(en) Trotskyist lies on anarchism

Martin Howard (Martin.howard@qnet.org.uk)
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 19:53:12 -0700

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This article is from Issue 211 of Black Flag, Britain’s best anarchist mag, available from BM Hurricane London WC1N 3XX


It would be fair to say that most marxists in Britain base their criticism of the profound anarchist role in the Spanish revolution on the work of the Trotskyist Felix Morrow. Morrow’s book, “Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain is written from an orthodox Trotskyist viewpoint, and events are sometimes shoe-horned into that viewpoint, rather than assessed. For example, Morrow transformed the “Bolshevik-Leninists”, an obscure sect who probably didn’t make it into double figures in membership, into the only ones who could save the Spanish revolution. Why? Because they alone had that precious gift, membership of the 4th International and a Trostkyist analysis! (never mind Spanish workers needing guns and solidarity!) Many of Morrow’s allegations have passed into leftist folklore and are regularly trotted out. We shall answer them here. Morrow claims the CNT (the anarchosyndicalist union that made the revolution) was controlled by a highly centralised Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI). The FAI was founded in 1927 as a confederation of regional federations (including the Portuguese Anarchist Union). These regional federations in turn co-ordinated local and district federations of highly autonomous anarchist affinity groups. So, while there may have been centralising tendencies a “highly centralised political party” it was not. Further, many anarcho-syndicalists and affinity groups were not in the FAI (though most seem to have supported it) and many FAI members put loyalty to the CNT first. For instance, according to the minutes of the FAI National plenum of January-February 1936: “The regional committee (of Aragon, Rioja and Navarra) is completely neglected by the majority of militants because they are absorbed in the larger activities of the CNT.” And “one of the reasons for the poor condition of the FAI was the fact that almost all of the comrades were active in defence groups of the CNT.” (report from the Regional Federation of the North). These are from internal documents and so unlikely to be lies. Anarchists were obviously the main influence in the CNT (which was anarcho-syndicalist well before the FAI was formed). But “FAI control” was an invention of a reformist minority within the CNT, like Angel Pestaña who had wanted to turn the CNT into a “neutral” movement and later formed the Syndicalist Party and stood for the Cortes. Another old chestnut from Morrow is that the CNT sabotaged the Socialist and Workers Alliance strike wave of October 1934, and transported troops to crush the Asturias rising. To understand this allegation, you need to understand the background to October 34 and the differences between the CNT and the UGT (union controlled by the reformist Socialist Party PSOE). republicans had attacked the CNT. Laws were passed with socialist help making lightning strikes illegal and state arbitration compulsory. CNT strikes were violently repressed and the UGT provided scabs, such as in the telephone company strike of 1931. During and after CNT insurrections in Catalonia in 1932 and the wider insurrections of January 1933 (9000 CNT members jailed) and December 1933 (16,000 jailed) socialist solidarity was nil. The socialists were suddenly converted to “revolution” after they lost the November 1933 elections and all the laws they had passed against the CNT were used against them as well. When cabinet seats were offered to the non-republican right in October 1934, the PSOE/UGT called for a general strike. The CNT failed to take part in this, a mistake recognised by many anarchist writers. Morrow alleges it was because they felt “all governments were equally bad”, but the truth is they justifiably mistrusted the Socialists. A CNT call in February 1934, for the UGT to clearly and publicly state its revolutionary objectives had met with no reply. Rhetoric aside, the PSOE’s main aim in October seems to have been to force new elections so they could again form a coalition with the republicans. The CNT were to be used as cannon fodder to help produce another government to attack them! During October, apart from Catalonia (where the Catalan government arrested CNT militants the night before and then tried to declare Catalan autonomy) and Madrid (where the CNT supported a general strike) the only real centre of resistance was Asturias. Here the CNT had joined the Socialists and Communists in a “workers alliance”. but, against the Alliance’s terms, the Socialists alone gave the order for the uprising - and the Socialist controlled Provincial Committee starved the CNT of arms. This despite the CNT having over 22,000 affiliates in the area (compared to the UGT’s 40,000). Morrow mentions CNT railway workers breaking the back of the October insurrection by transporting troops and supplies. Yet in Asturias (the only area where troop transportation was needed) the main government attack came from a seaborne landing of Foreign Legion and Moroccan troops - against the port and CNT stronghold of Gijon. Despite CNT pleas, the Socialists refused arms, Gijon fell after a bloody struggle and became the base for crushing the entire region. This socialist and communist sabotage was to be repeated again two years later, but Morrow’s distortions are repeated ad nauseam by ignorant Trots. The last lie we shall despatch is that the Friends of Durruti made a “conscious break with the anti-statism of revolutionary anarchism”. The Friends of Durruti were formed in March 1937 by anarchist militants who refused to submit to the communist-controlled “militarisation” of the workers militias. During the May Days - the government attack on the revolution two months later - the Friends of Durruti were notable for their calls to stand firm and crush the counter revolution. They did not “deviate” from anarchism - they refused to compromise their anarchism in the face of their “comrades” who entered the government. Their leaflets, in April 1937 called for the unions and municipalities to “replace the state” and for no retreat. Their 1938 manifesto, repeated this call (“the state cannot be retained in the face of the unions”) and made three demands: For a National Defence Council - elected and accountable to the union rank and file (including those at the front), with all posts up for regular recall; for all “economic power to the unions”; and for the “free municipality” to cover those areas outside the unions mandate. More recently, Jaime Balius, one of the FoD’s main activists has stated: “We stood for “all power to the unions”. In no way were we politically orientated.” (“Political” here meaning state-political - a common anarchist use of the word”) The evidence that Durruti himself, probably the best known anarchist militant of the time, who died on the Madrid front in November 1936, “broke” with anarchism, is even less, if such a thing were possible.

by a comrade from Liverpool

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