Hubo un lugar
Witness #1 : Juan*
« Mon cher fils »
December 15th, 1971
My dear son,
On December 26, 1971, you will be 21 years old. In French law, this is the age of legal majority which grants you full exercise of your civil, moral and political rights. However, it also makes you entirely accountable for your actions and words before the existing laws that nobody should ignore.
I therefore believe that the time has come for me to tell you about certain information pertaining to your origins, your birth, your childhood and also explain some of the opinions I have about the problems we have approached together on numerous occasions.
To make this letter as clear as possible, I have divided it into five chapters, which, in light of the information contained in each, are of varying lengths.
Chapter IV – Revolution and social system
When I was 16 (1932), I became an activist for “Juventudes Libertarias Gallegas” (Galician Libertarian Youth Movement) which was linked to the F.A.I. (Iberian Anarchist Federation). My authors of choice at the time were Bakounine, Kropotkine, E. Malatesta, E. Reclus, Ricardo Mella, J.J. Rousseau, Miró and Federica Montseny as well as his father F. Uracles, but I , of course, also read C. Marx, Engels and L. Tolstoï.
Spain had just declared the 2nd Republic (April 14, 1931) and was finally emerging from the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera – father of José Antonio, founder of the Falange – that had enslaved the country from 1923 to 1930.
A strong wind of freedom was blowing over the nation’s citizens and institutions and we thought the time was just right for a successful Revolution to take place. Why? Because at that time in Spain, capitalism was ignorant from a social point of view and too conservative from a political point of view. Hoards of workers were scraping a living together from their meagre wages and most of the time, couldn’t afford even a minimal level of comfort in their lives. Moreover, it was a six-day working week, sometimes even seven in certain professions and in certain regions; workers had no annual leave and no social security or any of the other advantages we have today, advantages which were later dragged out of the ruling classes through repeated strikes and protest movements of all sorts.
Yet the breaking point which creates a revolutionary atmosphere is the moment when “the majority of the population of a given country note with fear, bitterness and desperation that, even with hard and sometimes dangerous labour, they still cannot meet their basic needs”. This, of course, creates a wave of deep discontent and revolt that is extremely conducive to the creation of a large-scale movement with the aim of total disruption of the country’s social and political structures. It is then that the dissent needs to be guided and controlled…
After several general or partial, national or local strikes, that were always strongly suppressed by the republican government in place at the time, the general power struggle was born in Spain on July 18, 1936, with the uprising of the Army and the Marine against the Republic… And you know what happened next!…
It is probable that the youth of today are better equipped intellectually than we were in 1936; but I don’t think you have the same spirit of revolt against despotism, or a deep seeded revolutionary upbringing, a feeling of hatred towards the property-owning class, a spirit of defiance, audacious and generous, the disdain for life if it cannot be lived how one wants to live it, and, above all, the solidarity, solidarity between all people at all levels, that we built at the time by overcoming immense difficulties and by often sacrificing our leisure time and our personal future to the cause.
And yet, despite all of this, despite the subversive readings, the revolutionary gatherings, the secret meetings, the personal sacrifices and even the blood that we spilled, we didn’t get anywhere on the road to freedom we had chosen. Well, we did, actually…we ended up in forced exile on foreign land where, little by little, we broke up, like a block of ice in the sun…
*Another name is used in order to protect the privacy of the family who is affected by this testimony.