Review: Memoirs of a fighter - Miguel Garcia Garcia, Looking back after 20 years of jail

Review: Memoirs of a fighter - Miguel Garcia Garcia, Looking back after 20 years of jail

Review of pamphlet on Spanish anarchist militant. In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 33, January 2003

When he first met Miguel Garcia in Madrid's Carabanchel prison in 1966, Stuart Christie found it staggering that the man before him had already spent seventeen years behind bars. 'He had a clear complexion,' noted Christie, 'and such fiery dynamism that one would have thought he had only just been arrested and would be out by the end of the week - such was his cheerfulness.' On the face of things, however, Miguel Garcia had little to be cheerful about. In total he was to serve twenty one years, ten months and thirty hours behind bars. Yet despite the appalling length of his incarceration neither Carabanchel nor General Franco broke Miguel Garcia's spirit.

Although invisible to 'mainstream' anarchist history Miguel Garcia's story will already be familiar to readers of Franco's Prisoner (1972) and Miguel Garcia's Story (1982). By his own recognisance, from his resistance to the military insurrection in July 1936 to his death in 1981, Miguel Garcia never 'stopped being Active for a minute.'

After World War Two many anti-fascists assumed, not unreasonably, that with the Axis defeated the Allies would in turn overthrow Franco. It proved, however, a forlorn hope as Western economic and strategic interests prevailed over humanity. Abandoned to the murderous apparatus of the Francoist machine which killed more of its opponents than Mussolini, Miguel Garcia, like many others, was forced to embrace clandestine resistance and worked alongside the Tallion Group until his arrest in 1949.

The interview which forms the core of Looking Back after Twenty Years brims with keen impressions and astute analysis borne of a life time of resistance against Francoist oppression. Beyond his capacity for recalling in riveting detail the actions undertaken by these affinity groups, Miguel Garcia offers a number of important insights into the practical operation of libertarian ideals as well as reviewing the devastating effect of militarisation on both the anarchist militias and the revolution itself.

Released from prison in 1969 Miguel Garcia committed himself to 'wandering from place to place raising the flag of liberty' before settling in London where he became the International Secretary of the rejuvenated Anarchist Black Cross. Miguel Garcia, worked tirelessly to improve the lot of imprisoned activists like himself who had previously suffered in silence because, unlike 'Prisoners of conscience' who have 'suffered from tyranny, but not resisted it' they fought back against Franco and were thus branded 'terrorists.' As the collected letters at the end of the pamphlet reveal, Miguel Garcia never forgot those who dared all in their struggle against Franco and was scathing in his criticisms of those who by omission, commission or simply sheer ignorance sought to whitewash the reality of Franco's systematic, genocidal repression.

Whilst Miguel Garcia was a tremendously industrious activist Looking Back after Twenty Years reveals that he never fought alone. Whilst mourning the loss of his friends and comrades including Jose Luis Facerias and Fransisco Sabater Llopart, Miguel Garcia observes the crucial distinction between remembrance and idolatry noting that 'there is no need to ritualize the homage to the dead for us to remember those comrades who so freely gave their lives, we pay tribute in carrying on the work they can do no more.' Indeed, for all his many years fighting against Franco, Miguel Garcia laconically stated that 'I fought, I fell, I survived. The last is the more unusual.' It is perhaps this alone which distinguishes him from the countless others whose active resistance to Franco and fascism ensured that they never returned from the abyss into which they were cast. In this respect Miguel Garcia's story is their story too.

Miguel Garcia Garcia, Looking Back After Twenty Years of Jail: Questions and Answers on the Spanish Anarchist Resistance, (Kate Sharpley Library: 2002) ISBN 1-873605-03-X

Taken from The Kate Sharpley Library