This book was published nine years ago, when the Civil War in Spain had already reached its last phase. The defeat of the heroic Spanish workers and peasants after two years and a half of civil strife by the combined forces of Fascism destroyed the last hope for stemming the flood of reaction in Europe. Spain became the nemesis for the labour movement in Europe in general and for libertarian Socialism in particular. The Spanish people had to carry on their valiant fight for liberty, human dignity and social justice almost single-handed, while the whole world passively watched the unequal struggle. The so-called democracies of the West denied the Spaniards the materials so urgently needed in their titanic battle against their relentless foe, and organised labour in Europe and America, demoralised and split up in hostile factions, remained indifferent or helpless, when everything in Europe was at stake. They had to pay dearly for their passivity, for with Spain in the hands of Franco and his Falange the way was cleared for the Second World War and its terrible results. Even Mr Sumner Wells, the former Secretary of State of the United States, had to admit that the policy of his country towards Spain in those years of decision was one of the greatest errors America ever committed.
As for the labour movement, Franco's victory paved the way to the worst debacle the workers of Europe ever had to suffer. Under the heel of Hitler's armies, the whole labour movement in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium, Norway and the countries in the South-East of Europe crumbled to dust, and the entire continent was turned into a desert of ruins, starvation and unspeakable misery. Even now, when two years have already passed since the end of the great slaughter, large parts of Europe are still a wilderness. Her economic life is paralysed, her means of production, her natural resources of raw materials are exhausted, and her industries and agriculture completely disorganised. That such a horrible catastrophe could not pass without leaving a deep impression upon the people in every country is self-evident. In many countries people became demoralised and apathetic as a consequence of their horrible sufferings, especially in Germany and Austria, where little hope for a speedy reconstruction of their economic and social life prevails. Nevertheless there are signs almost everywhere of an awakening and the development of new ideas to deal with the present situation.
The only way out of the present chaos, the only possibility for rebuilding the devastated countries, would be a federated Europe with a unified economy resting upon new foundations, in which no people would be isolated by artificial barriers and placed under the guardianship of hostile and stronger neighbours. This would also be the first step for a world federation with equal rights for every people, including the so-called colonial peoples, who have hitherto been the victims of foreign imperialism and hampered in their natural development. It is likewise the only means to achieve further changes and improvements within the general organism of our social life and to overcome the economic exploitation and political suppression of individuals and peoples. After the terrible experiences of the past, there is in fact no other way to accomplish a new relationship among the peoples and to prepare a new form of society and a rebirth of humanity.
In Europe such a transformation is long overdue, but its greatest obstacle is still the power policy of the larger states and their unceasing struggle for the hegemony of the continent, the eternal source of wars and the real cause why until this day one generation has always had to build up what its predecessors have destroyed.
As for Anarcho-Syndicalism and the libertarian movement in general, it is now in a state of reorganisation. With the exception of Sweden, libertarian organisations, in almost every country of Europe, have been ruthlessly suppressed during the days of the Nazi occupation and could function only as small underground groups of resistance. Sweden was one of the few countries in Europe spared by the war, and where the libertarian movement could hold its ground. When Hitler came into power in Germany the Bureau of the International Working Men's Association [IWMA], after a short interval in Holland, was transferred to Stockholm and kept alive by the syndicalist movement in Sweden. But its activity was paralysed as a result of the terrible catastrophe on the continent. The only reason for its continued existence was to prepare for the time when the war would come to an end and steps could be taken to reorganise the movement in the various countries. The Bureau in Stockholm published during all those years its Bulletin and tried to keep up connections wherever it was possible, but that was all that could be expected.
Of all the regional sections of the IWMA the powerful CNT in Spain has suffered most. About a million human lives were lost during the Civil War, among them many thousands of the most courageous and devoted members of the CNT and FAI. Thousands were buried alive in the dungeons and concentration camps of Franco, many of them perishing under the iron heel of their relentless torturers. And many thousands are still living in exile, waiting impatiently for their hour of return. Large numbers of the former members of the CNT are living in France, Belgium, England, North Africa, Mexico and the various countries of South America. In France thousands of these refugees have taken an active part in the underground movements against the German invasion. In all these countries our Spanish comrades in exile have created organisations of their own and are publishing papers, books and pamphlets.
In Spain itself a very active underground movement is carried on by the followers of the CNT, the FAI and the Libertarian Youth against the military dictatorship of Franco. They have their own papers printed in secret plants and are in constant touch with their comrades abroad. In some parts of Spain a kind of guerrilla warfare is still going on, especially in the mountains of Asturias where the terrain is favourable for such actions.
Among the Spanish comrades abroad there is a great deal of interesting and sometimes very ardent discussion in progress on the reorganisation of the movement after the fall of the Franco regime. The experiences of the Spanish Revolution, the war and its aftermath have created quite a number of new problems which cannot be ignored, but their real solution can only be found when the present dictatorship is overthrown and the libertarian movement in Spain reorganised. There is no doubt that our movement, which is so deeply rooted in the Spanish people, will again play an important role in the future of that country, but it is also clear that its success will be largely determined by developments in the rest of Europe.
In Germany, where every section of organised labour has been completely destroyed by the Nazis and their large property in buildings, printing plants, libraries and money confiscated, the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement had to undergo terrible ordeals. After its general office in Berlin had been raided and destroyed by the brown gangsters, the comrades in Erfurt tried to organise an underground movement, but after a short time many of the militants fell into the hands of the Nazis and landed in prisons and concentration camps. Nevertheless, underground activities were carried on in almost every part of the country, but the sacrifices were terrific. According to the reports received since connections with Germany have been re-established, about 1,200 comrades were sentenced during Hitler's regime to from five to twenty years of hard labour; about twenty were executed or died in the torture chambers of the Gestapo, and dozens perished miserably in the concentration camps. But this list is by no means complete and mainly concerns the fate of our comrades in the present American, English and French zones of Germany, while exact data for the Russian-occupied zone are not obtainable at present.
A reorganisation of the movement under the present circumstances in Germany is very difficult. One of the greatest obstacles is the division of the country into different zones and the present military administrations, which until now have only permitted the organisation of the larger political parties and the general trade union movement. Most of the German comrades believe that a reorganisation of the movement on the foundations of the old Freie Arbeiter-Union (Free Labour Union) is impossible, since in view of the devastation of the country and the hardships of the people the old methods have become meaningless. They feel that every effort has to be turned towards constructive work in rebuilding the country and lessening the present misery. Many of our comrades are already working in this direction within the newly founded trades unions, co-operative societies and other organisations where they have a possibility to spread their ideas. In the Western zones preparations have already been made for the creation of a new libertarian movement for constructive activity on a broader basis more suitable to the present conditions than the FAUD which was founded under very different circumstances.
Also in Holland, where many of our comrades took part in the underground movement during the time of the German invasion, the former members of the Nederlands Syndicalist sch Vakverbond came to the conclusion that by reviving the movement in its old forms they could hardly meet the new problems created by the war and the present situation in Europe. They therefore established a new federation, the Nederlandse Bond van Vrije Socialisten, whose principles are propagated in their new organ Socialisme van onder op (Socialism From Below), one of the most interesting periodicals of our present movement towards which many of the best-known exponents of libertarian socialism in Holland and abroad are contributing. The new movement is very active in spreading its ideas in the general trades unions and is also carrying on a courageous struggle for the independence of Indonesia and the other Dutch colonies. Besides the new federation, which has propaganda groups in every province of Holland, there are in existence a number of other organisations of libertarian character with their own papers and ways of propaganda.
In France the old members of the Confederation Generate du Travail Syndicaliste Revolutionnaire reorganised their movement soon after the end of the war. Finding it impossible to work together within the general labour movement of the CGT, which today is completely dominated by the Communist Party and has become merely an instrument for the foreign policy of the Russian dictatorship, they tried to rally their old adherents and to form a new movement. They held their first convention as early as December 1946 in Paris, where delegates of the Spanish CNT and a representative of the IWMA also were present. The name of the organisation was changed into Confederation Nationale du Travail (CNT), and its activity based upon the same Declaration of Principles advocated by the IWMA before the war. Their organ is L 'Action Syndicaliste.
Besides this movement of the Anarcho-Syndicalists in France, most of the libertarian groups are organised in the Federation Anarchiste with its organ Le Libertaire in Paris. Since the end of the war there is a strong revival of the old libertarian movement in all parts of France which finds its representation in about seven or eight papers and magazines.
In Italy, the first country in Europe which succumbed to the yoke of Fascism, a new revival of the libertarian movement took place after the war. Most of its organisations belong to the new Federazione Anarchista Italiana, which has its headquarters in Carrara, the centre of the Italian marble industry. The federation possesses about fifteen periodicals all over Italy and is carrying on a vivacious propaganda among the workers and peasants. Its main strongholds are Milan and Genoa. As in France, our comrades in Italy are not only combating the remnants of the still powerful Fascist and monarchist reaction, but also the growing influence of the Communist Party, which controls not only the whole trade union movement but also the larger part of the Socialist Party and is aiming for the establishment of a new dictatorship and the transformation of the country into a satellite of Russia. Here, as in most other countries of Europe, the terrible misery of the people provides one of the greatest obstacles to any progressive movement and at the same time exposes the country to the dangers of a new totalitarian reaction.
In Portugal the ConfederacSo General de Trabalho, which has been suppressed under the dictatorship of Salazar, is still compelled to carry on an underground existence. In spite of the continual persecutions, they managed to bring out their organ A Batalha and other clandestine publications. Many of the militants of the CGT perished in the concentration camps of the islands of Cape Verde under conditions which can only be compared with the torture chambers of the Gestapo in Germany.
There are also libertarian groups in England, Belgium, Norway, Poland and Switzerland which are publishing periodicals, books and pamphlets and are spreading their ideas among the people. Only in the Russian-dominated countries in the South-East of Europe every attempt to create a libertarian movement has been suppressed by ruthless dictatorships, as in the case of the Bulgarian Anarcho-syndicalists, of whom many became victims of the great blood purges in that country.
In general the libertarian movement in most countries of Europe is still in a state of reorganisation. Many of our old comrades in every country died during the war or became victims of the terrible persecutions of Fascist reaction. Under the present deplorable economic and social conditions in Europe, the task of our comrades is not an easy one, but there are nevertheless many indications that we shall soon witness another revival of the libertarian forces all over the continent.
In Latin America a great upsurge of libertarian socialism is noticeable in almost every country since the end of the war, mainly in Argentina. After a long period of clandestine existence the Federation Obrera Regional Argentina is carrying on an extensive propaganda for a six hours' labour day in every part of the country. The recent strike of the workers in the great port of Buenos Aires which ended with a great success was directed by the FORA and gained the organisation a large measure of sympathy among the workers and students. The new movement of the youth in the universities is strongly influenced by libertarian ideas and is very active.
Besides the syndicalist activity of the FORA there are many libertarian groups all over the country, publishing quite a number of anarchist periodicals and pamphlets and carrying on a vigorous propaganda in the field of education and public enlightenment. To the publishing houses Iman and especially Americale in Buenos Aires goes the credit of printing during recent years the largest number of libertarian classics and many other important works ever to be published in that country. Their editions are excellent and find a large circulation among the workers and intellectuals.
There is also a good deal of libertarian activity in most of the other countries of South and Central America, with periodicals coming out in Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba.
In the United States, with the exception of two small monthlies, all the other libertarian publications are printed in Spanish, Italian, Yiddish and Russian. There is no organised movement on national lines in this country to match those found in Europe, but there are quite a number of associations of various kinds and for different purposes where libertarian ideas and aspirations can be found and are appreciated. In Asia modern libertarian ideas were known in China, Japan, and among smaller circles of Indonesian students who became influenced by the libertarian movement in Holland. In Japan the small anarchist movement was completely destroyed after the execution of D. Kotoku and his comrades in January 1911. In later years an Anarcho-Syndicalist movement, the Jiyu Rengo Danetai Zenkoku Kaigi, developed in Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and other centres of Japanese industry, which held connections with the Bureau of the IWMA in Berlin. But also this movement became soon a victim of the ruthless persecutions of the Japanese government.
In China anarchist groups existed before the war in various towns, which published libertarian periodicals and pamphlets and kept in touch with their comrades in America and Europe. A revival of this movement took place after the war, inspired by groups of intellectuals in various places of the country.
Libertarian ideas have also recently penetrated into India, where a group of Indian intellectuals in Bombay, founders of the Indian Institute of Sociology and its organ the Indian Sociologist, are very active in spreading the new ideas. They also created a centre for libertarian publications, the Libertarian Book House in Bombay, which has already brought out a large number of books and pamphlets of all kinds by well-known libertarian writers in Europe and America.
The present renaissance of the libertarian movement throughout the world is the best proof that the great ideas of liberty and social justice are still alive after the horrible ordeal most countries have had to undergo, and that they are regarded as guiding principles by many intent on solving the varied new problems of our time and creating the paths for a better future and a higher level of humanity.
It is the only movement which not only carries on the fight against the many evils of present society but also tries to prevent the dangers of dictatorship of every form and shape, futile state capitalism and political totalitarianism, which can only lead to the worst slavery mankind has ever experienced.