A short biography of Spanish anarchist, civil war fighter and Resistance guerrilla Liberto Sarrau Royes.
son of Antonio Sarrau Espanol, an anarchosyndicalist militant of long standing,
Liberto was born on June 15 1920 at Fraga, an agricultural city where Catalonia
and Aragon meet. Soon the family left for Barcelona, where he had the happiness
of being one of the pupils of the Natura School, created and supported by
the CNT (National Confederation of Labour - the anarchist trade union) textile
union and whose teacher was the libertarian educationalist Puig Elias. Two
members of the commission charged by the union with putting the school on
a sound footing were shot by the bosses' gunmen. But the workers' movement
was on the offensive, and these gunmen were themselves shot dead.
A fierce militant, always in the forefront of struggle,
Liberto's father, proscribed by the bosses organisations, after his sacking
from the tramways, managed to set up a newspaper kiosk. There Liberto became
acquainted with the world of print, which came in handy when he had to carry
on a clandestine existence. In July 1936 with the Francoist coup and the workers'
counterattack and Revolution,
he set up the group Quijotes del Ideal with several others at the age of 16.
The first act of the group was to bring out a manifesto denouncing those who
were about to make compromises. Lying about his age, he volunteered for the
front, even though he was not yet 17.
He was quickly found out and sent back to the rear. After
having participated in the life of an agricultural collective, he rejoined
the front once he was old enough. Joining the 26th Division - the old Durruti
Column - under Ricardo Sanz, he was wounded during a battle and hospitalised.
He escaped to France when the fascists invaded Catalonia. His father stayed
in Barcelona and was shot by the Francoists. Like others, Liberto was interned
in a French camp, from which he escaped to re-enter Spain to work in the underground
After crossing the border several times, he was arrested
in 1948 and imprisoned for 20 years and one day (the extra day being added
so he could not get parole). In conditional liberty after 10 years of prison,
he crossed the Pyrenees by foot, in order to set up a support network in France
for armed resistance. He had hatched these schemes whilst in prison. The apathy
of the CNT in exile and the political circumstances of the period caused the
plan to founder. The hopes for a renewal of revolutionary elan in Europe set
off by a popular uprising in Spain, on which he based his actions, vanished
following after the period when Francoism was able to survive with the return
of the monarchy, and with the assent of the so-called left organisations,
with the Communist Party at their head.
He knew that the coming of a more just society is less
linked to the handling of arms than to that of ideas. The development of a
solid anarchist movement rested on education, teaching, culture. With the
CNT a shadow of its former might, he never stopped militating within it. With
several other comrades who never gave up, he founded ACEN, the “Cultural
and Ecologist Association Natura" whose first project was the rebuying
of 30 hectares on the Spanish side of the Pyreneees, with the aim of continuing
the work of anarchist educator Francisco
Ferrer. Seized by the Francoists, this property had been the children's
holiday colony of the Natura school, Mon Nou - New World in Catalan. (Emma
Goldman writes about it in Visions on Fire Commonground Press 1983). The
land is now lost, funds lacking when a sale was possible, CNT coffers being
largely empty at the time. But ACEN continued to develop libertarian culture
and worked towards the rebirth of the CNT .
Living in France, he took part in the work of the French
CNT. Serious disagreements within it, led him to be excluded for life from
it and joining the small fraction affiliated to the International
Workers Association, the CNT-AIT.
He died on 27th October 2002. According to his wishes,
only a small group of close friends and relatives were at his cremation at
the Père Lachaise cemetery. Six people attended included Colette, the
daughter of the French anarchist militant Emilienne Morin and of Buenaventura
"The ashes were scattered several days later in the waters of the
river Cinca which after having bathed the lands of Fraga, flows into the Segro
to join the Ebro , to which it brings its vivifying forces. Like the drops
of water of the Cinca which flow in the Ebro, the fruits of his militant action
continue to progress in several heads determined to continue on the way."
- From Bulletin d'information 2eme D.R/CNT
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