The Anarchists of the Spanish Civil War

The Anarchists of the Spanish Civil War

Hola folks, This month is the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War is In many ways a dark prologue to the conflict that will engulf Europe and the world in 1939. Many remember The Spanish Civil War as a fight between fascist nationalists led by Francisco Franco and the Democratic/Communist Republicans in power at the time. However, there was a third, less remembered, faction that in that war. A group targeted by republicans and fascists alike. People who believed there was no government like no government. These are the people I am here to talk about today. While the first shots were being fired between the Republicans and the Fascists, another revolution was taking place: workers all over the country were rebelling against their bosses. In places like Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and parts of the region around Valencia, workers took control of the economy. In some places, such as Catalonia, 75% of the economy ended up under the control of the rebelling workers and they clashed against the Communist Republican controlled areas of the embattled republic. So what exactly did this worker’s take-over look like? Factories became co-ops, run by committees of workers. Farms became collectivized and turned into anarchist communes. Even barber shops, restaurants, and hotels were usurped by the workers who tossed out the bosses. This workers’ rebellion was eight million people strong. In the center of one of the bloodiest periods in Spanish history, these workers went on to build the society of many a hippy’s dreams. But, who organized this movement? The Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo, or the National Confederation of Labor. An anarchist union and militia loosely allied with the Republicans. They worked closely with the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, or the Iberian Anarchist Federation. The two groups are often referred to collectively as the CNT-FAI. The famous British author George Orwell wrote about this strange revolution in his book Homage to Catalonia. He described it as people building a new society in the shell of the old, and marveled at how effectively these people seemingly defied what everyone called “human nature”. Hierarchies were dissolved, wealth redistributed, and people were fine with it. What really stands out about this movement is how quickly a working libertarian socialist economy developed and thrived. It was based on horizontal, decentralized coordination. Industrial collectives freely gave what they could, and took what they needed from agrarian communes. They saw the entire concept of private property as authoritarian in nature. University of Geneva professor Andrea Oltmares described it like this: “In the midst of the civil war the Anarchists have proved themselves to be political organizers of the first rank. They kindled in everyone the required sense of responsibility, and knew how, by eloquent appeals, to keep alive the spirit of sacrifice for the general welfare of the people. As a Social Democrat I speak here with inner joy and sincere admiration of my experiences in Catalonia. The anti-capitalist transformation took place here without their having to resort to a dictatorship. The members of the syndicates are their own masters and carry on the production and the distribution of the products of labor under their own management, with the advice of technical experts in whom they have confidence. The enthusiasm of the workers is so great that they scorn any personal advantage and are concerned only for the welfare of all.” As the war dragged on month after bloody month, the workers’ enthusiasm began to dwindle. The communist party of Spain became the dominant authority in the Republican forces. This Stalinist party took centrality because the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin was the biggest source of foreign aid for the Republican war effort. To them, war was not the time for revolution, and the goal was to defeat Franco, not Capitalism. Groups that were too outspoken against the new Stalinist authority quickly found their aid cut off. Under threat of losing their aid, many of these new revolutionary communities reverted to the way it was before the war, and were largely dead by the time Franco emerged victorious in 1939. I wanted to share this story with you because the Spanish Civil War is often eclipsed by the much bigger war that comes months after. Also, when we talk about war in history, it often drowns out everything else. And in this corner of the world, during horrible conflict, an unlikely society thrived, despite everyone’s assumptions about economics, politics, and humanity. It showed, however briefly, that we are capable of managing our societies in so many more ways than today’s extremely narrow ideologies assume. I really want to know what you guys think of this tiny window into utopia living. Be sure to let me know what you think down below. Share this video to help improve history education on the internet, and of course subscribe for more Step Back.

100 thoughts on “The Anarchists of the Spanish Civil War

  1. History is rife with stories of those who struggled against tyranny and oppression with a dream of a better world. Watch this series of their stories:

  2. Interesting bat reference on the dude's t-shirt. You know the significance of the bat in Catalan culture, especially in Barcelona?

  3. Great video; a technical glitch the last 30 seconds or so where it digresses, but good info. I have a degree in poly sci, but I must admit my knowledge of anarchism is deficient; this vid helped.

  4. The thing is the Anarchist never eliminated Capitalism they just changed who the owners were. The leading Anarchist were trouble to no end by the fact that many of the old inequalities and problems they claimed would be eliminated by their new system persisted under their new system. Workers cooperatives are not Anti-Capitalist they're just a different form of Private Ownership.

  5. Such kinds of societies could never work for long on such large scales, as they can't be allowed to succeed. When France did away with their King they were invaded time after time again by their neighbours, because those Kings could not allow an example of functioning republic to survive.
    For similar reasons there will never be a successful free communist or anarchistic nation.

  6. The only two Libertarian Socialist styled revolutions I have heard of are this, and what is currently happening in the Rojava Autonomous cantons. From what I gather, they both gained traction and influence at the same time as larger military conflicts around them, and some of their central struggles both seem to derive from a need for outside financial support.

    Do you think there's any instance, or hypothetical way, a LibSoc/AnCom/DemFed society could be constructed outside of wartime, and do you think these societies would have a better chance of surviving in the long run?

  7. Sooo…. the anarchists only managed to sustain their society while they had foreign aid to keep the fascists at bay?
    Also I would like a source on whether they actually had this voluntary "give what you can, take what you need" society.

  8. I wouldn't describe anarchist Spain as a utopia. More of a unorganised bloody mess, people couldn't run the factories properly without proper direction and people were executed without trial for their religious beliefs, political views, owning property and many other reasons. The fact that anarchist Spain is looked favourably by scholars and sudo intellectuals really pisses me off.

  9. Summary of the comments: people who don't know what anarchism or socialism are, attacking socialism and anarchism.

  10. That brief glimpse of Arnarchy Socialism (AS) was way too small in scale and short in time to think it would've been a legitimate way to run a society. It was on the scale of small towns.That experiment in Spain just basically presaged the Communes of the 1960s, just on a somewhat bigger scale. Sure you can have AS in a town like Mayberry but the real test would've been on a national scale over 25 years.

  11. El término " Guerra Civil Española " es una manipulación absoluta.
    Una Guerra Civil se denomina cuando los civiles de una misma región se pelan.
    Cuando los pueblos unidos ( Euskal Herria, Catalunya, Aragón, La Rioja, Madrid, Valencia, Andalucía, Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria ….) luchan contra un ejército fascista se le denomina guerra, pero JAMÁS se le puede denominar " guerra civil ".
    Puedes usar el término " revolución ", mucho mas adecuado porque en realidad eso es lo que fue: una revolución anarquista asesinada por Hitler, Mussolini y Franco con la ayuda de USA.
    Puedes denominar a ésto " inicio de la II Guerra Mundial, ya que así fue.
    Guerra Civil = FAKE

  12. Left anarchists. If you can hear the anarchosyndicalists, as they mumble through their long neck beards, the message they put out is that capitalism is infallible. Mention this when people talk about Venezuela, which kind of ironically fell because they didn't diversify their economy beyond oil.

  13. I was ignorant of this and enjoyed the video, I shall certainly be looking to learn more. I think as a first step I REALLY need to know what the political terms mean, as I'm not familiar with them….you don't produce a pdf do you ??!!

  14. Hey mate, nice video. I just wanted to say that having in the name of the video the present day Spanish flag does not feel right, since that design was imposed with Franco's victory.

  15. You didn't talk about the "Fets de maig in 1937", when communist fought the anarchist forces in Barcelona in order to win control.

  16. It seems that the spark to move forward may have been the real time unfolding of authoritarianism copying different idealogies and fighting each other (fascism vs communism). I can imagine the person already disgusted with how "leadership" was doing, upon seeing 2 authoritarian types fighting decided to "drop out" and control their own fate. This may be wrong as the. Communists and anarchists were on the same side earlier on.

    Question to poster: to what extent did aide TO the Stalinism community subsidize their salt success? Perhaps there was none, I don't claim to know. It would seem that the military aid to both Franco and the republic sides was large.
    Did the Catalonian movement depend on any of that early on and if so, was its removal part of the reason for collapse?
    Beyond the active repression by the communist types as orwell observed.

  17. You should do a follow up on the Rojava revolution in Syria. Very similar to Spanish anarchists, but longer lasting, fighting ISIS and Assad in the middle east

  18. Looking back this upload got me interested in anarchist and socialist thought. Thanks for the amazing, informative and eye opening video, comrade!

  19. So they was ok until people was going to stop giving them aid? If Anarchists don't believe in ownership of anything, how do that work? What stopping someone coming and taking your house (with everything inside it) when you are not there??? What if someone don't believe the same as you and wants to keep the little he has and work so hard for???? do you kill him like in communist Russia?
    But this is the one I really want a answer for. Why are all Anarchists and antifa members upper middle class kids? and old hippies from middle class back rounds having a midlife crises? that I really want to know

  20. Anarchism is agency. People/Communities running themselves, creating their own institutions in the husks of the old and failed. Fearing Anarchism is like fearing a sunrise, or a thunder storm. They are inevitable. Anarchism is inevitable, and this is a good thing. A good governmental system and effective institutions are capable of staving off Anarchy, that's how you know they are good. It makes the inevitable unnecessary, but eventually even the best systems will falter, and when it does the best thing to do is to take the bits and pieces that worked and start fresh, start from the ground up. Start with communities and freely associate with other communities, build society back up. Just like the Collapse of the Western Roman Empire would eventually lead to free Communes in Italy which would eventually become Italian city-states, which would eventually become Italy. Thomas Hobbes got one thing correct, the natural state of things is Anarchic, but it is not chaotic. Humans are naturally social creatures that crave routine, crave institutions, and where these are lacking Humans will create them. All that is really needed to be an Anarchist is to accept the inevitable, and contribute something to your community.

  21. It's hysterical how you utilize the term libertarian socialism, without realizing the contradiction of said word. Any collectivist government structure would be owned by the public, thus contradicting your point about decentralization. Libertarianism would signify that there is less government intervention, and this would include less authority from any public entity, including a collectivist society.

    Libertarianism and socialism cannot occur in the same structure, as socialism is leftist, and wanting a collectivist economy would ironically result in an entity (the public) controlling the means of production.

    Hence why anrcho-communism is contradicting. Apart from the political definitions, a communist economic system is inherently authoritarian, as a public entity controls, produces, and distributes all goods. Which is the opposite of anarchism.

    Anrcho communism, state capitalism, libertarian socialism, etc. are all contradicting.

  22. Hommidge. Please. It's an English word by duration of appropriation. We have anglicised it, and that anglicised pronunciation is the correct English pronunciation of what is an English word in English dictionaries. And "H" is not a silent consonant.

  23. Good video, but a bit disappointed how you portrayed this conflict. Calling the nationalists "fascists" is quite awful to the non-fascists who fought on the side of the nationalists. You act like people are wrong for viewing this as a two sided conflict, yet you do exactly what they do, albeit arguably in a worse way! You say that there is a "third side", yet you forget about the other sides on the nationalists. Just because the nationalists put aside their differences and the republicans didn't do as efficiently as they did does not mean that there was a third side. The anarchists, at least at first, fought alongside the communists and republicans. As did the monarchists, fascists, falangalists, carlists, traditionalists, and even amongst these groups, democrats were sprinkled among them, for the nationalists. The nationalists also had their own infighting too, but it does not make any party with different plans "a third side".

  24. The problem with human nature is that it always corrupts any good idea or any idea that sounds good. Moreover, theoretical ideas might work for the beginning but they have a tendency to fall back right to human nature. Any theory that doesn't take human nature into account is eventually going to fall apart.

  25. What stops people from creating anarcho-syndocalist companies today? Wouldn't all workers want to work in a company that has bottom-up decision making?

  26. What I learned is that when there is an actual good flat hierarchy peaceful society, competing governments, socialist or capitalist, communist or fascist, will stop fighting each other to team up and vipe that shit off the surface of the Earth as quickly as possible without delay.

  27. You got it right, an extremely brief period of history
    Not realistic as any long term solution, if the communists won they would have nationalized everything and become authoritarian just like the USSR

  28. Great video! Please do more videos on the histories of revolutions and massive class struggles. The Russian revolution was also mostly libertarian in nature before the Bolsheviks took power in October. (So, from February 1917 to October 1917.) Revolutionary movements in the Ukraine 1918-1921, Germany 1918-1919, and Hungary 1956 would be great to look at, too. And other movements where workers rose up and expropriated the means of production.

  29. I can't see Ron Paul and Karl Marx becoming Kropotkin… o.O Ron Paul isn't a Libertarian, or an Anarchist, he's a Capitalist.

  30. Franko wasnt realy a Fascist him self you had the Flange lead by Jose Antonio Preo De Revera who where coopted in to the FET-De la JONS along with traditionalists like the Carlists and verius military Juntas. my issue with calling Franco a fascist is that as far as i can tell he was never a member of the Flange and rather disliked the fascists at lest if they where alive and in his post war parlment there where only 2 falangists and there where if i am not mistaken i simaler amount Carlists as falangists the the Franco government. so calling the FET-DE La JONS outright fascist is somewhat reductionist in my estimation

  31. Proud anarchist with no regrets! we are not your enemies unless you are a right and left wing facsit. Fuck you cowardly parasites picking on the average man and women and their pockets clean , and all for what? look at what your statism has brought us? your proudest moments for sure.

  32. This video doesn't mention one of the major flaws with the Catalonian socialism of the 1930s, and that is its anarchism.

    Without hierarchy there can be no law enforcement and no due process like what we have in modern societies. And when this happens, the natural response is to form makeshift militia and to have mob rule with issues related to crime, similar to how underfunded law enforcement in sub Saharan Africa works (with no checks and balances on corruption as well).

    Perhaps the ideologues at the time romanticised how good life was in Catalonia back then, but I suspect if you asked the victims of these mobs how well it worked I suspect they'd paint a different picture.

  33. Kill all fascists, authoritarian communists and capitalists and call it a day. Fuck Franco, fuck Stalin and fuck all of the “communist” republicucks.

  34. everywhere that anarchists try and build, Capitalists destroy it out of fear of losing their slaves. I hate Capitalism, and communism that is just a stepping stone to authoritarianism. The state won't magically dissolve and Marx was wrong.

  35. 149 ancaps disliked this video. Must not be happy their child slaves escaped and got shot on their neighbor corporations property.

  36. 2:32 is this Paul Ryan? Serious mistake. People like Ryan are anarchocapitalists, they want fully unleashed capitalism with no state regulating it, it's a pretty stupid ideology and has nothing to do with libertarian anarchism, they just stole the words.

  37. It's great that workers were able to take over when conditions were so bad, etc. and reform work, society and economy. Bit of a leap to talk about workers taking as some sort of universal solution applicable in any age. Utopia-schmopia. My boss is fine and I learn a lot from him. So is the police force and the checks and balances on power in place. I drive past an anarchist poster on the side of the road sometime, calling all police pigs. What a load of crap. Read about the lack of effective law enforcement in parts of the developing world and how the vulnerable are the first to suffer.

  38. Anarcho-communism is a speed up of standard communism. Marx describes communism as a stateless society . Those states which we call Communist are socialist instead . Marx in fact sustained that the socialistic phase was needed before communism . 😘 (For who didn't know this)

  39. I think there is a strong case of rose-tinted glasses here. Yes what happened was incredible but I think you have given an idealised view of Catalonia.

    There was a parliment and secret police and a whole bunch of state apparatus active. This shows that the organisation may have been "libertarian" but it was hardly anarchist.

  40. I see that era of the history of Spain has the dark ages especially since it was the better side (the regular Republicans) fighting against Communists and Anarchists dividing themselves up to where the Fascists won (i would not have fought for Soviet backed Communists in the 1930's especially with their record of butchering Citizens and would have likely left the Country since the real Republicans lost anyway at that point).

  41. how does revolution spread internationally without a state? just trying to decide between the ideas of kropotkin and the ideas of lenin

  42. Whenever I’m in a debate on socialism and especially syndicalism I point to the French commune and the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain during the Spanish civil war.

    These examples follows perfectly a quote by Mikhail Bakunin: “Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality”.

  43. That’s well and all but don’t mention how they burned and looted churches and beat and sometimes murdered christians

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