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A Few Lessons of the Anarchist Uprisings in Spain

(March 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 11 (Whole No. 107), 12 March 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The recent revolt in upper Llobregat, in Callent Suvia, Berga, Figolo and Cardoner had completely paralyzed the power of the exploiters for several days. The red flag of the workers waved over the city hall in several of the towns. All of the currents of the Spanish revolutionary movement again tested their theories in practice. The party press in America, which had ignored the Spanish revolution for months and months, all of a sudden broadcast the news that they had established Soviets in several towns in Spain. And among many other things, they said the the Left Opposition was playing a counter-revolutionary role in the struggle. But a few days passed, and even the blind could see that, sad to say, the Communist party was not leading the revolts. Nothing more is said or heard in the Party press or its meetings about Spain, yet the struggle has not stopped, in spite of the fact the Centrist press is silent now, as they were in the previous months.

The leadership of the National Confederation of Labor again showed its hand in stemming the tide rather than flaming the revolt. The vanguard action of the American Stalinites in proclaiming leadership of the struggles was followed by the tail-endism of the Spanish Stalinites in the struggle. The socialist and anarchist role adds new weight to their role of betrayals, all of which is summed up in a recent document of the Spanish Left Opposition published in The Militant, Feb. 27.

But since this document, we have new material on the Anarchists that further confirms the position of the Left Opposition on the role of the Anarchists in the Spanish revolution. The Industrial Worker of March 8 carried an article by de Guzman, from the La Tierra, translated by M. Olay. This article proves the anarchists have learned nothing since their master, Bakunin, “captured power” in Lyons, France in 1870.

In Spain, “Figols was the first town to revolt and the last to be entered by troops. The town was for five days, from Monday to Saturday, living a regime of libertarian communism.” Libertarian communism? And we ask, what may libertarian communism be? We are informed that, “Anarchism has been a reality for a week. And at no place or time were there killings, robberies, and excesses which according to the detractors of anarchism are their very essence.” These kind souls, these humanitarians, the subjective individuals are more concerned with the bourgeois opinion of them, than they are with the interest of the workers. What of it, if the bourgeois slander revolutionists, call them thieves, murderers, robbers and enemies of society? Can you expect anything else from the exploiters and their flunkies? Have exploiters ever called the exploited nice names when the slave class desire to throw off the burden of exploitation? If the exploiters confine their opposition to “nasty names” we would have no trouble in taking power, but sad to say, this slander is only a slight breeze of the hurricane they let loose on us ever chance we give them. The individualism of the anarchists is more concerned about their subjective feelings than about the interest of the workers.

The anarchists, to make sure the bourgeois learn how Christlike or Ghandi-like anarchism is – “generous and idealist spirits that they were – once triumphant with the social revolution proclaimed, did not think of squaring accounts; they did not want to shed blood, they did not even bother to humiliate them. They seized all arms to prevent the enemy from attacking them; they posted guards to avoid being surprised, and leaving everybody in absolute freedom they continued working the same as before, without thinking for a moment that the triumph of the social revolution would release them from digging coal from the entrails of the earth.” More confusion in fewer words is very difficult to write. They “did not think of squaring accounts”. They disarmed them and left everybody, “in absolute freedom”. Without expropriating and imprisoning the main forces of the enemy class and finishing those who resist, without establishing a Red Guard and a dictatorship of the proletariat, they left the door wide open for the exploiters to return, to reorganize and to annihilate them. Their concept is to – decree the state out of existence; to simply proclaim the social revolution, – but reality is not so simple. You can proclaim the social revolution and raise the red flag today and tomorrow find white terror at its heights unless adequate steps are taken to follow up the first victory and to smash the enemy, to smash their state and all means of exploitation that goes with it and establish a workers’ dictatorship.

These “generous and idealist spirits” who established “libertarian communism” say, “In every place the Civil Guards, sheltered in their barracks, where they take refuge; the bourgeoisie, locked up in their homes, are left alone. The revolution had triumphed and the revolutionists cannot imitate their former oppressors, by forcing them and the others to share their ideas.” This is nothing less than a betrayal of the workers. The anarchists do not know the elementary difference between a successful social revolution and a successful Battle in a revolution, which, if not immediately followed up – will result in defeat. They do not know the elementary difference between the bourgeoisie as the ruling power. The former exploiters, “are left alone” by the anarchist leaders and the enemy reorganizes its forces after the first wave of revolt and comes back in the form of bourgeois terror, that should by all means cause us to congratulate and honor the “generous and idealist spirits”, the anarchists of Spain! The anarchists in Lyons in 1870 decreed the state out of existence and established a “libertarian communism” but before 24 hours had passed, the state, in the form of the National guards, returned and dispersed the rebels. And once again history repeats itself, only this time as a farce.

They paid dearly for their “generous and idealist spirit”, by “idealists who were fighting to make a better world”. The same article in La Tierra tell us: “Of the rebellion there only remains, apparently, the memory of a handful of men who, in jails and prison boats, dream that the desired triumph will come in the near future”. Yes, it will only be a dream if the same strategy is repeated, a dream for some but more bloodshed and misery for the workers. In “avoiding” bloodshed they only bring on more bloodshed and prolonged misery and leave the door open for counterrevolution to give the workers a blood bath.

The anarchist leaders have learned nothing from these events but the workers are far from being fools, as the bourgeoisie claims. They have learned by these revolts. Our document from Spain, says in part: “In spite of the incapable leadership and organization of the anarchists, the workers of Cardoner and Llobregat fought with admirable solidarity and discipline and withdrew in perfect strategic order and with a minimum of losses, when they were convinced the movement was defeated. “The most important fact to be recorded in the uprising of Cardoner and Llobergat is the distinct political character. The workers had seized the city halls and hoisted the banner of the proletarian revolution on top of the buildings themselves. That is to say, they had seized political power for themselves. In some places, the anarchist element had proclaimed openly that their aim was the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a big step forward that the Communists can point to.”

Yes, many worker-followers of anarchism, seeing “libertarian communism” in practice drew the conclusion that they must establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a big step forward.

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