The Promise of a New World
In the last two episodes (Read Part 1 & Part 2) we saw how the anarchist movement in Spain had propelled parts of the country into a future where everyone owned the land they lived on, the factories they worked in and the canteens they ate in. It was the people themselves that ran the public transport system, that ran their hospitals and built their schools. It was an idealistic world that gave everyone a voice, a part to play and a future without corruption, injustice or repression from the state, the church or the army. This was the long-awaited anarchist revolution.
How could this happen? And why - 80 years later - are we seeing the shoots of the movement once more arise between the down-trodden soles of the disenchanted and unemployed in Spain? Read More here.....
Madrid Nov. 1936
Madrid looks as though its about to fall to Franco. The Republican Government tells the Madrileños to "man the trenches" yet without telling a soul, moves itself safely to Valencia. The military committee in the capital is left to “do its best” against the professional army at its borders.
Meanwhile, the anarchists who have been hesitant about helping out a government that has done little to support their needs in Catlaunya had just invited four anarchists to become cabinet ministers - including the novelist Federica Montseny - who becomes the first woman cabinet minister in the history of Spain (In Britain it would not be until 1953 that a woman would take up a cabinet position.)
The Anarchists in government were torn between their commitment to do away with any government and their need to help win the war. The cabinet new members persuade Durruti to come to the defense of Madrid. But the Communists are concerned that the invincible Durruti Column will prove to be the public saviour of the capital - a role they are preserving for themselves. So they persuade the Military Committee in Madrid to direct Durruti’s troops in an attack on the most vulnerable and important of fronts. They know that even this anarchist militia will have little chance of success against the well-armed and professional ranks amassed there.
When Durruti discovers this scheme, he is incensed but - as charismatic leaders tend it be - he rises to the challenge and sends his troops into the battle. But these are no ordinary disciplined ranks of soldiers - they are anarchists - and have to right to leave a battle scene if they think fit. Very quickly the anarchist troops begin to realise that they had been led into slaughter and are being used as pawns in a larger political game.
The Death of Durruti
“Compañeros - Return” he shouts. “Cowards. In the name of FAI return and fight.”
“Why die in defence of Madrid,” they ask him. “If we are going to die it should be in defence of Catalunya. Not fed to Franco’s troops under these conditions.”
As the debate continues a shot is suddenly heard and Durruti falls to the ground. By the following morning he is dead.
Who Killed Durruti?
Later evidence from gunpowder samples on his clothes indicated that Durruti had been shot from a distance of just 50cm. Rumours begin to fly back and forth.
Many of Durruti’s column - disillusioned and in disbelief at the loss of their leader - return to Catalonia, though many stay and help fight for the defence of the city. But when 2 anarchists are found mysteriously assassinated in the streets of Madrid a few days later, they realise that they too must leave for the reprisals from Stalin's forces had begun.
The Astonishing Funeral
Durruti's body is taken back to Barcelona, where the funeral brings out the whole population of the city. 100’s of 1000’s are spilling out of every doorway, scrambling up statues to see the coffin pass by. Never before - not for royalty nor leaders of the state - had Barcelona seen this number of people come out to pay their respects. As the procession finally heads off - up goes those defiant fists once more, like a sea of resistance.
Watch the incredible footage of the Durruti Funeral Procession
The Final Countdown
The greatest social experiment the world has ever witnessed is now over. The Catalan politicians are back in government an the collectives are being dismantled, their leaders locked up or shot and the memory of the anarchist revolution is being systematically erased from history books. Even the industrial plants - modernised under the anarchist collectives - are pulled down by 1939. Even outside Spain, as Orwell discovers when trying to find a publisher for Homage to Catalunya, the world does not want to know the story of the libertarian left. The Spanish Civil War is seen as a simple struggle between democracy and fascism - a story in which the Communists came to the defence of a fledging republic and a defenceless people. History was being re-written.
Although the body of Durruti was buried at the cemetery in monjuic, it is rumoured that it was later moved. The body of Durruti, like the legacy of the anarchist movement in Spain, is hard to track down.
The legacy of the Durruti and the Anarchists
But he installed a regime that would create a populace fearful of such experiments again. The following generations carried in their genetic memory the consequences of such bravery and the betrayals of their ideals.
Until recently, that is.
Since 2011 things have begun to stir once more. In Spain we have seen new methods of struggle evolving - the movement in defence of the homeless (desahucios) , the intimidation of corrupt politicians (eschaches), the defence of public companies (mareas), neighbourhood voting and assemblies, the indignadas movment, occupation of public spaces, #FicticiousProtest/#GhostProtest) #spanishrevolution etc etc
History Repeats itself
The anarchist ideals of accountability, transparency and self-government - traditionally dismissed as utopian - are not quite dead yet. As Chomsky says, whenever you have an upsurge in political activity...you will find the strands of anarchism once more on the move.
*The Ambulance Man in the Spanish Civil War
*1984 and the Spanish Civil War
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