Five mass graves in Badajoz reinforce antifascist historical memory

GUILLERMO MARTÍNEZ @ GUILLE8MARTINEZ

(Changed headline and translated from article in Publico.es by D.Breatnach)

(Reading time main text: 7 mins.)

Franco’s repression in Fregenal de la Sierra executed more than 80. Now, a second excavation seeks to recover the bodies of those who did not come to light in 2012, when the skeletons of 43 victims were recovered. The remains found indicate cruelty towards women, disrespecting them even after they were shot.

Central plaza Badajoz, probably influenced by its Moorish heritage — what the tourists are advised to see of Badajoz. (Photo credit: Stephen Colebourne via Wikipedia)

When they gave her the jacket of her son, who had just been shot, she lost her speech. She was like this for two and a half years, in silence, until she died. The father, a lifelong labourer, said on his deathbed that he bequeathed his little house to his five children. “You only have four,” one of the witnesses told him. “Until they give me the body of my son, I still have five,” replied the man. They were the mother and father of Juan Serrano García, shot in September 1936 in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz1), when the rebels tricked him into returning: “They said that all those who had not committed crimes of blood, would be free of reprisals,” adds Andrés Serrano, representative of the Association of relatives of the executed from the town and Juan’s nephew.

His body was found in 2012 in a mass grave in the town’s cemetery along with 42 other bodies, although many more are still waiting in the ground. At that time, there were seven graves opened. Now, five more are uncovered to try to account for the more than 80 murdered by Franco’s troops of which there is a record. Among the bodies there is an unusually high percentage of women for the situation, points out Laura Muñoz-Encinar, archaeologist and forensic anthropologist at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit), attached to the Higher Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC), and who is participating in the exhumation.

The forced and almost physical silence of Juan’s mother testifies to the decades and decades of internal repression of the thousands of victims of the Franco regime. So much so, that Serrano learned about the story of his uncle obliquely from his mother, the political one of the family. She did not tell him directly: “An anthropologist friend wanted to interview her for a job, so I took the opportunity and told him to ask her about what happened in the Civil War. I hid in a room next to the terrace, where they were and thus I was able to hear first-hand and for the first time in my life about the execution of my uncle, the hardships my grandparents went through and the stigmatization my family suffered for being, for everyone else, ‘reds’ “, related the historical memorialist at 68 years of age.

Massacre by the fascist-military in the Bullring in Badajoz 1936, artist unknown (image sourced on Internet)

They were in a hurry to kill them

The case of Juan, a militant in the UGT2 and of socialist sympathies, assassinated at the age of 21, is just one more. In Fregenal, more than eight dozen people who were related to politics and social struggle during the Republican period were executed. Located in Badajoz, many townspeople joined “The Column of 8,000”, coming from the north of Huelva, to flee from the fascist barbarism between the air raids. The troops took Fregenal on September 18 and three days later Juan returned to the town together with another comrade. They thought that nothing would happen to them, because they had not committed any blood-crime.

“They arrived at 10:30 in the morning and at 11:15 they were both arrested. They were taken to jail, and no matter how hard my grandparents tried to intervene with some powerful people from the town to save him from being shot, on September 22 he was murdered”, relates Serrano. The same thing happened a few meters away, in those days, in the town square: “They shot about four people in the center of town; it was an exemplary shooting. They wanted to increase the fear that there was already,” he says.

That same September 22nd, Juan’s parents had already guessed the worst. They knew that their son had been detained and that the Francoists had no mercy. Their suspicions were confirmed when, a few hours later and for greater confirmation, they were given the jacket that their son had been wearing. According to Serrano, the rebel soldiers also told them that they should stop searching, that they already knew where he was, and not to bother people, referring to the people to which they had gone to ask for compassion for their young son.

The first exhumation: 43 bodies

More than 70 years later, the team to which Laura Muñoz-Encinar, the archaeologist belongs, arrived. It was 2010 and they couldn’t start the excavation for two years. After the surveys and a research project approved by the Ministry of the Presidency, they excavated seven mass graves. “There were men and women. They were from young to very advanced ages. Among the seven women we found, one of them had a full-term fetus of between 7 and 9 months,” explains the Incipit scientist.

A bullet found in the mass graves excavation in Fregenal de la Sierra this year.
(Photo credit: Laura Muñoz-Encinar)

The change of central government in 20113 meant the cancellation of the funding allocation related to the investigation of what happened during the Civil War and the Dictatorship, so they had to wait nine long years until they were able to return to the town. Muñoz-Encinar explains that “During this time almost all the children of the victims, of which there were many, have died. There is only one daughter living, María Lobo Villa. The Francoists executed her mother, three uncles and a grandfather. Now, mainly, grandchildren and great-nephews and great-nieces remain. “

In that excavation they found the body of a woman buried between two men, something recurring according to the expert. Once again, and as always, they got the worst of it. This is demonstrated by what happened to Antonia Regalado Carballar, known as “La chata carrera” (“the flat racer”?-DB). A 22-year-old political activist, this woman transgressed the traditional roles of the patriarchal culture of the time. “They detained her and took her to the cemetery. There they physically and psychologically abused her, and several of them raped her. After killing her, said the undertaker, they put her in the ditch between the bodies of two men,” Muñoz-Encinar explains further. Serrano adds what the rebels who were there said, as the gravedigger recalled, “As men tempt you, there you have men for your whole life.” They haven’t found her body yet.

This type of symbolism, highly contemptuous for all victims and sexualized in the case of women, is not an isolated event. “In the current excavation we have already found a body face down. In a Judeo-Christian culture like ours, the placement of the bodies responds to a ritual of elevating the soul to heaven, that is why the bodies are placed face up and with the limbs stretched , and not doing it like that is a post-mortem humiliation”, the archaeologist explained.

Killed without trial years after the War

She herself points out that all the remains already found and those they are still looking for were civilian victims of extrajudicial repression, executed on the basis of the war party in force from 1936 to 1948. That is that, almost ten years after the end of the war, it was still possible to execute civilians without the need to bring them through a judicial procedure. That is what happened in Fregenal de la Sierra in 1946 to a party of guerrillas4. This is how Muñoz-Encinar relates it: “We know that they were fighting in the mountains, that they were pursued, until one night they entered a brothel. There they were betrayed and, after a scuffle, they were arrested. They were murdered, their bodies were exhibited in the street entrance to the cemetery and then put in a grave.” Also victims of extrajudicial repression years after the Civil War ended, the team of experts does not know if their bodies will be in the five graves they are currently studying and in which they have already found three bodies.

Human remains uncovered in 2012 excavations in Fregenal de la Sierra, Badajoz. (Photo credit: Laura Muñoz-Encinar)

End report.

COMMENT:

By Diarmuid Breatnach

The Spanish state territory holds more mass graves than any country in the world with the exception of Cambodia. Most of their occupants were killed during the Spanish Antifascist struggle with or without a military court hearing outside of conflict zones, that is to say, either in the rear areas of the fascist-military forces, i.e areas already safely conquered. In some of the areas, there had been little or no military resistance whatsoever but that did not halt the arrests and executions. And after the conclusive defeat of the Republic, the executions continued. Many victims, perhaps even the majority, had never even fired a gun in defence of the Republic but were considered enemies of the fascist State through their support for the Republic, their political ideology, social attitude or sexual orientation.

Photograph taken of massacred bodies in Badajoz before they were burned and buried (Photo sourced: Internet)

The punishment was not always a death sentence but people died also in prison due to massive overcrowding, disease, inadequate food or clean drinking water, water for washing or inadequate medical care.

Despite the frequent assertion that the 1936 military-fascist uprising against the elected Republican Government was to “restore Christian values” and was supported by most of the Spanish Catholic Church hierarchy, rape of women and girls was frequent, whether they were afterwards shot or not. This was widely attested in evidence by victims, witnesses and even some war reporters.

Those who survived or did not go to jail faced constant harassment, confiscation and theft of land, animals and produce; fines and public humiliation, in particular the women who were force-fed laxatives and then paraded in nightclothes or underclothes through the neighbourhood, sometimes to the doors of the Catholic church, unable to control their bowels as they walked.

Babies were also taken from murdered supporters of the Republic and later from working class women (who were told their baby had been stillborn) and given to childless fascist couples. Children of the “Reds5” were taunted at school and insulted by teachers.

After its sharpest form abated the repression nevertheless continued throughout the nearly four decades of the Dictatorship and it was extremely dangerous to even speak of disinterring the mass graves and reburying the victims in dignity, not to speak of honouring them as antifascist martyrs. Even after the death of Franco and the Transition to an alleged democracy, many kept silent to protect their families. Schools suppressed the history6. Murderers and torturers were not prosecuted. Thieves kept what they had taken. The ruling class consisted for the most part of supporters of the fascist-military uprising and their descendants and they thronged the civil service, military, police, judiciary, church hierarchy, media (State and private), the education system – along with many businesses and a number of political parties.

More recently, the work of generations of those keeping the historical memory alive, investigating, speaking, marking areas, even disinterring on their own initiatives, is bearing fruit. The Law of Historical Memory, passed through the Spanish Parliament under a social-democratic Government in 2007 helped for a little while but then fell into disuse under the PP Government, though it was not abolished.

Its renovation in 2020 by the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition has spurred more excavation bu the Law and its renovation had been preceded by the work over decades by volunteers of historical memory associations in many different parts of the State, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The associations have been assisted by forensic experts working voluntarily. This work has helped create the political-social-cultural atmosphere in which in October 2019 the long-promised removal of the remains of the Dictator General Franco and the leader of the fascist Falange, Primo Rivera, took place from their fascist mausoleum in the Valle de Los Caidos7 (“Valley of the Fallen”, a fascist monument constructed with prisoner labour and a shrine for Spanish fascists).

Nevertheless the renovated Historical Memory Law, or its program posted by the Government, has been criticised by relatives and other historical memory activists, because it rules out any reparations. They are bitter that most of the known torturers, murderers and rapists died natural deaths without having faced even a trial and their accusers8 and that not only do their families hang on to their ill-gotten gains but that the State does not acknowledge its duty to the victims. The State itself, or one of its departments, is also engaged in a judicial-political struggle to recover from organisations and families some properties, including national monuments and one of them of UNESCO World Heritage status. Some local authorities face prosecution and reductions in allocation of central funds because they are holding on to commemorative signs exalting Franco or someone of his supporters.

Of course, the fascists and most varieties of the Right in the Spanish polity are angry at these events and link them to the struggle for Catalan independence as fatal to the Spanish State; they demonstrate and threaten a coup or some kind of repercussion, retired Army senior officers sign declarations and some rattle their sabres in public, the spokesperson of the Franco Foundation reminds the current King Felipe that it is entirely due to Franco that his father became monarch (which is true and Juan Carlos also swore allegiance to that regime, an oath which he never recanted).

Even some liberals are uneasy, feeling that “it’s reopening old wounds”, to which the relatives of the victims and others reply: “the wounds have never closed.”

end item.

SOURCES:

https://www.publico.es/politica/dictadura-franquista-memoria-revive-pueblo-badajoz-exhumacion-cinco-nuevas-fosas-comunes.html

https://alchetron.com/Battle-of-Badajoz-(1936)#Massacre-of-civilians

https://www.hoy.es/opinion/peldanos-historia-20210110005509-ntvo.html

FOOTNOTES:

1City in Extremadura, SW Spain.

2Unión General de Trabajadores, a general workers’ union allied to the social-democratic PSOE party. The union was outlawed by Franco and many of its supporters suffered imprisonment or even execution or murder without trial. It is one of the largest unions in the Spanish state today and the PSOE is one of the traditional parties of government.

3In that year’s General Election the right-wing Partido Popular won a landslide victory against the PSOE and the political climate changed considerably. Both the PP and the PSOE support the unionist and monarchist Spanish Constitution but the PP contains a harder Right, including supporters of the Franco regime and memory and outright fascists, some of which have split off at times to form the right-wing Ciudadanos and fascist Vox parties.

4Guerrilla struggle persisted in parts of the Spanish state after the defeat of the Republic, in some cases for decades.

5To sustain the fiction that they were fighting against “Communism”, (no doubt believed by many), those leading the fascist-military uprising constantly referred to their enemies as “Reds”. Some of course were but the Republic was also supported by Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists, democrats, social-democrats, revolutionary socialists, anarchists, libertarians and anarcho-syndicalists. The foreign press mostly referred to them as Republicans (sometimes as “Government supporters”) and the fascist-military side as Nationalists (sometimes as “rebels”). Communists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists predominated among the foreign volunteers who joined the Republican forces through the International Brigades and other routes (for example, Orwell, a member of the Independent Labour Party, fought with the mostly Trotskyist POUM) but they also included socialist Republicans from Ireland for example along with simply dedicated antifascists.

6Indeed, writing a review of the city history this very year, the author skips from 1921 to the 1970s, missing out the entire Antifascist War and the Massare of Badajoz, in an article featuring photos of the bullring where much of the massacre took place! https://www.hoy.es/opinion/peldanos-historia-20210110005509-ntvo.html

7An event covered in detail on Spanish TV in the style of a state funeral.

8Notable exceptions were Melitón Manzanas, Commander of the Political-Social Brigade of the Guardia Civil, a notorious torturer and Nazi collaborator, assassinated by the Basque armed group ETA in San Sebastian/ Donosti in 1968 and Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s nominated successor, also assassinated by ETA in Madrid in 1973. Manzanas was awarded posthumously the Medal of Civic Merit by the Aznar Government in 1998 as “a victim of terrorism”.

IN DUBLIN HONOURING THE SIXTEEN MARTYRS

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 5 mins)

On a gloomy wet and windy day today, Republicans and other anti-imperialists held a commemoration in Dublin’s Arbour Hill of the 14 executed martyrs in Dublin and the remaining two: Thomas Kent shot in Cork and Roger Casement hanged in Pentonville Jail, London. A heavy downpour interrupted the speaker but the event resumed after the cloudburst eased off though it was still raining. Sixteen lilies were laid on the grave patch and a song was sung that named seven of the martyrs, the signatories of the Proclamation.

The event was organised by Irish Socialist Republicans and Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland. In addressing the attendance Pádraig Drummond, chairing the event, pointed out that they were commemorating the Sixteen executed Martyrs of the 1916 Rising but that 15 of them had been murdered. Those had been tried by military court and even the British reviewing the actions later had agreed that the executions had been illegal; therefore Drummond said those 15 had been murdered and General Maxwell1 was a war criminal.

The 1916 Proclamation being read in Arbour Hill, 3rd May 2021. (Photos from AIA with thanks)

In addition, the chairperson continued, Maxwell had refused the relatives access to the bodies and had them buried without coffins in a quicklime pit in order to prevent their graves becoming martyrs’ shrines2.

When it came to the executions, Drummond said, Maxwell gave firing party duties to soldiers of the Sherwood Foresters, who had been decimated by Irish Volunteers at the battle of Mount Street Bridge on 26th April, seemingly to encourage them to avenge themselves for their regiment’s dead on unarmed prisoners condemned to die.

Pádraig Drummond called on one of the attendance to read out the Proclamation and, after he had done so, sixteen single Cala Lillies were laid on the plot above the quicklime pit.

Single lillies for each of the 14 martyrs buried here in Arbour Hill, 3rd May 2021. And two beneath the photos of the other two 1916 executed martyrs, Thomas Kent, shot by British firing squad in Cork and Roger Casement, sentenced to hang by British judge with sentence carried out by British hangman in Pentonville Jail. (Photos from AIA with thanks)

Diarmuid Breatnach was then called forward to address the attendance; speaking first in Irish and then in English, Breatnach said that he had been asked to make some remarks on the history of Irish uprisings in relation to assistance given from abroad but in doing so, he was not laying down any dictates or anything of the sort, only some reflections. “We should learn from our successes,” Breatnach said but also from our failures and perhaps to focus even more closely on the latter.

Breatnach had not been speaking long when the rainfall intensified. He was protected by umbrella but others in attendance were not; he faltered and looked for guidance to the chairperson of the event when the heavens seemed to burst open and with a nod, the whole ensemble headed for the shelter of a nearby horse-chestnut tree.

ALLIES

When the rain had eased off somewhat Breatnach returned to his theme, recounting how (Hugh) Aodh Ó Néill and Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill (Hugh Roe O’Donnell) had waged a guerrilla campaign in Ulster but relied on help from imperial Spain to free the whole country from England. Later the Irish resistance had sided with English monarchs against the English Parliament in the mid and late 17th Century, when they believed the monarchs would give them religious freedom and perhaps some of their lands back. The Papacy had supported the Irish in opposition to Cromwell and Imperial France gave military assistance against William of Orange later in the same century.

Diarmuid Breatnach addressing the gathering in Arbour Hill, 3rd May 2021; Pádraig Drummond, who chaired the event, standing to his left. (Photo from AIA with thanks)

The United Irishmen in the 1790s had looked for help to Republican France, Breatnach recalled but the flotilla under Hoche failed to land in 1796 and after the Rising was provoked prematurely by the British, by the time General Humbert landed in Mayo with not enough troops, the rising was nearly finished. In 1803, Emmet’s rising took place without the expectation of foreign assistance but was quickly over.

The Young Irelanders apparently believed in 1848, the Year of Revolutions all over Europe that an insurrectionary mobilisation could be achieved peacefully in Ireland and did not look for help from abroad — but were quickly suppressed, the speaker said.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1858 the Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded simultaneously in Ireland and in the United States. In 1866 the Fenians invaded Canada and in 1867 carried out a campaign in Britain, then had a brief unsuccessful rising in Ireland. They had not asked for troops from outside but in their Provisional Proclamation called on the English working class to rise against their exploiters.

The IRB was reformed and re-energised at the beginning of the last century and intended to lead a rising when England was in a war, which was expected soon. WW1 began in 1914 and in 1916 the Irish rose expecting help from Imperial Germany (which they received in armaments but nothing else) and from the USA in political support of which they received little.

The speaker remarked that looking back on all these instances in Irish history, those risings which had not had help from abroad, as with Emmet’s and the Young Irelanders, had lasted the least time.

It would be unrealistic, Breatnach continued, to expect to defeat a powerful enemy such as the UK with its army, navy and air force, without help from an external force. Unless of course the rulers of the UK were struggling with insurrectionary struggles from their own working class.

SOLIDARITY

Looking ahead, the closest areas from which help could come to an Irish insurrection are Britain and the European mainland. In looking for allies it would be necessary to evaluate the benefits and costs of particular alliances. Breatnach felt that when a part of the Irish leadership accepted the deal they were offered in 1921, they had an alternative option of linking with the struggles of the working class in Britain. In 1926 there was a general strike throughout Britain and earlier, in 1921 there had been strike struggles including one in Glasgow, where the local military unit was under lock and key by their own officers in fear that they would join the resistance. Large numbers of British soldiers who wanted to be demobbed after the War were being held back because their rulers knew they would need them to suppress liberation struggles throughout the world. These soldiers were rioting in some areas in Britain. Breatnach remarked that it is difficult to be certain but that if the Irish resistance had combined with the British workers in that period our whole history might have turned out very differently.

Some of the attendance in Arbour Hill, 3rd May 2021, standing in homage to the 16 executed 1916 Martyrs, 14 of whose bodies were buried in a quicklime pit (located underneath the green stretch. (Photo from AIA with thanks)

In conclusion Breatnach went on to talk briefly about internationalist solidarity, which can be a different issue than alliances; solidarity can be a moral issue but it can also be a practical one, as it is workers that would be required to produce material and load ships being sent against us. He had also noted, he remarked, that often internationalist solidarity would be the first thing dropped by those intending to abandon the revolutionary path; Breatnach exhorted the attendance to treat internationalist solidarity as a duty, a pleasure and a practical help.

Pádraig Drummond thanked Breatnach for his remarks and asked him to sing the Larkin Ballad as a conclusion to the event, which Diarmuid did.

In Dublin City in 1913,

The boss was rich and the poor were slaves ….”

The lyrics were written by Donagh Mac Donagh, orphan son of one of the executed Signatories of the Proclamation. The narrative begins with the union militancy under Larkin’s leadership, followed by the Dublin Lockout of 1913 and ends with the execution of the Signatories. The participation in the Rising of the workers’ defence militia, the Irish Citizen Army, along with James Connolly being one of the Seven Signatories of the Proclamation, provided an organic link between the Lockout and the Rising.

After the event people took photos and socialised briefly before heading for their homes through persistent rain.

FOOTNOTES

1. General John Maxwell, a veteran of colonial wars, was the officer charged with the suppression of the Rising; he set up the martial tribunals that handed down nearly 100 death sentence to participants, of which 15 leading revolutionaries were actually put to death, the others having their death sentences commuted to prison sentences.

Wikipedia: “Maxwell arrived in Ireland on Friday 28 April as “military governor” with “plenary powers” under Martial law, replacing Lovick Friend as the primary British military commander in Ireland. He set about dealing with the rebellion under his understanding of Martial law. During the week of 2–9 May, Maxwell was in sole charge of trials and sentences by “field general court martial”, in which trials were conducted in camera, without defence counsel or jury. He had 3,400 people arrested and 183 civilians tried, 90 of whom were sentenced to death. Fifteen were shot between 3rd and 12th May. H.H Asquith and his government became concerned with the speed and secrecy of events, and intervened in order to stop more executions. In particular, there was concern that DORA (Defence of the Realm Act, wartime legislation –CS) regulations for general courts martial were not being applied. These regulations called for a full court of thirteen members, a professional judge, a legal advocate, and for the proceedings to be held in public, provisions which could have prevented some of the executions. Maxwell admitted in a report to Asquith in June that the impression that the leaders were killed in cold blood and without a trial had resulted in a “revulsion of feeling” that had emerged in favour of the rebels, and was the result of the confusion between applying DORA as opposed to Martial law (which Maxwell had actually pressed for from the beginning). As a result, Maxwell had the remaining death sentences commuted to penal servitude. Although Asquith had promised to publish the court martial proceedings, the transcripts were not made public until 1999.”


However, it is known that Maxwell insisted on executing two more after Asquith’s caution and these were Sean Mac Diarmada (McDermot) and James Connolly, to which Asquith agreed.

2 In that, Maxwell was signally unsuccessful and between 1955 and 1966 the Arbour Hill site was developed as an important Irish historical monument and at this time of year will be visited by organisations and individuals, precisely in commemoration of the 1916 Rising.

FASCIST REPRESSION IN GALIZA

Argimiro Rodriquez


(Translated by D.Breatnach; la versión en castellano al fondo)


(Reading time: 8 mins.)


To this day, many people, both from the Spanish state and foreigners, believe that Franco’s repression only occurred in areas where the coup failed and war followed. But this is not the case for in areas such as Galicia (1), the Canary Islands, Castilla y Leon, Ceuta, Melilla, where the coup d’état triumphed in just a few days, the repression was equally brutal.

Photo of the executions taken from a distance by a Guardia Civil
Photo montage of original photo of the executions in 1936 and the memorial monument there today.

I am going to expose the events that occurred in my Galician homeland, which is what I know best. There was not a single battle there, so that some historians say that there was no war in Galicia; there are also those who think that the majority of Galicians were Francoists because Franco was born in Galicia. This is another myth, which is refuted by the fact that on June 28, 1936 its Statute of Autonomy was voted and approved by a large majority with almost one million votes in favor of the Statute. One of the main promoters of the Statute was Daniel Castelao, father of the Galician nation, writer, politician, draftsman, painter, etc., who was luckily in Madrid presenting this Statute in the courts, which is how he was able to save his life. The other was Alexandre Bóveda, shot in A Caeira, Pontevedra, on August 15, 1936, which is why every August 15th we Galicians commemorate the day of the GALIZA MARTIR, in memory of all the acts of repression.

“The fascist ‘stroll'” (Daniel Castelao) [The Falange, who carried out many of the non-judicial killings, would round up people and say “We’re going for a stroll.”- DB]
“That will teach them to have ideas” (Daniel Castelao)


The reason why the coup triumphed in Galicia has nothing to do with the Galicians supporting the coup but rather that in Galicia, as in many of the communities where the coup triumphed, it had more to do with the four civil Governors: Francisco Pérez Carballo, Gonzalo Acosta Pan, Ramón Garcia Nuñez and Gonzalo Martín March, who decided not to hand over arms to the people. They thought that the coup was not going to take place, or that in any case it would be easily controlled. They were very mistaken and they paid for it with their lives, because the Francoists, despite this, shot them. I should highlight here also the story of Juana Capdevielle, wife of the civil Governor of A Coruña, who was raped, shot and her breasts torn off. (2)

“All for Country, Religion and Family” (Daniel Castelao)


The repression that I know best about occurred in my city, A Coruña, where in a place near the Tower of Hercules, called Campo De La Rata, about 700 people were shot and thrown into the sea and where veritable mass meetings of fascists were convened to attend the shootings. Here is told the sad story of the brothers known as “La Lejia”, because their father had a bleach factory (3); of these brothers it is told that Bebel de la Lejia was a player of Deportivo de A Coruña (4) and a socialist, like his four brothers — when he went to be shot he lowered his pants and urinated on his murderers. Pepin de la Lejia was the only one of the brothers who managed to escape, he did so on a fishing boat to Asturias where he joined the Republican army and in the subsequent bombardment he lost a leg but managed to escape to France and from there into exile in Argentina. There is a beautiful song that tells his story. (5)

GUERRILLA ORGANISATION IN GALICIA POST-ANTIFASCIST WAR


In Galicia, one of the first guerrilla resistance organisations was also formed, the guerrilla army, part of the Leon-Galicia Guerrilla Federation and formed mostly by refugees who fled to the mountains, people who simply hid in the mountains but that the Communist Party managed to turn into a guerrilla organisation, one of the most numerous in the state, in order to deliver economic blows to the landowners or to carry out sabotage on the Tungsten mines, a mineral that was sold by the Francoists to the Nazis to make cannons for tanks. The guerrilla organisation ended up being abandoned by the Allies who recognized the Franco regime, but even so the last guerrillero was shot in 1968, a Galician they called “O Piloto”. The best known was Benigno Perez Andrade, known as “Foucellas”, an avid fan of the DEPOR, who went every Sunday in disguise to the stadium to see Deportivo A Coruña after which he posted the tickets to the civil Government.


We should also note that of the last five officially shot by the Franco regime (6,) two were Galicians: Xose Humberto Baena and Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo, both members of the FRAP (Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota) tried in a farce of a trial in which the Defence lawyers were even threatened beforehand by pistols aimed at them and all the evidence presented by the Defence was denied.

PLUNDER BY FRANCO AND FAMILY

And to conclude, I cannot end on the Francoist repression in Galicia, without mentioning something very recent that only occurred a few months ago, when the Department of Justice recognised that the State was the legitimate owner of the Pazo de Meiras (pazo in Galician means “palace”) which was literally usurped, stolen, etc by a series of Francoist characters to give to Franco, supposedly as a gift from the Galician people. The reality was that they created a kind of revolutionary tax (and I know this because my mother is from the same town where the pazo is located), in which whoever did not give money to buy the pazo for the Dictator was called “a Red”, which we all know entailed imprisonment and one could even be shot. After much struggle, there was success in getting the Justice Department to return the pazo to the State, originally without any compensation but the Dictator’s family appealed and once again the Court declared that the State had to pay one million euros, allegedly for a series of repairs they had made. However this has been appealed again by the State and in addition there is another series of processes underway, for other properties confiscated by the Franco family, such as the Casa Cornide, various statues of the Santiago Cathedral, several medieval baptismal fonts of many other churches etc.
End.

“They killed her son” (Daniel Castelao)
“Final lesson from the schoolteacher” (Daniel Castelao). [Non-fascist teachers, as intellectuals, were high on the list for execution by fascists – DB]
“They could not be buried in consecrated ground”. (Daniel Castelao)


FOOTNOTES

  1. Galicia is a nation of Celtic origin with a coast on the north-west of the Spanish state but speaking a Romance language very similar to Portuguese. It is bordered by Asturias (another Celtic nation) and Castilla y León to the east, Portugal to the south and otherwise the Atlantic Ocean. It is recognised as a historic nationality by the Spanish State and is governed as one of the “autonomous communities”.
  2. “According to Carlos Fernández Santander, at least 4,200 people were killed either extrajudicially or after summary trials, among them republicans, communists, Galician nationalists, socialists and anarchists. Victims included the civil governors of all four Galician provinces; Juana Capdevielle, the wife of the governor of A Coruña; mayors such as Ánxel Casal of Santiago de Compostela, of the Partido Galeguista; prominent socialists such as Jaime Quintanilla in Ferrol and Emilio Martínez Garrido in Vigo; Popular Front deputies Antonio Bilbatúa, José Miñones Díaz Villamil, Ignacio Seoane, and former deputy Heraclio Botana); soldiers who had not joined the rebellion, such as Generals Rogelio Caridad Pita and Enrique Salcedo Molinuevoa and Admiral Antonio Azarola; and the founders of the PG,Alexandre Bóveda and Victor Casas as well as other professionals akin to republicans and nationalists, such as the journalist Manuel Lustres Rivas or physician Luis Poza Pastrana (Wikipedia).
  3. “Lejia” is “bleach” in the Castillian (Spanish) language.
  4. Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña (‘Royal Sporting Club of La Coruña’), commonly known as Deportivo La Coruña, Deportivo or simply Dépor, is a professional soccer club based in the city of A Coruña, Galicia, in the Spanish state. They currently play in the third tier of the League in the Spanish state. Founded in 1906 as Club Deportivo Sala Calvet by Juan Parra Rois, the Blue and Whites were a regular in top positions in La Liga for some 20 years, from 1991 to 2010, finishing in the top half of the table in 16 out of 19 seasons, and are 12th in the all time La Liga table. As a result, the club was a regular participant in European competitions, playing in the UEFA Champions League five seasons in a row, reaching the quarterfinals twice and reaching the semi-finals in the 2003-04 season (Wikipedia).
  5. https: //youtu.be/ywhOfjNEuZY
  6. The other FRAP member was Ramón García Sanz; also executed on the same day 27th September 1975 were two ETA members, Ángel Otaegi and Juan Txiki Paredes Manot.

SOURCES, ADDITIONAL MATERIAL


Galician Statute of Autonomy: https://es.m.wikipedia.org/
Wiping out of the Republican authorities in Galiza: https://documentalismomemorialistayrepublicano.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/el-exterminio-de-autoridades-republicanas-en-galicia-por-fascistas/
Murders of the “Lejia” brothers: https://youtu.be/93VlSccyLxE
FRAP & ETA trial and executions: https://youtu.be/ha4SJMgVdvU
Franco plunder ownership challenge: https: //www.lavanguardia.

LA REPRESIÓN FRANQUISTA EN GALIZA

Argimiro Rodriquez

A dia de hoy, mucha gente, tanto del estado español, como extranjeros, creen que la represión franquista sólo se dio en las zonas en donde el golpe de estado fracasó, esto no es asi, zonas como Galicia, Canarias, Castilla y Leon, Ceuta, Melilla, donde el golpe de estado triunfó en apenas unos pocos dias, la represión fue igualmente brutal, yo voy a exponer, los hechos que ocurrieron, en mi patria gallega, que es lo que más conozco, donde no hubo ni una sola batalla , tanto es asi que algunos historiadores dicen que en Galicia no hubo guerra , también hay quienes piensan que la mayoría de gallegos eran franquistas porque Franco nació en Galicia, es otro mito, que no es real.

Para demostrar esto decir que Galicia , el 28 de junio de 1936 voto y aprobó su estatuto de autonomia ( https://es.m.wikipedia.org/ ) por una amplia mayoria con casi un millón de votos a favor del estatuto, cuyos principales impulsores fueron Daniel Castelao, padre de la Patria gallega , escritor, politico, dibujante, pintor etc . , quien por suerte se encontraba en Madrid presentando este estatuto en las cortes, por eso pudo salvar su vida, y Alexandre Bóveda, fusilado en A Caeira , Pontevedra , el 15 de Agosto de 1936, por eso todos los 15 de Agosto los gallegos conmemoramos el dia de GALIZA MARTIR, en homenaje a todos los represaliados . Coleccion de cuadros pintados por Castelao sobre la represión en Galicia https://youtu.be/ljyuasmr9iY  

El motivo por el que el golpe triunfó en Galicia , no tiene nada que ver con que los gallegos apoyaran el golpe, si no que en Galicia, como en muchas de las comunidades donde triunfó el golpe tiene más que ver con que los 4 gobernadores civiles : Francisco Pérez Carballo, Gonzalo Acosta Pan,  Ramón Garcia Nuñez y Gonzalo Martín March , decidieron no entregar armas al pueblo , pensaban ellos que el golpe no se iba a producir, o que en todo caso , seria facilmente controlado, estaban muy equivocados e incluso lo pagaron con sus vidas, porque los franquistas, pese a esto, los fusilaron : https:// , destacar aqui tambien la historia de Juana Capdevielle, mujer del Gobernador civil de A Coruña , a quien violaron, fusilaron y arrancaron los pechos.

La represión que mas conozco ocurrió en mi ciudad, A Coruña, donde en un lugar próximo a la Torre de Hercules , llamado el CAMPO DE LA RATA, se fusilaron y arrojaron al mar a cerca de 700 personas y donde se organizaban autenticas multitudinarias reuniones de fascistas para asistir a los fusilamientos. Aqui contar la triste  historia de los hermanos conocidos como de LA LEJIA , porque su padre tenia una fábrica de lejia, de estos hermanos contar que BEBEL DE LA LEJIA , era jugador del DEPORTIVO DE A CORUÑA y socialista , como sus 4 hermanos , cuando iba a ser fusilado se bajó los pantalones y orinó a sus asesinos : https://youtu.be/93VlSccyLxE Pepin de la Lejia fue el unico de los hermanos que consiguió escapar, lo hizo en un barco pesquero hasta Asturias donde se enroló en el ejercito republicano y en bombardeo perdió una pierna , pero consiguió escapar a Francia y exiliarse en Argentina , esta es una linda canción que cuenta su historia :https://youtu.be/ywhOfjNEuZY

En Galicia también se constituyó una de las primeras formaciónes guerrillera de resistencia, el exercito guerrilleiro, integrado en la Federación de guerrillas Leon-Galicia y formado en su mayoria por huidos al monte, personas que simplemente se escondieron en el monte , pero que el partido Comunista logró convertir en guerrilla, una de las mas numerosas del estado, con el fin de llevar acabo golpes economicos a los terratenientes o de realizar sabotajes a las minas de Wolframio, mineral que era vendido por los franquistas  a los nazis para fabricar cañones para tanques. La guerrilla acabó al verse abandonados por los aliados que reconocieron al regimen de Franco, pero aun asi el ultimo guerrillero fue un gallego al que llamaban O PILOTO, fusilado en 1968. El más conocido fue BENIGNO PEREZ ANDRADE, conocido como FOUCELLAS , reconocido seguidor del DEPOR , que iba todos los Domingos al estadio a ver al DEPORTIVO A CORUÑA , disfrazado y luego enviaba las entradas al gobierno civil por correo

También comentar que de los últimos 5 fusilados por el franquismo, 2  eran gallegos :Xose Humberto Baena y Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo , ambos militantes del FRAP ( Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota ) juzgados con una farsa de juicio en el que incluso encañonaron en la previa a los abogados defensores con pistolas y fueron denegadas todas las pruebas presentadas por la defensa

Y para acabar, no puedo terminar sobre la represion franquista en Galicia, sin mencionar algo muy reciente que tan sólo hace pocos meses cuando la justicia reconocia que el estado era el legitimo propietario del Pazo de Meiras ( pazo en gallego significa palacio ) que fue literalmente usurpado, robado , etc por una serie de tipos franquistas para regalarselo a Franco, supuestamente como un regalo del pueblo gallego a los Franco , cuando la realidad fue que crearon una especie de impuesto revolucionario, y esto lo sé porque mi madre es del mismo pueblo donde esta el pazo , en el que quien no daba dinero para comprarle el pazo al dictador , se le llamaba rojo, lo que todos sabemos que conllevaba prision y hasta podia ser fusilado. Despues de mucho luchar, se consiguió que la justicia devolviera el pazo al estado, en un principio, sin ninguna indemnizacion, pero la familia del dictador recurrió, y otra vez la justicia declaró que el estado debia de pagar 1 millon de euros , ellos alegan por una serie de reparaciones que hicieron, pero esto ha vuelto a ser recurrido por el estado , al margen de que hay en marcha otra serie de procesos , por otras propiedades confiscadas por los Franco , como la Casa Cornide, diversas estatuas de la catedral de Santiago, varias pilas bautismales medievales de otras tantas iglesias etc: https://www.lavanguardia.

FIN.

OVER TWO MONTHS OF WORKERS’ CONTROL – THE PARIS COMMUNE 1871

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the working class seized control of a major city and held it for over two months – the first time any such thing had happened. They did not just arm themselves and erect barricades – they elected representation, issued directives and implemented them, day by day. And the women were very much a part of it, including some of the lower level leadership, like Louise Michel, the Breton Anarchist woman who declared to the authorities who drowned the revolution in blood: “If you let me live, I will never stop crying out for vengeance.”

We should not allow the 18th of March to pass without stopping a least a moment to ponder on that momentous occasion and the extraordinary acts taken by mostly ordinary people. If we consider that the industrial commodity production of the industrial revolution had created the working class, the proletariat, it had been struggling for centuries against the exploitation of its labour power by the capitalists, the expropriation of all production for sale in exchange for the minimum in wages required to keep the workers alive and to produce the next generation of workers to be exploited. They had participated in many failed uprisings and even successful revolutions but in the latter case, always to the benefit of other social classes.

In 1871 they were successful beyond strikes, protests, riots and insurrections and, for the first time, in their own interests – they seized a major European city, the capital of a powerful State and ran it for their own benefit.

A number of conditions obtained which helped prepare the ground for the uprising: defeat of French state in war against Germany, ceding of Alsace-Lorraine, war shortages of food, firewood, coal and medicine in plummeting temperatures and a simmering discontent from the failure of a rising the previous October and others before that. But the action that precipitated the rising that led to the founding of the Commune was the attempt of the Government to seize the old cannons in the working class Montmartre district. As the casting of these had been paid for by popular subscription, the people saw them as their property and also as their own protection (having still living memories of the suppression of the 1848 revolution among many).

Contemporary sketch depicting even women and children removing cannon to Montmartre for people’s defence

The attempt by the Government’s soldiers resulted in the death of a resisting member of the National Guard, a popular armed force and this in turn led to the surrounding of the military and, when ordered to fire on the crowd, mutinies, desertions and the capture of officers. Soon afterwards the crowds began to take control and prominent high officers were grabbed and shot. By midday the Government was leaving and had ordered the regular army, which had already been retreated to the Seine, to leave and to reassemble at Versailles. Unfortunately one of the escaped was Marshall Patrice McMahon1 of the French Army.

MEASURES OF REVOLUTIONARY MANAGEMENT

Proclamation of the Commune and government by its Council

The Commune organised not only the defence of the city but its running and organisation along socialist lines.

On April 1st – that no employee or member of the Commune’s salary could exceed 6,000 francs. On April 2nd, the separation of Church and State, the abolition of all State payments for religious purposes and the transformation of all Church property into national property.

On 6th April the guillotine was brought out by the 137th Battalion of the National Guard and burned to great rejoicing. On 8th April the removal of all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers from schools was decreed and began to be implemented.

On 12th April, that the Column of Victory in the Place Vendome should be demolished, as the symbol of and incitement to national chauvinism and hatreds (this was carried out on the 16th). On the 16th the Commune ordered the systematic registration of all closed factories and the working out of plans for their management into production by the workers formerly employed in them, in cooperative societies. These cooperatives were to be organised in one great union.

On 30th April, the closing of all pawnshops. On 5th May the demolition of the symbol of expiation for the execution of Louis XVI, the Chapel of Atonement.

The Commune also abolished child labour and night work for bakers, made citizens of migrants (a number of which were also prominent in the Commune), granted pensions to unmarried partners of soldiers killed and their children, postponed commercial debts and outlawed interest on them and ensured the right of recall by voters of their delegates. The Commune’s local committees organised local defences, ran schools, provided clothing for children, food for the destitute, established canteens and first-aid stations …

A number of newspapers were published during the life of the Commune, varying from communist to anarchist to republican.

DEFEAT AND MASSACRES

The French Versailles Government was unable to take back control of the city even with their own regular army without systematic artillery bombardment to clear the way through to Paris and within it also. They appealed to those who had beaten them in the war, the German generals, to help them overcome the revolutionary resistance or at least allow them to pass. On the 11th May, the French Versailles troops under Marshal McMahon had blasted their way to the City Walls, then passed by the forts the Prussians had earlier taken on the north and east of the city. As the Versailles troops drove deeper into the city, resistance stiffened and intensified as they reached the working class quarters in the eastern half of Paris. It took eight days for the regular French Army to overcome the resistance on the heights of Belleville and Menilmontant.

“And then the massacre of defenceless men, women and children, which had been raging all week, reached its zenith.”2

Despite women not having the right to vote, they were active in the struggle, including in leadership roles, though not formally. Women were not only in the rearguard but helped build the barricades and fought on them, chaired committees and took part in debates. Many were killed in battle and many survivors were tried and sentenced to prison. Louise Michel, who was one of the leading activists, in her memoirs estimated their numbers in first-hand activity at 10,000; she fought with a unit of 30 women at Place Blanche in Montmartre until they were overrun.2

At the Hotel de Ville, which had been the headquarters of the Commune, the Versailles troops executed around 300 prisoners and burned the building (since rebuilt). One group of Communards retreated to the Pere Lachaise cemetery to make their stand and there, with no weapons or ammunition remaining, 147 survivors were placed against the wall and shot, their bodies thrown into a long ditch dug along the wall.

All armed resistance ended on 28th May but not the retributions of the French ruling class (with the support of the Republican bourgeoisie).

The Communard Wall plaque in Pere Lachaise cemetery, place of annual pilgrimage for the Left, especially the revolutionary Left.
Bodies of executed Communards
Some of the dead Communards prepared for burial by family or sympathisers

The full number of massacred will probably be never known and estimates vary from 10,000 to 20,000. On the wall of the Pere Lachaise cemetery some years later a plaque was erected and it has been a place of annual pilgrimage since for the Left (except during the Nazi occupation).

Louise Michel, Communard, in the uniform of the National Guard, the main armed force of the Paris Commune. Wearing that uniform was one of the charges of which she was convicted after the fall of the Commune.

Louise Michel, who defied the judges at her trial in December and challenged them to have her shot, was sentenced to penal exile, along with 10,000 Communard survivors, hers being to New Caledonia, a French colonial possession in the Pacific3. She arrived there after 20 months’ jail, where she met many other revolutionaries and apparently there became an Anarchist, returning to France under the general amnesty for the Communards in 1880 (and continued revolutionary activities almost to the day of her death in 1905, a few months short of her 75th birthday).

FOR THE FUTURE AND THE PAST

With the Paris Commune of 1871, the proletariat had for the first time seized and managed a major city. It would be 46 years later before they succeeded in seizing a country – Russia. In the case of the Commune, the workers had learned how to take a city but were unable to hold it against sustained external attack; with the Soviet Union, they took a country and fought off external attack but were unable hold it against subversion from within. One hundred and fifty years after the Commune’s and a century after the Soviet Union’s achievements, we are overdue for another revolution. Hopefully this time we will have learned to hold on to its gains.

The Communards sounded the trumpet proclaiming the approaching end of capitalism and gave an answer then and since to those who say a revolution is not possible or if it is, that the workers are incapable of governing themselves and supplying the means to satisfy the needs of society.

Let us take a moment to reflect and to honour.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Descendant of Irish gentry who had fled Cromwellian confiscations and repression and settled in France.

2Engels, opus cited in Sources.

3A long way from the west of the Australian continent.

Print of women on trial in Versailles court for their actions during the Paris Commune
Depiction of arrest of Louise Michel among survivors of massacre of prisoners
Battle in defence of the Paris Commune

SOURCES:

Engels, selected writings, (ed. W.O. Henderson, Penguin 1967), Introduction to the Civil War in France

https://www.rfi.fr/en/visiting-france/20110106-truth-buried-paris-cemetery-sculpture-mistook-famous-wall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/07/vive-la-commune-the-working-class-insurrection-that-shook-the-world

11-YEAR-OLD GIRLS “MURDERED” BY PARAGUAYAN MILITARY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 12 mins.)

On 2nd September 2020, a Paraguayan military operation took place in the north of the country which resulted in the deaths of two Argentinian girls of 11 years of age. Later three men were killed and the aunt of those girls was captured by Paraguayan military and is currently in jail. Those are the only elements upon which everyone is agreed; the rest is a matter of hot dispute, not only between the Paraguayan authorities and relatives of the dead girls and the detained woman, but also between those authorities and human rights organisations in Argentina, a feminist collective in Paraguay (currently subject to repression) and the appropriate organisation of the United Nations. There is also the question of a missing 14-year old girl.

Some of the human rights organisations, such as the Gremial de Abogados de Argentina (Association of Argentinian Lawyers) and feminist collectives in Paraguay itself have said the girls were captured alive and subsequently murdered. Some others, such as Human Rights Watch have cast heavy doubts on the version (actually, a number of different versions) of the Paraguayan authorities, also pointing out a number of actions taken which raise suspicions of murder and of attempts to cover up the events.

ACCORDING TO THE FAMILY AND SUPPORTERS

Last year Laura Villalba Ayala – sister of Carmen Villalba, one of the former top leaders of the EPP guerrilla organisation who has been in prison for 17 years – travelled from Argentina to Paraguay with three girls who were going to visit their relatives. According to some sources, to visit their fathers, whom they had never met in person, having been born in Argentina to where their mothers had fled and been brought up there.

Paraguayan intelligence detected the group and they were ambushed on 2nd September in the El Paraíso ranch, located in the city of Yby Yaú, in the Department of Concepción of the Republic of Paraguay. The belief is that they took them alive as prisoners and then executed two of the 11-year-old girls, Lilian and Maria Carmen Villalba and wounded 14-year-old Carmen Elizabeth (Lichita) who managed to flee along with others. Or executed the girls after the others had successfully got away – after interrogating them.

Two 11 year-old cousins killed by Paraguayan military last year who they claim were “guerrilleras”. (Photo sourced: Internet)

A relentless hunt pursued the fugitives and on 20th November 2020, while passing through the forest the three men who accompanied them were executed in cold blood: Lucio Silva, Esteban Marín López and Rodrigo Arguello. Their executioners fired infrared targeted shots at a distance of 500 meters.

Alone and without knowing the area, the girl and woman fled the hunt into the forest but got lost and separated and on December 23rd when Laura was looking for Carmen Elizabeth, she was arrested. The girl is still missing, while Laura is prisoner in a military camp and, according to her family and supporters, probably being tortured.

Carmen Elizabeth Villaba, the 14 year-old still missing after Paraguayan military attacked an EPP camp. (Image sourced: Internet)

ACCORDING TO THE PARAGUAYAN AUTHORITIES

The “raid on an EEP camp” was hailed by the President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez himself as a great victory against the EEP and mentioned that some young women guerrilleras had been killed. When giving more detail, the military said that the young women were around 14 or 15 and supplied photographs of their bodies in military-style fatigues/ uniform.

The authorities reported that the bodies had been found with weapons, that a paraffin test on one of them established that she had fired a weapon, that both had ammunition in their pockets, their clothes had been burned (“due to Covid19 precautions”) and both had been buried without autopsy.

Ferreira, a Government official who arrived at the site of the incident after it had occurred, said that he recorded bullet wounds which he said had been at a distance of between 10 and 20 metres and that the girls had been shot while running away.

Paraguayan anti-insurgency military in training. (Image sourced: Internet)

After enquiries from anxious relatives, the Paraguayan authorities requested the Argentinian state to send copies of the birth certificates of the girls which, when supplied, confirmed that the girls had been 11 years of age. The Director of Forensic Science of the Paraguayan Prosecutor’s office then had the bodies exhumed and, carrying out tests on them, confirmed their ages at around 11 years of age. After that examination of the remains, the Forensic Science Director, Pablo Lemir said one girl was shot seven times – from the front, the back, and the side – while the other girl was shot twice, from the front and the side.

Paraguayan special forces on parade. (Image sourced: Internet)

The Paraguayan State and its supporting media then began to talk of a “training camp for child soldiers” and accusing Laura Villalba Ayala of having accompanied them into Paraguay for that purpose.

DOUBTS AND SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES

Numerous sources including Human Rights Watch, commenting on the available information, cast doubts or outright challenged the Paraguayan state account, pointing out the following:

  • no autopsy was carried out on the bodies prior to burial as is required in particular by the Minnesota Protocol in cases of death caused by government agents (the international standard for conducting autopsies and other forensic analysis in the United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention of Extra-legal, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions).
  • neither family, Argentinian Consul or independent observers were permitted to attend the eventual autopsy
  • the clothes of the deceased, material of great forensic importance were not only not preserved but burned
  • the reason given for that burning, defence against Covid19 contagion, is not recommended in any of the Covid19 procedures and was not carried out with regard to other material in the camp (bedding, food sacks etc) and in any case makes no sense since the bodies were immediately buried, according to the military
  • despite videoing by Government forces of previous such operations, there was none of this one
  • there were no interviews of the military personnel to establish what weapons they had or who had fired or their account of the incident
  • the photos seen showed the uniforms clean and without bullet holes while the girls were by military admission killed by a number of bullets and relatives shown the photos contrasted the clean state of the uniforms with the girls’ faces and hands, which suggested to them that they had been dressed in the uniforms after torture and execution
  • Beyond 1.5 metres, it is not possible to determine the distance of firing since the entry wound will look the same at vastly different distances, according to two IFEG forensic analysts (Independent Forensic Expert Group of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims) giving Human Rights Watch their expert opinions in this case.
  • The paraffin test is not considered conclusive of having fired a gun, according to the IFEG experts, since there is a wide range of other substances that can give the same result.
  • According to Pablo Lemir, Director of Forensic Science of Paraguay’s Prosecutor’s Office, the failure to carry out an autopsy and burning of clothes violated standard procedures for such cases.
  • The Government expended some effort originally to claim that the girls were years older than their actual age. Now it is refusing to allow an experienced Argentinian team to exhume the girls and carry out a forensic examination.

REPRESSION AND RESISTANCE IN PARAGUAY ARISING FROM THIS CASE

A feminist collective responded spontaneously to the news of the killing with around 70 demonstrating with a samba band at the national building of the Pantheon of Heroes, carrying placards stating that the victims were only girls (“eran niñas” — which also became a hashtag about the case). The Pantheon building had been sprayed earlier with graffiti quoting from Paraguay’s child protection legislation and there was an attempt to burn a flag of the state’s colours.

The Attorney General’s Office immediately issued arrest warrants for three women on charges of “damage to national heritage”, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Paloma Chaparro, who had been recorded carrying out the acts, later surrendered herself to authorities, while Marian Abdala and Giselle Ferrer fled to Argentina despite continued border closures due to Covid-19. Subsequently summonses were issued for at least six of the organisers of the protest to answer charges of violation of Covid19 regulations and extradition requests were made of Argentina for the two who fled the country.

Paraguayan politicians, who have nothing to say about the killing of 11-year-old girls by their military, have vied to express disgust and horror at the crimes on the national monument, with patriotic associations even laying floral tributes of thousands of dollars at the monument. The Paraguayan media, all very aligned with the regime, has made great issue of this “crime” (at worst mild vandalism) with the effect of drawing a veil over the case of executions of two 11-year-old girls and three adults, the continuing disappearance of a 14-year-old girl and the continuing detention of their adult relative in a male-only military compound.

Paraguayan politicians and other right-wingers lay floral and flag tributes at the national monument in abhorrence of the feminists’ protest but without mention of two 11 year-old girls killed and a 14 year-old missing. (Image sourced: Internet)

Both women who fled to Argentina gave numerous death and rape threats as their reason, along with lack of faith in fair treatment by Paraguay’s judicial system.

Paloma Chaparro spent two weeks in jail before being bailed at $14,300 to house arrest.

During a press conference on Monday 11th, a member of the lawyers’ delegation who had entered the conflict zone in an effort to find and rescue Carmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba and also to investigate the incident, said they were accompanied throughout by five military vans and that the intimidation of the local people was such that they were unable to talk to any of them. However, some who separatedly had managed to speak to local people confirmed that the girls had been arrested alive during the raid.

Later the Paraguayan authorities claimed that one of the lawyers is the new leader of the EPP! Commenting on the accusation during the press conference a representative of the organisation clearly found it amusing but then became serious, pointing out that such accusations could put their lives in danger.

On 11 September 2020 the Paraguayan government stated that former Vice President Óscar Denis and one of his employees were kidnapped by members of the EPP not far from the site of the guerrilla camp assaulted by the army on 2nd September. The pick-up vehicle in which the two men were riding was found abandoned with propaganda leaflets scattered around, the statement said. The EPP appears to have made no statement in that regard.

Both men are reported still missing.

THE EPP

The Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (Paraguayan People’s Army) is a very small guerrilla army of communist ideology, which sees itself as a liberation organisation but which the regime classifies as a terrorist organisation. Estimates of its numbers vary from 50-100 and it operates mostly in the Concepción department (administrative area) in northern Paraguay and also in the neighbouring departments of Caníndeyu and San Pedro.

EPP Guerilla fighters, one reading a statement while others stand guard. (Image sourced: Internet)

Wikipedia and other websites describing such organisations regularly list the alleged killings, kidnappings etc by the guerrilla organisations without listing the corresponding arrests, killings and other actions by the police and army forces or other arms of the State or proxy forces. In those circumstances quoting statistics of armed actions by the guerrilla organisation can amount to propaganda in favour of the state in question.

Logo or arms of the EPP. (Image sourced: Internet)

The origins of the organisation are in the taking apart of the Partido Patria Libre (Free Homeland Party) by Paraguayan police in 2005.

Whatever others may say about them it does appear that the guerrilleros are well-regarded in the EPP operational area and the chairperson of the press conference in Argentina on Monday commented in passing that the funerals of the three fighters executed by the Paraguayan military were attended by large crowds of local people paying their respects.

Paraguayan Army vehicle overturned in explosion 2014, officer and private killed. (Image sourced: Internet)

ACTION

A coalition of Argentinian human rights organisations have written an Open Letter (see Appendix 2) to Alberto Fernandez, the President of Argentina, calling on him to suspend commercial relations with Paraguay until the regime responds satisfactorily to the following

  • “Demand the Paraguayan government authorize the immediate entry of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to carry out an autopsy within the framework of an impartial investigation that can guarantee justice for the girls María Carmen and Lilian Mariana Villalba.
  • “Demand of the Paraguayan government the appearance alive of Carmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba, aged 14, who has been missing since November 30, 2020.
  • “Demand of the Paraguayan government the immediate release of Laura Villalba, who is being held illegally in a military prison, probably subjected to torture.
  • “Grant political refuge in Argentina for the Villalba family, which is constantly harassed and criminalized by the Paraguayan government.”

Supporters of the family and human rights organisations in Argentina are asking for details of the case to be widely disseminated and for people internationally to add their voices to the campaign (should you wish to add your name or organisation in support of the letter, please notify estadoparaguayoinfantocida@gmail.com and name which category you come under from the list on the open letter).

At an on-line press conference on Monday last week it seemed that the only media present from outside Latin America were from the Italian and Spanish states. A member of the family, Myrian, thanked all for their efforts and vowed to continue the campaign while an elderly Nor Cortiñas, a member of the famous Mothers of May Square, who in the 1970s and 80s demonstrated in Buenos Aire’s city centre demanding justice regarding those “disappeared” by the military dictatorship then, spoke words of encouragement and said “Venceremos!” (“We shall win`!”) with upraised clenched fist.

Both the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have demanded an investigation into the killings.

ACCURACY:

Under a feeling of some urgency I have done best I have been able to assist in a small way the application of international pressure upon firstly the Paraguayan state to admit a proper investigation, along with the return to Argentina of Laura Villalbaand the currently disappeared 14-year-oldCarmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba and, in the second place, that the Argentinian Government take all action possible to achieve those aims. It was just a few days ago that I received the first knowledge I had of this case through a comrade abroad forwarding me the press release of the Argentinian Lawyers’ Association, since when I have tried to find more details and also some press coverage (see Sources). It is possible therefore that I have omitted some relevant matters or erred in some detail and if so, I can only apologise and hope that will not be the cause of anyone failing to disseminate information about this atrocity and the present and continuing danger to a woman in jail and a 14 year-old girl missing in Paraguay.

End.

APPENDED DOCUMENTS (total 2)

APPENDIX (1)

THE ARGENTINIAN LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION REPORTS THE ARRIVAL OF A DELEGATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAWYERS IN THE CONFLICT ZONE IN SEARCH OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE WHEREABOUTS OF CARMEN ELIZABETH OVIEDO VILLALBA (English translation from original by DB)

gremialdeabogados.org

It was public knowledge in the past that more than ten years ago several members of the Villalba family, mostly boys and girls, had to settle in our country (Argentina) fleeing the persecution unleashed by the Paraguayan Government against the families of the combatants of the EPP (Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo- Paraguayan People’s Army), who are not part of the organization.

Last year Laura Villalba Ayala – Carmen Villalba’s sister, one of the top leaders of the EPP who has been in prison for 17 years – travelled to Paraguay with three girls who were going to visit their relatives.

Paraguayan intelligence detected the group and the persecution against them was unleashed immediately, managing to ambush them on 2nd September in the El Paraíso ranch, located in the city of Yby Yaú, in the Department of Concepción of the Republic of Paraguay. They took them alive as prisoners and then executed two of the 11-year-old girls, Lilian and Maria Carmen Villalba and wounded 14-year-old Carmen Elizabeth (Lichita) who managed to flee along with the others.

From there, the chase after them was relentless. In this context, on 20th November 2020, the three people who accompanied them: Lucio Silva, Esteban Marín López and Rodrigo Arguello were executed in cold blood while passing through the forest. The executioners fired shots at 500 meters distance with weapons equipped with caloric and infrared mechanisms that detect human heat and direct the shot.

Alone and without knowing the area, they went into the forest trying to flee the persecution. They got lost and on December 23rd when Laura was looking for Carmen Elizabeth, she was arrested.

From the testimonies of local people collected by Laura before her arrest, some said that the army had captured Carmen Elizabeth and others said that a group of civilians captured her.

Throughout these days the Government of Paraguay has launched an intense campaign against the EPP, in particular against the Villalba family. To justify the executions of the girls and now the disappearance of Carmen Elizabeth “Lichita”, they are spreading false news about the recruitment of minors in the EPP, obscenely conducting a cover-up for their crimes and their need to use the persecution of girls as spoils of war in their fight against the EPP.

For that reason, several colleagues offered to organize a search group with the participation of our colleague Gustavo Franquet, along with the lawyer Daysi Irala from Paraguay, the lawyer Sabrina Diniz Bittencourt Nepomuceno from Brazil and the comrade Germán from Aníbal Verón’s CTD, who also volunteered to accompany and assist.

On the 4th of January 2021 this delegation arrived at Yby Yaú, North of Paraguay after 6 hours by the bus. From there, they will have to walk into the conflict zone, in an area with a lot of forest to try to reach the area where aboriginal communities have reported that they saw Lichita alive.

They will try to confirm the information gathered so far and look for more information about the 14-year-old girl (twin) daughter of Carmen Villalba.

We publicise the presence of our colleagues in the area, aware of the danger that the delegation has assumed when entering the conflict zone.

The Government and the Paraguayan military forces are informed of the entry into the area of a non-belligerent foreign group of which none carry any weapons.

We hold the Government and the Joint Task Forces of Paraguay responsible for the physical integrity, life, and liberty of our comrades, since the official Paraguayan organizations and the Argentine consul in Asunción have been formally notified of their presence.

Finally, and with all our heart, we want to show our immense gratitude to so many colleagues, as well as to very diverse organizations of different political positions that assisted with money (in some cases a lot of money, which was unexpected by us) to pay for the trip, tickets and the huge expenses that this mission entails for us.

Know that we will never ever forget such a gesture and that without this assistance this trip would have been impossible.

We will continue to provide all the information that we receive.

APPENDIX (2)

Open letter to President Alberto Fernández: You cannot do “business” with an infanticidal state.

We the undersigned, social organizations, intellectuals, academics, trade unionists, activists, defenders of human rights, feminists, professionals, members of civil society, political organizations, ask the Argentina Government presided over by Alberto Fernández to suspend commercial relations with the Paraguayan State until the clarification of the crime perpetrated by the Joint Task Forces (FTC) against the Argentinian girls María Carmen and Lilian Mariana Villalba, who were only 11 years old, in Yby Yaú, Concepción, Paraguay, on September 2, 2020, and thatCarmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba, 14 years old, disappeared since November 30, appears alive.

Along the same lines, the immediate cessation of the persecution of the Villalba family is required, which currently has Laura Villalba, mother of one of the massacred girls, illegally detained in the Viñas Cué military prison. Both Carmen Elizabeth and Laura witnessed the capture of the girls at Yby Yau on September 2nd. Therefore, the arrest of one and the disappearance of the other are intimately related to the intention of the terrorist state of Paraguay,faced with a fact that is internationally known, to erase the evidence and viciously punish the next of kin.

Laura, María Carmen, Lilian Mariana and Carmen Elizabeth resided in the missionary town of Puerto Rico (Argentina) and were stranded in Paraguay by the COVID 19 pandemic. The Paraguayan State had a duty to protect them and return them in good health. On the contrary, the repressive forces of that country violated their lives, with the operation celebrated as a success by the President of the country himself, Mario Abdo Benítez.

The bodies of the girls were not subjected to an autopsy and were quickly buried, with false information from official sources about the age and condition of the girls at the time of being killed. The alleged clothes that the girls were wearing were cremated as a preventive operation against COVID 19, a fact that lacks substance and reason. The second autopsy that was carried out under pressure from civil society determined the age of the girls and added more confusion to the way in which they were executed, so we understand that an impartial investigation is still necessary to determine what happened and to allow progress in a process of reparation and justice.

Although the Paraguayan Government has supposedly responded affirmatively to the request for an investigation made by the Argentinian State, it has done nothing in that direction and, on the contrary, has withdrawn its support for the UN in the face of its pronouncement in this case; it has persecuted the protesters who demand justice, has criminalized children, adolescents and indigenous communities in the region, has held the families of the victims responsible as well as relatives who suffer persistent persecution, has fostered wild hypotheses about Argentina, as some kind of “guerrilla nursery” place, has wished to prohibit the dissemination of information about the murdered girls, thereby trying to hide the fact that they were girls and push the case into oblivion, has continued with its policy of militarization of the northern region of the country. As if all this were not enough, we also observe an intention – reinforced by the hegemonic media and social networks – to deny the Argentinian nationality of the girls María Carmen and Lilian Mariana, to remove relevance of the incident from the Argentinian State, which worries us doubly: first, because it is intended to strip us of the tool of international law; second, because in this way the Paraguayan State demonstrates that it assumes the power to murder girls if it so wishes.

The Paraguayan State has a history of abuses that are recorded with six judgments of the IACHR, of which it has only partially complied with one of them, so we are talking about a serial violator of human rights. Under no point of view can we entrust the clarification of the massacre of our girls to whoever murdered them. Such is the impunity that no person is charged, investigated or detained for such an outrage, unlike the case of the people who participated in the protests demanding justice for the girls, for which there are summons, detentions and requests for international arrest. These recent verified events reveal not only disproportionate cruelty but also the direction taken by the Paraguayan judiciary.

If the Argentinian State is committed to the defense of human rights, in no way can it ignore such an outrage that physically assaults the bodies of girls, women and social activists. That is why through this letter we urge the Argentinian government to:

  • Demand the Paraguayan government authorize the immediate entry of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to carry out an autopsy within the framework of an impartial investigation that can guarantee justice for the girls María Carmen and Lilian Mariana Villalba.
  • Demand of the Paraguayan government the appearance alive of Carmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba, aged 14, who has been missing since November 30, 2020.
  • Demand of the Paraguayan government the immediate release of Laura Villalba, who is being held illegally in a military prison, probably subjected to torture.
  • Grant political refuge in Argentina for the Villalba family, constantly harassed and criminalized by the Paraguayan government.

We are convinced that you cannot do business with the infanticidal state led by Mario Abdo Benítez, direct heir to the Stroessner dictatorship.

Without further ado and awaiting a favorable response, sincerely:

HUMAN RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS (original endorsements but many more since then: 10)

TRADE UNIONS (original endorsements but many more since then: 7)

POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS (original endorsements but many more since then: 33)

SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL MOVEMENTS AND ORGANIZATIONS (original endorsements but many more since then: 119)

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY ORGANISATIONS (original endorsements but many more since then: 33)

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVISTS (original endorsements but many more since then: 200+)

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Repression against solidarity protesting women in Paraguay: https://nacla.org/paraguay-coronavirus-criminalization

Human Rights Watch report of the murders: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/02/paraguay-flawed-investigation-argentine-girls-killings

New York Times article on the case: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/11/world/americas/paraguay-military-girls.html

UN criticism of the special forces in 2015: https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/UN-Condemns-Human-Rights-Violations-in-Paraguay-20150401-0002.html

BASQUES MARK THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BURGOS MILITARY TRIALS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Basques marked the 50th anniversary of the Burgos military trials by the Franco dictatorship of 16 members of ETA, the armed Basque socialist independentist organisation. A few days ago a group went to the town of Burgos itself and posted slogans on the wall of the Spanish Ministry of Defence building there declaring that the Spanish State had not succeeded in its repression in 1970 and would not do so in future. In the Basque Country itself events were also held in commemoration.

The military trials of 16 members of ETA took place between 3rd and 9th December 1970 in the Spanish city of Burgos in Castille (north-central Spain). The trial concluded on the 28th with sentences of death on six and sentences up to 70 years on the remaining ten. Intended to be a mortal blow to ETA and to Basque resistance the trials instead inspired greater and more united resistance in the Basque Country and became an international publicity debacle for the Franco dictatorship.

Within the Basque Country, demonstrations and pickets took place and a general strike saw 100,000 workers there out on strike. ETA distributed pamphlets and leaflets among the people and in its repressive measures the Spanish police beat many workers and killed a number, as in Etxarri in Nafarroa (Navarra) province.

Internationally, protest demonstrations took place across Europe and other parts of the world, particularly outside Spanish Embassies, often leading to battles with the police of the host country. Pope Paul VI appealed for the death sentences to be commuted and Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading intellectual of the French Left and with an international literary reputation congratulated the defendants on having brought the situation of the Basque Country under Franco to international attention.

ETA hired prominent lawyers of Left and Human Rights reputation to defend the sixteen. The organisation also kidnapped the German honorary Consul as a hostage (and later released him unharmed). The defendants themselves used the trial politically, turning it into an exposure of the Franco regime and its repression. A number described the tortures to which they had been subjected, all of them declared their commitment to socialist freedom and some even stated that they were fighting for the rights of all working people.

Protest demonstration in front of Spanish Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela in December 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)

The military judges, aware that the publicity of the trial was going against the Dictatorship, began to clamp down and restrict the defendants from saying anything that was not directly, as they saw it, pertinent to the charges, after which the defendants refused to speak at all. At one point during the trial the defendants all stood and sang the battle-song and national anthem of the Basque nation, Eusko Gudariak1. An even greater sensation occurred in a brief incident when the final defendant to speak, Mario Onaindia, attempted to attack the judges with an axe.2

Demonstration in Barceloneta, Catalonia in solidarity with Burgos defendants, December 1970
(Photo sourced: Internet)

BACKGROUND

A military-fascist uprising against the elected Popular Front government of Spain took place in 1936 and in the Spanish Antifascist War that followed, the Spanish Republic was defeated by the military with substantial assistance from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the UK and France blockaded the Republican forces.

Hitler and Franco reviewing invader Nazi troops in Hendaye, French Basque Country. (Photo source: Internet)

A military-fascist dictatorship with the strong assistance of the Spanish Catholic Church followed amongst huge repression, making Spain the state with the most mass graves in Europe and second only to Cambodia in the world.

The Popular Front Government had granted autonomy to the Basque Nation (and to Catalonia) for the first time in centuries of the Spanish State, although Nafarroa province had sided with the military-fascist forces. Any notion of autonomy was withdrawn under the Dictatorship and even use of the Basque and Catalan languages in public or in education was forbidden.

Some guerrilla resistance continued for a period in the mountains of the Basque Country, Catalonia and other parts of the Spanish state territory but the fighters were hunted down or fled the Spanish state. The Communist Party and some socialist organisations continued an underground existence and built illegal trade unions but the CP of Spain did not support independence for the Basque Country or for Catalonia, on the theory that this would “break up the Spanish working class” (however later they all mobilised against the Franco Dictatorship and in solidarity with the Burgos defendants).

Euskadi3 Ta Asakatasuna (Basque Land and Freedom) was formed in 1959 out of a coalition between a left-wing Basque youth group and the youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) who were discontented with the lack of action of their elders. In June 1968 ETA carried out its first armed action against Spanish police when killing a police officer asking for their identification papers at a checkpoint and shortly afterwards one of the ETA pair was gunned down by police. Two months later the organisation carried out its first planned attack when they killed Melitón Manzanas, Commander the Political Police Brigade in Alava Province. Manzanas was a notorious fascist and torturer who had hunted down Jewish refugees to turn them over to the Nazis during WWII.

The Burgos trials was intended to smash ETA completely but as outlined above, had an entirely opposite effect. The death sentences were commuted in an attempt to reduce the damage the trials had caused the international reputation of the Spanish State.4

Solidarity with Burgos Defendants in Paris, Dec. 3rd 1970 (Photo sourced: Internet)
Angry Brigade Communique on machine-gunning of Spanish Embassy, London on 3rd December 1970. (Photo sourced: Internet)

AFTER BURGOS AND TODAY

ETA continued its armed and non-military actions and other revolutionary armed communist resistance began to take shape elsewhere in the Spanish territory.

Despite the huge success of the Basque solidarity mobilisations to prevent the executions in 1970, five years later a similar wave failed to prevent the executions of another two ETA members and three FRAP (Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Patriotic Front) members: Ángel Otaegui Etxeberria; Juan “Txiki” Paredes Manot; José Humberto Baena; Ramón García Sanz; and José Luis Sánchez Bravo.

French solidarity with ETA defendants 1975. This time the international campaign was unsuccessful and the Spanish State executed the two ETA and three FRAP activists (Photo sourced: Internet)

ETA counted some actions notable for the harmful effect on them but also some spectacular successes in its armed campaign. Included in the latter were the assassination in Madrid in 1973 of Admiral Carrillo Blanco, Franco’s appointed successor and the abandonment of the nuclear reactor project in Lemoiz5 in Bizkaia in 1983. Blanco’s assassination and the death of the Dictator Franco in 1975 hastened the Transition of the Spanish State to an alleged democracy and a monarchical and unitary state constitution in 1978.

The Basque resistance constructed a network which beyond the armed group consisted of trade unions, youth organisation, social centres, daily bilingual newspaper and political parties. The Spanish State waged war against that movement with repressive laws, arrests, torture, jailings, closure of organisations and media, along with armed action against ETA. In addition, it organised and funded a terror and assassination campaign over a period of 26 years6.

In the late 1990s the Basque Left-Independentist movement began a process of unilateral disarmament and change in political direction which led first to an indefinite ETA truce in 2010, then to decommissioning of arms and finally to the dissolution of ETA in 2018. However around 250 Basque political prisoners remain in jail, a tiny group of which have declared their dissidence from the leadership’s path and are supported outside the jails by a growing movement which has a very different line to that of the “official” leadership.

The Spanish State insists that the only possible relaxation of prison conditions, end of dispersal7 or granting of parole for the prisoners is “if they recant their beliefs and apologise to the victims.”

Political repression continues at some level within the Basque Country. There is no indication that there is any intention in Spanish ruling circles to grant independence to the southern Basque Country – quite the contrary (as seen also in Catalonia).

THE 50th ANNIVERSARY

A group of activists from the official Abertzale Left carried out a publicity commando raid in Burgos recently (see video below) and attached a banner poster to the Spanish Ministry of Defence building which read: “NEITHER WERE YOU ABLE to repress the struggle of the people NOR WILL YOU BE ABLE” and LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!

A number of public meeting and on-line events were also held this month, including the commemoration in Etxarri of two Basques who were killed by Spanish police during the Burgos Trials protests.

In Eibar city in Gipuzkoa province around 100 people assembled despite Covid19 restrictions in the open air to mark the anniversary and included one of the Burgos trial defendants who, along with another woman, read out a manifesto which has been signed by many in the Basque independentist movement.

Burgos Trials 50th Anniversary Commemoration in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Dec.2020. (Photo source: Naiz.eu)

“The Franco regime wanted to prosecute, punish and subdue again a people that in the darkness of the dictatorship had dared to rise from the ashes of war,” they read, introducing the manifesto.

Recalling the moment when the defendants rose in court and with upraised clenched fists sang the Eusko Gudariak, the manifesto commented: “With their courage, that handful of young militants taught us to stand up even when it seems impossible, and their example lives on today in us and in the future in the actions and dreams of the new generations.”8

The manifesto also states that the Burgos Trials were “a milestone” for the survival of Euskal Herria. However today, 50 years later, the substantive process has not concluded, since “they continue to take Basque youth to court, thinking that by disciplining them they will quench the desire for freedom of this people, and the states that surround us have not abandoned their strategy against the independence movement.”

The anniversaries of milestones in the struggle, of successes and failures, of martyrs, continue to be marked. And the journey is far from finished.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1“Soldiers of the Basque Country”, very similar in title and theme to the Irish national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann/ The Soldiers’ Song.

2How Onaindia managed to get his hands on an axe in court is one question but the significance of the axe cannot be underestimated – it was a traditional tool of foresters but also of ancient Basques in war and formed one part of ETA’s emblem, the other being the snake, representing wisdom.

3Formerly used to describe the whole Basque nation, “Euskadi” nowadays mainly describes the Basque Autonomous Region of the provinces of Bizkaia, Alaba and Gipuzkoa. “Euskal Herria” (The Country of Basque Language”) is more commonly used today to describe the whole seven provinces of the Basque nation, four currently within the Spanish and three within the French states.

4It also increased the pressure on the Spanish ruling class from the USA and European states to become more moderate politically and less vulnerable to revolution.

5This was in addition to frequent large protest mobilisations.

6Much more than the notorious GAL – see for example https://rebelbreeze.com/2020/12/23/november-month-of-murders-of-basque-activists/

7The vast majority of the prisoners are in jails dispersed throughout the Spanish and French states, between hundreds and even a thousand kilometres from their homes, placing a huge burden on their families and friends in visiting them.

8Comment: One wonders whether they felt any sense of irony in reading that out, considering that only in September last year 47 Basque prisoner solidarity activists pleaded guilty in a plea deal that ended their trial in 25 minutes with suspended sentences for all except for a few months’ jail for a couple of them. The deal came as a total shock to the estimated 50,000 people who had, only two days earlier, marched in solidarity with the accused, defending their right to do solidarity work without being persecuted or prosecuted.

SOURCES

https://www.naiz.eus/eu/info/noticia/20201228/ni-pudieron-ni-podreis-mensaje-en-la-an-y-el-gobierno-militar-de-burgos-50-anos-despues

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgos_trials

https://www.naiz.eus/en/info/noticia/20201129/personalidades-del-ambito-independentista-recuerdan-el-50-aniversario-del-proceso-de-burgos

BASQUE TRAWLERS AGAINST A SPANISH BATTLECRUISER

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 minutes)

The 5th of March is the anniversary of the naval Battle of Cape Machichaco (cabo matxitxakoko borroka, in Euskera/ Basque), which took place on 5 March 1937 off Bermeo (Bizkaia province, Basque Country), during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War, between the Spanish Military-Fascist heavy cruiser Canarias and four Basque Navy trawlers escorting a Republican convoy. The trawlers were protecting the transport ship Galdames, which was sailing to Bilbao with 173 passengers.

Looking from Cabo Matxitxako out to sea and to the French Border dividing the Basque Country.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(The following account of the battle is from Wikipedia; the section titles and comment are mine)

          On 4 March, four armed trawlers of the Basque Auxiliary Navy section of the Spanish Republican Navy, Bizcaia, Gipuzkoa, Donostia and Nabarra departed from Bayonne, France. Their intention was to defend Galdames‘s mail, passengers, machinery, weapons, supplies and 500 tons of nickel coins property of the Basque government.

The battlecruiser Canarias.
(Photo source: Internet)

Canarias sailed from Ferrol with Salvador Moreno as the captain, with orders to stop the transport ship. Galdames, which was steaming up with the lights and the radio switched off, and was unknowingly left behind by Bizcaya and Gipuzkoa.

FOUR CONVERTED TRAWLERS AGAINST A BATTLE CRUISER

          Next morning, while all the trawlers were watching for Canarias, Galdames rejoined them. Bizcaya‘s captain was Alejo Bilbao, Nabarra‘s Enrique Moreno Plaza from Murcia, and Gipuzkoa‘s Manuel Galdós. The trawlers had the intention of luring Canarias close to the Biscay coast to have the assistance of the coastal batteries.[

The first trawler to spot Canarias was Gipuzkoa, 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of Bilbao. The Basque trawler was hit on the bridge and the forward gun. Return fire from Gipuzkoa killed one Canarias seaman and wounded another. The armed trawler, with five fatalities and 20 injured aboard, managed to approach the coast, where the shore batteries forced Canarias to retreat.

Nabarra and Donostia tried to prevent Canarias from finding Galdames and engaged the cruiser.

The Nabarra during the Battle of Matxitxako, painting by David Cobb.
(Photo source: Internet)

Donostia withdrew from the battle after being fired on by Canarias, but Nabarra faced the enemy for almost two hours. She was eventually hit in the boiler and came to a stop; 20 men abandoned the sinking trawler, while other 29 were lost with the ship, including her captain, Enrique Moreno Plaza.

The transport Galdames, which was hit by a salvo from Canarias and lost four passengers, was eventually captured by the military-fascist cruiser.

Gipuzkoa arrived at Portugalete seriously damaged and Bizcaia headed for Bermeo, where she assisted the Estonian merchantman Yorbrook with a load including ammunition and 42 Japanese Type 31 75 mm mountain guns, previously captured by Canarias and released.

Port town of Bermeo, seen from Cabo Matxitxako.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Donostia sought shelter in a French port.

AFTERMATH

          The 20 survivors from Nabarra were rescued by the military-fascists and taken aboard Canarias. Instead of the expected hostility and mistreatment, they were given medical assistance, and both the cruiser commander, future Francoist Admiral Salvador Moreno and Captain Manuel Calderón interceded with Franco when the Basque seamen were sentenced to death in retaliation for the shooting of two crewmembers of the armed trawler Virgen del Carmen, captured by Republican sympathizers and diverted to Bilbao in December 1936. The survivors were eventually acquitted and released in 1938.

In contrast, one of the passengers aboard Galdames, Christian Democrat politician Manuel Carrasco Formiguera, from Catalonia, was imprisoned and executed on 9 April 1938.

Map/ diagram of the Battle
(Image source: Internet)

PERSONAL COMMENT

COURAGE, COWARDICE AND CRUELTY

           The story is one of incredible bravery of a number of converted trawlers and their Basque crews, in particular that of the Nabarra and her Captain from Murcia. One account I read related that her Captain consulted his crew and they agreed to fight to the death or the sinking of their ship. Their valour and stubbornness (two qualities which commentators often associate with the Basques) was of such magnitude as to impress  even their military-fascist opponents, to the extent of their interceding with Franco to save their lives.

It is also the story of the cowardice of at least the captain of the Donostia.

And of the bestiality of the military-fascists in the execution of a member of the Catalan Government returning to his country with his family, guilty of no crime but to serve his the administration of his elected republican government (one of hundreds of thousands of such crimes of the miiltary-fascists coupists and their victorious regime).

VISIT TO CAPE MATXITXAKO

           I visited the land part of the location on a number of occasions in recent years. Access by public transport is by a bus every hour but I was driven by friends.

Monument to the Battle of Matxitxako by sculptor Nestor Barrentxea, who is from the nearby port town of Bermeo.  (Photo source: Internet)

On a windy promontory on private land I saw one of the shore artillery battery sites (which has had nothing done to conserve it) and, close enough, the monument to the battle. Not far from there is a local bar-restaurant which is popular and a short trip by car, the iconic hermitage of Gastelugatxe.  Many tourists visit the area but I wonder how many get to hear of the story.

Thinking of the determination and courage of those crews, not even trained for war, in converted trawlers, facing a trained naval crew of a huge battle cruiser, I am not ashamed to say my eyes fill and my lip trembles.

Aerial view of the Matxitxako Cape. (I took my two photos from beside the building furthest to the right).
(Photo source: Internet)

 

end.

247 VICTIMS OF FRANCO REBURIED WITH MEMORIAL

https://www.publico.es/politica/247-victimas-franquismo-llevan-anos-almacen-valladolid-reciben-sepultura.html

(Para el informe en castellano haz clic en el enlace)

(Translated from Castillian by D.Breatnach)

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

MADRID 02/15/2020 1:57 PM ALEJANDRO TORRÚS

          At last. The remains of 247 victims of Franco that have lain in a warehouse in Valladolid for over two years will be buried this Sunday in a memorial constructed within the Carmen cemetery. This will be the end of a long process that began in 2016 with the exhumations of communal graves in the cemetery itself, paralyzed since for a long time by the insistence of UGT to install a bust of Pablo Iglesias Posse. Finally, there will be a memorial, there will be the names of the more than 2,650 fatalities of the province, the 247 bodies recovered and there will be no bust of the founder of UGT and the PSOE.

(Trans: UGT is one of two main Spanish trade unions and is connected to the social democratic PSOE; both were banned — along with many other organisations — during the Franco Dictatorship but since then the PSOE has been in government more than any other party. Valladolid is about halfway between Madrid and the Bay of Biscay).

3) Letter sent by Julián Carlón to his wife and children from the Valladolid prison.- ALEJANDRO TORRÚS

“We want this tribute to be an act of democratic recognition and historical justice to all those who defended the Second Republic regardless of the party in which one was active,” explained Julio del Olmo, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) of Valladolid, responsible for the exhumation and custody of the bodies, to Público.

Memorial built in the Carmen cemetery, just a few meters from the location of the graves of the victims of the Dictatorship. (Photo: Valladolid ARMH)

The event will begin at 12.00 noon this Sunday and will include participation of relatives of the victims, the Valladolid writer Gustavo Martín Garzo, musical performances and the presence of the Mayor of Valladolid, Óscar Puente and the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory, Fernando Martínez.

However, the tribute comes too late for many victims. For example, for Saturnina, who passed away a few weeks ago. Her perseverance and struggle and that of her husband facilitated the ARMH in identifying the place where the graves were in the cemetery and proceed to their exhumation. Saturnina was only a child when Franco’s forces shot her father, Julián Carlón, on October 1, 1936.

Saturnina, in fact, barely knew anything about her father. He was four years old when he was taken. “I only remember the day he was taken and the place where he was buried, which my uncle told me about,” she confessed tearfully to this newspaper in September 2019. “I don’t even know how he was killed. I just know he was taken away, that he never came back and that, from that day, there were only tears in my home. My mother never told me about my father because of fear,” she said. However, thanks to the indications of a relative, Saturnina kept a memory of the exact place where the bodies were buried after their execution.

Saturnina & Avilio at home September 2019. Saturnina was 4 years of age when the Francoist forces took her father away and shot him.
(Photo: Torrus)

REMAINS OF THREE WOMEN AND TWO MEN IDENTIFIED

           To date, the Valladolid ARMH has managed to identify “with total security” five of the 247 bodies recovered. These are of three women and two men: Lina Franco Meira; Republican Army sergeant Francisco González Mayoral; the Mayor of Casasola de Arión, Mateo Gómez Díez; and mother and daughter María Doyagüez and María Ruiz Doyagüez.

“Of the four graves with the 247 bodies that we have found, we have only been able to certify those five people to almost 100%. Of many others, we can be almost certain that they correspond to one group or another of those shot, but we cannot name each skeleton. We lack the means and it is a tremendously complicated process,” laments Del Olmo, who, however, points out that the remains of the victims will be well preserved so that, if possible, they continue working on identifications.

Letter from Julián Carlón in Valladolid Prison to his Wife & Children.
(Photo: A. Torrús)

Cases such as that of Lina Franco Meira, which has been identified, are exceptional when 81 years have elapsed since the end of the Civil War. Her bones could be identified thanks to a DNA test sample of one of her daughters, 93 years old. An exceptional case of longevity that has allowed name and surname to be given to some bones and, in addition, allows us to believe that among the rest of those sharing her grave are her other 14 neighbors of the town of Castromocho (Palencia) that were taken along with Lina Franco to Valladolid to be executed and buried.

“SO THAT FRANCO AND AMNESIA DO NOT WIN”

          Franco’s forces not only killed Lina Franco and more than 2,000 people in this province (Castille-Léon). They also tried to erase their names, their life stories and their struggles. Now, 84 years after the coup, a memorial will recover their names and try to spread their fight in defence of Republican values. The challenge, however, continues and consists in being able to identify as many of them as possible so that Franco and amnesia do not win the battle.

End item.

JARKI – NEW BASQUE ORGANISATION FOR INDEPENDENCE AND SOCIALISM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 15 minutes)

When Basque independentists celebrated Gudari Eguna this year, the Day of the Basque Soldier, some of the celebrants were affiliates of the Abertzale (Basque pro-Independence) Left while others were supporters of the Basque Nationalist Party, nominally at least and often in reality, political enemies. However, it is not the same day for each.

Flagpole with the ikurrina, Basque national flag, at Sollube, scene of a battle between the Francoist forces and the Basque Gudari during the Antifascist War. This was erected probably by the PNV for their commemoration but commemorations are also held at the site by ‘dissidents’ of the Abertzale Left.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

A beech seedling (native tree, sacred in folklore, of reputed medicinal qualities, e.g in helping the body to resist infection) had been planted by ‘dissidents’ at the Sollube memorial and, although the surrounding protective netting had collapsed, was still alive. Subsequently Amnistia supporters returned and tidied up the area and left stone markers too.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

Mount of sollube: the Francoist forces had invaded from that far background direction, coming in from Nafarroa, which had been taken over to Franco by the Basque Carlists.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

          The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) commemorates the execution of 42 Basque fighters in one jail by the Franco forces on 28th October in 1937, whilst the Abertzale Left carries out their commemoration a month earlier, on the 27th of September, anniversary of the last executions under Franco (and, officially, in the Spanish state since): ETA martyrs Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) and Ángel Otaegi Etxeberria, along with three members of FRAP (Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front) Jose Luis Sanchez Bravo, Ramón Garcia Sanz and Humberto Baena, all shot by firing squads in 1975 (despite world-wide protests and riots outside Spanish embassies).

For much of the Abertzale Left, Gudari Eguna commemorates not only the martyrs of the 27th September 1975 but also all those who fought for Basque independence during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War and all who fought for it since, in particular those martyred in the struggle.

But even in agreement on that date and that purpose, there are differences too. For some years now some commemorations have been by supporters of Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (Amnesty and Freedom), who denounce the “Officials” for dropping the demand for an amnesty for political prisoners but also criticise them on many other political and cultural grounds: ceasing to push for the everyday use of Euskera (the Basque language), making political pacts with social democrats, etc.

Increasingly, ATA and the “Officials” find themselves incapable of sharing a commemoration or a platform as the latter move further down the path of accommodation to the Spanish regime, social democracy and the PNV, commemorating police killed, apologising for the ‘crimes’ of the now-defunct Basque armed organisation ETA.

A poster of the “Officials” highlights two ETA martyrs, one killed by the Policía Nacional and the other by the Guardia Civil. (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

A poster for Gudari Eguna of the ‘Official’ leadership, the party EH Bildu, next to a poster of the ‘dissident’ ATA listing six prisoners whose situation is being highlighted.
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

JARKI – A COMPARATIVELY NEW ORGANISATION REJECTING THE ABERTZALE LEFT “OFFICIAL” LEADERSHIP

          In Ireland, though they themselves might reject that appellation, the equivalent to ATA would be called “dissident Republicans” and Basques are not as touchy about being counted part of the dissidencia. But one new group has emerged which does reject that term as descriptive of themselves, while at the same time very clearly against the positions of the “Officials” and resolutely for independence and socialism.

This group is called Jarki, (of various meaning: “Resist/ Stand fast/ Push back/ Commit”; the first letter is pronounced like the Spanish “j” or the Irish “ch”).

Among other posters of factions of the Abertzale Left proclaiming Gudari Eguna in the Basque Country this September, I had seen one, very large, side by side with a declaration of position against the subjugation of the Basque nation, for socialism and class struggle. Curiously, there had been no venue advertised for a commemoration ceremony to take place. Was this group, this Jarki, not intending to have one? I made discreet enquiries, someone spoke to someone ….. who perhaps spoke to someone else ….

Jarki poster for Gudari Eguna — note no venue details
(Photo source: D.Breatnach)

On Gudari Eguna this year,

Text poster of Jarki’s alongside their image poster (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

27th September, I was met fairly early in the morning by my appointed guide. The mist gathered high upon the marshes and river and in the valleys as we drove higher, eventually coming out on a scenic site, the day cold but the climbing sun burning off the last of the mists. We rendezvoused with other carloads, then drove to another spot and parked. Asked to leave my mobile in the car, I accompanied my hosts on a long walk in unseasonal sun and heat to a field, where a temporary stage had been set up. It was to be a Gudari Eguna event organised by the Jarki organisation.

The security precautions were not excessive. This was taking place in the Spanish state, where fascism had never been defeated but had instead had a paint-over job in order to allow the Western states, after the death of Franco, to pretend it was a democracy. Until a few years ago, detentions of Basques had been like an epidemic, torture by police and army routine and just as routinely ignored by judges who sentenced the prisoners on the basis of their “confessions” or those of others to long years in jail. In contravention of EU and UN protocols for the treatment of prisoners, the political victims of the State had been dispersed to its furthest reaches, far from spouses, children, relatives and friends. And though the armed group ETA had ceased operation in 2012 and was now disbanded, persecution went on: that very month, 45 people of various organisations arrested in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for supporting the prisoners, including psychologists and lawyers, “supporting terrorism” according to the State, had been brought to trial1.

On the way to the rally, I saw many young men and women, in their middle-to-late teens or early twenties and also many others in ages ranging from late 50’s to 80s, also with a sprinkling of young adolescents. In other words, there were hardly any there of raising a family age. The sun was very hot now and I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist and, even so, was soon sweating.

I and one other were provided with a translator to Castillian (Spanish) for the speeches in Euskera – nobody else seemed to need one, a state of affairs that would not be matched in Irish Republican or Socialist circles with regard to our native language.

The heat beat down and I worried about getting sunburned, while at the same time very interested in what was going on. A large dragonfly wheeled above us, hovered a second then shot off. One of the folkloric Basque names for it translates as “Witch’s Needle” but it is important to recognise that in Basque society, sorgina or “witch” does not have the same negative connotations as can be found in much of western society, even today.

“THE STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE — IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER”

          A man perhaps in his 60s took to the stage and recalled his years in guerrilla resistance (i.e in ETA), his capture and the killing of his comrades (one was executed on the spot by the Guardia Civil2). He went on to talk about his years being dispersed around Spanish jails throughout the territory of the State. Speaking about the historical memory of resistance, the man commented that it was necessary to keep that alive – both of the Antifascist War and of the resistance afterwards.

Euskal Herria3 was still divided and still not free, he continued and therefore the struggle had to continue in one form or another, despite the abandonment of the path of resistance by the current leadership of the Abertzale Left. Similarly the demand had to be maintained not only for an end to dispersal but for an amnesty for political prisoners.

After his speech, a young male bertxolari stepped forward to sing his composition. This is a cultural form of social and/ or political commentary, composed by those skilled in the art to fixed rules of rhyme, length of line and a selection of airs.4

He was followed by an elderly left-wing journalist who, apologising for her inability to speak in Euskara, did so in Castillian (Spanish). She referred to her family’s history of anti-fascist struggle, both in the War and in the resistance that followed the victory of the military-fascist forces. She too spoke about the need to continue resistance to unjust regimes and for the right to self-determination.

The journalist speaker was followed by the performance of another bertxolari, this time a young female.

Last to speak was a young woman, speaking on behalf of the Jarki organisation. She recalled the anti-fascist resistance in the Basque Country in ……….. (a nearby battle during the Anti-Fascist War) and elsewhere, also by ETA in the years following the victory of the military-fascist forces. While others might try to pacify the people and to wind down the resistance, the need for active participation in resistance is as great as ever, she said. The woman ended with the call “Gora Euskal Herria askatatua eta independentzia!” (“Long live a free and independent Basque Country!”), to which all the audience (myself included) responded with a roar of “Gora!”.

The young woman then led the audience with the song Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar in content to the Irish national anthem, the Soldiers’ Song), most of us who knew the words or not with raised fists, then a couple of women let out the irrintzi5 yell, raising goose pimples on my skin.

Obviously, given my presence, not all the attendance had been Jarki activists but on the other hand, not all its supporters had been able to come either, I was told on the long walk back to the car on tired leg muscles in the blistering unseasonal heat. I joked that if I’d had my mobile with me I’d have phoned an ambulance. Some cured sausage sandwiches and a few mouthfuls of ardoa (wine) from a traditional wineskin, kindly offered where the vehicles were parked revived me somewhat for the journey back to my pickup point that morning but thankfully, we also stopped on the way for lunch and a cold beer at a Basque bar (for which my attempts to pay were kindly but firmly refused by my other travelling companions).

“MOST OF THE RESISTANCE NEEDS TO BE AT STREET LEVEL”

          Later, at an appointment with a Jarki activist, I asked what the relationship with other Basque organisations was, given that his group will not accept the appellation of “dissident” and others will. He told me that they enjoy friendly relationships with a number of other Basque political and cultural organisations that have also broken away from the “Official” leadership. Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for an independent Basque country and in support of the Basque language, he told me. “Although we do not at the moment put forward electoral candidates, we are not necessarily against doing so as a tactic”, he added, speaking quietly. “But the ‘officialistas’ are only interested in the electoral path and we think most of the resistance needs to be at street level”.

The organisation expects a disciplined commitment from its members, for which it also recognises the need for political education, especially of the youth. There had been wide criticism of the lack of this kind of education within the Abertzale Left since the 1990s and earlier, right up to the present.6

The national independence and socialism of the Basque Country is of benefit to the world and the independence and socialism of other countries is of benefit to our nation,” he said in reply to my question about the issue of internationalist solidarity. He admitted that the representative of Jarki at their Gudari Eguna commemoration had not mentioned that aspect.

Jarki call for rupture with the Spanish Constitution and demonstration on 6th December.
(Photo source: Internet)

CALL FOR RUPTURE WITH THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION

          A few days ago, while I was writing this long-overdue piece from contemporary notes, Jarki issued a national call to Basque society (translated by me from a Castillian version): “The Basque working-class people responds with rupture to the Spanish Constitution.”

The Spanish Constitution, despite not being accepted in the Basque Country7, is being imposed upon us. It is a document edited by the Francoists in a pact with the Spanish political parties. This document denies the self-determination of the peoples and besides accords to the military the role of guarantor of the union of Spain.

This Constitution designed the administrative separation of the provinces of the southern Basque Country.8

Faced with this imposition it is more important than ever that the working-class population of the Basque Country creates a revolutionary alternative which should be a political vision to lead the struggle for national construction and liberation and for socialism, the struggle for a united Basque Country, without classes.

For all those reasons we call for the organisation and mobilisation against the imposition, in which the Basque working-class population should follow its own path. Because of all that, we call for participation in the demonstration to take place on 6th December (Spanish Constitution Day) in Durango.

Although they wished to silence us, they will hear us. We have enough reasons. It is time to take to the streets. This people needs a revolutionary alternative.

End.

Poster by Jarki calling for demonstration against the Spanish Constitution (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The day after 50,000 demonstrated for the right to support the prisoners and in solidarity with those on trial, Basque society was shocked when those charged admitted their “guilt” in exchange for walking free or a maximum sentence of five years’ jail for the “leaders” (instead of the up to 20 years normal from the Spanish court). The reverberations of that – the act of pleading ‘guilt’ itself but also permitting 50,000 to demonstrate in ignorance of the intention — are still travelling through the Abertzale Left and are likely to cost the “Official” leadership, who must have approved or perhaps even brokered the deal, very dearly. In contrast to the 45, another four, leaders of Askapena, Basque organisation for internationalist solidarity, charged with similar ‘crimes’, had fought the case earlier, for which they had won much respect and had beat the charges. Askapena, however, had quietly split from the Abertzale Left some years previously.

2The Guardia Civil is a militarised police force of the Spanish State with a very political role, the most active in the past against the Basque national movement and now similarly against the Catalonian. In addition the Spanish State has the Policía Nacional, also armed and active against movements for self-determination. Each region also has a separate police force, for example the Policía Foral in Nafarroa, the Ertzaintza in Euskadi, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, etc. And there are urban police forces too in every town or village.

3Meaning “the country where they speak Basque”, the term is now used to describe the whole Basque nation of seven provinces, three currently within the French state and four within the Spanish territory. “Euskadi”, the former term, now only describes the “Basque Authority” area of three provinces: Bizkaia, Alava and Gipuzkoa.

4This cultural form, at one time perhaps in danger of dying out, has become very popular and national competitions are broadcast on the Basque TV network. I have witnessed two bertxolari given pieces of paper laying out their respective roles (for example an Irish landlord and a Polish tenant) and, minutes later, engage in a battle of bertxos (verses) which had a Basque audience in roars of laughter and appreciation for the wit and skill of each. Close attention is paid by Basque listeners to bertxolari which, for a nation not culturally given to admiration for the song of the single voice (unless they can join to sing along), is truly remarkable. The Irish “comhrá beirte” is a similar performance art form but much less developed, certainly now, in Irish tradition.

5It is a long ullulating or yodelling cry, by males or females, said to be a call to war or to encourage Basques while fighting (it was also the name of a short-lived Basque resistance organisation functioning in the “French” Basque provinces). Such calls are common for communication of different kinds among mountain people, the sound carrying from one mountain to another and echoing but curiously enough it is also a feature of Arab culture in the desert and of some Native Americans. Example with a commentary in Castillian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSaW6JUnUc

6That this has been neglected for decades in the Abertzale Left is a fact admitted even by many who remain within the “official” line.

7The Spanish Constitution was presented on a “take it or leave it” basis during the Transition period after the death of Franco, with much violence from police and fascist organisations and the fear of a return to the full-blown fascist dictatorship. The Spanish Communist Party with its huge and then militant trade union, Comisiones Obreras and the social-democratic PSOE, with its smaller Unión General de Trabajadores, were both legalised on condition they supported the monarchist and unitary state Constitution. In such circumstances it was hardly surprising that the referendum on 6th December 1978 brought in a huge majority for the Constitution – but not in the Basque Country, where it was rejected.

8Three of the four southern provinces, i.e those currently within the Spanish State, are under one regional government administration while the fourth, Nafarroa, has its own.

“GOD SAVE IRELAND!” CRIED THE HEROES

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 7 minutes)

Artist’s representation of the public hanging of the Manchester Martyrs. (Image source: Internet)

The 23rd November is the anniversary of the hanging of the Manchester Martyrs by the English State in 1867 in front of Belle Vue Gaol, Salford1, Manchester. The “noble-hearted three” were Phillip Allen, William Larkin and Michael O’Brien. The Wikipedia page on the Manchester Martyrs says they were hanged for the murder of Constable Brett but this is completely incorrect. Although it was indeed the verdict, no murder occurred and, it is doubtful if even a verdict of manslaughter would have been correct.

On the 18th December of that year, Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and Captain Deasy, Fenian Brotherhood officers and Union Army veterans of the American Civil War, who had been arrested in England, were being transported in a horse-drawn prison van from the courthouse to Belle Vue Gaol. Manchester was an industrial town with a large working class population, of which at least a 10% of the population was of Irish origin. A large group of Fenians ambushed the prison van at a place since called locally “Fenian Arch”, as a railway line ran overhead. The Irish rescue party drove off the 12-man mounted police escort but failed to break open the van door with hatchets and crowbars and one of them fired a pistol shot at the lock.

Artists’ impression of the rescue of the Fenian prisoners.
(Image source: Internet)

It was unfortunate that just at that moment, Constable Charles Brett was peering through the keyhole – the bullet entered his brain through his eye and killed him. The lock was not broken and keys were still inside with the dead policeman but a female prisoner recovered them from his body and passed them out to the rescue party through a grille.

Kelly and Deasy were spirited away. A reward of £300 (£24,000 as of 2015, according to Wikipedia) was offered for information leading to their recapture but was never paid. Friedrich Engels, communist revolutionary lived in Manchester at the time with his common-law Irish patriot wife, Mary Burns and some say they were involved in hiding the fugitives (the Fenian Brotherhood had been welcomed by Marx and Engels into the First International Workingmen’s Association). Kelly and Deasy were never recaptured, getting back eventually to the USA.

A heritage plaque marks the spot.
(Phot sourced: Internet)

A WAVE OF ANTI-IRISH HYSTERIA

          But a huge wave of British State repression descended upon the working class areas of Manchester, in particular upon “Little Ireland” and scores of people were arrested. The British media named the events the “Manchester outrages”.

Twenty-six were sent for trial in a wave of anti-Irish hysteria and and eventually five were convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. As noted earlier, without any intention to kill the officer, there should not have been even a charge of murder, never mind a conviction. Thomas O’Meagher Condon and Thomas Maguire had their sentences overturned; the first through the offices of the USA (of which he was a citizen) and the second was a Royal Marine and had a cast-iron alibi, as they say and the witnesses against him were exposed in lies. No convincing evidence was ever produced against the remaining three, Allen, Larkin and O’Brien and of those, only one had probably even been present at the rescue. But they hanged them all the same.

Artist’s impression of the trial of the five convicted including the three Manchester Martyrs.
(Image source: Internet)

When their sentences were passed down by the judge, they cried “God Save Ireland!” and it was that which inspired TD Sullivan, an Irish constitutional nationalist politician, to write the lyrics to the ballad, known and sung to this day. TD Sullivan remarked that within a month of the executions, the song could be heard performed in pubs in England and Ireland, a remarkable feat for a time without radio, not to speak of mobile phones and the Internet!  (Listen to Youtube video of the song being performed by the Dubliners ballad group).

(Image sourced: Internet)

Commemorations of the Manchester Martyrs became part of the events on the Irish Republican and Nationalist calendars and formed part of the tradition and history that helped form subsequent Irish revolutionaries; six Irish counties hold monuments to the three, two of those counties holding two each. The Irish community in Manchester commissioned a memorial to them in Moston Cemetery, Manchester, which was several times defaced by fascists and and an annual commemorative march was held there for years (sometimes too clashing with British fascists). There is a grand memorial to them too in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.

The monument erected in Moston Cemetery, Manchester, by the Irish community. (Photo sourced: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

The plaque on the Monument to the Manchester Martyrs in Glasnevin, work of that wonderful voluntary organisation, the National Graves Association. (Photo: Wikipedia)

1Salford has received a number of uncomplimentary literary references, one in Frederik Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) and another being in Ewan McColl’s song Dirty Old Town (1949).