(From Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, fall, 2004)

In the spring of 2003, The New Formulation published an interview with Fernando López about Resistencia Libertaria, a clandestine anarchist organization founded shortly before the Argentinean military seized power in 1976.(1)

This organization engaged in militant opposition in the labor, student, and neighborhood arenas, and also had a military wing with which it financed and defended itself. The group was crushed in 1978 and 80 percent of its more than 100 members perished in the dictatorship’s concentration camps and torture chambers. López had been an active member of Resistencia Libertaria (RL) and our interview with him was the first published account of RL’s history in any language.

Shortly after that issue appeared The New Formulation received a letter from María Esther Tello. Writing from France, she informed us that she had been a member of RL and was the mother of three activists mentioned by Lopez: the beloved Tello brothers, who were among RL’s most active militants and now, like so many others, “disappeared.”

Her letter was forwarded to Argentinean comrades, our interview was made available in Spanish, and Tello visited Argentina in the fall of 2003. Long overdue discussions about RL occurred there and old bonds between comrades who had not seen one another in years began to be renewed. It was an honor to know that The New Formulation had contributed to that process.

The history of RL, and all the losses associated with it, must never be forgotten. We publish the following testimony from Tello as a small attempt to help ensure that it is not.

~ Chuck Morse

– – – – –
My first contacts with libertarian activism

I was born in La Plata and the greater part of my professional life transpired there. I worked in public education, as a teacher in rural schools as well as in schools in working class and middle class neighborhoods. I was also a school inspector in rural and urban areas and a social worker of the Department of University Extension. This is to say that I was always linked to the disadvantaged or proletarian sectors of my country.

I was very young when I entered into anarchist activism. At fifteen years old, I began to link myself with an anarchist group called Voluntad (Will), together with someone who later became my husband and the father of my three disappeared sons. This group was made up of a dozen comrades who, for the most part, were university students or professionals. It was dedicated to the distribution of propaganda coming from the FORA,(2) or what survived of it, to [the creation of] illegal murals ( pintadas murales ), and to theoretical discussions based in the classical literature. Our material came from the Editorial Reconstruir and from La Protesta and Acción Directa or La Antorcha . Our most respected figure was Rodolfo González Pacheco, in whose vacation house I met Emilio Uriondo, an anarchist expropriator who had formed part of Ascaso and Rosigna’s group.(3)

At that time, and much later as well, marked opposition to Peronism and its depiction as a fascist movement was characteristic of the anarchist movement. It is for this reason that our practice remained remote from the working class-which was largely Peronist-except for the relations we maintained with the naval construction workers and the plumbers’ union, who were supporters of anarcho-syndicalism or the anarcho-communism of the FORA of the Fifth Congress.(4)

Although the Voluntad group dissolved, my husband, myself, and other comrades continued our activity in La Plata in a very similar vein. Our group was clandestine and did not have a name. Its methods of action were, in my opinion, more individualist and intellectual than rooted in the working class. Nevertheless, our diverse ties-which had more of a friendship than organizational character-permitted me to meet and in some cases maintain friendships with outstanding figures of Argentine anarchism, such as the aforementioned González Pacheco and Uriondo, the anarcho-syndicalists Umberto Correales and Carlos Kristof, and the veteran of the Spanish Revolution, Manuel Palanca, and his admirable companion Carmen.

This was during the final period of Perón’s rule. Perón was deposed in 1955 by a military coup that brought general Lombardi-a fervent Catholic-to power, who in turn was later replaced by Aramburu and the admiral Rojas. This was a powerful time for me. My comrades, who were primarily from the University of La Plata, discussed the possibility of joining the armed commandos-led by the center-left and above all by the Radical Party-who were to come out in opposition to a possible working class uprising in support of Perón. I knew the reality of these workers, through my students and from own family, whose lives had been objectively improved by the social laws introduced by Perón-the Christmas bonus, the loans for housing, the paid vacations, the support for health care-and I also knew that the improvements in their conditions were not due to the struggles of their unions but rather were concessions made by Perón to his supporters, in order to better manage them later. But, still, they were authentic benefits that had never been obtained-trying to suppress them was to oppose the working class that defended, in Perón, conditions of life to which they doubtlessly had a right. A little later that military government executed loads of workers, intervened in unions, censured the press.

I was the only woman in that group for a long time, although we were joined by Elsa Martínez, Amalia Peralta-Argentina’s first woman guerrilla, as a member of the Peronist Uturunco group, which she joined after leaving ours on friendly terms-and other young women on a temporary basis. This group eventually became inactive and disappeared.

Birth and Development of Resistancia Libertaria

Pablo Daniel, my oldest son, entered the Department of Engineering in 1967 and studied there for a year or two before going into architecture. He was active in the student movement of La Plata and twice arrested by the police during student demonstrations.

He and two other comrades began the nucleus of what later became Resistancia Libertaria . At the beginning it was a student group of three comrades-Pablo, Tino, and el Tano-but little by little others were incorporated. In the middle of 1969, my other two sons, Marcelo and Rafael, and their partners joined. Marcelo studied theater and Rafael studied philosophy in the Humanities Department. There was also myself, Perinola, Cristina, la Turca, Yogurt, Hernán and Elsa (who had been part of the group from the 1950s), and others, many of whom I did not meet directly (I note here that half of us were women).(5)

Almost all had finished or abandoned their university studies, joined the work force, and entered into labor struggles. In the beginning, the organization was structured around two areas of engagement ( frentes )-neighborhood and labor-and the group grew with the integration of other militants from Buenos Aires and especially Córdoba, who enriched it in every sense.

Our home and library was the center of operations and study. The events of Córdoba in 1969, the references to the French May, as well as the more or less close links with the old anarchist comrades, were the breeding ground of ideas and debates. The Department of Architecture of La Plata was also a hotbed of groups and Left tendencies, and the place from where many militants emerged who joined the labor movement in some cases or the armed struggle in others. This is how the initial group expanded, incorporating young men and women that came from other tendencies or who were beginning, more often than not, their activist lives. Couples, who soon had children, also emerged, which created strong links and a sense of solidarity among all of these youths.

Given the organization’s cellular structure that we were obliged to maintain during various military governments, I never joined the same cell as my sons. We also did not discuss what occurred in RL within the family, although sometimes we shared responsibilities and resources.

The particular composition of our group, with an equal proportion of women and tasks not differentiated by sex, offered little ground for feminist objections. Macho attitudes seemed out of place and totally untenable. I remember our dear Perinola and Elsa Martínez confronting the police during the repression of a demonstration in La Plata with the same ardor and efficiency as their male comrades. These two died tragically and their memory always fills us with emotion, as well as that of Yogurt and Cristina.

Inside the organization, self-management was an essential and undisputed practice. It functioned as a style of life and as a solution to everything we embarked upon. I think that we all shared a strong sense of fullness, of living thoroughly, of loving ourselves, and of loving the struggle and all that it embodied.

Activism in Exile

Some weeks before the military dictatorship took power in March 1976, my son Marcelo disappeared. We were persecuted and I had to stay in France where I went in exile, on the decision of my RL group. There I joined in the activities of the Support Committee [for victims of the dictatorship], which a group of Argentines had created in Paris. Later I was a member of and contributed to founding other solidarity groups that fought for the disappeared as well as Argentine and French prisoners. In 1978 my other two sons, Pablo Daniel and Rafael, were disappeared, together with Hernán and Elsa Ramírez and other RL comrades. La Turk was executed in 1976.

I returned to Argentina in 1984 and joined the Madres de Plaza de Mayo of La Plata. That same year, I initiated a trial against those responsible for the genocide. I first did this in Argentina and, when then-president Ménem announced the pardon of the military and police criminals, I returned to France, where I now live. I have again taken legal action against those responsible for the genocide, this time in the French courts. I am presently a member of the CNT, to which I make a modest contribution.

Translated from Spanish by Chuck Morse.

– – – – –
1. Chuck Morse, “Resistencia Libertaria: Anarchist Opposition to the Last Argentine Dictatorship,”The New Formulation Vol. 2, No. 1 (February 2003): 75–88.
2. The FORA is the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina, an anarchist-led labor federation that played a leading role in social struggles at the beginning of the 20th century.
3. See review by Astrid Wessels in this issue for comments on Miguel Rosigna. Francisco Ascaso was a Spanish anarchist, best known for his close association with Buenaventura Durruti.
4. Tello refers here to the specifically anarchist wing of the FORA, which emerged as the result of a split in the organization.
5. In a private letter, Tello explained that “Yogurt” received his nickname “because he was very young when he joined our organization, almost a boy “that would have to drink milk.” As for “Perolina,” this name was an “allusion to her strong inclination to ingest all types of liquids, alcoholic or not, and without order or preference.”

New Release: Paradoxes of Utopia: Anarchist Culture and Politics in Buenos Aires 1890–1910

By Juan Suriano
Translated by Chuck Morse

paradoxesofutopiaWhen the Argentine economy collapsed in 2001, many were surprised by the factory takeovers and neighborhood assemblies that resulted. But workers’ control and direct democracy have long histories in Argentina, where from the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, anarchism was the main revolutionary ideology of the labor movement and other social struggles.

Most histories of anarchism in Argentina tend toward dry analyses of labor politics, lists of union acronyms, and the like. For Juan Suriano, that’s just one part of the story. Paradoxes of Utopia gives us an engaging look at fin de siècle Buenos Aires that brings to life the vibrant culture behind one of the world’s largest anarchist movements: the radical schools, newspapers, theaters, and social clubs that made revolution a way of life. Cultural history in the best sense, Paradoxes of Utopia explores how a revolutionary ideology was woven into the ordinary lives of tens of thousands of people, creating a complex tapestry of symbols, rituals, and daily practices that supported-and indeed created the possibility of-the Argentine labor movement.

Without partisanship or didacticism, Suriano creates an innovative panorama that gives equal weigh to the strengths and weakness of anarchism in Argentina, effective strategies and grave mistakes, internal debates and state repression, all contextualized within the country’s broader political, economic, and cultural history.

Interview with Flavio Sosa: APPO is questioning the traditional ways of doing politics

Translated to English by Chuck Morse
November 9, 2006

By Hernán Ouviña

Flavio Sosa is a member of the “provisional collective council” of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in Spanish). Despite being one of APPO’s most visible faces at the moment, he insists on stating that “ours is a movement of the grassroots, not leaders.” What follows are some fragments of a much longer conversation that we had with him and other comrades in the tent city in the emblematic Santo Domingo Plaza, a bastion of communalist resistance in Oaxaca.

* * *

How did APPO begin?

There is a long tradition of assemblies in Oaxaca that goes back to the pre-Hispanic era–the popular assembly is the ultimate authority in indigenous communities–and APPO was born with the goal of being an assembly of assemblies; one that would include the Zapotecos, the Mixtecos, the Mixes, the rest of the indigenous peoples, and black people. It arose as an exercise in democracy carried out by the various people, communities, and organizations that want to participate in the movement.

There are 350 organizations in APPO?

Yes. Community and neighborhood organizations participated from the very beginning, as well as unions, political fronts, civil society organizations, and even professional associations. That’s why we say that APPO has many dimensions. We’re going to hold our founding congress on November 10 to November 12, in order to give ourselves a more solid and practical structure, with a platform of principles. Initially, APPO was a popular response to the aggression inflicted upon the teachers and a mechanism for reaching a common goal, which is the departure of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Later, the idea spread of working not only to topple Ulises Ruiz Ortiz but also to transform the conditions of life, to lay the foundations for a new relationship between society and government. In this context, there have been many interesting discussions about the reforms that Oaxaca needs and what direction the government we want should go. Intellectuals, academics, religious people, and members of other organizations have taken part. It’s as if there’s APPO on the one side and the street movement on the other, which is ultimately turning itself into a movement that is pacifist yet able to respond to attacks, such as those that we suffered at the hands of the Federal Preventative Police (FPP).

Why was the name changed from the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca to the Popular Assembly of the Peoples (plural)?

This happened in the beginning of September in response to a criticism. We used “popular assembly” because that’s the space in the community for discussion, where debates happen and decisions are made. However, after thinking about it, we decided that it had to be of the “peoples” not “people,” because we are many peoples, many ethnicities. We have different roots and therefore different perspectives.

How did the leadership emerge and what is its relation to the grassroots?

The leadership came out of a general assembly that took place on June 20. It’s a council that we call “provisional collective,” but we’re going to try to give it a more definitive character at our congress. It will represent regions as well as the movement’s most active organizations, considering that there are different levels of participation. Some people are active briefly, then withdraw a bit, and then engage again when there are marches or sit-ins. Involvement varies according to each organization’s commitment and ability. There are also some groups that are very localized in specific regions and so it’s difficult for them to be in the city all the time. Oaxaca is very spread out geographically. For example, it takes 10 or 12 hours to get to Isthmus (of Tehuantepec) and the Sierra is just as far. That’s why it wasn’t possible to have permanent leaders at a central level. We’ve made various efforts, but APPO’s regionalism still isn’t very consolidated. APPO needs to reflect all the communities, which is what we’re working to do.

What’s going to happen with APPO after the constitutive congress?

We don’t know what direction this will go in, because we first have to listen to what the grassroots say. This movement was born as a response to a brutal aggression, but began to question everything: to question the media, which it seized and took over in some instances; to question the traditional ways of doing politics and attempt to articulate new methods of doing them; to question the political parties and stop any one from calling the shots; even to question the leadership itself and create a collective leadership; and also to question a bad government and try to remove it. This has made it an anti-systemic movement that alarms the political class. “How can a protest movement challenge the status quo and how we do politics?” the politicians ask themselves. Well, since the people are questioning all the traditional ways of doing politics, we think that it’s the people who should invent something new at this congress.

Are there arrest warrants out for APPO’s leadership?

There are arrest warrants for all the leaders. In fact, apparently more than 300 orders have been issued. Yesterday we learned that there was a new search warrant for Radio Universidad, supposedly to look for arms and arrest some prominent militants. We do our best not to be there, in order not to give them any pretexts. The repression has been endless. They’ve even thrown Molotov cocktails at the homes of APPO’s principal activists and have tried to mess with the homes of others. Ulises has made terror a routine political practice. He uses the police as well as hired assassins and went after us up through Thursday, imprisoning us. There’s a radio station named Ciudadana, which we call Radio Raccoon, that tells people to persecute us, to go to our homes. They even try to implicate us in criminal acts like drug trafficking to justify the repression. None of this has any basis: ours is a popular movement.

What can you tell us about the dialogue due to begin this Monday, November 6, in the city’s Cathedral?

We had always wanted a space for dialogue between APPO and civil society, because we knew that we had to address the conflict. But then the FPP came and began to raid people’s homes and arrest popular leaders in some neighborhoods. That was when the idea of the dialogue in the Cathedral arose. We spoke with Oaxaca Church authorities, who imposed a series of conditions on us. At first we agreed, even though we thought that they were excessive, because peace is an urgent necessity. However, our position changed after the battle in the University City, given that the correlation of forces and also the spirit of the people had changed. The situation in Oaxaca also looks different from a national perspective. Since the FPP’s defeat in battle, the existence of the FPP itself is now at risk, politically speaking. This gives us a very important role in the national context and, although we think that peace is imperative, we don’t want to our actions to always be defensive and conditioned. We want to go on the offensive. This is the framework for the megamarch that we’re organizing on Sunday. But it was our discussions with organisms of civil society that prompted us to create the dialogue that will begin on Monday.

Will a representative from the federal government attend?

I don’t think so, although we’ve asked to speak with them and for them to listen to us. And if the participants that are there tell APPO: “it’s not necessary for you to speak,” then we’ll respect that. We’ll leave this space to civil society. We think it’s an important space and that it will help us find a path to peace. There will be this route on the one hand and, on the other, that of popular mobilization, on which we’re going to push very hard. We also have a proposal for direct dialogue with the President, but we need our prisoners to be freed and the FPP to get out first. There’s no doubt that the solution to the conflict has to involve the departure of Ulises Ruiz and the implementation of the existing commitments for the transformation of Oaxaca.

If there is no governmental delegation at the dialogue, who will be your counterpart?

It won’t be a bilateral dialogue, but rather a multi-lateral space. We intend to say what we think so that we and various civil society actors can come to a conclusion about the best routes for peace and for getting the police and Ulises Ruiz to leave Oaxaca. That’s our objective, at least. What we expect from the discussion is good sense, proposals, and serious thought. We’ll see if we can come to an understanding.

What will happen if you force Ulises out but the federal government installs another governor with similar characteristics?

That’s not possible, because Oaxaca won’t allow it and they know it. There’s going to be a party here when Ulises falls. People who haven’t protested with us before are going to run into the street saying, “We won! . . . I was always with you!” We’ve already seen this happen during the marches. Some people don’t participate at first, but when they see themselves in this enormous mirror of the megamarches, they join.

What is the goal of this Sunday’s megamarch?

To demonstrate the movement’s strength and popular support. Also, to show our opposition to the FPP and our desire for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Are you thinking of coordinating your struggle with the other great movements in Mexico, like the Zapatistas and the civil resistance to the electoral fraud?

Sadly, that’s not our priority right now, although we are committed to the democratic transformation of the country. We will see what’s the best way to fight for this. The social fabric in Oaxaca has suffered terrible wounds: people have lost jobs, the teachers aren’t teaching; there are problems in the communities; the health sector has shut down. Third parties have been affected, it has to be recognized. We’re in an emergency situation and need to resolve local matters first. But in no way does that mean that we will disregard national issues. In fact, we think it’s necessary to connect ourselves to the Other Campaign, the National Democratic Convention, and various additional organizations.

Some criticize you for focusing on the fall of Ulises Ruiz, given that the election of Felipe Calderón was also the result of fraud.

While it wouldn’t be right for Calderón to become president, that’s not our principle responsibility but rather that of the entire national movement. We don’t want to become the vanguard of the country’s movement. That isn’t our task. The people didn’t take to the streets of Oaxaca so that the APPO can become Mexico’s vanguard.

Members of APPO say that your movement isn’t about leaders but the grassroots. What are they talking about?

Look, you’re speaking to one of APPO’s most visible faces right now. Suppose that I decide to make a deal with Ulises: in that case, they’d push me aside and the movement would continue. I don’t make the decisions. I have a responsibility—to speak with the press and articulate a position—but I don’t control APPO. Sometimes my opinions are received favorably in the assemblies and other times they say “this guy is crazy” and simply ignore me. This isn’t a party-based movement. And you can’t try to discipline it, because it isn’t an army either. For example, yesterday it took the “provisional council” a great deal of effort to get something passed in a general assembly, despite the fact that we brought a proposal, agreed upon by consensus, arguing that the main highways should be cleared. We barely managed to get it passed. But it’s going to take a lot of work to get the base to accept that agreement, even if we explain all the virtues of the proposal. That’s something that no leader can pull off.

You’ll also clear the area around the Ciudad Universitaria, like the Cinco Señores Crossing (where the FPP was defeated last Thursday)?

There’s going to be a special situation there. If you suggest to the university people that they remove the blockades around the Ciudad Universitaria, they’ll tell you to go to hell. That’s why I said that this movement doesn’t depend on leaders. Here’s another example: they have a committee that runs Radio Universidad and, on the day of the fighting I said, “Listen, give me a moment to send a message.” They told me, “No, you can’t go in. There’s an emergency.” I insisted, telling them that I only needed a minute, but the response was the same. That’s why we say that this movement isn’t homogeneous, but multi-directional. It’s the conventional view of politics that leads people to search for someone to be the leader, perhaps someone who is at the head of the demonstrations or appears most frequently on television. Actually, some guys here painted “if you create a leader, you create a tyrant” on a wall. They have good reasons to say that and we respect them. That’s why it’s important to understand that this movement is about all of society, trying to live together and move forward together. There are comrades that wear the hammer and sickle symbol and then there are the base church communities that come with the Virgin of Guadalupe. That’s the great strength of our movement. That’s why we always say, “it’s not about the leaders.” On one occasion, when this phrase began to circulate, someone made a sign saying, “This isn’t a movement of leaders, but the grassroots” and the group later signed it. Shortly afterwards, some thoughtful young guys added underneath with a pen: “it’s not about leaders . . . or even groups.” That’s the reality.


New Book: Resistencia libertaria

[first posted in 2007]

One could be excused for thinking that Latin American revolutionaries were all authoritarians in the 1960s and 1970s. Leading figures like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Savlador Allende were deeply committed to a state-centered, top down approach to social change and groups like Uruguay’s Tupamaros or Brazil’s MR-8, which might have seemed more libertarian, were devoted Marxist-Leninists. It would appear that anarchists had no presence during the period.

The truth is that they were quite active and made important contributions to the battles being waged against the military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. While their efforts are largely not reflected in the historical record, this omission says more about biases among historians, and the fear of disclosure that many survivors have inherited from the era, than anarchists’ real significance to the march of events during those terrifying decades.

This is why the recent publication of Verónica Diz and Fernando López Trujillo’s Resistencia Libertaria is such a good thing. Their (Spanish-language) book is the first comprehensive study of Resistencia Libertaria (RL) in any language and will hopefully help bring anarchists into the picture. RL was a clandestine Argentine anarchist organization founded shortly before the Argentine military seized power in 1976. It was active in the student, labor, and neighborhood movements of the time and also had a military wing with which it defended and financed its activities. The group had between 100 and 130 members at its peak as well as a much larger circle of supporters. The state crushed the organization in 1978 and 80 percent of its militants suffered the dictatorship’s concentration camps and torture chambers.

López and Diz qualify their work as a “first approximation” of RL’s history. Their book covers the origins of the group, some of its activities prior to the dictatorship, and the generalized crisis that erupted after the 1976 military coup. It also has five appendices which contain relevant historical documents as well as related articles.

The authors: Fernando López, a historian, is one of the few surviving RL members and author of Vidas en rojo y negro: Una historia del anarquismo en la década infame (Letra Libre, 2005). Verónica Diz is a journalist and professor of history whose work has focused on the relationship between anarchism and feminism.

See also:

English readers interested in learning more about Resistencia Libertaria should check out an interview that I conducted with López in 2002: “Resistencia Libertaria: Anarchist Opposition to the Last Argentine Dictatorship.” Spanish readers might wish to download the prologue and first chapter of López and Diz’s book from the publisher’s website. Those interested in contemporary Argentine anarchism may be interested in López’s “Some Notes on the Argentine Anarchist Movement in the Emergency“; for the movement’s early years, see the growing archive of Latin American anarchist material on this site.

Below is a short video documenting the creation of a mural in honor of disappeared members of Resistencia Libertaria. The mural was a project of Argentina’s Organización Socialista Libertaria and the muralists were known as the “Unidad Muralista Hermanos Tello,” a name evoking the memory of the three Tello brothers, who were leading members of RL and are all disappeared.

The Life – or Death – of the Anti-Globalization Movement

(From Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, spring, 2004)

The anti-globalization movement that erupted onto the scene in Seattle 1999 frightened elites and inspired activists around the world to fight the system in a utopian, anti-authoritarian way. However, this movement has occupied a much less significant place on the public stage since the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. Is it over?

We asked Marina Sitrin (IAS grant recipient) and Chuck Morse (IAS board member) for their thoughts on this question.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Chuck Morse’s Response: Revolutionary movements come and go. The classical anarchist movement, the black liberation movement, the ecology movement, and others pushed against the boundaries of the social order and then—when faced with challenges they could not confront—collapsed into history.

The anti-globalization movement has also come and gone. It leapt to world attention during the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization and died with the February 2002 mobilizations against the World Economic Forum in New York City. Although struggles against capitalist globalization are ongoing, this particular movement is in need of an obituary.

Signs of its demise are everywhere. The movement is no longer capable of stirring fear among the ruling class or even generating significant media attention (despite the fact that the protests continue). Activist efforts to shape the movement have also diminished dramatically: books and documentaries on the movement now appear much less frequently than before, strategy summits are far less common, strategic innovations (like Indymedia) have ceased to emerge, and once vibrant internal debates have largely dried up.

These things indicate more than a temporary lull in activity: the anti-globalization movement is dead.

It died because it faltered when faced with a key opportunity to deepen its attack on the capitalist system. It bungled a historical moment and, as a result, lost its momentum as well as its significance for the public at large. Although activists may take up some of the movement’s motifs in the future, these activists as well as the political context will be entirely different.

The anti-globalization movement was unique in three ways. First, its opposition to global capital was premised on a deeply moral critique of the reduction of people and nature to salable objects, and in this sense, it challenged the very premises of the market economy. Second, its emphasis on participatory direct action ensured that the movement was truly democratic and not divided between a cadre of professional organizers and a herd of passive followers. Finally, its focus on tactics but not politics allowed people with diverse and often contradictory convictions to work together and find some common ground.

The movement threw itself headlong into a conflict with the architects of the global economy, and the confrontation that ensued was enormously educational. The summit protests illustrated the deep contrast between the cruel, profit-driven world of the global capitalists and “another world” premised on the joyous affirmation of life. Everything—even the style with which each side presented its case—seemed to emphasize the divide. The violence that erupted at protest after protest was also very instructive: the police made our point about the barbarism of capital by savagely repressing dissidents, and the sight of city streets in flames punctuated the irreconcilable conflict between the two visions of the world in play.

The anti-globalization movement thus polarized the debate about the future of the world system and, by virtue of its success, confronted a question on which its fate would hang: if global capitalism must be abandoned, what is the alternative? What groups and institutions should structure economic activity? Nation-states? Associations of nation-states? Communities? Social movements?

The world waited for an answer, and unfortunately one was never produced. Although various proposals and schemes floated around activist circles, a reconstructive vision was neither seriously debated nor advanced. There were vigorous discussions of tactical issues (like the role of violence at protests) and moral issues (like the impact of privilege on activists), but the fundamental political questions remained unaddressed.

The movement not only failed to confront these questions but also developed a political culture that undermined attempts to do so. The constant affirmation of diversity, plurality, and openness—which are undoubtedly virtues, but vacuous outside a political context—discouraged people from seriously reflecting on the movement’s goals. Indeed, during its terminal stages, the movement seemed flooded with professors, grad students, and journalists who gravely warned us not to present an affirmative, coherent alternative.

Admittedly, the deferral of political questions had advantages. It allowed people to come together whose aims seemed deeply conflicted—lobbyists and anarchists, turtles and teamsters, Communists and Christians, etc.—and unexpectedly rich dialogues often resulted. Many discovered that they had more in common with one another than they previously supposed, and this helped the old boundaries of the Left relax a bit.
But political questions cannot be avoided for long, especially by a movement that has captured the world’s attention. Indeed, people became increasingly impatient with the movement’s inability to define what it was for, as evidenced by the countless journalists who wrote countless articles trying to penetrate the movement’s aims. But the movement did not procure an answer, and more often than not, rejected the very legitimacy of the question.

And then September 11th blew the movement off the stage. Although it reentered the debate in February 2002 in New York—valiantly asserting that opposition to globalization will not be silenced by terror—the movement lacked an anchor and thus could not regain its momentum amid the storms of war that began to sweep the world at the time.

It is tempting to argue that the anti-globalization movement lives on in the Zapatistas, the Argentine uprising of 2001, Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, and other ongoing struggles in the “global south.” Although these movements and the one that emerged in Seattle should be understood as parts of a broader, worldwide opposition to global capital, they are not continuous. The Mexican, Brazilian, and Argentine movements do not define themselves as participants in the anti-globalization movement and, more substantively, they do not focus primarily on the institutions of the world economy but rather on domestic political authorities and their national polices. North American activists need to be attentive to these differences.

In a sense the movement—or at least the form in which we knew it—was destined to die. This is not because utopian aspirations are doomed to failure (they are not) or because struggles against capitalist globalization have ended (of course they haven’t). It is because revolutionary social movements aim to transform the circumstances from which they emerge and thus must always abandon old forms of struggle in order to adapt to new conditions (conditions that they have, in part, created). In a way, the most successful revolutionary movement will be one that renders the need for revolutionary struggle obsolete altogether.

What is more alarming than the death of the movement is the failure to reflect deeply on our inability to advance a coherent alternative when presented with the opportunity to do so. The anti-globalization movement did push beyond the boundaries of the present and helped us imagine “another world,” but its emancipatory aims were unrealized. We must embrace the chasm between our aspirations and our circumstances—between the “is” and the “ought”—and use it as an environment in which to forge an even more vigorous challenge to the world we have inherited.

From Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (spring, 2004)


The Ends of Politics and Utopia

The Ends of Politics and Utopia

(From Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, spring, 2001)
by Chuck Morse

The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy by Russell Jacoby. 240 pp, New York, Basic Books, 2000 The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the

Public Sphere by Carl Boggs, 310 pp, New York: Guilford, 2000

There is no doubt that the thinkers and activists who shaped the anarchist tradition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries expanded our sense of social possibilities in ways that still seem vital today. Even now, at the beginning of the 21st century, it is hard not to be inspired by Proudhon’s polemical wit, Kropotkin’s generous radicalism, or the deep social reconstruction carried out by the Spanish anarchists.

But there is also no doubt that circumstances have changed radically since their time. A contemporary anarchism must be much broader than the old thinkers and activists imagined and we must contend with new barriers to the creation of an egalitarian, cooperative, and decentralized society. We would be ill-advised – to put it mildly – to try to build a movement on the works of a Proudhon or a Kropotkin (etc), but we can and should emulate their example by fighting the forces that hinder the realization of existing liberatory potentials.

Fortunately there is a vast literature that can help us in this task. Although we will often be disappointed by the lack of radicalism or absence of nerve in much of it, there are nonetheless many works that can help us build an anarchist critique for today. The two books I review here have instructive contributions as well as shortcomings. They are Carl Boggs’s The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere and Russell Jacoby’s The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy. In different ways both Boggs and Jacoby want to confront an obstacle of serious concern to anarchists: the political and intellectual forces that obstruct the development of a radical opposition in America. Jacoby grapples with the decline of a utopian spirit among intellectuals and academics, whereas Boggs examines forces in our political culture that undermine the emergence of a challenge to the status quo. Although Jacoby and Boggs offer pessimistic appraisals of our current situation – as indicated by the titles of their books – they clearly hope that their critical diagnoses will play some role in the development of a remedy.

The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy
Jacoby’s objective in The End of Utopia is to describe the loss of a utopian commitment in American intellectual culture and to indicate the negative consequences this yields for theory. He is concerned specifically with the fact that social thinkers are no longer driven by the conviction that “the future could fundamentally surpass the present . that history contains possibilities of freedom and pleasure hardly tapped.” (XI-XII). Although Jacoby weakly asserts that we should be worried by the demise of the utopian spirit because its radicalism gave liberalism its backbone, serving as its oppositional “goad and critic”(p. 8 ), it is clear that what really disturbs him is the disappearance of leftwing utopian social critics who oppose capitalism and yet remain democratic in culture and politics.

Jacoby begins his discussion of the retreat from utopia by chronicling the reconciliation to capitalism that is so common among today’s self-styled ‘left’ intellectuals. He cites numerous cases in which supposedly radical theorists either counsel us to accept the market as the ultimate determinant of economic life or advance ameliorative measures that are really forms of acquiescence (‘we should create responsible corporations’, etc). He paints a portrait of cynical ex-Marxists and Ivy League policy wonks who urge conciliation with capitalism to rationalize their own relatively comfortable positions within the social hierarchy. This makes for good but macabre reading, although Jacoby’s point is that by abandoning a confrontation with capitalism these theorists not only relinquish the struggle against the left ‘s historic adversary, but also the very idea of an alternative social order.

Jacoby’s discussion of the rapprochement with capitalism sets the stage for the rest of the book, in which he analyzes an intellectual culture that becomes increasingly adrift as it moves further and further away from a radical stance. Jacoby takes aim at a multiculturalism that descends, in the absence of any larger transformative vision, into estimable but prosaic exhortations (e.g., ‘we should respect people who are different’) or claims of ‘subversiveness’ that lack political content. Jacoby expands upon this by castigating academics for allowing the democratic critique of mass culture to devolve into a celebration of consumer culture (for example, he contrasts Dwight McDonald’s anti-authoritarian cultural criticism with contemporary authors who write appreciatively about things like soap operas and MTV). Jacoby points out that this gradual de-radicalization is accompanied by changes in the relationship of intellectuals to society. He treats the chilling professionalization of intellectuals along with trite claims of ‘marginality’ made by well-paid, high-status academics. If professionalization integrates intellectuals into the market, then claims of marginality often boil down to a demand for better salaries or more prominent teaching positions (that is, ‘market share’). Jacoby also takes issue with forms of cultural study that trade objective for subjective standards of truth, and thus abandon the utopian capacity to assert truths and universals against the existing social order. He argues that relativistic trends in academia facilitate a turn toward conservatism by discarding the right (and obligation) to pass judgment upon the world. Jacoby concludes his book by trying to refute common arguments against utopianism and pleas with us, as Theodor Adorno once urged, to ‘contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption.’

Jacoby’s book is a trenchant indictment of left academics and he gives substance to a feeling shared by many (including myself) that the whole academic establishment – even its purportedly radical wings – is deeply conservative. It is certainly refreshing to see celebrated thinkers such as Richard Rorty, Charles Taylor, and bell hooks taken to task for a lack of vision, self-indulgence, or accommodation. This is good material for anarchists who would like to see the reemergence of an embattled anti-authoritarian intellectual culture, especially those of us who have spent some time around the university.

But there are also real problems with Jacoby’s book. While he shows the consequences of the retreat from a utopian commitment – the absence of critical standards, accommodation to injustice, inanity, etc. – he lacks a utopian vision of his own. He faults others for lacking affirmative ideals, but Jacoby doesn’t advance any either. Jacoby wants to see a utopian left – an Antonio Gramsci, a Herbert Marcuse, groups with a bold critique and a politics for realizing it – but all he really gives to this project is his bitter elegy. Unfortunately the power to complain is not also a creative power.

Jacoby not only fails to advance a utopian vision but also abandons the terrain upon which one could be formulated. Utopianism asserts that the existing society can be criticized according to the standards of reason and ultimately rendered rational. It thus assumes a strong connection between the realm of ideas and the world as a whole: it criticizes ‘the real’ for failing to embody ‘the ideal’ and fights to reconcile the two. Jacoby could have helped legitimate this strategy by theorizing the relationship between the intellectual culture that he describes and larger social structures. This could have affirmed, at least implicitly, the possibility that ideas and the world can be brought into accord through a utopian synthesis. Although Jacoby does not deny a connection between ideas and other dimensions of social existence – and clearly believes that they are connected – he does not formulate this in any way. Jacoby’s defense of utopia thus neglects the basic precondition of a utopian stance. For this reason his book is more of a protest than an act of vision and, while valuable in many respects, it will ultimately disappoint anarchists who are committed to both critique and reconstruction. We can only hope that in the future Jacoby will join those of us who want to reconstruct a strong affirmative vision and apply his formidable intellectual skills to this task.

The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere
Boggs shares Jacoby’s preoccupation with the loss of cultural resources in America that would enable a confrontation with the status quo. Whereas Jacoby focuses on changes in the realm of ideas, Boggs focuses on politics. He contends that Americans have become mired in a political culture (or anti-political culture) that prevents us from challenging the sources of our social and ecological problems, despite the fact that we enjoy greater access to information and education than ever before. Whereas Jacoby points to changes in the intellectual arena, Boggs traces this development to the expanded influence of corporate power and economic globalization. Boggs’ effort to connect the diminution of the political culture to larger changes in the social structure renders his project a little more ambitious than Jacoby’s.

Boggs alleges that economic globalization and the expansion of corporate power produce two related crises for those who want to build a democratic movement against social injustice. First, the corporate invasion of social life turns American party politics into a façade, undermines the capacities necessary for civic engagement among citizens as a whole, and produces a mass media that consistently conceals or avoids substantive social issues. This leaves us with a hyper-alienated political consciousness structured by a hyper-antagonistic social order. Second, Boggs explains how this produces cultural and quasi-political trends that militate, at their essence, against a real confrontation with power. Boggs explores things such as therapeutic fads that cast self-actualization in utterly asocial and anti-political terms, collective outbursts of anger (such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots) that lack real political direction, and post-modern intellectual orientations defined by a spirit of withdrawal and pessimism.

These related developments shape what Boggs describes as a wholesale retreat from the public sphere, something Boggs seems to imagine as a common arena in which citizens can openly discuss shared problems and develop common solutions. It is only here, according to Boggs, that citizens can begin to confront the world’s problems, and the loss of this realm suggests bleak outcomes. Moreover, the major ideological tendencies of the past – liberalism and Marxism – are incapable of facilitating a recovery of the public sphere. The liberal emphasis on private strivings over the general interest and the Marxian reduction of politics to economics gives these traditions a deeply anti-political character that renders them more impotent than critical.

Boggs makes a powerful statement against our contemporary culture, and one that should resonate with many anarchists. While his description of the joke that party politics has become and the complicity of the mass media is common coin among most Americans, his critique is nonetheless a welcome corrective to the omnipotent calls for ‘renewed citizen’s participation’ bandied about by academics who refuse to acknowledge the deeply undemocratic and corrupt character of our political system or the endless emptiness characteristic of American political discourse. Likewise, his treatment of anti-political cultural fads should speak to those of us who believe that our personal development could be linked directly to a project of political transformation.

Boggs also treats anarchism rather sympathetically in several sections of the book and he clearly wants to align himself with popular movements against social injustice, although unfortunately he never fully commits himself to this project. The ambiguity of his commitments is first apparent in the difficulty he has defining the public sphere, a difficulty so grave that it is ultimately impossible to determine exactly what he means by the term. For example, he tells us that corporate behemoths “restrict the development of an open, dynamic public sphere”, which seems feasible, but then on the same page he tells us that these huge corporations start “to constitute a new public sphere of their own”(69). But, wait, what about the “decline of the public sphere” mentioned in the subtitle? This sort of confusion is compounded when he states that he wants “an enlarged public sphere”, that “the public sphere is broken down into a host of rival interest groups”(233) (so, how could you enlarge it?) or, in other places, that we need a “recovery of the public sphere”(135) or a “reopening of the public sphere”(113). Is the public sphere declining, broken up, lost, closed, or being refashioned? It does not seem unreasonable to demand that Boggs provide a better treatment of an idea so central to his book.

However, it ultimately becomes clear that his equivocations camouflage the retrograde nature of his political proposals. While he would like to side with radically democratic social movements, his conception of politics is utterly state-centered. In fact, it appears that what he means by the decline of the public sphere is only the decline of a political space through which citizens can influence government policy. For Boggs, government is the one public arena “that can effectively resist corporate hegemony”(258) and hence the solution to the expansion of corporate power and globalization. Boggs does not defend or explain this view of government, but merely asserts it and evidently believes that such a declaration alone is sufficient. That there has never been a just state, one that genuinely represented the will of the people, even according to the liberal democratic standards, is a fact that Boggs neither acknowledges nor denies, but yet it remains a mystery why he thinks the historic character of the state might suddenly be transformed. But, besides this, his argument that the state is the only institution capable of restraining global capital is hardly affirmative: nuclear war could also stop globalization, but does this make it desirable? And, even if a state-centered politics was attractive for some reason, it is far from evident that the state can in fact restrain the power of global capital. I happen to believe that only popular anti-statist movements can muster the deep strength necessary to confront the forces of capital. In any case, his panegyrics for the state make a morbid spectacle and it is here that those of us with truly democratic convictions must part company with Boggs.

The End
Both of these books struggle with important issues for anarchists, issues that we will have to confront in the course of building an anarchism for today. Surely we will have to transform the disposition of the intellectual culture if anarchist ideas will ever be fairly evaluated, not to mention embodied in popular movements. Likewise, anarchists will have to contend with the forces in our political culture that frustrate collective resistance and empowerment if we are to become a serious presence on the political landscape once again.

The failures of Jacoby and Boggs’ books are instructive. It is not enough, like Jacoby, to critique without also reconstructing. Works of this sort may exert a spirit of tragic intransigence in the face of an unwanted world, but such posturing offers little to those who want to build an alternative. It is also inadequate, like Boggs, to damn our political culture while remaining so restrained in one’s affirmative ideals. It is up to anarchists to build a radical social criticism that is grounded in the real world and yet deeply utopian. If we do this, then we will have emulated the most exemplary aspects of the classical anarchist tradition while also making an invaluable contribution to the realization of new liberatory potentialities. ~


The Revolutionary Institutions: The Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias

Anarchists played a pivotal role in the early phase of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, particularly in Catalonia. They led the resistance to Franco’s forces, their organizations and unions structured social life during the tumult, and they alone had a strong vision of what type of society they wanted to create.

To some militants in the CNT and FAI, it seemed that the time to declare libertarian communism had arrived: they could finally begin building the new world that they had been dreaming of during their nearly seventy years of organizing. They were on the threshold, they believed, of a truly anarchist society.

Others disagreed. The fact that the majority of anti-fascists—not to mention the majority of Spaniards—were hostile to the anarchists meant that they would need to rule against their opponents if they attempted to institute their utopian ideals. They would, in parlance of the day, have to impose an “anarchist dictatorship” if they tried to “go for everything.” Many found this possibility intolerably frightening and contradictory.

But there was another option: they could cooperate with the other anti-fascist forces—some of whom were bitterly anti-anarchist—and try to garner enough support to later realize their maximal program on a more consensual basis. This way they could avoid the obvious dilemmas of an “anarchist dictatorship,” although it would mean pushing their revolutionary aspirations into the (potentially very distant) future.

They decided to collaborate, as is well known, and by doing so set the parameters of their intervention for the remainder of the civil conflict.

The following article offers insight why they made this fateful choice, describes their decisive first encounter with the President of Catalonia, and details the activity of the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, the institutional framework for their cooperation with the other anti-fascists tendencies. It is one of few accounts of anarchist activity during the early period of the war written by a direct participant.

The essay (“Los Organismos Revolucionarios: El Comité Central de las Milicias Antifascistas de Cataluña,” in Spanish) was first printed in Solidaridad Obrera and later republished as a chapter in a book titled De julio a Julio: un año de lucha (Barcelona: Tierra y Libertad, 1937). It appears in English here for the first time.

– Chuck Morse

* * *

J. García Oliver:
The Revolutionary Institutions: The Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias

In addition to the other articles in this volume, which first appeared in the special issue of Fragua Social on July 19, we felt it appropriate to include the following piece from Solidaridad Obrera, which was printed on the same date. It offers a general overview of the revolution in Catalonia through a description of the activity of its particular institution: the Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias.

– – –

The leader of the Mozos de Escuadra [autonomous Catalan police] met us at the Generalidad entrance. We were armed to the teeth—rifles, machine-guns, and pistols—and ragged and dirty from all the dust and smoke.

“We’re the CNT and FAI representatives that Companys called,” we told him. “The people with us are our guard.”

He greeted us warmly and led us into the Orange Tree Courtyard. There was confusion and disorder in the Generalidad Palace, but joy was also visible in the faces of all those old and young Catalanists, Mozos, Guards, police, and youth from the Esquerra and Estat Catalá. They were delighted by a glory dreamed of for centuries and yet not experienced until that very day, during which some CNT and FAI men were brought to meet the President, determined and making an impressive racket with their weapons. Catalonia, always mistreated and oppressed by the central government, trampled by Spain’s military caste, had just defeated the fascist monster. And how easy it was! In thirty hours of heavy fighting, the men from the CNT and the FAI, whose way of doing battle reminds one so much of the Almogavars, distinguished themselves above all others in the bloody and victorious struggle for freedom. This is why their representatives were welcomed with such affection and esteem, despite the fact that they carried an abundance of arms which, in anarchist hands, would previously have been regarded as murder weapons but were now justly seen as instruments of freedom.

We left our guard in the Orange Tree Courtyard, which became an encampment.

Companys stood to receive us. He was visibly excited. He extended his hand and would have hugged us if his pride—clearly impacted by what he intended to say—had not stopped him.

The introductions were brief. We sat down with our rifles between our knees. Companys stated the following:

“First of all, I must acknowledge that the CNT and FAI have never been treated in the way that they deserve, given their real importance. You have always been harshly persecuted. Even I, who had been your ally, was forced by political realties to resist and persecute you, much as it pained me to do so. Today you are masters of the city and Catalonia. It was you who defeated the fascists, although I hope you will not take offense if I point out that you had some help from Guards, Mozos, and men loyal to my party.”

Companys paused for a moment and then continued slowly:

“But the truth is that you—harshly oppressed until two days ago—defeated the fascist soldiers. And, knowing who and what you are, of course I will speak to you in the most heartfelt terms. You’ve won. Everything is in your hands. If you do not want or need me as President of Catalonia, tell me now, so that I can become another soldier in the war against fascism.

“However, if you think that in this office—which I would have left only if the fascists killed me—I, my party, my name, and my prestige can be useful in the struggle—which has ended in Barcelona, but rages on in the rest of Spain—then you can count on me and my loyalty as a man and politician. I am convinced that a shameful past has died today and genuinely want Catalonia to march in forefront of the most socially advanced nations.”

Companys was speaking with obvious candor. He was a malleable, realistic man, who experienced the tragedy of his people very deeply. They had been saved from secular slavery by the anarchists and he, using the language demanded by the circumstances, took the lead in a uniquely dignified way, something so uncommon among Spanish politicians. Without letting himself be frightened by the revolution, and understanding that it would redefine the boundaries of the possible, he intended to play a central role, as a Catalan who knew that the hour of his country had rung and as a man with extremely advanced ideas who did not fear the most audacious social interventions, which are always expressed in lived reality.

We had gone to listen and could not commit ourselves to anything. It was our organizations that had to make the decisions. We explained this to Companys.

The importance of this historic encounter between Companys and our organizations will never be fully grasped: indeed, Spain’s fate was decided in Catalonia, between libertarian communism, which would have meant anarchist dictatorship, and democracy, which meant collaboration.

Companys told us that representatives from all the anti-fascist groups in Catalonia were waiting in another room. If we agreed to participate in the meeting that he, the President of the Generalidad, wanted to call, then he would propose the formation of a body that could continue the revolutionary struggle in Catalonia until victory.

We agreed to attend the meeting, in our capacity as intermediaries and emissaries. It took place in another room where, as Companys had said, representatives from the Esquerra Republicana, the Rabassaires, the Republican Union, the POUM, and the Socialist Party were waiting. I don’t remember the names well, either because of the rush, exhaustion, or because I was never told them. Nin, Comorera, etc., etc. Companys explained why a militias committee should be created. It would reorganize life in Catalonia, which the fascist uprising had disrupted acutely, and build a military force that would fight the rebels wherever they might be. Indeed, the balance of the adversarial forces was still unclear in those moments of national confusion.

For democratic collaboration and against revolutionary dictatorship

The CNT and FAI’s reply to President Companys’s proposal was extremely significant. We responded to him, the President of a region saved from servitude by non-governmental forces, in a way that reflected the unanticipated revolutionary maturity and constructive potential of forces that had never had their capacity to rule tested, even though they were a majority in the country.

The CNT and FAI decided to accept collaboration and democracy, and thus renounce the revolutionary totalitarianism that would strangle the revolution with an anarchist, confederal dictatorship. Trusting the word and person of a Catalan democrat, we permitted Companys to carry on as President; we agreed to the formation of the militias committee and a distribution of forces within it that was not just–the UGT and the Socialist Party, minorities in Catalonia, received the same number of seats as the triumphant anarchists and CNTistas–but a sacrifice designed to lead the authoritarian parties down the path of faithful collaboration and away from suicidal competitions.

The Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias, the real revolutionary government of Catalonia

The Central Committee of Anti-fascist Militias (CCAM) was constituted by a decree from the Generalidad. It was composed of popular, anti-fascist forces. For our sake, accepting Companys’s proposition, we did not object to the inclusion of any anti-fascist group. We were the largest force, and it was upon us that the challenge of creating real democracy fell, although we did not imitate the bigwigs who relentlessly harass their so-called “junior partners.” Without respect for the real strength of the groups in question, the CCAM was made up by the CNT, the FAI, the Esquerra, the Rabassaires, the Republican Union, the POUM, the Socialist Party, and the UGT. The Generalidad sent a representative named Prunés and a military leader by the name of Pérez Farrás, both of whom were appointed by Companys.

The Committee immediately set up shop in a large, modern building in the Palace Plaza, which had previously been occupied the Seamen’s School. It quickly organized the first expeditions of militiamen to the Aragon front. Three of its members–Durruti, Pérez Farrás, and Del Barrio–took control of two sectors of struggle in this first departure of forces. In later expeditions, the Committee sent me, Rovira, and Durán y Rosell to the front. The cataclysm had shattered the social, political, legal, and economic foundations of the life in Catalonia. The CCAM, a dynamic, popular body and authentic representation of the proletarian masses, had to respond to the war, hurrying to create, through the tireless efforts of some of its men, everything that it demanded. The organization of armies, military training, health, supply, transportation, arms production, directing operations, etc, etc.

As a whole, it was the CNT and FAI men on the CCAM who were best prepared and offered the most to the magnificent work of consolidating Catalonia’s freedom and independence. They were indefatigable; true slaves to work. After them, it was those from the Esquerra, the Rabassaires, the Republcan Union, the POUM, and finally, last among all in terms of their contribution, militants from the Workers’ General Union (UGT) and the Unified Socialist Party.

Durruti, Aurelio Fernández, Asens, Santillán, Marcos Alcón, and I represented the CNT-FAI on the CCAM; Miratvilles, Aiguader, Solá, and Tarradellas were there on behalf of the Esquerra; Torrents spoke for the Rabassaires; Fábregas for the Republican Union; Gorkín, Rovira, Gironella for the POUM; Del Barrio, Vidiella, Miret, García, Durán y Rosell (etc) represented the UGT and Socialists.

There were three very important and completely loyal military men on the CCAM; the Guarner brothers and Colonel Giménez de la Verasa. The first two were well-qualified to organize and lead the armed forces being created; the latter specialized in artillery and arms production. The CCAM began making weapons under the guidance of CNT men like Vallejo and Martín, who have done a tremendous job at rapidly transforming our metal and chemical industries into centers for making armaments, which today are vital to the war and the revolution and will be vital to the future of Catalan industry once the conflict ends.

The CCAM mandated the construction of a network of fortifications throughout Catalonia, which safeguard our freedoms and the security of our fronts. Thus far, the enemy has not attacked them, preferring instead to assault areas inadvertently left defenseless.

The CCAM also organized the internal security forces that permitted the speedy construction of a new revolutionary order. Aurelio Fernández and Asens from the CNT-FAI; Fábregas from the Republican Union, and González from the UGT worked tirelessly on this. Miratvilles put together the Propaganda Section with unrivaled skill.

Tarradellas applied his formidable will to arms production. Torrents, from the Rabassaires, patiently procured military supplies. Durán y Rosell and Marcos Alcón coordinated transportation. Santillán, Severino Campos, and Sanz organized militias that took off for the front. I was General Secretary of the War Department, the nerve center of this entire splendid enterprise.

Meanwhile, under the direction of the CCAM, Ortiz, Durruti, Jover, Del Bario, and Rovira re-took villages and lands in Aragón that had been subjected to fascist slavery, never losing a kilometer, always advancing the war for liberation and thus, in this way, placing our fields, factories, and homes beyond the reach of devastation and death.

Catalonia had a tremendous institution in the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias and through it achieved unanticipated prominence. It affirmed, in a way that has never been done before, that Catalonia truly deserves liberty.

The Dissolution of the CCAM

The prolongation of the war and its international repercussions; a committee that became the real government as it eclipsed and even annulled the Generalidad; these things compelled a very significant change in Catalan political and social life: the incorporation of the CNT into the government of the Generalidad. Objective? To continue the great work of the CCAM from within the government.

We can consider the impact of the CCAM’s dissolution on Catalonia when we have won the war that we are waging against international fascism. Today I would simply like to recall—and it is unfortunate that a record of it was not made—the short speech that I gave at the CCAM meeting at which we decided to terminate the body. Those who were present know that there was a bitter note running throughout my comments, which was inspired by a concern for the future, one that was already threatening to be defined by discord within the anti-fascist family and, should it continue, will likely prevent us from being victorious in our battle against fascism and will ensure that a great Catalonia and a Spain admired throughout the world will never be created.

[Translated to English by Chuck Morse]