Archive for CNT


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 1, 2009 by blackeyepress


Spanish anarcho-syndicalism from its inception had adopted an initial programme not only of wage demands, the right to work, improvements in conditions, but also the realisation of Libertarian Communism. Before 19 July 1936 the anarchists had proclaimed the anarchist Social Revolution in many places in Spain such as Casas Viejas, Alto Liobregat and Gijon, all of which were areas which had a large anarcho-syndicalist following. In all these villages or towns property registers were burned, money abolished and Libertarian Communism made reality.

In Spain, during the 1936-9 revolution, the libertarian collectives were in control of their own production and surplus, managed by their own committees of self-administration, where assemblies guaranteed direct democracy. Committees were named and delegates appointed for each sector, acting independently from the state in full freedom. No-one was obliged to remain in a libertarian collective. Any individual could leave when he or she wished to, whilst in the USSR, under Stalin, the peasants could not leave their kolkhoz and were bound to it like new serfs. But the most important aspect of the libertarian collectives of Spain is that they were not utopian, but very real, because they achieved with no authoritarian structures increased production and improved infrastructure. This was despite the fact that in many of them up to forty per cent of the labour force, the youngest sector, was mobilised to the Front, particularly in Aragon.


The concepts of libertarian collectives, factory committees, self-management, self-organisation of society without the oppressive and exploitative state, were all clearly worked out by the C.N.T. These matters had been treated in its immediate programme in the Saragossa Congress of May 1936.

For the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists the union was not an institutionalised entity like the social democratic or Christian democrat unions, but was seen as an insurrectionary tool which would bring about the social revolution and establish libertarian communism. On the organisation of the new society after the victory of the revolution, the first measures, according to the 1936 Congress, would be:

�Once the violent phase of the revolution is over, private property, the state, the principle of authority and therefore the classes that divide people into exploited and exploiters, into oppressed and oppressors, will be abolished.

�Once wealth is socialised, free producers� organisations will take over the direct administration of production and consumption.

�Once the libertarian commune is established in every locality, the new social mechanism will come into play. Producers in every trade or profession, together in their unions and workplaces, will freely determine the form in which this is to be organised.

�Once the libertarian commune is established, everything belonging to the bourgeoisie will be expropriated such as food, clothing, primary materials, tools, etc. These items should be passed over to the producers who can directly administer them for the benefit of the collective.

This corresponds to the Bakuninist idea of a dual socialist federation.

One part would be a self-administrative body to substitute the state and the other part would be the collective organised according to industry or service. The federal union of the two, organised from the base upwards, would constitute the Social (or National) Council of the Economy. This would destroy the class-based bourgeois or democratic state.

The Saragossa Congress had the following to say on the organisation of federalist libertarian socialism:

�The associations of industrial producers as well as the associations of agricultural producers will be federated nationally if Spain is the only country where the social transformation has taken place and if this is considered advantageous for the best possible development of the economy. In the same way, where relevant, services will federate according to the same principles in order to provide for the needs of the libertarian communes.

�We believe that in time the new society will be able to provide each commune with all the agricultural and industrial requirements necessary for autonomy, in accordance with the biological principle that states that the most free person- in this case, the most free commune- is the one which least needs the others.

We believe that our revolution should be organised on a purely egalitarian basis. The revolution cannot be won by mutual aid or solidarity alone. We must give to each human being what they require, the only limit being that imposed by the newly created economy.

The Spanish libertarian collectives freely distributed among the collectivist landworkers that which was abundant but rationed that which was scarce, maintaining, even in scarcity, economic equality between all, without the glaring inequalities of bourgeois and bureaucratic society.

On the principles of exchange of produce in a libertarian society, the CNT stated how the exchange mechanism would operate:

As we have already stated, our organisation is a federalist one which guarantees the freedom of the individual in the group and in the commune. It also guarantees the freedom of the federation in the confederation.

We start from the individual and proceed to the collective, so guaranteeing the individual’s inviolable right to freedom.

�The inhabitants of a commune will discuss the internal problems affecting them such as production, consumption, education, hygiene and everything necessary for its moral and economic development. When a problem affects a whole county or province the federation must come to a solution and in the meetings and assemblies that the federation has, all the communes must be represented. Their delegates will reflect the previously adopted decisions of the communes.�

In this way, direct democracy substitutes conventional, indirect, parliamentary, bourgeois or bureaucratic democracy and people are in charge of their own destinies, being able to exert their own social power in the political field and exercising self-management in the economic field. Thus federalism and socialism are united, something that has not taken place in the Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union where bureaucratic centralism and the ruling class of the state, through economic totalitarianism, have strangled peoples� freedom and direct participation. No-one there was free, apart from the supreme dictator, everyone else was a subject of the total state.

Until the working class controls agriculture, industry and the services, it will never be emancipated. If the state takes everything and controls the products of wage labour, an exploitative system develops where the state profits from the workers. Against this centralist principle of production by the state the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists in the Saragossa Congress stated the following:

For the exchange of products between communes the Commune Councils will co-ordinate with the regional federations of communes and with the Confederal Council of Production and Consumption in order to determine what needs there are.

By means of the co-ordination established between the communes and the Council of Production and Statistics, the problem is simplified and resolved.

�In the commune itself, production cards will be issued to the members by the workshop and factory councils, thus allowing all members to cover their needs. The production card will be regulated by the following two principles: 1) that it is not transferable; 2) that a procedure is adopted by which the value of the work done by days is recorded on the card and that its period of validity does not exceed twelve months.

The Commune Councils will provide production cards to the non-active population.

Thus, an integrated self-managed system of production and distribution was created. Here, the workers control goods and services and not the state.


Before the creation of the libertarian communes, landworkers’ work was divided in a basic way according to sex and family. An underdeveloped or subsistence kind of agriculture was maintained since the families consumed most of their own production. When individual small properties were made into social property, work was divided up on a much more rational basis. The socialist libertarian revolution was the technological, economic and social means by which the old antiquated structures of the Spanish countryside could be altered. Mechanisation had not been introduced into this sector of the economy which accounted for 52 per cent of the active population. Productivity per worker was low per hectare since most work was carried out by mules and basic tools; it was rare to see a tractor or modern agricultural implements.

As individual wealth was made into common property, the resultant change in the socio-economic and legal structures altered the social division of labour in each family and in the whole of rural society. The libertarian collectivists did not fully realise the nature of the great revolution they were in fact carrying �out, thus showing the world that the creation of libertarian communism is a problem of action and not one of excessive theorisation of the armchair intellectual socialists or the bureaucratic communist leaders.

In Jativa, for example, the conversion of private property into social property, directly managed by the working class and not imposed by state managers, created a revolutionary change in the division of labour, integrating all branches of production and social and public services of the town which had 17,000 inhabitants in 1936. Approximately 3,000 were CNT members. This shows that a well-educated active minority can inspire the majority to make revolutionary economic, social and political change.

When the libertarian collective of Jativa was created on 16 January 1937 the rules drawn up and agreed upon by the landworkers were far more social than any socialism conceived by intellectuals. For example, Article 10 of the agreement organised work and different crops into the following sections: statistics, fertilisers, seeds and new crops, irrigation, fumigation and crop disease, co-operative stores, livestock, poultry and bees, tools and machinery, canning and conserves, wages, pasture land, transport of produce and sales, organisation of production and technical management of distribution and organisation of labour.

All this was carried out by means of special sections and commissions where workers directly participated, without delegating work to others but by doing it every hour and every day by themselves. Thus practical and versatile self-management was implemented.

The Jativa collective, according to Article 11, elected a President, Secretary and Treasurer in a sovereign assembly. In addition, a spokesperson was elected for each section or commission. All these posts were elected and recallable as and when the members wished. Besides, the members of the commissions did not become bureaucrats; they had to perform the same work as any other member, except when occupied with their tasks on the commissions.

In addition to this division according to agricultural and livestock production, the Jativa collective also involved many local artisans, whose integration supposed a more total organsiation of labour in the area. Self-management was achieved not only at factory level but in the whole town, something which is unique since nothing similar exists in the USSR or the rest of the East.

The great merit of the Jativa collective is that in a voluntary fashion, with no coercion, the owner of an olive oil factory, who was an important member of the local bourgeoisie, became a member of the collective with his family and gave the collective all his wealth. One of his sons, also very privileged under the old system, handed over all his money along with his wife’s. Finally, the Secretary of the collective, of bourgeois origin, also gave all his money and property to the collective. This shows that libertarian communism is a progressive system because it embraces a social morality which is in accordance to the general interest and enables direct democracy, self-management, freedom and dignity of the human being to be lived to the full.

The Jativa collective model was to be found more or less extensively throughout Aragon, Valencia, Murcia, and Castille and even in the Basque Country where the government was more bourgeois than revolutionary, and in which the anarchists had refused to participate.

In Asturias, Catalonia and parts of the Basque Country, in the industrial areas workers’ self-management took place in the form of joint UGT (socialist union) -CNT Committees.

Let us now examine exactly how collectivisation took place by taking an example. Graus, a small town of 2,600 people in 1936, was to witness a notable experiment in libertarian socialism from 16 October 1936 onwards. Here, socialisation was more total than it had been in Jativa, as it affected not only the land but also commerce, transport, printing, shoe manufacturing, bakeries, pharmacies, locksmiths and blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters and cabinet makers.

The Graus collective self-managed ninety per cent of the agricultural and craft industry production as well as the service sector. The Self-Management Commission had eight members. Six were responsible for the following sectors: culture and health (theatre, schools, sports, medicines and doctors); work and accounts (personnel, wages, cafes, inns, accounts and supplies); trade, coal, fertilisers, warehouses; agriculture (crops, irrigation, farms, cattle); industry (factories, workshops, electricity, water, construction); transport and communication (lorries, carts, taxis, post, garages).

Here we have a magnificent example of local government or, more accurately, self-management, in action. In Graus people lived from agricultural, industrial and craft industry production and from the collectivised services. To some extent, Graus was a commune as Bakunin had understood it, as popular self-government replacing the parasitical oppressive state.

This social division of labour into agricultural, industrial and service sectors, was self-managed in the following way: each workshop designated, through its assembly, a representative to participate in the Industrial Secretariat. Therefore, each industrial sector’s accounts would appear in the Collective’s register. The following sectors appeared: drinking water, oil, saw mills, chocolate production, sausages, alcoholic beverages, electricity, iron forging, inns and cafes, printing, lamp manufacturing, construction materials, sewing machines, sock manufacturing, gypsum mining, bakeries, tailors, chair makers, weavers, bicycle workshops, leather products, and other sectors.

The most important thing here, rather than describe the process, which has been done extensively elsewhere, is to evaluate the libertarian socialist experiment in Graus, whose structure was more or less applied to the whole of anarchist Aragon. As we evaluate this notable experiment, which at first sight may have appeared utopian, we can see that in terms of objective economics, it represents the most real attempt at socialism, uniting the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, unlike under capitalism where they are all unintegrated. Therefore an integrated economy was created with a rational division of labour as each sector was inter-dependent on the others. A self-managed system was thus formed, where goods, products and services were exchanged according to their real work-value relationship.

For the first time, an economy providing full employment was created. This was achieved not through technocratic or bourgeois financial juggling but through concrete self-management and socialization of the means of production and exchange. Employment was guaranteed by libertarian socialism since labour circulated freely in all sectors of the Graus collective.

On another level, the fact that the production of primary products (livestock, fishing, mining, agriculture, forests) had been integrated into the processing, transport and distribution of these products means that both national and international capitalism can be effectively challenged. This is because production can take place with ever-decreasing costs which is something that capitalism, divided into banking, trading and industrial sectors, cannot do. In the economic field, full employment in the Graus collective was possible, with decreasing production costs and increasing consumption. Libertarian socialism, therefore, does not suffer the cyclical economic crises of capitalism, or the crises of over-production in bureaucratic socialism. This provides the possibility for harmonious development among the various economic sectors, which are all integrated into the overall Economic Council formed by the federations of production and services.

Over fifty per cent of Spain’s active population was employed in agriculture in 1936. If extensive mechanisation of agriculture had taken place at that time, how could the rural population have been fully employed? If every agricultural worker, instead of producing food for his own family and a little more for the national market in order to exchange necessary goods and services, could produce food for a hundred people with mechanisation, this apparently difficult question would be solved in an anarchist economy for the following reasons: fewer agricultural workers would be involved in agricultural production but more would be produced. This would not create unemployment since all those not involved in one sector would pass on to another.

-the greater the productivity in agricultural work, industry and services, the fewer the work hours would have to be, so full employment could be maintained.

In libertarian socialism, as work would be a right and a duty for all, there would always be some work for everyone. We could improve nature with work and care and not destroy it as is done under capitalism, which does not care about polluting the rivers, seas, land and the air as long as some capitalists gain competitive advantage over some others. Indeed, only libertarian socialism will free people from the chains of the capitalists, from exploitation and domination by the western bourgeoisie and the eastern bureaucracies.


In the areas of Spain where the libertarian movement had a majority following, such as in Aragon and Catalonia, collectivisation of land and self-management of industry and services were the principal methods employed. Capitalism was substituted by libertarian socialism.

However, everything that the workers had done from below, replacing the capitalist regime with libertarian socialism, was opposed by the state from above. The state tried to block and oppose libertarian socialism by isolating the banking and credit and cash-flow systems so as to impede the importation of essential goods to the self-managed society created by the anarchists. Their prime mistake had been that of not creating a national structure of social power opposed to state power to substitute the old exploitative and oppressive state, in which the petit bourgeois, pro-Soviet socialists and Stalinist communists became firmly entrenched. Libertarian socialism was not a new economic, social, political, judicial, cultural and communications system on a national scale. As a result many libertarian collectives were destroyed by the soldiers of the communist commander Enrique Lister as they entered Aragon in July 1937.

If libertarian socialism does not “go all the way” as Garcia Oliver said, if it allows the bourgeois state to co-exist above it in addition to the superstructure of capitalism, victory will never be final but always transitory. The old regime may return whenever the state wishes to unleash the bourgeois or bureaucratic counter-revolution. This was exactly what the pro-Soviet Union socialists and communists, bourgeois republicans and the Basque democratic Christians did when the “revolution within the revolution” broke out in May 1937.

Libertarian socialism cannot go half way, creating self-management from July 1936 in Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, and allow state power to re-establish itself over the rest of revolutionary Spain. In addition, if this move to create self-management is not taken immediately, so as not to create antagonism in the Popular Anti-Fascist Front, it can be taken gradually, by creating a basic insurrectionary guerilla force where the CNT had a large following, such as in Andalusia. If two guerilla fronts had been created little by little, one in front of the Francoist forces and the other behind the Francoist forces in the Nationalist Zone, the war and the social revolution would have been won simultaneously. Only this revolutionary strategic plan could allow libertarian workers’ control to replace the reactionary state, the liberal bourgeoisie and the ideologies of reformist socialism and bureaucratic communism.

In any case, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists, who did not dominate everywhere, revolutionised the regions where they had amass following and showed the world that workers, freed from bosses and professional politicians, could carry out the revolutionary transformation of society. A revolution not of the communist bureaucrats or reformist socialists, where everything seems to change but where everything in fact stays the same as the bourgeoisie, is replaced by a communist bureaucracy and the bourgeois state by the bureaucratic communist state.

Despite their limitations, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists established libertarian collectives where the means of production and exchange were socialised, through direct management by the workers and not through imposition by the state. Economic surplus was also self-managed. Also, and once again in contrast to the USSR, the workers of the collectives were rewarded equally, without productivity, falling or initiative lacking. The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy believe that if there is not a large wage differential, initiative and interest in increasing production will be lost. This idea was shown to be false in the Spanish libertarian collectives, where solidarity between the collectivists made self-government function satisfactorily.

In this system all the products of labour are enjoyed by those who produce them. But the Spanish collectivists were not irrational consumers. They invested more capital in economic and technological development than the old regime and did not merely reinforce the old function of capital but achieved greater productivity per worker. This is the only way in which progress is achieved, that is, in which people can live better now and in the future than they can in the past.


Marxist-Leninism, with its socialist ideology and neo-capitalist economics, with statist means of production, has emphasised the nationalisation of production, but not its socialist distribution �Therefore, if socialism is limited to the �socialisation� or nationalisation of the means of production but maintains residual and inegalitarian capitalism, it will just be another form of capitalism. Soviet socialism has been discredited as the army generals, the academics, the bureaucrats and the few members of the �Nomenklatura� consume much more than an unqualified worker in industry or agriculture. As a result, without any egalitarian economic ethic, there can be no socialist distribution of social wealth, even though there exists an apparent socialist order at the points of production.

Some have argued that if there was economic equality, that is if everyone was paid the same wage, it would detract from the personal interest to produce more. It is also stated that the more economic equality there is, the lower the social accummulation of capital will be. All this is part of the economic ideology of the Western bourgeoisie or the Eastern bureaucracy. The more equality there is between people, for this fact alone, that which was not consumed by the privileged classes would be saved and accummulated. This was demonstrated in the Spanish libertarian collectives where consumption was equal and where investment improved the agricultural infrastructure, expanded the area of land under cultivation, created public services, improved education and developed other sectors of the economy.

In Aragon, a real, not utopian form of libertarian socialism was realised. The model of distribution of wealth was not identical but, in general, it was based on the family wage, usually paid in coupons and purchasing power was in harmony with the new economy. Even though the local currency was stable it was not legal in the whole country and therefore the libertarian collectives used national currency for trips outside the local area. This was done so as not to limit a person�s economic or physical freedom if he or she wanted to travel or live elsewhere.

As regards the “provisions card”, the libertarian collective of Alcorisa created a family consumption card, which was practically equivalent to a credit card and which ordered consumer items according to a points system. If meat was given a 100 point value and the consumer did not want meat then he or she was given another product of equal value. In such a way the law of exchange and value was complied within the libertarian economy. The consumer had a great deal of freedom as regards the products on the market. And if local products could not satisfy the consumer, the collective, through its council or appropriate section, obtained, on an equal exchange basis, the goods and services needed. Thus a system of economic federalism was practised by the Aragonese Regional Federation of Collectives.

If the Spanish revolution had triumphed, the libertarian socialist model of the collectives would have been shown to have been far superior in the accummulation of social capital, in productive investment, in rational use of resources and in regional, national and international trade than the Soviet system which cannot feed its own population after seven decades of Marxist-Leninism without huge grain imports from the EC and USA.

The fact that the libertarian collectives accummulated a great deal of social capital is due to positive economic management and the use of the coupon or supplies card, which satisfied the needs of families, and which left the local collective or regional federation the task of administrating production, distribution, exchange and consumption. If no-one can accummulate capital in order to exploit anyone else, all the economic surplus of the collective would be rationally and equally channelled into creating reserves for a bad year, or to create more capital for investment and to create better production techniques with improved machinery. Production would therefore increase as the amount of time needed to be spent working would decrease. There would therefore be full employment and manual work would be transformed into qualified, technical, scientific work of a very high level.

However, in order to achieve this high level of economic, cultural, scientific and technical progress it is necessary that a libertarian spirit prevails and that there is an economic ethic of rational and frugal consumption. The waste produced by the bourgeois “consumer society” is harmful to the planet and upsets the ecosystem.

It is clear that production and technology have advanced sufficiently for the creation of a libertarian economy, but we are bound hand and foot by the reactionary states of East and West. Only libertarian socialism, which guarantees freedom and equality, pluralism of ideas, without the professional political parties of the West or the single party states of the East, can allow humanity to organise itself according to its own needs. Libertarian communism can free us from war, tyranny, hunger, ignorance and other evils inherent not to the human condition but to the anachronistic socio-economic system based on the exploitation of one person by another, on the domination of one nation by another, on capitalism, hegemony and imperialism.


The larger a town, the harder it is to integrate the economy. Trade and money have a greater role for the simple reason that everyone does not belong to the same unit, as was the case of the collectives in the countryside. The town is the creation of the bourgeoisie, related to the development of capitalism, and it is where trade, money, salaries and profits support bourgeois economic activity. However, the Spanish anarchists were capable of self-managing most of the industrial and services sectors in large cities such as Barcelona, but it was not as easy as it was in Aragon to abolish money and replace it with the coupon or rationing card.

In towns of a few thousand inhabitants and in the country, agriculture, industry and services were integrated into one multifarious unit with specialised sections which, by means of elected and recallable delegates, formed part of the local and county organisations of self-government.

For example, the town of Villajoyosa had achieved self-management on a county level which brought about a new type of direct democracy, through self-government, so substituing the old state and the Roman municipality. In Villajoyosa, not only was the land collectivised but the libertarian collective was extended to take in a textile factory where 400 people worked and also the fishing industry from which 4,000 people made their livelihood.

In Calonda, besides the collectivisation of the land, stone masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, seamstresses, tailors, barbers and others entered the collective. Since their natural and most important market was Calonda and the surrounding area, and since these were all collectivised, the above groups voluntarily joined the agricultural workers in the collective. This organ of self-government, in the form of social power, had been created by the revolution and was more concrete than the Soviets of the workers or sailors which were not capable of abolishing the state. The latter accepted the indirect democracy of a bureaucratic communist party instead of exercising direct democracy themselves, as was the practice in the libertarian collectives.

One of the greatest achievements of libertarian self-government was the direct self-management of a town of 45,000 inhabitants such as Alcoy, where industry and services were collectivised. in Alcoy in 1936 the working population was 20,000 of which 17,000 were members of the CNT They were the active revolutionaries in the economic, social and political change effected and they did not wait for the government to do everything, as the Marxists wish so that the government keeps everything and everyone, as occurred in the USSR.

In Alcoy there were 16 CNT unions in the Local Federation before 16 July 1936. This union power which was not institutionalised but active and revolutionary, did not struggle for higher wages alone as the reformist unions do, but instead for the creation of libertarian communism. It was a unique union force; Marxist unionism had become a cog in the petit bourgeois socialist party or bureaucratic communist party machine, which used unionism as an instrument of the revolution-talking politicians who in reality merely prop up reformism.

The unions in Alcoy, as in every locality where the CNT was a major all over Spain where the CNT was a major force, did not wait for the government to nationalise the factories but socialised them themselves instead, not as state property but social property. As an example of this socialisation, the Alcoy unions proceeded immediately to self-manage the following industries: printing; paper and cardboard; construction, including architects and surveyors; hygiene and health, including medicines, pharmacies, barbers, launderettes and sweepers; transport, including buses, taxis and lorries; entertainment, including theatres and cinemas; the chemical industry, soaps, laboratories, perfumes; leather, skins and shoes; traders and salesmen; industrial technicians; primary and secondary teachers; artists; writers; clothing; the whole textile industry, of vital importance in Alcoy; wood and furniture; the liberal professions; and agriculture and horticulture. Alcoy was, therefore, a model self-managed town, self-governed by its direct producers, without professional politicians, bureaucracies or bourgeoisie.

Due to the socialisation of the means of production and the services, the law of the social division of labour achieved a balance that the previous system of production never had, since if there were too many workers in one sector or in one firm, they would pass over to another sector and full employment would be maintained. In this way, libertarian socialism was much more objective and scientific than capitalism or administrative socialism where there is a large discrepancy between the productive workers and the techno-bureaucracy entrenched in the state apparatus.

Capitalism, with all its contradictions, which stem from the means of production being held in private hands, is very much inferior to libertarian collectivism in industry, services and agriculture. Libertarian communism found a solution, without much mathematical and technical theorisation, for unemployment, cyclical economic crises, strikes as a result of the conflict between workers and capitalists, persecution and ignorance. Libertarian communism provided education and thus eliminated the need for emigration. The workers themselves self-managed things in the political, economic, social, technical and financial fields. This is the great merit of the CNT in the 33 months of the Spanish revolution. It was a revolution made not by the communists and socialists who defended the old regime and state, but by the anarchists who substituted the state in the countryside and cities by collectives and self-management.

The direct self-management of the Alcoy economy provided an excellent example of self-government. The three branches of the textile industry elected a delegate to the Works Committee as did the office personnel and the warehouse staff. A Control Committee was named by the union committee. Also a Technical Commission was created which was formed by technicians from the five different specialities of manufacturing, administration, buying and selling and insurance. In turn, the self-administration section was divided into three sub-sections: general manufacturing processes, technical organisation and machine maintainance, production control and statistics. All this, as a federative form of self-government, provided work for more than 20,000 workers, corresponding to 103 firms of varying textile specialities, including other small firms and the agricultural sector. This did away with the contradiction of egotistical capitalism which monopolised capital and reduced work to slavery. Libertarian socialism, in Alcoy and other parts of Spain, liberated workers from wage slavery and transformed them into collectivists thus eliminating the proletariat, which remains under Marxist-Leninism in the pay of the state rulers, producing profits for the communist bureaucracy and state capitalists.

The marvellous experiment of self-management in Alcoy, however, did have one defect. The financial and political power above was not libertarian social power, and for this reason, in the end, the state, which existed above the workers, tried to return them to their original wage slavery. Therefore, in the future, a social revolution should not remain at a local or regional level and must reach the national level. One of the great mistakes of the CNT during the Spanish revolution was to collectivise the land, services and firms below, but leave, above, the banks, credit systems, foreign trade, gold and currency intact in the hands of the enemies of libertarian collectivism. The same error of the Paris Commune of 1871 was committed: the social revolution should not be made below alone, leaving many aspects of the counter-revolution intact above such as the banks, currency, foreign trade and the repressive state which crushed the collectives in time. The state became stronger day by day in the hands of the communists. The libertarian social revolution suffers one dilemma: either it is carried out immediately and totally, above and below, or it is lost to the power of the state and to its bourgeois and bureaucratic supporters.

From down upwards, libertarian social power must substitute and destroy the exploitative and oppressive state. In order to abolish the traditional power of the state over society, alternative libertarian social power must be created based on the self-management of the workplace and militia self-defence.

If industry, agriculture and the services are self-managed and federated in their own specialised branches, they will unite to form an overall economic council. The economic council along with the federated bodies of self-government and the militia structure will form the three pillars of social power so forming a type of federated self-government, whose task is to administer things not people.

The Spanish libertarian movement placed a great deal of emphasis on the task of creating the infrastructure of libertarian socialism from below, but the anarchist superstructure, above, of social power was ignored. It is true to say that the CNT, through its revolutionary unions, created marvellous forms of self-management, below, in the collectives, the railways, the telephones, gas and electric, etc, but it overlooked the fact that the state was still in existence above as supreme alienating power and that while it existed the libertarian revolution was in danger. This is clear from the May Days of 1937 when the communist divisions entered Arargon, not to fight Franco, but to destroy the libertarian collectives.

It is time to make it clear that private or state capitalism do not guarantee the right to work for all, an increase in the standard of living and in productivity, an economy free of endemic or cyclical crises, a reduction in working hours, rational and frugal consumption without wasting the products of labour, economic, ecological and social balance and a regime of rights and freedom for all.

Libertarian ideas must be shown to be advantageous over bureaucratic and bourgeois ideologies. Everyone should be their own governor but all should be involved in the process of collective production. “Power” must belong to all, not to the tyrannical state or to a class or a repressive, exploitative elite. Self-management must be created as a new method of production in all economic activity and politics must be based on the libertarian principle that all decide in a responsible way for everything. No leader such as Hitler or Stalin is infallible; there must be freedom for all. In summary, libertarian socialism represents real alternative popular social power because it comes from the people and not from outside, not from the bourgeoisie or bureaucracy, or from the private or state capitalists.

By Abraham Guillen

Diego Abad de Santillan (1897-1983)

Posted in Anarchist with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2009 by blackeyepress


Diego Abad de Santillan — pseudonym of Sinesio García Hernández. Born in Reyero, Spain 1897, died in Barcelona 1983. Author, editor and one of the leading figures of the Spanish and Argentinian anarchist movement.

Raised in Argentina and studied in Madrid. Imprisoned after the general strike of 1917., returned to Argentina in 1918. Active in the anarcho-syndicalist Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA) and editor of its newspaper La Protesta.

Representative of the FORA during the formation of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) in Berlin 1922. Went to Mexico to assist the Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT) and then back to Argentina. Expelled from Argentina, he returned to Spain in 1931. and became an active member of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI); editor of Tierra y Libertad and Tiempos Nuevos (1935-1936) Secretary of the FAI in 1935. After July 19, 1936. he organized as a member of the Comité de Milicias Antifascistas the militias in Catalonia. Minister of Economy of Catalonia.

Returned to Argentina in 1939. and resumed his scholarly career. From 1977. back in Spain. Author of El organismo económico de la revolución (1937) and many other books.


After the Revolution


Diego Abad de Santillan: After the Revolution (excerpt)

Society of Producers and Consumers

The idea of the suppression of economic and political parasitism is or should be sufficiently ripe in the minds of the people, for its immediate realization. Those who work cannot be very happy to see the best part of their production deviated, and if it were not for the armed forces of the State, surely the slogan of justice, “he who does not work should not eat,” would be instantly realised. But the workers of the factories and the land still live subjected to a regime of oppression and servitude. The only difference is that modern wage-earners in the so-called democracies have the freedom to choose their masters, a very relative freedom to say the least.

Out of ten million persons able to work in Spain, only 4 1/2 to 5 million are actually employed in productive labor. The Revolution would suppress this parasitism and by this fact alone, its mission would be justified. With the disappearance of parasitism would be eliminated abundance alongside of privation, ostentation of great luxury alongside of penury. If there were not enough of any particular product to satisfy the needs of all, it would be rationed so that no one remained without his share, on the basis of equitable distribution. Clothing, housing and education would be attended to in the general interest. For the first time in the history of the world there would be no brains or muscles on forced strike.

We do not believe that there would be any real resistance to work, even on the part of the class known as the idle rich. There would be the natural initial difficulties in the adequate proportioning of a large population in respective trades and industries. The chief difficulty, however, would be in the eventuality of an international blockade.

Spain lacks cotton and without this raw material about 200,000 workers would be left jobless. Without petroleum transportation would be seriously affected. Even paper is lacking and the deficiency of same would result in the unemployment of thousands of printers, journalists and writers. The Revolution must therefore concern itself, right from the beginning, in assuring supplies of cotton; it must solve the problem of a synthetic petroleum by the distillation of mineral coals. There are no insuperable technical difficulties which science could not conquer and if the Revolution would not bring society to lower standards, but on the contrary, elevate the general well-being, it must produce sufficient commodities to take care of the general requirements. Of course, these problems would be less urgent if the world blockade would not take place and Spain could obtain petroleum from Russia and cotton from America in exchange for copper and iron ore.

Of the large amount of ore extracted in the mines only a very small part is refined. The greatest part is exported and returns to Spain in the form of machinery, instruments, etc. The Revolution should make of the metallurgical industries a reality and increase the foundries, plants, and substitute motor traction for horsepower. It should electrify railroads and factories, utilise natural resources of water power for irrigation and electricity, replant the forests and prepare new territory for agriculture. In a word, the Revolution should realise in a few years what capitalism is already impotent to create: a Spain capable of feeding, clothing and housing a population which will not take long in arriving at the figure of 30,000,000 inhabitants.

We don’t need a postulate of God to build up our society of workers. Nor do we need the hypothesis of a State. We don’t wish everyone to dance to the same step; we even admit the possibility of different organisms, some more and some less revolutionary, some more and some less friendly to the new situation. The important thing is, that all Spaniards have a minimum of necessities which must be satisfied and to which we must contribute through the process of production. The same as we work today and consider our comrades more as good-working companions regardless of their political ideas; so tomorrow we will rub elbows with people who will not think as we do and who may be even hostile to our ideology. These we must conquer by the example of our labor and by the efficacy of our plans. There are different workers’ organizations in Spain; all should contribute to the economic reconstruction and to all should be given a place. The Revolution does not reject any contribution in this respect.

Afterwards, outside of the equitable distribution of production — the work of all and for all each one can adopt the form of social life most pleasing to him. Nor will we deny the right of religious faith to those who wish to practice same. We would not deny the expression of other social concepts; nor their defense and practice; always with the condition that these are not aggressive and respect the same right for us. Otherwise there would be hostility and civil war.

We can even foresee that the friends of the Russian system might institute their own experiments and the political socialists could have their parliament and continue making speeches. We will not be the least affected and will be content with the prevention of any manifest aggression of one faction against another and maintain the productive and distributive apparatus in the hands of the producers and distributors themselves.

In other words, we wish absolute liberty in the political order of things; coordination of all the forces in the economic order. What objection can there be to a society organised in this way? We believe that such a Revolution would harm no one and benefit all. What does it matter if a lot of people who are enjoying too many privileges have to forgo them and learn a little of what it means to earn their crust of bread? For them, the change will be a moral and physical benefit. But the middle class and the proletariat have nothing to lose and a whole world to gain in fraternal productive cooperation, thanks to which everyone will be able to obtain a secure standard of living. There will be no worries for tomorrow and no more of the continual tragedies of unemployment of people who yesterday had relative comfort and today are plunged in utter misery. All this will disappear because work will be available for all without any other aim than the satisfaction of social necessities.

Timid people suppose that the Revolution is inspired by vengeance. This is an error. On the contrary it is to be feared that a triumphant Revolution might sin by excessive generosity. The Spanish workers are not revengeful. Quite the contrary, on the day they take possession of the social wealth, they will have forgotten their long Calvary.

We need not have any illusions about the men and women who are not used to work. It will be necessary to adapt their parasitic generation to the less important tasks. But on the other hand a number of small industrialists and even capitalists who began on the same level with workers will have a valuable and sure place as technicians and experts in their respective branches of industry. They will not be the masters, but they will be indispensable members of the new social structure and they will be able to develop much more freely and much more completely all their initiative of enterprise and plans for general improvements.

We could go through all the categories of society and demonstrate that no one should have any fear of the inevitable social change. There will be no royal gentries, there will be no people bursting with excessive wealth, sick with the gout and boredom through vicious living. There are less than a 100,000 homes in Spain which would feel their situation lowered by the revolutionary process. We refer to the 100,000 persons whose wealth is secure from all risk of depletion. On the other hand for the 23 or 24 million other Spaniards the Revolution will be liberating and will bring an incomparably higher standard of living than they have known under capitalism.

Economy and Liberty

Anarchism, meaning Liberty, is compatible with the most diverse economic conditions, on the premise that these cannot imply, as under capitalist monopoly, the negation of liberty. Anarchism is an attitude of the spirit towards life and in any and all economic situations not monopolistic, man can be master of himself and should exercise the control of his own will) rejecting imposition from without.

The negation of the principle of authority of man over man is not bound up with the realization of a predetermined economic level. It is opposed to Marxism, which desires to attain a system, as a corollary of capitalist evolution. To be an anarchist, one has to attain a certain level of culture, consciousness of power and capacity for self-government. Idiots cannot become anarchists; they must be cared for by society, along with the weak and the incapacitated. We are cognizant of the fact that the grade of economic development and material conditions of life influence powerfully human psychology. Faced with starvation, the individual becomes an egoist; with abundance he may become generous, friendly and socially disposed. All periods of privation and penury produce brutality, moral regression and a fierce struggle of all against all, for daily bread. Consequently, it is plain that economics influences seriously the spiritual life of the individual and his social relations. That is precisely why we are aiming to establish the best possible economic conditions, which will act as a guarantee of equal and solid relationships among men. We will not stop being anarchists, on an empty stomach, but we do not exactly like to have empty stomachs. We wish an economic regime in which abundance, well-being and enjoyment will be available to all. This aspiration does not distinguish us as revolutionaries. The ideal of well-being is shared by all social movements. What distinguishes us is our condition as anarchists, which we place even before well-being. At least as individuals, we prefer freedom with hunger to satiation alongside of slavery and subjection. If we are in favor of communism, it is not because this system is identical with anarchism. Communism can be realized in a multiformity of economic arrangements, individual and collective. Proudhon advocated mutualism; Bakunin, collectivism; Kropotkin, communism. Malatesta has conceived the possibility of mixed agreements, especially during the first period. Tarrida del Marmol y Mella advocated pure anarchism without any economic qualifications, which supposes the freedom of experimenting or establishing on trial, that which every period and locality judges most convenient. What we can say is that we must aim for an economic system of equal rights and justice, in which abundance will be possible. That is, the proper satisfaction of material needs, which alone will create a favorable social disposition and thus constitute a solid guarantee of liberty and solidarity. Man pitted against man is a wolf and he can never become a real brother to man, unless he has material security. If anarchism for the anarchists can exist with abundance as well as with misery, communism must have as its basis, abundance. In communism there is a certain generosity, and this generosity in a time of want is replaced little by little by egoism, distrust, competition; in a word, the struggle for bread. We repeat, therefore: abundance is indispensable to assure a progressive collective life. We face, therefore, economic reorganization of the future, free from any preconceived notions, fixed system or dogma. Communism will be the natural result of abundance, without which it will remain only an ideal. In each locality the degree of communism, collectivism or mutualism will depend on the conditions prevailing. Why dictate rules? We who make freedom our banner, cannot deny it in economy. Therefore there must be free experimentation, free show of initiative and suggestions, as well as the freedom of organization. To make possible this freedom, we must insist on the prerequisite of abundance which we can attain by the thorough use of industrial technique, modern agriculture and scientific development. But modern industry as well as modern agriculture has its own limits and possesses its own rhythm. The human rhythm does not make its mark on the machine; it is the rhythm of the machine which determines human progress. With the Revolution, private property is suppressed; but the factory must go on and follow the same methods and development of production. What changes, is the distribution of the product; which, instead of obeying the laws of interest and profit, must satisfy the general needs on an equitable basis. The factory is not an isolated organism, nor can it function independently. It is part of a complicated network, spreading throughout the locality, region and nation, and beyond all frontiers. The writer knew economic localism in his own native town, a little hidden valley out of all contact with civilization, only thirty years ago. The wool was spun from sheep, shoes were made from wood, the wheat was cultivated and made into bread; the herbs of the surrounding hills made the import of medicines from the outside unnecessary. We knew that somewhere beyond our valley there was some kind of superior power, which sent out tax collectors and police forces. This little town, thirty or forty years ago, lived autonomously. But today everything is changed, fortunately. The townsfolk wear clothes woven in Barcelona or Lancashire, made from Argentine or Australian wool, or from Indian or American cotton. They have radios manufactured in England or France, they drink coffee from Brazil. Would it be desirable to return to economic localism? No one would consent to it voluntarily; everyone wishes to enjoy all the good that intelligence and labor have produced. It is plain: a thousand ties unite the most insignificant locality with national and world economy. We are not interested how the workers, employees and technicians of a factory will organize themselves. That is their affair. But what is fundamental is that from the first moment of Revolution there exist a proper cohesion of all the productive and distributive forces. This means that the producers of every locality must come to an understanding with all other localities of the province and country, which must have an international direct entente between the producers of the world. This cohesion is imperious and indispensable for the very function of all the factors of production. The interdependence of the factory and the electrical plant; the foundries in Bilbo and the production of the mines; the railroads, agriculture, building and a thousand and one trades and activities, all make for an inevitable highest maximum coordination of production and distribution. We believe there is a little confusion in some libertarian circles between social conviviality, group affinities and the economic function. Visions of happy Arcadias or free communes were imagined by the poets: of the past; for the future, conditions appear quite different. In the factory we do not seek the affinity of friendship but the affinity of work. It is not an affinity; of character, except on the basis of professional capacity and quality of work, which is the basis of conviviality in the factory. The “free commune” is the logical product of the concept of group affinity, but there are n o such free communes in economy, because that would presuppose independence, and there are no independent communes. One thing is the free commune from the political or social standpoint and quite another, from an economic point of view. In the latter, our ideal is the federated commune, integrated in the economic total network of the country or countries in revolution. Economic communism is also a relic of old juristic concepts of communal property and we who advocate the suppression of all private property do not wish that, in the place of the old individual owner, should appear a new proprietor with many heads. Our work on the land and in the factory does not make of us individual or collective proprietors of the land or of the factory; but it makes of us contributors to the general welfare. Everything belongs to everybody and the product of all labor must be distributed as equitably as the human efforts themselves. We cannot realize our economic revolution in a local sense; for economy on a localist basis, can only cause collective privation and scarcity of goods. Economy is today, a vast organism and all isolation must prove detrimental. Only with the suppression of specialized labor can we imagine the free commune as an economic ideal. This, needless to add, is quite impossible. We must work with a social criterion, considering the interests of the whole country and if possible, of the whole world.

The Libertarian Revolution

We have said that anarchism is the expression of our will for a free life. We have affirmed that anarchism can exist in penury or in abundance, under one or another form of economy. We will now dwell on another phase of libertarian thought.

Our chief distinction as individuals and as a movement is represented in our position on the principle of authority, in our perennial affirmation of respect for the liberty of all and of each. Apart from the method, we can coincide in economic solutions with other social forces. In the political solution, we substitute for the principle of authority and its maximum incarnation, the State and its oppressive institutions, the free accord of social groups. In this position, we anarchists are more isolated, and even in a victorious revolution we would still be set off by ourselves. We believe that a great number of people are not with us through ignorance; but the majority have been influenced negatively by their systematic education. Besides, they do not understand our aspirations, not having the same sensitiveness, nor a sufficient development of the sense of liberty, in, dependence and justice. The revolution may awake in many men the forces of liberation, held in lethargy by daily routine and by a hostile environment. But it cannot by art or magic convert the anarchist minority into an absolute social majority. And even if tomorrow we were to become a majority, there would still remain a dissident minority which would suspect and oppose our innovations, fearing our experimental audacity. However, if today we do not renounce violence in order to fight enslaving forces, in the new economic and social order of things we can follow only the line of persuasion and practical experience. We can oppose with force those who try to subjugate us in behalf of their interests or concepts, but we cannot resort to force against those who do not share our points of view, and who do not desire to live as we attempt to. Here, our respect for liberty must encompass the liberty of our adversaries to live their own life, always on the condition that they are not aggressive and do not deny the freedom of others. If, in the social revolution, in spite of all the obstacles, we were to become a majority, the practical work of economic reconstruction would be enormously facilitated, because we could immediately count on the good will and support of the great masses. But even so, we would have to respect the experiments of different minorities, and reach an understanding with them in the exchange of products and services. Surely, as an historical minority, we anarchists have the right of revindicating this same liberty of experimentation and to defend it with all our might against any individual party or class which would attempt to crush it. Any totalitarian solution is of fascist tailoring, even though it may be defended in the | name of the proletariat and the revolution. The new mode of life is a social hypothesis, which only practical experience should evaluate. We are convinced that right and justice are on our side, although at the same time we recognize the rights of other social tendencies, methods and aspirations. We believe that the truth is nearer our concepts but we do not consider ourselves infallible, nor do we deny the sincerity and good faith of other doctrines. Which is to be the method to prove these or other social hypotheses: our own or some other revolutionary program? In the Middle Ages, one inclined to the judgment of God. Later men would resolve their dispute by a duel. The one who crushed the head of the other would be the victor of justice and truth. Do we wish in our day, in place of the judgment of God, to accept force as the sole means of resolving the truth between different revolutionary tendencies? We reflect back to anarchism in Russia: has its practical extermination by the new dictatorship proved that it had no right to exist? If we condemn this procedure in demonstrating the superiority of a given revolutionary party, we do not do so because it was practiced in Russia, but we would have to condemn it even were it attempted in Spain by ourselves. We want, first of all, to recognize the right of free experimentation for all social tendencies in our revolution; for this reason, it will not be a new tyranny, but the entrance into a reign of freedom and well being, in which all forces can show themselves, all initiative be tried out and all progress be put in practice. Violence is justified in the destruction of the old world of violence, but it is counterrevolutionary and antisocial when it is employed as a reconstructive method. In Asturias, during the October revolution, two well-defined tendencies came into relief — in some localities a socialist republic was proclaimed and in others, libertarian communism. If the revolution had had a different outcome, what would have been the consequence? Unfortunately the respect for free experimentation would have had to depend on the force our tendency had at its disposal, in defense against contrary pretensions of a totalitarian regime. The anarchists would have had no objection to the innovation in Oviedo of the methods of labor and distribution proposed by the Socialists, while in Gijon and La Felguera, libertarian communism was put into practice. Perhaps the Socialist and Communist tendencies not being identical, on the day following the triumph over the bourgeoisie and the State, a Civil War might have broken out, to determine whether the future would be social, democratic, bolshevist or libertarian, a war between brothers, which would have annihilated the spirit and the promises of the revolution. We do not know if our friends in Asturias would have been able to defend their right of existence against a socialist or communist totalitarianism. Perhaps there, they would have found themselves in minority. But in the rest of Spain, in the event of a revolution, we would have been an indisputable majority, as manifested in Aragon, Rioja and Navarre, in Andalusia, in Catalonia and in Levante. Imagine the disaster and the death of the revolution, were we to affirm the same totalitarian criterion maintained by socialists and bolshevists. In the political aspect, naturally, we must renounce; the hegemony of a committee, of a party, of a given tendency; that is, we must renounce the State as an institution which demands obedience from all with or without their consent. Without this renunciation of a State dictating the law for all, there can be no true revolution or social well-being, because the maintenance of the State is the maintenance of the largest source of exploitation of human labor. This does not imply that the economic order would exclude solidarity, mutual aid and agreement. On the contrary, where economic localism is impossible, libertarian communist Gijon needs socialist Oviedo. Just as in the question of economic organization, what is most important is reciprocal good will between the parties to a pact. Assuming this good will, agreement must follow, notwithstanding political and social divergences, which might separate the interested parties. In this way, it is possible to organize a magnificent network of relations and exchanges, on an entire national scale, without the precondition of a sole regime regulating life and production on a monopolistic basis.

For over half a century, Marxism has produced division in the ranks of the workers by its dogmatic embrace of the totalitarian state concept. We aim for the unity of the workers; for, without unity, they will continue to serve as cannon fodder, or as beasts of burden, for the benefit of the privileged class in power. But we want this unity to emerge from the common interests of all and to guarantee the freedom of the individual within the collective organism. There is a common basis of accord, and it is the sincere recognition of differences of character, temperament and education, and the solemn promise of mutual understanding, through mutual respect, in our common aspiration: the suppression of capitalism and the totalitarian state, towards the triumph of the Revolution.

Compiled by Romano Krauth
Originally published by, which went offline in 2006

Federica Montseny (1905-1994)

Posted in Anarchist with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2009 by blackeyepress


Federica Montseny was born in Madrid, Spain, on 12th February, 1905. Her parents were the co-editors of the anarchists journal, La Revista Blanca (1898-1905). In 1912 the family returned to Catalonia and farmed land just outside Barcelona. Later they established a company that specialized in publishing libertarian literature.

Montseny joined the anarchist labor union, National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT). As well as working in the family publishing business she contributed articles to anarchist journals such as Solidaridad Obrera, Tierra y Libertad and Nueva Senda. In her writings Montseny called for women’s emancipation in Spain.

In 1921 Miguel Primo de Rivera banned the CNT. It now became an underground organization and in 1927 Montseny joined the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).

The Antifascist Militias Committee was set up in Barcelona on 24th July 1936. The committee immediately sent Buenaventura Durruti and 3,000 Anarchists to Aragón in an attempt to take the Nationalist held Saragossa. At the same time Montseny established another anarchist militia, the Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty).

In the first few weeks of the Spanish Civil War an estimated 100,000 men joined Anarcho-Syndicalists militias. Anarchists also established the Iron Column, many of whose 3,000 members were former prisoners. In Guadalajara, Cipriano Mera, leader of the CNT construction workers in Madrid, formed the Rosal Column.

In November 1936 Francisco Largo Caballero appointed Montseny as Minister of Health. In doing so, she became the first woman in Spanish history to be a cabinet minister. Over the next few months Montseny accomplished a series of reforms that included the introduction of sex education, family planning and the legalization of abortion.

During the Spanish Civil War the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT), the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) and the Worker’s Party (POUM) played an important role in running Barcelona. This brought them into conflict with other left-wing groups in the city including the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSUC) and the Communist Party (PCE).

On the 3rd May 1937, Rodriguez Salas, the Chief of Police, ordered the Civil Guard and the Assault Guard to take over the Telephone Exchange, which had been operated by the CNT since the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Members of the CNT in the Telephone Exchange were armed and refused to give up the building. Members of the CNT, FAI and POUM became convinced that this was the start of an attack on them by the UGT, PSUC and the PCE and that night barricades were built all over the city.

Fighting broke out on the 4th May. Later that day the anarchist ministers, Federica Montseny and Juan Garcia Oliver, arrived in Barcelona and attempted to negotiate a ceasefire. When this proved to be unsuccessful, Juan Negrin, Vicente Uribe and Jesus Hernández called on Francisco Largo Caballero to use government troops to takeover the city. Largo Caballero also came under pressure from Luis Companys, the leader of the PSUC, not to take this action, fearing that this would breach Catalan autonomy.

On 6th May death squads assassinated a number of prominent anarchists in their homes. The following day over 6,000 Assault Guards arrived from Valencia and gradually took control of Barcelona. It is estimated that about 400 people were killed during what became known as the May Riots.

These events in Barcelona severely damaged the Popular Front government. Communist members of the Cabinet were highly critical of the way Francisco Largo Caballero handled the May Riots. President Manuel Azaña agreed and on 17th May he asked Juan Negrin to form a new government. Montseny, along with other anarchist ministers, Juan Garcia Oliver, Juan López and Juan Peiró now resigned from the government.

Negrin’s government now attempted to bring the Anarchist Brigades under the control of the Republican Army. At first the Anarcho-Syndicalists resisted and attempted to retain hegemony over their units. This proved impossible when the government made the decision to only pay and supply militias that subjected themselves to unified command and structure.

Negrin also began appointing members of the Communist Party (PCE) to important military and civilian posts. This included Marcelino Fernandez, a communist, to head the Carabineros. Communists were also given control of propaganda, finance and foreign affairs. The socialist, Luis Araquistain, described Negrin’s government as the “most cynical and despotic in Spanish history.”

At the end of the Spanish Civil War Montseny fled to France. She now led the National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) in exile until her arrest in 1942. She was imprisoned in Perigueux and Limoges during the Second World War and was not released until the liberation of France in 1944.

Montseny moved to Toulouse where she published the anarchist newspaper, L’Espoir. Unlike most other exiles, she decided not to return home after the death of General Francisco Franco and the re-introduction of democracy in Spain. Federica Montseny died in 1994.


La Victoria
“Heroínas” in Bordonada, Angeles Ena
María Silva: “La libertaria”
Qué es el anarquismo?
El éxodo: Pasión y muerte de los espanoles en el exilio
Seis anos de mi vida (1939-1945)


Federica Montseny: Spain and Russia

“In Spain the Anarchists will not be treated as they are in Russia.” When Fascism is destroyed, the Revolution, carried out by the people, will be real. In Cataluna, for instance, there is not the slightest chance left to re-establish private property, because all archives and property-titles have been burnt, and all proprietors who have not lost their lives have left their property in the hands of the workers’ organizations.

In Cataluna the Revolution is already a fact. The land has been collectivized. In the villages, Supply Committees are organizing the exchange of products from village to village, from district to district, from region to region. Thus the use of money has become almost superfluous. The activity of the Anarchists has been so fertile that no one would even dare to suggest a similar treatment meted out to our comrades in Soviet Russia. There, too, the Anarchists tried to realize their ideas, as for instance, in the Ukrainia, where libertarian communism had been attempted. But, lacking numeric strength, they were excluded from the responsible direction of the Revolution, though they fought on every front as well as in the rear. After the establishment of the Red dictatorship, the Army and Cheka, created to fight the enemy, were used against the Anarchists, who were pursued with fire and sword.

But we here in Cataluna, have done practical work, we have participated in everything, we are everywhere. Thus we have brought about a Revolution in Spain. We have machine-guns rifles and cannons.

. . . We are ready to fight, to construct, to realize the demands of the people. We want the unity of all anti-Fascists, but at the same time we demand respect for those who are fighting, and we are opposing political maneuvers. May the others give in like we do. Situations are different everywhere. If in Cataluna to-day a syndicate proclaims a slogan, it is already carried out. This form of economic construction is one of the fundamentals of our fight against Fascism. The people themselves, and only the people, determine the rhythm of our fight. Never will the Anarchists in Spain be made to suffer as they have been and are in Russia.

Compiled by Romano Krauth