What is Anarchism

Based on the text of the pamphlet Anarchism and Ireland published by Workers Solidarity Movement, PO Box 1528, Dublin 8, Ireland

Anarchists are against chaos

When you hear about anarchists you are led to believe that we are mad bombers. Every other group that lets off a bomb is immediately labelled 'anarchist' whether they be nationalists, socialists or even fascists. The myth is created that we believe in violence for the sake of it. The other myth is that anarchism is chaos It is claimed by politicians, bosses and their hacks in the media that if there was no government there would be chaos. But did you ever wonder about society today and come to the conclusion that perhaps we are already living in chaos. At the moment thousands of builders are on the dole yet homeless people need housing to live in. The price of butter is scandalously dear yet every year the EC has to deal with a butter mountain. Thousands of people are dying of starvation around the world yet millions of pounds are spent every day on nuclear arms which have the potential for wiping us and the world out.

You might ask why is this so? We say that there is one big reason - PROFIT! At the moment we live in a society in which there are two major classes - the bosses and the workers. The bosses own the factories, banks, shops, etc. Workers don't. All they have is their labour which they use to make a living. Workers are compelled to sell their labour to the boss for a wage. The boss is interested in squeezing as much work out of the worker for as little wages as possible so that he/she can maintain high profits. Thus the more wages workers get the less profits the bosses make. Their interests are in total opposition to each other.

Production is not based on the needs of ordinary people. Production is for profit. Therefore although there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, people starve because profits come first. This is capitalism.

What is the State?

There are other classes in society such as the self- employed and small farmers but fundamentally there are workers and bosses whose interests are in opposition to each other. For workers needs to be fully met we must get rid of the bosses. But this is no easy task. The bosses are organised. They have the media on their side. They also have the State and the force of the army and police that go with it. We only have to look at the 1984 miners strike in Britain to see how the forces of the state can be used against the working class.

The state (i.e. governments, armies, courts, police, etc.) is a direct result of the fact that we live in a class society. A society where only 7% of the people own 84% of the wealth. (Irish figures c. 1984)

The state is there to protect the interests of this minority, if not by persuasion then by force. Laws are made not to protect us but to protect those who own the property.

Compare this with the treatment handed out to the multi-nationals who were able to take 500m in profits out of the country tax free without the government even knowing about it. If you think that the state is there to protect you, think about the fact that workers pay 88% of all income taxes while the rest - farmers, self-employed ,and multi- nationals pay only 12% between them. (Irish figures c. 1984)

Elections: Putting numbers on a piece of paper

We are led to believe that the state is run in our interests. Don't we have elections to ensure that any government not behaving itself can be brought to task? Democracy is about putting numbers on a piece of paper every four years. We are given a choice all right but between parties who all agree with the system of a tiny minority ruling the country.

People often say that if we really want to change things we should run in elections. Take a good look at this idea and it becomes clear that it cannot be done if we are to remain true to our anarchism.

Electioneering inevitably leads to revolutionaries forsaking their revolutionary principles. Look at the so-called Labour Party. First of all they do not go to the people with a clear socialist message. They go for whatever is popular and will ensure that they get elected. This becomes more important to them than educating people about the meaning of socialism. It also means that they look on the mass of voters as mere spectators. People are seen as voters, not as people who can be actually involved in politics and bringing socialism about. We do not accept that we should hand over the running of our lives to 160 odd people who are not accountable and can basically do whatever they like.

Can socialism come through Parliament

There is another reason why we do not stand for election. Socialism cannot come through Parliament. If we look at a country like Chile we can see why. In 1973 the people elected a moderate socialist government led by President Allende. This democratically elected government was toppled by a CIA backed military coup. Repression followed in which the workers movement was smashed and thousands of militants lost their lives.

This happened for two reasons. The Chilean socialists did not understand that real power is not in the parliament but in the boardrooms of the multinationals. It is those who have the money who hold real power. Socialism does not come through electing socialists to Parliament but through the direct action of workers taking control of the factories and land. For us socialism can only come from below, not from the top.

This point is not understood by the so called socialist parties of Europe which are in government at the moment. In the 80's in France, Spain and Greece 'socialist' governments are pushed working class peoples living standards down because international banks want loans repaid and multinationals want to maintain profits.

The second reason is that the Chileans did not smash the state but tried to capture it peacefully. We must understand that the army and police are against us. They are there to protect the wealth of the ruling class. To make a revolution it will be necessary to use violence, not because we believe in violence for the sake of it, but because we recognise that the ruling class will not give up its wealth without a fight. Allende refused to arm the workers and so made the job of the military much easier.

How ideas change

From the moment we are born we are taught that we must give up control of our lives to those more capable of running things - that we must put our faith and loyalty in government to organise our lives. In school, in the papers and on television the working class are portrayed as sheep who need to be led and governed over. Even in the unions, the organisation of the working class, workers are discouraged from taking any initiative by themselves. Instead they are treated by the union bureaucracy supposedly on the workers' behalf.

However, capitalists in their mad rush for profits are forced to keep workers' pay and conditions at the lowest possible level. In times of recession competition between capitalists increases, and if profits are to be maintained capitalists argue that workers must accept cuts in their pay and conditions. It is when workers are forced into conflict with their bosses, when they go on strike, that they realise their own strength.

Without labour all production grinds to a halt. The bosses simply cannot run the factories by themselves. Workers who go on strike begin to rely on their own collective strength, they realise that if they are going to win they must stick together. They become more aware of what they can achieve and they become open to more ideas, new ideas. This was seen in the 1984/5 British miners strike. Before the strike most miners believed womens' role was in the home minding the children. But as the strike began, women took the initiative and set up support groups to aid the strike. Women actively took part in picketing as well as fund-raising. Faced with this many miners changed their sexist ideas. Their ideas about the police and the courts also changed. In conflict, they realised the main purpose of the police and courts was to protect the bosses and smash the strike.

This is not to say that workers going on strike set out with socialist goals in mind. However when workers win on `bread and butter' issues, their confidence increases and so does their faith in their own ability to organise themselves. That is one of the reasons for anarchists being involved in supporting strikes - to build the links between workers' day-to-day struggles and our aim of a truly equal society.

Socialism from Below

Central to our politics is the belief that ordinary people must make the revolution. Every member of the working class (workers, unemployed, housewives, etc.) has a role to play. Only by this participation can we ensure that anarchism is made real. We believe in a revolution that comes from the bottom up and is based on factory and community councils. Freedom cannot be given, it has to be taken.

This is where we disagree with what is called the "revolutionary left". While they say that they agree with all this they still hold to a belief that a party is necessary to make the revolution for the people. Most of them base their ideas on Lenin who believed that workers were only capable of achieving what he called "trade union consciousness". According to him they needed a party of professional revolutionaries to make the revolution for them. The result of this thinking is to be clearly seen in the Eastern Europe of today. What we see in Russia has nothing to do with socialism. Power rests in the hands of a tiny party elite. The state is the boss and the workers are still exploited and told what to do. This is state capitalism. Workers do not control their workplaces. All power is held by the bureaucracy. A workers revolution will be necessary to overthrow this bureaucratic elite and bring in true freedom.

So we say it is up to ordinary people. Some ask is this possible? Would it not be chaotic? Of course not. At the moment capitalism would collapse without the support of the working class. We make everything, we produce all the wealth. It is possible to organise production so that the needs of all are met. It is also possible to create structures that allow everyone to participate in making the decisions that affect them.

Democracy and Freedom

As already stated society would be based on factory and community councils. These would federate with each other so that decisions could be made covering large areas. Delegates could be sent from each area and workplace. They would be recallable, i.e. if those who voted them in are not happy with their behaviour they can immediately replace them with someone else. With the new technology it will be much easier to involve lots of people in making quick decisions.

Within this society there would be genuine individual freedom. Individuals would have to contribute to society but would be free to the extent that they do not interfere with the freedom of others. Fundamentally we believe that people are good and if they won freedom would not easily give it up or destroy it.

So where do anarchist's fit into all this? We don't set ourselves up as "the leaders who know it all". We believe that our ideas are good and are worth trying out. We believe it is necessary for those agreeing with them to organise together so that our ideas will spread and be understood by a lot more people. To us it is important that those revolutionaries active in different areas are brought together so that experiences can be shared and learned from. We believe that in day-today struggles or in campaigns it is important that the message is driven home that only a revolution made by the working class can give us the freedom to run society so that all our needs are met. We see our role as encouraging the initiative of working people and arguing for structures which allow people to take part in local or workplace activities.

We do not believe that the revolution is around the corner. We believe that making it is a slow process during which there may be huge jumps forward. Overall though it is a slow process of spreading ideas and building peoples confidence to bring about change. We accept that winning reforms and short term demands are all part of this process. Below we set out some of our ideas in relation to society today.

The Trade Unions

Unions are defence organs of the working class. They are not revolutionary organisations. Today the majority of unions have become conservative institutions with a lot of emphasis being placed on the role of the full time officials as problem solvers and negotiators. Whole sections of the trade union bureaucracy have become outright defenders of the status quo. This is typified by the use of the two-tier picket (where groups of workers from another union in the same job are encouraged to pass pickets). Within the unions decision making has shifted from the shopfloor to the bureaucrats. With this the rank and file have become more isolated from control of their unions and thus more apathetic.

For us the unions have to be made into real fighting organisations which are run and controlled by workers on the shopfloor. We do not think you can change the unions by capturing the full-time jobs at the top. Our role is to encourage the self-activity of as many workers as possible. The bureaucracy itself has to be torn down.

We believe in building a rank and file movement which would embrace workers from different workplaces and areas of work. Its main function would be to encourage solidarity between all workers. It would support all strikes, fight for the election of all full-time officials so that they are responsible to the workers, fight for equal rights for women and ultimately resist any attempts by the bosses to make us pay for their crisis.

We see the organised labour movement as an essential area of activity for revolutionaries. Politics have to be brought into the workplaces and unions as it is here that we have strength and can inflict real damage on the bosses.


Unemployment is always a direct effect of living under capitalism, it is used by the bosses to depress wages "there are plenty of people out there who work for less money than you" is a common threat as is "behave yourselves or I'll close down". The chaotic nature of also leads to regular crisis which cause massive unemployment

Unemployment will not be stopped while the capitalist system exists but there are immediate demands that can be put forward. Any workplace threatened with closure should be occupied. The workers should demand continued employment whether it be under a new owner or by nationalisation. We believe it makes little difference because, for us, nationalisation is not a cure-all. It is no guarantee of better wages or job security and it does not bring us any nearer to socialism. There is no essential difference between a boss who is a civil servant and one who is a private employer. We also call for a shorter working week, an end to systematic overtime and double jobbing and an end to all productivity deals. Basic wages should be high enough so that workers do not need to work excess hours.

We believe that the unemployed should accept no responsibility for the situation. Dole payments should be increased substantially. Where possible, the unemployed should organise themselves to defend their rights and link up with the broader trade union movement.

Women's Freedom

We believe that women are oppressed as a sex. They are denied equal rights, such as the right to control their own fertility and the right to work, and thus cannot fully participate in society. They have been assigned the role of cooks and child minders, their place is in the home.

We believe that the root of women's oppression lies in the division of society into classes, and the economic and social relationships that created. We thus believe that for women to be really free we have to smash capitalism and build a society based on anarchism. We disagree with those feminists who think that all you have to do is for women to become bosses and politicians to achieve equality. We want to destroy the existing power structures. We also disagree with those who think that men are the cause of women's oppression. We do not deny that men gain from this but we identify the source of this oppression as the class system, not individual men.

Women's oppression is not purely a struggle for women as it is a class issue but we hold that women have the right to organise separately because it is they who suffer the oppression. We do believe, though, that the priorities of the woman's movement have reflected the fact that it largely consists of middle class women. We believe that it must become more relevant to working class women. Our priorities are those issues which immediately effect thousands of working class women e.g. work, childcare, housing, etc.

We believe in the right of women to control their own fertility. Women must be free to decide to have children or not, how many and when. Thus we believe in the right to free contraception and abortion on demand.

For these demands to won as many working class women as possible must be brought together to build confidence and defeat the isolation that comes from being in the home. Thus in campaigns to win these demands our emphasis is on building in workplaces and on the estates where women are directly affected.

Anarchism in Action

You probably agree that what you have read so far are mostly good ideas. You probably accept that the wealth of society should be distributed equally and also that ordinary people should have more say in the running of their lives.

Like most people who hear about Anarchism you probably believe that it is a good set of ideas but unfortunately it would never work. People are naturally greedy and selfish, if there was no government to look after our interests there would be complete chaos".

It has already been stated that we believe capitalism is chaos. It does not and never can meet the needs of ordinary people. On the other hand, a society run by those who actually produce can. This kind of society is not myth we have dreamed up. At various stages of our history it has become a reality. Working people have taken their destinies into their own hands and made a success of it. Far from being naturally greedy and selfish these experiences actually show that given the right conditions people can co-operate and act in a spirit of mutual aid.

In the Beginning

As Anarchists we trace our tradition back to the first International Working Mens [sic] Association where the Anarchists formed a distinct tendency influenced mainly by the ideas of Michael Bakunin. Since then Anarchism has always been deeply rooted in the working class. Contrary to popular belief Anarchists do not spend their time plotting in back rooms. For most their activity means bringing their politics into the daily struggles of the factories, the offices and the communities. Anarchists have been involved in all major modern revolutions They have been there arguing and fighting for the right and necessity of working people running society as opposed to any so- called "socialist party" or bureaucratic elite.


"We say to the Russian workers, peasants, soldiers, revolutionists: above all continue the revolution. Continue to organise yourselves solidly and unite your new organisations: your communes, your committees, your soviets. Continue, with firmness and perseverance, always and everywhere to participate more extensively and more and more effectively in the economic life of the country, continue to take into your hands, that is into the hands of your organisations, all the raw materials and all the instruments indispensable to your labour. Continue the revolution. Do not hesitate to face the solution of the burning questions of the present. Create everywhere the necessary organisations to achieve these solutions. Peasants, take the land and put it at the disposal of your committees. Workers, proceed to put in the hands of and at the disposal of your own social organisations - everywhere on the spot - the mines and the subsoil, the enterprises and the establishments of all sorts, the works and the factories, the workshops and the machines". Golos Truda Russian Anarchist-Syndicalist paper August 25th 1917

The Russian Revolution was truly a turning point in modern history. For the first time workers took control and asserted their right to run society. At the time of the revolution there were about 10,000 active Anarchists in Russia, not including the movement in the Ukraine led by Nestor Makhno. There were at least four Anarchists on the Bolshevik dominated Military Revolutionary Committee which engineered the seizure of power in October. More importantly, Anarchists were involved in the Factory Committees which had sprung up after the February Revolution. These were based in workplaces, elected by mass assemblies of the workers and given the role of overseeing the running of the factory and co-ordinating with other workplaces in the same industry or region.

Anarchists were particularly influential among the miners, dockers, postal workers, bakers and played an important part in the All-Russian Conference of Factory Committees which met in Petrograd on the eve of the October Revolution.

It was to these factory committees that the Anarchists looked as the basis for a new self-management which would be ushered in after the revolution. They resisted all efforts to undermine the Committees and take away their power.

The Anarchists had co-operated with the Bolsheviks in seizing power from the ruling class, believing that once captured power could be diffused. It was not long before they saw that the real intention of the Bolsheviks was to take power and keep it. Their concept of socialism did not allow them to trust in the ability of ordinary people to run society in their own interests. Power was wrested away from the Factory Committees and placed in the hands of bodies controlled by the Bolsheviks. Firstly they were subjected to control by Bolshevik dominated trade unions. These unions were then put under the thumb of the state, which was totally dominated by the Bolsheviks. Once the Anarchists' usefulness to them had ended the Bolsheviks ensured they were suppressed. Their papers were closed down and many of the activists arrested.


Anarchist influence here was dominant right up to 1921. An insurgent army led by Nestor Makhno played a central role in defeating the local counter- revolutionary forces and the numerous armies of foreign intervention. The Red Army led by Trotsky signed a treaty of co-operation and Lenin talked of giving the Ukraine over as an experiment in building an anarchist society. The Makhnovists were hailed as heroes of the revolution by the Bolshevik press.

However as soon as the threat of invasion had been overcome the Bolshevik leadership tore up the treaty and declared war on the Anarchists as if they were an army of reaction. This stab in the back led to the destruction of the Makhnovist forces at the hands of the same Red Army which attacked the naval base at Kronstadt and murdered the revolutionaries who had been in the forefront of the struggle against the Tsar and the Provisional Government. Their "crime" was to resist the new elite and demand workers power and freedom for all revolutionary organisations.


The achievements of the Makhnovists were not only military. As their army moved through the Ukraine they encouraged and helped the setting up of collectives among the peasantry and farm labourers. Often this had to take second place to the need to fight and defeat the varied foreign armies of occupation. What was important was that it was proved, even in the conditions of war and invasion, that production could be organised to benefit all rather than to line the pockets of a few.

The Russian experience also shows that the fake socialists and their parties cannot be trusted. If socialism is to triumph power must stay with those who produce society's wealth. No party, no matter how well intentioned, can deliver socialism on a plate. Workers must take power and build the new order themselves.


Of all the western countries Spain is where the Anarchist influence predominated. Introduced in the last century it rapidly spread throughout the country. This led to the formation of the Anarchist Union C.N.T. (National Confederation of Labour) in 1911. In the years up to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 the CNT had over two million members. It was the major union in the most industrialised areas, especially Catalonia and its capital Barcelona. It also had a large base among day labourers and small peasants in most provinces.

The CNT was a revolutionary union of workers (usually described as Syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist). Its role was twofold. Firstly to fight to improve conditions for workers and secondly to organise for the overthrow of capitalism. Its beliefs were translated into action at every opportunity and this militant tradition attracted workers in their hundreds of thousands.

The CNT organised itself from the place of work. Each workplace joined in a federation with other workplaces in their region to form a regional committee. These regional committees were then federated on a national basis and formed a national committee. Within each particular industry there was also a regional and national federation.

Assemblies of workers were the core of the CNT. These made the decisions and elected delegates to regional and national level. All delegates could be recalled and replaced by the assembly if the members were not satisfied with their conduct. Thus no decisions could be made without consulting the rank and file membership. There were no full-time union bureaucrats beyond the control of the workers.

The number of full-time officials was minimal. They were elected for specified periods after which they had to stand down and return to their previous job. At all times they were subject to control by the rank and file. The experience and organisation of the CNT shows that contrary to popular belief Anarchists are not anti-organisation. In reality Anarchism is highly organised and allows for the participation of all. Nor are we against centralisation. What is important is that those at the centre are recallable and directly responsible to those they are elected to represent.

The Civil War

The Civil War started with an attempted fascist coup following the victory of the Popular Front (an alliance of liberal, republic, socialist, and Stalinist parties) in the 1936 elections. In response to the coup the workers mobilised to defeat fascism. popular militias were formed by the unions and workers seized factories. Peasants took over land which had been abandoned by the landlords. This marked the beginning of the revolution for the Anarchists. They believed that the Civil War had to be not just a fight against fascism but also against the capitalist system which had spawned fascism in the first place. Thus they set about seizing factories and ranches and turning them over to workers control.

In the zones controlled by the Anarchists workers self-management became a reality. In Catalonia there were at least 2,000 industrial and commercial collectives. At least 60% of "republican" Spain's agriculture (that part controlled by anti-fascist forces including the Anarchists) was collectivised.

In the workplaces councils or "comite" elected by assemblies of workers and representing all sectors of the enterprise, were given the task of administering the collectivised factory. Collectivised enterprises in each sector of industry were represented in an Economic Federation. This in turn was topped by a General Industrial Council which would closely control the whole industry.

Here is a description of the organisation of gas, electricity and water in Barcelona. "Each type of job (e.g. fitters )set up a section consisting of at least fifteen workers Where they were not the numbers to do this workers from different trades got together to constitute a general section . Each section nominates two delegates which are chosen by assemblies of the workers. One of the delegates will be of a technical calibre and will participate in the "comite" of the workplace. The other will be entrusted with the management of work in the section.

The "comite" of the building or plant comes next. It is nominated by the delegates of the sections and consists of a technician, a manual worker and an administrator. The manual worker has to solve difficulties which might arise between different sections. He or she receives suggestions from workers in the different trades and the sections give him or her daily reports on the progress of work. Periodically the delegate calls the sections to general meetings. At these proposals and initiatives which are likely to improve production and productivity are studied as well as ones to improve the workers' situation. A copy of the deliberation is sent to the Council for Industry

The delegates with administrative functions supervises the arrival and warehousing of materials, records requirements details with book-keeping for supplies and reserves, and keeps an eye on the state of income and expenditure. S/He also deals with correspondence and it is his/her responsibility to see that balance sheets and reports addressed to the Council for Industry are prepared.

The delegate with technical functions supervises the activities of his section, and uses every endeavour to increase productivity. to lighten the workers' burden by introducing new methods. S/He checks on production at the power stations, the state of the network, prepares statistics and charts indicating how production is developing. At the summit there are the Councils of Industry. One each for gas, electricity and water, Each is composed of eight delegates, four from the U. G. T. (the socialist trade union) and four from the C.N.T. These are capped by the General Council of the three industries, which is also made up by eight delegates drawn equally from the two unions.

This Council co-ordinates activities of the three industries; attunes the production and distribution of raw materials from a regional, national and international point of view; modifies prices; organises general administration; indeed takes and uses all initiatives useful to production and the workers' needs. Meanwhile it is obliged at all times to submit its' activities to the scrutiny of local and regional union assemblies"

This account is taken from "Collectives in the Spanish Revolution" by Gaston Leval.

On the Trams

The achievements of collectivisation in Barcelona were many. Take for example the tramways. Out of the 7,000 workers 6,500 were members of the CNT. Because of the street battles all transport had been brought to a halt. The transport syndicate (as unions of the CNT were known) appointed a commission of seven to occupy the administrative offices while others inspected the tracks and drew up a plan of repair work that needed to be done. Five days after the fighting stopped 700 tramcars, instead of the usual 600, all painted in the black and red colours of the CNT, were operating on the streets of Barcelona.

With the profit motive gone, the trams had belonged to a Belgian company before the workers took over, safety became more important and the number of accidents was reduced. Fares were lowered and services improved. In 1936, 183,543,516 passengers were carried. In 1937 this had gone up by 50 million. The trams were running so efficiently that the workers were able to give money to other sections of urban transport. Wages were equalised for all workers and increased over the previous rates. For the first time free medical care was provided for the workforce.

As well as giving a more efficient service the workers found time to produce rockets and howitzers for the war effort. They worked overtime and Sundays to do their share for the anti-fascist struggle. To further underline the fact that getting rid of the bosses and rulers would not lead to a breakdown of order it can be pointed out that in the three years of collectivisation there were only six cases of workers stealing from the workshops.

On the Land

The countryside also saw collectivisation. In Aragon which was near the war front-line collectivisation took root and spread like wildfire. In February 1937 there were 275 collectives totalling 80,000 members. Three months later there were 450 collectives with 180,000 members. Often the peasants and farm labourers went further than their counterparts in the towns and cities. Not only was production collectivised but in rural areas consumption too. In many of these areas money was abolished.

Large estates were taken over by landless labourers, small holders put their land together so that it could be worked more efficiently by the use of machinery. Collectives were based around the villages and federated on a regional basis.

Usually the decision to collectivise was made at an assembly (a meeting of all the village). It meant handing over land, livestock, tools, seed, stocks of wheat and other produce. The land was then divided into sectors, each of which was assigned to a work group of about a dozen who elected their own delegate. Produce went into the "pile" for communal consumption. Each would produce according to their ability, each would consume according to their needs.

Collectivisation did not only apply to the land. In the villages workshops were set up where all the local trades people would produce tools, furniture, etc. for the village and also carry out repairs to the collectivists houses. Bakers, butchers, barbers and so on were also collectivised.

The lot of rural workers and peasants was improved by the introduction of machinery. Living standards rose, in the words of one collectivist "those who had less now ate more and better - no one went short". Education became a central concern and young children who had never been to school were given the education denied to them by the landlords and their system.

Women's' Action

Gains were also made by women. In relation to their role during the Civil War observers have pointed out that they played a full part in the anti- fascist resistance. They were present everywhere - on committees, in the militias, in the front line. In the early battles of the war women fought alongside men as a matter of course. It was not merely a case of women filling in for men who were away at the front. (Which is usually the case in wartime. When the war is over and women are no longer needed in the labour force, they are pushed back into the home).

They were in the militias and fought alongside the men as equals. They were organising the collectives and taking up the fight for against the sexist attitudes of the past which have no place in any real revolution.

The Anarchist women's organisation, Mujeres Libres (Free Women), had 30,000 members. It had been active before the Civil War organising women workers and distributing information on contraception. During the war abortion was legalised in the "republican zone". Centres were opened for women, including unmarried mothers and prostitutes.

From all accounts there truly were changes in attitudes towards women. One woman participant in the Civil War has said "It was like being brothers and sisters. It had always annoyed me that men in this country didn't consider women as beings with full human rights. But now there was this big change. I believe it arose spontaneously out of the revolutionary movement" Margorita Balaguer quoted in "Blood of Spain" ed. Ronald Fraser. page 287

This sort of thing is common to most revolutionary situations. When people begin to throw off the old ideas and start creating a new society their views on many things change. This is not inevitable though and does not negate the need for propaganda and activity against sexism, not only in society as a whole but also within the revolutionary movement itself.

Not all Roses

This account of the collectivisation is, of necessity, brief. The main point is that given the right conditions mutual aid and co-operation will flourish - Problems did arise in Spain as is inevitable. The Anarchists made mistakes. In our opinion they hesitated in carrying out their programme - Instead of seizing power and making a direct appeal to the workers to take control of economic and social affairs, they collaborated with the Popular Front and ended up joining the government.

They were also attacked by the Communist party who preferred defeat by the fascists then the victory of anarchism. The Communists were tied to the needs of Stalin's foreign policy which meant not upsetting the Western powers. To them the restoration of the capitalist order was preferable to seeing the working class take power. And that should come as no surprise as the Stalinist system in Russia is no more than another form of capitalism.


History is not neutral. What we learn in school is the necessity for government, rulers and capitalism. What we do not learn is that many times it has been shown that this government is not necessary. People are not inherently bad. Given the right conditions a spirit of mutual aid and co-operation can grow. People are not naturally evil and greedy.

Economic conditions determine peoples' behaviour. How we act is related to the structure of society and the dominant value system within it. When structures are changed and oppression and exploitation is done away with the "goodness" that is in most of us come through and flourishes as it did when the workers held the reigns in Russia and Spain. The experience of self-management is not limited to these countries but is something that has been seen in most countries at some stage.

What Anarchists are saying are not just' `nice ideas. History shows us that these ideas can work. A new society can be created with the workers in control. But it won't happen spontaneously - We must organise for it.

That is why we need revolutionary organisation. An organisation that draws together all those fighting for workers control. An organisation that gives us the chance to exchange ideas and experiences, and to learn from the lessons of history. An organisation that allows us to struggle together for a new society.

We do not need a group of leaders and their passive followers. We do need an organisation working towards mobilising the mass of ordinary people in the process of making the revolution. If you like what you have just read, you should start working to build just such an organisation.