Salvador Puig Antich & the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación [Review]

This collection of articles charts the tragic story of Salvador Puig Antich, a Catalan anarchist who was the final victim of the executioner’s garrotte in Franco’s Spain. The pieces, including several by Spanish and Catalan anarchists, also detail Puig Antich’s legacy and attempts to expropriate it by those who did not share his ideals.

His political journey began early, his family being steeped in democratic Catalan nationalism and opposition to the forces of Spain’s right, which they saw as a lethal threat to Catalonia’s identity and integrity. Yet it was the events of May 1968 in Paris and the armed actions of ETA which are generally acknowledged to have inspired Puig Antich to become actively involved in the fight against the Spanish dictatorship in the late 1960s. From initially supporting communist inspired workers’ groups, he embraced anarchism and joined a fledgling paramilitary organisation, the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación (MIL).

The MIL was ideologically diverse, incorporating anarchist, situationist and left communist ideas. Tactically, it aimed to use armed force to aid workers’ struggles, and though it issued statements explaining its politics and its actions, saw itself in a supporting role rather than behaving as a vanguard. To this end its units robbed banks and distributed the money to strikers, and even seized printing presses with the intention of creating its own underground media.

However, its campaign was largely uncoordinated and lacked the infrastructure to sustain itself, and the MIL announced its disbandment in 1973. This left activists living clandestinely and continuing sporadic actions without the necessary support networks. Franco’s security forces were still effective and quickly made arrests. Following a bank robbery at the end of the year, they captured some of the raiders and ascertained that these men had arranged a rendezvous with other MIL activists, including Puig Antich. At the meeting point, the police pounced, arresting him and a comrade, though only after an inspector had died in a close quarters shoot out in which [Puig Antich] himself was wounded. He was sentenced to death, which provoked a wave of solidarity actions across Europe and even in South America. Any chance of clemency evaporated though, when ETA assassinated Franco’s intended successor, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, with a car bomb in Madrid in December 1973. An ailing Franco determined to show he was still in control and sanctioned Puig Antich’s execution the following March.

This pamphlet is a timely reexamination of Salvador Puig Antich’s life and significance and reminds us that, despite Franco’s victory in 1939, resistance to him continued until the very end of his long and repressive reign.

From: Direct Action #47 (Summer 2009).