State, Class and bureaucracy in the USSR

Lenin in 1921 defined the Soviet Russian State as "a workers' state with a bureaucratic deformation in a country with a peasant majority." This definition must nowadays be modified in the following way: the Soviet State is a bureaucratic State where a bureaucratic middle middle class and a workers lower middle class are in the process of formation while the agrarian middle middle class still survives.

Boris Souvarin in his book on 'Stalin' (Paris 1935) gives this portrayal of the social appearance of the USSR.

"The so-called soviet society is based in just the same way on the exploitation of man by man, of the producer by the bureaucrat - technician of political power. Individual appropriation of surplus value is succeeded by a collective appropriation by the State, a parasitic deduction from consumption carried out by the bureaucracy . . . Official documents leave us in no doubt: the bureaucracy deducts an unwarranted portion from the work of the subject classes who are forced to undergo an unrelenting system of sweated labour, and which corresponds more or less to the old capitalist profit. Thus a new social category has formed around the Party, which is interested in the maintenance of the current order and in the perpetuation of the State whose extinction Lenin predicted as related to the disappearance of classes. If the Bolsheviks do not have the legal ownership of the instruments of production and means of exchange, they possess the machinery of the State, which allows them to carry out all these acts of plunder in different ways. The possibility of imposing sale prices that are much higher than cost prices contains the true secret of bureaucratic-technical exploitation which is characterised besides this by administrative and military oppression."

Bonapartism is no more than the political reflection of the tendency of this new bourgeoisie to conserve and enhance its own socio-economic situation. In the appeal to the world proletariat by the Bolshevik Leninist Tambov of 1935, one can read:

"The aim of the party bureaucracy consists solely of the isolation and torture of opponents so that they never publicly become useless, that is to say unfortunate apolitical beings. The bureaucrat, in fact, does not wish you to be a true Communist. He does not need that. For him that is harmful and mortally dangerous. The bureaucrat does not want independent Communists, he wants miserable slaves, egoists and citizens of the worst sort ....

"It would thus be possible that under a true proletarian power, the struggle against bureaucracy, against the thieves and brigands who impudently appropriate the goods of the soviets and who are the cause of the loss of thousands of men through cold and famine, it would be possible that a struggle or a simple protest would be considered as a counterrevolutionary offence?"

The cruel struggle between the 'revolutionary' oppositions and 'conservative' orthodoxy is a phenomenon that is quite natural in the setting of State Socialism. The Leninist opposition has good reason to point out to the world proletariat the deformities and degeneracy's of Stalinism, but if the opposition's diagnosis is almost always correct, the aetiology is almost always inadequate. Stalinism is only the consequence of the Leninist set up of the political problem of the Social Revolution. To oppose the effects without going back to the causes, to the original sin of Bolshevism (bureaucratic dictatorship as a function of dictatorship of the Party), is equivalent to arbitrarily simplifying the chain of causality which leads from the dictatorship of Lenin without any great breaks in continuity. Liberty within a party which denies the free play of competition among the progressive parties within the soviet system would today be a spectacular miracle. Workers' hegemony, Bolshevik absolutism, State Socialism, industrial fetishism: these seeds of corruption could only produce poisoned fruit such as the absolutism of a faction and the hegemony of a class.

Trotsky in the role of Saint George struggling with the Stalinist dragon cannot make us forget the Trotsky of Kronstadt. The responsibility for current Stalinism goes back to the formulation and practice of the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party in the same way as to the illusion of the extinction of the State as a fruit of the disappearance of classes under the influence of State Socialism.

When Trotsky wrote (6th December, 1935): "The historical absurdity of autocratic bureaucracy in a classless society cannot be sustained and will not be sustained indefinitely," he was saying an absurd thing about the 'historical absurdity.' In history there is no absurdity. An autocratic bureaucracy is a class, therefore it is not absurd that it should exist in a society where classes remain the bureaucratic class and the proletarian class. If the USSR was a 'classless' society, it would also be a society without a bureaucratic autocracy, which is the natural fruit of the permanent existence of the State.

It is because of its function as the party controlling the State machine that the Bolshevik Party became a centre of attraction for careerist petty bourgeois elements and for lazy and opportunist workers.

The bureaucratic wound has not been opened and infected by Stalinism: it is contemporaneous with the Bolshevik dictatorship.

Here are some news items from 1918 and 1919, published by the Bolshevik press. 'Vetsertsia Isvestia' of 23rd August 1918 talking of the disorganisation of the postal service, states that despite the 60% decrease in correspondence the number of employees had increased by 100% compared to the period before the Revolution.

'Pravda' of 11th February 1919 points out the continual creation of new offices, of new bureaucratic institutions, for which officials are named and remunerated before these new institutions begin to operate. "And all these new employees," says 'Pravda' of 22nd February 1919, "overrun and occupy entire palaces, when, seeing their number, a few rooms would be enough."

Work is slow and obstructionist, even in offices with industrial functions. "An employee of the Commisariat of Lipetzk," relates 'Isvestia' of 29th November 1918, "in order to buy nine boxes of nails at the price of 417 roubles had to fill in twenty forms, obtain ten orders and thirteen signatures, and he had to wait two days to get them as the bureaucrats who should have signed could not be found."

'Pravda' (No.281) denounced "the invasion of our Party by petty bourgeois elements" and complaints about requisitions "of a Selfish nature." In the 2nd March 1919 issue, the same paper states "We must recognise that recently comrades who are in the Communist Party for their first year have begun to make use of methods that are inadmissible in our Party. Making it their duty not to take any notice of the advice of local organisations, believing themselves charged to act personally on the basis of their rather limited authority, they order and command without rhyme or reason. From this comes the latent discontent between the centre and the periphery, a succession of abuses provoked by the individual dictatorship."

Speaking of the province of Pensa, the Commissary of the Interior Narkomvnudel said, "The local representatives of the central government behave not like representatives of the proletariat, but like true dictators. A senes of facts and proofs that these strange representatives go armed to the poorest of people, taking from them the necessities of life, threatening to kill them, and when they protest, they beat them with sticks. The possessions they have thus requisitioned are resold, and with the money they receive, they organise scenes of drunkenness and orgies."

Another Bolshevik, Meserikov, wrote, "each one of us sees each day innumerable cases of violence, of abuse of power, of corruption, of laziness etc. All of us know that into our soviet institutions, cretins and incompetents have entered en masse. We all regret their presence in the ranks of the Party, but we do nothing to clean ourselves of these impurities . . . " " . . . If an institution chases out an incompetent, they straight away find another to replace him, and they entrust him with a responsible post. Often instead of punishment he gets promotion." (Pravda, 5th February 1919).

In a speech given at the Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (11th-12th March 1919) Lenin acknowledged, "There are here and there careerists, soldiers of fortune who have fastened on to us. They call themselves Communists, but in reality they seek only to deceive us as to their true ideas. They have 'stuck' themselves to us because we are in power, and because the most honest bureaucratic elements refuse to collaborate with us because of their backward ideas, whereas these others' do not even have honest ideas, they are merely climbers.'"

The Bolshevik government revealed itself to be powerless in the face of a bureaucracy which is super-abundant, parasitic, despotic and dishonest.

Five million bureaucrats became nearly ten million. In 1925 there were 400,000 officials in the Co-operation ('Pravda' 20th April, 1926), In 1927 the Russian Federation of Food Workers had some 4,287 officials for 451,720 members, and the Moscow Metalworkers Union some 700 officials for 130,000 union cards. ('Truda' 12th June 1928).

This plethoric bureaucracy does not correspond to intense and efficient administrative activity. "The directorate of the soviet system from the bottom to the highest degree has a function of paper-shuffling. The provincial committee usually sends out one or two circulars every day on every possible and imaginable question and judges that it has thus fulfilled its obligations." "The number of circulars giving directives which are received by local cells varies between 30 and 100 monthly." (Pravda, 7th June 1925).

A top official, Dzerjinsky wrote, "They demand from enterprises the most varied sort of information, reports and statistical facts, which in our system form a torrent of paper which obliges us to employ an excessive number of personnel and damages our real work; a sea of paper is created in which hundreds of people are lost; the situation of accountability and statistics is quite simply catastrophic; businesses wearily support the burden of supplying information on tens and hundreds of different forms, now they measure accountability in pouds." (One poud = 16,380 kg). (Pravda, 23rd June 1926).

* ****

This phenomenon of the reconstitution of classes 'thanks to the State' was foreseen by us and virulently denounced by us. The Leninist opposition did not succeed in deepening their aetiological examination of the phenomenon, and it is because of this that they did not come to revise the Leninist position in the face of the problems of the State and the Revolution.

Camillo Berneri. (Article which appeared in 'Guerra di Class' No.2 of 17th October 1936, page 4 and signed C.B.).

Translation published in 'The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review' Number 4, 1978

State and Revolution

The Abolition and Extinction of the State

Whereas we anarchists desire the extinction of the state through the social revolution and the constitution of an autonomist federal order, the Leninists desire the destruction of the bourgeois state and moreover the conquest of the state by the 'proletariat.' The 'proletarian' state. they say, is a semi-state since the complete state is the bourgeois one destroyed by the social revolution. And even this semi-state would die, according to the Marxists, a natural death.

This theory of the extinction of the state which is the basis of Lenin's book 'State and Revolution' has been derived by him from Engels who in 'Anti-Duhring' says,

"The proletariat seizes the power of the state and first of all transforms the means of production into the property of the state. But by achieving this it does away with itself as proletariat, it does away with all class differences and all class antagonisms and consequently also with the state as the state. Society as it was and as it is at present which is actuated by the antagonisms between the classes, needed the state, that is to say an organisation of the exploiting class with a view to maintaining the outward conditions of production, more particularly with a view to maintaining by force the exploited class in the oppressive conditions demanded by the existing mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage labour). The state was the official representative of the entire society, its synthesis in visible form, but it was only this to the extent that it was the state of the class which itself represented in its time the entire society: the state of citizens who owned slaves in antiquity, the state of the feudal nobility in the Middle Ages, the state of the bourgeoisie in our time. But by becoming at last the true representative of the whole society, it renders itself superfluous. As soon as there is no longer a social class to maintain in oppression; as soon as the clashes of interest and the excesses are abolished at the same time as class domination and the struggle for individual existence which is founded in the old anarchy of production from which they result, there is nothing more to repress, and a special force for repression, the state, ceases to be necessary. The first act by which the state confirms itself in reality as the representative of the entire society - taking possession of the means of production in the name of society - is at the same time the last proper act of the state. The intervention of the power of the state in social relations becomes superfluous in one area after another, and eventually dies away of its own accord. Government of people is replaced by administration of things and control of the process of production. The state is not 'abolished'; it withers away. It is from this point of view that one must appraise the expression: 'a free popular state' as much for its short-lived interest for discussion as for its definitive scientific inadequacy; from this point of view also must the claims of those who are called anarchists and who desire that the state should be abolished overnight be appraised."

Between the State - Today and the Anarchy - Tomorrow there would be the semi-state. The state which dies is the 'state as the state' that is to say, the bourgeois state. It is in this sense that one must take the phrase which at first sight seems to contradict the proposition of the socialist state. "The first act by which the state confirms itself in reality as the representative of the entire society - taking possession of the means of production in the name of society - is at the same time the last proper act of the state." Taken literally and out of context, this phrase would signify the temporal simultaneity of economic socialisation and the extinction of the state. In the same way also, taken literally and out of context, the phrases relating to the proletariat destroying itself as proletariat in the act of seizing the power of the state would indicate the lack of need for the 'Proletarian State.' In reality, Engels under the influence of 'didactic style' expresses himself in an unfortunate manner. Between the bourgeois state today and the socialist-anarchist tomorrow, Engels recognises a chain of successive eras during which the state and the proletariat remain. It is to throw some light on the dialectical obscurity that he adds the final allusion to the anarchists "who desire that the state should be abolished overnight" that is to say, who do not allow the transitory period as regards the state, whose intervention according to Engels becomes superfluous, "in one area after another" that is to say, gradually.

It seems to me that the Leninist position on the problem of the state coincides exactly with that taken by Marx and Engels when one interprets the spirit of the writings of these latter without letting oneself be deceived by the ambiguity of certain turns of phrase.

The state is, in Marxist - Leninist political thought, the temporary political instrument of socialisation, temporary in the very essence of the state, which is that of an organism for the domination of one class by another. The socialist state, by abolishing classes, commits suicide. Marx and Engels were metaphysicians who frequently came to schematise historical processes from love of system.

'The Proletariat' which seizes the state, bestowing on it the complete ownership of the means of production and destroying itself as proletariat and the state 'as the state' is a metaphysical fantasy, a political hypothesis of social abstractions.[5]

It is not the Russian proletariat that has seized the power of the state, but rather the Bolshevik Party which has not destroyed the proletariat at all and which has on the other hand created a State Capitalism, a new bourgeois class, a set of interests bound to the Bolshevik state which tend to preserve themselves by preserving the state.

The extinction of the state is further away than ever in the USSR where static interventionism is ever more immense and oppressive, and where classes are not disappearing.

The Leninist programme for 1917 included these points: the discontinuance of the police and the standing army, abolition of the professional bureaucracy, elections for all public positions and offices, revocability of all officials, equality of bureaucratic wages with workers' wages, the maximum of democracy, peaceful competition among the parties within the soviets, abolition of the death penalty. Not a single one of the points in this programme has been achieved.

We have the USSR a government, a dictatorial oligarchy. The Central Committee (19 members) dominates the Russian Communist Party which in turn dominates the USSR.

All those who are not 'loyal subjects' are charged with being counter-revolutionaries. The Bolshevik revolution has engendered a saturnal[6] government, which deports Riazano founder of the Marx Engels institute, at the time when he is preparing the complete and original edition of 'Des Kapital;' which condemns to death Zinonev, president of the Communist International, Kamenev and many others among the best propagators of Leninism, which excludes from the party, then exiles, then expels from the USSR a 'duce' like Trotsky, which in short is dead set against 80% of the supporters of Leninism.

In 1920 Lenin was speaking very highly of self-criticism within the lap of the Communist Party and spoke of 'mistakes' recognised by the 'Party' and not of the right of the citizen to denounce these mistakes, or those things which seemed to him to be such of the party in government. When Lenin was dictator, whoever caused a stir in denouncing the same mistakes which Lenin himself recognised in retrospect risked or underwent ostracism, prison or death. Bolshevik Sovietism was an atrocious joke even for Lenin who vaunted the god-like power of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party over all the USSR in saying: "No important question be it one of political discipline or relating to organisation, is decided on by a state institution in our Republic without a directive emanating from the Central Committee of the Party."

Whoever says 'proletarian State' says 'State Capitalism' whoever says 'dictatorship of the Proletariat' says 'Dictatorship of the Communist Party;' whoever says 'strong government' says 'Tsarist oligarchy of politicians.'

Leninists, Trotskyists, Bordighists, Centrists are only divided by different tactical ideas. All Bolsheviks, to whatever stream or faction they belong are supporters of political dictatorship and State Socialism. All are united by the formula: 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' an ambiguous phrase which corresponds to 'The People Sovereign' of Jacobinism. Whatever Jacobinism is, it is certain to cause the Social Revolution to deviate. And when it deviates, 'the shadow of a Bonaparte' is cast across it.

One would have to be blind not to see that the Bonapartism of Stalin is merely the horrible and living shadow of Leninist Dictatorialism.

Camillo Berneri

5 Hypostasis: in theology this word is equivalent to 'nuance,' thus the father, son and holy ghost are three hypostases of a single divine substance Here the proletariat's act of seizing power is a hypostasis which contains several magic processes: destruction of the state and the proletariat.

6 Saturnal: an allusion to the myth of Saturn who ate his own children. The Party devoured, Trotsky, then Stalin, then Krushchev etc.

Translation published in 'The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review' Number 4, 1978

Dictatorship of the Proletariat and State Socialism

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat is a Marxist conception. According to Lenin "only he is a Marxist who extends his acknowledgement of the class struggle to an acknowledgement of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." Lenin was right: the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is, in effect, for Marx no more than the conquest of the state by the proletariat which, organised in a politically dominant class, arrives, by way of State Socialism, at the elimination of all classes.

In the 'Critique of the Gotha Programme' written by Marx in 1875 we read:

"between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the State can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat"

In the Communist Manifesto he was already saying:

"The first step on the path to the workers' revolution is the elevation of the proletariat to the position of ruling class .... The proletariat will gain from its political domination by little by little tearing away from the bourgeoisie all capital, by centralising all means of production in the hands of the State, that is to say in the hands of the proletariat itself organised as the ruling class"

Lenin in 'State and Revolution' only confirms the Marxist theory:

"The proletariat only needs the state for a certain length of time. It is not the elimination of the State as a final aim that separates us from the anarchists. But we assert to attain this end, it is essential to utilise temporarily against he exploiters the instruments, the means and the procedures of political power, in the same way as it is essential in order to eliminate the classes to instigate the temporary dictatorship of the oppressed class"

"The State will disappear in so far as there are no more capitalists, there are no more classes and it is no longer necessary to oppress 'any class'. But the State is not completely dead as long as 'bourgeois rights' which sanctify de facto inequality survive. In order that the State dies completely, the advent of integral communism is necessary."

The Proletarian State is conceived of as a temporary political structure destined to destroy the classes. Gradual expropriation and the idea of State Capitalism are at the basis of this conception. Lenin's economic program: of the eve of the October Revolution ends with this phrase: "Socialism is nothing more than a State Socialist Monopoly".

According to Lenin:

"The distinction between the Marxists and the Anarchists consists of this:

1. The Marxists, although they propose the complete destruction of the State believe that this can only be realised after the destruction of the classes by the Socialist Revolution, and as a result of the triumph of socialism which will come to an end with the destruction of the State; the Anarchists want the complete elimination of the State overnight without understanding what are the conditions which make it possible.

2) The Marxists proclaim the necessity for the proletariat of securing political power, of destroying entirely the old machinery of State and of replacing it by a new mechanism consisting of an organisation of armed workers of the type of the Commune; the Anarchists, in calling for the destruction of the machinery of State, do not really know 'with what' the proletariat will replace it nor 'what use' it will make of its revolutionary power; they even go as far as to condemn all use of political power by the revolutionary proletariat and reject the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

3) The Marxists want to prepare the proletariat for the Revolution by using the modern State; the Anarchists reject this method.

Lenin was disguising the facts. The Marxists "do not have the complete destruction of the State in mind", but they foresee the natural disappearance of the State as a consequence of the destruction of the classes by the means of 'the dictatorship of the proletariat', that is to say State Socialism, whereas the Anarchists desire the destruction of the classes by means of a social revolution which eliminates, with the classes, the State. The Marxists, moreover, do not propose the armed conquest of the Commune by the whole proletariat, but they propose the conquest of the State by the party which imagines that it represents the proletariat. The Anarchists allow the use of direct power by the proletariat, but they understand the organ of this power to be formed by the entire corpus of systems of communist administration - corporate organisations, communal institutions, both regional and national - freely constituted outside and in opposition to all political monopoly by parties and endeavouring to reduce to a minimum administrational centralisation. Lenin, in the interests of polemic, arbitrarily simplified the facts about the difference between the Marxists and us.

The Leninist phrase: "The Marxists want to prepare the proletariat for the Revolution by using the modern State" is the basis of Leninist Jacobinism just as it is the basis of Parliamentary Government and Social Reformist Ministerialism.

At the International Socialist Congresses of London (1896) and Paris (1900) it was established that only parties and workers' organisations which recognised the principle of the "Socialist conquest of the public authorities by the proletarian faction organised in a party as a class" could belong to the Socialist International. The split came about at this point, but in effect the exclusion of the Anarchists from the International was only a triumph of Ministerialism, opportunism, and 'Parliamentary Cretinism'.

The anti-parliamentary trade unionists and several communist factions quoting Marxism as authority rejected the pre-revolutionary or revolutionary Socialist conquest of the public authorities.

Whosoever looks back on the history of Socialism after the exclusion of the Anarchists can see for themselves the gradual degeneration of Marxism as a political philosophy through the interpretations and practices of the Social-Democrats.

Leninism constitutes, without any doubt, a return to the revolutionary spirit of Marxism, but it also constitutes a return to the fallacies and abstractions of Marxist metaphysics.

Article which appeared in 'Guerra di Class' No 4, 5th November, 1936.

Translation published in 'The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review' Number 4, 1978

Problems of the Revolution: the City and the Country

Emile Pouget wrote in 1906 (Almanac of the Revolution),"There are no possible or effective revolutions except when workers and peasants participate in the movement. If on the contrary only one of these categories is on the move whether it is the peasants or the workers the movement will miscarry."

More than in any other circumstance, this necessity of the union of the peasant and the worker has been emphasised by syndicalist propaganda. Up to now, the development of the Spanish Social Revolution has shown a remarkable synchronism between collectivist action in the towns and the country, and the opposition which existed in the Russian and Hungarian Revolutions have not presented themselves. That does not mean to say however that they will not appear tomorrow, and the Spanish comrades must of necessity continue, as up to now, their effort to maintain an intelligent balance between the city and the country.

The first antagonism that looms up between the city and the country during the revolution comes from the urgency of the problem of providing provisions. Spain has had a great advantage for itself: namely a certain autonomy in relation to foreign countries. However Spain is beginning to run into difficulties in resolving the problem of provisioning the towns. And this problem could become more and more difficult.

Two tendencies appear in the midst of the masses of working people in the towns: firstly forced requisitioning, then a more pacific and rational solution.

Forced requisitioning is a great mistake. All history of revolutions shows this. The French revolutionary government of 1793 tried to use the 'strong' method, and the results were disastrous: 11th April 1794 the Committee of Public Safety ordered the requisition of one pig in eight. The owner was to work on it until it had attained the maximum weight. A great show of circulars and measures to inspect, pay, conserve, centralise etc. was made. Several months later when the commissar presented himself to take the animal, he only found a skeleton or a pig more dead than alive.

The Russian Revolution offers a more recent example of the disastrous effects of a policy of forced requisition. It fully confirms Kropotkin's predictions in 'The Conquest Of Bread': "When the Revolution breaks out, the Russian peasants will keep their bread for themselves and their families." The Bolsheviks themselves recognised the error of forced requisition at the Provincial Congress of the Soviets which took place in Moscow in 1919. The results of the expeditions of provisioning parties were disastrous: disorder, plots, peasant revolts (Lunivsk, Paulovsk, Mokoovsk, Bielieh, Ponikolsk ete), violent suppression, bad economic results. The frightened peasants sowed less. The livestock similarly diminished greatly. Rich areas, Tambov, suffered scarcity.

The policy of requisition completely checked the revolutionary momentum of the countryside. Emma Goldman recounts an anecdote which clearly illustrates the miserable condition of the peasants: A group of peasants presented themselves before Lenin one day to discuss their lot.

"May God protect you," said the oldest of the peasants.

"Are you not happy, my friend? You have lands, cows, chickens, what more do you went?" replied Lenin.

"Praise be to God, we have land, but you take all the corn; chickens, but you take away the eggs, cows, but our children have no milk. That, my friend, is why we are asking you to help us."

The abandonment of requisition, which was again demanded by the Kronstadt sailors on 1st March 1921, was not announced until the 12th by Lenin at the opening of the Tenth Communist Party Congress when Trotsky was putting down Kronstadt.

It is left to us to examine the acquisition of agricultural products. In this too, the French Revolution offers significant examples of the danger of using money refused by the peasants and excessively low prices.

If in 1793 the countryside caused famine in the large cities, this was not due to a fall in cereal production, but because the peasants refused promissory notes without any security in gold. It would be wrong to believe that only the rich peasants refused to sell their products, the small farmers were equally opposed to exchanging the fruit of their sweat for these promissory notes, on while Kropotkin comments as follows in 'The Great Revolution':

"As long as they offer the peasants a worthless scrap of paper, the situation did not develop. The foodstuffs remained in the countryside, even if they had recourse to the guillotine."

The policy of imposed prices had no better effects: the foodstuffs became scarce. The Assembly lowered retail prices by decree (29th September 1793), anticipating that wholesale prices would follow. Wholesale dealing stopped, and commerce also.

The Russian Revolution offers other examples. Seeing that violence did not produce results, the Bolshevik government began to buy agricultural products, but it made a new mistake. The price was too low. As in the case of corn the price of which was slightly higher than before the Revolution when the prices of industrial products had increased by thirty to forty times.

We have seen that neither forced requisition nor promissory notes have given good results. There only remains the exchange of manufactured goods for agricultural products.

Kropotkin, in 'The Conquest of Bread' presented this solution as bring very effective, although a contributor to Malatesta's magazine (Carlo Molasehi in 'Pensiero e Volonta' Rome 1st January 1925) considers it to be an 'unknown quantity'. In this connection, I wrote in Fiabbri's 'Lotte Umana' (Paris, March 1928): "When Kropotkin was writing, he was thinking of the torch that was going to replace the paraffin light, of the spade that would replace the plough etc." Today the peasant's need for agricultural machines is relative, and in certain areas and for certain forms of cultivation they are unusable. He possesses many articles of convenience and no longer needs everything. Few peasants would exchange their corn for a vegetable cleaner. Before the needs of the peasants increase and industry abandons the production of luxury articles a certain time will pass. "Consequently, the peasants will be paid in money, cash of a recognised weight and value."

Luigi Fabbri added a note in which he observed,

"If the mentality of the peasant is so backward that he demands money, it will be a good idea to examine how this demand can be satisfied. It is a hypothesis which for good reasons wounds the anarchists who must do all they can, by propaganda and by researching other means, to avoid such a choice. However, it is advisable to bear it in mind that, from an anarchist, revolutionary, humane and also practical point of view, this choice is preferable to the system of coercion and of authoritarian requisition."

As one can see, Fabbri was excluding requisition and was not rejecting money, but he was not tackling the problem. In my article 'The anarchists and agrarian smallholding'(La Revista Blanca, 15th November 1932), after declaring myself in favour of the use of money in trading between the towns and the countryside, I wrote,

"Naturally a system for the exchange of goods, of work, of means of transport is always possible as an integral part of the system of buying and selling." If the local councils or the trade unions, or both at the same time, were the intermediary organisations between the rural smallholders and the farming co-operatives and between the latter and the industrial workers, they would be able to facilitate this exchange without money.

For example, a local council that has organised the production of bread wants to be provided with corn. It applies to the peasants, offering them in exchange for their corn work provided by the building co-operative, to which the local council will give the necessary materials. One could find infinite examples.

At the time I had omitted a fundamental aspect of the problem: agreement between the prices of the factories and the peasants' ability and desire to buy. The exchange of commodities between the city and the country is an ideal form which is not always attainable. It is one of the weak points of Socialist economics. In the Russian Revolution this was one of the principal factors in the transition from the SEP (Socialist Economic Policy) to the NEP (New Political Economy).

Co-ordination between the urban and agrarian economies is much more difficult than is generally supposed among Socialists. The Catalan peasants refusal of the proposals for exchange put to them by the Barcelona Wood Syndicate is a typical example of this. The peasants generally have need of seeds, chemical fertilisers, agricultural machinery and only later do economic improvement and spiritual development give them the need for conveniences, aesthetic and luxury items.

The urban society must therefore respond to these possibilities and to the peasants' preferences if one wants to avoid antagonisms looming up between the towns and the countryside. As in the USSR where agricultural and industrial prices are so widely different that they constitute and perpetuate divergent interests, the central point of all the variations in Bolshevik economic policy, and which explains almost all aspects of internal political struggles.

To recap, I should say that anarchists in towns should refuse to take part in expeditions for forceful requisition and even prevent them, demanding that the problem of provisioning the towns and the militias be resolved by a common agreement between the peasants and the workers on the purchase of agricultural products, whether with a stable currency or by exchange and credit certificates.

As for the anarchists who live in the country, they must at one and the same time, repel requisition and fight all attempts at buying up and sabotage, and carry out an intense campaign of persuasion on the subject of the towns' problems, like provisioning, in order to facilitate agreement between the workers in the country and the workers and technicians in the towns, in order to encourage federation between the urban and rural co-operatives, in order to promote and support all spontaneous experience which would tend to reduce the money supply. Harmony between the towns and the countryside is only possible by avoiding the USSR's mistakes: forced requisition, destruction of consumer cooperativism, centralisation of distribution, increase of factory prices, transition from suppression to tolerance of speculators, monetary inflation etc.

I am not a prophet. I have therefore been able to air some points of view that are completely superficial, as much to the present as for the future. However, I consider that it is not useless to suggest plans for relations between the towns and the countryside, given that this problem draws our attention and demands deep and meticulous study and elaboration. I leave that task to those who are more competent, for I am no economist.

Tierra y Libertad, February 1937, translated from Volonta, 1st December 1950.

Translation published in 'The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review' Number 4, 1978


There was fighting during the following night. But an incident occurred in the evening that demonstrated clearly the intentions of the provocateurs. A short way down the Via Durruti, opposite the Regional Committee at 2 Plaza del Angel, lived the well known anarchist militant, Camillo Berneri. A number of other Italian exiles, who had come to Spain to form an anti-fascist column, also lived there. Berneri was a sort of political delegate among his countrymen. He also edited the Italian paper Guerra di Classe, in which he drew attention to the dangers of dictatorship. One article entitled 'Burgos and Moscow', attracted the attention of the Russian government. Berneri wrote:

"Once fascism is beaten, it will be necessary for the CNT and the FAI to continue the struggle for their social programme. The Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Spain declared only the other day that, in the present struggle in Spain, they are defending democracy and private property. It smells of Noske. Were not Madrid in flames one might even expect a new Kronstadt. But Madrid is approaching victory. Revolutionary Catalonia receives neither arms nor financial help. Did the USSR send arms, munitions, and military cadres in order to control the anti-fascist fight and check the development of the Social Revolution? The alternative, Madrid or Franco, has paralysed Spanish anarchism. Today Barcelona is located between Burgos, Rome, Madrid, and Moscow. It is besieged. The horizon is hazy. We are on the high seas in a great storm. Shall we be able to perform wonders? Crushed between the Prussians and Versailles, the Commune of Paris initiated a fire that lit up the world. Between Burgos and Madrid lies Barcelona. Let the Godets of Moscow remember this." [Godet was the fascist general who led the uprising in Barcelona on the 19th of July. He was duly tried by the people of Barcelona, and shot.]

This article caused Russia to intervene in the CNT-FAI. Since then, Berneri was anathema to the partisans of the Communist Party Dictatorship.

When the hostilities started, Berneri was in his- rooms with his friend, Barbieri, also a well known anarchist. With them were the wife of Barbieri and Tosca Pantini, widow of an Italian militiaman killed on the Aragon front. The Italians' house was surrounded by Catalan city guards and members of the PSUC wearing red armbands with their party insignia on them. On the morning of Tuesday May 4th, the Catalan and Communist guards came to the house and told the Italian anarchists to be careful because there was a lot of shooting in the neighbourhood. There was another visit in the afternoon for the purpose of registering the house and confiscating the arms which belonged to Italian militiamen on leave in Barcelona. The next day, Wednesday May 5th, at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Berneri and Barbieri were taken away by 12 guards, six of them from the city police, the others were members of the PSUC as evidenced by their red armbands. The leader of the group, showing his badge with the number 1109, asked for their names. Two of the group remained in the house to carry out a further search. Berneri had been working on a book about Mussolini's policy in the Mediterranean, with special reference to the Balearic Islands. It was a book against Italian fascism.

Barbieri's wife wanted to go with the two comrades when they were taken away, but they refused to allow her.

Both men were shot during the following night, by machine gun fire, as revealed by the autopsy. It was cold blooded murder, since both men were unarmed. The murder was committed near the Palace of the Generality. Soon after the bodies of the two anarchists were delivered to the mortuary of the Hospital Clinico. The lists show that the Red Cross had found both bodies near the Generality.

The evidence is irrefutable. Berneri and Barbieri were shot because they were anarchists by police and members of the PSUC, i.e. faithful Moscow Communists. Barbieri's companion declared "Barbieri asked why they who were anarchists and therefore anti-fascists, were being ill treated. And the leader of the group answered: 'It's because you are anarchists that you are counter-revolutionaries . "'

The anarchists were persecuted; the anarchists were murdered; the anarchists were outlawed. Still they limited themselves only to defence, and never attacked. Yet when the lie was circulated that the anarchists were doing the attacking, the world press seized upon it eagerly and spread it to the four corners of the earth.

On the following day the papers published the number of victims: 500 dead and over 1500 wounded. A terrible indictment of those who had provoked such a fratricidal war.


During the night the two trade unions, the UGT and the CNT, agreed to call upon the workers once more to return to work. They published the following manifesto:

"The tragic events taking place in our city during the last 48 hours have made it impossible for the workers to go to work. The anti-fascist organisations and parties in session at the Palace of the Generality have solved the conflict that has created this abnormal situation, so harmful to the cause of the proletariat. The local federations of the CNT and the UGT have agreed to ask all members to resume their work as usual. It is necessary to return to normal life. To continue the present inactivity in the factories at this time is to weaken our forces and strengthen that of our common enemy.

"Accordingly, all workers of the CNT and the UGT are ordered to return to work. All members of both trade unions should avoid anything that might lead to possible friction and disturbances at their place of work. These events have taught us that from now on we shall have to establish relations of cordiality and comradeship, the lack of which we have all regretted deeply during the last few days.

"The local federations of the UGT and the CNT urge their members to refrain from all manifestations of hostility. Mutual understanding and solidarity are the requirements of the hour. The union cards of both organisations must be respected by everyone, and it is the duty of the control committees to respect all workers without exception.

"To work, comrades of the CNT and UGT!"

Local Federation of the CNT, Barcelona.
Local Federation of the UGT, Barcelona.

This appeal was broadcast over the radio and appeared the next morning in every paper in Barcelona. But to no avail. Work was not resumed anywhere. The police continued in their hostile attitude and fortified their positions further during the night with the obvious intention of extending the struggle. Provocation's by the political parties continued in the hope of shaking the faith of the workers in the conduct of the committees of the CNT and the FAI. The fighting was resumed. Bitterness and discontent filled the workers. The Valencia government intervened more energetically into the affairs of Barcelona. Two Spanish warships were ordered to the port of Barcelona.

The streets presented a calmer picture on Thursday morning. The centre of the old city was still like a fortress. Some horse carts were already making their appearance on the wider streets, and an occasional pedestrian could be seen. The overhead wires of the tramways were being repaired. The Valencia government, it was rumoured, was gathering troops from different sectors of the front to be sent to Catalonia.

The Regional Committee and the syndicates all over the city suffered new anxieties when the police and the civilian fighters of PSUC proceeded to take advantage of the armistice to build new fortifications. Thus, the police openly carried sand bags and machine guns up to the towers of a cathedral not two hundred metres from the Casa CNT-FAI. This hardly looked like peace. Those who seek peace don't proceed to occupy new offensive positions.

Further news added to the anxiety. 1,500 troops are on their way from Valencia. Another 2,500 will follow. Against whom are they mobilising? Against the workers? In the streets of Barcelona everybody was being searched. Those who had membership carnets from the CNT were regarded as enemies. The carnet was taken away and torn up. Often, mere possession of such a document was cause for arrest. Dozens of such arrests were being made.

The negotiations between the antagonistic parties were delayed half a day by the death of the secretary of the UGT of Catalonia, Antonio Sese. He was fatally wounded by a bullet on his way to the Generality in his own car. The shot came from the direction of the Paseo de Gracia, where his own party comrades had a barricade. The comrades who accompanied Sese signed a document stating the facts of the case, which is now in the hands of the Theatre Union in front of whose headquarters the accident occurred. Sese was neither murdered nor executed. Yet his death was used to intensify the insidious campaign against the CNT.

A strange situation had developed inside the Telephone Building. The workers in the upper storeys and the assault guards arranged an armistice. They allowed the workers to receive food - the first since, Monday. The discussions among the workers who belonged both to the CNT and the UGT, still continued. To end these discussions and to show their willingness to restore peace, .he members of the CNT agreed to leave the building at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The assault guards were supposed to leave also. However, instead of leaving that part of the building which they had occupied earlier in the week, the assault guards proceeded to occupy the entire building, and brought in members of the UGT to take over the posts of CNT workers. The members of the CNT saw that they had been betrayed and immediately informed the Regional Committee. The latter intervened with the Government. They demanded that the police be withdrawn from the building. To remain meant a broken promise would render their agreements valueless for the future. Those who broke their agreement would have to take the consequences. Half an hour later the Generality replied: the fait accompli cannot be recalled.

This broken agreement aroused great indignation among the workers of the CNT. Had the workers in the outlying districts been informed immediately of this development, they would surely have insisted upon taking firmer measures and returned to the attack. But when the matter was discussed later, the more moderate point of view won out.

It was obvious that the occupation of the Telephone Building would be used to facilitate new attacks. And within the hour, at about 4pm, a new attack was launched against the main railroad station, Estacion de Francia. The assault guards attacked from one side; the PSUC from the Karl Marx Barracks on the other. The workers could no longer depend on the telephone. The atmosphere in the centre of the city became tense. Bombs exploded. Rifle and machine gun fire broke the silence of the metropolis.

At ten minutes past four, the Under Secretary of State, Juanel Molina, member of the FAI, communicated that General Pozas had presented himself at the Capitania to take over his office as Chief of the Fourth Brigade of the Spanish Army. The post of Catalan Minister of Defence had ceased to exist. Under Secretary of State Juanel Molina, even though he was a member of the FAI, did everything to keep the troops from entering the struggle. Had the FAI really gone into action, the entire military force would have been on their side and victory would have been certain. But the FAI did not want a fratricidal war within the ranks of the anti-fascists.

Not only at the station, but also in the neighbourhood of Plaza de Catalunya, the police started attacking the workers. In both cases the attacks were successfully repelled. Again the workers refused to counter-attack. Still, they were determined to defend their positions, their lives and their rights.

The Regional Committee was informed that the armed forces of the Catalan Nationalists and the PSUC had taken possession of the village of San Juan. The armed workers of the CNT and the FAI entered the village, disarmed the enemy and liberated their comrades. In the open village square they had to answer for their actions. They were warned not to take up arms against the people. Then the anarchists set their enemies free again.

We must mention these incidents to counteract the calumnies spread against the anarchists and the anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia, whom they characterise as murderers and criminals.

At six o'clock they telephoned that 1,500 Assault Guards had reached Tortosa on their way to Barcelona. They occupied the headquarters of the CNT unions, the cultural centres of the FAI and the Anarchist Youth, arresting all those found inside. These troops had come from the central part of Spain. According to the evening paper Noticiero Universal of Saturday May 8th, these troops had come from the trenches of the Jarama front, where they had been fighting for four months alongside the International Brigade. The anarchists could also have called in their columns from the Aragon front, as well as armed forces from other parts of Catalonia, and there is no doubt that they could have been victorious within 24 hours. But they did not want to break up the anti-fascist front. They never did more than defend themselves against the attacks directed against them.

At 6.45 the united committees of the CNT and the FAI sent a new delegation to the government to find out what they intended doing. A few minutes later, news came from London by cable that the British Government had sent a torpedo boat and a cruiser, the 'Despatch', to Catalan waters near Barcelona. A delegation of CNT workers arrived to find out what the responsible committees were going to do. The committees decided to address the population of Barcelona by manifesto that they wished to maintain the anti-fascist front. At the same time they addressed the general public all over the world by a manifesto on Thursday May 6th which reads as follows:

"While the tragic events were taking place here in Barcelona, provoked as they were by some irresponsible elements in the anti-fascist organisations, the world at large received very little information concerning the whole situation.

"The same cowardly elements that wished to provoke bloodshed in Barcelona, issued false reports to the outside world with the same evil intentions, grossly misrepresenting everything.

"Foreign countries have been told that the CNT and the FAI were the cause of the disturbances of the last few days. You were told that the anarchists were guilty of starting this struggle among fellow workers which caused blood to flow in the streets of Barcelona. You were told that the anarchists attacked the police the Generality, and other municipal and state institutions.

"Nothing is more false than this version of the developments and those who spread such lies intentionally can be nothing but fascists in disguise.

"Now that we have returned to normal, and those responsible for the outbreak have been dismissed from public office, when all the workers have returned to their jobs, and Barcelona is once more calm, the CNT and the FAI want to give an exact explanation of what happened.

"We are authorised to state that neither the National Confederation of Labour, nor the Iberian Anarchist Federation, or any of its dependent organisations, broke, or had any intention of breaking the anti-fascist front. The CNT and the FAI continue to collaborate loyally as in the past, with all political and trade union sectors of the anti-fascist front. The best proof of this is that the CNT continues to collaborate with the central Government, the Government of the Generality and all the municipalities.

"When the conflict started in Barcelona, the Regional and National organisations of the CNT offered every means to the government to help solve the conflict as quickly as possible. On the second day of the struggle, the secretary of the National Committee of the CNT, and the Minister of Justice, also a member of the CNT, came to Barcelona and did everything humanly possible to end this fratricidal struggle. In addition to these attempts to deal with responsible members of the other political sectors, these comrades spoke to the population of Barcelona, and called upon them to be calm and work for an agreement, and appealed for unity of action against the common enemy, fascism.

"Not only the National Committee, but also the Regional Committee, did everything possible to find a solution to this conflict. The press of the CNT of Catalonia appealed for calm and called upon the population to return to work. The news issued by radio to the unions and to the defence committees were nothing but appeals for calm.

"Further proof that the CNT did not want to break, and did not break, the anti-fascist front, is that when the new government of the Generality was formed, on the 5th of May, the representatives of the CNT of Catalonia offered it every facility, and the secretary of the CNT was a member of the Government.

"We are also authorised to state that neither the National Confederation of Labour nor the Iberian Anarchist Federation attacked any police headquarters or any other institutions of the State or the Generality. At no time and at no place did the first shot ever come from any responsible members of the CNT.

"The members of the CNT who controlled the Defence Council of the Generality gave orders to all their forces not to intervene on either side in the conflict. And they also saw to it that their orders were obeyed.

"The Defence Committee of the CNT also gave orders to every district of Barcelona that no one should come from there to the centre to answer the provocation's. These orders, too, were carried out because no one actually did come to the centre to answer the provocation's.

"The Regional Committee of the CNT and the FAI gave precise orders that no one should move from his section, that no one should disturb the public order.

"The CNT and the FAI not only merely maintained positions of defence, they did everything possible to try to re-establish public order and unmask the provocateurs. Many were the traps laid for the CNT up to the very end, but the CNT remained firm in its position and did not allow itself to be provoked. It did not fall into the net, which had many ramifications in the regional, national and international spheres. And in maintaining its positions, it did everything possible to have the provocateurs, Rodriguez Salas and Aiguade, removed from their responsible positions. Once this was accomplished, and calm re-established, the CNT and the UGT together with the other anti-fascist forces, formed a commission to clarify the events in Barcelona and re-establish a normal atmosphere.

"When the causes of the disturbances were discovered, the people returned to work. Everybody, with utmost courage and energy, is now dedicating all their strength to the fight against fascism, because it is the only enemy of all the workers in Catalonia.

"The workers of Catalonia have returned to work under the following slogans: 'No more provocateurs in the rear!' 'Unity between the CNT and the UGT'! 'Death to fascism!"'

Meanwhile sporadic collisions and exchanges of shots continued in various sectors of the city. At about 10pm the CNT-FAI made new proposals to cease hostilities as follows: All parties and groups obligated to remove their armed guards and Patrols from the barricades. All prisoners from both sides are to be released immediately. No reprisals shall be taken. An answer was required within two hours.

At midnight the government had not sent its answer. Meanwhile disturbing news came through from Tarragona and Reus, where members of the PSUC and the Estat Catala, taking advantage of the presence of some assault guards passing through on their way to Barcelona, used their temporary advantage to disarm and kill the workers. Telephone calls caused great anxiety. Steps were taken to counteract the news and any possible false rumours that might be coming through the telephone exchange. Important news could no longer be communicated by telephone. The radio station of the CNT was used to inform members of the organisation.

The CNT tried to extract a promise from the government in Valencia and Barcelona that the assault guards would not enter the city immediately, but should be held outside the city limits until the situation had cleared up. The arrival of the troops while the people were still so tense, would undoubtedly mean a renewal of hostilities and further loss of lives. The CNT and the FAI wanted to avoid this. They were somewhat sceptical regarding the assurances that the troops would be loyal to the workers.

The night of May 6-7th was decisive for the immediate future. The CNT and the FAI had not yet exerted the full pressure of their strength. They still continued in a waiting position. Should they summon all of Catalonia to take up the fight against the nationalists and the provocateur elements among the police and some of their chiefs? They could have rallied a tremendous force but they did not want to continue this fratricidal conflict. Again and again the anarchists offered to negotiate, eager to end the conflict. But the atmosphere was tense and the situation continued to be difficult. Fighting was going on in Tortosa and in Tarragona. At twenty past one, new telephone calls to the representatives of the government. No satisfactory answer to their proposals. The assault guards were continuing their march on Barcelona. In the centre of the city, the Catalan Nationalists and the rebellious police kept coming closer and closer to the headquarters of the Regional Committee. In San Pedro street in the immediate vicinity of the building, a new barricade was erected by the police. They were trying to encircle the Regional Committee of the CNT and the FAI.

At two in the morning the government had still failed to answer the proposals, awaited with so much impatience and anxiety... Twenty minutes past two. No answer... Half past two. No answer... A quarter to three... Three o'clock. Still no answer. They were discussing the resumption of work in the outlying districts where the fighting had stopped. The traffic could not start unless the barricades were pulled down. The delegates of the transport workers union were awaiting the answer of the government in order to give the order to start work again... A quarter to four and still no answer... At five minutes to four in the morning, the Provincial Committee communicated that they were ready to hold up the troops from Valencia... Four o'clock. No answer.

At last, at a quarter past five, the government answered. They agreed to the armistice. All parties shall leave the barricades. Patrols and guards retire to their headquarters, unions and fortified positions. Both sides to release their prisoners. The patrols to resume their functions.

Everybody relaxed. But - could one trust the sincerity of this answer? Would the workers in the telephone exchange continue to function as before? Would everything come out all right again?

Neither victors nor vanquished. That is the will of the syndicalists and anarchists. The anti-fascist front shall not be destroyed. War against fascism. Unity of all workers. That is the firm wish of the workers on the barricades. And the resolutions of the committees were based on this wish. The Regional Committee issued the following statement over the radio:

"To all the workers of the CNT: Having reached an understanding with both the political and the trade union representatives, we wish to notify you that you will receive instructions from your responsible committees regarding the establishment of complete peace and calm. For the present we urge you to keep that calm and presence of mind that the situation requires. Do not answer the provocation's of those who seek to perpetuate the existing state of disorder."

While the results were still being discussed, new fears arose as the shooting broke out again to disturb the enveloping silence of the night. Two cars were driving down Via Durruti. As they passed the police prefecture, they were shot at. They were able to pass the headquarters of the Regional Committee undisturbed but a short distance away the shooting broke out in full force once more. Rifles, machine guns, hand grenades came into play. A bad sign. A strange contrast to the assurances of a peaceful solution of the conflict. Only half an hour to 6 o'clock. Will we be able to pacify the suspicions and the tempers of the comrades? At six o'clock, shots could still be heard.

We switched off the lights. A beautiful morning. Barcelona slept in silence.


A few hours later, Barcelona had undergone an almost complete change. True to their agreement, the workers had left the barricades. In many places the barricades had already been torn down. They had withdrawn from the buildings. But they were keeping their arms.

In the centre of the city, however, the air was still tense. The barricades of the assault guards, of the Catalan Nationalists, and of the PSUC remained intact. And guarded. Taking advantage of the good will of the workers, groups of assault guards were walking about disarming workers wherever they could get hold of them. New friction arose between the assault guards and the Libertarian Youth in the Plaza del Pino and the Puertafer. And once more it was thanks to the initiative of the Anarchist Youth. who went unarmed to the headquarters of the assault guards to negotiate, that finally, after hours of discussion. the assault guards decided to show a more peaceful attitude and the barricades could come down.

The centre of the city was like a fortress. High buildings had been used as fortifications by the various groups. Out of walls of sand bags, mattresses or cushions. rifles and machine guns poked their barrels. The assault guards had opened the churches and used them as fortifications.

But the populace could breathe more freely. For three days they had been forced to remain in their houses. Now everybody was walking about in the streets. The masses of people pushed their way through the barricades. Children played at revolution, rolling up a rock in a piece of paper and throwing it at the counter-revolutionists from behind the barricades. Everybody was discussing the situation in the bars and cafes.

Around midday another incident occurred. In the Calle Boqueria, a car of the Libertarian Youth was stopped by an assault guard, the youth disarmed and arrested. This was an obvious breaking of the agreement that there should be no more arrests and no more reprisals. In the calle San Pedro, CNT people were also threatened by the assault guards. Towards evening further incidents occurred. Near the Arco de Triumfo and in the Puerta del Angel shots were fired, not by the workers of the CNT but by the rebellious police. The car of Federica Montseny, Minister of Public Health, was also shot at, one of the passengers being wounded.

At twenty past eight the assault guards from Valencia reached Barcelona. They drove down the Via Durruti in motor trucks, and were welcomed at the Police Prefecture. What will their attitude be towards the workers? And what attitude will the workers take? As they passed the headquarters of the Regional Committee, a shot was fired from one car, while from another came the cry, 'Viva la FAI". Obviously their feelings and attitude toward the workers, toward the syndicalists and anarchists of Catalonia, were as mixed as their composition.

The workers had put down their arms and they did not think of taking them up again. The conflict was over. The workers were true to their agreement. But the other side did not prove as honourable in upholding their part of the bargain. However, everything remained quiet. No matter how much they tried to provoke the workers of the CNT and the FAI, the latter kept their presence of mind and their dignity. The workers of the CNT and the FAI had not started this conflict, nor did they want any part in prolonging it. They had not been conquered, even though the Catalan police assumed a provocatively boastful attitude after the Valencia troops arrived. Again and again they tried to put the workers in the position of the defeated party.

Yet their own conduct had been strange. The Catalan nationalists, always strongly opposed to the influence of Madrid and fighting strenuously for autonomy, had appealed for help to the Valencia Government to defend their privileges. They played the same role now as the Catalan Right parties had played a few years before. In October 1934, Cambo and his League insisted on the intervention of Madrid; at that time the Catalan Left had opposed them. Now, since the Catalan Right had been defeated on July 19th together with the fascist Generals, the Catalan Left demands the intervention of the central government in Catalan affairs. In both cases, the interests and privileges of property, of capitalism, were being defended. In both cases they fought against the workers who were striving for the Social Revolution. The orchestra leader had been changed, but the music was the same.


Luigi Camillo Berneri

Luigi Camillo Berneri was born on 20th July 1897 in Lodi, in Lombardy, Northern Italy. His father was a self-educated local civil servant; his mother, Adalgisa Fochi, a primary school teacher who wrote on education, and was involved in conferences and projects for the promotion of literacy. Her father was one of Garibaldi's Redshirts [1], whereas her grandfather had been a member of the 'Carbonari' [2] secret society, and a follower of Mazzini [3].

Camillo had an eventful childhood. Malnutrition having brought him near death at only a few months old, his family moved to Milan, where his mother started to write for an education magazine. In 1904 he was in Palermo, Sicily, where he came down with typhus. In 1905, he lived in the towns of Cesena and Forlí in Romagna, the "reddest" and most republican region in the kingdom. In Varallo Sesia, Berneri fell ill with enteritis. However, only with the move to Reggio Emilia did political activity begin for Camillo Berneri.

He was already a member of the Italian Socialist Youth Federation (FGS [4]) when, in 1912, they held their Congress in his town, one of the first in Italy to be governed by a leftist administration. Berneri was a member of the "culturist" tendency, that is to say he maintained the importance of the Party as a vehicle to bring cultural enlightenment to the masses, in order to make them aware of their rights. Berneri was the only student out of the seven hundred FGS members in Reggio Emilia. On 1st February 1914, he wrote his first article for 'l'Avanguardia' [5] ("The Lies of the Old Testament" [6]), a piece full of attacks on the clergy, in the style of the young Mussolini, who was a socialist at that time. However, Lido Caiani, the editor of 'l'Avanguardia', had not long followed Mussolini in adopting an "interventionist" position (that is, in favour of declaring war on Austria-Hungary), when Berneri managed to kick him out of the paper with the help of Amadeo Bordiga (who would found the Italian Communist Party (PCd'I [7]) in 1921).

Berneri's conflicts with the Socialist Party followed the riots in Reggio Emilia which took place during the rally organized by Cesare Battisti, the pro-intervention ex-socialist from Trento. The Party's official position on the war became an ambiguous "neither support nor sabotage". But Berneri, absolutely against the war, left the Central Committee of the Socialist Federation of Reggio Emilia, and befriended Torquato Gobbi, a twenty-year-old anarchist bookbinder. Berneri met and married Giovanna Caleffi, a clever and hardworking sixteen-year-old anarchist. She would become his life-long companion, inspiring him to write "A harem lacks variety compared to a woman with whom you are deeply in love [8]".

On being conscripted, Berneri, now an anarchist, started to agitate in the army, even amongst officers, for which he was gaoled on Pianosa, near the Isle of Elba.

After the war had ended, he joined up with Errico Malatesta, recently back from his period of exile, and worked with him on 'Umanità Nova'.[9] But he also worked with non-anarchist anti-authoritarian magazines such as Piero Gobetti's 'Rivoluzione Liberale'[10] (whose founder would die exiled in Paris following a fascist beating). In Florence, he visited Piero Calamandrei (later an Action Party 11] anti-Nazi and "father" of the Italian democratic constitution), and Nello and Carlo Rosselli, with whom he attended Gaetano Salvemini's university lectures. They were all agreed on a policy of persistence and determination in the face of the fascist squads' attacks. Berneri also went to Bonaventura's psychoanalysis classes, which would turn out to be useful when he wrote an essay on the psychology of Benito Mussolini [12].

He had to leave Florence due to fascist persecution and he withdrew to Umbria to teach in a teacher-training school. Because of his continuing political propaganda, he was forced to flee to France with his wife and daughters.

He was expelled from France as a "dangerous anarchist", and then proceeded to be kicked out of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain. At that point, unable to be expelled into any other country, he could legally reside in France.

In the thirties in Paris he earned a living with a little shop &endash;where he welcomed the most wanted Italian exiles&endash; and did filing work in libraries and on newspapers on behalf of Salvemini, his anti-fascist professor.

Problems arose when Guido Miglioli, an anti-fascist Catholic, introduced him to, and vouched for, one Ermanno Menapace. Menapace was not, however, an anti-fascist exile, but a dangerous agent of the OVRA, the fascist régime's secret political police. The infiltrator exploited the divisions that had arisen between Berneri and Giuseppe Donati, giving Berneri money to help him to publish writings against Donati, a Catholic anti-fascist who had accused the régime of the murders of Matteotti and Giovanni Minzoni, a parish priest from Argenta. However, Donati was also approached by an OVRA infiltrator, who, in turn, subsidized his writings against Berneri.

The situation became more complicated when Carlo Rosselli and Emilio Dolci managed to escape from Italian prisons and reach Paris. A series of bombs exploded in Nice and in bars in Cannes. The responsibility lay with the fascist régime, who expected the anarchists to be blamed, forcing the French government to repatriate them. In the meantime, Camillo Berneri had been preparing an 'attentat' on Alfredo Rocco &endash;the man behind the infamous Rocco Penal Code [13]&endash; during his Brussels visit. Menapace arranged it so that Berneri would be arrested in Belgium, in possession of a pistol and some photographs of the Minister of Justice, Rocco. So, he was captured and Menapace returned to Rome. In court on 22nd February 1930, Berneri's friends were acquitted, but he himself was sentenced to six months in prison, while Menapace was sentenced 'in absentia' to two years, since it was accepted that he instigated the whole thing. Once back on the other side of the Franco-Belgian border, Berneri went through a second trial for the same events and was sentenced to a year and two months. He was given amnesty on 14th July 1931 and expelled from the country, but, as he had already been declared undesirable ('persona non grata') in the surrounding countries, Berneri was again able to stay in Paris.

Life in Paris went on with the job of drafting texts and trying to convert Italian exiles to anarchism. In this period his daughter married the English anarchist Vernon Richards, who subsequently wrote a text on Malatesta and took part in the Spanish Civil War.

His numerous libertarian articles in the widest variety of European and North-American publications show how prolific a writer Berneri was. Among his more notable works are his studies on Mussolini's psychology, in which the 'Duce' is seen not as a theatrical fool, but as a cunning politician who knew how to use theatrical tricks to subdue the masses (unlike Gramsci, who saw in the dictator the buffoon, not the politician). Another important subject was anti-Semitism, analysed not only in 'El delirio racista' [14] and in 'Le Juif antisémite' [15], but in many letters to friends. He analysed the "self-hate" expressed by many Marxist Jews and attacked Marx himself for his embarrassed silence on the Jewish question. Anticipating the Holocaust, Berneri wrote "Anti-Semitism will be one of mankind's favourite forms of stupidity for some time to come [16]". His sympathy for the Jews was due to the fascination he had for those with no country; he wrote "the stateless are the best suited to form the bases of the great human family". Sadly, fascist Jews in Turin, who would, a year later, endure the Italian race laws of 1938, attacked his 'Le Juif antisémite' in their magazine 'La Nostra Bandiera' [17]

Berneri's theoretical attack on the concept of the State came with his identification of bureaucracy as a tool of oppression of the centralist State &endash;whether bourgeois or "Soviet". There was much controversy between him and Trotsky on this. Trotsky saw the Soviet bureaucracy as a "historical absurdity"; for Berneri it was not an absurdity, but a natural consequence of trying to maintain the State apparatus, which had not led to Soviet society being "classless", but to a division between proletarians and autocratic bureaucrats. For Berneri, only federalism could provide a way to escape bureaucracy, and thus the State. He was not referring to the administrative federalism, imposed from above, that would do no more than create so many small-scale States, but rather to the federalism that comes from social revolution, which would have produced independent communes, freely federated, in which federations of grass-roots councils would have taken over the functions of the bureaucratic State organization. When it came to his own country, what Berneri saw as an absurdity was the attempt to govern Italy by a single administration, given the country's great regional diversity. This had led to the rise of a parasitic bureaucracy.

Berneri declared, "In the economic sphere anarchists are possibilists, in the political sphere they are 100% intransigent!". By this he meant that even if the critique of the state and the negation of the principle of authority were aims that could not be dispensed with, the anarchist economic model must remain open and experimental. He personally considered that free rein should be given to individual business and labour and collectivist business and labour. Thus, he condemned collectivization if it were forced, rather than a free choice. This led him to the conclusion that anarchy would not bring about a society of absolute harmony, but one of tolerance.

On 12th July 1936, news of the 'coup d'état' in Spain reached Paris. With the slogan "Today in Spain, tomorrow in Italy" on their lips, the Italian anti-fascists got ready to leave. On the 25th, Berneri arrived in Catalonia with a cargo of rifles and ammunition. He was immediately offered there a position in the Council of the Economy, but he refused as soon as he realized he was dealing with a sort of ministry.

Berneri instead hosted a rally before 100,000 people in Plaza de los Toros, in Barcelona, bringing with him the greetings of the Italian anarchists and their solidarity with the Catalan revolution.

So, with Angeloni and de Santillán (from the CNT-FAI), he organized an Italian anarchist column within the Francisco Ascaso formation in the Pedralbes barracks (renamed "Bakunin"), and on 19th August, he left the exultant crowds of Barcelona for the Aragonese front. On the 21st they arrived at Vicien and occupied the Galocha upland plain, dominating the road between Huesca and Saragossa. On 23rd August he took part in the harsh engagements on the "bare mountain", where the anarchists Angeloni, Perrone and Centrone died, Angeloni singing the Internationale. But the attacking Nationalist troops were completely driven back. Because of problems with his vision and hearing, Berneri was sent back from the front and returned to Barcelona.

In Barcelona, he tried to warn people about the important implications of the imminent fascist landings in the Balearic Isles, did propaganda work, attacked the Madrid government for its politics of compromise which were damaging Catalan autonomy, and criticized the ambiguous behaviour of the French and English governments. He wrote for 'Guerra di Classe' [18], and often visited the 'Amigos de Durruti ' [19].

When clashes with the Communist Party broke out, his house, where he lived with other anarchists, was attacked on 4th May 1937. They were all labelled "counter-revolutionaries", disarmed, deprived of their papers and forbidden to go out into the street. There was still shooting in the streets when, on 5th May 1937, news arrived from Italy of Antonio Gramsci's death in a fascist prison. Then, after writing his last letter home to his daughter &endash; his spiritual final testament, Berneri went out and walked towards Radio Barcelona where they were commemorating the death of the Communist Gramsci, who had written in 'Ordine Nuovo' [20] "We must never permit ourselves to be enemies of the anarchists; enemies have contradictory ideas, not merely different ones [21]".

Leaving Radio Barcelona, Berneri set off for the Plaça de la Generalitat [22], where some Stalinists shouted out to him. Before he could turn and look, they opened fire with machine guns, and left his dead body there on the street.

Written by Toni, translated from the Italian by David Short <>

A page of Berneri's writing and a photo of him


1 Garibaldi: Left-wing leader of the movement for the liberation of Italy
2 Italian for "charcoal burners". The Carbonari were an early 19th-century masonically-organized bourgeois constitutionalist grouping.
3 Mazzini: Republican nationalist leader.
4 La Federazione Giovanile Socialista.
5 The Vanguard.
6 "Le Menzogne del Vecchio Testamento".
7 Il Partito Comunista d'Italia.
8 "Un harem è piú povero di varietà di una donna profondamente amata."
9 New Humanity.
10 Liberal Revolution. (Funnily enough.)
11 Il Partito d'Azione.
12 Berneri, 1966.
13 Still in effect today in the Italian "Democratic" Republic.
14 Racist Delirium.
15 The Anti-Semitic Jew. In Italian, L'ebreo antisemita (Berneri, 1984).
16 "l'antisemitismo sarà ancora per lungo tempo all'ordine del giorno della stupidità umana."
17 Our Flag.
18 Class War. An Italian-language paper published in the Catalan capital.
19 "Friends of Durruti", a purist FAI splinter group.
20 New Order
21"Non ammetteremo mai di essere avversari degli anarchici, avversari sono due idee contradditorie, non due idee diverse."
22 Parliament Square.


Various Authors 1986

Memoria antologica: saggi critici e appunti biografici in ricordo di Camillo Berneri nel cinquantesimo della morte. Archivio Famiglia Berneri. Pistoia, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1930
Controspionaggio fascista all'estero. E.S.I.L. Marseilles, France.
Berneri, Camillo 1938
Il lavoro attraente. Frigerio. Geneva, Switzerland.
Berneri, Camillo 1945
Pensieri e battaglie. RL. Naples, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1964
Pietrogrado 1917 Barcellona 1937 : scritti scelti. Sugar. Milan, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1966
Mussolini : psicologia di un dittatore. Azione Comune. Milan, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1970
L'emancipazione della donna. RL. Pistoia, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1971
Guerra di Classe in Spagna : 1936-1937. RL. Pistoia, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1984
L'ebreo antisemita. Carucci. Rome, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1986
Mussolini "normalizzatore" e dilitto di stato. Archivio Famiglia Berneri. Pistoia, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1987
L'operaiolatria. Archivio Famiglia Berneri. Pistoia, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1992
Il federalismo libertario. La Fiaccola. Ragusa, Italy.
Berneri, Camillo 1996
Umanesimo e anarchismo. E/O. Rome, Italy.
Emiliani, Vittorio 1973
Gli Anarchici : vite di Cafiero, Costa, Malatesta, Cipriani, Gori, Berneri, Borghi. Bompani. Milan, Italy.