Attempted Utopian Society Spanish Anarchist Collectives Part 2

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


Property and Distribution of Goods: The collectives offered an alternative to both state and private capitalism, communism, and socialism by being the workers' economic collectives, without private property, or elitist governments. The custodian of these collectives was the CNT, though even they could not do as they pleased without the consent of the workers, which was obtained through conventions or congresses.

The collectives were an attempt to organize the populace on the basis of mutual aid and solidarity; all the finances of the collectivized plants, industries, and unions were deposited in the Central Labor Bank of Barcelona. The bank acted as a clearinghouse for the collectives, channeling funds from the more successful to the less successful. This monetary support was not necessarily given as actual cash. Rather it consisted of commodities whenever possible. This was one of the more interesting features of the collectives. They either abolished or drastically curtailed the use of the country's official currency, preferring to issue their own "money" in the form of vouchers, coupons, tokens, ration books, and certificates. The chief objective of all these methods of distribution was to allot material necessities to every person according to his needs.

Place of Women: One of the more important achievements of the collectives was the acceptance of the right of women--regardless of their occupation or function--to a livelihood. In half of the collectives, women earned the same amount as men; in the others, on the premise that they did not live alone, they received less.

Education and Culture: Before the Civil War, illiteracy was nearly 70% in most of rural Spain, but the collectives in these areas--by organizing one or 2 free schools per collective, and having the teachers' unions provide teachers--almost succeeded in wiping out illiteracy.

So that education could be truly universal, schools were open to children until they reached the age of 14 or 15. This also guaranteed that parents would not send their children out to work sooner.

Why the Experiment Ended: When the Nationalists, under General Francisco Franco, won the Civil War, the collectives, despite their considerable success, were forced to close down. It ended one of the most successful--and inspiring--utopian experiments ever conceived. (The only English-language book on the subject is The Anarchist Collectives edited by Sam Dolgoff, and published in 1974 by Free Life Editions, 41 Union Square West, New York, N.Y. 10003.)

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