The CNT leadership
moved that members of the Friends of Durruti Group be expelled, but it never could get
that measure ratified by any assembly of unions.1
The CNI membership sympathized with the revolutionary opposition embodied in the Group.
Not that this means that they subscribed either to the activities or the thinking of
Friends of Durruti, but they did understand their stance and respected, indeed supported,
their criticisms of the CNT leadership.2
The CNT leadership
deliberately used and abused the allegation "marxist," which was the worst
conceivable term of abuse among anarchists and one that was repeatedly used against the
Group and more specifically against Balius. There is nothing in the Group's theoretical
tenets, much less in the columns of El Amigo del Pueblo, or in their various
manifestoes and handbills to merit the description "marxist" being applied to
the Group. They were simply an opposition to the CNT leadership's collaborationist policy,
making their stand within the organization and upon anarcho-syndicalist ideology. The
first issue of El Amigo del Pueblo was published lawfully on May 19,3
many of its galley proofs erased by the censors. The red and black broad sheet cover page
carried a drawing showing a smiling Durruti holding the red and black flag aloft. Number 1
bore no date. The editorial and administrative offices were listed as No. 1, first floor,
Rambla de las Flores. The paper proclaimed itself the mouthpiece of the Friends of
Durruti. Balius was listed as editor-in-chief, and Eleuterio Roig, Pablo Ruiz and Domingo
Paniagua as editors. The most intriguing article which bore Balius's signature was
entitled "For the record, We are not agents provocateurs," in which Balius
deplored the insults and aspersions emanating from the CNT's own ranks. He mentioned the
handbill and the manifesto issued in May, claiming that he had not reprinted these because
they would assuredly and inevitably have been censored. He directly attacked Solidaridad
Obrera4 for its venomous attitude
towards the Friends of Durruti and refuted the slurs emanating from the CNT leadership:
"We are not agents provocateurs."
No. 2, which
displays no censored passages, had a print run of fifteen thousand copies.5
The colored cover page showed a drawing commemorating Ascaso's death in the attack upon
the Atarazanas barracks. This issue was date-lined Barcelona, Wednesday May 26, 1937. The
cover bore the following notice:
treatment which the censors have meted out to us requires us to give it the slip. The
impertinence of erasing our most insignificant remarks is a shame and a disgrace. We
cannot, nor will we put up with it. Slaves, no!
edition was not presented for censorship and was published clandestinely,6
Prominent in this issue was the denunciation of the watchwords issued by the UGT, the
Stalinist-controlled union which had expelled the POUMists from its ranks and asked that
the CNT treat the Friends of Durruti likewise. It carried no article with Balius's byline.
However, two articles stand out, not so much on account of any intrinsic worth but rather
on account of the mentality they mirror. One of them, signed by "Fulmen" drew
parallels between the French Revolution of 1793 and the Spanish revolution in 1937,
between Marat and Balius and between the Jabobins and the durrutistas. Another,
uncredited article denounced a series of leading Catalanist personalities living in Paris
on retainers from the Generalidad. A comparison was also made in a populist, demagogic
way, between the salaries received by Companys and other politicians and the pay of
militians and the difficulties of raising funds to keep the war going, Both these articles
are interesting, in that they indicate a workerist, demagogic outlook, which seems to have
tied in very well with the day-to-day economic straits and discomforts of the common
people, and which was not commonly found in the rest of the newspapers of the time. This,
we may say, was a characteristic feature of El Amigo del Pueblo. This edition's
editorial comment, which was carried on the back cover under the title "The Negrin
government," bemoaned the formation of a counter-revolutionary government under
Communist Party sponsorship as a result of the May events, the short-term objective of it
being to disarm the working class and form a bourgeois army. The editorial categorized the
resolution of the crisis in the Valencia government as a clear example of colonial
intervention [Russian intervention, it was implied]. Balius was jailed and refused bail
(around mid-June) over this editorial, although he was never brought to trial, since the
Tribunal charged with hearing the case ordered him released. A fortnight after that
release, (around mid-October) he was jailed again (at the start of November) for two
months, under a preventive detention order, and handed over to Commissioner Burillo.7
Thus he was incarcerated for some nine months in all and only escaped a third period
behind bars because he fled Barcelona to avoid it.
Issue No. 3 bore
the date June 12, 1937, claimed to h4ve been published in Barcelona and was now entirely
without color. This issue seemed a lot more pugnacious, and the articles had a lot more
bite to them. There were denunciations of the murder of several anarchist militants,
encroachments against the Control Patrols which it was intended to Outlaw, and the text of
their May handbill was quoted and its content explained. It was announced as imminent
events crucial to the future of the revolution, which was in immediate danger.8
There was an uncredited article, ascribable to Fulmen, on the French Revolution: news of
the military successes of the anarchist Cipriano Mera on the Madrid front: some poems by
Eleuterio Roig: an article by Santana Calero in which he averred that imitating Durruti
meant not appeasement, but rather, advocacy of the latter's ideological positions on the
necessity of winning the war if they were to be free: Durruti's radio broadcast from the
Madrid front was reprinted: there was a demagogic article on the Aragon front and the
rearguard: a scathing denunciation of the latest statements by Peiró regarding the
introduction of a republic like the one in existence prior to July 19 : and above all,
most interestingly of all, an article entitled "Apropos of the May Events" in
which the Friends of Durruti retracted the description "traitors" used in their
Manifesto of May 8th about the CNT’s leading committees, and simultaneously asked that
the description "agents provocateurs" used about the Friends of Durruti by the
CNT be retracted too.
In issue No. 4,
dated June 22, 1937, there was a report of Balius’s having been detained without bail.
Prominently displayed on the cover was the Group's schedule of demands (already re-vamped
several times since it had first appeared in the manifesto issued in late March 1937),
which proposed draconian measures like compulsory unionization, purges of the rearguard,
rationing, arming of the proletariat, disbanding of the agencies of repression, etc. . . .
aimed at defending a revolution menaced by the reaction, and winning the war against the
agents provocateurs,' call for: trade union direction of economic and social life. The
The army and public
order to be overseen by the working class.
Dissolution of the
Armed Corps. Retention of the Defense Committees and Defense Councilorships,
Arms must be in the
possession of the proletariat. Rifles are the ultimate guarantee of the revolution's
gains. No one but the working class may have access to them. Abolition of ranks.
Fortifications battalions to be made up of the Proletariat's enemies.
unionization. Employment bureaus. An end to references in securing employment. Ration
cards. Obligatory labor. The rearguard must live for the war.
all the means of production and exchange. A fight to the death against fascism and its
accomplices. Purging of the rearguard. Establishment of neighborhood committees.
introduction of the family wage, with no bureaucratic exceptions. The war and the
revolution must touch us all equally. Suspension of the bourgeois Parliament. Suspension
against the counterrevolution.
non-compliance with the coercive measures of the State, such as enforcement of censorship,
disarming of the workers, State confiscation of radio stations, etc.
to Municipalization of the means of production until such time as the working class enjoys
absolute mastery of the country.
Reversion to our
organizations' revolutionary tenor in full.
Utter opposition to
governmental collaboration, it being utterly counter-productive in the emancipation of the
War to the death
against speculators, bureaucrats and those behind the rise in the cost of living. On a war
footing against any armistice.
On page 2, the
following announcement or reminder appeared; "Revolutionary Program of the Friends of
Economic power to
the unions. Free municipalities.
We want to step up
a gear. We are anarchists."
In addition, there
was the customary poem from Eleuterio Roig, the usual article by Fulmen on the French
Revolution, and a piece by Santana Calero urging the Libertarian youth and the FAI to get
to work in the trade unions and reaffirming the need to win the war and prosecute the
revolution simultaneously. Of course, outstanding was a memorable article by Jaime Balius
entitled "In self-defense. I require an explanation." In this article, Balius
defended himself against the charge that he was a marxist, a charge leveled at him by the
CNT leaders and CNT press as the most wounding insult of all.
In issue No. 5 of El
Amigo del Pueblo, dated July 20, 1937, and printed in a smaller format, the same
address is given for the paper's administration and editorial offices as in the very first
issue, even though the Group's offices had been shut down by the police and the newspaper
was being printed clandestinely. This was part of a ploy to throw police inquiries off the
scent. They thought that El Amigo del Pueblo was probably being printed in France
by then, in Perpignan or in Montpellier, with the help of French anarchists, although in
fact it was still being published in Barcelona. Starting with this edition, and in all
succeeding issues of El Amigo del Pueblo, all articles were unsigned, except for
the occasional one published under an alias. At no time did Balius allow his imprisonment
to interfere with his contributing to editorials, sometimes even writing articles from
Issue No. 5 is one
of the most interesting of the El Amigo del Pueblo series. Page one carries an
editorial entitled "A revolutionary theory." That article alone would be
enough to highlight the political and historical importance of the Friends of Durruti,
not just in relation to the history of the civil war, but in anarchist ideology. In the
editorial, the Friends of Durruti ascribed the progress of the counterrevolution and the
failure of the CNT, following its incontrovertible, absolute triumph in July 1936, to one
single factor: lack of a revolutionary program. And this had also been behind the defeat
in May 1937. The conclusion to which they had come is spelled out with tremendous clarity:
the downward spiral
[of the revolution] must be attributed exclusively to the absence of a specific program
and short-term achievements, and to the fact that, on this score, we have fallen into the
snares of counterrevolutionary sectors just when circumstances were plainly taking a
favorable turn as far as meeting the proletariat's aspirations was concerned, And by
failing to give free rein to July's awakening along plainly class lines, we have rendered
possible petit bourgeois rule which could never ever have come about, had a unanimous
determination to place the proletariat in the driving scat in this country prevailed.
[ ... ] making the
blunder of thinking that a revolution of the social type could share its economic and
social dynamics with enemy sectors. [ ... ]
In May the problem
was posed anew. Once again the talk was of supremacy in the direction of the revolution.
But the very same persons who, in July, took fright at the danger of foreign intervention,
come the events of May, displayed a lack of vision which culminated in that baleful
'cease-fire' which, later, despite a truce's having been agreed, translated as an ongoing
disarmament and ruthless repression of the working class. [ ... ]
So that, by denying
ourselves a program, which is to say, libertarian communism, we surrender ourselves
entirely to our adversaries, who did and still do have a program and guidelines [ ... ] to
the petit-bourgeois parties which ought to have been stamped out in July and in May. In
our view, any other sector, had it enjoyed an absolute majority such as we possessed,
would have set itself up as absolute master of the situation.
In the preceding
edition of our newspaper we spelled out a program. We are alive to the necessity for a
revolutionary junta, for the unions to have control of the economy and for the
Municipalities to organize freely. Our Group has sought to trace a path, for fear lest
circumstances similar to July and May, might see us perform the same way. And success lies
in the existence of a program which must be unwaveringly backed by rifles [ ... ]
theory fail to make progress. We of the 'Friends of Durruti' have outlined our thinking,
which may be amended as appropriate in great social upheavals, but which hinges upon two
essential points which cannot be avoided. A program, and rifles.
This is a crucial
text, for it represents a landmark in the evolution of anarchist thinking. The
theoretical notions set out here, previously sketched only in a very confused way, are now
spelled out with dazzling clarity. And these theoretical acquisitions were later to be
reiterated and thought through in Balius's pamphlet Hacia una nueva revolución.
But here they appear for the first time. And no one can fail to appreciate the novelty and
significance of them in the context of anarchist thought. The Friends of Durruti had
picked up old theoretical concepts, at which they had arrived at the end of a painful
historical experience, over a civil war and revolutionary process, which had starkly
exposed the contradictions and demands of the class struggle. Are we to believe, then,
that this evolution in the political thinking of the Friends of Durruti can seriously and
verifiably be ascribed to the influence of some outside group, say, Trotskyists or
POUMists? It is beyond dispute that this is an evolution attributable to the Friends of
Durruti Group exclusively. In their analysis of the political and historical situation,
they had come to the conclusion that, in a revolution, there was an ineluctable
requirement that a Revolutionary Junta be established. Naturally, the Friends of Durruti
shunned the characteristic terminology of marxism,9
and employed a different idiom, characteristic of anarchist ideology: and that idiom in
which they frame the notion of "dictatorship of the proletariat," is further
proof that we are dealing here with evolution internal to the Group, rather than its being
colonized or captivated by some outside group. Social and historical realities are
stubborn enough and tough enough to ensure that the elements of revolutionary theory can
germinate in a revolutionary group which simply keeps its eyes open and its mind alert.
In the same edition
of the paper, there was an analysis of events since May, which included a denunciation of
the incarceration and trial of POUM militants by the Stalinists, and the destruction of
the collectives. Pointed contrasts were drawn between the ease in which the middle
classes, the Stalinists' spawning ground, lived, and the persecution of revolutionary
workers. There was also Fulmen's usual piece on the French Revolution, outlining an
interesting contrast between the French revolutionary process and the Spanish. Finally,
there was an outstanding long article denouncing abortive attempts on the part of the
CNT's leading committees to have the Friends of Durruti expelled.
Issue No. 6 of El
Amigo del Pueblo is dated Barcelona, August 12, 1937. The editorial is headed
"Necessity of a Revolutionary Junta" reiterating the previous edition's
editorial about the need for a revolutionary junta and arguing that a revolutionary junta
ought to have been set up in July 1936:
From the July
movement we must conclude that the revolution's enemies must be ruthlessly crushed. This
was one of the chief mistakes for which we are now paying with interest. This defensive
mission will fall to the revolutionary junta which must show the enemy no mercy. [ ... ]
of a revolutionary Junta is of capital importance. It is not a matter of yet another
abstraction. It is the outcome of a series of failures and disasters. And is the
categorical amendment of the trajectory followed hitherto.
In July an
antifascisr committee was set up which was not equal to the implications of that sublime
hour. How could the embryo thrown up by the barricades have developed, incorporating as it
did the friends and foes of the. revolution alike? The antifascist committee, with that
make-up, was scarcely the embodiment of the fighting in July. 10
we advocate that
the only participants in the revolutionary Junta should be the workers of city and
countryside and the combatants who have shown themselves, at every crucial juncture in the
conflict, to be the champions of social revolution. [ ... ]
Durruti Group'which knew enough to work out a precise critique of the May events is even
now sensible of the need to establish a revolutionary Junta, along the lines we have in
mind, and we regard it as indispensable for the defense of the revolution [ ... ]
The evolution of
the Friends of Durruti's political thinking was by now unstoppable. After the necessity of
a dictatorship of the proletariat had been acknowledged, the next issue to arise was: And
who is to extrcise that dictatorship of the proletariat? The answer was: the revolutionary
Junta, promptly defined as the vanguard of revolutionaries. And its role? We cannot
believe that it can be anything other than the one which marxists ascribe to the
However, in No. 2
of La Voz Lenihista, Munis was critical of issue No 6 of El Amigo del Pueblo because he
regarded its contents as a retreat from the same formulas devised by the Friends of
Durruti Group during, and in the immediate aftermath of the May events.
Issue No. 6 also
carried a report on the trial mounted against the POUM and on the murder of Nin, for which
the government in place was held to be accountable: in addition to the customary article
on the French Revolution, there were some others of lesser interest. On the back page
there was a printer's stamp reading "Imp. Libertaria-Perpignan." There is every
likelihood that this was a false trail laid for the police, for El Ainigo del Pueblo was
still being printed in Barcelona.11
Issue No. 7 of the
newspaper was datelined Barcelona, September 31,12
and there were several articles which stood out: on the repression unleashed in Aragon by
the Stalinists in the wake of the dissolution of the Council of Aragon and the break-up of
the anarchist collectives: rebutting the false allegations about the Friends of Durruti
peddled by Agustin Souchy in an anonymous pamphlet published by Ediciones Ebro: opposing
the re-introduction of freedom of religion: protesting at the unreasonable increase in
basic living costs, etc, There was also an outstanding note of humor, very indicative of
the times, which went as follows:
We move the
immediate expulsion from our Organization of persons by the name of Mikhail Bakunin, Peter
Kropotkin, Sébastien Faure, Errico Malatesta and Ricardo Mella.
By way of
compensating for these expulsions, we move that a tribute be paid to the
‘interventionists,’ on account of their having successfully defeated the
renders us incompatible with those who furnish ideological and material sustenance to
‘uncontrollables,’ while it also fills us with admiration for the glorious
‘infallibility’ of the great interpreters of ‘circumstance.’
analyzed the import of the May events, which the Friends of Durruti held to be an
insurrection intended to remedy the mistakes made since July. It railed against the fence
sitting by certain prominent anarchist militants whose resistance of “totalitarian
temptations” amounted to nothing more than an abdication of the introduction of
libertarian communism. Repeatedly, it was argued that anarchists had to learn the lessons
solutions have been shunned. An official seal has been set upon the decision to refrain
from establishing libertarian communism! The line which anarchism is to take - according
to the declarations from comrades in positions of responsibility - is that no antifascist
denomination should seek selfish advantage [. . .] Neither dictatorships nor democracies!
it is argued. Where are we headed? Without a program of our own, we are in danger of
remaining an appendage of bourgeois democracy and risk becoming the victims of any sector
that operates with audacity. [. . . ]
Our present hour
should be read exclusively in the light of past experience. If we persist in shutting our
eyes to reality, which still stinks of the battlefield, the jails and the overall
onslaught of the counterrevolution, we will be brutally driven out of the Peninsula.
We may yet salvage
the revolution. [. . .] Experience is a very hard taskmaster and from it we must deduce
that we have to assert ourselves with the force of firepower and that we must annihilate
those forces which are enemies of the working class and the revolution.
Let us bear in mind
the lessons of experience. Therein lies our salvation.
There was no plea
for a deus ex machina: the Friends of Durruti were anarchists who had learned the lessons
of the harshest firsthand experience. What novelties they introduced to anarchist theory
may well have been old marxist postulates, themselves merely elementary lessons from the
class struggle. But anyone who bandies about labels and regards that as having settled the
matter is ill-advised. If the firsthand experience of the proletariat in the class
struggle is not enough to remedy errors and if history has nothing to teach us from past
struggles, we are left with an affirmation of the primacy of dogma and belief and a denial
that there is any validity in experience and history.
The editorial in
issue No. 8 of El Amigo del Pueblo, datelined Barcelona September 21, 1937, labored the
need for a program if the revolution was to have Any prospect of success. As with the
ideas set out previously, it had nothing new to contribute. The remainder of the articles,
which were fairly interesting, dealt with a variety of topics: food supplies, opposition
to nationalist commemoration of the feast of September 11, the Aragon front, Angel Pestaña’s
return to the CNT fold.
In issue No. 9,
dated October 20, 1937 carried an interesting manifesto, rehearsing the history of their
origins and revolutionary action, as well as a programmatic inventory of the Group's
political standpoints; this proved very controversial and was much commented upon, so much
so that issue No. 10, dated November 8, 1937, carried an editorial defending it. The same
edition greeted the appearance of Alerta, described as an ideologically kindred newspaper.
There was unmistakable venom towards Comorera, who was savagely criticized for his policy
as the man in charge of supplies, and for having dismissed the fighters of July 19 as
“tribesmen.” There was a report that Balius had been jailed again “following a
period at liberty that has lasted barely fifteen or twenty days” 13:
he was convicted as the editor of El Amigo del Pueblo which was condemned as a clandestine
newspaper in that it had refused to present itself for censorship since issue No. 2. The
most interesting articles were entitled “We must speak plainly” and “An historic
juncture.” In humorous tones, it rebutted the usual charges hurled by the CNT at members
of the Group who were labeled as “uncontrollables, provoca-
counterrevolutionaries.” After defending the Group’s members and rehearsing their
revolutionary and combat credentials, the article very tellingly declined to level any
charges against the CNT and the FAI, on the grounds that “that would poison the waters
of the spring from which we all must drink.” Plain in this article is the Friends of
Durruti’s tremendously limited vision of their own fight. They confined themselves to
gentle carping about the “wayward” leaders of the CNT and counted their avoidance of
expulsion from the unions as their ultimate achievement. Their view was that, sooner or
later, the two divergent strands of anarcho-syndicalism would have to come together, for,
otherwise, they could not avoid being crushed by Stalinist dictatorship. It was plain from
this article that the Group was drifting further and further from the radicalized stances
it had struck in May. The second article deserving of comment, “An historic juncture,”
analyzed the unfavorable course of the war, as signaled by the fascists’ uninterrupted
victorious advance and their foreign backing. The Friends of Durruti wondered why whole
provinces like Malaga or the North had been surrendered without their stores, industries
or foodstuffs - which provided booty for the enemy - having been destroyed. The Group
noted that the war on the Aragon front had been lost because of the central government’s
withholding of arms, because those arms would have gone to the CNT. The war effort was
beset by treachery, because the officer class had not been purged, and because there was
no fighting moral in the rearguard, and because bourgeois politicians had no thought for
anything other than amassing a tidy fortune abroad. The Friends of Durruti called upon
workers to win the war, and this call boiled down to the following ten points:
Establishment of a Revolutionary Junta.
economic power to the unions.
Socialization of production and consumption.
Introduction of the producer’s cart.
Mobilization of the entire population.
Purging of the rearguard.
Workers’ control of the army.
The family wage. Abolition of all privileges.
Free municipality. Public order to be placed in workers’ hands.
Rationing of consumption across the board.
This, though, was
merely a list of demands. There was no hint as to how they might be achieved, nor of the
tactics to be employed in order to campaign for them, So it was merely the exposition of a
theoretical program for winning the war, a program beyond the Group’s actual powers to
implement, one which it in any case was not proposing seriously, but only
as a propaganda or
lobbying ploy. But direction of the war, or control of the army, or socialization of the
economy, of control of public order could scarcely be mere demands: because power is not
sued for, but seized. Consequently, we may claim that the Group was, at this point, far
removed from playing any real part. It seemed to have run out of steam: and was becoming a
mere shadow of its former self. The program, the demands, which may have been valid prior
to May, were now a sad caricature and testified to the Group’s utter powerlessness in a
situation which had become thoroughly counterrevolutionary.
Issue No. 11 of El
Amigo del Pueblo was dated November 20, 1937, the anniversary of Durruti’s death and was
almost entirely given over to commemorating that popular anarchist hero. Among the
articles commenting with more or less success upon the person of Durruti, the most
outstanding was undoubtedly the one entitled “Commenting on Durruti,” in which
Solidaridad Obrera was taken to task over Durruti’s ideology and intentions. According
to the author of the piece, Soli was arguing that Durruti had been ready to abjure every
revolutionary principle for the sake of success in the war. The writer in El Amigo del
Pueblo saw this contention as wrong-headed and the worst possible insult that could have
been offered to Durruti’s memory. The version of Durruti’s ideology14
offered by the Group was the very opposite of the one proffered by Soli:
Durruti at no time
abjured the revolution. While he did say that we had to abjure everything save victory,
what he meant was that we had to be ready to face the greatest privation, and to lose our
very lives, rather than let fascism defeat us.
But in Durruti’s
mouth, the notion of victory does not imply the slightest dissociation of the war and the
revolution. [. . .] We do not believe - and of this we are certain - that Durruti was
arguing that the class which had won everything at the cost of the greatest sacrifices
should be the one to give ground constantly and compromise to the advantage of the
adversary class. [. . .]
Durruti was keen to
win the war, but he had his sights on the rearguard. [. . . ] Buenaventura Durruti never
forswore the revolution. Nor do we, the Friends of Durruti, forswear it.
No. 12 of El Amigo
del Pueblo, dated February 1, 1938, carried a prominent editorial: “All power to the
unions,” expounding upon that particular point in the Group’s program. There were
various items on the battle for Teruel, urban transport and Montjuic prison, speculation
in the food sector and the corruption obtaining on the borders.
No. 12 was probably
the last issue of El Amigo del Pueblo. However, Jordi Arquer, in his short history of the
Friends of Durruti argues that a total of 15 issues saw publication; and Balius, in his
letter of June 10, 1946 to Burnett Bolloten, says that it published right to the end of
1938, Our supposition is based upon Balius’s claim in the foreword to the English
edition of that pamphlet, Towards a Fresh Revolution that the Group’s final gathering
took place after publication of that pamphlet, Given that No. 12 of El Amigo del Pueblo
mentions the recent publication of Towards . . . we may conclude that following
publication of the pamphlet in January 1938, and of No. 12 of the Group’s press
mouthpiece on February 1, 1938, the Group held its final meeting and to all intents
carried out no further activity for the remainder of the war. This supposition is in any
case borne out by the swingeingly effective repression that made life impossible for any
revolutionary group. In January 1938, Fosco fled to France to escape arrest. February 13,
1938 saw the capture of the Bolshevik-Leninist Section by police, along with the arrest of
the printer Baldomero Palau, from whose printshop La Voz Leninista and El Amigo del Pueblo
was published. On April 19 the underground committee of POUM (José Rovira, Jordi Arquer,
Oltra Picó, José Rodés, Maria Teresa Garcia Banús, Juan Farré Gassó, Wilebaldo
Solano, etc.) was arrested.
Later, in the
1960s, a second series of El Amigo del Pueblo was published, apparently funded by an
inheritance which had come Balius’s way, This second series, four issues of which we
have examined, contains nothing of interest. Balius’s name appears nowhere and Pablo
Ruiz is listed as the editor-in-chief. The most remarkable feature of it was that every
edition contained a poster for members in the interior, inside Spain itself, to paste up
on walls by way of clandestine propaganda.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER 7
In his article “Por los fueros de la verdad,” Balius has this to say: “Later came
the ukase from the higher committees ordering our expulsion, but this was rejected by the
rank and file in the trade union assemblies and at a plenum of FAI groups held in the Casa
The welcome and widespread sympathy won by the Friends of Durruti from the CNT membership
are evident, not just in the powerlessness of the CNT committees and leadership to secure
their expulsion, but also in the discontent and deliberation which led, following the May
events, to the emergence of a conspiratorial structure within the libertarian
organizations, which threw up documents entitled “Aportación a un proyecto de
organización conspirativa” and “Informe respecto a la preparación de un golpe de
published in the anthology Sucesos de mayo (1937) Cuadernos de la guerra civil No, 1,
(Fundación Salvador Segui, Madrid, 1987)
Issue No. I of El Amigo del Pueblo bears no date. The Group had distributed a notice
announcing that El Amigo del Pueblo, the mouthpiece of the Friends of Durruti, would be
appearing, on Wednesday May 19. Tavera and Ucelay mistakenly give the date of May 11,
1937, probably taken from the Manifesto reproduced on the second page of the first issue
of El Amigo del Pueblo. Paul Sharkey gives the much more likely date of May 20. Then
again, given the weekly periodicity which it was intended the paper should have, and that
issue No. 2 of El Amigo del Pueblo was published on May 26, 1937, there can be no doubt of
the date on which No. 1 appeared.
Solidaridad Obrera was under the management of Jacinto Toryho, who was appointed
editor-in-chief of the CNT’s main newspaper on account of his resolute defense of CNT
collaborationism and discipline. He was profoundly at loggerheads with Balius, who had
always been highly critical of anarchosyndicalist collaborationism. Regarding Toryho and
his enmity and friction with Balius, see the interesting study made in an otherwise
deplorable article by Susana Tavera and Enric Ucelay da Cal, cited earlier. as well as
Jordi Sabater’s book Anarquisme i catalanisme. La CNT i e1 fet nacional catalá durant
la Guerra Civil (Edicións 62, Barcelona, 1986, pp. 109-110)
As stated by Balius in his letter to Burnett Bolloten from Cuernavaca, June 24, 1946.
Jordi Arquer História . . . op. cit. Colonel
Burillo had been involved in the arrest of Nin and the rest of the POUM leadership.
In fact, on June 16, four days after the date on which No. 3 of El Amigo del Pueblo came
out, the POUM was outlawed and its militants and leaders arrested and/or murdered, in an
operation, unprecedented in Spain, overseen by the CPU and Spanish Stalinists.
We need not, we feel, go into the differences between revolutionary marxism and Stalinism.
Anyone interested in this matter can refer to issue No. I of Balance.
So, the Friends of Durruti did not regard the Antifascist Militias’ Committee (CAMC) as
dual power in embryo, but rather as a class collaboration agency. This was the same
conclusion to which Nin, Azaña, Tarradellas, the Bordiguists, etc. had come and flies in
the face of the academic, historiographical thesis presenting the CAMC as embryonic
workers’ power in contradistinction to the Generalidad.
In the indictment drawn up in February-March 1938 against the militants of the
Bolshevik-Leninist Section, there is reference to a starch carried out at the print works
of one of those indicted, the printer Baldomero Palau. The
carried out at the print works in Barcelona’s Calle Salmeron uncovered a masthead for La
Voz Leninista, used in the printing of No. 3, dated February 15, 1938. The document also
mentions the discovery of two mastheads from the newspaper El Amigo del Pueblo. This was
No. 12 of El Amigo del Pueblo, published in Barcelona on February 1, 1938.
in Circular No. 4 from the Regional Labor Confederation (CNT) of Catalonia [held at the
International Institute for Social history in Amsterdam], there is a reproduction of a
circular issued by the Friends of Durruti (date unknown, but we imagine from August 1937)
to all CNT unions in Catalonia, requesting financial assistance in the purchase of a
copying machine because “it is becoming increasingly harder to get out El Amigo del
Pueblo. Printers fight shy of agreeing to typeset and print it, on account of its
clandestine status and for fear of the authorities. The day will come when we will no
longer be able to get it out, because of this problem.”
This was doubtless a printing error. The date should be August 31, 1937, since No. 8 is
dated September 21 and there are only 30 days in September.
As he himself tells us, Balius had been jailed in May 1937: “1 was held on the first
gallery of the Model Prison. This was in May 1937, after the May events.” [ Jaime Balius
“No es hora de confucionismos” in Le Combat Syndicaliste of April 14, 1971]. However,
the first report of Balius having been jailed appeared in issue No. 4 of El Amigo del
Pueblo dated June 22, 1937. Given that issue No. 3 of the Friends of Durruti’s
mouthpiece was dated June 12, 1937, the likelihood is that Balius’s incarceration
coincided with the mass arrests of POUM militants, launched on June 16 when the POUM was
declared outside the law.
At no time do we enter into an examination of Durruti as a person, nor of his political
ideology. We merely mention the claims of his contemporaries. It is not out of place to
recall that Balius held that the Friends of Durruti Group, despite the name, had no
ideological links With Durruti. Then again, Durruti was primarily an activist and was
never a theorist, nor did he ever claim to be. We should point out also that Soli did not
reprint Durruti’s broadcast speeches verbatim and unabridged.