Brief history of the region
"The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing (…) when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle.Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or the red and black of the Anarchists. Every shop and café had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivised and their boxes painted red and black. (…) There were no private motor cars, they had all been commandeered, and all the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and black. (...) Above all there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine."
Catalonia, perhaps along with the Ukraine, is unique in having experienced a successful, albeit ultimately defeated, anarchist revolution. And there is a lot more history of revolutionary struggle in the Spanish State.
In 1909 the people spontaneously occupied and controlled Barcelona for several days and only a massive counter assault by the police and army restored authority. Tensions remained high and in 1936, when general Francismo Franco launched a military coup against a half hearted left wing government, the revolution quickly broke out as workers looted gun shops to arm themselves.
The events of the ensuing civil war are well documented, but less well known are is the continuation of the armed struggle against fascism into the 1960s. The names of Samarti, Penedo, Carballeira, Cazorla, Montes, Capdevila and so many others are too easil forgotten.
"Not even a miserable piece of stone is dedicated to their memory for fear of rippling a placid existence or putting in danger the little piece of democracy so painfully acquired. This is the revenge of those who never had the guts to be courageous."
All the guns in the world cannot suppress an idea, however, and in 1976 the Spanish State, saw another explosion of class struggle. Hundreds of thousands of workers participated in autonomous workers movements under the cry "all power to the assemblies of the working class". The proletarian mobilisations spread to the streets with riots in Cadiz, Malaga, Vigo, Gasteiz, in the Basque country and elsewhere. The radical consciousness in the Spanish state has never died, nor will it ever as long as there are those who remember the past and care passionately about the future.
In the beggining of the XXth century Barcelona was known in the rest of Europe as "La Rosa de Foc" (that was in catalan, it means the Firerose)