Review

The available literature in English on the Spanish civil war and in particular on the Spanish revolution from 1931 to 1937 is pretty limited. This book fills the gap to some extent by presenting that history from the perspective of the anarchists who led the revolution. Most histories of the period are written by either liberals or Marxists - the very groups that worked together to crush the anarchist movement, at a time when they should have been focusing their efforts on the fight against fascism.

The book includes material by Sam Dolgoff, Gaston Leval, and others who were in Spain at the time of the revolution. It is basically a post mortem analysis of what led to the defeat of the anarchist movement. The mistakes included participation in the government of the Spanish republic - though Dolgoff concedes that since the anarchists would otherwise have been entirely cut off from needed weapons, they had little choice.

Dolgoff and Leval reserve special scorn for the Spanish communist party - Stalinists to the core, who dedicated themselves to crushing both the anarchists and the Trotskyites, even at the expense of actually fighting the fascist forces. There’s good reason to believe that fascism could have been defeated in Spain had it not been for these ‘left’ divisions.

There had been a long history of anarchist collectivism in Spain and Catalonia among the peasantry. The culture of collectivism carried over to some extent as peasants became industrial workers, and until 1935 the anarchist labor union (the CNT) was the largest in Spain. During the chaotic period leading up to the military rebellion in May 1936 anarchists had successfully expropriated or instituted worker management of a great many industrial enterprises in Andalusia and Catalonia, and had control of the major industrial cities in those areas until May 1937 when the government used a flimsy pretext to launch an all-out attack on the anarchists - this despite the fact that anarchists were the most dedicated and effective fighters against fascism.

In all, a tragic history. The successes of the workers collectives were astonishing in the face of the violent and sustained attacks from both left and right, offering some reason to believe that democratic collectivization may someday again become a realistic way of organizing society.

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Metadata Info

  • Title: The anarchist collectives;: Workers’ self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939
  • Author: Sam Dolgoff
  • Published: 1974
  • ISBN: 0914156039
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 3.0 stars