Spain 1937: Anarchism Fails Its Grand Test: Lessons for Today’s Movements

Seventy-five years ago this May, the workers of Barcelona fought valiantly to defend their revolution against an attempt by a Popular Front government of capitalist, Stalinist and anarchist parties to crush it. In the end the workers lost, and a massive wave of repression was launched to pave the way for Spain’s ruling class to recover the properties which had been seized by the country’s workers and peasants.

This anniversary would be worth noting if for no other reason than the heroism of millions of Spanish fighters against capitalism and fascism, and for the example they set of a potentially successful overthrow of the system, much as we remember the Paris Commune even though it too went down to defeat.

But we also need to draw from the Barcelona battles, and the events leading up to and following them, the correct lessons for revolutionary strategy today. With mass demonstrations and general strikes, even pre-revolutionary situations, occurring one after another throughout the Middle East and Europe (including Spain), and an Occupy movement sweeping the United States – but without a successful overthrow of capitalism yet occurring in any one of these countries – the lessons of Spain are more salient than ever…