Welcome Visitor:

Spanish revolution discussion

Date and Time: 
Sunday, August 7, 2011 -
1:00am to 3:00am

Last week (19 July) was the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution. Between 1936 and 1939, more than eight million workers and peasants participated in a revolution that turned anarchist ideals into a reality in their factories, farms and schools.

Factories were run through worker committees, agrarian areas were collectivised and run as libertarian communes. Hotels, barber shops, and restaurants were collectivised and managed by their workers. Free healthcare and education were organised. Women formed autonomous groups to fight for their rights.

The workers and peasants raised barricades in the streets and took up arms in voluntary militias in order to defend their collectivised areas from the fascist military forces of Franco (directly supported by Hitler and Mussolini). They died by their thousands for the ideal of 'libertarian communism'.

This revolution was spearheaded by rank-and-file anarchist militants. The CNT was an anarchist union that numbered over 700,000; the FAI was an anarchist political organisation that coordinated the struggle. There were hundreds of anarchist papers, with a readership of hundreds of thousands, and hundreds of workers' centres where people would meet to learn and debate politics. This community had a strong sense of solidarity and a well-developed culture and ethics. These anarchists informed their spontaneity with theory, structured organisation and purposeful activity.

So why do we hear so little about the Spanish Revolution? Then and now, both liberals and Stalinists have acted in shameless complicity to conceal the facts about this inspiring upsurge. For them, it's a terrifying spectre: workers in control of their own revolution fighting for libertarian socialism. The Stalinists undermined the revolution from the rear, while the liberal 'democracies' stood by while Hitler and Mussolini gave arms, soldiers and resources to Franco.

Today, capitalist culture churns out representations of anti-fascist struggle where the liberals are the heroes, and the revolutionaries are authoritarian failures (usually Russian). Che is on t-shirts and selling beer, but the Spanish Revolution remains impossible to commodify.

But does anyone remember?

In 2011 Spain, millions have been protesting around the demand, 'real democracy now!' This movement demands radical change in Spanish politics: they reject mainstream political parties along with banks and the capitalist financial system. They fight for 'basic rights' - home, work, culture, health and education. Tens of thousands camped out in Madrid's main square, in an explicit echo of the Arab Spring. Placards read 'Welcome to Revolution 2.0' and 'Nobody expected the Spanish Revolution either'. They remember.

The Spanish Revolution of 1936 is still alive. It is not someone else's revolution, to be consigned to history. It belongs to the current generation of revolutionaries all around the world. It is our revolution. The Spanish anarchists grappled with issues that are still pressing today: How to respond to State power? How to organise democratically among workers and non-workers? How to put anarchism into practice?

The Spanish Revolution is well worth learning about. There are dozens of books in the Jura bookshop and library and even more information online. You could start with this short article in Wikipedia, which is pretty good:

An even better way to learn about the Spanish Revolution is to talk about it with fellow activists. Come along to an upcoming discussion, organised by Jura and the Sydney Chomsky Forum. We are reading Chomsky's classic article on the Spanish Revolution, 'Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship' available online here:
You'll get more out of the afternoon if you read the article, but if you don't, come along anyway - Sid Parissi will give short talk on the Spanish Revolution to get the discussion started.
-> Spanish Revolution reading group and discussion, 3pm, Sat 6 August, at Jura.