Were there workers' councils in Spain?

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Mike Harman
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Dec 17 2007 22:49
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Also, did Franco's regime "integrate" the CNT into its ranks?

No, but the Republic did.

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 18 2007 08:50
Anarcho wrote:
Does the state now seek to "integrate" the trade unions? No, it ignores them -- or uses forces to break them (the firefighters unions).

what about UNISON this year sending out glossy brochures supporting gordon brown, then sabotaging and ignoring its own members voting for a strike against his government? And the state certainly didn't ignore the CWU either, it recruited it as a 'partner' implementing the cuts - in fact this was the only 'concession' in the postal strike. left-communists can make some strange claims, but the state does work pretty closely with union leaderships to nullify discontent.

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Alf
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Dec 18 2007 10:07

From the November issue of Revolution Internationale, about a scandal that broke in September concerning the extremely close links between the unions and the bosses
'Secret funding of the trade unions: guard dogs fed and looked after by their masters':

http://fr.internationalism.org/ri384/financement_occulte_des_syndicats_des_chiens_de_garde_entretenus_et_nourris_par_leurs_maitres.html

I think we will translate this one...

Salvoechea
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Dec 18 2007 10:16

CNT was a part of the anarcho-syndicalist (IWA/AIT) movt. Anarcho-syndicalism lacks of a theory about power. It usually defends that revolution will come from a revolutionary general strike, through strike committees and so on.

Firstly, spanish CNT was massive. Inside there were all kind of people from pure syndicalists to anarchist, anarchist-communists, POUM communists, federalists, left nationalists, republican... Depending on the place, CNT was one thing or another. However, libertarian communism was accepted as best for an ideal society and approved in Zaragoza congress in 1936.

In the first days of the militar insurrection against the republic and the ongoing revolution (land sizure in Extremadura, general strikes in some villages and in Madrid, and an upwards spiral of political violence everywhere) information was painfully scarce. Here came the problems: what to do now? In most places common sense option was to collaborate with the other antifascists. Life was in danger. In Catalonia they didn't know what was going on in the rest of Spain, so the decided to collaborate instead of seizing power. From that very moment all were defeats. I don't consider it a mistake, they were in the middle of a war.

were there worker councils? Yes. 80% of catalan industry was collectivized. And some steps towards global socialization of economy were taken. A brilliant example is the wood industry. Workers (organized mainly in CNT but also in UGT) managed to socialised all the industrial processes from cutting a tree in Pyrinees to selling a table or a chair in Barcelona. Is this a worker council? well, it's just a problem of terminology. Unions did control everything, but everybody was organised in unions. In Catalonia in april of 37 there were around 1 million workers in CNT and 0.5 in UGT, and the total population was around 3 million.

Also take in mind that UGT was different in every region: communist leaded in catalonia, aragon, extremadura and some parts of madrid; revolutionary socialist (from Largo Caballero) in Asturias, Valencia, Andalucia, Murcia, Santander... and reformist socialist (Indalecio Prieto, Besteiro and others) in Bilbao, Madrid and some other places...

Salvoechea
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Dec 18 2007 10:24

On the SEAT problems, you have to take in mind the present spirit of workers. We've lost the habit of struggle. To many negociations with bosses have caused a generalised "delegationism" and defeatism in workers. It's not common to see a worker struggle in the streets. However, sometimes there are some. In SEAT -last year- there were 660 firings, around 160 belonged to CGT. [SEAT has around 13000 workers] Those firings were aimed to destroy CGT in SEAT and had been pre-signed by UGT and the company. The strike was accorded by workers spontaneously assembled. But after some actions, and strikes, things came to normal... Some people was re-admitted and most of the others were confirmed.

Some CGT militants were angry with the attitude of workers, as most of the fired got different jobs quite quickly abandoning the struggle in SEAT for best.

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cantdocartwheels
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Dec 18 2007 11:01
Mike Harman wrote:
Quote:
Also, did Franco's regime "integrate" the CNT into its ranks?

No, but the Republic did.

Its one thing to say the CNT failed structually or politically, or to say that it was partially politically recuperated by the ideology of popular frontism, but to say it was fully integrated into the republic when that same republic was sending troops out on the streets of barcelona and into the communes to crush the CNT itself, is one of the most ridiculous overstatements i've heard, even considering the whole ''unions under the bed'' school of thinking that seems to be rattling around these days its a pretty farcical choice of rhetoric.

Mike Harman
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Dec 18 2007 11:22

Please explain to me how you can have government ministers and not be integrated. Thanks. Those ministers were still in the government, calling for ceasefires, during the uprising in 1937. In the same way that while postal strikers were holding mass meetings in Liverpool the CWU leadership (including members of the SWP and other 'lefts') were sitting on an agreement for about 10 days before details were released. It's unlikely to take long before Billy Hayes follows Alan Johnson into parliament.

Hardly "unions under the bed" - it's unions in the fucking government.

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Steven.
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Dec 18 2007 11:26
Mike Harman wrote:
Please explain to me how you can have government ministers and not be integrated. Thanks. Those ministers were still in the government, calling for ceasefires, during the uprising in 1937. In the same way that while postal strikers were holding mass meetings in Liverpool the CWU leadership (including members of the SWP and other 'lefts') were sitting on an agreement for about 10 days before details were released. It's unlikely to take long before Billy Hayes follows Alan Johnson into parliament.

Hardly "unions under the bed" - it's unions in the fucking government.

Exactly cantdo. And with the hysterical adjectives you usually accompany your criticisms with "ridiculous," "farcical," etc. you're just making yourself look bad. At least you didn't say "mental"...

edit - of course that said, the actual social revolution itself was being carried out largely by CNT members at a grassroots level.

Mike Harman
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Dec 18 2007 11:39
John. wrote:
edit - of course that said, the actual social revolution itself was being carried out largely by CNT members at a grassroots level.

Along with some UGT members, and POUM members... Never see anyone mindlessly defending the UGT though do we.

Mike Harman
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Dec 18 2007 13:04
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sorry was the UGT a revolutionary organisation, was it UGT members that took the lead in collectivising workplaces?

Some UGT members worked jointly with CNT members in collectivising workplaces - the example was not to say "the UGT was no worse than the CNT" or "the CNT was as bad as the UGT" but to show that there are always contradictions within organisations, their leadership, and their members and these in themselves can't be used to excuse collaboration. For someone who gets so excited about 2-3 IWW branches acting like wankers, it's quite funny to watch you do these somersaults.

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Did the CNT have a long history of collaboration with the government and electoral politics? The fact is the actions of the CNT/FAI ministers was a betrayal of anarcho syndicalism and the history of the CNT, it wasn't perfectly inline with it's aims and objectives like it was for the UGT and the Socialist Party.

Well there was at least tacit support from the leadership, and many votes by the grass roots, for the Republican government in 1931 - it may have been "tactical" but it's not as if there was complete abstention from electoral politics is it? I also think it's fair to say that the aims and objectives of the CNT in 1936 were as much or more about stopping Franco as they were about making the revolution - especially after the initial uprising - and collaboration with the liberals and socialists against Franco was a tactic in line with that. It's not as if those ministers joined the government all by themselves - it was ratified etc. That the Republican government was later trying to destroy the CNT and the revolution and had little real interest in a united front against Franco is consistent with the actions of liberals, social democrats and Bolsheviks both before and after 1936.

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Every revolutionary situation will throw up a layer of collaborationists and would be mediators, there is no ideology or structure that guarantee against it, only those that can minimise it or maintain a base independent of it.

Please show me where I claimed such a thing. Thanks.

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The fact that the CNT/FAI ministers were so flip floppy, that they could only call on the CNT base to step off the barricade rather than mobilise battalions against them is due in large to the self organisation that the CNT had so championed for decades, the working class did not simply step down because they were juped by the Ministers

Eh what? Demobilisation, pacification, confusion - these are often far, far more effective than physically mobilising battalions against workers - c.f the flip flopping of the union leaderships this summer and autumn - had they come out openly against the strikes and sent goon squads in I think we would've seen something quite different. The development of the class struggle since WWII has been very much about the difficulties of trying to fight against foam and cotton wool rather than clubs.

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the Bolsheviks did not produce a mass opposition within it's ranks that produced a truely revolutionary programme

Well again - the mass strikes in Russia - from 1918, through Kronstadt, through the Steel, textile and other strikes in the '20s and early '30s often involved large numbers of Bolshevik party members, or ex-Bolsheviks once we get into the '20s mainly. Even in 1917 many, many Bolsheviks were trying to implement various (limited) forms of workers control against their own Bolshevik controlled unions (as with the SRs and the Mensheviks - in fact SR/Menshevik dominated factories often pushed it the furthest). Miasnikov's workers group (although not 'mass' afaik) was revolutionary, and had far less of the baggage that the Workers Opposition did. Almost everything after 1921 we've had very little information about until the past 10 years or so - quite different from the massively reported events in Spain between '36-'39 so I think you're underplaying the extent of the class struggle that was going on for a good 15 years or so from 1932, and which didn't easily fit into any political categories partly due to the mystification of the 'workers state' and the rest.

As you know, I'd not ever consider this any kind of mitigation of the Bolsheviks - but I think way, way too many people have double standards, as you mentioned (not necessarily you, you tend to flip flop a bit yourself).

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Alf
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Dec 18 2007 17:40

Good post, Catch. As argued on another thread and in our articles on the CNT, the participation of the CNT in the republican state - which was by no means limited to the central government - was not a bolt out of the blue but was the logical culmination of a decade or more of frontist politics. The best analogy is with the gradual integration of the social democracy which only became explicit in the 14-18 war.

Catch is also right to point out that the Workers Opposition was by no means the most radical opposition current within the Bolshevik party. Like the Friends of Durrutti, the existence of such currents is powerful evidence that they emerged from an organisation which had originally been proletarian but had indeed betrayed.

Mike Harman
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Dec 18 2007 17:50
Alf wrote:
the existence of such currents is powerful evidence that they emerged from an organisation which had originally been proletarian but had indeed betrayed.

Well I specifically argued against that line in my post.

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Alf
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Dec 18 2007 21:58

You mean when you said that you weren't trying to mitigate the Bolsheviks? But the point remains: it's very hard for proletarian currents to emerge fully fledged from bourgeois organisations....

Mike Harman
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Dec 18 2007 22:08

Depends whether you conflate the members of an organisation with the organisation itself. Otherwise you'd have to write off every strike committee or mass assembly (or co-ordinating body between them) that ever emerged in a union industry by that logic. Oh but you characterise the unions as 'proletarian organisations gone nasty' as well, using the same frame of reference as you do for the Bolsheviks. So assuming there's no statute of limitations I assume the same rule applies even 90 years after they became 'decadent'?

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Alf
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Dec 19 2007 08:53

This isn't specifically to do with decadence, although this period makes the conditions for the long-term survival of working class organisations much harder. It's to do with the permanent pressure of bourgeois ideology, which exists in all phases of the system.

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Alf
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Dec 19 2007 20:18

Maurice Brinton, you've got a lot to answer for