Agustín Comotto’s new biography of Octavio Alberola, El peso de las estrellas(Rayo Verde), delves into the 20th century libertarian struggle through the life, considered thoughts and ideals of one of the most pugnacious anarchists of our day.
In Octavio Alberola we have the
red thread connecting and affording meaning to the continuity between the
libertarian struggles under the Republic and the civil war, the anti-Franco
struggle, the revolts and armed actions of the 1970s, right up to the fresh
re-formulations of anarchism in a globalized world. The narrative and his
thoughts on his life and times as offered to us by the author of this book, the
Argentinean writer and artist Agustín Comotto, through the skilful use of two
voices embodying two generations, allows for a contextual analysis of
things. We have the voice of a
protagonist who lived through historic times and personal and collective
tragedies, and an activist familiar with great players in history such as García
Oliver, Cipriano Mera, Federica Montseny, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Daniel
Cohn-Bendit, Régis Debray and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.
Furthermore, the book plunges
into the contradictions and misgivings, certainties and ethical commitment to
his ideas and to society that have always guided Alberola’s life through an
unrelenting re-framing of the anarchist idea and the meaning of social
struggle, not forgetting what it means to live one’s own individual life in
accordance with anarchist ideas too. We discover not just the activist but also
the person alive to and curious about the world of culture and thought. He was
a very good friend of Agustín García Calvo and locked horns with Noam Chomsky,
among others. His intellectual interests range from quantum physics and
relativity theory to art, music, history, cinema, engineering and architecture.
Cipriano Mera Sanz was born on 4 November 1897 in Madrid’s Tetuán de las Victorias quarter. His childhood was tough, as it was for every other working class family.
He never got the chance to go to school and, from a very young age, he was forced out to work by the need to make some contribution towards the running of his humble household. At the age of 16 Mera made up his mind to become a bricklayer and, so that his rights would be protected, his father enrolled him the UGT-affiliated ‘El Trabajo’ bricklayers’ society. From then on, Mera was up to his neck in social issues and labour affairs. But he soon found that the what the UGT stood for and what he was looking for were not the same thing, and he found the socialists’ trade unionism a bit restrictive. Cipriano Mera was out for a revolutionary change that reformism just did not offer.
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.
‘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’.
In order for me to go on and examine the importance of anarchy in Gerhard Richter’s work, ‘Anarchism’ as a concept needs to be explained. Anarchy is often misunderstood, due to bad press, as being a state of chaos. This is far from the truth. Indeed, there are rigid theories put down by philosophers of Anarchism, validating it as a logical and ordered theory.
Among others, I will be referring to four main philosophers of ‘Anarchism’: Bakunin, Proudhon, Godwin and Kropotkin. Although these four differ in their attitudes, taken as a whole they provide the most comprehensive guide to Anarchistic thinking.
There are four basic criteria for a minimum definition of Anarchism. According to J P Clark,
“A View of the ideal society as being non-coercive, non-dominating and non-exploitative.”
“Anarchism has a criticism of existing institutions, based on this view of the ideal, present institutions are criticized as being oppressive, and destructive of freedom, individuality and autonomy.”
“Anarchists have a view of human nature which gives hope for a significant movement in the direction of the ideal, they believe that people have a great potential for autonomous creative action, which can be realised if the requisite social conditions are created.”
“Finally, Anarchists have a distinctive set of practical proposals for immediate change in the direction of the idea. They believe that voluntaristic, decentralist, liberatory alternatives can now be established to begin the development of a free human society.” (1)