James Joll, The Anarchists, Second Edition, 1979.

Chapter IX
Anarchists in action: Spain

Paz a los Hombres, Guerra a las Instituciones.
Spanish anarchist slogan

The problem was not only one of Bread but one of Hatred.
Salvador Cordon

El Espanol vive mucho de afirmaciones y de negaciones categoricas.
Jose Peirats


For nearly seventy years anarchism was a revolutionary force in Spain; and the movement achieved an influence there far greater than anywhere else in the world. It is in Spain, therefore, that the stresses and contradictions, the savagery and nobility, the apocalyptic vision and the rationalist conviction of the anarchists can be seen most clearly.

There is no simple explanation of the fact that anarchism became a mass movement in Spain to an extent that it never did elsewhere. A backward country; a weak government; a total gap between rich and poor; above all, a rural population living, in many areas, hopelessly near to starvation and moved by a smouldering hatred of landlords and priests -- all these could be found elsewhere in Europe (in Sicily, for example). Perhaps it was, as some have believed, because the Spanish temperament responded to the extremism of anarchist doctrines, and because a population accustomed to centuries of religious fanaticism responded readily to a fanaticism of another kind. Perhaps, again, the individualism, the independent pride and self-respect, commonly held to be characteristic of the Spaniard, made him ready to accept a doctrine which, in a more extreme form than even the Protestant religion, places on each individual the [208] responsibility for his own actions. Marxist historians have tried to account for the success of anarchism rather than Marxism in Spain by an analysis of the way in which the ties of the feudal order were broken in the nineteenth century, without being replaced by the relations resulting from modern industrial and financial organization, so that Spain was somehow out of step with the pattern of historical development elsewhere.1 Others, again, have seen the Spanish anarchist movement as proving the truth of Bakunin's contention that only those with nothing to lose -- the Lumpenproletariat or the landless labourer -- are capable of becoming true revolutionaries.

It was perhaps for a number of such reasons that Fanelli's bringing of Bakunin's gospel (see Chapter IV above) to Spain had such far-reaching results. Certainly, the moment of Fanelli's arrival was a propitious one for the spreading of any revolutionary doctrine. In 1868 the mounting discontent with the rule of Queen Isabella among large sections of the population of Spain had come to a head, and she had been forced to abdicate. The search for a successor - apart from producing a Hohenzollern candidature which provided the pretext for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 -- resulted in a brief period of weak constitutional monarchy, followed by a short-lived liberal republic, and finally, after a period of confusion and disorder, in a restoration of the Bourbons and a general reaction that made any revolutionary activity exceedingly difficult. However, during the period 1868-74, anything seemed possible in Spain. These years were marked by sporadic outbreaks of revolt in different parts of the country, started by both the extreme Carlist right and the federal republican left. It was in these conditions of near civil war that the early Spanish anarchists gained their first experience of action. Moreover, it was a period when many middle-class intellectuals were attracted by Proudhon's doctrines. Pi y Margall, the leader of the federalist party, and Prime Minister for a short period under the republic, had translated Proudhon, and his ideas of a federal society based on small self-contained and self-governing communes were sufficiently close to those of Bakunin's disciples for them to have much common ground. As one anarchist intellectual put it: 'Consciously or unconsciously, the doctrines of Proudhon make up the creed of the majority of people in Spain, so [209] that, in one form or another, in every Spaniard you will find a federalist.'2 Moreover, Pi y Margall had explicitly linked the idea of a federal state with the idea of social revolution, and had emphasized the fact that 'our revolution is not purely political; it is social'.3 Thus, in the turbulence of the years 1868-74 new ideas of social organization were inextricably involved with ideas of federalism and separatism. Indeed, one of the reasons for the success of anarchism in Barcelona was that it provided a working-class equivalent to the Catalan nationalism and separatism of the middle classes.

At this time there was little true socialism in Spain. Clubs such as the Fomento de las Artes in Madrid or the Ateneo Catalan de la Clase Obrera in Barcelona provided small groups of men with the opportunity for discussing the ideas of Fourier and Proudhon and the possibilities of organizing society on a basis of mutual cooperation. These groups consisted of professional men, students and craftsmen, the latter mostly printers and cobblers. They were not yet revolutionary and one of Bakunin's early followers in Spain, Rafael Farga Pellicer, was obliged to report to Bakunin that socialism in Spain was not yet 'as developed as was to be wished'.4 Nevertheless, it was these groups which provided Fanelli with his first audiences, and among them he recruited the twenty or so men who were the first members of the anarchist movement in Spain.

Fanelli's first converts were in Madrid; perhaps the most important was Anselmo Lorenzo, a young printer, who was a few years later to settle in Barcelona and become one of the leading anarchists there. After founding a group in Madrid, Fanelli went on to Barcelona. One of his new friends in Madrid, Jose Rubau Donadeu, in whose house Fanelli's first meetings had been held, put him in touch with a painter, Jose Luis Pellicer, and his nephew, Rafael Farga Pellicer. In Pellicer's studio Fanelli addressed a group of about twenty, and thus launched the movement in Barcelona. Farga Pellicer, the nephew, was an important figure in its development, for it was through him that links were established between the bourgeois intellectuals of his uncle's circle and the Centro Federal de las Sociedades Obreras de Barcelona which loosely grouped together the various existing working-class organizations of the city -- a city in which an [210] old-established textile industry had produced a more advanced and better-organized working-class movement than anywhere else in Spain. With these contacts the anarchists began to have the possibility of a genuinely proletarian following, though it was a long time before the revolutionaries were more than a minority in the Barcelona working-class movement.

Fanelli's immediate contacts called themselves the Spanish Section of the International and, like Bakunin himself, did not feel that the programme of the Bakuninist Social Democratic Alliance which Fanelli preached was in any way incompatible with the aims of the International. They were soon disillusioned and found themselves plunged into a struggle with the Marxists by which they were often bewildered and which left the Spanish working-class movement permanently and disastrously divided. During 1870 and 1871 they gradually became aware of the quarrel between Marx and Bakunin, and were compelled reluctantly to take sides. Two of the original group, Farga Pellicer and Sentirion, went to the Basle congress in 1869 and met Bakunin himself; and they were present as impotent observers at the final debacle of the International at The Hague in 1872. Anselmo Lorenzo went to the London conference in 1871 and was well received by Marx and Engels. He was, however, quickly disillusioned by the atmosphere of the conference. A man of uncompromising directness, honesty and simplicity, he had expected much from the congress of a movement which seemed to offer the Spaniards hope of real support. Although he was impressed by Marx's genuinely warm welcome, and still more by his erudition and scholarship, of the congress as a whole he later wrote:

I have sad memories of the week spent at that conference. The effect produced on my mind was disastrous: I hoped to see great thinkers, heroic defenders of the working man, enthusiastic propagators of new ideas, precursors of that society transformed by the revolution, in which justice would be practised and happiness enjoyed, and instead, I found serious grudges and terrible enmities between those who should have been united in a single will to attain the same goal.5


At the end of 1871, when the split in the International was widening, Marx's son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, arrived in Spain as the representative of the London General Council and tried to assume control of the section of the International there. He had little immediate success and, perhaps for this reason, succeeded in remaining on good personal terms with Anselmo Lorenzo and some of the other leading followers of Bakunin. It was nearly ten years before the Marxist socialist party assumed any importance and, under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias, a young printer who had been an early member of the International but who had followed Marx and Lafargue rather than Bakunin and his Spanish disciples, began to develop into a socialist trade-union movement and a socialist political party.

Actually, the progress made by the revolutionary movement in Spain, of whatever allegiance, was halted by the severe government action against the International, which was officially banned in January 1872. Nevertheless, until the fall of the republic in 1874 it continued to be active. Congresses were held to discuss the fundamental principles of revolutionary action and reflected the rivalries in the International. (It was at a congress at Cordoba in the New Year of 1873 that the Spanish section of the International declared itself formally for Bakunin rather than for Marx.) By the time the anarchist movement was driven underground after the restoration of the monarchy -- and, of course, the very principle of decentralization and anonymity on which the movement was based made it particularly fitted for a clandestine existence -- it had a number of successes to its credit I and had already established its own legends. One of the principles most firmly maintained by the Spanish anarchists was that 'the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves', and consequently they had taken the lead in a number of spontaneous strikes in Barcelona and elsewhere. One of these -- a general strike in favour of the eight-hour day among the paper workers at Alcoy, between Valencia and Alicante -- led to an insurrection in 1873 which made Alcoy a symbolic name in the history of the anarchist movement. Delegates from Alcoy had played a leading role at the congress at Cordoba, and five of them were members of the Federal Council of the International in Spain. As a result, Alcoy had been chosen as the seat of the Federal [212] Council, so that a number of the chief figures in the Spanish Section of the International were there to lead the rising in person. The workers seized and burned the factories, killed the mayor and marched round the town with the heads of the policemen whom they had put to death. It was a frightening sign both of the potential power of the workers and of their ruthlessness after years of oppression, and Alcoy became a name with which to remind the workers of their militant traditions and also to alarm the bourgeoisie with the threat of violence and terror.6

However, the real achievement of the anarchist leaders during the few years between Fanelli's arrival and the restoration of the Bourbons was not just that they had begun to influence the urban workers of an industrial centre like Barcelona, and to practise the revolutionary strike some thirty years before the development of anarcho-syndicalist doctrines in France. The most remarkable fact about Spanish anarchism was its appeal to the most depressed and desperate section of the whole population - the landless farm workers and the small peasants of the south. It was this combination of the artisans and workers in the most advanced industrial areas with the desperately poor rural masses, whom Bakunin had seen as the best material for revolution, that gave the anarchist movement its broad basis of support and its widespread appeal.

Throughout Spanish history there had been a series of spontaneous, disorganized and savagely repressed peasant revolts in Castile, Aragon and Andalusia. In the nineteenth century the lot of the peasants was perhaps harder than ever; the common lands had been broken up and sold by governments anxious for cash to balance their budgets; the landlords recognized fewer and fewer obligations towards their peasants. As in the south of Italy, absentee landlords began to regard their estates solely as a means of raising enough income to enable them to live in style and comfort elsewhere -- or when they did live on or near their estates, as in the wine-growing area around Jerez, their scale of living only emphasized the gap between rich and poor. Several of Fanelli's first disciples in Barcelona were Andalusian in origin; and even before this there had been groups in the ports of the south -Malaga and Cadiz -- who were familiar with the doctrines of [213] Fourier and Cabet as well as of Proudhon. [Even as bien-pensant a Spanish lady as the Empress Eugenie had read Fourier by the time she was eighteen years old. (See Theodore Zeldin, Emile Ollivier and the Liberal Empire of Napoleon III, Oxford 1963, p. 94.)] It was in Cadiz that the first anarchist centre in the south was formed, and at first it was the artisans, schoolmasters and students in the towns who picked up the new ideas or learnt them from travelling apostles, such as Anselmo Lorenzo, who also spread the doctrines to Portugal. The first influential anarchists in Andalusia were men like Navarro Prieto, the son of a schoolmaster, who, having got himself to the university but having failed to pass his examinations, became a successful anarchist journalist; or Agustfn Cervantes, a melancholy and hypochondriacal legal and classical scholar who lost his professorial chair because of his anti-clerical and radical views.

There was enough endemic unrest in the countryside for revolutionary material to be readily available. As in Sicily, bandits had always played a role in Andalusian life and many of them had become honoured legendary figures who had defied central authority and robbed from the rich to give to the poor. The new anarchist doctrines merely seemed to confirm what every peasant had long felt -- that the landlord, the state and the church had combined to oppress him and deprive him of his natural rights. In 1844 the government had created a new police force, the Guardia Civil, to suppress banditry. In the confused and unruly years between 1868 and 1874 the Civil Guards were increasingly in evidence; and by the end of this period it was the anarchists against whom they mainly acted. 'From now on', in Gerald Brenan's words, 'every Civil Guard became a recruiting officer for anarchism.'7 The state now seemed identified with the landlord, and the abolition of one must, it seemed, lead to the abolition of the other.

With the collapse of the republic and the end of the hopes of the liberal federalists and cantonalists, some federal republicans began to see in anarchism a way out of their disillusionment, just as some of the same sort of people in Italy turned to anarchism when disappointed with the ineffectiveness of Mazzini's republicanism. One of these, Fermin Salvochea, was to become a typical saint of the Andalusian anarchist movement. He came to [214] anarchism in a way not unlike that by which Bakunin and Kropotkin had become social revolutionaries. He was the son of a prosperous merchant in Cadiz and was twenty-six years old at the time of Queen Isabella's abdication.8 He had lived in England for a time and he was impressed by Bradlaugh's militant rationalism and had become an eager reader of Tom Paine. During the years after 1868 he was involved first in a republican rising in Cadiz and then in the federalist rising in Catalonia. In 1871, after being in and out of prison, he became the mayor (alcalde) of Cadiz, but again was soon involved in another federalist revolt and this time was sent to a penal colony in Africa. Here he read about and reflected on the nature of society and revolution and he became an intellectually convinced anarchist. He at once put his principles into practice: he refused a pardon which his family had used their influence to obtain for him, tearing it up in front of the prison governor and declaring that there were only two ways of obtaining freedom -- by force or as part of a general amnesty for all political offenders. In 1886 he succeeded in escaping and returned to Cadiz, where he founded an anarchist periodical. During the next years he quickly became one of the most respected leaders of Andalusian anarchism, as much admired by the peasants and workers as he was detested by the members of the class from which he originated. On May Day 1890 and again in 1891 he organized great anarchist demonstrations all over Andalusia, with the result that he was soon arrested and imprisoned again.

While he was in prison, in January 1892, a band of 500 workers and farmhands marched into Jerez in an attempt to liberate 157 anarchists who had been imprisoned there the year before on charges of belonging to the mysterious Mano Negra, an anarchist movement which, indeed, may never have existed outside the imagination of the police, who were always ready to attribute isolated, unconnected acts of violence to a single master organization. Although Salvochea was in jail in Cadiz at the time, he was accused of organizing the raid and was condemned to a further period of imprisonment, part of which was spent in military confinement under conditions so bad that even Salvochea's spirit broke and he attempted suicide. When he was released in 1899 he was frail and ill, but till his death in 1907 he [215] remained an object of reverence to anarchists all over Spain. His career is typical of the anarchist militants of his generation, men who became the heroes and saints of the revolutionary movement in Spain in the twentieth century. Moreover, the character of men like Salvochea or Anselmo Lorenzo, austere, simple, dedicated apostles of the anarchist cause, was one which appealed to a movement that had a strongly puritanical side. The really serious anarchists, especially in Andalusia, neither smoked nor drank, while their sexual morality was often extremely prudish. Thus it was men like Salvochea, who remained celibate, or Lorenzo, who lived faithfully and happily all his life with his unwedded companera, who were closer to the spirit of the movement than intellectual practitioners of free love like Francisco Ferrer, although he became another of the famous martyrs of the Spanish left.

During the 1870s the revolutionary movement in Spain worked largely underground, and it is probably impossible to ascertain its strength. In 1889 the return to power of the liberals made open organization to a certain extent possible again; and this gave the Marxist socialists the chance to develop a socialist political party. However, throughout the 1880s it was the anarchists who had kept the idea of revolution alive. They were associated -- generally correctly -- with many of the outbreaks of violence and the strikes which took place in this period. The doctrine of propaganda by the deed found a ready audience in Spain, so that, in the 1890s, anarchist activity consisted both of support for any sort of strike or rising springing spontaneously from below and of individual acts of terrorism and symbolic vengeance such as the attack on General Martinez Campos or the murder of Canovas del Castillo (see pp. 111-12 above). What made these acts particularly notable was the extreme severity with which they were punished. In September 1896 a law against anarchists was introduced and it was enforced with the utmost savagery. During the following ten years, to the accompaniment of protests from all the liberals of Europe, the anarchists suffered, often quite unjustly, a series of prison sentences and executions as frequent and severe as anything experienced until the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

The most notorious of these trials and executions was that of [216] Francisco Ferrer in 1909. Ferrer was the son of a prosperous peasant near Barcelona and was born in 1859.9 Although his family were devout Catholics, one of his uncles was a free thinker, and his first employer, a grain merchant, was a radical atheist. Ferrer grew into a young man of violent anti-clerical views and revolutionary sympathies. The latter he was able to express practically by taking a job as the conductor of the train running across the French frontier between Barcelona and Cerbere, and using the opportunity to help political refugees cross over the border. Then, in 1886, he was involved in a republican rising and fled to Paris, where he stayed till 1901. For a time he ran a restaurant and then he became secretary to a Spanish republican politician, in exile like himself. At the same time he started to collect a few pupils, to whom he taught Spanish by new and experimental methods.

In his stay in Paris, Ferrer developed his ideas about society and, in particular, about education. Starting from his deep hatred of the Catholic church, and of its domination over such public education as there was in Spain, he dreamed of a Modern School where instruction would be based on rational principles and where children of all classes and both sexes could mix and only those whose families could afford it would pay. It was, in effect, a return to the educational ideal of Rousseau's Emile, and an attempt to adapt some of the ideas of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century educational reformers to the situation in Spain. What gave Ferrer's ideas their particular quality was the militant atheism which underlay them and the fact that public education in Spain was extremely backward, so that any proposals for reform seemed startling. The principle on which the schools were to be based was spontaneity: 'True education worthy of the name will obtain everything by spontaneity alone.'10 It was through education of this type that the school should prepare 'a better humanity, more perfect, more just than present humanity'. 'I intend', Ferrer wrote in 1900, 'to form a school of emancipation, which will be concerned with banning from the mind whatever divides men, the false concepts of property, country and family, so as to attain the liberty and well-being which all desire and none completely realizes.'11

Ferrer denied that he was an anarchist and in public at least [217] claimed that he was not directly connected with any revolutionary movement: 'Plutot qu'un revolutionnaire, je suis un revolte', he said. However, his educational ideas were enough for him to be regarded as closely associated with the anarchists. Indeed, the Spanish Section of the International had already passed, as early as its congress at Saragossa in 1872, a resolution calling for an "ensenanza integral'; and when Ferrer returned to Spain to found his Escuela Moderna, Anselmo Lorenzo, who had first met him in Paris, became one of his closest collaborators. Ferrer himself admitted this side of his anarchist sympathies when he wrote:

If I am called an anarchist for a sentence in which I spoke about 'ideas of destruction in the mind', I will reply that in the collection of books and pamphlets published by the Modern School you can certainly find ideas of destruction, but please note that these are 'ideas of destruction in the mind' -- that is ideas of a rational and scientific nature, directed only against prejudice: is this anarchism? If so, I did not know it, but in this case I should be an anarchist in so far as anarchism would have adopted my ideas on education, on peace and on love, and not because I would have adopted its methods.12

However it now seems almost certain that Ferrer's links with the anarchist movement were very much closer than that. Recent research in the Spanish and French police archives suggests that Ferrer was an even more complex character than was hitherto supposed and that he himself was directly involved, during his exile in Paris in the stormy anarchist decade of the 1890s, in anarchist conspiracies and that he continued his association with terrorists after his return to Spain.13

One of his main concerns in Paris was to raise money to enable him to found a school on his own lines. In this he was lucky. He was separated from his wife, who indeed had tried to shoot him in a Paris street, and he met and fell in love with a girl called Leopoldine Bonnard. Leopoldine became the companion to a rich elderly lady of extremely bigoted Catholic views. Nevertheless, Ferrer's eloquence and, presumably, his charm were such that she became converted by him and Leopoldine to their ideas, and when she died a few years later she left Ferrer all her money. When he returned to Barcelona in 1901 he thus had the means to realize his [218] dream of founding the Escuela Moderna and a publishing house to produce the textbooks which a rational education demanded. He returned to Spain at a moment when, as a result of the defeat in the war with the United States in 1898 and the loss of almost all the remaining Spanish Empire, many intellectuals were discussing and criticizing the fundamental assumptions of Spanish life. Thus Ferrer's ideas aroused a considerable interest and were widely discussed. In fact, his school was extremely small; it had thirty-three pupils when it opened and never rose above fifty. But the challenge to accepted social and religious ideas which it represented soon made it notorious. Ferrer paraded his militant atheism by actions such as organizing a picnic for his pupils on Good Friday, while his private life increased the bad reputation which he had among the bien-pensants. He had separated, though in a friendly way, from Leopoldine Bonnard, by whom he had had a son, and had fallen in love with a beautiful girl called Soledad Villafranca, who had anarchist sympathies and was a teacher at his school. A rival admirer of her, Mateo Moral, was librarian at the school; and he was deeply involved in two unsuccessful attempts on the life of the king of Spain, one in Paris in May 1905 and the other during the royal wedding procession in Madrid a year later. The conspirators were not exclusively anarchist, and some radical republicans including the young Catalan leader Alejandro Lerroux were also among them. Part of the funds for these operations were supplied by Ferrer out of his inherited fortune, and there seems little doubt that he played an important part in planning and executing the attacks on the king.

After the Madrid attempt on the lives of the king and queen, Ferrer was at once arrested and charged with complicity in the assassination plot. After a year's delay in prison, he was in fact, acquitted, but when he returned home he found that his school had been closed. After his release he visited Paris and London (where he called on Kropotkin), but returned to Spain to continue his publishing activities and to make propaganda for his educational methods.

In the summer of 1909 there was a growing political crisis in Spain. Revolution was in the air, especially in Barcelona. Alejandro Lerroux had been conducting a campaign of violent anti-clerical agitation, exhorting his followers to burn churches [219] and to sack convents, while the Catalan anarchists were perfectly ready to add their quota of bombs and assassinations to the general unrest. Then, in July, after a defeat of the Spanish army in Morocco, the government decided to call up the reservists in Catalonia for service in Africa. This was too much for a population which had already had enough of inefficient and oppressive government, and for whom the disasters of the Cuban war were still fresh in their minds. Barcelona rose in revolt and for a week -- the Semana Tragica -- it looked as though a spontaneous social revolution had broken out. As Anselmo Lorenzo wrote in a letter on 21 July:

It is amazing! The social revolution has started in Barcelona, and it had been started by something so ill-defined, misunderstood and wrongly identified as that which is sometimes called the vile rabble and sometimes His Majesty the People. No one started it! No one led it! Neither liberals nor Catalan separatists, nor republicans nor socialists nor anarchists. . . . A week of intoxication, of holy rage, seeing that the fury of the masses was justified by a hundred centuries of misery, oppression and endurance.14

One of the inevitable consequences of the anarchist doctrine that anarchists must at once join and attempt to steer any spontaneous popular uprising was that they were always held responsible for such outbreaks, even though, in fact, it was nearly always impossible to find out exactly how a particular revolt started. After the Semana Trdgica, however, it was not only the anarchists who were to suffer in the repression that followed. Large numbers of people were arrested and executed or deported; but the most famous victim was Ferrer. During and immediately before the riots he had been at his house in the country and visited Barcelona only once to try and find out what was happening. He had been on good terms with Lerroux, whose violent anti-clericalism he found sympathetic, but he had never indulged in the inflammatory mob oratory with which Lerroux had contributed to creating the atmosphere that made the Semana Tragica possible. Yet, while Lerroux survived to become a responsible bourgeois politician, Ferrer was arrested and brought before a court martial. The fact that he had been acquitted two [220] years earlier doubtless contributed to the determination of the authorities to deal with him this time, and by now he had become a dangerous monster in the eyes of all supporters of the established order. The tribunal, although there was really no evidence that he was directly involved in the outbreak of the revolt in Barcelona, sentenced him to death: and he was executed on 13 October 1909. It is reported that his last words to the firing squad were: 'Aim well, my friends, you are not responsible. I am innocent. Viva la Escuela Moderna!'

The execution of Francisco Ferrer, like that of Sacco and Vanzetti in the United States some twenty years later, provoked an international outcry, since many liberal intellectuals were, and have remained, convinced of his innocence. They are probably right as far as the charge on which he was actually condemned is concerned; but he was by no means the gentle, non-violent educationalist he is sometimes depicted as being. His life and death illustrate the complexities, contradictions and ambiguities of the anarchist temperament and of the intellectual who finds himself involved in the practical consequences of his revolutionary ideology.

The Sernana Trdgica, however it started and however little it was in fact planned by the anarchists, firmly established them as the leaders of the revolutionary movement in Barcelona. With the revolutionary experience of 1909 added to their long list of heroic, bloody and hopeless risings, and with the new forms of action and organization which they were learning from the example of revolutionary syndicalism in France, the Spanish anarchists were by 1912 entering on a new phase of effective militancy.


The anarchist movement in Spain experienced in the most intense way the contradictory currents of ideas inherent in anarchist thought and practice everywhere; and each of the anarchist thinkers and leaders outside Spain had contributed to it. As we have seen, Proudhon's federalism had, by the 1860s, already become a doctrine shared by anarchists and many liberal [221] republicans. The idea of the commune as the basis for the new social organization was taken for granted by the anarchists and, whenever they had the chance, the formation of a revolutionary commune was the first step they took. Bakunin's belief in the revolutionary potential of the suffering, ignorant masses, only awaiting the apostles of violent revolt to break out into effective action, seemed to find empirical confirmation in the enthusiasm with which the day labourers of Andalusia responded to the missionaries of 'the Idea', as the anarchist militants called it. Kropotkin's faith in human goodness and progress and his confidence in the possibilities of education seemed to be finding practical expression in the educational ideals of Ferrer and Anselmo Lorenzo. At the same time, these ideals and the fanatical devotion they inspired had their sinister side; nowhere more than in Spain was violent destruction an inherent part of the anarchist creed.

The 'tragic week' in Barcelona in 1909, with its spontaneous, disorganized acts of violence which the hastily improvised committees of the working-class movements, anarchist or socialist, were unable to control or direct, and the reprisals that followed, including the execution of Ferrer, was both a culmination of the sporadic violence of the previous twenty-five years and the beginning of a new phase in the history of Spanish anarchism. In 1908 a new group in Barcelona, Solidaridad Obrera, tried to organize the workers on an anarchist basis; and, although its activities were suspended for a time as a result of the events of 1909, the idea of a libertarian, revolutionary syndicalist movement had taken root. In 1911 the Confederation National de Trabajo (CNT) was founded in Barcelona. This was a body similar to the French CGT and to a large extent modelled on it. Although it was not until 1914 that it could operate legally, it began to be a formidable force in many centres -- in Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and later in Galicia - while the anarcho-syndicalists established contact with the anarchists of South America and provided the movement there with ideas and leaders. Although many of the ideas and tactics of the CNT were imported from France,15 the revolutionary syndicalist movement in Spain was unique, both because anarchist ideas were more widely diffused than anywhere else and because of the alliance on [222] which it was based between industrial and rural workers. In Barcelona and the other cities of Catalonia the federalist, anarchist tradition had been unbroken since the time of the First International; and it was now reinforced by an effective working-class organization. And, just as in the urban anarchist strongholds, there was an undercurrent of revolt that could turn a strike into a riot or a labour dispute into a street fight, so in the vast, arid, underdeveloped and overexploited south, a helpless and hopeless rural proletariat waited desperately for any sign that might suggest that an improvement in their condition was possible. Thus, as Diaz del Moral and Gerald Brenan have shown, there were in Andalusia periodical waves of excitement, agitation and expectation when new converts were made and when the revolution seemed imminent.

The ideas of anarchism in general and of the general strike in particular had been spread in the south by travelling propagandists, and still more by a large number of leaflets and pamphlets which were put out by the anarchist centres in the provincial towns and which, pored over in the dim light of the barracks where the day labourers lived herded together, or explained to the illiterates by those of their comrades who could read, stirred up hopes of an immediate regeneration of society. For landless day labourers or for the small peasants whose diminutive holdings did not produce enough for their families to live on, such regeneration was inevitably going to come about through the redistribution of land -- el reparto. 'The Reparto', the historian of these movements has written, 'has constantly been the magic word in all the rural disturbances which has electrified the masses.'16 In 1903 there had been one of the recurrent waves of revolutionary agitation in Andalusia; in Cordoba the general strike was declared. But, as so often, the movement petered out in the face of resistance and still more in the face of the difficulty of maintaining enthusiasm and an effective organization among backward, scattered and remote communities. Moreover, the agitations of 1903 were followed in 1904 by a major famine -and, as Diaz del Moral has remarked, 'poverty and hunger are the worst enemies of proletarian agitation'.17 For nearly fifteen years the anarchist movement in the south only just managed to survive, until another upsurge of hope and the revolutionary [223] situation elsewhere in Spain and outside brought a new period of agitation.

During the dark periods of Andalusian anarchism -- in the 1870s or in the period after the famine of 1904 -- the 'idea' was largely kept alive by devoted propagandists and journalists, of whom Jose Sanchez Roman was typical.18 The son of a shoemaker, he had grown up in the 1870s and had learnt to read in the intervals of working in the fields and mending his comrades' shoes in the evenings. He was involved in the agitation attributed to the Mano Negra and was one of the moving spirits behind the famous attack on Jerez in 1892. Out of prison, he had read every anarchist pamphlet he could lay hands on; in prison he was able to learn at first hand from Fermin Salvochea and from a French anarchist who was a friend and disciple of Reelus. When he emerged in 1901 he became one of the most energetic, effective and widely read anarchist journalists in the south. However, the work of propagandists and journalists like Sanchez Roman would not have been possible without the support of the anarchist workers who kept the doctrine alive in each village -- the 'obrero consciente', austerely devoted to the cause, who 'did not taste alcohol, did not smoke, did not gamble, never pronounced the word God, lived with his companera without religious or legal ties or married before the municipal judge'.19 It was these people who gave the movement its strength and continuity; and it was they who suffered, often heroically, in the repressions to which their activities gave rise. Sometimes they were attracted by even more uncompromising doctrines. At certain moments the most serious anarchists were vegetarians as well as teetotallers. These militants, while basing their belief on rational arguments, had the faith to live lives of such strict dedication that they can only be compared to the friars or missionaries of the Christian church.

In 1917-18, when reports of the distant Revolution in Russia began to filter through to Spain, there was another intense proselytizing movement similar to that of 1903. Once again the pamphlets were circulated and those who could not read clustered round those who could to hear the doctrines of Kropotkin or of the French anarchist pamphleteers. The enthusiasm for the idea of Russia was so great that one leading anarchist, Salvador Cordon, changed his name to Khordoniev. Once again, too, the old dreams [224] revived of an era when the landless labourers would become owners of a plot of land, when a system of irrigation might bring prosperity to the arid, stony fields, and the fertile plains no longer be in the hands of the rich. The CNT had increased its influence among the rural workers of Andalusia over the preceding years, so that local agricultural unions were able to organize effective strikes and to assert their short-term demands as well as dreaming of a future paradise.

In fact, between 1917 and 1923, all over Spain revolutionary strikes by the CNT were both producing a state of virtual civil war and also, inevitably, creating dilemmas for the anarchists about the way in which their movement was to be organized and about the relations of the anarchists and the CNT to other revolutionary opponents of the existing government. Spain had not been involved in the World War, and consequently the legacy of patriotic solidarity that was never totally forgotten by the trade-union movements in the belligerent countries did not affect the actions of the CNT. Moreover, during the war Spain had experienced a comparative boom; industry had flourished and for once there had been a labour shortage, so that the government and employers had been obliged to tolerate a certain amount of trade-union activity. The end of the war brought a slump; the cost of living rose; there was widespread unemployment, and the trade unions - both the socialist UGT and the anarcho-syndicalist CNT -- were thrown back on the defensive. In a prolonged series of strikes they attempted to preserve their own legal existence and to gain a minimum wage and improved conditions of work, as well as asserting certain political aims.

For some five years, strikes, lockouts and violence of all kinds brought government in Spain almost to a stop and increased the economic distress which had originally inspired the strikes, while each act of violence by one side brought its reprisals from the other. Almost all parts of the country were affected, but it was in Barcelona that the struggle was bitterest. Barcelona was one of the great strongholds of the CNT, and it was in Catalonia that many of the most famous revolutionary syndicalist leaders were operating. Two of these, Angel Pestana and Salvador Segui, were revolutionary syndicalists in the French tradition, who believed in the necessity for organization and in short-term trade-union [225] activity as well as in an 'ultimate revolutionary goal; and, as elsewhere, this was something which many true anarchists were not prepared to support. Certainly, the CNT leaders had some successes to their credit, notably the results of the notorious strike early in 1919 at the Canadiense works, a large hydro-electric concern in Barcelona. After a two-month strike which developed into a general strike in the whole of Catalonia, the government capitulated. It issued decrees instituting an eight-hour day and took other measures to meet some of the workers' grievances. However, these concessions were accompanied by a renewed attack on the revolutionary unions, and for the next four years there was open war between the CNT and the employers. One of the main means used against the revolutionary syndicalists was the foundation of independent unions -- the sindicatos libres -- which would, it was hoped, attract support away from the revolutionary syndicates. In the event, a kind of gang warfare developed between the two movements in Catalonia, with the employers hiring pistoleros to assassinate CNT leaders, and with the syndicalists replying in kind. In one of these attacks Salvador Segui was murdered. He was a trade-union organizer of considerable gifts who had also turned himself into an intellectual revolutionary with ideas borrowed from Nietzsche as well as from his anarchist friends, but who had always used his influence against terrorism and in favour of organized trade-union activity.

For many years the CNT was seriously divided by the conflict of opinion between Segui and Pestana on the one hand and, on the other, those who wanted direct revolutionary action of a purely anarchist kind. This conflict naturally led to repeated arguments about anarchist first principles. During the years of open strife with government and employers, the issue was less acute, though a few militant anarchists, especially in Andalusia, refused to support the CNT. It was characteristic of this phase that the CNT congress of 1922 passed a resolution as confused and equivocal as the one with which the IWW in the United States had started its career. The CNT, the congress stated,

being a completely revolutionary organism which frankly and expressly refuses parliamentary and collaborationist action [226] with political parties, is at the same time wholly and absolutely political, since its mission is that of winning its right to review and to criticize all the evolutionary factors of national life, and to that end its duty is to exert decisive pressure, by means of joint action stemming from the capabilities and demonstrations of the CNT.20

The anarchists also had many arguments about what was happening in Russia. The first enthusiasm for the Revolution slowly ebbed as the true situation became known; but it was only reluctantly that the CNT gave up the idea of belonging to the Third International and it was only after bitter discussions that, in 1922, they finally withdrew from membership. Just as, sixty years earlier, the Spanish anarchists had gradually discovered that adherence to the First International and loyalty to Bakunin were not consistent with each other, so now they found that they were not long able to base their policy on the optimistic resolution passed enthusiastically at a national congress in 1919 which affirmed first that

the CNT declares it is a firm defender of the principles of the First International maintained by Bakunin; and second, it declares that it adheres provisionally to the Communist International because of the revolutionary character which inspires it; meanwhile the CNT is organizing and summoning a universal workers' congress which will agree and settle the principles on which the true Workers' International will be based.21
The final break with the Third International in 1922 cost the anarcho-syndicalist movement some able and militant supporters, such as Andres Nin and Joaquin Maurin, who, after a period as communists, led the dissident Partido Obrero Unificado Marxista (POUM) and further complicated the left-wing political scene in Catalonia, before becoming the victims of communist vengeance in 1937.

The years 1917-23 demonstrated both the power of the CNT and its limits. They could claim in 1919 over 700,000 members organized in industrial unions (sindicatos de ramo). They were able to maintain a continuous, violent and effective series of [227] strikes and agitation in many parts of the country. They were extending their influence in areas such as Galicia, where they had been weak previously and far less numerous than their socialist rivals of the UGT. Yet, as so often, all this activity had failed to produce the final revolutionary situation which the syndicalist leaders expected and which their theories demanded, and even before the establishment of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship in 1923, the CNT had lost its initiative. The movement was weakened by its internal divisions about ends and means. The attempts made by the CNT and the UGT to collaborate never lasted very long and their rivalry grew more and more bitter. When Primo de Rivera established his dictatorship in 1923, the CNT's declaration of a general strike was not supported by the UGT, and within eight months the CNT was forced into becoming a clandestine organization once more. Anarchist periodicals were largely banned; anarchist and syndicalist offices were closed and over 200 leading militants were arrested. During the years of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, as so often in the past, the Spanish anarchists were forced back on an examination of their tactics and obliged to reflect on their aims. They succeeded in keeping some of the federations of the CNT in being; but it was the anarchist militants who took the initiative in founding a new organization which would, they hoped, infuse new life into the movement and recall it to its true revolutionary aims, at a time when open syndicalist action was no longer possible. This new group was the Federation Anarquista Iberica (FAI), founded at a secret meeting in Valencia in July 1927. Within a few years the FAI became the driving force behind the Spanish anarchist movement. At first it had to operate in secrecy and obscurity, and was a true Bakuninist secret society of young, fanatical revolutionaries who were determined to restore the anarchist movement to a course of uncompromising opposition to the existing order, and to put an end to the flirtations with the republican politicians of which they suspected some of the CNT leaders. The FAI was, in fact, explicitly founded in imitation of Bakunin's own Social Democratic Alliance, and it was intended that it should perform the same role in the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement as the Alliance was meant to do in the International, that is to say, to provide a nucleus of dedicated [228] and determined revolutionaries to inspire and control the whole movement.

During the period of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship the possibilities of anarchist action were very limited. The CNT was able to retain its prestige as a true revolutionary organization, especially as the UGT and the socialist party were prepared to accept certain compromises with Primo de Rivera's regime. The price the CNT paid for preserving its revolutionary position was impotence and persecution. However, it was able to emerge from the period of dictatorship comparatively strong, and in 1931 could still claim over half a million members. The king's dismissal of Primo de Rivera in 1930 was followed by his own abdication in 1931. And, as in the years after 1868, suddenly everything seemed possible and a revolution not far away.

Inevitably, therefore, the anarchists had to take up the familiar debate about their relationship to the new republic and to the other revolutionary working-class parties, at a moment when a Constituent Assembly was preparing a new constitution. Inside the CNT the discussion had been going on for some time, with Angel Pestana leading the wing which believed that something short of total revolution might be obtainable and desirable as a short-term goal, and Juan Peiro opposing any sort of association with politicians of whichever party. After the declaration of the republic in 1931, the CNT was no longer a clandestine organization and was reorganized once more as a national movement. In the face of violent denunciations of 'German bureaucracy' and 'centralism', the individual factory unions were reorganized into national industrial federations, and, in spite of protests from anarchists such as Garcia Oliver that 'the Federations of Industry come from Germany and it looks as though they have come out of a barrel of beer', the new organization was accepted. The attitude of the CNT was necessarily ambivalent, both because of the differences of opinion about tactics between Pestana and Peiro, and also because, as always, they were torn between a desire not to be left out of the new republican scene and a deep mistrust of the government's aims and motives. On the one hand, 'the Constituent Assembly is a product of a revolutionary act, an act which directly or indirectly had our support'. On the other hand, 'We hope for [229] nothing from the Constituent Assembly, conceived in the womb of capitalist society and ready to defend its hegemony in its triple aspect, political, juridical and economic.'22

The republic, born in the midst of the world economic crisis, soon showed itself quite unable to deal with the worsening situation. Equally, the growing unemployment and distress created its own problems for the anarchists in the CNT. Pestana and Peiro, although they had been divided previously about the question of contact with the politicians and support for the Constituent Assembly, were now united against the anarchists of the FAI, and in August 1931 they issued a manifesto with thirty signatures, setting out very clearly the differences as they saw them between revolutionary syndicalism and anarchism. After attacking the government's failure to deal with the economic situation, they attacked equally strongly the belief that a revolution could be made then and there by a hastily improvised minority action:

In the face of this oversimplified concept of the revolution -classical and rather dangerous -- which at present would deliver us over to a republican fascism ... we oppose another, true one, the only practical and comprehensive one, which can lead us unfailingly to the attainment of our final objective. . . . This requires that the preparation should not only be preparation of aggressive elements of combat, but that it should also have moral elements, which today are the strongest, the most destructive and the most difficult to defeat. . . . The revolution does not trust exclusively in the audacity of more or less audacious minorities, but rather it wants to be a movement developing out of the people as a whole, of the working class marching towards its final liberation, of the syndicates and of the Confederation which will determine the act, the gesture and the precise moment of the revolution. . . . We are revolutionaries, yes; but we do not cultivate the myth of revolution.23

Cultivation of the myth of revolution was, of course, just what the FAI believed in, and by now their influence was strong enough in the CNT to secure the expulsion of Pestana, Peiro and the other signatories of the manifesto of the thirty. All members of the FAI [230] had to be members of the CNT; and they were successful in getting elected to the committees which decided CNT policy, nationally and locally. As the CNT, on the best anarchist lines, had no permanent officials and the minimum administrative arrangements, the most militant and devoted people could win considerable authority and prestige by their personalities alone, and there was no bureaucratic hierarchy of conservative permanent officials to stop them adopting the most extreme courses. Moreover, in the violent struggles of the post-war years and in the period of clandestine illegal activity under Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, the more brutal, tough and destructive members of the movement tended to come to the fore. The younger generation were, some by temperament, some by intellectual conviction, committed to uncompromising direct action more than ever before. Typical of this generation of extremists was Buenaventura Durruti, who was to become one of the great anarchist heroes and martyrs of the Civil War. He was a railway worker from Leon, born in 1896, and in the troubles of 1917 he organized sabotage on the railways. He was exiled to France and, except for a brief return to Spain when he was involved in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Alfonso XIII and a successful one on the life of the archbishop of Saragossa, he lived in France until 1931. He was a man who stopped at nothing; he had robbed and murdered in the anarchist cause, and the 'innocent expression' which Gerald Brenan24 noted is perhaps offset in his photographs by a cruel mouth, and was certainly belied by his deeds. With his friend Francisco Ascaso, he became a symbol of anarchist cruelty and ruthlessness to his opponents.

During the years between the declaration of the republic in 1931 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936 there were a number of occasions when the anarchists attempted to set up insurrectional communes in various parts of Spain, in the hope that their action would give the signal for general revolution. The pattern of these actions was much the same everywhere and recalls the comparable attempts made by the Italian anarchists some fifty years before. The CNT took over the town; money was declared abolished; the archives were burnt; the Guardia Civil was disarmed and disbanded or murdered. In January 1932 such [231] an attempt took place at two places in the upper Llobregat valley in Catalonia. It was suppressed after five days of violent fighting and, as a result, Durruti and Ascaso were deported to an African penal settlement. It is worth quoting a letter which Ascaso wrote as he left Spain, for it is typical of a certain eloquence and pathos that seem to have come naturally to even the toughest and most ruthless anarchists:

We are going away. . . . To go away -- according to the poet -- is to die a little. Yet for us who are not poets, departure has always been a symbol of life. Constantly on the march, perpetually on the road like eternal Jews without a country; outside a society in which we find no environment in which to live; belonging to an exploited class, without any place in the world, for us to travel is always a sign of vitality.25

During these years in which the anarchists were, so to speak, rehearsing for the great days in the summer of 1936, when final revolution seemed within reach, there were a number of such episodes. A revolutionary general strike was attempted in Seville in the summer of 1932, against an attempt by General Sanjurjo to seize power by a military coup. 'The only answer', the anarchists wrote, 'to such unworthy provocation is a revolutionary general strike, to start a civil war immediately, in the streets and in the fields. Let each house become a castle, let each roof become a fortress raised heroically against aggressive militarism and in favour of civil liberties.'26 In this case the CNT's action was effective enough and Sanjurjo's rising was defeated by the strike in conjunction with the government's measures. Other anarchist attempts at revolution were less successful. In January 1933, for example, there were riots in Barcelona, and the south was ablaze with spontaneous risings; revolutionary communes were proclaimed in the Levante; and in Andalusia there were widespread peasant revolts. Of these, the most famous and the most brutally repressed was that at Casas Viejas.

Casas Viejas was a small village near Jerez, which had all the characteristics of a place where anarchism might well be expected to provide the only hope. It was desperately poor and riddled with malaria. January was, as E. J. Hobsbawm has pointed out,27 the worst time of year for the landless labourer, when food was scanty [232] and employment scarce. The village was already familiar with anarchist ideas and arguments; and there seems to have been a kind of anarchist dynasty in which young revolutionaries married into the families of old anarchist leaders. Thus, when reports began to arrive of risings elsewhere in Spain and rumours spread that the land was about to be distributed to the peasants (there were, in fact, some plans for land reform on neighbouring estates) the senior anarchist in the village, Curro Cruz, known as Seisdedos (Six Fingers), decided that the long-awaited moment was at hand and that the time for action had come. The mayor was told that a libertarian commune had been proclaimed; the four civil guards in the village were disarmed and shut up; the red and black flag of the Spanish anarchists was unfurled, and preparations made for the defence of the village and for the division of the land. So far, everything had taken place without violence; it was only with the arrival of government forces that fighting began, and it soon became apparent that the revolutionaries of Casas Viejas were isolated. Seisdedos seems to have done his best to prevent the population of the village as a whole from suffering, and he and his family and friends barricaded themselves in his house in the upper part of the village. After twelve hours of fierce fighting, ending with the burning of the house, some twenty-five anarchists were killed. The episode was typical of such anarchist risings in its courage, optimism and hopelessness; but at the same time the savagery of the government's response - it is alleged that they ordered that no prisoners were to be taken - showed both how precarious the leaders of the new republic felt its institutions to be and how right the anarchists were who expected no change in their relationship to the state under the new republican regime.

The result was that the FAI was able to increase its influence as against those CNT leaders who had hoped for some immediate gains from the republic. The split between the majority of the CNT and Peiro was only healed on the eve of the Civil War, while Pestaha broke away from the anarchist movement altogether and formed a political party of his own. The official line of the CNT over the next three years was to boycott the republic and to abstain from voting in elections: 'Frente a las urnas, la Revolucion Social' (Social Revolution rather than ballot boxes) was the [233] slogan. In this atmosphere of social tension and unrest, and in the face of government impotence or hostility, there were naturally attempts by the movements of the left to draw together. In February 1934 -- in spite of the hesitations of many of the more doctrinaire members of the FAI -- the CNT and the socialist UGT succeeded in making some agreements for joint action on a local basis. Anarchist hostility to the socialists had been increased by the fact that the socialists had participated in the early governments of the republic. However, when, in November 1933, the left was overwhelmingly defeated in the elections and a right-wing government began to undo much of the legislation -inadequate though it had seemed at the time -- by which the republicans had tried to limit the power of the church and the landlord and to protect the workers, then the socialists as well as the anarchists began to think in terms of revolution. In fact, the most important revolutionary outbreak in the bienio negro -- the two dark years of repression that preceded the months of hope when the Popular Front came to power in 193 6 - was the rising of the miners in the Asturias in October 1934, and this was the work of the socialists, although the CNT supported it. The local CNT leaders were supporters of the treintistas and thus local agreements were possible as they would not have been in Catalonia, where the CNT leadership was more extreme.

The Asturias rising, like so many other revolutionary outbreaks, failed because the government was able to isolate it. In Catalonia there had been a rising of separatists at the beginning of October, which the CNT had opposed; and in Madrid a socialist attempt at revolution had been crushed. In the Asturias the UGT and their CNT allies and a few communists were thus exposed to the full fury of the government forces. Moroccan troops and the foreign legion inflicted 10,000 casualties, killed and wounded, on the 70,000 workers involved. The events in Asturias added to the already existing tension and the allegations of atrocities on both sides contributed still further to the growing bitterness. The repression of the rising was followed by further persecution of the left. Throughout 1935, as in France at the same time, many of the rank and file of the working class began to press their leaders to forget their differences and to unite in a Popular Front to defend their basic liberties. As a result, the socialists, communists (still a [234] comparatively insignificant party in Spain) and some of the republican groups agreed to fight the elections in February 1936 in alliance; and the result was a very considerable success for them. The CNT and the anarchists had, as previously, preached abstention from voting; but their exhortations often seemed half-hearted and certainly a large number of CNT voters must have swelled the majorities of the Popular Front candidates, especially in the south, where the results of the elections were hardest to predict.

The anarchists had contributed much to the creation of an atmosphere of impending civil war.28 Their ceaseless agitation and propaganda in favour of total revolution, the sporadic outbreaks and risings which had attempted to set up libertarian communes, and their consistent refusal to accept compromises, had increased the expectancy of revolution among the working class and the corresponding fear of revolution among the army and the right. During the spring of 1936 both sides were preparing for a clash. When the CNT met at Saragossa -- one of the great anarchist strongholds -- for their national congress representing some half a million workers, they were in a militant and revolutionary mood. What was typical of the anarchist movement, however, was that in addition to discussing practical measures of trade union policy and voting in favour of an alliance with the UGT, as well as readmitting Peiro and some of the other syndicalists expelled a few years earlier, they spent a great deal of time discussing what would happen after the impending revolution; and here they were reiterating hopes that might have been expressed at any anarchist gathering during the previous fifty years: 'Once the violent aspect of the revolution is finished, the following are declared abolished: private property, the state, the principles of authority and, as a consequence, the classes which divide men into exploiters and exploited, oppressed and oppressors.' Then they went on to outline the way in which the communes would function, based on the free association of workers in their syndicates, producing and exchanging the necessities of life, and linked in 'regional and national federations for the realization of their general objectives', to form an Iberian Federation of Anarchist Communes. Decisions would be taken in the communes by elected committees to deal with [235] agriculture, hygiene, culture, discipline and production, and statistics.

All these functions will have no executive or bureaucratic character. Apart from those who discharge technical functions . . . the rest will perform their duties as producers, meeting in sessions at the end of the day to discuss the questions of detail which do not require the approval of the communal assemblies.
Questions affecting more than one commune are dealt with by a regional federation -- though very little is said about this crucial problem, and the resolution is soon back on easier ground affirming that 'the revolution will not operate violently on the family', even though 'libertarian communism proclaims free love'. Any difficulties this may produce would be dealt with in a truly Godwinian way: 'For many illnesses a change of water or air is recommended. For the illness of love, which is a sickness that can become blind and obstinate, a change of commune will be recommended.'

Some of the measures proposed were, however, more practical: a mass campaign against illiteracy was projected, similar to those which have, since the Second World War, been put into practice in Yugoslavia and Cuba, and schools would be based (as Ferrer had preached) on the principles of helping men to form their own opinions. There was to be no distinction between intellectuals and manual workers. Certain distinctions, however, were to be respected. It is thus explicitly stated that those communes which are 'refractory to industrialization' or composed of naturists or nudists may set up their own separate communities.

This long resolution29 is a moving document, with its affirmation that man is not evil by nature, and its modest concluding claim that it is not setting out definite rules for the revolutionary proletariat, but rather 'the general lines of the initial plan which the world of producers must complete, the point of departure for Humanity towards its integral liberation'. In the bloodshed and terror of the next months it is sometimes hard to remember that it was these innocent and simple beliefs that inspired the Spanish anarchists; yet their actions and their role in the Civil War will not be understood if their point of departure is forgotten. [236]


General Franco's revolt on 18 July 1936 not only started a civil war; it also at once provoked a revolution. Indeed, Franco's failure to secure control of all Spain by simultaneous military action in the main centres was largely due to the reaction of the working class organized in the CNT and the UGT. In the words of a leading anarchist intellectual, Franco's rising 'hastened the revolution we all desired but which none had expected so soon'.30 The most sensational events were in Barcelona, where the anarchists felt that at last the moment had arrived to make their revolution, and where, for several months, it looked as though they were in fact doing this. By the evening of 20 July the anarchist and syndicalist groups of the CNT were in control of the city. They had stormed the barracks during the night; and Francisco Ascaso, who was killed in one of these fierce assaults, became the first notably anarchist hero and martyr of the Civil War. The popular rising was violent and bloody; it was claimed that 500 people had been killed and 3,000 wounded in the battle; and its success was followed by a period of truly revolutionary change. The rich bourgeoisie of Barcelona seemed to have disappeared overnight; churches were burned; prison doors were opened. For the moment the workers' organizations forgot their quarrels; and even the members of the Civil Guard, which in Barcelona remained loyal to the government, were ready to fraternize with their former enemies on the left. Since the majority of the working class in Barcelona were members of the CNT, the revolution inevitably seemed to be a triumph for the anarchists and an opportunity to put into practice their long-cherished beliefs. It was the workers, the anarchist leaders felt, who had suppressed the military revolt; and it was they who would now take control of the city and of Catalonia.

Indeed, the fact was recognized by the Catalan authorities, and Companys, the Catalan nationalist head of the regional government, the Generalitat, received the leaders of the CNT as soon as the fighting was over. The two most prominent were the formidable and notorious Durruti and Jose Garcia Oliver, who, although also a half-educated workman by origin and a man who [237] had served his revolutionary apprenticeship in the violence of the clandestine anarchist movement of the 1920s, possessed considerable astuteness and organizing ability, as well as courage and independence. Garcia Oliver later wrote:

We went armed to the teeth with rifles, machine-guns and pistols, in shirtsleeves dirty with powder and smoke. . . . Companys received us standing up, with visible emotion. . . . In substance what he said was the following: 'First I must declare that the CNT and the FAI have never been treated as their true importance deserved. You have always been harshly persecuted and I myself with much regret, but forced by political realities, although I formerly was one of you, [In his career as a lawyer Companys had often acted as defence counsel for accused anarchists.] often have been obliged to oppose and persecute you. Now you are masters of the city and of Catalonia. . . . You have conquered and everything is in your power; if you do not need me or do not want me as President of Catalonia, tell me now so that I can go and be one more soldier in the struggle against fascism. If, on the other hand, you believe that here in this post . . . I, with the men of my party, my name and my prestige, can be useful in this struggle, which, although it has today ended so well in this city, we do not know when it will end in the rest of Spain, you can count on me and on my loyalty.' The CNT and the FAI decided on collaboration and democracy, renouncing revolutionary totalitarianism which would have led to the strangling of the revolution by a trade-union and anarchist dictatorship.31

Garcia Oliver, writing afterwards, may well have been justifying his own conduct during these months, but in fact he expressed very clearly the dilemma of the anarchists in the summer of 1936. The whole of previous anarchist theory supposed that, once the revolutionary shock had occurred, the existing state would at once have crumbled, the anarchists would have eliminated their enemies either by violence or persuasion, and so the way would be clear for the construction of the libertarian society. In fact, in July 1936, although the anarchists were masters of the situation in certain places, notably Barcelona, in other areas the revolution was by no means over. The rival [238] workers' organizations, the UGT and the socialists, although a minority in Barcelona, were elsewhere a formidable force, and one whose aim of erecting a centralized socialist society based on the nationalization of industry and its control by the state was fundamentally opposed to that of the anarchists. Even the bourgeoisie, though they may have fled in terror from the rising in Barcelona, or removed their hats and ties in an attempt to pass themselves off as workers, were by no means vanquished. Both in the government of Catalonia and in the central government in Madrid the middle-class republican parties were still in office and many of the organs of government still owed allegiance to them.

Above all, however, the anarchist revolution, like similar attempts before, in Spain itself or in Italy or Russia, was in danger as long as it was not universal. As it became clear that Franco's rising had immediately neither succeeded nor failed but merely started a long civil war, so the problems confronting the anarchist leaders became insuperable. In the early days, following the successes of the left in July, anarchist leaders could still proclaim, as Durruti did, that 'we will make war and revolution at the same time'. But it soon became apparent that not only was this not possible but also, as Garcia Oliver seems to have realized from the moment of that first interview with Companys, making war precluded making revolution.

However, even if the CNT were not in a position to carry through a general revolution in the summer of 1936, it was able to carry out many measures which anarchists regarded as -an essential part of the new society, and its strength in many of the areas not yet under Franco's control was such that CNT support was essential if the government was to wage war at all. Accordingly, for several months the anarchists and syndicalists were left free to run the areas and organizations they controlled in their own way. Certainly in Barcelona all observers were struck by the extent to which a revolution had occurred: and the atmosphere had not visibly changed much when George Orwell arrived in December and described the city so vividly in Homage to Catalonia. The unions had simply taken over the factories, sometimes keeping the old managers as technical advisers; public services were run by the workers themselves; the small shopkeepers, the barbers and the bakers were organized in [239] syndicates; the brothels were closed, thus putting into practice a principle which an anarchist periodical had shortly before expressed as follows: 'He who buys a kiss puts himself on the level of the woman who sells it. Hence an anarchist must not purchase kisses. He should merit them.'32 The essential idea behind these arrangements was that the functions hitherto performed by the capitalist entrepreneurs or by the state should now be performed by committees of the workers themselves. Thus, too, the maintenance of order was the task not of professional police but of patrols organized by a committee of the syndicates.

It was in Barcelona and other parts, of Catalonia that these measures were carried farthest, both because of anarchist strength in this area and because the self-government granted to Catalonia in 1932 and the difficulties of communication in the confusion of the early weeks of the war had combined to make Catalonia virtually an independent state. In the countryside of Catalonia attempts were made at establishing collective farms, though it is understandable that in an area of small peasant proprietors or leaseholders33 these attempts had only limited success. Indeed, the anarchist leaders were repeatedly having to warn the more violent militants against the dangers of forcible collectivization. 'Does anyone believe . . . that through acts of violence an interest in or a desire for socialism can be wakened in the minds of our peasantry?' Juan Peiro, always one of the most realistic of the CNT leaders, asked. 'Or perhaps that by terrorizing it in this fashion it can be won over to the revolutionary spirit prevailing in the towns and cities?'34 Certainly some of Peiro's comrades, notably Durruti, did seem to believe it. However, even when collectivization was not attempted, the middlemen dealing in agricultural produce were abolished and supply committees took over the task of distribution.

In Andalusia, the traditional home of rural anarchism, the villagers seized on the possibilities of revolution with more enthusiasm than the peasants of Catalonia. Unfortunately, however, the village communes did not last long, for much of Andalusia was conquered by Franco's troops within the first months of the war. Before this happened, however, there were many villages where, as in past insurrections, the Civil Guard were disarmed and imprisoned or murdered, the archives were [240] burnt and the reparto proclaimed. Franz Borkenau, an extremely intelligent Austrian political writer and journalist, visited the village of Castro del Rio, near Cordoba, in September 1936. He found that the estates were now worked by the labourers under the direction of anarchist committees; money had been abolished, and the members of the village commune received such necessaries as were available direct from the village store. There was a kind of fierce puritanism, so typical of one sort of anarchism. Borkenau wrote in his diary:

I tried in vain to get a drink, either of coffee or wine or lemonade. The village bar had been closed as nefarious commerce. I had a look at the stores. They were so low as to foretell approaching starvation. But the inhabitants seemed to be proud of this state of things. They were pleased, as they told us, that coffee drinking had come to an end; they seemed to regard the abolition of useless things as a moral improvement. What few commodities they needed from outside, mainly clothes, they hoped to get by direct exchange of their surplus in olives (for which, however, no arrangement had yet been made). Their hatred of the upper class was far less economic than moral. They did not want to get the good living of those they had expropriated, but to get rid of their luxuries, which to them seemed to be so many vices.35
Castro del Rio was not untypical of the villages where libertarian communes were established, although it had long been known as an important anarchist centre. Most of them did not last long. Castro del Rio itself was overrun after a hard struggle not long after Borkenau's visit. Elsewhere, if they escaped Franco they were rarely able to maintain their original purity of intention. As in the past, their only hope of survival lay in a general triumph of the anarchist revolution, and this was once again denied them.

It was when the sphere of activities controlled by the anarchists was directly involved in the war that difficulties arose. Libertarian communism could work temporarily in a remote area if the inhabitants were prepared to accept the austerity involved, but it was harder to run a factory on anarchist lines if in order to function it needed raw materials from sources outside anarchist control, which had to be transported by trains or trucks in the [241] hands of a rival organization. Many of the factories which the CNT had taken over seemed to function well, at any rate for a time; Borkenau was impressed, for example, by a bus factory in Barcelona, although he noted that it was more concerned with repairing old vehicles than with producing new ones. However, as stocks became scarce and as the war went on and the policy of Britain and France prevented the government from obtaining supplies from abroad, the inconvenience and inefficiency of an economy run by independent committees became increasingly apparent, and the demand for centralization was accepted even by some of the CNT leaders themselves.

If the difficulties of putting anarchist principles into practice in a society that not only had not completed its revolution but was also fighting a savage war soon became clear in the economic field, they were even more evident in the army. As soon as the war started, the members of the various political and syndical organizations at once formed themselves into militia groups, each separate from the other, with its own flag, its own equipment, such as it was, and, above all, its own command. The anarchist position was clear enough: 'We cannot be uniformed soldiers. We want to be militiamen of Liberty. To the front, certainly. But to the barricades as soldiers not subject to the Popular Forces, certainly not!'36 In the first enthusiasm the lack of discipline and of organization in the anarchist columns was made up for by fitful revolutionary fervour; but as the war on the Aragon front slowed down to a stalemate and to monotonous and squalid trench warfare (well evoked by George Orwell, who was fighting alongside the anarchists as a member of the dissident communist POUM militia) the disadvantages of this sort of military autonomy began to be obvious. However, some of the anarchist military leaders were able to achieve considerable personal reputations. Durruti, for example, formed the most famous anarchist column and set out from Barcelona in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture Saragossa. In the areas occupied by his forces he tried, like Makhno in Russia before him, to put into practice his belief that war and revolution were inseparable (and strengthened his reputation for violence and terrorism as a result). If the anarchist advance involved bringing ruin and destruction to the villages which they occupied, this could only bring the social [242] revolution nearer. 'I do not expect help from any government in the world,' he told a correspondent of the Montreal Star. And, as for ruins:

We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. . . . We can also build. It is we who built the palaces and cities here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build cities to take their place. And better ones - we are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. The bourgeoisie may blast and ruin their world before they leave the stage of history. But we carry a new world in our hearts.37

When the situation in Madrid became critical in November 1936, Durruti was persuaded to bring his column, some 3,000 strong, from the Aragon front to help in the defence of the capital. He was mistrustful of collaboration with the other forces in Madrid, where anarchist influence was much less strong than in Barcelona, and insisted on being given an independent sector of the front. His vanity soon received a bitter blow, for on their first day in their new position his men refused to go into action in the face of Franco's guns; and although Durruti angrily demanded a chance to redeem this disgrace, it was to the communist-dominated International Brigades -- deeply distrusted by all good anarchists -- that most of the merit of saving Madrid was due. Durruti did not indeed have the opportunity to show his gifts as a commander in the field again, for on 21 November he was killed during a lull on the front by a bullet which may well have been fired accidentally, not by one of Franco's snipers, but which many believed to have been fired by one of Durruti's enemies -- perhaps a communist, perhaps an anarchist extremist discontented with the new CNT/FAI policy of collaboration with the government. The death of Durruti deprived the anarchists of one of their most famous and most ruthless legendary heroes, and his funeral in Barcelona provided that city with the last of its great demonstrations of anarchist power, with 200,000 supporters in the streets - an occasion perhaps reminiscent of that in Moscow twenty-four years before, when Kropotkin's funeral had given the Russian anarchists a last opportunity of parading their strength before the communists finally closed in on them. Within a month of Durruti's death the Soviet newspaper Pravda was already [243] claiming that 'So far as Catalonia is concerned, the cleaning up of Trotskyists and anarchists has begun, and it will be carried out with the same energy as in the USSR.'38

The claim was, in fact, premature. The anarchists were never completely 'cleaned up' and their forces continued to play a role until the end of the war. After Durruti's death there was still one anarchist commander, Cipriano Mera, who continued an effective military career in a senior position, even though he had come to accept a degree of organization and discipline which would probably have been too much for Durruti. As he himself said in December 1937:

The blood of my brothers shed in the struggle made me change my views. I understood then that if we were not to be definitely defeated, we had to construct our own army ... a disciplined and capable army organized for the defence of the workers. Henceforth I did not hesitate to urge upon all combatants the necessity of submitting to new military principles.39

Everywhere the specifically anarchist character of the columns organized by the CNT and FAI diminished as the necessities of war demanded greater discipline and more central control. The so-called 'Iron Column', which had been formed in Valencia largely from people released from jail at the moment of the revolution in July and therefore doubtless containing a certain number of common criminals as well as idealistic anarchists, was sent to the Teruel front, and by March 1937 was forced to turn itself into a conventionally organized brigade simply because this was the only way by which it could obtain supplies. It was this problem of equipment and raw materials which, above all, led to the decline of the anarchists. The revolutionary idea of an anarchist militia supplied by anarchist-run factories inevitably broke down when faced with a general shortage of basic supplies; and it was, of course, the fact that during the Civil War the government was only able to obtain supplies from the Soviet Union that contributed largely to the increased influence of the communists and the eclipse and suppression of their rivals. There is no doubt that the communist demand for central control and discipline was justified in the interests of military efficiency; and a situation in which rival armed groups were trying to steal each [244] other's equipment -- as when in March 1937 the communists succeeded in stealing twelve tanks from an anarchist depot in Barcelona by producing a forged order from the anarchist commissioner40 -- was clearly intolerable.

The tragedy of the anarchist leaders was that the more concessions they made so as to help create a unified war effort by the republic, the less influence they had over the course of events which they had hoped to control. When Durruti and Garcia Oliver had called on Companys in July 1936, Companys had recognized the fact that the collaboration of the CNT was essential in an emergency which, at that stage, no one had expected to develop into a full-scale, full-length war. At the beginning of the war the CNT leaders were determined to retain their independence and to stand by their principles, by refusing to take part in government or to become involved in politics. Their Madrid newspaper wrote in September 1936:

Perhaps many wonder how it is that the CNT, one of the principal forces preparing for the victory of the people at the front and in the rear. . . does not form part of the government. Undoubtedly, if the CNT were inspired by political ideas, the number of its seats in the government would have to be at least as large as that of the UGT and the socialists. However, the CNT once again affirms its unshakeable adhesion to its anti-authoritarian postulates and believes that the libertarian transformation of society can only take place as a result of the abolition of the state and the control of the economy by the working class.41
However, just as in France during the First World War, the syndicalist leaders had found themselves obliged to recognize the existence of the state and collaborate with the government, so, within a few weeks, the Spanish anarchists of the CNT and FAI found themselves faced with the spectacle of four of their most respected leaders actually becoming ministers in the government of the despised republic. By the end of September the anarchists already had a representative in the government of Catalonia in charge of economic affairs. As the crisis of the war deepened, the parties of the left tended temporarily to forget their differences and to draw together in the hope of defeating Franco. Thus, [245] towards the end of October, as the threat to Madrid grew, the CNT in Barcelona sacrificed some of its doctrinal purity in order to agree on a programme which both it and the UGT could support. This involved the acceptance of a unified military command and military discipline, as well as the admission that conscription was necessary (as Makhno had found in the Russian Civil War) to maintain recruitment for the army. It also put an end to expropriation of small proprietors and owners of small businesses, showing how far the CNT's leaders were prepared to go in regarding their own revolution as temporarily suspended, even if some of their supporters -- especially the Anarchist Youth Movement - were still strongly opposed to such compromises.

By the end of October 1936 the situation looked very gloomy for the republic. Franco's troops were closing in on Madrid and the fall of the capital seemed near. In this atmosphere of emergency the anarchists finally overcame their last hesitations and agreed to join the central government. In Catalonia the anarchists had salved their consciences by referring to the Generalitat as a regional defence council, but in joining the central government even this pretence had to be abandoned. The same paper which six weeks before had declared the CNT's unshakeable adhesion to its postulates was now writing: 'In order to win the war and save the people of the world, it [the CNT] is ready to collaborate with anyone in a directive organ, whether this be called a council or a government.'42 The reasons for joining the government were sound practical ones, and the four CNT leaders who accepted posts as ministers displayed both courage and common sense in attempting at this critical moment to contribute to unity on the republican side and to have a say in the actual running of the war. They were among the most respected people in the movement. Juan Peiro was a glassworker with a long experience of syndicalist organization; he had, as we have seen, originally stood for a firm rejection of any syndicalist involvement in politics and had opposed Pestana's willingness to collaborate with the politicians of the left. However, the experiences of Primo de Rivera's regime and of the early days of the republic had made him abandon his former intransigence and, as the leading signatory of the Manifesto of the Thirty, he had upheld the necessity of discipline and organization as against the reliance on [246] uncoordinated, spontaneous revolutionary fervour of the true anarchists. Although his breach with the CNT had been healed just before the Civil War began, he still represented the most moderate element in the CNT and, as Minister of Industry, was opposed to violent collectivization and was closer in view, perhaps, to the leaders of the French syndicalist movement than to his anarchist colleagues of the FAI. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry had been split so as to provide two ministerial posts instead of one, and Peiro's colleague as Minister of Commerce was another moderate syndicalist, Juan Lopez Sanchez, a leader of the important Valencia federation of the CNT. The other two anarchist members of the government represented the more militant wing of the movement and were leading members of the FAI. One was Garcia Oliver, now thirty-five years old and, after Durruti, the acknowledged leader of the militant anarchists of Catalonia, who had been at the head of the armed insurrection in January 1933. He became Minister of Justice and, after performing a real anarchist gesture and destroying the records of convicts in Spanish prisons, he surprised many of his associates by being an efficient and practical minister who tried to introduce reforms into the legal and judicial system, such as abolishing fees which made recourse to the courts impossible for the poor, as well as setting up special Popular Tribunals to deal with offences against the republic arising out of the war, and labour camps in which those condemned by these tribunals could, in theory, be employed in useful work.

The other anarchist minister was a representative of the purest intellectual anarchism, Federica Montseny. She came from a family of anarchist intellectuals in Barcelona, and her father was a well-known propagandist and writer who wrote under the name of Federico Urales. She was a successful and impassioned speaker whose sincerity, integrity and intellectual clarity commanded great respect. As Minister of Health in a wartime government she had little opportunity for anarchist reforms in her own department, though she did issue a decree legalizing abortion. Her role -- apart from providing the example, unheard of in Spain, of a woman in a ministerial post -- seems to have been to reassure the anarchist militants about the participation in the government of their leaders, since Federica Montseny's known devotion to [247] anarchist principles and her personal honesty seemed to suggest that any course she followed must be an honourable and reasonable one.

Certainly the decision to accept office and thus to seem to break all the principles on which their lives had been based was a hard one for all the CNT/FAI ministers and perhaps especially for Federica Montseny, the one true intellectual among them. In June 1937, after the fall of the government of which she had been a member, she described in moving terms her personal predicament:

Daughter of a family of old anarchists, descendant of a whole dynasty, so to speak, of anti-authoritarians, with my activity and a life of struggle in permanent defence of ideas inherited from my own parents, my entry into the government . . . necessarily meant more than merely an appointment as a Minister. For us who had struggled constantly against the state, who had always said that the state could achieve absolutely nothing, that the words Government and Authority meant the negation of any possibility of liberty for individuals and peoples, our incorporation as an organization and as individuals into a government project meant either an act of historical audacity of fundamental importance or a theoretical and tactical correction of a whole structure and a whole chapter of history. . . . Accustomed to other activities, accustomed to work in the syndicates, to action, to propaganda, to the continuous silent labour of a movement which was created and formed in opposition and which worked in opposition, with a dose of goodwill, of enthusiasm, of respect and generosity which other movements lacked, for us entry into the government was bound also to mean the painful step towards an experience which was to be instructive for us. What reservations, what doubts, what inner anguish I had personally to overcome before accepting this task! For others it could be their goal, it could be the satisfaction of all their ambitions. For me it was simply a breach with all my work, with all my life, with all my past linked to the life of my parents. It was bound to represent for me a tremendous effort which cost me many tears. And I accepted. And I accepted conquering [248] myself. ... So I entered the government and so we left for Madrid.43 [ She did not stay long in Madrid, for soon after the formation of the new government it was decided, in the face of anarchist opposition, to evacuate the government to Valencia.]

This painful decision was the logical result of the attitude which the anarchists had adopted after the rising in Barcelona on 19 and 20 July, when they agreed to collaborate with President Companys and the Catalan government. They had realized that, in Barcelona itself, there was nothing to stop them taking over completely, carrying through their revolution and imposing the anarchist society. But the anarchist leaders were too sensible to see that this course, in the conditions of civil war and with the revolution only triumphant in limited areas, could not last long, and that for the moment they would have to work with other movements -- notably the socialists and the UGT -- if they were to survive at all, let alone achieve their revolutionary goals. At the same time, they were very conscious of what had happened to the anarchists in the Russian Revolution and were afraid that, if they remained aloof from the political parties that still controlled the government, their influence would be undermined by their socialist and communist rivals. Moreover, in the crisis produced by the threat to Madrid, some sort of coordinated effort was necessary if Franco was to be stopped from winning an immediate victory in which the anarchists would not only lose all they had gained but would also suffer reprisals that might well break the whole movement permanently. The anarchist ministers hoped that their presence in the government would make cooperation with other revolutionary and republican movements easier; they also hoped naturally enough that, with the formidable force of the CNT behind them, they would be able to influence the policies and institutions of the republic in the direction in which the anarchists wanted them to go.

They were to be disappointed on both counts. During the six months the anarchists were in the government, relations with the socialists and communists deteriorated to the point of civil war, while the whole structure of committees, which seemed to the anarchists the natural way to organize the war, had been replaced [249] by orthodox socialist measures of centralization and government or municipal control. The main reason for this was the growing influence of the communists and their determination to crush any rival movement. Their power grew partly because the Soviet Union was the only source of foreign aid to the republic; and consequently the communists, the agents through whom this aid became available, assumed an importance out of all proportion to their original popular support in Spain. At the same time the socialist leaders still hoped that by presenting a respectable non-revolutionary image to the outside world they might persuade France and Britain to give up the policy of non-intervention and provide them with some of the materials they so desperately needed. So, as Largo Caballero, the socialist leader and Prime Minister, explained to his anarchist colleagues, nothing must be done to affect French and British capital investments in Spain. Thus both the pressure which the communists and socialists were exerting to make the unity (and uniformity) of the Popular Front a reality, and the desire of Largo Caballero and the other leading members of the government to play down the revolutionary aspect of their policies, meant that the anarchist ministers - a minority in the government - had no alternative except either to accept compromises which went against all their principles or to resign and call out their supporters to demonstrate against the government at a time when winning the war seemed more important than anything else. They accepted the compromises; and thus they were forced to see the anarchist successes of the early weeks of the war gradually undone. The militia columns were converted into orthodox brigades, with discipline, permanent officers and centralized commands. The extreme anarchism of the libertarian communes gave way to state requisitioning. When the villages were not, like Castro del Rio, overrun by Franco's troops, the pure anarchism of the first outbreaks could not stand up against the resistance of the small peasants and tenant farmers who were quite ready to increase the size of their own holdings at the expense of the landlords but who were not at all prepared to give up to a collective the small piece of land they already owned themselves. The anarchists of the FAI had uncompromising views about this: 'We cannot consent to small holdings,' one of their papers wrote, [250] 'because private property in land always creates a bourgeois mentality, calculating and egotistical, which we wish to uproot for ever.'44 And when they were forced to admit failure the anarchists recognized the reason:

What we have been up against most is the backward mentality of the majority of small owners. Just imagine what it meant to the peasant proprietor, accustomed to his small plot of land, his donkey, his wretched hut, his petty harvest... to have to give up this burden which he has carried with him from time immemorial, and say, 'Take them, comrades. My humble belongings are for everyone. We are all equal. A new life has begun for us.'45
Not only were the small peasants and shopkeepers unready to make this sacrifice, but also the government, whose socialist or republican members often relied on the support of just those classes, was reluctant to ask it of them.

As the military and economic programme of the anarchists was either eaten away by the brutal necessities of war or the stubborn facts of human nature, so, too, their insistence on decentralization and administration by committee was largely overcome. All that the moderate syndicalists, like Peiro or Lopez Sanchez, now hoped for was a federal republic with some measure of workers' control in industry; but as the war went on and the economic and military situation grew worse, and the communists increased their influence in the government, even this was to be denied them. The predictions of those more extreme members of the FAI who had opposed entry into the government, and the forebodings of foreign anarchists like the veteran French publicist Sebastien Faure, a survivor from the heroic age of French anarchism, who visited Spain at the beginning of the war, seemed to be justified. Many other foreign sympathizers were equally intransigent. There was an Italian group fighting in Durruti's column, which lost some of its members to the Italian battalion of the International Brigade, but of which the remaining members were especially refractory, refusing any kind of cooperation with regular military forces and, on one occasion, walking out on the eve of a battle, though redeeming themselves from charges of cowardice by later taking part on their own terms.46 There was, [251] too, in the Spanish movement itself a considerable minority which shared these views and was prepared to express them violently, if necessary. The revolutionary prestige of Garcia Oliver and Federica Montseny was sufficient to overcome much opposition; but it was not inexhaustible. During the early months of 1937 in Catalonia relations between anarchists and the communist-led PSUC (Partido socialista unificado de Cataluna) grew worse: there were quarrels in Barcelona over the question of food control, when the socialists abolished rationing in the city and did away with the committees which the anarchists had originally set up. Elsewhere there were similar disputes; there were quarrels in Valencia over the arrangements for marketing the orange crop, when one orange-growing village revolted against the government because they claimed they were not getting a fair price from the syndicalist committee which sold their crops. During February 1937 the anarchist columns on the Aragon front were short of arms and the FAI threatened to instruct its ministers to resign if this apparent discrimination did not stop. A month later the anarchist members of the Catalan Generalitat actually did resign after the republicans and socialists had insisted on creating a unified police force and on dissolving the revolutionary patrols. The anarchists finally agreed to rejoin after the CNT members of the central government had appealed to them to preserve the solidarity of the Popular Front, but throughout April 1937 the situation in Barcelona was growing more tense and the FAI extremists were becoming increasingly critical both of their leaders and of their socialist and communist rivals. In Catalonia, too, the other revolutionary and dissident party, the POUM, was moving towards open conflict with the communists, who were determined to suppress it. At the end of April all these hostilities broke into open war. While the anarchist newspaper Solidaridad Obrera published an open attack on the communists, the murderers on both sides started their work. On 25 April the communist youth leader was found assassinated: two days later three anarchists were killed, including the mayor of the frontier town of Puigcerda, who tried to bring the frontier guard under anarchist control. The socialist press replied with an attack on the 'incontrolados' of the FAI -- who represented a threat always likely to alarm the inhabitants of Barcelona with memories not [252] only of the previous July but also of the bloody gang-fights twenty or so years before. When the First of May came - the traditional moment to assert the solidarity of the working class against their oppressors -- it was decided not to hold any demonstrations for fear that they would develop into a violent clash between the differing factions. In Valencia the leaders of the anarchists and socialists were appealing for unity; but in Barcelona the situation was explosive.

On 3 May the fighting began. How or why it started is still extremely obscure. The communists and socialists claimed that it was begun by the dissidents on the left -- the POUM and the anarchists. The anarchists attributed it to communist provocation. There is also some evidence that Franco's agents in Barcelona were working to set the rival working-class organizations against each other. But in any case suspicions and tempers were sufficiently aroused for any incident, however provoked, to lead easily to large-scale fighting. In the event it was in the Telefonica -- the main communications centre of the city -- that the fighting started. The telephone building was controlled by a joint committee of the CNT, the UGT and a government representative, and the trouble began with the arrival of the socialist chief of police to investigate suspicions that the CNT were tapping lines for their own purposes. The first fights were, in fact, from storey to storey of the building. However, the whole city was soon divided, with the traditionally anarchist quarters outside the centre of the city at open war with the areas controlled by the government forces and their UGT supporters. The Catalan government was persuaded by the CNT to withdraw the police from the Telefonica, but refused to call for the resignation of the police chief and of the Minister of the Interior, whom the CNT held responsible for starting the trouble. [Both of these men had been anarchists, so the feelings on both sides may have been particularly bitter.] On the next day, Garcia Oliver and Federica Montseny, the two most respected anarchist leaders, arrived from Valencia by car, and with great courage went into the streets of Barcelona, using all their personal influence and prestige to persuade their followers to stop shooting. Although on 5 May a truce was temporarily established, on the next day fighting broke out again and for [253] two days the internecine war raged in the city. With the Durruti column at Lerida ready to march on Barcelona, the conflict threatened to spread. The government in Valencia, after an initial reluctance to exacerbate the situation, decided to restore order by force; and 4,000 men were dispatched to Barcelona. Once again, the anarchists found that local strength was not enough if a central government was still in existence, and they were obliged to give in. By 8 May the CNT leaders were calling for the dismantling of the barricades and a return to normality, and the rank and file had no choice but to obey them.

Some 400 people had been killed and 1,000 wounded in the fighting. One of the victims who had been murdered in the street was Camillo Berneri, a leading Italian intellectual anarchist. But the consequences to the anarchist movement in Spain were far graver than the loss of many individual militants. The Barcelona fighting was followed directly by the fall of the government of Largo Caballero, and its replacement by an administration in which the influence of the communists was still further increased. The anarchist ministers, although they had often been severely critical of Largo Caballero, supported him at this point, especially as one of the demands of the communists and of those socialists who opposed Largo Caballero was the disciplining of the dissident parties on the left. Thus the anarchist ministers resigned when Largo Caballero fell. The ill-fated if unavoidable experiment of anarchist participation in government was at an end. Although the new government declared the POUM illegal and arrested many of its members, the CNT as a whole was still too powerful to be dissolved, though it was not strong enough to prevent the dissolution of the committee which it had set up to control the government of the province of Aragon. The language of the government decree appointing a governor-general in place of the Council of Aragon shows how completely, even if justifiably, the reversal of anarchist principles was being enforced: 'The moral and material necessities of the war demand imperiously the concentration of the authority of the state. . . . The division and subdivision of power and authority has on more than one occasion dissipated effective action. . . .'47 It was true enough; and again, in the midst of a war which they still [254] supported, there was nothing for the anarchists to do except bow to the decision.

From June 1937 until the end of the war the role of the CNT and FAI was very much less important than it had been; and although some of the extreme anarchists declared anew their hostility to all authority, the majority of the FAI and CNT became more like members of an ordinary political party or trade-union movement than they had ever been. The FAI, indeed, was in a particularly difficult position. Either it had to revert to its original role as an extremist group providing a conspiratorial network to keep the CNT on a revolutionary path, or it had to merge itself into the CNT and adopt, in the special situation of the Civil War, openly political and propagandist aims. At the start of the war the FAI had hoped to fulfil its original role: 'Our duty is to maintain an organization which represents those ideas which embody a magnificent corpus of doctrine which we have with so much determination preserved and enriched by practice.' And, as the syndicates were, by the necessities of war, obliged to cooperate with political groups, there was all the more need for the FAI to be 'a motor producing the quantity of fabulous energy needed to move the syndicates in the direction which most conforms to the longings of Humanity for renovation and emancipation'.48

It was an ideal which the anarchists had been forced to abandon by 1938. The failure of the anarchist revolution, the powerlessness of the anarchist ministers and the threat of repression after the Barcelona fighting, all revealed that the anarchists were as far from realizing their dreams as ever. The CNT was becoming more and more a syndicalist organization playing its part in the running of the war in conjunction with the government and the UGT. When a socialist leader welcomed an agreement between the CNT and UGT with the words, 'Bakunin and Marx embrace over this document of the CNT',49 it was the principles of Bakunin that had had to be sacrificed. In the spring of 1938, when it looked as though Franco's victory was near, a CNT representative again joined the government; and it was a sign of how much the influence of the CNT had declined that it was now obliged to accept a single post instead of the four it had previously held; nor is there much to suggest that its [255] representative, Segundo Blanco, exercised much influence on the conduct of the war.

In October 1938 a national congress attended by representatives of the CNT, the FAI and the anarchist youth movement (as well as by Emma Goldman) debated the first principles of anarchism once again. What was notable was that the uncompromising libertarians were now in a minority and that the majority were prepared to revise their beliefs and accept the sad facts of twentieth-century life. As one speaker put it: 'We must jettison our literary and philosophical baggage to be able to obtain hegemony tomorrow. It is our comrades' refusal to accept militarism from the start which is responsible for the restricted position we are now in.'50 [ The speaker, Mariano R. Vasquez, Secretary-General of the CNT, was found murdered in Paris in 1939. Perhaps he was the victim of anarchist extremists who disliked his realism.] But in any case, although new plans for the organization of the movement were drawn up and a belief in the old goals of decentralization and workers' control were reiterated, the anarchists, like everyone else on the republican side, were powerless to avoid defeat. At the last minute, in March 1939,Cipriano Mera, one of the few anarchist commanders who had retained both his military position and his prestige, made a desperate effort to avert total defeat and annihilation by using his influence to support Colonel Casado's attempt to secure some sort of negotiated peace in spite of the government's expressed intention of fighting to the last. This, too, was in vain, and the anarchists suffered very heavy penalties in the vast reprisals with which Franco celebrated his victory. Some died in a last gesture of resistance; some escaped into exile. Others were less fortunate still and, like Juan Peiro, were handed back by Petain to Franco in 1940. But the greatest number, if they escaped immediate death, were imprisoned in Spain.

While some of the exiled anarchist leaders -- Federica Montseny in France or Garcia Oliver in Mexico - kept anarchist ideas alive among Spanish emigre workers, the very severity of the Franco regime made any effective anarchist movement inside Spain impossible. Moreover, as the economic recovery of Europe after the Second World War began to attract Spanish workers to the more highly industrialized countries of Europe, young Spaniards were [256] exposed to new influences and new experiences that linked their aspirations more closely to those of the workers in Germany or France. It has been suggested, indeed, that the return of a young man to an Andalusian village with a motor bicycle he had bought out of the savings earned abroad was a more potent influence for social change than any number of the anarchist pamphlets which had so eagerly been studied fifty years earlier. Certainly, those who expected a great revival of Spanish anarchism immediately after the death of Franco have been disappointed; and although anarchist groups are still to be found, the anarchist movement in i Spain no longer holds the key position among Spanish working-class organizations that it once did. It has been replaced by various forms of left-wing socialism to which anarchist ideas may have given a libertarian tinge and, in a few cases, a temptation to resort to terrorism but which is no longer a phenomenon unique to Spain. It remains to be seen if anarchism will find new forms of expression in a democratic and economically expanding Spain or whether it will just remain a heroic memory and a potent myth.


1 See, e.g., Joaquin Maurin, Hacia la segunda revolucion (Barcelona 1935).

2 R. Mella, quoted J. Diaz del Moral, Historia de la Agitaciones Campesinas Andaluzas-Cordoba (Madrid 1929), p. 90.

3 For Pi y Margall's ideas and career, see Alastair Hennessy, The Federal Republic in Spain (London 1962).

4 Casimiro Marti, Origenes del Anarquismo en Barcelona (Barcelona 1959), p. 37.

5 Anselmo Lorenzo, El Proletariado Militante (Mexico n.d.), p. 164.

6 For an account of the events at Alcoy, see Rafael Coloma, La Revolucion Internacionalista Alcoyana de 1873 (Alicante 1959).

7 Gerald Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth (London 1960), p. 156.

8 See Rudolf Rocker, Fermin Salvochea (Ediciones Tierra y Libertad, 1945); there is also a vivid fictional account in Blasco Ibanez' novel La Bodega, in which the character of Fernando Salvatierra is based on Salvochea.

9 See Sol Ferrer, La Vie et l'oeuvre de Francisco Ferrer (Paris 1962).

10 Quoted Yvonne Turin, L'Education et I'Ecole en Espagne de 1874 a 1902 (Paris 1959), p. 315.

11 ibid., p. 317.

12 S. Ferrer, op. cit., p. 231.

13 J. Romero Maura, 'Terrorism in Barcelona and its impact on Spanish Politics 1904-1909', Past and Present no. 41, December 1968, pp. 130-83.

14 Federica Montseny, Anselmo Lorenzo: el hombre y la obra (Toulouse n.d.), p. 36.

15 See Palmiro Marbo, Origen, Desarollo y Transcendencia del Sindicalismo (Mexico 1919).

16 Diaz del Moral, op. cit., p. 61.

17 ibid., p. 305.

18 See ibid., pp. 264 ff.

19 ibid., p. 227.

20 Quoted Manuel Buenacasa, El Movimiento Obrero Espahol: 1886-1926 (Barcelona 1928), pp. 133-7.

21 J. Peirats, La CNT en la Revolucion Espahola (Toulouse 1951), vol. I, p. 7.

22 ibid., vol. I, pp. 42-3.

23 ibid., vol. I, pp. 46-7.

24 Brenan, op. cit., p. 250.

25 Peirats, op. cit., vol. I, p. 51.

26 ibid., p. 53.

27 See the interesting account based on a study of Casas Viejas itself in E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (Manchester 1959), pp. 84 ff.; see also Peirats, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 55 ff.

28 For a good account of anarchist attitudes in this period, see Edward Conze, Spain Today (London 1936).

29 The main speeches and resolutions of this congress are given in Peirats, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 109 ff.

30 Federica Montseny in Solidaridad Obrera, 22 December 1936, quoted Burnett Bolloten, The Grand Camouflage (London 1961), p. 20.

31 Peirats, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 162-3.

32 Revista Blanca, 8 June 1934, quoted Bolloten, op. cit., p. 65 n.

33 For the special position of the Rabassaires, as whose spokesman Companys had made his reputation, see Brenan, op. cit., pp. 276 ff.

34 Quoted Bolloten, op. cit., p. 74.

35 Franz Borkenau, The Spanish Cockpit (London 1937), p. 167; cf. the similar account of the commune at Alcora in the province of Castellon, in H. E, Kaminski, Ceux de Barcelone (Paris 1937), pp. 113 ff.

36 Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (London 1961), p. 189.

37 Montreal Star, 30 October 1936, quoted ibid., p. 289.

38 Pravda, 17 December 1936, quoted ibid., p. 363.

39 CNT, 20 September 1937, quoted Bolloten, op. cit., p. 251.

40 See Peirats, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 172 ff.

41 CNT, 5 September 1936, quoted Bolloten, op. cit., pp. 155-6.

42 CNT, 23 October 1936, quoted ibid., p. 158.

43 Quoted Peirats, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 270-2.

44 Tierra y Libertad, 16 January 1937, quoted Bolloten, op. cit., p. 57.

45 CNT secretary to Peasants' Federation of Castile in Juventud Libre, 10 July 1937, quoted ibid., p. 70.

46 On the Italian anarchists in Spain, see Un trentennio di Attivita Anarchica (Fori! n.d.), pp. 192-201.

47 Peirats, op. cit., vol. II, p. 360.

48 FAI Circular no. 3, October 1936, quoted ibid., p. 319.

49 Luis Araquistain, quoted Peirats, op cit., vol. Ill, p. 53.

50 ibid., vol. III, p. 304.