The Bakuninists at Work
An account of the Spanish revolt in the summer of 1873
Written: in September-October 1873;
First published: in Der Volksstaat, Oct. 31, Nov. 2 & 5, 1873;
Source: Engels, Internationales aus dem Volksstaat (1871-1875), Berlin, 1894;
First published in English: K. Marx, F. Engels, Revolution in Spain, Lawrence & Wishart, International Publishers, 1939;
Transcribed: by firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACKGROUND: This series of articles was written
in the wake of the events in Spain during the summer of 1873, which were
the culmination of the Spanish bourgeois revolution of 1868-74. Engels
focused his attention on the involvement of the Spanish Bakuninists in
the abortive cantonal revolts July-September) organised in the south and
south-east of the country by the Intransigents, an extremist republican
grouping that advocated the partition of Spain into independent cantons.
The Intransigents and their Bakuninist allies were dissatisfied with the
radical social measures undertaken by the Left republican government of
Pi y Margall (sale of state and Church lands, establishment of mixed commissions
to regulate labour conditions, a free regime in the colonies, etc.) and
with the Constitution drawn up by the Cortes, which proclaimed a federative
republic. They weakened the republican camp by forcing Pi y Margall to
resign on July 18, 1873, and thus paved the way for the establishment of
a military dictatorship in Spain early in 1874 and then for the restoration
of the Bourbon monarchy.
Engels drew his information from the periodical press and various
documents of the Spanish sections of the International, above all from
a report submitted by the New Madrid Federation to the Geneva Congress
of the International held on September 8-13, 1873.
Following the publication in Der Volksstaat, Engels' series
of articles came out as a pamphlet entitled Die Bakunisten an der Arbeit.
Denkschrift über den letzten Aufstand in Spanien (Leipzig, November
1873); in April-May 1874 it was published in the New York Arbeiter-Zeitung
(Nos. 11-13 and 15-16). In 1894 The Bakuninists at Work was included
in the collection of Engels' articles Internationales aus dein "Volksstaat"
(1871-75) published by Vorwärts Publishers in Berlin. For
that publication Engels provided the Preliminary Remark (see present edition,
Vol. 27) and made several corrections.
The work was published in English for the first time in K. Marx,
F. Engels, Revolution in Spain, Lawrence & Wishart, International
Publishers, London-New York, 1939.
The text published in Der Volksstaat
in 1873 and the reprint of the same year had no author's note, but a reference
in brackets: "see the article 'Cagliostro Bakunin' in Der Volksstaat,
No. 87 et seqq." This anonymously published article contained a brief summary
in German of Marx's and Engels' The Alliance of Socialist Democracy
and the International Working Men's Association with excerpts from
different chapters. It was written by Adolf Hepner and published in Der
Volksstaat, Nos. 87-90 of September 19, 21, 24 and 26, 1873. Engels
referred to it because a full German translation of the work about the
Alliance was then just being prepared.
The report just published by the Hague Commission
on Mikhail Bakunin's secret Alliance has revealed
to the working world the underhand activities, the dirty tricks and phrase-mongery
by which the proletarian movement was to be placed at the service of the
inflated ambition and selfish ends of a few misunderstood geniuses. Meanwhile
these would-be-great men have given us the opportunity in Spain to see
something of their practical revolutionary activity. Let us see how they
put into practice their ultra-revolutionary phrases about anarchy and autonomy,
about the abolition of all authority, especially that of the state, and
the immediate and complete emancipation of the workers. We are at last
able to do this, since, apart from the newspaper reports about the events
in Spain, we now have the report of the New Madrid Federation of the International
[La Nueva Federacion Madrileña á los delegados al sexto
Congreso general. Madrid 24 de agosto de 1873] presented to the Geneva
As we know, at the time the split in the International occurred the
odds were in favour of the members of the secret Alliance in Spain; the
great majority of Spanish workers followed their lead. When the Republic
was proclaimed in February 1873, the Spanish members of the Alliance found
themselves in a quandary. Spain is such a backward country industrially
that there can be no question there of immediate complete emancipation
of the working class. Spain will first have to pass through various preliminary
stages of development and remove quite a number of obstacles from its path.
The Republic offered a chance of going through these stages in the shortest
possible time and quickly surmounting the obstacles. But this chance could
be taken only if the Spanish working class played an active political
role. The labour masses felt this; they strove everywhere to participate
in events, to take advantage of the opportunity for action, instead of
leaving the propertied classes, as hitherto, a clear field for action and
intrigues. The government announced that elections were to be held to the
Constituent Cortes. [May 10, 1873] What was the attitude of the International
to be? The leaders of the Bakuninists were in a predicament. Continued
political inaction became more ridiculous and impossible with every passing
day; the workers wanted "to see things done". [J. W. Goethe, Zueignung.
-- Ed.] The members of the Alliance on the other hand had been preaching
for years that no part should be taken in a revolution that did not have
as its aim the immediate and complete emancipation of the working class,
that political action of any kind implied recognition of the State, which
was the root of all evil, and that therefore participation in any form
of elections was a crime worthy of death. How they got out of this fix
is recounted in the already mentioned Madrid report:
"The same people who rejected the Hague resolution on the political
attitude of the working class and who trampled under foot the Rules of
the [International Working Men's] Association, thus bringing division,
conflict and confusion into the Spanish Section of the International; the
same people who had the effrontery to depict us to the workers as ambitious
place-hunters, who, under the pretext of establishing the rule of the working
class, sought to establish their own rule; the same people who call themselves
autonomists, anarchist revolutionaries, etc., have on this occasion flung
themselves into politics, bourgeois politics of the worst kind. They have
worked, not to give political power to the working class -- on the contrary
this idea is repugnant to them -- but to help to power a bourgeois faction
of adventurers, ambitious men and place-hunters who call themselves Intransigent
"Already on the eve of the general election to the Constituent
Cortes the workers of Barcelona, Alcoy and other towns wanted to know what
political line they should adopt in the parliamentary struggle and other
campaigns. Two big meetings were therefore held, one in Barcelona, the
other in Alcoy; at both meetings the Alliance members went out of their
way to prevent any decision being reached as to what political line was
to be taken by the International" (note bene: by their own International).
"It was therefore decided that the International, as an association,
should not engage in an, political activity whatever, but that its members,
as individuals, could act on their own as the, thought fit and join the
part, they chose, in accordance with their famous doctrine of autonomy!
And what was the result of the application of this absurd doctrine? That
most of the members of the International, including the anarchists, took
part in the elections with no programme, no banner, and no candidates,
thereby helping to bring about the election of almost exclusively bourgeois
republicans. Only two or three workers got into the Chamber, and they represent
absolutely nothing, their voice has not once been raised in defence of
the interests of our class, and they cheerfully voted for all the reactionary
motions tabled by the majority."
That is what Bakuninist "abstention from politics" leads to. At quiet times,
when the proletariat knows beforehand that at best it can get only a few
representatives to parliament and have no chance whatever of winning a
parliamentary majority, the workers may sometimes be made to believe that
it is a great revolutionary action to sit out the elections at home, and
in general, not to attack the State in which they live and which oppresses
them, but to attack the State as such which exists nowhere and which accordingly
cannot defend itself. This is a splendid way of behaving in a revolutionary
manner, especially for people who lose heart easily; and the extent to
which the leaders of the Spanish Alliance belong to this category of people
is shown in some detail in the aforementioned publication.
As soon as events push the proletariat into the fore, however,
abstention becomes a palpable absurdity and the active intervention of
the working class an inevitable necessity. And this is what happened in
Spain. The abdication of Amadeo ousted the radical monarchists 
from power and deprived them of the possibility of recovering it in the
near future; the Alfonsists  stood still less chance
at the time; as for the Carlists, they, as usual, preferred civil war to
an election campaign.  All these parties, according
to the Spanish custom, abstained. Only the federalist Republicans, split
into two wings, and the bulk of the workers took part in the elections.
Given the enormous attraction which the name of the International still
enjoyed at that time among the Spanish workers and given the excellent
organisation of the Spanish Section which, at least for practical purposes,
still existed at the time, it was certain that any candidate nominated
and supported by the International would be brilliantly successful in the
industrial districts of Catalonia, in Valencia, in the Andalusian towns
and so on, and that a minority would be elected to the Cortes large enough
to decide the issue whenever it came to a vote between the two wings of
the Republicans. The workers were aware of this; they felt that the time
had come to bring their still powerful organisation into play. But the
honourable leaders of the Bakuninist school had been preaching the gospel
of unqualified abstention too long to be able suddenly to reverse their
line; and so they invented that deplorable way out -- that of having the
International abstain as a body, but allowing its members as individuals
to vote as they liked. The result of this declaration of political
bankruptcy was that the workers, as always in such cases, voted for those
who made the most radical speeches, that is, for the Intransigents, and
considering themselves therefore more or less responsible for subsequent
steps taken by their deputies, became involved in them.
The members of the Alliance could not possibly
persist in the ridiculous position into which their cunning electoral policy
had landed them; it would have meant the end of their control over the
International in Spain. They had to act, if only for the sake of appearances.
Salvation for them lay in a general STRIKE.
In the Bakuninist programme a general STRIKE is the lever employed by
which the social revolution is started. One fine morning all the workers
in all the industries of a country, or even of the whole world, stop work,
thus forcing the propertied classes either humbly to submit within four
weeks at the most, or to attack the workers, who would then have the right
to defend themselves and use this opportunity to pull down the entire old
society. The idea is far from new; this horse was since 1848 hard ridden
by French, and later Belgian socialists; it is originally, however, an
English breed. During the rapid and vigorous growth of Chartism among the
English workers following the crisis of 1837, the "holy month", a strike
on a national scale was advocated as early as 1839 (see Engels, The
Condition of the Working-Class in England, Second Edition , p.
234) and this had such a strong appeal that in July 1842 the industrial
workers in northern England tried to put it into practice. -- Great importance
was also attached to the general STRIKE at the Geneva Congress of the Alliance
held on September 1, 1873,  although it was universally
admitted that this required a well-formed organisation of the working class
and plentiful funds. And there's the rub. On the one hand the governments,
especially if encouraged by political abstention, will never allow the
organisation or the funds of the workers to reach such a level; on the
other hand, political events and oppressive acts by the ruling classes
will lead to the liberation of the workers long before the proletariat
is able to set up such an ideal organisation and this colossal reserve
fund. But if it had them, there would be no need to use the roundabout
way of a general STRIKE to achieve its goal.
No one with any knowledge of the secret springs of the Alliance
can doubt that the idea of using this well-tried method originated in the
Swiss centre. Be that as it may, the Spanish leaders saw in this a way
of doing something without actually delving in "politics" and they gladly
took it. The miraculous qualities of a general STRIKE were everywhere propounded
and preparations were made to start it at Barcelona and Alcoy.
Meanwhile the political situation was steadily heading for a crisis.
Castelar and his associates, the old federal republican braggarts, were
frightened by the movement, which had outgrown them. They were obliged
to hand over the reigns of government to Pi y Margall [June 11, 1873],
who sought a compromise with the Intransigents. Of all the official republicans,
Pi was the only Socialist, the only one who realised that the republic
had to depend on the support of the workers. He promptly produced a programme
of social measures which could be carried out immediately and would not
only benefit the workers directly but eventually lead to further steps,
thus at least giving the first impetus to the social revolution. But the
Bakuninist members of the International, who were obliged to reject even
the most revolutionary measures if they emanated from the "State", preferred
to support the most preposterous swindlers among the Intransigents rather
than a minister. Pi's negotiations with the Intransigents dragged on. The
Intransigents began to lose patience, and the most hot-headed of them started
a cantonal uprising in Andalusia. The leaders of the Alliance now had to
act too if they did not want to trail in the wake of the intransigent bourgeois.
And so a general STRIKE was ordered.
Presently, among other things, a poster was issued in Barcelona
"Workers! We are calling a general STRIKE to show the profound abhorrence
we feel on seeing the government using the army fight our brother workers,
while neglecting the struggle against the Carlists", etc. [Engels probably
quotes from La Solidarité Révolutionnaire, No. 6, July 16,
1873. -- Ed.]
The workers of Barcelona -- Spain's largest industrial city, which has
seen more barricade fighting than any other city in the world -- were asked
to oppose the armed government force not with arms in their hands, but
with a general strike, that is, a measure directly involving only individual
bourgeois, but not their collective representative -- the State power.
During the period of peacetime inaction, the workers of Barcelona had been
able to listen to the inflammatory phrases of mild men like Alerini, Farga
Pellicer and Viñas; but when the time came to act, when Alerini,
Farga Pellicer and Viñas first announced their fine election programme,
then proceeded to calm passions, and finally, instead of issuing a call
to arms declared a general STRIKE, the workers actually despised them.
Even the weakest Intransigent showed more energy than the strongest member
of the Alliance. The Alliance and the International, which was hoodwinked
by it, lost all influence and when these gentlemen called for a general
STRIKE claiming that this would paralyse the government the workers simply
ridiculed them. What the activities of the false International did achieve,
however, was that Barcelona took no part in the cantonal uprising. Barcelona
was the only town whose participation could have provided firm support
for the working-class element, which was everywhere strongly represented
in the; movement, and thus held out the prospect of the workers ultimately
controlling the entire movement. Furthermore, with the participation of
Barcelona, victory would have been as good as won. But Barcelona did not
raise a finger; the workers of Barcelona, who had seen through the Intransigents
and been cheated by the Alliance, remained inactive, thus allowing the
Madrid government to secure the final victory. All of which did not prevent
Alerini and Brousse, members of the Alliance (the report on the Alliance
contained further details about themb), from stating in their paper, the
"The revolutionary movement is spreading like wildfire throughout the
peninsula ... nothing has as yet happened in Barcelona, but the
revolution is permanent in the market place!"
But it was the revolution of the Alliancists, which consists in beating
the big drum and for this reason remains "permanently" in the same "place".
At the same time the general STRIKE became the order of the day
in Alcoy. Alcoy is a new industrial town of some 30,000 inhabitants, where
the International, in its Bakuninist form gained a foothold only a year
ago and spread rapidly. Socialism, in any form, went down well with these
workers, who until then had known nothing of the movement; the same thing
happens in Germany where occasionally in some backward town the General
Association of German Workers  suddenly gains a large
temporary following. Alcoy was therefore chosen as the seat of the Bakuninist
Federal Commission for Spain,  and it is the work
of this Federal Commission that we are going to see here.
On July 7, a workers' meeting voted for a general STRIKE and on
the following day sent a deputation to the alcalde (the mayor) asking him
to summon the manufacturers within 24 hours and present to them the workers'
demands. Albors, the alcalde, a bourgeois Republican, stalled off the workers,
sent to Alicante for troops and advised the manufacturers not to yield
but to barricade themselves in their houses. He himself would remain at
his post. After a meeting with the manufacturers -- we are here following
the official report of the Alliance Federal Commission dated July 14, 1873
["A los Trabajadores", La Federación, No. 206, July 26, 1873]
-- Albors, who had originally promised the workers to remain neutral, issued
a proclamation in which he "insulted and slandered the workers and sided
with the manufacturers thus destroying the rights and the freedom of the
strikers and challenging them to fight". How the pious wishes of a mayor
can destroy the rights and the freedom of the strikers is not made clear.
Anyway, the workers led by the Alliance notified the municipal council
through a committee that if it did not intend to remain neutral during
the strike as it promised, it had better resign in order to avoid a conflict.
The committee was turned away and as it was leaving the town hall, the
police opened fire on the peaceful and unarmed people standing in the square.
This is how the fight started, according to the report of the Alliance.
The people armed themselves, and a battle began which was said to have
lasted "twenty hours". On one side, the workers, whose number is given
by the Solidarité Révolutionnaire as 5,000, on the
other, 32 gendarmes in the town hall and a few armed men in four or five
houses in the market place. These houses were burnt down by the people
in the good Prussian manner. Eventually the gendarmes ran out of ammunition
and had to surrender.
"There would have been less misfortunes to lament," says the report
of the Alliance Commission, "if the Alcalde Albors had not deceived the
people by pretending to surrender and then cowardly ordering the murder
of those who entered the town hall relying on his word. And the Alcalde
himself would not have been killed by the justly enraged population had
he not fired his revolver point-blank at those who went to arrest him."
And what were the casualties in this battle?
"Although we cannot know exactly the number of dead and wounded" (on
the people's side) "we can nevertheless say that they numbered no less
than ten. On the side of provokers there were no less than fifteen
dead and wounded."
This was the first street battle of the Alliance. For twenty hours, 5,000
men fought against 32 gendarmes and a few armed bourgeois, and defeated
them after they had run out of ammunition, losing ten men in all.
The Alliance may well drum Falstaff's dictum into the heads of its adepts
that "the better part of valour is discretion". [Shakespeare, The First
Part of King Henry IV, Act V, Scene 4. -- Ed.]
Needless to say, all the horror stories carried by the bourgeois papers
about factories senselessly burnt down, numerous gendarmes shot down, and
of people having petrol poured over them and set on fire, are pure inventions.
The victorious workers, even if led by members of the Alliance whose motto
is, "to hell with ceremony!", always treat their defeated adversaries far
too generously, and so the latter accuse them of all the misdeeds which
they themselves never fail to perpetrate when they are victorious.
And so victory had been won.
The Solidarité Révolutionnaire writes jubilantly:
"Our friends in Alcoy, numbering 5,000, are masters of the situation."
And what did these "masters" do with their "situation"?
Here the report of the Alliance and its newspaper leave us in
the lurch and we have to rely on the ordinary newspaper reports. From these
we learn that a "Committee of Public Safety", that is, a revolutionary
government, was then set up in Alcoy. To be sure that their Congress at
Saint-Imier  (Switzerland), on September 15 1872,
the members of the Alliance decided that
"any organisation of political, so-called provisional or revolutionary
authority, can be nothing but a new fraud and would be just as dangerous
for the proletariat as any of the now existing governments". ["Les deux
Congres de Saint-lmier", Bulletin de la Federación jurassienne...,
No. 17-18, September 15-October 1, 1872, p. 13.]
The members of the Spanish Federal Commission, meeting at Alcoy, had moreover
done everything they could to get this resolution adopted also by the Congress
of the Spanish Section of the International. And yet we find that Severino
Albarracin, a member of this Commission, and, according to some reports,
also Francisco Tomas, its secretary, were members of this provisional and
revolutionary government, the Committee of Public Safety, of Alcoy!
And what did this Committee of Public Safety do? What measures
did it adopt to bring about "the immediate and complete emancipation of
the workers"? It forbade any man to leave the city, although women were
allowed to do so, provided they ... had a pass! The enemies of all
authority re-introducing a pass! Everything else was utter confusion,
inactivity and helplessness.
Meanwhile, General Velarde was coming up from Alicante with troops.
The government had every reason for wishing to deal with the local insurrections
in the provinces quietly. And the "masters of the situation" in Alcoy had
every reason for wanting to extricate themselves from a situation which
they did not know how to handle. Accordingly, Deputy Cervera, who acted
as a go-between, had an easy task. The Committee of Public Safety resigned,
and on July 12 the troops entered the town without meeting any resistance,
the only promise made to the Committee of Public Safety for this being
... a general amnesty. The Alliance "masters of the situation" had once
again extricated themselves from a tight spot. And there the Alcoy adventure
The Alliance report tells us that at Sanlúcar de Barrameda,
"the Alcalde closed down the premises of the International and his
threats and his incessant attacks on the personal rights of the citizens
incensed the workers. A commission demanded of the minister observance
of the law and the re-opening of the premises which had been arbitrarily
closed down. Mr. Pi agreed to this in principle ... but refused to comply
in practice. It became clear to the workers that the Government was determined
to outlaw their Association; they dismissed the local authorities and appointed
others in their place, who re-opened the premises of the Association."
["A los Trabajadores", La Federación, No. 206, July 26, 1873.]
"In Sanlúcar ... the people are masters of the situation!" the Solidarité
Révolutionnaire writes triumphantly. The members of the Alliance,
who here too, contrary to their anarchist principles, formed a revolutionary
government, did not know what to do with their power. They wasted time
in futile debates and paper resolutions, and when General Pavía,
on August 5, after taking Seville and Cádiz, sent a few companies
of the Soria brigade to Sanlúcar he encountered ... no resistance.
Such were the heroic deeds performed by the Alliance where it
had no competition.
The street fighting in Alcoy was immediately followed
by a revolt of the Intransigents in Andalusia. Pi y Margall was still at
the helm, engaged in continuous negotiations with the leaders of this party
with the object of forming a ministry with them; why then did they begin
an uprising before the negotiations had failed? The reason for this rash
action has never been properly explained, it is however certain, that the
main concern of the Intransigents was the actual establishment of a federal
republic as quickly as possible in order to seize power and the many new
administrative posts that were to be created in the various cantons. The
splitting up of Spain had been deferred too long by the Cortes in Madrid,
and so they had to tackle the job themselves and proclaim sovereign cantons
everywhere. The attitude hitherto maintained by the (Bakuninist) International,
which since the elections was deeply involved in the actions of the Intransigents,
gave grounds for counting on the Bakuninists' support: indeed, had not
the Bakuninists just seized Alcoy by force and were thus in open conflict
with the government? The Bakuninists moreover had for years been preaching
that all revolutionary action from above was an evil, and everything should
be organised and carried through from below. And now here was an opportunity
to apply the famous principle of autonomy from below, at least in a few
towns. Predictably, the Bakuninist workers fell into the trap and pulled
the chestnuts out of the fire for the Intransigents, only to be rewarded
later by their allies with the usual kicks and bullets.
What was the position of the members of the Bakuninist International
in all this movement? They helped to evolve its federalist particularism;
they put into practice as far as possible their anarchist ideal. The same
Bakuninists who in Cordoba a few months earlier had declared that to establish
a revolutionary government was to betray and cheat the workers, the same
Bakuninists now sat in all the revolutionary municipal governments of Andalusia,
but always in a minority, so that the Intransigents could do whatever they
wished. While the latter retained the political and military leadership,
the workers were put off with pompous phrases or resolutions purporting
to introduce social reforms of the crudest and most meaningless sort, which
moreover existed only on paper. As soon as the Bakuninist leaders demanded
real concessions, they were scornfully repulsed. When talking to English
newspaper correspondents, the Intransigent leaders of the movement hastened
to dissociate themselves from these so-called "members of the International"
and to renounce all responsibility for them, declaring that their leaders
and all fugitives from the Paris Commune were being kept under strict police
supervision. Finally, as we shall see, the Intransigents in Seville, during
the battle with the government troops, fired also on their Bakuninist allies.
Thus it happened that within a few days the whole of Andalusia
was in the hands of the armed Intransigents. Seville, Malaga, Granada,
Cádiz, etc. were taken almost without resistance. Each town proclaimed
itself a sovereign canton and set up a revolutionary. committee (junta).
Murcia, Cartagena, and Valencia followed suit. A similar attempt, but of
a more peaceful nature, was made in Salamanca. Thus, nearly all the large
Spanish cities were held by the insurgents, with the exception of Madrid,
the capital, which is purely a luxury city and hardly ever plays a decisive
role, and of Barcelona. If Barcelona had risen success would have been
almost assured, and in addition it would have provided powerful support
for the working-class element of the movement. But as we have seen, the
Intransigents in Barcelona were comparatively powerless, whereas the Bakuninists,
who were still very strong there at the time, used the general STRIKE only
for appeasement purposes. Thus Barcelona this time was not at its
Nevertheless, the uprising, though started in a senseless way,
had a fair chance of success if conducted with some intelligence, even
if in the manner of the Spanish military revolts, in which the garrison
of one town rises, marches to the next town and wins over the garrison
there which had been propagandised in advance, and, growing like an avalanche,
advances on the capital, until a successful engagement or the desertion
to its side of the troops sent out against it, decides the victory. This
method was eminently suited to the occasion. The insurgents had long been
organised everywhere into volunteer battalions, whose discipline, it is
true, was poor, but certainly no worse than that of the remnants of the
old Spanish army, which for the most part had been disbanded. The only
reliable troops the government had were the gendarmes (guardias civiles),
and these were scattered all over the country. The thing was to prevent
the gendarmes from mustering, and this could only be done by boldly giving
battle in the open field. No great risk was involved in this since the
government could send against the volunteers only troops that were just
as undisciplined as they themselves. And if they wanted to win, this was
the only way to go about it.
But no. The federalism of the Intransigents and their Bakuninist
tail consisted precisely in the fact that each town acted on its own, declaring
that the important thing was not co-operation with other towns but separation
from them, thus precluding any possibility of a combined attack. What was
an unavoidable evil during the German Peasant War and the German insurrections
of May 1849, namely, the fragmentation and isolation of the revolutionary
forces which enabled the government troops to smash one revolt after the
other,  was here proclaimed a principle of supreme
revolutionary wisdom. Bakunin had that satisfaction. As early as September
1870 (in his Lettres a un franfaisa) he had declared that the only
way to drive the Prussians out of France by a revolutionary struggle was
to do away with all forms of centralised leadership and leave each town,
each village, each parish to wage war on its own. If one thus opposed the
Prussian army under its centralised command with unfettered revolutionary
passion victory would be ensured. Confronted with the collective mind of
the French people, thrown at last on its own resources, the individual
mind of Moltke would obviously sink into insignificance. The French then
refused to see this, but in Spain Bakunin had won a brilliant victory,
as we have already seen and shall yet see.
Meanwhile, this uprising, launched without reason like a bolt
from the blue, had made it impossible for Pi y Margall to continue his
negotiations with the Intransigents. He was compelled to resign, [July
18, 1873] and was replaced by pure republicans like Castelar, undisguised
bourgeois, whose primary aim was to crush the working-class movement, which
they had previously used but which had now become a hindrance to them.
One division under General Pavía was sent against Andalusia, another
under General Campos against Valencia and Cartagena. The main body consisted
of gendarmes drawn from all over Spain, all of them old soldiers whose
discipline was still unshaken. Here too, as during the attacks of the Versailles
army on Paris, the gendarmes were to bolster up the demoralised regulars
and to form the spearhead of the attacking columns, a task which in both
cases they fulfilled to the best of their abilities. Besides the gendarmes,
the divisions contained a few rather diminished line regiments, so that
each of them numbered some 3,000 men. This was all the Government was able
to raise against the insurgents.
General Pavía took the field round about July 20. A detachment
of gendarmes and line troops under Ripoll occupied Cordoba on the 24th.
On the 29th Pavía attacked the barricaded Seville, which fell to
him on the 30th or 31st, the dates are often not clearly stated in these
telegrams. Leaving behind a flying column to put down the surrounding country,
he marched against Cádiz, whose defenders only fought on the approaches
to the city, and with little spirit at that, and then, on August 4, they
allowed themselves to be disarmed without resistance. In the days that
followed, Pavía disarmed, also without resistance, Sanlúcar
de Barrameda, San Roque, Tarifa, Algeciras, and a great many other small
towns each of which had set itself up as a sovereign canton. At the same
time he sent detachments against Malaga, which surrendered on August 3,
and Granada, which surrendered on August 8, without offering any resistance.
Thus by August 10, in less than a fortnight and almost without a struggle,
the whole of Andalusia had been subdued.
On July 26, Martinez Campos began the attack on Valencia. The
revolt there had been raised by the workers. When the split in the Spanish
International occurred, the real International had the majority in Valencia,
and the new Spanish Federal Council was transferred there. 
Soon after the proclamation of the Republic, when revolutionary battles
lay ahead, the Bakuninist workers of Valencia, mistrusting the Barcelona
leaders who cloaked their appeasement policy with ultra-revolutionary phrases,
offered the members of the real International their co-operation in all
local movements. When the cantonal movement started, both groups, making
use of the Intransigents, immediately attacked and ejected the troops.
Who formed the Valencian junta remains unknown, but from the reports of
the English newspaper correspondents it appears that workers definitely
predominated in the junta, just as they did among the Valencian Volunteers.
The same correspondents spoke of the Valencian insurgents with a respect
which they were far from showing towards the other rebels, who were mostly
Intransigents; they praised their discipline and the order which prevailed
in the city, and predicted a long resistance and a hard struggle. They
were not mistaken. Valencia, an open city, withstood the attacks of Campos'
division from July 26 to August 8, that is longer than the whole of Andalusia.
In the province of Murcia, the capital of the same name was occupied
without a fight; after the fall of Valencia Campos moved against Cartagena,
one of the strongest fortresses in Spain, protected on the landward side
by a rampart and advanced forts on the commanding heights. The 3,000 government
troops, who had no siege artillery whatsoever, and whose light field guns
were of course powerless against the heavy artillery of the forts, had
to confine themselves to laying siege to the city from the landward side.
This was of little avail, however, as long as the people of Cartagena dominated
the sea with the naval vessels they had captured in the harbour. The insurgents,
who, while the fight had been going on in Valencia and Andalusia, were
wholly preoccupied with their own affairs, began to think of the outside
world after the other revolts had been quelled, when they themselves began
to run short of money and provisions. Only then did they make an attempt
to march on Madrid, which was at least 60 German miles [German mile
is equal to 7,420,438 metres. -- Ed.] away, more than twice as far
as, for instance, Valencia or Granada! The expedition ended in disaster
not far from Cartagena. The siege precluded any possibility of further
land sorties, so they attempted sorties with the aid of the fleet. And
what sorties! There could be no question of raising revolts again with
the aid of Cartagena warships in the coastal towns which had recently been
subdued. The fleet of the Sovereign Canton of Cartagena therefore confined
itself to threatening to shell the other coastal towns from Valencia to
Malaga, which, according to the theory of the people of Cartagena, were
likewise sovereign -- and if need be to shell them in actual fact if they
failed to deliver on board the required provisions and war contribution
in hard cash. While these cities, as sovereign cantons, had been fighting
the government, Cartagena adhered to the principle of "every man for himself".
Now when they had been defeated the principle which was held to be valid
was -- "everyone for Cartagena!" That was how the Intransigents of Cartagena
and their Bakuninist supporters interpreted the federalism of the sovereign
In order to reinforce the ranks of the fighters for liberty, the
government of Cartagena released from the local jail about 1,800 convicts
-- Spain's worst robbers and murderers. After the disclosures made in the
report on the Alliance there can no longer be any room for doubt that this
revolutionary step was suggested to it by the Bakuninists. The report shows
Bakunin enthusiastically advocating the "unleashing of all evil passions"
and holding up the Russian brigand as a model for all true revolutionaries.
What is fair for the Russian is fair for the Spaniard. When the local government
of Cartagena released the "evil passions" of the 1,800 jailed cut-throats,
thereby carrying demoralisation among its troops to the extreme limit,
it acted wholly in the spirit of Bakunin. And when, instead of battering
down its own fortifications, the Spanish government awaited the fall of
Cartagena through the internal disorganisation of its defenders, it was
pursuing an entirely correct policy.
Now let us hear what the report of the New Madrid
Federation has to say about the whole movement.
"On the second Sunday in August a Congress was to be held in Valencia,
which, among other things, was to determine the attitude the Spanish International
Federation was to adopt towards the important political events taking place
in Spain since February 11, the day the Republic was proclaimed. But this
nonsensical" (descabellada, literally: dishevelled) "cantonal uprising,
which was such an abject failure and in which members of the International
eagerly took part in almost all the insurgent provinces, has not only brought
the work of the Federal Council to a standstill by dispersing most of its
members, but has almost completely disorganised the local federations and,
what is worse, exposed their members to the full measure of hatred and
persecution that an ignominiously started and defeated popular insurrection
"When the cantonal uprising started, when the juntas, i.e., the
cantonal governments, were formed, these people" (the Bakuninists) "who
had spoken so violently against political power, and accused us of authoritarianism,
lost no time in joining those governments. And in important cities such
as Seville, Cádiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Granada and Valencia,
many members of the International who call themselves anti-authoritarians
sat on the cantonal juntas with no programme other than that of autonomy
for the provinces or cantons. This is officially established by the proclamations
and other documents issued by those juntas over the signatures of well-known
members of this International.
"Such a flagrant contradiction between theory and practice, between
propaganda and action, would be of small account if our Association could
have derived any benefit from it, or if it could have advanced the organisation
of our forces, or in any way furthered the attainment of our main goal
-- the emancipation of the working class. Just the opposite took place,
as it was bound to in the absence of the primary condition, namely, the
active collaboration of the Spanish proletariat, which could have been
so easily achieved by acting in the name of the International. There was
no agreement between the local federations; the movement was abandoned
to individual or local initiative without leadership (apart from that which
the mysterious Alliance was able to force upon it, and that Alliance
to our shame still dominates the Spanish International) and without
any programme other than that of our natural enemies, the bourgeois republicans.
Thus, the cantonal movement suffered the most ignominious defeat without
offering hardly any resistance, and dragging down with it also the prestige
and organisation of the International in Spain. For every excess, every
crime, every outrage that takes place the republicans today blame the members
of the International. We are even assured, that at Seville during the fighting
the Intransigents fired at their own allies, the members of the" (Bakuninist)
"International. Taking clever advantage of our follies, the reactionaries
are inciting the republicans to persecute us and vilify us in the eyes
of the indifferent masses; it seems that what they were unable to achieve
in the days of Sagasta, i.e., to give the International a bad name among
the great mass of Spanish workers, they may be able to achieve now.
"A number of workers' sections in Barcelona dissociated themselves
from the International and publicly protested against the people of the
newspaper La Federación" (the main organ of the Bakuninists)
"and their inexplicable attitude. In Jérez, Puerto de Santa Maria
and elsewhere the federations have decided to dissolve themselves. The
few members of the International who lived in Loja (Granada province) were
expelled by the population. In Madrid, where people still enjoy the greatest
freedom, the old" (Bakuninist) "federation shows no sign of life, while
ours is compelled to remain inactive and silent if it does not want to
take the blame for other people's sins. In the northern cities the Carlist
war, which is becoming more bitter day by day, precludes any activity on
our part. Finally, in Valencia, where the government won the day after
a struggle lasting a fortnight, the members of the International who have
not fled are forced to remain in hiding, and the Federal Council has been
So much for the Madrid report. As we see, it agrees in all particulars
with the above historical account.
What then is the result of our whole investigation?
As soon as they were faced with a serious revolutionary situation, the
Bakuninists had to throw the whole of their old programme overboard. First
they sacrificed their doctrine of absolute abstention from political, and
especially electoral, activities. Then anarchy, the abolition of the State,
shared the same fate. Instead of abolishing the State they tried, on the
contrary, to set up a number of new, small states. They then dropped the
principle that the workers must not take part in any revolution that did
not have as its aim the immediate and complete emancipation of the proletariat,
and they themselves took part in a movement that was notoriously bourgeois.
Finally they went against the dogma they had only just proclaimed -- that
the establishment of a revolutionary government is but another fraud another
betrayal of the working class -- for they sat quite comfortably in the
juntas of the various towns, and moreover almost everywhere as an impotent
minority outvoted and politically exploited by the bourgeoisie.
This renunciation of the principles they had always been preaching was
made moreover in the most cowardly and deceitful manner and was prompted
by a guilty conscience, so that neither the Bakuninists themselves nor
the masses they led had any programme or knew what they wanted when they
joined the movement. What was the natural consequence of this? It was that
the Bakuninists either prevented any action from being taken, as in Barcelona,
or drifted into sporadic, desultory and senseless uprisings, as in Alcoy
and Sanlúcar de Barrameda; or that the leadership of the uprising
was taken over by the intransigent bourgeois, as was the case in most of
the revolts. Thus, when it came to doing things, the ultra-revolutionary
rantings of the Bakuninists either turned into appeasement or into uprisings
that were doomed to failure, or, led to their joining a bourgeois party
which exploited the workers politically in the most disgraceful manner
and treated them to kicks into the bargain.
Nothing remains of the so-called principles of anarchy, free federation
of independent groups, etc., but the boundless, and senseless fragmentation
of the revolutionary resources, which enabled the government to conquer
one city after another with a handful of soldiers, practically unresisted.
The outcome of all this is that not only have the once so well organised
and numerous Spanish sections of the International -- both the false and
the true ones -- found themselves involved in the downfall of the Intransigents
and are now actually dissolved, but are also having ascribed to them innumerable
atrocities, without which the philistines of all nationalities cannot imagine
a workers' uprising, and this may make impossible, perhaps for years to
come, the international re-organisation of the Spanish proletariat.
Notes from the Collected Works
On July 1, 1873, the General Council
in New York officially announced the convocation of the regular congress
of the International in Geneva on September 8. It was to discuss revision
of the Rules, organisation of an international trades union association,
the political activity of the organised workers, labour statistics, and
other questions. Initially Marx and Engels intended to be present at the
congress and take part in its work but after an analysis of the situation
within the International, concluded that the congress could not be really
representative. Almost all the organisations of the International, being
unable to send delegates, transferred their mandates to members of the
Romance Federation of Switzerland. This was also the case with the New
Madrid Federation whose leaders sent a copy of their report to the Geneva
Congress to Engels in London. What prompted Marx and Engels to change their
attitude towards the congress was mainly their growing awareness that the
IWMA as a form of international association could no longer meet the needs
of the expanding proletarian movement.
At the sixth congress of the International Association in Geneva
(September 8-13, 1873) 28 delegates out of 31 belonged to the Swiss organisations
of the International or its émigré sections in Switzerland.
Only 3 delegates represented other countries.
The congress heard the report of the General Council and reports
from the localities. While discussing the Rules the majority of the delegates
led by J. Ph. Becker confirmed the decisions of the Hague Congress of 1872
on expanding the functions of the General Council. The congress underlined
the need for the working class to carry on a political struggle, and adopted
a resolution on further measures to establish an international association
of trades unions. New York remained the seat of the General Council. The
Geneva Congress of 1873 was the last congress of the International.
3 A reference to the liberal-constitutional
monarchists who supported the protégé of the European powers
on the Spanish throne, King Amadeo of Savoy.
4 The Alfonsists a reactionary
political grouping in Spain who backed Alfonso (son of Isabella II), the
Bourbon pretender to the Spanish throne. He was proclaimed King (Alfonso
XII) in 1874. The Alfonsists relied on the big landowners, the clergy and
the upper crust of the bourgeoisie.
The Carlists: A clerical-absolutist
group which supported the claims of Don Carlos, King Ferdinand VII's brother,
to the Spanish throne in the first half of the 19th century. Leaning for
support on the reactionary military circles and Catholic clergy, as well
as the backward peasantry from the mountainous regions of Spain the Carlists
unleashed a civil war in 1833 which lasted till 1840 (the First Carlist
war). When Don Carlos died in 1855, the Carlists supported the candidature
of his grandson, Don Carlos, Jr. In 1872, during the political crisis,
the Carlists became more active and this led to another civil war (Second
Carlist war) which lasted until 1876.
A reference to the congress, held
in Geneva from September 1 to 6, 1873, of representatives of the anarchist
and reformist organisations which had challenged the resolutions of the
Hague Congress and thereby placed themselves outside the International,
as stated in the decisions of the General Council of January 26 and May
30, 1873. The congress was convened by the Bakuninist Geneva Section of
Propaganda and Revolutionary Socialist Action (see Note 75). The congress
proclaimed the negation of all authority the basic principle of the international
anarchist association, abolished the General Council, denied congresses
the right to adopt resolutions on questions of principle, and dropped Article
7a, on the political action of the working class, from the General Rules.
By the Bismarckian socialists, Marx
and Engels meant the leaders of the Lassallean General Association of German
Workers (founded in May 1863) and they called their newspaper -- the Neue
Social-Demokrat -- the police mouthpiece because both pursued a policy
of accommodation to the Bismarck regime and attacked the revolutionary
proletarian wing in the German workers' movement and in the International.
The name "white shirts" (les blouses blanche) refers to the gangs
of declassed elements recruited by the police of the Second Empire. Pretending
to be workers, they staged provocatory demonstrations and disturbances,
thus providing the authorities with pretexts for persecuting genuine workers'
By decision of the congress of Spanish
anarchists in Cordova (see Note 220) of December 30, 1872, the Spanish
Federal Council was replaced by a Federal Commission with limited powers
(for details see K. Marx and F. Engels, The Alliance of Socialist Democracy,
and the International Working Men's Association).
A congress of representatives of secret
organisations of the Bakuninist Alliance from various countries was held
in Saint-Imier on September 15-16 1872, on the initiative of the Jura Federation.
The congress decided to reject the resolutions of the Hague Congress and
the authority of the General Council. It adopted a resolution against the
political struggle of the working class and the necessity of an independent
political party of the proletariat. Its address called upon sections to
oppose the General Council and to convene their own "anti-authoritarian"
congress in six months' time. The decisions of the Saint-Imier Congress
signified an actual split in the International
A reference to the great insurrection
of the German peasants in 1524-25 known as the German Peasant War, and
to the uprisings in Saxony, the Rhine Province of Prussia, the Palatinate
and Baden in May 1849 in defence of the Imperial Constitution drawn up
by the Frankfurt National Assembly but rejected by the German princes.
The struggle for the Imperial Constitution (in the Palatinate and Baden
it continued until July 1849) was the final stage of the bourgeois-democratic
revolution of 1848-49 in Germany.
See Engels' The
Peasant War in Germany, and The Campaign for the German Imperial
On the initiative of the New Madrid
Federation the adherents of the General Council of the International in
Spain formed, in January 1873, a new Spanish Federal Council in Valencia
to counterbalance the actions of the anarchist federations, which had substituted
the Federal Commission for the Federal Council.