November 1936 was a milestone in the civil war. Having surrounded Madrid, the mutinous fascist army was making a supreme effort to overrun the capital. On 4 November 1936 the ‘notable leaders’ [Horacio Prieto (CNT National Secretary before Vázquez), Mariano R. Vázquez (CNT National Secretary), Federica Montseny (Minister of Health), Diego Abad de Santillán (Secretary of the Peninsular Committee of the FAI), Joan Peiró (Minister for Industry), Juan López (Minister for Trade), García Oliver (Minister of Justice)] of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT and anarchist FAI Peninsular Committee finally and completely abandoned the Confederation’s apolitical stance by taking it upon themselves to accept four nominal ministries in the central government of Largo Caballero. Many believed this was a cynical move on the part of Caballero to facilitate the government’s flight to Valencia and to pre-empt any criticism, or, presumably, any revolutionary initiatives from the anarcho-syndicalist rank and file. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences!), two days later, on 6 November, Largo Caballero and his cabinet, including his newly appointed anarchist ministers, fled to Valencia — while the people of Madrid rallied to the city’s defence to cries of ‘Long Live Madrid Without Government!’
Shortly after midday on 19 November 1936, Buenaventura Durruti – the revolutionary and Spanish Civil War leader – set out for the Clinical Hospital in Madrid, the scene of serious fighting with Franco’s Moorish troops. Besides his driver Julio Graves, he was accompanied by three other men: Miguel Yoldi, Bonilla and his military adviser Sergeant José Manzana. Spotting a group of milicianos he believed were deserters, Durruti stopped the car and got out to order them to return to their positions, which they did. As Durutti tried to re-enter the vehicle, a burst of machine-gun fire hit him in the chest at point-blank range. Within hours he was dead from his wounds, aged 40. But with the ending of his life began the questions that have eluded clear answers ever since. Who fired the fatal shots? Were they accidentally self-inflicted when his own weapon knocked against the car door? Did one of the other occupants deliberately assassinate him? Or was the “troublesome priest” of anarchism silenced by an unknown sniper’s bullet? A former policeman, now a Major in the Spanish Republican Army, is sent to Madrid to investigate the circumstances in which the legendary anarchist was killed. In his search for the truth he interviews the key witnesses and uncovers a number of contradictory accounts. Nobody tells the same story in quite the same way, but as an experienced police officer he knows it is not inconceivable that they are all telling the truth. But it is also possible that some of them are lying, that some are trying to hide what they know, and, more sinisterly, that some may be seeking to sabotage his investigation for darker political ends. Making imaginative and ingenious use of the detective novel as a literary device, Pedro de Paz explores various hypotheses and scenarios that could at last provide us, seventy years on, with believable explanations about the chain of events leading to the death of a truly remarkable man.
we shall try to add our own particular grain of sand to the odd and sometimes
thorny topic of the role of women in the guerrilla struggle. Whereas their part
in support roles and their roles as couriers meant that their participation was
unquestioned and crucial … estimates say that they made up about 40% or
almost 50% in regions like Galicia and Asturias … it is scarcely surprising
that estimates of their engagement with guerrilla activity fall to about 2%, giving
an overall figure of 150. Or maybe this not such a surprise, if we look at the
overall status of women within Spain, with a slight exception made for the
republican era, as witness this late 19th century article in La Vanguardia:
“From her intellect to her stature,
everything about her is inferior and the opposite of men … Woman, per se, is
not like man, a complete being; she is merely the instrument of reproduction,
the one destined to perpetuate the species; whereas man is destined to bring
her progress, the generator of intelligence, at once creative and a demiurge of
the world of society. And so everything bends in the direction of inequality
between the sexes and to non-equivalence.”
THE SPANISH GUERRILLAS in the north were not as numerous as their comrades in the south, but their presence was clearly felt in the battles of liberation that began in June 1944. In this theater, however, they were joined by their brothers who fought in French uniforms, those who had joined the Foreign Legion or escaped to England after the defeat of France in 1940. These men had battled General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and had then prepared for the invasion of France. They were to return to France in mid-1944, help to liberate it from the Nazi army, and then to push into the heartland of Germany itself.
In the summer of 1943, sixteen thousand soldiers, twenty percent of them Spaniards, were activated in Africa as the Second French Armored Division, under the command of General Philippe Leclerc. They were drawn from diverse sources but all had seen considerable action in the African campaigns. Equipped by the Americans, the division possessed the most modern armor. At about the same time General Brosset assumed command of the First French Armored Division and General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny was named commander of the French Army B.1 These units were to become the visible symbols of the resurgence of French military vitality and the instruments through which France would rejoin the contest against Hitler.
Antonio Martín Escudero, better known by the derogatory nickname “El Cojo de Málaga” (‘The Malaga Gimp’), was born in Belvis de Monroy (Cáceres). He was the son of Celestino Martín Muñoz, farmer, and Ascensión Escudero Jara, “her sex being her trade”. Both were 26 years old at the time Antonio was born. The limp from which he suffered was due to a wound sustained during the revolutionary events of Tragic Week in Barcelona (1909). Other sources put the limp down to osteitis.
As a smuggler he, along with Cosme Paules, specialised in the smuggling of weapons across the border for the CNT’s defence groups. By 1922 he and Paules were regular active collaborators with the Los Solidarios group to which they belonged. Between 1924 and 1934 Antonio was in exile in France. He ran a tiny little shoe repair stand in a yard adjacent to an Auvergne coal-yard on the Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris. In 1927, being resident in Aubervilliers, he had a daughter by the name of Florida Martín Sanmartín (she outlived him after he was killed in 1937): The mother’s name is not known to us. In Aubervilliers he worked, first, in construction and later in a garage.