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The Spanish Civil WarRevolution and Counterrevolution$

Burnett Bolloten

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469624464

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469624464.001.0001

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Moving toward Open Warfare in Catalonia

Moving toward Open Warfare in Catalonia

(p.414) 41 Moving toward Open Warfare in Catalonia
The Spanish Civil War

Burnett Bolloten

University of North Carolina Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the political lead-up to the events of May 1937. Political divisions were emerging within the government, the conflict eventually coming to a head in December 1936, to the point that the cabinet was declared to be in a state of crisis. Conciliation and accommodation between the parties was difficult, despite a policy having been instated to that effect. Among the many points of contention held between the parties was the matter of centralizing the security forces into a regular army under government control, sparking further agitation that would eventually culminate in an aborted assassination attempt on a Communist police commissioner, Rodríguez Salas, and the subsequent murder of Roldán Cortada, a PSUC official. This was followed by the assassination of a prominent Anarchist, Antonio Martín. The consequences of the deaths began to take their toll in Barcelona, setting the stage for the May Day to come.

Keywords:   May 1937, conciliation policy, assassinations, Barcelona, regular army, government control, Rodríguez Salas

A notable consequence of the December crisis was the weakening of the CNT’s position in the government. The POUM, the CNT’s only possible ally, was alarmed at the passivity with which the Anarchosyndicalists had accepted its expulsion and at their failure to perceive that the victory of the PSUC represented an obvious menace to themselves. Not surprisingly, the POUM organ, La Batalla, reprinted, as proof of the growing danger, the following excerpt from a news release by the Transocean Agency, dated Moscow, 17 December 1936, which appeared in the Mexican newspaper Universal Gráfico: “The Soviet press expresses the hope that the cleaning up of the Spanish Anarchists and Trotskyists in Catalonia will be carried out with the same energy as in the USSR.”1 Although the Soviet consulate general in Barcelona denounced the statement as false—and indeed no such statement ever appeared either in Izvestiia or Pravda2—it undoubtedly served to impress upon the CNT the growing peril to itself.

Apart from the deterioration of the CNT’s position in the government, another important consequence of the December crisis was the growth in self-confidence and pugnacity of the leaders of the ERC, the largest of the middle-class Republican parties in Catalonia. Their renewed self-assurance prompted La Batalla to declare disdainfully on 28 January: “For five months the Republicans remained subdued. They raised the clenched fist and listened solemnly to the ‘International.’ At times they appeared more revolutionary than the true revolutionaries. … [But] now the bourgeois Republicans are beginning to feel strong again.”

Although the leaders of the ERC refrained from publicly gloating over the ouster of the POUM, there can be little doubt that they perceived in its removal a significant setback for the entire revolutionary movement. This was evident at a public meeting of their party held on 28 December 1936. So aggressive were their speeches, so suffused with veiled and even open threats to the future of the Revolution,3 that President Luis Companys, who still believed that the collaboration of the CNT and FAI in the cabinet was essential if the libertarian movement were to be “domesticated” and gradually divested of its armed power, felt impelled to inject a note of caution. While criticizing the “confused network of (p.415) committees and juntas,” urging the centralization of all administrative authority in the hands of the government, and warning that “a revolution that does not have a disciplined, energetic, and responsible government is condemned to failure,” he offered the following pacifier to the CNT and FAI: “Some republicans believe, even dream, that in the future a political and social system will be established equal to or similar to the one that existed before 19 July. This simply demonstrates their blindness and lack of loyalty because this is not possible. Nor would it be right or legitimate. I have said and I say it again that the time has come for political power to pass into the hands of the working classes. For this reason they should be the most interested in watching over the purity, the honor, the effectiveness, and wisdom of the work of government.”4 These words seemed to placate the libertarian leaders, who firmly believed in Companys’s early commitment to the Revolution. Said Solidaridad Obrera: “Luis Companys is in agreement at the present time with the proletarian organizations … especially with the CNT, and reveals a political vision that is more perceptive, more sincere, and more loyal than that of some of his correligionists.”5

But no amount of subtle statecraft or artful treatment of the CNT and FAI by President Companys or Premier José Tarradellas, the main architect of the policy of conciliation, could appease the more impatient members of the middle and lower middle classes, who were faced with immediate or gradual economic ruin. They longed for a rapid end to Anarchist power and saw in the dynamic leadership and aggressive policies of the PSUC the only hope of salvaging some of their possessions from the wreckage of the Revolution. No wonder that they continued to flock to the rival party in growing numbers. Tarradellas, on the other hand, undoubtedly believed, as one admirer capsulized his thinking, that “the time of the Esquerra would come when Anarchosyndicalism, through political immaturity, would collapse of its own accord” and that it was far wiser, at least for the time being, to pursue a policy of accommodation with its leaders than to force them into intransigent positions.6

For this reason, Tarradellas, while urging the centralization of all administrative authority in the Generalitat government and the enforcement of the government’s decrees, frequently defended the CNT and FAI from Communist attack. On one occasion, for example, when an armed clash threatened to erupt in the town of Granollers, he endeavored to prevent the dispatch of government reinforcements.7 On another, he sided with the CNT when the PSUC criticized the Anarchist-dominated commission of war industries, over which he presided,8 and, on yet another, he vigorously defended the CNT councillor of defense, Francisco Isgleas, and his undersecretary, Juan Manuel Molina, against Communist charges of procrastination in implementing the government’s decrees.9 For his frequent defense of the libertarians, Tarradellas received their glowing praise.10 Not surprisingly, he soon found himself at odds with the more truculent leaders of his party, such as Artemio Aiguadé, the councillor of internal security, who favored the fearless audacity and head-on tactics of the PSUC. “[I] knew,” Tarradellas averred some years later, “that important people in the Esquerra were (p.416) colluding to some degree with the Communists in order to put an end to the problem of the CNT, that there were people who believed that the matter could be resolved in one afternoon and that nothing would happen. I never held that view. It was not loyal, not by any means.”11

His cautious policy, backed initially by Companys and by some of the other leaders of the Esquerra and Acció Republicana, a small Catalan middle-class party, irked the PSUC, but not until after the war did the party criticize the premier openly. “The bourgeois leaders,” ran a PSUC document, specifically referring to Tarradellas, “collaborated directly and indirectly with the counterrevolutionary policy of Anarchism in the secret hope of precipitating its ideological collapse and then taking into their hands the political and economic power of the [region].”12

To the dismay of many of the Esquerra leaders, the PSUC was able to exploit Tarradellas’s prudent tactics to attract to itself not only the more restless segment of the urban middle classes but also large numbers of sharecroppers and tenant farmers of the Unió de Rabassaires and adherents of the CADCI, the Centre Autonomista de Dependents del Comerç i de la Industria (union of office workers and retail clerks), both of which organizations had been inviolable preserves of the Esquerra before the outbreak of the Civil War.13 It has now been revealed in the biography of PSUC secretary Juan Comorera, published in 1984, that José Calvet, the president of the Unió de Rabassaires and councillor of agriculture in every wartime cabinet of the Generalitat, not only “collaborated closely with Comorera” but was an active member of the PSUC.14 Hence, the real strength of the PSUC in the various Catalan administrations was greater than appeared from their official composition.

No sooner had the PSUC achieved its goal during the cabinet reshuffle in December than it turned its attention to the committees that had assumed control of the wholesale food trades at the outset of the Revolution. In an attempt to weaken the power of the CNT in this vital area and to reestablish freedom of trade, Juan Comorera, the PSUC secretary and councillor of supplies in the new cabinet, decreed the dissolution of the committees. These committees, he alleged, shortly before issuing his decree, had replaced the middlemen, “to the prejudice of society,” and were responsible for the enormous increase in the cost of food.15 Although the Anarchosyndicalists argued that the committees prevented the rich from speculating at the expense of the workers, it is clear from the CNT and POUM press that the committees “in the name of ‘Liberty and the Revolution’” were also guilty of “a thousand and one abuses”16 and “in most cases perpetuate the vices of the bosses and speculate just like them.”17 Nevertheless, the real point at issue was not so much the question of the abuses as the economic power of the committees. The policy of the PSUC, affirmed POUM secretary Andrés Nin, was aimed at “the reestablishment of freedom of trade and the destruction of the entire revolutionary work of Comrade Doménech, the former [CNT] councillor of supplies, against the speculators.”18

But it was a far cry from the publication of Comorera’s decree to its enforcement (p.417) as long as the armed power of the revolutionaries remained intact. To undermine their position, the PSUC applied unremitting pressure after the December crisis to end the duality of police power in the region. This was divided, as we have seen, between the patrols, on the one hand, under the authority of the CNT-dominated Junta de Seguridad, and the Assault and National Republican guards, on the other, under the control of the Esquerra councillor of internal security, Artemio Aiguadé. One important by-product of the crisis was the appointment by the pro-Communist Aiguadé19 of Eusebio Rodríguez Salas, a PSUC member, as comisario general de orden público, or police commissioner, in place of the less aggressive, yet anarchophobic, Martí Rouret, a member of the Esquerra. Next to Comorera, Rodríguez Salas soon became the libertarians’ principal object of execration. A former Anarchist, he had long before the war abjured his libertarian creed, joined Maurín’s Bloque Obrero y Campesino, and finally allied himself with the small Catalan Communist party, bringing to the PSUC the fearlessness and daring that had characterized his activity as an Anarchist.20

Shortly after the December crisis, the Catalan UGT, which represented the PSUC in the government,21 proposed that all the forces of public order—patrols as well as Assault and National Republican guards—be dissolved and their members incorporated into a single internal security corps.22 The CNT rejected the proposal. “The patrols should not only be maintained; they should be increased,” said Solidaridad Obrera. “All those attacks directed against them are directed at the very heart of our revolution.”23 And the executive committee of the POUM declared: “The proposal must not be approved. To approve it would be equivalent to delivering ourselves bound hand and foot to the bourgeoisie and assisting in the creation of armed forces designed to crush us. PUBLIC ORDER MUST REMAIN IN THE HANDS OF THE WORKING CLASS. To achieve this a security corps must be created that is based on the patrols. … Only in this way will revolutionary order be guaranteed.”24 Nevertheless, with the backing of the UGT-PSUC and Esquerra councillors, the government approved a series of decrees providing for the dissolution of the various forces of public order, including the revolutionary Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, and their reorganization into a single internal security corps, in which, significantly, the positions of command were to be held by the officers of the dissolved Assault and National Republican guards.25

As the libertarian movement—whose representatives in the government had approved some of the provisions or had been outvoted on others26 but had nonetheless observed the principle of cabinet solidarity—did not denounce the decrees, the POUM declared: “If other organizations have not perceived clearly the trend of events and have not reacted as the situation demands, they will make themselves responsible before history. … The fate of the Revolution is in the balance. That is what these organizations that express their loyalty to the Revolution day by day do not appear to understand. … Their policy, which tends to maintain a unity that in no way benefits the Revolution, profits only reformism. … (p.418) Our party has only one mission with regard to these decrees: to denounce them publicly and tirelessly, to work unremittingly and indefatigably for their abrogation, and to see that the working class imposes its own order and its own police forces.”27

To this attack Solidaridad Obrera responded: “We state frankly in plain language and without beating about the bush that the decree relating to public order does not satisfy us. Our representatives in the council of the Generalitat have done the impossible, trying to polish it by removing all those features of a reactionary character. They have only partially succeeded. Although, as a disciplined organization, we respect the legislation, this does not mean that we renounce our efforts to substitute it for a new legal instrument reflecting more closely the true revolutionary political situation in our region. … We regard the creation of that single security corps, [which is] completely alien to the struggles and aspirations of the working people, as a mistake.”28

During the next few days, open and furtive agitation against the decrees reached such intensity that, on 16 March, the regional committee of the CNT, to assuage the fears of the rank and file, announced that the government had agreed to postpone discussion of the decrees.29 This confounded Tarradellas. There was “certainly some misunderstanding,” he said, “as the decrees in question, which were undoubtedly well received by public opinion, were approved by the government and published in the Diari Oficial on 4 March.” What had actually happened, he explained, was that the government had agreed to postpone the appointments to the key positions in the new corps.30 This was true. In fact, because of the agitation, the appointments, which were to have been confined mainly to members of the Assault and National Republican guards, were never made, and the legislation died on the pages of the Diari Oficial, leaving the duality of police powers in the region unchanged.

Meanwhile, the PSUC was agitating for the implementation of other measures. “We have said repeatedly that without a regular army, without a single command, without discipline and without revolutionary order, there is no possibility of victory,” declared the party’s central committee.31 Although the Catalan government had approved the mobilization of the 1934–35 classes in October,32 the measure had remained unheeded, for the CNT held that it would be “very childish to hand over our forces to the absolute control of the government” and that its members should be drafted only by the CNT for service in libertarian units.33 Even after the CNT took over the defense council in December, the Anarchosyndicalists continued to oppose the draft and strove to maintain the integrity and homogeneous character of their armed forces under the control of their own revolutionary leaders. Thus, while the PSUC pressed for the fusion of the militia into a regular army “in the service of the republican government,”34 the CNT urged that the militia be organized into an army “in the service of the Revolution”35 and that all positions of command from the war ministry down should be “CONTROLLED RIGIDLY BY THE REVOLUTIONARY TRADE-UNION ORGANIZATIONS.”36 There, in a nutshell, lay the irreconcilable conflict between the opposing sides.

(p.419) In this dispute, the position of the POUM, which had its own militia forces, was clear: “The only guarantee that the working class can have as to the fate of the Revolution is its own army. And the army of the working class can be no other than … an army recruited from the militia. … It is absolutely necessary that control be maintained by the revolutionary organizations. … In short, our party declares itself resolutely in favor of a regular army, but of a regular army that is the living expression of the Revolution.”37

Intensifying its agitation for a regular army under government control, the PSUC set up a Committee for the Popular Army comprising all parties and organizations with the exception of the CNT, FAI, and POUM. On 27 February, the committee published proposals for the immediate transformation of the militia into units of the regular army, for the mobilization of the 1934–35 classes, for the publication of their induction centers, for the dissolution of all military committees not possessing official government status, and for the appointment of political commissars “by the competent authorities” to all units of the Popular Army.38

On 28 February, the committee held an impressive demonstration and a military parade through the streets of Barcelona. To the CNT, this show of power was a grave challenge. On the ground that the committee usurped his authority, the CNT defense councillor Francisco Isgleas threatened to resign. To avert a cabinet crisis, the Esquerra, prompted by the conciliatory Tarradellas, urged that the activities of the committee be suspended despite “every good intention,” inasmuch as they might constitute a “usurpation of functions and initiatives properly belonging to the Generalitat council.”39 A compromise was reached: the Committee for the Popular Army was officially constituted as an auxiliary body of the defense council, with Isgleas as vice-president and Companys as president.40 This was nonetheless a victory for the PSUC. Through the machinery of the committee, now recognized as an official body, it was able to increase its agitation and to exert even greater pressure on the defense councillor. Mirroring the consternation of the libertarian movement, Tierra y Libertad, the leading mouthpiece of the FAI, declared that behind the PSUC’s campaign for a regular army there lay “a policy of aggression against Anarchism.”41

Simultaneously, Isgleas was under mounting pressure from the central government, which had long opposed the independence of the Catalan militia on the neighboring Aragon front and the military independence acquired by Catalonia as a result of the Revolution. But not until the beginning of March did the Generalitat government, hungry for arms and funds, agree to submit to Valencia’s military decrees and to subordinate the Catalan militia to the war ministry.42 As a result, on 18 March, Isgleas—who, with Tarradellas, had negotiated the financial and military accords on behalf of the Catalan government—was compelled to set firm dates for the call-up not only of the 1934–35 classes but also for the 1932–33 conscripts.43

On 23 March, La Batalla published the following article by Enrique Adroher (Gironella), the propaganda secretary of the POUM and delegate on the CNT-controlled defense council headed by Isgleas, denouncing Valencia’s military policy toward Catalonia:

(p.420) Valencia categorically refused economic help to Catalonia so as to force us to capitulate militarily. Valencia refused arms and ammunition for the Aragon front in order to prevent our proletarian forces from being victorious44 and stimulating the revolutionary will of the Spanish workers. … While the Catalan Generalitat was obliged to beg for money from the central government to pay ten pesetas to the militiamen after one and a half to two months delay, Valencia bought over the officers, promoted them regularly and paid their salaries promptly. … From now on all the expenses of the Catalan army will be met by Valencia, including those of the military commands, of the People’s School of War, and of military operations. Catalonia has lost her military independence. The Catalan proletariat has lost its army. … How can those who call themselves nationalists and even separatists [a reference to the Esquerra autonomists and the separatists of the small Estat Català party] face the Catalan people? How can the CNT councillors face their comrades fighting on the battlefields of Aragon? How can they all justify this shameful capitulation to the central government. … The attitude of the Catalan Left Republicans and of the PSUC reformists is understandable and logical. That they should prefer a thousand times more to see the army in the hands of the Valencia government than in the hands of the revolutionary Catalan proletariat is natural. But the capitulation of the CNT councillors is incomprehensible. It is incredible that the Anarchist comrades, who would rather allow themselves to be killed than permit a revolver to be taken away from them, should quietly agree to surrender the army, which, in the last analysis, is the real weapon of the working class. We have handed over to Valencia, to the partisans of the democratic republic, to the partisans of the strangulation of the revolution, the army of our social emancipation.45

Not all the Anarchists had “quietly” submitted to the demands of Valencia, as the POUM article stated; for early in March—as in the case of the Iron Column already discussed in this volume—nearly one thousand militiamen stationed in Gelsa on the Aragon front left in protest against the militarization decrees, fearing that these measures would transform the militia into an instrument of the state under the rigid control of the government. In Barcelona, they set up The Friends of Durruti (Los Amigos de Durruti)—named after the famous Anarchist, Buenaventura Durruti, killed in November on the Madrid front—to combat the “counterrevolutionary” policy of the leadership of the CNT and FAI. Officially constituted in March 1937 with Félix Martínez and Jaime Balius (the latter, director or editor-in-chief at the time of the CNT newspaper La Noche) as secretary and vicesecretary, respectively,46 the organization increased its membership, according to Balius, to between four thousand and five thousand by the beginning of May.47 None of its adherents, Balius affirmed, belonged to the Bolshevik Leninists, despite numerous claims to the contrary—for example, by Frank Jellinek, the Manchester Guardian correspondent in Spain, who alleged, as did the Communists, that the organization was “penetrated and controlled” by Trotskyists.48 However, G. Munis (Manuel Fernández Grandizo), the leader of the minuscule (p.421) group of Spanish Bolshevik Leninists, acknowledges a comradely relationship: “Not only did we work fraternally with the workers of the Friends of Durruti, but they helped us in the sale and distribution of our newspaper.”49

Whether the withdrawal from the front of so large a group of militiamen had any effect on the Anarchosyndicalist leadership cannot be said with certainty, but it is noteworthy that only a day after the first draftees were due to present themselves at their induction centers, in compliance with the military decrees, the CNT councillors, led by Francisco Isgleas, walked out of the Generalitat government, provoking a cabinet crisis.50

The PSUC and CNT were now deadlocked over every crucial issue. The libertarian movement had tried to protect the independence of its armed forces by temporizing or by feigning acceptance of the government’s decrees; but the pretense could not be continued, and an open split in the cabinet was inevitable. As a condition for resolving the crisis, the libertarians demanded that the legislation on public order “undergo such a fundamental change that only the title remain” and that the defense council should be authorized to prevent “by every means at its disposal military parades and demonstrations and whatever prejudices or undermines revolutionary morale and the will to fight.”51 The PSUC, on the other hand, declared that it had not provoked the crisis and had done everything possible to avoid it. “A government must be formed that will not allow any segment or group constantly to obstruct [its] work in favor of the war. A government must be formed that will honor its commitments and implement the decrees that have been approved unanimously but have not yet been put into effect.”52 Furthermore, it insisted that the Anarchosyndicalists sign a pledge that the military and public order decrees approved by the previous government would be executed “without modification” and that all the measures of the new government would be fulfilled.53 But the CNT was not about to set its signature to any document that might later be used against it and that, in its opinion, “ran counter not only to the ideological principles that inspire our organization but to the very essence of the Revolution and to the conquests achieved by the working masses since 19 July.”54

The crisis was now entering its second week with no solution in prospect. On 3 April, President Companys put together, as a last resort, a makeshift cabinet comprising six councillors:

José Tarradellas


First Councillor (Premier) and Councillor of Finance and Education

Artemio Aiguadé


Internal Security

Juan Comorera


Public Works, Labor, and Justice

José Calvet

Unió de Rabassaires

Agriculture and Supplies

Francisco Isgleas



Juan J. Doménech


Economy, Public Services, and Health


No one regarded the new government as anything but a stopgap, least of all Companys, who, expressing his growing impatience with the CNT at the outset of the crisis, had called for a “government that can govern and can impose its will on those who obstruct its work.”55

It was now becoming increasingly apparent that Companys was losing sympathy with the prudent tactics of Tarradellas, who hoped to maintain his policy of accommodation with the CNT until such time as it might nullify itself by its ideological contradictions and political naïveté. As Miquel Caminal, a Comorera admirer and a keen expositor of the Catalan political drama, observes, such important men in the Esquerra as Companys and Aiguadé were “closer to the positions of Comorera than to those of Tarradellas.” While Tarradellas, he affirms, was ready to make formal but not substantive concessions to the CNT in the belief that an open breach of governmental unity would be fraught with “unforeseeable consequences,” Comorera, on the other hand, believed that formal collaboration without substance would simply diminish the authority of the government and would have “even more dramatic consequences.” The divergence of opinion, he adds, revolved around the question of “unity or authority.”56 Obviously, the PSUC’s answer was “authority.”

On 7 April, the PSUC and UGT launched a “Victory Plan” for Catalonia. “The whole problem at the present time,” ran the preamble, “hinges on the question of power, on the question of authority. Without authority there can be no army. Without authority there can be no war industry. … Without authority there can be no victory.” Its main points were: (1) the rapid creation of a regular Popular Army of Catalonia as an integral part of the Republican army, (2) immediate organization of five divisions on the basis of the 1932–36 classes, (3) nationalization of the basic war industries and the militarization of transport, (4) rapid creation of the single internal security corps in compliance with the decrees approved by the previous government of Catalonia, and (5) concentration of all arms in the hands of the government.57

The entire plan was in conflict with the revolutionary aims of the CNT. “We have already made too many [concessions],” warned Solidaridad Obrera, “and believe that the time has come to turn off the spigot.”58

Andrés Nin, the POUM leader, welcomed this stand: “On 19 July the working class had power in its hands. … It allowed the opportunity to pass. … The proletariat still holds in its hands important positions. … If today we do not take advantage of the situation to take power peacefully, tomorrow we shall have to resort to a violent struggle to put an end to the bourgeoisie and the reformists. … With great anxiety we have watched the vacillations and doubts of the (p.423) CNT leadership. Too many concessions have been made to the counterrevolution. … For this reason we welcome with pleasure the CNT’s present stand. … The CNT has declared: ‘Here we stop! Not a single step backward!’”59

On 10 April, Tierra y Libertad, the FAI organ, reflecting the mood of the more radical spirits, declared: “CRUSH THE COUNTERREVOLUTION, COMRADES! That is your mandate. Our duty is to make it a reality.” Despite this mandate, the CNT leaders continued their negotiations with the PSUC and Esquerra representatives in the Generalitat Palace in search of a modus vivendi that might stave off open warfare between the opposing camps. But the streets outside seemed paved with dynamite as sporadic clashes proliferated and the danger of civil war loomed more ominously with every passing hour. “No one could be sure of his physical safety,” writes Miquel Caminal in his biography of Juan Comorera, “and the best proof of this were the spectacular bodyguards that always escorted some political leaders. Because of his political activity, Comorera held many lottery tickets and his official car was always accompanied by another with men armed to the teeth.”60

On 16 April, President Companys set up another stopgap government to tide things over. A few weeks later he recorded:

For a long time the councillor of [internal] security Aiguadé had been demanding additional forces [from the central government]; those of the Generalitat were insufficient [to meet the needs of the situation]: Only two thousand armed assault guards, six hundred others unarmed, and few national guards. The policy of unity and tact had to go hand in hand with an effort to increase the authority of the government by taking action in specific cases involving so-called uncontrolled [i.e., CNT-FAI] groups and coercive measures directed against the government’s orders. This I had been demanding with insistence not only because of the pressure of public opinion, but also because of the very demands of the Ministry of the Interior and other authorities of Madrid, and the comments in the foreign press regarding the frontier, etc., etc. The complexity of the situation made reinforcements necessary, because even with the utmost tact it was anticipated that a clash might occur. The government of the Generalitat was exhausting its resources for resolving the situation and public opinion was pressing. The power of the government was growing constantly, but the majority of the people in Catalonia were irritated to such a degree that there was a danger that the government might lose public confidence and that the forces of public order in the service of the Generalitat might become demoralized.61

The new cabinet set up by Companys on 16 April possessed the same political composition as the one formed on 16 December, although with a few minor changes:

José Tarradellas


First Councillor (Premier) and Councillor of Finance

Antonio María Sbert



Artemio Aiguadé


Internal Security

José Calvet

Unió de Rabassaires


José Miret



Rafael Vidiella


Labor and Public Works

Juan Comorera



Francisco Isgleas



Andrés Capdevila



Juan Doménech


Public Services

Aurelio Fernández


Health and Public Assistance


Like the makeshift cabinet formed on 3 April, the new government was stillborn. Its members could not agree on a common program, and the festering problems of military and police control remained in all their intractable complexity.

The POUM characterized the patched-up crisis as a mockery—“a mockery that is all the more intolerable because three weeks have passed—exactly three weeks—and then things are left exactly as they were.” Again it criticized the CNT. “The comrades of the National Confederation of Labor did not know what attitude to adopt [at the outset of the war] toward the problem of power. … [Instead] of urging the working class to seize power completely, they preferred to regard it as a simple question of collaboration. … We are certain that the mass of CNT workers will view the solution of the present crisis with the same disfavor as we do. … [This] solution is no solution … because it has resolved nothing. … The problems of the Revolution … will be posed again in the future sooner than many believe. … The reformists will not abandon their aims. If the comrades of the CNT do not realize this, so much the worse for them and so much the worse for all of us. Because what is at stake is not the future of this or that organization, but the future of the Revolution.”62

The next day the Barcelona committee of the POUM declared: “The government that has just been formed is an attempt to establish a truce, no matter how brief, in the struggle between the Revolution and the counterrevolution. The small bourgeoisie and the reformists will take advantage of this breathing spell that has been given them to gain and consolidate new positions. The working class has the historic duty to prepare itself for a definitive solution [of the crisis] … by instituting a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.”63

Although the CNT leadership had agreed to paper over the crisis, the real mood of the libertarian movement was reflected in its press. “The CNT,” said Solidaridad Obrera on 17 April, “accepts the solution of the conflict on the understanding that the course followed by the previous council has been cut short (p.425) and with the conviction that this course will be substituted by a just policy that respects and consolidates the revolutionary gains of the proletariat.” “[The CNT],” ran another article in the same issue, “has on many occasions appeared flexible and accommodating in the extreme. But beware! Let no one mistake its meaning or think that the Spanish Anarchists will allow themselves to be trampled underfoot with impunity by their so-called comrades!”

The same day, Ruta, the organ of the FIJL, the Libertarian Youth, declared: “[The counterrevolution] is attempting to take possession of the state apparatus. Yesterday it asked for a large, single security corps. … Today it proposes a regular army devoid of revolutionary content. What is the aim of these rascally maneuvers? … To be able to rely on forces that will serve it without question, so that tomorrow it can drown the social gains of the proletariat in blood. How can this plan be frustrated? … By forging the military organization of the Revolution. … To [the young men in the rear] we make an ardent appeal: FORM THE CADRES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH BATTALIONS!”

And another article in the same issue threatened: “The time has come to make the counterrevolution retreat. The FAI and the Libertarian Youth … have stated that … they will have to fight to put an end to those people who are incapable of being loyal and, even less, of feeling the cause of antifascism and the Revolution to the full. … [The] way to prevent the sacrifices of our comrades from being reduced to naught is … to create an army that will guarantee victory in the war and the Revolution and to remove from the public life of Catalonia, Comorera, Aiguadé, Rodríguez Salas, etc.” And, finally, on the same day, Tierra y Libertad declared in banner headlines: “FOR CERTAIN POLITICAL PARTIES THE ESSENTIAL THING IS NOT THE DESTRUCTION OF FASCISM. WHAT OBSESSES THEM IS THE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT. WHAT CONSUMES THEIR BEST ENERGIES IS THEIR CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE CNT AND FAI … IF THEY WANT TO REPEAT IN SPAIN WHAT THEY HAVE DONE IN OTHER COUNTRIES, THEY WILL FIND US ON A WAR FOOTING.”

Meanwhile, the PSUC intensified its campaign for the integration of the Catalan militia columns on the Aragon front into the Popular Army and for the creation of a single internal security corps under the control of the Catalan government, but without success. It is true that certain structural changes, prompted by the military accords with Valencia, did in fact take place: the three Anarchosyndicalist units, Jubert, Durruti, and Ascaso, became the Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, and Twenty-eighth divisions, respectively; the Barrio-Trueba Column of the PSUC, the Twenty-seventh; the POUM Column, the Twenty-ninth; and the Maciá-Companys Column of the Esquerra, the Thirtieth; but they all remained under the control of their respective organizations. As for the decrees on public order, they were consigned to all intents and purposes to the waste basket.64

In the midst of the heightening tension came an abortive attempt, on 24 April, on the life of the Communist police commissioner, Rodríguez Salas.65 Then came the murder the next day of Roldán Cortada, leader and secretary to Rafael Vidiella, the PSUC councillor of labor and public works. A shiver of apprehension (p.426) passed through the region. The assassination, which Rodríguez Salas attributed to “uncontrollables”66—a term now commonly used to characterize all refractory elements of the CNT, FAI, and FIJL (the Libertarian Youth) who were opposed to government collaboration and sought the adherence of the libertarian movement to its antistatist principles—added fresh heat to the simmering conflict. “AN END TO IMPUNITY!” cried La Humanitat, the Esquerra organ. “Public order must be organized rapidly and under the command of a single person, who must put an end, rapidly and relentlessly, to [these] criminal deeds that occur all too frequently. No longer can we permit groups of individuals who have been given the name of uncontrollables to impose by force their own will and their own law upon the majority of citizens.”67 “Isn’t it a disgrace,” asked the Diari de Barcelona, the mouthpiece of the separatist Estat Català, a small but militant middle-class nationalist party, “that there are still uncontrollables and agents provocateurs? … And the decrees on public order approved some time ago by the Generalitat, why have they not been implemented? What purpose do the authorities serve?”68

And a joint manifesto issued by the PSUC and UGT demanded: “An end to the assassination of militant workers! An end to provocations against antifascist and proletarian unity! War against agents provocateurs in the pay of national and international fascism! The people demand justice and are prepared to impose it at all costs.”69

On 27 April, the day of Cortada’s funeral, the PSUC organized a giant procession. “[It] was not merely a funeral; it was a plebiscite,” said Treball, the party organ. “Thousands upon thousands of workers, of antifascists, marched through the streets of Barcelona … united fraternally in sorrow, but also in protest. … The grandiose funeral has demonstrated that the Catalan people are resolved to put an end to the murderers and nests of bandits who want to frustrate our victory over fascism. A plebiscite has been held. And the figures of the plebiscite tell us that what we have experienced up to now we cannot tolerate a day longer; that the antifascist masses must unite … against the enemy within, against those we call uncontrollables.”70

While the CNT protested that it was “repugnant” to “make political capital out of a painful event that has cost the life of an antifascist comrade,”71 the POUM declared that the funeral was a pretext for “a counterrevolutionary demonstration.” “Through the unions large numbers of Catalan workers were mobilized … [moved by] sympathy for the death of a militant worker fallen in the struggle in the rear. … The essential political aim of demonstrations like that of yesterday is to create among the reactionary small bourgeoisie and among the most backward layers of the working class a POGROM atmosphere against the revolutionary vanguard of the Catalan proletariat: CNT, FAI, and POUM. A psychological climate is being created preparatory to actions of greater magnitude.”72

Fast on the heels of Roldán Cortada’s assassination came the slaying of Antonio Martín, the Anarchist president of the revolutionary committee in the border town of Puigcerdá, during an encounter with Assault and National Republican (p.427) guards (Guardia Nacional Republicana, formerly the Civil Guard) in the neighboring village of Bellver.73 Shortly thereafter truckloads of carabineers—a corps composed of customs and excise officials and guards—dispatched from Valencia by finance minister Juan Negrín, began seizing the frontier posts along the Franco-Spanish border hitherto controlled by revolutionary committees.74 Two weeks earlier, on 16 April, an order issued by Negrín, assigning certain reorganized carabineer units for duty on the border,75 had given advance warning of Valencia’s intention to recapture this vital element of state power usurped by the revolutionaries and essential to the control of foreign trade and currency and to the flow of arms.76

Knowledge of the death of Martín, of the seizure of frontier posts by the carabineers, of attempted disarming by Assault and National Republican guards, and of raids by Rodríguez Salas, the Communist police commissioner, into the Anarchist stronghold of Hospitalet,77 to flush out Roldán Cortada’s alleged killers, caused the storm clouds gathering in Barcelona to darken and thicken perceptibly.

On 29 April, groups of armed men mobilized by the local committees of the CNT and FAI occupied the streets of the Catalan capital. All had rifles and some wore hand grenades around their waists. At 6 P.M. the government met but, after a brief session, announced that it would not continue its work under the pressure of groups who were “trying to impose their will by force and to compromise the war and revolution.” “The government is therefore suspending its meeting and hopes that all persons not subject to its direct authority will immediately leave the streets so as to make it possible for the state of disquiet and alarm that Catalonia is presently experiencing to quickly disappear. At the same time the council of the Generalitat has taken the necessary steps to ensure the strict fulfillment of its orders.”78

May Day was approaching. The negotiations that had been proceeding between the UGT and the CNT for a joint demonstration had to be abandoned.79 The widening chasm between the opposing sides prevented any slogan from being found that was broad enough to bridge their differences even for a day. “[Under] the surface-aspect of the town,” wrote George Orwell, an eyewitness, “under the luxury and growing poverty, under the seeming gaiety of the streets, with their propaganda-posters, and thronging crowds, there was an unmistakable and horrible feeling of political rivalry and hatred. People of all shades of opinion were saying forebodingly: ‘There’s going to be trouble before long.’ The danger was quite simple and intelligible. It was the antagonism between those who wished the revolution to go forward and those who wished to check or prevent it—ultimately, between Anarchists and Communists.”80

In the explosive atmosphere the new ultraradical Anarchist organization, the Friends of Durruti, became extremely active. In the last days of April, they plastered Barcelona with their slogans. “We accept their program,” wrote Juan Andrade, commonly regarded as the most radical member of the POUM executive, “and are ready to agree to whatever proposals may be made to us.81 There (p.428) are two points in those slogans that are also the fundamental ones for us: All power to the working class, and democratic organs of the workers, peasants, and combatants, as an expression of proletarian power.”82

On 1 May, the POUM executive declared:

For two days, the workers have been standing guard. [They] … have been watching day and night over the fate of the Revolution. … They are neither uncontrollables or provocateurs. They are the same workers who fought in the streets on 19 July. ..

Bearing arms, they are keeping vigil because their patience is exhausted. They are tired of so much political capitulation, of paper governments based on impotent compromises. …

We have no confidence in the members of the government. For this reason we keep watch in the streets. …

We can no longer tolerate the real uncontrollables. We want control, but absolute control. At the front and in the rear. Control by the working class. …

But our action must not degenerate into a sporadic movement, into a suicidal “putsch,” that would jeopardize the triumphant march of the working class. No, not the action of groups only [but] the action of all the workers with a concrete program and a clear understanding of the needs and possibilities of the moment.

And for this a Revolutionary Workers’ Front [is needed] formed by the proletarian parties and organizations committed to winning the war and leading the Revolution to its final consequences.

And a government [is needed] that is the expression of those who work and those who fight, a workers’ and peasants’ government, elected democratically by the workers and peasants and by the combatants.83



(1.) La Batalla, 5 Jan. 1937.

(2.) George Esenwein, in a note prepared at my request, writes: “The statement provoked the Soviet Consulate General to declare publicly that ‘the communication published in La Batalla of 5 January, under the title, Warning Note!, was based on false material.’ Furthermore, the Consulate claimed that the Transocean Agency did not exist in the USSR and that ‘in the Soviet press there is not and cannot be any space for an attack on the fraternal workers’ movement organized in the National Confederation of Labor [CNT]’ (quoted in La Batalla, 9 Jan. 1937). The POUM attempted to prove the validity of the news release by reproducing the page of Universal Gráfico, where it had originally appeared (ibid.), although it never produced any extract from either Pravda or Izvestiia of 17 December 1936 containing the disputed quote. In fact, the Consulate General was right in saying that no such attack had appeared, for the only article on the subject of Spanish Trotskyism was one published in Pravda called ‘Slanderous Maneuvers of the Trotskyists in Catalonia,’ which was simply a reproduction of an article in Mundo Obrero. But while this article is censorious of the POUM, it does not contain the quote that La Batalla took from Universal Gráfico. In any case it is hard to imagine that the Kremlin at that time would publicly proclaim its intention to destroy the Anarchosyndicalists, for Vladimir A. Antonov-Ovseenko, the Consul General, was attempting to curry favor with the CNT-FAI leaders (see, for example, Diego Abad de Santillán, Alfonso XIII, la II república, Francisco Franco, 360–61, also 426–27). It is noteworthy that the apocryphal POUM quote was later attributed to Pravda of 17 December 1936 and was used in a pivotal way by countless writers and historians, including Diego Abad de Santillán, Gerald Brenan, Julián Gorkin, and Hugh Thomas (although it was eliminated from the 1977 edition of the latter’s work on the Spanish Civil War). I am grateful to Hilja Kukk of the Hoover Institution for having carefully examined Pravda and Izvestiia for the 15th, 16th, and 17th December 1936. A similar account of the apocryphal nature of the Pravda article appears in Frank Mintz, L’autogestión en la España revolucionaria, 227–28, which was consulted after this note was written.”

(3.) See Ultima Hora, 28 Dec. 1936; La Humanitat, 29 Dec. 1936.

(4.) La Humanitat, 29 Dec. 1936.

(5.) 30 Dec. 1936. See also Solidaridad Obrera, 29 Dec. 1936.

(6.) For this information I am indebted to Felipe Ubach, an aide in the premier’s office, when interviewed by me in Mexico in 1945. Cf. Tarradellas’s letter to me, dated 24 Mar. 1971, pp. 3, 6, Hoover Institution.

(7.) Boletín de Información, CNT-FAI, 26 Mar. 1937.

(8.) Solidaridad Obrera, 6 Feb. 1937. For Tarradellas’s support of the CNT, see Miquel Caminal, Joan Comorera, II, 96–97.

(9.) Treball, 18 Mar. 1937.

(10.) Tiempos Nuevos, Feb. 1937.

(12.) España Popular, 30 May 1940.

(13.) For a PSUC reference to its influence over the CADCI, see Víctor Colomer, Informe presentat a la primera conferencia nacional del partit socialista unificat de Catalunya I.C., 15. On 19 September 1936, the PSUC organ, Treball, stated that the Unió de Rabassaires had fifty thousand members.

(14.) Caminal, Comorera, II, 150.

(15.) Treball, 22 Dec. 1936.

(16.) Solidaridad Obrera, 21 Apr. 1937.

(p.865) (17.) La Batalla, 23 Apr. 1937.

(18.) Ibid., 29 Dec. 1936. See also ibid., 1 Jan. 1937.

(19.) For a glowing tribute to Aiguadé by the Spanish Communists after the war, see España Popular, 7 Dec. 1946.

(20.) For more information on Rodríguez Salas, Aiguadé, and Martín Rouret, see Josep Coll and Josep Pané, Josep Rovira, 15–60. Rodríguez Salas was appointed on 17 December (El Día Gráfico, 18 Dec. 1936). Coll was secretary general of the Comisaría General de Orden Público and a POUM member. See also CNT dossier on Rodríguez Salas in International Institute of Social History, CNT-FAI Archives, Paquete 005, Caja 305. B. Informes. Dossier 90. Copies of these documents are in the Hoover Institution, Bolloten Collection.

(21.) See Chapter 40.

(22.) Treball, 1 Jan. 1937.

(23.) 28 Jan. 1937.

(24.) La Batalla, 24 Feb. 1937.

(25.) See Diari Oficial, 4 Mar. 1937.

(26.) In announcing the approval of the decrees, which had been heatedly debated during five cabinet sessions, Premier Tarradellas stated, according to Treball, the PSUC organ, that they had been “carefully studied and approved by all the councillors and their respective organizations” (2 Mar. 1937). On the other hand, La Batalla, the POUM organ (3 Mar. 1937) reported Tarradellas as saying that there had been agreement among all the cabinet members “on the majority of the provisions in the decrees,” which was another way of saying that there had been disagreement on some.

(27.) La Batalla, 3 Mar. 1937.

(28.) 4 Mar. 1937.

(29.) Statement to the press by Tarradellas, Treball, 17 Mar. 1937.

(30.) Ibid.

(31.) Ibid., 10 Feb. 1937.

(32.) El Día Gráfico, 1 Nov. 1936; also communiqué issued by the Defense Council published in ibid., 3 Nov. 1936.

(34.) José del Barrio in Treball, 3 Feb. 1937.

(35.) Solidaridad Obrera, 13 Feb. 1937.

(36.) Ibid., 19 Feb. 1937.

(37.) La Batalla, 21 Feb. 1937. For Trotskyist criticism of the POUM’s “vacillating” policy in the military arena, see G. Munis, Jalones de derrota, 369.

(38.) Treball, 27 Feb. 1937.

(39.) El Día Gráfico, 2 Mar. 1937.

(40.) Treball, 5 Mar. 1937.

(41.) 6 Mar. 1937.

(42.) Little information relating to the accords was ever published and then only in general terms. See, for example, El Día Gráfico, 4 Mar. 1937; La Batalla, 5 Mar. 1937; Ultima Hora, 5 Mar. 1937. Ramón Salas Larrazábal, Historia del ejército popular de la república, I, 1042–45, however, sheds some light on this matter, but, despite his diligent research, he was unable to find any official order merging the Catalan militia with the Popular Army.

(43.) See Treball, 20 Mar. 1937. The dates were set as follows: 1934–36 classes, 22, 23, 25, 27, 30 March; 1932–33 classes, 5 April.

(44.) Ricardo Sanz, the CNT militia leader, who assumed command of the Durruti Column after the death of its leader in Madrid, wrote after the war that Largo Caballero gave neither arms nor ammunition to the libertarian units, “because of his fear of I don’t know what” (Los que fuimos a Madrid, 151). Solidaridad Obrera, the CNT organ in Barcelona (30 Jan. 1937), charged that the Aragon front was deliberately deprived of arms so that Anarchosyndicalism would fail in Catalonia (see also ibid., 6 June 1937; Ideas, 10 Mar. 1937; Juventud Libre, 17 Apr. 1937, Ruta, 28 Jan. 1937, and La Batalla, 31 Jan., 29 Apr. 1937). There can be no doubt that the hostility to the CNT and FAI was partly responsible for the paucity of arms and inactivity of the front during the first year of the war. The following comment by Walter Krivitsky is worth recording: “Stalin was determined to support with arms and man power only those groups in Spain which were ready to accept without reservation his leadership. He was resolved not to let the Catalonians lay hands on our planes, with which they (p.866) might win a military victory that would increase their prestige and thus their political weight in the republican ranks” (In Stalin’s Secret Service, 91–92). But there were other important reasons for the inactivity of the Aragon front: the political rivalry among the various units, the lack of discipline, the absence of a single command (see Chapter 25), and the tensions in Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia, where more arms were held than at the front. “We cannot silence the fact,” wrote the CNT-FAI militant, Diego Abad de Santillán, “that whereas we had only 30,000 rifles on the Aragon front, in the rear there were about 60,000 in the possession of the various parties and organizations with more ammunition than at the front. Not once, but dozens of times, we suggested that the libertarians hand over their arms… . They argued that we could not disarm our own people while the other parties and organizations were preparing to attack us in the back” (Por qué perdimos la guerra, 68). While it is true that political strife was partly responsible for the paucity of light arms on the Aragon front, this cannot be said of heavy weaponry, which Valencia either deliberately withheld or preferred to send to the threatened Madrid front. George Orwell, who fought with the POUM militia, gives the following vivid picture of the plight of the Aragon front: “Sometimes I used to gaze around the landscape and long—oh, how passionately!—for a couple of batteries of guns. One could have destroyed the enemy positions one after another as easily as smashing nuts with a hammer. But on our side the guns simply did not exist… . There were machine-guns at the rate of approximately one to fifty men; they were oldish guns, but fairly accurate up to three or four hundred yards. Beyond this we had only rifles, and the majority of the rifles were scrap-iron… . Ammunition was so scarce that each man entering the line was issued with fifty rounds, and most of it exceedingly bad… . We had no tin hats, no bayonets, hardly any revolvers or pistols, and not more than one bomb between five or ten men” (Homage to Catalonia, 41–42).

(45.) The article appeared under Enrique Adroher’s pen name of “Gironella.”

(46.) El Día Gráfico, 19 Mar. 1937; see also ibid., 4 Mar. 1937.

(47.) See letters from Balius to me, dated 10, 24 June and 15 July 1946, for detailed information on the group (file “Los Amigos de Durruti,” Hoover Institution).

(48.) The Civil War in Spain, 541.

(49.) La Lutte Ouvrière, 3 Mar. 1939. For material dealing with the creation and activity of the Friends of Durruti, see file “Los Amigos de Durruti,” containing letters from Balius to me, written after the war, and photostatic copy of Jordi Arquer’s typewritten data on the organization based primarily on interviews with Balius and other members (Hoover Institution). See also Frank Mintz and Miguel Peciña, Los amigos de Durruti, los trotsquistas y los sucesos de mayo; Paul Sharkey, The Friends of Durruti: A Chronology; and Jaime Balius, Hacia una nueva revolución. George Esenwein writes: “The Friends of Durruti represented an extremist group within the CNT-FAI movement with significant support on the Aragon front and in Barcelona. By vigorously opposing militarization of the militias as well as the dissolution of the defense committees and the Anarchist-dominated patrols, the group hoped to stem the rising counterrevolutionary tide. From a theoretical standpoint, the Friends of Durruti challenged the reformist posture that had been increasingly assumed by the CNT-FAI leadership. According to a principal spokesman of the group, Pablo Ruíz, ‘the primary objective of the new organization was to preserve intact the tenets of the CNT-FAI as of 19 July so as to ensure that the trade-union organization would assume the leadership of socio-economic affairs without the participation of the political parties’ (La Noche, 24 Mar. 1937, as cited in Mintz and Pecina, 11–12). It is difficult to assess the extent to which the Friends of Durruti influenced the Anarchosyndicalist movement at this crucial juncture of the war. The group did not bring out its own journal, El Amigo del Pueblo, until May, and even though circulation figures are not available, Balius claimed that the second issue had a distribution of around 15,000. According to Balius, the group managed to publish the paper until the end of 1938 and, that same year, his pamphlet Hacia una nueva revolución [without the author’s name, but later published in English with his name under the title Towards a Fresh Revolution] was distributed clandestinely, with an estimated circulation of between thirty and fifty thousand (file ‘Los Amigos de Durruti,’ Hoover Institution, Bolloten Collection). Besides Balius, the vice-president, and Félix Martínez, the secretary, other prominent members included Pablo Ruíz, Francisco Carreño, and Eleuterio Roig. Inflicted with paralysis at an early age, Balius abandoned his medical training to become a political activist. At first, he belonged to the separatist Estat Català party until 1931 and was briefly a member of Joaquin Maurín’s BOC, the Bloque Obrero y Campesino (Jordi Arquer’s letter to Bolloten, 16 July 1971, Hoover Institution; however, his membership in the (p.867) BOC is strongly contested by Alba and Schwartz in their forthcoming work). In 1932, he joined the CNT, eventually becoming an editor of Solidaridad Obrera and, during the war, editor-in-chief of the Anarchosyndicalist evening paper, La Noche (see Pablo Ruíz, ‘Elogio posthumo de Jaime Balius,’ in Le Combat Syndicaliste, 7 Jan. 1981, which also appeared in English in The Alarm, San Francisco, Feb.–Mar. 1982). No doubt the creation of the Friends of Durruti owed a great deal to Balius’s leadership abilities, which have been described by the Swiss Trotskyists, Clara and Paul Thalmann, in the following way: ‘Even at our first meeting with Balius and his friends the dominant impression was that he had an extraordinary gift in handling men. His appraisal of the situation was simple: the Anarchist leadership, because of its participation in the Popular Front government, had abandoned the firm ground of revolutionary Anarchist policy and had become an appendage of Communist strategy’ (Revolution für die Freiheit, 189).” I am indebted to Esenwein for this note written at my request.

(50.) Although Isgleas resigned on 23 March, the crisis was not officially disclosed until 26 March.

(51.) FAI manifesto published in Tierra y Libertad, 3 Apr. 1937.

(52.) Treball, 30 Mar. 1937.

(53.) Comorera, speech at public meeting, Treball, 9 Apr. 1937; see also Tarradellas, statement to the press, ibid., 3 Apr. 1937; Sesé, secretary of the Catalan UGT, statement to El Noticiero Universal, as given in La Publicitat, 3 Apr. 1937.

(54.) Solidaridad Obrera, 4 Apr. 1937.

(55.) Treball, 28 Mar. 1937.

(56.) Caminal, Comorera, II, 93, 107–8.

(57.) Treball, 8 Apr. 1937.

(58.) 8 Apr. 1937.

(59.) Speech, 9 Apr. 1937, published in La Batalla, 11 Apr. 1937.

(60.) Caminal, Comorera, II, 117.

(61.) Luis Companys, “Notes and Documents on the Fighting in Barcelona, 3–7 May 1937.” A copy of this invaluable material was given to me during the war by Ricardo del Río, the head of the Febus news agency in Valencia (Hoover Institution). Its authenticity was confirmed to me by Felipe Ubach, an aide to Premier Tarradellas, who claims that he saw and read a copy in the possession of the premier. Furthermore, Angel Ossorio y Gallardo, the Republican jurist, obviously had a copy to judge from the short excerpts quoted in his biography of Companys, Vida y sacrificio de Companys, 177–78. Ricardo del Río received the document from the famous liberal journalist and Catalanist Francisco Aguirre. For an obituary on Aguirre, see España Republicana, 24 Oct. 1942.

(62.) La Batalla, 17 Apr. 1937.

(63.) Ibid., 18 Apr. 1937.

(64.) For the restructuring of the militia units, see Salas Larrazábal, Historia, I, 1043, and Sanz, Los que fuimos a Madrid, 126–27. What was the true strength of the forces on the Aragon front? Propaganda estimates were as high as 150,000, but this figure was grossly exaggerated. Michael Alpert, in his scholarly monograph, El ejército republicano en la guerra civil, 45–47, states, on the basis of the limited data available, that “it appears improbable that the total number of men on the front exceeded 25,000 at any one time.” This is supported by Helmut Ruediger in his report to the Anarchosyndicalist AIT of 8 May 1937, who states that in mid-April the number of CNT militiamen was 16,000 as compared with 9,000 belonging to other organizations, and by Moulin (Hans Freund), one of the leading Trotskyists in Barcelona, who gives the figure of 23,000, made up as follows: CNT-FAI, 13,000; UGT-PSUC, 5,000; and POUM, 5,000 (Fight, 10 Oct. 1936). He does not include the Esquerra militia.

(65.) El Día Gráfico, 25 Apr. 1937; Treball, 25 Apr. 1937.

(66.) Treball, 27 Apr. 1937. On the other hand, Ramón Liarte, secretary general in 1937–38 of the Libertarian Youth of Catalonia, asserts, although without corroborative evidence: “The Communists themselves had Roldán Cortada assassinated, throwing the blame on the ‘uncontrollables of the FAI.’” It was necessary, he alleges, to find a “‘moral’ justification” for igniting “the antifascist powder keg”—an allusion to the May fighting in Barcelona (Entre la revolución y la guerra, 239).

(67.) 27 Apr. 1937.

(68.) 27 Apr. 1937.

(69.) Treball, 27 Apr. 1937.

(70.) Ibid., 28 Apr. 1937.

(p.868) (71.) Solidaridad Obrera, 28 Apr. 1937; see also ibid., 29 Apr. 1937.

(72.) Article by Juan Andrade, La Batalla, 28 Apr. 1937.

(73.) For the best account of the incident, see Mariano Puente (a member of the CNT) in Nancy Macdonald, Homage to the Spanish Exiles, 171–88. See also Solidaridad Obrera, 29 Apr. 1937 (editorial and statement issued by the secretary of the councillor of internal security); El Día Gráfico, 1 May 1937; Ruta, 14 May 1937; Adolfo Bueso, Recuerdos de un cenetista, II, 227; the Communist writer Manuel D. Benavides, Guerra y revolución en Cataluña, 401–13; and Ramón Liarte (secretary general of the Catalan Libertarian Youth), Entre la revolución y la guerra, 236–38.

(74.) El Día Gráfico, 1 May 1937. According to the official Communist history of the Civil War, the carabineers actually began to arrive at the border region on 17 April and “during the ensuing days proceeded to disarm the gangs of ‘uncontrollables’ and to take possession of the frontier in the name of the central government” (Guerra y revolución en España, 1936–1939, III, 72). On 4 May, Indalecio Prieto informed Manuel Azaña by teletype that Negrín had left Valencia for the border on 30 April (“Azaña-Prieto Tapes,” 11. Information on these teletyped messages is given in Chapter 42). However, according to a teletyped conversation between Comorera and Negrín on the evening of 2 May, quoted by Benavides, Guerra y revolución, 423, the finance minister was still in Valencia on that date. Negrín asked Comorera if he should take any special precautions to reach the frontier through Barcelona, to which Comorera replied: “I have already told you that in Catalonia and [in Barcelona] serious things may happen. You must postpone the trip.” “I’ll take a ‘penknife’ to defend myself,” answered Negrín. “Don’t tell anyone about my intention.” To this Comorera replied: “It will all end well and would have ended well sooner if we had been given the means to purchase a lot of ‘penknives.’ “

(75.) Gaceta de la República, 16 Apr. 1937.

(76.) For the conflict between the CNT-FAI and the central government over the control of foreign trade and the flow of arms from the French border to the rest of Spain during the early part of the war, see letter of Largo Caballero to Spanish ambassador in Paris, Luis Araquistáin, dated 7 April 1937, stating that he had received reports denouncing the seizure of war material at the border by “uncontrolled elements” (Araquistáin Papers, Leg. 32/L40). See also Abad de Santillán, Por qué, 103, 112, 130; Louis Fischer, Men and Politics, 427; and statement by finance minister Juan Negrín, published in El Día Gráfico, 2 Dec. 1937. The above-cited letter of Largo Caballero also refers to problems with the International Brigades representative at the port of Barcelona, who refused to turn over to the war ministry cargoes that he claimed were the property of the brigades.

(77.) La Vanguardia, 28 Apr. 1937; La Humanitat, 28 Apr. 1937; Diari de Barcelona, 29 Apr. 1937.

(78.) La Publicitat, 30 Apr. 1937.

(79.) Agustín Souchy, La verdad sobre los sucesos en la retaguardia leal, 11; Orwell, 160.

(80.) Orwell, 157.

(81.) Some years later, Andrade flayed the Friends of Durruti as “a monument of ideological confusion,” whose “ultrarevolutionary words” had no political effect (see his paper, “Conferencia leída el 10 de Enero de 1970, en el Centro de Estudios sobre el Movimiento Obrero Español, de Paris,” Hoover Institution, Bolloten Collection).

(82.) La Batalla, 1 May 1937. On the same day, the tiny group of Bolshevik Leninists issued a lengthy manifesto directed against the CNT-FAI and POUM leadership and the “reformists” of the PSUC. It stated in part: “On 19 July the working class lacked the essential revolutionary leadership for the conquest of political power… . Anarchosyndicalism completely denied the necessity of political power… . Nor did there exist, nor does there exist, a genuine Marxist vanguard. On the other hand, the reformist movement unmasked itself as the mainstay of the liberal, capitalist bourgeoisie… .

“‘Without the world revolution we are lost,’ Lenin said. This applies even more to Spain. To lead the working class of the world toward insurrection we must show it the way by setting an example… .

“To get the masses oppressed by fascism to rise up, it is essential to show them the socialist way and not make pacts with our own bourgeoisie.

“The war and revolution are inseparable. More precisely, the war cannot be won without the revolution and, even more accurately, only the dictatorship of the proletariat can win the war.

“What is the dictatorship of the proletariat? The domination of the immense majority over the exploiting minority… .

“Who will form the dictatorship of the proletariat? The democratic organs of the masses, the (p.869) committees of workers, peasants, and combatants, their assemblies, local, regional and national congresses and the revolutionary executive committees. The labor unions must organize the economy, but the entire working class must take into its hands the destiny of society.

“The emancipation of the working class can be the task only of the working class itself.



I am indebted to Stephen Schwartz for a copy of this manifesto, which has been deposited in the Hoover Institution.

(83.) La Batalla, 1 May 1937.