The bloody conflict that unfolded for almost three years in the countryside of Spain has concluded with the victory of Spanish militarism, the clergy and the landowners, cynically supported and backed by international capitalism and the forces of reaction. A woeful and unjust result, because of the efforts, the sacrifices and the lives that it cost the Spanish people, but a result that was expected by the material interests that were in play and by the core groups of conspirators that turned the political, diplomatic and financial gears of this war.
For us anarchists, this dramatic event will always be remembered as a cruel episode in the long Calvary of the peoples enslaved and humiliated by the authoritarian regimes, even if it had only been restricted to the bitter clash of political factions for predominance and the assault on state power. However, because, in this cruel episode, specific working class organizations and institutions directed by anarchists played a role, it is justifiably incumbent on us to consider the conflict from its very beginning—when the people and the anarchists surged into the streets, with arms in hand, to thwart and to crush the military revolt—as a historical event of a social character, due to the emancipatory aspect it acquired in some Iberian regions, only in order to subsequently degenerate into a civil war with the foreign intervention of military personnel and materiel.
As may logically be assumed, the intervention in this armed struggle on the part of the workers who were members of the CNT and of the anarchists organized in the FAI produced great expectations and profound concerns within the ranks of the militants of the working class organizations on both banks of the Río Plata, the FORU and the FORA, because of the repercussions that could be expected from their active participation and due to the lessons that the constructive efforts of these numerous proletarian forces would contribute to the World of Labor.
How could the intervention of our Spanish brothers in that vast insurrectionary movement not produce such expectations, how could it not cause us to be concerned and plunge us into profound meditations, if with their action our emancipatory ideal was put to the test—Anarchy—considered as a utopia by tyros and false friends? How could our hearts not swell with joy and satisfaction if the brave and tenacious conduct of the comrades of the CNT and the FAI, with the generous contributions of the Spanish people, would depend on us being spectators of this felicitous dawning, in one corner of the globe, of a new social, just, fraternal and solidarity-based dispensation, presented by a suffering and oppressed people, and propagated and defended by the anarchists? How could we not be interested in confirming the faithful interpretation of our ideological concepts, which reject the principle of authority and of all forms of exploitation, if our comrades in Spain—even if they did so with major errors—carried out a beautiful anarchist final judgment that was conquered at the cost of enormous sacrifices, of bloody state persecutions, of epic revolutionary events and the heroic deaths of so many people?
This is why the enthusiasm that filled the FORist workers with such passion is so understandable and so logical, as well as the emergence, everywhere, of numerous initiatives, all of which were oriented towards contributing moral and economic support to the militants of the CNT and the FAI. Material solidarity was impossible, due to the dismantling of our organizational cadres, as a result of the dissolving action of opportunism [chameleonism] and the state repression that afflicted all the South American countries, and especially Argentina, for such a long time. Nonetheless, we paid very close attention to all the diverse changes of fortune of this great event.
What we could not have imagined, however, was that we would soon perceive the first signs of deviations. Then, documentary proof. Later, deceptive sophistical arguments. The social revolution had been held in check and thwarted.
Those who had confirmed their history of anarchist militancy with sublime acts of heroism, generosity and a willingness to risk their lives in the front ranks of the assault squads in the attacks on the barracks in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Oviedo, Gijón, etc., did not find imitators, in other aspects of the struggle, among the majority of the responsible officials in the directive bodies of the CNT and the FAI, who felt incapable of or afraid to give direction to and channel the redemptive impulses and the overwhelming passion of an oppressed population who had found the outlet for their just hatreds, and who chose instead to divert them and confuse them, recommending “novel” practices of “direct action”, “novel” formulas of social coexistence and “novel” ideological conceptions. And what is even worse, they devoted themselves to discrediting and “pacifying”, seeking to neutralize them, those comrades who, understanding that they faced a confirmed case of betrayal of principles,1 had the courage to call attention to it and to fight this betrayal with the healthy intention of rectifying it. They were too late; the Marxist inclinations that had been previously kept under wraps and which, on the other hand, had been revealed on several occasions in their previous activities and expressed views, came out into the open.
This made an enormous impression on the anarchist militants of South America.
The same psychological phenomenon observed as a rebound effect of the Russian Revolution, was now to be observed among us, although in a less concentrated form. Those who in the past were obstinate panegyrists of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”—everyone makes mistakes now and then—now see their position justified by the about-face executed and advised by the Spanish comrades and in order not to deny their past they devote themselves, with a blind passion, to sowing confusion in the ranks of the FORist movement.
Fortunately, because the comrades of the FOR have learned their lessons from previous events, this did not result in the hoped-for effects, and the calm judgment and sensible understanding of the events that had taken place prevented passion and bitterness from getting the upper hand and instead the comrades discerned with precision the serious problems that were posed to the anarchist movement in South America by the sell-outs and “novel” theories that the CNT and FAI militants had discovered and implemented.
Time passes. Calm has returned to the FORist milieu. Minds are beginning to reflect without prejudice on the raw data we receive from impartial and sincere sources.
The time has come, in our view, to analyze the causes that forced the comrades of the CNT and the FAI to intervene in the civil war that bled and continues to bleed the Spanish people; to comment on the activities of these comrades and their changing policies; to indicate the serious errors and betrayals for which they were responsible and to thoroughly analyze the concepts they offered to justify their actions and the methods they practiced, advised and attempted to bequeath as a legacy to the international anarchist movement.
Someone said that, “the truth is the only Venus de Milo that men do not want to see naked”, but this is not possible, in homage to the ideal of redemption: Anarchy, which we propagate and defend, overcomes this truth and we provide it without fig leaves, even if we close our eyes to the bitterness of its reality.
Let us therefore undertake this task, without any claim to having carried out a meticulous documentary review and without any concern for the judgment that the sell-outs, those who have succumbed to the disease of revisionism and the authoritarians, will think that this work deserves.
- 1 The Spanish word used in the original, “claudicación”, is translated in this text as “betrayal” or “betrayal of principles”, and occasionally as “sell-out[s]” or “backsliding”, depending on the context [Translator’s Note].