I. Introduction and
The Friends of
Durruti were an anarchist affinity group founded in March 1937. Its members were militians
with the Durruti Column opposed to militarization and/or anarchists critical of the
CNT’s entry into the Republican government and the Generalidad government.
The historical and
political importance of the Friends of Durruti Group lies in its attempt, emanating
from within the ranks of the libertarian movement itself (in 1937) to constitute a
revolutionary vanguard that would put paid to departures from revolutionary principles
and to collaboration with the capitalist State: leaving the CNT to defend and press home
the “gains” of July 1936, instead of surrendering them little by little to the
This edition of Balance
examines the process whereby the Friends of Durruti emerged, their ideological
characteristics and the evolution of their political thinking, their dealings with the
Trotskyists, and the reasons behind the failure of their fight to recover
anarcho-syndicalism’s doctrinal purity and salvage the Spanish revolution of 1936.
There follows a
chronology which, though selective rather than exhaustive, contains heretofore unpublished
information, This chronology is intended to afford familiarity with the essential
historical events, so that the arguments spelled out in this study may be more readily and
July 17-21, 1936:
Servicemen and fascists rebel against the government of the Republic. Where the workers
offer armed resistance, the rebels fail, securing victory only where there are attempts at
conciliation or no armed confrontation. Civil war erupts.
July 21, 1936:
Establishment in Catalonia of the Central Anti-Fascist Militias Committee (CAMC). No
workers’ organization takes power.
August 19-25, 1936:
Trial of the Sixteen in Moscow. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov executed. Radek placed under
September 26, 1936:
Three anarchists —Doménech, Fébregas and Garcia Birlan— join the Generalidad
government in Catalonia.
October 2, 1936:
the CAMC is wound up.
October 12, 1936: A
Generalidad decree dissolves the (revolutionary) Local Committees. These are shortly to be
replaced by new, Popular Frontstyle town councils.
October 27, 1936: A
Generalidad decree orders militarization of the People’s Militias.
November 4, 1936:
Four anarchist ministers —Garcia Oliver, Frederica Montseny, Joan Peiró and Juan López—
join the Republic’s government.
November 5, 1936:
Durruti makes a radio broadcast from the Madrid front, in which he opposes the decree
issued by the Generalidad militarizing the militias, and calls for greater commitment and
sacrifice from the rearguard if the war is to be won.
November 6, 1936:
The Republic’s government (along with the four new anarcho-syndicalist ministers) flees
Madrid for the safety of Valencia. The populace of Madrid’s response is the cry of
“Long live Madrid without government!”
November 7, 1936:
the International Brigades intervene on the Madrid front.
November 9, 1936:
Formation of the Madrid Defense Junta.
November 20, 1936:
Durruti loses his life on the Madrid front.
December 6, 1936:
In Solidaridad Obrera, Balius publishes an article entitled “Durruti’s
Testament” in which he states: “Durruti bluntly asserted that we anarchists require
that the Revolution be totalitarian in character.”
December 16, 1936:
the POUM is excluded from the Generalidad government.
December 21, 1936:
Stalin offers advice to Largo Caballero.
December 29, 1936:
Publication of issue No. 1 of Ideas.
January 26, 1937:
Balius appointed director of La Noche.
February 5-8, 1937:
Plenary assembly of the confederal and anarchist militias meeting in Valencia to consider
the militarization issue.
March 4, 1937: the
newspaper La Noche carries an announcement introducing the aims, characteristics
and membership conditions of the Friends of Durruti Group.
March 4, 1937: the
Generalidad issues a decree winding up the Control Patrols. In La Batalla, Nin
passes favorable and hopeful comment on an article by Balius carried in the March 2nd
edition of La Noche.
March 11, 1937: Ideas
calls for the dismissal of Aiguadé.
March 17,1937: the
Friends of Durruti Group is formally established. Balius is appointed vice-secretary. Ruiz
and Carreño are on its steering committee.
March 21, 1937: the
Iron Column meets in assembly to vote on militarization or disbandment: it agrees to
April 1937: A flyer bearing the endorsement of the Friends of Durruti Group is issued.
April 8, 1937: In Ideas,
Balius has an article published entitled “Let’s make revolution,” in which he says:
“if [Companys] had a larger contingent of armed forces at his disposal, he would have
the working class back in the capitalist harness.”
April 14, 1937: the
Friends of Durruti issue a manifesto opposing the commemoration of the anniversary of the
proclamation of the Republic.
(Sunday) April 18,
1937: The Friends of Durruti hold a rally in the Poliorama Theater. Chaired by Romero, it
hears contributions from Francisco Pellicer, Pablo Ruiz, Jaime Balius, Francisco Carreño
and V. Pérez Combina.
April 25, 1937: the
UGT leader Roldán Cortada is murdered in Molins del Llobregat.
April 27 and 28,
1937: Armed conflict between anarchists and Generalidad forces in Bellver de Cerdaña.
Antonio Martin, the anarchist mayor of Puigcerdá, is shot dead.
Late April 1937: A
poster from the Group is pinned up on trees and walls throughout the city of Barcelona. In
it, the Friends of Durruti set out their program: “All power to the working class. All
economic power to the unions. Instead of the Generalidad, the Revolutionary Junta.”
(Saturday) May 1,
1937: An ordinary working day, for the Generalidad has banned commemoration of the First
of May, in an effort to avert disturbances and confrontations. The Generalidad government
meets in session, congratulating its Commissar for Public Order on the successes achieved.
A panel is made up of Tarradellas (Prime Councilor), Rodriguez Salas (Commissar for Public
Order) and Artemi Aiguadé (Councilor for Internal Security): it promptly holds a meeting
behind closed doors to tackle urgent business relating to public order and security. The
Bolshevik-Leninist Section issues a leaflet.
(Sunday) May 2,
1937: Friends of Durruti rally in the Goya Theater, at which the film “19 de julio” is
screened to comments from Balius: there are speeches by Liberto Callejas and Francisco
Carreño as well. CNT militants interrupt a telephone conversation between Companys and
(Monday) May 3,
1937: A little before 3:00 p.m. three truckloads of Guards commanded by Rodriguez Salas
attempt to seize the Telephone Exchange, on the orders of Artemi Aiguadé. Armed
resistance from the CNT workers on the upper floors thwarts this. Within a few hours, a
host of armed bands has been formed and the first barricades erected. The mobilization
resolves into two sides: one made up of the CNT and the POUM, the other of the
Generalidad, the PSUC, the ERC and Estat Catala. Businesses close down. The train service
stops at 7:00 P.M. At that hour, in the Casa CNT-FAI in the Via Durruti, the CNI Regional
Committee and the POUM Executive Committee meet. The maximum demand is that Rodriguez
Salas and Artemi Aiguadé resign. Companys doggedly opposes this.
(Tuesday) May 4,
1937: Gun-battles throughout the night. Many barricades and violent clashes throughout the
city. In the Sants barrio 400 Guards are stripped of their weapons. Companys asks the
Valencia government for aircraft to bomb the CNT’s premises and barracks.2
The CNT-controlled artillery on Montjuich and Tibidabo is trained on the Generalidad
Palace.3 Abad de Santillán, Isgleas and
Molina manage to halt in Lerida, “en route to Barcelona,” the divisions despatched by
the CNT’s Máximo Franco (a Friends of Durruti member) and the POUM’s José Rovira. At
7:00 P. M. in the Principal Palace in the Ramblas, which has been commandeered by the
POUM, Jaime Balius, Pablo Ruiz, Eleuterio Roig and Martin, representing the Friends of
Durruti, meet Gorkin, Nin and Andrade, representing the POUM’s Executive Committee.
Following an analysis of the situation, and in view of the stance adopted by the CNT, they
come to an agreement to suggest an orderly armed withdrawal of combatants from the
barricades. At 9:00 P.M. the Generalidad radio station issues an appeal from the leaders
of the various organizations (Garcia Oliver representing the CNT) for an end to fighting.
The POUM Executive Committee releases a manifesto. The Bolshevik-Leninist Section issues a
handbill. On the night of May 4-5, the Friends of Durruti Group drafts and prints up a
(Wednesday) May 5,
1937: A handbill is distributed by the Friends of Durruti. Over the radio, the CNT disowns
the Friends of Durruti Group. Fighting is now confined to the city center: the rest of the
city being in the hands of the confederal Defense Committees. At 1:00 P.M. the UGT leader
Sesé, a recently appointed Generalidad councilor perishes in gunfire emanating from the
premises of the CNT’s Entertainments Union. At 3:00 P.M. the Generalidad transmitter
issues a fresh appeal for calm from the leaders of the various organizations (Federica
Montseny for the CNT). A brother of Ascaso is killed. Berneri and Barbieri are arrested by
Guards and UGT militants from the Water Union. Their corpses show up later.
(Thursday) May 6,
1937: La Batalla reprints the Friends of Durruti handbill. In the same edition, La
Batalla appeals for workers to back down. Solidaridad Obrera disowns the
Friends of Durruti handbill.
(Friday) May 7,
1937: La Batalla reiterates its appeal, making it conditional upon withdrawal of
the security forces and retention of weapons. Transport services are restored and a degree
of normality returns. Assault Guards sent by the Valencia government reach Barcelona
around 9:00 P.M. Companys surrenders control of public order. The Control Patrols place
themselves at the disposal of the special delegate in charge of public order sent down by
the Republican government.
(Saturday) May 8,
1937: Barricades are dismantled, except for the PSUC barricades, which persist into June.
The Friends of Durruti distribute a manifesto reviewing the events of May. In that
manifesto there is talk of “treachery” by the CNT leadership.
(Sunday) May 9,
1937: Solidaridad Obrera dismisses the manifesto as demagoguery and the Group’s
members as provocateurs.
May 17, 1937:
Negrin takes over from Largo Caballero as premier. The UGT Regional Committee for
Catalonia demands that all POUM militants be expelled from its ranks and presses the CNT
to mete out the same treatment to the Friends of Durruti.
May 19, 1937: Issue No. 1 of El Amigo del Pueblo appears.
May 22, 1937: A
plenary session of the CNT’s Local and Comarcal Federations hears a proposal that the
Friends of Durruti be expelled. A session of the Sabadell city council agrees that
councilor Bruno Lladó Roca (also the Generalidad’s comarcal delegate for Economy) be
stood down for having displayed a Friends of Durruti poster in his office.
May 26, 1937: Issue
No. 2 of El Amigo del Pueblo appears, having evaded the censor. Balius is jailed a
few days later as the director of a clandestine publication, following a complaint from
May 28, 1937: La
Balalla is shut down as is the POUM’s radio station. The Friends of Durruti’s
social premises in the Ramblas are shut down.
June 6, 1937: The
Control Patrols are disbanded.
June 12, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 3.
June 16, 1937: The
members of the POUM Executive Committee are rounded up. The POUM is proscribed and its
June 22, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 4.
June 22-24, 1937:
Andrés Nin is kidnapped and murdered by the Soviet secret police.
June 26, 1937:
Showing solidarity with the POUM militants persecuted by the Stalinists and the
Republic’s police, the Bolshevik-Leninist Section calls for concerted action by the
Section, the left of the POUM and the Friends of Durruti.
July 2, 1937: A
handbill from the Bolshevik-Leninist Section of Spain (on behalf of the Fourth
International) expresses solidarity with the POUM militants persecuted by the Stalinists.
July 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 5.
August 10, 1937:
The Council of Aragon is forcibly disbanded by the government.
August 12, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 6.
August 31, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 7.
September 21, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 8.
October 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 9.
November 8, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 10.
November 20, 1937: El Amigo del Pueblo No. 11.
January 1938 Towards
a Fresh Revolution pamphlet drafted by Balius and published by the Friends of Durruti.
February 1, 1938: El Amigo del Pueble No, 12.
July to September
1939: L’Espagne Nouvelle Nos. 7 to 9.
NOTES TO CHAPTER I
The most important studies of the Friends of Durruti Group are: Francisco Manuel Aranda:
“Les amis de Durruti” in Cahiers Leon Trotsky No. 10 (1982); Jordi Arquer: Història
de la fundació i actuació de la “Agrupación Amigos de Durruti” Unpublished;
Georges Fontenis: Le message révolutionnaire des “Amis de Durruti” (Editions
L, Paris, 1983); Frank Mintz and Manuel Peciña: Los Amigos de Durruti, los
trotsquistas y los sucesos de mayo (Campo Abierto, Madrid, 1978); Paul Sharkey: The
Friends of Durruti: A Chronology (Editorial Crisol, Tokyo, May 1984)
According to an affidavit by Jaume Anton Aiguadér, nephew of Artemi Aiguadér, signed in
the presence of witnesses in Mexico City on August 9, 1946: “At the time of the May
events, the Generalidad government asked for aircraft from Spain in order to bomb the CNT
buildings and the latter refused the request.” This statement is borne out by the
teletype messages exchanged between Companys and the central government. In those
messages, on Tuesday, May 4, 1937, the Generalidad President informed the cabinet
undersecretary that the rebels had brought artillery out on to the streets, and he asked
that Lieutenant-Colonel Felipe Diaz Sandino, commander of the Prat de Lllobregat military
air base, be instructed to place himself at the disposal of the Generalidad government:
“Generalidad President informs cabinet under-secretary that rebels have brought cannons
on to streets. Asks that Sandino be ordered place himself disposal of Generalidad
government.” [Documentation on deposit in the Hoover Institution.]
According to the testimony of Diego Abad de Santillán.