Sarrau Royes, Liberto, 1920-2002

Liberto (on the right) with two friends in Toulouse, 1946.

A short biography of Spanish anarchist, civil war fighter and Resistance guerrilla Liberto Sarrau Royes.


The son of Antonio Sarrau Espanol, an anarchosyndicalist militant of long standing, Liberto was born on June 15 1920 at Fraga, an agricultural city where Catalonia and Aragon meet. Soon the family left for Barcelona, where he had the happiness of being one of the pupils of the Natura School, created and supported by the CNT (National Confederation of Labour - the anarchist trade union) textile union and whose teacher was the libertarian educationalist Puig Elias. Two members of the commission charged by the union with putting the school on a sound footing were shot by the bosses' gunmen. But the workers' movement was on the offensive, and these gunmen were themselves shot dead.

A fierce militant, always in the forefront of struggle, Liberto's father, proscribed by the bosses organisations, after his sacking from the tramways, managed to set up a newspaper kiosk. There Liberto became acquainted with the world of print, which came in handy when he had to carry on a clandestine existence. In July 1936 with the Francoist coup and the workers' counterattack and Revolution, he set up the group Quijotes del Ideal with several others at the age of 16. The first act of the group was to bring out a manifesto denouncing those who were about to make compromises. Lying about his age, he volunteered for the front, even though he was not yet 17.

He was quickly found out and sent back to the rear. After having participated in the life of an agricultural collective, he rejoined the front once he was old enough. Joining the 26th Division - the old Durruti Column - under Ricardo Sanz, he was wounded during a battle and hospitalised. He escaped to France when the fascists invaded Catalonia. His father stayed in Barcelona and was shot by the Francoists. Like others, Liberto was interned in a French camp, from which he escaped to re-enter Spain to work in the underground anarchist movement.

After crossing the border several times, he was arrested in 1948 and imprisoned for 20 years and one day (the extra day being added so he could not get parole). In conditional liberty after 10 years of prison, he crossed the Pyrenees by foot, in order to set up a support network in France for armed resistance. He had hatched these schemes whilst in prison. The apathy of the CNT in exile and the political circumstances of the period caused the plan to founder. The hopes for a renewal of revolutionary elan in Europe set off by a popular uprising in Spain, on which he based his actions, vanished following after the period when Francoism was able to survive with the return of the monarchy, and with the assent of the so-called left organisations, with the Communist Party at their head.

He knew that the coming of a more just society is less linked to the handling of arms than to that of ideas. The development of a solid anarchist movement rested on education, teaching, culture. With the CNT a shadow of its former might, he never stopped militating within it. With several other comrades who never gave up, he founded ACEN, the “Cultural and Ecologist Association Natura" whose first project was the rebuying of 30 hectares on the Spanish side of the Pyreneees, with the aim of continuing the work of anarchist educator Francisco Ferrer. Seized by the Francoists, this property had been the children's holiday colony of the Natura school, Mon Nou - New World in Catalan. (Emma Goldman writes about it in Visions on Fire Commonground Press 1983). The land is now lost, funds lacking when a sale was possible, CNT coffers being largely empty at the time. But ACEN continued to develop libertarian culture and worked towards the rebirth of the CNT .

Living in France, he took part in the work of the French CNT. Serious disagreements within it, led him to be excluded for life from it and joining the small fraction affiliated to the International Workers Association, the CNT-AIT.

He died on 27th October 2002. According to his wishes, only a small group of close friends and relatives were at his cremation at the Père Lachaise cemetery. Six people attended included Colette, the daughter of the French anarchist militant Emilienne Morin and of Buenaventura Durruti.

"The ashes were scattered several days later in the waters of the river Cinca which after having bathed the lands of Fraga, flows into the Segro to join the Ebro , to which it brings its vivifying forces. Like the drops of water of the Cinca which flow in the Ebro, the fruits of his militant action continue to progress in several heads determined to continue on the way."
- From Bulletin d'information 2eme D.R/CNT

Nick Heath
Edited by libcom

Posted By

Steven.
Apr 16 2006 13:08

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