The Life and Universe of anarchist Octavio Alberola by Xavier Montanyà (translated by Paul Sharkey)

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.

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Octavio Alberola, interviewed by Agustín Guillamón in November 2016

Octavio Alberola Suriñach (Alaior, Menorca, 1928), anarcho-syndicalist and Franco’s public enemy No. 1 from 1962 to 1975. Exiled with his parents to Mexico in 1939, Alberola studied civil engineering and theoretical physics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he became involved with the Libertarian Youth and the CNT in exile. He also worked, from 1956, with the exiled Cubans of the July 26 Movement and the Student Revolutionary Directory until the fall of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1962 the Defense Committee of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE) formed the clandestine Interior Defence (Defensa Interior) Committee, to which Alberola was delegated as a representative of the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL). Consequently, Alberola moved to France to coordinate the DI’s harrying, propagandist and solidarity actions across Europe, including inside Spain. These actions included an assassination attempt against Francisco Franco in San Sebastián in the summer of 1962, the first of a number of attentats. The San Sebastian attempt failed due to technical problems with the triggering device — and because Franco arrived later than expected.

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