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"The Assembly Movement in Spain, 1976–78," Part Two

[Continued from the first part, of this essay, here.]

CHAPTER FIVE: Considerations on the Causes of the Advances and Retreats of the Workers' Assembly Movement

"In what concerns our war, it is a great truth that, when men are fighting, they imagine that they are in the greatest of wars and, once peace has returned, they prefer to admire the wars of yesteryear. Without a doubt, a simple examination of the facts will make us see that we have here the most important conflict ever." Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War.

The workers' assemblies, defended by pickets and co-ordinated through revocable delegates, were not only the weapon of the social revolution but also its signal. They implied that the working class, dispersed into a multitude of organisations that divide them into a thousand parts, had joined together and that no one part existed independently. They meant that the entire class was preparing for its communal existence with equal interests, formulating its own ideas from its own practice. The assemblies were not born as organs of power but as a stronger and more representative form of organising strikes, in which workers dealt with their own concrete and immediate problems, and negotiated with management. Before exercising power, they acted as defensive organs for their everyday existence. At this stage of struggle, the proletariat did not concern itself with an assured and permanent organisation of industrial sectors and branches, areas, and provinces or at the level of the State. This indicates that it had not planned a systematic large-scale offensive against the dominant power. But by beginning simultaneously at various points, the historical logic of struggle changed the assemblies into organs of power whose enormous strength the proletariat was not fully conscious of. When assemblies existed as a real power alongside the fictitious power of the unions, opting for one or the other became the order of the day. It was a knife-edged balance. Either assemblies or unions! The unions were too weak to oppose the assemblies but the proletariat was not sufficiently conscious to feel the need to destroy the unions. All throughout the first half of the year, an immediate alternative was posed: either the autonomous affirmation of the proletariat or the defeat of the movement. For the unions an inverse alternative was posed — either lose their dominant position conferred on them by the bourgeoisie and the State as spokesmen for the workers or finish with the assembly movement by enframing the workers within the unions. The unions had to accept the workers' conquests and recognise the power of the assemblies, thereby hoping to smash them in a moment of reflux that the workers, in order to hold on to their gains, were obliged to follow through; they had to extend the movement to every sector and every town, and defend it. The end of one fight could only be regarded as the beginning of a more tenacious and decisive one. If this was not to be, if the working class did not use the victories obtained to radicalise and consolidate its struggle elsewhere — and after a more or less favourable outcome to strikes, just let the assemblies dissolve and all communication channels along with them — then one had to regard this as one of those unusual situations in which a victorious army abandons the field to a conquered one, as happened in May 1937. The unions would recover lost positions and the workers would begin the next strike in worse conditions than before. A victory never can have repercussions if it is not exploited. The pursuit of a conquered adversary must begin at the moment when, abandoning the struggle, it leaves the field of combat. The assemblies had to go on until the unions were smashed. The proletariat must know how to end a strike, keeping open its path of retreat — which is the same as that which it had advanced along — so that it can begin the next one in the best possible circumstances.One could say that in Spain, bourgeois society declined rapidly and that this downfall of the bourgeoisie occurred in the presence of the revolutionary growth of the proletariat. During the Francoist epoch, the majority of strikes were isolated from each other. Separated by intervals in which the struggles declined, they continued in no more than a latent or diffuse form. Each region, by not satisfactorily resolving its separation from other regions, and by only bothering about itself, had little interest in what was happening elsewhere. The decentralisation of the workers' struggle, distributed randomly over the different industrial centres, saved the proletariat from being easily beheaded, increased its resources and made it difficult for the enemy to find its centre, since the enemy couldn't see that the centre of agitation was not to be found in anyone place but was everywhere. But a form of systematic and coherent struggle was necessary once the movement had progressed sufficiently on the local plane, when it could successfully combat repression, and once unions had begun to colonise the relations amongst workers from different areas. Today, seeing that the bourgeoisie created a national union structure, all movements that are based on local dispersed struggles and that find any form of security in this dispersal will fail. If a troop of intelligent 'leaders' supported by the State and the bourgeoisie struggle against workers' autonomy, they are capable of hindering the victory of the latter although all the other conditions might be favourable to it.

The positional war that the proletariat maintained under Francoism corresponded to the defensive position in which they found themselves. But with the beginning of the breakdown of capitalism, the proletariat had to pass to the offensive. After the death of Franco, the possibility and need to go on the offensive was dictated by the situation itself.

The radical workers formed in the milieu of strikes under Francoism, given the movement that surprized them within the localism of the factory, appeared like inshore sailors caught in a storm in mid-ocean. The little that they learned was more of a hindrance than an asset in this profound struggle and often they were shown up as being less sure than others entering battle for the first time. The revolutionaries formed in the course of the events either managed in a very short time -- or else never at all -- to rid themselves of all surviving ideologies inherited from preceding struggles and the whole dead weight handed down from that previous period. They had to learn in their hearts that the political/union bureaucracies were capable of anything. Due to the well exploited, publicity-wise persecutions of the past regime, or a former honesty now corrupted, they confused the still influential prestige of former militancy with that charlatanism which could summon up enough strength to broadcast its opposition daily, only to end up gaining a reputation for underhanded deals. These people obstructed class action and the growth of the movement as much as they could. No conscious group foresaw the profound direction of the movement or understood its growth, much less acted with greater radicalism and consequence. The radical ideas of the movement were lost due to a lack of an organized and coherent theory, understood and elaborated by all. Instead they became dead, empty slogans recuperated in the mouths of the parties or the disarmed and sub-aesthetic affirmation of anarchist lyrical and festive alienation. Minority unionists in the LAB or the CNT, or independent workerist goupuscules, put forward the watchword of the assemblies without ever shifting from the sphere of the unions, thereby trying to mediate between the assemblies and the unions when the conflict between them had broken out everywhere. They helped nourish the illusions of the proletariat about union assemblies. Their pro-assembly ideological prose helped falsify the real dialogues that were beginning everywhere. As a force of anti-historical inertia, they counted decisively on the scales of the counter-revolution at the moment when the central unions were unable to play that role. They constituted the erased memory of the workers. They were content to have the assemblies remain merely spontaneous reactions against the opportunism of the central unions, something that might accord a place to them. The contradictions existing in Spain between a great theoretical poverty and an enormous richness of facts made for fertile ground for the emergence of activist ideologies that were closer to petit bourgeois radicalism, neo-anarchism, national bolshevism and self-management ideologies that had been buried everywhere for some time. The rise of the proletarian assembly movement meant their re-emergence as degraded products possessed of diverse ideological premises that assimilated certain radical ideas. They were also promoted by bourgeois society as its own spectacular negation. Given the conditions that existed in Spain, it was nearly inevitable that these intermediary sects attempted to reconcile the nascent revolutionary movement with the conformist ideas of the official left. It was also inevitable that many workers arrived at coherent revolutionary positions through this roundabout way. But apart from all this, these currents made possible the re-cycling of new miracle-makers and devotees of the new wave, swindlers and unemployed bureaucrats and businessmen who were prepared to exploit the revolutionary movement to their profit. The absence of truly theoretical struggles, which were passionate and practical, meant that, in the beginning, part of the revolutionary proletariat reasoned and thought through the literature of these other circles, so trite in their originality and so original in their triteness.

By way of profound actions, the working class unleashed a radical movement of strikes whose effects still remain. It did what was essential but did nothing more, and allowed external powers to dispossess it of its gains and to speak in its place. The holding of elections in an atmosphere of momentary calm confirms just how much one had discounted the talent of the political bureaucracy to oppose the impetuosity of the proletariat with the mediocrity of the middle classes and Spanish philistinism. The PCE played its best role since the liquidation of the POUM and the Aragon collectives in the civil war. It was the principal counter-revolutionary force that shackled the movement. Neither the bourgeoisie, the police nor Social Democracy could combat it so effectively. Only the Stalinists possessed such a long strikebreaking tradition and a familiarity with the shortcomings of the struggle.

But all the objective obstacles could not have withstood the consequences of a strike like that in the Roca factory or in the Basque country if the proletariat had not possessed its own subjective obstacles. The proletariat mobilized initially from almost nothing. The absence of a defined revolutionary current was total, and throughout the movement the proletariat never succeeded in defining itself. The decadence of bourgeois society, whose ideological and organisational expression are parties and unions, produced a profound crisis amongst the workers. It was only with difficulty that significant numbers of workers liberated themselves from the ideological influence of bourgeois society and thus continued continued to cling with great determination to the illusions that the bourgeoisie puts into circulation. One does not resist several decades of counter-revolutionary history with impunity. The corrupting effects of 10 years of consumer survival and the backwardness of theoretical consciousness had the gravest consequences. The rejection of the poverty of everyday life, wage slavery, hierarchies, the State and the alienation of the world of the commodity had certainly been present but not sufficiently conscious. The proletariat was entered into the struggle spontaneously armed only with their revolt. The profundity and violence of its action is the immediate reply to the insupportable capitalist system, but in the last analysis the workers had not spent enough time gaining an accurate understanding of just what they did. Theoretical backwardness -- an insufficient historical consciousness -- engendered all the practical insufficiencies that contributed to dispersing, postponing or paralysing the struggle. Historical consciousness is the condition sine qua non of the social revolution.

Class struggle in its essence negates bourgeois society. This implies a method of waging the struggle, some outlets for practical intelligence, some positive forms of employing forces whereby the proletariat does not allow itself to be subjugated by the forms (e.g. unions and parties) that bourgeois society has constructed for its own ends. This implies a type of struggle in which the initiative remains in the hands of the proletariat. As a consequence of the decline of bourgeois society, the spontaneous action of the workers assumes a revolutionary direction in the assemblies. Properly speaking, the assemblies are not a defensive arm, rather they indicate that the proletariat has entered into a phase of struggle as a result of the correlation of forces between it, the enemy and its experience, a phase in which it combats the bourgeoisie and the State with its own methods. The workers must stop the bourgeoisie from putting them on the defensive. In a defensive position, the proletariat, recognising its weakness, is obliged to negotiate. But if as a consequence of a defeat, set-back or exhaustion, or because the offensive cracks up, workers have to carry out a positional war, then they must prepare the defence in such a way that the tactical initiative always remains in their camp and the attacks of the bourgeoisie prove disadvantageous for itself.

In the offensive phase of the struggle, it is not only the bourgeoisie and the social strata led by it that find themselves organized against the proletariat, but also organisations that originate either in the defensive period prior to it or have the aim of reducing the proletariat to a defensive position: i.e. the parties and the unions. Critique must not in the first instance direct its fight against the bourgeoisie -- these have already been judged by history -- but against the parties and unions, the fifth column of the proletarian movement without whose aid capitalism today would not have the least possibility -- even temporarily -- of overcoming its crises.

CHAPTER SIX: The Dark Imaginings and Real Fears of the Dominant Class and the Political Bureaucracy on the Eve of the Second Autumn

"Management and unions are confronting the same problem -- the economic crisis -- and are therefore obliged to get along with each other in the coming months." Editorial in Diario 16, 12 July 1977.

"Just as in other European countries, the central unions lack the strength necessary to guarantee a social contract. They can initiate conflict but one does not know, as has been proved to us in recent cases, if they have the power to keep it in check." Felix Mansilla, leader of the CEOE, talking to Cambio 16, 18 October 1977.

After the elections in Spain, world capitalism had to foot the bill in order to see its position consolidated in the southern flank of Europe. Public loans were re-negotiated and new credits and loans granted -- from North American and European banks and the IMF -- with which the Spanish government was able to cover the commercial deficit and support urgent financial measures. By attempting to banish all threat of revolution from the horizon, they had assured their credit worthiness in the eyes of international financiers. But international credit could only cover a minimum part of the necessities of Spanish capitalism, as anti-inflationary policies had meant that credit from Spanish financiers -- visible in the Stock Exchange slump -- was withheld. With the contraction of the world market and the subsequent protectionist measures of the EEC and the USA, which tended to reduce imports, Spanish industry entered a serious crisis whose gravity was augmented by the many structural deficiencies in the different sectors of production -- steel, textiles, footwear, shipbuilding etc. . . . The necessary contraction of the internal market and the fall in investment, linked to the continued slide in profits (some 50% over the past two years), would extend the crisis throughout industry, beginning with the manufacturing industries (cars, production goods, transportation materials and, after that, consumer goods, construction, agriculture, and fisheries). Industry was torn between two alternatives: lowering production levels and thus productivity, because the workers resisted dismissals in all kinds of aggressive ways, or else stockpiling and thus entailing an increase in financial requirements. Self-financing in Spanish industry only amounts to 30% of its medium-term requirements; the rest of the resources depend on credit and shares issued on the Stock Exchange. Given all this, the last word belonged to the bank of Spain, although the State opposed price increases so as not to provoke strikes, while industry, its own funds exhausted, approached the critical point of under- or over-production, depending on which road they followed. But the economic crisis had not only broken the unity of interest between the bourgeoisie outside and within the Cortes, that is, between the capitalists and their political representatives, but between financial and industrial capital. The bank extended credit facilities for industries dependent on them while cutting off credit to other companies and so suffocated them. The collapse of big industries carried service enterprises in their wake (276 factories suspended payments and there were 54 bankruptcies in the first 8 months of 1977). Big companies such as Ensidesa, Seat, Astilleros Espanoles, Babcock-Wilcox, Segarra, and Altos Honros del Meditarraneo were caught up in a crisis of overproduction. In Spain there is something like 100,000 firms, 90% of which employ less than 250 workers. There are only a thousand or so large firms, which employ 15% of the working class. Such a structure for Spanish capital means that it is very vulnerable to crises, whose impact is much greater on smaller firms that are defenseless against any downturn in demand or credit. (In 1977, 60% of small and medium-sized businesses were experiencing financial difficulties. In Madrid every month a hundred court actions were started. In Viscaya, in July and August of that year, more than 100 court actions were lodged. In Barcelona there was a whole series of suspensions of payments.[7] It was estimated that, during 1978, ten thousand businesses might disappear).

Better wages, won in the course of numerous strikes as well as by the efficient practice of absenteeism, forced management to counter-attack since these actions were not accompanied by any increase in productivity or profits, and the world crisis offered no margin for this in Spain. The bosses could do nothing other than attempt to reduce labour costs to less than those prevailing in the rest of Europe -- just as in the old days of Francoism. To achieve this, it was necessary to obtain from the government non-compensatory or mildly compensatory dismissal measures and an agreement from the unions to crush the autonomous activity of workers. The unions in the July 1977 summit meeting with the employers showed they were willing to participate in this operation, provided that the government allowed them to participate in the subsequent spoils. But pressure from striking workers organized in their own assemblies, continuing throughout August and September 1977 in the hotel industry, footwear industry in Alicante, and assembly line workers in Viscaya, showed the unions that the workers would not follow them into a social contract with the bosses and that the unions could not finish off the assemblies by opposing them. The government then intervened, signing a contract with all the parliamentary parties. The Moncloa Pact[8] inaugurated a new period in the politics of class collaboration. "It was necessary to impose economic limitations, making it impossible for companies to cede to excessive demands," i.e. a wage freeze. The decrees of the Moncloa Pact amounted to a political solution to the economic problems of the bourgeoisie on a par with the Fuentes Plan, which sought to be an economic solution to the political problems of the party in power. For the owners, the refusal to concede a non-compensatory dismissal law and pass a law against the assemblies was too much. But in the context of a social crisis, the methods of implementing political and economic measures are an expression of the course of the class struggle. The Moncloa Pact, assuring the co-operation of the parties, had as its first objective to stop a foreseeable proletarian offensive during autumn. The extremely antagonistic class struggle had led to the development of organisations such as the assembly movement, co-ordinated assemblies of strikers in the footwear industry in the province of Alicante and elsewhere. The reactionary press echoed the unease of the government and its allies: "Politicians as well as government sources have compared this situation of class conflict to the same situation that erupted during the winter of 1975-76, some weeks after Franco's death, against the wage-freeze measures imposed by the Arias government" (Hoja del Lunes, Barcelona 14 November 1977). The second aim of the Pact was to ensure that the unions were the sole executors of a government policy that favored union activity against wildcats and reduced workers to the role of obedient servants of union bureaucrats.

With industry embarking on a downward turn, a union victory was impossible. To recoup the losses suffered in the crisis, the bosses had to get the workers to agree to the ceilings fixed in the Moncloa Pact, because freezing wages and reducing the number of employed workers were the means, given the situation, to sustain declining profit margins. The unions were seen as impotent since they were incapable of obtaining reforms or raising real wages.

In this conjuncture, the unions could not grow without state support, thus they accused the state of this lack of support, singling it out as being the chief cause of their weakness when confronting workers. "What capacity of response and opposition do the unions have? Their numerical weakness and lack of implantation (only 15% of the working population are unionized) prevents them from assuming positions of strength in the face of the threat of a hot autumn of uncontrollable strikes. . . . One way or another, autumn could lead to a situation that is not so much a general strike (which the unions are obstinately against because, once started, it would be difficult to control) but more to a permanent strike that could spread discontent and struggles for wage increases to every sector of wage earners in the country." (Cambio 16, No 296, 14 October 1977).

The workers' assemblies did not allow the parties to have any illusions about a stable bourgeois democracy, and the more the latter felt they were being pushed aside, the more rapidly they slid down the path of pure reaction. Academic dissertations in the Cortes -- with their foresight as well as false conflicts and cliches destined to enthuse Spanish philistinism -- could not hide the existence of the class struggle from which the parties were distancing themselves up to the point of coinciding entirely with the dominant power. To the great surprise of the petite bourgeoisie, intellectuals, stars, journalists, lawyers and students who had proceeded to model all those clay idols for their own use, the confrontation with the workers came. The same language was in the mouths of the bourgeoisie, the Stalinists, and the Social Democrats, which recalled the dark times of Negrin.[9] Diario 16 summed it up thus: "The assembly -- a sporadic organ without administrative regulation, without rules and in the minority -- is playing a negative role while continuing to disregard, and in fact, on some occasions, also impede the growth of the central unions. Assemblyism refuses to understand that its heroic epoch of struggle against fascist trade unionism has already passed and that the protagonists now must be free trade unions" (27 August 1977). So long as workers continued to persist with autonomous activity, such words merely proclaimed a prompt transformation of the "democratic gains" into police business.

CHAPTER SEVEN: How the Unions, After Ceasing to be Popular, Continued to Effectively Neutralize the Advance of the Proletariat

"They keep themselves free from attacks in such a way that the towns of Spain are not easily taken by their enemies." Julius Caesar: The War in Spain.

It was foreseeable that the agreement between the parliamentary parties and the State was not going to be respected by the workers who, not feeling affected by it, continued their struggles outside of the control of the unions. The strikers' assemblies of Santana in Linares, and above all the insurrectional battle in Cadiz, followed by the immediate formation of co-ordinating committees of workers who were clearly anti-union, proved that the close of the first act was by no means the end of the performance. The parties reached the peak of their discredit; once the workers got over their initial astonishment at such illicit behaviour, the storm broke, and the proletariat, understanding that in this world it had only enemies and false friends, remained without any leadership other than that of its own anger. The unions, for their part, unable to be reformists who produce results, had to accept strikes and assemblies, which they did not at all want to do, so as not to be routed and thus lose all control over the working class. The philistines reproached this stance of the Comisiones Obreras: "Senor Camacho shows he is favourably disposed towards controlled assemblies because he considers the CC.OO have sufficient experience, intelligence and strength to be able to exercise such a control. But he is not sure if this optimism will be borne out by events." (El Pais, 11 November 1977). Nevertheless, the fact that the Stalinists could adopt such tactics showed that their hopes of triumphing over the proletariat could not be based simply on counting on the support of the bosses, as the UGT or STY had done, but also on the toleration of the proletariat.

The comical behaviour of the civil governor of Cadiz, who lacked the power to stop reality, but forbid any talk of Vitoria, only matched that of the Cadiz parties that got together "to control the situation" before it took control of them. Different representations of power discover their fundamental unity in equally impotent gestures. When what they call normality is upset, i.e. when the circulation of commodities is interrupted to an intense degree, all that remains for capitalism is military occupation. And for the loyal opposition, 'civic' collaboration with the police force would again be confirmed a month later in Malaga. In the course of an inoffensive demonstration that proclaimed the autonomy and brotherhood of all Andalusian classes, and thus omitted the exploitation of one class by another -- a fact that henceforth could be considered as an act of Andalusian patriotism -- a chance police provocation clarified the contradictory interests of those present at the demonstration. As there was a clear majority of radical workers in the streets, they not only responded to police provocation but to another more humiliating one -- the commodity -- by taking possession of its showrooms and devastating them. By sacking the commercial district of Malaga, the social war was this time expressed as a great fiesta. In this way, the war against the commodity brought an important contribution in deeds to the task of revolutionary clarification.

The abject impotence of the unions, which were increasingly distant from the lucidity of the workers, was due to the abnormal situation in which they found themselves. As they were compromised in making deals with the bourgeoisie, they were unable to carry on the one thing that justified them -- the struggle for social reforms. Their actions led directly to a worsening of the living standards of the working class. Making the struggle against the unions a question of survival, the strikes necessarily had to take the form of assemblies. The big central unions had to make a spectacle of confronting each other in order to rotate the job of black-legging; all throughout the autumn, the strikes displayed this false conflict, but they always ended up by collaborating in smashing the strikes: in the building industry in Zamora, in the pottery industry in Castellon, at the Santana factory in Linares, in the transport sector in Madrid, in the general strike in Tenerife, the strikes in Zaragoza in December, in the office workers' strikes in Madrid, etc. Often caught out, many union leaders were roughed up and constantly insulted. To cite one example, in the final assembly meeting of striking transporters in Madrid, various members of the CC.OO were beaten up and thrown out. By the end of the year, the central unions had lost a good part of their members and, after each defeated strike, thousands of membership cards were torn up. Sometimes it went so far as the union allowing themselves to be thrown out so as not to give the game away. But the crisis of the unions was not accompanied by an increase in the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat. The path that the workers took towards taking up radical positions was carried out in the majority of cases in an elementary way, under the pressure of immediate needs, without quickly grasping all their consequences or becoming aware of their content. What was lacking was the ability to overcome the essential deficiencies of the previous stage of the movement, principally its theoretical underdevelopment. Thus, the step-by-step interaction between economic demand and revolutionary struggle did not materialise. This explains why those who formed the negotiating committees lagged behind in relation to the development of the struggles and why they always had a preponderant influence on the direction of the struggles, to the benefit of the unions, which introduced themselves into the assemblies and pushed the struggles in that direction. The combined committees were converted into a powerful arm of that bourgeois counter-balance to the assemblies -- the unions -- allowing these enemies of the workers to organise their forces in a more efficient manner. The combined committees could not function well because the mutual agreement between its components -- assembly delegates and union representatives -- supplanted the majority decision of the proletariat meeting in the assemblies. With this bastard formula, the assembly workers agreed to minority negotiating rights or at least to an inadequate form of representation, when in the factories and streets they had an overwhelming majority. Because the workers did not properly appreciate their own strength in struggle, they substituted decisions made at the negotiating table for those reached in the assemblies, and unconsciously helped transform the class struggle into a mere collaboration with the bosses. The threat hanging over the unions during the strikes, had the unions decided to openly oppose them, thus disappeared. All they had to do was adapt themselves to a situation that in fact could only evolve favourably for them, since through the combined committees they held the key to defending the reigning order and would in this way preside over the defeat of the strikers.

The Moncloa Pact was not smashed by a generalized strike movement, as the government and unions had feared; it had merely created a favourable terrain as the decree of Villar Mir freezing wages had done before. But the movement never went further than a series of important but nearly always local strikes, and the skirmishes of Cadiz, Malaga and La Laguna. The strikes of the second autumn were, above all, rearguard actions. Considered in relation to the movement of the struggle, they were not an offensive against the new agreements endorsed at the beginning of the year, but a defensive reply to them. The exhaustion at the end of two years of struggle and the overwhelming pressures of unemployment had created a climate of weariness. Economic pressures had acted against the proletariat whereas before they had acted against the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie used their own crisis to reduce the workers' struggle to the defence of employment. With strikes on the wane, the unions managed to get the workers in many places to debase themselves by subscribing to ridiculous plans for industrial reconstruction, as in Seat; assimilating a tearful, beseeching rhetoric that precluded strike action; or formulating demands in exchange for guarantees of jobs.

This time the unions were not the principal agents of defeat. They limited themselves to occupying the vacuum by organising union elections. The consolidation of the central unions depended on two things: the successful implementation of the Moncloa agreements and the defeat of the assembly movement as the means of workers' management representation and decision-making. After surpassing the unions, the workers did not consolidate their assemblies. They left the unions free to defend the social order within the factories by recomposing, piece by piece, their bureaucratic apparatus, aided by that indifferent attitude of the workers that often appears in deceptively calm moments. The workers had succumbed not so much to the illusions of the past, which were artificially orchestrated by the government, but to the unions, which they allowed to re-establish themselves. The prevalence of anti-union sentiments throughout this period was useless since it was not linked to the movement, which could transform them into the rules of war. By co-habiting with their union negation, the assemblies became props for the unions, and this millstone prolonged their ignorance of the necessary conditions for the revolutionary extension of the movement. They displaced the union illusion by the illusion of a union assembly, limiting the assemblies to the terrain of the unions as a permanent negotiating organ for the exploitation of labour power. The currents identified with this illusion participated in the union re-organisation within the factories as independent or non-affiliated candidates, reconciling, at the workers' expense, the different forces present. But the relative success of these candidates must not be attributed to these currents, since they do not in any way indicate an acceptance of their ambiguous positions. Rather it indicates an attitude of passive resistance on behalf of the workers in the face of the advance of the unions, pressured by unemployment and resentful of the relative impunity that union bureaucrats still enjoyed.

If the parliamentary elections, after a year and a half of struggle, were a great defeat for the assembly movement, the union elections were the final and total confirmation of this defeat. The proletariat came out of this process much weakened. Generally speaking, we can state that the proletariat, now disorganized, went on the defensive during the two and a half months that the elections lasted. Rapid advance is a vital law for the revolution, which must crush all obstacles and set its sights higher each time if it does not wish to be immediately sent back to its fragile point of departure and scattered by the reaction. But one must not forget that revolution is the only form of war in which the final victory is the consequence of a series of defeats.

CHAPTER EIGHT: Order Reigns on the Factory Floor

"Do not bear grudges against the political measures that the government is about to institute or the order that will be maintained in the streets of our cities." Declarations made by Jaroszewicz before the Szezecin strikers, 24 January 1977. Taken from Poland: 1970-77, Capitalism and Class Struggle, Black and Red translation of a text by Informations Correspondence Ouvriers, Spartacus, Paris.

The decay of the assembly movement, which was total at the beginning of the year, marks a new stage in the advance of the counter-revolution in Spain. Up till then, the reaction had advanced under the aegis of collaborating with the neutral assembly members and minority unions, which served as bridges between the clearly bourgeois programme of the majority unions and the revolutionary tendency of the workers' assemblies. With the union elections, the moment arrived when the Socialist-Stalinist union block could dispense with them. History knows the process well. Once the sabotage of the strikes had caused the workers to retreat from their pro-assembly positions, the reaction could ditch every ally whose services had been indispensable in making this retreat a success. As a result of the defeat of the workers' assemblies, the unions that had contributed the most to it were strengthened. Such had been the result of the repression of the Spartacists by the Socialist Noske. The election slogans of the UGT and Comisiones Obreras clearly signified ending the assemblies. Such was the aim of the projected UGT law called "Trade Union Representation for Workers," which pressed for the adoption of the more anti-assembly perspectives, with the aim of obtaining the maximum number of functions for works councils and for union branches.

But these assaults against the proletariat were not simply being carried out in the workplace, nor were the parties and unions its principal agents. In our time, due to the vastness of the productive forces, stoppages in production and in the circulation of commodities are so effective that they provoke grave disturbances in the system. We know, thanks to the North American miners, what the consequences are of paralysing coal production. And without needing to look elsewhere, we know that the consequences of a transport strike, such as a strike of the employees of Campsa,[10] or even bank employees — if prolonged for a long enough period of time — are mortal for the system. The system has to protect itself against its own vulnerability by reinforcing, in the name of security and protection, the police control over society on various pretexts. One is social delinquency, which is used to justify the increase in the number of cops patrolling the big towns, thus making them seem almost like semi-occupied. Then there is the pretext of terrorism, which justifies special commando units and, now, the Martin Villa plan to create a political police. Finally, there is the threat of an ecological catastrophe — chemical, nuclear or any other kind — that aberrations, which are indigenous to capital, could produce. Emergency plans include measures like militarisation and the collaboration of the army and 'civic associations' created by the parties. Up to now this sinister conspiracy against the proletariat had been circulated in a naive way throughout the press. The daily paper, El Pais (2 February 1978), speaking about the reforms of the Public Order Act, said: "The projected act devotes various clauses to the definition of states of public emergency, to the way in which it is to be declared as well as the measures necessary to control it. A state of emergency can also be declared in case of catastrophes, calamities or public mishaps, the paralysing of essential services, and in situations where products of prime necessity fail to be delivered. Amongst the measures that the authorities could adopt in such cases figure various restrictions, amongst them, the temporary requisitioning of all kinds of goods, the imposition of obligatory personal loans, the revoking of permits to carry arms, the limitation of the movement and length of stay of persons or vehicles to certain places and times, the temporary occupation of industries, factories and workshops, and the rationing of the consumption of services and basic necessities. The projected law foresees the collaboration of military units carrying out particular duties under the control of normal authorities or under the control of third persons, such as the civic associations created for such ends.

If bourgeois relations of production are conditioned by the position each country occupies in the world market, then the proletariat cannot break them in one country while they remain intact in the rest and, inversely, a revolutionary solution in a particular country totally depends on the situation of class struggle in all the others. A proletarian revolution cannot last very long if it is not extended to other countries, if it does not become international. The struggle against capital cannot be restricted to a single country. The degree of internationalism is exactly the degree of consciousness of revolutionary reality. We don't have to listen to General Haig to know that "a country's membership in NATO is a guarantee against the development of certain revolutionary processes" and that, should a revolution take place, "there can be no doubt that NATO would intervene in Spain," just as there was no need to wait for the military interventions against the proletariat in Berlin, Hungary or Czechoslovakia to know the same about the Warsaw Pact. It is not necessary to wait for the formal entry of Spain into NATO to see that Spanish policy towards Africa or the conversion of the Canary Islands into a military base are anti-working class strategies, which were already employed by Franco in 1936. World capitalism cannot allow a revolution, even if it is local, for any length of time. Every social revolution must confront the danger of military intervention and must not hold itself back because of this, but, on the contrary, must extend itself beyond its own frontiers. It must constantly bear in mind that parallel struggles are going on under the same circumstances in Poland, Portugal, the majority of Mediterranean countries and the East.

CHAPTER NINE: Nuclear Perspectives on the Momentary Power over the Proletariat

"I call forth all those that I have forgotten to name in any law, prerogative or condition, and charge them to come in all haste and enter into my dance; you need no beckoning." — The Dance of Death, an anonymous European text from the 14 century.

With the worst of the proletarian onslaught over, capital can now think about a new offensive that allows the productive forces the vital breathing space necessary for a new boom based on a dual international process. This entails an advance in the bureaucratisation of society with the State taking charge of the restructuring of uneconomic industrial sectors, and a new process of accumulation led by the multinational capitalist sectors based on the cybernetic/nuclear reorganisation of the productive process. The backward sectors of Spanish capitalism, with all their anachronistic appendages, are called on to play a self-financed auxillary role by eliminating inefficient manual labour.

The nuclear question must feature in all radical theoretical analysis of the central facts of the social war and the essential elements in the attempt at capitalist restructuring taking place throughout the world. Nuclear energy, in its develoment as in its results, expresses the final domination of dead labour over living labour, of fixed capital over variable capital: in other words it does not create jobs and therefore cannot be a solution to the economic crisis. Instead, it could be the solution to the crisis of the economy — that type of solution whose secret capitalism possesses, a leap forward and a deepening of the contradiction. The old bourgeois project of the emancipation of nature is now being realized as a nightmare that contradicts the real nature of man and is now endangering the survival of the species. The separation between the economic crisis and the crisis of the economy does nothing more than perpetuate the division of labour between the agents of the market economy, i.e. between the workers' bureaucracies and the capitalists, though we do not deny that possible and real conflicts exist between them, which are always negotiable and vouched for by the state mechanisms that control this collaboration. In the face of the crisis, the most advanced sector of the capitalists have practised a scorched-earth policy, abandoning to the State (and, up to a certain point, the bureaucrats) the management of the crisis that affects the backward sectors, gaining time in order to develop the basis for a new take-over with more advanced technologies (information, electronics, nuclear energy, etc.) A real conflict exists, although the workers' bureaucracies, in so far as they represent variable capital, have had to struggle against their expulsion by fixed capital. We can, for example, point to cases in Spanish industry in which the union bureaucracies have said no to the introduction of modern machinery where this would reduce the number of jobs available, even though it went contrary to their promise not to make any demands. In the future, these occurrences will be more frequent. All of the forms of the self-management of misery (we have seen practical examples of self-management in Roselon and Eurastyl) also militate in this direction, whilst the most modern sectors of capital reconstitute their forces elsewhere for a new offensive. When we hear the voice of the capitalists raised against State intervention, it is because not only do they think it unnecessary to continue expanding the economic role of the State, but also because this expansion would extend the process of bureaucratisation, a process which would imply the inclusion of the workers' bureaucracies into the management of the State. Needless to say, the workers' bureaucracies struggle for this expansion not only as a perspective for the future, but also because they need the State to keep alive the traditional industrial sectors from which they cuurently draw their greatest strength.

Conflicts could arise (as has happened) between the banks, the electricity industries and the State, in relation to the proposed programme of nationalising the nuclear power industry and the State takeover of plants responsible for the production of high-tension electrical energy; and between private capitalist forces, protagonists of nuclearisation and the political protagonists of bureaucratisation, but they would merely be incidental. In the particular case of Spain, the conflict has been settled since Fuentes Quintana stood down in favour of private capital, although the Central Bank of Spain is still the most important shareholder in the electrical sector as a result of the policy of buying shares to sustain the Stock Exchange.

Though still involuntary reactions of the ailing capitalist organism, nationalisation and State-planning of production — although still partial and indicative — demonstrate the bureaucratic form property tends to take and the contradictory need to introduce a planned capitalist economy. From the social point of view, these tendencies could be considered as leading to a partial suppression of private property and an increase in the productive forces. In the meantime, certain limits still exist and these phenomena appear in a sporadic form. The qualitative social characteristics of the economy in which they appear — the market economy — remain intact. But if the phenomenon becomes general, the nature of the economy will change. At a determinate moment, the economy — because of the extent of nationalisation — will lose its private capitalist character and the State will cease to politically represent the bourgeoisie and come to represent the bureaucracy formed within it. This is the tendency that provokes modern capitalism to oblige the State to concentrate its intervention on failing and bankrupt sectors. A new class then threatens to arise to solve capitalism's weaknesses in the domain of production and put a halt to the assaults of the proletariat. This class would be composed of bureaucrats and technocrats already formed within public and private enterprises, fused with the leadership of the party and union apparatuses, and with the police and military high-commands.

This development could appear as an exaggeration of the Machiavellianism of the various sectors of the dominant class, but even if the objective side of the process — the spontaneously bureaucratic evolution of capital — is of great importance, we cannot underestimate the consciousness this class has that its survival is at every moment a war against the proletariat. The extension of its power throughout society depends on whether or not the proletariat, still side-tracked in its struggle by the bourgeoisie, is capable of destroying the State and the bureaucratic apparatuses that sustain it.

The social war does not conceive of rights, morals, wrongs or injustice. The proletariat rids itself of wage slavery only if it wins the war. It also knows that it can lose in this inevitable combat. It will deserve defeat if it loses, as it shall deserve victory if it wins.

April 1978


[1] A reference to certain Opus Dei technocrats who played an important role in the Francoist government after 1958: Lopez Rodo (Economy), Lopez Bravo (Industry and Foreign Affairs), Espinosa Sanmartin (Housing), Villar Palasi (Education), amongst others.

[2] Antonoi Maura: conservative statesman, prime minister of the first monarchist government of Adolfo XIII from 1906-1909.

[3] Groups such as the Christian Democrats led by Ruiz Giminez (ex-minister of Education under Franco), Joaquim Garrigues (industrialist); Antonio Fontan (ex-director of the daily Madrid); Fraga Iribarne (ex-minister of Information and Tourism, and ex-ambassador to England); left wing falangists like Cantarero del Castillo, right wingers like Utrera Molina (General Secretary of the movement) or Bias Pinar (the leader of the neo-fascist group, New Force) etc. etc.

[4] The Cortes: the parliament of the medieval Spanish Kingdom and the modern national legislative assembly in Madrid.

[5] In Lope de Vega's play Fuenteovejuna, an entire village assumes responsibility before the King for the slaying of its overlord and wins Fuenteovejuna's exoneration.

[6] Note by NOT BORED!: there is text missing here.

[7] "This is a peculiarly Spanish device, whereby a company applies to the Courts for permission to declare a debt moratorium. If granted the court then specifies a period of time during which the company must sort out its finances. The difference between this and bankruptcy is that the debt moratorium is granted on the basis of the company's net assets being greater than its total debts." Financial Times, 5 January 1979.

[8] The Moncloa Pact was signed in October 1977 by all the major political parties. It ended on 31 December 1978.

[9] Juan Negrin: socialist who left his profession as a scientist to take up politics at the beginning of the civil war. As Treasury Minister in the Largo Caballero government, he arranged for the transportation of the Bank of Spain's gold to Russia as a guarantee for arms. The gold never returned and the war material received was used to hurry the defeat of the Republic. He was overthrown in march 1939 by the Junta de casada. Died wealthy in exile.

[10] Campsa: the state monopoly of oil and gas.

[Note: this text might have been written by Miguel Amoros. In any event, it was originally published in Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy 1976-1978 (London: BM bis, no date). According to the publisher's notes, "the theoretical texts . . . collected here . . . [were] translated and compiled London/Lisbon 1978/79." Unfortunately, the translation of this text reads as if it was very literal and done in a word-for-word fashion. As a result, the English version is very awkward and sometimes even unintelligible. Substantial editorial revisions of the syntax and grammar of the original by NOT BORED! has produced the text (re)printed above. All footnotes by the translators, except where noted.]

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