Introduction to the writings of the Friends of Durruti - George Fontenis


Barcelona, May 1937. The first issue of 'The People's Friend', the organ of the Friends of Durruti, appeared. The police repression of the Republican state had just crashed against the fighters of the barricades who had responded to the stalinist provocations by retaking the road of revolution. But while the combattants of the revolution were taking the fight to the forces of repression of the Catalan Generalitat and of the central state, the anarchist 'leaders' of the CNT-FAI, having become ministers of the bourgeois government, asked the victors of the barricades to lay down their arms, to have faith in their 'leaders' to settle the conflict and to reunite the anti-Franco forces.

The result wasn't long in coming: thousands of the barricade fighters found themselves in prison, and the censorship of the press became more brutal than ever. The first issue of 'Friend of the People' was ferociously censored. But at last it appeared and went on to try to be the rallying point for all those who, while struggling against Franco, didn't want to forget the tasks of the revolution. Precisely those tasks which gave meaning to the war against the military and their allies.

The 'Friends of Durruti', and more generally the Spanish libertarian workers, were to fail. Why? and what really was their battle?

After almost half a century since these events, nothing of substance has yet appeared in response to these questions. The leaders of the 'official' anarchist movement, still preoccuppied with hiding the weaknesses and the inconsistencies, blurring the responsibility, avoiding the fundamental theoretical problems, avoid discussion or are satisfied with a few reluctant confessions and regrets. But we still await a profound auto-criticism, a rigorous analysis of the events. Everything has been done to extinguish the most radical critiques, in particular those of the 'Friends of Durruti', and to try to write them out of history.

However they, the 'Friends of Durruti', have supplied more than an outline of such a vigorous analysis and they did it in the heart of the battle itself.

This is why it seems to us to be indispensable to publish their principal writings, still unpublished in France. To contribute to the debate which we wish to clarify, we add here a brief study of the evolution of the libertarian movement and of the Spanish revolution and also, neccessarily, the commentaries that the texts and the facts inspire in the comrades who pursue the struggle for libertarian communism today.

Having said that, our work is not a history of the Spanish revolution which, in our eyes, remains to be written. We have furthermore deliberately left aside the immense episode of economic and social achievements, collectivisations and socialisations, except insofar as they impinge upon our study. These are well covered by the works of Gaston Leval and Frank Mintz, cited in the bibliography. We have only attempted to examine, from a revolutionary point of view, the period from Spring to Summer 1937. A period which we believe was decisive.