‘The revolution ended in May’, Mikel Muñoz’s 2015 film (Spanish with French subtitles) on the five days of infamy and treachery that ended Spain’s social revolution. In the Spring of 1937, with the anti-fascist war at its peak, the pro-Stalinist ‘socialists’ of the PSOE, led by Finance Minister Juan Negrín, the communist-led PSUC (The Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia) led by Juan Comorera, supported by right wing nationalists of the Estat Català, moved against the power bases of the anarcho-syndicalist workers’ militias in Catalonia, starting on April 25 with the customs post at Puigcerdá on the French border, and culminating in the attempted seizure of the Barcelona Telephone Exchange. The latter action and the call for the CNT employees defending the building and adjoining barrio barricades to abandon their positions and give up their arms was endorsed by the infamous ‘notables’ of the higher committees of the CNT, particularly anarchist ministers Federica Montseny and Juan Garcia Oliver, and CNT National Secretary Mariano T. Vazquez. The following account of the ‘Events of May’ is from ‘Building Utopia’.
“At 10.00 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday 4 May, two individuals wearing red arm-bands presented themselves at Apartment No 1, 2 Plaza del Ángel. They were received by comrades Berneri and Barbieri, whom they told not to shoot as they were friends and there was nothing to fear. Our comrades replied that, as antifascists who had come to Spain to defend the revolution, they had no reason to be shooting at antifascist workers.
The two individuals then left and were seen from the window to enter the premises opposite belonging to the UGT union. At around 3.00 p.m. the same day, five or six individuals wearing the same red arm-bands as the ones who called that morning, plus steel helmets and shotguns called to the apartment again, stating that they had authority to effect a search. Seeing that the search was thorough, comrade Tantini handed three rifles over to them, stating that they had been left there for safe-keeping by three militians who had turned up on leave from the Huesca front. After collecting the rifles, the UGT personnel and policemen left, just two of the latter staying behind to complete the search. Papers found in comrade Fantosi’s room and a few books and maps from comrade Mastrodicasa’s room were taken away. As for comrade Berneri’s room, given the volume of the material there, they made off with only a portion of it, stating that they would be back with a car. As they left, they warned our comrades not to venture outside and to keep away from the windows, unless they wanted to get themselvers shot. The searchers, upon being questioned, replied that they had had reports of armed Italian anarchists in the apartment.
However, as his obituary in the New York Times (11 July 2016) set out, behind this glamorous award-studded life lay something that ran much deeper. The son of a Greek immigrant restaurant-owner (whose restaurant came under repeated Ku Klux Klan attacks) and an Indiana elementary-school teacher, John Brademas recalled how his father told him on several occasions that he would strive not to leave him a great legacy (unlikely as he was an immigrant to Indiana and owner of a modest restaurant) but rather a first-rate education. Brademas embraced his father’s educational ambitions and never forgot his origins. In fact, James Fernandez (New York University) stressed in his obituary that “towering over everything else, perhaps, was the wisdom, decency and compassion of a truly extraordinary man who never forgot where he came from.”1