On January 2, a bomb exploded at the Spanish consulate in Naples. Two messages in Italian were found at the site of the bombing: "Long live libertarian Spain!" and "As long as the Iberian people continue to be oppressed by the fascist dictatorship, dynamite will remind them that the voice of freedom cannot be stifled. Long live Anarchy." The two messages were signed "FIJL, CNT, FAI".
On January 15, in a public manifesto entitled: "The FIJL in the Face of the Present Spanish Political Context", the Libertarian Youth ratified their position concerning the regime's alleged "liberalization":
"(...) "Liberalization" imposed as a norm of "development and the progressive evolution of the regime" (...) has no other objective than to preserve the regime from any revolutionary risk that would be implied by whatever social movement of the Spanish proletariat that would be capable of spreading (...)".
Under the auspices of certain influential Christian Democrats, an offensive began at the start of the year, tending to give credit to the thesis that a real tension existed between the regime and the Spanish Church. Fortunately, Spanish students finally managed to thwart this offensive, forcing the regime to throw overboard the fallacious reformist attempts advocated by the Christian Democrats.
The suspension, ordered by the academic authorities, of a cycle of conferences entitled "Towards a Genuine Peace" was the starting point of demonstrations in the University.
At the first protest demonstration, which took place on February 18, more than 2000 students marched in the streets of Madrid, yelling "Democracy yes, dictatorship, no!". The conflict dated back to January 17, when several faculties refused to participate in the appointment of the district head of the University of Madrid1, demanding the dissolution of the SEU and the creation of a new union free of State control and genuinely representative of the student mass. This new union structure quickly spread its ramifications over the whole peninsula, and despite government repression and the closing of rebellious faculties, the mechanism of the "free assemblies" started up and spread.
In March, in Barcelona, Grenada, Salamanca, Bilbao, Murcia, Valencia, Santiago, Seville, Saragossa, Oviedo, Valladolid and La Laguna, many "free assemblies" met and demonstrations were organized on behalf of students who had been victims of reprisals. In most cases, they were brutally dispersed by the police. On the 20th of the month, a protest signed by 1161 catedraticos (university professors), students, priests, artists, workers, etc. was given to the Minister of Information, who refused it, "as it is not within the limits of the Right of Petition".
On March 26, other union and student representatives were arrested. On the 27th, more than 250 economics students locked themselves inside the Faculty and went on hunger strike until the arrested people were released. That night, due to pressure exerted by the students and catedraticos, the union representatives were released. On April 4, after the decree of the Presidency of the Government ("which regulates the professional and student associations") became known, District Chambers, freely elected in "free assemblies" by students in Madrid and Barcelona, were established. But the academic authorities, after having decreed loss of admission and other coercive measures, finally decided to close all of the faculties. Five catedraticos who took a stand in favour of the students were suspended, and an academic procedure was begun against them.
The international repercussions of student agitation in the peninsula were immense. But while continuing to emphasize the importance of their struggle, it should not be forgotten that the students of the Spanish University came and still come almost exclusively from the bourgeoisie, and that their revolt was also the revolt of yesterday's conquerors2, which proved the total failure of official ideology.
Among the important and singular aspects of this student agitation, we should emphasize the active participation of groups of libertarian students which would later form the basic nucleus of the movement of acratas and the driving force of what would be rightly called the "student uprising" of late 1966.
Although the combativeness of the workers appeared in various conflicts, and went as far as the spontaneous repetition of economic and other forms of sabotage3, the situation of clandestine trade unionism was unclear. Especially at the level of the classical trade-union organizations, which continued to exhaust their "strength" in their respective internal problems and in disputes over the recognition and representativeness of the various alliances.
The true causes of the incompatibility that suddenly appeared between the two alliancist committees (one with its head office in Spain and the other in exile) was clearly revealed in the editorial of the ASE's bulletin, the January issue of Alianza, precisely entitled: "The ASO and Us":
"(...) Whereas the union alliance was recognized nationally and internationally4 as the proper representation of the proletariat of our people, there has arisen (...) an organism -- after all, one must call it something -- which, so as to attempt to disturb the upward march of the genuine union alliance, is giving itself the name of Workers' Union Alliance (...)."
Moreover, on the concrete terrain of workers' struggles, the two "alliances" had not proved they had a large audience. At best, the ASO could exploit the fact that some of its leaders had been sentenced to long terms in prison5 and that its leading organizer, Cipriano Damiano, who had taken up the management of the ASO following the arrest of Calle Mancilla, was wanted by the Francoist police.6
To increase the confusion, during the month of April, three Alliancist manifestos were published, aimed at the working class; each one claiming to be the veritable and legitimate expression of the Union Alliance, the only difference being the signature: the first with the initials UGT-CNT-STV, the second with the initials UGT-CNT-FST, and the third simply with the initial ASO. This was the context in which the visit to Spain by Fritz Erler, Vice-President of the German Social-Democratic Party, took place; he was specially invited by the Institute of Judicial Studies of the CNS7, at a time when national-syndicalism and the Falange felt their privileged situations in the regime were threatened following the Opusdeist offensive.
As for the Spanish communists, they sank little by little, but irreversibly, into the contradictions of their policy of national reconciliation and the ideological conflict that had arisen between the political leaderships of people's China and the Soviet Union. The projection of this discord onto the Spanish communists caused a deep split in the party, in which the same "interior-exile" conflict -- with its own characteristics -- that had split the other anti-Francoist organizations had also arisen.
The reciprocal attacks of the Monde Ouvrier Révolutionnaire (organ of the pro-Chinese tendency) and Monde Ouvrier (organ of the pro-Soviet leadership of Carrillo and company) were more vicious each time, bringing to the fore the chaotic situation the Spanish CP was going through. Only Francoist connivance with American imperialism (US bases in Spain, etc.) and Franco's repeated declarations of anti-communist faith saved the communists from discredit. In the student movement its decline was significant, for in both the FUDE (Spanish Democratic Student Federation) and the "free assemblies", the CP saw its pretensions to political control strongly contested by a growing number of groups, which accused it of being a part of the so-called Machiavellian left, along with Opus Dei and the University Defence.
Meanwhile, Spanish libertarians were still absorbed by the "preparation" of the Confederal Congress, finally announced for the summer of 1965.8 The internal problem posed by the firm and consistent position of the youth wing was the most serious of all those faced by the MLE in its twenty years of exile.
The polemic continued through the bulletins that appeared from all sides -- for lack of any coverage in the official press of the CNT. Libertarian youth devoted the four Spanish-language pages of the bi-monthly Action Libertaire to an "open forum" which allowed all of the militants who could not appear in the Confederal weeklies to explain their points of view on the internal crisis.
The first six months of 1965 were extremely prodigal in polemics and confrontations with a view to the next Congress. The goal of the Esgleist SI was for the Congress to take place in conditions such that a split would be "justified" in the opinion of the die-hard supporters of organizational passivity, in the event that the denunciation by the youth wing forced them to leave the paid positions. For their part, the opponents of organizational passivity sought to sensitize those who did not want to be made sensitive; those who preferred ideological demagogy in exile to the responsibilities inherent in a consistent revolutionary practice and in consistent anti-Francoism.
The administrative Report of the SI, sent in late May for study and discussion in the assemblies of the Local Federations, said:
"(...) Everything that is done and said against an Intercontinental Secretariat is not really damaging to the SI, but to the whole National Confederation of Labour and the whole Spanish people."
Commenting on this strange declaration by the Intercontinental Secretariat, which reduced to nothing the entire federalist and libertarian doctrine of the National Confederation of Labour, which was based on the rejection of any difference between leaders and led, the libertarian youth concluded:
"(...) This form of self-defence by the higher Committees, with a specifically Stalinist style and conception (the General Secretary is the Party and the Party is the Revolution ...), is a very serious innovation for the life of our Movement as a libertarian entity (...) (FIJL, Internal bulletin, London, 5-6-1965).
The long-awaited Congress opened on July 31 in Montpellier. After an intense and meticulous electoral preparation (another innovation introduced into libertarian circles by Esgleism), the SI made a decision to mobilize the maximum number of loyal delegations (covering their travel and lodging expenses, which was another innovation), after having chosen Montpellier as the site of the Congress precisely in order to find itself in a region it could count on, and close to Provence, which was even more loyal to it. In this way, the SI, while not representing the majority opinion of the Confederal Organization, could ensure its control of the Congress through the presence of a crushing majority of delegations from small Local Federations (created ex professo in certain cases for this kind of manoeuvre) whose support was ensured beforehand.
As many anticipated, this Congress would be decisive for the survival of a coherent and effective Libertarian Movement.
After the first session, the Congress proved to be divided into two factions that were irremediably opposed to each other over what was fundamental: serious and objective discussion about the causes of the internal crisis and the decline of the Spanish Libertarian Movement. For the Esgleist delegations, there was no other motivation than that of going ahead "with the application of the sanitary rules (...) in order to confront the slanderers; those who, in one way or another tried to take away the prestige of anarchy."
The "sanitary rules" (expulsions) applied by the Esgleists in the Local and Regional Federations under their control therefore corresponded to a concerted campaign to eliminate the voices opposed to Esgleism inside the Confederal Organization with a view to the Congress9, and the uproar caused by these expulsions only sharpened the confrontations and poisoned the atmosphere, so as to steer internal discussions away from the problem of the organizational denunciation that had been introduced against the General Secretary and the Coordinating Secretary of the SI.
In order to reject the organizational indictment, which had been introduced against the SI without a preliminary discussion, Esgleas manoeuvred from the start of the Congress to obtain a "vote of confidence" from the many small Local Federations that approved of the SI's administrative Report10. Aware that "its" majority did not reflect the true feelings of the majority of Confederal militants, it was only after taking a census of the positions of the delegations that the SI agreed to call a meeting of the OJ11 and the other militants involved in the problem of the "indictment" in order to proceed with an "analysis" of it.
In light of the later results of the Montpellier Congress, one can only say that the public elucidation of the internal problem only served to confirm the level of revolutionary ineffectiveness and ideological inconsistency to which 25 years of exile had reduced the very revolutionary and anarchist CNT.
A reading of the "proceedings" (drawn up by the Esgleist SI) allows one to realize the futility of the fight against organizational passivity inside an organization without a revolutionary spirit; which, turned toward the past, stagnated in the hope of a miracle (the fall of the Dictatorship), and whose bureaucratic-authoritarian elites transfered the leadership from one to the other.
Faced with this situation, one can understand the serious mistake in appraising the internal crisis that was made by the SI's accusers in introducing the dilemma of the struggle's continuity in the form of an organizational imputation. The effort to transform into a concrete position the unanimous will shown by the simple approval and ratification of the agreements put the DI and the FIJL face to face with all those who -- for one reason or another -- did not want the anti-Francoist status quo altered. The insistance on defining these positions once and for all and quite clearly led to the isolation of the defenders of the "Direct and Revolutionary Action" report, drawn up at the Congress of 1961 by the Esgleist tendency. Amid reciprocal yells and accusations, at the end of the (private) fifth session, the Congress "approved" an appropriate resolution by which, after having ratified its confidence in the indicted men, the accusers "will not be penalized, for the harmony of the organization and the Movement". Imposed in the midst of enormous confusion by the Esgleist chair, the non-reconsideration of this motion resulted in the withdrawal from the Congress of a whole series of Local Federations12 who considered that remaining at the Congress would mean supporting the proceedings -- contrary to the norms -- imposed during it by the Esgleist delegations. With the withdrawal of these delegations, Esgleism had its hands free to finish off the Congress to its complete satisfaction. But from this moment on, the internal crisis took on a new dimension by dividing -- without an official split -- libertarian militants into two sectors, irreconciliable on the conception and practice of libertarian ethics, intensifying the process of the MLE's decline:
"(...) The civil war, the repression, clandestinity and exile carried out a negative selection in the ranks of Spanish anarchist organizations. The gaps were barely filled. If the men we referred to previously, or even better, the men they raised to the responsibility of leaders of the libertarian organizations continued to be anarchists, they would have opposed the negative determinisms that resulted from this situation with greater success. Instead of that, these people and the groups that entrusted them with their leadership lived faced with a mythified past, victims of the complex, individually explicable but politically unjustifiable, of considering the period of the civil war as the golden age of Spanish anarchism (...). Processes of self-justification were more frequent with these men than self-criticisms (...). They took refuge in "organic" life. With them the instinct of propriety, in the most petty-bourgeois sense, began to grow regarding the "organization", a sentiment that was aggravated in proportion to the decrease in funds (...). The exiled organizations are reduced to skeletons of committees manipulated by a gerontocracy that is growing steadily smaller, and with the obvious intention of leaving nothing behind it. It is not a matter of the privations of exile, as many people claim. Clandestinity gives other talents to "organic" life, but not fundamentally different ones. There, there are groups around a few notable figures, who depend for the most part on the exiled gerontocracy, although they use the slogan "The Organization is in Spain" in all sincerity, a slogan used more than once in one or the other camp so as to continue to fill, in exile, the front-row seats in the name of organizations which, as such, have been non-existent in clandestinity for a long time already (...)"13.
And that brings us to another big manoeuvre in support of organizational passivity that was started in Spain by representatives of the "demagogic oligarchy" (the Falange) with the complicity of a small group of CNT militants from Madrid. We are referring to the "dialogues" between this group of "militants" from the interior and a few members of the CNS hierarchy, with a view to drafting a joint union platform that would facilitate anarcho-syndicalist militants scattered throughout the country joining vertical syndicalism. This manoeuvre began in 1964, but it was only after the breakup of Cipriano Damiano's National Committee in the early months of 1965 that it began to take shape officially, with the participation in negociations of the new National Secretary of the aforementioned CNT of the interior 14.
In its struggle against Opus Dei, which fought it for the hegemony of Power inside the regime, the dominant sector of the "demagogic oligarchy" wanted to give itself, through this small group which had wrongfully appropriated the Confederal initials, a veneer of greater progressiveness than its competitors, who were speculating on the "opening up" to "democratic" Europe and who presented themselves as the champions of "liberalization". Franco and Opus did nothing; not only because they knew that these talks were condemned to failure in advance, but basically because they could be used to deepen the divisions inside the MLE and the opposition in general.
It is interesting to point out, concerning this manoeuvre, that the Secretary of the National Committee of the Interior appeared at Montpellier, and that Esgléas agreed that the Congress would hear him speak, but on condition that no one ask him any questions15. Royano gave a report on the situation in Spain without mentioning the "dialogues". Esgleas, already aware of what was brewing in the interior, allowed the man whom he would later describe as a "traitor" to speak and quietly leave.
Meanwhile, in Spain and Portugal, students and intellectuals were subjected to a huge campaign of intimidation. To the numerous arrests of students one should add the police summons of a growing number of professors and intellectuals, the dissolution of the Portuguese Writers' Society -- during the awarding of the Grand Prize for novel writing to writer Laidino Vieira, sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment for "terrorist" activities in Angola -- and the expulsion "for life" from the Spanish University of professors José Luis Aranguren, Enrique Tierno Galvan and Agustin Garcia Calvo, in compliance with a resolution adopted by the Francoist Council of Ministers on August 13. At the same time, in anticipation of the next semester, the resolution communicated to the directors of the Spanish Universities on the "right to expel students who are politically suspect or who incite their comrades to cause disorder inside or outside classes" was made public.
Moreover, the Opusdeist government continued to assert its will of "not accepting any spontaneous social movement", of "not giving the country a choice", of "remaining deaf to a democratic evolution" and of "governing without opposition". Thus, with the resumption of courses, the SEU was forced on the students again. The union elections, called by this bastard organization, were boycotted by the students, who did not even present candidates. Student agitation once again acquired national dimensions. The regime reacted by using force.
It was precisely during this period that new currents inspired by libertarian ideas began to emerge among the students and workers.
The libertarian youth, conscious of the futility of the fight against organizational passivity inside the MLE and the the urgency of affirming the anarchist presence in the Spanish and international contexts, devoted their efforts to more concrete activities, by increasing their contacts in the interior with the most combative sectors of clandestine unionism (for that, the appearance of the review Presencia -- Tribuna libertaria would be very useful), and by striving to develop their international campaign: Freedom for Political Prisoners in Spain and Portugal16.
1 The faculty delegates had to elect the district head from a group of three candidates proposed by the government. The national head of the SEU (the Spanish University Union, of Falangist allegiance) sat in the Cortes.
2 Among the students being prosecuted, some bore names that were celebrated in Francoist circles.
3 In early January, thirty railway workers were detained, accused of sabotaging locomotives and freight trains at the Bobadilla station in the province of Malaga. During the following months, there were many acts of sabotage in various cities. In all cases, the Francoist press talked about the "criminal origin" of these accidents. To this should be added the actions attributed to the Basque nationalists, like the bombing of the monument to the Navarros who died in the Crusades, and the attack on the Mierces police station by a group of workers who wanted to release two of their arrested comrades.
4 The ASO had also received direct aid from the Internationals (the CIOLS and the CISC).
5 Calle Mancilla, who was sentenced in late 1964 to more than six years' imprisonment, was one of the founders of the ASO.
6 Finally, he was arrested in 1970 and sentenced to eleven years in prison.
7 Through this Institute, the Falangist Syndicates saw a recruitment campaign through to a successful conclusion.
8 The filching of the 1964 Congress was blatant, as the SI imposed its decision despite the many protests inside the Local and Regional Federations.
9 After violent debates, the Esgleist majority forced an agreement at the end of the second session by which any militant expelled from a Local Federation would be excluded from the Organization, if his appeal was rejected by the SI.
10 According to the minutes, there were 141 Local Federations that approved of this information and 26 that disapproved of it, but in reality the latter had almost the same number of members as the former.
11 Taking advantage of the position adopted by the OJ, the SI failed to invite it to the Congress.
12 Among them should be mentioned, in order of the size of their membership, the Local Federations of Paris, Toulouse, Cahors, Coulommiers, etc.
13 Taken from the article signed with the pseudonym Felipe Orero, which was published in the supplement to Cuadernos de Ruedo Iberico, devoted to the Spanish Libertarian Movement and published in Paris in late 1973.
14 It concerned the ex-delegate of Madrid, Royano, of Cipriano Damiano's National Committee, who, after the latter's arrest, took charge of the CN with no other support than that of his group in Madrid.
15 This intervention occurred during the final sessions of the Congress, when the majority of the delegations in conflict with the Esgleist manoeuvres had withdrawn.
16 This campaign was launched in early July, and most of the anarchist organizations of Europe and America gave it their enthusiastic support. The assassination of General Delgado (by the Portuguese PIDE in Spanish territory) made collaboration by Iberian anti-fascists more necessary.