1936 - Spain

Articles connected to the events in Spain:1936-7

Spain 1936: Dissident voices within the anarchist movement

The capitulation of anarcho-syndicalism, integrated into the Republican state in Spain 1936-37 did not go unopposed by proletarian currents inside and outside the CNT. To a greater or lesser extent all these groups were made up of working class militants who fought in the heroic struggles of July ‘36 and May ‘37.

The war in Spain exposes anarchism’s fatal flaws

We are not among those who see these events as providing us with a model of proletarian revolution which goes far deeper than anything achieved in Russia in 1917-21. But there is no question that the war in Spain has taught us a great deal, even if most of its lessons are negative ones. In particular, it offers us a very sharp insight into the inadequacies of the anarchist vision of the revolution and a striking reaffirmation of the vision that has been preserved and developed by the authentic traditions of marxism.

Anti-fascism: the road to the betrayal of the CNT

In the previous articles in this series we have shown how the FAI tried to stop the definitive integration of the CNT into the structures of capitalism. 

In 1934 however there was a fundamental change: the PSOE made a spectacular about face and, led by Largo Caballero, along with its companion union , the UGT, raised the flag of the "revolutionary struggle" pushing the workers of Asturias into the dreadful trap of the October insurrection. The Republican state used a new orgy of death, torture and prison deportations, which matched the savage repression meted out in previous years, to liquidate this movement.


Anarchism fails to prevent the CNT's integration into the bourgeois state (1931-34)

Anarchism took the lead in this resistance to the integration of the CNT into the bourgeois state apparatus as a tool to control the class struggle, when the majority of anarchists in the CNT regrouped to form the Iberian Anarchist Federation (Federacion Anarquista Iberica - FAI) in 1927. The aim of this article is to assess this attempt to preserve the CNT for the proletariat.

History of the CNT (1910-13): The birth of revolutionary syndicalism in Spain

In continuity with the series on revolutionary syndicalism which we began in International Review n°118, the article below is the first in a series of articles on the experience of the Spanish CNT. Today, a new generation of workers are gradually getting involved in the class struggle against capitalism. This confrontation raises a great many questions, one of the most frequent of which is the union question.

1936: How the "Popular Front" in France and Spain mobilised the working class for war

Seventy years ago, in May 1936, a huge wave of workers’ struggles broke out spontaneously against the increased exploitation provoked by the economic crisis and the development of the war economy. In Spain in July of the same year, the working class immediately began a general strike and took up arms in response to Franco military’s uprising. Many revolutionaries, including some of the best-known like Trotsky, interpreted these events as the beginning of a new international revolutionary wave. In fact they were misled by the enthusiastic support of the crowds, by a superficial understanding of the forces present and by the “radical” nature of some of the speeches.

July ‘36: How the Popular Front turned civil war into imperialist war

The years 1930 to 1939 saw the bourgeoisie preparing for war on the ashes of the 1917-23 revolutionary wave. All over the world, the working class had been beaten, defeated, caught up in the cogs of capitalism, which had dragged it from defending its own class interests by means of the false choice between fascism and democracy, subjecting it to the nationalist hysteria which led inexorably towards war.

Spain 1936 and the Friends of Durruti


Anarchism today has the wind in its sails. Anarchist ideas, in the form both of the emergence and strengthening of anarcho-syndicalism, and of the appearance of numerous small libertarian groups, are getting off the ground in several countries (and are getting more and more attention from the capitalist media). This is perfectly explicable inperfectly explicable in the present historic period.

The 1937 "May Days" in Barcelona

The article by Josep Rebull on “The May Days of 1937”, which we are publishing here, is a contribution to reflection about the war in Spain. In particular, it contains important elements of clarification about the political attitude of the anarchists and the POUM during these tragic events.

The 1937 May Days were a new and dramatic experience for the working class. They provided the opportunity for the Stalinists and “official” anarchists to carry out an anti-working class policy and showed that they had become ardent defenders of the interests of capitalism.

Spain 1936: The Myth of the Anarchist Collectives

The Spanish collectives of 1936 have been presented by the anarchists as the perfect model for revolution. According to them they allowed worker self—management of the economy, meant the abolition of bureaucracy, increased the efficiency of work... For our part, we find ourselves obliged, once again, to be spoilsports; the 1936 collectives were not a means for the prol­etarian revolution, but an instrument of the bourgeois counter-revolution; they were not the “organization of the new society”, but the last resort of the old which defend­ed itself with all its savagery

Bilan 36: The order of the day: Don't betray!

Our position can be utterly destroyed by a single sentence. Which? That when the Spanish workers are struggling resolutely against the fascist attack, fighting like lions against an enemy which gets its arms and ammunition from Hitler and Mussolini with the complicity of Blum and Eden; when they are making barricades out of their own bodies to stop the advance of the fascist hordes; when, in every country, there are hundreds and thousands of workers who are ready to join the battle front - your posi­tion serves only to demoralize the ranks of the fighters, facilitates the advance of the fascist enemy, and fragments the fronts where the workers are contesting every inch of the ground with Franco, behind whom stands the coalition of international fascism.

However, this sentence doesn’t constitute an argument...

Bilan 35: A slaughter-house for the proletariat in Spain

The fascists launch their attack in Spain. The traitors to the working class everywhere rush to their posts and demand that their governments send arms and muni­tions to the ‘legal government of the Republic’. This is very different from calling on the working class of each country to mobilize itself for a bitter struggle against ‘its own’ capitalists. That is the class struggle; that is the only way of expressing solidarity with the Spanish workers.

Bilan 34: Against the imperialist front and massacre of the Spanish workers

The simple general assertion that in Spain today there is a bloody struggle in progress between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, far from helping to take up a political position favourable to the defence and ultimate victory of the proletariat, could actually lead to the most terrible disaster and massacre of the workers. In order to arrive at a positive assessment it is first of all necessary to see whether the masses have been fighting on their own class terrain, and thus whether they are in a position to move forward, to develop the capacity to drive back the attacks of their class enemies.

Introduction to the texts from "Bilan"

By republishing these texts from Bilan (the publication of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left) dealing with events in Spain between 1936-9, we do not pretend to be historians at pains to provide detailed and chronological descriptions of events as they happened. For the researcher look­ing for material, there are dozens of often well-documented history books available today that can amply fulfil his needs. Our aim is quite different. If the history of humanity has always been the history of class struggle, then yesterday’s struggles do not represent for the proletariat a ‘fixed’, ‘dead’ past, but are ever-living moments in the proletariat’s historic struggle for the revolutionary transforma­tion of society, a struggle that is always underway.

Bilan 36: The events of 19 July (1936)

This article from number 36 of Bilan (October 1936) was re-published in the International Review 6 in 1976. It deals with the meaning of the July 19th workers uprising. Bilan's position was, "As for the workers of the Iberian Peninsula, they have but only one road today, that of 19 July: strikes in all industries whether engaged in the war or not; class struggle against Companys and against Franco; against the ukases (edicts) of their trade unions and the Popular Front; and for the destruc­tion of the capitalist state.
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