Antonino Dominguez

Spanish-born shoemaker, revolutionary syndicalist and anarchist. His career as a militant started off in São Paulo with the Union of Footwear and Allied Trades Operatives. He had a thorough command of the ideas that he advocated and impressed younger people joining the class struggle with his stance and oratorical powers. Pedro Catalo – another shoemaker by trade – recorded the following impressions of him after attending the first shoemakers’ meeting in 1921:

Antonino Dominguez, a Spanish national, was an intelligent man of slim and delicate build, whom one would never have taken for a shoemaker. His speech, with that heavy Galician accent, although he spoke clearly, in a measured and readily comprehensible way, was underpinned by a profound knowledge of the social question. He was what might be termed the complete anarchist militant.’

As an activist, Antonino Dominguez spoke at protest rallies, union meetings and during strikes. He became a target for the police and was forced to leave São Paulo. He could not find work. He then gave Rio de Janeiro a try, joining the Alliance of Shoemakers and the libertarian group opposed to its affiliation to the Profintern (for which the Kremlin had ordered Brazilian CP supporters to press). In spite of his friendly manner, he found himself confronted by two main enemies: the police and the ‘Cheka boys’. He tried to leave Rio after two months but could not find work and went back.

Shortly after that, controversy flared up again over Joaquim Barbosa’s denunciatory letter of resignation from the PCB, and the Worker-Peasant Bloc’s campaign to have Octávio Brandão and Minervino de Oliveira, two ex-anarchists who had converted to Bolshevism, elected as councillors. The campaign attracted the opportunistic Dr Azevedo Lima who joined the Worker-Peasant Bloc (the political arm of the PCB) to help get its representatives elected to the city and federal governments. Azevedo Lima was elected deputy in 1927, but by 1929 had defected to the side of the Washington Luiz government. Prior to that, however, he gave speeches to unions and talked down workers who took exception to his meddling. He operated as a cowardly slanderer in the service of the PCB that he would later abandon once he had spread discord in the ranks of labour in his attempt to induce workers to affiliate to the Profintern.

His dirty, slanderous campaign kicked off at the Seamen’s Union local in the Praça de Harmonia before moving on to the Textile workers’ local at 19, Rua do Acre, finishing up at the Printworkers’ local on the ground floor of 2, Rua Frei Caneca, where two lives were lost and several people were wounded. Azevedo was advised by Octávio Brandão, João da Costa Pimenta, Roberto Morena and the master-mind behind the strife – Astrojildo Pereira, the PCB general secretary (who would years later find himself expelled from the party). The armed goons of the PCB were Pedro Bastos and Eusébio Manjon, two of the Brazilian ‘Cheka boys’.

In his memoirs, Pedro Catalo recalls the murder:

Just as we were leaving a meeting on 14 January 1928, we received the first reports of the death of our comrade Antonino Dominguez who had been gunned down a few days before by a communist by the name of Galileu Sanchez – better known as Pedro Bastos – in Rio de Janeiro at a meeting at which Antonino had tried to expose communist intrigue within the union. The murderer fled to São Paulo and lived there quietly, strolling along the Avenida Rangel Pestana, whilst the PCB press accused the police and the anarchists of having started the conflict.’

After a meeting under the chairmanship of the communist Roberto Morena and at which the PCB agent Dr Azevedo Lima was the speaker, the textile worker Pereira de Oliveira, slandered by the latter, asked permission to speak in order to rebut the accusations made against him. Voices were raised and the ‘Cheka boys’ opened fire. Then the lights were turned off so that the criminals could make their getaway. By the time they came on again, 12 workers lay wounded and the killers had fled.

At the time, José Oiticica, writing about the fact that he too might have been murdered, had he not been tipped off and absented himself, offered this account of the incident.

This was an excellent opportunity for them to give vent to their hatred for two anarchists who had been an obstacle to their making deceitful headway among the shoemakers and building workers: Antonino Dominguez and José Leite.

So, as soon as Pereira de Oliveira sought to speak, the communists kicked up a row and then one Bolshevist fired the shots at Antonino Dominguez while another communist, who fled, opened fire on Leite. Leite dropped to the floor and the shot struck the printworker Damião.’

At the graveyard, José Leite, one of the intended murder victims, speaking on behalf of the Building Workers’ Union, emphasised Antonino’s commitment to defending the proletariat in Pará, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and closed his funeral oration like this:

Like other comrades, Antonino resisted the Bolshevists’ attempts to win the upper hand in the Alliance, thereby inspiring in these fanatics a hatred for this unselfish militant and an itch to be rid of him. He outlined the meeting set up to facilitate the criminal attack upon Antonino and others in order to show that the communists mean to succeed through slander and terror.’ On the same occasion – as Antonino was being laid to rest – the shoemaker Sylvan Borges stated:

This is the first time that the ambition of a half dozen individuals set worker against worker, the first time in Brazil that ideology has been used as a pretext to eliminate by murder workers who will not submit to the dictatorship of a band of ex-comrades: the first time that a bourgeois politician set foot in a labour union in order to accuse workers of working for the police, as if workers did not have it in us to look after our own affairs and needed the guiding hand of such politicians.’ ‘No! Conscious workers reject any emancipation that starts with fratricide and must surely end with Mr Azevedo Lima pulling the wool over the toiling masses in the name of those same masses.’

The anarchist Antonino Dominguez was murdered in Bolshevism’s name by an ex-anarchist who, three years earlier, had written under the title ‘The Red Rats’:

The history of the followers of the famous, scheming, treacherous poisoner Karl Marx is awash with monstrous acts of treachery carried out against unwary workers the world over.

We would say nothing more of such people, not even give them a tongue-lashing, were it not our purpose to expose to the proletariat the would-be dictators who seek to enthrone the mob despotism of Lenin, Trotsky, etc. here in Brazil over the heads of libertarians.

Of the individuals belonging to the Rio communist group, some were never anarchists whilst others have stopped being such in order to convert to marxism or authoritarian socialism.’

That article, carried by O Trabalho (Rio de Janeiro) on 10 June 1922, was written by Pedro Bastos who went on to declare:

The José Elias-Astrojildo Pereira duo has the effrontery to claim that on the day they take power they will decapitate every libertarian they can lay their hands on.’

Well! The writer concerned was the very same hot-head Pedro Bastos aka Galileu Sanchez who with Eusébio Manjon, three years on from that declaration got the jump on the ‘José Elias-Astrojildo duo’ by murdering the anarchist Antonino Dominguez and wounding 12 other workers.

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.