Spain and the Revolution

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

WE are living in a crisis, in a universal decomposition of values, institutions and systems. Unfortunately, the people have not been prepared for so great a demoralisation, either psychologically or materially. That is why, surrounded with misery, they have not been able to throw off the old fetishes. And so, they fall from one idolatry to another, from one serfdom to another; instead of gathering in their forces and gaining confidence in themselves and in their capacity for a better life.

It is deplorable to look at the spectacle of whole nations bending down on their knees in subjection imploring for a chief, a leader, or remaining subordinated to those, who promise to strengthen the chains of slavery. Germany is satisfied with her Fuhrer, Italy has faith in the Duce, Russia confides in Stalin. The opinion of minorities, in opposition, does not count. We believe that it isn't all the result of violence, oppression and savagery; to our mind, this situation is explained by voluntary servitude. The people have no confidence in themselves through no fault of their own but due to the centuries of perverted education. The seeds of mental slavery yield their fruit, and only the anarchists, against all currents, have been able to maintain their incorruptible faith in themselves.

Never in the history of the world has there been a more favourable situation for a change of regime. The old institutions, the old moral, political, social and economic interpretations are in plain disruption. All that is needed is the final impetus, to throw all the decrepitude over the precipice, so that the people may at last assume the responsibility for their own destiny. But the years pass on, the privileged classes grope in the dark for solutions, applying panaceas; and although they go from failure to failure, the game goes on, at the expense of those who labor and suffer. And the most notable thing is, instead of fortifying the revolutionary battlefront, the world panorama offers us a contrary picture: we see the reactionary front fortified towards the restoration of the old powers, intensified.

Insecurity and discontent are general. The bourgeoisie and the magnates of industry, commerce and agriculture are also very unhappy. They vegetate in the high spheres under a continuous strain of shocks. The crash of 1929 in New York threw thousands and thousands from lordly comfort to the depths of despair. It seemed at first a temporary crisis, which needed only some readjustments; but the years passed on and we see that it is not a crisis but a definite bankruptcy of the entire system of capitalism. A new economy is necessary. Everybody agrees to this and still solutions are being sought on the basis of privilege and the exclusion of the productive masses from the direction of their work and destiny.

The totalitarian state appears as a solution. The direction of economy, having failed under private capitalism, will in the future rest upon the power of the state. This is all the intelligence of the bourgeoisie, seconded by the Marxist tendency, has known how to propose. It is said a totalitarian state will eliminate the contradictions of rival capitalist groups, suppress the friction of the struggle of classes and convert the economic apparatus of an entire country into a single power, responding to a single will.

Undoubtedly an economic coordination is necessary, but when attained by the State, the remedy is worse than: the illness, because it is achieved at the cost of exterminating all the values, initiatives, etc., which have no origin in the State.

Moreover, the totalitarian state represents authority raised to the maximum degree. It must fortify its institutions, maintain an army, police force and bureaucracy, which increases enormously the burden of taxation. This sole fact is the best argument to ordain its failure. The modern state is insupportable not only because of its tyranny but because it is excessively expensive and because its essential functions are obstacles to social development. The totalitarian state increases parasitism in great magnitude, as is evidenced in the countries, where it has been put into practice. Under these conditions, the crisis of a system is not remedied. On the contrary, the economic disruption is made worse. The suppression of the cry of pain and protest does not imply the suppression of the pain itself, nor of the right of protest. As a logical complement of the totalitarian state appears the doctrine of nationalism, of racism, of anything which suppresses the personality before a more powerful divinity. And nationalism is war. And war is the cause of new calamities, the harbinger of new degradations of feelings and of human thought.

The modern state, having failed in its liberal dressings and in its democratic aspects, has left only the alternative of a totalitarian state, with omnipotent power in economy, and no restraint or moral scruple of any kind, when defending its existence.

We have to choose once for all. On the one side we have the state, that is, capitalism, which means war, which means unemployment and the crushing of producers by heavy taxation, and the persecution of free thought. On the other side, we have the socialization of economy, the direct understanding between producers, to regulate production and distribution according to necessities, without economic, political or social parasitism. We wish to point out again to those who still have illusions as to a proletarian government, that the capitalism of the state does not suppress capitalism, but conduces to a temporary revival of capitalism; that the government of the proletariat is like any other government, only worse, because it ties the workers spiritually to its institutions, in the hope of impossible solutions.

There is another way, our way, that of socialization and the entente of all the producers as such, and all the consumers, on the basis of their possession of the product of their labor. Religious, political and social ideas need not enter into this accord. What does it matter if people believe in God or the devil, if they are religious or atheists, Catholics or Protestants, conservatives or Socialists? We are interested simply in realising the ideal of all who work, which ideal is the possession of the integral product of labor, possible only in a socialised economy. The workers' organisations have already in Spain the framework of an immediate economic coordination, through the network of syndical and cooperative organisations. Neither capitalism nor the state has an economic basis of action, as complete as our workers' organisations. For them, it would be relatively easy even now to take over the production and distribution on the basis of the principle of the satisfaction of necessities. This would benefit even the parasites who by birth, education or inherent conditions, find themselves on the margin of productive activity, performing a function, which is perhaps secretly repugnant to them, of being simply watchdogs of the wealth of the privileged classes.

The revolution of 1917 in Russia awakened millions and millions of slaves to the consciousness of a new life. The fall of the Czar and the intervention of the proletariat in the direction of their destinies was greeted with an indescribable joy. Russia became the symbol for all the revolutionary proletarian forces. We were not the last but among the first to be on the side of Russia when it was the great hope of the oppressed.

Politics of the state have killed the socialist spirit and in a few years that great country left off being a symbol of liberty to become the ideal of bureaucrats. Today it is an imperialistic power among other powers, preparing for war just like all the other nations and having as little to do with socialism and the ideals of the proletariat, as any other state. This development might astonish and surprise many, but not the anarchists, who have pointed out the danger by their constant criticism.

Once more history confirms the certitude of our predictions. The politics of State and Socialism harmonise as little as water with fire. If one triumphs, the other must succumb, and vice versa. Socialism can be created only in the measure that the State is destroyed and popular institutions are erected to take over a direct control of production and distribution. With a disappearance of the symbol of the Orient (the myth of Russia as Berkman defined it), there has risen for the revolting slaves of the world a new symbol, the symbol of Spain. Today, Spain represents the last standard bearer of the spirit of liberty, the last hope of resurrection in this dark age.

We are not patriots, we do not glorify nationalism, our Fatherland doesn't exist where there is in place of justice only misery and slavery. In the concert of capitalist nations, our country can only represent an insignificant link, a semicolony in which only a minority of privileged rich can enjoy and bless life at the expense of the sweat and the privations of the great mass of Spanish workers and peasants. In the capitalist regime, Spain can represent only an extremely subordinate role on account of her industrial backwardness and the ignorance of her laborious masses. If the Spanish panorama is to be modified under the capitalist regime, it will be the work and initiative of foreign capital, due to the lower mentality and insignificant spirit of enterprise of native capitalists, which would imply forcibly the further dependency of the country.

But if the Spanish people should break their chains and proceed to build up a new order based on work and solidarity, then Spain would rise from the lowest rungs of the scale of modern nations to the supreme head of progressive humanity and serve as an example and stimulus, as the great living symbol of the future for the entire world.

We have seen in other countries how progressive movements have fallen under the crushing weight of regressive hordes. To save Spain from such a destiny, we are ready to suffer the greatest of sacrifices. We aim for a libertarian regime without laws and authoritarians, which we would replace by free federations and solidarity for a common cause. We know and are able to live in accord with our tenets, and we feel that even those most poisoned by the virus of authoritarianism will adapt themselves happily to a regime of life and work of mutual help, which we advocate. We entertain the firm conviction that the world will be happy only when it is free, when it will have exterminated from its institutions and activities and ideas; -- the domination and exploitation of man by man.

The situation is grave. The enemy has shut itself up in fortresses and menaces the total extermination of all the progressive movements. We may be the first to fall, but we will not be the last, as in Italy, as in Germany and other lands. There is talk of defensive alliances, of popular fronts. We have always favoured and worked, to the point of fatigue, for the consolidation of all progressive tendencies, to oppose the imminent retrocession in the direction of fascism. We have warned the liberal and left political parties that all attempts to break down the power of the CNT must of necessity redound to themselves. Our experience has shown us that the change of rudders and ideologies, without removing the State, only aggravates the economic, social and moral evils. That is why we cannot participate in alliances which are concerned more with the aim to divide the spoils in the new State, or simply with the limited objective of opposing a determined form of fascism, a specific type of tyranny, or a special kind of capitalism.

We repeat: we are ready to sacrifice many of ourselves, but it must be for an alliance rising from the heart of the proletariat, and from the centres of production. It must be for a united front of the producers to assure all who work the full mastery of their product. This unity can come only on the terrain of liberty, agreement and mutual respect for the present and future. This is not possible under the premise of a conquered State, which would necessarily afford the force of law to personal ambitions, and thus again become the natural enemy of the people.

To deny the reactionary, antisocial and antiproletarian significance of the State would be equivalent to suicide. The state can no more fraternise with liberty than water with fire; nor can it in any way fulfil the fundamental demand "he who does not work should not eat." How easy would it be for the workers to agree, without the meddling of ambitious opportunists seeking power in the political parties!

The Spanish people possess an immense creative capacity. Spain has traditions of free life, material resources together with brawn and brain. In Spain, everything remains to be done in industry, agriculture, forestry, the means of communication, and culture. The work to be realised is immense in all domains. A revolution cannot do miracles. But it would liberate energies paralysed by the present system and direct all efforts to social utility. In a few years, Spain could clothe, house and feed her population decently. At the same time Spain would become a guiding power of first order, and her word would be heard universally. Her example would not take long in being seconded by other countries, and at last the fatuous edifice of authoritarianism would crumble to the ground together with all its pestilence and human burdens. And while Russia is preparing her million soldiers to fight alongside of capitalist France in the next war, Spain could at last lift her voice and proclaim peace to the world in reply to the mad race of modern states towards degeneration and disaster.

This little peninsula could be the cradle of a new era; and it might be the tomb of a great hope. The future, not very distant, will pronounce the final word.