Spain – Commemoration of the 19th July [London, 1941]

Although five years have passed since the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain, very few people, even now, appreciate the issues which were at stake in the Spanish struggle. This is a great tragedy, for if the workers in this country had any understanding of the events which took place in Spain they would not be committing the mistakes which they are today. The fact that the industrial workers and peasants in Spain knew instinctively what to do when the industrialists, landowners and capitalists fled to Franco territory, and immediately took over the production and distribution of goods through their syndicates; took over moreover transport and municipal services, and ran them – even during a period of war and blockade – far more efficiently than had been the case under the bourgeois Government, proved the Anarchist contention that the workers know what to do without being told. And very few people appreciate the diabolically reactionary role which Stalin’s Foreign Office, through their agent, the Communist Party of Spain, played in the Spanish Revolution.

There are many lessons which can be drawn besides those already mentioned. For Anarchists perhaps the most important one is that deviation from Anarchist principles in a revolutionary situation is fatal. When members of the Anarchist organisations, the CNT-FAI, in Spain, were driven to accept office in the Government, they were forced inevitably into a position of compromise. The Anarchist must always steer clear of politics and political parties.

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Spanish Revolution, a meeting was held at the Conway Hall on July 19th. Despite bad weather which washed out the rally which was to have taken place at Hyde Park in the afternoon, the hall was practically full, and the speakers were given an enthusiastic reception. A number of Spanish comrades of the CNT-FAI were among the audience.

Opening the meeting, the chairman, Ken Hawkes, stressed the importance of the Spanish Revolution, and enumerated some of the lessons which could be drawn from it. John Hewetson followed with a smashing indictment of the role of the Communist Party in Spain. He showed how the Communists had climbed to power through the trick of Russian arms, how they had refused arms to the Anarchist and P.O.U.M. columns, thus opening up the Aragon front to the Fascists, how they had increased their membership and power by allying themselves with the most reactionary elements of the “Popular Front” and adopting a counter-revolutionary programme, and how they utilised the International Brigades to break up the factory and farm collectives of the Spanish workers.

Tom Brown explained how the Spanish Revolution had been the decisive factor in bringing him into the anarcho-syndicalist camp. For the first time Anarchism had been put into practice, even though on a limited scale, and the achievements of the revolutionary workers in Spain had shown him conclusively that the Marxist myths of “political action” and “state control” were absolutely false. He went on to speak of the present situation, and said that he thought that the day was coming when the working-class internationally would realise its own strength, and would find that the social revolution was within its grasp.

M. L. Berneri, the daughter of Camillo Berneri, the Italian Anarchist militant, who was murdered by the Stalinists during the May Days in Barcelona in 1937, then spoke of those who had fought and died in Spain for the ideal of Freedom, of Anarchism.

The last speaker, Mat Kavanagh, spoke of the terrific fight which the Anarchist columns had put up in Spain, mentioning in particular the Durruti Column. Comrade Kavanagh dealt with the great similarity between Buenaventura Durruti and Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian Anarchist, whose guerilla militias drove one army after another out of the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution.

From a recent anonymous donation (thanks!)

From: War Commentary for Anarchism v.2, n.10 (August 1941) Page 12.