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The Libertarian C.N.T. and the F.A.I. Supported Freedom of Religion in Spain
by Nicholas Evans Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 at 7:30 AM
EvansPress@yahoo.com (email address validated)

“Could any other declaration be made? It is de rigueur (socially obligatory -ed) that in any programme type declaration we register our respect for religions…” 1. states the C.N.T. on May 10th, 1938 Circular No. 12.

The Libertarian C.N.T. and the F.A.I. Supported Freedom of Religion in Spain

By Nicholas Evans

“Could any other declaration be made? It is de rigueur (socially obligatory -ed) that in any programme type declaration we register our respect for religions…” 1. states the C.N.T. on May 10th, 1938 Circular No. 12.

In various areas of Spain in 1936, the C.N.T., the F.A.I., and ordinary citizens took the opportunity to create a Libertarian Society. 2. Despite being critical of religion, 3. freedom of thought is a Libertarian principle, so the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. respected freedom of religion within and outside of the Libertarian societies.

Various Catholic churches were dismantled/burned, but this was because the Catholic church was working with Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco in attempt replace the Republic. The Catholic church also maintained a monopoly of education within Spain and has had a long history “…of religious repression dating back to the Middle Ages…” 4. as noted by the historian Antony Beevor.

Yet, church services remained open inside and outside of Libertarian areas of Spain.

The Libertarian C.N.T. and the F.A.I. organizations respected religious freedom. “Let public worship, like industry, be free… The right to assemble for prayer is equal to the right to assemble to talk politics or economics;…” 5. stated Proudhon, a Libertarian Market Socialist and one of the major influences on the Spanish Libertarians. 6.

Amidst all the commotion during the transformation to a Libertarian society, churches that did not attempt to sabotage the Libertarians remained open. "Protestant churches were not attacked, and remained open." 7. notes historian Hugh Thomas. Christian Quakers, noted the historian Gabriel Jackson, established Canteens in Barcelona, 8. one of the Libertarian strongholds.

In the Basque region of Spain, every Church was left free. The historian Bolloten notes: "In the Basque provinces nobody attacked the Church or interfered with religious worship, because, in contrast with the rest of the left camp, the clergy in those provinces sympathized with democratic and Republican institutions." 9.

Basque Libertarians and Communists attended Church. 10. Freedom of religion existed within the Libertarian organizations such as the C.N.T.. Regarding Carod’s C.N.T. column for instance, the historian Fraiser states: “…many of the people fighting in his column were smallholders, and that a great number of different tendencies were represented: republicans, socialists, liberals, Catholics, Libertarians.” 11.

The C.N.T. and the F.A.I. encouraged freedom of religion by supporting freedom of expression of individuals, including members of church orders.

The C.N.T. and the F.A.I. supported the religious freedom of nuns and priests. “Neither society, nor any part of society- commune, province, or nation- has the right to prevent free individuals from associating freely for any purpose whatsoever: political, religious, scientific, artistic…” states Bakunin, a Libertarian Collectivist and major influence on the Libertarian organizations in Spain. 12.

True to the principle of liberty, the C.N.T. and the F.A.I. supported the priests and nuns and their use of freedom of religion. To stop attacks being carried out against nuns, priests and ordinary people by other groups, the C.N.T. and F.A.I. carried out various direct actions.

The historian Thomas notes: "The anarchist leadership also criticized the violence and tried to stem it within a few days...the C.N.T. and F.A.I. launched a series of protest against illegal violence" 13. The historian Fraser mentions: "...the C.N.T. and F.A.I. issued statements categorically condemning the assassinations." 14.

Unfortunately, Fraiser mentions that in Barcelona and elsewhere the F.A.I. was automatically blamed for crimes. 15. While churches in the Basque region were free, various Catholic churches in other areas were dismantled because of what they were plotting and carrying out.

Various Catholic Churches were dismantled because they worked with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco in a plot to replace the Republic and sabotage the Libertarians. “The Spanish War of 1936 – 39 is often called a civil war. But this was a lie from the beginning. It was not a civil war but an invasion by Hitler, Mussolini and Salazar fascists or what Seldes refers to as the 'Fascist Internationale' in league with the Vatican.” 16.

Mussolini had landed 200,000 infantrymen from his Black Arrow division in Franco–held seaports and Hitler had also sent Goering's Condor Legion to bomb civilians. 17. It involved an estimated 50,000 German aviators. 18. All this had been envisioned in Rome in 1934. 19. The plot to replace the Republic was very intricate: “Seldes writes, 'Mussolini and two representatives of the plan . . . met there and even promised help in overthrowing the Republic and establishing a fascist type of government. They also met with Hitler that same year – and the confessions of the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials confirm the plot.'

There was to be an uprising of treasonous Republic officers led by Franco, the invasion by the Italian and German forces and the promulgation of the lie that this was an uprising against a communist take–over of the Republic and a 'Christian crusade against atheistic communism.' 4 The creation of this great lie would be primarily the responsibility of the Vatican." 20. The Spanish Catholic church later admitted to the conspiracy. 21.

The C.N.T.-F.A.I. knew of the conspiracy “…there is incontestable proof that the Catholic church was aligned with the military and Fascist conspiracy” 22. Besides working with Hitler and Mussolini, the Catholic Church also held a monopoly of education and carried out acts of “… burning books to keep out religious and political heresy.” 23.

The historian Fraiser states “One of the reasons for the attacks on convents, as much as on churches, was that the regular clergy virtually monopolized secondary education to the benefit of the children of the rich.” 24. So it is clear various Catholic churches were attacked not because of religious expression, but because of its work with Hitler, Franco and Mussolini with its attempts to sabotage the Republic and its monopolization of education.

The C.N.T., F.A.I., and ordinary people created and maintained a Libertarian society that respected freedom of religion. Alexander Berkman, the Libertarian Communist wrote:

“Maybe you are a Christian, or a member of some other religion -Jew, Mormon, Mohammedan, Buddhist, or what not… It makes no difference. A man should be free to believe whatever he pleases.” 25.

As long as the church did not attempt to sabotage the Libertarians, or maintain a position of monopoly, the church and their followers were free to practice their religions. The consistency of free expression and organization can be found clearly in this C.N.T. statement: “…we register our respect for religions…”. 26.

In the Republican zone the historian Beevor notes: “The killing of the clergy was far from universal and with the exception of the Basque country, where the Church was untouched, there was no marked regional pattern. In depressed rural areas the priests were often as poverty-stricken and ill-educated as their parishioners. Those who had taken as much trouble over burying the poor as the rich were often spared.” 27. And of course the CNT sent out statements to end the violence against nuns, priests, and ordinary people:

“COMRADES… The revolution must not be drowned in blood! Conscious justice, yes! Assassins, never.” 28. Catholic churches were dismantled it was because of its work with Fascists in order to overthrow the Republic and its monopoly of education.

“Nevertheless, the Church provided spiritual justification for the Castillian social structure and was the most authoritarian force in its consolidation.” 29. Catholics and churches that physically left the Republic alone or that supported the Republic were left free.

“Protestant churches have not been touched… they continue religious exercises without…hindrance…” 30. notes official international C.N.T.-F.A.I. representative Emma Goldman. Regarding Basque Catholic churches and priests:

“The very fact that no churches were burned in that part of Spain and no priests killed by the Anti-Fascist forces should be proof…It certainly proves that the Basque Catholics joined forces with the anti-Fascists whereas the rest of Catholic Spain joined forces with Franco.” 31.

The same information stated by Goldman was verified by historians Hugh and Bolloten. 32. Freedom was important to the C.N.T. and F.A.I. and they continued to respect Liberty and remained consistent with their principles of freedom within and outside of their Libertarian society as long as the religious groups did not attempt to physically suppress the Republic or hold any monopolies.

Bibliography:

Books:

Bakunin, Michael; Dolgoff, Sam (editor). Bakunin on Anarchy New York: Random House Inc. (1972)

Beevor, Antony. The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. London, England: Penguin Books (2006)

Berkman, Alexander. What is Anarchism? Oakland, CA: AK Press. (2003)

Bolloten, Burnett. The Grand Camouflage. London: Pall Mall Press. (1968)

Dolgoff, Sam. (editor). The Anarchist Collectives. Brooklyn, NewYork: Free Life Editions., (1974)

Fraser, Ronald. Blood of Spain. New York: Pantheon Books. (1979)

Goldman, Emma; Porter, David (editor). Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution. Oakland: AK Press. (2006).

Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (1965)

Mumford, Stephen. The Life and Death of NSSM 200. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, (1996)

Peirats, Jose. The C.N.T. in the Spanish Revolution Vol. 3. East Sussex: ChristieBooks. (2001)

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph. General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Cosmo Classics., (2007).

Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. New York, USA: Touchstone. (1986) .

Magazines:

Quinn, Martin. European Vibe Magazine: A Bit of Culture. Issue 28, April (2009)

Footnotes:

1. Peirats, Jose. The C.N.T. in the Spanish Revolution Vol. 3. pp 75.

2. Please see: The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor, The Anarchist Collectives Edited by Sam Dolgoff, Blood of Spain by Ronald Fraiser, and The C.N.T. in the Spanish Revolution Vol. 1-3 by Jose Peirats

3. While Bakunin was critical of the concept of God “God, or rather the fiction of God, is the consecration and the intellectual and moral source of all slavery on earth…” pp 238 he believed people should have religious freedom. He states people should have “Absolute liberty of every religion to build temples to their gods, and to pay support to their priests.” pp 77 Bakunin, Michael; Dolgoff, Sam (editor). Bakunin on Anarchy.

4. Beevor, Antony. The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. pp 82

5. Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph. General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century. pp. 254

6. Dolgoff, Sam. (editor). The Anarchist Collectives. pp 13

7. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. pp 269

8. Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939. pp 446

9. Bolloten, Burnett. The Grand Camouflage. pp 40

10. Quinn, Martin. European Vibe Magazine: A Bit of Culture. Issue 28, April 2009

11. Fraser, Ronald. Blood of Spain. pp 364

12. Bakunin, Michael; Dolgoff, Sam (editor). Bakunin on Anarchy. Pg. 82 For Bakunin’s influence in the Spanish revolution please see: Dolgoff, Sam (editor). The Anarchist Collectives. pp 7

13. Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. pp 277

14. Fraser, Ronald. Blood of Spain. pp 149

15. Ibid. pp 148

16. Mumford, Stephen. The Life and Death of NSSM 200. Pp 263-264

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid. 266

“The accuracy of this report on the role of the Vatican in the fascist takeover of Spain is irrefutable. Why? Because Spain's Bishops themselves openly admitted the role of the Church. Seldes writes, 'The myth of a Christian crusade against Communism in Spain persisted for decades, despite honest revisionist historians. It was not until 1971 that the myth was finally destroyed by none other than the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Spain.

This important correction of history was slurred in the world press and is probably not known to more than one person in a million today'.

"In Madrid, September 15, 1971, Primate Cardinal Enrique Taracon presided at a Congress of the entire Roman Catholic Hierarchy, with 94 bishops and 151 priests present. . . . Although a two–thirds' vote was necessary to pass resolutions, and this one did not pass, it is significant that it received a large majority of the vote. . . . The majority confessed it had sinned in supporting the wrong side (the fascist side) in Spain and asked to be forgiven.

`We humbly recognize,' said the resolution, `and ask pardon for it, that we failed at the proper time to be ministers of reconciliation in the midst of our people divided by a war between brothers.'" 4 "In 1971 – and again in 1972, 1983 and succeeding years – a majority of Spain's 94 bishops and 151 priests attending voted 60% or more for the Church's apology but never officially passed it." 1 By taking this action, Cardinal Taracon probably prevented widespread killing of priests and nuns upon Franco's death in 1975.

The news of these votes was almost completely suppressed in the world press. Only three minor reports on this story appeared in the United States.”

22. Goldman, Emma; Porter, David (editor). Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution. pp 232

23. Beevor, Antony. The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Pp 4

24. Fraser, Ronald. Blood of Spain. pp 527

25. Berkman, Alexander. What is Anarchism? Pg. 60

26. Peirats, Jose. The C.N.T. in the Spanish Revolution Vol. 3. pp 75.

27. Beevor, Antony. The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. pp 83

28. Fraser, Ronald. Blood of Spain. pp 146

29. Beevor, Antony. The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. pp 5

30. Goldman, Emma; Porter, David (editor). Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution. pp 231-232

31. Ibid.

32. Please see footnotes 7. and 9.

Nicholas Evans believes people can live in any society they want. He prefers peaceful and/or gradual change

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