The Anarchist Collectives : Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist 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 increasing complexity of society is making anarchism MORE and NOT LESS relevant to modern life. It is precisely this complexity and diversity, above all their overriding concern for freedom and human values that led the anarchist thinkers to base their ideas on the principles of diffusion of power, self-management and federalism." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "Society without order (as the word 'society' implies) is inconceivable. But the organization of order is not the exclusive monopoly of the State. For, if the State authority is the sole guarantee of order, who will watch the watchmen?" (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "The very fact that autonomy, decentralization and federalism are more practical alternatives to centralism and statism already presupposes that these vast organizational networks now performing the functions of society are prepared to replace the old bankrupt hyper-centralized administrations." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)

(1921 - 2006) ~ Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism : Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "The historic opposition of anarchists to oppression of all kinds, be it that of serfs, peasants, craftspeople, or workers, inevitably led them to oppose exploitation in the newly emerging factory system as well. Much earlier than we are often led to imagine, syndicalism- - essentially a rather inchoate but radical form of trade unionism- - became a vehicle by which many anarchists reached out to the industrial working class of the 1830s and 1840s." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
• "Or will ecology groups and the Greens turn the entire ecology movement into a starry-eyed religion decorated by gods, goddesses, woodsprites, and organized around sedating rituals that reduce militant activist groups to self-indulgent encounter groups?" (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "...Proudhon here appears as a supporter of direct democracy and assembly self- management on a clearly civic level, a form of social organization well worth fighting for in an era of centralization and oligarchy." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)


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Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives

Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives


In the concluding chapter of his pioneering work, Né Franco né Stalin Gaston Leval, on the basis of his exhaustive first hand studies, enumerates both the achievments and the setbacks of the libertarian revolution on the land and in the cities. In so doing he summarizes various themes outlined in preceding chapters.

The Characteristics of the Libertarian Collectives [97]
by Gaston Leval

  1. In juridical principles the collectives were something entirely new. They were not syndicates, nor were they municipalities in any traditional sense; They did not even very closely resemble the municipalities of the Middle Ages. Of the two, however, they were closer to the communal than the syndicalist spirit. Often they might just as well have been called communities, as for example the one in Binefar was. The collective was an entity; within it, occupational and professional groups, public services, trade and municipal functions were subordinate and dependent. In forms of organization, in internal functioning, and in their specialized activities, however, they were autonomous.

  2. The agrarian collectives, despite their name, were to all intents and purposes libertarian communist organizations. They applied the rule “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” Where money was abolished, a certain quantity of goods was assured to each person; where money was retained, each family received a wage determined by the number of members. Though the technique varied, the moral principle and the practical results were the same.

  3. In the agrarian collectives solidarity was practiced to the greatest degree. Not only was every person assured of the necessities, but the district federations increasingly adopted the principle of mutual aid on an inter-collective scale. For this purpose they created common reserves to help out villages less favored by nature. In Castile special institutions for this purpose were created. In industry this practice seems to have begun in Hospitalet, on the Catalan railways, and was applied later in Alcoy. Had the political compromise not impeded open socialization, the practices of mutual aid would have been much more generalized.

  4. A conquest of enormous importance was the right of women to livelihood, regardless of occupation or function. In about half of the agrarian collectives, the women received the same wages as men; in the rest the women received less, apparently on the principle that they rarely lived alone.

  5. The child’s right to livelihood was also ungrudgingly recognized: not as a state charity, but as a right no one dreamed of denying. The schools were open to children to the age of 14 or 15--the only guarantee that parents would not send their children to work sooner, and that education would really be universal.

  6. In all the agrarian collectives of Aragon, Catalonia, Levant, Castile, Andalusia, and Estremadura, the workers formed groups to divide the labor or the land; usually they were assigned to definite areas. Delegates elected by the work groups met with the collective’s delegate for agriculture to plan out the work. This typical organization arose quite spontaneously, by local initiative.

  7. In addition to these methods--and similar meetings of specialized groups--the collective as a whole met in a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly assembly. This too was a spontaneous innovation. The assembly reviewed the activities of the councilors it named, and discussed special cases and unforeseen problems. All inhabitants--men and women, producers and non producers--took part in the discussion and decisions. In many cases the “individualists” (non-collective members) had equal rights in the assembly.

  8. In land cultivation the most significant advances were: the rapidly increased use of machinery and irrigation; greater diversification; and forestation. In stock raising: the selection and multiplication of breeds; the adaption of breeds to local conditions; and large-scale construction of collective stock barns.

  9. Production and trade were brought into increasing harmony and distribution became more and more unified; first district unification, then regional unification, and finally the creation of a national federation. The district (comarca) was the basis of trade. In exceptional cases an isolated commune managed its own, on authority of the district federation which kept its eye on the commune and could intervene if its trading practices were harmful to the general economy. In Aragon, the Federation of Collectives, founded in January, 1937, began to coordinate trade among the communes of the region, and to create a system of mutual aid. The tendency to unity became more distinct with the adoption of a single “producer’s card” and a single “consumer’s card”--which implied suppression of all money, local and national--by a decision of the February, 1937 Congress. Coordination of trade with other regions, and abroad, improved steadily. When disparities in exchange, or exceptionally high prices, created surpluses, they were used by the Regional Federation to help the poorer collectives. Solidarity thus extended beyond the district.

  10. Industrial concentration--the elimination of small workshops and uneconomical factories--was a characteristic feature of collectivization both in the rural communes and in the cities. Labor was rationalized on the basis of social need--in Alcoy’s industries and in those of Hospitalet, in Barcelona’s municipal transport and in the Aragon collectives.

  11. The first step toward socialization was frequently the dividing up of large estates (as in the Segorbe and Granollers districts and a number of Aragon villages). In certain other cases the first step was to force the municipalities to grant immediate reforms (municipalization of land-rent and of medicine in Elda, Benicarlo, Castillone, Alcaniz, Caspé, etc.).

  12. Education advanced at an unprecedented pace. Most of the partly or wholly socialized collectives and municipalities built at least one school. By 1938, for example, every collective in the Levant Federation had its own school.

  13. The number of collectives increased steadily. The movement originated and progressed swiftly in Aragon, conquered part of Catalonia, then moved on to Levant and later Castile. According to reliable testimony the accomplishments in Castile may indeed have surpassed Levant and Aragon. Estramadura and the part of Andalusia not conquered immediately by the fascists--especially the province of Jaen--also had their collectives. The character of the collectives varied of course with local conditions.2

  14. [...] [98]

  15. Sometimes the collective was supplemented by other forms of socialization. After I left Carcagente, trade was socialized. In Alcoy consumers cooperatives arose to round out the syndicalist organization of production. There were other instances of the same kind.

  16. The collectives were not created single handedly by the libertarian movement. Although their juridical principles were strictly anarchist, a great many collectives were created spontaneously by people remote from our movement (“libertarians” without being aware of it). Most of the Castile and Estramadura collectives were organized by Catholic and Socialist peasants; in some cases of course they may have been inspired by the propaganda of isolated anarchist militants. Although their organization opposed the movement officially, many members of the UGT entered or organized collectives, as did republicans who sincerely wanted to achieve liberty and justice.

  17. Small landowners were respected. Their inclusion in the consumer’s card system and in the collective trading, the resolutions taken in respect to them, all attest to this. There were just two restrictions: they could not have more land than they could cultivate, and they could not carry on private trade. Membership in the collective was voluntary: the “individualists” joined only if they were persuaded of the advantages of working in common.

  18. The chief obstacles to the collectives were:

    1. The existence of conservative strata, and parties and organizations representing them. Republicans of all factions, socialists of left and right (Largo Caballero and Prieto), Stalinist Communists, and often the POUMists. (Before their expulsion from the Catalan government--the Generalidad--the POUMists were not a truly revolutionary party. They became so when driven into opposition. Even in June, 1937, a manifesto distributed by the Aragon section of the POUM attacked the collectives). The UGT was the principal instrument of the various politicians.

    2. The opposition of certain small landowners (peasants from Catalonia and the Pyréenées).

    3. The fear, even among some members of collectives, that the government would destroy the organizations once the war was over. Many who were not really reactionary, and many small landowners who would otherwise have joined the collectives, held back on this account.

    4. The open attack on the collectives: by which is not meant the obviously destructive acts of the Franco troops wherever they advanced. In Castile the attack on the collectivists was conducted, arms in hand, by Communist troops. In the Valencia region, there were battles in which even armored cars took part. In the Huesca province the Karl Marx brigade persecuted the collectives. The Macia-Companys brigade did the same in Teruel province. (But both always fled from combat with the fascists. The Karl Marx brigade always remained inactive, while our troops fought for Huesca and other important points; the Marxists troops reserved themselves for the rearguard. The second gave up Vivel del Rio and other coal regions of Utrillos without a fight. These soldiers, who ran in panic before a small attack that other forces easily contained, were intrepid warriors against the unarmed peasants of the collectives).

  19. In the work of creation, transformation and socialization, the peasant demonstrated a social conscience much superior to that of the city worker.

From :


November 30, 1973 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives -- Publication.

July 11, 2019 16:37:48 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives -- Added to

January 01, 2020 18:36:08 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives -- Last Updated on


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