THE SPANISH ANARCHISTS: The Heroic Years, 1868-1936 by Murray Bookchin

THE SPANISH ANARCHISTS: The Heroic Years, 1868-1936

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first of two volumes, this is a rich overview of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism from the time a disciple of Bakunin set up the Spanish branch of the First International as an anti-Marxist faction. Spain is known as the heartland of European anarchism, and Bookchin--after a lively mapping of agriculture, industry, and politics--maintains that this is not simply because of ""atavism""; the Spanish anarchists' love of ""direct action"" embraced an enthusiasm for technology and morality. In the 19th century, the anarchists' mass base consisted largely of agrarian or marginal immigrant workers; later the CNT labor federation became the key anarchist center, with a million members by the eve of the Civil War. From the inception of the Republic in 1931, the anarchists' role was predominantly to ""exacerbate polarization, labor unrest, and social disequilibrium""; Bookchin writes that anarchist leaders lacked ""theoretical insight"" into the period and were ""mistaken in many tactics,"" such as the ""Don't Vote"" campaign that clinched the victory of the Right in 1933, and the 1936 anarchist congress largely devoted to communes and free love. When the generals' insurgency provoked revolutionary outbreaks in 1936, the anarchists established self-government in their factory and farming strongholds; Bookchin says little about how this worked, but adds that they themselves doubted the whole society could run on ""local control."" The book concludes that perhaps Spanish anarchists were ""poets of the past"" after all, but at least offered ""experimentation."" Distinctly readable despite scant references to individual personalities, the book is partly based on interviews with Spanish anarchist exiles. The text mainly refers to English-language secondary sources--which previously included no book-length treatment of Spanish anarchism as such. Bookchin's work, firmly pro-anarchist, is far more substantive than the sympathetic treatments in James Joll's The Anarchists (1964) or Daniel Guerin's Anarchism (1970).

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1976
ISBN: 187317604X
Publisher: Free Life Editions (41 Union Sq.W., N.Y., N.Y. 10003)