Transcription of a video by O. Ressler,
recorded in Alcoy, Spain, 22 min., 2004
My name is Salomé Moltó. Since 1977, I
have been a member of the national confederation of
workers. I still work for the trade union today and
I am in charge of different areas.
On 14 April 1931, Spain was proclaimed a Republic.
The king stepped down and society began to form itself
differently from what the Spanish people had been used
to. There was a period of right-wing government followed
by a leftist government; the former was referred to
as the "two black years," a two year period
in which the right wing governed. In 1936, when the
Spanish voted for the "Frente Popular," the
left wingers returned to the government, triggering
off military revolts and uprisings, which began on 18
July 1936. At first the economy was quite fair, but
afterwards the right wing boycotted the whole economy
and only rarely participated in economic investments.
Consequently, the factories were not working at full
capacity and there was an enormous reduction in the
economy as the population worked less and earned less.
This process began in 1936, when the Frente Popular
took over the government. This was the Republic of the
left wing as we call it, yet the population continued
to be in quite a depressed situation.
In 1984 I did a study on workers' collectives and nationalization
in Alcoy. This book explains what I studied because
it was a journalistic matter, whereby I interviewed
many different people to know exactly what their experiences
reveal. On 18 July, a general strike was called and
a controlling commission was established. The controlling
commission was organized by the trade union CNT holding
the majority in Alcoy and by the OGT, which participated
as well. Although in terms of percentages, its participation
was far lower, it was also part of what was called "the
Control." The Control was a type of committee in
which all trade unions were united and which took charge
of the economy. What did they do? They nationalized
transport, and the metal, textiles and paper industries.
It was in this building, which is emblematic of that
time, that paper was produced. From that moment on the
Control governed Alcoy.
What happened to the economy? The collective reunited
the whole transport system, even hair salons, banks,
that is to say everyone had a job and received 10 Pesetas
per day. It was the same as a soldier would receive
if he voluntarily participated in the war to stop the
fascist movement. Alcoy experienced a very dramatic
moment because there were barracks full of soldiers.
The soldiers were the sons of the men who were in front
of the barracks waiting for the decision of the armed
forces: whether they would support the fascist rebellion
or if the nation would form an alliance. After long
negotiations the barracks opened their doors and fathers
and sons could embrace each other. Without a doubt it
would have been a dramatic situation if there had been
bloodshed. Alcoy remained a Republic and a great number
of volunteers united to fight and stop fascism in Alcoy.
In Spain there were many national formations. Catalonia
was nearly completely nationalized, also many provinces
of Aragon and in particular Alcoy. Alcoy was emblematic
because of the way in which the communist party had
brought about the downfall of the collectives; in Alcoy
they could not do it. They ordered the SIM, which was
a task force of the military, to remove the collectives
but they could not do it. First of all, they could not
do it because the metal work industry produced war material
and they had to respect their war material or the people
of Alcoy would have sabotaged the whole process. Second,
there was the textile industry which produced the military's
clothes. So how did they carry out nationalization?
The controlling commission marched off to the ministry
of war in Madrid and asked for permission to make arms
for the Republic. The ministry of war accepted their
plea so the people of Alcoy could work 24 hours a day
in eight-hour shifts. Everyone started to work; people
even came from far away as there was a lack of workers
due to the number of men who had left to fight at the
front. So how did they carry out the nationalization?
First, the system was divided into the jobs which were
necessary to produce the things they wanted to produce.
Workers received the same amount of money for simple
jobs as for jobs which required more responsibility.
I talked to someone who was affected by this, he was
a technical worker in the production of bombs, and he
told me that his boss, who was an engineer and the owner
of the factory where he worked, had the same status
as the other workers. So that's how the work was structured.
The collectives in Alcoy were complete. They included
all of the metal work industry, the whole textile industry,
the hair salons, the cafés, all of the banks,
everything was united. Everyone did his/her job and
the assembly determined what had to be done at a specific
The economy at that time did not aim at personal enrichment.
People simply had their salary, which was nearly the
same as anyone else's. From the bottom to the top, income
could increase to a certain extent due to the fact that
there was a war. Many people were day laborers earning
ten Pesetas a day, which was a good income and stayed
like that during the entire period. First, they made
use of the stores to get hold of material and cover
their needs. Second, there was a need for exchange.
Alcoy, for instance, sent machines to produce oil or
similar utensils to neighboring villages and received
vegetables, meat, and other necessities in return.
No one was forced to join the collectives but everyone
was eager to do so because it signified a higher income,
your needs were covered and apart from that, if a system
of that kind is afoot it is not a small percentage of
the population which supports it but 99 percent of the
nation. One part of the patrons were either at the front,
had disappeared or had stayed at home. The CNT went
to their homes and gave them an identity card and a
job. As far as repression was concerned, they did some
crazy things with regard to personal affairs but in
general there was no bloodshed in Alcoy. There was only
one incident where a man, who the day before had been
the manager of a firm, was given a different job in
the same firm.
What is important is how those people organized themselves.
First of all, taking responsibility for the firm, they
signified what the firm produced: Whether the firm produced
war material or machines - before war material, Alcoy
had produced wine presses and oil presses, which they
had sold abroad. There was a complete change, the firms
would not produce oil anymore, so Alcoy stopped producing
presses and instead started making war material. What
united the people was the order. They were asked to
produce a certain amount of a material, for example
buses or grenades. They would all work and rebuild the
machines so that they could carry out the order. Everyone
had to take responsibility for their specific job. What
was unusual about those jobs was that they were not
permanent, but each person was directed or directed
someone else. Usually when you got to work, they asked
you to volunteer for a job. If nobody volunteered, they
were urged to take responsibility. However, those posts
were revocable at any time. If a worker did not fulfill
expectations, he or she immediately left the post and
started to work in a new post. Consequently, workers
were versatile, they could work in any position and
that was important. They were able to work on the milling
machine as well as adjust things or work as a packer.
That way the workers did not concentrate only on their
specific job but were also prepared to learn new functions
in order to produce the desired goods. If you compare
our present-day society to the one I have studied, it
becomes apparent that there is a big difference. First,
the value ascribed to a person has changed. Nowadays
we have some specialists but the majority of the people
are proletarianized. In other words, workers are automated,
they understand neither why they are doing something
nor the mechanism which lies behind it. In former times,
workers not only understood their own jobs but also
their colleagues' jobs. Consequently, they could switch
their jobs at any time and occupy different posts without
any difficulties. This was the structure at that time.
In regard to difficulties, there are always some people
who are opponents and people who cooperate with each
other, but if a person knows about the importance of
their work, they will automatically take on an opponent
and collaborate, so that in the end the result of the
joint effort is positive. I think that this was a type
of strength which gained acceptance with those men -
to know that the work of each person was important and
necessary to achieve the common goal.
One very important thing was that every section of
the controlling commission had significant representation
and the responsibility to administer the whole of society.
There was the metal work industry which produced war
material, the textile industry and the paper industry.
This building was emblematic with its offices on top
and on the ground floor the workrooms for the production
of paper, for instance, the famous cigarette paper 'bambu.'
I think that everyone has heard of 'bambu.' What is
important is that they not only maintained the factory
for the three years of war, providing them with food,
but at the end of the war they had a profit of 5,000
million Pesetas in the bank. This is significant. Moreover,
all of the workrooms were completely renovated and the
machines were in perfect order. When the patrons returned
to their firms they had a hard time closing the doors
of the safes because the banknotes were pressed so tightly
The situation for women changed a little bit. At that
time, women had a secondary position. It was through
this revolution that women realized their situation;
they became more independent and more active, not only
in the factories where arms were produced, but also
in other collectives such as administration or nurseries.
A radical change commenced with great intent. At that
time, Frederica Montseny was the health minister. Women
obtained the right of divorce and abortion and they
carried out many projects to eliminate the enormous
disadvantages women had experienced until that time.
It was through war that the situation of women changed
because before that, the Republic had not cared much
For me, the most important factors in an alternative
society are solidarity, equality, and mutual respect.
This clearly would put an end to rivalry and it would
contrast the belief that every single person regards
him/herself to be more important and talented than the
rest. We are multifold and diverse and this diversity
has to be consolidated in support, solidarity, and mutual
respect. If not, living together in society becomes
virtually unbearable. In reality, life continues to
be defined by egoism and thus we have the results we
have. In a society defined by solidarity, a person who
has the ability to do something can help someone who
has difficulties fulfilling a task and thus they express
their solidarity. This would steadily lead to the elimination
of egoism, envy, and restlessness, which dominate society
today, make us confront each other and result in people
violently destroying each other. I count on a society
which is peaceful, progressive, and respectful.
How would we structure a new society, an anarchist
society? First of all, the most important element is
to analyze the territory, the climate, what it can produce
and the number of people this region can maintain. For
the administration of this region and what it is able
to produce, those men and women who live in a specific
region need to know how to manage themselves, not only
to create wealth but also how to manage it. Politically
speaking, there would be federations, regions that would
be united. The trade union is organized in the following
way: each scope of work is divided into sections and
each section occupies and is responsible for their field.
This way each region would really have to take responsibility
for their reality and their problems, which they would
have to solve. If they were not able to deal with their
problems, they would have to ask another region for
help in order to get over their crisis. In this way,
every region could compensate for the shortages they
It is true that the period we have looked at - the
period from 1936 until 1939 - was a very violent period
because we were at war. But the people who were in charge
of the collectives were not violent. They carried out
the collectives without violence, thus demonstrating
that with good organization and with moral and ethical
values and solidarity it is possible to achieve the
same or even more than with weapons. I would say that
you can achieve much more. This is my opinion. So that
a small group which gets together is able to have the
same rights, the same obligations and the same solidarity
between each other. That is what this society is trying
to destroy, not only the human being, but the human
being within a social group.
Translated by Kathrin Hrdy