Osvaldo Bayer 1927-2018: In Memoriam

I was not acquainted with Osvaldo Bayer himself but I did translate Rebellion in Patagonia (a synthesis of his 4-volume Avengers of Rebel Patagonia) into French. That was a project eagerly backed by some (Paris-based) friends, Jorge Peries and Eduardo Colombo. Since they were unfamiliar with quite a number of gaucho jargon terms used in the book, I turned to Osvaldo Bayer who very kindly clarified the meanings for me.

When the translation was finished in 1990, I offered the book to all the French publishing houses with a record of publishing books on Latin America. They either failed to respond or ruled it out: “Unfortunately, the topic of the book is far removed from today’s concerns and from French historical and literary interests”, to quote Annie Morvan from the Le Seuil publishing house back on 17 October 1990.

That was pure business argument: the Berlin Wall had come down and the shop windows were swamped with books about the other face of really existing socialism. Latin America had fallen out of fashion.

In the end I managed to get two anarchist imprints – Acratie and Atelier de creation libertaire – to bring the book out (in French) in January 1996 as Rebel Patagonia (1921-1923): Chronicle of a Farmworkers’ Revolt in Argentina.

Later on, in conversation with Maria Esther Tello, I found out that Bayer had contacted the Argentinean anarchist publishers of La Protesta asking for assistance in making contact with some former expropriators. At the time, Bayer was a journalist contributing to the review Todo es Historia, run by Felix Luna. Given the slant of that review, not the best credentials. Maria Esther, being a member of the La Protesta publishing board, took the line that Bayer, as a journalist with an interest in anarchist activities, deserved a definite answer and she supplied Bayer with contacts with Emilio Uriondo. Like her children, Maria Esther had known Uriondo for years as they were all anarchists from La Plata.

While I was visiting Buenos Aires and La Plata, I made no attempt to meet up with Osvaldo Bayer because he was part of the circle around [Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo] Hebe de Bonafini and unduly deferential towards her and the president, Kirchner. I know that in 2012 Osvaldo severed his connections with Hebe and her crowd and that struck me as excellent, albeit belated.

Obviously, having read and translated Rebellion in Patagonia, I was a fan of Osvaldo’s contribution and rescue efforts, not merely in the form of his books but in terms of his disinterested assistance to ventures and projects related to libertarian matters in Argentina.

There is no separating Osvaldo Bayer’s output from the annals of Argentinean and world anarchism, as is evident from the titles:
Severino Di Giovanni, Violent Idealist
The 4 volumes of Avengers of Tragic Patagonia
The Anarchist Expropriators and Other Essays.

Frank Mintz, 24.12.18

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.