By Jason Garner, University of Sussex
Journal of Contemporary History, Issue Six, August 2003.
As anarchism was never a mass movement in either the United Kingdom or the United States it has often been the victim of equivocal, prejudicial and patronising (often sympathetic) interpretations. Studies of the anarchist ‘phenomenon’ are often more anthropological than strictly historical. The result has been that studies of anarchism have generally centred on ideological issues to the detriment of the environment in which these evolved. Anarchism, or libertarian communism as it was often labelled, developed in the nascent industrialisation of late nineteenth century Europe and as such inter-reacted with both liberalism and socialism, enjoying a prominent role in the labour movement during this period. Anarchism ‘simply put’ was the revolutionary socialist alternative to Marxism. In Spain, where it was strongest, anarchism enjoyed a rich and diverse history that culminated in the political and social revolution that spread across northeastern Spain in the early period of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).