by Eric Thomson
25 August 2000
Some ideas are so bad that they reveal themselves as bad jokes, as soon as people attempt to apply them to reality. "Lenin" allegedly attempted to apply the Marxist principle of "From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need" for an entire week when he moved into Russia after the departure of his fellow tribesman, "Kerensky". After seeing Marxist ideology cripple some major factories, "Lenin" announced that "Those who do not work shall not eat!" This is, of course, the exact opposite of Marxism, but "Lenin", with typical impudence, called his doctrine "Marxism-Leninism". This is as oxymoronic as Christians who claim that the god of the Old Testament is the same as that of the New Testament. "Cold fusion" was another such absurdity, which shows that many people cannot see the obvious, or, as P.T. Barnum was alleged to have said: "There's a sucker born every minute!" Anarchy is another dumb, bad idea. The sad truth is, that bad ideas never die. There are always new generations of suckers who fall for them.
It is certainly true that no system, ideology, leadership or organization can make up for poor quality in its adherents, whereas people of good quality can usually overcome organizational oversights, thanks to their ability and good will. The 'best' system in the world can not be expected to function if it is composed of miscreants, malcontents, morons and quarrelsome sectarians, but there is one 'system' known to defy the effectiveness of the best people who attempt to practice it, and that is anarchy. The goal of anarchy is to eliminate all forms of organization beyond the individual: to eliminate all social institutions. The logical goal of anarchy is the elimination of society itself. This is the goal of Marxism, in which communism is described as the result of "the withering away of the state" and the 'return' to the 'ideal state of anarchy', as proclaimed by the madman, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Some modern day Libertarians hover close to anarchism, like moths to a flame. "Aw, shucks," some may disagree, "anarchy never was given a real chance." Well, after rereading "The Spanish Civil War" by Hugh Thomas, I recommend that everyone who claims to sympathize with the philosophy of anarchy stop to consider what a good chance it had in Spain to strut its stuff.
Spain is a geographical entity. Despite government propaganda, it is not a nation, but an area in which various nations reside. These nations correspond in general to the provinces, which have variously been independent, like Portugal and Catalonia, and/or ruled by the central government in Madrid. Previous to that, some provinces were under Moorish rule. In Spain, unity is accepted with reluctance by the majority of Spaniards, so that the Madrid regime rules the country like a colonial power, with its Guardia Civil, the paramilitary police force and army garrisons in every province. At times, the uneasy truce between local interests and the central government is broken by guerrilla warfare. Spain is the original home of the "guerrilla" or "little war", which received that name during the popular uprisings against the French occupation, during the Napoleonic Wars.
Anarchy is the extreme form of local, regional, provincial forces of political and economic disintegration. Ironically, anarchy in Spain achieved its greatest success because of uniformity, rather than the diversity of its adherents. Anarchists were primarily workingclass and they were mainly Catalans, although the other provinces of Spain had their own anarchists. The anarchists far outnumbered the socialists, whose trade union members actually negotiated with government and employers. The anarchist unions did no such thing. They merely went out on strike and were fond of burning buildings, especially churches, for they viewed the Catholic Church as a weapon of mass-oppression. Hey, even anarchists can't be all bad! Ironically, the Church supported many of the pre-capitalist communal ideas of the anarchists and the socialists, just as it champions the tenets of Marxism today.
Anarchy had broken out several times in 20th century Spain before the 1936-1939 Civil War. Anarchist miners in Asturias devastated towns with their favorite means of expression: dynamite. Even the U.S. Supreme Court might deem that rather extreme as a form of "free speech", but it is said that an anarchist without a bomb is like a day without sunshine.
The divisions within Spanish society and the weak Republican regime gave the anarchists the opportunity they wanted, for they refused to participate in any form of government, with the exception of Catalonia, in which anarchists participated as de facto members, but not de jure members. Anarchists deem any recognition and/or participation in government, political parties or other organizations to be immoral. However, the anarchists did have their trade union and an organization, FAI (Anarchist Federation of Iberia), who were principally involved with the blasting of buildings and the assassination of opponents, similar to The Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania mining areas. Spanish anarchists derived their primary inspiration from Bakunin, an exotic creed for domestic disaster.
Thus it was, that on the eve of Civil War, the Spanish anarchists had the numbers and the fervor in support of their ideology, which was absurdly, an ideology of disunity and disorganization.
As Spain split into two warring factions, the rebels became known as "Nationalists", and the Republicans as "Reds", which became a fact with the arrival of Communist Party functionaries, including Jews of the infamous NKVD, successor to the Cheka and predecessor of the KGB, now FSB. Prior to the Civil War, the influence and membership of the Communist Party in Spain was a virtual unreality, nonexistent, according to historian Hugh Thomas. There were even more members of POUM, a Trotskyite 'workers' movement'. But as the war progressed, the Republic found the USSR, under "Stalin", to be its foremost supplier of military weapons, ammunition, oil and even food. Henceforth, the Communist minority gained predominant influence within the Republic, not only because of their material support, but equally so for the dedication, skill and organization of their representatives. The Communists dealt with the anarchists as a snowplow deals with snow.
Before the advent of Communist Party influence, the anarchists took over most of the Spanish Navy's fleet by killing the officers. The Army became alarmed, assuming they would be next, so the rebellion intensified. The anarchists retaliated by killing Army officers and garrisons wherever they could, and the Civil War was on, without quarter being given by either side. Let's consider anarchy in action, the most desperate action known to man: war.
The bulk of the Republican fighting forces were the anarchist militias, including socialists. They disdained all forms of military training, including marksmanship and weapons maintenance. Although they were ostensibly 'led' by regular Spanish Army officers, they usually disobeyed orders outright, or they might vote whether or not they would obey, and to what degree. Officers had to exercise extreme caution to avoid being shot by 'their' own men, so they became no better than the 'soldiers' whom they were charged with leading. Although the Republican forces outnumbered the Nationalist forces on most occasions, the militias proved disastrous on the offensive and not much better on the defensive. They refused to dig trenches, because they considered them a sign of 'cowardice'. After several massacres, the militias finally deigned to dig trenches, and when they did so, they sometimes refused to leave them, and so were outflanked and encircled: more massacres at the hands of the Nationalist forces. A few aerial bombs in their vicinity would cause them to panic, even if the bombs were duds! Venereal diseases were rife, since anarchist units insisted on bringing along diseased whores for companionship. Men became so ill, primarily from gonorrhea, that they were shot when they refused orders to leave the front for medical treatment. Some units got drunk and then attacked the enemy, who believed in Santa Claus from that point onward. Anarchist units would refuse to prepare adequate defences, then they would panic when the Nationalists attacked. They would abandon their positions, and their weapons and run like rabbits, except that rabbits have the intelligence to run to cover. Not the anarchists, who ran down the roads, where they were easy targets for aviators with machineguns. An anarchist retreat was really a combination of rout and massacre.
The anarchist navy had taken over the most powerful units of the Spanish Fleet, but the sailors lacked that which they had disdained: officers. The Republican fleet participated in one disastrous attempt to seize the island of Majorca, after which it spent most of the time in port.
In summary, anarchy in action, or 'leaderless resistance', attempted to oppose training, discipline, organization and leadership with chaotic masses whose bravery and ignorance were no match for their opponents' bravery and skill. An anarchist can never be a leader, only an agitator, for each individual anarchist is his 'equal', and everyone's ignorance is deemed as 'good' as anyone's knowledge. Anarchists cannot distinguish folly from wisdom. That is why they are anarchists!
Wars are team efforts, similar to team sports. Teamwork wins, and individual 'all-stars' lose. Teamwork requires leadership, skill, organization and discipline, all of which are excluded from anarchy, by definition. 'Organized anarchy' is just another oxymoron like 'leaderless resistance.' While leadership can be bad, sometimes, no leadership is bad all the time. As the Spanish Civil War demonstrated, a mass of anarchist, leaderless resisters can be conquered by a small number of those who have organization and discipline as part of their ideology. Just as often, the most heroic efforts of anarchists can help the enemy! Anarchists are the last ones to benefit from their actions, which aim at seizing political power to destroy it. If they succeed, they merely create a vacuum into which step the organized conquerors. This lesson has been repeated, but never so forcefully as in the Spanish Civil War. Leaderless resisters take note: We can march separately, but we must strike together if we hope to win.