Sunday, October 31, 2004

Absolutely the worst form of organizing society possible is anarchism. Communism and Fascism are bad enough, but imagine the complete destruction of the government and the rule of law. No one would be safe in his life, liberty, or property. Disputes would not be managed by police intervention or by court decision; they would be decided by violence and soon the many would be slaves to the few strongest, just as it was before the rule of law, the free market, and the liberal state--these the result of the evolution of Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian traditions intermingling, the payoff for all those years of artistic and cultural development since Moses or Homer or Hammurabi or whoever--were introduced into Europe.

True anarchists believe that society, which is prima facie corrupt, must be violently destroyed in order that whoever survives will be able to start over again from a tabula rasa. That means that the guy in the black T-shirt hauling out his Chomsky anarchist rap wants to destroy your family, your job, your human rights, your possessions, your ideas, your religion, your traditions, your laws, and your life. Everything must be destroyed so that the Utopian future may come to pass. And a bunch of incredibly wrong-headed people with twisted good intentions actually believed this along about 1890 and they went out and acted on it. Bakunin lied, people died.

Barcelona, along with Paris, was one of the cities that suffered longest and hardest through the Anarchist frenzy of the late 1800s and the turn of the Twentieth Century. (I suggest the essay on anarchism in Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower.) The Anarchists and their CNT labor union were a leading factor in Catalan politics until they were destroyed by the Communists during the Spanish Civil War, during the first year of which they behaved brutally. After the Francoist victory, any surviving Anarchists were quickly hauled off to jail and not infrequently shot. Most historians agree that the Right (1939-75) killed fewer Catalan civilians than the Left (1936-39), and that most of the Left killings in Catalonia were done by Anarchist militias in the first six months of the war.

Here's an article by Joaquim Roglan from today's La Vanguardia looking at things from a non-Chomskyite (remember, Noam calls himself a "libertarian anarchist" and thinks that the utmost perfection that society has achieved was in the militias and the communes of the Spanish Anarchists) perspective.

"The same week that (Socialist) Prime Minister of Catalonia, Pasqual Maragall, proposed that someday the memory of the victims of "uncontrolled elements during the Civil War" (that is, Anarchist militias and hit squads) should be commemorated and justice be done, the official website of the Barcelona City Government is promoting a tourist route through the history of Anarchism in the city. Organized by the Barcelona Institute of Culture, the visit takes four hours on a bus, with stops at places chosen by some self-proclaimed artists from the Tactical Tourist Group. Its spokesperson, Maite Ninou, stated, "We don't want to just show the typical sights."

Maybe that's why the new "historical and cultural" tour doesn't stop at the Liceu opera house, where the Anarchist Santiago Salvador threw two bombs that killed twenty people in the year 1893. It doesn't pass along the Arrabassada Highway through Collserola where during the Civil War the FAI (Federation of Iberian Anarchists) firing squads shot their victims of all ideologies in the neck after "taking them for a ride", people like the journalist Josep Maria Planas. And it doesn't include the many other spots pointed out by the historian Gerald Brenan, obviously no right-winger, as sites of "anarchist terrorism".

Since the bus tickets are all sold out until November, your reporter decided to follow it on a motorcycle, a vehicle which the Anarchists were the first to use to commit attentats, and a technique which two Catalan Anarchists who were working for Al Capone introduced into Chicago. (*) The tour begins at the south end of the Rambla. A young Argentinian guide explains, in Spanish, to a group of Catalan senior citizens, that in the year 1870 the celebrated Ascaso died there during an attack on the Drassanes barracks. He mentions that "the workers burned the church of Santa Madrona". But since he doesn't mention that throughout their history the Anarchists also burned Santa Maria del Mar and the Mercè basilica, among other churches, and turned out into the street the bodies of the dead nuns buried in the Salesian convent, the tour doesn't go by those places. He does mention the monument dedicated to Columbus, because "from those statues of lions two Anarchists planned to kill Franco." But though it's so close to the harbor, he forgets the prison ship Uruguay, from which the Anarchists kidnapped and killed prisoners during the Civil War.

Then, the bus enters the (working-class) Raval neighborhood to evoke the murder of the union organizer Salvador Seguí, "Sugar Boy", at the hands of employer-paid gunmen. He doesn't say anything, though, about Canvis Nous Street, where on Corpus Christi, 1896, an anarchist threw a bomb at the authorities and killed seven workers and a recruit. Then the bus goes down the Paralelo to see the site where a celebrated street barricade was raised during the Tragic Week of 1909, but no one mentions that the famous prostitute María Llopis, alias "Forty Cents", led a band of anarchists that destroyed everything along the popular boulevard, even overthrowing streetcars. Then it passes in front of the Hotel Ritz, which in 1936 was turned into a "popular canteen", though no one says that its luxurious rooms were occupied by the leaders of the CNT and FAI.

The vehicle then turns toward the Camp de la Bota (a once-abandoned strip of land near the sea). There, the senior citizens stroll to the place where the Francoists shot Catalan nationalists, republicans, and democrats of all parties, although, according to the artist, "the majority were Anarchists". He also mentions that "some rebel (Francoist) army officers were shot here", but he doesn't say that along the same beach buried by the Forum the Anarchists also killed monks and priests. On the way back downtown, it goes up Via Laietana, where today the union headquarters offices are, but he forgets that in 1891 the Anarchists threw the first bomb in their Barcelona history at Fomento del Trabajo, the headquarters of the Catalan employers' association.

The high point comes at a bar at the corner of Consell de Cent and Girona. In a doorway, the young anarchist Salvador Puig Antich was arrested, the last anarchist executed by Francoism in 1974. (**) Then, the bus goes up Paseo San Juan using the excuse of the "people's library" Arús. But it passes without stopping the church on the corner of Valencia Street, sacked by Anarchists. And, maybe because it's not there anymore, the bus doesn't stop at where the Scala nightclub was, burned down with Molotov cocktails in 1978. Four workers died in the last Anarchist attentat committed in Barcelona.

Then the tour visits Güell Park. There the CNT sponsored the Libertarian Days in 1977. It was the last international Anarchist meeting in the history of Barcelona, though those of us who were there remember it as a huge, enjoyable happening more like a rock festival than a union meeting. And, as we see, that tradition is maintained, since for the entertainment of the tourists an artist performs; he only speaks Spanish, recites an intolerable poem, and tells a demagogic story making fun of the Socialist victory of 1982, of the Barcelona Olympic Games, and of Mayor Joan Clos's city of business.

Finally, we visit the graves of the Anarchists Ferrer i Guàrdia, Ascaso, and Durruti at the Montjuïc cemetery, and the mass grave where the names of the victims of the Francoist repression are recorded. It is here, where Prime Minister Pasqual Maragall wants to remember as well the victims of Anarchism, another guide says that she is a university professor of art and opines that "students don't know the history of the Civil War". So we have her and these other low-quality artists to teach it, promoted and supported by a City Government whose Socialist Counselor of Culture seems to have forgotten that he was once the director of a historical magazine.

(*) I don't believe this. I have read fairly extensively into the subject of crime, and I've never heard this story before. Capone used to import hitmen from New York (Murder, Inc.) and Detroit (the Purple Gang), but not Catalan anarchists.

(**) Puig Antich is normally held up as a sainted martyr around here. I don't know about that. He was an armed Anarchist who planned to commit violent acts himself. He knew what he was doing when he picked up that gun, he knew the risks, and he picked it up and shot a cop. Let me make that clear. He shot a cop, and the guy was local police, a guy with a uniform and a badge, not political police or secret police, just a cop, a working-class guy doing his job. Puig Antich didn't get executed for being an Anarchist. He got executed for the murder of a policeman. But he was a nice Catalan boy from a nice middle-class Catalan family who was an idealist, don't you see, not one of those nasty dirty police people who are "not like us". No, I don't see. He shot a cop. My sympathies lie with the cop's family, not the murderer's.

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