Agustín Comotto’s new biography of Octavio Alberola, El peso de las estrellas(Rayo Verde), delves into the 20th century libertarian struggle through the life, considered thoughts and ideals of one of the most pugnacious anarchists of our day.
In Octavio Alberola we have the
red thread connecting and affording meaning to the continuity between the
libertarian struggles under the Republic and the civil war, the anti-Franco
struggle, the revolts and armed actions of the 1970s, right up to the fresh
re-formulations of anarchism in a globalized world. The narrative and his
thoughts on his life and times as offered to us by the author of this book, the
Argentinean writer and artist Agustín Comotto, through the skilful use of two
voices embodying two generations, allows for a contextual analysis of
things. We have the voice of a
protagonist who lived through historic times and personal and collective
tragedies, and an activist familiar with great players in history such as García
Oliver, Cipriano Mera, Federica Montseny, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Daniel
Cohn-Bendit, Régis Debray and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.
Furthermore, the book plunges
into the contradictions and misgivings, certainties and ethical commitment to
his ideas and to society that have always guided Alberola’s life through an
unrelenting re-framing of the anarchist idea and the meaning of social
struggle, not forgetting what it means to live one’s own individual life in
accordance with anarchist ideas too. We discover not just the activist but also
the person alive to and curious about the world of culture and thought. He was
a very good friend of Agustín García Calvo and locked horns with Noam Chomsky,
among others. His intellectual interests range from quantum physics and
relativity theory to art, music, history, cinema, engineering and architecture.
Maggie Torre’s welcome and rigorous study analysing the CNT’s trajectory during its thirty-five years of clandestinity and exile, describes, convincingly and in satisfying detail, the internal and external vicissitudes and complexities that led, in December 1979, to the steady eclipse of anarcho-syndicalist influence following the CNT’s first Congress in Spain since Zaragoza in 1936: the carrot and stick of thirty-five years of vicious and murderous repression and co-option of militants into the Francoist vertical unions; thirty years of the baleful and corrupting influence of the Gestapo-compromised Federica Montseny (1905-1994) and Germinal Esgleas (1903-1981) controlling an oligarchic mutual aid society in exile, and seeking to control — and betray, —the clandestine union organisation inside Spain; the changing nature of Spain’s labour movement in the 1950s and 1960s; the impact of the guerrilla action groups and Defensa Interior’s direct actions targeting Spanish tourism and its attempts to kill Franco; ‘cincopuntismo’ and the CNT’s relations with the vertical union; the ideological evolution of Spanish anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism in the 1960s and 1970s; the Scala-type machinations of the ‘Bunker’ to ensure a seamless, Dr Who-like transition to power and retain control in the brave new world of post-Francoist democracy.
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.