July 21, 1937 — Estadi Olimpic, Barcelona, Spain
Comrades and friends: People of Barcelona,
One year has passed since July 19th. A year of struggle. A year of war. A year of Revolution. And it is terribly painful that after this year, gathered here to remember and evoke the memory of those who fell and gave their blood for a Revolution that represents the struggle against fascism; that after a year, I repeat, of this deed, I still have to shout: The prisoners! The prisoners! It is necessary that we speak of the fact itself and say how regrettable it is that, in the midst of the struggle against fascism, there are antifascist prisoners in the jails of Spain. It is necessary that you realize what this represents, if Catalonia and Spain had not had such a deeply rooted revolutionary spirit then the war would have ended. The Revolution has only begun.
We are now in one of the many stages that occur in all revolutionary movements.
The Revolution continues on the upward path and will follow it doubly when fascism has been defeated in all the regions that today live crushed under its boot. One year has passed.
A year during which thousands of men have fallen on the fronts, in all the offenses and defenses. Those who have fallen in the course of this year of struggle against fascism, have all fallen for something more than to quell a militarization. It was the struggle of a people taking responsibility for its destiny, creating new interests, the struggle of a people rebelling against slavery and tyranny, destined to point out to all peoples the way to fight effectively against fascism.
I remember, and next month it will be a year, that in this very place I said that it was not possible for things to return to the way they were on July 18, 1936. It is not possible that the past can ever rise again. In the social body there have always existed conservative forces tending to the preservation of the vested interests of the dominant castes. In all revolutions they come into play, in order to obtain their interests, but the revolution creates new concepts of morality and life; new concepts of human right and labor. No Dictatorships.
The Russian Revolution went on beyond the period of Kerensky’s rule; the people destroyed the tyranny of the Czars but created the tyranny of Stalin. The executions continue. After Tuthatchewky others follow. It is necessary for the peoples to be on their guard against the tendency which, confronted with fascism, represents an authoritarian conception of life.
Comrade Esgleas said with an accurate phrase: “All the aid that comes to us from abroad is greatly appreciated by us. We are very grateful for them, both those from Mexico and those from Russia, but it is necessary that the Spanish people think that the war against fascism must be won by themselves, because if we were to win the internal militarization, on condition of selling our soul to the devil, we should be cursed by History itself. Spain cannot be enslaved by a bill that we want to collect too soon. I fear that this crime would go down in history as Spain’s worst crime of all.
Here, in Spain, we have always had decorum and honesty; we have always fought with clean weapons, we have confronted one organization with another, but it was very difficult to resort to crime; to resort to infamy; to resort to slander. That was done by the monarchy, neither the republicans, nor the socialists, nor the anarchists had done it. They tried to import procedures from other countries, to accuse members of an entire party of being spies, to put them in jail and to initiate a trial in the shadows. When representatives of socialist countries come to Spain, a few were released to cover up appearances. We have just been told that the bodies of Nin and two other comrades have been found in Madrid. (Great scandal). This news has not yet been confirmed, but until the Government denies it, telling us where Nin is, we must believe it to be true. One cannot with impunity, go over the will and dignity of a people, take a handful of men, accuse them of something that has not been proven, put them in a private house, set up for the purpose, take them out at night and assassinate them.
This cannot be done, because Spain is a country that has not yet lost its dignity and virility. A country where you can’t deceive the masses without conscience. They can tell us that Nin is an agent of fascism, but we will tell them: very well then, you must prove all this and then, in the middle of the most public square of Spain, you may shoot him. When they can prove to us that Nin, Gorkin and Andrade are spies, we will ask that they be shot, but killing and assassinating in the shadows cannot be tolerated. Let them assassinate Franco, Queipo, Cabanellas, but they cannot be assassinated in the name of a government that represents the struggle against fascism, where all the anti-fascist parties are represented, except the CNT and the FAI.
At this moment we feel the complacency of being absent from this, because if it had been done in a treacherous manner, bypassing the Ministry of Justice, we would be involved in the same tremendous historical responsibility. The CNT and the FAI have the right to raise the people who have shown that they know how to die for their freedom. No Rome, no Berlin, no Moscow!
BEWARE OF POLITICIANS
At this moment I remember that I am a former minister. (Laughter). I don’t want to launch into stridencies, because the one who shouts the loudest is not the one who is the most right, but I can speak with authority and I can be prosecuted. In Spain everybody is going to be prosecuted (Laughter), but for this to happen the Court of Constitutional Guarantees has to meet, the Government and the Attorney General of the Republic have to give the order, and this would give them a lot of work. However, having gone through the Government still has some advantage. I feel like speaking today, comrades… because it has been a long time since I have spoken in Barcelona. I return to find myself in an authentically revolutionary Barcelona, which the CNT will never lose, no matter how many slanders there are in the queues and how many dead people are unearthed in the towns. We must make a little history. There have been three fundamental revolutions; revolutions of a political and social type.
The first, the English Revolution, which took place at a time of struggle of the royal power against the feudal power in all countries. In Spain, France, Germany, the feudal lords were more powerful than the kings.
The struggle of the royal power against the feudal power began while Henry IV reigned in France. At that time this state represented an advance. A powerful king and sole owner was more bearable than thousands of owners, lords of gallows and knives. Hence the people supported the struggle of the royal power against the feudal power. In England the struggle was very complicated.
A Revolution broke out which resulted in the beheading of the king and all the men loyal to the cause of royal power. The people were divided. In fact, the true representative of English feudalism, Cromwell, won the English Revolution, because one part of the people was in his favor and another in favor of the king. Cromwell did not want to be king and became the protector of England. One day, Cromwell was assassinated and the Stuart dynasty was reestablished. Charles’s son did not come up with the luminous idea that Comorera came up with of digging up the dead.
It was something so huge and so impossible, that it did not enter his head.
Two centuries passed. The French people, fed up with suffering privations and seeing their children die of hunger, fed up with everything, one fine day stormed the Bastille and the most formidable Revolution that the centuries had seen broke out. Thousands of citizens died. In this Revolution there was an excess of men, and some took others to the guillotine. From among them arose one man, Napoleon, who swept the people along, making the Napoleonic empire one of the greatest in Europe. But Napoleon fell, like all tyrants; the monarchy was reestablished and no one thought of prosecuting the revolution that had caused so many heads to roll, reaped by the guillotine; it did not occur to anyone, because a revolution is a hurricane, it is the blind force of the social body, which is unleashed, fertilizing, like an overflowing river, the lands. Such is the revolution; such are all revolutions. This is how the Spanish Revolution we have lived through has been from the beginning.
Truly, I regret having ceased to be Minister of Health, because I would prepare the best rooms of the Pedro Mata Institute of Reus for all those here, (Laughter). There are some things that only horny [h1] minds can conceive. All these gentlemen dedicated to vampiric tasks, I consider that these men, in the best of cases, suffer from a neurosis that requires prompt treatment. I do not want to think that any of these gentlemen that I have mentioned, and not all of those who feel these marked interests, could have any interest in collaborating with the enemy, creating in the rearguard a spiritual breakdown, which can only be to the benefit of the troops of Franco, Queipo and Cabanellas. I fail to understand how, when the war is not won, where daily sacrifices await us, how anyone can take pleasure in breaking an indispensable unity to sustain that war.
By convincing Catalonia that the men of the CNT are murderers and that the fascists executed on July 19th were killed only by the CNT, what are they after? They can only gain two things, that the CNT loses its head and that once the danger actually presses in Catalonia, at the moment of a landing, intense bombardments, etc. in which it is necessary that the armed men take to the streets, to fight as on July 19th, their morale will be completely broken. Who will win with the sterilization of the potential forces, of the combative force of the people?
None other than fascism.
I believe rather in the first case of neurosis, because the second case is much more serious.
The CNT prisoners are not imprisoned for the events of May, there are some who are, but only very few; the responsibility was placed exclusively on the POUM because it was the minority force and because there are men who only dare with the weak, but not with the strong. The events of May will be clarified one day, indicating who are the real agents of the Gestapo. The events of May have not motivated most of the prisoners in Catalonia and Barcelona. The procedure is much more honorable. A gentleman or a lady writes a letter addressed to the president of the Audiencia, and in this letter this “gentleman” or this “lady” affiliated to a party, denounces that “in Puigcerdá” the priest was killed on July 19th, and that it was Fulano, Fulano and Fulano.
As a result of this denunciation, the corpse of the priest was sought and an investigation was opened. We already have a few CNT-FAI militants in jail.
Another example: In Molins de Rey, some CNT militants denounced certain priests who were fleeing from Montserrat; well, the CNT sought to dig up certain corpses[h2] [h3] , and, if found, to walk them around the town.
Another case; in another town a collectivization was carried out. Of course! A few CNT militants went to jail for having forced, gun in hand, to carry out that collectivization.
But, comrades: In Tarragona, several PSUC affiliates assassinated 36 comrades of the CNT. As far as I know, no indictment has been opened. In Sardañola (Cerdanyola), in the cemetery, 12 corpses of the Youth were found horribly mutilated, with their eyes out and their tongues cut out. An ambulance took them and left them in the cemetery. I demanded that an investigation be carried out and it has not yet been done.
The problem that arises is the following: we are legalists, we are protected by democratic rights. Ignoring the fact that there is a Revolution, we can neither assassinate without a trial, nor put in jail without evidence. We do not want to lose the war. And they are losing the war, they are losing it for us. To all those who act in this way, producing unrest in the rearguard, breaking the morale of the fronts and opening the gates of Spain to the enemy, I address myself.
Durruti said: “We can renounce everything, except victory; we can renounce everything, but we cannot renounce exterminating the enemy, because the future of the working class of the whole world depends on our triumph.”
That is not to be trifled with. The mentally unbalanced cannot make us lose the war; the people cannot allow this to be played with. Spain has never been a country of eunuchs and cowards.
WE NEED TO BUILD
We need to demonstrate our constructive capacity. If we were to destroy what exists and build nothing in its place, we would sink doubly. For this reason, at all times and on all occasions, we must point out the true dimensions of the drama and the problem we are experiencing to the working masses of Catalonia and Spain. The war is hard and has not ended. And it is necessary that the people get used to thinking this. Since July 19th we repeat, this war will be long and hard; we cannot surrender to waste.
It is necessary to organize production and ensure the subsistence of the rear and the fronts. We have always said this and we said it doubly, because we understood the true dimensions of this struggle. Anti-fascism: can such a system truly exist? No. And neither can the Popular Front which has opposed the Antifascist Front. Antifascism is something that is based on economic and political realizations. What is democracy but a vagueness, which has failed in France, Italy and Germany, which allowed Hitler’s triumph, for not having known how to make the Revolution he needed…? If democracy is a vagueness and fascism something more solid, we must oppose fascism with a program of reality. We must organize the resistance of the working class. The real challenge to anti-fascism is none other than the great idea confronting it, socialism. What does it matter if we call it libertarian socialism, federalist socialism, state socialism? It is socialism without the institutions that are to direct the new society.
There is really only thing, the production and distribution organized by the working class. It is necessary that we place things as they are and place the two enemies face to face, dispensing with the intermediaries. On one side, the supporters of the authority and the totalitarian state, of the economy directed by the State as the great owner, as the great procurer and the God of the country. It is the exploitation of mines, fields, factories and workshops by the working class, organized into Federations of Industry. To collectivize a workshop, putting it in the hands of all its workers and there being today more owners than on July 19th, is not making a social revolution either. It means we must build upon the infantile formula that facts have had to overcome today and instead base it on a socialist structure which is to be the constitution of the great Federations of Industry. The bourgeois Democrats oppose this. It is the unity of all the workers preparing and agreeing to take over production. That is the problem that fascism poses in Spain in the political aspect.
And it raises another problem and that is the need to overcome the fatal fact produced in all revolutions. In Spain we must give the impression that a new society is being structured, without the need for dictatorship. This has been the firmest position of the CNT. We fight against the minority sectors, who aspire to dictatorship. If we had wanted, we would have been able to establish an anarchist dictatorship in both Barcelona and Catalonia, where we were the absolute masters of the situation
We were the strongest force and had conquered the situation by risking our lives, making us the masters of the situation.
Sometimes I laugh when I think of the precautions we took to protect many men, men who I now wish had left Spain. A legend of terror had been woven and we wanted to appear as the good guys. (laughs) But there was another thing, we wanted to maintain our anti-fascist unity, and we wanted to show that unity is strength and that this was the only way to beat fascism. We could have been the masters, but we are no longer so. However, we will never allow anyone to be a dictator at our expense. We will not allow that, for the very spirit, for the very universal resonance of the Spanish Revolution. In Spain a libertarian regime, authentically libertarian and democratic, which surpasses bourgeois democracy, must be implanted. In order to re-establish all that the war has destroyed, there is no other solution other than socialism, than the exploitation of factories, mines and workshops by the Federations of Industry. There is no other solution than federalism. Spain must always be united. That is why we do not speak of anarchist or communist socialism. We speak of federalist socialism. Politically, Spain must be a gathering of regions federated among themselves. The federated nation, to organize production and consumption according to its possibilities, according to the cultural level of the inhabitants of the different regions.
With this we will avoid any dictatorship and we will point out to all men of free conscience that it is possible to fight and defeat fascism and that our ideas are based on reality and concrete facts, that we can oppose the fascist program with the program of federalist socialism in Spain. That is the way. It is necessary that everyone be convinced of this. If the war were won in Spain, but things remained as they were on July 17th, fascism would have triumphed in Spain.
Do you understand, comrades, socialists, communists and republicans? If we were unable to achieve our federalist experiment in Spain, if we were unable to overcome what fascism has done in Italy and in Germany, fascism would have triumphed spiritually in Spain as well.
THROUGH UNION TO VICTORY
I will end by saying: A year has passed; thousands of men, women and children have fallen victims, some on the fronts, some victims of bombing, others in the rear. A year of struggle, a year of enthusiasm that soon wears out. But it is necessary to maintain the reactionary and combative will.
Think that in the end, whether near or far, everything follows the same end. England and France
condition their aid to Spain saying: “In Spain it is not in our interest that fascism triumphs, but neither is it in our interest that the Social Revolution continues. They need to break the only authentically revolutionary forces, which is the CNT, the FAI, and the JJLL.”
Above all and in spite of everything, anti-fascist unity must be maintained. That they dig up the dead, let them dig them up! They may initiate trials, they may put comrades in jail, but then we must fight to get them out, even if it is with weapons that we have not used up to now, because we are too scrupulous. But we must never disengage ourselves from the responsibility of the Revolution and of the war. Remember that there are many who are here, but spiritually they are there. What interest is there in the Revolution not being waged and the war being won? All those particular interests that the Revolution destroys and will destroy, also defend themselves, although they do not want Franco to triumph, they do not want the Revolution to win either. We must maintain our enthusiasm above all else and perhaps when they flee, when the days of danger are greater, it will be our morale, our enthusiasm, the sacrifice of our lives, that will save the situation, as happened on July 19th.
Above all, the war must be won and the Revolution must be waged. For the working class! Above all, unity will guarantee our victory. When the others fight against it, raising the banner against the UGT CNT union, it is because they see the formidable danger that this union would present to them. At their core, they are all big and petty bourgeois, all of them. The only ones who know what is at stake in this struggle are us. They are the men who were going to jail before July 19th and who are going to jail afterwards as well. The conscious and healthy part of the UGT.
Do not forget that in Spain there are two UGTs. There is the one for small traders, shopkeepers, owners and industrialists. The UGT of small shopkeepers, who used to be in the Lliga and who are now in the UGT because they have to join one central or the other. And of course! The spirit of the classic Mr. Esteve says: “I have to join a union, otherwise I would not be able to sell. Well, in the UGT, which is the one that understands me best… And this is the UGT in Catalonia. The one in Madrid is another one.”
We must stand up against the conservative spirit of the small landowners and small shopkeepers in the UGT.
And then there is the other UGT. That which is incorporated into the revolutionary movement of Spain, the authentically socialist movement with class responsibility, which has collectivized and built great socializations. The UGT of the workers who know that the hour of the proletariat has ended and it is necessary to take advantage of this hour and unite with the sister union. We are counting on it; it is the one that does not whisper in the queues, factories and workshops: “Do not pay attention to the slogans of the CNT”. It is the one that will structure federalism together with us, the one that constitutes the marrow against fascism. Enthusiasm! Combative spirit to end the war! Without counting the hours!
Without counting pesetas! Give everything to the production process! Using the two levers: of union, which gives us strength, and faith, faith that can raise the mountains, we will triumph and Spain will have opened a new era for the world. Spain will exemplify to all the path of true progress; of true culture; of the true right to life, which all men and all peoples should have.
Translation by Hannah Abigail Foley.
Source: Talleres Gráficos Bosch, 1937.
Copyright 2021 by Hannah Abigail Foley. Used by permission. All rights reserved.