COPEL: a tale of rebellion and dignity. Documentary by COPEL [Coordinadora de Presos En Lucha — Prisoners in Struggle Coordinating Body], former prisoners of the Franco and post-Francoist regimes.

After a 40-year silence, our group, all former members of  COPEL [Coordinadora de Presos En Lucha — Prisoners in Struggle Coordinating Body], reports on the role played by prisoners in Francoist Spain’s so-called ‘transition to democracy’ between 1976 and 1979.

The process of Spain’s democratisation from dictatorship wasn’t a gift granted from on high following Franco’s death; it was taken from below by the direct actions of many campaigning movements, starting with the assembly-based wildcat strikers of the 1970s.

The amnesty law, for example, was only secured as a result of countless street and prison rooftop mobilisations — and near permanent confrontation — with the regime’s riot police at the cost of a number of lives.

COPEL (Coordinadora de Presos En Lucha) emerged through spontaneous mobilisations by prisoners pushing for the amnesty law of October 1977 to be extended across the prison population; it developed as a rank-and-file body that gave voice and leverage to those excluded from the political process,  and which challenged the State for more than two years, exposing its injustices and the inhumanity of society’s punitive machinery.

This documentary, focusing on Franco’s and post-Francoist’s prisons and the plight of its prisoners, is told by the victims of the regime, activists who lived through those long years of struggle and who are determined to expose the truth about the nature of the regime and its penal system.

 

Lessons from History: Aragon, Catalonia and Portugal by Perez Zagorin (from Vol II of ‘Rebels & Rulers 1500-1660’)

After Velázquez’s Don Gaspar de Guzmán, conde-duque de Olivares

“… The Scottish revolution of 1638 introduces a last group of provincial rebellions in which the external aspect was decisive. Despite their many differences, all shared the fundamental common property of originating in the grievances of subordinate or provincial kingdoms within dynastic unions. Either the absentee ruler and paramount state were guilty of unaccustomed demands and innovations that violated the autonomous liberties of the provincial kingdom, or they inflicted upon it an increasingly repressive government that finally became intolerable. Whether the one or the other, or some combination of the two, rebellion erupted.

“We see such cases in both the Spanish and the English monarchies. The revolt of Aragon in 1591 and the revolutions of Catalonia and Portugal in 1640 were alike a resistance to the pressures and intrusions of the central regime in Madrid. The several revolts of Ireland and the Scottish rebellion of 1638 were directed against subjugation or domination by England. We need pause for only a brief glance at the revolt of Aragon against Philip II to see how it fits into the picture of provincial rebellion. In its kingdom of Aragon, the Habsburg monarchy was confronted by a Cortes and other indigenous institutions that restricted its powers in considerable ways. With Aragon was also associated the famous (although historically fictitious) oath, according to which subjects were bound to render obedience only if their prince observed their privileges, otherwise not (si no, no).71 These privileges, or fueros, often served as a cover for local misgovernment and aristocratic oppression; however, they also stood as a real obstacle to royal absolutism.

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THE REVOLUTION ENDED IN MAY A film by Mikel Muñoz

‘The revolution ended in May’, Mikel Muñoz’s 2015 film (Spanish with French subtitles) on the five days of infamy and treachery that ended Spain’s social revolution. In the Spring of 1937, with the anti-fascist war at its peak, the pro-Stalinist ‘socialists’ of the PSOE, led by Finance Minister Juan Negrín, the communist-led PSUC (The Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia) led by Juan Comorera, supported by right wing nationalists of the Estat Català, moved against the power bases of the anarcho-syndicalist workers’ militias in Catalonia, starting on April 25 with the customs post at Puigcerdá on the French border, and culminating in the attempted seizure of the Barcelona Telephone Exchange. The latter action and the call for the CNT employees defending the building and adjoining barrio barricades to abandon their positions and give up their arms was endorsed by the infamous ‘notables’ of the higher committees of the CNT, particularly anarchist ministers Federica Montseny and Juan Garcia Oliver, and CNT National Secretary Mariano T. Vazquez. The following account of the ‘Events of May’ is from ‘Building Utopia’.

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Rebels & Rulers, 1500-1660: 2 — Conspectus, typology, causality by Perez Zagorin

Germany’s Peasant Revolt of 1524 to 1525 was the largest and bloodiest popular uprising in Europe until the French Revolution of 1789. (WikiCommons)

The revolutions selected for consideration in this book almost all occurred in the century and a half between the beginning of the sixteenth and the middle of the seventeenth century. Moreover, with the main exception of the German peasant war, they belong almost entirely to the history of three states: England, France, and the Spanish empire. The rationale for this choice of locale in space and time as the basis for a study of early modern revolutions is explained by a number of reasons.

Far across the abyss of time, before the French revolution and the emergence of industrial society, lies spread out and stretching backward into the past the Western Europe of the old society. Dominated in its polities by monarchies and princes and in its social structures by nobilities and aristocracies, still rural despite its great capital cities, still agricultural despite its commerce, manufactures, and bourgeoisie, this is the society that grew out of the feudal world and was eventually to be transformed during the nineteenth century into the industrial world. One phase of its life history, the last, which was disrupted by the French revolution, is usually known as the ancien régime. The whole of its history is commonly described as the early modern era, extending from about 1500 to the late eighteenth century and the outbreak of the French revolution.

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Rebels & Rulers, 1500-1660: 1 — The concept of Revolution and the comparative history of Revolution in early modern Europe by Perez Zagorin

There are at least two reasons that might be cited for undertaking the historical and comparative investigation of revolution. The first is the desire to make a revolution, the second is the desire to prevent it. Perhaps nearly everybody is susceptible to the one reason or the other, but there is yet a third reason that gives the study of revolution a compelling interest and significance, even though its appeal is doubtless much more limited. This is that the understanding of revolution is an indispensable condition for the fuller knowledge and understanding of society. Depending on how we define it, revolution may be common or uncommon, frequent or rare. But in the case of societies, nations, and communities that have experienced revolution, we cannot claim to understand them adequately without understanding their revolutions. In a deep and therefore a nontautological sense, it is true that every people gets the revolution it deserves and equally true that it gets only the revolutions of which it is capable.

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