on June 18, 2007
The two short essays collected in this book serve to complement Bookchin's history of anarchism in Spain leading up to the revolution, titled "The Spanish Anarchists: Heroic Years 1868-1936". These essays do not serve as a proper overview on their own of what happened in the anarchist movement in Spain in the years of the revolution, for a capsule version of that history I recommend checking out sections of Martha Ackelsberg's "Free Women of Spain", or the section in Guerin's "Anarchism: From Theory to Practice". For an in-depth history, check out Broue and Temime or Bolloten's The Spanish Civil War. But Bookchin does draw out some important lessons here about anarchist organization, leadership, charisma, and bureaucratization, and the havoc wreaked by Stlainist influence on the revolution. For those interested in the topic, Vernon Richards' "Lessons of Spain" is another good source.
on July 29, 2008
This book is not a history book of Spanish anarchism during the Spanish civil war. It is just the compilation of two relatively short essays written by late libertarian Murrary Bookchin. Although Anarchist participations were distinctive and quantatatively numerous during the Spanish civil war ,therefore embarrassing to Stalinists, there has been strong academic biases against Anarchists and Spanish Anarchists' participationin the war.As Chomsky rightly pointed out , "Mandarins" hardly ever mentioned them or blatantly attacked them in their litany of works. For example, Hugh Thomas, the author of one of the most widely read book on Spanish civil war and the adviser for Margaret Thatcher, hardly ever mentioned about Anarchists and contribution to the republican cause in his 1000+ pages work.
Of course, you don't need to believe what Bookchin lauerized about Spanish Anarchists without ciritically judging it ,but please read Borkenau,Orwell,Weil and others who witnessed or participated the civil war, you will know what Bookchin wrote is not entirely derived from his supposedly anarchist belief. It's schintillating essays ,but strongly nostalgic confession of old libertarian and his view on one of the most powerful movement of the people in the 20th century
Murray Bookchin is a fascinating author. He wrote a number of works on libertarian and anarchist issues. Unlike many, who are naïve and don't have a hard-eyed view of matters, he examined such issues in a critical manner. Just so, this (too) brief work.
Some years earlier, Bookchin had authored a work on the development of the Spanish anarchist and syndicalist movement, starting in the latter third of the 19th century. His telling of Fanelli's visit, trying to communicate Bakunin's ideas in Italian to a Spanish audience is quite a vision! In that work, Bookchin traces the development of the movement in Spain up until the time of the Spanish Civil War (1936). This is his sequel, covering the anarchist and syndicalist revolution in Spain, from 1936 to the victory by General Franco.
Up front, I must say that the book is a bit of a disappointment. It is not even 70 pages long; it is comprised of two previously published works. While there is much insight here, there is not much depth of analysis. But what he has to say is to the point and provocative and, as one would guess, hard-eyed.
A key point that he makes: this period, 1936-1939, is normally referred to as the Spanish Civil War. He argues that that fundamentally misunderstands (or consciously distorts) some of the most important events. He says that there was a genuine revolution taking place--from the city of Barcelona to the rural areas of Spain. An anarchist and syndicalist revolution, where peasants and workers spontaneously developed self-governing units and used anarchosyndicalist methods to organize production and distribution.
The movement ultimately failed, due, partly, to the failures of the anarchists themselves (they begin to develop more hierarchical structures, participated in the government, and undermined their cause). Other factors: the enmity that the communists had toward the anarchists and how they translated that into undermining the anarchists, the dithering Republican government, and the power of Franco's forces. Very hard-nosed analysis.
He also lays out the contributions, especially in rural areas, for anarchist practice. Most judge anarchism to be wildly impractical. Bookchin tries to make the case that the evidence on the ground showed some successes until Franco triumphed.
Whatever one thinks of his argument, this is an interesting volume, simply, for speaking to the case that there was a real revolution trying to take place within a Civil War. While the book is too brief, it is thought-provoking and might interest those interested in such issues.