Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish anarchists

Exhibition on Russian anarchism and Disussion of the Spanish Civil War: Cultural activities of the Russian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA-AIT)

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Activists of the Federation of Workers in Education, Science and Technology (FRONT), an affiliate of the Russian section (KRAS) of the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT), participated in the organization of a series of cultural events in Moscow, the purpose of which was to familiarize the public with the history, experience and practice of anarchism and the anarcho-syndicalist movement.


On April 17 2015, in the Centre for Social-Political History of the State Public Historical Library (GPIB), an exhibition entitled “The History of Anarchism: Sources” had its official opening. On display were a sampling of the books and periodicals of the most valuable collections of the former State Public Historical Library (GOLB), devoted to the prehistory of anarchism, to Russian anarchism in the 19th and 20th centuries, to the international anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements of the 20th century, and also to the contemporary Russian libertarian movement. Included were works by William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Joseph Déjacque, Ernest Coeurderoy, Max Stirner, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Jean Grave, Sébastien Faure, Benjamin Tucker, Anselmo Lorenzo, John Henry Mackay, Vsevolod Voline, Alexei Borovoy, Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov, Apollon Karelin, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Émile Armand, Federica Montseny, Rudolf Rocker, Karl Roche, Abel Paz, and many other famous libertarians, published at various times in various languages. There were also issues of the newspapers Obshchina [Commune] and Chernyy peredel [Black distribution – a revolutionary slogan referring to the radical redistribution of land to the peasants]; anarchist publications from the Russian revolutions of 1905–1907 and 1917–1921; newspapers of the global anarcho-syndicalist movement – Der Syndikalist (Germany), La Protesta (Argentina) and Solidaridad Obrera (Spain); and libertarian Samizdat publications of the period of Perestroika and the 1990s.

Members of FRONT assisted Library workers in assembling and annotating the materials for the exhibition.

The scholars, library employees and libertarian activists (including members of FRONT) who spoke at the official opening not only commented on the materials on display, but also briefed those present on relevant examples from the rich history of the movement and its practice in various fields of endeavour, such as anarcho-syndicalism/labour movement, anti-militarism, the struggle against repression and prisons, equal rights for women, “free love”, literature, art, etc. The speakers called upon researchers to expand the study of anarchism, both its ideas and its practice. Splendid opportunities for this exist thanks to the availability of the necessary research materials.

* * * *


On April 19 2015 a round table on the history of the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 was held at the Dostoevsky Library in Moscow. Comrades from the Russian section of the IWA-AIT acted as co-organizers of the event, along with the administration of the Vkontakte [Russian social network] group “Guerra Civil Española / Grazhd. voyna v Ispanii” [Civil War in Spain]. Addressing the meeting, researchers told about the role and actions of the anarcho-syndicalists in the Spanish revolution, about the May events of 1937, about the radical wing of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism (which led the struggle against concessions to bourgeois-Stalinist “antifascism” by the leadership of the movement, about the Russian anarchists who fought in Spain, about cultural aspects of the Spanish drama and civil war. . . During the round table, as one would expect, a debate developed among the participants. On one side were those who defended the line of the radical wing of the Spanish libertarian movement; on the other side, the proponents of “antifascist unity”, who tried to justify the concessions of the steering committees of the CNT and FAI . . . The audience had the opportunity to ask questions and convince themselves of the compelling nature of the arguments of the supporters of anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism.

The Russian section of the IWA-AIT attaches great importance to such events, which not only contribute to the spread of knowledge about the theory and practice of our movement, but also strengthen the position of anarchism in the uphill struggle for “cultural hegemony” that has to be carried on today against reactionary, liberal and authoritarian views.

  • Confederation of Russian Anarcho-Syndicalists (KRAS) [Translation, Malcolm Archibald]

Written by gulaganarchists

8, May 2015 at 10:37 am

Vicente Monclús Guallar, Spanish Libertarian victimised in the USSR

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Abiego, in the foothills of Barbastro, a CNT stronghold, was represented at the CNT’s congress in Zaragoza in May 1936 by the 80-member Abiego CNT Union, part of the powerful Barbastro comarcal (county) organisation. Also represented there were nearby villages such as Castillazuelo (70 members), Pozán del Vero (47), Costeán (320 and Naval (13) which also sent delegates to the congress, whilst attendance proved impossible for the comrades from Salas Altas. The Abiego CNT also contributed volunteer militians to man the frontlines and was the driving force behind the collectivisation in the town, the collective being headed by Ramón Sanz Almudévar who as arrested on the Guadalajara front at the end of the civil war and jailed for 4 years before leaving for exile in France in 1948; his brother Manuel, a former volunter with the Barbastro militias who had seen action on the Huesca and Teruel fronts before being forced to flee by the communists and enlisting in Alcubierre with the 26th ‘Durruti’ Division was already living there. Manuel served as company commissar and was wounded in Tremp before fleeing to France where he was interned in the Bourg-Madame and Le Vernet concentration camps from which he escaped to join the resistance (in the Pointe Grave maquis). Another promoter of the collective was Santiago Guallar, a refugee since February 1939, who died in 1990 in exile in France at the age of 86. The fascists came down hard on Abiego: 9 residents were investigated by the Aragon Political Accountability Court, among them the CNT’s Manuel Salas Durán (delegate of the collective’s cafe and cooperative) and Mariano Jordan Ballabriga, both of whom became fugitives, and Julián Bierge Claver. Upwards of 60 Abiego residents passed through the jail in Huesca, including 6 women and at least 8 Abiego residents were jailed, then shot: Joaquín Monclús Guallar (Vicente’s brother) on 30-8-1936 in Huesca, five people (Santiago Barón Tornil 10-11-1939, Martín Bull Arilla and José Naya Allué on 27-3-1940, Melchor Oliveros Barón on 31-10-1940 and Agustín Nasarre Gros on 13-7-1943) in Barbastro, and Vicente Arín Panzano on 23-6-1944 and Justo Panzano Encuentro on 14-3-1945, in Zaragoza. They were all young men, farmers, shepherds and shearers and most likely members of the CNT and the collective.

Vicente Monclús Guallar: his only crime? Thinking for himself.

Vicente was born in Abiego (Huesca province) and spent 18 years living in the USSR, 16 years and 51 one days of that in prisons and labour camps. His was not an isolated case for he suffered the foulest slavery alongside 50 million people from a range of nationalities under soviet butchers who displated a placard over the camp entrance: “With a mailed fist we shall lead humanity to happiness.”

Vicente, a libertarian, volunteered for front line service with some other Abiego residents and fought in the Huesca, Zaragoza and Levante sectors. In 1938 he entered the air force training school in La Ribera (Murcia), one of 250 trainees: after political questioning by Russian agents, some 60 of the students were awarded bursaries by the republican government under Negrín and Álvarez del Vayo (puppets of the Kremlin) and travelled up to Rouen (France) to board the ‘Coperacia’. That was the beginning of his via dolorosa, for they were banned from going ashore. When they reached Leningrad the police searched their luggage, seizing banned books and their passports and they were shipped as prisoners all the way to Kizobabad [presumably Kirovabad] (Azerbaijan) by train – a journey of 4500 kilometers. At the air force school, they were inducted as Red Army soldiers and after six months locked up, they were informed that the war in Spain was over. In June 1939, they were tricked into believing that their wish to leave for France or Mexico was about to be granted and five of the group agreed to act as spies for the Russians. The others had a visit from Cartón from the Spanish Communist Party politburo (a Popular Font deputy) who urged them enter the service of the USSR, telling him that he regarded everbody not in the Party as a traitor. They were moved to the Comintern’s political school in Moscow where they were harangued by Enrique Líster. A further 15 of the group then entered the service of the USSR. The remaining 40 were then informed of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the subsequent invasion of Poland and with the outbreak of World War Two, their desire to leave evaporated. They were expelled from the school and taken to Monimo where they were greeted, beneath a placard reading “All power to José Diaz and Santiago Carrillo”, by Arturo Petrel, the former communist deputy for Granada, by Cabo Giorla, former governor of Murcia (both politburo members) and by Balaguer (leader of the Spanish communists in Russia during the 1950s). When the group refused to be talked into the service of the USSR rather than the Spanish Republic, threats and bullying were used and following a visit from Santiago Castro (another politburo member) acting for José Díaz and Dolores Ibarruri ‘La Pasionaria’, they were given the ultimatum of entering the service of the USSR or being deemed traitors to the Spanish people. Two of the group of 40 pilots, Rafael Estrella and Lloret (both Valencians) were ‘sleepers’ and so on 25-1-1940, the group was denounced by a secret tribunal made up of their ‘visitors’ and 8 of the pilots, including Vicente Monclús, were removed to the prison in Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] where they were virtually buried alive in that among Spanish communists in Russia there was a wall of silence. For years relatives lobbied from France through the Red Cross, sending hundreds of letters and telegrammes to the Russian authorities and the Spanish CP, but none was answered. The rest then vanished into the slave labour camps (they were inmates in Kasafia in 1943). After eight months of torture, they were sentenced to 8 years’ penal servitude, accused of being Trotskyists and fifth columnists, and in September 1940 they were sent to work on the construction of the Vorkuta railway in the Arctic. They were dying off. Together with Juan Salas from Barcelona and José Jirones from Reus, Vicente escaped and for three months subsisted in the forests until, recaptured, he was the only one left. During the world war the numbers of slave labourers were swollen by the influx of inhabitants from Besarabia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. In September 1941, Vicente was sent to a death camp where a female doctor took him under her wing and rescued him on account of his being a Spaniard. In 1942 he worked felling trees and in the coalmines and, his weight now down to 37 kilos, he collapsed and was sent to another death camp where he survived thanks to the help of doctor inmates sympathetic to the Spanish republican cause. From 1944 he was working in a vulcanisation plant until, on 29-1-1948, after 8 awful years in the Arctic and as the sole survivor of the 38-strong team of Spanish pilots, he was pardoned and banished to Samarkand (Uzbekistan). During his latter years as a prisoner he bumped into 18 year old Ramón Hernández, a ‘war baby’ from Gijón who had been setenced to penal servitude; he discovered that Valentín González ‘El Campesino’, was being held in Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] and he was able to chat with deported Russian pilots and sailors, survivors from the ship ‘Juventudes’ which had called to Spain, and with lots of International Brigaders – Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Germans and Italians – who had been dispatched to Russia by Red Aid right after crossing into France, only to face trial with thousands of Red Army troops captured by the Nazis who, when freed by the Allies in 1945, found themselves being deported and exterminated in the forests and mines in Siberia. Vicente spent two hungry, wretched years in the Caucasian republic, was thwarted in his bid to escape to Iran in January 1950 and was brought back to Moscow … and pardoned. He was watched day and night. Andrés Guanter, another soviet spy originally from Valencia, tailed him and on 20-4-1950 Vicente was held by the Justice Ministry in the notorious Lubyanka where he was stripped and beaten and denied sleep for six days before being jailed in Sukhanovska where, after 34 days of torture, he signed a phony confession to being a spy, with 246 pages of charges listed against him. Sent back to Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] again on 2-1-1951, he was sentenced to 10 years’ penal servitude in a ‘secret location’ where he served a further five years locked up with 300 other inmates, including academics and teachers from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria and Hungary. It was there that he ran into the Spaniards Francisco Ramón Molina and Juan Blasco Cobo who had been given 10 years for spying, simply for having applied for permission to leave to go to Mexico and having written a letter to the republican government-in-exile. In April 1955, he was taken to Lefortovo prison where he met a batch of German POWS awaiting repatriation. Which was how his friend Heinz Kregts came to make the requisite overtures to get in touch with Vicente’s family through the Red Cross, whereupon the family, discovering that he was still alive, lobbied on his behalf. On 6-1-1956 Vicente was moved to the Lubyanka; his sentence was overturned and he was pronounced innocent after 16 years and 51 days as a prisoner of the USSR. Reunited with his family in France, he has left us a book – 10 Años en la URSS (Editorial Claridad, Buenos Aires 1959) – an impressive indictment of Stalinist rule in the USSR and of the complicity of the Spanish CP and its (these days feted) leadership in such genocide, comparable only to Nazism.

From: Taken from: O Crabero. Huesca-Info. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.

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Written by gulaganarchists

20, October 2012 at 2:32 pm

A leaflet

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October 1949 saw a series of arrests and murders by the Spanish security forces that dealt a massive blow to the anarchists action groups that were carrying on the fight against the Francoist regime. Miguel Garcia Garcia—anarchist militant, forger and member of the Tallion action group was arrested on the 21 October 1949. On 7 February 1952 he and eight others were sentenced to death.

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Written by gulaganarchists

24, May 2012 at 10:05 am

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The Political Soviet Grinding Machine by Emma Goldman (1936)

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Fifteen years have passed since comrade A Chapiro [Schapiro], my old pal Alexander Berkman, now gone from me, and myself came out of Soviet Russia to give to the thinking world the disclosures of the political grinding machine we found there. It was only after a long conflict that we decided to do so. For well we knew the price we will have to pay for speaking openly about the terrible political persecutions that was a daily affair in the so called Socialist Republic. The price we paid for our determination was high enough, but was nothing compared to the avalanche of abuse and vilification hurled against me, when my first ten articles about Soviet Russia appeared in the public press. Since I foresaw as much, I was not very shocked over the fact that my own comrades misunderstood what I had to say and the motive which induced me to appear in the NEW YORK WORLD. Much less did I care for the poison that oozed out against me from the Communists in Russia, America, and other countries.

Even while yet in Russia we protested against the grinding mill as we saw it in its sinister force. For myself I can say, and I can say the same for my comrade Alexander Berkman, we lost no opportunity to go from Bolshevist leader to leader; to plead for the unfortunate victims of the Cheka. Invariably we were told “wait till all our fronts are liquidated and you will see that the greatest political freedom will be established in Soviet Russia.” This assurance was repeated time on end so convincingly that we began to wonder whether we had understood the effect of Revolution on the rights of the individual as far as political opinion was concerned. We decided to wait. But weeks and months passed and there was no letup in the relentless extermination of all people who dared disagree even in the least with the methods of the Communist State. It was only after the massacre of Kronstadt, that we, our comrades Alexander Berkman and Alexander Chapiro [Schapiro] felt that we had no right to wait any longer, that it became imperative for us old revolutionists to cry the truth from the very housetops. Nevertheless we waited until the fronts were liquidated, though it was bitter hard to keep silent after 400 politicals were forcibly removed from the Boutirka prison and sent to remote places. When Fanny Baron and Tcherny [Lev Cherny] were murdered. At last the holy day arrived, the fronts were liquidated But the political grinding mill ground on, thousands being crushed by its wheels.

It was then that we came to the conclusion that the Soviet promise reiterated to us again and again, was like all promises coming from the Kremlin – an empty shell. We therefore came to the conclusion that we owed it to our suffering comrades, to all revolutionary political victims as well as to the workers and peasants of Russia, to go abroad and place our findings before the world. From that time on and until 1930, comrade Berkman worked incessantly for the political prisoners and on raising funds to keep them alive in their dreadful living tomb. After that, comrade [Rudolf] Rocker, [Senya] Fleschin, Mollie Alperine [Steimer], Dobinski [Jacques Doubinsky] and many other faithful comrades kept up the work which our beloved Alexander was forced to discontinue. I can say that until this day the devoted efforts to bring our hapless comrades in Soviet Russia some cheer and a few comforts have never ceased, which merely goes to prove what devotion, love and solidarity can do.

In justice to the heads of the Soviet Government be it said that there was still a semblance of fair play while Lenin was alive. True, it was he who issued the slogan that Anarcho-syndicalists and Anarchists are but like the petit bourgeoisie, and that they should be exterminated. Nevertheless it is true that his political victims were sentenced for a definite period and were left with the hope that they would be set free when their sentence expired. Since the advent of Stalin, that bit of hope, hope so essential to people in prison for an idea, and so necessary for the continuation of their morale has been abolished.

Stalin, true to the meaning of his name, could not bear to think, that people given 5 or ten years, should be left with the expectation that they would one day see freedom again. Under his iron rule, people whose sentence expires are re-sentenced and shipped to another concentration camp. Thus we have today numerous comrades who have been shoved from exile to exile since 15 years. And there is no end in sight. But why should we be surprised at the relentless grinding mill Stalin has inaugurated for such opponents as Anarchists and Social Revolutionists? Stalin has proven that he is as cruel with his former comrades as with the rest who dare doubt his wisdom. The latest purge, quite equal to the purge of Hitler ([handwritten addition in margin] and the latest victim arrested and perhaps exiled, Zensl Muehsam) should prove to all who are still capable of thinking, that Stalin is determined to exterminate everybody who has looked into his cards. We need not hope, therefore, that our Anarchist comrades or any of the Left wing Revolutionaries will be spared.

I am writing this from Barcelona, the seat of the Spanish Revolution. If ever I believed, even for a moment in the explanation of Soviet leaders that political freedom is impossible during a revolutionary period, my stay in Spain has completely cured me of it! Spain too is in the clutches of a blood stained civil war, she is surrounded by enemies within and without. No, not merely by fascist enemies. But by all sorts of social exponants, who are more bitterly opposed to Anarcho-syndicalism and Anarchism under the name of CNT and FAI, than they are to fascism. Yet in spite of the danger lurking in every corner of every city, to the Spanish Revolution, inspite of the imperative necessity to concentrate all the forces on winning the antifascist war, it is yet amazing to find more political freedom than ever was dreamt of by Lenin and his comrades.

If anything, the CNT-FAI, the most powerful party in Catalonia, is going to the opposite extreme. Republicans, socialists, Communists, Trotzkists, in fact everybody daily marches through the streets heavily armed and their banners flying. They have taken possession of the most elaborate houses of the former bourgeoisie. They merrily publish their papers and hold huge meetings, Yet the CNT-FAI has never once even suggested that their allies are taking too much advantage of the tolerance of the Anarchists in Catalonia. In other words our comrades are demonstrating that they would rather prefer to give their associates the same right to liberty as they take for themselves than to establish a dictatorship and a political grinding machine that would crush all their opponents.

Yes, 15 years have passed. According to the glad tidings from Russia one hears over the Radio, in the Communist press and on every occasion: “Life is joyful and splendid” in the Socialist Republic. Did not Stalin issue this slogan and has it not been reechoed over and over again. “Life is joyful and splendid”. Not for the tens of thousands of political victims in prison and in concentration camps. Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Intellectuals, masses of the workers and tens of thousands of the peasantry know nothing of the new joy and splendour proclaimed by the Torquemada on the Communist throne. Their lives, if they are still alive, continues hopeless, drab, a daily purgatory without end.

The more reason for us, comrades, and for all who are sincere Libertarians, to continue the work for the political prisoners in the Soviet Union. I do not appeal to the Libertarians who shout themselves hoarse against fascism or against the political abuses in their own countries and yet remain silent in the face of the continued persecution and extermination of true Revolutionaries in Russia. Their senses have become blunted. They therefore do not hear the voice that rises to the very heavens from the hearts and the stifled throats of the victims of the political grinding machine. They do not realise that their silence is a sign of consent, and that they are therefore responsable for Stalins acts. They are a hopeless lot. But the Libertarians, who oppose every dictatorship and fascism, no matter under what flag, they must continue to rouse human interest and sympathy in the tragic fate of the political prisoners in Russia.


Barcelona Dec 9/36 Emma Goldman

[Typed article with handwritten corrections from Folder 18, G.P. Maksimov (Maximoff) papers, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam. This is an unused appendix for The Guillotine at Work and previously unpublished.]


In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 68, October 2011

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Written by gulaganarchists

5, November 2011 at 11:33 am

The Durruti Column On Tour In Russia by Miguel Amorós

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Convinced that no arms for defence purposes would be forthcoming from England and France, the CNT turned to look at Russia. The soviet government had joined the Non-Intervention Committee but its consular agents made it their business to peddle hopes of a change of approach once they learnt of the Spanish people’s warm feelings towards Russians. The Catalan regional CNT committee – its secretary, Marianet, was being egged on by the soviet consul, Antonov-Ovseenko – decided to add a delegation to the Catalan party travelling to Russia to attend the [1936] celebrations of the October revolution, officially a visit by the Friends of the USSR Association. The CNT had always opposed Bolshevik methods and condemned the Russian dictatorship (even though the latter professed to be a dictatorship of the proletariat) but most of its leaders reckoned that they were living in special circumstances now and that if the Spanish revolution – indeed, the revolution worldwide – was to be salvaged, well, that was worth one Stalinist Mass. The trip was therefore prompted by strategic considerations, just as the CNT was to announce at the rally marking the delegation’s home-coming: “The struggle currently raging in Spain is the reason why the CNT made up its mind to go to the USSR … in spite of the best efforts of fascist regimes, capitalist rule has failed … the triumph of the Spanish proletariat offers the world a tremendous prospect of the ultimate success of revolution across the globe.” Initially, the CNT selected Francisco Carreño, Marcos (Alcón?) and [Eusebio C.] Carbó to go to Russia in what would be Spanish anarcho-syndicalism’s very first venture into foreign policy. Apparently Durruti saw no point in the trip, but his War Committee, meeting in Osera, came out in favour of it and decided that Carreño should go as the representative of the Column. So on 23 October [1936] Durruti drafted a message to Russian workers and handed it over. The letter was addressed to the workers alone, ignoring their leaders and despite any diplomatic inhibitions about its contents, it bluntly affirmed the anarchist ideal.

“Through these few lines we send you fraternal greetings from the Aragon front where thousands of your brethren are fighting just as you fought twenty years ago for the emancipation of a class down-trodden and oppressed for century upon century. Twenty years have passed since the Russian workers in the East hoisted the red flag, symbolising the brotherhood between the international proletariat, whom you trusted implicitly to help you in the mighty undertaking upon which you had embarked: a trust that we workers around the globe welcomed as we responded selflessly insofar as the proletariat’s resources permitted.

“Today it is in the West that a fresh revolution is being born and here too there flies a flag that stands for an ideal which, should it triumph, will weave fraternal bonds between two peoples ravaged, on the one hand, by tsarism, and, on the other, by a despotic monarchy. Today, Russian workers, it is we who trust the defence of our revolution to your care; we have no confidence in any self-styled democratic or antifascist politicians; we place out trust in our class brethren, in workers; it is they that must come to the defence of the Spanish revolution, even as we did twenty years ago when we leapt to the defence of the Russian revolution.

“Rely upon us: we are authentic workers and there is nothing in this whole wide world that can make us jettison our principles, let alone bring disgrace upon the symbolic instrument of the working class.

“Greetings from all the workers fighting fascism with weapons in hand on the Aragon front.

“B. Durruti.”

Then the Generalidad of Catalonia passed an order militarising the columns. The [Durruti Column] War Committee met again and issued a statement in support of self-discipline and calling for “freedom of organisation”:

“The militians of this Column have confidence in themselves and in those of us who, expressly and unreservedly delegated by them, lead it. Consequently they believe, and we share that belief, that the militarisation order can do nothing to boost our fighting abilities but will instead lead to suspicion, reservations and revulsion, as is happening even now, and will bring about a real state of dis-organisation.

“The argument cited, that the enemy fights ‘with access to materials galore’ is self-evidently not a situation that militarising the militias is likely to change.

“On all of the above grounds, this Committee, taking up the clamour of protest elicited from the Column by the aforesaid order, is minded not to accept it.”

That document was date-lined 1 November, in Osera and bore the stamp of the War Committee and Durruti. Durruti’s radio broadcast the following day, as reprinted in the CNT press, was almost a verbatim repetition of this document. Later, Durruti would make for Madrid and Carreño for Moscow. In the end the latter was accompanied by José Berruezo from the board of the Barcelona Metalworkers’ Union and by Martin Gudell, a Lithuanian who worked as a translator for the regional committee. The sound collaboration and friendship between Durruti and Carreño were in stark contrast to the foul slander devised by the contemptible [Helmut] Rüdiger for use by the Regional Committee in its intrigues against the “Friends of Durruti”, to the effect that Durruti had dispatched Carreño to Russia just to get rid of him. In his selective memoirs, Garcia Oliver insinuates that Carreño was a Bolshevik. The trip was reported in the libertarian press as was Durruti’s letter “imbued with emotion and revolutionary sincerity”.

The delegation reached Leningrad on 10 November. The station was packed with people and as they stepped down they were presented with bunches of flowers. Outside a rally was staged at which representatives from several trade unions spoke, praising the fight under way against fascism. The delegation replied through Carreño (on behalf of the CNT) and José González (for the UGT). The English-language Moscow Daily News published in Moscow by the regime’s propaganda department curtly reported: “Francisco Carreño, a fighter from the renowned Durruti Column, and a teacher in Barcelona, stated: ‘The Spanish people is prepared for any sacrifice. We know that victory over the enemy will be costly, but we will win , come what may.’” Without giving offence to other organisations’ representatives along on the delegation, Carreño emphasised again and again in his address that he was an anarchist and he stressed the role played by the anarchists on the streets of Barcelona on 19 July [1936] and on the Aragon front. In the translated speech, Carreño was introduced as a republican, as were the workers fighting the fascists. The Communists, though virtually non-existent, were depicted as the carrying the main burden of the fighting. The crowd, of course, applauded the translator and cheered Stalin. Back in the hotel, Gudell, a Russian speaker, briefed Carreño on the misrepresentation and they decided between them that they would not say anything lest they ruin the mission entrusted to them.

In Leningrad they toured the steel plants, the palace of the tsars, a couple of schools, the cinema artists’ union and the Peter and Paul prison fortress where Bakunin and Kropotkin had been imprisoned. It was a few remarks offensive to the memory of the latter that provoked Carreño’s first protests. At the Red Army headquarters, he chatted with some old officers, trading stories of revolutionary struggle. On 13 November, they arrived in Moscow and had to sit through a three hour speech by Kalinin, the president of the Soviet Union. The CNT personnel did not take kindly to his remarks about discipline, so “the CNT delegates, taking the view that they had not come to Russia to pay their compliments to representatives of the State, chose not to be presented to Kalinin.” The next few days were given over to a number of visits. There was some emotive questioning from a group of Russian children from the Model School. Carreño told them the story of little Pedro

“Pedro’s parents were reluctant to let a 13 year old boy go to the front, but Pedro grabbed his bicycle and, without a word to anybody, showed up at the headquarters of the forces in Aragon.

“We delegates from the War Committee” Carreño went on “wanted to send him home, but he said that he did not want to go back, for his parents would not receive him; besides, he wanted to fight fascists. The militians had a soft spot for the boy and let him stay at headquarters. Pedro served as a messenger, carrying mail back into the rearguard and they never let him go near the forward positions.

“But then one day Pedro vanished from headquarters. Everybody went looking for him but he was nowhere to be found. Some days after that, I was on a visit to a hospital and was very taken aback to find Pedro in bed. Then he told me about his odyssey. One day, moving around the headquarters, he overheard that the militians were planning an attack and so he, who was just itching to get into the war, moved up to the front without saying a thing to anybody and took part in the attack. Pedro entered the village with the rest of the militians but later they had to pull out again and he was wounded while fleeing and was receiving treatment for his injuries.

“As he was saying goodbye to me, Pedro told me:

“‘Once I’m better again, you can stop looking upon me as a child, because I’m a grown-up now. I’ve taken part in a battle, I’ve been wounded and now I’m a real militian.’”

The story went down well with the pupils, and even better with the Soviet press which reprinted it the following day. On 20 November they visited the Comintern, the Communist International. Delegate Ercoli [Palmiro Togliatti] directed a deliberately critical speech at the CNT. Carreño responded:

“He said that he had come to the USSR not as a mere visitor but in order to establish contacts with the trade unions. He said that he had also brought greetings to the people, to the Russian workers who had offered the Spanish people their help in such difficult times … The CNT has its own discipline and we have never been lacking in it. Our discipline has matched our needs and has been suited to them. At present when we need a war discipline, it is our columns that are setting the standard. And the Spanish people has its own ways of fighting, is not afraid of sacrifice and in its own way has known and shown how fascism should be fought. The Spanish people is not very well known around the world and the CNT even less so. Even in France they do not know us. They have always poked fun at our movement and now they are taken aback by our revolutionary deeds.”

Next to speak was Manuilsky, the delegate in charge of matters Spanish, and he displayed rather more tact, but the message was the same. He referred to Carreño’s having been in the Americas. Carreño replied:

“He said that a revolutionary alliance, or, if you will, a united front, was all well and good but that a proletarian front was not feasible if one current was elevated above the other. Both have to give some ground. Nor can standards be handed down from above: they have to come from the people. The Spanish people is all grown up and we of the CNT are grown-ups. You … must allow the people to determine its own fate, you have to back off a bit and acknowledge [its] right to decide for itself.”

On the afternoon of 20 November, the news came that Durruti had been killed on the Madrid front. “The news banished any notion we had of carrying on with visits, for we all felt that we had lost the bravest man Spain possessed […] The next day, the whole of the Russian and Ukrainian press confirmed that our comrade had perished and reprinted the letter that Durruti had written to the Russian people, a letter delivered to Moscow by the Durruti Column delegate, comrade Carreño. They also carried a snapshot of him in the overalls of a guerrilla.” Durruti’s thoughts were encapsulated in that letter, the only attempt a revolutionary diplomacy to emerge from the CNT. That letter dropped all mention of leaders and organisations in favour of an exclusive appeal to Russian workers as “class brothers”. On 22 November, the delegation travelled to Kiev: “In Kiev, the civil and military authorities and representatives from the universities and schools laid on a grand reception for us in the great hall of the city’s finest hotel. Official Ukraine was in attendance there. The commander of the Kiev garrison, an old Bolshevik, gave a welcoming address. After welcoming their guests, he broke the news of Durruti’s death and asked them all to stand and observe a minute’s silence in honour of the great Spanish guerrilla fighter.” The delegation then returned to Moscow and called in on some anarchist workers. In one shack a steelworker with a huge family showed them a clipping from Pravda with a snapshot of Durruti and another clipping with a photograph of Makhno. “Makhno was one of the greatest revolutionaries and now they would have us believe that he was a bandit. Watch out, now that this one [Durruti] is dead, that they do not besmirch his memory.” On 27 November they had an exchange of views with Abolin, the head of the soviet trade unions and criticised him over the meagre role assigned to the unions in the country, as well for the indecency of Stakhanovism [the cult of production which exalted ‘super-workers’]. Carreño handed him a list of 154 anarchist comrades held in Russian prisons or living in banishment so that he could lobby the government to secure their release and passage to Spain. The horrified bureaucrat promised to deal with the matter but no more was ever heard of it. Finally they managed to get to speak with Russian anarchists who told them how tough life was for them, barred as they were from doing anything and with most of them banished to Siberia. On 29 November the delegation arrived back in Leningrad and the editor of Pravda dropped in again to interview Carreño. By this point in the trip, Carreño had had his fill of Russian diplomacy and had formed a very bad impression of the soviet regime. Irked by the constant misrepresentation of his message in the press, he showed the reporter the door. Not for nothing did Martin Gudell in some initial notes on the trip note that the worst feature had been the go-betweens who were always at their side, the perevochiks – a Russian word not quite equivalent to translator in that “the mission of the perevochik is not merely to interpret, but to interpret after his own fashion”. At a regional plenum of [anarchist] groups in February [1937] the representative from the ‘Los Irreductibles’ (Diehards) group drew the link between Stalinist sabotage of the Spanish revolution and what the delegation had experienced on its trip to Russia: “We know that the delegation that went to Russia, a delegation made up of comrade Carreño and others, has stated that in Russia our anarchist views, as spelled out by Carreño, were turned on their heads.” At no time during the trip did the CNT personnel sign any document and they refused to speak to state officials; their intended audience was the workers alone. They rounded off their report with this word of warning: “The Bolsheviks are sending all the Communists in Europe to Spain. People are coming here not just from France, England and elsewhere, but also from the USSR. We have had occasion to speak with some who have come from the latter. They are all arming themselves in Spain and we would need to be watchful lest their weapons are turned on us.”

Not only did the CNT not publicise the criticisms coming from the delegation, but it also failed to print the list of Russian anarchists suffering reprisals, and indulged in political diplomacy instead. The entire delegation was received with full honours at the Russian consulate in Barcelona. Present were president Companys and his retinue, the Stalinists Comorera and Sesé, and a number of servicemen. The CNT group was the biggest delegation: Valerio Mas, Eroles, Aurelio Fernández, Félix Martí Ibáñez, Puig Elías, Fábregas, Toryho, Galipienzo and Muñoz. The next day there was a Friends of the USSR-sponsored rally in the Gran Price theatre in Barcelona, at which Carreño spoke, setting out the reasons behind the trip. Also present was the soviet consul Antonov-Ovseenko “who was given a considerable ovation by the crowd”. At the time, Russia was shipping arms and advisers to the Republic and Federica Montseny was not stingy in her praises of freedom there: “Russia has her own Constitution now”, praising soviet ‘federalism’, her spirit of sacrifice and her economic advances; all this at a rally with more than a whiff of ideology in the air. In García Oliver’s view, the Russian proletariat was on the road to socialism. Even so, the delegation’s report was in circulation among the groups of the FAI and it fed the hostility to Communism.

Miguel Amorós

(This text is lifted from the biography of Francisco Carreño published by the Asociación Isaac Puente)

Biographical notes

Francisco Carreño (d. 1947) Rationalist schoolteacher anarchist who served on the War Committee of the Durruti Column, overseeing the Column’s newspaper El Frente. Member of the Friends of Durruti. Earlier had been a union organiser and agitator in Argentina and Uruguay.

Eusebio C. Carbó (1883-1958) Spanish anarchist/ anarcho-syndicalist highly regarded for his orthodoxy. One-time secretary of the IWA in the 1930s. Turned collaborationist during the civil war.

Joan Comorera (1895-1958). Catalan socialist who became leader of the PSUC (the notionally independent Catalan branch of the Spanish Communist Party of Spain) in 1936. Spokesman for the counter-revolutionary Stalinists. Later he fell foul of his own part comrades, fled to the “safety” of Francoist Spain, was captured and died in a Francoist prison.

Antonio Sesé (d. 1937) Former CNT member who joined the Worker-Peasant Bloc (BOC) before moving on to the Communist Party of Catalonia and then the PSUC. He was Catalonian UGT general secretary during the civil war and was killed when his car was caught in crossfire in May 1937.

Valerio Mas (1894-1973) Secretary of the CNT’s regional committee in Catalonia in September 1936. After May 1937 he was the CNT representative on the Generalitat government, taking a conciliatory line. Served on the General Council of the MLE after the civil war and on the Inter-Continental Secretariat in the 1940s-1950s

Dionisio Eroles (?-1940) Anarchist activist who represented the CNT on the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils monitoring Civil Guard/military officers in 1936. Appointed to head the Security Council in Catalonia. Removed in May 1937. Was secretary of the Catalan CNT for a time. Apparently abducted from France by a Francoist strike team and murdered in Andorra in 1940.

Aurelio Fernández (1897-1960s) Asturias-born member of Los Solidarios group with Durruti et al. Represented the FAI on the Central Antifascist Militias Committee in Catalonia after July 1936. Headed the Security Council in Catalonia until May 1937. Minister of Health in the Generalitat government until jailed in a central government crackdown. Served on the much-criticised Executive Committee of the Libertarian Movement (in May 1938). Exiled in France, then Mexico, Close associate of Juan Garcia Oliver.

Félix Martí Ibáñez (1913-1974) Physician who had a medical column in a number of anarchist newspapers, specialising in sexual health. Later head of the History of Medicine department at New York Medical College (1956) and founder of the medical review MD.

Juan Puig Elías (1898-1972) Rationalist educator in the Ferrer tradition. In charge of educational planning in Catalonia after 1936. Moved to Brazil in 1952 and died there.

Joan P. Fábregas (1893-1966). Financial specialist and economist who joined the CNT after the revolution and served it loyally on the Council of Economy in Catalonia. Shortly after May 1937 he was obliged to flee to England for his own safety, believing that he was on a communist hit-list.

Jacinto Toryho (1911-?) Professional journalist and FIJL member who became editor-in-chief of Solidaridad Obrera (Barcelona) and championed the officia CNT policy of collaborationism. Settled in Argentina after the civil war (in 1941).

Jerónimo Galipienzo Journalist who worked on Solidaridad Obrera (Barcelona) during the revolution

Francisco? Muñoz [If the first name was Francisco] Member of the original line-up of the Aragon Defence Council in 1936.

Marcos Alcón Prominent in the CNT and FAI in Catalonia during the civil war. Served, among other things, as national secretary of the National Public Entertainments Union Federation of Spain. Exiled in Mexico after the civil war.

From: This text is lifted from the biography of Francisco Carreño published by the Asociación Isaac Puente. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.

Columna Durruti = Durruti Column

Spanish Revolution and Spanish Civil War SCW

Reposted from the Kate Sharpley Library website:

Written by gulaganarchists

8, October 2010 at 8:57 am

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The Durruti Column On Tour In Russia by Miguel Amorós

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… The CNT had always opposed Bolshevik methods and condemned the Russian dictatorship (even though the latter professed to be a dictatorship of the proletariat) but most of its leaders reckoned that they were living in special circumstances now and that if the Spanish revolution – indeed, the revolution worldwide – was to be salvaged, well, that was worth one Stalinist Mass. …

Apparently Durruti saw no point in the trip, but his War Committee, meeting in Osera, came out in favour of it and decided that Carreño should go as the representative of the Column. So on 23 October [1936] Durruti drafted a message to Russian workers and handed it over. The letter was addressed to the workers alone, ignoring their leaders and despite any diplomatic inhibitions about its contents, it bluntly affirmed the anarchist ideal….

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22, September 2010 at 9:12 am

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The tragedy of Karaganda (Wayne Foster)

The Libcom library has posted a newly written article (by Wayne Foster) on “The tragedy of Karaganda : Members of the CNT and other Spanish anti-fascists in the Soviet Union, 1938-1956.”

Abstract [from libcom]: In March 1939, Republican soldiers who had been training as aviation pilots were stranded in the USSR along with the sailors of several vessels from the Spanish merchant navy. They were prevented from leaving and in 1941 were arrested and sent to Novosibirsk Transit Prison. Also detained were several civilians who had been working with children evacuated from the Civil War. In 1942 the three groups were brought together in an agricultural labour camp in Kazakhstan, where eight Spaniards fathered children with Austrian prisoners. They remained there until 1948 when, partly due to a vigorous solidarity campaign fought by exiled Spanish anarchists on their behalf, they were transferred to a camp near Odessa. 18 prisoners signed documents accepting Soviet citizenship and were released to work in the region around the Black Sea. The rest remained in the Gulag system until 1954 or 1956. Towards the end of their imprisonment they were held with Spanish fascists who had been captured during WWII while fighting in the Blue Division. In addition to those Spanish anti-fascists who went missing or died in the first years of detention, out of 66 anti-fascists known to have been in Kazakhstan on the 1st January 1943, 11 died in Soviet camps. That the majority survived can be attributed in part to the togetherness and solidarity they maintained in captivity, evident in their work stoppages and hunger strikes.

Full article at

Written by gulaganarchists

19, August 2008 at 6:48 pm

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