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Unit 21: anarcho-syndicalism 1939-99

This Unit aims to

  • Trace the development of the IWA in the post-war era, following on from the period covered in Unit 13.
  • Examine the re-emergence of the CNT in Spain.
  • Look at the attempts to turn the CNT towards reformism.
  • Analyse the reasons behind the formation of the CGT.

Terms and abbreviations

IWA: International Workers’ Association, the international anarcho- syndicalist movement, founded in 1922 (see Unit 13), note that the acronym is AIT in Spanish.
CNT: Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour). Anarcho-syndicalist union
FAUD: Freie Arbeiter-Union Deutschlands, German anarcho- syndicalist union federation up to its suppression by the Nazis
USI: Unione Sindicale Italiana, Italian anarcho-syndicalist union federation.
SAC: Sveriges Arbtares Centralorganisation, Swedish revolutionary syndicalist union federation
CC.OO: Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (Union confederation of Working Commissions) Workers’ Commissions controlled by the communists
COS: Comité que coordina de las Organizaciones de Sindicato. The Co-ordinating Committee of Trade Union Organisations
UGT: Union General de Trabajadores (General Workers’ Union). Reformist trade union controlled by the socialists
CGT: Confederación General del Trabajo. Broke away from the CNT over the issue of participation in workplace elections.
PSOE: Partido Socialista Obrero España. Spanish Socialist Party

Introduction

The sixth IWA Congress was a major gathering held in 1936, a few months after the start of the Spanish Revolution. However, the world was a much-changed place by the time the seventh IWA Congress took place in 1951.

Even before the Spanish revolution and the outbreak of the Second World War, the IWA’s sections had come under severe repression. The Italian (USI) and German (FAUD) sections were targeted by fascism in the 1920s and 1930s respectively. Unit 17 documents how the Spanish CNT was destroyed by a combination of Stalinist terror and Franco’s murderous hatred of the Spanish working class. Its members were imprisoned and executed in their thousands. Anarcho-syndicalism, both in Europe and in Latin America, was put on the retreat - and then came the war.

The fascists in Europe, state capitalists in Russia and market capitalists in the US all saw anarcho-syndicalist organisations as a major threat to their power and interests. With Nazi occupation during the war in both eastern and western Europe, followed by Stalinist occupation in the east and American-sponsored economic reconstruction in the west, anarcho-syndicalist organisations were either smashed out of existence or reduced to small groups. This happened in one country after another, as destruction was wrought on vibrant and active revolutionary unions in places like France, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria, to name a few.

In Italy, meanwhile, as the war finished, USI activists were returning, having spent two decades in exile. In fact, it was only in Sweden, which had been neutral throughout the war, that the revolutionary union (SAC) was able to continue functioning. After 1945 it was the IWA’s one and only revolutionary union in Europe. It was here that the first steps towards rebuilding the IWA were taken. Before turning to these developments, however, it is worth taking a brief look at the IWA’s activities during the war itself.

The IWA 1939-45

Despite the persecution of anarcho-syndicalists both before and during the war, the IWA was not completely silenced. The General Secretariat, based in neutral Sweden, was able to issue a number of circulars. For instance, a statement issued in August 1944 announced the return to clandestinity of the Argentinian FORA, as a result of a military coup, and another in October denounced the persecution of the Polish anarcho-syndicalists and anarchists and their internment in Soviet concentration camps.

In December 1944, a further circular alerted workers internationally to the real intentions of the Americans and their allies;

“The mission of the Allied troops is not only to destroy fascism but also to obstruct the struggles of the workers for their economic emancipation and freedom... When the war ends, the struggle of the working class must begin again to achieve new revolutionary con- quests without concessions to the bourgeoisie, nor to capitalism.”

This was borne out by the actions of the Allies in the ‘liberated’ countries, where the popular resistance movements were the first to be disarmed. Mindful of the events of 1917, the Allies were careful to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie, wherever they were. The IWA’s uncompromising revolutionary politics, opposed to concessions with capitalism, was to play an important role in both the 1950s as well as in more recent years. In May 1945, another IWA circular denounced Stalin’s promises to the Pope that the Soviet Union would not challenge the existing social order but, on the contrary, would oppose all revolutionary change in the world. This was confirmed when, a year later, another circular reported the repression of anarcho-syndicalists and anarchists in Bulgaria by the Stalinist puppet regime there.

Even before the Spanish Civil War, the IWA Congress had provided an anarcho-syndicalist analysis of the struggle against fascism, in which all alliances with the bourgeoisie and the communists were rejected. The subsequent years only went to prove how right this was, as capitalist democracies, communists and the Catholic Church all pursued the same objective - defeating the workers’ movement. By 1946, this had basically happened, and the IWA was in a serious state.

After the war

Although some Sections had disappeared and others were scattered in exile, anarcho-syndicalism had not been extinguished. Little time was wasted, and moves to rebuild the International began almost right away in May 1946, when a conference (of which little written record remains) was held in Stockholm. With the ties between the world’s anarcho-syndicalist organisations renewed, the seventh IWA Congress took place in 1951. Despite being a much smaller organisation than prior to the war, there were still delegations from fourteen sections, including Argentina and Cuba. Also present, for the first time at an IWA Congress, was a British delegation from the Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF – see Unit 19). The atmosphere was very much ‘re-launching the IWA’, and although the 1950s did see modest recovery, this was not to last and the International’s fortunes soon went into decline.

The seventh Congress was dominated by two distinct but related themes, which were to recur throughout the 1950s. One centred around the Spanish CNT, which had had an internal split for six years, both within its exile organisation and within its clandestine organisation inside Spain itself. The issue at stake was whether the CNT’s compromise with the other anti-fascist forces who had fought in the Civil War was now concluded or whether it should be maintained, including collaboration with the Republican institutions in exile, as long as the dictatorship remained.

Bearing in mind that the pre-war IWA had rejected any such compromise with the bourgeoisie and capitalism on one hand or the communists on the other (a position the International as a whole still supported), the CNT split required that the IWA choose which CNT delegation to recognise. Although the eighth IWA Congress in 1953 accepted that the collaborationist period was at an end and that the CNT had recovered its anarcho-syndicalist orthodoxy, thus establishing a fragile unity within the Spanish section, the arguments rumbled on for another decade within the CNT. However, by 1963, the CNT was united for the first time since the civil war, and was finally able to intensify its struggle against Franco’s dictatorship - a struggle in which it paid a bloody price.

This new atmosphere of agreement within the Spanish CNT did not herald a new lease of life for the IWA. By the 1960s, the International had begun to decline, due in large part to the withdrawal of the large Swedish section, the SAC. This had happened as a culmination of the second major theme affecting the seventh (1951) IWA Congress - the growing reformism of SAC and its acceptance of Swedish capitalism’s strategies for handling the economic crisis of the time. This was not the first instance of the reformist path intervening in the debates of anarcho-syndicalists. We have already seen in earlier units how such discussions played a part in the revolutionary workers movement in pre-First World War Britain, France and elsewhere. At the seventh Congress, SAC sought to amend the IWA’s statutes to allow such collaboration with the state and also to enable it to stand in municipal elections. These attempts were rejected by the 1951 Congress and by the subsequent ones.

Thus, the 1950s and early 1960s was a time of much soul- searching. On one hand, the IWA was attempting to heal a rift within the Spanish CNT over collaboration with communist and bourgeois forces in the fight against Franco’s dictatorship while, on the other hand, the SAC, aided by the Dutch section, was attempting to take the IWA towards collaboration with social democratic reformism.

The lure of reformism

To understand why the SAC drifted away from the anarcho- syndicalist principle of non-collaboration with capitalism and the state, we have to look at how post-war Western Europe was organised (see also Units 19 and 20). With the US victory, the economies of those western countries formerly occupied by the Nazis, as well as Germany itself, were reconstructed, using massive amounts of US aid through the Marshall Plan. Part of this exercise was to ensure that the workers’ movement was tamed through the imposition of labour relations systems based on ‘social partnership’ between reformist unions, capitalism and the state. As Western Europe recovered and economies began to prosper (including neutral Sweden’s), many reformist unions across Western Europe began to see growing membership as workers saw apparent benefits of union co-operation with the state and management. The SAC wanted to be included in this and so drifted away from the IWA’s anarcho-syndicalist principles.

SAC’s principles had changed, but its attempt to drag the rest of the IWA along with it failed. The reaction of the majority of the other sections was uncompromising, and only the Dutch section supported SAC. While the IWA could have been described as a weak International, this did not justify or include compromising its principles. It was not about to be led into the reformist current that now had a firm grip on the workers’ movement in an effort to increase membership.

The ninth IWA Congress duly rejected SAC’s strategy in 1956. The Swedish section was sharply reminded that neither the ‘possibilism’ of Kropotkin in supporting the First World War, nor the treachery of the Second International (where social democracy had its roots) had brought any benefit to the workers’ movement. On the contrary, concession and compromise had only helped to ease the rise of fascism and authoritarian communism.

The tenth Congress in Toulouse in 1958 once more rejected SAC’s municipal activities and unemployment funds, both of which made it now bound to the Swedish state. With the IWA struggling to expand, there was some sympathy expressed towards SAC’s difficulties in developing as a revolutionary union within Swedish society. However, the Congress firmly urged the SAC to clarify its position with regard to the IWA’s principles and to anarcho- syndicalism in general. However, SAC was unable to do this, so the Congress had to accept that SAC was excluding itself from the International. The Swedish and Dutch delegations walked out, and the Congress reaffirmed its position that only organisations, which accept libertarian or anarchist communism and the principles of federation, could be admitted to the IWA.

The withdrawal of one of the founding sections of the IWA was a massive blow. The SAC had been the last functioning union within the IWA, and their exclusion brought it to its lowest ebb, where it remained during the 1960s and early 1970s. It was not until the late 1970s and 1980s that signs of real growth within the IWA appeared again.

IWA gets focused

With Franco’s death in 1975 and Spain’s subsequent ‘transition’ towards a west-European style parliamentary democracy, the CNT was able to organise openly for the first time in four decades. This blossoming of anarcho-syndicalist activity in Spain played an important initial part in reversing the IWA’s fortunes.

At the fifteenth IWA Congress in 1976, the International was still in dire straits, with only five sections in attendance, two of them operating in exile - the Spanish and Bulgarian sections. However, by 1980, the picture had changed, and the sixteenth Congress was held in a much more optimistic atmosphere. There was renewed interest in anarcho-syndicalism internationally and ten sections attended, including three new ones – from Germany, the US and Australia, and two that had recovered in the intervening years - the Italian and Norwegian sections. In Britain the SWF joined with other groups to form a new organisation, the Direct Action Movement (DAM), which took over as the British IWA section. This congress was also significant in that it was the first since 1936 in which the Spanish CNT was represented by a delegation from within Spain, rather than by the exile organisation.

The CNT had been officially legalised in May 1977, but began openly organising immediately after Franco’s death. Slowly but purposefully, it stretched its organisation throughout Spain. By late 1976, the CNT was rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with, as demonstrated by two key events they were involved in that year.

Firstly, there was the strike in October 1976 by 4,500 workers at a factory at Roca de Gavà, near Barcelona. Most of the workers were in the CC.OO, the Communist union, but the authority of the Francoist ‘vertical union’ still persisted at this time. The regional (Catalan) CNT mobilised all its solidarity and strength in support of the strikers, establishing a national solidarity movement and alerting the international workers’ movement. This broke the isolation to which the CC.OO had condemned the strikers. The CNT called a general strike in solidarity in the immediate area, forcing the Communists to follow suit. This marked the first return to representation based on workplace assemblies after Franco. The second event took place on November 12th and 13th, which were days of action called by the COS, a joint union platform working for the establishment of a single union confederation. In the event, the whole Catalan CNT turned out in Barcelona, and the city was decked in red and black. The COS unions were nowhere to be seen. These events not only influenced the CNT throughout the rest of Spain, but also spelt the beginning of the end for the COS, as the socialist UGT confederation withdrew and it subsequently collapsed.

The CNT’s growth and activity continued in 1977. In June, during the first legislative election campaign, the CNT occupied the Civil War-time premises of the Catalan CNT paper ‘Solidaridad Obrera’, that was being used by the daily ‘Solidaridad Nacional’, in a bid to reclaim what had been taken by Franco. As news of the occupation spread, the Catalan CNT regional plenum, which was meeting at that precise time, was transferred to the occupied building. This, together with the appearance of the well-known veteran militant of the civil war, José Peirats, ensured that the CNT’s action stole the front pages from the electioneering parties.

In 1977, the CNT held hundreds of public events across Spain. These included the public presentation at a press conference in Madrid of the CNT’s first national committee, crowded public meetings at San Sebastian de los Reyes and Valencia, the “Jornadas Libertarias Internacionales de Barcelona”, and celebrations of the legalisation of the CNT itself, to name a few. The result was a massive increase in the CNT’s membership - in Catalonia, 6,000 members in October 1976 had become 140,000 by the end of 1977.

It wasn’t only propaganda activities that helped the CNT’s growth. Direct action, at the core of the CNT’s anarcho-syndicalism, was also on the rampage. In Catalonia, in September 1977, a petrol station workers’ strike broke out. The CNT was strong in this sector after hundreds of workers joined en masse. Right from the start of the strike, solidarity actions spread. On the second day, there were large demonstrations in Barcelona; by the third and fourth days, the solidarity actions had spread beyond Catalonia. On the fifth day, the Governor of Barcelona brought the bosses and workers’ representatives together, urging them to sign an agreement. On the sixth day, the strike was over.

In October, the CNT publicly denounced the Moncloa Pact. This was a social and political pact, which was a kind of social partnership arrangement between the state, bosses and unions, typical of west European social democracy. Taking the rank and file of the UGT and CC.OO along with it, the CNT held a massive demonstration of more than 300,000 workers. Although all the other Spanish trade union confederations were still supporting the Pact, the Spanish ruling class were beginning to get seriously worried about the CNT’s growing strength.

With such rapid growth of anarcho-syndicalism in Spain, it is little wonder that it should rub off internationally, resulting in renewed growth for the IWA. While some of this new growth was undoubtedly spurred on by direct influence of the CNT, as others saw what could be achieved with anarcho-syndicalist ideas, some was also a result of similar economic conditions occurring in various countries at the same time.

As global recession began to bite, many workers saw that there was little to be gained any more from social democracy, and began to turn to the more militant politics and methods of anarcho- syndicalism.

The growth of the IWA continued into the 1980s and most of the existing sections were able to consolidate their positions. There were new sections, such as those in Japan and Brazil. Also, the French and Italian sections began to function as genuine revolutionary unions, by having enough members in the same workplaces to start to call for and organise militant action. In addition, those smaller sections that were still functioning as propaganda organisations were able to debate and experiment with tactics and strategies aimed at one day taking similar mass action in the workplace.

The CNT under attack

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the Spanish state did not idly sit by and allow the CNT to grow unchecked. On the contrary, moves were made, firstly to ‘integrate’ the CNT, to bring it into partnership with the state, and secondly, when this strategy failed, to provoke a split within the organisation.

In fact, well before the spectacular growth of the CNT, and early in the ‘transition’ period, the manoeuvres to deflect the CNT from its anarcho-syndicalist path were already underway. Martín Villa, Civil Governor of Barcelona and a former leading light of the old ‘vertical unionism’ of the dictatorship years, travelled to Brazil to arrange the return to Spain in early 1976 of Diego Abad de Santillán. It was hoped to use de Santillán’s historical significance from the Civil War period to influence the orientation of the newly invigorated CNT.

The first activities of the ensuing conspiracy within the CNT centred on the taking over of the Catalan regional commission, set up in February 1976 to organise the first Catalan regional plenum. Despite the presence and arguments of ‘loyal’ anarcho-syndicalists, this provisional body took initiatives that contravened the CNT’s statutes and principles, including a compromise with the UGT and other unions to create the ‘Alianza Sindical’. This move was at the instigation of people close to Martín Villa, and the aim was to use the CNT to hold back the Communist CC.OO union confederation.

All the underhand manoeuvring hindered the work of the first regional plenum, but immediately there were reactions against the attempts to divert the CNT into the path of integration with the Spanish state. As the events of October-November 1976 at Roca de Gavà and Barcelona show, the CNT’s membership was in no mood to be led in the direction desired by the puppets of social democracy in the Catalan regional commission. Thus, despite the inside job of the conspiracy, the CNT leaned unflinchingly towards anarcho- syndicalism, and the plans to take part in an anti-CC.OO front were quickly scuppered.

The state realised that trying to be devious and ‘clever’ wasn’t going to work. So it resorted to what it knew best, and in early 1977 it unleashed a sustained wave of police repression against the CNT, coupled with a poisonous campaign in the press. Simultaneously, those who had infiltrated the CNT echoed the campaign, by denouncing the anarchism of those who would resist the state’s attempts to control the organisation, in the clear hope that the ‘ordinary’ CNT member in particular, and the Spanish working class in general, would be put off by such ‘extremism’. Vast numbers of people had only recently joined the CNT as part of its rapid growth – the hope was that these less ‘hard line’ members would obediently go along with the consolidation of the ‘integrationists’ power within the CNT, once these internal conspirators had taken over the key positions within the organisation.

A principled defence

Despite the growing problems of internal conspiracy and state repression, the CNT’s numbers and militancy grew rapidly, and by late 1977 it was capable of mobilising hundreds of thousands of workers, for example, against the Moncloa Pact. Also, its influence was spreading rapidly beyond workplace and trade union issues into the community, especially via the youth, cultural and arts scenes, with events like the ‘Jornadas Libertarias’. For the powers-that-be, the CNT now represented an even more serious threat to their plans for Spain’s transition to bourgeois western democracy.

The state stepped up the repression, including the use of provocateurs, the most famous example of which was the government-inspired bomb at the Scala in Barcelona, at the end of a CNT demonstration against the Moncloa Pact. In the aftermath, many CNT activists were rounded up and thrown in jail, and the most vicious campaign yet to discredit the organisation was launched by the press, police, judiciary and political parties alike.

By this stage, the conspiracy within the CNT was beginning to realise the problem it faced. The CNT could not be taken over by simply dominating its structure through occupying ‘key’ positions. It continued to function, despite many of its main representative positions being in the control of the conspiracy. The agents of integration thus found themselves controlling an apparatus which lacked influence. Since they were so used to strictly hierarchical organisations, they hadn’t grasped a basic tenet of anarcho- syndicalism. In the CNT, as in all anarcho-syndicalist organisations, it is the organisation itself, in other words, the assemblies of the various members, that frames the criteria for action and activity. It is these meetings of individual members, which make the decisions and make the committees of representatives carry them out, not the other way around.

As the penny dropped, the idea of the split was conceived. The conspirators came to the conclusion that a broken CNT would be better than an anarcho-syndicalist one. The conspirators changed tactics. They developed the idea of ‘doubling the syndicates’ as a means to gain more voting power for their collaborationist ideas. They also held meetings of selected members, and so established a parallel structure within the CNT. From this parallel structure, the idea of participating in the workplace and municipal elections was pushed. Thus inevitably, the run up to the CNT’s fifth Congress in 1979 (the first since before the Civil War), was marked by a series of expulsions of delegates and members who had participated in and refused to denounce the parallel structure.

Fifty-two delegates denounced the fifth Congress as anti- democratic and tried to use the Spanish legal system to have the Congress annulled. However, not even a state system that was avowedly anti-CNT was able to agree to this, due to the shear weight of evidence to the contrary. This ruling in effect also discredited the so-called ‘Valencia Congress’ (which had been held by thirty five of those delegates), as having nothing to do with the CNT.

The war of attrition

However, the sad story of the CNT conspiracy didn’t end with their successful defence against legal action by the conspirators. In 1983, after the sixth CNT Congress had once again rejected participation in workplace elections, twenty-six unions left the CNT, again because of participation in workplace elections, thus breaking the CNT agreements and statutes. The origins of this second split can be traced back to 1981-82, to collaboration between those agents of integration still active within the CNT and figures high up within the hierarchies of the Spanish Socialist Party, PSOE, and its allied union confederation, UGT.

The subsequent ‘Reunification’ Congress of these twenty-six unions with those represented at the Valencia Congress, therefore clearly had nothing to do with the CNT. By the same logic used to establish the legitimacy of the fifth Congress and the illegitimacy of the Valencia Congress, it was and is clear that the ‘Reunification’ Congress was a meeting of two elements, both of which were separate from the CNT. However, this time, the court defied logic, and recognised the twenty-six unions as the CNT, thus ‘validating’ the ‘Reunification’ and leading to a long legal battle for the ‘CNT’ initials. This ran on into the early 1990s, when there was a final ruling in favour of the CNT-AIT, the ‘real’ anarcho-syndicalist CNT, leaving the phoney CNT to adopt the initials ‘CGT’.

The outcome of over a decade of infiltration, manoeuvring and legal wrangling, added to oppression and attempts at manipulation from the state and the capitalist elite, was a 1990s CNT with a mere shadow of the influence and membership it was able to wield at the end of 1977. This was a major setback, not only for the CNT, but also for the anarcho-syndicalists it influenced throughout the world. However, it is nothing short of incredible that the CNT was still in existence by 1990, and a testament to the tenacity and solid principles of the CNT membership that it did. Indeed, it is the very principles and solid ideas at the core of anarcho-syndicalism, which have provided the same tenacity throughout the IWA, enabling it to survive the lean post-war decades, without being drawn in on the lure of reformism and social democracy.

Postscript

With Marxism and social democracy now on the decline to oblivion, the shift to free market orthodoxy across the developed world is the key feature of the 1980s to the present. For some, this is a relatively new experience (e.g. China) and for others, like Britain, an all too clear reminder of the 1930s and before. Socialism has redefined and collaborated itself out of existence. The state approach to establishing a just world has failed miserably and completely. Now, it is a question of accepting the inevitability of ever-increasing war, environmental and social devastation and poverty under capitalism, or pursuing an anti-state strategy to replace capitalism, based on direct democracy, direct action, mutual aid and solidarity, workers’ control of work, and communities’ control of communities – in short, anarcho- syndicalism.

Given this choice, it is not surprising that the IWA in the 1990s began to grow steadily and purposefully. A further seven new sections affiliated to the IWA at the twentieth Congress in 1996, one of which is the Awareness League (the Nigerian section), making the IWA now represented on all five populated continents. Other new ground was also broken, with the expansion of the International into eastern Europe - new sections being welcomed from Russia and the Czech Republic, along with the reappearance of the IWA section in Bulgaria. In addition, the 1990s have seen the continued consolidation of the sections in western Europe and the Americas, while both continents have also seen new sections, such as in Portugal and Chile.

For the IWA of the 1990s, a major event (or series of events) was the fall of the Iron Curtain at the beginning of the decade. The various uprisings by east European workers were the final proof (as if any was still needed), of the total inability of authoritarian communism to free the working class. Undoubtedly, the future possibilities for the expansion of anarcho-syndicalism are even brighter now than was the case a decade ago.

Social democracy has now shed even the flimsiest excuse to justify itself as an alternative to global capitalism. Workers are increasingly facing the fact that social democratic trade unionism will not defend them. While opportunities for anarcho-syndicalism abound here, there is also the ever-present danger, when rushing to fill the void left behind by reformist unionism, of being drawn into the reformist path itself. Such pitfalls have already beset the French and Italian sections, which found themselves split in the mid-1990s over a number of related issues, including the question of participation in state-sponsored works council elections. The result was the effective expulsion from the IWA in 1996 of the part of the French Section, which was participating in such elections, and the withdrawal of the equivalent part of the Italian Section. With these actions, the International has shown itself to be determined to avoid the kind of ‘growth at all cost’ opportunism that can only result in the diluting of anarcho-syndicalism. With new sections on one hand, and expulsion and withdrawal on the other, the twentieth Congress can therefore be seen as a reflection of two important IWA trends -expansion, and the continued defence and development of anarcho-syndicalism.

Key points

  • Two distinct, but related, themes dominated the IWA after the war. One was the internal split in the Spanish CNT, both within its exile and its clandestine organisations. The second was the growing reformism of the SAC.
  • The rapid growth of the CNT after the death of Franco in 1975 inspired a renewed international anarcho-syndicalist movement.
  • The CNT came under sustained attack from the Spanish state.
  • Attempts to infiltrate the CNT and turn it towards participation in workplace and municipal elections were thwarted.
  • The reformists eventually formed their own union confederation, the CGT.

Checklist

  1. What were the reasons behind the withdrawal of the SAC from the IWA?
  2. What were the major factors in the growth of the IWA in the 1970s?
  3. After the re-emergence of the CNT how did the Spanish state react?
  4. What was behind the formation of the CGT?

Answer suggestions

1. What were the reasons behind the withdrawal of the SAC from the IWA?

The SAC had drifted to reformism advocating participation in workplace and municipal elections in an attempt to take advantage of the growth in union membership in post-war Europe. This approach was rejected by the IWA.

2. What were the major factors in the growth of the IWA in the 1970s?

The two main factors were: 1) The growth of the CNT after the death of Franco. 2) The onset of a global recession seeing workers growing disillusioned with social democratic methods.

3. After the re-emergence of the CNT how did the Spanish state react?

Firstly it tried to infiltrate the CNT in an attempt to integrate it with the Spanish state. When this failed it turned to direct repression together with a venomous campaign in the press and a condemnation of anarchism from within the CNT by the infiltrators.

4. What was behind the formation of the CGT?

After the failed attempts to turn the CNT towards reformism the conspirators developed a parallel structure and pushed the idea of participating in workplace and municipal elections. When this move was defeated twenty-six unions broke away to form a second “CNT”. After several years of legal wrangling this phoney CNT was forced to adopt the initials CGT.

Suggested discussion points

  • Is anarcho-syndicalism susceptible to reformism and if so, how can this susceptibility be minimised?
  • How important is it to affiliate globally in membership-based anarcho-syndicalist organisations as opposed to confining our contacts to local, loose-knit structureless groups?

Further Reading

AIT, La Internacional Desconocida - una aproximación a la historia de la AIT actual: 1922-1986 (in Spanish). -SE- Text of 2 lectures given by the IWA General Secretary, Fidel Gorrón Canoyra, in Cologne, 15th-16th November 1986, published by the IWA.

Proceso Político a la CNT (in Spanish). -SE- A recent history of the CNT 1976-1984, published by the CNT, and probably the only source of its kind, covering this critical period in modern CNT history.

The Anarchist Resistance to Franco. A. Tellez and F. Torres. KSL. £1 -AK- Pictures and brief biographical notes highlighting some of the CNT members involved in the desperate struggle against Franco – though rather esoteric, a rare source of English language material on this period in Spain.

Spain 1962: The Third Wave of the Struggle Against Franco. O. Alberola and A. Gransac. KSL. £1 ISBN 1873 65501 -AK- Another rare item from KSL, this time an extract, covering the events of the burst of clandestine CNT resistance against Franco in 1962. Essential.

The IWA Today - a short account of the International Workers’ Association and its sections. C. Longmore. Published in 1985 by South London DAM. -AK- -SE- In its day this was quite a controversial pamphlet, probably due to the fact that it makes some distinction between revolutionary syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism, describing some sections as one and the rest as the other. One of the few overviews of the modern IWA available in print in English.

Anarcho-syndicalism in Puerto Real - From Shipyard Resistance to Direct Democracy and Community Control. Solidarity Federation/La Presa. 1995. £1 -SE- -AK- Excellent and inspiring account of modern anarcho-syndicalism in action amongst the communities and shipyards of Puerto Real in southern Spain.

Anarcho-syndicalism in Practice: Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout, January-February 1990. Jura Media. £1.95 -AK- Another example of modern anarcho-syndicalism in action, this time in Australia. How tram workers gave up on their union bosses and took their own action. A definite must.

Notes: There are not many printed and readily available sources specifically central to the topic of this Unit. However, the SelfEd Collective will try to obtain material on IWA and its Sections to suit specific projects or interests of subscribers. In the first instance, write to SelfEd with your query. The further reading outlined is not designed to be an exhaustive bibliography or a prescriptive list. It is designed to provide some pointers for the reader who is interested in taking the topics raised in this Unit further. In addition to the above, it is always worth consulting your local library for general history texts which do cover the period, although they invariably understate the level of working class organisation and activity. To assist Course Members, an indication is given alongside each reference as to how best to obtain it. The codes are as follows: -LI- try libraries (from local to university), -AK-available from AK Distribution (Course Member discount scheme applies if you order through SelfEd, PO Box 29, SW PDO, Manchester M15 5HW), -BS- try good bookshops, -SE- ask SelfEd about loans or offprints).



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