The Anarchist Collectives : Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 10: The Rural Collectives

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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 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....)
• "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....)

(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 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....)
• "...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....)
• "Broader movements and issues are now on the horizon of modern society that, while they must necessarily involve workers, require a perspective that is larger than the factory, trade union, and a proletarian orientation." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)

(1882 - 1984)
Augustin Souchy Bauer (28 August 1892 – 1 January 1984) was a German anarchist, antimilitarist, labor union official and journalist. He traveled widely and wrote extensively about the Spanish Civil War and intentional communities. He was born in Ratibor, Germany (now Racibórz, Poland). (From :

(1887 - 1983)
Diego Abad de Santillán (May 20, 1897 – October 18, 1983), born Sinesio Vaudilio García Fernández, was an anarcho-syndicalist activist, economist, author, and a leading figure in the Spanish and Argentine anarchist movements. (From :


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Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 10: The Rural Collectives

Chapter 10: The Rural Collectives


All participants and observers agree that the extent and nature of the agrarian collectives were more widespread and thorough than were the industrial collectives. Often separated from the seats of State power and with their long tradition of rural communism and militant agitation, the rural collectives were able to thrive for a period of time.

The extent to which theories are valid can be determined only by the extent to which they are practical. Theories that do not correspond to the acid test of real life are worse than useless as a guide to action. For this reason this chapter consists of eyewitness reports from a number of typical rural collectives, from direct contact with the landworkers who made the agrarian revolution a success. These experiences renew faith in the constructive, creative capacities of “ordinary” people, to make and sustain the social revolution and successfully tackle their everyday problems. Spontaneity, solidarity and mutual aid enriched and broadened their lives (if only for a few years and under the constant threat of attack). Nor must we forget that collectivization led to modernization of facilities and methods, and cultural opportunities for all. All this, and more, achieved by the workers themselves!

A Journey Through Aragon[79]
by Augustin Souchy


The libertarian youth is the moving spirit of the Revolution in Calanda. The Revolution radically altered the lifestyle of this village, and to the libertarian youth belongs all the credit for the innovations introduced after July 19th.

As we approach the village square, we hear the refrain from the theme song of the Revolution: “To the Barricades! To the Barricades! All for the victory of the Confederation!” (CNT-FAI is sometimes referred to as “our Confederation.”) The youth play recordings of the old anarchist hymn, “Hijos del Pueblo” (“Sons of the People”), recalling the heroic struggles of past centuries.

On the village square, facing the church, stands a new granite fountain. On its base, engraved in bold letters, is the inscription: “CNT-FAI-JJLL” (JJLL is the libertarian youth organization). The fountain is the pride of the village, erected on their own initiative by the construction workers as sketched out by the young anarchists.

Of the 4,500 inhabitants, 3,500 belong to the CNT. Production and distribution are organized on libertarian principles. Although there were no such organizations in Calanda before July 19th, 1936, the anarchists practiced tolerance and welcomed the republican and socialist groups.

The relations between the libertarian collectivists and the “individualists” (small peasant proprietors) are cordial. There are two cafés: the collective’s café serves free coffee and in the other café the “individualists” have to pay for their coffee. The collective operates a barber shop, giving free haircuts and (if desired) free shaves twice weekly.

Money is abolished and has been replaced by vouchers. Food, meat, and all other provisions are distributed in quantity when plentiful or equitably rationed when in short supply. The collective allows 5 liters of wine per person weekly. Medical care and medicines are free. Even postage stamps are free. There is no rent. Housing, building repairs, water, gas, electricity--all are supplied gratis, not only to the collectivists but also to the “individualists.” The village generates its own power from a waterfall. There is no scarcity of clothing. By arrangement with a Barcelona textile plant, oil is exchanged for cloth, dresses, etc. Garments are distributed in rotation to 40 persons daily.

The Municipal Council consists of 6 members, 3 from the CNT and 3 from the Libertarian Youth. The youth are very active. They have built public baths, a library, conducted cultural events, etc. Cinema is collectivized. Except for some small shops that prefer to remain independent, everything is collectivized. The land is worked by teams of ten, each team cultivating a zone. Every team chooses its own delegates. The work teams are freely formed by “affinity.”[80] The bank was closed down, and the assets of 70,000 pesetas confiscated by the municipality to purchase supplies.

The showplace of the collective is the newly organized Ferrer (libertarian progressive) School, housed in an old convent. The collective requested the services of 10 more teachers from Barcelona. School supplies, desks, stools, and other equipment are donated by the collective. The school is equipped with a hatchery and greenhouses. From a comparative handful of privileged children, the school now accommodates 1,233 pupils. Gifted children are sent at the expense of the collective to the high school in Caspé. The Calanda militiamen voluntarily send their savings not to relatives but to their communal family, the collective.


The 1,700 inhabitants of Muniesa felt no great urge to collectivize before July 19th. There were no Fascist threats in the area and there had been no fighting. There had been no big landlords (and consequently no expropriations). There were only poor peasants struggling hard to eke out a living from their small properties.

But after July 19th, a new spirit shook Muniesa out of its lethargy. The moving spirit of the new order was Joaquin Valiente. He had lived in Barcelona for 17 years and there came to know libertarian ideas. He returned to Muniesa a convinced anarchist and fiery exponent of the “new” ideology. His proposal to collectivize fell on fruitful ground. Things had not been going well for the peasants and they had become receptive to change--they decided to collectivize. Joaquin Valiente ... was elected mayor.

The libertarian communist commune was organized at a general meeting of the villagers. Valiente presided. On the table lay an open copy of Kropotkin’s classic, The Conquest of Bread. One of the members read aloud extracts from the book. “Here is the new gospel! Here, in black and white, is written how to institute well-being for all!”

Bread, meat, oil, wine, and certain other products were distributed gratis from the community center where the peasants deposited their products. But many commodities had to be purchased elsewhere. The Communal Council did the shopping for everyone, buying in quantity. It was decided that these supplementary supplies (aside from goods it was decided should be free) should be paid for by the individual consumers. For this purpose, the Council printed 100,000 pesetas in local currency (not negotiable anywhere else). To buy whatever supplementary commodities they wanted from the commune, every adult man and woman was allotted one peseta, and children 50 centimes, per day.

“Are you not afraid,” I asked, “that unlimited quantities of free wine will lead to excessive drinking?”

“By no means. No one gets drunk here. We have been living under this system for a year, and everyone is satisfied...”

Of the 100,000 pesetas in local money, only 11,000 are circulated. The remaining 89,000 pesetas are held in reserve by the Communal Council. This local currency is only a token of exchange and carries no interest. Everyone is (as noted above) allotted an equal sum. No one dreams of hoarding because no one can accumulate capital.

The greatest problem of the village elders is the education of the children. There are no teachers nor sufficient educational supplies. The commune is willing to do anything to attract teachers. The teachers’ union in Barcelona promised to send teachers. In the meantime, two villagers are, at least, teaching the older children to read and write.

Early in the evening, as I and my traveling companion reclined in our improvised lodging (we left next morning), I remarked:

Early in this century, some sociologists and economists thought that socialism was realizable; others that it was only a utopian dream. When we see with what confidence, dedication, and practical common sense the peasants of this village, through their cooperative labor, are, without compulsion, creating a new and better life in a free commune these academic discussions seem singularly abstract and unrealistic: The peasants know nothing about theory. Nevertheless, their healthy common sense, confirmed by their own experience, tells that more can be achieved by working together than alone. And this same thing is taking place in hundreds of villages all over Republican Spain...

Albalate de Cinca

The Aragon village of Albalate de Cinca is located not far from the Catalonian border. Here, as in Muniesa, the peasants know very little about politics or socialist theories. But, as in so many other places, the landless agricultural laborers and the small peasant proprietors routed the local fascists and organized their collective. Things were arranged too hastily and mistakes were made, but after a year under the new system conditions improved greatly. “Things are better now,” said an old peasant. “Before we were always on the brink of starvation; now we have plenty to eat and other things gratis...”

By 7 a.m., the village is at work. A woman suffering from rheumatism comes to the community center. She wants travel expenses to Lerida to consult a specialist. Although money was abolished within the village, the commune reserves cash for necessary outside services. The village clerk asks her, “Have you a doctor’s certificate?” “No.” “Then I cannot give you money for transportation. The general meeting ruled that travel funds will be provided only when authorized by the village physician.” The woman leaves to get authorization from the village doctor. The clerk explains “Before, hardly anyone went to the city (Lerida), but now that it costs’ them nothing, everybody suddenly finds reasons to go.” Perhaps the clerk is too strict. Anyhow, the doctor will decide.

Doctor José Maria Pueyo, a middle-aged man from Saragossa now lives in Albalate de Cinca. He has been treating the villagers for 12 years, and understands their physical condition and health needs. Dr. Pueyo is a liberal, but belongs to no party. He is well liked. Here in Albalate de Cinca, as in many other Spanish villages, health care was customarily provided by paying the doctor a stipulated yearly sum... After collectivization, the situation was radically altered. Since money was abolished, we asked Dr. Pueyo:

“How are you paid?”

“The collective takes care of me.”

“Surely you have other needs than eating, drinking, and being clothed. You need medical instruments, books, and many other things.”

“The collective takes care of all this, just as in city hospitals where the management provides the doctor with all supplies and services...”

Dr. Pueyo shows us some new medical books. He had spent a few days in Barcelona where he bought everything he needed at the collective’s expense. Since there is no pharmacy in the village, the doctor fills his own prescriptions and supplies patients with other medical necessities.

“What do you think of collectivization, doctor?”

“Collectivization, in my opinion, is morally superior to capitalism. It assures the greatest possible amount of social justice. The new system is not yet perfected... The principal shortcomings spring from the uneven rate of development... While the cities retained the money system, most of the rural collectives abolished money. Many villages issued their own currency: This is very impractical. If money is to be abolished, it should be abolished everywhere, all over Spain. If money is retained there must be a fixed, uniform currency, negotiable everywhere. Issuing local money for different localities is not practical. I repeat: from the standpoint of social justice, money should be abolished, and libertarian communism is infinitely superior to capitalism...”

A few days later, while on our way to visit the Federation of Workers’ Collectives in Barbastro, we talked about a collectivized economy and I referred to our conversation with Dr. Pueyo:

“Dr. Pueyo’s criticism of collectivism is well grounded only insofar as it concerns the need for a uniform currency throughout Spain. But the establishment of a uniform economic system, on the contrary, destroys freedom and leads inevitably to economic totalitarianism... Economic variety, for example coexistence of collective and privately conducted enterprises[81], will not adversely affect the economy, but is, on the contrary, the true manifestation and the indispensable prerequisite for a free society. But regimentation, the imposition of a uniform economic system by and for the benefit of the state, leads inevitably to economic and political slavery...”

The Collectivization in Graus[82]
by Gaston Leval and Alardo Prats

Graus is a district situated in the mountainous northern part of the province of Huesca, a region less suitable for socialized agriculture than are the villages of southern Aragon that I have seen. In this isolated northern region, progress is slow in coming. New ideas have hardly penetrated these lonely hills, mountains, and valleys of Aragon... The district consists of forty-three villages and yet very few are disposed to accept large-scale collectivization. Only one, Secastiglia, is fully collectivized... Ten others are only half socialized.

The place that I had time to study best is the village of Graus, the capital of the district, which I visited in June, 1937. Although its population is only 2,600, Graus is more like a city than a village: It is situated at the intersection of many roads and is a relatively important commercial center, with many small establishments serving the countryside. For lack of good land, agriculture is of relatively little importance. As of July, 1936, 40% of the working population was engaged in commerce. The rest were in industry and agriculture. Twenty percent of the land is irrigated. The main crops are cereals, grapes for wine, olives and olive oil, almonds, and vegetables. About one-fourth of the young workers left to work in Catalonia or in France and almost as many young girls worked as domestics in the cities or abroad. The living standards of various working layers of the population varied greatly. For example, a mechanic was paid more than twice as much as an agricultural laborer.

Guided by our comrades, the anti-fascists boldly introduced radical social reforms. The family wage was instituted immediately, assuring equal pay and equal rights for all. A married couple received 2 pesetas per day, plus one peseta per day for each additional family member. A month later, coupons divided into units of various denominations became the prevailing medium of exchange. Much later, the relative commercial importance of Graus as a trading center made necessary the restoration of the peseta, the official currency of Spain, as the measurement of all outside transactions. But the collective continued to issue its own currency valid in strictly local transactions.

Partially controlled establishments were soon fully socialized. Cooperative communal markets replaced privately-owned retail shops. A textile, haberdashery, and clothing center replaced 23 out of the 25 small shops. Twenty-five or 30 privately-owned retail food shops were consolidated into one food market. Two of the 3 shoe shops were collectivized. Two hardware stores were consolidated into one. Four bakeries and bread depots were merged into 2, and instead of 3 bakery ovens, 1 was sufficient for all needs.

As in the collectivization of industry, similar procedures were applied to agriculture. In Graus, as in many other places in Aragon, the first step toward socialization was organization of the agricultural collective. The Revolutionary Committee first tackled the most urgent problems: harvesting, planting, overcoming the shortage of young workers (many were away fighting on the Aragon front), and still getting maximum yields from the land. Thanks to the strenuous effort and initiative of the comrades of the CNT and UGT, better plows and stronger horses were procured, and other improvements were made. The land was cleared and fields sown with corn. The agricultural collective was established on October 16th, 1936, 3 months after the fascist assault was repulsed. On the same day, transportation was collectivized and other new collectivizations were scheduled by the two unions, the CNT (libertarian) and UGT (socialist). Printshops were socialized on Nov. 24th, followed 2 days later by shoe stores and bakeries. Commerce, medicine, pharmacies, horseshoers’ and blacksmiths’ establishments, were all collectivized December 1st, and cabinet makers and carpenters on December 11th. Thus all social economic activities were gradually integrated into the new social order...

There was no forced collectivization. Membership in the collectives was entirely voluntary, and groups could secede from the collective if they so desired. But even if isolation were possible, the obvious benefits of the collective were so great that the right to secede was seldom, if ever, invoked. The Revolutionary Committee which initiated collectivization became the coordinating committee after the collective was established. With the reestablishment of the Municipal Council, as required by the government, the Committee was dissolved in January, 1937.

The Municipal Council was composed of 4 councilmen from the CNT and 4 from the UGT. A republican worker who acted as mayor was elected by the general assembly of all the inhabitants. Relations between the CNT and the UGT were cordial with no friction. Thus favoritism was avoided and harmony assured. The mayor’s post was mostly ceremonial. He had no real power and could only carry out the instructions of the two unions that composed the Council. The Municipal Council represented the Central Government; it mobilized soldiers for the war, furnished identification papers for all the inhabitants, etc. The Collective was entirely independent and the Municipal Council did not interfere with any of its functions. This was true in almost all collectives.[83]

Ninety percent of all production, including exchange and distribution, was collectively owned. (The remaining 10% was produced by petty peasant land holders.) The collective’s coordinating functions were conducted by an 8 member administrative commission. This was divided into 8 departments, each headed by a highly qualified secretary, delegated for no set term of office by the rank and file membership of the two unions. Both the CNT and the UGT were equally represented on the Commission--4 for each union. All delegates were subject to instant recall by the General Assembly. The departments were: Culture and Public Health, Statistics and Labor, Industry, Transportation and Communications...

In industrial organization, each factory and workshop selected a delegate who maintained permanent relations with the Labor secretariat, reporting back to and acting on the instructions of his constituents.[84]

Accounts and statistics for each trade and enterprise were compiled by the statistical and general accounting department, thus giving an accurate picture of the operations of each organization and the operations of the economy as a whole. The list that I saw included: drinking water, bottle making, carpentry, mattress making, wheelwrights, photography, silk mills, candy, pork butchershops, distilleries, electricity, oil, bakeries, hairdressers and beauty parlors, soap makers, house painting, tinware, sewing machines, shops and repairs, printing, building supplies, hardware, tile shops, dairies, bicycle repairs, etc.

Everything was coordinated both in production and in distribution. For example, the tiny privately-owned liquor and soft drink bottling enterprises had been collectivized and installed in a single up-to-date building. There they bottled wine, lemonade, soda water, beer, and liquors under the most sanitary conditions, at less cost and better quality than before collectivization.

One may have the impression that the kind of idyllic regime developed in Graus was too impractical and was bound to collapse. But this way of life was based not upon fantasy but on a solid organization, perfectly balanced coordinated and in harmony with practical needs, resources, and potentialities... Everything was systematically organized. Exact statistic were compiled on the hourly, daily, and yearly condition and possibilities of each branch of industry, thus insuring the highest degree of coordination.

The collective modernized industry, increased production, turned out better products, and improved public services. For example, the collective installed up-to-date machinery for the extraction of olive oil and conversion of the residue into soap. It purchased two big electric washing machines, one for the hospital and the other for the collectivized hotel... Through more efficient cultivation and the use of better fertilizers, production of potatoes increased 50% (three-quarters of the crop was sold to Catalonia in exchange for other commodities... ) and the production of sugar beets and feed for livestock doubled. Previously uncultivated smaller plots of ground were used to plant 400 fruit trees, ... and there were a host of other interesting innovations. Through this use of better machinery and chemical fertilizers and, by no means least, through the introduction of voluntary collective labor, the yield per hectare was 50% greater on collective property than on individually worked land. These examples finally induced many more individualists to join the collective.

I saw many other revolutionary changes. In the converted corset factory girls sowed shirts and underwear for the militiamen while singing revolutionary hymns in honor of Durruti, killed on the Madrid front... These girls were not obliged to work--they were covered by the family wage--but nevertheless donated their labor for the common cause...With increased output the family wage had also been increased by 15%. The increase was all the more meaningful when we consider that housing was free, gas and electric rates had been cut 50%, and medical treatment and medicines had been free since these services had been socialized. Men over 60 were exempt from work with full pay but they refused to stay put and insisted on donating their labor where most needed. Full wages were paid to the unemployed, 52 weeks a year. As one organizer in Graus told me, “Work or no work, people must eat...”

Before the July, 1936, fascist attack, animal husbandry in Graus was neglected in favor of commerce. But with the lessening of traffic because of interrupted communications with the rest of Aragon, the collective turned to the intensive raising of livestock.[85]

In the vicinity of the town, first class piggeries have been constructed containing about 2,000 animals. In Aragon as well as in other parts of Spain the pig is one of the basic family staples. Pig killing is an institution of some standing.[86] In the winter each family is given a pig. Feeding of the animals is conducted on strict scientific lines. I asked the comrades in charge of pig and cattle raising what methods they used and they told me that after various experiments they decided to adopt the system used in Chicago.

In other districts outside the city other breeding establishments have set up chicken farms with research laboratories. The main center occupies the site of an old camp. The most varied kind of fowl are to be found in this establishment. About 10,000 animals will be bred by next fall.

All systems are completely new. The head of this establishment invented a new type of incubator with enormous yielding powers. Thousands of baby chicks jump around in specially heated rooms, as well as ducklings and geese. Observers from all parts of Aragon visit this unique laboratory to learn the new methods.

When a collectivist wants to marry, he is given a week’s holiday with full pay. The collective’s cooperative provides a house completely equipped and furnished. All the services of the collective are available to the collectivist. From birth to death he is protected. His rights are respected and his obligations are voluntarily assumed. All decisions affecting him and his fellow workers are democratically made in the full and open assembly of all the collectivists... Children are given special attention. They are not allowed to work until they reach the minimum age of 14... Pregnant women are accorded the most tender pre-natal care...

Every family is allotted a piece of land for its own use, be it to raise some chickens, rabbits, or whatever. Seed and fertilizer are also provided to grow vegetables. There is no longer any need to employ hired labor nor is it any longer necessary for young girls to seek employment as servants in Catalonia or in France. The collective has made truly remarkable progress in raising the standard of living by 50% to 100% in a few months. And this is all the more remarkable in that this was achieved under the stress of war and in the absence of the youngest and most active workers, now in the armed forces. This miracle is due not only to collective enthusiasm but also to a better and more economical use of productive labor and resources... Bear in mind that 40% of the work force, formerly engaged in socially useless activity, is now directed to useful projects for the benefit of all...

And the spirit of mutual aid and solidarity is not confined to each little section of the collective, but embraces all the different branches of the economy so that the unavoidable deficit of one branch is balanced by the surplus of another branch. For example: deficits of hairdresser and beauty shops are made good by the more profitable trucking industry or the enterprises distilling alcohol for medicinal and industrial purposes.

Yet other examples of mutual aid: harboring 224 refugees from villages seized by the fascists (only 20 are able to work and 145 are at the fighting front). Twenty-five families whose breadwinners are sick or permanently disabled receive the regular family wage. Despite these extra expenses, the collective has been able to carry through considerable public improvements (paving roads, enlarging and deepening irrigating canals, providing water power, etc.)...

One of the most popular measures of the collective was the expropriation of the holdings of a landlord who sealed off, even to his own laborers, all access to a magnificent stream of clear water running through his property. For the enjoyment of the public it was decided to construct a beautiful scenic roadway sloping gently toward the waterway (even the deposed landlord and his former employees helped!). When the project was completed with that love for water so characteristic of semi-arid Spain (and in so many other lands!), I read, etched in gold on the marble base of a graceful fountain spurting crystal clear water, this tribute to the Revolution: Fountain of Liberty, July 19, 1936.

As in the other collectives, Graus paid special attention to education. The School of Fine Arts was attended in the afternoon by elementary school pupils and in the evenings by young people who worked during the day. It was primarily the striking creation of a dedicated man, an apostle of culture. The evening session taught choral singing (always popular in Spain), design, painting, sculpture, etc.

When I visited the school, 80 little refugees from the Franco zone were housed in a beautiful estate expropriated by the collective situated some kilometers from the village. Two male teachers and one female teacher conducted classes, shaded by the great trees. In the main dormitory the children slept on plain but clean and comfortable beds donated by the villagers. Two women prepared delicious meals in the vast kitchens which the wealthy former owners used only a few weeks a year. Food, furnishings, linen, wages of personnel, everything was supplied gratis. The children were visibly delighted with this place, with its splendid woods fronting the river, its park, its swimming pool, its farmyard, and its buildings. Doubtlessly they had never known so beautiful a life. If the circumstances had been favorable, our comrades of the UGT and the CNT would have converted this vast estate (till now so ostentatious, garish, and humanly sterile) into a permanent colony in which all the children of Graus would take turns living, learning, and enjoying the wholesome air and the sunshine...

“Woman on a collectivized farm.”
“Farmers with a new mechanized tractor on a collectivized farm.”
“The grain harvest with horse drawn reaper.”

Libertarian Communism in Alcora[87]
by H. E. Kaminski

The village of Alcora has established “libertarian communism.” One must not think that this system corresponds to scientific theories. Libertarian communism in Alcora is the work of the peasants who completely ignore all economic laws. The form which they have given to their community corresponds more in reality to the ideas of the early Christians than to those of our industrial epoch. The peasants want to have “everything in common” and they think that the best way to achieve equality for all is to abolish money. In fact money does not circulate among them any longer. Everybody receives what he needs. From whom? From the Committee, of course.

It is however impossible to provide for five thousand people through a single center of distribution. Shops still exist in Alcora where it is possible to get what is necessary as before. But those shops are only distribution centers. They are the property of the whole village and the ex-owners do not make profits instead. The barber shaves only in exchange for a coupon. The coupons are distributed by the Committee. The principle according to which the needs of all the inhabitants will be satisfied is not perfectly put in practice as the coupons are distributed according to the idea that everybody has the same needs. There is no individual discrimination: the family alone is recognized as a unit. Only unmarried people are considered as individuals.

Each family and person living alone has received a card. It is punched each day at the place of work, which nobody can therefore leave. The coupons are distributed according to the card. And here lies the great weakness of the system: for the lack hitherto of any other standard they have had to resort to money to measure the work done. Everybody, workers, shopkeepers, doctors, receive for each day’s work coupons to the value of five pesetas. On one side of the coupon the word bread is written: each coupon is worth one kilogram. But the other side of the coupon represents explicitly a counter-value in money. Nevertheless these coupons cannot be considered as banknotes. They can only be exchanged against goods for consumption and in only a limited quantity. Even if the amount of coupons was greater it would be impossible to buy means of production and so become a capitalist, even on a small scale. Only consumer goods are on sale. The means of production are owned by the community. The community is represented by the Committee, here called the Regional Committee. It has in its hands all the money of Alcora, about 100,000 pesetas. The Committee exchanges the village products against products which it does not possess, and when it cannot obtain them by exchange it buys them. But money is considered an unavoidable evil, only to be used as long as the rest of the world will not follow the example of Alcora.

The Committee is the pater familias. It possesses everything, it directs everything, it deals with everything. Each special desire should be submitted to it. It is, in the last resort, the only judge. One may object that the members of the Committee run the risk of becoming bureaucrats or even dictators. The peasants have thought about that too. They have decided that the Committee should be changed at frequent intervals so that every member of the village should be a member for a certain period.

There is something moving about the ingenuity of all this organization. It would be a mistake to see in it anything more than a peasant attempt to establish libertarian communism and unfair to criticize it too seriously. One must not forget that the agricultural workers and even the shopkeepers of the village have lived very poorly up till now. Their needs are hardly differentiated. Before the revolution a piece of meat was a luxury for them: only a few intellectuals living among them wish for things beyond immediate necessities. The anarchist communism of Alcora has taken its nature from the actual state of things. As a proof, one must observe that the family card puts the most oppressed human beings in Spain, the women, under the control of men.

“What happens,” I ask, “if somebody wants to go to the city for example?”

“It is very simple,” someone replies. “He goes to the Committee and exchanges his coupons for money.”

“Then one can exchange as many coupons as one wants for money?”

“Of course not.”

These good people are rather surprised that I understand so slowly.

“But when can one have money then?”

“As often as you need. You have only to tell the Committee.”

“The Committee examines the reasons then?”

“Of course.”

I am a little terrified. This organization seems to me to leave very little liberty in a “libertarian communist” regime. I try to find reasons for traveling that the Alcora Committee would accept. I do not find very much but I continue my questioning.

“If somebody has a fiancée outside the village will he get the money to go and see her?”

The peasant reassures me: he will get it.

“As often as he wants?”

“Thank God, he can still go from Alcora to see his fiancée every evening if he wants to.”

“But if somebody wants to go to the city to go to the cinema. Is he given money?”


“As often as he wants to?”

The peasant begins to have doubts about my reason.

“On holidays, of course. There is no money for vise.”

I talk to a young, intelligent looking peasant, and having made friends with him I take him to one side and ask him:

“If I proposed to give you some bread coupons would you exchange them for money?”

My new friend thinks for a few moments and then says: “But you need bread too?”

“I don’t like bread, I only like sweets. I would like to exchange all I earn for sweets.”

The peasant understands the hypothesis very well, but he does not need to think very long. He starts laughing. “It is quite simple! If you want sweets you should tell the Committee. We have enough sweets here. The Committee will give you a permit and you will go to the chemist and get them. In our village everybody receives what he needs.”

After this answer I had to give up. These peasants no longer live in the capitalist system, neither from a moral nor a sentimental point of view. But did they ever live in it?

The Collective in Binefar[88]
by Gaston Leval

In the province of Huesca, the village of Binefar was beyond doubt the chief center of collectivization... The district embraced 32 villages, 28 of them wholly or partially collectivized. In Binefar itself, 700 of the 800 families belonged to the Collective.

There had long been a sizable social movement in Binefar, despite the fact that the small local industries (mills, factories, clothing and shoemaking shops, foundries, etc.) employed only a tenth of the 5,000 inhabitants. In the local CNT syndicate most of the members (600 members in 1931) were peasants... The syndicate, founded in 1917, had experienced the typical ups and downs--times of relative quiet, then persecution, suppression and imprisonment of militants. When the fascist threat appeared in July, 1936, our forces, though disorganized from the last persecution, rose to meet the danger and took the initiative in forming a revolutionary committee on July 18th (two popular front representatives served on the committee). Within two days, the barracks where the fascist Civil Guard retreated in the first fighting were taken by assault, and our victorious comrades departed to help liberate other villages.

The fields of the big landowners, who fled at the first sign of anti-fascist victory, had not yet been harvested. The revolutionary committee took possession of the reapers and mowers and summoned the peasants who had previously worked on these lands as laborers. The peasants decided that they would work the land in common in the interests of the whole village. To organize the work they formed groups and elected delegates...

After the harvest, industry and eventually commerce were socialized: The following are the rules that the popular assembly of all the inhabitants approved:

  1. Work shall be carried on in groups of ten. Each group shall elect its own delegate... The delegates shall plan the work, preserve harmony among the producers, and if necessary apply the sanctions voted by the popular assembly. (At first the delegates met every night after work and when work was normalized, once a week.)

  2. The delegates shall furnish the Agricultural Commission a daily report of the work done.

  3. A central committee, consisting of one delegate from each branch of production, shall be named by the general assembly of the Community. The committee shall report monthly on consumption and production, and supply news about other collectives and events in Spain and abroad...

  4. [Point 4 is omitted in the original text--theanarchistlibrary contributor]

  5. Directors of labor for the collective shall be elected by the general assembly of all the collectivists.

  6. Each member shall be given a receipt for the goods he brings to the Collective.

  7. Each member shall have the same rights and duties. Members shall not be compelled to join either union (the CNT or the UGT). All that is required is that members accept the decisions of the Collective.

  8. The capital of the Collective belongs to the Collective and cannot be divided up. Food shall be rationed, part of it to be stored away against a bad year (harvest).

  9. When needed, as for urgent agricultural work (the harvest), women may be required to work, and do the work assigned to them. Rigorous control shall be applied to insure that they contribute their productive efforts to the Community.

  10. No one shall work before the age of 15, or do heavy work before the age of 16.

  11. The general assembly shall determine the organization of the Collective, and arrange periodic elections of the administrative commission.

In Binefar, the Collective was all-embracing. Despite its past influence and importance, the syndicate had almost no role ... nor was it, in the traditional sense of the word, strictly a municipality... Just as the Soviet was the typical type of organization emerging from the Russian Revolution, the Collective was the typical organization of the Spanish Revolution. Binefar spontaneously and naturally followed norms generally and tacitly accepted without formal discussion.

It was no longer a matter of fighting the employers but of assuring production, and this meant planning and direction and calculation of local needs and exchange needs... Everything was linked like the gears of a machine. There was a joint treasury for both agricultural and industrial enterprises. There was no jurisdictional rivalry between the various units of the economy, and there were equal wages for all... An administrative commission, composed of a president, a treasurer, a secretary, and two councilors, coordinated activities and kept daily records...

In case of need the peasants’ section could call upon industrial workers, including technicians, to work in the fields. In the July, 1937 harvest (when labor was short because of war mobilization), when it was necessary to save the wheat crop, the clothing workers helped with the harvesting... Young women, and housewives who did not have to look after young children or old people, were summoned to work by an announcement of the town crier on the preceding evening... Attendance records of regular workers were kept by the delegates ... and violations could not be repeated without calling down open public disapproval, or, failing that, the necessary disciplinary measures...

Food and other goods were distributed in municipal stores. There were wine, bread, and oil cooperatives, one for dry goods, three dairy stores, three butcher shops, a hardware store, and a furniture store. Bread, olive oil, flour, potatoes, meat, vegetables, greens, and wine were free when plentiful and when scarce, rationed. Each person had a piece of land to raise whatever he wanted: Electricity and telephones were installed throughout the region. Commodities not distributed free of charge were paid for in local currency. In Binefar, as in many other communes, the wage scale varied according to the number of persons in each family (the “family wage”)...

As the capital of its district, Binefar coordinated trade among its 32 villages. Each village informed the office of the surplus food it had. From October to December, 1936, 5,000,000 pesetas worth of goods were exchanged with other collectives in Aragon and Catalonia, including 800,000 pesetas worth of sugar and 700,000 pesetas worth of olive oil... Abandoned by the government, the militiamen (on the Aragon front) lacked food. Binefar gave everything it could, sending from 30 to 40 tons of food every week. On one occasion, in addition to the regular contributions Binefar gave Madrid 340 extra tons of food. In a single day, 36,000 pesetas worth of olive oil was sent to the Ortiz, Durruti, and Ascaso columns (anarchist columns on the Aragon front)... The generosity and the solidarity of the Collective did not flag. 500 militiamen permanently quartered in Binefar were provisioned by the Collective...[89]

In June, 1937, I attended a district congress where a grave problem had come up. The harvest was at hand. Sacks, wire, gas, and machinery were needed to be distributed among the villages, and they would cost hundreds of thousands of pesetas that the Collectives did not have. It seemed that the only way to get money was to sell the foodstuffs normally donated to the soldiers. This seemed to be the choice: either lose a good part of the crop, or else not send the free food. The assembly chose unaminously to try to find another solution. They sent a delegation to the government in Valencia. Their effort was foredoomed: the abandonment of the combatants on the Aragon front was a calculated plan of the cabinet majority (Largo Caballero was in power at the time). They hoped that, in desperation, the militiamen would sack the Collectives.

The machinations of the reactionaries fell through. In Solidaridad Obrera (organ of the CNT) of Barcelona, I published an appeal to the militiamen, advising them of the situation and asking them to send part of their pay to help the peasants. Hundreds of thousands of pesetas were sent to the collectives and the harvest was saved...

I do not say that there were no exceptions to the generous spirit of the Collectives. I remember a dispute between a woman of 50 and a comrade assigned to control labor and housing. She lived with her husband, their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. “My daughter-in-law and I can’t get along. I want to live separately!” This comrade had the soul of a child, a voice of thunder, and the heart of a lion. He argued his best to persuade her to give up her demand. Finally she left. I asked the delegate why he had refused. He told me that, since the rate of pay diminished as the number in the family increased, some families in which material interests predominated agreed on a feigned separation in order to get more income. The case had already been looked into. Under the circumstances, the shortages of houses made it out of the question.

The incident was minor but there were others like it. The directors of the Collective had to face up to all these troubles, to touch-and-go food problems, and to the anti-collectivist minority (UGT, Communists, etc.) It is impossible not to admire these men who gave themselves to the cause with abnegation, and knew how to get so much done in a short time and in the best way.

In Binefar as in the other Aragon collectives all the interlocking units of the economy (factories, workshops, systems of distribution, etc.) functioned harmoniously without a hitch. I often made trips from Barcelona to Tamarite and Binefar. This time accompanied by a friend, a doctor from Barcelona, I pointed out with pride the newly planted fields of wheat, the vineyards, and the olive groves, where flourishing kitchen gardens and orchards alternated with fields of gold flax. “These miles of cultivated plantations,” I exclaimed, “where everything is carefully and lovingly tended: and nothing is neglected, belong to the Collective!!” Two days later we visited Esplus, where we beheld vast fields of potatoes and more vineyards. As we traveled, we marveled at this revolution, this dream, at last come true. With near religious fervor, I exclaimed again and again, “... The Collective! the Collective! created this miracle!”

Miralcampo and Azuqueca[90] from Cahiers de I’Humanisme Libertaire

The collectivization of the land properties of Count Romanonés in Miralcampo and Azuqueca by the Castilian Regional Peasant Federation merits special attention. The peasants altered the topography of the district by diverting the course of the river to irrigate new land, thus tremendously increasing cultivated areas. They constructed a mill, schools, collective dining halls, and new housing for the collectivists.

A few days after the close of the Civil War, Count Romanonés reclaimed his domains, expecting the worst, certain that the revolutionary vandals had totally ruined his property. He was amazed to behold the wonderful improvements made by the departed peasant collectivists. When asked their names, the Count was told that the work was performed by the peasants in line with plans drawn up by a member of the CNT Building Workers’ Union, Gomez Abril, an excellent organizer chosen by the Regional Peasant Federation. As soon as Abril finished his work he left and the peasants continued to manage the collective.

Learning that Gomez Abril was jailed in Guadalajara and that he was in a very precarious situation, the Count succeeded in securing his release from jail and offered to appoint him manager of all his properties. Gomez declined, explaining that a page of history had been written and his work finished.[91]

Collectivization in Carcagente[92]
by Gaston Leval

Carcagente is situated in the southern part of the province of Valencia. The climate of the region is particularly suited for the cultivation of oranges. Carcagente is completely surrounded by orange groves. The orange trees, with their abundance of golden fruit, present a truly magnificent picture.

In Carcagente, as in so many other Valencian towns and villages, the organizational capacity and the spirit of sacrifice of a handful of militant and determined workers, who labored incessantly in spite of all the persecutions to prepare for the revolution, are now bearing fruit. The anarcho-syndicalist organization was deeply rooted, and this fact, together with the prestige of its militants, induced the majority of the people, once the revolution was initiated, to join or support our movement.

On visiting the Local Federation of Syndicates our attention was drawn to a showcase, once used to protect the image of Christ, but now harboring a magnificent photograph of Francisco Ferrer--a most agreeable substitution! (Ferrer was a libertarian educational pioneer, murdered in 1909 by the State in collusion with the Church).

A high percentage of the work force (the total population is 20,000) are members of our syndicates (the CNT). Here are a few statistics:

Peasant union 2,700 members
Orange packers (mostly women) 3,400 members
Construction 340 members
Carpenters (packing cases) 125 members
Wood-workers 230 members
Railway workers 150 members
Miscellaneous 450 members

Most of the land consisted of large estates. The poverty stricken peasants were forced to work on the estates of the rich landlords or do odd jobs to supplement their incomes. The syndicalists immediately broke up the monopoly, and now see to it that new forms of privilege are not created.

The small proprietors are treated differently. Their rights are respected and they are not forced to join the collective. But the syndicalists gradually introduce socialization by consolidating small parcels of land into larger areas in order to render the land suitable for collective cultivation. At first only the property of peasants who willingly joined the collective was socialized. Later, hesitant peasants who became convinced of the advantages of the new system also joined the collectives. A favorite tactic is to offer better land to recalcitrant peasant proprietors, just to convince them that they will still be better off if they become members of the collective...

But this does not mean that those small proprietors who still prefer to cultivate their own land are left to do as they please. The local Agricultural Labor Commission is on the alert for possible sabotage and sees to it that both private and socialized agriculture (where it is even more necessary) make proper use of the land.

And the collective is really making good use of the land. We have looked over very large cultivated areas, among them one so vast that it falls within the radius of 7 municipalities. All of the socialized land, without exception, is cultivated with infinite care. The orchards are thoroughly weeded. To assure that the trees will get all the nourishment needed, the peasants are incessantly cleaning the soil. “Before,” they told me with pride, “all this belonged to the rich and was worked by miserably paid laborers. The land was neglected and the owners had to buy immense quantities of chemical fertilizers, although they could have gotten much better yields by cleaning the soil...” With pride, they showed me trees that had been grafted to produce better fruit.

In many places I observed plants growing in the shade of the orange trees. “What is this?,” I asked. I learned that the Levant peasants (famous for their ingenuity) have abundantly planted potatoes among the orange groves. The peasants demonstrate more intelligence than all the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Agriculture combined. They do more than just plant potatoes. Throughout the whole region of the Levant, wherever the soil is suitable, they grow crops. They take advantage of the four month interval between the harvest and the next planting to grow early wheat in the rice fields. Had the Minister of Agriculture followed the example of these peasants throughout the Republican zone, the bread shortage problem would have been overcome in a few months.

The work of the agricultural collective is organized in the following manner: the general membership meeting of all the peasants (even including the few peasant landholders) elects the Technical Committee of six comrades to take care of technical matters, and the five member Administrative Committee, to look after the expropriated big estates, payment of wages, sale of produce, bookkeeping, etc. There is also a committee concerned with export of oranges and other products.

Industrial socialization began in Carcagente not before, but after agrarian socialization. Industrial organization, from the very outset, inspired confidence. Building was taken care of by the Building Workers ’ Industrial Union, and metal work by the Metal Workers’ Union. The Wood Workers’ Industrial Union included cabinet makers, joiners, carpenters, etc. The same principle held true in all the other trades. The artisans and small workshops consolidated their enterprises into vast workshops where each received a commonly agreed upon payment, and where no one would ever again have to wait for a customer and worry about being paid. Other less important trades also united into one union (like hairdressing salons or lamp makers). Small, unsatisfactory, outdated facilities were replaced by sunny, comfortable, well-conducted collectives. Yesterday’s competitors became today’s cooperating fellow workers.

Dwellings belonging to the rich and to the local fascists were allocated to those most in need of better housing. The most numerous groups of men were the workers in the socialized orange industry engaged in packing and processing fruit for export. Many plants were used for this work. Each plant was managed by a committee chosen by the workers, consisting of a commercial expert and of a delegate for each departmental function (box-making, packing, sorting, storage, shipping, etc.). Fruit had to be shipped to England, Sweden, Holland, France, and other countries. “We want people abroad to tell,” said the workers, “from the quality and packaging of the fruit, that we work better in socialized industry than we did before...”

Slowly rising prices, due in part to the persistence of little retail shops competing to make a living out of their meager trade (against which I warned), lagged far behind and threatened to partly offset the gains made by socialized production. Clearly the time had come to socialize distribution and exchange to the same degree as production... My friend Gramén (later shot by the fascists) proposed the organization of socialized distribution centers in different areas, which would make the people themselves the true masters of prices and distribution. This policy soon brought results. A month and a half later, half the commune of Carcagente was already fully socialized and Gramén had good reason to expect that socialization of the other half would also be shortly achieved.

On the evening of my first visit, in November, 1936, at the request of my comrades I delivered a lecture. I resolved to speak constructively. I then learned how little I really had to say. And when I spoke to these men and saw how fervently they awaited my words, I frankly and humbly confessed that it was I who had to learn from them, not they from me, and I said this sincerely.

An added touch to this tableau: my comrades, in the very finest tradition of Spanish hospitality, invited me to dine with them in the garden of the most luxurious and beautiful expropriated pavilion, located in the countryside near Carcagente. My friends were enchanted by the beauty of the site, the healthy climate, the restful surroundings. It immediately occurred to me that this would make an ideal place to erect a rest and convalescent home. But once again they were way ahead of me. They did not need my advice. After consulting the Carcagente doctors, it was decided to convert this beautiful estate into a first-class sanatorium.

Collectivization in Magdalena de Pulpis[93]
by Gaston Leval

It used to be Santa Magdalena de Pulpis, but the revolution dropped the “saint.” A little village (population 1,400), it serves as a typical example of revolutionary changes in many other villages in the Levant (the region on the east coast of Spain embracing 5 provinces, including the metropolis Valencia). Almost all of the few revolutionaries living in the village belonged to the CNT. Our comrades took advantage of the occasion of the Civil War to spearhead the social revolution. The majority of the inhabitants were petty peasant landholders owning 6,254 hectares out of the total of 6,654 hectares. The rest was owned by four or five big landlords. Though small in area, this land has the best irrigation, was suitable for intense cultivation, and was at least ten times more productive.

Our comrades, who knew nothing about the intricacies of a money economy, simply resolved to introduce libertarian communism at once. In this little village this was not very difficult. All that was needed was tact (which our comrades possessed in abundance). After clearing out the fascists, they proceeded to organize the collectives. They asked those who wanted to join to sign up. All the residents (including some who had misgivings) became members of the collective. Except for personal belongings, everything was turned over to the collective: land, money, livestock, tools, and other property. And the people began the new way of life.

We repeat here what we have said on other occasions; the commune (synonym for collective) prevailed. The syndicate was only one of its constituent organs. The function of the syndicates was limited strictly to the technical administration of production. But the Communal Assembly of all the members controlled everything. When the fascist invasion began, the Revolutionary Committee immediately began to introduce far-reaching changes affecting the social life of the village (housing, health, food supplies, education, public services). It took care of exchange and set the income of each family. In short, the Committee became the administrator of local life.[94]

To assure the equitable distribution of commodities, it became necessary to fix the income to which each family was entitled. The quantity of goods was measured in terms of the peseta, the standard national currency. No money standard was set for oil or firewood, which were free in any quantities. The same held true for wine, but since our comrades wanted to promote sobriety, quantities were limited...

Things were arranged very simply. The remaining commodities were distributed as follows: each family was given a card stating the size of the family and the name and age of each member. Every adult was entitled to a “ration” of 1 peseta, 50 centimes for men, 1 peseta, 10 centimes for women, and for children over six, a graduated amount according to age... A notebook kept track of the value in pesetas of the ration consumed each quarter of the year. Unused rations were credited to the next quarter. For example: if a family entitled to consume the equivalent of 150 pesetas in one quarter actually expended 100 pesetas, the difference of 50 pesetas was carried over to the next quarter.

No one paid rent. Housing was free and completely socialized, as was medical care. There were two doctors. Both spontaneously welcomed the new way of life. But one doctor moved to Castellón, the provincial capital. The other doctor remained, receiving the same rations as the rest of the people. The pharmacist also joined the collective. Medicines, supplies, transfer to hospitals in Barcelona or Castellón, surgery, services of specialists--all was paid for by the collective.

The collective obtained money by selling products outside the village, which were paid for in pesetas. The retail merchants closed their shops and voluntarily joined the commune. They organized themselves into a cooperative, where everyone could purchase all available commodities. The cooperative was installed in a former chapel big enough to meet all needs. Some of the merchants worked in the new cooperative. The hairdressers also got together and opened one spacious, well-equipped salon. The dressmakers and tailors, housed in a single large workshop, offered better clothes and services. The carpenters also installed their collective...

As for the organization of agricultural labor, we must first of all take into account that out of 265 men able and available for work, 65 voluntarily left to fight the fascists. Nevertheless, the amount of wheat and potatoes planted increased threefold... and this increase was achieved not by cultivating more land, but primarily because many peasants (oh, miracle of private property!) never had had enough money to buy enough seed and fertilizer, and could only work part of their land.

Farming was organized in the following fashion: The cultivatable land was divided into 13 sections, with 15 men and equipment for each section. Each section was represented by a delegate. As in almost all other collectives, the delegates met weekly. Equipment was dispatched from one section to another as needed. Work animals and farm tools were intelligently used so as to get the best results.

We asked for information on marriages. Although the comrades naturally favored free love, the people enjoyed lawful marriage because a marriage ceremony in these peaceful villages is a festive occasion, celebrated with great gusto by the whole community. On the other hand, legal marriage does violate libertarian principles.

Our comrades met this problem by going through all the legal procedures and then rendering the marriage legally meaningless by destroying the documentary proof of marriage, as if no marriage had taken place. (Since the revolution, four couples have married). The couple, accompanied by relatives and friends, was married in the presence of the secretary of the Committee as a witness. After registering their full names and ages, and reaffirming their desire to marry, the legal requirements were fulfilled. But while the couple was descending the stairway the secretary hurriedly shredded paper which included the page on which the marriage was registered into confetti and showered it over the couple as they reached the street. Thus everybody was satisfied and the festival began.

I explained that indispensable social studies and planning are impossible without vital statistical information and that records of marriages, births, deaths, and other such information must be kept and readily available. The comrades understood and promised to reconstitute the missing records.

While promenading leisurely down the streets to the village square, we watched young people playing the Basque game, “Pelote,” while the elders watched and made occasional comments. Things moved unhurriedly. Life flowed serenely through this village, as it had in bygone days, but now with a new feeling of confidence and security never known before. And we would have dearly loved to linger in these antiquated houses (which the commune will doubtless soon replace) but tranquilly, without despair without the uneasiness about the bleak prospects for tomorrow that had for so many centuries plagued the good people of Magdalena de Pulpis.

“Revolutionary slogans decorate the collectivized railroads.” “Slogan reads, ‘The land is yours, workers!’”
“Revolutionary slogans decorate the collectivized railroads.” “Working together, people paint slogans on a train.”
“Education was of great importance to the libertarian movement. Schools throughout revolutionary Spain came under popular control and many new ones were started.” “Young children enter a libertarian school.”
“Education was of great importance to the libertarian movement. Schools throughout revolutionary Spain came under popular control and many new ones were started.” “The popular university in Barcelona associated with the Libertarian Youth organization.”

The Collective in Mas de las Matas[95]
by Gaston Leval

On my last visit in May, 1937, almost all the villages in the district were entirely socialized. The anarchist movement in this village dates from the turn of the century and precedes the establishment of the CNT union movement. The first syndicates were organized in 1932. On December 8th of the same year, an insurrection which enveloped all of Aragon and part of Catalonia proclaimed libertarian communism. The insurrection was suppressed. The CNT was outlawed, and was reconstituted only after the victory of the popular front government in April, 1936.

In mid-September, 1936, two months after the local fascists were driven out, our comrades proposed the establishment of agrarian collectives. At a general membership meeting of the agricultural associations, the proposal was unanimously adopted. Small landholders who refused to join formed their own organization. Out of a total of 600 families, 550 joined the collective. The remaining 50 families, members of the UGT, were instructed by their leaders not to join the collective. The collective does not interfere with their rights to continue private ownership as long as they do not infringe on the rights of the collective.

The extent and character of socialization varies according to the decision of each village collective. All of the collectives in the entire district function without written rules or constitutions. All business is simply conducted at monthly membership meetings of each collective. The meeting usually elects a committee of five to carry out the instructions of the membership on how to handle current problems.

Depending on the condition of the land and various other factors, the work of the collective is carried on by 32 teams of workers. Each group cultivates a portion of dry as well as irrigated land. And each group, in rotation, performs its share of more agreeable work as well as especially unpleasant work. In all the collectives of the district, work groups select their own delegates to the Administrative Committee. The delegates meet once a week to plan the next week’s work. The collectives constitute a continuously coordinated work organization.

In livestock raising, the number of sheep has increased 25%; sows for breeding, from 30 to 60; milk cows, from 18 to 24 (the land is not suitable for the pasturage of cows). Until such time as the collective constructs its own piggeries, it has purchased a great number of young piglets which are to be raised by the families of the collectivists. For meat each family raises one or two porkers, which are salted and stored at the communal slaughter house.

But production is not limited solely to agriculture or stock breeding. Small industries (building, leather goods, shoes and slippers, garments and underwear etc.) have been set up in the larger centers and in the more important collectivized villages. As in Graus and other areas, each enterprise constitutes a section of an overall organization of the whole community, “the general collective.” Here is an example to illustrate the mechanism through which the production of each group, as well as the transactions of each family is recorded and coordinated. If the agrarian section needs certain tools its delegate files the order with the Administrative Committee, which sends the order to the metallurgical syndicate, where it is filled and registered. If a family needs furniture, the same procedure is followed. The order is transmitted via the Administrative Committee to the delegate of the wood workers’ syndicate (which includes the cabinet and furniture workers) where the order is filled and registered.

Money has been abolished. Neither the standard currency of Spain (the peseta) nor local money is used in transactions within or between any of the collectives of the county or district. The socialization of commerce was one of the first steps. On my first visit to Mas de las Matas, there were only two small grocers who refused to cooperate. But they had to close their stores for lack of supplies. In general, municipal markets have replaced the old mode of distribution.

It is most difficult to transmit in writing an adequate description of this vast movement which both enhances and exceeds the scope of agrarian socialization per se. Here in Mas de las Matas, as in any other collectivized village, there are not only the familiar outward signs of community enterprise, which we have seen in Graus (like the red and black signs designating factories, communal markets, and hotels) but something far more substantial: the installations which constitute the lifeblood of collective life. The district warehouses (for chemical products, cement, raw materials for all the industries) are here, where other village collectives deposit needed surplus commodities, and in exchange pick up necessary goods according to arrangements worked out by the assemblies of fraternal delegates. In the spacious premises of a wealthy fascist who fled are kept stocks of clothing to be distributed to the people of the district. Here also is the place where the individual peasant owners can pick up goods they need and where the amount of goods supplied to each family is recorded.

In the newly built distillery cooperative, organized by the district villages, tartaric acids and ninety-proof medicinal alcohol are extracted from the residue of raisins. In the tailoring shop, men and women cut and sew clothes to order for the collectivists in a good variety of cloth and colors. A family of four (mother, father, and two children) is entitled to 280 pesetas worth of clothing, which is two or three times more than an average peasant family spent for clothes under the old order.

Women shop for provisions in well-appointed sanitary markets done in white tile and marble. Tasty bread of the highest quality is now baked in the collective bakeries at less cost. Dress shops not only make fashionable clothes for women and girls, but as in many other villages young girls are taught how to sew clothes for their future children.

A sign reads “Public Library.” It is surprisingly well stocked with a good selection of books on academic subjects--sociology, literature ... and a good variety of school textbooks... The library is free to all including the “individualists” (nonmembers of the collectives). There are also educational activities for young and old.

In the spirit and practice of solidarity for all through respect for the individuality of each, every family is allotted a small parcel of land to use as it wishes, supplementing their diet by growing certain fruits and vegetables, raising rabbits, etc. Rationing is not therefore synonymous with uniformity.

If clothes, for example, are also rationed, it is not because the collectives in this part of Aragon lack the necessary purchasing power. There are many products, principally wheat, which could be exchanged for clothing manufactured in Catalonia. However, enormous quantities of wheat, meat, vegetables, and olive oil, which could be exchanged for other goods, but are sorely needed to sustain the armed forces in the anti-fascist war, are donated free of charge to the soldiers. Likewise, great quantities of goods are donated to Madrid, besieged by the Franco armies.

Medical care and medicines are free. Free eyeglasses are provided for both collectivists and “individualists.” Public instruction is obligatory for children up to the age of fourteen. A new rural school some distance from the village has just been built and opened for all older children who have never before attended school. And in Mas de las Matas, two young teachers graduated from colleges in Saragossa, Valencia and Teruel have been placed in charge of two new classrooms providing for the education of 50 children in each room.[96]

According to the norms established throughout Aragon, Castile, and the Levant, no collective is allowed to go into business for itself for its own profit. This avoids the tendency towards speculation, which is made easy by the war situation and is fairly common (a type of competition which so often characterizes certain collective factories, especially the textile mills in Barcelona). These measures of a moral character are on a par with the sense of organizational responsibility prevailing in the socialized villages. Each collectivized village provides a list of its surplus products and the products in short supply to the Cantonal (district) Committee. The Committee headquarters in Mas de las Matas keeps track of the surplus commodities and needs of each collective village. It knows exactly what reserves of wine, meat, olive oil, wheat (flour), potatoes, sugar, and other supplies each village has on hand. If, for example, a collective furnishing oil does not need wine, it can order other articles, or reserve them until they become available, or hold surplus commodities for exchange with other collectives in the district, The Cantonal Committee is actually a kind of clearing house for exchange or barter. In addition, through the general market and the communal warehouse, the facilities for exchange within and outside the village are always at hand.

This system of exchange is practiced without the slightest reservation because the spirit of profiteering no longer motivates the collectivists. A village which, because of unusually difficult circumstances, has nothing to exchange will not therefore be condemned to poverty, or be compelled to mortgage itself and its economy for years and years. For example: this year the principal crops of Mas de las Matas, Seno, and La Ginebrosa were destroyed by hailstorms. In a capitalist regime, such natural disasters would have meant endless privations, heavy debts, foreclosures, and even emigration of some workers for several years. But in the regime of libertarian solidarity, these difficulties were overcome by the efforts of the whole district. Provisions, seeds, etc., everything needed to repair the damage, were furnished in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity--without conditions, without contracting debts. The Revolution has created a new civilization!

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November 30, 1973 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 10: The Rural Collectives -- Publication.

July 11, 2019 16:35:43 :
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