March 4, 1937
Comrades and friends:
I have accepted the honor of initiating this series of lectures, with the complacency of one who has to fulfill a self-imposed duty, for he who has situated the position of classical anarchism, must also situate anarchism today in the exact position to which the events we are living have led it.
We, as anarchists, have not rectified anything that was consubstantial with ourselves. It was necessary to make this statement. We are anarchists, we continue to be anarchists, and we pursue the same ideals as always. Events have nothing to do with what the Spanish anarchist movement is and will continue to be. In no country has the anarchist movement been incubated as it has in Spain.
No one could foresee the events that followed July 19th: however, we did not lose the real vision of the moment and we continued to act as we had done until then, for since the advent of the Republic no organization like ours had given so much proof of revolutionary fervor. A reformist socialism, an almost general event had been holding back the revolutionary process. Our perseverance, the spur, what we could call our madness, was necessary for the wearing down of the forces that opposed the advances of the proletariat, achieving also that reformist socialism itself was placed in a revolutionary position. And so, we arrived at the militarization, which the proletariat confronted, determining with its heroic resistance the events and giving rise to a new dawn. A mass movement took place in Spain and our people embarked on a revolution which had nothing in common with the Russian Revolution or with other movements. There would have been no revolution if we had not prepared the people. This is our triumph and the most precious prize that we anarchists have.
Without the anarchist philosophy having been rectified, we have been able to adapt to the circumstances.
If on July 19th we had tried to achieve the totalitarian realization of our libertarian ideals, the event would have been catastrophic, as if it had been attempted by state communists or socialists. This would have broken a front of struggle. That is why we have been the first to balance our aspirations. The struggle of the Spanish people against international fascism was in itself bold and grandiose enough for an almost unarmed people, a people that needs several days to shake the conscience of other peoples, but it was not enough and we found ourselves alone with our spirit wanting to be free from the authoritarian tendency of international fascism. We represent a movement against the always aggressive imperialisms of Italy and Germany. And this struggle is already so great that the triumph over fascism was already worth the sacrifice of our lives.
We, the Spanish anarchists, realizing the imperious needs demanded by the realities of the moment, have followed a line of conduct, whose purpose was to avoid a repetition of what happened in Russia, where anarchism, despite its potential, was displaced from the leadership of the revolution by a minority organization.
On July 19th we were the most important workers’ movement in Spain, at least in Catalonia, and we could have launched ourselves into the adventure of a totalitarian conquest of our ideals. We did not do it so as not to spoil everything.
With our attitude we have prevented anyone from ending the popular fermentation by means of a dictatorship. The intervention of the C.N.T. in the central government and in the Council of the Generality of Catalonia has ensured that the anarchist movement was not displaced from the leadership of the revolution.
A true united front of the entire proletariat and of all the anti-fascist elements was needed to oppose an insurmountable barrier to international fascism, which had made the peninsula its field of operations and now these people, are defeating the fascists, are advancing socially, are creating a new concept of life, a new society.
Tell me if what we are doing is not great? When we reflect on the moment that we are living in, we will be amazed at ourselves. And we will ask how was it possible that we were able to overcome such great obstacles?
Of all the problems posed by the present moment, that of the war is the most simplistic because it allowed us to achieve and maintain the unity of all republican workers, socialists, communists and anarchists, those who know that fascism represents strangulation, something worse than the past dictatorship, for in the Spanish fascist movement both German or Italian fascism have also been ingested.
The hatred of fascism, the common desire to defeat them unites us, but now imagine the panorama once the war is over, with different ideological forces which will strive to impose themselves on each other. Once the war is over, the problem will again be situated in Spain, with the same characteristics as in France and Russia. We, today, must situate ourselves. We must specify our points of view so that the other parties know what to expect, and so that we can all, in a frank and loyal manner, find that necessary unity for tomorrow. We must seek the platform, the point of contact, which will allow us, with the greatest freedom and with a minimum plan of economic achievements, to continue on the road we have undertaken until we reach our goal.
We have already talked about what we want once the war is over. What we are saying today we were also saying before the war. And we said that there was something consubstantial with the history of Spain, with the aspirations of the people that was manifested in every moment of emergence of consciousness, the movement of the Comuneros of Castile, that of the Catalan reapers, that from far away affirms the position of our people against the centralizing and absorbing Power, this aspiration, and the admiration it received from other countries that were surprised by the airs of freedom and democracy that informed it, served as an affirmation of our own personality in front of everything that could lead to tyranny or oppression.
Our concept of organization is simply federalist. It has been said of me in particular that I am closer to Pi and Margall than to Bakunin.
I can affirm that in the philosophical, economic and political interpretation of Pi and Margall, all Spanish anarchists coincide, because he knew how to find what was consubstantial with our spirit. Federalism is the guarantee that the result of the struggle will be fruitful in material benefits for the workers of the cities and the countryside, making Spain what it has not been. We must all be federalists.
Federalists must also be socialists, in spite of their centralist tendency, which has had as a consequence the authoritarian spirit of Marx, which must be rectified. Federalists are all Republicans, and Federalists must accept the constitution of the Iberian Federation of Socialist Republics which will give each region the right to structure itself. To this day, Spain remains a monstrous head with a stunted body. All the wealth of the country flows to Madrid.
The economic reconstruction of the country is not possible if we maintain the power of the bourgeoisie. If one wanted to restore the bourgeoisie to power, this would constitute the greatest of catastrophes. The workers will accept the days of sacrifice for the revolution, they will intensify production for the benefit of the revolution, but if this were demanded of them for anything other than the triumph of the Revolution, nothing would be achieved, and besides, the workers would not allow it. The Spanish people, in fighting against fascism, fight at the same time against social inequalities, against a never-ending history in which they are given the role of victim, fighting against the lordship of the Spanish people, although greater sacrifices are demanded of them for after the war and for the triumph of the Revolution, as they have a combat morality, they will know how to be at their post and will work for themselves and for their children, but they will never do it so that someone will only round off their fortune; they will work, they will fight only for themselves and for tomorrow. Let no one forget this. This is not a civil war. It is the war of the people, of the workers against the master, against the military, against the parasite.
The bourgeois parties have failed for not having known how to create a moral conscience and oppose the militarization, leaving the military free to act, so that they could prepare the current factional movement, which if it did not triumph was because it lacked a popular base.
From now on, so that the new Spain can take shape, it is necessary that all the levers of the country’s management pass into the hands of the workers, and once federalism is established, the economic unity of the workers is imposed by means of the effective, constant and loyal union of the two trade unions U.G.T and C.N.T.
In Spain, with the economy in the hands of the workers, it is necessary to accentuate the morale of sacrifice and the sense of individual and collective responsibility. Morality must lead us to accept all the hardships, to reconditioning, to days of reconstruction, to honesty and to austerity, and we all must believe ourselves to be soldiers of a great cause, banished of all of our privileges. With this sense of responsibility, we will achieve the disintegration of our egoisms, of our personal ambitions, to join in the work that will guarantee the realization of all our desires. And we want this, we are the first to encourage it in ourselves and in others.
If it has not been possible to destroy absolute authority in Spain, its prerogatives are being diminished first by federalism, and then by teaching man to live without anyone commanding him to fulfill his duties, creating in him the feeling of freedom within the anarchist principles that continue to be the essence of liberalism.
This Spanish proletariat, educated in such principles and refined in its personality according to the realities imposed by the struggle it carries out, will be the one that will point the way for all the workers of the world to follow for the conquest of the right to freedom and welfare.
Translation by Hannah Abigail Foley.
Copyright 2021 by Hannah Abigail Foley. Used by permission. All rights reserved.