What can we learn from the Spanish Revolution?

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solitage
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Sep 29 2003 23:31
What can we learn from the Spanish Revolution?

What can we learn from the Spanish experience of collectivisation, and how, if at all, can we put it in to practice in the 21st Century.

The Spanish experience of collectivisation was built on strong anarcho-syndicalist and libertarian communist ideas. We don't have anything approaching that tradition here. However the 'tradition' didn't appear from nowhere. If we look back to the formation of the CNT in 1911 and in particular their Madrid conference in 1919 where libertarian communism was explicitly adopted as the unions ideology then we can see the seeds of revolutionary transformation being sown. Again in 1932 the idea of collectivisation was pushed to the fore by Isaac Puente who argued for communalism as a grass roots movement capable of completely sweeping away capitalism in Spain, and also, importantly, as a movement which could be capable of defending that revolution.

Now the situation for workers is very different in the UK in 2003 but the relative results of capitalist rule are the same for all workers: exploitation; poverty; poor housing; ill health etc. etc. It's this common experience that could become the focus for working class resistance again.

If we accept that it took the Spanish anarchists 25 years of hard agitation and organising (although anarchism in Spain goes back far beyond that) how long would it take British anarchists in an age of almost instant communication to achieve that level of preparation?

It's easy to fall into resignation, believing we could never realistically hope to achieve that level of revolutionary agitation now. I disagree because for all the daily brainwashing that goes on in the media, billboards, schools etc capitalism is still brittle. Hit it in the right places and it will fall.

For anarchists a strategic alliance between all workers around shared

experience is only a starting point for a long term strategy for complete

reappropriation of land and resources.

If we reject the route of collectivisation then what alternatives do we have to offer? Some might say that anarchists shouldn't be wasting their time thinking about the post revolutionary utopia; the people will choose their own forms of organisation.

However the Spanish experience shows that agitating and organising around certain principles pre-revolution can work, even if it was only for a short inspiring period that time.

So what are the alternatives for a long term anarchist strategy now?

anorkist
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Sep 30 2003 15:57

Good post! smile

a quick point:

As far as I know, much of the collectivisation took place as a result of immediate needs ie survival...

An example would be the case of hungry spanish farm workers rounding up bulls which had been set apart by the rich lanowners to be specially reared for show. They divided them up equally amongst them - and for many it was the first meat they'd had in ages... (apologies to veggies out there tongue)

But the point is this was a revolutionary action because it was organised and carried out by the workers themselves to satisy their own immediate needs. For me the importance of this is the principle of collective self-organisation to gain control of our own lives grin

It starts off small - at work (standing up for yourself and your workmates) and in our communities (getting together with friends and neighbours), but I believe its the essence of revolutionary action.

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JoeMaguire
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Oct 3 2003 15:15
solitage wrote:
However the Spanish experience shows that agitating and organising around certain principles pre-revolution can work, even if it was only for a short inspiring period that time.

So what are the alternatives for a long term anarchist strategy now?

expand if you can...

solitage
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Oct 3 2003 16:38
anorkist wrote:

a quick point:

As far as I know, much of the collectivisation took place as a result of immediate needs ie survival...

Good point. I guess what I'm getting at is whether we need to organise pre revolution to get our ideas over, or whether people will instinctively move towards mutual aid and cooperation once the shackles are removed.

Although revolutionary Spain is sometimes put forward as an example of spontaneous collectivisation doesn't this ignore all the hard preparation work that anarchists did prior to the revolution?

solitage
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Oct 3 2003 16:50
october_lost wrote:
solitage wrote:
However the Spanish experience shows that agitating and organising around certain principles pre-revolution can work, even if it was only for a short inspiring period that time.

So what are the alternatives for a long term anarchist strategy now?

expand if you can...

Erm, basically if we accept that anarchism has an active role to play in a non-revolutionary period (now) what's the best way to channel our energies. The Spanish anarchists chose anarcho-syndicalism and communalism as a way forward. For some anarchists community action is the way forward at the moment. Just trying to get some discussion going on tactics and strategies.

smile

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Ed
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Oct 3 2003 17:40

"what's the best way to channel our energies"

Personally, I think community and workplace organisation on stuff that people experience everyday i.e. low pay, gentrification etc. Just getting out and talking to people about stuff that concerns them will help us massively coz at the moment too much stuff goes towards one off actions and not enough long term stuff.

Also, stuff like regular Libertarian Blocs (www.enrager.net/web/bloc) on demos would be good just to increase the visibility of our movement and make sure that people see us as well as crappy Lefties and Liberals.

Ooh, Prisoner Support and Anti-Fascist work is also vital.

anorkist
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Oct 3 2003 23:48

As I see it history shows that it's about organising to do stuff that benefits us (the working class) here and now - when times get hard, libertarian ideas often come out 'naturally' simply cos they benefit everyone - that's the point. And from there we develop, evolve and grow strong.

The future lies in community organising as part of the working class rather than an 'activist' class... (although the working class is the activist class wink he he!!)

nastyned
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Oct 5 2003 19:34

Vernon Richards wrote a book 'lessons of the spanish revolution' which is well worth a read.

solitage
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Nov 3 2003 01:00

What did you get from Vernon's book ned? And I suppose more importantly what's the lessons to be learnt and applied now?

read it years ago, and like so much stuff I've read I've forgotten the conclusions embarrassed 8)

brizzul
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Nov 24 2003 02:24

>how long would it take British anarchists in an age of almost instant >communication to achieve that level of preparation?

The same time probably. Libertarian ideas are "proven" in the doing. Agitating for a strike takes the same effort and time as it did then regardless of modern technology.

solitage
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Nov 26 2003 00:42

hmm, so internet use hasn't speeded up communication? I disagree. It's also allowing strikers/activists or whatever to get their message across, bypassing the mainstream media and presenting it directly to other workers. Desktop publishing is something else that has speeded up possible agitation. No more messing around with a print press when you can set up and print off a leaflet using a home or office pc.

brizzul
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Nov 28 2003 19:50

>hmm, so internet use hasn't speeded up communication? I disagree.

No I mean't talking to each other face to face.

>It's also allowing strikers/activists or whatever to get their message across,

>bypassing the mainstream media and presenting it directly to other >workers.

This technology is almost completely put to use against us. We may be able to subvert it's use but we can't subvert it to the same degree it has been used to attack us.

solitage
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Nov 30 2003 21:36

I understand what you mean by face to face meetings, but beyond that first or second face to face meeting communication by email has increased and I would say strengthened the movement.

You're right that technology is used against us. As long as it remains the property of the capitalists we can only subvert it. Unless of course we can create new technologies that do not belong to anyone - open access.

Getting back to the original question(s). What can or should be the long term strategy for anarchists. Community action, workplace agitation, or maybe a synthesis of both.

madmink
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Jan 3 2004 20:57

Yea to building the new society within the shell of the old. But even

Boochkin recogniused the Spanish Revolution was the end of an era. It's

at least interesting that the peasant collectives were a lot more revolutionary than the industrial versions. Plus this was a proletariat just off the land.

We're in a period when the composition of the working class (which includes land workers) has drastically changed and so the way of doing this has to change too. New forms of resistance run alongside old ones.

eg the syndicalism is the CNT is pushed aside by the base syndicalism of COBRAs etc. There's a whole argument about whether the working class

is any more defined by its direct relationship to production ie whether it works in a factory as socialised labour. eg The casual worker is in a very

different situation. Etc etc

The other point of course is that syndicalism as CNT SCREWED the Spanish Revolution because, as a union among others, it was unable to dissolve into organs of mass working class power so was left with the choice of a party dictatorship or collaboration....

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Spartacus
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Jan 4 2004 00:02

there was a brilliant piece in do or die number 10 about where the libertarian/radical eco/anti-authoritarian movement(s) go from here, and one of the sections was about this idea of looking at how the spanish anarchists' experience can be learnt from. i think as a starting point then some solid community stuff would be a good, and proper social centres (as opposed to activist doss houses...) would go a long way to helping this if they're properly grounded in the community with reasonable support to begin with.

the cnt was just one organisation which came out of the anarchist counter-culture (different from a subculture) in spain. i don't know how long it would take to grow that kind of a deeply rooted counter-culture, and i don't see how we can even begin to estimate, but i really don't think the internet would make that much difference. it might help with coordinating and stuff, but otherwise i think one of the best things anarchists could do is spend less time online making cool looking websites...

solitage
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Jan 9 2004 21:33
GenerationTerrorist wrote:

the cnt was just one organisation which came out of the anarchist counter-culture (different from a subculture) in spain. i don't know how long it would take to grow that kind of a deeply rooted counter-culture.....

Which raises the question do anarchists need a long-term plan? Maybe it's time to stop being reactive; marching up and down outside international capitalist meetings, and start to become proactive; building the movement, the counter-culture in our workplaces and communities.

solitage
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Jan 10 2004 23:45

Also raises the questions of shorter term goals. Instead of concentrating on the next 2005/2006 summit why not aim that by 2006 every major city or area should have a permanent, or semi-permanent (ie. a-spire, dosummat, wombles) social centre. A focal point for workplace and community resistance.

If we seriously believe the working class can self-organise, plan and meet mutually agreed goals, then why can't the anarchist movement?

captainmission
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Jan 11 2004 16:35
solitage wrote:
Also raises the questions of shorter term goals. Instead of concentrating on the next 2005/2006 summit why not aim that by 2006 every major city or area should have a permanent, or semi-permanent (ie. a-spire, dosummat, wombles) social centre. A focal point for workplace and community resistance.

If we seriously believe the working class can self-organise, plan and meet mutually agreed goals, then why can't the anarchist movement?

Think that's a good idea, but then i don't see anti-G8 stuff and building a base as mutually exculsive- in fact i think its the only way of dealing with it really. We might as well face facts that there is going to be no tradition of the overt confrentations on the street that we've see in the rest of europe by 2005. Instead I'd prefer to see us using this oppotunity to expose people to libertarian ideas and ways of working and building social spaces, that way come the G8 we can focus on decentralised action with a base to support it rather than a set piece confrantaion.