Marinaleda is primarily an agricultural village, primarily dedicated to olives and producing olive oil. It has about 2,777 inhabitants. The town has “virtually full employment, communally owned land and wage equality”. Where since the early 1990s there has been no need for mortgages.
How this small rural village in a Western European democracy has transformed itself into a self-contained self-styled micro-communist utopia ?
It is noted for its left-leaning principles based on a leftist ideology led by Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo. Sánchez Gordillo is a Spanish politician, labour leader and history high school teacher.
Several years after the death of Spain’s military dictator, General Franco, the villagers of Marinaleda were suffering very high unemployment and poverty. On the other hand nearby, potentially productive agricultural land belonging to wealthy absentee landlords was left wild and uncultivated. Under the guidance of Sanchez Gordillo, the unemployed villagers occupied and farmed the idle land illegally.
The first part of Marinaleda’s miracle is that when its struggle to create utopia began, in the late 1970s, it was from a position of abject poverty. The village was suffering more than 60% unemployment; it was a farming community with no land, its people frequently forced to go without food for days at a time, in a period of Spanish history mired in uncertainty after the death of the fascist dictator General Franco.
Gordillo has a long history of participating in militant action for the benefit of the Spanish working class. He helped to transform Marinaleda from a town blighted by rural poverty. In 1985, Sánchez Gordillo told the newspaper El País:
“We have learned that it is not enough to define Utopia, nor is it enough to fight against the reactionary forces. One must build it here and now, brick by brick, patiently but steadily, until we can make the old dreams a reality: that there will be bread for all, freedom among citizens, and culture; and to be able to read with respect the word ‘peace ‘. We sincerely believe that there is no future that is not built in the present.”
A poll conducted by the center for sociological research in December 2012 found that around 68% of Spaniards said they were unhappy with the way their democracy worked. It’s this disdain for the Spanish state in general, rather than merely the effects of the economic crisis, that brought 8.5 million indignados onto the streets in the spring and summer of 2011, and informed their rallying cry “Democracia Real Ya” (real democracy now).
But in one village in Andalusia’s wild heart, there lies stability and order.
Although random police checks on those entering and leaving the village are not abnormal, there are no police permitted inside Marinaleda; the Ayuntamiento refuses to pay for the police force on ideological grounds. Despite this, the village enjoys comparatively low crime rates. Savings on law enforcement have, in part, helped to fund the enviable local sports and recreational facilities.
Spain experienced a massive housing boom from 1995 – 2009. The price of property per square metre tripled in those 14 years.
For over 32 years, the mayor of Marinaleda has been Sánchez Gordillo of the United Left Party. Sánchez Gordillo has anoint Marinaleda a “utopia for peace”, which has no municipal police. Additionally, political murals and revolutionary slogans adorn the town’s whitewashed walls and streets are named after Latin American leftists. Every few weeks, the town hall declares a Red Sunday over a bullhorn and volunteers clean the streets or do odd jobs.