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Terror in Catalonia

This is a collection of horrors committed by the "anarcho" socialists of Catalonia: horror stories from various eyewitnesses,

In this article I make little attempt to put these little vignettes into a coherent story. These are just the dirty bits from a larger and more complex story, a story in which brutality and great inequality of power was merely one part, though an important part.

These horror stories are for the most part not typical of everyday life, or even everyday oppression, under the rule of the "anarchists" of Catalonia. Catalonia was not Stalin's Russia or Pol Pot's Cambodia, but they were common enough to instill fear and obedience in everyone, sufficient to ensure that people "volunteered" for socialism. (See Bait and switch in Catalonia and Serfdom in Catalonia.)

So how typical were these horror stories?

Burnett Bolloten, in "The Grand Camouflage" page 41, quotes Diego Abad de Santillan, La revolucion y la guerra en Espana p.176

It is possible our victory resulted in the death by violence of four or five thousand inhabitants of Catalonia who were listed as rightists and were linked to political or ecclesiastical reaction."
Ronald Fraser Blood of Spain p152 states that seven hundred and three priests and clergy were assassinated in Barcelona. Only a few of the tales of terror he describes involve clergy, so we may conclude that the total terror in Barcelona was many thousands.

Compare this with Pinochet, who murdered three thousand people out of a vastly larger population according to the Rettig Report on Human Rights.

OK, there was terror on a vast scale. Next question. Who did it? Was it an unfortunate consequence of convicts getting out of jail and the breakdown of order, as numerous people quoted in these history books claim, was it a minority of extremists within the anarchist movement, or was it systematically planned to terrorize the population into submission? There was a bit of all of these, but the testimony of those who were afraid indicates that they primarily expected and feared organized large scale terror, rather than small scale random violence, that the killers acted arrogantly, openly and were unafraid, and that those who opposed terror acted furtively, with deception and soft words.

The official policy of the FAI and CNT was socialism without terror, but the actions of the members and leaders were not consistent with this policy, and their words and deeds strongly suggest that this policy was not in fact feasible. (Royo) The words and deeds of the leaders are consistent with their claim that the terror was not centrally organized and planned, but their words, their threats of terror, and the stories given by eyewitnesses, are inconsistent with the claim made by some modern day socialists that the terror was committed by ordinary people. The terror was planned and organized on a large scale, and was committed by "anarchist" organizations that looked very much like a state apparatus, by an "anarchist" police force and by "anarchist" troops.

The use of a list in Angel Navarro's story, plus the fact that the killers did not care much who they killed, shows that those killings were not motivated by revenge in this case.

Miravitlles quotes the leaders of the "libertarian" socialists blaming the killings on police that they had authorized and appointed, which if true would make the killings similar to the Latin American death squads. In Domenech's story, he threatens people with the apparatus of mass murder, implying that it acted directly under his command. The use of killing fields and holding pens indicates planned, centralized violence. Latin American death squads kill their victims themselves and just throw the bodies into a ditch.

Blood of Spain page 152, Ronald Fraser summarizes the testimony of Maria Ochoa:

There was a festive enthusiasm in the streets [...] At home her father talked more about local politics than the war, not that the latter was forgotten, but local politics seemed more important. He was particularly hostile to the masses of people flocking to join the UGT - "opportunists without any political background" he called them. Soon, however a black cloud appeared over the festival. A workers patrol set up in a house on the corner of the street. It was guarded by two militia women. Each night a car drew up and sounded its horn.
Maria Ochoa says:
We soon discovered what it meant. People were being taken to be shot on the other side of Mount Tibidabo. It was horrifying, oppressive, The car would begin to grind up the hill and we knew the fate of the occupants. My father did not like it. He thought it quite normal that half a dozen big bourgeois exploiters should be liquidated, but not that all these others were being taken to their deaths.
Obviously this was not individuals acting: Individuals and small groups do not set up killing fields, and they do not murder people on a regular and predictable schedule, and they do not have specialization of labor for the mass production of murder. Individuals and small groups, such as your typical heavy drinking Latin American death squad, just dump the bodies in the nearest ditch.

Furthermore, rather than violence ending when the CNT took control, we see the reverse, escalating violence once power was firmly consolidated.

Blood of Spain page 140 Joan Domenech, the most powerful civilian minister in the CNT (in his own opinion) speaking:

I said "You are the employers [...] right now if we felt like it we could load you into a lorry and that would be the end of it" You should have seen their backsides wriggling on the chairs!
The reference to a lorry, similar to Stalin's reference to boxcars, again indicates specialization of labor in the mass production of murder, not spontaneous violent action by small groups. If it was just small group action they would just leave them by the side of the street, the way the semi unofficial death squads in Latin America do.

Blood of Spain page 183 Juan Andrade of the POUM executive committee:

I don't believe that this alone was the major cause of the PSUC's growth. The CNT was the reason. The latter terrorized so many people that in reaction they came to consider the communists as the party of order.
Blood of Spain page 146 Juan Miravitlles, an Esquerra representative on the militia committee, which was the high command, protested to the "libertarians" on that committee about the terror. He reports: (page 146)
Day after day we found ourselves on the committee repeating "why these assassinations?" [...] A man was killed because his sister was a nun. [...] They called a man a fascist simply because he went to mass. President Companys said "you are drowning the revolution in blood" [...] "Tell Companys not to come here again" Durutti said to me and Tarradelas. "If he does I will fill him full of bullet holes."
Durutti was arguably the most powerful military commander in the CNT. He normally came to committee meetings wearing a gun. His response to President Companys's accusation fails to inspire confidence.

Note that president Companys said "you are drowning the revolution in blood", not "random street people are drowning the revolution in Blood", which indicates he saw the terror as being centrally directed and organized. The leaders on the militia committee claimed that the worker patrols were doing it on their own initiative, but since the patrols accused were organized and officially authorized and specially privileged to use force by the CNT leaders on the Militias Committee, this explanation fails to inspire confidence, regardless of whether it is true or false.

Miravitlles continues, page 150

Their leaders on the committee said the libertarian movement was not responsible for the assassinations: "It's the armed worker patrols. Some of the members are assassins." But in my view, they couldn't confront this type of people who represented for them their own ideology. With the notable exception of Durutti at the front, the CNT was always plagued with indiscipline and didn't know how to deal with it [...]
Ronald Fraser then describes these worker patrols as follows
These acted as a revolutionary police force, and were made up of 700 men - 325 of the CNT, 185 of the Esquerra, 145 of the UGT, and 45 of the POUM.
These were not self appointed worker patrols, as one would expect under genuine anarchy, but officially authorized police, authorized by the militia committee, an organization that clearly exercised vast power over Catalonia and over the everyday lives of people in Barcelona.

Blood of Spain page 359: Fraser quotes Angel Navarro, a former CNT member, president of the village of Alloza:

Fraser first describes some men being taken from the village of Alloza for execution, which description I have not bothered to include, because that was merely an example of initial terror to impose CNT authority, not continuing terror after CNT authority was successfully imposed. In the following narrative, Carod is the commander of the Carod militia column, who ordered the execution of the men mentioned in the first paragraph, and Franco is an acquaintance of Carod who strongly opposes the use of terror, especially against his friends and neighbors.

Fraser says:

Angel Navarro, a smallholder, had seen the men being driven away, "Now it is going to start" he thought, and began to shiver. A former CNT member in Barcelona member in Barcelona, where he had gone as a building laborer because his fathers land was too poor to support the family, he was shortly appointed president of the village committee on Carod and Franco's recommendation. His sole concern became to avoid bloodshed in Alloza where, as he knew, opinion generally favored the insurgent rather than the popular front cause.
One day a car drew up and half a dozen militiamen got out with a list of people they had come to arrest.
Fraser quotes Angel Navarro as saying:
Yes I said. "Have you eaten supper companions? No. Well, lets go and eat and we'll talk about it then." We went to the inn which was run by a relative. I sent out the town crier to find the man who held the keys to the man who held the keys to the collective store to fetch a good ham, a carafe of wine. When the militia men had eaten one of them said: "Come on, we're in a hurry." I feared the worst. Instead, one of them put his arm round my shoulder. "Comrade, everyone should be like you, act as you have." They left. That night in Alcorisa they shot a lot of people.
Angel Navarro, in the above narrative, clearly expected organized official terror, when he said "now it begins". Equally clearly, most of the villagers shared this concern (See Franco's narrative, page 358)

If the terrorists were a small group of people personally pursuing petty conflicts they would not have needed a list, and they would not have arrested people for later execution. They would have known their enemies and killed them themselves on the spot. The list and the arrests indicates specialization of labor in the mass production of murder. Some group to prepare the list, some group to operate the killing fields, which indicates a fairly large and permanent organization of mass murder.

Blood of Spain page 148: Ronald Fraser summarizes a report by Joan Roig

At the barber's one day , he heard a man who was being shaved telling the barber about the "canaries" he and others took out every night and shot. Roig turned away in disgust at the look of pleasure on his face as he described in detail how the prisoners pleaded for their lives, how he pretended they were going to be set free, and then shot them in the back. "The worst was when he invited the barber to accompany him that night to witness the spectacle".
Once again we see how the murderers acted openly and unafraid, while those who opposed terror were frightened and silent. 

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