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Commentary :: Human Rights
Anarchy Is Not the Answer
12 Oct 2004
Anarchy is not the answer for activists or independent media outlets that take their business of reform seriously. Independent Media groups and activists around the country (no matter how loosely organized) can not afford the luxury of either acting like, or being labeled, anarchists.
And yet this very label "anarchists" has even been embraced by some activists and protestors, who have thus allowed themselves to be so branded.
Most activists in reality espouse some form of leadership--how else can you possibly have any kind of society? How could you possibly have reform? How could you possibly have justice?

What advantage (image wise) is there in succumbing to such a political label? The obvious disadvantage is that you marginalize your group from much larger segments of the population, to be stereotyped in anathematic manner, that likely invites rejection, and possibly even animosity by the majority. People in America, on average, do not engage in realizing fine distinctions of political theory. To the ordinary citizen an anarchist is someone who is against any form of government and who espouses chaos (read pandemonium). Such a philosophy offers no real answers except relief from boredom.

Nor can activists or media groups, that hope to be respected for the positions, afford to act like, or allow others who act like anarchists, to dominate and influence how they are viewed by others, especially in the propaganda wars of society. We who read these pages know that lots of good quality and interesting that stuff gets printed on independent media websites, and that by far activist movements across the country are largely comprised of conscientious and responsible people.

But perhaps, to some who think differently, this is part of the problem. Like the Right is trying to paint the Left as unAmerican, spoiled whiners, there will be people actively engaged in trying to distort and disrupt the perceptions about activists and their support centers. For example, IndyMedia Centers "IMC" need to think about what it is there are allowing to happen to their reputation (both intentionally and unintentionally).

Surely there is something romantic about being rebellious and defiant, feeling rage and acting out anger? In fact people have a right and duty to "feel" outrage and defiant, for example against some main stream corporate controlled news organizations (or those that call themselves news organizations that seem to turn more fascist every year). Furthermore, there is a personal duty to
"deal" with these feelings in a constructive manner that is not self-defeating--and does not let such feelings overwhelm the self so as to become the likes of the those that one purports to hate and oppose.

Still people get addicted to all kinds of things including anger and voicing hostility. Politics does not exist without personalities. Like some people are not happy unless they have something to complain about, others are attracted to forms of expression that are vulgar and cheap, if not disrespecting and hostile. There are those that join groups to focus their discontentment on others so that they never have to look too closely at themselves.

Youth has little choice but operate from certain levels of naivete, and such naivete is vulnerable to congeal whatever anger or rage is felt, to whatever becomes conveniently accepted as stereotyped scapegoats--as propped up as the enemy (within one's own chosen circle). It is human nature for "all" kinds of people to scapegoat others and point to the enemy as "out" there (but never or seldom in one's own heart).

Furthermore, we Americans are particularly prone to specialize in promoting every sort of political prejudice, in which practically every group is ready to see "all" faults (both the real as well as the imagined) in "them". For example, despite one's hostility to the wiles of corporate news, the fact seems, that there is still a lot of useful news that get printed in such pages, and many news people are decent people.

The left, on average, is just as guilty of hypocrisy as is the right. One reason that Bush came close to winning the election four years ago is because Gore had to lie out of both sides of his mouth and it was apparent to perceptive viewers that man has little to recommend him as ethical--it ain't like the Democrats have been all virtue. Gore may have been a better President but he adapted a "lie" to the dumb people strategy to win.

The point here is there seems to be a capacity for overly zealous and self-righteous sanctimoniousness on "all" sides of a fence (as black and white labeling is promoted while deeper understanding is little pursued). It is so easy to dehumanize the enemy.

Why is it that when IndyMedia Center New York City (or whatever derivative) people make a film about the protests outside the last RNC the best we can expect is their "obsession" with filming confrontations between police and activists? Why was it there is not more intelligent ideas expressed as to "why" people feel traditional media is not good enough? Why is there instead this focus on confrontations with symbols and agents of authority?

Surely there are a ton of legitimate arguments and examples of how corporate media as failed us? Surely other websites are doing a better job informing and education us of such shortcomings? Where is the actual reading and intellectual work that creates the expertise on these matters by media activists? Any numbskull can harbor hatred and get sidetracked on adrenaline highs. Any inarticulate person of passion can blow conch shells for revolution so as to destroy any and all forms of authority.

I'm not writing this stuff because I oppose IndyMedia Centers? I'm writing it because I see red flags regarding the viability of such efforts and attitudes. I am just as, if not more, concerned about the present state of affairs, as many others who express concern (the few who will bother to read this essay because of a lack of reading habit and curiosity in America).

Who wants to become associated with people who can easily labeled and "profiled" (justly or unjustly) as people who are anarchists? Are those few who are allowed to make a bad impression trying to push concerned people away, such as people who might give worthy contribution? How can your entity benefit by allowing yourselves to be marginalized like this?

It is just like Ramsey Clark's International Action Center or IAC. His organization, that has made available a lot of books worthy of reading, ends up getting surrounded by Marxists and then ends up keeping most fence sitters away because most Americans do not want to be associated with marching along side Marxists or socialists calling for revolution. And this is not a question of whether any particular form of government and economic theory is better than another--it is a question of practical perception (given the real world of politics). Go to almost any anti-war protest and ask yourself: "How many signs that protesters are carrying say: "Democrats against the war!" or "Republicans against the War!" Damn few. And the literature passed around by the socialists and Marxist makes most Americans uncomfortable getting involved with marching along side these people. The fact is that people have preconceptions about such movements--and believe me they ain't good. Therefore IAC helps "ensure" that the anti-war protests remain small (within their little group of peasants). How does that win the peace? Or is this really a covert attempt to sabotage--perhaps as some front operation?

Furthermore, there is such a thing as "reformed" capitalism (a kind of neo-capitalism) that recognizes values besides profit--not all main stream Americans are for laissez faire capitalism that pretty much equates to a capacity for criminal potential. Not all capitalists are interested in allowing private investment pollute the environment, created masses of poverty, benefit financially by selling products that are ultimately dangerous such as depleted uranium weapons.

I know IndyMedia people and activists are primarily interested in justice, but why are certain loose attitudes allowed to be presented to represent the groups as a whole (that ultimately hurt efforts and keep people from participating)? Are certain people more interested in practicing their own form of self-righteousness (a trait already so common in main stream media editorial pages) that they really only put second or third rate efforts in attracting the skills and minds of those worthy of such efforts?

Where are the activists that will say things intelligent enough to be listened to when they get up to expect an audience--even if it be related artistic endeavors such as poetry or creating media messages that inform? Where are the media activists that demonstrate that they are in fact smarter, more informed, and more mature than those who work the main stream corporate media--that they claim are corrupted?

Anybody can vent rage and defiance in callow or rude manner. Any non-thinking animal can be whipped up into a state of expletive spouting self-righteousness? Does media now become an arena of infantile puerilism, in which what substitutes for intelligent argument and confrontation, becomes instead monosyllabic statements like: "XYZ… sucks" or "Fuck … who or whatever"? What kind of audience is one really attempting to impress? Intelligent people are not going to join in on this mentality to any significant degree--even if they highly believe in the cause.

Where are the wise people in this nation that are ready to say: "You know I have read a hell of a lot of diverse views and books on politics and I am "only" beginning to realize how complex things really are, and how much I didn't know or realize." Where is the wisdom that is more ready to listen and read intelligent and objective discourse than the double-babble that already presumes to know reality as youthful certitude?

Who or what controls information in any society is obviously an area of intense importance. People (the masses) should be concerned with these issues of media control and influence. Propaganda machines are everywhere. The question should be "How can independent media people gain respect and readership?"

Most likely IndyMedia Centers already have infiltrative agents working against such efforts? Most likely many persons in power (such as tradition papers) would like to see your efforts fall to nothing? Why help them by sewing the seeds of your own demise--or is that what you really want--to give bad name to the cause of independent media in general by inviting the wrong sort of personalities and practices?

What really is "authority" if not a derivative of "author-ship." What kind of authoritative book is getting written here? It is not enough to have the latest and greatest technology and communicative capacity. We have all kinds of attention and thrill seekers with fancy cell phones, who want to dominate the airwaves and psychological space of others but they little worth listening to (because there is no articulate agent at the end of the telephone saying something worthy of audience).

What will IndyMedia really accomplish over a span of time? Will it invite every type of discontent with a grudge of every stripe to become part of a process of directing rage at the state? For some this means the overly simplistic practice of directing blame and hostility at police officers who are assigned to crowd control (as if most of the ills of society are not the fault of police officers who happen to be the inter-mediative agents of society and potential unlawful disturbance).

People talk about "homophobia" but what about the excessive promotion of "police-phobia" by some (including the media) in this culture? Do you not think that some people in this culture are not predisposed to hate certain symbols of authority just a little too conveniently as scapegoats? Sure there are police officers that act inappropriately at times and engage in serious offenses--we all know that--there is no argument here. But what should we call it when some activists too readily seem to obsess or focus with confrontations with authority at the expense of the practice of articulating and recognizing the complex reasons for how things have evolved as they have?

Anyone can go around filming protesters chanting: "Smash the State!" Even though such persons filled with anger, fear, and resentment may exist by the truckloads, few have offer "real" answers as "viable" and realistic alternatives to governance. Instead they almost unconsciously seem to promote their rage at the police officers as if the police are responsible for all their animosity.

I happen to have had some positive experiences dealing with police officers in various cities (by far on average). I do not think every officer is automatically a thug and insensitive racist. Yet what about the ranks of so called activists anarchists? Perhaps there is a bit hypocrisy here with a few? Or activists who too readily seem to want to blame society's problems on white males (as if, for example, only white males ever invested in corporate stocks that profit by things one claims to be against).

Some police officers will help more people in one week than many people will do in a year (including and especially media people--who seem to have this elitist attitude that media people are morally superior). Yet it is so easy to stereotype and scapegoat as if only "they" are the problem. Does "fair" evaluation mean that people lie when they promote the idea that police are only interested in protecting corporations? Does this equal "open-mindedness?"

I'm not a police officer. I have no special interest in promoting a police state or a government that excessively snoops in the private affairs of people or disrespects our constitutional rights. But there are times when various police officers deserve some respect and should be recognized as just as human as any one else. They are not all bad apples.

Perhaps some activists are really angry at the apathy of the average American has in general who has allowed this country to become mediocre is various ways? Perhaps they are really angry at the average reading skill level of Americans that have been lackadaisical in allowing main stream media to fall into its complaisance and holier-than-thou self-righteousness (because there has evolved little insight to challenge editors by an intelligent public?) Perhaps activists are angry at the average gas guzzling American (including themselves) for acting like a status quo of a fat American is OK? It ain't like there is this perfectly angelic minority group of people who is taking on a purely demonic force of evil here in America. We are all part of the problem no matter how much we want to say: "I hate xxx politicians."

Still young person today should be angry and scared about the future. The 21st century promises to be the Chinese curse--may you live in interesting times! For example, despite the fact the President Bush said he would not start a draft how can he or anyone predict the future. More than likely that was a Karl Rove stunt and anyone who knows about him knows he will advise Bush to say whatever it takes to win. American youth should be full of anxiety and concern. And it is easy to jump on the bandwagon to respond in typical fashion of seeing the enemy out there and then rage in anti-social manner like it is only them that are the problem.

I'm not trying to get too high on a soapbox here but the fact is that activists do "not" have the luxury of making lots of naïve mistakes--especially alternative media activists. The mere fact that "anyone" with "any" motive could potentially publish something on IMC websites is radical enough to raise eyebrows. This alone is a form of anarchy (no rule to mean no willingness to provide leadership or to create much as far as certain perimeters of restriction).

Obviously IMC people (including myself) are not happy with corporate controlled media--with their ways of distortion and censorship--so what are we going to do--go to the other extreme--and allow zero censorship so that any stupid thing can be posted and left to announce the obvious--even if you have nothing intelligent to say you can vent your spleen here!!!!!!

Granted I understand that a lot of what appears is interesting and informative but hypothetically, should any and every kind of malicious act or opportunity for defamation be allowed? Should any kind of story--no matter if it relates or not to presumed objectives for activists be OK'd as printed? Should every written response to postings (even when written as acrid hatred and psychological warfare to demoralize) be allowed to stay up as initially posted on sights? Is IndyMedia really setting itself up for its own demise for allowing for easy abuse?

Obviously such as a situation is going to be of some concern for people who have goals of protecting society from criminal activity and threats? And some of these so called protectors are going to jump to conclusions and stereotypes about such people who traffic here, because it is human nature to do so, and if journalist and activist types can't recognize their own prejudices why would they expect agents less astute in word play to do so?

Independent media then needs to be careful about the kinds of personalities and politics it attracts to its enterprise, and the kind of expression it promotes. IMC has and opportunity to make a big difference in a positive way. The founding fathers used phoney names (protecting there right to true free speech) in debates in newspapers when this nation was founded--it is a tradition of this country. Still there has to be a minimum of oversight on the web, conference meetings, and protests. If we do not police ourselves (as in 'polis' city) in a reasonable manner, then policing will likely be imposed from outside in an unreasonable manner.

Yet the fact remains that those unfriendly to enterprises like IMC can and may attempt to ruin the reputation of these activities. They too can post all kinds of malicious and stupid comments, or engage in conspiracies that ultimately lead to lawsuits and judicial proceedings. Some kind of editing needs to be done. Some stuff needs to be weeded out or off.

I'm not talking about blue nose puritanism here--but if people are writing stuff that is not intelligence and not worthy of reading by an intelligent readership than consider discarding it. You do not have to live by some absolute rule or standard like as if a prisoner of a dogma.

The real world is full of people who do not deserve audience. It is conflict and strife and not all are willing to play fair. It is time to wake up for a reality check. Activism has to be more than alienation. For example, even if you hate "capitalism" as the ultimate form of evil--even if you believe that in your heart--it does not automatically make another form of political ideology worthy of sainthood. Every form of government is corruptible--including socialism and Marxism. There is no Utopia here on planet earth.

Any political scientist worth three grains of salt knows that when one revolutionary party takes over a country or territory there is just as likely a chance that the new leaders, who thought themselves so self-righteous, turn out over time to be just as despotic as the government they deposed. The Neo-Cons who stole America's foreign policy started out as what? Leftists, then the jumped to another extreme. Where are the people who recognize, that while there is a dire need to change the world, there also is a need to be willing to change the self (into mature citizens willing to accept some form of viable governance and leadership)?

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Comments

What's The Answer? Conforming? Consuming?
12 Oct 2004
Rise Up People!
If Anarchy is not the answer, what is the question?
12 Oct 2004
Oh, I get it, the question is: "If you want to get ahead in life, brownnose to unworthy shitheads."

Yes, if that's the question, then anarchy is not the answer.
Re: Anarchism Is the Answer
12 Oct 2004
"Most activists in reality espouse some form of leadership."

And who says you can't embrace a leadership of ideas? If an idea or strategy is good, and accepted as such by a collective body, you follow it. Pretty common sense I would say. Why do you see it as necessary to reduce the concept of leadership to individual personalities?

"What advantage (image wise) is there in succumbing to such a political label?"

If you draw on a certain body of political theory, certain methods of organizing, certain historical traditions... well, than call it what it is. Why hide it?

Anarchism is alot more than youth rebellion. Maybe you should read up a bit and learn something before posting inane rants against fellow activists.

Here's a good place to start:
http://www.infoshop.org/faq/index.html
Re: Anarchy Is Not the Answer
12 Oct 2004
Russell you claim that, “The left, on average, is just as guilty of hypocrisy as is the right.” To back up this assertion you state, “One reason that Bush came close to winning the election four years ago is because Gore had to lie out of both sides of his mouth and it was apparent to perceptive viewers that man has little to recommend him as ethical--it ain't like the Democrats have been all virtue.”

But I must ask you, since when has the Democrat Party been part of the left? The Democrat Party is nothing but a pro-war anti-working class party controlled by the wealthy that supports the racist death penalty, opposes single payer health care, and helped send us into Iraq with the “Patriot Act” attacking us at home, amongst other crimes. The Democrat Party is not part of the left, it is one of the two repressive ruling parties in the modern Rome of U.S. imperialism.

Later on you claim that the socialist led “IAC helps ensure that the anti-war protests remain small within their little group of peasants. How does that win the peace? Or is this really a covert attempt to sabotage--perhaps as some front operation?” Yet you ignore the fact that the IAC (Workers World Party) have been central in organizing the massive protests that have occurred against the U.S. war in Iraq, not your “respectable” Democrat Party. However small you think that these large protests have been, national actions organized by the Democrats have been absent. There is a reason for this and you should think about it before attacking anti-war socialists for organizing the movement.

Likewise it was the revolutionary socialists of the SWP that played one of the most important core organizing roles in the movement against U.S. aggression in Vietnam, uniting with anarchists, liberals, and pacifists to build a movement that shook the foundations of this system. The Democrats and Republicans only went along with that movement in 1972 and 1973 when U.S. soldiers refused to kill and risk death in a war they didn’t believe in. A massive movement in the streets had educated those soldiers, not the “respectable” Democrat Party that was drafting soldiers and sending them to their deaths.

So when you ask how the anarchists and socialists will win the peace, you should ask yourself if you are talking like Kerry is about winning the peace by continuing the war to attempt to set up a U.S. puppet regime, or if you are talking about winning the peace by giving Iraq back to the Iraqi the people just as anarchists and socialists organized to do during the Vietnam war.

Liberation News
http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/liberation_news
Re: Anarchy Is Not the Answer
12 Oct 2004
"I'm not writing this stuff because I oppose IndyMedia Centers. I'm writing it because I see red flags"

You said it brother. Red Flags. I see 'em too.
Re: Anarchy Is Not the Answer
12 Oct 2004
You wrote: "Every form of government is corruptible--including socialism and Marxism. There is no Utopia here on planet earth.

Any political scientist worth three grains of salt knows that when one revolutionary party takes over a country or territory there is just as likely a chance that the new leaders, who thought themselves so self-righteous, turn out over time to be just as despotic as the government they deposed."

I don't know, but you sure sound like an anarchist to me!

Anarchists aren't interested in getting elected or getting you to join their party- most anarchists believe that solutions should be worked out by those directly effected by them, striving for mutual respect and the absence of coercion, whether physical, psychological, or otherwise. Anarchism is about finding decision-making structures that work, and moving away from those that don't. Thus anarchists reject BOTH the state (top-down, non-responsive, unaccountable bureaucracy) and the market (centralized, profit based, anti-social) as means of organizing a society.

Admittedly "anarchism" has been used and misused in so many different settings that it's difficult to get beyond the cartoonish "black bloc" lurking in people's subconsciousness.

However, in a society dominated by the spectacular and superficial, rather than giving in and letting media corporations define yet another inch of our world for us, how about making a committment to communicate directly with folks-interpersonal relationships- providing the term "anarchist" with real substance, rather than the bullshit "coverage" offered by Fox, et. al.

Instead of every anarchist rejecting the term anarchist, what would happen if every anarchist openly identified as such? Little old librarians, hunky volunteer firemen, articulate working, poor and/or unemployed people would all be challenging the nonsense notion that anarchists can be reduced to a bunch of kids blowing off steam at the next demo.

In order to get to the point where we can change the world, we need to start reaching out to each other, and straight talk is a good place to start. The words "anarchism" and "anarchist" give access to a broad tradition that people can google or look up in their encyclopedias (remember those?) at home. Don't underestimate people! Give them the chance to find out more about anarchism and I don't think they'll disappoint you!
Trotskyism and Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War
13 Oct 2004
Trotskyism and Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 828, 11 June 2004 and 829, 9 July 2004

The following is a slightly edited presentation by Spartacist speaker Adrian Ortega at a Spartacist League/ Spartacus Youth Club public educational in New York City on April 3.

Part One

Anarchism today has become fashionable among youth and left-liberal intellectual circles. Refracted in a myriad of ways, from “Green radicalism” to “Platformism,” these youth seek to oppose a social reality dictated by an economic system based on the production of profits for the handful of capitalists. The emergence of anarchism as a prevalent ideology among radicalized youth today is a reflection of what we Marxists understand as a global retrogression in political consciousness following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 and the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet degenerated workers state and the deformed workers states of East Europe.

As the title of this forum indicates, this presentation will center on the counterposition between two political worldviews, Marxism and its contemporary continuation, Trotskyism, and anarchism, which played a decisive role in the events of the Spanish Civil War.

The Civil War (which lasted from approximately 1936 to 1939) represented the last opportunity for the proletariat to overthrow capitalism and open the road to socialism in Spain before the rise of the Francoist military dictatorship that would last more than 30 years and kill hundreds of thousands. In the key industrial center of Spain, Catalonia, armed workers organized militias and factory committees that shook the foundations of the capitalist order, private property and the state. But the most radical mass leaders of this movement (the anarchist FAI and the National Confederation of Labor [CNT] it controlled, and the centrist Workers Party of Marxist Unification [POUM]) along with the rest of the left (the Socialist Workers Party [PSOE] and the Stalinist Communist Party [PCE]) showed their political incapacity to lead the working class toward emancipation. It was only small groups (like the Friends of Durruti anarchists and the Trotskyist Bolshevik-Leninists) who sought during the barricades fighting in May 1937 to bring revolutionary leadership to the proletariat. But these groups were not able to overcome their own limitations—centrally the Trotskyists’ lack of authority among the proletariat and the Friends of Durruti’s incapacity to break with an anarchist worldview—and lead the workers to power. Had there been a successful revolution in Spain, this would have drastically changed the shape of the world in which we live now.

This talk aims to explain why the strategic “mistakes” made by the anarchist leadership in the Spanish Civil War were not only “mistakes” but the logical conclusion of a program that inherently rests on class collaboration—i.e., a political alliance between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which constrains and subordinates the workers and their struggles to the framework of capitalism. I would like to give a few initial considerations regarding the political foundations of both currents.

Anarchists claim to fight for a classless society, and some of them understand the centrality of the proletariat in such a task, just as we Marxists do. However, they reject any form of “authority” and consequently oppose the existence of any state (meaning the use of organized violence to protect the interests of the class in power). They also renounce concepts like leadership and centralization and counterpose to them “autonomy” or “spontaneity.” On the contrary, Marxists explain that “Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society” (Friedrich Engels, “On Authority” [1872]). In other words, we don’t blindly condemn authority as an abstract concept divorced from a certain social and economic reality. Most of the world today is based on the authority of a property-owning class, the bourgeoisie, exercised over the working masses through the instrumentality of a state, the capitalist state. We oppose and work to destroy that authority and the state that helps preserve it. But we welcome the authority of mass organizations of workers and other oppressed sectors in society, like workers councils (soviets), which would coordinate and centralize the proletariat’s efforts to create a society based on workers democracy and prevent the destruction of the gains resulting from a social revolution—a workers state. Through eliminating the irrationality of capitalist production, economic planning under a workers state would allow the free development of productive forces and eliminate the material basis for social inequality. This would have to be a joint enterprise of the world proletariat and is the only way to eliminate the state and create a society based on “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The anarchist abstract condemnation of “authority” has concrete ramifications on the organizational level. Anarchist organizations are decentralized entities that claim to exercise no authority over their members. This in itself is a complete fallacy, which the events in the Civil War completely prove. Marxists, on the contrary, explain the necessity of a centralized, democratic organization of the working class that groups together the proletariat’s most conscious elements, works to raise the consciousness of the working class as a whole and exercises leadership, including leading the decisive struggles for workers power; a vanguard party that embraces the highest levels of democracy in its internal life and intervenes in struggle as a unified, conscious political force.

The Spanish Revolution

On 17 July 1936, General Francisco Franco assumed command of the Moors and Legionnaires of Morocco under the banner of the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic church. With the support of the most reactionary forces in Spain, Franco launched a military coup to overthrow the Republican government of president Manuel Azaña, which was a liberal bourgeois government, to replace it with a military dictatorship. This was to enforce through blood the interests of the propertied classes over the workers and peasants, and to put an end to decades of highly militant labor struggles in Spain. Azaña hid the advancement of Franco’s army from the working class and made frantic and unsuccessful attempts to contact the military leaders and to come to an agreement with them. The Spanish proletariat, which had just gone through two years of harsh state repression under a right-wing government, distrusted the Azaña government and took matters into their own hands. They independently mobilized to gather weapons and build barricades to fight the bourgeois pro-monarchist reaction.

Some of the most epic battles between the Francoist forces and the armed proletariat started almost concurrently in major cities like Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. I would like to read excerpts from Abel Paz’s book, Durruti: The People Armed (1976), in his chapter “Barcelona in Flames”:

“On July 19, 1936, at 5 A.M. a new page in the revolution was beginning to the sound of gunfire, the crackling of machine guns which were mixed with the deafening sound of factory sirens, informing the people that the decisive hour had arrived. The seventh artillery regiment had left San Andres Park, divided, and was trying to reach the center of the capital by two different routes. But at the crossing of the ‘Diagonal’ the first detachment ran into a group of workers armed with grenades and pistols, which blocked its advance....

“One part of the Montesa regiment followed by important military units of engineers, managed to slip into Marques del Duero Avenue (Paralelo) but was checked by a strong barricade put up by the workers of the Woodworkers’ Union....

“At the same time, near the Plaza de Palacio, the dockworkers of the Barceloneta district had routed the Montana artillery regiment....

“Towards noon after four hours of fighting the uprising appeared to be defeated. One by one, all the areas of resistance fell into the hands of the people....

“From then on the morale of the workers who were fighting, increased. In addition an important collection of weapons (guns and machine guns) fell into their hands. Barcelona began to have a new look.”

This period is known as the “July events” in the Spanish Civil War. Heroic actions sprang from the workers’ barricades to become class-struggle history. Within a few days, all Catalonia was in the hands of the proletariat. Madrid had seen the Francoist forces defeated by workers armed with scant stores of arms—with cobblestones and kitchen knives in Valencia—in the face of the embargo on arms by the government. Most of these workers were members of the CNT or the POUM.

Asturian miners outfitted a column of 5,000 dynamiters for a march on Madrid, which arrived one day later to guard the streets. Armed workers committees displaced the customs officers at the borders, and a joint committee of the General Workers Union (UGT—affiliated to the PSOE) and the CNT took charge of all transportation in Spain. A union book or membership card from a leftist party was the only requirement to enter the country. The police, the Civil and Assault Guards, which had sided against the workers in the battles, had been replaced by workers militias that patrolled the cities. But how did workers get to this point? Let me back up a few years and make some clarifications.

Anarchism was the predominant ideology among the Spanish proletariat in the 20th century, in great part thanks to the country’s slow economic development during the previous three centuries. In the northern and eastern regions of Spain, like Catalonia and Aragon, the principal anarchist trade-union federation, the CNT, organized the most politically advanced workers in those provinces. The leaders of the CNT represented a trend inside anarchism called syndicalism. The syndicalists correctly recognized the industrial proletariat as the central agency for overthrowing capitalism. They believed, though, that trade unions would be the only instrument necessary to bring about a socialist revolution, and opposed, as all anarchists do, the idea of a vanguard party of the working class.

Given their relationship with the working class, anarcho-syndicalists sometimes had very good political impulses. During the First World War, when Spain’s neutrality meant that its production increased, a staunch opposition to the war within the Spanish left was found among the anarcho-syndicalists of the CNT, who, in some cases, according to Gerald H. Meaker in his book The Revolutionary Left in Spain, 1914-1923, “went beyond mere pacifism and instinctively favored ending the war by a popular revolution.” The revolutionary Marxist V.I. Lenin and the Bolshevik Party in Russia had forthrightly opposed the war from the first day and fought for the defeat of their own bourgeoisie through the seizure of power by the working class.

With the support of important sectors of the Russian proletariat and the oppressed, Lenin had called for a workers revolution in Russia to end the war, collectivize industry, nationalize the land and expropriate the bourgeoisie and the banks. In October 1917 (under the old Russian calendar), the Bolsheviks leading the soviets, organs of proletarian power, led a proletarian insurrection that established the first workers state in history. Workers democracy found its concrete expression in congresses of soviets and councils of workers, peasants and soldiers, which had begun to run the economy of the biggest country in the world.

I.P. Goldenberg, a member of the Mensheviks (a reformist party in Russia) had denounced Lenin as “a candidate for one European throne that has been vacant for thirty years—the throne of Bakunin!” for fighting for workers revolution. However, the truth is that anarcho-syndicalists in Russia and elsewhere, including Spain, like Joaquin Maurín and Andrés Nin (future leaders of the POUM), realized from the experience of the Russian workers the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Gerald Meaker speaks of one anarchist militant who wrote in the anarchist paper Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom):

“The Russian revolution, according to this militant, was not yet an Anarchist society, but it offered the ‘direct means’ by which to achieve one. All the Anarchists of the world would have to do as the Russian ‘maximalists’ had done: they would have to ‘destroy authoritatively...the present edifice based upon privilege and injustice in order to begin constructing the great city of happiness, Anarchy’.” [emphasis added]

The best of this generation of anarchists and syndicalists—like Victor Serge, the Marxist historian and Trotsky biographer; Alfred Rosmer, a leading anarcho-syndicalist in France who later became Trotsky’s close collaborator; and James P. Cannon, an anarcho-syndicalist in the American Industrial Workers of the World who became the founder of Trotskyism in the U.S.—were won to revolutionary Marxism by the living example of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Revolution. Anarchism can’t lead to a successful socialist revolution, as the events in Spain show.

The Betrayal of the Popular Front

The 1933 Nazi victory in Germany propelled mass unrest throughout Spain, including a general strike led by the CNT and UGT in October 1934. That same month, miners and other sectors of the proletariat in the northern region of Asturias rose up in arms against the recently formed government of Alejandro Lerroux. The anarchists abstained in the elections won by Lerroux; but not on the basis of any principles (as we will see later). Their main reason was their “apoliticism,” an absurd rejection of participation in elections or parliament. But if you are serious about fighting for socialist revolution, would you waste any opportunity to let significant numbers of people know what you stand for? Imagine the effect that a speech in Congress by a Trotskyist denouncing the colonial occupation in Iraq would have on both the American working class and the soldiers in Iraq. To Marxists, the question of whether or not to participate in elections is a tactical question based on concrete circumstances. At the same time, Marxists renounce in principle the taking of any executive ministerial post in any capitalist government because it could not mean anything other than the direct administration of the capitalist state.

Lerroux governed in coalition with the CEDA (Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rightists) of José Maria Gil Robles, and, given the victory of Hitlerite fascism in Germany, Lerroux’s regime was feared as representing the rise of reactionary, right-wing forces in Spain. The bloody defeat of the Asturian uprising at the hands of Franco-led forces (5,000 people killed and 30,000 arrested) paved the way for two years of increased repression against the labor movement.

In January 1936 (six months before Franco’s attempted coup) the popular-front coalition led by the Republican Left, the party of the liberal bourgeoisie, had come up with a program for the February elections which basically allowed a nominal restoration of regional autonomy for the Catalan region and offered to free political prisoners imprisoned during the prior two years. The program called also to guarantee respect for private property rights in the countryside and the cities, rejected any nationalization of the land and called to maintain capitalist control over industry and the banks.

The Republicans led an electoral bloc with Manuel Azaña at its head. The coalition included the UGT, the PSOE, the PCE and the POUM. And it was supported by the anarchists. This was a popular-front coalition, where the interests of the proletariat were subordinated to those of the capitalist class.

What was the POUM? The POUM was what we call a centrist party, i.e., a party that is revolutionary in words but reformist in deeds. It had emerged from the fusion between the Trotskyist Spanish Communist Left of Andrés Nin, and the BOC (Workers and Peasants Bloc) of Joaquin Maurín, which was a more right-wing centrist party that adapted to Catalan nationalism. Trotsky strenuously denounced the signing of the electoral pact by the POUM as a “betrayal of the proletariat for the sake of an alliance with the bourgeoisie” and broke political relations with them.

Azaña took office as president in May 1936 in the midst of a great wave of strikes. From June 10 to the first days of July, the number of workers striking against the deepening economic crisis had grown from half a million to over a million. Bourgeois democracy was starting to crumble.

Around the same time as Franco’s attempted coup and the workers uprising during the “July events” in 1936, big chunks of the bourgeoisie in Catalonia (the region that comprised 70 percent of the industry in Spain) had fled the country, leaving their factories, lands and properties behind. Once the reaction had been defeated, CNT workers began to seize the abandoned factories and create workers committees that organized production on a local level. A similar phenomenon occurred in the countryside. These workers committees, and the workers militias formed to fight against Franco’s army, became the basis for what we call a dual power situation, i.e., a temporary state of affairs in which both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie directly contest for power. It is necessary to study these workers cooperatives and militias, since they represent the embodiment of the anarchist economic and military program.

On July 20, with workers celebrating the defeat of Franco, Luis Companys, who was the president of the bourgeois Generalitat government in Catalonia, met with the leadership of the CNT-FAI—with García Oliver as the main anarchist spokesman. Companys was an astute bourgeois politician who had been at some point a lawyer for the CNT. Here is what he proposed to García Oliver and the rest of those in attendance:

“You have won and the power is in your hands. If you don’t need me and if you don’t want me as President of Catalonia, tell me now and I will be only one more soldier in the struggle against fascism. But if on the contrary you believe that in this job, where I would have been killed if there had been a fascist victory, I and my men, my name and my prestige can be useful in the struggle which has ended in Barcelona today, but whose outcome is still unknown in the rest of Spain, you can count on me. You can count on my loyalty as a man and a party leader who believes that a shameful past came to an end today, and I sincerely hope that Catalonia will be in the vanguard of the countries who are the most progressive in social matters.”

—quoted in Abel Paz, Durruti: The People Armed

And the anarchists went for it. García Oliver reports the results of the discussions in the CNT and the FAI as follows: “On July 21, 1936, a Regional Plenum of the Local Federations...took place in Barcelona. The situation was analyzed and it was decided not to speak about Libertarian Communism as long as part of Spain was in the hands of the fascists. The Plenum decided for collaboration opposed by only one delegation from ‘Bajo Llobregat’.... Any extreme position inspired by adventurism or inflexibility could have been a disaster because the revolution would have been exhausted...” [emphasis added]. With this, the anarchist workers were subordinated through their leadership to the will of the Generalitat government. Nine months later, Companys was on the phone calling for an air strike against the CNT-FAI headquarters.

The essence of this pathetic episode and the anarchist betrayal is perfectly described by Felix Morrow in the following quotation from his book, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Spain (1938):

“Class collaboration, indeed, lies concealed in the heart of anarchist philosophy. It is hidden, during periods of reaction, by anarchist hatred of capitalist oppression. But, in a revolutionary period of dual power, it must come to the surface. For then the capitalist smilingly offers to share in building the new world. And the anarchist, being opposed to ‘all dictatorships,’ including dictatorship of the proletariat, will require of the capitalist merely that he throw off the capitalist outlook, to which he agrees, naturally, the better to prepare the crushing of the workers.”

Even one of the most radical anarchists, Buenaventura Durruti, a prominent military leader, expressed his desire “to accept the agreements only provisionally, that is to say until the freeing of Saragossa.” When the plenum ended, the anarchists proposed that Companys create a Central Committee of Militias, which included representatives from the CNT and UGT trade-union federations, the PSOE and the POUM. However, it also included representatives from bourgeois parties like the Catalan Esquerra (Companys’ party) and the Republican Union.

The Committee became, then, a tool for class collaboration and ultimate control by the Catalan government over the militias. A Marxist revolutionary party would have fought to expel the bourgeois representatives from the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias and for the centralization of the militias under the command of workers and soldiers committees. Durruti and his anarchist collective “Nosotros,” inside the CNT-FAI, were aware of the dangers of class collaboration inside the Anti-Fascist Committee. However, they decided to follow its orders and, as promptly as July 24, a militia column, with Durruti at the head of it, was dispatched to the city of Saragossa to fight against the right-wing forces headed by Franco. In that way, Companys and the CNT bureaucracy got rid of the anarchist elements that could have caused problems for their alliance in Catalonia.

But what about the workers collectives? In Barcelona, workers collectives were created in thousands of enterprises, from key industries like shipping, mines, electric power, transportation, gas and water to others like perfumeries, breweries and small workshops. These workers collectives achieved outstanding economic goals, particularly in the industries that supplied munitions for the militias. But how did these cooperatives work? Gaston Leval, a prominent CNT militant and French anarchist, notes in Collectives in the Spanish Revolution (1975):

“Too often in Barcelona and Valencia workers in each undertaking took over the factory, the works, or the workshop, the machines, raw materials, and taking advantage of the continuation of the money system and normal capitalist commercial relations, organized production on their own account, selling for their own benefit the produce of their labour....

“There was not, therefore, true socialisation, but a workers’ neo-capitalism, a self-managment straddling capitalism and socialism, which we maintain would not have occurred had the Revolution been able to extend itself fully under the direction of our Syndicates.”

—quoted in “Leninism and Workers Control,” WV No. 162, 17 June 1977

In other words, these autonomous committees functioned under the premise of competition for markets and suppliers. Those factories that had inherited advanced technology and abundant raw materials had better opportunities to compete in the market than did others which didn’t have those conveniences. Such economic relations ultimately tended to recreate the conditions of a primitive form of market capitalism.

These collectives were also centralized organs on a local level. In each workplace, an assembly of workers elected a committee, which would elect a manager to oversee the day-to-day running of the workplace. Within each industry there was an Industrial Council which had representatives of the two main unions (CNT and UGT) and representatives from the local committees, where the CNT and UGT were also prominent. However, bourgeois representatives from parties like the Esquerra and the Republican Left were part of these councils also. It is important to understand that in the absence of a planned, socialized economy, run by mass workers organizations (i.e., soviets), where left political parties could have full representation, what the CNT and UGT were doing was at best administering the workers collectives on behalf of the bourgeois popular front. Meanwhile, the government got ready to take the factories away from the anarchists and social democrats at the next opportunity.

Moreover, some of these committees depended heavily upon credits from banks and government subsidies. Nonetheless, the anarchists didn’t have any plan to take control of the banks and they didn’t do it, which meant condemning those collectives dependent on bank credits to their ultimate disappearance. At the beginning of 1937, the government and the banks practically strangled these collectives, resorting to economic sabotage. The supply of raw materials was denied which ultimately stopped production in these factories.

As I said before, the CNT and FAI didn’t see the phenomenon of workers management in the factories as a temporary condition, but as the realization of the anarchist economic ideal, autonomous productive units. In contrast, true revolutionaries would have resolutely defended workers management as a kernel of dual power. But they would have also called to oust the bourgeois representatives from the management of the collectives, while explaining that true socialization was only possible through a centralized, planned economy. A small group of Trotskyists called the Bolshevik-Leninist Section of Spain, affiliated to Trotsky’s Movement for the Fourth International, issued a leaflet in January 1937 titled “Hail the Workers, Peasants and Combatants’ Committees!” in the midst of the economic boycott against the committees. The leaflet read:

“The bourgeois offensive against the committees must be responded to by strengthening them, forming them where they don’t exist, extending their influence and coordinating between them in assemblies or congresses that study and resolve, independent of the bourgeois political power, those problems...posed by the necessities of the war and revolution.

“It is fundamentally necessary that the committees resolve the problems of nationalization and centralization of the private banks, unified command and military discipline....

“The committees…will take over leadership of the country, annulling the organs of the capitalist state...and establishing in their place the proletarian state based on the committees and on socialized property; establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.”

—Agustín Guillamón, Documentación histórica del trosquismo español (1936-1948) (Ediciones de La Torre, 1996)

The Bolshevik-Leninists propagandized for a perspective to transform the workers committees into mass organs of workers power at a national level, as incipient organs of workers rule—i.e., soviets—where political debate would be open to all left tendencies. The situation of dual power couldn’t last indefinitely; it had to be solved on the side of the workers or against them. The Bolshevik-Leninists had the program to solve it on the side of the proletariat. However, in January 1937 they were brand new and by May had only 30 people, without enough authority among the working class as a political tendency, although most of their leaders had fought in the POUM militias.
Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War 2
13 Oct 2004
Part Two

With the armed proletariat in the militias and the workers committees growing at a great rate, the capitalists were afraid of a new workers radicalization like that of July. In September 1936, in order to appease the workers, Azaña appointed a new cabinet in his government with the PSOE [Socialist Workers Party] and UGT [General Workers Union—affiliated to the Socialists], the PCE [the Stalinist Communist Party] and the bourgeoisie. In Catalonia, the anarchists for the first time joined the government; and two months later, they entered the national government. In Catalonia, the popular-front government also included the POUM [the centrist Workers Party of Marxist Reunification] for four months. That is, the Spanish left groups with significant influence in the working class sealed their alliance with the bourgeoisie.

What was the internal functioning of the CNT [the anarchist National Confederation of Labor] and the FAI [the political arm of the CNT] at the time? Miguel Amorós explains in his book La revolución traicionada: La verdadera historia de Balius y Los Amigos de Durruti:

“The plenums didn’t take into account the assemblies of the unions and ignored the opinion of the militias. Against every norm of the confederation, it was the committees who called on them and elaborated the agenda, which was not always communicated to the delegates. The delegates attended without a mandate and without knowing what they were going to discuss or the relevance of decisions to be adopted.”

The CNT and FAI bureaucracies, sharing power with the bourgeoisie, started going after those anarchists who criticized the corrupt methods of the leadership. Such anarchists included the writer Jaime Balius, a future leader of the Friends of Durruti group who was ousted from Solidaridad Obrera (Workers Solidarity—the CNT’s main paper) in December of 1936 along with other members of the editorial staff. How about that for “anti-authoritarian organizations”?

Now I’ll read another quote:

“As soon as they were faced with a serious revolutionary situation, the Bakuninists had to throw the whole of their old programme overboard. First they sacrificed their doctrine of absolute abstention from political, and especially electoral, activities. Then anarchy, the abolition of the State, shared the same fate.... They then dropped the principle that the workers must not take part in any revolution that did not have as its aim the immediate and complete emancipation of the proletariat, and they themselves took part in a movement that was notoriously bourgeois. Finally they...sat quite comfortably in the juntas of the various towns, and moreover almost everywhere as an impotent minority outvoted and politically exploited by the bourgeoisie.”

Is this Leon Trotsky on 1936? No, it is Friedrich Engels polemicizing against the Spanish anarchists in 1873! Anarchism was, is and will always be class collaborationist at its core.

But not all the anarchists in Spain in 1936-37 shared the class collaborationism of the CNT-FAI bureaucracy. The Friends of Durruti group organized in opposition to that treachery. The CNT-FAI, in an attempt to better consolidate the forces against Franco’s right-wing reactionaries, began to acquiesce to, and carry out, the “militarization” of the proletarian militias in September of 1937. This meant putting the militias under the orders of a centralized bourgeois army. The Republicans ordered the militarization of the militias, and the Socialist and anarchist ministers in the popular front voted for it. The majority of the members of the Friends of Durruti came from the thousands of anarchist militants who refused to submit to the militarization. Pablo Ruiz, who had fought with Buenaventura Durruti himself on the front, represented one wing of the group, and the prominent writer Jaime Balius represented another.

The four thousand members of the Friends of Durruti stood against the class collaborationism of the CNT-FAI and counterposed to it the call for revolution. They defended this by pointing out that “all revolutions are totalitarian.” They raised the call for a “Revolutionary Junta!” According to Amorós, this was a variant of the concept advocated by the CNT of a “National Committee of Defense” in the face of the failure exhibited by the decentralization of the militias against Franco. The Friends of Durruti were CNT workers and militiamen who faced the prospect of being disarmed under the orders of their anarchist leadership. Their opposition to class collaboration was the empirical conclusion of their direct experience with the forceful “militarization” of the militias. However, this didn’t contradict their affiliation to the CNT since the anarchist ideal of libertarian communism, a stateless society based on a decentralized economy run by local workers committees, was something that still looked feasible to them. However, the Friends of Durruti’s political positions were in motion, like those of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists who witnessed and embraced the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Friends of Durruti learned from the negative example of the CNT; but they first had to break with their anarchist prejudices against the Leninist vanguard party and the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to fully embrace a revolutionary program. That opportunity presented itself in May 1937.

The Barcelona May Days

Almost a year had passed after the “July events” in Barcelona when on 3 May 1937 the government decided to take the Telefónica building out of the hands of the CNT workers who ran it. Assault Guards commanded by the Stalinist Rodriguez Salas arrived at the building and, on behalf of the popular front, ordered the workers to abandon it. Workers put up resistance and the exchange of fire began. The word of an attack on the Telefónica spread like wildfire. In four hours a general strike was declared and the city was engulfed in street fighting with barricades being formed, as during the “July events,” by workers of the CNT-FAI, the left-POUM and, this time, the Friends of Durruti and the Trotskyist Bolshevik-Leninists.

The CNT-FAI tops and the popular-front government sent García Oliver and other CNT bureaucrats from Valencia to order the workers back to their homes. He urged the workers: “Hold your fire; embrace the Assault Guards!” The POUM defended their headquarters at the Hotel Falcon from the Assault Guards but refused to take any step forward. The local leaderships of the CNT and POUM met that night, but the anarchist bureaucracy insisted on no more than the dismissal of Salas and the formation of a new government in order to stop the confrontation. The workers had a different agenda though, pushed by their instinct of class self-defense.

On May 4, Barcelona was under the control of the workers, except for the center of the city, where the battles continued until dusk. One of the first workers detachments in the early hours of that night was 400 Friends of Durruti fighters who occupied the whole of Las Ramblas Avenue and patrolled the surrounding area. The same day, the Bolshevik-Leninists handed leaflets to the workers on the barricades that called for a “General strike in all the industries that don’t work for the war” and for the “arming of the working class.” Workers desperately needed a leadership!

The Friends of Durruti met with the Executive Committee of the POUM and apparently acquiesced to the POUM’s position that the movement was lost given the CNT’s capitulatory actions. Both agreed on seeking guarantees against retaliations before the workers began to abandon the barricades. However, the next day the Friends of Durruti issued a leaflet which caused a hue and cry among the CNT-FAI bureaucracy, calling for a revolutionary junta, the disarming of the armed bodies (meaning the Assault and Civil Guards) and the socialization of the economy. The leaflet was received with great enthusiasm on the barricades. Needless to say, the Friends of Durruti had used extremely “authoritarian” measures to get their leaflet printed in the middle of a general strike! Balius describes the scene as follows:

“We banged on the door until the owner [of the print shop] came out, who didn’t want to know anything and refused categorically to open the print shop. He promptly backed up in the face of ‘armed violence’.... Just before midnight...we were able to take with us four to five thousand leaflets still wet.”

Still on May 5, the local bureaucracy of the FAI in Barcelona, in another despicable act of betrayal of the working class, refused reinforcement by militias ready to leave the front. But even worse than that, the CNT workers committees started to abandon the barricades, obeying the call of the top bureaucracy.

On May 6, various anarchist groups, including the Friends of Durruti, met with the POUM. The POUM held a minority position, which was for the creation of a “revolutionary central committee.” This was against the local representatives of the anarchist committees, who, following orders from their national leadership, advocated withdrawal from the barricades.

What was the response of the POUM? Let’s have their leader Gorkin tell the story:

“But we couldn’t impose our views. It was the representative of the Regional Committee [Nacional] who they [the workers] were listening to.... The Friends of Durruti advocated a CNT-FAI-POUM government. Due to tactical reasons we didn’t attack the leadership of the CNT.”

—Quoted in Amorós, La revolución traicionada

I want to emphasize some points here. During the May Days, the CNT carried out a contemptible and clear betrayal against the working class in Barcelona, as they had already chosen to collaborate with the bourgeoisie. The centrist POUM knew this, and instead of fighting against it, they buried their heads in the sand like ostriches and waited for the CNT to give the order to disband. The Friends of Durruti, in contrast, called for a local junta centered on the CNT and the POUM. Had there been an authoritative revolutionary leadership then, it would have taken up the Friends of Durruti’s call for a junta and transformed it first into a military united front against the bourgeois forces and the Stalinists and then into the core of a workers government to fight the counterrevolution with an internationalist program. It would have called for independence for Morocco in order to undermine Franco’s army and appealed to the workers on the other side of the Pyrenees to follow their example.

After the May 6 meeting, Balius proposed that CNT workers advance a column to the town of Tarragona and bring reinforcements to Barcelona. Predictably, the CNT bureaucracy boycotted this proposal. Amorós explains: “The Friends of Durruti couldn’t understand why the CNT committees had stopped the fight, when victory was so close.” The Friends of Durruti didn’t have the understanding that flows from a revolutionary program—the understanding to realize the dead end of anarchism and to politically break with the CNT. That had to be the role of a Marxist vanguard party.

Unfortunately, the Bolshevik-Leninists didn’t have the time to generate roots in the proletariat during the few months of their existence and they lacked authority among the working class. However, the power of their Trotskyist program is shown by the fact that despite their small numbers they were one of the first to be targeted by the Stalinists and the bourgeois reactionaries once the proletariat was defeated and the barricades were brought down. Before the May Days, the Friends of Durruti helped to distribute the Trotskyists’ press on the streets and made their offices available to the Bolshevik-Leninists to organize their meetings. However, the Bolshevik-Leninists didn’t achieve much in a meeting with the Friends of Durruti’s leadership on May 5:

“Every time the word Authority was pronounced...Balius got mad. The interview or meeting ended without discussing the real problems at bottom.... As for Balius, Carlini and others—not everybody—to continue the fight only on the barricades was the just position, and that is how we split.”

Under the orders of the CNT-FAI, and in the face of the POUM’s prostration, the workers were ultimately demobilized and defeated. Five hundred died and over a thousand were wounded during the May events. Following the defeat, the state, with the aid of the Stalinists, launched its persecution, imprisonment and murder of the Trotskyists and POUMists (the latter on charges of “Trotskyism”). The anarchist bureaucracy proceeded to attempt the expulsion of the Friends of Durruti from the CNT ranks; meanwhile, the government censored the CNT’s paper Solidaridad Obrera. The POUM’s paper, La Batalla, was banned and its main leader, Andrés Nin, as well as anarchist leader Camilo Berneri, died at the hands of the Stalinists.

During the Franco dictatorship, 300,000 workers and peasants were assassinated and many others were locked up in concentration camps. All working-class leaders were exterminated or expelled, political and trade-union groups and associations were dissolved. The popular-front government paved the way for Franco’s triumph in 1939. One of the greatest revolutionary opportunities for the international proletariat had been drowned in blood.

Anarchists proclaim that the Friends of Durruti never broke with the principles of anarchism. Unfortunately, they are right. They continued to believe, as their leaders in the CNT did, that a classless society could be created simply through force of will; that such a society could be created without first establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, a centralized democratic workers state to suppress the forces of counterrevolution. Anarchist historian Vernon Richards, in his book, Lessons of the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939) [second enlarged edition, 1972], expresses the ultimate consequences of such an idealist perspective:

“We believe there is something more real, more positive and more revolutionary in resisting war than in participating in it; that it is more civilised and more revolutionary to defend the right of a fascist to live than to support the Tribunals which have the legal powers to shoot him; that it is more realistic to talk to the people from the gutter than from government benches; that in the long run it is more rewarding to influence minds by discussion than to mould them by coercion.”

Marxists, on the other hand, reject the false arguments of anarchists that classless communism is simply the product of a psychological regeneration. We fight to overthrow the capitalist system in order to organize production so as to raise it to such a high level that scarcity will no longer exist. Only then can we lay the material basis for the emancipation of humanity from exploitation, war and poverty. We tell anarchist youth today, as Trotsky said to the international proletariat in Lessons of October (1924): “Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer.” This is the main lesson of the Spanish Civil War.
Re: Anarchy Is Not the Answer
13 Oct 2004
Wait, is this where one of us is supposed to respond to the 'Workers Vampire' post with something denouncing Lenin and Trotsky's high-jacking of the Russian revolution, violent suppression of the workers' soviets and rival left-revolutionary political groups (anarchists, Social Revolutionaries), and complete abandonment of socialism with their State-capitalist 'New Economic Policy'?
Re: Anarchy Is Not the Answer
13 Oct 2004
Or you could avoid the pointless history debates and just point to the fact that the Sparts are an irrelevant cult of awkward students, with no involvement in any social movements, labor unions, or community organizations. They are a bad joke masquerading as a socialist organization.