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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The Murder and Burial of Camillo Berneri and Francesco Barbieri in Barcelona, May 1937 by Agustín Guillamón (Translated by Paul Sharkey)

  1. The Murder

Francesco Barbieri (1895-1937)
Camilo Berneri (1897-1937)

“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[1] and Barbieri[2], 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[3], 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.

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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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LESSONS OF THE SPANISH REVOLUTION (1936-1939) Vernon Richards — eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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In this study the Spanish workers’ resistance to the military insurrection of July 1936 is viewed not as a struggle between Fascism and Democracy but as a heroic attempt to bring about a far-reaching Social Revolution. In this task the Spanish revolutionaries had to deal both with Franco’s armies and with the forces of counter-revolution in their midst. It is on this latter aspect of the struggle the author attempts to shed some light, drawing on the vast documentation available, most of which, however, is quite unknown to the English-speaking public.

In spite of the defeat of the Spanish Revolution it is nevertheless one of the most important landmarks in Man’s age-long struggle for his freedom and emancipation, and will eventually be so recognised, when the events, which to-day obscure our sense of proportion and capture the headlines, will have long been forgotten.

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