I'm writing an essay on the workplace structure in the republican zone of Spain during the war and wanted to get your views on the organisation of collective farms and industrial syndicates in Spain as to whether they represented a genuine worker co-operative economy with high levels of economic democracy. Moreover do you think that changes in workplace organisation and the establishment of democratically operated enterprise in Spain during the war substantially effected the productivity and efficiency of the Spanish Republican economy. Finally do you think that the kind of experiments in worker self-management undertaken in Spain during the war can be considered representative of a socialist mode of production given the circumstances of being a war economy?
The short answer is yes, Republican Spain's experimentation with cooperatives contains all sorts of valuable lessons in how to begin to construct a genuine socialist alternative economy to capitalism. The Spanish efforts in the 1930s were constrained by (1) the official socialism of the time (which stressed state ownership of industry and state planning of the distribution of resources and products - and which correspondingly undervalued the transformation of the workplace into a cooperative versus a hierarchical organization) and (2) the urgencies of a vicious civil war. So lessons drawn need to always take those constraints into consideration. But Spain - like many other countries - has histories of experiments in cooperative workplace organization that can and eventually will be used in the new 21st century socialism that will be built around the revolution inside the workplace from capitalist to cooperative organization of production.