BARCELONA, November 1936 by Cyril Connolly

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Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)

Cyril Connolly (1903-74) was a prominent British writer, editor, well known in particular for his book reviews. His biographer Jeremy Lewis described him as “Precociously brilliant in his youth, haunted for the rest of his life by a sense of failure and a romantic yearning to recover a lost Eden.” He was a schoolmate, from their earliest days, and friend of George Orwell, of whom he remarked: “He reduced everything to politics; he was also unalterably of the Left. His line may have been unpopular or unfashionable, but he followed it unhesitatingly; in fact it was an obsession. He could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry.” Connolly himself is famous for his dictum addressed to would-be literary types: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” And reviewing for Harold Evans’s Sunday Times Miguel Garcia’s book Franco’s Prisoner (1972), his comradely words for the veterans, alive and fallen, of thirty years of anarchist resistance to fascism in Spain far surpassed in commitment any of the liberalistic phrase-mongering appearing in what passed for the mainstream anarchist press in Britain at the time.

THE FIRST THING ONE NOTICES ABOUT GOING TO BARCELONA is the peculiar meaningful handshakes of one’s friends. Accompanied though they are by some such phrase as “I wish I were going too,” one cannot avoid detecting in the farewell a moment of undertaker heartiness, of mortuary appraisal. In the early morning among the lagoons, the brown landscape and rainy sky of Languedoc, one begins to share it, only at the Spanish frontier does it completely disappear. As a rule, the change from Cerberé to Port Bou is one from gaiety and comfort to gloom and emptiness; to-day it is the Spanish end which is alive. The first thing one notices is the posters, extremely competent propaganda, of which that of a peasant’s rope-soled foot descending on a cracked swastika in a cobbled street is the most dramatic. The frontier is guarded by cultivated German and Italian anti-Fascists, and one begins at once those discussions on political ideology, which are such a feature of present-day republican Spain. “You journalists are the worst enemies of a revolution,” explained the Italian, “you all come here with letters like yours; then you go back and write Right-wing propaganda about us.” “Why can’t you admit that England is not prepared to help any democracy until its rearmament is carried out, when it will be too late?” said the other. Down in the little harbour the militiamen, in their blue uniforms and forage caps, were fishing with bits of starfish. The sombre Spanish train had been painted all along the carriages with crude pictures of troops departing and with harvests being gathered. As it drew out into the autumn sunshine one first became conscious of the extraordinary mixture of patriotic war-fever and revolutionary faith, and of that absolutely new and all-pervading sense of moral elevation which since the revolution is the most dominating note in Catalonia. For here one never says “since the military rebellion,” “since the Fascist revolt,” but simply “since the Revolution” or “since the 19th of July.” At the end of the train were two carriages of Anarchist troops, mostly under twenty, who waved their black and red banners, pointed their rifles at one, and in return for some cigarettes burst into a shout which was taken up all down the train of “Viva la Revolución.”

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Anarchists in La Cerdanya — SEGUNDO JODRA GIL (1907-1943) by Antonio Gascón/ Agustin Guillamón. Translated by Paul Sharkey

Puigcerdà,1939: Retreating Republican forces destroy Puigcerdà’s arsenal

Segundo Jodra Gil, unmarried carpenter and CNT member, was born in 1907 in Pálmaces de Jadraque (Guadalajara). In October 1934, he was briefly jailed in Puigcerdá, together with Antonio Martín. He was acquitted of the charge of killing a policeman. In 1936, he was appointed Economy sub-delegate for the Cerdanya by the Generalidad government and was actively involved in the running of the Puigcerdá People’s Co-operative, a leading libertarian experiment in the Cerdanya. After the war ended, he was arrested in 1942 and shot in Gerona cemetery on 12 July 1943.

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THE REVOLUTION ENDED IN MAY A film by Mikel Muñoz

‘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’.

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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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ANARCOSINDICALISMO Y REVOLUCIÓN EN ESPAÑA 1930-1937 por John Brademas. Prefacio de Pedro García-Guirao — eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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El historiador y político norteamericano John Brademas (1927 –  2016), que se graduó en la Universidad de Harvard y se doctoró en la de Oxford, era desde 1959 miembro demócrata de la Cámara de Representantes del Congreso de su país. A pesar de la importancia de los grupos revolucionarios, en general, y del anarquismo, en particular, no abundan los estudios valiosos dedicados al tema. En tanto que la obra de Stanley Payne, La revolución española intenta presentar una óptica de conjunto, la de Brademas analiza concretamente el anarcosindicalismo español durante el período 1930-1937.

A lo largo de su estudio John Brademas mostró la evolución del más poderoso movimiento anarcosindicalista del mundo, la CNT, y sus relaciones con la UGT y la FAI. El libro comienza con un ‘análisis del tema “conspiración y colaboración bajo el régimen de Primo de Rivera”, sigue con la etapa inicial de la República y las huelgas de la Telefónica y del puerto de Barcelona; la declaración de los treinta; la sublevación del alto Llobregat y la consiguiente escisión de la CNT; la sublevación anarquista de enero de 1933; la Alianza Obrera; la revolución de octubre de 1934; y la formación y la efímera trayectoria del Frente formación de las milicias y de sus comités; la justicia revolucionaria; la organización económica de la revolución (las colectivizaciones en la industria, las colectividades agrícolas, etc.) y la participación de ministros anarquistas en el Consejo de la Generalidad y en el gobierno de la Republica. El libro concluye con los sucesos de mayo de 1937 en Barcelona, que, entre otras cosas, significaron pare el anarquismo la pérdida de su predominio político en el campo republicano.

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