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(en) The revolutionary message of the Friends of Durruti

From Andrew <andy@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Tue, 29 Jul 2003 16:11:30 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

PDF file of The revolutionary message of the Friends of Durruti
The Spanish revolution broke out some 67 years ago on July 19th, 1936. To
mark this the first English translation of 'The revolutionary message of the
Friends of Durruti' has been added to the Struggle site. This 20 pages
booklet includes many of the articles from the FoD's paper. It has an
introduction by Daniel Guerin, below. PDF and online versions are at

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION (1983) by Daniel Guerin.

George Fontenis' study seems useful to me, indeed I would go so far as to say
it is valuable, not only as it teaches a better understanding of the Spanish
Revolution of 1936-7 but it also provides a more extensive interpretation of
the notion of libertarian communism itself.

When using this phrase 'libertarian communism' it is certainly worthwhile to
clearly distinguish it from two other versions which are endowed with the same
name. To be specific; firstly the utopia, propagated by Kropotkin and his
disciples, of a terrestrial paradise without money where, thanks to the
abundance of resources, each and every person would be able to draw freely
from the stockpile. Secondly the infantile idyll of a jumble of 'free
communes', at the heart of the Spanish CNT before 1936, which arose from the
thinking of Isaac Puente. This soft dream left Spanish anarcho-syndicalism
extremely ill-prepared for the harsh realities of revolution and civil war on
the eve of Franco's putsch. Fontenis, although he does highlight certain
positive aspects of the congress of Saragossa of 1936, seems to me to err on
the side of those who appear removed from reality.

In the first part of his study, the author traces with precision the
degeneration, the successive capitulations of the anarchist leaders of the
CNT-FAI. However, perhaps he does not penetrate to the heart of the problem
with sufficient conviction. To be precise, was traditional anarchism,
idealistic and prone to splits, not destined to fail as soon as it found
itself confronted by an implacable social struggle, for which it was not in
the least way prepared?

Because it was not mainly infidelity to principles, human weakness,
inexperience or naivety among the leaders, which led them astray, but rather
it was a congenital incapacity to evade the traps of the rulers(which they put
up with since they weren't able to write them off with a stroke of a pen). As
a consequence they were destined to get bogged down in ministerialism, to take
shelter under the treacherous wing of 'antifacsist' bourgeois democracy and
finally to let themselves be dragged along by the stalinist counter-revolution.

On the other hand, they were damned well prepared for economic self-management
of agriculture, and to a lesser extent, industry. These, together with
libertarian collectivisation remain a model for future revolution and saved
the honour of anarchism. One might express regret that Fontenis' study is only
able to skim the surface of this glorious episode of the Spanish revolution.
He would surely be justified in retorting that it is no less absent from the
writings which he analyses.

The merit of these texts lies elsewhere, in the political domain. They reveal
an unjustifiably obscure aspect of the Iberian libertarian avant-garde, the
brief rise of the 'Friends of Durruti', named in memory of the legendary
Durruti, who fell on the front on the 20th of November 1936. They emerged from
the lessons drawn, a little late, from the cruel defeat of May 1937 in
Barcelona. Just as in France Babouvism was the delayed fruit of the severe
repressions of germinal and prairial[*1] 1795, the lucidity of these
libertarian communists was inspired by the tragedy of May in Catalonia.

Throughout the few editions of their short-lived paper, 'The friend of the
people' which Fontenis has passionatly scrutinised and translated, we see
these militants refusing, as was advocated by the reformist anarchists as much
as by the stalinists, to wait until the war has been won to carry out the
revolution and affirming that one couldn't be dissociated from the other. They
proclaim that it is possible to battle against the fascist enemy without in
the least renouncing libertarian ideals. They denounce the asphyxiation
engendered by the machinery of state. And finally they affirm that without a
revolutionnary theory, revolutions cannot come from below, and that the
revolution of 19 July 1936 failed for want of a program derived from such a

Georges Fontenis, in his efforts to realise such a libertarion communist
program, wrote this in 1954 in France and updated it in July 1971 at Marseille
at the constituitive congress of the Orginasation Communiste Libertaire (OCL),
which I took part in. I will finish by specifying that, today, I find myself
at his sides in the UTCL (Union des Traivailleurs Communistes Liberataires),
which sets itself in the tradition bequeathed by the first international, that
is to say anti-authoritarian.

PDF version

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