An exemplary village in terms of the goodness of its sentiments
Lécera is the premier village of the province of Zaragoza and lies within the Belchite judicial precinct. It lies some twelve kilometres from Belchite. Its population is around 2,400 and it boasts some industry, such as the gypsum industry. Agriculture accounts for all the rest, with the main crops being wheat, grapes, saffron and, to a lesser extent, other cereals.
Lécera which, before the revolution boasted no presence of the confederal movement of the CNT is a village of hardworking, sympathetic folk. In terms of its virtues and its understanding it will assuredly mirror many other Aragón villages.
Conversing with the village committee
Upon reaching the location presently given over to an encampment for the use of the militias, the first thing we did was to seek out the committee. We discovered it in the old corporation building. Comrade Pedro Navarro Jarque, Lécera’s national schoolmaster, answered our inquiries:
‘The Committee goes under the name of the Revolutionary Antifascist Committee and comprises seven members, all of them drawn from the General Trades Union affiliated to the CNT.
‘It enjoys complete freedom of action, neither accepting no rejecting the influences of any political party. We were appointed in assembly and represent the unanimous consensus of the village. We have the same powers as a corporation in the internal administration of the village.
‘There is a local Administrative Council, made up of five comrades belonging to the union affiliated to the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and it oversees the organisation of work in the fields and in the industries of Lécera.
‘We also appointed a labour delegate who, together with another dozen sub-delegates, sees to the organisation of collective labour and to the requirements of the column serving on this front. Naturally, the all operate in accordance with the Revolutionary Committee.’
Have you collectivised the land?
‘This was a thorny, complicated problem. Or rather, it remains so. We want people to be persuaded of the validity and advantageous nature of our ideas.
‘We have collectivised the larger holdings and, so far, have not interfered with the smaller ones. Unless circumstances turn against us, we are convinced that the smallholder will voluntarily enter the collective, because the people of Lécera are decent, understanding folk as is demonstrated by their having voluntarily donated a sizeable proportion of harvested produce to the common store.
‘At present, the saffron is gathered in on all the smallholdings, is broken up collectively and then is stored away for use and for trade.
‘The smallholders, who hitherto had scarcely enough to eat, in that almost the whole of the harvest they brought in used to be seized by the large landowners in payment of debts incurred, wanted to hold on to their land, but, in general assembly, the necessity of pooling all harvests was raised and there was unanimous approval for this.
‘People’s wishes have to be respected, and they have to be won over by example, without coercion.
‘The Revolutionary Committee wants the work of comrade Manuel Martínez, the sub-delegate of the Lécera front to be known. The people as a whole are indebted to him.’
How long has the committee been in operation?
‘About three months now. It took office on 25 August, from which date the libertarian communist social system and abolition of money in the village have been in force.
‘A variety of products have been bartered with Tortosa and Reus. For the use of the militias on this front, 5,000 sheep have been butchered and some 280,000 kilos of wheat have been consumed. In return, the Supply Committee furnishes the civilian population with every item.’
With money no longer circulating, how do the smallholders manage to supply their needs?
‘We mentioned earlier that we preach by example. there are no class distinctions, no differentials. In our eyes, the smallholder, who tomorrow, will doubtless cease to be such, is a producer.
‘Through the labour sub-delegates who are also district delegates, there is thorough familiarity with the workers who toil, and the supply delegate issues what is needed to each family by means of a booklet what the Revolutionary Committee has in its foodstuffs warehouse. The share-out is on the most equitable basis possible’ - concluded Navarro the committee chairman - ‘yet we are always looking for improvements.’
Lécera was always a thoroughly liberal village.
This, an ideal little hamlet in terms of its lifestyle and administration, has always been the home of liberal-minded men. Anecdotes and episodes from the last century were related to us. Nevertheless, neither the CNT nor the FAI, on account of the repressions they had undergone, had had an audience for their propagandists there. The ideas embodied in our confederal organisation were, until quite recently, unknown there.
‘Before the fascists’ criminal revolt,’ the comrades said to us, ‘there was a branch of the Republican Left and a Socialist chapter as well. But the CNT was unknown. Now everything has changed and all of the workers belong to the CNT.
‘We have 512 affiliated members, nearly all of the workforce, so that the establishment of another union is out of the question. there is a great affinity between us and no differences of opinion of any sort.
‘On the cultural side, there is a wish to set up good schools and libraries.’
Was there a fascist attack on the village?
‘Within its limits, no, but there has been heavy fighting in the mountains, especially up on Monte Lobo, where the rebels lost a lot of men.
‘In the early days, confronted by the trust of the forces coming from Albalate, all of the local fascists decamped, together with part of the Corporation, in the direction of Belchite. The remainder of the Corporation stayed in Lécera and… the inevitable came to pass. The people did justice. Naturally it was not a question of a people’s corporation, for that had been deposed on 19 July by the fascists and a rebel appointed in its place.’
In the supply depot.
A short distance from the premises of the Revolutionary Committee we came across the Lécera General Depot. This occupies a great hall and the inner rooms of a building known as the Salón Pompeya which was due to have opened as a dance hall. the stores are crammed with foodstuffs, crates full of milk churns, sacks of vegetables, drums of olive oil, great stacks of canned meats, etc., and on the floor above an enormous array of clothing and other rural accoutrements. Provisions galore.
On the premises we met comrade Antonio González from Santa Colma de Gramanet, who holds the office of delegate-general of supply in Lécera.
The needful was done to ensure that the civilian population goes short of absolutely nothing. the villages surrender nothing to the Supply Committee because they had given everything up to it even before it had been set up. Even so, they provide a huge quantity of olive oil which they had been keeping in storage.
‘The Supply Committee,’ say comrade González, ‘comprises fifteen members, not counting the delegate-general and quartermaster second lieutenant. they are all delegates from the militia centuries, plus one delegate from the local committee.
‘The food,’ he hadded, ‘as you can see, is in plentiful supply,’
‘Aside from the matter of food and clothing, the committee has no other jurisdiction. It has not the slightest involvement either in the area of health nor in questions relating to the war.’
From: Colectivizaciones: la obra constructiva de la revolución Española. Toulouse, 1973, pp.203-207. . Translated by: Paul Sharkey.
In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 46-47, July 2006 [Double issue]