Spanish Revolution

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The Spanish Revolution was a workers' social revolution that began during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and resulted in the widespread implementation of anarchist and more broadly socialist organizational principles throughout various portions of the country for two to three years, primarily Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and parts of the Levante. Much of Spain's economy was put under worker control; in anarchist strongholds like Catalonia, the figure was as high as 75%, but lower in areas with heavy Communist Party influence, as the Soviet-allied party actively resisted attempts at collectivization enactment. Factories were run through worker committees, agrarian areas became collectivised and run as libertarian communes. Even places like hotels, barber shops, and restaurants were collectivized and managed by their workers. Sam Dolgoff estimated that about eight million people participated directly or at least indirectly in the Spanish Revolution,[1] which he claimed "came closer to realizing the ideal of the free stateless society on a vast scale than any other revolution in history."[2] Dolgoff quotes the French anarchist historian Gaston Leval (who was an active participant) to summarize the anarchist conception of the social revolution:[3]

In Spain during almost three years, despite a civil war that took a million lives, despite the opposition of the political parties (republicans, left and right Catalan separatists, socialists, Communists, Basque and Valencian regionalists, petty bourgeoisie, etc.), this idea of libertarian communism was put into effect. Very quickly more than 60% of the land was collectively cultivated by the peasants themselves, without landlords, without bosses, and without instituting capitalist competition to spur production. In almost all the industries, factories, mills, workshops, transportation services, public services, and utilities, the rank and file workers, their revolutionary committees, and their syndicates reorganized and administered production, distribution, and public services without capitalists, high salaried managers, or the authority of the state.

Even more: the various agrarian and industrial collectives immediately instituted economic equality in accordance with the essential principle of communism, 'From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.' They coordinated their efforts through free association in whole regions, created new wealth, increased production (especially in agriculture), built more schools, and bettered public services. They instituted not bourgeois formal democracy but genuine grass roots functional libertarian democracy, where each individual participated directly in the revolutionary reorganization of social life. They replaced the war between men, 'survival of the fittest,' by the universal practice of mutual aid, and replaced rivalry by the principle of solidarity...

This experience, in which about eight million people directly or indirectly participated, opened a new way of life to those who sought an alternative to anti-social capitalism on the one hand, and totalitarian state bogus socialism on the other.

The collectivization effort was primarily orchestrated by the rank-and-file members of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT; English: National Confederation of Labor) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI; English: Iberian Anarchist Federation), with the two often abbreviated as CNT-FAI due to the affinity between the two organizations and the major role of the latter within the former in maintaining anarchist "purity." The non-anarchist socialist Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT; English: General Union of Workers) also participated in the implementation of collectivization, albeit to a far lesser degree.

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