I write under the oppressive emotion of having lost two people whose roots go deep into my life, creating a vacuum that it is going to be hard for me to get over. Barely a month after the death of my spouse, I am now reeling from the news that our Germinal has succumbed in the unequal fight against an illness that gobbled up his life, casting shadows and fears upon the hopes of relations, friends and comrades.
Having just reached his seventies, when age requires time and respite if it is to afford order and perspective to a life, an output as intense as his, adversity has now robbed us of his inspiring example and comradeship. Germinal was one of those serious, punctilious men who seem hard to approach but who hold out the guarantee of selfless, constant and boundless friendship.
The magnitude of the news is worthy of adjustments to the pagination of this issue which was ready to go to press and a more comprehensive review of his CV and contributions from those conversant with his capabilities and career will have to wait until a later edition.
Tomás Germinal Gracia Ibars (Mequinenza 24 August 1919 - Montpellier 10 May 1991), better known as Victor Garcia, the nom de plume that has all but supplanted his real name, along with other aliases scattered through press articles, pamphlets, collective works - [ Germen, Julián Fuentes, G.G. Ibars, Quipo Amauta… to cite only a few of these aliases] began to contribute to the libertarian press at the age of 17; in exile in France he founded and ran El Rebelde and Crisol; and hundreds of his articles appear on the pages of publications around the globe such as Ruta, Solidaridad Obrera, CNT, Cenit, Tierra y Libertad, Le Monde Libertaire, Volonta, Umanita Nova, Il Libertario, La Protesta, Castilla Libre, Historia Libertaria, Umbral, Espana Libre, Senstatano, Regeneración, Cultura Proletaria, Polémica, etc. Ruta, the Libertarian Youth mouthpiece published in Caracas at his own expense, its every edition offering a monograph dealing with matters of doctrine, history and biography from the labour and libertarian medium, over a decade up until March 1980, No 40 being the latest edition of which we have any reports, deserves a separate mention. He first mooted and participated into the translation into Spanish of Sébastien Faure’s Anarchist Encyclopedia, writing the foreword to its first volume and slipping in new entries and definitions that have updated and enriched it, even though only two volumes made it into print, the project having ground to a halt following the deaths of the comrades belonging to the Publishing Team, rendering the endeavour and coordination required in order to bring this commendable undertaking to full term hard to replace.
19 July 1936 found him possessed of a revolutionary consciousness and irresistible dynamism that took him away from the Manufacturers’ Union and the Libertarian Youth and into the Los Aguiluchos as a volunteer and on to the Aragon front where he took part in the attacks on El Cementerio and El Carrasacal in Huesca. When the columns were ordered to submit to militarisation, he invoked his minority and quit the front, joining the Las Garrigas farming collective, whilst simultaneously setting up libertarian youth groups in the local villages. It was not long before he was seconded to help out on the Libertarian Youth Regional Committee; he was an active contributor but his unease in the wake of the military disaster of the Ebro brought him back to the battle-front where he served with the 26th (formerly Durruti Column) Division and he was wounded in the Segre sector and evacuated to France with other wounded while a convalescent. Like many he got to see the insides of a number of concentration camps - Argelés, Barcarés, Bram and Le Vernet d’Ariege, from where he was transferred to Dachau; but with the aid of some other detainees he managed to prise loose the floorboards of the cattle-truck transporting him and escaped before reaching the German border. His escape coincided with the Allied landings in Normandy and he recalled to Paris in August 1944. He served on the very first Libertarian Youth National Committee and wrote for Ruta, of which he was made administrator. In 1946 he attended a gathering of the Anarchist Youth International (of which he was secretary) in Italy. It was not long before he was smuggling himself back into Spain and he took part in the underground struggle against the Franco regime and was detained in the Modelo Prison, managed to emerge with a conditional discharge on the strength of phoney identity papers before returning to France in 1948. From there he moved to Venezuela which he used as a trampoline for his great globe-trotting adventure in 1953. For several years he criss-crossed the Americas from end to end, visiting a number of European countries and visiting several Arab nations and Far Eastern nations like India, China and Japan, seeking out and mixing with libertarians there, talking with people, drinking in their worries and aspirations, visiting libraries, consulting archive and document collections, and this built up a priceless fund of information and contacts that sustained and enriched his important creative efforts. As part of his protracted pilgrimage, it was only in 1976 that he was able to return freely to Spain.
A self-taught writer, his fund of knowledge, remarkably methodical approach and capacity for work made his collaboration a guarantee of intellectual rigour and closely-examined truthfulness. Few things escaped his lust for knowledge and inquiring mind. His correspondence - he was a punctilious letter-writer - is filled with ideas, advice and observations. This hastily penned sketch is not the place for us to dwell upon this aspect of his output, even though I cannot help citing his opinions and recommendations with regard to this magazine; “Sure a lot of careful thought must go in to how to bring out a publication, unless one wants to see it fall apart - Monographic studies strike deep into the minds of the reader-subscriber - The title of a publication should be suggestive of the contents within: Polémica is a fine choice - In life one must equip oneself with a good all-purpose philosophy and I believe that you have displayed understanding and tolerance - You are quite right to encourage Pepet to carry on contributing to Polémica - I shall mention my problems quickly, lest I dwell upon them - On 21 January, I passed out at work; after some first aid, they took me to the Hospital, where I spent nearly a month undergoing therapy and convalescing. Maya keeps a close eye on me although I would like to believe that what happened to me was a warning rather than a death sentence - Now I go to the office two days a week, and I take work home lest I stay too late, for the fracture to my fibula held me back for a couple of months …I defer to the wisdom of the Chinese; they completed the ‘Year of the Tiger’ on 28 January and it was a year of mishaps, during which they urge one not to travel, get married, have children, engage in business - Then comes the ‘Year of the Rabbit’, a year of blessings - But I will have to proceed with caution, even so. I follow a tasteless diet, no salt, no sugar, no fats of fried food and everything is rationed out, measured and weighed. I have lost ten kilos and have to hold on to the trees when the wind picks up …”
The sinister wind of this strange May, with its snow, frost and rain, has broken through the tortured defences of a man of integrity whose greatness and capabilities will live forever in the hearts and minds of those who were and will always remain his comrades and friends.
To Marisol, Maya, Grecia, Amado, Teresina and other family members, all of us here at Polémica offer our sincere condolences. And to Gracieta, Sara, Jesús and all the comrades and friends who fell over one another to attend to him, our fraternal thanks.
Friends drawn from far-flung places in France and Spain paraded through the ‘Villa Canaima’ Library in La Plaine des Astres where his body was taken. The burial in Montady cemetery on the morning of Saturday 11 May drew many comrades and delegations, as well as telegrams from bodies and friends testifying to their regrets.
From: Polémica No 45, April-May 1991, pp. 28-29. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.
In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 41, January 2005