The Anarchist Collectives : Conclusion

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(1902 - 1990) ~ Russian Emigre and American Anarchist Activist : He rode the rails for the Wobblies, sometimes as a gandy dancer (or maintenance man), or else hopping boxcars, and he always looked for the chance to stand in front of a crowd and, in that broken cello of a voice. (From :
• "The increasing complexity of society is making anarchism MORE and NOT LESS relevant to modern life. It is precisely this complexity and diversity, above all their overriding concern for freedom and human values that led the anarchist thinkers to base their ideas on the principles of diffusion of power, self-management and federalism." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "Society without order (as the word 'society' implies) is inconceivable. But the organization of order is not the exclusive monopoly of the State. For, if the State authority is the sole guarantee of order, who will watch the watchmen?" (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "The very fact that autonomy, decentralization and federalism are more practical alternatives to centralism and statism already presupposes that these vast organizational networks now performing the functions of society are prepared to replace the old bankrupt hyper-centralized administrations." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)

(1921 - 2006) ~ Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism : Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "The historic opposition of anarchists to oppression of all kinds, be it that of serfs, peasants, craftspeople, or workers, inevitably led them to oppose exploitation in the newly emerging factory system as well. Much earlier than we are often led to imagine, syndicalism- - essentially a rather inchoate but radical form of trade unionism- - became a vehicle by which many anarchists reached out to the industrial working class of the 1830s and 1840s." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
• "...a market economy based on dog-eat-dog as a law of survival and 'progress' has penetrated every aspect of society..." (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "...real growth occurs exactly when people have different views and confront each other in order to creatively arrive at more advanced levels of truth -- not adopt a low common denominator of ideas that is 'acceptable' to everyone but actually satisfies no one in the long run. Truth is achieved through dialogue and, yes, harsh disputes -- not by a deadening homogeneity and a bleak silence that ultimately turns bland 'ideas' into rigid dogmas." (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)


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by Sam Dolgoff

In our introductory remarks we indicated, in broad outline, important things that modern radicals and particularly those involved in the worldwide movement for workers’ self-management of industry (a more accurate term than “workers’ control”) could learn from the rich experience of the Spanish Revolution. Attempting to provide the reader with at least enough essential background information to make his own assessment, we refrained from going into a detailed discussion of the lessons of the Spanish Revolution. This much, however, is clear: the embattled workers and peasants of Spain had successfully translated the libertarian principles of self-management into concrete achievements. This was not done in some isolated experimental commune made up of select individuals but on a vast scale, involving the lives of millions of ordinary men, women, and children. This was the “popular consciousness” of the Spanish Revolution. In the last chapter of his Né Franco né Stalin Leval sums up the nature of this grass roots popular control.

The revolution developed in extremely complicated circumstances. Attacks from within and without had to be fought off. It took fantastic efforts to put the anarchist principles into practice. But in many places it was done. The organizers found out how to get around everything. I repeat: it was possible because we had the intelligence of the people on our side. This is what finds the way, and meets the thousand needs of life and the revolution. It organized the militia and defeated fascism in the first phase of the war. It went to work instantly, to make armored cars and rifles and guns. The initiative came from the people, above all from those influenced by the anarchists. For example the Aragon collectives: among their organizers I found only two lawyers, in Alcorina. They were not, strictly speaking, intellectuals. But if what they did, together with their peasant and worker comrades, was well done, it was no better than what could be seen in Esplus, Binefar, Calanda, and other collectives. What was a surprise was to find that a great many of these peasants were illiterate. But they had faith, practical common sense, the spirit of sacrifice, and the will to create a new world.

I don’t want to make a demagogic apology for ignorance. Those men had a mentality, a heart, a spirit, of a kind that education cannot give and official education often smothers. Spiritual culture is not always bookish, and still less academic. It can arise from the very conditions of living, and when it does, it is more dynamic. By adapting themselves to what was being done, by coordinating the work, by suggesting general directions, by warning a certain region of industry against particular errors, by complementing one activity with another and harmonizing the whole, by stimulating here and correcting there--in these ways great minds can undoubtedly be of immense service. In Spain they were lacking. It was not by the work of our intellectuals who are more literary than sociological, more agitators than practical guides--that the future has been illuminated. And the peasants--libertarian or not--of Aragon, Levant, Castile, Estramadura, Andalusia, and the workers of Catalonia, understood this and acted alone.

The intellectuals, by their ineptitude in practical work, were inferior to the peasants who made no political speeches but knew how to organize the new life. Not even the authors of the syndicalist health organization in Catalonia were intellectuals. A Basque doctor with a will of iron, and a few comrades working in the hospitals, did everything. In other regions, talented professional men aided the movement. But there, too, the initiative came from below. Alcoy’s Industries, so well organized, were all managed by the workers, as were those of Elda and Castillon. In Carcagente, in Elda, in Granollers, in Binefar, in Jativa, in land transport, in marine transport, in the collectives of Castile, or in the semi-socialization of Ripolls and Puigerda--the militants at the bottom did everything.

As for the government, they were as inept in organizing the economy as in organizing the war.

In assessing the profound impact of the Spanish Revolution, anarchist and non-anarchist critics of the conduct and policies of our comrades must never lose sight of the fact that these constructive achievements were made under the worst possible circumstances. They would do well to ponder deeply these words of Bakunin, which, though made about the Paris Communards, are still relevant to the kind of problems the Spanish workers had to face:

I know that many socialists, very logical in their theory, blame our Paris friends for not having acted sufficiently as socialists in their revolutionary practice. The yelping pack of the bourgeois press, on the other hand, accuses them of having followed their program too faithfully... I want to call the attention of the strictest theoreticians of proletarian emancipation to the fact that they are unjust to our Paris brothers, for between the most correct theories and their practical application lies an enormous difference that cannot be bridged in a few days... They had to keep up a daily struggle against the Jacobin majority. In the midst of the conflict they had to feed and provide work for several thousand workers, organize and arm them, and keep a sharp lookout for the doings of the reactionaries. All that in an immense city like Paris, besieged, facing the threat of starvation, and a prey to the shady intrigues of the reaction. (Dolgoff, pp. 266- 267)

We don’t want to pass judgment on what the Spanish anarchists should or should not have done--playing the fruitless game of “what if...” We are concerned with the indispensable prerequisites for the realization of a libertarian society based upon worker’s self-management of industry--rural and urban. We are concerned with the fundamental principles which must not only underpin such a society but which must also determine the character and direction which struggles leading to the realization of the free society must take. It is here that we find

the precise significance of Spanish anarchism. It voices more clearly and intelligently than any other Iberian movement the resistance offered by the whole Spanish people to the tyranny and soullessness of the modern machine serving age... It accepts the benefits to be obtained from machine production, but it insists that nothing whatever should curtail the right of all men to lead dignified human lives. (Brenan, pp. 196–197)

What are these basic principles of workers’ self-management? Let us go through them briefly.

By definition, “self-management” is self-rule. It excludes rule over others--domination of man by man. It excludes not only the permanent, legally sanctioned authority of the state through its coercive institutions but demands the very extirpation of the principle of the state from within the unofficial associations (miniature states) of the people: from within the unions, from the places of work, and from within the myriad groupings and relations which make up society.

By definition, “self-management” is the idea that workers (all workers, including technicians, engineers, scientists, planners, coordinators--all) engaged in providing goods and services can themselves efficiently administer and coordinate the economic life of society. This belief must of necessity be based upon three inseparable principles: 1) faith in the constructive and creative capacity not of an elite classs of “superior” individuals but of the masses--the much maligned “average man”; 2) autonomy (self-rule); and 3) decentralization and coordination through the free agreement of federalism.

By definition, “self-management” means that workers are equal partners in a vast network of interlocking cooperative associations embracing the whole range of production and distribution of goods and the rendering of services. It must of necessity be based upon the fundamental principle of free communism, that is, the equal access to and sharing of, goods and services, according to needs.

The contemporary significance of the Spanish Revolution lies not so much in the specific measures improvised by the urban socialized industries and the agrarian collectives (most of them outdated by the cybernetic-technological revolution) but in the application of the fundamental constructive principles of anarchism or free socialism to the immediate practical problems of the Spanish social revolution. These principles are beginning to be understood more and more today.[99] It is hoped that this collection will contribute to that understanding.

“Post of the CNT-FAI, ‘Liberty!’”

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November 30, 1973 :
Conclusion -- Publication.

July 11, 2019 16:38:12 :
Conclusion -- Added to


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