Marinaleda, the “Socialist Paradise” of Spain

In the province of Seville is the town of Marinaleda, whose social and economic model is based on a cooperative. How does this little "socialist paradise" work? .

Marinaleda sports hall with Che painted.

Photo: Wikimedia-NACLE2

LatinAmerican Post | Yolanda González Madrid

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Leer en español: Marinaleda, el “paraíso socialista” de España

Just over an hour away from Seville, exactly in the Sierra Sur region, is the town of Marinaleda. With a population of around 2,500 inhabitants, this place has been characterized by using a social and economic model that is presented as an alternative to capitalism, where the community enjoys having homes, and a source of employment. Also, they have barely noticed the crisis. However, not everything is wonderful in this so-called "socialist paradise".

To know part of its history, it is important to mention that after the dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco, which ended in 1975, a transition stage began throughout Spain with the creation of a new constitution and, later, municipal elections for 1979. With the intention of offering winds of change in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, a political party called Collective of Unity of Workers-Bloque Andaluz de Izquierdas arose, whose candidate for mayor of Marinaleda was Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo.

Four Decades in Power

It is hard to believe that a single person has been in charge of a mayor's office for more than four decades, but Sánchez Gordillo has done so, always winning an absolute majority in all elections. This politician is a fervent admirer of Che Guevara and hence his ideals since his social system is based on fairness and equality, something very similar to communism. In fact, among its most popular programs in urban planning, which prevents speculation and allows access to housing from 15 euros per month. Although it sounds promising, it is not at all.

The mechanism to obtain a house has several filters and some "small print". While the Junta de Andalucía is in charge of providing the materials; the municipality of Marinaleda grants the land, the architect, and the masons. Now, the future tenants are the ones who take care of the labor, and although it is only 15 euros per month, it is actually a kind of rent since nobody manages to pay the full price nor do they keep the deeds. of the house.

On the other hand, beyond the small businesses that exist in the town, the main source of income is due to agriculture and is represented in a cooperative: Cooperativa Humar – Marinaleda SCA In other words, this is the core of the engine of Marinaleda with an agricultural land of 1,200 hectares, which generates more than 400 jobs and whose working days of 35 hours per week are divided into shifts. In addition, it should be noted that everyone in the town, from the mayor to the farmer, earns the same, approximately 1,200 euros per month.

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However, behind this labor system, some loopholes can be found. According to a report from the Magazine Digital portal, where they explore in more detail the lifestyle in Marinaleda, it is possible to go through seasons where there is no work in the cooperative, which means not generating money and living only from subsidies. And it is not easy to depend on a single source of income when, in addition, private companies are prohibited from entering the town.

More Shadows than Lights?

In a country like Spain which has exorbitant housing prices, the model used by Marinaleda is worthy of praise. But beyond that, added to the fact that there are no police or fines in the town, or that all decisions are made in open assemblies with the inhabitants, they mean that all those lights are overshadowed by the consequences of a government system that tries to be an alternative to capitalism.

To the aforementioned prohibition of large companies, Sánchez Gordillo assured Digital Magazine that they are not welcome because of "the low wages they pay and their culture of speculation." In 2017, he even started a war with the only private company in Marinaleda, which he denounced because, supposedly, its tenants did not pay the 56 euros per month of rent. This was Agroalimentaria Los Lugares SL, direct competition from the town's cooperative.

Likewise, these types of measures have caused Marinaleda to begin to stagnate in the agricultural sector, generating multiple criticisms because it depends too much on state and regional subsidies. Therefore, it has not been surprising that in recent years many inhabitants have begun to show their discontent with Sánchez Gordillo, suffering consequences such as stigmatization in the town or the punishment of not allowing them to work in the cooperative. Here, silence is a form of payment.

Your Connection with Venezuela

"If Hugo Chávez were alive, he would be here, in Marinaleda," commented the former Venezuelan ambassador to Spain, Mario Isea, during a visit to the town in 2015. Precisely, at that time they inaugurated a neighborhood with the name of the late president, which consisted of the urbanization of 26 duplexes of 90 meters built on two floors with another 100 meters of the yard. And it is that the leftist profile of Sánchez Gordillo knew how to fit in with the interests of the government of Nicolás Maduro, as expected.

But the relationship between Sánchez Gordillo and Venezuela dates back further. Months after giving talks in Caracas about his anti-capitalist system, the mayor closed an agreement in 2013 for 81 million euros for the sale of 12,000 tons of olive oil. The detail of this negotiation was due to the fact that the Venezuelan government acquired a ton at a rate of 6,500 euros, when the average price did not reach 3,000 euros, according to what Interviú magazine revealed in an investigation.

A short time later, the ABC newspaper revealed that at that time the Marinaleda cooperative was experiencing difficulties in terms of non-payments, that agreement with the Maduro government was a relief. However, unable to meet the agreed production, only 6.7 million euros entered. This is how business is conducted in the "socialist paradise" of Spain.

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