Tue May 21, 2024
May 21, 2024

Buenaventura Durruti: “Our Means of Struggle Is the Revolution”

We reproduce below a section dedicated to Durruti from the chapter on anarchism in the book “A Silenced Revolution”

By Ángel Luis Parras

The capitulation of the CNT leadership, its inclusion in the Government of Largo Caballero, was not done without tenacious opposition from the ranks of anarchism. The burden for thousands of anarchist militants was expressed in their opposition to the governmental decrees of dissolution of the militias and especially in the Acts of May 1937. While García Oliver, Federica Montseny and Company were in government, thousands of anarchist militants were persecuted and imprisoned. The death of Camilo Berneri in the events of May of 37 expressed the tragedy of many of the best fighters of the revolution.

But the man who best embodied the heroism of the working class, its revolutionary tenacity, the spirit of sacrifice and the firm conviction that war and revolution were an indissoluble binomial, was Buenaventura Durruti.

Durruti spent his life between prisons and workers’ struggles. His figure has been the object of gross and vile slanders, such as those of  filmmaker Vicente Aranda, who in his film Libertarias situates Durruti as the maximum defender of the decree of exclusion of women from the militias, when unfortunately at that time Durruti had already died. Or like that Stalinist campaign that, using Durruti’s phrase “we renounce to everything except victory”, tried to associate it with their popular-front  “first winning the war” theory.

Some spectacular blows carried out in different parts of the world, increased Durruti’s reputation as a “thief”. However, it was Durruti himself who in 1935, in the middle of the black biennium and while imprisoned, led the opposition against those who were engaged in the “robbery industry”. His position “no to banditry, yes to collective expropriation” ended up leading him to be judged by the CNT upon his release from prison. Durruti’s character was very controversial and highly criticized by several sectors of anarchism, which accused him of infantilism and Anarcho-Bolshevik. The underlying reason is that Durruti, guided by a “healthy empiricism”, by an irreducible class instinct that he never abandoned, never accepted to dissociate revolution and war. His battles inside the CNT were always guided by criteria that clashed, unconsciously or not, with the central elements of anarchist fundamentals. As a member of the group “Nosotros (us)” he defended and built the “revolutionary organization”, which “would find opponents in many militants … who believed more in the spontaneity of the masses than in  revolutionary organization” [1]. This conception far from the cult of spontaneism was key to the organization of  Defense Committees, which were decisive in the events of July 19 in Catalonia.On the eve of the outbreak of the revolution, on May 1, 1936, the CNT held its Fourth Congress. After strong debates with a prominent role of Durruti and the “nosotros”group ,  Congress passed a resolution on the Revolutionary Workers Alliance addressed to the UGT, inviting this union central to form “an action block for the destruction of the capitalist regime and to establish a socialist regime based on workers’ democracy “[2]The controversy during the Congress was “in reality (…) the question of revolutionary power, taboo that, by not addressing it directly, contributed to maintain ambiguities, because while it wasn’t  harmful at the moment, it would be as soon as events placed the CNT-FAI before the revolutionary reality “[3]On July 25, shortly before the departure of the Column that bears his name to Aragon , a Canadian journalist interviewed Durruti: “All workers in Spain know that if fascism triumphs, hunger and slavery will come. But fascists also know what awaits them if they lose (…) We are determined to end once and for all [with fascism], and in spite of the Government, “said Durruti. “Why do you say in spite of the Government? Isn’t this government fighting against the fascist rebellion? ” asked the journalist, somewhat surprised . Durruti’s response synthesizes a vision of the revolution and a position against the government, opposed by the vertex to which just a few months later would lead García Oliver and company to enter the government: “No government in the world fights against fascism to suppress it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power escapes from their hands, they resort to fascism to maintain the power of their privileges. And this is what happens in Spain. If the republican government had wanted to end fascist elements, it could have done it a long time ago. Instead, it allowed , tolerated and wasted time looking for compromises and agreements with them. Even at this moment, there are members of the government who want to take very moderate measures against the fascists. ” And Durruti sentenced: “Who knows if even the Government hopes to use the rebel forces to crush the revolutionary movement unleashed by the workers.”The journalist continues: “Largo Caballero and Indalecio Prieto have affirmed that the Popular Front’s mission is to save the Republic and restore the bourgeois order. And you, Durruti, tell me that the people want to take the revolution as far as possible, how to interpret this contradiction? ” ” Antagonism is evident, “Durruti says. “ Like petty bourgeois democrats, these gentlemen cannot have other ideas than those they profess . But the people, the working class, are tired of being deceived. We fight not for the people but with the people, that is, the revolution within the revolution. We are aware that in this struggle we are alone and that we can only count on ourselves. For us it doesn’t mean anything that there is a Soviet Union in one part of the world, because we knew in advance what their attitude was in relation to our revolution. For the Soviet Union, the only thing that counts is its tranquility. To enjoy this tranquility, Stalin sacrificed German workers to fascist barbarism. Before that it was the Chinese workers who were victims of this abandonment … “[4] Every town Durruti passed, he would stop and say : Have you organized your community? Do not wait any longer. Occupy the lands! (…) We have to create a new world, different from the one we are destroying. If not, it is not worthwhile for youth to die on the battlefields. Our field of struggle is the revolution. “On November 4, 1936, a few days after the decree of militarization had been approved by the Generalitat and on the same day that the leaders of the CNT, Federica Montseny, Juan Garcia Oliver, Juan Lopez and Joan Peiró were incorporated as ministers to the Government of Largo Caballero, Durruti directed by Radio CNT-FAI a speech from the Aragón Front. Thousands of workers stopped to listen to the speech through the loudspeakers located along the Barcelona Ramblas: “Workers organizations must not forget what must be the imperative duty of the present moments. On the front, as in the trenches, there is a thought, only an objective. You stay firm, you look ahead, with the sole purpose of crushing fascism. (…) An effective mobilization of all the workers on the rearguard is necessary, because those of us who are already at the front want to know who we can count on behind us.Those on the front ask for honesty, especially to the National Confederation of Labor and the FAI (…) we must begin by organizing the economy of Catalonia, we must establish an economic order Code . I am not willing to write any more letters so that the comrades or the son of a militiaman may eat a piece of bread or a glass of milk, while there are counselors who do not have a budget to eat and spend. We say to the CNT-FAI  that if as an organization they control the economy of Catalonia, they should organize it properly. (…) Fascism represents and is, in effect, social inequality, if you do not want those of us who fight to confuse the rearguard with our enemies, fulfill your duty. The war we are currently fighting serves to crush the enemy in the front, but is this the only one? No. The enemy is also the one who opposes the revolutionary conquests and who is among us, and whom we will crush just the same (…) If that militarization decreed by the Generalitat is to frighten us and to impose an iron discipline on us, They have been wrong. You are wrong about the decree of militarization of the militias. Since you speak of iron discipline, I tell you to come with me to the front. There we are, we do not accept any discipline, because we are conscious to fulfill our duty. And you will see our order and our organization. Then we will come to Barcelona and ask you about your discipline, your order and your control, which you do not have “[5]On November 15, 1936, more than 3000 members of the Durruti column were already fighting in Madrid, with him in charge. On November 19, a bullet wounded him while at University City, where he died the next day. On Sunday, November 22, in Barcelona, ​ multitudes said farewell to Durruti. The procession was presided over by numerous politicians although the protagonism of the public act was monopolized by Companys, president of the Generalitat, Antonov-Ovseenko, Soviet consul and Juan García Oliver, anarchist minister of Justice of the Republic, who took the floor before the monument to Colon. “The three agreed to praise the antifascist unit above all else. Durruti’s catafalque was already a tribune of the counterrevolution. Three orators, excellent representatives of the bourgeois government, Stalinism and the CNT bureaucracy, disputed the popularity of yesterday’s dangerous uncontrollable and today embalmed hero. When the coffin, eight hours after the beginning of the show, and without the official procession, but still accompanied by a curious crowd, arrived at the cemetery of Montjuic, it could not be buried until the next day because hundreds of flower crowns blocked the way, the hole was too small and a torrential rain prevented its expansion. The sacred antifascist unity among worker bureaucrats , Stalinists and bourgeois politicians could not tolerate uncontrolled Durruti’s stature: that is why his death was urgent and necessary. By opposing the militarization of the militias, Durruti personified the revolutionary opposition and resistance to the dissolution of the committees, the bourgeoisie control of the war and the state control of  companies expropriated in July. Durruti died because he had become a dangerous obstacle to the ongoing counterrevolution “[6] With Durruti died the leader who, in his own way, best expressed how to fight fascism from a criterion of class independence, unlike the popular front collaborationism of the anarchist leadership.Durruti was a factor of the first order in the role of the working class in Catalonia in July 1936. But Durruti, as Trotsky would say referring to the role of personalities in history, did not fall from heaven. He personified the revolutionary tradition of the Spanish working class. His death was undoubtedly an objective blow to the revolutionary process under way. Without Durruti, the road was cleared for Stalinism, with the complicity of the Popular Front Government and the anarchist leadership, to finish in May 1937 the task of liquidating the revolution.Notes

[1] Durruti en la revolución española, Abel Paz. Editorial La esfera de los libros

[2] Idem

[3] Idem

[4] Todas la citas de la entrevista corresponden al libro de Abel Paz antes citado

[5] Agustín Guillamon. Balance Cuaderno nº 25, 2ª edición Barcelona 2002

[6] Ídem

Translation :Blas

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