Europe '96: Anarchism in Catalunya today

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I went by an anarchist ateneu in the Barri Xines, in Carrer d'En Robador (street address is number 25 if you are looking for it [2021 note: but you'll need to time travel. Gentrification. There is a tapas bar/music venue there now, at number 23]), which some people consider the worst street in Barcelona. Heavy red light district stuff. I didn't have any problems. Met a few people, all in all it was pretty interesting, even though I ended up sitting through a tedious 90 minute planning meeting for an event, one of these groups which seems to do everything in committee of the whole. At least the meeting was in Castilian Spanish so I could follow the conversation.

[Paragraph rewritten for clarity 2021] Although there seem to be quite a few anarchists in this city, and there are two anarchist councils of trade unions and several ateneus (basically clubhouses), not to mention several okupas (squats) including a former movie theater, they seem remarkably isolated. (The very anarchist trade union is CNT—Concilio Nacional de Trabajadores—distinct from the more nominally anarchist CGT—Concilio General de Trabajadores. The communist, or post-communist, unions constitute the CCOO—Comisiones de Obreros. The UGT—Union General de Trabajadores—used to be associated with the Socialists, but I went its own way when the Socialists became a serious contender for electoral power.) The mainstream news kiosks carry no alternative press and there is no equivalent of something like Seattle's Stranger [2021 note: sadly, the print edition of that in Seattle went away in the Covid-19 pandemic] to bridge any of the gap. Also the local homeless street paper, La Farola (the streetlight) is kind of mainstream itself. A recent issue had a good article on scams hiding in the help wanted section of the paper, but very little on actual conditions of the homeless. They seem to be trying to avoid confrontation (La Farola, not the anarchists).

By their own description, most of their literature passes hand to hand, although there is a very good anarchist bookstore, also in the Barri Xines, El Lokal, at C/ de la Cera, 1. Except for a few wall posters and one or two well-laid-out zines (from among a sea of not-so-well-laid-out zines), it tends to look very amateur, not that they should be pros, but a lot looks like from the days of mimeo machines even though it's photocopied. [2021 note: They are still there! They look like a good contact point for the Catalan anarchist community. For anyone who may want to be in touch with El Lokal, they have e-mail, Web site is 🔗]

It was interesting to know that the Ateneu in Carrer d'En Robador includes some members who actually fought in the anarchist militias in the Guerra Civil. That means they must be in their 80s or so by now [in 1996].

There's also an occupied ex-cinema in the Via Laietana, but so far I've only seen it from the outside. I hope to check out an event there before I leave town, but there aren't too many. [Addendum July '96: Never got to one. Oh, well. ] [Addendum 2000: And of course it was gone by the next time I got to Barcelona, in 1999.]

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Originally written: 1996

Last modified: 26 February 2021

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