The fight put up by workers in order to learn their own history is but one of the many class wars in progress. It is not sheer theory, abstraction nor banality, in that it is part and parcel of class consciousness per se and can be described as theorisation of the historical experiences of the world proletariat and in Spain it has to embrace, assimilate and inevitably lay claim to the experiences of the anarcho-syndicalist movement in the 1930s.
There is spectre hanging over historical science, the spectre of falsification. The amnesia worked out between the democratic opposition’s trade unions and political parties with the last management line-up of the Francoist state at the time of the dictator’s demise, was yet another defeat for the workers’ movement during the Transition and it had important implications for how the Francoist Dictatorship and the Civil War are remembered historically. An amnesty amounted to a clean slate and a fresh start with the past. This required a deliberate and “necessary” forgetting of all pre-1978 history. There was a brand new Official History to be rewritten, since the Francoist and the anti-Francoist versions of the past were of no further use to the new establishment, its gaze focused upon papering over the antagonisms that triggered the Spanish Civil War.
The following extract is from F.M’s notes on a conversation with the then Solidaridad Obrera editor (1917-1919) Ángel Pestaña: “‘Our information on the German special services, has been good —was good, I should say. Until last week a French compañera by the name of Marthe Richard French —or Marthe Regnier —was Von Krohn’s [Lieutenant Commander Hans von Krohn, German naval attaché in Madrid] mistress, and for a spymaster, Von Krohn was remarkably indiscreet, especially where Marthe was concerned.
“‘Marthe Richard’s story was extraordinary. As a child, Marthe ran away from her home in Lorraine to Paris where she was soon caught and taken back to her parents, and placed in a convent — from which she promptly escaped again and returned to Paris where, in 1900, she fell in with Alexandre Marius Jacob, a French anarchist burglar and his partner Rose Roux, who took it upon themselves to befriend and look after the rebel twelve-year old girl. This time she wasn’t caught, or perhaps even looked for. Unfortunately, in 1905 Jacob, Rose and most of the members of his gang were betrayed and arrested for a string of spectacular burglaries the length and breadth of France, and were sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island, leaving the sixteen year old Marthe to fend for herself. For a time she turned to prostitution, but then by chance she met and fell in love with — and married — an extremely rich patron who indulged her every whim.
“… Central to the Hiéron du Val d’Or’s arcane beliefs [and those of Joan Miró i Trepat]and esoteric rituals was an obsession with Eucharistic symbolism, geometry and sacred architecture. It was nonsense, of course, but the importance of this organisation lay in its political inﬂuence, and its obsession with preventing the catastrophic happenings prophesied by ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ and what it euphemistically called ‘returning Europe to the original nobility of purpose and spiritual primacy of a Catholic Christianity modelled on the old Holy Roman Empire’.
“The thrust of the Hiéron du Val d’Or’s seminars and conferences wasn’t simply to dissect and counter Masonic, Bolshevik, Liberal or anarchist subversion and ‘contain’ the advance of Godless communism and ‘Masonic free thought’, but to actually confront the enemy by launching a four hundred year rollback, It was what they euphemistically called ‘expanding Catholic values’, ‘mobilising true faith into action’, and ‘spreading the social reign of Christ’.
“Joan Miró i Trepat, the patron of pistoleros and president of Pavimientos y Construcciones S.A., one of the country’s biggest building ﬁrms, was the wealthiest, most inﬂuential and reactionary of Catalonia’s employers. Tall and distinguished looking with his wide brimmed Panama and his gold fob watch with its heavy chain which hung in an arc between the two pockets of his mustard coloured waistcoat, Miró i Treat’s trademark accoutrements were a small gold Sacred Heart of Jesus pin on his jacket lapel, a silver handled walking stick in one hand, and a Romeo y Juliet cigar in the other.
“He was also a man fired by a sense of mission, an almost hysterical obsession to restore to Spain and Europe the spiritual and temporal hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church — and in light of Germany’s defeat, the fragmentation of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the likelihood of apocalyptic terror and world revolution, that mission was now urgent. A hard-line, paranoid integrist who clung, barnacle-like, to the Tridentine traditions of Holy Mother Church, his life and enormous fortune were dedicated to advancing the cause of Rome. In his worldview, the Church—in its perfect sixteenth century manifestation — was the only institution of spiritual and temporal power by which the unity and glory of Europe could be restored to what it had been during Charlemagne’s Reich, the Holy Roman Empire.
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.