Why did the CNT throw it away?

88 posts / 0 new
Last post
BB
Offline
Joined: 12-08-04
Oct 4 2006 14:05

Hey DC an all.

Here's a link to a few films of interest via christiebooks and the CNT.

http://www.tvhastingschristiebooks.com/documents/films_of_the_cnt_main.h...

I've not checked them out myself.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 4 2006 22:57
revol68 wrote:
sometimes I think people wished the spanish proletariat had made their decision on the need to preserve the purity of history ie they should have stayed pure and thrown themselves into a fight they never thought they could win, so they could have pure martyrs and avoid the sneering trots. When I think about it those spanish proles were a right bunch of selfish bastards, refusing to die as idealist heroes.

I don't think comments like this help much. It's not like putting anti-fascist unity before the revolution actually helped at all. So they didn't die as "idealist heroes" but they still died. I think if anything Spain shows the importance of not compromising your principles in the way that leninists always suggest, cos it simply does not work. Anarchism isn't just idealism, it is the most practical, even if it doesn't seem it on the surface.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 5 2006 11:09
revol68 wrote:
remind me to slap you at the bookfair.

i keep telling you i'm not going to be at the bookfair, assface.

Quote:
And lets not forget that we don't know what would have happened if the CNT had stuck to a revolutionary line, it could have easily turnt out worse.

Hmmm well I'm not sure it could've gone much worse really than what half a million chucked in mass graves, and 40 years of military dictatorship.

Quote:
So whilst we learn the lesson, we shouldn't be so fucking smug. The CNT fucked up, but I'm increasingly of the opinion it was a fuck up that couldn't be avoided save for taking a heroic kicking.

Fair enough on the smugness, I didn't see anyone being that smug though. Still I think the world's most powerful anarchist movement voting to join the capitalist government has to be criticised pretty vociferously.

Quote:
It's also worth keeping in mind that the CNT was home to the most revolutionary workers in Spain and it was them that ratified and supported collaboration, and no matter how nice a programme you have, or how elaborate your arguments, if the mass of workers aren't behind it, you can't suceed.

Yup. This is something that annoys me about the ultra-leftists/individualists who slag off the CNT leadership for betraying the masses, when they in fact voted for it.

Quote:
The real breaking point happens on the MayDays to my mind, where the CNT leadership moves from articulating the ambiguity of the class to actually suppressing the class.

Er, but did they? They didn't actually suppress anyone though, AFAIK, other than just telling people to stop the uprising - or do you count that as suppression?

jason's picture
jason
Offline
Joined: 22-07-06
Oct 5 2006 23:47
Quote:
sometimes I think people wished the spanish proletariat had made their decision on the need to preserve the purity of history ie they should have stayed pure and thrown themselves into a fight they never thought they could win, so they could have pure martyrs and avoid the sneering trots. When I think about it those spanish proles were a right bunch of selfish bastards, refusing to die as idealist heroes.

I sorta agree with this. Or to put it another way: since the revolution was confined predominately to Catalonia, why do today's anarchists expect so much from it?

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Oct 6 2006 00:13
jason wrote:
Or to put it another way: since the revolution was confined predominately to Catalonia, why do today's anarchists expect so much from it?

This is untrue - which is one reason why so much is exepcted.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Oct 6 2006 00:13
jason wrote:
Or to put it another way: since the revolution was confined predominately to Catalonia, why do today's anarchists expect so much from it?

This is untrue - which is one reason why so much is exepcted.

jason's picture
jason
Offline
Joined: 22-07-06
Oct 6 2006 04:03

OK we could argue about the details, but I won't and I'll pose it like this: considering it was confined to one country, why do anarchists expect so much from it?

Surely a successful revolution will require the participation of workers in a few advanced economies simultaneously, or at least a few economies in a resource rich region (Latin America...?).

BB
Offline
Joined: 12-08-04
Oct 6 2006 10:31
jason wrote:
OK we could argue about the details, but I won't and I'll pose it like this: considering it was confined to one country, why do anarchists expect so much from it?

Surely a successful revolution will require the participation of workers in a few advanced economies simultaneously, or at least a few economies in a resource rich region (Latin America...?).

The details aren't minutae, it's not like saying 1 sugar or 2. Libertarian communism being proclaimed and put into action, in many villages/towns across spain. You know, them backward peasants. Which is kinda how i take your view of, "few advanced economies" (industrial proletariat), trying to ignore those examples of liberation.

"Surely a successful revolution will require the participation of workers in a few advanced economies simultaneously" Do you not think it has to start somewhere, or are you thinking some mass conciousness or leadership will urge the workers to rise?

jason's picture
jason
Offline
Joined: 22-07-06
Oct 7 2006 01:19

Hi BB. First let me state that I find the collective organisation and spontaneity of the Spanish revolution hugely inspirational, and we rightly refer to it as an example of liberation and of how things can be organised. However, my concern is that IMO the odds where stacked massively against a successful revolution, i.e. consolidated revolution.

Quote:
You know, them backward peasants. Which is kinda how i take your view of, "few advanced economies" (industrial proletariat)

No. I'm referring to access to resources and thus productive power in Catalonia.

Quote:
Do you not think it has to start somewhere, or are you thinking some mass conciousness or leadership will urge the workers to rise?

Of course it has to sart somewhere, but if not followed up there will be huge problems. Like the putting down of the German revolution in the early '20s basically putting the brakes on the the spread of the October revolution. Then the Russian revolution was stuck with the contradiction of socialism in one country (on top of the arguably more invidious internal corruption of the Bolsheviks. But would a spreading revolution have taken the heat off of Kronstadt, Mahkno?).

The facts are that in Spain the anarchists were a minority, counterpoised to Republicans, state socialists and Fascists. So the revolution's success was always sketchy. Just say for arguments sake that the CNT did liberate Spain, then what? They would have faced hostility from Western Democracies, European Fascists, and arguably most importantly Stalinist Russia, which at that time unfortunately still had a huge impact on the ideology of the global working class. (To use a bit of an anecdotal example Murray Bookchin at the time was a communist and supported the PF. Only later, coz of the Stalinist propaganda etc, did he realise the libertarian nature of the CNT.)

The only successful revolution will be international. Currently I look to Latin America with a lot of optimism.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 7 2006 12:28
jason wrote:
Hi BB. First let me state that I find the collective organisation and spontaneity of the Spanish revolution hugely inspirational

Hmmm, I don't think spontaneity is a lesson you can take from Spain really. The anarchist collective were the result of 70 years dogged organisation, attempted uprisings + attempts at and theorising about self-management.

jason's picture
jason
Offline
Joined: 22-07-06
Oct 8 2006 03:22

True, good point, but the spontaneity in raiding armouries, etc, upon the threat of the coup.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 8 2006 08:48
jason wrote:
True, good point, but the spontaneity in raiding armouries, etc, upon the threat of the coup.

Didn't the CNT decide in advance to launch the revolution if there was a coup?

There had been several attempted revolutions and uprisings in the preceding years in various places, I imagine in most places there were plans in place. (Sorry to be pedantic! But I think a lot of anarchists unfairly fetishise spontaneity.)

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Oct 8 2006 11:07

Yes, most so-called 'spotenaity' is the result of submerged networks and long-familiar forms of organisation coming to the fore.

carlosgonzalez
Offline
Joined: 8-10-06
Oct 8 2006 18:01

The military uprasing was a response to the general strike, which was revolutionary, and was expected. Franco for one was "exiled" to the Canary islands to keep him as far away as possible.

Initially the uprising was a total failure, with the main cities and centers of production remaining under the Republic control.

I feel that the republic, unable to defeat the nationalist, turned their attention to the anarquists CNT-FAI and POUM troskites, atleast that was one "problem" they could solve.

Though CNT-FAI where fast to respond and take control of Catalunya they failed because they had nothing more with which to continue.

Soviet Rusia got readily paid for all their supplies and was very limited in comparision to the Nazi and Fascist support Franco enjoyed.

Ultimately it was Great Britain who is responsible to the defeat of the Republic as it fostered a no intervention stance hoping to appease Hitler (idiotic Chamberlain) and gain mining concesion from the Nationalist, which they got. Though the french wanted to help they followed the British line. The result of their idiocy was total, as the second world war led to the demise of the Brittish empire and the humiliation of France.

The anarquist revolution was very romantic and quite successfull in practice, but unfortunatelly had nothing more to offer, and that is very sad, because it was a unique time and place for anarquism, a time where social structure came crushing down due to the uprising and in the last true bastion of European Anarchism, industrial Catalunya.

I only see anarchism triumphing if we get some kind of world wide catastrophe, and then only for a while until new structures are put in place.

P.D. I havent seen Libertarias, looking for it now, but do enjoy the freshness of Land and Freedom, and in generla Ken Loach's work, However, dont you find annoying how the boom keeps creeping in?

jason's picture
jason
Offline
Joined: 22-07-06
Oct 9 2006 00:58
Quote:
Didn't the CNT decide in advance to launch the revolution if there was a coup?

There had been several attempted revolutions and uprisings in the preceding years in various places, I imagine in most places there were plans in place. (Sorry to be pedantic! But I think a lot of anarchists unfairly fetishise spontaneity.)

Quote:
Yes, most so-called 'spotenaity' is the result of submerged networks and long-familiar forms of organisation coming to the fore.

All good points. My impression (and its been a while since I looked at the literature) was that the leadership was 'umming and ahhing' about the impending coup so some locals just when and distributed arms and made plans. But points taken, if I could go back to my first use of the term 'spontaneity' I would change it to 'initiative'. Same for a lot of the collectivisation, like it wasn't a mandate or request from the elected bodies, it was just local initiative - how a libertarian organisation should function.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Oct 9 2006 01:22
carlosgonzalez wrote:
Ultimately it was Great Britain who is responsible to the defeat of the Republic as it fostered a no intervention stance hoping to appease Hitler (idiotic Chamberlain) and gain mining concesion from the Nationalist, which they got. Though the french wanted to help they followed the British line.

Also the British and French ruling class preferred a conservative victory in Spain to that of the 'reds' - because of their own fear of red rebellion and sympathies with fascism.

carlosgonzalez
Offline
Joined: 8-10-06
Oct 9 2006 04:06

yep, burning churches didnt help :-)I think it was Azaña that said that he wished they had burnt the parliament and not the churches...

You are right that the UK ultimately chose to support class struggle instead of the legitimacy of the Republic. It is surprising how conservative circles in the UK where atracted by Nazism and it seems Churchill did have to battle it out with Chamberlain to avoid settling for peace with Germany.

Still it was very stupid of the republic and its communist allies to attack anarquists and troskites when they were loosing the war, or dismantelling the international brigades. I also think the republic was a victim to Stalins purges and imperialistic policies.

Regarding the spontaneity of the Anarchist uprising in Barcelona I was under the impresion that the armories where under government control and it was the republic who made the decision to open them up and distribute the weapons to the workers organisations. I dont think that the anarchist had any considerable armories.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 9 2006 07:08
carlosgonzales wrote:
You are right that the UK ultimately chose to support class struggle instead of the legitimacy of the Republic

both of those amount to opposing the working class in class struggle, they just opted for franco over the social democrats as the best means to oppose one of the most organised working class movements in history tongue

carlosgonzales wrote:
Still it was very stupid of the republic and its communist allies to attack anarquists and troskites when they were loosing the war

but if they didn't they'd have been some kind of fairy-tale state that can coexist alongside revolutionary workers movements (cnt-fai, poum ...). maybe you're just quibbling with the tactical timing of the repression and not it's strategic deployment, but every state has to supress the self-organisation of it's population or be rendered redundant

carlosgonzalez
Offline
Joined: 8-10-06
Oct 9 2006 17:57

Dear Joseph, I see your point that the revolution had an expire date, it was a question of when. However I still think that they fell victim to Stalin purges and that the Republic prefered to tackle a problem they could handle.

I also think that they overstepped themselves considerably in the eyes of the Republic. They took a request to defend the Republic as an excuse to make the Revolution. That was cheating as they seized their moment rather than wait for the workers to raise themselves.

However the republic institutions were still in place, particularly the catalan autonomous government and the workers organisations rellied on it for money and supplies. It was only natural that the government would use its power to regain some of the control lost, unify the army, etc, but I think that they took it too fast when it erupted into armed conflict.

I still feel that the Republic and the Comunist picked on the workers organisations because they were easy prey. At the time they accused them of coniving with Franco!! I have heard speached by la Pasionaria where she speaks of the POUM troskites as if they were the devil in person, far worse than Franco himself!! You argue that this was necessary to maintin the strength of the state, but I see it more as part of Stalin's purges.

I also feel that anarchist ideology is to blame. As workers organisations they were fast to organize but they deluded themselves thinking they were carrying out the revolution when they were just filling up a gap. With the republic in place I agree thant conflict was inevitable. A true revolution would have done away with the republic but then how would they have faced the Nationalist? The communist on the other hand proved to bring a degree of militarism that the Republic desperatedly needed as well as the support of the Soviet Union, the perfect bride.

Let me also highlight to you that relations between the Catalan Autonomus government and the Republic were also under tension. I recently saw an interview where a catalan leader claimed that he requested to have a weapons factory moved from Madrid to Barcelona, he was refused and a few days later it fell in the hands of the nationalist. His conclusion were that the republic would rather hand the factory to franco than to the Catalans...

I see the whole spanish civil war in a very tragical perspective, the republic was doomed to failure, Franco's north African army had fought a succesfull war against Abdel-Krim, the tough bereber leader who had managed to defeat the Spanish troops repeatedly (Alhucemas) and were probably the best troops in Europe besides the german panzer divisions. And please do not forget the thousands of "Moros" who fought in Franco's Crusade, the republicans were scared shit of them.

The Nazis blamed Franco for extending the war, they thought it would have been over in three months if Franco had concentrated his troops in attacking Madrid instead of liberating the Alcazar in Toledo, but then that is what turned him into the unquestionable hero and leader of the Nationalist camp.

Finally I also feel that Stalin pulled a lot of punches. I think that he was trying too hard to improve his international image and never showed the necesary comitment needed to win the war. Besides as I have mentioned earlier, he got well paid for all the supplies.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 9 2006 18:14
carlosgonzales wrote:
That was cheating as they seized their moment rather than wait for the workers to raise themselves.

were the thousands of unarmed civilians who rushed franco's machine gun nests after the coup 'cheating'? what about the millions of workers/campesinos in and around the CNT who collectivised land and factories in aragon, andalucia and catalunia? were they 'cheating'? Your sense of fair play is astonishng in defence of a republican government that happily shot so many workers and kept arms in the hands of the police at the rear rather than the anti-fascist militias struggling at the front, all out of fear the workers were getting out of their control.

carlosgonzales wrote:
You argue that this was necessary to maintin the strength of the state, but I see it more as part of Stalin's purges.

i see those two statements as the same thing: the spanish bourgeoisie in republican territory turned to stalinism as the only way to maintain their state and thus their privelege in the face of perhaps the most well organised proletarian revolution in history. If the republican state hadn't crushed the revolution, the revolution would have swept away the state.

carlosgonzales wrote:
His conclusion were that the republic would rather hand the factory to franco than to the Catalans...

there are many stories like this - catalonia was of course the CNT stronghold. 'bourgeois state prefers fascists to anarchist communists shocker!'

With hindsight it is easy to say the revolution was doomed, the militias did a good job, much better than the professionalised army. that probably has to do with the pointlessness of fighting for stalinist or fascist tryanny as opposed to social revolution. Spain 36-9 was indeed ultimately a tragedy, but thats not to say the thouands of revolutionary workers died in vain. Those who opposed capitalist tyranny it it's liberal democratic, fascist and stalinist masks created one of the high water marks of the struggle for human liberation. To accuse them of 'cheating' is an insult to their memory (they'd already spent decades being imprisoned and executed by various 'fair' capitalist governments).

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Oct 9 2006 18:24
Joseph K. wrote:
To accuse them of 'cheating' is an insult to their memory (they'd already spent decades being imprisoned and executed by various 'fair' capitalist governments).

And of course after fleeing spain the refugees were put in concentration camps by the democratic governments carlos likes to much in France, to be handed over to the Nazis when they occupied France.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 9 2006 18:31

good point, often overlooked.

carlosgonzalez
Offline
Joined: 8-10-06
Oct 9 2006 20:53

Ok, how many of you have read Bernal Diaz del Castillo account of his years as a prisoner in Mauthausen?

How many of you have visited mauthausen and laid homage to the 5000 spanish republicans who died there?

I know very well how the chovinist french treated the spanish refugees, how they forced the young males to be enlisted in work gangs for their army.

I also know how Great Britain condemned the Republic to aislationism and how Stalin used the conflict to advance his own international agenda, often against the interest of the republic.

(Yeah, Stalin, the one who preferred supporting Chang Kai-Checks Kuomintang rather than Mao-Tse Tungs Comunist party)

When I spoke of "cheating" I was refering to the simple fact that your revolution did not start from a labour upraising but was prompted by the opposite. I am still waiting for an oppresed working class revolution that has not relleid on some kind of conflict or other.

By the way, I have horns and a tail, just like the devil, so you can put anything into my mouth and criticize me.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 9 2006 20:59
carlosgonzalez wrote:
When I spoke of "cheating" I was refering to the simple fact that you revolution did not start from a labour upraising but was prompted by the opposite. I am still waiting for an oppresed working class revolution that has not relleid on some kind of conflict or other.

well class struggle is always going to rely on some conflict because it is conflict, a cold war waiting to turn hot. firstly, what's wrong with seizing the opportunity? - if the CNT hadn't, franco's initial gains would have been much larger.

but what about france '68? not a wholesale revolution sure, but 10 million workers walked out on a general strike at the height of the social democratic post-war keynesian boom, triggered as much by solidarity with oppressed students as anything else. in a way it's reassuring people take a lot of shit before they lash out back, in another way it's depressing ...

carlosgonzalez
Offline
Joined: 8-10-06
Oct 9 2006 22:41

Theres nothing wrong with defending the republic and seizing the oportunity, it is just that I was under the impression that people like Marx and Engels thought that the revolution was unavoidable.

I agree that people are willing to take a lot of crap before they react and I do see that people around here are quite unhappy about their jobs (I wonder if being happy is cause for expulsion from the forum and the union smile

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 10 2006 05:50

well marx and engels had various views on the inevitability of revolution. in their propaganda work like the communist manifesto it was presented as a certainty, whereas more recent readings of capital and the grundrisse have stressed the importance of class struggle and therefore the need for working class activity for capitalism to be overthrown.

i'm much more in the second camp; there's nothing inevitable about revolution or capitalism's decline, and even if there was, unless we organise there's no guarantee anything better would go in capitalism's place.

Feighnt
Offline
Joined: 20-07-06
Oct 10 2006 09:26
carlosgonzalez wrote:

(...) you can put anything into my mouth (...)

grin oooooh, anything?

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Oct 14 2006 23:02

"Lessons of the Spanish Revolution" by Vernon Richards is excellent. I'm sure Freedom will have some - i got mine at an anarchist bookstore in San Francisco.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 15 2006 06:01

i've just started that actually, looks good

BB
Offline
Joined: 12-08-04
Oct 18 2006 12:53

Corh, that's cheap. Has anyone read it?

Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism and the State: C.N.T. in Zaragoza and Aragon, 1930-37 (Studies in Social History) (Hardcover)

link