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(en) History: Durruti Is Dead, Yet Living By Emma Goldman

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 29 Mar 2005 18:40:49 +0200 (CEST)


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Durruti, whom I saw but a month ago, lost his life in the street-battles of Madrid.
My previous knowledge of this stormy petrel of the Anarchist and
revolutionary movement in Spain was merely from reading about
him. On my arrival in Barcelona I learned many fascinating stories
of Durruti and his column. They made me eager to go to the
Aragon front, where he was the leading spirit of the brave and
valiant militias, fighting against fascism.
I arrived at Durruti's headquarters towards evening, completely
exhausted from the long drive over a rough road. A few moments
with Durruti was like a strong tonic, refreshing and invigorating.

Powerful of body as if hewn from the rocks of Montserrat, Durruti
easily represented the most dominating figure among the
Anarchists I had met since my arrival in Spain. His terrific energy
electrified me as it seemed to effect everyone who came within its
radius.

I found Durruti in a veritable beehive of activity. Men came and
went, the telephone was constantly calling for Durruti. In addition
was the deafening hammering of workers who were constructing a
wooden shed for Durruti's staff. Through all the din and constant
call on his time Durruti remained serene and patient. He received
me as if he had known me all his life. The graciousness and
warmth from a man engaged in a life and death struggle against
fascism was something I had hardly expected.

I had heard much about Durruti's mastery over the column that
went by his name. I was curious to learn by what means other than
military drive he had succeeded in welding together 10,000
volunteers without previous military training and experience of any
sort. Durruti seemed surprised that I, an old Anarchist should even
ask such a question.

"I have been an Anarchist all my life," he replied, "I hope I have
remained one. I should consider it very sad indeed, had I to turn
into a general and rule the men with a military rod. They have come
to me voluntarily, they are ready to stake their lives in our
antifascist fight. I believe, as I always have, in freedom. The
freedom which rests on the sense of responsibility. I consider
discipline indispensable, but it must be inner discipline, motivated
by a common purpose and a strong feeling of comradeship." He
had gained the confidence of the men and their affection because
he had never played the part of a superior. He was one of them. He
ate and slept as simply as they did. Often even denying himself his
own portion for one weak or sick, and needing more than he. And
he shared their danger in every battle. That was no doubt the secret
of Durruti's success with his column. The men adored him. They
not only carried out all his instructions, they were ready to follow
him in the most perilous venture to repulse the fascist position.
I had arrived on the eve of an attack Durruti had prepared for the
following morning. At daybreak Durruti, like the rest of the militia
with his rifle over his shoulder, led the way. Together with them he
drove the enemy back four kilometers, and he also succeeded in
capturing a considerable amount of arms the enemies had left
behind in their flight.

The moral example of simple equality was by no means the only
explanation of Durruti's influence. There was another, his capacity
to make the militiamen realize the deeper meaning of the antifascist
war--the meaning that had dominated his own life and that he had
learned to articulate to the poorest and most undeveloped of the
poor.

Durruti told me of his approach to the difficult problems of the men
who come for leave of absence at moments when they were most
needed at the front. The men evidently knew their leader--they
knew his decisiveness--his iron will. But also they knew the
sympathy and gentleness hidden behind his austere exterior. How
could he resist when the men told him of illness at home--parents,
wife or child?

Durruti hounded before the glorious days of July 1936, like a wild
beast from country to country. Imprisoned time on end as a
criminal. Even condemned to death. He, the hated Anarchist, hated
by the sinister trinity, the bourgeoisie, the state and the church.
This homeless vagabond incapable of feeling as the whole
capitalistic puck proclaimed. How little they knew Durruti. How
little they understood his loving heart. He had never remained
indifferent to the needs of his fellows. Now however, he was
engaged in a desperate struggle with fascism in the defense of the
Revolution, and every man was needed at his place. Verily a
difficult situation to meet. But Durruti's ingeniousness conquered
all difficulties. He listened patiently to the story of woe and then
held forth on the cause of illness among the poor. Overwork,
malnutrition, lack of air, lack of joy in life.

"Don't you see comrade, the war you and I are waging is to
safeguard our Revolution and the Revolution is to do away with the
misery and suffering of the poor. We must conquer our fascist
enemy. We must win the war. You are an essential part of it. Don't
you see, comrade?" Durruti's comrades did see, they usually
remained.

Sometimes one would prove abdurate, and insist on leaving the
front. "All right," Durruti tells him, "but you will go on foot, and by
the time you reach your village, everybody will know that your
courage had failed you, that you have run away, that you have
shirked your self-imposed task." That worked like magic. The man
pleads to remain. No military brow-beating, no coercion, no
disciplinary punishment to hold the Durruti column at the front.
Only the vulcanic energy of the man carries everyone along and
makes them feel as one with him.

A great man this Anarchist Durruti, a born leader and teacher of
men, thoughtful and tender comrade all in one. And now Durruti is
dead. His great heart beats no more. His powerful body felled down
like a giant tree. And yet, and yet--Durruti is not dead. The
hundreds of thousands that turned out Sunday, November 22nd,
1936, to pay Durruti their last tribute have testified to that.
No, Durruti is not dead. The fires of his flaming spirit lighted in all
who knew and loved him, can never be extinguished. Already the
masses have lifted high the torch that fell from Durruti's hand.
Triumphantly they are carrying it before them on the path Durruti
had blazoned for many years. The path that leads to the highest
summit of Durruti's ideal. This ideal was Anarchism--the grand
passion of Durruti's life. He had served it utterly. He remained
faithful to it until his last breath.

If proof were needed of Durruti's tenderness his concern in my
safety gave it to me. There was no place to house me for the night
at the General-Staff quarters. And the nearest village was Pina. But
it had been repeatedly bombarded by the fascists. Durruti was
loathe to send me there. I insisted it was alright. One dies but once.
I could see the pride in his face that his old comrade had no fear.
He let me go under strong guard.

I was grateful to him because it gave me a rare chance to meet
many of the comrades in arms of Durruti and also to speak with the
people of the village. The spirit of these much-tried victims of
fascism was most impressive.

The enemy was only a short distance from Pina on the other side of
a creek. But there was no fear or weakness among the people.
Heroically they fought on. "Rather dead, than fascist rule," they told
me. "We stand and fall with Durruti in the antifascist fight to the
last man."
In Pina I discovered a child of eight years old, an orphan who had
already been harnessed to daily toil with a fascist family. Her tiny
hands were red and swollen. Her eyes, full of horror from the
dreadful shocks she had already suffered at the hands of Franco's
hirelings. The people of Pina are pitifully poor. Yet everyone gave
this ill-treated child care and love she had never known before.
The European Press has from the very beginning of the antifascist
war competed with each other in calumny and vilification of the
Spanish defenders of liberty. Not a day during the last four months
but what these satraps of European fascism did not write the most
sensational reports of atrocities committed by the revolutionary
forces. Every day the readers of these yellow sheets were fed on the
riots and disorders in Barcelona and other towns and villages, free
from the fascist invasion.
Having travelled over the whole of Catalonia, Aragon, and the
Levante, having visited every city and village on the way, I can
testify that there is not one word of truth in any of the bloodcurdling
accounts I had read in some of the British and Continental press.
A recent example of the utter unscrupulous news-fabrication was
furnished by some of the papers in regard to the death of the
Anarchist and heroic leader of the antifascist struggle,
Buenaventura Durruti.
According to this perfectly absurd account, Durruti's death is
supposed to have called forth violent dissension and outbreaks in
Barcelona among the comrades of the dead revolutionary hero
Durruti.
Whoever it was who wrote this preposterous invention he could not
have been in Barcelona. Much less know the place of Buenaventura
Durruti in the hearts of the members of the CNT and FAI. Indeed,
in the hearts and estimation of all regardless of their divergence
with Durruti's political and social ideas.
In point of truth, there never was such complete oneness in the
ranks of the popular front in Catalonia, as from the moment when
the news of Durruti's death became known until the last when he
was laid to rest.
Every party of every political tendency fighting Spanish fascism
turned out en masse to pay loving tribute to Buenaventura Durruti.
But not only the direct comrades of Durruti, numbering hundreds
of thousands and all the allies in the antifascist struggle, the largest
part of the population of Barcelona represented an incessant stream
of humanity. All had come to participate in the long and exhausting
funeral procession. Never before had Barcelona witnessed such a
human sea whose silent grief rose and fell in complete unison.
As to the comrades of Durruti--comrades closely knit by their ideal
and the comrades of the gallant column he had created. Their
admiration, their love, their devotion and respect left no place for
discord and dissension. They were as one in their grief and in their
determination to continue the battle against fascism and for the
realization of the Revolution for which Durruti had lived, fought and
had staked his all until his last breath.
No, Durruti is not dead! He is more alive than living. His glorious
example will now be emulated by all the Catalan workers and
peasants, by all the oppressed and disinherited. The memory of
Durruti's courage and fortitude will spur them on to great deeds
until fascism has been slain. Then the real work will begin--the
work on the new social structure of human value, justice and
freedom.
No, no! Durruti is not dead! He lives in us for ever and ever.


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