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(en) anarkismo.net: Anarchist volunteers in Spain by Giannis Kastanaras

Date Mon, 2 Aug 2021 11:02:24 +0300


Although foreign anarchist volunteers fought alongside the Communists, who made up the bulk of the International Brigades, and sometimes in the same units as them, their struggle was very different, as they sought to fight fascism on the one hand and to maintain it on the other. the revolutionary social structures built by their Spanish comrades. However, as was soon to be seen, Soviet penetration and influence, and the forced (often violent) militarization of anarchist and non-Stalinist militias, created rifts within the antifascist and extremist brutality at the expense of their opponents. But this is another story that has been extensively documented.
Anarchist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
Giannis Castanaras *
For the comrades of the Spanish anarchists, Spain was experiencing a social revolution and believed that the success of this revolution was the key to mobilizing the resources and morale necessary to defeat the forces of F . Anarchists abroad rushed to the aid of the struggle against fascism, not to defend the Popular Front government, which they saw as a brake and, at worst, a threat to the revolutionary process.

Tons of ink have been spilled on the Spanish Civil War and on the first major conflict between fascism and anti-fascism, a harbinger of what was to follow, as a few months after General Franco's coup against the Spanish Republic, World War II the largest slaughterhouse ever known to mankind.

On July 18, 1936, Franco and his fascist collaborators, military and political, decided they needed to "fight anarchy" and launched an attack on the democratic government, which immediately called on the people to take up arms and resist. One of the first to mobilize was the anarchists, a powerful and tried and tested movement among the country's workers and peasants. After crushing the uprising in Barcelona and the countryside of Catalonia and other regions, they organized militias, occupied factories and launched an unprecedented collectivization of the means of production in which an estimated more than two million people took part.

Thousands of anti-fascist volunteers began arriving in Spain from all over the world to join the militias and military units of the International Brigades. Many of them from the fascist governments of their countries, but all (or, at least, in the vast majority) were inspired by the feeling of solidarity, realizing that the spread of fascism had to be stopped while it was still time.

For the comrades of the Spanish anarchists, Spain was experiencing a social revolution and they believed that the success of this revolution was the key to mobilizing the resources and morale necessary for the defeat of Franco's forces. Anarchists abroad rushed to the aid of the struggle against fascism, not to defend the Popular Front government, which they saw as a brake and, at worst, a threat to the revolutionary process.

The anti-fascist volunteers came in a variety of political shades: Stalinist communists, Trotskyist communists, dissident communists, socialists of all tendencies, ordinary democrats. And, of course, many anarchists (it is estimated that in the first months after the coup, more than a hundred thousand people joined the anarchist militias). And while many books and articles have been written about the International Brigades in general and in particular, the involvement of foreign anarchist volunteers in the war is relatively unknown, despite the fact that, especially at that time, the anarchist (mainly anarcho-syndicalist) movement in Spain played a leading role. in social and labor struggles.

The first 600 foreign anarchists were French anti-fascists and Italian exiles and arrived by two trains in Barcelona, the stronghold of Spanish anarchism, on July 28, ten days after the nationalist military coup. They belonged mainly to the Giustizia e Liberta (Justice and Freedom) organization, founded in Paris by Carlo Rosselli, an Italian anti-fascist socialist intellectual living in France, exiled by the Mussolini regime. Rosselli was an open-minded, outspoken activist who sought to form a united anti-fascist movement, regardless of political beliefs. Rosselli left for Barcelona in August 1936 with 130 other Italian volunteers and with Camillo Berneri, also an exiled Italian anarchist and intellectual already living in the city. began organizing foreign volunteers in the Phalanx of Ascaso, the Italian branch of the anarcho-syndicalist National Confederation of Labor (CNT). Of the 300 members who served in the phalanx, about 250 were anarchists. The original team included 57-year-old Michele Centrone, an active anarchist in San Francisco for a decade before being deported by US authorities to Europe.

The Italian Division was sent to the front of Aragon and took action for the first time on the morning of August 28, 1936, when it attacked a fascist position in Monte Pelado. Chedrone was the first to fall when a bullet hit him in the forehead, but the attack had a happy ending after a five-hour battle.

At the end of September 1938, the Democratic government estimated that 1946 foreign volunteers had enlisted in units outside the International Brigades. However, their number may have been close to 5,000, although the anarchist Augustine Suhi, a prominent CNT official, believed that they did not exceed 3,000. However, at least 1,600 to 2,000 foreign anarchists fought in Spain, most of them in the militias of the CNT and the Anarchist Federation (FAI). These included 500 to 1,000 Italians, 250 to 300 French, 230 to 250 Germans, and 100 or more volunteers (including some Greek Irish and Jews) from other European countries, and at least one Chinese anarchist. Several hundred Latin American anarchists and a few hundred Americans also took part.

The total number of foreign anarchists who took part in the war was less than one-tenth of the total number of Communist-controlled International Brigades. This is due, on the one hand, to the great influence of the Comintern and, on the other, to the difficulties faced by the anarchists in crossing into Spanish territory. And although Diego Abad de Santillian, the CNT spokesman, stated that "we can not deny them the desire to fight and die with us."

A major disadvantage of the CNT was that it failed to recruit anarchist pilots, as the air force (as at one point the army) was in the hands of Soviet advisers who barred CNT members from training and sometimes refused air support to anarchist units. So, at the urging of the confederation, some Spaniards and Italian anarchists began secretly training as pilots in New York State, but were forced to flee to Spain in the middle of training because the situation on the fronts had deteriorated to the detriment of the antifascists.

When the Democratic government ordered the integration of the militia into the regular army and the centralization of the administrative structure and military discipline, foreign anarchists were among those who reacted most strongly, sometimes threatening to leave the front, while criticizing the controversial decision of the CN. to the government. In April 1937, most of the 200 Italian anarchists in the Ascas Phalanx left in protest after first agreeing to take part in an attack in which nine of their members were killed and 43 wounded. Most were willing to fight the fascists but with their own. the terms. When they arrived in Barcelona, several of them formed the International Battalion of the 26th Division (formerly the Duruti Brigade).

In the same days, however, an armed conflict broke out in Barcelona between the anarchists and the Spanish Communist Party, known as the Days of May. The five-day fighting (May 3-8) erupted when anarchist militias refused to hand over the city's call center to government police, and at least 400 people were killed when an agreement was reached. CNT ministers were ousted by the government, and the government began to crack down on anarchist and non-Stalinist militias and disband anarchist collectives. Many anarchists were arrested, including some Italian-American volunteers, and several were executed. Among them is Camilo Berneri, most likely at the behest of Moscow. The Spanish Revolution was over.

In any case, the scourge of war had begun to tilt in favor of the nationalists, and foreign anarchists were slowly beginning to leave Spain. Many were imprisoned in French concentration camps and after the defeat of France fell into the hands of the Germans.

Although foreign anarchist volunteers fought alongside the Communists, who made up the bulk of the International Brigades, and sometimes in the same units as them, their struggle was very different, as they sought to fight fascism on the one hand and to maintain it on the other. the revolutionary social structures built by their Spanish comrades. However, as was soon to be seen, Soviet penetration and influence, and the forced (often violent) militarization of anarchist and non-Stalinist militias, created rifts within the antifascists and brutality at the expense of their opponents. But this is another story that has been extensively documented.

The phalanx DURUTI

About 400 foreign anarchists joined the phalanx of the famous anarchist leader Buenaventura Duruti, including the Franco-Algerian Saidi Mohamed ben Amerzain, the Swiss Clara Telman, the German-Jewish art historian and author Eliel of the French Prime Minister Clemenceau), the Italian-American writer and documentary filmmaker Carl Marcani and the famous French writer Simone Vail. They were divided into three centurions consisting mainly of French, Italian and German volunteers. They operated autonomously within the phalanx and occasionally took guerrilla action. In October 1936, almost the entire force of these volunteers led by the Frenchman Louis Bertomio was exterminated (only two survived) during an attack around the city of Alcubierre. 50 kilometers northeast of Zaragoza. However, the group soon regrouped and in November 1936 took part in the Madrid defense, where Duruti died. After the militarization of the phalanx, many members continued to fight with the 26th Division.

The vast majority of German volunteers fought the Duruti Phalanx. About 150 Germans participated in its International Team. The first German militia unit was the Erich Mussam Group (named after the German anarchist, one of the first victims of the Hitler regime executed at the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934). It gave its first battle at Huesca on August 27, 1936, but was soon absorbed by the Durhangi International Phalanx Team.

THE GREEK ANARCHISTS

There is little information about the Greek anarchists who fought in the Spanish Civil War. The name of Notis Papazacharopoulos is known, a blacksmith from Patras, who heard the sirens of the revolution and hurried to Spain to connect his fortune with the dreams of his Spanish comrades. Papazacharopoulos breathed his last in the Battle of Madrid fighting the Phalanx Duruti.

Although foreign anarchist volunteers fought alongside the Communists, who made up the bulk of the International Brigades, and sometimes in the same units as them, their struggle was very different, as they sought to fight fascism on the one hand and to maintain it on the other. the revolutionary social structures built by their Spanish comrades. However, as was soon to be seen, Soviet penetration and influence, and the forced (often violent) militarization of anarchist and non-Stalinist militias, created rifts within the antifascist and extremist brutality at the expense of their opponents. But this is another story that has been extensively documented.

SEE: Vivir La Utopia (Living Utopia)

* Giannis Kastanaras is the sixth and professional slacker, co-editor and executive producer (whatever that thing means) of Merlin Merlin's Music Box.

** For the full text, with photos and captions here:
https://merlins.gr/blog/1259-2019-07-18-16-21-17?
fbclid=IwAR20_MRegvGLl7O5KDFQEiFRTzGbLZkVZYFZ8CWrK1lm9h

https://www.anarkismo.net/article/32395
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