22 August 1944: Spanish Republican guerrillas liberate Toulouse

GENERAL CHARLES DE GAULLE was fond of asking Maquis how long they had been in the Resistance. Since the question was ritual in nature, he wanted and expected a ritual response: “Since June 18, 1940, General,” the date of his famous appeal to the French nation to continue the struggle against Hitler. In Limoges, in September 1944, the General asked the question of a colonel of the Francs Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). “With all respect, General,” came the reply, “before you.” Seeing de Gaulle’s surprised reaction the colonel continued, Yes, I fought against the Germans during the war in Spain.”1

Perhaps the fact that the FTP was the communist arm of the Resistance motivated the Colonel’s reply, but the Spanish saw the war against the fascists as a continuing struggle dating from July 1936. It was true, as General de Gaulle said on another occasion, that the participation and sufferings of Spanish refugees in the Resistance had made them heroes of France and Spain.2 The sense of solidarity felt by Spaniards with Frenchmen in the common combat was expressed by Cristino Garcia Grandas, an outstanding Spanish guerrilla, when he noted that men and women of both nations had fought together for four years. “If I am proud of being a son of Spain I am not less proud of having helped in the liberation of France.” Cristino Garcia’s own career gave powerful affirmation to the basic Spanish idea that the war against fascism would not end until the victorious Allies helped the Spanish Republicans oust Francisco Franco. After the defeat of Ger-many, Cristino Garcia returned to Spain to organize a guerrilla campaign to achieve this end. He was captured and executed by the nationalist government.3


Pierre-Joseph PROUDHON His revolutionary life, mind and works by Edward S. Hyams eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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PROUDHON WAS BORN in the same year, 1809, as Charles Darwin, at about the moment when the reaction against the French Revolution, led by the old imperial monarchies and the British aristocratic oligarchy, began to triumph. That triumph was short-lived but at the time it was clear to only a very few men that Europe was facing a century of revolution.

It was in the half-century following Proudhon’s birth that a number of men of talent and two men of genius, Proudhon and Karl Marx, sought to give form and practical applicability to the social, political and economic philosophy to become known as socialism. Thus Auguste Blanqui, who when not fighting the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, was in prison working out the principles of communist trade unionism and was the father of the French Socialist Party, was only four years Proudhon’s senior; Alexander Herzen, the great publicist of socialism in Russia, was born in 1812, as was Louis Blanc who developed revolutionary socialism out of the idealistic proto-socialism of Saint-Simon. Michael Bakunin, the Russian anarchist and Marx’s most troublesome enemy, was born in 1814; Marx in 1818 when his master, Hegel, was not yet fifty; and Engels in 1820. Lassalle, founder and master of the formidable German Workers’ Party, was born in 1825.

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GANGRENE by Béchir Boumaaza. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

GangreneGANGRENE Béchir Boumaaza (Translated from the French by Robert Silvers)

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A damning account of the merciless brutality of the torture methods employed by the security apparatus of De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic in its repression of the Algerian struggle for independence. Gangrene consists of the dispassionate depositions made by seven Algerians (a commercial traveller, students, a journalist, and a pharmaceutical assistant) arrested in December 1958 by the French counter-intelligence service, the D.S.T. (La Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) on the orders of its then director, Roger Wybot, and Paris police chief and former Petainist and Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon*. Originally published in France on 16 June 1959, La Gangrène was immediately banned and the print run seized by the De Gaulle government; on June 23, French police smashed the plates intended for a second edition. In spite of the sadistic treatment to which the students were subjected, the language and style of the narrative is told in a restrained and unsensational manner; how a man who refused to speak was forced to strip naked, hung upon a spit like a trussed turkey, electrodes applied to his genitals, his head plunged into a tub of liquid containing urine and vomit. It is an historical irony that many of the police ‘specialists’ involved in these horror-steeped activities, particularly Wybot himself — De Gaulle’s ‘Beria’ in London— were former ‘heroes’ of the so-called French Resistance. As one of them remarked: “I was tortured by the Nazis; now I do it myself.” Perhaps the final irony was that these tortures — carried out in the name of the Fifth Republic — took place in the basement of 11 rue des Saussaise, the former Paris headquarters of the Gestapo, where many of their own comrades had been subjected to a similar fate. Plus ça change!

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A Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-45) Raymond Dronne. Translated by Paul Sharkey. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

DronneCoversmallA Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-45) by Raymond Dronne (Translated by Paul Sharkey) 

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Captain Raymond Dronne‘s memoir of the regular army unit he commanded from the summer of 1943 to the spring of 1945, No. 9 Company of the Chad March Regiment, also known as ‘La Nueve‘, a company made up almost entirely of Spanish veterans of the civil war and social revolution of 1936-1939 — anarchists, socialists, republicans. It was Dronne’s column that was ordered by General Leclerc to liberate Paris, which it did — flying the Spanish Republican flag from their Sherman tanks and half- tracks — on 24 August 1944. Of the 146 men of ‘La Nueve’ who landed in Normandy, only 16 survived to be the first to enter Hitler’s Berchtesgaden Eagle’s Nest.