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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Octobre - 1937: Education and emancipation among Spanish anarchists (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Mon, 6 Nov 2017 08:46:17 +0200
Before the war devours the Revolution, Spain marked with the seal of the CNT-FAI, proposes
to change the life. The mores of a society rid of the pangs of capitalism are born. A new
Spain emerges with the implementation, on a mass scale, of libertarian ideals. ----
Barcelona under the revolutionary influence is an amazing sight for any foreign visitor.
In Homage to Catalonia, the Englishman George Orwell recalls: " It was December, 1936.
The anarchists always had their hands on Catalonia and the revolution was in full swing.
For whom then came directly from England, the striking aspect of Barcelona exceeded all
expectations. It was the first time in my life that I was in a city where the working
class had taken over. Every shop, every cafe had an inscription informing you of its
collectivization ; to shoe shiners that had been collectivized and painted red and black !
The waiters, the salesmen, looked at you in the face and behaved with you in equals. Turns
of servile or simply ceremonious sentences had simply disappeared. Nobody said anymore
"Señor" or "gift", nor even "usted": everyone was tutoyait, one was called "comrade" and
one said "salud" instead of "buenos dias".[...]And the strangest of all was the appearance
of the crowd. To believe the appearances in this city the rich classes no longer existed.
With the exception of a small number of women and foreigners, we no longer saw people
"well put". Almost everyone was wearing proletarian clothes or blue overalls. All this was
strange and moving. "
In 1936, the area where the revolutionaries intervene with the most dynamism is education,
which they strive to remove from the influence of the church.
" Education, bread and tenderness "
While a new identity, new social reflexes appear, the libertarians strive to imprint their
footprint in a specific area: education and popular culture. Until then, culture was the
monopoly of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, framed by a traditionalist church. July
19, 1936 sends down the culture in the street. Literacy classes are set up for adults.
Libraries are created at the initiative of Jeunesses Libertaires (JJLL) in many
localities. Their places: old churches transformed into Houses of culture.
The field, however, where the revolutionaries intervene with the most dynamism, is the
education they endeavor to remove from the influence of the Church. For this, they rely on
the writings and practices of the anarchist pedagogue Francisco Ferrer, who in many points
announces what will later be the alternative educational and anti-authoritarian
conceptions of a Celestin Freinet or a Maria Montessori.
A French revolutionary syndicalist reports, not without humor, the visit of a school in a
small town in Catalonia, the following facts: " In what was a convent of sisters before
the revolution is now a school. This convent was a superb building. The sisters had even
built a gym. It is also the first time that I knew that the nuns engaged in sports games
and maintain their muscles to stay in a pleasant form, worthy wives of Christ. This room
will not undergo transformation, it is now the children of the people who will play
sports. The chapel, for example, will be turned into a printing shop that will be used by
the children of the school. Another room for the cinema: education by the image, because
the union of the cinema will make films for the children of school. The living room will
also make a beautiful library. Mixed classes did not exist before the revolution. The new
school currently has 550 students. Catalan is taught to children until the age of 10,
after it is learned Castilian. The new rationalist pedagogy begins to be applied. Ferrer
was murdered, but he began to survive intensely in Spain. » 
An educational revolution
Grégory Chambat, in his book Pedagogy and revolution, class questions and pedagogical
re-readings, shows that the pedagogical concern is well and truly riveted to the body of
the libertarians: " When the revolution breaks out, with its reflections and especially
its practices, the movement knows where it wants to go in terms of pedagogy. In this area,
as in many others, he did not wait for the "big night" to experiment, to grope, to analyze
... In addition to the Athenaeans, bubbling centers of cultural agitation, unions
organized evening classes and even mounted their own school. Despite years of fierce
repression (rampage, looting, imprisonment of animators of these libertarian and trade
union schools), nothing has succeeded in extinguishing the flame and the passion of the
movement for pedagogical questions. "
A passion made necessary, too, by reality: the situation of Spain in the 1930s is
catastrophic, with an illiteracy rate of 52% and 60% of children who are not in school.
But ambition is not limited to schooling children or building schools. Alongside the
educational work, an educational revolution takes shape. In opposition to the education of
yesterday, " the new school " intends to put down all the defects of the traditional
school: " The boarding schools , the correctional houses and the barracks school
disappear ; the idea of education is substituted for that of punishment. The new school is
the expression of a social ideal and a pedagogy detached from authoritarian traditions ".
The school curriculum has the following purpose: " That all children have bread,
tenderness and education in the most absolute condition of equality and that the free
development of their personality is ensured. " 
Teaching methods are questioned, in order to develop students' critical thinking: " The
school must place the child in such an environment that the exercise of antisocial
impulses is made impossible, not by constraint. and violence, but through the solidarity,
sincerity, work, love and freedom characteristic of the physical and human environment
that surrounds it ... The new school respects the personality of the child. We believe
that all methods must be tested, always opting for the one that best suits the local
characteristics, the nature and character of each child, etc. It is obvious that it is not
enough to change the name of the school: one must change one's mind, one's morality, one's
methods. » 
At the level of mentalities, too, a new wind blows. Despite the gender equality advocated
by the CNT-FAI, it is clear that women need a specific organization to be better heard and
more specifically defended. In 1934, Grupo Cultural Femenino (Women's Cultural Group), was
born and developed with the support of the women of the magazine Mujeres Libres. These
groups are at the origin of the organization of the " Free Women ": the Free Mujeres
(ML), created in April 1936. The ML lead a fight on two fronts: for the social revolution,
and for the liberation of the women. They gather, at their peak, nearly 30,000 women in
1938. The journal Mujeres Libres writes:" The best mother is not the one who holds the
child against her breast, but the one who helps to forge a new world for him. " 
" Free women " against prostitution
The fight of ML is multiple. Its activists are fully involved in the work at the factory
or in the fields, in various educational and cultural projects. They are also found on the
front, rifle in hand, alongside their male comrades. The role of the MLs, however, makes
perfect sense in specific struggles that aim at finally freeing women from their chains:
the right to contraception and abortion, the questioning of marriage as a social
institution. this patriarchal society against which they fight furiously.
Another fight of the ML relates to the particular case of prostitution: " The most urgent
thing to do in the new social structure is to suppress prostitution. From now on, still in
full anti-fascist struggle and before taking care of the economy or the teaching, we must
finish with this social degradation. As long as the greatest of the slaves remains, the
one who forbids all worthy life, we can not think of production, of work, of any kind of
justice. That we recognize decency to no woman until we can attribute it to all. As long
as there is a prostitute, there will be no wife of such, sister of such, companion of
such.[...]We must finish with this quickly. And it must be Spain that gives the world its
new standard. We will all, we Spanish women, undertake this liberating task. It is
necessary now to do what women's associations never did, which pretended to emancipate the
woman by forming a few typists and organizing some pleasant conferences, some recitals of
elegant poets and poets. In some of the places we visited recently, we were shown, to a
large extent, that "prostitution" had been "suppressed". At our request to know how and
what we did with the women who practiced it, we were told: In some of the places we
visited recently, we were shown, to a large extent, that "prostitution" would have been
"suppressed". At our request to know how and what we did with the women who practiced it,
we were told: In some of the places we visited recently, we were shown, to a large extent,
that "prostitution" would have been "suppressed". At our request to know how and what we
did with the women who practiced it, we were told:"It's their business" In this way,
suppressing prostitution is very simple: it boils down to leaving women on the street,
with no way to live. Mujeres Libres is creating liberation centers for prostitution that
will start to function in the near future. To do this, premises are planned in various
provinces and there will be the following program:
1. Psycho-psychiatric research and treatment 2. Psychological and ethical treatment to
encourage a sense of responsibility among prostitutes. 3. Orientation and vocational
training. 4. Moral and material help whenever necessary, even after becoming independent
of the centers. » 
To liberate women and men from their chains and manners of a capitalist and patriarchal
society. Free children from authoritarianism at school. A real utopia in action that,
alas, will be slowed down with the advance of the counter-revolution by moderate
Republicans and Stalinists as early as 1937. A utopia in action that will end
definitively, in March 1939, when the boots of the troops of Franco will enter Barcelona.
Jérémie Berthuin (AL Gard)
The guerrillas of the cinema
In July 1936, the CNT's Single Union of Public Spectacles (SUEP) collectivized the film
industry: " With the first revolutionary guerrilla forces, the first film guerrillas
also went under the banner of libertarianism, " says Richard Prost , in the documentary
film A cinema under influence. Unique in the history of cinema, this experience has
allowed diversified expressions, militant, surreal, classic, surprising, transgressing
taboos and social conventions. In 1936 and 1937, the CNT-SUEP produced and produced
documentary films, reports on the front, but also fictions rooted in the reality of the
time (no less than two hundred documentaries and eight fictions).Nosotros Somos Asi,
Aurora Esperanza, Nuestro Guilty, Barrios Bajos are films both critical of capitalist
society and intended for a very wide audience.
Nevertheless, as early as the summer of 1937, anarcho-syndicalist production declined,
with the Communists putting an end to collectivizations, including that of the film
industry. The cinema becomes more didactic, the production concerns essentially the
documentaries and the news.
The Franco victory will mark the end of the innovative momentum of Spanish film production.
 Trade Union Struggle No. 192, January 22, 1937.
 Juan Puig Elias in Anti-Fascist Spain, August 26, 1936.
 Mary Nash, Free Women, Spain 1936-1939, Éditions La pensée sauvage, 1977.
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