The "Mir Affair", or the clergy's hatred of anarchists

From novel to history, from history to diatribe, from diatribe to bullshit history

Yes, you’re right, gentlemen, it was a crusade. But the cross was a hooked cross.”Herbert R Southworth, El mito de la cruzada de Franco

[Mir’s book (historical, fictional or fabricated) is about atrocities and ‘settling of scores’ in Barcelona in 1936. Josep Terradellas (sometimes Tarradellas) 1899-1988, was leading politicia from the Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) party of Catalunya. He served on the Central Antifascist Militias Committe and in the Catalan government 1936-1937 as minister for Finance and Culture and later as prime minister, with Lluis Companys as president. He seems to be a hate-figure for Francoists for being a Leftist, and surviving to be a leading Catalanist after the Franco era.

The Marists: originally formed in France these are a religious teaching order (but not priests) with many schools. Theirs was the first religious building attacked during Tragic Week in 1909. In 1936 their establishments all over Spain came under attack whether the locals were anarchists, communists or republicans. One pssible factor is that their schools tended to be in poor working class areas: Maybe their “discipline” provoked a backlash from ex-pupils now in FAI circles? They may have been suspected of lobbying for Ferrer’s execution in 1909. A number of the brothers were prominent in Accion Catolica which was closely associated with the conservative CEDA party that ruled from 1933 to 1936. Had the fact that the Marists had circumvented the Republic’s crackdown (after 1931) on religious orders (they Marists had handed their schools over to “trusts” (fronts), worn ordinary clothing and carried on as usual) fed into hysteria about 5th columnists and undercover fascists? (Later, one Marist brother testified in favour of Juan Peiro when Peiro was extradited from Vichy France to stand trial for his life. He stated that Peiro had been a moderating influence to whom they owed many lives.)

The episode involving the Marists that Mir talks about seems to be that it was agreed that the brothers under threat could leave the country on payment of a fine. A number (mostly younger trainees) were allowed into France. The second batch fell for a “sting” operation and believed they too would be taken to France but were double-crossed, thrown into jail, tortured and killed. The fact that the “younger” ones were spared raises an interesting question. What if their youth made them innocent? What had the Marists as a body done (supposedly) that the youngsters had not? Cooperated with the post-October 1934 repression? Hobnobbed with the worst reactionaries? Attacked the rationalist schools? Might there be a watershed moment for which the gunmen believed they deserved to be martyred?

All of this shows what a complex topic anti-clerical violence during the Spanish Revolution and Civil War is. But Mir’s writings don’t seem to be a useful contribution to understanding what actually happened or why.]

In this article we contend:

1. That Josep Serra was not a patrolman with the CAMC’s Control Patrols.

2. That Miquel Mir has manipulated Josep Asenss memoirs in order to defame the anarchists and Tarradellas.

1. THE SUPPOSED PATROLMAN WHO NEVER WAS

We offered a critique of Mir’s first book (Entre el roig I el negre) when it was released. We underlined how Mir shifted from genre to genre and how he had to make his mind up whether it was a novel or a history that he had written. And in that critique we disclosed that, if taken as a historical novel, it was bereft of literary merit; and if taken as a history, it contained such bloopers as any reader or history buff might readily identify. For instance: he was unaware that Francisco Ascaso perished on 20 July 1936, talked of twelve Control Patrol sections when actually only eleven existed, claimed that the anarchist ministers who joined the Largo Caballero government were three in number when actually there were four of them, and so on. Such mistakes were rectified in a second version of the book which also decided it wanted to be seen as a work of history and all references to its being a novel were jettisoned. I am not about to rehearse all of the arguments I made then because anyone who is interested can refer to that critique directly in the original at http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/memorias-pistolero-fai-cronica-barcelona-anarquista

But now we find ourselves in a position to be able to flesh out our rigorously documented suspicions that that first book of Mir’s was a trashy historical novel. It would be a mistake to regard it as a work of history.

For openers, we have to state the position as it is: what we are faced with here is a pyramid set on its apex. It needs to be turned over and set on its base. A history book cannot start out as a mystery novel. What Mir has done is not on: you cannot claim to have found the diary of a FAI patrolman by the name of Josep S (the initial concealing the name Serra) and then set about leaking it indirectly in a journalistic marketing campaign. A bona fide historian would begin by giving the full name and by using documentary evidence to prove that Josep Serra was a patrolman who actually did exist and that the diary he kept was authentic. And he would leave that diary generally accessible in some archive. Mir, by contrast, covered up the surname and claimed to have found the patrolman’s diary hidden in a strongbox. This cannot be taken seriously and is not acceptable historical practice. Mir cannot expect to be taken seriously, although we have to concede that he has an unmistakable business sense and that his talents are commercial rather than as a novelist.

In order to be credible, a historian has to produce all of the facts he possesses and must also identify the documentary evidence upon which he is relying and where that evidence can be consulted. Mir has invented the name of a patrolman and covered up his surname and dares to argue that he possesses a diary and large part of the records of the FAI. Crazy talk! And yet he finds publishers and journalists who are prepared to publish this load of nonsense as if it were a bona fide work of history.

The brazen Mir is not responsible for this situation; he is only the most extreme outcome of it. Whilst Mir has successfully suckered the journalistic and historical professions which have failed to expose this heap of claptrap, this merely adds to his stature as a “great” novelist.

The Mir affair has been made possible because there are publishers out there, including “specialist” history reviews, that not merely accept but encourage so-called journalistic approaches. No only do writers dispense with the footnotes that should be signalling the document or researcher on which they base their arguments, leaving the reader barred from verifying or chasing up the data, but they can also rob uncited researchers of their original discoveries and strip historical science of anything actually remotely reminiscent of scientific rigour. Let us overlook the elementary courtesy due to the pirated researchers who are denied any acknowledgment. This is not so much journalistic practice as trashy practice. How can anybody publish a history article or book without footnotes? Mir’s latest book makes serious accusations without a single footnote and he handles his sources like a card-sharp.

The reader buying an un-footnoted history book ought to know which author and publisher are insulting him. The decision to do away with such “scientific” notes is supposedly designed to facilitate easy reading for a public that is regarded as undemanding, barely educated and somewhat idiotic.

Mir built his first book on the discovery of a diary written by a member of the Control Patrols by the name of Josep S… And according to the press coverage that greeted and promoted the book, with press reviews astutely prepared by publisher and author and never refuted by Mir himself, that letter S stood for the surname Serra. The mysterious FAI patrolman’s name was, therefore, Josep Serra and Mir bragged of having discovered the diary in which he made a clean breast of his crimes.

I have checked the rolls of the Central Antifascist Militias Committee’s Control Patrols.[1] One by one I have scoured all the lists of all eleven Control Patrol sections. I have also scoured the rolls of the Control Patrols’ Investigation, Censorship, Passport, Central Branch departments and so on. Having gone through the names of every single patrolman, I can state that THE NAME JOSEP SERRA DOES NOT APPEAR.

I also examined the payrolls of the Casa CNT-FAI Investigation Service in which the name of its chief, Manuel Escorza del Val is among the twenty five names listed. Josep Serra does not figure in that list either.

Mir has a grave and ineluctable responsibility to prove that Josep Serra really existed and subterfuge and excuses will not be acceptable. My modest and thankless task and duty as a reader, collector of old papers and critic of history books, is simply this: I have noted FROM THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE that Josep Serra was NOT a member of the CAMC’s Control Patrols or of the CNT-FAI’s Investigation Service. Josep Serra was NOT a patrolman. Which raises the question: Is the patrolman’s diary “found” by Miquel Mir some other novelistic device? Or what the hell is it?

Let it be clear that I am not accusing Mir of fraud: I am merely raising well-founded suspicions that Josep Serra was not a patrolman in that his name does not appear in the rolls of the CAMC’s Control Patrols nor those of the Casa CNT-FAI’s Investigation Service.

Mir therefore is obliged to show, from the documentary evidence, that Josep Serra was a patrolman, or simply admit that he is the sort of invented character suited to a fictional work, in which case there is no fraud here, merely novelistic talent. What we have here is some sort of a joke in poor taste or some sort of an unacceptable ploy which it is incumbent upon Mir to call a halt to. In any event, Mir needs to clear it up. And it falls to him as the author of the book, rather than to his readers or some critic. As a historian, Mir is devoid of all credibility now. If ever he had any, outside of the circles of a few naïve, biased or partisan reporters. But now, given his recent serious charges against Tarradellas and a number of anarchist leaders who are not fictional characters, he needs to prove each and every one of his claims, because, otherwise, he will be guilty of defamation. And his ambiguous straddling of such starkly different genres as historical report and novelistic fiction will not do. Mir needs to prove that he is defaming no one.

The entire “Mir Affair” operates on the unpleasant terrain of shifting sands and this muddle of such starkly different genres as history and novel. But this ground has been ploughed, turned and fertilised for years now by publishers and reviews incapable of enforcing the slightest rigour and guilty of allowing this trashy genre of books that are un-footnoted and which spread and shield plagiarism, manipulation and fraud.

Three different versions of Mir’s first book have appeared[2] and the mistakes identified to him have been gradually rectified: the trend has been in the direction of the history genre rather than the novel genre, although the latter has not been entirely deserted, at least formally. Three versions of the one book? Who is funding this? What political, academic and economic interests are rowing in behind Mir? What political forces and which anti-Tarradellas historians are furthering this campaign to discredit the libertarian movement and the former premier? These are questions to which I have thus far not come up with an answer.

2. ASENSS MEMOIRS MANIPULATED IN MIRLIBEL

And now we have a new book from him, again un-footnoted and without so much as a bibliography listing the main documentary sources from which he claims to have drunk. Translated from the Catalan it is bluntly entitled The Price of Treachery. The FAI, Tarradellas and the Murder of the 172 Marists. The cover has a photo of Tarradellas overprinted with a faded red-and-black flag.

Now this book is no novel nor is it presented as such. And since we refuse to describe any book without footnotes identifying the documentary source for its arguments as a history book and since serious and gratuitous charges are levelled at prominent anarchist militants and against Josep Tarradellas, we henceforth intend to refer to this latest book of Mir’s as a libel. Tittle-tattle and defamation being synonyms for libel.

We intend to show, also, that Mir deliberately manipulates the historical documents he uses. And by manipulate I mean twists, bends to his purpose and misrepresents.

The following is a summary of the contentions in Mir’s libel:

1. The Marists paid 200,000 French francs to Aurelio Fernandez in early October 1936.

2, Aurelio Fernandez passed this money on to Tarradellas.

3. With this “still warm” money in his possession, Tarradellas gave Garcia Oliver 5,000 francs and then gave Josep Asens 300,000 francs - 100,000 to purchase arms for the Control Patrols and 200,000 (the money raised from the Marists) to be deposited with Swiss banks under Tarradellas’s name.

4. Asens immediately travelled to Switzerland in October 1936 with those 300,000 francs just given to him by Tarradellas.

5. Asens was arrested. He managed to get a message to Aurelio who arrested a Swiss national to blackmail the Swiss authorities and thereby secure Asens’s release.

6. Asens returned to Barcelona.

The keystone on which Mir builds his charges against Tarradellas relies on promptitude. All of this happened in early October. Aurelio got the money from the Marists, promptly handed the money to Tarradellas and he in turn passed it “still warm” to Josep Asens who immediately set off for France and Switzerland for the purchase of arms and for 200,000 francs to be deposited in a Swiss bank in an account in Tarradellas’s names.

The documents employed by Mir are as follows:

1. Juan Garcia Oliver’s memoirs.[3]

2. The republican file and Francoist file on the trial of Aurelio Fernandez and Antonio Ordaz.[4]

3. Josep Asens’s memoirs.[5]

Even though replete with declarations, evidence and references to the accused Aurelio Fernandez and Antonio Ordaz, the republican trial was set aside. No verdict, no finings and thus, no indictment. Moreover these files contain not a single statement, not a single reference to Aurelio’s having passed this money to Tarradellas. As to Eroles and Asens, there is not one witness not one statement in these files implicating in the Marists affair.

Garcia Oliver’s memoirs, published in 1978, are the only text linking Aurelio to Tarradellas. So no publishing first there. Garcia Oliver wrote his book in exile, without archives or documentation to hand and even though his egocentricity prompted him to trust to his perfect recall, many of the facts in El eco de los pasos are mistaken. Take one example, far from minor or harmless: Garcia Oliver contends that the plenum at which it was agreed that the CNT should collaborate with the Generalidad government was held on 23 July 1936, when it was actually held on 21 July 1936. Garcia Oliver’s egocentricity was so colossal that in his memoirs he often takes a sideswipe at anyone which might overshadow him: Durruti, Balius, Escorza, Tarradellas, Companys and many another… And he has no hesitation in uttering the harshest, inflated, false or impertinent opinions or stories about them: Durruti being a big-headed ignoramus, Balius a Marxist, Companys a faint-hearted weather-vane, Ecorza maimed in body and soul … Tarradellas could not be allowed to touch anything, rightly or wrongly.

Mir’s libel needs to tie in those 200,000 francs that Aurelio allegedly passed to Tarradellas and the alleged passing on the same sum from Tarradellas to Asens for deposit in a Swiss bank as well as use in the purchase of arms.

This is a core element in the libel, in that it directly links the kidnap and murder of the Marists with the payment made to Aurelio, and the sum handed on by the latter to Tarradellas and finally by Tarradellas to Asens for buying arms and for deposit in that bank. So the libel represents a perfect circle, tying  the kidnap-murder of the Marists in with the anarchists’ arms purchases, thanks to Tarradellas who was not only aware of the provenance of the money but who passed it immediately to Asens. In order to close this circle everything had to have happened in October in quick succession.

And here comes Mir now to twist, manipulate and deliberately misrepresent Asens’s memoirs. Where Asens declares “In the month of February 1937 I made a trip to France and Switzerland…”, Mir represents this as “In October 1936 I made a trip to France and Switzerland…”

At issue here is not just the five month shift in Asens’s trip but the entire validity of the “proof” concocted by Mir in order to incriminate Tarradellas directly through the cash paid as ransom for the Marists.

Emboldened by the fact that his first novel has been accepted as if it were a history book Mir builds his libel upon genuine court documents and on memoirs, published or unpublished, and on the clerical-fascist metrologies of the 1940s in a strange amalgam that does not lead him to anything new and nothing that has not been said already in Garcia Oliver’s memoirs and those fascist metrologies.

But Mir wants to go one better and wants the reader to see how those 200,000 francs, coughed up by the Marists, wound up in Aurelio’s hands and passed from there to the hands of Tarradellas and from Tarradellas’s hand while “still warm” directly and immediately into the possession of Josep Asens who promptly heads off the Switzerland to deposit the 200,000 francs ransom paid for the Marists in a bank account in Tarradellas’s name. And since Mir does not find this movie ready-made, he writes his own script.

Mir wants his reader to see how the money was passed from hand to hand. To which end he seizes on Asens’s memoirs the way a swordsman reaches for his foil. Asens’s memoirs are used by Mir to show the reader how Tarradellas had a hand in the ransom paid for the Marists.

Mir knows that implicating Tarradellas in such a murky affair will sell a lot of books. Maybe he reckons also on capturing some sort of political reward, some position, some sort of subsidy. And, besides, there would be nothing wrong in all that as long as everything he writes is correct. But deliberately misrepresenting Josep Asens’s unpublished memoirs is not on; opinion cannot be divided on this. It is unacceptable. It is fraudulent.

Where Asens writes: “In the month of February 1937 I set off for France and Switzerland” Mir has no right to represent this as “In October 1936 I set off for France and Switzerland”. This cannot be accepted, either historically or ethically. We are not dealing here with some honest mistake.

Can there be anybody so naïve as to believe that this is an error when it is the very keystone of the libel concocted by Mir?

In his memoirs Asens writes “In the month of February 1937, I set off for France and Switzerland ..”[6]

And Mir represents this as “In October 1936 I set off for France and Switzerland..”?[7]

There is no possibility that this is a mistake and this alteration of the month and year can only be characterised by one word: “falsification.” Mir has misrepresented Asens’s memoirs in his book. Mir has forged the “proof” allowing him to tie Tarradellas in with Asens in the immediate aftermath of Aurelio’s receipt of the ransom asked for the Marists.

With the keystone ripped away, the whole construction of calumnies and insults erected by Mir collapses from its own weight.

3. MINOR ISSUES

After indicating:

1. That Josep Serra was never a patrolman with the CONTROL PATROLS.

2. That Mir has tampered with Asens’s memoirs.

Other outstanding matters can only be regarded as minor issues. But minor issues can be interesting too.

Let us examine the language employed by Mir, because semantics are normally an insight into one’s world. At no time does Mir ever employ the term “Republican Spain” for that would refer the reader to a democratic, lawfully constituted state against which the military and the fascists rebelled with the connivance of the Church. Nor does he use the term, favoured by the martyrologists, “Red Spain” because that some readers’ stomachs would heave when confronted by that Francist-fascist terminology. Mir always employs the term “territory under Popular Front control” because I suppose he regards it as best suited to his denunciation of the Red hordes’ persecution of the Marist bogeyman.

Besides, whilst Mir does use the testimony - albeit tampered with as we have seen - of Josep Asens in order to implicate Tarradellas, he really should use it also as proof of the punctilious good treatment accorded by anarchists to their prisoners, religious or otherwise. Let us see what Asens has to say on this score:[8]

At no point was any prisoner mistreated. Every one of the men making up the Control Patrols had know what it was to be in prison and to be beaten by the state’s police and the Generalidad of Catalonia’s police prior to 19 July, having suffered ill treatment and being libertarians, they despised such treatment and so never employed that sort of criminal treatment against detainees. Although we did our utmost to demonstrate impartiality in uncovering so-called Falangist persons and other servicemen, say, who had had a hand in the fascist uprising, there was a general, a great enthusiast of daily broadcasts over Radio Seville, who dubbed us common murderers and according to him, the pigs at the Sant Elias nunnery were being fed human flesh, especially prisoners who had arrived well fed. And we were throwing the ones who were just flesh and bone down a well while still alive. Queipo de Llano that general was called…”

Odd that Mir should not have deployed this nonsense by Queipo against an anarchist, nonsense that Asens is scandalised to record. Maybe he reckons his own nonsense is the more believable.

In his memoirs, Asens states that he was the originator of the edict drafted and passed by the CAMC and “published in all the papers and also posted on the walls in various streets and squares around the city”, bringing to an end the irregular arrests and disappearances that 19 July had brought in its wake. Mir chooses not to mention this fact.

Asens has a few things to say about General Queipo de Llano’s [9]radio broadcasts which - albeit 70 years later - might be applied also to Mir’s libel. “Llano […] in many of his broadcasts over Radio Seville uttered my name and spewed bile when he mentioned the Control Patrols: his tactics were to lie and knowingly defame; he knew that some of the mud would stick and was very careful not to say a single word about the crimes carried out on a daily basis by his gang of generals against decent Spaniards. Indeed these generals went so far as to accuse their victims of the crimes they themselves committed or had their troops, sons of the people, commit. It was outrageous to listen to murderers talk about Guernica, the Basque village bombed and indeed burnt out by German aircraft at the request of the biggest murderer the world has ever known, a killer sadly known by the name of Franco.”

Whereas Asens suits Mir’s purposes in his attacks on anarchists as “priest-eaters”, the reader may be interested to learn also the unvarnished words of Asens himself about the treatment meted out by such anarchists and by Asens himself to the nuns from the Sant Elias convent. In his Memoirs, [10]Asens states:

After the Militias Committee agreed to let the nuns do as they saw fit and leave for Italy, a request submitted by the Vatican through the International Red Cross and acceptable to the Militias Committee, it furnished us with the premises we wanted to house future detainees, namely, the Sant Elias convent. A ship came from Italy to collect all the nuns eager to flee the Red Zone, that being the name by which the baleful Franco referred to Free Spain. In the eyes of the despot, we were the rebels for refusing to place ourselves under his bloodied jackboots. I took it upon myself to oversee the boarding of the ship by the departing nuns; they had been well trained in what to say; if we stay here they’ll kill us; to which I replied that had that been our purpose, the ship that is to carry you to Italy would not now be lying at anchor in the docks, so if you choose to stay your lives will be safe and you will be given work to do. A few of them did stay, at which the mother superior seated near me gave them a look of contempt on hearing the questions I was putting to them before entering their names on a checklist that we had drawn up so as to establish the number and names of the nuns departing. All of the departing nuns had previously been searched in booths set up for the purpose and by females. Many of them were found in possession of gold coins which, according to them, belonged to their community. Said coins were confiscated from them. The convent of Sant Elias was used as a suspect holding centre and for the first time in the history of Revolutions, Uprisings or Coups d’etat, detainees were treated with the utmost humane respect, to the extent of not being handed over to the courts or set free.”

Why Mir fails to quote this text of Asens regarding the nuns I cannot understand. Is he not accusing anarchists of being torturers and “priest-killers”, by Asens’ own evidence? But plainly, if Mir can tamper with dates so brazenly, why should it bother him not to mention that which he should know about and invoke in his libel when it is so utterly apposite? This is what is termed sectarianism and pettiness and although it is bordering on fraud, fraud it is not. A historian should grapple with all the documents he comes across even those that run counter to his argument. Not that that means accepting any document without a second’s thought for it should be assessed for validity and nuanced or explained. But concealment of it is unethical.

There is utter inconsistency between the photograph of the document (reproduced facing p. 131) and the explanation offered at the foot of that document. It is stated that it is an arrest warrant signed by Escorza; but the text speaks of Escorza in the third person. Besides, the glaring misspellings are unlikely to have been the work of an educated, learned person such as Manuel Escorza was. This is doubtless a serious mistake and one that may well not be attributable to Mir but it is worth placing on record.

Among Mir’s many misrepresentations, there are many that are very subtle and Jesuitical (sorry, Marist-ic) such as, say the paragraph wherein he says that the people in charge of public order on the CAMC and on the Sant Elias court were Escorza, Eroles, Asens, Aurelio, Torrents and any other anarchist whose name comes to his mind. Anarchists, every man jack of them and not a single leader from the PSUC, not one from the POUM, not a single one from the Esquerra. In his novel, Diario de un pistolero anarquista, Mir himself has written that the leaders of the Control Patrols and Sant Elias court were África de La Heras, Tomás Fábregas and a number of other PSUC and Esquerra activists. So how come he is now naming only the anarchists from a body, the CAMC’s Control Patrols, when the anarcho-syndicalists accounted for only half of the patrolmen and just three section delegates, out of a total of eleven? But the script calls for it: in this libel, Mir has only two targets in his sights: the FAI and Tarradellas. The PSUC, POUM and Esquerra get away unscathed.

I could compile a long list of mistakes in his libel but I will not, lest they be rectified the way he has rectified the mistakes I identified in his novel Entre el roig i el negre.

For instance:

Page 26 of The Price .. The stunning figure of 70,000 rifles. Wrong.

Page 27: He fails to appreciate the difference between the CAMC and the Citizen Militias.

Page 29: Mir states that the Control Patrols were founded on … 2 August 1936!

And so on and so on.

We will overlook the vague and false expressions that prove his utter ignorance of the most elementary facts regarding the topic. On page 130, for instance, he talks about “the FAI’s Control Patrols” when actually they were the CAMC’s Control Patrols. Likewise, on p. 136, he talks about the “FAI barracks”, referring to Sant Elias… When actually it was a prison run by the CAMC’s Control Patrols, made up, as we have stated, half of CNT personnel and the other half accounted for by members of the PSUC, POUM and Esquerra.

But how can we expect such niceties of a libel which has no purpose other than to defame those mischievous horned-moustachioed-tailed devils of the FAI and, in passing, Tarradellas, because therein lies the prize today?

It would take an entire book to refute Mir’s mistakes on pages 152-154 alone and since one has already been written, allow me to refer the reader to my Barricadas en Barcelona.[11]

At one point, Mir cites the memoirs of Joan Pons,[12] on page 26 of his libel. The quotation itself is none too important, except that Joan Pons’s memoirs own up to the involvement of some high-ranking Esquerra members on the Security Council in the murder of the prominent FAI militant and mayor of Puigcerdà, Antonio Martín[13], by hiring a “patriot” gunman. Does the Esquerra murder of an anarchist mean nothing as far as Mir is concerned? But the fact is that Martín was the man who had opposed the opening of the border to allow the passage of those Marists above the age of 20, they having arrived in Puigcerdà in several coaches. That murder of an anarchist does not affect, although it may be connected to the Marists affair. Here, Mir wants to side-step the issue, lest anybody get the idea that ever since the 1920s (and before then) the murder of anarchists at the hands of employers, police and powers-that-be had been common currency.

To finish with these minor issues, the reader needs to be warned not just about mistakes and defamations but also about Mir’s screaming silence. Not once, not one single time does he mention the PSUC or the PSUC leaders on the Control Patrols and at the Sant Elias convent. But they were there. Indeed, some of them would add a lot more edge to Mir’s thesis since he must surely be familiar with Miravitlles’s text about patrolman África de Las Heras’s orgies of sex and blood-letting. [Las Heras was a PSUC militant high up in the PSUC and in the CAMC’s Control Patrols and went on to become a colonel in the KGB who was awarded the Order of Lenin.][14] So how come Mir makes not a single reference to the PSUC? Its leadership in the Control Patrols was undeniable.

4. BIGGER ISSUES

The themes of political violence and religious persecution are too important and delicate to be dealt with thoroughly and rigorously in this article. Let alone with the sort of sectarianism, cavalier approach, deceit and cuteness employed by Miquel Mir which disqualified him not merely as an historian but indeed as a decent, balanced individual. For anybody eager to explore the topic I recommend that they read a few books and articles named in my footnotes.[15]

The Marists affair cannot be understood in isolation from the political violence of the republican era without studying the press, anti-Catholic eruptions and church burnings and convent burnings that occurred in Barcelona in 1902, 1909, 1917 and 1936. The popular hatred of a Catholic Church that was in cahoots with fascists and the military in the July 1936 revolt was not born in a day but over many years. The common people saw the Church as one of the fundamental pillars of the oppression and injustice they endured. Although nobody was looking for it, Mir offers a Christian absolution from the Marists and asks us to be thankful that in the 1940s “a like-minded regime” did not seek revenge for the murder of the 44 Marists, or more. This is the world turned on its head: in a city such as Barcelona where, from 1939 up until 1952, 3,000 Reds and separatists - mostly libertarians - were shot in the Campo de la Bota. Thus is history written. Was Mir’s rant written to underpin the canonisation granted to those 44 Marists? Are the clerical-fascist lives of the martyrs so popular in the 1940s on their way back? Are anarchists to be lined up against the wall?

The point is that whereas some (the Marists) have been canonised by the Vatican in solemn ceremonies, others (anarchists and the rest) are still missing and languishing forgotten in common graves. The Falange, the legal fascist party has taken a suit against the judge who sought permission to look into Francoism’s “possible” crimes. The Catholic Church has never washed its hands of its support for and active collaboration with Franco’s fascist rule which sat on Spain for forty years and thanks to which the dictator was able to crush the Spanish people in a brutal war of extermination. In this instance, the Church remains silent, but as Hans Kung has said, “silence renders one complicit.”[16]

What has Mir to say of the priests and Marists shot down in 1936 in the Francoist zone?[17] How come they have been neither acknowledged, championed or beatified? Mir does not even broach these questions.

Is a searching, rigorous debate about political violence feasible today? Possibly not. In any event the debate, with folk like Miquel Mir, always finishes up with the figures for the victims on either side being traded back and forth. España negra takes on its ugliest face and tosses the dead into one’s face like so many stones tossed. For the past couple of years, the entire daily press has been reporting and setting out scandal after scandal in which the Catholic Church appears as an association indulging in and encouraging child abuse on a massive and habitual scale. Meanwhile we have bishops announcing that legalising abortion is a crime worse than child molestation. I don’t think debate is possible with Marists who offer Christian forgiveness to all (“civil society”) our who knows what sins[18], but I do think we need to know the whole truth, no matter who gets hurt. For the researcher there should be no boundary other than honesty itself.

Taken in isolation from the society that generates it, political violence has no meaning of its own. Violence is not just the violence employed brutally by police dispersing a demonstration. Violence is the forcing of a man by means of social relations to sell his labour power for a wage. Violence is the imposition of a crucifix on hospital wards or lecture halls. Violence is religious education taught in schools as a matter of obligation. Violence is the habitual and massive practice of child abuse by the clergy in every Catholic country, protected, tolerated and never prosecuted by the Church. Violence is the ban on condom use in Africa as a means of halting the spread of AIDS. Violence is the systematic raping of nuns by African missionaries as a means of avoiding contracting AIDS from the native women.[19] Political violence is the canonisation of the Spanish Civil War “martyrs”. Political violence was the Church’s active complicity and cooperation in Franco’s military coup in 1936. Violence was the Church’s very active complicity and cooperation in Franco’s fascist rule over a period of forty years.

Mir is trying to blame anarchists and Tarradellas as a make-weight[20] for buying arms abroad. And paying for them with Generalidad funds. To the embargo enforced by the Non-Intervention Pact and never observed by the German and Italian governments but enforced against a democratic government suffering aggression from coup-making military, Mir adds some other offence which consists of trying to arm oneself in order to resist this fascist aggression. Is Mir making the case for the Chinese practice whereby the relatives have to pay for the bullet that executes the offender? Apparently republicans and anarchists in particular should have gone like lambs to the slaughter and not defended themselves. Maybe Mir’s next step will be to charge them with not having paid for the bombs the Francoist army used against the defenceless civilian population of Barcelona. And Tarradellas is guilty of the efforts he made in conjunction with CNT personnel to conjure a war industry out of nothing in an attempt to fend off fascist aggressors. No doubt it is the fault of Tarradellas and the CNT that republicans did not trust to stoles alone in defending themselves.

CONCLUSIONS

There is nothing new about Miquel Mir’s hatred of anarchists and it is part and parcel of the bourgeoisie’s and clergy’s class hatred of the revolutionary Catalan proletariat organised as the CNT. I admit that I was caught unawares by Mir’s hatred of Tarradellas and I confess that I cannot fathom what intrigues and forces lurk behind this settling of scores with the one-time Generalidad president. But that is something for somebody else to shed light upon. And no doubt somebody will. We each do whatever we can and sometimes even what we ought.

Mir writes novels and his books blend history and fiction. In my view this new genre of trashy history is a ghastly monstrosity. But the manipulation of historical documentation or other folk’s memories is not a matter of opinion: it is fraudulent.

Mir’s crusade, like Franco’s, is waged under the hooked cross of the swastika.

Agustín Guillamón, Barcelona, 15 April 2010.

Notes


[1] All of these rolls are available for consultation at the Centro Documental de la Memoria Historica in Salamanca

[2] Entre el roig  i el Negro. Una crónica de la Barcelona anarquista (Llibres del Quatre Cantons, Gerona 2005), Entre el roig i el negre. Una história real (Edicions 62, Barcelona 2006) and Diario de un pistolero anarquista (Destino, Barcelona 2006)

[3] Juan Garcia Oliver El eco de los pasos (Ruedo Ibérico, Paris, 1978). For the Marists incident, see pp. 467-471] Mir gives no page references

[4] These are two separate proceedings: the republican proceedings was part of the “clandestine burial grounds” case which ultimately was set aside; and the Francoist proceedings ended with France’s being asked to extradite Aurelio Fernández for swindling (not killing) the Marists. The extradition application was refused by the French authorities.

[5] Jose Asens, Mis memorias. Del sindicato al Comite de Milicias. Typewritten text, plus three hand-written pages. [Mir does not even cit it in his bibliography and never quotes it correctly even though it key to his accusations.] The text was kindly made available to me by Phil Casoar to whom I am deeply grateful.

[6] Asens .. Mis memorias .. p. 43

[7] Mir El precio .. (in English, The Price ..) .. p. 229

[8] Asens, Mis memorias .. pp. 35-36. For the purposes of rendering it comprehensible we have inserted the punctuation all but absent from the text.

[9] Asens, Mis memorias .. p. 41. Punctuation added for the purposes of comprehensibility.

[10] Asens, Mis memorias .. p. 35. Punctuation added for comprehensibility.

[11] Agustín Guillamón, Barricadas en Barcelona (Espartaco Internacional, Barcelona, 2007)

[12] Joan Pons Garlandi Un republicá en mig de faistes (Edicions 62, Barcelona 2008) p. 152

[13] In my view, Miravitlles’s text about África de La Heras is the product of an overheated imagination and has no credibility.

[14] Javier Juárez, Patria. Una Española en el KGB (Debate, Barcelona 2008), Jaume Miravitlles Gent que he conegut (Destino, Barcelona 1980) pp. 96-100

[15] Jaume Barrull Pelegrí Violencia popular i justicia revolucionària. El Tribunal Popular de Lleida (1936-1937) (Pagès Editors, Lleida 1995), Agustin Guillamón, Barricadas en Barcelona (Espartaco Internacional, Barcelona 2007), José Luis Ledesma Los dias de llamas de la revolución (Diputación de Zaragoza, 2003), Alberto Reig Tapia Violencia i terror. Estudios sobre la Guerra civil española (Akal, Torrejon de Ardoz 1990), Various authors Culturas y politicas de la violencia. España, Siglo XX (Siete Mares, Madrid 2005)

[16] Hans Kung “Open Letter to Catholic Bishops All Around the World” in El País, 15 April 2010

[17] La Vanguardia, 28 October 1936

[18] The Price .. p. 241

[19] La Vanguardia, 22 March 2001 and 26 March 2001

[20] The morsel of bread thrown in to bring the weight of a loaf up to the legal weight.

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.