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The CNT in the Spanish Revolution Volume 1

José Peirats et al.

Jose Peirats’ brilliant account of Spain’s “Generation of ’36,” who led what many consider the most audacious, far-reaching, but ultimately failed revolution of the 20th century.

The CNT in the Spanish Revolution is the history of one of the most original and audacious, and arguably also the most far-reaching, of all the twentieth-century revolutions. It is the history of the giddy years of political change and hope in 1930s Spain, when the so-called ‘Generation of ’36’, Peirats’ own generation, rose up against the oppressive structures of Spanish society. It is also a history of a revolution that failed, crushed in the jaws of its enemies on both the reformist left and the reactionary right.

José Peirats’ account is effectively the official CNT history of the war, passionate, partisan but, above all, intelligent. Its huge sweeping canvas covers all areas of the anarchist experience – the spontaneous militias, the revolutionary collectives, the moral dilemmas occasioned by the clash of revolutionary ideals and the stark reality of the war effort against Franco and his German Nazi and Italian Fascist allies. Volume 1 focuses on the initial stages of the Spanish Revolution as the CNT gathered strength, built an anarchist civilian and military movement, and confronted Franco’s fascist army. Additionally, “The History of a History” by editor Chris Ealham traces the writing, publication, and various turns Peirats’ book took to reach this new English language text.

This new edition is carefully indexed in a way that converts the work into a usable tool for historians and makes it much easier for the general reader to dip in with greater purpose and pleasure.

José Peirats’ The CNT in the Spanish Revolution is a landmark in the historiography of the Spanish Civil War. Without it, the role of anarchism in that conflict could never be reconstructed. It is effectively the official CNT history of the war, passionate, partisan but, above all, intelligent. Its huge sweeping canvas covers all areas of the anarchist experience – the spontaneous militias, the revolutionary collectives, the moral dilemmas occasioned by the clash of revolutionary ideals and the stark reality of the war effort against Franco and his German Nazi and Italian Fascist allies.

Originally published in Toulouse in the early 1950s, it was a rarity anxiously searched for by historians and others who gleefully pillaged its wealth of documentation. Even its republication in Paris in 1971 by the exiled Spanish publishing house, Ruedo Ibérico, though welcome, still left the book in the territory of specialists. For that reason alone, the present project to publish the entire work in English is to be applauded.

However, there are various other reasons why this new edition is an obligatory purchase for any serious university library and indeed for all those interested in the history of both the Spanish Civil War and of anarchism in the twentieth century. In the first place, neither of the previous editions, despite their immense scale, had detailed indexes. Inevitably that rendered them difficult to use. Now, this edition is carefully indexed in a way that converts the work into a usable tool for historians and makes it much easier for the general reader to dip in with greater purpose and pleasure.

–Professor Paul Preston, London School of Economics

“…this is a wonderful work and an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of the CNT and the Spanish revolution. Indeed, reading Periats work you see how much other historians (and other
anarchists) have lifted from it in their books. It is great to finally have the work available in English.” –www.struggle.ws

“For those whose field of study is modern Spain, this is indeed an obligatory purchase. Given that this edition has been indexed and footnoted it may prove more useful to scholars than the original Spanish-language editions.” –Kate Sharpley Library

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