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The collectives of Calanda 1936/1939 seem to me to be built on a form of direct democracy which turned into a miracle of revolution. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?
by (120 points)
never heard of it. not much of a history buff. do you have things to read you could link to?
The collective anarchist revolution in the town  and surrounding countryside was a great success in Aragon during the civil war, but was destroyed by Lister and the communists and finally by the Fascists. It was used as the role model for Catalonia and Valencia. As far as I know this was the only time a real anarchist revolution has taken place in the world. There are a couple of texts translated from Spanish eyewitnesses and a new one is on the way translated from French into English.. There is also a documentary film called Vivre l'Utopie  (Long live Utopia) in French but I would think also with English subtitles. For me it seems that it was a true horizontal direct democracy but would like to hear from other anarchists about their thoughts.
we have an occasional poster who is an expert on the spanish civil war, but he's away for a while. perhaps when he gets back he will have some interesting insight on this.
I suppose it was kinda set up sort of like a direct democracy, but not in other ways. I guess it depends on what is meant by direct democracy.

They had a bunch of committees set up and the workers/people would choose whoever they thought was best to oversee the allocating of work and distribution of stuff.  I think there were 6 committees that were established with varying degrees of importance. I don't know what they all were called, but I believe the revolutionary committee and union committee were the more important ones. Each village in the area would select a representative delegate, I guess to represent them at the "federation of collectives" located elsewhere, but I'm not sure if those folk selected were different from the folk selected to oversee whichever committee.

Perhaps the person that dot mentions could clear it up better. I'm no expert on the Spanish civil war.
I think that is my point, ie, what does it mean by direct democracy. From my study of all of this it would seem that it was a direct democracy but not in the sense of a Greek, Swiss or US one. This Spanish one worked for the benefit of all, even the dissenters of whom there were a good few. This horizontal self managed action enabled some incredible life to manifest itself in Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia. It was not a majority rule. I hope others can chip in with their take on it. Thanks for your added knowledge.
How would you define/describe direct democracy? Direct democracy can possibly mean different things to different people, so that why I ask.

Well looking at the self organised  associations which grew into federations and allowing for dissent which would be supported by the CNT who were the main instigators of this revolution it seems that the line between their federal system and direct democracy are very blurred. In each area the CNT had  a minimum of 20 members. " as throughout the region, the committees of the agricultural collectives were merged with the local council and become the  basic social unit of the new society." This info comes from an eyewitness, Balkanski. 

In seven months the Aragon collectives, formed into regional federations, surpassed, in the shape of truly socialist achievements, that which the kolkhozes (collective farms) in the USSR never achieved in 60 years. Daily life was steeped in the spirit of equality and solidarity.  One of the articles in the Congress of Caspe Resolution made it clear: “In forming the local federations as well as the Regional Federation, it is necessary to eliminate the traditional boundaries the villages set up between themselves. Furthermore all the tools of work will be available for common usage and raw materials made available to any collective that has need of them without distinction.” In this way it was impossible for privileged collectives to exist alongside others less favoured by pre-existing circumstances, that is to say rich and poor as still exist today in the USSR. 

George Balkanski

Journey no 1, June 1987

I have found that direct democracy among certain anarchists is looked at as  only a political manifestation but I think that is not allowing for the experience outlined above.

From an eyewitness in Calanda: " The administrative council met every evening and if there was a problem we made a note of it for the general meeting. In fact, in Calanda, as in other collectives, power was exercised in the form of direct democracy. Decisions were taken at the general assembly of collectives. There was a weekly assembly on Saturdays and another very important one once a month". 

I'm not sure what your question is. Is it just people's opinions on the cnt-fai, what direct democracy is, or could it've been considered a direct democracy? If the latter, I think what you wrote above indicates it was, I guess. Perhaps someone more well versed in the spanish cvil war could help with whatever your question is.
Well both really, as I have what one can call evidence as to it being direct democracy vis a vis the account by people who lived it, but I know there are other anarchists who would disagree with this interpretation.

I'm just curious to know of other opinions as there are other direct democracies ie Ancient Greece, Switzerland and the US which are very different from the CNT model. Thus there are different perceptions about its negative/positive effects. For me the evidence tells me that the revolution in Spain got it right, I just wish there were a consensus about it.

Thanks for your time.
Two things:

1. An interesting project would be to delve into why it lasted only a short time in order learn how to make such modes of existence durable.

2. I *think* this same movement is the reason cooperatives as business models are very much alive today. To learn whether they work under direct democracy might be learned by a search. I have only picked up scraps of info so I don't have any links. I am sure if you are interested it should be relatively easy to find.

Good work. I know why it didn't work for very long. It is because the traitors in the Madrid Government did not want the revolution to succeed and they sent in Lister with his communist henchmen to get rid of it. The republican government made sure that  they the people of the revolution were all starved of support, weapons, food and men right across Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon.

After Lister and his murderers left the Fascists then entered and in Calanda alone murdered over 300 of  the people. The revolution which was so successful was brought to its knees by the Republic, the Communists and the Fascists.

I think you might be right about some ways of conducting business could have direct democracy as a model. Check out:
Thank you for the information. It sounds like the situation of alternative political parties in the US. The big guys make sure the little guys don't succeed. What lessons can be learned? If you have thoughts, I would be interested.
I wish I could say that I have the answers, all I do know is that we can learn from history in as much as the anarchist methods used between 1936/1939 are a blue print for future negation of  the capitalist system, government and the State. More and more people are saying no to the authoritarian systems that have destroyed this planet in the name of illusory democracy. Violence is not the answer unless of course a war breaks out against anarchist collectives.

In Catalonia today there are pockets of anarchists taking over abandoned villages and  working  collectives as ongoing existential projects. The tradition is in the blood, Calanda lives on.

Here in France where I am a member of CNT-AIT it is split as to where the future lies, solidarity is thin on the ground. I intend to move to Catalonia because  down in the S of France it is nearly all National Front  and very diseased.

Collective anarchism is the only way for ultimate freedom to manifest, but people fear freedom and it is more comfortable to rely on the laws of government which in essence bequeaths violence with State sponsored terrorism ruling the day. This system just does not work.
I am thrilled to hear the work continues. I am one who is not sure social and legal constructions can be abolished or changed by crisis and chaos. One co-op, one village at a time but many simultaneously will bring about the best results.
In order to gain freedom the collective consciousness has to evolve in order  to understand and change our habitual behaviours of deference to authority.

Violence is not the answer unless anarchists are being attacked, so to change destructive perceptions to creative ones can only happen through education using models taken from Ferrer, Freire, Godwin, Ilich and many others that don't spring to mind. Cultures if they continue to educate from a position of unconscious programmed input will only further dig our graves. The proof is all around us, we have failed our futures. This is why the State and its tentacles of government must be put in a museum for all to see why we got it so wrong.

People have to see their enslavement as being the cause for allowing the systems in place to dominate us with lies, fraud, murder and contaminated concepts of democracy. Calanda is the model to use.
I would say, people first have to see their enslavement. To many, law and order is the answer not the problem. Our "unconscious programmed input" is well developed.

I am of the belief that total disruption of the present state will only lead to more law & order. Most people do not like change or chaos. The State with its power will have little trouble restoring order in their favor. The little I know of the attempts for change in Egypt seem to prove that point.

Small communities that prove the value & possibility of living an entirely new way of life must be developed. Calanda  might be the seed that grows many other similar communities. I understand their cooperatives are a real model that people can follow. As I am totally unfamiliar w them, I can have no open.

My biggest question is about how they affect the social structure outside the work place. Is there an effective carry over of life style so that the social and economic systems work together? Is the education system a part of the whole?

Looking forward to learning more.

hey zz, just checking in that you wanted this to be an answer, as opposed to a comment. this site doesn't make it clear when you're doing one vs the other. if you wanted it to be a comment, just go to edit, there's a simple check box that will make it happen.
I agree with what you say.

Everything is a part of the whole so the education system is integral to everything else and as in the work of Calanda there must be the freedom to participate in whatever is of interest and which can help the evolution of the non-system. Whatever is produced for the increased benefit of the association has to be supported but just as in Calanda dissent has to be tolerated otherwise freedom of direct democracy will not exist.
Thank you for checking in, dot.

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