The Cuban Revolution : Chapter 04 : The Ideology of Spanish Anarchism
(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 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....)
To understand the character of Cuban anarchism it is first necessary to summarize the main principles of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism from which the Cuban revolutionary movetnent derives its orientation. These principles were formulated by Bakunin and the libertarian sections of the old "First" International Workingmen's Association (IWMA) founded in 1864. Francisco Tomas, one of the organizers of the Spanish Region of the IWMA, reported that "...relations with the Cuban sections were frequent after 1881..." (Max Nettlau: Reconstruir; Jan. 15, 1975)
The Declaration of Principles of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, drafted by Bakunin in 1868 could be called the "Magna Carta" of Spanish Anarchism. The most relevant paragraph reads:
. . . The Alliance seeks the complete and definitive abolition of classes and the political, economic, and social equality of both sexes. It wants the land and the instruments of labor like all other property [not personal belongings] to be converted into the collective property of the whole society for the utilization [not ownership] by workers: that is, by agricultural and industrial societies [unions] and federations. It affirms that existing political and authoritarian states, which are to be reduced to simple administrative functions dealing with public utilities, must eventually be replaced by a worldwide union of free associations, agricultural and industrial...Bakunin stressed that the organization of the free society must be based on the " . . . various functions of daily life and of different kinds of labor . . . organized by professions and trades. . . " (Program of The International, 1871) He envisioned that the "free productive associations''' which will include members of cooperatives, community and neighborhood groups, cultural associations etc., will voluntarily organize "according to their needs and skills." They will eventually "... transcend all national boundaries and form an immense world-wide federation..." (Revolutionary Catechism 1866)
Thc Resolution of the Basel Congress of the IWMA (1869) after repeating that the wage system must be replaced by the "federation of free producers . . ." sketched out a form of organization, which, in the main, corresponded to the structure of the libertarian economy established in wide areas during the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939:
...the structure of the new economy was simple: Each factory organized a new administration manned by its own technical and administrative workers. Factories in the same industry in each locality organized themselves into the local Federations of their particular industry. All the local Federations organized themselves into the local Economic Council of the territorial community in which all the work places were represented [coordination, exchange, sanitation, culture, transportation, public utilities and the whole range of public services including distribution of commodities by consumer cooperatives and other associations.] Both the Local Federations of each industry and the Local Economic Councils were organized regionally and nationally into parallel National Federations of Industry and National Economic Federations... (Diego Abad de Santillan, anarchist writer, Minister of Economy of Catalonia during Spanish Revolution. Por Que Perdimos la Guerra; Buenos Aires, 1940, p. 82)Adapting Bakuninist conceptions to Spanish conditions the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists between the founding Congress of the Federation of the Spanish Region of the IWMA (Barcelona, 1870) and the Madrid Congress of 1874, worked out the basic principles and organization of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism. (Rejecting the artificial national boundaries imposed by capitalism and the State to segregate and divide the workers into hostile camps, the IWMA designated its affiliated organizations of different countries as "Regional Federations of the IWMA") Briefly stated, the leading principles could be formulated in the following manner:
The working class must build a new world based on workers' self-management of the economy, collective ownership and administration of social wealth, full individual, sexual and cultural freedom based upon the principle of federalism. Federalism means coordination through free agreement, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally constituting a vast coordinated network of voluntary alliances embracing the totality of social life. Under federalism the associated groups and organizations reap the benefits of unity while still exercising autonomy within their own spheres. Through federation the people expand the range of their own freedoms.
This can be accomplished only by the Social Revolution which will forever do away with private property in the means of production and distribution; abolish the State and its satellite institutions, the armed forces. thc church, the bureaucracy and all forms of domination and exploitation of man by man. ". . .on the ruins of capitalism, the State and the Church we will build an anarchist society; the free association of free workers' associations ..."
Parliamelltary action, collaboration with any form of the State is rejected:
. . . all governments are evil. To ask a worker what kind of government he prefers is to ask him what executioner he prefers. . . the great United States Republic is an example. There is no king nor emperor, but there are the giant trusts: the kings of Gold, of Steel, of Cotton...While the means of production, (land, mines transportation, etc.) must become the property of the whole society, " . . . only the workers' collectives will have the use of these facilities..." In this respect differing from true communism where goods and services will be distributed according to NEED.
In such a society the authoritarian institutions which foster the " . . . spirit of nationalism and break the natural solidarity of mankind..." will disappear to be replaced by the world-wide commonwealth of labor. The free society will ". . . harmonize freedom with justice and achieve solidarity..." (quotes are from Anselmo Lorenzo's El Proletariado Militante, pgs. 80, 81, 178, 179, 192. Mexico City, Ediciones Vertice, no date)
The revolutionary "direct action" tendency in the Spanish labor movement has always rejected parliamentarianism and class collaboration with the employers and the State in favor of direct action on the economic front. The tactics of the general strike, partial strikes, passive "folded arms" strikes, the boycott, sabotage and insurrections were developed by the workers in the course of bitter class struggles long before the founding of the IWMA. The IWMA itself arose in response to the need for international solidarity in strikes.
Clara E. Lida and other historians trace the ideas and tactics of revolutionary syndicalism in Spain from the early 1800s to the revolution of 1854 and the great Catalonian general strike a year later, filteen years before the organization of the IWMA in Spain. (Anarquismo y Revolucion en Espana, Madrid, 1972) The lessons learned in the course of bitter class struggles made the Spanish proletariat receptive to the ideas of Bakunin. They were inspired by the great watchword of the IWMA: "The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves."
Bakunin formulated a fundamental principle of anarcho-syndicalism: that in the process of stuggling for better conditions within existing capitalist society and "studying economic science... the worker's organizations bear within themselves the living seeds of the new social order which is to replace the bourgeois world ... they are creating not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself..." (quoted, Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 88 India edition)
At the Basel Congress of the IWMA the Spanish delegates (and the other libertarian sections) also emphasized the twofold task of anarcho-syndicalism: the unions of the workers must not only carry on the daily struggle for their economic, social and cultural betterment within the existing exploitative system. They must prepare themselves to take over the self-management of social and economic life and become the living cells of the new, free society.
The structure of the Federation of the Spanish Region was designed to assure the greatest possible amount of freedom and autonomy commensurate with indispensable and effective coordination. To prevent the growth of bureaucracy there were no paid officials. All union affairs were coordinated after working hours. When this was not possible delegates were paid only for the time lost away from work. The power of the Federal Commission and the General Congresses were strictly limited only to carrying out the instructions of the membership never to set policy. Decisions had to be ratified by the majority of the membership. The agenda for conferences, congresses of local, provincial and national assemblies were prepared and thoroughly discussed months in advance. In line with this tradition the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) with over a million members in 1936, had only one paid official--the General Secretary.
The Madrid Congress of the CNT (Dec. 1919) unanimously adopted an anarchist-communist Declaration of Principles stating that "...in accord with the essential postulates of the First International (IWMA) the aim of the CNT of Spain is the realization of Comunismo Libertario..." (Jose Peirats: La CNT en la Revolucion Espanola-Toulouse, 1951, p. 5) The Declaration of Principles of the IWMA reorganized by the anarcho-syndicalists in 1922 also proclaimed tnat "...its goal is the reorganization of social life on the basis of Free Communism. . . "
Strongly influenced by the ideas of Peter Kropotkin who worked out the sociology of anarchism the anarchist Isaac Puente (killed on the Saragossa front during the Spanish Civil War--1936-1939) envisaged the structure of an anarchist society on the basis of "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs."
... Libertarian Communism is the organization of society without the state and without capitalism. To establish Libertarian Communism it will not be necessary to invent artificial social organizations. The new society will naturally emerge from "the shell of the old." The elements of the future society are already planted in the old existing order. They are the Union [in European usage, the Syndicate] and the Free Commune [sometimes called "free municipality"] which are old, deeply rooted, non-statist popular institutions, spontaneously organized, and embracing all towns and villages in urban and rural areas. Within the Free Commune, there is also room for cooperative associations of artisans, farmers and other groups or individuals who prefer to remain independent or form their own groupings to meet their own needs [providing, of course, that they do not exploit hired labor for wages]...""... the terms 'libertarian' and 'communism' denote the fusion of two inseperable concepts, the indispensible prerequisites for the free society: collectivism and individual freedom..." (El Communismo Anarchico)
Although the impact of Spanish anarchist ideas on Cuban labor was indeed great it is not to be inferred that they were artificially grafted to the Cuban revolutionary movewent. These ideas were adapted to Cuban conditions. Anarcho-syndicalist principles were accepted, not because were imported from Spain (the masses did not know where these ideas came from) but because they corresponded to the asperations and experiences of the Cuban workers on Cuban soil.
From : Anarchy Archives
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