Introduction and chronology

The Friends of Durruti were an anarchist affinity group founded in March 1937. Its members were militians with the Durruti Column opposed to militarization and/or anarchists critical of the CNT's entry into the Republican government and the Generalidad government.

The historical and political importance of the Friends of Durruti Group lies in its attempt, emanating from within the ranks of the libertarian movement itself (in 1937) to constitute a revolutionary vanguard that would put paid to departures from revolutionary principles and to collaboration with the capitalist State: leaving the CNT to defend and press home the "gains" of July 1936, instead of surrendering them little by little to the bourgeoisie.

This edition of Balance examines the process whereby the Friends of Durruti emerged, their ideological characteristics and the evolution of their political thinking, their dealings with the Trotskyists, and the reasons behind the failure of their fight to recover anarcho-syndicalism's doctrinal purity and salvage the Spanish revolution of 1936.

There follows a chronology which, though selective rather than exhaustive, contains heretofore unpublished information. This chronology is intended to afford familiarity with the essential historical events, so that the arguments spelled out in this study may be more readily and strictly comprehensible1.

CHRONOLOGY

July 17-21, 1936: Servicemen and fascists rebel against the government of the Republic. Where the workers offer armed resistance, the rebels fail, securing victory only where there are attempts at conciliation or no armed confrontation. Civil war erupts.

July 21, 1936: Establishment in Catalonia of the Central Anti-Fascist Militias Committee (CAMC). No workers' organization takes power.

August 19-25, 1936: Trial of the Sixteen in Moscow. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov executed. Radek placed under arrest.

September 26, 1936: Three anarchists - Doménech, Fábregas and Garcia Birlan - join the Generalidad government in Catalonia.

October 2, 1936: the CAMC is wound up.

October 12, 1936: A Generalidad decree dissolves the (revolutionary) Local Committees. These are shortly to be replaced by new, Popular Front-style town councils.

October 27, 1936: A Generalidad decree orders militarization of the People's Militias.

November 4, 1936: Four anarchist ministers - Garcia Oliver, Frederica Montseny, Joan Peiró and Juan López - join the Republic's government.

November 5, 1936: Durruti makes a radio broadcast from the Madrid front, in which he opposes the decree issued by the Generalidad militarizing the militias, and calls for greater commitment and sacrifice from the rearguard if the war is to be won.

November 6, 1936: The Republic's government (along with the four new anarcho-syndicalist ministers) flees Madrid for the safety of Valencia. The populace of Madrid's response is the cry of "Long live Madrid without government!"

November 7, 1936: the International Brigades intervene on the Madrid front.

November 9, 1936: Formation of the Madrid Defense Junta.

November 20, 1936: Durruti loses his life on the Madrid front.

December 6, 1936: In Solidaridad Obrera, Balius publishes an article entitled "Durruti's Testament" in which he states: "Durruti bluntly asserted that we anarchists require that the Revolution be totalitarian in character."

December 16, 1936: the POUM is excluded from the Generalidad government.

December 21, 1936: Stalin offers advice to Largo Caballero.

December 29, 1936: Publication of issue No. 1 of Ideas.

January 26, 1937: Balius appointed director of La Noche.

February 5-8, 1937: Plenary assembly of the confederal and anarchist militias meeting in Valencia to consider the militarization issue.

March 4, 1937: the newspaper La Noche carries an announcement introducing the aims, characteristics and membership conditions of the Friends of Durruti Group.

March 4, 1937: the Generalidad issues a decree winding up the Control Patrols. In La Batalla , Nin passes favorable and hopeful comment on an article by Balius carried in the March 2nd edition of La Noche.

March 11, 1937: Ideas calls for the dismissal of Aiguadé.

March 17, 1937: the Friends of Durruti Group is formally established. Balius is appointed vice-secretary. Ruiz and Carreño are on its steering committee.

March 21, 1937: the Iron Column meets in assembly to vote on militarization or disbandment: it agrees to militarization.

Late March-early April 1937: A flyer bearing the endorsement of the Friends of Durruti Group is issued.

April 8, 1937: In Ideas, Balius has an article published entitled "Let's make revolution," in which he says: "if [Companys] had a larger contingent of armed forces at his disposal, he would have the working class back in the capitalist harness."

April 14, 1937: the Friends of Durruti issue a manifesto opposing the commemoration of the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic.

(Sunday) April 18, 1937: The Friends of Durruti hold a rally in the Poliorama Theater. Chaired by Romero, it hears contributions from Francisco Pellicer, Pablo Ruiz, Jaime Balius, Francisco Carreño and V. Pérez Combina.

April 25, 1937: the UGT leader Roldán Cortada is murdered in Molins del Llobregat.

April 27 and 28, 1937: Armed conflict between anarchists and Generalidad forces in Bellver de Cerdaña. Antonio Martin, the anarchist mayor of Puigcerdá, is shot dead.

Late April 1937: A poster from the Group is pinned up on trees and walls throughout the city of Barcelona. In it, the Friends of Durruti set out their program: "All power to the working class. All economic power to the unions. Instead of the Generalidad, the Revolutionary Junta."

(Saturday) May 1, 1937: An ordinary working day, for the Generalidad has banned commemoration of the First of May, in an effort to avert disturbances and confrontations. The Generalidad government meets in session, congratulating its Commissar for Public Order on the successes achieved. A panel is made up of Tarradellas (Prime Councilor), Rodriguez Salas (Commissar for Public Order) and Artemi Aiguadé (Councilor for Internal Security): it promptly holds a meeting behind closed doors to tackle urgent business relating to public order and security. The Bolshevik-Leninist Section issues a leaflet.

(Sunday) May 2, 1937: Friends of Durruti rally in the Goya Theater, at which the film "19 de julio" is screened to comments from Balius: there are speeches by Liberto Callejas and Francisco Carreño as well. CNT militants interrupt a telephone conversation between Companys and Azana.

(Monday) May 3, 1937: A little before 3:00 P.M. three truckloads of Guards commanded by Rodriguez Salas attempt to seize the Telephone Exchange, on the orders of Artemi Aiguadé. Armed resistance from the CNT workers on the upper floors thwarts this. Within a few hours, a host of armed bands has been formed and the first barricades erected. The mobilization resolves into two sides: one made up of the CNT and the POUM, the other of the Generalidad, the PSUC, the ERC and Estat Català. Businesses close down. The train service stops at 7:00 P.M. At that hour, in the Casa CNT-FAI in the Via Durruti, the CNI Regional Committee and the POUM Executive Committee meet. The maximum demand is that Rodriguez Salas and Artemi Aiguadé resign. Companys doggedly opposes this.

(Tuesday) May 4, l937: Gun-battles throughout the night. Many barricades and violent clashes throughout the city. In the Sants barrio 400 Guards are stripped of their weapons. Companys asks the Valencia government for aircraft to bomb the CNT's premises and barracks2. The CNT-controlled artillery on Montjuich and Tibidabo is trained on the Generalidad Palace3. Abad de Santillán, Isgleas and Molina manage to halt in Lerida, "en route to Barcelona," the divisions despatched by the CNT's Máximo Franco (a Friends of Durruti member) and the POUM's José Rovira. At 7:00 P.M. in the Principal Palace in the Ramblas, which has been commandeered by the POUM, Jaime Balius, Pablo Ruiz, Eleuterio Roig and Martin, representing the Friends of Durruti, meet Gorkin, Nin and Andrade, representing the POUM's Executive Committee. Following an analysis of the situation, and in view of the stance adopted by the CNT, they come to an agreement to suggest an orderly armed withdrawal of combatants from the barricades. At 9:00 P.M. the Generalidad radio station issues an appeal from the leaders of the various organizations (Garcia Oliver representing the CNT) for an end to fighting. The POUM Executive Committee releases a manifesto. The Bolshevik-Leninist Section issues a handbill. On the night of May 4-5, the Friends of Durruti Group drafts and prints up a handbill.

(Wednesday) May 5, 1937: A handbill is distributed by the Friends of Durruti. Over the radio, the CNT disowns the Friends of Durruti Group. Fighting is now confined to the city center: the rest of the city being in the hands of the confederal Defense Committees. At 1:00 P.M. the UGT leader Sesé, a recently appointed Generalidad councilor perishes in gunfire emanating from the premises of the CNT's Entertainments Union. At 3:00 P.M. the Generalidad transmitter issues a fresh appeal for calm from the leaders of the various organizations (Federica Montseny for the CNT). A brother of Ascaso is killed. Berneri and Barbieri are arrested by Guards and UGT militants from the Water Union. Their corpses show up later.

(Thursday) May 6, 1937: La Batalla reprints the Friends of Durruti handbill. In the same edition, La Batalla appeals for workers to back down. Solidaridad Obrera disowns the Friends of Durruti handbill .

(Friday) May 7, 1937: La Batalla reiterates its appeal, making it conditional upon withdrawal of the security forces and retention of weapons. Transport services are restored and a degree of normality returns. Assault Guards sent by the Valencia government reach Barcelona around 9:00 P.M. Companys surrenders control of public order. The Control Patrols place themselves at the disposal of the special delegate in charge of public order sent down by the Republican government.

(Saturday) May 8, 1937: Barricades are dismantled, except for the PSUC barricades, which persist into June. The Friends of Durruti distribute a manifesto reviewing the events of May. In that manifesto there is talk of "treachery" by the CNT leadership.

(Sunday) May 9, 1937: Solidaridad Obrera dismisses the manifesto as demagoguery and the Group's members as provocateurs.

May 17, 1937: Negrin takes over from Largo Caballero as premier. The UGT Regional Committee for Catalonia demands that all POUM militants be expelled from its ranks and presses the CNT to mete out the same treatment to the Friends of Durruti.

May 19, 1937: Issue No. 1 of El Amigo del Pueblo appears.

May 22, 1937: A plenary session of the CNT's Local and Comarcal Federations hears a proposal that the Friends of Durruti be expelled. A session of the Sabadell city council agrees that councilor Bruno Lladó Roca (also the Generalidad's comarcal delegate for Economy) be stood down for having displayed a Friends of Durruti poster in his office.

May 26, 1937: Issue No. 2 of El Amigo del Pueblo appears, having evaded the censor. Balius is jailed a few days later as the director of a clandestine publication, following a complaint from the PSUC.

May 28, 1937: La Batalla is shut down as is the POUM's radio station. The Friends of Durruti's social premises in the Ramblas are shut down.

June 6, 1937: The Control Patrols are disbanded.

June 12, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 3.

June 16, 1937: The members of the POUM Executive Committee are rounded up. The POUM is proscribed and its militants persecuted.

June 22, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 4.

June 22-24, 1937: Andrés Nin is kidnapped and murdered by the Soviet secret police.

June 26, 1937: Showing solidarity with the POUM militants persecuted by the Stalinists and the Republic's police, the Bolshevik-Leninist Section calls for concerted action by the Section, the left of the POUM and the Friends of Durruti.

July 2, 1937: A handbill from the Bolshevik-Leninist Section of Spain (on behalf of the Fourth International) expresses solidarity with the POUM militants persecuted by the Stalinists.

July 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 5.

August 10, 1937: The Council of Aragon is forcibly disbanded by the government.

August 12, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 6.

August 31, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 7.

September 21, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 8.

October 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 9.

November 8, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 10.

November 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 11.

January 1938: Towards a Fresh Revolution pamphlet drafted by Balius and published by the Friends of Durruti.

February 1, 1938: El Amigo del Pueble No. 12.

July to September 1939: L'Espagne Nouvelle Nos. 7 to 9.

  • 1. The most important studies of the Friends of Durruti Group are: Francisco Manuel Aranda: "Les amis de Durruti" in Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 10 (1982); Jordi Arquer: Història de la fundació i actuació de la "Agrupación Amigos de Durruti" Unpublished; Georges Fontenis: Le message révolutionnaire des "Amis de Durruti" (Editions L, Paris, 1983); Frank Mintz and Manuel Peciña: Los Amigos de Durruti, los trotsquistas y los sucesos de mayo (Campo Abierto, Madrid, 1978); Paul Sharkey: The Friends of Durruti: A Chronology (Editorial Crisol, Tokyo, May 1984)
  • 2. According to an affidavit by Jaume Anton Aiguadér, nephew of Artemi Aiguadér, signed in the presence of witnesses in Mexico City on August 9, 1946: "At the time of the May events, the Generalidad government asked for aircraft from Spain in order to bomb the CNT buildings and the latter refused the request." This statement is borne out by the teletype messages exchanged between Companys and the central government. In those messages, on Tuesday, May 4, 1937, the Generalidad President informed the cabinet under-secretary that the rebels had brought artillery out on to the streets, and he asked that Lieutenant-Colonel Felipe Diaz Sandino, commander of the Prat de Lllobregat military air base, be instructed to place himself at the disposal of the Generalidad government: "Generalidad President informs cabinet under-secretary that rebels have brought cannons on to streets. Asks that Sandino be ordered place himself disposal of Generalidad government." [Documentation on deposit in the Hoover Institution.]
  • 3. According to the testimony of Diego Abad de Santillán.