In August 1989, José Peirats — anarchist militant, brickmaker, baker, propagandist and chronicler of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT labour unions — ended his intensely lived span of eighty-one years by walking into the sea at Burriana beach. A multitude of deteriorating health issues including Parkinson’s disease meant he could no longer face life— or death — with dignity. As his biographer, Chris Ealham, observes: “As a lifelong activist, existence had little meaning without action — this had been the principle that guided him in his struggle for a better Spain.”
Tomàs 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).
Anarchism in SpainComments Off on MY REVOLUTIONARY LIFE JUAN GARCÍA OLIVER Interviewed by FREDDY GÓMEZ Translated by PAUL SHARKEY. Interview conducted in Paris on 29 June 1977 (eBook £1.00. Print copy also available from Kate Sharpley Library)
Juan García Oliver (1901-1980) was an anarcho-syndicalist CNT militant who played a key role in the Spanish anarchist movement from 1917 through to the end of the Spanish Civil War. When the military moved out of their barracks on 18 July 1936 he, along with Durruti, Ascaso, and other members of the ‘Nosotros’ Group, the core of the Regional CNT Defence Committee of Catalonia (the co-ordinating body of the Catalan workers’ resistance), were prepared and ready for them. From 21 July onward, following the workers’ defeat of the attempted fascist coup d’état, Oliver became a central political figure in subsequent events, first as secretary of the Militias Committee then Minister of Justice in the Madrid government of Largo Caballero. This interview with García Oliver by anarchist historian and journalist Freddy Gómez, made in Paris in June 1977, benefits enormously from Oliver’s hindsight, probably the only one of the ‘official’ CNT-FAI leadership (Federica Montseny, Germinal Esgleas, ‘Marianet’, Horacio Prieto, Diego Abad de Santillan, Fidel Miró, Francisco Isgleas, Serafín Aliaga, none of whom were activists!) with any degree of integrity.
The eBook is available as a Mobi file from the CB eBookshelf at £1.00. An ePub file is also available (email) (Also available from both Kindle and Kobo)
Anarchism in Spain, NewsComments Off on DURRUTI — LETTER FROM PRISON (El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz) 1933 Agustín Guillamón (Translated by Paul Sharkey)
On Sunday 2 April 1933, Durruti, Ascaso and ‘Combina’ were arrested leaving the Andalusian-Extremaduran Regional Congress in Seville charged with promulgating the ‘criminal’ ideas discussed during the closing session.”  This was blatant ‘thought crime’ and flew in face of the Second Republic’s much vaunted right to freedom of expression. On Sunday 9 April, the representative leaders from Estat Catalá and the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) gathered in Barcelona to pay tribute to the fascist Josep Dencás (the Minister of Health at the time); they believed the Seville arrests had decapitated the FAI and that that organisation could now be considered a spent force. Such declarations amounted to wishful thinking, commonplace among those directing the bourgeois machinery of repression when they set out to resolve complicated and deep-seated social issues and concomitant bitter and run-of-the-mill terrorist and public order implications by reducing the issues to a few individual leaders and scapegoats. Josep Dencás was one of the founders, prime movers – along with the Badía brothers – and sponsors of the fascistic, pro-independence escamots of the JEREC (Republican Left Youth-Estat Catalá).
The guerrilla struggle against Francoism arose in the days following the army revolt against the Spanish Republic on 18 July 1936. In areas which fell immediately to the mutinous army the principal leader of which was Lieutenant-General José Sanjurjo y Sacanell (then a refugee in Portugal) with General Emilio Mola Vidal (relieved by the Popular Front government of his post as general-in-chief of the Armed Forces in Morocco and appointed Army Commander in Navarre instead) as its organiser, a bloody repression was promptly set in motion and this obliged many antifascists to take to the hills to save their skins.
This business of fleeing into the hills for survival’s sake was repeated over nearly three years of civil war in the areas conquered one after another, by the Francoist army and it extended to virtually the entirety of the Peninsula after the Republican troops surrendered in the Centre-Levante zone on 31 March 1939.
‘You can die for an idea, but never kill’: Madrid City Council has approved the naming of a street after Melchor RodriguezGarcía (1893, —February 14, 1972) anarchist militant, former bullfighter, Director-General of Prisons in Madrid during the early part of the Spanish Civil War, and the last Republican Mayor of Madrid. Also known as El Ángel Rojo (‘The Red Angel’) he was responsible not only for the prisoners’ security and prevention of escapes, but – more importantly – for preventing their extra-judicial murder by political opponents and vigilante lynch mobs. The most notable of such incidents occurred following an air raid on Alcalá de Henares air base when a group of protesters, some them armed, arrived at the prison, stormed the gates demanding that the cells be opened and the nationalist (fascist) prisoners be handed to the crowd. Melchor Rodríguez rushed from Madrid to the prison and confronted the crowd, ordering them to disperse, telling them he would rather arm the prisoners than hand them over to the mob. Among the saved prisoners were rightist General Valentín Gallarza, notable football player Ricardo Zamora, politician Ramón Serrano Súñer, Rafael Sánchez Mazas and Raimundo Fernández-Cuesta. During his term as DG of Prisons, Melchor Rodríguez García also revealed that José Cazorla Maure, a counsellor of state security of the Council of Defence of Madrid was running a network of private, illegal prisons (chekas) under the control of the Communist Party of Spain. Later in the war he became one of Madrid’s counsellors, on behalf of the Iberian Anarchist Federation. After the fall of Madrid in 1939 it fell to him, as Mayor, to officially pass the city administration over to the Francoist victors.
Anarchism in AsturiasComments Off on Lives well-lived 1: Higinio Carrocera — The Hero of El Mazucu a profile by Fernando Romero (translated by Paul Sharkey)
Higinio Carrocera (1908-1938)
Higinio Carrocera Mortera was born in Barros (Langreo) in January 1908, five years after the launch of the ‘La Justicia’ Workers’ Club, an atheneum organised by the workers of the Duro Felguera engineering company. It was here that Carrocera – as with many other libertarians – learned to read. Gijón and La Felguera were the two strongholds of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT in the predominantly socialist (UGT) Asturias. It was in this anarchist setting that Higinio grew up to become a champion of “The Idea” that Ricardo Mella had spread so successfully while in Asturias.
During the Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1923) the young 15-year-old Carrocera began attending workers’ rallies and became involved in labour disputes. By the end of the dictatorship the name of Higinio Carrocera was well-known at public meetings because of his charisma and his organisational abilities.
This is not yet another book about the Civil War, and its author is not yet another academic jumping on the Spanish band wagon. The book is about what Burnett Bolloten in the opening paragraph of his remarkable book (‘The Spanish Civil War. Revolution and Counterrevolution’) calls “a far reaching social revolution more profound in some respects than the Bolshevik revolution in its early stages”.
This book can only deal with a few of the collectives that were established in Spain during the struggle against Franco, for, as the author points out, there were 400 agricultural collectives in Aragon, 900 in the Levante and 300 in Castile. In addition, the whole of industry in Catalonia, and 70 per cent in the Levante was collectivised.
In a world where relations in industry between management and worker, and in the public services between workers and government, become daily more strained, not simply over money but over the growing demand by more and more workers to be responsible for and in control of the organisation of the work they do, surely the Spanish experiment of 1936 is of more than academic interest. Such experiments are never exactly repeated, not even in a Spain which has been freed from the military dictatorship. They don’t have to be. Their importance for us now is in showing what ordinary people, land- and industrial workers, technicians, and professionals of goodwill, can do when the State machine collapses even for a brief moment and the people are left to their own devices. The result is not chaos but cooperation, the discovery that for most of us life is richer and happier when we practise mutual aid than when we engage in the power and status struggle which invariably leads to permanent bitterness for the many and a doubtful “happiness” for the few.
Anarchism in SpainComments Off on ANTONIO MARTÍN ESCUDERO (1895-1937) “THE DURRUTI OF THE CERDAÑA” by Antonio Gascón and Agustín Guillamón (Translated by Paul Sharkey)
ANTONIO MARTÍN ESCUDERO (1895-1937)
Antonio Martín Escudero, better known by the derogatory nickname “El Cojo de Málaga” (‘The Malaga Gimp’), was born in Belvis de Monroy (Cceres). He was the son of Celestino Martín Muñoz, farmer, and Ascensión Escudero Jara, “her sex being her trade”. Both were 26 years old at the time Antonio was born. The limp from which he suffered was due to a wound sustained during the revolutionary events of Tragic Week in Barcelona (1909). Other sources put the limp down to osteoathritis.
As a smuggler he, along with Cosme Paules, specialised in the smuggling of weapons across the border for the use of action groups. By 1922 he and Paules were regular active collaborators with the Los Solidarios group to which they belonged. Between 1924 and 1934 Antonio was in exile in France. He ran a tiny little shoe repair stand in a yard adjacent to an Auvergne coal-yard on the Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris. In 1927, being resident in Aubervilliers, he had a daughter by the name of Florida Martín Sanmartín (she outlived him after he was killed in 1937): The mother’s name is not known to us. In Aubervilliers he worked, first, in construction and later in a garage.