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 Spanish revolution and its significance

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Join date : 2008-07-08
Age : 29
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PostSubject: Spanish revolution and its significance   Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:49 pm

I encourage everyone to read this, ask questions, scrutinize, debate, and come to your own conclusion based on the information that we know to be true of the time period.

I feel it is first and foremost necessary to understand the situation in which the revolution of Spain was occuring. This does not need much background, so i'll be brief as i can.

Basically you have one side that is the elected government, the Republic. This is the coalition of communist, republican, and some anarchist elements who chose to partake in the state (As such, their involvment in the revolution became minimal). This government was opposed for several illegit reasons by the nationalist forces, none of which are worth mention here.

The nationalist forces lead a coup in July of '36 which was lead by Spanish general Francisco Franco, who was backed mostly by Germany (Hitler), Italy (Mussolini), but also by Britain, France and even the United States (Five countries which proclaimed "neutrality". Only the latter three made a genuine attempt to hide their involvment). He was also aided by the Spanish army contingency in Africa. The USSR supported the republican government (Not surprising given the dominant role the communists played within it), supplying the reactionary forces with weapons, propaganda and a Chekist police system. The role of foreign capital in the counter revolution cannot possibly be overstated. Now, it should be duly noted that the nationalist coup came against the backdrop of months of strikes, worker/state conflict, and expropriations which significantly altered the structure of over 50% of Spain's economy. This revolutionary portion of the population was organized largely by the CNT and the UGT, anarchist organizations, with help from other socialist workers' organizations.

Franciso Caballero (a socialist leader and cabinet member of the republican government) demanded that the workers be armed by the state. This was refused by the Aza˝a lead government. Thus, when the nationalist forces attacked, the government was self-paralyzed, and the workers took their lives into their own hands, robbing armories and even stealing ships, mostly in Barcelona and Madrid, in order to fend of the coup, while the the government wallowed in apathy, not knowing whether to submit to fascism, or arm the people who have a revolutionary will (the gov's fear of the working class is seen by the fact that they reserved their best armed troops for the back, an unheard of tactic in war, but not so in state repression labor - this can hardly be refuted).

So, as democracy was truly functioning in the public sector of Spain, the people largely decided to exercise their authority without the consent of a reactionary government. To illustrate, the industry and commerce of Barcelona was widely collectivized, and from this came a large wave of collectivization in towns, villages and rural areas from Aragon (450 collectives, half a million members), Castile (300 collectives, 100,000 members) and the Levant (900 collectives, which controlled half of the productive capacity and almost 70% of marketing. Note that this is the richest agricultural zone in Spain), out to Estremadura, Asturias, Catalonia (even here, where the bourgeois government held their positions, the real authority was in the hands of anarchist-dominated workers' committees), and Andalusia. These were the people who played the dominant role in putting down the insurrection of Franco.

Meanwhile, the authoritarian communist elements of the government were helping with the reaction, mainly in the Levant, where they had set up a Peasant Federation which protected wealthy farmers. This served to stunt the rural program of collectivization and with it the spirit of solidarity that was sweeping the nations productive forces.

What the reactionary government had to accept, it did. In October, Vicente Uribe, the Minister of Agriculture declaged the legalization of expropriations, but only those against participants in the Franco revolt. Of course, this was retro-active, as these expropriations had already taken place by the will of the people. As should surprise no one, the government reported the legislation "the most profoundly revolutionary measure that has been taken since the military uprising"... standard practice by any self-respecting state, yet no less aggrivating. Also, it should be expected since the so-called communists were looking for support from the propertied class, as it had little from its necessary constituency, the majority. Within this early stage of counter-revolution, anarchists involved in state affairs played a part as well. The Councilor of Economy in the Generalitat of Catalonia, a member of the CNT (tsk, tsk, tsk) proliferated the same kind of tripe legislation by declaring the legality of collectivized industry in Catalonia... Big fuckin deal, as this was regressive from the egalitarian point of view. Collectivization was limited to enterprises that consisted of a minimum of 100 workers, and as in Russia in 1917, conditions were put in place that removed democracy from the workplace, replacing workers' committee authority with that of state bureaucracy. This undoubtedly hampered solidarity.

The second and more egregious and aggrivating phase of statist reaction was to destroy local committees and militias, and to re-establish pre-revolutionary social and economic constructs (Note that by this time, it was the authoritarian communists who dominated the state. This is ironic, but not surprising given the historic role of the state and our own social nature). To highligh the irony, the state engaged in direct physical attacks on the workers themselves. This was in May of '37 in Barcelona and Aragon. Armies rolled in, destroyed collectives on a large scale, dismantled any semblence of democracy, and brought collectives under control of the state (Comparable to state excercise in Russia, which isn't coincidental, as the state is, and always has been, loyal to those who enable them, in this case the USSR and the private sector).
During this time the state also engaged in Chekist assissinations, kidnappings and the intimidation of the populace through secret terrorism and spy mania (Franco's "fifth column", those subversive forces within republican cities, not nearly as widespread and effective as propaganda on both sides had claimed). Again, the state emulates its enabler.

At this point, the counter-revolution, aided by the onslaught of Franco's nationalists and the army from Africa, had effectively destroyed the progressive elements and their largely spontaneous revolutionary programme.

As the coup was insignificant in comparison to the agrarian and industrial reform, i'll say no more about it. I find it more important, on every level, to focus on the efficiency of the collectives, as this is likely the excuse the capitalists would give for its failure, as they have. I'll use one example.
I'll quote excerpts from "The Spanish Republic and the Civil War: 1931-1939" by Gabriel Jackson, as this is one of the more bourgeois studies of the revolution. Jackson believes, without substantiating evidence, that the revolutionary tide began to ebb in Catalonia once "accumulating food and supply problems, and the experience of administering villages, frontier posts, and public utilities, had rapidly shown the anarchists" -- as if it was limited to anarchist control -- "the unsuspected complexity of modern society"... Silly cappie, tricks are for the naive. Again, no support is given, and we are to take him at his word. He goes on to explain that the "naive optimism" of the people "had given way to feelings of resentment and of somehow having been cheated" (emphasis mine). Yes they felt cheated, and it was no secret why. Costs of living doubled, bread was short, and state/police brutality was becoming common-place. Did the collectives fuck up? No; he explains this "somehow", but believes it to be nonsensical; why? Who knows? "...the anarchist press...explained the failures of production as due to Valencia (state capital by this time) policies of boycotting the Catalan economy and favoring the bourgeoisie (emphasis Jackson's). They explained the loss of Malaga as due in large measure to the low morale and the disorientation of the Andalusian proletariat, which saw the... government evelving steadily toward the right". But, as this is unacceptable, and we're unable to research it ( ), it must have been utter incompetence.

In fact, the tide began to ebb after attacks by the communist-led government, not some recognition of "complexity of modern society". This can be linked chronologically. And this was indeed the goal of the government, to undermine collectivization, so why wouldn't it be the reason? There's also plenty of documented evidence to support this, both anarchist and otherwise (the communist gov. included). Even the bourgeois president of Catalonia (Companys) admitted that the workers were "demoralized by the bureaucratization--later, militarization--imposed by the central government and the Communist party."

Further, the raw materials that the workers needed to produce had been requested quite frequently from the central government in control of the banks. The collectives even offered a billion pesetas in collateral for materials to create weapons to defend against Franco. Shortages also appeared more readily under Juan Comorera, who was apointed Food Minister by the PSUC (a socialist party) as they gained control of the Catalonian government after strong pressure from the USSR. He immidietely took steps to subvert collectivization, "protecting" the wealthy peasants from collectivization (wealthy peasants were no doubt the smallest of minorities as most peasants were landless until collectivization). The only thing the government would take for the materials was centralization. This was unacceptable for what should be obvious reasons; a new spirit had swept through the collectivized regions, and the workers actually felt as if they had stake in their workplace (and truly they did). This restriction of credit may well have been the death knell for collectivization in Spain, as the workers were forced to produce with what assets had been seized during the revolution.

I will conclude the historical portion by saying that, of course, Franco won, with support from within the Republic (not by the fifth column, but by the state that claimed to oppose the nationalists) and without (as i said, foreign capital played a most influential role. I didn't feel the need to go in depth about it, but if anyone would like, i'll gladly provide information about its illegitimacy and illegality, even by bourgeois standards. I skipped it because it is quite obvious that capital would take interest in supporting a tyrannous dictator such as Franco, as is its natural tendency). In the end it was a lack of solidarity and unity of tactics, as well as petty dogmatist, doctrinal differences which lead to the demise of the most democratic country in our history, as well as one of the most outstanding displays of the progressive working class. Once more the working class was ready to build, and the ruling class and the state were ready to stagnate and subvert.

(Before i say a final word, let it be known that i not once attacked communism as a theory or a social structure, only those individual communists who chose to work within a reactionary state structure)

What lessons can we derive? That we are not necessarily by our nature creatures of inequality: That cooperation is not only key to our existence on this planet, but it is able to flourish under solidaric conditions: That heirarchy is not necessarily the only way to invoke efficiency (and it is not even the best way. I touched on this rather lightly, and would be glad to support my argument with evidence of great efficiency): That communism cannot be said to be inherently unattainable: And many others, but probably the most significant is that when it comes time to build, to leave an inheretance for our children, you had best know thyself. Delusions of bourgeois grandeur that you'll never attain is a pathetic excuse to stunt progress.

(questions? comments? Anything need expanding upon?)

"Here then is the problem which we present to you. Stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?"
--Albert Einstein--Bertrand Russell--
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