An Eixample for all of us

Barcelona is a mere 3 hours' drive from here; long enough to muse on what a socialist utopia might look like. In a sliding doors world, I might have got a glimpse when I arrived there in that alternative universe (in my Gogomobile).

To illustrate, this - courtesy of Frank Camora and Richard Cornish (and The Miegunyah Press) in their 'Movida's Guide to Barcelona' (2011):

"Eixample was to be an example of socialist utopia when it was planned ..., but capitalism got in the way and the result is a huge swathe of a European city that is more tightly planned than Haussman's Paris but as intensively developed as New York - without the skyscrapers.

When Philip V invaded Barcelona in the early 18th century, he constructed the Ciutadella, a giant fort to house the soldiers who would keep the Catalan capital under his rule. When it was pulled down in the mid-19th century, after much social upheaval, citizens took pickaxes to stone, and the great walls that had stymied the city's growth were destroyed. Barcelona expanded for several generations on a plan laid out by a progressive socialist designer called Cerda. Cerda's vision, with its great parks and canals, was never realised beacuse developers took over the grand design. They built out every last square metre and later filled in the courtyards that were to be private parks for every apartment."

Only a few of Cerda's planned public parks - like the Joan Miro Park on Carrer Arago - made it from the blueprint to reality and survive today.

Some challenge me on why I am prepared - and proud - to call myself a socialist (given the horrors of Stalin's Russia and Mao's China, neither of which had anything to do with socialism). My response? Because I cannot imagine subscribing to any other belief system than one that puts public purpose, public utility and sharing first as the principal - but not sole - motivation for creating things and organising things. The evidence I've witnessed in my lifetime tells me that capitalism consumes, abuses and destroys, with only dollar gain for a few as its ethical foundation.

And this leads me to wonder what socialism might look like and how the world might be different if there was a little more socialism in it, or at least some socialist values and motivations at the heart of policies, projects and responses to society's problems. Cerda's vision may have shown us that.

Ildefons Cerda, I'm with you, amigo.