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What really happened in Catalonia

Collected, edited, and sometimes written by jamesd@echeque.com


If all you want to know is whether there is any big difference between "anarcho"-socialists and "Dictatorship of the proletariat" socialists other than their choice of euphemisms for slavery and terror, just click on Terror in Catalonia for well documented eyewitness stories of tyranny and oppression by the "anarcho"-socialists of Catalonia.

If you want to understand the meaning of these stories, and see them presented in the context of the theory and history, and understand how these unpleasant realities related to flawed ideals, read on.

If you want a very different version of the Spanish Civil war, a version that will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart, a version written by a collectivist anarchist, read Revolution. If you want what purports to be a rebuttal of these pages, What really happened in Spain?

For a much longer article, similar to this one but with much lengthier quotes from history books: The Anarcho-Statists of Spain


What really happened in Catalonia

The basic problem in Catalonia was socialism. In order to stop people from pursuing a profit, one has to employ vastly greater violence, a vastly more powerful state, than one needs to stop people from organizing political activities, or one needs to stop people from practicing a religion of which you disapprove. One has to kill more people to stop them from following profits, than to stop them from following prophets.

To stop individual people, especially the peasants, and to stop groups of people, from pursuing their individual economic interest, the "anarchists" had to exercise vast power. Whether you call it a state or not, some people held vast and terrible power, and many people were very afraid.

Before the revolution in Catalonia the Italian anarchist Malatesta predicted:

The anarchists [...] could never [...] form a government without contradicting themselves and repudiating their entire doctrine, and, should they do so, it would be no different from any other government, perhaps even worse.

Before the revolution in Catalonia the Russian anarchist Bakunin predicted:

[...] as soon as they become rulers and representatives of the people they would cease to be workers and would look down upon all workers from their political summit. They would no longer represent the people, they would represent only themselves. [...] He who doubts this must be absolutely ignorant of human nature.

After the revolution in Catalonia the leading Anarcho Syndicalist newspaper, Solidaridad Obrera November 4, 1936, cited by Burnett Bolloten in The Grand Camouflage p160, wrote:

At the present time the government, as the instrument that controls the organs of the state, has ceased to be force of oppression against the working classes, just as the state no longer represents a body that divides society into classes.

The Catalonian revolution was complex, and many diverse people attempted many diverse things. To some extent men with high ideals took power and failed disastrously in their efforts to implement their ideals. Much happened however that shows that in very large part monsters seized great and terrible power for themselves, so that they could rule and enslave, and they pursued monstrous ends by monstrous means.

Perhaps those who intended good may have been the majority, but their efforts to restrain terror and oppression were ineffectual at best (Angel Navarro), and at worst they found themselves accomplices in dreadful crimes.

Most anarcho-socialists in Catalonia were perfectly sincere, but these people did not wind up in positions of power, because positions of power were not supposed to exist, or when they did wind up in positions of power they swiftly came to see privilege and power as no more than their due, exactly as many notable anarchists predicted. Those who wound up exercising power were either hypocrites who saw no contradiction between their rhetoric and their conduct, or people who quite openly regarded "libertarian" socialism as a bait and switch gimmick: Promise the workers liberty, and force standard socialism upon them. Bait and switch in Catalonia

In Catalonia there was no separation between executive and judiciary. Often the same person you negotiated your pay with also decided what the law was, who was guilty, and what the punishment would be. This made negotiations at best rather ominous Labor Incentives in Catalonia, and at worst terrifying. Serfdom in Catalonia

For the most part there was capitalist like direction and control, and in addition there was uncapitalist like coercion, terror, and violence.


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