1909: The Barcelona revolt

Barcelona in flames during the revolt
Barcelona in flames during the revolt

A brief history of a successful general strike and rebellion in Barcelona.

Submitted by Ed on September 8, 2006

The spontaneous revolution Spanish anarchists had long hoped for seemed to have started on Monday 26th July 1909 when Barcelona was shut down by a massive general strike. The revolt started after the government called up military reservists to fight in Morocco. Mindful of a recent history of horrendous military campaigns, workers immediately responded to the call for a general strike. Those on strike poured into the streets in protest, trams were overturned, communications cut and troop trains held up by women sitting on the rails. The anarchist Anselmo Lorenzo wrote to a friend saying:

"What is happening here is amazing. A social revolution has broken out in Barcelona and it has been started by the people. No one has instigated it. No one has led it. Neither Liberals, nor Catalan Nationalists, nor Republicans, nor Socialists, nor Anarchists."

By Tuesday Barcelona was in the hands of the people, by Thursday the army and police had mounted a counter-attack and barricades were thrown up in the streets to stop them. Behind the barricades there was mass looting. However, by the end of the week the government had regained control.

What surprised the Barcelona workers themselves the most about the uprising was the immediate success of the general strike that had started it off, and it was out of this week-long uprising that the CNT was born as an amalgamation of all the already existing anarchist and libertarian unions.

Taken from Do or Die! #9