Attempted Utopian Society Spanish Anarchist Collectives Part 1

About the attempted utopian society the Spanish Anarchist Collectives during the Spanish Civil War history, population, economic and social structure.


Founder: The collectives were begun by the workers of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Franco had declared war on the legally elected Popular Front government in Madrid. The country was without effective central leadership, and the workers and peasants created their own institutions to administer the cities and farms of Republican Spain (that area not controlled by Franco's military forces), and established a militia to fight the Francista forces. Because of the war, the socioeconomic experiment of these workers and peasants has gone largely unnoticed until recently.

Where and When: The experiment took place in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, from 1933 to 1936.

Population: Estimates vary on how many people were involved in the collectives, but they do range as high as 8 million, and as low as 3 million. The extensiveness of the experiment can be judged by the fact that there were approximately 1,700 agrarian collectives, and nearly 80% of the industry in republican-held areas was involved.

Political and Social Structure: The anarchist collectives must be divided into 2 parts: the industrial and the rural.

INDUSTRIAL. Factories were taken over by workers, who then elected managers, both technical and administrative. These managers were subject to recall at any time, and no decisions were made that did not involve the workers. Problems beyond the capacity of a single plant were handled by local economic councils.

Among the best of these collectives was one in operation in Barcelona, Spain's largest city at the time. In order to feed the population, the food unions, together with restaurant and hotel workers, opened communal dining rooms in each of the city's neighborhoods, where as many as 120,000 people were fed daily. Wholesale food establishments were then created, and these establishments organized themselves as the Food Workers Industrial Union. The workers became their own bosses, fixed their own wages, and the system, which embraced all of Catalonia, was coordinated by 500 workers.

RURAL. The communal traditions of Spain's agrarian life were rather solid, and collectivism came naturally. Expropriated lands were turned over to peasant syndicates, and these syndicates organized the 1st collectives, pooling not only their land, but animals, tools, grain, fertilizer, and harvested crops as well.

The Regional Federation of Levant, for example, was an agrarian federation embracing 5 provinces, with a population of 1,650,000, and contained 78% of the nation's most fertile land. The number of collectives in the federation rose from 340 in 1937, to 900 by the end of 1938, with 40% of the population living on them.

All of the collectives, both industrial and agrarian, were organized by the CNT--the National Confederation of Workers Associations. Small farmers who did not want to join a collective were called "individualists," and were permitted to continue working their lands as long as they did not hire wage laborers.

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