Antonio Téllez Solà: the man who taught us that there were some who never gave up

Antonio Téllez, one of the leading figures in the younger generation that fought alongside the Libertarian Movement, has died. He died in Perpignan, the French border town where he settled in his enforced exile in France, a town that knows so much about anarchists’ attempts and schemes to overthrow Franco and put paid to his oppressive rule. Along with people like Octavio Alberola, Eduardo Pons Prades and others, Téllez belonged to the legendary breed of libertarian resisters who taught us practically and through their research that there were some folk who refused to surrender. It was largely through their quiet efforts and hush-hush attempts to undermine the dictatorship that we can today speak with some justification of the recovery of historical memory. They showed us the way. Antonio Téllez Solá was born in Tarragona in 1921 and was barely 16 when he immersed himself in the fight against fascism. Having enlisted in the Republican Army, he saw action on various fronts up until February 1939 when, with thousands of other anti-Francoist fighters, he was forced to cross the border into France. At the age of 18, with the vigour of a youth moulded in the image of the exemplary effort and selflessness he had witnessed on the battle-field, he endured the policy that the French authorities enforced on the vanquished, winding up in one of the many concentration camps set up to “welcome” a people who had held Nazi-fascism at bay for three years. Tellez1 (215K)

On French soil, and with the advent of Allied forces imminent, he, like other leading members of the Libertarian Movement, like Cipriano Mera or Juanel, he joined the resistance and helped liberate the town of Rodez. In October 1944, after the German army was routed in the Russian campaign, Téllez took part in a guerrilla invasion of Spain via the Arán Valley, this being one of the first operations mounted by the republican maquis against Franco’s regime. It was to be a pointer to subsequent guerrilla actions and raids in the Spanish interior. After Francoism consolidated its hold through support from the “western democracies” which chose to draw a veil over its collaboration with the Nazi regime, Antonio Téllez - like the Herodotus of the Spanish maquis - devoted much of his time and effort to rescuing from sterile oblivion the lives and concerns of those who, even though all was lost now that nationalist Catholicism had emerged the victor, never acknowledged defeat or gave up. Thus, even while he was supporting himself by working as a reporter for Agence France Presse, as early as 1954 he started writing his soon to be famous accounts of the urban guerrillas and the feats of friends of his like Quico Sabaté, Facerías or Ponzán, besides encouraging, assisting and sponsoring any project likely to expose Franco’s criminal regime. His earliest efforts enjoyed the invaluable support of the Ruedo Ibérico publishers, when José Martínez, an old hand from the Libertarian Youth, like Téllez himself, was supervising editor and gave them priority over more pro-marxist options. In 1973 Ruedo Ibérico published his book La Guerrilla urbana: 1- Facerias, followed, albeit from different imprints, by Sabaté: Guerrilla Urbana en España (1945-1960); La red de evasión del grupo Ponzán: Anarquistas en la guerra secreta contra el franquismo y el nazismo (1936-1944); Historia de un atentado aéreo contra el general Franco; Apuntes sobre Antonio García Lamolla y otros andares; El MIL y Puig Antich, and lots of other titles later transated and published in France, Greece, Great Britain, Germany and Italy and which represent the earliest first hand accounts of the anti-Franco resistance. In addition, Téllez’s enthusiasm as an educator and his commitment to libertarian ideas led him to contribute to lots of like-minded publications such as Atalaya (established by himself along with other anarcho-syndicalist militants), Ruta Soldaridad Obrera or the more recent Historia Libertaria, to which he brought fresh evidence on the little known anarchist maquis in Asturias. His writings and his record suggest that he had two main obsessions: to restore the historical record of recent events and the debate on legitimate self-defence as a mark of human dignity, as reflected in the forewords to some of his books. Thus, in Sabaté, he embraces Errico Malatesta’s words when the latter argues that “the violent one isn’t the man who resorts to the use of weapons against the armed usurper who trespasses against his life, his liberty or his bread; the murderer is the one who confronts others with the ghastly choice between killing or being killed.” And as far as memory goes, he was, apropos of Facerías, to write - in line with the words of Eduardo de Guzmán to the effect that the victors are such not just because of their victory but primarily because they are the ones who write history - “Tomorrow history will be written by experts who were far removed from the events and personnel concerned and they will deliver their emphatic interpretations and verdicts. We here are talking about protagonists who will be excluded from all the histories as yet unwritten.”
Antonio Téllez Solá - an anarchist who taught us that some people died with their boots on.

Antonio Téllez Solà, anarchist, guerrilla, historian, born January 18, 1921; died March 27, 2005

From: Rojo y Negro. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.