Some Militants of the CNT

In line with its policy of rescuing militants from the oblivion of history, the KSL is proud to present these brief life summaries of some CNT activists. Any extra information on these - or other - comrades is welcome.

Macario Illera Tejada

Born in Vitoria in 1913, into a very poor family, he spent some time in the workhouse. At the age of 14 he joined the army as a drummer boy and was based in the Zaragoza military academy in the days when Franco was the director there; when the academy was shut down under the Republic, he transferred to an engineers regiment, first as a drummer and later as a rifleman. Posted to stand guard on the prison in Zaragoza, he found himself jailed for talking to the inmates, and a short time later he happened to attend a CNT meeting in the city (in 1932). This made a deep impression on him and decided to join the anarchist ranks. A little later he crossed swords with his sergeant and was discharged from the army. In 1933 he was living in Vitoria, a CNT member and when the fascists captured the city in 1936 he fled (24 July) into the mountains and made his way to Bilbao. He fought in San Sebastien, Tolosa and Irun and later, having enlisted with the Bakunin Battalion, in Chivarte, Sollube and Murguia as well, right up until the Bilbao front collapsed, at which point he left for Santander where (thanks to treachery by the Basque nationalists) he was arrested along with several thousand others in August 1937 and taken to Santoña. This was the start of a lengthy series of calamities (which included being sentenced to death) and a voyage through the prisons of Bilbao and Burgos, until he was released on parole in March 1943 and banished to Benicarló (Cervera) where he became a goatherd. After some months he made his way back to Vitoria, tried his hand at a number of trades and threw himself into the underground struggle (becoming a member of the Alava comarcal committee). In 1947 he tried to escape to France but was arrested in Navarre and was jailed for some months in Pamplona and Vitoria. Sickened by the workers' lack of fight, he decided to switch trades and became a boot-black, keeping the torch of anarchism aloft for many a year in Vitoria, where he became an exceptionally popular figure. From 1967 on, a series of thromboses sapped his strength but this did not stop him from being one of the first to volunteer his help when the CNT started to rebuild in Vitoria. A Tolstoyan advocate of a pacifist libertarianism, tremendously strong-willed and impervious to loss of morale, he was unbending in his principles which led him to repudiate consumerism. He was the very symbol of the tireless militant of indestructible faith.

Joaquin Pallarés Tomás

Joaquin Pallarès Tomás was born in Barcelona-La Torrasa in 1923 and was the leader of an action group which started its operations almost as soon as the civil war ended in 1939, in and around Hospitalet, Santa Eulalia, Sans and La Torrasa (these being villages and districts in and around Barcelona). Among the operations credited to it was the execution of the chief inspector of the Hospitalet police (on 30 April 1939), as well as a number of incidents in which police were disarmed or shot, and robberies were carried out. His group was made up of Catalans, plus some Aragonese from around Huesca. In addition to guerrilla activity, they did remarkable work on the reorganisation of the Libertarian Youth of Catalonia, setting up the first post-war regional committee and Barcelona local committee. At the time of their arrest, three of the groups members (Pallars, Alvarez and Ruiz) held positions on the Libertarian Youth regional committee. They were captured by the police in March 1943 and tortured; within days, Joaquin Pallarés  who displayed great integrity - was executed (on 29 March 1943) alongside Francisco Alvarez, Fernando Ruiz, Francisco Atares, José Serra, Benito Santi, Juan Aquilla, Arguelles and Tresols; other members of the group - Vincente Iglesias, Jos Urrea, Manuel Gracia, Rafael Olalde and Hilaria Foldevilla - had their lives spared. The Pallarés group was one of the very first anti-Franco urban guerrilla groups.

José Siliceo Victorio

Born in 1906 in Bienvenida (Badajoz province, Spain) and died in 1934 in Oran (Algeria). Member of the anarchist action groups in Andalusia. It seems that while he was living in his native village he took no part in the libertarian activities which had been initiated by Olegario Pachón; his commitment to anarchism came when he moved to Seville shortly before the coming of the Republic. Almost immediately after settling there he joined the attack groups, joining one that also included Miguel Arca and Jeronimo Misa. They soon became the most formidable anarchist group /confederal defence group in the years when the CNT in Seville was caught up in violent conflict (with Communists and anarchist fighting for control of the Seville CNT and in clashes with the bosses). There is no doubt that he took part in many operations against the Communists and that he assassinated the president of the Andalusian employers, Caravaca, when the latter refused to recognise the CNTs union. In 192, he was present at an FAI rally in Seville with Durruti and others. In the ensuing months he came in for a lot of harassment, as a result of which he extended his operations outside of Seville, before eventually being forced to flee to Morocco and Algeria. He died in Oran following a gun battle with French gendarmes. He was the most celebrated of the activists in southern Spain prior to the civil war.

The 'Los Queros' Guerrilla band

The Los Queros group operated in the city of Granada and in its environs in the years following the end of the civil war, inflicting heavy losses on the Francoist government forces and their collaborators. The main members of the group were the four Quero Robles brothers (Antonio, Francisco, José and Pedro) and they had plenty of back-up. The Queros brothers were the sons of a farm labourer who went on to become a watchman and eventually a butcher in Granada. This latter trade was plied in Albaicin and he had the help of his older sons. When the civil war erupted in 1936, and after Granada fell to the rebels, the family was targeted for persecution. A brother-in-law was shot, the father was jailed, etc. and some of the brothers (Pedro, Antonio and José) escaped into the Republican zone. When the civil war ended, Pedro wound up in the Benalua de Guardix concentration camp, returning to Granada after he was released. However, he was soon forced to go into hiding after suffering persecution when it became know that during the civil war he had served with a special services (guerrilla) unit, and the family had to put it about that he had fled to France. Years later he emerged from hiding to join his brothers in their guerrilla activity. José and Antonio had also been jailed after the war ended but had successfully broken out of the La Campana prison in Granada and joined forces with other guerrillas (Medina, Salcedo, Villa, El Tito.) The fourth guerrilla brother, Francisco, was beaten up by the victors in the civil war, until he took to the hills in 1941. The four Quero brothers were joined by others unhappy with Francoism; people like Antonio Velázquez (from Guéjar), Morales etc. The Queros guerrilla band commanded the respect of the Francoist forces of law and order, so much so that they often could live fairly openly in Granada. Among their more outstanding actions were several robberies carried out in La Zubia and Granada in 1942-43, the kidnapping of General Estrada in 1943, and numerous gunfights with police detectives and Civil Guards, the execution of informers, etc. Nevertheless, from 1945 onwards, the police noose was tightening and the band began to suffer losses; Velázquez and Mecánico died in January 1945 when the Civil Guard dynamited their hide-out in Granada; in July it was Modestro's turn. After a fierce gun-battle in Granada itself, the Queros managed to escape but within days 36-year-old Pedro took his own life when surrounded on Sacromonte, taking two of Franco's goons with him. In 1946 Morales and Francisco Quero (23) were killed. Antonio Quero died on 22 May 1947. It seems that the fourth brother was killed in a shoot-out on 2 November 1944. By 1947 the Los Queros' guerrilla activity in Granada, the most significant libertarian guerrillas alongside El Raya's band, was over.

Benigno Andrade Garcia

Known as Foucellas after the village in La Corunna where he was born. In 1936 he was working with a locksmith in Mesia and was a CNT member. Come the fascist uprising, which succeeded in Galicia, and after fighting the forces of repression in Cambruy, he joined the rural guerrillas (Negreiro's group in the mountainous Chamarde district). With the end of the civil war, he carried on with his guerrilla activities alongside an autonomous band based in the Bacelo hills, fighting in the area around Betanzos, Ordenes, Guitiriz and Arzua, with forays into La Corunna and El Ferrol (in 1948), striking fear into the fascists. Early in 1952, he was ambushed in Betanzos as a result of treachery and was wounded and arrested. He was executed in La Corunna on 26 July 1952. Of average height, well-built, full of energy and shrewd, he was the most feared of the Galician guerrillas, the undisputed leader of the guerrillas in Central Galicia. He achieved considerable popularity, so much so that the name Foucellas was used as a synonym for guerrilla.

Juan Brell Piñol

Born in Valencia in 1908 into an anarchist family, his childhood was 'eventful' due to the banishments and harassment inflicted on his father. He belonged to the CNT's Woodworkers' Union. By 1936 he was general secretary of the Foyos comarcal federation and he enlisted in the anarchist militias, commanding the Puebla de Farnals centuria which eventually joined the Iron Column; after some time in the rearguard, he returned to the front; he fought in Somosierra right up until the end of the civil war, at which point he was captured (in Loma Quemada). This marked the start of a long calvary through concentration camps and prisons… the monasteries of Santa Espina and Puig, Las Corneras (Valladolid), Madrid, Valencia and San Miguel de los Reyes (in the latter prison he was on death row, having been sentenced in 1941). In October 1946 he was released on parole, but was back in jail by March 1947; he managed to break out shortly afterwards and, under an assumed name, threw himself into intensive work on behalf of the underground CNT; this ended with his being arrested in 1958. He was released on bail and rejoined the struggle until his advancing years ruled him out of positions exposing him to danger. With the collapse of Francoism, he, like many another aged CNT member, devoted his efforts to championing the cause of pensioners.

José Ledo Limia

Galician anarchist born in Lugo (some sources say in Orense) in 1900. He emigrated to Rio de Janiero (Brazil) around the time of the Great War and later popped up in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Peru. He returned to Spain as a stowaway and was arrested in Vigo. He joined the army in the wake of the Anual military disaster (Morocco) and served for several years as a gunner in Africa (1921-25). Later he travelled to Havana and on to Mexico (1925-26) and worked in the United States (Pennsylvania). It was in the USA that he came into contact with A. Quintas who introduced him to anarchism. A short time after that he was deported to Spain over his involvement in the Sacco-Vanzetti campaign. He arrived in a Spain under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and spent several months in prison. Later he lived in hiding but was very active (helping to set up the social Ateneo in Madrid). During the republic he worked for the Transmediterrnea shipping line (travelling to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) acting as a liaison between anarchists on both sides of the Atlantic (smuggling militants and propaganda materials). He gave up the sea after a trip to Fernando Poo when he nearly died of malaria. He was intensely active then in Barcelona and Madrid; the events in Asturias in 1934 found him up to his neck in the revolution and he was jailed along with Fosco Falaschi and Benigno Mancebo. He was released on parole in mid-1935 (although some people claim that he was sentenced to death and released under the amnesty in 1936). Thereafter he was active in the catering union in Madrid and in the FAI. When the civil war broke out, he joined the Galician column as its trade union delegate, fighting on the Madrid front - and rejecting promotion. He later joined the Investigation Branch (in Barcelona-Madrid) whose task was to counter the Stalinist counter-revolution (1937). At this time he was disappointed at the course being taken by the revolution and was bitter at the sight of yesterdays red-hot revolutionaries jockeying for 'position'. He had a miraculous escape from capture by the Francoists at the end of the war and crossed into France via Matar and Camprodon, only to begin an odyssey through concentration camps in Argeles, Barcares, St Cyprien and Arles - from which he escaped several times (he was in Perpignan in February 1939), but to little avail. He was sent to punishment camps and assigned to the Sur-Niort labour battalion. Eventually he made it to Paris where, after some harsh confrontation with CNT leaders, he secured a passage to the Americas. In April he sailed from Le Harve, bound for Cuidad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Later he moved on to Queretaro in Mexico in 1942, where he remained until 1965 when he smuggled himself to Portugal from where he was forced to flee to Mexico after a short while. In 1974, sorely disenchanted, he returned to end his days in his native land, working on the land. An indefatigable battler, not much given to writing (though he was friendly with well- known libertarian intellectuals) and a born activist, he was without doubt one of the greatest anarchists of his day and one of the ones who resisted the temptation to compromise which seduced lots of other CNT members in 1936. Among his friends were Carpio, B. Esteban, Odón, Tato, Lamberet and Mancebo. Yet he remains a little-known militant.

Benigno Mancebo

Born in Sanchorreja (Avila, Spain) in 1906 and died in Madrid in 1940 before a fascist firing squad. From an anarchist family, he spent fifteen years (1908-1923) in the care of his grandmother and separated from his parents who had emigrated to the Americas. By 1923 he was in Argentina where he was associated with revolutionary anarchist labourism and he quickly came into contact with the group publishing the legendary anarchist newspaper La Protesta (on which he worked as a typesetter) and improved his education. In Argentina he became a fan of the theatre (the Arte y Natura group) and he belonged to the Booklovers' Guild set up by Diego Abad de Santilln. Arrested by the Argentine military in 1930, he was interned on the island of Demarchi and then in Martin Garcia and the prison in Ushuaia, only to be deported along with his father, Pedro, to Spain. He had scarcely arrived there when he was arrested as a draft-dodger and he was sent to Valencia to do his military service; right after discharge he joined the CNT and FAI and launched the important Madrid newspaper El Libertario. His journalistic activity was fleshed out with frequent pieces written for CNT, Tierra y Libertad and Solidaridad Obrera (as a result of which he saw the inside of the republic's prisons fairly regularly). During the civil war he was involved in activities of the first importance; he was a member of the CNT's regional committee in Castile and of the commission given the task of preserving the national heritage. In February 1939 he joined the famous CNT Defence Committee of the Centre. Later he fled to Alicante where he was arrested. He was shot on 27 April 1940. Although less well known than other Argentines, Benigno Mancebo was one of that legendary band of militants with connections to La Protesta who played such a decisive role in the Iberian peninsula in the 1930s.

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.