The Anarchist Collectives : Workers' Self-Management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939

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(1902 - 1990) ~ Russian Emigre and American Anarchist Activist : He rode the rails for the Wobblies, sometimes as a gandy dancer (or maintenance man), or else hopping boxcars, and he always looked for the chance to stand in front of a crowd and, in that broken cello of a voice. (From :
• "The very fact that autonomy, decentralization and federalism are more practical alternatives to centralism and statism already presupposes that these vast organizational networks now performing the functions of society are prepared to replace the old bankrupt hyper-centralized administrations." (From : "The Relevance of Anarchy to Modern Society," by S....)
• "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....)

(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.)
• "...real growth occurs exactly when people have different views and confront each other in order to creatively arrive at more advanced levels of truth -- not adopt a low common denominator of ideas that is 'acceptable' to everyone but actually satisfies no one in the long run. Truth is achieved through dialogue and, yes, harsh disputes -- not by a deadening homogeneity and a bleak silence that ultimately turns bland 'ideas' into rigid dogmas." (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "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 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....)

(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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To the heroic workers and peasants of Spain! To my comrades, the Spanish Anarchists, who perished fighting for freedom! To the militants who continue the struggle! Preface The Spanish Social Revolution has been long neglected in English language works. Its importance as a revolutionary event and model, and as a concrete example of workers’ self-management by the people is just not recognized. My purpose in this collection is to provide an introduction to this unique experience. In my first chapter and friend Bookchin’s introductory essay, a general overview and context is presented. Most important, of course, is that this was a real experience for the people who took part. Through their words and deeds and the observations of the authors used in this collection, it is hoped that the reader will gain a meaningful understanding of the aims and organization o... (From :

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Acknowledgments It is with the deepest appreciation that I acknowledge the contributions to the present work of the following persons: My friend, Chuck Hamilton, for his tireless technical and editorial labors in turning a poorly typed manuscript into the finished book. To my friend, Dr. Paul Avrich, for reading the manuscript and making valuable suggestions. To my comrade, Murray Bookchin, who first encouraged me to undertake this project. Last, but by no means least, my wife Esther who scrupulously examined the manuscript as it was being written and detected many errors. Sam Dolgoff New York City January, 1974... (From :

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Introductory Essay by Murray Bookchin In the morning hours of July 18,1936, General Francisco Franco issued the pronunciamiento from Las Palmas in Spanish North Africa that openly launched the struggle of Spain’s reactionary military officers against the legally elected Popular Front government in Madrid. The Franco pronunciamiento left little doubt that, in the event of victory by the Spanish generals, a parliamentary republic would be replaced by a clearly authoritarian state, modeled institutionally on similar regimes in Germany and Italy. The Francista forces or “Nationalists,” as they were to call themselves, exhibited all the trappings and ideologies of the fascist movements of the day: the raised open-palm salute, the appeals to a “folk-soil” philosophy of “order, duty, and obedience,” the avowed commitments to smash the labor movement and end all political dissidence. To the world... (From :

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Part One: Background “The following map is intended to give a general picture of the areas of anarchist influence in Spain. Strongholds were in areas of Andalusia (which was early in the war conquered by the fascists), Aragon, Catalonia, and sections of the Levant. There were isolated pockets elsewhere; particularly in Castile and Asturias.” Chapter 1: The Spanish Revolution The Two Revolutions by Sam Dolgoff The Spanish Revolution of 1936–1939 came closer to realizing the ideal of the free stateless society on a vast scale than any other revolution in history, including the aborted Russian Revolution of 1917. In fact, they were two very different kinds of revolution. The Spanish Revolution is an example of a libertarian social revolution where genuine workers’ self-management was s... (From :

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Chapter 2: The Libertarian Tradition Introduction A social revolution is neither an accidental happening nor a coup d’etat artificially engineered from above. It is the culmination of a long period of gestation. Nurtured on the one hand by negative forces, there is rebellion against oppression springing from the inability of the old order to cope with acute economic and social problems. On the other hand there are the positive, contructive forces. The long submerged elements of the new society, freed by the Revolution, emerge as the old society decays and collapses. We are here primarily concerned with these positive constructive tendencies and traditions which will shape the character of the free society. Spanish anarchism springs from two sources: the inherent libertarian tradition of rural collectives, and the deeply rooted and militantly federalist tendencies which found expression in Bakunin’s anarcho-syndical... (From :

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Chapter 3: Historical Notes The Prologue to Revolution by Sam Dolgoff Like all great movements, the Revolution must be evaluated within the context of the conflicting forces that shaped its course. In particular let us review the relations between the CNT-FAI and the political parties during the crucial years between the proclamation of the Republic in April, 1931, and the outbreak of the Civil War on July 19, 1936. After the great strikes which precipitated the collapse of the monarchy, the Republic was formed by a coalition of bourgeois republicans and socialists. In the general elections to the Cortes (the Spanish parliament), 115 Socialist Party candidates, backed by the bourgeois parties, were elected. Largo Caballero, the socialist leader, became the powerful Minister of Labor. During his term of office (1931–33) the socialist dominated labor organization, the UGT, became the unofficial labor front of the government and tho... (From :

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Chapter 4: The Limitations of the Revolution Introduction In this selection Gaston Leval sketches the frame of reference for an intelligent assessment of the Spanish Revolution: the prevailing circumstances; the specific obstacles that limited its scope; as well as the extent to which other important factors shaped its character. Leval reminds all of us never to lose sight of the fact that the unfinished libertarian social revolution (aborted by our “friendly” enemies), was--to use his own expression--actually a “semi-revolution”; that this fact, far from detracting, only enhances its spectacular achievements. Like other responsible historians, Leval graphically portrays the tragic dilemma of the Spanish anarchists. The libertarian movement was hopelessly trapped between the cruel choice of collaborating with its anti-fascist enemies or of accepting--at least partially--the awesome historic responsibility for the fas... (From :

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Part Two: The Social Revolution “The following map locates a number of areas, cities, and villages mentioned in this book. A complete listing is not intended. ‘The Levant’ refers to the eastern coast of Spain from Murcia to Valencia.” Chapter 5: The Economics of Revolution Introduction The social revolution in Spain was faced with basic economic problems under conditions of unusual difficulty. How were commodities to be produced, distributed and public services rendered? How and by whom were economic decisions to be made? To the greatest possible extent, these problems were tackled in a libertarian communist manner--without the capitalist profit system and without the “top-down” authoritarian bureaucratic system of state-capitalist “socialism.” The Spanish libertarian collectives de... (From :

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Chapter 6: Workers’ Self-Management in Industry Introduction Collectivization was a spontaneous outgrowth of the revolutionary situation. The industrial system had broken down and it became absolutely necessary to resume production. But the workers refused to go back to the old system of exploitation. They demanded the expropriation of the capitalists and full collective self-management by themselves. Souchy points out that in many enterprises there was immediate and full collectivization. In many privately owned enterprises, as a prelude to full collectivization, workers’ control committees assumed partial control and closely watched the operations of the enterprises. Under full collectivization genuine workers’ self-management was instituted. From their own ranks the workers’ elected technical/administrative committees to run the enterprise. The committees were responsible to the workers and carried out their instr... (From :

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Chapter 7: Urban Collectivization Introduction 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 collec... (From :

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Chapter 8: The Revolution of the Land Introduction In our introduction we quoted Gaston Leval’s conclusion that: In the work of creation, transportation and socialization, the peasants demonstrated a degree of social consciousness much superior to that of the city worker. In this chapter Jose Peirats tells how the land was expropriated and transformed into collectives; how the collectives were operated; how all the operations of the collectives (work-teams, distribution, social services, maintenance, housing, the administrative committees; relations with other collectives, etc.) were chosen by and were at all times responsible to the general assemblies of all the members of the collectives. Particularly significant is the fact that collectivization was not (as in the Soviet Union or Cuba) imposed from above by decree, but achieved from below by the initiative of the peasants... (From :

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Chapter 9: The Coordination of Collectives Introduction 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. (From :

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Chapter 10: The Rural Collectives Introduction All participants and observers agree that the extent and nature of the agrarian collectives were more widespread and thorough than were the industrial collectives. Often separated from the seats of State power and with their long tradition of rural communism and militant agitation, the rural collectives were able to thrive for a period of time. The extent to which theories are valid can be determined only by the extent to which they are practical. Theories that do not correspond to the acid test of real life are worse than useless as a guide to action. For this reason this chapter consists of eyewitness reports from a number of typical rural collectives, from direct contact with the landworkers who made the agrarian revolution a success. These experiences renew faith in the constructive, creative capacities of “ordinary” people, to make and sustain the social revolution and successf... (From :

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Chapter 11: An Evaluation of the Anarchist Collectives Introduction 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 achievements 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 by Gaston Leval 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 entit... (From :

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Conclusion by Sam Dolgoff In our introductory remarks we indicated, in broad outline, important things that modern radicals and particularly those involved in the worldwide movement for workers’ self-management of industry (a more accurate term than “workers’ control”) could learn from the rich experience of the Spanish Revolution. Attempting to provide the reader with at least enough essential background information to make his own assessment, we refrained from going into a detailed discussion of the lessons of the Spanish Revolution. This much, however, is clear: the embattled workers and peasants of Spain had successfully translated the libertarian principles of self-management into concrete achievements. This was not done in some isolated experimental commune made up of select individuals but on a vast scale, involving the lives of millions of ordinary men, women, and children. This was the “popular consciousness” of the... (From :

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Glossary Assault Guards (Guardia de Asalto). The police organization formed in 1932 consisting of pro-Republican elements but which was used in the suppression of workers and peasants. Carabineros. The traditional force of customs officers that was built into a large national police force after 1936. Civil Guards (Guardia Civil). The traditional highly-disciplined and reactionary police force much hated by the Spanish people. CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo: National Labor Confederation). The CNT, founded in 1910, was the large anarcho-syndicalist labor union closely associated with the FAI. CNT members were referred to as ceneteistas. FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica: Iberian Anarchist Federation). The FAI, formed in 1927, was the militant anarchist organization of committed libertarians that worked closely with the much larger CNT. FA... (From :

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Bibliography I. The following is a list of the authors and works from which the selections in this book were drawn. Included is a short biographical sketch of each author. H.E. Kaminski: Ceux de Barcelone. (Paris, 1937) A radical French historian, Kaminski was friendly to libertarian ideas and movements and wrote an excellent biography of Bakunin. He visited Spain during the Civil War, where he traveled and interviewed prominent anarchists. Gaston Leval: Ne Franco ne Stalin, (Milan, 1952) Espagne Libertaire: 1936–1939. (Paris, 1971) Gaston Leval is a French anarchist whose father fought in The Paris Commune of 1871. He is an outstanding theoretician and militant, and has written a great many works on the economic and sociological problems of anarchism, with special reference to Spain. A conscientious objector in World War I, he took refuge... (From :


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The Anarchist Collectives -- Publication.

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