The Population of Spain and its Distribution

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

It is important to know the population of Spain, because the problems of reconstruction depend essentially on the number of inhabitants. The Spanish population can be calculated as twenty-four million inhabitants. In 1930 the birth rate was calculated as 28.8 per thousand, the death rate 17.8, the annual increase of the Spanish population, therefore, being 0.61% in the period 1800 to 1810, 0.52%o from 1870 to 1910, and 0.65% from 1910 to 1930.

The natural resources of the land are limited. If anything, there is a great need for their development, which cannot come, as in the past, by the conquest of new territories but by intensifying the cultivation of the old territory. Also industry and science must supply that which natural resources do not furnish.

The index of the development of the country is not measured by its agricultural population but by its industrial population. In fertile countries easy to cultivate, such as Canada, a tenth of the total population would be sufficient to supply their necessities. In Spain a minimum of 20% of the total population would be necessary.

With this number, work in the fields, which is today a curse through ignorance, taxes, and property rights, would be converted to one of the most healthy and productive occupations.

Spain is relatively backward in agricultural industry and transportation. The Revolution must accomplish in a few years a prodigious advance. It must construct all the technical devices which it lacks, modernise the methods of cultivation, build roads, replant the forests and utilise every available drop of water from the rivers, to transform the arid wastes of steppes into productive soil.

The population is sufficiently numerous to achieve these aims in a few years. If all the armed forces and government employees alone were set to work on reforestation, construction of canals and waterworks, the present arid territories of Spain would become a potent source of agricultural wealth. This could be done by the three hundred and fifty thousand men employed merely to defend the wealth of the privileged classes.

But the parasitism in Spain is infinitely greater. A tendency to live without working, very human in a way, is noticeable throughout the history of Spain; a tendency which has been put in relief excessively by superficial observers and, as a result, has created a special fame for laziness to attach to the Spaniard. But this tendency is characteristic of the privileged classes only.

The workers and peasants are excessively laborious and in comparison with other countries, they are in no way inferior in skill, resistance and constancy on their jobs. Spanish workers are to be found in the most modern factories of the United States, in the Argentine pampas and in all places of the world. If they distinguish themselves at all it is perhaps in their stronger sense of independence and in their greater propensity for rebellion. That is why in some places the door has been shut for them, but never for any inferiority in their working capacity.

In the census taken by Campemanes in 1787 only a fifth of the population was employed in useful economic functions. On the other hand, there were 481,000 noblemen, 189,000 churchmen, and 280,000 servants. Subsequent reports may have modified the nomenclature, but we will always find a part of the population avoiding all obligation to earn their daily bread with the sweat of their own brows and so long as the social and economic system does not undergo a radical change, there is no use of dreaming that this parasitism will disappear.

In 1915, in the 49 capitals of the provinces of Spain and in 40 cities of more than 30,000 inhabitants there was a total of 4,645,633 people, that is 23% of the population. This percentage has undoubtedly increased but the agricultural population is still superior to that in the cities.

To illustrate the significance of the distribution of inhabitants, let us take the figures in France. In 1789 its rural population was 26,363,000; and urban 5,709,270. For every five inhabitants in the country there was only one in the city. In 1921 the rural and urban populations were equal. In 1926 the agricultural population represented only 31% of the total. From 1921 to 1926 the French agricultural regions lost almost a million peasants who migrated to city industries.

The lack of equilibrium between the growth of large cities and their corresponding regions, is most pronounced in Catalonia. In 1920 the total population of Catalonia was 2,244,719, and Barcelona alone had 721,869. In 1930 the figures were 2,791,292 and 1,005,565 respectively. In 1934, according to best available data, the population of the region was 2,969,921 and of Barcelona 1,148,129.

In 1919 406,000 Spaniards were dedicated to commerce and trade. In 1920 this figure reached 644,000. In this same year, the percentage allotted to industry and mines was 31%, very much below that of practically all European countries.

The population in Spain is divided in 46,082 units, from cities of a million inhabitants to communities of a dozen or two people. There are 284 cities, 4,669 municipalities, 16,300 towns, 13,211 villages, and 11,618 hamlets.

Another distribution worthy of consideration is as follows: Spain is divided in 527 judicial sectors, in 12,340 city districts and 9,260 municipalities. Even though the future structure will have a more economic basis than a political geographic one, the present situation should be known.

Comparing the census of 1910 with the present one we calculate 10,000,000 people of working age, 18 to 50. Of this figure there are not actually 5,000,000 employed in socially useful work in the fields and industries, including those now unemployed and the families of the peasants.

According to the census of 1920, the 9,260 municipalities referred to above had the following population:

25 municipalities - up to 100 inhabitants;

1325 " " between 100 and 300;

1079 " " 300 and 500;

2243 " " 500 and 1,000;

1697 " " 1,000 and 2,000;

749 " " 2,000 and 3,000;

700 " " 3,000 and 5,000;

523 " " 5,000 and 10,000;

284 " " over 10,000, of which only nine contain over 100,000.

The average of 43 inhabitants per square kilometre is too high for an agricultural country and too low for an industrial one.

In resume, the Spanish population under capitalism is excessive. The alleviation afforded by the valve of emigration cannot be depended upon in the future; consequently, the population will increase in spite of the ravages of penury and tuberculosis. Under the present regime there are only the perspectives of increasing privations, further oppression and slavery for the workers.

In a socialised economy there will be no unproductive individuals; everyone will have a job which can be chosen within ample limits. The four or five million men who today break their backs for a crust of bread and maintain in ease and comfort the functionaries of state, the lords of industry and the idle rich, will automatically see their number doubled and by this fact alone relief, will make itself felt immediately. If all eat, it is only just that all work. Besides, this relief will be increased from year to year by public works of irrigation, communication and transportation, by the increase of mineral production and general intensification of industry. With the present methods of production and the present state of economy in Spain, the food capacity, according to Fisher, would suffice for 27,000,000 people. But this limit could be extended considerably by the transformations which the Revolution would bring.