Spain under the reign of terror [1933]

After the Horrible Crime of Casas Viejas the Prisoners Were Tortured in the Spanish Jails

The cowardice and brutality of the police, who do not stop even at attacking a man fighting for his life, were clearly demonstrated at Casas Viejas.

The anarchists of that southern town proclaimed Libertarian Communism without encountering opposition until they proceeded to the barracks of the Civil Guard and demanded that arms be given up, promising no harm from the new regime if no resistance were offered. The answer was a prompt opening of fire on the Anarchists, whereupon a fight ensued in which two members of the Guard were seriously wounded.

A large body of reinforcements - eighty assault and eighteen civil guards - arrived to put down the uprising in this small town, and they immediately started to kill right and left without provocation, as is usual with these lawful assassins. Casas Viejas was taken like any conquered Moroccan settlement. The first man to be met - a peasant walking up the main street - was killed immediately, and then the houses of the poor were searched, the occupants beaten, and a dozen killed. In this manner the Guard approached the home of Comrade Seisdedos, who fired on them, wounding two, when they tried to force open his door. One of the wounded guards was taken inside, and the other, apparently less seriously wounded, dragged himself to a corner of the patio, where he lay for fourteen hours - the time the attack lasted.

Comrade Seisdedos, nearly seventy years old, and his family of women and children were surrounded by over one hundred men armed with rifles and machine guns.

When they realized that rifle and machine-gun fire were ineffective they sent for hand grenades, which arrived at four o’clock in the morning. Many of these failed to explode, whereupon stones dipped in burning gasoline were thrown against the straw roof of the house to set it on fire. A thirteen-year-old girl, a grandchild of Seisdedos, tried to escape when her clothes caught fire and was killed by a machine gun the moment she stepped out of the house. All the family in the hut died but one girl, “La Libertaria,” who made her escape in the darkness.

Over twenty comrades were murdered by the police at Casas Viejas. It has been charged that the guards killed a number of prisoners and then put the bodies in the ruins of the house to make it appear that they were killed while barricaded there.*

*These charges have subsequently been verified by a Parliamentary Commission which was appointed after considerable opposition from the Government and the socialists, to the latter’s shame. Captain Rojas has confessed that they killed twelve peasants in cold blood because he had orders from the Director of Public Security, Captain Menendez, not to take prisoners or wounded or pay attention to white flags. These two servants of the “Republic of Workers” have finally been arrested and charged with murder. Translator

At the Police Headquarters of Barcelona the Prisoners were Savagely Tortured

Manuel Azaña, head of the Spanish Government, when recently asked in Parliament about the ill-treatment of prisoners at the Barcelona police headquarters, was bold enough to deny it, stating that a few guards had given only a few “vergajo” blows to Garcia Oliver, but that they had been punished for this.

In view of this impudent denial the report of the jail physicians was made public, the prisoners having been transferred to the Barcelona jail after having been at the police headquarters for eight days.

The Spanish Constitution states that no citizen shall remain in prison over seventy-two hours without being brought before a judge and indicted. Law, however, means nothing to those who make up the police department-low characters recruited from the riff-raff of society - as it means nothing to that other, higher-class, rabble who took advantage of the sudden change on April 14th to climb to their present positions of State and become the hangmen of the people to whom they had promised everything before the elections. As may be surmised, I refer to the socialists who from false leaders have turned into ruthless tyrants. In the face of the horrible crime of Casas Viejas and many similar crimes in other towns, and the Inquisitional atrocities committed against the political prisoners at the Barcelona police headquarters - both at this time and on many other occasions - the socialists have not raised their voices in protest.

Solidaridad Obrera and La Tierra published the report of the doctors Javier Serrano and Amadeo Gonzalez, given out after having examined the prisoners in their capacity of prison physicians. The list of the comrades brutally beaten is too long to enumerate, but many of them will remain crippled for life, and many are still in a serious condition.

Let us see the report of one of the victims, taken from an article appearing in CNT of Madrid and Solidaridad Obrera of Barcelona, of what took place at the police headquarters of Barcelona on January 8th:

Handcuffed in pairs, we the prisoners went into the guard-room. A sergeant of the Security Corps entered the names of those arrested. Then an assault guard with two secret-service men rebuked the guards, demanding that we be taken to the Social Brigade. We instinctively knew what they wanted to do with us. An assault guard, dark and with bull-like neck, unbuttoned his coat, rolled up his sleeves and said, ‘Let’s go!’ at the same time pushing us out.

We left the guard-room. Just across from it is a narrow stairway leading to the rooms of the ‘brigades’ and to the sleeping quarters of the assault guards. In front were comrades Feliz Arpal, Gregorio Jover, and Juan Piera; Pedro Gil, José Fernandez, Alfonso Guiralt and Marcelino Jimeno were in the middle; and Antonio Ortiz and Garcia Oliver behind. We were on the little stairway, the first rank had not yet arrived at the landing and the last was just beginning the ascent.

At an order the guards, beast-like, jumped on us and showered us with blows, kicks and insults. The blows fell like a torrent; there were not ten or twenty people beating us, but the whole company of assault guards and all the secret-service men, including officers wearing stripes. Their fire and hatred seemed to center on Garcia Oliver. ‘Let me alone, and I’ll kill him’ could be heard from many, and they fought among themselves for the honor of beating us.

Jimeno fell down from a blow with the butt of a gun, but that did not stop them from continuing to beat him. Piera received a blow with a ‘vergajo’ which fractured his nose. One of the prisoners begged to be killed. Garcia Oliver and Ortiz lay on the floor; a heavy-bodied guard jumped on Oliver’s head and another hit Ortiz with all his might with the barrel of a rifle.

Blood oozed from the wounds of all of us. Guiralt lay in the corner unconscious, several guards beating him; one guard wanted to pass through the legs of his fellows to pull the testicles of the victim, but after two or three attempts gave up because, blinded with fury, the other guards beat him too.

All this took place upstairs. Then came a voice of command: ‘Come down boys!’ Now our positions were changed, Garcia Oliver and Ortiz, who had been at the rear at the end of the aisle, had passed ahead of us while being beaten. Some had had their ligatures broken. Piera tried to get up, while Jimeno crawled on the floor covered with blood. The assault guards picked Garcia Oliver up from the ground, one holding his head and giving it a violent push backward while a secret-service man gave him several blows on the face with a ‘vergajo.’ We were again on the little stairway. An incredibly large heap of men writhing with pain and covered with blood had been made. The blows continued. Oliver was thrown over those lying on the floor by a violent blow with a rifle and he remained hanging over the upper section of the railing, held to the arm of Ortiz to whom he was handcuffed.”

Why quote more of this horrible document that reminds us of the torments of the Inquisition? Such atrocities belong to degenerate beings, and therefore we understand why Seisdedos, whose generosity and kindness even his enemies must recognize, preferred burning to death rather than falling into the hands of the beasts at the service of the “Republic of Workers.”

We can hardly find anything more ferocious or cruel in any country, but it is particularly significant - a mockery - that this should happen in a “Republic of Workers,” at the hands of a government elected by the people, where the socialists hold considerable power.

The workers who still believe that the revolution will come from above, or through the ballot box, should make note of this. Also sincere socialists and communists should note it and remember that even bourgeois congressmen have raised their voices in protest against these excesses and the Casas Viejas massacre, while on the other hand the socialists have unanimously upheld the dictatorial Government of Azaña.

The labor and revolutionary press should reprint this protest of our martyred brothers so that the ferocity and savagery of the servants of the Spanish Republic may be known to all.

From: Freedom (New York), 1933..