7. Cultural battles

Class and criminality

The intense and variegated protest cycle of the republican years inspired an outpouring of moral panics from the social, economic and political elites. Indeed, it could be argued that the history of the Republic is the history of spiralling moral panics, which reached a crescendo in response to the expropriations. While there remained profound differences within and between these elites—the schism between monarchists and republicans to name just one—as we will see, there was much unity among the ‘men of order’, which now included the supporters of the ‘republic of order’, who clamoured for ‘social peace’ in the streets and who concurred that the CNT was the central problem of the Republic.

The first moral panics of the republican era developed around the direct action mobilisations of the summer of 1931 and formed part of a classic divide-and-rule strategy that tended towards splitting the working class along radical and non-radical lines. As we saw in Chapter 3, the republican authorities were obsessed with separating the bulk of the working class, the ‘healthy elements’ whose interests and objectives it was assumed could be satisfied within the new regime, from the ‘subversives’ and ‘agitators’, who allegedly ‘coerced’ workers to support strikes.1 Accordingly, the moral panics can be seen as part of a project to integrate politically the ‘good’, in most cases skilled, workers, who were prepared to accept gradual change from above within the timescale set out by republican politicians, whereas the ‘violent ones’,2 who represented a mortal danger to the future of reform, were to be isolated and repressed. This distinction was reiterated on a daily basis in the anti-cenetista press, principally La Vanguardia, La Veu de Catalunya, L’Opinió and La Publicitat, in whose pages the organised activities of the CNT (meetings and strikes, as well as the cultural and educational programmes in the ateneus) were systematically distorted. Indeed, it is striking that whereas mass meetings and rallies were rarely reported, isolated acts of picket violence or a gunfight between grupistas and the police gained wide coverage, thereby allowing the CNT to be depicted as a disorderly force.

The emphasis of the panics shifted and adapted to changing protest rhythms. As the more militant sections of the unemployed mobilised and insisted upon their right to the streets, they became the main target for the panics, being cast as ‘undeserving poor’, the under-socialised ‘dangerous class’ of nineteenth-century discourse. The problem with this ‘underclass’ of ‘fraudsters’ was not its poverty but its immorality, which made it a burden on society and a threat to attempts to help the rest of the poor. By placing the accent on the deviant nature of part of the unemployed, poverty was isolated from its social context and reduced to a moral issue.3 There was a particular obsession with migrant youth, whom, it was claimed, were attracted by the reputation of Barcelona’s ‘dissolute life’ (la mala vida). Completely unfettered by normal familial control, these ‘runaway children’ were a ‘formidable danger’ to public order.4 This was the ‘enemy within’, a flexible grouping that could include street traders, petty criminals and pickets, consisting of ‘outsiders’, ‘foreigners’ and ‘alien elements’.5

The moral panics had a pronounced spatial dimension; hence there were ‘foci of immorality’, such as the Raval. Although very much part of Barcelona’s urbanisation process, the Raval was externalised and exoticised as ‘Chinatown’ and as ‘the Andalusian Barcelona’.6 It was a ‘crime zone’, a ‘labyrinth’ of ‘infected streets’, the ‘catacombs of Barcelona’: ‘the veritable danger of the slums, where the disease and decay of its dark hovels create a climate favourable to the most vile germinations [and] legions of villains and swarms of parasites’.7 Highlighting the continuity in the tone of the moral panics, the republicans denounced the Raval’s bars and clubs as spaces of perversion, prostitution and drugs trade in tones that differed little from their monarchist predecessors.8 For instance, one physician linked to Generalitat circles proposed a relationship between the high levels of disease in the Raval and the deficient mores of the area’s inhabitants, many of whom ‘lead a nocturnal life in the cabarets and other places of questionable morality’.9

Another continuity with the earlier moral panics was their hysteria. Indeed, in September 1931, a leader article in La Vanguardia on public disorder in Barcelona convinced the British and Italian governments to advise their subjects to avoid what was being portrayed as a lawless city. Aware of the damage that might be occasioned to the local economy and to hoteliers, restaurateurs and other groups that constituted an important source of its advertising revenue, La Vanguardia responded with a long editorial in which it explained that the security forces exercised complete control on the streets and that there was no breakdown of law-and-order in Barcelona, effectively contradicting the thrust of its coverage of public order before and after the birth of the Republic.10 While successive civil governors actively fomented the moral panics, Ametlla, who occupied this office for part of 1933, correctly observed how, by overplaying the level of social conflict, the panics produced ‘a psychosis of alarm and uncertainty’ that sometimes upset the governance of the city.11

Yet the die was cast, and the panics spiralled alongside the militarisation of anarchism and the expropriations, La Vanguardia, L’Opinió and La Veu de Catalunya seemingly competing with one another to report the ‘contagion’ of crime in the most lurid and sensationalist terms possible.12 La Veu de Catalunya devoted a page every day to ‘Terrorism’, which appeared as a huge banner headline. Since there was often not enough copy to fill the page, property crime and other everyday illegal acts were often included, as well as other news, some of which was mundane and completely unrelated to ‘terrorism’ but which nevertheless added to the impression that public order was constantly under attack.13 Similarly, L’Opinió printed a section entitled The Robbery of the Day’ in which minor non-violent thefts were described sensationally as if the streets were teeming with blood-crazed felons.14

The moral panics reached their height during 1933–35 in response to the expropriations. As far as the elites and the bourgeois republican press were concerned, the expropriations signified an ongoing assault on the urban order that exposed the failures of society’s defences, and this caused far more anxiety than the revolutionary uprisings, which were little more than a short-term inconvenience, easily contained by the security forces. Typifying what Hall et al. have described as the ‘mapping together’ of diverse moral panics through ‘signification spirals’, a ‘general panic’ was produced by the press as a variety of fears were amalgamated and depicted as a unified, overarching offensive against the Republic and society as a whole.15 The authors of the moral panics seized upon what they viewed as the ‘best ingredients’ for the gangs of ‘professional gunmen and robbers’ that comprised the CNT’s ‘Robbers’ Union’ (Sindicat d’atracadors): the primitive culture of the migrants (‘the Murcians of the FAI’), ‘born criminals’, ‘lumpenproletarian’ detritus, ‘bohemian youth’ and young ‘hobos’ (polissons) fond of frequenting ‘immoral establishments’ in ‘Chinatown’.16 This characterisation was extended to the CNT, the FAI and the anarchist movement as a whole, which was described as ‘a criminal group’ of ‘subhuman’ and ‘degenerate’ individuals, ‘underworld parasites’, ‘professional layabouts’ and ‘villains, thieves and bombers’ led by déclassé ‘down-and-outs’ and ‘a minority of adventurers of working-class origin’.17 It was also suggested that the anarchists were ‘anarcho-fascists’, part of a wider conspiracy with the extreme Right, or, as one wit put it, the ‘FAI-lange’.18

The moral panics reached their apotheosis in a series of articles published by Josep Planes in La Publicitat.19 Interspersed with pseudo-anthropological digressions about preindustrial brigands in Italy and Andalusia, Planes’ articles were little more than moral panics about ‘the anarchist problem’ dressed up as investigative journalism. For Planes, political violence was submerged in a world of common criminality: anarchism and crime were synonymous, as all crime in Barcelona could, in one way or another, be traced to the anarchist movement, including prostitution rackets and the drugs trade, which he attributed to Italian, Argentinian and German anarchist refugees. However, his biggest concern was the expropriations. According to Planes, ‘the characters who lead the various robbery gangs are the most prestigious figures from the anarchist movement’, the ‘gangsters of the labour movement’. This was an ‘original type of criminality’ that was ‘typically Barcelonese’: ‘the anarchist-robbers or the robber-anarchists of Barcelona are nothing less than the Catalan equivalents of Al Capone…. Today it is the fashion among all thieves, pickpockets and swindlers to pass themselves off as anarchists’. By collapsing the distinction between social protest and criminal behaviour, Planes revived an early theme of bourgeois criminology and one of the most basic premises of the first moral panics of the nineteenth century.

The aims of the moral panics were diverse. In the first instance, as we saw in Chapter 1, this was a language of power, a justification for a strong authority in the face of the ‘disorder’ of inherently ‘uncontrollable’ and unenlightened social sectors that generated so much anxiety among the political elite and their supporters about the future of the social, economic and political order. As such, the moral panics were a legitimising discursive tool. Their great attraction was their labelling and scapegoating function: they identified what were, from the perspective of the ‘men of order’, the sources of social problems and conflict that inspired their anxieties in the first place.20 As David Sibley has observed, moral panics were an ideological mechanism through which ‘exclusionary space’ was extended.21 From the start of the Republic, the specific patterns of security force activity, such as the fierce repression of street traders and unemployed activists, were legitimised and on occasion conditioned by the moral panics: they allowed the authorities to criminalise politically problematic communities and rebellious social groups, thereby reducing political differences to a matter of law-and-order. The major repressive policies of the republican era were also validated by the moral panics. For instance, the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes was introduced after a prolonged press campaign directed at a series of ‘public enemies’, such as pimps, drug pushers, the ‘professional unemployed’ and ‘salaried subversives’.22 Equally, urban reforms, such as the Plà Macià for slum clearance in the Raval, bore traces of the moral panics and the tirade against the ‘crime zones’ of ‘Chinatown’. Meanwhile, the moral panics reinforced the application of exclusionary social policies and the denial of welfare to unemployed migrants. The daily press published a succession of stories about welfare abuse by ‘tricksters’ and ‘con men’ from ‘Chinatown’, ‘the professionals of common crime, jail-birds, tramps, those who live outside the law and those who have never worked nor wish to’, who spent unemployment benefit on expensive meats, pâtés and wines, thereby ‘stealing’ from ‘the truly needy children of Barcelona’. Having depicted this ‘underclass’ as criminal and incapable of accepting its social responsibilities, the implication was clear: the small welfare budget could be cut, for the provision of relief would merely aggravate the dependent and deviant condition of the ‘undeserving poor’.23

By identifying new social dangers and combining them with existing ones, the moral panics effectively demanded perpetual vigilance from the authorities and rising levels of repression. This is evidenced by the manner in which, during 1934–35, the panics focused on the ateneus and proletarian hiking clubs, which were accused of ‘perverting’ ‘very young boys’ and ‘naive youngsters’, who were ‘forced to listen’ to ‘subversive’ speeches amid orgiastic scenes of ‘free love’. It was also alleged that the hiking clubs were a front for the organisation of expropriations, which were allegedly planned on organised trips out of the city, and that bombs were prepared inside the ateneus.24 As was so often the case with the moral panics, press hysteria far surpassed the evidential basis of a set of stories designed to criminalise the last remaining legal activities of the anarchist movement and close off the libertarian public sphere altogether.

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25 The left-wing republican newspaper L’Opinió advocated the autocratic formula of an ‘armed democracy’ to introduce ‘extraordinary measures’ to ‘intimidate the gangsters’ and eliminate ‘the cancer of banditry’, arguing that the ‘complete extinction’ of ‘criminal groups’, including the FAI and other ‘criminal social dregs’, was ‘the most pressing problem and the most difficult to resolve of all those facing the Republic today’.26 In similarly draconian fashion, the socialist USC declared that ‘the first task that we must realise is the elimination of the FAI and all the faístas using all means possible, without hesitation, without pity and without reservations’.27 This consensus flowed from the binary, Manichean divisions established by the panics: the contrast between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, the ‘constructive’ versus the ‘dangerous’, the ‘healthy’ against the ‘sick’, all of which demanded the coming together of the ‘men of good faith’ (sic).28 Thus the conservative La Veu de Catalunya and La Vanguardia concurred with the left-wing republican L’Opinió and La Humanitat and the socialist Justicia Social on the need for a complete ban of the CNT and the anarchist movement, a unity summed up in the Lliga’s slogan: ‘All united against the FAI!’29 This is not to deny the distinctive political inflections of the moral panics expressed by the aforementioned newspapers; for example, La Vanguardia and La Veu de Catalunya suggested that crime had never existed under the monarchy, as if the departure of the king had stimulated a profound collapse in collective morality and respect for the law. Yet there was still a commonality between the traditionalist and republican moral panics: both were languages of anxiety, power and order that emphasised respectability and hierarchy and shared a set of ideological representations based on a conservative moral syntax.

Finally, in keeping with the republican objective of splitting the working class, the moral panics can be viewed as part of a cultural struggle for hearts and minds in the barris. There were several strands to this ideological project. First, the exaggerated nature of the moral panics was essential in order to generate broad concern about phenomena such as street trade and crime, which in reality threatened the narrow interests of a small proportion of the population. Yet by stressing an undifferentiated civic interest and the essential unity and harmony of the social system, the moral panics projected a consensual view of society and appealed to an imagined political community.30 This explains why the moral panics were frequently couched in the language of disease borrowed from the discourse of nineteenth-century urban hygienists.31 By describing social enemies as a ‘plague’ and ‘infestation’ and the migrants as moral ‘pollution’ and ‘filth’ that ‘contaminated’ the city, the authorities hoped to find popular support for a ‘labour of hygiene’ to eliminate ‘scum’. Because this plague apparently threatened all citizens, regardless of social rank, it could not therefore be ignored and necessitated measures of social quarantine and a new surveillance of everyday life in order to ‘cleanse’ the city of germs and liberate it from the threats facing it.32

Second, the moral panics sought to disarm the anti-state struggle of the CNT and the anarchist movement by identifying them with the ‘underclass’ in an attempt to delegitimise the libertarian movement in the barris. The overriding message of the panics was that if the police could successfully deal with the ‘recalcitrant’ sectors of society, who endangered the ‘common good’, the authorities would have their hands free to bring felicity through reform to the barris. Press reports of criminal omniscience were thus used to justify the growing number of police intrusions in the barris in a bid to secure backing for the security forces in working-class communities that had traditionally been hostile to all forms of external authority. Not only would this rally part of the civilian population to the side of the state, it would also detach the radical anarchists from their supporters in the barris, breaking working-class resistance by undermining the solidarity and ties that made it possible in the first place.

7.1 ‘Criminal capitalism’

Despite the barrage of moral panics, the CNT and the FAI retained a profound influence as an organising structure in the barris. On one level, this was because the moral panics were a restatement of a dominant ideology that was poorly implanted in the barris. Yet, more than anything, CNT and FAI ideologues initiated a successful counter-cultural struggle in which they rebuffed the premises behind the moral panics and, in doing so, articulated a major restatement of the libertarian conception of crime, illegality and punishment. There were two aspects to this ideological struggle: first, a fierce defence of popular illegality; and second, a critique of the moral panics and the ‘criminal’ nature of capitalism.

As far as popular illegality was concerned, as we saw in Chapter 5, the anarchists provided ample justification for actions that conventional opinion defined as ‘criminal’. In keeping with the libertarian orthodoxy that social behaviour was conditioned by circumstance and context, the anarchists emphasised the rational nature of illegality, contending that this phenomenon was intimately linked to existing social and political conditions, ‘the product of a pernicious social organisation’. Thus, Solidaridad Obrera maintained, ‘bourgeois society is responsible for all crime’, since its distribution mechanism of ‘privileges for the few and persecutions and privations for the rest establishes sharp differences in terms of material position, education and lifestyle, which shape both professional and occasional criminality’. Certain specific features of illegality in Barcelona were explained in terms of the peculiar characteristics of local capitalism.

For instance, the question of youth illegality, which so preoccupied bourgeois republican social commentators, was viewed as a reaction to the limited opportunities facing young workers; thus, many of those who rebelled against the hyper-exploitation and sweated labour in Barcelona’s factories were ‘compelled’ to live outside the law.33 Illegality was also explained in terms of the acquisitive and proprietorial mentality generated by capitalist society. As ‘Marianet’, the Builders’ Union leader, observed:

In a society that legalises usury and has robbery as its basis, it is logical that there will be some who are prepared to risk their lives and achieve through their own audacity what others manage to do with the protection of coercive state forces.34

The economic crisis was identified as an important short-term determinant of the upsurge in illegality. Marín Civera, one of the most original thinkers on the revolutionary Left during the 1930s, explained the spread of illegality as a function of the haemorrhaging of the economic order. For Civera, illegality became a realistic and logical course of action for those workers denied the chance to survive from their labour.35 Rejecting the problematic and ill-defined ‘underclass’ thesis,36 the anarchists argued that most illegality was ‘occasional criminality’ perpetrated by the short-term unemployed, who had been barred from their rightful place at the ‘banquet of life’. Illegality was then an alternative form of wealth distribution, part of a ‘struggle for life’ as the unemployed seized what was ‘necessary to live’ by defending their ‘natural right to life’.37

In some respects, the anarchist rejection of the ‘underclass’ concept stemmed from a philosophical opposition to deterministic pseudo-Lombrosian concepts such as that of the ‘pathology’ of the ‘born criminal’, as well as other conservative notions of ‘degeneration’ and ‘evil’ that conditioned a considerable amount of republican thinking on law-andorder. As Solidaridad Obrera insisted, ‘there is no such thing as “good” and “bad” people, only people who are “good” and “bad” at different times’. Certainly, the anarchists did not try to deny that there were recidivists, but they were created by the ‘bourgeois judicial concept of punishment’. First the police and the courts labelled ‘offenders’ as ‘criminals’, whereupon they were isolated in jails, brutalised and dehumanised by a prison system that ‘converted men into beasts’. Rather than rehabilitating detainees, the anarchists reasoned that the ‘state revenge’ of a ‘perverse society’ offered only ‘pain and violence’ and ‘egoistic and punitive conceptions’ that left many released prisoners marginalised and unemployable. Solidaridad Obrera concluded that ‘Law is the enemy of real society’, because ‘nothing is solved with the jailing of the so-called common prisoners’: only then, in the stateless, libertarian society, could the ‘pinnacle of true justice’ be attained, as crime would disappear through the emergence of truly stable communities capable of regulating themselves, without the intervention of the police or other extraneous forces.38 On another level, given the anarchist defence of the ‘outcast’ and the ‘underdog’, the ‘underclass’ concept was rejected on affective grounds. In particular, the most deprecated sections of the working class—the predominantly working-class inhabitants of the Raval, the ‘pariahs’ of ‘Chinatown’ in elite imagination, and the migrants of La Torrassa, who were reviled as a ‘lawless tribe’—were defended for being poor workers forced to lead ‘an errant life outside the law’. For the anarchists, the ‘mean streets’ in these barris were spaces of hope, in which the banner of the cause of freedom had been raised and repressed; hence ‘the streets were stained with so much proletarian blood’.39

The libertarian critique of the moral panics saw their agenda inverted. In keeping with their class war precepts, the anarchists dwelt on the felonies’ committed against the working class, which ‘has nothing and yet produces everything’, by the ‘criminal classes’: the politicians and capitalists, the ‘aristocracy of robbery’, and the petite bourgeoisie, ‘the traffickers in the misery of the people’, ‘the true racketeers of the human race’. These were the ‘real thieves’ who had the greatest opportunity to commit crime and the greatest chance of evading detection and who prospered within a ‘criminal economy’ rooted in ‘speculation and robbery’ and ‘the sweat and blood spilt in fields, workshops, factories and mines’.40 Accordingly, in the anarchist lexicon ‘commerce replaces the word robbery’, while ‘trade’ was a bourgeois euphemism for ‘trickery’, ‘deceit’, ‘theft’ and the ‘scandalous businesses of the profiteers’. And yet ‘the most vile of all criminals’, the modern-day pirates and bandits [who] spend their lives in comfortable offices’, were ‘legal thieves’, their ‘respectable crimes’ protected by bourgeois law and the police (‘murderers’ and ‘criminals in the pay of the state’). Consequently, Solidaridad Obrera argued that:

existing society is a society organised by robbers. From the small shopkeeper to the industrialist, right up to the most powerful capitalist consortiums, there is nothing but speculation, which, in plain language, means robbery…. The whole of society rests on exploitation…there is no case of an employer who gives his workers the full value of the wealth that they produce.41

Postulating a rival set of proletarian moral panics, the anarchists attacked the ‘plague’ of evictions of the unemployed, which resulted in the ‘repugnant crime’ of homelessness, which left ‘thousands and thousands of hungry, homeless people eat[ing] the filth from the streets and sleep[ing] on park benches’. The libertarian press also berated the ‘false’ bourgeois moralists who ignored certain types of violence. When a 14-year-old unemployed worker was violently assaulted by his former employer after demanding a statutory redundancy payment to which he was legally entitled, Solidaridad Obrera published the name and address of the aggressive capitalist and suggested that he should receive lessons in child welfare.42 Solidaridad Obrera documented examples of the ‘immorality’ of ‘capitalist civilisation’ and its tolerance for pursuits like war and imperialism, which were far more destructive for human life than the expropriations. In this ‘world of the superfluous’ in which a tiny minority were ‘swimming in opulence’ and spending a small fortune on perfume, unsold foodstuffs were destroyed as millions of people across the globe faced starvation.43

Insisting that criminality was not the exclusive pursuit of the much-maligned proletarian class, the anarchist press publicised the activities of ‘criminal fauna living at the expense of the people’: the drunken violence of off-duty policemen, robberies by prison wardens, embezzlement by lawyers, tax evasion by landlords, corruption by republican politicians as well as violent business disagreements between shopkeepers.44

Using an emotional tone that resembled the tenor of the moral panics, the CNT press repeatedly denounced the ‘robberies’ that were ‘prejudicial to the sacred health of the people’ committed by Villainous’ landlords who charged ‘criminal’ rents and ‘stole’ the deposits of outgoing tenants, bar owners who diluted drinks and shopkeepers who meddled with food and weights, and other ‘bloodsuckers’ (chupasangres) and ‘vultures’ ‘trading in the physical necessities of humanity’ and ‘picking dry the ill-fated body of the worker’. According to Solidaridad Obrera:

if [the authorities] analysed the foodstuffs sold daily to the public, all these people with private guards and security doors on their houses would go to jail…. Every shop, warehouse [and] workshop is a den of villainy. The robbers are the owners…the ‘honourable’ folk who go to mass on Sunday morning and visit their lovers in the afternoon…the very gentlemen who are outraged when a poor, needy man steals a loaf of bread to feed his children, while they rob with weights and measures and steal even the air and the sun of the dispossessed.45

For the anarchists, crime and punishment revealed the class nature of ‘the republic of rich layabouts (chupópteros)’. Solidaridad Obrera regularly exposed the prejudices of the penal system, pointing to the failure of the republicans to fulfil their pledge to submit all social classes to the law and how the crimes of the privileged and the powerful were frequently tolerated, uninvestigated or punished by small fines An example of this was middle-class tax evasion, which, though first publicised by the CDE in 1931, was largely ignored by the authorities even though subsequent investigations, both in the anarchist and in the bourgeois press, revealed that some landlords owed thirteen years or more in tax arrears.46 On the rare occasions when the police did punish middle-class crime, the misdemeanours were generally so extreme that the authorities had to act or see their credibility seriously compromised, such as when police detained a shopkeeper who adulterated flour with barium sulphate and lead carbonate, an act that left 800 consumers bedridden.47 Yet middle-class detainees were never subjected to the same humiliating treatment that workers and the unemployed received from the police, prompting Solidaridad Obrera to declare that the hopes of justice in bourgeois society were as realistic as expectations of survival inside ‘a third degree tuberculosis camp’.48 The Ley de Vagos y Maleantes was cited as the most vivid example of the ‘classist’ nature of republican law, which, in the opinion of Solidaridad Obrera, meant that ‘to be badly dressed’ was a crime. Patterns of punishment also revealed the continuities with past regimes: ‘all the coercive measures that surround the penal code of monarchies and republics are established to castigate the rebellion of the slaves’. Indeed, irrespective of the form of state, the law was, as Tierra y Libertad maintained, the ‘històric caprice of a specific class’ that was allowed to ‘rob on a daily basis to increase its wealth’.49

Crime, then, from the perspective of the anarchists, was socially determined and historically conditioned by the prevailing relations between social classes. It followed, therefore, that what the law defined as ‘murder’ was not always treated as a criminal offence. Rather, anarchists maintained that the violent killing of an individual acquired the label of ‘murder’ only after the act had been interpreted and classified by a series of ideological and sociolegal agencies. To underline the socially determined nature of crime and killing, the anarchists cited as examples two hypothetical killings during an industrial dispute: the fatal shooting of a ‘scab’ by a picket and the killing of a picket by a member of the security forces. In the first instance, the judiciary would inevitably treat the death of a ‘scab’ as ‘murder’, whereas the second case was unlikely to reach the courts, let alone be defined as ‘homicide’ since, for a policeman, killing becomes ‘a laudable act, in compliance with their duties’.50

7.2 The ‘moral economy’ of the Barcelona proletariat

The anarchist stance on illegality corresponded with the broad experiences and culture of the barris discussed in Chapter 2, a culture that was little affected by the dominant ideology and that contained a normative opposition to the law.51 For instance, workers’ experience of exploitation in the consumption sphere sat harmoniously with anarchist claims that proletarians were the victims of a series of robberies by the ‘criminal classes’—employers, pawnbrokers, money lenders, landlords and shopkeepers—who submitted fundamental human needs like shelter, food and work to a ruthless business ethic.52 Equally, Pich i Pon, Barcelona’s leading property owner and the head of the COPUB, who so loudly denounced the ‘illegality’ of the rent strike, was known popularly as ‘the leading pirate of Barcelona’ because of his shady business interests, an image that was not dispelled by his involvement in the 1935 ‘Straperlo affair’, the most important corruption scandal in the history of the Republic. Meanwhile, the Tayá brothers, shipping magnates and former owners of La Publicitat, one of the most sanctimonious vehicles for the ‘moral panics’, were notorious for fraudulently acquiring lucrative government franchises for their merchant fleets.53

If we explore the social reality of the barris in republican Barcelona, we see that one of the reasons why respectable fears about armed robbery failed to construct a consensus around a law-and-order agenda was because they constituted a form of imaginary violence for the overwhelming majority of the Barcelona working class, whose everyday insecurities were far removed from those of the ‘men of order’. One of the biggest concerns for workers was the danger of disease, which was perhaps the most significant threat to order in the barris and which coincided with the anarchist description of bourgeois society as ‘the society of death’.54 For the most part, these were preventable diseases, such as typhoid, the incidence of which increased in the 1930s and which proved far deadlier in the barris than the expropriations and ‘murderous robberies’ that obsessed the bourgeois republican press. Tuberculosis was another serious problem: in 1935, a group of physicians estimated that 70 percent of all children in Barcelona displayed signs of this condition, which also presented a continual threat to adult proletarians.55 These health problems were intimately linked to awful housing conditions. One pro-republican physician claimed that in some of the Raval’s tenements, over threequarters of all deaths could be attributed to poor housing stock. Meanwhile, according to Tierra y Libertad, 50 percent of all accommodation in Barcelona infringed ‘the most elemental norms of safety’.56 Even La Veu de Catalunya recognised that, in 1936, ‘there are thousands and thousands of workers living in uncomfortable rented dwellings’.57

Another set of proletarian anxieties stemmed from the threat of unemployment, a specifically working-class problem that carried a series of catastrophic consequences, such as eviction and homelessness. An estimated 30,000 people were living on the streets, in shanty dwellings or in other short-term accommodation, a figure that was much lower than the number of unoccupied flats in Barcelona, which was estimated at around 40,000 in July 1936.58 In the barris, where the distance between the unskilled working class and the urban poor was little more than the scant security provided by a badly paid job, the fate of the homeless was far more emotive than the sufferings of the victims of illegality. Underlining the gulf between the republican hierarchy and the ‘dispossessed’, while the Catalan political elite attended a lavish banquet to celebrate the third anniversary of the birth of the Republic, a homeless unemployed worker collapsed on the streets of Sant Andreu and died from malnutrition.59 Such deaths of the homeless were often only reported in the trade union and left-wing press.60 Working-class lives were also threatened by industrial accidents. As in the monarchy, the authorities failed to make the bourgeoisie comply with safety legislation. Moreover, owing to the economic recession, many employers offset the falling rate of profit by relaxing safety standards, which saw the number of industrial accidents in Barcelona grow by one-third during the Republic. After the funeral of three workers killed in a factory explosion, Solidaridad Obrera summed up the lot of ‘the eternal victims of the capitalist machine’ and the danger of being ‘mutilated by capitalist economic life’.61

The anti-police culture of the CNT was another element that affirmed the collective social memory of the barris. The sense of the past of many workers was shaped by the fear of the security forces and their arbitrary violence. Pointing to the continuities with earlier struggles, the CNT compared Dencàs and Badia, the organisers of the Catalan police, with Arlegui and Martínez Anido, who spearheaded the anti-CNT repression during the 1920s, a period that remained the bloody yardstick for all anti-worker repression in Barcelona.62 At the same time, the main target of the moral panics—the expropriators—were seen as ‘insiders’ who posed no threat to workers, for, while the expropriators sometimes killed members of the security forces, civilian injuries were extremely rare.63 Not only did many workers appreciate that illegality was, during times of unemployment, central to survival in Barcelona’s unstable low-wage economy, but there is also evidence that the expropriators, who generally targeted distant capitalist institutions such as banks and insurance companies, earned much admiration in the barris, where they were seen as evidence of the strength of working-class communities.64 Even when the expropriators operated in the barris, their targets were on the other side of the fault line that separated the proletariat from the commercial middle classes.65 The principle vehicle for the moral panics, the bourgeois republican press, the ‘mercenary press’ in the view of Solidaridad Obrera, was also held in low regard in the barris, where it had long been perceived as being intimately tied to capitalist economic interests, which it defended as clearly as it opposed labour unions. Indeed, in the early 1920s, the partialities of the ‘capitalist press’ impelled CNT printers to impose ‘red censorship’ on many Barcelona newspapers. The anarchists skilfully encouraged scepticism towards the press in the barris, reminding workers that the enemies of the international revolutionary movement had always depicted its militants as ‘bandits’. Ever fond of historical analogies, Solidaridad Obrera likened the denigration of the FAI by the Barcelona press to the insults hurled at Spartacus and his slave army by the Roman authorities.66 Despite the veneer of press independence and the diversity of titles, it was common knowledge that most of Barcelona’s newspapers were controlled by a narrow clique: Pich i Pon, the COPUB boss, owned El Día Gráfico and La Noche; La Vanguardia was the mouthpiece of the monarchist Conde de Godó, who hailed from one of the city’s leading textile families; and La Veu de Catalunya, the organ of the Lliga, expressed the political interests of Catalan big business. This was fertile ground for anarchist allegations that the bourgeois press was ‘the great prostitute of existing civilisation’ staffed by ‘hack’ journalists ‘on hire’ to ‘financial cliques’.67 The situation with republican newspapers was little different. La Publicitat, which was purchased by the Tayá brothers, two freight entrepreneurs and vehement opponents of trade union rights who made their fortunes supplying the Allied war machine during World War One, was reputedly funded by the British consulate in Barcelona and was an energetic defender of Anglo-French imperialism. By the 1930s, La Publicitat, like L’Opinió and L’Humanitat, was closely identified with ruling factions inside the Generalitat, and all these papers advanced a view of social reality completely at variance with the experiences of the majority of workers.68

7.3 ‘Revolutionary constructivism’: the end of the expropriations

The end of the ‘cycle of insurrections’, along with the expropriations that came in their wake, finally came about due to pressure from within the CNT and the FAI. The first criticism of the insurrectionary line came after the January 1933 rising, when a number of FAI grupos criticised the role of Nosotros, denouncing their minority revolutionary actions as pseudo-Bolshevism and arguing instead for a process of education and mass revolution. Most of the opposition concerned procedural irregularities and the lack of internal democracy within the CNT and the FAI following the spread of vanguard militarism. In the debate that followed the rising, many anarchists were horrified to learn that Nosotros and other grupos were invoking the name of the FAI while not actually belonging to the organisation. It was claimed that Nosotros, which relied on a largely unaccountable power base in the defence committees, had produced a democratic deficit within the unions that was at variance with the democratic traditions to which the CNT laid claim. To be sure, the members of Nosotros exploited their charismatic power and revolutionary reputation, constituting, in the opinion of one of their anarchist critics, a ‘super-FAI’ or a ‘FAI within the FAI’.69 Certainly, the rank-and-file was not consulted ahead of the January 1933 rising, and the level of internal discussion was negligible: no more than fifty delegates from the Catalan CRT defence committees voted for a rising that had huge ramifications for the CNT and the FAI. There was no further discussion, and the final details were outlined at a smaller gathering in a bar on Paral.lel.70 While in times of repression it was common for small groups of dedicated activists to carry the rest of the organisation and take decisions in ‘militants meetings’, these still tended to be larger assemblies than the ones that sanctioned the insurrections, and their conclusions did not have the same import for the future of the CNT. Finally, after the December 1933 rising, when it seemed that the position of Nosotros was unassailable, several anarchist grupos left the FAI in protest.71

Concerns about internal democracy converged with growing disquiet about the elitism of the grupistas and the manifest failure of the CNT to make its own revolution.72 The nefarious balance of the ‘revolutionary gymnastics’ was incontrovertible: the grupistas had, at times, attacked the PSOE and the dissident communists more than the bourgeoisie; the labour movement was more divided than ever; the CNT had split in Catalonia, and there were worrying fissures opening up between its different regional committees; and the collective energies of the CNT had been depleted in a series of futile clashes with the state, the result of which had been a fierce repression that jeopardised the future of the entire workers’ movement, bringing Spain to the brink of fascism. Few were prepared to make a case for the continuation of the insurrectionary option. While during 1931–33 state repression had helped to justify the position of the more militant factions within the CNT, the insurrectionary tactic had only really triumphed among a small section of the middle and upper leadership of the unions and, although this position had been backed by important sections of the rank-and-file, outside Barcelona there were many in the CNT who did not support the putsches. Indeed, the Madrid and Asturian cenetistas reviled what they saw as the sterile revolutionary maximalism of the Barcelona anarchists. This was spelled out in CNT, the daily paper of the Confederation in central Spain, which observed that:

the lightning blow, the hasty gamble, are outmoded. Our revolution requires more than an attack on a Civil Guard barracks or an army post. That is not revolutionary. We will call an insurrectionary general strike when the situation is right; when we can seize the factories, mines, power plants, transportation, and all the means of production.73

There was also external pressure from the IWA (International Workers’ Association), the international association of anarcho-syndicalist unions, for the CNT and the FAI to change tactics.74

In Barcelona, the growing opposition to the ‘revolutionary gymnastics’ culminated in the emergence of the Nervio (‘Sinew’) grupo de afinidad. The main intellectual figure within Nervio was Sinesio García Delgado, better known by the pseudonym Diego Abad de Santillán.75 He was born in León, but his family emigrated to South America, where he became a leading figure in the Argentinian and the international anarcho-syndicalist movement. Expelled from Argentina in 1931, he moved to Barcelona, becoming editor of Tierra y Libertad in 1934 and secretary of the FAI in 1935. Another leading member of the group, Manuel Villar, took charge of Solidaridad Obrera.76 Abad de Santillán and Nervio were determined to transform an insurrectionary movement into a more stable revolutionary union organisation without suffocating the spirit of radicalism at the base of the CNT and the FAI. By recuperating the ‘constructive’ concept of the revolution, which been banished from the Confederation since the departure of the moderate anarchosyndicalists, Abad de Santillán’s conception of social transformation left no scope for guerrilla actions and expropriations, a tactic he had opposed during his days in Buenos Aires, when Italo-Argentinian individualists murdered one of his close comrades.77

The final break with the expropriation tactic was sealed at a clandestine plenum of the local federation of anarchist groups held in the summer of 1935, just across from the Raval. Ironically, it fell to Durruti, previously one of the most enthusiastic advocates of ‘economic attacks’, to argue for an end to the expropriations. Although he relied on his credibility with the most radical sectors of the FAI to win the debate and vote on this issue, Durruti still faced stern opposition from a small group of Hispano-Argentinian ‘men of action’ and anarcho-individualists.78 Nevertheless, there was a sharp decrease in the rate of expropriations, and by early 1936 the remaining armed robberies appeared to be the work of unemployed workers. Meanwhile, apart from a few missions in which ‘scores were settled’ with employers and individuals involved in state repression, the defence committees underwent a period of reorganisation during 1935–36.79

The shift from insurrectionism can also be explained in terms of the readiness of the CNT leadership to reincorporate the anarcho-syndicalists, who had formed the ‘Opposition Unions’ in an attempt to halt the membership haemorrhage of 1932–34. The marginalisation of the proponents of armed illegality and the new revolutionary organisational schema proposed by Abad de Santillán, which was framed in terms that were highly reminiscent of the treintistas, were essential preconditions for welcoming back the moderate anarcho-syndicalists.80 As they announced in the 1931 ‘Treintista Manifesto’, the anarcho-syndicalists favoured a disciplined union organisation funded by workers’ contributions. The anarcho-syndicalists had opposed the expropriations from the immediate postwar period, and in 1926 Pestaña published a novel in which he narrated an armed robbery committed by common criminals posing as anarchists.81 When armed fundraising tactics were employed again in the 1930s, the treintistas took it as further evidence of the CNT’s subordination to an unaccountable, semi-clandestine insurrectionary body that, in the view of Peiró, one of the leading anarcho-syndicalists, had an ‘Al Capone-style’ approach to the revolution.82

The changing political context and the growing awareness on the Left that some kind of unity was needed to block the rise of fascism was a further circumstance that conditioned the tactical shift inside the CNT and the FAI.83 In Asturias, in October 1934, the Alianza Obrera (Workers’ Alliance), a coalition of anarchists, communists (dissident and orthodox) and socialists, launched the largest workers’ insurrection in Europe since the 1871 Paris Commune, taking control of the means of production and holding the Spanish army at bay for two weeks.84 The immediate cause of the rising was the news that the quasi-fascist CEDA was about to form a coalition government with the Radicals in Madrid, a move that many on the Left interpreted as a prelude to the conversion of the Republic into a corporate Catholic state. In Catalonia, however, the CNT leaders were locked into their local war against the Generalitat and the rest of the Catalan Left. So, while the ERC-controlled Generalitat was, for many republicans, the ‘bulwark of the Republic’, for Catalan anarchists devolution had resulted in ‘a històric offensive’ by the ERC-controlled police against the CNT.85 The repression of the Catalan CNT—which far exceeded anything the organisation faced in areas under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Right—made it impossible for Barcelona cenetistas to support the Generalitat. Moreover, the earlier experience of state repression gave substance to claims that a CEDA government would be no worse than the ‘Republican fascism’ that Barcelona anarchists claimed had been in existence since 1931. However, the opposition of the CNT and the FAI to the development of the Alianga Obrera, the Catalan anti-fascist alliance, which it denounced as a coalition of its ‘enemies’ in the labour movement, was narrow-sighted sectarianism.86 The introspective Catalan CNT, thus, opposed the October 1934 mobilisation on the grounds that it was a ‘political’ action designed to change the government of the day and not to make a genuine social revolution. Consequently, as Asturian workers fought for the survival of the Asturian Commune’, Francisco Ascaso, Nosotros member and secretary of the Catalan CRT, issued a call to the Barcelona proletariat to return to work from a radio station controlled by the Spanish army87 And so the Catalan radicals remained aloof from the revolution that they had desired for so long, a rising infinitely more significant than the putsches of 1932–33.

The repressive dénouement to ‘Red October’ was ferocious and exceeded anything previously seen during the Republic. The spectre of Thiers haunted Spain. Martial law was declared under the terms of the Ley de Orden Público and was only finally lifted in September 1935. All liberal democratic spaces were closed: elected members of Barcelona Council and the Generalitat were dismissed, their powers revoked; armed robbers and pickets were tried in military courts as all civil liberties were rescinded.88 Even the most basic trade union rights were abrogated, and independent syndical organisations, whether UGT, CNT or autonomous, were effectively banned as employers initiated a new offensive against working-class conditions, slashing wages and victimising thousands of militants.89 With 40,000 workers jailed throughout Spain, there was a huge reduction in strikes: between April 1935 and January 1936 there were only thirteen strikes in Barcelona, and in October 1935, 280 political and trade union centres were closed in the city.90 According to the British ambassador, Spain offered:

the impression of a country under a dictatorship…. The prisons are overflowing and provisional ones have to be found to contain the enormous number of people who have been arrested…. With the unions in a powerless condition…the popular masses are likely to be in a state of sullen disaffection but at the mercy of the government for some time.91

After October 1934, Pich i Pon, the local Radical Party activist and COPUB president, and Anguera de Sojo, civil governor in 1931, two key figures in the divorce between the Republic and the local working class, controlled important political offices. Pich i Pon, who has been described by Bernat Muniesa as a ‘dictator-mayor’,92 enjoyed sweeping executive power, serving as governor-general of Catalonia and Barcelona mayor. Meanwhile, having gravitated from the ranks of the republicans to the CEDA, Anguera de Sojo became labour minister, whereupon he resumed his battle with the CNT.93

Among his measures to increase state control of the trade unions, Anguera de Sojo drafted a law banning all unions that had ‘revolutionary aims’.94 He also promulgated a series of employer friendly decrees. Employers enjoyed new powers to close factories and to sack workers for alleged breaches of labour discipline or if they went on strike for ‘political’ reasons. Anguera de Sojo also set about redefining Catalonia’s legal status, abolishing the autonomy statute and forming a commission to return powers to Madrid.95 While the centralisation of power during the bienio negro was a clear reversal of the devolution of 1931–34, it signified a further development of the ‘law-and-order’ state and the shift towards the coercive management of conflict that began with the ‘republic of order’ and the Ley de Defensa during 1931–33. So, although state control of the unions, internment under the Vagrancy Act and the reliance on martial law and military courts to deal with anyone who broke public order was much greater during the bienio negro, these were first deployed during 1931–33, and their use was made easier by legislation dating from this period, such as the Ley de Orden Público.

Unsurprisingly, the Catalan bourgeoisie enthused about the turn to the right. La Vanguardia praised ‘the new Germany’ of Hitler, which in less than two years had banished strikes. La Veu de Catalunya celebrated the use of martial law, while Cambó, always an accurate barometer of bourgeois opinion, acclaimed the Spanish army and welcomed the return of the death penalty to remove ‘the black stain’ of social protest ‘from our beloved Barcelona’. Meanwhile, during a trip by CEDA leader José María Gil Robles to Barcelona, employers’ groups feted the jefe (boss) of the resurgent Right in what was a victory parade through the centre of the city.96

The flirtation of the bourgeoisie with the Madrid Right and the army was comparable with the period immediately prior to Primo de Rivera’s 1923 pronunciamiento. Also like in 1923, when the city’s unions were unable to resist the coup, the Barcelona CNT was on a descending curve, its organisation buckling under the white heat of repression. Understandably, there was growing concern inside the CNT and the FAI, at both state level and in Barcelona, that the libertarian movement was peripheral to the march of socio-political developments.

Many anarchists were finally impelled to accept that the political situation had deteriorated since 1931 and that a major change in orientation was required to end the isolation of the Barcelona CNT. Moreover, since the key to the Asturian rising was the unity of the Left, the CNT leadership could not resist the groundswell of grassroots support for anti-fascist unity, a feeling that was encapsulated in the slogan ‘Better Asturias than Catalonia’, a clear critique of the Barcelona CNT’s elitist grupismo of 1932–34.97 As ‘unity’ became the new watchword of the Spanish Left, the conditions emerged for ending the rupture within the CNT: the treintistas expressed their desire to return to their ‘libertarian home’,98 while Durruti, once a fervent advocate of separating from the moderate anarcho-syndicalists, was obliged to recognise in a 1935 prison letter that the split he once saw as a virtue had in fact made the CNT vulnerable and marginal.99

7.4
The discreet charm of the republicans

While there was no doubt on the Left that the political context demanded an anti-fascist alliance, questions remained about the nature of this unity. The dissident communists, along with some inside the CNT and the PSOE, favoured an exclusively proletarian Alianza Obrera (Workers’ Alliance) based on the Asturian brand of revolutionary antifascism. However, in late 1935, following the announcement of elections for early 1936, the Popular Front (Frente Popular), which effectively revived the 1931 cross-class, republican-socialist electoral coalition, emerged as a rival pole of anti-fascist unity. (In Catalonia, the Popular Front was known as the Leftist Front (Front d’Esquerres)).100 That the Popular Front should become the preferred choice of the anarchist leaders appears paradoxical at first sight, especially when we recall the anti-CNT policies enacted by the republican-socialist government during 1931–33 and the repression spearheaded by the Esquerra from the Generalitat during 1933–34. And yet, despite the common revolutionary objectives of the anarchists and the dissident communists, the CNT leaders rejected all proposals for an insurrectionary entente in the Workers’ Alliance on the grounds that this would be a ‘political’ alliance.101 This was a continuation of the sectarianism that the CNT leaders had displayed towards the dissident communists since 1931: any acceptance of the Alianza Obrera would have vindicated the politics of their dissident communist rivals, who had long been the main advocates of anti-fascist revolutionary unity.

In another sense, the seduction of the anarchists by the Popular Front reflected their traditional apoliticism. Because the CNT had no formal political representation, it periodically expressed itself through exogenous political forces, as we saw in 1930–31. This process was repeated during 1935–36, when the CNT and the FAI calculated that a Popular Front electoral victory would result in a new juridico-political opening that would allow for the reorganisation and expansion of the unions. (The Popular Front programme promised, among other things, the freedom of social and political prisoners, the revision of sentences passed under the Ley de Vagos against trade union activists and a purge of the police.102) Consequently, in the prelude to the elections, the revolutionary bluster of the preceding years was conspicuously absent from anarchist propaganda and, although the CNT-FAI did not publicly invite workers to vote in the ‘electoral farce’, there was nothing resembling the strident anti-republican rhetoric that accompanied the 1933 general elections, a course of action that threatened to hand power again to a rightist coalition apparently committed to a Hitlerian-style conquest of democracy from within and the destruction of the CNT. La Revista Blanca, the messenger of anarchist apoliticism, even referred to Companys’ ‘dignity’ in much the same way as the anarchists had praised Macià four years earlier. Meanwhile, throughout the electoral period, paragons of anarchist virtue, including Durruti, tirelessly reiterated the need for an immediate amnesty, which, as one of the key policies of the Popular Front, was readily interpreted as an invitation to vote for the liberal-left coalition. Some were more candid: Peiró, on the eve of his return to the CNT, but still a member of the FAI, advised workers who normally abstained in elections to vote ‘against fascism’.103

As in 1931, in February 1936 cenetista votes ensured the electoral victory of the middle-class republicans. Immediately, the jails were opened and thousands of the workers incarcerated after October 1934 were released. In Catalonia, the Generalitat regained the powers accorded to it under the autonomy statute. While the Popular Front government satisfied the CNT-FAI by restoring certain fundamental democratic protocols and providing a legal framework in which the unions could reorganise, there remained many points of friction between the two. In particular, the CNT-FAI criticised the reluctance of the government to ensure that workers who had been victimised after October 1934 got their jobs back. The CNT also attacked the government for ignoring the plight of its activists who had been victimised prior to October 1934. In response, the Confederation embarked on a series of mobilisations to ensure that its militants were reemployed. Interestingly, in the new political context after February 1936, mass syndical pressure succeeded where the grupistas had failed, the rejuvenated CNT unions securing the return of many of the workers victimised after the ‘revolutionary gymnastics’ to their former workplaces.104

Another source of contention between the authorities and the CNT was the issue of civil liberties. The CNT was furious that the new government continued to apply the Ley de Vagos against the unemployed. Although the promise of an amnesty for the thousands of ‘political’ prisoners jailed after October 1934 was fulfilled, this did not affect those the CNT described as ‘social’ prisoners, a category that included unemployed workers jailed for illegally ‘procuring the means of subsistence’, cenetistas and faístas interned under the Ley de Vagos, as well as the numerous ‘expropriators’ from the defence committees sentenced as ‘common’ criminals. In an attempt to usher in a new legality, the CNT-FAI initiated a campaign for the repeal of the ‘repressive laws’ of 1931–33, such as the Ley de Vagos and the Ley de Orden Público, and for a complete amnesty for all prisoners, including those jailed for ‘crimes of hunger’. The frustration of the ‘common’ and ‘social’ prisoners and the agitation of the remaining cenetistas and faístas in the jails resulted in a series of prison uprisings.105

Despite encouraging protest inside the jails, the Barcelona CNT avoided unnecessary confrontations with the authorities, preferring to rebuild the syndical structures that had received such a battering during the clashes with the state between 1931 and 1935. In what was essentially a period of reorganisation, the treintistas were welcomed back to the ‘libertarian family’ at the May 1936 Zaragoza Congress, which mapped out the immediate trajectory of the CNT.106 The membership figures of the reunified CNT could not conceal the relative decline of the union in Catalonia and, indeed, in Barcelona compared with 1931 (see Table 7.1).

Table 7.1 CNT membership figures, 1931–36, for Barcelona and Catalonia
Date Total Catalan membership Barcelona CNT membership Provincial Catalan membership
June 1931 291,240 168,428 122,812
May 1936 186,152 87,860 98,292
Source: E.Vega, ‘La CNT a les comarques catalanes (1931–1936)’, L’Avenc 34, 1981, p. 57

In sharp contrast to the maximalism of the ‘cycle of insurrections’, the period from February to the start of the revolution and civil war in July was, then, largely a time of reflection and renewal for the Catalan CNT-FAI. There were only two significant actions by the grupistas in Barcelona during this time. The first came at the end of April, when the Badia brothers, Miquel and Josep, the former Barcelona police chief and organiser of the escamots, respectively, were assassinated in broad daylight in the city centre.107

Anarchists could neither forget nor forgive the brothers’ brutal contribution to the repression of the CNT in 1934; Miquel had already survived one assassination attempt and, like his brother, had ignored several assassination threats from FAI grupos, choosing to remain in Barcelona. According to sources inside the FAI, the Badia brothers were killed by Argentinian anarchist exiles who were friends of Alpini, the Italian expropriator killed by Catalan police in 1934.108 The other grupista action was the assassination of Mitchell, the L’Escocesa manager whose life had been threatened in 1934 and who died in a drive-by shooting.109

Rather than signalling a new programme of grupista violence, these acts were a ‘settling of accounts’ from the struggles of 1933–34. Indeed, in the post-Asturias spirit of anti-fascism, the grupistas and the CNT leadership were loathe to present the authorities with serious difficulties, largely because it was common knowledge that the extreme Right and reactionary army officers had greeted the Popular Front electoral victory by conspiring to overthrow the Republic and institute an authoritarian regime. The CNT and the FAI therefore adopted an expectant attitude as they reorganised their cadres in anticipation of future struggles. This included the preparation of a plano de defensa (defence plan), the libertarian movement’s blueprint for resistance to the military coup in Barcelona. As we will see, these preparations were timely, for the coup was not long in coming.

  • 1. Gobernador Civil de Barcelona (Anguera de Sojo) al Ministro de la Gobernación, 2 September 1931, Legajo 7a (AHN/MG).
  • 2. LaV, 6 September 1931.
  • 3. SO, 13 October 1931; LaV, 13 August 1931; LaP, 8 and 12 June 1931; L’Opinió, 17–19 and 24–25 July, 29 August, 2 December 1931.
  • 4. Veu, 27 April 1934.
  • 5. FTN, Memoria…1931, pp. 203–4; L’Opinió, 17, 19 and 25 July, 2 December 1931, 26 October 1932; LaP, 10 July 1931.
  • 6. LaP, 11 April 1934; JS, 28 November 1931; L’Opinió, 22 September 1933, 7 April and 9 August 1934.
  • 7. LaV, 26 April 1934 and 10 November 1935; de Bellmunt, Catacumbes, pp. 73–82; L’Opinió, 26 March and 22 September 1933; LaP, 16 August 1933, 11 and 18 April 1934.
  • 8. L’Opinió, 22 September 1933 and 9 August 1934; LaP, 11 April 1934.
  • 9. Claramunt, Problemes, p. 14.
  • 10. LaV, 13 and 25 September 1931.
  • 11. Ametlla, Memories, Vol. 2 p. 219.
  • 12. LaV, 1, 9 and 25 September 1931.
  • 13. Veu, 15 April, 3 and 22 November 1931, 7 January 1932.
  • 14. L’Opinió, 26 March and 5 November 1933, 15 May and 9 August 1934.
  • 15. Hall et al., Policing, pp. 218–21.
  • 16. JS, 22 July, 7 and 14 October, 11 November 1933; Paz, Chumberas, p. 113; Veu, 27 April 1934.
  • 17. La Victoria, 28 May, 11 June and 31 December 1932; LaV, 26 April and 29 July 1934; L’Opinió, 26 March and 5 November 1933, 7 March, 19 April, 1 May and 15 August 1934; JS, 1 August 1931, 29 April, 22 July and 11 November 1933; Cataluña Obrera, 26 May and 9 June 1933; LaP, 18 April 1934.
  • 18. Aurora Bertrana, Memories del 1935 fins al retorn a Catalunya, Barcelona, 1975, p. 787.
  • 19. LaP, 6 and 10–12 April 1934.
  • 20. Hall et al., Policing, p. 157.
  • 21. Sibley, Geographies, p. 77.
  • 22. LasN, 17 June 1931; L’Opinió, 17 and 19 July 1931.
  • 23. 50, 13 October 1931; LaV, 13 August 1931; LaP, 8 and 12 June 1931; L’Opinió, 17–19 and 24–25 July, 29 August, 2 December 1931.
  • 24. LaP, 12 April 1934; LaV, 31 March 1934; Veu, 4 and 26 April 1934; Berruezo, Sendero, p. 62.
  • 25. Figure 7.1 Anarchists on an excursion into the foothills around Barcelona during the Second Republic Source: Francesc Bonamusa, Pere Gabriel, Josep Lluís Martin Ramos and Josep Termes, Història Gràfica del Moviment Obrer a Catalunya, Barcelona, 1989, p. 248 [/i]

    As was the case during the monarchy, the moral panics nourished an overtly repressive mentality on Right and Left, which increasingly coincided in their desire for a ‘strong government’ to repress ‘criminality’ of all sorts’. LaV, 31 January, 14–16 and 25–26 March 1933, 2 and 28 January, 20 and 22 February, 10 and 27–28 March, 29 April, 18 July, 5 and 7 August, 7 September 1934; Veu, 11 April 1934; Foc, 5 January 1933.

  • 26. L’Opinió, 6 April and 12 July 1933, 21 January, 7, 11, 13, 24 and 28–29 March, 3, 7 and 13 April, 9 August 1934.
  • 27. JS, 16 December 1933.
  • 28. See, for instance, LaV, 6 September 1931; L’Opinió, 23 October 1931 and 12 December 1933; JS, 1 August 1931.
  • 29. Veu, 12 December 1933.
  • 30. Hall et al., Policing, pp. 53–77.
  • 31. G.Pearson, The Deviant Imagination. Psychiatry, Social Work and Social Change, London, 1975, pp. 160–7.
  • 32. See FTN, Memoria…1934, pp. 7–8, 212, 219, 222.
  • 33. SO, 24 July, 9 September and 16 December 1932, 15 January, 25 March and 18 August 1933, 6 December 1935; TyL, 24 December 1935.
  • 34. SO, 26 April 1934.
  • 35. Orto, May 1932.
  • 36. E.Mingione, ‘Polarización, fragmentación y marginalidad en las ciudades industriales’, in A.Alabart, S.García and S.Giner (eds), Clase, poder y ciudadanía, Madrid, 1994, pp. 97– 122.
  • 37. TyL, 26 April 1932; SO, 14 February 1935.
  • 38. SO, 26 August and 16 September 1932, 14 March 1933, 15 April 1934; Tiempos Nuevos, 21 and 28 March 1935.
  • 39. SO, 9 April 1933, 20 March 1934 and 15 September 1935; LaRB, 19 April 1935.
  • 40. A.Carrasco, Barcelona con el puño en alto! Estampas de la revolución, Barcelona, 1936, p. 30.
  • 41. SO, 22 March, 30 July, 23 September, 23 November and 7 December 1932, 8 and 14 March, 1 and 18 April, 23 June, 8 August 1933, 24 April 1934; Colmena, 30 October 1931; TyL, 16 September and 8 December 1932, 9 June and 25 August 1933.
  • 42. SO, 15 January, 24 May, 24 and 30 July, 2 August, 8 December 1932.
  • 43. SO, 28 August and 4 September 1932, 16 and 18 April 1934, 3 December 1935; TyL, 7 November and 5 December 1931, 1 July, 9 September and 30 December 1932.
  • 44. TyL, 4 July 1931 and 7 October 1932; SO, 31 June and 15 August 1931, 30 July, 21–23 and 29 October, 20–27 December 1932, 1 and 8 January, 30 September 1933, 14 March and 5 April 1936; LaB, 1 September and 27 October 1932, 8 January, 8, 19 and 24 February, 27 April 1933; Adelante, 28 October 1933; LaRB, 6 July 1934; Tuñón, Movimiento, p. 824.
  • 45. SO, 15 January, 23 June, 8, 15 and 27 October, 20 December 1932, 24 April and 26 August 1934, 26 November 1935; Luchador, 7 July 1933.
  • 46. Landlords also often lied about the size of their properties and the number of tenants occupying them (Sentís, Viatge, p. 65).
  • 47. SO, 26 November 1935.
  • 48. LaP, 10 January 1932; SO, 4 November 1932, 1 August 1933 and 6 March 1936.
  • 49. SO, 2 August 1932, 26 February and 23 June 1933, 8 July, 1934; TyL, 7 November 1931 and 16 September 1932.
  • 50. TyL, 26 April 1931; SO, 23 June 1932 and 7 April 1934.
  • 51. H.F.Moorhouse and C.W.Chamberlain, ‘Lower class attitudes to property: aspects of the counter-ideology’, Sociology 8(3), 1974, p. 388.
  • 52. SO, 15 August 1931, 1 and 20 April 1932; TyL, 19 July 1936.
  • 53. SO, 23 November 1932 and 3 January 1936; Iniciales, March 1932; La Voz Confederal 25 May 1935; The Times, 28–29 October 1935; J.M.Fernández, ‘Los “affaires” Straperlo y Tay. Dos escándalos de la II República’, Tiempo de Historia 38, 1978, pp. 18–28.
  • 54. ‘The Society of Death’ was chapter 1 of José Pratés, La sociedad burguesa, Barcelona, 1934.
  • 55. L’Opinió, 30 September 1933; Claramunt, Lluita, pp. 193, 200–9, 215–16, 219–29; SO, 23 July 1931; Boletín Oficial del Ministerio de Trabajo y Previsión 67, February 1936, pp. 43– 58, 183–4; Aiguader, Problema, p. 6; Luchador, 5 June 1931; Tiempos Nuevos, 28 February 1935; Alba and Casasús, Diàlegs, p. 15.
  • 56. TyL, 2 August 1935; Claramunt, Problemes, p. 18; SO, 9 April 1933 and 20 March 1934; Guerra di Classe, 17 October 1936.
  • 57. Veu, 13 February 1936.
  • 58. Adelante, 7 January 1934; SO, 15 January and 26 July 1932, 20 April, 8 June and 7 July 1933, 4 July 1936; L’Opinió, 30 September 1933; Iniciales, January 1934; LaB, 5 May 1932; LasN, 2 January 1936; COPUB, Memoria…1935, pp. 49, 488; TyL, 30 August 1934 and 18 November 1932.
  • 59. SO, 14 April 1934.
  • 60. LasN, 17 November and 8 December 1931; L’Opinió, 17 December 1931; SO, 2 August and 4 September 1932, 10 February, 16 and 18 August 1933, 8 July and 4 August 1934, 3 December 1935; Luchador, 3 and 10 March 1933; LaB, 5 January 1933; Adelante, 17 February 1934.
  • 61. SO, 17 June and 24 December 1931, 4 August 1934, 24 June 1936; Tiempos Nuevos, 28 February 1935; Soto, Trabajo, pp. 659–63; Colmena, 9 January 1932.
  • 62. SO, 6–11 July, 3 August and 8 September 1934.
  • 63. LaV, 19 May 1933, 27 March and 19 July 1934; LasN, 4 October 1934; Veu, 16 May 1933.
  • 64. LaV, 31 March 1934 and 11 August 1935; García, Eco, p. 616; Porcel, Revuelta, pp. 118–21. Barcelona novelist Juan Marsé, born in the Guinardó barri, demonstrated in his novel Si te dicen que caí how children admired the grupistas.
  • 65. SO, 9 January and 30 July 1932, 15 February 1933; Liarte, Camino, p. 201; TyL, 17 October 1931.
  • 66. Paz, Durruti, p. 260; SO, 20 June and 1 August 1933, 18 and 24 April, 2 August 1934; Matí, 6 September 1935.
  • 67. SO, 14 July 1932; TyL, 27 April 1934.
  • 68. Bueso, Recuerdos, Vol. 1, p. 69; Fernández, ‘Affaires’, pp. 18–33.
  • 69. Miró, Cataluña, p. 66.
  • 70. Miró, Vida, p. 126; García, Eco, pp. 123–4, 172; LaP, 30 June 1933.
  • 71. Peirats, unpublished memoirs, p. 31; Gutiérrez, Idea, p. 77.
  • 72. CNT, 9 January 1933; Gutiérrez, Idea, p. 77.
  • 73. CNT, 9 January 1933.
  • 74. Tiempos Nuevos, 18 April 1935; Pestaña, Terrorismo, pp. 100–2; SO, 29 June 1934.
  • 75. For Diego Abad de Santillán’s ideas, see A.Elorza (ed.), El anarquismo y la revolución en España. Escritos, 1930–1938, Madrid, 1976, passim and A. Cappelletti et al., ‘Diego Abad de Santillán. Un anarquismo sin adjetivos. Una vision crítica y actual de la revolución social’ Anthropos, 138, 1992.
  • 76. Miró, Cataluña, pp. 48–9, 51, 54, 61–2.
  • 77. O.Bayer, Anarchism and Violence. Severino di Giovanni in Argentina, 1923–1931, London, 1986, passim; Llarch, Muerte, pp. 57–9; various authors, ‘Anarquismo’, Anthropos, p. 12, 30, 38; Nervio, July 1934; SO, 23 September 1932.
  • 78. Paz, Durruti, pp. 311–14.
  • 79. Ibid., p. 314; LasN, 1 January–18 July 1936; CyN, January–July 1936; Eslava, Verdugos, p. 307; Abad, Memorias, p. 201.
  • 80. Elorza, Utopia, pp. 464–5. In a letter from jail, dated September 1935 and reprinted in SO, November 1990, Durruti emphasised the need to introduce certain tactical changes that would allow the anarcho-syndicalists to rejoin the CNT.
  • 81. A.Pestaña, Inocentes, Barcelona, 1926.
  • 82. Sindicalismo, 10 November 1933; J.Peiró, Perill a la reraguarda, Mataró, 1936, pp. xvii– xviii; J.Manent i Pesas, Records d’un sindicalista llibertari català, 1916–1943, Paris, 1976, pp. 178–84.
  • 83. V.Alba, La Alianza Obrera. Historia y análisis de una táctica de unidad, Madrid, 1978, pp. 191–200; A.Barrio, Anarquismo y anarcosindicalismo en Asturias (1890–1936), Madrid, 1988, pp. 390–409; J.M.Macarro, ‘La autovaloración anarquista: un principio de análisis y acción. Sevilla, 1931–1936’, Estudios de Historia Social 31, 1984, pp. 135–49.
  • 84. For the Asturian events, see N.Molins, UHP. La revolució proletari d’Asturies, Barcelona, 1935; ‘lgnotus’ (Manuel Villar), El anarquismo en la insurrección de Asturias (La CNT y la FAI en octubre de 1934), Valencia, 1935; D.Ruiz, Insurrección defensiva y revolución obrera. El octubre español de 1934, Barcelona, 1988.
  • 85. Peirats, unpublished memoirs, p. 44.
  • 86. TyL, 16 February–11 October 1934; Solidaridad, 13 February–3 May 1934; SO, 16 February–19 September 1934; Sindicalismo, 4 April 1934.
  • 87. Sanz, Sindicalismo, pp. 258–9; Peirats, Figuras, pp. 262–3; CNT, El Congreso Confederal de Zaragoza 1936, Bilbao, 1978, pp. 154–68.
  • 88. See C.Ealham, ‘Crime and punishment in 1930s Barcelona’, History Today, October 1993, pp. 31–7.
  • 89. R.Vinyes, ‘Sis d’octubre, repressió i represaliats’, L’Avenç 30, 1980, p. 52; Balcells, Crisis, p. 227.
  • 90. CyN, May 1935–February 1936.
  • 91. Reports from Sir G.Grahame, 25 October and 6 December 1934, FO371/ 18597/W9526/27/41, FO371/18597/W10704/27/41 and FO371/18599/W9522/ 325/41 (PRO).
  • 92. B.Muniesa, La burguesía catalana ante la II República, Barcelona, 1985–86, Vol. 2, p. 242.
  • 93. Veu, 5 October 1934.
  • 94. Elorza, Utopia, pp. 315–18.
  • 95. Muniesa, Burguesía, Vol. 2, pp. 226–9.
  • 96. LaV, 9–27 October and 4 November 1934; Veu, 7 November 1934; FTN, Memoria…1934, pp. 5–8, 215, 218–31.
  • 97. SO, 11 October 1934; LaB, 13 September 1935; LaRB, 26 April–31 May, 14 June–19 July 1935.
  • 98. Sindicalismo, 30 May and 7 August 1935.
  • 99. Letter reprinted in SO, November 1990.
  • 100. P.Preston, The creation of the Popular Front in Spain’, in H.Graham and P. Preston (eds), The Popular Front in Europe, London, 1987, pp. 84–105; R. Vinyes, La Catalunya Internacional El frontpopulisme en l’exemple català, Barcelona, 1983.
  • 101. LaB, 15 November and 27 December 1935, 24 January 1936; Front, 7 February 1936.
  • 102. B.Muniesa, La burguesía catalana ante la II República, Barcelona, 1986, Vol. 2, p. 254.
  • 103. LaRB, 7 June 1935 and 3 January 1936; SO, 8, 17 and 24 January 1936; J. Peirats, Examen crítico-constructivo del movimiento libertario español, Mexico, 1967, pp. 26–27; J.M.Molina, Consideraciones sobre la posición de la CNT de España, Buenos Aires, 1949, p. 13; LasN, 5 February 1936; Peiró quoted in B. Martin, The Agony of Modernization. Labor and Industrialization in Spain, Ithaca, NY, 1990, p. 363; D.Abad de Santillán, Por qué perdimos la guerra, Buenos Aires, 1940, p. 37.
  • 104. SO, 17 February–15 July 1936.
  • 105. LasN, 5 February and 19 May 1936; TyL, 17 April 1936; SO, 22 and 31 January, 20–22 and 26 February, 3–7 March 1936; Azaña, Obras, Vol. 4, p. 570.
  • 106. CNT, El Congreso Confederal de Zaragoza 1936, Bilbao, 1978.
  • 107. Letter from C.G.King, 5 June 1936, FO371/20522/W5256/62/41 (PRO); García, Eco, p. 580; Liarte, Camino, pp. 221–5; Sanz, Sindicalismo, p. 248; Abad, Memorias, p. 259.
  • 108. Paz, Chumberas, p. 197.
  • 109. LasN, 3–4 and 10–11 July 1936; letters from C.G.Vaughan, 26 June and 2 July 1936, FO371/20522/W5989/62/41, FO371/20522AV6059/62/41 and FO371/20522/ W5990/62/41 (PRO).