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Anarchist (Spanish) vs.

Bolshevik (Russian) Revolutions


 production and economic life

an extract from Gaston Leval's Collectives in the Spanish Revolution

[Also see "Which Creates a Higher Standard of Living: Capitalism or Egalitarianism?"]

[Also see "Industrial Production the Egalitarian Way"--how it was done in Spain]


"The theoreticians and partisans of the liberal [capitalist--J.S.] economy affirm that competition stimulates initiative and, consequently, the creative spirit and invention without which it remains dormant. Numerous observations made by the writer in the Collectives, factories and socialized workshops permit him to take quite the opposite view. For in a Collective, in a grouping where each individual is stimulated by the wish to be of service to his fellow beings, research, the desire for technical perfection and so on are also stimulated. But they also have as a consequence that other individuals join those who were the first to get together. Furthermore when, in the present [capitalist--J.S.] society, an individualist inventor discovers something, it is used only by the capitalist or the individual employing him, whereas in the case of an inventor living in a community not only is his discovery taken up and developed by others, but is immediately applied for the common good. I am convinced that this superiority would very soon manifest itself in a socialized society." [pg. 347]

If we seek to establish the difference between the Russo-Bolshevik revolution and the Spanish, we can summarize it, so far as production and economic life as a whole are concerned, as follows:

In Russia after the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks who imposed their dictatorship and set about governing through the State, everything continued to crumble for years both in agriculture and industry as well as in the public services, to the point of dragging from Lenin's lips the admission we have quoted* and obliging him to drop socialism completely and have recourse to the N.E.P. as a result of which the economy was on the road to recovery until the years 1926-7. Stalin continued along those lines after eliminating those to whom Lenin had had recourse.

In Spain except in those cases where raw materials were soon in short supply, agrarian and industrial production did not suffer interruptions, apart from the few days following the euphoria of the successes of July 19 [1937 when the Spanish revolution began with the defeat of fascist general Franco's military forces in Barcelona--J.S.], but even that was not general. Factories, workshops, transport, public services were rapidly set in motion, except for the building industry in Barcelona, the financial mechanism of which is always unusual.

There is no doubt that had Franco been defeated the economy would have passed more or less entirely into the hands of he workers, and that our Syndicates would have developed it rapidly with technicians of all kinds, engineers and architects already in their organization or who had recently joined in sufficiently large numbers. Thanks also to the organising contribution of tens of thousands of libertarian militants who not only had a working knowledge of the problems of labour, production, factory, railway network, but also how the different wheels of the economy in general were geared up and operated.

On the other hand this preparation was completely lacking so far as the majority of the 240,000 members of the Bolshevik Party were concerned and with whom Lenin thought (in September 1917 [before the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917--J.S.], in a pamphlet reserved for his intimates) he could seize power and maintain it. In general, his professional revolutionaries were not labour professionals. This equally applied to the overwhelming majority of bureaucrats who belonged to the left wing social democrats, who had become communists, and who were completely ignorant of the workings of a factory, or of a workshop, of production and its multidirectional relations, coordination between industrial sectors, geographically scattered or concentrated.


Lenin wanted top men who would manage production under instruction from the Party and the resolution of the Party congresses. Politics first, even in the name of the materialist or economic interpretation of history. In that policy were included instructions for the conduct of work and of the workers. Socialism was above all a question of authority. [Read more about this in the section about the Bolsheviks here--J.S.] And it remained so. For us it was a question of the organisation of work by the workers, manual and  intellectual, and it remained so. [pg. 351-3]


* Earlier Laval had written:


Lenin, in his report on the Russian situation in the 11th Congress of the Communist Party held in March 1922 declared:


"The idea of constructing a communist society with only the help of the communists, is nonsense, pure nonsense. Building the economy must be left to others, to the bourgeoisie which is much more educated, or to intellectuals in the bourgeois camp. We ourselves are not yet sufficiently educated for that."

It is true that Lenin spoke in this way then to justify the N.E.P. (New Economic Policy) which consisted in allowing free enterprise to the bourgeois and technicians of the bourgeoisie still remaining in Russia, in order to get production, which had virtually come to a standstill as a result of the destructive and paralysing action of the State, back on its feet. From 1920, rather than allow the workers and their organizations (the development of which would become an embarrassment to the communist governments) to participate actively in a renewal of the economy, Lenin preferred to make use of his class enemies." [pg. 347-8]


An extract from The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1863-1936, by Murray Bookchin (pg. 249-50) [online here as a PDF file] contrasting how Marxists versus anarchists (what I now call egalitarians) organized and carried out an insurrection of miners in the Asturias part of Spain from October 5 to 18 in 1934.

The Socialists generally functioned through tightly knit committees, commonly highly centralized and with strong bureaucratic proclivities. In Asturias, the UGT [the socialist, not anarchist, led union) tried to perpetuate this form wherever possible, at most admitting Communists and moderate cenetistas into their "revolutionary committees." But the mountainous terrain of asturias made such committees difficult to coordinate, so that each one became an isolated miniature central committee of its own, often retaining its traditional authoritarian character.

The Anarchists, on the other hand, favored looser structures, often quasi-councils composed of factory workers and assemblies composed of peasants. The ambience of these fairly decentralized structures, their improvisatory character and libertarian spirit, fostered an almost festive atmosphere in Anarchist-held areas.

This difference is vividly conveyed by Avelino Gonzalez Mellada, who compares Anarchist-controlled La Felguera with Marxist-controlled Sama. Both towns, he observes, were of equal size and were separated from each other only by the Nalon river. They were linked to each other by two bridges. The October Insurrection

triumphed immediately in the metallurgical and in the mining town....Sama was organized along military lines. Dictatorship of the proletariat, red army, Central Committee, discipline, authority.... La Felguera opted for communismo libertario: the people in arms, liberty to come and go, respect for the technicians of the Duro-Felguera metallurgical plant, public deliberations of all issues, abolition of money, the rational distribution of food and clothing. Enthusiasm and gaiety in La Felguera, the sullenness of the barracks in Sama. The bridges [of Sama] were held by a corp of guards complete with officers and all. No one could enter or leave Sama without a safe-conduct pass, or walk through the streets without passwords. All of this was ridiculously useless,  because ghe government troops were far away and the Sama bourgeoisie was disarmed and neutralized....The workers of Sama who did not adhere to the Marxist religion preferred to go to La Felguera, where at least they could breathe. Side by side there were two concepts of socialism: the authoritarian and the libertarian; on each bank of the Nalon, two populations of brothers began a new life with a dictatorship in Sama; with liberty in La Felguera.

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