As protesters across the West challenge the orthodoxy of capitalism and its attached repressive state, aristocracy, and other specters, many ask, "Well, what is the alternative?" Fair question, but the answer may very well exist in the unlikely location of the rolling olive fields of Spain's Andalusia region.
A self-proclaimed "utopia toward peace," the town of Marinaleda, near Seville, has staked out a position as an example of a collectivist vision that rejects the prevalent Capitalist paradigm. And the community of 2,700 people is flourishing.
"OTRO MUNDO ES POSSIBLE" - "another world is possible". Image via castillalanovissima.wordpress.com
As the rest of the world watches lives being destroyed by foreclosures in the private housing market, Marinaleda has been fortunate to escape such fates. In fact, anyone that lives in the town can own a house for a shockingly low 15 Euros a month, as long as they build it themselves.
While the rest of Spain is reeling with about 27% unemployment, the town boasts a rate of close to just 5%, due mostly to its cooperative farming economy that is based on working, not on making profits. There is little to no crime, and that means there is no need for a police force, saving the village a substantial amount of money, but also putting them in violation of national law.
Image via spanishrevolution11.wordpress.com
The town's communist identity grew out of the severe depression that hit Spain in the 1970s, and the election of Sánchez Gordillo as mayor in 1979. Soon after, occupations of farms, estates, and government buildings, as well as hunger strikes, allowed Marinaleda to become the leftist paradise it is today. A turning point came when the nearly 3,000 acre El Humoso farm was finally won in 1991, giving the collective the power and agricultural land it needed.
Che Guevara Stadium. Image via Panaramio user Tins.
What does a communist utopia look like, and how can you build your own? For starters, upon entering the town, Marinaleda's slogan, "OTRO MUNDO ES POSSIBLE" — "another world is possible"— is displayed heroically on a metal arch as it greets visitors. It is like many other Spanish towns, with fields of olives giving way to hazy streets lined with tapas bars and filled with children playing. However, there are no advertisements on the streets, and the town is covered in political art, including a large mural of Che Guevara and other leaders showing solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela, and USSR.