Innovation in the collectives


During the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39, workers self-managed many factories following the principles of participatory democracy. Productivity and innovation in the Spanish collectives was exceptionally high. The metal-working industry is a good example. As Augustine Souchy observes, at the outbreak of the Civil War, the metal industry in Catalonia was "very poorly developed." Yet within months, the Catalonian metal workers had rebuilt the industry from scratch, converting factories to the production of war materials for the anti-fascist troops. A few days after the July 19th revolution, the Hispano-Suiza Automobile Company was already converted to the manufacture of armored cars, ambulances, weapons, and munitions for the fighting front. "Experts were truly astounded," Souchy writes, "at the expertise of the workers in building new machinery for the manufacture of arms and munitions. Very few machines were imported. In a short time, two hundred different hydraulic presses of up to 250 tons pressure, one hundred seventy-eight revolving lathes, and hundreds of milling machines and boring machines were built."

Similarly, there was virtually no optical industry in Spain before the July revolution, only some scattered workshops. After the revolution, the small workshops were voluntarily converted into a production collective. "The greatest innovation," according to Souchy, "was the construction of anew factory for optical apparatuses and instruments. The whole operation was financed by the voluntary contributions of the workers. In a short time the factory turned out opera glasses, telemeters, binoculars, surveying instruments, industrial glassware in different colors, and certain scientific instruments. It also manufactured and repaired optical equipment for the fighting fronts. . . .What private capitalists failed to do was accomplished by the creative capacity of the members of the Optical Workers' Union of the CNT" [in _The Anarchist Collectives: Workers' Self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939_, ed. Sam Dolgoff, Free Life Editions, 1974, Chapter 7].


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