FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Reporter in Spain

Eighty years ago this April, Spain fell under a thirty-year dictatorship after Right beat Left in a brutal civil war. That history feels acutely alive to me today, and not just because, for the first time in my life, I’m in Spain.

General Franco’s rebels, backed by Mussolini and Hitler and the religious extremists of the day, defeated the Republic and its cobbled-together army of anarchists, communists and internationalists over three years (1936-39). My grandfather, Claud Cockburn, was there with the fighting in Spain’s central plains and in the city of Barcelona as it was hanging on, watching bombs hit the northern mountains that I’ve been looking at for days.

Today, Spain is holding steady. Prime minister Pedro Sanchez and his socialist party expanded power in regional and national elections and became the biggest social democrat block in the EU. The nationalist populists did less well than they bragged they’d do in most of Europe, but the Left’s parties generally did the same, and progressives are relying on the Spanish and Portuguese to hold the bigots at bay in Brussels while, from Brazil to Bethlehem and Bombay to DC’s Beltway, the stink of fascism is in the air.

It was windy yesterday, and between rain showers, we talked about being buffeted by old tensions: nationalism vs internationalism, authoritarianism vs democracy, elitism vs cooperation, patriarchy and racism vs intersectionality and the common good.

“The story of resilience resonates,” said Loren Harris, a program officer with the education-focused Kenneth Rainin Foundation in Oakland. History is part of what draws internationalists like Harris back to this region. Another is its experiment in solidarity.

“In the twentieth century, it was monarchy that was crashing. Today, it’s the rule of capital,” said the Democracy Collaborative’s Marjorie Kelly,* who, with Harris, was part of a delegation to study the area’s co-operatives.

Claud described the co-ops and free clinics that helped Barcelonans survive under siege. For the past four years, Barcelona en Comu has been continuing that tradition, expanding public assets and public decision-making under the city’s first female mayor, activist Ada Colau. Here in Basque country, which was occupied and punished by Franco, a liberation theologian preached job creation through cooperation and birthed the Mondragon Federation, now the biggest network of worker-owned cooperatives in the world. Recently, the OECD reported that this co-op rich community has one of the narrowest wealth gaps on the continent, which is to say, the rich extract less relative to the poor—or put another way, the place is more fair.

In Barcelona, Claud read from the wall posters: “We want prosperity for the whole people and we know this is possible within our democratic republic; that is why we defend the Republic, just as we defend the rightful liberties of Catalonia, the Basque country, Galicia and Morocco.”

As ever, Spain’s Left has fissures. This Sunday, a Catalan separatist edged out Ada Colau in the race for Mayor. Left voters are a majority, but their parties are divided here, and globally, as they’ve been before.

There’s no war in these mountains—no Guernica being bombed tonight. Still, I recall Claud describing how stakes pile high slowly as the barometer moves to storm.

As one onlooker told Claud almost 80 years ago, “I suppose you and I think the rich are going to sit quiet and—what’s the phrase—accept the verdict of the people? Like hell they are.” 

Which way is the barometer moving? Next stop for me is Barcelona.

*Marjorie Kelly’s forthcoming book with Ted Howard, The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few will be out in July from Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

More articles by:

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv now seen on the new, news channel TeleSUR English – for a new perspective. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail