The Anarcho-Statists of Spain: Analysis of Spanish Anarchism

The Anarcho-Statists of Spain

An Historical, Economic, and Philosophical Analysis of Spanish Anarchism


Bryan Caplan

In the spirit of F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom , I dedicate
this essay to anarcho-socialists of all factions.


In “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” George Orwell writes,
“I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish
civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans,
and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what
impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities
are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political
predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and
disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to
examine the evidence.” The same remark applies with equal force to
much of the recent debate about the behavior of the Spanish Anarchists
during the Spanish Civil War. Seeing that it was very difficult to
unravel the truth behind the conflicting accounts and citations, I
decided to look at the evidence for myself. The following essay is
the product of my investigations. Quotations may sometimes seem overlong,
because I avoided cutting them whenever possible to eliminate any
suspicion of creative editing. –Bryan Caplan

“Suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history
has the power to inflict on wrong.”

	--Lord Acton, "The Study of History"  

If you would like to volunteer to translate this essay into Spanish,
please e-mail me at

1. Introduction

The Spanish fascists used barbaric methods throughout the Spanish Civil
War in order to establish a brutal dictatorship.[1] The Spanish
Communists used similar wartime measures in their failed effort to give
birth to an even more totalitarian regime.[2] But many discussions of
the Spanish Civil War overlook, minimize, or apologize for the atrocious
behavior and tyrannical aspirations of perhaps the most powerful faction
of the Spanish Republicans: the Anarchist movement.

The present essay aims to redress the balance. It first summarizes the
historical details of the Anarchists’ behavior during the Spanish Civil
War, scrutinizing both the behavior of the upper echelons of the
Anarchist movement as well as the rank-and-file militants. The essay
then examines the economics of Anarchist-controlled Spain, focusing on
both the policies adopted, their aims, and the results. I conclude with
a philosophical dissection of the Spanish Anarchist movement, showing
that their horrific behavior was largely the result of their incoherent
view of human freedom, their unsuccessful attempt to synthesize
socialism and liberty, and their uncritical and emotional way of

2. History and the Spanish Anarchists

Many recent discussions of the Spanish Anarchists center around Ronald
Fraser’s Blood of Spain [3]. While the present essay uses Fraser
as a source, there is always a concern in a work of oral history that
the experiences of the (necessarily small) number of people interviewed
may not be representative. Instead, my primary reference source for the
history of the Spanish Anarchists is Burnett Bolloten’s The Spanish
Civil War
[4]. Bolloten’s objectivity and clarity enjoy widespread
approbation, even by many informed individuals highly sympathetic to the
Spanish Anarchists. Noam Chomsky praises Bolloten’s work in
“Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,” and relies heavily upon
Bolloten’s earlier, less developed work throughout that essay.[5]
Bolloten was moreover the key historian who documented the Communists’
atrocities against the Spanish Anarchists, and one of the first
historians to demonstrate that contrary to the propaganda of the
Republican government, the Spanish Anarchists experimented with radical
social changes on a vast scale during the war. Finally, Bolloten’s
objectivity speaks for itself, for he takes painstaking effort to
confirm every fact and carefully note the existence of any conflicting

A. The Militants and Terror

In July of 1936, officers throughout Spain tried to orchestrate a coup
detat against the Republican government.[6] In Catalonia, Aragon, and
other areas, Anarchist militants defeated the military uprisings.
Finding themselves more powerful than the regional governments and
possibly the central government, the Spanish Anarchists seized the
moment to implement some radical changes in those regions of Spain where
they had a large following.

One of these radical changes was the beginning of large-scale murders of
people believed to be supporters of the Nationalists. In most cases,
these supporters had taken no specific action to assist the Nationalist
rebellion; they were singled out for their beliefs, or what people
guessed their beliefs were. As Bolloten explains:

“The courts of law were supplanted by revolutionary tribunals, which
dispensed justice in their own way. ‘Everybody created his own justice
and administered it himself,’ declared Juan Garcia Oliver, a leading
Anarchist who became minister of justice in November 1936. ‘Some used
to call this “taking a person for a ride,” [paseo] but I maintain that
it was justice administered directly by the people in the complete
absence of regular judicial bodies.'”[7] This distinction no doubt
escaped the thousands of people who were murdered because they happened
to have political or religious beliefs that the Anarchists did not agree
with. “‘We do not wish to deny,’ avowed Diego Abad de Santillan, a
prominent Anarchist in the region of Catalonia, ‘that the nineteenth of
July brought with it an overflowing of passions and abuses, a natural
phenomenon of the transfer of power from the hands of privileged to the
hands of the people. It is possible that our victory resulted in the
death by violence of four or five thousand inhabitants of Catalonia who
were listed as rightists and were linked to political or ecclesiastical
reaction.'”[8] De Santillan’s comment typifies the Spanish Anarchists’
attitude toward his movement’s act of murder of several thousand people
for their political views: it is a mere “natural phenomenon,” nothing to
feel guilty over.

Bolloten’s account of the Anarchist militants’ wave of murders is well-
corroborated by other sources. Thus, Hugh Thomas’ The Spanish Civil
(a work which Bolloten takes issue with on a number of points)
explains that: “All who could conceivably be suspected of sympathy for
the nationalist rising were in danger. As among the nationalists, the
irrational circumstances of a civil war made it impossible to lay down
what was or was not treason. The worthy died, the unworthy often lived.
In East Andalusia, lorries manned by the CNT drove into villages and
ordered mayors to hand over their fascists. The mayors had often to say
that they had all fled but the terrorists would often hear from
informers which of the better off people were still there, arrest them
and shoot them in a nearby ravine.”[9] Thomas adds that, “In the vast
majority of cases, the murders were of the rank and file of the Right.
Often members of the working class would be killed by their own
acquaintances for hypocrisy, for having kow-towed too often to their
social superiors, even simply for untruthfulness. In Altea, near
Alicante, for example, a cafe proprietor was killed with a hatchet by an
anarchist for having overcharged for stamps and for the glass of wine
that buyers of stamps were forced to take while waiting.”[10]

Political belief was not the only kind of heterodoxy which the Spanish
Anarchists refused to tolerate. Mere acceptance of theism, typically in
its Catholic variant, provoked many of the Anarchist militants to
violence. The burning of religious buildings, from cathedrals and
churches to convents and monasteries was widespread, as was the murder
of priests and nuns. This might puzzle the naive observer; after all,
is not the Catholic church a perfect example of a communal, non-profit
organization? Is not church property “held in common” by its adherents?
At least in theory, the clergy’s vow of poverty obliges them to hand
over all of their personal property to the Church, which then provides
for their needs out of the communal stockpile. The Catholic church
seems to satisfy many of the social postulates that the Spanish
Anarchists embraced. This did not save the lives of the unfortunate
clergy, since militant atheism had been a feature of European anarchism
at least since the time of Bakunin, and because the Catholic church had
historically allied itself politically with conservative monarchism.

As Bolloten states, “Hundreds of churches and convents were burned or
put to secular uses. ‘Catholic dens no longer exist,’ declared the
Anarchosyndicalist organ, Solidaridad Obrera . ‘The torches of
the people have reduced them to ashes.’…’For the Revolution to be a
fact,’ ran an Anarchist youth manifesto, ‘we must demolish the three
pillars of reaction: the church, the army, and capitalism. The church
has already been brought to account. The temples have been destroyed by
fire and the ecclesiastical crows who were unable to escape have been
taken care of by the people.'”[11] As Bolloten sums matters up:
“Thousands of members of the clergy and religious orders as well as of
the propertied classes were killed, but others, fearing arrest or
execution, fled abroad, including many prominent liberal or moderate

Thomas amply confirms Bolloten’s description of the Anarchists’
religious persecution and intolerance. “‘Do you still believe in this
God who never speaks and who does not defend himself even when his
images and temples are burned? Admit that God does not exist and that
you priests are all so many hypocrites who deceive the people’: such
questions were put in countless towns and villages of republican Spain.
At no time in the history of Europe, or even perhaps of the world, has
so passionate a hatred of religion and all its works been shown. Yet
one priest who, while 1,215 monks, nuns, and priests died in the
province of Barcelona, managed to escape to France through the help of
President Companys, was generous enough to admit that ‘the reds have
destroyed our churches, but we first had destroyed the church.'”[12]

Fraser documents many other instances of the Anarchists’ religious
intolerance, but also brings out an interesting case in which the
Anarchist leader Carod forbade violence against religious buildings and
personnel. “‘You are burning the churches without thinking of the grief
you are causing your mothers, sisters, daughters, parents, in whose
veins flows Christian, Catholic blood. Do not believe that by burning
churches you are going to change that blood and that tomorrow everyone
will feel himself, herself an atheist. On the contrary! The more you
violate their consciences, the more they will side with the church.
Moreover, the immense majority of you are believers at heart.’ He
demanded that all lives and all property – not only religious – be
respected.”[13] Note that Carod merely appeals to the strategic folly
of persecuting religious believers, since it leads people to “side with
the church” (and presumably to side with the Nationalists as well).
Carod’s argument typifies the Spanish Anarchists’ half-hearted self-
criticism. One waits in vain for an Anarchist to defend freedom of
thought, the individual’s right to believe what he chooses; to say, in
short, that mere belief is not a crime, but killing someone for his
beliefs is.

None of this implies, of course, that similar atrocities were not
committed by the Nationalists and by non-Anarchist forces on the
Republican side. It is to be expected that Communists, fascists, and
the other bloodthirsty zealots of the 20th century would brutally murder
people for their beliefs. One would be surprised if moderate
Republicans, moderate Socialists, and moderate monarchists restrained
themselves from widespread murder in the midst of a fratricidal civil
war. But one would hope that a movement condemning the state for its
age-old brutality, and advocating an end to all human domination, would
have behaved differently. Instead, it is clear that Anarchist militants
were at the vanguard of the murder squads on the Republican side.[14]

Apologists for the Spanish Anarchist movement often claim that the
aforementioned killings simply represent the individual decisions of
unorganized groups of Anarchist militants, rather than any sort of a
party-line policy organized and desired by the Anarchist leadership.
Stanley Payne finds the facts of the Republican repression to be
rather more complex: “A common distinction between the Red and White
terrors in Spain that has sometimes been made by partisans of the left
is that the former was disorganized and spontaneous, while the latter
was centralized and systematic, continuing throughout the war and long
afterward. This distinction is at best only partially accurate. In the
early months the Nationalist repression was not at all centrally
organized, whereas that in the Popular Front zone had more planning and
organization than it is given credit for. This is indicated by the many
executions in areas where social conflict was not particularly intense,
and by the fact that many of the killings were done by revolutionary
militia coming in from other districts. Nor did the political
executions in the Republican zone end after the close of 1936, though
they did diminish in volume.”[15]

In any case, whether the murders were centrally ordered, completely
decentralized, or (as is most likely) somewhere in between, what
difference does it make? Does it matter if the widespread Nazi attacks
on Jews known as the Kristallnacht were centrally organized or
“spontaneous”? No; if an ideology categorizes many people as sub-human,
urging ever greater brutality, and recommending restraint only when it
is tactically convenient, it is perfectly reasonable to castigate the
entire movement centering around that ideology, whether that movement be
Nazism or Spanish Anarchism. It is quite clear that the rhetoric of the
Spanish Anarchists focused on crushing the enemies of the workers by any
means necessary; safeguarding the rights of innocent people who happened
to despise everything Anarchism stood for was simply not on their
agenda. Fraser’s interview of Juan Moreno, a CNT day-laborer, merits
notice: “‘We hated the bourgeoisie, they treated us like animals. They
were our worst enemies. When we looked at them we thought we were
looking at the devil himself. And they thought the same of us.'”[16]
Bolloten similarly notes, “According to Perez-Baro [a former member of
the CNT who played a prominent role in the collectivization movement in
Catalonia], thirty to forty years of revolutionary propaganda had made
employers appear in the eyes of the workers not as ‘class enemies,’ but
as ‘personal enemies,’ which resulted in a series of abuses against
them.”[17] In short, it is perfectly just to impugn the Anarchist
movement as a whole for the numerous atrocities of its members, because
these actions flowed logically from the central ideas of the movement
rather than their misinterpretation by extreme fringe groups.

B. The Leaders and Collaboration

The complicity of the Spanish Anarchist leadership in the aforementioned
atrocities is sometimes hard to untangle; obviously, most of the murder
orders were not publicly recorded. However, public records concerning
the Anarchist leadership’s record of collaboration with the central and
regional governments throughout Spain provides ample documentation of a
long series of abuses and betrayals of whatever good principles the
Anarchist movement held dear.

At the outset it is necessary to give some background on the pre-war
organization of the Anarchists, which its supporters frequently claim
was extraordinarily democratic. From at least 1927 on, the democratic
procedures of the CNT were frequently compromised by a special faction
known as the FAI, which Bolloten describes as the CNT’s “ideological
guide, whose mission was to protect the CNT from deviationist tendencies
and to lead the trade-union federation to the Anarchist goal of
libertarian communism.”[18] Bolloten properly notes that many of the
Spanish Anarchists would violently dispute this claim, but insists that
the facts do not support them. “The FAI attempted to accomplish its
directive mission by virtue of the fact that its members, with few
exceptions, belonged to the CNT and held many positions of trust. It
was an established principle that any person belonging to a political
party should not occupy any official position in the trade-union
organization. The FAI, moreover, kept a close and constant supervision
over the unions of the CNT, often threatening to use force to prevent
deviationist trends when argument failed. To be sure, this domination –
or at least attempted domination – by the FAI was not always openly
acknowledged by the CNT and FAI and indeed was at times emphatically
denied, but it was frankly admitted after the Civil War by other leaders
of the CNT.”[19] Fraser corroborates Bolloten’s remarks. Josep Costa,
a CNT textile worker explains, “‘The FAI was acting like a political
group within the CNT, talking of liberty and acting like
dictators…'”[20] Sebastia Clara, a dissident treintista CNT member,
adds, “‘Before the 1920’s, the CNT was an organization in which the
masses could express themselves democratically. Afterwards, this was no
longer the case. Things changed with the creation of the FAI in 1927.
It was they who now imposed their decisions…'”[21] While this
burgeoning authoritarianism in the guise of democracy makes it easy to
understand how the Anarchist leadership often deviated from the
viewpoint of the rank-and-file, the fact that the FAI was noted for its
ideological purism makes its numerous deviations all the more puzzling.

While the CNT and especially the FAI repeatedly condemned political
participation before the Civil War, it was simple to induce CNT leaders
to accept ministerial positions in the central government. Initially,
Prime Minister Caballero offered the CNT a single seat, which the CNT
national plenum rejected. This was no principled rejection, however;
the Anarchist put forward a compromise resolution according to which
“‘auxiliary commissions’ were to be set up in each ministry comprising
two representatives of the CNT, two of the UGT, two of the Popular Front
parties, and one government delegate. This project would have spared
the CNT the embarrassment of direct participation in the cabinet, but
would nonetheless have given it representation in every branch of
government.”[22] This proposal failed; the next Anarchist initiative
was to advocate “that the government should be replaced by a national
council of defense composed of five members of their organization, five
of the UGT, and four members of the Republican parties.”[23] Bolloten
cites one Anarchist’s acerbic critique of this Orwellian attempt to
avoid joining the government by calling it something different: “‘The
purpose of this purely nominal change was to reconcile their fervent
desire to enter the government with their antistate doctrine. What
childishness! A movement that had cured itself of all prejudices and
had always scoffed at mere appearances tried to conceal its abjuration
of fundamental principles by changing a name… This behavior is as
childish as than of an unfortunate woman, who, having entered a house of
ill fame and wishing to preserve a veneer of morality, asks to be called
a hetera instead of a whore.'”[24]

The Anarchists tried this tactic for about a month until CNT national
secretary Horacio Prieto, who favored direct participation in the
Popular Front government, prevailed. “Horacio Prieto decided to ‘put an
end to the last elements of opposition,’ within the CNT and convoked a
plenary session of the regional federations for 18 October. This time
his arguments prevailed. The plenum accorded him full powers to conduct
negotiations ‘in his own way’ in order to bring the CNT into the
government. ‘I was convinced,’ he wrote after the war, ‘of the
necessity of collaboration, and I smothered my own ideological and
conscientious scruples.'”[25] The end result of Prieto’s dealings with
the government was that the CNT won control of the ministries of
justice, industry, commerce, and health. Bolloten notes and amply
documents his remark that, “Not only did this decision represent a
complete negation of the basic tenets of Anarchism, shaking the whole
structure of libertarian theory to the core, but, in violation of
democratic principle, it had been taken without consulting the rank and
file.”[26] This violation would not be the last one, as shall be seen.

The Anarchists were even more eager to assume governmental powers in
Catalonia, where they were strong enough to overshadow the regional
Catalonian government, the Generalitat. Rather than officially enter
the Catalonian government, the Anarchists chose to retain the
Generalitat as a legal cover; but real power shifted into the hands of
the Anarchist-controlled Central Anti-Fascist Militia Committee.
Bolloten indicates that for all practical purposes this Committee was
the government of Catalonia under a new name: “the committee
immediately became the de facto executive body in the region. Its power
rested not on the shattered machinery of the state but on the
revolutionary militia and police squads and upon the multitudinous
committees that sprang up in the region during the first days of the
Revolution. The work of the militia committee, attests Abad de
Santillan, himself a member, included the establishment of revolutionary
order in the rear, the creation of militia units for the front, the
organization of the economy, and legislative and judicial action.”[27]
After a few months the Anarchists formally entered the Generalitat,
mainly because the central government seemed unwilling to provide
weapons to any other Catalonian organization.

It should be further noted that these Anarchist-run councils and
committees were not mild-mannered minimal states, maintaining order
while allowing the workers to organize themselves as they pleased. They
were “modern” states, concerning themselves with the economy, education,
propaganda, transportation, and virtually everything else.

The Anarchists’ position in both the central government and in Catalonia
slowly but surely declined after they entered into coalition governments
with the other anti-Franco factions. A common pattern was for the non-
Anarchists to push for some measure that the Anarchists opposed; the
Anarchists would resist for a brief period; and finally, the Anarchists
would agree to the original measure after changing some of the labels
and minor details. By May of 1937, after a mere ten months in power,
the Anarchists found themselves out-maneuvered on the national and
regional levels by the Communists and other political enemies.

There were a series of cabinet crises in the regional Catalonian
government; the resentment of the non-Anarchists, especially the
Communists, against the continued de facto Anarchist control of Barcelona
burnt ever brighter. While the members of the CNT who held positions in
the Catalonian government kept trying to reach an understanding with
their fellow ministers, the rank and file Anarchists seem to have become
increasingly alienated from their leaders.

A raid on the Anarchist-controlled telephone company brought these
feelings to the surface. (The non-Anarchists objected to the
Anarchists’ use of wiretaps to listen in on important conversations.)
The CNT ministers merely demanded the removal of the main people
responsible for the raid; but hundreds of the rank-and-file Anarchists
responded with rage, setting up barricades. As Bolloten describes
matters, “That same night [May 3 -B.C.] the executive committee of the
POUM met with the regional committees of the CNT, FAI, and the
Libertarian Youth. Julian Gorkin, a member of the executive [of the
POUM -B.C.], recalls: ‘We stated the problem in these precise terms:
‘Neither of us has urged the masses of Barcelona to take this action.
This is a spontaneous response to Stalinist aggression…[The regional
committees] made no decision. Their maximal demand was the removal of
the [police] commissioner who had provoked the movement. As though it
were not the various forces behind him that had to be destroyed! Always
the form instead of the substance!”[28]

The Anarchist leadership was, as this quote indicates, out of step with
the rank-and-file; they urged the militants to stop the fighting. Their
requests were not heeded, as Bolloten notes: “[T]here were forces intent
on stoking the conflict. Not only were Rodriguez Salas’s men initiating
new offensive actions, but the tiny Trotskyist group of Bolshevik
Leninists and the dissident Anarchist Friends of Durruti, joined by some
of the more militant members of the POUM, were extremely active. While
the activists ignored the Anarchist leadership, the CNT ministers
desperately tried to hammer out a deal with their fellow ministers in
the Generalitat, who were by this point willing to endanger Catalonian
autonomy by allowing the armed forces of the central government to re-
establish order. All the Anarchists managed to do was to obtain a few
delays and haggle over the formation of a new government, while they
cajoled the rank-and-file to fall into line. “CNT secretary Mariano
Vasquez again begged workers to leave the streets. ‘We tell you that
this situation must end… We do not want this stigma to fall upon the
Spanish Anarchists… This is not the moment, in front of piled-up
corpses, to discuss who is right. It is essential that you disappear
with your weapons from the streets… We must not wait for others to do
so. We must do so ourselves. Afterward we shall talk. If you decide,
when you discuss our conduct at our next assembly, that we deserve to be
shot, then you may shoot us, but now you must obey our slogans.'”[29]

The end result was that the reinforcements from the central government
arrived and firmly placed power into the hands of the Generalitat. The
power of the Communists was greatly enhanced at both the regional and
national levels. A new central government was formed with Juan Negrin
as Prime Minister. Bolloten amply documents that Negrin was a willing
tool of the Communists, so it should be no surprise that the Anarchists
lost all of their positions in the central government. One might think
that by this point they would be thoroughly disillusioned with power,
but the Anarchists now assumed the degrading role of the political
beggar they held for the rest of the war. While condemning Negrin’s
government as counterrevolutionary, the CNT leadership tried to strike a
new deal. When Negrin formed his second government, he threw the CNT a
bone by giving them the ministry of education and health. This was
enough to retain the CNT’s collaboration until the Republic’s defeat.

Soon after Negrin’s appointment, the CNT lost all its seats in the
Catalonian regional government. Making a virtue out of necessity,
Bolloten notes Tierra and Libertad announced that, “‘The CNT,
with more than a million affiliates in Catalonia, is no longer with the
government. This is because Anarchosyndicalism cannot get involved with
professional politicians and cannot humble itself before anyone…[I]t
refuses to defile itself with this kind of dirty politics.'”[30] In
reality, the hangers-on of the CNT tried repeatedly to regain some role
in the Catalonian government even as Franco’s forces prepared to capture

Once the CNT left the government, the Communists intensified their
persecution and terrorization of the Anarchists. Moreover, while the
Anarchists made up a very large percentage of the Republic’s soldiery,
the Communists had a vastly disproportionate representation in the
officer corps. Thus, the Anarchists allowed themselves to become cannon
fodder for the Communists at the front, while the Communist secret
police unleashed its hatred against the Anarchists in the rear. As
Bolloten describes it, “The spontaneous, undirected terror of the CNT
and FAI during the height of the Revolution had now given way to the
more sophisticated, centrally directed, and, hence, more fearful terror
of the Communists.”[31]

Of course, one might wonder how it was possible for Anarchists to have
joined forces with the Communists to begin with. How could the avowed
opponents of the very existence of the state join forces with the pawns
of the most murderous, totalitarian dictatorship that the world had ever
known? Even if moral principle did not deter them, at least the
Bolsheviks’ propensity to exterminate their Anarchist allies might have
given them pause. Even though many Anarchists eventually realized that
the defeat of Franco would lead to the establishment of a Soviet
satellite state, they kept fighting. Clearly the Anarchists’ opposition
to the Nationalists dwarfed their distaste for Leninist totalitarianism.

Then again, perhaps the CNT yearned so strongly for power that they were
willing to sacrifice many principles for limited authority. After May
1937, they endured considerable humiliation in exchange for a paltry
role in the Republican government. Were there any limits to what
principles the Anarchists would sacrifice in order to be minor political
players? Apparently not. Stanley Payne indicates that the CNT
leadership actually tried to strike a deal with the fascists in 1945 and
1946. As Payne explains, a Falangist leader “began negotiations that
summer with the new clandestine secretary general of the CNT, Jose
Leiva, in Madrid. His goal was to rescue the Falange by gaining the
support of opposition anarchosyndicalists for a broader, stronger, and
more popular national syndicalism. Franco eventually rejected the CNT’s
demands, and the negotiations foundered the following year. Suppression
of the CNT leadership was renewed.”[32] What was the nature of the deal
that the CNT sought with the Falange? “According to a report presented
to Franco in May 1946, the CNT leadership offered a policy of
cooperation, proposing to withdraw from the Giral Republican government-
in-exile and accept three Falangists on their national committee, but in
return insisted on freedom to proselytize.”[33]

This was the Anarchism of the CNT: an Anarchism which not only allied
with the Communist totalitarians, but attempted to strike a power-
sharing deal with the fascist totalitarians six years after the end of
the civil war.

C. The Urban Collectives

Burnett Bolloten was the first mainstream historian to document the
radical social changes that occurred in Republican Spain; most earlier
historians took the disclaimers of the Republican government at face
value, in spite of the fact that the Republicans had every reason to
conceal this radicalism in order to win military assistance from Britain
and France. Bolloten explains that the CNT and to a lesser extent the
UGT took advantage of the chaos to seize control of the means of

“In Valencia, a city of over 350,000 inhabitants, nearly all plants,
both large and small, were sequestered by the CNT and UGT, as were those
in the province of Alicante, while in the region of Catalonia, where the
Anarchosyndicalists were in almost unchecked ascendancy during the first
months of the Revolution, collectivization in many towns was carried out
so thoroughly that it embraced not only the large factories but the
least important branches of handicraft. The collectivization movement
also infringed upon another preserve of the middle classes. In
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, with a population of nearly 1.2
million, the Anarchosyndicalist workers collectivized the wholesale
business in eggs and fish and set up a control committee in the
slaughterhouse, from which they excluded all intermediaries; they also
collectivized the principal market for fruit and vegetables and
suppressed all dealers and commission agents as such, permitting them,
however, to join the collective as wage earners. The milk trade in
Barcelona was likewise collectivized. The Anarchosyndicalists
eliminated as unhygenic over forty pasteurizing plants, pasteurized all
milk in the remaining nine, and proceeded to displace all dealers by
establishing their own retail outlets.”[34]

In fact, this policy of shutting down factories seems to have been as
important to the CNT program as collectivizing the remainder. These
factory closures were justified by several arguments: they were
unhealthy for workers, or unhealthy for consumers, or just plain
“inefficient.” As Bolloten explains, “after the first few weeks of
widespread and uncoordinated seizures, some of the unions began a
systematic reorganization of entire trades, closing down hundreds of
small plants and concentrating production in those with the best
equipment.”[35] It is worth noting that Spain was still in the midst of
the Great Depression, with overall Spanish industrial production in 1935
about 13% below the 1929 level. Production in July of 1936 was itself
about 18% below the January 1936 level, so the existence of unused
capacity is no surprise.[36] What is odd is that in the midst of
massive unemployment the Anarchists closed down a large percentage of
the remaining firms instead of inviting unemployed workers to join them.

Initially, the workers (rather than an Anarchist nomenklatura) usually
assumed control over their places of employment. Quoting Fraser, “one
thing dominated the libertarian revolution: the practice of self-
management – the workers’ administration of their factories and
industries.”[37] Yet government control quickly followed, or at least
tried to. In October, the government of Anarchist-dominated Catalonia
passed the Collectivization and Workers’ Control Decree, which legally
recognized many of the de facto collectivizations.

With government recognition came government regulation, as Fraser
indicates: “Works councils, elected by an assembly decision of the
workers and representing all sectors of the enterprise, were to
administer the collectivized factory, ‘assuming the functions and
responsibilities of the former board of directors.’ A Generalitat
representative was chosen, in agreement with the workers, to sit on each
council. Collectivized enterprises (and private firms under workers’
control) in each sector of industry would be represented in an Economic
Federation, in turn topped by a general industrial council which would
closely control the whole industry. Fifty percent of a collectivized
firm’s profit would go to an industrial and commercial credit fund which
would have to finance all Catalan industry; 20 per cent was to be put to
the collective’s reserve and depreciation fund; 15 per cent to the
collective’s social needs, and the remaining 15 per cent to be allocated
by the workers as they decided in a general assembly.”[38] Bolloten
reports that this measure was “sponsored by the CNT and signed by its
representative in the government, Juan P. Fabregas, the councilor of the
economy.”[39] Thus, the principle of genuine worker control was quickly
cast aside in favor of something much more similar to state-socialism; a
mere 15% of the profits were, under the law, under the discretionary
control of the workers.

There was some internal opposition to these measures; Fabregas’
successor de Santillan indicated hostility to some features, and did not
strictly enforce the law. More importantly, there was a huge loophole –
firms had to pay a percentage of their profits . To eliminate
the exaction, one merely need eliminate the profits. With worker
control, there is a simple way to do this: keep raising wages until the
“profits” disappear. Taxes on profits – which is what the Decree
amounted to – will raise revenue if the workers and the owners are
different people; but with worker control such taxes are simple to
evade. Witness after witness reports the abolition of piece-work,
improvement of working conditions, lavish non-wage compensation, and so
on. This is initially surprising; if the workers run the factory, don’t
they pay the price of hampering production? Not if the government taxes
away most of the workers’ profits. As Thomas states, “[T]he industrial
syndicalism of Barcelona kept, unlike the rural anarchists, to
individual wages, and did not experiment with family wages. These wages
probably increased, it is true, in late 1936 by about a third over July.
But the effect was ruined by the inflation, due to a fall in production,
shortage of credit, as well as an influx of refugees from Castille and

Thus, due to the weak enforcement and easy evasion of government
regulations and taxes, it appears that some workers found themselves the
new co-owners of their former employers’ property. This created vague
apprehension among many Anarchists, and experience soon enabled them to
articulate their concerns. The Anarchist Jose Peirats aptly described
their essential worry: “Fortified in their respective collectives, the
industries would merely have replaced the old watertight compartments of
capitalism and would inevitably lapse into bureaucracy, the first step
in a new society of unequals. The collectives would end up waging the
same commercial war against each other with the same combination of zeal
and mediocrity that characterized the old bourgeois businesses. And so
they attempted to expand the notion of collectivism to include, in a
structural and permanent way, all industries in one harmonious and
disinterested body.”[41] Joan Ferrer, secretary of the CNT commercial
employees’ union, was able to confirm Peirats’ fear up close. “‘It came
as a psychological shock to some workers to find themselves suddenly
freed from capitalist tutelage. Exchanging one individualism for
another, they frequently believed that, now that the owners were gone,
they were the new owners. Though affecting white-collar workers in this
instance, the problem was by no means confined to them…'”[42]

In short, after being told that the workers now owned the means of
production, the workers often took the statement literally. What is the
point of owning the means of production if you can’t get rich using
them? But of course if some workers get rich, they are unlikely to
voluntarily donate their profits to the other members of their class.
This seems elementary upon reflection, but only practical experience was
able to reveal this to the economic reformers of the Spanish Revolution.

Fraser explains that at a joint CNT-UGT textile union conference, “The
woodworkers’ union weighed in with its criticism of the state of
affairs, alleging that, while small, insolvent workshops were left to
struggle as best they could, the collectivization of profitable
enterprises was leading to ‘nothing other than the creation of two
classes; the new rich and the eternal poor. We refuse the idea that
there should be rich and poor collectives. And that is the real problem
of collectivization.'”[43] Bolloten repeats a remark of CNT militia
leader Ricardo Sanz: “‘[T]hings are not going as well as they did in the
early days of the [revolutionary] movement… The workers no longer
think of workings long hours to help the front. They only think of
working as little as possible and getting the highest possible
wages.'”[44] Bolloten attributes this decline in enthusiasm to
Communist repression, but it is at least as consistent with the simple
observation that people often prefer improving their own lot in life to
nourishing revolution.

In short, practical experience gradually revealed a basic truth of
economics for which theoretical reflection would have sufficed: if the
workers take over a factory, they will run it to benefit themselves. A
worker-run firm is essentially identical to a capitalist firm in which
the workers also happen to be the stockholders. Once they came to this
realization, however dimly, the Spanish Anarchists had to either embrace
capitalism as the corollary of worker control, or else denounce worker
control as the corollary of capitalism. For the most part, they chose
the latter course.

As Bolloten writes, “[T]he Anarchosyndicalists, contrary to common
belief, were not without their own plans for the nationwide control and
rationalization of production. Rootedly opposed to state control or
nationalization, they advocated centralization – or socialization, as
they called it – under trade-union management of entire branches of
production. ‘If nationalization were carried out in Spain as the
Socialists and Communists desire,’ said one Anarchist newspaper, ‘we
should be on the way to a dictatorship, because by nationalizing
everything the government would become the master, the chief, the
absolute boss of everyone and everything.'”[45] The Anarchist solution
for this danger of absolute dictatorship was to call absolute
dictatorship by a different name. “In the opinion of the
Anarchosyndicalists,” explains Bolloten, “socialization would eliminate
the dangers of government control by placing production in the hands of
the unions. This was the libertarian conception of socialization,
without state intervention, that was to eliminate the wastes of
competition and duplication, render possible industrywide planning for
both civilian and military needs, and halt the growth of selfish actions
among the workers of the more prosperous collectives by using their
profits to raise the standard of living in the less favored
enterprises.”[46] Of course, one could refuse to call a union with such
fearsome powers a “state,” but it would need all of the enforcement
apparatus and authority of a state to execute its objectives. The “more
prosperous collectives,” for example, would be unlikely to submit
voluntarily to industrywide planning funded by their profits.

The Nationalists conquered Catalonia before the government made any
concerted, official effort to nationalize the workers’ factories. But
it is doubtful that the government would have met much resistance from
the CNT if and when the nationalization occurred.

Describing the CNT conferences of September 1937 and January 1938,
Thomas states: “Although suggestions for reform were canvassed, most
ideas put forward sought the improvement of the existing state of
affairs; the millenarian aspect of anarchism had almost vanished. What
was left seemed no more than a federalist movement, without effective
national organization, which gave general, if grudging, support to the
government. Under the influence of the realistic ex-secretary-general
of the CNT, Horacio Prieto, anarchists were persuaded to accept the idea
of nationalization of large industries and banks in exchange for
collectivization of small ones, and on the land, as well as the
‘municipalization’ of local services.”[47]

While the formal expropriation of the workers did not occur, the
government frequently used its control over the Spanish money and
banking system to quietly nationalize the means of production. For
ideological reasons, Anarchists had always avoided working in the
banking industry, so insofar as workers did control banks, they were
members of the Socialist UGT rather than the Anarchist CNT. To obtain
credit, Anarchists either had to get a loan from the Socialist-
controlled banks, or else receive a bail-out from the central
government. Bolloten explains the dilemma of the workers’ collectives:

“Another obstacle to the integration of industry into a libertarian
economy lay in the fact that a large number of firms controlled by the
CNT were in a state of insolvency or semi-insolvency and were compelled
to seek government intervention to secure financial aid… Both in
Catalonia and in the rest of Republican Spain, this situation created
grave economic problems for the CNT collectives. So desperately did
some of them require funds that Juan Peiro, the Anarchosyndicalist
minister of industry, openly recommended intervention by the central
government, having received in his department eleven thousand requests
for funds in January 1937 alone.”[48]

Fraser and Thomas corroborate Bolloten’s analysis. “[T]here were the
committees,” explains Fraser, “which… simply continued to present
their weekly wage list to the Generalitat, which went on paying them,
instead of seeking to get their businesses going.”[49] In the footnote,
Fraser adds, “This later became institutionalized as the ‘pawn bank,’
through which the workers of the deficitary enterprises received their
wages in return for ‘pawning’ their company’s capital equipment and
inventory to the Generalitat – a measure which resulted in giving the
latter virtual control of the enterprise.”[50] Along similar lines,
Thomas writes that, “In all large industries, and in industries
important for the war, a state representative sat on the committee. He
would be responsible for controlling credit, and sometimes raw
materials. His role became more and more important, so that, in some
enterprises (particularly the munitions factories), something close to
nationalization would soon be achieved.”[51] “Outside of Catalonia, the
central government… sought to bring all major factories under state
supervision, whether nationalized or privately managed. To ensure this,
credit was made difficult for anarchist factories, and many other
difficulties were put in their way by the government… This occurred
even though an anarchist, Peiro, was nominally at the ministry of

Peiro initially tried to push through a decree collectivizing all
industry, but Prime Minister Caballero squelched the idea since it would
alienate foreign capitalists and their governments. Next, Bolloten
explains, “Peiro then redrafted his decree… From the cabinet the
decree went to a ministerial commission that, according to Peirats,
converted it into a skeleton. ‘But the calvary is not over. To put the
decree into effect money is necessary, that is, credit must be granted
by the minister of finance [Juan Negrin]. He haggles like a usurer and
finally grants an insignificant sum… Finally, the Industrial Bank
intervenes, which reduces the amount still further.'”[53]

The simplest way that the collectives could have avoided dependence on
the government would have been to issue debt; in short, to borrow from
the general public rather than the government. But undoubtedly the fear
of revealing surplus wealth to lend would make such a scheme impossible.
Even if their physical safety were not their concern, investors could
hardly expect to ever get their money back. The insecurity of property
rights thus made it very difficult to borrow from the public, so the
collectives mortgaged themselves piece by piece to the government until
finally the government rather than the workers owned the means of

Fraser argues that, “These difficulties might have been palliated if the
industrial and commercial fund foreseen by the decree had been rapidly
set up, for one of its purposes was to channel funds from the wealthier
to the poorer collectives. It was to be financed by a levy of 50 per
cent of a collective’s profits.”[54] Even if enforced, though, almost
all sources indicate that profits were almost non-existence; possibly,
as I have indicated, because workers were smart enough to realize that
raising their wages and improving working conditions was an easy route
to avoid any profits tax. Even if this could have prevented the
collectives from becoming dependent on the central government, the end
result would have been to make them dependent on a union so powerful
that it would be a state in everything but name.

Fraser quotes Albert Perez-Baro, a civil servant and a former CNT
member: “‘This truly revolutionary measure [the 50 per cent profits tax]
– though rarely, if ever, applied – wasn’t well received by large
numbers of workers, proving, unfortunately, that their understanding of
the scope of collectivization was very limited. Only a minority
understood that collectivization meant the return to society of what,
historically, had been appropriated by the capitalists…'”[55] In
other words, most workers assumed that worker control meant that the
workers would actually become the true owners of their workplaces, with
all the rights and privileges thereof. Only the elite realized that
worker control was merely a euphemism for “social control” which in turn
can only mean control by the state (or an Anarchist “council,”
“committee,” or “union,” satisfying the standard Weberian definition of
the state).

D. Militarization

In the early stages of the war, the militant members of various left-
wing parties and unions often did battle with members of the rebel
Nationalist army. There is no doubt that the CNT’s militants stifled
military coups in several regions, and were initially the vanguard of
the anti-Franco forces. “[T]here was no central military body that
could review the situation on all the battlefronts, formulate a common
plan of action, and decide on the allocation of available supplies of
men, munitions, arms, and motor vehicles in such a way as to produce the
best results on the most promising front,” explains Bolloten. “Nor
could such central control be expected in the early days of spontaneous
activity and individual initiative. ‘We all remember,’ writes a
Republican sympathizer, ‘how we began to wage the war. A few friends
got together, jumped into a truck or car that they owned or confiscated,
one with a rifle, another with a revolver and a few cartridges and took
to the highway to look for fascists. When we reached a point where we
encountered resistance, we fought, and, when the munitions were
exhausted, we generally retreated not to a defensive position… but to
our point of departure.'”[56] Bolloten adds the observation that, “To
make matters worse, each party and labor union had its own military
headquarters that, in most cases, attended to the requirements of its
own militia without any knowledge of or regard to the needs or military
plans of other units on the same or neighboring sector, least of all
distant fronts…”[57]

While all of the militias resisted military discipline to some degree,
Bolloten affirms that at first the Anarchist militias resisted it
vigorously because they took their ideals seriously: “The CNT-FAI
militia reflected the ideals of equality, individual liberty, and
freedom from obligatory discipline integral to the Anarchist doctrine.
There was no officers’ hierarchy, no saluting, no regimentation.”[58]
Unfortunately for the Anarchists, this lack of discipline made their
militia rather ineffective in spite of their frequent numerical
superiority. It did not take long for the Anarchist leadership to
decide that military success was more important than the voluntaristic
notions of the rank-and-file. Solidaridad Obrera soon wrote in
favor of the strictest discipline: “‘To accept discipline means that the
decisions made by comrades assigned to any particular task, whether
administrative or military, should be executed without any obstruction
in the name of liberty, a liberty that in many cases degenerates into
wantonness.'”[59] While many of the rank-and-file resisted, military
discipline swiftly became common in the Anarchist militias.

It soon became clear that the Republican government intended to form its
own national army. The Anarchist ministers objected; Bolloten notes
that in addition to ideological scruples, the Anarchists wanted to keep
military dominance in their own hands, and out of the hands of the
Communists. To counter this move towards a national army, explains
Bolloten, “The CNT-FAI leaders had proposed in September 1936 that a
‘war militia’ be created on the basis of compulsory service and under
the joint control of the CNT and the UGT…”[60] It thus took scarcely
two months for the Anarchists to openly advocate conscription –
enslaving young men to kill or be killed – so long as the conscripts
were forced to risk their lives for the cause of the CNT. (Since the
UGT held the loyalty of a far smaller proportion of the working class at
this stage, the joint control of the CNT and UGT clearly would have
amounted to a junior role for the UGT at best.)

In spite of their presence in the national government, explains
Bolloten, “the libertarian movement was unable to use its participation
in the government to increase its say in the military field or even curb
the progress of the Communists, but rather was obliged in the end to
circumscribe its efforts to maintaining control of its own militia units
and securing arms from the war ministry.”[61] The war ministry had many
levers to secure compliance from the Anarchist militias. Not only could
they give or deny weapons, supplies, and so on. The government also put
the Anarchist militias on the government payroll, and could then
threaten to withhold money from any unit that resisted the government’s

The most important decision the government made was to “militarize” the
militias: in short, to absorb them into the government’s army and
subject them to standard military rule. Most of the militia columns
swiftly fell into line, although it is unclear to what extent this was
because they were following the orders of the Anarchist leadership, or
enticed by the central government’s money and weapons. One notable
exception was the so-called Iron Column. “No column,” explains
Bolloten, “was more thoroughly representative of the spirit of
Anarchism, no column dissented more vehemently from the libertarian
movement’s inconsistencies of theory and practice and exhibited a more
glowing enmity for the state than the Iron Column…”[62] Bolloten
quotes one of the members of the Iron Column, in whose words there is
clearly a strong undertone of criticism of the Anarchists working with
the government: “‘We accept nothing that runs counter to our Anarchist
ideas, ideas that must become a reality, because you cannot preach one
thing and practice another.'”[63]

Lest one praise their idealism too highly, it should be noted that the
Iron Column apparently saw no contradiction between Anarchism and
terrorism and robbery. “In the early months of the war,” states
Bolloten, “it had been able to rely upon its own recruiting campaigns
and upon confiscations carried out with the aid of Anarchist-controlled
committees in villages and towns behind the lines. ‘[During] our stay
in Valencia,’ ran a manifesto issued by the column, ‘we noticed that,
whereas our negotiations for the purchase of arms had failed, because of
the lack of hard cash, in many shops there was a large quantity of gold
and other precious metals, and it was this consideration that induced us
to seize the gold, silver, and platinum in several jewelers’ shops.’
‘Around October [1936],’ recounts one historian [Rafael Abella -B.C.],
‘the column abandoned the front… and went on an expedition in Valencia
[which was under Republican control -B.C.] spreading panic in its path.
Its goal was to “cleanse the rear of all parasitic elements that
endangered the interests of the revolution.” In Valencia, it stormed
hotels and restaurants, terrifying the city. In a raid on jewelry
stores, it seized all the gold and silver it could find.'”[64]

As the central government re-affirmed its authority, such raids on
Republican towns became too dangerous; but because the Iron Column
continued to lambast Anarchist collaboration with the Popular Front
government, the Iron Column found itself unable to obtain resources
legally either. The Iron Column continued to refuse militarization, but
the central government intensified its pressure on dissenting militias.

“[T]he war ministry had not only decided to withhold arms from all
militia units declining to reorganized themselves along the prescribed
lines, but had decreed, although in carefully selected language, that
the pay of all combatants – which in the case of the militia had
previously been handed to each column in a lump sum without supervision
and irrespective of structure – would henceforth be distributed through
regular paymasters stationed only in battalions. As the decree made no
mention of paymasters in units that had not adopted a military
framework, it was clear that if the Iron Column were to hold fast to its
militia structure the time would soon arrive when all pay would be

In the end, some members of the Iron Column deserted
rather than face militarization (ninety-seven men were denounced as
deserters by their fellow Anarchists), while the others caved in and
joined the regular army.

To be more precise, most of the Iron Column joined units which, while
nominally part of the army of the central government, were actually part
of the private fiefdom of the CNT. While the Communists did their best
to establish ideologically “mixed” units (hopefully with Communist
officers), the Anarchists tried very hard to keep Anarchist soldiers
together. So eager was the Anarchist leadership to build up armed
forces under its de facto control, that the CNT national congress freely
gave its approval to conscription – on one condition:

“Although a CNT national congress decided to agree to the mobilization
of the two classes announced by the government, it did so on the
understanding that all men with Anarchosyndicalist membership cards
should be drafted by the CNT for service in its own militia units. In
Catalonia, the regional committee of the CNT stated with reference to
this decision: ‘As it would be very childish to hand over our forces to
the absolute control of the government… the national congress has
decided that all persons in the [two mobilized] classes who belong to
our trade-union organization should present themselves immediately to
the CNT barracks or, in the absence thereof, to the trade-union or [CNT]
defense committees [of their locality], which will take note of their
affiliation, their age, their employment, the class to which they
belong, their address, and all the necessary facts… This committee
will issue militia cards that will be sent to the inscribed comrades,
who, of course, will henceforth be at the disposal of the Regional
Committee, which will assign them to the column or front selected.'”[66]

In this manner, the Spanish Anarchist abandoned even the pretense of
voluntary service in the armed forces. Rather than defend the right of
the individual to choose whether or not he wished to join the army at
all, the CNT merely did its best to get its fair share of the hapless

As the remarks about the Iron Column make clear, the CNT made no attempt
to subsist merely on voluntary donations of time and resources. It
readily accepted government hand-outs. More importantly, the Spanish
Anarchists missed no opportunity to seize needed resources. In most
cases, the Anarchists did so in areas where they were the dominant
power; the chaotic looting of the Iron Column was dwarfed by the
official looting of the various Anarchist committees and councils.
Eventually, though, there is little precious metal and hard currency
left to steal, at least in plain sight; the real source of wealth is
human beings. As the next section reveals, when the Anarchists realized
that food and valuable agricultural commodities could be extorted from
forced collectives of terrorized peasants, they saw an opportunity that
was simply too good to refuse.

E. The Rural Collectives

In August of 1937, Prime Minister Juan Negrin secretly ordered
government forces under the direction of the Communists to dissolve the
Council of Aragon, the Anarchist body which exercised de facto rule over
Republican-controlled Aragon. One of the primary actions of this
Communist-led operation was to break up the Anarchist-controlled rural
collectives. To justify their action, the Communists accused the
Anarchists of imposing forced collectivization on a hostile peasantry.
Considering Stalin’s forced collectivization and terror-famine in the
Soviet Union only a few years before, this was a curious accusation to
make.[67] But make it they did, while the beaten Anarchist movement
denounced the Communists for their brutality in the service of
counterrevolution. As Bolloten writes:

“‘The population of Aragon, especially the peasants,’ recounts the
official Communist history of the Civil War, ‘acclaimed the dissolution
of the council with indescribable enthusiasm,’ but Ricardo Sanz, the
Anarchosyndicalist commander of the Twenty-sixth Division, paints a less
radiant picture. The Eleventh Division, he claims, took by assault the
official centers in Caspe and arrested the majority of the office
workers, dissolving the Council of Aragon by force. ‘It took harsh
measures against all the villages, attacking the peasant collectives.
It despoiled them of everything – work animals, foods, agricultural
implements, and buildings – and initiated a fierce repression and
persecution of the members of the collective.'”[68]

One would have to be a fool to take Communists at their word. Still,
the fact that an accusation originated with the Communists is no reason
to bar objective research from verifying the truth of their claims. The
Communists were often the originators of reports of German atrocities
during World War II; does this mean that any historical study of Nazi
concentration camps is suspect? Of course not. It merely means that
one must take extra care to find independent sources untainted by the
Communists’ propaganda machine. (Thus, since Thomas’ evidence for the
involuntary nature of the collectives comes almost entirely from
Communist sources, I omit it.)

With this in mind, I now review the history of the Anarchists and rural
collectivization. As before, Burnett Bolloten’s The Spanish Civil
, widely acclaimed for its objectivity and comprehensiveness, is
my most frequent reference. On this particular issue, Bolloten’s words
carry if possible even greater weight, for it was Bolloten, more than
any other historian, who documented the deceptive propaganda and drive
for total power of the Spanish Communist movement.

After the attempted military coup in July 1936, there was a revolution
in many rural areas somewhat similar to that in urban areas. It should
be noted, however, that the power of the CNT was centered in the cities
rather than the countryside, so it would be extremely surprising if the
rural revolution were as “spontaneous” as the urban revolution. “Very
rapidly collectives, in which not only the means of production but also
of consumption were socialized, began to spring up,” explains Fraser.
“It did not happen on instructions from the CNT leadership – no more
than had the collectives in Barcelona. Here, as there, the initiative
came from CNT militants; here, as there, the ‘climate’ for social
revolution in the rearguard was created by CNT armed strength: the
anarcho-syndicalists’ domination of the streets of Barcelona was re-
enacted in Aragon as the CNT militia columns, manned mainly by Catalan
anarcho-syndicalist workers, poured in. Where a nucleus of anarcho-
syndicalists existed in a village, it seized the moment to carry out the
long-awaited revolution and collectivized spontaneously. Where there
was none, villagers could find themselves under considerable pressure
from the militias to collectivize…”[69] Note well Fraser’s point that
the anarchists in rural Aragon relied heavily on urban Catalonian
anarchists to get off the ground. However over-stated the Anarchists’
claim to represent “the people,” was in Barcelona, in rural Aragon such
a claim was absurd.

Bolloten gives more details about the initial stages of the rural
revolution. “Although no hard and fast rules were observed in
establishing libertarian communism, the procedure was more or less the
same everywhere. A CNT-FAI committee was set up in each locality where
the new regime was instituted. This committee not only exercised
legislative and executive powers, but also administered justice. One of
its first acts was to abolish private trade and to collectivize the soil
of the rich, and often that of the poor, as well as farm buildings,
machinery, livestock, and transport. Except in rare cases, barbers,
bakers, carpenters, sandalmakers, doctors, dentists, teachers,
blacksmiths, and tailors also came under the collective system. Stocks
of food and clothing and other necessities were concentrated in a
communal depot under the control of the local committee, and the church,
if not rendered useless by fire, was converted into a storehouse, dining
hall, cafe, workshop, school, garage, or barracks. In many communities
money for internal use was abolished…”[70]

It barely took a month for Anarchists to set themselves up as the
government of those parts of Aragon under their control, euphemistically
dubbing themselves the “Regional Defense Council of Aragon.” As Thomas
explains, “The collectives established in Aragon – the CNT later claimed
that there were 450 of them – held a conference in late September…
They set up a regional ‘Council of Defense,’ composed of CNT members,
and presided over by Joaquin Ascaso, a cousin of the famous anarchist
killed in July. This had its seat at Fraga, and thence exercised
supreme power over the whole of revolutionary Aragon.”[71] The
Anarchists angered the other Republican factions by excluding them from
the Council of Aragon, but there was little they could do. Thus, while
the behavior of the government of Catalonia was a compromise between the
Anarchists and other parties, the actions of the government of Aragon
reveal the proclivities of undivided Anarchist rule.

Many people fled for fear of their lives. Their land was seized almost
immediately. After all, who but a “fascist” would flee? The
expropriation of land from anyone too terrified of the new regime to
even wait to see what their new life would be like provided the nucleus
for the collectives. Bolloten quotes one authority, who explains that,
“‘[A]pproximately one-third of all lands and (since collectivization
occurred mainly on arable land) between half and two-thirds of all
cultivated land in Republican Spain were seized. By a cruel irony, the
victims were predominantly small and medium holders, since most of the
latifundio districts had fallen to the Nationalists…'”[72] While the
Anarchists occasionally spoke of overthrowing feudalism, they did no
such thing; feudalism had been largely abolished in Spain by the late
19th-century, as Fraser points out. “In the course of a century, the
bourgeoisie continued to extend its holdings until, by the 1930’s,
approximately 90 per cent of Spain’s farm land was in its hands, the
rest being owned by the upper nobility.”[73]

Farmers who fled for their lives were obviously not voluntary
participants in the Anarchists’ collectivization experiment. What about
the remainder? One of the persistent claims of defenders of the
Anarchists’ collectives was that the farmers were usually “free to
choose”: they could either join the collective, or continue to farm
individually so long as they hired no wage labor.

The overwhelming majority of the evidence reveals that the collectives’
defenders are simply wrong. Bolloten tells us that:

“Although CNT-FAI publications cited numerous cases of peasant
proprietors and tenant farmers who had adhered voluntarily to the
collective system, there can be no doubt that an incomparably larger
number doggedly opposed it or accepted it only under extreme

Bolloten goes on to explain that it was the presence of the Anarchist
militia which made collectivization possible. The Anarchist militants,
convinced of their superior wisdom, arrived carrying a plan for a new
way of life for the farmers:

“‘We militiamen must awaken in these persons the spirit that has been
numbed by political tyranny,’ said an article in a CNT newspaper,
referring to the villagers of Farlete. ‘We must direct them along the
path of the true life, and for that it is not sufficient to make an
appearance in the village; we must proceed with the ideological
conversion of these simple folk.'”[75] The arrogance and paternalism of
these remarks is clear; is there no possibility that the farmers might
be right and the Anarchists might be wrong?

Bolloten gives further details; due to the presence of the Anarchist
armed forces, “[T]he fate of the peasant owner and tenant farmer in the
communities occupied by the CNT-FAI militia was determined from the
outset; for although a meeting of the population was generally held to
decide on the establishment of the collective system, the vote was
always taken by acclamation, and the presence of armed militiamen never
failed to impose respect and fear on all opponents.”[76]

In answer to the Anarchists’ claims that they respected the right not to
join the collective, Bolloten answers that, “The fact is that many small
holders and tenant farmers were forced to join the collective farms
before they had an opportunity to decide freely. Although the
libertarian movement tended to minimize the factor of coercion in the
development of collectivized agriculture or even to deny it altogether,
it was, on occasions, frankly admitted. ‘During the first few weeks of
the Revolution,’ wrote Higinio Noja Ruiz, a prominent member of the CNT,
‘the partisans of collectivization acted according to their own
revolutionary opinions. They respected neither property nor persons.
In some villages collectivization was only possible by imposing it on
the minority.'”[77]

Fraser amply confirms Bolloten’s allegations. “There was no need to
dragoon them at pistol point: the coercive climate, in which ‘fascists’
were being shot, was sufficient. ‘Spontaneous’ and ‘forced’ collectives
existed, as did willing and unwilling collectivists within them.”[78]
Fraser goes on to explain that rural collectivization was very different
from urban collectivization; while the latter was indeed typically
carried out by the workers, the former was not. “The collectivization,
carried out under the general cover, if not necessarily the direct
agency, of CNT militia columns, represented a revolutionary minority’s
attempt to control not only production but consumption for egalitarian
purposes and the needs of the war. In this, agrarian collectives
differed radically from the industrial collectives which regulated
production only.”[79]

Bolloten makes a few statements about the voluntary character of the
Anarchist collectives which can be taken out of context to make it
appear that Bolloten accepts the apologists’ view that rural
collectivization was “voluntary.” “While rural collectivization in
Aragon embraced more than 70 percent of the population in the area under
left-wing control, and many of the 450 collectives of the region were
largely voluntary, it must be emphasized that this singular development
was in some measure due to the presence of militiamen from the
neighboring region of Catalonia, the immense majority of whom were
members of the CNT and FAI.”[80] It is important to realize that
Bolloten rightly regards the “voluntary” collectives to have been nearly
as coercive as the “forced” collectives:

“However, although neither the UGT nor the CNT permitted the small
Republican farmer to hold more land than he could cultivate without the
aid of hired labor, and in many instances he was unable to dispose
freely of his surplus crops because he was compelled to deliver them to
the local committee on the latter’s terms, he was often driven under
various forms of pressure, as will be shown latter in this chapter, to
attach himself to the collective system. This was true particularly in
villages where the Anarchosyndicalists were in the ascendant.”[81]
While the illegality of hiring wage labor seemed perfectly fair to the
Anarchist militants, this fact plainly demonstrates that the mere
existence of collectives cannot ensure that no one will voluntarily
contract to work for a wage-paying capitalist.

Fraser provides evidence that the prohibition against hiring wage labor
was often even stricter than it seems. As he summarizes the testimony
of one farmer, “But it was the republicans and socialists who did not
join the collective whom he pitied most. As long as they worked their
land on their own they had no problems, but if they as much as got their
brother or a neighbor to lend them a hand, then the trouble started.
The ‘individualists’ were supposed to have only as much land as they
could work on their own, and any infringement by calling on outside
labour was leapt on.”[82] Plainly it is possible to preserve a nominal
right to be an “individualist,” while in practice imposing so many
unreasonable restrictions on them that the independent farmers break
down and join the collective.

What were the “various forms of pressure” to which Bolloten alludes?

“Even if the peasant proprietor and tenant farmer were not compelled to
adhere to the collective system, life was made difficult for
recalcitrants; not only were they prevented from employing hired labor
and disposing freely of their crops, as has already been seen, but they
were often denied all benefits enjoyed by members. In practice, this
meant that in the villages where libertarian communism had been
established they were not allowed to receive the services of the
collectivized barber shops, to use the ovens of the communal bakery and
the means of transport and agricultural equipment of the collective
farms, or to obtain supplies of food from the communal warehouse and
collectivized stores. Moreover, the tenant farmer, who had believed
himself freed from the payment of rent by the execution or flight of the
landowner or of his steward, was often compelled to continue such
payment to the village committee. All these factors combined to exert
pressure almost as powerful as the butt of the rifle and eventually
forced the small owners and tenant farmers in many villages to
relinquish their land and other possessions to the collective

It is especially strange that anarcho-socialists, who
frequently claim that superficially voluntary interaction (such as the
capitalist-worker relationship) is really coercive, so credulously
accept the voluntarist credentials of the Anarchist-run rural
collectives. At least the worker can try to find another employer; but
how “voluntary” was the decision of a farmer to join the collective when
he had to sell his crops to a legally protected Anarchist monopsony
anyway? If the middlemen and speculators had not been banned by the
Anarchists, an independent farmer could always have sold to them if the
Anarchists’ price was too low.

Even Graham Kelsey, an historian with unbridled sympathy for the
Anarchist movement, reluctantly reveals an important prod used to push
the hapless peasantry into the collectives. “The military insurrection
had come at a critical moment in the agricultural calendar. Throughout
lower Aragon there were fields of grain ready for harvesting… At the
assembly in Albalate de Cinca the opening clause of the agreed programme
had required everyone in the district, independent farmers and
collectivists alike, to contribute equally to the war effort, thereby
emphasizing one of the most important considerations in the period
immediately following the rebellion.”[84] The independent farmer, in
short, had no option to remain aloof from the Anarchists’ cause and do
his own thing; even if he could keep his land, a large part of his
product belonged to the CNT. The fact that only a small percentage of
the Anarchist collectives were called “total,” cannot alter the fact
that aside from the intense monopolistic pressure wielded by the CNT
through its stranglehold over the economy and agricultural markets, an
independent farmer still had to “contribute equally to the war effort.”

Fraser relays the testimony of Fernando Aragon and his wife Francisca,
“both staunch CNT supporters,” which concretizes the overwhelming
monopolistic power of the Anarchists over the economy. “Three or four
of the peasants with larger holdings tried to leave the collective, but
the committee controlled all the sources of seed and fertilizer and
there was nowhere, now that money had been abolished, where they could
buy what they needed. They had to remain in… But soon he saw that it
was not only the reluctant peasants who had no desire to work: it was
the twenty-odd committee members – ‘where three or four would have been
enough,’ – of the village committee. The younger men went round with
pistols stuck in their waistbands, looking – ‘but not working’ – like
revolutionaries… The collective produced considerable quantities, all
the village’s needs were met, except when the committee refused to
distribute stocks.”[85] Francisca Aragon tells Fraser that when one of
their twin infants fell sick, the committee refused her transport to see
a doctor. “‘There was great discontent. The women talked about it. We
went out to work in the fields – and it was right that we should. But
why didn’t the wives of the committee members have to go? If things
went on like this, we would have to get rid of the committee. I wanted
to leave, but I couldn’t. We had no money, no means. Moreover, the
committee had guards posted on the roads. It was terror,
dictatorship…'”[86] In a footnote, Fraser insightfully explains that
once the CNT engineered the abolition of money (no one even tries to
explain how the abolition of money could be voluntary), the peasants
were helpless. A poor person with a little money has options; the
Aragonese peasantry did not. “The problem of the collectivists’ freedom
to leave villages – permanently or on trips – exercised the imagination
of observers from the start. With the abolition of money, the
collective held the upper hand since anyone wishing to travel had to get
‘republican’ money from the committee. This meant justifying the

Needless to say, there was little or no freedom of religion in the
Anarchist collectives. While many accounts praise the Anarchists’
lavish educational spending, they rarely point out that a major goal was
to brainwash the next generation. As Thomas describes, “Church schools
were shut: ‘The revolutionary will of the people has suppressed schools
of confessional tendency. Now is the turn of the new school, based on
rationalist principles of work and human fraternity.'”[88] The
despotism of the Anarchists sometimes even extended to the pettiness of
prohibiting not only alcohol but coffee and tobacco. “In the
libertarian village of Magdalena de Pulpis, for example, the abolition
of alcohol and tobacco was hailed as a triumph. In the village of
Azuara, the collectivists closed the cafe because they regarded it as a
‘frivolous institution.'”[89] Bolloten quotes Franz Borkenau, an
eyewitness. “‘I tried in vain to get a drink, either of coffee or wine
or lemonade. The village bar had been closed as nefarious commerce. I
had a look at the stores. They were so low as to foretell approaching
starvation. But the inhabitants seemed to be proud of this state of
things. They were pleased, they told us, that coffee drinking had come
to an end; they seemed to regard this abolition of useless things as a
moral improvement.'”[90] As one peasant put it, “‘[T]here is no money
for vice.'”[91] Thus, the freedom of the Aragonese peasantry was the
Orwellian freedom to live precisely as the Anarchist militia deemed

The typical objective of forced agricultural collectivization, in both
Communist and Third World countries, has been to fund centrally planned
industrialization. The ugly secret of the Anarchists is that the
underlying objective of forced collectivization was to fund their
military and cement the power of their councils and committees. Part of
the seized agricultural product was used to feed the troops; the rest
was sold on international markets for gold and hard currency, which in
turn could buy armaments. For once in the literal sense, the peasants
were “exploited,” deliberately cut off from competing purchasers, left
with no choice but to sell to the CNT for a pittance, which could in
turn either use the product itself or re-sell at normal world prices.

Graham Kelsey, a fervent admirer of the Spanish Anarchists, tries his
best to portray this naked exploitation favorably. “To organize the
provisioning of the front-line volunteers as rapidly and as equitably as
possibly was to be more than merely an aim in itself. One of the most
common corollaries of war in a capitalist system is the development of
such social and economic evils as black-marketeering, profiteering, and,
as a consequence, arbitrarily imposed shortages and serious inflation.
The villages from which large numbers of volunteers had joined the
columns had immediately organized the despatch of supplies to the front.
These villages, however, were but a handful, chiefly those with strong
anarchosyndicalist traditions. Evidently the situation had to be
regularized, particularly as the initial insurrection had begun to
assume all the characteristics of a prolonged military confrontation.
Agricultural collectivisation, therefore, became both a way of ensuring
the equal contribution of all villages to the burden posed by the
conflict and also a way of making it impossible for those who possessed
the means or the inclination to profit from the exigencies placed upon
the regional economy by the presence of civil war. It was not just a
libertarian theory; it was also the only way to ensure the maximum
agricultural production with the minimum economic corruption.”[92]

Kelsey is virtually the only academic historian who attempts to affirm
the voluntary character of the Anarchist collectives. Among his many
puzzling statements, one that stands out is his attempt to prove that
the collectives must have been voluntary because everyone supported
them, regardless of party. “Another sign of the acceptance of
agricultural collectivisation was the adherence of the members of other
trade-union and political groups all of which, nationally, maintained a
hostile stance towards collectivisation.”[93] Normal people see an
unnatural degree of unanimity and infer that such agreement could only
be the result of extreme coercion. Kelsey sees an unnatural degree of
unanimity and infers that such agreement could only be the result of the
extraordinary goodness of the collectives. (Similarly, a band of well-
armed conquistadors could attribute the sudden conversion of pagans to
the inescapable truth of the Catholic faith, and deny that their
firearms had anything to do with the pagans’ decision.)

Fraser, relying on the testimony of CNT leader Macario Royo, confirms
this seldom-mentioned motive. “[Royo] believed that collectives were
the most appropriate organization for controlling production and
consumption, and ensuring that a surplus was made available for the
front. ‘Everything was disorganized. The columns depended on the
villages, they had no other source of supply. If there had been no
collectives, if each peasant had kept what he produced and disposed of
it as he wished, it would have made the matter of supplies much more
difficult…'”[94] Indeed it would have; if there had been a free
market, the farmers would be paid the value of their labor. There is
much irony in Royo’s tacit admission that the “problem” with the free
market is that it prevents exploitation, ensuring that everyone
gets paid for the product of their labor. “By abolishing a free market
and in effect rationing consumer goods, mainly food, the collectives
controlled the local economy. Feeding the columns without payment
became a source of pride or resentment, depending on the villager’s
ideological commitment. But for Royo, as for most Aragonese
libertarians, the matter did not end there. The fundamental purpose of
founding the collectives was social equality. ‘That each should produce
according to his ability, each consume according to his need. Equality
in production, equality in consumption. To supply everyone equally in
the collective as well as the columns at the front – this was the
principle and usefulness of the collectives.'”[95] Presumably the poor
workers of the villages did not realized that “equality” would also
guarantee an equal share for Anarchist soldiers who never set a foot in
the village.

The necessities went to feed the troops; the agricultural luxuries were
taken to be sold on international markets. “A more genuine grievance
against the CNT by its opponents was its control of the main ports and
the Franco-Spanish border, a control that enabled it to ship abroad
through its own export entities valuable agricultural products that
yielded large quantities of foreign exchange. Whereas the
Anarchosyndicalists regarded this control as an inalienable conquest of
the Revolution, the central government viewed it as an impingement on
the indefeasible power of the state… Julian Zugazagoitia, the moderate
Socialist, who became interior minister under Negrin in May 1937, claims
that the premier and finance minister ‘preferred not to have Anarchists
in the government’ because he wished ‘to dismantle all the export
organizations created by the CNT,’ and ‘to end once and for all’ the
loss of foreign exchange resulting from the shipment abroad of almonds,
oranges, and saffron.'”[96]

In July of 1937, the Aragonese Anarchists were desperately trying to
avoid the fate of their Catalonian comrades. The Communists had
replaced the Anarchists as the dominant force in Catalonia. Was Aragon
next? Jose Peirats, the Anarchist historian, provides the setting. “In
his commemorative speech on July 19, 1937, the President of the Council
of Aragon was extremely pessimistic… ‘it would be regrettable if
anyone tried to make trouble for [the Council of Aragon], for that would
force [the Council] to unsheathe its claws of iron and teeth of
steel.'”[97] In December of 1936, the Council agreed to share some of
its power with members of other Republican parties, but the dominant
position of the Anarchists remained. “Subsequently the President
reported on the accomplishments made over the first year: speculation
and usury had been suppressed; roads and highways had been constructed
with the disinterested help of the militia…; and the Aragonese
collectives, in spite of their deficiencies, were the wonder the
revolution.”[98] Clearly in a conciliatory mood, the President
emphasized that the right to farm individually would be protected (thus
implicitly admitting widespread violation of this right). Moreover, the
President could point to an agreement signed by all of the Republican
factions of Aragon, which read in part: “‘The Council of Aragon, which
will collaborate enthusiastically with the legitimate government of the
Republic, will increase production in the rearguard, mobilize all the
region’s resources for the war effort, arouse the antifascist spirit of
the masses… and undertake an intense purge in the liberated zones; it
will impose unrelenting order and hunt down hidden fascists, defeatists
and speculators.'”[99] The totalitarian tone of these words is hard to

The Council’s protestations of its loyalty and ecumenical spirit did not
save it from an invasion of Communist-led forces under the orders of the
central government. The Communists broke up many collectives, even
voluntary ones (although as noted the “voluntarism” of the collectives
was universally questionable). Bolloten summarizes a report of the
Aragon CNT: “the land, farm implements, horses, and cattle confiscated
from right-wing supporters were returned to their former owners or to
their families; new buildings erected by the collectives, such as
stables and hen coops, were destroyed, and in some villages the farms
were deprived even of seed for sowing, while six hundred members of the
CNT were arrested.”[100] After their initial onslaught, the Communists
backed off somewhat; so long as the Anarchists were out of power, the
Communists were generally willing to accept a milder form of

Apologists for the Anarchists frequently point to the fact that many
collectives persisted even after the Communist-led forces destroyed the
Council of Aragon. For example, Peirats tells us that “The Penalba
collective which, at the beginning of the revolution, was composed of
the entire village of 1500 people was reduced to 500 members. It is
very possible that in this second phase the collectivization better
reflects the sincere convictions of the members. They had undergone a
severe test and those who had withstood it were proven collectivists.
Yet it would be facile to label as anticollectivists those who abandoned
the collectives in this second phase. Fear, official coercion and
insecurity weighed heavily in the decisions of much of the Aragonese
peasantry.”[101] Peirats’ double-standard is worth contemplating. While
he is extraordinarily sensitive to hidden coercion undermining the
voluntariness of the de-collectivizations, the enormous economic
bludgeon used to form the collectives in the first place barely bothers
him. Even after the destruction of the Council of Aragon, might not
some farmers have remained within the collectives out of fear of later
persecution if the CNT regained power? The interview of Juan Martinez
(a “medium-holding peasant… who had thought the collectives were not a
bad idea”) with Fraser confirms that such was indeed the case. “‘Most
of the people left, and were happy to do so. Those who remained – about
a quarter of the original number – were under no pressure to do so;
nobody bothered them, nobody tried to break up their collective. In
fact, one or two of the peasants with bigger holdings left their land in
because they were frightened the situation might change again…'”[102]

Bolloten aptly sums up the ironclad case against the Anarchist rural
collectives, a case which need not rely on Communist-tainted testimony
or sources:

“If, theoretically, during the Spanish Revolution, the CNT and FAI were
opposed to the state dictatorship established by the Marxists, they
nevertheless established a form of parochial dictatorship in many
localities, with the aid of vigilance groups and revolutionary
tribunals. While these fell far short of the ‘scientific concept’ of
totalitarian dictatorship defined by Lenin, the CNT and FAI exercised
their power in a naked form not only against priests and landowners,
moneylenders and merchants, but in many cases against small tradesmen
and farmers.”[103] This dictatorship would undoubtedly have become even
more egregious if the Anarchists had ever become the dominant power in
Spain; Bolloten cites numerous Anarchist publications explaining that
the concessions to voluntarism and individualism were merely temporary
expedients which would be withdrawn as soon as the Anarchists were too
powerful to be challenged.

3. Economics and the Spanish Anarchists

A. Background for the Civil War: The Great Depression and the
Labor Market

It is impossible to understand the economics of the Spanish Civil War
without realizing that in 1936, Spain remained in the midst of the
international Great Depression. If Spanish industrial production in
1929 is set equal to 100, then in 1935 it remained at a stagnant 86.9 in
spite of six years’ worth of population growth. In Catalonia, if one
indexes industrial production in January 1936 at 100, one finds that by
July of 1936 output was lower still at 82. In short, production at the
start of the revolution was an additional 18% below the depression-level
output of January 1936. Unemployment by all accounts was
correspondingly high.[104]

What was the reason for the pre-war depression anyway? A large
consensus of economic historians argues, persuasively in my view, that
the essential cause of the Great Depression was the international
monetary contraction of the late 20’s and early 30’s. Milton Friedman
and Anna Schwartz’s A Monetary History of the United States [105]
was the seminal academic work which established the magnitude and
importance of the monetary contraction in the United States. Barry
Eichengreen’s Golden Fetters [106] largely extends Friedman and
Schwartz’s argument to the international economy, showing how the gold
standard re-established after World War I was very shaky and wound up
yielding an international monetary contraction. Spain was not itself on
the gold standard, but bank notes had to be backed by a fractional
reserve of gold so many of the same forces would be at work.[107]

Monetary contraction is thus the first symptom to look for; but by any
measure, it did not occur. Spain devalued the peseta (a move
which makes it much easier to avoid deflation) to 79.5% of parity in
1930, and continued to devalue it until by 1935 the gold content of the
peseta was a mere 55.3% of par. Looking at combined savings bank
deposits (a standard component in most measures of money supply provided
by Thomas), it can be seen that the peseta quantity of deposits
constantly increased over the period for which data is available: from
1847 million pesetas in 1928, to 4116 million pesetas in 1934.
Similarly, the number of pesetas it took to buy one
British pound (N.B. The Bank of London was noted for its swift
devaluation.) increased from 25.22 in January of 1930 to 36.00 in
January of 1936. In short, there was a large decline in the
international value of the peseta, reflecting large money supply
increases uncharacteristic of other countries during this era. A final
clue which confirms the fact of high money supply growth in Spain is
that Madrid in 1936 was estimated to have one of the largest gold
reserves in the world – precisely what one would expect in a nation
which had repeatedly cut the gold content of the peseta in order to
remove any institutional constraints on rapid money supply growth.[108]

If the standard monetary explanation fails to explain the Spanish
depression, what other factors might be involved? The preponderance of
the evidence indicates that the Spanish labor unions, of which the CNT
was foremost, through their intransigent militancy and activism,
succeeded in raising real wages approximately 20% from 1929 to
1936.[109] Tortella and Palafox’s calculations reveal a 20.5% real wage
increase in mining, a 17.6% increase in metallurgy, a 19.9% increase in
textiles (22.3% for women), and a 23.7% increase in agriculture (35%
increase for women) over the 1929-1936 period. In their ignorance of
and emotional hostility to classical economic theory, the trade-
unionists probably did not realize that the necessary consequence of
pushing real wages so far above the market level would be massive
unemployment; but massive unemployment was indeed the result. The
mounting hostility to employers, sabotage, and so on undoubtedly
decreased the expected marginal productivity of labor, leaving the
prevailing union wage scale even farther above the market-clearing

The unions enjoyed ample assistance from the government. Paul Preston
sums up Caballero’s labor decrees, many of which greatly improved the
labor unions’ bargaining position. “The so-called ‘decree of municipal
boundaries’ prevented the hiring of outside labor while local workers in
a given municipality remained unemployed. It struck at the landowners’
most potent weapon, the power to break strikes and keep down wages by
the import of cheap blackleg labor.”[110] Thus even the trade unions
realized on some level, however rudimentary, that raising the price of
labor would reduce the quantity demanded. Moreover, on some level the
unionists realized that unions benefit their members at the expense of
other (preferably non-union) workers priced out of a job. Preston
continues, “Largo Caballero did something that Primo de Rivera had not
been able to do: he introduced arbitration committees for rural wages
and working conditions, which had previously been subject only to the
whim of the owners. One of the rights now to be protected was the newly
introduced eight-hour day. Given that, previously, the braceros had
been expected to work from sunup to sundown, this meant that owners
would either have to pay overtime or else employ more men to do the same
work. [Or produce less output, which was probably the most important
response. -B.C.] Finally, in order to prevent the owners from
sabotaging these measures by lock-outs, a decree of obligatory
cultivation prevented them from taking their land out of

Thus, while it avoided the monetary contraction which plagued other
nations in the early 30’s, Spain enjoyed a depression courtesy of its
militant labor unions, assisted by the labor laws of the Republican
government. Disturbed by the plight of the workers, the unions and the
government simple-mindedly tried to make matters better by pushing up
wages and improving working conditions. The necessary and empirically
observed result was massive unemployment; many workers were simply not
worth the higher price, and so no one chose to hire them. Rather than
blame the unions and the “pro-labor” government, many unemployed workers
turned to ever greater militancy and hatred of the capitalist

Perhaps the most plausible criticism of capitalist economies is that
they sometimes allow useful labor and capital to go to waste. Under the
circumstances, one might expect that the workers’ revolutionary takeover
of their employers’ property in 1936 would have to make matters better.
With all these idle workers seizing the empty factories, wouldn’t
production have to increase? It did not; after the establishment of
worker control, unemployment became even more severe despite the wartime
economy’s massive monetary growth and conscription. The next section
investigates this puzzle in detail.

B. The Economics of the Civil War: Collectivization, Inflation,
and the Black Market

The puzzle of urban collectivization begins at the outset. With massive
unemployment still prevailing, the CNT began closing plants and
concentrating workers in the most “modern” firms. The obvious measure
would have been to open the doors of every collective to the mass of
unemployed workers and invite them to select their new workplace. But
the unions insisted that in some sense the older plants were not
“efficient.” No effort was made to analyze the coherence of this view;
in particular, the unions showed no understanding of the difference
between average and marginal productivity. (The superiority of the
average productivity of the modern plants in no way shows that marginal
productivity was greater, and it is marginal productivity that matters
for “efficiency” decisions.) Bolloten describes this massive shut down
decision at length: “‘Those small employers of labor who are a little
enlightened,’ declared Solidaridad Obrera , the principal
Anarchosyndicalist organ in Spain, ‘will easily understand that the
system of producing goods in small plants is not efficient. Divided
effort holds back production. Operating a tiny workshop with handicraft
methods is not the same as operating a large plant that utilizes all the
advances of technology. If our aim is to do away with the contingencies
and insecurities of the capitalist regime, then we must direct
production in a way that ensures the well-being of society.'”[113]
Apparently the well-being of unemployed workers was of no concern; in
spite of its high levels, the issue never even arises. Bolloten gives
the details of the wave of business closings. “In accordance with this
outlook, the CNT workers, sweeping along with them those of the UGT,
closed down more than seventy foundries in the region of Catalonia and
concentrated their equipment and personnel in twenty-four… In
Barcelona, the CNT and UGT woodworkers’ unions – which had already set
up control committees in every shop and factory and used the former
employers as technical managers at the standard wage for workers –
reorganized the entire industry by closing down hundreds of small
workshops and concentrating production in the largest plants. In the
same city the CNT carried out equally radical changes in the tanning
trade, reducing 71 plants to 40, while in the glass industry, 100 plants
and warehouses were cut down to 30.”[114] Similar measures were applied
to the barber shops and beauty parlors; in the dressmaking, tailoring,
metal, carpentry, and leather goods trades; in candy, shoemaking, metal
and textiles, lumber, bricklaying, tanning, baking, cabinetmaking, and
on and on.

While this program did nothing to alleviate massive unemployment, it did
have other advantages from the point of view of the employed trade
unionists. It helped to curtail production, protect themselves against
competition, and thus keep prices high. Moreover, it helped centralize
each industry, making it somewhat easier to run them top-down, to secure
compliance with the orders of the Anarchist leadership. Bolloten quotes
the sympathetic observer Leval. “‘The machinery was gathered together
in several workshops, sometimes in a single workshop. In this way, the
regulation of production was simplified and coordination of effort was
more effective.'”[115]

By all accounts, the workers swiftly raised their own wages, cut their
own hours, and improved working conditions. One obvious motive, as
mentioned earlier, was to eliminate accounting profits by simply
increasing wages until no taxable profits remained. As Fraser writes,
“[The collectives] generated little or no apparent surplus, and even
less so if they were paying ‘unproductive’ wages. This in turn meant
that the money due to go to the credit fund to finance, and eliminate
disparities between, collectives was impaired.”[116] Fraser sums up the
experience of the collective of CNT secretary Joan Ferrer. “Profits
were not a problem – there were none, at least up to mid-1937 when
Ferrer joined the army. Any surplus there might have been was ploughed
back into the stores; wages were raised, working conditions improved and
other improvements made.”[117] Decrees in Catalonia established the
forty-hour week and raised wages 15 percent, and mandated the rehiring
of workers discharged on political grounds.

The essential problem of the labor market before the Civil War simply
became worse. Real wages were too high; in consequence, there was a
labor surplus, or “unemployment.” When the workers seized control, they
simply compounded the problem by raising their own wages even further,
improving working conditions (i.e., selecting more comfort and lower
productivity), abolishing piece rates (i.e., selecting more leisure and
lower productivity), and so on. The experience of CNT member and
textile foreman Josep Costa was perhaps more extreme than most. “Piece-
work was abolished, the working week reduced to forty hours (and soon to
much less because of raw materials shortages), the ‘first social
security system in Spain’ created: full retirement pay, free medical
care, free medicines, sick pay, maternity pay (two days’ pay off work
for the husband when his wife was giving birth), a clinic for specialist
services and childbirth – the scheme being financed by a levy per worker
in each collective that had the funds. An unemployment fund was
created, and a proportion of those out of work were found jobs outside
the textile industry.”[118] No one seemed to realize that the higher
pay and improved working conditions were the primary reason there was an
unemployment problem in the first place.

There did exist a simple expedient whereby the unionized workers could
have retained their privileged positions while creating opportunities
for the innumerable jobless workers. They could have created an openly
two-tier regime: old workers present before the collectivization get
paid the high wage and get to share in the profits; new workers get a
meager, market-clearing wage and don’t share in the profits. Of course,
to have done so would have required the trade unionists to indirectly
admit that their militancy had created the problems which they had
always blamed on the capitalist system. Moreover, it would have forced
them to abandon their egalitarian ethic. Better to let a person rot in
idleness than permit inequality.

The situation was essentially similar to that of a modern law firm. If
every novice lawyer and secretary became a full partner as soon as they
were hired, there would be many unemployed novices and secretaries. The
current partners would want to avoid diluting the value of their shares,
and would therefore keep hiring to a minimum. Modern law firms solve
this problem by accepting inequality as a fact of life; a share of the
profits is reserved for the elite lawyers, and the other employees
simply receive a comparatively small salary. Crippled by their
egalitarian ethos, the worker-controlled firms of Anarchist Spain could
not bring themselves to do this. In consequence, in spite of massive
money supply growth and conscription, Catalonian unemployment (complete
and partial, Fraser notes) increased from an index of 100 in January-
June 1936 to 135.7 in December 1936, and fell slightly to 123.6 in June
1937, and 120.1 in November 1937.[119]

Urban workers overall often suffered from urban collectivization. But
at least some urban workers clearly seemed to greatly improve their
standard of living during the early stages of the war. These were the
lucky workers who already had good jobs in good factories; they enhanced
their fortunate condition by seizing control of the factories and
channeling their former employer’s profits to themselves (with a
combination of wage increases, more job benefits, better working
conditions, and more leisure). Workers who had jobs in marginal plants
found their condition was basically the same as before, only now they
had to worry about bankruptcy instead of their boss. Unemployed workers
who were previously priced out of the labor market by Catalonia’s
powerful unions probably found life even harder. Whether capitalists or
the workers ran the factories, the redistribution from unemployed and
non-union workers to employed and union workers remained constant.

The rural agricultural workers’ plight was very different. The
redistribution was not normally from one rural worker to another;
rather, the mass of rural workers were exploited by the Anarchist
military elite in their struggle to win the war. Thus, people
frequently linked collectivization with the so-called “war effort”; the
collectives would toil, receive their rations, and see the rest taken
from them. Fraser summarizes the observation of Juan Zafon, propaganda
delegate of the Council of Aragon. “The free, independent municipality,
the collective which abolished the exploitation of man by man, the
federal structure which linked each village at district and regional
level and, after supplying the needs of the villages and fronts,
channeled what surplus was produced to the council, which in turn could
sell or exchange it with other regions or abroad; ‘all this had been
talked and written about, but it had been no more than a slogan until
then.'”[120] Strip aside the propaganda delegate’s misleading remarks
about the “freedom” and “independence” of the municipality, and the
harsh truth reveals itself: the Anarchists took the surplus of the
farmers, gave them little or nothing in return, and used it to fight the
war. Fraser’s interview with CNT militant Ernesto Margeli further
supports my contention that the Anarchists collectivized in order to
better exploit the peasantry. “[A]s militia forces continued to arrive,
as the problem of supplying them became more acute, and as the
disorganization of the initial period did not give way to anything
better, several CNT members, including Margeli, realized that something
had to be done. ‘We were living through a revolutionary moment; it had
fallen into our hands. Even if the people weren’t prepared, we had to
make the revolution now…'”[121] While Margeli tried to convince the
farmers that collectivization would be more efficient, he clearly
indicates that the impetus for his decision was the need to supply the
voracious Anarchist military.

Bolloten once again provides voluminous evidence untainted by Communist
sources proving that collectivization was imposed under duress;
moreover, he confirms that the Anarchists were over-eager to
collectivize because they were desperate for supplies and intended to
extort what they needed out of the peasantry. “By October 1936, the
uncontrolled requisitioning of food and animals by the militia columns,
the majority libertarian, had become so serious as to threaten,
according to Joaquin Ascaso, the Anarchist president of the council, the
‘total ruin’ of the region. This, he said, impelled the council to
prohibit the heads of the columns from making requisitions without its
prior approval. ‘We hope that everyone, without exception, will abide
by this order, thus avoiding the lamentable and paradoxical circumstance
of a free people hating its liberty and its liberators, and the no less
sad situation of a people totally ruined by the Revolution for which it
has always yearned.'”[122]

If statistics can be believed, there were striking differences between
the urban and the rural sectors in the Anarchist-controlled regions.
Both sectors, it should be recalled, started the war under extremely
depressed conditions; but from this similar starting point, their
progress was quite different.

The urban sector simply went from bad to worse. Thomas indexes
Catalonian industrial production to equal 100 in January 1936.
Production fluctuated between 100 and 94 until July 1936 when the
revolution broke out. Production plummeted to 82, but in the midst of
chaos, transfer of control, and fighting with Nationalists, this is
understandable. What is not understandable is that production never
rose above the July 1936 level for as long as the war lasted. It
fell to 64 in August, recovered slightly to 73 in September, and then
fluctuated between 71 and 53 until April of 1938. In the last months of
Republican control in Catalonia, facing imminent Nationalist invasion,
production dropped even more, fluctuating between 41 and 31 until the
collection of economic statistics ceased.

The rural sector, in contrast, had much more mixed performance. The
agricultural statistics, which Thomas states were gathered under a
Communist agriculture ministry, indicate that 1937 output was 21 percent
below 1936 output in Catalonia; 20 percent greater Aragon, 16 percent
greater in the Central Zone, and 8 percent lower in Levante. (The
figures were adjusted to account for the capture of farmland by the
Nationalists.) Collectivization was most widespread in Aragon, but
existed everywhere to some extent. Apologists for the Anarchist
collectives find the 20 percent output increase in Aragon to be stunning
evidence for the value of their institutions. (The equally drastic
decline in Catalonia is often discounted because collectivization
was less complete there than in Aragon.) In fact, due to the prior
depressed conditions, any system which made use of idle land and
workers, however inefficient, could have made great strides forward.
Moreover, as Thomas explains, “Alas, the trouble was that, even if there
were indeed an increase of wheat, as these figures suggest, the
increased consumption at the place of production, the decay of systems
of transport and distribution, the increase of refugees and the greater
demand for food made inevitable by the nationalist blockade, caused a
shortage of food in all the cities of the republic except

Of course, one may doubt the veracity of the numbers. Urban collectives
no doubt wished to understate their production in order to sell more on
the black market. The reports made to the ministry of agriculture may
have overstated true production in order to win favor for the
Anarchists’ collectivization experiment.

Yet if we entertain the notion that the numbers are accurate, there is
indeed an interesting pattern. When the workers actually had control,
output declined 30 to 40 percent below its previous depressed level.
When the workers’ control was largely fictitious, production sometimes
increased by 20 percent – albeit 20 percent above the level of the
depression. The urban workers who actually had control had no incentive
to tap into the vast unemployed resources; doing so would merely dilute
the value of each worker’s share. In contrast, the Anarchist militants
who ran the agricultural collectives had no reason to keep resources
idle; they weren’t really paying the peasants anyway, so why not make
use of as many of them as possible? Slavery is often economically
inefficient, but this is not a necessary truth; slaves may work with
less energy than free workers, but the slave-owner may opt to force the
slave to work so many additional hours that his overall output rises.

Kelsey notes that women and even elderly farmers toiled in the fields
under Anarchist rule. “Throughout the collectives many people were
working harder and longer than before. The large number of men who had
gone to man the front-lines meant that others, including women and older
people, were needed to assist with much of the work. Many writers found
that contrary to this being resented people were ready and willing to
work extra hours and that, as at Graus, pensions were actually looked
upon as something of an insult, older workers demanding the right to
give their labour as everyone else.”[124] An alternative explanation
for the same facts is that the Anarchist leaders terrorized as many
people as possible to work in the fields, and that the victims were too
frightened to inform Anarchist journalists of the real story.

There was one form of exploitation inflicted upon the workers for which
the central government, rather than the Anarchists, was directly to
blame. The Spanish government had long held essentially unlimited
control over the money supply; the peseta was a fiat currency, which
means that all the government had to do to get more money was to turn on
the printing press. During the war, the Spanish government found the
temptation to fund itself with the printing press irresistible. This
can easily be seen by looking at the exchange rate with the pound: in
January of 1936, it only took 36 pesetas to buy 1 pound; by January of
1937, it took 115; by January of 1938, 219, and by January of 1939, it
took a full 488 pesetas to buy a single pound. (In 1938 the Republic
also issued a new kind of note which depreciated in valued even more
swiftly.) The inevitable result of this was massive inflation. When
this inflation set in, the central government did what governments
always do: blame the free market and impose price controls. The natural
result is a massive shortage of goods, rationing, and corruption. When
desperate people break the law by buying or selling goods above the
legal price, the government labels their action “black market activity”
and declares it a crime.

Thus, throughout the wartime period, the Republican government used the
power of the printing press to fund itself. Ordinary people wanted to
buy things to make their life better; frequently, they just wanted to
buy the bare necessities of life. This did not accord with the
government’s plan, which was to bleed the people of Spain dry in order
to defend its authority. As Fraser explains, “The cost of living
quadrupled in just over two years; wages (as far as can be ascertained)
only doubled. Inevitably, the working class bore the brunt of the civil
war.”[125] Thomas’ numbers indicate that if wholesale prices are
indexed to equal 100 in 1913, then they stood at 168.8 in January of
1936, 174.7 in July of 1936 when the war started, 209.6 in December
1936, 389.1 in December of 1937, and 564.7 in December of 1938. This
understates the suffering of Spanish consumers, because very often the
existence of price controls meant that no goods were even available to
buy (except at much higher black market prices).

While the Anarchists did not control the Spanish money supply, they did
nothing to hinder the government’s grand act of legalized
counterfeiting, and played a supporting role by demonizing the so-called
“black market” instead of the true culprit: the Spanish central bank.
The Council of Aragon’s multi-party agreement, as previously noted,
pledged to “impose unrelenting order and hunt down hidden fascists,
defeatists, and speculators.”[126] Fraser describes the situation in
Barcelona in the spring of 1937: “Food was in short supply and there
were long bread queues. In April, women demonstrated in the streets
against the cost of living, which had just risen a further 13 per cent
on top of the increases that had already added nearly two thirds to the
index since the start of the war.”[127] Rather than place the blame on
the central government’s printing press where it belonged, the former
CNT supplies minister Joan Domenech criticized “the PSUC [Communist]
leader for abolishing the controls he had set up and establishing a free
market in food. ‘I knew that if supplies weren’t controlled a black
market would spring up. I practised a sort of dictatorship over
supplies and prices… By saying there were shortages, Comorera created
them because people rushed in to buy whatever they could…'”[128]

The central government controlled the money supply, not the CNT, so it
must bear the primary blame.[129] But it is interesting to note that
the CNT stood quietly by and scapegoated the so-called “black market”
rather than standing up for the economic interests of the workers they
claimed to represent. By the end of the war, a large percentage of the
Spanish workers must have found themselves destitute, their hard-earned
pesetas not worth the paper they were printed on.

C. The Dilemma, Part I: Capitalist Anarchism

Suppose that there were a standard capitalist economy in which a class
of wealthy capitalists owned the means of production and hired the rest
of the population as wage laborers. Through extraordinary effort, the
workers in each factory save enough money to buy out their employers.
The capitalists’ shares of stock change hands, so that the workers of
each firm now own and control their workplace. Question: Is this still
a “capitalist society”? Of course; there is still private property in
the means of production, it simply has different owners than before.
The economy functions the same as it always did: the workers at each
firm do their best to enrich themselves by selling desired products to
consumers; there is inequality due to both ability and luck; firms
compete for customers. Nothing changes but the recipient of the

This simple thought experiment reveals the dilemma of the anarcho-
socialist. If the workers seize control of their plants and run them as
they wish, capitalism remains. The only way to suppress what socialists
most despise about capitalism – greed, inequality, and competition – is
to force the worker-owners to do something they are unlikely to do
voluntarily. To do so requires a state, an organization with sufficient
firepower to impose unselfishness, equality, and coordination upon
recalcitrant workers. One can call the state a council, a committee, a
union, or by any other euphemism, but the simple truth remains:
socialism requires a state.

A priori reasoning alone establishes this, but empiricists may be
skeptical. Surely there is some “middle way” which is both anarchist
and socialist? To the contrary; the experience of Spanish Anarchism
could give no clearer proof that insofar as collectivization was
anarchist, it was capitalist, and insofar as collectivization was
socialist, it was statist. The only solution to this dilemma, if
solution it may be called, is to retain the all-powerful state, but use
a new word to designate it.

An overwhelming body of evidence from a wide variety of sources confirms
that when the workers really controlled their factories, capitalism
merely changed it form; it did not cease to exist. Summarizing a CNT-
UGT textile conference, Fraser explains that, “experience had already
demonstrated that it was necessary to proceed rapidly towards a total
socialization of the industry if ownership of the means of production
was not once more to lead to man’s exploitation of man. The works
councils did not in practice know what to do with the means of
production and lacked a plan for the whole industry; as far as the
market was concerned, the decree had changed none of the basic
capitalist defects ‘except that whereas before it was the owners who
competed amongst themselves it is now the workers.'”[130] Bolloten
records that, “According to Daniel Guerin, an authority on the Spanish
Anarchist movement, ‘it appeared… that workers’ self-management might
lead to a kind of egotistical particularlism, each enterprise being
concerned solely with its own interests… As a result, the excess
revenues of the bus company were used to support the street cars, which
were less profitable.’ But, in actuality, there were many cases of
inequality that could not be so easily resolved.”[131]

Thomas confirms this picture. “Anarchists were willing to admit that
the revolution had brought problems they had not dreamt of: the FAI
leader, Abad de Santillan (then economic councillor in the Generalidad)
wrote candidly: ‘We had seen in the private ownership of the means of
production, of factories, of means of transport, in the capitalist
apparatus of distribution, the main cause of misery and injustice. We
wished the socialization of all wealth so that not a single individual
would be left out of the banquet of life. We have now done something,
but we have not done it well. In place of the old owner, we have
substituted a half-dozen new ones who consider the factory, the means of
transport which they control, as their own property, with the
inconvenience that they do not always know how to organize… as well as
the old.'”[132] Fraser quotes Josep Costa, a CNT foreman outside of
Barcelona, explaining why his union decided not to collectivize.
“‘Individual collectivized mills acted there from the beginning as
though they were completely autonomous units, marketing their own
products as they could and paying little heed to the general situation.
It was a sort of popular capitalism…'”[133] How, one might wonder,
could avowed socialists act so contrary to their principles? The
workers’ behavior was not particularly different from that of wealthy
Marxist professors who live in luxury while denouncing the refusal of
the West to share its wealth with the Third World. Talk is cheap. When
the worker-owners had the option to enrich themselves, they seized it
with few regrets.

The orthodox state-socialists, even the CNT’s would-be allies such as
the POUM, bitterly attacked the capitalist nature of worker-control.
Fraser relays the opinion of POUM executive Juan Andrade. “The anarcho-
syndicalist workers had made themselves the owners of everything they
collectivized; the collectives were treated as private, not social,
property. Socialization, as practised by CNT unions, was no more than
trade union capitalism. ‘Although it wasn’t immediately apparent, the
economy as run by the CNT was disaster. Had it gone on like that, there
would have been enormous problems later, with great disparities of wages
and new social classes being formed. We also wanted to collectivize,
but quite differently, so that the country’s resources were administered
socially, not as individual property. The sort of mentality which
believes that the revolution is for the immediate benefit of a
particular sector of the working class, and not for the proletariat as a
whole, always surfaces in a revolution, as I realized in the first days
of the war in Madrid.'”[134]

Andrade tells Fraser a striking story about the funeral of a POUM
militant. “[T]he CNT undertakers’ union presented the POUM with its
bill. The younger POUM militants took the bill to Andrade in amazement.
He called in the undertakers’ representatives. ‘”What’s this? You want
to collect a bill for your services while men are dying at the front,
eh?” I looked at the bill. “Moreover, you’ve raised your prices, this
is very expensive.” “Yes,” the man agreed, “we want to make
improvements – ” I refused to pay and when, later, two members of the
union’s committee turned up to press their case, we threw them out. But
the example made me reflect on a particular working-class attitude to
the revolution.'”[135]

The “particular working-class attitude” to which Andrade refers is just
the view that the revolution is supposed to make the workers their own
bosses. Many workers took the slogans about worker-control literally.
They overlooked the possibility that these slogans were intended to win
their support for a revolution to replace capitalists with party
bureaucrats. Albert Perez-Baro, a former member of the CNT who played a
prominent role in the collectivization movement in Catalonia, gave a
speech seven months after the revolution which gives a good picture of
the aspiring bureaucrats’ hidden agenda:

“‘…the immense majority of workers have sinned by their indiscipline;
production has fallen in an alarming manner and in many instances has
plummeted; the distance from the front has meant that the workers have
not experienced the war with the necessary intensity. The former
discipline, born of managerial coercion, is missing, and has not been
replaced, owing to the lack of class-consciousness, by a self-imposed
discipline in benefit of the collectivity. In an infantile manner the
workers have come to believe that everything was already won… when in
reality the real social revolution begins precisely in the period of
constructing the Economy…'”[136]

While Perez-Baro berates the workers as “infantile,” he does not
consider the possibility that the workers’ attitude was perfectly
sensible. It is easy to see why workers expect to benefit by becoming
their own bosses. Why they should believe that replacing their
employers with the state or an Orwellian Anarchist council is good for
them is quite a different matter.

Inequality existed within collectives as well as between them.
Invariably, the participants attribute the tolerance of inequality to
the fact that it was impossible for one collective to impose equal wages
unless the other collectives did the same. As Fraser summarizes the
testimony of CNT militant Luis Santacana, “But the ‘single’ wage could
not be introduced in his plant because it was not made general
throughout the industry. Women in the factory continued to receive
wages between 15 per cent and 20 per cent lower than men, and manual
workers less than technicians.”[137] In other words, it was impossible
to impose equality so long as there was competition for workers. If one
firm refused to pay extra to skilled workers, they would quit and find a
job where egalitarian norms were not so strictly observed.

Perhaps the most fascinating incident in Fraser’s account of worker-
control involves the Tivoli opera theatre. CNT militant Juan Sana
relays the details:

“Almost the only problem Sana had not had to deal with was the ‘single’
wage introduced in the theatre. It came to a rapid end in dramatic
circumstances one day when the famous tenor, Hipolito Lazaro, arrived at
the Tivoli theatre where the union was organizing a cycle of operas at
popular prices. He was to sing the lead. Before the audience arrived,
he got up on stage and addressed the company. ‘”We’re all equal now,”
he said, “and to prove it, we all get the same wage. Fine, since we’re
equal, today I am going to collect the tickets at the door and one of
you can come up here and sing the lead.” That did it, of course. There
had been several previous protests. That night several of us union
leaders met and decided at the very start that we couldn’t leave until
we had come up with a worthy solution.’ It didn’t take long. Top
actors and singers, like Lazaro and Marcos Redondo, were to be paid 750
pesetas a performance – a 5,000 per cent increase over their previous 15
pesetas a day. Second- and third-category artists received large, but
differential increases, while even ushers were given a raise.”[138]

If Sana had reflected further, he might have drawn a more general lesson
from this incident: If there is competition, exploitation is virtually
impossible. This principle holds whether the competing bidders are
capitalists or worker collectives. This can be proved with a simple
thought experiment. Imagine that a worker is able to perform a task
which increases the sale value of raw materials by 10 pesetas. Imagine
further holding an auction with capitalists bidding for this worker’s
services. With only one bidder, the traditional socialist story makes
some sense; one bidder could offer a subsistence wage, and a worker
might be desperate enough to take it. With two bidders, it is possible
to imagine that the capitalists will collude, strike a corrupt bargain
to shave their bids. How many bidders must there be before a collusive
agreement simply becomes impossible? As normal auctions reveal, two
bidders is often all it takes; with ten bidders, collusion is so
difficult there isn’t even any point in trying. The sellers could be
desperate and the bidders wealthy, but competition drives the sale price
up to the sale value of the product. Pablo Picasso could be penniless,
on the verve of starvation, but with competitive bidding he would
nevertheless be paid a fortune for a new painting. The buyers would be
happy if competition were illegal, but so long as competition persists,
buyers will act in their own interests, not the interests of buyers in

In any modern economy, including that of Spain during the 1930’s, there
are not ten bidders for a given worker’s services; there are hundreds,
if not thousands. The auction is less visible than one in a hall with
an auctioneer, but it is just as real. Every compensation package an
employer offers is a bid for workers’ services. With
at least a few employers, competitive bidding forces workers’ pay to
equal the full value of their product. Why then are some workers in
capitalist economies so poorly paid? The simple but harsh answer is
that their labor is not very productive . The more complex
answer is that given the availability of other productive factors
, their labor was not very productive. A contemporaneous barber in the
United States earned more than his counterpart in Spain because capital
goods were more abundant in the United States than in Spain. The only
long-term solution for Spanish poverty was to increase the supply of
capital goods in Spain; thus, once again the militant tactics of the
Spanish unions were grossly counter-productive. While Spanish workers
should have done everything possible to attract foreign capital, they
instead chose to frighten away a large fraction of Spain’s already
meager capital stock. (It is interesting to note that Spanish workers’
standard of living only began to improve significantly after Franco
relaxed his autarchic policies of the 40’s and 50’s.)

The real socialist complaint against capitalism is not that capitalism
exploits workers, but that it prevents exploitation of workers.
It prevents able workers from being exploited for the benefit of less
able workers, the elderly, and children. As Horacio Prieto, former CNT
national committee secretary lamented, “The collectivism we are living
in Spain is not anarchist collectivism, it is the creation of a new
capitalism, more inorganic than the old capitalist system we have
destroyed… Rich collectives refuse to recognize any responsibilities,
duties, or solidarities toward poor collectives… No one understands
the complexities of the economy, the dependence of one industry on
another.”[139] The problem, in short, is that under the “new
capitalism,” the more productive collectives get rich, and the others
don’t. The “new capitalism,” like the old, tightly links success and

Competition similarly made it hard for the Anarchist military to exploit
workers. As CNT military leader Royo stated, “‘The columns depended on
the villages, they had no other source of supply. If there had been no
collectives, if each peasant had kept what he produced and disposed of
it as he wished, it would have made the matter of supplies much more
difficult…'”[140] It is always “much more difficult” to accomplish
anything when you must obtain the voluntary consent of other people, for
then you must pay them what they are worth.

D. The Dilemma, Part II: Socialist Statism

In spite of the harsh exploitation of the farmers by the Anarchist
military, even the limited freedom that the milder collectives allowed
began to show a capitalist face. As Felix Carrasquer, a FAI
schoolteacher, describes his role at the February 1937 CNT congress,
“‘Then I got up. The ‘cantonalism’ of the collectives spelt the ruin of
the movement, I said. A rich collective could live well, a poor
collective would have difficulty feedings its members. “Is that
communism? No, it’s the very opposite. Whose fault is it if one
village has good land and the next has poor?”‘”[141] Similarly, Thomas
notes, “Wages differed from collective to collective, the criterion
really being the richer the collective, the better paid the workers.
This was an ironic, if doubtless inescapable, conclusion to the
libertarian dream.”[142] Finally, Bolloten observes that, “The fear
that a new class of wealthy landed proprietors would eventually rise on
the ruins of the old if individual tillage were encouraged was no doubt
partly responsible for the determination of the more zealous
collectivizers to secure the adherence of the small cultivator, whether
willing or forced, to the collective system.”[143]

Overall, however, the socialist ideologue had nothing to fear from the
rural collectives. For the most part, capitalism had been stamped out
by the only means possible: the state. The Anarchist military was the
backbone of a new monopoly on the means of coercion which was a
government in everything but name. It then became possible to use the
peasantry like cattle, to make them work, feed them their subsistence,
and seize the “surplus.” Bolloten approvingly quotes Kaminsky’s account
of Alcora.

“‘The community is represented by the committee… All the money of
Alcora, about 100,000 pesetas, is in its hands. The committee exchanges
the products of the community for others goods that are lacking, but
what it cannot secure by exchange it purchases. Money, however, is
retained only as a makeshift and will be valid as long as other
communities have not followed Alcora’s example.

“‘The committee is paterfamilias. It owns everything; it directs
everything; it attends to everything. Every special desire must be
submitted to it for consideration; it alone has say.

“‘One may object that the members of the committee are in danger of
becoming bureaucrats or even dictators. That possibility has not
escaped the attention of the villagers. They have seen to it that the
committee shall be renewed at short intervals so that each inhabitant
will serve on it for a certain length of time.'”[144]

What is to be done with someone who says that he neither wishes to serve
on the committee, nor consent to its rulings? Who says that he intends
to work his own land, get rich, and refuse to share a peseta with anyone
else? This person would receive the same treatment that any tax
resister in any modern state would receive – increasingly severe threats
and sanctions until he either submits or perishes.

Fraser’s interview with the farmer Navarro clearly indicates that the
Anarchist “committees” were governments in the standard sense of the
word. “Once the decision was taken, it was formally left to the
peasants to volunteer to join. Mariano Franco came from the front to
hold a meeting, saying that militiamen were threatening to take the
livestock of all those who remained outside the collective. As in Mas
de las Matas, all privately owned stocks of food had to be turned it.”
Martinez, another farmer, adds further details. “He shared, however,
the generalized dislike for having to hand over all the produce to ‘the
pile’ and to get nothing except his rations in return. Another bad
things was the way the militia columns requisitioned livestock from the
collective, issuing vouchers in return. Having been appointed livestock
delegate, he went on a couple of occasions to Caspe to try to ‘cash in’
the vouchers unsuccessfully. As elsewhere, the abolition of money soon
led to the ‘coining’ of local money – a task the blacksmith carried out
by punching holes in tin disks until paper notes could be printed. The
‘money’ – 1.50 pesetas a day – was distributed, as the local
schoolmaster recalled, to collectivists to spend on their ‘vices’ – ‘the
latter being anything superfluous to the basic requirements of keeping
alive.'”[145] (For comparison, one farmer states that pre-war he earned
250 pesetas per month.) Even Greek and Roman slavery often recognized
the slave’s right to call something his own (his “peculium”); the one-
and-a-half pesetas of “superfluous” compensation the peasants received
would probably have even struck many ancient slaves as somewhat stingy.

Still, initially rural collectivization was indeed fairly “cantonalist,”
and it is conceivable that eventually peasant mobility would have forced
local committees to relax the harshness of their regimes. The Anarchist
leadership sensed this almost instinctively; soon voices urged regional
and even national “federations.” At a February 1937 congress, Fraser
notes, “Among the major agreements reached at the congress were those to
abolish all money, including local currency, and to substitute a
standard ration book; to permit smallholders to remain non-collectivized
as long as they did not ‘interfere with the interests of the collective’
from which they could expect no benefits; to organize the collectives at
the district rather than local level; and to refuse the Council of
Aragon the monopoly of foreign trade.”[146] The self-limiting measures
were clearly intended to shield the Council of Aragon from the anger of
the central government and the Communists; the rest of the agreement
reveals an intent to permit even more severe exploitation of the

Anarchist historian Peirats describes a later conference in June 1937,
which made the CNT’s long-term intentions even plainer.

“[T]he National Committee of the CNT convened a National Meeting of
Peasants with the express purpose of creating a National Federation of
Peasants attached to the confederal organization. The primary objective
defined in its statutes was the national integration of the agricultural
economies of all the zones under cultivation, embracing both collectives
and small proprietors. The Federation would accept UGT collectives and
be responsible for technical consultation of all kinds through its
regional branches. Small landholders, individual cultivators and
collectives attached to the Federation would have full freedom to
initiate agricultural development in their respective zones, but they
would not be subject to national plans designed to ensure the best crop
yields, the transformation or substitution of some crops for others of
greater economic value and the combating of crop and livestock diseases.

“The federated cultivators were obliged to supply statistical data to
the National Federation about current and projected production and
whatever else necessary for general planning. The Federation was the
sole distributor and exporter of produce.

“Cultivators could reserve enough of their production to meet their own
consumption needs but had to observe restrictions which might be called
for at a given time ‘to ensure the equal right of all consumers without
discrimination.’ Surpluses were to be turned over to the Federation,
which would pay for them ‘according to local values’ or as determined by
a national price regulating board… The Federation would facilitate the
moves of peasants from zones short of cultivable lands to zones needing
workers. It would establish relations with all the economic
organizations of the CNT and other groups, national or international.
It created an auxiliary service to even out payments across diverse
zones, national and foreign. Solidarity and mutual aid, including
compensation for fires, accidents, pestilence, sickness, retirement,
orphans, would be available even to individualists not participating in
the collectives.”[147]

In short, the CNT intended to create an all-powerful state to rule the
rural population under its control; to seize all “surplus” from them and
pay them token compensation as it saw fit; to relocate farmers to “zones
needing workers.” Given the fact that the CNT assured the peasants’
subsistence but seized their surplus, it seems unlikely that any peasant
would want to move. The CNT thought about this eventuality no
more than a farmer ponders whether his herd of cows wants to be led to a
new field.

In January 1938 the CNT unveiled its plans to suppress the freedom of
the urban collectives as well. As Fraser explains, “[T]he CNT at its
Enlarged Economic Plenum in Valencia revised many of its previous
postures. It agreed to differential salaries, a corps of factory
inspectors who could sanction workers’ and works councils; the
administrative centralization of all industries and agrarian collectives
controlled by the CNT, and effective general planning by a CNT Economics
Council; the creation of a syndical bank; the development of consumer
cooperatives. The following month, in a pact with the UGT, it called
for the nationalization of mines, railways, heavy industry, the
banks, telecommunications and airlines. (CNT interpretation of
nationalization meant that the state took over an industry and handed it
to its workers to manage; the socialists interpreted it as meaning that
the state ran the industry.)”[148]

Bolloten gives additional information about the CNT-UGT pact. It should
be remembered that the UGT was comprised of both Socialist and a
Communist wing. “Although the pact affirmed that workers’ control was
one of the most valuable of the workers’ conquests and called for the
legalization of the collectives, it was a complete negation of Anarchist
doctrine, for it recognized the ultimate power and authority of the
state not only in these two issues but in such important matters as the
nationalization of industry and the regular army. Nevertheless, the
pact was enthusiastically received by the CNT press, even by some groups
of the FAI, such as the regional committee of the center, but in the
long run neither workers’ control nor the collectives were even granted
legal status. Hence, in retrospect, the pact appears to have served the
ends only of the Communists and their allies…”[149]

For some Anarchists, these pacts represented compromises. But then
again, the CNT’s initial programs were themselves a compromise between
the Anarchists who wanted total power for the CNT from the outset. As
Bolloten documents, from the earliest days of the revolution many
Anarchists and Anarchist journals cried out for an Anarchist
dictatorship. These remarks often make it clear that even the Anarchist
opponents of seizing total power often agreed that once the Nationalists
were defeated, the Anarchist dictatorship would swiftly follow.

“[E]ven when the Anarchosyndicalists respected the small man’s property,
some among them made it clear that this was only a temporary indulgence
while the war lasted. ‘Once the war has ended and the battle against
fascism has been won,’ warned a prominent Anarchosyndicalist [Tomas Cano
Ruiz – B.C.] in Valencia, ‘we shall suppress every form of small
property and in the way that suits us. We shall intensify
collectivization and socialization, and make them complete.'”[150]

Total rural collectivization, like total urban collectivization, was
also an ultimate (if not immediate) Anarchist goal. “‘Those peasants
who are endowed with an understanding of the advantages of
collectivization or with a clear revolutionary conscience and who have
already begun to introduce [collective farming] should endeavor by all
convincing means to prod the laggards,’ said Tierra y Libertad ,
the mouthpiece of the FAI, which exercised strong ideological influence
over the unions of the CNT. ‘We cannot consent to small holdings…
because private property in land always creates a bourgeois mentality,
calculating and egotistical, that we wish to uproot forever. We want to
reconstruct Spain materially and morally. Our revolution will be
economic and ethical.'”[151] It is evident that many of the Spanish
Anarchists had such a revolution in mind; a revolution which, like other
modern totalitarian revolutions, would not only enslave the body, but
enslave the mind. In this light, the Anarchists’ much-praised focus on
education seems far more malevolent.

An overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that worker control never
eliminated the greed, inequality, and competition for which the
Anarchosyndicalists denounced the capitalist system. The classical
anarchists repeatedly claimed that once the state was destroyed,
capitalism would automatically collapse. They were wholly in error.
Insofar as the state was destroyed, capitalism merely changed its form;
it did not cease to exist. Genuine worker control essentially changed
the recipients of the dividends, nothing more. The only feasible route
for the elimination of capitalism was to create a new state (often given
a new name, such as “council” or “committee”) and coerce obedience by
any means necessary.

4. Philosophy and the Spanish Anarchists

Some of the blameworthy choices of the Spanish Anarchists occurred due
to unwanted compromises with powerful allies. Of course, many of the
evils from which the Anarchists
refrained were also unwanted compromises. Many
observers blame the war for “abuses”, which made violation of Anarchist
principles especially rewarding. Even here, it should be pointed out
that unpleasant allies and wartime conditions never make any action
“necessary.” They simply make actions more attractive , more
convenient . Killing people suspected of Fascist sympathies was
not “necessary,”; it was (perhaps) convenient. This convenience makes
such murders no less culpable.

Still, it is interesting to ask: To what extent did the tyrannies and
atrocities of the Spanish Anarchists flow from their ideas? Could their
ideas ever be the basis for a free and just society, given propitious
circumstances? The sequel argues that that the ideas of the Spanish
Anarchists were utterly in error. The Spanish Anarchists faced numerous
dilemmas largely because they endorsed an incoherent set of principles;
and almost invariably, when they had the power, they acted on their most
totalitarian impulses. These failings were on the most fundamental
level epistemological; namely, the Spanish Anarchists were emotional,
dogmatic zealots whose failure to theorize objectively and rigorously
led millions to struggle to achieve a viciously evil goal.

A. What is Freedom?

The writings and words of the Spanish Anarchists, even the titles of
their periodicals, proclaim their love of freedom, their desire for
liberty. The classical anarchists such as Bakunin indicated that they
opposed state-socialism because they rightly saw that a socialist state
was inconsistent with human freedom. But what exactly did the Spanish
Anarchists mean by “freedom”?

Freedom of conscience, the freedom to believe what one likes without
legal penalty, was plainly not an aspect of freedom as they saw it.
They ruthlessly suppressed the Catholic religion, killing many church
officials, burning churches, and forbidding religious education. While
Bolloten carefully noted the internal Anarchist opposition to perceived
“compromises,” he never indicates that Anarchist ideologues saw
religious intolerance as inconsistent with their ideals. Rather, the
militants declared that because the Catholic religion was false, it
should be snuffed out. “ CNT , the leading libertarian organ in
Madrid, declared editorially: ‘Catholicism must be swept away
implacably. We demand not that every church be destroyed, but that no
vestige of religion should remain in any of them and that the black
spider of fanaticism should not be allowed to spin the viscous and dusty
web in which our moral and material values have until now been caught
like flies. In Spain, more than any other country, the Catholic church
has been at the head of every retrograde aim, of every measure taken
against the people, of every attack on liberty.'”[152] No Anarchist
cited shows the slightest appreciation of the principle that ideas
should be tolerated even if they are false, reactionary, or

Similarly, no Anarchist expresses any principled objection to
killing people for their political beliefs. The Anarchist critics
frequently argue that killing people hurts the revolution, or frightens
the simple peasants, or alienates the middle classes. They do not argue
that Falangists, monarchists, and Catholic corporatists have an
inalienable right to their opinion, so long as they refrain from acting
upon it. The idea does not even occur to them.

Nor did the “freedom” so acclaimed by the Anarchist militants include
the freedom to use alcohol, tobacco, or sometimes even coffee. As
Bolloten explains, “Puritanism was a characteristic of the libertarian
movement. According to George Esenwein, an authority on Spanish
Anarchism, puritanism was ‘one of the several strands of anarchist
ideology that can be traced from the beginning of the movement in 1868
up to the Civil War. This tendency, which sprang from the recognition
of a moral dichotomy between the proletariat and the middle classes,
advocated above all a lifestyle unfettered by materialistic values.
Thus excessive drinking, smoking and other practices that were perceived
as middle-class attributes were nearly always censured.”[153] While
prohibition of hated substances appears to have occurred in only some of
the rural collectives, it was the Anarchist prohibitionists who felt
themselves to be the purists, rather than their more tolerant comrades.
The Spanish Anarchists not only denied their opponents the right to
their beliefs; they also denied their presumed supporters the right to
control their own bodies. For the Anarchists, it is enough to say that
allowing this or that has bad consequences, hence it must be stopped;
they never consider the possibility that people have the right to do
many things regardless of their bad consequences.

In spite of their advocacy of “free love,” the Spanish Anarchists were
not tolerant on sexual matters either. The purists crusaded against
prostitution, once again revealing their paternalism and intolerance.
“My own personal recollection,” writes Bolloten, “is that middle-class
Spaniards scoffed at the Anarchists who closed down the brothels in the
cities and put the prostitutes to useful work. But for Anarchist
purists the cleaning up of society was an article of faith. In his oral
history, Ronald Fraser tells of the young Eduardo Pons Prades who…
heard the men discussing what had to be done: ‘”Listen, what about all
the people who work in these dens of iniquity?” “We’ve got to redeem
them, educate them so they can have the chance of doing something more
worthy.” “Have you asked them if they want to be redeemed?” “How can
you be so stupid? Would you like to be exploited in that sort of den?”
“No, of course not. But after years at the same place, it’s hard to
change.” “Well, they’ll have to. The revolution’s first duty is to
clean up the place, clean up the people’s consciousness.”‘”[154] The
important fact to notice is that the purists want to force
everyone to live as the see fit, while the pragmatists find the
purists’ behavior impolitic. One might think that if the purists valued
“freedom” above all else, they would insist that women cannot be forced
to refrain from having sex for money.

I would never presume to tell people how they may or may not use words;
I do however reserve the right to re-translates non-standard usages back
into plain English. The Spanish Anarchists had no love of “freedom” in
the ordinary sense of the word. The “freedom” of the Spanish Anarchists
was the “freedom” to live exactly as the Spanish Anarchists thought

Many of the Spanish Anarchists were genuinely anti-statist in the
standard sense of the word. But since European anarchism was
essentially an offshoot of European state-socialism, the Spanish
anarchists had almost no anti-state tradition upon which to build. Like
the state-socialists, the Spanish anarchists were barely even aware of
the long-standing anti-statist liberal tradition, which might have at
least stirred them to think about what it is to be free.[155] Ludwig
von Mises’ Liberalism , published a mere nine years before the
beginning of the Spanish Civil War, states:

“Liberalism demands tolerance as a matter of principle, not from
opportunism. It demands toleration even of obviously nonsensical
teachings, absurd forms of heterodoxy, and childishly silly
superstitions. It demands toleration for doctrines and opinions that it
deems detrimental and ruinous to society and even for movements that it
indefatigably combats… Against what is stupid, nonsensical, erroneous,
and evil, liberalism fights with the weapons of the mind, and not with
brute force and repression.”[156]

Insofar as the European anarchists were (and are) acquianted with
classical liberalism, they frequently derided the “narrowness” of the
classical liberal view of freedom. Liberals insist merely upon the
right to be free of physical coercion against person and property, while
ignoring the many other kinds of domination in society. Thus, the
liberals ignore the ideological domination of the church, the sexual
domination of women, the capitalists’ domination of workers, the
domination of the mind by drug and alcohol addiction.

The theoretical problem that the Spanish Anarchists did not confront is
straightforward. Once you declare unpleasant but non-violent acts to be
“domination,” you implicitly justify using violence to stop them. If
Catholicism is “domination,” then surely killing priests is a form of
self-defense. If prostitution is “domination,” then closing the
brothels and making prostitutes take up another line of work is actually
a form of liberation. If wage-labor is “domination,” then forbidding a
person to hire an eager worker (even a worker with the option of working
for a large collective farm) actually saves the worker from
victimization. What is the pattern here? By expanding the meaning of
“domination” to include almost everything, you actually leave people
with no freedom at all. All that remains is the Orwellian freedom to
live precisely as the Anarchist council thinks right.

If “freedom” means anything at all, it must leave open the freedom to
perform many immoral actions without punishment. Words can hurt other
people’s feelings, or humiliate them, or convince them to devote their
lives to follies. But if anything is not “domination” or
“coercion,” it is speaking your mind to the world.

Likewise, if a person must devote their life to a cause, or else face
punishment, they are not free. If a person must join the war against
Franco, or care for the needy, or make the collective successful – or
face prison or execution – they are not free. They are not free even if
the cause to which they must dedicate their life is noble, just, and

The Spanish Anarchists loved the words “liberty” and “freedom,” but they
did not love them enough to think deeply about them. They assumed that
their application was obvious; there was no need to make a list of what
people should and should not be free to do. Instead, the Spanish
Anarchists focused upon what they thought free people ought to
do. They did not spend a great deal of time thinking about how to treat
people who planned on using their freedom differently. Either they
assumed that a bizarre degree of unanimity would prevail once the state
was abolished; or they planned to kill all dissenters until unanimity
was achieved; or, most likely of all, they were too emotional to think
about the issue.

B. Socialism, Liberty, and the State

Some modern admirers of the Spanish Anarchists argue that abolition of
the state in Max Weber’s sense of the word was not really their aim. On
this view, the Spanish Anarchists defined “state” narrowly to refer only
to some legitimated geographical monopolies of the use of
coercion. Thus, in a critical note in my
Anarchist Theory FAQ , Tom Wetzel
states that:

“[I]f you look at the concept of ‘state’ in the very abstract way it
often is in the social sciences, as in Weber’s definition, then what the
anarcho-syndicalists were proposing is not elimination of the state or
government, but its radical democratization. That was not how anarchists
themselves spoke about it, but it can be plausibly argued that this is a
logical consequence of a certain major stream of left-anarchist

My own reading of the internal debate among the Spanish Anarchists
indicates that the view Wetzel describes was at most a minority view
held by such figures as Horacio Prieto. Bolloten’s writings are filled
with Anarchists’ laments about the conflict between theory and practice.
As Bolloten states, “In subsequent months, as the friction between the
‘collaborationist’ and ‘abstentionist’ tendencies in the libertarian
movement increased, some supporters of government collaboration argued
that the entry of the CNT into the cabinet had marked no recantation of
Anarchist ideals and tactics, while others frankly acknowledged the
violation of doctrine and contended that it should yield to reality.
‘[The] philosophicosocial conceptions of Anarchism are excellent,
wonderful, in theory,’ wrote Manuel Mascarell, a member of the national
committee of the CNT, ‘but they are impractical when confronted with the
tragic reality of a war like ours.'”[158]

Bolloten also quotes Federica Montseny, an Anarchist purist who
ultimately entered the central government: “‘Other parties, other
organizations, other sectors cannot appreciate the struggle inside the
movement and in the very consciences of its members, both then and now,
as a result of the CNT’s participation in the government. They cannot
appreciate it, but the people can, and if they cannot then they should
be informed. They should be told that for us – who had fought
incessantly against the State, who had always affirmed that through the
State nothing at all could be achieved, that the words ‘government’ and
‘authority’ signified the negation of every possibility of freedom for
men and for nations – our intervention in the government as an
organization and as individuals signified either an act of historical
audacity of fundamental importance, or a rectification of a whole work,
of a whole past, in the field of theory and tactics. We do not know
what it signified. We only knew that we were caught in a

Similarly, Fraser’s description of the Anarchists’ pre-war views hardly
coheres with the view that they merely wanted to “radically democratize”
the state rather than utterly abolish it. Fraser notes that there were
two tendencies in Spanish Anarchist thought.

The first tendency “was based on rural life, rural revolution.” “This
tendency, with its virulent a-politicism, a-parliamentarianism, anti-
militarism, anti-clericalism, its deep hostility to all government and
political parties – including (especially) working-class parties – saw
as its fundamental methods of action the insurrectional strike,
sabotage, boycott, and mutiny. The popular dimension of the ideology
could be expressed in a series of equations: politics = ‘the art of
cheating the people’; parties = ‘no difference between any of them’;
elections = ‘swindle’; parliament = ‘the place of corruption’; the army
= ‘the organization of collective crime’; the police = ‘paid assassins
of the bourgeoisie.'”[160]

The second tendency Fraser links with the more urban, industrialized
Anarchists. On their view, “National Industrial Federations would be
needed to link local industrial unions, each of the latter being
responsible for organizing relations between each factory within its
local industry – the factory or workplace having been taken over by its
union committee which would administer it.”[161]

Finally, Fraser adds that, “Common to both tendencies was the idea that
the working class ‘simply’ took over factories and workplaces and ran
them collectively but otherwise as before… The taking over of
factories and workplaces, however violently carried out, was not the
beginning of the revolution to create a new order but its final goal.
This view, in turn, was conditioned by a particular view of the state.
Any state (bourgeois or working class) was considered an oppressive
power… The state did not have to be taken, crushed, and a new –
revolutionary – power established. No. It if could be swept
aside, abolished, everything else, including oppression,
disappeared.”[162] At least on Fraser’s account, then, both
tendencies desired to abolish the state in the broad Weberian sense of
the word.

Thus, an overwhelming volume of evidence indicates that the Spanish
Anarchists repeatedly stated, as a matter of principle, that they
intended to abolish the state; and context indicates that they used the
word in the standard sense, for they repeatedly specified their
opposition to a working-class state, parliamentary democracy, or the
establishment of any sort of revolutionary power. The view that Wetzel
outlines is similar to that a few Anarchist leaders like Horacio Prieto,
but virtually every account indicates that Prieto’s heterodox views were
widely detested by his Anarchist comrades.

In spite of this fervent belief, the Anarchists either formed or joined
governments whenever they had the power to do so. The reason is that
the Spanish Anarchists were completely wrong to assume that capitalism
would disappear as soon as the capitalists had been “displaced.”
Displacing the capitalists simply meant that the workers were
transformed into worker-capitalists. The result was anarchist, but not
socialist. To regulate the urban collectives or collectivize the rural
farmers, displacement of the capitalists was not enough; only a state
could do the job.

Herein lies the Anarchists’ dilemma: capitalist anarchism or socialist
statism. When they chose capitalist anarchism, they were outraged by
the consequent re-emergence of greed, inequality, and competition. This
was very hard to bear. Moreover, if they simply accepted greed,
inequality, and competition as a price they must be paid to avoid the
creation of an all-powerful state, the Spanish Anarchists would have
undercut the foundation of their original revolution. If inequality
between collectives and within collectives is morally acceptable, what
was so immoral about the pre-war inequality between capitalists and

Capitalist anarchism was so unpalatable to many of the Spanish
Anarchists that they often created or participated in states to enforce
socialism; moreover, the evidence from the later period of the war is
that they became ever more eager for socialism and less fearful of the
state. The main difficulty here is that many of European Anarchism’s
greatest theorists had proclaimed that state-socialism meant tyranny.
As Bakunin stated, “‘But this minority, the Marxists argue, would
consist of workers. Yes, I dare say, of former workers, but as
soon as they become rulers and representatives of the people they would
cease to be proletarians and would look down upon all workers from their
political summit. They would no longer represent the people; they would
represent only themselves… He who doubts this must be absolutely
ignorant of human nature.'”[163] Moreover, by 1936 Stalin’s
totalitarian socialist dictatorship had confirmed Bakunin’s prediction
more thoroughly and perfectly than any of his contemporaries could even
have imagined.

The dramatic proof of Bakunin’s prediction in the USSR should have led
the Spanish Anarchists to make this superb insight their central
doctrine. It should have led the Spanish Anarchists to spurn any
association of any kind with the Communist Party. Instead, the
Anarchists preferred to become another predictive success of Bakunin’s
theory; they collaborated with some governments, established others on
their own, and in each case proved themselves to be at least as
oppressive as other governing classes throughout history. This is why I
call the Spanish Anarchists “anarcho-statists.”[164] They were avowed
advocates of the abolition of the state who suddenly determined that
there was nothing wrong with the state if they ran it themselves.

C. Thought and Action

The Spanish Anarchists demanded the abolition of all government in the
name of human freedom; but once they had the power to do so, they both
participated in and established governments which were no less
oppressive than any other. The proximate cause, I have argued, was that
their underlying theories of freedom, capitalism, and socialism were
uniformly in error. There was however a deeper cause: The Spanish
Anarchists theorized emotionally and dogmatically, insofar as they
theorized at all. For the most part, they accepted their confused
theories as obvious, and instead focused their attention on “action.”

What the Spanish Anarchists failed to realize is that clear, rigorous
thinking is the most important form of “action” that any critic of the
status quo can perform. It does no good to seize the initiative and try
to change the world unless you can reasonably expect your changes to be
genuine improvements. History is filled with examples of deluded
zealots who marched forth to save the world, defeated their enemies, and
proceeded to make the world even worse. The example of the Russian
Communists should have been omnipresent in the Spanish Anarchists’
minds; or they might have looked back to Spain’s conquest of Latin
America; or to any number of other examples. Historians usually label
such conquerors “misguided idealists,” but it would be far more accurate
to label them “willfully self-deluded murderers”: “murderers” because
they killed many innocent people; “self-deluded” because they were
convinced they had the truth in spite of the limited time and effort
they put into thinking about fundamental philosophical and political
issues; “willfully” because they did not choose to devote the necessary
time and effort to informing themselves about such fundamental issues.

There is overwhelming historical evidence that the Spanish Anarchists in
fact devoted very little time to pure theory. Fraser relays the words
of dissident CNT member Sebastia Clara. “‘It had to be remembered, he
stressed, that the level of revolutionary culture was very low.
Militants had, at best, read one or two pamphlets, and Kropotkin’s
Conquest of Bread . They hadn’t read Marx, Engels, let alone

Peirats explains that due to widespread illiteracy, most peasants could
not read even the most elementary writings. Instead, “There were also
itinerant speakers, some of them peasants, who traveled the countryside,
addressing the villagers in simple words about understandable topics.
The efficacy of this type of propaganda can easily be understood if we
remember that the illiterate is not necessarily a brute and that lack of
learning often hides a perfectly good intellect.”[166] Quite possibly
so; but it does no good to have a “perfectly good intellect” if you
don’t use it. The CNT speakers were not giving a balanced presentation
of a number of different viewpoints; they were relying on the peasants’
ignorance of the existence of other points of view, hoping to win them
over while keeping them essentially ignorant.

In his interview with Fraser, Royo admits that he and his fellow CNT
militants had not spent a great deal of time thinking about what exactly
they wanted to do. “‘We were attempting to put into practice a
libertarian communism about which, it’s sad to say, none of us really
knew anything.'”[167] Why would such admittedly ignorant people be so
eager to impose their half-baked ideas on others? Abad de Santillan,
another CNT member interviewed by Fraser, confirms the general picture
of theoretical laziness. “‘There’s talk of the family, delinquency,
jealousy, nudism, and many other things [the resolution had gone into
all of these as part of the future life under libertarian communism] but
you hardly find a word about work, workplaces, or the organization of
production.’ It was in this condition that the CNT found itself two
months later when faced with the task of establishing a revolutionary
economic order in Catalonia.”[168]

In sum, theory was so poorly developed that many came to regard it as a
luxury rather than a valuable guide to action. Bolloten quotes Miguel
Gonzalez Inestal, a member of the FAI peninsular committee. “‘In the
libertarian camp every single militant had his share of scruples to
conquer, of convictions to be adapted – and why not admit it? – of
illusions to be buried.'”[169] Along similar lines Peirats quotes the
CNT Secretary-General at the October 1938 conference. “‘We have to
abandon our literary and philosophical baggage, which has become an
impediment to our eventual assumption of power.'”[170] The desirability
of gaining power is obvious, requiring no justificatory theory; what
need is there is have any clear ideas about what you ought to do once
you have the power?

It is hard to resolve moral dilemmas sensibly when you must decide
swiftly. That is why it is important to consider hypothetical issues
in advance , when there is time to think about them. The Spanish
Anarchists were too intellectually lazy to do so, and then blamed their
poor choices on bad luck. The questions they should have asked
themselves were simple, yet turned out to have profound implications.
To take a few examples… What should we do if we have a chance to join
the government?… What should we do if worker-controlled firms act like
capitalist-controlled firms?… What limits are there to how we may
treat people who disagree with us?… How is a national Economic Council
different from a state, if at all?… What should be done if some
workers don’t want to join our Economic Council?… What should we do if
some farmers don’t want to join a collective?

Before the war, there were plenty of other questions they could have
spent their free waking hours contemplating… If the exploitation
theory of profit is correct, why have wages risen above the subsistence
level?… What effect does worker sabotage and vandalism have on
unemployed workers?… What effect do higher union wages-scales have on
unemployed workers?… What effect does worker militancy have on
international investment, and how does international investment affect
the welfare of workers?

No doubt constantly thinking about such questions would have bored many
Anarchist militants. They would have particularly resented imposing
minimal intellectual self-discipline upon themselves. For starters,
they might have tried to construct arguments which would be convincing
to people who did not initially agree with them. They might have tried
familiarizing themselves with the best arguments of other points of
view. They might have considered that the more intensely one
feels something – such as they employers are evil and treat
workers unjustly – the more important it is to put one’s feelings aside
and consider the issue unemotionally. Instead, they took the easy way
out of so many earlier movements throughout history: Violent revolution
first; afterwards, we’ll solve theoretical problems as they arise.
Or as Lenin stated, “The point of the uprising is the seizure of power;
afterwards we will see what we can do with it.”[171]

After so many failures of this approach, it would have been refreshing
if the Spanish Anarchists had tried to do precisely the opposite.
Instead of proclaiming their empty devotion to “freedom,” they should
have enumerated precisely what they thought people should and should not
be free to do. They should have tested the clarity and completeness of
their principles with the aid of thought experiments in which the right
answer is not immediately obvious. They should have deliberately
searched for disconfirming evidence which could throw their entire
paradigm in doubt. Victory is worthless if you have been wrong all

5. Conclusion

In any war, historians tend to look for the heroes. They rarely
consider the possibility that there were no heroes, that all of the
sides were fighting for tyranny. Thus, many historians of the Russian
Civil War single out the Mensheviks, even though detailed investigation
reveals that their differences with the Bolsheviks were relatively
slight.[172] In the same way, historians of the Spanish Civil War who
rightly regard the Fascists and Communists as totalitarians often try to
cast the Spanish Anarchists as the heroes of the struggle. In fact, the
Spanish Anarchists were ultimately just a third faction of

The classical European anarchists deserve credit for their prescient
prediction that state-socialism would merely be a new form of
oppression. This insight still elicits the appreciation of thoughtful
idealists in the tradition of
George Orwell, who recognize the horrors of state-
socialism, but remain skeptical of the morality and efficiency of the
free-market economy. Intelligent and intellectually honest, they
eagerly investigate any report of alternatives which escape the pitfalls
of both social systems.

If they investigate the history of Anarchism during the Spanish Civil
War, they will be tremendously disappointed. The experience of the
Spanish Anarchists does not reveal any “third way”; to the contrary,
their experience eloquently affirms that state-socialism and free-market
anarchism are the two theoretical poles between which all actual
societies lie. The choice cannot be evaded. The only alternative is to
take yet another look at the endpoints of the political spectrum and see
if one has been rejected too hastily.[173] Or as the 19th-century
Belgian economist Gustave de Molinari argues:

“In reality, we have a choice of two things:

“Either communistic production is superior to free production, or it is

“If it is, then it must be for all things, not just for security.

“If not, progress requires that it be replaced by free

“Complete communism or complete liberty: that is the alternative!”[174]

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike
other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If
there is any presumption it is against the holders of power, increasing
as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for want
of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

	--Lord Acton, "Acton-Creighton Correspondence"   

[1] See generally Stanley G. Payne, The Franco Regime: 1946-1975
(Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987).

[2] See generally Burnett Bolloten, The Spanish Civil War:
Revolution and Counterrevolution
(Chapel Hill, NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1991).

[3] Ronald Fraser, Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish
Civil War
(NY: Pantheon Books, 1986).

[4] Bolloten, op. cit.

[5] Noam Chomsky, “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,” in American
Power and the New Mandarins
(NY: Pantheon Books, 1969), esp. pp.79-
124. The praise occurs in the footnote on p.140: “This book [Bolloten’s
The Grand Camouflage], by a UP correspondent in Spain during the
Civil War, contains a great deal of important documentary evidence
bearing on the questions considered here.”

[6] For the background of the military rebellion, see esp. Payne, op.
cit., pp.34-45,87-106. While many studies of the Spanish Civil War
simplistically describe it as a struggle between “the people” who
supported “democracy,” and a small minority who supported “fascism,” the
reality is far more complex: the support of the population for the
Nationalist and Republican forces was approximately balanced. The last
election before the civil war in February 1936 election gives some
indication of the actual division of opinion: as Payne (op. cit., pp.44-
45) explains, “For the elections of 1936, therefore, the left was
united, with even an undetermined degree of voting support from the
anarchists. Rightist parties, led by the CEDA, formed an electoral bloc
of their own. Center forces, in contrast, found themselves isolated
between left and right…In the 1936 elections, 73 percent of the
eligible Spanish electorate cast ballots. According to the most
thorough study, the Popular Front drew 34.3 percent, the rightist
coalition 33.2 percent, and the shrunken center only 5.4 percent.
Though the plurality in the popular vote was rather narrow, the Spanish
electoral system, derived in part from Italy in 1924, disproportionately
rewarded coalitions with pluralities. After the new parliament met in
March and disqualified a few of the rightist deputies elected earlier,
the leftist parties held about two-thirds of the seats.”

[7] Bolloten, op. cit., p.50.

[8] ibid, p.53.

[9] Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (London: Hamish Hamilton,
1986), pp.273-274. It is worth pointing out that in spite of the
popular practice of calling all of the Nationalist forces “fascists,”
the Spanish fascist party, the Falange, was part of a coalition which
included conservative members of the Spanish military, the Carlists,
Alphonsine monarchists, Catholic corporatists, and other factions. As
Payne (op. cit., p.62) points out, “Up until the spring of 1936, the
Falange probably never had more than ten thousand regular members.”
Thus, it should be realized that violence against “fascists,” actually
refers to violence against a vastly wider political spectrum than
might be supposed.

[10] Thomas, op. cit., pp.275-276.

[11] Bolloten, op. cit., p.51.

[12] Thomas, op. cit., p.273.

[13] Fraser, op. cit., pp.132-133.

[14] For an objective survey of various quantitative investigations
into Nationalist and Republican murders and repression, see Payne, op.
cit., 209-228.

[15] ibid, p.211.

[16] Fraser, op. cit., p.96.

[17] Bolloten, op. cit., pp.59-60.

[18] ibid, p.191.

[19] ibid, p.192.

[20] Fraser, op. cit., p.546.

[21] ibid, p.547.

[22] Bolloten, op. cit., p.200.

[23] ibid, p.200-201.

[24] ibid, p.201.

[25] ibid, p.202.

[26] ibid, p.207.

[27] ibid, p.393.

[28] ibid, pp.433-434.

[29] ibid, pp.451-452.

[30] ibid, pp.495-496.

[31] ibid, p.498.

[32] Payne, op. cit., pp.354-355.

[33] ibid, p.355 n34.

[34] Bolloten, op. cit., p.57.

[35] ibid, p.58.

[36] Thomas, op. cit., pp.966,973.

[37] Fraser, op. cit., p.210.

[38] ibid, pp.210-211.

[39] Bolloten, op. cit., p.224.

[40] Thomas, op. cit., p.528.

[41] Jose Peirats, op. cit., p.125.

[42] Fraser, op. cit., p.220.

[43] ibid, p.231.

[44] Bolloten, op. cit., p.499.

[45] ibid, p.225.

[46] ibid.

[47] Thomas, op. cit., p.784.

[48] Bolloten, op. cit., pp.226-227.

[49] Fraser, op. cit., p.211.

[50] ibid, n1.

[51] Thomas, op. cit., p.529

[52] ibid, p.531.

[53] Bolloten, op. cit., p.227.

[54] Fraser, op. cit., p.232.

[55] ibid.

[56] Bolloten, op. cit., p.259.

[57] ibid.

[58] ibid, p.261.

[59] ibid, p.263.

[60] ibid, p.324.

[61] ibid, p.325.

[62] ibid, p.333.

[63] ibid.

[64] ibid, p.334.

[65] ibid, p.335.

[66] ibid, p.346.

[67] On Stalin’s forced collectivization see esp. Robert Conquest,
The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-
(NY: Oxford University Press, 1986).

[68] Bolloten, op. cit., p.526.

[69] Fraser, op. cit., p.349.

[70] Bolloten op. cit., p.65-66.

[71] Thomas, op. cit., p.430.

[72] Bolloten, op. cit., p.62.

[73] Fraser, op. cit., pp.36-37.

[74] Bolloten, op. cit., p.74.

[75] ibid, pp.74-75.

[76] ibid, p.75.

[77] ibid, p.76.

[78] Fraser, op. cit., p.349.

[79] ibid, pp.370-371.

[80] Bolloten, op. cit., p.74.

[81] Bolloten, op. cit., pp.64-65.

[82] Fraser, op. cit., p.355.

[83] Bolloten, op. cit., p.75.

[84] Graham Kelsey, Anarchosyndicalism, Libertarian Communism and
the State: The CNT in Zaragoza and Aragon, 1930-1937
International Institute of Social History, 1991), p.164.

[85] Fraser, op. cit., p.367.

[86] ibid, p.368.

[87] ibid, p.368 n1.

[88] Thomas, op. cit., p.298.

[89] Bolloten, op. cit., p.69.

[90] ibid, p.68.

[91] ibid.

[92] Kelsey, op. cit., p.163.

[93] ibid, p.167.

[94] Fraser, op. cit., p.349.

[95] ibid.

[96] Bolloten, op. cit., p.491.

[97] Peirats, op. cit., p.251.

[98] ibid, p.252.

[99] ibid.

[100] Bolloten, op. cit., p.529.

[101] Peirats, op. cit., p.258.

[102] Fraser, op. cit., pp.392-393.

[103] Bolloten, op. cit., p.78.

[104] For economic statistics, see Thomas, op. cit., pp.962-973, and
Fraser, op. cit., p.235.

[105] Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History
of the United States, 1867-1960
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1963). Why would a monetary contraction cause unemployment or a
loss of output? The short answer is that if the money supply declines,
but money wages are downwardly rigid, this implies that given the new
money supply the price of labor is set too high. The result is a “labor
surplus” – in short, (involuntary) unemployment.

[106] Barry Eichengreen, Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the
Great Depression, 1919-1939
(New York: Oxford University Press,

[107] For more on the Spanish monetary system, see William Adams Brown,
Jr., The International Gold Standard Reinterpreted, 1914-1934
(NY: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1940), and Gabriel Tortella
and Jordi Palafox, “Banking and Industry in Spain, 1918-1936,” in Pablo
Martin-Acena and James Simpson, eds., The Economic Development of
Spain since 1870
(Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1995),

[108] Bolloten, op. cit., p.143 states that Spain had the world’s third
largest gold reserve. Eichengreen, op. cit., pp.352-353, indicates that
Bolloten is mistaken; in fact, in 1936 Spain had the world’s fifth
largest gold reserve. (A slight complication is the fact that numbers
cease to be available on the gold reserves of the USSR after 1935; but
unless there was a large change between 1935 and 1936, the United
States, France, Britain, and the USSR would all have had larger gold
reserves than Spain did.)

[109] See Tortella and Palafox, loc. cit., p.511.

[110] Paul Preston, The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), p.21.

[111] ibid.

[112] Kelsey, op. cit., documents the growth of militant CNT and other
trade unionism during the 1931-1936 period.

[113] Bolloten, op. cit., p.58.

[114] ibid.

[115] ibid, p.59.

[116] Fraser, op. cit., p.234.

[117] ibid, p.221.

[118] ibid, p.229.

[119] There is some evidence that the worker controlled firms showed a
slight interest in the unemployed workers, since complete unemployment
fell by 10 percent while partial unemployment doubled. Still,
considering the depression-level unemployment at the outset of the war,
the massive money supply growth, and the presence of conscription, a
mere 10 percent fall (not a 10 percentage-point fall) from high pre-war
unemployment is truly abysmal performance.

[120] Fraser, op. cit., p.351.

[121] ibid, p.352.

[122] Bolloten, op. cit., p.524.

[123] Thomas, op. cit., p.559.

[124] Kelsey, op. cit., p.171. Inspection of Kelsey’s sources reveals
that almost all of the “writers” were themselves Anarchists, publishing
in Anarchist periodicals.

[125] Fraser, op. cit., p.234.

[126] Peirats, op. cit., p.252.

[127] Fraser, op. cit., p.374.

[128] ibid, p.375.

[129] However, Thomas, op. cit., p.299, states that “given the weakness
of the government in Madrid, the Generalidad was able to take over,
without protest, … the Bank of Spain – even the right to issue money
and pardons. All these powers, under the Catalan statute, belonged to
Spain. Now, under the pretext that they were in danger of being usurped
by the FAI, the Generalidad took them over.” I have been unable to find
any other reference to the specifics of Republican monetary arrangements
during the civil war; but if Thomas’ remark is accurate, then during the
period of CNT domination of the Generalidad, the Anarchists could be
directly blamed for the paper money inflation that afflicted the Spanish

[130] Fraser, op. cit., p.231.

[131] Bolloten, op. cit., p.225.

[132] Thomas, op. cit., pp.527-528.

[133] Fraser, op. cit., pp.228-229.

[134] ibid, p.233.

[135] ibid.

[136] ibid, p.236.

[137] ibid, p.218.

[138] ibid, p.224.

[139] Quoted in ibid, p.209.

[140] ibid, p.349.

[141] ibid, p.366.

[142] Thomas, op. cit., p.561.

[143] Bolloten, op. cit., p.64.

[144] ibid, op. cit., p.67.

[145] Fraser, op. cit., pp.360-361.

[146] ibid, p.367 n1.

[147] Peirats, op. cit., p.152.

[148] Fraser, op. cit., p.236.

[149] Bolloten, op. cit., p.568.

[150] ibid, p.59.

[151] ibid, p.63.

[152] ibid, p.73.

[153] ibid, pp.68-69.

[154] ibid, p.770 n28.

[155] Noam Chomsky, it should be noted, has expressed familiarity with
and some admiration for such liberal thinkers as Adam Smith and Wilhelm
von Humbolt, two thinkers who the Spanish Anarchists might have read
with profit.

[156] Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: A Socio-Economic Exposition
(Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978), pp.56-57.

[157] Quoted in Bryan Caplan, Anarchist Theory FAQ , available

[158] Bolloten, op. cit., p.208.

[159] ibid, p.209.

[160] Fraser, op. cit., p.543.

[161] ibid, p.544.

[162] ibid, p.545. Peirats, op. cit., esp. pp.289-301, corroborates
the bitter struggle within the Anarchist movement, and the sense of many
militants that the CNT had abandoned its principles by entering the
central government.

[163] Bolloten, op. cit., p.193.

[164] I owe this term to Prof. Roderick Long of the University of North
Carolina Philosophy Department.

[165] Fraser, op. cit., p.547.

[166] Peirats, op. cit., pp.137-138.

[167] Fraser, op. cit., p.351.

[168] ibid, p.551.

[169] Bolloten, op. cit., p.330.

[170] Peirats, op. cit., p.295.

[171] Quoted in Bertram Wolfe, Three Who Made A Revolution
(NY: Dell, 1964), p.4.

[172] See Bryan Caplan, The Mensheviks’ Critique of Bolshevism and
the Bolshevik State
, available at:

[173] Obviously there is also much value in considering political
viewpoints situated between the poles as well as the poles themselves.
But at minimum, thinking about the polar possibilities tends to clarify

[174] Gustave de Molinari, “The Production of Security (NY: The Center
for Libertarian Studies, 1977), p.8.

The graphics files were taken from the following sources:
spain1.jpg from Thomas, op. cit.; spain9.jpg and spain 10.jpg from
Prescott, op. cit.; spain11.jpg and spain12.jpg from Peirats, op. cit.; and
spain2.jpg through spain 8d.jpg from Antony Beevor, The Spanish
Civil War
(London: Orbis Publishing, 1982).

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