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The Durruti column – Carl Einstein

The Durruti Column

A posthumous address on Buenaventura Durruti by German anarcho-syndicalist volunteer in the Durruti Column, Carl Einstein. It was broadcasted by the CNT-FAI radio station in Barcelona shortly after Durruti’s death in November 1936, and later published by the Official Propaganda Services of the CNT-FAI in the pamphlet Buenaventura Durruti.

Our column received the news of Durruti’s death during the night. Little was talked about it. To sacrifice one's life seems natural to the comrades of Durruti. One said: “He was the best among us.” Others shouted “Revenge!” The slogan of the following day was: “Venganza!” (Vengeance!)

Durruti, this outstandingly real character never spoke of himself. He had banished the prehistoric term “I” from his vocabulary. The Durruti Column knows only the collective “we”. Our comrades will have to teach the literary writers to reform grammar in a collective sense.

Durruti instinctively understood the value of anonymous work. Anonymousness and communism are one and the same. Durruti's work had nothing whatever in common with all the vanity of the Left-vedettes. He lived with his comrades, he fought as a “compañero”. He gave an enthusiastic example. He was no general, but his loving eyes inspired us with his passion for the fight, with his deep devotion for the great common cause of the Revolution. Our hearts have beaten in union with his heart, which will continue to beat for us at the front. We shall always hear his voice: “Adelante, adelante!” (forward!) Durruti was no general, he was our comrade. Not a very decorative position, but in this proletarian column popularity is not exploited. There is only one idea: Victory and Revolution!

This anarcho-syndicalist column was born of the Revolution. The antifascist war and the Revolution are inseparable for us. Others may discuss things more abstractly. We, as simple empiricists believe that activity produces clearer, and more definite results than a constructed program that usually evaporates in the process of action.

The Durruti column consists of workers. Of proletarians of factories and villages. The Catalan industrial workers went out with Durruti, they were later joined by the comrades from the provinces. Peasants and farm-labourers left their villages, devastated and oppressed by the fascists, to cross the river at night to join us. The Durruti column grew strong with the soil freed by its efforts. Born in the workers' quarters of Barcelona, the Durruti column contains today the most revolutionary elements of Catalonia and Aragon, of cities as well as of villages.

The comrades of the Durruti column are militants of the CNT-FAI. Many of them have suffered in prisons for their ideal. The younger men know one another from the “Libertarian Youth”.

Farmlabourers and peasants who have come to us, are sons and brothers of those, still oppressed. They look across the river at their villages. But they are not fighting for their farms and villages, they fight for the freedom of all. Young boys, children almost, came to us, orphans whose parents were murdered. These children fight on our side. They don't talk much. But they have already understood much. At night, near the campfire they listen to the older men. Many did not know how to read or write. Our comrades are teaching them. The Durruti column will return without analphabets.

The column is neither military nor bureaucratically organised. It has grown organically from the syndicalist movement. It is a social-revolutionary union and not a military troop. We represent a union of oppressed proletarians, fighting for the freedom of all. The column is the work of Durruti who determined its spirit and defended its libertarian principles until his last breath. The foundations of the column are comradeship and voluntary self-discipline. And the end of its activity is nothing else than libertarian communism.

We all hate the war, but we accept it as a revolutionary means. We are no pacifists and we fight with passion. War, this old-fashioned idiocy is only justified by the Social Revolution. We do not fight as soldiers but as liberators. We advance, not to capture properties but to liberate those, oppressed by capitalism and fascism. The column is a union of class educated idealists. Up to now, victories and defeats only served capitalism to keep armies and officers and to secure profits and rents. The Durruti column serves the proletariat. Every victory of the column is followed by the liberation of the workers of the captured village.

We are syndicalist-communists, but we recognise the importance of the individual. That is: everybody has the same rights and the same duties as the other. Nobody is considered superior. But everybody must develop the maximum of his personality and devote his efforts to the common work. Military technicians advise, they never command. We may not be strategists but we are proletarian fighters. The column is strong and represents an important factor at the front, because it consists of men, pursuing one ideal: Libertarian Communism. Because it consists of comrades who are syndically organised and who work as revolutionaries. The column is a fighting syndical community.

The comrades know that this time they are fighting for the working-class and not for a capitalist minority or for the enemy. Knowing this, they all exercise strictest self-discipline. The militia man does not obey – he pursues, together with his comrades, the realization of his ideal as a social necessity.

Durruti's greatness was due to the fact that he hardly ever commanded but always educated. The comrades used to go to his tent – after his return from the front lines. He explained and discussed the reasons for his operations to them. Durruti never commanded, he convinced. Only by conviction, a clear and precise action is guaranteed. Everyone of us knows the reason for his action and is convinced of its necessity. Thus everyone wants to obtain the best results of his action, at any price. Comrade Durruti gave the example.

A soldier obeys out of fear and social inferiority. He only fights out of a feeling of defect. Thus soldiers defend the interests of their social enemies, of capitalism. The poor devils fighting on the side of the fascists are a good example. But the militiamen fight first of all for the proletariat, and for the triumph of the working-class. The fascist soldiers fight for a dying minority, for their own enemy, whereas the militiamen fight for a better future for of his own class. So the militiamen seem to be more intelligent than a soldier, after all. The Durruti column is disciplined by its ideal and not by parades.

Everywhere the column advances, they collectivise. The soil is given to the community, the proletariat of the peasantry turned from slaves into free men. Feudalism is substituted by free communism. The population is cared for by the column, fed and clothed. When resting in villages, the column forms a community with the inhabitants. In former times one used to say army and people, or even the army against the people. Today there are only a fighting and a working proletariat. They both form an inseparable unity. The militia is a proletarian factor, its character and its organisation are proletarian and must remain so. The militias are the exponents of the class-struggle.

The Revolution demands of the column a stricter discipline than all militarisation. Every single one feels responsible for the final triumph of the Social Revolution, which is the justification and the end of our war, dominated by the social factor. I don't believe that generals or military salute could teach us better conduct. I am sure I speak in the sense of Durruti and his comrades.

We do not renounce our anti-military feelings nor our strong distrust of military schemes, which have so far only favoured the capitalist. It was by military schemes that the proletariat has been prevented to develop its personality and was forced into social inferiority. Military schemes were to break the will and the intelligence of the proletariat. After all we are fighting against mutineer generals. This fact of military rebel-lion alone proves the dubiousness of the value of military discipline. We do not obey generals, but we strive after the realisation of a social ideal. Part of this program contains the maximum development of proletarian individuality. On the other hand, militarisation used to be a favourite means to suppress the personality of the proletariat. We carry out the laws of the Revolution with all our might. The organisation of our column is based on mutual confidence and voluntary cooperation. The fetishism of “leadership” and the fabrication of vedettes we gladly leave to the fascists. We will remain armed proletarians, voluntarily exercising the necessary discipline.

The Durruti column will remain the child and defender of the proletarian Revolution. It represents the spirit of the CNT and FAI. Durruti lives on in our column. We shall faithfully guard his heritage. The Durruti column, together with all proletarians, will fight for the final triumph of the Social Revolution, thus honouring the memory of our dead comrade Durruti.

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RobynK
Aug 8 2020 01:16

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  • The foundations of the column are comradeship and voluntary self-discipline. And the end of its activity is nothing else than libertarian communism.

    Carl Einstein

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