Chapter 3: The insurrectionary climate

3

The insurrectionary climate

We do not need too many arguments to prove that the environment in which the Spanish people lived during the period leading up to June 19, 1936, was one of open insurrection. A population that had endured so many years of the Bourbon monarchic regime, Alfonso XIII being the last representative of this centuries-long rule; that had to suffer under the disastrous influence of the legions of monks and friars, with their obscurantist and superstitious preaching; that had been the plaything of the local caciques and political bosses, with their promises and deceitfulness, and which shed its blood so abundantly in the desolate regions of Morocco, led by the ambitions and intrigues of the thugs who staff the highest levels of the royalist military, logically had to wake up to reality and make themselves capable of conquering their well-being.

The oppression that they were subjected to under the republican as well as the monarchical regimes instinctively led them to rebel against those who were oppressing them. They have often proved that within their ranks hope and a promising new dawn are being cultivated.

The Spanish people have a glorious history of epic revolutionary attempts. Few are the cities, towns or villages whose streets are not stained with the blood of the workers and anarchists. Along the roads in Spain, like battle flags of rebellion and vengeance, one sees, one after another, crosses of wood or simple signs indicating that on that spot an anarchist fighter had fallen, murdered during the merciless implementation of the “law of flight”.

In July 1909, after an energetic protest campaign against the war in Morocco, a huge general strike broke out in Barcelona, in which the general population of the city also took an active part, and the population surged into the streets and even burned churches and monasteries. This episode has been given the name of the “Tragic Week” because of the enormous number of workers lives that were sacrificed due to the violent measures of repression adopted by the despotic government of the clericalist Antonio Maura.

A short time afterwards, the founder of the Modern School, Francisco Ferrer Guardia, was shot in the dungeons of the ghastly fortress of Montjuich, by order of the same Maura, and this reprehensible deed caused not only the people of Spain, but also the people of the whole world, to pour into the streets in protest against the Spanish government, considering this crime to be a shameless maneuver of the Iberian clerical party.

In the regions and the cities of the North—Asturias, Vizcaya, Bilbao, Santander, Oviedo, etc.—the campaign against the war found fertile soil and when the government wanted to send the young soldiers of Spain to the slaughterhouse of the Riff, the mothers, sisters and girlfriends of the boys rebelled against the military caste, even taking their protest to the docks where the troops were to embark for Morocco, temporarily preventing their departure.

In 1911, a bloody incident took place in a town in the vicinity of Valencia and the Civil Guard immediately carried out vicious repression against its inhabitants, in the prelude to the famous trial known as the “Cullera”, in which the prosecuting attorney called for three consecutive life sentences for one worker and life imprisonment for every one of the other 17 workers who were his co-defendants. This trial had a major impact, for in Buenos Aires and Montevideo a protest campaign was organized against this judicial outrage.

These incidents, and those that followed during the reign of Alfonso XIII, led to major massacres of workers and a tenacious and cruel persecution of anarchists and revolutionary workers.

During the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, which lasted seven years, the men of the CNT were bitterly persecuted, and many of them were subjected to the dictates of the sadly famous law of flight; the workers were shot under the pretext that they had attempted to escape. The bloodstained general Martínez Anido, organizer of the free trade unions, sowed death throughout the streets of Barcelona.

Then came April 14, 1931. The Spanish people, tired of supporting such despotism and exploitation, turned their attention towards the politicians who loudly proclaimed their republican views and, hoping for a radical change, helped these politicians win the municipal elections on that date. King Alfonso, responsible for so many crimes and persecutions, was overcome with fear and fled, leaving the government in the hands of the republicans.

All of this changed nothing with regard to the methods of oppression. The republic, too, imprisoned, persecuted and shot rebels. During period of the Azaña government, who presided over a cabinet that included Largo Caballero, Quiroga, Maura (junior), Prieto and others—some of whom were to later play a prominent role during the civil war—the crimes continued to be committed, but now in the name of the republic, and the total number of dead and prisoners reached into the thousands, many of whom were militants of the CNT and the FAI.

In the period of the cabinet presided over by Casares Quiroga, bloody incidents took place and the state reacted with great violence, culminating in the ignominious event of the tragedy of Casas Viejas, which had worldwide repercussions, where, under orders to take “neither wounded nor prisoners”, a large number of peasants were massacred for the crime of yearning for more bread and freedom. Then the tragic Lerroux rose to power, who, determined not to fall short of the efforts of his predecessors, continued to carry out a ferocious repression against the most insignificant instances of protest and rebellion, filling the jails with anarchist militants.

Now we come to the revolution of Asturias, led by the Asturian miners, in which the affiliates of the CNT and the FAI played an active role. The bloody repression carried out by General Ochoa is a bitter memory.