The Spanish anarchist movement began in 1868 and in the decades that followed was associated with strikes, the rise of trade unionism, and resistance to the State—all of which was answered with ruthless oppression. The Spanish Anarchist Collectives you’re thinking of flourished in the 1930s but were destroyed by Franco several years before 1946.
Whether these collectives existed “beyond civilization” or not, they represented an admirable experiment, which can be judged from a passage in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia: “I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites.
Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it.
“There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life—snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.—had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master.”
updated: 09 Feb 2006