The Anarchist Collectives : Part 1: Background, Chapter 3: Historical Notes
(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 : IWW.org.)
• "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....)
• "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....)
• "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....)
(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 social view of humanity, namely that of social ecology, focuses primarily on the historic emergence of hierarchy and the need to eliminate hierarchical relationships." (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "...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....)
• "...the extraordinary achievements of the Spanish workers and peasants in the revolution of 1936, many of which were unmatched by any previous revolution." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
Part 1: Background, Chapter 3: Historical Notes
Like all great movements, the Revolution must be evaluated within the context of the conflicting forces that shaped its course. In particular let us review the relations between the CNT-FAI and the political parties during the crucial years between the proclamation of the Republic in April, 1931, and the outbreak of the Civil War on July 19, 1936.
After the great strikes which precipitated the collapse of the monarchy, the Republic was formed by a coalition of bourgeois republicans and socialists. In the general elections to the Cortes (the Spanish parliament), 115 Socialist Party candidates, backed by the bourgeois parties, were elected. Largo Caballero, the socialist leader, became the powerful Minister of Labor. During his term of office (1931–33) the socialist dominated labor organization, the UGT, became the unofficial labor front of the government and thousands of socialists appointed to government posts reinforced the bureaucratic apparatus of the Republic.
The 600,000 members of the CNT represented at its first open congress (1931) refused to collaborate with this new government. In Barcelona, a mass meeting of 100,000 workers took up the slogan: As against the ballot box--the social revolution! One of the posters read: The Cortes is a barrel of rotten apples. If we send our deputies there, they too will become rotten. Don’t vote!
As Minister of Labor, Caballero introduced a series of laws regulating relations between workers and employers. These severely limited the right to strike by instituting compulsory arbitration of all disputes. All contracts between workers and employers had to conform to government laws and the government enforced the fulfillment of contracts. A whole army of newly appointed government officials (mostly socialists) enforced these laws to favor the UGT. As intended, they were used against the CNT. Thus under Caballero the membership of the UGT jumped from 300,000 when he took office to 1,250,000 in 1933. Another law, ostensibly against “socially dangerous elements,” was the pretext for interning CNT militants in concentration camps. Persecution and intermittent periods of legality and illegality made it impossible, for instance, for them to hold another congress until 1936.
As noted by Santillan, the immense majority of the military and civilian office holders who had faithfully served the monarchy continued to serve the interests of the Army, the Church, and the wealthy landholders and capitalists under the Republic. They continued to sabotage the enforcement of every progressive measure. Worse yet, the new socialist and republican officials soon acquired all the vises of the old monarchical administration.
It soon became plain that the Republic represented nothing fundamentally new for the Spanish people. The coming of the Republic did not signal the dawning of a new and better social order truly capable of satisfying the pressing needs and the aspirations of the urban and rural workers. Rather, the Republican government, from the beginning and throughout its existence, was determined to crush the revolutionary movement.
Then began the prologue to the Revolution: that period of partial and general strikes and insurrections involving hundreds of thousands of workers which, in spite of setbacks, gradually enveloped all of Spain and directly involved the masses in the social revolutionary process.
In January, 1933, for instance, there took place the revolt of Casas Viejas which aroused all Spain. This little Andalusian village proclaimed Comunismo Libertario. The revolt was drowned in blood. Troops were ordered to kill, not to spare the wounded, and to take no prisoners. “Shoot them in the belly.” Twenty-five dwellings were destroyed and thirty peasants were burned alive when the soldiers set fire to their homes. One of the leaders of the revolt, the 70 year old anarchist nicknamed Seisdedos (Sixfingers), together with his children and grandchildren, perished in the flames. These and other atrocities aroused a great storm of protest both within Spain and internationally and finally brought down the government. The Minister of the Interior, Casares Quiroga, and the President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña, were forced to resign.
On the eve of the national elections to the Cortes in December, 1933, the CNT proclaimed another general strike in Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and Coruña. Hospitalet and Villanueva de la Serena in Catalonia proclaimed libertarian communism, as did villages in Aragon. The movement was suppressed after four days. The members of the Revolutionary Committee of Saragossa as well as the National Committee of the CNT were arrested. In Barcelona, militants imprisoned during the insurrection as well as some imprisoned earlier effected a sensational escape by digging a tunnel out of the prison.
Also in December, 1933, the CNT-FAI issued a manifesto warning of a possible rightist putsch, against which voting and parliamentary procedures would prove futile. They urged the workers not to vote but to “prepare for the social revolution.” Even the left-wing section of the Socialist Party declared that in the event of a rightist electoral victory the decisive battle would have to be decided by armed forces in the streets. There were solid grounds for these fears. The right-wing forces were led by the fascist Gil Robles. Robles spent his honeymoon in Germany, where he enthusiastically soaked up the political ideas of Hitler and the Austrian fascist Dollfuss. Both he and the other right-wing leaders had long admired Mussolini.
The 1934 election of the reactionary Lerroux-Gil Robles government precipitated a wave of strikes and insurrections against the new regime. Even the meager reforms enacted by the liberal government were annulled. The government, determined to turn Spain into a fascist-style state, perpetrated wholesale arrests, including the imprisonment of 30,000 CNT members. Ironically enough, under this notorious Bieno Negro (accursed two year rule of the Gil Robles regime) the same atrocities committed by the preceding Republican government against the CNT were now also directed against the socialists. Once out of power the left-wing socialists began to talk about revolution. Caballero, now exalted as “the blue-eyed Lenin of the Spanish Revolution,” proclaimed the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat during the transition period from capitalism to socialism.
Late in 1934 the strike of UGT and CNT workers in Asturias rapidly took on the proportions of a full-scale insurrectionary movement--a dress rehearsal for the Social Revolution. The revolutionary movement for workers’ and peasants’ councils spread throughout the whole region. The police barracks at Suma were attacked with sticks of dynamite. The small arms factory of La Turbia was stormed. Over 30,000 rifles and huge quantities of machine guns, hand grenades, and ammunition were taken. In the CNT strongholds in the port cities of Gijon and La Figuera, and in other towns, libertarian communism was being put into effect. Even the big city of Oviedo was occupied by the strikers. Imported Moorish and Foreign Legion troops under the overall command of Francisco Franco crushed the insurrection after three days of bloody battles, leaving 3,000 dead and 7,000 wounded. Tens of thousands (including Caballero) were jailed and large parts of Spain were placed under martial law. In the Cortes, Gil Robles, in the style of Hitler and Mussolini, demanded unlimited power to obliterate the revolutionary movement.
Under these circumstances, the right-wing government lost the February, 1936, elections. This time the CNT had not urged the workers not to vote. It had been tacitly understood that the CNT members and their friends would vote for the liberal-leftist parties because they were pledged to release the political prisoners. Santillan, who lived through these tragic events, indicates what a limited “victory” this was:
The Left, who, thanks to us, had been returned to power by a narrow margin, still remained blind to the fascist menace. Neither the workers nor the peasants had gained anything but the release of the prisoners. The real power remained in the hands of the fascist capitalists, the Church, and the military caste who were openly and feverishly preparing a coup to unseat by force the republican and socialist politicians who had legally come to power in the February, 1936, elections... (Por Que Perdimos La Guerra, p. 38)
The fascists, of course, would not accept the “verdict of the people.” While they knew that the republican reformers were just as anxious to avoid social revolution as they were, they had no confidence in the ability of the “leftist” government to do so. It was primarily for this reason that the fascists were determined to unseat them. So, long before the elections and while still in power, the fascists had already plotted and organized a massive military assault to depose the Republican government and impose a military dictatorship. The takeover was launched July 19th, 1936.
Why had the Republican government ignored the fascist threat for so long? And why, once the threat became a reality, did the Republican government act so feebly in its defense and in the defense of the people? César M. Lorenzo (the son of a prominent CNT militant, his book is a gold mine of information) answers this question clearly:
The Republic was in reality overwhelmed by events. Pulled between fear of a Social Revolution and Fascism, it unconsciously expedited both Fascism and the Social Revolution. The Republicans in power ... were the only ones in Spain who could not or would not see the imminence of a national catastrophe. They allowed themselves to be fooled by the sermons of the generals. After the announcement of the military uprising they refused to distribute arms to the workers and hoped to arrange everything by negotiating with the fascist plotters. In fact they feared, above all, the coming of the proletarian society and committed themselves to the wrecking of the organizations established by the extreme left [the CNT-FAI] whom they hated. But the formidable reaction of the masses wiped out the fascists in over half of Spain and reduced to bits republican legality. On the one hand the triumph of the reaction, on the other, the triumph of socialism... (p. 241)
The Revolution of July 19, 1936, thus marked the culmination of a double process. On the one hand, there was the economic and political degeneration of Spain due to the impotence of first the monarchy and then the Republic to effect fundamental changes, changes impossible without destroying the very privileges for which the Republic stood. On the other hand, there was the ceaseless, increasingly effective revolutionary activity of the powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement. The spirit of popular discontent, crystallized by the persistent agitation of the CNT, found expression in the increasing tempo and scope of the insurrections which shook the foundations of the exploitative society.
We are communists. But our communism is not that of the authoritarian school: it is anarchist communism, communism without government, free communism. It is a synthesis of the two chief aims pursued by humanity since the dawn of its history--economic freedom and political freedom...
The means of production and of satisfaction of all needs of society have been created by the common efforts of all, must be at the disposal of all. The private appropriation of requisites for production is neither just nor beneficial. All must be placed on the same footing as producers and consumers of wealth... Common possession of the necessities of production implies the common enjoyment of the fruits of the common production; and we consider that an equitable organization of society can only arise when every wage-system is abandoned, and when everybody, contributing for the common well-being to the full extent of his capacities, shall enjoy also from the common stock of society to the fullest possible extent of his needs...
Each economic phase of life implies its own political phase; and it is impossible to touch the very basis of the present economic life--private property--without a corresponding change in the very basis of the political organization. Life already shows in which direction the change will be made. Not in increasing the powers of the State, but in resorting to free organization and free federation in all those branches which are now considered as attributes of the State.
--Kropotkin, from “Anarchist Communism” in Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets (New York, 1927)
Modern Anarcho-Syndicalism is a direct continuation of those social aspirations which took shape in the bosom of the First International and which were best understood and most strongly held by the libertarian wing of the great workers’ alliance...
Only in the realm of economy are the workers able to display their full social strength, for it is their activity as producers which holds together the whole social structure, and guarantees the existence of society at all... For the Anarcho-Syndicalist the trade union is ... the seed of the Socialist economy of the future, the elementary school of Socialism in general ... The trade union, the syndicate, is the unified organization of labor and has for its purpose the defense of the interests of the producers within existing society and the preparing for and the practical carrying out of the reconstruction of social life after the pattern of Socialism...
The organization of Anarcho-Syndicalism is based on the principles of Federalism, on free combination from below upward, putting the right of self-determination of every member above everything else and recognizing only the organic agreement of all on the basis of like interests and common convictions...
Anarcho-Syndicalists are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand or brain in each special branch of production; that is, through the taking over of the management of all plants by the producers themselves under such form that the separate groups ... carry on production and the distribution of the products in the interest of the community on the basis of free mutual agreement.
--Rudolf Rocker, from Anarcho-Syndicalism (London, 1938)
Both before and after July 19th, an unwavering determination to crush the revolutionary movement was the leitmotiv behind the policies of the Republican government, irrespective of the party in power. On this one point, at least, all the rival factions agreed.
The government and the parties began their great offensive against the CNT. With patience they reconstituted the State, reorganized the regular police, and equipped an army of the classical type. At the same time they gave no financial aid to the industrial and agricultural collectives, leaving them to wither away for lack of capital... They tried to return the goods and land to their former owners, to sabotage by all means the transformation of the economy. At the same time they systematically refused to arm the CNT columns, while by intensive propaganda they turned public opinion against “the irresponsible, uncontrollable groups of the CNT-FAI.” (Lorenzo, p. 244)
The coalition of parties against the social revolution was not improvised on the spur of the moment. It had been long in the making. The inclusion of the anarchists in the anti-fascist front and the organization of the libertarian collectives had been very reluctantly tolerated by these elements. They saw no other alternative. At heart many of them would have preferred the victory of Franco to the social revolution. But they could not, in view of the situation and the power of the CNT-FAI, risk a premature frontal attack.
The Counter-Revolution in Catalonia
The first treacherous moves to undermine the position of the CNT-FAI were initiated by the Generalidad (the semi-autonomous government of Catalonia, the anarchist stronghold) during the crucial period before the fascist attack on July 19th. Luís Companys, President of the Generalidad, knew that his government could not defeat the fascists without the help of the CNT. The CNT-FAI pledged itself to cooperate in a united front with all anti-fascist forces against the common foe. But when asked to supply the necessary arms to the workers, the Generalidad refused on the pretext that it had none. When the workers helped themselves as best they could and took over 200 rifles and other materiel from the battleships Marques de Camillas and Magallenes, the chief of police brazenly demanded that the workers return the weapons to the government. The Generalidad, while lavishly supplying arms to its own police force and the Civil Guards, repeatedly refused to give any to the workers. The mood of desperation and the sense of impending tragedy are graphically portrayed by Santillan:
Even our modest requests for a thousand rifles were refused... Around midnight the day before the attack, General Aranguen, the commander of the Civil Guards, arrived at the President’s reception room and found Companys arguing with a CNT delegation, who were demanding that at least half the arms of the Assault Guards should be given to the workers who had none. Companys again promised vaguely that he would “soon distribute arms at the right time.” Durruti interrupted: “We must act. This is no time for empty talk. We are not going to be slaughtered by the fascists for lack of arms just to satisfy a stubborn politician. From now on the CNT and FAI will conduct the fight!... “
We had fully organized the defense of Barcelona. The armed workers’ militias of the CNT-FAI patrolled the streets and manned all strategic points. The barricades were ready ... but the police of the Generalidad attacked our patrols. Repeated telephone calls for information about the fate of this or that comrade arrested for carrying arms were ignored... It is no exaggeration to say that we had to concentrate all our efforts to defend ourselves from the police, who tried to confiscate even the few arms that we did have... (quoted in Abel Paz, pp. 281, 282, 283)
Santillan reports that:
The rifles we took from the ships, revolvers and other arms that we had managed to collect or requisition, and the hundred old small arms grudgingly given us by the Generalidad were all we had to combat the 35,000 well-armed fascists... (Por Que Perdimos La Guerra, p. 43)
On July 17th, two days before the Franco troops stormed Barcelona, the government censor prohibited the publication in Solidaridad Obrera of a manifesto detailing vital last minute arrangements for the defense of Barcelona and encouraging the workers. That afternoon the Regional Committee of the FAI was forced to print the manifesto on a handbill which was distributed all over the city and in the suburbs.
Two days after the workers crushed the fascists (July 21), Companys suddenly became very friendly and invited the CNT-FAI delegation to confer with him about the changed situation. He acknowledged that the CNT was the master of Catalonia and that his government was impotent, and he offered to resign. If the CNT so desired he would remain in office as the servant of the workers and the united front of the anti-fascist parties. His offer to continue in office was naively accepted. The offer turned out to be part of a scheme to get back into power. Companys was a conniver.
He manipulated things with such skill that little by little he reconstituted the legal organs and the power of the state and reduced the revolutionary workers’ organizations to de facto puppets of his government. (Paz, p. 183)
The formation on September 26th of the new Council of the Generalidad meant in effect the usurpation of the revolutionary workers’ organizations by the Companys government. The famous Collectivization Decree (October 24, 1936) ostensibly legalizing the conquests of the Revolution actually established the power of the Generalidad to regulate and eventually to liquidate the collectivized industries and rural collectives of Catalonia.
The Caballero-Communist Coalition of Republican Spain Liquidates the Revolution
The counter-revolutionary treachery of the Communists during the Spanish Civil War has been rightfully stressed and can not be exaggerated. But the collusion of the Communists with the socialists and their leader, Francisco Largo Caballero (also an architect of the counter-revolution), has been rarely mentioned.
The Caballero government came to power September 8, 1936, and was deposed May 15, 1937, to be succeeded by the Communist Negrín. When Caballero finally broke with the Communists he did so not because he objected to their counter-revolutionary program or to their atrocities against the anarchists and other dissident groups. He was primarily motivated by the well-founded fear that the Communists would finally dominate the socialist parties. During his administration Caballero and his allies presided over the liquidation of the Spanish libertarian collectives. One of the very best studies devoted to this aspect of the Spanish tragedy is Burnett Bolloten’s pioneering work The Grand Camouflage (London, 1961). The following paragraphs summarize the salient point.
Caballero’s relations with the CNT-FAI before the Civil War were marked by almost constant friction. Just before the Civil War, on April 24, 1936, Solidaridad Obrera (the anarcho-syndicalist organ) called Caballero “a dictator in embryo” who favored “the absolute hegemony of the Socialist Party on the morrow of the triumphant insurrection of the working classes.” (Bolloten, p. 154)
In contrast, in the months before the Civil War the official relations between the left-wing socialists and the Communist Party had been most friendly. So much so that Caballero, then the General Secretary of the UGT and virtual leader of the Socialist Youth Movement, endorsed the fusion of the socialist and Communist trade union federations as well as the merging of the two youth organizations. In March, 1936, the Madrid section of the Socialist Party, headed by Caballero, proposed a fusion of the socialist and Communist parties. And in August, 1936, Caballero invited the socialists and Communists to join his government, which they did. He had earlier been warmly praised by the Communist Party leader Jose Diaz as “one that approaches most the revolutionary path, the path of the Communist Party and the Communist International.” (Bolloten, p. 105)
On July 19th, 1936, the police powers of the Republic had crumbled under the dual impact of the military rebellion and the social revolution. The fascists’ attempted coup d’état had been put down principally as a result of the skillful and intelligent work of the militants. Slowly the state moved to eliminate the working class militants. On this point the Communists, socialists, and republicans were of one mind. Recalcitrant militiamen were disarmed and arrested. The government took over the administration of public order in one locality after another. Under the Caballero government thousands of new members were added to the Civil Guards. When the Caballero cabinet was formed in September, 1936, there were 15,600 Carabineros in all of Spain. By April, 1937, there were 40,000 in Loyalist Spain alone (which was about half the area of Spain). (Bolloten, p.170)
In December, 1936, the Caballero government, with the agreement of the Communist Party, decreed the dissolution of the spontaneous revolutionary committees and their replacement by governmental municipal and provincial councils in which all the popular front parties and trade unions would be represented. The Caballero administration was determined to dissolve the revolutionary organs that had assumed state functions. Both the Socialist Party paper Claridad (Feb. 19, 1937) and the Communist Party organ Mundo Obrera (Dec. 25, 1936) spoke out against the committees as impediments to state power. The latter commented:
There can be no doubt that at the present time they [“the numerous bodies created at the beginning of the Civil War in the towns and villages”] ... greatly hinder the work of the government. (Bolloten, p.167)
It was also necessary, in the opinion of the Communists as well as the socialists and the republicans, to break the power of the revolutionary committees in the collectivized factories, particularly in the basic industries, and the agricultural collectives. Nationalization would weaken the left-wing of the revolution at one of the principal sources of its power while putting agricultural and industrial enterprises under state control. Solidaridad Obrera (March 3rd, 1937) protested that:
These reactionaries, ... enjoying unheard of official aid, are endeavoring to take over by assault the collectivized estates with the object of putting an end to the agrarian revolution. (p. 175)
The counter-revolutionary campaign initiated in the weeks preceding the revolutionary events of July 19th, 1936, gathered momentum during the months of December, 1936, and the spring of 1937. In preparation for the inevitable showdown, they had done all they could to undermine the prestige of the CNT-FAI and to sabotage the revolutionary achievements.
The first big attack on the agricultural collectives (March, 1937) was launched in the Levant region between Alicante and Murcia. It was spearheaded by Carabineros, Civil Guards, Assault Guards, and other police forces militarized into artillery sections and equipped by the government with numerous guns and tanks (18 tanks in Gandia and 13 in Alfora). The Republic, so incapable of effectively fighting the fascists at the front, compensated for its impotence with cowardly attacks on the collectives on the home front.
The peasant comrades, who expected this assault, prepared to resist as best they could. They had no tanks, and fought with outdated pistols and two old cannons. The government planned to first storm the strategic villages of Tullera and Alfara. But almost the whole region was alerted and the neighboring villagers armed with hunting rifles rushed to repulse the attackers. The District Federations of Jativa, Carcagente, Gandia, and Sueca pooled their strength and organized the “Gandia Front.” The villagers of Catarroja, Liria, Moncada, Paterna, and Burriana established the “Vilanesa Front.” The tide of battle turned in favor of the collectivists when the peasants were reinforced by two libertarian battalions from the “Iron Front” as well as two battalions from the “Confederal Column” of the CNT who rushed from the Teruel-Segorbe front to reinforce the peasants.
The fighting in the Callera district of the Levant raged for four days, at the end of which the government, unable to break through, attacked in a different direction: towards Sella. Finally through the intervention of the CNT a cease-fire was arranged. Captured prisoners and arms on both sides were returned. But in violation of the truce, a number of our prisoners (mostly younger men) were released only much later. Although our comrades suffered casualties, dead and wounded, the collectives were far from being destroyed. On the contrary, they emerged from the conflict stronger than ever. All the evidence indicates that the whole operation was secretly launched by the right-wing socialists (specifically the Minister of War in the cabinet, Indelicio Prieto) together with the Communist enemies, who on this issue were temporarily reconciled.
As the war against the fascists and the counter-revolution against the collectives proceeded, Catalonia became a focal point. Here the revolutionary gains survived and the workers remained in armed opposition to the restoration of the state. Here too the PSUC was determined to end the revolution. The showdown came in the May Days of 1937. The coalition launched its all-out offensive in Barcelona, the anarchist stronghold, on the pretext that the CNT must be dislodged from control of the central telephone exchange. It could have been any other reason.
In the wake of the May Days, the systematic persecution of our comrades on a massive scale began and we lost positions on all fronts. The political parties, in league with Luís Companys, president of the Catalonian government (who turned against the anarchists when he no longer needed their support), evicted all our comrades from the most important posts. The Stalinists took over control of the police force.
The Communist leader Comorera became the Minister of the Economy of Catalonia. Not being able to altogether undermine the preponderant influence of the CNT syndicates, Comorera misused his immense power (in league with the Central Government) to sabotage production and then blame the CNT. He infiltrated strategic union locals and shops with Communists and even tried to return the control of the Barcelona transportation system and other enterprises to the capitalists. The list of sabotage and atrocities against our comrades is endless as the state reinstituted its control.
Following the 1937 May Days putsch in Barcelona, the newly appointed Communist Minister of Agriculture, Vincente Uribe, surprised everyone by publishing a decree legalizing the agrarian collectives in all of Spain, irrespective of the circumstances under which they were organized. It turned out that this decree was a fraud meant to camouflage the sinister plans of the counter-revolutionary coalition to destroy the collectives and to hand over the land to the former bourgeois landlords. Uribe’s actions made clear his real intentions. In his radio broadcasts, Uribe repeatedly urged the peasants not to join the collectives. He guaranteed the restoration of holdings to the small and middle-class property owners. He reorganized the counter-revolutionary Peasant Landlords’ Federation of Levant and created a counter-revolutionary united front. Under the pretext of helping the peasant collectives with the harvest (there was an acute shortage of manpower), young Communist “shock-brigades” spread themselves throughout the Levant and Catalonia, only to infiltrate and destroy the collectives.
The major offensive to destroy the collectives (staged June, 1937) was launched against the Aragon collectives. It was harvest time. The Carabineros, commanded by Communists, requisitioned trucks transporting produce from various collectives and confiscated the shipments. A little later, on orders from their commanders in Barbastro, Carabineros raided the collectives (under the authority of the Ministry of War), smashing everything and confiscating anything of value.
On the pretext that they were needed for an offensive, young men sorely needed to gather in the harvest were mobilized. The same held true for other villages. And while these young men were being sent to the front, idle troops from other regions who were never sent to the front were being quartered in strategic villages from which offensives could be mounted. These parasites gorged themselves with food and delicacies and played pelote (a Basque game) all day long while wheat lay rotting in the fields for lack of manpower!
But this was not all. The worst was yet to come. In July, 1937, the collectives were brutally attacked by mobile brigades of regular army troops commanded by the notorious Communist officer Enrique Lister. These same troops who so “valiantly” attacked the collectives, when facing the fascists at Belchite fled in panic like scared rabbits!!
Thirty percent of the collectives were completely destroyed. At Alcora de Cinco, the Municipal Council that administrated the collective was arrested. The aged pensioners in the old folks home were driven out. Wholesale arrests were made in other collectives: Mas de las Matas, Monzon, and Barbastro. Warehouses, stores, cooperative markets, and installations were pillaged and wrecked. At the October, 1937, National Plenum of Peasants in Valencia, the Aragon delegates made this report (which we summarize):
More than 600 organizers of collectives have been imprisoned. The government-appointed committees seized the food markets, the land, livestock, and tools, and returned them to members of fascist families or fascist suspects whom the revolution refrained from prosecuting. The harvest was expropriated and distributed in the same way, including even livestock raised by the collectives. In certain villages like Bordon and Calaciete they even confiscated seeds.
So great was the destruction that Republican Spain was threatened with starvation. The counter-revolutionists proved incapable of resuming production and, much against their will, they were forced to halt their depredations and permit the reestablishment of collectives. Although some collectives were reconstituted, this noble movement was irretrievably crushed (disbanded, nationalized or restored to private monopoly)--a great historic atrocity which the bogus “anti-fascist counter-revolutionaries will never live down.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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