‘To guarantee revolution, it is not enough for the mob to be armed or for them to have expropriated the bourgeoisie: it is necessary for them to destroy the capitalist system entirely and to organise their own system. They must be able to combat the ideas put forward by Stalinist and reformist leaders with the same vigour with which they attack capitalist individuals and the leaders of the bourgeois parties. As of May 1937, any revolutionary endeavour that does not remain faithful to this experience condemns itself purely and simply to not existing. Attacking the state, unhesitatingly confronting the Stalinist-reformist counter-revolution: such are the distinctive characteristics of the coming revolution.‘
These extracts from the secret republication in Spanish of Berneri’s writings in 1973 by the Iberian Liberation Movement (whose symbolic ﬁgure is Puig Antich, who was garrotted on 2nd March 1974), and explain the reason for their re-publication. Also included are some of Berneri’s articles from this period that best reveal his thoughts on Marxism and the militias.
Contents: Preface; Camillo Berneri; Unpublished letter on militarisation; The State and Classes; The Abolition and Extinction of the State; What can we do?; Dictatorship of the Proletariat and State Socialism; Beware, Dangerous Corner!; Madrid, sublime city; Between the War and the Revolution; The Third Stage; Interview in Spain and the World; The Wisdom of a Proverb; Problems of the Revolution: the City and the Country; Open Letter to Comrade Federica Montseny; War and Revolution; Counter-Revolution on the March; The Death of Berneri; 1937-1978: Four Decades without a History
“Once fascism is beaten, it will be necessary for the CNT and the FAI to continue the struggle for their social programme. The Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Spain declared only the other day that, in the present struggle in Spain, they are defending democracy and private property. It smells of Noske. Were not Madrid in flames one might even expect a new Kronstadt. But Madrid is approaching victory. Revolutionary Catalonia receives neither arms nor financial help. Did the USSR send arms, munitions, and military cadres in order to control the anti-fascist fight and check the development of the Social Revolution? The alternative, Madrid or Franco, has paralysed Spanish anarchism. Today Barcelona is located between Burgos, Rome, Madrid, and Moscow. It is besieged. The horizon is hazy. We are on the high seas in a great storm. Shall we be able to perform wonders? Crushed between the Prussians and Versailles, the Commune of Paris initiated a fire that lit up the world. Between Burgos and Madrid lies Barcelona. Let the Godets of Moscow remember this.” [Godet was the fascist general who led the uprising in Barcelona on the 19th of July. He was duly tried by the people of Barcelona, and shot.]
This article caused Russia to intervene in the CNT-FAI. Since then, Berneri was anathema to the partisans of the Communist Party Dictatorship.
When the hostilities started, Berneri was in his- rooms with his friend, Barbieri, also a well known anarchist. With them were the wife of Barbieri and Tosca Pantini, widow of an Italian militiaman killed on the Aragon front. The Italians’ house was surrounded by Catalan city guards and members of the PSUC wearing red armbands with their party insignia on them. On the morning of Tuesday May 4th, the Catalan and Communist guards came to the house and told the Italian anarchists to be careful because there was a lot of shooting in the neighbourhood. There was another visit in the afternoon for the purpose of registering the house and confiscating the arms which belonged to Italian militiamen on leave in Barcelona. The next day, Wednesday May 5th, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Berneri and Barbieri were taken away by 12 guards, six of them from the city police, the others were members of the PSUC as evidenced by their red armbands. The leader of the group, showing his badge with the number 1109, asked for their names. Two of the group remained in the house to carry out a further search. Berneri had been working on a book about Mussolini’s policy in the Mediterranean, with special reference to the Balearic Islands. It was a book against Italian fascism.
Barbieri’s wife wanted to go with the two comrades when they were taken away, but they refused to allow her.
Both men were shot during the following night, by machine gun fire, as revealed by the autopsy. It was cold blooded murder, since both men were unarmed. The murder was committed near the Palace of the Generality. Soon after the bodies of the two anarchists were delivered to the mortuary of the Hospital Clinico. The lists show that the Red Cross had found both bodies near the Generality.
The evidence is irrefutable. Berneri and Barbieri were shot because they were anarchists by police and members of the PSUC, i.e. faithful Moscow Communists. Barbieri’s companion declared “Barbieri asked why they who were anarchists and therefore anti-fascists, were being ill treated. And the leader of the group answered: ‘It’s because you are anarchists that you are counter-revolutionaries . “‘
The anarchists were persecuted; the anarchists were murdered; the anarchists were outlawed. Still they limited themselves only to defence, and never attacked. Yet when the lie was circulated that the anarchists were doing the attacking, the world press seized upon it eagerly and spread it to the four corners of the earth.
On the following day the papers published the number of victims: 500 dead and over 1500 wounded. A terrible indictment of those who had provoked such a fratricidal war.
Local Federation of the CNT, Barcelona. Local Federation of the UGT, Barcelona.
“The tragic events taking place in our city during the last 48 hours have made it impossible for the workers to go to work. The anti-fascist organisations and parties in session at the Palace of the Generality have solved the conflict that has created this abnormal situation, so harmful to the cause of the proletariat. The local federations of the CNT and the UGT have agreed to ask all members to resume their work as usual. It is necessary to return to normal life. To continue the present inactivity in the factories at this time is to weaken our forces and strengthen that of our common enemy.
“Accordingly, all workers of the CNT and the UGT are ordered to return to work. All members of both trade unions should avoid anything that might lead to possible friction and disturbances at their place of work. These events have taught us that from now on we shall have to establish relations of cordiality and comradeship, the lack of which we have all regretted deeply during the last few days.
“The local federations of the UGT and the CNT urge their members to refrain from all manifestations of hostility. Mutual understanding and solidarity are the requirements of the hour. The union cards of both organisations must be respected by everyone, and it is the duty of the control committees to respect all workers without exception.
“To work, comrades of the CNT and UGT!”
This appeal was broadcast over the radio and appeared the next morning in every paper in Barcelona. But to no avail. Work was not resumed anywhere. The police continued in their hostile attitude and fortified their positions further during the night with the obvious intention of extending the struggle. Provocation’s by the political parties continued in the hope of shaking the faith of the workers in the conduct of the committees of the CNT and the FAI. The fighting was resumed. Bitterness and discontent filled the workers. The Valencia government intervened more energetically into the affairs of Barcelona. Two Spanish warships were ordered to the port of Barcelona.
The streets presented a calmer picture on Thursday morning. The centre of the old city was still like a fortress. Some horse carts were already making their appearance on the wider streets, and an occasional pedestrian could be seen. The overhead wires of the tramways were being repaired. The Valencia government, it was rumoured, was gathering troops from different sectors of the front to be sent to Catalonia.
The Regional Committee and the syndicates all over the city suffered new anxieties when the police and the civilian fighters of PSUC proceeded to take advantage of the armistice to build new fortifications. Thus, the police openly carried sand bags and machine guns up to the towers of a cathedral not two hundred metres from the Casa CNT-FAI. This hardly looked like peace. Those who seek peace don’t proceed to occupy new offensive positions.
Further news added to the anxiety. 1,500 troops are on their way from Valencia. Another 2,500 will follow. Against whom are they mobilising? Against the workers? In the streets of Barcelona everybody was being searched. Those who had membership carnets from the CNT were regarded as enemies. The carnet was taken away and torn up. Often, mere possession of such a document was cause for arrest. Dozens of such arrests were being made.
The negotiations between the antagonistic parties were delayed half a day by the death of the secretary of the UGT of Catalonia, Antonio Sese. He was fatally wounded by a bullet on his way to the Generality in his own car. The shot came from the direction of the Paseo de Gracia, where his own party comrades had a barricade. The comrades who accompanied Sese signed a document stating the facts of the case, which is now in the hands of the Theatre Union in front of whose headquarters the accident occurred. Sese was neither murdered nor executed. Yet his death was used to intensify the insidious campaign against the CNT.
A strange situation had developed inside the Telephone Building. The workers in the upper storeys and the assault guards arranged an armistice. They allowed the workers to receive food – the first since, Monday. The discussions among the workers who belonged both to the CNT and the UGT, still continued. To end these discussions and to show their willingness to restore peace, .he members of the CNT agreed to leave the building at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The assault guards were supposed to leave also. However, instead of leaving that part of the building which they had occupied earlier in the week, the assault guards proceeded to occupy the entire building, and brought in members of the UGT to take over the posts of CNT workers. The members of the CNT saw that they had been betrayed and immediately informed the Regional Committee. The latter intervened with the Government. They demanded that the police be withdrawn from the building. To remain meant a broken promise would render their agreements valueless for the future. Those who broke their agreement would have to take the consequences. Half an hour later the Generality replied: the fait accompli cannot be recalled.
This broken agreement aroused great indignation among the workers of the CNT. Had the workers in the outlying districts been informed immediately of this development, they would surely have insisted upon taking firmer measures and returned to the attack. But when the matter was discussed later, the more moderate point of view won out.
It was obvious that the occupation of the Telephone Building would be used to facilitate new attacks. And within the hour, at about 4pm, a new attack was launched against the main railroad station, Estacion de Francia. The assault guards attacked from one side; the PSUC from the Karl Marx Barracks on the other. The workers could no longer depend on the telephone. The atmosphere in the centre of the city became tense. Bombs exploded. Rifle and machine gun fire broke the silence of the metropolis.
At ten minutes past four, the Under Secretary of State, Juanel Molina, member of the FAI, communicated that General Pozas had presented himself at the Capitania to take over his office as Chief of the Fourth Brigade of the Spanish Army. The post of Catalan Minister of Defence had ceased to exist. Under Secretary of State Juanel Molina, even though he was a member of the FAI, did everything to keep the troops from entering the struggle. Had the FAI really gone into action, the entire military force would have been on their side and victory would have been certain. But the FAI did not want a fratricidal war within the ranks of the anti-fascists.
Not only at the station, but also in the neighbourhood of Plaza de Catalunya, the police started attacking the workers. In both cases the attacks were successfully repelled. Again the workers refused to counter-attack. Still, they were determined to defend their positions, their lives and their rights.
The Regional Committee was informed that the armed forces of the Catalan Nationalists and the PSUC had taken possession of the village of San Juan. The armed workers of the CNT and the FAI entered the village, disarmed the enemy and liberated their comrades. In the open village square they had to answer for their actions. They were warned not to take up arms against the people. Then the anarchists set their enemies free again.
We must mention these incidents to counteract the calumnies spread against the anarchists and the anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia, whom they characterise as murderers and criminals.
At six o’clock they telephoned that 1,500 Assault Guards had reached Tortosa on their way to Barcelona. They occupied the headquarters of the CNT unions, the cultural centres of the FAI and the Anarchist Youth, arresting all those found inside. These troops had come from the central part of Spain. According to the evening paper Noticiero Universal of Saturday May 8th, these troops had come from the trenches of the Jarama front, where they had been fighting for four months alongside the International Brigade. The anarchists could also have called in their columns from the Aragon front, as well as armed forces from other parts of Catalonia, and there is no doubt that they could have been victorious within 24 hours. But they did not want to break up the anti-fascist front. They never did more than defend themselves against the attacks directed against them.
At 6.45 the united committees of the CNT and the FAI sent a new delegation to the government to find out what they intended doing. A few minutes later, news came from London by cable that the British Government had sent a torpedo boat and a cruiser, the ‘Despatch’, to Catalan waters near Barcelona. A delegation of CNT workers arrived to find out what the responsible committees were going to do. The committees decided to address the population of Barcelona by manifesto that they wished to maintain the anti-fascist front. At the same time they addressed the general public all over the world by a manifesto on Thursday May 6th which reads as follows:
“While the tragic events were taking place here in Barcelona, provoked as they were by some irresponsible elements in the anti-fascist organisations, the world at large received very little information concerning the whole situation.
“The same cowardly elements that wished to provoke bloodshed in Barcelona, issued false reports to the outside world with the same evil intentions, grossly misrepresenting everything.
“Foreign countries have been told that the CNT and the FAI were the cause of the disturbances of the last few days. You were told that the anarchists were guilty of starting this struggle among fellow workers which caused blood to flow in the streets of Barcelona. You were told that the anarchists attacked the police the Generality, and other municipal and state institutions.
“Nothing is more false than this version of the developments and those who spread such lies intentionally can be nothing but fascists in disguise.
“Now that we have returned to normal, and those responsible for the outbreak have been dismissed from public office, when all the workers have returned to their jobs, and Barcelona is once more calm, the CNT and the FAI want to give an exact explanation of what happened.
“We are authorised to state that neither the National Confederation of Labour, nor the Iberian Anarchist Federation, or any of its dependent organisations, broke, or had any intention of breaking the anti-fascist front. The CNT and the FAI continue to collaborate loyally as in the past, with all political and trade union sectors of the anti-fascist front. The best proof of this is that the CNT continues to collaborate with the central Government, the Government of the Generality and all the municipalities.
“When the conflict started in Barcelona, the Regional and National organisations of the CNT offered every means to the government to help solve the conflict as quickly as possible. On the second day of the struggle, the secretary of the National Committee of the CNT, and the Minister of Justice, also a member of the CNT, came to Barcelona and did everything humanly possible to end this fratricidal struggle. In addition to these attempts to deal with responsible members of the other political sectors, these comrades spoke to the population of Barcelona, and called upon them to be calm and work for an agreement, and appealed for unity of action against the common enemy, fascism.
“Not only the National Committee, but also the Regional Committee, did everything possible to find a solution to this conflict. The press of the CNT of Catalonia appealed for calm and called upon the population to return to work. The news issued by radio to the unions and to the defence committees were nothing but appeals for calm.
“Further proof that the CNT did not want to break, and did not break, the anti-fascist front, is that when the new government of the Generality was formed, on the 5th of May, the representatives of the CNT of Catalonia offered it every facility, and the secretary of the CNT was a member of the Government.
“We are also authorised to state that neither the National Confederation of Labour nor the Iberian Anarchist Federation attacked any police headquarters or any other institutions of the State or the Generality. At no time and at no place did the first shot ever come from any responsible members of the CNT.
“The members of the CNT who controlled the Defence Council of the Generality gave orders to all their forces not to intervene on either side in the conflict. And they also saw to it that their orders were obeyed.
“The Defence Committee of the CNT also gave orders to every district of Barcelona that no one should come from there to the centre to answer the provocation’s. These orders, too, were carried out because no one actually did come to the centre to answer the provocation’s.
“The Regional Committee of the CNT and the FAI gave precise orders that no one should move from his section, that no one should disturb the public order.
“The CNT and the FAI not only merely maintained positions of defence, they did everything possible to try to re-establish public order and unmask the provocateurs. Many were the traps laid for the CNT up to the very end, but the CNT remained firm in its position and did not allow itself to be provoked. It did not fall into the net, which had many ramifications in the regional, national and international spheres. And in maintaining its positions, it did everything possible to have the provocateurs, Rodriguez Salas and Aiguade, removed from their responsible positions. Once this was accomplished, and calm re-established, the CNT and the UGT together with the other anti-fascist forces, formed a commission to clarify the events in Barcelona and re-establish a normal atmosphere.
“When the causes of the disturbances were discovered, the people returned to work. Everybody, with utmost courage and energy, is now dedicating all their strength to the fight against fascism, because it is the only enemy of all the workers in Catalonia.
“The workers of Catalonia have returned to work under the following slogans: ‘No more provocateurs in the rear!’ ‘Unity between the CNT and the UGT’! ‘Death to fascism!”‘
Meanwhile sporadic collisions and exchanges of shots continued in various sectors of the city. At about 10pm the CNT-FAI made new proposals to cease hostilities as follows: All parties and groups obligated to remove their armed guards and Patrols from the barricades. All prisoners from both sides are to be released immediately. No reprisals shall be taken. An answer was required within two hours.
At midnight the government had not sent its answer. Meanwhile disturbing news came through from Tarragona and Reus, where members of the PSUC and the Estat Catala, taking advantage of the presence of some assault guards passing through on their way to Barcelona, used their temporary advantage to disarm and kill the workers. Telephone calls caused great anxiety. Steps were taken to counteract the news and any possible false rumours that might be coming through the telephone exchange. Important news could no longer be communicated by telephone. The radio station of the CNT was used to inform members of the organisation.
The CNT tried to extract a promise from the government in Valencia and Barcelona that the assault guards would not enter the city immediately, but should be held outside the city limits until the situation had cleared up. The arrival of the troops while the people were still so tense, would undoubtedly mean a renewal of hostilities and further loss of lives. The CNT and the FAI wanted to avoid this. They were somewhat sceptical regarding the assurances that the troops would be loyal to the workers.
The night of May 6-7th was decisive for the immediate future. The CNT and the FAI had not yet exerted the full pressure of their strength. They still continued in a waiting position. Should they summon all of Catalonia to take up the fight against the nationalists and the provocateur elements among the police and some of their chiefs? They could have rallied a tremendous force but they did not want to continue this fratricidal conflict. Again and again the anarchists offered to negotiate, eager to end the conflict. But the atmosphere was tense and the situation continued to be difficult. Fighting was going on in Tortosa and in Tarragona. At twenty past one, new telephone calls to the representatives of the government. No satisfactory answer to their proposals. The assault guards were continuing their march on Barcelona. In the centre of the city, the Catalan Nationalists and the rebellious police kept coming closer and closer to the headquarters of the Regional Committee. In San Pedro street in the immediate vicinity of the building, a new barricade was erected by the police. They were trying to encircle the Regional Committee of the CNT and the FAI.
At two in the morning the government had still failed to answer the proposals, awaited with so much impatience and anxiety… Twenty minutes past two. No answer… Half past two. No answer… A quarter to three… Three o’clock. Still no answer. They were discussing the resumption of work in the outlying districts where the fighting had stopped. The traffic could not start unless the barricades were pulled down. The delegates of the transport workers union were awaiting the answer of the government in order to give the order to start work again… A quarter to four and still no answer… At five minutes to four in the morning, the Provincial Committee communicated that they were ready to hold up the troops from Valencia… Four o’clock. No answer.
At last, at a quarter past five, the government answered. They agreed to the armistice. All parties shall leave the barricades. Patrols and guards retire to their headquarters, unions and fortified positions. Both sides to release their prisoners. The patrols to resume their functions.
Everybody relaxed. But – could one trust the sincerity of this answer? Would the workers in the telephone exchange continue to function as before? Would everything come out all right again?
Neither victors nor vanquished. That is the will of the syndicalists and anarchists. The anti-fascist front shall not be destroyed. War against fascism. Unity of all workers. That is the firm wish of the workers on the barricades. And the resolutions of the committees were based on this wish. The Regional Committee issued the following statement over the radio:
“To all the workers of the CNT: Having reached an understanding with both the political and the trade union representatives, we wish to notify you that you will receive instructions from your responsible committees regarding the establishment of complete peace and calm. For the present we urge you to keep that calm and presence of mind that the situation requires. Do not answer the provocation’s of those who seek to perpetuate the existing state of disorder.”
While the results were still being discussed, new fears arose as the shooting broke out again to disturb the enveloping silence of the night. Two cars were driving down Via Durruti. As they passed the police prefecture, they were shot at. They were able to pass the headquarters of the Regional Committee undisturbed but a short distance away the shooting broke out in full force once more. Rifles, machine guns, hand grenades came into play. A bad sign. A strange contrast to the assurances of a peaceful solution of the conflict. Only half an hour to 6 o’clock. Will we be able to pacify the suspicions and the tempers of the comrades? At six o’clock, shots could still be heard.
We switched off the lights. A beautiful morning. Barcelona slept in silence.
In the centre of the city, however, the air was still tense. The barricades of the assault guards, of the Catalan Nationalists, and of the PSUC remained intact. And guarded. Taking advantage of the good will of the workers, groups of assault guards were walking about disarming workers wherever they could get hold of them. New friction arose between the assault guards and the Libertarian Youth in the Plaza del Pino and the Puertafer. And once more it was thanks to the initiative of the Anarchist Youth. who went unarmed to the headquarters of the assault guards to negotiate, that finally, after hours of discussion. the assault guards decided to show a more peaceful attitude and the barricades could come down.
The centre of the city was like a fortress. High buildings had been used as fortifications by the various groups. Out of walls of sand bags, mattresses or cushions. rifles and machine guns poked their barrels. The assault guards had opened the churches and used them as fortifications.
But the populace could breathe more freely. For three days they had been forced to remain in their houses. Now everybody was walking about in the streets. The masses of people pushed their way through the barricades. Children played at revolution, rolling up a rock in a piece of paper and throwing it at the counter-revolutionists from behind the barricades. Everybody was discussing the situation in the bars and cafes.
Around midday another incident occurred. In the Calle Boqueria, a car of the Libertarian Youth was stopped by an assault guard, the youth disarmed and arrested. This was an obvious breaking of the agreement that there should be no more arrests and no more reprisals. In the calle San Pedro, CNT people were also threatened by the assault guards. Towards evening further incidents occurred. Near the Arco de Triumfo and in the Puerta del Angel shots were fired, not by the workers of the CNT but by the rebellious police. The car of Federica Montseny, Minister of Public Health, was also shot at, one of the passengers being wounded.
At twenty past eight the assault guards from Valencia reached Barcelona. They drove down the Via Durruti in motor trucks, and were welcomed at the Police Prefecture. What will their attitude be towards the workers? And what attitude will the workers take? As they passed the headquarters of the Regional Committee, a shot was fired from one car, while from another came the cry, ‘Viva la FAI”. Obviously their feelings and attitude toward the workers, toward the syndicalists and anarchists of Catalonia, were as mixed as their composition.
The workers had put down their arms and they did not think of taking them up again. The conflict was over. The workers were true to their agreement. But the other side did not prove as honourable in upholding their part of the bargain. However, everything remained quiet. No matter how much they tried to provoke the workers of the CNT and the FAI, the latter kept their presence of mind and their dignity. The workers of the CNT and the FAI had not started this conflict, nor did they want any part in prolonging it. They had not been conquered, even though the Catalan police assumed a provocatively boastful attitude after the Valencia troops arrived. Again and again they tried to put the workers in the position of the defeated party.
Yet their own conduct had been strange. The Catalan nationalists, always strongly opposed to the influence of Madrid and fighting strenuously for autonomy, had appealed for help to the Valencia Government to defend their privileges. They played the same role now as the Catalan Right parties had played a few years before. In October 1934, Cambo and his League insisted on the intervention of Madrid; at that time the Catalan Left had opposed them. Now, since the Catalan Right had been defeated on July 19th together with the fascist Generals, the Catalan Left demands the intervention of the central government in Catalan affairs. In both cases, the interests and privileges of property, of capitalism, were being defended. In both cases they fought against the workers who were striving for the Social Revolution. The orchestra leader had been changed, but the music was the same.
The various towns and villages of Catalonia reported to the Regional Committee on what happened. These reports show the counter-revolutionary character of the movement. At Montesquieu, Lafarga, and Bisaura the members of the CNT were persecuted and even driven away. Sixty anarchist refugees from the neighbouring villages came to Vich.
In the Tortosa district, unmotivated attacks were launched against the economic institutions of the workers. The incidents were particularly indecent at La Cenia. Two hundred assault guards occupied the village on May 7th. The guards entered the Union headquarters of the CNT and destroyed everything they could lay their hands on. Eight people, men and women, who were in the union quarters at the time, were arrested. The headquarters of the Libertarian Youth was occupied, its furniture destroyed. The collective economic enterprises were dissolved, their quarters occupied by the assault guards with the assistance of the bourgeois republican elements and members of the PSUC. This action was directed against the economic achievements of the proletariat. The comrades report from La Cenia:
“Our Collective, consisting of 450 members has been a model for the entire district. For seven months we have made economic sacrifices in order to build up our Collective. We have done away with the wage system, have established a just distribution. We had a co-operative barber shop, co-operative kitchens and a big coffee house. The capital invested by the workers, and the stock on hand was worth 45,000 pesetas. All this has been taken away from us, so that our families are now starving. Our barber shop had ten modern chairs. These, as well as our stock of textiles and our collective stable of work horses have been taken away from us. They even went so far as to invade the homes of our comrades and rob them of clothing and money. Forty comrades have been arrested and were taken to Tortosa. Sixty civil guards remained in the village after they had finished their thefts. They are still occupying everything. We beg the comrades to send us help soon because we fear they will take everything away from us, even our supply of oil, worth 140,000 pesetas.”
At Amettla de Mar not only were workers molested, but also the militiamen who had membership carnets of the CNT. The secretary of the CNT unions was arrested, and his position as a rnember of the Municipal Council taken over by a member of the PSUC and UGT.
At Tortosa the repression was even worse. CNT membership carnets were taken away from their owners and torn up. The assault guards worked together with the members of the PSUC. Syndicalist and anarchist members of the Municipality were expelled and substituted by members of the small bourgeoisie and the PSUC. Numerous arrests were made.
At Villadalan Juan Garcia, the anarchist member of the City Council was arrested and all the anarchist members of the City Council were expelled from office. The membership carnets and banners of the CNT were torn up.
The collectivised enterprises of the CNT in Tortosa were also the object of attacks on the part of the united reactionary forces. The movement was directed against the social achievements of the proletariat. After the 19th of July the land was being cultivated collectively by the workers. The petty bourgeoisie wanted to do away with this collectivisation. A great number of assault guards and members of the bourgeois parties disarmed the workers and then proceeded to liquidate the collectivised institutions. Two tractors of the collective were returned to their former owners
The inhabitants of Amposta were compelled to surrender their arms to the assault guards. This action was in no way justified. The people were going about their daily occupations. The production of rice in this village since July 1 9th , amounted to 4(),000.000 kilos and the community had put this at the disposal of the Republic.
There were no differences between the CNT and the UGT here. Both organisations sent a delegate to Barcelona to request the Government to remove the troops. When the delegation reached Tortosa, the CNT representative was arrested. A new delegation was sent to Tortosa to secure the release of the arrested comrade. Without success. Later Amposta was occupied by civil guards. The workers gave up their arms, and shortly afterward, the civil guards distributed these arms among the Socialist Youth (members of the PSUC youth organisation). Arrests were made; and ten days after, five of the arrested were still in prison in Tortosa.
At midday Comrade Casanovas, representative of the telephone workers and employees, went to the military headquarters to inform the chief of the coastal service of the occupation of the telephone exchange. They agreed, after discussions with the Chief of Police, that the police should retire from the upper floors of the building where the technical apparatus is, and remain in the hall below on guard. Later, the Chief of Police communicated that the Delegate of Public Order refused to observe the agreement, presumably following orders from Barcelona.
Shortly afterwards a number of people were seen entering the headquarters of the left republican parties unarmed, and leaving equipped with rifles. The same thing was going on at the headquarters of the Socialist Youth: Casa del Pueblo. The comrades of the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist organisations also began to gather in their centres and prepare for their defence.
Between 6 and 7 o’clock the following morning, the headquarters of the Libertarian Youth was attacked with hand grenades and rifles. After 15 minutes the attacking force retired apparently obeying orders. At 11 o’clock a Commission of the CNT and the FAI went to the Generality and demanded a meeting of all anti fascist organisations The Generality acceded to this demand but the representatives of the UGT and PSUC refused to attend
Heavy fire broke out again at half past three in front of the headquarters of the Libertarian Youth, which was now being attacked by both police and civilian forces. A new commission of the CNT-FAI demanded that the Generality call a meeting of all the anti fascist organisations. The Chief of Aviation at Reus had taken over public security. The CNT and the FAI informed him that they did not want to shed any blood and therefore wanted a conference of all anti fascist organisations. At last the Conference took place. The Chief of Aviation declared that he had orders to proceed against the CNT-FAI by force if they did not immediately surrender all their arms.
Our comrades decided to give up their arms in order to avoid further bloodshed and destruction of homes, under the following conditions:
- 1. Release of all the imprisoned.
- 2. Withdrawal of the armed police and all other armed formations. Members of the Air Force were to take their place.
- 3. The life and liberty of all comrades, as well as their homes, to be respected.
The comrades of the CNT-FAI turned over all their arms to Captain Barbete himself in the headquarters of the Transport Union. The captain noticed and remarked on the fact that the weapons had not been used at all. He congratulated the comrades of the CNT on their sensible conduct. Arms were also given up to the police at the CNT headquarters.
And still there was no calm. About three o’clock in the morning, assault guards and police attacked the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence.
The persecutions against the militants and comrades of the CNT-FAI first began then. Thus, once more, the authorities and political organisations broke their promises.
Following are the names of comrades who were found murdered in various places outside the city: Mario Berruti, Baltasar Ballejo Mateo Freixas, Jose Gallisa, and Julian Martinez from Figueras. The last three had been arrested and taken to the police station. From there, assault guards took them to an unknown destination. Two hours later their corpses were identified in the morgue of the cemetery. Four other bodies could not be identified, but we must assume that they were also comrades of the CNT and the FAI.
Many houses of our comrades have been searched. These searches were carried out by the police and members of the Communist and Catalan Nationalist Parties. On May 7th, at a quarter past nine in the morning the merchant, Gisbert, appeared at the quarters of the co-operative stores of the CNT accompanied by the merchants, Jose Luis and Juan Galvet, and the railwaymen, Roche and Llacer, and obliged the personnel at gunpoint to stop working. The personnel and clients were compelled to leave the shop while the intruders remained behind as victors. A truckload of goods was stolen.
After the airborne troops had retired, assault guards and members of the Communist and Catalan Nationalist Parties invaded the headquarters of the CNT. They forced the doors open and destroyed the furniture. Thefts were committed in all the CNT local branches. One Recasens, member of the Esquerra, tried to assassinate a wounded comrade, Balabasque, member of the Libertarian Youth, in the City Hospital. The murder was prevented by members of the hospital. But when the brute threatened to kill Balabasque after he had recovered, the wounded man died from the shock of the entire incident within two hours.
It is obvious, from the narrative of these days, that the anarchists and syndicalists did not initiate a putsch. The workers were not interested in any internal struggle among the anti fascist parties. On the contrary, it was in their interest to maintain the anti fascist front.
It is also false to speak of uncontrolled elements having started the fighting, and, by that, mean the anarchists and syndicalists. The Paris evening paper, Ce Soir, makes this mistake out of sheer ignorance. In its edition of May 6th, it says: “The Generality is master of the situation. Some of the suburbs still seem to be in the hands of the enemy. Who are these enemies? It seems that the rebellion was started by some uncontrollable elements who managed to get into the most extreme wing of the anarchist movement in order to provoke disturbances in favour of the enemies of the republic.”
The Spanish press also spoke of uncontrolled elements, and referred to the anarchists. Every conceivable crime and excess was attributed to them, thereby covering the activities of the members of the PSUC and the Estat Catala, who were committing the most horrible atrocities. Here is an example of an incident in which truly uncontrolled elements indulged: During the tragic days, twelve militants of the anarchist youth were going from the suburb Armonia del Palomar to the offices of the Regional Committee. Near the city park they were stopped and taken to the Karl Marx Barracks, belonging to the PSUC. They simply disappeared. This took place on May 4th. Four days later, on May 9th, a mysterious ambulance left twelve terribly mutilated bodies on the road between Bella Terra and Sardanola Ripolet. The corpses were identified as those of the twelve young anarchists from Armonia del Palomar. These are the names of some of them. Cesar, Fernandez Nari, Jose Villena, Juan Antonio y Luis Carnera.
Other examples could be cited. They prove that the rising was not started by the anarchists, and that the uncontrolled elements must be sought in other quarters. To blame the anarchists is either to distort the truth, or pure fantasy. La Noche of May 7th, remarks on the following incident:
“An evening paper published a false sensational story about something that occurred in the headquarters of the CNT-FAI. This paper writes: ‘We learn that certain incidents occurred in the Casa CNT-FAI this morning. Some elements were expressing their dissatisfaction with the policies of the Confederation and provoked conflicts that resulted in a number of casualties. Ambulances arrived to take the wounded away.’
La Noche continues: “Since we know about said incident we wish to correct the mistake. On Wednesday morning, a well-known printer, with premises in the Calle Nueva de la Rambla, came to the Red Cross station on Calle Casanova. He asked for an ambulance to go to the rescue of his child who had been bitten by a mad dog. Owing to the tragic situation, the Red Cross could not spare an ambulance. However the delegate of the transport workers union of the CNT offered to help the man. An ambulance took them to the headquarters of the CNT nearby, where some rather heavy shooting was going on. The Regional Committee of the CNT put a car at the disposal of the despairing father, who was thus able to get help for his child…There was no conflict and no wounded at the Casa CNT-FAI. Only an act of humanity on the part of the comrades of the CNT.”
Peace was restored among the warring brothers. The CNT, as usual, kept to the agreement which it had accepted. Their militants put down their arms. They went back to work and did everything to prove their willingness to re-establish peace. They left their strategic positions. They started to tear down their barricades. Nothing must remain as a reminder of this tragic fratricidal struggle.
The same cannot be said of the workers’ opponents. The members of the Catalan Nationalists, as well as some uncontrolled elements of the PSUC and of the UGT considered themselves the victors. Protected by the old Catalan guards, who had not been disbanded, and by the new troops from Valencia, they dared to go into the streets, and stop workers, individually or in small groups, and, if they belonged to the CNT or the FAI, insult them, tear off their insignias and rip up their membership books. The new chief of police gave orders that people were not to be stopped in the street any more. They ignored it. Uniformed and non uniformed, partly illegal, guards continued to stop the workers. Every day new incidents were occurring. Here is one example:
On Sunday night, May 9th, after two days of calm, some uncontrolled elements of the UGT took advantage of the deserted condition of the city at 10 p.m. to send a number of men from their metal workers union, located on the Calle Diputacion to the headquarters of the theatrical workers union of the CNT, opposite them. They had chosen an hour when they expected no resistance. Our comrades were there, but decided not to resist. They called up the Executive Committee of the UGT and asked them to call back their uncontrolled and undisciplined members from the offices of a CNT union. On Thursday, May 15th, the headquarters were still occupied.
An even more vivid example: The Union of Liberal Professions of the CNT, art section, had opened an art exhibition in their headquarters. These were paintings saved by the anarchists during the early days of destruction. In the course of the fighting, some uncontrolled members of the PSUC broke into the exhibition hall with guns and revolvers drawn. The artists who were present did not want to start a bloody battle. The uncontrolled elements took possession of their quarters as well as of the exhibition. The pistoleros of the rebels reigned over the cultural centres of the anarchists. The anarchists, were they the men of blood and cruelty they are reported to be in Spain as well as abroad, would have proceeded to recapture the building. They rejected such a step. They did not want to risk the destruction of the art treasures they had rescued on the 19th of July. Their responsible Committees preferred to intervene with the official government to have their exhibition cleared of the intruders.
According to the pact, the prisoners were supposed to be released immediately by both sides. The comrades of the CNT and the FAl remained true to their word. They were self-disciplined and immediately released hundreds of prisoners, most of whom had put themselves under the protection of the anarchists voluntarily. Their opponents were not so faithful to their promises. Long negotiations were required before the communists and the Catalan nationalists would release their anarchist prisoners. A full week after the re-establishment of normality, many members of the CNT and the FAl were still being held. On the 13th of May, the anarchists, Cosme Paules del Roro, lose Dominguez, Antonio Ignacil, Francisco Sarqueda are still imprisoned in the Karl Marx Barracks, while Miguel Castells, Jose Deg