Octavio Alberola Suriñach (Alaior, Menorca, 1928), anarcho-syndicalist and Franco’s public enemy No. 1 from 1962 to 1975. Exiled with his parents to Mexico in 1939, Alberola studied civil engineering and theoretical physics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he became involved with the Libertarian Youth and the CNT in exile. He also worked, from 1956, with the exiled Cubans of the July 26 Movement and the Student Revolutionary Directory until the fall of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1962 the Defense Committee of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE) formed the clandestine Interior Defence (Defensa Interior) Committee, to which Alberola was delegated as a representative of the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL). Consequently, Alberola moved to France to coordinate the DI’s harrying, propagandist and solidarity actions across Europe, including inside Spain. These actions included an assassination attempt against Francisco Franco in San Sebastián in the summer of 1962, the first of a number of attentats. The San Sebastian attempt failed due to technical problems with the triggering device — and because Franco arrived later than expected.
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 Scottish revolution of 1638 introduces a last group of provincial rebellions in which the external aspect was decisive. Despite their many differences, all shared the fundamental common property of originating in the grievances of subordinate or provincial kingdoms within dynastic unions. Either the absentee ruler and paramount state were guilty of unaccustomed demands and innovations that violated the autonomous liberties of the provincial kingdom, or they inflicted upon it an increasingly repressive government that finally became intolerable. Whether the one or the other, or some combination of the two, rebellion erupted.
“We see such cases in both the Spanish and the English monarchies. The revolt of Aragon in 1591 and the revolutions of Catalonia and Portugal in 1640 were alike a resistance to the pressures and intrusions of the central regime in Madrid. The several revolts of Ireland and the Scottish rebellion of 1638 were directed against subjugation or domination by England. We need pause for only a brief glance at the revolt of Aragon against Philip II to see how it fits into the picture of provincial rebellion. In its kingdom of Aragon, the Habsburg monarchy was confronted by a Cortes and other indigenous institutions that restricted its powers in considerable ways. With Aragon was also associated the famous (although historically fictitious) oath, according to which subjects were bound to render obedience only if their prince observed their privileges, otherwise not (si no, no).71 These privileges, or fueros, often served as a cover for local misgovernment and aristocratic oppression; however, they also stood as a real obstacle to royal absolutism.