Why Spanish anarchism began to flag!
TODAY, exactly 80 years ago, anarchists entered the republican government of Spain at the request of the Socialist leader Francisco Largo Caballero. On the 4th, November 1936, four leaders of the trade union Confederation of Labour (CNT) and the Federation Anarchists of Iberia (FAI) - Federica Montseny, Juan García Oliver, Joan Peiró and Juan López – entered the new Government of the Spanish Republic.
Last Tuesday, in an article titled 'The Legacy of Spanish Anarchism' in the Spanish daily El País, the historian Julian Casanova wrote:
'It was an “hecho trascendental” (“an action of supreme significance”), affirmed that same day Solidaridad obera, the principal organ of libertarian expression, because the anarchists had never had confidence in government powers, their objective had always been to be abolish the State, with their policy of anti-politics and direct action, and because it was the first time in world history that such a thing had occurred. Anarchists in the national government: was an event transcendental and unrepeatable.'
Señor Casanova refreshes the readers about the introduction of anarchism to Spain after Bakunin's friend Giuseppi Fanelli first appearance in Spain in November 1868. Between that time and the departure into exile of thousands of militants in 1939, the (Spanish) anarchist movement promoted a frenzied propaganda activity cultural and educative; with strikes and insurrections. Casanova claims that 'it (anarchism) after the First World War became an extraordinary movement of the masses – the only country in Europe where it actually succeeded – and did so because it was able to construct a cultural alternative among the workers and peasants at the “base colectiva” (“collective base”)'. Yet , he says, '.... in this journey though accompanied by an element of violence, the legends of their honesty, sacrifices and combat were cultivated during the decades by their followers , which was always questioned by their enemies on the right and the left who want to stress the love of the anarchists for throwing bombs and brandishing revolvers.'
After the Spanish Civil War, according to Casanova, the anarchists 'entered a tunnel from which it was never to re-emerge.' He writes that in the era since 1939 a gulf had emerged in the new trade union and political culture between 1939 the Transition of the 1970s: 'The imposition of negotiations had come in to form an institutionalisation of conflicts, current consumption had brought miracles: permitting capital to extend and providing workers with a better standard of living. Without the anti-politics, and with workers abandoning radicalism faced with better tangible and immediate things like cars and fridges compared with altruism and sacrifice, anarchism began to flag and lose its reason for existence.
'The belief is that today anarchism is only history; very degraded compared with other ideologies and parliamentary parties, yet there is no doubt that the validity and reality of some of their approaches such as criticism of the State, the power of politics and the distorted images that are always transmitted from above about disorder and spontaneity.
'Anarchists don't believe the State can bring equality among peoples and don't believe that they will make the mistakes we've seen in the Soviet Union and other countries. They never intended to put in motion vast projects of social engineering such as were tried in communism and fascism, with the consequences we all know.'
The Spanish historian Julian Casanova then concludes:
'Anarchism was never a bed of roses, but it was always something more than bombs and pistols.'