An Analysis of Anarchism in Spain

Anarchism; it is one of the most radical and mysterious of all political ideologies. Anarchism is the product of communism, the preference of capitalism, and the fear of facism. Anarchists believe that the state is immoral as they believe that no human has the right to rule over another. Anarchists believe in th idea of voluntary mutual aid for everything ranging from healthcare, education, governance, and economics. Thus, anarchists seek to abolish the state as they believe it is the only way to attain true individual freedom. Anarchism enjoys a complex relationship with communism, through anarcho-communism, which seeks for the immediate implementation of the communist society rather than the transitional socialist “dicatorship of the proletariat” government that Karl Marx believed was essential toward achieving the classless, moneyless, stateless communist society. Anarchism also enjoys a complex relationship with capitalism, through anarcho-capitalism, which takes libertariaism a step further by abolishing the state in order to truly liberate the free market. A third form of anarchism, known as anarcho-syndicalism, seeks to concentrate political and economic power in the hands of labor unions as it is seen as the essential step towards undertsanding the inherent injustices of the capitalist society, which is needed in order to move towards abolishing capitalism and the state. Anarchism is too radical an ideology to spark any major political movements in almost every country, with Spain being a freak instance of anarchism having a significant  influence in modern history (a form of anarchism existed in Northern Italy under the Lombards after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire). It was anarcho-syndicalism, in particular, that was even practiced as a form of government in Spain.

Anarchism in Spain can trace it’s routes to a young revolutionary named Giuseppi Fanelli, who set up the First International in 1870, an organization that aimed to unite all factions of the left for the benefit of the working class. However, a chapter set up in Madrid began attracting large amounts anarchists, roughly 2,000 memebers at one point. This chapter in Madrid began to spread anarchism around Spain, most notably in Barcelona. As workers began to stike for various rights such as 8-hour work days in Spain, anarcho-syndicalism began to take a firm grip among followers in Spain. It was under the principals of anarcho-syndicalism that the Confederacion Nacional Trabajo (CNT) was formed in 1910. The CNT began with about 30,000 memebers and began by organizing general strikes in Spain until the dictatorship of Miguel Riveria in 1923, where the CNT was forced to lay low. After the fall of Riveria in 1930 and the formation of the Second Spanish Republic, left-wing politcal parties, under pressure from the rise of right-wing ideology united to form the popular front, of which the CNT was part of. However, with the growth of facism in Spain, led by Nazi-backed Francisco Franco, began waging war against the Republic in 1936, leading to the outbreak of the Spainish Civil War. Forces of the CNT were able to hold off Franco’s forces and secure Catalonia, thus issuing an age of anarcho-syndicalism in Catalonia. Under the anarcho-syndicalist government, the anarchists went about setting up councils of labor unions that were directly elected by the people. These councils of workers and labor unions, in accordance with the philosphy of anarcho-syndicalism, began about making the politcal and economic decesions within their areas. Firms with more than a hundred or more workers were collectivized and organized into regional councils, which were inder the authority of the Economic Council of Catalonia. Money was abolished in Catalonia and was replaced with vouchers given to each person to “purchase” the goods they needed while hierarchy in Catalonia slowly began to whittle away. Agricultural production under the anarcho-syndicalists in Catalonia actually doubled, due to the efficency of economic managment under the syndicalist councils. However, like the Paris Commnue in 1871, the anarcho-syndicalists lacked an army, and were thus overthrown by the Soviet-backed Spanish Communists in December of 1936, who restored hierarchy and abolished the syndicalist councils. Eventually, the Communists, in turn were overthrown by Franco’s facists, thus ending the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Though anarchism was suppressed by Franco’s regime, it still remains popular in Spain even today.

Spain is perhaps the only example in the world were anarchism has had a significant influence on a country’s politcal landscape. In order to understand why this is, we must first understand what seperates Spain from other European countries. Spain has historically been one of the most decentralized countries in Europe. While England, France and Russia were in the process of nation building in Europe during the Middle Ages, Spain was in the process of Reconquista against Islamic rule, which wasn’t completed until 1492 with the conquest of Granada, after which Isabella of Castille and Ferdiand of Aragon married to create the unified Kingdom of Spain. It is this history that has led to the deep cultural divisions that exist today in Spain regarding the regions of Gallicia, Valencia, Catalonia, and the Basque region which all have sharp differences from contemporary Spanish culture. All these centrifugal forces have fostered a lack of unity to a centralized Spanish state, leading to a variety of secession movements, notably in Catalonia and the Basque region. Anarchism appeals to these secession movements because it is a philosphy which gives each of these ethnic groups the freedom they desire. Thus, it is no suprise to see anarchist groups having a high level of activity in Catalonia and the Basque region, where anarchist movements have contibuted to the tensions in both regions. As long as Spain continues to remain as culturally and politically decentralized as it is now, anarchism will continue to thrive in Spain, the only hotbed of anarchism left in the world.


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