In the early 1930s, the ruling elite in Spain found themselves caught between conservative fascists and social democrats. In contrast large sections of the population were divided along communist and anarchist lines. The compromise offered up by the ruling class was a progressive and democratic system of government. But this was a step too far for many of the ruling class and they responded by attempting to take control of the country through military force. The international capitalist governments aligned themselves with the fascists, while the people rose up to defend Spain in their hundreds of thousands. The opportunity to initiate an anarchist revolution was too good a chance to miss.
During the course of my ongoing research and after many conversations with friends and colleagues I began to notice something that bothered me. For my mind, one of the most significant events in the political history of the people of Europe, a large-scale example of an anarchist society built on equality and freedom, functioning effectively across both agricultural and industrial communities, had been airbrushed almost entirely out of our shared memory.
Here in the UK, the mass media would have us believe that the first person to stand up to fascism in Europe was Churchill. But the reality is, that by the time he had got involved, hundreds of thousands had already given everything trying to protect the rest us from fascism. Few of the people I was speaking to at that time had even heard of the anarchist revolution. Some had apparently skim read Homage to Catalonia, a few knew the Clash’s Spanish Bombs, and a rare few had even seen Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom. But I can only think of a handful of people that had even heard of the CNT.
In recent years, many of the campaigns for single aspect equality have been deemed acceptable content by the establishment news agencies. Race, Gender, and on occasions even Class inequality can be discussed within a narrow vocal range, principally the voices of those entitled at birth. However, any discussion of the potential for a society fundamentally equal in all aspects of our lives, appears to be a step too far.
In January 2014 I wrote a 2,700 word essay about the workers’ uprising in Asturias in 1934, which then paved the way for the anarchist revolution two years later in 1936. It was called Homage to Asturias, Aragon and Catalonia. In February 2014 New Left Project published it. To read it here or to download a .txt version please click through to the page.