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Bait and Switch in Catalonia

Some of the "anarchists" justified their exceedingly unanarchist conduct by convoluted rationalizations. Others spoke more plainly. Macario Royo regarded libertarianism as a mere ruse, to disguise the true nature of socialist revolution.

First Ronald Fraser sets the scene: Massive violation of libertarian principles. Blood of Spain, page 349

There was no need to dragoon them at pistol point: The coercive climate, in which "fascists" were being shot, was sufficient. "Spontaneous" and "forced" collectives existed, as did willing and unwilling collectivists within them.
Forced collectivization ran counter to libertarian ideals. Anything that was forced could not be libertarian. Obligatory collectivization was justified, in some libertarians eyes, by a reasoning closer to war communism than to libertarian communism: The need to feed the columns at the front. Macario Royo, an Aragoneze CNT leader, believed that collectives were the most appropriate organization for ensuring that a surplus was made available for the front.

He then quotes Macario Royo, speaking in favor of forced collectivization:

If each peasant had kept what he produced and disposed of it as he wished, it would have made the matter of supply much more difficult.

Fraser then paraphrases Macario Royo as saying

And revolution always meant imposing the will of an armed minority "In this case an anarcho syndicalist minority"

He then quotes Macario Royo at length in a footnote.

Revolutions are made by force. Everything that is imposed by force has to be maintained by force. The outcome may be communism but it is not libertarian. If it were, it would not be communist, for the simple reason that the mass of the people are not communist. Libertarian communism could be established only if the majority of the people already supported communism and then started to organize that communism freely.

Note that Royo says twice, in two different ways, that the "anarchists" were a minority that imposed their will on the majority by force. For the kind of force used see Terror in Catalonia. Most modern "anarcho"-socialists seem to find the minority part vastly more embarrassing than the force part, though real anarchists do not care whether it is the majority imposing its will by force or the minority. Honest peaceful people should be left alone, regardless of their numbers.

Juan Peiro, unlike Macario Royo, seems unhappy about this betrayal of libertarian ideals.

Burnett Bolloten, in "The Grand Camouflage" sets the context for Juan Peiro's remarks:

Page 70:

Although CNT-FAI publications cited numerous cases of peasant proprietors and tenant farmers who had adhered voluntarily to the collective system there can be no doubt that an incomparably larger number doggedly opposed it or accepted it only under extreme duress.

Page 72:

As a consequence, the fate of the peasant owner and tenant farmer in the communities occupied by the CNT-FAI militia was determined from the outset; for although a meeting of the population was generally held to decide on the establishment of the collective system, the vote was always taken by acclamation, and the presence of armed militiamen never failed to impose respect and fear on all opponents.

Page 74: Burnett Bolloten quotes Juan Peiro, one of the foremost leaders of the CNT, writing in Llibertat, September 29, 1936:

Does anyone believe [...] that through acts of violence an interest in or a desire for socialization can be awakened in the minds of the peasantry? Or perhaps that by terrorizing it in this fashion it can be won over to the revolutionary spirit prevailing in the towns and cities?
The gravity of the mischief that is being done compels me to speak clearly. [...] The first thing they have done has been to take away from the peasant all means of self defense [...] and having achieved this they have robbed him even of his shirt.
If today you should go to different parts of Catalonia to speak to the peasant of revolution, he will tell you he does not trust you, he will tell you the standard-bearers of the revolution have already passed through the countryside: In order to liberate it? In order to help it liberate itself? No. They have passed through the countryside in order to rob those who throughout the years and throughout the centuries have been robbed by the very persons who have just been defeated by the revolution.

See also Serfdom in Catalonia

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These documents are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License