|Disclosure: not a fan of Jo Jorgenson|
The factories were taken over by radicals too, and workers' communes were set up to spread the wealth around, and rich men and right-wingers went into hiding so they wouldn't be shot. Farmers and bakers brought in food by the truckloads in exchange for manufactured goods, and good wine flowed from the cellars of the "liberated" estates. The mood in leftist Barcelona and Madrid for a while was high, and from the majority's perspective Spain was heading for the New Millennium.
They weren't, of course, because the fascists wouldn't have it and they staged a counter-revolution; but during all this, the biggest and most hopeful sect of revolutionaries, by far, was the anarchists. Their flags flew over all the cafes and barber shops and every factory they took over. Anarchist pamphlets flooded the streets, and they held an overwhelming and energetic majority, and from every vantage point it looked like Spain was going their way.
But there was something standing in the anarchists' way, and it was their belief in anarchy. According to Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, the CNT, a federation of anarchist unions, had two million members and only a single officer. It turns out that anarchists hated bureaucracy. They ran no candidates for parliament. They had some sort of a national committee -- but nobody could serve more than a year, and a recall could happen any time by a vote. They won union strikes but were 100% against union contracts. All forms of government were disgusting to them, and they believed Soviet Russia was a slaughterhouse not because Stalin was an ass, or because of one-party rule, or because they had no freedom of speech or assembly or religion, but because Russia had a government at all. These were the people who took over Catalonia and the surrounding regions.
But the anarchists couldn't hold them. Their "allies," the vastly outnumbered communists, believed deeply in government, and thus were experts in top-down organization. They were also experts in silencing opposition, in disarming their opponents, and in getting foreign funding. While the anarchists were honest and trumpeted the revolution, the Communists were practical, and tried to pretend it wasn't happening. To the communists, the war could only be won by keeping the West neutral -- in other words, with an appeal to foreign investors and the liberal bourgeois. To the anarchists, there was no point in a war without a revolution. The commies aimed for less so they could win it. The anarchists didn't want it if they couldn't have the whole thing.
more needs to be said here. The anarchists were suppressed by the
communists**. The communists were bulldozed by the fascists. I'm not
saying Spain would have done better under anarchists. In any fight
between fascists and communists I always side with the fascists. I'm
saying that even if you have the vast majority of the country on your
side, if you won't or don't know how to play politics, if your ideals are too
libertarian and cat-like, or too idealistic to be practical, or too
stupid, or even just out of step with the times***, you're going to get
wrecked. And if it was because of your pride, you deserve it.
Men of my generation have had Spain in our hearts. [...] It was there that they learned [...] that one can be right and yet be beaten, that force can vanquish spirit, and that there are times when courage is not rewarded.
Consider this beautiful random quote of his about the rise and fall of nations, and how nobody today -- and I mean nobody, in the public sphere, and even possibly the private, speaks like this:
I am not quite of the mind of those speculators who seem assured that necessarily, and by the constitution of things, all states have the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude that are found in the individuals who compose them. Parallels of this sort rather furnish similitudes to illustrate or to adorn than supply analogies from whence to reason. The objects which are attempted to be forced into an analogy are not found in the same classes of existence. Individuals are physical beings, subject to laws universal and invariable. The immediate cause acting in these laws may be obscure: the general results are subjects of certain calculation. But commonwealths are not physical, but moral essences. They are artificial combinations, and, in their proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of the human mind. We are not yet acquainted with the laws which necessarily influence the stability of that kind of work made by that kind of agent. There is not in the physical order (with which they do not appear to hold any assignable connection) a distinct cause by which any of those fabrics must necessarily grow, flourish, or decay; nor, in my opinion, does the moral world produce anything more determinate on that subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal, indeed, and ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying the operation of such causes: but they are infinitely uncertain, and much more obscure, and much more difficult to trace, than the foreign causes that tend to raise, to depress, and sometimes to overwhelm a community.
It is often impossible, in these political inquiries, to find any proportion between the apparent force of any moral causes we may assign and their known operation. We are therefore obliged to deliver up that operation to mere chance, or, more piously, (perhaps more rationally,) to the occasional interposition and irresistible hand of the Great Disposer. We have seen states of considerable duration, which for ages have remained nearly as they have begun, and could hardly be said to ebb or flow. Some appear to have spent their vigor at their commencement. Some have blazed out in their glory a little before their extinction. The meridian of some has been the most splendid. Others, and they the greatest number, have fluctuated, and experienced at different periods of their existence a great variety of fortune. At the very moment when some of them seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and disaster, they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course and opened a new reckoning, and even in the depths of their calamity and on the very ruins of their country have laid the foundations of a towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of Nature.