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(en) cab anarquista: Anarchist peasant collectivities during the Spanish Civil War (pt) [machine translation]
Sat, 24 Oct 2020 08:59:36 +0300
Collectivity in Spain ---- The collectivity, in Spain, was each one of the economic and social institutions inspired by the
anarcho-syndicalist principles. They formed during the revolutionary situation that accompanied the civil war in different parts of Spanish
geography. Four of the most well-known cases were collectivized companies in the city of Barcelona (Catalonia), agricultural communities in
Aragon, those in the Valencian Community and those in the Region of Murcia. ---- In Barcelona, collectivities exercised a management role
similar to cooperatives, without bosses, when controlled by their own workers. City services, such as urban transport, were managed by
collectives. In the Aragon countryside, in the Valencian Community, in the region of Murcia and elsewhere in Spanish geography, agrarian
collectives functioned as communes; the business role and local powers were replaced by the establishment of these agrarian collectives in
the municipalities in which they were created, in many cases even abolishing money and private property (some of the principles of socialist
anarchist society). Some of the most significant Aragonese collectivities were those in Alcañiz, Valderrobres and Calanda in the Lower Aragon.
In mid-February 1937 a congress was held in Caspe (Zaragoza, Aragon) whose purpose was to create a federation of collectivities, attended by
500 delegates representing 80,000 Aragonese collectivists. Along the Aragon front, the Council of Aragon in Spain, of an anarchist influence
and chaired by Joaquín Ascaso, had taken control of the area. Both the Council of Aragon as these communities were not well seen by the
government of the Republic, so on August 4 , the Minister of National Defense, Indalecio Prieto, gave orders to the army, and 11 the
commander of the Division Enrique Lister was sent to Aragon , dissolving the council of Aragon on August 11...
In the Valencian Community, the CLUEA, the Unified Levantine Council for the Export of Agrios (citrus fruits), was created on the basis of a
libertarian initiative, which traded with several European countries, numerous peasant-type locations, and in the city of Elche, in
Alicante, arriving complete socialization of its industries and businesses.
Collectivity and Cooperative
The National Labor Confederation prefers to use the term collectivity or socialization instead of cooperative , as recorded in the minutes
of its V Congress, which took place in 1979 , because it thinks that the first is closer to the original idea of collectivism:
Cooperative production and consumption terminologyemployed in most of the agreements of the unions that support them, they often make
nuances of functioning and purposes that give us support to identify them with the collectivist content proper to the anarcho-syndicalist
movement. Therefore, we have adopted the term COLLECTIVITY OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION as a definition for all cases.[...]So we reject
cooperatives, whose dynamics lead to integration in capitalist society, creating new entrepreneurs.[...]The groups of production and
consumption that can currently be created should not be considered as a direct and absolute means to achieve the emancipation of workers.
They can serve as an indirect means to alleviate our purchasing problems and, on the other hand, carry out realizations in which workers'
self-organization capacity is demonstrated, eliminating intermediaries,
Collectivities during the Spanish Revolution
It was a collective work regime, in which the lands of aristocrats and owners were expropriated and combined with the lands of collectivists
who owned some land. Animals, tools and, above all, work were also added, which from then on would be done collectively, in shifts or
managed by the collectivity committee. Periodic assemblies were held to control what the community was doing. And abroad, they negotiated
with other communities and exchanges were encouraged.
In many villages and towns, money was even abolished and replaced with vouchers signed or stamped by committees. Although some communities
have problems with the republican authorities (11 to Lister Division came into Aragon to dissolve them in August 1937), others, such as
Castile, Murcia and Andalusia, could operate more or less successfully until 1939 , when they were dissolved by Francoist troops.
Distribution of the global wealth of Spanish soil
Annual cultivation land 15,729,839 hect a res
Fallow 5,400,000 hect a res
Total cultivated land 21,129,839 hect a res
Meadows, pastures and hills 23,642,514 hect a res
Total productive land 44,772,353 hectares a re s
Surface í Total d CIE the Espa nh the 50,510,210 hectares a res
Major latifundios and their owners
Duchy of Medinaceli 79,147 hect a res
Duchy of Peñaranda 51,016 hect a res
Duchy of Villahermosa 47,016 hect a res
Duchy of Alba 34,455 hect a res
Marquesado de la Romana 29,097 hect a res
Marques de Comillas 23,720 hect a res
Duchy of Fernán Núñez 17,733 hect a res
Duchy of Arion 17,667 hect a res
Duchy of Infantado 17,171 hect a res
Romanones County 15,132 hect a res
Torres Arias County 13,645 hect a res
Sástago County 12,629 hect a res
Marquis of Mirabel 12,570 hect a res
Duchy of Lerma 11,879 hect a res
Source: Benjamín Cano Ruiz and Ismael Viadiu
Agrarian collectivism in the Spanish Revolution
The tonic of the latifundio in the Spanish countryside, heir of the 19th century caudillism, led to a great concern among the peasantry. The
depreciation of the 19th century had failed to substantially change the structure of land ownership and the process of agrarian reform in
the Republic had not met expectations for change. Thus, after the uprising of conservative sectors of the army on July 18, 1936, a
revolutionary process began in which peasants expropriated landowners and organized self-managed communities based on collective ownership
of the means of production. This phenomenon was called collectivization .
Collectivities were created by different means. In places where the rebels against the Republic had not triumphed, city halls or peasants
themselves began to collectivize.
Usually, it was the militants of CNT (National Confederation of Labor) or FAI (Federation of Iberian Anarchists) who called the general
assemblies in the villages and fought for collectivization.[...]In these assemblies, people voluntarily offered land, instruments and
animals they owned. To this was added the land that had been expropriated from large landowners. " People who had nothing to give to the
community were admitted with the same duties and rights as the others ". Quickly, almost two-thirds of the land in areas controlled by
anti-fascist forces had been taken and collectivized. In total, about five to seven million people were involved.
Deirdre Hogan, The peasant anarchist collectives during the Spanish Civil War
In the villages where the revolutionaries had triumphed, the advance of the militia columns of the National Labor Confederation encouraged
collectivizations, following the thesis that war and revolution were inseparable.
Have you organized your collectivity? Don't wait any longer. Occupy the lands! Organize yourself so that there are no bosses or parasites
among you. If they don't, it's useless to keep going. We have to create a new world, different from the one we are destroying.
In Aragon, agrarian collectives were formed and were structured by working groups with 5 to 10 members. For each work group, the community
attributed a piece of land to work, for which it was responsible. Each group chose a delegate who represented their opinions at community
meetings. A management committee was responsible for the daily functioning of the community. This committee was in charge of obtaining
materials, exchanging with other areas, organizing the distribution of production and taking charge of public works that were necessary. Its
members were chosen in general assemblies, in which all the people who were part of the community participated.
Julián Casanova, Anarquismo y revolución , p. 119.
Higinio Noja Ruiz, Labor constructiva (AHN-SGC, F-274).
Deirdre Hogan,The peasant anarchist collectives during the Spanish Civil War .
Benjamín Cano Ruiz and José Viadiu,Agrarian collectivism in the Spanish Revolution .
Rocío Navarro Comas,Agricultural collectives in the anarchist leaflets of the Spanish Civil War .
Manuel Albar Memorial Center. Oral testimony of the Collective of Caspe
Anarchist peasant collectivities during the Spanish Civil War
Many people, when hearing about anarchism, consider thinking of a society based on anarchist principles as unreal, idealistic and naive, as
"the vision of a few dreamers". Given the homogeneous view of the world, presented in the media, it seems difficult for people to imagine a
society in which universally accepted institutions, such as the state, the judicial system, the police, armies and nations no longer exist.
To get an idea of how such a society could work, it is useful to study the social revolution that took place in Spain in 1936, when, in a
period of two years, the people took power in their own hands and started building a society. completely different, based on anarchist
Anarchist ideas had been gaining ground in Spain since the second half of the 19th century. The CNT, an anarcho-syndicalist union, was
formed around 1910 and was very powerful in 1936, when it had 1.5 million members. At that time, anarchist ideas were deeply ingrained in
the minds of peasants. In fact, collectivization had already started in some rural areas before the social revolution.
On July 17, there was a military coup on the Spanish side of Morocco, which by the following day had already extended to the peninsula. In
cities and villages, workers had organized to defeat the military uprising and thanks to their initiative and courage, the fascist uprising
was arrested in three quarters of Spain. These people, however, were not only fighting to win the fascist attempt to gain power, they were
also fighting for a new social order in Spain.
As soon as the fascists were defeated, workers' militias were formed regardless of the state. The factories in the cities were occupied by
the workers and in the rural areas, the lands of the retreating fascists and their sympathizers were taken. In the rural areas of the
republican zone, under the influence of activists from the CNT and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), this was where collectivization
went further. Usually, it was the CNT or FAI militants who called the general assemblies in the villages and fought for collectivization.
In these assemblies, people voluntarily offered land, tools and livestock they owned. To all this was added the land that had been
expropriated from large landowners. "People who had nothing to give to the community were admitted with the same duties and rights as the
others". Quickly, almost two-thirds of the land in areas controlled by anti-fascist forces had been taken and collectivized. In total, about
five or seven million people were involved.
The organizational and power structure in communities
The smallest unit in the community was the working group, often between 5 and 10 members, but sometimes more people. Everyone in the
community was obliged to work, as long as it was possible for them.
The collectivity was the free working community of the villagers ... the group could be friends or neighbors on a certain street or a group
of small peasants, tenants or newsmen.
Each group was assigned land by the community and soon they were responsible for cultivation. In each group a delegate was chosen who, while
working with his companions most of the time, also represented the opinion of his group in the assemblies of the community. In some
communities there was an Administrative Commission that met with the delegates of each work group and outlined the work plan for the
The administrative commission or management committee was responsible for the daily functioning of the community. "They took care of
obtaining materials, exchanging with other areas, distributing production and necessary public works, such as building schools". The members
of the management committee were chosen at general meetings of all participants in the community. The general assembly of collectivists was
sovereign when it came to making important decisions.
Collectivities federations were also created. In Aragon, where there were some 450 collectives that comprised half a million people, there
was the most successful federation. Here federations by district and regional were established. The collectivities of the same area came
together to form federations by district, composed of delegates chosen from each of the collectivities. The federations by district
maintained the warehouses to store the agricultural production of the communities. They were also responsible for communication and
transportation between federated villages and supported cultural progress in the area.
Regional federations, such as the Regional Federation of Aragonese Collectivities and the Regional Federation of Peasants, were also
composed of delegates from collectivities. These federations were created for various purposes. They established technical teams to improve
agricultural and livestock production; to empower young people; to take production statistics; to create regional reserves and to offer
credits and help, without interest, to the communities.
All of this took place with the initiative of the peasantry. Although the government existed, it had no power in it. "I was disconnected
from the State's repressive organs. Power was divided into innumerable fragments and spread across thousands of cities and villages among
the revolutionary committees that had taken control of the land and the factories, the means of transport and communication, the police and
the army. The military, economic and political struggle was going on independently and despite the government ".
In various communities, food and other provisions for local consumption were stored in churches, which constituted ideal warehouses. Methods
for local distribution varied from one community to another. In some, the family salary was introduced. In others, the members of the
community decided to pay a salary to each person, fixed by the community. Payment was established according to the person's needs and not
Other collectives abolished the state currency and could use their own local currency or replaced it with exchangeable "tokens" or "coupons"
Often, members of a community could pick up certain provisions, such as bread, vegetables, fruit and in certain cases, Muniesa wine (Teruel,
Aragon) and even Beceite tobacco (Alcañiz) as much as was necessary, without restriction. The collectives operated on the basis of "each
according to his needs, each according to his abilities" .
In all collectives, scarce articles were rationed. "Everyone, being able to work or not, received what was necessary to live, as far as the
community could do". The working age was between 14 and 60 years old. The days when they were sick were counted as days worked. Elders were
cared for and, when necessary, special houses were built for them.
The role of women in communities
Single women worked in collectivized workshops or in branches of distribution cooperatives. Married women, tied to domestic chores, were
exempt from these obligations, even though in times of need they also contributed to activities. Pregnant women received special
consideration. They all worked according to their physical abilities.
Wherever collectives chose to pay in the form of wages, apparently women received less than men. In fact, although women played an extremely
active role in cities during the revolution, the traditional role of women in the countryside does not appear to have changed significantly.
We hope to be able to address the issue of women in Spanish communities in more detail soon.
Treatment for "individualists"
Unlike Soviet Russia, collectivization was not a forced process and those who did not want to join the collectives were allowed to be left
out, with one condition: they could keep only the amount of land that they and their families could work without employing anyone to do the
job for them. People who did not want to join the collectives were called s "individuali hese " .
Maintaining the anarchist principle that there is no freedom until everyone is free, people maintained that participation in collectives
should always be voluntary. Collectivists were far from the majority in the field, yet they made special efforts to respect the option of
individualists and did not condemn them. In many areas, individualists, convinced by the example of collectivities, eventually joined the
collectivities voluntarily and their number decreased.
Individualists often benefited from the collectivity. In Calanda, for example, they received free electricity and were not charged for rent.
They also paid low prices for the goods they acquired from the community.
The triumph of freedom
The aim of the collectives was "to collectively produce and distribute the product of labor fairly." With the abolition of private property,
a profound transformation took place in people's minds. The way collectivists acted during this period shows that the excessive ambition
that is evident in today's capitalist society is not an inherent part of human nature.
The communities were not interested in having more land just to increase their properties, but, on the contrary, they wanted only that land
so that they could work on their own. There was a great feeling of solidarity between the different communities. For example, 1,000
collectivists from Levante, who were well-developed, went to Castile to lend a hand. Collectivists also regularly sent food and supplies to
the Front and also to cities.
The collectivists in Albalate de Cinca sent the following to the city of Madrid in March 1937, the following: ten live pigs, 500 kilos of
bacon, 87 chickens, 50 rabbits, 2.5 tons of potatoes, 200 dozen eggs, vegetables and several dozen goats. "There was no request for payment
or requisition by the military." Refugees arriving from areas conquered by the fascist advance were cared for in the communities that still
With the creation of collectives, people stopped competing with each other. They were also free to follow employers' orders, to work on
other people's land for a few coins, but, on the contrary, they had control over their land and equal weight in any important decision made
regarding the organization of work and the management of resources. Thus, free, the initiative and enthusiasm of Spanish peasants had no
limit. "Collectivization has all the advantages of free cooperation: human collective work. Freedom and equality are its foundations " .
New cultivation methods were used. Experimental farms were established. Resources were used to modernize the farms and to obtain new
machinery. Communities have gained a lot by pooling their resources. Specialized technical advice was offered by the Regional Federation. In
addition, intermediate parasites, bureaucracy and other control mechanisms necessary for the maintenance of the capitalist system were
Production increased a lot in the communities. In some cases, harvests increased more than five times from their pre-revolutionary level. In
Alcoriza, collectivists established a cold factory in an old convent. "Daily production reached 500 kilos. This production is sent to the
anti-fascist militias. A shoe factory was also built where leather and shoes are produced, not only for the residents of the village, but
also for the surrounding communities " .
In no community did unemployment exist. This was a major change in the life of Spain before the collectives, in which the peasants could be
unemployed for half a year.
Collectivists were not concerned only with their material well-being. They were deeply dedicated to education and during this period many
schools were established, supported by the principles of Francisco Ferrer, the world-famous anarchist educator. As a result of their
efforts, many children received school education for the first time.
In Calanda, "school is the village's exceptional program. It follows the philosophy of Francisco Ferrer. 1233 children attend school. It is
built in an old convent. The most advanced children are sent to Liceu de Capse. The collectivity covers expenses " . The Federation of
Libertarian Youths, in particular, was very active in the cultural agenda, installing libraries, cinemas and community centers.
The initiative of the peasants can be seen clearly in the original uses they gave to the old churches. They have become cinemas, cafes,
butchers, carpentry workshops, hospitals, pasta factories and, in some cases, quarters. Perhaps one of the most typical examples of the new
role of churches in the community is the use given to the old church in Alcañiz,"The priests left. The church was not burned. It serves as a
warehouse for the community. The different sections are marked on the pillars: shoes and sandals here; soap and other cleaning materials;
meats and cold cuts; preserves and other provisions; fabrics and clothing. Potatoes were stored near the main altar ... offices were
installed. You don't get anything with money, just coupons. People get what they ask for and it is recorded in the coupon book. The audience
enters through the front door. The side doors are used for the distribution of provisions. The church is the local market".
The Spanish Revolution is unique in history, as it is the only opportunity in which the masses consciously put anarchist theories into
practice. Although the collectives could not have the opportunity to develop fully and were not perfect, they were very successful while
they lasted. They demonstrated how ordinary people are perfectly capable of organizing a just and efficient society, under the right
conditions. Peasants and workers in Spain have demonstrated that anarchism is possible.
During the Spanish Civil War, in the republican zone, especially in Catalonia, Levante and Aragon, an important self-management practice
took place; it can be considered one of the most important social experiments of the 20th century.
Collectivities did not originate in the State or in political parties or in any avant-garde, but were the product of popular will. As Abad
de Santillán said, the CNT and FAI bodies did not establish any guidelines, the reactivation of industry, services and land was the work of
total spontaneity in which new bases were established. In each place of work, administrative and management committees formed by the most
capable and trustworthy workers were formed. Within a few weeks of the start of the conflict, there was already a vigorous collectivist
economy with a truly worker and peasant labor and production regulation. The means of production were in the hands of the workers.
It can be said that, although spontaneity was an important factor, the success of the collectives was in long community traditions of the
Spanish people. Although sometimes supported by UGT and other republican groups and personalities, it was the CNT and the libertarian
movement that ensured the creation of new forms of economic and social organization. Gaston Leval, author of one of the most important works
on the subject, "Colectividades libertarias en España" , stated that the conquests of the anarchist movement would not have taken place had
they not been in tune with the deep psychology of at least a large part of the workers and peasants. Another author, Daniel Guerin in "El
anarquismo", said that collectivization had no imposition or bloodshed; peasants and smallholders who did not want to fall for work were
respected, although many of them later joined collectivization when they realized its advantages. Even the rights of people who did not
integrate and were able to use some of the community services were respected.
Recalling the proposals of classical anarchism, it must be said that the structure of collectivities was not homogeneous; some were close to
libertarian communism[usually the example of the Naval community], but most responded more to collectivism. While in some the official
currency was abolished and equivalent securities were created for exchange[more in the cities of Aragon], in others it continued to be
used[Levante, Catalonia and Castile]. Anyway, despite the differences, what prevailed in the collectives were libertarian values:
solidarity, mutual support and equality. Fraternity was practiced for the benefit of the community and each person should contribute to the
work according to their strengths.
The wealthiest collectives helped the poorest through a Compensation Fund, by region or region, which was in charge of recording the income
from each collectivized work. These Funds were administered by persons appointed by the general assembly of delegates of the collectives.
Several works, such as those mentioned, collect important figures from these Funds, whose resources were obtained from the sale of the
surplus of the most prosperous communities. All resources, utensils, machinery and technical instruments were at the service of the
different communities in each region; there was no isolation at all, but an important solidarity network that also effectively united the
city and the countryside. The collective and self-managed work, of course, was not complete; much of the economy was left out of
Speaking of agrarian collectivization, it had its center in Aragon and Levante, to a lesser extent in Catalonia. In Caspe, on the 14th and
15th of February, the Federation of Collectives of Aragon was formed. One can speak of 40% of the rural population that formed part of the
collectives. The most numerous and solid, in terms of the strength of their system, were those of the Valencian region. In Castilla, 300
collectivities were formed. One can speak of a great success in agrarian self-management if we stick to the numbers: harvests have increased
by 30 to 50%. The agrarian collectivist regime was more integral and intense than in the case of urban and industrial collectivizations,
certainly due to the union's intervention in the last two cases; in the agrarian case, there was greater independence and there was room for
everyone who wanted to integrate.
In the case of industrial and service collectivizations, its main focus was on Catalonia, although there were also in other areas of the
country. The factories of more than 100 workers were socialized and those of more than 50 could also do so, if three quarters of the
workforce so requested. In Catalonia, collectivized work included, in addition to agriculture, the most important sectors of industry and
services; it is necessary to highlight the notable war-oriented industry, whose production was at least ten times greater than in the rest
of republican Spain.
Unfortunately, collectivities aroused the fear of a large sector on the Republican side from the beginning, from the bourgeois to the
socialist parties. The greatest hostility came from the communists, who directed their reinforcements to discredit and try to annul them.
Uribe, the minister of agriculture, boycotted the collectivized activity from the government; thus, the decree that legalized them, in order
to take control of the unions, originated in this person.
In March 1937, well-chosen groups of police and assault guards started a march north of Murcia and Alicante to take Cullera (Valencia) and
Alfara (Tarragona) and, from that strategic position, initiate a repression against the collectives. According to Gaston Leval, everything
indicates that the operation was set up by the socialist Indalecio Prieto, minister of war, who agreed with the communists when it came to
On August 10, 1937, the Council of Aragon, which was one of the independent strongholds of the anarchist movement, was abolished. Shortly
thereafter, the general Lister, 11 ahead of the division, 30% devastate communities of Aragon, holding the most prominent members of the
communities. In the case of industrial self-management in Catalonia, the central government systematically denied any aid. The central
government, of Negrín and the communists, published on August 22, 1937 a decree that annulled that of October 1936, in favor of
collectivizations. The war would eventually be lost, but before that, the self-managed movement, encouraged in large part by anarchists,
lost many other battles against those who were supposed to be its allies against fascism.
The anarchist experience: Collectivizations in Spain (1936-1937)
A context of war and destruction shows us, in the most intimate of its existence, a magnificent work of construction. Spanish anarchism
developed, in the middle of a Civil War (1936-1939), an admirable process of Revolution: the agrarian and industrial collectivization.
If there was a time and place in history when anarchism manifested itself beyond all utopia, every dream, it was in the first months of the
Civil War in Spain (July 1936 - August 1937). As a fractional essay and conditioned by circumstances, however, the industrial and agrarian
collectivities of republican Spain were the effective embodiment of an ideal thought, often underestimated by contemporary politicians.
Most of the Spanish collectivized work was preceded by pre-war projects, disseminated by anarcho-syndicalists and anarchists from the
National Labor Confederation (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI). A fundamental premise that made anarchist work possible
during the painful Spanish fratricide was the slogan "Revolution and War are inseparable", which preceded the republican government's
"mission" of "winning the war first". The friction in this and other aspects between anarchists and the rest of the Republicans marked a
little more in the government's failure to control the Spanish situation. But the CNT-FAI's definitive decay also began with these
collectivizations, after its acceptance of the principle of "winning the war first" and the entry into government of important leaders, who
were once uncompromising with any state. FAI activist Federica Montseny, who came to occupy the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance in
the second stage of the government of Francisco Largo Caballero, would confess this error, regretting the decision of her movement ("I wish
that we had not intervened and that we had not, historically and ideologically, been dishonored"), but recognizing that there was no
other option in the circumstances in which the war was going on.
In any case, the anarchist collectives were more the work of ordinary workers than of the leaders themselves ( these, as the noun indicates,
were only in charge of guiding and leading the popular revolutionary euphoria that spontaneously concentrated on breaking the barriers of
social inequality and of bourgeois exploitation). And it was the context of war that allowed the emergence of collectivities, just as it was
later this same context that, when pressing food production, would limit its economic possibilities. However, the final fall of anarchist
collectivities was not due to possible failures in the communal federative system, but to government intervention and, above all, to the war
that faced, within the same republican side, the anarchists and the POUM (Marxist Unification Workers Party). , on the one hand, with the
communists and the government on the other. (As we know, POUM was anti-Stalinist, which pitted it against the Spanish Communist Party and
its regional counterparts.)
Anarchist collectivization took place in various regions of Spain, with different organizations and different results. In Aragon, Levante
and Castile we find the largest number of agrarian communities (about 450, 350 and 300, respectively); in Catalonia, collectivization was
much more urban.
Undoubtedly, the most notable cases of collectivization are Aragon, with regard to the countryside, and Catalonia, essentially urban. We
will try to summarize the work of anarchist peasants and workers by focusing on a collective of Aragon and the collectivization of
industries in Barcelona (Catalonia).
COLLECTIVIZATION IN ARAGÃO: "THE LAND TO THE PEASANT"
In Aragon, during the uprising, the three capitals[Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca]they were dominated by nationals, but not most of the towns
and cities, which were under anarcho-syndicalist influence. The collectivities, which started to form after the beginning of the resistance
and thanks to the military defensive efforts of the forces of CNT member Buenaventura Durruti, started to group about 430,000 peasants. In
general, each collectivity was demarcated within the limits of the villages themselves, which allowed to maintain traditional neighborhood
relations. In turn, in October 1936, the creation of a regional control body, the Aragon Defense Council, was established in Fraga and
chaired by CNT member Joaquín Ascaso, whose presentation highlighted its economic, social, political and military, based on"Will, spirit and
aspirations of the Aragonese people" (its mission was to establish a "model statute" for all communities in the region" . This Council
would be legitimized by the central government in December, while its headquarters would move to Caspe, but if they would associate
socialist, communist and republican leaders, with whom the government and the communists would begin their anti-collectivist intervention in
Aragon until it ended the Council and the collectives in August 1937.
From the beginning, collectivization in Aragon was well regarded by some and scorned by others. In some villages[like Calanda and
Alcañiz]the acceptance of libertarian communism was total; but in many others, the population was divided into "collectivists" (always the
majority) and "individualists", and there was no lack of those who, after some time in the community, deserted and claimed their individual
properties. There are those who claim that individualists were forced to accept collectivization and that, in addition to being deprived of
their goods and land, they used to be accused by the Defense Council of "fascists" and later executed by the CNT police armed forces. But
these accusations were part, first, of the propaganda action of the Spanish Communist Party and the government,
We know for sure that, in the same village, "collectivists" and "individualists" lived together without any major difficulties, and that
when a peasant in the community wished to return to private production, he could do so without fear of "accusations" and "torture", which
the communist newspaper "Red Front" spoke.
On the other hand, it is true that euphoric expropriations of large properties in which the legal owner refused to "willingly" give in to
popular demands and the collectivist revolutionary movement, culminated in violent actions and accusations of "fascism" or "nationalism"
that maybe they were unfounded; but the common thing was respect for the individualist, as long as he did not employ salaried workers on his
land. Due to the difficulties faced by an owner working the land on his own, many men who defended private property ended up joining the
The basic description of an anarchist agrarian collectivity of the type that existed in Aragon would be as follows: the land is divided into
sectors that are worked on by groups. Each worker is chosen for the position that best suits their abilities. Inventories and tools for
production become, like land, the patrimony of all men. The groups are organized by competent delegates, who are, in turn, workers of the
same nature as the rest and who do not enjoy extra benefits (and who are chosen by general assemblies that also deal with certain decisions
of collective interest). The same is true of factories and stores, where former owners who accept collectivization become guides and
managers, but losing their private profit and reaching the level of rural workers.
Trade between towns, provinces and regions was present in the collectivist organization; however, monetary policy in Aragon made it
difficult to exchange: the money was mostly replaced by coupons, received by the families (which, in some cases, end up being made in peseta
units, as a normal but uniform salary: " 25 pesetas per week for a producer alone, 35 for a couple with only one worker, 4 pesetas more per
dependent child "); although these figures varied from village to village) and were exchanged for products in community stores, facing
the problem of exchange outside collectivized areas (that is, therefore, handled by an exchange delegate, who inevitably uses Spanish money).
The churches have been turned into warehouses, workshops and schools (there are many cases of rampant violence against priests and temples).
Equal rationing does not leave out teachers and doctors, who, like everyone, receive the combined supply. In some cases, the maintenance of
private farms for domesticating animals is permitted. Definitely, no one within the community is left without food. Services such as
electricity, transportation and medical assistance are also part of collectivization and not even individualists paid for them. In turn, the
Council did not collect or pay taxes to the central government.
Agricultural production seems to have increased with collectivization in most Aragonese villages; a publication by the Ministry of
Agriculture, released in mid-1937, shows that the total production of wheat in Aragon has increased by 270,001 tons since the beginning of
collectivizations (without a doubt, it was of great importance for this anarchist conquest, innovation in terms of rationalization
production processes and technical improvements and machinery imports) . The profitable groups shared with the less fortunate.
Definitely, as perhaps too optimistic Agustín Souchy said, "the collectivity was a large family that cares for everyone . "And, as the
English historian Hugh Thomas critically estimated, these collectives "did not deserve either the contempt of the Communists or the
brutalities of nationalists "; however it was so. A governmental interest in total control, an ambiguous conception of communism that
proclaimed the "bourgeois revolution" over collectivization and the final blow to Spanish nationalism were the tormentors of a society still
in its infancy, in the process of improvement that, perhaps, had lasted, it would have meant a different way of life for the whole of Spain,
or perhaps just the recognized failure of a polished utopia.
INDUSTRIAL SELF-MANAGEMENT IN BARCELONA: A PROLETARY CITY
Barcelona, the best example of urban collectivization, was only part, albeit a very important one, of a wide process of taking over
companies that affected 70% of companies throughout Catalonia. Due to the enormous weight of anarchism in the region, the nationalist
uprising of July 1936 was repressed, above all, by the fervent anarchist forces. The defense of Barcelona was successful, on July 21 the
Committee of Anti-fascist Militias was founded, an organ composed of representatives of Barcelona's anti-nationalist parties, which had the
function of leading the incipient militias that would fight against the nationals and channel and organize the Revolution that would lead to
industrial collectivization (self-management). CNT and FAI were the movements best represented in the committee, also included men from UGT
(União Geral dos Trabalhadores), the Republican Left, PSUC (Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia), Catalan Action, Union of Tenants and
POUM. This Committee would automatically become the"Effective government " of Barcelona and Catalonia, acting in alliance with the
Generalitat chaired by Luís Companys, but imposing itself on this and the regional mandates of the central government. In other words, the
CNT-FAI had control of Catalonia and through the Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias it was in charge of carrying out the Revolution in
Catalan industry and social life. Finally, after so many years of complaints, the workers did not respond to a bourgeois boss; now it was
the workers' committee that controlled production and distribution.
Diego Abad de Santillán,member of the FAI and of the revolutionary Committee, explains: "we published a communiqué giving the first
indications of the conduct to follow. We created a patrol service to take care of the new revolutionary order; we set up a special supply
committee to meet, as far as possible, the most urgent needs of the situation created " .
On August 2, 1936, the central government approved the seizure of land, factories, houses and hotels that had been carried out by
anarchists. But this anti-bourgeois furor had already turned into a violent campaign of crime and destruction: many of the great landowners
were shot without reason, countless possessions were stolen for the sole interest and individual ambition, almost all the churches in
Barcelona were set on fire and many priests were savagely murdered... Such was the vandalism of a few outraged workers and peasants that the
CNT-FAI dedicated itself to reproving these crimes, accusing them of "illegal violence" , and considering their executors "amoral elements
who professionally steal and murder".Certainly, many of these vandals were criminals recently released from prison, who had entered a
political color, even though they did not have an ideology. However, there are also cases of communists posing as anarchists who committed
brutal torture and murder, to blame them for the crimes.
Figures point out that there were 350,000 anarchists in the city of Barcelona. Under the executive control of the Anti-Fascist Militia
Committee, a large number of industries and public services began to be directed by the CNT, whose delegates used to meet in the large
confiscated homes. Through the body of control patrols, collectivist order was imposed in the city ("control patrols" appear to have been a
core of anarchist terrorism) . Collectivization developed primarily in public services (transportation, water, electricity, gas, telephony,
health care) and in businesses. Also in cinemas, theaters, bars, hotels. The distribution of food was guaranteed collectively. The
industries(textiles, lumber, metallurgy, shipbuilding, fishing) came to be controlled by the proletariat itself through the local workers'
committees, whose members were chosen by general assemblies and generally followed the instructions of a specialized engineer; but soon,
these committees became new "owners" of the companies. Diego Abad de Santillán makes his self-criticism: "in place of the old proletariat,
we put half a dozen new employers who consider the factory or the means of transport they control as their personal property, with the
inconvenience that they do not always know how to organize themselves so well like the old owners ".The industries were based on a
federal policy, whereby company committees used to gather delegates who discussed matters of general interest.
The wages in the companies continued to be individual ( higher than before, being uniform or hierarchical, as the case may be) , and the
factories had to self-finance to continue their existence (when the number of financing was scarce, the regional and central governments did
not agree in helping the anarchist committee, which is one of the main causes of the subsequent integration of anarchists into the
government, with no other way out) . Soon, the war industries appeared, controlled in large part by the Generalitat de Catalunya, which thus
began to intervene in proletarian Barcelona. Finally, following the entry of anarchist elements in the Generalitat of Catalonia on September
27 and the subsequent dissolution of the Antifascist Militias Committee 1 theOctober, the Catalan government decreed the legitimacy of
collectivizations carried out by CNT-FAI on October 24. Thus, the government guaranteed itself control of the Catalan situation and the CNT
started its slope. Hugh Thomas describes the new arrangements agreed between the Catalan Generalitat and the anarchists:
"While large companies (that is, employing more than 100 workers) and those whose owners were" fascists "would be collectivized without
compensation, plants that employed 50 to 100 workers (which in Barcelona were in fact the majority) would only be collectivized at the
request of three quarters of its workers. Companies with fewer than fifty workers could only be collectivized at the request of their owner,
except for the production of war-related materials. The Generalitat would have a representative on the board of directors of each factory
and, in large collectivized companies, would designate the chairman of the board. The management of any collectivized company would be in
charge of a council elected by the workers, with a two-year term. And those that were dedicated to the same production sector would be
coordinated by one of the 14 industrial councils, which could intervene, if necessary, in private companies, in order to "harmonize
We find three types of "revolutionary" industries in Barcelona: the companies whose owners remained ahead of them, advising with their
knowledge, but with a workers' committee that exercised effective control; companies whose owners, rejecting collectivization, were directly
expelled and the workers' committee took over; and "socialized " companies , that is, grouped by productive sector and organized together by
a workers' committee. The Catalan economy was now fully collectivized, but industrial production also suffered a considerable drop, due to
the scarcity of demand and raw materials to which it was subjected by the war conflict and the disconnection with Spain dominated by nationals.
Concluding with the revolutionary period, perhaps very questionable in its conquests, but focused like no other in the social equation and
in the end of the bourgeois exploitation, in the beginning of 1937, the PSUC and the Catalan government strongly attacked the anarchist
committees. It didn't take long for a new civil war to break out in May: anarchists and poumists who defended industrial collectivization
and claimed workers' control over communists and republicans who pushed the war industry as a primary goal and guaranteed the return of
properties to the petty bourgeois. Barcelona was bathed in blood: 500 dead and 1000 wounded. The central government's intervention to "bring
order" to Barcelona resulted in the "normalization" of the situation. Anarchists had seen their influence on Barcelona's politics and
industry reduced and Communists had reached the top of Republican control. Catalonia had lost its autonomy and behind the resignation of
Francisco Largo Caballero and the appointment of Juan Negrín as head of the central government on May 17, the FAI would denounce the
"victory of the bourgeois-communist bloc"; later, the communists would be "the biggest and the best".The repression of collectivities
would worsen and Soviet-style purges would take the lives of many anarchists, poumists and even Republicans. The CNT had renounced all
government participation, but there was no more room for the revolutionary struggle. Catalan anarchist collectivization had come to an end.
Catalonia had lost its autonomy and behind the resignation of Francisco Largo Caballero and the appointment of Juan Negrín as head of the
central government on May 17, the FAI would denounce the "victory of the bourgeois-communist bloc"; later, the communists would be "the
biggest and the best".The repression of collectivities would worsen and Soviet-style purges would take the lives of many anarchists,
poumists and even republicans. The CNT had renounced all government participation, but there was no more room for the revolutionary
struggle. Catalan anarchist collectivization had come to an end. Catalonia had lost its autonomy and behind the resignation of Francisco
Largo Caballero and the appointment of Juan Negrín as head of the central government on May 17, the FAI would denounce the "victory of the
bourgeois-communist bloc"; later, the communists would be "the biggest and the best".The repression of collectivities would worsen and
Soviet-style purges would take the lives of many anarchists, poumists and even republicans. The CNT had renounced all government
participation, but there was no more room for the revolutionary struggle. Catalan anarchist collectivization had come to an end.The
repression of collectivities would worsen and Soviet-style purges would take the lives of many anarchists, poumists and even Republicans.
The CNT had renounced all government participation, but there was no more room for the revolutionary struggle. Catalan anarchist
collectivization had come to an end.The repression of collectivities would worsen and Soviet-style purges would take the lives of many
anarchists, poumists and even republicans. The CNT had renounced all government participation, but there was no more room for the
revolutionary struggle. Catalan anarchist collectivization had come to an end.
Cit. en THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. iii, pp. 8-9.
THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. iii, pp. 144-145.
BROUÉ y TEMIMÉ, 1962, The revolution and the Spanish war, vol. i, p. 181.
SOUCHY, 1977, Entre los campesinos de Aragón; cit. in BROUÉ and TEMIMÉ, 1962, The revolution and the Spanish war, vol. i, p. 183.
THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. iii, p. 158.
"Name of war under which an Argentine militant was hiding" (BROUÉ y TEMIMÉ, 1962, La revolución y la guerra de España, vol. I, p. 57).
Cit. en Chronicle of the Spanish War, 1966, vol. ii, pp. 79-80.
THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. ii, p.112.
Cit. en THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. iii, pp. 97-98.
THOMAS, 1979, La Guerra Civil Española, vol. ii, pp. 344-345.
Chronicle of the Spanish War, 1966, vol. iv, p.113.
BROUÉ, P .; TEMIMÉ, E .: The revolution and the Spanish war . Fund of Economic Culture, Mexico, 1962.
Chronicle of the Spanish War. Editorial Codex, Buenos Aires, 1966. LEVAL, G .: Libertarian collectives in Spain . Editorial Proyección,
Buenos Aires, 1974.
MINTZ, F .: Revolutionary self-management in Spain . Editorial La Piqueta, Madrid, 1977.
ROSSINERI, P .: "The collective work of the Revolución Española", Libertad , number 20, Lanús (pcia. De Buenos Aires), July-August 2001.
SOUCHY, A .: Among the peasants of Aragon . Tusquets Editores, Barcelona, 1977.
THOMAS, H .: La Guerra Civil Española . Ediciones Urbion-Hyspamérica Ediciones, Madrid, 1979.Augusto Gayubas Fuente:
http://sagunto.cnt.es/wp- content / uploads / 2010/12 / LA-EXPERIENCIA-ANARQUISTA-COLECTIVIZACIONES-EN-ESPA% C3% 91A- 1936-1937.pdf
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