85 years ago today the working people of Spain defended themselves against a fascist-inspired military uprising. Despite lack of training and resources, in many areas they successfully beat back the right-wing forces. Following this, the masses organised themselves in a multitude of forms via their various organisations, including the Anarcho-Syndicalist Confederation of Labour (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI). Soon a major revolutionary social and economic experiment was undertaken. Factories were collectivised under workers control, with production improving quantitively and qualitatively in comparison to the previous capitalist system. Women began their economic and sexual liberation, free from the shackles of the Catholic Church. In rural areas, poor peasants took over the land they had worked for generations. This land had been in the hands of aristocrats and landlords who treated them like beasts of burden. In many places money was abolished and decision-making about production and distribution was decided by villagers themselves.
After three years of determined struggle, the revolution was defeated by a combination of factors. This included large scale attacks by the right-wing forces aided by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, internal attacks from counter-revolutionary Communists, limited external support and tactical divisions within the revolutionary camp. Despite their ultimate defeat at the hands of their enemies, the working classes made huge gains and provided an example to following generations. They showed that ordinary people can be more than the tools of an exploitative ruling class, that they are very capable of organising democratically and collectively to achieve liberty.
We at Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) recognise that certain conditions today are different to those of the past. Things change, yet the basics of today’s capitalist system remain the same. Working people here and elsewhere across the world still suffer from the twin oppressions of capitalist and state control over us. We therefore salute the memory of the heroic working people of Spain in the historic struggle undertaken between 1936-1939. Their actions remain an important guide for us today.
No Pasaran! Pasaremos!