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.
James Donald claims he is presenting a "collection of horrors committed by the "anarcho" socialists of Catalonia: horror stories from various eyewitnesses." He then goes on to state that "in this article I make little attempt to put these little vignettes into a coherent story." However, as we will see, this story is distinctly false.
He begins by quoting from Burnett Bolloten's book, The Grand Camouflage, page 41, which quotes Diego Abad de Santillan saying that "It is possible our victory resulted in the death by violence of four or five thousand inhabitants of Catalonia who were listed as rightists and were linked to political or ecclesiastical reaction."
James then says the following, "Compare this with Pinochet, who murdered three thousand people out of a vastly larger population according to the Rettig Report on Human Rights."
Unfortunately for James Donald, this is a very false comparsion. Pinochet organised a military coup against a democractically re-elected government. This means that the murders were organised by the military under orders. The murders in Catalonia occured in response to a fascist coup when the whole population of Catalonia was armed by the trade unions. In other words, it was not organised by the anarchists or the CNT.
According to a non-anarchist eye-witness:
"The libertarians controlled all the most important 'secretariats' -- but in reality power lay still in the streets" [Blood of Spain, p. 143]
Another states that "There was a deep, very deep wave of popular fury as a result of the military uprising which followed on so many years of oppression and provocation." [Op. Cit.,p . 151]
James Donald tries to appear "objective" and asks, "OK, there was terror on a vast scale. Next question. Who did it? Was it an unfortunate consequence of convicts getting out of jail and the breakdown of order, or was it systematically planned to terrorize the population into submission?"
This is a fair question. But James does not give it a fair answer. A fair answer would include this quote from a Basque Nationalist, a Republican and a Catholic, quoted early by Bolloten in his book The Spanish Civil War:
"Blood, a great deal of innocent blood was shed on both sides. . . .But the most radical difference as far as the Republican zone was concerned -- which does not justify, but at least explains, the excesses -- lies in the very fact of the [military] insurrection. The army, almost the entire secret police, the administration of justice, whatever police forces there were, whose duty it was to maintain order, revolted, leaving the legal government defendless. The latter was compelled to arm the people, the jails were opened to release friendly political prisoners, and the common-law criminals who came out with them acted on their own account. Furthermore, with the stirring up of the lower depths of society, the malefactors that exist in every city, in every nation, came to the surface, and found an easy field for their work. . .Is it surprising that during the first days of the revolt these uncontrolled elements dispensed justice in a rude and elementary fashion, the justice of men who had suffered and had been molded in an atmosphere of hatred? All this does not justify the crimes committed in the Republican zone, but it readily explains them." [p. 53]
Diego Abad de Santillan's quote that James uses above starts, "We do not wish to deny that the nineteenth of July brought with it an overflowing of passions and abuses," indicating that his figure of 4 to 5 thousand refers to this period, when "power lay in the streets."
James then goes on to claim that "the testimony of those who were afraid indicates that they primarily expected and feared organized large scale terror, rather than random violence," while in fact not producing any evidence that this was the case. He does quote from Blood of Spain by Ronald Fraser in "support" of his "case," but his eyewitness is someone who was 13 years old at the time and refers to an unnamed workers' patrol operating at an unknown time. The quote is from the section "Barcelona: The Revolution," which describes what happened immediately after July 19. Thus the eyewitness is referring to events from around this period, when, as quoted above, "power lay on the streets." (It could be interpreted to refer to a slightly later time, because of a reference to "people flocking to join the UGT." However, Frazer places the narrative in the middle of other events from just after July 19th, thus indicating that, in his view, it most likely occured during this time).
So, James claimed above that after July 19th, the CNT organised "mass terror," but he presents no evidence that the CNT actually did any such thing. His example does not indicate that the CNT was involved or that the patrol in question was working under direct orders from the CNT. As indicated below, the CNT did oppose assassinations and acted to stop them. As evidence of CNT "killing fields," James's argument fails completely.
He goes on and says "Obviously this was not individuals acting: Individuals and small groups do not set up killing fields, and they do not murder people on a regular and predictable schedule, and they do not have specialization of labor in production of murder." But his example does not prove that the CNT was involved in the killing, nor especially that it organized any "killing fields." It does not even indicate that the persons involved had a trial or who they were. In addition, it is from a time when "power lay on the streets," meaning that the CNT could not control what was happening in Barcelona. In other words, his evidence is extremely weak.
James then goes on to claim that "Furthermore, rather than violence ending when the CNT took control, we see the reverse, escalating violence once power was firmly consolidated." The false premise in this argument is that the CNT did not "take control" -- it was cooperating with other antifascist parties and groups in the "Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias," a body which had been disbanded by the end of September. The CNT then joined the Popular Front government as a minority.
So what are his examples of "escalating violence"? He quotes the following as "proof":
Blood of Spain page 140 Joan Domenech, CNT member speaking:
"I said "You are the employers [...] right now if we felt like it we could load you into a lorry and that would be the end of it." You should have seen their backsides wriggling on the chairs!"
However, this threat was not carried out and is from the period when Barcelona was "in full spate of Revolution". So James Donald uses an example which occurred just after July 19th (when "power lay on the streets"), which did not actually involve violence, as an example of "escalating violence"! What logic!
He then makes the following statement: "The reference to a lorry, similar to Stalin's reference to boxcars, again indicates specialization of labor in the mass production of murder, not spontaneous violent action by small groups." But his evidence of these lorries used for his "mass production of murder" actually existing is nowhere to be seen! All we have is a threat, by one member of the CNT, which was not carried out. Where is the evidence that the CNT actually did operate a "mass production of murder"? None is supplied and no historian mentions this "specialisation of labour in the mass production of murder."
What does FAI leading-light Juan Garcia Oliver have to say about the terror in Catalonia? He agrees with the Basque Nationalist quoted above. He states that "Everyone created his own justice and administered it himself. Some used to call this 'taking someone for a ride,' but I maintain it was justice administered directly by the people in the complete absence of the regular judicial bodies."[The Spanish Civil War, p. 50]
The amazing thing is that neither Fraser nor Bolloten mention these "killing fields" alleged by James to have been created by the CNT. Nor does either author mention "the mass production of murder" that James says existed. He himself does not present any evidence for their existence. (Oh, yes, he does quote a threat by one CNT member which was not carried out, but that is not evidence of any "killing fields.") How strange that two historians do not mention these "killing fields" that James Donald claims existed! Surely if the CNT-FAI in Catalonia had managed to organise a system similar to Stalin's (in a space of a few days or, at most, weeks!) some credible historian would have mentioned it? That none do explains why Donald has to invent "evidence" for such a system by unjustifiable extrapolation from one person's comments.
In order to "prove" his case in light of the non-existent evidence, he then quotes Juan Andrade of the POUM executive committee, who states in Blood of Spain page 183 that:
"I don't believe that this alone was the major cause of the PSUC's growth. The CNT was the reason. The latter terrorized so many people that in reaction they came to consider the communists as the party of order."
Notice that Andrade did not say "murder so many people." More important, though, is the fact that the reason why the PSUC grew in size was because it opposed the revolution and the collectives created during it. Because the Communists would protect their property, property owners turned to them. Simple as that. The "terror" was the result of arming an oppressed population, many of whom were in the CNT and FAI. As Frazer summarises, "the revolutionary necessity of assuring the rearguard had been muddied by personal bloodletting, vendettas and arbitrary slayings." [p. 177]
Following on from this, James quotes Juan Miravitlles, an Esquerra representative on the militia committee as follows:
"Day after day we found ourselves on the committee repeating "why these assassinations?" [...] A man was killed because his sister was a nun. [...] They called a man a fascist simply because he went to mass. President Companys said "you are drowning the revolution in blood" [...] "Tell Companys not to come here again" Durrutti said to me and Tarradelas. If he does I will fill him full of bullet holes."
However, before discussing this quote from the period after July 19th (the time when Miravitlles says the "power lay in the streets"), we have to point out that James Donald gets his quote wrong. The actual quote is as follows:
"President Companys told them they were drowning the revolution in blood. 'We shall lose the war for this reason.' The libertarians went pale. When Companys from time to time put in an appearance at the committee, we of his party stood up; the communists half rose, the libertarians remained stolidly seated. 'Tell Companys not to come here again,' Durruti said to me and Tarredellas. 'If he does, I'll fill him full of bullets...'"
Notice how James changes the quote to suggest that Companys remark caused Durruti's threat, while in fact nothing of the kind is actually stated. It could have been, we agree, but there is no evidence that it was. But what is dishonest is James Donald changing the quote in order to explicitly suggest that it did.
James Donald then says the following, "Durutti was arguably the most powerful military commander in the CNT". Very true, but this only happened after he left for the front on July 24th, 1936, at the head of the Durruti Column. In other words, the event referred to above must have occured sometime between July 20th and July 24th, as Durruti was at the front after that. During this period, and for sometime after, "power lay in the streets" and not with the CNT-FAI. It should also be noted that Durruti did not carry out his threat.
James Donald then states that "Note that president Companys said "you are drowning the revolution in blood," not "random street people are drowning the revolution in Blood", which indicates he saw the terror as being centrally directed and organized." Obviously, however, the quote does not suggest any such thing, and in fact, Fraser and Bolloten do not mention any such thing. According to Bolloten, "during the height of the Revolution" (i.e. the period being discussed here), there was "spontaneous, undirected terror of the CNT and FAI," which he constrasts with "the more sophisticated, centrally directed, and, hence, more fearful terror of the Communists," which occurred after May 1937. [The Spanish Civil War, p.498] This clearly indicates that the CNT and FAI did not "centrally direct" or "organise" mass murder or terror at all. In fact, it indicates that the "undirected terror" was by individuals who belonged to anarchist organizations acting on their own.
According to Fraser, "it should be noted that in Barcelona and elsewhere the FAI was automatically blamed for assassinations and crimes" [p. 148] It should also be noted that the CNT and FAI both opposed assassinations. [p. 149] "leading CNT militants, like Joan Peiro, fulminated openly against such actions." and "both the CNT and FAI issued statements categorically condemning assassinations." The FAI stated: "we must put an end to these excesses." In fact, the CNT-FAI acted to stop assassinations. To quote Fraser, "Anyone proven to have infringed people's rights would be shot -- a threat which was carried out when some anarcho-syndicalist militants were executed." Unsurprisingly, then, as Fraser notes, the "republican government (along with all political parties and trade unions) condemned the assassinations and, as its power increased, brought them under control." [p. 170]
But James Donald ignores this evidence, stating that "The leaders on the militia committee claimed that the worker patrols were doing it on their own initiative, but since the patrols accused were organized and officially authorized by the CNT, this explanation fails to inspire confidence, regardless of whether it is true or false."
Firstly, were the workers patrols organised by the CNT? Nope, the workers patrols were made up of 700 people, of whom 325 were CNT, 185 Esquerra, 145 UGT and 45 POUM. In addition, as Miravitlles noted, "power lay in the streets." He is the source for James Donald's statement above about the workers patrols. Here is what Miravitlles actually said:
"Their leaders on the committee said the libertarian movement was not responsible for the assassinations. 'It's the armed workers' patrols. Some of the members are assassins.' But in my view, they couldn't confront this type of people who represented for them their own ideology. With the notable exception of Durruti at the front, the CNT was always plagued with indiscipline within its own ranks and didn't know how to deal with it..." [p. 150]
We have indicated above exactly how the CNT-FAI did deal with the problems of the assassinations (i.e. they stopped them). Thus James Donald's case is weakened even more.
He then moves a few hundred kilometers to Aragon for his next example of "CNT terror." It should be pointed out that Aragon is not actually in Catalonia (basic facts like this do not seem to matter!) and that the examples below are from "a few kilometers from the front line," unlike the examples above, which are from Barcelona immediately after July 19th.
James states that the example he gives, quoting Angel Navarro from p. 359 of Blood of Spain, is of "continuing terror after CNT authority was successfully imposed." However, this is a few kilometers from the front line and did not involve the CNT imposing a form of authority on the village in question. Navarro says that after the terror, nothing changed in the village or on the land. Donald quotes Navarro as saying that in Alloza "opinion generally favored the insurgent rather than the popular front cause." This means that the CNT militia facing the insurgents across no-man's land may have been a bit worried about pro-fascists a few kilometers behind them. This worry does not justify the two murders, but it indicates why the people were arrested in the first place.
James Donald then says that "Angel Navarro. . . clearly expected organized official terror, when he said "now it begins". Equally clearly, most of the villagers shared this concern (See Franco's narrative, page 358)." What James does not mention in all this is that the village was "a few kilometers behind the front line." As would be expected in such circumstances, the troops at the front wanted to make sure that the area behind them was safe. This, remember, was a war zone. He also does not mention what the CNT representatives, who visited the village after these events occurred, said when suggested that the village create a collective. They "stressed that no one was to be maltreated"[p. 360] and many in the village felt safe enough not to join it.
James Donald goes on to state that, "If the terrorists were a small group of people personally pursuing petty conflicts they would not have needed a list, and they would not have arrested people for later execution. . .The list and the arrests indicates specialization of labor in the mass production of murder. Some group to prepare the list, some group to operate the killing fields, which indicates a fairly large and permanent organization of mass murder."
Thus James Donald again claims that there was "killing fields" organised by a "permanent organisation of mass murder," whereas in fact he provides no evidence to indicate that anything of the kind existed. What did exist? The CNT militias at the front, a few kilometers away. It should be noted that if the militia men were part of such an alleged "organisation," would those in charge not have been annoyed that the militia men had not carried out their orders? And it should be pointed out that Angel Navarro managed to get the militia men to leave without anyone on their list ("a list of people they had come to arrest").
James says that because they arrested people, it indicates "the mass production of murder," but in fact it indicates the intention of giving them a trial. It could be pointed out that in a previous visit, a week after the Carod column had reached the village and moved on to Muniesa, it was visited by militia men from two neighbouring villages to make four arrests (which included a priest and a civil guard lieutenant). Franco managed to save two of the four.
So let us summarise the evidence provided by James for his "killing fields" and "fairly large and permanent organization of mass murder." Two visits to one village, one of which involved one car, indicating a pretty small list and which resulted in no deaths. And the overall outcome of this "mass production of murder"? Two people murdered out of a population of 1,800.
James ends by moving back in time and distance to Barcelona, quoting the report by Joan Roig on what he heard another man say (but did not actually see happen). This incident is from, yet again, just after July 19th, when "power lay on the streets." James goes on to say that "Once again we see how the murderers acted openly and unafraid, while those who opposed terror were frightened and silent."
Roig, however, does not indicate that the man being shaved was in the CNT or FAI, or even if his story was actually true. Assuming that it was true, does this prove James Donald's case? No, it does not, simply because it is an example of one person committing acts of terror while "power lay on the streets." No evidence is provided that his actions were organised or backed by the CNT in any way. Funny that.
James Donald asked at the start of his examples, "OK, there was terror on a vast scale. Next question. Who did it? Was it an unfortunate consequence of convicts getting out of jail and the breakdown of order, or was it systematically planned to terrorize the population into submission?"
Does he present any evidence that the terror was "systematically planned" in Catalonia? No, he does not. He supplies no evidence of "killing fields" or organised terror at all. In fact, all the evidence points the other way, that the 4,000 to 5,000 deaths in Catalonia were random acts committed by individuals or small groups. As for the example from Aragon, this again does not prove the existence of "killing fields" or "organised mass murder." The events from Aragon, in a different time and place than the others James lists, occurred near the front line and was carried out in order to ensure that the front was not in danger from pro-fascists just behind it. These resulted in two deaths, out of a population of 1,800. As for his one example of workers' patrols taking people to be shot, it apparently comes from the time when "power lay in the streets." Furthermore, the example does not even say it was a CNT workers' patrol. As evidence of CNT "organised mass murder" it is very weak. And one example from a 600-page book (and none from another book of over 1,000 pages) does not suggest that "centrally organised mass murder" actually existed in Catalonia or in Aragon.
The strange thing about Donald's wild charges is that the historians he quotes do not mention these "killing fields" or "centrally planned mass murder" which he seems to think existed. I would imagine that if such thing had actualy existed they would have noticed it, particularly Bolloten, who was in Republican Spain at the time. The simple fact that they do not mention them shows that James Donald is clutching at straws. According to Bolloten, "during the height of the Revolution" there was "spontaneous, undirected terror of the CNT and FAI," which he constrasts with "the more sophisticated, centrally directed, and, hence, more fearful terror of the Communists" [The Spanish Civil War, p.498] This clearly indicates that the CNT and FAI did not create a "centrally planned organisation of mass murder" at all.
It should be pointed out that there was a "centrally planned organisation of mass murder" in Spain at the time James is discussing (July 1936 to approximately May 1937) and there is substantial evidence to prove it. It was in Franco's Spain, where mass terror really did occur -- up to and including mass graves ("the killing fields"). And all serious historians have noted the difference between the spontaneous wave of assassinations, in the Republican zone, which quickly ended, with the officially planned slaughter in the Nationalist zone. A slaughter which, it should be noted, was warmly supported by capitalists and supporters of capitalism across the world.
One eye-witness notes that he "had occassion to witness the repression that was being carried on in both zones. In the nationalist zone it was planned, methodical, cold. The authorities didn't trust the people and imposed their will through terror. To do so they committed atrocities. In the Popular Front zone atrocities were also committed. That was the similarity between the two; but the difference was that in the republican zone the crimes were committed by an impassioned people, not by the authorities. The latter always tried to prevent crimes . . . It wasn't so in the nationalist zone. There more people where shot, it was scientifically organised . . . " [Frazer, p. 276]
Historian Anthony Beevor in his 1982 book The Spanish Civil War, confirms this, noting that the "worse of the violence occurred in the first few days throughout Republican Spain" and the "random killings started to be contained once the individuals exploiting the situation were suppressed by the 'control patrols', organised within a few days of the rising by the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias." He also notes that "appears that a considerable part of the violence, and most of the looting, was done by freed convicts . . . Many on the left also alleged that civil guards were often the most flagrant killers, as they sought to protect themselves from suspicions of sympathising with the right." [p. 73] He also indicates the motives of some of the killings, and how the anarchist organisations opposed them:
"In Barcelona the top priorities for revenge (after certain police officials like Miguel Badia) were the industrialists who had employed pistoleros aginst unions leaders and, of course, the gunmen themselves. There was inevitably a wide-ranging settlement of accounts against blacklegs. One or two killlings even went back to old inter-union disputes. Desiderio Trillas, the head of the UGT dockers,was shot down by a group of anarchists because he had prevented CNT members form receiving work. This murder was immediately condemned by the CNT_FAI leadership and they promised immediate execution of any of their members who killed out of personal motives. It was a threat which they carried out. Several prominent anarchists . . . were shot." [p. 73]
He contrasts what happened in the Republican Zone with the state-imposed mass murder of the Nationalists:
"The pattern of killing in 'white' Spain was different. It started as soon as an area had been secured by the Nationalist forces . . . Once the troops had move on, a second and more intense wave of slaughter would begin, as the Falange, or in some areas the Carlists, carried out a ruthless purge of the civilian population . . . It was a political slaughter which dwarfed its counterpart in Republican territory." [p. 74]
He gives some indication what this centrally planning system of mass murder produced in terms of deaths. In Sevile province, around 9,000 were killed, in Granada it was 8,000. In Malaga, at least 3,500 were killed in the first week after the Nationalists took it. [p. 74] In Aragon, where James asserts the CNT created "killing fields", Beevor points to "the mass killings of CNT members in Saragoza and the outlying countryside" by the fascists. In 1979, a mass grave was discovered near Saragossa 500 metres long with around 7,000 corpses in it. [p. 273, p. 75] More of Franco's mass graves have been found since then, with the number of bodies expected to reach 100,000 (at least) once all have been investigated.
Comparing the deaths in the Republican zone to those in the Nationalist, in terms of numbers and nature of the repression there really is no comparison, so proving that James's assertions are nonsense.
In other words, the acts of terror quoted above by Donald are exactly what anarchists claim they are, the uncontrolled acts of individuals and small groups acting on their own initiative and not directed by either the CNT and FAI. We do not doubt that CNT and FAI members were involved in acts of terror immediately after July 19th. However, they did so as individuals and against the wishes of their own organisations. These organisations also took steps to stop these activities, as indicated above. As for the example from Aragon, again these were carried out by the militia a few kilometers behind their front lines and was directed against possible pro-fascists in the village.
On investigation, James Donald "case" for CNT run "killing fields" proves to be false and his conclusions are not supported by the historians whose books he uses, nor any other serious historian.
James Donald asks "Whatever happened to anarchy?" in Catalonia during the revolution. This is an important question and one that anarchists have discussed many times since July 19th, 1936. However, the answer to this question is a little bit different than the one Donald suggests.
To get an understanding of why this is the case we have to point out something Donald does not mention in his web pages. Namely, that the revolution in Spain occurred as a result of popular resistance to a Fascist Coup. On July 17th, 1936, the military tried to carry out a coup to overthrow the recently elected Popular Front government. The government refused to arm the population, and it was left to the unions (the CNT and UGT) to get arms and distribute them to the population. This they did, and the resulting street fighting saw the military defeated in two-thirds of Spain.
Therefore, "immediately after the revolution" the CNT faced the situation of a pro-fascist army trying to take over the country. It says a lot about James Donald's biases that he does not mention this fact anywhere in his diatribe on the Spanish Anarchists.
Donald acknowledges that "immediately after the revolution, there was no state, no government, no one monopoly of force" and that it was in this context that workers and peasants took over their workplaces and land. The period between July and September 1936 can be characterised as one of spontaneous, widespread, but unconsummated social revolution. It should be noted here that this account totally contradicts Donald's argument that the CNT created "centrally organised killing fields," as presented in his discussion of terror in Catalonia. There he argued that the CNT leadership organised "terror" on a vast scale, but now he states that there was no such monopoly of force. Thus he refutes his own argument.
Moving on, James Donald claims that during the early days of the revolution there were "a multitude of local committees that exercised absolute power, sometimes benevolently, sometimes in a terrifying and brutal fashion." However, as can be seen from an examination of both the rural and industrial collectives, as well as whatever CNT committees existed, these committees did not exercise "absolute power" but were in fact (in the main) democratically elected bodies with little or no power. As discussed elsewhere , what terror occurred in Spain was the result of power being "on the streets" and not in the hands of any committees.
Donald then goes on to claim that "often one such committee had desires that conflicted with another such committee. Such matters were resolved by higher committees, which led to the rapid consolidation of power in fewer and fewer committees, with greater and greater power", but he provides no evidence to back this claim up. As Bolloten points out, the local committees that did exist in each community were supported by the CNT, which opposed attempts to get rid of them in favour of state bodies. As he notes, "it was a far cry from the promulgation of the decrees to their actual implementation, and in a large number of localities, where the Anarchosyndicalists were in undisputed ascendency, and even in some where the less radical UGT was dominant, the committees subsisted in the teeth of government opposition." [The Civil War in Spain, p. 215] This non-CNT attack on the committees took place once the CNT had joined the government as a minority, and so can hardly be blamed on the CNT.
Following up on this piece of wishful thinking, James Donald claims that "Modern collectivist anarchists propose exactly that solution to the use of force, that force be used as 'the people' direct, despite the disastrous outcome of this procedure in Catalonia." Unfortunately for James Donald, this is only what he thinks. Modern anarchists, like not-so-modern anarchists, support decentralisation of power into the hands of local communities and workplaces and oppose random acts of violence. They oppose what Donald claims they support, which is hardly surprising given Donald's grasp of reality. For a detailed introduction to the ideas of anarchism, we recommend An Anarchist FAQ  where Donald's nonsense can be seen for what it is.
Donald goes on to claim that "Modern individualist anarchists propose a very different solution to this problem" which is "Anarcho-Capitalism." It should be noted that not-so-modern and modern individualist anarchists  call(ed) themselves socialists and oppose(d) capitalism, and that "anarcho"-capitalism has little to do with their ideas. In addition, "anarcho"-capitalism is not anarchist, because it entails the creation of private states whose major function is to defend capitalist wealth and power. The authoritarian implications of "anarcho" capitalism is discussed in more detail here .
Donald next discusses what happened in Catalonia. First he states that the anarchists created "the militia committee, a popular front organization that imposed a monopoly of force in Barcelona, though not a monopoly outside Barcelona." This means that for Donald, "anarchy" existed in Barcelona for all of one day! However, it's pretty clear that for a considerable time after July 19th, power "lay in the streets." But we will ignore this and note that Donald does not explain why this body was created.
The suggestion of creating the Militia Committee did not arise in the CNT. Companys (president of Catalonia) suggested it to the delegates of the CNT who visited him after the fighting was over. These delegates returned to a CNT plenum, which discussed what the CNT should do at that point. Many in the CNT plenum argued that the CNT should proclaim libertarian communism and totally overthrow the state and capitalism. However, the majority thought the best response to the problem of the Fascist coup was to collaborate with the other anti-fascist parties and unions. They argued that not to do this would lead to a civil war within in a civil war in Catalonia. They therefore accepted Companys suggestion.
So, far from being the secret statists that Donald implies here, the CNT decided to collaborate with other anti-fascist groups in order to defeat fascism. However, most anarchists recognise that this was a fundamental error which led to the defeat of both the revolution and the war. This will be discussed later.
Donald then goes on to say that the Militia Committee "compelled people to do its will, most notably by taking control of food, but was not officially a state and did not officially compel people." Firstly, a few points. The Committee was initially powerless and the social revolution which took place in Catalonia (and elsewhere) was the result of local CNT and UGT members taking over their workplaces or land. Therefore, as far as compelling people "to do its will," the revolution occurred in spite of, not because, of the Committee.
This can be seen from the creation of militias which went to the front to fight Fascism which were based on volunteers. It can also be seen from the collectivisation movement, which occurred even though the CNT officially had decided to "put off" the revolution until the war had been won. As for "taking control of food", Donald is referring to the supplies committees created by the unions, which Joan Domench was appointed by the Committee to look after. The committees did requisition food and products, this is very true. Food was seized from shops and sent to hospitals, the militia and so on. Given that there was a total breakdown in normal life, it's not surprising that "property rights" were violated; and since anarchists do not respect private ownership of the means of production, it's not surprising that the CNT membership did take over retail outlets, workplaces and so on. Really, if we take James Donald's argument seriously and apply it to July 19th, then the CNT should not have "stolen" weapons and distributed them to the population, i.e. it should have let fascism win.
As for controlling the food supply, the supply committees did take responsibility for ensuring that the cities were fed. They did this by exchanging produce for food from elsewhere. This process worked pretty well, and most countries in a war situation introduce some form of control over food supplies. It should be noted that when the supply committees were abolished under the communist Joan Comorera (who introduced a "free market" in food), people started to go hungry and this had an adverse effect on morale.
Of course Donald is trying to imply a "centralised" control of food under the Militia Committee. This is false, as Borkenau states: "Comorera... did not substitute for the chaotic bread committees a centralised administation." [The Spanish Cockpit, p.184]. In other words the system, while not perfect, did work, did feed people and was not a centralised set-up.
James Donald then points out that the Committee "appointed a police force of seven hundred men (the famous, or infamous, worker's patrols)." This is true, but he does not mention the fact that the population was armed and so the workers' patrols (made up of people from all unions and parties) could not be said to have a monopoly of weapons. However, it's ironic that Donald is pointing this out because, as an "anarcho" capitalist, he has no problem with private police forces.
Moving on, James Donald presents one of his more outrageous statements. He states that "then later, their leaders decided in secret, in cheerful defiance of the democratic procedures described in the CNT constitution, to dissolve the militia committee, to officially recreate the state rather than unofficially. The Generalitad was officially and formally a state. This decision was abruptly imposed on the CNT from above by in cheerful defiance of the CNT's internal 'democratic procedures.'"
Before discussing the question of CNT democracy, we have to point out James Donald's obvious fallacy -- namely that the CNT "recreated the state." This should be classed as a lie as it completely misrepresents what actually happened. In September, 1936, the Central Committee was dissolved and the CNT did send people into the government. However, they did not "recreate" this government, they joined one that already existed. This is an important difference.
By saying that the CNT "recreated" the state, James Donald is implying the the CNT leadership wanted power and created a state body to enforce their rule. This is the opposite of what happened. The CNT did not destroy the state after July 19th, they ignored it. Power lay in the streets, and the state itself had no means of enforcing its laws or decisions. After the CNT agreed to join the Militia Committee, the anarchist revolution was put on hold politically and the state was ignored, not destroyed.
Taking this opportunity, the various political parties (who all had a long history of anti-CNT feeling) worked to ensure that the state became stronger and stronger. This soon led to a situation of "dual power" in Catalonia, as the original state stopped being just a "rubber stamp" for the Militia Committee and the Committee became more and more marginalised. As the Catalan state controled the banks and credit as well as whatever arms were sent from the Central Government, it is little wonder that the Militia Committee became irrelevent. As noted, the rank and file of the CNT got on with creating their revolution outside of the control of either body.
So, the problem quickly arose that the CNT was being marginalised by the political parties. This meant that the CNT found it harder and harder to get funds for the collectives and arms for its militia. Hence they placed winning the war against fascism above their own principles -- "The war made the decision inevitable; the CNT couldn't allow itself to betrampled on by the political parties, it had to join the government" [Blood of Spain, p. 186]
The decision was reached at a CNT plenum in August and September 1936. James Donald is right in that the CNT made the decision to join the government in violation of its democratic principles, since the rank and file were not consulted. However, the fact that this decision was taken undemocratically is a far cry from there being "no democracy" in Catalonia, as Donald claims. This aspect of his diatribe is discussed here .
Under this heading, James Donald claims that "the fact that most modern anarcho-socialists advocate democratic procedures is itself ample evidence that they are not anarchists, for democracy is meaningless unless the majority can compel the minority to submit to its will." However, anarchists are very specific about their support for democratic procedures -- they support it as the only libertarian means for a group to make a decision. The fact that "anarcho" capitalists reject democracy (i.e. self-management) in favour of hierarchy is itself ample evidence that they are not anarchists.
A simple example will prove this point. In a capitalist workplace the employees are told what to do by a manager who is appointed by the owners. The employees are expected to follow orders or leave. Therefore capitalism creates hierarchies which destroy the employees' ability to manage the decisions that affect their lives during work hours. In other words, they are controlled and so governed by a minority. In an anarchist workplace, decisions are reached by majority vote and all individuals can express themselves and help determine what affects them. From this example, it's clear that "anarcho" capitalists are not anarchists -- they support government and authoritarian control.
Donald then goes on to state that "the events in Catalonia suggest that even their advocacy of democratic procedures is also sham. Not only did they implement a government, they implemented an undemocratic and unconstitutional government." Of course, only James Donald really knows what anarchists really think. Like all authoritarians, he knows what the "truth" is, and if his opponents state the exact opposite of what he claims, then their claims are false, not his. Is James seriously claiming that the CNT and FAI militants who put up with years of repression, imprisonment, and assassinations, actually were just waited for the moment to "implement a government"? Hardly, if this was the case they would have stood for elections like the pro-capitalist "Libertarian Party" in the USA (an party which many "anarcho"-capitalists seem happy to join and vote for - apparently in the belief that "anarchy" can come through the state!). As noted, his choice of words is distinctly misleading, as the CNT did not create but joined a government. No matter how many times Donald repeats his lie, it does not make it true.
Donald then goes on to state that "the undemocratic actions of the Anarcho-socialists would not be particularly undemocratic if they had an ideology and their organizations had a constitution whereby the elected leaders have a mandate to do as they please until the next election. Their actions were objectionable because they were taken in defiance of their theory and of the constitutions of their organizations."
We are sure that readers of James Donald's web-pages would be surprised to find out that anarchists have long argued that his point is correct. For example, the plenum held by the CNT militants on July 20th should have organised a full conference of the CNT, UGT and non-unionised workplaces in order to fully discuss what to do. However, given the fact of the recent fascist coup, it's certain that many CNT militants considered it more important to get the militias organised to go free those parts of Spain that were under Franco. This does not justify their actions, but it does explain them.
Now, moving on, Donald states that "similarly there would be nothing offensive in their undemocratic actions if they were real anarchists, but instead they exercised state power in the name of their followers, and did not bother to obtain their followers consent to it."
So "real" anarchists think it's okay to govern people? Doanld's statement says a lot about his claim to be an anarchist. Is he actually suggesting that it's okay for anarchists to act undemocratically and exercise state power as long as they did so in their own name? Given his support for private cops, capitalist hierarchy, and military coups, we can only assume that he is. Obviously "real" anarchists like James Donald think that hier-archy is compatible with no-archy.
He then goes on to quote Burnett Bolloten's The Grand Camouflage, page 159, that the decision to join the government was made "in violation of the democratic principle, it had been taken without consulting the rank and file."
This is true. However, Donald does not raise the important question of why, if the rank and file opposed the move, did they not resist it. Many anarchists opposed the collaboration and argued against it in their newspapers. For example, both the Libertarian Youth and Friends of Durruti published papers in which they opposed the compromises and collaboration of the CNT, arguing their case many times openly and in public. Here is an eyewitness account of a Libertarian Youth conference:
"And then I saw a Libertarian Youth conference which was prepared to vote almost unanimously to condemn without debate the policy of government collaboration. However, the chairman insisted that supporters of collaboration be given a chance to speak and be heard. I saw six young men go to the platform and argue earnestly and eloquently for their viewpoint. There were no interruptions, no booing. The vote remained almost unanimous in favour of opposing collaboration." [Abe Bluestein, introduction to Anarchist Organisation:The History of the F.A.I.]
In addition, we have noted many times the democratic nature of the industrial and rural collectives, in which people could discuss issues in mass assemblies. This means that a democratic means existed to express opinions all across Catalonia and Aragon. In addition, all non-fascist political parties and unions had their own press and used them to put forward their ideas.
In addition, there were numerous CNT conferences and plenums during the revolution. In September 1936, for example, there were National and Regional CNT plenums where the decision to join the government was made. On September 24th, 1936, a Regional Plenum of Syndicates was held in Barcelona at which 505 delegates representing 327 syndicates which agreed that the CNT should join the Government in Catalonia. It should be pointed out that the CNT was a minority in this government, which was made up of the following numbers - 3 CNT, 5 republicans, 2 PSUC and 1 POUM.
This figure clearly shows that James Donald's claim that the CNT "created" the state is a lie. If the CNT was as powerful as he claimed, would they have "created" a state in which they were in a minority? Of course not.
Donald then quotes Fraser's Blood of Spain, page 184:
"But more was evidently needed. The choice was between working class and popular front power. There were no alternatives.
The decision in favor of the latter was reached at a secret meeting [...] The decision was kept secret. [...]
"The Catalan CNT sprang its surprise: Three CNT ministers were joining the new Generalitat government: The militia committee was to be dissolved, and with it all the local committees. "
It should be pointed out that the last quote ends with "all the local committees were to be replaced by new town councils" in which all Popular Front and unions were to be represented.
Donald then states that "Ronald Frazer does not draw any conclusions from the fact that these decisions were made in secret by an organization that was supposedly functioning by participatory democracy." However, Fraser does mention the following:
"The CNT would determine its own decisions. At the end of August, it did so. . .Again the majority opted for 'collaboration' -- but with a difference; this time it was to accept the invitation, repeatedly made by President Companys, to participate in the Generalitat government" [p. 184]
This "secret meeting" referred to by Fraser is thus this August meeting and that decision was confirmed by the September one. These were plenums of CNT unions' "shop stewards" and so were "secret" to outsiders. These CNT shop stewards were not full-timers but militants from the shop-floor and so were aware of the feelings of the CNT membership. Again, these plenums had heated discussions before the decision to collaborate was decided.
The reasoning behind this decision was far from the James Donald seems to be suggesting. Basically, unless they collaborated, the CNT would have been denied arms and resources and so marginalised -- "The war made the decision inevitable; the CNT couldn't allow itself to betrampled on by the political parties, it had to join the government" [p.186]
As for the local committees being replaced, this was the idea of the Republicans and Communists. As Bolloten points out, they "hoped that this participation, by enchancing the government's authority among the rank and file of the CNT and FAI, would facilitate the reconstruction of the shattered machinery of the state. . .they further hoped that the CNT's entry. . .would hasten the supplanting of these committees. . .by regular organs of administration that had either been thrust into the shade or has ceased to function from the first day of the Revolution" [Op. Cit., p. 212] We have already noted that these committees were not replaced without a struggle. Therefore, in practice, the powers of the state were pretty weak. It did not attempt to crush the revolution until May 1937, months after the CNT had joined the government as a minority.
James Donald then states the following: "Since this announcement was a surprise, I draw the inference that the local committees were not consulted and therefore that they were a mere pretense, like the workers Soviets of the Soviet unions, powerless and impotent, mere window dressing to maintain the charade of mass participation in the affairs of the masters and mass support for whatever the masters happened to will at that particular moment."
However, as noted, what Donald does not quote is the reference to the CNT regional plenum of August in which the decision was made. This meeting was made up of members of local CNT union committees. As indicated from Bolloten, Fraser, and many other sources, CNT plenums were held and decisions reached by the debate in these meetings. In other words, his inference is false. This can be seen from some quotes from Frazer which Donald strangely does not provide:
"The decision in favour of the latter [collaboration] was reached at a secret meeting [the Catalan CNT plenum of unions in August] and was taken . . .by the Catalan libertarians alone; only they could decide a matter which affected their region - though its impact was national. The decision was kept secret" [p. 184-5] and "While heated discussions continued in Madrid, the Catalan CNT sprang its surprise." [p. 186] In other words, the local committees were consulted and the decision was made locally.
He then continues, "Because they were not functioning in accordance with their own theory and constitution, I infer that they were not functioning in accordance with any theory or constitution." This is partly true, the CNT had made so many compromises that a leadership had developed and had become increasingly separated from its base. However, it is false to suggest that "they" were functioning as tyrants. Taking an example from May 1937:
"At a conference of local unions in Barcelona, the leadership sought and obtained the support of the unions to continue to collaborate with the government of Catalonia after the May Days. However, the unions refused to withhold financial support for the Libertarian Youth, who opposed the policy of collaboration vigorously in their publications. And the unions also refused to call upon the transit workers not to distribute these opposition publications in the public transit system, or the milk drivers to stop distributing the Libertarian Youth papers together with the daily milk." [Abe Bluestein, introduction to Anarchist Organisation: The History of the F.A.I.]
Hence it can be seen that, while not as it should be, the internal democracy of the CNT was working to some degree. As is evident from Bolloten's account and, in passing, from Fraser's, the decision to join the government was made by a CNT plenum, not a CNT committee acting alone, as James Donald suggests in his diatribe. This is not to say that everything was "ideal," just to point out it was not as bad as Donald makes out.
He then does on to state: "A collectivist anarchist condemned the formation of the militia committee as follows" and quotes from an article  on the Spanish revolution. Here is the quotation (put in the correct order):
"Instead of pursuing anarchist policies (and past CNT policy as indicated from congresses), the committee members started to pursue their own policies. Far from NOT seizing power themselves (as the Trotskyites lament, their definition of 'workers power'), the CNT and FAI committee members seized power within their own organizations.
"In practice the committees had been separated from the rank and file and their members transformed from delegates into representatives ("leaders" in every sense of the word) who started to make policy decisions on the rank and files behalf, without bothering to consult them.
"This shows clearly the role of the CNT committee members (see also "Towards a Fresh Revolution" by the Friends of Durruti). They used their new found influence in the eyes of Spain to unite with the leaders of other organizations/parties but not the rank and file. This process lead to the creation of the "Central Committee of Anti Fascist Militias"
"This first betrayal of anarchist principles led to all the rest, [...]"
It makes interesting reading to see what is hidden by the deletions indicated by James Donald's use of dots within brackets ([...]). The anarchist writer in question argues that "the leading committees [of the CNT] decided off their own backs not to talk of libertarian communism but only of the fight against fascism" and that the "state and government was not abolished by self-management, only ignored" -- in other words, he points out that the CNT did not introduce anarchism into Catalonia but instead cooperated with other unions and political parties in order to fight the fascists. The author of the article`s major mistake, we should point out, lies in ignoring the responsibility of the rank and file CNT members, a point we will discuss below.
James Donald then goes on and says that "He complains that the 'Central Committee of the Anti Fascist Militias' was not organized in accordance with anarcho-socialists principles" which is true, in a way. He actually argues that this body should not have been created at all and instead argued that a "genuine federal body" based on "workplace, militia and community assemblies" should have been created. In other words, that the CNT should not have compromised its anarchist principles in the name of anti-fascist unity and smashed the state.
Donald then argues: "But the Central Committee created a police force with a special privilege of exercising force, impermissable to ordinary mortals," which is false. As noted, during the periods around July 19th 1936 and May 1937, the working class of Catalonia were armed. In other words, "use of force" was "exercised" by "ordinary mortals." Its strange that James Donald seems to forget this little fact, along with the fascist coup that resulted in these arms being distributed to the population. It makes one wonder whether his account can be trusted.
Donald then asks, "Are we to conclude that if the Central Committee was organized in accordance with anarchist principles, it would have been perfectly in accord with anarchist principles for it to create a police force?" Interesting question. As James Donald supports the idea of private police forces, it's hard to understand what to make of this point. He obviously has no quarrel with police forces as such. Now, the question arises: if the revolution in Catalonia had proceeded in an anarchist fashion, would it have been "in accordance with anarchist principles to create a police force." The answer to this is that it would have depended on what people wanted. If the individuals in their various communities had thought that "police forces" were required, then we are sure they would have organised them. So, there is no answer to this question. One thing is sure, however: allowing companies to employ private cops does not equal a libertarian society any more than ignoring the state does.
Lastly, James summarises as follows: "In effect he makes the same complaint for Catalonia as for every other socialist revolution. 'If only the leaders had been more virtuous.'" More like General Pincohet, perhaps? But no, the anarchist in question is indicating what happened, and he asks in part two  of his article whether "the defeat in Spain [was] a defeat of anarchist theory and tactics OR a failure of anarchists to apply their theory and tactics." He concludes that it was the latter.
Whether anarchists are happy with it or not, the simple fact is that the rank and file of the CNT allowed the CNT leadership to join, and continue to stay in, a government. As indicated above, they had ample opportunity to hear arguments against collaboration and to express themselves in union and collective meetings. Even after going on strike and taking to the streets during the May Days  against the communist-led attack on their revoluntary conquests, they returned to work after the CNT leadership asked them to. This suggests that, like many CNT and FAI leaders, they considered collaboration as the lesser evil to Fascism, and so sacrificed their principles in the hope that the capitalist-backed totalitarianism of Franco could be stopped.
Unfortunately this did not happen. It is clear that the Communists, Republicans, and Liberals preferred fascism to even the slightest hint of anarchism. As did, it should be noted, the capitalists in Spain and internationally. The tragedy of Spain is that many anarchists did not apply their ideas in practice and instead collaborated with the state in the name of "anti-fascist" unity. They did so for noble reasons, but the results just reenforced the conclusion that statism and capitalism do not work.
Here James Donald attempts to show how the CNT "enserfed" the peasants in Catalonia. He correctly points out that a "serf is bound to the land. He is not free to leave if he objects to his masters mistreatment." and goes on to say that "Every socialist revolution has led to the reintroduction of serfdom". He then quotes Ronald Fraser, page 367 and the testimony of two eyewitnesses, which indicates that their collective was a horrific dictatorship. He then takes this testimony as typical of all the Aragon collectives.
However, there are a few problems with James Donald argument. The first, and the most basic, is that his example is from Aragon and not Catalonia. You would think that he would get basics like this correct. He does not present any evidence of serfdom in Catalonia, which is strange considering his title.
Moving on, he quotes Ronald Fraser's summary of this one collective:
"For detractors of Aragon collectives, Fernando's experience was more or less typical: For supporters exceptional, but undeniable."
Fair enough. The question arises, was this a typical experience? The answer is a most definite no. Lets look at the other collectives in Aragon that Fraser documents. He describes another three, all of which were democratic and voluntary. According to one member of the Beceite collective, "it was marvellous...to live in a collective, a free society where one could say what one thought, where if the village committee seemed unsatisfactory one could say. The committee took no big decisions without calling the whole village together in a general assembly. All this was wonderful" (p. 288).
In the another collective, an eye-witness states that "Once the work groups were established on a friendly basis and worked their own lands, everyone got on well enough, he recalled. There was no need for coercion, no need for discipline and punishment.... A collective wasn't a bad idea at all" [p. 360]
How about on a wider scale. The one collective James Donald takes as "typical" was a "total" one, i.e. no one was allowed outside. Was this typical? Not at all. According to Fraser (on page 366), an FAI schoolteacher stated that forced collectivisation "wasn't a widespread problem, because there weren't more than twenty or so villages where collectivisation was total and no one was allowed to remain outside..."
There were 450 collectives in Aragon, meaning that 95% of collectives were voluntary. Hence, an example of one the 5% that were "total" is hardly typical. It should also be noted that 70% of the population of Aragon joined collectives, again indicating their basically voluntary nature. Both these facts James Donald ignores.
Lastly, James Donald says the following:
"Fraser also concludes that peasants were generally not free to leave the collectives, though he implies that in a great many cases they were restrained by less blatant and drastic means than were used to restrain Fernando Aragon. They were not allowed to have any money, food reserves, or means of transport, making it impossible to travel without permission."
I think its fair to quote Ronald Fraser and his conclusions on whether people could leave the collectives. He concludes as follows:
"Conditions obviously varied from collective to collective and, as in many other aspects, generalisation is impossible" [p. 368]
To state, then, "Fraser also concludes" is a downright lie, as can be seen from the above quote.
Lastly, I think that it is worth pointing out some details about the eyewitness whose statements James Donald uses to build his "case." For someone who was confined to his village by the committee, Aragon seemed to know what was happening at the front lines. Fraser quotes him on page 135 saying that the anarchist Red and Black column and the POUM militia would sit back and laugh when the other went into battle. So how does he know that if he was "enserfed" in his village?
Fraser points out that, for "extraneous reasons" he could not "talk to supporters and detractors of the collectives... in the Angues collective... The testimony of Fernando ARAGON and his wife -- a view of the inherent undemocratic dangers contained within the collectivisation experiment -- must stand on its own" (p. 369)
This means that out of 300,000 people and 450 collectives, James Donald takes as "typical" the testimony of two people in one collective. Testimony that could not be checked at that!
That is really impressive!
Historian Antony Beevor (while noting that there "had undoubtedly been pressure, and no doubt force was used on some occasions in the fervour after the rising") just stated the obvious when he wrote that "the very fact that every village was a mixture of collectivists and individualists shows that peasants had not been forced into communal farming at the point of a gun." [The Spanish Civil War, p. 206]
There is one last test which we can apply to see if James Donald's case is true. In August, 1937, the Republican Government sent communist troops under the command of the Communist Lister to dissolve the Aragon collectives. If the collectives in Aragon were as James Donald describes them you would imagine that the Aragonese would have welcomed the troops with open arms. However, this is not quite true. As the non-anarchist historian Oved points out:
"Those who were responsible for this policy [of attacking the Aragon Collectives], were convinced that the farmers would greet it joyfully because they had been coerced into joining the collectives. But they were proven wrong. Except for the rich estate owners who were glad to get their land back, most of the members of the agricultural collectives objected and lacking all motivation they were relucant to resume the same effort of in the agricultural work. This phenomenon was so widespread that the authoritorities and the communist minister of agriculture were forced to retreat from their hostile policy" [Yaacov Oved, Communismo Libertario and Communalism in the Spanish Collectivisations (1936-1939)]
This is backed up by Bolloten who notes that the result was of Lister's activities was "a pall of dismay and apprehension descended upon the agricultural labourers. Work in the fields was abandoned in many places or only carried on apathetically, and there was danger that a substantial portion of the harvest, vital for the war effort, would be left to rot" [The Grand Camouflage, p. 196] It should also be noted that the output from the Aragon collectives was 20% higher than before their creation. This combined with the virtual collapse of production after Lister "liberated" the area indicates that the collectives were popular and did not "enserf" anyone. Even the Communists had to redress the situation and changes its policy - the breakdown of the economy resulted in a decree being passed wich legalized collectives "during the current agricultural year."
Yet again, we see that James Donald's case falls apart on closer inspection.
James Donald claims that the anarchists of Catalonia frequently and spectacularly failed to live up their ideals. In some cases, this is true. For example, the CNT did join the government  in the name of anti-fascist unity. Moreover, some anarchists did commit acts of terror  although James Donald's claims of "killing fields" are just figments of his imagination. He also claims that the CNT imposed socialism by violence , and that they engaged in brutal exploitation . As can be seen from the referenced pages, nothing of the kind actually happened.
However, James claims that "the most interesting thing is what happened when they did live up to their libertarian ideals" and states the following:
"Two months before the revolution, the CNT voted that collectives should be free each to pursue its own goals, that industry should be collectivized rather than socialized or nationalized, but they expected that people would spontaneously act in a socialist fashion."
This, however, is all nonsense. James Donald is refering to the CNT congress of May 1936 at which no such thing was discussed. As Frazer points out, "was doubtful that the CNT had seriously envisaged collectivisation of industry. . .before this time." [p. 212] In fact, the CNT argued that industry should be socialised and run by the unions on behalf of society. They did oppose nationalisation as a new form of capitalism, but they wholeheartedly supported socialisation and federations of communes. The individual workplaces would be self-managed, but the CNT's program called for the construction of "libertarian communism." This would mean that the economy as a whole would be socialized, it would not consist of producers operating independently of each other on the basis of market exchange. Instead, workers would manage the industry they work in as a kind of "subcontract" from the whole community.
The collectives were a compromise that resulted because the CNT collaborated in the name of anti-fascist unity. The concept of "collectivization" was suggested by Joan Fabregas, a Catalan nationalist of middle class origin who had joined the CNT after July of '36.
"Up to that moment, I had never heard of collectivization as a solution for industry -- the department stores were being run by the union," says Joan Ferrer, the Commercial Union secretary. "What the new system meant was that each collectivized firm would retain its individual character, but with the ultimate objective of federating all enterprises within the same industry..." [Blood of Spain, p. 212.)
Therefore, James Donald starts his discussion with nonsense.
Moving on, he claims that "But the workers did not spontaneously act in a socialist fashion. Instead collectives and individuals acted in a capitalist fashion, each pursuing profit in competition with all the others. This led to highly unsocialist outcomes, outcomes that many in the CNT found unacceptable."
Firstly, it should be noted that "pursuing profit" is not acting in a "capitalist manner" - employing others and getting them to produce a profit for you is. For anarchists, socialism is about individuals cooperating together to maximise their own benefits and freedom. In this sense, the collectives were distinctly anti-capitalist. They showed that workers, when free to choose, will not work for a capitalist.
He then quotes Frazer as follows (Blood of Spain, page 231):
"In February 1937, four months after the [collectivization and socialization] decrees approval, a joint CNT-UGT textile union conference agreed that the experience demonstrated that the collectivization of individual plants had been mistaken, and that it was necessary to proceed to the total socialization of industry if ownership of the means of production was not once more to lead to the exploitation of man by man."
It should be noted that there was no such thing as a "socialisation" decree as James Donald is well aware. There was only the "collectivisation" decree, which many anarchists considered as holding back the revolution. As Gaston Level argues, the decree "legalising collectivisation", "distorted everything from the start" by ensuring that the revolution could not be extended fully under workplace control (see his book Collectives in the Spanish Revolution for more discussion).
The problems of collectivisation were noted by the unions:
"The woodworkers' union weighed in with its criticism of the state of affairs, alleging that, while small, insolvent workshops were left to struggle as best they could, the collectivization of profitable enterprises was leading to 'nothing other than the creation of two classes; the new rich and the eternal poor. We refuse the idea that there should be rich and poor collectives. And that is the real problem of collectivization'."
As would be obvious, before the revolution there was rich and poor capitalist firms. The collectives which were created reflected this. As there were few attempts made at creating federal structures between workplaces to allow for mutual aid it is hardly surprising that many workplaces ended up becoming self-managed cooperatives, looking after their own interests exclusively. However, as we will discuss later, this lack of cooperation between workplaces resulted in the collectives sacrficing their own interests and freedoms in the long run. As, we may point out, predicted in anarchist theory.
It should also be noted that anarchist thinkers have long argued that the transformation of a society, removing the legacy of centuries of hierarchy, oppression and exploitation, would take time. Kropotkin, for example, stressed that anarchists "do not believe that in any country the Revolution will be accomplished at a stroke, in the twinkling of a eye, as some socialists dream." Moreover, "[n]o fallacy more harmful has ever been spread than the fallacy of a 'One-day Revolution.'" [The Conquest of Bread, p. 81] Bakunin argued that a "more or less prolonged transitional period" would "naturally follow in the wake of the great social crisis" implied by social revolution. [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 412] As such, the problems facing the collectives were not unsurprising and, equally unsurprising, the CNT looked into ways of solving them. This is particularly the case as the collectives themselves were not what the CNT had advocated before the revolution and were an unplanned product of the situation the anarchists found themselves in after July 19th.
Therefore, most anarchists would support Malatesta's claim that "[t]o organise a [libertarian] communist society on a large scale it would be necessary to transform all economic life radically, such as methods of production, of exchange and consumption; and all this could not be achieved other than gradually, as the objective circumstances permitted and to the extent that the masses understood what advantages could be gained and were able to act for themselves." [Life and Ideas, p. 36] The discussions in the unions James highlights were a part of this process, and express popular participation in the economy.
However, moving on James Donald cites cites Juan Andrade, of the POUM executive (POUM was anti-Stalinist communist, not libertarian socialist) on the nature of the collectives:
"[...] the collectives were treated as private, not social property [...]
"[...] Had it gone on like that, there would have been enormous problems later, with great disparities of wages and new social classes being formed. We also wanted to collectivize but quite differently [from the libertarian socialists], so that the countries resources were administered socially, not as individual property."
It should be pointed out that the POUM would have nationalised the collectives which would have created its own problems. However, these problems which Andrade mentions were being combated by the CNT and would probably been solved if it had not been for the compromises resulting from collaboration.
James Donald, in an attempt to prove his point, says that "In Catalonia, while the libertarian socialists had power, the theaters were initially collectivized, but not socialized, (unlike some other industries) which meant that at first there was a free market in entertainment -- at first the people went to see what they wanted to see, rather than what their masters decided would be good for them to see."
As the socialised industries were run by democratically elected management committees, it is not a case of "what their masters decided would be good for them to see" but in fact what the self-managed workplaces decided to put on. As there would be little point in playing to empty theaters, the workforces would have put on what was popular. Yet again, James Donald misrepresents the nature of self-management.
He continues and presents an example of a singer who gets a pay rise far above the rest of the rest of the theatre staff. He then states that "if you have liberty, you will not have equality. He [the singer] was able to get 750 pesetas because he was free to leave or to refuse to work as directed, same reason as I get rather good pay today."
An argument which in no way undermines the anarchist idea of equality. Anarchists desire social equality, not "equality of outcome" as such. Many anarchists have expressed support for the idea of equal wages but only when those affected agree to it. In this case, this was not possible but the threater was still run on an egalitarian manner of one worker, one vote.
He then does on to argue that "If the workers are free to organize as they choose and use capital as they choose, they will use it for profit, and you will have a free market system that will turn back into capitalism in two or three years -- indeed it only took two or three months for alarmingly powerful signs of capitalism to reappear in Catalonia."
Under capitalism workers are, however, not free to organise as they choose and use capital as they choose. The capitalists have that particular liberty. Yet again, James Donald indiciates the authoritarian nature of capitalism. As for his claim that if workers are free to organise then capitalism will be the result that is just conjecture on his part. The assumptions are clear. James Donald refuses to take into consideration that cooperation between workplaces can "profit" the workers more than competiting together.
This can be seen from Catalonia, where, because collectives did not cooperate, the Communists managed to gain control of the economy because of their control of credit. The collectives, by acting as James Donald suggests, ended up undermining their own freedom and self-interest. Exactly as happens in capitalism.
James Donald continues:
"If this problem is solved by 'coordination' that forcibly prevents them from acting in the way most profitable to each particular person or small group, then you have a single all powerful monopoly state, and it is back to the killing fields, as also happened on a grand scale in Catalonia."
Firstly, we should point out that James Donald's account of "killing fields" has been discredited and exposed as the nonsense it is. If interested, click here . However, what is interesting is that all the examples of terror in Catalonia he gives occured well before the period being discussed here. In other words, his attempt to suggest that the CNT created a "single all powerful monopoly state" which killed people "on a grand scale" is just a lie. He has no evidence to back this up.
Secondly, anarchists do support the idea of coordination between workplaces but not of the kind James Donald suggests. We argue for a confederation of workplaces which send delegates to conferences to discuss common problems and ensure the maximum profit for all. This was applied to the textile factories of Badlona, for example. This coordination, voluntary accepted, would overcome the problems which face workers under capitalism - namely, sackings, bad conditions, and so on.
As capitalism, as noted, does not allow workers to organise freely this obviously suggests that some sort of powerful state is required to enforce the property owners monopoly of power over their capital. Hence, by James' own logic, capitalism requires a state and powerful hierarchies - as we see in "actually existing capitalism."
He then states that "Some of the anarchists were sincere, and genuinely sought to find a middle course between capitalism on the one hand and killing fields on the other hand." Again, we have to ask "what killing fields?" - where are these killing fields which James Donald claims the CNT ran? He has presented no evidence of mass murder organised on a vast scale and indeed, he has presented no evidence of murders after September 1936. But, we forget, facts are not important for James Donald (as can be seen from a few extracts  of one debates on usenet recently [May-June, 1996].
He then, because he obviously likes the words, states that "They did not find it, despite vast and varied experimentation both with free markets and with killing fields." We will just say that repeating falsehoods will not make them true.
He then states that "If you permit people to do what they wish to do, then the voting does not count for anything, because the minority simply refuses to comply. If you force people to work at the job by the threat of violence, then the vote also does not count for anything, because people are too frightened to vote in a politically incorrect manner."
Of course, in capitalism you do not have this "problem". This is because workplaces are dictatorships were people are expected just to follow orders or leave. Very libertarian. However, James seems to think that people will always leave if the vote does not go their way. Is everyone that childish? We doubt it. We would suggest that most people would agree to democratic decisions because they took part in deciding them. Sure, they are free to leave but few would in practice. If they don't leave everytime their boss makes a decision they don't like, they won't when their workmates make a similar decision.
He then states that "All three of these problems (liberty rendering the vote impotent, violence crushing individual liberty, and an atmosphere of violence perverting the vote) happened in Catalonia. At first the problems were mostly liberty frustrating socialism. Later socialism crushed liberty." But all his examples of violence occur before the collectives were created and months before the time he claims "socialism crushed liberty". Funny that.
More importantly, what sort of liberty is James defending here? He claims that democracy is violated by liberty, but surely voluntary democracies are more libertarian than voluntary dictatorships. Is he claiming that capitalism (management by a non-elected elite) is more libertarian than anarchism (management by workplace assemblies and elected managers)? Looks like it - how very libertarian!
Perhaps sensing that he is on weak ground, James Donald tries to defend capitalist hiearchy. He states that "Entrepreneurs do not exercise power because they own capital. They mostly do not. They exercise power over other people's capital and other people's labor, because they made it pay better than others, so other people chose to put assets in their power, and other people chose to work for them. The shareholders only fire the management when the company is in grave crisis."
In other words, he admits that capitalism is based on a few giving the orders and controling the work of others. In other words, capitalism is based on government, archy. That someone who claims to be an anarchist supports this is a strange sight. In addition, we should note that as well as controling the labour of workers, the manager also controls the product of their labour and the capital they use. So workers do not control the capital they use and so are not free. They are controled by others. As an attack on socialism, James Donald has presented more than enough arguments for why capitalism is authoritarian.
Now, he claims that people choose to work for capitalists. This is not unsurprising because the capitalists have a monopoly over the law in society which protects their private property. This means that working class people have little option but to get a job. They "chose" to work for a capitalist because otherwise they will starve. The capitalist monopoly as expressed in the law ensures that this is the case.
He then states that "Collectives, normally in the form of large partnerships, are perfectly consistent with capitalism, and indeed are very common." Which is totally false. The self-employed make up less than 10% of the working population of a capitalist economy. Cooperatives are by no means "very common" precisely because capitalism is set up in a way that ensures the success of authoritarian workplaces run for the profit of capitalists.
Of course, it must be pointed out that capitalism is based on wage labour and so co-operatives are not "consistent" with it. Anarchists have argued this since Proudhon. Interestingly, two politically very different people would agree. Karl Marx, for example, argued as follows: "Let us suppose the workers are themselves in possession of their respective means of production and exchange their commodities with one another. These commodities would not be products of capital." [Capital, vol. 3, p. 276] Of course, it could be argued that neither Proudhon, Bakunin nor Marx (being socialists) understood what capitalism and socialism really are. However, the idea that (market) syndicalism was basically the same as capitalism was one rejected by such a noted ideologue of capitalism as Ludwig von Mises. He argued while syndicalism was "not genuine socialism, that is, centralised socialism," it would be "misleading" (as he had previously done in 1920) to call syndicalism workers' capitalism. [Socialism, p. 270, p. 274fn] It should be noted that Murray Rothbard, another leading right-“libertarian”, agreed with von Mises. With the end of Stalinism, he argued for the transfer of industry from the state bureaucracy to workers by means of "private, negotiable shares" as ownership was "not to be granted to collectives or co-operatives or workers or peasants holistically, which would only bring back the ills of socialism in a decentralised and chaotic syndicalist form." [The Logic of Action II, pp. 210-1]
So the notion that cooperatives equals capitalism is one disputed by both socialists (libertarian and authoritarian) and supporters of capitalism. Something James, strangely, fails to mention...
Then, in usual James Donald fashion he states that "I am sure many such partnerships continued to flourish during Pinochet's terror, and did not cause him to lose any sleep whatsoever." However, unions and working class political parties did cause him to lose sleep. Both were crushed by state terror in the pursuit of "economic liberty" (i.e. capitalism). Of course, for the working class of Chile Pincohet's dictatorship resulted in increased poverty  and repression , but this must be price for such "liberty" for the few.
Notice that he does not mention "violence crushing individual liberty, and an atmosphere of violence perverting the vote" when he talks about Pincohet's Chile. We can easily imagine workers in Chile putting up with bad conditions, pay cuts, etc because they fear that their boss would report them to the secret police as a "communist." However, Pincohet did introduce "economic liberty" (for those that count at least...).
He then claims that "if collectives interacted by the free market, as they did at first in Catalonia, some would prosper and some would go broke. To maintain equality during these kinds of free market reorganization, during capitalism's creative destruction, to ensure that successful cooperatives did not 'exploit' other folk by setting onerous conditions before one could become a full partner, would require a vastly powerful central body that would find itself meddling in the fine details of interactions between one person and another and their management of capital."
That's his theory, at least. The practice is different. If collectives did cooperate together to ensure that economic depression and unemployment did not rip society apart, then a "vastly powerful central body" is not required. What is required is dialogue and cooperation between workplaces to ensure that the relevent information is passed between workplaces and that each workplace agrees to mutually share their plant with others. This means that if a worker from one factory in the collectives joins another, they are given equal rights because they are part of the same set of collectives. In other words, James Donald is just repeating the usual nonsense that authoritarians come out with when people try to increase freedom. Of course, James Donald does not follow the logic of his argument through - if a "vastly powerful central body" is required to stop workplaces creating their own rules then such a body is also required to enforce capitalist's property rights (otherwise workers would ignore them). Bosses "meddling in the fine details" of workers activities and in the management of work are well known and documented (as would be expected in a capitalist system).
James Donald scare stories aside, we should look at what happened in the socialised woodworkers industry in Catalonia. This should give us a clear example if James Donald's comments are true. It should be pointed out that this industry is not an example of socialised production which anarchists necessarily support. As Fraser points out, the FAI proposal of "autonomous centres of production" was rejected by the majority of the union in favour of "the union [running] everything" [Blood of Spain, p. 222]
The result? "The major failure. . .(and which supported the original anarchist objection) was that the union became like a large firm" "From the outside it began to look like an American or German trust"[p. 222]
In other words, it ended up looking like the workplaces James Donald thinks express "liberty" - but with an important difference, the workers could elect and and sack their managers as well as a say in the running of th industry. Hence anarchism extends and increases freedom in comparsion to capitalism.
James claims that "And once again we are back to actually-existent-socialism." but, as can be seen, even the most centralised socialised industry became like a capitalist company run by an elected management committee. Which makes his next claim ("To prevent people from volunteering to be 'exploited' you have to have a vastly powerful central power with authority to meddle in the petty details of pretty much everything.") sound pretty silly. In Catalonia, it did not happen inspite of the compromises caused by the war against fascism.
He ends by saying that:
" Now one can reasonably say that much of the bad stuff that happened in Catalonia was done by people who were monsters, not done as a logical consequence of the principles of libertarian socialism, but the reason the monsters were able to take power and act freely is that the those who sincerely believed in libertarian socialism wanted something that was logically impossible, and had no clear idea how to get it, and so they allowed those who knew what they wanted and how to get it to do as they pleased."
It should be asked, what "monsters" is James talking about? The anarchists who put their lives on the line fighting the fascist coup? And where is the evidence that these monsters "took power" as a result of the socialisation of industry? None whatsoever. In fact, the colectives and the socialisation occured after the CNT decided to collaborate. Hence there is no relationship between these two events. As we have noted, James Donald presents no evidence linking the leaders of the CNT with "killing fields" or any evidence said fields actually existed outside his head.
Now, it could be argued that the CNT introduced socialisation because it say that the collectives were turning into capitalism. However, the socialised industries were not created by state action but by democratic union decisions. Sometimes when union militants suggested socialisation, the workforce rejected the offer. For example, the workers in the stores refused suggestions to socialise. As Joan Ferrer, secretary of the CNT commercial employees' union points out:
"It was understandable. Only a few months before, the traditional relationship between employer and worker had been overthrown. Now the workers were being asked to make a new leap - to the concept of collective ownership. It was a lot to expect the latter to happen overnight" [Op. Cit, p. 220]
Hence, far from introducing "socialism" by force, the CNT membership introduced it themselves when they became convinced of the need for it and saw that it was in their interests to do so.
Lastly, we should point out what happened when collectives did act as James Donald suggests. By not cooperating together, collectives ended up become run by the state. By not cooperating together, they ended up "accepting 'vast sums' of money against imaginary capital assests from the Generalitat's 'pawn bank'" [p.231] which meant "that many collectives had mortgaged themselves to the Generalitat's 'pawn bank' to pay their workers wages" [p.578] this allowed the PSUC (the stalinists) to "centralise the collectives under Generalitit (or PSUC) control" [p. 578]
In other words, by acting as "capitalist" firms, collectives ended up being controlled by the state. By pursuing that James Donald claims was in their self-interest, they ended up being subjected to a new set of bosses - state capitalist instead of private capitalist. This little fact neatly exposes the reasons why capitalism is not in our self-interests nor supports freedom, no matter how much James Donald says it does. Anarchism hates capitalism because it leads to the many sacrificing their freedom and denying their self-interest to the few.
So was there capitalism in Catalonia? No, as argued above the workers managed their own workplaces and did not work for a capitalist. What "capitalistic" activity which did exist ended up in destroying the freedom of those who practiced them. As anarchists have long argued, cooperation is in our self-interest and encourages liberty far more than competition (even non-capitalist competition!).
James Donald states that "Some of the 'anarchists' justified their exceedingly unanarchist conduct by convoluted rationalizations. Others spoke more plainly. Macario Royo regarded libertarianism as a mere ruse, to disguise the true nature of socialist revolution," i.e. "totalitarian," according to Donald.
Therefore, in this page James Donald quotes from one CNT member in order to "prove" his claim of anarchist "totalitarianism." It's interesting that he thinks that the opinion of one CNT member indicates the "true nature" of the Spanish Revolution better than the facts of this revolution, but we will ignore this and analyze his "case."
Firstly, he quotes Ronald Fraser in order to "set the scene," which he thinks involves "Massive violation of libertarian principles". Frazer is quoted as follows (Blood of Spain, page 349):
"There was no need to dragoon them at pistol point: The coercive climate, in which 'fascists'; were being shot, was sufficient. 'Spontaneous'; and 'forced'; collectives existed, as did willing and unwilling collectivists within them.
"Forced collectivization ran counter to libertarian ideals. Anything that was forced could not be libertarian. Obligatory collectivization was justified, in some libertarians eyes, by a reasoning closer to war communism than to libertarian communism: The need to feed the columns at the front. Macario Royo, an Aragonese CNT leader, believed that collectives were the most appropriate organization for ensuring that a surplus was made available for the front."
Firstly, it should be noted that Fraser is actually talking about Aragon, not Catalonia. It should also be noted that Aragon was where the Front Line was. Funny that Donald does not mention this. Does he seriously expect a war zone in the middle of a civil war not to have a "coercive climate"?
Non-ideologically driven people can easily see that in a civil war against Fascism there would be a "coercive climate." That Donald is blind to it is an excellent indication of his objectivity and how he presents his "evidence." Given that he maintains that General Pinochet's military dictatorship introduced "economic liberty," he has few grounds to bemoan violence taking place during a civil war.
Secondly, Fraser states that the CNT militia did not force anyone into collectives. However, Fraser states that "spontaneous" and "forced" collectives existed side by side. Now, according to Fraser's own book, the number of "total" collectives was less than 20. We can safely assume that "total" collectives were "forced" ones. On page 366 of Blood of Spain, a FAI schoolteacher points out that forced collectivisation "wasn't a widespread problem, because there weren't more than twenty or so villages where collectivisation was total and no one was allowed to remain outside..."
Frazer does not correct this figure, so we can say that of the 450 collectives in Aragon, 95% were voluntary or "spontaneous." This does not fit in well with Donald's claims of "forced collectivisation" by anarchists.
As for the claim that there were "unwilling" collectivists in the collectives: again, this is undoubtably true. We are sure some people joined "just to be on the safe side." The question is how safe did people feel? Was the "coercive climate" caused by the war so bad that most people felt they had no choice but to join? The answer is clear. According to Bolloten's figures, about 70% of the population of Aragon were in the collectives. This is approxmately 300,000 people out of a population of around 450,000. In other words, 30% of the population felt safe enough not to join. This would hardly be the case if the CNT militia had terrorised Aragon and imposed collectives on them. Historian Antony Beevor (while noting that there "had undoubtedly been pressure, and no doubt force was used on some occasions in the fervour after the rising") just stated the obvious when he wrote that
These two facts indicate that "forced collectivisation" did not in fact occur in Aragon. The collectives were not created by anarchist "terror," and people did not have to join a collective. So much for James Donald's claims.
Thirdly, it should be noted that Fraser states that "obligatory collectivisation was justified, in some libertarian's eyes, by a reasoning closer to war communism than to libertarian communism." This raises the question, did obligatory collectivisation occur? According to the figures Fraser gives, 180,000 people joined collectives. It should be noted that this figure is far too small, but it is the one Fraser builds his argument on. The population of Aragon was nearly half a million. Therefore, according to Frazer's own figures, "obligatory collectivisation" did not occur. If only about half of the population belonged to collectives, it's obvious they were not obligatory.
Therefore, from the facts we get a very different picture of the one presented by James Donald.
Ignoring these facts, Donald continues to quote Royo as "speaking in favor of forced collectivization" by saying the following:
"If each peasant had kept what he produced and disposed of it as he wished, it would have made the matter of supply much more difficult."
However, as is clear from Blood of Spain, Royo is talking about collectives and not "forced collectivisation" as Donald claims he is. He is explaining why, given the need to feed the troops at the Front Line, it was better if collectives were created.
Then he quotes Fraser's paraphrase of Macario Royo:
"And revolution always meant imposing the will of an armed minority 'In this case an anarcho syndicalist minority';"
James Donald then quotes Macario Royo at length from a footnote:
"Revolutions are made by force. Everything that is imposed by force has to be maintained by force. The outcome may be communism but it is not libertarian. If it were, it would not be communist, for the simple reason that the mass of the people are not communist. Libertarian communism could be established only if the majority of the people already supported communism and then started to organize that communism freely."
Donald then says that "Royo says twice, in two different ways, that the 'anarchists' were a minority that imposed their will on the majority by force."
Pretty damning, eh, the opinion of one CNT member? There are other CNT members who gave the opposite opinion, namely that the collectives were not imposed by a minority. But opinions get us nowhere. Let's look at the facts.
As noted above, Fraser indicates that the collectives were not created by the CNT militia. As he points out, "Very rapidly collectives. . . began to spring up. It did not happen on instructions from the CNT leadership -- no more than had the collectives in Barcelona." [Blood of Spain, page 349] As indicated above, 95% of the collectives were voluntary and 30% of the population of Aragon felt safe enough not to join. This indicates their popular nature -- they were not created by the orders of the CNT leadership.
As an example of "forced collectivisation" by an "armed minority," this "proof" leaves a lot to be desired. In other words, James Donald bases his case on the opinion of one CNT member. What the actual facts show is that the CNT membership of Aragon (who were a minority) took the opportunity given by the destruction of the state to suggest the creation of collectives (something they had been arguing for before the revolution). The majority of the population decided to join and a large minority stayed outside. If the collectives had been created by an "armed minority," then everyone would have joined and all the collectives would have been "total." This did not happen.
James Donald, after not proving his case, goes to to state that "most modern 'anarcho'-socialists seem to find the minority part vastly more embarassing than the force part, though real anarchists do not care whether it is the majority imposing its will by force or the minority. Honest peaceful people should be left alone, regardless of their numbers."
As indicated, the collectives were not imposed by force. Fraser explicitly states this in at least two places. What violence that did occur was directly attributable to the fact that a civil war against Fascism was being conducted and one of the front lines was in Aragon. Donald is correct, of course, that real anarchists do not wish the majority to impose its will on a non-oppressive minority (real anarchists, however, consider it essential to overthrow capitalism because in capitalism a minority controls the majority). As can be seen from the experiences of the collectives, the minority were left peacefully alone and felt safe enough not to join.
While not strictly relevent to this discussion, it should be noted that James Donald thinks that military coups are "justified" in some cases, and most importantly, has said that Pincohet's military dictatorship in Chile introduced "economic liberty." It is therefore appropriate to question Donald's actual concern for minority or majority rights or his horror of violence.
Seeking to back up his claims, he goes on to quote Juan Peiro, another CNT militant who, Doanld claims, "unlike Macario Royo, seems unhappy about this betrayal of libertarian ideals." He then quotes Burnett Bolloton in The Grand Camouflage in order to "set the context for Juan Peiro's remarks":
"Although CNT-FAI publications cited numerous cases of peasant proprietors and tenant farmers who had adhered voluntarily to the collective system there can be no doubt that an incomparably larger number doggedly opposed it or accepted it only under extreme duress." [Page 70]
Very true. However, James presents a very false picture of what was happening in the countryside at this time. As Bolloten himself points out, "If the individual farmer viewed with dismay the swift and widespread collectivisation of agriculture, the farm workers of the Anarchosyndicalist CNT and the Socialist UGT saw it as the commencement of a new era." [The Spanish Civil War, p. 63] Both these organisations had large memberships, totalling hundreds of thousands. The CNT had 30,000 members in Aragon alone and the UGT Land Workers Federation had 500,000 members. Both these unions supported the collectives.
Therefore to suggest that the claim that all the inhabitants of the countryside opposed the collective system is false. Of course, if one considers only the interests of property owners as important then obviously the popular nature of the collectives can easily be ignored. The question arises, though, why this should be the case? However, as Bolloten himself points out, many of the 450 collectives of the region were voluntary," [page 74] and the figures presented by Fraser back this up. This means that those who opposed the collectives were not forced to join them.
Donald then quotes Bolloten again, Page 72:
"As a consequence, the fate of the peasant owner and tenant farmer in the communities occupied by the CNT-FAI militia was determined from the outset; for although a meeting of the population was generally held to decide on the establishment of the collective system, the vote was always taken by acclamation, and the presence of armed militiamen never failed to impose respect and fear on all opponents."
Again, we should point out that 95% of collectives were voluntary and as Fraser notes, the militia did not force people to join them. Of course, there can be no denying that the collectivists often refused to provide the benefits of the collectives to non-members and that they often prevented non-members from hiring labour to work their fields. However, as a supporter of capitalism James Donald would be the last to suggest that companies should be forced to give their profits to others or that individuals should ignore tresspassing laws and squat unused land.
That economic pressures often "forced" peasants to join a collective is true. However, economic pressures also "force" workers to work for a capitalist. At least the collectives were democratic and based on self-management. Therefore, as an example of the collectives' anti-anarchist nature, such pressures make a pretty weak case. And the question again arises why a minority of property owners should determine what the rules are and not the majority?
So how popular were the collectives? Bolloten sums up the rural revolution as follows:
"But in spite of the cleavages between doctrine and practice that plagued the Spanish Anarchists whenever they collided with the realities of power, it cannot be overemphasized that notwithstanding the many instances of coercion and violence, the revolution of July 1936 distinguished itself from all others by the generally spontaneous and far-reaching character of its collectivist movement and by its promise of moral and spiritual renewal. Nothing like this spontaneous movement had ever occurred before" [page 78]
"Spontaneous" movements are not created by an armed minority. In addition, as we have indicated elsewhere  the collectives were run by mass assemblies and elected committees. An "armed minority" imposing a revolution does not create democratically run organisations based on free debate and elected officials.
Lastly, James Donald attempts to show that the collectives were created by an "armed minority" by quoting Juan Peiro, one of the leaders of the CNT, writing in Libertat, September 29, 1936:
"Does anyone believe. . .that through acts of violence an interest in or a desire for socialization can be awakened in the minds of the peasantry? Or perhaps that by terrorizing it in this fashion it can be won over to the revolutionary spirit prevailing in the towns and cities?
"The gravity of the mischief that is being done compels me to speak clearly. . . . The first thing they have done has been to take away from the peasant all means of self defense. . .and having achieved this they have robbed him even of his shirt.
"If today you should go to different parts of Catalonia to speak to the peasant of revolution, he will tell you he does not trust you, he will tell you the standard-bearers of the revolution have already passed through the countryside: In order to liberate it? In order to help it liberate itself? No. They have passed through the countryside in order to rob those who throughout the years and throughout the centuries have been robbed by the very persons who have just been defeated by the revolution." [Emphasis added]
Firstly, Peiro is discussing Catalonia (not Aragon) and it's very clear that he is not attacking the creation of collectives. He is arguing, in line with CNT policy, against the use of force and indicating its self-defeating nature. The end part of the quote clearly indicates that Peiro is condemning the uncontrolled requisitioning of food and weapons by the militias as they went to the front (i.e. "passing through the countryside"), not referring to "forced collectivisation". This requisitioning was a real problem and the CNT did its best to stop it.
Now, the question arises: is the picture James Donald is trying to paint with this quote an accurate one? Did the CNT create forced collectives in Catalonia (as proved, they did not in Aragon)? The answer is to be found in the facts. Fraser does not mention any examples of forced collectivisation in Catalonia. He even points out that collectivisation was less widespread in Catalonia compared to other parts of Spain. The figures speak for themselves -- 450 collectives in Aragon, 80 in Catalonia (figures from Leval's Collectives in the Spanish Revolution. These Catalonian collectives were surrounded by an ocean of smallholders and were the exception to the rule. In other words, "forced collectivisation" was not conducted in Catalonia either.
Do not get us wrong. We are sure that when the militias passed through Catalonia, "acts of violence" did occur and requisitioning did take place. We are also sure that some CNT members acted against CNT policy in some locations and in some villages forced peasants to join. We do not think that every member of the CNT acted in an anarchist manner. However, the CNT itself argued against such abuses by "irresponsible elements" and acted to stop them. A few local "excesses" do not paint a picture of the CNT creating "actually existing socialism."
That the CNT was successful in controlling these "irresponsible elements" in Catalonia is indicated by the fact that collectivisation was less widespread than elsewhere in Republican Spain. In other words, those 80 collectives that did exist were created by CNT and UGT rural labourers on the land of pro-fascist big land owners, and the majority of the peasant population seized the land they worked but did not own. Given that James Donald considers that the CNT created a state in Catalonia, run by the leaders of the CNT, this fact further weakens his case. If Catalonia was ruled by the "masters" of the CNT you would think that collectivisation would have been more widespread than elsewhere in Spain. It was not.
So, to conclude, what does James Donald's "evidence" amount to? The opinion of one member of the CNT, which is not backed up by the facts, and the argument of a CNT member for all CNT members to follow CNT policy. The facts indicate a drastically different picture of what happened from the one James Donald tries to construct round these two quotes.
Here we see James Donald trying to prove that the self-managed collectives created in Catalonia were "really" like "actually existing socialism."
Of course, this may prove to be difficult for James. After all, there are plenty of examples of how democratic the collectives were, but we will say this for him, he tries.
He claims that "the basic difference between socialism and capitalism" is that "under capitalism people are free to pursue their own individual good, whereas under socialism some wise and good folk must compel them to serve the greater good." While these may be James Donald's ideas on the subject, it most definitely is not those of anarchists.
Simply put, for anarchists capitalism is marked by the crushing of the individual in order to serve some "greater good." In particular, this greater good is the company for which one works, and in general, the economy. In other words, instead of managing your own work directly for your own benefit, under capitalism you work for a boss and follow the boss's orders. The idea that capitalism is based on all "individuals pursuing their own individual good" is not true in practice -- it actually results in the few living off the labour of others. As the example of Catalonia shows, the workers there jumped at the chance to manage their own labour and to stop working for capitalists. Free people will not work for capitalists.
Theory aside, James Donald attempts to "prove" his case empirically by citing Ronald Fraser's Blood of Spain, page 218. Here Fraser refers to Luis Santacana and says that Santacana "boasts of achieving a wage cut of privileged workers", quoting him as saying:
"That was magnificent. Achieved without any violence on our part."
However, looking at the page in question we discover the following information directly before this quote:
"Because of economic difficulties, it was impossible to raise wages; instead, the technicians and staff were asked to lower theirs. They replied by proposing a 20 per cent cut."
This puts the quote in a slightly different light. As can be seen, the "privileged workers" were asked to lower their wages and proposed the cut themselves. However, ignoring this, Donald goes on to make the following comment:
"One does not hear capitalists boasting that violence was unnecessary in order persuade workers to work for a lower wage."
But one does hear of capitalists using violence in order to break strikes which result from lowering of wages or the sacking of workers. To take a classic example from the days of "free market" capitalism, many miners in the USA were murdered by private cops employed by the coal companies to break strikes. Or, using an example closer to Spain, in the 1920s capitalists hired gunmen to assassinate CNT union militants who were fighting for workers' interests and against pay cuts and sackings (these assassinations in part explains the popular violence against many capitalists after July 19th, 1936).
Therefore, James Donald's attempts to indicate that capitalism does not display a "violent" nature in connection with enforcing the power of the wealthy has a few problems.
He then states that the "above remark implies that during the 'negotiations' the workers knew or suspected that if they refused to work at a lower rate, violence by Luis Santacana's men was a real possibility." The remark, however, implies nothing of the kind. Firstly, Santacana was, like the others on the factory committe, directly elected by the workers in the workplace and he was subject to recall by that workforce. Both techicians and staff each had two representatives on the council. And this elected workers' council was held accountable to a general assembly of the workforce. We doubt that the workforce would have allowed Santacana to have become such a tyrant.
In addition, looking at the context of the quote James Donald provides, it's clear that the "privileged workers" themselves proposed the amount of their own pay cut. If Santacana was the tyrant Donald claims he was, the pay cut would have been imposed by him without discussion. Therefore, the above remark does not refer to a possible threat of violence, but instead suggests that Santacana wanted to emphasise that, unlike capitalism, violence or coercion was not used to get the pay cut. He was proud of the cooperative spirit which motivated the "privileged workers" and wanted to make sure that no-one thought the CNT had coerced them.
Looking over the rest of Santacana's account, we see even more evidence to put Donald's case into doubt. Firstly, Santacana supported the idea of a "single wage," but it was not "introduced into his plant because it was not made general through the industry." If Santacana was running the collective by "force," why was the single wage not introduced? Moreover, he notes that "the technical section was asked to put forward a new candiate" to run the plant on a day-to-day basis [p. 219]. And they suggested a weaving technician who was duly accepted. One hardly asks those who one is coercing by the threat of force to suggest one's "managing director"!
Santacana actually does discuss how discipline in the factory was maintained. As he points out, "there were people who lacked self-discipline, a consciousness of what was demanded of them" and gives the example of a mechanic who stole a spanner. Was this mechanic subjected to violence? No, Santacana threatened to write his full name on a blackboard and inform the whole workplace why the mechanic was being moved to a new section. This threat of public notification of his fellow workers was enough. Hardly "the threat of force" which James Donald suggests was the means used to run the collective.
As is clear from Santacana's account of the collective in which he worked, it was a democratically managed workplace based on general assemblies of the workforce and an elected management committee and foremen -- a somewhat different picture than the one James Donald suggests by the two sentences he quotes from this account. It's funny that he does not mention these minor facts.
Moreover, Santacana's is one viewpoint. It could be that James Donald is correct that he was a petty tyrant. The evidence for this, as can be seen, is very slim. But even if it were true, what does it prove about the revolution? Nothing. Santacana's was one collective out of thousands, and neither Fraser nor Bolloten suggest that workplace tyranny was commonplace. One event (which did not involve violence!) out of a 600-page book is hardly strong evidence on which to build an argument.
Moving on, Donald quotes Ronald Fraser again, page 216, and Andreu Capdevilla, CNT militant, claiming that Capdevilla was "first promoted as boss of a textile factory, then later promoted to acting president of the economics council." To quickly correct a usual James Donald slander, it should be noted that Capdevilla was elected to his factory's committee by his fellow workers with whom he worked. As Capdevila points out, his collective was created after a general assembly of the workforce decided to do it. He noticed that "the moment the factory was collectivised and there were general assemblies, everyone started to talk."[p. 214] "Everyone wanted to say what he or she thought and felt. They obviously felt themselves in charge now and with the right to speak for themselves. . . ." [pp. 213-214]
So it can hardly be said that he was "promoted as boss" in this case. However, it is true that Capdevilla was appointed to his post on the Economics Council. Who appointed him? The CNT regional committee, an elected committee held accountable to the CNT membership by regular plenums of elected delegates. This, of course, is not perfect, nor is it something which anarchists suggest as normal working practice. However, as we will indicate below, it was the result of the compromises that the CNT had made in the name of anti-fascist unity.
We should point out that Capdevilla was not the "manager of the textile industry" but acting president of the Economics Council. This Council, as can be seen, did not play an extensive role in the management of the collectivised workplaces. The textile industry was run, as indicated, by elected works committees and general assemblies.
As for the Economics Council itself, this body was the product of the compromises the CNT had to make because it refused to carry out the social revolution. As Fraser points out, it "was doubtful that the CNT had seriously envisaged collectivisation of industry. . .before this time." [p. 212] As an eyewitness pointed out, "The CNT's policy was thus not the same as that pursued by the [collectivisation] decree." [p. 213] Indeed, leading anarchists like Abed de Santillan opposed it and urged people to ignore it: "I was an enemy of the decree because I considered it premature. . .when I became councilor, I had no intention of taking into account or carrying out the decree: I intended to allow our great people to carry on the task as they best saw fit, according to their own inspiration." [p. 212] Therefore, as Bolloten points out, "It is no wonder then that the decree was never vigorously enforced [and ]that there were numerous violations" [The Spanish Civil War,p. 224]
So its clear that the Council was not as "powerful" as James Donald implies. As is clear from Blood of Spain, the Council was mostly ignored by the collectives and the CNT itself did not support it.
However, Capdevilla says that:
"The real problem was the possibilities of corruption an official position offered: [...] the women who came in attempts to save their husbands or brothers [and offered to sleep with him] I threw them out."
James Donald then states that "Capdevilla is not a CNT cop, or a CNT prison guard, but a CNT economics guy and manager of the textile industry. Nobody goes to the manager of apple and begs him to save their husbands or brothers, though they may beg for a high promotion and a sinecure."
Well, I'm sure that if, as James Donald wants, Apple could hire their own cops and exercise "absolute" power over their property, this could change. The many examples of companies hiring private cops to enforce management decisions have quite accuratly been described as "feudalism."
This example does, however, point to a problem that existed, though not the one Donald alleges. It does not show that Capdevilla had "absolute" power over life and death in Catalonia, as Donald claims. For consider the context: suspected Fascists are being arrested and given trials. Some are sentenced to death and their wives and sisters attempt to save them by influencing those who they considered influential people -- people like Capdevilla in "offical" posts. This does not mean that Capdevilla had ordered these people arrested or shot. Moreover he refused to compromise his principles with these women and "threw them out his office."
Nevertheless, existence of such "official posts" is one of the unanarchist aspects of the revolution. It was the result of the compromises the CNT made in the name of anti-fascist unity. The CNT did not desire to alienate the other unions and parties which had also took part in the resistance to Fascism. Little wonder the resulting compromises took on forms which reflected the ideas of all those involved, not just the CNT. As Capdevilla points out, these concessions happened "because of our original concession; from the moment Companys offered the CNT power and it was turned down, the CNT's position became tragic." [p. 215]
James Donald finishes by saying that "in addition Capdevilla was not elected to his powerful posts, he was appointed from above." This is only partly true. Firstly, Capdevilla was elected to his position in his factory's management committee by his fellow workers. Hence, at the grass roots level the self-managed workplaces were democratic. He was, nevertheless, appointed to his position in the Economic Council by the regional committee of the CNT. However, as James Donald himself points out, the state still existed in Catalonia -- the CNT had placed their revolution "on hold" until the Civil War finished.
The CNT can and should be blamed for the compromises it made, and so for the "offical posts" that were created by these compromises. But to attempt to suggest anarchist "totalitarianism" because the CNT cooperated with other parties and compromised their principles staggers belief.
Therefore, to summarise, James Donald's argument on the "violent" and "totalitarian" nature of the Catalonian collectives can be seen, on closer inspection, to be false. As indicated, the collectives were democratically run and based on workforce assemblies and elected management committees. As for the alleged powers of Capdevilla, we have shown that they are not what James Donald suggests they are. In addition, we have indicated that whatever "offical posts" were created in Catalonia were the result not of anarchist principles or ideas but, on the contrary, were the result of not applying those ideas.
In other words, James Donald attacks the results of the CNT not applying its ideas. We agree. Where the CNT did apply its ideas (namely in the self-managed collectives), they proved to be quite successful. Unfortunately, its compromises with other forces led to the social revolution being distorted and, ultimately, to defeat. This is discussed in more detail here  and here .