” FACTORY
Invited by the comrades of the Factory Committee, we visited the numerous departments of this factory devoted to the manufacture of woolens and worsted fabrics, dyeing, pre-treatment of fabrics, threads, finished articles, etc. The wool arrives raw and leaves in the form of finished products.
This factory employs some 340 male and female workers. They work for the most part in war-related industrial production, manufacturing various types of “khaki” cloth, destined for tarps and trench coats. Every day they produce two thousand meters of the former and some one thousand five hundred meters of cloth for the latter.
They work forty hours a week, although when necessary they work overtime without pay.
The manufacturing process proceeds normally from an economic point of view, and even has a tendency to surpass previous levels of production. The workers devote themselves to their jobs with a great deal of enthusiasm. Every month, the factory holds a general meeting of all the workers; this meeting makes all the decisions with regard to the operations of the factory.
As a result of the situation we face, it is unavoidable, as the comrades who accompany us explain, that there should be difficulties with regard to the acquisition of raw materials, and sometimes they must be replaced with similar substitutes.
For their part, the workers of the “Tarrasa Industrial” factory send to the Militias five percent of their total wages.
As for the technicians employed in the factory, they willingly collaborate in the collective labor that, now that they are free of the employer’s tutelage, all the workers perform with a common accord.
THE “SUN AND LIFE” COMMUNAL FARM
About two kilometers from the town, in what was previously known as “Can Parellada”, in a huge building that looks like a country mansion or the home of a great lord, the “Sun and Life” communal farm has been established, where the work is done collectively, under the control of the Peasants Trade Union.
Twenty workers are employed on the farm; among them we have met some excellent comrades who, for years now, have cooperated with the greatest interest in the confederal orientation of the local proletariat. They were employed prior to the revolutionary movement in the manufacturing industry, where besides receiving a higher wage than what they get in their new occupation, they also worked fewer hours and the work was much less exhausting than the work they are doing now. Understanding the importance of agriculture for the consolidation of the new stage that we are traversing, they did not hesitate to place their intelligence and their enthusiasm as tried and tested militants at the service of agriculture. And now they work from dawn to dusk on the farm’s 600 hectares, divided between forest and cultivated land. Because it takes a lot of work to make the land ready for cultivation and sowing, these comrades even work on Sundays. They know that the revolutionary work undertaken with arms in hand on the front lines has no holidays, and they know that they cannot have any holidays either in the revolutionary work that is being carried out in the rearguard with the tools of labor.
The farmland was in poor condition and the work is daunting; yet these inspired workers sow wheat, grow fodder, and till the soil with the help of two magnificent tractors, attempt to extend the area of the irrigated land, manage the woodlands, and tend the stables for the goats and cows.
There are also several other farms in the vicinity of Tarrasa that have been collectivized by the Peasants Trade Union, affiliated with our Trade Union Confederation.
THE “NEW LIFE” NEWSPAPER
In one of the offices of the magnificent local headquarters in a building confiscated by the Local Federation of Trade Unions, the editorial staff of the “New Life” newspaper has been installed, which is now a daily rather than a weekly paper.
We have spent some time in conversation with the comrades of “New Life” who are occupied in the production of this daily newspaper. The paper is distributed in the evening and the comrade editors are preparing the latest edition, proofreading articles, fact-checking, taking great care to present this excellent local newspaper, which is subsidized by the organization, in the best possible way, both with regard to typography as well as with regard to doctrine.
THE WORK OF SOCIALIZATION
Rents have been reduced by fifty percent, and the Construction Industry, which has been socialized, controls the collection of the rents.
The Construction Industry pays wages to all its members, on the condition that if they do not have any work in their usual occupations, they must apply to the Peasants Trade Union so that they may be employed in agricultural work.
The entertainment industry has been totally socialized.
Some difficulties arose during the attempt to socialize the bakeries. Not everyone was happy with the innovations; sometimes, although they tried to arrange things with the best intentions, they set up obstacles to the progress of those whom their reforms were meant to benefit. The situation was finally normalized and today the bakeries are thriving in their new structure.
The buses that serve the urban routes have been confiscated by their employees, who are affiliated with the CNT. When these buses were the property of a capitalist enterprise, the stockholders complained about being saddled with a considerable deficit. Now that the workers are in charge, the enterprise is in the black and the workers are constantly sending money to the Militias.
LIGHT WHERE THERE WAS ONCE DARKNESS
Tarrasa, which is a city of ancient lineage, contains some very old convents and churches. The religious illusion, as in every city, has its zones of influence, whose centers are focused on the churches and the convents, veritable snake pits of obscurantism, where the darkness of ignorance spreads and produces the greatest damage to consciousness. Now the light of freedom and culture has dispelled the sinister impact of religion.
The buildings that were once convents, have now been transformed, opened to the air and to the light they once lacked, into schools.
The most important church in the area is now used as a garage for trucks and all kinds of cars that have been confiscated by the comrades of the CNT.
As for the church of San Pedro, with its Gothic architecture, built between the 12th and the 14th centuries, due to its antiquity and the beautiful architecture of its interior, upheld by elegant columns and arches of masterful harmony, which have preserved it from the destructive effects of the centuries, it is currently being preserved in order to be used as the site of the Regional Museum.
THE FIGHTERS AT THE FRONT
A town such as the one we are now considering, which has a brilliant revolutionary tradition; a city like Tarrasa, which has witnessed the blood of its sons spilled in struggles against government oppression, in conflicts for the emancipation of the proletariat, cannot but send a strong contingent of its sons to the front ranks of the antifascist struggle. And from the first days of the movement more than eight hundred of its men fought courageously, with arms in hand, until the reactionary forces were defeated.
This is how we saw the working class of Tarrasa, in this town that has known how to free itself of parasites, of those who were the most intransigent enemies of the proletariat.
THE TRACES OF THE PAST
There are towns that do not lose, with the incessant passage of the years, their aspects that are evocative of distant eras; they preserve within them the traces of what they once were. Walk anywhere in Gerona and you will see everywhere the traces of its past: narrow streets, aristocratic mansions that preserve the severity of their times of splendor, old churches, high, thick walls, typical street corners, typical sights, in short, your imagination will fly towards times past which will never return.
Gerona is a city where the influence of religion has weighed heavily on the consciousness of its population. With its tenacious and incessant proselytizing zeal, the Church had been molding minds, and dominating wills at its whim. And alongside the Church, under the rule of the Archbishop, a caste of powerful and reactionary men had emerged. And so too did a caste of servile elements, with an instinct of reverence towards the rich, towards the magnates of money and religion, that comprised almost the entire middle class, the liberal professions, the shopkeepers, the bureaucrats, the small investors and all those people who, despite the fact that they depend on a wage to live, a wage that is almost always meager, have considered it to be beneath their dignity to be viewed as workers, as among the exploited, and have prostrated themselves before the rich and have been the docile instruments of the reactionary forces.
As the fascist rebellion of July 19 was being prepared, the entire reactionary community of Gerona, counting on the boneheads of sword and braid stationed at the local military garrison, thought that their victory was assured. They soon had to suffer the bitterness of defeat. They did not reckon with the Geronese proletarians, so ready to risk their lives rather than permit the establishment of fascism. Some armed groups of fascists came into the streets, expecting the unconditional support of the soldiers. As for the workers, their reaction was powerful and strident. The producers took the initiative by courageously shooting at their enemies who, intimidated, chose to flee in disorder. For their part, the soldiers, who were, after all, sons of the working people, refused to shoot, and fraternized with the workers.
The reactionaries, who expected to dominate the town by brutally imposing the yoke of tyranny, were defeated because they forgot that they had to confront the descendants of those people whose exploits are immortalized in the pages of History: the heroic defense of Gerona in the War of Independence, when the Napoleonic hosts attempted to impose their rule on the Geronese people.
THE ASPIRATIONS OF THE PROLETARIAT
Gerona has 30,000 inhabitants, more than 6,000 of whom are members of the CNT.
We shall cite the example provided by the workers of the Construction Industry, which has been socialized and is directed by the two labor organizations, the CNT and the UGT. Putting an end to the differences between skilled and unskilled workers, differences that often represented a humiliation for the unskilled laborers, making the skilled workers their hierarchical superiors, the Industrial Federation has enacted a standard wage. Now, both the skilled and the unskilled workers earn 70 pesetas a week, and are also paid for the days they cannot work because of the rainy season.
The Inter-Regional Federation of the Trade Unions of the Construction Industry has drafted an interesting report and we shall reproduce a few of its paragraphs below:
“The socialization of the entire Construction Industry of the whole former province of Gerona, and its general confiscation, even with regard to current accounts, equipment and goods of every description that are part of the business and industry on the day of confiscation, will be without indemnification. All those workers who, having worked all their lives, and because of their ruinous physical condition, can no longer do any work at all, will be considered to be retired. At the same time, it will be taken into account that when a comrade cannot fulfill the requirements of normal work in his occupation, another occupation that is less physically demanding will be made available to him.”
The various industrial sectors of the region are proceeding towards socialization. Thus, the Transport Industry has been socialized, composed of elements of the CNT and the UGT. The Metal Industry is also in the process of being socialized; the Coal Industry, the Flour Industry and the Food Industry have already been socialized.
We must also mention the excellent projects undertaken by the comrades of the Public Entertainment Industry, who have shown the Municipality that they are ready to work three or four hours a day, without pay, to manufacture war materiel. This Trade Union, socialized by the CNT, contributes 10 percent of its total income to the Municipality. Furthermore, any surplus left over after the paying of the wages of its workers is devoted to the renovation and sanitization of its workplaces, something the bourgeois entrepreneurs had largely overlooked.
The Manufacturing and Textile Industry is controlled by the UGT and the CNT. These workers, as well as those in the two factories that produce chemical products, which are also controlled by the Trade Union Federations, work three days a week.
The comrades of the Municipality of Gerona who are responsible for urbanization and other public works, would like to make Gerona one of the most interesting cities of Spain.
The comrades tell us that the Oñar River, which passes through the center of the town, is a hotbed of infectious disease, due to the fact that the polluted water from residential properties flows into it. In order to rectify this situation, that is so harmful to health, the comrades have drafted a proposal to build sewers and a drainage system, by means of which they intend to carry out a magnificent sanitation project.
There is also a plan to build a reservoir in Salt to collect the water of the Ter River. This reservoir would be capable of supplying water for the irrigation of the entire region, thus facilitating the expansion of agriculture.
There is also a plan in the works to construct a Provisions Market with the most up-to-date facilities.
They would also like to demolish the old downtown area of the city, and build in its place a series of apartment blocks like those of Vienna. Each of them would be able to accommodate spacious apartments for 500 families.
CONFISCATIONS AND MUNICIPALIZATIONS
The municipality has confiscated all the housing of the city. As a contribution to the war effort, it has increased the rents in the following proportions: up to 100 pesetas, by 50 percent; from 100 pesetas and up, by 75 percent.
The municipality intends to municipalize Industry and Transport, in order to proceed to full municipal control and regulation, and also intends to introduce the family wage.
Furthermore, the municipality is seeking to regulate the price of food, pending the confiscation of the stores and warehouses, which is slated to be completed shortly.
WORK FOR THE WAR
Besides the war industries located in this town, which we shall refrain from enumerating, Gerona has undertaken serious efforts to contribute to the needs of the fronts.
Gerona and its vicinity have sent some 2,000 men to fight on the battlefields; the entire town was put on war footing during the events that took place at Rosas.1
The moral integrity of the workers affiliated with the Waiters Section is especially noteworthy. In consideration of the fact that women can perform the work of wait-staff, and that the men have a more important mission to fulfill, the male waiters went to the front, leaving the women in their place to work in the cafes and restaurants. A large proportion of the employees of the Banks and Stock Exchange also decided to go to the front. Among the workers of the Construction Industry a proposal is being discussed, and has been approved by a majority of them, to send detachments of construction workers to the battle sectors to build fortifications and help the peasants.
The Municipality has organized a large workshop where clothing is manufactured for the needs of the front.
All political-social tendencies in the town also have their corresponding workshops, where clothing is made for the front.
There are approximately 700 refugees in Gerona, who have arrived here from various locations in the war zones.
We were told about cultural projects that were being planned. One project involves the construction of a kind of city school, composed of nine groups provided with everything they would need to meet the requirements of modern pedagogy. School cafeterias will also be built. The budget for such an important initiative amounts to a total of two million pesetas.
Gerona possesses a municipal library, and in addition to this library, the Municipality plans to establish another library in the social club that once served the bourgeoisie. The Municipality plans to provide it with a large number of books and intends to call it the “People’s Library”.
Various newspapers are published in Gerona. There is the “Front”, published by the Socialists; “L’Espurna”, published by the POUM; and “Autonomista”, published by the Republicans. We were told that the CNT intends to publish a local newspaper.
SOME PRIESTS WHO ARE DEMOLISHING THE CHURCHES
Geronese clericalism once flourished on its many pesetas. Proof of this is the fact that the residence of the Bishop and the Cathedral are together worth 36 million pesetas. The “ministers of God” did not wait for the kingdom of heaven to live the good life. They made the best of this vale of tears…. And so sure were they of victory, that they did not even bother to safely hide their millions.
The times changed, and the more than fifty men who, in their black vestments, had lived off the income of their churches, today follow the old maxim, “they shall earn their bread by the sweat of their brows”, and work in overalls and rope sandals. They are laboring with picks and shovels destroying the churches. With their destructive labors they are contributing to the construction of a new world, free of the woeful routine of religion.
And those who once preached celibacy are beginning to take notice of women. It is said that some of the Church fathers were unfair to women, and many of the men who were priests want to get married or live with women. They have become more good-natured and, forgetting the Christian precept, “keep the holy days sacred”, they work even on Sundays, working for the needs of the war. This is a redemption that has never been heard of before!
WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED BY WILL-POWER
Leaving Gerona, the highway, narrow and straight, bordered by trees, crosses between small villages of adobe houses, in each case crowded together around an old church, which is today deserted and useless. The automobile can go more slowly now and we may observe the countryside. We pass by the silhouettes, bent over the furrowed ground of the farms, of the men and women who are patiently working, and the sadness that characterizes the traditional peasant of the old style who, alone on “his” land, toils to extract the surplus product that must provide his sustenance. Compare the labor of these poor folk, so sad and so slow, with the enthusiasm, with the cheerfulness, with the vigor and the surge of optimism that sweeps over the peasants who collectively work the land, brothers in labor, together in the everyday struggle for survival.
Throughout these areas, in these little villages, they still think as they did before the Revolution concerning almost every aspect of social life. Little by little the light will be shed on the minds of their denizens; little by little stubborn Ampurdán, saturated with anxieties about progress, will cease to be influenced by these humble little villages, just as Torroella de Montgrí has freed itself of such influences.
We arrived in Torroella around dusk, and the town square, surrounded by the typical arcades, was partially obscured by shadows. Torroella has many large mansions of an aristocratic type; they belonged to proud magnates who lived in them during the summer seasons. All these homes have been confiscated and today perform the social function that their former owners could never have imagined.
We have spoken with the comrades, young people for the most part, enthusiastic and dynamic. Before the fascist uprising hardly anyone knew what the Confederation stood for. There were some comrades who sympathized with the ideals embodied by our organization, but without the direct influence of the latter this sympathy remained a mere vague feeling. Once the revolutionary movement began, the comrades of Torroella made the greatest efforts to bring the town onboard with the new circumstances. And they can be pleased with having achieved their goals.
The entire working class joined the CNT, and exercising all means that were compatible with the process of emancipatory action, this town, which has about five thousand six hundred inhabitants, can serve as a model for others which, having benefited from the presence of not a few militants for many years, were expected to achieve so much more than they did. With enough will-power praiseworthy goals can be achieved. This has been proven by these comrades in Torroella de Montgrí.
THE BRICKLAYERS COLLECTIVE
In order to speak with the comrades of the Construction Industry we had to go to their headquarters, which is located in the building that previously hosted the Banco de Palafrugell.
“One of the reforms implemented in our profession,” the comrades told us, “was the standardization of wages. By this means we eliminated the obnoxious difference between the wages of the unskilled laborer and the skilled laborer. With the exception of the apprentices, all the workers are now paid 55 pesetas a week, and we intend to introduce the family wage.”
The forty-hour workweek has been introduced, Saturday afternoons and Sundays being set aside for work on fortifications. Those who were previously contractors, currently work under the same conditions as the other workers.
Employing the requisite foresight, the collective, having calculated the expenditures on wages, devotes part of its surplus for payment of wages for those days when rain prevents the workers from performing their regular jobs.
In addition, these comrades also display solidarity, one of the greatest attributes of the human being. When a worker is ill he is paid his full wage, just like the others. We should also mention the regulation concerning those workers of the industry who, because of their advanced age, can no longer work. This regulation stipulates that they should receive the same wage as those who can still work.
We have parted from the comrades of the Construction Industry with a good impression concerning the work they have carried out and that they intend to realize.
THE BAKERS COLLECTIVE
The Bakers Collective is composed of twenty-three individuals. These people were the first in the town to understand the value of collectivized labor. They are so convinced of this that they work with the greatest enthusiasm, intensely, without any fixed working hours.
These comrades have four ovens; they are trying to save enough money to build two new ovens and to concentrate all bread distribution in one location.
Situated in the vanguard of emancipatory activities, they have established the family wage in the following form: for married couples, both the man and the woman are paid thirty pesetas a week. Each minor child of the age of sixteen years or younger is allocated one peseta more per week. If the family has a second producer, he or she is paid thirty pesetas, and if it has a third producer, this person is paid eighteen pesetas. As for the single person, without a family, the collective assigns him or her a wage of seven pesetas per day.
Once the weekly expenditure on wages is calculated, some one hundred fifty pesetas are set aside, which are saved for the repair of the ovens and for any materials that are needed.
The comrade bakers all work with the greatest enthusiasm, strengthening the bonds of comradery with the equitable pay based on the family wage, which should be implemented among the entire productive class of revolutionary Spain.
THE OTHER COLLECTIVES IN TORROELLA
The barbers, numbering about 24 or 25, have formed a collective. The barbers now all work together in a magnificent building renovated for their purposes. The building is very spacious, with as many conveniences as the customers could wish.
Public entertainment is also collectivized. Various events are held to raise money for the Militias, and five percent of the receipts are devoted to charity. The famous folk group “Els Montgrins” belongs to this Section; it has been performing for fifty years, and is so successful that it has made the Ampurdanese melodies of the typical sardanas [a type of Catalonian dance and music—Translator’s note] famous not just throughout Spain but also all over the world.
Transport and its associated trades are also collectivized, and wages have been standardized. These comrades have sent fourteen motorcycles and seven sedans to the front. For the transport of travelers in the everyday bus service with nearby towns, since the industry was collectivized it has acquired two magnificent buses.
The four tailoring shops have been consolidated into one shop, where some sixty men and women are employed. In order to receive their wages when there is not enough work, they have agreed to work two more hours on those days when there is work.
Among the peasants who live in the township, some are now working collectively. It is hoped that in a short time all of them will decide to work collectively, having noticed the advantages that accrue to those who work in common.
The dressmakers, who were previously divided among fifteen or twenty workshops now work together in one workshop, and these pleasant women enjoy the freedom that they did not posses before, happily laughing, singing and talking together.
THE MUNICIPALITY AND ITS ACTIVITIES
In Torroella de Montgrí the Municipality was structured, at the time of our visit, in the following manner: five representatives of the CNT, one from the FAI, one from the “rabassaires”, two from the POUM and two from the Esquerra.
The two palaces that once belonged to the Marqués de Robert have been confiscated. The impressive pastures that were once owned by the Marqués de Camps were also seized.
We must not overlook the labor of education; for this purpose several private homes have been renovated.
The Libertarian Youth and the Trade Union have two public libraries, enriched with the wealth of the books found in the mansions of the rich people of the area. These books, which represent a cultural treasure-trove, are now appropriated by the people, for all those who feel the noble desire for knowledge, unlike before, when they only served the purposes of luxury on the bookshelves of the libraries of the aristocrats, the property of men who were more interested in luxury and ostentation than in culture.
POPULAR SYMPATHY FOR THE CAUSE OF EMANCIPATION
The example of hard work set by the proletariat of Torroella can only arouse sympathy. “That is why,” a comrade tells us, “not only the workers, but also even the middle class, those people who always kept their distance from the proletariat, look with favor on our achievements.”
From the very first days of the military rebellion a good number of the sons of the town have been fighting on the fronts.
And understanding the need to be prepared against the barbarous enemy, the inhabitants of this pleasant little town spend their Sundays building fortifications and roads.
Furthermore, there are about forty refugees in Torroella, who are tended with the greatest solicitude, and who are happy to have found the hospitality of other homes to supply what the brutality of the fascists forced them to abandon.
THE PROBLEM OF PROVISIONS
The market of Granollers is traditionally famous throughout all of Catalonia. This town in the region of Vallés is one of the most lively and affluent market towns due to its traffic in poultry and livestock. At its weekly market the middlemen once swarmed, who, exercising their cleverness in this kind of transaction, departed enriched at the expense of the peasants who had no choice but to resort to these middlemen to sell their wares. As we know, commerce has relied upon a whole series of individuals who, bargaining between the seller and the buyer, have made a killing. The comrades who took control of local provisioning have abolished the middlemen, thereby preventing the abuses and the speculation that used to be the sorry norm.
In a town of such commercial importance as Granollers, it is understandable that one of the primary concerns of those who assumed responsibility for administering the Municipality was the problem of provisioning the town. And judging by the detailed explanations provided to us by the comrades in charge of this task, it is well on the way to being solved in a most exemplary fashion.
Everything that involves the market is subject to regular control. This prevents abuses. A spacious building has been renovated for the sale of all the goods that enter the weekly market for poultry, cattle, etc. The peasants only have to go to the Supply Council, and the Council handles the business of sales in a normal and fair way. The volume of sales is now forty percent higher than before, and prices have actually fallen, especially for poultry and certain food products such as sugar.
Given the circumstances we currently face, the comrades of the Supply Council have shown us how the free market, such as it previously functioned, was incapable of realizing its full potential. Hence the necessity for rigorous control measures applied to the market, for it is only by this means that its smooth functioning can be assured. The profits obtained from the renowned market of Granollers, which, incidentally, are so beneficial for local trade, are delivered to the Municipality, which assumes responsibility for distributing them for the needs of the war. The Supply department has also been able, due to its decision to abolish middlemen, to more effectively supply the hospitals and sanitaria of Catalonia than before.
There are, however, also some problems that still must be overcome. So, for example, there is a busy traffic in contraband foods; this involves those who, eager to corner the market on certain goods, later sell them at a higher price to individual buyers. It is hoped that this problem can be resolved by the committees.
The comrades of the Supply Council have also informed us of the need to limit consumption during the war. Consumption must be subject to rationing, they tell us, so that there is no waste. They have told us about the necessity of the “family card”, created by the Supply Council. On its cover we read the following words: “Comrade: this card has been designed to ensure that everyone receives what is necessary to live. So that no one can ever hoard basic necessities, which other comrades at the front and in the cities need. Do not let anything go to waste! Remember that what we have in excess may be needed by others!”
AN ARTISTIC TREASURE
The comrade Albarranch, a painter who is highly educated and possesses vast erudition in the field of art, invited us to visit the Museum and Archive of Vallès. Before we entered he told us: “This is not a museum, but a warehouse.” This is because, due to the revolutionary movement, numerous confiscations have taken place throughout the entire region of Vallès. Requisitions were carried out in a large number of opulent villas, and a great quantity of art objects has been seized; especially with regard to paintings, there is a veritable treasure trove, including canvases by the most famous artists, such as Rubens, Teniers, Andrea del Sarto, Ribera, Tiziano, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Greco, Rembrandt, Murillo and other moderns such as Martí Alsina, Rámon Casas, etc.
Rather than a museum, it is a warehouse; leaning against the walls, filling up every space in the building, paintings, display cabinets, furniture, etc., are accumulated. We were told that it is estimated that fourteen million pesetas worth of artworks are stored in this museum.
Naturally, given the enormous quantity of works of art that are piled up here, their value cannot be precisely assessed. It will be necessary for the Municipality to renovate one or two more buildings so that visitors can view these artworks.
One of the comrades told us an anecdote that is revealing of the stupidity of many of the “nouveau riche” and the confusion of some comrades who have carried out searches of the homes of people who were capable of satisfying their whims, thanks to their vast fortunes, to acquire works of art of great value. Several comrades went to a certain mansion owned by a rebel sympathizer; they carried out a search and found a magnificent painting by Murillo, which, due to its religious theme, without paying any attention to the delicacy of detail expressed by the great artist, they tore into pieces as they removed it from its frame. In the same house, sheltered in a glass cabinet, there was an ordinary plaster cast sculpture of the Virgin. The owners of the house in question seemed to attribute a great value to this image, since they displayed it in such a luxurious glass case. The comrades assigned to search the house also thought the plaster cast statue was of great value, since they gave the most respectful treatment to this insipid plaster image, after having torn up a masterpiece.
Fortunately, cases such as the one mentioned above are extremely rare, since the producers, although themselves uneducated with regard to the monetary value of things also know that they should respect and appreciate things that reflect incontestable merit, things that the powerful accumulated for themselves.
LOCAL ECONOMIC CAPACITY
Granollers has some 18,000 inhabitants, and our own Confederation is the predominant social organization.
There are 18 factories which belong to the manufacturing and textile industries. These factories are under the control of the workers, who work for three days a week and are paid for four.
The peasants belong to the “Rabassaires”, but we have been able to observe that they have a distinct sympathy for the National Confederation of Labor; they may choose to join it in the not so distant future.
The construction industry and the other trades are socialized.
The barbershops have been socialized. There are approximately one hundred barbers and hairstylists. All of them are very scrupulous about the distribution and effective control of the money they obtain for their services. We were told about a certain individual who, taking advantage of the trust of the others, kept some of the money he made which, just like all the other comrades of the profession, he was supposed to deposit in the common fund. After having been reprimanded once already for certain infractions, in view of his recidivism, his union card was taken away from him, and he was expelled from the organization. Actions carried out by individual workers that are prejudicial to the collective cannot be tolerated.
We were told that the construction section is considering submitting a proposal to the Municipality with regard to the advisability of confiscating the town’s housing, since this would constitute a source of income for municipal operations.
During the first days of the revolution, the Waiters Trade Union confiscated a splendid building that had formerly belonged to a well-known fascist. They established a People’s Dining Room in it, where approximately one thousand persons received free meals every day. At the present time, these comrades, whose Trade Union is affiliated with the CNT, are feeding about three hundred persons. The Waiters Trade Union has about sixty members, and it is collectivized. What they receive in payment from the collective enterprise is distributed equally among the members.
And we shall conclude this section by noting that the Confederation has more than 5,000 members in this town.
SUPPORTING THE REVOLUTION
More than 400 men have left Granollers to fight fascism with arms in hand.
The Construction section has sent some 130 individuals to the front to build fortifications.
We should also note, as an example of mutual aid, the fact that some thirty of the town’s bricklayers have gone to Ascó to help the peasants with the olive harvest.
For their part, the Militia Band, affiliated with the CNT and composed of 65 musicians, is at the disposal of the entire regional organization for the performance of benefit concerts. They attend all the festivals organized in the town to raise money for the Militias.
In consideration of the fact that there is no working class unemployment in the town and also in view of the fact that with regard to the educational field the greatest activity is underway to train the children as they should be trained, we may emphasize that Granollers has been one of the most active towns in the new stage of social restructuring that is in progress.
From the highway, rising from Martorell, the huddle of houses of Esparraguera stand against the background, on the edge of the horizon, of the imposing mass of Montserrat that penetrates the blue sky with the sharp peaks of its high crests.
The town has about 5,800 inhabitants, and about 2,600 of them are members of the CNT.
Most of the town’s workers are employed in the manufacturing industry. Two factories are devoted to the spinning of cotton thread, the production of fabrics and finished clothing, corduroy, velvet, etc.
One of the factories is that of Juan Montaner y Font, which employs some 160 workers. The other is the renowned Manufacturas Sedó, controlled by the CNT, the most important factory of its kind in all of Catalonia. It has 1,800 employees.
After Industry, the most important sector is the Peasants Section, which is also affiliated with the Confederation. Once the movement began, the peasants enacted the forty-hour workweek, with a fifteen percent increase in wages. Later, they understood that we are not in a situation in which we can reduce the length of the working week, but quite the contrary: we must increase it as much as possible. At the present time there is no fixed workweek, they just work as much as they can. They have confiscated the largest properties in the municipality and work in good conditions, since there is an abundance of water for irrigation. They produce a large quantity of vegetables, and harvest abundant crops of grapes and olives. The latter are used both for local consumption and export.
The bakers have formed a collective, as have the woodworkers. The barbershop workers also plan to form a collective in the near future.
A RETROSPECTIVE LOOK AT MANUFACTURAS SEDÓ—CNT
We shall take the time for a detailed summary of the emancipatory struggles of the workers of the Sedó plant; the tenacious action of the factory workers against the suffocating power of an employer with a feudal concept of society; to relate a full account of the injustices committed by the employer of such a large factory would be a truly arduous task.
He was an old-fashioned, conservative bourgeois in the old style, with an antiquated view of what labor represents. For him, the working class was born for the sole purpose of serving the powerful. The workers had to be docile and submissive to the designs of the master.
On one occasion he, who like most reactionaries was an ardent Catholic, claimed that God had given the workers eyes so that they could see what they were doing at work but never for the purpose of looking face to face with the “master”; never for the purpose of seeking justice with angry gestures.
And because he was afraid that some day his workers would make him pay dearly for his despotism over them, he maintained a squad of the Guardia Civil in his factory. Thus, when extremely justified indignation overwhelmed the spirits of the workers, the Guardia in their shiny tricorn hats pointed their Mausers at the hearts of the unarmed workers, ready to shoot murderous lead. Besides the Guardia Civil, the Sedó factory also had its own vigilante squad, composed of a variety of bloodhound that sniffed out the trade union activities of the workers of the town, always ready to nip in the bud any attempt to harm the interests of the master and lord.
THE SEDÓ FACTORY TODAY
Accompanied by the comrades who are members of the Factory Committee, we visited the spacious workshops and offices of this important factory, which has an iron foundry, an important metallurgical workshop, with a boiler manufacturing department and carpentry shop, all established in the best technical conditions for the purpose of manufacturing the looms and other machines required for the factory’s operations. Furthermore, it channels the waters of the Llobregat River through powerful turbines that can provide the motor force that the factory needs, with an output of up to three thousand five hundred horsepower.
This factory also has, on its compound, a residential area with housing for 260 families. The powerful manufacturers built groups of houses within the precinct of their plant, for the purpose of exercising greater surveillance and control over the workers. They founded cooperatives and even recreation centers, so that contact with the outside world would not mitigate the servility of their family of producers. They tried to enclose the entire course of the lives of the workers within the factory compound.
Now the factory no longer reflects the administrative rigidity that once characterized it. Confiscated by the workers, the latter work in Manufacturas Sedó in an environment of comradery. The situation of the war imposes some restrictions on the production process. Problems with regard to foreign currency prevent the acquisition of the required amounts of cotton, a raw material that is primarily obtained from Argentina. This is why the factory is only working a three-day week.
As for the technicians, they have cooperated effectively in the plant’s economic progress. The comrades of the Committee told us that it is unfortunate that, as a result of the circumstances of the war, production cannot be increased, since, in view of the characteristics of the factory, it could potentially be raised very high, for during normal operations, working a forty-eight hour week, an average of one hundred ten thousand meters of corduroy and two hundred thousand meters of canvas were produced, products that are primarily destined for the markets of South America, Holland, Egypt and Turkey. The factory currently has stockpiled in its warehouses, awaiting shipment, goods valued in the millions of pesetas.
Besides the production of thread and cloth, Manufacturas Sedó also produces 5,000 kilos of calcium carbide per day; and when the flow of water from the Llobregat is high, it can double this output.
Before July 19, there were about seventy families in Esparraguera who, due to a lack of work, were forced to undergo privation, hunger and despair. Currently, thanks to the spirit of solidarity of the town, liberated from all bourgeois exploitation, the breadwinners of these families have been able to get jobs in one or another local industry. And today, the problem of unemployment has been completely overcome.
As for housing, there are now about 120 confiscated homes. The Municipality is planning to proceed to confiscate all housing. When it does so, the Municipality will collect the rent, and thus obtain a source of income to utilize for public works and for all those projects that are of vital interest to the town.
Before the movement began, there was a building in the town that was to be dedicated as a public library. It was under construction, but the months went by and the work proceeded very slowly. Now, this building, of magnificent proportions, will soon be opened as a library, where young and old may immerse themselves in the cultural essence contained in its vast quantity of carefully selected volumes.
The Municipality is also deliberating with regard to a plan to expand educational services, and increase the number of schools.
In the matter of sanitation and health, the Municipality of Esparraguera is planning to build a large sanitarium on the country estate of Julio Alcalde, a well known rebel who fled to France once the revolutionary events began.
SINCERITY AND DISINTERESTEDNESS
When the Generalitat, after the July events in Barcelona, passed a law mandating a fifteen percent increase in wages, in Esparraguera the view prevailed that such an edict was not advisable. It was claimed that in a revolutionary period restrictions rather than pay increases, which would necessarily have a deleterious effect on the economy, were necessary.
There is a compulsory war tax, adjusted to the economic capacity of each family. This tax varies from five to one hundred pesetas a week. And for those who work forty hours a week in their respective trades, five percent is deducted from their pay to send to the Militias.
From the very beginning of the movement, on the part of the comrades and the townsfolk in general, there has been an atmosphere of peace, and the outbreak of passions that could lead to regrettable results has been avoided.
The comrades who have oriented their activities in harmony with the organization seek at all times to suppress those morbid influences that lead to demoralization, which could create a corrupt attitude, one that is antithetical to the revolutionary morality that tends to transform consciousness; the revolutionary morality that dignifies the human personality. So they have sought to uproot vices; to isolate anything obnoxious that remains of the moral order of the bourgeois regime. Vices, regardless of their type, adulterate the conduct of individuals, making them descend into the abyss of degradation. This is what, with their healthy opinions, the comrades of Esparraguera have sought to avoid.
A PRIEST AND SOME MONKS WHO WERE CAPABLE OF EMBRACING DIGNITY
In the first days of the revolution, the people, understanding the retrograde and reactionary nature of religion, burned the church. Of the three priests who once lived in the town, two made haste to flee far away, but one, certainly the youngest of the three, remained in the town, hiding in a house. He was discovered by the comrades; then he told them about the pressure his family put on him that finally led him to take up the career of a man of the cloth.
Currently, stripped of his black vestments, symbolic of obscurantism, the former priest is employed in the Department of War and is one of the most active and enthusiastic comrades working for the revolutionary cause.
In the residential colony in the Sedó compound there were some monks who were employed as teachers, teaching the religious instruction that has been so harmful for human progress. Another monk worked as a doctor’s assistant in the Sedó infirmary.
Now, having put aside their monkish cowls, the first two monks are working in the Municipal Hospital; and the other monk at Sedó is still working as an assistant in the factory infirmary. Experiencing the new reality, which was so different from what they imagined it would be like, they never tire of saying that they prefer their current condition. In the face and every aspect of these individuals who used to be monks in the Sedó plant, we have noted a youthful spirit and a feminine grace; signs that we hope will be accompanied by a clear understanding of what the revolution represents for everyone. An understanding that will be translated into enthusiastic collaboration, forgetting the past.
6. VILLAFRANCA DEL PANADÈS
We drove our car along a new highway; we went around another small hill, and left behind us the huddled houses of some village, the white silhouette of a country house along the road; and to the right, left, and on every side, the symmetrical lines of sight seemed to go on forever. We are in the Panadès, the region that is so famous for its vineyards, where the most famous wines of Spain and the world are made.
Villafranca is the most important town in the region, where the wine industry and commerce are highly developed.
The town has many export businesses, which are controlled by the workers employed in them. Wine is the main source of wealth here and the essential basis for trade. The comrades of the Supply Committee tell us that many commercial transactions have been carried out with France, consisting in the exchange of products.
Besides agriculture and trade, the town does not have any manufacturing industry of importance. It contains a factory that makes finished cloth goods, and a few metal workshops that have been collectivized, as has the entire transport system. There is also a factory that makes sharp blades for cutting machines, which is under the control of its workers. The surrounding district has a few mines, which once produced a high-grade aluminum ore. These mines, years before the revolutionary movement, were exploited for a while; later, due to the neglect of the business that owned them, they were largely abandoned. Now the Municipality is planning to reopen them and attempt to squeeze the greatest output from them. The bricklayers are also working in a collective.
We must point out that all the work carried out to organize the collectives was inspired by the comrades of the CNT, which has about 2,500 members in this town.
With regard to agriculture the area contains a large number of “rabassaires”. In various towns of the region, the peasants, grasping the promise of the collectives, and understanding that it would be a mistake to oppose them, are collectivizing their properties.
We wish we had enough space to devote an extensive study to review what we have seen in order to give the reader more information pertaining to the interesting explanations of the local comrades. We may only provide a rapid summary of our observations.
In the building housing the town’s train station, we admire the large library containing more than two thousand volumes on viticulture, published in Spanish, French, English and Italian editions. The library also contains the major Spanish and foreign magazines, to which the library subscribes.
We visited the school laboratories; in the wine cellars, where the casks are stored and subjected to the necessary experiments to provide them with the sought-after quality. We spent some time in these well-equipped laboratories, where, under the guidance of expert personnel, the wine is analyzed and all the tests are carried out that are required by the science of winemaking.
THE CULTURAL WORK OF THE MUNICIPALITY
Although the Municipality has initiated many projects, one of which involves the implementation of a complete census of urban property in order to study the most suitable way to municipalize housing, it nevertheless has not overlooked cultural work.
In the former cavalry barracks, there is now a magnificent school. The school will have 24 classrooms, and already 16 of them are ready for the students.
Besides 96 refugees from the Paloma nursing home in Madrid, Villafranca has also accepted 120 children from Madrid. The Municipality has made sure that these children do not go without schooling. It must be noted that they are very content in their new home and some of them are even starting to learn to speak Catalan.
For pleasure and instruction, Sunday afternoons are set aside for free movies for the schoolchildren.
An Ateneo [“Peoples Cultural Center”—Translator’s note] has been established in the town in the former Agricultural Center of Panadés, a place that was much-frequented by the local potentates, who, when the revolution began, ran away like rabbits. Plans are underway to teach adult education classes in this Ateneo, which promise to be attended by people of both sexes.
A plan is in the works to establish a school of agriculture in the Puigreig villa, which is now municipalized, which will be of major interest for the region.
A MIRACLE FACTORY
Victor Hugo has called attention to the decline of religion. He said that in Holland, the scales that were once used to weigh the unfortunates who were accused of witchcraft by the Church are now used to weigh cheese. In Villafranca, there can be no doubt that religion has encountered a terrible defeat here, as well; thus, the local church has been turned into a warehouse, where diverse commodities are stored.
On the outskirts of the town there is an old peasant house called the “Molí d’en Rovira”. They say that a woman named María Ràfols was born there, one of those poor hysterical women who are exploited by priests, friars and monks. It was said that this María Ràfols was a saint, with the power to perform miracles. No one ever witnessed these miracles, not even the most gullible and foolish folk.
The clergy of the region understood that they could exploit the memory of the unhappy Ràfols, who died in a cell in the local convent. They intended to build a magnificent building next to the house where the “saint” was born, in order to compete with their counterparts at Lourdes.
The Revolution put an end to their plans, and this famous “miracle factory”, the magnificent building, said to cost about five million pesetas, is still unfinished. Now that the Municipality has confiscated the building, its best rooms that are already completed are being considered for renovation as the site of a hospital or sanitarium; here a number of monks once lived, who fled, leaving behind their clothing and personal belongings.
THE EFFORTS OF THE PEASANTS
This town has some 8,000 inhabitants, and all of the workers in the town are members of the Confederation. It is an essentially agricultural area, although it does have about a dozen factories engaged in the manufacture of finished and semi-finished fabrics.
Here, as everywhere else, it is the peasants of the countryside who especially demonstrated their faith in the advent of the new social structure born from the Revolution. It is the peasant comrades, members of the CNT, who are in the vanguard of the work of renewal that must be carried out in agriculture. Without a petty and grasping mentality, without abject bourgeois egoism, and without getting mixed up in any political scheming, these 180 farmers who have formed a collective work incessantly, and have pooled together their respective small properties, united in labor.
Our farmer comrades of the CNT deserve praise for their tenacious will. They knew how to rise to the occasion; they did not cling to old routines, to the stale egoisms in contradiction of the revolutionary spirit. It is to be hoped that they can convince their counterparts in Rubí who are socially backward, and get them to merge their labor with that of the Agricultural Collective.
The Agricultural Collective of Rubí was formed at the beginning of September. With the lands that the members contributed, together with those that had been confiscated, they had many hectares of land, divided between forest and arable. They make charcoal in the forest and also use the latter as a source of timber. They are currently planning to initiate a reforestation program in their woodlot.
There is no fixed workweek. They work as long as they have to work, even on Sundays. They are paid the same wages as before the Revolution. In order to obtain the funds they need, they have been borrowing against the liquid assets of the individual owners who joined the collective, and have collected 50,000 pesetas in this manner. To this figure must be added the income from various miscellaneous market sales: wine, lumber, charcoal, etc.
Seven large landed estates have been confiscated, one of which is cultivated in conjunction with the peasants of Papiol and another with those of Sant Quirze. They work in common, and intend to share the product equally. In some rural buildings, controlled by the Collective, they have pigs. They have a tractor for working the fields, a threshing machine and 37 animals, horses, mules, asses, etc.
We spent some time in discussion in the magnificent headquarters of the Collective, which previously belonged to a rebel who owned a construction firm, with the comrades who compose the administrative staff of the Collective. They told us that they are planning to introduce the family wage. As for the upcoming harvest, they expect it will be splendid, since in the Collective alone, much more land is cultivated now that was previously farmed in the entire town.
A collective wine warehouse has been established for the wine that has been confiscated and for all the harvested crops contributed by all the members of the Collective. Eight tons of wheat, four of oats and two of barley have been sown, and there are eighteen tons of potatoes that are ready to be planted.
The Revolution has excellent supporters among the peasants of the Collective.
THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY
Among the factories in the town, eight have been collectivized and the others are in the process of collectivization, and are already operating under workers control. The workers in these factories work only three days a week.
An interesting resolution was passed by the workers of the collectivized factory “Textil Activa” (CNT) that was confiscated by its workers after the revolutionary movement. This factory produces cotton clothing for the Militias. In view of the abnormal situation we are now facing, in which sacrifices are necessary, they adopted the measure of reducing their wages by an average of 15 or 16 pesetas per week. They did this in order to set an example for other localities where there are workers who, instead of making a voluntary sacrifice, are paid for more days than they actually work.
There are two lace factories that—judging from what we were told by the comrades—will be shut down. Labor should not be undertaken that does not respond to the needs of the moment.
We spoke with the comrades of the Fábrica Colectiva Brazo y Cerebro [“Collective Factory of Arm and Brain”—Translator’s note], devoted to general haberdashery. Forty-two people work there, along with the person who was once the owner of the factory. They devote ten percent of their wages to support the needs of the Municipality. They told us that they lack raw materials and that now the Collective works for the war.
It is of interest to note the opinion expressed by the Local Federation of Trade Unions. They think that, besides the Administrative Council that every factory possesses, a Local Council should also be formed that unites all the Administrative Councils and where the payments and receipts that affect the Manufacturing sector of the town should be managed.
A LITTLE CHAT WITH THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS
The Construction Industry is composed of 180 individuals. It is collectivized, and the former owners of the construction companies work alongside their former employees.
Wages have been standardized, and a study is currently underway to introduce the standard wage. They told us that they are not seeking to make money. If they increase the number of the projects they are working on, it is for the benefit of the collective.
The construction workers work Saturdays and Sundays when necessary.
Inspired by excellent proposals, they lend their assistance to the peasant comrades, since agriculture plays a preponderant role in the local economy. They want to carry out building projects in collaboration with the farmers.
THE PLANS OF THE MUNICIPALITY
The Municipality has major plans that will be of great benefit to the town. Most of these plans were conceived by the comrades of the Confederation, who always have a predisposition to push the work of renewal forward.
An Accident Insurance Plan will be created for the workers. The money that previously was sent to the major insurance companies will now remain in the locality.
A building will also be renovated for use as a health clinic and hospital.
With regard to projects that affect mutual aid, the members of the Construction Industry have offered to work without pay. As for the building materials, the town will devote the income from one day per week from its assets to cover these construction expenses.
The total quantity contributed each year to the insurance fund—we were told by the comrades—amounts to approximately 400,000 pesetas, and this money will undoubtedly be put to better use by using it for the needs of the locality.
On the initiative of the Municipality schools are being built. A magnificent building is being constructed where, comfortably cared for, the children will receive a conscientious education.
The Municipality also intends to build a Health Center and a Maternity Clinic.
The workers have agreed to donate 10 percent of their wages for supporting the needs of the municipality. Since we are undergoing a period of crisis and the workers are working reduced hours, this amount will certainly be reduced. The Municipality is studying other means to generate revenues, and it is for this purpose that it has produced a special card for a municipal census. On this basis it will levy a tax that is tailored to the resources of each person. Thus, everyone will make their contribution to the war effort and will help the 182 combatants from the town fighting on the fronts of Madrid and Saragossa.
We must also mention that a study is underway on the collectivization of retail stores and on the establishment of a rationing card and the creation of a central office for distribution.
The pharmacies have been collectivized. There were three pharmacies in Rubí; two have been closed, and the remaining one is open to the public twenty-four hours a day.
It is possible that, in order to bring the Municipal Insurance Plan to fruition, the medical services of the town will also be municipalized, and at the same time a laboratory will be established in the town, where medicines can be manufactured that can replace the expensive medicines that are shipped from other locations. It must be pointed out that the decision to municipalize the pharmacies was made by the CNT.
Collectivization has also been carried out in the Metal Industry. Five small workshops have been merged into one, where, in an atmosphere of equality, the workers labor alongside those who used to be their employers, who, demonstrating clear awareness of the new structure that social life needs, are content to earn a wage and work just like the others.
In the headquarters of the Local Federation of Trade Unions, located in a magnificent building that was previously occupied by the local Landowners Association, we bid farewell to the comrades of this small town, whose labor can serve as an example. And once again we drew the conclusion that the social importance of a town is strictly related to the creative will of its trade union militants.
8. VILANOVA I LA GELTRÚ
Every town we visit has its own particular characteristics that distinguish it from the other towns. In Vilanova i la Geltrú, a city of some twenty thousand inhabitants, municipal life has been influenced to the greatest possible extent by the federalist principle.
The Municipal Council is composed of the following comrades: 7 from the National Confederation of Labor; 6 from the “Esquerra”; 3 from the POUM; 4 from the PSU; and 2 from the “Rabassaires”. There is neither a mayor nor a president. The comrades who assume the administrative functions are members of the various pertinent commissions for the normal functioning of municipal life. Each session of the municipal council elects a president, in order to facilitate discussion. It should be noted that resolutions are not adopted by majority vote, but every question is debated until there is total unanimity. Due to these federalist rules, implemented since the very beginning of the movement, it has been possible to establish an atmosphere of harmony in the town that has made it possible for the town’s affairs to proceed smoothly.
In agreement with the comrades of Vilanova, we think that it is in the municipal structure that the most equitable form of governance must be found. Thus, there is no president in the Municipality, a position that always confers an aura of superiority to the person who exercises it. As for the deliberations, there can be no doubt that abiding by majority vote would lead to discontent. It is preferable to reach agreement by way of discussion, making use of all the adequate arguments.
FEDERALISM IN ACTION: A VISIT TO THE PIRELLI FACTORY
We can only provide a glimpse of the new projects underway in Vilanova i la Geltrú; but we cannot omit an extensive discussion of what we saw during our visit to the Pirelli factory. We could provide a detailed report just on the technical conditions that prevail there. We shall leave this subject for another occasion, and we shall content ourselves now with providing some information that we have been able to obtain, thanks to the friendly dedication of the comrades who manage the factory.
The factory employs 1,500 persons of both sexes, and has been confiscated by the workers.
The despotic spirit that characterized the management had led to many conflicts. Once the Revolution broke out, the foreigners—Italians—who staffed the management positions fled from our country.
Now the factory, run by its workers, with the effective aid of the technicians, who have known how to comport themselves with dignity, fulfilling their duty, functions normally. Aware of the importance of hygiene in industrial labor, they have provided the various departments of the factory with means to meet the needs of the wellbeing of the workers.
Wages have been standardized. The workers work 40 hours a week; however, understanding that they must intensify production, they have decided to work 48 hours for the same wage as before.
To get an idea of the importance of the Pirelli factory, we shall catalog a list of some of the articles that are produced there. The factory produces some 300 kilometers of electrical cord every day; 4 kilometers of high-tension power cables; and between 30 and 36 chassis for traction vehicles. It produces 4 kilometers of flexible hoses for irrigation and viticulture every day. It produces some three thousand pairs of rubber boots every day. It also manufactures some 200 square meters of rubber flooring for hospitals per day. It also produces various articles relating to health care and other products.
There are some 250 peasant householders in the locality; the Trade Union is divided into four groups or sections: sharecroppers, day laborers, tenant farmers and small landowners. The Central Committee of the Trade Union of Agricultural Workers is composed of one delegate from each of these sections. This organization has a somewhat independent character, since it contains elements that belong to the “Union of Rabassaires”, to the CNT and to the UGT.
At the present time the production of the local countryside cannot meet the needs of the town, but it is hoped that within the next year there will be enough to not only satisfy its needs but also to set aside some for export.
A collective has been created by our organization that possesses the following machinery: four tractors, one threshing machine, four reapers and one binder; in addition, it has fifteen animals for plowing, with their corresponding plows. The Collective has confiscated 44 farms that belonged to rebel landowners. We must point out that some landowners voluntarily surrendered their lands to the Collective. The members of the Collective do not have fixed working hours and have interesting plans that are in the process of implementation; one of them involves creating a collective farm devoted to intensive aviculture and livestock raising.
Due to its agricultural importance, we should mention the Foix Reservoir, which contains the waters of the Foix River and the slopes of the nearby mountains. It has a capacity of eight million cubic meters. Plans are underway to irrigate the entire district of Vilanova as well as Culleras and Ribas del Panadès with the water from this reservoir.
The Fishing and Associated Industry, CNT, has some three hundred members. Prior to the Revolution there were two unions, one of which was controlled by the employers and the other by the state.
The town and its environs have fourteen boats of the kind known as “bous”, with eight-man crews; seven boats manned by between sixteen and eighteen crewmen, and some forty miscellaneous boats manned by two or three fishermen each. Some of these boats are collectivized, and the rest are under workers control. A plan is being drafted to collectivize all of them.
The fishermen intend to create a mobile library.
This factory, which was confiscated by its workers, has some 120 employees, members of the CNT and the UGT.
They work forty hours a week, although all of them intend to work longer hours. At present they cannot produce at maximum output, due to the lack of coal. They are also having problems, the comrades told us, honoring debts contracted by rebel elements.
Normal production is between nine and ten train cars full of cement per day; white Portland cement, super-cement, natural white Portland for tiles, waterproof stucco, etc.
Problems involved with changing demand led to a decline in output. A plan is currently under consideration to introduce improvements in the manufacturing process. The workers in the plant devote 7 percent of their wages to the Militias.
ACTS OF SOLIDARITY
There are several people’s kitchens in the town, controlled by the CNT. During the first days of the Revolution, some five hundred persons were served meals at these kitchens; currently, about two hundred eat there and are served diligently. These kitchens attract those who are most in need, for, although there are no unemployed men in Vilanova, there are some three hundred women who are out of work, due to the crisis in the textile industry, and many women who were employed as domestic servants in the homes of the bourgeoisie have quit their jobs.
The town hosts some six hundred refugees from Madrid and more are expected.
The workers of the town contribute 5 percent of their wages to support the Militias. They also contribute to special fund drives for the Militias.
Vilanova i la Geltrú has sent a good number of individuals to the front, more than two hundred of whom are members of the CNT and the FAI.
OTHER MUNICIPAL PROGRAMS
Besides the industries we have mentioned, and the Construction Industry, which is also controlled by the workers, other economic sectors are relatively insignificant.
The Municipality can rely on taxes levied on the enterprises amounting to 7% of the weekly wages of the employees. For the same purpose, a partial confiscation of capital has been approved.
The Municipality has a Culture Commission, which is planning to increase the number of schools and presently has enough buildings to use for this purpose, beginning with two schools that belonged to religious congregations.
A Municipal School of Music will be formed, which will provide unparalleled facilities. All the pianos of the town have been requisitioned for this school.
The Municipality of Vilanova i la Geltrú is showing how, on the basis of good will and hard work, interesting projects can be undertaken for the progress of a whole town.
ON THE BANKS OF THE EBRO
On the right bank of the river is the town, composed for the most part of the humble homes of peasants, worn by the passage of time.
Wide and impressive, after flowing nine hundred twenty eight kilometers, the most important river in Spain, born from the springs of Fontibre (Santander), issues into the blue waters of “Mare Nostrum”.
Just past the town, the Ebro is more than three hundred meters wide. The land stretches in an unbroken plane for as far as the eye can see. A small hamlet breaks the monotony of the journey, the ribbons of some canals scoring the land.
Amposta is a town of ten thousand inhabitants, and its economy is based on agriculture. It is known for its rice, and produces more rice than any other part of Catalonia.
In the last rice harvest of the year, which takes place in September, thirty-six million kilos of rice are harvested. It must be kept in mind that for every one hundred kilos of raw rice, about sixty kilos of white rice can be processed.
The land, collectivized by the workers, will produce better yields, thanks to the improved conditions in which they will be cultivated.
And, irrigated by the fertile waters of the Ebro, the rice paddies will extend to their fullest expanse, offering their wealth to the hard-working and free town of Amposta.
There are some one thousand two hundred farmers in the area of Amposta. In order to increase the output of the farms, they have uprooted some old olive and locust trees to expand the irrigated lands.
We should mention the Poultry Farm, run by the peasants according to the most modern methods. This farm is valued at about two hundred thousand pesetas. By the end of this year, once the buildings of the farm are completed, they will raise some five thousand chicks, and next year, with the incubators that are being installed, they will be able to produce up to two thousand chicks per week.
Besides the work of aviculture, the peasants are also engaged in the collectivization of another large farm, where they will work raising cows, pigs and sheep; they already have some seventy milk cows there, whose output will allow for the operation of a dairy with all the modern appurtenances.
The collective is perfectly able to fulfill its task, since it already has fourteen tractors, fifteen threshing machines and seventy horses.
The land has been municipalized and those who wish to remain outside the Agricultural Collective and desire to obtain some parcels that they can farm on their own account, must submit a request to the Municipality, which will permit them to do so as long as they do not resort to the odious practice of hiring wage labor, the infamous vestige of the past slavery that has survived up until our time.
The Construction Industry is collectivized, and its section has a tile factory and a limekiln. Public entertainment and several other trades have also been collectivized.
THE CULTURAL IMPULSE
With respect to education, Amposta was once quite backward. We need only say that at the present time the town has 38 schools, having established 15 schools since the beginning of the insurrectional movement. Because school is compulsory, one does not see in Amposta what we saw in other towns, where the little children wander about the streets, immersed in ignorance and exposed to all kinds of trouble.
In order to create the new schools the Municipality used buildings confiscated for the purpose. It has adequate materials, without having to request anything from the Generalitat.
Seeking to put an end to illiteracy, which characterized the old Municipalities, the Municipality has instituted six special classes for adults.
The Municipality shall also soon create a School for Arts and Trades, and a School Cafeteria.
The Municipality has a library, which will be expanded to satisfy the cultural appetites of the people.
Several conferences have been held concerning the educational program and a choir and a theater are planned, for the purpose of developing in the children the taste for art. For this work special teachers are available.
SUPPORTING THE REVOLUTION
More than three hundred residents of Amposta are fighting at the front and the Municipality has defrayed the cost of all their equipment and everything they need.
The town of Amposta has also contributed considerable direct financial assistance to the Militias, and up to the present date it has sent more than five hundred thousand pesetas to the Militias.
Having arrived from the evacuated regions, 162 people have been given refuge by Amposta, which has provided for all their needs.
A war tax has been imposed, which yields more than three thousand pesetas a week.
PROVISIONING THE TOWN
At the same time that the town endeavored to send volunteers to the various battlefronts, it also sought—comrade Reverter, a model of anarchist activity and understanding, told us—to obtain provisions for its population. There have been no shortages in Amposta, thanks to the trade in rice. There are many tons of this nutritional food in storage in Amposta.
A family rationing coupon has been instituted for basic goods, which provides for three days’ needs.
The Consumers Cooperative has been established in the church. It is curious to observe how the various parts of the church are used for this purpose. A large part of the population obtains its provisions in this Cooperative, which sells between eleven and twelve thousand pesetas worth of commodities each week.
There are about forty-five families that, due to their advanced age or because of ill-health, cannot earn their sustenance by means of their own labor. The Municipality has done everything necessary to see to it that they do not lack anything.
To summarize: the provisioning of the town is assured. “We only experience a scarcity”, we were told by the secretary of the Municipality, “of wine and alcohol, and this is because we have an interest in seeing to it that as little as possible of those things enters Amposta.”
The Municipality seeks to carry out significant improvements, such as demolishing some dilapidated shacks near the entrance to the town, completing the sewage system and expanding water service.
Amposta has a water purification plant that is among the finest and the largest in all of Spain. The water, which comes from the Ebro, and serves the needs of the town, is purified by means of liquid chlorine.
Thanks to the sanitation program, epidemics like the fevers and illnesses that used to wreak havoc among the workers have been eliminated.
Attending to the needs of the town, a hospital has been established. Part of the building housing the hospital contains a health clinic. Now, anyone who wishes can go to the hospital.
Finally, a sanitarium has been constructed, outside of the town, to care for those with tuberculosis.
THE ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE PLANS OF THE MUNICIPALITY
Although the Confederation is predominant in Amposta, the CNT and the UGT are both represented on the Municipal Council, and the most perfect harmony prevails. Let us hope that the same good relations prevail everywhere!
All urban real property has been municipalized; the income from rents, which have been reduced, is used to defray municipal expenses.
The Municipality has confiscated several saltpans that can yield about five hundred thousand pesetas a year. It is also building a sodium hypochlorite plant.
Every year, many tons of rice leaves go to waste that could be utilized for the manufacture of paper if the Generalitat were to become interested in this initiative.
A plan has been approved to introduce the family wage. Once this measure is implemented, the Municipality will convoke an annual public assembly so that the people may decide how the profits are to be employed, once all expenditures are deducted.
In conclusion, Amposta is one of the most promising towns in revolutionary Catalonia. This is due to the combative spirit of the comrades in general, among whom the members of the Libertarian Youth stand out, a magnificent group of men and women, who are clearing the way to the future for the oppressed.
10. ARENYS DE MAR
TOWNS AND CITIES
We wanted to visit sparsely populated towns as well as densely populated cities. We have constantly observed that in the small towns more significant social programs of a revolutionary type have been implemented than in the more populous cities. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that a small town is less complicated compared to a city.
What interests us is what has been achieved, or plans that are being considered for implementation. We take into consideration the importance, or the congenial character, of all those initiatives that have been undertaken to establish a new era. This is what we are trying to highlight in our brief reports gathered among the confederal areas, as we visited various towns.
THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
Arenys de Mar has about 5,000 inhabitants. Although other groups are represented in the town, the CNT is predominant.
Most of the militants are enthusiastic and optimistic young people. They are contemplating what they can do, and what they can inspire, in their towns, to bring the maximum number of projects to fruition.
From the very first moments of the revolutionary movement, which did not assume a violent character in this town, the comrades of the CNT carried out the confiscations and devoted themselves to the work that was required by the circumstances, assisted by two or three individuals who, although not members of the Confederation, placed themselves at its disposal. The collectivization of the metal and construction industries was begun. The manufacturing sector, which is the largest employer in the town, will also be collectivized, but the comrades are awaiting the resolutions concerning this industry in general that will apply to all of Catalonia. In the meantime, the factories are administered by the Control Committees established in each plant. The manufacturing workers, due to the current crisis, are working three-day weeks, but are being paid for four days so they can meet their most pressing needs.
In this town, the comrades tell us, there is no unemployment among the working class, since those who did not have jobs before the movement are today working for the Municipality (together with, as is the case in other towns, diverse elements from other social categories of the population) on public works projects.
THE WAR TAX
The workers of Arenys de Mar, understanding that they have to do their part in the fight against fascism, have a certain number of comrades at the fronts. We must note that the only local organizations that have dispatched elements to the war are the CNT and the FAI. This is quite an eloquent detail that deserves emphasis.
With regard to the economic dimension of the war, the contribution of the workers is fixed according to wage categories.
As for the owners of businesses, they are obliged to pay, as a war tax, a tax on their capital. The property of those who have fled has been confiscated.
Special measures have also been implemented for public entertainment, cafes, etc., which contribute with their pennies to the economic foundations required to prosecute the war. A five centimo surcharge is levied for every customer or for each purchase of food or drink.
THE CULTURAL CAMPAIGN
In a school building belonging to a religious congregation several free schools have been installed, under the pedagogical guidelines of the CENU.
The Libertarian Youth of the town, interested in raising the cultural level of the young people, have tried to find the most attractive way to carry out cultural work. They are sponsoring evening screenings of cultural cinema, and in view of the good results they have obtained they plan to carry on with this project.
Rich people have formed a deplorable idea of the working class. For them, the producers were mentally backward, incapable of feeling admiration for art or for beauty. The workers themselves provided the most overwhelming refutation of this lie by respecting the works of art that were in the possession of the bourgeoisie or the Church, even showing respect for the examples of religious art. Thus, for example, in the church, which is now used as a garage, all the religious articles were burned except for the high altar, a true jewel of baroque art. Today it is amusing to observe in the nave of the church, blackened by vehicle exhaust, towering over a series of automobiles of various types, the fine detailed filigree of the altar that the “incendiaries” knew they should respect.
LEARNING HOW TO WORK
There were some young people from the town who were students at universities in Barcelona. Since most of them were raised in the lap of luxury, they viewed the workers with a certain degree of contempt. For them, labor was denigrating and the workers were a kind of lower form of life. Then the revolutionary movement arose and these young people, under the guidance of the workers, had to learn how to work. Provided with pick and shovel they were set to work for a few days on work projects near the beach, and are actually apprentices of the master workers. No doubt they love work today. After having developed some calluses on their hands, they will understand that labor dignifies the man who engages in it.
This is how the class conscious proletariat of Arenys de Mar think and work: these workers who, facing the sea, are ready to confront the enemy if necessary, quick to mobilize, as they did on the occasion of the bombardment of Rosas.
A PLACE THAT USED TO BE A HATEFUL LOCATION OF EXPLOITATION OF THE WORKERS
Just before arriving at the town we encounter the concentration of buildings of the SAFA, a well-known factory producing artificial silk.
When we look at this factory, when we converse with the workers employed in it, we must remind ourselves of all its odious past: the phases of struggle provoked by the management of this factory. SAFA operated with Swiss and French capital, and Romanones and Ventosa y Calvell were also major shareholders in the enterprise. The workers were treated with the most extreme despotism, as if they were servants born to endure every kind of insult and the most outrageous provocations; they were paid paltry wages for the unhealthiest jobs. Many became ill due to their work in the factory, so that the shareholders could see their profits rise.
There were three major strikes at SAFA that demonstrated the rebellious spirit of the proletariat of Blanes, which was not at all prepared, under any conditions, to endure the abuses that the management sought to inflict on it. The first was in 1930; it lasted four months; the second, in 1933, when the government in power at the time attempted to implement the draconian law of April 8; and the last strike, which took place three years ago, lasted until the fascist uprising. We hardly need to mention the series of abuses, the notorious reprisals directed against the workers, and the insulting actions of the Guardia Civil, who had become the guard dogs of the company.
Now the workers, who number approximately one thousand two hundred, run the factory. They thought about increasing their wages, but, after extensive deliberation, they understood that the time had not yet arrived for this reform and they decided to accept the same wage as before the movement.
Production has declined due to the scarcity of raw materials. The following elements enter into the composition of artificial silk: paper pulp, cellulose, carbonic acid, sulfuric acid, etc. Some of these ingredients come from Norway and Germany. At the present time the factory’s technicians, who from the very first stood alongside the workers, are attempting to obtain the cellulose they need by manufacturing it in the plant itself. If this is possible, the price of production will be reduced by twenty or twenty-five percent, and naturally will result in a corresponding increase in the amount of money available for purchasing other raw materials.
SAFA is the number one producer in Spain of artificial silk. The workers, now that they are liberated from the hated yoke of their employers, work with enthusiasm. The comrades of the Control Committee have spoken to us of some of the reforms they are considering introducing in the plant, so that the work will not be so harmful to the health of the workers. They would also like to renovate the former barracks of the Guardia Civil, located near the factory, for a school for the children of the workers at SAFA and for the children who live in the housing located on the plant compound.
THE NEW ORGANIZATION OF LABOR
In Blanes, the producing class, which is sympathetic towards the postulates of the National Confederation of Labor, is fully capable of rising to the occasion in order to take over the machinery of production.
The town’s manufacturing sector is composed of six factories that operate under workers control; and another factory devoted to the fabrication of belts, the most important of its kind in Spain, which is under workers control and which is being considered as a candidate for confiscation.
The Construction Industry has been socialized.
The following sectors have also been socialized: Transport, Woodworking, Barbershops, Public Services, Plumbers and an alcohol distillery.
The peasants have a collective farm, where they are planning to add to their herd of livestock, and also to increase the production of vegetables thanks to better irrigation.
The Vall María farm belonged to the magnate named Ribas, who was the executive director of the transport services at the waterfront. After the revolutionary events, the farm has been considerably improved; work is mechanized; the farm has motors, a mill and 28 cows that give a very high yield of milk. The collective farm is in its first stages of exploitation, but these comrades expect to produce great quantities of products.
The fishermen, numbering about sixty, who compose the crews of the fishing boats known as “bous”, are currently deliberating on how to socialize their industry. Previously, the owners of the fishing boats kept sixty percent of the value of their catch, and now the fishermen themselves receive this sixty percent, and the rest is given to the owners of the boats. Furthermore, the latter must pay, as a war tax, thirty pesetas a week, and they must also pay for costs relating to illness and accidents among the workers. Fish is sent to the hospitals regularly.
All those who work in the socialized regime are paid a standard wage. They receive seventy pesetas a week, including the employees of the Municipality.
All socialization in the town of Blanes is the responsibility of the Municipality and the latter collects all monies and taxes and pays all wages and expenses of the socialized enterprises.
The comrades have not neglected culture. They have done everything within their power to see to it that everything necessary is done to efficiently implement their projects, by creating a new mentality in the schools.
Three buildings, previously used for religious instruction, have been renovated and will be used for their newly assigned role.
For the School of Arts and Trades, the two best buildings in the town have been confiscated. One of them will be devoted to the teaching of music and the other will be for teaching drafting, modeling, painting, electrical trades, chemistry, physics and miscellaneous trades. We should point out that the technicians of the town have volunteered their disinterested collaboration in this project.
At the site currently occupied by the church, which is slated for demolition, there will be a children’s playground.
The workers devote one day’s pay to help pay the costs of the war and in this way some nine thousand pesetas are collected every week.
The workers of the town devote their Saturday afternoons and Sundays to work on the town’s fortifications. They are always ready to contribute whatever is necessary to utterly crush fascism. When work is carried out with this kind of determination it is capable of enduring the most difficult ordeals.
The proletariat of Blanes has sent about seventy individuals to fight at the front. In addition, there are about 180 individuals stationed along the shorelines in the coastal defense service.
From the towns of Aragon, Pina and Gelsa, Blanes is host to about 110 children, who are lovingly cared for, now that they were forced to leave home because of the fascist threat.
THE MUNICIPALITY, THE AXIS OF THE LOCAL ECONOMY
We have already pointed out that everything that affects the economy of the town is regulated by the communal fund; when the comrades took over the Municipal fund they reported that it did not contain even one centímo. The honesty of their auditing was verified by the current balance of a surplus of 78,000 pesetas. This is an eloquent testimony of the honesty and probity of those who are working for the Revolution, which contrasts with the spirit of pillage exhibited by those who used to run the Municipalities.
As for working class unemployment, the eternal nightmare of the workers, this problem has been resolved by the Municipality; those without work have been given jobs in the neighboring forests making charcoal.
A tax has been imposed on the wealthiest people in the town.
The comrades of the Supply Committee have shown us that the health and progress of a town depend on its ability to provide for its needs with its own resources. “As long as we were expecting every kind of assistance from other towns we underwent endless difficulties. Now we provide, by means of the Committee, everything that pertains to this important question and the results are noticeable.”
- 1A reference to the bombardment of Rosas by the rebel fleet.