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Title: Anarcho-syndicalism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Anarchism, General strike, Socialism, Workers' self-management, Syndicalism
Collection: Anarcho-Syndicalism, Anti-Capitalism, Economic Ideologies, History of Anarchism, History of Social Movements, Labor, Political Ideologies
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Anarcho-syndicalism (also referred to as revolutionary syndicalism[1]) is a theory of anarchism which views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as a method for workers in capitalist society to gain control of an economy and, with that control, influence broader society. Syndicalists consider their economic theories a strategy for facilitating worker self-activity and as an alternative co-operative economic system with democratic values and production centered on meeting human needs.

The basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism are solidarity, direct action (action undertaken without the intervention of third parties such as politicians, bureaucrats and arbitrators) and direct democracy, or workers' self-management. The end goal of anarcho-syndicalism is to abolish the wage system, regarding it as wage slavery. Anarcho-syndicalist theory therefore generally focuses on the labour movement.[2]

Anarcho-syndicalists view the primary purpose of the state as being the defence of private property, and therefore of economic, social and political privilege, denying most of its denizens the ability to enjoy material independence and the social autonomy which springs from it.[3] In contrast with other bodies of thought, particularly with Marxism–Leninism, anarcho-syndicalists deny that there can be any kind of workers' state, or a state which acts in the interests of workers, as opposed to those of the powerful, and posit that any state with the intention of empowering the workers will inevitably work to empower itself or the existing elite at the expense of the workers. Reflecting the anarchist philosophy from which it draws its primary inspiration, anarcho-syndicalism holds to the idea that power corrupts.[3]


  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Revolutionary Syndicalism and the International Workers Association 1.2
    • The Spanish Revolution 1.3
    • The Post World War II era 1.4
    • Contemporary times 1.5
  • Theory and politics 2
    • Notable theorists 2.1
      • Rudolf Rocker 2.1.1
      • Noam Chomsky 2.1.2
  • Anarcho-syndicalist groups 3
  • Criticisms and responses 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • Film 9
  • Fiction 10
  • External links 11



Hubert Lagardelle wrote that Pierre-Joseph Proudhon laid out fundamental ideas of anarcho-syndicalism, and repudiated both capitalism and the state in the process. He viewed free economic groups and 'struggle', not pacifism as dominant in humans.[4]

In September 1903 and March 1904 Sam Mainwaring published in Britain two issues of a short-lived newspaper called The General Strike, a publication which made detailed criticisms of the “officialism” of union bureaucracy and which publicised strikes in Europe making use of syndicalist tactics.[5]

Revolutionary Syndicalism and the International Workers Association

The 1910 Congress in which the spanish CNT was established
In 1910, in the middle of the restoration, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo was founded in Barcelona in a congress of the Catalonian trade union Solidaridad Obrera (Workers' Solidarity) with the objective of constituting an opposing force to the then-majority trade union, the socialist UGT and "to speed up the economic emancipation of the working class through the revolutionary expropriation of the bourgeoisie". The CNT started small, counting 26,571 members represented through several trade unions and other confederations.[6] In 1911, coinciding with its first congress, the CNT initiated a general strike that provoked a Barcelona judge to declare the union illegal until 1914. That same year of 1911, the trade union officially received its name.[6] From 1918 on the CNT grew stronger. The CNT had an outstanding role in the events of the La Canadiense general strike, which paralyzed 70% of industry in Catalonia in 1919, the year the CNT reached a membership of 700,000.[7] Around that time, panic spread among employers, giving rise to the practice of pistolerismo (employing thugs to intimidate active unionists), causing a spiral of violence which significantly affected the trade union. These pistoleros are credited with killing 21 union leaders in 48 hours.[8]

In 1922 the International Workers' Association was founded in Berlin; the CNT joined immediately. However, the following year, with the rise of Miguel Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, the labor union was outlawed, once again.[9] After the end of the war however, with the workers' movement resurgent following the Russian Revolution, what was to become the modern IWA was formed, billing itself as the "true heir" of the original international.[10] The successful Bolshevik-led revolution of 1918 in Russia was mirrored by a wave of syndicalist successes worldwide, including the struggle of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the USA alongside the creation of mass anarchist unions across Latin America and huge syndicalist-led strikes in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, where it was noted that "neutral (economic, but not political) syndicalism had been swept away." [11] The final formation of this new international, then known as the International Workingmen's Association, took place at an illegal conference in Berlin in December 1922, marking an irrevocable break between the international syndicalist movement and the Bolsheviks.[12]

The first secretaries of the International included the famed writer and activist Rudolph Rocker, along with Augustin Souchy and Alexander Schapiro. Following the first congress, other groups affiliated from France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. Later, a bloc of unions in the USA, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Costa Rica and El Salvador also shared the IWA's statutes. The biggest syndicalist union in the USA, the IWW, considered joining but eventually ruled out affiliation in 1936, citing the IWA's policies on religious and political affiliation.[14] The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), although not anarcho-syndicalist, were informed by developments in the broader revolutionary syndicalist milieu at the turn of the 20th century. At its founding congress in 1905, influential members with strong anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist sympathies like Thomas J. Haggerty, William Trautmann, and Lucy Parsons contributed to the union's overall revolutionary syndicalist orientation.[15] Although the terms anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism are often used interchangeably, the anarcho-syndicalist label was not widely used until the early 1920s. “The term ‘anarcho-syndicalist’ only came into wide use in 1921–1922 when it was applied polemically as a pejorative term by communists to any syndicalists…who opposed increased control of syndicalism by the communist parties.”[16] In fact, the original statement of aims and principles of the International Workers Association (drafted in 1922) refers not to anarcho-syndicalism, but to revolutionary syndicalism or revolutionary unionism,[17][18] depending on the translation.

Bandera de la CNT-FAI.

The anarcho-syndicalist trade union Unione Sindacale Italiana "grew to 800,000 members and the influence of the Italian Anarchist Union (20,000 members plus Umanita Nova, its daily paper) grew accordingly ... Anarchists were the first to suggest occupying workplaces.[20]

Many of the largest members of the IWA were broken, driven underground or wiped out in the 1920s-30s as

  • A comprehensive list of Anarcho-syndicalist organisations
  • What is revolutionary syndicalism? An on-going historical series on anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism from a communist perspective
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism 101
  • Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
  • Syndicalism: Myth and Reality
  • Revolutionary Unionism: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow by Dan Jakopovich
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism texts from the Kate Sharpley Library

External links


  • Living Utopia, ("Vivir la utopía", Documentary-film from 1997 about Anarcho-syndicalism and Anarchism in Spain)
  • Noam Chomsky: The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (interviewed by Peter Jay, 1976) (video and text)


Further reading

  1. ^ Revolutionary syndicalism, Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. ^ Jeremy Jennings, Syndicalism in France (St Martin's Press, 1990) ISBN 031204027X
  3. ^ a b "1c. Why do anarcho-syndicalists oppose participation in statist politics?". Anarcho-Syndicalism 101. Class Struggle Online. April 2002. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Jameson, J. F., The American Historical Review (American Historical Association, 1895), p. 731.
  5. ^ "The Great Dock Strike of 1889," Direct Action #47," August 11, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Geary, Dick (1989). Labour and Socialist Movements in Europe Before 1914. Berg Publishers. Pg. 261
  7. ^ Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p.13
  8. ^ Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p.15
  9. ^ Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p.17
  10. ^ Wayne Thorpe (1989), The Workers Themselves
  11. ^ Vadim Damier (2009), Anarcho-syndicalism in the 20th Century
  12. ^ a b Vadim Damier (2009), Anarcho-syndialism in the 20th Century
  13. ^ a b c d "1860-today: The International Workers Association". 2006. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  14. ^ Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin (1976), IWW: Its First 70 Years, 1905-1975
  15. ^ Salvatore Salerno, Red November, Black November: Culture and Community in the Industrial Workers of the World (State University of New York Press, 1989), pp. 69–90, ISBN 0-7914-0089-1
  16. ^ David Berry, A History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917–1945, (Greenwood, 2002), p. 134. ISBN 0-313-32026-8
  17. ^ "Principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism", Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
  18. ^ "The Statutes of Revolutionary Unionism (IWA)", The International Workers Association (IWA)
  19. ^ a b Brunella Dalla Casa, Composizione di classe, rivendicazioni e professionalità nelle lotte del "biennio rosso" a Bologna, in: AA. VV, Bologna 1920; le origini del fascismo, a cura di Luciano Casali, Cappelli, Bologna 1982, p. 179.
  20. ^ "1918–1921: The Italian factory occupations - Biennio Rosso" on
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Organise Magazine issue 65". Anarchist Federation. 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  23. ^ a b "Global anarcho-syndicalism 1939-99". Selfed. 2001. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  24. ^ G. Careri (1991), L'Unione Sindacale Italiana
  25. ^ "The IWA today – South London DAM". DAM-IWA. 1985. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Roca Martínez 2006, p. 116
  28. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 48
  29. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 146–147
  30. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 170
  31. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 361
  32. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 260
  33. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 263
  34. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 263–264
  35. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 266–267
  36. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 267
  37. ^ a b Beevor 2006, p. 295
  38. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 296
  39. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 976
  40. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 977
  41. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 978
  42. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 1055
  43. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 490
  44. ^ * Vallance, Margaret (July 1973). "Rudolf Rocker — a biographical sketch". Journal of Contemporary History (London/Beverly Hills: Sage Publications) 8 (3): 75–95.   Vallance 1973, pp. 77–78
  45. ^ Vallance 1973, pp. 94–95
  46. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations'. United Kingdom: Pinter Publishers. 2000.  
  47. ^ SAC had begun contesting municipal elections under the candidatures of Libertarian Municipal People
  48. ^ Michael Schmidt and Lucien Van Der Walt (2009), Black Flame
  49. ^
  50. ^ Meltzer, Albert (2001). I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels. United Kingdom: AK Press.  
  51. ^ Roca Martínez 2006, p. 108
  52. ^ Roca Martínez 2006, p. 109
  53. ^ Aguilar Fernández 2002, p. 110
  54. ^ "FAQ". Un sector minoritario que es partidario de las elecciones sindicales se escinde y pasa a llamarse CNT congreso de valencia (en referencia al Congreso alternativo realizado en esa ciudad) y posteriormente, perdidas judicialmente las siglas, a CGT. 
  55. ^ Alexander 1999, p. 1094
  56. ^ Meltzer 1996, p. 265
  57. ^ (Spanish) A series of three articles about the Scala Case from the CNT point of view: (1) El Caso Scala. Un proceso contra el anarcosindicalismo, ("The Scala Case. A trial against anarcho-syndicalism"), Jesús Martínez, Revista Polémica online, 1 February 2006; (2) Segunda parte. El proceso ("Second part: the trial") 31 January 2006; (3) Tercera parte. El canto del Grillo ("Third part: Grillo's song") 31 January 2006. All accessed online 6 January 2008.
  58. ^ "Los 117 detenidos de la CNT, en libertad tras prestar declaración". El Mundo (in Spanish). 1996-12-07. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ "The unofficial IWA blog". ASI-MUR. 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-14.  keeps an updated list of recent IWA member activities
  62. ^ Carley, Mark "Trade union membership 1993–2003" (International:SPIRE Associates 2004).
  63. ^ Anarchist StudiesBeltrán Roca Martínez, "Anarchism, Anthropology and Andalucia",
  64. ^ (Spanish) ¿Que son las elecciones sindicales?, official CNT site. Accessed online 6 January 2008.
  65. ^ (Spanish) Otra reforma laboral ¿Y ahora qué?, official CNT site. Accessed online 6 January 2008.
  66. ^ (Spanish) Plataforma Reivindicativa, official CNT site. Accessed online 6 January 2008.
  67. ^ [2] IWA Congress 2013
  68. ^ Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice (AK Press, 2004), p. 73, ISBN 1-902593-92-8
  69. ^ Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice (AK Press, 2004), p. 62-63, ISBN 1-902593-92-8
  70. ^ The Chomsky-Foucault Debate on Human Nature, The New Press, 2006, p.38-9
  71. ^ Heider, Ulrike and Bode, Ulrike, Anarchism: Left, Right and Green (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1994), p. 4. ISBN 0-87286-289-5
  72. ^ a b Murray Bookchin, The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism, online at Anarchy Archives. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  73. ^ Romero Maura, "The Spanish Case", contained in Anarchism Today, D. Apter and J. Joll (eds.), p. 75
  74. ^ Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, op. cit., p. 53
  75. ^ Emile Pouget in No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism, edited by Daniel Guerin (AK Press, 2005), p. 71. ISBN 1-904859-25-9
  76. ^ Bookchin, M 1998, The Spanish Anarchists, AK Press, California. p 121
  77. ^ "Elmo the anarcho-syndicalist", New Left Project.


See also

In popular culture

While collectivist and communist anarchists criticise syndicalism as having the potential to exclude the voices of citizens and consumers outside of the union, anarcho-syndicalists argue that labour councils will work outside of the workplace and within the community to encourage community and consumer participation in economic and political activity (even workers and consumers outside of the union or nation) and will work to form and maintain the institutions necessary in any society such as schools, libraries, homes, etc. Murray Bookchin argues:

Confederacion General del Trabajo demonstration in Barcelona, October 2005

Thus, anarcho-syndicalism is not apolitical but instead sees political and economic activity as the same. Unlike the propositions of some of its critics, anarcho-syndicalism is different from reformist union activity in that it aims to obliterate capitalism "[Anarcho-syndicalism] has a double aim: with tireless persistence, it must pursue betterment of the working class's current conditions. But, without letting themselves become obsessed with this passing concern, the workers should take care to make possible and imminent the essential act of comprehensive emancipation: the expropriation of capital."[75]

Direct action, being one of the main staples of anarcho-syndicalism, would extend into the political sphere according to its supporters. To them, the labour council is the federation of all workplace branches of all industries in a geographical area "territorial basis of organisation linkage brought all the workers from one area together and fomented working-class solidarity over and before corporate solidarity".[73] Rudolf Rocker argues:

Bookchin has said that it prioritizes the interests of the working class, instead of communal freedom for society as a whole; and that this view ultimately prevents a true revolution. He argues that in instances like the Spanish Revolution, it was in spite of the syndicalist-minded CNT leadership that the revolution occurred.[72]

Anarcho-syndicalism has been criticised as anachronistic by some contemporary anarchists.[71] Murray Bookchin in 1992 spoke against its reliance on an outdated view of work:

Criticisms and responses

The Barcelona offices of the CNT.

Anarcho-syndicalist groups

'Now a federated, decentralised system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as other social institutions, would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism; and it seems to me that this is the appropriate form of social organisation for an advanced technological society in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in the machine. There is no longer any social necessity for human beings to be treated as mechanical elements in the productive process; that can be overcome and we must overcome it to be a society of freedom and free association, in which the creative urge that I consider intrinsic to human nature will in fact be able to realize itself in whatever way it will.'[70]

Noam Chomsky, who was influenced by Rocker, wrote the introduction to a modern edition of "Anarcho-syndicalism: Theory and Practice". A member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Chomsky is a self-described Anarcho-Syndicalist, a position which he sees as the appropriate application of classical liberal political theory to contemporary industrial society:

Noam Chomsky

Russian Revolution, anarcho-syndicalist unions and organisations were the dominant actors in the revolutionary left.

Rudolf Rocker

Notable theorists

Anarcho-syndicalist flag.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers’ organisations that oppose the wage system will eventually form the basis of a new society and should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or "business agents"; rather, the workers alone should decide on that which affects them.[69]

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that direct action—action carried out by workers, as opposed to indirect action, such as electing a representative to a government position—would allow workers to liberate themselves.[68]

Basic outline of syndicalism as an economic system.

Theory and politics

Country Name Acronym Publications Status
 Argentina Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina FORA-AIT Organizacion Obrera Member
 Austria FAS Friend
 Australia Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation ASF [1] Member
 Brazil Confederação Operária Brasileira COB A Voz do Trabalhador, A Plebe Member
 Bulgaria Autonomous Workers' Union Friend
 Chile Germinal Friend
 France Confédération nationale du travail CNT(f)-AIT Le Combat Syndicaliste Member
 Germany Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union FAU-IAA Direkte Aktion Member
 Italy Unione Sindacale Italiana USI-AIT Lotta di Classe Member
 Norway Norsk Syndikalistisk Forbund NSF-IAA Member
 Poland Związek Syndykalistów Polski ZSP-MSP "Zapłata" "Walkę o Edukację" Member
 Portugal AIT-Secção Portuguesa AIT-SP Anarcho Sindicalista Member
 Russia Konfederatsiya Revolyutsionnikh Anarkho-Sindikalistov KRAS-MAT Либертарная мысль (Direct Action) Member
 Serbia Anarho-sindikalistička inicijativa ASI-MUR Direktna akcija Member
 Slovakia Priama Akcia PA-MAP Member
 Spain Confederación Nacional del Trabajo CNT(e)-AIT CeNiT, Periodico CNT Member
 United Kingdom Solidarity Federation SF-IWA Direct Action, Catalyst Member

The following organizations are either member groups or friends of the IWA.[67] Friends of the IWA are regarded as semi-official fellow travelers politically but have not formally joined and do not have voting rights at Congress. They are often invited to send observers to Congress.

The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain, in the form of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) and the CNT. CGT membership was estimated at around 100,000 for 2003.[62] The regions with the largest CNT membership are the Centre (Madrid and surrounding area), the North (Basque country), Andalucía, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.[63] The CNT opposes the model of union elections and workplace committees[64] and is critical of labor reforms and the UGT and the CCOO,[65] standing instead on a platform of reivindicación, that is, "return of what is due", or social revolution.[66]

" [61] by Serbian academics criticizing the charges and the attitude of Serbian police. The six were formally indicted on December 7 and after a lengthy trial procedure Trivunac, along with other 5 anarchists, were freed on February 17, 2010. On 10 December 2009, the FAU local in [60] on suspicion of international terrorism, a charge which was heavily disputed by the international and other anarchist groups. Shortly after their arrest, an open letter was circulated[59] On 3 September 2009, six members of the Serbian IWA section (ASI-MUR), including then-IWA General Secretary Ratibor Trivunac, were arrested

This body is in charge of the repatriation of the accumulated union wealth. In 2004 an agreement was reached between the CNT and the District Attorney's Office, through which all charges were dropped against the hundred prosecuted for this occupation. [58] facilities in Madrid were squatted by 105 CNT militants.Economic and Social CouncilAfter its legalization, the CNT began efforts to recover the expropriations of 1939. The basis for such recovery would be established by Law 4/1986, which required the return of the seized properties, and the unions' right to use or yield the real estate. Since then the CNT has been claiming the return of these properties from the State. In 1996, the

Members of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT marching in Madrid in 2010

Contemporary times

[57] In 1979 a split over representative unionism, professional unionism and state-funded schemes saw the CNT divided into two sections, the CNT as it is today and the

Catalyst (presently on hiatus) and the newspaper Direct Action. Presently, the Solidarity Federation publishes the quarterly magazine Solidarity Federation since 1950. In March 1994, DAM changed its name to the Syndicalist Workers' Federation In 1994 it adopted its current name, having previously been the Direct Action Movement since 1979, and before that the [50].Poll Tax, for which the DAM received international support. From 1988 in Scotland, then England and Wales, the DAM was active in opposing the Laura Ashley, involving a supplier to Scotland, Ardrossan as well as a series of industrial disputes later in the 1980s, including the Ardbride dispute in Miners' Strike The DAM was highly involved in the [49] The

At the seventh congress in Toulouse in 1951 a much smaller IWA was relaunched, again without the CNT, which would not be strong enough to reclaim membership until 1958 as an exiled and underground organization. Delegates attended, though mostly representing very small groups, from Cuba, Argentina, Spain, Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Britain, Bulgaria and Portugal. A message of support was received from Uruguay. But the situation remained difficult for the International, as it struggled to deal with the rise of state-sanctioned economic trade unionism in the West, heavy secret service intervention as Cold War anti-communism reached its height and the banning of all strikes and free trade unions in the Soviet Union bloc of countries.[13] At the tenth congress in 1958, the SAC’s response to these pressures led it into a clash with the rest of the international. It withdrew from the IWA following its failure to amend the body’s statutes to allow it to stand in municipal elections[47] and amid concerns over its integration with the state over distribution of unemployment benefits.[48] For most of the next two decades, the international struggled to prebuild itself. In 1976, at the 15th congress, the IWA had only five member groups, two of which (the Spanish and Bulgarian members) were still operating in exile (though following Franco's death in 1975, the CNT was already approaching a membership of 200,000).[23]

(CNT, or National Confederation of Labour) was founded in 1946 by Spanish anarcho-syndicalists in exile with former members of the CGT-SR. The CNT later split into the CNT-Vignoles and the CNT-AIT, which is the French section of the IWA. Confédération nationale du travail The [46], worker-centred strategy from the outset.syndicalist Unlike the AFB, which was influenced by anarcho-syndicalist ideas but ultimately not syndicalist itself, the SWF decided to pursue a more definitely [46] and one of the Solidarity Federation's earliest predecessors. It was formed in 1950 by members of the dissolved Anarchist Federation of Britain.[46] was a syndicalist group in active in post-war Britain,Syndicalist Workers' Federation In 1949, Rocker published another well-known work. On 10 September 1958, Rocker died in the Mohegan Colony. The [45] After World War II, an appeal in the

Logo of the French Confédération nationale du travail, established after the war

The Post World War II era

In April 1938, Juan Negrín was asked to form a government, and included Segundo Blanco, a member of the CNT, as minister of education, and by this point, the only CNT member left in the cabinet. At this point, many in the CNT leadership were critical of participation in the government, seeing it as dominated by the Communists. Prominent CNT leaders went so far as to refer to Blanco as "sop of the libertarian movement"[39] and "just one more Negrínist."[40] On the other side, Blanco was responsible for installing other CNT members into the ministry of education, and stopping the spread of "Communist propaganda" by the ministry.[41] In March 1939, with the war nearly over, CNT leaders participated in the National Defense Council's coup overthrowing the government of the Socialist Juan Negrín.[42] Those involved included the CNT's Eduardo Val and José Manuel González Marín serving on the council, while Cipriano Mera's 70th Division provided military support, and Melechor Rodríquez became mayor of Madrid.[43] The Council attempted to negotiate a peace with Franco, though he granted virtually none of their demands.

Joaquín Ascaso. Four weeks later the 11th Division, under Enrique Líster, entered the region. On 11 August 1937, the Republican government, now situated in Valencia, dismissed the Regional Council for the Defense of Aragon.[37] Líster's division was prepared for an offensive on the Aragonese front, but they were also sent to subdue the collectives run by the CNT-UGT and in dismantling the collective structures created the previous twelve months. The offices of the CNT were destroyed, and all the equipment belonging to its collectives was redistributed to landowners.[37] The CNT leadership not only refused to allow the anarchist columns on the Aragon front to leave the front to defend the collectives, but they failed to condemn the government's actions against the collectives, causing much conflict between it and the rank and file membership of the union.[38]

The next day CNT's regional committee declared a general strike. The CNT controlled the majority of the city, including the heavy artillery on the hill of Montjuïc overlooking the city. CNT militias disarmed more than 200 members of the security forces at their barricades, allowing only CNT vehicles to pass through.[34] After unsuccessful appeals from the CNT leadership to end the fighting, the government began transferring Assault Guard from the front to Barcelona, and even destroyers from Valencia. On 5 May, the Friends of Durruti issued a pamphlet calling for "disarming of the paramilitary police… dissolution of the political parties…" and declared "Long live the social revolution! – Down with the counter-revolution!" The pamphlet was quickly denounced by the leadership of the CNT.[35] The next day, the government agreed to a proposal by the leadership of the CNT-FAI, that called for the removal of the Assault Guards, and no reprisals against libertarians that had participated in the conflict, in exchange for the dismantling of barricades, and end of the general strike. However, neither the PSUC or the Assault Guards gave up their positions, and according to historian Antony Beevor "carried out violent reprisals against libertarians"[36] By 8 May, the fighting was over.

CNT poster informing about the socialization of the Textiles industry

At a plenary session of the CNT in March 1937, the national committee asked for a motion of censure to suppress the Aragonese Regional Council. The Aragonese regional committee threatened to resign, which thwarted the censure effort. Though there had always been disagreements, that spring also saw a great escalation in confrontations between the CNT-FAI and the Communists. In Madrid, Melchor Rodríguez, who was then a member of the CNT, and director of prisons in Madrid, published accusations that the Communist José Cazorla, who was then overseeing public order, was maintaining secret prisons to hold anarchists, socialists, and other republicans, and either executing, or torturing them as "traitors". Soon after, on this pretext, Largo Caballero dissolved the Communist-controlled Junta de Defensa.[32] Cazorla reacted by closing the offices of Solidaridad Obrera.[33]

In November, Caballero once again asked the CNT to become part of the government. The leadership of the CNT requested the finance and war ministries, as well as three others, but were given four posts, the ministries of health, justice, industry, and commerce. With Federica Montseny became Minister of Health, the first female minister in Spain. Juan García Oliver, as minister of justice, abolished legal fees and destroyed all criminal files. Shortly afterwards, despite the disapproval of the anarchist ministers, the capital was moved from Madrid to Valencia.[30] On 23 December 1936, after receiving in Madrid a retinue formed by Joaquín Ascaso, Miguel Chueca and three republican and independent leaders, the government of Largo Caballero, which by then had four anarchists as ministers (García Oliver, Juan López, Federica Montseny and Joan Peiró), approved the formation of the National Defense Committee. It was a revolutionary body which represented anarchists as much as socialists and republicans. Halfway through February 1937, a congress took place in Caspe with the purpose of creating the Regional Federation of Collectives of Aragon. 456 delegates, representing more than 141,000 collective members, attended the congress. The congress was also attended by delegates of the National Committee of the CNT.[31]

The Committee held an extraordinary regional plenary session to protect the new rural organization, gathering all the union representatives from the supporting villages and backed by Buenaventura Durruti. Against the will of the mainly Catalonian CNT National Committee, the Regional Defence Council of Aragon was created. Following Largo Caballero’s assumption of the position of Prime Minister of the government, he invited the CNT to join in the coalition of groups making up the national government. The CNT proposed instead that a National Defense Council should be formed, led by Largo Caballero, and containing five members each from the CNT and UGT, and four “liberal republicans”. When this proposal was declined, the CNT decided not to join the government. However, in Catalonia, the CNT joined the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias, which joined the Generalitat on 26 September. For the first time, three members of the CNT were also members of the government.[29]

Some of the most important communities in this respect were those of Alcañiz, Calanda, Alcorisa, Valderrobres, Fraga or Alcampel. Not only were the lands collectivized, but collective labours were also undertaken, like the retirement home in Fraga, the collectivization of some hospitals (such as in Barbastro or Binéfar), and the founding of schools such as the School of Anarchist Militants. These institutions would be destroyed by the Nationalist troops during the war.

I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragón one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilised life– snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.– had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master.
—George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, ch. VII

George Orwell wrote of the nature of the new society that arose in the communities:

On 1 June 1936, the CNT joined the UGT in declaring a strike of "building workers, mechanics, and lift operators." A demonstration was held, 70,000 workers strong. Members of the Falange attacked the strikers. The strikers responded by looting shops, and the police reacted by attempting to suppress the strike. By the beginning of July, the CNT was still fighting, while the UGT had agreed to arbitration. In retaliation to the attacks by the Falangists, anarchists killed three bodyguards of the Falangist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera. The government then closed the CNT's centers in Madrid, and arrested David Antona and Cipriano Mera, two CNT militants.[28]

Evolution of the number of affiliates in the CNT from 1911 to 1937

The Spanish Revolution

Portugal's CGT was driven underground after an unsuccessful attempt to break the newly installed dictatorship of Gomes da Costa with a general strike in 1927 which led to nearly 100 deaths. It survived underground with 15-20,000 members until January 1934, when it called a general revolutionary strike against plans to replace trade unions with fascist corporations, which failed. It was able to continue in a much reduced state until World War II but was effectively finished as a fighting union.[25] Massive government repression repeated such defeats around the world, as anarcho-syndicalist unions were destroyed in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Cuba, Bulgaria, Paraguay and Bolivia. By the end of the 1930s legal anarcho-syndicalist trade unions existed only in Chile, Bolivia, Sweden and Uruguay.[12] But perhaps the greatest blow was struck in the Spanish Civil War which saw the CNT, then claiming a membership of 1.58 million, driven underground with the defeat of the Spanish Republic by Francisco Franco. The sixth IWA congress took place in 1936, shortly after the Spanish Revolution had begun, but was unable to provide serious material support for the section. The IWA held its last pre-war congress in Paris in 1938, with months to go before the German invasion of Poland it received an application from ZZZ,[26] a syndicalist union in the country claiming up to 130,000 workers – ZZZ members went on to form a core part of the resistance against the Nazis, and participated in the Warsaw uprising. But the international was not to meet again until after World War II had finished, in 1951. During the war, only one member of the IWA was able to continue to function as a revolutionary union, the SAC in Sweden.[13] In 1927 with the "moderate" positioning of some cenetistas (CNT members) the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI), an association of anarchist affinity groups, was created in Valencia. The FAI would play an important role during the following years through the so-called trabazón (connection) with the CNT, that is, the presence of FAI elements in the CNT, encouraging the labor union not to move away from its anarchist principles, an influence that continues today.[27]

[24] It had been driven underground by 1924 and although it was still able to lead significant strikes by miners, metalworkers and marble workers, Mussolini's ascent to power in 1925 sealed its fate. By 1927 its leading activists had been arrested or exiled.[23]'s fascists.Benito Mussolini, which had claimed a membership of up to 600,000 people in 1922, was warning even at that time of murders and repression from Unione Sindacale Italiana Italian IWA union the [13]

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