Margaret Sanger, "Schools and Education in Spain," Aug 1916.
Source: " Schools and Education in Spain,, Modern School, Aug. 1916, pp. 88-90."
This is the third article in a three-part series. For the first article, see Modern Schools in Spain, part. 1, May 1916, and for the second, see Modern Schools in Spain, part 2, June 1916. For draft version see Library of Congress Microfilm 130:126.
THE term "free-thinker" applied to one in Spain is considered a mark of advanced ideas. Other terms such as "liberal", "republican", are used to classify certain stages of one's development, which to an American seem like relics of a past age. The free-thinker who is accepted by all respectables as the most progressive is in reality usually a generation behind in general phases of thought.
It is the Anarchist in Spain who is alive to the broader interests of life, and it is and has been the anarchists who have done more in proportion to their number to educate and to promote a desire for education amongst the working people, than any other organization. They are the only educators who offer to the Spanish people a program of life and society which naturally applies to the Spanish temperament as well as being consistent with their conduct.
If we can realize what it means to attempt to educate a people where in a population of 17,667,256 there are 11,945,971 out of that number who are illiterate, who can neither read nor write, then one may be able to understand the importance of the work of the Anarchist propaganda and the difficulties which confronted Francisco Ferrer. It is impossible to separate Anarchism from Spanish education or from anything which is important in Spain, for it is the only spark of life there today. It will be left to the Anarchist to drive out the priests and the robbers, before Spain can step freely in any direction.
Organized anarchy in Spain dates back to the year 1868, when the International Association of Workers was formed, the result of which was the First National Congress held in Barcelona in 1870. So great was the interest in these ideals and so rapidly did they spread, that the following year the Government declared the International to be an illegal organization and the executive left Spanish soil and fled to Portugal. A Portugese organization was soon established and the ideas flourished on both soils.
In spite of the law declaring the International Association of Workers illegal, several conferences were held throughout Spain. The movement became so strong and general that the Republicans attempted to capture it by swinging it into a political groove, but failed. The Spaniard has little faith in government, no matter what its brand, so they kept to one straight issue-- Revolution through economic action. They supported Bakunin at the famous Conference at Geneva in 1873 in this.
The Government realized the importance of the movement when it saw it could not be side-tracked into a political camp. The issue was too straight to be tolerated, at all costs it must be crushed; it accordingly took steps to dissolve it and smash the organization by arresting and banishing the prominent members to penal settlements in the Marianne Islands. This had the desired effect and many members abandoned the movement entirely, while others simply withdrew their activities. For several years it remained at a standstill until in 1889, when a new program was drawn up upon which was based Modern Anarchism in Spain.
I will not attempt to tell of the hardships, strifes and struggles of these who were able to keep the propaganda current and the ideals alive in the face of persecutions, tortures and executions. There was no conceivable plot which the criminal tactics of the police and the priests did not resort to in order to incriminate sympathizers and to extinguish anarchist ideals. Whole issues of both daily and weekly papers were confiscated by the government day after day and week after week.
One anarchist four-page daily, " Tierra y Libertad ," (Land and Liberty), which in 1905 had a circulation of 10,000 copies, had to be converted into a weekly with 8,000 copies. This is only one instance--there are many others--but it is estimated very roughly and conservatively that at the present time there are more than 70,000 copies of current anarchist papers, weekly, daily, etc., and we know there are always two or three readers to every purchase, which goes to prove that suppression and confiscation may delay or hold back for a time, but ideals cannot be killed and often take root while they stand.
Anarchists attribute the poverty, ignorance and misery to present day society. They believe a society can be established in which Law, authority, government or church shall not dictate or regulate human conduct, but that mutual help through natural desires will give individual freedom.
Spanish Anarchism embraces the philosophy of Bakunin, Reclus and Kropotkin. They consistently advocate the general strike to bring about the social revolution.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project