I.B. History HL Historical Investigation
Total Word Count: 1,996
Table of Contents
This investigation will assess the success of the anarchist movement in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. This investigation is important because historians can use this movement to judge if anarchy could work. The scope of this investigation is the anarchists’ initiatives in Catalonia between 1936 and 1937. One method used in this investigation is an examination of the novel Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Orwell describes the atmosphere in revolutionary Barcelona. This information will help judge how genuine the revolution was. Another method employed is an analysis of the documentary The Spanish Civil War, by Granada Television Productions. The documentary shows footage and eyewitness accounts of the collectivized industries in Barcelona. Historians can see how anarchism affected Catalonia.
Sec. A Word Count: 120
Sec. B Word Count: 523
George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia.
This source was published in 1938 and is a first-hand account of Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Originally going to Spain as a journalist, he soon joined the communist P.O.U.M as a soldier. Orwell is the author of several essays and novels, including Animal Farm and 1984. The purpose of his memoir is to recount his experiences in Spain.
This novel has been a valuable primary source. Orwell provides information about the emotions of the time. He compares the revolutionary atmosphere in Barcelona in 1936 and 1937. Orwell argues that the revolutionary spirit was diminishing in Barcelona, which is backed up with visual and auditory descriptions. He also describes the disintegration of the city during the revolution.
This source has some limitations. Orwell is a foreigner in Spain, so he does not know about Spanish culture. When he talks about the revolutionary spirit in Barcelona, he cannot know if this was unusual. Also, Orwell admits that he went to Spain simply to fight against fascism, and was not as aware of the politics as the other soldiers. Nevertheless, Orwell is biased against the fascists, and is more likely to defend the actions of the POUM. Also Orwell might make the revolution seem more successful than it actually was, since he was fighting against the fascists.
Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War
This source was written and published in 1962. Thomas graduated from Queen’s College, Cambridge, and wrote numerous books, including Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom and The Slave Trade. The purpose of his novel is to analyze the Spanish Civil War.
This book has been a valuable secondary-source for my investigation. Thomas synthesizes information from a variety of different sources, and uses this to draw his conclusions. The source focuses less on the emotions at the time, and more on events and facts. Also, because the scope of the book is the entire Spanish Civil War, anarchy in Catalonia is put into the context of the rest of the war.
There were also limitations in this book. Thomas, an English historian, wrote his book during the time of Franco’s dictatorship, and originally published it in London. Because of this, Thomas might have had a bias against the anarchists. Many countries in 1962 feared the spread of communism and anarchy, so Thomas might have been more critical of anarchist success.
Sec. C Word Count: 400
(Teacher NOTE: This student used MLA citations, which are done in the text.)
This investigation is important in its historical context because the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) influenced the anarchist movement in Catalonia. In general, the two sides in the war were the fascists led by Franco, and the republicans, led by the Popular Front. The socialists, communists, and anarchists in Catalonia feared an oppressive fascist regime. (Bailey) Because of this fear, the anarchists did not have complete control in Catalonia, and some historians argue that anarchy would have survived, had it not been for the war. (Bailey)
The anarchists’ aims were to create a free society without state, church, or capitalism (Battle Ground for Idealists), have the workers control industry (Orwell 61), and defeat fascism. (Battle Ground for Idealists) In order to achieve this, the anarchists created the CNT, which was made up of unions and worker’s committees (Harper), and had 1,577,000 members. (Thomas 6) The huge membership shows that the anarchists’ ideals were popular among the working class; however, it is important to judge the CNT’s influence.
Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia describes the CNT’s “virtual control of Catalonia” (Orwell 6) in December 1936. Almost every building “had been seized by the workers and [were] draped with... the red and black flag of the Anarchist.” (Orwell 4) Anarchy could only survive with support from the people, and from Orwell’s account, Catalonia had embraced it. As the revolution spread, people stripped power from the church. (Orwell 4) Here, the anarchists succeeded in accomplishing their goal of liberating society from governing bodies.
On the other hand, the fight against fascism prevented the anarchists from gaining complete control. Because the anarchists’ main objective was to stop fascism, the CNT betrayed anarchist principles (Bailey) and collaborated with the Catalan government, the Generalidad. The Generalidad reduced collectivization, abolished local committees, and took over key industries. (Orwell 55) The anarchists’ own goals impeded their revolution.
In fact, the whole revolution was superficial. Support for the CNT was completely fictitious, and most people did not agree with anarchist principles. (Leval 51) Orwell supports this in his second description of Barcelona. By April 1937, the city showed “no outward sign of working-class predominance.” (Orwell 109) This suggests that many people did not believe in the revolution, and by 1937, revolutionary fervor had vanished. The revolution could not have lasted if it did not have unrelenting support from the people.
Nevertheless, anarchy slightly improved the Catalan economy. Two-thousand industries were collectivized (Battle Ground for Idealists), including everything from construction to food. (Souchy 86) The anarchists’ goal of self-management was often exemplified. For example, workers unified the transportation industry into one efficient system, providing better facilities, lower fares, and free rides for children, cripples, or elders. (Souchy 87) They abolished the tram manager and three assistants, saving the company 13,825 pesetas monthly. (Souchy 86-7) This provides proof that workers could more efficiently run the companies. Another example is the public utilities. In three days, workers fixed all damaged telephone poles on their own initiative. (Souchy 88) Workers were still motivated to do their jobs, and took responsibility for the survival of the city, and therefore the revolution.
Anarchy also benefited the workers. They controlled the factories and working conditions. In the wood industry, 80-90 factories were closed due to poor lighting, ventilation, or machinery. (Battle Ground for Idealists) Forty-hour weeks (Souchy 86-7), free medical care and pensions were introduced. (Battle Ground for Idealists) There was no unemployment in Barcelona (Orwell 6), and few destitute people or beggars. (Orwell 6) From July 1936 to May 1937, wages increased by 15%. (Thomas 630) These improvements imply success: the workers were using their newfound control in the factories to improve conditions.
Unfortunately, the little success that the anarchists had was overshadowed by the damage they were doing. Anarchist leader Santillán admitted that collectivization had replaced one owner with new, less competent owners. (Thomas 511-2) By March 1937, the rate of inflation exceeded 6.5% per month, and food prices had doubled by May; the cost of living was surpassing salaries. (Thomas 512) Worker control was destroying Catalonia, and it could not have survived in these conditions. The fact that roads and buildings were “in poor repair” (Orwell 6) proves that nobody would maintain the city without government orders.
Hugh Thomas’ The Spanish Civil War analyzes the demise of the anarchists. People who felt threatened by the anarchists joined the communists (Thomas 628), who had been gaining more power in the government, due to the supplies received from the USSR. (Orwell 52-3) The anarchists themselves were deterring people from the revolution. Suspicion between the anarchists and communists culminated in the 1937 Barcelona “May Days”. (Thomas 635) Fighting began May 3rd, when communists tried to commandeer the Telefónica, and it spread to the streets. (Thomas 639) CNT leaders tried to stop the fighting, but had no influence over the workers. (Thomas 639-40) Clearly, the leaders had lost control of their own revolution, and instead of anarchy prospering, the workers were destroying themselves. Anarchist power disintegrated, and the people felt betrayed by the CNT for ordering a ceasefire. (Battle Ground for Idealists) The fighting ended May 8th, but anarchists had lost to the communists. (Thomas 643) The May Days showed that “there was a large gap between the anarchist ministers and the people on the street.” (Thomas 642-3) The anarchist leaders were too out of touch with the people.
Sec. D Word Count: 894
In conclusion, the anarchist movement was not successful in Catalonia. The anarchists did not manage to create a society without authority. Because of the war, the anarchists worked with the government, which severely limited the extent of their collectivization. In the government the anarchists were phased out, as people favored the communists with their less extreme principles, and support from the Soviet Union. Even without a war, anarchy wouldn’t have survived. By 1937, the revolutionary excitement had vanished. The people must not have believed in the revolution, as class distinction reasserted its position over worker control.
Their second aim was worker control over industry. Some 2,000 industries were collectivized, and in a few cases the workers did make improvements. However, huge economic failures, such as rampant inflation and run-down roads and buildings, overshadow any minor successes like the reduction of tram fares.
Finally, the anarchists wanted to stop fascism. Instead of spreading the revolution, however, the anarchists fought with the communists, creating a civil war within a civil war. The failure of the anarchists in Barcelona represented the end of the anarchist revolution.
Sec. E Word Count: 184
Bailey, Geoff. "Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War." International Socialist Review 24. July (2002). Web. 18 May 2011. <http://www.isreview.org/issues/24/anarchists_spain.shtml>.
"Battle Ground for Idealists." The Spanish Civil War. Prod. Steve Morrison. Granada Television Production, 7 Jan. 1983. Web. 18 May 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=granada+the+spanish+civil+war&aq=f>.
Harper, Clifford. Anarchy: A Graphic Guide. London: Camden Press, 1987. Spunk Library: An Online Anarchist Library and Archive. Web. 18 May 2011. <http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/spain/sp001873/index.html>.
Leval, Gaston. "The Limitations of the Revolution." The Anarchist Collectives: Worker's Self- Management in the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939). Ed. Sam Dolgoff. First ed. New York: Free Life Editions, 1974. Scribd. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/25020337/The-Anarchist-Collective-Sam-Dolgoff>.
Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. New York: Harcourt, 1980.
Souchy, Augustin. “Collectivization in Catalonia.” The Anarchist Collectives: Worker’s Self- Management in the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939). Ed. Sam Dolgoff. First ed. New York: Free Life Editions, 1974. Scribd. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/25020337/The-Anarchist-Collective-Sam-Dolgoff>.
Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Revised ed. New York: The Modern Library, 1989.