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Old March 26 2014, 10:25 PM   #1
TheGoodNews
Lieutenant Commander
 
Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

From a recent L.A. Times article (interesting on many levels):

http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/...#axzz2x5wTBsXz

latimes.com

Spain's modern-day Robin Hood seeks to level the playing field

The town of Marinaleda, Spain, is an experiment in communism. So far it's working well, except that he may be about to go to jail.

By Lauren Frayer

8:00 AM PDT, March 22, 2014


MARINALEDA, Spain — It was a sweltering summer day at the height of Spain's economic crisis when the longtime mayor of this hardscrabble village decided it was time to grab the nation's attention.

Most other politicians were on vacation, which looked a bit decadent to many, considering that the unemployment rate in southern Spain's Andalusia region was pushing 40%, among the highest in the nation.

So Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo of Marinaleda — population barely 2,700 — led his trade unionist friends on a march to a supermarket in a neighboring town.

"Aren't you all hungry?" he yelled through a megaphone in the grocery parking lot that morning in August 2012. "Let's go shopping!"

The cheering crowd pushed its way inside, piling chickpeas, rice, tomatoes and other food into carts, then rushing out without paying. Police met the mostly first-time outlaws outside and arrested Sanchez Gordillo, although not before he managed to transfer his loot to representatives of local food banks to distribute to the poor.

Sanchez Gordillo, 62, a member of Spain's United Left party, was first elected mayor in 1979. He's built a reputation as a rabble-rouser: a communist who's been arrested and fined several times for expropriating land that belonged to wealthy but absent ranch owners, or for squatting on military land. But his supermarket heists — he led several that month — made him a household name in Spain, the modern-day Robin Hood of Andalusia.

No doubt he looks the part, sporting a Che Guevara-style beard and a Palestinian-style scarf. Spanish hipsters in Madrid wear T-shirts bearing his image.

But in an interview in his town hall office, Sanchez Gordillo appeared more diminutive and softer-spoken than he does on TV.

"My philosophy is that power — even the tiny little bit my town hall has — should give voice to those who don't have one," he said quietly.

He spoke with barely a hint of the thick Andalusian accent that morphs into peasant slang when he yells through his megaphone to the crowds.

"It should transform reality to be more fair, more humane, more equitable — and spread peace," the mayor said.

Sanchez Gordillo says he's attempting to do that in his hometown, a small-scale communist utopia. Signs at the entrance to Marinaleda invite visitors on a "struggle toward peace." A huge portrait of Guevara stares down at the town from the wall of a municipal sports arena on a hill.

Marinaleda offers residents free English or Spanish classes and Internet service, heavily subsidized child care and $5 memberships to the town's Olympic-size swimming pool. There are no municipal police, which Sanchez Gordillo said saves the town nearly $500,000 a year. (Service is provided instead by volunteers and the national Civil Guard.)

"When we first arrived here, we had domingos rojos — red Sundays," recalled Chris Burke, 62, who retired to Marinaleda from Britain four years ago.

"They'd come around and say, 'It's a domingo rojo!' and they would expect you to go out and sweep the street or mop outside your neighbor's or something," said his wife, Ali, during an interview at the couple's row house near Marinaleda's center.

Unlike much of Spain, where half-built houses have littered the landscape since the 2009 construction collapse, there's a waiting list in Marinaleda. The town offers building materials and an architectural plan to those who want to construct their own 900-square-foot row house, with yard and garage — casita, or little house, as it's known here. Once the house is completed, residents pay about $20 a month as a mortgage to the town.

Such programs strike a chord in Andalusia, where landed gentry still control huge swaths of the countryside, and landless laborers are crammed into villages. One of the landowners is a woman Spaniards know simply as la duquesa — the Duchess of Alba — who's said to hold the greatest number of noble titles of anyone in the world. Her full name is Doña Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva.

Spaniards say you can walk 600 miles from coast to coast without ever leaving her property. That irks Sanchez Gordillo. He and his supporters have occupied swaths of her family's land, protesting the agricultural subsidies she receives from Madrid and Brussels and the area's general income inequality. Two years ago, after a very public spat with the duchess' son, Sanchez Gordillo hosted the count on a tour of lands he owns but had never set foot on.

"Marinaleda and its anti-capitalist philosophy is shining like a beacon in Spain right now," said Dan Hancox, a British journalist who wrote a book about the community. "That's partly why Sanchez Gordillo has become more controversial than ever. Because Spain's elites, in which corruption is sadly all too rife, are slightly scared of the fact that the left is saying, 'Well look, their situation seems to work!'"

The unemployment rate in Marinaleda hovers around 5%, compared with more than 35% in the rest of Andalusia. That's possible because the town has a huge farm — part of it on expropriated land — and factories that are run as collectives. Workers canning olives and artichokes earn about $65 a day, twice Spain's minimum wage.

"These are crops that require more hands, less machines, so they create jobs," said Annie Miranda, who has worked at the artichoke factory for 13 years. "We have more solidarity here than in other villages. If there's any problem, we hold a general assembly and discuss it with the whole town. This factory is for the people of the village."

Critics say Marinaleda's communist experiment works only on an extremely small scale and only with vast subsidies from the left-leaning regional government in Seville. For some, the town reflects a cult of personality that can't survive without its charismatic mayor.

"The incredible irony of all this is that Sanchez Gordillo is a very powerful leader, and while he purports the values of everybody having an equal say … even his most loyal friends and supporters in the village would disagree with you if you call this a popular struggle where all are equal," Hancox said.

That popular struggle may soon be tested. The law has caught up with Sanchez Gordillo.

One of the supermarkets he stole from in the summer of 2012 later agreed to pay for the food itself and donate more to the poor. But another big chain took him to court for playing Robin Hood at one of its stores. Sanchez Gordillo is now awaiting a sentence that could include jail time.

"They want to make an example of me! It turns out my rebellion was a crime," the mayor said. "But sometimes when there's injustice in the world, you have to rebel and take the consequences. What's important is that in Marinaleda, we have shown that there's another way to do things."

Frayer is a special correspondent.


Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Old March 27 2014, 01:58 PM   #2
Starkers
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

So he's a shoplifter right?
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Old March 27 2014, 06:23 PM   #3
Locutus of Bored
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

TheGoodNews, next time you get an email alerting you to the status of the glorious revolution, can you please consolidate it into a single thread (preferably this one, which I can rename for you if you want)? Every one of your six threads in Misc. consist of you posting a link to a video or article with barely a sentence of personal commentary (copying and pasting the article doesn't count) beyond "This is good" or "This is interesting," if that, and only receives a handful of replies before dying because you don't give the threads much of a direction for discussion or post anything really compelling for this audience to want to talk about, apparently. There's no reason each article or video needs its own thread, since they all follow the same basic theme. Frankly, it's pretty spammy, which I already asked you to stop before.
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Old March 27 2014, 09:01 PM   #4
TheGoodNews
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

Starkers wrote: View Post
So he's a shoplifter right?
Right away with the focus on an individual personality. You're one for the spin. But let's ignore the significant detail of a community that succeeded in improving its local economy, lowered unemployment, improved social services (and they didn't need shoplifting to do it) while every other community is drowning under the neoliberal system. We see that you have your priorities right.
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Old March 27 2014, 09:18 PM   #5
sojourner
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

Link in OP leads to 404.
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Old March 27 2014, 09:35 PM   #6
Locutus of Bored
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

TheGoodNews wrote: View Post
Starkers wrote: View Post
So he's a shoplifter right?
Right away with the focus on an individual personality. You're one for the spin.
How is that spin? It's one man who made the choice to do this. If you didn't want his supermarket raids to be discussed, you could have left that segment of the article out and just focused on the reforms in the town.

But let's ignore the significant detail of a community that succeeded in improving its local economy, lowered unemployment, improved social services (and they didn't need shoplifting to do it) while every other community is drowning under the neoliberal system. We see that you have your priorities right.
This is precisely what I was talking about in my previous post. Instead of getting pissy when someone takes your article at face value and comments on it, you could have specified up front that this is the portion of the article you wanted to focus on, not the thefts. You need to provide a direction for discussion. People aren't psychic and know what part of the story you want to discuss without any clues.

That being said, it would seem to me that while some of his other reforms are a positive step for this small rural community (though heavily subsidized by the government which allows this kind of experimentation to persist, and not necessarily applicable on a wider scale, which kind of undercuts your point, if you had made one), perhaps if he used his position as mayor to institute some common sense but still low cost fundraising efforts through taxes and so forth, he wouldn't have to raid neighboring grocery stores for food to hand out to people. Also, some of the stores seemed willing to cooperate in the effort even after being stolen from, so maybe asking them for help instead of raiding them would be a better option? But then, that wouldn't garner the same publicity for Mayor Robin Hood.
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Old March 28 2014, 12:11 AM   #7
scotpens
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

So Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo of Marinaleda — population barely 2,700 — led his trade unionist friends on a march to a supermarket in a neighboring town.

"Aren't you all hungry?" he yelled through a megaphone in the grocery parking lot that morning in August 2012. "Let's go shopping!"

The cheering crowd pushed its way inside, piling chickpeas, rice, tomatoes and other food into carts, then rushing out without paying. Police met the mostly first-time outlaws outside and arrested Sanchez Gordillo, although not before he managed to transfer his loot to representatives of local food banks to distribute to the poor.
TheGoodNews wrote: View Post
Starkers wrote: View Post
So he's a shoplifter right?
Right away with the focus on an individual personality. You're one for the spin.
Stealing what doesn't belong to you isn't an aspect of an "individual personality." It just means he's a common thief.
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Old March 28 2014, 02:41 AM   #8
Australis
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

TheGoodNews wrote: View Post
Starkers wrote: View Post
So he's a shoplifter right?
Right away with the focus on an individual personality. You're one for the spin. But let's ignore the significant detail of a community that succeeded in improving its local economy, lowered unemployment, improved social services (and they didn't need shoplifting to do it) while every other community is drowning under the neoliberal system. We see that you have your priorities right.
It improves the community, but only at someone else's expense. And if you think the company won't share the pian with other customer sby increasing prices (and it's probably not a well-off place either in modern Spain) then you may be a little confused.

That said, I understand where he's coming from, just don't agree with his methods. A better scheme would be getting the village to palnt communal crops, share communal chickens and milk animals and so on. I've seen that done in some of the poor neighbourhoods in Sydney. Remember the microloans thing from, iirc, India or Africa, about 4-5 years ago? That could work here.
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Old March 30 2014, 10:12 PM   #9
publiusr
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Re: Spain's "communist utopia" -- PRESENT DAY

One of the things I despise hearing on talk radio is how folks who are lucky enough to win money "always" lose it or whatever.

Not so fast:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/0...n_1247855.html

From what I heard on NPR, the folks just stayed in the town. So yes with enough money, folks can be perfectly happy where they are. And say, the money to be spent on F-35 alone would do wonders in making some of our communities like that too.
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