The Anarchist Collectives : Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 7: Urban Collectivization

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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 :
• "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....)
• "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.)
• "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....)
• "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....)

(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 7: Urban Collectivization

Chapter 7: Urban Collectivization


Industrial collectivization was limited primarily to Barcelona and the province of Catalonia, where the anarcho-syndicalist influence was greatest. Soon after July 19th, the control of the industries of Catalonia passed into the hands of the workers of the CNT.

Rural collectivization of land was far more widespread and far more thorough than urban collectivization. The CNT-FAI was not able to carry out urban collectivization to the extent it desired or was possible because opposition was much greater in the industrialized areas than in the countryside. The UGT, republicans, liberals, socialists, communists, the former property owners and their allies, the Government of Catalonia and the Central Government in Valencia bitterly opposed and sabotaged not only full, but even partial collectivization.

However, as these selections show, to the limited extent that urban collectivization did prevail, it was successful. Collectivization was advanced not only in Catalonia, but in Alcoy (in Alicante province), where all industry was completely collectivized, and in the Bay of Biscay area where the fishing industry was partially collectivized.

The selections also show, the structure and the functioning of the urban collectives varied greatly. Collectivized enterprises embraced industries employing many thousands of workers as well as workshops employing less than a hundred workers. The extent of collectivization ranged from the consolidation of numerous small factories and workshops to the vast federative coordination of railway networks.

Finally, these selections again demonstrate the non-authoritarian rank and file democratic character of the collective. The technical-administrative committees were composed of workers elected by and at all times responsible to their fellow workers. They served without pay, and generally transacted their affairs after working hours. They were elected for no fixed term, subject to recall at any time by the membership. One of the innovations was rotation of rank and file workers to these committees. There is of course, no form of organization which will unfailingly prevent abuse of power. But everything humanly possible was done to insure the maximum degree of grass roots democracy in industry.

Collectivizations in Catalonia[47]
by Augustin Souchy

The collectivization in Barcelona embraced construction the metal industry, bakeries, slaughter houses, public utilities (gas, water, electricity, etc.), transportation, health services, theaters and cinemas, beauty parlors, hotels and boarding houses, etc... Wages were equalized. The wages of lower paid workers were increased and high salaries in the upper income brackets reduced.

The takeover of industry was surprisingly quick. And the takeover proved beyond the slightest doubt that modern industry can be efficiently conducted without stock and bond holders and very highly placed executives. Wage workers and salaried employees (engineers, technicians, etc.) can themselves operate the complicated machinery of modern industry. Examples are endless. Here are a few:

The Collectivization of Municipal Transportation

The first measure in the collectivization of the Barcelona street railways was to discharge the excessively paid directors and company stooges. The saving was considerable. A conductor averaged 250 to 300 pesetas a month, while the general director (manager) was paid 5,000 and his three assistants 4,441, 2,384, and 2,000 pesetas respectively. The amount saved through the abolition of these posts went to increase the wages of the lowest paid workers 40% to 60%, and intermediate and higher brackets 10% to 20%. The next step was the reduction of working time to 40 hours per week (but for the war situation, it would have been cut to 36 hours weekly).

Another improvement was in the area of management. Before the Revolution, streetcars, buses, and subways were each privately owned by separate companies. The union decided to integrate and consolidate all transportation into an efficient system without waste. This improvement meant better facilities, rights of way, and incomparably better service for the riding public. Fares were reduced from 15 to 10 centimes, with free transportation for school children, wounded militiamen, those injured at work, other invalids, and the aged.

The repair shops worked extra shifts to repair damaged, and remodel old, conveyances. This proved better for all concerned: better service for the public, lower fares, and better wages and working conditions. Naturally the only ones who complained were the investors and high salaried bureaucrats. The Transportation and Communication Workers’ Union became a collectivized transportation association. This report of the Expropriation Committee is an example of how this change was effected:

On the morning of July 24th, while the people in arms were still fighting the fascists in the streets of Barcelona, ... a number of armed comrades from the CNT, at the request of the Transportation Union, left the barricades and in armored cars drove to the head offices of the street railway transportation company to enforce and expedite the expropriation and collectivization of the street car system. The place was patrolled inside and out by Civil Guards. After a short consultation, the guards left and the CNT took possession. There was neither ready cash in the safe nor funds in the bank. The owners had absconded with the funds, and the workers had to resume operations without capital...[48]

The Socialization of Telephone Service

More than half the telephone lines were destroyed by grenades during the fighting. The restoration and repair of telephone connections was imperative. Without waiting for orders from anyone, the workers restored normal telephone service within three days. Thousands of new lines were installed in union locals, militia centers, and committee districts. Once this crucial emergency work was finished a general membership meeting of telephone workers decided to collectivize the telephone system. From within their own ranks the workers chose a management committee. Each district elected its own responsible director. Although very few telephone workers belonged to the UGT (most belonged to the CNT), the collectivization was conducted under the joint auspices of the UGT and CNT.

The subscribers declared that telephone service was better under collectivization than under private ownership. As in collectivized transportation, the wages of the lowest paid workers was significantly increased.

The Collectivization of the Railroads

Spanish railroads were privately owned. During the fascist military uprising and the general strike, rail service was halted. Pitched battles were fought near Barcelona’s main terminal. On the third day of fighting the anarcho-syndicalist unions, certain of victory (though the fighting was still going on), organized a revolutionary railroad committee. This led to the occupation and expropriation of railroad stations, railroad rights of way, and the administrative headquarters. All important railroad junctions were guarded by workers’ patrols. The executives fled abroad. The workers installed new administrative committees. Although the syndicalists constituted the overwhelming majority, they nevertheless accorded the social-democratic unions equal representation on the management committees: three members from each organization. The Spanish anarcho-syndicalists did not want to institute a Bolshevik-type dictatorship.[49]

In a few days all the Catalonian railroads were socialized. For lack of supplies, technical improvements could not be made. With the end of the fighting, railroad operations were resumed under the new union management. The railroads functioned normally without interruption. Fares and rates remained the same. The wages of the lowest paid workers were substantially increased. The sinecures of high salaried executives and useless bureaucrats were abolished. Obviously collectivization meant the end of private capitalist corporations. Stocks, bonds, and debts contracted by the old administration were repudiated.

The railway repair yards in Barcelona manufactured armored vehicles. Only a week after returning to work the first ambulances were built. The equipment elicited the praise of the medical profession. And the medical department of the Catalonian government officially congratulated the railroad metal workers for their excellent workmanship. The credit for these achievements belongs solely to the syndicalist workers. There were no high placed functionaries to give orders. The workers themselves designated their technicians and administrators from within their own ranks. And these achievements must to a very great extent be ascribed not to Stakhanovite competition between fellow workers, but to the spirit of good will and mutual aid that inspired the workers.[50]

The Collectivization of the Longshoremen

At the expense of the low wages and poor working conditions for longshoremen, the racketeers dominated the waterfront. The waterfront reeked with graft, waste, and stealing. The racketeers and the ship agents, ship captains, and the longshore bosses were all in collusion. These abuses provoked endless strikes, often accompanied by violence, not only against the employers but against the whole system.

After July 19th, the port and maritime unions got rid of the racketeers and their agents. They decided to deal directly, without go-betweens, with the ship captains and the ship companies. This led to the takeover of harbor operations by the newly formed port workers’ collective. While contracts already made between foreign ship companies and their agents could not be canceled, the unions closely supervised the financial operations of the Spanish agents of foreign ship companies.

These changes brought much higher wages and better working conditions for the longshoremen. By setting aside a certain sum for each ton of cargo handled, unemployment, health and accident protection, and other benefits were provided.[51] The port of Barcelona was socialized.

The Collectivization of Gas, Water, and Electricity

Water, gas, and electric utilities in almost all Spanish cities were privately owned. The Barcelona Waterworks Company and its subsidiary, Llobregat Waterworks, owned gas and water utilities in many Spanish cities. It was a mammoth corporation capitalized at 275 million pesetas, with an average yearly profit of over 11 million pesetas.

The financiers left the country before July 19th to await the outcome of the fascist military offensive. The syndicates decided to take over and collectivize the properties. The managerial staff was selected from their own ranks by the workers. Under private ownership the workers were refused wage increases and other demands. Under collectivization, a minimum daily wage of 14 pesetas and the 36 hour week were instituted. Later, because of the war crisis and shortage of manpower, the work week was increased to 40 and still later to 48 hours, with equal wages for women, sick benefits, and old age pensions. The savings accruing from good management, and abolition of dividends, profits, interest on loans, etc., were diverted to lowering water rates by 50%. Above all, contributions to the anti-fascist military committee totaling over 100,000 pesetas were made during the first few months after the 19th of July.

Foreign observers were amazed to see how quickly and smoothly the changeover from private to collective management was achieved. The reason is not hard to find. The marvelous success of collectivization was to a very great extent due to the systematic preparation of the syndicalists to tackle just such problems of the Social Revolution. The Bulletin of the Water, Gas, and Electric Collective explains:

During the revolutionary period we organized, within the unions, management commissions. These commissions prepared themselves for management by making themselves familiar with the particular problems in each district. The commission supervised production, calculated water needs--for summer and for winter, studied how to find the right personnel for the right jobs, observe safety measures, adequate dining facilities, etc.

Through these and other preparations, the workers were able to surmount difficult problems. The management procedures worked out by the workers themselves bear witness to the heightened feeling of responsibility of the workers fostered by the syndicalist organizations.

Plant councils, managers, and administrative boards at every level functioned according to instructions openly discussed and enacted by all the workers assembled in their general plant meetings. All persons in responsible posts were held strictly accountable by union control commissions. Only fully capable and qualified workers of proven personal integrity were deemed fit for responsible posts. It was considered a privilege and an honor to be entrusted with responsibilities by their fellow union members...[52]

The Collectivization of Hairdressing Establishments

Collectivization also embraced smaller establishments: small factories, artisan workshops, service and repair shops, etc. The artisans and small workshop owners, together with their employees and apprentices, often joined the union of their trade. By consolidating their efforts and pooling their resources on a fraternal basis, the shops were able to undertake very big projects and provide services on a much wider scale. Independent artisans with their tools and workshops also joined the trade collectives. The collectivization of hairdressing shops provides an excellent example of how the transition of a small scale manufacturing and service industry from capitalism to socialism was achieved.

The hairdressers of Barcelona, Madrid, and other Spanish cities voluntarily and on their own initiative reorganized their industry. In Madrid the shops were collectivized even before July 19th. The purpose of the collectivization was to obliterate the difference between shopkeepers and their assistants. Hairdressing was not big business. For the Spanish syndicalists, however, socialism and collectivism could not be confined only to the abolition of large scale capitalism. In the reorganization of labor according to the principles of freedom and cooperation there was room for everyone. Even the smallest enterprises employing one or several individuals were entitled to participate in the reorganization of society.

Before July 19th, 1936, there were 1,100 hairdressing parlors in Barcelona, most of them owned by poor wretches living from hand to mouth. The shops were often dirty and ill-maintained. The 5,000 hairdressing assistants were among the most poorly paid workers, earning about 40 pesetas per week while construction workers were paid 60 to 80 pesetas weekly. The 40 hour week and 15% wage increase instituted after July 19th spelled ruin for most hairdressing shops. Both owners and assistants therefore voluntarily decided to socialize all their shops.

How was this done? All the shops simply joined the union. At a general meeting they decided to shut down all the unprofitable shops. The 1,100 shops were reduced to 235 establishments, a saving of 135,000 pesetas per month in rent, lighting, and taxes. The remaining 235 shops were modernized and elegantly outfitted. From the money saved wages were increased by 40%. Everybody had the right to work and everybody received the same wages. The former owners were not adversely affected by socialization. They were employed at a steady income. All worked together under equal conditions and equal pay. The distinction between employers and employees was obliterated and they were transformed into a working community of equals--socialism from the bottom up.

The Collectivization of the Textile Industry

It is no simple matter to collectivize and place on firm foundations an industry employing almost a quarter of a million textile workers in scores of factories scattered in numerous cities. But the Barcelona syndicalist textile union accomplished this feat in a short time. It was a tremendously significant experiment. The dictatorship of the bosses was toppled, and wages, working conditions and production were determined by the workers and their elected delegates. All functionaries had to carry out the instructions of the membership and report back directly to the men on the job and union meetings. The collectivization of the textile industry shatters once and for all the legend that the workers are incapable of administrating a great and complex corporation.

Upon building the collective, a management committee of 19 was chosen by the rank and file membership. After three months the management committee reported back to the membership on the condition of the collective and the progress made.[53]

With the crushing of the fascist putsch, the owners transferred themselves and the assets of the industry abroad. But by cutting off dividends and premiums and eliminating high salaried directors and other wasteful expenditures, the collectives were able to pay the increased costs for raw materials. Two new machines for the manufacture of artificial silk were purchased from abroad. The necessary foreign exchange was raised by the sale of finished products abroad.

Every factory elected its administrative committee composed of its most capable workers. Depending on the size of the factory, the function of these committees included inner plant organization, statistics, finance, correspondence, and relations with other factories and with the community. Particularly significant was the organization of a top flight technical commission staffed by the most intelligent technical and administrative experts in the entire industry. This commission of engineers, technicians, and commercial experts drafted plans to increase production, division of labor, installations, etc. Several months after collectivization the textile industry of Barcelona was in far better shape than under capitalist management. Here was yet another example to show that grass roots socialism from below does not destroy initiative. Greed is not the only motivation in human relations.

Collectivization brought better conditions for the workers. The 60 hour work week in some factories was cut to 40. Wages were more equalized. Overtime work was abolished, and weekly wages increased from 68 to 78 pesetas. Wage rates were fixed by the workers themselves at union meetings.

A great many troops from the textile industry manned the fighting fronts. From Barcelona alone more than 20,000 textile workers of the CNT joined the militia. Noncombatant workers contributed voluntarily 10% to 15% of their weekly wages to finance the war against fascism, and in the last three months of 1937 contributed two and a half million pesetas to the anti-fascist militias...

The Collectivization of the Metal and Munitions Industry[54]
by Augustin Souchy

One of the most impressive achievements of the Catalonian metal workers was to rebuild the industry from scratch. Toward the close of the Civil War, 80,000 workers were supplying the anti-fascist troops with war material. At the outbreak of the Civil War the Catalonian metal industry was very poorly developed. The largest installation, Hispano-Suiza Automobile Company, employed only 1,100 workers. A few days after July 19th this plant was already converted to the manufacture of armored cars, hand grenades, machine gun carriages, ambulances, etc., for the fighting front. The first war vehicle carried the CNT-FAI insignia for the two fighting organizations of the metal workers. In Barcelona during the Civil War, four hundred metal factories were built, most of them manufacturing war material.

Eighty percent of the munition workers adhered to the CNT. While the political parties were bickering and conniving to seize power, the syndicalists were working to rebuild the industry and defeat the fascists. The work began in August, 1936, under the direction of the energetic and capable technician Eugenio Vallejo, a dedicated anarcho-syndicalist. Experts were truly astounded at the expertize of the workers in building new machinery for the manufacture of arms and munitions. Very few machines were imported. In a short time, two hundred different hydraulic presses of up to 250 tons pressure, one hundred seventy-eight revolving lathes, and hundreds of milling machines and boring machines were built. A year after the beginning of the Civil War, production of ammunition increased to one million 155-millimeter projectiles, fifty thousand aerial bombs and millions of cartridges. In these last three months of 1937 alone, fifteen million cartridge cases, a million caps for hand grenades, and enormous quantities of other war materials were produced.

With the introduction of state control over the arms and munitions industry, the self-management of this industry by the workers was ended. But the tremendous accomplishments of the Spanish workers in their collectivized, metals industry bear permanent witness to the achievements of the anarcho-syndicalist movement.

“Women working in a collectivized textile factory in Barcelona.”
“Men operating sewing machines in a collectivized factory.”

The Collectivization of the Optical Industry[55]

If by industry is meant a group of manufacturing establishments making the same type of merchandise in a county, province, or region, then there was no optical industry in Spain before the 19th of July. With the end of the fighting (in which the optical workers took part), the workers rapidly began to collectivize the small workshops. The first step was to institute strict workers’ surveillance to prevent the bosses from absconding with funds and merchandise. Owners who accepted collectivization were admitted to membership on equal terms with their former employees. The plants were converted into a production collective... Methods of modernizing and rebuilding the industry were studied and put into effect.

Sexual discrimination was abolished--equal pay for both men and women and the family wage prevailed. Workers twenty-four years of age and over received 400 pesetas monthly, plus 50 pesetas for each of their dependents even if they were not related and did not previously work in the same industry. The greatest innovation was the construction of a new factory for optical apparatuses and instruments. The whole operation was financed by the voluntary contributions of the workers. In a short time the factory turned out opera glasses, telemeters, binoculars, surveying instruments, industrial glassware in different colors, and certain scientific instruments. It also manufactured and repaired optical equipment for the fighting fronts. (The workers presented Buenaventura Durruti with a special set of field glasses.) Another achievement was the opening of a new, up-to-date optical school... The workers had every reason to be proud of these achievements. What private capitalists failed to do was accomplished by the creative capacity of the members of the Optical Workers’ Union of the CNT.

The Socialization of Health Services[56]
by Gaston Leval

The socialization of health services was one of the greatest achievements of the revolution. To appreciate the efforts of our comrades it must be borne in mind that they rehabilitated the health services in all of Catalonia in so short a time after July 19th. The revolution could count on the cooperation of a number of dedicated doctors whose ambition was not to accumulate wealth but to serve the afflicted and the underprivileged.

The Health Workers’ Union was founded in September, 1936. In line with the tendency to unite all the different classifications, trades, and services serving a given industry, all health workers, from porters to doctors and administrators, were organized into the one big union of health workers...

Five months after the Revolution, 8,000 health workers joined the union (excluding the masseurs and physical therapists for whom we have no figures). The UGT also organized a health union, but numerically very much inferior to ours--100 doctors to our 1,020 doctors. Here is a partial list: 1,020 doctors, 3,206 nurses, 133 dentists, 330 midwives, 203 practitioners (student doctors), 180 pharmacists and 66 apprentice pharmacists, 153 herbalists, 353 sterilizers, 71 radiologists, and 200 veterinaries.

But the syndicate did not confine itself solely to enrolling new members. The urge to recreate the health system was greatest among doctors who had never done a thing in this regard before the Revolution. Paradoxically enough, it was these very doctors who were, in this respect, the most audacious revolutionaries. I could cite many examples.

Although Spain has a healthful and generally dry climate, infant mortality was one of the highest in Europe. This was due not only to poverty, lack of hygienic facilities, etc., but also to a gang of racketeering doctors who took advantage of this situation and the incompetence of the government to enrich themselves.

Our comrades laid the foundations of a new health system... The new medical service embraced all of Catalonia. It constituted a great apparatus whose parts were geographically distributed according to different needs, all in accord with an overall plan. Catalonia was divided into nine [sic] zones: Barcelona, Tarragona, Lerida, Reus, Borghida, Ripoll, and Haute Pyréenées. In turn, all the surrounding villages and towns were served from these centers.

Distributed throughout Catalonia were twenty-seven towns with a total of thirty-six health centers conducting services so thoroughly that every village, every hamlet, every isolated peasant in the mountains, every woman, every child, anywhere, received adequate, up-to-date medical care. In each of the nine zones there was a central syndicate and a Control Committee located in Barcelona. Every department was autonomous within its own sphere. But this autonomy was not synonymous with isolation. The Central Committee in Barcelona, chosen by all the sections, met once a week with one delegate from each section to deal with common problems and to implement the general plan...

The people immediately benefited from the projects of the health syndicate. The syndicate managed all hospitals and clinics. Six hospitals were opened in Barcelona... Eight new sanatoriums were installed in converted luxurious homes ideally situated amid mountains and pine forests. It was no easy task to convert these homes into efficient hospitals with all new facilities. One of them, for the treatment of tuberculosis, was considered among the best installations anywhere...

To avoid excessive traveling of sick people to specialized centers, polyclinic hospitals where all these specialized treaments could be given in one place were organized... Where there had been an artificially created surplus of doctors serving the wealthy under capitalism, there was now under the socialized medical system a shortage of doctors badly needed to serve the disadvantaged masses who never before received good medical care...

When the inhabitants of a locality requested the services of a doctor, the syndicate analyzed their health needs and from a panel of doctors designated one whose training could best serve the needs of the patients. If he refused to go, he must have had very good reasons. If not, he may be suspended. The hospital expenses were paid by the Generalidad (Catalan government) and the municipality. Polyclinic hospitals were built under the auspices of the syndicates and the municipalities. Not all health services could be entirely socialized, but most of the dental clinics in Catalonia were controlled by the syndicate, as were all the hospitals, clinics, and sanatoriums. The trend was to substitute the socialized organization of medicine for private practice. Private doctors still practiced, but the most prevalent abuses had been eliminated. The cost of operations was controlled. Payments for treatments were made through the syndicates, not directly to the physicians.[57]

In the new clinics, surgery and dental extractions were free. The number of mental patients admitted to asylums for treatment was much greater than before. The old privileged physicians fought these changes, but the younger, less favored doctors voluntarily cooperated with the new organization. Young doctors were enthusiastic. Under the old system they would have had to work for years with little or no payment and they would have had to wait for the death of the old doctor to take his place.

All the hospitals’ doctors were paid 500 pesetas a month for three hours work per day. There was no private practice (for them). Since a skilled manual worker drew 350 to 400 pesetas a month for seven hours work per day, the reader can draw his own conclusions.[58]

The money saved through wage equalization was enough to pay all expenses. There were no longer doctors receiving enormous fees while others were in need. In a public establishment no one could have outside jobs. More than half the doctors, after working their regular hours, worked free of charge. No one pressured them to do this. They donated their time gladly and compulsion was not necessary.

“Everything is just fine,” said the secretary of the medical department, a Basque for whom tireless dedication to his work was a moral imperative. “The famous doctor who condescends to visit the dispensary once a week is dethroned. The important personage who parades down the hospital aisles attended by a half-dozen subservient colleagues, hierarchically inferior, one holding a basin, the other his satchel, and the rest escorting his honor, humble and awed before so great an authority (not always deserved), is happily a thing of the past. We are now all equal comrades, working together, who esteem and respect each other.”

Industrial Collectivization in Alcoy[59]
by Gaston Leval

Alcoy, the second largest city in the province of Alicante, has a population of 45,000 and is entirely devoted to industry and commerce. The textile industry was most important and included the manufacture of fabrics, lingerie, and hosiery. Next in importance is the manufacture of paper.

Our movement in Alcoy has a long tradition of struggle dating back to the First International (1869)... It had, in fact, a higher proportion of anarchists than any city in Spain... In 1919 the movement was invigorated by the organization of Sindicatos Unicos.[60]

On my first visit in February, 1937, the UGT (Socialist Party union) had a membership of 3,000, mostly anti-revolutionary civil service employees, small tradesmen (who saw in the UGT the guarantee of their status), and the political parties (naturally hostile to the CNT). But the CNT controlled the essential economic functions necessary to social life.

The CNT industries organized in the CNT unions were: food; paper and cardboard manufacture; construction, including architects; hygiene (barbers, launderers, street cleaners); transport; public service workers; cobblers and bootblacks; technicians; linen and clothing workers; metal workers; dressmakers; professionals (school teachers, painters, writers); and, in the suburbs, horticulturists.

Their clarity of ideas enabled our comrades to act quickly and decisively. To reach collectivization Alcoy did not have to pass through the often prolonged phase of piecemeal collectivization of small shops or individual plants. From the very beginning, the syndicates took the initiative in organizing all the industries. It was, in fact, the most complete example of the “syndicalization of production”... The best example was in the textile industry, with a CNT membership of 6,500 workers.

As was to be expected, disputes with the textile employers became inevitable. The employers interpreted “workers’ control” in an altogether different fashion than did the syndicates. For the employers “workers’ control” meant (at most) allowing a committee to inspect the accounts of the company. But the demands of the workers went much further than that. They wanted the expropriation of the factories under the total control and administration of production by their syndicate, the CNT...

The first step in this direction was the organization by the workers of a technical Commission of Control which from supervising the activities of the employers quickly transformed itself into the organ for the overall administration of the textile industry. The employers were eliminated and the workers took over. On September 14th, the syndicate officially took possession of 41 textile factories, 10 spinning mills, 4 dye works, 5 processing factories, 24 linen works, and 11 carding shops, all of which comprised the whole textile industry in Alcoy. Its day to day activities were determined on the one hand by the feelings (desires) of the workers, and on the other hand by the organization of the managing committees.

Everything was controlled by the syndicates. But it must not therefore be assumed that everything was decided by a few higher bureaucratic committees without consulting the rank and file members of the union. Here also libertarian democracy was practiced. As in the CNT there was a reciprocal double structure: from the grass roots at the base--the mass of unionists, workers, and militants--upwards, and in the other direction a reciprocal influence from the federations of these same local units at all levels downward. From the source back to the source. “From the circumference to the center and from the center to the circumference,” as formulated by Proudhon and stressed by Bakunin.

Every Sunday in each factory, designers, technicians, and production workers met in joint session, and examined the accounts, production reports, quality, and all other pertinent matters. These meetings made no decisions, but their findings were submitted to the sections of the syndicates involved for their consideration.

The technical organization of the factories was divided into five sections. Each of these nominated a delegate to the factory committee and these committees joined together to form the administrative committee of the syndicate. In this way each different working group in every department of the factory was represented and the coordinated organization thus reflected the internal structure of the industry...

The representatives from each of these five technical divisions constituted only one half of the administrative commission. The other half consisted of the overall Commission of Control (mentioned above). It is nominated by the general assembly of syndicated workers and has delegates direct from the factories so as never to lose contact with the workers. In the factories and workshops, committees are elected by an assembly of workers gathered together on the spot... We are not therefore facing an administrative dictatorship but rather a functional democracy, in which all the specialized workers play their roles which have been settled after general examination by the assembly...

The other industries were organized along similar lines: complete organization in the hands of the syndicates. In the metallurgical works that I visited, work was proceeding vigorously under the direction of the workers’ councils. In a few months a new armaments industry had been organized without competition, private profits, or capitalism... The solidarity of libertarian organization made it possible to help weaker industries like printing and paper-making to overcome their difficulties (financial and otherwise). In fact the sixteen other syndicates that make up the local Industrial Federation of Alcoy help any of their affiliated unions whenever necessary.

Each industry is coordinated through the Syndical Administrative Committee. This committee is divided into as many sections as there are industries. When an order is received by the sales section it is passed on to the production section whose task it is to decide which workshops are best equipped to produce the desired articles. While settling this question, they order the required raw materials from the corresponding section. The latter gives instructions to the shops to supply the materials and finally the buying section receives details of the transaction so that it can replace the material used.

In spite of all the monumental difficulties, one big fact stands out: in Alcoy 20,000 workers organized in their syndicates administrated production, coordinated economic activities, and proved that industry can be operated better in every respect than under capitalism, while still assuring freedom and justice for all...

“The first bus built in the workshops of the collectivized General Autobus Company.”
“Workers in a collectivized aircraft engine plant in Barcelona.”
“Workers in a large collectivized factory shifted to the production of war material.”
“Spanish men and women working side-by-side in a small, modern machine shop.”

Control of Industries in the North[61]
by Jose Peirats

Although reports about collectivization in the northern area are in view of the situation, necessarily vague, the following three reports are more definite and reflect the revolutionary realizations spontaneously achieved despite monumental obstacles. The reports include the first joint Manifesto of the UGT and the CNT, of the fishing industry of Gijon and of Laredo.[62] The text of the Manifesto [summarized by us] reads as follows:

Manifesto on the Control of the Industries of Asturias, Leon, and Palencia

The Provincial Secretariat of the UGT and the Regional Committee of the CNT of Asturias have come to the following agreement:

  1. Where one or the other syndicate represented in the Control Committee constitutes less than 10% of the workers, the majority syndicate shall assume direction of the Control Committee.

  2. Elections to the Control Committee will be democratic. The syndicate should nominate only such candidates who by their exemplary conduct have earned the confidence of the membership, preferably men who belonged to either union before July 19th, 1936. Both syndicates shall hold regular joint meetings to deal with common problems.

  3. Control Committees shall be established in:

    1. factories and workshops

    2. mines and construction

    3. ports and seafaring

    4. railways

    5. agricultural producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives ...

  4. The Control Committees shall in no way usurp the powers of management or of the technical administration and their functions. The principal functions of the Control Committees are to help management to carry out worthwhile plans, offer constructive suggestions, process workers’ grievances, and improve working conditions and wages...

  5. A member elected to serve on the Control Committee should consider it an honor and a mark of confidence that he must not betray. To cut off the pernicious growth of bureaucracy at the source, Committee members shall voluntarily serve without pay, shall transact their business after working hours, and be required to report back to their membership at frequent regular meetings...

  6. [...]

  7. Both the CNT and the UGT agree not to lure members away from each other nor prevent workers from joining the union of their choice...

  8. [...]

  9. The sole and immediate objective of the UGT and the CNT is to win the war and organize the revolution, and all the efforts of both syndicates must be directed to that purpose... 10) This agreement shall be published in the official journals of both syndicates for eight days... Gijon, January, 1937.

Signed: for the Regional Committee of the CNT, Silverio Tuñon, Secretary. For the Provincial Federation of the UGT, Valdes, Secretary.

The Fishing Industry of Gijon[63]

At first the local Control Committee left the distribution of fish to the committees which spontaneously sprang up to supply necessary provisions to the people. These arrangements were worked out by the Fishing Workers’ Industrial Union at the rank and file general membership meetings. As soon as the fishing fleet docked, the fish was first supplied to hospitals and then to the civilian population and the militias.

During the first few months after July 19th, the wage system in the fishing and other industries was abolished. Every worker carried a consumer’s card listing the number of family members, their age, and occupation. The fishery workers simply deposited their merchandise in exchange for these cards, which entitled them to rationed supplies.

Later local cooperatives replaced the ad hoc Supply Committees. Through a Provincial Cooperative Council, the Department of Commerce supplied all the cooperatives. Nevertheless, the people were reluctant to accept this arrangement.[64] In November, 1936, Amador Fernandez published a series of articles in Advance,[65] defending the rights of the petty bourgeoisie and merchants, which provoked vehement polemics between the anarcho-syndicalists and the socialists. The fascist blockade was partly mitigated by the fishing fleets who braved seizure and sinking by the fascist patrol boats. Many boats were lost and their crews drowned or if captured taken to the fascist headquarters at El Ferrol to be tortured and shot.

Refrigerating plants and food canneries, the largest in Spain and the second most important industry in Asturias, were from the very beginning completely socialized (as were the markets). Everything was controlled by the syndicates who much later united into the Fisheries Council. This control was exercised through delegates in all ports of Asturias, wherever there were fisheries and canneries...

The Fishing Industry in Laredo[66]

The fishing industry ... , socialized by the CNT and UGT Seamen’s Unions, was organized into an Economic Council made up of six UGT and six CNT representatives. The whole fishing fleet was expropriated. The shipowners fled. Economic inequalities were abolished. No longer did the shipowners and their agents appropriate the lion’s share of the income. Now 45% of the profit from the sale of fish (after deducting expenses) went to improve and modernize the fishing industry and the remaining 55% was equally divided among the fishermen. Before, the middlemen sold the fish in Bibao, Santander, etc., and pocketed the profits. The middlemen were eliminated and the Economic Council carried on all transactions. This exploded the lie that the workers were unable to operate industry without their employers... Soon the CNT and the UGT municipalized housing, the land, public services--in short, everything. And society was being transformed. The ideal which both Marxists and anarchists strove to bring about was being realized by the people of Laredo...

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November 30, 1973 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 7: Urban Collectivization -- Publication.

July 11, 2019 16:33:41 :
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 7: Urban Collectivization -- Added to

March 15, 2020 10:31:08 :
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