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Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

speaking of the spanish revolution (syndicalism or not?)

I wrote this on Reddit last night in the midst of a discussion about whether the Spanish Revolution was "anarcho-communist" or "anarcho-syndicalist." It's popularly understood as syndicalist (thanks in large part to Rudy Rocker's dry but awesome "Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice") but the truth is a little more complicated than that. Didn't want it to languish in the obscurity of a low-traffic thread on a quiet subreddit:

if you'll excuse a long-winded bit of history for the sake of clarification on the point of precisely what happened in spain:

While the revolution as seen in places like Catalonia certainly had an overwhelmingly anarcho-syndicalist character, the roots of anarchy in Spain were agrarian and decidedly anarcho-communist--that is to say, not syndicalist or trade union-focused. Rural collectivism and municipal cooperatives had been around for a generation or so in villages thanks in part to the organizing work of the Anarchist Organization of the Spanish Region. They were less interested in a working class mass movement and more interested in small affinity group-based revolutionary militant action. They'd lost support through terroristic tactics & ensuing repression in the early part of the 20th century, so they decided to shed the unwieldy name & reputation to form the anarcho-communist underground FAI.

The anarcho-communists of the FAI generally looked down on the "mere compromising trade unionists" of the CNT as reformists, but they wanted to coopt the rising energy of the syndicalist movement for more explicitly revolutionary ends. They accomplished this in part by requiring that all members of the underground FAI join the CNT (to fill their ranks with anarcho-communists). The CNT was largely ok with this, because that meant their union suddenly had even more strength in numbers, though they from time to time would criticize the FAIstas more radical tactics (namely gunplay & terrorism) taken on in the name of revolution. By 1933 (while still ostensibly a "secret" organization!) the FAI had largely succeeded in driving the Spanish Communist Party & "reformist" syndicalist leaders from the CNT. By 1936, when the FAI finally went public and the CNT-FAI officially became one organization, even those "mere syndicalists" felt obligated to pay lip service to anarcho-communism.

Leading up to and after 1936, the rural collectives continued to practice self-managed libertarian communism, but the republican economy was largely centered by that point on the factories in the urban areas which were ostensibly run by workers' committees. When it came time to work across smaller worker committees for the sake of more complicated industrial projects they were coordinated by higher administrative committees in the union. Eventually the administrative committees began to, rather than simply carry out the decisions of the lower committees, work ahead of them. The decisions of the admin committees always had to be ratified by the lower workers' committees, but it should be clear here that the desired power relation had been precisely reversed.

When the CNT-FAI entered the Catalan government in 1936 the committees effectively became wedded to the state apparatus, and by 1938 workers control existed in theory but had largely disappeared in fact in the industrial areas. Meanwhile, as ever, those collectivized anarcho-communist farms kept up their work.

tldr syndicalist or communist? it was a bit of both, but commies started the shit, ran the shit, and stayed on top of the shit after the syndies turned into bureaucrats.

For more on this I'd recommend Bookchin's "To Remember Spain" or "The Anarchist Collectives in Spain," a really badass historical study of the particulars of the revolution.

PS: all the links in this thread take you to places where you can download or read the books. you gotta love an attitude of openness, no?