Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What's new, pussycat?

On this day, 69 years ago, the legendary Buenaventura Durruti arrived in Madrid to aid in the defense of his capital.

A railway worker since the age of 14, he had become a trade union activist, an anarchist subversive, and now a professional revolutionary condemned to death in 4 countries. He had spent more than a decade on the run.

As a young man he had taken part in the General Strike of 1917. With Juan Garcia Oliver and Francisco Ascaso he established the infamous Los Solidarios group, responsible for the assassination of Eduardo Dato, Spanish prime minister, and Juan Soldevila Romero, hated archbishop of Zaragoza.

The group were also behind an assault on the Bank of Spain at Gijon, and a failed bomb plot against king Alfonso XIII. They quickly became wanted men, heroes to some, dangerous enemies of the people to others.

Fugitives from justice, Durruti and Ascaso first fled to Paris where they set up an anarchist book shop; but after taking part in a border raid over the Pyrenees they were threatened with extradition.

Durruti then traveled to Cuba, and later to Mexico, Chile, Argentina. There was a price on his head wherever he went.

In 1931 the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera came to an end. After the Second Spanish Republic was established, Durruti could finally return to Spain. Again a trade union activist, he was imprisoned in Cadiz, but was released after the February 1936 election victory of the Popular Front coalition.

On the 18th of july 1936 an unsuccesful military coup conducted by right-wing generals and supported by the church turned into a full scale civil war.

Durruti and Ascaso, then in Barcelona, took part in the co-ordination of resistance; but during the storming of the Atarazanas Barracks Ascaso was shot dead.

Less than a week after the death of his comrade Durruti led over 3000 armed anarchists to establish a front in Aragón. This militia later became known as the Durruti Column.

69 years ago today Durruti came down from the Aragón front to strengthen the defense of Madrid with 4000 men. He went immediately to the frontline, where the Manzanares River passes through the University City.

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