Mariano R. Vázquez (‘Marianet’) — a pen portrait by ‘Farquhar McHarg’

Mariano R. Vázquez (1909-1939)

November 1936: “Farquhar was adamant that things began going badly wrong in 1936 with the vertiginous rise to power of Mariano R. Vázquez . ‘Marianet’, as he was known, was the protégé of the CNT’s collaborationist secretary-general, Horacio Martínez Prieto, and Juan García Oliver —first to the position of regional secretary of the Catalan CNT then, in November 1936, to the post of secretary-general of the CNT National Committee…

“According to Farquhar, it was Marianet who — largely single-handedly, but ably assisted by Montseny, Esgleas and others who should have known better — began suffocating the revolutionary process with his bureaucratic and cowardly deference to the Catalan and Madrid governments, and to the British and French consuls in Barcelona by ensuring that the CNT did not socialise those countries’ important commercial interests in Catalonia. Tragically, the majority of the membership acquiesced to this, by allowing the CNT-FAI street patrols to be replaced first by the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, then by security forces answerable only to the Generalidad Defence Council…

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LAUREANO CERRADA SANTOS. Notes from ¡Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. 2: 1919 (1944-1954)

1976, Café de L’Europe, Rue des Couronnes, Belleville, Paris: last photograph of Laureano Cerrada Santos (1902-1976), seated, centre. He was murdered a few days later on 18 October 1976. His murderer, Ramón Benichó Canuda (aka “Leriles”), a CNT Infiltrator and French Mafioso, fled to Canada; he was never arrested or faced extradition charges to face justice in France.

Although the French police and security services had had Laureano under regular surveillance since the Liberation (of Paris), they had only been able to arrest and convict him on a handful of occasions. According to Spanish and French police reports, he had been involved in large-scale black-market and counterfeiting operations during and after the Nazi Occupation and was reputed, according to their reports, to have amassed a fortune: ‘reckoned at over two hundred million francs, with which he funds the Spanish Libertarian action groups—within Spain as well as abroad’. Equally they knew Laureano’s counterfeit IDs, driving licences and ration cards had saved the lives of countless members of the Resistance, Allied and Jewish evaders and escaping POWs, as well as ordinary French men and women who had to reinvent themselves to escape the Gestapo and the Milice. For that reason—and for his role in the Resistance—they respected him and to a large extent turned a blind eye to his activities. But as the bitter memories of the Occupation receded, new geopolitical and domestic pressures began eroding French sympathies for the exiles who had contributed so much to the Liberation.

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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

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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