The Anarchist Collectives : Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 9: The Coordination of Collectives
(1902 - 1990) ~ Russian Emigre and American Anarchist Activist : He rode the rails for the Wobblies, sometimes as a gandy dancer (or maintenance man), or else hopping boxcars, and he always looked for the chance to stand in front of a crowd and, in that broken cello of a voice. (From : IWW.org.)
• "The increasing complexity of society is making anarchism MORE and NOT LESS relevant to modern life. It is precisely this complexity and diversity, above all their overriding concern for freedom and human values that led the anarchist thinkers to base their ideas on the principles of diffusion of power, self-management and federalism." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "The very fact that autonomy, decentralization and federalism are more practical alternatives to centralism and statism already presupposes that these vast organizational networks now performing the functions of society are prepared to replace the old bankrupt hyper-centralized administrations." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "Society without order (as the word 'society' implies) is inconceivable. But the organization of order is not the exclusive monopoly of the State. For, if the State authority is the sole guarantee of order, who will watch the watchmen?" (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
(1921 - 2006) ~ Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism : Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "We are direly in need not only of 're-enchanting the world' and 'nature' but also of re-enchanting humanity -- of giving itself a sense of wonder over its own capacity as natural beings and a caring product of natural evolution" (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "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....)
• "...the extraordinary achievements of the Spanish workers and peasants in the revolution of 1936, many of which were unmatched by any previous revolution." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
Part 2: The Social Revolution, Chapter 9: The Coordination of Collectives
The perennial problem of how effectively and harmoniously to coordinate the operations of local agricultural units into collectives and the collectives into district, regional and national federations without stifling local initiative and freedom of action at all levels was surmounted by the peasant masses who organized themselves into collectives in accordance with libertarian principles.
This chapter documents the two most successful examples: a report by Leval on how the landworkers organized the Peasant Federation of Levant embracing 900 collectives, and excerpts from the resolutions adopted by the founding Congress of the Aragon Federation of Collectives embracing approximately 500 collectives. The scope of these efforts and above all the spirit of solidarity and the creative capacity of the “ordinary,” the much snubbed peasant masses are here amply demonstrated.
The Regional Federation of Levant, organized by our comrades of the CNT, was an agrarian federation embracing 5 provinces with a total population of 1,650,000 at the outbreak of the Civil War, with 78% of the most fertile land in Spain. It is in the Levant where, thanks to the creative spirit of our comrades, the most and best developed collectives were organized. (The number of collectives grew from 340 in 1937 to 900 at the end of 1938, and 40% of the total population of these provinces lived in collectives...)
These achievements will not surprise those acquainted with the social history of the region. Since 1870 the libertarian peasants were among the most determined and persistent militants. While at certain times the movement in the cities (particularly Valencia) was altogether suppressed, the movement remained alive in the countryside. The peasants carried on. For them the Revolution was not confined only to fighting on the barricades. For them the Revolution meant taking possession of the land and building libertarian communism...
In general, the character of the Levant collectives differed from those in Aragon. In Aragon the predominence of the CNT-FAI militias for a long time protected the collectives from the police, the state, and the political parties. In Levant, as in the rest of Republican Spain, Assault Guards, Carbineros, and troops commanded by officers totally devoid of revolutionary spirit constituted a constant threat to the development and even the very existence of the libertarian collectives.
In the Levant, the collectives were almost always organized by the peasant syndicates on the grass roots level, the “point of production.” But they remained as autonomous organizations. They were not dominated by the syndicates, with whom they maintained only formal relations. The syndicates constituted the necessary intermediary connection between the “individualists” (petty peasant landlords) and the collectivists. The “individualists,” in fact, conducted their transactions through the syndicates. Their isolationism was dissipated by their dependence on the syndicates. The peasant syndicates organized their own administrative commissions for agricultural production: one for rice, another for oranges, a third for truck farming, etc. The collectives duplicated the work of the syndicates. They too had their separate stores and their own administrative commissions. Much later this wasteful duplication was done away with. The stores were unified and the commissions now included both the collectivist and “individualist” members of the syndicates. These mixed commissions now did the purchasing for the collectives as well as for the individual farmers (machines, fertilizers, insecticides, seeds, etc.). They used the same trucks and wagons. This practical demonstration of solidarity brought many formerly recalcitrant “individualists” into the collectives. This method of organization served a double function: it encompassed everything that could be usefully coordinated, and, thanks to the syndicates, succeeded in spreading the spirit of the collectives among new layers of the population rendered receptive to our influence.
Revolutionary changes were being rapidly introduced--revolutionary order out of capitalist chaos. Rationing of goods in short supply and the family wage were established in all districts. The wealthier villages helped the poorer villages through district committees set up for that purpose. Every district or local center organized a panel of technicians, accountants, and bookkeepers, as well as an agronomist, a veterinarian, a specialist on plant diseases, an engineer, an architect, and an expert on commerce. This setup assured efficient distribution and coordination of services. By far most of the engineers and veterinarians belonged to the CNT unions, as did a great many agronomists. All but six specialists in wine culture (grape growing) and wine making also belonged to the CNT union. Even privately employed engineers and veterinarians, not members of the collective, selflessly cooperated in planning and carrying out various projects.
The agronomists recommended essential and practical projects such as planning agricultural improvements, transplanting, and crossbreeding of plants in accordance with geologic and climatic conditions (which private property owners would rarely permit on their land). The veterinarians instituted scientific stock breeding. Instead of working at cross purposes, the technicians and scientists cooperated, consulting each other on the feasibility as well as the coordination of all projects. For example: the veterinarians consulted the architect and the engineer on the construction of piggeries, stables, and poultry houses...
The engineers introduced the very latest irrigation construction--on a big scale, particularly in the Murcia and Cartagena regions. In Villajoyosa, the construction of a huge dam brought water to more than a million parched almond trees. Throughout the region, the architects designed construction. A center for the study of plant diseases and tree culture, schools of agriculture, new housing, and new roads were all improvements made in accordance with general plans embracing the whole region. They were worked out through the cooperative efforts of the workers, the technicians, and the collectives at general assemblies and administrative technical councils.
The 900 collectives of the Levant were subdivided into 54 local or district federations which were reassembled into 5 provincial federations. The operations of the federations were coordinated by regional administrative commissions. The administrative commission consisted of 26 technical sections. The agrarian section included: fruit growing, vegetables, grape vines, olives, truck farming, rice, and livestock (cows, swine and goats, etc.). The industrial sections included: wine making, liquors, brandy and whiskey, preserves, oil, sugar, fruits, essential oils and spirits, perfumes and other agricultural derivatives, machinery, fertilizers, building construction, transportation, import-export trade, hygiene, education, etc.
An example of the large-scale operations of the Peasant Federation of Levant is shown by the fact that it produced more than half of the total orange crop in Spain: almost four million kilos (1 kilo equals about 2 and one-fourth pounds). It then transported and sold through its own commercial organization (no middlemen) more than 70% of the crop. (The Federation’s commercial organization included its own warehouses, trucks, and boats. Early in 1938 the export section established its own agencies in France: Marseilles, Perpignan, Bordeaux, Cherbourg, and Paris.) Out of a total of 47,000 hectares in all Spain devoted to rice production, the collectives in the Province of Valencia cultivated 30,000 hectares. (1 hectare equals about 2 1/2 acres.)
It is worth calling attention to another innovation: the large-scale manufacturing of agricultural byproducts with the substantial help of the peasants themselves. The peasant federations built and operated fruit and vegetable canneries, and other processing plants (the most important were located in Burriana, Murcia, Alfassar, Castilian, Oliva, and Paterna)...
To facilitate the transfer of merchandise, the distribution points and warehouses in the District Federations were located near main highways and railroad depots. Each collective in the district sent its surplus produce to these centers where the goods were weighed (or counted), classified, and stored. This information was collected and coordinated by the different technical sections (mentioned above) of the Regional Administrative Commission in Valencia. Through this arrangement, the District Federations always knew exactly how much surplus there was and where it could be exchanged.
The organization of economic justice was not the only achievement of the collective... Each collective organized one or two free schools for the children. Under the new order, the collectives of the Levant, like those in Aragon, Castile, Andalusia, and Estremadura almost wiped out illiteracy (70% of rural Spain was illiterate before the Civil War). In 1937 a school for accounting and bookkeeping was also opened with an attendance of 100. In Valencia, capital of the Levant, the Peasant Federation established its own hotel welcoming the collectivists and their families to good meals and comfortable sleeping accommodations...
The peasant collectives were especially proud of their “University of Moncada,” which the Regional Federation of Levant placed at the disposal of the Spanish National Federation of Peasants. The university gave courses in animal husbandry, poultry raising, animal breeding, agriculture, tree science, etc... The campus was installed amid the orange groves in the countryside...
To conclude: the spirit of solidarity was as great among the Valencia collectives as among their brother workers in Aragon. The Levant collectives harbored a great many refugees, mostly women and children, from Castile. The collectives voluntarily donated great stocks of food and supplies to the fighting anti-fascist troops on the Madrid and Aragon fronts. Five tiny villages in a few months donated 187 truckloads of food. A single telephone call, shortly before the fall of Malaga, was enough to dispatch instantly, and as always free of charge, seven truckloads of food to the hungry refugees in Almeria. Multiply all these contributions from all the collectives in Levant--generosity as radiant as the life-giving sun --and you will have a new insight into the inspiring character of their social life...
Aragon embraces 47,391 square kilometers with a total population before the Civil War of approximately one and a half million. About three-fourths of the area remained in the Republican zone, embracing 500 collectives with 433,000 members [Souchy’s estimate]. The aims and functions of the Aragon Federation of Collectives are defined in the extracts from the following declaration and resolutions adopted by the founding Congress in the little town of Caspé, Saragossa province, February 14th, 1937:
1) The purpose of the AFC is to organize in Aragon an association to defend and promote the interests of all the workers belonging to the collectives.
2) The functions of the Federation will be as follows: ...
Point 4) The AFC is organized to coordinate the economic resources of the region, in accordance with the principles of federalism. The Regional Federation will be structured as follows:
a) The collective will be federated into districts.
b) For cohesion and control, the District Committees will unite into the Regional Federation of Collectives...
The Internal Structure of the Federation
1) The collectives will supply correct statistics on production and consumption to their respective District Committees, which will in turn add up and send the statistics for the district to the Regional Committee, thus creating the structural basis for real human solidarity.
2) The circulation of money (or various types of exchange) within and between collectives is abolished in favor of a uniform ration booklet (to be issued by the AFC) leaving it to the collectives themselves to determine their own rations according to available supplies.
3) In accordance with the resources of the collectives and to facilitate procurement of outside commodities the collectives or the districts will accumulate funds [official national currency] for the creation of a Regional treasury... In organizing the District (county) Federations as well as the Regional Communal (provincial) Federation, the traditional boundaries must be eliminated, so that the tools and materials of production shall be freely available to all the collectives as needed... In the collectives where there is at certain seasons of the year a surplus of agricultural labor, the District-Committees agree to ask the comrades to work where they are most needed...
Increasing the Output and Bettering the Quality of Agriculture
a) Greatly expand the benefits of collectivism by the practice of mutual aid.
b) Try to organize in the most suitable areas experimental farms and stations.
c) Encourage the formation of special technical schools for the most gifted young people.
d) Organize a corps of technicians who will study how to get the maximum yields in different branches of agriculture.
e) To yield more and better animal production, it is also necessary to organize in each collective modern scientific stock-breeding methods and facilities ... which must be guided by qualified experts... Animal husbandry and agricultural production must be fully integrated...
f) Organize international exchange by establishing statistics on the surplus production of the region...
On the problems of relations with small peasant land holders, and distribution of expropriated land to tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and landless laborers, the Congress endorsed the following measures:
1) Small proprietors desiring to remain outside the collectives, who think they can go it alone, will not be entitled to the benefits of the collective. However, their rights will be respected, provided they do not infringe on or affect the interests of the collective.
2) Small land holders outside of the collectivity can keep only land that they themselves can cultivate; hired help for wages is absolutely prohibited.
3) All lands formerly worked by tenant farmers or share croppers will be taken over by the collectivity.
4) All property, agrarian or urban, as well as goods taken by the workers from the fascists, are to remain in the custody of these organizations, on the condition that they will join the collective...
On public education the AFC resolution pledged the Federation to:
a) Furnish the collectives with everything needed to advance education and culture.
b) Organize seminars to advance the education of the peasantry (night schools, evening motion pictures and theaters, excursions, etc.) and all sorts of propaganda and cultural projects...
The last resolution of the Congress outlined how to block the counter-attack of the Central Government in Valencia. It wanted to destroy the collectives by instituting a dual power, displacing the independent collectives and syndicates created by the Revolution with the restoration of the Municipal Councils (the legal organs of the Central Government composed of counter-revolutionary, anti-collectivist political parties, bourgeois socialists, left-and right-wing republicans, reactionary small landholders, etc.).
The realization of these libertarian projects was abandoned with the destruction of the collectives by the combined military might of the fascist powers and (to their everlasting disgrace) the attacks of the Communist armies and their civilian allies in August, 1937, six months after the conclusion of the Congress.
It is axiomatic that revolutionary programs, however important, do not make revolutions. The impact of Revolution must be studied at its source: among the people, in the cities and the villages, the factories and the farms, where the creative efforts of the workers shaped the character of the Revolution.
Where this was not feasible, the surplus was simply to be donated to needy collectives with no strings attached.-Ed.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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