Made by History
A Guide to Revoultion
Made by History
A Guide to Revolution
Table of Contents
Part 1: The History of Protest
Chapter 1: Russian Revolution (1905-1907)
Chapter 2: Russian Revolution (1917)
Chapter 3: Cuban Revolution (1959)
Chapter 4: Spanish Revolution (1936)
Part 2: The Act of Protest
Chapter 5: The art of Nonviolent Protest
Chapter 6: Waging a Violent Rebellion
Chapter 7: More than Paper
This work is dedicated, first and foremost, to the working-class of the world. The proletariat has struggled long under the weight of the bourgeoisie, and their tireless efforts have shaped society into what it is today. I write this as some degree of reparation - as a gift for the men and women who deserve liberation from their struggle, that they might find fulfillment in the labor of their choice. Were it not for my privileged talent for writing (if indeed I have one), has provided me the opportunity to someday – though not soon enough – escape the bonds of the working-class, and gain that sweet dream of autonomy. For now, I struggle beside you, fighting for our unanimous liberation.
Finally, this work is dedicated to my devoted circle of friends, without whom I may have never sought out a life of writing. Their encouragement has been my greatest inspiration. Their support is far more than I deserve; however, I have drawn strength from it, and it has allowed me to grow, both as an artist and as a person.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
As a direct result of the increase in popularity of many authoritarian and nationalist politicians in the West – such as Donald Trump, Norbert Hofer, Viktor Orban, Frauke Petry, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Marian Kotleba, and many others – accompanied by rising rates of police brutality, citizens of the world have begun an insurgency of peaceful protests and riots. Such demonstrations are, in the view of this author, the product of the failures and shortcomings of the well-intentioned values of democracy. They are moments in history that will be remembered as representations of the dissatisfaction of the common man, as well as attempts to be heard over the never-ending discussion of those who refuse to take physical and meaningful action.
Democracy is the direct opposition to despotism; however, it can unfortunately be the cause of the same dictatorial leadership. When voter turnouts are low, a minority of voters who share nationalistic and authoritarian views can easily elect a candidate who does not represent the view of a majority of the people. When this happens, many will take to the streets in defiance of political philosophies that they may deem to be racist, xenophobic, or otherwise morally deprived.
Of course, totalitarianism has a natural response to such dissidence: police. Riot police will keep those who disagree with the leadership of a country at bay, and they do it rather efficiently. It will always be in the best interest of autocratic leaders to shelter their power from the effects of democracy. That is precisely why voter suppression is so prevalent during election seasons and why riot police are prevalent when voter suppression is not. Protest is, after all, a form of democratic expression, and can be used to shape both the policy initiatives of the government, as well as the actions of the private sector.
What this work aims to do is provide education about how to safely protest injustice, so that those who choose to fight for what they believe is right do not have to fear for their own well-being. That is, after all, the power of totalitarian restraints placed on protesters: if they fear for their future and choose to revolt, the solution is to make the fear for their present well-being stronger than that fear for the days yet to come.
Of course, this work will do more than simply argue against fascism and nationalism. While it will stress the importance of educating others as to these evils, its primary focus will be addressing the two key means of overcoming tyranny through resistance: by nonviolent means, and by violent ones. While the author certainly has their biases in regards to which of these two is the morally superior method of rebellion, they do not have the means of providing a universal definition of morality. Thus, this work will accommodate as many stances as is possible, as well as ensure that participants in either form of activism remain safe so that they are able to overcome fascism and tyranny.
At the end of the day, this work is but one cog in the great machine of revolution, however, and it will not pretend to be otherwise. At the end of it all, it is you, the men and women who choose to rise above injustice – and who refuse to tolerate evil in its many forms – that will make a meaningful and long-lasting change. So long as we remember that we are stronger together than when we are apart; that we are mightier when our force is organized than when it is arbitrary, we can and we will succeed.
With that being said, we must keep in mind the age-old motto: educate, agitate, organize. Only then, when all of the pieces are in place, and all of our hearts are moved will change take place.
So, without further rambling, I wish you the best of luck, and hope that you enjoy this work enough to share it with your friends – or, as you may soon be calling them, your comrades. Thank you for your dedication to this work. I hope that it may pay you back.
Part 1: The History of Protest
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The streets of the world have been flooded with cries for protest, riot, social upheaval, and revolution. These are the exclamations of the dissatisfied, the disenfranchised, and the overall abused. These are the howls of the suffering citizens whom have been governed by pain and fear. These are the shouts of men, women, and children who use the passions of their anger to say to the establishment, “No more!” Most importantly, these are the voices of history. When news stations commentate on the outcry of the general public, they fail to note one crucial thing: the shouts of the activists of today are the echoes of the activists of yesterday. This is to say, the frustrations of this generation of protesters are the same sentiments of those who preceded them.
Protest has a long and complex history. It is almost as old as the history of humanity itself. Revolution sparked in Egypt in 2730 BCE. In 494 BCE, the plebeians launched their first revolt against the patricians of Ancient Rome. Between 869 CE to 883 CE, African slaves rebelled in Iraq. In 1775, America launched its revolutionary war against Great Britain. In 1934, Anarchists led massive coups in Catalonia and formed a stateless society. In 1966, The Black Panthers began to orchestrate militant protests in favor of the Civil Rights Movement. In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement launched against the social and economic inequality of the world. In 2013, the Black lives matter movement began protests of police brutality against people of color.
All of this is to say, protest and rebellion against injustice and the perceived maladies of the oppressed are an inherent part of human nature, and a critical part of human history. These actions taken against the oppressors of protestors are not unique to the left or the right and in the same way that they transcend political viewpoints; they also transcend religion, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
While the attitudes of protesters and revolutionaries remain relatively similar throughout history, their methods and means of rebellion have evolved; however, so have the methods and means of those power structures against which the protesters have chosen to wage war. This chapter will explore the history of those evolutions, and examine the victories and shortcomings of revolutionaries and protesters in order to aid in the development of the most effective rebellion against fascism. In order to ensure brevity, only a select handful of 20th and 21st century riots, protests, and revolutions will be analyzed and outlined in this chapter. Developing an understanding of these examples is critical because, as the expression goes, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Chapter 1: Russian Revolution (1905-1907)
“Revolutions are the locomotives of history”
The History (Overview)
The Russian Revolution of 1905 began as a result political and social unrest in the Russian Empire, with anger predominantly directed at the Russian government. Four leading causes contributed to the birth of the Russian Revolution. These were agrarian problems, issues of nationality, labor difficulties, and disputes of education. While each of these on a case-by-case basis were not enough to elicit a desire for massive change in Russia, the four worked together to form a perfect storm that would radically alter the course of Russian history. In 2011, James Defronzo penned a powerful article for the New York Times that sums it up rather well. In this piece he wrote, "At the turn of the century, discontent with the Tsar’s dictatorship was manifested not only through the growth of political parties dedicated to the overthrow of the monarchy but also through industrial strikes for better wages and working conditions, protests and riots among peasants, university demonstrations, and the assassination of government officials, often done by Socialist Revolutionaries."
To a narrow degree, the Russian government recognized these issues. The ministry of interior, Vyacheslav von Plehve, said in 1903 that, after the agrarian problem, Jews, the schools, and workers suffered the biggest problems (in that order). To make matters worse, Europe had a massive financial crash between 1899 and 1900, which heavily affected the closely associated Russian economy. In the five years leading up to the Russian Revolution, the economic struggles only further agitated the future revolutionaries.
Trials and Tribulations in Agriculture
Every year, in order to thrive, thousands of members of the noble class who were deeply in debt mortgaged out their estates to banks or sold them to municipalities, merchants, or even peasants. By 1905, the noble class had mortgaged about a third of its property, and sold off another third. The Russian government hoped to use what they would call allotment land as a means of satisfying their citizens. They would offer the land to peasants to be paid off over several decades; however, there was a catch.
The land itself did not belong to any individual peasant, but to large groups of them. The individual peasant would have their piece of land selected for them through the open-field system, and from there they were forced to pay their portion of the mortgage on the land. Unfortunately, for the peasants, because they did not legitimately own the land, they could not sell it – or even choose not to participate in the commune – so they were forced to pay off their unwillingly gained debts.
The plan was well intentioned enough, and was designed to prevent proletarianisation of the peasant farmers. Nevertheless, good intentions yielded bad results. Regrettably, peasants often did not have enough land to provide for their own needs. One analysis says, "Their earnings were often so small that they could neither buy the food they needed nor keep up the payment of taxes and redemption dues they owed the government for their land allotments. By the tenth year of Nicholas II's reign, their total arrears in payments of taxes and dues was 118 million rubles."
Because of how desperate the times had become, Peasants were forced to find work elsewhere just to make ends meet, sometimes wandering hundreds of miles just to find jobs. As a result of these trying conditions, many peasants resorted to violence. Some of that violence peaked in 1902 when thousands of peasants in the provinces of Kharkov and Poltava broke out into a furious rebellion, destroying massive amounts of property, as well as looting from nobles.
The rebellion earned the government’s attention, and they decided to investigate the cause of the maladies of the peasants. What they found was that much of the rural countryside was in a state of decline. Between that and population growth, Russia had a crisis on its hands. The rates were estimated to be as high as eighteen births to every death per one-thousand people.
It was becoming rapidly clear that the peasant farmers of Russia posed a legitimate threat to the security of the country. The Russian government, however, was at a loss when it came to any semblance of a solution. On top of all of this, their issues were just beginning to take form.
Struggles against Nationalism
Russia was a multi-ethnic empire, and during the nineteenth century, they saw various religions and cultures in a clearly defined hierarchy. Non-Russian religions and cultures were tolerated, but not necessarily respected. The culture of Europe was valued over the culture of Africa and most of Asia, and Christianity was viewed as more pure, progressive, and true than all other religions. Comparatively, Jews in Russia were considered to be enemies of Christianity, as well as exploiters of the poor. Jews made up only 6% of the Russian population, but were densely populated in the Western boarders of the empire. As Sidney Harcave described it, Jews and other minorities tended to live “miserable and circumscribed lives, forbidden to settle or acquire land outside the cities and towns, legally limited in attendance at secondary school and higher schools, virtually barred from legal professions, denied the right to vote for municipal councilors, and excluded from services in the Navy or the Guards.”
The Russian government failed to come up with a viable solution to the mistreatment of Jews, and other minorities such as the Polish. The resulting consequence would come to be known as “Russification”. This was, essentially, the process of forcing minorities to assimilate into Russian culture and society, leaving behind their own traditions and public practices in order to avoid persecution. The failures of the government to deal with this mistreatment lead to greater dissatisfaction among minorities, only further fanning the flames for an almost inevitable revolution.
Issues in Labour and Industry
Another issue that had plagued the Russian Empire during the nineteenth century was a faltering economy. The government had attempted to use laissez-faire economics, which had failed to gain any successful traction until the 1890’s. The failures of Capitalism during this century aggravated the Russian people. As Theda Skocpol said in the work, States and Social Revolutions, “agricultural productivity stagnated, while international prices for grain dropped, and Russia’s foreign debt and need for imports grew. War and military preparations continued to consume government revenues. At the same time, the peasant taxpayers' ability to pay was strained to the utmost, leading to widespread famine in 1891.”
In the 1890’s, the minister of finance, Sergei Witte, decided that it was time for change. He proposed policies such as government investment in infrastructure programs such as railroad construction, they provided subsidies and supportive services for industrialists, and they placed high protective tariffs for Russian industry. They increased exports, stabilized currencies, and encouraged foreign investments. Witte’s proposal went through, and the Russian people enjoyed great success. Their industrial growth averaged 8% per year, and their mileage of railroad grew by 40% over the decade between 1892 and 1902.
In a twist of irony, Sergei Witte’s success actually is considered by many historians to have been one of the fueling causes of the Revolution of 1905, as well as the Revolution of 1917. During this time period, there was an increasing concentration of proletariat into large groups. There was also an increase in student activism. These two forces, traditional and new, were both deeply troubled by the rise in industrialization, and fought against it adamantly.
The government, in order to cover the high costs of industrialization, taxed the poor, forcing most of them to move into the cities in order to raise enough revenue to live a minimal lifestyle. The “peasant class” saw this movement to towns and cities as a means of protecting their economic security. This new flow of workers spread urban ideas and fears to the countryside, thus breaking down the barriers between urban and countryside dwellers.
Another cause of aggravation for the Russian people was the lacking of protections and labor laws. It was true that the government had restrictive laws on child labor, as well as requirements for how often workers had to be paid; however, a majority of workers did not believe that these were enough to protect them from inhumane practices. During this time, workers averaged approximately eleven hours per day, labored in difficult and unsafe conditions, and were prohibited from organizing into unions. Because of this, many workers turned from dissatisfaction to despair, and they also became more sympathetic to radical and revolutionary ideas in order to provide themselves with security. Illegal strikes and unions began to organize, and the basis for a proletariat revolution was set in stone.
The government of the Roman Empire could not tolerate these illegal activities, so, in response, they arrested activists and agitators. In an effort to reduce revolutionary activities, they also passed “paternalistic” laws. In response, Sergei Zubatov introduced the idea of “police Socialism” in 1900, which enabled workers (with police approval) form worker’s societies that would “provide healthful, fraternal activities and opportunities for cooperative self-help together with 'protection' against influences that might have inimical effect on loyalty to job or country.” Unfortunately for the Russian government, the idea of police Socialism did not work.
Over the period of 1900 to 1903, unemployment rose drastically and economic stability faltered. Strikes began to take place more commonly, and in 1902, workers from Vladikavkazand Rostov-on-Don organized a strike of 225,000 workers. While these were not the first strikes in Russian history, they were the first armed strikes, which proved to be troublesome for the government.
Problems Posed by an Educated Mass
Plehve, the minister of interior, designated schools as a matter of importance for the government, but what he failed to realize is that the school system’s conditions were only a symptom of antigovernment and revolutionary attitudes, and not a cause. As it happened, student radicalism truly began to take form in Russia after the rise to power of Tsar Alexander II. When he took charge of the Russian Empire, he abolished serfdom and enacted legal and administrative reforms, which were revolutionary for their time. He took action to abolish practices in universities, such as compulsory uniforms and military discipline.
This began the process of increasing the variety of reading and course materials, thus creating a greater sense of freedom for Russian students, as well as an assortment of subcultures. As a result of this increased freedom, the growth of universities was accompanied by the growth of many newspapers, journals, and an organization of public lectures and professional societies. In many historians views, this expansion of the public sphere lead to the growth of the idea that there is a right to have an independent opinion, which was a powerful idea, and is fundamental to the premise of revolutionary attitudes.
The government was troubled by the growth of these student organizations and papers, so they attempted to place restrictions on admissions, and, in some cases, prohibited certain organizations. This lead to the first student demonstration in history, which was held in St. Petersburg, and resulted in the two-year-long closing of the university. Student radicals described "the special duty and mission of the student as such to spread the new word of liberty. Students were called upon to extend their freedoms into society, to repay the privilege of learning by serving the people, and to become in Nikolai Ogarev's phrase 'apostles of knowledge.' "
Students of universities quickly became a key source of revolutionaries, and between 1860 and 1870, records show that more than prosecutions against political radicals were filed against university students. "The tactics of the left-wing students proved to be remarkably effective, far beyond anyone's dreams. Sensing that neither the university administrations nor the government any longer possessed the will or authority to enforce regulations, radicals simply went ahead with their plans to turn the schools into centers of political activity for students and non-students alike." The students took a unique role in revolutionary activities, because they fought against issues that did not necessarily pertain to them. For example, they would riot or protest in solidarity with workers, political prisoners, and other mistreated groups. They would also circulate petitions and antigovernment writings.
While this bothered the government, it was largely believed that they were lacking in ability to make any meaningful change, and they were thus largely ignored. Expulsion, exile, and forced military service still did nothing to stop student protests. In fact, their resistance only grew.
The Birth of a Revolution
Progressive and academic agitation for more democratic powers to be placed in the hands of the people, accompanied by a never-ending wave of worker’s strikes and negotiations for greater economic security and union recognition, both lead to the beginning of the true revolution in 1905. “When collective strike activity was met with what is perceived as repression from an autocratic state, economic and political demands grew into and reinforced each other.”
Calls for economic and social change had finally exceeded their limitations to civilian movements, and entered the realm of politics and government representation. Russian progressives formed the Union of Zemstvo Constitutionalists in 1903 and the Union of Liberation in 1904, which called for a constitutional monarchy. Russian Socialists formed two major groups: the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, following the Russian populist tradition, and the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
Government officials and entire political parties were finally forming around the ideals of revolutionaries and reactionaries – a fact that can be proven when analyzing the data. From 1862 to 1869, there was an average of six strikes per year. By the period of 1895 to 1904, there was an average of 176 of these strikes on an annual basis.
In 1904, a massive strike took place at the Putilov plant in St. Petersburg. Sympathy strikes around the city brought 150,000 workers out to the streets from a total of 382 factories. In order to help the movement, a controversial priest named Georgy Gapon presented a petition to Tsar Alexander II. “This petition asked for an eight-hour day, a minimum daily wage of one ruble (fifty cents), a repudiation of bungling bureaucrats, and a democratically elected Constituent Assembly to introduce representative government into the empire."
Despite their attempts to end the protests with negotiations, the Russian government would not budge. The guards who protected the palace were ordered not to allow protesters to come within a certain distance, and eventually troops opened fire, causing an approximated 200 to 1,000 deaths. The event came to be known as Bloody Sunday, and most of the historian community agrees that this was the spark of the active phase of the revolution.
Bloody Sunday was a call for massive solidarity movements throughout Russia and by the end of January in 1904, there were an estimated 400,000 workers on strike all over the Russian Empire. The impact was larger than just Russia, however, and several other countries saw massive strikes to show unanimity with the people of Russia. Half of European Russia’s industrial workers went on strike in 1905, and the number reached as high as 93.2% in Poland. The rest of Europe would be rocked by the events to follow.
In Finland and the Baltic coast, strikes broke out. In Riga, 130 protesters were killed in a single day, and only a few days later 100 protesters were killed in Warsaw. The effect was so strong that by March, all institutions of higher learning were closed, adding radicalized university students to the population of the protesters. Leon Trotsky organized strikes in over 200 factories by this point in time. By October in 1905, there were an estimated 2,000,000 workers on strike, and railways through Russia practically ceased to remain active.
Discontent was not exclusive to protesters either. Nationalists were upset by the assimilation of non-Russians into their culture, and the Polish, Finnish, as well as members of the Baltic provinces all sought autonomy and the right to practice their own traditions and use their own native languages. Because of all of the chaos, many nationalists decided to resolve their differences with other without government engagement. Several anti-Jewish organizations sprung up, and over 3,000 Jews were killed.
One final issue associated with the civil disobedience was the prison population of the Russian Empire. That population, which had peaked at 116,376 in 1893, had been reduced to a record low of 75,009 in January of 1905 as a result of massive amnesties by Tsar Alexander II. There is still speculation as to how many of those previous prisoners engaged in revolutionary activity against the Russian government.-
The Government’s Response
Needless to say, the Russian government was quickly overwhelmed by the massive civil disobedience that took place in 1905. In response to the calamity, the Tsar appointed Dmitri Feodorovich Trepov as governor in St Petersburg, and dismissed the Minister of the Interior, Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirskii. He appointed a government commission "to enquire without delay into the causes of discontent among the workers in the city of St Petersburg and its suburbs" in view of the strike movement. The commission was headed by Senator NV Shidlovsky, a member of the State Council, and included officials, chiefs of government factories, and private factory owners.
Following the assassination of his uncle, the Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, the Tsar made new concessions. He published the Bulygin Rescript, which promised the formation of a consultative assembly, religious tolerance, freedom of speech (in the form of language rights for the Polish minority) and a reduction in the peasants' redemption payments.
Following the Revolution of 1905, the Tsar made last attempts to save his regime, and offered reforms similar to most rulers when pressured by a revolutionary movement. These reforms were outlined in a precursor to the Constitution of 1906 known as the October Manifesto, which created the Imperial Duma. The Imperial Duma was a legislative assembly in the late Russian Empire, which held its meetings in the Taurida Palace in St. Petersburg. It was convened four times between 27 April 1906 and the collapse of the Empire in February 1917. The First and the Second Dumas were more democratic and represented a greater number of national types than their successors. The Russian Constitution of 1906, also known as the Fundamental Laws, set up a multiparty system and a limited constitutional monarchy. The revolutionaries were quelled and satisfied with the reforms, but it was not enough to prevent the 1917 revolution that would later topple the Tsar's regime.
Chapter 2: Russian Revolution (1917)
“Without a revolutionary theory there cannot be a revolutionary movement.”
The History (Overview)
The Revolution of 1905 was viewed by many Russians as progress, and a move in the right direction; however, many were still dissatisfied with the Tsarist autocracy of the Russian Empire. This would lead to the abdication of the empire and the eventual rise of the Soviet Union. The entirety of the Russian Revolution of 1917 was comprised of two smaller revolutions: the February Revolution and the October Revolution. After this period, a civil war broke out, leading to the eventual formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922.
Tsar Nicholas II, while having made compromises after the Russian Revolution of 1905, was still a deeply conservative and autocratic ruler. Under his reign nationalism, and all of its associated practices, were heavily encouraged. There was supposed to be a deep-rooted sense of connection to the Russian Empire, as well as an adherence to the social hierarchy that was present at all times in the Russian Empire. The adhesive to bind all of these things together was religion, which helped to enforce the ideals of nationalism through the clergy. Many historians argue that Tsar Nicholas II, possibly more so than any monarch in modern history, believed that the success of his empire hinged on his people’s notion that he was saintly and infallible.
This assumption would ultimately prove to be a leading contribution to the downfall of the Tsar. His assumption that the people believed in his Divine Right to rule would arguable blind him to their dissatisfaction. Because of this, he was unwilling to pass any progressive reforms in Russia. Even after the revolution in 1905, after he passed limited civil rights and privileges, he actively worked to restrict those to the greatest degree possible.
Ever since the Age of Enlightenment, Russian thinkers had promoted the importance of autonomy, and the moral importance of democratic participation, only further fueling the dissatisfaction of the oppressed Russian people. Liberals through the empire preached these ideals adamantly. Even Marxist, Anarchists, and Populists supported democratic reformation in favor of the people. Some of these democratic hopes had come true with the creation of the first and second Dumas; however, when they proved to be uncooperative with the will of Tsar Alexander II, they were disbanded by the monarch.
World War I
World War I provided a unique opportunity for the Tsar to unite his country. At least, this was his view. After Russia’s defeat in the war between Russia and Japan in 1905, Russia was in dire need of patriotism, and the war opened the door for that patriotism, and – to a greater degree – nationalism. While the empire’s participation in the war did initially fuel the flames of nationalism, it would only prove to be a temporary solution. Anger towards Germany proved not to translate directly into pride and enthusiasm for the Russian government.
Russia’s first major battle in the war ended in disaster for the Russian military. It was the 1914 Battle of Tannenberg, and over 30,000 Russian troops were killed or wounded. All the while, another estimated 90,000 were taken as prisoners of war by Germany (who only suffered an approximate 12,000 casualties). Nicholas was devastated, and forcefully assumed direct control of the Russian military, leaving his ambitious – but highly unqualified – wife, Alexandra, in charge of the government. Rumors and reports of Alexandra’s incompetence in matters of governance spread far and wide. This, coupled with dissatisfaction of the growing influence of Grigori Rasputin, deeply troubled the Russian people. Rasputin was viewed as a fatal cancer of the Tsarist regime.
While things were beginning to unravel within the borders of the Russian Empire, other issues were taking a turn for the worse in the Russian military. Germany had set its eyes on the east, and they were dramatically better equipped than the Russian army was. The German march to the east repelled Russians out of Glacia and Russian Poland. As 1916 drew to a close, an estimated 1.6 to 1.8 million Russian soldiers were lost as a result of casualties, and another 2 million were taken as prisoners of war, with 1 million more reported as MIA. This added up to a total of 5 million losses for Russia.
A war that was intended to boost Russian morale and patriotism had done quite the opposite. The crisis in morale "was rooted fundamentally in the feeling of utter despair that the slaughter would ever end and that anything resembling victory could be achieved.”
These defeats created several issues in Russia, as members of the working-class became disgruntled. There was a dramatic increase in strikes as working conditions became worse under a faltering economy. Proletariat women worked over 40 hours a week, many of them having to turn to prostitution or crime. There were reports of the poor tearing down wooden fences in an effort to keep hearth fires lit and citizens warm. Government officials became concerned about how much longer the people’s patience would last, and one report even warned rather solemnly, of “the possibility in the near future of riots by the lower classes of the empire enraged by the burdens of daily existence.” Through all of this chaos, Nicholas received the blame, and the minimal support that he had left began to crumble. The Tsar received several warnings about the discontented of his people; nevertheless, he ignored them, pressing on with his Divine Right to rule.
In early February, the city of Petrograd (previously Saint Petersburg) saw massive strikes. On March 7, 1917, the city’s largest industrial plant (Putilov) saw many of its workers go on strike. The next day, which was International Women’s Day, several gatherings were organized across the country. Many of the gatherings quickly filled with economic and political discussion. Gatherings quickly turned into protests, and protesters demanded bread – and overall better living conditions. The women leading these protests marched to various factories, drawing an estimated 50,000 workers out to strike. Over the course of the next three days, virtually every factory and business in Petrograd had been shut down due to the strikes. White-collar workers, proletariat, and students all gathered for educational and public meetings.
In order to reduce the effects of the riots, the still living Tsar turned to the military. While there were over 100,000 troops available to the capital, only an estimated 12,000 were useful to the Tsar, and many of them proved unwilling to move into the crowd. This is assumed by many historians to have been caused by the large number of women in the demonstrations. It was because of this unwillingness to take action that troops committed mass mutiny on March 10 when the Tsar ordered the troops to suppress the rioters.
That same morning, the Tsar prorogued the Duma, leaving it with no legal authority to act. In response, several committees and Socialist parties were established in Petrograd, drawing effectively all of the previous loyalists to their cause.
The Tsar immediately boarded a train to Petrograd, which was stopped by a group of disloyal troops. After he finally reached his destination, the few government figures who had remained advised him to abdicate his throne in order to calm the masses. He took that advice, and named his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, as his successor. Alexandrovich quickly realized that he could not satisfy the people, and declined the throne, unless it was given to him through democratic processes. Six days later, Nicholas (no longer the Tsar) was reunited with his family and placed under house arrest in Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo by the provisional government.
The Provisional Government
A group who claimed to represent the interests of the proletariat challenged the Provisional government that had been installed after the downfall of Tsar Nicholas II: The Petrograd Soviet Council of Worker’s Deputies. The model for this council had been established during the Russian Revolution of 1905, when workers on strike would elect deputies to represent them. On February 27, this group (mostly comprised on Menshevik deputies and Socialist revolutionaries) organized to create the citywide council in the Tauride Palace. This happened to be the same building where the new provisional government was being developed. The council met in the same building, not to compete with the Duma committee for state power, but to exert their power in order to encourage the new government to be ruled democratically.
The leaders of the Petrograd Soviet Council believed that they represented certain classes of the nation, and not the people as a whole. They also believed that Russia was not fully prepared for Socialism. Because of these two perspectives, they determined that their role was to pressure hesitant members of the bourgeoisie to rule, and implement dramatic democratic reforms in Russia. They sought to replace the monarchy with a republic, guarantee civil rights, create a democratic police and military force, abolish religious and ethnic discrimination, and more.
The relationship between the Petrograd council and the provisional government was a complex one from the beginning. The representative from the provisional government swore to "take into account the opinions of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies", though they were also determined to prevent "interference in the actions of the government", which would create "an unacceptable situation of dual power." Still, despite the intentions of the provisional government, the same dual power that they attempted to prevent would come into being, though less by their own fault, and more by the result of social actions taking place in the streets, factories, and trenches of Russia.
A series of political crises between the general population and their rulers would begin to strip the provisional government of its power, but it would also have the same effect on the soviet government of the time. Although members of the Soviet leadership initially refused to participate in what they labeled the "bourgeois" Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, a young and popular member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP), agreed to join the new cabinet. From there, he became an increasingly central figure in the government, and he would eventually taking leadership of the Provisional Government.
As the Minister of War – and the later Prime Minister – Kerensky promoted civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, he released prisoners of war, and did his very best to continue the war effort. Nevertheless, Kerensky faced many large obstacles. These were highlighted by the pleas of the working-class who claimed that they had truly gained nothing by the revolution.
The group that provided the most misfortune for Kerensky, and would later overthrow him, was the Bolsheviks – lead by Vladimir Lenin. Lenin, who had been exiled to Switzerland after the February Revolution, was finally able to return, but wartime made it difficult. Eventually, Germany arranged to protect Lenin on his journey to his motherland in hopes that he would weaken Russia, or – better still – withdraw them from the war. On the same note, German officials were so afraid that he would radicalize their own people that they would only transport him in a sealed and isolated train. After boarding the train, Lenin would arrive in Petrograd in April of 1917.
With Lenin’s arrival in Petrograd, the popularity of the Bolsheviks skyrocketed. Over the course of the spring, dissatisfaction with the war and the provisional government lead workers and soldiers to become radicalized. Still, despite the growing popularity of the Bolsheviks, their party maintained very little power and representation in the actual government. Because of this, many historians argue that Lenin and his supporters were not prepared for an increase in their popularity that would translate into real power.
In June, the provisional government launched a poorly planned attack against Germany, which failed epically. Soon after, the government ordered troops back to the front, going back on a pre-established promise. Russian soldiers refused to obey this order. The arrival of Kronstadt sailors only further fueled the mounting revolutionary atmosphere. The sailors and soldier – accompanied by workers – took to the streets in violent protest. Lenin, however, did not approve of the protests. In the aftermath, Lenin fled the country to seek refuge in Finland. Meanwhile, Trotsky – along with other Bolshevik leaders – was arrested.
The July Days proved the popularity and success of the radical Bolsheviks; however, their inability to lead a successful revolution lost them much support among the majority of their supporters: soldiers and proletariat workers.
Fortunately, for the Bolsheviks, their failures during the July days proved to be a temporary impediment. In February of 1917, the Bolsheviks were numbered at approximately 24,000 members, but by September of the same year, their numbers had grown to 200,000. Prior to September, the Bolsheviks were the minority of political activists, behind Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. Afterwards, they were the majority.
In August, a poorly informed General Lavr Kornilov was lead to believe that radicals had already seized the Petrograd government. In response to this perceived failure in Petrograd, Kornilov ordered troops in the area to “pacify” the city. His attempts to cause a coupe overall failed, strengthening the resolve of the Bolsheviks.
In early September, the Petrograd Soviet freed all members of the Bolshevik party, and Trotsky became the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.
Meanwhile, in Finland, Lenin tirelessly worked away on his book, State and Revolution, and continued to lead his party by writing newspaper articles and policy declarations. By October, he returned to Petrograd. He felt that the time for a new revolution was ripe, and that the provisional government was in perfect condition to be seized.
Lenin, recognizing the strength of the Bolshevik party, stated that there should be an immediate upheaval of the government. He argued that it should take place in both Petrograd and Moscow. While he did not claim that one needed to rise before another, he assumed that Moscow would rise first. The Bolshevik Central Committee drafted a resolution that called for an end to the provisional government. The resolution passed with a vote of 10-2, and the October Revolution officially began.
The October Revolution
Vladimir Lenin – influenced by the writings of German philosopher, economist, and sociologist, Karl Marx – led the October Revolution, pushing the political philosophy of Marxism. This began the spread of Communism in the 20th century. Unlike the revolution in February, this was a far more calculated rebellion from beginning to end.
While Lenin was technically the leader of the Bolshevik party, many argued that it was Trotsky and his leadership that had led to the revolution, and that it was simply inspired by the seeds planted by Lenin (who had been absent during the takeover of the Winter Palace).
On November 7, 1917, Lenin led his Bolshevik revolutionaries in an uprising against the ineffective Provisional Government. This revolution finished the work that had been begun in February by overthrowing the Provisional Government, and replacing it with a government ruled by the soviets. Many liberals and monarchists who were angered by the revolution immediately initiated several battles against the Red Army of the Bolsheviks, beginning what would come to be known as the Russian Civil War.
Membership in the soviet government was initially selected by free election; however, many Anarchists and other leftist groups posed a threat to the Bolsheviks by attempting to undermine them from within. When it became obvious that Bolsheviks had very little support outside of Petrograd and Moscow, they passed rules that prevented anyone who was not a Bolshevik from joining the Soviet government.
This action created massive social tension throughout Russia, causing many to call for a third Russian Revolution. In fact, many rebellions were launched against the Bolsheviks, including the Tambov Rebellion  and the Kronstadt rebellion. These massive movements against the Bolsheviks were ultimately defeated by the end of the Russian Civil War, however, and there were no more Russian Revolutions.
To bring the Revolution of 1917 to a close, Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family were executed by the Bolsheviks on July 16.
The impacts of this revolution spread across the globe, and several Socialist movements erupted throughout Europe. After their failure, a young Joseph Stalin advocated Socialism in one country, stating that Russia was the only nation to have successfully installed a Socialist state. This bread the beginning of National Socialism, which was contradictory to Marx’s idealized global Communist society.
Chapter 3: Cuban Revolution (1959)
“The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.”
The History (Overview)
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 was an armed revolt led by Fidel Castro during his 26th of July Movement against the authoritarian government ruled by President Fulgencio Batista. The Revolution began in July of 1953, and continued intermittently until rebel forces finally defeated Batista on January 1, 1959. When the president had been overthrown, his totalitarian government was replaced with a Socialist state. The movement slowly evolved the government, giving control over to Communist Party in October of 1959.
This revolution in Cuba had massive impacts domestically as well as internationally (namely the damaging of relations between Cuba and the United States). In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro began the process of political consolidation that transformed Cuba’s economic and civil society. This period also marked the beginning of a series of foreign interventions from Cuba, including involvement in the Angolan Civil War and the Nicaraguan Revolution.
Fight for Revolution
The causes of the Cuban Revolution can be traced as far back as 1902, when Cuba gained independence from Spain. During this period, Cuba suffered massive economic instability, internal revolts, coups, and United States interventionism. Batista, a former Cuban soldier – and the president of Cuba from 1940 to 1944 – became president for a second time in 1952 after leading a military coup and cancelling the election that was scheduled to take place that same year. While Batista had been something of a progressive during his first term, he proved to be much more autocratic and indifferent to the needs of his people during his second term.
During his first term as president, Batista had been supported by the Communist party; nevertheless, he became incredibly anti-Communist during his second term in power. This gained him massive political support from the United States.
With all of his power and influence, Batista developed an efficient system for silencing political opponents. In the months following Batista’s 1952 coup, Fidel Castro – then a lawyer and activist – circulated a petition that called for the overthrow of Batista by accusing him of tyranny of corruption. Alas, Castro’s constitutional arguments were disregarded by the Cuban courts of the time. It was at that time – after recognizing that legal means could not bring Cuba back to what it was before Batista – which Fidel Castro decided to resort to a physical revolution. He and his brother Raúl formed a military organization that came to be known as “The Movement.” This organization stockpiled weapons for an armed resistance to the Batista regime, and had a membership of approximately 1,200 followers from Havana’s afflicted working-class by the end of 1952.
As the first attack on the Batista government, Fidel and Raúl gathered 123 men from The Movement and staged a complex attack on multiple military installations controlled by the Batista government. In July, the rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the barracks in Bayamo, only to be swiftly crushed by the military resistance. Estimates claim that nine men were killed in the fighting, and another 56 were executed after being captured by Batista’s government.
Shortly thereafter, multiple key members of The Movement were captured, including both of the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raúl. In the trials to follow, Fidel defended himself with ferocity for nearly four hours, ending his defense by saying, “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.” Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison at Presidio Modelo prison, located on Isla de Pinos, while his brother was sentenced to only 13 years.
In 1955, Batista came under intense political pressure to release all of his political prisoners, including Fidel and Raúl. The brothers quickly fled to Mexico, where the continued to organize the resistance and train themselves to overthrow Batista. It was here that Fidel met Che Guevara: an Argentinean revolutionary who would come to join the Castro brothers’ cause.
After vigorous preparation, the Castro brothers set sail with 80 other revolutionaries on a boat that was designed to carry 12 to 25 men. They arrived in Cuba on December 2. After landing, the group marched for the Sierra Maestra Mountains, a range in southeastern Cuba. Three days into the journey, the group was attacked by the Batista military, and a majority of the rebels were killed. As a result, only an estimated twenty or so rebels survived the violence.
Fidel, Raúl, Che Guevara, and a man named Camilo Cienfuegos were all separated from one another during the attack. They were left wandering throughout Cuba in search of one another, and would not be united for some time. With the help of several sympathizers, the group was united, and formed the core leadership of a guerilla army. Several female revolutionaries, such as Celia Sanchez and Haydée Santamaría, also aided the Castro brothers in their mountain operations.
On March 13, 1957, a new group of revolutionaries – an antiCommunist body known as the Student Revolutionary Directorate (RD) – stormed the presidential palace in Havana in an attempt to execute Batista and end his government’s tyrannical reign. Unfortunately, for the RD, the attack ended in failure after their student leader, José Antonio Echeverría, died in a conflict in a Havana radio station that had been seized to spread word about Batista’s malicious governance.
After these violent actions took place, the United States placed an economic embargo on Cuba and withdrew their ambassador from the country. This only weakened the governments mandate to a greater degree. Many previous supporters of the Batista regime began to either distance themselves from their president or join revolutionary forces. All the while, the United States business world and Mafia maintained strong support for Batista.
Batista knew that he was losing control over his country, so he became increasingly oppressive in local cities. In the mountain sides, Castro still kept busy by attacking small groups of Batista’s troops; doing everything that he could to weaken the autocrat’s forces.
Aside from armed resistance, Castro and the Cuban Revolutionaries fought against Batista by utilizing propaganda. They owned a pirated radio station called Rebel Radio, which was set up in 1958.
During all of this time, Fidel’s forces remained relatively low in number (sometimes fewer than 200 men), while Batista maintained a military of approximately 37,000 troops. Nevertheless, with all of these figures in mind, the Cuban military was still constantly forced to retreat from the rebel forces. Almost as though the full gravity of the situation had not set in on Batista and his government, the state of affairs were only going to worsen. The United States placed an arms embargo on Cuba, weakening Batista substantially. The Cuban forces continued to dwindle without support from the United States.
Eventually, it became painfully clear to Batista that he could no longer remain on the defensive, and so he launched an attack into the mountains. The dictator sent an estimated 12,000 troops – about half of whom were untrained members of the Batista military. In a surprising victory, the guerrilla forces, led by Castro, decimated Batista’s men. Fidel’s luck would continue. In the later Battle of La Plata, Castro and his forced overcame a battalion of 500 men, capturing 240 of them while losing only three of their own troops.
After Castro’s successful resistance of the Batista organized attacks on the mountainside, Castro began his own offensive against the Batista government. Fidel and Raúl, accompanied by several other revolutionaries, staged the attack from four separate fronts. Descending from multiple faces of the mountains, Castro and his rebel forces gained many initial victories during their offensive. Castro claimed victory in Guisa, as well as victories in several towns, such as Maffo, Contramaestre, and Central Oriente.
Elsewhere, three other groups of rebels were launching their attacks. Led by Che Guevara and a few other revolutionaries, they moved towards Santa Clara (the capital of Villa Clara Province). Batista retaliated against one of the three groups, led by Jaime Vega, and while his group was defeated, the other two groups of rebels made their way to the capital. Eventually the forces of Che and the other remaining rebel leader, Camilo Cienfuegos, all met together and merged with Castro’s forces. Along the way, they were forced to unite with the RD. While there was substantial tension between the two groups, they were able to come together and win the Battle of Yaguajay on December 30, 1958.
The next day, the violence continued in the Battle of Santa Clara. The city of Santa Clara was captured by Che and his rebels, alongside the antiCommunist RD. Batista was horrified by the progress of the rebels, and just hours after receiving the news, on January 1, 1959, he fled the country. He headed for the Dominican Republic while the remaining rebels continued the conquest and captured the key city of Cienfuegos.
The following morning, Fidel Castro was made aware of Batista’s departure and began negotiations for the takeover of Santiago de Cuba. The soldiers defending the area were ordered not to attack and Castro marched on the city to claim his victory. Castro’s first choice for the presidency, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took office on January 3, 1959.
Following the Revolution
Fidel left Cuba to visit the United States on April 15, 1959. The stay would last for 11 days, and he would visit the American Society of Newspaper Editors. While there, he famously stated, "I know the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clear that we are not Communists; very clear."
Meanwhile, in Cuba, hundreds of policemen and soldiers who had served under Batista were being put on trial. They faced accusations of human rights abuses, war crimes, torture, and even murder. For those found guilty, there were two major punishments: prolonged imprisonment or death by firing squad. While there were no fair trials and no due process was honored, most historians agree that the victims of firing squads were most likely guilty.
In return for his services, Fidel placed Che Guevara in the position of supreme prosecutor at La Cabaña Fortress. This was part of a large-scale attempt by Fidel Castro to cleanse the security forces of Batista loyalists and potential opponents of the new revolutionary government.
The Period of Reformation
Within the first decade of his power, Fidel Castro began to institute a wide range of social reforms throughout Cuba. The first steps that were taken granted greater rights for women, as well as Black Cubans. Fidel also attempted to improve communications, hospitals, housing, health, and education. By the end of the 1960’s, every child in Cuba was receiving some form of education (in comparison to fewer than half before Castro’s takeover in 1959). Unemployment was reduced, and large advancements in sanitation and hygiene were made.
By some accounts, nearly 75% of Cuba’s arable farmland was owned by foreign (most American) companies before the Revolution. Accompanied by legislation to combat illiteracy, laws were passed in reference to land ownership. These land reforms led to an increase in living standards and the use of cooperatives.
Shortly after taking power, Castro also created a revolutionary militia to expand his power base among the former rebels and the supportive population. He also created the informant Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) in late 1960. Local CDRs were tasked with maintaining "vigilance against counter-revolutionary activity" or any other “suspicious activity.” This led to excessive persecution of certain groups, such as homosexuals.
In February of 1950, Castro formed the Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados, also known as the Ministry for Recovery of Misappropriated Assets. Using the Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados, Castro seized many large agrarian lands, and nationalized businesses and factories that were run by the middle and upper classmen of Cuba. Within a decade, the Cuban government had seized an estimated $25 billion in private assets.
In 1961, Castro nationalized private religious land, expelling several Catholics from the country, and making Cuba an officially Atheist nation. Education also saw significant reforms. Castro eliminated private schooling and allowed for the progressively Socialist state to claim more responsibility for children.
Fidel Castro served as the ruler of Cuba, first as the Prime Minister, and then as President until 2008. His brother, Raúl Castro, assumed power the same month that Fidel retired.
The effects of the Cuban Revolution spread across the globe, and several third world countries gained hope that they could stand up to the imperialistic powers of the first world, as well as take a stance against Capitalism and overall oppression from fascist states.
Chapter 4: Spanish Revolution (1936)
“There are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.”
The History (Overview)
The Spanish Revolution of 1936 was born out of social strife as a worker’s revolution during the beginning of the Spanish Civil war that had broken out in the same year. The revolution resulted in the widespread adoption of Anarchist and libertarian-Socialist principles and organizations, predominately in Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and parts of the Valencian Community.
After the successful revolution, much of the economy in Spain came under Anarchist control. Some estimates show that Anarchists controlled as much as 75% of areas like Catalonia. Throughout the nation, massive organizations of workers formed, and they took control of the entire industry of Spain.
As many as eight million people were estimated to have participated in the Spanish Revolution at one point or another. Sam Dolgoff once wrote that these millions of citizens "came closer to realizing the ideal of the free stateless society on a vast scale than any other revolution in history." In fact, Dolgoff had much to say on the Spanish Revolution of 1936. He wrote:
“In Spain during almost three years, despite a civil war that took a million lives, despite the opposition of the political parties (republicans, left and right Catalan separatists, Socialists, Communists, Basque and Valencian regionalists, petty bourgeoisie, etc.), this idea of libertarian Communism was put into effect. Very quickly more than 60% of the land was collectively cultivated by the peasants themselves, without landlords, without bosses, and without instituting Capitalist competition to spur production. In almost all the industries, factories, mills, workshops, transportation services, public services, and utilities, the rank and file workers, their revolutionary committees, and their syndicates reorganized and administered production, distribution, and public services without Capitalists, high salaried managers, or the authority of the state.
Even more: the various agrarian and industrial collectives immediately instituted economic equality in accordance with the essential principle of Communism, 'From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.' They coordinated their efforts through free association in whole regions, created new wealth, increased production (especially in agriculture), built more schools, and bettered public services. They instituted not bourgeois formal democracy but genuine grass roots functional libertarian democracy, where each individual participated directly in the revolutionary reorganization of social life. They replaced the war between men, 'survival of the fittest,' by the universal practice of mutual aid, and replaced rivalry by the principle of solidarity....
This experience, in which about eight million people directly or indirectly participated, opened a new way of life to those who sought an alternative to anti-social Capitalism on the one hand, and totalitarian state bogus Socialism on the other.”
The effort to move towards a more collectivized society was led largely by high-ranking officials in the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT; English: National Confederation of Labor) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI; English: Iberian Anarchist Federation). The non-Anarchist Socialist Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT; English: General Union of Workers) also participated in the implementation of collectivization, albeit to a far lesser degree.
George Orwell Comments on the Revolution
George Orwell was a renowned author, famous for his anti-authoritarian works, such as Animal Farm, and 1984. He was also a soldier for the CNT ally group, known as the Partido Obrero Unificación Marxista (POUM; English: Workers' Party of Marxist Unification). In his book, Homage to Catalonia, Orwell discusses his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, as well as his deep admiration for the social revolution that was taking place throughout the country. He once wrote:
“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 Aragon 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 civilized 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.”
He went on to describe how he had felt an Anarchist Spain had abolished hierarchical systems, and about his admiration for its social accomplishments. He stated:
“This was in late December 1936, less than seven months ago as I write, and yet it is a period that has already receded into enormous distance. Later events have obliterated it much more completely than they have obliterated 1935, or 1905, for that matter. I had come to Spain with some notion of writing newspaper articles, but I had joined the militia almost immediately, because at that time and in that atmosphere it seemed the only conceivable thing to do. The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it probably seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working-class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags and with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said 'Señor' or 'Don' or even 'Usted'; everyone called everyone else 'Comrade' or 'Thou', and said 'Salud!' instead of 'Buenos días'. Tipping had been forbidden by law since the time of Primo de Rivera; almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from a hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy. There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered, and the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and black. The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud. Down the Ramblas, the wide central artery of the town where crowds of people streamed constantly to and fro, the loud-speakers were bellowing revolutionary songs all day and far into the night. And it was the aspect of the crowds that was the queerest thing of all. In outward appearance it was a town in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist. Except for a small number of women and foreigners there were no 'well-dressed' people at all. Practically everyone wore rough working-class clothes, or blue overalls or some variant of militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in this that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for...so far as one could judge the people were contented and hopeful. There was no unemployment, and the price of living was still extremely low; you saw very few conspicuously destitute people, and no beggars except the gypsies. Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the Capitalist machine."
Orwell’s recognition of the accomplishments of Revolutionary Catalonia serve as a breath of fresh air for many contemporary Anarchists and Socialists, because it is quite rare for a figure of Orwell’s prestige to promote their ideals and successes through the lens of non-fiction. At one point, Orwell even wrote that, “I had told everyone for a long time past that I was going to leave the P.O.U.M. As far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists.” Orwell offered his sympathy and solidarity to democratic Socialists and libertarian Socialists around the world.
Social Revolution in Spain
While the Spanish Revolution of 1936 accomplished many impressive feats, one of its greatest success was the implementation of a libertarian Socialist economy, which was largely based cooperation by many communes, considering as one of the key aspects of a libertarian Socialist economy is decentralization. The revolution drew the opinions of many large public figures, and substantially fueled the motivation of many later Anarchist and Socialist organizations. Andrea Oltmares, a professor in the University of Geneva, said:
"In the midst of the civil war the Anarchists have proved themselves to be political organizers of the first rank. They kindled in everyone the required sense of responsibility, and knew how, by eloquent appeals, to keep alive the spirit of sacrifice for the general welfare of the people. "As a Social Democrat I speak here with inner joy and sincere admiration of my experiences in Catalonia. The anti-Capitalist transformation took place here without their having to resort to a dictatorship. The members of the syndicates are their own masters and carry on the production and the distribution of the products of labor under their own management, with the advice of technical experts in whom they have confidence. The enthusiasm of the workers is so great that they scorn any personal advantage and are concerned only for the welfare of all."
The renowned anti-Fascist, Carlo Roselli, who was a Professor of Economics in the University of Genoa, gave his own opinion when he penned the following:
"In three months Catalonia has been able to set up a new social order on the ruins of an ancient system. This is chiefly due to the Anarchists, who have revealed a quite remarkable sense of proportion, realistic understanding, and organizing ability...all the revolutionary forces of Catalonia have united in a program of Syndicalist-Socialist character: socialization of large industry; recognition of the small proprietor, workers' control...Anarcho-Syndicalism, hitherto so despised, has revealed itself as a great constructive force...I am not an Anarchist, but I regard it as my duty to express here my opinion of the Anarchists of Catalonia, who have all too often been represented to the world as a destructive, if not criminal, element. I was with them at the front, in the trenches, and I have learnt to admire them. The Catalonian Anarchists belong to the advance guard of the coming revolution. A new world was born with them, and it is a joy to serve that world."
Fenner Brockway, the Secretary of the I.L.P. in England articulated his observations when he wrote:
"I was impressed by the strength of the C.N.T. It was unnecessary to tell me that it was the largest and most vital of the working-class organizations in Spain. The large industries were clearly, in the main, in the hands of the C.N.T.--railways, road transport, shipping, engineering, textiles, electricity, building, agriculture. At Valencia the U.G.T. had a larger share of control than at Barcelona, but generally speaking the mass of manual workers belonged to the C.N.T. The U.G.T. membership was more of the type of the 'white-collar' worker...I was immensely impressed by the constructive revolutionary work which is being done by the C.N.T. Their achievement of workers' control in industry is an inspiration. One could take the example of the railways or engineering or textiles...There are still some Britishers and Americans who regard the Anarchists of Spain as impossible, undisciplined, uncontrollable. This is poles away from the truth. The Anarchists of Spain, through the C.N.T., are doing one of the biggest constructive jobs ever done by the working-class. At the front they are fighting Fascism. Behind the front they are actually constructing the new Workers' Society. They see that the war against Fascism and the carrying through of the Social Revolution are inseparable. Those who have seen and understand what they are doing must honour them and be grateful to them. They are resisting Fascism. They are at the same time creating the New Workers' Order which is the only alternative to Fascism. That is surely the biggest things now being done by the workers in any part of the world." And in another place: "The great solidarity that existed amongst the Anarchists was due to each individual relying on his own strength and not depending on leadership. The organizations must, to be successful, be combined with a free-thinking people; not a mass, but free individuals."
This was all accomplished by the universal collectivization of private property throughout all of Spain. This was all done in order to align with the popular Anarchist view that, as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon would say, “Property is Theft.” Spanish Civil War scholar (and anti-Socialist) Burnett Bolloten writes of this process:
“The economic changes that followed the military insurrection were no less dramatic than the political. In those provinces where the revolt had failed the workers of the two trade union federations, the Socialist UGT and the Anarcho-syndicalist CNT, took into their hands a vast portion of the economy. Landed properties were seized; some were collectivized, others were distributed among the peasants, and notarial archives as well as registers of property were burnt in countless towns and villages. Railways, tramcars and buses, taxicabs and shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines and cement works, textile mills and paper factories, electrical and chemical concerns, glass bottle factories and perfumeries, food-processing plants and breweries, as well as a host of other enterprises, were confiscated or controlled by workmen's committees, either term possessing for the owners almost equal significance in practice. Motion-picture theatres and legitimate theatres, newspapers and printing shops, department stores and bars, were likewise sequestered or controlled as were the headquarters of business and professional associations and thousands of dwellings owned by the upper class.”
Anarchist collective were operated on the basic principle that was developed by Communist theorists: “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability.” In some areas of Spain, currency was entirely eliminated. As Bolloten wrote, the currency of these parts of Spain was replaced with vouchers and coupons based on the needs of the people, and not on the contributions that they have provided with their labor. On this same subject, he also wrote:
“In many communities money for internal use was abolished, because, in the opinion of Anarchists, 'money and power are diabolical philtres, which turn a man into a wolf, into a rabid enemy, instead of into a brother.' 'Here in Fraga [a small town in Aragon], you can throw banknotes into the street,' ran an article in a Libertarian paper, 'and no one will take any notice. Rockefeller, if you were to come to Fraga with your entire bank account you would not be able to buy a cup of coffee. Money, your God and your servant, has been abolished here, and the people are happy.' In those Libertarian communities where money was suppressed, wages were paid in coupons, the scale being determined by the size of the family. Locally produced goods, if abundant, such as bread, wine, and olive oil, were distributed freely, while other articles could be obtained by means of coupons at the communal depot. Surplus goods were exchanged with other Anarchist towns and villages, money being used only for transactions with those communities that had not adopted the new system.”
In order to supplement his views, he quoted the famous Anarchist journalist, Augustin Souchy , who once wrote, "The characteristic of the majority of CNT collectives is the family wage. Wages are paid according to the needs of the members and not according to the labor performed by each worker." These arguments are largely recognized by many historians as the basic principles of anarcho-Communist schools of thought.
Of course, despite the massive progress of the revolutionaries, many citizens – who were more concerned about the success of the economic success of the country than the wellbeing of the workers within Spain – were upset with the potential problems that an Anarchist society posed. They argued that it would hinder the maximum efficiency of the Spanish economy; nevertheless, the Anarchists had physical proof that this would not happen. In some areas of Spain, such as Aragon, the productivity increased as much as 20%.
Not only had the Anarchist societies in Spain exceeded the expectations of their predecessors, but they had also achieved many more of their own independent goals. These newly liberated zones operated exclusively on the principles of libertarian Socialism, and decisions were made by councils of citizens with no direct authority. No bureaucracy was used in any of these liberated zones.
In addition to these economic victories, several social victories took place as well. Any and all traditions that were widely viewed as oppressive were done away with. As a matter of example, women were now allowed to get abortions, and the practice of “free love” became accepted. Many historians link these practices and views to the uprising of “the New Left” in the 1960’s.
Unfortunately, the revolutionary spirit that was so prevalent in the beginning of the Spanish Revolution began to fade as the Spanish Civil War dragged on. Much of the blame for this phenomenon is placed on the Communist Party of Spain, which guided itself based on the principles of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. The Communist Party argued that the Spanish Civil War was not the time for revolutionary actions, and that winning the war was more important than the abolition of the oppressive Capitalist system in Spain. Other left-wing parties, such as Orwell’s P.O.U.M., stood in adamant opposition to this line of thinking. This caused a rift between many left-wing parties, making unification against Capitalism a difficult process. Because of this divide, as well as the funding provided to the Republican areas of Spain, the Anarchist portions of Spain slowly reverted to pre-war conditions, and the Revolution faded.
From July 21, 1936 to 1939, Catalonia was in a period of Anarchist rule, and is known by history as “Revolutionary Catalonia.” In northeastern Spain, Catalonia was (as was aforementioned) an Anarchist and Socialist state. While, generally speaking, the Generalitat de Catalunya (or the government of Catalonia) was charged with decision making; however, it was more often than not the unions and other Socialist/Anarchist organizations that ran Catalonia.
While a centralized government was in direct opposition to the ideas of Anarchism – and Anarchists often insulted Socialist parties for working with the state – they eventually decided to participate in the Catalonian government.
The events of Catalonia, in and of themselves, constitute their own sub-headings. The culture that grew out of the revolutions in Catalonia was astonishing and amazing, and will indubitably be studied by historians for centuries to come.
The Beginnings of Worker’s Self-Management
After several Anarchist and Socialist groups took control of Catalonia, the people seized many private industries and properties. These included, but were not limited to railways, streetcars, buses, taxicabs, shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines, mills, factories, food-processing plants, theaters, newspapers, bars, hotels, restaurants, department stores, and thousands of dwellings previously owned by the upper classes.
Trade union control also spread to other areas of the economy not dominated by the bourgeoisie, such as small businesses and other middle-class institutions. Several businesses were collectivized, such as the sail of fish and eggs, slaughterhouses, fruit and vegetable markets, and several more industries. While many companies collectivized, some refused in an effort to maintain pre-war conditions, but with higher wages for their workers.
In the beginning, this collectivization caused mass economic confusion. One Albert Pérez-Baró described the scene as follows:
“After the first few days of euphoria, the workers returned to work and found themselves without responsible management. This resulted in the creation of workers' committees in factories, workshops and warehouses, which tried to resume production with all the problems that a transformation of this kind entailed. Owing to inadequate training and the sabotage of some of the technicians who remained many others had fled with the owners the workers' committees and other bodies that were improvised had to rely on the guidance of the unions.... Lacking training in economic matters, the union leaders, with more good will than success, began to issue directives that spread confusion in the factory committees and enormous chaos in production. This was aggravated by the fact that each union... gave different and often contradictory instruction.”
In response to the problems therein posed, the general government of Catalonia – on October 24, 1936 – approved a ruling for “Collectivization and Workers' Control.” Once this decree was passed, all organizations and businesses with over 100 members were required to collectivize, and all organizations and businesses with fewer than 100 members could collectivize if the majority of workers agreed to the conditions set forward.- All of these newly collectivized industries were supposed to join industrial councils, which would represent the decentralized economy. This council was known as the Economic Council of Catalonia.
The goal of this council was to allow for economic planning for civilian and military needs and stop the selfishness of more prosperous industries by using their profits to help others. However, these plans for libertarian Socialism based on trade unions was opposed by the Socialists and Communists who wanted a nationalized industry, as well as by unions which did not want to give up their profits to other businesses.
After the initial disruption, the unions soon began an overall reorganization of all trades, closing down hundreds of smaller plants and focusing on those few better equipped ones, improving working conditions. In the region of Catalonia, more than seventy foundries were closed down, and production concentrated around twenty-four larger foundries. The CNT argued that the smaller plants were less efficient and secure. In Barcelona, 905 smaller beauty shops and barbershops were closed down, their equipment and workers being focused on 212 larger shops.
Although there were early issues with production in certain instances, however, numerous sources attest that industrial productivity doubled almost everywhere across the country and agricultural yields being "30-50%" larger, demonstrated by Emma Goldman, Augustin Souchy, Chris Ealham, Eddie Conlon, Daniel Guerin and others.
As Eddie Conlon wrote:
“If you didn't want to join the collective you were given some land but only as much as you could work yourself. You were not allowed to employ workers. Not only production was affected, distribution was on the basis of what people needed. In many areas money was abolished. People come to the collective store (often churches which had been turned into warehouses) and got what was available. If there were shortages rationing would be introduced to ensure that everyone got their fair share. But it was usually the case that increased production under the new system eliminated shortages.
In agricultural terms the revolution occurred at a good time. Harvests that were gathered in and being sold off to make big profits for a few landowners were instead distributed to those in need. Doctors, bakers, barbers, etc. were given what they needed in return for their services. Where money was not abolished a 'family wage' was introduced so that payment was on the basis of need and not the number of hours worked.
Production greatly increased. Technicians and agronomists helped the peasants to make better use of the land. Modern scientific methods were introduced and in some areas yields increased by as much as 50%. There was enough to feed the collectivists and the militias in their areas. Often there was enough for exchange with other collectives in the cities for machinery. In addition food was handed over to the supply committees who looked after distribution in the urban areas.”
Collectivizing Rural Catalonia
Just as in the cities, peasant revolutionaries seized land in the countryside and organized collective farms. According to professor Edward E. Malefakis, between half and two-thirds of all cultivated land in Republican Spain was seized. The targets were mainly small and medium landholders, since most of the large landholdings had fallen to the nationalists.
Collectivization in the countryside generally began with the establishment of CNT-FAI committees. These committees collectivized the soil of the rich and in some cases the soil of the poor as well. Farm buildings, machinery, transport and livestock were also collectivized. Food reserves and other amenities were stored in a communal depot under committee control. In many localities, money was abolished and wages paid by coupons issued by the committee, the size of which was determined the size of the family. Locally produced goods were free if abundant, or bought with coupons at the communal storage. Money was only used in trade with regions that had not adopted this system, and trade with other Anarchist regions was done by barter. Since the committee controlled all the money supply, travel to another region required getting permission and money from the committee.
For the CNT, collectivization was a key component of the revolution, they feared that the small holders and tenant farmers would form the core of a new landholding class and act as an obstacle to the revolution. The Anarchists also believed that private ownership of land created a bourgeois mentality and led to exploitation. While the official policy of the CNT was that of peaceful voluntary collectivization and many small farmers and peasant proprietors voluntarily joined the collectives, a larger proportion of them opposed collectivization or joined only after extreme duress. The presence of armed CNT militiamen also had the effect of imposing fear on those who opposed collectivization. Those smallholders who refused collectivization were prevented from hiring any laborers and usually were forced to sell their crops directly to the committees, on their terms. They were also often denied the services of the collectivized businesses such as the barbershops and bakeries, use of communal transport, farm equipment and food supplies from communal warehouses. All of these economic pressures combined caused many tenant farmers and smallholders to give up their land and join the collectives.
While some joined voluntarily, others, especially in the beginning of the revolution, were forced to join the collectives by Anarchist militias. The anarcho-syndicalist periodical Solidaridad Obrera reported that: "Certain abuses have been committed that we consider counterproductive. We know that certain irresponsible elements have frightened the small peasants and that up to now a certain apathy has been noted in their daily labors."
The voluntary nature of the rural collectivization varied from region to region. According to Ralph Bates: "While there were plenty of abuses, forced collectivization, etc., there were plenty of good collectives, i.e., voluntary ones."
A number of scholars and writers on the subject of the Spanish Civil War counter that the presence of a "coercive climate" was an unavoidable aspect of the war that the Anarchists cannot be fairly blamed for, and that the presence of deliberate coercion or direct force was minimal, as evidenced by a generally peaceful mixture of collectivists and individualist dissenters who had opted not to participate in collective organization. The latter sentiment is expressed by historian Antony Beevor in his Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.
"The justification for this operation (whose ‘very harsh measures’ shocked even some Party members) was that since all the collectives had been established by force, Líster was merely liberating the peasants. There had undoubtedly been pressure, and no doubt force was used on some occasions in the fervor after the rising. But the very fact that every village was a mixture of collectivists and individualists shows that the peasants had not been forced into communal farming at the point of a gun."
Historian Graham Kelsey also maintains that the Anarchist collectives were primarily maintained through libertarian principles of voluntary association and organization, and that the decision to join and participate was generally based on a rational and balanced choice made after the destabilization and effective absence of Capitalism as a powerful factor in the region.
“Libertarian Communism and agrarian collectivization were not economic terms or social principles enforced upon a hostile population by special teams of urban anarchosyndicalists, but a pattern of existence and a means of rural organization adopted from agricultural experience by rural Anarchists and adopted by local committees as the single most sensible alternative to the part-feudal, part-Capitalist mode of organization that had just collapsed.”
There is also focus placed by pro-Anarchist analysts on the many decades of organization and shorter period of CNT-FAI agitation that was to serve as a foundation for high membership levels throughout Anarchist Spain, which is often referred to as a basis for the popularity of the Anarchist collectives, rather than any presence of force or coercion that allegedly compelled unwilling persons to involuntarily participate.
The disillusioned middle classes soon found allies in the Communist party, which was quite moderate in comparison to the CNT, and was notably against the mass collectivization of Spain. This moderate Communist appeal to the middle classes was in line with the Comintern strategy for a popular front alliance with the liberal and republican center parties.
The May Days
Because the Republican forces were largely supported by Soviet weapons, the Spanish Communist Party began to develop significant support. Furthermore, they often argued that they were advocating for a "bourgeois democracy" and that they were fighting in defense of the Republic, not for a worker’s revolution. Much of their opposition to a proletariat revolution, and collectivization, was fear of retaliation from Western Civilization. It is important to also note that the PSUC had also become the major defender of the Catalan middle classes against collectivization, organizing 18,000 tradesmen and artisans into the Catalan Federation of Small Businessmen and Manufacturers (GEPCI).
The Communist party’s decision to attack the growth and actions of the revolution brought it into conflict with the CNT-FAI, a chief backer of revolutionary committees, as well as the most influential proletariat association in all of Catalonia. A revolutionary by the name of Boletín de Información once said, "The thousands of proletarian combatants at the battle fronts are not fighting for the 'democratic Republic.' They are proletarian revolutionaries, who have taken up arms in order to make the Revolution. To postpone the triumph of the latter until after we win the war would weaken considerably the fighting spirit of the working-class.... The Revolution and the war are inseparable. Everything that is said to the contrary is reformist counterrevolution." Despite all of this, ministers of the CNT government also agreed to dissolve revolutionary committed, in hopes that it would lead to better relations with Britain and France.
In the Catalan government, power was divided between the PSUC, the CNT, and Republican Left of Catalonia (also known as the ERC). Another influential party in Barcelona was the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification), which adopted an anti-Stalinist and far left ideology. It was therefore denounced by the PSUC as a Trotskyist and Fascist organization. In turn, the POUM newspaper “La Batalla” accused Communists of being counterrevolutionary, and a threat to the interests of the proletariat. On December, 1936, the CNT and PSUC agreed to eliminate the POUM from the Catalan Generalitat. The PSUC now aimed to deteriorate the CNT committees through a coalition with the urban middle classes, as well as the bucolic tenant farmers in the Unió de Rabassaires. They passed an ordinance that banned the committees; however, they could not effectively enforce it. This was because police power in Barcelona had become divided between the CNT controlled patrols under the Junta de seguridad, on top of the Assault and National Republican guards, being commanded by the police commissioner Rodríguez Salas, a PSUC member. The PSUC and ERC proceeded to pass a set of decrees that aimed to dissolve these patrols, and – ultimately – create a single, unified security organization. CNT representatives in the Generalitat did not object; nevertheless, there was widespread dissatisfaction among Anarchists and the POUM. Further decrees by the Generalitat, which called up conscripts, dissolved military committees and provided for the integration of the militias into a regular army. This caused a crisis, during which, CNT ministers walked out of the government in protest. Tensions where only exacerbated following the well-publicized murders of PSUC secretary Roldán Cortada, and also the Anarchist committee president, Antonio Martín. Armed raids and attempts by the Republican guards to disarm the Anarchists and the seizure of towns along the French border from revolutionary committees led the CNT to mobilize and arm its own workers.
In what would come to be known as the Barcelona May Days of 1937, fighting erupted after civil guards endeavored to take over a CNT-run telephone building in Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya. George Orwell, who was in the POUM militia at the time, wrote about the events that preceded the belligerent activities:
“The immediate cause of friction was the Government's order to surrender all private weapons, coinciding with the decision to build up a heavily-armed 'non-political' police-force from which trade union members were to be excluded. The meaning of this was obvious to everyone; and it was also obvious that the next move would be the taking over of some of the key industries controlled by the C.N.T. In addition, there was a certain amount of resentment among the working-classes because of the growing contrast of wealth and poverty and a general vague feeling that the revolution had been sabotaged. Many people were agreeably surprised when there was no rioting on I May. On 3 May the Government decided to take over the Telephone Exchange, which had been operated since the beginning of the war mainly by C.N.T. workers; it was alleged that it was badly run and that official calls were being tapped. Salas, the Chief of Police (who may or may not have been exceeding his orders), sent three lorry-loads of armed Civil Guards to seize the building, while the streets outside were cleared by armed police in civilian clothes. At about the same time bands of Civil Guards seized various other buildings in strategic spots. Whatever the real intention may have been, there was a widespread belief that this was the signal for a general attack on the C.N.T. by the Civil Guards and the P.S.U.C. (Communists and Socialists). The word flew round the town that the workers' buildings were being attacked, armed Anarchists appeared on the streets, work ceased, and fighting broke out immediately.”
The Civil guards seized the base of the telephone building; however, they were prevented from taking the upper levels. Soon, in response to this attack, vehicles loaded with armed Anarchists arrived. CNT councilors call for the removal of Rodríguez Salas, but Lluís Companys refused. The POUM stood firm with the CNT, and they advised them to take control of the city, but the CNT appealed to the workers to cease the fighting.
With the situation worsening, an assembly of CNT representatives from Valencia and the Generalitat negotiated a ceasefire, as well a new provisional government. Still, despite these efforts, the fighting continued. Dissenting Anarchists – such as the "Friends of Durruti" – and radical members of the POUM, along with Bolshevik Leninists, spread propaganda in order to continue to the fighting. On May 5, prime minister Largo Caballero, under relentless pressure from the PSUC to seize control of public order in Catalonia, appointed a man by the title Colonel Antonio Escobar of the Republican Guard as delegate of public order.
On his arrival in Barcelona, Escobar was shot and seriously wounded.
After constant appeals by the POUM , CNT, and UGT for an armistice, the fighting abated on the morning of May 6. In the evening, news reached Barcelona that an estimated 1,500 assault guards were en route to the city. The CNT agreed on a truce after discussions with the minister of interior in Valencia. They agreed that the assault guards would not be attacked, so long as they refrained from violence, and that the CNT would order its members to abandon the barricades and go back to work. On May 7, the assault guards entered Barcelona unobstructed, and shortly there would be approximately 12,000 government troops in the city.
Suppression of the POUM and the CNT
In the days that followed, various Communist newspapers engaged in an immense propaganda campaign that targeted Anarchists and the POUM. “Pravda” and “the American Communist Daily Worker” claimed that Trotskyists and Fascists were to be held responsible for the uprising. Spanish Communist party newspapers also wildly condemned the POUM, denouncing them as conspirators and fascists. The Communists, supported by the centrist faction of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) under Indalecio Prieto now called for the POUM to be dissolved; however, Prime Minister Largo Caballero resisted this move, and the Communists left the government in protest.
The following crisis led to the removal of Largo Caballero by President Manuel Azaña. Azaña then appointed Juan Negrín (a centrist-Socialist, as well as an ally of the) as the new premier. The new cabinet was dominated by Communists, center-Socialists, and republicans. The Communist Party of Spain (PCE) had now come to the fore as the most significant force in the Republican government.
In Catalonia, the CNT’s independent police patrols were dissolved and disarmed. Another major blow to the CNT was the termination of innumerable committees all the way through Catalonia by the army. When President Companys formed a new cabinet, the CNT decided against participation. In the months that followed, Communists approved a campaign of arrests, tortures, and assassinations against their adversaries, the CNT. The incarceration of numerous Anarchists resulted in an upsurge of opposition from working-class sectors of the country. Meanwhile, Communists seized most the POUM governance.
The POUM secretary, Andrés Nin, was also arrested, sent to a secret prison in Alcalá de Henares, and eventually executed. Nin's disappearance – and the suppression of the POUM – caused an intercontinental uproar from various left-wing groups. This only further expanded the disunions within the Republic.
By the end of May, 1937, Communists were orchestrating a campaign to destroy the rural collectives. On August 11, the Eleventh popular army division dissolved the CNT controlled Regional Defense Council of Aragon with brutal force. With the support of the army and the assault guards, the tenant farmers who had lost their acreage in the commencement of the revolution now distributed the land that had been confiscated from the collectives. This caused extensive dissatisfaction amongst the peasants, and the situation became so calamitous that the Communist party’s agrarian commission admitted that "agricultural work was paralyzed" and was forced to reinstate some of the collectives.
In spite of the relentless attacks from the PCE, the CNT eventually agreed to sign a treaty of cooperation with the Communist controlled UGT . The pact was intended to protect the legality of the remaining collectives and worker's control, yet, at the same time, it recognized the authority of the state on matters such as nationalization of industry. In reality, the collectives were never established legal status, but the arrangement served to further divide the Anarchist movement between the anti-statist and collaborationist factions.
On March 7, 1938, the Nationalist forces launched a colossal offensive in Aragon. They were successful in smashing the Republican defenses so thoroughly that their forces had reached the Mediterranean coast by April 15, splitting the Republican territory into two distinct and separate areas. Catalonia was now cut off from the rest of the Republican territory.
By 1938, the Communist party controlled the new Military Investigation Service. The SIM was essentially dominated by Communists, allies, and Soviet agents such as Aleksandr Mikhailovich Orlov and used as a tool of political subjugation. According to Basque nationalist Manuel de Irujo, "hundreds and thousands of citizens" were prosecuted by SIM courts, and tortured in secret prisons.
Repression by the SIM – as well as declarations which eroded Catalan self-government by nationalizing the Catalan war industry – ports and courts caused widespread disgruntlement in Catalonia. There was now widespread hostility amongst Republicans, Catalans, Basques and Socialists towards the Negrin government. As the Communists were forced to rely on their control of the military and constabularies, confidence declined at the front, as countless rebellious Anarchists were arrested or shot by commissars and SIM agents.
In the meantime, there was a growing schism within the CNT and the FAI. Leading figures, such as Horacio Prieto and minister of education, Segundo Blanco, argued for cooperation with the national government. Dissenting Anarchists, such as Jacinto Toryho, the director of Solidaridad Obrera and FAI delegate, Pedro Herrera, were austerely critical of this policy. Toryho was removed from his position by the CNT national committee on May 7, 1938. Two months before the fall of Catalonia, a national plenum of the libertarian Socialists was held in Barcelona between the 16th and 30th of October, 1938.
Emma Goldman was in attendance, and she defended the FAI in "opposition to the growing encroachment of the Negrín government on the libertarian achievements.” According to José Peirats, Horacio Prieto argued for an "undisguised reformism bordering on Marxism," and that "truly effective action" was only possible through "organs of power."
The end of Revolutionary Catalonia
Between July and November of 1938 the Republican military launched an offensive that was intended to reconnect their divided territory within Catalonia. They were deficient in air support, armor, and heavy artillery, and thus, the Popular army was soundly defeated in the disastrous Battle of the Ebro. By some estimates, deaths were as high as 30,000 among the Republicans. The Popular army had been decimated.
On December 23, Nationalist forces launched their own assault against Catalonia. By this time, most Catalans had been demoralized, and they were tired of the seemingly endless fighting. Alienated by the Communist party's nationalization of manufacturing, the CNT was filled with immeasurable internal dissention. Pi Sunyer, at the time, the mayor of Barcelona and a leader of the ERC, told President Azaña that, "the Catalans no longer knew why they were fighting, because of Negrín's anti-Catalan policy."
Catalonia was thereafter swiftly conquered by the armed Nationalist soldiers. After four days of bombing, Barcelona fell on January 26. Subsequently, there followed five days of plundering, ransacking, and extrajudicial executions at the hands of the Nationalist combatants. Between 400,000 and 500,000 refugees crossed the border into France.
With Nationalists having taken control, Catalonian self-governance was eliminated. All the Catalan newspapers were requisitioned and the forbidden books retired and burned.
Part 2: The Act of Protest
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
Knowledge is an invaluable asset in the arsenal of any (and all) revolutionaries, and cannot be ignored or neglected; however, in the same way that action without knowledge is inadequate, so too is knowledge without action useless.
It is all too easy to sit idly by and claim that there ought to be a change. It is far from difficult to sit around one’s dinner table and complain about the political environment, or the latest policy initiative of some governmental administration. It is no great task to yell from the rooftops the moral opinions that one has collected from the peers whom they have chosen to surround themselves with, and who hold the same opinions and preferences.
It is altogether a different and more difficult thing to do the opposite: to take action, make change, and be both an excellent speaker and an exceptional listener.
Therefore, it is critical to both collect facts – that one might make informed and educated decisions – and to act on those facts with skill and precision.
This section of the book aims to discuss the two largest methods of fighting for change, as well as how to use these methods to combat an overwhelmingly more prepared autocratic force that will inevitably stand their ground against the winds of change.
Chapter 5: The art of Nonviolent Protest
“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing Him.”
So, now that the history of key modern revolutions has been established, the methods for the revolutions of tomorrow may be discussed. This history was recognized in order to present a precedent for what justifies a rebellion, and what constitutes a revolution. If it can be said, in honesty, that one is living under the tyranny of an autocratic leader, then there must be a sincere discourse; one which discusses the necessity of a revolutionary response.
One of the most respected forms of protest against fascism (or any autocratic governing being) is nonviolent protest. It has been hailed by many as the only moral response to immoral behavior, and its proponents claim that its antithesis – violent revolution – forces its participants to sink to the level of the enemy. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most famous nonviolent protestors and civil rights leaders in history, once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
The moral prerogative of nonviolence has been a contentious one since its beginnings, and thus, it will not be discussed as either a superior or an inferior method. Arguments for and against will be presented, but it will ultimately be left to you, the reader, to decide whether or not their moral values line up with the teachings and consequences of nonviolence. The same will be true when analyzing its counterpart, violent protest and rebellion.
Nonviolence, as a word, traces its origins back to the word, “ahimṣā,” which is a word that means compassion, and a desire to not injure. It is primarily based on Indian religions and practices, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In many contemporary revolutions and revolts, nonviolence – based on the ancient principal of ahimṣā – has played a substantial role in efforts to change and reform injustice. Some of its most well-known proponents include Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez, and James Bevel. Gandhi lead the nonviolent resistance to British imperialism and colonialism in India. King fought for civil rights for African Americans. César Chávez championed nonviolently for worker’s rights in California – particularly amongst Hispanics – in the 1960’s. Bevel specifically adapted Gandhi’s methods of nonviolence for African American civil rights as well. In a recent essay, “To Abolish War,” evolutionary biologist Judith Hand called for a nonviolent uprising against what she called the global war machine. This is all to say that nonviolence is not an ancient and archaic philosophy, nor is it an uncommon one, but that it is, in fact, a predominant force in modern revolutionary culture.
Modern nonviolence stems from the idea that all authoritative institutions – such as the police or a corporation – rely on consent from the governed to function. Therefore, if a participant finds a social structure to be oppressive (i.e. low wages or unsafe working conditions), then all they need to do is refuse to participate in the system until the changes that they demand are met. This methodology is applied to worker’s unions, and is practiced through strikes and similar actions.
Walter Wink, A Christian Theologian, once wrote on the subject:
“In 1989, thirteen nations comprising 1,695,000,000 people experienced nonviolent revolutions that succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations ... If we add all the countries touched by major nonviolent actions in our century (the Philippines, South Africa ... the independence movement in India ...), the figure reaches 3,337,400,000, a staggering 65% of humanity! All this in the teeth of the assertion, endlessly repeated that nonviolence doesn't work in the 'real' world.”
Some opponents of this argument would be quick to point out that these massive movements, such as the independence movement in India, were not exclusively influenced by nonviolent action, and were largely impacted by the motives of violent revolutionaries. These critiques will be addressed in Chapter 3; however, in the meantime, the advocates for nonviolence will have their arguments recognized. It is referred to by many as, “the politics of ordinary people.” Martin Luther King Jr. said it rather poignantly when he wrote:
“Nonviolent resistance... avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he also refuses to hate him.”
This is the precise moral appeal that has attracted so many men and women who now call themselves practitioners of nonviolence. Alongside its ethical benefits, it is considered to be a very pragmatic approach.
Nonviolence can typically be categorized into three main categories: protest, noncooperation, and nonviolent intervention.
Through the method of protest, people attempt to gain sympathy from the general public through the use of rousing speeches – with powerful rhetoric – that are universally relatable, petitions, sit-ins, strikes, and other forms of public assembly and unification.
Noncooperation is very similar, and is designed to garner sympathy from the general public. Examples of noncooperation would be boycotts, food strikes, tax refusal, or other methods.
Nonviolent intervention – as compared to protest and noncooperation – is a more direct means of nonviolent action. It is a method that can be used defensively (to maintain a preexisting institution, organization, practice, etc.) or offensively (to push the nonviolent agenda into new territory, so to speak). Nonviolent intervention is often hailed as the most effective and timely of the three option; however, it is also criticized as the most difficult to maintain, and the most taxing on its participants.
Of course, these are not the only methods. Gene Sharp has written on the subject of 198 methods of nonviolent activism. One of the earliest examples can be traced back to Aristophanes' work, Lysistrata, in which women abstain from having sex with their husbands until the war that they are fighting comes to an end.
Nonviolent projects are not without their champions, and successful cases of nonviolence include the Guatemala Accompaniment Project, which has been a completely nonviolent developed in the 1980’s. It has risen in popularity, and has massive global support that helps to respond to threats, human rights protection, and reporting.- One of the many functions of this group is “interpositioning,” or the practice of mediating violent conflict between multiple parties in an effort to reduce damage and save lives.
Arguably, the most powerful method of evoking change is the general attempt to garner public sympathy in return for the resistance of violent oppression. For example, if a civil rights group if attacked and assaulted by the police, but does nothing violence in response, then the general public – which has presumably found the violence of the oppressive group to be morally repugnant – will scrutinize the oppressors until they lose the public support needed to justify their violence.
Many advocates of nonviolent change see their methods as an inherent extension of the arm of democracy. After all, in some ways, democracy is both nonviolent and revolutionary. It is a peaceful opportunity to change one’s national leadership, an – in turn – policy. Former United States president JFK once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” In this way, democracy is the staunchest protector of nonviolence, and a political means of change that is accessible to virtually all people who live under its rule.
George Lakey, a famous author, wrote in his 1973 book, Strategy for a Living Revolution, and his 1976 Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution, described a five-step strategy for a successful nonviolent revolution. It was as follows:
Step 1: Education and training for the success of an organized nonviolent revolution.
Step 2: Development of nonviolent organization to control and manage the daily doings of nonviolent protesters who wish to belong to a unified community.
Step 3: Confrontation through sit-ins, strikes, etc.
Step 4:Massive noncooperation, preferably exacerbated by a majority of the masses – be it domestic or international.
Step 5: Establish institutions to replace beneficial programs of the institutions which are being abolished in the first place.
The source of hope and faith in nonviolence largely gravitates around the concept of critical mass – the idea that, with enough noncooperation, the state will be paralyzed, and therefor prevented from taking oppressive action against its citizens.
While actually attaining critical mass is challenging – and virtually unheard of – there are a handful of success stories. For example, in South Korea, 1.5 million citizens have gathered to peacefully protest the actions of their president, Park Geun-hye, and have pushed him to the brink of resignation.
Despite the various successes of nonviolence, there are many critics of the philosophy. Their issues with nonviolence range from unearned credit for success to general inefficiency. Some historical dissidents of nonviolence are Ernesto Che Guevara, Leon Trotsky, Frantz Fanon, and Subhas Chandra Bose. They argued that nonviolence was a philosophy that benefits the bourgeoisie and – as a matter of consequence – damages the livelihood of the proletariat. They argued that it stripped the common man of his ability to defend himself against tyranny, and that it is thus completely immoral. As Malcolm X once said, "I believe it's a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself."
George Orwell gave a middle ground critique of nonviolence, stating that it could work (in theory) in states that do not restrict the freedoms of the press, and that it was conceivable, "not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary." At the same time, he said that he was skeptical of the efficacy of the movement led by Gandhi, because it was a movement held in a country that did not offer those particular circumstances.
Reinhold Niebuhr – much like George Orwell – both affirmed and criticized nonviolence (particularly the movement in India). His argument was that, "The advantage of non-violence as a method of expressing moral goodwill lies in the fact that it protects the agent against the resentments which violent conflict always creates in both parties to a conflict, and it proves this freedom of resentment and ill-will to the contending party in the dispute by enduring more suffering than it causes." Simultaneously, Niebuhr also argued that, "The differences between violent and non-violent methods of coercion and resistance are not so absolute that it would be possible to regard violence as a morally impossible instrument of social change."
George Jackson, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, had his own arguments against nonviolence, though his were largely in reference to the movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., as opposed to Gandhi in India. He once said, "The concept of nonviolence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of one's adversary. When this adversary has everything to lose and nothing to gain by exercising justice and compassion, his reaction can only be negative." -
Peter Gelderloos, the Anarchist author of “How Nonviolence Protects the State,” argued that nonviolence was racist, patriarchal, statist, and tactically inferior to militant activism. His predominant argument is that Western historians have white-washed nonviolent events to paint them in a more positive light than militant activism. His theory is that, in stressing and exaggerating the efficacy of nonviolence, statism has been promoted and protected from future generations of potential militant activists. His critiques will be examined in greater detail in Chapter 6.
Still, despite all of these critiques, there are many who argue that – as time progresses – nonviolence will become a more efficient method of protest. A recent study has recorded that "increasing levels of globalization are positively associated with the emergence of nonviolent campaigns, while negatively influencing the probability of violent campaigns. Integration into the world increases the popularity of peaceful alternatives to achieve political goals." 
Chapter 6: Waging a Violent Rebellion
“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
Militant activism, being the antithesis of nonviolence, is substantially less popular and morally accepted by the general masses. It is seen as morally repugnant by many, and it is viewed as hypocritical by others. Still, despite its many criticisms, the role that it has played in shaping revolutionary history is more than instrumental. When one is willing to place their own moral preconceptions aside, they may find that militant activism, and other forms of violent rebellion are more morally acceptable than their alternatives.
Once again, it is not the prerogative of this author to sway the audience to choose one revolutionary philosophy over the other. My moral values indubitably do align more with one than the other; however, my predominant goal is simply to inform, that the reader themselves may choose the action that they feel is most appropriate. During key revolutionary movements throughout history, very rarely has there been exclusively a militant or a nonviolent movement; they coexist. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult to separate the two and to give credit for success to exclusively one or the other. Martin Luther King Jr. had his Malcolm X, and Gandhi had his Jatindranath Mukherjee. Each is the yin to the other’s yang; the night to the other’s day. While one can certainly exist without the other, many successful movements have a blend of both.
When discussing militant activism, it is crucial to recognize its evolution, as well as how it is used in a contemporary context, particularly against a state with a militaristic might like that of many Western Civilizations.
Much of the rhetoric that supports militancy orbits around its own critique of nonviolence. The premise of most argumentations is, “Nonviolence falls short in these areas, and is counter-productive in these, so this is how militancy can substitute nonviolence in order to make up for these shortcomings.” For example, “Nonviolence is inherently patriarchal, and thus, militancy is more gender inclusive, and more morally acceptable. While on the subject, history has whitewashed nonviolence, and when it is looked at critically, it supports attitudes that are enablist and subjugate the oppressed to longer periods of oppression than are necessary – if any period of waiting can be justified at all.”
On the surface, the arguments about the efficacy of militancy appear to be plain: they immobilize the opponent, they are more permanent in their effects than nonviolence, and they inspire fear and control over the opponent.
To begin, we will address the shortcomings of nonviolence that militant activists tend to primarily critique, the first of which is statism and the historical whitewashing of nonviolence. In order to do as much, we must identify the major nonviolent “victories,” as they have been depicted by historians, and determine just how successful the movements might have been without the interventions of militant activism.
The first and most common example in the United States is the Civil Rights Movement, in which Martin Luther King Jr. led a nonviolent revolution that sought to recognize the rights of African Americans; to give them the franchise and offer them protections in every way of life that they had never known before, in the country’s history. When many teachers across the country discuss their curriculum in relation to the Civil Rights Movement, they offer little-to-no analysis of the impacts of Malcolm X on the movement, and instead focus most of their energies on studying the impacts of King.
During the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, “terror as a means of social control” was employed against African Americans in their journey to gain equality. The most well-known physical manifestation of this terror is known as the Ku Klux Klan. In order to defend themselves from this violent terrorism, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP – led by Robert F. Williams – began practicing self-defense through armament. Williams was forced to rebuild his branch after it fell victim to a terrorist attack from the KKK. He did so by encouraging young, working-class men to arm themselves ad defend the chapter and their families from attack. The next time that the Klan attacked Williams’ chapter of the NAACP, they were surprised when they were met by gunfire, and they quickly retreated from the area. The very next day, the city council organized an emergency meeting and banned KKK motorcades. Almost one year later, a similar standoff took place, which lead to the conviction of James W. Cole (a KKK leader) for the incitement of riot.
After several white men were found guilty in the assault and rape of black women, Williams swore that meeting violence with violence would be his policy when addressing oppression. After this declaration, the NAACP was quick to strip him of his position; however, he had already gained incredible respect from numerous other NAACP chapters across the country.
Later on, several other leaders would emulate Williams’ policies. Malcolm X is the most well-known example, who constantly argued against the nonviolent actions of Martin Luther King Jr. He called King an “Uncle Tom” because his support of nonviolence appeared to be a means of appeasing the overall power structures of white America. Still, despite their public disagreements, it is widely believed that the two of them both carried great respect for the other. It has even been speculated that King was preparing to support Malcolm X’s plan to bring the United States on trial before the United Nations for human rights abuses against African Americans. Malcolm also began to support some nonviolent tactics later on in the movement, encouraging voter registration and other forms of civil participation to work alongside militancy.
Similar stories have been recorded in almost every nonviolent resistance that has ever been led, including the independence movement in India, led by Gandhi. In each of these cases, it has been argued that violence, while it may cause casualties, is the fastest means of ending the total number of casualties brought about from both sides.
In modern society, when police are armed with semi-automatic weapons, bullet proof armor, tear gas, riot gear, and more, it might seem as though a militant resistance would be futile, especially with the growth in restriction on gun ownership in the West. While these obstacles do make militant resistance incredibly more difficult, it has not made it impossible. With the power of numbers and strategy, militancy has not been ruled obsolete just yet.
Take motorcycle pants for example. A strange example, perhaps; nevertheless, they are an efficient means of self-defense. They are designed with Kevlar (to protect motorcyclist’s legs from asphalt damage in the case of a wreck) that can be used to reduce damage taken on from rubber bullets or night-sticks. Small pieces of gear, like motorcycle pants, can be used to decrease one’s vulnerability to counter-attacks from the police. Other pieces of gear include gas masks, helmets, shin/arms guards, and other well-padded materials.
While gear does play a critical role in defending one’s self from violent police forces, it will never be as important as strategy. In the view of this author, anyone who aspires to participate in militant activism should read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Its exploration of military strategy is universal enough to apply to the strategies of militant revolutionaries. For example:
Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak…
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle…
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt…
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
The ability to outperform one’s opponent is critical in any form of warfare, and militant activism is no exception. Other important books to read include Guerilla Warfare, by Che Guevara, or Special Forces, by Wimberley Scott. Ultimately, each strategy will be dependent on environment and ability, so it would be virtually impossible to address them all in this single work.
Still, regardless of experience, militancy is not a flawless philosophy. It is largely considered to be a motivator of terrorism as a counter movement. This is to say, critics of militancy argue that victims of violent revolution – who are subjected to adequate propaganda – are more susceptible to participating in terroristic activities. That same propaganda can be used to convince those who are on the fence (or further affirm the views of those who disagree with revolutionaries) that rebellious figures are destroying the best way of life in the worst way possible.
Furthermore, it is a movement that has been accused with endangering the lives of its participants more so than nonviolence, by some accounts. It only serves as further proof that there is no perfect philosophy, no matter how effective it has been as a means of change in the past.
Chapter 7: More than Paper
“Anarchism: ‘The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary’”
Anarchism – as well as many other left-leaning ideologies – is viewed by opposition in the right as visionary and unattainable. It is often said that, “X looks wonderful on paper; however, in practice, it is actually rather impossible.” In this case, “X” represents a stateless Anarchist society, but it has also commonly been used in reference to Socialism, Communism, etc.
One observation of great interest to many is that a majority of those who claim that these ideas work well on paper have never actually read any paper(s) that seek to affirm their possibility. They have never read Das Kapital, or any other serious critique of Capitalism; nor have they read the Communist Manifesto, The Conquest of Bread, God and the State, etc. So it is quite curious what particular paper they are referring to when they offer this cliché criticism.
At least when the opposite scenario plays out, and a leftist critiques the economic theory of Capitalism, it is much more likely that they will have read something about the theory, so long as they had even the smallest amount of public education. Perhaps they are not avid readers of Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand, but the odds that they have never been educated about the economic philosophy of Capitalism are incredibly low. Why then, do these leftists who discuss and criticize right-wing economics never use the same colloquialism? That is to say, why do they not begin their arguments by claiming that Capitalism works well on paper, but it practice it results in mass exploitation and depletion of individual autonomy.
While many theorists have addressed this idea (predominantly Karl Marx in his three volume series, Das Kapital), there are few who have risen to rebut the statement which was initially discussed in the beginning of this chapter: “X works in theory…” This chapter will thus attempt to go one step beyond demonstrating the success of revolutions that were illustrated in Part 1, and will provide examples of societies that have functioned completely as Anarchist states, after revolutions both violent and not. Societies like Revolutionary Catalonia are not simply isolated cases, and in arming one’s self with the knowledge of these societies, it becomes easier for Anarchists to legitimize their political philosophies as intellectual and historically attainable.
Strandzha Commune (1903)
The Strandzha Republic, also known as the Strandzha Commune, was a Bulgarian political body that was born out of the Preobrazhenie Uprising. While the commune only lasted from August to September, it serves as historical proof that revolutionary forces can establish their own independent Anarchist society.
After many years of tension and struggle, in 1903, Anarchist leader Mihail Gerdzhikov took charge of a guerrilla movement within a local rebellion known as the Internal Macedonian Adrianople Revolutionary Organization. They were stationed in Thrace at the time.
During the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising, Gerdzhikov and his forces (numbering approximately 2,000 strong) stood up to 10,000 Turkish soldiers, and were able to establish a liberated zone in the Strandzha Mountains, centered in Vasiliko.
The Turkish government was surprised by the uprising and its success, and with great prejudice, it proceeded to decimate the rebel forces with unrivaled force.
Once again, while this particular instance may not serve as a long-lasting historically Anarchist community, it demonstrates the basis for how one might work.
The Free Territory (1918-1921)
This particular example of an Anarchist society lasted for a substantially longer duration of time. What would come to be known as The Free Territory was centered in the country of Ukraine, predominantly in the modern-day southeastern portion of the country. The Free Territory, also known as Makhnovia (Махновщина Makhnovshchyna), was created in an attempt to form a stateless anarchist society during the Ukrainian Revolution, which had begun in 1917, and promptly ended in 1921.
During this time period, these types of Anarchist groups and libertarian communes were heavily protected by Nestor Makhno's Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army, so it was able to thrive and prosper without threat from the outside world. It is estimated that the area was home to approximately seven million Ukrainians during this time.
While early on in Makhnovia, Makhno (the leader of the territory) operated militaristically, his focus quickly shifted to organization. The first congress of the Confederation of Anarchists Groups, under the name of Nabat, issued five main points:
suspension of all political parties
rejection of all dictatorships
negation of any State concept
rejection of any "transitory period" or "proletarian dictatorship”
the self-management of all workers through free workers' councils (soviets).
What is unique about these five points can be viewed in point number four. In many would-be Communist or anarchist states, there is typically a transitory period that is autocratic, so as to provide a mechanism to keep Capitalism at bay. These five points were in direct opposition to the party views of the Soviet Bolsheviks.
The organization of the society took place between November, 1918 to June, 1919. The reach of the territory spanned throughout Berdyansk, Donetsk, Alexandrovsk (later known as Zaporizhia), and Yekaterinoslav, (Sicheslav, later Dnipropetrovsk, now Dnipro). In the words of Makhno, “The agricultural majority of these villages was composed of peasants, one would understand at the same time both peasants and workers. They were founded first of all on equality and solidarity of its members. Everyone, men and women, worked together with a perfect conscience that they should work on fields or that they should be used in housework... The work program was established in meetings in which everyone participated. Then they knew exactly what they had to do.”
According to the leadership of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (or the RIAU, for short), Makhnovia was organized to follow Anarchist values and philosophies. This meant high levels of social justice, and other Anarchist values. Education was based on the philosophies of Francesc Ferrer, and economic exchanges were based on the theories of Peter Kropotkin.
In order to establish their backing for the working man, the Makhnovists stressed that they supported "free worker-peasant soviets” while simultaneously opposing the concept of a central government. In their view, Bolsheviks were cruel dictators, and the use of secret police was autocratic and immoral. They pushed heavily for freedom of speech, press, and assembly. They called for political committees, in which members of any party could participate. In contrast, the Bolsheviks, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, only permitted homogenous participation from their own party members.
Laws were passed in direct opposition to participation in – or the formation of – any state police force within The Free Territory. Historian Heather-Noël Schwartz comments that "Makhno would not countenance organizations that sought to impose political authority, and he accordingly dissolved the Bolshevik revolutionary committees"- Still, despite these arguments, the Bolsheviks accused Makhno of having two secret police forces under his control.
Unfortunately for Makhno, the Bolshevik party in Soviet Russia saw the presence of Makhnovia as a threat to their own political stability. It launched a propaganda campaign, claiming The Free Territory was a warlord infested territory. The eventually finished off Makhno with a series of surprise ambushes against the Makhno militias. During this time, they also claimed that Makhno and his government were not democratic, and that they refused to aid the Soviets and their men in several daily tasks, such as feeding their messengers. They ended their claims by saying that Makhno was responsible for several acts of terror in large Russian cities.
Despite the overwhelming defeat of the Makhno government, there would remain a large, underground movement until the 1940’s.
Anarchist Aragon, as it was called during the Spanish Civil War – in junction with Revolutionary Catalonia – is the name of a historical period for Aragon, ranging from 1936 to 1939. Much like in Catalonia, this period in time was classified by collective land ownership and social redistribution, as well as an attempt to eliminate the social influence of the Catholic Church.
The rise of Aragon as an Anarchist state came about in a very similar fashion to the rise of Revolutionary Catalonia. The resulting collectivization of the land was incredibly wide spread, and an estimated five to seven million people lived within the collectivized territories of Spain. During the height of this era, there were an estimated 400 collectives in Aragon, 700 in Levant, and 300 in Castile. In Aragon alone, there were an approximated 300,000 collectivists, while in Levant, there were only an estimated 130,000.
By some historical accounts, the peasants who entered into these collectives were forced to do so at gun point. While only a few historians believe this to be entirely true, there are those who claim that it may have happened in a handful of isolated incidents, largely as a result of the ongoing Spanish Civil War. One observer from Fraga said:
"From [some peasants] I learned the details of what had happened. The executions were not the handiwork of those villagers themselves but of the Durruti Column. They rounded up all who were suspected of engaging in reactionary activities and these were taken away in lorries and shot ... What became of possessions of those executed? The homes, of course, had been commandeered by the committee and stores of foodstuffs used to feed the militia ... It was obvious that in this village the agrarian revolution had not arrived as the result of impassioned struggle by the peasants but rather as an almost automatic by-product of the executions. These were just another incident in the civil war."
In other parts of Aragon, churches were burned, civilians killed, and confusion ensued; however, it is unclear as to whether or not the Anarchists leading the charge for collectivization were entirely responsible for these occurrences.
Still, these happenings are largely considered to be isolated because of the opposite events that took place in Utrillas, where:
"There was no militia presence but a public gathering made the decision to launch a collective. It is important to note the difference of attitude toward opponents here; some were shot as a result of a decision made at the gathering, whereas others were left unmolested. Some fled to fascist lines, as a result of which 150 suspects were rounded up. Many were released after a vote, but thirty-two were remanded into custody."
One of the benefits of this new collectivized society was an increase in constructive free time. Many historians discuss instances where citizens of Spanish collectives were free to read newspapers and books, and thus stimulate their intellect and gain major personal development. Barber shops are said to have given out free haircuts and shaving appointments twice a week. The youth busied themselves by building libraries and hosting public cultural events. Bathhouses and cinemas had been collectivized, and – minus a handful of exceptions – most industries had been collectivized as well.
In Muniesa, bread, wine, cheeses, and other foods were distributed freely to the people, so that no one would have to go hungry. When asked if there was concern about excessive indulgence and negative effects on the health of the citizens, it was often stated that nobody got drunk there, and that they had simply gotten used to the excess of alcohol and food over the past year, enjoying what they had with no need to over-consume.
While some issues were caused by collectivization, such as massive numbers of men, women, and children flocking to hospitals for treatment; however, doctors were able to prioritize cases based on their medical necessity, and no true harm was done.
Eventually, despite the mass success of Aragon as a collectivized area of Spain, it was destroyed by nationalist forces who opposed its anti-Capitalist stances. By the end of the Civil War, overwhelming external forces had dissolved Aragon, and much of collectivized Spain.
While many of the collectivized society mentioned beforehand existed in the twentieth century, it would be folly to assume that Anarchism is an outdated philosophy that cannot be applied to contemporary societies. Despite the seemingly unstoppable growth of globalization, and the tide of imperialism that has swept over the east, leftist societies can and do still exist. They can be found in Amish communities and the model Jewish Kibbutz. While each of these slightly differs from a philosophically Anarchist society (due to the widespread practice of theism), they do represent massive portions of Anarchist idealism. Rojava, found in the northern sect of Syria, is one such example.
The area is a de facto autonomous zone, and is divided between three self-governing cantons. These areas are Afrin Canton, Jazira Canton and Kobanî Canton. Other areas include the Shahba region, also in Northern Syria. These defacto autonomous zones have shaped their own political identity – a sort of secular polity, if you will – around the fundamental principles of social democracy, gender equality, and sustainability.-
On March 17, 2016, the administration of Rojava officially declared their territory as the Federation of Northern Syria-Rojava (commonly abbreviated as the NSR). Despite its autonomy and separation from the main political conflicts of Syria, there is no nation to have recognized Rojava as its own state. Still, the NSR pushes boldly onward, hoping to provide a model for democratization and federalization of Syria as a whole.
Early on in the Syrian Civil War, official members of the Bashar Al-Assad Regime withdrew their forces from the three aforementioned Kurdish enclaves, leaving their governance to local militias in 2012. The remaining governments of these three areas banded together to create the People’s Protection Units militia in order to protect the Kurdish residents from the rest of the Syrian conflict. Very early on in the Civil War, the People Protection Units seized control of Kobanî, Amuda and Afrin, and shortly thereafter established councils to govern these areas. In a period of rapid expansion, Al-Malikiyah, Ras al-Ayn, al-Darbasiyah, and al-Muabbada also came under control of the militias.
In 2013, the government of the time became obsolete, and it was decided by the officials in Rojava that the territory would become ployethnic and progressive, changing many of the typical Syrian stances. It was not until later, in 2015, that the Syrian Democratic Council was created. Their legitimacy was negated by both the Bashar Al-Assad regime and the armed rebel forces, and they have yet to be recognized by any other civilization, either locally or internationally.
As far as politics are concerned, they are generally viewed as a progressive territory. They stress the importance of women’s rights and their equal treatment when compared to men. One specific policy that they use is called “cogovernance,” which dictates that women should have equal authority to men in the government. When compared to the majority of Syria, these conditions are more than ideal for members of the female sex.
The educational system in Rojava is divided into two main sections – the Arabic public schools, and the Assyrian private confessional schools. Students in this system are required to know their primary language (be it Kurdish or Arabic), learn a secondary language (which is the opposite of their family’s language), and finally learn English.-
While there were initially no institutions of higher education in the territory, after their separation from the rest of Syria, several establishments were erected, such as the Mesopotamian Social Sciences Academy in Qamishli, and the traditionally-designed University of Afrin in Afrin, the University of Rojava in Qamishli.
Alongside the leaps and bounds in education, the increased civil liberties that have been born of liberation have led to an increase in artistic expression across the territory.
In the same fashion as Rojava’s education and arts, their economics are very forward thinking, by modern standards. They have sought to move beyond the social constraints of Capitalism, all the while maintain the ownership of private property under the philosophy of “ownership by use.” Dr. Dara Kurdaxi, a Rojavan economist, has said that:
"The method in Rojava is not so much against private property, but rather has the goal of putting private property in the service of all the peoples who live in Rojava."
According to the minister of economics, nearly 75% of all property in Rojava has been collectivized and placed under the management of worker’s councils. They do not raise money through the taxation of their people (either directly or indirectly), but through trade tariffs and the sale of their natural resources.
As far as their legal system is concerned, a majority of their prisoners are radicalized terrorists, and the death penalty has been abolished, in suite with the rest of their progressive policy agendas.-
To this day, these systems have continued to function optimally, in spite of all of the chaos that has ensured in the rest of Syria. It serves as the strongest contemporary model for an Anarchist society to date, and has the greatest potential to serve as a model for future autonomous societies.
At the end of the day, these examples go to show that the potential for autonomous societies is abundant, and not isolated to limited circumstances. In recognizing their importance as examples of autonomous regions, education on the subject can efficiently become more wide-spread, so that when it is stated that “X works well on paper,” it can be rebutted with factual evidence. From there, there is an obligation to ask where right-wing economic and social policies have worked in practice, and to critically analyze those examples.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Before you go, dear reader, head this word of caution. In the search for power that is needed to orchestrate the foundation of an egalitarian society, many will be at risk for losing themselves. That power poses great promise, as well as great threat. When we remember the basic principles that motivated us to fight against inequality, we can inspire ourselves to rise above the autocracy of oppression that is born from capital and other inherently repressive institutions.
Revolutionaries cannot eliminate, for example, the freedom of speech. When that line has been crossed, they have adopted the autocratic practices of their predecessors. As another example, the revolutionary cannot suppress the right of protest against the new society/social changes Revolutionaries may be of the belief that their views are morally/economically/socially superior; however, it must be recognized that their opponents once believed the same thing. While this author does not encourage the idea that there is no morally superior belief, I would encourage those who believe in their views to support and prove their validity, and not resort to silencing the opposition.
Richard Pipes (1996) A Concise History of the Russian Revolution
Dominic Lieven, Nicholas II: Emperor of all the Russias (London, 1993)
Andrew Verner, The Crisis of the Russian Autocracy: Nicholas II and the 1905 Revolution (Princeton, 1990)
Mark Steinberg and Vladimir Khrustalev, The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution (New Haven, 1995)
Richard Wortman, Scenarios of Power, vol. 2 (Princeton, 2000)
Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924, Part One.
 This was known as the Set Rebellion during the reign of Pharaoh Seth-Peribsen. It took place during the second Egypt’s second dynasty.
 Also referred to as plebs, the plebeians were the commoner class in Rome, whereas patricians were the aristocracy of their time.
 The cause was the entrance of the right-wing Catholic party into politics, as well as the unstable state of the Second Spanish Republic.
 This article was titled Revolutions and Revolutionary Moments
 Theda Skocpol (1979) States and Social Revolutions
 An agricultural system developed in 20th century Europe, the open-field system dictated that a landowner would separate the land between several serfs and workers who would work their portion of the land and pay off the costs with their labor, products, and currency.
 Moving from being an employer or self-employed to being an employee, and therefore a victim of wage slavery
 Sidney Harcave (1970) The Russian Revolution of 1905
 Mary Conroy (2006) Russian Civil Society: A Critical Assessment
 This form of economics, coming from the French phrase for “let go” encourages that governments take a hands-off approach to economics, and allow for the free market to dictate itself.
 Working-class men and women
 Maureen Perrie (November 1972) The Russian Peasant Movement of 1905-1907: Its Social Composition and Revolutionary Significance
 John Simkin (ed) 1905 Russian Revolution, Spartacus Educational
 Sidney Harcave (1970) The Russian Revolution of 1905
 Susan Morrissey (1998) Heralds of Revolution: Russian Students and the Mythologies of Radicalism
 Abraham Ascher (1994) The Revolution of 1905: Russia in Disarray
 Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions, 1906 [English translation Patrick Lavin, 1925].
 Harrison E. Salisbury (1981) Black Night White Snow
 R.R. Palmer, A History of the Modern World, second edition
 Robert Blobaum, Feliks Dzierzynski and the sdkpil: a study of the origins of Polish Communism
 Voline (2004) Unknown Revolution
 Kevin O'Connor, The History of the Baltic State
 BD Taylor (2003) Politics and the Russian army: civil-military relations, 1689–2000
 SG Wheatcroft (2002) Challenging traditional views of Russian history
 Palgrave Macmillan The Pre-Revolutionary
 Harold Whitmore Williams (1915) Russia of the Russians
 For reference, see:
 Hubertus Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia During World War I
 The man was a member of the peasant class, a self-proclaimed faith healer, and a close friend to Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
 Known as the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive campaign
 Allen Wildman: The End of the Russian Imperial Army
 "Doklad petrogradskogo okhrannogo otdeleniia osobomu otdelu departamenta politsii" ["Report of the Petrograd Okhrana to the Special Department of the Department of the Police"], October 1916
 “When women set Russia ablaze”, Fifth International
 Robert Paul Browder; Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky: The Russian Provisional Government, 1917
 Mensheviks were one half of a socialist movement, opposed by their counterparts: the Bolsheviks
 N.N. Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution: A Personal Record, ed. And trans. Joel Carmichael (Oxford, 1955; originally published in Russian in 1922)
 Zhurnal [No. 1] Soveta Ministrov Vremennogo Pravitel'stva, 2 March 1917, GARF (State Archive of the Russian Federation)
 Stephen Apresyan, Ed. One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution
 July 16 – 20: Russian workers lead massive protests against the provisional government
 Stephen Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography 1888–1938 (Oxford University Press: London, 1980)
 The Supreme Commander of Russian military forces
 V.I. Lenin, "State and Revolution" contained in the Collected Works of Lenin: Volume 25 (Progress Publishers: Moscow, 1974)
 V.I. Lenin, "The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power" contained in the Collected Works of Lenin: Volume 26(Progress Publishers: Moscow, 1972
 Also known as Marxism-Leninism
 Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed
 March, 1921
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