Guy A. Aldred Archive

Appendix 2
The Challenge Of Catalonia

Written: 1940.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

The braggart, Franco, at the beginning of his mountebank career of Fascist adventurism, boasted that Catalonia would fall before his alien arms without a struggle. Such chatter was worthy of the tool of Hitler and Mussolini! It defined the extent of the man’s ignorance with a superbness of irony that no other persons could have achieved. It stamped as grotesque the knowledge, the approach, the attitude of Franco. It showed the man in action and in repose to be the one character: a clown turned butcher n order that he might clown at tragedy as well as at comedy; clown as wantonly with human misery as he had clowned hopelessly at politics.

The Capitalist and Fascist powers treated this comedian seriously merely because his comedy grew into crime and his fool’s

costume dripped with proletarian blood. His mirthless braggadocio regarded the conquest of Catalonia as something to be attained without struggle: a maidenly surrendered to be obtained for the mere medieval gesture of request and command. Self-styled patriot, of the history of his country he had no knowledge. Of the destiny of his country he knew even less. For Spain was choosing. It was choosing between Franco and Bakunin. That there should be such a choice possible, pays too much honor to the merit of Franco: but the choice was historical and signifies the passing of Capitalism. Once so great and majestic, Capitalism was degraded to mediocrity, and from out of its ruins rose the menacing, colossal shadow of Bakunin, the chained Titan, the veritable Siegfried of the class struggle.

Many moons had passed since Bakunin landed, after countless hardships, a free man on the coast of California, in 1859. Italy was at that time grinding under the yoke of Austria and the star of Garibaldi was but threatening to rise, only that a renegade Socialist in years to come might turn the poetic nationalism of Mazzini and Garibaldi to darkness and despair. Well did Bakunin attack Mazzini’s idealism. Spain was a land of ‘pronounciamientos,” ending, till 1868, in the sovereignty of Isabella II., a reign of hopeless tyranny. No shadow of Bakunin over Europe then!

In 1868 the rebellion of Prim and Serrano drove Isabella to exile in France. Then followed Republics and Constitutional Monarchy and the restoration of the Bourbons, with Isabella’s son, Alfonso XII., in 1875. No need to continue the Bourbon history, which ended in a Republic, a Republic of Fascism, challenged by Catalonia and sustained only by the alien butchery of Mussolini and Hitler, with the cowardly noninterventionist aid of the capitalist democracies. Franco finally destroyed Catalonia, and knew not that Catalonia will free the world. That emancipation comes in direct line from the times of Bakunin. Catalonia vindicated Labor; it vindicated Socialism; and against Social Democracy and Parliamentarism it vindicated Anarchism and Bakunin. It challenged Fascism, proclaimed the dawn of social revolution.

Federalist uprisings occurred during the year 1873, in Seville, Cadiz, Granada, Malaga, Alicante, and Cartagena. Each center proclaimed itself an independent canton. From the South of France, Fanelli, disciple of Bakunin, carried the doctrine of Anarchism across the Pyrenees into Catalonia. And so, hardly was Bakunin’s body resting beneath its uncouth stone when adherents of his doctrines were founding his principle and building their libertarian groups at Barcelona and Tarrapona. Meanwhile, Cafiero and Malatesta were pioneering Anarchism in Italy, where it will yet conquer; and John Most, regretting his election to the Reichstag, was proclaiming the counter-revolutionary character of the suffrage in Germany and entering upon that career which does his memory

more credit than all the parliamentary compromises did that of Wilhelm Liebknecht, Engels, and Bebel.

The years pass; and we witness the growing power of Anarchism in Spain. In 1882 great progress has been made in Catalonia and Andalusia. A distinct Anarchist element, co-operating with other schools of Socialist thought, but maintaining the principle of revolutionary Socialism, makes itself felt at a working-class congress held in Seville, when 254 delegates assembled, representing 10 provincial unions, 632 local sections, with 59,000 adherents. In December of this year a personal quarrel between two workers, resulting in the death of one of them, named Bartolome Gago Campos, illustrates the fear with which Anarchism now inspires the ruling class. Marx wrote well of the specter of Communism. Let us consider Spain haunted by the specter of Anarchism. The very ignorant commander of the Civil Guard at Jerez had one hundred Anarchists arrested, and invented, in his imagination a secret organization, known as “La Mano Negro” or “The Black Hand.” Although it was proved that no such Anarchist organization existed, that the entire thing was a myth of a maddened militarist’s brain. Capitalist journalism has persisted in using, with increasing dishonor, this “Black Hand” hobgoblin. It is fantastic enough to appeal to the jaded sense of romance which afflicts the bourgeois student of literature!

Nor was the lie all romance. The myth was grounded well in interest. The Capitalist conscience measures all things in the terms of profit. Its taste belongs to the Stock Exchange; its beauty is purchased and tainted and embellished; its love studies percentage and has a prostitute price; and it drags the Golden Calf to Church that it may preside, a more definite deity, in the temple of the Unknown God. The Real Presence of Capitalist society is not the man of sorrows but the gold that lures. “The Black Hand” myth was romance and calculation. It was a brutal and bloody calculation as the reader will understand.

As a matter of fact, the “Black Hand” campaign was but the aggravated aftermath of the terrible agrarian struggle. The ruling class was endeavoring to stamp out Anarchism. Fourteen Anarchists were condemned to death for complicity in the death of Bartolomie Gago, and scores of others were condemned to “chains for life.” Cadiz received the sentences with threats of working class rebellion and in the end only seven of the condemned men mounted the scaffold. The scaffolds were erected on the Plaza of Jerez on 14th June, 1884. What tortures were experienced by those condemned to imprisonment, pen cannot describe. In 1903, twenty years after the arrests, eight prisoners were still held in durance vile. Others had died in prison. These eight, after much agitation, were reprieved. The shocking victimization of these Anarchist workers only stimulated the cause. In 1887, explosions occurred at the Palace of the Cortes in Madrid and in the courtyard of the

Ministry of Finance. Then came May Day, 1890, and the General Strike in several provinces. Striking reigned in the Basque provinces and Barcelona was decreed to be in a stage of siege. In Valencia, the workers attacked a Jesuit convent and the residence of a Carlist aristocrat. Two years later came a plot to release the “Black Hand” prisoners from the prison of Jerez de la Frontera. This ended in an attempt to seize the town. This attempt was made on 9th January, 1892, and the next month, four Anarchists were executed and others sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. But the workers were unquelled.

There are no more rebellious spirits in the world, than the people of Barcelona. Before the days of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, the fortress of Montjuy has controlled the town and made the rebellion of no avail. Risings were futile and foredoomed to defeat. But the courage of the people vindicated Ferrer and took possession of Montjuy. Anarchism controlled Montjuy. Against the spirit of Anarchism, entrenched in Montjuy, Franco was but the embodied futility of the ages, reaction sprawling through hysteria towards paralyzes and extinction; the extinction of authority and class society.

In 1896, the Spanish Anarchists were in revolt again. No persecution subdued their powers of organization. Following upon an attack on the Madrid palace, the clericalists of Barcelona staged an attack on a clerical procession, which injured only working men and women. This was to enable Don Antonio Canovas del Castillo, who was then Prime Minister, to lay before the Cortes his Bill to suppress the Anarchists. From this time on, Castillo was a doomed man, and the Spanish people merely waited to learn of his deserved execution. He was shot dead, on 8th August, 1897, by the Italian Anarchist, Michele Angiolillo. No man more richly deserved execution. Angiolillo’s deed inspired the beautiful American Anarchist soul, Voltairine De Cleyre, to write the most pathetic poem, entitled: “Angiolillo,” in which she visions the triumph of Anarchism in Spain and the world.

In Barcelona, Barril wounded the chief of police, and in October, Queen Cristina replaced the avowed Conservative Ministry with a nominal Radical one, under Praxedas Mateo Sagasta. The latter made some pretense of restoring liberty of the press, raising the state of siege in Barcelona, and releasing all untried prisoners from Montjuy. In 1899, Silvela succeeded Sagasta, and middle class revolts occurred, as well as working class ones, in Barcelona. In 1901, and again in 1904, and during the Intervals, strikes are the rule in Barcelona. In 1906, comes the infamous marriage of Alfonso to Princess Ena, the bomb thrown by Mateo Morral of Roca, son of a wealthy cotton spinner of Sabadell, in Catalonia, and the first frame-up of Ferrer. The execution of Ferrer in 1909 for alleged complicity in the general strike in Barcelona belongs to history.

There is no need to plunge into the later history of Spain. Fascism under the monarchy and Fascism under the Republic, until at last, there came the parliamentary administration, which hesitated to arm the workers against the Fascist rebellion of Franco. At least, enough has been told to prove that Anarchism is irrepressible.

In 1897 Terrade de Marmol, in his Les Inquisiteurs d’Espagne, described the terrible horrors the Anarchists endured in Spanish dungeons, form which he escaped I have these horrors listed before me as I write and have heard de Marmol dilate on them before a private audience in London. These horrors, or many of them, were repeated under the Fascist Republic.

In 1936, the martyrs won. “Germinal” was no longer a vain cry. Anarchism was on the March. Fascism, triumphing against Universal Suffrage in Germany and elsewhere, crumpled before the struggle of Anarchism. Lassalle was proven a false prophet, with his “Through Universal Suffrage to Victory.” There is no such thing as the progressive conquest of the powers of democracy under Capitalism. Proudhon is right. Through Reaction to Revolution! And in Spain, inspired by Bakunin, the tide of reaction was checked. True, alien Fascism won—only that a second world war might arise, and capitalist democracy be compelled to advance the challenge made by Catalonia. Anarchist Spain promised that Fascism would be rolled back by European revolution, by the steady, unbeaten onmarch of Anarchism. Spain, once the land of darkness, became the light of the world!

History stages the question. Hitler or Bakunin? The clown-sadist or the Anarchist-revolutionist. The sadist-careerist of authority or the man of liberty. History stages the question in satire of Capitalist authority. And at last, the right answer is given: “For Bakunin and Liberty.”

Fascism passes to its doom, attended by the hirelings of class authority, of statism, and oppression. An anti-militarist commonwealth of liberty, equality, and fraternity is being born