The Iron Column: testament of a revolutionary by Elias Manzanera [Review]

This small pamphlet is largely comprised of a memoir written by E. Manzanera in 1979. Manzanera was a founder member of the Iron Column, as revolutionary brigade aligned to the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions during the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939).

The pamphlet opens with a useful introduction to the Spanish Revolution and to Manzanera himself. Manzanera's memoir begins with ramblings about his life at the time of writing and a superb rant against "self satisfied hippies" whose "homes stink to high heaven" and who "wallow in a sordid eroticism" and "poorly comprehended sexual freedom". Ouch.

Some knowledge of the Spanish Revolution and subsequent civil war is useful when reading the memoir, but not essential and even without this, the rhetoric and fighting talk can be greatly enjoyed. Essentially the memoir charts the history of the Iron Column from a handful of idealists to a 30,000 strong fighting force. By all accounts, the Column lived up to their name and the recollections of skirmishes with the forces of General Franco are thrilling as well as frequently very sad.

Some readers might be irritated by the rambling asides and flowery language, but this can be forgiven as there are superb slogans littered throughout. For example, "To live is to struggle for the welfare of one's fellow man" and "Not with words does one spread equality, but with actions".

At the outset, I thought this would be a book for the true Spanish Revolution geek, desperate to complete their library. However, it is also an inspiring tract, heroic, entertaining and of course, ultimately tragic.

From: Now or Never (Norwich), no. 11 (2007).