Towards a Fresh Revolution


Forty Years Ago

The Friends of Durruti Group was formed in early 1937. Its members and supporters were prominent comrades from the Gelsa battle-front. Remaining true to their anarchist beliefs, they refused to submit to the militarisation and, as a result, moved to the capital of Catalonia (Barcelona) where, along with other Barcelona comrades, they set up the group. They took as their symbol the figure of Buenaventura Durruti, an idealist who had devoted his whole life to his anarchist beliefs. He was a man of action as his heroic death on the Madrid front testifies . . . that heroic and timeless Madrid which lives on in the spontaneous catchphrase which the Republic's government's fight from their city drew from the capital's inhabitants . . . Viva Madrid sin gobierno! (Long live Madrid without government!). This indomitable spirit of the people of Madrid lasted throughout the entire siege of the capital, and it was this spirit that the Group adopted as its own. Thus it was that the fighting men from Gelsa (with the Durruti Column on the Aragon front) became the heralds of the message "Stand fast and fight to the last!" These were virtues which no one can deny that Durruti, the anarchist from Leon, did have. At his funeral Barcelona paid him the tribute of one of the largest popular demonstrations ever, as the Catalan proletariat took to the streets as a body to pay homage to the man who had given his life for the cause of the disinherited the world over.

Having given a rough outline of the nature of our Group I shall now proceed to a short introduction to our pamphlet: Hacia una nueva revolucion (Towards a fresh revolution). First of all, when was it written? Around mid-1938. But it must be emphasised that for us to write a booklet of this sort, with the title we gave it, at that tragic hour for the Spanish proletariat, was a highly suggestive action, amounting to a cry of hope for the fighters of Spain. Notwithstanding their heroism and tenacity, they found themselves surrounded by the most fearful defeat on account of their failure to crush the counter-revolution led by the Stalinists, who were backed by the camouflaged reformists inside the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) and all who were established in the upper echelons of the State. The time was 1938 (40 years ago), at a point when the war was a lost cause, and when war fronts were collapsing one after another as a result of the treachery of Stalinists in key positions in the decision-making process, obeying Stalin's orders to undermine the Spanish proletariat in arms. Such was the tragic hour when we of the Friends of Durruti Group at the group's last session, after prolonged examination of the disaster which the counter revolution had plunged us, and regardless of the scale of disaster, refused to accept the finality of such defeat. The infamous policy pursued by Largo Caballero, whose government contained several anarchist militsnts, had eroded the revolutionary morale of the rearguard; and the Negrin government, the government of defeat or capitulation, gave the defeat hecatomb proportions. For this reason we decided to publish Hacia una nueva revolucion which was, as we said, a message of hope and a determination to renew the fight against an international capitalism which had mobilised its gendarmes of the 30s (in other words, its blackshirts and brownshirts), to put down the Spanish working class at whose head marched the anarchists and the revolutionary rank and file of the National Confederation of Labour.

In the prelude to July we can discern the Spain the Spanish proletariat tried to destroy, the theocratic Black Spain ruled by large landowners who had surrendered the economy of the country to foreign powers. This age-old battle was constantly contested from the 15th century up to 1936, setting liberty against tyranny, progress against obscurantism, ever present in this age-old contest were anarchism and the National Confederation of Labour, whose militants were the targets of savage repression under the monarchy of Alfonso Xlll, the grandfather of Juan Carlos, the present monarch imposed upon the Spanish people by international capitalism. This imposition can be accounted for by the terror that the revolutionary Spain inspires in all the inter connected capitalist forces, on account of its sublime gesture of three years of rebellion in the 30s. Hence the fear felt by the Washington-Moscow axis and the Bonn-Paris-London triangle.

Forty years later, the importance of what we wrote in those hours, fraught with passion and grief, is revealed. If, in the 30s, the Spanish proletariat threw itself into the prodigious fray, though outgunned and with its battlefronts and its rearguard undermined by the hybrid, murderous policy of the communists today the Spanish proletariat once again launches itself into the great adventure of revolution. There are hopeful signs in the form of a magnificent younger generation forged in the jails, who have equipped themselves through reference to books, particularly those written by revolutionaries who stood firm against the tidal wave of counter-revolution . . . and in matters of theory, they may be better equipped than the men of July 1936 who were awestruck by the grandeur of a social revolution that dawned so gloriously over Iberian soil, and which, had it but been given proper expression, would have become the first stage of European and thence, world wide revolution.

In that booklet back in 1938 we said that all revolutions are totalitarian. They must be interpreted and must express themselves in the sense that all revolutions are integral. That is to say, they cannot be made by halves nor tackled side-on without the great edifice of revolution coming face-to-face with destruction. It is terrible when one thinks of the way in which revolutions come to grief. The Spanish revolution was doomed to perish from the instant the revolutionary spirit and the war were divorced. Take, for example, the decree on the militarisation of the militias. With regard to the state structure there was no way the Spanish revolution could survive. The defence committees, control patrols and the collectives were dissolved. This was the build-up to the sudden assault by the Catalan proletariat in May 1937, when the workers tried to win back the gains they had made in July.

The May events are described in our pamphlet. The lesson of May is unmistakable. Revolutions can not restrict themselves to the confines of their native land. A new Spanish revolution must, if it is to succeed, assume European proportions. Today's Europe is sitting on the edge of a volcano. Faithful to our message of 1938, we shall go on fighting for a new and European revolution just as the Spanish revolution of 1936 and the Portuguese revolution of 1974 must be labelled European. Both suffered from the same short-coming-they left the State intact and in both case pseudo-revolutionaries repaired the state structures when they were coming apart on all sides.

Europe's workers must help out the Spanish proletariat with the fight against international capitalism which has already been launched on our soil. Europe's solidarity is indispensable if the monarchy imposed upon the Spanish people by international capitalism is to be overthrown. Once again proletarian Spain will serve as the catalyst for proletarian Europe if we establish a close alliance with the Spanish revolutionary workers to counteract the capitalist siege which has the collusion of both socialists and communists.

The transcendent impact of the Spanish revolution of 1936, which would have begun a cycle of European revolutions of necessity, terrified the capitalist magnates who saw in it the overture to extension throught the continent-and thus massacred the Spanish people!

We have indicated the causes of the defeat, but we want to stress the need to prepare an authentic proletarian internationalism which must show itself in the creation of a powerful and European libertarian movement. Let our one hope and hesitation be that the libertarian spirit of the young Europeans of this Europe, which is only a step away from fascism, does not come to naught. The new Spanish revolution is taking shape: all that remains to be done is to organise the mobilisation of all European revolutionaries around Spain, which has not, even for an instant, and in spite of the terrible bloodbath which international capitalism inflicted on it during the 30s and the years of terror in the 40s and under the present monarchy, failed to declare itself.

The monarchy is the creature of the lackeys of the Bonn-Paris axis and of the hirelings of the US gendarme, not forgetting the tacit acquiescence of the USSR.

Jaime Balius, 1978. [The Friends of Durruti]

On to A history and interpretation of events in Spain up till 1938