(Eng) El Acratador #54 - part 3 (Cast)

Luis Prat (prat@chem.ucsb.edu)
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 13:50:00 -0700

In Barcelona the revolution is triumphant, the government of the Generalitat
is purely symbolic, and in the streets businesses are socialized. The
military barracks are distributed among the different workers organizations
that comprise the Central Committee of Antifascist Militias, which replaces
the army, renaming them Bakunin, Espartacus and Salvochea for the CNT-FAI,
Lenin for the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista - Workers Party
of Marxist Unification, non-stalinist communist party T.N.) and Carlos Marx
for the PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya, Catalunya's communist
party T.N.). Hotels, tycoons' mansions and employers centers become the
headquarters of workers organizations. Luxury restaurants become popular
dining rooms.

On July 24 the Durruti Column, made up of 2,000 militiamen leaves Barcelona
towards Zaragoza. Minutes before departing canadian journalist Von Passen
has a historic interview with Durruti titled: "Two million anarchists fight
for the Revolution". Some of Durruti's statements were: "There are only two
roads, victory for the working class, freedom, or victory for the fascists
which means tyranny. Both combattants know what's in store for the loser. We
are ready to end fascism once and for all, even in spite of the Republican
government", "No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the
bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up
fascism to hold onto their privileges".

The column overwhelmed the enemy in a few days. Local party bosses, large
landowners and tycoons escaped in a panic. The first serious combat was the
taking of Caspe. In a few days they were 20 km from Zaragoza. Finally the
front stabilized at Pina de Ebro due to lack of weapons for the assault on
Zaragoza. The column's general headquarters was installed in Bujaraloz. From
there it promoted the creation of the Council of Aragon, against the wishes
of the CNT's directive that was beginning to cooperate with the republican
government. With respect to the ruin caused by combats Durruti said to Von
Passen: "We have always lived in shantytowns and if we destroy we are also
capable of building. It was us who built the palaces and the cities. The
workers can build them again, and better ones; we are not afraid of ruins,
we have a new world here in our hearts".

One of Durruti's main worries was the lack of weapons. He travelled to
Madrid and Barcelona seeking weapons or funds to acquire them. Faced with
Largo Caballero's refusal to allow gold from the National Treasury to be
used for the purchase of weapons, Durruti planned an assault on the Banco de
Espan~a. To that end he sent 3000 catalan anarchists from the "Land and
Freedom" column charged with keeping an eye on any government's dictatorial
attempts and at the same time to take part in the transport of gold to
Barcelona aboard especial trains. The CNT's national committee opposed this
action and two weeks later the gold was transported to the Soviet Union, the
inmense national treasury created by the surplus value of workers toil ended
up in the hands of Stalin who in return sent weapons of inferior quality
literally paid for in gold.

In October Franco's army concentrated its best troops for the assault on
Madrid. At the beginning of November the government moved from Madrid to
Valencia, against the wishes of the four CNT Ministers. This government
decision was much criticized by the working class as the government was
abandoning the people of Madrid at the decisive moment. On the road to
Valencia, 40 kms from Madrid, an anarchist batallion stopped and disarmed
six ministers and two generals accusing them of cowardice and of abandoning
the people, making the intervention of high ranking CNT officials necessary
to secure their release.

Durruti was called to the defense of Madrid, but he refused to leave the
Aragon front. Later he was persuaded as his presence would lend moral
support to the fighters. On November 15 1,800 militiamen from the best
centuries of Durruti's column entered into combat a the University City
(Madrid). The combat and the bombings were terrifying. Madrid was the first
civilized city in the world subjected to a fascist attack as a prelude to
World War II. Franco initiated the attack he thought would be the final one.
At University City combat was hand to hand. On the 18th only 700 of the 1800
anarchist militiamen remained. On the 19th Durruti was told that some
militiamen were deserting their positions as they had been without eating or
sleeping for five days. Durruti went by car to the Clinic Hospital and on
the way stopped to persuade some militiamen to return to their positions. As
he got back in the car he was mortally wounded by a shot to the chest. He
died at dawn on November 20.

There have been all kinds of speculations about his death in such unusual
circumstances. The official version was death by a bullet from the enemy
positions. But the wound showed that it was fired at close range. There was
talk of a communist, falangist or even anarchist attempt. The most credible
hypothesis says that the bullet was accidentally shot from Durruti's
assistant, sargeant Manzana's "naranjero" (sub-machine gun). His funeral on
the 22 of November in Barcelona was attended by hundreds of thousands. His
death demoralized many anarchists. Most of them left Madrid in fear of the
stalinist secret service, who were begining the purge of trostkyists and
anarchists in their private prisons. Durruti's image was used to justify all
kinds of counterrevolutionaryu measures, the return of private property,
militarization of the militias, subordinating the CNT to the government,
...attributing to him a sentence he never uttered: "We renounce everything
except victory" and forgetting his public declarations a few days before his
death such as: "This war we wage is to squash the enemy in front of us. But
the enemy is also he who opposes the Revolution's conquests" (Radio speech,
November 7) "We make war and revolution at the same time. The militiaman has
to know that he fights for the conquest of the land, the factories, culture
..., the pick and the shovel are as valuable as the gun" (Interview October 3).


Before the civil war the spanish state was mainly structured around
agriculture although there were important industrial centers such as
Barcelona, Euskadi or Asturies. However, this didn't impede the development
of a very strong syndical movement very active in industry and in struggles
such as the Canadiense strike in 1934, which paralized Barcelona in
solidarity with workers fired from the textile industry. The Employers
Association was not as well organized as today, but the use of gunmen,
scabs, and repression against union leaders was commonplace. In spite of
which nearly 80% of the workers organized themselves in unions and the CNT
had one million members. The socializing process within industry was less
numerous as far as number of members, but no less important or interesting
than that which took place in the agrarian collectives. In fact, during the
days folowing July 19 1936, industry and commerce were for the most part
collectivized in Catalunya and to a lesser degree in Madrid and Valencia. In
Barcelona all important enterprises and public services, hotels and large
stores, as well as large factories were collectivized, all of them being run
by elected committees or workplace councils. In August 1936 CAMPSA was
socialized, bringing under direct workers control the petroleum monopoly,
thus avoiding its waste. There are writings from that time on energy savings
as advanced as any ecology text of today. Between 1936 and 1937 the CNT and
the UGT collectivized the construction and lumber sectors and salaries were
brought to balance. The technicians (architects, designers, engineers)
agreed to collaborate with the revolution. Contractors, thugs in the service
of the employers who operated in the harbor, disappeared. At the beginning
the bosses' attitude was suspiciously calm, as many of them had sent their
capital abroad. The 1800 workers of Espan~a ndustrial met at the Arenas
Theater on August 8 1936 and took over the company, joined by the
technicians. The 500 workers from Torras did the same and in fifteen days
built six armored vehicles for the antifascist troops. This process happened
not only in the production area, but also carried with it an impulse, albeit
chaotic and irreflexive, to build a new social organization. Although it
didn't exist, a full political consciousness was supplied by a strong
voluntarianism and by the everyday work, proving that self-managed work is
more than a theoretical model. The libertarian economic program was adjusted
to the realization of Libertarian Communism as opposed to the reformist
marxist positions. Thus while CNT-FAI talked about socializing the banks and
the creation of a credit bank as well as work for the social revolution, the
political parties proposed nationalization of the banks, centralization of
services and more militarization. The clash was evident and the CNT had to
give up some of its positions, eventually going from total workers
self-management to greater State intervention, much more restrictive.
Stalinism was beginning to weigh heavily over the ranks of several parties,
promoting cutbacks to the powers of workers committees. Ruiz Ponseti, from
PSUC said in 1937 that the great problem of the collectives was their "much
too democratic" management. Important debates on the destination of earnings
made by the socialized industries took place due to the exigencies of the
State and the Generalitat. The revolutionaries crashed against obstacles
such as the lack of raw materials, the scant cooperation of some committees,
the entrenched opposition of bourgeois catalanism and other reasons such as
some enterprises not being socialized because they were foreign-owned, the
lack of interest on the part of the anarchists to socialize the banks which
resulted in some businessmen's capital continuing to be hoarded. Another
mistake was the excessive focusing of industry on the war and the importance
given heavy industry, while the people suffered privations.

Finally there evolved a curious model whereby some industries straddled
between marxist nationalization and anarchist collectivization, while in
other cases the collectivizing process forged ahead until the fall of
Barcelona to the fascists, demonstrating the viability of the libertarian
economic model, as in the case of the bread industry of Barcelona, which was
managed by a workers committee up to the end of the war, distributing bread
to the whole city and the front. There are still many samples of this
socializing work in many parts of the state, which remind us of the hard
work of the men and women who produced to keep the Revolution afloat. Thus
it is possible that the tiles on the roof of your house were made in the
socialized factory no. 5 of the CNT-Alicante (one of which we have at the
Centro Social Libertario) or that parts of the Hispano_Suiza model of the
1930s came from the famous socialized factory in Barcelona, or that the
rails upon which the train rides came from the socialized foundry at Prat.
Industry's collectivizing labor during the Civil War demonstrates that the
working class can survive without bosses, working less and using the
benefits to improve their lives.


Luis J. Prat

University of California
Chemistry Dept.
Santa Barbara CA 93106
(805) 893-3295
(805) 893-4120 FAX


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