Why did the CNT throw it away?

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EdmontonWobbly
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Oct 20 2006 04:45

Funny enough I just picked that up in Freedom two weeks ago, though I haven't gotten around to reading it. Still working my way through CLR James' book on Cricket.

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jason
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Oct 20 2006 08:01
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"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.

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i've just started that actually, looks good

Lessons was my primary text for years. Then on joining this forum someone pointed out Dolgoff's critique of Richards in the library.

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 20 2006 08:26

cool, i'll check that out when i'm done. richards does seem a bit, er, black and white i guess on stuff like why the CNT joined the government (power corrupts etc). i haven't read much on spain though, which makes it hard to be a real anarchist and spend my time endlessly debating ancient history wink

BB
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Oct 20 2006 09:45
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Funny enough I just picked that up in Freedom two weeks ago, though I haven't gotten around to reading it. Still working my way through CLR James' book on Cricket.

I take it, it wasn't a £140? Or was it the aragon A4 pamphlet?

And for anyone thats interested the KSL will have the third and final part of The CNT in the Spanish Revolution. Jose Peirats, at the @ bookfair, although the Iron Column book's not ready yet.

baboon
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Oct 28 2006 11:26

We are not animals. We don't live in the present all the time, more or less. We have hindsight and we have foresight. Revolutionaries particularly have a responsibility to use "hindsight" to look back at major issues involving the working class, not to be "smug", but to draw out lessons of defeat, identify the traps the workers were led or walked into, and warn the class for the future. It doesn't matter how difficult or dirty the situation was, that is a responsibility of revolutionaries. The argument about "it's easy for you in your chair with book, television, computor and so on" is an abdication of that responsibility to look back and draw clear and coherent positions.
As far as the ICC is concerned, its antecedants, the Left Communist group whose publication was "Bilan", were in Spain, AT THE TIME, denouncing the role of the CNT, the CP, SP, leftism, anti-fascism and the Republic. That was also difficult, dirty and dangerous, but necessary.
It wasn't just that the CNT wasn't at all involved in calling for the strike of July 19, it wasn't just that it called for a return to work for war production, it was the way in which it subsequently threw itself with so much vigour into the defence of the capitalist state. While the CNT joined the Economic Council of Catalonia, the government of the Generalitat with 3 ministries, 3 more in the central government in Madrid, also hundreds of mayors, councillors, administrators, police chiefs and military officials, it was the "collectives" that delivered the previously unbeaten working class in Spain up the war economy of the Spanish capitalist state and after that generalised imperialist war. Gaston Leval, apologist for the CNT, in his book "Libertarian Collectives in Spain" (quoted in "International Review" no. 15): "It was not a question of making social revolution, nor of implanting libertarian communism, nor of making an offensive against capitalism, the state or its political parties; it was an attempt to stop fascism". As the Review notes, no essential difference from Stalinism.
Military discipline was imposed in factories and workshops on behalf of the capitalist state: "...why are profits not divided up amongst the workers" asked Leval "because they are reserved for social solidarity". There's a new name for the capitalist state that was perfectly in accord with the needs of the war economy ofthe time.

baboon
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Oct 30 2006 12:29

Here's another slogan from the CNT at the same time:
"War, produce, sell. Nothing of wage demands or demands of any other type. Everything has to be subordinate to the war. In all production which may have direct or indirect relation to the anti-fascist war it is not possible to demand that the bases of work, salary or working day be respected. Workers cannot ask special remunerations for the extra hours necessary for the anti-fascist war, and must increase production to a level above that of the period before the 19th of July."
With these clear words, the CNT wanted the working class in Spain to go back to worse conditions than those that they struck against so magnificently on July 19.
Here's a Spanish Communist Party's slogan at the same time:
"No to strikes in democratic Spain; not one idle worker in the rearguard!"
There are differences between the two organisations, specificities certainly, but as far as the working class is concerned, there is no real difference between the two organisations, nor indeed between them and the fascist unions.

baboon
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Oct 31 2006 11:58

I don't have the intellectual turn of phrase that is sometimes displayed on these sites like peacock feathers. I'm just a worker with a simple marxist framework. But I've had enough experience of the left, leftism and trade unionism to know when I am being told that black is white. I've said that the CNT was a co-exploiter of the working class, in fact it was its co-executioner. It supported the working class like a rope supports the hanged man.
The programmes of "libertarian", "revolutionary", "anti-capitalist" collectives, which were supposed to represent a "new basis" for workers' power, were recognised by the capitalist state in the Collectivisation Decree of 24.10. 36, which were then coordinated by the constitution of the Economic Council.
Collectivisation represented the needs of the capitalist (war) economy. Thus Laval(see above) tells us that, 1.9.36, the CNT invited the management to participate in the Barcelone Tramways Collective, where creditors were paid and the interests of shareholders "dealt with".
"We have taken charge of very small companies... whose inactivity threatened the economy" (CNT Newsheet on the Wood Industry Union, Barcelona, 1936).
"... we have established financial stability by organising a General Council for the Economy..." (CNT, Barcelona, 1936).
"...50% of profits will be earmarked for the conservation of their own resources (not the workers, B) and the other 50% will pass to the control of the regional or local Economic Council to which they correspond" (Statement of the CNT on Collectives, Dec.36).
Nothing other than the implementation of a state capitalist programme. Meanwhile...
- wages were reduced by 30% between July 36 and Dec. 38 (purchasing power by 200%)
- unemployment, despite the slaughter at the front, went up 39% between Jan 36 and Nov 37
- prices went from 168.8 (1914=100) to 687.8 in Feb 38)
- the working week rose to 48 hours with "free" hours adding another 30%.
Peiro, a CNT hack, said in August 36: "for the needs of the nation a 40 hour week is not enough, in fact it could not be more inopportune".
Collectives outdid each other in screwing the working class. Extra work, unspecified hours, women press-ganged into work ("to stop them gossiping"), spies, rationing, wage cuts, all "democratically" imposed by the collectives.
In the Graus Collective (Huesca)the wages of "girls" was cut to zero.
To look back at this is not to stand above it but to learn about the radical traps that the bourgeoisie will use in order to maintain it system of exploitation.
You can call a factory or a system collectivised, socialised or self-managed, and you can say it's for fighting fascism, for the defence of democracy or the lesser evil, but behind all these labels, knowingly and freely applied, lies the power of the capitalist state that in Spain in the 30s the CNT helped to maintain and strengthen.
(All figures from Accion Proletaria, no. 20, reproduced in International Review, no 15).

baboon
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Oct 31 2006 12:11

Got another hangover revol? I'll get George to have a word with you.

baboon
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Nov 3 2006 17:04

Never mind about my prose - that was boring the first time you used it.
More to the point; For all the suffering, misery and death at the front imposed (in large part by the CNT) on the working class in Spain, what did they have to look forward, imminently? Just 2 or 3 years later, World War II. Devastation on a scale unknown, with large parts of western Europe and larger parts of the eastern hemisphere destroyed. The Spanish civil war was part of the preparation for that.

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Nov 4 2006 16:34

Hmmm, I've just read Seidman's Workers Against Work, baboon, I have a bunch of questions about this kind of shit but will post when I get back home...

Anarcho
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Nov 4 2006 22:13

Admin - response and subsequent discussion on Seidman moved to here

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Nov 7 2006 04:58

The revised version of Tom Wetzel's "Workers Power & the Spanish Revolution" is available in PDF from the WSA website: http://www.workersolidarity.org/spain.pdf

Tom argues that the Communist strategy for power was rebuilding the state and worming its way into control of the officer positions, academies, "commissars" etc in the new hierarchical army and police. The real issue, then, was control of the armed forces used to fight the fascists. The CNT proposed a unified militia. In the summer of 1936 they proposed formation of a labor government -- a joint CNT-UGT National Defense Council, which would exclude the petty bourgeois Republicans and Basque Nationalists. They proposed that the unified militia be controlled by "joint CNT-UGT commissions." If put into effect, this would have blocked the Communists' power grab strategy. To get the Left Socialists who controlled the national UGT apparatus to go along, they really needed to put a lot of pressure on the Left Socialists. Overthrowing the Generalitat in Catalonia and instituing some sort of workers congress to control the region and a unified labor militia would have put tremendous pressure on Largo Caballero and the Left Socialist leaders of the UGT to go along with the CNT proposal. The basic problem was the decision of the regional plenary of July 23, 1936 to collaborate with the Popular Front party leaders on the Anti-fascist Militia Committee -- a clever ploy of Companys as the anarchists could tell themselves they weren't part of a government organ, whereas in fact it was controlled by the same political party leaders, with the CNT in the minority. By going along with that idea, the CNT of Catalonia destroyed the credibility of the CNT proposal for an exclusively proletarian governing structure at the national level, since they hadn't insisted on it at the regional level in Catalonia.

wangwei
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Nov 10 2006 00:10

I think one thing that hasn't been brough up in this discussion is how close the CNT's syndicalist theory is to the Bolshevik tneory when it was implemented in practice.

1.) The union did become the new state apparatus due to the fact that the anarchists did not tear it down and create the "dictatorship of anarchy."

2.) The opportunism of the Union mirrors that of a state struggling to survive.

3.) The CNT did not export the revolution. Ironically, this was also a major reason why the Paris Commune failed so quickly. (I also wonder if Makhno could have succeeded if he had spread the revolution further, but that's a completly different argument.)

4.) The CNT's very existence meant that capitalist relations were being maintained.

5.) But, I think that the main reason was the fact that the CNT was afraid. They were afraid of losing support from Britain and France. The feared the fact that if they started a full blown social revolution, then all the other nations would get involeved, though they did anyway.

They forgot Fabbri's and Malatesta's principle that the state needs to be torn down because it will not wither away.

I guess it comes down to too much syndicalism and not enough anarchism.

A good link to discuss the Spanish Revolution is: http://struggle.ws/wsm/pamphlets/spain.html by the Workers Solidarity Movement

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OliverTwister
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Nov 10 2006 02:00

I don't think that post has any bearing on reality..

Divisive Cottonwood
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Nov 22 2006 16:00
baboon wrote:
Here's another slogan from the CNT at the same time:
"War, produce, sell. Nothing of wage demands or demands of any other type. Everything has to be subordinate to the war. In all production which may have direct or indirect relation to the anti-fascist war it is not possible to demand that the bases of work, salary or working day be respected. Workers cannot ask special remunerations for the extra hours necessary for the anti-fascist war, and must increase production to a level above that of the period before the 19th of July."
With these clear words, the CNT wanted the working class in Spain to go back to worse conditions than those that they struck against so magnificently on July 19.
Here's a Spanish Communist Party's slogan at the same time:
"No to strikes in democratic Spain; not one idle worker in the rearguard!"
There are differences between the two organisations, specificities certainly, but as far as the working class is concerned, there is no real difference between the two organisations, nor indeed between them and the fascist unions.

Well, there is some logic but it's a warped one which equates to CNT = fascist union

Surely methods of strategy are dependent upon the level of threat and seriousness faced in the situation.

In this case: victory for fascism = death

I think a little unpaid overtime would be a small price to pay for this

I notice the way you talk about the working class as if it was an external body to the CNT, rather than being a unitary body

You have a very romantic idea of revolution - it's both utopian and widly mistaken

Sorry pal, revolutions = hard work and sacrifice

MalFunction
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Nov 22 2006 17:34

A couple of quotes from
Politics and Pyrites during the Spanish Civil War
Charles E. Harvey
The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 31, No. 1. (Feb., 1978), pp. 89-104.

During the first month of the Civil War the government remained in command of the major centres of British investment: the Rio Tinto and Tharsis mines near Seville in the south; the Orconera Company's mines near Bilbao in the north; and Barcelona, where the huge Barcelona Power, Light & Traction Company was based. The situation was changed in late August, when the insurgents swept through the south-west, taking possession of the Andalusian mining towns and linking with the insurgent army in the north-west. Bilbao and the Basque coastal region, although cut off from the rest of Republican Spain, staved off the Nationalist-advance until mid-1937.

The initial responses of the mining companies to the Nationalist occupation were mixed. They had suffered financially as a result of the political upheaval during the Republican period and in some ways they gained from Nationalist control. For example, after the Popular Front victory in February 1936 the Rio Tinto Company was forced to re-engage 1,197 men dismissed after the bitter strikes of October 1934, and to pay them £56,705 in compensation for lost earnings. This decree had swollen the work-force to 8,508 at 31 May 1936, but when the mines were reopened in September 1936, the company was able to step up production with a work-force of only 6,000.

source:R.T.G. Annual report and accounts for 1936, and report of a visit to the mines by G. W. Gray, 22-31 Jan. 1937. Father Gil Varon has proved during the course of his researches that at least 421 Republican sympathizers were shot when the Nationalists gained control of the Rio Tinto mines. Popular estimates range from 1,200 to 1,500.

as Divisive Cottonwood has said

Quote:
victory for fascism = death

Mike Harman
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Nov 22 2006 18:31

Victory for the communist party would have probably equalled death as well though.

I'll take a look at Workers Against Work. My reading on Spain is probably worse than JK's, so just watching most of this one, but I'll come back later on this.

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Durruti
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Dec 25 2006 16:52

viva durruti

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Dec 25 2006 17:15

Their principal mistake was not overthrowing the government of Companys when they had the opportunity in the summer of 1936, replacing it with a working class governing structure. At their national plenary Sept. 3, 1936 the CNT did propose to overthrow the Republican state, replacing it with a joint UGT-CNT governing structure, a concrete working out of the proposed "revolutionary workers alliance" with the UGT, agreed to at the CNT Congress in May, 1936. Largo Caballero and the other Left Socialists had been calling for "proletarian revolution" and a "workers government" since 1933, but in practice they wavered between revolution and social-democratic reformism. To force Caballero's hand, they could have implemented their program by overthrowing the Generalitat, with the unions taking power in Catalonia, as Joan Garcia Oliver and the CNT unions of Bajo Llobregat proposed in July 1936. But instead the CNT of Catalonia went in the opposite direction, joining the Generalitat government Sept. 26, 1936. That completely undermined the CNT's leverage with the UGT leadership, because it told them they weren't serious. The most important part of the CNT's proposal in Sept. 1936 was for a unified People's Militia, controlled by "joint commissions of the UGT and CNT". This control by the unions over the armed forces would have blocked the Communists' game plan. The Communist strategy for gaining state power was to weasel their way into control of the officer positions in a rebuilt Republican army and police. If the conventional topdown army wasn't rebuilt, but the labor militia generalized as the CNT proposed, the Communist game plan would have been blocked.

Ultimately Communist control of the army greatly undermined morale. The Communists undermined any officer who woulnd't take out a party card. Their total control was demoralizing to the anarchists and Left Socialists who made up the majority of the fighters.

I discuss this stuff with supporting citations in:

http://www.workersolidarity.org/spain.pdf

t.

Moh Kohn
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Dec 26 2006 03:24

As far as money for guns goes, these days you'd be as well seizing foreign currency reserves as gold.

mk12
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Jan 7 2007 15:49

I'm sure I read something on libcom a while back about the CNT re-evaluating it's role in the Spanish revolution and coming to the conclusion that it made many mistakes. Is this true? Where did they do this?

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Jul 19 2012 04:26

I agree that Bulloten's book The Spanish Revolution is good. Vernon Richards' book is highly inaccurate. I wouldn't trust it for a minute. There is no evidence of a "CNT-FAI bureaucracy" of the sort he posits, able to manipulate etc. I'll mention several books that are good sources: Abel Paz's longer biography of Durruti has important letters and such on Durruti's stance during the whole debate over direction in September-October...the crucial period. Another crucial book that everyone ignores because it's not translated into English is Los anarquistas y el poder by Cesar Lorenzo (who is still alive I believe). Another important book by a participant is Juan Garcia Oliver's memoir El Eco de Los Pasos. Finally, there are really great quotes by CNT participants from oral history interviews in Ronald Fraser's book Blood of Spain. It seems the key problem they were not able to get over was how to build a working class alliance with the UGT workers to take joint power. That is, given that the working class was divided, how could its class power be built?