History of the CNT (1919-23): The CNT's syndicalist orientation wrecks its revolutionary impetus

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In the second article of this series[1] we showed how the CNT had given the best of itself in 1914-1919 faced with the decisive test of war and revolution. But at the same time we had insisted that this evolution had not allowed it to overcome the contradiction at the root of revolutionary syndicalism, its effort to reconcile two mutually exclusive terms: syndicalism and revolution.

In 1914 the great majority of unions had sided with capital and had actively participated in the mobilisation of the workers for the terrible slaughter of the First World War. This treason was confirmed during the proletarian revolutionary movement that exploded in 1917 when, once again, the unions took the side of capital. This was especially clear in Germany where, together with the Social Democratic Party, they helped to preserve the capitalist state faced with the workers' uprisings of 1918-23.

The CNT, alongside the IWW,[2] was one of the very few union organisations to maintain its loyalty to the proletariat at that time. Nevertheless, in the period we are going to look at, it is clear that the syndicalist component dominated the actions of the organisation and put an end to the revolutionary tendency that existed within it.

August 1917 and the failure of the revolutionary general strike: the CNT dragged onto the terrain of bourgeois "reforms"

The unions were not created by the revolutionary struggle. On the contrary "they struggle on the terrain of the bourgeois political order, of law and the liberal state. In order to be able to develop, there has to be no obstacle to the right of coalition, a strictly applied equality of rights. Its political ideal, as unions, is not the socialist order but the freedom and equality of the bourgeois state".[3]

As we have shown in this series,[4] revolutionary syndicalism tried to escape from this contradiction by assigning itself a dual task: on the one hand, the specifically union task of trying to improve the conditions of the working class within capitalism; on the other, the struggle for the social revolution. Capitalism's entry into its decadent period revealed that the unions are incompatible with the second task and that they could only hope to survive by placing themselves within the framework of the bourgeois state and its "freedom and equality" - which undermined and made impossible the first task. The full reality of this in the case of the CNT began to emerge with the episode of the general strike of August 1917.

In Spain there was an enormous social discontent due to the horrific conditions of exploitation and brutal repression, together

with galloping inflation that devalued the already low wages even further. At the political level the old Restoration regime[5] was in terminal crisis: the formation of "juntas" in the army, the rebellious attitude of the most significant representatives of the Catalan bourgeoisie etc were provoking increasing convulsions.

The Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE - the great majority of which maintained a pro-Entente position[6] - believed that this situation provided the "opportunity" to carry out the "bourgeois democratic revolution", even though the historical conditions had already made this impossible. It tried to use the enormous discontent within the working class as a lever to bring down the Restoration regime and to pull together a double alliance: one part was to be composed of the bourgeoisie encompassing the republicans, the reformists in the existing regime as well as the Catalan bourgeoisie; on the proletarian side the aim was to draw in the CNT.

On March 27th 1917, the UGT (in the name of the PSOE) held a meeting with the CNT (represented by Seguí, Pastaña and Lacort) at which they agreed on a manifesto that, in ambiguous and equivocal formulations, proposed a very moderate "reform" of the bourgeois state. The tenor of this document is clearly seen in this nationalist passage and in its proposal for an all-out defence of the bourgeois state: "those who gain most benefit from public expenses are the first to opt out of their duties as citizens; those who profit from the war are not using their profits to increase the national wealth nor are they using a part of their profits to the benefit of the state".[7] The manifesto proposed the preparation of a general strike "with the aim of obliging the ruling classes to make fundamental changes to the system which would guarantee the people minimally decent living conditions and their ability to carry out their emancipatory activities". In other words, this was a call for "reforms" of the bourgeois state in order to have "minimally decent" standards (isn't this what capitalism guarantees in general terms in its "normal" functioning?!) and, as something "revolutionary", to allow for "emancipatory activities"!

Despite the numerous criticisms that they received, the CNT leaders continued to put forward their support for the "movement". Largo Caballero and other leaders of the UGT went to Barcelona in order to convince the most recalcitrant militants of the CNT. These doubts were overcome with the promise of "action". Despite the "general strike" being based on clearly bourgeois objectives, the schema of revolutionary syndicalism asserted that it would allow the unleashing of a "revolutionary dynamic".[8]

In this situation of increasing social agitation, with frequent strikes, and with the stimulus of news from Russia, a railway and tram workers' strike exploded in Valencia on 20th July and soon spread to the whole of the province with massive solidarity amongst the whole working class. The bosses gave in on 24th July but imposed a provocative condition: the sacking of 36 strikers. The UGT rail union announced a general strike for August 10th in the sector if the workers were sacked. The government, informed that a national general strike was being prepared, forced the railway company into an intransigent posture, in order to provoke the movement before it was mature.

On August 10th a general strike was declared on the railways and a call issued for a national general strike from the 13th. This was organised by a committee composed of members of the leaderships of the PSOE and UGT. The manifesto calling for the strike was disgraceful. Having tried to implicate the CNT: "the time has come to put into practice, without any vacillation, the propositions announced by the UGT and CNT's representatives, in the manifesto written last march", it ended with the following call: "Citizens, we are not tools of disorder, as the government impudently calls us. We accept the mission of making sacrifices for the good of all, for the salvation of the Spanish people, and we call on you to support us. Long live Spain!".[9]

The strike call had a mixed reception in different sectors and regions, and was notoriously disorganised: the politicians who called for struggle could not be seen for dust - they fled to France - or completely disassociated themselves from it, as was the case with the Catalan politician Cambó (about whom we will have more to say later). The government mobilised the army throughout Spain and declared a state of siege. The soldiery was given a free hand to carry out their usual excesses.[10] The repression was brutal: mass arrests, summary justice...some 2,000 CNT militants were imprisoned.

The August "general strike" was very bloody for the workers and caused demoralisation and a retreat amongst parts of the class who did not raise their heads for more than a decade. Here we see the outcome of classical revolutionary syndicalist thought - the general strike. The majority of the CNT militants distrusted the aims of the bourgeoisie that called the strike but they dreamt that the "general strike" could be the occasion for "unleashing the revolution". They assumed that - according to this abstract and arbitrary schema - it would cause a kind of "revolutionary gymnastics" that would rouse the masses. Reality brutally dispelled these speculations. The Spanish workers had been powerfully mobilised since the winter of the 1915, as much at the level of their immediate struggles as of the development of their consciousness (as we have already seen in the second article in this series, the Russian revolution generated great enthusiasm). The general strike put a brake on this dynamic: the famous joint UGT-CNT manifesto of March 1917 had turned workers into spectators, generating illusions about bourgeois "reforms" and "revolutionary" military juntas, as well as in the good offices of the Socialist and UGT leaderships.

1919, the "Canadiense" strike: the seeds of the mass strike aborted by trade unionism

In 1919, the world revolutionary wave which had begun in Russia, Germany, Austria and Hungry, was at its high point. The Russian revolution had generated enormous enthusiasm which had stimulated the struggle of the proletariat in Spain. However this enthusiasm was expressed in various ways. The movements were strong in Catalonia but hardly had an echo in the rest of Spain.[11] The "Canadiense"[12] strike was the culminating point of this process in Spain. It began as an attempt by the CNT to impose its presence on a Catalan boss; this business was deliberately chosen because of the impact it had on the industrial fabric of Barcelona. In January 1919, faced with the boss's decision

to cut the wages of certain categories of employees, a number of workers demonstrated outside the firm and eight of them were sacked. The strike began in February and lasted 44 days. Faced with the management's intransigence, encouraged by the authorities,[13] the strike spread to the whole of the city of Barcelona and took on a magnitude never seen before in Spain. It was an authentic mass strike as recognised by Rosa Luxemburg in the 1905 movement in Russia: in a few days the workers in all the enterprises and proletarian centres of the great Catalan conurbation were united in struggle, without it being prepared beforehand, in a totally unanimous way, as if a common will dominated everyone. When businesses tried to publish a communiqué threatening the workers, the printers' union imposed "red censorship" and stopped its publication.

Despite militarisation, despite the fact that nearly 3,000 were imprisoned in the Castle of Montjuich, despite the declaration of a state of war, the workers continued their struggle. The CNT locals were closed but the workers organised their own spontaneous assemblies. As the unionist Pestaña recognised "How can you organise a strike if the unions are closed and the individuals who compose them are persecuted by the police? (...) we see that the real sovereignty resides in the people; we had no more than consultative power; executive power was rooted in the assembles of the union delegates of the Barcelona unions, who met despite the state of war and daily persecution, and each day they issued resolutions to be followed and each day they ordered that this sector or those workers must stop work the following day".[14]

The leaders of the Catalan CNT - who all belonged to the syndicalist tendency - wanted to end the strike when the central government, lead by Romanones,[15] turned 180 degrees and sent his personal secretary to negotiate an agreement which conceded the main demands. Many workers distrusted this agreement and, in particular, they understood that it contained no guarantees about the freedom of their numerous imprisoned comrades. Confused, although stimulated by the news from Russia and other countries, they wanted to continue the struggle towards a revolutionary offensive. On 19th March, at the Teatro de Bosque, the assembly rejected the agreement. Faced with this, the union leaders called a meeting for the following day in the Plaza de las Arenas, which drew 25,000 workers. Seguí (the undoubted leader of the unionist tendency in the CNT, known as the best political orator of the time) after speaking for an hour posed the alternative of accepting the agreement or of going to Montjuich to free those in prison, thus unleashing the revolution. Similar "maximalist" thinking completely disorientated the workers who accepted the need to return to work.

The fears of many workers were confirmed. The authorities refused to free the prisoners and there was widespread indignation. On 24th March a new massive general strike broke out, disobeying the union's official policy, which paralysed the whole of Barcelona. Nevertheless, the majority of workers were confused. There was no clear revolutionary perspective. The proletariat in the rest of Spain was not on the move. In these conditions, despite the combativity and heroism of the workers in Barcelona, who had gone for months without pay, what maintained this strike was activism and the pressure of the CNT action groups, which regrouped old militants and young radicals.

The workers finally returned to work very demoralised. The bosses took full advantage of this in order to impose a generalised lock out that brought workers' families to the edge of starvation. The unionist tendency had no idea how to reply to this. The proposal by Buenacase (a radical anarchist militant) to occupy the factories was rejected.

The La Canadiense strike - the culminating moment of the world revolutionary wave in Spain - allows us to draw three lessons.

Firstly, the struggle remained trapped within Barcelona and took the form of an "industrial" conflict. Here we clearly see the weight of syndicalism which stopped the struggle extending on a territorial scale and taking on the political and social dimension that is clearly needed in a confrontation with the bourgeois state.[16] Unions are corporatist organs that do not express an alternative to capitalist society but are located within its economic framework. Despite the La Canadiense strike having a real tendency towards politicisation, this was never really expressed and it was never seen by Spanish society as a class struggle that put the whole system into question.

Secondly, assemblies and workers' councils are the unitary organs of the class whilst unions are organs that cannot overcome sectoral divisions, which are the basic units of capitalist production. In the La Canadiense struggle there were attempts at direct assemblies of workers that could overcome the sectoral structure of the union, but the union had the power to make decisions and to weaken and disperse the assemblies.[17]

Thirdly, the workers' councils arise as a social power that more or less consciously challenges the capitalist state. They are seen as such by the whole of society and particularly by the non-exploiting strata, who tend to address them as offering a solution to their problems. On the other hand, the union organisation is rightly seen as a corporatist organ limited to "questions of production". In the end other workers and other oppressed classes see them as something alien to them, as organs which don't directly concern them. This was very clear in the La Canadiense strike which did not integrate into a strong, unitary movement the social agitation of the Andalusian peasants that was then at its peak (the famous Bolshevik three years, 1917-20). Despite both these movements being inspired by the Russian revolution and the real sympathy that existed between the protagonists, they tended to go in a parallel direction without even a minimal effort at unification.[18]

The trade unionist tendency dominates the CNT

The concretisation of this third lesson was the work of sabotage carried out by the unionist tendency within the CNT, which in practise was covered up by the Confederation's leadership (Seguí and Pastaña).[19] When the struggle was at its height, the leadership got the CNT to accept the formation of a mixed commission alongside the bosses, charged with ‘equitably' resolving labour conflicts. In fact it was no more than a kind of fire brigade devoted to isolating and demobilising the focal points of struggle. Against direct contacts and collective action by the workers, the mixed Commission stood for paralysis and the isolation of each struggle. In his book, The History of Spanish Anarcho-syndicalism (2006), Gomez Casa recognises that "the workers showed their revulsion for the Commission which ended up being dissolved. It had deepened the divorce between the workers' representatives and the workers, provoking a certain demoralisation which weakened workers' unity".

The trade unionist tendency, which had initially shown a sincere sympathy for the Russian revolution[20] still dominated the CNT and became a factor in its bureaucratisation: "It seems evident that on the eve of the repression of 1919 something like a syndicalist bureaucracy had begun to develop despite the obstacles to this posed by the CNTist attitude and tradition, in particular because there were no paid union agents in the union federations or the committees...this evolution of anarchist spontaneity and amateurism towards trade union bureaucracy and professionalism was, in normal conditions, the almost inevitable route followed by mass workers' organisations - including those which had been rooted in the Catalan milieu - and North of the Pyrenees the French CGT had gone in the same direction".[21]

Buenacasa noted that "syndicalism, now guided by people who had thrown over anarchist principles, who called themselves Sir and Madam... who held consultations and signed accords in the government offices and in the ministries, who drove around in cars and travelled in sleeper-trains...evolved rapidly towards the European and North American form which permitted leaders to become official persons".[22]

The unionist tendency made use of the apoliticism of anarchist ideology and revolutionary syndicalism to engage in a thinly veiled support for the policies of the bourgeoisie. It declared itself "apolitical" towards the Russian revolution, towards the struggle for the world revolution and towards any attempt to develop internationalist proletarian politics. However, we have already seen how in August 1917 it had not at all looked askance at efforts to reform the bourgeois state alongside the Spanish Socialist Party. It also made no secret of its support for the "national liberation" of Catalonia. At the end of 1919, at a big conference in Madrid, Seguí affirmed that "We the workers have nothing to lose from an independent Catalonia and much to gain from it. We have no fear of the independence of Catalonia...I assure you, friends from Madrid, that a Catalonia freed from the Spanish state would be a Catalonia of all the peoples of the Hispanic peninsula". [23]

At the Saragossa Congress of 1922, the unionist tendency defended the famous "political" resolution which opened the door to the CNT participating in Spanish political life (i.e. its integration into bourgeois politics) and the bourgeois press understood this when it rejoiced over the decision.[24] The resolution in question, however, was written in a very skilful way so that it would not encounter resistance from the majority. Two passages from the resolution are particularly significant.

In the first it is affirmed in a rhetorical way that the CNT is "an eminently revolutionary organism which frankly and explicitly rejects parliamentary action and collaboration with political parties". But this was just the sugar coating on the bitter pill which defended the necessity for participation in the capitalist state in the framework of the national capital, via a formulation that was deliberately difficult to understand: "The mission [of the CNT] is to conquer its rights of control and of judgement of all the values of solution to national life and, to this end, its duty is to carry out decisive action through joint action derived from the manifestations of strength at the disposal of the CNT" [25]. Expressions like "the values of solution to national life" were just a code for leading the combative militants of the CNT into supporting its integration into the capitalist state.

The other passage is more explicit. It says clearly that the political intervention the CNT stands for consists in "raising political consciousness to a higher level; making sure that injustices are made good; making sure that freedoms that have been conquered are respected and demanding an amnesty".[26] This could hardly express more clearly the will to accept the framework of the democratic state with its whole panoply of "rights", "freedoms", "justice" etc!

The incapacity of the revolutionary tendencies in the CNT to fight against the unionist tendency

There was strong resistance to the unionist tendency by two tendencies, the anarchists on the one hand and the partisans of joining the Communist International on the other. Without diminishing the merits of these two tendencies, it has to be said that they were unable to discuss with each other or even to collaborate against the unionist tendency. They both suffered from profound theoretical weaknesses. The pro-Bolshevik tendency which formed the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees (CSR), similar to those which had been animated by Monatte in the French CGT in 1917, went no further than calling for a return to the pre-war CNT without trying to understand the new conditions, marked by the decline of capitalism and the revolutionary eruption of the proletariat. As for the anarchist tendency, it based everything on action, which is why it was able to react well in moments of struggle or against the more obvious positions of the unionist tendency but was incapable of carrying out a debate or developing a methodical strategy for the struggle.

The decisive element in its weakness was however its unconditional adhesion to trade unionism, arguing tooth and nail that the unions continued to be a valuable weapon of struggle for the proletariat.

The pro-Bolshevik tendency was affected by the degeneration of the CI, which at its Second Congress adopted its theses on the trade unions and which at its Third Congress called for work in reactionary trade unions. It then formed the Red Trade Union International and proposed that the CNT should join it. These orientations only strengthened the unionist tendency within the CNT and frightened the anarchist tendency which more and more took refuge in "direct" action.

The unionist tendency argued quite rightly that on questions of trade union practise and coherence, it was much more competent that the CSR and the Red Trade Union International, which were putting forward totally unrealistic demands and methods in a situation of increasing reflux. In particular it criticised them for their "politicisation", by which they referred to the opportunist politicisation advocated by the degenerating CI: the united front, the workers' government, the trade union united front, etc.

The few discussions that did take place revolved around themes which only served to increase the confusion: politicisation based on frontism versus anarchist apoliticism, adhesion to the Red Trade Union International or the formation of a revolutionary syndicalist "International".[27] These two questions resolutely turned their back on the realities of the period: in the turbulent period of 1914-22, it could be seen that the trade unions had performed the triple role of recruiting sergeants for the war (1914-18), of butchers of the revolution and saboteurs of the workers' struggle. The German communist left had engaged in an intense reflection on the role of the unions, which permitted Bergmann[28] to say at the Third Congress of the CI that, "the bourgeoisie governs by combining the sword and the lie. The army is the sword of the state and the unions are the organs of the lie". But none of this had any repercussions in the CNT, where even its most consistent tendencies remained prisoners of the trade unionist conception.

The defeat of the movement and the second disappearance of the CNT

After the retreat of the movement around the "Canadiense" strike at the end of 1919, the Spanish bourgeoisie, with its Catalonian fraction at the forefront, unleashed a pitiless attack on the militants of the CNT. Gangs of "pistoleros" were organised, paid by the bosses and coordinated by the Prefecture and the military governor of the region. They tracked down syndicalists and assassinated them in pure mafia style. There were up to 30 deaths a day. Many others were put in prison and the Civil Guard re-established the barbaric practise of the "chain of prisoners": convicted syndicalists were marched for miles to detention centres. Many died on the way, victims of exhaustion, beatings, or just shot like rabbits. The terrible practise of the "law of flight" was given a sinister fame by the Spanish bourgeoisie: prisoners were released in a street or by the roadside then gunned down for trying to "escape".

The organisers of this barbarism was the Catalonian bourgeoisie, so "modern" and "democratic", who had always reproached their aristocratic Castillian colleagues for being brutal and lacking in manners. But the Catalonian bourgeoisie had seen the proletarian threat and wanted total revenge. Thus their principal leader, Cambó, whom we have already mentioned, was the main protagonist of the pistoleros. The military governor, Martinez Anido, linked to the old Castillian aristocracy, and the "progressive" Catalonian bourgeoisie were entirely reconciled to persecuting working class militants. This was a real symbol of the new situation: there were no longer progressive or reactionary factions of the bourgeoisie. All were complicit in the reactionary defence of an obsolete and decadent social order.

The killing went on until 1923, the date of the coup d'Etat by General Primo de Rivera, who established a dictatorship with the undisguised support of the PSOE and the UGT. In an ambience of demobilisation on the part of the workers, the CNT got itself into a terrible spiral: it replied to the pistoleros by organising self-defence squads which responded blow for blow by assassinating selected politicians, cardinals and bosses. This dynamic rapidly degenerated into an endless series of deaths which further discouraged and demoralised the workers. Furthermore, drawn onto a terrain where it would inevitably be weaker, the CNT suffered a haemorrhage of militants, murdered, imprisoned, invalided, on the run...even more of them withdrew from activity in demoralisation and confusion. In its latter days the self-defence corps of the CNT was infiltrated by all sorts of dubious and marginal elements whose activity was murder as a thing in itself and who undermined the CNT's prestige and isolated it politically.

The CNT was again hit by a terrible repression in 1923. But its second disappearance didn't have the same characteristics as the first:

in 1911-15, syndicalism could still, in certain specific situations, play a positive role for the working class, even if this possibility was diminishing daily; but by 1923 syndicalism had definitively lost any ability to contribute to the workers' struggle;

in 1911-15, the disappearance of the organisation didn't mean the disappearance of reflection and the search for class positions (which allowed it to be reconstituted in 1915 on the basis of struggle against the imperialist war and sympathy for the world revolution); in 1923, it led to the strengthening of two tendencies, syndicalist and anarchist, which could no longer bring anything to the struggle or to proletarian consciousness;

in 1911-15, the unitary and open spirit had not disappeared, allowing anarchists, revolutionary syndicalists and socialists to co-exist in the same organisation; in 1923, all the marxist tendencies either left by themselves or were excluded, leaving only strongly sectarian anarchist and syndicalist tendencies who were trapped in extreme apoliticism.

As we will see in a future article, the reconstitution of the CNT at the end of the 1920s was carried out on a totally different basis from the one that had underlain its birth in 1910 and its first reconstitution in 1915.

RR and C Mir, 19.6.07

 


[1]. In International Review n° 129

 

[2]. See the articles in this series on the IWW in International Review n°124 & 125.

 

[3]. Pannekoek, "The divergent tactics in the workers movement", 1909.

 

[4]. See in particular the first article of the series in International Review n° 118 .

 

[5]. The Restoration regime (1874-1923): a "liberal" monarchic system adopted by the Spanish bourgeoisie, based on a collection of dynastic parties that excluded not only the workers and peasants but also important parts of the petty bourgeoisie and even of the bourgeoisie itself.

 

[6]. See the second article of this series, in International Review n° 129 .

 

[7]. This quote is taken from the book: The History of the workers' movement in Spain (Vol. 2, p. 100) by Tuñón de Lara.

 

[8]. As Victor Serge (a Russian militant with an anarchist orientation who however collaborated with the Bolsheviks) recalled, at this time in Barcelona, "the national committee of the CNT did not pose any fundamental questions. It entered into battle without perspective, not evaluating the consequences of its actions".

 

[9]. Cited in The History of the workers' movement in Spain by Tuñón de Lara, p. 107.

 

[10]. Previously we said that the military juntas that were supposedly very "critical" of the regime (although in reality, contrary to the progressive role that they played in the past, as Marx in his writings of Spain for the New York Daily Tribune judged them to have done in the first half of the 19th century, these "juntas" only asked for "more sausages"). The PSOE spread the illusion amongst the working class that the "revolutionary" military could be on their side. In Sabadell, a large industrial concentration in Catalonia, the Vergara regiment commanded by the leader of the juntas - Coronal Márquez - carried out a savage repression leading to 32 deaths (according to official figures).

 

[11]. "However, while the bourgeoisie via the army was able to recompose parts of its dispersed economy and to maintain the centralisation of the most varied regions as far as their level of development was concerned, the proletariat, on the contrary, under the impulse of the class contradictions, tended to be localised in the sectors in which these contradictions were most violently expressed. The proletariat in Catalonia was thrown onto the social arena not as the result of the modification of the whole of the Spanish economy, but due to the development of Catalonia. The same phenomenon developed in other regions, including the agrarian regions" (Bilan n° 36 , November 1936, "The lessons of the events in Spain").

 

[12]. Ebro Power and Irrigation was a British Canadian firm popularly known as "La Canadiense". It supplied electricity to firms and housing in Barcelona.

 

[13]. At the beginning the firm was ready to negotiate and it was the civil governor González who put pressure on it not to and who sent the police to the factory.

 

[14]. Pestaña's intervention at a conference in Madrid, October 1919, on the La Canadiense strike, taken from: Treyectoria sindicalista, A Pestaña, ed Giner, Madrid, 1974, p. 383.

 

[15]. Count Romanones (1863-1950), member of the Liberal Party, was Prime Minister several times.

 

[16]. This is the difference between what Rosa Luxemburg called the "mass strike" arising out of the experience of the 1905 Russian Revolution and the union methods of struggle. See our series on 1905 in International Review n°s 120, 122, 123 and 125.

 

[17]. It is important to understand that, even with the best will in the world - as was then the case- the union tended to hijack and undermine the workers' initiative and their capacity to think and take decisions. The first phase of the strike was ended, as we have seen. not by a general assembly where all could participate and come to collective decisions, but by a meeting in the Plaza de Toros where the great leaders talked endlessly, stirring up the masses' emotions and bringing about a frame of mind where it was not possible to come to a collective decision. This was left to the union leaders.

 

[18]. The fundamentally dispersed character of the peasant movement in Andalusia has been counter-posed to the proletarian character of the struggle in Barcelona. At this level it is important to see the differences with Russia. There the peasant agitation had a generalised form and was consciously and loyally united with the struggle of the proletariat (despite having its own rhythm and putting forward its own demands, some of which were in contradiction with the revolutionary struggle). The peasants were powerfully politicised (many of them had been soldiers at the front) and tended to form peasants' and soldiers' councils; the Bolsheviks had a small but important presence within them. The situation in Spain was very different; the peasants' discontent remained confined to Andalusia and did not go beyond the sum of local struggles; the peasants and day labours did not pose questions about power or the general situation, but concentrated on agrarian reform; the links with the CNT were more to do with sympathy and familial relations than based on political influence.

 

[19]. We've already talked about Seguí (1890-1923). He was the undoubted leader of the CNT between 1917 and 1923. He was a partisan of union with the UGT, which led him not towards "moderation" but to an out and out trade unionist position. He was assassinated by a gang from the "Free Trade Union" which we will talk about later. Pastaña (1886-1937) ended up splitting from the CNT in 1932 to form a "Syndicalist Party" inspired by British Labourism.

 

[20]. Seguí for example voted for joining the Third International at the famous Congress of the Comedy - from the name of the theatre where it took place - in December 1919. It was as much growing disappointment at the degeneration of the Russian revolution and the Communist International as the need to take trade unionism to its logical conclusion which led this tendency to eventually reject the Russian revolution in the name of apoliticism.

 

[21]. Meaker, The Revolutionary left in Spain, 1974.

 

[22]. Ibid.

 

[23]. Juan Gomez Casa, The History of Spanish Anarcho-syndicalism.

 

[24]. This resolution clearly announced what would be the policy of the CNT after 1930: tacit support for political change in favour of the Spanish Republic, selective abstention, support for the Popular Front in 1936, etc.

 

[25]. Olaya, History of the workers' movement in Spain.

 

[26]. Ibid.

 

[27]. The Berlin Conference of 1922 resuscitated the International Workers Association and claimed to provide an anarchist coherence to revolutionary syndicalism. We will examine this question in a future article.

 

[28]. Representative of the KAPD at the Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921.