Francesc Maià is the exponent of catalanism’s political idealism.
He’s a military, an engineer, and the night of the 25thof November 1905 something happens, a horrible event,
which is the assault by the Barcelonese garrison of the Galvez printing house and the editorial of the newspaper ‘La Veu de Cataluna’ and the editorial where the weekly ‘¡Cu-Cut!’ was.
It needs to be said that both these media of the Lliga Regionalista, ‘La Veu de Catalunya’ a political newspaper and the ‘¡Cu-Cut!’ a weekly satirical, kept a very critical position towards the military class,
which had lost many wars but kept a very dynamic and strong hostility towards political catalanism.
In this context, this assault takes place, which causes a terrible reaction by the military officiality,
who without any sort of justification acts against private property.
The worst about it is that all the Spanish military garrisons and the Spanish politic authorities, in the ministry of war, give support to this assault.
This causes a situation of paradox among the people, with Enric Prat de la Riba’s famous article, called “Serenitat” about this act,
and then takes place a reaction of great convulsion against this initiative.
The military action will have the support from the Spanish military garrisons and the authorities. And the next year, 1906, will take place the promulgation of the law of jurisdictions.
This is a law where the military authorities put in the hands of the army, which is central part of it, all the actions that can refer to attacks on the flag, the hymn, etc. That is, all the state’s symbology.
Francesc Macià doesn’t understand this position and leaves the army. This causes a current of sympathy towards him and he will stand for election which he, of course, will absolutely win for the district of ‘Les Borges Blanques’,
and will keep winning. In this context, there will be the crisis of the Spanish political system in the 1917, the will for a statute of autonomy the 1918-1919,
and the military reaction, again from Spain, with the military dictatorship in order to control the autonomist aspirations.
In this situation, Macià will become not only the leader of the, let’s say, more pure nationalist current, but also a champion of the social cause.
Despite his coming from a very well-being family and a very well-off family,
he has a sympathy and a predisposition in front of all the social tensions, very acute during the first third of the XX century.
And then he understands that he needs to take the side of the working classes. This link to the working classes, this link with nationalism, this link with democracy,
will turn him into not only an esteemed and admired person, but into a politically respected individual.
So is this, that his popular nickname will be ‘l’avi’, a nickname of esteem. His death in Christmas 1933 will cause great unrest.
On Christmas day he dies tragically and then, in this situation, takes place a great bonding towards him.
Macià represents the alternative of the ideal because he fights against Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship as a military man, with weapons in hand.
And that’s the plot of Prats de Molló.
In this event, the plot of Prats de Molló, he tries to cause a fight. It will fail, this act of war,
but it will have a trial of great repercussion through Europe, with a great lawyer, Henri Torrès, who will defend him,
and with great repercussion because of this, let’s say, current of repercussion.
Certainly, in these last years towards the end of the first world war, in these years when Wilson’s principles of nationalities
begin to be imposed, where there’s a revival of certain countries, from the Irish war in 1915 or the claims of the Baltic republics to Estonia, etc,
takes place, then, the emergence in the European political scene of Catalonia. It doesn’t consolidate,
it doesn’t win, but it will cause an action that will cause the republican victory. Republican victory that,
before the republic is proclaimed, will add the provisional autonomy statute, the provisional generalitat,
and the campaign for the statute, which will be voted for by males, female suffrage wouldn’t arrive until three years later.
And then, in 1931, there will already be a provisional Generalitat de Catalunya with a president, who will be Francesc Macià.
His death the 33 will cause the end of one of the most dynamic periods, with these three years of the second Spanish republic.
Could you tell us about Lluís Companys and how he manages to become an icon for Catalonia?
Yes. Lluís Companys was a lawyer, journalist, unionist, who is in the council of the Barcelona city hall,
and who always has a stance, linked with his great friendship with Francesc Layret and Salvador Seguí,
with the more unionist, advanced lines of thought in the working-class movements.
Even with a sympathy towards anarcho-syndicalism, especially because of his founding, of his creation, of what will be the Unió de Rabassaires de Catalunya.
He is one of founders of this initiative, of this agrarian trade union. There already existed urban trade unions, controlled by the CNT, the CNT-FAI,
and in the countryside there weren’t. Other than the trade unions of the Institut Agrícola Català de Sant Isidre, conservative, etc, there wasn’t such a force.
He organizes it and in the early 20s visits all the wine-making regions in the country, creates the weekly La Terra, etc.
He is, then, very active. This brings him towards a great identification with the great attacks in the 20s.
Attacks where die, for example, his teacher, his friend Francesc Layret, or, for example, Salvador Seguí, ‘el noi del sucre’.
He will be deported to La Mola, together with other unionists, and will then have a very active link with left-winged catalanist republicanism.
The Unió de Rabassaires de Catalunya is an agrarian trade union, a trade union of field workers, of the grapevine, winemakers, that he, Lluis Companys
-with others such as Amadeu Aragay, etc- organizes.
This trade union will have a key role in the success, in the development of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya,
which will be the union of all republican forces through the country,
which will bring the success of the republic in 1931.
Lluís Companys embodies, then, the countryside forces, the republican forces, what are the left-wing catalanist forces,
but doesn’t embody the purest Catalan nationalism,
which is a nationalism linked to a more inflexible line, which could be represented by Francesc Macià.
Companys will have fight against Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, and this fight for the republic and against Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship
will cause him to have great sympathy from the people. He will be and suffer arrests.
He will be one of the more representative elements of republicanism, so in the 31, when he
and Macià proclaim the republic, he will have this link.
Upon Macià’s death he will occupy, thanks to a series of alliance, occupy the Generalitat’s presidency.
Then will come a tragic even, after the first two years, with the right-wing victory in 1933.
This right-wing victory will create a situation of extreme tension, because
if in the 31 is the proclamation of the republic, the 32 we have the will of an autonomy statute, and the 33 there’s this conservative victory,
Catalonia, with a left-wing government, has to face a Spain where there is the Confedereción Española de Derechas Autonomas [CEDA],
with great tension.
This will cause, then, an impasse. Later, when the Catalan parliament enacts a reformist law,
nor revolutionary, reformist, which is the ‘Llei de Contractes de Conreu’,
there is a situation of great tension, because the court of constitutional guarantees from back then
bans this law, declares it anti-constitutional with the support of the Catalan ‘Lliga’ and the support of not only the [lagrerist???] right but also
the monarchic right wing, embodied by the ABC newspaper, etc. Then, this will cause a situation of great tension,
and this will end in the October incidents, which will be the passing of this law again
and again the confrontation between the left-wing Catalonia and the conservative right-wing central state.
In this context, there will be a situation of great complexity because the rebellion doesn’t fully happen as in Asturias,
with the support of the left-wing forces, socialists, miners, etc,
with a true social revolution, but in Catalonia it’s left rather a bit tempered, in form,
without fully taking place. General Batet controls the situation, there’s no shedding of blood.
General Franco, who brings a bloody repression to Asturias, will already be hostile towards general Batet,
and will make him pay, and will have him executed by firearm in the civil war.
Because of his loyalty, in this case towards the republic, just like he had been loyal to the republic going against the Generalitat’s revolt.
Then will take place the imprisonment not only of the Generalitat government, but also the dissolution of the Generalitat, the closing of newspapers, etc.
In this context, there is a period in 1935 of calm full of tension,
and the new elections will bring the victory of the left-wing coalition in February 36. Companys and the other ones imprisoned will get out of the Puerto de Santa María Jail and other prisons.
And then there will be an action through which all these republican forces will have the generalitat again.
The Generalitat will begin to develop again.
Then will come another situation of confrontation which will make that four years later, in July, there is the military uprising with the beginning of civil war.
Something we’ve read about Companys and Macià is that Macià was a left-wing Catalanist and Companys a catalanist left-winger. Could you tell us about the difference?
Yes, they are both leaders. They are left-wing leaders and catalanist leaders.
Even so, the origins of one has a political catalanism component more, let’s say, significant, such as Macià; while in Companys there is a progression.
The evolution of Companys is that at first he has a link with all the working-class and anarcho-syndicalist forces, but having the presidency of the Generalitat, especially during the civil war,
with all the, let’s call it, controls, limitations, that the central governments keep imposing. That they even take law enforcement, that they even take justice,
that they even take law enforcement, which was recognized in the autonomy statute.
That there land 15.000 assault guards in Valencia to bring the central government to Barcelona, etc; keeps causing that he gets a stronger stance towards taking on
the entity, that is, the Gerenralitat, the autonomous government. Then, he ends up being not only a left-wing leader, but also the spokesman of Catalan nationalist politics.
This will mean that he keeps getting more sympathy and adherents, and not only because of the proclamation in the October incidents, but because of his constant, steely defense of Catalan autonomy.
Later, despite that he will embody the defeat, because he will be the embodiment of the Catalonia defeated by the uprised
armies, he will embody the spirit of the Generalitat.
Due to that he will have support from Esquerra Republicana and other gropus.
When the kidnapping and the transfer to Spain take place, and the court-martial and the execution by firearm, he will then become, without a doubt, the leader of this chained Catalonia, this
Catalonia that hopes for freedom. Then, he will become the symbol during exile and during the years of resistance against Francoism
in this position of maintaining a Catalan identity.
Companys, then, will go from being the representative of a strict left-wing politic line to be the exponent of a catalanism that is without cracks,
having assumed the presidency of the Generalitat in the exile with respect and dignity and having been executed by firearm for no other reason than political vengeance of the rebel
Francoist forces that execute him.
Robert Surroca, who was part of the FNC, spent his life with clandestine propaganda ops during the 60s, and in an interview he explained that he organized the publishing and distribution of books about Macià and Compans so that people from Catalonia wouldn’t forget about these two figures while Franco was in power. Could you tell us why they were so important?
Well, these two characters represent republican legality.
They represent democratic order. They represent the will of the elections. Because they both occupy the Generalitat as the result of elections.
That’s the importance of democracy, that people’r rule embodies authority.
Which happens in every democracy in the world. So, their importance is, first, that they are representatives of the people. The second, that they embody a dimension
of maintenance of values in the context of an Europe that is ideologically polarized,
where there is the great duality: the authoritarian Europe, embodied by Mussolini, by Htiler, etc, Austria, Romania, etc.
And the democratic Europe, embodied by France, England and the minor democracies. In that sense, they represent then, the aligning with that would be the most democratic positions.
That’s the importance. There’s also that for the first time in the XX century, there’s the taking on of a regime of freedom for Catalonia. And they are
those who are not only first, but also make it easier for this democratic regime. Altogether, then, makes them up as democratic leaders, representatives of
the national Catalan community but also exponents of what will be a modern society, breathing in the air of elections.
The actions that were done, in allusion to what you said about biographies, are the biographies published by
Viusà about both Macià and companys, which were edited in France and were published smuggled into Catalonia.
They had a small effect, because there was a very strong censorship, because there was a complete control of bookstores, of the spread of all material, texts,
radio, cinema, etc. But they also had an interesting to note element, which is that, in the context of the actions
of fight, clandestine press has a very interesting role, because there’s clandestine press in almost every city, factory, university, etc.
Especially during the 60s, when it’s at its maximum, and the 70s. Then, the appearance of certain biographic
books that have knowledge about these banned, clandestine characters, there was censorship in teaching, there was absolute censorship
in the media, etc.
Then, as if they weren’t there, the presence of biographies eases a link towards the world of yesterday, with the 30s.
Then, those who edited clandestine press, thanks to those books could publish pieces, comments, etc.,
and bring to light every 15thof October, the date of Lluis Companys’
execution, or every 25thof December, the date of Francesc Macià’s dead, they could bring to light the situation
of some leaders who had part of Catalonia’s people’s support.
Now we’ll switch to the Spanish Civil War. The 19thof July 36, under command from the general commander of cavalry Fernandez Gurriel, the plan was that thousands of soldiers from the barracks in the periphery would march to the center and gather in plaça Catalonia, expecting an easy victory. Could you tell us why the plan failed?
Yes, the plan fails for different reasons.
First, because of the military’s confidence, who thought that the from barracks from outside Barcelona -that is, the station in Pedralbes,
the station in Sant Andreu, the stations everywhere, all around Barcelona-
columns would pour out and go towards the center, which is where the crucial heart of power is.
Crucial heart of power is the military government, the civilian government, the Generalitat,
radio stations, Ràdio Barcelona, Ràdio Associació de Catalunya,
the HQs of newspapers, etc. That is,
the heart of power was the center of Barcelona. Then, they thought, the columns will come out like happened, say, the 6thof October.
This confidence brought about a certain relaxation. In second place, there were discovered, by means of
a frivolity of captain Valdés and some documents,
there were discovered all the plans there were.
And since the law enforcement forces, the Mossos d’Esquadra as well as the Guàrdia d’Assalt, as well as what will later be
the Guardia Civil, Carabiners, etc. Even some units, like the logistics one, they were all under the control of the
Generalitat. The fact that there were some officers of great technical and professional skills, such as commander Guarner and commander Escofet, coronel Escofet,
causes that there’s then a fast preparation of the reaction.
And the preparation is very well set up. They send units of Mossos d’Esquadra, send units of law enforcement forces,
armed with long weapons, to occupy what will be the key positions to stop the advancement of these columns.
Then, will take place, both first because of the worker forces that watch the barracks and inform,
and then with this military preparation of the law enforcement forces, a halting.
Despite them having artillery pieces, they can’t use them efficiently,
and, since the control of the high ground is held by the Generalitat authorities, and the lower ground is held by the authorities too,
they gain control quickly of the artillery pieces when the horses are killed by the bullets from the long weapons.
Then, this blockage takes place.
This causes that there are military units stuck in Catalunya square, in Universitat square,
in the Diputació street, etc. And also, well, in the Icària avenue, where there will be some episodes of civilian involvement.
But it needs to be said that it’s the law enforcement force the ones that will carry the brunt, as proven by the numers of woundeds,
despite there being an obvious participation of volunteers from proletarian forces, but they will not have long weapons, even though they will later take some from ships in the harbor,
some armories, etc. But, especially, it will be after the second day, when 25.000 rifles are taken from the barracks of Sant Andreu.
This will cause that there are 25.000 people armed with long weapons, and then is when begins the social revolution, which will have huge consequences towards the public perception of the civil war.
Because it will cause a social persecution, a religious persecution, and despite that the republic has won this fight in almost every city in the country but Sevilla,
and that there’s a victory of the rebel forces in the south of the peninsula, mainly Sevilla, and Galicia and Navarra, where takes place a true poplar movement of working class arising by the requetés,
and in Mallorca, there is for sure a quick involving of the Axis powers. That is, without asking for any kind of compensation,
support is sent by Italy with volunteers, which aren’t real volunteers since they are units that are brought without asking for permission, that is, they aren’t volunteers, they are forced,
or the unit of the Condor Legion, which is one of the military units better prepared both technically and militarily in the contemporary Europe.
It has air forces, it has airborne forces, it has artillery forces, it has light mechanized division forces.
They impose what will later be the lighting attacks with the stukas, they impose the policy of lighting attacs,
and, certainly, they will be very dynamic units.
It also needs to be considered the support from economic authorities such as businesspeople like March,
who will grant resources, and 5.000 Riffians will be enlisted as mercenaries, with which the forces, the legion, about 50.000 men, which was one of the most
aggressive infantry forces that existed in the contemporary Europe,
causes that Franco’s forces, without having at this level a dominant position, this international support from Germany, Italy, the international capital.
The United States will also play a role, with the Ford providing trucks, oil loans and credits. Then, there will then be this position.
It needs to be said that there will be a counterpart, which will be the volunteers that the communist party organizes internationally, and there will be others too, but to a lesser extent,
where practically every nation in the world will take part.
There will be volunteers for Franco from Ireland, from Poland -not many, but there will be- and also from the international brigades. Not only brigades from places like France, Germany, England, the United States, but basically from Chinese, Cubans, south-Americans, etc.
That is, it will be a fight where there will be two strongly opposed positions.
It will be an ideologic conflict, it has been called the last romantic war, where there’s a fight for a cause, that elections are held, and for another which is a
reaction that wants to impose through force the control of politics.
This will make this conflict an international focus around the world for special envoys, for journalists, etc.
And then will come a chapter with the war being filmed by some of the big journalistic filming companies, Pate, Gallo, Lusse from Italy, Germany, the United States, etc.
And also a will to learn about the daily life of this conflict.
In what way did Companys manage the Comité de Milícies Antifeixistes when they tried to take control of the Generalitat?
Yes, Companys notices that there was only one choice if he wants to stop the social and religious revolution.
Which is to stand up and cause a civil war. In that moment he realizes that, with the army dissolved and the best units on Aragon’s front to keep General
Cabanelles from entering Catalonia from Zaragoza, [he has] no strength.
Then, he contemporizes and creates some organizations so that there can be, slow but steadily,
the assumption by the Generalitat of control.
Then, the Generalitat will keep introducing small but constant measures to control town halls, of participating in the war industries, etc.
And these terrible months will pass, practically from July to January, when will be somewhat quenched this terrible social and religious persecution
with thousands of dead, but the Generalitat tries to help with what they can.
So, they provide thousands of passports so that some of their political adversaries from the Lliga can escape, who manage it, so that the clergy can escape, and tries to save too the monument heritage.
From the monasteries, the Montserrat one, Sant Cugat del Vallès, etc, which are seized,
or the Barcelona Cathedral itself, or the works of art.
It needs to be said that there’s a great ignorance, that there’s a position of great hostility towards the royal symbols.
Even if they belong to the Catalan medieval monarchy, or even if they belong to the Catalan sacred art, with the artistic value that represented the mural paintings, for example.
Then takes place a situation where the Generalitat acts in all these areas.
Finally, it won’t be until the May 37 incidents, when there will be the fight, what has been called the civil war inside the civil war,
in which, on a side, the new socialist-communist party, which is a party unheard of in Europe, socialist and communist, which is the Partit Socialista d’Unificació a Catalunya, the PSUC, and the forces of Esquerra Republicana, the Catalan state and law enforcement;
against the Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista and the CNT-FAI. They will have some fights that will cause about 500 dead.
As many as there were in the revolt of the 19thand 20thof July 36, approximately.
And then will take place the defeat of these anarco-syndicalist forces and the Marxism heterodox from Moscow.
That is, the POUM is a Marxist party, but heterodox from Moscow.
In this moment when Stalin has a great support by the republic, he and Mexico are the only countries that will give unconditional support to the republic.
The government of Cardenas and the government of Stalin.
Then, in this context we find that the position of parties heterodox from Moscow are frowned upon by the communist party,
which is ever more influential in the government of Spain and ever more influential in the Generalitat with…
with Companys. And then, wil take place this defeat of the anarcho-syndicalist forces
and will be over the social and religious persecution.
Then will begin another persecution, that will be a Marxist persecution against the dissidents, in the case from the POUM, or
those characters, for example from Unió Democràtica, Partit Republicà itself, despite it catholic, like the Partit Nacionalista Vasc was in the Basque Country,
and that, then, will have this position of conflictivity but that they will embody the strength of the communist party
in the republican Spain at war.
There’s people who theorize that Companys took this course of action not only out of lack of strength but also because his target was, with anarcho-syndicalist support, to separate Catalonia from Spain using the chaos of the civil war. Can you comment about that?
It has been proven clearly that there was no chance of an independence action by Catalonia for some obvious reasons.
To proclaim independence, there’s a need to control the territory,
and in that moment Catalonia wasn’t controlled by the Generalitat.
There was the Catalan army, which quickly became the east army, so the east army with Spanish soldiers had control of the territory.
What can you do? On the other hand, what they did want was that if Madrid fell, if Madrid fell, there would be a chance to negotiate for peace on their own, but that’s different.
That is a posteriori to preserve the Republic. So, in that sense Catalonia never had any chance nor has there been any study
of the ones that have been carried out, neither by the delegates of the propaganda commission, by Mr. Batista Roca
in London, or all the diplomatic reports that have been studied
lately, well enough to be able to endorse that.
Can you tell us a bit about the importance of the Aragon front in the civil war?
The Aragon front represents the containment between two military policies that are impotent.
They are impotent, the Catalan forces, to reach Zaragoza, and they are impotent, the Zaragoza forces, to reach Catalonia.
Then, this is a front that has been called ‘the lazy front’, it’s called a calm front, but it isn’t calm at all, because there were many dead and many war actions,
but the great military actions will take place first in Madrid.
In Madrid there will be the battle of the Jarama, the one of Guadalajara, etc.
The one of Brunete. In which they try to occupy the city from the north, south, east, etc.
after the first actions, which will be the columns of Coronel Castejón, who will go from Sevilla, passing through Extremadura,
to the north, in a march of terror to cause the paralysis of the people’s resistance.
And then, with the control of the lower half and the fall of Malaga, with the control of all the central part of the Castillas, Andalusia and Extremadura,
there will be the fight for the north, which will end too with a Francoist
victory after the fall of Bilbao and later with the fall of Cantabria.
Later will come the great battle of Teruel, the first republican victory. The answer…
The answer, immediate and Francoist in this case, and then will come the battle for Catalonia, which will be the last one.
In this moment, the Aragon front will break and the actions in the Aragon front will cause that there’s the…
then entry of Balaguer and the entry until reaching the last great effort of the Republic,
which will be the Ebro battle. The last great initiative of the republic.
At the end of the Ebro battle in the summer 38, everyone knows that the war is lost.
And of course, the Aragon front falls. It needs to be said that the occupation of Catalonia isn’t an occupation that is a military parade.
The occupation is a battle where there are some defensive lines and military columns that worry because everyone is done on foot.
The great exit towards exile will be on feet, so there’s an resistance action to give room, to give time
so that the people can leave towards France, that takes in the exile.
This causes a situation where there will be a fight, where there will be, too, these great scenes of terror, like those that will take place through all the war.
The war is a terrific thing because it’s not battles with the military, it’s bombings made on the civilian population,
whit chapters as hard as the one in Granollers, the Guernica or like the people who are fleeing Malaga, on foot,
and are gunned down on the road. There are, then, acts of great savagery, we could say, of a terrible vengeful animality.
There’s also a stance of great fight where they already set up concentration camps
and prisons. And, specially, rule murders without any kind of juridical act.
The case of a congressman, Sunyol, or the cases of many others who are simply
taken and executed by firearm in situ, like the acts on prisoners, where there’s no respect. This causes that it’s a war where rape,
murder, is a daily thing.
Can you tell us a bit about the Ebro battle?
Yes, the Ebro battle is the last chapter of the civil war.
It’s the last chapter where the republic forces bring as much people as they can,
levies of young boys, the so called ‘baby bottle draft’, along with all the resources that had arrived.
some of them weren’t even unwrapped, straight from the French border, but, on the other hand, is imposed what, all the witnesses that have studied it [call]
-and there have been many studies- the actions of machines against people.
The military actions of artillery with thousands of pieces, campaign battery units that are, almost, one besides the other for kilometers
caused a constant bombing.
Then, between the air attacks, that have the aerial dominion, between the artillery attacks, takes place a situation where any resistance is practically impossible.
It begins as an offensive, but the sending of a considerable amount of reinforcements causes that there’s this reaction
and later the actions of all these machines, as they called them back then,
that is, artillery forces, mechanized units forces, air forces;
causes that the republican infantry cannot hold and there’s a retreat and later a surrender.
Could you tell us what the International Brigades were?
Yes, the international brigades are the participation of all those volunteers
who want to get involved in a cause about values, which are the values of democracy,
and the values of the Spanish republic, that finds itself threatened by a military revolt.
The participation, around, basically, the communist party, of these units that will take emblematic names -André Marty, the Lincoln column, etc- will take -the Thälmann from Germany, etc- will take emblematic names,
will cause that there’s a collaboration of all these young people
who, through documentary films, through war reports, through war correspondents, through
the journalism that explains all that is going on in this tumultuous Spain, will bring through this idealism this participation.
The International Brigades are based in Albacete. They have a very dynamic participation in certain chapters, such as the defense
of Madrid, and will have emblematic value, because they will bring about, let’s say, a galvanization and a, for example, thinking “If they come from away to defend the republic, what should we do?”
Then, it’s as if it was a medieval stratum society,
they organize by guilds, the cab drivers, the peons, etc.
to go, say, to the Ciudad Universitaria, the Ciudad Lineal. What would be, then,
stopping the advance of the rebel Francoist forces.
The brigades will have a notable signification, exemplary for this courage, but also military, since they will be will be a very disciplined unit, they will be a very
very loyal unit, very obedient. Then, wherever it’s sent, with a terrible number of casualties, they will take part of it.
The units, in this case the International Brigades, are not only volunteers, but also include
in this combination of conflict internationalization, would be included the soviet consultants, the trainers, trainers, the
advisors… air instructors, the nurses, etc. That is, there will be a considerable action
in which, from volunteers from Portugal, the Viriato legion,
on Franco’s side, or the volunteers from Ireland. But of course, the thickest of it will be the International Brigades,
who will be, almost, the same as a division, but will have considerable value due to their obedience and their
stance, let’s say, granitic regarding loyalty and obedience, which causes that many of the units are very respected
and that later will lead to what will be
the legendary units of the fifth regiment, the regular army, etc.
when it’s over the formation of columns, let’s say, of militiamen, of volunteers,
and enters what will be, especially after April and May 37, what will be the regular people’s army,
where there will be an absolute normative with hierarchy and regulations, etc. and with an operativity like that of all European
You’ve mentioned before the topic of violence in the city of Barcelona. Here we have an estimate of 8.000 dead, mostly right-wing people and clergy. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Social prosecution is one of the… darkest, saddest sides of the civil war,
because there’s a persecution not by the political authorities, in this case the Generalitat or the republican government,
but by some forces of so-called Incontrolats, who will take the streets.
They will be forces where there’s a mix, and that’s how it is, a mixture from some efforts of gangsters and thieves,
until some iconoclastic efforts of a true, pure destruction
of the old order, as if it was a sort of Chinese cultural revolution. That is, the destruction of churches, the destruction of representatives
of the forces of the so-called bourgeoise, businesspeople, property owners, etc. and, naturally,
all those exponents of the old order, who will be from political forces to journalists or the clergy.
All this creates a terror. A terror where there will be a persecution with daily murders, ghost cars during the nights,
the establishment of private jails, cheques, that will later be institutionalized
by parties, but there will be this dark chapter that will bring so much harm to the Republic’s public image in the democratic Europe.
This persecution will not stop until the incidents of May 37,
but will have some terrible consequences because they will cause the galvanization, the reaffirmation of the European forces in the belligerence on Catholicism,
which respects private property, respects religion,
respects a established order and contemplates how in the Spanish state there’s a religious persecution
as well as social and that collectivizations are taking place,
as well as seizures, with which the capitalist private property order is subverted.
This will also bring the added conflictivity for the republic that it will difficult its access to the weapon market, that will difficult its access to diplomatic action
and we can’t, in a factual way, imagine what would have happened, but what is evident
is that, anyway, both Germany and Italy have huge strength,
so, whether or not there had been
social persecution, the non-intervention committee and the European policies had a great weight
regarding this persecution that harmed so badly the republic’s cause and that can’t be stopped until after a few months.
It needs to be said, however, that in the republic’s case these acts are carried out form the base
and not from the authorities, unlike in the Francoist state, where it was from the authority and not from actions of Incontrolats
and that, also, lasted a few months and not the whole conflict like in the Francoist case. And that, in the end, had a very limited range numerically, while in the Francoist case it didn’t only las the whole civil war,
but a really long post-war too. In a population of 20 million inhabitants, 250.000 people will be locked up in Francoist concentration
camps and thousands executed in court-martials. They acted with unbelievable brutality,
not only with sentences of execution by firearm, but also prison and, also, a combination of multiple
laws, which we will deal with later.
Was there any other important battle where the Catalan and Republican militias took place?
The Catalan militias were present in all the conflict of the civil war.
From the very beginning, which is the defense of Madrid, there was up to 30.000 Catalans in Madrid.
Then, when someone wants to underrate the Catalan presence in the Spanish war, saying that the Aragon front had been a quiet one,
you only need to see the wounded, the dead, the imprisoned among these 30.000 soldiers in Madrid.
They even create the Llar del Combatent Català in Madrid,
which is a space that the Generalitat creates so that the Catalan soldiers can have some room for recreation, some room for a
relative calm to be able to be in.
The Catalan soldiers participate in almost every front of the Spanish civil war
because they are integrated into the whole of the regular army.
Can you tell us who Juan Negín was and why was there a dialectic war between him and Companys at the end of the war?
Negrín is the representative, like Azaña, the representative of the republic. And in this situation,
the republic government imposes a centralization.
And what Companys defends is the upholding of the autonomy statute. But then there’s a situation where, steadily, the centralist position gains dominance.
There is, for example, the taking of justice, of jails, which would belong, by the statute, to the Generalitat itself.
But there takes place terribly paradoxical phenomenon, such as the fall of the weapons factories.
That is, the weapon factories that are around both Madrid and in the Basque Country.
The Generalitat then says, “these factories will fall, bring the machinery to Catalonia, we will be able to continue making weapons.”
Then, there’s a fear from the central government thinking, Catalonia, if armed, isn’t trustworthy.
And then, they don’t move them. And these factories fall in Francoist hands.
There’s plenty of chapters like this. Then, it’s a situation of hostility, and is proof of it the really tough letters that Companys will send to Negrín. Letters in which he exposes
this, let’s say, betrayal of not respecting the legislations such as the statute and the constitution.
Then, this will reach its apex in the end, when there’s a moment when tell Companys to call for defense,
in January 39, to call for defense when the Ebro battle, everyone know, has marked the end of the war.
And then they tell Companys, that they can trust them, to turn to Llobregat into a Manzanares,
meaning that it’s a desperate resistance of an open city.
And the last, let’s say, situation of conflict or disagreement will take place on the frontier pass where the three presidents agree, the Basque Aguirre, the Catalan Companys,
and the Spanish one, to cross together, but they don’t. Then, the Basque and the Catalan will have to go together, the Spanish one has already gone through.
But the gravest of all is that they keep the Generalitat’s treasury and the Generalitat can’t keep its own finances, the central government keeps them.
Then the central government, unlike with the Basque government who does keep their treasury, the Catalan government can’t keep it and can barely help
their public workers, their Catalan soldiers that are locked up in concentration camps, etc.
And it can’t do much more than a small cultural action. When the called Vita treasure it can have,
through the SERE and the JARE, can have with the Lull foundation some small iniciative like ‘La Revista de Catalunya’
or some informative publication like ‘El Poble Català’.
Then, there will be a situation of absolute disagreement between the two governments.
To finish with the Civil war topic, can you tell us about the repression that befell Barcelona in January 39?
The repression didn’t befall Barcelona, it falls over all the defeated Spain.
The defeated Spain, the liberal Spain, the masonic Spain, the republican Spain,
the Catalanist Spain, the Basque Spain, the Galicianist Spain, the Valencianist Spain. All this repression takes place,
and not starting the 39. In many places it begins the 36. That is, in Mallorca, Galicia, Andalusia, it begins the very 36.
Then, it makes for about 40 years of terrible repression.
This is repression that isn’t only military repression through court-martials and the application of the code of military law,
with a symbolic and perverse article, article 256.
Article 256 proclaims what is known as aid to the military rebellion.
Then, the Spanish military say, we who have rebelled the 17thof July in Melilla,
18thin Spain and 19thin Barcelona, this military rebellion brings a new state.
Those who aren’t connected with this state, are making a military rebellion.
Then, they apply what they have done to others, which is aiding the military rebellion.
It’s what Serrano Suñer himself, Franco’s ‘Cuñadísimo’, calls the reverse justice.
Great. They apply the code of military law. So much that in Barcelona alone there are over 100.000 court-martials.
Among which there will be thousands sentenced to death, tenths of thousands imprisoned and tenths of thousands of sanctions.
Simultaneously and parallelly, there will be another court, which is the regional court of political responsibilities.
The target of this court is to impoverish the people.
That is, all republican people, all of them, need to go through this court. When they go through it, they will need to say where they had been from the 1934 to the end of the Civil war.
What they did.
And then, from there they would be imposed sanctions, fines or else there will be seizings. For example, they take Company’s
properties, a small apartment he had in Saleta street, etc.
Then, all the defeated will see their properties affected.
Pau Casals will be given a fine that is an exorbitant amount for the time. When the newspaper costs 5 or 10 cents, a million pesetas is an exorbitant amount.
When a person’s wages are 3, 4, 5 pesetas, a militiaperson made 5 pesetas a day.
Well, then the court-martials, sentences of death and prison. Regional court of political responsibilities, sentences of
properties seizing. And then come the professional courts,
which is all professions making purging tribunals.
Doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc.
No profession could practice. None. Only manual works like peasant farmers or construction workers.
All professions that were liberal arts are put aside. Then, those who want to be a state worker, or want to be a lawyer, or want to be a notary, or wants to be
the way they were before the civil war, will have to go through the purge court. And then his behavior will be judged.
If they had been in favor of the republic, they are put aside. If they had been… etc.
Then, there will be a group of complementary laws, including the ‘Ley de Vagos y Maleantes’, ‘Ley de Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo’,
‘Ley…’ etc. And, of course, the penal code and the interpretations, because the first to act
against the liberal state will be the Francoism, who will first put aside the unruly military
and later the judges.
These will be the first sectors to be purged. Military and judges.
With this cohesion of military and judges, they will act on the whole of society.
And then there will be a predilection for the, let’s say, ideologic
studies, such as teachers and journalists.
These will suffer such a brutal repression that they will be chased, like the case of the Madrid
directors that are murdered right in the middle of the street, in front of the kids, when they entered in March-April 38, in the very streets of Madrid.
Because they are considered responsible of the tainting, of the subversion, of giving values that will constitute the illegal propaganda
and which is what the censorship will have to remove later.
Then, repression will be applied in these areas.
Since prison will not be enough, even in prisons like the ‘Model’ in Barcelona, which fits 3.000 people, they fit 15.000,
they stick in 15.000; they will create concentration camps. These concetration camps, around the railway network,
will be placed in the main communications nodes.
And there they will intern almost
every soldier, every soldier that falls prisoner
so that their responsibilities can be resolved.
They can only get out of there if they have a guarantor, that is, someone from the Francoist side that will guarantee
that these people have been enlisted against their own will, or etc.
This is a mostly unknown action, about the concentration camps,
that Francoism has been very keep to erase.
Proof is that there are no concentration camps preserved,
while in France, Germany or Poland or etc.,
there are concentration camps. In one case they are death camps, and in the other are working or internment camps,
but they are both concentration camps. Then, in the Spanish case, as if it had never happened.
When there are some witnesses, they say that they are camps of death,
because if there’s malnutrition outside, what will there be inside for the enemies of Francoism?
So there are illnesses, parasitism, mange, ringworms, lice, lack of food, lack of hygiene, and, of course abuses. There will also be a terrible mortality
due to the situation of general filth that can be, lack of medication, lack of food, etc.
Malnutrition and dead are generalized,
and these deaths haven’t been studied. But there are thousands of dead in the concentration camps,
caused by this host. They won’t be killed by gas chambers, won’t be burned alive, won’t be shoot to death in that sense.
Even though situations of this kind come from beatings.
But there is a situation of great institutional oblivion regarding this topic.
In the concentration camps, with a population of 20 million, we could say that out of those 10 million are men, 10 million are women,
and out of this 10 million we take out the kids and the elderly, we have 4 or 5 million. Taking into account there are dead and exiled, we have about 4 million left.
Out of these 4 million people it’s esteemed that there is a constant prison population
stable on 250.000 that keep coming and going. That is, they go once they are monitored and more come in. That is, there is an absolute control of the
Can you tell us about the exile in 39?
This repression causes a terrible fear towards these extremely wild military units
that rape, murder, kill. And then, people flee in a state of panic.
People flee on foot, and there are known cases, for example, of people from Lleida who crosses all of Catalonia to reach the frontier.
Hundreds of thousands of people reach France. France interns them in camps by the beach.
Agde, the one known as camp of the Catalans, there are even prisoner camps, such as Mont-Louise or fortresses, castles, etc.
And, of course, the great camps on those beaches, with 100.000 people in the beaches of Roselló that have been perfectly described in
Agustí Bartra’s novel “El Crist dels 200.000 braços”.
These people stay up to half a year, a year, two years. They can leave for French military units, they can leave for working units for the military defenses,
or they can come back to Franco’s Spain, which will begin the first day. That is, there’s the exile but on the first day people will begin to come back.
Then, that’s the exile situation.
Mexico will receive with open arms all those who can make it, but the great conflict is that the world war will begin in September,
which will make it impossible for these ships.
The Winnipeg, that will go to Chile, the Maréchal Lyautey [??], the Mexico, etc.
Those ships will sail for Veracruz or some to specific places, like Chile and Argentina. But for the most part it will be Mexico the country that will take them in.
In Mexico there will be a very active Spanish and Catalan colony. And this Catalan and Spanish colony will allow for a presence of Catalan culture in Mexico through different manifestations.
One such will be the ‘Jocs Florals’, which will be a poetry competition.
A competition of literary awards. The, the appearance of editorial houses and magazines. Some already existed from the former economic migration,
others will be new publications. This will make that there are over 100 publications in Catalan in Mexico.
And Mexico will become the capital of the Catalan culture worldwide.
It will be allowed to publish in Catalan all over the world except in Catalonia, where Francoism will ban it.
And then, in Mexico there will be publications of a literary tone, a political tone, an artistic tone, etc.
And also, all these manifestations.
The exile represents the chance at a new life, to accept a chance at normality, and Mexico will open its arms.
Actually, in Mexico there will be five ministers for public teaching who will be Catalan.
While in Spain, other than Marcelí Domingo, I think we haven’t had any other.
Then, in Mexico there have been fice ministers that were, from Jaime Torres Bodet, etc. who were Catalan. Then, they take them in with open arms.
Catalans, then, get involved with Mexico. They thank, through entities such as the Orfeó Català or the Catalan centers that could be in Venezuela, in Buenos Aires, in Santiago de Chile, etc. Then, they not only show these thankfulness,
but they will embody what is an absolute bond through full participation.
As teachers, as journalists, as doctors, as architects. Every time that it is studied, the good it did for these new, dynamic society that was the Mexican one
the entry of qualified workers, the entry of writers, the entry of politicians, the entry of liberal arts people who meant
not only an update, as was represented in teaching with the creation of the ‘Colegio de México’, with the same renovation to universities,
but it meant a very noticeable transformation for the country due to the incorporation
of what would be the elite. Because it was… Almost all the republican intellectuals were exiled, so most of them went to Mexico, which doesn’t happen with the working force, who stayed, for the most part, in France.
Can you tell us who Pau Casals was and why is he so important?
Pau Casals is one of the most important musicians in the XX century in the world.
As a composer, as a conductor, as a creator.
He’s someone who brought the violoncello to the sublime art. To the extreme art.
By means of which he transforms it, there’s a before and after as every musicologist acknowledges.
Pau Casals is born in El Vendrell, a small town by the Mediterranean, in the Catalan coast, and will go to study to Belgium, Paris, etc.
And quickly he will have an adaption to this instrument that will completely renew it.
If up to that moment there had been a rigidty around that instrument, he frees it and blows it up.
His exigence, his dedication, his virtuosity, make that the Bach suites, which he begins in 1900 and never stops during his whole life
and that he practices daily, reach a point where he not only blows the dusts off,
but also represents the vision that their creator had given them.
That’s known by any musicologist, and then he is sought after by every concert hall in the world,
with some tours being one of the most sought after and best paid artists.
He will perform in the United States, in South America, in Japan, in Africa, in Europe, etc. going to almost develop masterclass courses both in Switzerland and the United States, in Vermont.
Then, he will have this absolute participation.
He will take the social compromise of the musician, because he will understand that the musician can’t just interpret, but that the musician
has to take a compromise with society.
He will have to live through times of upheaval, like that of the Russian Revolution,
the first and second world war, the Spanish civil war, the Francoism repression and the cold war.
In this context, he will take a terrible decision.
He will refuse to perform as a protest against the dictatorships.
First, he will begin with the Russian dictatorship, then continue with the nazi and Italian dictatorships, then the Spanish dictatorship.
And later he will extend it to the democracies that support Francoism. That is, he will refuse to perform in United States, in England and in France.
In this context, one of the most recognized personalities of the world, he performs thrice in front of the United Nations,
and has awards from almost -honoris causa, medals- every important town from every country and every
context. Then, he is the person who will represent in this case the witness of coherence
in an unjust world. He doesn’t want war, doesn’t want injustice, wants freedom. And then, if his weapon is silence, he will be silent.
In the United States he has, ever since his first visit, a great deal of implication with Nevada when he goes from San Francisco to the east or when coast, etc. Then he will achieve great involvement,
playing up to three times in the White House. Wit different presidents, like in the beginning of the century, although the most famous one will be the concert in the White House with Jackie Kennedy and the…
and president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but he will perform in more occasions. Like the governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñóz Marís when they make a homage concert, he brings Pau Cassals to the White House.
Then, he will have a great bond with the United States.
He will have a bond with the League of Nations, through the three concerts he will perform because they will give him awards, like the Medal of Freedom,
or will manage to achieve the elaboration of the anthem of the United Nations, etc.
And, then, he will have this deep connection.
He will love the United States, and when Kennedy is murdered will instantly send a message, and continue with concerts and the ‘Pessebre’, that will go from Memphis to
San Francisco with this great speech for peace that is the ‘Pessebre’.
And in the United States, he will visit several towns many times.
He will leave in Puerto Rico from 1955 on, after the exile that he will go after the Spanish civil war, when he’ll live in Prada, near the Canigó, touching the Catalan frontier
from the 39 to the 55.
From the 55 to his death the 73, he will be in Puerto Rico, collaborating with the creation of the Pau Casals music festivals, of the symphonic orchestra, of the music school.
Initiatives that need to be added to the ones that he had carried out formerly in Barcelona, like the worker’s concert association
or the Pau Casal’s orchestra. There are also the international festivals that will be held in Prada and still continue, both those in Puerto Rico and those in Prada are still going.
All in all, Pau Casals will be a symbol for the Catalan exile. A symbol because he’s the most famous public character.
He’s the most beloved character and is a character that keeps a stance of firmness and an irreducible
stance regarding his criteria on pro of democracy.
When, for example, in 1956 is edited in Buenos Aires ‘El Llibre Blanc de la Cultura Catalana’,
the one they ask to write the preamble is Pau Casals.
And Pau Casals will never say no to Catalan claims.
He will arrive, later, with the ‘Pessebre’ -which is this speech that he carries around the world-
to bring a message of peace, which is what he wanted.
That children have music, that societies around the world have music as an element of harmony and concord to go to peace.
Then, with that goal, he will create the ‘Pessebre’ with a peace message written in Catalan, since the ‘Pessebre’ is in Catalan too, and he will bring it around the world with an extraordinary contribution where there will be a symphonic orchestra,
a choir, and an assortment of tenors, sopranos, etcetera, constituting a musical event of first order.
Pau Casals, then, represents in the words of so many thinkers who have valued him, the conscience of the artist and the feeling towards the construction of a better worlds.
What happened the 21stof December and what’s the next step?
Politically, there has been a change of situation.
If in the XX century Catalonia proposes the reform of Spain,
that is, Catalonia proposed the modernization of Spain and being part of the state’s government, the answer of the state,
through two military dictatorship, prohibitions, assaults, limitations, etcetera;
has caused a situation where there has been a change of inclination.
This change of inclination has been embodied in the slow but constant assumption, and which grows every year,
of a connection with separation. That is, Catalonia’s project no longer goes through Spain.
Catalonia’s project goes through Catalonia. Then, as a historian I don’t know if Catalonia will be strong enough to pull apart
or if Spain will be strong enough to crush it. What I confirm is that in every election that is held, the amount of independentist voters raises.
In last elections in December 2017, you only need to count the ballots. There are 100.000 votes more.
They aren’t enough yet to have an absolute majority in votes without a referendum, which is the method to count that.
But some autonomic elections aren’t a referendum. But since democratic societies con through urns,
it can be assumed that urns speak. And then, the words of these elections show this tendency. That is, in my opinion, what happened.
What can happen? I don’t know, because us historians can’t see the future.
What seems to be true, since there have already been three elections held, and later there have been some massive gatherings, something unheard of in Europe
due to the perseverance, to the numbers, to the civility, to the pacifism. Even if they want to accuse of violence, but unless violence means singing a song, I don’t know what violence they mean.
Then, there is a context of constant evolution and the stubbornness of the Spanish state to avoid talks, as is demanded by
the most sensible authorities and bodies around the world, it creates a situation of festering of the conflict.
And the festering of the conflict not only has a difficult solution, but there can be contexts, historically,
in which either due to economic factors or social factors, there can be situations where there is collective harm.