JR'S Free Thought Pages
Durruti in the Spanish Revolution by Abel Paz
A book recommendation on the famous Spanish anarchist and working class hero.
“The Only Church That Illuminates Is A Burning Church." - Buenaventura Durruti
“No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.” - Buenaventura Durruti
Note: Durruti was certainly not a Marxist although he invokes the expression “bourgeoisie” to refer to the wealthy business classes.
Note: I have used the symbol * to denote footnotes which will follow the paragraph(s) in which they are located.
Over the years I’ve read hundreds of books on the subjects of my intellectual obsessions*, that include Philosophy, Critical Thinking, Anarchism, Skepticism (Academic Bullshit Detection) and The Spanish Civil War. I’m now living a life of quiet desperation during retirement trying to get through all the books that I didn’t have time for during my working years as a wage slave - too many books, not enough time.
* I’ve more or less banished Mathematics from my list of passions since retirement. In my view, thirty years of anything - or any activity that has become a “job” or demands more than about ten hours a week - predictably would, I expect, induce most people to lose enthusiasm and interest. Any endeavor, intellectual or otherwise, that’s worth doing for its intrinsic value alone, surely demands no pay, compensation or reward for someone to engage in it.
I’ve just finished reading a fascinating recently published 800 page painstakingly researched and revised biography by Abel Paz (translated from the Spanish) of Buenaventura Durruti, famous Spanish revolutionary anarchist, consummate working class hero and renown leader of one of the CNT-FAI* militia groups during the early stages of the Spanish Civil War. Abel Paz, who was only 15 years old at the time, yet fought alongside Durruti in the Spanish conflict and thereafter as a republican revolutionary even after Franco took over, has given us much more than an account of a single man's life.
* CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) is an insurgent anarcho-syndicalist labor union in Spain founded in 1911. The National Confederation of Labor (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo or CNT) had 1.6 million members in early 1936 (according to government statistics). The CNT was the result of nearly seven decades of anarchist labor organizing in Spain. Since 1919 the CNT had been based on the sindicato unico ("single union") - autonomous local industrial unions. In Barcelona alone in 1936 the CNT construction and metallurgical sindicatos unicos each had more than 30,000 members.
* FAI (Federacion Anarquista Iberica) – or Iberian Anarchist Federation was a loose federation of anarchist groups in Spain and Portugal, formed in 1927. Its primary purpose was to combat reformist tendencies in the CNT and maintain its anarchist profile. It also acted as the 'armed wing' of the CNT at the time employers were hiring pistoleros (company thugs) to murder leading CNT members. In so far as the FAI had a theory about the role of a revolutionary organization it was a belief that a minority could, by insurrection, light a spark that would inflame the masses for revolution.
Durruti in the Spanish Revolution is as much the chronicle of an entire nation and of a tumultuous and important historical period. Paz seamlessly weaves intimate biographical details of Durruti's life—his progression from factory worker and father to financing his anarchist organization by robbing banks to continual periods of unjust incarceration and political exile (several charges were termed “insults to authority”, often the result of one of the many speeches he delivered to oppressed workers, unions and fellow anarchists) by the complicit conservative oligarchy of Catholic Church and wealthy landowning elites. Paz provides insightful and chilling details of Durruti’s clandestine life as a revolutionary leader - with extensive historical background, behind-the-scenes governmental intrigue, and blow-by-blow accounts of major battles and urban guerrilla warfare. Durruti did not take any sort of violence or force lightly. Moreover, as George Woodcock has observed, the basic doctrines of anarchism deny retribution and punishment; they are anathema to anarchist principles. But, he says, they were typical of Spain at the time. No anarchist favors violence for violence's sake; but anarchists such as his long time friend and fellow anarchist Francisco Ascaso and Durruti could see no alternative at that time - except passive acceptance of abject poverty, illiteracy, indoctrination, oppression, violence and total control of the lives of the peasants and working classes by both Catholic Church, monarchy and the State. Spain even in the early part of the 20th Century was essentially an anachronism from the Dark Ages where the vast majority lived in ignorance, superstition and poverty under a brutal monarchical theocratic system that could be at best described as feudalism.
The book is an amazing and exhaustive scholarly study (including extensive footnotes) of an incredible man and his life-long fight against totalitarianism in both its capitalist and Stalinist forms. Paz frequently digresses from Durruti's life story with protracted forays into the politics and history of Spain and Europe during this period, (1880-1938), and which some might find tedious or overly detailed, especially if they already are familiar with them. However, the neophyte reader of Spanish History and the Civil War will find these facts and insights invaluable for understanding the context of Durruti's life, actions, and politics.
Some passages from the book:
Below is a letter Durruti wrote from one of his many incarcerations in prison to his family in Leon:
“Perico* tells me to give up the life that I'm living and return to Leon, to work in the Machinery Warehouse. One of his reasons is the severity of the approaching economic crisis, whose consequences I'll be the first to suffer. Likewise, I should abandon the life of the fighter because everyone, he says, should "get themselves out of trouble."
I don't take your suggestions in a bad way, because I know they reflect your concern for me and your desire to have me at your side. But you'll never understand what makes me different from the other brothers. When I lived at home, I don't think it would have taken you much to see that there's an enormous distance between us in our ways of thinking and acting.
From my earliest years, the first thing that I saw was suffering. And if I couldn't rebel when I was a child, it was only because I was an unaware being then. But the sorrows of my grandparents and parents were recorded in my memory during those years of unawareness. How many times did I see our mother cry because she couldn't give us the bread that we asked for! And yet our father worked without resting for a minute. Why couldn't we eat the bread that we needed if our father worked so hard? That was the first question whose answer I found in social injustice. And, since that same injustice exists today, thirty years later, I don't see why, now that I'm conscious of this, that I should stop fighting to abolish it.
I don't want to remind you of the hardships suffered by our parents until we got older and could help out the family. But then we had to serve the so-called fatherland. The first was Santiago. I still remember mother weeping. But even more strongly etched in my memory are the words of our sick grandfather, who sat there, disabled and next to the heater, punching his legs in anger as he watched his grandson go off to Morocco, while the rich bought workers' sons to take their children's place. . .
Don't you see why I'll continue fighting as long as these social injustices exist.” (Durruti letter to his family from Letter from October 31, 1931)
*Perico was a nickname for his brother Pedro.
Durruti was an anarchist from the moment he was able to think for himself and was in and out of prisons for much of that time, for the most part on trumped up charges or without charges at all. One day during the defense of Barcelona in July of 1936, Perez Farras criticized Durruti’s anarchist approach to handling his militiamen, declaring to him directly, "You can’t fight like that." In reply, Durruti replied in a communiqué:
“I've said it once and I'll say it again: I've been an anarchist my entire life and the fact that I'm responsible for this human collectivity won't change my convictions. It was as an anarchist that I agreed to carry out the task that the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias entrusted to me.
I don't believe—and everything happening around us confirms this— that you can run a workers' militia according to classical military rules. I believe that discipline, coordination, and planning are indispensable, but we shouldn't define them in terms taken from the world that we're destroying. We have to build on new foundations. My comrades and I are convinced that solidarity is the best incentive for arousing an individual's sense of responsibility and a willingness to accept discipline as an act of self-discipline.
War has been imposed upon us and this battle will be different than those we've fought in Barcelona, but our goal is revolutionary victory. This means defeating the enemy, but also a radical change in men. For that change to occur, man must learn to live and conduct himself as a free man, an apprenticeship that develops his personality and sense of responsibility, his capacity to be master of his own acts. The worker on the job not only transforms the material on which he works, but also transforms himself through that work The combatant is nothing more than a worker whose tool is a rifle -and he should strive toward the same objective as the worker. One can't behave like an obedient soldier, but rather as a conscious man who understands the importance of what he's doing. I know that it's not easy to achieve this, but I also know that what can't be accomplished with reason will not be obtained by force. If we have to sustain our military apparatus with fear, then we won': have changed anything except the color of the fear. It's only by freeing itself from fear that society can build itself in freedom.”
In Catalonia, Aragon and especially in the city of Barcelona anarchism was a prominent presence and influence within the community, with a CNT membership of over 1.2 million members in the early 1930s. The CNT and other anarchist groups and their poorly armed workers militias were instrumental in driving out the Franco fascist forces when the civil war started in July 1936. Barcelona was the last city to fall to Franco in 1939.
The highly intelligent and primarily self-educated (the best kind of education) Durruti courageously fought on the Aragon front early in the conflict in 1936, leading his ragtag anarchist army against the Franco fascists, well-financed and well-armed by Hitler and Mussolini. Their objective was to retake Zaragoza from the fascists. In the early stages of the conflict, the anarchist militias were instrumental in holding off Franco’s forces from entirely taking over Catalonia during those early stages and permitted the Republic precious time to organize a unified defense.
During the month of July 1936 Durruti met with a journalist from the Toronto Star shortly before the Column left Barcelona for the Aragon Front. The reporter, Van Paassen, wrote a feature article tided "Two million anarchists fight for the revolution." It begins by describing Durruti:
He is a tall, swarthy fellow, with a clean shaven face, Moorish features, the son of poor peasants, which is notable by his crackling, almost guttural dialect. . . .
"No, we have not got them on the run yet," he said frankly at once, when I asked him how the chance stood for victory over the rebels. "They have Zaragoza and Pamplona. That is where the arsenals are and the munitions factories. We must take Zaragoza, and after that we must turn south to face Franco, who will be coming up from Sevilla with his Foreign Legionnaires and Moroccans. In two, three weeks time we will probably be fighting the decisive battles.
"Two, three weeks?," I asked crestfallen.
"Yes, a month perhaps, this civil war will last at least all through the month of August. The masses are in arms. The army does not count any longer. There are two camps: civilians who fight for freedom and civilians who are rebels and fascists. All the workers in Spain know that if fascism triumphs, it will be famine and slavery. But the Fascists also know what is in store for them when they are beaten. That is why the struggle is implacable and relentless. For us it is a question of crushing fascism, wiping it out and sweeping it away so that it can never rear its head again in Spain. We are determined to finish with fascism once and for all. Yes, and in spite of the government," he added grimly.
"Why do you say in spite of the government? Is not this government fighting the fascist rebellion?" I asked with some amazement.
"No government in the world fights fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to fascism to maintain itself. The liberal government of Spain could have rendered the Fascist elements powerless long ago," went on Durruti. "Instead, it temporized and compromised and dallied. Even now, at this moment, there are men in this government who want to go easy with the rebels. You never can tell you know," he laughed, "the present government might yet need these rebellious forces to crush the workers' movement."
"So you are looking for difficulties even after the present rebellion should be conquered?" I asked.
"A little resistance, yes," assented Durruti.
"On whose part?"
"The bourgeoisie, of course. The bourgeois class will not like it when we install the revolution," said Durruti.
"So you are going ahead with the revolution? Largo Caballero and Indalecio Prieto (two Socialist leaders) say the Popular Front is only out to save the Republic and restore republican order."
"That may be the view of those senores. We syndicalists, we are fighting for the revolution. We know what we want. To us it means nothing that there is a Soviet Union somewhere in this world, for the sake of whose peace and tranquility the workers of Germany and China were sacrificed to fascist barbarism by Stalin. We want the revolution here in Spain, right now, not maybe after the next European war. We are giving Hitler and Mussolini far more worry today with our revolution than the whole Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and Italian working class how to deal with fascism."
That was the man speaking, who represents a syndicalist organization of nearly two million members, without whose co-operation nothing can be done by the Republic even if it is victorious over the present military-fascist revolt. I had sought to learn his views, because it is essential to know what is going on in the minds of the Spanish workers, who are doing the fighting. Durruti showed that the situation might take a direction for which few are prepared. That Moscow has no influence to speak of on the Spanish proletariat is a well-known fact. The most respectably conservative state in Europe is not likely to appeal much to the libertarian sentiment in Spain.
"Do you expect any help from France or England now that Hitler and Mussolini have begun to assist the rebels?" I asked.
"I do not expect any help for a libertarian revolution from any government in the world," he said grimly. "Maybe the conflicting interests of the different imperialisms might have some influence on our struggle. That’s quite well possible. Franco is doing his best to drag Europe into the quarrel. He will not hesitate to pitch Germany against us. But we expect no help, no-even from our own government in the final analysis," he said.
"Can you win alone?" I asked the burning question point-blank.
Durruti did not answer. He stroked his chin. He eyes glowed.
"You will be sitting on top of a pile of ruins even if you are victorious." I ventured to break his reverie.
"We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall," he said quietly. "We will have to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere - we the workers. We can build other* to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins-We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts," he said in a hoarse whisper. And he added: "That world is growing in this minute." (Toronto Star article by Van Paassen, titled “2,000,000 anarchists fight for the Revolution”, published August 18, 1936 from an interview on July 24th in the CNT Metalworker’s Union offices.)
The Spanish revolution was unique, as Van Paassen noted, because of the anarchists' central role in the conflict. Most of the journalists who came to Spain were influenced by what Noam Chomsky calls "liberal culture" or were Stalinists or "fellow travelers." One could not expect such writers to examine Spanish reality without those tinted lenses, if only because they had to please the patrons who paid for their work. We would also add that the journalists' ideological predispositions and inbred biases prompted them to see anarchism as a mortal enemy. These writers and intellectuals influenced the mass media, mystified events, and delivered doctored pieces to posterity that still cause researchers to draw false conclusions about what transpired in Spain between July 1936 and April 1, 1939.
In November, 1936, convinced by García Oliver and Federica Montseny*, he arrives to Madrid to defend it against the Franco forces, followed by his column, composed by about 3,000 men. At the time a fierce protracted building-to-building battle for control of the city was taking place between Republican and Franco troops. He was assigned the task of defending a sector of the University City, though he was unable to avoid the occupation of the Clinic Hospital by the fascists. The fascists were still in the hospital on November 19th. At least according to his anarchist comrades, he was killed by a Moorish sniper as he stepped outside his car that same day and died on the morning of November 20th. Durrui was 40 years old. There are multiple versions of what actually killed Durruti. According to historian Antony Beevor (The Battle for Spain, 2006), he was killed when a companion's machine pistol went off by mistake. Beevor’s account, although plausible, is not likely what occurred. But there are various accounts and theories in Paz’s book including a contention by some anarchists that he may have been assassinated by Stalinists with whom the CNT had a running dispute over ideological issues and how the war against fascism ought to be conducted. Several books have been written about the revolution within a revolution that came to a climax in Barcelona in 1937 when Stalinist purges were launched the against the CNT-FAI and dissenting Marxist factions such as the POUM**. His body was transported Barcelona, where he was buried in a ceremony where more than 500,000 people attended. When he died, his personal belongings were only a few items of clothing, two pistols, a pair of sunglasses and a pair of binoculars. He left behind his wife and small child.
*Frederica Montseny said that Durruti was a kind man, with a "Herculean body, the eyes of a child in a half-savage face". He was a man of the people who did not impose himself on others. Liberto Callejas has spoken of his idealism, of his perseverance and his firmness. "Above all, Durruti was a proletarian anarchist", who molded himself on the teachings of the anarchist Anselmo Lorenzo. Durruti, he said, was a propagandist who preferred simple words. He insisted on clearness. When he spoke on a platform, his audience well understood what he said. And like Makhno, Durruti was often jjovial. Emma Goldman, when she met him during the fighting, said that she found him "a veritable beehive of activity". Of himself, Durruti said to Emma Goldman: "I have been an anarchist all my life. I hope I have remained one. I should consider it very sad indeed had I to turn to a General and rule men with a military rod.... I believe, as I always have, in freedom; the freedom which rests on a sense of responsibility. I consider discipline indispensable, but it must be inner discipline, motivated by a common purpose and a strong feeling of comradeship.”
** POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) or The Workers Party of Marxist Unification was formed by Andres Nin and Joaquin Maurin in 1935. The revolutionary anti-Stalinist Communist Party was strongly influenced by the political ideas of Leon Trotsky. The group supported the collectivization of the means of production and agreed with Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution. George Orwell, a lifelong socialist and closet anarchist, fought with the POUM militias until he amazingly survived a fascist bullet through the throat. Orwell’s Spanish Civil War experiences, as well as the subsequent pogroms of the CNT-FAI as well as communist dissenters of Stalinism in Barcelona from which he narrowly escaped imprisonment by the Stalinist pogroms against the POUM, are chronicled in his Homage to Catalonia - a fascinating read, as are all of Orwell’s works! Both the POUM and Anarchist militias of the CNT were subjected to ridicule of their military strategies and discipline of their ranks and denied proper weapons by both the Republican government, many journalists and by the Soviets who were the primary suppliers by the autumn of 1936. Orwell explains:
“The journalists who sneered at the militia system scarcely remember that the militias had to hold the line while the Popular Army was trained in the rear. And it is a tribute to the strength of the revolutionary discipline that the militias stayed in the field at all. For until about June 1937 there was nothing to keep them, except class loyalty.”
“Later it became fashionable to decry the militias, and therefore to pretend that the faults which were due to lack of training and weapons, were the result of the egalitarian system…In practice the democratic revolutionary type of discipline is more reliable than might be expected. In a workers army, discipline is theoretically voluntary. ... In the militias, the bullying and abuses that go on in an ordinary army would never have been tolerated for a moment. . . . The normal military punishments existed, but the were only invoked for very serious offenses. . . . 'Revolutionary' discipline depends on political consciousness—on an understanding of why orders must be obeyed; it takes time to diffuse this, but it also takes time to drill a mm into an automaton on the barrack-square. . . . They had attempted to produce within the militias a sort of temporary working model of the classier-society.” (from “Homage to Catalonia”)
It’s evident throughout the book that Paz deeply admires Durruti and
consequently exerts much effort in mitigating Durruti’s indiscretions and
personality flaws (we all have them). However, there were very few truly
intentional immoral acts that Durruti committed. And even when Durruti committed
errors of judgment or mistakes, unlike many of his contemporaries in the
anti-Fascist movement, that's all they amounted to; errors and mistakes. Durruti
never initiated purges, massacres, torture, or resorted to terrorism, as some
others on the Republican side did. His motives were forever honorable – to
release his people from the acute poverty and oppression of a feudal system of
oppression and persecution perpetrated by both the Catholic hierarchy and
landowning aristocracy that held 99% of his countrymen in chains for centuries.
Durruti was a true hard-core militant however, who committed Robin Hood style
robberies from the oligarchy to obtain funds, attempted to assassinate the
Spanish monarch Alphonso XIII, and was arrested and imprisoned both in Spain and
France for possession of arms and explosives. But Durruti's numerous prison
terms never broke him, no matter how harsh and brutal the conditions of
confinement were. And he went on several hunger strikes during his
incarceration. The details Paz gives of Durruti's frequent incarcerations reveal
an incredible strength of character and commitment to the anarchist cause of
release from power, oppression and coercion and to genuine democracy and
Book Review of “Durruti in the Spanish Revolution” by Richard Alexander from Black Flag, the prominent anarchist magazine in the UK.
First up, this is one big book, albeit slightly misleading in its title, as the section detailing Durruti’s involvement in the Revolution proper (from July 1936) takes up less than half the book—although one could equally argue that he spent his entire adult life fighting for the revolution in Spain (and elsewhere.)
The story of the various editions of this book is covered in detail in the book, but in summary it is based on the second Spanish edition of 1996. In it Paz, not an academic but both a self-taught historian and participant in some of the struggles described in the book, takes a straightforward chronological approach to Durruti’s life, assembling, as he goes, all the available relevant documentation and personal testimonies, into a single coherent narrative. As Molina’ s afterword explains, the book is not a work of hagiography, the desire is not to make Durruti into a superman or saint, rather his life is taken as exemplary of a whole generation (or two) of Spanish anarchists who lived their lives in the service of an ideal they felt was both realizable and realistic, and one which they were determined to make happen if the opportunity arose.
The first section of the book details Durruti’s early life, the first 35 years or so, starting with his family background in Leon, his involvement in the industrial struggles during the First World War which led to his first period of exile in France and his conscious adoption of anarchism. The period after the war saw Durruti in the thick of the struggle of the Spanish working class and in particular the CNT, fighting both intransigent employers and a succession of repressive governments as the struggle to deal with the chronic problems caused by recession, structural inadequacy, inequitable land-ownership, together with the struggles between the various political cliques, the monarchy, the military and the Catholic church, meant the class struggle was carried on at an intensity much greater than most of Europe. And equally the class struggle had to be equally intense to stop the working class being made the victims of economic mismanagement, political infighting, colonialist and economic deprivation, and social misery.
On the streets, this struggle took many forms besides the usual strikes and lock-outs, demonstrations, and so forth. In particular, the employers (aided and abetted by the police and the Church) used gangs of gunmen to shoot down union militants. In return, the CNT organized defense squads. And the right planned its seizure of power which saw Primo de Riviera impose his dictatorship in 1923. The socialists and their union, the UGT, decided to sit this one out. The CNT would not have the luxury and Durruti quickly made his way to France (again) where he was involved in more revolutionary activity. November 1924 saw an unsuccessful uprising against the dictatorship in Spain and the following month Durruti and Francisco Ascaso were on the move again, this time to Latin America, via New York and Cuba.
In Cuba they contacted local anarchists, became port workers, and were soon in
the thick of things again. A move to the interior saw them working as
cane-cutters, and again they were active organizing workers and causing trouble.
Rather too much trouble as they were wanted for the murder of their sadistic
employer and had to to make their excuses and hopped on a boat to Mexico (not
that it was originally intending to go to Mexico, but Durruti could be very
persuasive when necessary). In spring 1925, they were being as enterprising as
ever, obtaining much needed financing for various local anarchist projects,
including a Rationalist School. However, due to the unconventional methods used
to obtain the cash, the pair were soon on the move again, together with Gregorio
Jover and Alejandro Ascaso, arriving in Chile in June 1925. One bank robbery
later and the group were off to Buenos Aires and later in the year Durruti had
secured work as a port worker and was in touch with the local Argentinean
But the authorities were soon on the tail again, this time imprisoning Durruti and Ascaso in Lyon for having false papers. This time they weren’t released until October 1928, without papers and with nowhere to go. Using their contacts, they made their way to Berlin and thence to Belgium where they stayed for while, as always at the center of intrigue and rebellion, working with Catalanist subversives in their failed January 1929 plot against Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship. However, within a year de Rivera had outstayed his welcome even amongst the ruling class in Spain and he fled into exile in France. The new government, still a dictatorship, but under General Berenguer instead, attempted a liberalization of the law, which soon had unintended consequences.
The CNT took the opportunity to re-emerge from underground, where the repression of the previous incumbent had driven them, and launched a weekly newspaper and held a national meeting with the sole aim of reorganizing the union, which proved to be a success. Indeed so much so that it re-awakened the dread of the ruling class for a resurgent proletariat, and before 1930 was out the government had instituted a crack-down on the CNT and FAI. This did nothing to calm matters as a strike in Madrid saw Barcelona come in out in solidarity in November 1930, which resulted in further repression, but it also saw the CNT contacted by Republican “revolutionaries” to see whether they would support the overthrow of the dictatorship. The political and military revolt failed and the CNT was forced underground again. Yet by April 1931 Spain had become a Republic and the door was open to Durruti and the other exiles to resume their activities in Spain.
And one of the first things that Durruti noticed was that all the conspiring with Republicans had compromised the anarchists’ traditional opposition to all forms of party politics. He was not impressed, and neither were many members of the FAI. There was a general recognition that a successful social democracy would sap the revolutionary potential of the current crisis, itself the product of the intrinsic socio-economic contradictions of Spain, exacerbated by the reactionary policies of the Catholic church. Playing political games in Madrid would do nothing to solve the problems caused by the monopolistic control of the land in large areas of the country by a few, often absent landowners, who saw little need to modernize agricultural production and were certainly not interested in any redistribution of the land or popular control of it. The Republican take-over had had some benefits though, with some prisoners being released, but many CNT and FAI militants were still behind bars. It has also allowed the formation of a Catalan regional government but that threatened to divide the CNT. That the new governments were no friends to the CNT was soon seen in attacks on the May 1st rally in Barcelona, but that didn’t stop some CNT people wanting to do deals with the Catalan government. Indeed, certain elements in the CNT were pushing for some form of accommodation with the new regimes to allow the union to operate legally and without hindrance—oblivious to the fact that such a policy would break down as soon as the CNT proved itself capable of organizing sustained resistance to any government—or if it kept its activities purely legal, then the anarcho-syndicalism at the heart of the union would be destroyed by compromise and co-option. Durruti and other FAIstas clearly saw this danger and organized within the CNT to oppose the reformists.
The class struggle continued anyway, and early 1932 saw an attempt to institute libertarian communism by the workers in Alto Llobregat coal fields and surrounding villages. Which was promptly put down by the authorities, and leading FAI militants, including Durruti were promptly rounded up and deported with many ending up in Spanish Guinea (in Equatorial Africa) or, in Durruti’s case to the Canaries, but this did nothing to quell social and economic unrest or the splits in the CNT which led to the formation of a few small syndicalist unions which declared themselves free of the “tyranny of the FAI” !
On release Durruti and other FAIstas were soon deep in conspiracy mode, planning insurrection, for January 1933, with Barcelona the designated epicenter, with significant uprisings in Levante and Andalusia. However, it failed to catch alight and was soon put down, with great brutality in places such as Casas Viejas. The failure of the uprising not only brought down repression on the participants, it deepened the splits in the CNT between the revolutionaries and the reformists, with Durruti eventually being arrested in Sevilla in April 1933, staying incarcerated until October that year. Meanwhile the Spanish government was itself in a continual state of crisis and fell at the same time.
The ensuing elections proved a disaster for the left (although in view of their actions the CNT and FAI had little sympathy for them) whilst the CNT advocated social revolution as being the only valid response to the threat of fascism, and the resulting abstentionsim can be clearly seen in the rated for non-voting in places where the CNT was strong. With the election of a right-wing government, the only logical response was to organize a general strike and revolutionary uprising against the new government, with Durruti playing a prominent part in the new Revolutionary Committee based in Zaragoza. Early December saw the plans put into action, with early successes in places such as Aragon, Valencia, and Leon. But it failed to become generalized and the government forces were able to break the strike and cracked down heavily on the CNT and the FAI, with the CNT being outlawed, union halls closed, and papers banned. Durruti, like many prominent participants was jailed, and transferred to Burgos to reduce the likelihood of local revolutionaries freeing him. Meanwhile, events had pushed the UGT and the Socialist party further to the left and there was talk of a workers alliance, which was viewed favorably by CNT activists in areas where they were weaker than the UGT (Madrid and Asturias) but less favorably where the CNT was much stronger. Another change in the make-up of the national government and continuing pressure from both rural and urban workers saw the eventual release of the insurrectionaries in April 1934.
Durruti had arrived in Barcelona by May 1934 where he was reunited with his family, to the point of undertaking child care for his daughter Mimi, whilst his partner Emilienne Morin was out earning money for them all. The class struggle continued unabated throughout this period with strikes and boycotts amongst both urban and rural workers, even though the CNT remained a banned organization. There was, however, in certain parts of Spain, a move towards a more explicit alliance with elements in the UGT (which however was seen by many as an attempt to bring the anarchists under the wing of the Socialist party—something the more rigorous anarchists always opposed.) At the same time, the insignificant Spanish Communist Party (acting under orders from Moscow, in-line with the new “Popular Front” policy) merged itself into the Socialist Party.
Political intrigues also continued both in Madrid and Catalonia, with an attempted uprising by the Socialists and the Catalanists against a right-wing government in October 1934—immediately preceded by the arrest and detention of numerous CNT and FAI militants including Durruti, even though the CNT had not participated in the planning of the uprising. Indeed, the Catalan authorities did everything they could to prevent the CNT from generalizing the revolt—but ended up handing the streets over the right and the militants to the military. Elsewhere, primarily in the Asturias, a region where the UGT was the dominant force, the uprising was initially successful, but was put down with great ferocity within two weeks. Durruti remained in prison until April 1935.
On his release, he was once more actively engaged, as it was apparent to just about everyone that the endemic and chronic problems of Spain could not be settled by playing Parliamentary games. The organized section of the Spanish working class—despite being hampered by legal repression—was still a potent force, whilst the military and right-wing plotters also remained well-organized and equally determined. Sooner or later, the matter of Spain would have to be decided one way or another—social revolution or fascism. Durruti and his affinity group Los Nosostros were at the heart of debates within the CNT and FAI as to how best to organize the workers for the forthcoming battle. However, his freedom lasted only a couple of months, by June 1935 he had been imprisoned again.
Whilst he, and many other CNT and FAI militants languished in prison, the politicians continued with their plans and intrigues. The Communists cemented their place inside the Socialist Party, and started winning the left of the socialists towards more CP oriented policies; whilst amongst the non-Stalinist marxists there was a coming together to form the POUM. The right too was cementing alliances, with the figures of Hitler and Mussolini beginning to loom on the horizon, their support being vital to the success of any right-wing take-over of the country. Even amongst the Syndicalists there were moves to re-unite those unions that had split from the CNT. War clouds were gathering and being isolated was the surest way to be defeated. Yet solidarity had to be on the basis of firm and meaningful proposals and none of the political parties would or could offer the working class anything that would significantly improve their situation, whilst a victory for the right would mean even greater repression. Being underground was also taking its toll on the CNT both in terms of being able to organize but also because the CNT could only function properly when the members could meet openly and regularly and have free access to ideas and information, and when mandated delegates to regional and national committees could be directly told what the members wanted and removed (if necessary) if they stepped outside that mandate. Consequently the “leadership” had a tendency to develop ideas of its own and to conduct discussions with political forces outside the remit of the CNT’s actual policy and objectives. And primary amongst their ideas was that to get to the stage of being “legal” again, to get their militants out of jail and being able to conduct their business correctly they would have to make some sort of deal with the left-wing politicians (who had in the previous years been more than happy to jail, deport, and persecute them) which would result in the left-wing parties getting parliamentary power.
The matter became acute in February 1936 with the downfall of yet another government and the holding of a General Election. The CNT held a meeting to discuss their position on the election (although because of the unions’ illegal status none of the people attending could be properly mandated to make any particular decision) and the outcome was a re-iteration of the standard anarchist line on abstention and a commitment to make the workers understand that electing a left-wing government wasn’t going to solve their problems and that a right-wing / military coup could be expected soon after. (Indeed General Franco tried to initiate a coup before the left could form a government, but it failed to materialize—he was punished by being made the Military Commander of the Canary Islands!) The voting shows that abstention took second place to expediency in most workers’ minds, with the left getting a very narrow majority of the votes cast and a sufficient Parliamentary majority to govern, provided the coalition of forces held together. The new government did amnesty many of the prisoners in February 1936, although some prisons had already been opened by popular demand immediately prior to this, whilst other CNT members were still detained behind bars as their offenses were deemed to be social and criminal and not political.
As predicted, the election solved nothing, as during the next six months the class struggle intensified, with land seizures by peasants, church burnings, over 200 partial and over 100 general strikes, bombings, and shootings. The government tried to repress the direct action of the workers whilst using the threat from the right to hang onto power. Everywhere people were organizing for the final showdown, with approximately 1.5 million workers organized in both the CNT and UGT (out of a total of 8 million workers) and with right-wing organizations with over half a million in them (including priests, former soldiers, and right-wing and fascist activists.) It is important to note that membership of a union did not necessarily mean whole-heartedly agreeing with the politics of the organization. With no unemployment benefit a a union card meant access to the mutual aid of one’s fellow workers. Equally in well-unionized areas employers would approach the unions when they were hiring people , so possession of a union card could mean the difference between having a job and not. And it made sense to join the biggest union locally or in your particular trade. This may well explain why both the CNT and UGT had areas where they were dominant—success bred success. Thus a union card was, for many workers, a practical necessity, rather than a statement of allegiance to a particular ideology.
The only benefit of the left’s election win was that it gave the CNT a much-needed opportunity to emerge into the open and re-organize itself, resume publication of its national papers and so forth, and not least hold its Fourth National Congress in Zaragoza on May 1st 1936. The pressing issues of the day were obvious to all: to re-admit the errant syndicalists, provided they respected national decisions and to invite the UGT to join with the CNT in an alliance to overthrow capitalism and institute a society based on workers’ democracy (an invitation that fell on deaf ears). The CNT also discussed what form a libertarian communist society would take—with syndicalists arguing that the CNT was the model, whilst anarchists argued that an organization designed for fighting the class struggle was ill-equipped to take on the role. They wouldn’t have long to wait before testing their ideas in practice as the long-expected (except by the Socialist government ministers) military and right-wing coup was eventually launched in July 1936.
Durruti and the rest of Los Nosotros group had prepared themselves for the coup, as had the CNT in Barcelona and surrounding area. (After much disagreement the CNT had adopted Garcia Oliver’s proposals to immediately set up workers militias in the event of a military uprising, something Durruti had initially opposed arguing for a guerrilla approach, arguing that the creation of militias would inevitably end up creating an army run on traditional lines, which would be contradiction with anarchist principles. The majority in the CNT had, however, been persuaded that only militias stood any chance of defeating the uprising militarily.)
Meanwhile the Catalan government had done little, except refuse to arm the workers. If the coup was to be defeated it would have to be done by the CNT on the ground with only the bare minimum of arms and support from loyalist military and police. Yet after two day’s hard fighting, not only had the coup been defeated in Barcelona, but the CNT and other militants had secured the army barracks and obtained much needed weaponry, but not without much loss of life. In much of Catalonia, the story was much the same, but elsewhere in Spain the coup had been successful, in others it was barely contained. In Madrid, the CNT was weaker and had great difficulty getting hold of the necessary weapons, with the Republican government trying to reassure the people that the coup was under control and therefore arming them was not necessary—at least arming the CNT was not necessary. A general strike was organized in Zaragoza, but disastrously the CNT workers there allowed themselves to be rounded-up and the military took control.
However, with the defeat of the military in Barcelona by the CNT, the way was open for the revolution to break out. The workers took control of their work places, transport and other services were collectivized and power seemed to be in the hands of the workers, not the politicians. It was very soon apparent that if the military coup was to be defeated it would have to be done by the workers themselves—but even with the arms and supplies taken from the barracks in Barcelona they were woefully under-equipped for a prolonged struggle. Durruti and others therefore organized several columns of workers militias to try and take Zaragoza, whilst, at the same time, hoping to ignite the flames of social revolution as they went. The columns managed to get within about 20 miles of Zaragoza before being brought to a halt by the better equipped military forces and, despite much heroism, they were unable to break through to the city.
Durruti was adamant that the column, which bore his name was organized on anarchist lines, as for him, the revolution had to be embodied by the forces fighting for it, a hierarchical force obeying military discipline would never make an anarchist revolution. The shortage of weapons in the column meant that many volunteers were active in the newly organized collectives that had sprung up in its wake in Aragon. However, once the initial reserves of ammunition had been exhausted the column was unable to undertake further large-scale offensive action much to its and Durruti’s frustration. Meanwhile in Barcelona itself, the CNT’s decision to co-operate with the other anti-fascist forces was beginning to bear unwelcome fruit. They were not in control of policy making, the continuation of the Generalitat (the Catalonian government) and their collaboration with it meant that whatever they did, in some way legitimized it and strengthened it, even to the point where workers control of production and distribution ran the risk of creating a form of state socialism, even if it was with anarchists in control. A regional CNT meeting in early August discussed the matter, but on balance decided it was better to continue the collaboration in the name of anti-fascist unity rather than risk civil war within a civil war, one that might be in the CNT’s favor in Catalonia, but much less so in the rest of Spain. There was also the international dimension to consider—now that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were pouring men and materiel into the rebel held areas and taking an active role in the fighting, it seemed imperative not to jeopardize any chance of aid from friendly governments, in particular France where it was hoped the Popular Front government would, at least, keep up the supply of war materiel (France having been the main supplier of war material to Spain prior to 1936.)—although it was highly unlikely that any government would knowingly supply weapons to revolutionaries. Furthermore, although Catalonia was well-equipped with workshops it lacked certain basic raw materials to enable it to be self-sufficient in war fighting ability, hence the ambitious but abandoned plan to capture the Bank of Spain’s gold reserves and use the gold to buy weapons.
However the gold eventually ended up in Stalin’s grubby blood-stained hands, but at least a flow of arms into the Republican areas was resumed. Inevitably, the arms came at a political as well as financial price. The previously insignificant Communist Party was rewarded with posts in the Madrid government and socialist and communist militias were prioritized for the supply of arms. Elsewhere in Spain, by late September 1936, it was obvious that the military uprising and associated attack on workers organizations had established itself in about half of Spain. The militias had managed to prevent a complete take-over, but equally had failed to roll it back from areas it had captured. The Basque region had fallen and with it the Bilbao armaments factories, and the Asturias were now isolated from the rest of Republican Spain. Even Durruti’s home of Leon was under the control of the military who could also look forward to uninterrupted support coming over the border from Portugal. Even Madrid itself was vulnerable to a well-organized military assault if Franco had wanted to do capture it.
On the Aragon front at least the revolution proceeded apace—at least in areas not subject to the depredations of the Marxist militias who not only stole from the villages but also attempted to dissolve the organs of self-government and control the villages had established, much to the disgust to those in the CNT columns. To consolidate their position, the Aragon Defense Council and the Aragon Federation of Collectives were established in early October 1936. Mid-October saw the Durruti column in action holding off a nationalist advance in its area, on the north bank of the Ebro facing Zaragoza. Only to be immediately faced with a typical piece of back-stabbing from the central government when it, at the urging of the Soviets, issued a militarization decree, which would have completely changed the status and forms of organization of the CNT and other militias. Which was swiftly followed by the nationalization of the war industries and agriculture which would take them from the worker’s committees that had been running them. However, faced with the possibility of exclusion from all effective decision-making and access to arms, the CNT then took the final step of over-turning its own anarchist basis by joining, at the beginning of November, the National Government. A government whose first major decision was to abandon its own capital Madrid, now coming under pressure from the forces of the right.
In the streets, however, the ordinary people of Madrid, already alarmed by the terror that was being unleashed by the rebel forces, who were threatening to kill two million reds between Madrid and Barcelona, were constructing barricades. Soon, battle was joined in earnest, with nationalist forces breaking into the city. In response, militia units from Barcelona and the Aragon front were rushed to the city to help in the defense. Among those forces was a force made up from, amongst others, elements of the Durruti Column, and perhaps even more importantly, Durruti himself, which arrived on November 14th. Almost immediately, and before they had to time to fully prepare themselves, they were thrown into the battle raging around Madrid’s University City. Losses on both sides were terrible but they managed to stabilize the front and prevent the rebels from breaking through.
November 19th saw a slight lull in the fighting and Durruti visited the front-line to inspect his forces’ positions and check on the state of the column’s fighters—all greatly fatigued and desperate need of relief. He got out of his staff car to speak to some militiamen and was shot before he could resume his seat in the car. He was rushed to hospital, but the doctors thought this injury too severe for any chance of surviving any operation they could have attempted to remove the bullet from his chest and patch up the massive internal damage. He died early the next day. The news was a terrible blow to the CNT militias and those working in factories and the fields. His body was returned to Barcelona where a massive funeral was organized (and an investigation begun as to how he had died).
Given the political and military situation in Madrid at this time, it is understandable that there has been so much speculation as to how Durruti died, who fired the fatal shot. Matters are not helped by the differences in the contemporary accounts and subsequent “revelations.” The book assesses all the attempts to make sense of his death and the “conspiracy theories” surrounding it. There was much disinformation circulated at the time and ever since the competing accounts have been fueled as much by ideology as evidence. Indeed, Paz is unable to get to the bottom of the mystery and thinks it unlikely it ever will be solved. So whether Durruti was shot by a fascist sniper, a communist shot him in the back, an anarchist angry at the CNT-FAI’s betrayal of anarchist principles killed him or, as may have been the case, he shot himself by accident, we shall never know.
The afterword by Jose Molina brings the reader up to date with various stories that have surfaced since the first edition of the book was published, but it is to be regretted that (for whatever reasons) the bibliography that it mentions as being in the second Spanish edition, has been omitted in the English edition. Fortunately the notes are fairly comprehensive—although I spotted that the numbering of the notes in the text of the afterword follows on from the previous chapter whilst the notes themselves are numbered in a new sequence.
The text is amply complemented by the many well-chosen photographs, and the illustrations also include reproductions of various pages from anarchist and other publications. The map of Madrid is vital for following the debate about how Durruti died and the other maps help with understanding the detail of the fighting (but you’ll need a proper map of Spain to find all of the places mentioned). One major disappointment is the index. Although we are given three indices—personal names, places, and organizations—they only tell you which pages the words indexed appear on. So we get a column of numbers for Durruti and the CNT but no further detail. Also missing are periodicals—so if you want to know what pages Solidaridad Obrera appears on, you’ll have to make your own index.
Not being a Spanish speaker (or reader) and not having the original text I can’t comment on the quality of the translation, but I can say that overall the text reads extremely well. Chuck Morse has done an excellent job in making this book readable—it needs to be at nearly 800 pages long!—with the only minor gremlins appearing to be those relating military terminology. The bullet that killed Durruti is described as “9 caliber long” when caliber is a measure of the diameter of a bullet or shell; artillery is a couple of times said to be bombing a position—when shelling is the usual term employed and most bizarrely the nationalist attack on Madrid is said to have been made with the aid of tri-motor fighters (nobody ever built a fighter plane with three engines—I presume “bomber” is meant (3 engine bombers were built by both Germany and Italy in this period)) and battleships. A glance at the map of Spain will show that if there’s one place you won’t find a battleship, it’s in Madrid. (I’m not sure what is intended in the context.)
Physically the book, even though it is an 800 page paperback, has withstood my reading it without any problems and has a good feel to it. Overall, one has to congratulate the author, translator, AK Press, and everyone else associated with the production of this book with producing a book worthy of the subject matter. Paz’s treatment of the events in Durruti’s life is aimed at explaining the reasons for them, rather than attempting much by way of critique. He is, however, critical of the CNT “leadership” especially during the civil war when basic principles were thrown overboard to expedite fighting. However, the book also goes a long way to explaining the reasons for the positions (governmental and otherwise) taken by leading members of the FAI and the CNT and will prove invaluable for anyone wanting a detailed explanation of the run up to the civil war and the revolution. Wisely, Paz finishes the book with Durruti’s funeral with only a brief section on what happened after Durruti died. Whether the revolution died with Durruti, is another matter. One could equally argue that had he lived he would have had to have compromised as much as fellow FAIstas. Fortunately, Paz doesn’t get bogged down in such a discussion, leaving that for readers to discuss amongst themselves.
I can’t imagine anyone now undertaking the necessary research to write a completely new biography of Durruti, or that there remains much more to discover about him. Therefore I can say without much fear of contradiction that this will be the definitive biography of Durruti, and as such it is something I can totally recommend.
Durruti Is Dead, Yet Living
by Emma Goldman [Published in 1936 and obtained from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, California.]
Durruti, whom I saw but a month ago, lost his life in the street-battles of Madrid. My previous knowledge of this stormy petrel of the Anarchist and revolutionary movement in Spain was merely from reading about him. On my arrival in Barcelona I learned many fascinating stories of Durruti and his column. They made me eager to go to the Aragon front, where he was the leading spirit of the brave and valiant militias, fighting against fascism.
I arrived at Durruti's headquarters towards evening, completely exhausted from the long drive over a rough road. A few moments with Durruti was like a strong tonic, refreshing and invigorating. Powerful of body as if hewn from the rocks of Montserrat, Durruti easily represented the most dominating figure among the Anarchists I had met since my arrival in Spain. His terrific energy electrified me as it seemed to effect everyone who came within its radius.
I found Durruti in a veritable beehive of activity. Men came and went, the telephone was constantly calling for Durruti. In addition was the deafening hammering of workers who were constructing a wooden shed for Durruti's staff. Through all the din and constant call on his time Durruti remained serene and patient. He received me as if he had known me all his life. The graciousness and warmth from a man engaged in a life and death struggle against fascism was something I had hardly expected.
I had heard much about Durruti's mastery over the column that went by his name. I was curious to learn by what means other than military drive he had succeeded in welding together 10,000 volunteers without previous military training and experience of any sort. Durruti seemed surprised that I, an old Anarchist should even ask such a question.
"I have been an Anarchist all my life," he replied, "I hope I have remained one. I should consider it very sad indeed, had I to turn into a general and rule the men with a military rod. They have come to me voluntarily, they are ready to stake their lives in our antifascist fight. I believe, as I always have, in freedom. The freedom which rests on the sense of responsibility. I consider discipline indispensable, but it must be inner discipline, motivated by a common purpose and a strong feeling of comradeship." He had gained the confidence of the men and their affection because he had never played the part of a superior. He was one of them. He ate and slept as simply as they did. Often even denying himself his own portion for one weak or sick, and needing more than he. And he shared their danger in every battle. That was no doubt the secret of Durruti's success with his column. The men adored him. They not only carried out all his instructions, they were ready to follow him in the most perilous venture to repulse the fascist position.
I had arrived on the eve of an attack Durruti had prepared for the following morning. At daybreak Durruti, like the rest of the militia with his rifle over his shoulder, led the way. Together with them he drove the enemy back four kilometers, and he also succeeded in capturing a considerable amount of arms the enemies had left behind in their flight.
The moral example of simple equality was by no means the only explanation of Durruti's influence. There was another, his capacity to make the militiamen realize the deeper meaning of the antifascist war--the meaning that had dominated his own life and that he had learned to articulate to the poorest and most undeveloped of the poor.
Durruti told me of his approach to the difficult problems of the men who come for leave of absence at moments when they were most needed at the front. The men evidently knew their leader--they knew his decisiveness--his iron will. But also they knew the sympathy and gentleness hidden behind his austere exterior. How could he resist when the men told him of illness at home--parents, wife or child?
Durruti hounded before the glorious days of July 1936, like a wild beast from country to country. Imprisoned time on end as a criminal. Even condemned to death. He, the hated Anarchist, hated by the sinister trinity, the bourgeoisie, the state and the church. This homeless vagabond incapable of feeling as the whole capitalistic puck proclaimed. How little they knew Durruti. How little they understood his loving heart. He had never remained indifferent to the needs of his fellows. Now however, he was engaged in a desperate struggle with fascism in the defense of the Revolution, and every man was needed at his place. Verily a difficult situation to meet. But Durruti's ingeniousness conquered all difficulties. He listened patiently to the story of woe and then held forth on the cause of illness among the poor. Overwork, malnutrition, lack of air, lack of joy in life.
"Don't you see comrade, the war you and I are waging is to safeguard our Revolution and the Revolution is to do away with the misery and suffering of the poor. We must conquer our fascist enemy. We must win the war. You are an essential part of it. Don't you see, comrade?" Durruti's comrades did see, they usually remained.
Sometimes one would prove abdurate, and insist on leaving the front. "All right," Durruti tells him, "but you will go on foot, and by the time you reach your village, everybody will know that your courage had failed you, that you have run away, that you have shirked your self-imposed task." That worked like magic. The man pleads to remain. No military brow-beating, no coercion, no disciplinary punishment to hold the Durruti column at the front. Only the vulcanic energy of the man carries everyone along and makes them feel as one with him.
A great man this Anarchist Durruti, a born leader and teacher of men, thoughtful and tender comrade all in one. And now Durruti is dead. His great heart beats no more. His powerful body felled down like a giant tree. And yet, and yet--Durruti is not dead. The hundreds of thousands that turned out Sunday, November 22nd, 1936, to pay Durruti their last tribute have testified to that.
No, Durruti is not dead. The fires of his flaming spirit lighted in all who knew and loved him, can never be extinguished. Already the masses have lifted high the torch that fell from Durruti's hand. Triumphantly they are carrying it before them on the path Durruti had blazoned for many years. The path that leads to the highest summit of Durruti's ideal. This ideal was Anarchism--the grand passion of Durruti's life. He had served it utterly. He remained faithful to it until his last breath.
If proof were needed of Durruti's tenderness his concern in my safety gave it to me. There was no place to house me for the night at the General-Staff quarters. And the nearest village was Pina. But it had been repeatedly bombarded by the fascists. Durruti was loathe to send me there. I insisted it was alright. One dies but once. I could see the pride in his face that his old comrade had no fear. He let me go under strong guard.
I was grateful to him because it gave me a rare chance to meet many of the comrades in arms of Durruti and also to speak with the people of the village. The spirit of these much-tried victims of fascism was most impressive.
The enemy was only a short distance from Pina on the other side of a creek. But there was no fear or weakness among the people. Heroically they fought on. "Rather dead, than fascist rule," they told me. "We stand and fall with Durruti in the antifascist fight to the last man."
In Pina I discovered a child of eight years old, an orphan who had already been harnessed to daily toil with a fascist family. Her tiny hands were red and swollen. Her eyes, full of horror from the dreadful shocks she had already suffered at the hands of Franco's hirelings. The people of Pina are pitifully poor. Yet everyone gave this ill-treated child care and love she had never known before.
The European Press has from the very beginning of the antifascist war competed with each other in calumny and vilification of the Spanish defenders of liberty. Not a day during the last four months but what these satraps of European fascism did not write the most sensational reports of atrocities committed by the revolutionary forces. Every day the readers of these yellow sheets were fed on the riots and disorders in Barcelona and other towns and villages, free from the fascist invasion.
Having travelled over the whole of Catalonia, Aragon, and the Levante, having visited every city and village on the way, I can testify that there is not one word of truth in any of the bloodcurdling accounts I had read in some of the British and Continental press.
A recent example of the utter unscrupulous news-fabrication was furnished by some of the papers in regard to the death of the Anarchist and heroic leader of the antifascist struggle, Buenaventura Durruti.
According to this perfectly absurd account, Durruti's death is supposed to have called forth violent dissension and outbreaks in Barcelona among the comrades of the dead revolutionary hero Durruti.
Whoever it was who wrote this preposterous invention he could not have been in Barcelona. Much less know the place of Buenaventura Durruti in the hearts of the members of the CNT and FAI. Indeed, in the hearts and estimation of all regardless of their divergence with Durruti's political and social ideas.
In point of truth, there never was such complete oneness in the ranks of the popular front in Catalonia, as from the moment when the news of Durruti's death became known until the last when he was laid to rest.
Every party of every political tendency fighting Spanish fascism turned out en masse to pay loving tribute to Buenaventura Durruti. But not only the direct comrades of Durruti, numbering hundreds of thousands and all the allies in the antifascist struggle, the largest part of the population of Barcelona represented an incessant stream of humanity. All had come to participate in the long and exhausting funeral procession. Never before had Barcelona witnessed such a human sea whose silent grief rose and fell in complete unison.
As to the comrades of Durruti--comrades closely knit by their ideal and the comrades of the gallant column he had created. Their admiration, their love, their devotion and respect left no place for discord and dissension. They were as one in their grief and in their determination to continue the battle against fascism and for the realization of the Revolution for which Durruti had lived, fought and had staked his all until his last breath.
No, Durruti is not dead! He is more alive than living. His glorious example will now be emulated by all the Catalan workers and peasants, by all the oppressed and disinherited. The memory of Durruti's courage and fortitude will spur them on to great deeds until fascism has been slain. Then the real work will begin--the work on the new social structure of human value, justice and freedom.
No, no! Durruti is not dead! He lives in us forever and ever.
Women played a huge role in the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War, especially in the early stages within the anarchist organizations and militia.