This is a summary of the debate between anarchists and James Donald on what happened during the Spanish Revolution of 1936 and 1937. Contained in this file is a summary of James Donald's many postings on the subject during that debate. This document exposes his lack of evidence and the weakness of his case (called James Donald's Reign of Error for reasons that soon become apparent). In addition, there are replies to the argument he presents on his web-page on the subject (called What really happened in Catalonia).
What strikes any objective reader how weak James' case is. George Orwell, in a book review, wrote that "Mr Arnold Lunn writes as a supporter of General Franco and believes life in 'Red' Spain (which he has not visited) to be one continuous massacre." [Time and Tide, 11th December, 1937] Orwell pointed out that, from personal experience, this was not the case. Much the same could be said of James Donald (although he had not expressed support for Franco, unlike Pinochet). James, for ideological reasons, wants to believe that Republican Spain was not only one continuous massacre, but that it was centrally planned and organised by the CNT, who aimed for a totalitarian state and achieved one by November 1936. The facts, as will become pretty clear pretty quickly, fail to support his hopes. That, of course, does not stop him writing his accounts hoping to influence those who knowledge of the facts are even worse than his own.
Now, no one can blame him for being angry when people are murdered. However, it soon becomes clear that this anger is more driven by a hatred of all forms of socialism than a concern about assassinations (as can be seen from his support for Pinochet's coup, for example). Equally evident is his utter unwillingness to present any form of social or political context, a desire not to look more deeply into the reasons why these things happen. If he did, he would have had to recount the years of repression suffered by the Spanish workers and peasants, the organising of death squads by Catalan bosses to assassinate union militants in the 1920s, the bloody suppression of popular revolts in the 1930s, the reality of fascist Italy and Germany and what would be expected if the fascists won (as proved to be the case, as state terrorism and mass murder was a way of life in the Nationalist Zone).
Any objective account of the period would note all this, rather than selectively quote from books to prove an assertion about the CNT-FAI which no serious historian has ever raised and which there is more than enough evidence to refute. Evidence which James is aware of but prefers to ignore and keep his readers ignorant of.
We will take each statement of James in turn:
First, his claims of "terror in Catalonia" are discussed here.
Donald attempts to show that "As usual, Catalonia demonstrated once again the contradiction between liberty and socialism, with the usual rivers of blood that accompany such demonstrations" and claims that there was "capitalism in Catalonia." Ironically enough, his examples of "capitalism in action" come from the time of his "terror" examples, namely between July and November of 1936.
He even goes so far as to quote both Malatesta and Bakunin, without mentioning that they were both (in his terms) "anarcho-socialists" (or that anarchism has always been socialist, so that "anarcho-socialism" is redundant).
James then goes on to claim that the anarchists in Catalonia enforced "actually existing socialism" on the workers. He calls this "bait and switch in Catalonia" and this is discussed here.
Lastly, he claims that "in Catalonia there was no separation between executive and judiciary. Often the same person with whom you negotiated your pay also decided what the law was, who was guilty, and what the punishment would be. This made negotiations at best rather ominous." This is discussed here.
We do not expect to convince James Donald that he is wrong. What this web-page is is an attempt to indicate to interested parties that his version of what happened during the Spanish Revolution is false and that he is not interested in presenting anything like a truthful account.
The final judgment about what happened is up to you, the reader.