This article examines the use of forced labour in Republican Spain during the civil war. Although much has recently been written on Francoist camps, very little research has been undertaken on their Republican counterparts. As a consequence the significance of Republican camps has not been recognised. Although some historians argue that the Republicans used forced labour only in a desperate attempt to avoid military defeat, this article demonstrates that labour camps were an integral aspect of Republican ‘popular justice’. Work, it was argued, would redeem ‘fascists’ by allowing them to contribute to the economic reconstruction and transformation of Spain.