When courses resumed, agitation at the University was stimulated by the application of predicted repressive measures against the students who supported the Democratic Union.
"On January 27, there were working class demonstrations at different points in Madrid. Many buses had their windows smashed, and two cars were overturned (...) On the 30th, a march on the Education Office was organized against police repression and the academic dossiers (expedientes), against the vile "wait-and-see" and opportunist press, and in solidarity with prisoners (...) For the first time, several jeeps and pump-trucks were forced to back off, and even arrested people were rescued. The counter-attack by the police ("grises") was concentrated, with nervous rage, on the SEU's dining halls. This was the so-called "Monday of the dining halls" (...) The Faculty of Economic Sciences was permanently closed. In a few days, all of the University would be (...)"1
At the same time, the first coordinating meeting of the SDEU began in Valencia. Its conclusions were limited to: "to move in the direction of self-organization, reject imposed structures and organize a national coordinating body to prepare for the Spanish Students' Congress."
But even though there had been demonstrations (stonings were becoming routine), in Agronomy and the dining halls, the delegates of the SDEUM2 were tried without it being possible to mobilize the university centers.
The efforts of university reformism and the academic authorities to channel the students' democratic demands through mild changes in the University's organizational structures continued to bear fruit. In addition, the opportunism and sectarianism of the different political groups with the largest presence in the university, particularly those controlled by the CP, continued to act as a brake on the student revolt. The actions and dialectical contestations of the most radicalized student groups had not yet achieved a sufficient development to make the contradiction between the reformist proposals and the struggle for an authentic political liberation obvious.
One of the most important aspects of the Organizational Law was the announcement of a new law regulating the unions. The union elections that followed this project were, in principle, to mark the first stage in the direction of reform of the corporate system then in operation. At least, this is what was hoped for or seemingly believed by the sectors of the union opposition who campaigned for participation in these elections, with the intention of electing truly representative delegates. But the hope of a change in the orientation of the government's union policy was contradicted by its actions: the falsification of many union election results, the arrests and fines forced on many union delegates, the government's intransigent attitude concerning the movements advocating workers' demands, etc.
The Workers' Commissions3 -- like the other reformist organizations -- limited themselves (voluntarily) to the role of a simple trade-unionism in opposition to vertical unionism, without any other desire than that of taking its place ... as the official representation of the working class in the "inevitable" process of "evolving democratization" of Spanish society. A trade-unionism that, by waiting to obtain its recognition by the Francoist State, abandoned the struggle against the dictatorship and the struggle for the revolution. Despite this, at the end of April, the police arrested five delegates of the COs in Madrid, and twenty-six others were arrested in Barcelona. Not forgetting the arrest, in early March, of Marcelino Camacho, whom the CP's and even the regime's propaganda transformed into the leader of the COs.
Because of the SI's attitude favouring the status quo and the witchhunt unleashed throughout the movement in exile by partisans of Esgleism, the CNT's situation continued to deteriorate. At the international level, the Spanish FAI's pro status quo current, following the example of the SI of the CNT, manoeuvred in the leadership of the principal European anarchist federations to isolate the FIJL, basing itself on the fact that all these federations found themselves equally beset by the contestation of youth. This was why the Preparatory Commission4 of the International Congress which was to take place in Carrara in 1967 or 1968 approved the proposal of the Spanish delegate that it "not accept any other delegations at the Congress than those coming from national federations", causing indignation in many anarchist groups.
Meanwhile, the FIJL found itself confronted with a more urgent and dramatic situation. Despite the withdrawal of the military5 after the threatening letter by the First of May Group, which was sent to the Spanish and American governments and which removed the danger of a court-martial, the proposal of a curious plan of escape for Luis Edo implied a more serious danger: application to the latter of the Law of Escape (Ley de fugas). While still doubtful of the existence of such a project, the FIJL committed itself, sending a series of threats to Castiella, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in case there was an attempt to physically eliminate one of the prisoners. But, suspicious of the police's intentions6, the FIJL decided to put an end to the manoeuvre, announcing that it would carry out pressuring actions outside Spain on behalf of the five prisoners. The Francoist authorities pretended to have discovered the escape project and put Luis Edo in solitary confinement for a month. At the same time, the Spanish police sent two groups of agents to France to carry out provocations and threats for the purpose of discovering certain members of the First of May Group.
In London, after having held the secretary of the Spanish ambassador and the Spanish embassy's judicial advisor for several hours, the First of May Group sent a letter to the ambassador addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which they demanded the beginning of the trial of Luis Edo's group, and at the same time announced that there would be reprisals if the sentences were not sufficiently moderate.7
A few days later, Francoist agents showed up at the residence of an FIJL militant in Paris in a final attempt to obtain information about suspected members of the First of May Group they were searching for. A week later, precisely on May 1st, Spanish refugee José Alberola was murdered in Mexico:
"There is no trail yet leading to the location or even the identification of the four youths indicated as the presumed authors of the homicide of literature professor José Alberola Navarro, who was found hung and gagged in the apartment where he lived (...)" (Ultimas Noticias, 3-5-1967, Mexico -- D.F.)
A few weeks later, the Spanish press announced that the trial against Luis Edo's group would take place on July 4, at the Madrid Court of Public Order.
On May 1st, there were several actions and demonstrations in Madrid and the principal capitals of the provinces. The police made a hundred arrests, and the most compromised people were put at the disposal of the military court.
On May 16, three students who were part of the Madrid university Delegation were arrested. The classic outline of repression-assembly-occupation went into operation once again. The occupation of the University was approved by about two hundred people, but the University Council began to deliberate and its final communique defended "academic peace" and dialogue. The next day, and for the first time, the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences was attacked. Faced with the attitude of the Assembly and a few strike pickets, the examinations of the Faculty of Economic Sciences were suspended.
On May 22, with the strike voted for and approved by the classes, the Chamber rejected (by 37 votes out of 70) the continuation of the boycott of examinations, and refused to discuss the decision of the Faculty Assembly. The Assembly opposed the Chamber's measures, there was a semblance of a dispute between the Left and the scabs, and people cried "Neither Franco nor Carrillo!" for the first time. The next day, informational sheet number 5 of the Democratic Student Union of the Political and Economic Sciences was published, condemning the "lack of people at examinations", which might lead to a hypothetical closing of the Faculty, "which would be a hard blow for the SDEUM." Simultaneously, a pamphlet signed FUDE was distributed, in which "the status quo's unforseen allies" were denounced.
But out of fear of the disciplinary council, the representatives transformed themselves into the most determined defenders of the return to normality. The FUDE had proved its disorganization and shown the reduced number of its members, but a new kind of "solidarity" had been found among the leftists. The examinations strike had allowed a large number of people to get to know each other and act in unison; in the future, they would remain convinced of the SDEUM's uselessness and the need for a more rigorous demystification of the CP. In this atmosphere, informal meetings began, where the acrata phenomenon originated.
Faced with the pseudo-revolutionary phraseology of the Left of the day, the libertarian spirit of the independent Left arose for the first time. Starting with these precise and limited intentions, a movement appeared which was to decide the characteristics of what the university Gazette described as the University of Madrid's most important year.
The discussion of the examination strike had the merit of gathering together several members of the FUDE and various independent delegates against the CP, with an immediate objective: struggling against the ineptitude and overabundance of leaders, and the lack of internal democracy in the extremist organizations and their lack of imagination.8
In what would be their first "anti-pamphlet", the acratas asserted:
"(...) Society imposes norms on the University. Trying to organize it better technically implies favouring only this Society. Only when one agrees with a type of society is it suitable to favour its Universities (...) In wanting to destroy the structure of the present society, and our most direct sphere of activity being the University, the revolutionary struggle carried out with this end in view must also advance through the disorganization of the University (...) Struggling against the structures is not the same as effecting partial reforms in them (...) For this reason, the struggle will consist of the radical transformation of the structures, as this is what we mean by Revolution."
But once exams were over, the University closed its doors and the students of Madrid scattered over the beaches, in other countries and even in other continents. On June 17, professor Agustin Garcia Calvo, whom people had begun to identify with the acrata tendency in the University, appeared in the Court of Public Order, accused of "illegal association and public advocacy of criminal offenses".
On July 4, an Agence France-Presse communique announced that:
"The five anarchists accused of having planned the kidnapping of a high-ranking commander of one of the American bases in Spain appeared today in the Court of Public Order. The prosecutor initially asked for sentences ranging from six to fifteen years' imprisonment (...) The police took extraordinary precautions for this trial, fearing that the men of the First of May Group would attempt a raid to liberate their comrades. The courtroom had been guarded since the day before. The defendants were transferred from the prison to the Law Courts at midnight, and their handcuffs were kept on throughout the trial. The Court building was protected by large numbers of police (...) After the questioning of the defendants and the American journalist mentioned as a witness for the prosecution (according to certain versions it was he who was to be abducted), the prosecutor asked for a fifteen minute recess to modify his conclusions (...)"
A few hours later, the Court's final sentence was announced: Jesus Rodrigues Pinay and Antonio Canete were sentenced to three years and six months' imprisonment, Alicia Mur to three years and six months, Luis Andrés Edo to nine years and six months, and Alfredo Herrera was released immediately; having been sentenced to only three months' imprisonment, he had already served his sentence. The reduction of sentences requested by the Fiscal was important, but surely not enough ... On the evening of August 18, the cars of two advisors of the Spanish embassy in London were machine-gunned. This action caused an uproar in the international press, which, however, did not mention the first two actions.
Shortly afterward, the First of May Group circulated an appeal (To All Revolutionary Movements and Organizations in the World), in which it specified the basis for "the practice of international revolutionary solidarity":
"(...) We think that the present liberation struggles of the world's peoples, and especially the revolutionary struggles of the Latin American guerrillas and the Blacks of the United States have caused a heightened consciousness, and have led to the reaction against the reformist line by all authentic revolutionaries of the ideological currents which advocate Revolution (...) Revolutionaries of all countries, let us unite to make international revolutionary solidarity effective and prevent the extermination of those who, in all parts of the world, struggle for the Revolution."
On September 21, one month after the most recent action by the First of May Group in Britain, Stuart Christie was released; he had been condemned to twenty years' imprisonment by a court-martial sumarisimo in Madrid in 1964.
After having confirmed the lack of confederal propaganda within the various working-class organizations which succeeded each other in the peninsula, the FIJL decided to continue publishing the bulletin Accion Sindical, in cooperation with militants of the CNT inside Spain. In the 11th issue of this bulletin, the July issue, the problem of unity and workers' solidarity was tackled:
"(...) We know that the objectives of the Workers' Commissions are limited. We are not unaware that the CP will attempt to use -- it is doing it already -- these Commissions for private political purposes and to build up its own electoral clientele. We do not doubt either that the young Christian militants will frequently be restricted because of their religious foundations. But we also know that the struggle's own dynamic can overcome all these obstacles. And the mission of the CNT must be precisely to incite and encourage this revolutionary dynamic characteristic of the working class, and to see that neither the one nor the other hinders the workers' real interests (...)"
In the pages of Presencia, the libertarians continued to polemicize on the subject of collaboration with the Workers' Commissions. In the 9th issue, corresponding to the month of October, Cipriano Mera affirmed that:
"(...) Even in acknowledging the idea that the imperatives of Spain's internal situation makes joining the COs unavoidable, in order to contact the working class and help it in its efforts for emancipation and justice, the first thing we must do, and particularly Presencia, is to unite all our energies and efforts to remake the Spanish CNT at the national level, and if possible, the MLE (...)"
The editors of the magazine responded with a few comments clarifying its position:
"(...) Our line of action must be decided independently of what the CP does or stops doing. (...) It seems to us to be dangerous and negative, all in all, to want to change the old ways into infallible norms of action, and old wounds into tactical principles ... Is there total antagonism and uncompromising opposition between our positions and those of comrade Mera? We think there isn't. And we think so not only because we are convinced that common objectives unite us, but also because we think that beyond differences of a tactical nature, we agree on a fundamental necessity: that of revitalizing revolutionary syndicalism, the only force that can bring us a better world."
In the struggle which pitted Falangists against the monarchists and Opus Dei, the appointment of Carrero Blanco to the post of Vice-President of the government dissipated "confusion" and brought "clarity". Actually, it was obvious that it was a matter, above all, of guaranteeing the continuity of Francoism after Franco, which meant the continuity of the Movement, the vertical union structure and the whole Falangist bureaucratic apparatus.
On October 23, the "International Day for Vietnam", the Democratic Union launched the call to carry out, on the 26th, a strike at the doors of the centers, "to proceed in a peaceful and silent march toward the Ministry of Education and the Sciences9".
The SDEUM, dominated by the CP, programmed these actions in order to give the impression that its struggle was united with that of the working class sector represented by the Workers' Commissions.
In mid-November, the pro-Chinese FUDE denounced "the reactionary groups which, making use of the democratic spirit of a Union they have always fought against, insinuated themselves into it in order to rob it of its fighting essence."
Faced with the different positions of the extremists or the moderate reformists (of reformism at the disposal of the academic structures), the "independents" did not uphold the pure and simple suppression of the Union10, but the formation of new groups that would be able to act inside or outside the SDEUM, and for which union activity would not be forbidden. They maintained that the union-government dialectic was already an irreversible historical first step, and that if another connection arose, namely union-Left groups, the rhythm of the struggle could be maintained.
The "independents", conscious of their weakness, waited without excessive nervousness for the first careless act on the part of the Government. Meanwhile, a general attitude took shape regarding police repression, as well as a minimal organization. With the key principle of the absence of leaders, two free associations formed. Coordination was set up by two or three people who belonged to both groups, and who devoted themselves to transmitting the discussions with the greatest possible objectivity. Decision-making power always belonged to each branch separately, and the decisions were made while avoiding votes. But it could be said that after the first two or three weeks of real struggle (at the end of November), plans like these were forgotten and the acratas joined together naturally, forced by daily circumstances.
On November 27, the Delegation of the Sciences was closed. The students got restless, and ipso facto, the doors were forced. A group headed for the Dean's office with the intention of attacking it, but the arrival of a large number of police agents (in overalls) prevented them from doing this. On Wednesday the 29th, a conference on atheism, given by a "modern" priest, ended with an enormous scandal; the activists interrupted it, accusing the Church of allying itself with Power. On Thursday the 30th, the Delegation of the Sciences was razed.11 It followed automatically that this stupid provocation upset people, and, abandoning the cultural level, the battle began in earnest and would last practically the whole 1967-1968 exam session.
That same Thursday, a grill was installed between the Faculties of Law and Philosophy. Professor Marine (a substitute for Garcia Calvo in the Latin chair) was stoned. At four o'clock in the afternoon, the police entered the Faculties of Law and Philosophy. From this moment on, the University campus of Madrid transformed itself into an almost daily battleground between the police and the students. For two weeks, more or less serious incidents followed each other. Seeing that their prestige was rapidly decreasing, and abandoning their legalist customs, the Union delegates also threw stones. The disturbances overflowed the University, with a boycott of the press (except the magazine SP and the newspaper Madrid) because of its bias in reporting the incidents. During a clash, an agent of the Brigada Social fired his weapon several times. Of course the police proceeded to arrest many people, among whom there were many student representatives. On December 13, the delegates of the Economic Sciences were suspended for a year, and the authorities decreed the closing of the University Center.
These two weeks of struggle showed, in addition to the regime's contradictions (between the "hard-liners" and the "liberals"), the fragility of the union structures, which remained completely outside the struggle, overwhelmed by the student activist grassroots.
The acratas' sudden apogee and the decisive role they played in the succession of events can be explained by the promotion (and the automatic popularity) of the "politics of the paving-stones", their determined and absolute opposition to joining the game of the politics of appointments, the flexibility of their proselytizing (not limited by the age or knowledge or political origins of "those who demonstrated their interest in breathing politically") and by their total concept of political activity".
The struggles of the guerrillas in Latin America, the liberation movements in the Third World, the Black revolts in the USA and the whole series of student protests that appeared one after another in the university campuses of America, Europe and Asia favoured the radicalization of the revolutionary positions of all those who rejected the repressive structures of present-day society. In this revolutionary radicalization of youth, which took a thousand and one forms, the First of May Group found favourable conditions in which to channel a movement of international revolutionary solidarity, through the intensification of contacts and joint actions with European activist groups.
On the 12th of November, the month in which Che died in the Bolivian mountains12, bombs exploded simultaneously in the Greek, Bolivian and Spanish embassies in Bonn, in the Venezuelan embassy in Rome, in the American, Greek and Spanish embassies in the Hague, in the American embassy in Madrid and in the offices of Spanish Tourism in Milan and Geneva. In a later press communique, the First of May Group refuted the pro-Castroist character attributed to them by various newspapers.
On December 26, two months after the arrest of Julio Millan Hernandez13, the young libertarian David Urbano Bermudez was arrested upon his arrival in Madrid, coming from France. Both were accused of participating in the activities of the FIJL, even though the only thing that could be held against them was their having sympathized with the young libertarians in exile in France.
The year ended -- like the preceding ones -- right in the middle of repression, protests14 and various actions15 in Spain; but the radicalization of the youth revolt around the world opened new perspectives ...
1 Taken from the pamphlet Pequeña Historia de la Llamada Acracia, published by students of the acrata movement in Madrid.
2 The SDEU was founded in the monastery of the Capuchins of Sarria on March 9, 1966.
3 During 1962, on the occasion of the great strike movement of the Asturias, the first Workers' Commissions appeared. These Commissions disappeared with the extinction of the strike movement. They reappeared in 1964 in Bizcaya, including the militants of the HOAC and the CP. In January, 1967, the AST officially joined them.
4 Composed of the delegates of the Iberian FA, the French FA, the Bulgarian UA in exile and the Secretary of the International Anarchist Commission of London.
5 This "withdrawal" was all the more surprising because, in addition to the fact that the Court of Public Order withdrew in favour of the Military Court, various weapons had been seized from the group and it was accused of preparing an action that, until then, had normally been judged by this Court.
6 After a few contacts in Madrid, the FIJL's messengers understood that the police were preparing an ambush for the First of May Group.
7 In a "restricted" FIJL memorandum sent at the end of April, the text of the First of May Group addressing this subject was reproduced. But it was not until the middle of 1968, when a libertarian group was imprisoned in Valencia, that the ABC mentioned these acts of intimidation.
8 This expression, so famous from the French May '68 onwards, was a constant in the new phraseology.
9 The new Rector, Isidoro Martin, and the new Dean of the CC.PP.EE, Garcia Trevijano, ran the Faculty of Philosophy. There was a moment when they were about to be taken hostage, facing the police who had surrounded the Faculty. The latter withdrew from the surrounding area, which did not prevent the Rector's (empty) car from being stoned.
10 In a pamphlet they clearly affirmed: "We accept a democratic union as a means of struggle, never as a goal."
11 The rumour went around that, at the meeting of the University Junta, the Dean of Sciences said: "They tried to steal my door, but I took proper reprisal measures. Now a picket of workers is razing the offices."
12 Before Che's death, the First of May Group was contacted by an Italian revolutionary group (which maintained relations with the leftist publisher Feltrinelli) to jointly organize actions in solidarity with the Bolivian guerillas, etc.
13 This libertarian militant, arrested at the beginning of October upon his arrival in Barcelona from France, was held in preventive detention until 1973.
14 On December 1, a letter was sent to Franco signed by 8,837 intellectuals, workers and parents of political prisoners, asking for a general amnesty, based on the pardon granted to Stuart Christie a few months earlier.
15 On December 19, the ETA exploded a bomb at the head office of the Falangist Youth in Eibar.