Jim Lawley, February 22, 2021
Michael Bakunin, the 19th century revolutionary Russian anarchist, identified Spain as the place where his creed was most likely to take root. In 1868, to get the ball rolling, Bakunin dispatched his disciple, Giuseppi Fanelli, to Spain. After some difficulty in raising the money for his train fare, Fanelli finally arrived in Madrid where he was introduced to a small group of printers who attended a working-class educational institute. Although Fanelli spoke only Italian and French and most of the print workers spoke only Spanish, his address made a dramatic impact.
A shortage of money meant Fanelli could not stay long but he left behind copies of Bakunin’s speeches. These were carefully studied and enthusiasm for anarchy was soon spreading like wild-fire through Spain. It became the only country in Europe in which Bakunin’s ideas took root in a mass movement; by the 1930s, on the eve of the civil war, Spain’s anarchists were famed throughout Europe.
It was in Barcelona that the anarchists (along with other Republicans) held out longest against Franco, before finally succumbing in 1939. Are the youths of Barcelona who have taken to the streets every night for the last week heirs to the country’s strong anarchist tradition?