The Intransigents of the Iron Column [book review]

If you’re looking for a book to buy an anarchist for xmas then this is the one: ‘The story of the Iron Column: Militant anarchism in the Spanish War’ by Abel Paz translated by Paul Sharkey: AK Press/Kate Sharpley Library

Many of us will have heard of the Iron Column before through the pamphlet ‘A day mournful and overcast’ testimony of an uncontrollable of the Iron Column first published in Nosotros in Valencia in 1937. This is possibly the most pained, agonising, beautiful anarchist cry of rage since Lucy Parsons wrote ‘To tramps’. Now Abel Paz – author of the brilliant Durruti biography ‘The people armed’ – has written a more informative account of the Column.

The Iron Column was one of many anarchist militias – Durruti Column, Ascaso Column – formed in July/August 1936. The iron column originated in Valencia bringing together the most revolutionary workers and peasants in the CNT/FAI with a sizeable contingent of escaped prisoners from the San Miguel De Los Reyes prison after anarchists freed them. At times the Column could call on 12,000 men and women distinguishing themselves in battle after battle. For the Iron column ‘war and revolution were synonymous’. The book traces not only the Column’s war against fascists but it’s struggle against the Republican government, the Communists and tragically the CNT/FAI after it entered the government. The fact that many militants of the Column were escaped prisoners opened them up to all sorts of slander from the CNT/FAI. The Column only existed from August 1936 – May 1937 before like the other militias it was militarised into the republican army – again supported by the CNT/FAI leadership…. by which time many of it’s militants like Rafael Marti were already dead. For those who know only the continued resistance of ‘The Friends of Durruti’ it will be revelatory to hear of the Iron Column in Valencia……. a more passionate, raw, inspiring and doomed account of revolutionaries in struggle you would never find. Get it.