Footnotes to History: “Operation Durruti”, First of May Group

 

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.

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The Inner Ring by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, novelist, philosopher and a lay Anglican theologian. “The Inner Ring” was the Memorial Lecture he gave at King’s College, University of London, in 1944; it was Lewis’s warning to his ambitious Oxbridge students about politics, power, and the temptations and pitfalls that haunt higher office and the allure of favour seekers:

“May I read you a few lines from Tolstoy’s War and Peace?

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.

 

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COLD NIGHTS A novel by Pa Chin. Translated by Nathan K. Mai and Liu Ts’un-yan

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  ON THE eve of Pa Chin’s birth, the goddess of childbearing appeared to his mother in a dream. The goddess informed her that she had been chosen to give birth to a child that had been intended for her sister-in-law, because the gods were afraid that the sister-in-law might not take good care of the infant.1 On the next day, November 25,1904, Pa Chin, whose real name is Li Fei-kan, was born into a traditional upper-class family in Chengtu, Szechwan Province, in western China. Pa Chin’s grandfather and great-grandfather had both been magistrates, and a few years after his birth, his father assumed a magistrate’s position. The huge family, including Pa Chin’s parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews as well as a large number of servants, lived in a traditional family compound under the rule of his grandfather. Of the first few years of Pa Chin’s life little is known.

In the second half of 1907, Pa Chin’s immediate family moved to Kuang-yüan in northern Szechwan, where his father served as the local magistrate. Together with his parents, two elder sisters, and two elder brothers he lived in the yamen, an official walled compound. Life was pleasant for Pa Chin. Every day a mild-mannered tutor taught the basic classics to him and the other children in a special room. While classes were being held, an elderly gray-haired servant waited on the pupils. After class every afternoon, Pa Chin played in the courtyards with his elder brother and a 13-year-old bondservant. The courtyards were overgrown with tall grass and mulberry trees and filled with chickens. The children picked mulberries, gave names to the chickens, and played games.

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Disraeli’s Spectre — The Mythology of the Secret Societies — 1 by J.M. Roberts (1928-2003)

 

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Though sometimes amusing, it is always disturbing when intelligent people seriously talk nonsense. This is true even of the dead; we are always surprised at the credulity of our forebears. Sometimes it shocks us; they often held views that seem wicked as well as false, and they sometimes acted on them. It ought to be merely a truism that bad ideas can be as effective and influential as good, but obviously it is not, since we are so surprised by this. The hardest things to understand about much of the past are its errors and delusions. We are shut off from understanding them not only by the difficulties of research and by insensibility, for these are only general and preliminary obstacles to any discovery of the past, but also by the particular, anachronistic incredulity which we bring to anything which does not rest on our own intellectual assumptions.

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COPEL: a tale of rebellion and dignity. Documentary by COPEL [Coordinadora de Presos En Lucha — Prisoners in Struggle Coordinating Body], former prisoners of the Franco and post-Francoist regimes.

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.