The enigmatic Juan Negrín y López. Stalin’s ‘Golden Boy’, visionary, crook, or man of straw?

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Jul 182016
 
ultimo_secreto_Negrin

Juan Negrín y López (1892 – 1956)

At this eightieth anniversary of the Spanish Revolution that thwarted, initially at least, the fascist coup of 18 July 1936, it is worthwhile focusing on the character of one of the key players responsible for the suppression of that revolution and the subsequent defeat of the Republic: Juan Negrín López, the last president of the Second Spanish Republic.

Unfortunately, there is a vindicative trend in mainstream social-democrat historical circles1 to exalt Negrín’s ‘visionary’ right-wing, counter-revolutionary, ‘socialist’ premiership while calumnifying and denigrating the role of the Defence Committee of the CNT-FAI for the Central Region and the Madrid Defence Junta that on March 5 1939 ousted the compromised President Negrín: Eduardo Val Bescós, Manuel Salgado Moreira, and José García Pradas —supported by Cipriano Mera Sanz, commander of the IVth Army Corps, and others — to prevent a Communist Party coup and to try to avoid needless further bloodshed when the Republic was clearly defeated.

Dr Juan Negrín López (1892–1956), a middle-class physician and Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) member from 1929, was appointed finance minister (proposed by Indalecio Prieto without any experience in setting fiscal policy) in the Republican government headed by Francisco Largo Caballero in September 1936. In this role he quickly set about building up the strength of the carabineros (armed, highly mobile customs guards) to around 20,000 men, primarily to retake control of the French border posts from CNT members who had seized them after the defeated military coup of 18 July. The following month, in October 1936, he transferred 510 tonnes of Spain’s gold reserves — 72.7 per cent of the total! — to the Soviet Union in return for Stalin’s promise of arms and other war materials to continue the war against the fascists.

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THE SPANISH LABYRINTH An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Civil War Gerald Brenan eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)

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Jul 012016
 

SpanLabyrinthsmallTHE SPANISH LABYRINTH An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Civil War eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)  Also available from Kobo

Written during the Spanish Civil War, published in 1943, revised in 1950 and republished in paperback in1960, The Spanish Labyrinth assesses the social and political background of the war, not the war itself. Brenan a middle-class, liberal, Anglo-Irish expatriate who lived in Spain from 1919 until 1936, returning in 1953 — wrote comprehensively about the political and religious divisions in Spain from the 16th to the 20th centuries: the church, the tensions with Liberalism, the ‘patria chica’ and the main autonomous regions, Carlism, industrialisation, the agrarian question, communal life, the Republic, the Constituent Cortes, class struggle, etc. — not forgetting the important role of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism in Spanish politics. And although his attitude to the Spanish anarchist–anarcho-syndicalist movement and working class in general is patronising and condescending, it is to an extent understandable given his middle-class upbringing, prejudices and friendship circles.

Brenan swallowed, uncritically, contemporary hysterical, calumnious and propagandistic accounts of ‘irresponsible’, ‘ruthless’ and ‘typical’ acts of mass terrorism allegedly ‘carried out by the Durruti column in Aragón, and by the militia in Madrid on their way to the front’. Describing them as ‘the counterpart of the September Massacres of 1792’, he goes on to compare Durruti to the fanatical ultra-Catholic Carlist general Ramón Cabrera, and refers to the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation) as a ‘secret society’, which it most definitely was not (see my We, the Anarchists. A Study of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927—1937). He also states as fact (and without adducing any evidence) that the advent of the FAI brought with it an increasingly noticeable trend in Spanish anarchism: ‘the inclusion within its ranks of professional criminals — thieves and gunmen who certainly would not have been accepted by any other working class party — together with idealists of the purest and most selfless kind.’

In spite of Brenan’s shortcomings as an historian and his ambivalence toward the Spanish anarchist movement, as a personal insight The Spanish Labyrinth remains a highly readable, comprehensive and valuable account of social and political life in Spain in the years leading up to the Civil War.

REVIEW OF THE SPANISH LABYRINTH BY MARIE LOUISE BERNERI, an editor of War Commentary and 
later Freedom, until her death at the age of 31 in 1949. She was the
 author of Journey Through Utopia (Routledge) and Neither East Nor
 West (Freedom Press). Her article was originally written for Now! in
 1944 as a review of the original edition of Brenan’s book:

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Jun 012016
 

NOW AVAILABLE! FACERÍAS  — Urban Guerrilla Warfare (1939-1957). The Libertarian Movement’s Struggle against Francoism in Spain and in Exile by Antonio Téllez Solà (ISBN 978-1-873976-49-4), 413pp (indexed with 16 pp of photographs) £15.95 (+£3.50 p+p UK) eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)  Also available from Kobo  and Kindle

Anarchist urban guerrilla and member of the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL) since 1936, José Lluis Facerías fought on the Aragón front during the Spanish Civil War, where he was taken prisoner and held until 1945. Following his release he rejoined the clandestine anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the CNT, and dedicated himself to the armed struggle against the Francoist dictatorship. From March 1946 until his death in a police ambush in 1957, Facerias was the driving force behind the anarchist defence groups operating in Barcelona.

BARCELONA, Friday, 30 August 1957, 10:45 am. In the deserted Sant Andreu district of Barcelona, a burst of automatic gunfire crackles and, as if pushed by some mighty hand, a man on the corner of the Paseo Verdún and the Calle del Doctor Pi i Molist slumps against a low wall. A pistol appears in his hand. His eyes scan the tree-lined boulevard leading off to his right towards the Santa Cruz mental clinic, but he sees no sign of life. Suddenly, he realises he has been betrayed. Unseen assailants are shooting at him from windows overlooking the junction of the Paseo Urrutia and Calle del Doctor Pi i Molist. The first burst of gunfire shatters the man’s ankle. Further rifle shots ring out and bullets ricochet around him . . .

Facerías : Urban Guerrilla Warfare (1939-1957); The Libertarian Movement’s Struggle Against Francoism in Spain and in Exile by Antonio Téllez Solà (reviewed in the Kate Sharpley Library Bulletin )

Facerías “was a steadfast champion of an essentially anarchist-inspired labour movement like the CNT of Spain; an organisation that might offer the proletariat guidance rather than content itself with being a tiny minority in opposition to or critical of reformist and authoritarian activity. He wanted an anarchism that might be at once the head and the arm of the proletariat rather than some sort of laboratory for doctrine or the monopoly of philosophers. … As far as he was concerned, moral solidarity, whilst undoubtedly necessary, had to be matched by material action; and if help was not forthcoming through lawful means, they should resort to unlawful means, to expropriation.” (p303, p305).

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THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR — Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship by NOAM CHOMSKY eBook £1.00/€1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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May 212016
 

CharlemagneTHE SPANISH CIVIL WAR — Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship eBook £1.00/€1.50 (see eBookshelf)  Also available from Kobo  and Kindle

Anarchist Noam Chomsky’s 1969 clinical dissection of historian Gabriel Jackson’s The Spanish Republic and the Civil War:1931-1939 (in American Power and the New Mandarins) in which, to quote editor Barry Pateman in his Chomsky on Anarchism, “he links to the liberal ideology prevalent in America in the 1960s, an ideology that reflects ‘an antagonism to mass movements and to social change that escapes the control of privileged elites,’ which in Jackson’s work reveals itself through a regular use of negative language to describe the actions of the anarchists. Chomsky, using a rich array of historical texts, brought his points to a wide audience and influenced a new generation of researchers and militants, inspiring them to probe deeper and further. In his portrayal of Jackson’s work as representing contemporary American liberal thinking on Vietnam, Chomsky impressively linked past and present, making a shrewd and disturbing comment on liberalism in general. In the words of Peter Werbe: ‘As Chomsky amply and admirably demonstrates, when the major issues of an era are settled in blood, liberalism’s pretense to humane ends or means crumbles under the demands of an implacable state.’”

The original essay consists of three parts. Part I, not reproduced here, deals with the Vietnam War and the influence of intellectuals and ‘advisers’ in government and public and foreign policy. The present extract, Part II, focuses on the Spanish Civil War and how the so-called objective ‘conservative, ‘moderate’ and liberal’ intelligentsia use elite ideology and bias to manipulate and mould public opinion. Part III is Chomsky’s summation and conclusion.

REPORTER IN SPAIN by Frank Pitcairn (Claud Cockburn). A Stalinist reporter’s account of the SCW. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)

 Spanish Revolution/Civil War  Comments Off on REPORTER IN SPAIN by Frank Pitcairn (Claud Cockburn). A Stalinist reporter’s account of the SCW. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)
Apr 132016
 

ReporterinSpainsmalleBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf ). Also available from Kindle and Kobo

In 1936, Harry Pollitt, the then General Secretary of the Communist Party, asked CPGB member CLAUD COCKBURN (1904-1981) to cover the Spanish Civil War for the Daily Worker. In Spain, under the assumed name of Frank Pitcairn and endorsed by the CPGB, he joined the Quinto Regimiento/Fifth Regiment (formed by the Communist-led Antifascist Worker and Peasant Militias — Milicias Antifascistas Obreras y Campesinas — commanded by Enrique Castro Delgado) to report on the war as an ordinary soldier. The result, Reporter in Spain, was published in October 1936 by the Communist Party of Great Britain’s then preferred commercial publishing house, Lawrence & Wishart. In Homage to Catalonia (April 1938) George Orwell attacked Cockburn’s Daily Worker reports from Spain, accusing him of serving the ideological and geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union — particularly with regard to his partisan account of the Barcelona May Days of 1937, views that were reflected in his Soviet sponsored newsletter, ‘The Week’ (1933-1941).

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THE SPANISH COCKPIT. An Eye-Witness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War by Franz Borkenau. Foreword by Gerald Brenan. First published 1937. eBook £1.50/€2.00

 Spanish Revolution/Civil War  Comments Off on THE SPANISH COCKPIT. An Eye-Witness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War by Franz Borkenau. Foreword by Gerald Brenan. First published 1937. eBook £1.50/€2.00
Mar 102016
 

BorkenausmallTHE SPANISH COCKPIT. An Eye-Witness Account of the Political and Social Conflicts of the Spanish Civil War by Franz Borkenau. Foreword by Gerald Brenan. First published 1937. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf ). Also available from Kindle and Kobo

Austrian sociologist and disillusioned former Comintern official Franz Borkenau visited Republican Spain between August and September 1936, and again in January-February 1937. The account of his first-hand experiences as an independent socialist observer in revolutionary Spain, ‘The Spanish Cockpit’, was published in the early summer of 1937, when it impressed and influenced the recently-returned POUM miliciano George Orwell who recommended it (in a letter dated 1 August 1937) as ‘an excellent book’ for anyone wishing to understand Spanish affairs.

SPborkenau

Franz Borkenau 1900-1957

“The amount of expropriation in the few days since 19 July is almost incredible. The largest hotels, with one or two exceptions, have all been requisitioned by working class organisations (not burnt, as had been reported in many newspapers). So were most of the larger stores. Many of the banks are closed, the others bear inscriptions declaring them under the control of the Generalitat. Practically all the factory-owners we were told, had either fled or been killed, and their factories taken over by the workers. Everywhere large posters at the front of impressive buildings proclaim the fact of expropriation… All the churches had been burnt.(The Spanish Cockpit, pp 70-71)

“The Spanish revolution and civil war of 1931-39 has produced an oceanic quantity of original source materials, including documentation and memoirs, along with secondary studies, seldom matched in 20th century historiography. It is a paradox of this topic that the ‘history of its history’ has been controversial and remains so, eight decades later.

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Cipriano Mera’s letter to the “comrades from SERE” — Camp Morandon , 15 July, 1939. (Translated by Paul Sharkey)

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Mar 052016
 

The Mera1Servicio de Evacuación de Refugiados Españoles or Servicio de Emigración de los Republicanos Españoles (SERE) (Emigration/evacuation service for Spanish Republican refugees) was, supposedly, a non-sectarian refugee support organisation set up in February 1939 under the aegis of pro-Stalinist prime minister Juan Negrín. Distribution of SERE’s funds — responsibility for which had been arbitratrily arrogated to themselves by Negrín and his Socialist Party (PSOE) cronies — was suspended in July 1939 on the grounds the organisation had ‘run out of money’. In reality, according to many informed observers, including Cipriano Mera and anarchist historian Francisco Olaya Morales, the funds had been misappropriated, administered and distributed without any proper oversight, and benefited, primarily, senior Republicans close to Negrín. Cipriano Mera wrote the following letter to SERE clarifying his role in militarisation, the National Defence Council and in the pre-emptive coup against Negrín — and effectively informing them what they could do with their offer to him of financial support.

“Those like myself who have travelled a piece down life’s highway, a path strewn more with thorns than with flowers; those like myself who are over the hill in life and closer to its setting than its rising; those like myself who have spent twenty years fighting to see to it that the long-suffering worker may live, if not well then at least a touch less badly; those like myself who have been, not onlookers but actors in the drama of war, are entitled, not to force others to follow in our footsteps, but to give us a hearing, since, amid the enormous brutality called war, we have left chunks of our dignity, pained by the impossibility of our acting in accordance with the dictates of our revolutionary consciousness; those like myself whose hearts have been hardened over the course of the struggle by the brutal errors made by an infinite number of individuals – some irresponsible for want of the understanding required to make a clear distinction between good and evil, but others bearing great responsibility because endowed with their vast learning – we, I say again, are within our rights in speaking candidly to any Spaniard who in one way or another, has had a hand in the war waged against international fascism.

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CIPRIANO MERA — GUERRA, EXILIO Y CÁRCEL DE UN ANARCOSINDICALISTA Cipriano Mera, eBook (£1.50)

 Anarchism in Spain, Spanish Revolution/Civil War  Comments Off on CIPRIANO MERA — GUERRA, EXILIO Y CÁRCEL DE UN ANARCOSINDICALISTA Cipriano Mera, eBook (£1.50)
Feb 272016
 

MeraCoversmallCIPRIANO MERA — GUERRA, EXILIO Y CÁRCEL DE UN ANARCOSINDICALISTA (in Spanish) eBook £1.50 available from our eBookshelf (or from Kindle $4.00 and/or Kobo £3.00)

Cipriano Mera Sanz nació en Madrid, el 4 de noviembre de 1897. Su padre, peón de albañil, era también, a ratos perdidos, cazador furtivo. A los once años, en vez de ir a la escuela, tuvo que empezar a ganarse la vida, de modo que, según las estaciones del año, salía de madrugada al campo para coger setas, níspolas, zarzamoras, bellotas o romero —que vendía luego en el barrio— y algunas tardes trabajaba en los tejares. A los dieciséis años entró como pinche en la construcción, y su padre le afilió a la Sociedad de Albañiles «El Trabajo», adherida a la UGT. Llegó a los veinte años sin conocer apenas las primeras letras. Entonces se inscribió en una academia y asistió durante ocho meses a clases nocturnas. Parejamente, empezaron a preocuparle las cuestiones sociales, extrañándose de la pasividad que caracterizaba a la Sociedad de Albañiles, cuya relación con sus afiliados solía limitarse a la de unos recaudadores que visitaban regularmente los domicilios de aquéllos.

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TOMAS ORTS MARTIN (1908 – ??) A profile by Agustín Guillamón (Translated by Paul Sharkey)

 Anarchism in Spain, Spanish Revolution/Civil War  Comments Off on TOMAS ORTS MARTIN (1908 – ??) A profile by Agustín Guillamón (Translated by Paul Sharkey)
Feb 022016
 

tomasortsTomàs Orts Martin was born in Barcelona on 5 December 1908 A Catalan speaker, he worked for two years in Jesús García’s umbrella factory at 7 Calle Villaroel before moving on to Bartolomé Español at 7 Calle Salvador where he joined the CNT union on 1 February 1930, and subsequently held various posts with the Local Federation of Trade Unions.

During the street-fighting of 19-20 July 1936 Tomàs fought on the Paralelo, the University, Atarazanas barracks and elsewhere alongside Manuel Hernández (president of the Timberworkers’ Union), Eugenio Vallejo (the metalworker who spearheaded the conversion of Catalonia’s industry into war industries) and Liberto Minue (brother-in-law to Manuel Escorza, secretary of the CNT-FAI Investigation and Information Service).

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EL ECO DE LOS PASOS. Juan García Oliver. El anarcosindicalismo en la calle, en el Comité de Milicias, en el gobierno, en el exilio.(/strong> eBook, £1.50/€2.00/$2.50

 Spain, Spanish anarchism, Spanish Revolution/Civil War  Comments Off on EL ECO DE LOS PASOS. Juan García Oliver. El anarcosindicalismo en la calle, en el Comité de Milicias, en el gobierno, en el exilio.(/strong> eBook, £1.50/€2.00/$2.50
Jan 282016
 

EcodeLosPasossmallEL ECO DE LOS PASOS. Juan García Oliver. El anarcosindicalismo en la calle, en el Comité de Milicias, en el gobierno, en el exilio. eBook — £1.50/€2.00/$2.50 direct from the CB eBookshelf

KINDLE MARKETSUK : £3.51 ; USA : $5.00 FRANCE : €4.63 ; GERMANY : €4.63 ; SPAIN : €4.63 ; ITALY: €4.63 ; NETHERLANDS : €4.63 ; JAPAN : ¥ 594CANADA : CDN $7.06 ; BRAZIL : R$ 20.47 ; AUSTRALIA : $7.14 ;   INDIA : R338 ; Mexico : $92.21KOBO : EL ECO DE LOS PASOS: EL ANARCOSINDICALISMO En la calle En el Comité de Milicias En el gobierno En el exilio by Juan García Oliver. £10.00

La autobiografía extraordinaria de Juan García Oliver, escrita a sus 71 años desde el exilio en México y publicada originalmente por Ruedo Ibérico. En ella se narran, con prosa ágil y hasta frenética en este extraordinario testimonio, los acontecimientos de su extraordinaria vida, desde sus precoces actividades sindicales, participaciones en huelgas y encarcelaciones, hasta su nombramiento como Ministro de Justicia y su doloroso periplo de exiliado por medio mundo.

Tras muchos años de silencio y de huir de todo tipo de protagonismo histórico, desde su exilio mexicano Juan García Oliver da a la publicidad sus Memorias. Anarcosindicalista de la primera hora, hombre bregado en huelgas y luchas revolucionarias, este antiguo camarero, huésped asiduo de los más duros penales de la dictadura primorriverista, había de convertirse en una de las figuras políticas claves del bando republicano. Su intervención resultó decisiva para la continuidad de la legalidad republiblicana en Catalunya tras la derrota de las fuerzas insurrectas y más tarde, siendo ya ministro de Justicia, había de convertirse en hombre-puente a quien confiar el allanamiento y suavización de los antagonismos que enfrentaban a las fuerzas en el seno de la República.

De sí mismo, Juan García Oliver ha dicho: “Mi muerte será gris y posiblemente llegue con demasiado retraso.” Más de medio siglo de actividad militante hacen imposible una biografía sucinta, a la manera clásica, que mar- que los hitos más importantes de su vida. Lo importante en García Oliver es el hilo conductor, la coherencia íntima de sus actos.

A modo de introducción

Este no será un libro completo. Tampoco será una obra lograda. Sobre la CNT -CNT igual a anarcosindicalismo- se ha escrito bastante. Y se ha escrito por haberse revelado como la única fuerza capaz de hacer frente a los militares españoles sublevados contra el pueblo. Fue la CNT -los anarcosindicalistas- la que impidió, por primera vez en la historia, que un ejército de casta se apoderase de una nación mediante el golpe de Estado militar. Hasta entonces, y aún después, nadie se opuso a los militares cuando en la calle y al frente de sus soldados asestaban a su pueblo un golpe de Estado. La sublevación de julio de 1936 era de carácter fascista y al fascismo europeo, en la calle y frente a frente, ningún partido ni organización había osado enfrentarlo. La CNT -los anarcosindicalistas- no logró hacer escuela en las formaciones proletarias del mundo entero. Otros golpes de Estado han sido realizados después por militares. El de Chile, por ejemplo, frente a casi los mismos componentes que en España -socialistas, comunistas, marxistas-, pero sin anarcosindicalistas, fue para los militares un paseo. Tal como se está explicando lo ocurrido en Chile, la lección para los trabajadores será nula. Porque no fueron los militares quienes mataron a Allende, sino la soledad en que lo dejaron. Algo muy parecido le ocurrió al presidente de la Generalidad de Cataluña, Luis Companys, en el movimiento de octubre de 1934. Entonces, como ahora, predominaba en Europa una manifestación del comunismo, gritón, llorón, dado a difamar a cuantos no se doblegan al peso de sus consignas. Bueno, sí, para organizar desfiles aparatosos en Madrid, en Barcelona, en Santiago, en Berlín. Pero, al trepar al poder Hitler en Alemania, solamente el anarquista individualista holandés Van der Lubbe tuvo el arranque de pegarle fuego al Parlamento, desafiando las iras de quien se creía más poderoso que los dioses. Aquel fuego purificador alumbró la sordidez del mundo comunista, pagado de sus periódicos, de sus desfiles, de sus manifestaciones, pero que, carente de la chispa insurreccional de los anarcos, siempre dejó libre el paso a los enemigos de la libertad. No amando la libertad, no son aptos para defenderla.

La CNT tuvo excelentes luchadores, hombres y mujeres capaces de llenar páginas de Historia. Pero careció de intelectuales capaces de describir y de teorizar nuestras gestas.

Durante años he vivido en la duda de si debía eternizarse nuestras luchas en narraciones veraces. El final de Allende, asesinado por la soledad en que lo dejaron sus partidarios, me ha convencido de que convenía que el mundo obrero conociera lo que éramos colectivamente, y no solamente a través de la imagen de un hombre y de un nombre. La CNT dio vida a muchos héroes. En la medida de lo posible deben irse aportando ya los materiales de la verdadera historia del anarcosindicalismo en su aspecto humano, más importante que las manifestaciones burocráticas, que tanto se han prodigado. Solamente la veracidad puede dar la verdadera dimensión de lo que fuimos.

La verdad, la bella verdad, sólo puede ser apreciada si, junto a ella, como parte de ella misma, está también la fea cara de la verdad. — Juan García Oliver

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