Innovation in the collectives
During the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39, workers self-managed many
factories following the principles of participatory democracy.
Productivity and innovation in the Spanish collectives was
exceptionally high. The metal-working industry is a good example. As
Augustine Souchy observes, at the outbreak of the Civil War, the
metal industry in Catalonia was "very poorly developed." Yet within
months, the Catalonian metal workers had rebuilt the industry from
scratch, converting factories to the production of war materials for
the anti-fascist troops. A few days after the July 19th revolution,
the Hispano-Suiza Automobile Company was already converted to the
manufacture of armored cars, ambulances, weapons, and munitions for
the fighting front. "Experts were truly astounded," Souchy writes,
"at the expertise of the workers in building new machinery for the
manufacture of arms and munitions. Very few machines were imported.
In a short time, two hundred different hydraulic presses of up to 250
tons pressure, one hundred seventy-eight revolving lathes, and
hundreds of milling machines and boring machines were built."
Similarly, there was virtually no optical industry in Spain before
the July revolution, only some scattered workshops. After the
revolution, the small workshops were voluntarily converted into a
production collective. "The greatest innovation," according to
Souchy, "was the construction of anew factory for optical apparatuses
and instruments. The whole operation was financed by the voluntary
contributions of the workers. In a short time the factory turned out
opera glasses, telemeters, binoculars, surveying instruments,
industrial glassware in different colors, and certain scientific
instruments. It also manufactured and repaired optical equipment for
the fighting fronts. . . .What private capitalists failed to do was
accomplished by the creative capacity of the members of the Optical
Workers' Union of the CNT" [in _The Anarchist Collectives: Workers'
Self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939_, ed. Sam
Dolgoff, Free Life Editions, 1974, Chapter 7].