Buenaventura Durruti

[This month is the 40 anniversary of the Durruti's death, and the late July was
100 years of his birth. For remember him, the Colectivo Plum(A) and the
venezuelan anarchists send you this text - in english and spanish - about that
man and his fight. // Este mes se cumplen 40 anhos de la muerte de Durruti, y en
julio pasado fue el centenario de su nacimiento. Para recordarle, el Colectivo
Plum(A) y los anarquistas venezolanos les envian este texto - en ingles y
castellano - acerca de ese hombre y su lucha.] 

[Thanks to Luis for the english translation] 


To condense in a few lines the life story of he who was the true expression of
rebelliousness and anarchist utopia is a complicated but necessary task, because
the testimony of liberty in struggle that was the life of Buenaventura Durruti
must be broadcast yesterday, today and always. 

He was born the second of eight brothers on July 14 1896 in Leon, city of the
Spanish province by the same name. As an adolescent he is initiated on the same
path as his father, a workingman affiliated with the socialist union UGT. As a
member of his railroad section, he takes active part in the revolutionary general
strike of August 1917, promoted in conjunction with the anarchosyndicalist
Confederacio'n Nacional del Trabajo (CNT); which caused his being expelled fron
the UGT for being too radical, his persecution by the police and his escape to
France, where he comes in contact with exiled anarchists, joining CNT of Asturias
upon his return in January 1919. 

He joins the open fight against the aggresive employers in the Asturian mines and
is arrested for the first time in March 1919; he escapes and by December he is in
San Sebastian, an industrial city in the Basque country, with a job as a metal
worker. The bourgeoisie was then promoting a wave of assasinations of
syndicalists and Durruti joins a self-defense group - Los Justicieros, they plan
a sensational hit in reprisal: an attempt on the life of King Alfonso XIII who
would be visiting the City in August 1920, but their plan is discovered and they
must escape. Durruti continues doing dangerous clandestine work throughout the
nation, meeting Francisco Ascaso who would be his fraternal friend and comrade.
They travel to Barcelona in August 1922 and form the group Crisol, that would
later adopt a name that would be famous in libertarian history: Los Solidarios.
This group brought together the most valuable elements of the catalan
proletariat, hitting hard against reaction where it hurt the most, until the
Spanish political crisis brought the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera,
installed September 1923 with the King's wholehearted support. Proper praise for
what Los Solidarios did in courageous defense of the CNT during that hopeless
hour has never been given. Hundreds of militants fell and CNT could barely
survive and recover thanks to its deep roots among the working class, but the
price was high: most of the Solidarios were killed or served long sentences,
while Ascaso and Durruti had to seek refuge in Paris.

The failure of the insurrection plans cooked up during exile forces them to
travel to Latin America in December 1924, accompanied by Gregorio Jover, in
search for funds for the outlawed and persecuted Iberian anarchosyndicalism.
Following 15 months of unbelievable adventures including urban guerrilla actions
to obtain supplies, unknown in those parts until then, chases and chilling
escapes through several countries. The solidary assistance from an endless number
of comrades that supported them wherever they went was their infallible resource
in outsmarting police persecution. 

During quiet times they earn their frugal living as laborers, without ceasing to
take part in union work from the grassroots, as the legend grows about these men.
In April 1926 they return to Europe and are seduced by an espectacular idea: to
kidnap the Spanish King and the dictator when they visit Paris on July 14, but
are captured by the police and, after a stormy trial, are expelled from France in
July 1927. They keep on living as semiclandestine militants abroad until the fall
of Alfonso XIII in April 1931. 

Back in Barcelona Durruti is in the midst of a great deal of activity,
accompanied by his French companion Emilienne, pregnant with their daughter
Colette, who would be born on December 1931. He joins the Iberian Anarchist
Federation (FAI), a specifically anarchist organization secretly created in July
1927 - and together with other militants they form the affinity group Nosotros,
spokesmen within the CNT of a radical tendency that harbored no illusions with
respect to the recently proclaimed Republic, maintaining that the moment was ripe
for continued progress. This inner confrontation within the CNT became more
bitter until a split ocurred, while repression became harsher as well as the
government's provocations against these humble workers - whenever they weren't
prisoners Durruti and Ascaso worked as mechanics in a mid-sized company in
Barcelona - who were seen by the do-gooders as the terrifying fist of the Social
Revolution. The repressive hysteria fell upon Durruti and other anarchists in
January 1932, being deported to the Canary Islands and the "Spanish" Sahara.
Popular pressure resulted in their release in September, but Durruti was
inmediately arrested for two more months. 

Even with the imprisonment of the so-called "leaders", harder positions grew
within the CNT and the proletariat, which brought the failed anarchist
insurrection of January 1933, after which Durruti must go in hiding until
arrested at the end of March. He is out by July, with the CNT and the FAI facing
changes in the political scene, as the right wing prepares to assume power after
the fiasco of the republicans and socialists, which happens after the November
elections. In December there is another failed attempt at a general strike;
Durruti and hundreds of anarchists go to prison, but an amnesty lets them out in
May 1934, in time for Durruti to play a decisive role in the transport of 13,000
children of Aragon strikers to Barcelona, to be care for by the solidarity of
Barcelona's working class families. 

In October 1934 the Asturias uprising takes place, 14 days of heroic and unequal
combat between the united workers and the army, while the repression and the
undecisive behavior of the UGT and other sectors left the anarchists isolated in
their effort to spread the revolutionay flame. Once again Durruti suffers months
in prison alternating with weeks of feverish public militancy, until the
electoral victory by the Popular Front in February 1936, with the crucial vote of
CNT members, signaled another turn in the situation. In the midst of an explosive
political-social climate, the IV CNT Congress meets in Zaragoza from May 1 to 5,
1936 where an integral part of the debates and the anarchist fervor that
permeated the proceedings was due to the Nosotros group, in those days dedicated
to workers' readiness for the enormous challenge that was coming. Left and Right
were in a collision course, initiated rather soon by the military uprising of
July 19 1936. 

The CNT and the FAI confronted with courage, organization and mass mobilizations
the fascist superiority in weapons and resources; their contribution was decisive
in resisting the blow throughout the nation and in Catalunya defeated the rebels
singlehandedly, Durruti being one of the boldest fighters in this popular victory
and suffering the loss of Francisco Ascaso. On July 24, from Barcelona where
libertarian communism was starting to be a reality, Durruti left with an armed
column towards Zaragoza, occupied by the rebels. After hard combats that
equalitarian militia, without officers or other military trappings advanced and
estabilized the Aragon front against regular troops better equipped, even though
they could not retake the city. 

Parallel to this the anarchist forces supported a social transformation which
meant the establishment of agricultural collectives in Aragon, upsetting
communists, socialists and other acolites of the creed according to which the war
could not be won with the revolution going on. Durruti embodiedthe feelingsand
goals of the workers in arms, being a peculiar "chief" whose main privilege was
to fight in the first line, his only rank the esteem his equals had for him.

That courageous and shining life - "The short summer of Anarchy" according to his
chronist Enzensberger - would come to an end in November of that same year. On
the 15 Durruti arrived with a force of 1800 men to reinforce the defense of
Madrid, where they went inmediately to the toughest section and on the 19 he was
struck by a bullet as he walked by a supposedly secure area. He died at dawn on
the 20, being buried two days later at Montjuich's cemetery in Barcelona,
accompanied by the largest funeral cortege seen in the city. 

As with Zamora in Venezuela, el Che in Bolivia or Zapata in Mexico, his death has
a stigma of treason and the main suspect, the stalinist PCE (Comunist Party of
Spain), would unleash a few months later a brutal persecution of anarchists and
other radicals that not only ended the threatening revolution, but was also the
begining of the end of the Republic they claimed to safeguard.

40 years of intense life had this man that fought for his ideals without uarter
nor fanaticisms; who never ceased to live of his labor, who acted as much as he
read or thought, who loved, dreamed and had close and dear friends. Durruti was
who he was, and also the best of what remains in us when we share his luminous

(CORREO@ #20, pp.16-17; August 1992)


Condensar en pocas lineas la biografia de quien fue expresion cabal de la
rebeldia y la utopia anarquista es tarea complicada pero necesaria, porque el
testimonio de libertad en lucha que fue la vida de Buenaventura Durruti debe
divulgarse ayer, ahora y siempre. Nacio segundo de 8 hermanos el 14 de julio de
1896 en Leon, capital de la provincia espanhola del mismo nombre. Se inicia de
adolescente en la misma senda de su padre, obrero afiliado al sindicato
socialista UGT. Como miembro de su seccion ferroviaria, participa con ardor en la
huelga general revolucionaria de agosto de 1917, impulsada en conjunto con la
Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT, anarcosindicalista); eso le costo la
expulsion de la UGT por radical, la persecusion policial y la huida a Francia,
donde se relaciona con exilados anarquistas, afiliandose a la CNT de Asturias al
retornar a Espanha en enero de 1919. 

Se une a la pelea frontal contra la agresiva patronal de las minas asturianas y
cae preso por primera vez en marzo de 1919; se fuga y en diciembre esta en San
Sebastian, ciudad industrial del pais vasco, trabajando como metalurgico. La
burguesia impulsaba entonces una ola de asesinatos de sindicalistas y Durruti se
integra a un grupo de autodefensa - Los Justicieros - que en represalia planea un
golpe sensacional: atentar contra el rey Alfonso XIII que visitaria la ciudad en
agosto de 1920, pero son descubiertos y deben escapar. Durruti prosigue en la
labor ilegal mas arriesgada por toda la peninsula; asi conoce a Francisco Ascaso,
quien seria fraterno amigo y camarada. En agosto de 1922 van a Barcelona y con
gente afin fundan el grupo Crisol, que luego tomara un nombre que se hara celebre
en la historia libertaria: Los Solidarios. El grupo reunio a lo mas valioso del
proletariado catalan golpeando a la reaccion donde mas le dolia, hasta que la
crisis politica hispana trajo la dictadura del general Primo de Rivera,
instaurada en septiembre de 1923 con pleno apoyo del rey. De Los Solidarios nunca
se resaltara bastante la valiente defensa que hicieron de la CNT en hora tan
desesperada, cuando cientos de militantes cayeron y solo pudo sobrevivir y
recuperarse por sus nexos profundos con los trabajadores, pero el costo para ese
colectivo combatiente y decidido fue alto: casi todos Los Solidarios murieron o
purgaron largas condenas, mientras que Durruti y Ascaso tuvieron que refugiarse
en Paris.

El fracaso de los planes insurreccionales cocinados en el exilio les impulsa a
viajar a Latinoamerica en diciembre de 1924, acompanhados por Gregorio Jover y en
procura de fondos para el proscrito y agobiado anarcosindicalismo iberico.
Sigueron 15 meses de andanzas increibles con acciones de guerrilla urbana para
agenciarse recursos ineditas por estos lares, seguidas de persecusiones y fugas
escalofriantes a traves de varios paises. La ayuda solidaria de un sinfin de
companheros fue esencial para que burlasen la persecusion policial, mientras
seguian procurando su frugal supervivencia personal como asalariados en los
momentos de calma y participaban en el trabajo sindical de base dondequiera que
iban, al tiempo que la leyenda crecia en torno a la figura de aquellos hombres. 

En abril de 1926 regresan a Europa y les seduce una idea espectacular: secuestrar
al monarca y al dictador espanholes cuando visiten Paris el 14 de julio; antes de
eso la policia los captura y, luego de un agitado proceso, son expulsados de
Francia en julio de 1927, prosiguiendo como militantes semiclandestinos en el
exterior hasta la caida de Alfonso XIII en abril de 1931.

La vuelta a Barcelona es de efervescente actividad para Durruti, ahora con su
companhera Emilienne embarazada de Colette, que nacera en diciembre del 31. Se
integra a la Federacion Anarquista Iberica - FAI, organizacion especifica
anarquista creada secretamente en julio de 1927 - y con militantes allegados
forma el grupo Nosotros, animadores en la CNT de una tendencia radical que no se
hacia ilusiones tacticas con la recien proclamada Republica, pues afirmaban que
el momento era para seguir avanzando. El enfrentamiento interno en la
Confederacion fue agriandose hasta la escision, mientras arreciaba la represion y
las provocaciones gubernamentales contra esos sencillos obreros - cuando no
estaban presos, Durruti y Ascaso laboraban como mecanicos en una empresa mediana
de Barcelona - que eran vistos por los bienpensantes de toda laya como el
aterrador punho de la Revolucion Social. La histeria represiva cayo sobre Durruti
y otros anarquistas en enero de 1932, deportandolos a Canarias y al Sahara
"espanhol". La presion popular los libero en septiembre, pero Durruti fue
arrestado de inmediato por dos meses mas.

Aun encarcelando a sus supuestos "lideres", las posiciones mas ofensivas crecian
en el seno de la CNT y del proletariado, lo que llevo al fallido intento
insurreccional anarquista de enero de 1933, tras el cual Durruti debe ocultarse
hasta caer preso a fines de marzo. En julio ya esta en la calle, con la CNT y la
FAI encarando las variaciones de la escena politica, pues la derecha se aprestaba
a asumir las riendas del gobierno ante el fiasco de republicanos y socialistas,
lo que ocurre tras los comicios de noviembre. En diciembre hay otra fallida
tentativa de huelga general insurreccional; Durruti y cientos de anarquistas van
a los calabozos, pero una amnistia les permitio salir en mayo de 1934, a tiempo
para que Durruti tenga papel decisivo en el traslado por carretera de 13.000
hijos de huelgistas aragoneses a Barcelona, para acogerse a la solidaridad de las
familias obreras.

En octubre del 34 es la insurreccion de Asturias, 14 dias de heroica y desigual
batalla de los trabajadores unidos contra el ejercito, mientras que la represion
y la indecisa conducta de la UGT y otros sectores dejaron a los anarquistas
aislados en su afan de extender la flama revolucionaria. De nuevo Durruti pasa
por el vaiven de meses de carcel alternando con semanas de febril militancia
publica, hasta que el triunfo electoral del Frente Popular en febrero de 1936,
con el crucial voto de los afiliados de CNT, marco otro vuelco a la situacion. En
medio de un explosivo clima politico-social, se reune en Zaragoza el IV Congreso
de la CNT del 1 al 15 de mayo, donde parte esencial de los debates y el ambiente
de pletorico fervor anarquista que alli se vivio fue el grupo Nosotros, entregado
en esos dias a prepararse junto a los trabajadores para el tremendo reto que se
avecinaba. Derechas e izquierdas iban al choque inevitable, iniciado mas temprano
que tarde con el alzamiento militar del 19 de julio de 1936. 

La CNT y la FAI enfrentaron con coraje, organizacion y movilizacion de masas la
superioridad facista en armas y recursos; su contribucion fue decisiva para
resistir el zarpazo en toda la peninsula y casi a solas derrotaron a los alzados
en Catalunha, con Durruti como una de las figuras mas arrojadas de esta victoria
popular y sufriendo la dolorosa baja de Francisco Ascaso. El 24 de julio, desde
una Barcelona donde el comunismo libertario empezaba a ser una realidad, Durruti
partio con una columna armada a Zaragoza, ocupada por los golpistas. Luego de
duros combates aquella milicia igualitaria, sin oficiales ni demas tramoya
castrense, avanzo y estabilizo el frente de Aragon contra tropas regulares mejor
equipadas, aun cuando no pudieron recuperar la ciudad. Paralelamente, las fuerzas
anarquistas apoyaron la transformacion social que significo el establecimento de
las colectividades agrarias aragonesas, para escandalo de comunistas, socialistas
y demas acolitos del credo segun el cual no se podia ganar la guerra si al mismo
tiempo se hacia la Revolucion. En su persona, Durruti encarnaba lo que eran los
sentimientos y metas de los trabajadores en armas, siendo un peculiar "jefe" cuyo
privilegio principal era combatir en primera fila, con la unica jerarquia de la
estima con que lo distinguian sus iguales. 

Esa vida radiante y corajuda - "El Corto Verano de la Anarquia" la llamo su
cronista Enzensberger - terminaria en noviembre de ese mismo anho. El dia 15
Durruti llego a reforzar la defensa de Madrid con una columna de 1800 hombres, de
inmediato van a lo mas duro del combate y el 19 lo alcanza una bala, cuando
transitaba en area supuestamente segura. Murio en la madrugada del 20, siendo
sepultado 2 dias despues en el cementerio de Montjuich en Barcelona, acompanhado
del duelo mas multitudinario visto en la urbe. Como con Zamora en Venezuela, el
Che en Bolivia o Zapata en Mexico, su muerte tiene estigmas de traicion y el
principal sospechoso, el PCE stalinista, desatara pocos meses mas tarde una
brutal persecucion contra anarquistas y demas radicales que no solo liquido la
Revolucion amenazante, sino que fue el comienzo del fin de la propia Republica
que decian salvaguardar. 

40 anhos de existencia intensa tuvo este hombre que lucho por sus ideales sin
treguas ni fanatismos; que nunca dejo de vivir de su trabajo; que actuaba tanto
como leia y pensaba; que amo, sonho y tuvo amigos entranhables. En fin,
Buenaventura Durruti fue lo que fue, y tambien lo que de mejor queda en nosotros
cuando compartimos su trayectoria luminosa. 

(CORRE@ # 20, pp. 16-17; agosto 1992)