Anarchism in Spain

Only in Spain did Anarchism become a true mass movement, sinking deep roots into the world of industrial labour and rural poverty. During the Spanish Civil War, writes George Woodcock, its great trade union, the CNT, had a membership of two million workers.

The Pyrenees, we are often assured, is more than a geographical barrier. Beyond those high peaks and ridges, we are told, life is different; the political, moral and social values of Western Europe undergo curious changes; political and religious movements take on an extremity and a passion unknown in their original homes, and in this sense they are naturalized into the harsh landscape and into the generous, violent hearts of the people.

This is largely true of Spanish Anarchism, the history of which has been quite different from that of Anarchism in any other country.

In the world outside Spain, Anarchism belonged to an early, formative stage of working-class politics, and its power and prestige were already waning by the end of the nineteenth century. The watchmakers of the Jura, who had been the most enthusiastic disciples of Michael Bakunin between 1868 and 1876, were already deserting his cause by 1880.

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