Casanova, Antonio, 1898-1966

Antonio Casanova

A short biography of anarchist and baker Antonio Casanova, who fought in the Spanish Civil War and French Resistance before returning to Argentina.

Antonio Casanova was born at Betanzas in the Coruna province of Galicia in northern Spain on 7th June 1898.

Emigrating to Buenos Aires at an early age, he started working as a baker in the Avellaneda district. Avallaneda was an industrial neighbourhood where the big rooming houses were affordable to the new immigrants. So many Galicians lived in the neighbourhood that they set up their own football team known as the Club Atletico Independiente.

Antonio joined the Bakers’ Union, mostly composed of Galician anarchists. The anarchist bakers created cakes and pastries with the humorous names of “Monk’s Sigh” “Sacraments” etc. The Bakers Union was one of the first workers groups to publish a paper which had an important role in the unification of the Argentinian workers movement.

Antonio entry into the union led on to his entry into the anarchist movement. He became a leading light in an anarchist group in Avallaneda called Ateneo Libre. He took part in the Regional Anarchist Conference in Rosario on 13th December 1932. The anarchists began constructing a specific organisation. Between 11th and 14th October a founding Congress took place at Plata at which the Federacion Anarco-Comunista Argentina (FACA) was created, with Antonio as one of its founders.

At the start of the Spanish Civil War, Antonio, with the permission of the FACA, went to Spain. As Galicia was occupied by the Francoist forces, he journeyed to Barcelona under the false identity of another Galician anarchist and baker, Manuel Freire. He then joined the 28th Division under the command of the anarchist Gregorio Jover. He fought in a unit with Prince, Maguid, the Galician Jose Maria Montego and Simon Radowitzky.

Antonio established a warm friendship with Radowitzky. The two enjoyed drinking mate and singing the tangos of Carlos Gardel.

With the defeat Casanova fled to France. He hoped there to reorganise the forces of the anarchist union the CNT. With the German invasion he suffered all sorts of persecutions. He participated in the resistance and the liberation of Paris. He took over editorship of the CNT paper Solidaridad Obrera.With many others, he laboured under the illusion that after the German defeat, Franco’s days were numbered.

He returned to Argentina and took up his old baking job. He participated in various anarchist papers and magazines, translated articles from French, and took part in conferences. During his many years as an anarchist militant he maintained an unerring devotion to his ideals.

He died in Buenos Aires on 8th July 1966 at the age of 68.

Nick Heath