10 Instances Of Anarchist Societies That Actually Worked

By Eamon McKeever


Although anarchy has long been seen as an ideological system impossible to implement (if not inherently contradictory) and as a direct cause of numerous acts of terrorism throughout history, its ideas have still been influential. In fact, during the 20th century, anarchism, like communism, was seen as a new system of governance that could potentially replace capitalism and create a more utopian society.

In the end, however, anarchism has failed to gain traction as a widespread movement in the modern world, even after the attempts made by the following 10 anarchist societies.


10 Revolutionary Catalonia


Photo via Wikimedia

As a result of the Spanish coup in July 1936 when the Fascists were trying to gain control of Spain, the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo–Federacion Anarquista Iberica (CNT-FAI), an anarchist party within Catalonia, led a popular uprising by organizing militias against the Nationalist forces.

Overall, these militias were made up of 18,000 workers (including George Orwell, who fought for the Catalonians). They were collectively able to defeat the Nationalist forces and gain independence for Catalonia. Each militia was led by elected delegates who met to decide on the individual militia’s course of action.

Although the CNT-FAI was criticized for joining the national government, which meant that it had to work with socialist groups such as the Unified Socialist Party, it did this to have a better chance of winning the war against Spain. It was also able to implement some of the policies it supported—namely, the collectivization of land and resources.

The government was able to encourage voluntary collectivization, where workers pooled resources and had general meetings of all its participants. Factories were also “confiscated and controlled by workmen’s committees, either term possessing for the owners’ almost equal significance,” said Burnett Bolloten in his book The Grand Camouflage. Eventually, the anarchist government fell to a large Nationalist offensive in 1938.

Paris Commune


Photo credit: Maximilien Luce

In 1871, the Paris Commune came about as a reaction to the Franco-Prussian War and is often considered the first example of the working class seizing power. After being defeated by the Germans, the French army tried to take back the cannons they had left in the city of Paris. The National Guard of Paris, which was separate from the army, sided with the citizens, and free elections were held to determine who would govern the city.


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