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Loukianos Hassiotis

The experience of revolution in Barcelona during the civil war (1936-9)

Barcelona is a special case study of a rebellious city, due to its geographical location, economic, political and strategic role, its social composition and the duration and scale of revolutionary experience in the years of the civil war. The paper presents the main historiographical approaches around this experience in Spanish and international literature from the 1930s until today. It discusses the main aspects of the social revolution in Spain and its impact in Barcelona: The loss of the monopoly of violence on the part of the state and the formation of the militias; the attempts of revolutionary urbanism and spatial transformation of Barcelona; and the collectivisation of industry and services in the city. Special focus is given to the experience of collectivisation: Following the different trends of historiography the paper comments on the multidimensional economic organization of the revolution, the efficiency and productivity of collectivized production in Barcelona, the working conditions and labour discipline in the collectives, and, last but not least, on gender relations during the revolution.

Contemporary historiography of the Spanish revolution has confuted or relativized many of the myths of the past, republican or nationalist, anarchist and communist, indicating that the reality was probably much more complex than the simplified glorification or demonization of this experience. The coup of 1936 and the civil war caused a memorable city crisis in Barcelona, gripping unprepared everyone, even those who had waited at that time to realize their social visions. The absence of a strong central authority initially led to what the supporters of law and order called revolutionary chaos. Yet, this does not mean that this chaos didn’t acquire its own rules, its own institutions, its own economic structures and its own routine.

© EPLO 2017