Spanish anarchism and revolutionary action – 1961-1974 by Octavio Alberola and Ariane Gransac with Prologue by Luis Andrés Edo, ChristieBooks (Kindle edition only – for the moment): KINDLE UK, USA, FRANCE, GERMANY, SPAIN, ITALY
This account of the role of anarchist activism in Europe between 1961 and 1974 (by two of the principal protagonists in the events they describe) was first published in Spanish and French in 1975, shortly after the authors’ release from prison following the kidnapping Francoist banker Baltasar Suárez. To this day it remains essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the history and development of the libertarian opposition to the Franco Dictatorship subsequent to the urban and rural guerrilla tactics as practised by Sabaté, Facerías, and Caraquemada, etc. It examines the birth of the clandestine ‘Defensa Interior’ Section of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE – CNT-FAI-FIJL) through to ‘The First of May Group‘ and its influence on — and links with — other European action groups of the later 1960s and early 1970s, groups such as ‘The Angry Brigade‘, the ‘Grupos Autonomos de Combate — GAC‘, 2nd June Group, the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación — ‘MIL‘, Gruppo d’Azione Partigiano – GAP, Grupos de Acción Revolucionaria Internacional — ‘GARI‘, etc.
The story begins in late 1961 with the creation of Sección DEFENSA INTERIOR (DI), the clandestine planning and action organisation set up at the Limoges Congress in France by the Defence Commission of the recently reunited three wings of the exiled Spanish libertarian movement (MLE — Movimiento Libertario Español) — the CNT, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union; the FAI, the Iberian Anarchist Federation, and the FIJL, the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth. One of the DI’s principal objectives was to organise and carry out attempts on the life of General Franco. Its other role was to generate examples of resistance by means of propaganda by deed. The DI’s short-term objectives were: to remind the world, unremittingly, that Franco’s brutal and repressive dictatorship had not only survived WWII but was now flourishing through tourism and US financial and diplomatic support; to provide solidarity for those continuining the struggle within Spain; to polarise public opinion and focus attention on the plight of the steadily increasing number of political prisoners in Franco’s jails; to interrupt the conduct of Francoist commercial and diplomatic life; undermine its financial basis — tourism; to take the struggle against Franco into the international sphere by showing the world that Franco did not enjoy unchallenged power and that there was resistance to the regime within and beyond Spain’s borders.
The longer-term objective, taking into account the specific historical and cultural context of the time — with the recent overthrow of Latin American dictators Fulgencio Batista and Rafael Trujillo and the rising industrial and student militancy within Spain itself, which could have been interpreted as a potentially pre-insurgent mood — was the destabilising and overthrow of the regime. The ultimate aim, however, was to kill Franco — the keystone of the system and the root cause of 28 years of murder, misery and oppression in Spain. Franco had no appointed successor and the right — the Army, Church, the Falange, the Carlists and the Opus Dei were divided. If Franco could be removed, it was hoped new, progressive and democratic forces would be introduced onto the political stage.
However, the contemporaneous French-based DI’s direct action campaign against Francoist targets — actions which were largely symbolic and in which no one was killed or even seriously injured — coupled with the ruthless and indiscriminate terror attacks on French civilians and the attempts on the life of French president General de Gaulle by the Spain-based ultra-right-wing French settler’s Organisation armée secrèt (OAS), exacerbated Franco-Spanish diplomatic tensions and led to an informal, collaborative, quid pro quo between the French and Spanish security services and a major clampdown on the OAS organisation in Spain and on FIJL activists in France. Political and psychological pressure was also brought to bear on the comfortably-placed, highly-compromised and bureaucratic leadership of the exiled MLE committees in France to deny the FIJL organisational support and economic aid. The effective dissociation of the MLE from the activities of the DI signalled that the ‘Toulouse-based official’ movement had finally abandoned its hypocritical façade of support for armed resistance against Franco. So, in early 1963 — faced with open hostility from the FAI and CNT’s official and public representatives in Toulouse (particularly Federica Montseny and Germinal Esgleas) who had done everything in their power to obstruct and subvert the clandestine and — to them — ‘compromising’ activities of the DI — Juan García Oliver decided to return to Mexico where he felt he could be more effective in implementing the DI’s remit and supporting his activist comrades in France. DI operations were now left mainly in the hands of Cipriano Mera, José Pascual Palacios and Octavio Alberola.
The remaining activists launched a fresh anti-tourism campaign early in 1963, ‘Operación Primavera’, specifically targeting European airports and travel offices. But the August 1963 executions of Delgado and Granado (probably betrayed by police informers/infiltrators Guerrero Lucas and Inocencio Martínez), together with the arrest in September of 21 of the leading FIJL activists and the victory of the conservative wing of the CNT and the FAI at the congress in Toulouse that October, finally put paid to the DI as an official offshoot of the MLE. Once again the movement was divided against itself, but even so, the DI remained nominally active up until it was wound up by the ‘parental’ body at the Montpellier Congress of the MLE in 1965.
The activists of the DI weren’t giving up, however, and the following year, 1966, they re-emerged as protagonists of the armed anti-fascist struggle under the aegis of the First of May Group which, like the DI, was coordinated from Paris and Brussels by Octavio Alberola. The First of May Group saw its role no longer simply in terms of leading the anti-fascist resistance to Franco, but as part of the growing worldwide resistance to an aggressive and expansionist US foreign policy. And so, on 1 May 1966, the First of May Group launched itself in spectacular fashion with the kidnapping of Spain’s ecclesiastical attaché to the Vatican, Mgr Marcos Ussia, the aim being to draw attention to the plight of Franco’s political prisoners. This action was followed up in October, in Madrid with the attempted kidnapping of the US Ambassador to Spain, Angler Biddle Duke, and Rear-Admiral Norman G. Gillette, Commander-in-Chief of the US forces in Spain.