May 212013
 
Costantini2

Flavio Costantini: self portrait. Tempera, 1980

Sad news today: after a month’s deterioration in his health, Flavio Costantini, graphic artist and friend of 40-years, passed away peacefully in a Rapallo hospice on Monday 20 September. His wife, Wanda, and other close family members and friends were at his bedside. Flavio had lung cancer for some time; the seriousness of his condition, however, was known only to himself and Wanda — until near the end, which came sooner than everyone expected. He leaves cheery memories, and the world — artistically at least, with his visually thought-provoking images — a richer place …

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Feb 172013
 

jpg_HomenatgeJoanCatala_baixaQualitatJoan Català Balañà (1913-2012) One of the finest people-smugglers (‘passeurs’) who helped dozens flee the Nazis via Andorra and elsewhere in the Pyrenees during the Second World War. His life story is the stuff of movies. Born on 21 February 1913 in Llavorsí (Lérida province, Catalonia). During the Spanish Civil War he fought with the anarchist Durruti Column (26th Division)  and later, in 1937 operated as a guide and spy in the Alt Urgell area, working for the SIEP (Servicio de Información Especial Periférica/special services unit) with the Aragonese Francisco Ponzán. In March 1939, following the Francoist victory, he crossed into France where he was held in the Le Vernet concentration camp (Ariège department) but soon escaped to Andorra.

JOAN_CATALACatalá worked as a smuggler, but he soon met up again with  Ponzán and began working for the Allied secret services. Captured in Cadiz in 1940 he was jailed in Madrid’s El Cisne prison from which he escaped to Andorra, subsequently embarking on intense activity as a smuggler of foreign refugees, escapers and evaders. A great hill-walker, Catalá’s preference was for courier work. In 1941 he was recaptured in Barcelona’s Estación de Francia escorting two US airmen, but he escaped on his way to trial and returned safely to Andorra. Not that any of this interfered with his regular trips carrying papers and documents for the CNT.

His umpteenth escape came in December 1942 after he was captured while rendezvousing with an unsuspected Francoist informer. He was recaptured a few days later but a clerical error allowed him to slip out of Lerida prison. At the request of the British Consul he returned to smuggling people out of France via the town of Oceja. His preferred stop-over prior to embarking on a crossing of the Sierra del Cadí near Manresa was the  Jaume d’Alp hotel. On other occasions, Catalá crossed the border via the Alt Emporda district.

As WWII drew to an end Catalá still possessed the maverick nature that was so perfectly captured by the title of his autobiography El eterno descontento (Forever Restless). In 1944 he had been arrested in Adrall and sentenced to 12-years prison sentence in 1946 – of which he served less than one, breaking out of Carabanchel prison in March 1947 and escaping to France where he was arrested yet again for having no papers, although he was subsequently released, mainly due to his wartime record.

His irregular circumstances in post-war France meant meant he had a thin time of it. In 1951 he and a number of Spanish anarchist comrades were arrested, accused of involvement in a post office van robbery in Lyon in which a guard was killed. He served 15 years in French prisons after which he settled in Andorra — eventually, in Seu d’Urgell. On 11 April 2010 Joan Catalá Balaña received a warm tribute in recognition of a life-time of libertarian activism. He passed away on 14 October 2012 aged 98.

-       The Colectivo a les trinxeres / cnt (Madrid) No 394, November 2012

Nov 032012
 

Agustín García Calvo (Zamora, Spain, Oct. 15, 1926 — Zamora, Spain, 1 Nov. 2012)

Agustín García Calvo, Paris, Belleville, 2002 (portrait by Ariane Gransac)

Philologist, philosopher, writer, lifelong rebel, revolutionary and comrade, Agustín García Calvo was expelled by the Francoist authorities from his chair of Classical Languages at Madrid University for his support of the nascent student anti-Francoist movement in 1964-1965. In 1967 he was, perhaps, the leading light in the formation of the ‘Acratas’, an important Spanish anarchist student grouping that was part of the Europe-wide radical and revolutionary movement of the time. Nor did Garcia Calvo confine himself to the role of thinker, speaker and writer — he was also an activist prepared to put himself on the line. In the early 1970s he was an important liaison between the ‘Angry Brigade’, the ‘First of May Group’ (Grupo Primero de Mayo) and other European anti-Francoist/anti-capitalist action groups operating at the time and in this role was investigated as a ‘revolutionary facilitator’ by both the Metropolitan Police Special Branch (as it then was) and the French Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST). In 1971 our imprint ‘Simian’ published his reflections and speculations on the nature of the 1960s/’70s’ student revolt under the title ‘On How The Student Movement Is Re-Absorbed’ (original title ‘De los modos de integración del pronunciamento estudantil’).  (A fuller appreciation by Octavio Alberola follows)

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Mar 262012
 

, Glasgow , D

John Brailey, anarcho-syndicalist (1934-2012)

John Brailey, SOGAT rank-and-file militant (with fellow anarchist Albert Meltzer) and anti-war activist, worked for many years as a printer in Fleet Street until the mid-1980s when the newspaper print industry moved to Wapping, after which he became involved in bookselling.

A founder member of the Committee of 100, John was closely associated with the ‘Spies for Peace’ group in 1963 and was one of those who demonstrated against the Greek royal family during their visit to London in the summer of 1963, the first time the Queen of England had been booed on the streets of London. He  also among those who occupied the Greek Embassy in London in April 1967.

My first contact with the Brailey family was when John’s partner, Laura, visited Brian and Margaret Hart at their flat at 57 Ladbroke Road in Notting Hill (where I was living at the time). Brian and Margaret hosted the monthly Notting Hill anarchist meetings (from which sprang, eventually, the Notting Hill Anarchist Group). She’d brought her three children along, and telling me about it later Brian told me the little boy was ralking excitedly about the moon. All the kids were well behaved, but lively and natural. They had all just moved into Peter Lumsden’s large and rambling apartment in Colville Houses further down Notting Hill. Peter, a truly saintly person, was a great admirer of the US Catholic Anarchist movement round Dorothy Day (Catholic Worker Movement), and had visited their centre for ‘down and outs’ (‘the Joe Hill House of Hospitality’) run by Ammon Hennacy, the Irish American Christian anarchist and pacifist in Salt Lake City. Anyway, Peter wanted to run something similar in the UK, but was unable turn anyone away and his place soon filled up with less unfortunate leftists, mostly under forty and unmarried, with housing problems. Many of these were members of — or associated with — the London Committee of 100 (as opposed to the more holier-than-thou Committee of 100 people around Bertrand Russell). These included some of the original ‘Eskimos’ — Terry Chandler and Mike Nolan — who attempted to board the Polaris submarine Patrick Henry on the Clyde from their kayaks in 1961. It was also home to the late Doug Brewood Jr, the only (as far as I know) identified member of the ‘Spies for Peace’ group. In fact Colville Houses was such a hotbed of radical activism that the security service had at least one agent planted there as a tenant. The one I am aware of, a guy called Darren, was exposed when someone asked him for change and, pulling a handful of coins from his pocket, a brass button inscribed ‘RAF Police’ fell to the floor.

I went to Spain soon after and didn’t re-establish contact with John until 4 or 5 years later when I was working closely with Albert Meltzer, who by that time was employed as a copytaker on the Daily Sketch and, later, on the Daily Telegraph, and quite often would run into John in ‘The Albion’ bar, with Albert, after SOGAT meetings, or on demonstrations. In later years, after Wapping, John took up second-hand bookselling, and he would be my first port of call if I was looking for a particular title or the back issue of some magazine or other. He’ll be sadly missed! May the earth lie lightly on you, John.

Stuart Christie

Danger! Official Secret: the Spies for Peace: Discretion and Disclosure in the Committee of 100 by Sam Carroll

Oct 022011
 

See ChristieBooks Films
Octavio Alberola and the late Luis Andrés Edo, two of the principal organisers of ‘Defensa Interior’ (DI), the clandestine action organisation of the Spanish Libertarian Movement in Exile (CNT, FAI and FIJL), discuss the formation, actions and domestic tensions which led to it being disowned and betrayed by the ‘notables’ of the Toulouse-based CNT-FAI leadership. The ‘charla’ (talk) took place in the CNT local in Joaquín Costa, Barcelona, in November 2005

Aug 162011
 

Sara Berenguer Laosa (Barcelona, 1919 – Montady, Francia, 2010), the daughter of an anarchist militant (Francisco Berenguer, her father, was killed on the Aragon front fighting with ‘Los Aguiluchos’) was a leading figure in the Spanish anarchist ‘Free Women’ movement ‘Mujeres Libres’. After the ‘Events of May 1937’, in which she played a part, she was involved in various industrial committees of the CNT and in the Combatant Section of Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA), regularly visiting the front lines. At the end of 1938 she was elected secretary of the regional committee of ‘Mujeres Libres’. After the Francoist victory Sara escaped to France where she was interned for a time by the French. During WWII she and her partner, Jesús Guillén, moved to Bram, near Carcassone, where they were members of the clandestine Resistance groups operating in the ‘Black Mountain’ region. After the Liberation, Sara (who was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur for her role in the Resistance) continued to provide logistical support for the anti-Francoist resistance groups until Franco’s death in 1975, as well as editing ‘Mujeres Libres’. This documentary, by ‘Zer Ikusi A’, made a few months before Sara’s death, includes her last interview, in which she retraces what she considered to be the key events in her life as an anarchist, anti-fascist — and as a ‘free woman’.
Sara Berenguer — Poet

Sara Berenguer — ‘Mujeres Libres. Luchadoras Libertarias

Jul 232011
 

Anarcho-syndicalist and anti-Francoist activist Fernando Carballo Blanco was born in Valladolid (Castille, Spain) on 30 May 1924. His father, Aniceto Carballo, worked at the Northern Railroad Company and, as a member of the (National Confederation of Labour) CNT, was shot by Francoist forces in Valladolid. As a result Fernando’s mother, Concepción Blanco, was driven mad with grief and was committed to Valladolid’s provincial hospital. When the civil war ended, Fernando was jailed for five months for refusing to comply with the wishes of a police inspector and agree that his father had been executed, insisting instead that he had been murdered.

By 1940 Fernando was eking out a living in Valencia, working as a joiner when able to find employment. He served six months in jail for stealing a packet of peanuts, and it was there he first came into contact with CNT militants. In 1942 he was working as a day-labourer in the farms around the towns of Viñaroz, Valencia and Tarragona, planting and harvesting rice. To make ends meet he also bought and sold livestock and other goods on the black market. In 1946 he was arrested in Mora de Ebro for resisting a night watchman who tried to confiscate his black market oil, and as a result he spent 18-months in Tarragona and Reus jails awaiting a trial that never took place. Released in 1947 he was rearrested in April 1948, in Trivissa, and charged with membership of the Socorro Rojo Internacional (International Red Aid/SRI) a charge that was later changed to robbery for which he was sentenced to a 13-year prison term.  By 1949 he was in the notorious prison of the Puerto de Santa Maria where he remained until August 1955 when he was transferred to Ocaña prison.

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May 132011
 

In the early hours of 11 May 2011, 86-year-old Germinal García, a militant of the Juventudes Libertarias (FIJL) and the Paris Local Federation of the CNT in the 1950s and 1960s, passed away (in Paris). At the end of the Spanish Civil War, 13-year old Germinal had been interned in Argeles-sur-Mer concentration camp where an unknown English woman, to whom he was ever grateful, cared for him. Stowing away on a Danish freighter, the Kitty Skov, from the port of Barcelona, he escaped to the United States, where he remained for a time in New York, passing himself off as a French citizen, returning later to France to became active in the anti-Francoist struggle. Shunning the limelight, but always in the background with his strong sense of solidarity, Germinal’s apartment in the Rue Lancry was a safe haven for comrades who had escaped from Franco’s Spain — and for guerrillas such as Quico Sabaté whenever he was in Paris (it was also used by Stuart Christie prior to his trip to Spain in 1964). For that and for his ongoing service to the libertarian movement, Germinal won the respect and friendship of all who knew him. With his passing, we have the satisfying memories and the privilege of having known the friendship of a good comrade. Germinal’s remains were cremated in Paris on 17 May 2011.

Octavio Alberola, May 12, 2011

Note: In 1960, prior to the state visit to France of Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev, President De Gaulle’s security services knocked on his door early one morning and ordered him to pack a bag as he was leaving the country. Escorted to a military airfield on the outskirts of Paris along with other Spanish and French anarchists, they were put on board a French air force plane and flown to Corsica for the duration of Khruschev’s visit where the French government put them up in first class hotels, paid all their expenses and salaries — and apologised to their employers for the inconvenience caused by their temporary deportation  — Stuart Christie, May 12, 2011

Ha fallecido el compañero Germinal García

En París, en la madrugada del día 11 de mayo de 2011 y a la edad de 86 años, ha fallecido el compañero Germinal García, miembro activo de las Juventudes Libertarias y de la Federación Local de la CNT de París en los años sesenta. Al terminar la guerra, Germinal tenía 13 años y tras la Retirada estuvo internado en la ciudad de Argelés (Francia), en donde una mujer, ciudadana inglesa, se ocupaba de asistir a los jóvenes refugiados. Luego se embarcó como polizón en un buque que zarpaba de Francia hacia América. Descubierto, consiguió seguir viaje hacia Nueva York gracias a que, por su dominio de la lengua francesa, pudo hacerse pasar como súbdito francés. Poco después volvió a Francia en donde comenzó a militar en las Juventudes Libertarias de París. Anónimo, pero con una gran vocación por la solidaridad, el domicilio de Germinal estuvo siempre abierto para los compañeros que llegaban huidos de España. En algunas ocasiones, también el Quico Sabater utilizó el piso de la rue Lancry. En 1964, fue Stuart Christie quien pasó algunas noches en ese piso. Por ello y por su permanente disposición a servir al movimiento libertario, Germinal se ganó la simpatía de cuantos lo conocieron, de cuantos lo conocimos. Ahora, tras su desaparición, nos queda la satisfacción de haberle conocido y el recuerdo de un buen compañero.

Octavio Alberola, May 12, 2011