This week marks the death of a key activist, Buenaventura Durruti, at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Allen Moore the International Officer of Mec Vannin who travels extensively in Catalunya and the Basque country penned this article about him
“The 80th anniversary of the death of Buenaventura Durruti
This Sunday sees the 80th anniversary of the death of Buenaventura Durruti, who was the most famous of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. When the fascists tried to take over Barcelona in the right wing rising which sparked the Civil War, it was the anarchists who helped secure the city against them. Much of the land between Barcelona and Madrid was soon occupied by the fascists, and Catalunya intended to declare for independence, although for the sake of the fight against the common enemy the Catalans accepted a large degree of autonomy from the government in Madrid. The anarchists, the most popular grouping in Catalunya at the time, became part of the autonomous government.
Zaragoza, a city in Aragón which is about 300 km west of Barcelona, was also a hotbed of anarchism. However, it had fallen to the right wing rebellion. Durruti led a column from Barcelona with the intention of relieving Zaragoza. The advance stalled within 30 km of the city at the insistence of Colonel Villalba, who was effectively in command of the Aragón front and who thought that they would get cut off. The front remained there for many months, and it was there where George Orwell served with POUM in 1937.
The fascists reached the outskirts of Madrid in the early days of the Civil War, fighting continuing there right to the collapse of the Republic early in 1939. Durruti went to Madrid to fight for the Republic, but on 19th November 1936, after being there for only a week, he was hit by a stray bullet, dying the next day. His funeral in Barcelona was said to have been the largest ever held in the city. The funeral procession was led by the entire Catalan Government, accompanied by the Soviet Consul Antonov-Ovseyenko. Andreu Nin, the leader of POUM, followed. Antonov-Ovseyenko was responsible for the brutal murder of Nin several months later during the Soviet demanded suppression of POUM, at a time that the anarchists were also losing their influence in the Republic.
In his youth Durruti had worked in the railway yard in León, a city which lies between Madrid and Asturias in the north. He took part in a strike in 1917 when the government in Madrid overturned an agreement between the employers and the socialist Unión General de Trabajadores (General Workers Union). The government sent in the army to suppress the strike, resulting in 70 deaths, 500 workers injured and 2000 imprisoned without trial. Durruti escaped, fleeing to France and becoming an anarchist. As such he was involved with bank robberies and was a member of groups who carried out assassinations. He is remembered not for his radicalisation but for inspiring the battle against fascism in Spain, a battle which engulfed the rest of the world in 1939-45. After all, during times of war one cannot always choose one’s allies. The UK and USA allied with the Soviet Union in World War 2, and Stalin was one of the worst murderers in history. One of his victims in the Purges in 1938 was Antonov-Ovseyenko, his agent in Barcelona a year before.
Public Relations Officer Mannin Branch
Issued by: The Mannin branch of the Celtic League.