1936-1939: the Spanish Civil War by Augustin Souchy

The Spanish Civil War.

Chapter 11 from Augustin Souchy's autobiography, Beware! Anarchist: A Life for Freedom.

The municipal elections of April 14, 1931 were followed by a drastic change in the political panorama of Spain. The Republicans won a majority, an unmmistakable writing on the wall for the military government. The king fled, the monarchy disintegrated, the republic was victorious. All this in one day and without bloodshed. After ten years in exile the republican and revolutionary expatriates could return to Spain. The republic inherited a mess difficult to untangle. In politics the new forces were confronted with the old powers. On the right there were the discontented monarchists and falangists who wanted an authoritarian regime a la Hitler and Mussolini; on the left were the organized syndicalists (1.2 million members): the CNT with the militant cadres of the FAI who made preparations for the final battle against the old Spain. The middle was represented by vacillating republicans and procrastinating socialists who wanted to avoid an armed conflict by all means. Then there was an irresolute government who did not wish a falangist-fascist state but was more fearful of an anarchist victory. This period lasted five years and came to an abrupt end on July 19, 1936 with the military insurrection of Franco. In Catalonia and in in other parts of the country where anarchists were dominant the rightist insurrection was smashed in a few days. In other parts of Spain the army, supported by Hitler's air force and Mussolini's panzers, was victorious.

Mobilization for Liberty

A mass rally against the war was planned by the local syndicalist federation for the beginning of July, to which I was invited to participate as a speaker. The expansionist policy of Mussolini, the annexation of Ethiopia and his boastful blabberings about the "Mare Nostrum" were looked upon with suspicion by the antimilitarist Spanish labor movement. On July 9 at night I left Paris and arrived in Barcelona the following morning. The rally was scheduled for July 18. Two days after my arrival there were rumors of an imminent coup d'etat. The information came to us from the military barracks where the anarchists had their confidants. At the head of the insurrection was -- we were told -- General Francisco Franco, stationed at that time in the Canary Islands. The coup was to start at the same hour in all of Spain. Instead of a peace rally the labor organizations prepared the resistance against the army. Instead of peace songs, the population of this old Mediterranean city would hear the thunder of big guns.

Feverish activities began in the union halls. Combat units were formed which could be stationed at strategically important points of the city to stall the expected advance of the army. The attack was expected to start during the night of July 18-19. Very few people were thinking of sleep that evening. I too could not remain within the walls of my apartment. At midnight and after the streets were empty and the city appeared to have fallen asleep. But the calm was deceptive. Shortly before 5 A.M. action began. General Godet ordered his soldiers out of the barracks with machine guns and cannon. It was planned to occupy public buildings and the union halls until all resistance was smashed and the civil government deposed. The Catalan Guards did not dare resist the army. Sheltered by the door of a building I watched the battle. Advancing from one cover to the other the militant anarchists, armed only with hand guns, under the battle cry "Vive la F.A.I, (long live the F.A.I.)," won a complete victory over the soldiers in spite of machine guns and cannon. It was the revolutionary battle of which I had dreamed when a youngster. I was ashamed of myself not to have actively participated. When prior to the outbreak of the struggle I asked to be accepted into a combat unit, I had to admit that I, a forty-year-old man, had never had a gun in my hand in my life. A companero (comrade) said: "Never mind that. Your word is also a kind of weapon; you will soon have a lot to do." He was right. In the following two and a half years my activities were exclusively devoted to the libertarian revolution. The battle in Barcelona lasted three days. Spontaneously organized groups of civilians, workers from factories and workshops, won a victory over trained soldiers led by generals and colonels educated in military academies. But the victory was costly in terms of human lives. Among the victims who died in battle was Ascaso, the inseparable comrade of Durruti.

But the military insurrection was smashed. In the evening of the third day of the struggle I announced victory over Radio Barcelona in French, English and German. "The freedom loving people of Barcelona and Catalonia," I said, "have smashed the insurrection, but in other parts of Spain the insurgents are in power." I appealed to the workers of all countries to lend us their support in the struggle to come. In the first days there was reason for optimism. In Madrid and Valencia, in more than half of Spain, antifascists defeated the insurrection. However, Franco was not beaten. He continued with the help of panzer divisions from fascist Italy and air force support from national socialist Germany. Due to his greater military potential he succeeded in uniting his forces from the Biscaya to the Mediterranean and to form an unbroken front from north to south, extending in an easterly direction to Saragossa, the capital of Aragon.

The insurrection turned into a civil war lasting three years. Political power relations changed considerably in republican Spain. The Anarcho-syndicalists who rejected statism wanted to uphold their position also at that time. Yet the militia, the strongest battle contingent against Franco, had to be armed. Hence they must also have the right to participate in all decisions regarding the conduct of the war, otherwise they would be pawns in the hands of the politicians. Due to their numerical strength in Catalonia, they alone could have seized power. They did not do so because first, it would have violated their antidictatorial principles; second, it would have resulted in political isolation and ultimately in their demise. This is why they decided to cooperate with all other anti- fascist parties and organizations with regard to the conduct of the war and public administration. Abroad, anarcho-syndicalists were held to be either adherents of violence or solitary Utopians. To relay truthful information to the media abroad about current events and the position of the anarcho-syndicalists was of paramount importance. This task was assigned to me.

Mariano Vasquez, secretary of the regional committee of the CNT, said to me in his deep voice: "Consider yourself as our speaker for the media abroad." On the fifth floor of the regional committee building (it formerly belonged to the influential industrial tycoon Cambo) I established my office, furnished it and published periodically a bulletin in several languages with the help of political friends who came from abroad. Here I received journalists and delegations of socialist parties and unions from other countries. To the former belonged Ernst Toller; soon afterward came George Orwell and the "red" dean of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, at the helm of an English delegation. They had exhibited courage to venture into the central point of the dreaded anarchists -- or was it proof of our good reputation? Later on came a young German, representative of the Norwegian labor press. His name: Willy Brandt; also Nehru, later prime minister of India. They all wanted to be informed.

In the middle of July, at a time when the Spanish-French border was still guarded by anarchist patrols, Ludwig Renn was brought to my office. I could have had him sent back across the border because he had no entry permit. It was the time when Stalin had all his opponents, and also our comrades in the Soviet Union, shot (Renn was a Stalinist). However I sent him to his own Communist comrades. He was shameless enough to write in his book about Spain {The Spanish War, East Berlin and Weimar, 1971) that anarchists were allies of American capitalism, a calumny which did not impress us but humiliated him. One day, a commission of journalists from abroad came to me to ask for my intervention in favor of the German-Italian journalist Ludovico Strauss who was under arrest because of a homosexual affair. I picked up the telephone and said to the corresponding officer: "Bed affairs are no counter-revolutionary conspiracy; Tell Strauss that I expect him tomorrow in my office. Okay?" "Entendido (agreed)," it came back. The next morning Strauss thanked me personally for his release.

During the first weeks and months we firmly believed in our victory. But as Franco, with the help of arms deliveries from Germany and Italy, consolidated his military position, we too had to look for arms from abroad. At the end of August 1936 I went to Paris on order of the CNT to sound out French government circles. The Spanish comrade Facundo Roca went along with me. Leon Jouhaux, secretary general of the French Federation of Unions (CGT), went with us to see Socialist prime minister Leon Blum. A high officer of the French General Staff was also present. He was in favor of our request because he was apprehensive of a Hitler front in the Pyrenees in case of a Franco victory. Leon Blum, however, thinking in terms of pacifist categories, was afraid of warlike complications which might be a sequel to arms deliveries by his country. In agreement with the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain he propounded a policy of non-intervention with the inclusion of Germany and Italy. He himself, in good faith, believed in the good faith of the dictators also. This was a disastrous mistake. In 1936 Leon Blum and Neville Chamberlain could postpone the conflagration but not prevent it. A victory of the Spanish Republic, entirely possible with quick and effective arms deliveries from France, could have weakened Hitler's lust for aggression. A successful policy of non-intervention was only possible in cooperation with democracies, not with dictatorships. Dictators understand only the language of force. They bend only to a more powerful opponent. Leon Blum's laissez faire policy made our mission a failure.

A Dream Becomes Reality: Libertarian Socialism

The anarchist victors of July 19 fought the military insurgents and not for the defense of ministerial chairs and the maintenance of a private capitalist order, nor for a state capitalist monopolistic economy. They had their own concept for the future of Spain. Since the days of the First International, the Spanish anarchists, trained in Bakuninist ways of thinking, expected a just order of society, not from legislation but from efforts of their own, from direct intervention of the workers in the process of production in workshops and in plants like the peasants of the countryside. Soon after the proclamation of the Republic in 1931 there were several attempts to introduce libertarian communism on local levels. This was attempted in the small Catalonian towns of Mauresa and Berga as well as in Casas Viejas at the beginning of 1933. All these attempts were bloodily squashed. Even before the outbreak of the Civil War barbershops in Madrid were collectivized with participation of master and help. After fighting on the barricades subsided and work was to be resumed, owners and managers of the big enterprises had disappeared. The plants were taken over by laborers and technicians. It took only a few days for private enterprises to turn into collectives managed by their crews. A collective socialist structure replaced private capitalism. The so-called "transition period" which Lenin held unavoidable, in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not needed in Spain in 1936. (In reality it was the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party and not the dictatorship of the proletariat which I saw during my six-month stay in the Soviet Union and nobody could predict its duration.

In Spain there was no mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat and yet the laborers took the management of the economy into their own hands. This was novel, extraordinary and quite different from what I had seen sixteen years before in Russia.

What was actually done in the transition period from capitalism to socialism? I asked this question of the chairman of the Public Transportation Authority of the city of Barcelona (all transportation had previously been in private hands). "Transition period?" he replied, "The new collective management was decided upon in one meeting and put into effect soon afterwards. The 5,000 Pesetas monthly salaries of managers were invalidated, as were shares of stocks and dividends. The monthly salaries of conductors and bus drivers were raised from 250 to 300 Pesetas and beyond that wages of all Barcelonans were raised by 15 percent. At the same time fares were reduced from 15 to 10 cents. School children and indigent old people could ride for free. We paid to the city and state double the amount in taxes previously paid by private enterprise. We merged all three separately run transportation systems (street cars, buses and subways) into one transportation authority under the black and red flag of the CNT-FAI. Three months have gone by and the results are satisfactory."

Similarly collectivized were water, gas and electricity (also previously in private hands). The same goes for textile mills, metal works, commercial firms, department stores and the port authority, hotel and restaurant businesses, wholesale food distributors and others. In less than two weeks private enterprise was replaced by collective management. There were no more strikes; the unions took charge of production planning and distribution. Wage earners turned into independent collectivists.

Collectivization was also introduced for landed properties. It became common practice for farm laborers to take charge of the huge landholdings of the "Grandes" (the equivalent of the Prussian feudal lords) who had gone over to Franco. Of greater social revolutionary importance was the fact that small landholders (peasants), mindful of the new order, united into voluntary Collectividades and tilled the land together with other small landholders. They renounced their property title and declared all land to be common property. The products were purchased by the municipality and the proceeds distributed justly according to the needs of the individual. This was unprecedented, an experiment never before tried, neither during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 nor during the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was an agrarian reform of a singular kind, practiced without force and laws or orders from above and without any ideological basis, entirely on the initiative of the rural population.

This was the "Social Revolution," the dream of my youth become reality. I decided to take a closer look at the new collective economy on the spot. Of the more than 1,000 Collectividades founded up to the turn of 1936/37,1 visited about a hundred in Catalonia, Aragon, in the Levant, in Murcia, Old Castille and in those parts of Andalucia still belonging to the Republic. No unified plan of collectivization for the entire country existed. The founders did not have any knowledge of the theories of Marx, nor for that matter of Bakunin. The slogan "Communismo Libertario" was heard everywhere; every village organized its libertarian commune in its own way. In the Aragonian village of Muniesa for example the land of all inhabitants was tilled in common. The products, including wine and also the meat of slaughtered animals, were handed over to the community administration for storage. Everybody could take whatever he needed without paying for it. For consumer goods that were not produced there, payment was required. Every adult was given one Peseta per day, for every child half a Peseta was allowed. I asked: "Does it not lead to abuse, when everybody can take of the wine as much as he wants?" "Nobody gets drunk here; everybody knows everybody; we are like one big family." This was communist anarchism as depicted by Kropotkin.

In the Catalonian village of Vails collectivism was introduced on a trial basis from harvest year to harvest year. Whoever entered the collective put his land, his cattle, tools and machinery at the disposal of the commune. In return, he was given a compensation, stipulated in meetings of the collectivists. The monetary proceeds were equally distributed. With the money thus received the collectivists could do all their shopping in stores owned collectively. If a member decided to quit after a harvest year, his land and means of production were returned to him.

Since nobody was coerced to join a collective, there were in many village so-called "individualists." The doctor in the Aragon collective village Albalate de la Cinca received food, clothing and whatever else he needed free of charge. If he wanted to go to town he was provided by the administration with the fare and also got an allowance for the purchase of professional books and instruments. In the course of collectivization of the village of Membrilla, the sum of 30,000 Pesetas in the tills of the municipality was distributed in equal amounts among the inhabitants before the impecunious communal economy was started. Although the initiative came from the anarcho-syndicalists, there were many instances where members of the socialist union UGT (Union General de Trabajadores -- General Workers' Union) participated in communal work.

My impressions of the commonwealth of collectives were positive, but like all other human experiments they had some shortcomings. However, the voluntary common efforts enhanced productivity and made it possible to raise the standard of living. Social injustices were eliminated. This was the way in which simple peasants realized the main postulates of socialism: social justice and freedom. They did it without legislation from a higher authority, without set goals of a planning commission and also without a "transitory period," only out of a sense of community conscience.

After the anarcho-syndicalists joined the Catalan regional government, the collectivization of enterprises of more than one hundred employees was enacted by ordinance of October 24, 1936. Enterprises with less than one hundred but more than fifty employees could legally be collectivized provided that at least one-third of the crew was in favor. On August 28, 1937, at a congress of collective enterprises held in Barcelona, solutions to the economic problems regarding collectives were explored. Unprofitable plants were to be closed, others modernized and production rationalized. It was also decided to build an aluminum plant and begin land irrigations in order to combat unemployment. Loans for new investments at one percent interest would be offered by a workers bank, to be created.

In January 1938, a congress of all agricultural and industrial collective enterprises of the Republic of Spain was held in Valencia. More than 1.6 million collectivists from cities and rural communities were represented; together with their families they totalled more than six million people. Under discussion were the tasks of the new economic structure. The congress resolved to prepare specific statistical data about production, consumption and the labor situation. Also discussed were propositions for rationalization and humanization of the labor process, and the just distribution of the product. While the engineers came out in favor of wages according to performance, the representatives of the rural collectividades asked for family wages, in keeping with the formula: "Everybody according to his needs." Finally, a compromise was reached. It was really astounding to see how union workers who, two years previously, could do nothing but organize strikes now tackled with equal efficiency problems of plant strategy and economic questions. I was present at this congress as observer. Unintentionally my thoughts went back to the year 1920: Russia after the Revolution -- in Petrograd Zinoviev and in Moscow Lenin tried to convince me that workers taking charge of plants must inevitably lead to a petit-bourgeois collective capitalism. Had the two wizards of communism been participants of the congress they would have been taught another lesson. And, had we won the Civil War then Spanish collectivism would have proven to be an extant third alternative to private capitalism on the one hand and to state capitalism on the other hand.25

The Tragic Events of May 1937, or Moscow's Arm in Catalonia

In the first days of May 1937 we in Catalonia lived through a bloody battle -- a civil war within the civil war -- with 500 dead and 1,000 fighters wounded. This conflict was triggered off by a complex and involved situation, as a result of the contrasting tendencies of the old powers and the new forces. For the better understanding of these events a few points of the controversy should be mentioned.

After the victorious July days of the past year control patrols were organized in Barcelona, consisting of 325 anarcho-syndicalists (CNT-FAI), 185 from the Catalonian Nationalist Party (Esquerra), 145 from the socialist union (UGT) and 45 from the Workers' Party of Marxist Unity (POUM). When differences of a jurisdictional nature arose between the patrols and the police, the coalition government sided with the police. This angered the syndicalists.

Between the communists harking to the Moscow line who, after July 19, 1936, organized the Socialist Unity Party (PSUC), and the left Marxist POUM open hostilities of a serious nature arose. The communists called their Marxist "brethren" of the POUM traitors and allies of Imperialism-it was the time of Stalin's persecution of Trotskyites. In December 1936 the Minister of Justice, Andres Nin, representative of the POUM in the coalition government, was forced by the communists to resign. Later on the POUM was outlawed. At the same time the communists succeeded in eliminating the adherents of the POUM from leading positions in the socialist union UGT and in replacing them with their own followers. It was the aim of the Moscow faithful to seize political power. Since they could not gain a foothold in the syndicalist workers' organizations they allied themselves with the bourgeois Esquerra. This party of the bourgeois left, compelled to make concessions to the anarcho-syndicalists after the July victory, was hoping now to regain, with communist help, the power positions they held previously. The anarcho-syndicalist battle divisions were at the front facing the Franco soldiers; the communist cadres however, got preferential treatment in the distribution of Russian arms. The Republican armies in 1936 consisted of volunteers recruited from the unions and the political parties -- later on conscription was decreed. The communists had more arms than soldiers, whereas on the contrary the anarchists and syndicalists had more fighters than arms.

The Catalonian metal workers manufactured small arms and panzers under syndicalist initiative and direction in their own factories and munition plant. On March 5, 1937 a communist assault unit, presenting false credentials, purloined ten panzers from a depot run by syndicalists. This action was the underlying cause of a government crisis. On April 27, communist soldiers shot the anarchist mayor of the border town of Puigcerda, Antonio Martin, and three of his deputies. A few days later police in Barcelona tried to disarm some control patrols. On May 3, soldiers in three lorries drove to the central telephone exchange building, run by the unions, and attempted to occupy it. Armed guards stopped them when they reached the first floor. News of this assault triggered off a violent reaction among the workers of the Catalonian metropolis. Spontaneous work stoppages occurred in industrial enterprises, stores closed and barricades were set up in the streets. Four-fifths of the city was in the hands of the workers. In the center of the city soldiers took up positions behind barricades. The groups "Friends of Durruti" and "The Libertarian Youth" were ready to attack in order to call to account those responsible for this provocation. However, members of the presidium of the regional committee of the CNT dissuaded them. In Barcelona and in the rest of Catalonia we would have won, but what would have happened then? An anarchist Catalonia could not hope to get aid in arms anywhere; we also would have been starved. Already vineyards had to be converted into fields for growing potatoes. Sooner or later our Catalonia would have been overpowered by the republican central government or by Franco's troops.

These were critical and exciting days. The regional committee of the CNT, the headquarters of the anarcho-syndicalists, was in permanent session. I kept a diary about the current events (more exactly an hour log). For five days in a row I did not step out into the street. On our side were, next to the syndicalist unions, battle groups of the FAI and small units of the POUM. On the other side was a coalition of the nationalist Catalonian Esquerra and the communist PSUC. Formally we were -- except the POUM -- partners of the government; practically however, the coalition partners stood against each other as enemies. None of the battle groups tried to storm their opponents' barricades. There were only sporadic outbursts in all parts of Catalonia. To assist the hard pressed Catalonian regional government,the central government sent 4,000 men detached from the Jarama and Madrid fronts to be ready for action in Barcelona. The CNT, conscious of its responsibility in the struggle against Franco, did not detach even one man from the front lines.

On Thursday evening, May 6, we declared our willingness to evacuate the barricades, release the prisoners and renounce all reprisals on condition that the opponents agreed to the same terms. The reply was to be transmitted in two hours. The government asked us to wait because of lack of unanimity among its members. Hours went by and still there was no response. Anxiety mounted. Should our offer of reconciliation be rejected we would be forced to start action, committing all our forces. Up to this time we had hesitated to do this. Next morning at 4:15 A.M. the reply finally came. The Catalonian government accepted our offer to end hostilities. Now we could breathe easier. Half an hour later we decided to dismantle the barricades. The next day, children were playing around the remnants of the dismantled barricades. Two weeks later I published my notes about the events of that May in Spanish, French and English under the Spanish title La semana tragica de Barcelona (The Tragic Week of Barcelona).

The bloody conflict ended in a compromise. The same anarchists who, with unbelievable heroism, beat a superior foe July 19, 1936, showed in the days of May 1936 surprising restraint. They hesitated to fight antifascist allies. This contrasted sharply with their opponents who did not have any scruples when they killed anti-fascist comrades. Among the many victims of this conflict were several of my personal friends and comrades. One of them was Camillo Berneri, who had been my friend for the past ten years. An Italian refugee living in Paris, Berneri came to Barcelona shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, where he published the paper Guerre di Classe (Class War) for the Italian volunteers of the group Durruti. A few weeks before the events reported here he wrote in an article: "Today we fight against Burgos [seat of Franco's headquarters], tomorrow we will have to fight Moscow in order to defend our liberties." A strong protest was subsequently sent to the regional committee by the Russian consul in Barcelona, Owtchenko. Now Berneri was on the blacklist of the Russian secret police, the infamous GPU. With other political friends, Berneri had his office on the floor of the building opposite the offices of the regional committee. Here Italian soldiers on furlough from the front lines spent their free time. The entrance to this building was on Place Angel and could not be seen from our window. Subtenants were the distributors of the paper, Barbieri, his wife and Tosca Paubin, the widow of a comrade who had died on the front lines. Mrs. Barbieri offered me a room in this apartment. "To cook for one more person is no bother to us," she said. I agreed in principle but postponed the moving date. This saved my life. The streets leading from the center of the city to Place Angel were barricaded by government troops and communists. The square itself was no man's land. On the evening of May 5, twelve armed men, six in uniforms of the Catalonian Mozos de Escuedra (Catalonian Security Guards) and six in civilian clothes, came to the apartment and took Berneri and Barbieri away. The six wore armbands of the communist controlled UGT. Leader of the group was a civilian with a red armband and a tag, 1109. After midnight, the corpses of the two Italians were found in a nearby street. The autopsy report said that they were shot in the back. Barbieri, who never was politically active, was murdered only because he was found in Berneri's apartment. Mrs. Berneri came from Paris to attend her husband's funeral. I can still hear her outcry when I led her to Camillo's casket.

A further victim of the Stalinist terror in Catalonia was Andres Nin. Although he was not in the government at the onset of the May conflagration, he was arrested as the spiritual leader of the POUM. He was transported to Madrid and -- as was disclosed later -- murdered in the communist prison Alcala de Henares. In 1921 I disapproved of Nin's joining the Communist Party but later respected him as a dissident from Stalinism. I by no means shared his views on Marxism but admired him as a human being and his death touched me deeply.

The communists considered the followers of POUM, rightly or wrongly, to be Trotskyites and in their eyes Trotskyites were collaborators of Imperialism. Bob Smillie from the British Independent Labor Party as well as George Orwell and other Britishers came to Barcelona to fight fascism. Smillie joined one of the POUM brigades. This was, for the communists, a crime. Bob visited me several times. Rarely did I meet a youngster more sympathetic and candid and always smiling. Kidnapped during the events of May, he disappeared forever. Fenner Brockway, secretary to the I.L.P. member of parliament, came to Barcelona just to investigate the case. I went with him to the central government in Valencia, where we made inquiries with all official and unofficial departments -- all in vain. The grief at the murder of our young English friend with his warm-hearted character and friendly smile -- I called him "Smiling Smillie" -- is still with me today.

I met Kurt Landau, a Trotskyite through and through, in Bert Brechf s Paris apartment when the latter went through a brief period of Trotskyism. As with many persecuted by the Nazi regime, for Landau, born in Vienna, Paris was only a way station in his search for a permanent place to live. A few months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he came to Barcelona to join the fight against fascism. He stayed in the suburb of Saria where there were no barricades. After the end of the May events the illegal persecutions started there also, in spite of our accords which were disregarded by the communists. Landau felt threatened and asked me for advice. I offered him a room in the Regional Committee where the archives were kept. A few days later, on order of the CNT, I left for abroad to brief the socialist parties and unions in England, Scandinavia, Poland and Czechoslovakia on the situation in Spain. My absence was not expected to last longer than three weeks. I cautioned Landau not to leave the building. Two weeks after my departure he felt he was out of danger and returned to his apartment. A disastrous error. Henchmen waited for him there and he was never seen again. The circumstances of his death were never clarified.26

Katja Landau, a faithful Viennese socialist, was present when her husband was arrested and was herself taken off to prison, but was released after a short time. Later, in the 1940s, we saw each other daily while working for the International Relief Committee (IRRC) branch in Mexico. Occasionally she talked to me about her experiences in Barcelona's prison. Nothing was said about Kurt's fate. I refrained from any mention of it, not wanting to open old wounds; she kept mum. The reason: she was now married to a Spanish communist.

Back from my trip abroad I was visited one day by a German who called himself Werner Meister. He said he was a Social Democrat and recommended to me a German-speaking secretary to replace my secretary who had left Spain. Two weeks later the applicant presented herself for work. I postponed putting her on for two weeks. Next day came a young French lady, Suzanne, and the following day a German-speaking man. Both alerted me against employing the secretary who they said was a GPU spy introduced by the police agent Meister. During an automobile trip from Valencia to Barcelona I saw Meister with a small valise at a crossroad. "This is a spy in the service of the communists," I said to my traveling companions, two young anarchists. "Shall we shoot him?" they asked. The road was deserted and nobody would have known. "Save your bullets," I answered. "This Judas will go to hell without your help." Thirty years later I met Selke, the man who had warned me of Meister in the International Labor Relations office in Geneva where he worked as a translator. Since I worked at that time for the same agency we saw each other frequently. He told me that the girl recommended by Meister was his girl friend but he found it nevertheless necessary to warn me. The other warner, Suzanne, got married to Rolf Reventlow, after World War II secretary to the SPD of Lower Bavaria. I never saw Meister again and suppose that in the meantime he has passed the threshold to hell.

The Defeat

The bloody events of May caused a government crisis in Catalonia as well as in the rest of the republic. Prime Minister Largo Caballero, who had been sent into the government as secretary general of the union UST, resigned. The new man at the helm of the government was Dr. Juan Negrin, prominent member of the Socialist Party, a sympathizer of Stalin and the Communist Party, devoted to them more than to his own party. There were three groups in his own party, the SP, followers of Largo Caballero, Juan Negrin and Indalecio Prieto. The anarcho-syndicalists declined any participation in the new government, their strength being social-revolutionary action and not politics. With a membership of 2,178,000 and 125,000 combatants, they thought to be more useful as a pressure group than in government politics. However, they were mistaken. The civil war against Franco required not only guns, ammunition and tanks, which anarcho-syndicalists could produce in limited quantities in their own collectivized plants, but also cannon and airplanes which were provided by the Soviet Union. The Russian arms deliveries went to the government and were distributed to the military units under communist control. Nonparticipation in government meant, at this juncture, renunciation of control and codetermination in the fight against the Franco putschists. Only during the second Negrin administration had the anarcho-syndicalists one man in the government (April 1938) and in Catalonia they were represented by two members. This, of course, did not correspond to their real strength and was not sufficient to make their influence carry weight. The communists were represented in the government by more members than they were entitled to by their numerical strength and according to democratic principles.

The growing influence of the communists was founded on arms deliveries from the Soviet Union and the coalition with bourgeois parties against the workers and landless peasants, and rural population. The political situation favored the counter-revolutionary power plans of the communists. On orders of the communist Governor Mantecon, military units under the command of the division commander Lister dissolved agricultural collectives in Aragon by force of arms, while at the same time anarchist columns fought in the front lines against Franco's troops. Only a short time before, Stalin had forced the Russian peasants into communes and hundreds of thousands of them were killed as alleged kulaks.

The anarcho-syndicalists had reservations on principle against a civil war within the republican camp, which by the way they could ill afford due to lack of arms.27 Thus they had to swallow also this bitter pill.

At a conference of the CNT held in June 1937, five weeks after the events of May, the following recommendations were accepted: Uniform tactics in the conduct of the war, compulsory military service, overall organization of war industries with the cooperation of the unions, a security council for maintenance of inner peace, a council for development of the economy, communalization of housing in the cities and communalization of arable land, legalization of collectivization for all of Spain (up to that time they were legal only in Catalonia), and, last but not least, union control of production and distribution. The bourgeois-communist coalition government refused to accept this program. To implement this program the syndicalists would have had to use force, which would have meant another interrepublican civil war during the common fight against Franco, a risk they could not take. The situation on the front went from bad to worse. Negrin's Government of Victory (Gobierno de la Victoria) by the grace of Stalin turned into a Government of Defeat. During an offensive near Segovia 3,000 of 10,000 republican soldiers were lost in a single engagement. The counter-thrust at Brunete near Madrid, planned by the Russian military advisers, cost the lives of 23,000 soldiers. According to the opinion of military experts, this defeat was attributable to the faulty planning and the inefficiency of the Russsian advisers. The military experts of the anarcho-syndicalists (unfortunately we had only a very few republican military professionals in our ranks) predicted that continuation of these tactics would lead to the loss of the war. The warning was justified. Franco's troops penetrated ever deeper into our territory. The Republican government, which went from Madrid to Valencia in the fall of 1936, was forced to move to Barcelona. This was the beginning of the end. The war came nearer and nearer. Air attacks became more and more frequent. Oil and gasoline dumps went up in flames. Factories and dwellings were not spared. One night at about three o'clock in the morning -- I had my bed in a room next to my office at the headquarters of the anarcho-syndicalists -- I was awakened by the thunder of exploding bombs. My first thought was to run to the basement for cover. However I relented and stayed in bed meditating: what has a beginning also has an end, with one exception; when the sides of a sharp angle continue indefinitely, the distance between must also be indefinite. This example, which I read years ago in Spinoza's Ethics, came to my mind when I stayed awake in bed. Again a terrific explosion and then everything was quiet. Then I fell asleep. Next morning at 7 A.M. Mariano Vasquez, secretary of the National Committee inspecting the building, called through the door broken by the impact of the atmospheric pressure of the bomb explosion: "Augustin, vives?" (Augustin, are you alive?) "Yes, safe and sound," I answered and got up. It was July 1938, the second anniversary of the uprising. Our building was the target of Franco's pilots and one wing had been destroyed.

Destiny was kind to me on other occasions. One day during an air raid, when the alarm sounded too late to take shelter, a shattered glass pane smashed the arm of my companion. At another time, while riding in an automobile, my chauffeur lost an eye when a bomb exploded nearby.

In the beginning of 1939 Franco's armies were nearing Barcelona. On the morning of January 25, the enemy vanguard was at the doors of the city. Shreds of files and suspect newspapers littered the streets. Everywhere worried faces could be seen. There was only one thing to do. Go on the run. At noontime I jumped on a truck full of refugees. On our drive to the border we were constantly harassed by enemy aircraft. Women and children were crying for help. Trying to save a child from falling off the truck, I myself fell and suffered a broken arm. In Gerona, the last seat of the "Negrin Victory Government," there was complete chaos. No doctor could be found. I tried to get to the French border town of Perpignan as fast as possible. I succeeded in getting a car which brought me to France. A few hours later the border was closed. Whoever came afterwards was interned in a camp. My broken arm saved me from internment. Lope de Vega, the author of two thousand plays was absolutely right when he said: "No hay mal que por bien no venga." (Even evil sometimes has a good side). In the rearguard of Franco's troops followed Hitler's Gestapo. Some of my German comrades who could not escape were caught and sent to concentration camps in Germany. I, however, was lucky to escape but lost my German citizenship. The official German Reichsanzeiger und Preussischer Staatsanzeiger No. 121, issue of May 30, 1939, published the following information: "Pursuant to the law of May 14, 1939 Augustin Souchy has been deprived of his German citizenship." Since I never had the slightest sympathy for a Germany dominated by Hitler, this loss did not mean anything to me. Some time before I had been awarded Spanish citizenship in recognition of my contribution to the cause of the Spanish Republic.

Again in France, I resumed my job as correspondent for Swedish and American newspapers. Except for a short interlude in England where, upon the invitation of Fenner Brock-way, I lectured in a summer school of the Independent Labor Party, I lived in Paris until the outbreak of World War II.

Fenner Brockway was the most outstanding person I ever met. When England during World War I introduced compulsory military service he was jailed as a conscientious objector. Later he was one of the leaders of the Independent Labor Party. After World War II he was knighted and made a member of the House of Lords in spite of his advanced age (89). He is active in the movement for social progress. His life and work should be an outstanding example to idealistic youth.