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.