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.
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.
On 24 October 1966 five members of the anarchist ‘First of May Group’1 were arrested in Madrid by the Francoist Brigada Político-Social and charged with preparing acts of terrorism. The action in question, ‘Operation Durruti’, involved the kidnapping of US Rear Admiral Norman Campbell Gillette, Jr., commander of US forces in Spain, but the plan was compromised and betrayed from the beginning by a sixth member of the group, police informer Inocencio Martínez, who was allowed to escape and return to France where he continued his treachery for some years.
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
First published in 1938 and updated and rewritten in 1946, G D H Cole and Raymond Postgate’s ‘The Common People. 1746-1946’ is a classic study of British working class history from the defeat of the Jacobite cause at Culloden in 1746 through to the end of WWII in 1946. Its 714 pages provide a comprehensive overview of British working class life from a libertarian socialist perspective from the end of the Jacobite rebellion to 1946: eighteenth century social and political movements; the Industrial Revolution and the French War; the post-Napoleonic Peace (including Peterloo and the rise of the trade union movement); England under the Reform Act; working class life during the so-called ‘Great Victorian Age’; Imperialism and Socialism; everyday life in the run-up to the First World War; the First World War itself; the inter-war period; Britain in 1939; the Second World War; plus a list of recommended books and a useful chronology of important dates