October 1934. Face to face with the Guardia Civil © Helios Gómez
‘We do not make war just for the sake of making war. Were our movement compelled to be encapsulated by one blunt adjective that adjective would not be “warlike”, but “revolutionary”.
There is yet time for us to express ourselves in the most readily understood form possible. Definite facts and definite ideas must be given their proper names. There must be an end to this mistake of double entendres that complicate the dictionary. And the fact is that frequently a play on words is followed up by the fait accompli. “War” has been so loudly trumpeted as a synonym for “revolution” that we have been induced to invest in this war with all of the bellicose accoutrements that were always odious to us: the regular army and discipline. The same thing has happened with discipline in the proper sense. There have been comrades aplenty who, despite their bona fides, have flirted with the term and spoken to us of discipline while painting this in colours diametrically opposed to freedom.
This, far from rendering discipline more humane, is a bestialisation of freedom. It is not so very long ago that an attempt was made in our circles to peddle a version of discipline implying order and responsibility comparable with anarchy. Such an endeavour always called to our minds the idea of “good government” or “tutelary authority”, as opposed to despotic or blatantly authoritarian government. And just as it has not been possible to sort governments into good ones and bad ones — since in fact there are, rather, only bad ones and worse ones — we have come to learn with the passage of time that all discipline is a tributary of regimentation.
We aver that all wars are inauspicious. Were it our belief that we are making a war, we should be the first to desert. The fact is that war never erupts to the advantage of those who inflict and suffer its ravages.
We are not fighting here to advance anyone’s private interests, though there will be no shortage of elitists and aparatchiks who will seek to commandeer the fruits of our struggle and gamble on the ups and downs of our successes and our reverses, turning our rearguard into a stockjobbers’ lot.
Our fight is against privilege and not for the nation, a fight for liberty and not for the fatherland, a fight for anarchy and not for the Republic. We risk our lives for the collective good and not for a privileged caste. While one of us remains standing, the social revolution, which is the driving force behind our liberation movement, will never want for defenders and combatants, whether they use pen, fist, word or rifle.
‘Picking up the banner’ (after Gely Mikhailovich Korzhev-Chuvelev)
We do not make war; war is always made for the purposes of someone else, and fought out between the brethren who are poor in spirit. We make revolution for the benefit of all human beings and against the cliques who are hangovers from parasitism and self-centredness. And as we are making revolution, not one square metre of reconquered ground must be subtracted from the process of transformation, despite the froglike croaking of those whose lack of spirit and mettle inclines them to dabble in the stagnant waters of politicking.’
— Editorial from Acracia (Lleida), 1936-7
The CNT in the Spanish Revolution (Vol 1) by José Peirats Valls (676 pages), ISBN 978-1-901172-05-8 (eBook). Edited and introduced by Chris Ealham (Translated by Paul Sharkey and Chris Ealham)
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Contents of Volume 1 (1911-1936) (676 pages)
Glossary of organisations
The history of a history by Chris Ealham
Introduction to the First Edition by José Peirats Valls
Chapter One: From the Bellas Artes Congress to the Primo de Rivera dictatorship
Genesis of the CNT. The consequences of the August general strike. Spanish anarcho-syndicalism affirms its apolitical ideology. The Sants regional congress. The organised working class discovers its own might. The ‘La Canadiense’ strike. The employers’ backlash. The ‘lock-out’. The confederal congress in the La Comedia theatre. The CNT’s declaration of principles. The Confederation’s stance vis-à-vis the Russian Revolution. Provisional adherence to the Third International. The Río Tinto strike and the compact with the UGT. Reasons behind the breakdown of the alliance. The viceroyalty of Martínez Anido-Arlegui. The Lleida plenum. Delegations to Russia. The Zaragoza conference. The break with Moscow and adherence to the AIT. A chapter of errors. The victims of white terrorism.
Chapter Two: From the military Directory to the Second Republic
Impact of government terrorism. Loss of militants. The people execute the executioner of the Barcelona High Court. Unions repressed and shut down. The Vera de Bidasoa and Atarazanas incidents. The regime of preventive detention and show trials. Clandestine activity and doctrinal propaganda. First stirrings of reformism in the Confederation. The Peiró-Pestaña polemic. The anarchist conference of Valencia. The stance of the FAI. The backlash against reformism. The fall of the dictatorship. The union re-opened. Intensive reorganisational activity. The era of conspiracy. Joan Peiró and the Intel·ligència Republicana manifesto. The políticos and the CNT.
Casas Viejas, January 1933
Chapter Three: The Republic of Casas Viejas
14 April 1931. The end of the celebrations. Legalistic interval. Largo Caballero as Minister of Labour. The Law of 8 April. The Law for the Defence of the Republic and the Law against Vagrants and Deviants. The instruction to ‘fire at will’. The Confederation’s congress in the El Conservatorio. The crisis within the Confederation. Debate on the “National Industrial Federations”. “The CNT stance towards the Constituent Cortes”. The manifesto of the ‘Treinta’. The backlash against treintismo. The reactionary handiwork of Catalonia’s autonomous government. The insurrection of the miners of Figols. Deportations. The Terrasa events. Maura of the 108 deaths. The incidents of Maria Luisa park, Arnedo, Epila and Castilblanco. ‘Spain’s soul’ and the attempted military putsch of 10 August 1932. The Esquerra and its escamots. The revolt of 8 January 1933. The nature of this revolt. The republican-socialist repression. Casas Viejas! The Sabadell Plenum. The ‘Opposition Unions’. The Syndicalist Party. The expulsion of the Sabadell union. The ‘Committee to rebuild the CNT’. Muscovite intrigue thwarted.
Garrote-vil © Helios Gómez
Chapter Four: From the November elections to the October Revolution
The republican-socialist biennium assessed. The right fights back. The fall of the Azaña government. The dissolution of parliament and the November elections. The CNT’s abstentionist campaign. The left defeated at the polls. The rising of 8 December. The repression. The puppet government of Lerroux. Gil Robles, arbiter of the situation. The revisionist work of the new parliament. The socialists hoist on their own petard. The Public Order legislation. The ‘Spanish Lenin’. Evolution of the alliance question. The voice of Orobón Fernández. The National Plenum of Regionals Committees. The UGT urged to make public its revolutionary aspirations. The ‘pro-alliance’ stance of the Asturian Regional Committee of the CNT. Clauses of the revolutionary alliance between the CNT and the UGT in Asturias.
Asturias, October 1934 by Helios Gómez: the Asturian miners’ strike of 1934 was brutally repressed by the Republic’s colonial troops, mainly those of the Spanish Foreign Legion and Moroccan mercenaries under General Franco. Rape, looting and summary executions were the order of the day
Chapter Five: 6 October 1934 in Asturias and in Catalonia
The Asturian Revolution. Forces on the ground. Gijón and La Felguera. The socialist party assumes the reins. The CNT’s intensive involvement. The first crucial battles. The struggle in the mining basins and the march on Oviedo. The delicate position of the cenetistas in Gijón. War industry in La Felguera. The loss of Gijón, José María Martínez perishes. The troops of the Foreign Legion and the regulares advance with air support. The last manifesto from the Revolutionary Committee. Faces of the revolution. The movement elsewhere in Spain. The revolutionary programme of the PSOE. Catalonia’s 8 October. The repression.
Chapter Six: The end of the ‘black biennium’ and the Popular Front triumphant
The caretaker government of Portela Valladares. The build-up to the elections. 30,000 prisoners as an election issue. The Popular Front and the enigma of the Confederation. ‘Beware of the Red Card!’. The emergence of a climate favouring alliance. Catalonia’s unions urgently summoned to meet. The Regional Conference of unions. Historic document from the AIT. The CNT’s stance vis-à-vis the elections. The proposition on revolutionary alliances. The result of the elections. Agitation in military circles. A prophetic manifesto from the CNT National Committee. The transferral of power. A disgraceful memorandum from the Minister of War. ”The Spanish military are the very models of selflessness and loyalty”. Parliamentary exchanges. Azaña’s speech.
Chapter Seven: From the Zaragoza congress to 19 July 1936
The confederal congress in Zaragoza. The schism healed. Analysis of activities. The scheme for a revolutionary alliance. The CNT’s peasant membership and the agrarian reform. The Confederation’s concept of libertarian communism. Strikes, repression, provocations and attentats. The state of emergency and clamp-down on the press. General Franco on the horizon. The ‘belligerent’ government. The death of Calvo Sotelo. Mussolini, godfather of the revolt. The right declares civil war from the very floor of parliament. “Radio Valencia here!” The tragic jocularity of the Prime Minister.
Chapter Eight: Spain in flames
The revolt breaks out. The government boasts that it has the wherewithal to restore normality. The attitude of the Popular Front. Casares Quiroga steps down. The makeshift government of Martínez Barrio. The War Ministry offered to General Mola. The CNT response. The CNT crushes fascism in Barcelona. The epic contest in Madrid. The Delegates Junta in Valencia. How Zaragoza was brought to heel. Asturias and the ‘Mola Plan’. The Basque Country springs a surprise. Galicia the martyr. The battle for Andalusia. A map of Spain on 19 July. Bridge across the Straits. The race for Madrid. The glorious feats of the sailors.
Chapter Nine: The revolutionary achievement
The CNT-FAI victory in Catalonia. ‘Dictatorship or collaboration’. President Companys places himself in the hands of the CNT–FAI. The Anti-fascist Militias’ Committee. Durruti on the road to Zaragoza. “Comrade, do not allow yourself be disarmed!” The Local Federation of Unions orders a return to work. “Twenty centuries are watching us!” The revolutionary timidity of the superior committees. The revolution springs from the people. The unions get the wheels of industry and the economy rolling. The taboo on foreign holidays. Seizures and collectivisations. Foreign fleets standing by to intervene and mount a blockade. The revolution’s order. “Avengers, yes! Murderers, never!” Revolutionary justice. Blueshirt cannibalism.
Chapter Ten: The dilemma of revolution and war
The power and determination of the union. A manifesto from the CNT National Committee. The central government orders all call-up of conscripts. The draftees refused to return to the barracks. The CNT-FAI against the military mobilisation order. Mobilisation by Anti-Fascist Militias’ Committee. The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. The first CNT-FAI rally. The Control Patrols. The Economic Council. The New Unified School. The CNT, UGT, FAI and PSUC Liaison Committee. An article by Peiró: “Facing facts”.
Chapter Eleven: The CNT in the government of Catalonia
Largo Caballero as premier. The CNT is invited to collaborate. ‘The futility of the government’. The significance of the new cabinet. ‘First win the war‘. The CNT’s National Plenum of Regional Committees. The National Defence Council. The period of grace expires. Address to public opinion. The first Regional Plenum of the unions of Catalonia. The financial blockade. The CNT incorporated in the Generalitat government. Comments and explanations. Political declaration of the new government. The Anti-Fascist Militias’ Committee dissolved. Durruti in the rearguard and in the front lines. “We renounce everything, except victory”.
Chapter Twelve: The CNT in the government of the Republic
The Regional Council of Aragón. The Council’s declaration. Opposition from Stalinists and from the government. The evolution of the Council. The Basque Statute. The Asturian Regional Council. The CNT in the municipal councils. The pact with the communists. The rally in the Monumental bullring. The Collectivisations Decree. Peiró’s speech. The ‘transitional regime’. The CNT joins the central government. The cabinet reshuffle. The Confederation beatifies the government and the state. The fatalist mentality. Reactions from anarchists abroad. The natural bias.
Chapter Thirteen: Politics and revolution
Durruti in Madrid. The hero’s death. The government moves to Valencia. The Delegated Defence Junta. Towards the ‘’People’s Army’. The disarmament of the populace proceeds. The first clash. The Central Regional Committee’s statement on the Yagüe incident. The ‘Iron Column’ in the rearguard. A step towards trade union unity from above. “Either the government is surplus to requirements or the committees are”. The nation’s gold en route to Moscow. The Trojan horse of Soviet aid. The petite bourgeoisie. The apple of discord. Antonov-Ovseenko, polemicist. “How come no attack along the Aragón front?” The crisis in the Generalitat. Declaration by the CNT Regional Committee. The new ‘non-party’ government.
Chapter Fourteen: Consequences of the Confederation’s collaboration
Transfiguration of the CNT. Compromise and dualism. The government army in the rear. The Security militias. The return of the Alfonsine brass hats. The ‘dialectic of history’. The Unified Security Corps. The anarchist opposition. The organisational life of the Confederation. The first plenums. The Supply Committees. The crisis of functional federalism. The first regional congress of peasants. The confederal norms to be adhered to.
Chapter Fifteen: The Collectivisations
Review of the Spanish economy prior to 19 July. Foreign investment in Spain. Distribution of landed property. Agrarian reform and revolutionary collectivism. The revolution in the Catalan countryside. In the Aragonese countryside. In the Levante region. In Castile. The revolution in industry. Control committees. Collectivised enterprises. The family wage. Text of the Collectivisations Decree of 24 October 1936.
A chronology of José Peirats’s major writings
LIVING UTOPIA (One of the finest documentaries on the social achievements of the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1937)