BAKUNIN’S LEGACY eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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What are these ideas that have proved so relevant in the twentieth century—more so, perhaps, than in Bakunin’s own time? Above all, Bakunin foresaw the true nature of modern revolution more clearly than any of his contemporaries, Marx not excepted. For Marx the socialist revolution required the emergence of a well-organized and class-conscious proletariat, something to be expected in highly industrialized countries like Germany or England. Marx regarded the peasantry as the social class least capable of constructive revolutionary action: together with Lumpenproletariat of the urban slums, the peasants were benighted and primitive barbarians, the bulwark of counterrevolution. For Bakunin, by contrast, the peasantry and Lumpenproletariat, having been least exposed to the corrupting influences of bourgeois civilization, retained their primitive vigor and turbulent instinct for revolt. The real proletariat, he said, did not consist in the skilled artisans and organized factory workers, who were tainted by the pretensions and aspirations of the middle classes, but in the great mass of “uncivilized, disinherited, and illiterate” millions who truly had nothing to lose but their chains. Thus, while Marx believed in an organized revolution led by a trained and disciplined working class, Bakunin set his hopes on a peasant jacquerie combined with a spontaneous rising of the infuriated urban mobs, a revolt of the uncivilized masses driven by an instinctive passion for justice and by an unquenchable thirst for revenge. Bakunin’s model had been set by the great rebellions of Razin and Pugachev in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His vision was of an all-embracing upheaval, a true revolt of the masses, including, besides the working class, the darkest elements of society—the Lumpenproletariat, the primitive peasantry, the unemployed, the outlaws—all pitted against those who throve on their misery and enslavement.

Subsequent events have, to a remarkable extent, confirmed the accuracy of Bakunin’s vision. It is small wonder, then, that contemporary historians have shown a new appreciation of the role of spontaneous and primitive movements in shaping history. From the work of Barrington Moore, who has recently investigated the relationship between modernization and agrarian revolt, as well as of Eric Hobsbawm, George Rude, E. P. Thompson, and others, we are coming to understand that most modern revolutions, like those of the past, have been largely unplanned and spontaneous, driven by mass movements of urban and rural laborers, and in spirit predominantly anarchistic. No longer can these naive, primitive, and irrational groups be written off as fringe elements to be ignored by the historian. They lie, rather, at the very basis of social change.

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Germinal Esgleas and Federica Montseny’s complicity in the plot to frame and murder Joaquín Ascaso and Antonio Ortíz. Notes from ¡Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. 4: 1920-1924

The following extract from Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg 3:1920-1924 relates to a fictitious honour court –arbitration panel of CNT rank-and file members hearing charges against Federica Montseny and her husband, Germinal Esgleas, of treachery, malfeasance and — among other things — complicity in a murder plot against CNT militants Joaquin Ascaso and Antonio Ortíz, both pivotal figures in the anarchist Regional Defence Council of Aragón (December 1936— August 1937).

Germinal Esgleas and Federica Montseny

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Laureano Cerrada Santos, Germinal Esgleas and Federica Montseny Notes from ¡Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. 4: 1920-1924

Laureano Cerrada Santos (1900-1976) © Sûreté Nationale

“The big man from Govan [Farquhar McHarg] harboured no illusions about the extent to which Cerrada’s activities straddled conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable worlds. On the one hand there was the Cerrada he had known and respected as a comrade and friend for over fifty years; on the other was this distinct ‘Mr Hyde’ personality, one whose nature and behaviour functioned on a completely different macroscopic level.

“Things had started going wrong for Cerrada in the autumn of 1949. Political tensions resulting from the trauma of defeat and the subsequent post-1939 power struggle within the emigré community, particularly among the members of the Executive Council of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE) in exile(1) — aggravated by Cerrada’s clandestine activities and his compromising criminal connections made during and after the Nazi occupation — led, in 1950, to his expulsion from the CNT. His black market activities cost him many friends in the movement, or people he thought were friends but who turned out to be opportunistic acquaintances.

“At the time of his murder in October 1976, Cerrada was a supporter, albeit on the periphery, of the anarchist Grupos de Acción Revolucionario Internacional (GARI), the successors to the First of May action groups (1966-1972). Even after his expulsion and imprisonment in 1950, he continued in the role of ‘facilitator’ and as a ‘wise head’, someone the younger militants, the ‘Apaches’, could turn to for advice, moral solidarity and, when required, logistical and financial support.

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TO DIE IN MADRID. THE MAN WHO KILLED DURRUTI — José Manzana; the person responsible, Federica Montseny

durrutikiller
Above left: Durruti’s Generalidad-appointed military adviser, Sergeant José Manzana (circled), a professional soldier, was a drill sergeant in the Corps of Artillery and an Olympic-standard pistol-shooting champion. On the morning of 19 July he escaped from the besieged Barcelona Dockyard to join the Confederal militias. From that time on he accompanied Durruti everywhere, and was at his side on the Aragón front where he became his military adviser following Captain Enrique Pérez-Farrás’s recall to Barcelona by the Generalitat to head up the Mossos d’Escuadra (Catalan police). After Durruti’s death Manzana returned to the Aragón front to reorganize the remainder of the Durruti Column and prepare it for militarisation while Ricardo Sanz assumed command of the column in Madrid. Militarisation of the column was finally completed on 28 April 1937, less than a week before the Stalinist coup of May 3-8. Above right: Sergeant José Manzana, wearing a militiaman’s cap, his wounded right arm in a sling, is in the first line of mourners. On his left is the grieving widow, Emilienne Morin, whose features bear all the emotion evoked by the death of her compañero. Holding her other arm is Miguel Yoldi’s wife.

Madrid, 20 November 1936: Today is the 80th anniversary of the mysterious death of the anarchist Buenaventura Durruti.

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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!’

 

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A NEW WORLD IN OUR HEARTS The Faces of Spanish Anarchism Edited by Albert Meltzer. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

A NEW WORLD IN OUR HEARTS, The Faces of Spanish Anarchism, Edited by Albert Meltzer. Contributors: Albert Meltzer; Frank Mintz; José Peirats; Gaston Leval; Andrew Giles Peters. Originally published 1978 by Cienfuegos Press, Sanday, Orkney. Over the course of 120 pages, through a series of interlinked essays, the contributors discuss the history of Spanish Anarchism, the Revolution in practice, the post-Revolution resistance and internal anarchist organization, and the reemergence of the CNT and Spanish Anarchism following the death of Franco. As enlightening, informative, and relevant as it was when it first appeared almost 30 years ago.

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