The Village Against the World Hardcover – 8 Oct 2013
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"Hancox captures the optimism necessary for alternative ways of doing politics, economics and living together. As the borderline between dream and reality shimmers in the heat of Andalucia, we begin to wonder if living as if change were indeed possible is the very key to making actual change happen. Do we really have any other choice?"—Suzanne Moore, The Guardian
"It sounds like science fiction: a small rural town led by a charismatic mayor tries to turn itself into a communist utopia. But it’s fact—it’s happening right now in Andalucia, and colliding with the region’s real-world history of violent rebellion and radicalism. Hancox’s book could not be more timely—with Spain on the brink of social crisis and the shadows of the past emerging."—Paul Mason, author of Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere
"Dan Hancox’s The Village Against the World is, for lack of a better word, awesome. ... Hancox’s book reads like something one might find on the New York Times best-seller list if it weren’t for its subject matter: the anti-authoritarian shenanigans of a Communist village and it’s Robin Hood mayor. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in radical movements like Occupy Wall Street or the Zapatistas."—Critical-theory.com
“full of lively and genuinely inspiring detail”—David Edgar, The Guardian
The land belongs to those who work it- "La tierra es de quien la trabaja."
One hundred kilometers from Seville, there is a small village, Marinaleda, that for the last thirty years has been at the center of a long struggle to create a communist utopia. In a story reminiscent of the Asterix books, Dan Hancox explores the reality behind the community where no one has a mortgage, sport is played in a stadium emblazoned with a huge mural of Che Guevara, and there are monthly "Red Sundays" where everyone works together to clean up the neighbourhood. In particular he tells the story of the village mayor, Sanchez Gordillo, who in 2012 became a household name in Spain after leading raids on local supermarkets to feed the Andalucian unemployed.
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Gordillo ,staged a series of protests that led to them being given their own land to farm. Using that land, the villagers make good use of it and create their own economy, using any profits to build leisure facilities and make other improvements to the village. If you overlook the occasional references to subsidies from the regional government of Andalusia (not always described as such), you could be lulled into thinking that this is an example of a self-sustaining success story. The author wants us to believe that projects of this kind are the way forward.
Despite downplaying the subsidy, this book certainly shows what is possible if people are given the opportunity to do something. Maybe there are lessons that the rest of the world can learn from this, but the cost of giving every community the opportunities that the villagers of Marinaleda have had cannot be ignored.
Whatever your political beliefs, this book should keep you entertained.
One annoying red thread in the book is the discussion about the role of the leader, which seemed very parochial and hardly logical. Why would the author spend most of his time proving the exceptionality of the situation, only to dedicate the rest to defending the situation against the very habitual accusations left wing movements are subject to since the cold war era (i.e. there's no communism without authoritarian forms of leadership)? There was some implicit scheme, probably intrinsic to internal discussions amongst left activists like the author, that the village was being judged against, almost to see if it deserved their endorsement. And this created a slightly awkward background to the story, against which it was nice to perceive that the village couldn't give a damn about what the latest lefty social movement thinks of it. They've been at it for years, and, hopefully, they will be for many to come. One major issue that was understated in the book was land. The author does seem to agree with the younger generations, who see the village economic policy as outdated and in need to embrace the potential of the 'immaterial economy', but in this they are all very wrong.
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Clear and thought provoking of how the small...Read more