This is a study of social protest and repression in one of the twentieth century’s most important revolutionary hotspots. It explains why Barcelona became the undisputed capital of the European anarchist movement and explores the sources of anarchist power in the city. It also places Barcelona at the centre of Spain’s economic, social, cultural and political life between 1898 and 1937.
During this period, a range of social groups, movements and institutions competed with one another to impose their own political and urban projects on the city: the central authorities struggled to retain control of Spain’s most unruly city; nationalist groups hoped to create the capital of Catalonia; local industrialists attempted to erect a modern industrial city; the urban middle classes planned to democratise the city; and meanwhile, the anarchists sought to liberate the city’s workers from oppression and exploitation. This resulted in a myriad of frequently violent conflicts for control of the city, both before and during the civil war.
This is a work of great importance in the field of contemporary Spanish history and fills a significant gap in the current literature.
Chris Ealham is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History, Lancaster University. He is co-editor of The Splintering of Spain: Historical Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War. His work focuses on labour and social protest in Spain, and he is currently working on a history of urban conflict in 1930s Spain.
For my parents, Annie and Jack (in memoriam) and for Bea (for the future)
La calle no es de nadie aún. Vamos a ver quién la conquista. The street still belongs to no-one. We’ll see who conquers it.
Ramón Sender, Siete domingos rojos
is I have incurred many debts of gratitude over the years as I prepared this book. My research has benefited from the generous financial support of the British Academy, the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies (LSE), the Departament d’Ensenyament of the Autonomous Catalan Government and the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s Dirección General de Relaciones Culturales y Científicas. The Arts and Humanities Research Board made it possible for me to enjoy a sabbatical year, during which I completed the manuscript of this book.
While undertaking research for this book, I received assistance from many people in research centres and libraries. I wish to thank the staff at the Public Records Office in Kew, the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid and Salamanca, and the Biblioteca de la Caixa d’Estalvis de Barcelona in Badalona. At the Arxiu Històric de l’Hospitalet, Clara Pallarés helped me enormously. In Barcelona, I must thank the staff at the Arxiu Municipal de Sants-Montjuïc, the Centre d’Estudis d’Història Contemporania (Fundació Figueres), the Biblioteca de la Universitat de Barcelona, the Biblioteca de Catalunya and the Centre d’Estudis Històrics Internacionals (CEHI-FIES). Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the staff at the Institut Municipal de l’Història de la Ciutat in Barcelona, the Casa de l’Ardiaca, which for three years effectively became my second home.
Other debts are more diffuse. As an undergraduate, Paul Heywood and, in particular, Paul Preston cultivated my early interest in Spanish history. Subsequently, Paul Preston has been a constant inspiration as a historian and an unfaltering source of enthusiasm.
Over the years, numerous friends and colleagues have provided me with rich intellectual community and encouragement, particularly Manel Aisa, Alejandro Andreassi, Stuart Christie, Xavier Diez, Pete Dorey, Andrew Dowling, Andy Durgan, Graeme Garrard, Sharif Gemie, Helen Graham, Robert Lenton, Nick Parsons, Michael Richards, Nick Rider, Paco Romero, Caragh Wells and Eulàlia Vega. I am especially grateful to all those who have read and commented on earlier drafts of this manuscript. José Luis Martin Ramos, Elisenda Monleón and Gràcia Ventura helped me to find photographs, while Mark Barrett helped me to prepare them for publication. I received tremendous assistance from two anarchists. ‘Juan’, who sadly died a few years ago, frankly and patiently dealt with my many questions about his life and the workings of the Barcelona CNT and the FAI in the hope that his voice be heard. Federico Arcos also responded generously to a few too many questions and gave me a copy of the unpublished memoirs of his friend and comrade José Peirats.
When I started my research on the Spanish anarchist movement in its Barcelona stronghold, I was more interested in social movements themselves than place. Today, after what proved to be an unexpected journey of spatial discovery, the opposite is true.
Many people helped me on my exploration of Barcelona’s streets over the years, including Dick, Donald, Elena, Jofre, Mónica, Ramon, Sam, Silvia and Sonia. My family has also been a great source of support and encouragement over the years. Finally, I owe perhaps the biggest debt to Bea: her critical gaze improved the manuscript, while her unfailing support and spirit of optimism helped me to bring this project to a conclusion.
Although all the aforementioned have improved this book, it goes without saying that any errors or misjudgements contained within are my own.