Es sabido que un Estado soberano necesita una serie de medios cuyas características varían según el servicio que hayan de prestar y de las condiciones históricas en que se encuadren. Ha de contar con un territorio, base geográfica del poder, delimitado por unas fronteras militares y por unas barreras económicas —las aduanas—que sirven para defender, y controlar, a los nacionales y a los extranjeros. Debe tener, asimismo, un gobierno y una administración; el grado de participación de los gobernados en estos organismos y la distribución social de los beneficios nacionales sirven para definir al Estado como autocrático o democrático. Finalmente, la autoridad considerada no sólo como ejecutivo, sino también como cuerpo teórico que configura toda la organización, puede proceder de una situación de hecho o de derecho, y autodefinirse de forma más o menos democrática.
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.
In July 1936, the coup-makers (golpistas) were clear that their success would be bought at the cost of the physical elimination of the leading members of the republican and workers’ political parties, as well as of the trade unions. In addition to members or organisations like the freemasons which were held to be hostile to the golpistas’ clericalism and unreconstructed version of Catholicism. This repressive approach resulted in a policy of extermination once the golpistas woke up to the fact that their coup attempt had failed across the country. So that during the summer and the months that followed there occurred in the occupied territories what has been described as “Francoism’s foundational massacre” or “the Spanish Holocaust”.
The rebels were trying to stop the changes in economic relations and in in Spanish society as a whole, these having gathered pace after the proclamation of the Second Republic in April 1931. Both the moderate changes pushed by the republican groups and the more far-reaching changes pushed by anarcho-syndicalism. The defeat of the coup was a boost to the spread of the revolution which it was supposed to have been meant to prevent. The number one enemies to be eliminated were those who represented the greatest radicalism: the libertarians.
This essay means to describe how the policy of extermination was applied to the anarcho-syndicalist constituency in Cadiz. A city where the main economic sectors – metalworking, transport and construction – were dominated by the CNT. I shall focus upon a few of the more prominent militants, whilst not forgetting that the repression encompassed the bulk of the city’s anarcho-syndicalists.