The Spanish Revolution – 80th Anniversary

"Freedom"

“Freedom”

In Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included a chapter on the Spanish Revolution that included writings from before and during the revolution regarding the Spanish anarchist movement and its role in the often misrepresented and sometimes ignored contributions of the anarchists to the social revolution in Spain that began with the Civil War that was precipitated by a fascist military coup on July 19, 1936. I have added extra material on the role of the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution to this blog. To mark the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution, I present a very short introduction (take that Oxford University Press) from the Workers Solidarity Movement.

Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution

Anarchist and syndicalist ideas had deep roots among Spanish peasants and workers. In 1911, a massive revolutionary trade union federation, the CNT (National Confederation of Labour) was formed. It had two aims; first, to fight the bosses with mass action in the daily struggle and, second, to make an anarchist revolution by organising the workers and the poor to seize back the land, factories and mines.

The CNT led many militant and successful struggles against the bosses and the government. By 1936 it was the biggest union in Spain, with nearly two million members. But the CNT was always democratic and, despite its giant size, never had more than one paid official.

The Anarchists did not restrict themselves to the workplace. They also organised an anarchist political group to work within the unions (the FAI) and organised rent boycotts in poor areas. The CNT itself included working peasants, farm workers and the unemployed. It even organised workers’ schools!

In July 1936, fascists led by General Franco, and backed by the rich and the Church, tried to seize power in Spain. The elected government (the Popular Front coalition of left-wing parties) was unable and unwilling to deal with the fascists. It even tried to strike a deal with the fascists by appointing a right-winger as Prime Minister. Why? Because they would rather compromise with the right wing and protect their wealth and power than arm the workers and the poor for self-defence.

Fortunately, the workers and the peasants did not wait around for the government to act. The CNT declared a general strike and organised armed resistance to the attempted take-over. Other unions and left wing groups followed the CNT’s lead.

In this way the people were able to stop the fascists in two-thirds of Spain. It soon became apparent to these workers and peasants that this was not just a war against fascists, but the beginning of a revolution! Anarchist influence was everywhere, workers’ militias were set up independently from the State, workers seized control of their workplaces and peasants seized the land.

There were many triumphs of the revolution, although we are only able to consider a few of the Spanish workers’ and peasants’ victories here. These included the general take over of the land and factories.

Small peasants and farm workers faced extremely harsh conditions in Spain. Starvation and repression were a part of their daily lives and, as a result, anarchism was particularly strong in the countryside. During the revolution, as many as 7 million peasants and farm workers set up voluntary collectives in the anti-fascist regions. After landowners fled, a village assembly was held. If a decision to collectivise was taken, all the land, tools and animals were pooled together for the use of the entire collective. Teams were formed to look after the various areas of work, while a committee was elected to co-ordinate the overall running of the collective. Each collective had regular general meetings in which all members participated. Individuals who did not want to join the collectives were not forced to. They were given enough land to farm on, but were forbidden to hire labourers to work this land. Most “individualists” eventually joined the collectives when they saw how successful they were.

Anarchism inspired massive transformations in industry. Workers seized control over their workplaces, and directly controlled production by themselves and for the benefit of the Spanish workers and peasants. The tram system in Barcelona provided a shining example of just how much better things can be done under direct workers’ control. On July 24th 1936, the tram crews got together and decided to run the whole system themselves. Within five days, 700 trams were in service instead of the usual 600. Wages were equalised and working conditions improved, with free medical care provided for workers.

Everyone benefited from the trams being under workers’ control. Fares were reduced and an extra 50 million passengers were transported. Surplus income was used to improve transport services and produce weapons for defence of the revolution. With the capitalist profit motive gone, safety became much more important and the number of accidents were reduced.

In the early stages of the revolution, the armed forces of the state had effectively collapsed. In their place, the trade unions and left-wing organisations set about organising the armed workers and peasants into militias. Overall, there were 150,000 volunteers willing to fight where they were needed. The vast majority were members of the CNT. All officers were elected by the rank-and-file and had no special privileges.

The revolution showed that workers, peasants and the poor could create a new world without bosses or a government. It showed that anarchist ideas and methods (such as building revolutionary unions) could work. Yet despite all this, the revolution was defeated. By 1939, the fascists had won the civil war and crushed the working-class and peasants with a brutal dictatorship.

Why did this happen? The revolution was defeated partly because of the strength of the fascists. They were backed by the rich, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

The CNT also made mistakes. It aimed for maximum anti-fascist unity and joined the Popular Front alliance, which included political parties from government and pro-capitalist forces. This required the CNT to make many compromises in its revolutionary programme. It also gave the Popular Front government an opportunity to undermine and destroy the anarchist collectives and the workers militias, with the Communist Party playing a leading role in these attacks at the behest of Stalinist Russia.

Nevertheless, anarchists had proved that ideas, which look good in the pages of theory books, look even better on the canvas of life.

Workers Solidarity Movement

'The Revolution and the War are Inseparable'

‘The Revolution and the War are Inseparable’

Tramp the Dirt Down: Thatcher Is Dead, Long Live Liberty

Published in: on April 9, 2013 at 11:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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Tunisian Anarchists Against World Capitalism

rebellion-revolution-anarchy

In response to the World Social Forum in Tunisia, some Tunisian anarchists have issued this anti-capitalist manifesto. Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideascontains similar selections regarding anti-capitalist anarchist movements in Egypt, Greece, Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and North America. Volume Three is available through AK Press.

Revolutionaries of the world:

On the occasion of the World Social Forum which will be held in Tunisia during March 2013, we believe that the liberal reformist approach opted for by the organizing bureaucracy of the Forum will in no way lead to a revolutionary project for the people of the world. Even though the event is presented as an opportunity for the revolutionaries coming from all corners of the globe to meet, we deem that the ultimate objective, namely the collapse of the capitalist system, will not be taken into consideration.

This Forum will take place in a highly critical time in the history of the world; social movements and uprisings are sweeping capitalism off its feet. Rage against the system does not recognize frontiers and geographical taxonomy of East and West. The so-called democratic states are as threatened by these risings as the worst dictatorships; the question to be examined is what are the driving forces of these revolts from Spain to Egypt and from Greece to Tunisia which are jeopardizing the capitalist states?

The economic crisis is not a conclusion created by “experts” and professional critics of the field; even politicians in power and their oppositions admit that they are incapable of putting an end to the outrageous rates of unemployment, impoverishment, undernourishment, diseases and pollution. The repetitive discourses delivered through mass-media are only encouraging people to adjust to the situation and await resolutions that will never come. This proves that the system has resorted to the time-old strategies of encroachment and propaganda in order to survive one of its many major crises throughout history. Wherever and whenever implemented, these strategies only brought about ravages and precariousness.

Despite the recurrent scenario of democratic succession to power and elections as a means of power distribution between “left” and “right,” “liberals” and “conservatives,” and despite the huge budgets spent to organize media campaigns to promote the illusion of “democratic transition” and “political liberties” or “freedom of expression,” only disillusionment is installed.

The World Social Forum, which is held and financed by capitalists and their affiliates, is nothing but an attempt to convince the victims of the capitalist system that the inherent reasons behind the economic crisis are so-called “Neo-Liberalism,” “extreme globalization,” “financial speculation” and worsening debt, which they suggest calls for the one and only alternative and that is the reformation of a system which is the actual source of these ailments.

Libertarians of the world:

The wretched of the earth are rejecting their everyday reality through uprising and revolting; now they know that union and determination are the keys to their own liberation and to the liberation of future generations from the grip of capitalism.

As the wretched and revolutionaries of the world we have to continue the insurrection in order to liberate our existence from the deadly claws of capitalism. There is absolutely nothing more powerful than our union and determination to fight till the last gasp against the oppressive system.

We boycott and oppose this Forum not only because we refuse tohave anything to do with the bureaucratic syndicalist associations organizing the event, and because the mere participation in the Forum is equivalent to being part of the project of promoting for and installing colonialist collaboration and social submission which are cherished by the bourgeoisie, its media and political mediocrity, but also because we primarily boycott every reform movement whether it comes from the right or the left.

We are the allies of social revolution.

As the crisis is intensifying and is more keenly felt by the masses we can see disobedience movements being born all over the world along with incessantly growing uprisings. These different crises have resulted in revolutionary movements in different countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain as well as social uprisings in Greece, Spain, Portugual, and even in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Libertarians of the world:

This call is ours. It is that of the marginalized, the unemployed graduates and non-graduates, the farmers without lands, women without voices, the exploited miners, all those that the bureaucrats of the WSF pretend to represent after excluding them from the organizations of debates. Our call is that of the disobedient, revolutionaries and  other social movements opposed to the capitalist system and authoritarian governments.

Politicians, media and ideologies:

Sellers of illusion and fear disguised under their reformist customs who are pretending to be against the capitalist system are only a part of this very system. We only have to examine the components of this Forum, its bureaucratic organization and statements to realize that it does not attack the essence of capitalism and that it is nothing but another attempt to diminish the rage of the billions of individuals revolting against hunger, impoverishment and precariousness chanting but one unique slogan:

“The people want the fall of the regime”

This was the echo of the cry which resonated from Tahrir Square to Wall Street, from Athens to Tunis and from Barcelona to Bahrain. This cry carried one simple slogan that frightens the retrograde forces which call for an accurate articulation of the exact words of the slogan:

“The people want the fall of capitalism”

Capitalism is the system; a particular president, a political party, or a king, are no more than the temporary guardians of the system and not the system. They are the docile executioners of its mechanisms regardless of the form of the government it adopts.

Libertarians of the world:

Mass-media owned by world capitalism spend billions to circulate the illusion of democratic transitions. It distorts any experience or attempt of self-organization by workers to manage their own resources because it threatens the capitalists’ best interests.

In order for us to emancipate ourselves today we need to form revolutionary fronts, coordinate our actions and effectively fight against the world capitalist regime. We want to trigger real transformation in our societies which must be based on self-management of resources.

We call upon all the revolutionary forces of the world, movements and organizations of resistance to capitalism to unite our work internationally against the pseudo-democratic states or dictatorships whether they are secular or religious, liberal or conservative.

Capitalism is the crisis; the fall of the system is the fall of capitalism.

Tunisian Anarchist Flag

Tunisian Anarchist Flag

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