SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS OF SOCIALISM: CASE STUDIES OF CUBA, CHINA, BURKINA FASO, SOVIET UNION, NORTH KOREA, ALBANIA, GDR, CHILE, NICARAGUA, AND REVOLUTIONARY CATALONIA
Socialism has often been criticized for bringing down the quality of life for people in the countries where it has been instituted. However, this claim couldn’t be further from the truth. In many countries around the world, socialist policies have drastically improved and modernized the landscape and people. This essay will examine the positive effects of socialism in several countries where it has been instituted, at least for a certain period of time.
Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the quality of life for average Cuban citizens has certainly improved, and has been since the very first months of socialist rule. Before the Revolution, Cuba was a playground for the American Mafia, where the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista allowed multinational corporations to exploit the very limited land and resources that Cuba had to maximize profits rather than better the nation. Many of the country’s poor, especially urban laborers, landless rural farmers, and Afro-Cubans, went starving, and political dissent was silenced even more harshly than in the beginning of Fidel Castro’s rule. However, Castro immediately began instituting policies of land reform, which boosted the standard of living for landless farmers, redistribution of wealth to benefit the poor who could not afford decent medical services, schooling, or housing, and nationalization of industry to fight against the influence of foreign companies that had kept Cuba an American neo-colony for decades. Racial segregation laws at the time of the Revolution were stricter than the Jim Crow laws of the American South, and any and all traces of proletarian organization and democracy were crushed.
Since the Revolution, the country has drastically improved. Today the literacy rate is nearly 100%, education is free at all levels, the universal health care system is praised by the World Health Organization for providing quality services to al and virtually eradicating mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission, racial and gender equality have been achieved in many areas of life, Cuba has the second highest Human Development Index in Latin America, a very low crime rate, the lowest infant mortality in Latin America, free or cheap housing, heavily subsidized basic foodstuffs, high job and food security, low unemployment, and a system of participatory grassroots democracy, with independent candidates that are elected without corporate money at the local, provincial, and national levels (Cuba had a 95% voter turnout last election), and Cuban citizens enjoy paid sick and maternal leave through belonging to powerful national labor unions. Despite the Western claims of “totalitarian single-party rule”, several parties that range from center-right to far-left legally organize and participate in political decisions, including the Cuban Liberal Movement, Cuban Liberal Union, Christian Democratic Party of Cuba, Cuban Democratic Socialist Current, Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party of Cuba, Democratic Solidarity Party, Social Democratic Co-Ordination, and the Orthodox Renovation Party, some of whom are vehemently anti-communist and pro-capitalist (such as the National Liberal Party of Cuba).
All of this is despite a crippling trade embargo, sanctions, and the loss of the country’s biggest trading partner and all of its satellite states in 1991. There was a time when civil liberties were limited in Cuba, but these were common even in America due to the Cold War political climate. Raul Castro released thousands of political prisoners, lifted speech and newspaper restrictions, and further opened the country to tourism and trade.
Before Mao Tse-Tung and the Communist Party seized power in a people’s popular revolution in 1949, China was as backwards as a country could be. Reactionary customs and gross inequalities and hierarchies plagued the nation, and the country was dominated by occupying Japanese imperialist forces as well as the American-backed forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. China had severe problems in terms of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, wealth centralization, and gender inequality. Before Mao, very common were the practices of foot binding, forced marriages, and child brides, and even the practice of selling babies on the market due to harsh living conditions and lack of access to adequate health care and education. Mao decided to revolutionize the country through some of the boldest, most progressive social, cultural, and economic policies of the 20th century. Maoist China had significant improvements in all areas of life.
Between 1949 and 1975, life expectancy in China more than doubled from 32 to 65 years, the infant mortality by the mid-1970s of Shanghai was lower than that of New York City due to free medical care, literacy grew from about 15% in 1949 to 80-90% in the 1970s, the result of free education for all citizens. Mao introduced the right to marry with mutual consent, earn an income with equal pay for equal work, divorce a spouse, etc. Mao banned the sale of children and infanticide, significantly decreased prostitution, elected many women to high-ranking seats in government, and promoted women’s rights.
A massive redistribution of wealth from the imperialists and national bourgeoisie to the working class helped to diminish many social ills that previously plagued China’s cities and countryside, especially prostitution, drug dealing, squalid urban housing conditions, and ignorance, and by the time reformer Deng Xiaoping took office, China’s human development index was gaining in on advanced Western nations. Famine, which used to occur every 20-30 years in China, has not struck China since the early 1950s. Natural disaster and poor policy planning (including gross overestimates from managers and directors in the agricultural sector for bonuses, and the use of backyard iron furnaces with a focus on heavy industry rather than the production of consumer goods) led to famine, but it is highly unlikely that tens of millions of people died during the Great Leap Forward, especially considering that population statistic charts released by Deng Xiaoping’s Rightist faction show constant population growth during the years of Maoist rule, with no significant decrease in population in any of the years between 1949 and 1975. Rural hunger was alleviated when Mao collectivized farms and instituted a plan of comprehensive land reform with a guaranteed level of grain for all farmers. Grain output grew on average in China by about 3% every year, only slightly outpacing population growth. The economy rapidly industrialized, and China’s industry under Mao grew at an average rate of 10% per year.
In addition, hierarchies and massive inequalities were replaced with highly democratic structures all around the country, including the election of recallable delegates at local and national levels, worker elections of enterprise managers and agricultural directors, and the organization of people’s communes and collective farms that raised the standard of living of formerly landless peasants. Perhaps the biggest example of democracy in China was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. As commodity production and party revisionism became more prevalent and Deng began to gain power by pushing out pro-Maoist factions, Mao decided it was time to take back society from state capitalism and bourgeois bureaucrats, and continue to build socialism. He organized millions of men, women, and youth into cadres and armed groups to violently suppress elements of the former class society that threatened the social progress gains that the Chinese people made due to the Revolution. These cadres effectively seized power from the bureaucratic Dengists and workers democracy replaced highly disconnected revisionist policies.
The former leader of Burkina Faso, the revolutionary Marxist and Pan-African Thomas Sankara, turned a backwards feudal society into a developed, modern socially progressive nation-state. He did this by embarking on bold socialist economic, cultural, and social policies that dramatically raised the standard of living for average citizens.
Sankara nationalized industry, land, and resources on an ambitious campaign to free the Burkinabe people from the clutches of imperialist reaction and neo-colonialism and fight the influence of multinational corporations in the country. Sankara’s political achievements include destroying the corruption of the Burkinabe bureaucracy, including himself, by encouraging well-off public servants to donate a significant portion of their salaries to charity, selling off the convoy of exotic cars previously reserved for politicians and replacing them with models of the Renault 5, the cheapest car available in the country. Sankara’s salary was a meager $450 a month, and he limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a refrigerator, and a broken freezer. To stand in solidarity with the working people of his nation, he refused to use his office air conditioner, saying that it was a luxury that was inaccessible to the Burkinabe people. He renamed the country from the French colonial name of Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (meaning “land of upright men” in the native language), and pushed for a unified coalition of African nations to fight colonialism and significantly reduce foreign debt.
Sankara instituted massive comprehensive land reform by seizing large plots of land from feudal lords and redistributing it to landless peasants. After this, Burkina Faso reached agrarian self-sufficiency after wheat production more than doubled from 1700 kg of wheat per hectare to more than 3800 kg of wheat per hectare. In a matter of a couple years, Sankara’s policies slashed infant mortality nearly in half by vaccinating over 2.5 million children against measles, malaria, meningitis, and yellow fever. He introduced a national literacy campaign to combat rampant illiteracy, and planted millions of trees to preserve the environment and halt the desertification of the country. Sankara encouraged hundreds of villages to build thousands of hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure, providing jobs to millions of people. He also abolished forced labor and feudal practice of debt bondage, and abolished rural poll taxes and domestic rents. Sankara converted the army provision store into a state owned grocery, which would become the first supermarket in the country.
Sankara promoted women’s rights voraciously, and many women were elected into his cabinet and other high-ranking government positions. He established workers councils, municipal assemblies, and even popular people’s courts. Sankara banned a cult of personality around him and other public officials, and outlawed female genital mutilation, polygamy, foot binding, forced marriages, and child labor. Sankara rejected the influence of foreign companies as well as the IMF and the World Bank in favor of national autarky and Pan-African unity.
Perhaps the most famous socialist country of them all, the Soviet Union destroyed the misery and ignorance that was once prevalent in Russian society. Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia was ruled by a Czarist regime that strongly opposed organized labor in the forms of soviet councils and trade unions that popped up all over the country for communist revolution. The USSR made massive gains in all areas of life.
Russia had barely reached a capitalist mode of production, and much of society, especially the peasantry, were stuck in the filth of feudalism, stuck as serfs indebted to kulaks (wealthy peasant farmers who often employed landless farmers to work the soil to make profits). Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, namely the Red Army led by Leon Trotsky, led a mass revolt of workers and peasants to overthrow the Czarist regime, first (unsuccessfully) in 1905, and successfully in 1917. After a Civil War that devastated Russia and destroyed much of the already sparse industrial economy and agriculture, Lenin decided to take a step back, and introduced the NEP (New Economic Policy) that allowed for free trade and private enterprises, while retaining state ownership of the “commanding heights of economy”. When Lenin died, power was seized by Joseph Stalin, who decided to continue the path of socialist construction and abolished the NEP. After a campaign of mass collectivization and nationalization, the entire economy was publicly owned and controlled. Stalin managed these through a series of Five-Year Plans, replacing the anarchy of the market that reigned during the NEP era with central economic planning.
These plans brought an unprecedented boom of economic growth and resulted in the most rapid industrialization of any country in the world. The economy grew at an average rate of 5-7% every year, and at its peak, growth rates were at an annual average of 14%. State revenues were not only concentrated on social and military expenditures, but also concentrated on building heavy industry, which resulted in a general increase in the standard of living for Soviet citizens, especially farmers who moved into cities. By 1938, infant mortality had been reduced by more than 50%, literacy reached nearly 100% (compared to the pre-Revolution rates of less than 40%), and the height and weights of Soviet children were much larger than those in Czarist Russia, as a result of the universal health care system. Education from pre-K to university was free of charge. Life expectancy in 1975 was 70.4 years of age, higher than the life expectancies of Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina. Medical care and life expectancy was roughly equivalent to the conditions of Western European countries, a massive improvement from medieval Czarist Russian health care. Soviet democracy was introduced by the Bolsheviks, with delegates being elected in the USSR at the municipal and national levels, subject to recall.
While Western capitalist countries were going through mass recessions and depressions in the 1930s that resulted in huge increases in poverty, debt, unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, suicide rates, and rents, the Soviet Union produced unfailing growth. This growth would continue into the 1970s, and by that time, the United States had gone through several major recessions. The planned economy of the USSR had abolished unemployment (which remained at 1-2%) and homelessness, severely reduced poverty (which has now tripled since the fall of Communism in 1991), and made sure that the country led the entire world in steel and coal production, being one of the largest economies in the world. It had wiped out homelessness and slashed infant mortality and disease, and helped the Soviet Union reach macroeconomic stability and high job security.
The majority of Russians say that they preferred life in the USSR, and 52% prefer “state planning and distribution”, while only 26% support a market economy, and most wish that the USSR did not break up. In almost all Eastern Bloc countries, there is similar nostalgia for Communist times, and the majority of citizens say that their lives are much worse now.
From 1910 to the 1940s, Korea was invaded and occupied to Japanese imperialist forces. Native Koreans were seen as inferior due to the highly xenophobic “racial purity” ideas of the Japanese, and many men and women were sold off as forced laborers and sex slaves, especially during the Second World War. During these period of time, the wealthy Korean capitalist class collaborated frequently with the Japanese to maximize profits, especially through slave labor in the mines and factories and farms of the uneducated, backwards fiefdom. After the Japanese were defeated, Americans (who won a decisive victory against Japan), occupied the country until 1948. At this time, a government called the Korean People’s Republic, made up of People’s Committees of elected delegates, was recognized as representative of the Korean people. However, America realized that an independent Korea would ruin chances of more post-war colonies, and began to have more influence by installing puppets in the south of the country, which had as strong of a national liberation movement as the north did. However, the Soviet Union helped this movement to flourish in northern zones, while it was suppressed in southern ones. The relationships between North Korea and the occupying American forces became increasingly strained, and escalated to the point of armed guerrilla struggle led by Korean officer Kim Il-Sung.
The Korean War was fought long and hard, with Americans pushing the North Koreans to Soviet mountain borders before an aggressive counter-attack drove Americans back to southern zones. The United States installed a series of military dictators that suppressed leftist movements, and North Korea began to construct socialism by seizing industrial assets en masse, expropriating major industries at a pace more rapid than that of the USSR, until the entire economy was effectively dominated by state owned enterprises and collective farms, with aid from both China and the Soviet Union. The large campaign that solidified public ownership of the means of production and central planning resulted in massive economic growth, and the economy of North Korea grew at a much faster rate than that of South Korea from the 1940s to the mid-1960s. Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara visited North Korea during this time, and described its socialist model as one to be praised and followed.
Industry in North Korea grew at a rate of 25% per annum in the 10 years following the Korean War and at 14% from 1965 to 1978 as a result of a series of Five-Year Plans and development of the productive forces. The literacy rate grew tremendously as a result of a Soviet style education system, swelling to 100%. From 1950 to 1965, infant mortality was slashed more than in half, and from 1971 to 1980 the infant mortality rate decreased from 50 to 33 years, and life expectancy increased from 58 years in 1962 to over 70 years in 1989. Direct taxation was abolished due to profits from nationalized industries, and state revenue made sure that all citizens were provided free housing, education, health care, basic foodstuffs, and public transportation. The Public Distribution System, a food rationing bureau that North Korean citizens were especially proud of, made sure, until the North Korean famine, that the food supply was secure and distributed in an egalitarian manner.
North Korea was notable during the time of Kim Il-Sung for its participatory democracy. All citizens over the age of 17 were eligible to vote for recallable delegates for the Supreme People’s Assembly, and enterprises operated with workers’ self-management through the Daean Work System that synthesized workers, managers, and the Party.
Former Albanian leader Enver Hoxha helped to defeat the occupying Nazi forces during World War II (with the help of Tito’s partisans) and immediately began socialist reconstruction after the war. Albania was left in grinding poverty, and was socially backwards, with policies that stated that women were property to be killed, raped, enslaved, and beaten if needed, and bitter feuds between rival clans in a society that had not even reached a capitalist stage of development.
Hoxha developed a socialist model in Albania by nationalizing industries and collectivizing farms, and redistributing profits from state owned enterprises into social projects, such as the development of infrastructure across the country, and extended the building of roads, schools, bridges, hospitals, and highways to rural areas. In 1969, Hoxha abolished direct taxation, and in the next year, he achieved his goal of providing electricity to every citizen in Albania. In 1960, there was one doctor per 3,360 inhabitants, and in 1978, there was one doctor per 687 inhabitants. Hoxha’s policies significantly improved health care and education, which were free for all citizens. Blood feuds were banned and clan rivalries were replaced with collective unity in the workplace and the community. Malaria, a common disease in Albania, was reduced severely by new methods of preventive medicine and the draining of mosquito infested swamplands, and syphilis was eradicated for more than 30 years. The natural increase in Albania in 1978 was 3.5 times higher than the average European country, and mortality in 1978 was 37% lower than that of the average European country. Life expectancy rose from 38 years in 1938 to 69 years in 1978, and the overall living standards of Albanians was raised.
Hoxha was a fierce supporter of women’s rights, proclaiming “the entire party and country should hurl into the fire and break the neck of anyone who dared trample underfoot the sacred edict of the party on the defense of women’s rights.” Women were encouraged to take up all jobs, and received equal pay for equal work. Women also had the right to vote under the universal suffrage in Albania (all citizens over 18 had the right to elect and be elected to People’s Councils, National Liberation Councils, and People’s Assemblies), and made up 40.7% of the People’s Councils and 30.4% of the People’s Assemblies. In 1978, 15.1 times more women attended eight-year schools than in 1938, and 175.7 times more women attended secondary school. In 1978, 101.9 times more women attended tertiary school (university education) as in 1957. Female participation in the industrial workforce increased from 4% in 1938 to 46% in 1982.
The German Democratic Republic was established, with the help of the USSR, after the Second World War in the east of Germany, while the west was controlled by the Western powers. West Germany was controlled primarily by the United States for the sake of foreign investments in labor and capital, and was disconnected from the Eastern Bloc almost entirely, so East Germany was indebted to the USSR for the massive damages that the Nazis inflicted on Russia. In addition, the CIA conducted a vast campaign of sabotage against the industry of the GDR after the war, especially railways, factories, and farms. This already placed the GDR on a lower level of economic development than West Germany, and was partly responsible for the lower wages and poorer consumer goods. However, despite these setbacks, the GDR was able to achieve economic security and equality to a much higher degree than its exploited Western brother.
The GDR went through a campaign of socialist reconstruction immediately after the war, which meant combined efforts for nationalization, socialization, collectivization, harsh de-Nazification, and democratization of the workforce. From 1945 into the 1960s, the GDR focused on building socialism through centralizing the means of production within the working class. By the 60s, private property had been virtually abolished, and replaced with state owned enterprises and collective farms. In addition to social ownership, market mechanisms were replaced with central planning, which included direct allocation of means of production and capital, state-set subsidized prices for consumer goods, and a combination of plan targets and input-output quotas that increased productivity and, after several plans were complete, led to a noticeable increase in living standards of East German workers. Privatization was completely reversed in all sectors of the economy, and public funds meant that all GDR citizens had the right to a job, medical care, childcare, and education at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels free of charge, and provided a general level of social security, and subsidized vacations and public transportation, and rents. Because of these efforts, the GDR practically abolished unemployment and homelessness, which were both chronic problems in many Western capitalist countries.
The German Democratic Republic’s socialist system produced faster growth rates than those of West Germany despite starting in a much lower position, and the gap in GDP per capita was severely decreased between 1945 and 1989. Because of a universal health care system for all citizens regardless of status and pro-natal policies of paid maternal and sick leave, infant mortality was reduced dramatically in the GDR, falling from 48.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1955 to 10 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1984. Real economic output dropped by over 30 percent in Eastern Europe during the 1990s, and this affected the GDR. The GDR’s national income grew in real terms approximately two percent faster annually than West Germany’s between 1961 and 1989. Gender equality was legally enshrined in the constitution of the GDR, and was achieved in all areas of life, including equal pay for equal work, something still not achieved in the United States. Life expectancy, gender equality, real wages, and adult-literacy were far higher in the GDR than in the vast majority of capitalist countries in Africa and Latin America (e.g. Guatemala, Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, South Africa, India, etc.) Unemployment soared after the GDR dissolved, and remains double the rate of western German territories today.
In addition to this, the GDR was known for its culture and technological improvements being the most publicized of any Eastern Bloc country, and its accomplishments in the sciences included providing key knowledge for the USSR’s space programs and building 32-bit computers, cell phones, and Walkmans, and had a much less restricted and oppressive social and political environment than West Germany, including the promotion of jazz music, women’s rights, and the highly controversial anti-war, black liberation, feminist, free love, and nudist movements, all of which were heavily suppressed in America through the federal government’s COINTELPRO policies. While anybody who subscribed to Marxist ideology would be discriminated against in both public and private sector jobs in West Germany, those with dissenting views had full access to employment and economic rights of average citizens. The German Democratic Republic provided both military and economic aid to numerous anti-imperialist national liberation movements around the world, including in Angola, Mozambique, Vietnam, Algeria, Yemen, Congo, Palestine, Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Libya Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. The GDR relaxed its border controls every year, to the point where in 1987 there were 1.3 million East German citizens permitted to travel to the West; over 99% returned. In addition, East Germany was known as a safe haven for punks, anarchists, communists, feminists, black leaders, artists, anti-fascists, environmentalists, members of the LGBT community, and the homeless of West Germany – all groups that were suppressed in the West and often escaped across the border to flee the secret police of West Germany.
Over 51% of East Germans, especially older citizens, say that life was better in the GDR. Some of the reasons include the social and economic rights not present in the current neoliberal environment, where unemployment, homelessness, and poverty run rampant.
In 1970 in Chile, Salvador Allende of the Popular Unity Party won the presidency through open elections, making him the first democratically elected Marxist president in Latin America since Cheddi Jagan won Guyana in 1953. Allende began his “Chilean Path to Socialism” plan, which included land reform, nationalization, collectivization, and numerous social programs to benefit the working class while expropriating the means of production from the capitalist class in an effort to abolish private property and build a classless society free from imperialism and exploitation. Allende would be overthrown in a far-right military coup in 1973 that installed Western-backed fascist dictator Augosto Pinochet, but not before he made significant progress in the overall quality of life of Chile.
Allende pursued ambitious land reform with overwhelming support from poor peasants, and nationalized key industries in the first few months, most notably Chile’s famous copper sector, and made efforts to collectivize private businesses at all levels. Using profits from new state owned enterprises, Allende also instituted a universal health care system and free education, with numerous programs that delivered milk, food rations, decent housing, public transport, and clothing free of charge. This resulted in a massive raise in the living standards of average citizens, while heavily alienating the capitalist class and petty-bourgeoisie who saw their power and property diminish rapidly. Workplace democracy began to expand in industry, an agenda pushed by Popular Unity. Allende helped to distribute more than 5.5 million acres of land to previously landless farmers, the vast majority of whom were disenfranchised and dissatisfied due to the previous mass imports of food (a direct result of land being used for speculation), and the result of these socialist economic reforms was large.
Unemployment dropped to 3.8% by the end of 1971, industrial production climbed by 6.3% over 1970, agricultural productivity rose by 5.3%, real wages increased by 27% by April 1970, the number of acres under cultivation doubled in one year, GDP increased by 8.6%, inflation fell from 34.9% to 22.1%, and the overall standard of living was raised. However, Washington was nervous about Allende’s hard left-wing politics, views validated with Allende’s support for Fidel Castro and numerous socialist countries, expropriation of the means of production, redistribution of wealth, and a radical experiment in central economic planning with the Cybersyn project that used cybernetic coordination to balance supply and demand through synthesizing raw materials and plan targets. Henry Kissinger laid out clear plans to dispose of Allende through American support for the Chilean army and sabotage of the Chilean economy to “make it scream”. Despite this, Allende still remains popular, especially among leftists, youth activists, pensioners, and academia.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was a revolutionary Marxist organization that overthrew the American-backed Somoza regime, ending a long line of corrupt dictators installed by the West who allowed multinational corporations free reign to exploit the land and resources of Nicaragua. Once seizing power, the FSLN began to institute socialist policies to benefit the poor and working families of Nicaragua and combat imperialism and the influence of foreign companies.
The FSLN received massive assistance from Cuba, the Soviet Union, and East Germany, who helped fund, arm, and train soldiers as part of a campaign to support national liberation movements in the Third World. The FSLN instituted policies of land reform that helped improve agricultural production, and received farm equipment from countries sympathetic to the revolution after Ronald Reagan imposed sanctions on Nicaragua. The Sandinistas also focused on building up heavy industry and infrastructure projects with Soviet aid, constructing roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, sugar mills, power plants, and housing for the urban poor. Cuban doctors helped set up a national health care system that reduced infant mortality from 74 deaths per 10,000 live births in 1980 to 50 deaths per 10,000 live births in 1990, increased life expectancy from 58.50 years in 1980 to 64.14 years in 1990, eradicated polio, and decreased measles, whooping cough, and rubella. The ambitious Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign resulted in a dramatic decrease in illiteracy, from 50% to 12% in one year. FSLN policies alleviated poverty in the region, and the revolutionary government (that is in power again after winning elections in 2006) notably increased GDP per capita from $1,239 to $1,582 in 2011 and continued a trend of 4.1% economic growth. The Sandinistas emphasized women’s rights, and have promoted gender equality since the revolution began, such as equal pay for equal work policies, childcare and training programs, and an increase in female representation in legislature. The Sandinistas have pursued programs to end hunger in Nicaragua by providing rural families with important foodstuffs free or at subsidized prices, and encouraging domestication and agricultural development.
From 1936 to 1939, there was a civil war in Spain between the forces supportive of right-wing fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and the Republicans, an association of left-wing groups including Marxist-Leninist, Trotskyist, and anarchist organizations. During the war, the territories liberated by anarchist militias saw the biggest gains in terms of establishing a communist society, guided by the principles of libertarian socialism and decentralization of power.
The Spanish CNT-FAI, an anarchist militia, began mass collectivization of the means of production, from farms to factories to workshops. Workers councils replaced capitalist management, distribution was according to both need and contribution (depending on the goods), and in many areas money itself was abolished. Agricultural productivity saw a massive increase, as did incomes and living atandards. Collective ownership steadily abolished private property in areas like Aragon and Catalonia. Workers democracy was present in both businesses and the community and health care and education, along with other basic necessities like housing, basic food, utilities (including electricity and gas) and milk, was free, as was public transport (the production of vehicles was improved) and unemployment and homelessness were abolished, as every man had his needs met. The anarchists promoted gender equality, and radical feminist anarchist groups like the Mujeres Libres fought and died alongside men of the anarchist columns. The influence of organized religion was suppressed by direct action and peasant expropriation of property held by the Catholic Church.
An example of the successes of these anarchist collectives can be seen in the rural village of Graus, where household income rose by 15% and social and cultural services improved dramatically. In Esplus sheep herds more than tripled from 6,000 to 20,000, in Alcorisa the amount of cultivated land more than doubled, and in Barcelona the water supply increased and the fleet of trams for public transport got fixed collectively, with over 100 trams repaired in a matter of days under workers’ control.